Serialised propaganda, omission and inaccuracy on BBC R4’s ‘Book of the Week’

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Book of the Week’ is described as:

“Serialised book readings, featuring works of non-fiction, biography, autobiography, travel, diaries, essays, humour and history”

Last week’s five episodes featured a book titled “Where the Line is Drawn” by Raja Shehadeh.

Episode One – July 23rd:

“Raja Shehadeh is an award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human right’s [sic] organisation, Al Haq. In Where the Line is Drawn he reflects on his forty year friendship with Henry, a Jewish Israeli. As idealistic young men when they first meet in 1977, they connect over shared interests in literature, writing and walking. As the years pass, their friendship is challenged by history, politics, enmity and violence, but it also points the way to a common future. Raja Shehadeh’s books include Occupation Diaries; Language of War, Language of Peace and Palestinian Walks which won the 2008 Orwell Prize. He has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian and Granta.”

Episode Two – July 24th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq, visits Jaffa, the city from which his father was exiled during the Nakba in 1948 when 750,000 were forced from their homes with the end of the British Mandate and the creation of Israel. It’s now 1978 and he is staying with Jewish friends who moved into one of the old Arab houses in Jaffa. He is curious about their choice of home.”

Episode Three – July 25th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq recollects a humiliating experience on his way home to Ramallah.”

Episode Four – July 26th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq, remembers a terrifying night time drive. Meanwhile, tense times lie ahead for Raja and Henry as the new millennium dawns.”

Episode Five – July 27th:

“Raja Shehadeh, the award winning Palestinian writer, lawyer, and founder of the human rights organisation, Al Haq receives shocking news and he comes to a new understanding about the value of his friendship with Henry. He also reflects on the controversial killing of a young Palestinian attacker by a teenage Israeli soldier who was later jailed for manslaughter.”

Although the NGO ‘Al Haq’ is mentioned in each and every one of those five synopses, BBC Radio 4 audiences were given no information about the political agenda of that so-called “human rights organisation” or its alleged ties to a terror group.

Despite the frequent references to “illegal occupation” and “occupied territories”, no proper historic context was provided to listeners throughout the entire series. In episode one listeners were told that “Israelis…in 1967 had taken the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan” without any mention of the fact that Jordan illegally occupied those areas for 19 years.

Listeners to episode one heard a partisan description of the circumstances in which Palestinians including Shehadeh’s father – also a lawyer – left their homes which left them with the inaccurate impression that they were universally “forced out”.

“In 1948 during the Nakba, where around 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes with the establishment of Israel, he lost his practice, his home, and all his properties. And he had to start all over again in Ramallah.”

In episode two listeners heard a reference to Jaffa as “my father’s city from which he was exiled” and were again told that in 1948:

“…with the end of the British Mandate and the establishment of Israel, around 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes. The Palestinians who managed to stay were placed in the Ajami quarter surrounded by barbed wire. It was like a ghetto.”

Listeners also heard that in 1967 “I drove with my parents to visit the city they had been forced to leave 19 years earlier.”

Notably, when Raja Shehadeh appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ in 2014, he told a rather different version of that story: a version in which his parents were not “forced to leave” Jaffa but decided to relocate to their second home.

“Jaffa it’s very hot and humid in the summer and so they had a summer-house in Ramallah. When hostilities began they decided it’s safer in Ramallah because it was getting rather dangerous actually – physically dangerous – so they decided, towards the end of April, to take that short drive down to Ramallah – short drive from Jaffa – and my father always thought that if the worst happens – that is the partition – Jaffa was going to be on the Arab side so they will always be able to go back. And they took very few things with them and they were never able to go back.”

Throughout the five episodes listeners heard Israelis described as “settlers” (regardless of their place of residence in Israel) and “colonisers”. Notably, all the Israeli voices in the dramatisation were done in a bizarre quasi-American accent – regardless of where they were born – which implied that they were ‘foreigners’. In episode two listeners heard the story of Shehadeh’s visit to a plant nursery in which he asked how the owner – described as a woman from Canada – “could establish her nursery on land expropriated from villagers who were now forced to live in crowded refugee camps with no land to cultivate for themselves” and accused her of ‘exploiting’ the land.

Listeners also heard a context-free account of the beginning of the second Intifada – described as “futile” rather than wrong – and justification of terrorism:

“Israel was fighting for the retention of this land. We were fighting to end the occupation in accordance with international law which gave us the right to resist.” [episode three]

“…the human and political issues that led these young men to brutally kill themselves, and others, in despair.”

In episode three listeners were told that Shehadeh’s father had been “murdered…by a collaborator working for Israel” even though it was later admitted that “no-one was ever charged”.

In episode five listeners heard the wave of Palestinian terrorism which began in the autumn of 2015 described thus:

“This uprising was different. There was no unified leadership guiding these young men and women. They had no political platform or concrete demands. They simply improvised ways of resisting. Some of these were non-violent, others violent involving the stabbing of not only soldiers but also innocent Israelis. The Israeli government responded with violence, defining all resistance as terrorism.”

Also in episode five listeners heard a long section relating to an incident in Hebron in March 2016 which was inaccurately portrayed as having begun when:

“Abdul Fattah al Sharif, 21, from the occupied old city of Hebron lay on the ground shot after he allegedly tried to stab an Israeli soldier.” [emphasis added]

As the BBC’s own reports on that incident show, the words “allegedly” and “tried to” are completely superfluous and materially misleading.

“Sharif and another 21-year-old Palestinian, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, had stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier before troops opened fire on them, wounding Sharif and killing Qasrawi.”

There is of course much more on which to comment in these 75 minutes of entirely one-sided stories which completely erase Palestinian agency and responsibility and prompted Sunday Times journalist Rod Liddle to write to the BBC.

“A nice man called Andrew in the BBC Press Office is kind enough to send me a list of stuff the corporation is doing each week. […]

I have never replied to Andrew’s email, but I did last week because I had been listening to the book that Radio 4 was serialising. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Andrew,

Many thanks for your weekly bulletins about what the BBC is up to. I wonder if you could answer my inquiry below, or pass it on to someone who can.

Here’s the thing. I am hugely enjoying the serialisation on Radio 4 of the Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh’s entertaining book, How My People Were Robbed, Murdered and Crushed by the Vile Occupying Fascist Israeli State. I may have got the title slightly wrong, for which apologies. I was wondering if the BBC intended, at any point, to serialise a book that might give a contrary point of view on this disputatious issue — perhaps by an Israeli?

All the best,
Rod

I got a friendly acknowledgment from Andrew — and later a two-line reply from the BBC, stating that the corporation’s coverage is impartial. Mr Shehadeh has spent most of his life railing against Israel and Jews, while claiming to be a moderate. And his book is serialised by Radio 4. Of course, it will not serialise a book by an Israeli to provide the political balance that the corporation is duty bound to strive for (even if, frankly, it doesn’t strive terribly hard).”

That just about sums it up.

Related Articles:

Desert Island distortions on BBC Radio 4

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ mainstreams anti-Israel delegitimisation

 

 

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BBC Travel Show inaccurate on Jaffa demography

A filmed report which appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 19th under the title “The deafblind actors of Jaffa” is about the Na Laga’at theatre company.

“A theatre company made up of deafblind actors is pulling in the crowds in Israel.

Every performer in the Nalaga’at theatre company, which means “Please Touch” in Hebrew, has Usher syndrome so they are both deaf and visually impaired.

The performances are told through speech and sign language and cues are given to the actors by a drumbeat so they can feel the vibrations.

The BBC Travel Show’s Rajan Datar went behind the scenes at the theatre in Jaffa to find out more.”

In addition to the fact that the presenter repeatedly mispronounces the theatre company’s name, the report opens by telling BBC audiences that:

“Jaffa is one of the world’s oldest sea ports. The majority of the locals are Arab, but these days, especially on its revamped water front, it’s becoming a gentrified haven for international tourists and day-trippers from neighbouring Tel Aviv.”

Jaffa – or Yaffo – lies in the Tel Aviv-Yaffo municipality where it is classed as district 7. Data found on the municipality’s website shows that in 2014 Jaffa had a population of 47,580 – 71% of whom were Jews and others and 29% of whom were Arabs.

There is no evidence to indicate that since 2014 the Arab population of Jaffa has become “the majority” as the BBC Travel Show claims.

 

BBC News reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

On March 8th three terror attacks took place in Israel within the space of a couple of hours. Earlier in the day an additional attempted stabbing attack by a woman from the Umm Tuba neighbourhood was averted in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Just before 5 pm a Palestinian terrorist stabbed an Israeli man in a shop in Petah Tikva. Around a quarter of an hour later two members of the security forces on patrol in Jerusalem were seriously wounded in a shooting attack carried out by a terrorist apparently from the neighbourhood of Issawiya. At around 6:30 pm a Palestinian terrorist from Qalqilya attacked a number of people near Jaffa port and in the surrounding area with a knife. An American tourist – Taylor Force – was murdered and ten other people, including his wife, were wounded. Mr Force’s death brings the number of people holding US citizenship killed in terror attacks since October 1st 2015 to five.Pigua Yafo 8 3 vers 3

Some two hours after the attack in Jaffa took place the BBC News website published an article (its first concerning terror attacks against Israelis since the month of March began) which was originally titled “One killed and several wounded in attacks on Israelis”.

Obviously that headline contributed nothing to audience understanding of who carried out those “attacks on Israelis” and the replacement headline which appeared around two and a half hours later – “US tourist killed and several wounded in Israel attacks” – was even more confusing.

Only from the fifth version of the article was the headline amended to include information concerning the identity of one of the terrorists: “Palestinian kills US tourist in Israel“. Nevertheless, audiences were still not able to determine from that headline that the report is about a terror attack rather than a criminal incident.

Among the notable features in the seven versions of this report is the fact that its six initial editions all used politicized terminology to describe the location of one of the attacks.Pigua Yafo 8 3 vers 5

“Earlier, two Israeli police officers were shot and wounded in occupied East Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

That same politicized terminology can still be seen in the caption to one of the photographs illustrating the current version of the article: “Earlier in the day, Israeli police officers were fired on in occupied East Jerusalem“.

All versions of the report include a superfluous description of the perceived level of religiosity of one of the victims – but not of any of the others or of the terrorists.

“An ultra-Orthodox Jew was stabbed in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv.” […]

“Meanwhile, witnesses in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva said a Palestinian attacker was killed with his own knife by the ultra-Orthodox Jew who he had just stabbed. The wounded man was rushed to hospital to be treated for wounds to his upper body.”

Once again the background information provided by the BBC includes confused and inconsistent reporting on the number of people killed during the ongoing wave of terrorism.

“At least 29 Israelis have been killed in a wave of stabbing, shooting or car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since October.”

Remarkably, among the thousands of words used to produce the seven different versions of this report describing three separate terror attacks in which one person was killed and over a dozen wounded, the words terror, terrorism or terrorist did not appear once. In other words, the BBC editorial policy of two-tier reporting on terrorism remains in effect.

Also remarkable is the fact that despite the numerous amendments made to the report, BBC audiences were not informed about Hamas’ lauding  of the attacks.

““Hamas congratulates the three heroic operations this evening, in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Jaffa, and considers this proof of the failure for all these theories to abort the Intifada, which will continue until the realization of its goals,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri in a statement.

“Hamas celebrates the martyrs that have ascended through these operations, and confirms that their pure blood will, God willing, be the fuel for escalating the intifada,” he said.”

Neither were they told of similar glorification of terrorism from Fatah or of the fact that Palestinian Authority television repeatedly described the perpetrator of the attack in Jaffa as a “martyr”and his victims (who included Israeli Arabs and tourists) as “settlers“.

The absence of that information obviously compounds the BBC’s ongoing failure to provide its audiences with meaningful reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism from official Palestinian sources which fuels the current wave of violence against Israelis. That ongoing failure – now in its sixth month – actively prevents the corporation from meeting its obligation to enhance audience awareness and understanding of this particular international issue.