BBC WS ‘Weekend’ airs a confused report on Iranian drone story

Iran’s provision of weapons to Hizballah – sometimes via Syria – and Israeli efforts to prevent such transfers was common knowledge long before the civil war in Syria began in the spring of 2011.

In November 2009, for example, Israel intercepted the Francop which was carrying some 500 tons of weapons and ammunition.  

“According to the shipping documents, the cargo was originally loaded in Bandar Abbas, Iran, brought by another ship to the Egyptian port of Damietta, and then transloaded to the Francop, with an ultimate destination of Latakia, Syria. This destination was confirmed by Syria’s foreign minister, although he denied that the shipment included arms. […]

Following the preliminary search, the Israelis escorted the Francop to the port of Ashdod, where a complete search revealed the full extent of the arms shipment. Labels on the shipping containers and shipping documents, as well as markings on ammunition crates and the ammunition itself, established a clear link to various Iranian government organizations, including the Iranian state shipping line and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

In January 2010 – well over a year before the conflict in Syria broke out:

“…American intelligence services reported the transfer of 26 M-6002 missiles of Syrian manufacture to Hizbullah in Lebanon. These missiles, with a range of over 250 km., are intended to reinforce Hizbullah’s ability to strike at the Israeli home front if and when hostilities erupt. […]

Israeli and Western intelligence services have long been aware of Syrian and Iranian involvement in Hizbullah’s arms buildup. Damascus Airport has been identified as the transit point for airlifts of Iranian arms that were subsequently transferred to Hizbullah via the open Syrian-Lebanese border, under the supervision of the Syrian security services.”

Iran’s transfers of weapons to Hizballah – which of course breach more than one UN Security Council resolution, although the BBC regularly fails to inform audiences of that fact – did not cease after war broke out in Syria in March 2011. The BBC, however, has long depicted alleged Israeli efforts to thwart those transfers as being connected to the war in Syria and another example of that misleading portrayal was seen on February 10th in the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend‘.

Listeners heard presenter Julian Worricker introduce the item (from 01:17 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Worricker: “We’ll also go live to Jerusalem fairly shortly in this half-hour in the light of the news that Israel is saying that one of its fighter jets has crashed after attacking Iranian targets in Syria, the pilots parachuting to safety in Israel.”

Worricker then turned to one of his studio guests – journalist Mary Dejevsky – citing her recent visit to Israel. Dejevsky described “the mood” in Israel as:

Dejevsky: “…a great feeling of security and success in terms of foreign policy that Israel had managed to stay aloof, mostly, from the war in Syria. But at the same time there was a kind of looming apprehension about the ever closer encroachment – as it was felt in Israel – of Iran and Iranian influence towards the Israeli border…”

She added:

Dejevsky: “…Israel has tried very hard to keep its intervention such as it has been – airstrikes on select convoys that they regard as coming from Iran and supplying Hizballah in Lebanon – that they’ve tried to keep those interventions as absolutely discreet as possible. And suddenly everything in a way has been blown open.”

Obviously the events that followed the incursion of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace on the morning of February 10th – an incident which was notably absent from Worricker’s introduction – are not directly connected to previous alleged strikes by Israel against supplies of weapons to Hizballah.  Julian Worricker, however, went on to suggest to listeners that efforts to prevent Hizballah getting weapons are in fact connected to the war in Syria.

Worricker: “I was going to pick you up on your remark of “aloof, mostly”, just stressing the mostly because clearly strikes by Israel in Syria are not uncommon per se. You alluded to the particular targets they would always say that they are aiming for when they do it but clearly when a fighter plane comes down – even in Israeli territory – that clearly ups the ante.”

Later on in the same programme (from 11:49), Worricker spoke to the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem. After listeners had at last heard an accurate portrayal of the sequence of events that began with the infiltration of an Iranian UAV into Israeli airspace from Bateman, Worricker asked:

Worricker: “A word about Israeli action in Syria of this nature: how common has it been in recent times?”

Obviously airstrikes in response to a serious breach of Israel’s sovereignty by an Iranian UAV have not been “common” but Bateman’s response did not clarify that to listeners.

Bateman: “It is not uncommon and what Israel says is that it has two red lines for its engagement in Syria. They are cross-border fire that comes from Syria into the Golan Heights and what they describe as weapons transfers from Iranian forces to Hizballah – Lebanese militant fighters who are fighting inside Syria. They are the two triggers, if you like, that Israel says causes it to act inside Syrian territory – usually airstrikes – and they’re not uncommon. Israel rarely comments on them officially although a senior military figure said last year that the number was around a hundred of these attacks that have taken place over the last few years. So these things do happen. I think what is uncommon here of course is the event that this appears to have ended with: this Israeli jet coming down.”

Since 2013 the BBC has been telling its audiences – inaccurately – that Israel is “involved” in the conflict in Syria. As has been noted here in the past:

“In spite of the BBC’s suggestion to the contrary, Israel is not “involved in the conflict” in Syria. That conflict is a civil war between Assad loyalists (and their foreign allies) and anti-Assad rebels (and theirs) and Israel does not support one side or the other. Any actions which may have been taken by Israel are exclusively linked to the protection of its citizens.”

The BBC has also repeatedly downplayed the threats posed to Israel by the presence of Iran and Hizballah in Syria as well as their repeated aggressive rhetoric.

It perhaps therefore comes as no surprise to see that the BBC’s own journalists are unable to provide audiences with a lucid and informative account that distinguishes between the factors that lie behind the recent events in Israel and Syria and the separate topics of Iran’s supply of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and the civil war in Syria.

Related Articles:

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story – part two

BBC WS Newshour coverage of Iran drone story –part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part two

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BBC WS claims Israeli ‘pressure’ and ‘incentives’ led Jews to flee Iraq

The November 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend asked “what happened to the Jews of Baghdad?” but listeners hoping to get an accurate and full answer to that question would have been disappointed.

Presenter Julian Worricker introduced the item (from 43:47 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Worricker: “Now in 1917 a third of the people living in the Iraqi city of Baghdad were Jewish. A hundred years on, among the city’s six and a half million people only a handful are Jews. There was more than one factor behind the exodus of Baghdad’s Jewish population and a new documentary that premiered in London last week has been exploring what happened to some of them, among them Edwin Shuker. In 1971 he left Baghdad as a child and came to Britain with his parents and he says he still wants to maintain a bond with Iraq.”

The documentary concerned is called ‘Remember Baghdad’ and listeners heard a short clip from that film before Worricker interviewed Edwin Shuker. After Mr Shuker spoke about the 2,600 year-long history of the Jewish community in Iraq and the background to some of the scenes in the film portraying his visits to Iraq, Worricker continued:

Worricker: “…you went to what I think is now the only still potentially functioning – and I say potentially for good reason – synagogue. It is a building in good condition but it is the only one like that and there are now said to be only five Jews left in Iraq. How has it come to that?”

Shuker: “Well, it was ethnic cleansing. In…”

Worricker [interrupts]: “That’s how you see it?”

Shuker: “That’s how the world should see it. In 1948 there were 150,000 Jews. Many of them would have stayed. Then there were some very racist laws. Law number 1951 which stripped them from their nationality but more than that, it stripped every Jew who ever leaves Iraq for whatever reason for more than six months – and only the Jew – stripped him from his nationality without the possibility of recovering it.”

Worricker, however, went on to propose another reason for the decline of Iraq’s Jewish community to BBC World Service listeners.

Worricker: “Part of that sharp fall in numbers in the early 1950s was also due – was it not – to what the then first Israeli prime minister David Ben Gurion was offering to Jews by way of…you can call it pressure, call it incentive…to move to what was then the new Jewish state.”

Quite what ‘incentives’ Julian Worricker believes Ben Gurion had to offer Iraqi Jews at the time – apart from a shack unconnected to mains water or electricity in a transit camp, dubious employment prospects and loss of social status – is unclear.

Notably though, while Worricker did find time in this item to suggest that Israel ‘pressured’ Jews to leave Iraq, listeners heard nothing at all about the main turning point in the story of that community – the Farhud in 1941. Neither did they hear any explanation of the political events that led to that pogrom or – beyond the one law mentioned by Mr Shuker – the legislations by the Iraqi government that resulted in Jews being criminalised on suspicion of being Zionists, dismissed from government employment and stripped of their assets. No mention was made of another seminal event that contributed to the exodus of Jews from Iraq: the show trial and hanging of a prominent Jewish businessman in 1948.

During the subsequent conversation with Worricker’s studio guests Jonathan Steele and Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, listeners heard the latter describe Iran as having “a vibrant Jewish population” along with the claim that Jews who did leave the country did so “because they didn’t want their boys going off to fight in the Iran-Iraq war”. They did not however hear any mention of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran as a factor that caused Persian Jews to flee the country.

With the BBC having a very dismal track record on reporting the topic of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim lands, listeners to this programme would not be well placed to fill in its serious omissions for themselves. Hence, the question presented as a description of this item was clearly left largely unanswered.  

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio promotes Avi Shlaim’s historical misrepresentations – part two

Guardian frames expulsion of Iraqi Jews in 40s and 50s as “easygoing, pluralistic prosperity”  (UK Media Watch)

BBC Amends Faulty Article on Iraqi Jews, Acknowledges Farhud  (CAMERA)

 

BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part two

In part one of this post we discussed the first part of an item about the Gaza Strip aired in the September 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend‘ (from 26:30) which ended with presenter Paul Henley saying:

Henley: “Najla – a mother of two young children with impeccable English who lives in Gaza. And she paints a grim picture of a place to live, of a quality of life, Stewart.”

Studio guest Stewart Purvis for some reason responded by bringing up an unrelated BBC linked story and misleading listeners with regard to Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 during which all the communities in – rather than “around” – Gaza were of course evacuated. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Purvis: “Yes; very, very depressing to listen to and it’s actually about ten years since I was last in Gaza visiting the BBC bureau there and I came away pessimistic and I suppose my pessimism was partly confirmed when a few months later the BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was taken hostage, if you remember, and happily was later released. But I just…I mean at that point the Israelis had withdrawn from settlements around Gaza and there was some sense of momentum. But that momentum seems to have completely disappeared and there is really so little signs of anything positive happening almost on any front.”

While one might have expected the discussion to turn at that point to relevant topics such as the 2007 violent Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip, the terror organisation’s subsequent escalation of attacks on Israeli civilians and its Israel erasing agenda or the decade-long rift between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, instead Henley turned (at 36:03) to his other guest, Jane Kinninmont, with a topic much less helpful to audience understanding of the topic of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

Henley: “The residents of Gaza have been off the news radar a bit, haven’t they Jane?”

In the eight months between January and August 2017, the BBC itself has produced at least 18 reports about the Gaza Strip on its English language services alone. In addition to its regular reporting, since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the BBC has broadcast a documentary on that topic and produced special ‘anniversary’ coverage both six months and twelve months after the war. How Henley reached the conclusion that Gaza is “off the news radar” is therefore unclear but his guest played along with that notion.

Kinninmont: “Absolutely; partly because it’s a story that doesn’t change. There’s coverage when there is a conflict but I think the repetitive nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has contributed to it really falling off the news agenda. People are much more interested in other parts of the Middle East. But there may be changes to come for Gaza.”

Henley: “Because of the new US administration or what?”

Kinninmont: “Partly and because of the row that’s been simmering in the Gulf between Qatar – which is the major donor to Gaza – and the UAE, Saudi and Egypt on the other side.”

Henley: “Go on, explain.”

Listeners then got to hear a version of a story which the BBC has been ignoring for months.

Kinninmont: “So it’s an interesting little-noticed thing that the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt really want to try to rein in Qatari influence over Islamist groups throughout the region and they are trying to see if they can broker some kind of deal that would bring a Fatah strongman into power in Gaza – so someone from the same party as Mahmoud Abbas. Ah…it’s a man called Mohammed Dahlan who’s been a kind of strongman in Palestinian politics for many years – now believed to be resident in Abu Dhabi – and they are trying to cook up some kind of offer where Gaza would see more ability to trade in return for internal political changes. Now who knows; there have been many attempts to open up Gaza’s economy and solve politics through economics and none have worked so far. But there is at least some attempt going on just now.”

Clearly listeners would not understand from that portrayal that Dahlan is Abbas’ bitter rival and that some of the measures imposed by the Palestinian Authority in recent months that have contributed to the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip have been linked to the Hamas-Dahlan overtures.

Henley then promoted another questionable notion:

Henley: “Najla sounds like an outward-looking woman interested in world affairs but she’s not particularly interested in the politics. She hasn’t got time to worry about the greater picture when she’s struggling to stop food rotting in her cupboards when the fridge is off.”

A quick look at Oxfam employee Najla Shawa’s Twitter timeline would have relieved Henley of that mistaken impression. This, for example, is a Tweet relating to the July 14th terror attack in which two Israeli policemen were murdered in Jerusalem by three Arab-Israeli terrorists from Umm el Fahm.

Jane Kinninmont closed the item with another comment that did nothing to enhance audience understanding of the stated subject matter of this item.

Kinninmont: “Absolutely. Palestinians are preoccupied with daily fire-fighting. But it is interesting they have some of the highest rates of social media usage in the world. When people can actually get online – when they have enough electricity to do so – because of the isolation and immobility many Palestinians are trying to be politically active online, trying to change opinion here in the West.”

So as we see, in this very long item the BBC World Service promoted a carefully framed picture of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip which once again failed to adequately clarify its background. While excluding Hamas terrorism from audience view, the item did however steer listeners towards the erroneous belief that the crisis involving electricity, water, medical and sewage has some connection to the blockade imposed by Israel, while completely ignoring the topic of why that measure is necessary.  

Related Articles:

BBC audiences still not getting news of Palestinian politics

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ listeners get warped view of Gaza electricity crisis

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza

BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part one

BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part one

h/t RB

An edition of the BBC World Service radio news and current affairs programme ‘Weekend‘ that was broadcast on September 3rd included an item promoting some noteworthy framing of the Gaza Strip but before that, presenter Paul Henley introduced his studio guests (from 26:30) Stewart Purvis – formerly of ITV and OFCOM – and Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House.

Leading up to the Gaza related item, listeners heard some interesting signposting (from 28:09) concerning radicalisation and terrorism which dovetails perfectly with the BBC’s chosen narrative on those topics.

Henley asked Kinninmont: [all emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley: “How much…when you’re looking at causes of instability and the endless problems that you concentrate on there [the Middle East], how much do you put down to unemployment, which seems to be the big social and economic problem?”

Kinninmont: “Absolutely. We need to look at the political economy of the region and the sense of injustice that’s created for many young people because they see corrupt people succeeding and they see so little opportunity for themselves even if they are hard-working, even if they are highly educated. These are probably more important things to look at than the ideology that the media obsesses over when thinking about terrorism; not least because you can actually address some of these economic problems.”

Henley: “And because of the interest in terrorism and…and where it comes about, do you have particular countries that you’re more interested in?”

