Weekend long read

1) Following the recent exposure of Hamas’ use of the media to recruit terror operatives, the ITIC has published a report on that case and others. 

“The Israel Security Agency recently exposed a Hamas network in Judea and Samaria whose operatives were recruited and handled by Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip. The recruits were given instructions to carry out terrorist attacks in Judea, Samaria and Israel. Interrogation revealed the methods used by the handlers in the Gaza Strip. The recruiters represented themselves as journalists, and covert messages were passed to the recruits though al-Aqsa TV, Hamas’ most important media outlet. […]

The double identities of Palestinian media personnel who are also involved in terrorism is well known from past events. There is also a well-known phenomenon of terrorist operatives making use of indications of media affiliation.”

2) At the Jerusalem Post, CAMERA’s Sean Durns discusses “The Rise of Fatah, 50 Years On”.

“February 4, 2019, marked an important, albeit largely unheralded date – the 50th anniversary of Fatah’s ascension in Palestinian politics. On February 4, 1969, the movement’s founder, Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat, was appointed chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). For most of the half century since, Fatah has dominated Palestinian affairs, with fateful consequences for the Middle East and beyond. […]

Arafat and about 15 others founded Fatah on October 10, 1959, in a meeting at a private home in Kuwait. At the time, Arafat was an engineer working for Kuwait’s Department of Public Works. Most of his compatriots were young Palestinian students or workers employed in Kuwait, which was then experiencing an oil boom and rapid economic growth. They called themselves Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniyya (the Palestinian Liberation Movement), whose acronym reversed spells Fatah, which means “conquest”.”

3) At the JCPA Nadav Shragai and Lenny Ben David discuss “Who Is Breaking the Status Quo on the Temple Mount?”.

“Israel closed the compound in 2005 because a Hamas-related organization was operating at the site. The closure of the compound in 2005 – first with a military order and then with a court order – was periodically extended until several months ago. However, current Muslim activities in the compound are not only an attempt to retake possession of the compound, which they held in the past (just as they held the entire Temple Mount), but they are also attempting to take a very significant step further – to establish at the compound a fifth mosque on the Temple Mount. This effort demonstrates a process that has been going on for over 30 years to increase the Muslim prayer areas on the Temple Mount and to erode the fragile status quo established at the holy sites.”

4) The Fathom Journal carries an interview with Israeli journalist Matti Friedman about his new book.

“The book follows four of Israel’s first spies through the 1948 War of Independence. The main characters are young men on the margins of the Zionist project who are recruited by a small, ad-hoc intelligence outfit within the Palmach called the Arab Section, which encourages Arabic-speaking Jews to cross enemy lines and gather intelligence in the Arab world. […]

The roots of the Arab Section lie with the British. The original idea was not to fight the Arab world, but the Germans. In the early years of the Second World War, when it looked like the German army was about to enter Mandatory Palestine through North Africa, the British and Jewish community in Palestine have a shared sense of panic. They realise they face real danger and plans are drawn up for a last defence of Haifa.” 

 

 

Advertisements

The BBC examines conspiracy theories – but not its own

Once in a while the BBC produces content relating to the topic of conspiracy theories – for example here, here, here and here.

The latest item in that genre was commissioned from an academic contributor from Oxford University and it appeared on the BBC News website on February 12th under the title “Why so many people believe conspiracy theories”.

The article provides readers with several examples:

Given its long-standing interest in the topic, one would of course assume that the BBC would by now be able to recognise conspiracy theories for what they are and avoid promoting them – and the people who peddle them – in its own content.

One prime example of BBC promotion of conspiracy theories is its relentless amplification – most recently in November 2018 – of the notion that Israel poisoned Yasser Arafat. In November 2013 alone visitors to the BBC News website saw nine separate reports which amplified that conspiracy theory.

Another example is the BBC’s amplification of the dangerous notion that Israel intends to change the status quo on Temple Mount and even destroy the al Aqsa mosque.

In 2015 and 2016 BBC audiences saw amplification of the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ conspiracy theory. BBC Monitoring has amplified conspiracy theories found in Middle East media and on social networks.

The BBC has amplified Middle Eastern conspiracy theories pertaining to wildlife and in June 2016 the BBC News website promoted a conspiracy theory formulated by a Bangladeshi official.

A 2007 BBC report promoting the notion that “Israel itself was behind” the Entebbe hijacking is still available online.

In July 2018 the BBC amplified misinformation concerning the ‘White Helmets’ put out by Russia and the Syrian regime – despite having previously categorised it as conspiracy theory.

Conspiracy theorists are not considered too outlandish to be quoted or interviewed by the BBC and BBC phone-in shows do not eschew callers who promote conspiracy theories either.

In December 2015 BBC Radio London allowed a phone-in conspiracy theorist thirteen minutes of air-time and the same station repeated the exercise – in the name of ‘free speech’ – just months later.

“In relation to the Brussels attack two days previously, from around 22:17 ‘Steve in Streatham’ told listeners that:

“This is a terrorist false flag. Anyone who knows about false flags will know that these covert operations include Israel’s Mossad, the CIA and MI5 to blame other countries for their agenda in the Middle East and this is what’s going on time and time again. […] Those Zionists out there that are doing all this, they wanna blame certain sections of people to achieve their agenda of taking over the Middle East….””

So before the BBC publishes its next article purporting to inform audiences on the topic, perhaps it should take a long look at its own record of mainstreaming a variety of Middle East related conspiracy theories and seriously consider the question of how that practice contributes to meeting its obligations to audiences.  

Related Articles:

Why we need to talk about the BBC’s promotion of Middle East conspiracy theories

The BBC and “a politer version” of antisemitic conspiracy theory

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the New York Times, Matti Friedman explains why “There Is No ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’”.

“There isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think, and this perception gap is worth spelling out. It has nothing to do with being right-wing or left-wing in the American sense. To borrow a term from the world of photography, the problem is one of zoom. Simply put, outsiders are zoomed in, and people here in Israel are zoomed out. Understanding this will make events here easier to grasp.

In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren’t just two sides. There are many, many sides. […]

If you see only an “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict, then nothing that Israelis do makes sense. (That’s why Israel’s enemies prefer this framing.) In this tightly cropped frame, Israelis are stronger, more prosperous and more numerous. The fears affecting big decisions, like what to do about the military occupation in the West Bank, seem unwarranted if Israel is indeed the far more powerful party.”

2) Dr Jonathan Spyer asks “Will Turkey invade north-east Syria?”.

“The announcement by US President Donald Trump on December 19 of his intention to rapidly withdraw US forces from eastern Syria led to expectations of a rapid move by Turkish forces into all or part of the area currently controlled by the US-aligned, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.  The precipitating factor that led to Trump’s announcement, after all, was a phone call between the President and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayepp Erdogan.  For Turkey, control by what Ankara regards as the Syrian franchise of the PKK of a large swathe of the 900 km Syrian-Turkish border has long been seen as entirely unacceptable.  The Kurdish dominated SDF are capable and proven fighters.  But without US help, and facing Turkish air power and artillery, they would be able only to resist for a while.  This had been already proven in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in January, 2018, when Ankara invaded and destroyed the Kurdish canton of Afrin in north-west Syria. […]

For a number of reasons, however, the prospect of an early large-scale entry of Turkish forces into north-east Syria now seems less likely than it did a couple of weeks ago.”

3) Tony Badran discusses “Arafat and the Ayatollahs” at Tablet magazine.

“When Yasser Arafat arrived in Tehran on Feb. 17, 1979, the first “foreign leader” invited to visit Iran mere days after the victory of the revolution, he declared he was coming to his “own home.” There was some truth in Arafat’s flowery words. Having developed and nurtured a decade’s worth of relationships with all the major forces, from Marxists to Islamists, which had toppled the shah, he had good reason to feel like the victory of the revolution was in some part his own.

Although the heady days of February 1979 would soon give way to tensions, the Palestinians were integral to both the Islamic Revolution and to the formation of the Khomeinist regime. For Arafat, the revolutionary regime in Iran carried the promise of gaining a powerful new ally for the Palestinians. In addition, Arafat saw a chance to play the middleman between Iran and the Arabs, and to encourage them to eschew conflict with each other in favor of supporting the Palestinians in their fight against Israel. Yet it soon became clear that Arafat’s double fantasy was unattainable, and would in fact become quite dangerous to the Palestinian cause.”

4) Belgian Friends of Israel have produced a series of short videos featuring conversations with residents of the area close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

See the additional videos here.

 

BBC WS history programme rekindles Arafat death conspiracy theory

The November 22nd edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ was titled “The Last Days of Yasser Arafat” and visitors to the webpage were told that: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in original]

“The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in November 2004. French doctors treating him said he had an unidentified blood disorder. But some Palestinians claim he was poisoned.”

And:

“The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in November 2004. French doctors treating him at the military hospital in France where he died said Arafat had an unidentified blood disorder and gave the cause of death as a stroke. Since then there have been allegations that he was poisoned. Leila Shahid was the Palestinian ambassador to France in 2004, and was with Yasser Arafat during his final days. She’s been talking to Louise Hidalgo about that time.”

Leila Shahid is repeatedly described both by herself and by Louise Hidalgo as an ‘ambassador’ throughout the programme despite the fact that she did not represent a state.

Hidalgo introduced the programme thus:

Hidalgo: “Today we go back to November 2004 and an account of the last days of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The 75 year-old had been airlifted from his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah 13 days earlier and flown to a French military hospital near Paris where he died.”

After Shahid was introduced by Hidalgo as someone who “had known Yasser Arafat since the 1960s”, listeners heard the interviewee describe the background to Arafat’s arrival in Paris.

Hidalgo: “But, Leila was told, Arafat was refusing to go [to hospital]. He was worried that with relations with the Israelis so bad, if he left the West Bank he’d not be allowed to return. Could France intervene?”

Following Shahid’s description of her approach to the then French president Chirac, “whom Arafat liked”, Hidalgo continued:

Hidalgo: “Leila Shahid had first met Yasser Arafat when she was a student in Lebanon. He was just emerging as the leader of the Palestinians’ armed struggle, already organising attacks against Israel.”

Shahid went on to extol Arafat’s feminist credentials before Hidalgo told listeners:

Hidalgo: “By the time of his death, almost 40 years later, Yasser Arafat had become an international figure who was both loved and reviled. To his supporters he was the father of Palestinian nationalism. To many Israelis he was an unreformed terrorist, responsible for decades of attacks including the suicide bombs that killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in his last years. The brief optimism of the 90s that had followed the Oslo peace accords had, by the turn of the millennium, given way to yet more violence and hatred.”

Following that sanitised portrayal of the Second Intifada terror war initiated by Yasser Arafat, Hidalgo told listeners:

Hidalgo: “For the last two years of his life Yasser Arafat was blockaded by Israel in his West Bank headquarters in a virtual prison, cut off from the rest of the world. Even in those conditions though, Leila Shahid says, the ageing Arafat tried to continue to look after his health.”

After Shahid had described Arafat’s diet and exercise regime, Hidalgo implied that Arafat’s living conditions had affected his health.

Hidalgo: “You saw for yourself of course the conditions he was living in – this tiny compound that was crammed with people. When you got that call saying that he needed hospital treatment, were you surprised?”

The next part of the programme was given over to Shahid’s subjective accounts and lay speculations concerning Arafat’s medical condition prior to his death.

Hidalgo: “Yasser Arafat died in the early hours of November the eleventh 2004.”

Shahid: “Every organ fell one after the other; stopped functioning. The reason that they wrote on the death certificate of Yasser Arafat is undetermined reason for death. So I asked them what is undetermined? They say we have not been able to locate a specific disease and of course this is what ultimately made the doctors think that there was an intrusion of something that came from the outside. Whether it is a poison, whether it is an infection – we will never know.”

BBC World Service listeners around the world were not told that the main reason for the fact that the cause of Arafat’s death was “undetermined” was that his wife, Suha Arafat, refused to allow an autopsy to be performed.

Hidalgo: “Yasser Arafat’s body was flown to Cairo where he was given a state funeral. He was then flown back to Ramallah where he was buried amid crowds of mourners. In 2013 his remains were exhumed and tests by Swiss scientists found high levels of radioactive Polonium. The scientists said however that the results were not conclusive.”

The programme closed there, with listeners not having been told that two additional teams of scientists had ruled out poisoning, determining that Arafat had died of natural causes. As previously documented on these pages:

“In March 2015 French experts officially announced that they had ruled out foul play and that “the polonium 210 and lead 210 found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature”. There was no coverage of that announcement on the BBC News website.

In July 2015 the French prosecutor “said there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat”. The BBC News website’s one report on that announcement promoted the ‘Israel killed Arafat’ conspiracy theory no fewer than three times.”

As we see, over three years on the BBC continues to amplify baseless conspiracy theory despite two teams of experts having ruled that Arafat died of natural causes.

Related Articles:

Arafat ‘poisoning’ case closed: an overview of 3 years of BBC News coverage

BBC report that breached impartiality rules still intact online 12 years on

 

BBC WS history show ‘explains’ Camp David summit failure

h/t JB

The August 4th edition of the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ is described in its synopsis as follows:

“In 2000 the US led a major effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Bill Clinton brought the two sides together at the leafy presidential retreat in Maryland. The Israeli leader, Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, failed to reach any agreement and the summit ended in failure. Farhana Haider has been speaking to the senior American diplomatic interpreter and policy adviser, Gamal Helal who attended the Camp David summit.”

Promotion of the programme on Twitter showed that it purports to inform BBC audiences why the Camp David summit failed.

So what do listeners hear on that topic and what conclusions would they reach? [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

After introducing the programme, presenter Farhana Haider tells audiences that:

“Israel had been pushing for this summit. Chairman Arafat for the Palestinians had argued there’s not been enough progress on earlier agreements to merit such a high level meeting but President Clinton had pressed ahead.”

Later on Haider tells listeners that the actual process of negotiation:

“…involved the negotiating teams meeting with each other and also separately with the Americans on most days. Face to face contact between Arafat and Barak was very limited. Mistrust was clearly running deep, says Gamal.”

Helal: “The main meal was dinner and all three parties were attended by the principals. So during dinner was the only time when they would sit together. […] Sort of like mingling. What did not happen was a bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks or the trilateral talks at the principals level. That did not happen because Prime Minister Barak did not want it.”

Haider alleges:

“…both sides were clearly under pressure from some of their own supporters not to make concessions. The US and the Israelis had also overestimated Arafat’s willingness to bargain away sovereignty over Jerusalem. In fact, the city’s final status was as much of a red line for Arafat as it was for Ehud Barak.”

 Gamal Helal recounts how, in a one-on-one conversation with Arafat he tried to persuade him to seize the historic opportunity and that:

“…at the end he looked at me and he said ‘I can’t’. And I said ‘why can’t you?’ He said if I accept this they will kill me’.”

Listeners never find out who ‘they’ are and Haider asks “could you sense his frustration?” without clarifying whether she is referring to Arafat or Clinton. Helal answers:

“Yes and I think there was also a lot of frustration as a result of Prime Minister Barak’s behaviour and attitude during Camp David. For example he promised that there would be negotiations around the clock and the two sides would be meeting discussing all permanent status issues and none of that happened. He basically locked himself up in his cabin. He met only with President Clinton. There was no bilateral meetings with Chairman Arafat except a very short encounter but no actual negotiations between the two leaders. He was not engaged at all. The Palestinians, when they saw that they decided to withdraw and simply say no to everything.”

Haider sums up the story:

“After 15 days of talks, nothing was agreed. Though President Clinton came and went, leaving the parties to continue their discussions, the basic problem was that the maximum Israel offered was less than the minimum the Palestinians could accept. On July 15 2000 the parties left Camp David, blaming the other for the failure.”

The Camp David summit did not end on July 15th 2000 but actually took place between the 11th and 25th of July. Although this programme clearly steers listeners toward the view that the negotiations failed because of “Barak’s behaviour and attitude”, a report published in the New York Times the day after the summit concluded gives a different account.

“The president [Clinton] and other American mediators made clear that it was Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, who balked in the end, and by all accounts the issue was Jerusalem, the Holy City both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their sacred capital.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Clinton singled out the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, for his readiness to make hard compromises. ”I would be making a mistake not to praise Barak, because I think he took a big risk,” the president said. ”The prime minister moved forward more from his initial position than Chairman Arafat, particularly surrounding the question of Jerusalem.””

In an interview he gave to Ha’aretz in 2002, Ehud Barak cast light on the circumstances behind Helal’s claim that he “locked himself up in his cabin” and the allegation that the Palestinian delegation’s negative responses were the product of Barak not being “engaged”.

“The moment of truth at Camp David occurred when Clinton brought his ideas and put them on the table. Overall, Clinton’s ideas said that in return for ending the conflict and acquiescing to some Israeli security demands and leaving 80 percent of the settlers in Israeli territory, [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat would get a sovereign Palestinian state, demilitarized and contiguous, in ninety-something percent of the West Bank and a hundred percent of the Gaza Strip. Including exit points to the neighboring countries, a hold in East Jerusalem and the right of return to the Palestinian state but not to Israel. Israel would agree to accept a certain amount of refugees on a humanitarian basis but not a single one on the basis of the right of return.

For us these ideas are no simple matter. They are far from a simple matter. Especially when you try to go into a bit of detail about Jerusalem. But we held lengthy discussions and in the end we decided, because of considerations of historic responsibility, that we have to accept the plan as a basis for discussion. Arafat twisted and turned with it and effectively said no. Clinton went back to him and pounded on the table and Arafat again did not answer but effectively gave an answer that was no.

At this stage Clinton has to go to Okinawa, for a meeting of the G-8. So I say to him, Look, until you extract readiness from Arafat to accept your ideas as a basis for negotiations, there is nothing to discuss. It is hard for us, too, we also have reservations, these ideas are very close to the Palestinian position, but we accept them as a basis for discussion. When you get a positive answer out of Arafat, I’m here. You know where my cabin is.

Clinton goes off to Okinawa, leaving me with the impression that he understands that there can be no discussion. But he leaves a different impression with his staff and with the Palestinians. They understand that in the meantime the discussions can proceed with [secretary of state Madeleine] Albright. When I discover this, I find myself in an impossible position. That is the origin of the story that Barak locked himself in his cabin in a state of depression. But in fact I had no choice. I couldn’t undercut Albright but I couldn’t continue with the negotiations, either. So I told everyone to leave my cabin and I did some sports and I read the book `Five Days in London’ from cover to cover.”

As for Haider’s claims that “both sides were clearly under pressure from some of their own supporters not to make concessions” and her description of Jerusalem as “a red line […] for Ehud Barak”, Israel’s top negotiator at Camp David, Shlomo Ben Ami, has some interesting recollections.

“Question: I understand that there was a stage at which Barak astonished everyone by agreeing to divide the Old City of Jerusalem into two quarters under Israeli sovereignty and two quarters under Palestinian sovereignty. Did he do that on his own or was it a joint decision made by the entire Israeli team?

