BBC’s Knell reports on Gaza power crisis – without the usual distractions

On several occasions in the past we have documented the BBC’s repeated misrepresentation of the perennial electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip as being connected to Israeli counter-terrorism measures. [emphasis added]

“The manager, Rafik Maliha, has been here since the electricity plant opened a decade ago. It was supposed to make use of the latest technology to meet rising demand. Instead, it’s faced constant challenges. It’s been caught up in previous fighting between Hamas which controls Gaza and the group’s sworn enemy Israel. Tight border restrictions limited fuel imports. Although power cuts were common in Gaza before, now they’re much worse.” (August 15th 2014 – link to source)

“More than 10 years ago, Israel destroyed a large part of the power plant located in central Gaza after the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas militants.

Since then, power shortages have had an impact on almost every aspect of life in Gaza.” (January 14th 2017 – link to source)

“Gaza’s everyday problems don’t stop though with unreliable electricity; the rest of the infrastructure is shot. A lot of recent war damage lies unreconstructed. The economy is lifeless, unemployment sky-high. So whose fault is it? People here wave their arms in many directions. The Israelis first, for the stifling border closures the Israeli government says are for security, the people here say are for collective punishment.” (February 1st 2017 – link to source)

“Power cuts in Gaza typically last 8 to 12 hours a day – sometimes longer. […]

There are strict controls on the movement of goods and people going in and out of Gaza.” (April 18th 2017 – link to source)

“Gaza’s electricity supply has been also affected by restrictions on the import of goods imposed by Israel as part of a land, sea and air blockade that is now in its 10th year. (April 27th 2017 – link to source)

However, on May 18th an article by Yolande Knell that appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page demonstrated that the BBC is entirely aware of the fact that the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is not caused by Israeli counter-terrorism measures at all, but by internal Palestinian disputes.

Readers of that report – titled “Gaza residents left in the dark amid Palestinian power struggle” – were informed that:

“Behind the crisis is an escalating political power struggle between the Islamist group, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority (PA), dominated by the rival Fatah movement. […]

Now, Mr Abbas’s West Bank-based government appears to be piling on financial pressure as it tries to reassert its authority over the Strip. […]

Gaza’s only power plant, which runs on diesel, was shut down last month after the PA scrapped a tax exemption, more than doubling the price of the fuel.

The plant had been producing about 60MW of power a day, about 30% of the energy normally available.

Now, the PA says it will no longer honour any invoices for an additional 125MW of electricity supplied by Israel.”

Yolande Knell also produced an audio report on the same topic which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on the same date. In that report (from 17:50 here) she told listeners that:

“Behind this power crisis is an internal power struggle between the main Palestinian factions. […]

Most recently the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mr Abbas, said it will no longer pay for electricity supplied by Israel to Gaza while Hamas remains in charge.”

Listeners also heard a UN official say:

“We have warned all sides that a political solution needs to be found to this crisis and the only reasonable political solution is to in fact work on returning Gaza to the control of the legitimate Palestinian authorities – the government.”

Particularly noteworthy is the fact that in neither of these reports did Knell promote the lazy, inaccurate but previously much touted notion that Israeli security measures are to blame for the crisis.

While that adherence to accurate journalism without misleading distractions is clearly welcome, it does of course highlight the question of why promotion of that misinformation has been standard practice in so much previous BBC reporting on this topic.

Related Articles:

BBC silent on latest Gaza power plant shut down

No BBC reporting on latest power crisis in the Gaza Strip

BBC News passes up the chance to set the record straight on Gaza shortages

The Gaza electricity stories the BBC reports – and the ones it doesn’t

No BBC coverage of energy sector agreements between Israel and the PA

BBC’s sketchy reporting on Gaza power crisis highlighted

Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News inaccurately rewords the Archbishop of Canterbury

On May 10th the BBC News Twitter account informed its 19.5 million followers that ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury says there could be a “moment of opportunity” for Middle East peace efforts’.

The link in that Tweet led to a filmed report titled “Time for Middle East peace efforts, says Justin Welby” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and is presented with the following synopsis:

“The Archbishop of Canterbury says there could be “moment of opportunity” for Middle East peace efforts.

Justin Welby, who’s on a tour of the Holy Land, was speaking after meeting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Yolande Knell met the archbishop in Jerusalem.”

So did the archbishop actually say that ‘there could be a “moment of opportunity” for Middle East peace efforts’ as both the Tweet and the synopsis claim?

Welby’s actual words are as follows:

“Something that was discussed in both meetings was whether we…whether there is – for all kinds of reasons – a moment of opportunity. And one of the things I was particularly emphasising was the need – particularly of the poor and the weaker in the area; the minority communities – for peace. That this…although some people can endure these situations for years, for others it becomes unendurable and I’m thinking perhaps of some of the Christian communities around.”

As we see, the BBC paraphrased the contemplation “whether there is […] a moment of opportunity” as meaning that the archbishop had determined that “there could be “moment of opportunity” for Middle East peace efforts”.  While remarkable, the promotion of that misrepresentation is completely in step with Yolande Knell’s previous efforts to make Welby’s trip conform to her own agenda.

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BBC’s Yolande Knell reports on Archbishop of Canterbury’s ME visit

 

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports on Archbishop of Canterbury’s ME visit

May 8th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell titled “Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders” on the BBC News website’s Middle East and UK pages.

Much of Knell’s report is devoted to coverage of Justin Welby’s itinerary, which included a very short visit to Christian institutions the Gaza Strip. Knell tells readers that:

“The archbishop has been careful to hear voices from both sides in the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In a previously unannounced move, he visited Gaza – which has seen repeated conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel in the past decade.

He also met Israelis living under threat of rocket fire from Palestinian militants in a kibbutz near the border.”

Residents of the Israeli communities located near the border with the Gaza Strip are not just “under threat” from the terrorists that Knell coyly describes as “militants”: attacks do frequently happen. However, seeing as the BBC has refrained from informing its English-speaking audiences of any of the eight incidents of missile attacks that have taken place since the beginning of this year and throughout the whole of 2016 only reported one attack, readers would be unlikely to be able to fill in the blanks for themselves.

The archbishop also visited Christian institutions in Nazareth including a school and four churches. Regardless of how the people he met there choose to self-identify, Yolande Knell collectively describes them as follows: [emphasis added]

“The archbishop has visited Palestinian Christian communities in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, where he prayed and ate falafel with Christian mayor, Vera Baboun.”

Referring to a story she has often promoted in the past, Knell also tells readers that:

“He [Welby] was due to meet Christian families in the Cremisan Valley, whose land is affected by the construction of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”

One item on the archbishop’s itinerary which Knell left out of her coverage was a visit to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to pay tribute to UK student Hannah Bladon who was murdered last month in a terror attack in the city.

One of the stranger features of this report is Knell’s opening of her article with the promotion of some unfounded linkage.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is to meet Palestinian and Israeli political leaders as part of a 12-day tour of the Holy Land.

His visit comes two weeks before US President Donald Trump is due to arrive in Jerusalem to try to revive the moribund peace process.

However, the Most Reverend Justin Welby indicated there should not be too much significance read into the timing.”

Welby’s latest trip to the region was announced back in March while Trump’s upcoming visit was announced on May 4th and there is no indication of any link between the two visits. Although Knell tells BBC audiences that the purpose of the US president’s 26 hour visit is “to try to revive the moribund peace process”, the official announcement lays out additional (and no less newsworthy) aims.

“President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Israel, where he will further strengthen the United States-Israel partnership.  The leaders will discuss a range of regional issues, including the need to counter the threats posed by Iran and its proxies, and by ISIS and other terrorist groups.  They will also discuss ways to advance a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

President Trump has also accepted the invitation of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to meet with him to discuss ways to advance peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as efforts to unlock the potential of the Palestinian economy.”

Moreover, the day before this article was published, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Sunday’ aired an item about Welby’s trip (from 01:00 here) that was mostly devoted to an interview with the archbishop by Yolande Knell. The last question she asked (at 05:45) was:

Knell: “You’ve come at a very sensitive time as attempts to get peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians restarted. Was that your intention?”

Welby: “I would not presume that. I come to pray, to share, to listen, to encourage. It would be very presumptuous to go further.”

Despite that very clear answer, Knell nevertheless decided to include a totally superfluous mention of the US president’s upcoming visit and “the moribund peace process” in her BBC News website article. 

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BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

When some mostly Fatah-linked Palestinians serving sentences in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike on April 17th, the BBC produced three reports on that story on consecutive days. As was noted here at the time:

“…in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]

Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)

                  “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”

The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.”

On May 2nd the BBC went one step further. Apparently not content with the above uncritical and unqualified amplification of the partisan narrative of the PLO, Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell dispensed with the nicety “Palestinians regard”, electing to describe convicted terrorists as “political prisoners” in her (and hence the BBC’s) own words.

Knell’s audio report was broadcast to Radio 4 audiences in the programme ‘The World Tonight’ (from 39:09 here) and an almost identical version of the report was broadcast to BBC World Service audiences in the programme ‘Newshour’ (from 38:11 here).

After listeners heard the sound of chanting, Knell began her report as follows: [emphasis added]

Knell: “Chants of support for Palestinian political prisoners in Israel jails who’ve been refusing food for two weeks in a protest about conditions. As President Abbas prepares to meet President Trump, tensions are rising back home, leading to renewed clashes with Israeli soldiers. In Ramallah I meet Fadwa Barghouti. Her husband Marwan – a popular figure in the president’s Fatah faction – is serving five life sentences for murder in Israel and is leading the hunger strike. She says Palestinians care deeply for the prisoners.”

With Fadwa Barghouti speaking in Arabic in the background, Knell then told listeners:

Knell:”The whole Palestinian people’s been subjected to imprisonment, she tells me. Every Palestinian home knows what it means to have a prisoner, knows suffering and injured pride.”

Of course very many Israeli homes know suffering too: the suffering of having had a loved one murdered by Palestinian terrorists in attacks such as those directed by Fadwa Barghouti’s husband. In her typical style Yolande Knell, however, erased that terrorism and its victims from her pathos-rich yet obviously biased portrayal of terrorists on hunger strike (albeit in waning numbers – which Knell neglected to mention) as “political prisoners”. She continued:

Knell: “Earlier there was another rally in Gaza where Palestinians burnt posters of their president. Here the anger is driven by the damaging internal split between Fatah and its Islamist rival Hamas – which controls Gaza – as well as the moribund peace process.”

Knell provided no evidence to back her bizarre claim that the demonstrations in Gaza on May 2nd were motivated by “the moribund peace process”. She went on:

Knell: “At Birzeit University politics professor George Giacaman now sees Mr Abbas in a tricky position in Washington. He thinks he’ll come under pressure to return to peace talks with Israel without a deal to stop Jewish settlement growth on land the Palestinians want for their future state. That would be very hard to sell to the public.”

Making no effort to inform BBC audiences that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – do not place any limitations of construction in Israeli communities in Area C but do state that the final status of that area is to be determined in negotiations and its portrayal as “Palestinian land” therefore amplifies a partisan position, Knell allowed her interviewee to promote the myth of “new settlements”: a notion she and her editors know perfectly well is false. [emphasis added]

Giacaman: “The Palestinian side has insisted throughout the past years that before negotiation starts, there has to be a hold to the settlement process. You have to keep in mind that this occupation of Palestinian land spearheaded by the establishment of new settlements in the West Bank undermines any political process, including of course the two-state solution.”

Listeners then heard a recording from the press conference at the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the US president earlier in the year.

Trump: “As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made.”

Knell next recycled the ‘policy shift’ theme the BBC has been pushing since mid-February even though it was quickly refuted by US officials.

Knell: “President Trump speaking to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February. Israel had announced plans for several thousand new settler homes during his first month in office with relatively little criticism. And the new US leader appeared ready to break with long-established American foreign policy backing the creation of a Palestinian state as the only way to end the Middle East conflict.”

Trump: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but, honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like best.”

Knell: “Palestinians don’t expect the meeting between Mr Abbas and Mr Trump to be so friendly. But the Palestinian president has tried to strengthen his hand by meeting the leaders of Washington’s close Arab allies Egypt and Jordan on his way to the White House. So could the US be about to broker another round of peace talks?”

Giacaman: “I doubt if anything would come of it. I don’t think President Abbas has anything new to offer and I doubt Mr Trump is in a position to give the Israeli-Palestinian issue all his concentrations. The exposure to American public opinion and to the American leadership; this will help a lot because they are the only people in the world who can influence the Palestinians, Israelis to go to peace.”

Knell closed her report:

Knell: “Recently Palestinians have seen their cause overshadowed by other regional concerns. Their leaders now hope that the unpredictable approach of Mr Trump could work in their favour. Their official line is that he offers a rare chance for peace.”

Knell’s portrayal of the chances of renewal of negotiations of course airbrushed very pertinent context such as the increasingly acrimonious rift between the PA and Hamas and the related fact that the long since unelected Mahmoud Abbas cannot even set foot in the Gaza Strip, let alone claim to represent all the Palestinians.  

However, Knell’s aim in this report was obviously not to provide domestic and foreign BBC audiences with a realistic, accurate and impartial report on the story but to promote PLO talking points – primarily the false claim that imprisoned terrorists are “political prisoners”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part three: BBC Radio 4

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

Inaccuracies and omissions in BBC News reporting on Abbas White House visit

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC

 

 

 

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio

As documented in part one of this post, reports that appeared on the BBC News website on May 1st and 2nd clarified to audiences that Hamas itself had said that the new document it launched in Qatar on May 1st does not replace the terror group’s 1988 Charter.

Nevertheless, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ chose to present the lead story in its May 1st late edition under the inaccurate heading “Hamas Presents New Charter”.

“The Palestinian militant group Hamas has set out a new series of policies. It declares for the first time a willingness to accept an interim Palestinian state within pre-1967 boundaries, without recognising Israel.”

Presenter Tim Franks introduced that long item (from 0:44 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“First to the Middle East. One of the nostrums, one of the pieces of received wisdom about the region is that when it comes to one of the oldest conflicts of the lot – the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians – nothing really changes however many people die in the occasional eruptions of war, however much pressure grows inside this congested land, however much effort is expended by presidents of the United States.

Now though comes news – indeed just before we came on air – of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas making what for them is a major announcement. They were bringing out their first new policy document since their founding charter almost thirty years ago and the question we want to ask is whether this marks a potentially significant shift for them, for the Israelis and for the international response. In a moment we’ll hear from a Hamas spokesman and from a member of the Israeli government. First let’s hear from our correspondent Yolande Knell in Jerusalem. Who are Hamas?”

Audiences did not in fact hear an Israeli view at all in this item.

After listeners heard an anodyne portrayal of Hamas from Knell (which of course at no point included the word ‘terror’), Franks asked her the following question.

“What are the major changes that have come out of this new document of general principles and policies, as they call it?”

Knell replied: [emphasis in bold added]

“Well I’ve spent much of the day looking back at the 1988 founding covenant. Ahm…and now we have in front of us the articles of this new policy document and there are some ways in which there’s definitely a lot more moderate, a lot more measured language; some real departures from that earlier document. And it really drops its long-standing call for an outright destruction of Israel and also its association with the Muslim Brotherhood. This appears to be an effort to improve its relations with other Palestinian factions, with Arab countries and the wider world.”

In other words, having read the following clauses from that document, Knell egregiously chose to portray them to BBC audiences as meaning that Hamas has ‘dropped’ its aspiration to erase Israel from the map.

“Palestine symbolizes the resistance that shall continue until liberation is accomplished, until the return is fulfilled and until a fully sovereign state is established with Jerusalem as its capital. […]

Palestine, which extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west and from Ras Al-Naqurah [Rosh HaNikra – Ed.] in the north to Umm Al-Rashrash [Eilat – Ed.] in the south, is an integral territorial unit. It is the land and the home of the Palestinian people. The expulsion and banishment of the Palestinian people from their land and the establishment of the Zionist entity therein do not annul the right of the Palestinian people to their entire land and do not entrench any rights therein for the usurping Zionist entity.

Palestine is an Arab Islamic land. It is a blessed sacred land that has a special place in the heart of every Arab and every Muslim. […]

The following are considered null and void: the Balfour Declaration, the British Mandate Document, the UN Palestine Partition Resolution, and whatever resolutions and measures that derive from them or are similar to them. The establishment of “Israel” is entirely illegal and contravenes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and goes against their will and the will of the Ummah; it is also in violation of human rights that are guaranteed by international conventions, foremost among them is the right to self-determination.

There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity. Whatever has befallen the land of Palestine in terms of occupation, settlement building, Judaization or changes to its features or falsification of facts is illegitimate. Rights never lapse.

Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. “

Knell continued – contradicting her own previous statement and promoting the falsehood of “pre-1967 borders”:

“We still have in this new document Hamas laying claim to all of historic Palestine which of course includes present-day Israel. It doesn’t recognise Israel in any way; it continues to refer to it as the Zionist project or Israel in inverted commas. But it does now agree to a transitional Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – what’s known as the pre-1967 borders. This of course is the basis of peace talks with Israel.”

At that point Knell was cut off and Franks went on to introduce a frequent BBC interviewee; Ghazi Hamad of Hamas.

Franks: “How significant a shift does he think  this is from the former founding charter which talked about an existential war with Jews?”

Although the interview with Hamad is of very bad quality and barely audible or intelligible, listeners did hear him claim that the new document is “not a shift”, that it represents the evolvement of Hamas’ position over the years and that it shows “what is the real position of Hamas”.  

Repeating the same falsehood as Knell before him, Franks then asked Hamad:

“Can I ask you in particular; one of the big shifts at least from this charter seems to be the acceptance in the first instance of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. So – the West Bank, Gaza and at least part of Jerusalem – if not the whole of Jerusalem as far as Hamas is concerned. I just wonder what then happens after that stage. Even if the Israelis were prepared to accept that – given that there are 6 million Jews who live in this country called Israel who are proud to call themselves Israelis, want to carry on calling themselves Israelis. What happens to them?”

Hamad of course did not answer that question and listeners got another dose of Hamas propaganda instead before Franks went on to introduce his final interviewee while once again promoting the erroneous notion that the new document replaces the old Hamas Charter.

Franks: “Well does this mark a change in approach and does it demand a new response from the international players, this Hamas charter? […] Has the diplomatic weather around the Palestinians and Israelis changed? Daniel Kurtzer was the US ambassador to Israel between 1997 and 2001 and is now professor in Middle East policy at Princeton University.”

Listeners heard Kurtzer inaccurately describe the document too.

“The current Israeli government is not going to see this new charter as anything of importance….”

They also heard Kurtzer advocate the position that the new document “represents a shift” in Hamas which justifies “starting to talk to them”.

Franks closed the item as follows:

“And just within the last few minutes Fatah – the rival Palestinian faction – has said that the new Hamas document is identical to the position of the PLO in 1988. Hamas demands eh…eh…to apologise to the PLO.”

As the BBC News website reported, the demand for an apology to the PLO did not come from Hamas but from Fatah.

“However, Fatah spokesman, Osama al-Qawasmi, criticised Hamas for not altering its stance earlier.

“Hamas should apologise to the PLO after 30 years accusing it of treachery and blasphemy and for causing a sharp split between the Palestinian people,” he said.”

The following day – May 2nd – Tim Franks was still touting to ‘Newshour’ listeners around the world the inaccurate claim that the document is a ‘new charter’ (at 38:11 here):

“On yesterday’s programme we brought you news of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas making a major announcement: a new and apparently less hardline charter.”

As we see, BBC World Service audiences did not hear accurate portrayal of what the new Hamas document is, what it says or what it means. Did BBC Radio 4 listeners fare any better? That question will be answered in part three of this post.

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BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part one: website

Last week we asked “How will the BBC report Hamas’ upcoming botoxed manifesto?” and the answers to that question emerged on May 1st and 2nd after Hamas launched its new document in Qatar.

On the evening of May 1st the BBC News website published a report titled “New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image’“. The caption to the image at the top of the article correctly informed readers that:

“Hamas officials say the new document does not replace the group’s 1988 charter”.

In the body of the report itself, that point was further clarified: [emphasis added]

“The new document, which Hamas says does not replace the charter, accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state within territories occupied by Israel in 1967 as a stage towards the “liberation” of all of historic Palestine west of the River Jordan.

This is an apparent shift in Hamas’s stated position, which previously rejected any territorial compromise.

The document says this does not, however, mean Hamas recognises Israel’s right to exist in any part of the land or that it no longer advocates violence against Israel.”

On the morning of May 2nd an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How much of a shift is the new Hamas policy document?“. The caption to the image at the top of that report told BBC audiences that:

“The founding charter has not been repealed – but the policy document marks a tonal change”.

However, the fact that this new document does not replace Hamas’ charter was not adequately clarified in the article itself and indeed readers may well have gone away with the mistaken impression that it does just that.

“There have long been reports of possible changes to the 1988 founding charter of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, best known by its acronym, Hamas.

Three decades ago, it was referring to itself as part of the Muslim Brotherhood and laying out its aim to obliterate Israel, creating an Islamic state on “every inch” of historic Palestine.

In its 36 articles, the 1988 document often uses anti-Semitic rhetoric to describe its struggle as a confrontation between Muslims and Jews.

Now, after years of internal wrangling, Hamas has produced a new policy document, which softens some of its stated positions and uses more measured language.”

The article goes on to portray the new document as follows:

“There is nothing so dramatic as recognition of Israel.

In fact, Hamas restates the Palestinians’ claim to all the land “from the River Jordan in the East to the Mediterranean Sea in the West”.

However, the new document does formally accept the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – what are known as pre-1967 lines.

This idea has been the basis for previous rounds of peace talks with Israel.”

The implication that Hamas policy is now in line with the principles underpinning years of negotiations between Israel and the PLO is of course inaccurate and misleading. The principles laid down in the Oslo Accords include negotiations on ‘final status’ issues intended to bring the conflict to an end: not to act as an interim agreement for implementation until Israel is eradicated at a later stage.

Knell also told her readers that Hamas has altered its infamously antisemitic position:

“At a press conference in Doha, where he lives in exile, the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal also stressed a change in approach to the Jewish faith.