Kinninmont: “Well we cover the whole region and we try very much in our team of analysts to speak about the 99% of people from the Middle East who have nothing to do with terrorist groups. Ah…I fear that the oxygen of publicity is still an issue; that there is a kind of media obsession with terrorism over and above all other problems.”

Following that (at 29:22) Henley turned listeners’ attentions to the topic of the UN Secretary General’s recent visit to Israel, the Gaza Strip and the PA controlled territories: a topic previously very briefly covered by BBC News in one report. While referencing Israeli and Egyptian counter-terrorism measures, Henley did not bother to inform listeners why they are necessary.

Henley: “Last week the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Israel and the Gaza Strip for the first time since he took office. Speaking at a UN run school, Mr Guterres said urgent solutions were needed to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. A recent UN report says living conditions for the two million people who live in Gaza – which is blockaded by both Israel and Egypt – are deteriorating rapidly. Mr Guterres stressed that resolving the crisis also required political will and he called on the Palestinians to end the division between Hamas – which rules Gaza – and Fatah – which governs the West Bank. In a speech in Tel Aviv he said he’d never shied away from criticising all sides in the conflict if he felt their actions weren’t moving towards a peaceful solution.”

Guterres’ remarks at a UNRWA school in Gaza also included “an appeal for unity” between the Palestinian factions engaged in a decade-long dispute along with a call to “avoid the buildup of the militantism” that is the cause of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Significantly – given the later framing in this item – listeners were not told of those remarks.

The “recent UN report” to which Henley referred was previously presented to BBC World Service listeners in a problematic report that failed to clarify the real reasons for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Guterres’ “speech in Tel Aviv” was delivered at the Museum of the Jewish People and listeners then heard the small part of it that the BBC chose to highlight – but without being informed of the crucial fact that Hamas rejects the two state solution.

Recording Guterres: “It’s my deep belief that the two state solution is the only way forward; the only path towards the historic compromise that can settle this conflict and lead to a better future for all. That is why I have been – and will continue to be – expressing my disagreement when it’s the case with unilateral measures and facts on the ground that can or could undermine that solution, including settlement activities but also continued violence, terror and incitement.”

At 30:40 Henley gave a brief introduction to a guest who was allotted almost half the air-time of the entire item. Her unchallenged claims were also separately promoted by the BBC World Service in a related programme.

Henley: “So away from the talk of the so-called important people, what is life like for the people of Gaza? Najla is a mother of two children. She was born in Gaza and she’s lived there all her life.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, that first name only introduction clearly does not allow listeners to understand who the speaker actually is or what her affiliations and “particular viewpoint” are.

Najla Shawa appeared on the BBC World Service over two years ago and then too the introduction was inadequate with the fact that she works for the politically partisan NGO Oxfam and was previously employed in various roles by the UN left unclarified. With Shawa having studied for three years at Birzeit University near Ramallah and subsequently at George Mason University in the US, Henley’s claim that she has “lived in Gaza all her life” is obviously misleading.

Shawa began with the promotion of the ‘Gaza prison’ theme. On the last working day before this item was aired, 638 people had entered or exited the Gaza Strip, seven ambulance crossings had been facilitated and 18,157 tons of goods in 577 trucks had entered the territory on one day alone.

Shawa: “The entire population is simply living in a big prison. We are unable to move, there’s no way to travel so the restriction of movement is on everything; on people and on goods – at least from Gaza to the outside world. Gaza has some input such as food and basic items but there’s no way for any economic activity to take place.”

In fact, in June 2017, 1,304 tons of goods were exported from the Gaza Strip. Shawa continued with a presentation of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip which did not clarify to listeners that it is the product of the internal dispute between Fatah and Hamas and is completely unconnected to the previously mentioned “blockade”.

Shawa: “People are continually living uncertainty and challenged by different issues every day. The last few months there was the electricity situation that worsened and has really deepened the humanitarian situation in Gaza and affected everyone, and particularly affects people who have less financial ability or less ability to access things like food or basic items. You know, in Gaza unemployment is at really alarming rate: some 60% among people who are able to work; in a working age. Poverty is also at very high rates. “

Shawa appears to be passing off rounded-up youth unemployment figures as general unemployment rates: according to the World Bank, the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip in 2016 was 42%, with youth unemployment at 58%. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has slightly different figures and notes the very low workforce participation rate among females over the age of 15. The CIA World Factbook cites a poverty rate of 30%. Shawa continued:

Shawa: “Again, electricity; this is something that we’ve been living with for many years – I would say at least 10 years. But the last few months we are getting only 3 to 4 hours of electricity every day. You can imagine people’s refrigerators are turning into closets. We joke about it but there’s no way to keep things in your fridge. And you can imagine what this means to poor people who can’t afford simply to buy things every day. We adapt to schedules; we are going to have electricity from this hour to this hour so yeah we plan for laundry, we plan to maybe go out and do whatever. I mean, you know, you simply want to get out of the house.

You can also look at like small producers, small enterprises; they have shut down. Even big, larger ones are affected; they’re having to endure large amount of money just to survive, just to keep their business going and keep their work going. If we talk about water, water is the major, major threat problem in Gaza since many years. The way we get water, you need electricity for water to be pumped. You need water to be in a good quality. We have very salty water. There’s very little infrastructure. There is very little room for even doing any solutions for water. The majority of the sea is polluted with sewage. I mean real sewage – like raw sewage – and this is another huge problem. It’s causing a real environmental problem. We simply cannot eat the fish that is from the sea because it’s only full of sewage. We’re in the summer season and the heat and humidity in Gaza is very high and living under these conditions, children – I’m thinking about health – the simple, simple daily activity of people is extremely challenging.”

Yet again, no effort was made to clarify to listeners that the issues concerning sewage and water are rooted in the internal dispute between Hamas and Fatah and the all-important issue of Hamas’ prioritisation of replenishing and expanding its military infrastructure over civilian needs was not brought to audience attention.

Henley then inserted linkage to his previous conversation with Jane Kinninmont concerning ‘reasons’ for radicalisation.

Henley: “And I know you consider yourself relatively privileged but there are an awful lot of poor people judging by the rate of unemployment.”

Shawa: “That’s correct. I mean you’re talking about 80% of the Gaza Strip depends on aid. The Palestinian internal divide is also causing an additional layer to these problems that the Gazans are facing.”

No attempt was made to explain to listeners what that passing reference to “the Palestinian internal divide” actually means or how it affects Gaza residents.

Henley: “And when the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres comes to Gaza and calls for an end to the blockade, is he seen as an ally by people there? I mean the demonstrators were greeting him angrily.”

Henley did not clarify that the demonstrations were in support of convicted terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons.

Shawa: “Of course. I mean people here appreciate the role of the UN because it is providing basic services to the majority of the population of Gaza. I mean we know that people considers as their right because the majority of the Gazans are refugees and the services are provided by UNRWA in addition to other agencies. However, there is a great deal of anger because the UN is simply not doing much on the political level of things and this is purely a political issue and everybody knows that. Expressing concern and calling for an end of blockade is not enough and we’ve heard it again and again. And a generation – maybe after a generation now talking the blockade for the last 10 years, but you are talking about the general picture that the occupation is the issue here. That’s why people are angry because nothing is changing on the ground.”

Henley did not intervene to explain to audiences why, after nearly 70 years, the “majority of the Gazans” are still classified as refugees or how their status is different from that of refugees in the rest of the world. Neither did he remind audiences that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 12 years ago and – predictably – did not clarify that the territory is not ‘occupied’. Shawa closed her unchallenged and unquestioned monologue with the promotion of claims she did not support with statistical evidence.

Shawa: “You know, this pressure will simply lead to extremely negative phenomena. Young people are committing suicide. I mean I cannot talk about rates or numbers but we are seeing this every day. We are seeing more crime. We never heard of so much crime in the last years; only a few months we’re hearing so many incidents. And this is really worrying and again, people have the right to be angry.”

Henley concluded his guest’s appearance with a description no less inadequate than the one in his introduction:

Henley: “Najla – a mother of two young children with impeccable English who lives in Gaza.”

As we see, throughout this lengthy item BBC World Service listeners heard nothing of the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians and of the link between that and Israel’s counter-terrorism measures along its border with the Gaza Strip. While they did hear long and detailed descriptions of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the absence of any adequate explanation of how the lengthy dispute between Hamas and Fatah has adversely affected electricity, water, medical and sewage services in the territory means that listeners would be quite likely to reach the erroneous conclusion that those issues are connected to the ‘blockade’ which is mentioned repeatedly.

However, the item was not over yet and its final section will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Cherry picking terror and ‘explaining’ radicalisation at the BBC

BBC report on UN SG’s Israel visit omits his statements on anti-Zionism

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ listeners get warped view of Gaza electricity crisis

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Weekend’ presenter Paul Henley erases hundreds of terror attacks in 34 words

h/t GB

The December 27th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Weekend’ was devoted to revisiting “programme highlights from the past year”, one of which was an item about an organisation called ‘Heartbeat‘.WS Weekend 27 12

Presenter Paul Henley introduced the item (from 35:52 here) as follows:

“At the end of June the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found near the city of Hebron. They’d been abducted earlier in the month while they were hiking. Israel started airstrikes on Gaza. As hostilities got worse, we looked at an organisation at the beginning of July called ‘Heartbeat’. It’s a not for profit organisation that brings together Israeli and Palestinian young musicians […] to socialise, make music and art and get to know one another and – almost by osmosis – develop creative, non-violent tools for some sort of badly needed social change there.”

Beyond the BBC presenter’s paternalistic and parochial prescription of “badly needed social change”, what of course stand out most are the inaccuracies and omissions in Henley’s introduction.

Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Frankel were not “hiking” at the time of the incident on June 12th and they were not only “abducted” but also murdered by a Hamas terrorist cell: facts which Henley erases from his account of events. Henley clearly implies linkage between the kidnappings and murders and Israeli “airstrikes on Gaza”. His narrative does not include the fact that Israel’s actions were actually in response to missile attacks by terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip and that between June 14th and July 8th (the beginning of Operation Protective Edge), two hundred and eighty-eight missiles hit Israeli territory.  

And so we see how, in a mere thirty-four words, Henley casually distorts facts and creates an inaccurate narrative which erases terrorism whilst focusing audience attention on misrepresented Israeli actions alone. So much for BBC editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC misleads audiences regarding cause of Operation Protective Edge

The BBC World Service, a Nazi analogy and George Clooney’s mum-in-law

h/t RL

This one may have to be filed under ‘you couldn’t make it up’.

On October 11th the BBC World Service’s radio programme ‘Weekend‘ was presented by Julian Worricker and, as usual, included two studio guests invited to “discuss and comment on themes and ideas of the week’s news, from the realms of politics, science, music and the arts”.Weekend 11 10

One of the items included in the programme (from 36:00 here for a limited period of time) was an interview with film director Vanessa Lapa about her film ‘The Decent One’, described as follows by the Jerusalem Post.

“Vanessa Lapa’s documentary portrait of SS chief Heinrich Himmler, The Decent One, is eerily fascinating. The movie is both a biography of Himmler and a history of Nazism, its soundtrack composed entirely (except for a brief interview in English at the beginning and the end, and background music) of excerpts from Himmler’s and his family’s letters and diaries. A few titles give historical context, but the words we hear are from these letters, read by actors.
Lapa, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, came into possession of these letters when her father bought them at auction so she could use them to make this film, which won the Best Israeli Documentary Award at this summer’s Jerusalem Film Festival.”

Following the conversation between Lapa and Worricker, the latter invited his studio guests to comment on what they had just heard with the first to speak being author and Economist correspondent Tim Judah. Worricker’s second guest – foreign editor of Al Hayat, Bariaa Alamuddin (aka George Clooney’s mother-in-law) – was then invited to comment too (from 49:04 in the link above).

Worricker: “Bariaa – what did you draw out of what you heard from Vanessa Lapa?”

Alamuddin: “Ah…quite a few things actually. Of course one always should look back at this with horror of course. The massacres and the Holocaust was a very bad point in the history of human beings. Nevertheless, it’s interesting the audience in Jerusalem – I’m sure there were no Palestinians in the attendance there – and what is something that I do not understand at all is where the Jews have suffered all this, how they can inflict on the Palestinians what they do. It’s something that must be in the psychic of every Jew and for them to elect people like Netanyahu or the rest of his cabinet and to…for them to go onto wars like the last Gaza war – I mean indeed since ’48 they must have killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians – this is an aspect that I do not understand about the Holocaust. I love history…”

Worricker: “Hmm…”

Alamuddin: “…and I think any nation that does not look deep into its history is not a good thing. I talk to Germans a lot about this. Some of them have fatigue about this and indeed I haven’t met one German that celebrates what Hitler has done and nevertheless the younger generation does not really want to be blamed for what Hitler has done, so I understand in a way…”

Worricker: “Sure. Tim: come back on what you’ve just heard from Bariaa.”

Judah: “No, I don’t want to talk about that.”

Worricker: “No. I mean you brought it to the present day…ehm…and your view of what’s going on in the Middle East. I didn’t get into that with Vanessa Lapa obviously but that film, as I say, is being shown in Los Angeles; it starts…”

Alamuddin: “It’s a very valid point, Julian, the one I’m just bringing…”

Worricker: “Is it a valid point? Or…”

Judah: “Yes. I mean to a certain extent, yes. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it.”

Worricker: “I was going to invite you to [laughs] ….fair enough….if you want to leave it there…”

Clearly there are two issues arising from this broadcast, with one being a matter of accuracy. Bariaa Alamuddin claimed that “since ’48 they must have killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians”. The word “they” refers to Jews: notably Alamuddin never used the word Israelis. 

The estimated number of Arab casualties – not just Palestinians – in all of the wars, riots, uprisings and operations since 1920 stands at less than one hundred thousand. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that 13,000 Palestinians and Israelis were killed between 1948 and 1996. Those figures do not distinguish between civilians and combatants but what is quite obvious is that the figures promoted by Alamuddin are blatantly exaggerated. 

Julian Worricker, however, made no attempt to correct Alamuddin’s inaccurate statement and thus allowed BBC audiences to be grossly misled.

The second issue is that of Alamuddin’s use of a thinly-veiled Nazi analogy. Alamuddin claims that the victims of Nazi persecution have become persecutors of the same order; conveniently erasing context, circumstance and, of course, the actions of Palestinians from her narrative. There is nothing original about Alamuddin’s prejudice: as Howard Jacobson noted in 2011 it has been around for years. 

“Forget Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is old hat. The new strategy – it showed its hand in Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, and surfaced again in Channel 4’s recent series The Promise – is to depict the Holocaust in all its horror in order that Jews can be charged (“You, of all people”) with failing to live up to it. By this logic the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t. “Jews know more than anyone that killing civilians is wrong,” resounds an unmistakably authorial voice in The Promise. Thus are Jews doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to the moral wasteland of having found no humanising redemption in its horrors.”

