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

Previously we saw how a BBC News website report on the US decision to close the PLO office in Washington DC failed to provide readers with an adequate explanation of both the legal background to that decision and the fact that the same Palestinian officials now protesting it have had nearly three years in which to study the requirements for keeping that mission open.

The September 10th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ closed with an item on the same story which was introduced by presenter Julian Marshall (from 45:05 here) with the following framing:

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

Marshall: “The Trump administration is piling the pressure on the Palestinians. It’s already ended bilateral funding and also funding to the UN agency which looks after Palestinian refugees. President Trump says they’re ungrateful and should return to the negotiating table with Israel. And today the US ordered the closure of the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Washington. The US State Department said the Palestinians were refusing to engage with the US over peace efforts. US National Security Advisor John Bolton also touched on the topic in his speech excoriating the International Criminal Court. He said the US decision to close the mission in Washington was a result of the court’s insistence on investigating Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza.”

In contrast to Marshall’s claim, the ICC’s preliminary investigations in fact came as a result of actions by the Palestinian Authority beginning in January 2015. Listeners then heard a recording of John Bolton speaking on the same day.

Recording Bolton: “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally Israel. And today, reflecting Congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel, the Department of State will announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation office here in Washington DC and the Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process and we will not allow the ICC or any other organisation to constrain Israel’s right to self-defence.”

Marshall: “So why is Mr Bolton conflating two issues: the ICC and the Palestinians? Our State Department correspondent again, Barbara Plett-Usher.

While it is obvious that Barbara Plett-Usher is aware of the history and legal background to this story, BBC World Service listeners did not hear a lucid explanation. Despite the BBC having itself reported on Palestinian petitions to the ICC – including as recently as in May – Plett-Usher disingenuously portrayed that topic as though it were a claim dreamed up by John Bolton.

Plett-Usher: “Well that’s because Congress conflated them. Congress put some conditions on the ability of the PLO to open an office in Washington, one of which was that the Palestinians could not be going after Israel in the ICC and you heard there Mr Bolton saying they were in fact trying to do that. But even then, even if the Palestinians had made such moves, the PLO office could still be allowed to operate here if the Palestinians were engaging in peace talks with the Israelis, which they are not. They’re boycotting the US attempts to revive negotiations because they see them as blatantly favouring the Israelis on core issues. But the administration used these two arguments, these two conditions put down by Congress, to close down the mission.”

Marshall: “And has this mission in Washington been useful for the Palestinians?”

Misrepresenting the title of the PLO envoy to Washington and giving a partisan interpretation of the Oslo Accords Declaration of Principles, Plett-Usher replied:

Plett-Usher: “I think it’s been more useful at some times than at others but by and large what it was, it was set up after the Oslo Accords were negotiated in ’93-’94 and this was the sort of point man point in Washington to liaise with the US administration on efforts to implement those accords which of course were supposed to result in a Palestinian state and never did. More recently the diplomats here have engaged in direct outreach to Americans – to churches, civil organisations, students and the like – trying to build support for the Palestinians, to take advantage of a decrease in support for the Israeli government policies among Americans but also including American Jews. In fact the PLO ambassador claims that that was one reason they were shut down.”

Plett-Usher refrained from mentioning reports that the PLO mission in Washington had been funding campus activity of the anti-Israel BDS campaign in the US.

Marshall then went on to introduce his second contributor, failing to clarify to listeners that Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the PLO’s executive committee.

Marshall: “[…] and earlier I spoke to Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian legislator and former negotiator. What’s her reaction to Mr Bolton’s remarks?”

[48:23] Ashrawi: “This is not an act that happened in isolation. It’s part of a concerted American assault on Palestinian rights, on the chances of peace [laughs] and on any semblance of justice, on legality and solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue. And it seems to me the US is certainly doing Israel’s bidding and is trying to resolve all issues by bashing the Palestinians, by punishing the Palestinians – who are already under occupation – and by rewarding Israel and granting it full immunity to act outside the law with full impunity.”

Marshall: “The United States says it’s doing this because the Palestinians are not supporting peace talks with Israel.”

Ashrawi: [laughs] That’s extremely ironic. There are no talks. There are no plans. There is no negotiating table to invite us back to: the US has smashed it into smithereens. It has decided unilaterally to give away Jerusalem to Israel which is illegal because Jerusalem is occupied territory – it is Palestinian land. It has decided single-handedly to redefine Palestinian refugees and to stop funding UNRWA which is an international organisation specifically set up to serve and protect the Palestinian refugees. It has unilaterally decided that the settlements are not illegal, that it doesn’t want the ’67 boundaries or the two-state solution. So what does it want? Right now it is busy telling the Palestinians if you do not surrender to our dictates, if you do not accept all these steps then you are going to be punished again and Israel is rewarded. So it’s extremely ironic. It’s really disingenuous to talk about peace. Actually now we are being punished because we dared ask the International Criminal Court to speed up its investigation of Israeli war crimes and as you know, settlements are a war crime by international definition according to the Rome Statute.”

Making no effort whatsoever to challenge Ashrawi’s egregious portrayal of Jerusalem as “Palestinian land”, her “war crimes” smear or her partisan interpretation of Article 8 of the Rome Statute, Marshall changed the subject.

Marshall: “Do you have any idea what the US peace plan is? Because the Trump administration says that the Palestinian leadership has condemned that plan that they haven’t even seen [Ashrawi laughs] and refused to engage the US government with respect to peace efforts in other words.”

Ashrawi: “Yes of course we refuse because we don’t need to talk about a plan; they’re implementing it. I mean anybody who has any sense – any sight – would see that the US is busy dismantling every single component or requirement of peace. These issues are very clear. So it’s not that we [laughs] are not talking peace. We have been talking peace for decades and we’ve negotiated with numerous American administrations. It’s this one that has…I think it has lost its mind. I think in this mad, hysterical defence of Israel, they just don’t make sense. They have lost their balance and it’s really serious because they’re creating a situation of tremendous volatility.”

Marshall: “How do the Palestinians now though gain their independent state? You’ve rejected the United States as a mediator; you’re not prepared at the moment to sit down with Israel. How do you achieve your political objectives?”

Ashrawi: “Well the president Mahmoud Abbas last year declared or announced an initiative about convening an international conference about the requirements of peace. There is a plan but obviously when the US has taken sides so blatantly and I think now it’s up to the international community that has to take up its responsibility to protect the Palestinians and to hold Israel to account and now to hold the US to account.”

Failing to inform listeners that Abbas’ ‘international conference’ was supposed to have taken place “by mid-2018“, Marshall closed the item there, once again neglecting to clarify Ashrawi’s PLO links.

As we see, once again BBC audiences were not given an adequate account of the legislative background crucial to proper understanding of the US decision to close the PLO mission in Washington. They did, however, hear Hanan Ashrawi’s political talking points, inaccuracies and distortions go completely unchallenged for four straight minutes in this one-sided presentation of the story.

Related Articles:

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

BBC News website amends inaccurate Palestinian envoy title

 

 

 

Advertisements

BBC reports on designation of a terror group it previously ignored

On January 31st the BBC News website published a report titled “Ismail Haniya: US designates Hamas leader as terrorist“.

“The United States has designated the political leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas as a terrorist and imposed sanctions on him.

The state department said Ismail Haniya had “close links with Hamas’ military wing” and been a “proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians”.”

That presentation failed to inform BBC audiences that the US announcement concerning the man described last year by the BBC as “a pragmatist” also included the following:

“Haniyeh has close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians. He has reportedly been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.” [emphasis added]

The report went on:

“Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, is already designated a terrorist group by the US, Israel, the EU and UK.

It denounced as “worthless” the blacklisting of Mr Haniya.

A statement from the group said the decision would “not dissuade us from continuing to hold fast to the option of resisting and expelling the [Israeli] occupation”.”

BBC audiences were not informed that the term “resisting” is a euphemism for terrorism against Israelis or that as far as Hamas is concerned “the occupation” means Israel in its entirety.

Neither were they told that additional reactions from Hamas officials described the US announcement as “a violation of international laws” and “a reflection of the domination by a gang of Zionists of the American decision” and the BBC’s article was not updated to reflect the fact that the PLO also later condemned the designation.

