BBC WS ‘World Have Your Say’ misleads on Israeli buses

The February 23rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ – which claims to “host your conversations, experiences and perspectives on the big conversations of the moment” [emphasis added] – began (from 00:46 here) with an item loosely based on a story about a catalogue designed for the orthodox sector that was published by the Ikea franchise holder in Israel and which, like a catalogue published several years ago by the company’s franchise in Saudi Arabia, excluded images of women.whys-ikea-catalogue

The item – which left listeners with some inaccurate and misleading impressions – was introduced by presenter Chloe Tilley as follows:

Tilley: “But first we’ll begin by speaking to ultra-orthodox Jews and others to pick up on a conversation surrounding a magazine released in Israel by Ikea. In it there were no photographs of women. Ikea has apologised for upsetting people but said ‘due to requests we received, we decided to launch an alternative and special catalogue which allows the religious and Haredi communities to enjoy our products in accordance with their life-style’. Well let’s speak now to Jeremy Sharon who is religious affairs reporter for the Jerusalem Post. Ahm…Jeremy, just explain to us why this has become an issue in Israel.”

Sharon: “Well the truth is that this is something which has been going on for quite a long time – ehm…since the 1980s – and in some ultra-orthodox newspapers, before that as well. So I think it has jumped to the headlines because it was an international company like Ikea but in the ultra-orthodox newspapers they do not generally print pictures of women. Some in the past have even not published the names of women and referred to them by their initials. And in other publications it’s often very rare to see pictures of women published, which has changed slightly in recent years with the publication of some illustrations of women in women’s supplements in the ultra-orthodox newspapers.”

Tilley: “But this was just one supplement, wasn’t it? There was another catalogue which people may see in any other part of the world from Ikea that was distributed in Israel. This was just for the Haredi community so why are some people offended by that?”

Sharon: Well I mean I think that’s a good question. I think there is concern that Haredi norms – the norms of the ultra-orthodox society – might penetrate and move into general society. I’m not sure how well justified that is but one example has been in recent years the introduction of gender separate buses where women have to go to the back; ultra-orthodox women need to go to the back – or in fact any women travelling on those lines go to the back of the bus – and men stay on the front. Other examples also can include in certain neighbourhoods attempts to make gender segregation on pavements, on sidewalks. So I think maybe that’s the concern. Having said that, I’m not sure how justified that is but I think, I think there is a concern that this might spread or be forced on the wider public.”

The claim concerning “gender separation on pavements” relates specifically to Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox Mea She’arim neighbourhood at a certain time of the year and that was ruled illegal by an Israeli court.

“Following several years of active opposition to gender-separate sidewalks on Mea She’arim Street during the Succot holiday, Jerusalem Police said this week that they are satisfied with the arrangements for the busy thoroughfare this year.

In recent years, haredi communal leaders and hassidic yeshivas along Mea She’arim arranged for stretches of the road to be divided into separate sections for men and women during Succot to prevent intermingling – particularly during the evening, when traditional Simhat Beit Hashoeva parties are staged and thousands of people throng the neighborhood. […]

However, the High Court of Justice previously ruled that such arrangements are illegal and last October insisted that the police prevent gender-separation from 2012 onwards.”

Chloe Tilley later repeated the theme of ‘segregation’ on buses while speaking to her interviewee Ruth Colian (08:23):

Tilley: “We heard Jeremy talk about women having to sit at the back of the bus and men at the front.”

And again (at 09:42) while speaking to interviewee Esti Shushan:

Tilley: “Explain in your everyday life, how do you feel like an erased woman? As I said before, Jeremy talked about women having to sit at the back of the bus. What other segregation is there? What other restrictions, if you like, are there on your life as a woman?”

Listeners would therefore be very likely to go away with the impression that buses in Israel are “gender separated” and that women have to “sit at the back” of those buses. That, of course, is not the case and when the New York Times published a similar claim in 2013, CAMERA secured a correction.

Over six years ago – in January 2011 – Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that forced segregation on the specific bus routes dubbed ‘mehadrin lines’, which had been brought in by some private and public bus companies several years earlier, is not legal and that harassment of women to sit in a certain area of a bus is a criminal offence. The court ruled that men and women could sit separately on buses only if they did so voluntarily. Moreover, the court ruled that the public bus company ‘Egged’ had to cancel its ‘mehadrin lines’ and that buses had to carry an announcement informing passengers that everyone is entitled to sit wherever they choose (with the exception of seats reserved for people with disabilities) and that harassment of fellow passengers on that issue is illegal.egged-announcement

In other words, in contrast to the false claims made in this programme, women – ultra-orthodox or not – can sit wherever they like on buses in Israel. Clearly the BBC World Service needs to clarify the inaccurate impression given to listeners.

Related Articles:

Why was a photo-shopped image ‘top story’ on the BBC News website ME page?

The BBC, an Ultra-Orthodox paper and the censorship of images

Resources:

BBC World Service e-mail: worldservice.letters@bbc.co.uk

BBC World Service on Twitter

‘World Have Your Say’ contact details

 

 

 

 

BBC Watch complaint on ‘banned’ book upheld

As readers may recall, since late last year various BBC radio programmes have misled their audiences by promoting assorted versions of the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ (‘Borderlife’) has been banned in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

With previous efforts to alert BBC World Service programme makers to the inaccuracy having proved fruitless, after the February 22nd broadcast of ‘Front Row’ on Radio 4, BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the following inaccurate claims made in that programme:

“…recently the [Israeli] culture minister banned a novel about a mixed Israeli-Palestinian relationship…ahm…Dorit Rabinyan’s ‘Border Life’.”

As readers may recall, the complaint was twice rejected by the BBC Complaints department, with the second response including the programme production team’s claim that:

“This was a discussion that wasn’t specifically about the Rabinyan case – it was about another author’s work and the discussion strayed into political interference in Israeli culture. As such, Samira used the shorthand “banned” in reference to the book. The book was removed from the school syllabus, but in a discussion as wide ranging as this, the point about political involvement in arts and culture still stands whether the book has been banned from society at large, or removed from the school syllabusThe decision to interfere in the distribution of this book was made by, or under pressure from, politicians. That was the point the interviewee was making and to which the presenter responded.” [emphasis added]

As we noted at the time:

“The book ‘Borderlife’ was not “banned” in Israel and is freely available to all would-be purchasers in book shops. Neither was it “removed from the school syllabus” – because it was never on it. The decision not to include the book in the curriculum was made by a professional pedagogic body – not “by, or under pressure from, politicians”.”

BBC Watch pursued the matter further and the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit upheld our complaint, as is now noted on the BBC website’s ‘corrections and clarifications’ page.

Borderlife correction

The ECU’s reporting of its findings includes a section titled ‘Further action’.

Borderlife ECUGiven the production team’s above response to the second stage complaint, one must obviously question whether in fact it is in a position to “ensure that presenters are appropriately briefed”.Front Row 22 2

During our correspondence with the ECU, we raised the question of how the listeners who were misled by the inaccurate broadcast would be made aware of that fact and suggested that an on-air correction in the same programme would be the most efficient way of ensuring that a correction reached the original audience.

We learned from the ECU that the practical steps to be taken after a complaint has been upheld are left to the discretion of the division of the BBC concerned.

“At this stage, it’s for the management of the Division responsible for the programme (BBC Radio in this case) to notify me of the action they propose to take as a result of the finding, so any decision about broadcasting a correction will be theirs in the first instance (though it’s also open to me to say whether I consider the action adequate).”

As we have previously noted here in connection to the absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website, the whole point of making corrections is to ensure that audiences receive the corrected information.

One cannot but question the efficacy – and commitment to transparency – of a publicly funded complaints system which apparently does not include a mechanism to ensure that audiences are automatically informed in the most efficient manner possible of the fact that they were given misleading information, rather than the outcome being dependent upon decisions made by individual departments. 

 

BBC’s WHYS discusses Israel’s ‘moral compass’

In recent weeks the BBC News website has published a variety of articles on the topic of political trends in Europe and the United States which include:

Is Europe lurching to the far right? Katya Adler, April 28th 2016

Guide to nationalist parties challenging Europe May 23rd 2016

Widespread revolt against the political centre Gavin Hewitt, May 24th 2016

However, BBC audiences have not been invited to ponder the question of whether the citizens of Austria (or America, Hungary, France, Switzerland, Finland or Denmark) have lost their moral compass en masse.  

That question was posed –literally – in relation to a country which the BBC has long portrayed as ‘lurching’ to the right of the political map – regardless of the inaccuracy of that framing.WHYS 20 5

The May 20th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ (titled “Has Israel Lost its ‘Moral Compass’?“, from 00:48) based its discussion around the resignation of Israel’s Minister of Defence on the same day and presenter Anu Anand was joined by four telephone interviewees.

In contrast with usual practice, the BBC ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page did not run a parallel discussion and so members of the public were spared the antisemitic discourse which all too often accompanies WHYS Israel-related programmes.

Presenter Anu Anand chose to open the item with a particularly long introduction which included some interesting terminology. [emphasis added]

“But first, in Israel a political drama that cuts to the heart of the country’s troubles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – a hawk whose coalition has a one-seat majority in the Knesset – seeks to shore-up his political strength. He’s invited an ultra-nationalist to join his cabinet, creating what many are calling the most extreme administration in Israeli history. The re-shuffle was already contentious and then today his current Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided to resign rather than stay in government. At a press conference today he didn’t mince his words. ‘I’m resigning both from the position of Defence Minister and as a member of parliament’ Moshe Ya’alon told the nation. He said ‘I fought with all my strength against the phenomenon of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society. In general Israeli society is sane and seeks a Jewish, democratic and liberal state without distinction of religion, race, gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. But to my great regret’ he went on, ‘extremists and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud movement. The general public needs to understand the serious consequences of this take-over by an extremist minority and needs to fight this phenomenon’. So; very strong words indeed from Israel’s outgoing Defence Minister. And the man who could replace him – although this hasn’t been confirmed – is Avigdor Lieberman; a former nightclub bouncer from Moldova and today one of Israel’s most outspoken and divisive figures.”

Anand did not clarify the relevance to the discussion of a job Lieberman did for one year whilst he was a student at the Hebrew University but apparently she believes that it is more important for listeners to know about that than his previous positions as Minister of National Infrastructure, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Strategic Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.

Throughout the technically challenged discussion, three of the four interviewees – including the Jerusalem Post’s political analyst Gil Hoffman – tried to explain Israeli politics in general, the context of the broadening of the coalition government in particular, the previous negotiations with the Zionist Union party for the same purpose, the background to Ya’alon’s statements and the myth of a ‘move to the right’. Anand, however, could not let her hyperbolic headline go.

“…to help our listeners understand what’s going on. We heard there the words of Moshe Ya’alon. These are pretty strong words coming from a pillar of Israeli society. He’s the head – or he was the head – of the armed forces. What’s been the reaction?”

“But some of his words are really, really strong. For example ‘has Israel lost its moral compass?’. I mean he’s talking about the country losing its moral compass. Is there any sympathy for those words, any agreement?”

“Michael, I want to put to you the outgoing Defence Minister’s words. He accuses Israel of losing its moral compass. […] What do you think about his words today in his speech?”

(In fact, Ya’alon’s reference to a ‘moral compass’ was not made in his resignation speech, but the previous day.)

