A BBC programme from Jerusalem – and you can take part

The BBC television and radio programme ‘Global Questions’ will be visiting Jerusalem next month.

“As the state of Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its creation, Global Questions travels to Jerusalem to ask what the next 70 years might bring.

Ever since its birth, Israel has been dominated by conflict with Palestinians and its neighbouring Arab states. Is more conflict inevitable or could there be a lasting peace that allows the next generation to live without war?

The Middle East is awaiting President Trump’s much anticipated peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century”. But the Palestinians see America’s Embassy move to Jerusalem as a dangerously provocative gesture.

Global Questions brings together a high-profile panel and an audience of young Palestinians and Israelis to see whether they believe the next 70 years could bring an end to the conflict that has scarred the region for so long.”

Members of the public can take part in that December 5th programme by emailing globalquestions@bbc.co.uk.

Alternatively, questions can be submitted using the webform here.

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BBC continues to deny audiences relevant Jerusalem background information

On November 2nd the BBC News website published its latest report on the proposed relocation of a foreign embassy to Jerusalem – “Israel’s Netanyahu welcomes Brazil Jerusalem embassy vow“.

“Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed a decision by Brazil’s president-elect to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu praised it as “historic, [and] correct”. Palestinians called the move “provocative and illegal”.

Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician, expressed strong support for Israel during his election campaign.

Jerusalem’s status is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a hoped-for Palestinian state.”

As was the case in an article published last month, a problematic backgrounder video by Yolande Knell dating from December 2017 was promoted in this latest report. Later on readers found a typical BBC ‘nothing worth mentioning happened before 1967’ portrayal of the story’s background:

“The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future state.”

Obviously if the BBC’s audiences are to understand why Israel regards united Jerusalem as its capital they would need to be told of the inclusion of the city’s in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland. They would also need to be informed of the belligerent British-backed Jordanian invasion and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews who had lived in Jerusalem for generations from districts including the Old City in 1948, together with the destruction of synagogues and cemeteries, as well as the fact that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically stated that the ceasefire lines were not borders.

However, since the BBC began covering stories relating to the relocation of foreign embassies to Jerusalem in late 2016 and particularly since the US announcement concerning its embassy in December 2017, that background information has been serially denied to audiences.

Readers of this report also found the BBC’s usual partisan framing of ‘international law’ and ‘settlements’ with no mention of the fact that some of the Jerusalem neighbourhoods it chooses to define as such were inhabited by Jews until the Jordanian occupation.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

While there is nothing new about the BBC’s failure to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for their understanding of the background to these stories concerning the relocation of foreign embassies to Jerusalem, the fact that it adopts that editorial policy – committed as it is to “due impartiality” under BBC editorial guidelines and even as it repeatedly tells audiences that “Jerusalem’s status is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians” – is truly remarkable.

Related Articles:

BBC framing of Jerusalem embassy stories continues

Mapping the BBC’s branding of declarations on Jerusalem as ‘controversial’

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story

Reviewing the BBC’s presentation of Jerusalem history

 

 

A politicised BBC report on a new train line

On November 1st an unattributed filmed report titled “On board the new Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page with the following synopsis:

“It’s been a long time coming, but Israeli commuters are finally able to board double-decker high-speed trains on a new link from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

Construction has been plagued by engineering and planning challenges, and the last section of the line is still not open. The route has also angered some Palestinians, as part of the track runs in tunnels under the occupied West Bank.

Transport Minister Yisrael Katz hopes it will eventually whisk passengers from secular, liberal Tel Aviv to a “Donald Trump Station” next to the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.”

Roughly halfway into the film, its focus changes from the subject of the new train line itself to politicised messaging.

“But Palestinians in this village in the occupied West Bank are angry. A tunnel runs under part of the area but many Palestinians don’t have permits to enter Israel, so can’t use the train.”

Issa Odeh al-Jamel, Beit Surik resident:

“This train passes through Beit Surik land and we are not even allowed to use it. This is itself is a catastrophe for us.”

“Palestinians say Israel is illegally using occupied territory.”

The village of Beit Surik is located in Area B and its residents are Palestinian Authority citizens. The land under which – rather than “through” – the railway tunnel runs is located in Area C which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is under Israeli control – including planning. Of course the BBC did not bother to clarify to audiences that it was the Palestinian Authority instigated Second Intifada which made permits necessary for residents of PA controlled areas. Neither were viewers told that there are no stops near Beit Surik or anywhere else along the line running from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion airport.

The film continues:

“Villagers fear they may lose access to some of their land.”

Muhammed Abdul Razik, Beit Surik resident:

“We don’t have enough information about the route of the train. It definitely passes under the lands of the village of Beit Surik but whether it is above the land or under the land, it is the same problem. For us the damage is the same. I am sure we will not have the freedom to work on our lands.”

Seeing as that tunnel – Tunnel 3 – was completed over four years ago, the claim that the route is not clear is an obvious red herring which the BBC chose nevertheless to include in its report. The BBC provides no evidence to support the specious claim that the existence of the tunnel will have any effect on access to farming land.

The film goes on to tell BBC audiences that:

“The Israeli Transport Ministry has not commented. The full route is not open yet. […] And next, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz wants to tunnel underneath Jerusalem’s historic, politically sensitive Old City. He wants to build “Donald Trump Station” near the Western Wall after the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem. More controversy is likely.”

While there are indeed plans to extend the train line from its current final stop in Jerusalem towards the city centre and the Old City, those plans – including the route – are still under Planning Committee discussion and so the BBC’s suggestion that construction will take place “underneath Jerusalem’s historic, politically sensitive Old City” is at best premature.

As we see just over half of the BBC’s anonymous report on this new train line is devoted to amplification of politicised messaging. Coincidentally or not, that messaging just happens to align with that put out by Saeb Erekat and the PLO when the train line was opened.

 

 

A BBC contributor’s ‘particular viewpoint’

As we regrettably frequently have cause to note on these pages, BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality include the following:

All too often, however, BBC audiences are not given the required insight into the “particular viewpoint” of an interviewee which would allow them to put his or her contribution into its appropriate context.

One such example was seen last December when a contributor to a BBC World Service radio item concerning what was at the time still a potential announcement by the US president concerning Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel was introduced as follows:

“We’ve been getting opinions from Israel, from America: now for a Palestinian view of the implications. We’ve been speaking to Professor Saree Makdisi. He’s based in California. He’s the author of ‘Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation’. So, Professor Makdisi, how significant is this move?”

As noted here at the time, listeners were not informed that the US born professor of English literature is a proponent of a bi-national state – and the resulting elimination of the Jewish state – and a supporter of the BDS campaign

In the wake of the recent lethal attack on worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Makdisi had several comments to make.

The people Makdisi claims were killed “in Gaza” on the evening of October 28th were in fact approaching the border fence, in the dark, with a suspicious object

“Three Palestinians were killed Sunday during an IDF airstrike near Khan Yunis after they were identified placing a suspicious object, believed to be an explosive device, on the border fence.

The Palestinians were spotted by a Gaza division observation post while they were crawling in the dark towards the security fence with the suspicious object.”

Makdisi however equated that incident with the deadly attack on Jews in the Pittsburgh synagogue by disingenuously claiming that both cases come under the heading ‘racial violence’. He equated an anti-Semitic murderer with members of the armed forces tasked with protecting civilians from cross-border attacks which have been going on for seven months.

And that is the mindset behind the ‘expert academic opinion’ heard by BBC audiences around the world last December: the obviously highly relevant “particular viewpoint” which the BBC – despite its own editorial guidelines – made no effort whatsoever to clarify.

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Inaccuracies and distortions go unchallenged on BBC WS ‘Newsday’ – part two

 

BBC World Service radio adopts the PLO’s language

The October 19th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item relating to the previous day’s announcement by the US Secretary of State concerning the merging of the American embassy and consulate general in Jerusalem into a single diplomatic mission.

Programme presenter James Menendez introduced his interviewee (from 0:45:04 here) as follows: 

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Menendez: “Until a few months ago America’s embassy in Israel was in Tel Aviv. Its diplomatic mission to the Palestinians was at the consulate general in Jerusalem. But in May – as you may remember – the embassy moved to Jerusalem; America recognising what Israel has always maintained: that Jerusalem is its capital. That was condemned by Palestinians as well as all the other members of the UN Security Council.”