Ben Ami: “As I told you, I suggested that a special regime be introduced in the Old City. In the wake of that discussion, sometime later, the president put forward a two-two proposal, meaning a clear division of sovereignty. In a conversation with the president, Ehud agreed that that would be a basis for discussion. I remember walking in the fields with Martin Indyk [of the State Department] that night and both of us saying that Ehud was nuts. We didn’t understand how he could even have thought of agreeing. Afterward I wrote in my diary that everyone thinks that Amnon [Lipkin-] Shahak and I are pushing Barak to the left, but the truth is that he was the one who pushed us leftward. At that stage – this was the start of the second week of the meeting – he was far more courageous than we were. Truly courageous. Clinton told me a few times: I have never met such a courageous person.””

And Ben Ami also comments on why the Camp David summit failed.

“Camp David collapsed over the fact that they [the Palestinians] refused to get into the game. They refused to make a counter proposal. No one demanded that they give a positive response to that particular proposal of Clinton’s. Contrary to all the nonsense spouted by the knights of the left, there was no ultimatum. What was being asked of the Palestinians was far more elementary: that they put forward, at least once, their own counter proposal. That they not just say all the time `That’s not good enough’ and wait for us to make more concessions. That’s why the president sent [CIA director George] Tenet to Arafat that night – in order to tell him that it would be worth his while to think it over one more time and not give an answer until the morning. But Arafat couldn’t take it anymore. He missed the applause of the masses in Gaza.” […]

“But when all is said and done, Camp David failed because Arafat refused to put forward proposals of his own and didn’t succeed in conveying to us the feeling that at some point his demands would have an end. One of the important things we did at Camp David was to define our vital interests in the most concise way. We didn’t expect to meet the Palestinians halfway, and not even two-thirds of the way. But we did expect to meet them at some point. The whole time we waited to see them make some sort of movement in the face of our far-reaching movement. But they didn’t. The feeling was that they were constantly trying to drag us into some sort of black hole of more and more concessions without it being at all clear where all the concessions were leading, what the finish line was.”

Obviously the explanation of why the Camp David talks failed given in this BBC World Service ‘history’ programme is heavily tipped towards a particular politicised narrative that does not accurately reflect the whole story and therefore misleads BBC audiences.

BBC’s Bowen resurrects the ‘Arafat was poisoned’ canard on Radio 4

Episode 14 of the ongoing BBC Radio 4 series ‘Our Man in the Middle East’ was devoted entirely to Jeremy Bowen’s portrayal of Yasser Arafat.

“The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen looks back over the life of Yasser Arafat. Thousands of his supporters turned out when the Palestinian’s body was flown back into Ramallah on the West Bank. “Love him or hate him, he was Mr Palestine,” says Bowen. “In death as well as in life he was the symbol of the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence – much more than a politician.” The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s view was that Arafat was ‘ a murderer and a pathological liar’.”

Originally broadcast on June 15th under the title “Guns and Olive Branches“, the programme now opens with notification that “this programme has been edited since broadcast” – but BBC audiences are not informed what that editing entailed and the BBC’s ‘corrections and clarifications‘ page does not include any related information.

The programme begins with Bowen’s recollections from November 2004 and an interpretation of Arafat’s sartorial propaganda that unquestioningly endorses the notion that the State of Israel is actually “Palestine”. [all emphasis in italics in the original]

“Even his keffiyeh – his black and white headscarf – carried a message. Arafat always wore it pushed back behind his left shoulder and down the front of his chest on the right, broad at the top, tapering down to the south: the shape of Palestine.” [emphasis added]

Listeners repeatedly hear Bowen refer to a Palestinian “struggle for independence” with just one brief and inadequately explained reference to the fact that the said “struggle” was actually intended to wipe Israel off the map and with no mention made of the absence of any claim to “independence” during the nineteen years that Palestinians lived under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation.

“Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinians since the 1960s, was one of the world’s most famous or notorious people – depending on you view of Palestinian nationalism. Love him or hate him, Yasser Arafat was Mr Palestine.”

“In death as well as life, Arafat was the symbol of the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence; much more than just a politician.”

“Yasser Arafat’s position as the human embodiment of Palestinian hopes for independence were [sic] sealed in 1974 when he was invited to address the United Nations.”

“Yasser Arafat was born in 1929 and spent most of his childhood in Cairo. He fought in the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and went on to found Fatah – a group that wanted to destroy what it called the colonialist, Zionist occupation of Palestine.”

“His [Arafat’s] last three years, spent under siege by Israel in the wrecked Muqata in Ramallah, made him even more of a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for independence and freedom. Palestinians still don’t have a state.”

Listeners also hear repeated references to an ‘unequal’ conflict – with no explanation of the fact that the Palestinians were junior players in a wider conflict between the Arab states and Israel.

“Other, more cautious Palestinians called Arafat a madman at first because of his desire to take on the much stronger Israelis.”

“His critics said a wiser leader might have finished the job. But a wiser man might not have started such an unequal fight.”

Bowen erases the Arab League’s role in the creation of the PLO.

“Egypt’s president Nasser had founded the PLO to control Palestinian nationalists. Arafat used it to unite Palestinian factions, to campaign for international recognition and most of all, to fight Israel.”

Throughout the item Bowen refrains from describing Palestinian attacks against Israelis as terrorism in his own words and promotes the ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ myth.

“Many Israelis regarded Arafat as an unreformed terrorist. They blamed him for decades of attacks, including the suicide bombs that had killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in his last few years.”

“Arafat was a prime mover behind many attacks. Fatah and other Palestinian factions shot, bombed and hijacked their way into the headlines. In 1972 Fatah gunmen calling themselves Black September killed 11 Israeli athletes and a German policeman at the Munich Olympic games.”

“Some Palestinians believed they were winning the argument that their cause was just. Other Palestinians said the armed struggle – terrorism in Israeli eyes – meant they could no longer be ignored.”

Listeners hear context-free references to the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur war and the first Lebanon war.

“His [Arafat’s] first attacks in the mid-1960s weren’t more than pin-pricks. But his moment came in 1967 in the months after Israel inflicted a crushing defeat in only six days on the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.”

“The Middle East was boiling. The Palestinian-Israel conflict was at a new pitch and there was a full-scale war in 1973. Israel narrowly came out ahead.”

“They [Israel] invaded Lebanon in 1982 where the Palestinians had established what amounted to a mini-state.”

Bowen misrepresents the first Intifada as ‘non-violent’, erasing from audience view the Israelis murdered during that period of PLO orchestrated violence as well as some 1,000 Palestinians executed by their fellow Palestinians – with Arafat’s approval.

“What changed everything was entirely unexpected. In December 1987 an Israeli truck collided with a car, killing 4 Palestinians. Protests exploded into a full-blown uprising: the Intifada. Images of Palestinian children taking on tanks with stones went around the world and became a symbol of the oppression inherent in the occupation.”

“Palestinian rage and frustration exploded again in 2000 but this time there were armed clashes and unlike the first Intifada, the Palestinians lost the propaganda battle when suicide bombers killed many Israeli civilians.”

Bowen’s portrayal of the Oslo Accords era erases the Palestinian terrorism that immediately followed the signing of the agreement and fails to inform listeners of Arafat’s role in the pre-planned second Intifada terror war.

“But Israel and the Palestinians signed an historic peace deal and Arafat was allowed to live in the occupied territories.”

“The peace process was flawed for both sides but for a few years there was a lot of hope. Then the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist who wanted to kill the chance of peace as well.”

A recording of Saeb Erekat speaking in 2004 which further gives listeners an inaccurate impression of Arafat’s role in the campaign of terrorism that surged in the autumn of 2000 was selected by Bowen for inclusion in this programme..

Erekat: “I’m afraid if Mother Theresa were to be our president, Nelson Mandela were to be our prime minister, Martin Luther King to be our speaker and Mahatma Gandhi would be our chief negotiator, the Israelis would find a way to link them to terrorism and some voices in Washington would echo that. The question wasn’t Arafat.”

Throughout the item Bowen repeatedly promotes a romantic image of Arafat as a charismatic “revolutionary”.

“As Israelis settled into their occupation of the West Bank, Arafat took the fight to them, moving around in disguise and organising hundreds of attacks. Israel hit back in 1968 with a major military operation at the Karameh refugee camp in Jordan which had become a big Fatah base. […] The battle established Arafat’s legend. He was on the cover of Time magazine and the young revolutionary gave countless interviews.”

“For the first time posters of Arafat started appearing wherever there were Palestinians. They’d never had a leader with his charisma. By the summer of 1969 Arafat was chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.”

“Arafat swaggered into the General Assembly in New York wearing combat fatigues and sunglasses. He delivered his most famous lines: ‘I come to you bearing an olive branch in one hand and a freedom-fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand’. Arafat repeated that last warning three times. He was offering Israel a choice: peace or war.”

“The General Assembly gave him a standing ovation though among Arab leaders Arafat had plenty of enemies. He’d wanted to carry a pistol into the hall to make his point and had to be persuaded that an empty holster would do just as well. I remember the outrage among Jewish friends at my school in Cardiff that he’d even been allowed to speak. For Israelis, Arafat was an arch-terrorist and his olive branch was a joke.”

“Arafat was caught between his obligations under the peace process – satisfying the Israelis and the Americans – and his self-image as a revolutionary focusing the frustration and anger of his people.”

“It was always strange being in the same room as one of the most famous faces in the world. His legend was always there with him to be deployed at all times for his dream of Palestine. If being the human form of so many people’s’ hopes was a burden – and it must have been – he didn’t show it.”

Bowen’s own view of Arafat is further clarified at the end of the item.

“Back in 2004 outside the hospital in Paris where Arafat was dying, I felt that for all his weaknesses, his unique position as the father of his nation gave him a strength that genuine peace-makers would miss.

Recording Bowen: Yasser Arafat may have been part of the problem over the years but he’s also been part of the solution as well. And when he finally goes, his enemies – the Israelis and the Americans who’ve tried to isolate him – may find that far from it being easier to reach some kind of stability in the Middle East, it may even be more difficult.”

Bowen completely whitewashes Arafat’s cultivation of the culture of personal and organisational corruption that hallmarked the Palestinian Authority under his rule, as well as his funding of terrorism.

“Arafat preferred yes-men to straight talkers, tolerated corruption and he wasn’t much interested in the nitty-gritty of building a state. But for most Palestinians he was a national icon.”

Similarly, Bowen whitewashes Mahmoud Abbas’ incitement and glorification of terrorism.

“Abbas has never had Arafat’s charisma and even though he’s condemned Palestinian violence many times, the current Israeli government says he’s not a partner for peace.”

One of the more egregious parts of this programme comes towards its end when Bowen resuscitates an old canard:

“Some say Arafat was poisoned by Israel. His body was exhumed and tests found high levels of radioactive Polonium in his remains. The results were not conclusive but most Palestinians are convinced.”

As Bowen knows full well, those “high levels” of Polonium were pronounced by experts who tested them to be “of an environmental nature”. Both the French and Russian investigating teams ruled out foul play and the investigation closed two years ago, with the French prosecutor saying “there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat”. 

Nevertheless, the man whose job description is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” dishonestly promotes the notion that “the results were not conclusive”, thereby suggesting to BBC audiences that long-standing but entirely unproven Palestinian messaging on that topic may not, after all, be baseless propaganda.

Once again, Jeremy Bowen’s standards of adherence to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality are on full view in this programme – together with some revealing insights into his own views of a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.

Related Articles:

BBC report that breached impartiality rules still intact online 12 years on

BBC News report whitewashes Arafat’s terrorism

Arafat ‘poisoning’ case closed: an overview of 3 years of BBC News coverage

BBC ME editor recycles his ‘Israeli Right killed the peace process’ theory

 

 

 

BBC News report whitewashes Arafat’s terrorism

On March 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel Arafat street sign dropped after Netanyahu anger“.

The story is summarised in the article’s opening paragraphs:

“An Israeli Arab town has dropped the name of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from one of its streets after Israel’s prime minister objected.

The village of Jatt, in the north of the country, removed the sign, officials said.

On Saturday [sic – actually Sunday] Benjamin Netanyahu said streets in Israel could not be “named after murderers of Israelis and Jews”.”

Readers were not informed that the local council had not obtained the required approval from the Ministry of the Interior for the street name.

The BBC’s article goes on:

“Many Palestinians see Arafat as an icon in their fight for a state but many Israelis view him as a terrorist.”

Yet again we see that the BBC promotes the ‘one man’s terrorist’ cliché, failing to distinguish between means and ends. As has been noted here on previous occasions, in 2009 the philosopher William Vallicella wrote:

“Suppose a Palestinian Arab jihadi straps on an explosive belt and detonates himself in a Tel Aviv pizza parlor. He is objectively a terrorist: he kills and maims noncombatants in furtherance of a political agenda which includes freedom from Israeli occupation. The fact that he is a freedom fighter does not make him any less a terrorist. Freedom is his end, but terror is his means. It is nonsense to say that he is a terrorist to Israelis and their supporters and a freedom fighter to Palestinians and their supporters. He is objectively both. It is not a matter of ‘perception’ or point of view or which side one is on.”

By promoting the notion that Arafat can be seen either as a terrorist or as “an icon”, the BBC continues to propagate a misleading, inaccurate and inherently flawed approach to the subject of terrorism.  

Later on in the article readers are told that:

“Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for 35 years. The movement was sworn to Israel’s destruction and carried out many deadly attacks.

Arafat later renounced violence and won the Nobel peace prize jointly with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in 1994 for agreeing Israel-Palestinian peace accords.

However many Israelis held him responsible for attacks by Palestinian militants from areas under his control during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) which began in 2000.” [emphasis added]

With Arafat’s planning and financing of the second Intifada being a topic long avoided by the BBC (and one which, not coincidentally, contradicts the corporation’s chosen narrative on the subject), it is hardly surprising to see it framed as an “Israel says” issue. However, not only Israelis know that Arafat instigated the violence: numerous Palestinian figures – including Arafat’s wife – have also said the same.

“Yasser Arafat had made a decision to launch the Intifada. Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return, in July 2001 [sic]. Camp David has failed, and he said to me: “You should remain in Paris.” I asked him why, and he said: “Because I am going to start an Intifada. They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so.” [Suha Arafat, Dubai TV, December 2012]

“He [Arafat] said: “You have to leave Palestine, because I want to carry out an Intifada, and I’m not prepared to shield myself behind my wife and little girl.” Everyone said: “Suha abandoned him,” but I didn’t abandon him. He ordered me to leave him because he had already decided to carry out an Intifada after the Oslo Accords and after the failure of Camp David [July 2000].”” [Suha Arafat, PA TV, November 2011]

“[Arafat] saw that repeating the first Intifada in new forms, would bring the necessary popular, international, and Arab pressure upon Israel, because it was already impossible to continue denying our right in Jerusalem and the right of the refugees, which are the two main topics [of conflict].” [Nabil Shaath, PA TV, November 2011]

“Whoever thinks that the Intifada started because of the hated Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque is mistaken. That was only the straw breaking the Palestinian people’s patience. This Intifada was already planned since [Arafat] the President returned from the recent talks at Camp David [July 2000].” [Imad Faluji, December 2000]

Nevertheless, the BBC continues its long-standing practice of whitewashing terrorism from the record of Yasser Arafat.   

BBC report that breached impartiality rules still intact online 12 years on

In November 2004 the Telegraph published an editorial which opened as follows:

“Many listeners to the BBC were rightly outraged last week by the broadcast from its Middle East correspondent, Barbara Plett, in which she cloyingly described how she wept as Yasser Arafat was airlifted from Ramallah for medical treatment.

She said: “When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry . . . without warning.” Almost as a footnote, she later admitted that an “ambivalence towards violence” was one of his failings.”

The BBC received a large volume of complaints concerning that item and in 2005 the BBC governors ruled that Barbara Plett’s report “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.

“The BBC’s director of news, Helen Boaden has apologised for what she described as an “editorial misjudgement”.

She said it appeared Plett “unintentionally gave the impression of over-identifying with Yasser Arafat and his cause”.”

Twelve years on, a written version of that report by Barbara Plett is still available online in its original form.

plett-2004-art

At the bottom of the article this opaquely worded addendum appears:

plett-addendum

That, however, is apparently the sole action the BBC found it appropriate to take regarding a report deemed to lack due impartiality by the highest BBC authority at the time. 

Related Articles:

BBC WS report on UNSC resolution endorses Palestinian narrative

A review of BBC News website coverage of UNSC resolution 2334

BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ gives a stage to Galloway’s conspiracy theories

Following the publication on January 21st of the results of the inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the producers of BBC Two’s flagship current affairs programme ‘Newsnight‘ apparently reached the bizarre conclusion that their mission of providing audiences with “comprehensive coverage of the day’s important national and international news stories” could best be met by bringing George Galloway into the studio.

During that interview, Galloway made the following statement:

“Look, I know Plutonium [sic] 210. I was at Yasser Arafat’s bedside in France when he died from Polonium 210, so I know how foul a murder this was.”

Despite the fact that the conspiracy theories concerning Arafat’s supposed poisoning with Polonium were laid to rest months ago, presenter Evan Davis made no effort to relieve viewers of the inaccurate impression created by Galloway.

At one point during the conversation with Galloway, Evan Davis remarked:

“Well we can be sceptical and we can be super sceptical and then we can end up as conspiracy theorists.”

Did the ‘Newsnight’ production team’s pre-broadcast research really fail to turn up the fact that on the topic under discussion (and many others) the man they invited to contribute has long been situated in that latter category – as shown, for example, in one of his appearances (apparently from 2013) on the Iranian regime’s ‘Press TV’?

Yes; that is the caliber of populist commentator the ‘Newsnight’ production team apparently thought could contribute to meeting their remit of enhancing UK audiences’ understanding of international issues.

Related Articles:

Arafat ‘poisoning’ case closed: an overview of 3 years of BBC News coverage

Another BBC News correction misses its point

One of the suggestions made in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS BBC Charter Review consultation is for the BBC News website to set up a dedicated corrections page where visitors would be able to find details of corrections or amendments made to articles they have already read.

“The BBC News website currently has no dedicated corrections page of the kind seen in reputable newspapers. Hence, when corrections are made to online articles users remain unaware of the fact that information they previously read was inaccurate. Relatedly, the use of footnotes informing the public that a correction has been made to an article is erratic and amendments are sometimes made without notification. A dedicated corrections page would make corrections more visible and accessible, increase the likelihood that people will receive the corrected information and contribute to the BBC’s transparency as well as reducing the likelihood of waste of public funding on unnecessary complaints.”

We recently came across yet another example of just such a case in an article which originally appeared on September 2nd 2015 under the headline “Arafat poisoning inquiry dropped by French prosecutors“.

At the time we noted on these pages that the article did not inform readers that the Russian investigation had ruled out poisoning.

Over two weeks after its initial publication, the article was amended and a footnote was added.  

footnote Arafat art

It is of course highly unlikely that those who read the original article would have returned to it more than two weeks later and seen that amendment and footnote. One must therefore ask once more why an organization supposedly committed to rigorous standards of accuracy does not implement the simple measure of posting such corrections on a dedicated webpage in order to ensure that audiences receive the information. After all; that is surely the point of making corrections.