“I want to steer the conversation back to the issues that Moshe Ya’alon has raised. Whether or not, you know, he’s being political – the words themselves; he’s talked about Israel losing its moral compass, about the government being hijacked by an extremist minority.”

“We’re discussing the comments of Israel’s outgoing Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon. He resigned this morning. He had some very, very strong words for Israel’s politicians. He talked about fighting against extremism, violence and racism. He said that extremists and dangerous forces had taken over Israel and the Likud movement and were destabilizing the country.”

Towards the end of the item, as Gregg Roman tried to provide listeners with insights into the Israeli political scene, Anand interrupted and refocused the discussion on the programme’s real topic:

“But can I just move you guys back to the…the….you know, the talk about how Israel is losing its values. I do understand there are heavy politics involved, but perhaps for a global audience…”

The last word was given to Anat Hoffman of IRAC when Anand asked her:

“When you talk about the erosion of values, what specifically – quickly – in your day-to-day life do you feel is being eroded?”

Hoffman’s answer included claims of “ethnocentrism, chauvinism, racism”: labels which might equally be found in any discussion of contemporary European politics.

The point is, of course, that the BBC has not to date seen fit to superficially promote to its audiences worldwide the notion (based on the words of one politician) that citizens of a rather large number of nations in Europe are losing their values or their ability to judge what is right and wrong.

Now why would that be?

Related Articles:

Not Right: why did the BBC get the Israeli elections so wrong?

BBC audiences get a blinkered look into Israeli politics

 

BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’

Not content with having misled audiences worldwide on December 31st by propagating the inaccurate notion of a ‘ban’ on Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan’s novel ‘Gader Haya’, the BBC World Service has continued to promote more inaccurate information about that same story.Rabinyan Arts Hour

The January 12th edition of ‘The Arts Hour’ included Lyse Doucet’s interview with Rabinyan already broadcast on ‘Newshour’ on December 31st. As was noted here in connection with that programme:

“…during her subsequent conversation with the book’s author, Doucet makes no attempt to relieve listeners of the inaccurate impression given by Dorit Rabinyan that the decision not to include the book in the curriculum was made by politicians rather than by a pedagogic committee.

Rabinyan: “This is a time of extremers [sic]. I think deciding to reject a book is an act of the regime that has been controlling Israel in the past decade.” […]

“There is a professional artistic committee who had recommended this book to be taught and the ministerial committee had rejected it and then they appealed again […] the ministerial guys rejected it again.”

Neither does she challenge Rabinyan’s later inaccurate and misleading allegations concerning the significance of the committee’s decision. 

“and it’s [purchase of the book by members of the public] a big declaration of support and belief that the freedom of speech – the artistic freedom – shouldn’t be harmed, shouldn’t be even threatened….”RAbinyan arts hour menu

On the menu page for ‘The Arts Hour’ the item is described as follows: [emphasis added]

“Israel bars an Arab-Jewish love story written by Dorit Rabinyan from schools”

The programme’s synopsis states:

“Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan responds as her prize-winning novel about a love affair between an Arab and an Israeli is taken off the school curriculum.”

Both those statements are inaccurate and misleading. Rabinyan’s book was never on the school curriculum and it has not been ‘barred’.

The synopsis to the January 8th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘World Have Your Say’ is equally inaccurate and misleading.WHYS radio main

“A banned book and a Facebook video highlight the taboo of love between Jews and Arabs in Israel.” [emphasis added]

That inaccurate description was repeated – with no challenge from presenter Chloe Tilley – by one of the interviewees in the programme itself.  Listeners were also told by another interviewee (ironically, from Haifa) that: [emphasis added]

“You need to understand that Israel is not going…it’s going into a very dark place. This means that the segregation that they have between Arabs and Jews makes a certain demonification of the Arabs.”

And:

“A whole society is united behind a hatred for Arabs.”

And – again from the previously mentioned interviewee:

“…in 2016 the Ministry of Education in Israel still afraid from Palestinians, still says oh don’t mix it up, don’t hang up [out] with Palestinians, don’t marry, don’t kiss, don’t love Arab men or Arab women.”

As has been the case in all the BBC’s coverage of this story, no effort was made to inform audiences what the literature curriculum in Israeli schools does already include. Writer Liel Leibovitz recently provided some insight into that topic.

“Because I aced my Bagrut in literature, and was taught very well at HaRishonim High School how to closely read text, I was a bit puzzled as to why a decision by professional educators not to include a book in a list of mandatory novels amounted to anything akin to a ban. And because it hasn’t been that long since I graduated high school—or at least that’s what I like to tell myself while shaving away those gray patches in my beard—I remember the list of mandatory novels quite well: It already includes Sami Michael’s A Trumpet in the Wadi, the moving tale of Huda and Alex—she a young Arab woman, he a musically inclined Jew, both beautiful and doomed in Haifa in the 1980s; Amos Oz’s My Michael with its Jewish heroine, Hannah, overcome with erotic fantasies about her friends, the Arab twins Halil and Aziz; and I.B. Singer’s The Slave, in which an indentured Yid falls in love with his master’s shiksa daughter Wanda. For a ministry allegedly run by a bunch of right-wing guardians of racial purity, that’s quite a list.”WHYS FB main

Only one of this programme’s six interviewees was a Jewish Israeli and Tilley twice noted that it was “a real challenge to get an Israeli Jewish perspective”. Although the topic of gay relationships did feature in the conversation, the fact that three of her gay Arab interviewees live in the Tel Aviv area did not prompt Tilley to enquire about the level of tolerance for gay and/or mixed couples in their home towns. The impression listeners to this show received from the personal stories of participants was overwhelmingly that their Muslim Arab families are far more tolerant of mixed relationships that the Jewish families of their partners.