Failing to clarify that no UN Security Council resolution was in fact passed on that topic, Menendez went on:

Menendez: “Well, now another change: the mission to the Palestinians is going to be subsumed into the new US embassy. It’ll be called the Palestinian Affairs Unit. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says it’s about achieving efficiencies. Palestinians say it’s just another move to downgrade them. Well let’s talk to Martin Indyk, himself a former US ambassador to Israel, now [at] the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Welcome to the programme. How would you characterise this move?”

Indyk: “Oh I don’t think there can be any doubt that it is a downgrading of US representation to the Palestinians that is consistent with the decision to establish the embassy in Jerusalem – the US embassy to Israel – in Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And in doing so the president – President Trump – made no reference to Palestinian claims to Jerusalem and so I think this is just…just a further symbolic and management act that demonstrates that the last…the symbolic toe-hold for the Palestinians in terms of American policy – their toe-hold in Jerusalem – is now gone.”

Failing to explain that the US president’s December 2017 announcement specifically stated that “[t]he United States continues to take no position on any final status issues” and “[t]he specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties. The United States is not taking a position on boundaries or borders”, Menendez then came up with the following bizarre statement-cum-question:

Menendez: “Eh…I mean in a place where symbols matter hugely, I mean is it also symbolic of this one-state solutionthe Greater Israel as the government there calls it – with everybody being under one roof?”

While members of certain parties included in the current Israeli coalition government have proposed annexation of various parts of Judea & Samaria, that is not official government policy. Menendez’s implication that the Israeli government promotes “the Greater Israel” is obviously inaccurate and misleading (especially given his reference to “this one-state solution” which of course has additional meanings) as well as irrelevant to the topic ostensibly under discussion. The likely source of that misleading phrase used by Menendez will be discussed in a moment but in the meantime, the interview continued.

Indyk: “Well I don’t think it forecloses even some Palestinian position in Jerusalem in final status talks as far as the US policy is concerned. Secretary Pompeo was quick to say that. But in practical terms what it signals is this much touted and little revealed Trump peace plan. What’s in it for the Palestinians is going to be slim pickings indeed, especially when it comes to Jerusalem.”

Menendez: “I suppose someone would say, you know, practically it’s not going to make a huge amount of difference given the lack of peace talks anyway at the moment.”

Indyk: “Yes, that is true but it will make a difference in terms of representation to the Palestinians. There’s a lot more than just talking about peace involved in dealings between the United States and the Palestinian Authority. And now there will no longer be even a consul general – not an ambassador but a consul general – to deal with the Palestinian Authority. That person is going to be a more junior person under the authority of the US ambassador to Israel and that’s something that the Palestinian Authority – and certainly its leader Abu Mazen – will have great difficulty relating to and so I think that, you know, with the cut off in all aid to the Palestinians from the United States…eh…the lowering of the political level of engagement – it just means that there’s an overall downgrading of the Palestinians in Trump administration policy.”

Refraining from pointing out to listeners that the US has not “cut off…all aid” to the PA, Menendez closed the interview there.

So where did James Menendez get that phrase “the Greater Israel”? A clue can be found in the promotion of an article on the same topic which appeared on the BBC News website on October 18th.

In the report itself – titled “US to merge Jerusalem consulate general with new embassy” – BBC audiences were told that:

“Palestinians condemned the move.

Senior official Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration was working with Israelis to “impose ‘Greater Israel’ rather than a two-state solution”.”

That quote was taken from a series of Tweets put out by the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department on October 18th and picked up by a BBC producer.

And so we see that a phrase attributed to the Israeli government by James Menendez in fact comes from the PLO’s Saeb Erekat.

This of course is by no means the first instance in which we have seen the BBC promoting talking points and narratives conceived by the PLO:

Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance

BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

PLO recommended terminology continues to appear in BBC content

BBC News amplifies PLO’s interpretation of the two-state solution

In this latest item BBC World Service audiences heard just one view of the story (which unsurprisingly happens to dovetail with that of the PLO) while the BBC presenter adopted and amplified misleading terminology promoted by the PLO for political purposes and in doing so, compromised the BBC’s objectivity.  

Related Articles:

BBC framing of Jerusalem embassy stories continues

Context lacking, inaccuracies let slide in BBC WS coverage of PLO mission closure

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

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

 

 

 

 

BBC framing of Jerusalem embassy stories continues

On October 16th the BBC News website published a report titled “Australia considers following US on Jerusalem embassy” on its main homepage, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Australia’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

The Australian prime minister’s statements were presented in its opening lines as follows:

“Australia will consider recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. […]

Mr Morrison said Australia remained committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Political opponents said Mr Morrison’s comments were a “deceitful” ploy for votes ahead of a crucial by-election.”

Readers were also told that:

“If acted upon, the move would follow a recent policy shift by the US that has drawn criticism internationally. […]

US President Donald Trump drew international criticism last year when he reversed decades of American foreign policy by recognising the ancient city as Israel’s capital. The US embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.” [emphasis added]

As has been the case in many previous BBC reports about the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, in this article the fact that the US Congress actually voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago was yet again concealed from audience view.

Readers were told that “[t]he prime minister said one future scenario could involve Australia recognising [emphasis added] a Palestinian Authority capital in East Jerusalem and Israeli capital in West Jerusalem”. The statement actually said:

“…the Government will carefully examine the arguments put forward by Australia’s former Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, that we should consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without prejudice to its final boundaries, while acknowledging East Jerusalem as the expected capital of a future Palestinian state.” [emphasis added]

The BBC report went on to amplify comment from the Palestinian Authority’s Riyad al-Maliki but failed to explain to readers why the Palestinian response to a possible outcome that the PLO allegedly seeks should be negative.

Readers were told of announcements:

“Two other countries – Guatemala and Paraguay – announced they would also make the switch, but Paraguay later reversed the decision after a change of government.”

They were not however informed that the embassy of Guatemala has been located in Jerusalem since May 2018.

The article ended with a section headed “Why is the status of Jerusalem so contentious?” in which the BBC’s standard framing of related topics was to be found. As usual, BBC audiences were led to believe that nothing of relevance happened before 1967 and they heard nothing of Jordan’s 19-year occupation of parts of the city.  

“Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future state.”

A problematic video by Yolande Knell dating from December 2017 was however recycled in this latest report.

Readers found the BBC’s usual partisan framing of ‘international law’ and ‘settlements’ with no mention of the fact that some of the Jerusalem neighbourhoods it chooses to define as such were inhabited by Jews until the Jordanian occupation.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Since late 2016 the BBC’s coverage of stories relating to the relocation of foreign embassies to Jerusalem has been characterised by very specific framing of such decisions as ‘controversial’ and the absence of key background information which would enhance audience understanding. As we see in this latest report, that unhelpful editorial policy continues.

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s branding of declarations on Jerusalem as ‘controversial’

BBC omits key context in account of potential US embassy move

The BBC’s narrative on ‘East Jerusalem’ omits relevant context

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

Framing the topic in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?

The synopsis to the July 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?‘ reads as follows: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Jonathan Dimbleby presents political debate and discussion from Westminster Synagogue in London with the Vice Chair of the Conservative Party responsible for Women Maria Caulfield MP, the crossbench peer Baroness Deech, the founder of moneysavingexpert.com Martin Lewis and the Labour MP Chuka Umunna. Together they discuss the recent apparent second Novichok poisoning, Sadiq Khan’s approval of an inflatable in the shape of a baby Trump, a second referendum on Brexit, whether the UK should move its embassy to Jerusalem, whether the legalisation of recreational cannabis will follow the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.”

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby is of course on record as saying that the BBC’s decision to uphold parts of complaints made concerning Israel-related reporting by Jeremy Bowen would “cause serious damage” to the corporation’s international standing, while describing those complaints as “lies and distortions”.   

His interventions during discussion of that highlighted question are hence noteworthy.

The question from the audience member concerning the UK embassy in Israel – actually worded “why doesn’t the UK move its embassy to Jerusalem?” – came at 17:50 minutes into the programme (available here) and was immediately followed by a remark from Dimbleby:

Dimbleby: “As of course the US government has done – or Donald Trump has done…”

As was clearly stated at the beginning of the announcement concerning the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the decision was based on the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act’ passed by the US Congress in 1995.

“The Congress, since the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104– 45) (the ‘‘Act’’), has urged the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate our Embassy to Israel to that city. The United States Senate reaffirmed the Act in a unanimous vote on June 5, 2017.

