Abbas’ Fatah reelection ignored by the BBC – in English

Back in late October, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell produced an article concerning the question of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his various roles. In that report, Knell speculated that:

“One potential post-Abbas scenario would see the division of his titles: President, head of Fatah, and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

If different individuals took these jobs it would allow for a more collective political leadership.”

One might therefore have expected that the BBC would be interested in the story of Abbas’ unanimous reelection as head of the Fatah party at its long overdue seventh congress held this week, especially – as the NYT reported, among others – given the less than “collective” circumstances.

photo credit: Times of Israel

photo credit: Times of Israel

“Under fire at home and abroad, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority moved on Tuesday to solidify his decade-long hold on power with a party conference that had already been purged of most of his opponents.

The carefully selected delegates wasted little time in formally re-electing Mr. Abbas as the leader of Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “Everybody voted yes,” a spokesman for Fatah, Mahmoud Abu al-Hija, told reporters who had not been allowed into the conference hall for the decision. […]

Some Palestinian activists had wondered whether Mr. Abbas would use the conference to give up at least one of the three titles he holds — leader of Fatah, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian Authority. But he made clear on Tuesday that he would not. […]

Missing from the conference were Palestinian leaders and activists who had fallen out with Mr. Abbas, including those affiliated with Muhammad Dahlan, a former security chief who has lived in exile since 2011.

Allies of Mr. Dahlan, and even some Palestinians who were only thought to be his allies, have been purged from Fatah or arrested, and competing factions have engaged in violent clashes. Diana Buttu, a former Palestinian official who is now a critic of Mr. Abbas, named 10 party figures who had been ousted recently.

“To me, the story is who is not at the conference,” said Grant Rumley, a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and a co-author of a forthcoming biography of Mr. Abbas. “This conference will formalize the split within his own party.””

Abbas’ reelection was covered (together with additional reporting on the Fatah congress) on the BBC Arabic website. However, the corporation’s English-speaking audiences – who already suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs – have to date not been provided with any coverage of that story and its background or Abbas’ subsequent reiteration of his refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

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BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

BBC News follow-up report on fires in Israel ignores developments

On the morning of November 25th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published a second report relating to the wave of fires in Israel. Despite remaining the lead story on that webpage for over two days, the article – titled “Israel fires: Dozen suspects arrested on suspicion of arson” – was not updated to inform audiences of developments in the story, although ‘analysis’ from Yolande Knell was added later in the day.fires-art-2

BBC audiences hence remain unaware of the severe fire damage in the community of Nataf or of the fact that 350 families had to be evacuated from Halamish where tens of homes were destroyed and dozens damaged. Neither were they informed that in all some 32,000 acres of forest were destroyed by the fires along with hundreds of homes – over 500 in Haifa alone. The fact that more than 130 people had to be given medical treatment was described in the BBC’s report thus:

“Several people have been treated for smoke inhalation but no serious injuries have been reported.”

Readers of this article were told that:

“Another town in the north, Horashim, has also been evacuated as a blaze approaches, Haaretz reported.”

Anyone trying to locate the ‘town’ of ‘Horashim’ would have had considerable difficulty seeing as no such place exists. In fact, the community which was evacuated on the morning of Friday, November 25th is called Harashim – as the BBC should have been able to report given that the name is accurately presented in the source link.

BBC Watch has contacted the website regarding that inaccuracy.

As the article’s title and opening sentence indicate, its main focus is the topic of the arrests made in connection with the fires.

“Israeli police have arrested 12 people on suspicion of arson over a series of wildfires that have burned around the country for four days.”

Readers are told that:

“Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services operations chief Shmulik Fridman told Israel radio on Friday that more than half the fires had been caused by arson.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if any of the fires were started deliberately they would be treated as an act of terrorism.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, hinted at seditious Israeli Arab or Palestinian involvement, Tweeting: “Only those to whom the country does not belong are capable of burning it.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement said Israeli officials were “exploiting the fire” to accuse Palestinians.”

Yolande Knell’s ‘analysis’ continues the same theme:

knell-analysis-fires-art-2

On this topic too, the article was not been updated to reflect developments after its initial publication.

“In all, at least 35 people have been arrested since Thursday on suspicion of setting fires or inciting others to do so. More than 15 were Palestinians arrested by the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service, an army spokesperson said. At least 10 of those being held are Israeli Arabs, according to Hebrew media reports.”

Deprived of that information, BBC audiences are obviously unable to put Yolande Knell’s statement “several Israeli politicians have implicated Arabs” into context.

The investigations into the causes of the fires are of course still ongoing but it will be interesting to see whether the BBC will report their results.

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BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Towards the end of last month BBC audiences visiting the corporation’s English language and Arabic language websites were offered a rare but limited view of internal Palestinian affairs in an article by Yolande Knell which was discussed here.knell-abbas-art-main

As was noted at the time, BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs. Knell’s report did not, for example, inform readers of the series of violent clashes between PA security forces and locals in various locations in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and the continued violence has not received any subsequent BBC coverage.

Earlier this week a UN official commented on the topic of those ongoing clashes.

“The UN’s top official on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process said Monday he was concerned the West Bank’s largest refugee camp could “explode” if intra-Palestinian clashes worsen, during a rare visit to the Balata camp.

In what his officials said was the first visit in “years” by a top UN official to the camp near Nablus in the northern West Bank, Middle East peace envoy Nikolay Mladenov met with civil society figures and politicians including those believed to be opposed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.

Balata has seen an uptick of violence in recent weeks, with Palestinian security officials attempting a series of raids to capture alleged criminals in the camp — leading to gun battles.

Analysts say Abbas sees the camp as a base for support for his political rival Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently in exile in the United Arab Emirates.”

Another recent development related to the Abbas succession battle was reported by the Times of Israel.

“In an unprecedented step, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has stopped paying the salaries of 57 PA officials in Gaza because of their alleged support for his rival, the former high-ranking Fatah official, Muhammad Dahlan.

Dahlan is considered to be Abbas’s greatest opponent within the Fatah party since he was booted out of Ramallah in January 2011. Recently, Dahlan stepped up his political activities, especially in the Gaza Strip but also within the West Bank, with strong Egyptian backing.

In an apparent reaction, Abbas decided in November to stop paying salaries to supporters of Dahlan, The Times of Israel has learned. According to those close to the Palestinian president, he intends to continue to work against his rival and will ultimately block the salaries of almost 500 Dahlan allies.”

Those PA officials are apparently among the thousands of Fatah-affiliated former civil servants in the Gaza Strip who have been receiving payment from the PA throughout the last nine years despite not working. The article goes on:

“In light of this step, Dahlan and his followers are threatening to hold demonstrations in Gaza and elsewhere to protest the Seventh General Conference of the Fatah movement, which is due to be held on November 29 in the West Bank, and to reject its legitimacy. […]

According to sources in Gaza, Dahlan’s men are exerting pressure on the Fatah members in the Strip to boycott the General Conference and have even threatened them with physical harm. At the same time Abbas’s men are intimidating Dahlan’s allies, warning them not to participate in any event connected to Dahlan.”

With Fatah dominating the PLO and the foreign donor funded Palestinian Authority, the Abbas/Dahlan rivalry clearly has much broader implications than mere intra-party divisions. BBC audiences, however, continue to be deprived of the information which would enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue“.  

BBC ‘frequent flyer’ Erekat lauds convicted terrorists

In her recent article (previously discussed here) concerning the question of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his roles as president of the Palestinian Authority, chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell informed audiences that:

“One potential post-Abbas scenario would see the division of his titles: President, head of Fatah, and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

If different individuals took these jobs it would allow for a more collective political leadership.

This might involve Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator and secretary general of the PLO, and Nasser al-Kidwa, a former foreign minister and representative to the UN who is also nephew of the revered late leader, Yasser Arafat.”Erekat Hardtalk May 2015

BBC audiences are of course familiar with Saeb Erekat due to his frequent appearances on the corporation’s various platforms. They are however considerably less well-informed with regard to the views expressed by Saeb Erekat when communicating with his own people rather than with the audiences of Western media organisations.

As our colleagues at CAMERA documented, Erekat recently proclaimed his “admiration” for imprisoned terrorists.

“According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a non-profit organization that monitors Arab media in eastern Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), Erekat offered words of praise terrorists in an Oct. 19, 2016 edition of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official PA daily newspaper.

Erekat, referring to Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for committing acts of terrorism, said:

‘Our brave prisoners, who gave and sacrificed their freedom for Palestine and its freedom, are worthy of aid, support, and constant activity by us in order to release them and put an end to their suffering. The prisoners’ cause is a national and central cause, and we bow our heads in admiration and honor of the prisoners’ sacrifices, for their acts of heroism, and for their ongoing battle with the occupation.'”

Additional documentation of the messaging for domestic audiences from the man functioning as chief negotiator for the PLO (which ostensibly renounced terrorism, recognised Israel and committed itself to the peace process over two decades ago) can be found at PMW.  

With Erekat tipped by Yolande Knell as one of Mahmoud Abbas’ potential successors, BBC audiences’ understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would of course be enhanced were they provided with some insight into the stance that he (along with other potential candidates) presents to his domestic audience rather than just the PR messaging promoted for Western ears.  

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

October 28th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Titled “Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession“, the report was translated into Arabic and also appeared two days later on the BBC Arabic website.knell-abbas-art-main

Knell’s staid portrayal of the issue of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his role as president of the Palestinian Authority (as well as chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party) is most notable for what is absent from her framing of the story. Given that BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs, it is of course highly unlikely that they would be able to read between Knell’s lines and fill in the blanks for themselves.

For example, readers are told that:

“Three other potentially important players have strong backing in the security forces:

  • Mohammed Dahlan, led the PA’s Preventive Security force in Gaza until 2007. He was expelled from Fatah after falling out with the president and now lives in luxurious exile in Abu Dhabi. He also has close ties to regional leaders”

Knell refrains from telling audiences that in recent months Abbas has been urged by some of those “regional leaders” to mend fences with Dahlan – as the Times of Israel explained back in August.

“Arab leaders have recently been pressuring the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas to patch up differences within Fatah and make peace with former Gaza strongman Mohammad Dahlan.

Among the heads of state who have weighed in are Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. […]

In response, Fatah’s Central Committee has resolved to consider readmitting to its ranks several dozen senior Fatah figures expelled for their links to Dahlan. But they have not yet agreed to readmit Dahlan himself, who was kicked out of the Gaza Strip in 2011 after a feud with Abbas.

Indeed, despite Arabic media reports about possible reconciliation within the Fatah movement, senior figures within the Palestinian Authority (PA) say there is still quite some way to go.”

Abbas himself voiced public objection to what he saw as intervention from “other capitals” on that issue – although Dahlan himself is on record as denying a wish to run for the PA presidency (despite Knell’s later claim that he and others “undoubtedly regard themselves as possible future presidents”).

Relatedly, in the days before (and since) Knell’s article was published severe violence was seen in a number of locations in PA controlled areas.

“Intense clashes erupted in three refugee camps Tuesday night between Palestinian youths and Palestinian Authority security forces, after a protest over the recent expulsion from the Fatah party of a Palestinian lawmaker was suppressed.

At least two people were wounded from reported live fire during the clashes, which took place in the refugee camps of al-Amari, near Ramallah, Balata, near Nablus, and Jenin.

The clashes began when PA security refused to allow a protest in support of Jihad Tummaleh, who was expelled from the Fatah party on Saturday by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, near Tummaleh’s home in the al-Amari refugee camp.

Tummaleh’s expulsion came after he organized a conference at al-Amari in support of “party unity.” The event was viewed by some in Ramallah as an effort to urge reconciliation between Abbas and his chief political rival Mohammad Dahlan. […]

PA security forces also arrested Tuesday night the official spokesperson of Fatah in Jerusalem, Rafat Alayan, who had earlier participated in a rally in support of Tummaleh.”

Also unmentioned by Knell is the meeting which took place between Abbas and Hamas leaders in Qatar the day before her report was published.

“The 81-year-old Abbas met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and Hamas’s Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, for a “business lunch” in Doha, the PA’s official news agency Wafa said. […]

The meeting in Doha was attended by the Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Ambassador to Qatar Munir Ghanam.”

Veteran analyst Avi Issacharoff interprets that meeting as follows:

“In a turn of events no one could have foreseen mere weeks ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — until recently the ally of Egypt and Saudi in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups — met on Wednesday with Khaled Mashaal, outgoing head of Hamas’s politburo, and with Ismail Haniyeh, Mashaal’s successor. These meetings took place after Abbas met the previous week with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.

Erdogan and Sheikh Tamim are considered strong patrons of the Muslim Brotherhood, the great rival of Egypt and its president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Abbas’s meetings with them, as well as his talks with Mashaal and Haniyeh, the two highest-ranking members of Hamas (the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot), may even lead to a historic reconciliation with Hamas, though that outcome is still a long way off. Whether such a reconciliation would be a good or a bad thing depends on whom you ask.

So what — or, rather, who — has led Abbas straight into the arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, and maybe even into those of Hamas, just days after a high-ranking Hamas official in Gaza called him a traitor?

The answer is simple: Mohammad Dahlan. This former high-ranking Fatah official, who has been challenging Abbas for several years, succeeded this week in areas where even Hamas has failed. He managed to get Cairo on his side in the fight against Abbas and proved how weak and shaky Abbas’s status is in the Arab world.”

As Issacharoff also points out, another succession struggle is also underway:

“…everybody is busy with the question of “the day after.” Many members of Fatah fear that the day is fast approaching when Fatah will split over the uncompromising battle between Dahlan and Abbas, and Hamas will become more powerful still.

It should be emphasized that Dahlan is not the only one in Fatah to be marking out territory in anticipation of the fight over the succession.

The highest levels of Fatah, as a whole, are busy with Fatah’s general assembly, which is set to take place in late November and can point the way to who Abbas’s successor might be. Fatah’s Central Council will be elected during the assembly — and according to Fatah’s bylaws, it is only from the Central Council that Abbas’s successor, Fatah’s next chairman, may be chosen. It is also likely that the assembly will elect Fatah’s deputy chairman, who could, in time, succeed to the chairmanship.”

All that internal Palestinian conflict is obscured by Knell. She does however find it necessary to promote ‘analysis’ from a Belgium-based NGO.

“…there is no clear frontrunner and analysts warn against second-guessing the dynamics within Fatah.

“The names you hear about most often are basically former security people because these are whom Israel is most comfortable with and whom Western donors have interacted with and vetted,” says Nathan Thrall of International Crisis Group.

“These sometimes correlate with what’s realistic in Fatah power structures but oftentimes not.””

So is Yolande Knell unaware of the back story to the issue she supposedly set out to explain to BBC audiences? A vaguely worded caption to one of the images used to illustrate the article suggests not.

knell-abbas-art-pic

The question that therefore arises is why the BBC’s funding public and worldwide audiences are not being told the whole story. 

 

BBC Jerusalem bureau ignores a story that challenges its chosen narrative

Back in April the BBC’s Yolande Knell produced written, filmed and audio reports from Gush Etzion. None of those reports presented audiences with anything other than the corporation’s standard narrow portrayal of the factors supposedly underlying the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

“Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of settlements are often cited as reasons for Palestinian anger…”

Last week a journalist from the Washington Post also visited Gush Etzion to attend an event in the town of Efrat. efrat

“Efrat’s mayor, Oded Revivi, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army reserve, invited Palestinians from surrounding villages to come to his house and celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, when the faithful gather in palm-roofed huts, a remembrance of the 40 years of wandering landless in the desert back in the time of Moses.

A couple of dozen Palestinians accepted the mayor’s invitation this week to share brownies, grapes, cookies, apples and coffee, alongside 30 Israeli settlers. This was a first. […]

One Palestinian stood and told the guests that he didn’t want to see the West Bank “turn into Syria.”

Another said he didn’t like “being lumped together with the terrorists.” […]

Ahmad Mousa, 58, a contractor from the neighboring Palestinian village of Wadi Al Nis, said, “We consider ourselves part of the family, part of the people of Efrat.”

You do not hear that much in the West Bank, at least not in public, with smartphone cameras rolling.

He said, “Seventy percent of our village works in Efrat. They treat us very well and we are very good to them, too.”

Noman Othman, 41, a construction worker from Wadi Al Nis, said this was his first time as a guest in a home in the settlement, although he had worked here for years, building houses.

“This is good,” he said. “Our relationship is evolving.”

Asked whether he bore any grudge against the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, now home to 400,000 settlers, which the Obama administration has condemned as “an obstacle to peace,” Othman said nope. He didn’t have any problem with Efrat.

If there was a Palestinian state someday, a dream Palestinians say is growing more distant, Othman said the Jews in Efrat “should stay on their land.”

He saw it this way: “These are their houses. They bought them with their own money. We should have no problem living together — if there is peace.”

Ali Musa, 49, came from the village of Al Khader. He told the gathering: “I came for a reason. I came to talk about our relationship, between you and us.”

He reminded his hosts that there is a locked yellow gate that blocks the entrance to his village, a closure enforced by Israeli security ­forces. “That gate should be removed,” Musa said.

He added: “And that racist sign? That should also be removed. It’s outrageous. It prevents our Jewish friends from visiting us.”

Musa was referring to the large red signs posted across the West Bank warning Israelis in capital letters that it is against the law and “dangerous to your lives” to enter “Area A,” cities and villages under full control of the Palestinian Authority.”

However, events later took a less positive turn when some of the Palestinian participants were arrested by the PA security forces.

“In a move against normalization with settlers, Palestinian Authority security forces have held four Palestinians from the village of Wadi al-Nis since Thursday after they visited Efrat council head Oded Revivi’s succa. […]

On Saturday night, Revivi said he was unable to determine what had happened to the four visitors from Wadi al-Nis.

“I’m sorry that human rights organizations have not spoken out about this situation,” he said.

In an interview with Wattan TV on Thursday, the PA’s Deputy Governor of Bethlehem Muhammad Taha said the incident was under investigation. The government, in coordination with the PA security forces, will hold these people accountable according to Palestinian law, he said.

Taha clarified that the participants will be dealt with through legal processes, and added that what they did is not a part of his people’s culture and upbringing.

“All Palestinians condemn the [visit], and visiting settlers is completely unacceptable,” he said.”

After being detained for four days, the men were finally released.

While BBC audiences are regularly and repeatedly instructed that “settlement expansion” endangers the possibility of peace between the Palestinians and Israel, they are rarely given insight into issues such as the Palestinian Authority’s incitement, glorification of terrorism and rejection of normal neighbourly relations between Palestinians and Israelis. Neither of course do the corporation’s audiences get to hear the kind of opinions voiced by the Palestinian guests in the Succa in Efrat because such voices which do not fit the BBC’s chosen narrative. 

The BBC’s job, however, is not to give weight to a specific political narrative but to provide its funding public with the full range of available information. 

 

 

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

The BBC’s portrayal of the reasons for restrictions on entry to Israel from the Gaza Strip is usually at best superficial and at worst misleading and politically motivated. Two months ago, for example, Yolande Knell made opportunistic use of a story about the rescue of neglected animals from a Gaza zoo for the promotion of a deliberately incomplete representation of those travel restrictions that made no mention of the factor which necessitates them: Palestinian terrorism.

“In Khan Younis at the Mahali [phonetic] family home, the children show me their plastic zoo animals and I tell them Laziz [the tiger] is moving to South Africa.”

“Akram Mahali says daily life is a struggle. Neither he nor his six children have ever seen life outside Gaza and they’re not likely to any time soon. With Hamas in control of the Palestinian territory, both Israel and Egypt impose tight border restrictions and limit travel.”

Voiceover Mahali: “There is nothing nice in Gaza. Really if I could I would take them out. I wish I could. There is no money, no happy life and there is no work. There are power cuts. I see now the animals are living better than humans.”

Knell closed that radio report with the following loaded statement:

“Then, just after dawn, the animals leave Gaza. Their suffering will soon be over but they leave behind Palestinians who continue to feel trapped.”

That report was not atypical: in the past BBC audiences have seen or heard restrictions on the movement of people and specific categories of goods in and out of the Gaza Strip inaccurately described as “collective punishment” or a “siege”.

There is therefore all the more reason for the BBC – which claims to be impartial and is tasked with building audience understanding of “international issues” – to report stories which would help its audiences understand the real reasons for the counter-terrorism measures which include restrictions on entry to Israel from the Gaza Strip. One such story was recently cleared for publication.erez

“On 21 September 2016, at Erez Crossing, the ISA, in cooperation with the Israel Police, arrested Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu Taha, a resident of Khan Younis, as he sought to enter Israel via the Erez Crossing ostensibly for commercial purposes.

During his investigation it was learned that he led a terrorist cell guided by Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, and had been planning to carry out a large-scale terrorist attack at an events hall in the south and to abduct and murder an IDF soldier for bargaining purposes. 
 
It was also learned that Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu Taha had been recruited by Wael Sufiyan Abu Taha, a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist, who resides in Gaza, and who had directed him to establish a military infrastructure and prepare to carry out the aforementioned attacks. Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu Taha, in turn, recruited three additional cohorts who have also been arrested”.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC did not find that story newsworthy.

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BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

On October 13th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Fifa urged to give red card to Israeli settlement clubs“.knell-fifa-art

Knell opens her piece with an account of some pre-planned agitprop which took place on the eve of Yom Kippur.

“A dozen Palestinian boys dressed in football kit and carrying balls, march towards a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli police and soldiers come to block the way as they approach the gates of Maale Adumim, where some 40,000 Israelis live, to the east of Jerusalem.

Surrounded by journalists, protest organiser, Fadi Quran, tells a senior officer that the children want to play a game in the local football stadium.

“You know exactly why they can’t come in,” says the officer.

“Is it because they’re Palestinian?” Mr Quran asks.

“No, no, because you need a permit,” the officer replies.

“Well, people in the world are watching and I think it’s important to know you have segregation,” says Mr Quran.”

Were it not for reports like this one from a member of the pre-conscripted press pack, “people in the world” would of course know nothing about the exploitation of a dozen boys for a campaign which has nothing to do with sport and everything to do with the political campaign of delegitimisation of Israel.

But despite the BBC’s decision to use its world-wide reach to put wind in the sails of this particular political campaign, its editorial standards concerning accuracy and impartiality should at least ensure that audiences would be told the whole story. That, however, is not the case in Knell’s report.

The ‘star’ of Knell’s account of the event is the man she tepidly describes as “protest organiser” Fadi Quran. BBC audiences receive no information concerning Quran’s affiliations and are not told, for example, which organisation – if any – he represents, who funded the boys’ transport to Ma’ale Adumim or who paid for the identical T-shirts they and Quran are seen wearing in the photographs which accompany the article.avaaz-logo

A closer look at those T-shirts and the accompanying placards shows that they bear the Avaaz logo and that would come as no surprise had BBC audiences been informed that American citizen Fadi Quran is a “senior campaigner” for Avaaz. A former employee of Al Haq, Quran is also a “policy member” at Al Shabaka and a “Popular Struggle community organizer”.

Obviously that information is critical to audience understanding of the wider story behind the agitprop she describes, but Yolande Knell refrains from providing it to her audience. She goes on to ostensibly provide readers with the background to that “small protest” but similarly fails to inform them that the meeting to which she refers is the fruit of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to use FIFA to delegitimise Israel.

“The small protest is soon over but it has symbolic significance ahead of this week’s meeting of the council of world football’s governing body, Fifa, in Switzerland.

It is due to discuss whether teams from settlements, including Maale Adumim, should be barred from the Israeli Football Association (IFA).”

Knell’s reporting once again falls short of editorial standards of impartiality when she presents a one-sided portrayal of ‘settlements’ while failing to inform readers that all those communities are located in Area C which – according to the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians were willing signatories – is to have its final status determined through negotiations.

“Settlements are built on land captured and occupied by Israel in 1967, which the Palestinians want for a future, independent state. The international community sees them as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace”, but Israel strongly disagrees.”

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality require clarification of the “particular viewpoint” of outside contributors but Knell makes do with the inadequate term “advocacy group” when describing the political NGO Human Rights Watch which has long been involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

“The advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests the IFA should be made to move all Fifa-sanctioned matches inside the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

“By holding games on stolen land, Fifa is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” says Sari Bashi, HRW’s country director for Israel and Palestine.

report by the group notes that some settlement playing fields are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, and that West Bank Palestinians, apart from labourers with permits, are not allowed to enter settlements and use their services.”

The HRW report to which Knell provides readers with a link was already given context-free and partial promotion on the BBC World Service last month.  Significantly, the HRW country director quoted by Knell has also found it appropriate to give an interview on the same topic to the BDS campaign’s South Africa branch.

Knell goes on to promote an old but unsupported claim:

“To underscore the inequalities, the Palestinian boys leaving the demonstration at Maale Adumim continue to chant: “Infantino, let us play.”

Some come from nearby Bedouin communities, which have lost access to their land due to settlement expansion, and have pending demolition orders against their homes.” [emphasis added]

As has previously been documented here, the Jahalin tribe’s claims of ownership of the said land have been examined – and rejected – in courts of law.

Knell similarly amplifies a specific political narrative when she promotes – as fact – the notion of “Israeli restrictions” on Palestinian footballers without any mention of the very relevant context of the links of some of those players to terrorist organisations.

“…a monitoring committee was set up, headed by the Fifa official Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician and former anti-apartheid activist.

It was asked to address Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players and visiting teams, alleged racism and discrimination, and the clubs based in settlements, all of which play in Israel’s lower leagues.”football-terrorist

And of course Knell’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian football does not extend to telling her audiences that one team saw fit to ‘honour’ a terrorist who murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem only this week.

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to Yolande Knell’s signature blend of journalism and activism and this latest report provides yet another example of her serial amplification of political narratives and campaigns in the guise of ‘news’. And yet, the BBC remains silent on the issue of Knell’s repeated compromise of its supposed editorial standards of impartiality.

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BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

Revisiting the BBC’s 2014 reports on Gaza’s power plant

Readers may recall that on July 29th 2014 the BBC devoted considerable coverage to the story of an explosion at a power plant in the Gaza Strip.

““Power plant destroyed” screamed the sub-heading in a BBC News website report on July 29th 2014.Power plant written

That article was among numerous items produced by the BBC on the same day which included content relating to what the BBC immediately concluded was an Israeli strike on Gaza’s power station. BBC journalists extensively promoted that version of the story despite the fact that Israeli sources had stated that the power plant was not deliberately targeted.

Viewers of BBC television news programmes (along with visitors to the website) saw reports by Chris MorrisIan Pannell and Martin Patience and Chris Morris. They heard statements such as the following one from Ian Pannell:

“Israel wants to weaken Hamas any way it can, which includes hitting Gaza’s only power station – adding to the misery of those who live here.”Power plant Morris and Patience 2

Listeners to BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour‘ on July 29th heard Chris Morris make the following baseless allegation:

“And it is Gaza’s only power plant so there are electricity cuts in Gaza City, there could be problems with water supply because many of the area’s water pumps also rely on that power plant. So if that was a deliberate Israeli attempt to cause economic pain – which is certainly how most Palestinians will see it – then it could be fairly successful.” [emphasis added]

Just over two weeks later, both television viewers and visitors to the BBC News website were again reminded of the story in filmed and written reports by Yolande Knell.”

A year later, the claims of deliberate targeting of the power plant were shown to be false but no effort was made to correct the misleading impressions and inaccurate information in those reports which still remain available online.

The Military Attorney General has now published the result of investigations into the July 29th 2014 incident and previous ones at that power plant (section 4 here).

“In media reports, in IDF operational reports, and in the reports of international and non-governmental organizations, it was alleged that over the course of the period from 22 – 29 July 2014, the Gaza Strip’s power plant facilities, located in Nusseirat, were struck a number of times, as a result of IDF operations (the different sources refer to different events, and the allegations and figures contained therein are not consistent). It was further alleged, that as a result of the strike on the power plant on 29 July 2014, the plant ceased to function for a significant amount of time. Subsequently, the incident was referred to the FFA Mechanism for examination.

The factual findings, collated by the FFA Mechanism, and presented to the MAG, indicated that the power plant in Nusseirat was designated as a “sensitive site” on the relevant operational systems of the IDF. In accordance with the IDF’s operational instructions, any military operation to be conducted in the vicinity of such sites requires the adoption of special precautions. The findings further indicated that, in the course of the military activity taking place in the area, the power plant was struck four times over the course of the period from 22-29 July 2014 (the difficulty in specifying the precise dates of the strikes results from differences between the various reports, which provide different dates for the same strikes).

In regard to the first three incidents of damage to the power plant, it was found that the damage did not occur as the result of any direct or intentional attack, aerial or otherwise, by IDF forces. The FFA Mechanism could not rule out the possibility that the power plant facilities may have been damaged by shrapnel, or artillery fire that went off course during the combat. This, in light of the considerable military activity that took place in the vicinity of the plant, between IDF forces and squads affiliated with terror organizations. As well as in light of the fact that terror organizations located a large number of terror assets adjacent to the power plant – at times at a distance of mere tens of meters (such assets included launching pits in which rockets and mortars were stored, medium range rocket launchers, the openings of combat tunnels, weapons caches and more). Evidence has also been obtained which indicates that a portion of the damage may have been caused as the result of rocket fire by Palestinian terror organizations. […]

As regards the fourth incident of damage, which occurred on 29 July 2014, the FFA Mechanism found that on the day of the incident, an IDF armored force operating in the area identified a squad of terror operatives, bearing anti-tank weaponry (“anti-tank squad”). The anti-tank squad was identified while it was close to what would later turn out to be the fuel tanks of the power plant. In light of the imminent threat posed by the squad to the armored force, the force fired, in a measured and direct manner, at the anti-tank squad, using the most precise munition the force had at its disposal. It appears, that as a result of this fire, one of the power plant’s fuel tanks was damaged (the power plant itself was not hit).It was further found, that the IDF force which carried out the fire, did not make the connection between the facilities, in proximity to which it identified the anti-tank squad, and the power plant, and was not aware that the structures in question contained flammable material.

After reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism in regard to this incident, the MAG found that the targeting process carried out with regard to the anti-tank squad accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements.

The fire which was carried out by the IDF force over the course of the incident was aimed at a military object – an anti-tank squad of the terror organizations, which posed an immediate threat to the force. The attack on the squad complied with the principle of proportionality, as at the time the decision to attack was taken, it was considered that the collateral damage expected to arise as a result of the attack would not be excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated from it. This estimation was not unreasonable under the circumstances, when taking into consideration the immediacy of the threat posed to the force by the anti-tank squad, and in light of the fact that the force was not aware of the nature of the facilities in proximity to which they identified the squad.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, members of the public can still find BBC material online which inaccurately portrays the July 29th 2014 incident as a deliberate strike on that power plant. Clearly the appropriate clarifications need to be urgently added to those reports.

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BBC News reframes and politicises an animal welfare story

A filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website’s homepage as well as on its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on August 24th revisited the location of a previous BBC report from April 2012.

Back then, the report titled “Gaza zoo resorts to displaying stuffed animals” told audiences that:

“A zoo owner in Gaza has had to resort to displaying stuffed animals, because of a shortage of live ones.

