Month: November 2012

BBC’s mid-east reporting requires shake-up

At a time when the BBC is under intense scrutiny following revelations about its shoddy journalism and serious errors of judgment, it is disconcerting to discover that the broadcaster has once again breached its own guidelines concerning impartiality and honesty.

Within twenty-four hours of the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, the BBC had been caught out by media watchdog Honest Reporting for broadcasting footage that shows an apparently injured Palestinian man being carried away by his neighbors. Thirty seconds later, the footage shows the same man walking around in a state of complete health. A miraculous recovery or yet another example of a Western news company broadcasting Palestinian propaganda?

The footage broadcast by the BBC on the evening of November 14 is, of course, in the grand tradition of Pallywood in which Palestinians on stretchers suddenly come back to life and children in the so-called West Bank leap in front of moving cars for the cameras. Such deception is promoted in the Quran and Islamic literature. Taqiyya (saying something that isn’t true) and kitman (lying by omission) are acceptable methods of deceiving non-Muslims.

The Palestinians are well aware that news consumers in the West are lost in a nebulous realm of doctored photos and contrived news stories. Far from being concrete or objective, “reality” is mediated by television, newspapers, films and especially the internet. As far as the BBC and other media outlets are concerned, faked events are no less real than reality itself. Indeed, they may be more real because they serve a “higher cause,” i.e. the demonization of Israel.

The manipulation of the media is not the BBC’s only problem. Even when it attempts to be fair-minded, the BBC is actually legitimizing terrorism. Switch on BBC News 24 (or any other news channel in the UK) and you will see Hamas representatives being given just as much – sometimes more – air time than Israeli spokespersons. War criminals like Hamas should not be allowed to justify their actions on the BBC or Sky. Giving Hamas a platform to espouse their absurd rhetoric only legitimizes their genocidal hatred. Would the BBC have allowed the Nazis to air their revolting views on BBC Radio during the Second World War?

Actually, the Nazi comparison is not that far-fetched. In the past few days it has come to light that the BBC’s Hungarian Service during War World War chose to withhold information about the mass extermination of Jews in Europe. During the dark days of 1942, the BBC broadcast news to the people of Hungary but omitted to mention news of the unfolding Holocaust in case it upset Hungarian anti-Semites who were needed to fight alongside the Allies. In fact, there is a disturbing BBC memo from 1942 that states: “We shouldn’t mention the Jews at all.”

Fast forward to the 21st century and we find the BBC focusing rather too much on “the Jews.” Earlier this month, the BBC’s Washington correspondent Katty Kay said that “no one running for President [of the USA] wants to alienate the power and money of the Jewish lobby.” Despite complaints, the BBC refused to acknowledge there was anything wrong with Kay’s statement, which perhaps speaks volumes about the BBC’s innate bias against “the Jews” and Israel.

For years, the BBC has favored the Palestinian narrative, even when that narrative is driven by Hamas. Although the page no longer exists, the BBC News’ online profile of Hamas failed to mention the terrorist group’s genocidal intentions toward Israel. More famously, the Balen Report (2004), which contains the findings of a report into alleged bias against Israel, continues to be suppressed. A request by Honest Reporting to publish the findings has been turned down by the BBC on the grounds that the information requested is excluded from the Freedom of Information Act because it is held “for the purposes of journalism.”

Last year, British politician Louise Bagshawe berated the BBC for failing to cover the brutal murders of the Fogel family in Itamar, accusing the broadcaster of a “lack of care.” Writing in the Telegraph, she said, “Horrified, I went to the BBC website to find out more. There I discovered only two stories: one a cursory description of the incident in Itamar […] and another focusing on Israel’s decision to build more settlements, which mentioned the killings in passing.” Obviously, the construction of houses was more important to the BBC than the horrific murder of an entire Jewish family by a pair of deranged Palestinians.

The BBC’s journalistic standards have been below par for many years, which is why the broadcaster is in so much trouble at the moment. In the past few weeks, the BBC has been embroiled in an embarrassing series of scandals, including the suppression of an in-house report that revealed systemic child abuse by one of its most famous presenters. The BBC’s former director-general, George Entwistle, has admitted there have been “unacceptable journalistic standards.” It would be nice if the BBC also acknowledged – and amended – its poor-quality Middle East reporting.

To its credit, the BBC has occasionally come down hard on journalists who unfairly criticize Israel. In 2009, Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was censured by the broadcaster for breaching its rules on accuracy and impartiality in two reports about the Arab-Israeli conflict. An inquiry found that a reference to “Zionism’s innate instinct to push out the frontier” breached guidelines, while the suggestion that Israel was “in defiance of everyone’s interpretation of international law except its own” was said to have been “imprecise.”

According to the BBC’s six core values, “trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.” If the BBC cannot be trusted to be these three things, then the organization no longer deserves its yearly income of £3.6 billion from the millions of British license payers who have no option but to fund the BBC’s newsrooms. As the BBC ponders its future, now is a good time for it to come clean about the Balen Report and radically improve its Middle East reporting. Deciding to ditch the pro-Palestinian narrative in favor of something more fair and balanced would be welcome news indeed and may go some way in restoring trust.

In the meantime, the BBC ought to be more careful about broadcasting footage sourced from Gaza. The BBC, along with Sky and other news outlets, must check and re-check every bit of footage before broadcasting it to the world. And instead of wasting air time on Hamas spokesmen, the BBC and others may want to spend more time exploring what life is like for Israelis who live under constant threat of missiles, which are now falling on the suburbs of Tel Aviv.

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BBC goes to Pallywood

Last night (November 14th, 2012), BBC News 24 broadcast footage that appeared to show a Palestinian “casualty” in Gaza Half a minute later, the “casualty” has fully recovered. Divine intervention or just another example of Palestinian perfidy? See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-Vms2eAeUU to decide for yourself. Of course, Hamas and its supporters are not interested in a fair or balanced media. But why is the BBC using dubious footage and not checking its sources properly?

The BBC’s journalistic standards have been below par for many years, which is why the broadcaster is in so much trouble at the moment. Unfortunately, most media organizations – both broadcast and print – are just as lazy and corrupt, so the BBC is not alone in its use of untrustworthy sources and biased reporting. What is particularly distressing is that Israel is always on the receiving end of such bad journalism. It’s almost as if the western media is working on behalf of the Palestinian propaganda machine, often dubbed “Pallywood.”

Pallywood, a portmanteau word of Palestinian and Hollywood, is a coinage used by some media watchdogs to describe doctored and fake media footage produced by the Palestinians to illustrate their false but lethal narratives about Israel. Calev Ben-David, writing in The Jerusalem Post, described Pallywood as “media manipulation, distortion and outright fraud by the Palestinians and (and other Arabs, such as the Reuters photographer caught faking photos during the Second Lebanon War), designed to win the public relations war against Israel.”

Canadian columnist Paul Schneidereit says: “We’ve seen cases where the bodies of Palestinian martyrs carried on stretchers are inadvertently dropped, then, of their own volition, climb back on again. We’ve seen reports of massacres, as in Jenin in 2002, that turned out, after independent investigation, to have been greatly exaggerated. Needless to say, such episodes don’t instill an abiding trust in subsequent Palestinian claims, at least until they’re verified.”

The methods used by the Palestinian disinformation industry include:

1. Using visual media to construct fake stories of Israeli atrocities. This involves editing media footage and staging events. For example, directing Palestinian civilians, ambulance drivers, doctors and police to “act out” roles such as the “injured man,” the “dead child,” the “concerned medic,” the “brave freedom fighter.” Palestinian journalists and cameraman are complicit in this theater of propaganda.
2. Luring Israeli soldiers into schools, shelters and hospitals and using civilians as human shields in order to increase the casualty rate. For example, in 2009 Hamas militants fired mortar shells from a school in Gaza. The IDF returned fire, resulting in 40 civilian fatalities.
3. Ignoring or downplaying attacks on Israeli civilians, and omitting to mention the oppression and murder of fellow Palestinians by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
4. Repeating the claim that Israel ethnically cleansed Palestine in 1948, despite the fact that Palestinian leaders deliberately spread false rumors of rape and massacres in order to provoke Arab armies to fight on their behalf.
5. Repeating the claim that Israel is a colonialist occupier of a country called Palestine, despite the fact that there has never been a Palestinian nation and that Jews have lived in the Holy Land for the past three thousand years.
6. Depicting the Israelis as Nazis and claiming the Jews faked or exaggerated the Holocaust.
7. Masking the prosperity of the Gaza Strip by focusing on isolated examples of hardship.
8. Disseminating faked reports of massacres, deaths of children, atrocities and privations to the Western media. e.g. claiming the Israelis had carried out a massacre in Jenin in 2002.
9. Appealing to the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Western media and NGOs for help and/or aid, despite the fact that Israel provides aid and/or allows passage for humanitarian assistance.

According to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, contemporary society is alienated from “the real” due to an “ecstasy” of information. Reality is no longer objective but mediated by television, newspapers, films and the internet. Media consumers live in a “hyper-real” universe where reality is simulated. Baudrillard’s theory of the hyperreal helps explain why Pallywood is so successful. Although the Palestinians are no match for the Israeli Defense Forces, they are winning the Arab-Israeli conflict in the hyperreal realm.

The fact that Pallywood has found such a willing audience in the West strongly suggests the idea of the “real” has been shattered. As far as the Western media is concerned, faked events are no less real than reality itself. Indeed, they may be more real because they serve a “higher cause”, which is the demonization of Israel.

Report: Protesting the Co-operative boycott

Last week, around 10,000 people from around the world arrived in Manchester, England, to participate in a five-day festival to mark the culmination of an United Nations initiative called International Year of Co-operatives.

The event, titled Co-operatives United, was organized by a coalition comprising the Co-operative Group, International Co-operative Alliance and Co-operatives UK. It was marketed as “an inspiring and fun filled global festival of events and exhibitions” designed to “inform and inspire everyone building an ethical economy and a better world.”

Also in attendance – but in much smaller numbers and confined to the rain and wind – were a handful of pro-Israel campaigners, including myself. We were there to protest the Co-operative Group’s boycott of the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria. Over the course of three days, campaigners handed out nearly 1,000 leaflets, calling on delegates to reconsider the Co-operative’s stance on Israel.

The campaign was a quiet affair. There was no sloganeering or shouting. Nor was there any flag-waving or inflammatory language. Instead, we simply stood at the top of the steps outside the main entrance of the Manchester Central Convention Complex and gave out fliers. The only time we engaged in conversation was to answer questions from curious delegates and visitors.

The protest was a manifestation of the anxiety generated by the Co-operative’s recent decision to widen its boycott of Judea and Samaria. In April, the Co-operative voted to ban imports from four Israeli companies on the grounds that these companies traded with the settlements. The decision specifically affects four Israeli companies – Agrexco, Mehadrin, Arava Export Growers and Adafresh.

Since April, pro-Israel campaigners have put pressure on the Co-operative to reconsider its decision. A spokesperson for the Co-operative recently said the number of emails protesting the boycott has been surprisingly high.

Israel’s supporters say that the Co-operative’s boycott of settlement goods, plus the disengagement from four specific Israeli companies, is discriminatory because such actions single out Israel while ignoring other high-profile cases such as China’s rule in Tibet. Indeed, many pro-Israel campaigners have pointed out the hypocrisy of a policy that disallows some Israeli companies but permits products to be sourced from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia, which have genuinely repressive governments.

In a conversation with one of the Co-operative delegates, Manchester campaigner Bernard Rose stated: “To argue about the legality of the settlements is one thing. But to only single out Israel among all the countries in the world is unjust and discriminatory.”

The Co-operative, meanwhile, stresses that it still has supply agreements with some twenty Israeli suppliers that do not source from the settlements. But the company also states that it will continue to increase trade links with Palestinian-owned businesses in Judea and Samaria.

II

The response to our presence outside the convention complex was varied. Some delegates and visitors were supportive, while others proclaimed their support of the boycott and returned the leaflets. Many took a flier without comment. A very small minority of delegates and/or visitors were confrontational, with one elderly gentleman calling Israel an “abortion of a country.” At one point, we were asked by security to stop what we were doing because some delegates had complained. However, the event organizers (to their credit) said we were entitled to make our views known.

Following a morning’s leafleting, I took a walk around the inside of the conference hall, which was spacious, brightly bit and busy. The main hall featured exhibits by co-operatives from more than 40 countries, including Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and the “West Bank.” Sadly, there was no Israeli exhibit. So far, I have not been able to ascertain the reason for the absence of an Israeli stall. Behind the scenes, however, was an Israeli delegation, presumably taking part in the various workshops and meetings.

Despite the delegation, it is a pity that Israel was not included in the exhibition. After all, the Jewish state has a proud history of workers’ co-operatives, the kibbutzim being the most notable example. Even now, co-operatives account for more than 90% of Israel’s agricultural production. And it was Israel, of course, that developed the refined drip irrigation system which is now used by co-operative farmers around the world.

III

I left the conference with mixed feelings. One the one hand, there was some support for our cause. The event organizers were friendly and allowed us to carry on with our work regardless of the complaints. On the other hand, the fact that the Co-operative movement contains a number of people who are steadfast in their antipathy towards Israel, and the marked absence of an Israeli exhibition, were troubling.

Furthermore, given that Manchester boasts the second-largest Jewish community in Britain, it is a pity that so few people came to help the campaign. Perhaps the Jewish community is weary of having to defend itself in the face of so much anti-Israel rhetoric. Perhaps there is a feeling of resignation, that no amount of protesting will roll back the successes of the BDS movement.

Having said that, the fact that several people did volunteer to help (one of whom traveled up from London) was not overlooked by the Israeli delegation, which came out of the conference and thanked the campaigners for their support.

Volunteer numbers aside, I think most people in the Jewish community would agree that allowing the Palestinian lobby to go unchallenged is not really an option. An increasing number of supermarkets and other businesses are under extreme pressure from BDS crusaders, who are not afraid to lie about the settlements and slander the Jewish state. Comparisons with apartheid are grossly unfair and ignore the fact that the settlements are legal under the San Remo agreement of 1920, which instructed Britain to establish a Jewish national home on the entire land of Israel. Building Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is also within the parameters of the 1922 Mandate of Palestine, which actually encouraged close settlement of the land.

Israel’s friends in the UK must do all they can to aggressively point out the errors of the boycott movement and deconstruct the lie about occupation, even if this means standing beneath a rainy Manchester sky to hand out leaflets. We cannot afford to remain silent or even on the sidelines. Not when Israel’s future is at stake.

Christian Europe Adopts Fascism – the Arab Kind

News that around a dozen Christian organizations in Europe have signed an Israelophobic report calling for the termination of imports from Jewish settlements is further evidence that the European Church has once again succumbed to fascism.

The report is called Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements and is a sickening indictment of the way many European Christians view the Jewish state. The report categorically blames the settlements for the obstruction of a two-state solution and calls on European countries and businesses to divest and ban imports from Judea and Samaria.

Some 22 NGOs signed off on the report, around half of which were churches or Christian charities, including Christian Aid, the Quakers, the Methodist Church in Britain, Church of Sweden, Finn Church Aid and Diakonia.

The signatories are the usual suspects. Earlier this year, both Christian Aid and the Quakers met with members of the UK government to discuss the implementation of a total ban of settlement goods, a move that was supported by the Methodist Church. Finn Church Aid has called on Christians not to support Israeli policies “that are a part of the conflict,” which presumably refers to the expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria.

The Church of Sweden is an advocate of the Kairos document (2009) that says Palestinians have a “natural right” to the land of Israel. The document refers to the first intifada as a “peaceful struggle,” while terrorism is excused on the grounds that Israel is ultimately responsible for Palestinian acts of violence against Jewish civilians.

Possibly the worst fact about the report is that it is has the approval of Diakonia. This organization was founded by five Swedish churches in 1966 and has financed programs to commemorate the Islamofascist hate fest known as the Nakba, and is generally supportive of Palestinian political goals.

Diakonia has also helped fund an organization called Sabeel, which has been roundly criticized for using anti-Semitic propaganda to further its aims. Its founder, a Palestinian Anglican called Naim Ateek, has referred to the settlements as a “crucifixion system” in which Palestinians are “crucified” on a “daily” basis.

The fact that various Christians bodies are funding or supporting this kind of dangerous anti-Semitic nonsense just shows how easily the Church is swayed by Judeophobia. Christian leaders could have stopped Hitler’s rise to power or at least moderated his policies towards the Jews, but they didn’t because many were broadly sympathetic toward fascist ideology.

European Christians who grovel at the feet of the fascistic Palestinian movement are no different from the Churches who capitulated in the face of Nazism. Motivated by a latent hostility towards the Jews, today’s Church is reaching out to Palestinians and the Arab world in order to establish an anti-Israel consensus.

I also suspect that Christian leaders are fully aware that because of immigration and demographic changes, Islam could well be the dominant religion in Europe in fifty years’ time. As such, they are resigning themselves to self-imposed “dhimmitude.” Dhimmitude, according to political commentator Bat Ye’or, is the “submission of the Christian clergy” to “Islamic domination of both their lands and peoples” in return for a pledge of protection or dhimma. By siding with the Palestinians against Israel, they are safeguarding their own future.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that many Christians are inciting and aggravating anti-Jewish sentiment by lending their considerable support to a movement that seeks to eliminate Israel. At a time when Islamofascism is spreading across the Middle East and making inroads in Europe, it is distressing to see liberal Christians turning their backs on a democratic and progressive nation in favor of a dark and oppressive ideology like Palestinianism.