The article continued:

“The state department also designated three militant groups as terrorist entities:

  • Harakat al-Sabireen, an Iranian-backed group that operates primarily in the Gaza and the West Bank and is led by Hisham Salem, the former leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It is accused of planning and executing attacks, including firing rockets from Gaza into Israel
  • Liwa al-Thawra, a group active in Egypt’s Qalyubia and Menoufia provinces that has said it was behind the assassination of an Egyptian army commander in Cairo in 2016 and the bombing of a police training centre in Tanta in 2017
  • HASM, another Egyptian group that has claimed it assassinated an officer from Egypt’s National Security Agency and carried out an attack on Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo”

BBC audiences reading this report would no doubt have been surprised to learn of the existence of the first organisation on that list given that – as noted here over two years ago – the corporation has failed to produce any reporting whatsoever on Harakat al-Sabireen.

Readers were also not told that the other two groups on the list are suspected of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hence when they read at the end of the report that the US Secretary of State said that “[t]hese designations target key terrorist groups and leaders – including two sponsored and directed by Iran” [emphasis added], BBC audiences would not understand that, in addition to Harakat al-Sabireen, he was referring to Hamas.

As regular readers know, the BBC has long refrained from producing any meaningful reporting on the topic of Iranian funding of Hamas terror.  

Related Articles:

The terror group BBC audiences have never heard of

The news the BBC has to omit in order to keep up its narrative

BBC audiences in the dark on Iranian terror financing yet again

Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

BBC News website plays along with the ‘softer’ Hamas spin

 

 

BBC News website misleads on JCPOA

On September 30th the BBC News website published an article titled “Iran nuclear deal: Tehran expects US to ditch agreement, says FM“.

The vast majority of that article’s word-count (over 78%) is allotted to the recycling of unchallenged statements from the Iranian foreign minister that appeared in interviews published the previous day by two British newspapers – the Financial Times and the Guardian.

In the article’s little original content, readers are told that:

“US President Donald Trump – a stern critic of the [JCPOA] deal – will announce next month whether he believes Iran has adhered to its terms.

If he says it has failed to do so, US Congress will begin the process of reimposing sanctions on Iran.”

Audiences are not informed of the fact that the process described in those two paragraphs is defined under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – passed in 2015 – which requires the US administration to certify to Congress every ninety days that Iran is fully implementing the JCPOA.

Readers are also told that:

“France, Germany and the UK – which along with Russia and China signed the deal – have recently defended it.” [emphasis added]

That statement is inaccurate because the JCPOA was not actually signed – as MEMRI noted in July 2015:

“It should be emphasized that, contrary to how it is perceived, the JCPOA is not a bilateral or multilateral contract between the United States and/or Europe and Iran. Nothing has been signed and nothing is judicially binding between any of the parties. It is a set of understandings that was sent to a third party, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), for endorsement. This structure is a result of Iran’s insistence to not sign any bilateral or multilateral contract.” 

In a November 2015 letter to Representative Mike Pompeo, the US State Department clarified that:

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document.”

Clearly the BBC’s claim that the P5+1 “signed the deal” is misleading to BBC audiences and does not enhance their understanding of the story.

Related Articles:

BBC amplification of unchallenged Iranian messaging 

US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

Last week the US State Department announced the designation of the former Hamas interior minister – and occasional BBC quoteeFathi Hamad (also spelt Hammad).

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. Hammad served as Hamas’s Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, which is a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Al-Aqsa TV was designated in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury under E.O. 13224.”

Readers may recall that when Israeli forces carried out strikes on communications antennae on buildings housing Hamas’ TV stations (including Al-Aqsa TV) during the conflict in 2012, the Foreign Press Association – which at the time was headed by the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar – and the then BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison promoted the false accusation that Israel was “targeting journalists”.

Related Articles:

BBC covers US terror designations for Hamas and Hizballah operatives – but not in English

Revisiting a missing chapter in the BBC’s 2015 election coverage

Shortly after the March 2015 general election in Israel, the then BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Kevin Connolly told radio audiences that:

“…Mr Netanyahu now has the chance to replace a rather fractious and recalcitrant old coalition with a new one, which should prove more manageable. Foreign governments, of course, are far too well-behaved to interfere in the internal politics of a democratic state. But the outside world tends to view Israeli politics through the prism of the state of the peace process with the Palestinians.” [emphasis added]Main art 17 3

At the time we commented:

“As has been noted here in previous discussions of BBC coverage of the recent Israeli election (see here and here), one topic which all the corporation’s journalists avoided like the plague in all its reporting was that of foreign funding for organisations such as V15 which campaigned to influence the outcome of the election.”

Although the redundancy of Connolly’s claim was apparent at the time, this week its specious reasoning became even clearer, as Yair Rosenberg reports at the Tablet.

