BBC’s Bateman amplifies PLO’s Balfour agitprop

Among no fewer than eight items concerning the Balfour Declaration centenary that appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 2nd was a filmed report titled “Palestinians call for Balfour Declaration apology” (apparently also aired on BBC television) by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

“The BBC’s Tom Bateman reports from outside the British consulate in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian representatives have delivered a message to diplomats calling on the UK to apologise for the Balfour Declaration.

One hundred years ago, then Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour expressed British support for a Jewish national home in Palestine – something Palestinians regard as a historical injustice.”

In his report Bateman told BBC audiences that Palestinians had been dispossessed of “their land” – thereby inaccurately suggesting to viewers that the territory on which Israel was established was ‘Palestinian’. Bateman’s choice of words when describing Jewish connections to that territory is no less revealing.

Bateman: “We’re outside the British Consulate in East Jerusalem where Palestinian representatives have just been delivering a message to the officials inside. And as they do so, protestors have been gathering outside with the same message; they want the British to apologise for the Balfour Declaration of a hundred years ago today. They’ve been holding black flags; in their view mourning the effects of that historic statement. Palestinians see the Balfour Declaration as the start of a process that led to their dispossession – the dispossession of their land and they say they want the British not only to apologise but also to recognise a Palestinian state in reparation for what they say were the effects of the Balfour Declaration.

Well while this has been going on here, for many Israelis today it’s been a day they have marked with celebrations. The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has travelled to London to meet British prime minister Theresa May.  They see the Balfour Declaration as a moment that their aspirations to what they see as their historical homeland, their ancestral homeland was given international recognition. And so they are marking that day very much in that mood.

As for the British, they have said there will be no apology. They say they’re marking the day with pride. But they also say that Arthur Balfour’s second pledge – to uphold the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities here is unfinished business.” [emphasis added]

The phrase “unfinished business” was used by the British Foreign Secretary in an article published in the Daily Telegraph – but not in the context that Bateman claims.

Interestingly, Bateman made no effort at all to inform viewers of his report of the background to the ‘protest’ to which he gave amplification.

A placard seen at demonstrations in PA controlled areas on November 2nd

“The protest centered around roughly a dozen school girls who arrived at the consulate to deliver thousands of letters written by Palestinian students, demanding Britain apologize for the Balfour Deceleration. […]

The protest — though it was publicized by the combined official media of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority and the PA’s Fatah ruling party Fatah — was only attended by some 70 people.

The event in Jerusalem was one in a series of protests planned by the Palestinian leadership throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and also in Tel Aviv. […]

“Listen, British: Jerusalem is Arabic,” the crowd chanted.

“Freedom is the right of our Palestinian state, from water to water,” the crowd yelled, referring to the historic borders of Palestine between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.”

And who organised the writing of those letters from Palestinian school children?

“The [PA] Ministry of Education and Higher Education today, Tuesday [Oct. 24, 2017], announced the launching of a campaign in cooperation with the [PLO] Supreme National Committee for Marking the 100th Anniversary of the Ominous Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration), which is directed towards the high school grades. As part of the campaign, 100,000 letters will be written to British Prime Minister [Theresa May] as a sign of resistance to the government of Britain’s decision to reinforce its harmful policy by marking the 100th anniversary of the ominous Balfour Promise that opposes all norms. These letters will be in different languages, and some of them will be published in the media outlets.”

In other words, the ‘protest‘ and messaging given worldwide amplification by the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau was actually pre-planned political agitprop organised by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.

“The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) scheduled demonstrations, events and educational classes in schools across Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza, Nablus, Bethlehem, Tubas, Hebron, as well as in Syria and Lebanon. 

Most notably, one hundred thousand letters by Palestinian schools were hand-delivered to the British Consulate General in Jerusalem.

PLO Executive Committee Member, Xavier Abu Eid told Palestine Monitor this was the “most symbolic event that took place” across the day.”

The BBC, however, failed to disclose to its audiences the background to the political propaganda it chose to amplify.

In which BBC Radio 4 links Israel’s anti-terrorist fence to Donald Trump

h/t LO

BBC coverage of Israel’s anti-terrorist fence has never stood out as a shining example of journalistic impartiality but nevertheless, on August 2nd Mishal Husain – presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – managed to plumb new depths with the following introduction to an item which can be heard from 44:23 here.Today 2 8

“We hear a lot from Donald Trump about the wall he’d like to build along the US-Mexican border: an idea perhaps inspired by Israel’s security barrier.”

Does Donald Trump have anything to do with this story? Obviously not. Does Husain have any evidence-based information which would back up her speculation? Highly doubtful. That however did not prevent her from promoting tabloid-style false linkage between the two unrelated topics. Husain continued:

“Construction began in 2002 after a series of suicide bombings and it is now 60% complete. In the wake of recent attacks on Israelis, the government has promised to reinforce parts of it and make it harder for Palestinians to cross. Katy Watson reports now on what the strategy has achieved.”

The investigation into the terror attack at Sarona Market in June showed that the terrorists had infiltrated via a breach in the fence near Meitar and the government did indeed immediately allocate a budget for repair of the fence in that area.

While many would consider the human cost of a suicide bombing visually – and morally –more offensive than a structure erected to prevent such sights, Katy Watson’s opening to her report shows that her concept of aesthetics is clearly different. [All emphasis in bold added]

“Israel’s separation barrier is an eyesore that’s become part of the landscape. Mostly fence, it turns into a grey concrete wall around communities, cutting through them like a guillotine, separating Palestinians from their Jewish neighbours. Every so often there’s a checkpoint. It’s here that the thousands of Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel have to pass every day.”

Listeners then heard a male voice say:

“I need this wall to protect the Israeli houses here from sniper shooting from the other side.”

Watson continued:

“A colonel in the army, Danny Tirza was in charge of planning the separation barrier during a particularly violent time.”

Without providing listeners with any concrete information about what she euphemistically terms “a particularly violent time” – such as the fact that hundreds of Israelis were murdered and thousands more wounded and maimed in an unprecedented campaign of terrorism beginning in September 2000 – Watson’s report went on to present a selected quote from Col (Res.) Danny Tirza.

Tirza: “The people in Israel they ask the government ‘separate us from them. We don’t want to see them anymore. Don’t let them come to Israel for any reason.”

Watson continued, failing to inform listeners that the “West Bank territory” she is about to mention is in fact subject to final status negotiations or that the boundary she inaccurately allocates to that territory is in fact nothing more than a defunct ceasefire line:

“The route Danny mapped is hugely controversial. 85% of it is on West Bank territory.”

She went on:

 “The International Court of Justice says it’s illegal and should be pulled down.”

Watson refrained from informing listeners that the highly politicised ‘advisory opinion’ produced by the ICJ has no legal standing. Providing a very tepid description of the Sarona Market terror attack and failing to clarify that the terrorists passed through a breach in the fence, she went on to provide an inaccurate description of its physical characteristics:

“But in the wake of a shooting in Tel Aviv in early June, the government said it would step up efforts to finish the barrier. We’ve driven about an hour and a half south of Jerusalem…eh…along the West Bank. The fence goes for miles and miles. Most of it is metal barbed wire. There are sensors so if the fence is breached then alarms go off but you can also see areas with big holes that have been patched up and the community here says that this is an area which is breached quite a lot by Palestinians trying to get over the fence illegally.

But in the past few weeks they started putting up a wall. Concrete blocks 8 or 9 meters high are being positioned and razor wire placed on the top to stop the flow of people. Most of them are Palestinians who want to work in Israel but don’t have a permit. Authorities say this is also a common route used by attackers.”

Listeners then heard a woman say:

“I believe that if we want to be good neighbours, we need some fence between us.”

Watson next introduced the speaker, who is actually the head of Bnei Shimon regional council:

“Sigal Moran is the mayor of a nearby town. She’s been campaigning for a wall for years to make her community safer.”

Moran: “Israel and the Palestinians have a long history of conflict. In the base, this conflict is about trust and when you don’t have trust you can’t live together.”

Watson continued:

“On the other side of the razor wire is the Palestinian town of Al Burj. There they have a very different perspective. Sirhan al Amayra is a town councillor and says people’s lives are restricted.”

[voiceover]: “Israel’s practicing collective punishment. If somebody for example attacks in Tel Aviv, why should this little village be punished?”

Watson refrained from providing any information which would help her listeners understand the context of counter-terrorism operations to apprehend accomplices of terrorists. She then went on to make herself the focus of the story:

“A group of Israeli soldiers on the other side of the barrier watch us while we speak to Sirhan. We then try to drive to speak to a farmer whose land is near the new wall. The soldiers who were watching us do the other interview have been following us and they’ve just come up the bank from the other side; from Israel into the West Bank through the fence and they’ve stopped us going any further, told us to turn back. Frustrated 80 year-old farmer Yassir says this sort of thing happens often.”

[voiceover]: “When the wall was built things went from better to bad to worse. Now we’re so handcuffed it feels like we are living in a prison.”

Watson made no effort to inform listeners that the anti-terrorist fence neither ‘handcuffs’ nor ‘imprisons’ the residents of the Area B village of Al Burj.

Al Burj

Watson went on:

“I travel north to the Qalandiya checkpoint which connects the West Bank city of Ramallah to Jerusalem. It’s an area where tensions often run high. There I meet Xavier Abu Eid – an advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.”

As is to be expected from that PLO official, listeners then got a dose of propaganda which went unchallenged by Watson.

XAE: “What this wall does is not to divide Palestinians from Israelis. It’s actually to divide Palestinians from Palestinians.”

Watson: “And of Israel’s claim that the barrier is about security, Xavier says it’s about protecting Israeli interests, taking land away from Palestinians and control.”

XAE: “Israel cannot ask to have peace at the same time that it occupies and denies the right of a people. There will be people that react. Of course we’re against attacking civilians and that’s a very clear position but you cannot just control a people, deny them rights and from the other side say we’ll continue dominating them, controlling them so we’re safe.”

Watson of course did not enlighten audiences with regard to the PLO’s record of terrorism and glorification of terrorism. She closed:

“Israelis call it a security fence, the Palestinians an apartheid wall. Its architects say it saves lives but there’s a huge amount of resentment among Palestinians that the barrier creates more problems than it solves.”

According to Mishal Husein’s introduction, the purpose of this report was to inform BBC audiences about “what the strategy has achieved”. Notably, the anti-terrorist fence’s prime achievement – the dramatic reduction of the number of Israelis murdered in terror attacks – did not even get a proper mention in this report. BBC audiences did however hear falsehoods such as “illegal”, “an apartheid wall”, “collective punishment” and “taking away land from Palestinians”.

Readers may recall that visiting BBC journalist Katy Watson previously produced some very reasonable reporting on the topic of the Second Lebanon War. Sadly, Watson’s trip to Israel appears to have included a process of journalistic socialisation because this item is nothing more than yet another politicised campaigning report on the topic of the anti-terrorist fence, the likes of which have been produced by many a BBC journalist in the past.

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Connolly turns R4 report on Duma case into racism smear

The February 13th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included an item (from 18:41 here) which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson as follows:Today 13 2

“When three members of a Palestinian family were killed in an arson attack last summer, their deaths made headlines around the world. Now two Israelis have been charged with the killing of an eighteen month-old and his parents. It’s triggered angry protests because interrogation techniques normally used only against Palestinian security prisoners were employed against the Jewish Israeli suspects. These techniques include amongst others sleep deprivation, use of stress positions and the denial of the right to see a lawyer. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly has been examining the case.”

In fact the suspects were indicted six weeks prior to the appearance of this report rather than “now” as Robinson claimed.

Connolly’s report opened with sounds from a demonstration held in Tel Aviv in late December 2015.

KC: “In Tel Aviv a little play-acting with a purpose. A group of far-Right Jewish political activists are re-enacting the interrogation of a suspect at the hands of the Shabak – Israel’s internal security agency. The blindfolded suspect is tied to a bed frame and beaten while the interrogators shout questions. It’s shocking stuff and a banner held by a protester in the background gives a clue as to why some Israelis are shocked. A Jew, it says, doesn’t torture a Jew.”

Listeners then heard an unidentified voice say:

“They tried to force him to admit in this crime that he was not…eh…involved in by torturing him, literally.”

KC: “This is the voice of the father of a teenager who is one of two young settlers charged in connection with an arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma which killed three members of the Dawabshe family. The case is thought to be the first in which enhanced interrogation techniques have been used against Israeli suspects and the teenager’s father is angry at their use against his son and sceptical about their effectiveness.”

Father: “He was beaten up. He was…ah… sitting on a special chair that’s called a torturing chair. While he was screaming with pain and begging for…from his investigators to let him go they said fine – if you admit in this murder in Duma we’ll let you go.”

Connolly continued with a stereotypical portrayal of the supposed views of the hundreds of thousands of people the BBC labels “settlers” – for which he did not produce a source.

“For settlers and for their supporters the decision of the Israeli state to use the weapon of enhanced interrogation is a shock and they’ve responded with shock tactics of their own – like this demonstration outside the house in Jerusalem of Yoram Cohen, the head of Shabak.”

That demonstration actually took place in December 2015 too. Connolly’s report then took a bizarre turn with the amplification of unfounded opportunistic allegations of Israeli racism from an official at the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department.

KC: “Elsewhere though the issue is viewed through different lenses. Palestinians say the same techniques have been used against them for decades. A clear double standard says Xavier Abu Eid of the PLO.”

XAE: “It’s basically that we’re not seen as equals; that’s a main point. We’re not equals of the [unintelligible] state. We’re not equals of the [unintelligible] equal rights. We’ve seen a transformation in Israeli society that it’s way more Right-wing and closer to religion. Many Israelis would justify what’s going on just by saying that we’re gentiles or non-Jews living here: that we don’t have the right to be treated under the same laws. Others would say no: you have the right to be treated under the same laws, however we have a special conditions that make us do this or that.” [emphasis added]

At no point in this report were listeners told that the Israeli High Court of Justice outlawed the use of ‘moderate physical pressure’ during interrogations in 1999. At no point were they informed that the provisions for exceptions to that ruling in the case of an impending threat to civilian lives depend not on the suspect’s nationality or ethnic identity but to the practical issue of the threat he poses to others. Abu Eid’s baseless claims of racist discrimination and “double standard” are therefore an impediment to audience understanding of this story which – for reasons best known to themselves – the producers of this item nevertheless chose to amplify.

Connolly’s item continued with promotion of the view of a political NGO.

KC: “The arson attack on the Palestinian village of Duma was a shocking crime and there was huge pressure on the authorities to identify suspects and to bring charges. But there are voices raised inside Israel against the use of anything that approximates to torture – whatever the euphemism used to describe it. The voice of Yael Stein from the human rights group B’tselem is among them.

YS: “It doesn’t matter if it works. It can be the most effective way to know what happened. It may be the most effective way to prevent future attacks. It doesn’t matter. I mean there are things that a society must say – I mean there are things that are not done. Beating people or torturing people or ill-treating people during interrogation is something that society that we live in should not accept.”

Listeners were not informed that in this specific case the authorisation of the use of special interrogation methods was given by the Attorney General after seventeen days of questioning during which the main suspect refused to talk to investigators. One can of course well imagine the tone the reports from Kevin Connolly and his colleagues would have taken had the investigation into the terror attack in Duma not resulted in the indictment of suspects.

Connolly closed his report as follows:

“The purpose of all the protests of course is to make the treatment of the Israeli suspects in the Duma arson attack a central issue in the case. And you can expect the arguments that have been rehearsed on the street to be played out again in court when it comes to trial.”

Significantly, Connolly failed to include in his report any official responses to the allegations made or any alternative views of the story. After Connolly’s report ended, Nick Robinson told listeners that:

“Israel has said that the questioning of the suspects in that Duma arson case was carried out under full judicial supervision and it also says it doesn’t draw any distinction between Jewish and Arab suspects in the investigation of terror offences.”

That short statement however obviously did little to balance the messaging and lack of relevant information in Connolly’s report and it certainly did nothing to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impressions received as a result of the inclusion in this report of Xavier Abu Eid’s baseless and immaterial smears.