The double standard evident in the language used by the BBC when reporting terror attacks in differing locations is regularly discussed on these pages and has been the subject of numerous complaints to the BBC.
In April of this year the BBC responded to one such complaint by stating that:
“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.
In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.
The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.”
Regrettably, that response subsequently received endorsement from the UK’s communications regulator OFCOM.
The cynical approach behind the BBC’s policy came into full view last week in an interview with an Israeli guest in the September 19th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today‘ that was described as follows in the running order:
“The leader of one of the world’s most conflict-ridden cities has questioned official UK police advice to “run, hide, tell” during terror attacks and has suggested Britons should take on jihadists to save lives. Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, said people should “engage” the enemy directly. He joins us on the program.”
In his introduction to that item (from 01:12:17 #playt=1h12m17s" rel="noopener" target="_blank">here) presenter John Humphrys made it perfectly clear that he (and his organisation) knows perfectly well that both Israel and the UK suffer from terror attacks.
Humphrys: “The official advice to people in this country if they get caught up in a terrorist attack is ‘run, hide, tell’. But that, according to Nir Barkat, is wrong and he’s the mayor of Jerusalem which has seen more attacks than pretty much any other city on the planet and he’s on the line.”
In other words, when it is convenient for a particular purpose the BBC is perfectly happy to acknowledge both the existence and the scale of terrorism against Israelis. But when the corporation reports on (some of) those attacks in Israel, it deliberately refrains from describing them as terror because it is concerned about its own image and does “not wish to appear to be taking sides”.
Back in May 2014 the BBC News website reported a story from Belgium involving a politician and a banned rally that the corporation had difficulty describing accurately to its audience.
As was noted here at the time:
“The BBC report ‘balances’ its reporting of statements made by Belgian officials and an anti-racist organization on the subject of the convention by quoting a Facebook post from its organiser.
“Writing on his Facebook page, Laurent Louis said it was laughable that his movement “Debout Les Belges!” (Stand up, Belgians!) was seen as anti-Semitic, simply because its members had adopted Dieudonne’s trademark “quenelle” gesture.”
However, the BBC refrains from informing audiences that Louis’ repeated use of the quenelle is just the tip of the iceberg of his history of antisemtism and extremism, which includes making that gesture in the Belgian parliament, Holocaust denial and analogies and accusing Zionists of having “set up and financed” the Holocaust. Last year Louis was photographed at a pro-Assad rally trampling an Israeli flag and holding a portrait of Bashar al Assad and a Hizballah flag, telling Syrian TV that “Europe is being used in the conflict [against Syria] as a tool in the hands of Israel, the rogue state”.”
The following year Laurent Louis was convicted of Holocaust denial by a Belgian court and barred from running for office for six years. Following an appeal, Louis (who subsequently paid a visit to Hizballah) had his sentence changed.
“A former lawmaker in Belgium convicted of Holocaust denial in 2015 was handed an unusual sentence this week: The Brussels Court of Appeal ordered him to visit one Nazi concentration camp a year for the next five years and write about his experiences, according to the former lawmaker and local news reports. […]
Mr. Laurent [Louis] was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and fined over $20,000 at his 2015 trial, which centered on online statements he made that questioned the number of Jews killed in gas chambers during the Holocaust.”
However, all anyone searching for information about the European MP convicted of Holocaust denial on the BBC News website will find is amplification of Louis’ denials of antisemitic activity along with a tepid and unhelpful ‘explanation’ of the quenelle gesture.
As documented here previously (see here and here) the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on September 17th devoted over a third of its airtime to coverage of a 106 word statement put out by Hamas earlier that day.
That subject was also the lead story in the evening edition of ‘Newshour‘ on the same day.
“In the Palestinian territories, Hamas – the faction that’s ruled the Gaza Strip for the past decade – says it is willing to dissolve the body that oversees the territory and to allow a unity government to sit ahead of new elections. We get reaction from an Israeli MP and a senior Hamas official.”
Presenter James Coomarasamy’s dramatically worded introduction to the first part of the twelve minute-long item (from 00:47 #playt=47s" rel="noopener" target="_blank">here) once again misled listeners by implying that the 2006 PLC election was confined to the Gaza Strip and that Hamas has ruled the territory since 2006 rather than 2007.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Coomarasamy: “Now we begin with a slim shaft of light piercing the darkened corners of the moribund Middle East peace process. It holds out the potential for reconciliation; not yet between the Israelis and Palestinians but within the Palestinian political family itself. Hamas – the faction that has ruled Gaza for the past decade – says it’s willing to dissolve the body that oversees the territory and allow a unity government to sit ahead of new elections. That government would be headed by the 82 year-old leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas whose Fatah faction lost the election in Gaza in 2006 and whose rule has since then been confined to the West Bank. Hamas – regarded as a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Israel among others – agreed to the change at talks in Cairo. Well Gaza has long been subject to a blockade by Egypt and Israel and in recent months there’s been added pressure from the Palestinian Authority which has significantly reduced the electricity supplies to the territory. So will this agreement stick or will it quickly peel away like previous expressions of unity? The long-suffering citizens of Gaza are divided.”
After listeners had heard two ‘random man in the street’ interviews, Coomarasamy went on to present an edited version of his previous conversation with Fatah’s Nabil Shaath, including the unchallenged description of the Israeli government as “colonialist”.
Shaath: “I do not see how we can face Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing settler colonialist government and we cannot really make use of any potential changes in the world if we are not united.”
Coomarasamy then spoke to MK Sharren Haskel, finding it necessary to make a clarification at the end of their conversation:
Coomarasamy: “Sharren Haskel, that Likud party MP there, referring during the interview to Mahmoud Abbas as Abu Mazen and Judea and Samaria…eh…also…eh…known as the West Bank.”
Listeners next heard analysis from BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell which was similar to her contribution in the earlier edition of the programme and repeated the claim that:
Knell: “…Israel always accuses Mr Abbas of not representing all the Palestinian people…”
Knell also told listeners that “positive comments” from the UN’s Middle East peace process coordinator should be interpreted as “acknowledgement that Hamas must be brought into the political scene”.
Later on in the programme (from 30:08 #playt=30m8s" rel="noopener" target="_blank">here) Coomarasamy again returned to the same topic.
Coomarasamy: “Let’s get more now on our main news today: the news that the Palestinian group Hamas has agreed to dissolve the body which controls the Gaza Strip and to allow a unity government to oversee that territory before the first election there since 2006 takes place. Well, earlier in the programme we heard reactions to this agreement – that was announced after talks in Cairo – from the rival Palestinian faction Fatah and from an MP with the ruling party in Israel. Well, for more insight into why the decision was taken, I’ve been speaking to Ghazi Hamad who’s a senior Hamas official in Gaza.”
Throughout that interview BBC regular Ghazi Hamad made repeated references to the ‘peace process’ which of course has been completely rejected by Hamas throughout all its decades of existence – although Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify that relevant point to his listeners.
Hamad: “The Egyptians succeeded to convince them [Hamas] that now it’s a good time now to start reconciliation with Fatah factions and because the miserable situation of the region and because of the problems in the peace process. So we need now to bring the policy and together and they succeed to convince Hamas that you have to show more flexibility.”
Coomarasamy: “What’s convinced Hamas then that this is the right time? What has convinced Hamas that these are the right conditions?”
Hamad: “You know, you know before that many people involved and there were many mediations between Hamas and Fatah but Hamas was doubtful about the intention of the president Abu Mazen to implement the agreement. So they found that Egypt is a big country and Egypt could be a good guarantee. They can give some assurances that they can keep and protect the agreement.”
Coomarasamy: “What about the pressure that’s been placed on Hamas, on Gaza, by – well, obviously by years of a blockade from both Israel and Egypt – but more recently by the electricity being cut off for many hours during the day? What role has that played in this decision?”
Listeners then heard that Hamas is “suffering” and – as was the case with one of his previous interviewees – Coomarasamy failed to challenge the inaccurate depiction of counter-terrorism measures as a “siege”.
Hamad: “I don’t…I don’t deny that [the] situation in Gaza’s very, very hard. People are suffering. Hamas is also suffering because not easy now to rule Gaza and the policy of the political isolation from the international community, from the blockade and siege on Gaza from the Israeli occupation and also from some action taken by the President Abbas against Gaza, ‘specially when he cuts part of the electricity and he stop paying salaries and paying some services in Gaza. I know that Hamas is working hard in order to offer services for people but I know it’s not easy for them to continue for [a] long time.”
Predictably, Coomarasamy refrained from asking Hamad why Hamas did supply electricity to the homes of its own officials even as the ordinary people in Gaza had to make do with three hours a day or why the terror group prioritises spending on weapons and tunnels over the welfare of the civilians in Gaza.
Coomarasamy: “Why is this going to be any more successful than previous attempts to form a government of national unity that have come to nothing?”
Hamad: “For many reasons. First of all I think that President Abbas he needs to show the world that he is the president for the whole Palestinian territories and now because he’s going now to give a speech in the United Nations and to meet the President Trump and he want to show that he’s real represent for the Palestinian people. And the same time because he is suffering that the peace process is failed and now there’s no horizon for the peace process and also big division affects the ability of the Abu Mazen to achieve any achievements or goals from the Israeli side. And the same time because Hamas also the big crisis in Gaza and they need to get out from this crisis and to reduce the burdens on their shoulders because they have 2 million people who need services and health, education, sewage, water and you know the situation in Gaza is not easy. So I think both of them they need each other. They need now to work together to find a new track for struggling against the occupation and the same time for improving the services, especially in Gaza.”
Coomarasamy: “The Israelis are very sceptical that this will come to anything and this will make any difference whatsoever to the peace process.”
Hamad: “I think Israel is not interested in peace. I think that Israel will try now – they will try – to uproot all the Palestinians at terms no to be united because it’s the interest – a big interest for Israel – to keep West Bank isolated completely from the Gaza Strip and to make a split between Hamas and Fatah. This is a golden opportunity for Israel to continue its colonial project especially in the West Bank and Jerusalem. I think that it’s time now for Hamas and Abu Mazen to understand there is no other choice. We have to work together and we have to struggle against the occupation.”
Failing to challenge that additional allegation of ‘colonialism’, Coomarasamy closed the softball interview there. As we see, although he did find it necessary to clarify to listeners that Judea & Samaria is “also known as the West Bank”, Coomarasamy did not ask Hamad to clarify his use of the term ‘occupation’ or challenge Hamad’s preposterous allegations that Israel is responsible for both the lack of progress in the peace process and the Hamas-Fatah split. Most importantly, Coomarasmay avoided the all-important question of whether this particular ‘unity deal’ will mean compliance with existing agreements between the PA and Israel – including the disarmament of terror groups.
Although ‘Newshour’ devoted nearly a third of the airtime in its two September 17th editions to this one story, listeners heard little information crucial to its proper understanding. They did however hear completely unchallenged politicised messaging on a ‘siege’ and ‘colonialism’ that do not exist.
For almost two years the BBC News website has been using maps credited to UNOCHA and/or the political NGO B’tselem which purport to inform audiences about the geo-political status of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.
As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, those maps describe the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City along with many other locations of pre-1948 Jewish habitation as ‘Israeli settlements’ and – as regular readers are aware – the BBC consistently steers its audience towards the view that such neighbourhoods and communities “are considered illegal under international law”.
Among the inaccurate features on those maps is the portrayal of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus as “Israeli settlements”.
The Hebrew University (established in 1925) and Hadassah Hospital (established in 1938) were both built on land purchased by Jews in 1914 and the Mount Scopus enclave remained Israeli territory throughout the 19 year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem. Interestingly, B’tselem’s own map does not mark Mount Scopus as a ‘settlement’.
Earlier this month BBC Watch submitted a complaint raising that specific topic and others (including the portrayal of the Jewish Quarter as a ‘settlement’), as well as the general issue of the compromise of impartiality caused by the use of partisan maps sourced from a foreign funded political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel.
The response received includes the following:
“We have rectified our map of the area of the Hebrew University/Mount Scopus. The source map had incorrectly identified it as an Israeli settlement and we have now corrected this.
The issue of Israeli settlements and East Jerusalem is obviously contentious and given the different political positions held on the matter, no map can be considered strictly neutral.
The BTselem map corresponds with the position of the UN, which considers the Jewish Quarter a settlement in occupied territory, as it does all the Jewish communities beyond the pre-1967 ceasefire line, and for this reason we do not consider it a breach of the guidelines on impartiality.”
In other words, the BBC would have us believe that its impartiality is not compromised by the use of maps that it admits are not “strictly neutral” which it sourced from an interested party because they reflect the non-legally binding position of a body which is neither a legislature nor a court. Moreover, the BBC makes no effort to meet its editorial guidelines on impartiality by providing its audiences with maps reflecting any alternative views.
The amended map now looks like this:
Wishing all our readers celebrating Rosh HaShana a happy, healthy, peaceful and sweet New Year.
As was noted in part one of this post, the lead story in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on September 17th was centred around the 106 word long statement put out by Hamas earlier that day.
Following the earlier report on that story – which was over twelve and a half minutes long – the same programme also aired an additional item on the topic which brought the total time allotted to the subject to over twenty minutes.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Coomarasamy: “Let’s return now to our main story today: the announcement by the Palestinian group Hamas that it will dissolve the administration that runs Gaza and hold talks with its rival Fatah about forming a government of national unity and holding elections. I’ve been discussing this with the Palestinian academic Khaled Hroub – he’s a professor of Middle Eastern studies and the author of two books on Hamas – and Oliver McTernan, the director of the mediation group ‘Forward Thinking’ who’s been working on bringing the sides in the Middle East closer together. So why does he think Hamas has done this now?”
BBC audiences have heard from both Qatar-based Khaled Hroub and from the director of the UK charity‘Forward Thinking’ on previous occasions but it would of course have been helpful to listeners trying to put the ‘analysis’ they heard into context had they been informed that McTernan is a proponent of the view that being a terror organisation committed to Israel’s destruction should not disqualify Hamas from governing the Palestinian Authority or being part of negotiations to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, Coomarasamy did not comply with the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality which require the “particular viewpoint” of contributors to be clarified in advance.
Given McTernan’s approach, his promotion of Hamas favoured terminology by inaccurately describing the restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip as a “siege” was not unexpected. Coomarasamy however did not challenge that inaccurate portrayal or the false linkage McTernan tried to create between Israel’s counter-terrorism measures and the electricity crisis in Gaza.
McTernan: “Of course life for ordinary people in Gaza is under tremendous pressure at the moment because it’s almost ten years of siege and that means that the flow of goods, the flow of people and in particular the current situation on electricity – where you have roughly three hours a day for the average person – is putting a lot of strain on ordinary life in Gaza.”
Neither was it much of a surprise to hear McTernan later repeat his long-held view that the international community should have embraced the terror group’s victory in the 2006 PLC election.
McTernan: “…so I think what’s needed now is a wise action by both leaderships [Hamas and Fatah] to say we move into a situation where we can share power and then we go back to the electorate and stand for election and both sides should be committed this time round to fully respecting the outcome of the election. Because 2006 was recognised as one of the most open and fair elections in the Arab world and sadly the international community were responsible greatly for not respecting that outcome.”
The very relevant fact that Hamas is a terrorist organisation that rejects recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the question of how that can possibly align with the Palestinian Authority’s existing commitments to agreements signed with Israel was not raised by Coomarasamy in this item even when McTernan pontificated on what Israel should do.
McTernan: “I think if Israel had wisdom they would see Palestinian division is in fact not in their interest. It’s both in their immediate and long-term interest first of all to see stability both in Gaza and in the West Bank and secondly to allow the Palestinian political leadership to form itself in a way that can truly represent the Palestinian cause and therefore be an effective partner.”
McTernan’s later additional inaccurate references to a “siege” likewise did not produce any challenge from Coomarasamy.
McTernan: “…the reality of the situation in the region is that Abbas or Hamas don’t control the freedom of movement so I think Israel is a big player in this. They control what goes into Gaza, who can come out, who can go in. I think what needs to be looked at is the whole siege of Gaza and I think that will require much more international determination both from the West and from the Gulf countries and Egypt to sort of say to Israel ‘look, it’s not in your interest to keep the siege going’.”
In among McTernan’s barely concealed advocacy of Hamas talking points listeners did hear some relevant points raised by Khaled Hroub, including clarification of the significance of Egypt’s closure of its border with the Gaza Strip, the relevance of Egypt’s concerns about the ISIS presence in Sinai and the fact that after ten years of unaccountable absolute power, Mahmoud Abbas might be less willing to embrace parliamentary limitations and accountability. Those topics were not however explored further.
While over twenty minutes of coverage of a 106 word statement from Hamas might seem generous or even excessive, the binge was not yet over: the later edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day also led with the same story and that will be discussed in a future post.
On September 17th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted over a third of its one hour of airtime to its lead story – billed “Hope for Unity in Palestinian Territories”.
“Hamas, who govern the Gaza strip, have agreed to steps towards ending a long feud with their rivals Fatah who govern the West Bank.”
Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 00:11 #playt=11s" rel="noopener" target="_blank">here) with an odd portrayal of the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election as relating to the Gaza Strip only.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
“And we’re going to start with a long-awaited and potentially significant political gesture in the Middle East. It’s not directly related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but to the internal Palestinian struggle which has a bearing on the hopes for peace. It’s a gesture that comes from Hamas; the Palestinian faction that won control of the Gaza Strip from its rival Fatah in an election in 2006 and took full control of Gaza by force a year later. Well Hamas is still considered a banned terrorist organisation in many parts of the world and its presided over a decade of increasing desperation for its citizens. Gaza is subject to a blockade by Israel and Egypt and in recent months its citizens have faced an extra squeeze with the reduction of their electricity supply. But now, in talks presided over by Egypt, Hamas has agreed to dissolve the administration in Gaza with a view to holding a future election. We’ll discuss what lies behind that decision and what it might lead to in just a moment but first, a reminder of what daily life is like in Gaza. Najla is a mother of two young children. She was born in Gaza and has lived there all her life and she spoke to Newshour last month.”
Listeners then heard an edited version of the long monologue from the inadequately introduced Oxfam employee Najla Shawa that BBC World Service listeners had already heard on September 3rd. Repeating her claim that the Gaza Strip is “a big prison”, Shawa added to Coomarasamy’s misleading and inaccurate implied linkage between the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip and Israeli counter-terrorism measures in the form of border controls.
Next Coomarasamy introduced Yolande Knell who presented a factual picture of the Hamas announcement previously described by him as a “gesture” – although listeners may have been surprised to hear Knell describe “the administrative committee it [Hamas] set up in March” as “really controversial” given that the BBC has not previously reported on that topic.
“Well some people are quite surprised that they [Hamas] have made these concessions, as they’re seen, particularly for example getting rid of this administrative committee. Previously it had said that it wouldn’t take these kinds of steps until the Palestinian Authority lifted some of the measures that it’s imposed upon Gaza in recent months because we’ve really seen this political divide between Hamas and Fatah deepening recently with President Abbas trying to pile on the political pressure and now you have only four hours on, sixteen hours off when it comes to mains electricity in Gaza. There’s been a longtime energy shortage but it’s got much worse because the PA put up a fuel tax for the sole power plant in Gaza. Then it instructed Israel to reduce mains electricity that it provides to Gaza. This is having effects on hospitals, on waste water management, with sewage being pumped into the sea and it’s also having a big economic effect. It also slashed the salaries for civil servants – PA civil servants – who were still receiving their salaries in Gaza.”
Although Knell has produced one reasonable report on the topic of the Gaza electricity crisis in the past, for the most part content on that topic produced by her and other BBC journalists has encouraged audiences to mistakenly believe that there is a connection between that crisis and Israel.
Coomarasamy then introduced “a view from Fatah” given by Abbas’ advisor Nabil Shaath. However, when Shaath stated that “many of us have some hesitation about the degree to which Hamas will be willing to go to the details”, he failed to question him further, passing up the opportunity to enhance listener understanding of the potential pitfalls that have dogged previous ‘unity’ agreements.
Shaath’s propagandist portrayal of Israel’s government as “colonialist” did not prompt comment or challenge from Coomarasamy.
Shaath: “I do not see how we can face Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing settler colonialist government and we cannot really make use of any potential changes in the world if we are not united.”
BBC audiences used to hearing from journalists and Palestinian commentators alike that Israel is responsible for the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip may well have been surprised by Shaath’s admission of Hamas responsibility for the situation of the people of Gaza.
Shaath: “…Hamas has done much worse. Hamas destroyed their opportunities. Hamas subjected them to risks that they couldn’t take. Hamas led them into a life of isolation…”
Following his conversation with Shaath, Coomarasamy returned to Yolande Knell and – in contrast to the BBC’s written report on the topic – listeners were told of some of the factors that will affect any ‘unity deal’.
Knell: “The devil now I think is in the detail with what happens. We’ve seen this when previous arrangements have broken down. Who are going to be the key players in a national unity government? What’s going to happen about managing the border crossings? Will PA security forces be allowed to function in Gaza once again? What will happen then to the Hamas security forces – which is what you see on the street at the moment doing everything from…eh….controlling traffic.”
Listeners also heard a very rare acknowledgement of the reason for the collapse of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014: an outcome portrayed at the time by the BBC’s Middle East editor as being entirely attributable to Israel.
“Israel of course views Hamas as a terrorist group, as does the US, the EU and others. And we’ve had some Israeli commentators pointing out how this actually makes things very difficult for Mr Abbas because when there was a national unity government agreed more than three years ago, this was a trigger for the failure of the last round of peace talks.”
Knell did however come up with some bizarre spin on the fact that the PA president – whose elected term expired in January 2009 – has no control over – or presence in – part of the territory he supposedly heads.
Knell: “…Israel always accuses Mr Abbas of not representing all the Palestinian people; of being weak in a way.”
Although listeners did hear some important information in this item that has long been absent from BBC coverage, one aspect of the story ignored throughout the discussions on the topic of the reasons behind Hamas’ announcement is that of the public unrest that apparently prompted Hamas to make a large purchase of fuel earlier this month. As the Times of Israel’s analyst noted:
“[Hamas leader] Haniyeh understands that, with little hope on the horizon, the severe economic crisis in Gaza can end in one of two ways: war with Israel, which could decimate the movement’s leadership and turn the population against it, or a “Gaza Spring” that would have similar results.
The best he can do under the circumstances is compromise, even if others say he caved in.”
The second item in this programme relating to the same topic will be discussed in part two of this post.
BBC audiences have recently seen a number of items covering the topic of missile launches by North Korea, including reports and a dedicated blog from a Radio 5 live journalist sent specially to the region.
N Korea’s missile: The key questions August 29th 2017.
“Sending a missile over a state’s sovereign territory is a pretty big deal…”
“North Korea is doing this solely out of spite. They’re doing it solely to threaten Japanese civilians.”
North Korea missile triggers Japan warning alarms August 29th 2017
“Footage on social media appears to show warning alarms which were triggered in parts of Japan, after North Korea fired a missile over the country.”
A look inside a South Korean public shelter September 13th 2017
“Public shelters have been set up across the country in the event of an attack from the North.”
“When you live here, in the closest village to the border – this is only about three miles away – you need a proper shelter.”
North Korea missile: People under threat react September 15th 2017
“People living in South Korea and Japan react to North Korea’s latest missile launch.”
“That’s a nice wake-up call. My phone translated as ‘a North Korea missile launch’. What do you do in a circumstance like that?”
“The strongest feeling I have is a feeling of fear. I don’t know when I might be killed. That is the scariest part.”
In contrast, the BBC has produced no English language reporting whatsoever on the dozen actual missile hits so far this year in a region just ninety minutes away from its Jerusalem office that has previously seen thousands of such attacks over the past sixteen years.
Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 17th found the headline “Hamas says it is ready to hold elections” under which they were told that:
“The Palestinian militant group signals it is ready to end its feud with Fatah and hold elections”.
The link leads to a similarly titled report – “Hamas says it is ready to hold first elections since 2006” – which in its original version included closing sentences wrongly implying that the policy document published by Hamas in May replaces its 1988 charter.
The current version of the report includes statements that – in light of the BBC’s chronic avoidance of coverage of internal Palestinian affairs – audiences may have had difficulty following.
“The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it is ready to dissolve the committee that rules Gaza and hold a general election for the first time since 2006.”
BBC audiences were not told of the creation of that ‘administrative committee’ earlier this year or of the significance of that move by Hamas in prompting Mahmoud Abbas’ subsequent financial sanctions against the Gaza Strip.
“Fatah’s deputy leader Mahmoud al-Aloul gave a tentative welcome to the news and called for other issues to be resolved, including control of border crossings.”
A series of Palestinian ‘unity governments’ – or proposals for them – have repeatedly come to a swift end in the past but the BBC’s report includes just one opaque sentence on a factor of prime importance to audience understanding of the significance of this latest announcement from Hamas.
“It is not yet clear whether Hamas is ready to place its security forces under Mr Abbas’s control – a major sticking point in the past, Associated Press reports.”
Exactly three years ago a BBC report on the ‘unity government’ of the time included a very similar statement:
“However, a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA’s own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory. He described the deal as “partial”.” [emphasis added]
Now as then, the BBC makes no effort to clarify to its audiences that any ‘unity government’ which refrained from disarming Hamas’ terrorist militia in the Gaza Strip would fail to meet the Palestinian Authority’s commitments under existing agreements with Israel.
Neither does it inform readers that if Hamas and other terrorist groups are not disarmed by a PA ‘unity government’ and the territory not brought under the sole control of PA security forces, then the Gaza Strip – along with the rest of the PA-controlled areas – will find itself in a ‘Lebanon-style’ situation whereby the actions of a foreign-sponsored terrorist organisation can continue to spark conflict whenever that suits its own (or its sponsor’s) agenda.
Another important aspect of this story is pointed out at the Times of Israel:
“The main problem with the timing from Fatah’s point of view is that in three days, Abbas is due to meet with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
One can only imagine how Abbas’s meeting with the United States president will be perceived if he will have just agreed to form a national unity government with a terror group, and especially if he speaks about reconciliation with Hamas in his UN address.
Abbas will want answers from Trump about his administration’s as-yet-unstated commitment to a two-state solution. It would be odd for Abbas to talk up a Palestinian state after agreeing to share power with a group that calls for the destruction of Israel.”
As was the case when the last ‘unity government’ failed to get off the ground three years ago, once again we see that the BBC’s superficial reporting on a potential Hamas-Fatah reconciliation falls far short of providing its funding public with comprehensive information needed to understand the story.
As we know the BBC’s record on preventing, identifying – and correcting – antisemitic discourse in its own content is worryingly dismal. Likewise, the BBC has been unable to explain anti-Zionism to its audiences adequately and attempts to do so have been repeatedly marred by promotion of the Livingstone Formulation. Not surprisingly therefore, the BBC’s coverage of the issue of antisemitism in the ranks of the UK Labour party has also repeatedly been unsatisfactory and unhelpful to its funding public.
From 08:38 in the video below the topic of conversation turned to antisemitism with Jacobson concluding:
“…it would be madness to suppose it’s [antisemitism] not there and it is here in this country in a particular guise.”
Host Stephen Sackur jumped in:
Sackur: “But maybe sometimes…well…maybe sometimes you see it in places where actually it is something else. And I’m thinking here about the conflation, some would say, the conflation of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Zionist sentiment.”
Jacobson: “I don’t conflate it.”
Sackur: “Some do.”
Jacobson: “Well there may be some who do. I mean a lot of people are accused of conflating it when they don’t. They are two separate things but that doesn’t mean that they are bound to be separate things. It is quite true that an anti-Zionist need not be an antisemite but that doesn’t mean that an anti-Zionist is never going to be an antisemite.”
Sackur: “But they are two distinct and different things. One is political and ideological. One is essentially about the hate of a people and a religion.”
Following Jacobson’s reply to that assertion, Sackur changed the subject, claiming that he had already “explored” the topic of Zionism in a previous interview with anti-Zionist Ilan Pappe which in fact took place over three years ago. Sackur then turned the conversation to the topic of antisemitism in the UK Labour party, claiming that “the Labour party has dealt with that”.