Mohamed Owaida from the Khan Younis Zoo says it is proving too costly to feed his living animals, and he can not always get live specimens through the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip.”

Around the same time, the Times of Israel also produced a report about that zoo.

“Flies swarm around some of the 10 animals that have been embalmed so far. The makeshift cages housing the exhibits — fashioned from fencing salvaged from Jewish settlements that Israel dismantled in 2005 — are littered with empty soda cans and other trash.

An emaciated-looking stuffed lion, its coat patchy and mangy, lies on an exhibit cobbled together from crates and shipping pallets. A monkey had missing limbs. A porcupine had a hole in its head.

The zoo’s 65 live animals, which include ostriches, monkeys, turtles, deer, a llama, a lion and a tiger, don’t fare much better. During a recent visit, children poked chocolate, potato chips and bread through the wire. There’s no zookeeper on the premises. Gaza has no government body that oversees zoos, and medical treatment is done by consulting over the phone with zoo veterinarians in Egypt.[…]

Owner Mohammed Awaida said he opened the “South Forest Park” in 2007, only to lose a number of animals during Israel’s military offensive against Hamas that began in December 2008. During the three-week offensive, launched in response to rocket attacks on Israel, Awaida said he could not reach the zoo, and many animals died of neglect and starvation.”

Earlier this year the international animal charity ‘Four Paws’ began trying to save the remaining animals in Khan Younis.

“The zoo at Khan Yunis is considered “one of the worst zoos in the world,” according to Dr. Amir Khalil, 51, an Egyptian-born veterinarian and director of project management at Four Paws, an international animal welfare organization. “It’s less than a zoo,” Khalil tells Haaretz. “It’s a prison.” […]

The zoo animals “are not in good condition,” notes Khalil, who lives in Vienna and directs the Gaza efforts from Amman, Jordan. “They are facing death, cold weather, no food, bad captivity, cages and no proper care,” he says.

On August 24th the last remaining animals were evacuated via the Erez crossing to new homes in Israel, Jordan and South Africa. The lone tiger is the subject of the August 23rd BBC filmed report titled “Gaza’s last tiger to leave for new home in South Africa“.tiger report

“There have been many troubles since Khan Younis zoo opened in 2007.”

Owner: “He [the tiger] has lived with me through three wars. He saw disaster and terror. He lived through difficult nights. Like all of us, like me.”

“Dozens of animals died during fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel.”

However, viewers of that report heard nothing of the starvation and substandard conditions to which the tiger and other animals had been subjected.

Obviously for the BBC, even an animal welfare story can be can be reframed to focus television audiences’ attentions on the politics of ‘the conflict’. A clue as to how that came about was found in the August 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ when presenter Carolyn Quinn introduced an item (from 25:40 here) by Yolande Knell, reporting “from Gaza”.PM 24 8

Listeners once again heard the zoo owner say:

“He [the tiger] has lived with me through three wars. He saw disaster and terror. He lived through difficult nights. Like all of us, like me.”

Yolande Knell added her own commentary: 

“Dozens of creatures died when he couldn’t reach the zoo during the last conflict between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel.”

Knell then introduced interviewees with no relation to the story’s subject matter. 

“In Khan Younis at the Mahali [phonetic] family home, the children show me their plastic zoo animals and I tell them Laziz [the tiger] is moving to South Africa.”

“Akram Mahali says daily life is a struggle. Neither he nor his six children have ever seen life outside Gaza and they’re not likely to any time soon. With Hamas in control of the Palestinian territory, both Israel and Egypt impose tight border restrictions and limit travel.”

Voiceover Mahali: “There is nothing nice in Gaza. Really if I could I would take them out. I wish I could. There is no money, no happy life and there is no work. There are power cuts. I see now the animals are living better than humans.”

Failing to make any mention of the very relevant context of the Hamas terrorism which has brought about “border restrictions”, a succession of conflicts and the delay in reconstruction of civilian structures in the Gaza Strip, Knell turned to another unrelated topic:

“Across Gaza people are still having their homes rebuilt after long delays. The last conflict caused massive destruction and killed more than two thousand Palestinians and over seventy Israelis.”

Knell ended her politicised report as follows:

“Then, just after dawn, the animals leave Gaza. Their suffering will soon be over but they leave behind Palestinians who continue to feel trapped.”

Clearly telling BBC audiences the story of the relocation of abused animals from the Khan Younis zoo was of much less interest to Yolande Knell than the opportunistic promotion of her long apparent political agenda.

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BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality