Adonis Diaries

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Is the BBC trying to shore up support for Israel’s assault on Gaza?

Pro-Israeli broadcasters are finding it ever harder to defend Israel in the face of the large-scale massacres and destruction in Gaza.

 But the BBC is determined to do its best, sacrificing all claims to impartiality and journalistic integrity in the process.

In addition to flooding its radio and television programs with Israeli spokespeople, while keeping Palestinian voices to a minimum, the BBC, as it did during Israel’s 2012 assault on Gaza, has taken to presenting pro-Israel commentators as independent.

BBC audiences are, therefore, given strong doses of pro-Israeli propaganda — being told that Hamas is using civilians as human shields, that Israel has shown nothing but restraint in the face of constant rocket attacks, that it is defending its citizens and so on — while under the impression that they are hearing neutral, independent comment.

These key Israeli messages are, of course, more likely to be believed by viewers and listeners if they think they are impartial observations, rather than the opinions of pro-Israeli spokespeople.

On 17 July, as part of its 10pm news broadcast, the BBC News Channel ran an interview with Davis Lewin, deputy director and head of policy and research at the Henry Jackson Society.

The Henry Jackson Society is a virulently pro-Israel think tank, described in 2012 by its founding member, Marko Attila Hoare, as “an abrasively right-wing forum with an anti-Muslim tinge, churning out polemical and superficial pieces by aspiring journalists and pundits that pander to a narrow readership of extreme Europhobic British Tories, hardline US Republicans and Israeli Likudniks.”

In a 2013 job advert for the position of its North American director, the society wrote it was looking for someone who could reach out to the “pro-Israel community.”

Lewin himself is the recipient of an “Israel research fellowship” — a one-year placement awarded to university graduates, under which they work for the Israeli government or an organization sympathetic to Israel (he is listed as an alumnus of the class of 2009/10).

On its website, the Israel Research Fellowship (IRF) organizations says recipients of the award are “mentored by senior executives in their placements and informed by specially designed conferences.”

It adds: “Israel research fellows, with their comprehensive knowledge of historical and intellectual trends, serve as articulate spokespeople for Israel. The IRF is a pro-Israel, apolitical, non-partisan enterprise that aims to serve in the best interests of the State of Israel.”

Damage already done

And yet, when he appeared on the BBC News Channel, Lewin was introduced by presenter Martine Croxall as simply: “Davis Lewin, who’s from the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign and defense policy think tank.”

Few people watching would have been aware of the nature of the Henry Jackson Society or of Lewin’s pro-Israel placement.

Speaking, it seemed to viewers, as a spokesperson for an independent think tank, Lewin had three minutes to push the pro-Israeli, anti-Hamas line, aided at times by Croxall’s interviewing, which included this question: “Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by not just Israel but other countries, too. What are Israel’s intentions towards Hamas? It has said this is a limited scope action. Why doesn’t it just try and get rid of Hamas altogether?”

Not surprisingly, the interview was quickly posted on YouTube by the Henry Jackson Society.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign wrote to the BBC to remind it of its own editorial guidelines, which include this: “We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.”

For once, the BBC was quick to write back, sending this by email: “We apologize for this and would like to assure you that the matter has been raised with the relevant editorial staff at the BBC News Channel, who have been reminded of the need to clearly describe the ideology of such organizations in our coverage.”

However, the damage had been done. And what good is a reminder to journalists who have a history of presenting pro-Israeli commentators as independent and face no censure for doing so?

In November 2012, as Israel pounded Gaza for eight days, BBC News 24 (as the BBC News Channel was known), used Jonathan Sacerdoti as a commentator four times in two days, presenting him each time as an independent expert.

Sacerdoti, however, was no impartial expert. He had worked as director of public affairs at the Zionist Federation and, in 2012, he was elected to the international division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The international division’s primary work is to promote Israel.

After eight months of challenge, the BBC finally admitted it had breached its editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality with its misrepresentation of Sacerdoti.

And then, as now, the BBC told the Palestine Solidarity Campaign it would remind its editorial staff of the need to correctly identify its contributors. That “reminder” apparently came to nothing.

Defending Israel’s attacks

Presenting pro-Israeli commentators as independent is not just limited to the BBC’s airwaves, but is also evident in its online output.

On 22 July, BBC Online uploaded a long feature headlined “Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew.”

With 700 Palestinians killed at that stage, with thousands injured, and around 300,000 internally displaced, this came across as a desperate attempt by the BBC to shore up justification for Israel’s ongoing massacres.

Reams of paragraphs are devoted to tunnels “booby-trapped with explosives” — and the effort needed by Israel to detect them. The impression given to the reader is that Israel is under a very real threat from the existence of these tunnels and the existence of the organization — Hamas — which built and operates them. The lie that Israel “withdrew” from Gaza in 2005 is also contained in the report.

The article is written, not by a BBC journalist, but by Dr. Eado Hecht, who is described by the BBC as “independent defense analyst and lecturer in military doctrine at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.”

But Hecht is not “independent,” as the BBC claims. He is in the pay of the Israeli army. Unknown to readers of the BBC Online article, Hecht also teaches at the Israeli military’s Command and General Staff College.

It’s not worth asking if a Palestinian in the pay of Hamas would ever be given space by the BBC to write a long feature about the threat to Palestinians of Israeli aggression. The answer is obvious.

But it is worth noting that the BBC has form in providing platforms to pro-Israelis to expound their views on Gaza.

In November 2012, as Israel’s onslaught on Gaza was drawing to an end, BBC Online ran a feature by Guglielmo Verdirame, a professor in international law at King’s College London.

The article was headlined “Gaza crisis: the legal position of Israel and Hamas.”

Verdirame used his BBC platform to defend Israel’s vicious, sustained attack on Gaza’s refugee population in “legal” terms.

To the reader, told only that Verdirame teaches at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, this was an impartial viewpoint. But Verdirame had presented the same arguments three weeks earlier to a Zionist Federation event in London for Israel advocates. His pro-Israel credentials are impeccable, being involved as well with UK Lawyers for Israel, an organization whose aim is to sue those it regards as “enemies” of Israel.

Verdirame was put to use by G4S this year to co-author a paper defending the security firm’s involvement in the Israeli prisons where Palestinians are held and routinely tortured. That he should have been asked to write as an independent commentator by the publicly-funded BBC is disgraceful.

Impartiality goes out the window

There are numerous legal experts the BBC could call on who would pronounce Israel’s assault on Gaza a violation of international law. Forty-two of them signed a statement to that effect on 28 July, including Richard Falk, the former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

But none of them is likely to be receiving a phone call from the BBC. Their messages don’t fit the broadcaster’s apparent agenda.

On 31 July, when the BBC’s flagship news program Today wanted to discuss whether Israel’s current assault on Gaza had a legal basis, it interviewed, not just one, but two, Israelis. And not a single Palestinian.

The first Israeli interviewed was Pnina Sharvit Baruch. Listeners were told she was the “former head of international law at the IDF [the Israeli military], now a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies [in Tel Aviv].”

What they weren’t told is that Sharvit Baruch was a colonel in the Israeli army, retiring after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. They were not told that, in that role, she legitimized strikes on civilians in Gaza during Cast Lead, including the attack on the graduation ceremony of new police officers, which resulted in 180 Palestinians being killed.

She was considered so extreme that, in 2009, staff at Tel Aviv University protested her appointment as a lecturer in law. She was not, however, considered too extreme for the BBC.

The day before she made her unchallenged appearance on Today, Sharvit Baruch was interviewed on the legalities of Israel’s attack by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), which describes itself as being “dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain.”

On Today she was joined by Yuri Dromi, introduced by presenter Sarah Montague as “director-general of the Jerusalem Press Club, but he used be a spokesman for the Israeli government in the Nineties.”

Sharvit Baruch and Dromi enjoyed nine minutes of gentle questioning by Montague. Her acceptance of everything they said and her failure to ask a single challenging or critical question was compounded by the absence of a Palestinian spokesperson who could have made that challenge instead and offered a different viewpoint.

It was an extraordinarily biased piece of pro-Israeli broadcasting, even by BBC standards. Montague’s questions seemed to be set up as deliberate cues for Sharvit Baruch and Dromi to set out the Israeli government’s key messages.

For example, she asked Sharvit Baruch, “Would you be advising the Israeli army that what they have done is legal?”

What answer did she seriously expect?

If the BBC wanted a genuinely impartial answer to this question, it could have invited a UN spokesperson onto Today to answer it. To ask it of a former Israeli army legal advisor who has greenlighted previous massacres seemed like a deliberate invitation to propaganda, not an attempt at serious journalism.

But serious journalism, and impartial journalism, seems to go out of the window at the BBC, at least when it comes to Palestine. Israeli spokespeople and supporters are given unchallenged platforms that are not offered to their Palestinian counterparts, they are presented as independent when they are not, they are allowed to speak without challenge, and with no Palestinian to oppose them.

The result is day after day of Israeli propaganda pushed down the throats of anyone who looks to the BBC for impartial reporting of the occupation.

Sarah Montague’s interview with Pnina Sharvit Baruch and Yuri Dromi can be heard here at 02:14:27 until the end of August.

Amena Saleem

Amena Saleem's picture

Amena Saleem is a journalist and activist, working closely with Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK. She has twice driven on convoys to Gaza with PSC.

More information on PSC’s solidarity work is available at www.palestinecampaign.org

Complaints to the BBC can be made at www.bbc.co.uk/complaints.

Siege Attitudes: Sample of Lebanon Civil War Account (April 27, 2009)

 

Note:  Many Lebanese immigrated during the civil war and did not experience the siege mentality or the horrors or psychological scars. 

Since 1991, there are new generations that don’t know much about the civil war or don’t care to know. Since they don’t read even the scarce descriptions then what they know is mainly hearsay and from biased sources.  This article is a brief translation of a chapter in “Ain Wardeh” by Jabbour Douweihy.

Marguerite, the Austrian wife of Joujou, has no control over her body each time she hears the whistling of a missile or a rocket; she hysterically and silently runs and opens the main door and step outside with a pillow and then re-enters and keeps the same wandering habit through the staircases and outside.

She would sit on the upper stair and cry her eyes out.  In the beginning, Marguerite would freeze like a cat surrounded by drummers.  At the start of the civil war, Marguerite wanted to have an idea of “What’s going on” and pointedly asked sensitive and targeted questions; each answer generated more questions that finally baffled those who were supposed to know it all.

Marguerite was judged to be too naïve to comprehend this ultra complex situation.  For example, when the militias started summarily executing drivers on confessional grounds Marguerite would ask “How can a militia know the religion of the driver?

The answer could be “Because religious affiliation is mentioned in the ID”.  Then, “And if the driver is not carrying an ID?” “They know from his name”; Then, “Is the name Rida (a member in the family) Moslem or Christian?”  “They know from his face or his slang or his pronunciation” and on and on.

Joujou has imposed himself as the experienced warrior who never participated effectively on any front lines. He claims to know the type and caliber of every canon. When he hears a 155 mm bombs he exclaims “Those bastards. This is a field gun. The 155 mm should not be targeting civilian neighborhoods

Or Joujou  would say “This is a Hawn 80 mm caliber.  It is totally useless and relics of the short civil war of 1958”   Joujou tries to locate the coordinates of the gunners with the help of maps in his “war room”, only to realize that those guns are movable on trucks.

Joujou attempted once to drive a Panhard carrier and injured 5 people when the gun got activated by mistakes.  When the phone lines go dead or disrupted then Joujou would volunteer his intelligence that the communication “central” has been targeted.  At the start of civil war, Joujou refused to believe the news on the radio saying: “Those announcers behind their desks are fabricating imaginary events

The entire family is hooked to the transistor (radio) for the routine news and emergency flash news. When the news warns of the imminence of an all out attack then the daily routines of every member in the family is put on hold and two candles are lighted and people barely move so that their vast shadows would not scare off the others.

The worst news was when the radio announced a cease fire with precise date and time: nobody would believe that this deal would remain for any length of time: snipers were their worst nightmares.  Joujou would then carry the radio when everyone is asleep and mechanically locate “Monte Carlo” and “Voice of Cairo” and “The BBC” on the ground that these airwaves were unbiased and might bring confirmation.

In the morning, Nouhad, the tiny spinster aunt, would fetch the radio because she was not appeased with the many shelling during the night.  If anyone tried to change channels then she would shout “This is not the time for chatting”.

By the by, as events escalated and everyone realized that this civil war is for the duration then Joujou declared “The US Administration is not wiling to put an end to the war; it is waiting for critical political changes to take place before the Administration decides on a policy”

Nouhad started to persist commenting on the news, especially if not to her biased stand, and nobody could hear the news anymore.  If the piece of news was not to Nouhad’s liking she would interject “Lier!” 

Slowly but surely the radio was put to rest and went into desuetude.  The cook woman used the radio in the kitchen to listen to music.

Bi-weekly report (4) on Lebanon (December 12, 2008)

 

A niece of mine emailed me what Natalia Antelava from BBC News in Beirut published on the repercussions of the financial crisis on Lebanon.  Antelava summarized the effects “The world maybe in meltdown but Beirut is booming. The country best known for wars, turmoil and instability has not just survived the global financial crisis; it seems to be thriving because of it.

She goes on; Lebanon’s Central bank treasury vaults are full. Cash has been flowing in like never before, Lebanese banks are posting record deposits and bankers say this is the best year in Lebanon’s financial history. Lebanon was prepared. “I saw the crisis coming and I told the commercial banks in 2007 to get out of all international investments related to the international markets”, says Riad Salameh, the governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank.

Banks weren’t allowed to take on too much debt and they had to have at least 30% of their assets in cash. They were not allowed to speculate in risky packages of bundled up debts.

And weak banks were forced to merge with bigger ones before they got into trouble. “You could have thought they had a crystal ball. It was very wise of the Lebanese regulators not to get involved in all these risky international investments that turned out to be the doom of many banking systems,” says Edward Gardner of the International Monetary Fund.

“The system we created has been tested against wars, against instability, against political assassinations. And our sector would be much more developed if Lebanon did not have political and security risks, but it has also induced us to have a conservative reflex because we were always getting ready for the worst case scenario,” says Mr Salameh.

But the tight reign on borrowing does not apply to the government.  Over the years, Lebanon has taken on loan after loan for post war reconstruction. Today, per capita, Lebanon owes more than any other country in the world.  On paper this makes it vulnerable, but the political realities of the Middle East mean that danger is unlikely ever to materialize.

 

 

 

“This level of public debt has created serious problems for other countries, but the difference is that there is a perception that Lebanon has friends with very deep pockets who will not let it go down financially,” says Edward Gardner of the IMF. “This was demonstrated in 2006 war with Israel, when both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were very quick to deposit large sums of money into the Central Bank to help it to remain stable,” Mr Gardner added.

But Lebanon could still feel the aftershocks of the credit crunch.  Every year, thousands of highly educated young people from Lebanon go to work abroad. With some 12 million Lebanese overseas and only 3.5 million in the country, remittances make up a vital third of the economy. (There are over 16 millions overseas and 4 millions in the country)

The rest of the world is now being forced to sober up after the wild excesses of the global markets, but here the party’s on.

The Lebanese are a nation of survivors, who have paid a heavy price for the fortunes they are reaping now. Through their troubles they have learned how to party as if tomorrow will never come, but also, against the odds, how to bank for their future.

 

My niece might have felt a displaced pride of that content of the article and I had to reply to her. I said: “I heard all that since the crisis.  It means only the banks are stable because it mainly loans to the bankrupt Lebanese government at high interest loans; why our banks would care to speculate any further? (Lebanon has so far borrowed over $65 billions, or at least four times its NGP, since 1994; a ratio that is still less than the US indebtedness). 

The Dawha (Qatar) political agreement among the Lebanese sectarian caste leaders was forced by the rich Arab States, which helped Lebanon’s reconstruction after the July war of 2006, to safeguard their investments.  

I doubt that the people have experienced any results; the prices are their highest when all over the world prices have dropped sharply.  We used to have Aspicot (aspirin for children) manufactured in Lebanon; for two months we have no Aspicot; everything is exported to the Arab States.  The wholesalers import at low prices and sell at prices before the crisis because no prices have ever declined in Lebanon once they increase on rumors only. I am not fooled and no Lebanese citizen is fooled.  What fortune are the little people reaping?

On the political front, Deputy and General Michel Aoun ended five days of an official to Syria.  The Syrian people welcomed him enthusiastically and he was considered as the civilian Patriarch, not only of the Maronites but also of all the Christians in the Middle East.  The two people have finally repaired the psychological barriers that divided them after 15 years of Syrian mandate in Lebanon. Most of the inconsequential sectarian leaders in Lebanon felt very small after this courageous openness of Aoun and kept lambasting him even before his visit (they are the mouth pieces of Saudi Arabia).  The truth is that the March 14 “alliance” does not dare criticize President Michel Suleiman and thus they target Aoun instead.

Former President Carter is in Lebanon in order to ask for permission to monitor the coming election; he has met with most political party leaders.  Hezbollah did not accord him a private meeting.

President Suleiman is visiting Jordan.  The mouth pieces of Syria have been attacking the Druze leader Walid Jumblat and claiming that he is getting into one of his lunatic phases and he is no longer a viable entity as a leader of the Druze.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2021
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