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

 

 

A rare BBC News report on internal Palestinian affairs

As we have periodically noted on these pages, the BBC’s Middle East reporting rarely includes stand-alone coverage of Palestinian affairs.

“Insight into internal Palestinian politics which would enhance audiences’ comprehension of Palestinian society (as well as the conflict) is relatively rare in BBC coverage. Reporting on social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is even more scarce and thus BBC audiences see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life.”

It was therefore encouraging to see a factual report on a recent incident involving the Palestinian Authority security forces published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 23rd under the headline “Palestinian suspect in police killings ‘beaten to death’“.PA lynch art

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it has launched an investigation after a man was apparently beaten to death in a jail in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Nablus Governor Akram Rajoub said Ahmed Halawa had been assaulted by Palestinian security forces at Junaid prison after shouting insults at them.

Mr Halawa was the alleged ringleader of an attack that led to the killing of two policemen in the area last week.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah described his death as an “irregular incident”.

However, human rights activists have in the past been extremely critical of the treatment of prisoners in Palestinian jails. They say that torture is common, and committed with impunity.”

More than seven years have passed since BBC audiences last saw any serious reporting on that topic in the English language.

Towards the end of the report BBC audiences were finally informed that municipal elections are scheduled to take place in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip in October.

“The two factions are preparing for local elections across the Palestinian territories in October.”

The article closes with a brief mention of a different story:

“In a separate development on Tuesday, the Israeli military said it had dismantled a Palestinian weapons-making and smuggling network in the West Bank.

Troops found more than 20 arms-manufacturing machines at several sites in the Bethlehem and Hebron areas overnight, it added. Two traffickers were arrested.”

Unfortunately, BBC audiences were not provided with the context to that information.

“Though this is by no means the first operation of its kind in 2016, it is the largest to date. Since 2016, the IDF has shut down 49 weapons manufacturing machines and seized over 300 firearms. Over 140 weapons dealers and manufacturers have been arrested. […]

Firearms have accounted for over 25% of terror attacks since the beginning of 2016, resulting in over 30 shooting attacks. Operations like the one undertaken last night, which target Palestinian violence at its source, have resulted in a 30% drop in terror attacks in the past several months.”

Hopefully this report signals the advent of a new era of BBC reporting and Palestinian internal affairs will begin to receive the more comprehensive coverage which audiences have to date been denied.  

Reviewing the BBC’s use of a Hamas interviewee

Our colleagues at CAMERA note that:

“A top operative of Hamas and news media favorite named Ghazi Hamad has recommended “small stabs to all parts of Israel” as a strategy against the Jewish state. Hamad is currently the deputy foreign minister of Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit organization that translates Arab and Persian media, Hamad suggested a war of attrition against Israel in an Op-Ed he wrote for the Alwatanvoice.com, an online Palestinian news outlet based in the Gaza Strip.

Hamad—a former spokesperson for Hamas—has frequently been treated as a credible source by many media outlets. A Lexis-Nexis search showed that The New York Times alone quoted Hamad—often uncritically—no less than 18 times between 2006 and 2016. Despite, or perhaps because of the frequency with which he has been quoted, some U.S. news outlets seemingly have been taken in by the Hamas operative.”

Ghazi Hamad has also been a fairly frequent BBC interviewee. For example, he appeared on the self-described “hard-hitting flagship news programme” ‘Hardtalk’ in May 2011 and in July 2012. In August 2013 Hamad was quoted by Yolande Knell in an article about Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing.

“Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and has accused Palestinians of supporting Islamist militants in the increasingly restive Sinai region.

“They have a plan in order to distort the image of Gaza in order to start propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas, in order to show Gaza is like a devil and Hamas is like a devil,” Mr Hamed [sic] said.

“I think they succeeded to do this on the Egyptian street, in the Egyptian society.” “Pigua Har Nof int Hamad

BBC coverage of the terror attack at the Synagogue in Har Nof in November 2014 included an interview with Hamad in which he was given an unchallenged platform to promote inflammatory falsehoods, including the baseless accusation that “settlers” killed a Palestinian bus driver who committed suicide.

“…every day Jerusalem is boiling. Every day there is a new crime in Jerusalem. Every day there is a crime against the Palestinian citizens, either in the Al Aqsa Mosque or in Jerusalem as a city.”

“We did not see any effort, any action from the Israeli government in order to stop the settlers; not to stop the radical religious men when they decided to attack Al Aqsa Mosque, attack the Palestinian, to kill the Palestinians. Yesterday they killed a Palestinian driver. I think that they all should open their eyes. There’s a revolution in Jerusalem. There’s uprising, there is tension and they did not take any action in order to stop this, to protect the Palestinians. But they did everything to protect the settlers.”

In February 2015 Hamad appeared in a filmed report by Lyse Doucet. As was noted here at the time:

“Doucet then gets Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad on camera but, instead of posing any incisive questions about his organisation’s responsibility for the conflict and its aftermath, she merely provides him with a stage from which to promote the usual propaganda unhindered.

Hamad: “Main reason for all this catastrophe is the occupation. Now Gaza’s turned to be like a big prison. There’s no exit, no import, no export.”

Not only does Doucet fail to clarify to viewers that the Gaza Strip has not been under “occupation” since August 2005, she makes no effort to correct the inaccurate impression received by audiences as a result of Hamad’s lies. […]

Doucet continues:

“But there are reports – credible reports – that Hamas is again digging tunnels, that Hamas has been test-firing missiles in preparation for the next war.”

Hamad: “Look, I think this time – that’s right – but I think that Hamas is doing this in order to protect our people here. We don’t want to be surprised with a new war – a new aggression against us.”

In addition to displaying no interest whatsoever in questioning Hamad about where the money and materials for rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities are coming from and why Hamas is doing nothing to improve the lives of the ordinary people it holds hostage, Doucet also makes no attempt to enlighten viewers with regard to the fact that Hamad’s faux victimhood is mere propaganda.”

In March 2016 Yolande Knell once again interviewed Ghazi Hamad on the topic of Hamas collaboration with the branch of ISIS active in the Sinai Peninsula.

Knell: “Palestinians are also alleged to have treated injured IS fighters. I cross into Gaza where Hamas officials strongly deny the claims.”

Hamad:  “We will not allow for anyone from Gaza now to do anything against or to damage or to harm the national security of Egypt and we will not allow for anyone from Sinai to come to use Gaza as a shelter.”

Clearly the BBC’s use of Ghazi Hamad as a source of information on that particular issue and many others has not only done nothing to contribute to meeting its remit of building an “understanding of international issues” but has actively hindered the achievement of that aim.

Related Articles:

Years of BBC amplifications of Hamas denials unravel

BBC’s Knell whitewashes terror in re-run of Palestinian teacher story

When the BBC reported back in March on a prize-winning Palestinian teacher, it managed to omit some relevant information from the story. Over four months later, the BBC chose to return to that topic with a report from the Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which was aired (from 41:07 here) on the July 29th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ and this time audiences were told – albeit very briefly and belatedly – about the teachers’ strike which Knell and her colleagues had previously ignored.PM 29 7

“Back in March there were angry scenes during a four-week walk-out over pay. Monthly salaries here are just 430 to 600 dollars; that’s less than many other public workers. Schools are badly under-resourced.”

Predictably, Knell did not bother to inform listeners that the Palestinian Authority’s budgetary priorities do include spending millions of dollars a year on monthly stipends for convicted terrorists, some of whom receive more than the teachers’ salaries she quotes.

Knell’s account of the ceremony at which Hanan al Hroub received her award was as follows:

“Ecstatic, she took to the stage at the ceremony in Dubai and lifted the trophy for herself and all Palestinians.”

[recording] “I did it! I won! Falastin [Palestine] won!”

As in the previous BBC report, no mention was made of this:teacher prize story

“Associated Press staff in Dubai where the award ceremony took place reported that:

“As al-Hroub accepted her award, Palestinians in the audience waved their country’s flag and some chanted, fists pumping in the air, “With our souls, our blood, we sacrifice for you Palestine.””

Knell went on to give listeners a sanitised account of the surge in terror attacks which commenced last autumn, erasing all Palestinian responsibility from the picture.

“It was a victory that gave Palestinians hope at a miserable time. Since October last year violence here has flared. [recording of riot] These were recent clashes with Israeli soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint in Ramallah. This is a tough environment to grow up in.”

Listeners were then told that:

“Hanan herself comes from this Bethlehem refugee camp. She decided to go into teaching after her family was caught up in a shooting. Her daughters were left traumatised and didn’t get the extra help they needed at school. Now Hanan specialises in working with troubled children. Her classroom is a peaceful place where teamwork, trust and respect are rewarded.”

Although it is not clear why the BBC found it necessary to revisit this story at this time, it is obvious that Yolande Knell found nothing new to add. That is particularly remarkable given that after the peace-loving teacher made the headlines in March, details emerged of her husband’s involvement in terrorism.

“A Palestinian teacher who won a $1 million prize for teaching nonviolence will keep her award even though her husband participated in a terror attack that killed six Israelis.

Hanan al-Hroub received the UK-based Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai earlier this month for a curriculum she called “No to Violence.”

Her husband, Omar, served 10 years in an Israeli prison after being convicted as an accomplice in a deadly 1980 bombing attack in Hebron in which the victims were walking home from Friday night Sabbath prayers, The Associated Press reported. Omar al-Hroub was a chemist who provided chemicals needed for making the bombs, the AP reported.”

Since the BBC last reported on this story in March, the terror attack in which the man who became its protagonist’s husband participated has been glorified by Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party on Facebook and in an official Palestinian Authority newspaper.

That, however, is a story which BBC audiences will never hear.

Related Articles:

Tortuous headlines for BBC report on Palestinian teacher’s prize

Will Guardian amend ‘feel-good’ Palestinian teacher story to note husband’s terror attack?  UK Media Watch

 

Why the accuracy and impartiality of BBC reporting matters

Last week a debate on the conditions and health of Palestinian children was held in the House of Lords.  As noted by NGO Monitor, a briefing paper was prepared ahead of that debate.HoL pic

“In July 2016, the UK House of Lords Library posted a briefing paper: “Living Conditions, Health and Wellbeing of Palestinian Children,” which was “withdrawn” without explanation on July 19, but is available on unofficial websites.” 

As NGO Monitor points out, that briefing paper relied heavily on information promoted by various political NGOs – but it also included information gleaned from several BBC reports.

Footnote 4 (and 11) referred readers to an article titled “Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers” which was published on January 6th, 2015 as the source for the following information:

HoL doc 1

As was noted here at the time that article was published:

“The BBC report plays down Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders:

“The leader of Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza, said in an interview in August that a Hamas cell had killed the teenagers but had not acted on instructions from above.”

The article fails to adequately clarify that funding for the terror attack came from Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip or that high-ranking Hamas operative Saleh al Arouri admitted the organisation’s involvement in August 2014.”

Footnotes 14 and 15 referred readers to a BBC article dating from September 1st 2014 as the source of the information below:

HoL doc 2

Notably, no effort is made to distinguish Palestinian civilian casualties from combatants. That of course will not come as a surprise to those who are aware of the sources of those UN quoted figures. As was previously noted here in relation to that BBC article:

“Once again we see the BBC quoting “the UN” as though that body were impeccably objective, but with no effort made to inform audiences with regard to the very significant issue of the background to those UN statements and the political motivations involved.”

Footnote 16 referred readers to a BBC report from August 27th 2014 titled “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce”.

HoL doc 3

As was noted here at the time:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

Footnotes 33, 34 and 36 referred readers to an article by Yolande Knell from July 8th 2015 titled “Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?”

HoL doc 4

As was noted here at the time, that politicised campaigning article by Knell made no mention of Hamas’ misappropriation of construction materials or its renewed tunnel building and it misrepresented the topic of dual-use goods.

The BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist organisations in the summer of 2014 was highly – and consistently – problematic: not least for its serial misrepresentation of the topic of civilian/combatant casualty figures and the use of data supplied by Hamas and its supporters. Both during and after the conflict, the corporation adopted a campaigning role on the issue of the restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel in response to terrorism and presented a partisan view of the topic of reconstruction in Gaza.

It is obviously very disturbing to see reporting which did not meet the BBC’s professed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality being promoted to members of the House of Lords ahead of a debate but the fact that the house’s researchers use such material as the basis for a briefing paper serves to highlight exactly why the British public, their politicians and public officials should be all the more concerned about the accuracy and impartiality of BBC journalism which later becomes “historical record“.  

 

Another BBC airbrushing of the Quartet report

As documented here previously (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC News website’s portrayal of the report published by the Quartet on July 1st was far from satisfactory and failed to provide audiences with a balanced picture of its content. In this post we will take a look at how the same report was presented to listeners to BBC World Service radio in the July 1st edition of ‘Newshour’ – from 30:08 here.Newshour 1 jul

To recap – the report cited three main factors as “undermining hopes for peace”:

  • “Continuing violence, terrorist attacks against civilians, and incitement to violence are greatly exacerbating mistrust and are fundamentally incompatible with a peaceful resolution;
  • The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution; and
  • The illicit arms build-up and militant activity, continuing absence of Palestinian unity, and dire humanitarian situation in Gaza feed instability and ultimately impede efforts to achieve a negotiated solution.”

In its discussion of the first factor on that list, the report was remarkable for its forthright condemnation of incitement and glorification of terror by official Palestinian bodies including Mahmoud Abbas’ party Fatah and the PA itself. Those topics have long been neglected by the BBC and were once again sidelined in the two articles which appeared on the BBC News website.

Sadly, listeners who heard Owen Bennett Jones’ introduction to the ‘Newshour’ item did not learn of the Quartet’s condemnation of incitement from official Palestinian bodies because he referred generally to “the Palestinians”. Listeners did however hear the erroneous claim that Israel is “building settlements” rather than building in existing communities.

OBJ: “A long-awaited report by Middle East peace mediators says Israel should stop building settlements and the Palestinians should stop inciting violence. The so-called Quartet – the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – says current trends imperil a two state solution. Publication of these recommendations came amid further attacks in the occupied West Bank where Israel has closed off the city of Hebron. Our correspondent Yolande Knell is in Jerusalem. First of all; what’s happening in Hebron?”

A few hours before this programme went on air a fatal terror attack had taken place on Route 60. The closure on Hebron was implemented as security forces searched for the terrorists but uninformed listeners would have had difficulty understanding that connection from Yolande Knell’s reply to Bennett Jones’ clear question.

YK: “We now have hundreds of Israeli troops going to Hebron, roadblocks set up around the city. This follows a lot of concerns from the Israeli military about the number of attacks that have been perpetrated from this city. It’s always a flash point for violence but they say about eighty attacks out of 250 attacks or attempted attacks since October have been in the Hebron area.”

According to the Times of Israel, the IDF spokesman actually said that “seventy-nine terrorists have originated from Hebron” and remarkably, Knell did not bother to inform listeners that Hebron is a notorious traditional Hamas stronghold. She continued:

“And now it’s searching for a gunman who earlier shot some 20 rounds at an Israeli car on the main road – Route 60 – just close to Hebron. This led to a crash that killed one Israeli man – a father of ten – and left his wife and two of his children in hospital. The Israeli military says it also wants to prevent copy-cat attacks and stop a rise in violence which is often seen in the final days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.”

Knell did not clarify for her listeners why the close of Ramadan might bring about “a rise in violence” or inform them that during that month alone six Israelis had been murdered in terror attacks by the time she produced this report.

Prioritising the name used by Palestinians to describe the most ancient Jewish shrine, she went on to describe an attempted attack which had taken place the same morning and in which a woman tried to stab a Border Police officer as follows: [emphasis added]

“Earlier there was a Palestinian woman in her twenties who was killed in the old city of Hebron. Soldiers shot her close to a disputed holy site; the Ibrahimi mosque – also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs. She’s said to have been carrying a knife and importantly, she came from the same village as a teenager who killed a 13 year-old American-Israeli girl in her home in a settlement just outside Hebron one day ago. And even after all the attacks there’ve been recently, this very brazen attack where she was stabbed to death in her own bedroom has really caused a lot of shock and horror.”

Owen Bennett Jones then asked Knell another clear question which she failed to answer.

OBJ: “So just to give us a general picture of what’s going on in the West Bank over the last few months, say, how frequent are the attacks there against Israelis?”