As usual, listeners to the programme were invited to participate via social media and as has all too often been the case in the past, the ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page moderators failed to handle offensive comments appropriately.

WHYS FB 1

WHYS FB 2

WHYS FB 3

WHYS FB 4

While this story has been covered very generously by the BBC, it is starkly obvious that the corporation’s interest in it has been fueled primarily by the opportunity it presented to promote existing politically motivated narratives of a ‘dark’ society which ‘bans’ books, ‘silences’ free speech and frowns upon the multi-cultural icon of racially mixed relationships. So keen has the BBC been to promote that narrative that its reporting has failed to meet the basic editorial standards of accuracy which would supposedly have ensured that audiences would not be repeatedly fed a story about a ‘book ban’ which does not exist.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist

How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?

Resources:

BBC World Service contact details   

Differences in BBC coverage of migrants in Europe and in Israel

The August 21st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ included an item (from 34:00 here) in which, prompted by an article from Al Jazeera, participants discussed whether the people from the Middle East and Africa arriving in Europe should be called migrants or refugees.

Among those taking part in the discussion was the BBC’s head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, and from 40:00 listeners heard his view on the issue.WHYS migrants

“Well first of all, Ben, I think it’s a really important discussion to have and the language is really sensitive and it’s important to get it right. We’ve seen […] huge numbers of people moving; 40,000 through the Macedonia border for example this month alone, we think. The language that we use is…we’re perhaps not in the same place as Al Jazeera on this, though I think we are in the same sort of debate as they’ve been. I don’t think there’s anything wrong actually with using the word migrant and the word refugee. The vast majority of people that we’re seeing coming through those borders – whether on land or by sea – are both migrants and refugees. The issue […] is more about dehumanisation of people in the way we cover it, which isn’t just a language issue. When you’re seeing 40,000 people coming through over a period – a relatively short period of a number of weeks – what we’re hearing on our radios and seeing on our screens are images and sounds that portray the volume of people. And the way to dehumanise them is just to do that and the way to keep them human beings – and this is a much more important point it seems to me than the vocabulary – is to talk to them, to hear their stories as individuals, as human beings as opposed to as part of a trend. […] And it’s that humanity which is, you know, actually more important than vocabulary boundaries that some broadcasters might choose to put in place. We’re not in the game of saying certain words aren’t appropriate as long as they’re accurate and they reflect the story. The more important thing for us is to keep the human beings at the heart of it.”

Unfortunately, those sentiments and intentions have not always applied to the other side of the story – the people affected by sudden influxes of large numbers of migrants – in the BBC’s reporting on African migrants in Israel. Not only have BBC audiences never heard the points of view of the residents of places such as south Tel Aviv or Eilat but the BBC has used the subject matter of African migrants to actively promote the notion of Israel as a racist society.

“It’s a confluence of being non-Jewish and non-white which causes the vociferous hatred.”

In January 2014 Kevin Connolly told BBC audiences that:

“There’s a special factor, I think, in all of this in Israel which doesn’t really apply in other countries and that’s the fact that the government looks at non-Jewish immigration – legal or illegal – as a threat to the Jewish nature of the state. Israel was created specifically to be a Jewish state in the eyes of the Netanyahu government and anything which carries some sort of demographic threat to that identity in the long term, like the influx of non-Jewish African migrants, is seen as a threat to that special status. So Israel doesn’t just look at illegal immigration like this through the same prism as other countries like the countries of Western Europe or the United States; it also looks at it through that very particular prism and sees a very particular threat to its own nature.” 

No comparable ‘analysis’ was proffered to BBC audiences when, twenty months later, EU member state Slovakia said it would only take in Christian refugees from Syria. Whilst reporting on attacks on centres for asylum seekers in Germany, the BBC made sure to clarify that “[t]he attacks and protests horrify most Germans” and “most Germans have been welcoming to asylum seekers, but a small minority has been vocal in its opposition”.

Also in January 2014, BBC audiences were encouraged by Richard Galpin to view Israeli policies concerning migrants as going against international norms.

“So this is why we’re seeing these demonstrations now – the people are really concerned about what’s going to happen and feel now is the time that the international community needs to act so that the laws which the Israeli authorities are applying to people here, stopping them getting asylum effectively and trying to get them to leave Israel, that those laws are changed.”

No such suggestion appeared in BBC coverage of proposals by the UK government to imprison illegal workers and oblige landlords to evict tenants who are illegal immigrants and “the language that the politicians are using” does not appear to be an issue for the BBC when politicians are British.

Particularly interesting is a BBC report from July on changes in the approaches of the Danish, Norwegian and British governments to Eritrean migrants. Readers of that report were told that:

“A Danish Immigration Service report, from November 2014, suggested that Eritrea’s policy towards returnees had become more lenient. It was based on a fact-finding mission, but did not name its sources. […]

The report was criticised by Danish media and Human Rights Watch, which described it as “more like a political effort to stem migration than an honest assessment of Eritrea’s human rights situation”.”

Interestingly, in September 2014 when Human Rights Watch produced a report concerning Eritreans in Israel, the BBC did not make do with a one-sentence quote but published an entire article titled “Israel ‘coercing Eritreans and Sudanese to leave’” – the bulk of which was a rehashed version of HRW’s press release.

The subject of migrants and refugees is a very sensitive one wherever the story happens to take place and Jonathan Munro’s points are obviously relevant. So too, however, are the issues of consistency in BBC reporting, the avoidance of double standards dependent upon geography and the elimination of any underlying political agenda of the type all too often apparent in the BBC’s reporting on Israel’s attempts to deal with an issue now also affecting Europe.

Related Articles:

Variations in BBC portrayal of fences, walls and barriers

 

Mainstreaming the ‘apartheid’ trope on BBC World Service radio

As was noted here in an earlier related post, on August 18th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ included an item (available from 38:38 here) about “the Israeli columnist who’s decided it’s time to call Israel an ‘apartheid’ society”.Burston WHYS 

The BBC’s explanation of the inclusion of that item in the programme was presented by host and WHYS producer Ben James in his introduction.

“…we reflect the big stories, the big discussions, the things you’re taking part in discussing online and for the next ten minutes or so we’re gonna talk about exactly one of those things; an article that’s been widely shared  – 24 thousand shares last time we checked. An article; a column in the Israeli news site Ha’aretz – that’s a daily liberal newspaper in Israel – with the headline ‘It’s time to admit it. Israeli policy is what it is: apartheid’.”

James’ billing of an article with 24,000 shares as one of “the big stories, the big discussions” is of course questionable. Indeed one seriously doubts that most listeners to BBC World Service radio would have ever heard of this column had the BBC not chosen to showcase and promote it. Significantly, this article is behind Ha’aretz’s paywall and so the vast majority of listeners would not even be able to read it before engaging in discussion of its content on the WHYS Facebook page – as James encourages them to do. 

That in itself raises the question of whether a BBC programme which purports to be “a global discussion show” should promote content which audiences have to pay to view and whether facilitation of ‘discussion’ of an article which the BBC must know full well most audience members will not be able to read really does anything to contribute to fulfilling the public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues” which is the basis for the production of such discussion shows.

Bradley Burston’s blog post reflects the opinions of one man with a number of criticisms to level at his country’s government. Unfortunately, he chose to voice his opprobrium under the attention-grabbing click-bait headline of ‘apartheid’ even though some of the arguments he puts forward in order to justify the use of that term do not stand up to scrutiny.

One of the claims in Burston’s post, for example, was the following:

“Apartheid means Likud lawmaker and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter calling Sunday for separate, segregated roads and highways for Jews and Arabs in the West Bank.” (Emphasis added.)

However, as the link provided by Burston shows, Dichter did not call for separation between “Jews and Arabs” at all. [emphasis added]

“Likud MK Avi Dichter said that separating Israeli and Palestinian drivers on West Bank highways was an inevitable move. . . .

 Segregating roads, he declared, would ensure that Palestinian vehicles wouldn’t be able to enter Israeli settlements and Israel vehicles wouldn’t be able to enter Palestinian cities or villages.”

That of course is relevant given that over 20% of Israel’s population is not Jewish and Dichter’s proposal clearly relates to security issues rather than race. Ha’aretz has since amended that part of Burston’s article after being contacted by our colleagues at CAMERA’s Israel office.Burston art correctionAnother of Burston’s ‘supporting arguments’ for his use of the word ‘apartheid’ (used both in the article and the radio broadcast) is that he doesn’t like the opinions of Israel’s new ambassador to the UN.

“…the prime minister’s choice to represent all of us, all of Israel at the United Nations, is a man who proposed legislation to annex the West Bank, effectively creating Bantustans for Palestinians who would live there stateless, deprived of basic human rights.”

Burston of course neglects to mention that – as his link once again shows – the proposal in question is well over four years old and it obviously was not adopted by the government.   

Yet another claim put forward by Burston in both the article and the BBC radio interview to support his use of the term ‘apartheid’ goes as follows:

“…terrorists firebombed a West Bank Palestinian home, annihilating a family, murdering an 18-month-old boy and his father, burning his mother over 90 percent of her body – only to have Israel’s government rule the family ineligible for the financial support and compensation automatically granted Israeli victims of terrorism, settlers included.”

As the two additional guests brought into the second half of the item (Ran Bar Yoshafat and Benjamin Pogrund) pointed out, the circumstances surrounding the arson attack in Duma are not yet clear as no arrests have been announced and the Dawabshe family are not Israeli citizens (who pay national insurance contributions) and that is the real reason they are not automatically entitled to the compensation for victims of terrorism awarded to Israeli citizens of any faith or ethnic group – although they are entitled to apply. The BBC’s Ben James could of course have reminded listeners at this point that the family of Mohamed Abu Khdeir does receive such financial benefits from the state – but he did not.

Similarly, when Burston claimed that “there are two million Palestinians there who do not have the right to vote”, James should obviously have clarified that Palestinians living in Areas A & B (the overwhelming majority) certainly do have the right to vote in the Palestinian elections which are relevant to the authority under which they live. 

Of course Bradley Burston is perfectly entitled to promote his opinions – no matter how flimsily rooted in reality – even by means of the careless use of hyperbolic click-bait language on the website of an eternally wilting Israeli national newspaper. The difference between that and promotion of the same article on the BBC World Service is that Israelis have enough prior background knowledge to be capable of viewing Burston’s claims within their appropriate context whilst BBC audiences are serially deprived of such information.

Coupled with the fact that – as noted above – most listeners would not have been able to read the article at all because of its being confined behind a paywall, it is obvious that the intention behind this item was not to “reflect the big stories, the big discussions” as claimed by James, but to generate a story with the effect of mainstreaming the notion of ‘Israel as an apartheid state’ into worldwide discussion.

That, of course, has deep significance because the employment of the misnomer ‘apartheid’ to describe Israel and its policies is not a matter of chance. Behind its frequent tactical use by anti-Israel campaigners (and to be clear – Bradley Burston is not one) lie clear political motives and ideologies: the branding of Israel as an entity the existence of which right-minded people cannot tolerate. Does the BBC really want to lend its weight to the casual mainstreaming of such an ideology?

BBC WS WHYS initiates discussion of the apartheid trope, moderation fails

The August 18th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ included an item about “the Israeli columnist who’s decided it’s time to call Israel an ‘apartheid’ society”. We will be discussing that programme in a future article but in this one we will take a look at the related post on the ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook account on the same day.

As a reminder – the BBC uses social media and discussion boards as part of its interpretation of the public purpose remit titled ‘Global Outlook’, according to which it will “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

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

The WHYS Facebook post the following question:”Apartheid”: right or wrong word?

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Obviously anticipating the type of offensive comments not infrequently seen when Israel-related topics appear on such BBC discussion boards (see examples in the related articles below), the first comment on that post was posted by WHYS itself:

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Below are examples of some of the comments the WHYS moderators apparently did not consider “abusive or inappropriate” seeing as they were left standing on the thread.

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‘Powerful’ and ‘influential’ Jews:

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‘Ethnic cleansing’:

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Promoting the elimination of Israel:

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Nazi analogy:

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‘Jews are pigs’:

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Special demands of the BBC’s Jewish journalists:

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Nazi analogy:

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Nazi analogy:

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Once again we see that defamatory falsehoods, racial abuse and antisemitic tropes pass BBC ‘moderation’ with no problem at all. Perhaps the BBC would like to explain to its funding public how that can be considered as contributing to its mission of ‘informing conversation and debate’. 

Related Articles:

BBC WS WHYS Facebook moderation fails again

Nazi analogies and ‘apartheid’ defamation on BBC World ‘Have Your Say’ Facebook account

BBC’s WHYS promotes Gaza interviewee with a penchant for antisemitic imagery

Antisemitism on BBC WS ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page

Antisemitic comments (again) on BBC WHYS Facebook post… about show on antisemitism

 

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

In addition to the context-free promotion of Jibril Rajoub’s latest sports related assault on Israel’s legitimacy recently seen on the BBC News website, listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ were also treated to a dose of unhindered propaganda from the head of the Palestinian Football Association on May 21st.WHYS Rajoub tweet

The item can be heard from around the 40 minute mark in a podcast here or here from 43:48.

With no intervention from presenter Chloe Tilley, the segment opens with almost two full minutes of a diatribe from Rajoub which is replete with distortions and falsehoods, including accusations of “humiliations” and “racism”. When Tilley does finally interject, it is to ask Rajoub whether he thinks FIFA understands “those pressures on Palestinian teams, on players, on fans?” and once again Rajoub uses the opportunity to promote the inaccurate notion that the underlying issue is Israeli “racism”.

Listeners also hear a contribution from a partly identified football fan from Dubai who, in addition to promoting his own context-free, cherry picked claims, states – with no challenge from Tilley – that it is hard to be a fan or a player “in the context of the occupation and the apartheid”.WHYS Rajoub prog

Also notable is Tilley’s failure to insist on a proper answer from Rajoub concerning a point raised by the one Israeli contributor to the programme and her presentation of the issue with the use of the phrasing “naming a fencing competition after – in his words – a terrorist”.  

Towards the end of the segment listeners hear another rant from Rajoub:

“The Israelis are violating. The Israelis are bullying. The Israelis are behaving like the bully of the neighbourhood. The Israelis are humiliating.”

Throughout almost ten minutes of airtime devoted to this topic listeners did not get to hear the official Israeli view of this story and at no point did Chloe Tilley attempt to make audiences aware of the all-important context of issues concerning Palestinian football players with links to terrorist organisations.

What listeners did however take away from this embarrassingly superficial and uninformative item were unchallenged labels such as “racism” and “apartheid” – another brick in the wall of BBC enabled delegitimisation of Israel.

Related Articles:

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

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

After the undisguised political monologue from Lyse Doucet which opened the item concerning reconstruction in the Gaza Strip featured in the February 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ (available here from 26:30 for a limited period of time), listeners heard presenter Chloe Tilley say:WHYS 26 2 15

“I want to bring in Najla who’s an aid worker and a blogger in Gaza City and is on the line now.”

No further introduction was given – not even a surname – and so listeners were not able to put the contribution of Najla Shawa (now working for Oxfam and previously an UNRWA employee) into its appropriate context, including her endorsement of Doucet’s previous inaccurate and context-free statements. Shawa also made plenty of context-free statements of her own, with no attempt from Chloe Tilley to rectify that problem.

“…ordinary people […] suffer daily problems such as power cuts, fuel, cooking gas for heating, for cooking…”

“We’re totally locked in – we can’t travel, we can’t leave. We’re just simply locked in a place that is being more and more problematic each day.”

“…having like tons of explosives being hit around your house, this is not something that ordinary people should go through. [….] people are traumatised – specially children – and all the mothers I know – the families, my friends – they suffer with their babies, with their kids; even the older ones – the children and the teenagers – from the effects of such traumatic events.”

As we see, Hamas and its terrorism had no place in the picture presented by this BBC selected guest. Doucet then came in again (33:56):WHYS Gaza facebook

“Coincidentally, I’ve just come out of a studio where we finished a recording for an hour-long documentary that we’ve just finished on children of the Gaza war where for the last nine months we’ve been following the children through the war, after the war and what’s happening to them. And it’s heart-breaking that, you know, a vast majority of Gazan children have seen loved ones dying before their eyes. They’ve seen their homes destroyed. They can’t make sense of why this war has anything to do with them. And as Najla just says, who cares for those who need care? Fathers are traumatised, mothers are traumatised. Even people who lead Gaza’s main trauma counselling centres have lost dozens of family members. Its…the whole of Gaza in some way is in a state of trauma. Notwithstanding that, I have to say after having again spent time there, as you know Gazans don’t lose their sense of hospitality. They don’t lose their sense of humanity. It’s very humbling to see how they survive but now they’re saying….even the people of Gaza – as resilient as they are – are beginning to break. Going mad, one man said to me. How do you possibly cope with this? They call it the world’s biggest prison and it does feel that for people there. And Najla mentioned the young people and there was…I spoke to a university student who studied English Literature – now if that is not a statement of hope and trying to be engaged with the world – and I said to her ‘do some of your friends discuss taking the risky path of going on a boat, trying to cross to Europe’, because we are seeing Gazans appearing on these boats. They’re smuggled out to Egypt or Libya. And she said ‘yes, they’re doing it’. She used this expression: she said ‘from dead to dead’. There’s no exit from Gaza and the only exit is one which has a very, very, very high risk that you may not survive.” [emphasis added]

According to the CIA World Fact Book there were some 753,000 children aged between 0 -14 in the Gaza Strip in July 2014. Doucet failed to provide any factual evidence for her unsourced claim that the “vast majority” of those children “have seen loved ones dying before their eyes” and “their homes destroyed”. Likewise, her egregious promotion of the “world’s biggest prison” trope and the notion that “there’s no exit from Gaza” is contradicted by the fact that 8,708 Gazans used the Erez crossing to exit the Gaza Strip in January 2015 alone.

The programme’s next guest was the controversial UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness .

“Let me introduce Chris Gunness who’s from the UN Relief and Works Agency. Chris, I know you’ve written so much about this and you’ve written an article in the Guardian as well – we’ll Tweet out a link to it for people who haven’t seen it. Ehm…your thoughts on what’s happening in Gaza and why – why it seems that all these pledges of money don’t seem to be materialising.”

Indeed that article was promoted by the BBC on Twitter and Gunness repeated some of the same themes in his contribution to this programme after having clarified his place in the very cosy echo chamber.WHYS Gaza tweets Gunness

“Well first of all, one important point to make I think – and I entirely endorse what Lyse and Najla have so brilliantly said – is that this is man-made. These things which the last two speakers have described are the result of deliberate political choices which the world community is making. We have chosen to allow huge swathes of Gaza to be destroyed because, you know, security guarantees – if there’d been proper engagement with Gaza – could have been in place because what Gaza desperately needs is political engagement. […] So first of all it’s a direct result of political choices and we have to make different political choices.”

In other words, Gunness would have BBC audiences worldwide believe that the international community is responsible for the situation in the Gaza Strip rather than the terrorist organisations which initiated the last war and the previous ones. After long, emotive, context-free descriptions of the situation in the Gaza Strip rivalled only by those in Doucet’s introduction, he went on to rubber stamp more of her context-free sound bites:

“I mean not only is Gaza unique in the annals of contemporary warfare in being a…a war zone with a fence around it – there is nowhere safe to flee – but even within Gaza the international community has failed to provide people with adequate standards of housing.”

After Gunness’ portrayal of the failure of donors to meet the pledges made at last year’s Cairo conference and his own organisation’s activities, Tilley introduced another contributor – Nuraddin Biladi [phonetic] – described as “associate professor at the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University”.

Relating to the question of why his country had not met its financial pledge to the reconstruction of Gaza, Biladi noted that donors were “outstretched” due to the numbers of refugees from Syria and Iraq and also cited the issue of ISIS as having affected the policy makers in the Middle East, Europe and the US.

After an interjection from Lyse Doucet, listeners heard Chris Gunness (44:05) make the following bizarre claims:

“It’s interesting hearing Nuraddin talk about ISIS. I was told by a good source that in an area where ISIS is actually minting money, believe it or not, on one side of the coin is the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. And another interesting vignette: on the mobile phone of one of the kids that were arrested in Paris recently – a Muslim child – was a speech of Yasser Arafat. And I guess that’s by way of saying that, you know, we have been thinking about extremism in this region – out there in Afghanistan, out there in Pakistan. The fact is that having a deeply marginalised Muslim Arab community is becoming a cause celebre also. So the idea that there’s this extremist element out there somewhere and Gaza is something different: it isn’t like that. So these moderate Arab countries and other Arab countries to which Lyse refers have to realise that what is…they’re allowing to happen in Gaza is having a direct impact on the rising tide of extremism which they’re so concerned about. So don’t see Gaza as an isolated factor. Don’t see it as something which is simply sort of there: it is very much part and parcel of the narrative of extremism and the rising tide of extremism that is, you know, so prevalent and so shocking today in the Middle East.”

Yes, dear readers: the BBC World Service actually did broadcast Chris Gunness’ transparent attempt to portray Israel and Israeli self-defence against Palestinian terrorism as the root cause of Jihadist extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Ironically, the next segment of the programme involved Gunness making repeated declarations about UNRWA’s ‘neutrality’ which he claimed “we take […] extremely seriously”. Gunness claimed that “no-one has ever produced any evidence whatsoever” that building materials intended for UNRWA have been commandeered by terrorist organisations but neither Doucet nor Tilley asked him to comment on the documented evidence of building materials supposedly safeguarded by the UN supervised mechanism being sold on the black market in Gaza.  

Gunness’ political campaigning then shifted to an old theme he has promoted via the BBC World Service on at least one previous occasion.

“….what is the morning after strategy – not just for moderate Arab states but also for Western governments who are spending tax-payers’ money, if it ever comes through – to rebuild Gaza? Are there any security guarantees that Gaza will not be destroyed again? I mean it’s been….we’ve seen the destruct….as Lyse said, children of the age of six have seen three such rounds of destruction. And, you know, what is the point also of reconstructing a society which you don’t allow to trade?”

Again, neither Doucet nor Tilley made any effort to correct the misleading impression given to listeners by Gunness by informing them that exports are in fact transported out of the Gaza Strip. In January 2015, for example, 804 tons of merchandise left the Gaza Strip.