“In a bipartisan report issued Tuesday, the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations criticized the State Department for issuing $349,000 in grants to OneVoice, an Israeli-Palestinian peace-building organization, with insufficient oversight. The report, signed by Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, found that the funds were used by to build infrastructure that was subsequently turned into an anti-Netanyahu apparatus for Israel’s 2015 elections, in contravention of State Department practice. […]

The report found no legal wrongdoing by the State Department, even as it rapped it for negligence, given that OneVoice had a history of electoral activism, was building electoral infrastructure, and had informed the State Department of its electoral plans. Whether this American funding of anti-Bibi advocacy was a deliberate design, the consequence of incompetence, or the product of benign neglect, will likely never be known with certainty.”

The Washington Times adds:

“The State Department ignored warnings signs and funded a politically active group in a politically sensitive environment with inadequate safeguards,” said Sen. Rob Portman, chairman of the investigative subcommittee. “It is completely unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars were used to build a political campaign infrastructure that was deployed — immediately after the grant ended — against the leader of our closest ally in the Middle East. American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.”

Oddly, we have been unable to find any BBC reporting on the topic of that investigative subcommittee’s conclusions.

Related Articles:

Misinformation from BBC’s Kevin Connolly on From Our Own Correspondent

Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day website reports

Elections 2015: the morning after – BBC News website coverage

BBC News continues to cultivate its settlements narrative

There is of course nothing novel about the BBC’s promotion of the politicised narrative according to which ‘settlements are an obstacle to peace’. Last month we noted here that the statistics do not support the claim made by the corporation’s journalists that Israeli building in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem endangers the two state solution. At the beginning of this month the BBC continued its promotion of that narrative in three separate items (here, here and here) which supposedly informed audiences about a report from the Quartet but actually airbrushed significant parts of its content.Construction art

On July 6th the BBC News website continued to propagate that narrative in an article titled “US criticises Israel over plans for new settlement homes” which relates to comments made by the same US State Department spokesman who just days earlier had refused to condemn an antisemitic libel promoted by the PA president in the European parliament (which the BBC chose to completely ignore).

The BBC News article tells readers that:

“The US has criticised Israeli plans to build hundreds of new homes in existing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

State department spokesman John Kirby called the plans the “latest step… in a systematic process of land seizures”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply disappointed” by the Israeli government’s decision.

The international Quartet of Middle East peace mediators also recently criticised settlement construction.”

However, while amplifying statements that dovetail with its own chosen narrative, the report does nothing to enhance readers’ understanding of the background and context to the story.

Information concerning the 19 year-long Jordanian occupation and the status of those areas before the belligerent Jordanian invasion of 1948 which would enable readers to understand why Israel views those areas as disputed is absent from this article. As ever, the BBC promotes its regular mantra on ‘international law’ without informing audiences of the existence of legal opinions which challenge that narrative.

“About 570,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Readers are not informed that the announcement to which the US spokesman was relating came in response to a recent series of deadly terror attacks.

“Citing an Israeli official, the Associated Press reported that the Israeli plans included 560 new homes in Maale Adumim, just outside Jerusalem, as well as almost 200 in the city itself. The plan also called for more than 600 new homes in an Arab neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, AP said.”

Neither are they informed that the “600 new homes in an Arab neighbourhood” (which interestingly is apparently categorised as a “Jewish settlement” for the purposes of this report) are intended to house Arab families from Beit Safafa and are part of a project in Givat HaMatos that the BBC has been reporting on since 2012.

Several days before this article was published we learned via Yolande Knell that the BBC is aware of the fact that in any realistic scenario of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians such as those proposed in the Clinton parameters and the Olmert offer, the main blocs of Israeli communities would remain under Israeli control.

“If a peace deal was reached, it is generally accepted that many settlements would remain. Past negotiations are understood to have included mutually agreed land-swaps in which Israel would keep its major settlement blocs.”

The sites of the housing units proposed in this latest announcement (which is only a preliminary step before the issue of tenders) would all be included in such land swaps – Givat HaMatos/Beit Safafa, Ma’ale Adumim, Har Homa and Ramot.

One must therefore wonder why the writer of this article refrained from informing readers of that fact and instead opted for the context-free promotion of misleading polemics such as:

“Mr Kirby said: “If true, this report would be the latest step in what seems to be a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalizations of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.””