The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism includes the following:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”

Alamuddin, as mentioned above, did not even bother to use the word ‘Israeli’: like MP David Ward before her, she exclusively used the word Jews, suggesting that – as also defined in the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism – she has no compunction about:

“Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”

Worricker’s failed – and not particularly convincing – attempts to get Tim Judah to respond to Alamuddin’s obviously offensive remarks do not of course excuse either his own dithering inaction or the BBC’s promotion and amplification of racist statements and inaccurate ‘statistics’. No less problematic is the fact that those statements have been left standing in the recorded version of the programme currently available on BBC iPlayer. 

Two BBC programmes claim criticism of Israel brings accusations of antisemitism

h/t: DL, Amie

One annoying aspect of being an Israeli, or a person with family in Israel, at a time like this is having to listen to pundits (who it is quite safe to assume have never had to grab their children and rush to a bomb-shelter within seconds because of missile fire from terrorists) sitting safely in a studio thousands of miles away and pontificating about the rights and wrongs of a conflict upon which they apparently believe they are qualified to comment because they have read about it in the papers or watched it on television.Any Questions

This last weekend the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions?’ had on its panel the former (2000 – 2004) BBC director general Greg Dyke, former LibDem MP Susan Kramer, Harper’s Bazaar editor Justine Picardie and MEP Dan Hannan. In the section of the programme which related to the current hostilities (available here from around 33:13 or here on iPlayer), listeners heard the editor of a fashion magazine opine that life in Gaza “is like living in a big prison”. They also heard a British MEP describe the Gaza Strip as a “sealed concentration camp almost” and then add “I should say sealed refugee camp”. Most interestingly though, they got to hear the following remarks from the man who headed the BBC during most of the second Intifada before resigning his position in the wake of the Hutton Report.

Greg Dyke: “I have to say, I do find the Israeli response massively over the top. [applause] I look at…and I look at what’s been happening this week with horror. I also….the problem is, if you criticize Israel you are – by certain sections of the Jewish community around the world – immediately accused of being antisemitic – which I am not in any way. And we have got to overcome…and you have to look at why is the American response always so limited; why do the Americans actually….because they’re scared of the Jewish community and the Jewish vote in America. We somehow have got to separate the concept of antisemitism…and supporting an Israeli government that I think is not supportable or doing things that are not justifiable. [applause]”

Presenter Jonathan Dimbleby then says:

“Greg, as you will know, historically the BBC has come under great external pressure from the interest groups in this – very severe. At the moment the criticism seems to be coming principally not from the Israelis for the BBC coverage but from those who think that the Palestinians and those who live in Palestine are not being fairly, adequately represented with enough background information to form a clear judgement. Yet…is the BBC eternally locked in that or does the BBC have something to answer for?”

Dyke: “It’s incredibly difficult. I mean I was director general of the BBC for four years in a period of conflict. There was no doubt there was more pressure on me from the Israelis than any other state anywhere in the world. To the extent that in the end I stood up and said look I’m sorry – you cannot be the judge of impartiality. You are so one-sided in this you have got to leave it to us to be the judge of impartiality but we have got to be impartial and we have got to try to be impartial. I do find – I have to say – this week I have found every time the BB…eh…BBC news talks about Israel and then militant Palestinians, I find that a difficult…if I’d been director general this time, I’d be saying hang on – this is…is this not judgemental? We call one bunch a government and the other bunch we call militant Palestinians and the word militant implies somehow illegitimate.”

So, apparently the man who was at the helm whilst the BBC spread the lethal narratives of the ‘Jenin massacre’ that never was and the Al Dura story is more concerned about the risk of implying via terminology that a person who indiscriminately fires military grade missiles at civilians is “illegitimate” than he is with those acts themselves. One can only wonder if that ‘gem’ crops up in the Balen Report of 2004 which the BBC has spent ten years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money avoiding publishing.

Another programme broadcast by the BBC this last weekend was the July 27th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Weekend’ – available here for a limited period of time. It is worth listening to the programme in full in order to hear the context-free descriptions of the Gaza Strip from Chris Morris and Ian Pannell, including further promotion of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demand to “lift the economic blockade” – described as a “smart demand” by Morris.WS Weekend

That programme also has two guests: one a woman in Paris called Vaiju Naravane – a novelist and former European bureau chief for the India’s Hindu newspaper, which apparently qualifies her to discuss the issue of this conflict although the fact that she describes Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria as “colonies” is probably sufficient clue as to her political orientations. Right at the end of the programme she is given a platform to promote the following notions.

“Oh I think it’s a huge challenge [covering the story in the Gaza Strip]. I mean this is bigger than anything we faced in the Balkans in the 1990s for instance. […] and we’re not talking also about the essentials of the problem. I mean when France was occupied during the Second World War there were people who were planting bombs and there were people who were undertaking terrorist acts in order to get rid of the Germans from here and they were hailed as heroes. Now the same thing is not being applied to Hamas. I have no sympathies for Hamas because I think they’re extremists and all that. But at the same time you cannot in any moral sense have the kind of occupation – the way in which these people – this 1.4 million population is living in 140 square meters [sic] of territory without any kind of access and this is going on year after year after year and Israel’s demand seems to me to be submit, don’t do anything, don’t hit back and we’ll be OK with you but we will not remove the blockades, we will not remove the restrictions we place on your life. Now what sort of an argument is that?”

The other guest on that programme was Robert Fox – formerly a BBC defence correspondent and currently an occasional BBC contributor. Notably, Fox came up with the same claim promoted by Greg Dyke the day before.

“One of the difficulties that I’m having is that every time you criticize Israel… somebody of my position who’s been at the game for 47 years….ah, but you’re being antisemitic. That is a confusion of language. It’s a monstrosity… [..] This is a debate. There is an argument on all sides because what the criticism of Israel…what Israel is doing – and it’s a fundamental of international law – it is disproportion.”

So there we go: two ‘cultured’ BBC radio programmes in one weekend – both of which include promotion of the notion that it is not possible to criticize Israel without being accused of antisemitism – with one of the speakers making his own none-too-veiled insinuations based on the ‘Jewish power’ trope and another who – through her claim that Hamas is like the French Resistance and her comparison of Israel’s non-existent occupation of Gaza with that of Germany in France in WWII  – using a Nazi analogy.

Could it get more surreal than that?  

 

 

 

BBC interviewee’s support for Greta Berlin’s antisemitic videos

As readers will no doubt remember, the BBC World Service saw fit to broadcast an interview with Gilad Atzmon on its ‘Weekend’ programme on October 14th 2012, in which the host Julian Worricker declared himself to be “intrigued” by the proudly antisemitic, Holocaust-denying jazz musician. Worricker even posted a photo of himself and Atzmon on the BBC World Service’s Facebook wall. 

Atzmon has not been shy about adding his voice to the fray which ensued after Greta Berlin of the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ posted a video claiming that “Zionists operated the concentration camps” on the organisation’s official Twitter account.

(If you have not been keeping up with that rather tangled chain of events, it is documented here – part 1 – and here – part 2 – by Avi Mayer and is well worth reading in full.)

The Greta Berlin story broke on September 30th: two weeks before Atzmon’s World Service interview. By October 7th, Atzmon had come out in support of Berlin and her posting of the video, writing on his own blog:

“A few days ago Greta Berlin had been subject to a vile Israeli and Zionist smear campaign following her facebook post containing the following message: “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews”. ” …

“Zionists and Hasbara agents were very quick to slander Berlin. They tagged her as an ‘anti Semite’ and a ‘Holocaust denier’. But clearly there is no Holocaust denial in Berlin’s message..” ….

 “The meaning of it all is pretty simple. As I disclose in my latest book The Wandering Who, there is a devastating continuum between hard core Zionism, Israeli Hasbara and the Jewish so-called ‘left’. Unfortunately, some Palestinians also operate as Sabbath Goyim. And they better be exposed [sic].”

In other words, Atzmon regards attempts by those in the world of pro-Palestinian activism to clean up their movement’s act and dissociate it from racism and Holocaust denial as a “Zionist plot”. 

That information was available to BBC researchers and to Julian Worricker – who claimed during the interview to have read “both critics and supporters” of Atzmon – a full week before the programme was broadcast. 

And yet, despite Atzmon’s infamous history and his open support for a woman who promoted antisemitic material on the internet (including a 1943 Nazi propaganda film), Worricker elected to go ahead with the interview, not only failing to challenge any of Atzmon’s bizarre statements, but also with the dumbed-down presentation of his guest as a mere “controversial public critic of Israel”.

The employment of racism and Holocaust denial in order to delegitimize a nation for political ends does not fall into the category of ‘criticism’ and Atzmon’s rantings go far beyond Worricker’s theme of “music and politics”. 

More recently, on October 19th, Atzmon published another predictably odious piece – entitled “Jewish Domination? Occupation More Likely” and cross-posted at ‘Countercurrents‘ – in which he wrote of those opposing antisemitism and Holocaust denial:

“The recent attack on Free Gaza’s Greta Berlin and Colonel Ann Wright suggests that we have crossed a red line — Jewish domination within the Palestinian solidarity movement belongs to the past. We are now, it seems, under Zionist occupation, and we are subject to all the symptoms of Israeli abuse and Zionist brutality. The expulsions, the exclusions and the cleansings that are inherent within Zionism, Israeli and Jewish politics, are now alive and kicking within the Palestinian solidarity movement itself. ” ….

“The message here is clear – some elements within the Palestinian solidarity movement have obviously adopted the most repellent and brutal Zionist symptoms, and we are now engaged, caught up in, and beset by a sinister series of expulsions, purges, crude witch hunts, exclusions, smears, character defamations and cleansings.”

I would be very interested to hear whether Julian Worricker really thinks that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial constitute “criticism” of Israel (or anything else) and if he still stands by the decision to give air-time to a man who thinks they have a place in the pro-Palestinian movement. Mr Worricker is invited to contribute his thoughts to the discussion in the comments below.