Now, 22 years after the Act’s passage, I have determined that it is time for the United States to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This long overdue recognition of reality is in the best interests of both the United States and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

As the second panelist – Baroness Deech – was giving her answer to the question, Dimbleby interrupted. 

[21:51] Dimbleby: “Do you, do you, Ruth, do you not see that there is a big diplomatic – to put it mildly – dilemma when the city is divided between two communities – two groups that are both national groups – and that until you have managed to solve the Palestinian issue, it’s very difficult not to be sending the message that it’s more important to us that Israel has the capital in Jerusalem than it is that the Palestinians have an equal right to part of Jerusalem as their capital?”

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO and Israel, the status of Jerusalem is one of seven ‘permanent status’ issues yet to be negotiated. Jonathan Dimbleby is obviously in no need of such negotiations, having already decided for himself on the question of ‘rights’ to the city. However Radio 4 listeners heard him frame his own opinion as fact.

When the third panelist to speak – Maria Caulfield – had a slip of the tongue, Dimbleby quickly jumped in, putting words in her mouth.

Caulfield: “…you know some of the demolition of settlements doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours and so there’s a lot of work to be done…”

Dimbleby: “Sorry: some of the demolition of settlements?”

Caulfield: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Dimbleby: “The creation of settlements.”

Caulfield: “Sorry – the creation of settlements and the demolition of some of the Palestinian…”

Dimbleby [interrupts] “Palestinian homes.”

Caulfield: “…homes…doesn’t do the Israeli government any favours.”

As the BBC itself reported a year ago, no Israeli government has ‘created’ new ‘settlements’ in well over two decades. Dimbleby’s pursuit of accuracy did not however include informing his audience of the vital context of the absence of building permits in cases in which “Palestinian homes” have been demolished.

At the end of that item (28:19) Dimbleby chose to read out two listener responses of the same stripe.

Dimbleby: “Quite a lot of tweets. This from Jonathan Ross: ‘People in power like to throw their weight around. That’s why Israel and its supporters want Jerusalem as their capital’. But – or and – Steve Brooks: ‘Jerusalem is a city that belongs to a whole series of people. Israel cannot reasonably claim it all’.

Jonathan Dimbleby’s efforts to frame the impressions taken away by audiences on this topic are embarrassingly obvious.

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Two BBC programmes claim criticism of Israel brings accusations of antisemitism

 

 

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen aired on May 16th downplayed Hamas’ role in organising, encouraging and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt that has been going on since the end of March.

A report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the same day included the same messaging.

Presenter Sarah Montague introduced the item (from 25:03 here) by promoting a narrative seen in much of the BBC’s coverage: alleged linkage between the ‘Great Return March’ violence – repeatedly described as “protests” – and the relocation of the US embassy in Israel.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Montague: “Now, Palestinian protests on the Gaza-Israel border have dropped off dramatically after more than 60 people died during demonstrations against the United States relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent – he’s in Gaza – and Tom; I know you’ve been speaking to people who were involved in the protests this week.”

Bateman: “Yes, Sarah. The question about the motivation for the protests has become a contentious one amid the recriminations over Israel’s actions in killing more than 60 people this week. Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, was sending people to the perimeter; even paying them to put themselves in the line of fire and to try to storm the fence.”

Of course not only Israel’s prime minister had noted Hamas’ role in encouraging the violence: by the time Bateman produced this report the ISA had published information on that subject given by Palestinians who were arrested while infiltrating Israeli territory. Hamas’ pledge to pay rioters injured or killed while participating in the ‘Great Return March’ had been extensively reported over a month before Bateman made this report – including by Western journalists.

Bateman went on:

Bateman: “Hamas and Islamic Jihad –another militant grouphave acknowledged that 13 of their members died but Hamas says their supporters were unarmed.”

Indeed at the time Hamas had claimed ten of the dead and the PIJ had claimed three – including one person described as a child by the BBC. However, within hours of Bateman’s report having been aired, a Hamas official admitted that fifty of the people killed on May 14th were members of his organisation, meaning that at least 53 of the sixty-two dead were affiliated with terrorist groups. No footnote has been added to the webpage of this programme – which is still available to audiences – advising them of that development.

By the time Bateman’s report was broadcast, the IDF had announced that among the 62 dead were eight armed Hamas operatives killed during an incursion attempt. Bateman’s uncritical amplification of Hamas’ claim that “their supporters were unarmed” therefore obviously raises serious questions about the reliability of BBC reporting.

Bateman next went on to promote the same theme as was seen in Jeremy Bowen’s filmed report:

Bateman: “Now I’ve spoken to a number of men and women who’ve been at the demonstrations: none answered yes when I asked if Hamas had sent them. They were prepared to talk about unrest. Many referred to the issue that they see as at the heart of the so-called ‘Great March of Return’ – yesterday’s 70th anniversary of their ancestors’ displacement when Israel was created.”

Listeners then heard a conversation between Bateman and an inadequately identified person presented as a “student of English Literature” who barely speaks intelligible English.

Bateman: “I spoke to 21 year-old Ahmed – a student of English Literature at Al Aqsa University – who’s been attending the seven weeks of protests since they started.

Bateman: “When you went to the protests, what did you do?”

Ahmed: “I stood on the border and we burn the caoutchouc.”

Bateman: “The tyres.”

Ahmed: “Yes tyres, the tyres.”

Bateman: “Were you hoping to break down the fence? To break it down? To go through?”

Ahmed: “Yes but the Jews he shoot the people and shoot anybody who come to him.”

Bateman: “But do you think you could have got through that fence? Do you think it was possible to go through the fence?”

Ahmed: “No, no, no, no. It’s impossible. It’s impossible.”

Bateman: “If you try and break the fence down, you mean, you’d be shot. So why, why, why then were you burning the tyres? Why were you trying to…”

Ahmed: “To tell them that we are to protest the decision of Trump’s that move the USA to Jerusalem. We will [want to go] back to our home [Israel] but this idea is peaceful. We are a peacefully people.”

Bateman: “When you decided to go to the protest, why did you do that? Was anyone suggesting that you should go?”

Ahmed: “OK.”

Bateman: “Was anyone telling you to? Or was it that you….”

Ahmed: “No, no, no, no. I go to protest with my beliefs and my…”

Bateman: “Your own beliefs?”

Ahmed: “Yes.”

Bateman: “Because Israel says that Hamas is telling people to go.”

Ahmed: “No, no, no. That’s not right. It’s an issue of all Palestinian…”

The report was suddenly cut off at that point.

Hamas’ involvement in preparations for the May 14th chapter of the ‘Great Return March’ was well documented even before the event and, as the ITIC recorded, even the top Hamas leader in Gaza was involved:

“Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s Political Bureau in the Gaza Strip, is personally involved in the preparations. He held a preparatory meeting for the events called “the March of the Millions” with representatives of the various organizations, activists of the “Return March” and young Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. The meeting was also attended by senior media figures. At the meeting, he called for extensive participation in the forthcoming events. He called on his audience to carry out the protest actions at all costs, saying that they would rather die as shaheeds; or die hungry and respected rather than humiliated and oppressed. Sinwar further noted in his encouragement statement to the youth that “he is afraid of dying in bed, and is hoping to die as a shaheed in the Return marches”.

Nevertheless, as we have seen in this two-part post, the BBC was clearly very keen to have its funding public believe that Hamas’ role in organising, encouraging and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ is a figment of Israel’s imagination. How that can possibly be considered to meet the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news” is of course a mystery.

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BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

 

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

In previous posts we looked at how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border were portrayed as they happened in the May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ (available here).

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

In this post we will look at what BBC audiences worldwide were told in real-time about the context to the poorly portrayed violence along that border.

The long introduction given by presenter Razia Iqbal included misrepresentation of the locations of previous ‘Great Return March’ events – which actually were confined to the Gaza Strip border. Iqbal also promoted the blatant falsehood that the displacement of all Palestinians in 1948 was “forced”.

01:28 Iqbal: “Dates are significant here. It is the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Israel and there has been a six-week protest by Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and – the most deadly – in Gaza. Scores have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to culminate on May the 15th, tomorrow, called the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians as the day when they were forced from their land and homes as Israel was established.”

In contrast to the very clear – but inaccurate – impression given by Razia Iqbal, the facts are of course much more nuanced:

“Historians agree that there was no single cause of the Arab flight from Palestine. In large part, the masses fled because they saw the Palestinian elite doing the same thing. In part, it was in response to exhortations by Arab military and political leaders that Palestinian civilians evacuate their homes until the end of the fighting. Vast numbers were simply fleeing the heavy fighting that surrounded them, or that they expected to soon disrupt their lives. In some instances, Palestinians were forced from their homes by the Jewish military.”

The vast majority of the context to what was, as we saw earlier, overwhelmingly portrayed as “peaceful marches” and “protests” came in Yolande Knell’s report near the beginning of the programme.

05:15 Iqbal: “Yolande, just remind listeners that this has been going on for several weeks now and it’s very specifically to mark a day tomorrow for the Palestinians.”

Knell: “That’s right. This has been called the Great March of Return by the Palestinians. It was organised in Gaza over the past 6 weeks. The 15th of May is always a date of protest for Palestinians when they remember how, back in 1948, more than 700,000 people lost their homes on land that became part of Israel. [….] The people [Knell spoke to in Gaza] were saying that they really felt that the historic injustice as they saw it was at the heart of all the modern-day problems that they have in Gaza, where they have chronic electricity shortages, this long-time blockade that’s been enforced by Israel and Egypt which now means that the Gaza Strip is an extremely poor place – it suffers from extremely high unemployment.”

Obviously the fact that there are chronic electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip has nothing whatsoever to do with the refugee issue (it is, as Knell well knows, in fact due to infighting between Hamas and Fatah) and neither do the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt in response to the surge in terrorism since Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Knell went on:

Knell: “One woman told me ‘I wouldn’t have come down here if Gaza wasn’t in the state it was but people need to see what the issues are for us’. They felt that this was putting back the suffering of people in Gaza back into the spotlight. Also a lot of concern…they think that the issue of Palestinian refugees – which is a key issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict – they feel that there have been attempts – particularly by Washington – to try to push this off the table of any future negotiations. They say that because of course earlier this year the US did announce big cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.”

Yolande Knell (nor anyone else in this programme) made no effort to inform listeners why Palestinians – even when living under PA or Hamas control – are still kept in refugee status by UNRWA, their own leaders and the leaders of Arab countries seventy years on.

Listeners were also told that:

Knell: “Now on top of that, another key issue – the future status of Jerusalem. That is also at stake and of course that’s just added fuel to the flames, brought more people out for these demonstrations. “

As we see, listeners to this broadcast were wrongly led to believe that Palestinians were ‘protesting’ on the border because of a bad electricity supply, high unemployment and poverty – even as the BBC serially ignored the repeated attacks by ‘protesters’ on the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Additional factors cited included “the future status of Jerusalem” and the anniversary of a “historic injustice” which Knell failed to put into its correct context. Interestingly, while BBC reports on previous bouts of ‘Great Return March’ violence had touted the ‘right of return’ that is supposedly the publicity stunt’s raison d’être (see for example here and here), in this report that topic was largely avoided and listeners were not informed of the basic fact that the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means rejection of the two-state solution and that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state. 

Listeners also heard nothing of the fact that the ‘Great Return March’ events were organised by factions including Gaza-based terror groups. They were not told of the payments made by Hamas to participators or of the organisers’ calls for breaching of the border fence and martyrdom. Even Yahya Sinwar’s March 31st statement of intent – “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies” – did not receive any BBC coverage either in this programme or elsewhere.

Sadly it is all too obvious that both of the topics covered in this May 14th ‘split screen’ edition of Newshour – the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting on the Gaza border on the same day – were presented in a manner intended to amplify a specific political narrative rather than to provide BBC audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.

In the context of the question of whose interests this edition of ‘Newshour’ served, it is worth noting what Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar had to say about the Western media’s ‘split screen’ reporting two days after this BBC programme was broadcast:

“Our people have imposed their agenda upon the whole world. There was supposed to be a romantic picture of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on the world’s television screens, but our people, in their collective consciousness, forced the whole world to split the television screens between the footage of fraud, deception, falsehood, and oppression, manifest in the attempt to impose Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and between the image of injustice, oppression, heroism, and determination painted by our own people in their sacrifices – the sacrifice of their children as an offering for Jerusalem and the Right of Return.”

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BACKGROUNDER: PALESTINIAN ARAB AND JEWISH REFUGEES (CAMERA)