BBC Forced to Accept that Once Again, John Humphrys & Today are Biased on Palestine

BBC Forced to Accept that Once Again, John Humphrys & Today are Biased on Palestine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

BBC Radio 4 report on Israel breached accuracy guidelines 

Guardian 8th December 2015

On Radio 4’s
flagship programme, Today, on the 19th October, there was
a short 3 minute exchange between John Humphrys, the presenter and Kevin
Connolly, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent. 
Even by the BBC’s shoddy standards, the banter between them
was shocking in its ignorance and bias. 
I was one of a number of people who wrote in to complain.  The complaint has been upheld in one part,
the most indefensible part, but my complaint was far wider than the grounds on which the BBC have conceded:

Danny Cohen – Director of BBC Television Signed Letter Opposing Cultural Boycott of Israel
The BBC conceded
that its reference to 50 dead , in the context of reference having been made only to Israelis, would lead to the obvious and inexorable inference that the only people who had been
killed were Israeli Jews, whereas, of course it was mostly Palestinians who
were dead.   But this was just one
element of the exchange between John Humphrys [JH] and Kevin Connolly [KC].
Brighton PSC Demonstration outside local BBC Radio Sussex 
In its
provisional findings there was no comment on or mention even of the bulk of my
complaint:
i.              
The Humphrys-Connolly [HC] banter took
place in the context of an assumption that Israel’s Occupation was completely
normal, that the Palestinian response was abnormal and that the problem was
one of criminality, that it was a law and order situation in an otherwise normal situation. 
The Palestinians, of course, being the criminals.  There was no suggestion that the violence that
was occurring might have something to do with racism, oppression and
occupation.

  1. It is as if, during WW2 there was a wave of shootings and stabbings of Nazi police or soldiers or German civilians in Paris and the BBC reported that the cause was unknown and that the Nazi authorities were at their wits end to know what to do!  And with John Humphries remarking ‘its 50 now, the Nazi authorities are at a loss Kevin to know what to do.’  Absurd but that is what the idiot Humphrys was doing.
Brighton PSC Demonstration outside local BBC Radio Sussex
ii.            
KC reported the killing of an Israeli soldier
at Beersheva bus station, whilst omitting to mention that immediately afterwards there took place the lynch-mob killing of
an Eritrean refugee, who was first shot by security guards and then kicked and
beaten to death by a mob of Israelis, including security personnel.  The refugee beaten to death had nothing to do
with the killing of the soldier.  It was
reported widely by the Israeli and international press but the BBC chose to
keep silent.
Humphries at work defending Israel
iii.          
KC stated that ‘’individuals are taking
the decision to stage these attacks for reasons which we are often left to
guess at.’  If KC really doesn’t have any
idea about the reasons for the attack then he would, as I suggested, be better suited
to covering the Chelsea Flower Show.  The
reasons for the upsurge in Palestinian violence are so obvious that they barely
need stating.  The eviction of Palestinian
families in Jerusalem to make way for settlers intent on Judaising the
city.  The Occupation and all that goes
with it from checkpoints to wanton and random killings. Settler violence and
the confiscation of land.    Only an abysmall
ignorant BBC correspondent, which is what KC is, could fail to understand the
motivation behind the attacks.
I have also subsequently
complained about the fact that the Controller of BBC Television, Danny Cohen,
put his name to a letter ‘Israel needs cultural
bridges, not boycotts
in the Guardian of 22nd October condemning
the Cultural Boycott of Israel.  
Apparently he only signed the letter in his personal capacity.  Nothing to do with heading BBC TV of course.
I also made another
complaint relating to a raid by Israeli soldiers on Hebron’s hospital on 12th
November.  On the BBC website there was
an article headlined: “Israelis shoot dead Palestinian in Hebron hospital
raid.”
It was a
straightforward headline which summed up the story. But soon a different
headline appeared above the report, reading: “Israelis in disguise raid Hebronhospital, seizing suspect.” 
The emphasis had
changed from the unprovoked murder of a hospital visitor to the Israeli’s
pretext for staging the raid.  Just
another, small, example of the BBC’s relentless bias.
John Humphry’s – Zionist bias is notorious
Transcript
20.10.15. Today Programme 6.39 a.m.

Humphries
21
minutes to 7 – Yet another attack on Israelis last night.  This time an Arab man with a gun and a knife
killed a soldier & wounded 10 people. 
The number is mounting, it’s about 50 now isn’t it? 

No
mention that 40 of them Palestinians – including executions

Kevin
Connolly:

We think about 50 in the past month. 
Sharp uptake of violence – Not just that attack in Beer Sheba inside
Israel itself.  On Saturday a wave of stabbing
attacks in Hebron &
Jerusalem.  No sign that this wave of
rising tension & rising casualties is going to abate.  The Israeli government frankly is casting
about for a convincing answer because the nature of the acts of violence still
appears to be random and spontaneous. 
The decisions of individuals at a given moment to stage an attack are
not the work of organised extremist groups. For that reason it’s been very
tough to formulate a convincing security answer

Humphries
It
is not Intifada is it?

Kevin
Connolly:       
It’s a very difficult question part of the
problem is that media organisations begin asking that question very early in
these upsurges of violence.  Whatever we
call it, it’s an extraordinarily difficult situation for the Israeli government
to deal with because its own people look to it for security.  That very random and spontaneous nature of
the attack has left many Israeli citizens feeling that any Palestinian passing
them in the street might be carrying a knife, might be planning to attack them
and any passing car might at any moment be used as a vehicle against Israeli
civilian pedestrians. So although it’s not at all at the level of critical mass
of violence that you would need to use the word Intifada, it doesn’t have the
leadership perhaps that an Intifada might require it has achieved an
extraordinary change in the atmosphere of daily life here, hence the political
urgency for the Israeli government.

Humphries:
There
is talk of more powers for the Police to stop and search but that seems to be
fairly inadequate in a way doesn’t it?

Kevin
Connolly: 
I think that is
true. 
They are reviving a plan which existed a few years ago to expand
stop and search powers so the Police wouldn’t need reasonable suspicion that a
crime was being committed before they stopped and searched somebody. I think
that was actually originally formulated to deal with a wave of night club
stabbings.  So they have that on the
books, they have erected a concrete screen between an Arab and Jewish area of
Jerusalem, not far from where I’m talking to you, that also has a bit of an
ad-hoc feeling to it and they also of course have armed reinforcements in the
West Bank. You have Police reinforcements here in Jerusalem.   So they are doing what they can with visible
security.  But you can’t get away from
the fact that they are struggling with the nature of this upsurge of violence. And
that’s also a problem for the politicians. 
Because you will be having Benjamin Netanyahu meeting John Kerry later
this week.  Probably Kerry also meeting
Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. 
So the big politics is beginning to kick in here.  But it’s hard to see where the connecting
wheels are between those big political meetings and the fact that individuals
are taking the decision to stage these attacks for reasons which we are often left
to guess at.  Because the attackers often
die in the course of the attack.

Humphries:  Kevin, many thanks. 
It’s 17 minutes
to 7. 19th October 2015

Grounds
for Complaint by Tony Greenstein
My initial complaint,
which was confined to 2,000 characters was thus:
Humphries
interview with Kevin Connolly re violence in Israel.  Mentions 50 dead but not that 40 are
Palestinians.  No mention mob violence
against Palestinians or  murder of Fadi
Alloun, chased by lynch mob, executed by Police. No background to events eg
firebombing of Dawabshe family in Duma. 
3 dead.  No prosecutions –
culprits known.  No mention that West
Bank is Occupied.  No mention of ‘Death
to Arabs’ marches in Jerusalem.  And no
mention of murder of Eritrean refugee last night though other reporters picked
it up.  All of these are documented by
video footage Connolly doesn’t report.
Connolly says
‘individuals are taking the decision to stage these attacks for reasons which
we are often left to guess at.’  Let me
see, what might be the reasons:
i.  An occupation for 48 years.  ii. 
settler violence that is abetted by Military.  iii.  
That this is not a question of law and order but one where the law is in
the hands of one party which deprives the other party of basic human
rights.  iv.   Israel is in breach of perpetual breach of
international law.  vi. The attack by
Police on the Al Aqsa mosque and the Temple Mount Institute and similar
messianic groups which openly call for the Mosque’s demolition, its replacement
by 3rd Temple.  Groups r funded by
Israeli gov.  Connolly mentioned Hebron,
where violent settlers repeatedly attack Palestinian civilians.  No mention of death of Hadeek al-Hashlamon
last month killed by army. 
In other words a
complete lack of context
Needless to say,
my initial complaint was rejected with a pro-forma response.  Likewise my follow-up was also rejected and I
then submitted the following to the BBC’s Editorial Complaint Unit, the second
rung of their torturous complaints procedure:

1st November 2015
Reference CAS-3535889-VXORCY

To ecu@bbc.co.uk

Dear ECU,

I wish to appeal against the dismissal of the complaint which I submitted
to you on 20th October 2015 concerning John Humphries conversation
with Kevin Connolly on the upsurge in violence in Israel.

My
appeal in respect of your response is:
i.              
The unnamed person who responded from Today is either
hopelessly biased or is simply incapable of understanding the complaint.  S/he says:
‘Kevin
was reporting on the security situation inside Israel. The attack at Beersheba
bus station attack was the latest in a serious of attacks by Palestinians in
Israel.’ 
This
precisely sums up what my complaint is about. 
What actually happened at the Beersheba bus station was not just an
attack by a lone Palestinian but also the lynching of an Eritrean refugee.  KC failed to make even a cursory mention of the
fact that an Eritrean refugee, guilty of nothing other than being in the
despise category of refugee in Israel, (Israel doesn’t admit refugees as a
matter of policy, they are called ‘infiltrators) was murdered.  Shot by a security guard and then kicked and
beaten until he died.  Not one word of this lynching passed KC’s
lips.
 
By
way of contrast the on-line version of Israel’s largest daily paper, Yediot
Aharanot, on 18th October, managed to include in its report both the
killing of an Israeli soldier and
the murder of a refugee.  Perhaps you
could explain such an omission – bias or just ignorance? 
ii.            
You say that ‘We talked about the attacks and the
security measures being taken to counter them by Israel security
agencies.’  That is indeed the
problem.  It is just a security
situation, what is happening is simply a matter of individual criminality.  There is no recognition that what is
happening is a reaction, on an individual level, to a harsh military occupation
of the West Bank and Jerusalem, to say nothing of the nakedly racist treatment
of Israel’s own Arab citizens.  It’s just
a situation of law and order, so the BBC avoids all context.  It is a continuation of your bias against
understanding.
iii.          
The response to that part of my complaint relating to
the suggestion that those who were killed were treated as being solely Israelis
(i.e. Israeli Jews) is incomprehensible. 
You simply deny what is plain and evident from the transcript.  Like Humpty Dumpty words mean what you want
them to mean.
JH
says:  “Yet another attack on Israelis
last night” and you comment on this saying that ‘this was one of a number of
similar attacks recently so I think that is fair.’   You then say that ‘The other exchange was;
JH
: “The number is mounting now isn’t it Kevin. it’s about 50 now isn’t it?”
KC
“we think around 50 dead over the last month or so in this sudden, sharp,
uptick in violence”
You
assert that ‘At no point did either John or Kevin say that it was solely
Israelis dead in this period of violence.’
The
reference by JH and KC was solely to Israelis and yet most of the dead were
Palestinians.  So even at the most basic
level it was wrong.  There was no mention
of Palestinians other than as attackers. 
Hence it would have been reasonable for viewers to conclude that the
only people who were dead were Israeli Jews. 
Of
course you could have mentioned the fact that there have been a number of
attacks on Palestinians by Israeli Jews and even attacks by Jews on Jews, who
were mistaken for Arabs.  These are
dressed up as retaliations, for example the murder of Fadi Alloun.  For example the online news magazine +972
carries the video of his shooting plus an accompanying article. New video shows accused stabber posed nothreat when shot 
In
Jerusalem there are regular attacks by Jewish mobs on individual Palestinians
led by groups such as Lehava, which target Arabs in ‘Jewish’ areas.  Their favourite chant is ‘death to the Arabs’
[Mavet La’aravim]  But this phenomenon
has never been reported on by the BBC. 
Fadi Alloun is believed to have been targeted  by just such a group and executed by the
Police who only asked questions afterwards.
There
have been a number of other such shootings for example of an Arab woman in
Afula bus shelter who it was later admitted had not been trying to stab
anyone.  Israeli Arab Woman Shot in Bus Station Not a Terrorist, ConcludeSecurity Services   Of course since the BBC never seems to manage
to report on such things they didn’t happen. 
It’s a vicious circle which maintains the constant bias that you indulge
in.
iv.          
You said that
‘Kevin
states that the most of the motives are unknown, because in the context of
recent history, they are. This nature of these attacks, and the fact the
attackers often die in the attacks mean they cannot be investigated, therefore
the precise motivation is unknown. We think anyone listening to the piece will
understand that Kevin was talking about why this form of violence is happening
now. The wider causes and context of the Israel/Palestinian conflict are
frequently discussed across the BBC.’
This
is totally absurd.  It is as if you have
compartmentalised the knife attacks and associated violence on the one hand and
the Occupation on the other, ne’er the twain do they meet.  Are you really saying that it has never
occurred to your correspondent in Israel, KC, that there might, just might, be
a connection between the random violence of individual knife attacks and the
fact of the Occupation?  Does he not
consider that the daily ritual humiliations of being harassed by the security
forces, stopped at check points, subject to random violence by unaccountable
border police, living in an uncertain situation where land confiscation takes
place all around you, where your residency rights in Jerusalem can be withdrawn
at a moments notice etc. etc. might just have some connection with the violence
that arose?  If KC really does not
appreciate these things, perhaps you might consider transferring him to report
on the Chelsea Flower Show?
v.            
You talk about how ‘this subject inspires real passion
on both sides’.  That is a convenient way
of dismissing a complaint but my concern is not passion but accuracy or the
lack of it and now dissembling by the Today team.
vi.          
You also state that ‘we remain committed to impartial
reporting on all controversial issues’. 
RT and Al Jazeera have reported tonight on the attacks on Palestinian
and Lebanese journalists by the Israeli para military Border Police.  Nothing on BBC.  No doubt if Israeli journalists were being
attacked in an Arab country, it would be headline news.  Bias by omission is another facet of your
coverage.  Your commitment to reporting
on all controversial issues is therefore just a pious statement of intent
rather than an established practice.
I
also note the  signing of a letter in the
Guardian last week by Danny Cohen, the Director of BBC Television.  This no doubt is another example of your
commitment to impartiality.
I therefore do not find your handling to date of the
complaint as satisfactory.
Yours
faithfully,
Tony
Greenstein
On 2nd
December Fraser Steel, head of Editorial Complaints responded thus:

Dear Mr Greenstein
Today, Radio 4, 19 October 2015
I’m writing to let you know the
provisional outcome of the Editorial Complaints Unit’s investigation into your
complaint about the above programme.
You expressed concern about an
exchange between John Humphrys and Kevin Connolly on the deaths arising from
recent violence in Israel and the West Bank:
JH: Yet another attack on
Israelis last night – this time an Arab man armed with a gun and a knife killed
a soldier and wounded ten people. Our Middle East correspondent is Kevin
Connolly. The number is mounting, isn’t it Kevin? It’s about fifty now, isn’t
it?
KC: We think about fifty dead
over the last month or so, John – this sharp uptick of violence – not just that
attack on the bus station in Beersheba, in Israeli itself but also on Saturday
a wave of stabbing attacks in Hebron and Jerusalem.
I have no doubt that “about
fifty”
was intended to refer to the total number of deaths in the “sharp
uptick of violence”
which lay behind the story. However, in the context of
a discussion of violence initiated by Palestinians, and in the absence of
clarification on the point, I think the natural inference for listeners was
that it referred to the number of Israeli dead – which, in view of the actual
incidence of mortality, would have been misleading.
To that extent, the report did not
meet the BBC’s editorial standards regarding accuracy and I am proposing to
uphold this part of your complaint. As you know from Richard Hutt’s earlier
email, however, our remit prevents us from investigating your more general
concerns about the BBC’s coverage, including stories you believe the BBC ought
to have reported on – or reported on differently. Decisions about what material
to cover, or what aspects of a story to focus on at a particular time, fall
under the legitimate exercise of editorial judgement on the part of
programme-makers.
This is a provisional finding, and
I’ll be happy to consider any comments you may wish to make so long as you can
let me have them by 16 December. Meanwhile, I’d like to thank you for giving us
the opportunity of investigating your concerns, and I hope you’ll accept my
apologies, on behalf of the BBC, for the breach of editorial standards which you
identified.
Yours sincerely
Fraser Steel
Head of
Editorial Complaints
Although partially
upholding the complaint, Fraser Steel manages to avoid the meat of the
complaint.  I therefore submitted a
response to these provisional findings:
Reference
CAS-3535889-VX0RCY
Dear Mr Steel,
Thank you for
your email of 2nd December 2015.
I am pleased to
accept your decision relating to the upholding of that part of my complaint
which related to the failure to mention that some 40 of the 50 people who had
died recently in Israel had been Palestinians not Israeli Jews. 
I do however
wish to refer back to you two sections of my complaints which you did not deal
with in your letter in addition to considering the overall point I made
relating to systematic and institutional bias which lies behind individual complaints
such as mine. 
The first
section I am referring back relates to Anna Sweeney’s previous finding that:
1.            
‘Kevin was reporting on the security situation inside
Israel. The attack at Beersheba bus station attack was the latest in a serious
of attacks by Palestinians in Israel.’ 
I
responded that:
‘This
precisely sums up what my complaint is about. 
What actually happened at the Beersheba bus station was not just an
attack by a lone Palestinian but also the lynching of an Eritrean refugee.  KC failed to make even a cursory mention of
the fact that an Eritrean refugee, guilty of nothing other than being in the
despise category of refugee in Israel, (Israel doesn’t admit refugees as a
matter of policy, they are called ‘infiltrators) was murdered.  Shot by a security guard and then kicked and
beaten until he died.  Not one word of this lynching passed KC’s
lips.
I
also pointed out that:
‘By
way of contrast the on-line version of Israel’s largest daily paper, Yediot
Aharanot, on 18th October, managed to include in its report both the
killing of an Israeli soldier and
the murder of a refugee.  Perhaps you
could explain such an omission – bias or just ignorance? http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4712997,00.html
You
state that:
‘our
remit prevents us from investigating your more general concerns about the BBC’s
coverage, including stories you believe the BBC ought to have reported on – or
reported on differently. Decisions about what material to cover, or what
aspects of a story to focus on at a particular time, fall under the legitimate
exercise of editorial judgement on the part of programme-makers.’
As
a general point this may be true, though when a persistent pattern of not reporting
certain facts or always putting a particular slant and gloss on stories when
they are covered, then the question arises as to whether this constitutes a
breach in the BBC’s duty to maintain impartiality.  Are you saying that the question of impartiality
is not part of ECU’s remit?  If so then the
complaint must be escalated to the BBC Trust.
By
your own admission, Kevin Connolly had reported on what had happened at Beer
Sheva bus station but he had completely
omitted
the lynching of an Eritrean refugee who was mistaken for a
Palestinian.  This took place at the same
time.  I pointed out that this lynching had
been widely covered in the media in Israel and I find it inconceivable that
Kevin Connolly was unaware of this story. 
To take one murder and fail to cover another which took place at the
same time, because the second killing was that of a refugee is
unforgiveable.  It displays such obvious
bias that I am surprised that you fail to recognise it.  If it is not bias then it is incompetence.  I’m  not
sure which is worse but it is nonetheless lamentable and I would expect you
take this seriously.  You chose the
material, I’m not complaining about a story that you didn’t cover but the selective
and partial report which led to an unbalanced and biased report.
2.            
The second section of my complaint that you failed to
address was where you stated that:
‘Kevin
states that the most of the motives are unknown, because in the context of
recent history, they are. This nature of these attacks, and the fact the
attackers often die in the attacks mean they cannot be investigated, therefore
the precise motivation is unknown. We think anyone listening to the piece will
understand that Kevin was talking about why this form of violence is happening
now. The wider causes and context of the Israel/Palestinian conflict are
frequently discussed across the BBC.’
I
responded that:
‘This
is totally absurd.  It is as if you have compartmentalised the knife
attacks and associated violence on the one hand and the Occupation on the
other, ne’er the twain do they meet.  Are you really saying that it has
never occurred to your correspondent in Israel, KC, that there might, just
might, be a connection between the random violence of individual knife attacks
and the fact of the Occupation?  Does he not consider that the daily
ritual humiliations of being harassed by the security forces, stopped at check
points, subject to random violence by unaccountable border police, living in an
uncertain situation where land confiscation takes place all around you, where
your residency rights in Jerusalem can be withdrawn at a moments notice etc. etc.
might just have some connection with the violence that arose?  If KC
really does not appreciate these things, perhaps you might consider
transferring him to report on the Chelsea Flower Show?’
I
still find this reporting inexplicable.  Other
news organisations have interviewed friends and family members of the
Palestinians shot dead in order to try and gain an understanding of why they
did what they did. Why is this beyond Kevin Connolly, and why does he, and the
BBC, give up so easily in trying to understand Palestinians?
Al
Jazeera for example did an article Portraits of Palestinian Knife Attackers http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/11/portraits-palestinian-knife-attackers-151106093509929.html
in which family members explain it was the pressure of the occupation which led
their loved ones to violence. Such interviews are basic journalism, but
Connolly failure to do even a basic investigation suggests that he is almost wilfully
not wanting to gain an understanding of Palestinian motivation.
This
relates to the whole manner of your reporting. 
You treat the whole question of Palestinian violence in the way you
would report the commission of crimes in Britain.  Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East
Jerusalem is treated as normative.  It is
not seen as violent in the same way as Palestinian reactions are.  It is as if the Occupation is a peaceful
affair that only a few disturbed elements might object to rather than seeing
the violence that erupts reflecting a wider dissatisfaction with the existing
Occupation.  This leads to wholesale bias
across all of your reporting.  Your
inability to deal with this point isn’t simply a matter of lack of
comprehension.  It suggests institutional
and ingrained bias, of which this and I have no doubt many other complaints are
but symptoms. 
I
would therefore like you to address this aspect of my complaint too.
Yours
sincerely,

Tony
Greenstein

 

 

 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This