YK: “Well certainly there has been a concentration of the attacks within the West Bank. This is where you have Israeli settlers – and there are more than 560 thousand of them in total in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and they’re living in close proximity to Palestinians. Often you have Palestinians of course also working inside settlements and the settlements themselves are seen as an obstacle to peace; this is something that has been reiterated by a long-awaited report from the Quartet of Middle East mediators – the US, EU, UN and Russia – that has just been published. But I have to say; over the past few months – really since the beginning of this year – it had seemed the number of attacks by Palestinians on Israelis had begun to subside. But then things have really picked up in the last few days, during the month of Ramadan.”

Obviously Knell was either unable or unwilling to answer the question of “how frequent are the attacks […] against Israelis” in Judea & Samaria and given that the BBC consistently under-reports the topic of Palestinian terror, that is hardly surprising. While Knell is correct in her claim that the number of attacks had been decreasing up until June, the fact is that according to Israel Security Agency figures, between October 2015 and June 2016 inclusive, 1,471 terror attacks took place in Judea & Samaria: an average of 163.4 attacks per month or 5.4 attacks per day. One would of course expect a BBC correspondent permanently based in the area to be able to report that information to audiences.

graph attacks Judea Samaria

Bennett Jones continued, once again promoting the inaccurate notion that Israel is building ‘settlements’ rather than constructing housing in existing communities.

OBJ: “Well now this Quartet report you mentioned is taking – if I could put it like this – the usual line: stop building settlements to the Israelis, stop inciting violence, stop using violence to the Palestinians. Is either side listening?”

Knell replied:

“Well there was so much expectation ahead of the publication of what’s turned out to be an eight-page report. There’s not much here that’s surprising: no talk really of international pressure that could be brought to bear. Already the Palestinians have come out saying this report doesn’t meet their expectations. They say that it tries to equalise the responsibilities between a people under occupation and a foreign military occupier. And we’ve just had a statement too from the Israel prime minister’s office that talks about how Israel cannot negotiate peace with itself and it rejects any attempt it says to draw moral equivalence between construction in the settlements and terrorism. So it seems to have been roundly dismissed and when authors talked about their hopes that they could help support further peace talks – well that doesn’t seem to have really helped much at the moment.”

The item ends there and as we see, once again BBC audiences have had their attentions focused on ‘settlements’ – described by Knell as an “obstacle to peace” – but have learned nothing about the much neglected subjects of incitement from official Palestinian sources as highlighted in the Quartet report and nothing about its condemnation of Hamas terror, tunnel building and arms smuggling.

This is the BBC’s third attempt to ostensibly inform its audiences what was in the Quartet report and it is the third time that it has refrained from doing so comprehensively, accurately and impartially. Obviously the way in which BBC audiences view the failure to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict will be influenced by these reports, with the fact that the BBC has airbrushed Hamas and Palestinian Authority related factors from the picture sabotaging audiences’ chances of properly understanding of the issue.

Related Articles:

BBC’s account of Quartet report exposes the holes in its own narrative

BBC’s Knell airbrushes two-thirds of Quartet report out of the picture

 

BBC’s Knell airbrushes two-thirds of Quartet report out of the picture

Later versions of the BBC News website’s June 30th article concerning that morning’s terror attack in Kiryat Arba included the following:

“Also on Thursday, a senior United Nations official cited a long-awaited report by the Middle East Quartet as saying that hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians were being severely undermined by three “negative trends”.

Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that they were continuing violence, terrorism and incitement; Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank; and a lack of control of the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority.”

As noted here previously, in its July 1st article relating to that report from the Quartet the BBC herded audiences’ attentions towards one of those three “negative trends” in particular by devoting 282 words to the topic of “settlement expansion”, 213 words to the subject of “violence, terrorism and incitement” and a mere 91 words to issues related to the PA’s “lack of control of the Gaza Strip” whilst completely ignoring the Quartet’s concerns about weapons smuggling, cross border tunnels and terrorism.

In case audiences had not quite got the message, an additional article by Yolande Knell appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 1st with some very clear signposting seen in its promotion.

“Fate of settlements core to Israel-Palestinian peace”

Knell settlements art on ME pge

Titled “Israel-Palestinians: Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay“, the article’s opening paragraphs include some equally overt signposting.