“Hamas believes our struggle is against the Zionist occupation, the Zionist enterprise. It’s not a struggle against Jews or Judaism,” he said.”

She did not however clarify that denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination in their own state – which is precisely what a ‘struggle’ against ‘the Zionist enterprise’ is – is one manifestation of antisemitism.

Knell also played down the new document’s renewed committal to terrorism:

“They make clear that Hamas remains committed to what it calls “armed resistance” against Israel.”

As we see from these two reports, the BBC clearly understands that this new document does not replace the Hamas Charter from 1988. That makes it all the more difficult to explain the inaccurate reporting heard by listeners to BBC radio which will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC contradicts years of its own narrative on Israeli construction

The use of imprecise language in BBC reports has frequently steered audiences towards the inaccurate belief that in recent years new communities have been built in Judea & Samaria and the parts of Jerusalem occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967. Some of the latest examples of that practice include: [all emphasis added]

“An increase in settlement construction in recent months has led to international criticism of Israel…” Yolande Knell, BBC Radio 4 news bulletin, December 24th 2016. 

“Pro-Palestinian groups criticised the deal, saying it rewards Israel despite the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. […]

Last month, the White House warned that the construction of settlements posed a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” BBC News website, September 13th 2016 (later amended following a complaint from BBC Watch)

“But the outgoing Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory…” BBC News website, December 23rd 2016.

“This is a vote on a resolution that condemns the building of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. It says it’s illegal under international law. […]

“They themselves [the US administration] have been very critical of settlement building over the last year.” BBC News website, December 23rd, 2016.

“The resolution reflects an international consensus that the growth of Israeli settlement-building has come to threaten the viability of a Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” BBC News website, December 23rd and 24th, 2016.

“The US president-elect Donald Trump has called for a UN Security Council resolution aimed at halting the building of Israeli settlements to be vetoed.”

“…this particular Israeli government has…has done a lot of settlement building and it is…it’s very much its policy.” BBC World Service radio, December 22nd 2016. 

“I think Britain is concerned about the number of settlements that he’s [Netanyahu] authorised in the occupied Palestinian territories…” Jeremy Bowen, BBC Radio 5 live, February 6th 2017.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the employment of such lax terminology obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel has been constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement. Concurrently, the BBC has not bothered to inform its audiences that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem.

In early February the BBC News website reported that:

“…Israel’s prime minister has announced that he plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades.” [emphasis added]

Visitors to the BBC News website on March 31st found a report headlined “Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years” which includes a recycled map sourced from the political NGO B’Tselem as well as statements from the political NGO ‘Peace Now’ and a link to its website. BBC audiences were not informed that the plan to build a new community is dependent upon approval from the full cabinet.

“Israel has approved the establishment of its first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades. […]

While Israel has continued to expand settlements and has retroactively approved outposts constructed without permits, this is the first time it has agreed a new settlement since the 1990s, reports the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on March 31st heard Sarah Montague discussing the same story with Yolande Knell (from 2:56:26 here).

Montague: “Israel’s security cabinet has approved the construction of the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank for two decades.”

Knell: “….it’s something of real symbolic importance. Israel hasn’t built a new settlement since the 1990s. Instead, the construction that we hear a lot about has been focused on building within existing settlements…”

Clearly then the BBC understands that there is a significant difference between the construction of houses within the municipal boundaries of existing communities and the establishment of a “new settlement”. The question that therefore arises is why – given its supposedly rigorous standards of accuracy – for so many years its journalists regularly employed imprecise language that materially misled audiences on the topic of Israeli construction.

While we do not anticipate any public accountability on that issue, we will be closely monitoring the language used in future BBC reporting relating to construction.

Another notable aspect of the March 31st written report comes in this paragraph:

“It [ the Israeli security cabinet] also approved tenders to build 1,992 new homes at four other existing settlements, and declared almost 100 hectares (247 acres) as “public land” in order to enable the retroactive legalisation of three outposts, according to Peace Now.”

Readers are not told that those “1,992 new homes” were already reported by the BBC when they were first announced in January. As has been noted here on previous occasions, BBC audiences often receive misleading impressions regarding the scale of construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem because – rather than reporting actual building – the BBC covers announcements of building plans, planning approvals and issues of tenders, regardless of whether they actually come to fruition.

Related Articles:

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

How the BBC invents ‘new settlements’ with lax language

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

BBC amplified NGO promotes another Israel delegitimisation campaign

Last October we noted Yolande Knell’s amplification of anti-Israel agitprop set up by the campaigning group Avaaz – and the glaring fact that audiences were at no point informed of the identity of the organisers, let alone given any information concerning their political agenda.

Our colleagues at Presspectiva recently reported on another Israel related campaign run by Avaaz.

“The activist network is now promoting a petition that went viral, calling for action against the destruction of a Palestinian community. The petition has the catchy headline: “They’re asking us for a miracle.”

At the time of writing, some 860,000 people have signed the petition aimed against the Israeli government. Every few seconds another person adds their name to this campaign.

The text informs its readers that:

‘Near the hilltops of the village of Bethany, 2000 years ago, it is said that Jesus Christ brought Lazarus back to life.Today those hilltops are home to an indigenous community who are about to be bulldozed into the ground. Their homes, land, and way of life completely wiped out.

But these brave families refuse to fade silently into the darkness. Instead, they are taking a huge risk, rising up against the bulldozers by nonviolently “sitting-in” their homes. They’re betting on a miracle: that their act of courage will inspire people around the world to help stop the bulldozers before they crush them.…’ […]

No matter how many times you reread the text, the lack of factual information stands out. While the petition is filled with pathos and a heart wrenching description of families facing eviction while waiting for a miracle to save them, it is devoid of any specifics explaining why the community is facing this tragedy. The context of where the community is situated or why it is facing such a brutal eviction is mysteriously left out. […]

The petition provides the reader with no concrete facts. Instead it relies on the emotive use of language. Bulldozers, destruction, miracle, inspiration — these are empty slogans and rallying cries. The people who sign the petition are voicing an amorphous objection to a vague and unspecified “destruction” of a Palestinian community of which they know nothing about.

Trying to give the story a Christian element — the mention of Lazarus and the use of the English name “Pope’s Mountain” as opposed to the common Arabic name — are cynical attempts to give the story a religious aspect that it simply does not have.”

The full article is available in English here or in Hebrew here.

As has been noted here before, as time goes by the mutually beneficial relationship between the traditional media and NGOs flourishes and expands, with more and more ‘news’ being sourced from agenda-driven organisations. But when political agendas and reporting meet, questions obviously arise concerning accuracy, impartiality and reliability.

The very least the BBC should be doing is adhering to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by customarily and rigorously clarifying to audiences the political motivations of NGOs and campaigning groups in any content that promotes or amplifies their agenda.

Related Articles:

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

BBC’s Wyre Davies plays wingman to anti-Israel NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

 

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

As readers may recall, in October 2016 the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell produced an article on the topic of succession within the Palestinian Authority which was notable for its lack of information concerning internal Fatah rivalries.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.”

Since the appearance of that article, the BBC has failed to produce any follow-up English language reporting on subsequent related events – including violent clashes between supporters of Abbas and Dahlan, Abbas’ unanimous re-election as head of the Fatah party or the seventh Fatah party congress.

In her October report Knell named several potential successors to Abbas.

“For Palestinians, the most popular of the [Fatah Central] committee’s 20 members is Marwan Barghouti, who led Fatah’s Tanzim militant group during the last uprising against the occupation, or intifada.

Although he is in jail in Israel, serving five life terms for involvement in murdering Israelis, he remains influential and has led efforts to end divisions with Hamas.”

She also mentioned “[t]hree other potentially important players”: Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub and Majed Faraj.

The fact that the BBC chose not to cover the seventh Fatah party congress in December means that audiences remain unaware of the fact that Barghouti received the most votes in the election to the Central Council of the faction which dominates the Palestinian Authority as well as the PLO (the body supposed to conduct negotiations with Israel) and that the second most popular candidate was Jibril Rajoub.

In mid-February the Fatah central committee elected a new vice-chairman and secretary-general to one-year terms.

“Former Nablus governor Mahmoud al-Aloul was appointed as the first ever vice president of the ruling Palestinian Fatah movement Wednesday night, marking him as a possible candidate to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Authority president.

Aloul, 67, appointed by the Fatah Central Committee, is a close confidant of the 82-year-old Abbas. He is considered popular within the party, and was a long-time leader of Fatah’s armed wing before following the group’s leadership from Tunis to the West Bank in 1995 in the wake of the Oslo Accords. […]

Another possible successor to Abbas to emerge Wednesday night was the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, who was appointed secretary general of the 18-member Fatah Central Committee. […]

Previously, the secretary general and vice president of the Fatah central committee was one position, but it was decided to split it into two. Palestinian commentators assessed that Rajoub may have cut a deal with Aloul to split the position.

The appointments are due to be reviewed in a year.”

Analysts viewed the appointments as a blow to the possibility of Marwan Barghouti succeeding Mahmoud Abbas:

“Though Barghouti won the most votes during the Seventh Fatah Congress in December, the decision not to appoint him to any role Wednesday night is seen as an attempt to distance him from holding any office that would put him in line to succeed Abbas.

Some in Barghouti’s circle expressed concern in recent days that the Fatah central committee would deny him an appointment, according to anonymous statements given to Arab media.

Currently, Barghouti’s future in Fatah is unclear. According to his close associates, Barghouti agreed to participate in the Seventh Fatah Congress only after Abbas promised him the deputy position.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“Other important portfolios were also distributed to various committee members with the noticeable exception of Marwan Barghouti. Many in the party had expected the longtime Fatah leader to receive some form of recognition, and possibly the vice chairmanship.”

Although the appointment of Mahmoud al-Aloul does not qualify him as Abbas’ successor, it does introduce a new name to the list of possibilities.

“Grant Rumley, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the [Jerusalem] Post that while Aloul’s election may not be a game changer in terms of succession, it does introduce a new contender.

“By virtue of his new position as No. 2 in Fatah, Aloul cannot be ignored or discounted in the race to replace Abbas,” Rumley said.

After Aloul completes his one-year term as vice chairman, the central committee will either extend Aloul’s term or vote for a new vice chairman.”

However, with the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s chronic under-reporting of Palestinian affairs continuing, audiences remain in the dark with regard to these developments and their possible implications. The fact that Fatah dominates the PLO and the foreign donor funded Palestinian Authority means that its internal politics clearly have significant effect on what the BBC terms “the Middle East peace process”. BBC audiences, however, continue to be deprived of the information which would enhance their understanding of that particular “international issue.  

Related Articles:

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

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Abbas’ Fatah reelection ignored by the BBC – in English

BBC News passes up coverage of recent Fatah congress

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

 

How the BBC invents ‘new settlements’ with lax language

We have on many occasions documented the use of imprecise language in BBC reports which results in audiences being given inaccurate impressions of construction in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem.

“The employment of phrases such as “Israeli settlement building”, “construction of Jewish settlements” and “construction of settlements” obviously leads BBC audiences to mistakenly believe that Israel is constructing new communities rather than – as is actually the case – building homes in existing towns and villages, most of which would under any reasonable scenario remain under Israeli control in the event of an agreement.”

Last September the BBC News website corrected one such article but the phenomenon remains widespread.

On February 2nd the BBC News website reported that:

“…Israel’s prime minister has announced that he plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades.

A statement from Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had set up a committee that would “begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement” for those evicted from Amona.” [emphasis added]

As the Jerusalem Post noted in its coverage of that February 2nd announcement:

“This would be the first new government-authorized settlement in the West Bank since the establishment of Revava near Ariel in 1991, when Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister.”

On February 6th the BBC’s Middle East editor told listeners to BBC Radio 5 live that:

“Mr Netanyahu has authorised the…ah…six thousand new dwellings in the settlements plus the first all-new settlement in about thirty years.” [emphasis added]

Clearly then the BBC understands that there is a significant difference between the construction of houses in existing communities and the establishment (so far not even on paper) of a “new settlement”.

Nevertheless, the day before that announcement was made, listeners to the February 1st edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ heard Owen Bennett Jones use the inaccurate term “new settlements” to describe the announcement of building in existing communities (from 50:22 here).newshour-gaza-1-2-franks

Bennett Jones: “…And there is another big development we need to mention today. The Israeli government has announced thousands more housing units for settlers on occupied territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the evacuation of an outpost. Let’s hear now from Yolande Knell.”

Following Knell’s report of the evacuation of Amona, Bennett Jones continued: [emphasis added]

“And that was Yolande Knell from Amona and we’ve still got Tim Franks on the line. So all these new…ah…new units, housing units, new settlements and then that news from Amona – is any of this tied to the new president in the United States or is it all driven internally?”

Franks: “It’s both, Owen, because I mean the case over Amona has been dragging on for years. They were talking about evicting people from Amona when I was posted here and that was some years ago. Ahm…but undoubtedly all the announcements of thousands of new…eh…eh…eh…homes for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – yes; the Israeli government feels liberated by the…eh…the incoming Trump administration…”

It really should not be difficult for the BBC to ensure that its journalists are aware of the difference between construction in existing neighbourhoods, towns and villages and “new settlements” and that they use precise language to describe the story they are reporting in order to prevent audiences from repeatedly going away with inaccurate impressions.