BBC’s Bateman recycles his olive harvest report for Radio 4

Last week we reviewed a filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman which appeared on the BBC News website on October 16th.

BBC JERUSALEM BUREAU’S OLIVE HARVEST REPORT FEATURES INADEQUATELY PRESENTED ‘ACTIVISTS’

On the morning of October 24th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard an audio report (from 21:00 here) which used some of the soundtrack heard in Bateman’s filmed report and was introduced by presenter Martha Kearney as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Kearney: “The olive groves of the occupied West Bank are alive with activity. It’s the harvest season: an important time of year for Palestinians. It’s often tense too with fields near some Israeli settlements a frequent scene of clashes and this year the pandemic has added to the problems. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Bateman began his report with a family picking olives in Beit Jala and listeners were told that:

Bateman: “It’s been a miserable year here. Lockdowns and job losses have inflicted even more harm on the fragile Palestinian economy.”

Unsurprisingly, Bateman did not bother to inform Radio 4 listeners of the effects on the Palestinian economy of the Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to accept the tax revenues collected by Israel:

“In May, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he is stopping cooperation with Israel, in anticipation of Israel applying sovereignty to parts of the West Bank in accordance with the Trump peace plan.

Those plans were officially suspended in August, when Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a normalization agreement, but the PA still has not accepted its own tax money from Israel. Israel has since amassed over NIS 2.5 billion that the PA refuses to take.”

Bateman moved on to the location of his filmed report.

Bateman: “But in the occupied West Bank the harvest can mean tension. I arrive in the village of Burqa. Outside the mosque, not a call to prayer but a call to gather and escort the farmers. Israeli settlers have established an outpost in the village’s olive groves. One of the farmers, Ahmad Barakat, says the settlers throw stones and stop them accessing their trees. Rights groups have documented 21 cases of attacks on the Palestinian olive harvest by Israeli settlers in the West Bank this month, including trees chopped down and arson. Foreign activists often come to support the farmers but this year the pandemic has largely stopped that so Palestinians are taking their place and we saw more tension unfold.”

Bateman failed to disclose to BBC audiences the identities of the “rights groups”, the “foreign activists” or the “Palestinians…taking their place” – and the political agenda of each of those groups.  As was the case in his filmed report, audiences are not informed that a Palestinian Authority body called the ‘Colonisation and Wall Resistance Commission’ brought people to Burqa on the day that Bateman was filming there and once again BBC audiences are not told whether or not his visit to that location on that specific day was linked to that PA organisation.

As in the filmed report, the violence documented by Bateman comes from Palestinians rather than ‘settlers’.

Bateman: “Israeli border police fire tear gas and rubber bullets at the Palestinians who throw stones and burn some scrubland.”

Bateman then travelled to Psagot where he spoke with a representative of the Binyamin regional council before uncritically quoting once again unidentified “anti-occupation groups”.

Bateman: “The Israeli army says it facilitates the harvest and prevents friction. But anti-occupation groups think sabotage by radical settlers extends Israel’s control of the land, as they say the authorities don’t prosecute it properly. Israel denies this, saying it investigates settler violence. International law sees all the settlements in the West Bank as illegal.”

As usual BBC audiences were not informed of any alternative legal opinions to the one exclusively presented by Bateman as “international law”.

This is the second report produced by Tom Bateman in just over a week in which the olive harvest was used to promote well-worn political narratives, but without appropriate clarification of how the BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent came to be in Burqa on the very day that a Palestinian Authority political commission organised the arrival of ‘activists’ in that location.

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