“For retired West Bank farmer Issa Hamed, the idea that Jewish settlements are destroying a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a no-brainer.

From the rooftop of his home in Silwad, north-east of Ramallah, the sprightly 86-year-old points to the red roofs of the settlement of Ofra, set up in 1975.

“At first, they took just one dunam (1000 sq m), where there used to be a Jordanian military camp, then they kept expanding and blocked access for the landowners,” Mr Hamed recalls.

“It became like a cancer growing quickly over the hills.”” [emphasis added]

Knell’s article contains many of the usual features of any BBC report relating to the topic of construction in Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. As far as Knell is concerned, history begins in June 1967: she makes no effort to inform audiences of the legal status of Judea & Samaria, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip before they were attacked and occupied in 1948.

“Settlement construction began after Israel defeated Arab armies in the 1967 Middle East war. It captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt.”

Moreover, while failing to inform her readers about San Remo and the Mandate for Palestine, Knell does find it necessary introduce the subject of religion – but refrains from mentioning the no less relevant topic of Hamas’ approach to ‘Islamic lands’.

“Some Israelis choose to live in settlements for lifestyle reasons but others are religious nationalists.

They believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people – including Jerusalem and the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria.”

Readers see the inevitable BBC mantra on ‘international law’ which fails to inform audiences of legal opinions which do not conform to the corporation’s chosen narrative.

“Since the 1970s, left- and right wing governments have encouraged Israelis to move to settlements. There are now at least 570,000 settlers.

Under international law, their presence is seen as illegal, but Israel disagrees. Officials have argued they are built on “disputed”, not “occupied” territory.”

The 1949 Armistice lines – specifically designed not to be permanent boundaries or borders – are misleadingly presented as such.

“The current coalition government includes pro-settler parties and ministers who live inside the so-called “Green Line”, marking pre-1967 boundaries.”

Knell promotes and amplifies the topic of the BDS campaign in her article but, as is inevitably the case in BBC content, fails to inform readers what that campaign aims to achieve: the dissolution of the Jewish state.

“They [Israeli officials] have already fought against EU moves to label settlement products and a civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

“The vast majority of international parties have refrained so far from any serious pressure on Israel,” says Palestinian politician, Mustafa Barghouti, who supports BDS.

“It’s not enough to condemn settlements and say they block peace.”

Palestinians plan to renew their calls for further sanctions, including a ban on products from settlements and companies that invest or work in them.”

Among the links to additional related material promoted to readers of this article is one presented as “The settlement issue”. That link leads to a highly partisan article originally published nine years ago which has already been discussed here.

Beyond her grandstanding of the ‘settlements are to blame’ theme, Knell does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue. After quoting a spokesman from the Yesha Council, she writes:

“It points to the fact that Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, with the removal of 8,500 settlers, only led to further conflicts.”

Obviously Knell did not consider it useful to her case to discuss that topic further or to try to use that experience to enhance audience understanding of the potential scenarios in Judea & Samaria. Later on, under the sub-heading “What if?”, she makes a brief mention of a topic usually ignored by the BBC.

“If a peace deal was reached, it is generally accepted that many settlements would remain. Past negotiations are understood to have included mutually agreed land-swaps in which Israel would keep its major settlement blocs.”

She then goes on to say:

“However, it is estimated these could leave over 100,000 settlers in the West Bank.”

Knell does not clarify why she apparently thinks that would be an issue and again chooses not to discuss the fact that the evacuation of Israelis from their homes in the Gaza Strip did not prove conducive to ending the conflict.Knell settlements art

If readers are perhaps wondering how much of the column space in her nine hundred and sixteen-word article Yolande Knell devoted to presentation of the two additional “negative trends” cited in the Quartet’s report, the answer to that question is below: eighty-two words in which key points raised in the Quartet’s report are completely ignored.

“Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – also identify Palestinian violence and incitement and the political situation in Gaza as obstacles to peace.

The Israeli government believes that these are the factors that should be highlighted.

In recent days there has been a series of attacks. An American-Israeli girl was stabbed to death in a settlement near Hebron and an Israeli car in the West Bank was shot, causing it to crash, killing the driver and injuring three passengers.”

Once again we see that the Palestinian Authority’s incitement and glorification of terrorism, together with Hamas’ terrorism, tunnel building, its weapons smuggling and production and its violent rivalry with the PA – all of which are noted in the Quartet’s report – are airbrushed out of an article obviously intended to herd BBC audiences towards one specific view of what – and who – is “destroying a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict”.

While completely consistent with Yolande Knell’s record, this of course is the type of editorialised advocacy journalism which flies in the face of the BBC’s claim to provide its audiences with ‘impartial’ reporting.

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How the BBC’s Knell censored a report on the Samaritan Passover festival

The April 30th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a report (from 44:23 here) by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell from the Samaritan Passover festival  on Mount Gerizim in Samaria.Newshour 30 4

In among Knell’s commentary, listeners heard the following:

“During the Passover feast it’s an unusual sight. Samaritans carry both Israeli and Palestinian IDs and here Israeli soldiers and settlers mix – sometimes uncomfortably – with Palestinian firefighters and officials.”

However, Knell’s coy portrayal does not tell BBC audiences what actually happened at the Samaritan festival at which she was present. As Khaled Abu Toameh recounts:

“Things went well for about two minutes on Mount Gerizim, one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of Nablus. That was how long it took for the Palestinian guests to walk out in protest at the presence of representatives of the Jewish settler community and IDF officers.

The Palestinian Authority Governor of Nablus, General Akram Rajoub, was an honored guest, as were Nablus Mayor Adli Yaish and dozens of Palestinians.

Rajoub later explained his decision to “vote with his feet”:

“Yes, we withdrew from the ceremony. We respect and appreciate the Samaritan community and have been regularly sharing with them in joyous and sad events. We consider them part of the Palestinian people. But we can’t accept the presence of settlers at the ceremony. Even worse, these settlers were given the privilege to speak at the ceremony, which is why we had to boycott the official event and leave the hall. We’re not prepared to talk to Jewish settlers because we don’t accept their presence among us.”

Shortly thereafter, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank issued a statement strongly condemning the invitation of Jewish settler leaders to the Samaritan ceremony:

“This is a dangerous precedent that must not be allowed to recur. This is something unusual for the Samaritan community to do. We consider them to be part of the Palestinian people and we hope that this invitation does not represent the will of our Samaritan people. They need to fix this and prevent it from ever happening again.”

Raed Dib’i, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, praised the Palestinian delegation’s decision to boycott the ceremony. He said that the move reflected the Palestinians’ rejection of any form of “normalization with the occupiers and the settler gangs.””

Just days before this report was aired Yolande Knell’s filmed, audio and written reports from Gush Etzion appeared on multiple BBC platforms. In those reports she told BBC audiences that:

“For two years there have been no peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”

And:

“…I expect more bad news from the Gush Etzion junction. With no hope of a political solution in sight, it offers a worrying glimpse of a future where both sides in this conflict continue to live with simmering tension and outbreaks of violence.”

A reporter truly committed to enhancing audience understanding of why negotiations between Israel and the PLO have been non-existent for two years would of course give a story such as the one above at least as much prominence as the promotion of slogans such as ‘occupation’ and ‘illegal settlements’. Yolande Knell demonstrates once again that she is not that reporter.  

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A campaigning article resurfaces on the BBC News website

In addition to her recent filmed and audio reports about Gush Etzion junction, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell also produced a written article on the same theme which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Magazine’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on April 28th under the title “Gush Etzion Junction: The deadly roundabout“.

The article is very similar to the audio report previously discussed here and here. At the bottom of the page readers are directed to a previous BBC report from the same area.

pic Knell art link

That highly politicised campaigning article was previously discussed on these pages here. Since its publication nearly two years ago, the writer – Daniel Silas Adamsonappears to have found a new job.

Adamson profile

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part two

In part one of this post we discussed some of the issues arising from Yolande Knell’s filmed and audio reports titled “Death at the Junction” which were broadcast on BBC World News television and on BBC Radio 4 on April 23rd.Knell Our World TV

An additional feature of both reports is Knell’s employment of PLO terminology and messaging. In the audio report she tells listeners:

“Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of settlements are often cited as reasons for Palestinian anger but [interviewee] Daniel believes incitement is driving the upsurge in attacks.”

Cited by whom? That Knell does not reveal but a guidance document for members of the media which was issued by the PLO in November 2015 tells foreign reporters that “The main issue is the Israeli Occupation” and in relation to the current wave of terrorism, journalists are informed that:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

Knell later goes on to say:

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

In the filmed report viewers are told that:

“The Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third holiest place in Islam. Jews call it Temple Mount and it’s also their holiest site. It lies at the heart of the conflict. Last year, with hopes of a political solution further away than ever, the latest round of violence began right here. Clashes broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians. As Jews visited during religious holidays, fears grew that Israel had plans to change a rule that forbids non-Muslims from praying at the site.”

In November 2014 the PLO put out a ‘media advisory’ document instructing foreign journalists to use the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” instead of what was described as the “inaccurate term” Temple Mount. That directive is of course part and parcel of the PLO’s habitual negation of Jewish history and the BBC – which used to use the term ‘Haram al Sharif’ – has since frequently been found complying with that attempt to promote the inaccurate notion that the whole of Temple Mount “forms the Mosque” and amplifying baseless Palestinian claims of alleged Israeli intentions to change the status quo at the site.

Knell’s filmed report also includes extensive promotion of falsehoods which go completely unchallenged. During her interview with the father of a terrorist who was shot and killed whilst in the process of carrying out a stabbing attack at Gush Etzion junction on October 27th 2015, Knell tells viewers:

“Nadi [the terrorist’s father] himself is a former militant who spent 10 years in an Israeli jail but he says his son wasn’t politically motivated in the way that he was. He was impulsive, inspired by social media.”

Knell fails to tell audiences that Izz al-Din Abu Shakhadam’s accomplice had served a 16-month prison term in Israel for Hamas activities and that Hamas issued death notices for them both.

Viewers then see the following unqualified statements from the father in the sub-titles on screen:

“Izz al-Din was always keeping up with events on Facebook. He used to see the raids of the settlers on Al Aqsa, to see the Occupation army executing our girls and boys. Of course this affected him a lot and made him determined to stand up to this horrible occupying force. If we let them do what they want, tomorrow they’ll stamp on us.” [emphasis added]

Making no effort to relieve viewers of the inaccurate impressions given by those false statements, Knell goes on to showcase another terrorist who carried out a car-ramming attack on March 4th.

“But many deadly incidents at the Gush Etzion junction are not so clear cut. Instead there are conflicting Israeli and Palestinian narratives that reflect the deepening mutual distrust. Israel’s army says the woman driving this car ploughed into soldiers and was shot dead. A knife was found on her dashboard. […] But in her village the mourners tell a different story. Mohammed Sabatin says his wife was scared and took a wrong turn at the junction.”

Viewers see the following unchallenged claim in the sub-titles translating an interviewee’s response to Knell’s question concerning the knife.

They planted it there. We haven’t got a knife like that and that is always what the occupation does. They planted the knife by the windscreen. It’s not logical; why would she put the knife where everyone could see it?” [emphasis added]

That false theme has been repeatedly seen during recent months and it is part of the incitement spread by Palestinian Authority officials. Viewers of this programme are not however informed of that crucial context before Knell goes on to show a gory display.

“The family claims Israel used excessive force to stop Amani and I’m shown her clothes, riddled with bullet holes.”

“The circumstances surrounding Amani’s death remain uncertain.”

Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do not share Knell’s uncertainty with regard to the circumstances which brought about the death of the ‘martyr’ as she was termed in the PA president’s condolence letter to her family.

Towards the end of the filmed report Knell tells viewers that “for Palestinians […] Gush Etzion is a symbol of Israel’s occupation” and audiences then see the following on-screen translation of the words of Nadi Abu Shakhadam:

They enjoy killing our children – only God knows why.”

Like the other lies highlighted above, that too goes unchallenged by Yolande Knell.

Both the half-hour long film and the radio report presented an opportunity for Knell to provide BBC audiences with more wide-ranging background and context than news reports on the terror attacks which have plagued Israel for over half a year allow. Instead, the corporation’s funding public was fed politicised messaging by means of the use of terminology such as “Palestinian land” and “illegal” settlements, undiluted PLO propaganda and downright lies which went entirely unchallenged by a journalist supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.   

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