Thursday, 29 October 2009

Palestinian resistance: it's a rap

Sometimes (I may well have said this before) one just has to marvel at the wonderful stoicism and resistant spirit of the Palestinian community. I got a new dimension of that human enterprise last night watching the fine docu-film Slingshot Hip Hop (at my little cinema paradiso, the GFT).

Directed and part-produced by US-Palestinian Jackie Reem Salloum, it tracks, musically and politically, the daily endurances of young, aspiring rappers living under occupation and finding expression for their imprisonment through Palestinian hip hop. Listeners and viewers will be particularly impressed by the rich fusion of Arabic-Western beat and the poetic, literary language of Palestine that helps amplify the message of non-violent, politicised resistance.

Another poignant theme throughout the movie concerns the close connection developed between the variously featured rap artists in Gaza, the West Bank and Lyd inside Israel - or, as the rappers in "67" (Gaza/West Bank) call the latter, our brothers and sister still living in "48". We also get painful insights into the difficulties of being permanently trapped in Gaza and the longing of young Palestinians to simply ever visit Jerusalem.

Together, DAM and the other groups have built a mass following, providing release and a little sense of cool empowerment for Palestinian kids, male and female. The engaged and supported role of female rap artist, Abeer, gives added nuance to the negotiation of 'liberal' artistic expression in a still Islamic-based society.

In the post-film Q&A, the director and lead role rapper from Dam offered sobering accounts of life under occupation and Israeli obstructions in making the film - Salloum endured lengthy detentions on entering Israel and had her cameras broken by Israeli soldiers. But, with good grace, she dismisses it as token inconvenience compared to the daily grind and humiliations faced by the rappers and their families in the slums and refugee camps.

Salloum also made particular reference to the amazing calmness of Palestinians in the face of adversity, for example in being kept for endless hours at checkpoints.

It's a picture that helps break more of the Israeli-fed stereotypes of vengeful Palestinians. Indeed, as related, Palestinian rap is a virtuous model of peaceful, humanist appeal compared with much of the right-wing, aggressive version that predominates in Israel.

As the father of one of the film's rappers reminds us, peaceful cultural resistance is still the Palestinians' greatest asset.


*In loving memory of Jacqui

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Guardian and Blair: props for each other

You couldn't, as they say, make it up: Tony Blair for EU President.

From David Miliband and his Westminster clones to Guardian and other media aplogista, a preparatory case is being made to install Blair in any Lisbon-created post.

Yet, beyond sager nods to the death of satire, the latest exercise in making the unthinkable not only thinkable but spinningly attractive offers a reflection point on the very usefulness of the liberal media as a conduit of critical information and dissent.

The Guardian's comment pages are not only home to those who would have us support Blair, but also that seemingly vital space within which to conduct serious debate over the issue. While we might rightfully rail against those journalists seeking to excuse or 'rehabilitate' Blair, there's also the, less considered, problem of how 'dissenting' journalists help maintain the corporate order and nullify more expansive debate by using the Guardian and other liberal media as supposedly unimpeachable outlets.

Let's deal first with the apologists. Here's the Guardian's Jackie Ashley making the case for Blair's appointment in typically soul-contorting form:

"Is this [the EU] a rising new quasi-country, ready to shoulder its way more assertively on to a world stage dominated by the US and China? Or is it an undemocratic fix, which will fall apart unless it exercises tact and modesty? If you take the former view, then Blair – with all his faults – may be your man. If you take the latter, then it is essential the EU leaders choose a less obtrusive figure, a grey servant of the elected nation-state politicians who would then continue to dominate and represent this part of the globe.

"Like many, my first instinct is: not Blair, not at any price. I think the Iraq war was such a big error that, morally, nobody who led us into it should be able to return to a position of leadership. There should be some mistakes too big to recover from. But while that is satisfying to say, it is not quite the end of the matter. If politicians have to struggle with competing evils in an untidy world, so should the rest of us. The truth is that with a weakened economy, and in a declining quarter of a world menaced by global warming, terrorism and instability, Britain needs the EU – and needs it to work.

"He would not be able to drag Europe anywhere its main national politicians didn't want to be dragged. He'd have no army. He'd be able to start no wars. He'd be a persuader and a deal-maker only. On climate change, the Middle East peace process and Africa, he is on the right side of the argument. But on the financial boom and bust, he's been too close to the super-rich and is too free-market in general. Looking at the debates to come, rather than at the stained recent history, I conclude he comes out, on balance, just ahead."

The tortuous balancing of Blair's minimally-noted 'downsides' - nominally, his "error" over Iraq - against his considerably-noted 'upsides' - mainly, his 'non-Tory Euro enthusiasm' and 'assertive leadership qualities' - are achingly wrung-out until, finally, we get to Ashley's 'amazing' endorsement:

"On climate change, trade, the developing countries and human rights, we do need an assertive EU. So, although I'd have to grit my teeth and swallow my irritation, perhaps the notion of Blair as its mouthpiece, frontman and cheerleader is not, after all, the worst option. He would have no compunction about taking a non-elected presidency. As a Roman Catholic convert, he knows all about conclaves and leaders emerging with a puff of white smoke. This is one of those issues where there is no perfect outcome. To my amazement, I come down narrowly on the side of President Blair. But I still wish David Miliband would think again."

If the narrative here is about weighing Blair's 'political skills', the subtext is liberal 'pragmatism'; the 'more immediate need' to leave behind all those 'worn' and 'rhetorical' cries about Blair's lying and war crimes in order to deal with 'the case in hand'.

In similar selective form, Newsnight's (26 October 2009) main feature on the gathering objections to Blair's candidacy all refer to the machinations of party politics and speculations on which Euro elites he can count on. The big gaping bit in Blair's CV concerning war criminality is never discussed.

The nearest mention of such was Kirsty Wark asking one of the party spokesmen whether Blair has "too much baggage over Iraq?" As with Ashley's turgid rationalising in the Guardian, Wark's 'jousty' exchanges, alongside Michael Crick's jovial-style report, helped frame the issue as one of 'political cut-and-thrust', rather than one of moral disgrace, helping to turn Blair's part in mass murder into an irrelevant side issue.

We should, as a 'media-informed' public, be outraged at the very suggestion of Blair standing for public office rather than at the International Criminal Court. Instead, the liberal media keep us comfortably shielded from the real truth of Blair's "errors" and 'civilised interventions'.

But what of those Guardian and other liberal media writers who take objection to their peer apologists?

Responding in the same Guardian pages, George Monbiot not only denounces Blair but sees any Blair presidency as a potential opportunity to effect a citizen's arrest:

It's just possible that an investigating magistrate, like Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who issued a warrant for the arrest of General Pinochet, would set the police on him. But our best chance of putting pressure on reluctant authorities lies in a citizen's arrest. To stimulate this process, I will put up the first £100 of a bounty (to which, if he gets the job, I will ask readers to subscribe), payable to the first person to attempt a non-violent arrest of President Blair. It shouldn't be hard to raise several thousand pounds. I will help set up a network of national arrest committees, exchanging information and preparing for the great man's visits. President Blair would have no hiding place: we will be with him wherever he goes.

It's an honourable indictment, seeking practical means of putting Blair in a dock at the Hague. Yet, for all its sincere content, Monbiot's piece, like so many others he's penned, fails to address the Guardian's own part in helping to keep people like Blair safe and the system intact.

As the Media Lens Editors argue at the site's message board:

Monbiot, like Mark Thomas, like Naomi Klein, in recent articles also in the Guardian, has nothing to say about the media, much less about the Guardian. This at a time when the corporate media, for the first time in 100 years, is losing ground to non-corporate, not-for-profit sources of information newly available on theinternet . For the first time in a century we have a realistic opportunity to support, build and entrench powerful non-corporate media able to challenge the worldview of the powerful as communicated endlessly through the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC and the rest. So why isn't it happening? Because people still have not woken up to the fact that these media are a huge obstacle to progressive change, that we should not be supporting them with our coins or our writing. Why are they not waking up?

A key reason is that high-profile, much-loved dissidents (we love them, too!) like Monbiot, Klein and Thomas publish their work in media like the Guardian. This has a massive impact on readers' sense that the corporate media is full of dissent, is a supporter of progressive change. It isn't; it's a propaganda system for power - but a little dissent goes an awful long way in giving people the wrong idea. Their appearances stifle the idea that there is a need to turn elsewhere, to develop new forms of media. The more dramatic the better, from the media's perspective - arrest Blair! Marvellous! This is just what they want to see - tiny doses of high-profile dissent keeping us all in our corporate media consumer boxes. This is actually a disaster for progressive change.

If once there was no choice, that argument is fast becoming absurd. Democracy Now! ZNet, and others are showing what is possible.

Monbiot's article is excellent (apart from the crucial media omissions on the Downing Street memo - we devoted a whole chapter to them in Newspeak) - but it's appearing in the +wrong+ place.

Imagine if Monbiot, Klein, Thomas, Pilger, Milne, Fisk and co created a website together dependent solely on donations. Imagine if their fingers were finally free to tap the truth about the corporate media - imagine if they took them apart, utterly, as they are well capable of doing. Do you think people wouldn't support them?


In short, the Guardian, in itself, remains a key part of the problem. Never, as Media Lens remind us, has there been a better opportunity to promote, support and read honest, alternative media.

The cosy option is remaining with the same self-perpetuating system, which depends, crucially, on the same self-perpetuating media. Many, particularly progressive leftists, argue that, whatever its faults and limitations, we still need that liberal space to argue and push for realistic change. That's certainly Monbiot's view. Yet, what's the point of advocating a truly free and untainted journalism - that is, one unbound by corporate demands, editorial-political constraints and journalists' own self-denying cautions - if we don't, at some point, make that decisive effort to expose and undermine the Guardian, Independent, BBC and other fictitious claimants of radical output?


Thursday, 22 October 2009

BNP at the BBC

And so, the BBC will tonight allow the British National Party that most coveted (for them) prize: a seat among the Question Time 'notables'. Not even a late plea to consider the legal implications of including a party with a still illegal constitution could make the BBC hierarchy change their minds. To revoke Griffin's invite, Director General Mark Thompson says, would be unacceptable "censorship". Only governments, he thinks, can make the decision on which organisations to ban. Yet, the same institution which refused to air a public DEC appeal for the broken children of Gaza has, unilaterally, decided to hand gifted publicity to a party intent on fostering hate, division and violence.

As with other liberal arguments, Thompson's and the BBC Trust's defence of this "editorial judgment" is unconvincing. As previously noted, the real issue here is not about the right to be heard, it's about the legal rights of citizens not to be subject to public speech which castigates and intimidates them.

Discrimination based on ethnic or religious identity is not just immoral, it's illegal. It's illegal in the workplace. It's also illegal to peddle racist speech in the high street - even if the BNP now do this surreptitiously. So, why should the same incitement to racist intolerance be allowed amplification on a BBC panel?

What's the difference, some might say in response, between Griffin appearing on QT and being interviewed on, say, Newsnight or Channel 4 News? In both cases, he's getting that much-valued exposure.

Firstly, it's not entirely obvious that news outlets do, in fact, require to give the BNP a platform for their views, even when reporting issues regarding the BNP.

But if there is a distinction, it lies in the kind of criteria used by QT and the BBC to defend the invite. They argue that it's in recognition of the BNP's electoral standing - namely, its two MEPs and a few local councillors. But this is still to accept that a party permitted to run for political office is doing so by using inflammatory language, namely illegal hate-speak, against 'non-indigenous' groupings. While a media interview, ideally conducted, should serve, in a critical, news-oriented context, to identify and expose perpetrators of hate-speak and war crimes alike - for example, Mark Regev, Tony Blair, John Bolton, to name but a few - this kind of appearance allows Griffin, as well as the aforementioned warmongers, a more formal and populist form of legitimacy. That's a kind of propaganda 'upgrade' well understood by all spinners of hate, violence and war.

Of course, beyond the core 'free-speech' argument, some rightly insist that Griffin is a mere amateur when compared to all the ministerial war villains who sit on soft QT chairs - including Peter Hain, who has tried to get the invite revoked. So, why target Griffin, in particular? It's a valid point, a measure of the political-normalising effect of QT and other safe BBC debate that the directors of vast, murderous war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere can be safely ensconced among Dimbleby's select while this storm rages around Griffin.

Yet, that still doesn't quite deal with the BNPs own promotions of localised hatred. Those involved, directly and indirectly, in high war crimes could, and should, still be subject to just indictment by an international court. But so should people like Griffin be continually targeted, through national courts, for incitement to hatred and violence.

Which returns us to the issue of the BNP's status as a party and whether a legal case exists for banning it as a purveyor of illegal hate-speech. I believe such a case does, indeed, exist. The real question is: where is the political and judicial willingness to effect it?

The impact of Griffin's appearance? It will disgust many. It will satisfy the 'let's have a debate' liberals - as if there really should be any 'debate' about the 'validity' of the BNP's poisonous claims and language. It will prompt more pious denunciations, from the media and politicians to those lofty warmongering generals who rank themselves morally above such 'common' racists.

But it will also make hate-speak just that little more respectable. It allows those who would normally be that bit reticent in coming out with their malignant prejudices against the foreign 'other' to do so with just that added degree of comfort, knowing that the man who articulates their own usually muffled views is now sitting in a smart suit on a selective BBC set.

The result, whatever the righteous rejections of Griffin from Straw et al, of this precedent-setting invite will be a nod to the tolerance of intolerance. Besides the potential for increased racist attacks, a lot more 'quietly intolerant' people will feel better for the appearance of a man intent on spreading hateful suspicion against all those 'non-indigenous' citizens. And the BBC will feel ennobled at having dispensed its 'impartial' duty.


Thursday, 15 October 2009

BBC Trust decision on al-Kurd family and ongoing complaint over Gaza coverage

The BBC Trust has issued its final rejection of my appeal regarding the BBC's 'coverage' of the al-Kurd family eviction from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.

It comes, of course, as no surprise. The Trust exists as a last protective cover for loaded BBC output and establishment interests.

The complaint and appeal in support of the family was not initiated in expectation of any serious investigation or censure of the BBC's Jerusalem bureau. Rather, it was intended to highlight the kind of selective editorial and journalistic agenda which circumvents daily reporting of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Trust's explanatory ruling helps indicate its own part in the closure of this story:
"The Committee also noted the responses of the BBC Executive in which it was stated that the decision not to cover the al-Kurds’ eviction was based on the editorial merit of the story and the resources available at the time.

The Committee also noted that, regarding the different functions of the BBC Trust and Executive, it was the responsibility of the Executive to handle the day-to-day running of the BBC and, therefore, to manage the BBC’s creative and editorial output.
The Trust, in effect, took convenient refuge behind the Executive's editorial remit, thus excusing itself from proper questioning of any editorial decisions and practices.

In a separate, still ongoing, complaint, BBC News Online have, again, denied my charges of biased reporting during Israel's 23-day assault on Gaza. And they're still refusing to acknowledge that it was Israel alone which broke the truce, despite multiple evidence documenting pre-planned Israeli aggression and Hamas restraint.

However, they have issued two rather laboured admissions, as contained in this part of the reply:
"However, I would like to revise two aspects of the reply I gave you, largely in the light of the recent Goldstone report on the Israeli assault on Gaza:

We should be saying that Israel says. We often do use this form of wording and were very careful to during the conflict, but we should be doing it all the time

The Goldstone report concluded that Israeli operations "were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population". We’ve reported this widely and will be part of our characterisation of the war in the future.
Behind these tortured concessions lies, I suspect, a deep embarrassment over this particular finding in Goldstone's report. For it completely undermines the BBC's repeated line of a specific attack on Hamas rather than all Palestinians.

While not expecting serious dissemination now of the quote and its characterisation, it's still a useful statement to invoke whenever the standard language of 'Israel's defensive attacks on Hamas' does appear at BBC news outlets.

On which testing note, here's a message just sent in response to BBC Online's latest pronouncements on the matter:
Dear Editor
Middle East desk,

Your recent letter to me stated:

"The Goldstone report concluded that Israeli operations "were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population". We’ve reported this widely and will be part of our characterisation of the war in the future."

Today's Online piece, 'Allies push Israel for Gaza probe' (15 October 2009) notes:

"The Goldstone report accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and deliberately harming civilians during the 22-day conflict which began on 27 December 2008."

Is this the informed "characterisation of the war" promised in your letter? Why didn't you, for accuracy and proper characterisation, simply cite Goldstone's words? Or is this the moderated version we're more likely to see in "future" BBC reports?

John Hilley
Another character example of the BBC diluting the language and masking the truth.


Thursday, 8 October 2009

BBC try to suppress their mistakes, evasions and responses

Is the BBC running scared of having its responses to critical emails publicly aired? And just how professional are BBC journalists and editors when it comes to sourcing material, checking facts and substantiating their own stories?

These and other questions concerning the BBC's motives and practices have taken an interesting turn following a set of exchanges posted by a contributor to the Media Lens message board. The correspondence was published by the blogger who had just exposed a key misinterpretation in one of the BBC's online articles about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The original BBC text had given the misleading impression that Ahmadinejad had criticised President Obama for revealing the alleged nuclear plant at Qom. The piece had stated:

"The IAEA chief arrived as Iran's president accused Mr Obama of making a "historic mistake" revealing the plant."

Yet, after closely scrutinising Ahmadinejad's actual speech, the blogger was able to inform the BBC:

"It is clear that Ahmedinejad is not accusing President Obama of 'making a "historic mistake" revealing the plant, he is accusing Obama of making a mistake when accusing Iran of secrecy."

The BBC wrote back:

Dear [surname]

Thank you for your comments regarding

The line you refer to appeared in an early version of the report published on Saturday afternoon. It is taken from an Associated Press report of Iranian television broadcast. We do appear to have misinterpreted MrAhmadinejad’s words. He does seem to be was referring to the question of secrecy, not the revelation of the plant’s existence.

This is the relevant section of the AP report:

ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has also said Tehran was "on the wrong side of the law" over the new plant and should have revealed its plans as soon as it decided to build the facility.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad challenged that view in a speech Saturday, saying that Iran voluntarily revealed the facility to the IAEA in a letter on Sept. 21. He said that was one year earlier than necessary under the agency's rules.

"The U.S. president made a big and historic mistake," Iranian state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. "Later it became clear that (his) information was wrong and that we had no secrecy."

We apologise for the mistake. Later versions of the report do not include the line about a “historic mistake”.

Best regards,

Tarik Kafala
Middle East editor
BBC News website

The blogger's further response included this set of concerns:

"I find it astonishing that the BBC is happy to rely on reports from the AP, and does not even bother to check sections of those reports which are ambiguous - as this one clearly was. Is it not the job of your journalists to verify reports coming from other journalists against the original source of information? In this case it was not only remarkably easy to do, it was also highly important, given the prominence of the story, and the high risk game being played out at the moment over the issue of Iran's nuclear programme."

In the following letter, reiterating their mistake, apology and correction of the article, the unsigned BBC News person added:

"'We do not wish this correspondence to appear on the Medialens website."

The blogger replied:

"May I ask why you do not want this correspondence to appear on the Medialens website? Might not other licence payers be interested to know your response to a complaint about false reporting? And are they not also entitled to know your response, since you are a public service, funded out of taxpayer's money?"

There has been no answer, to date, from Tarik Kafala.

This specific request by the BBC not to have such information published on the Media Lens website appears to be unprecedented. Which may signify a concern over revelations of their ineptitude in this particular case, or, perhaps, a gathering worry about increased exposure of such errors and biased output.

Is it appropriate to post such exchanges on public forums? I strongly believe it is.

As noted in my own response at the Media Lens message board:

"There's two issues at play here. The first concerns the original bias which is evident in the article itself. That and the exchanges arising from it deserve to be cited in public, including here at the [Media Lens] message board. The second, related, issue concerns the BBC's response regarding the actual publication of their words, which can also be deemed a matter of public interest. That too should be in the public domain serving to show how the BBC are trying to suppress information. There's nothing private in these emails. The motives and reasons for posting them reflect straightforward concerns about public openness and accountability."

More credible evidence of selective BBC output

The above coincides with a similar exchange I've been having with the BBC over the omission of a key statement by IAEA chief weapons inspector Mohamed El Baradei in one of their online articles.

As explained in my original letter - also posted at Media Lens - to BBC Online Editor Steve Herrmann and correspondent Paul Reynolds:

Dear Steve,

In the BBC online piece 'Key Iran nuclear talks underway', the box-highlight has IAEA chief weapons inspector Mohamed El Baradei stating:

“Iran was supposed to inform us on the day it was decided to construct the facility. They have not done that.”

You will, of course, also know that El Baradei has just unequivocally stated that he sees "no credible evidence" that Iran is developing nuclear weapons – contrary to British intelligence allegations of an ongoing weapons programme.

Surely, this crucial conclusion, amid the current Geneva negotiations, merits headline/box-highlight attention? If not, could you explain why?

Please could you include El Baradei's vital comment in the article and also at your Q&A section “What does the IAEA say about Iran?”

Best wishes

John Hilley

There followed this set of exchanges with Paul Reynolds, again posted at the Media Lens message board:

John I have passed your comments to the desk. In fact I was planning to include Baradei's remarks in the Q&A but have been out (MacChrystal speaking in London) but have done so now.


Dear Paul,

Thanks for passing on my message and making the alteration at the Q&A. However, the new insertion at the main article merely notes:

"But Mr ElBaradei also stressed that the IAEA did not have credible evidence that Iran had an operational nuclear weapons programme."

I still find this a rather token revision, passing over the key point. Indeed, El Baradei's actual words "no credible evidence" are not specifically stated. Surely his key statement merits closer scrutiny and proper highlighting.

On which note, please take a close look at the current Media Lens alert 'Iran - the War Dance'

Best wishes


John, suggest you take this up with the Middle east editor
I do write background on Iran etc but do not write the main news stories.


Thanks Paul. I'll do that.

Please note that some of the wording still needs correcting at the Q&A insertion. It reads:

"In September 2009, the IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview that there was no "credible evidence" about an Iranian weapons attempt. He said: "I not think based on what we see that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons programme." "

Please can you amend to: "no credible evidence" and "I do not think..."

I have a thing about detail when it comes to such vital issues.



Have cleaned those up! PS I do not object to my e-mails appearing in public - I am paid by the public and work for it and put my e-mail address at the bottom of my bylined articles. However, just remind me next time that you intend to post stuff. Thanks

Thanks Paul. Pleased to see you're following these things at ML. I, of course, always and only cite correspondence relating to such public issues - particularly those of such gravity as the potential bombing of/sanctions against Iran - never to anything that could be deemed private.

Best wishes


I do think however that you should flag what you are doing. I work in public. So should you. I have many e-mails and cannot always remember who is a Medialens contributor. Thank you.

It shouldn't really matter whether I'm a ML contributor or not, it's still part of a public discussion between you as a paid BBC journalist and me challenging some of the things that you write - or omit to write.


I am not challenging the principle, just the practice. I see no reason not to be open! But that is your view, fine.

Hi Paul,

The practice logically follows from the principle. On the subject of such correspondence, you might find this of interest:

'Exchange on publishing emails without permission'


I also sent the following to Middle East Editor Tarik Kafala:

Dear Tarik Kafala,

Paul Reynolds suggested I contact you following our useful exchange over the BBC online article 'US and Iran meet at nuclear talks' (updated title line):

In the box-highlight, IAEA chief weapons inspector Mohamed El Baradei is featured as saying:

“Iran was supposed to inform us on the day it was decided to construct the facility. They have not done that."

Yet, much more importantly, El Baradei has clearly stated that he sees "no credible evidence" that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

I see that, following my email, mention of this key statement is now included in the updated article. However, as noted to Paul Reynolds, the new insertion merely notes:

"But Mr ElBaradei also stressed that the IAEA did not have credible evidence that Iran had an operational nuclear weapons programme."

Don't you consider this a rather token revision? El Baradei's actual words "no credible evidence" are not even specifically stated.

The mainstream media is currently awash with alarmist and loaded commentary on the 'Iranian threat'. Don't you think the BBC should give proper headline coverage of ElBaradei's key statement and the facts behind it?

I look forward to your reply.

Best wishes

John Hilley

I have received no reply, as yet, from Tarik Kafala.

While Paul Reynolds is to be commended for amending the Q&A section and for his commitment to open inspection of his words, the BBC's failure to explain why such key information was originally omitted remains rather less than satisfactory. The publishing of that exchange at Media Lens was, thus, intended to highlight my remaining concerns over the article and the inadequate ways in which BBC figures deal with such issues.
Tarik Kafala's own non-response speaks for itself.

It's astonishing to think that the BBC is feeding the public a constant stream of alarming stories about Iran's 'nuclear arms proliferation' while El Baradei is openly saying that there's "no credible evidence" of such. Why did the BBC need prompting to have this vital information included in the article? And why was such a prestigious news-gathering organisation apparently unable to obtain and, indeed, highlight, such a statement in the first place?

All this strongly suggests a rather embarrassing inability to source, interpret and display crucial news. Hence, the growing nervousness at their responses and mistakes being made public on open forums like Media Lens.

But it also, more particularly, demonstrates the BBC's continuous service to power - as we see here, often by omission - when it comes to reporting the West's official enemies. One need only recall the loaded BBC reportage coming out of Tehran during the recent election to recognise the selective language and inferences being used. Likewise, in the minuscule attention given to El Bareidi's statement in the featured article - it didn't even cite his words "no credible evidence" in the amended version. This comment should have led the article, not been relegated as some token insert.

It's all part of the wider media narrative to demonise and rationalise the use of force against Iran; the same drip-drip language of fear and suspicion employed by the media to justify the invasion and catastrophe of Iraq.

Which is why it's vital to challenge and record the BBC's every misinterpretation, omission and evasion, including this latest attempt to stifle publication of their responses on public sites.


Monday, 5 October 2009

Abbas under pressure after sell-out over Gaza crimes

Mahmoud Abbas is facing increasing hostility from the 'Palestinian street' following his agreement to delay a United Nations Human Rights Council vote on referring the Goldstone report to the International Criminal Court. His decision came after a meeting last week with the U.S. Consul General. Abbas is reported to have come under intense pressure from the Obama administration who warned that proceeding with the case would seriously jeopardise any proto 'peace negotiations' with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority Minister Bassem Khoury has already resigned in protest over the decision. More PA figures may follow. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have also expressed their astonishment at the move. Taking stock of the mounting criticism, Abbas has sought to deflect the crisis by ordering an internal inquiry into the decision - a move that will only be viewed as yet more dissembling given Abbas's own executive hand in waiving the matter.

Removal of the Palestinian draft resolution to the UN now defers any discussion and vote till March 2010, a six-month interlude which many believe will kill the report's vital momentum.

Electronic Intifada editor Ali Abunimah is unsparing in his condemnation:
"Just when it seemed that the Ramallah Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader Mahmoud Abbas could not sink any lower in their complicity with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the murderous blockade of Gaza, Ramallah has dealt a further stunning blow to the Palestinian people."
The circumstances of the decision, he notes, tie-in other political and corporate forces:
"Although the PA acted under US pressure, there are strong indications that the commercial interests of Palestinian and Gulf businessmen closely linked to Abbas also played a part."

"What makes this even more galling, is the real possibility that the PA is helping Israel wash its hands of the blood it spilled in Gaza for something as base as the financial gain of businessmen closely linked to Abbas."
The blackmail politics includes an Israeli threat not to allocate part of a key radio/mobile telecommunications bandwith, long-requested by the PA, unless the war crimes referral is dropped.

For academic and Foreign Policy analyst Stephen Walt, Washington's latest protection of Israel signals a deepening crisis of legitimacy for Abbas and casts further doubt on Obama's own Cairo promises about two states and justice for the Palestinians. Moreover:
"it is more than a little ironic to see how the "peace process" (and by extension, the occupation itself) has become a reason to deep-six a report documenting human rights violations. (Never mind that the occupation is itself a violation of human rights and international law). Once again, U.S. policy inadvertently encourages Israeli intransigence: by driving a hard bargain with us on settlements and other key issues, the Israeli government gets its American patron to offer it more and more help (this time in the form of diplomatic cover) just to keep the illusion of a two-state settlement alive. Indeed, the obvious response to the U.S. argument that it has to suppress the Goldstone Report in order to protect the "peace process" is simple: what peace process?"
Which, in the absence of any meaningful peace agenda, makes Abbass's surrender all the more despicable.

Yet, whether or not Palestinians and Israelis ever sit at a negotiating table, legal justice over the Gaza massacre - and multiple other Israeli war crimes - is not there for the political trading. Quite simply, the perpetrators must be prosecuted. As Abbas now fearfully realises, people in Palestine, the Arab world and beyond will not sit back and allow the murder of over 1400 Gazans and Israel's mass terror to go unheeded, particularly given such comprehensive backing for a criminal investigation in the Goldstone recommendations. Indeed, it almost defies serious belief that Abbas or Obama could contemplate any other reaction.

The deal helps illustrate just how alarming Israel sees the report and any potential route to the Hague. Thus the call for emergency US support and PA complicity. As Omar Barghouti notes:
"In this dire context for Israel, only one strategic weapon in its arsenal could be used to fend off the foretold crushing legal and political defeat: the PA."
Reminding us that the "PA does not have any legal or democratic mandate to speak on behalf of the people of Palestine or to represent the Palestinians at the UN or any of its agencies and institutions", Barghouti also condemns the PA's collusion in covering over Israel's many crimes in return for economic sweeteners:
"It is nothing short of a betrayal of Palestinian civil society's effective Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, with all its recent, remarkable growth and achievements in mainstream western societies and among leading unions. It is also betrayal of the global solidarity movement that has worked tirelessly and creatively, mainly within the framework of the fast spreading BDS campaign, to end Israel's impunity and to uphold universal human rights."
While America's "intense diplomacy" in securing this deferral may have allowed Netanyahu some breathing space from a high crimes indictment, it only further undermines Abbas and his collaborationist authority - the very 'partner in peace' Israel prefer to do business with. And it strips bare Obama's supposed 'peace' promotions by reaffirming Israel's take-it-for-granted view that Washington will always be on hand - even to block such internationally-respected reports and calls for justice.

The undoubted beneficiary, of course, will be Hamas, who have been busy securing Palestinian prisoner releases while Abbas was selling Palestinian rights. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said the decision "trades in the blood of the children of Gaza." The PA's capitulation has also been heavily criticised by sixteen Palestinian rights groups and there has been widespread protests and strikes across Gaza.

As Amira Hass concludes, Fatah, in its self-perpetuating submissiveness, is "now functioning more than ever before as a subcontractor for the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration."


Update: 7 October 2009.

Some highly disturbing reports are now emerging exposing the outright complicity of Abbas and the PA in the Israeli attacks on Gaza and how Isrel has used evidence of such to force the PA's hand over the UN-Goldstone vote:

See also Jonathan Cook's fine analysis of Israel's economic blackmail and the PA's collaboration here, notably the mobile phone/telecommunications scenario in the West Bank: