On March 21st the BBC News website published a report billed “Palestinian slap video teen gets jail term”. That framing of the story was reinforced in two items of related content offered to audiences under the headings “Was slap terrorism?” and “Spotlight on slap video teen”.
The same messaging was further reinforced in the report’s headline – “Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal” – and in the caption to the same video offered as related content (a highly problematic report by the BBC’s Middle East editor dating from January 31st) which was embedded at the top of the article: “Is a slap terrorism?”.
Clearly the intention was to lead BBC audiences towards the understanding that this story is about a “Palestinian teen” who got a “jail term” for a “slap” deemed “terrorism” even before they had read one word of the report.
The article opens in the same vein:
“A Palestinian teenager arrested after slapping an Israeli soldier has accepted a plea deal that will see her serve eight months in prison.
Ahed Tamimi had agreed to plead guilty to four of the 12 charges she faced, including assault, her lawyer said.”
Only in the eighth paragraph do readers learn the nature of the additional charges against Ahed Tamimi.
“Ahed Tamimi would plead guilty to one count of assault, one of incitement, and two of obstructing soldiers, Ms Lasky said.”
However, as has been the case in the vast majority of the BBC’s copious reporting of this story throughout the last three months (see ‘related articles’ below), BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.
“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”
Furthermore, the BBC’s report amplifies a clear misrepresentation of the charge of incitement from a representative of a political NGO that has been campaigning on Tamimi’s behalf – without clarifying that obviously relevant fact to readers.
“Human rights groups said her case highlighted what they considered Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian minors.
“Ahed will be home in a few months, but Israel is putting this child behind bars for eight months for calling for protests and slapping a soldier, after threatening her with years in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.” [emphasis added]
Notably, as the Times of Israel reports, Tamimi admitted to having made the call for violence which the BBC conceals from audience view.
“Under the terms of the plea bargain, Ahed admitted to the aggravated assault of an IDF soldier, incitement to violence and disrupting soldiers on two other occasions.”
In addition to amplifying statements from the political NGO Human Rights Watch that has been campaigning on behalf of Tamimi (a previous BBC report similarly amplified another NGO involved in that campaigning), this report even includes a link directing audiences to a petition promoted by the political campaigning group Avaaz.
“For Palestinians, she has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.
Her face has appeared on street murals and posters, while an online petition organised by her father calling for her release has gathered 1.75m signatures.”
As has been the case in several previous BBC reports on this topic, readers find several quotes from Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky in this article – including the following:
“Asked why she had agreed to a plea deal, Ms Lasky said: “When they decided to keep her trial behind closed doors, we knew that we were not going to get a fair trial.””
No alternative view is provided of either that allegation or the similar one from Human Rights Watch with which the BBC chose to close this report.
“Plea bargains are the norm in Israel’s military justice system, which is characterised by prolonged pre-trial detention, abuse of kids and sham trials. Hundreds of Palestinian children remain locked up with little attention on their cases”
In the past three months the BBC has produced at least thirteen reports on this story but only in one of those – aired on the BBC’s domestic channel Radio 4 – have audiences been provided with any information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. In all the other reports (and in all those provided to international audiences) the fact that Ahed Tamimi called for violent acts against Israelis has been concealed.
Some of the thirteen reports have included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor.
In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story has promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists including B’tselem, Jonathan Pollack, Amnesty International, Avaaz and Human Rights Watch.
Significantly, although video footage filmed by Tamimi’s mother has been generously promoted in many of the reports, the part of that footage showing Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence has not been presented to BBC audiences at all.
In summary, the BBC’s treatment of this story has overwhelmingly diverted audience attention away from the background to the main charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi and propagated the deliberately misleading notion that she was arrested, tried and imprisoned for a “slap”.
The BBC’s repeated promotion of partisan NGOs that have been campaigning on this case once again highlights the fact that the corporation which is committed to providing its audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards” has in this case chosen to abandon impartiality and accuracy – and instead lend its voice and outreach to one-sided promotion of a blatantly political campaign.
On March 18th the IDF announced that it had “thwarted an attempt by Hamas to renew an old terror tunnel directed towards the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel”. In addition – as reported by the Times of Israel – a separate tunnel that did not cross the border was also destroyed.
“The Israeli military on Sunday announced that it destroyed two attack tunnels, one that entered Israeli territory and another inside the central Gaza Strip, the latest in a series of underground structures have been demolished by Israel in recent months.
The border-crossing tunnel destroyed early Sunday morning was located in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said. […]
According to Conricus, the cross-border passage destroyed Sunday was an “old tunnel” that was built before the 2014 Gaza war and partially destroyed during the conflict. He said the Hamas terrorist group was trying to “revive” the passage by connecting an intact portion that penetrated Israeli territory to a new tunnel.
The other target, which was destroyed by Israeli fighter jets around midnight on Saturday, was a “subterranean complex” in the central Gaza Strip, according to Conricus.”
The BBC did not cover the story of the discovery and destruction of this latest cross-border tunnel near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Readers may recall that in January the BBC likewise ignored a story concerning another tunnel near the same location.
On October 30th 2017 a tunnel belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was destroyed and while the BBC did report that story, its portrayal of the structure’s purpose was ambiguous. On December 10th 2017 the IDF destroyed a tunnel belonging to Hamas. The BBC did not produce any dedicated reporting on that story and the only mention of it came in half a sentence in an article on a different topic.
In other words, the BBC has ignored two of the four cross-border tunnels (one belonging to the PIJ and three to Hamas) that have been destroyed during the past five months, barely mentioned a third and reported problematically on a fourth.
As can be seen in the synopsis, all but one of the stories showcased in that programme relate in one way or another to Israel.
“Composer Errollyn Wallen meets some of the artists working in places of conflict, violence and oppression around the world. She hears their personal testimonies and explores why art and music, poetry and drama can sometimes flourish in times and locations of danger and violence.
What use is art in a warzone, and what can these individuals and their work tell artists in more peaceful places about making art that helps us question and communicate?
Cartoonist and free improvisational trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj talks about his work during the 2006 Lebanon war and the problem of exoticising art from warzones. Journalist and poet Bejan Matur describes how living as a Kurd in southeastern Turkey has shaped her work. Actor and educator Ahmed Tobasi explains how Jenin’s Freedom Theatre changed his life, and Mustafa Staiti discusses his work as artistic director of the city’s new Fragments Theatre. Composer Matti Kovler explores the impact of his experiences in the Israeli Defence Forces during the Second Intifada.”
In the first story listeners hear a completely context-free account of the second Lebanon war in 2006. The artist is described as having played “a ragged duet with the bombs falling on his home town” and “playing trumpet on the balcony while the Israeli air force was bombing Beirut”.
“You would see a hundred kids dead or a hundred persons. Then the second day it’s a hundred and seven. Then the third day it’s sixty-seven and you’re almost happy to say oh, it’s less than yesterday.”
How that war began and what was happening on the other side of the border have no place in this story – and neither does the all-important context of the Hizballah HQ in a specific neighbourhood of Beirut.
The second story’s location is Jenin and Ahmed Tobasi sets the scene by telling listeners that “when Israel was created” his grandparents left their village and “came here to Jenin refugee camp”. No context – such as the invasion of Israel by surrounding Arab states – is provided at all.
Wallen’s own account of her visit to Jenin is similarly devoid of context.
“On the surface Jenin city and its permanent refugee camp seem quite comfortable. As a privileged visitor you can begin to feel that life here is normal. But then you remember the journey: the separation barrier, checkpoints and soldiers. The watch towers dotting the ancient landscape.”
While Wallen tells listeners that the Freedom Theatre’s director was “assassinated”, she does not clarify that the murderer was a Palestinian. After Tobasi has admitted his membership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Wallen gives an account of the second Intifada that promotes the notion of equivalence between Palestinian terror attacks and Israeli counter-terrorism measures.
“In 2000 when Tobasi was 15, the second Intifada started: a time of Israeli and Palestinian violence which changed the lives of a generation.”
The fact that Jenin was one of the #jenin" rel="noopener" target="_blank">main centres of terrorism during the second Intifada is not mentioned. All listeners hear of the terrorists from Jenin who blew up Israelis on buses and in restaurants is a feeble reference to “bomb attacks”.
“During the 2002 Battle of Jenin, Israeli forces – responding to bomb attacks – fought to control the Jenin refugee camp.”
Tobasi tells listeners that:
“After the first five days when the 13 soldiers were killed, they went crazy. They start to destroy houses, to let tanks go inside the camp…”
The relevant fact that the terrorists in Jenin had booby-trapped buildings in the camp was not mentioned of course.
Wallen later promotes a context-free, unevidenced story:
“The young people I saw rehearsing in Jenin were making wonderful, vibrant, physical theatre….partly a way of processing things that have happened to them. Things that are terrible and hard to understand. One boy suddenly showed me a phone picture of his friend lying dead in a body bag. He told me that he’d been shot just two weeks earlier by an Israeli soldier”.
Wallen’s one Israeli interviewee is a composer who tells stories from his military service. Thus, having whitewashed the many thousands of Israeli civilians whose lives were permanently blighted by Palestinian terrorism from the picture, she is able to opine:
“For the people I met in Jenin the suggestion of any comparison would be offensive. Their lives are not directly comparable.”
Notably, only her Israeli interviewee has questions to ask of himself.
“Who are we? What are we doing here and do we have the right to do the things that we’re doing? And how to live with all this? Artists of my generation who find themselves very often outside the borders of Israel have to ask themselves these questions”.
As readers may recall, this is the second time in just over a month that Radio 4 audiences have heard a context-free portrayal of events in Jenin during the second Intifada in programmes supposedly about entertainment or art.
On the morning of March 19th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an apparently hastily written short report titled “French consulate worker ‘smuggled arms to Gaza'” which read as follows: [emphasis added]
“A French national employed at the country’s consulate in Jerusalem will appear in court on Monday charged with smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said the unnamed man, in his 20s, was arrested in February while crossing into Gaza from Israel.
One of the suspect’s jobs at the consulate was as a driver, involving regular trips to Gaza, reports say.
Israel has long tried to prevent arms reaching Gaza’s militant Hamas group.
A spokesman for the French embassy in Tel Aviv told AFP news agency: “We take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.”
Shin Bet said the suspect had smuggled more than 70 pistols and two assault rifles into Gaza over a period of five trips. It said he used a consulate vehicle to elude detection.
Hamas has fought three conflicts with Israel and carried out thousands of rocket [sic] and bombings against it.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling and attacks by militants.”
“Two French embassy workers have been arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency on suspicion of smuggling dozens of weapons from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip to the West Bank, the agency cleared for release on Monday.
One French citizen, Romain Frank, worked at the French consulate in Jerusalem, and is suspected of belonging to a cell which smuggled 70 pistols and 2 assault rifles through the Erez crossing on the Israel-Gaza border on five different occasions. […]
According to the Shin Bet investigation, Frank received the weapons from a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip employed at the French Cultural Center in the Gaza Strip and he transferred the weapons to a cell in the West Bank who sold them to arms dealers.
The Shin Bet investigation clearly showed that Frank was acting in return for financial gain, of his own volition, and without the knowledge of his superiors. The investigation also found that several Palestinians arrested in relation to the case were also involved in the smuggling of money from Gaza to the West Bank. […]
In addition to Frank, a resident of east Jerusalem who works as a security guard at the French consulate in Jerusalem as well as several Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were living in the West Bank illegally were arrested and will be indicted on Monday.”
The BBC at some point realised its error and the report was republished under the amended headline “French consulate worker ‘smuggled arms from Gaza’” – but without a footnote clarifying the previous errors. [emphasis added]
“A French national employed at the country’s consulate in Jerusalem will appear in court on Monday charged with smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said the unnamed man, in his 20s, was arrested in February at the Erez border crossing.
One of the suspect’s jobs at the consulate was as a driver, involving regular trips to Gaza, reports say.
Israel has long tried to prevent arms reaching Palestinian militants.
A spokesman for the French embassy in Tel Aviv told AFP news agency: “We take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.”
Shin Bet said the suspect had smuggled more than 70 pistols and two assault rifles from Gazainto the West Bank over a period of five trips. It said he used a consulate vehicle to elude detection.
Hamas has fought three conflicts with Israel and carried out thousands of rocket [sic] and bombings against it.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling and attacks by militants.”
As regular readers know, the BBC has in the past ignored attempts to smuggle goods into the Gaza Strip for the purpose of terrorism as well as numerous stories related to efforts to build up the Hamas terror infrastructure outside Gaza.
How unfortunate then that when the BBC did finally produce a report on that issue, it passed up on basic fact checking. How unfortunate too that those who read the initial version of this article have once again not been informed that they were given inaccurate information.
On the afternoon of March 18th a stabbing attack took place on HaGai Street in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“Adiel Kolman, 32, a father of four, was killed in a terror attack on Sunday evening as he left his job at the City of David museum in the Old City and headed in the direction of Jerusalem’s light rail. […]
A terrorist stabbed him in the upper part of his body as he neared the area of the Lion’s Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. He was rushed to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in serious condition and died just before midnight.”
“The 28-year-old terrorist, Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel, who was later confirmed to be a Palestinian from the village of Aqraba near Nablus, was shot dead by a police officer at the scene on HaGai Street where he carried out his attack.
Fadel, a father of two, had a temporary permit for a week that allowed him to enter Israel to search for employment.”
The next day – some twenty hours after the attack took place – the BBC News website published an article titled “Israeli stabbed to death by Palestinian near Jerusalem holy site” in which the incident itself was reported without error but the words terror, terrorism and terrorist were completely absent.
Readers once again saw an attempt to ‘contextualise’ the murder of an Israeli for no other reason than his identity by promotion of the notion of linkage to the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December.
“Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis have risen since December when US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating Palestinians.”
“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”
It is worth remembering that since the surge in terror attacks in late 2015, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what “Israel says” is accurate.
Likewise, it is noteworthy that the portrayal of terrorism as being attributable to “frustration rooted in decades of occupation” conforms to a guidance document for members of the international media put out by the PLO in November 2015.
Readers were told that:
“It is the latest in a wave of attacks on Israelis, mostly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs, since late 2015.”
“At least 54 Israelis and five foreign nationals have been killed in nearly two years of mainly lone-wolf attacks.”
That given time-frame of “nearly two years” is clearly inaccurate: five foreign nationals have been killed in terror attacks since October 2015.
A significant number of BBC reports relating to the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 still remain accessible online and many of the later ones present a ‘he said-she said’ account of events.
For example, a report published in January 2011 states:
“Israel says its commandos used live fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and guns.
But activists on board the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara say the commandos started shooting as soon as they boarded the vessel.”
“At the time, the Israeli military said its commandos fired live rounds only after being attacked with clubs, knives and guns. But activists on board said the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck.”
Under the sub-heading “Who started the violence?” an article from June 2016 tells BBC audiences that:
“This is disputed. The activists say the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck. Israeli officials say the commandos opened fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and a gun which was taken from them. Video released by the Israeli military stops just before the shooting begins. A UN inquiry was apparently unable to determine at exactly which point the commandos used live fire.”
Interestingly, some of the BBC’s earlier reports presented a less vague picture.
In an article dating from June 2010, the BBC’s Paul Reynolds quoted an Israeli journalist:
“The reporter states that the protesters “attempted to wrest away [the soldiers’] weapons”. They got hold of one handgun, he says, when one soldier, seen on the video, was thrown from the upper deck on to the lower. […]
The Israelis claim that the activists got hold of two pistols and must have fired them as their magazines were found to be empty when recovered.”
In another June 2010 article titled “Activists describe Israeli raid on Gaza aid convoy” the leader of the IHH is quoted as saying that:
“…some of the activists had grabbed the guns off soldiers in self-defence.
“Yes, we took their guns. It would be self-defence even if we fired their guns. We told our friends on board: ‘We will die, become martyrs, but never let us be shown… as the ones who used guns’. By this decision, our friends accepted death, and we threw all the guns we took from them into the sea.””
As those who have read David Collier’s two-part report about the secret Facebook Group called ‘Palestine Live’ will be aware, Israel’s account of the events aboard the ship has inadvertently been supported by one of its members – Greta Berlin – who was quoted in a 2010 BBC profile of the Mavi Marmara flotilla organisers.
The Times of Israelsums up that story:
“A leading pro-Palestinian campaigner involved in the flotilla that attempted to enter Gaza in May 2010 has appeared to corroborate Israel’s version of the events which led to the bloody confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara. […]
In newly revealed posts from a secret British Facebook group, Greta Berlin, the co-founder and spokesperson of the Free Gaza Movement, states that the Israeli troops did not open fire until after Ken O’Keefe, a former US marine aboard the Mavi Marmara, had seized a gun from one of them. […]
“He was responsible for some of the deaths on board the Mavi Marmara. Had he not disarmed an Israeli terrorist soldier, they would not have started to fire. That’s enough. Most of you have no idea what you’re talking about,” she wrote.”
As the ToI notes, Berlin’s 2014 posts at ‘Palestine Live’ contradict the messaging she gave to the international media – including the BBC – immediately following the May 2010 incident. The BBC also interviewed O’Keefe less than a month after the incident.
Obviously the BBC would do well to review the accounts of events that appear in its available content relating to the Mavi Marmara incident in light of those posts from Greta Berlin.
On November 13th 2016 the BBC News website published a report titled “Quieten calls to prayer in Israel – Netanyahu” (discussed here) in which a draft bill proposing to limit the use of loudspeakers by religious institutions was described as “unnecessarily divisive” and readers were told that:
“Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya from the Israel Democracy Institute, a thinktank, wrote in a local newspaper that “the real aim is not to prevent noise but rather to create noise that will hurt all of society and the efforts to establish a sane reality between Jews and Arabs”.”
“A senior Palestinian official has said his government will go to the UN to stop what he called a series of “escalatory measures” by Israel.
Nabil Abu Rudeina said Israeli plans to […] quieten calls to prayer, will “bring disasters to the region”. […]
The Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs, Youssef Ideiss, said the plan threatened a “religious war”, the Jerusalem Post newspaper reported.”
On March 8th 2017 the BBC News website published yet another report (discussed here) on the same subject – “Israeli Arab anger as parliament backs ‘muezzin bill’“.
“Two versions of the so-called “muezzin bill”, which would mostly affect Muslim calls to prayer, passed their first readings by slim majorities.
Some Arab MPs ripped apart copies of the legislation during a debate. […]
The bill’s critics say it as an attack on religious freedom.
“The voice of a muezzin has never caused any environmental noise. It is about an important Islamic religious ritual, and we have never in this house intervened in any religious ceremony related to Judaism. Your action is a racist slur,” warned Ahmed Tibi of the Arab-dominated Joint List alliance during the debate.
“Your intervention strikes at the very souls of Muslims,” he added.”
On March 15th 2018 an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Africa page under the headline “Rwanda bans Kigali mosques from using loudspeakers“.
In contrast to the headline in the third BBC report from Israel, that title does not suggest that muezzin themselves are the target of the ban rather than loudspeakers.
Readers of the report from Rwanda were not told that the ban is “unnecessarily divisive” or a “disaster” or a “racist slur” or that it would “hurt society”. They did not see the move portrayed as part of a “religious war” or an “attack on religious freedom” or something that “strikes at the very souls of Muslims”.
Here is how the BBC did present the story to its audiences:
“Rwanda has banned mosques in the capital, Kigali, from using loudspeakers during the call to prayer.
They say the calls, made five times a day, have been disturbing residents of the Nyarugenge district, home to the capital’s biggest mosques.
But an official from a Muslim association criticised it, saying they could instead keep the volume down.”
Readers also found the following analysis:
“Today’s noise pollution concerns have silenced the loudspeakers on Kigali’s mosques. But it would be wrong to say that Muslims are being targeted. They can still go to mosques and pray five times a day.”
It would be difficult to find a clearer example of double standards in BBC reporting.
On the afternoon of March 16th a vehicular attack took place near Mevo Dotan.
“A Palestinian driver hit four Israeli soldiers with his car Friday afternoon, killing an officer and a soldier and seriously injuring the others, outside the Mevo Dotan settlement in the northern West Bank. One of the injured soldiers suffered severe head trauma and was fighting for his life.
The military confirmed that the incident was a terror attack. It said the troops were hit while standing near a military guard post.”
“A Palestinian man has driven his car into a group of Israeli troops in the north of the occupied West Bank, killing an officer and a soldier, the Israeli military says. […]
Two other soldiers were injured in the incident.” [emphasis added]
Readers were not told that at the time the article was published, one of the injured soldiers was in serious condition after suffering severe head trauma. Neither were they informed that the terrorist received treatment in an Israeli hospital after the incident.
“The suspect fled from the scene but was later detained. Reports said he was lightly injured.”
The report states:
“The Israeli military said the soldiers had been securing routes near the settlement of Mevo Dotan.”
Readers were not informed that the soldiers were securing that route because – as the Jerusalem Post and others reported:
“Palestinian protesters had been throwing rocks and molotov cocktails toward the road”.
The BBC did, however, include its standard partial mantra on ‘international law’ in the report.
“The incident happened near the Jewish settlement of Mevo Dotan, west of the Palestinian town of Jenin. […]
The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”
As has so often been the case in BBC reports relating to Palestinian terrorism and violence published since early December 2017, this article suggests linkage between the attack and US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel over three months ago.
“The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas hailed the car-ramming incident but did not say it was behind it.
The incident happened amid high tension on Friday after Hamas called for protests to mark 100 days since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
Hamas had in fact called for a ‘Day of Rage’ rather than “protests” and the attack was also praised by additional Palestinian factions: the PIJ, the DFLP and the PFLP.
The report goes on:
“The US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but has infuriated Palestinians.
The declaration broke with decades of US neutrality on the issue and put it out of step with the rest of the international community.”
In fact, the US Congress of course voted to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over two decades ago.
The BBC’s article closes with a quote from an AFP report:
“More than 30 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed in violence since Mr Trump’s declaration, AFP reported.”
Once again, readers were not told how many of the Palestinians killed were engaged in terror attacks or violent rioting at the time and the BBC refrained from clarifying that a higher number of Israelis were murdered in terror attacks by Palestinians in the three months before the US president made his declaration than in the three months since.
1) At the JCPA Yoni Ben Menachem discusses a topic ardently avoided by the BBC: “Corruption in the Palestinian Authority“.
“At the moment, the hot topic of conversation in the Palestinian Authority is the most recent appointment made by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. At the beginning of this week, he extended the tenure of his friend Rafiq al-Natsheh as head of the Palestinian Authority’s anti-corruption department for the second time, contrary to Palestinian law. Even the department’s internal constitution does not allow its serving head to remain in his position once his term has ended.”
2) Raz Zimmt of the INSS analyses the protests in Iran.
“Some two months after the wave of protest that swept through Iran, the Iranian authorities are endeavoring to bring the situation back to normal, though local protest events are still ongoing. The protests, which reflected the Iranian public’s demand for change, once again highlighted the conflicting opinions in the Iranian leadership concerning the desired response to the civilian plight.”
3) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Joshua Block unpacks a concept about the Middle East that is frequently promoted in BBC coverage.
“Of all the policy myths that have kept us from recognizing the true nature of conflict in the blood-soaked region, one stands out for its fatality and perpetuation: the idea that if only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were solved, all the other deep-rooted quandaries facing the Middle East would magically disappear.
The “Arab Spring” revolt that swept across the region should have destroyed the “linkage” dogma once and for all – what happened in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia had nothing to do with Israel – and yet the myth that the Arab world resolves around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lives on.”
4) Yad VaShem is offering a free online course on the history of antisemitism.
“In this course, 50 leading scholars from all over the world will explore questions and issues relating to antisemitism including: What is antisemitism? How has it changed throughout history? Why can it be found among so many diverse cultures, and even among opposing ideologies? What happened to antisemitism after the Holocaust? How is antisemitism expressed today, and what are the main spheres in which it can be found?
We will examine different periods and societies, exploring the development of antisemitism as well as its changing nature over time, place and culture.”
In part one of this post we discussed the first half of a ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi which was aired on a variety of BBC platforms on March 7th.
Tibi next brought up the subject of the October 2000 incidents. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
AT “Thirteen of us, Stephen, were shot by snipers and killed in 2000 – citizens of the State of Israel – because we just demonstrated against Ariel Sharon getting into Al Aqsa Mosque. Thirteen of us. From that point, until today, 55 Arab citizens were killed by the Israeli security authorities without being prosecuted. We are in danger because of the way Israeli police is dealing with us as enemies – not as citizens. But I am not in a position to preach Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank how to resist. It is the natural way people, nation, under occupation are resisting…”
Sackur failed to inform audiences that Ariel Sharon did not ‘get into’ Al Aqsa Mosque at all but made a visit to Temple Mount that had been pre-coordinated with Palestinian security forces. Neither did he bother to tell BBC audiences that Tibi’s claim that those killed in October 2000 were “just” demonstrating is not supported by the findings of the official investigation into those incidents:
“The events of October 2000 shook the earth. The riots in the Arab sector inside the State of Israel in early October were unprecedented. The events were extremely unusual from several perspectives. Thousands participated, at many locations, at the same time. The intensity of the violence and aggression expressed in the events was extremely powerful. Against security forces, and even against civilians, use was made of a variety of means of attack, including a small number of live fire incidents, Molotov cocktails, ball bearings in slingshots, various methods of stone throwing and the rolling of burning tires. Jews were attacked on the roads for being Jewish and their property was destroyed. In a number of incidences, they were just inches from death at the hands of an unrestrained mob.”
Sackur also refrained from asking Tibi how many of the Arab-Israelis he claims were “killed by the Israeli security authorities without being prosecuted” were at the time involved in acts of terrorism.
SS: “It’s not…it’s not your fight, really it’s not your fight, is it?”
AT: “It’s my nation fight. I am a Palestinian also and I… “
SS: “Well but you’re also an Israeli. You happen to have the vote. You happen to have a seat in the Knesset. You know this…there is a distinction between you and those Palestinians who live on the West Bank, who live under military occupation and of course we can talk about the subset – the other Palestinians living in exile beyond the borders…”
AT: “They are suffering much more…”
SS: “Yes but I’m interested in the position of the Arab Israelis and it seems to me amongst Arab Israelis, the overwhelming feeling is one of weary acceptance. If you look at opinion polls – and there have been several in the last year which show that actually a clear majority of Arab Israelis have a positive feeling about their lives in Israel. A positive feeling.”
AT: I am smiling because I am living there. Arabs – Arab citizens of the State of Israel – are discriminated in all field of life and in polls – scientific polls; not polls of Israeli rightist newspapers – they are saying that they feel second or third degree. Not only they are feeling the discrimination in land allocation but budget, employment, agriculture, no industrial zones. We are discriminated in all fields of life.”
All Israeli citizens are of course entitled to equal rights by law. To take Tibi’s claim that Arab citizens of Israel have “no industrial zones” because of discrimination as an example – the Ministry of Economy and Industry lists at least eighteen industrial zones in Arab, Bedouin and Druze communities – from Rahat in the south to Sakhnin in the north. Once again, however, Tibi’s falsehoods went unchallenged by Sackur.
SS: “Well the Israel Democracy Institute ran a major poll last year. Most Arab-Israelis – 60.5% – describe their personal situation as good or very good. It doesn’t seem to match what you’re saying at all.”
AT: “I don’t agree with these results. We are living there but there are other points that you are not bringing here saying that at least 75% of the Arab citizens are saying that they do believe the state is dealing with them as enemies not as equal citizens.”
Sackur then promoted a partisan view of ‘international law’ as fact.
SS:” Why do you think thousands of Arabs living in Jerusalem – and they have a very difficult grey area status because of course under international law East Jerusalem is occupied territory – but they are regarded, since the annexation by Israel of East Jerusalem, as people with rights to residency and, indeed, the right to apply for citizenship in Israel and thousands have indeed applied for citizenship. What does that tell you?”
AT: “Only thousands. We are talking about almost 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem; you are talking about thousands. And it says a lot. Those Palestinians in East Jerusalem are facing strangulation policy, deportation, revoking their identity card, sending them out of Jerusalem – thousands of them. It is to say that the education system in East Jerusalem is one of the worst education system conditions led by the Israeli authorities. It is to say that those in East Jerusalem – Palestinians – not all of them are free to get into Al Aqsa Mosque. Demolition orders in East Jerusalem, but more also in other villages, in Arab villages inside Israel, because of lack of planning and housing. Do you know, Stephen, that there is a law called community villages law forbidding, preventing me, Ahmad Tibi, as an Israeli citizen, Arab citizen, from living in 800 community villages. I can live here in London or in Manhattan but not in these areas.”
Sackur failed to note the context of security considerations which sometimes limit access to the Al Aqsa Mosque to males under a certain age. He refrained from asking Tibi whether his claim that residents of East Jerusalem are being ‘deported’ or having their ID cards ‘revoked’ in fact relates to a small number of terrorists, their accomplices and family members of terrorists. Curiously – considering that between 1967 and 2014, the percentage of Arabs making up Jerusalem’s population rose from 26% to 37% – Sackur did not ask Tibi to provide evidence to support his claim that “thousands” have been ‘sent out’ of Jerusalem.
The law Tibi describes as “community villages law” is the Cooperative Associations Law and it relates to fewer than five hundred – not “800” – small communities of up to four hundred families that are situated in the Negev or the Galilee. Such communities are entitled to have an admissions committee which can screen potential residents. In contrast to the impression given by Tibi, all applicants of any creed or ethnicity meet with the admissions committee and the law expressly states that communities cannot reject applicants for reasons of race, religion, gender or nationality. Stephen Sackur, however, made no effort to relieve audiences of the false impression deliberately propagated by Ahmad Tibi.
Making no effort to explain to audiences what Zionism actually is, Sackur went on:
SS: “Are you saying – and using the words of that resolution from the United Nations in 1975 – are you saying that you still regard Zionism as racism?”
AT: “The practice of Zionism daily is to say that Jews are superior to non- Jews in Israel.”
SS: “Well answer this because it is a very famous UN resolution and it was repealed…repealed…one of the only UN that has ever been repealed 16 years later because consensus across the world that that language was unacceptable and wrong. I’m just asking you whether you actually still use that phrase.”
AT: “We Palestinians – mainly Palestinians inside Israel or outside the Green Line, [are] victims of Zionism because of racism of many aspects of Zionism against non- Jews, mainly original or indigenous Palestinians.”
Sackur then turned the conversation to the topic of elimination of the Jewish state.
SS: “You see I think this debate is important because right now there is a discussion both inside Israel, amongst Arabs outside of the territories but also amongst Palestinians and Arab Israelis, about what is going to happen if the two-state solution is dead. And we’ve discussed Donald Trump and we’ve discussed the current political situation and nobody would pretend that the two-state solution looks alive right now. So there is a unitary state solution and if there is to be a unitary state, do you believe it would be acceptable for the Jewish Israeli population to be in a minority?”
AT: “The speech of Mr Trump adopted the Israeli narrative and it was a bullet in the head of the two-state solution, of the two-state vision. Instead of two-state solution it became two-state illusion. That’s why there are more and more talk about one state solution.”
SS: “You’ve talked about it.”
AT: “I’ve talked about it.”
SS: “You even posited the notion that you might run for Prime Minister of a unitary state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and you said ‘if it was a run-off between me and Mr Netanyahu, I would win, no doubt about it’.”
AT: “If this will be the case, and equal right will be there between Jews and Arabs from the sea to the river, a Palestinian will win the post of the Prime Minister.”
SS: “I very advisedly asked you, can you countenance…do you think it is in any way realistic to think that the Jewish population of Israel will ever accept a situation in which they are in a minority? This is the country that was set up under a UN resolution as the homeland for the Jews after the Second World War. You understand that, I believe, better than most Arabs because you made a very famous speech understanding the impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people and on the creation of the state of Israel. So I put it to you again; can you imagine a unitary state where the Jewish population is in a minority?”
AT: “”We, I, as a victim of the victim in that speech, can tell you that I know, I realise that for the Israelis, it’s a nightmare to talk about equal one democratic state. That’s why, when you are giving two choices for them, two-state solution or one-state solution, they are immediately choosing the third choice, which is not there, the status quo. That is why I am saying two-state solution is the optimal solution that the international community is supporting. But the condition is immediate ending of the occupation and Israel is rearranging the occupation.”
SS: “Yeah, but you don’t just say that. You say very inflammatory things. In an interview not so long ago, you allowed your imagination to run. You said ‘we will, if there is to be a unitary state, we will annul the declaration of independence from 1948. In its place, we will write a civil declaration that represents all citizens – Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze’. You said ‘it is untenable for a democratic state to have a declaration of independence that is fundamentally Jewish’. You were asked what would the country’s name be? You said ‘I don’t know: its Parliament will decide’. What about the flag? You were asked and you said ‘yes, that will have to change’. Now when you say these things, how do you think Israelis – Jewish Israelis – respond?”
Sackur could also have raised the no less relevant point that in the same interview, Tibi declared that the Law of Return “would automatically be annulled, because the country would no longer be a Jewish state as it is today”.
AT: “When Israelis are killing Palestinians, how we would react? It is a democratic vision. I think that any democratic in Europe, in the international community, should respect my vision of democracy if there will not be a two-state solution. Yes, I want to be equal with Israeli Jews. I want to be equal with anybody in Tel Aviv and Tayibe, Nazareth and Hadera. But I will never accept to be inferior to any Israeli Jew just because the state is defining itself as a Jewish state. Because defining yourself as Jewish and democratic, it’s an oxymoron, Stephen and this is an oxymoron that we are fighting against day by day.”
SS: “If I may say so, it seems to me your speech was based on empathy and a genuine effort to understand the Israeli mindset. One aspect of the Israeli mindset is that they see more than a decade ago when the Palestinians had a free election, that a majority, at least in Gaza, voted quite clearly for Hamas – a movement that is dedicated in its original constitution to the destruction of the State of Israel.”
AT: “Stephen, do you want new rules for democracy? It’s election. It’s democracy. Palestinian people, like in England, like in Germany, like in France, like even in the United States – who just elected very bizarre president – we Palestinians are free to elect exactly what the Palestinians want. Once it is Fatah, once it’s Hamas.”
SS: “And you think the Israelis are going to listen to this and your belief that, oh, the Palestinians can choose Hamas if they want to and still believe that there is any possible reason why they should listen to you talking about unitary state?”
AT: “They can listen to me talking about two-state solution. They are not listening. Neither for that, nor for that. And what is Netanyahu proposing for Israelis and Palestinians? More and more war, more and more confrontation, more and more friction, more and more bloodshed. I am proposing peace. I am proposing freedom for Palestinians and peace for Israelis and Palestinians. It is challenging.”
Sackur then brought up a topic which audiences would no doubt have had difficulty understanding seeing as the BBC has studiously avoided reporting it.
SS: “It is. If you wanted to build some bridges and build some confidence, there are certain things you could do. I mean for a start, you could denounce your fellow Arab-Israeli member of Knesset who is now in prison because he was smuggling telephones to Palestinian prisoners – Mr Ghattas. What did you make of what he did and how disappointed were you in him?”
AT: “The 13 MKs of the Joint List, all of us, are not using this way of struggle in order to act as parliamentarians. It is not the way. He said so. His colleagues in Balad said so. We, myself and others said so, and he is paying the price in the jail.”
Sackur failed to inform audiences that, despite Tibi’s claims to the contrary, neither Ghattas nor some of his Joint List former colleagues have shown any sign of having reached the conclusion that “it is not the way”.
SS: “And why did you boycott Shimon Peres’ funeral?”
AT: “Because…I carried my condolences to his daughter…”
SS: No, you didn’t go to the funeral. Even Mahmoud Abbas went to the funeral. I’m just wondering again what kind of signal you are sending to the Israelis.”
AT: “Am I obliged to act exactly as the consensus – the Israeli consensus – is demanding from me? There is historical problem. I can understand Israelis when they cannot do something that hurt their feelings. Please understand our feeling as national leaders.”
SS: “I just wonder whether you pay heed to the words of the first Arab-Israeli to be a Supreme Court justice – and that in itself tells you something about the Israeli system. Salim Joubran, you know, he served in the Supreme Court, he was proud to do so, and toward the time he was leaving, he said, ‘yes, I complain a lot about the State of Israel’s treatment of Arab Israelis, but I am also complaining about us – leaders of the Arab community. We must take responsibility and handle problems’. Hasn’t got a point there? That you spend so much time grandstanding about the long-term prospects for a peaceful solution between Arab… between Palestinian and Israeli, you don’t spend much time trying to deliver a better life for your constituents.”
AT: “You are mistaken, Stephen, because according to the statistics and numbers of the Knesset activity, 85% of our activity is focused on social and economical issues of our community. And there is misleading coverage of our activity. Yes, we are responsible for the well-being of our community. We should be much more interested, focusing, acting in the issue, for example, of violence in our community, which is almost devastating.”
SS: “It’s a scourge – particularly violence against women inside Arab-Israeli communities.”
AT: “And who is taking part in every demonstration against that? Who issued a motion against that? Who issued a motion against using weapons in community events? Myself.”
SS: “And I guess that what the Israelis – I can hear the voices in my head – the Israelis watching this will say yes, and you are much freer to make those sorts of protests and to demand better from the community inside Israel that you would be if you were living in a village in the West Bank or indeed a different Arab country.”
AT: “Say it; in Syria or in Libya. Say it.”
SS: “Well, you can say it.”
AT: “It is a racist notice. You know why? Because to tell me, Ahmad, that because I am Arab that I should move to Syria, as they are demanding day by day in the Knesset, or I should compare myself to Third World countries, non-democratic, totalitarian regimes, when Israel is claiming it is democracy. The control group and the control states, Stephen, should be Sweden, France, England – not Libya, not Syria, not third states…Third World states in Africa or south America. I want to be equal, exactly like citizens in Kochav Yair, in Tel Aviv and I do not want to be compared with totalitarian regimes, but with democratic states. It is the test. Can you accept the idea that an Israeli citizen who is Arab is willing to be equal? “
SS: “It’s a good way to end this interview. Ahmad Tibi, thank you very much for being on Hardtalk.”
The people referred to by Sackur as “Israelis watching this” are of course not in need of a BBC programme to enlighten them on the topic of Ahmad Tibi’s record, views and agenda: they have after all spent nearly two decades watching him function as an anti-Zionist MK in their own parliament – perhaps the best refutation of his claims of ‘discrimination’ that there could be.
While it can be said that Stephen Sackur did question Ahmad Tibi on some of the positions he holds, the fact remains that BBC audiences around the world watching or listening to this programme went away with a plethora of inaccurate impressions about Israel due to the fact that Sackur refrained from challenging any of the multiple smears, falsehoods and distortions promoted by Tibi in this interview.