The final guest on this programme was introduced by Chloe Tilley only as “Belal who is a doctor in Gaza City”. Belal Dabour – who works at Shifa hospital – was also interviewed by the BBC World Service during last summer’s conflict and promoted the notion of a ‘massacre’ in Shuja’iya. Like many of his colleagues, Dabour finds as much time for political activity as he does for medicine but listeners to this programme were not informed of that fact before they heard the ‘neutral’ doctor claim that:WHYS Gaza tweets doctor

“…the Israeli policy is to impact a cumulative effect on both the…on the population, on the economy, on the overall situation in Gaza which will be after period – after many wars – which would bring us to the verge of collapse…”

If the aim of this programme had been to inform listeners worldwide about the real reasons for the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip then obviously it would have failed miserably. But that outcome was of course entirely predictable, with the choice of three guests (two of whom were inadequately identified) all subscribing to the same politically motivated point of view together with the heavily featured context-free propaganda from Lyse Doucet ensuring that the emotion-laden take-away message absorbed by audiences contributed little to their understanding of the background to the situation as it stands today.

It is therefore not difficult to determine that the provision of accurate and impartial information to which the BBC is supposedly committed was trumped by the opportunistic use of half an hour of this programme to promote a particular political narrative. The BBC clearly needs to explain to licence fee payers why that is the case. 

 

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

In addition to the three reports produced by Lyse Doucet last month on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip which have already been discussed here (see related articles below), she also took part in the February 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme “World Have Your Say”, half of which was devoted to the same subject matter.WHYS 26 2 15

The item – available here from 26:30 – was introduced by presenter Chloe Tilley who, like so many of her colleagues before her, inaccurately described last summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel as having taken place in one location alone.

“Well it’s six months since the war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel ended….”

Towards the end of her introduction Tilley referred to Doucet’s filmed reports already discussed on these pages.

CT: “As I say, Lyse Doucet – our chief international correspondent – has just returned from Gaza and she’s made some incredibly moving films – we’ll Tweet links out to them in the next few minutes – and speaking to the people of Gaza about the realities of life there right now. Lyse; for people who haven’t seen these films, just give us an idea of people you met and what you saw.”

The BBC’s chief international correspondent gave the following account, making no effort whatsoever to introduce context into her emotional – and blatantly political –monologue and frequently straying from BBC standards of accuracy and impartiality.

LD: “Imagine if you live on a densely populated sliver of land along the sparkling Mediterranean but your piece of land is about 30 miles long. The borders to it are largely shut: you can’t control your sea limits, you don’t have a way of getting out by air. And you just went through the worst war in six years: you’ve had three wars in six years. The world promised you $5.4 billion but you find yourself six months after that ceasefire was reached living in most parts of Gaza on mounds of rubble. I’ve been going to Gaza almost every month since the war ended in August and I was there for large parts of the war. It just keeps getting worse. It’s like a pressure cooker and even for resilient people…people are angry, people are frustrated and people fear there will be another war.”

CT: “And you met a family who’d lost their baby. It was just heart-breaking.”

LD: “People have lost everything. More than two thousand people died – most of them Gazans. Five hundred of them were children. 18 thousand homes were completely destroyed. Others were partially destroyed. People have lost so much. They’ve lost children and as you say we met a family which lost a six month-old baby. Ironically, Wadie was as old as the ceasefire: six months old. He died in the new battle which is just a battle to survive. He’s living in a house – well, call it a house but it has no roof, no walls, the place is freezing. His two sisters are walking around barefoot. And nobody has come to say we’re really sorry. Even when they took Wadie to the hospital, the mother crying and saying ‘he wasn’t sick, he wasn’t sick, what happened to my son?’, the doctors say ‘he’s dead’ and she says ‘look at my baby’. He goes ‘it’s…your baby is dead – go bury him’. And she sobbed into her hands and said ‘nobody is helping us’. Not – as she put it – the men who sit on the chairs; the people who run Gaza. Not the international community, not the Arab states, not Israel – who destroyed the nearby hospital which might have given Wadie an ability to survive.”

So let’s take a closer look at what Doucet did – and did not – do in this programme broadcast to millions of people worldwide.

1) She failed to provide the background information essential for audiences to be able to put her description of the Gaza Strip’s borders and access into its correct context and completely erased the crucially relevant issue of Hamas terrorism from the grim picture she painted.

2) She failed to provide listeners with any understanding of why a war took place last summer or why there have been three wars in six years – again erasing terrorism (and thousands of missile attacks on Israeli civilians) from the picture and thereby painting a false picture of the residents of the Gaza Strip as passive victims.

3) She falsely claimed that people in “most parts of Gaza” live “on mounds of rubble”. In fact, the vast majority of the damaged structures in the Gaza Strip lie within three kilometres of the border with Israel – mainly in proximity to the entrances to Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels which Doucet also refrained from mentioning.

4) She once again regurgitated Hamas-supplied casualty figures (which the BBC has made no effort to verify independently since the end of hostilities) and she failed to make any distinction between combatants and civilians or even to note that the former existed.

5) She gave a highly emotional account of the experiences of a mother whose infant son died on January 15th 2015 without clarifying to audiences that the information she repeats is second-hand and that she was not present to verify it at the time.

6) She linked Israel to the child’s death by means of the claim that it “destroyed” an unnamed “nearby hospital” which she presumes might have saved him. Seeing as the family lives in Shuja’iya, it is likely that Doucet was referring to Wafa hospital (actually not a general hospital but a rehabilitation facility) which was commandeered by terrorist organisations for military purposes but of course Doucet made no mention of Hamas’ use of that medical facility and others and so as far as listeners were concerned, Israel just “destroyed” hospitals for no reason and because of that, babies die.

This is not the accurate and impartial journalism to which the BBC professes to adhere. It is blatant political activism using the selective presentation of information in the style usually seen coming from anti-Israel campaigning groups and the Hamas PR department.

But there was even more to come in this programme, as we will see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

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