Unfortunately the answer to that question is all too clear. The BBC has once again demonstrated that it is not interested in providing its audiences with the full range of information which would enable them to reach their own informed conclusions on this topic but prefers to amplify any and every statement or report which supports its own adopted political narrative, whilst at the same time downplaying or ignoring issues such as the foreign funded PA’s incitement and glorification of terror and Hamas’ terrorism.

That of course is campaigning – not journalism.

Related Articles:

Examining the BBC’s claim that Israeli building endangers the two state solution

BBC cites ‘large increase’ in Israeli building but fails to provide context

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part one

The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

 

BBC ignores Jordanian cancellation of US brokered Temple Mount plan

Recently we noted on these pages the lack of any follow-up from the BBC concerning a story it reported back in October 2015. That means that as far as BBC audiences are concerned, the information they were given in that article concerning Temple Mount still stands.Jordan TM report

“Israel and Jordan have agreed on moves aimed at reducing tensions surrounding a prominent holy site in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State John Kerry says. […]

The steps he announced include round-the-clock video monitoring and Israel’s agreement to reaffirm Jordan’s historic role as custodian of the religious complex.”

That, however, is not the case.

Following Palestinian opposition to the plan and repeated delays in its implementation, the Jordanian authorities have now finally announced its cancellation.

 “Jordan’s prime minister on Monday said his government had decided to call off a plan to install surveillance cameras at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, derailing a US-brokered pact to ease tensions at the volatile hilltop compound.

Abdullah Ensour told the state-run Petra News Agency that Jordan was calling off the plan due to Palestinian concerns.

“We were surprised since we announced our intention to carry out the project by the reactions of some of our brothers in Palestine who were skeptical about the project,” he said. “We have found that this project is no longer enjoying a consensus, and it might be controversial. Therefore we have decided to stop implementing it.”

The decision came just days before the Jewish holiday of Passover — a time of increased activity at the site.”

Both Israeli and US officials have expressed regret regarding the Jordanian decision.

“Israel remains in favor of installing security cameras at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, even after Jordan reneged on the project due to Palestinian reservations, a senior official said Tuesday.

“Israel’s support for placing cameras on the Temple Mount remains unchanged. That’s because we believe in transparency,” […]

“It is regrettable that the Palestinian Authority objects to this idea. It’s clear that they don’t want repeated Palestinian provocations caught on tape,” the official said. […]

[US Secretary of State] Kerry hailed the agreement as an important breakthrough at the time. On Monday the US State Department expressed disappointment that the plan has apparently failed.

“We still see the value in the use of cameras,” said spokesman John Kirby.”

Despite the fact that the BBC has devoted so much past reporting to the topic of ‘tensions’ on Temple Mount – and is of course likely to do so in the future – it apparently does not find it necessary for its audiences to know that measures intended to reduce those tensions have failed – and why.

Related Articles:

No BBC News follow up on Temple Mount ‘tensions’ story

Attempts to hobble Temple Mount cameras not news for BBC

BBC covers US terror designations for Hamas and Hizballah operatives – but not in English

Earlier this week the US State Department announced new terror designations for three members of Hamas and one Hizballah operative.

Ynet reported:

“The US Department of State has designated Yahya Sinwar, Samir Kuntar, Rawhi Mushtaha, and Mohammed Deif as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, it was revealed Tuesday.

Deif is the leader of Hamas’s military wing, while Sinwar is another senior member of Hamas. Kuntar is a Hezbollah operative who participated in a Nahariya terror attack that killed five Israelis, was imprisoned, and later released before returning to Lebanon. Mushtaha was also released in the same prisoner exchange, and is a member of the political branch of Hamas.

The designation means that all property subject to US jurisdiction in which the individuals have any interest is blocked and US persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them or to their benefit. […]

Regarding Kuntar, who was released from an Israeli prison in 2008, the State Department sad, that following his return to Lebanon, he joined Hezbollah and “has since emerged as one of the group’s most visible and popular spokesmen. Since Kuntar’s return, he has also played an operational role, with the assistance of Iran and Syria, in building up Hezbollah’s terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights.””BBC Arabic Kuntar art

Whilst the BBC did consider that story newsworthy enough to be the subject of an article on the BBC Arabic website, no equivalent report was provided for English speakers who – as regular readers know – are already grossly under-informed on the subject of Iranian and Hizballah activity along the border between Israel and Syria.

Related Articles:

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech