BBC News report on US closure of PLO mission fails to adequately inform

On September 10th a story that has been brewing for a long time was reported on the BBC News website under the headline “US to shut Palestinian mission in Washington“.

Nearly 22% of the 578-word article was used to tell readers “How have the Palestinians responded?” and over 31% of its word count was given over to descriptions of US cuts to donations – including the already widely covered UNRWA story – under the sub-heading “What other steps has the US taken?”.

The background ostensibly intended to enable readers to understand the story was presented in 138 words under the sub-heading “Why is the Palestinian mission being closed?” and began by quoting parts of the relevant statement from the US State Department.

“The PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” the state department said on Monday.

“To the contrary, the PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

The statement also cited Palestinian efforts to get the ICC to prosecute Israelis for alleged violations of international laws and norms regarding the treatment of people and property in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.”

Readers were next provided with links to two previous BBC reports: the first dating from November 18th 2017 and the other from May 22nd 2018.

Last year the US state department warned the mission that under US law it faced closure if Palestinian leaders continued to do so.

But in May, the Palestinian foreign minister formally asked the ICC’s chief prosecutor to launch a full investigation, saying he had “ample and insurmountable evidence”.”

In order to understand the relevance of “US law” to the current story, readers would have had to click on that first link, where they would find the following:

“US officials say the PLO could be breaking a legal condition for it to operate in the US.

The US law says Palestinian authorities must not pressure the International Criminal Court to investigate Israelis.

The PLO, which is seen by the international community as representing all Palestinians, opened an office in DC in 1994.

It is the first time that the State Department has declined to reissue a six-monthly operating licence for it.

A state department official cited “certain statements made by Palestinian leaders” about the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the reason behind the non-renewal.

Obviously that account does not provide readers unfamiliar with the story with a full and clear explanation of its background. An article published by the Times of Israel around the same time however does.

“In 1987, Congress sought to rid US soil of any PLO institutions, which included a United Nations mission located in New York City and a Palestinian information bureau in DC. At the time, the PLO was a US-designated terror organization, backing attacks against Israelis. […]

Despite the bill becoming law, ultimately the US couldn’t close the Palestinian mission to the UN because this would have violated international law. The DC information office, however, was closed.

Fast-forward to 1993. Israel and the PLO have just signed the Oslo Peace Accords. The Palestinians have sworn to end decades of terror attacks against Israel and are slated to receive their own state in the coming years. At this historic occasion, the US Congress allowed the president to suspend all sanctions against the PLO as long as the Palestinians stay faithful to commitments made in the accords. The suspension would have to be renewed every six months. This act by Congress allowed the PLO to open up a diplomatic mission in DC.

In 1997, Congress made it easier for the president to waive the sanctions against the PLO: The president would now just have to say the waiver was in the US’s national security interest with no explanation needed. Again, a waiver would have to be signed every six months.

This was the case until 2011, when the Palestinians joined UNESCO and declared they wanted full-membership status in the UN.

In response, Congress slipped in a new provision into the annual State and Foreign Operations Bill […]

Now, if the Palestinians obtained full membership status in the United Nations outside of an agreement with Israel, the president would be unable to waive sanctions against the PLO, unless “the Palestinians have entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” […]

After the Palestinians joined the ICC in 2015, Congress, without any public debate or headlines, slipped in a similar provision into the December 2015 foreign ops bill […]

The provision calls for the waiver to be revoked should the Palestinians “initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation” against Israel.”

In other words, when Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly on September 20th 2017 that “[w]e have called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people” he was no doubt aware of the potential consequences under the terms of the legislation passed by the US Congress nearly two years earlier under the Obama administration. And yet despite the US State Department having issued that warning in November 2017, in May 2018 the PA’s foreign minister nevertheless chose to present a referral to the ICC.

Nevertheless, as was reported in November 2017, the PLO mission in Washington could have remained open.

“The declaration does not automatically mean the mission will close. US President Donald Trump now has a 90-day window to decide whether “the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel” — in which case he can waive the requirement to shutter the office.”

However, the Palestinians have of course done no such thing and – as the BBC has itself reported on numerous occasions over the past ten months – Palestinian officials have repeatedly made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of even considering a US peace plan.

In summary, while readers of this BBC report found an unsatisfactory 48 word ‘explanation’ of the legislative background crucial to proper understanding of this story, they saw 127 words of PLO condemnations of the US administration decision – but no clarification of how the Palestinians could have prevented that decision from being taken.  

Related Articles:

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

 

 

Advertisements

US Taylor Force Act not newsworthy for the BBC

Those getting their news from the BBC News website will not be aware that late last week the United States passed legislation relating to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists and the families of terrorists.

“The Taylor Force Act, legislation that cuts American funding for the Palestinian Authority over its payments to convicted terrorists and their families, officially became a law on Friday evening, after President Donald Trump signed a large budget bill that the act was a part of. The PA protested the passage of the legislation, which is named after Taylor Force, an American citizen murdered in a terror attack in Tel Aviv two years ago.

The bill was first introduced by Republican lawmakers in March of last year. Over the last 12 months, it has gone through a modification process that produced wide bipartisan support for it. The final version that became part of the wider budget bill includes a number of exceptions for projects that will continue to receive American funding, such as hospitals in East Jerusalem, wastewater programs and child vaccination initiatives.

It should be noted that the legislation will not affect the budget that the United States provides to the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence forces, which is separate from funding that goes toward dealing with civilian issues within the PA. […]

In a statement it [the White House] said that it “commends the Congress for including the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits most U.S. foreign assistance that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the PA ends the abhorrent practice of providing payments to terrorists and their families in reward for acts of violence.””

Visitors to the BBC News website have to date not seen any reporting on that topic either on the US or Middle East pages. Even the predictable reaction from BBC regular Husam Zomlot did not receive any coverage.

“The PLO excoriated Congress on Friday for passing the Taylor Force Act, a law that threatens to freeze State Department funds to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its longstanding practice of compensating terrorists and the families of terrorists convicted in Israeli courts.

The PLO envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, dismissed the effort as politically motivated. The pressure “does not work, and severely damages the prospects for peace in the Middle East,” he said. […]

The bill, Zomlot said, “punishes” the PA, “which is the only agency committed to peace and nonviolence, and undermines the American-Palestinian bilateral relationship and decades of US investments in the two-state solution.

“The Taylor Force Act represents the most recent effort in this 30-year-old trend of legislations that deliberately targets the Palestinian people,” Zomlot continued, accusing the US Congress of “flagrant bias.””

As regular readers know, the subject of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorists is one that the BBC more often than not chooses to avoid, despite its relevance to members of the public in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain. Although familiarity with this issue is also key to BBC audience understanding of both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism, as we see the corporation continues to under-report the topic.  

Related Articles:

BBC News reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

A new backgrounder on a topic disregarded by the BBC

Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

 

BBC responds to complaint about Jeremy Bowen’s ‘Holocaust card’ Tweet

Readers no doubt recall the Tweet below which was sent by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen whilst he was covering the Israeli prime minister’s speech to the US Congress on March 3rd 2015.

Bowen tweets speech 1

A member of the public who made a complaint on that matter has received a response from the Complaints Director at the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit – Richard Hutt – which includes the following:

“You have said that this was profoundly offensive and served to trivialise the Holocaust. Reviewing the tweet it did not seem to me that Mr Bowen was referring to the Holocaust as a mere political card to be played, but rather suggesting this is what Mr Netanyahu was doing. I would accept that this is a fine distinction, and one which the medium may not be best suited to convey. However, the sense I took from it was that Mr Bowen felt Mr Netanyahu had introduced the Holocaust in reference to Iran as a means of influencing the decisions of America’s policy makers about that country. Earlier in Mr Netanyahu’s speech he had drawn direct parallels between Iran and Nazi Germany and in his acknowledgement of Elie Wiesel he returned to that comparison – referring to “dark and murderous regimes” and saying that:

And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The characterisation of those references and that comparison (between Iran now and Nazi Germany in 1938) as the playing of a card does not itself serve to demean the Holocaust or reduce it to a political tool. In fact, accusing another of doing so might suggest quite the opposite.

Some who complained about the tweet have said that it offers evidence of bias, and that the facts regarding Iran support Mr Netanyahu’s decision to bring the holocaust [sic] into the discussion. I appreciate that it might be argued that the denial of the Holocaust by some in Iran, coupled with their belligerence regarding Israel, makes Mr Netanyahu’s reference appropriate. Conversely, some have pointed to profound differences between Iran now and the Nazi state in 1938. It is not, however, for me to pass judgement on the extent to which this reference was apposite, but only on whether Mr Bowen’s characterisation of it amounted to a breach of the BBC’s standards. I cannot say I think it was. The BBC’s guidelines do not prevent correspondents from using their judgement in characterising events and offering their knowledge and experience to offer informed perspectives on them – and this, it seemed to me, was what happened here.

I would accept that this might have been better worded. However, this was not an in-depth article but a single tweet, one of many published over the course of a live event, and the necessary brevity of that format makes extra background impossible – a limitation which I think audiences understand and a context in which it must be judged. I don’t think anyone would look to the tweet for a full understanding of the nuances of the situation in Iran or the speech as a whole but rather a (live) shorthand summary of one aspect of it, as analysed by Mr Bowen. His analysis reflected his particular interpretation of Mr Netanyahu’s comments but as I say such interpretation is allowed and indeed expected of correspondents, particularly from their own Twitter accounts. I don’t therefore believe this amounted to bias.

The BBC’s guidelines do not promise that content will never offend. They do however require that where it might, some editorial justification exists. In this case, I think the informed analysis I describe above would offer that justification, and as I say I do not think this served to belittle the Holocaust in any way. While I recognise and regret that you found this offensive I do not believe it is in breach of the BBC’s standards.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The accepted definition of the idiom ‘play the card’ is to exploit a specific issue for political advantage. In other words, Bowen is accusing Netanyahu of cynically making use of the memory of six million murdered Jews for his own political gain and his use of the words “once again” indicates that Bowen is of the opinion that this is a regular practice on the part of the Israeli prime minister.”

The BBC, it seems, would have us believe that is an ‘informed perspective’ which has “editorial justification”.

Related Articles:

BBC audiences get Israeli PM’s Congress speech through the Bowen filter – part one

Commentary on BBC ME editor’s ‘Holocaust card’ Tweet widens

When the BBC’s ‘world view’ coincides with that of a story source

If readers have perhaps had the feeling that some recent BBC News website articles had more of a whiff of largely unadulterated White House press briefing about them than analytical journalism and critical commentary, then the article published on March 24th under the headline “Israel denies spying on US-Iran nuclear talks” would have done nothing to dispel that impression.Spying art

Based on one WSJ article from one journalist who obviously had more than a little help from White House sources, the BBC’s rehash adds nothing which audiences could not have discovered for themselves by reading the original.

Buried in the article’s fifteenth paragraph is the following information:

“The White House uncovered the operation, the report said, when US intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted messages among officials that could only have come from closed-door talks.”

In other words the White House’s claim that Israel was spying on the P5+1 talks is based on information acquired by the US whilst it was itself spying on Israel. The BBC has nothing to say about that obvious hypocrisy and it does not sufficiently clarify to readers that any information obtained by Israel could actually have come via any one of the six countries negotiating with Iran- including the one taking a more sceptical approach to the issue than the US – or from surveillance of the other party to the negotiations.

In the next two paragraphs readers discover exactly what prompted the US administration to leak a non-event of a story to a journalist:

“But it was Israel’s sharing of inside information with US lawmakers and others that particularly angered the White House, the report quoted an official as saying.

“It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy,” the unnamed official said.”

The BBC elects not to tackle the basic – and more interesting – topics of why any of the many countries which lobby the US Congress should be in a position to be able to provide that body with information it has not already been given by the US administration or why keeping Congress in the loop apparently ‘undermines’ US diplomacy. Neither does the article address the question of whether or not Israel actually told members of Congress anything they could not discover for themselves in the mountains of media reports on the P5+1 talks or from the IAEA’s reports and statements on the subject.

Most remarkably, however, this report makes no real effort to inform BBC audiences why Israel and other countries are so concerned about the progress of the P5+1 talks with Iran. The only reference to that issue comes in an insert of ‘analysis’ from Yolande Knell who writes:

“Israel’s deep concerns about any emerging deal on Iran’s nuclear programme are well known, as are the tensions this is placing on ties with the US administration.”

The trouble with that claim of course is that “Israel’s deep concerns” have been communicated to BBC audiences via the BBC filter and that framing has consistently failed to provide them with an objective view of the issue.

So once again in this article the BBC chose to blindly amplify yet another manufactured political ‘crisis’ without any critical commentary on the topic itself or questioning of the motives of the source lying behind the story.  And that – apparently – is what the BBC thinks it can pass off as ‘standard-setting’ journalism. 

‘Unprecedented’ claim from BBC’s White House reporter does not stand up to scrutiny

One of the articles appearing in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 11th was promoted using the following assertion:Senators letter on HP

“A letter to Iran from a group of US Senators is unprecedented”

The article itself – titled “With their letter to Iran, US senators show ‘chutzpah’” – made repeated use of the same claim. [all emphasis added]

“Some call it bold. Others call it insipid. One thing is true: a letter that Republicans wrote to Iran’s leaders is unprecedented.”

“The letter is unusual. It may even be, as American University’s Stephen Vladeck, a professor of law, says, “unprecedented in the annals of American history”.”

“Members of Congress frequently weigh in on US policy. That’s part of their job. But reaching out to foreign leaders in this manner breaks ground.”

“Aside from unprecedented, the letter is unpopular.”

Clearly the writer of this article intended BBC audiences to go away with the impression that never before had members of the US Congress intervened on foreign policy issues without the approval of the White House – but is that actually true?Senators letter art

Marc Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post, doesn’t think so. Here is just one of the examples he cites as showing that the letter “is far from unprecedented”:

“In June 2000 […] President Bill Clinton set off for Moscow to negotiate a new arms control treaty with Vladimir Putin that would have limited the United States’ ability to build defenses against ballistic missile attack. The morning the talks were scheduled to begin, the president was greeted by on op-ed on the front page of Izvestia by committee chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). “After dragging his feet on missile defense for nearly eight years, Mr. Clinton now fervently hopes that he will be permitted, in his final months in office, to tie the hands of the next President,” Helms wrote. “Well I, for one, have a message for the President: Not on my watch. Let’s be clear, to avoid any misunderstandings: Any modified ABM treaty negotiated by this administration will be dead-on-arrival at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . . The Russian government should not be under any illusion whatsoever that any commitments made by this lame-duck Administration, will be binding on the next administration.””

Writing in Politico, journalist Michael Crowley presents additional examples, including that of Nancy Pelosi – whose take on the Israeli prime minister’s recent speech to the US Congress was extensively promoted by the BBC.

“Experts say the Senate GOP’s Iran letter may be an unprecedented breach of foreign policy protocol both in its form and its boldness. But national security has long been a fierce battleground between Congress and the White House — and both parties have accused the other of sabotaging foreign policy goals.

Recall the bilious battles over the Iraq War, particularly after Democrats captured Congress in 2006 with promises to force Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq. As Democrats sought to force withdrawal timelines on the White House, some conservatives sarcastically referred to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “General Pelosi.”Senators letter Pelosi Assad

Pelosi and Bush also butted heads in the spring of 2007 on Syria policy. Against the White House’s wishes, the House Democratic leader traveled to Damascus to meet with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. (Pelosi hoped that Assad could be moderated through engagement; Bush was intent on isolating the Syrian dictator.) “The president is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House,” then- Vice President Dick Cheney groused to Rush Limbaugh.

Some conservatives even asked whether Pelosi might be prosecutable under the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. This week, the shoe was on the other foot, with some Democrats asking whether the Republicans who signed the letter may have violated the Logan Act.”

Whatever one’s view of the letter itself and its implications, it is clear that the writer of this BBC article sought to frame the story in a very particular light. And unfortunately, this is not the first time that audiences have seen Tara McKelvey employ the selective use of available information in order to promote a certain political view of a story

BBC’s promotion of linkage between Congress speech and Israeli elections falls flat

One of the themes promoted by the BBC in its coverage of the Israeli prime minister’s recent address to the US Congress was that the speech was connected to the upcoming elections in Israel.

On the day before the event – March 2nd – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly told audiences that:

“At the White House they will probably be watching in spite of themselves – but through gritted teeth.

Back home in Israel Mr Netanyahu’s rivals in this month’s parliamentary elections will be watching too – and in a similar frame of mind.”

Connolly was, however, honest enough to include the following information in his report:

“One of Mr Netanyahu’s advisors, Dore Gold, says the timing is nothing to do with Israel’s election – it is just that Iran is an important issue on which Mr Netanyahu has important things to say.

“March is a crucial month,” he said. “Unfortunately we have elections this month but he needs to tell his version of his understanding of the dangers of this agreement because Israel will be the first country to be affected.””

Nevertheless, another BBC News article from the same day informed audiences that:

“The speech comes two weeks before Israeli elections, with his Likud party under pressure in domestic polls.”

The March 3rd article titled Israel’s “Netanyahu warns US against ‘paving way to Iran bomb’” told readers that: “The speech comes just two weeks before a closely fought election in Israel” and included the following insert of analysis from Kevin Connolly which clearly ties the topic of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress with the Israeli elections.

Connolly Congress speech elections

That same insert of analysis also appeared in the report titled “Obama says Netanyahu’s Iran speech contains ‘nothing new’” published on March 4th.Indyk int

Viewers of BBC World News America on March 3rd saw Katty Kay open her interview with Martin Indyk (whose credentials were only partially disclosed) with the question “Was it useful for Mr Netanyahu to come to address Congress like this?” to which Indyk replied:

“Well, I think it was very useful for his own…err…err…reelection campaign. Two weeks off before the voters in Israel make a decision. He’s actually this week trailing in the polls behind his main rival, Isaac Hertzog, and he’s got a problem with the president of the United States which normally the Israeli voters don’t like: a prime minister who can’t handle his relationship with the president. But now he’s got a photo – and it was streamed live to Israel – of ‘the Congress has got our back and I know how to talk to the Congress and everything will be alright’.

So if – as the BBC’s theory goes – Netanyahu’s appearance in Congress was in part intended to improve his chances at the ballot box, we would expect to see a subsequent significant boost in his party’s ratings in opinion polls. That, however, has not materialized – as the Washington Post reports:

“According to polls carried out by Israeli TV news channels Wednesday, the day after his high-stakes speech to Congress, Netanyahu’s address had only a modest influence on the Israeli electorate.

Israel’s Channel 2 news said Netanyahu’s Likud party had increased its likely support by one seat in the parliament. On rival Channel 10, Likud had gained two seats to tie its main challenger.

In answer to Channel 2’s question — “Did the speech strengthen or weaken support for Netanyahu?” — 44 percent of those surveyed said it strengthened support, 43 percent said it had no influence and 12 percent said it weakened support for the premier.”

A later poll by the Jerusalem Post indicates that:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress did not help his Likud party cut the Zionist Union’s two-seat lead, according to a Panels Research poll taken on Wednesday and Thursday forThe Jerusalem Post and its Hebrew sister publication Maariv Sof Hashavua.

If the March 17 election were held now, the Zionist Union would beat the Likud, 24 Knesset seats to 22, the poll found. In last week’s survey, the Zionist Union received 25 seats and Likud 23.”

It is worth remembering that this is not the first time that the BBC has misled its audiences by fabricating connections between elections in Israel and separate events.

BBC continues to mainstream antisemitic discourse on its discussion boards

One of the BBC Trust’s specified priorities – originating from its interpretation of the public purpose remit entitled “Global Outlook” – is to:

“Enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

The Trust expands:

“”The BBC should inform conversation and debate, providing forums where its international audiences can debate issues they find important.”

The primary nature of linear broadcasting will remain the same as it is today, and even in the digital age BBC Global News will be providing content for mass consumption.

The nature of digital technology also means improved opportunities to connect with audiences – and BBC Global News will consider carefully the various access needs of its diverse audiences and continue to seek ways to give voice to its many listeners, viewers and users. From emails read out by presenters, to questions put to world leaders, to chatrooms and websites where people can debate and engage in dialogue free from fear and censorship, the BBC will make space available to support free speech and informed democracy.”

However, as we have seen on all too many occasions, the practical manifestation of that aspiration not infrequently turns BBC discussion boards and Facebook pages into places where “free speech and informed democracy” are usurped by conspiracy theory, racist tropes and politically motivated defamation and delegitimisation. 

On March 3rd the BBC News website decided to open its article titled “Netanyahu’s ‘chutzpah’ rocks Capitol and riles Obama” to comments from the public – with 338 responses. The next day an additional and related article headlined “Obama says Netanyahu’s Iran speech contains ‘nothing new’” was also opened to the public and it garnered 642 comments.

Even after moderation per the “house rules” which urge commenters to “keep your contributions civil, tasteful and relevant”, the comments sections of those two articles were replete with postings which were irrelevant to the topic of the two articles. Many of the comments were defamatory, promoted inaccurate information and propagated Nazi analogies along with tropes such as the ‘apartheid’ trope, the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope, the ‘dual loyalty’ trope and the ‘Jewish power’ trope. Below are just a few examples.

comments 1

comments 2

comments 5

comments 9

comments 10

comments 15

comments 17

comment 4

comments 7

comments 14

comments 16

comments 3

comments 11

comments 13

comments 6

comments 8

comments 12

comments 18

comments 19

The provision of a space for the spread of such ideas obviously does nothing to support “informed democracy” or “debate” but it does contribute to the mainstreaming of antisemitic discourse and misinformed delegitimisation of Israel.

Shockingly, the BBC continues to fail to take this issue seriously.

BBC audiences get Israeli PM’s Congress speech through the Bowen filter – part two

On the evening of March 3rd and the morning of March 4th the BBC News website published several reports on the topic of the Israeli prime minister’s speech to the US Congress. One of those was an article including a few selected phrases from the speech – but no complete transcript – titled “Key quotes: Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress“.Congress key quotes art

Interestingly, none of what the BBC decided were “key quotes” went any way towards clarifying for audiences the core issues lying behind that speech and so its more important points – such as those below – remained off the radar of BBC audiences.

“While the final deal has not yet been signed, certain elements of any potential deal are now a matter of public record. You don’t need intelligence agencies and secret information to know this. You can Google it.

Absent a dramatic change, we know for sure that any deal with Iran will include two major concessions to Iran.

The first major concession would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure, providing it with a short break-out time to the bomb. Break-out time is the time it takes to amass enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for a nuclear bomb.

According to the deal, not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected, but not destroyed.

Because Iran’s nuclear program would be left largely intact, Iran’s break-out time would be very short — about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel’s.Congress art 2

And if – if Iran’s work on advanced centrifuges, faster and faster centrifuges, is not stopped, that break-out time could still be shorter, a lot shorter.

True, certain restrictions would be imposed on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s adherence to those restrictions would be supervised by international inspectors. But here’s the problem. You see, inspectors document violations; they don’t stop them.” […]

“The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, said again yesterday that Iran still refuses to come clean about its military nuclear program. Iran was also caught — caught twice, not once, twice — operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom, facilities that inspectors didn’t even know existed.

Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don’t know about, the U.S. and Israel. As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, he said, “If there’s no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn’t have one.” Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted. And that’s why the first major concession is a source of great concern. It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and relies on inspectors to prevent a breakout. That concession creates a real danger that Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.

But the second major concession creates an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal. Because virtually all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade.”

BBC News website coverage also included a live page which promoted some of the Tweets sent by Jeremy Bowen during the speech and even an image of what were described merely as “some protesters” without any clarification of the fact that the people in the photograph are members of the extremist, Iranian regime-supporting, anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect.

NK on live page

The BBC News website’s main report was titled “Israel’s Netanyahu warns US against ‘paving way to Iran bomb’“. There readers found ‘analysis’ from Jeremy Bowen which was also reproduced in a later article headlined “Obama says Netanyahu’s Iran speech contains ‘nothing new’“.

Bowen analysis speech

In the first of those articles, Bowen’s description of Nancy Pelosi’s remarks was followed by immediate repetition of the same information, with a handy link provided:

Pelosi 1

A very similar format was used in the second report with the following passages – again with a link – coming immediately after Bowen’s ‘analysis’ :

Pelosi 2

Also in that second article readers were also informed that:

“Other Democrats criticised the speech, with Representative John Yarmuth calling it “straight out of the Dick Cheney playbook – fear-mongering at its worst”.”

Pelosi’s remarks were also showcased on the above mentioned live page.

Pelosi 3

The same theme also appeared in an article by the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel titled “Netanyahu’s ‘chutzpah’ rocks Capitol and riles Obama“.Congress art 4 Sopel

“Some Democrats stayed away, while the leader of Democrats in the House, Nancy Pelosi said: “I was near tears throughout the prime minister’s speech – saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations … and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation”.

The words of some administration officials are even more sulphurous. One is quoted today as saying the speech contained “literally not one new idea; not one single concrete alternative; all rhetoric, no action.” “

All of those BBC reports refrained from informing audiences adequately about the many very different reactions to the speech such as the Washington Post editorial which declared in its headline “Obama needs to provide real answers to Netanyahu’s arguments” and the statements from many Representatives – including Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who said:

“Critics must now deal with the substance of the Prime Minister’s concerns, which I have long shared.  The Foreign Affairs Committee has consistently raised concerns with the troubling outlines of this agreement.  How does an Iran with industrial scale enrichment capacity – key bomb-making technology – make the U.S. and Israel safer?  How does an Iranian nuclear program, which will spur similar programs among neighboring rivals, make the Middle East less combustible?  How does it make sense for an agreement with a revolutionary regime – that has been in power since 1979 – to expire after just ten years?”

As we see, BBC audiences’ understanding of this story was inevitably influenced by the way in which it was meticulously framed, with information being filtered to avoid the substance of the issue itself and selected reactions to the speech – of one particular political stripe – being pushed to centre stage. The BBC cannot possibly claim that its Middle East editor and additional staff provided the funding public with a comprehensive view of the story which would enhance their understanding of this particular international issue.  

 

Commentary on BBC ME editor’s ‘Holocaust card’ Tweet widens

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Professor Alan Johnson comments on Jeremy Bowen’s recent “holocaust card” Tweet sent during the Israeli prime minister’s speech to the US Congress.Bowen tweets speech 1

“Mr Bowen’s idea is that when an Israeli leader mentions the Holocaust he is being tricksy, manipulative, acting in bad faith, “playing a card” to get narrow advantage in contemporary politics, not really expressing a genuine thought about the Holocaust itself or a genuine fear about a second, nuclear, Holocaust.

And that idea, of the Bad Faith Jew, is unmistakably dripping in the assumptions and myths of classic antisemitism.

Mr Bowen did what only the antisemitic extremists used to do, reduce the invocation of the Holocaust to a common sense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and something to disdain.

Well, the Holocaust happened. It happened to the Jews. And now the Jews are threatened again by a genocidal regime. These are facts.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Update:

Via the Guardian we learn that Jeremy Bowen has responded to criticism of his Tweet – without addressing the actual issue.

Bowen tweet reaction to tweet

We also learn that the BBC has officially elected to address the issue by means of wilful miscomprehension.

“A BBC spokesperson said: “Jeremy was using Twitter and journalism shorthand whilst live-tweeting PM Netanyahu’s speech. The context of his comment is that a major part of PM Netanyahu’s critique of the proposed Iran deal was based on the spectre of another holocaust. Jeremy’s tweet was designed to reflect that context. He absolutely refutes any suggestion of antisemitism.””

The phrase “plays the holocaust card” is not “Twitter and journalism shorthand” for ‘mentions the Holocaust’. The BBC’s official response is an insult to its funding public’s intelligence.  

 

 

BBC audiences get Israeli PM’s Congress speech through the Bowen filter – part one

Regular readers would of course have had few expectations of receiving a wholly impartial report on the Israeli prime minister’s speech to the US Congress on March 3rd from the BBC’s Middle East editor but even they might have been surprised by the tone and content of some of the comments made by Jeremy Bowen as he live-tweeted the speech to his 121 thousand followers – especially in light of the fact that BBC editorial guidelines – including those on accuracy and impartiality – also apply to its staff’s Twitter accounts.

Bowen tweets speech 1

So what did the man who only the day before had alluded to himself as a “serious student of the Middle East” mean by that (small H) “holocaust card” jibe? The accepted definition of the idiom ‘play the card’ is to exploit a specific issue for political advantage. In other words, Bowen is accusing Netanyahu of cynically making use of the memory of six million murdered Jews for his own political gain and his use of the words “once again” indicates that Bowen is of the opinion that this is a regular practice on the part of the Israeli prime minister.

Netanyahu’s actual words were as follows:

“My friend, standing up to Iran is not easy. Standing up to dark and murderous regimes never is. With us today is Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

Elie, your life and work inspires to give meaning to the words, “never again.”

And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Not to sacrifice the future for the present; not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.

But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over.”

Clearly any real “serious student of the Middle East” would have an understanding of the place of the Holocaust in Jewish collective memory just as he would be familiar with the Iranian regime’s record of anti-Israel rhetoric and practical support for terrorist groups seeking the destruction of the Jewish state. Bowen, however, put whatever knowledge he may have aside – instead allowing his personal political prejudices to dictate his commentary.

The same practice was evident in other tweets:

Bowen tweets speech 2

In fact, Netanyahu did not “conflate” Iranian Shiism with Sunni Jihadists as Bowen claims. What he actually did was point out that both those separate and competing ideologies are equally important problems.

“Iran’s regime is as radical as ever, its cries of “Death to America,” that same America that it calls the “Great Satan,” as loud as ever.

Now, this shouldn’t be surprising, because the ideology of Iran’s revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and that’s why this regime will always be an enemy of America.

Don’t be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America.

Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.

In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone.

So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.”

Bowen also commented:

Bowen tweets speech 3

He neglected to clarify that – unlike Iran – Israel is not party to the NPT and of course failed to note that Iran was declared non-compliant to the treaty it did sign as long ago as 2003.

Another Bowen tweet read:

Bowen tweets speech 4

If readers are wondering what Bowen meant by “politics of fear”, that point is clarified in his ‘analysis’ included in two subsequent BBC News website reports on the topic of Netanyahu’s speech.

“The speech was classic Netanyahu. He mixed the politics of fear with the politics of bravery in adversity. Iran was gobbling up Middle East states – a reference to its influence in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen – while Israel stood strong, never again allowing the Jews to be passive victims.”

Of course Iran’s active role in the Syrian civil war and its supply of funding and weapons to terrorist organisations such as Hizballah means that it has rather more than just “influence” in those locations and others throughout the Middle East. However, Bowen’s intent is clearly not to inform audiences of the objective facts, but to persuade them that the Israeli prime minister uses unfounded threats to elicit the political response he seeks by means of emotion.

Bowen’s jaundiced and openly disdainful view of the Israeli prime minister’s speech to Congress was not only communicated to BBC audiences via Twitter. As we will see in part two of this post, BBC reports on the issue were notable for similar inaccuracies, half stories and lack of impartiality.