BBC Radio 4 listeners are told of ‘Palestinian air’

The July 11th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item described as follows in its synopsis:

“More than 25 years on from the Oslo Peace accords, close friendships between Palestinians and Israelis are still rare. Charlie Faulkner attends a Shabbat meal in Jerusalem where an Israeli woman invites a former Palestinian prisoner to her home.”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 11:25 here) with an inaccurate portrayal of the aims of the Oslo Accords, a one-sided explanation of factors supposedly making a two-state solution “more remote” and the same unevidenced claim about friendships between Israelis and Palestinians. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “It’s more than 25 years since the Oslo Peace Accords were signed, aiming to fulfil the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The accords led to the creation of a Palestinian Authority with limited self-governance of the West Bank and Gaza and raised hopes for a more peaceful future. But now the ultimate goal of establishing a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution seems more remote than ever amid rocket attacks and air strikes and an Israeli government taking a hard-line approach. Close friendships between Palestinians and Israelis are rare but Charlie Faulkner has come across a personal attempt to bring people together.”

Charlie Faulkner is not a BBC employee: she describes herself as “an independent journalist” currently located in Amman and has written for several Qatar-linked outlets includingMiddle East Eye’, ‘The New Arab’ and ‘Al Jazeera’.

Faulkner’s story was about what she claimed was “a very unusual dinner party” at the home of someone described as “Jewish American” despite having lived in Israel for twelve years.

“In just a few moments Susan – a Jewish American in her 60s – would be inviting Suli – a former Palestinian prisoner – into her home for Shabbat dinner even though she’d never had a conversation with a Palestinian before. It was Susan’s daughter, 33-year-old Noa, who’d orchestrated this unusual get-together.”

Although family names are absent from Faulkner’s account, Noa appears to be Noa Yammer – communications director for ‘Hand in Hand’ – and ‘Suli’ is apparently Sulaiman Khatib who has previously appeared in BBC content. Carefully avoiding the word terror, Faulkner told listeners:

“Suli, now in his mid-forties, was imprisoned for 10 years at the age of 14 after attacking two Israeli soldiers. Having informally joined the Fatah movement, one day he and a friend decided to steal the soldiers’ weapons. During the attempt – and in a moment of blind fury – Suli and his friend stabbed them. Luckily the soldiers survived, he said, and after his release from prison he focused on achieving peace. He’s the founder of a group called ‘Combatants for Peace’ and gives speaking tours around the world. This year he’ll publish a book he hopes will humanise both sides of the conflict.”

Radio 4 listeners were given no factual information about the activities, agenda and funding of the political NGO ‘Combatants for Peace’.

Again with no evidence provided to support the claim, listeners were told that:

“Encounters between Israelis and Palestinians like this are incredibly rare, set against an often tense political background. […] The conversation quickly turned serious. Israel’s Independence Day was taking place the following week and Suli’s organisation had planned a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day service the evening before. He invited Susan to attend. Immediately she bristled but answered very honestly. She said she felt that attending would be disrespectful to the sacrifice made by Israeli soldiers who had died for the country.”

Faulkner made no effort to explain to listeners that that annual event – held on what is Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism – is considered by many to be controversial with “critics accusing it of legitimizing terrorism and equating Israel’s fallen soldiers and those who attacked them”.

Listeners heard Faulkner’s descriptions of her protagonists’ “attachment to the land”, with one including superficial references to the Six Day War and the Palestinian refugee issue – and promoting the notion of “Palestinian air”.

“Having spent most of her life teaching religious studies, Susan explained that through her faith she felt a real attachment to the land. She also emphasised that the family had sacrificed some quality of life to be there.”

“Suli pointed out his own family’s attachment to the land and how his cousin in Jordan, whose parents were among the thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the 1967 war, is not allowed to return. His cousin often longs to breathe in Palestinian air, said Suli, and on those days he climbs Mount Nebo from which he can see Jerusalem and the village where Suli’s family still live.”

More one-sided framing followed:

“He talked about how his village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, called Hizme, has continued to suffer under what he describes as an ever-tightening grip of the Israeli authorities.”

Terrorist incidents in and around that village were of course not mentioned in Faulkner’s account.  

Israelis, however, were painted as largely intolerant.

“We talked about a social media post Noa had shared showing empathy for innocent Israelis and Palestinians caught up in the 2014 Gaza conflict. It had unintentionally sparked a highly emotional backlash from some friends and relatives. ‘We’re talking about these people’s children on the front lines’ Susan exclaimed. These people had seen Noa as siding with the enemy. […] Susan said she was proud of the way her daughter could hold both sides in equal esteem, suggesting she maybe wasn’t able to do so herself.”

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ promises BBC audiences “[i]nsight, wit and analysis from BBC correspondents, journalists and writers from around the world”. This report did not include any of those elements and was remarkably superficial and uninformative. It did, however, promote an inadequately portrayed political NGO, marginalise Israeli concerns and contribute to the inaccurate framing of the Oslo Accords and the supposedly ever “remote” two-state solution that has been quite frequently evident in recent BBC reports.  

 

Yom HaZikaron

יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins. 

On April 4th 1951 Israeli forces including 19 soldiers from the Armored Corps set out to investigate intelligence reports concerning the infiltration of Syrian soldiers in civilian dress into the El Hama valley which was part of a demilitarised zone according to the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Syria. 

The force was attacked by Syrian forces stationed in a bunker on the hill above the road to El Hama (Hamat Gader) and seven of the soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire. In 2015 a memorial was created at the site.

 

Nissim Laub aged 24, born in Morocco, immigrated to Israel in 1950

Itzhak Israeli aged 24, born in Iran, immigrated to pre-state Israel in 1934

Shimon Cohen aged 19, born in Morocco, immigrated to Israel in 1948

Shimon Balas aged 19, born in Yemen, immigrated to Israel in 1949

Simcha Cohen aged 29, born in Tunisia, immigrated to Israel in 1950

Mordechai Cohen aged 18, born in Turkey, immigrated to Israel in 1949

Kalman Salonikov aged 19, born in Bulgaria, immigrated to Israel in 1948

May their memories be blessed. 

Yom HaZikaron

יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins. 

Nestled between cypress trees and banana groves alongside a dusty track just north of Kibbutz Sha’ar HaGolan in the Jordan Valley lies a memorial to four members of the Border Police.

On the night of October 8th 1966, windows in Kibbutz Sha’ar HaGolan shattered due to loud explosions from the direction of El Hama valley – then part of a demilitarised zone according to the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Syria.

Flames were seen about a kilometer and a half from the kibbutz and members of a Border Police unit immediately set out to investigate. Having checked one water pumping station they continued to a tool store in the orchard about 300 meters north-east of the kibbutz. The Border Policemen discovered that a terror cell had blown up and completely destroyed the tool store and a trailer laden with grapefruit crates. As they drove along the track through the orchards towards a second pumping station, their jeep ran over a powerful mine and all four Border Policemen were killed. Two additional soldiers in a vehicle driving behind them were injured.

As later noted in a US State Department telegram and in a statement made by PM Levi Eshkol to the Knesset, the attack was carried out by infiltrators from Syria.

Nissim Cohen, aged 19, from Jaffa, born in Bulgaria.

Yosef Amar, aged 20, from Or Akiva, born in Morocco.

Avraham Levi, aged 21, from Hadera, born in Yemen.

Ya’akov Gigi, aged 18, from Netanya, born in Morocco.

May their memories be blessed. 

 

Yom HaZikaron

יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,544 casualties of war and terrorism.

In memory of Eli Cohen who visited here at the Syrian command centre building in Quneitra during his service in Syria between the years 1962 – 1965.

“Eliahu ben Shaoul Cohen, worked as a Mossad agent in Damascus, Syria under the alias of Kamal Amin Ta’abet from 1962 until his exposure and execution on May 18, 1965. Cohen was able to supply considerable details on Syrian political and military matters because of his strong interpersonal skills and abilities to build close ties with business, military, and Ba’ath Party leaders, and Syrian President Amin el Hafiz. He was hanged in Martyr’s Square with the television cameras rolling for the entire world to see.” [source

Eli Cohen’s place of burial is unknown.

May their memories be blessed.  

Yom HaZikaron

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,447 casualties of war and terrorism.

The memorials erected to commemorate Sgt Avi Mizrahi and Captain Omri Tal are just a few hundred paces – and forty-six years – apart.

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Sgt Avi (Avraham) Mizrahi from Jerusalem and Kibbutz Kfar Szold was on patrol near Nahal Meitzar in the south Golan Heights with the infantry squad he commanded on December 10th 1968 when he was killed during an encounter with terrorists. Aged 31 at the time of his death, Avi left his wife, son and one month-old daughter. He is buried in Kibbutz Kfar Szold in the Upper Galilee.

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Captain Omri Tal, aged 22 from Yahud, was killed on July 31st 2014 during Operation Protective Edge. His armoured corps unit was in the Eshkol district near the border with the Gaza Strip when it was hit by Hamas mortar fire. Omri and four others were killed and sixteen soldiers were wounded in the attack. Survived by his parents and older brother, he is buried in Yahud. A recently established look-out point named in Omri’s memory overlooks the Sea of Galilee from the south Golan Heights.

May their memories be blessed.  

Yom HaZikaron

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,320 casualties of war and terrorism.

Thirty five soldiers are commemorated at the memorial at Tel Saki.

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“At the battle of Tel Saki, one of the first of the 1973 Israeli Yom Kippur War, a handful of Israeli paratroopers and armored soldiers stood their ground, fighting off thousands of Syrian troops for three days. […]

Tel Saki is located on the Southern Golan Heights near the Syrian-Israeli border. On that small but strategically positioned hill was located the undersized military reconnaissance post. A small group of IDF soldiers from the 50th Airborne Battalion and the 7th and 188th armor brigades, fought against what we now is known to be an 11,000 infantry soldiers Syrian division, including 900 tanks and countless armored vehicles.”

Parts two and three of this film can be found here and here.

May their memories be blessed.  

Yom HaZikaron

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,169 casualties of war and terrorism.

Moshav Almagor, at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, is the site of two memorials to fallen soldiers and civilians.

On May 2nd 1951 Syrian forces infiltrated the border in the Korazim area, taking over three hills west of the demilitarized zone. Four days of fighting followed and forty-one Israeli soldiers who lost their lives are commemorated at the Tel Motilla memorial.

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In November 1961 the Nahal Brigade established a farming community near Tel Motilla which became the civilian Moshav Almagor in 1965. On August 19th 1963, when three members of the Nahal group set out to turn off the irrigation in the nearby vineyards, they were ambushed by Syrian forces.  Avinoam Evenstein and Avi Reif were killed and the incident was later condemned by the UN Security Council. A memorial to them and five others – two soldiers and three JNF employees – killed in later incidents is situated at the entrance to the moshav.

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May their memories be blessed. 

 

 

From Memorial to Independence

Sixty five years ago today, on April 15th 1948, the retreating British Mandate authorities abandoned the fortress at Nebi Yusha (today known as Metzudat Koach) which they had constructed a decade earlier as part of their attempts to put down the Arab revolt. The strategically located fortress was handed over by the British to Arab forces, thus threatening to cut off access to the Jewish communities in the Galilee panhandle, the Menara Ridge and Ramot Naftlai in the war which was sure to follow the British abandonment of the mandate for Palestine.

Metzudat Koach

In the hope that the fortress’ new occupants would not yet have had time to organize themselves, later the same evening a group of soldiers from the Palmach and Golani brigades launched an unsuccessful attempt to capture the fortress, in which four soldiers were killed. Five days later, on April 20th 1948, the Palmach made another attempt to take the strategic point which also did not succeed and in which 22 soldiers were killed. A third attempt – this time successful – to take the fortress was carried out by the Palmach on May 16th 1948 – the day after the declaration of Israeli independence – within the framework of Operation Yiftach to liberate the Upper Galilee. Two soldiers died in that battle. 

The fortress was later renamed to honour the twenty eight soldiers who fell in the attempts to capture it, with the word ‘Koach’ in Hebrew being comprised of the letters כ”ח –  in gematria 28 – and also meaning ‘strength’. A memorial to the fallen soldiers is to be found next to the fortress – which is still in use as a base today by the Border Police and appears on its insignia – overlooking the Hula Valley.

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Yom HaZikaron

The memorial site to the 121 soldiers who lost their lives in the second Lebanon war in 2006 lies on Mount Adir – near Kibbutz Sassa in the Upper Galilee – and also serves as an observation point overlooking the border and parts of southern Lebanon where much of the fighting took place.  

Tonight, Israelis come together to remember those soldiers and all the other members of the security forces who make up the 23,085 who have fallen defending the country, along with the victims of terror attacks. May all their memories be blessed.  

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