BBC WS again promotes a partisan NGO’s talking points in protests coverage

Previously we documented BBC World Service radio’s promotion of a narrative unrelated to the protests in Israel in an item supposedly about that topic:


The following day, March 23rd, saw the appearance of another item on the same radio station which likewise indicated that the topic of the mass protests by Israeli citizens is now also being used for opportunistic promotion of narratives concerning a different topic.

One of that day’s editions of ‘Newsday’ included an item given over entirely to an interview with an inadequately introduced employee of a political NGO which was introduced by presenter James Copnall (from 08:34 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Copnall: “A day of shut-down. That’s what Israeli protesters are calling it as they prepare for the eleventh week of demonstrations against the government’s proposed judicial reform. Thousands are expected to take to the streets around Israel, with organisers planning disruption, for example around Ben Gurion airport. They’re angry at the plans of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s administration which they see as an anti-democratic move to neuter the country’s judiciary. Many are keen to emphasise though that you can’t talk about democracy without discussing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.”

Copnall of course did not bother to clarify how many are “many” or to point out that the “lands” concerned have never been sovereign Palestinian territory or that they were previously illegally occupied and annexed by Jordan and prior to that were part of the territory assigned to the creation of a Jewish homeland by the League of Nations.

Copnall: “One of those people is Ori Givati, former tank commander in the Israeli Defense Force and now advocacy director of ‘Breaking the Silence’ – that’s a group of military veterans who want to stimulate debate about the occupation.”

BBC editorial guidelines concerning ‘contributors’ affiliations’ state:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”

Nevertheless, listeners were told nothing about the foreign funding of ‘Breaking the Silence’ or the fact that its idea of ‘stimulating debate’ includes campaigning abroad, supporting the anti-Israel boycott campaign, promoting the ‘apartheid’ smear and lawfare.

With that highly relevant background information missing, listeners then heard Copnall ask Givati why he was going out to protest.

Givati: “Today I’ll be protesting…we have been protesting in the last few months because while it’s so important for us to challenge the judicial overhaul, the coup that Netanyahu is trying to promote with his coalition, it’s also crucial to remember that even if this coup is not successful, we are not living in a democratic place. A democracy cannot rule over millions of people with a military force for decades. So it’s an opportunity…this time is an opportunity to tackle and challenge the core issues that are underlying. We didn’t get to this moment by chance. We got here after decades of ruling over others, discriminating Palestinians and anyone else who is not Jewish and we have to use this moment in order to talk about the core issues of this country, as Israeli citizens.”

Copnall made no effort to remind listeners that under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed three decades ago, the vast majority of Palestinians actually live in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority (and later Hamas in the Gaza Strip) and that while a minority of Palestinians – by no means “millions” – live in Area C which is under Israeli control, the final status of that area is subject to negotiations which the Palestinian leadership has been avoiding for over twenty years.

Copnall also failed to challenge the false claim that Israel discriminates against “anyone else who is not Jewish”.

The conversation continued with Givati claiming that a discussion “must be held not only about the judicial issue but also about other democratic problems that we have to improve in order to become a functioning democracy in the future maybe” and later referring to “our discrimination and our oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories using apartheid mechanisms”.

One can of course only speculate why the BBC World Service chose to give a four-minute platform to a representative of a fringe political NGO in order to promote talking points that are not central to the story this item purports to be about.  But once again we see that the BBC’s long-standing over-reliance on partisan political NGOs in coverage of Israel has now seeped into reporting on the internal Israeli story about the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have been demonstrating for three months.

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