Wednesday 9 July 2014

A study of the BBC's recent coverage of matters Israeli and Palestinian (Updated)

So much news from Israel - and so many voices venting their opinions about it and about how it was reported by the BBC...

I've read so much in the past week or so that, frankly, I've found myself becoming rather overwhelmed by it all.

Some of it has tallied with my own experiences, some of it didn't. Some of it was judicious, some of it wasn't.

So, what's needed is a classic Is the BBC biased? survey - a study of all the coverage of the murders of the four teenagers and what followed on a representative sample of the BBC's current affairs output - namely Newsnight, Today, The World at One, PM and The World Tonight. 

To stop things becoming too ambitious, the focus is on three questions: How did they report it? Who did they interview? And what questions were put to each interviewee? A simple schemata will be followed to the letter and - in red - my reactions will follow each programme.

I will try to avoid commenting on reports on (and interviews) with from BBC reporters. That's too much to take on and calls for far too much subjectivity for my purposes here. (So I'll leave that to others).

I will try to be as dispassionate and impartial as possible, but subjectivity and bias will doubtless out - so you will have to assess the evidence for yourselves and see if you agree with my conclusions.

And, as events are moving on fast, I'll remain sketchy and stream-of-consciousness. I like writing polished posts. This is not going to be one of them.

Apologies in advance then for any untidiness then but I'm going to report things as I saw it up to the start of yesterday morning - ignoring everything that has happened since.

That already means (as Sue has reminded me) that this post is already trending towards the 'historic', but here goes nonetheless...

...and beginning at the beginning....

7.30 Introduction
8.11 Interview with BBC correspondent Kevin Connolly
10.53 (Ritula Shah) Interview with Danny Danon, Israeli Deputy Defence Minster
- What will be the next step for Israel?
- Hamas haven't claimed responsibility. Why is Israel so certain they are behind this, which seems like a strange sort of attack, having murdered these people rather than have simple kept them hostage?
- Isn't this a tricky situation for Israel? Hamas is weak right now. Many of its traditional supporters have been crushed and, arguably, their weakness is why they've agree to enter a unity government with Fatah. Wouldn't a war with Israel simply strengthen them?
- Were these civilians though who were in danger partly because they were within occupied territory?
[No interruptions]
13.52 Interview with BBC correspondent Kevin Connolly
15.55 End
[The last question to Danny Danon was the only problem here. Was it the right time to try to score points on the issue of settlements? There was only one interviewee - a pro-Israel one, but this would be balanced out later in the week (on Wednesday's edition) when only a pro-Palestinian guest was interviewed.]

1.05 Introduction
1.18 Interview with BBC correspondent Yolande Knell
4.11 Further introduction
4.29 Report from Bridgit Kendall (talking head: Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesman)
7.51 (Laura Kuenssberg) Interview with Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom
- What evidence does the Israeli government have for blaming Hamas?
- (interrupting) But in this specific case, are you satisfied that there is concrete, direct evidence that this appalling murder...these appalling three murders...were carried out by Hamas?  
- What will that response be? Because the language already from the Israeli government tonight has been extremely strong, very incendiary, talking about 'punishment', talking about 'vengeance'.
- But at this moment Israel is threatening the 'eradication' of Hamas, to quote one of your ministers. Does it not behove the Israeli government at this moment to have a moment of calm so that the death of these three teenagers does not turn into a much wider, much more significant conflagration with much more blood being spilled?
- (interrupting) So any response to this would be justified in your view?
[2 interruptions]
10.59 (Laura Kuenssberg) Interview with Mustafa Bargouti, Palestinian National Initiative Party
- The Israeli government is entitled to retaliate, are they not?
- (interrupting) So you're suggesting these young're suggesting these young teenagers had it coming, are you, because they were somewhere geographically?
- (interrupting) But Mr Netanyahu was not...
- But are you not suggesting...are you not suggesting Dr Barghouti that any settler is fair game? President {sic} Netanyahu did not kill these people himself.
- Can you be sure that Hamas are not behind these three deaths? Are you sure of that?
- You brokered the deal with Hamas to put together this new government, which is only weeks old. How will you be telling others to respond, because Hamas is already saying tonight..they're talking about opening 'the gates of Hell' if there is  retaliation from Israel? What will you be saying?
[2 interruptions]
15.10 End
[Laura K was balanced enough here. Her tone was similar with each guest - i.e. mildly unfriendly. The questions to Mr Taub were somewhat tougher and more political. Those to Mr Barghouti initially concentrated on challenging his refusal to clearly condemn to the murders of the Israeli teenagers.]

TODAY 1st July
32.57 Interview with BBC correspondent Kevin Connolly
35.51 End

02:10:10 Introduction
02:10:44 Interview with BBC correspondent Kevin Connolly
02:13:44 (John Humphrys) Interview with Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States
- And Israel has, it seems, already retaliated with those airstrikes?
- Hamas denies that there has been any recent rocket firings to justify those Israeli attacks. They also deny that they were guilty of these murders.
- Even so, you don't have direct evidence that Hamas was responsible for these killings, do you?
- But isn't that quite an important distinction, that they are not taking credit for it? Because one you launch yourselves on this path of retaliation the the consequences could be...will be extremely serious, won't they? We've heard the Hamas spokesman talking about 'opening the gates of Hell' and there is no doubt at all that they will retaliate fiercely and then we're back in this circle of one retaliation leading to another retaliation and the prospect...the dim prospect admittedly...of peace, of any sort of peace being pushed ever further away.        
- And when the United States and the United Nations (in the person of Ban Ky-Moon) both urge you to show restraint in this case, what do you say to them?
- So we can expect more attacks on Hamas and on the Gaza Strip?
[No interruptions]
02:19:05 End

02:33:23 Introduction
02:33:48 (John Humphrys) Interview with Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian National Initiative Party
- But surely the main responsibility for the deaths of those three teenage boys lies with the men who kidnapped them and then murdered them in cold blood? They bear the responsibility. The blood is on their hands, surely?
- But surely you can make those points, the points that you have just made to me, and you can condemn Israel for some of the actions that you deplore - and many people will agree with you, of course - but at the same time you should surely condemn unreservedly the murder of three young men, three teenage boys?
- Well perhaps people don't understand your position because, on the one hand you talk about Mahatma Gandhi, on the other hand you invite a terrorist organisation like Hamas into your government of national unity?
- (interrupting) But he wants...but Israel wants the right to survive. Hamas wants to destroy Israel and deny its right to exist.
[1 interruption]
02:39:02 End
[I like John Humphrys. That's a bias of mine. His interview with Mr Dermer was firm but fair and his interview with Mr Barghouti could not have been better - especially for a pro-Israeli listener like myself. What that says about bias - mine, his, the BBC's! - I'll leave you to judge. Only to say that pro-Palestinian bias was not detected here.]

7.24 Introduction
7.42 Interview with BBC correspondent Kevin Connolly
11.00 Further introduction, featuring short clip of Adbullah Abdullah, Palestinian ambassador.
11.36 (Shaun Ley) Interview with Israa al-Mudallal, Palestinian foreign affairs spokeswoman
- You keep using the word 'accident'. These three teenagers were shot dead. How is that an 'accident'?
- (interrupting ) Forgive me for interrupting you, you have made much, as a government, of both the organisations that form the government - Hamas and Fatah - have been very, very critical of Israel killing young Palestinians in the course of its military activities in the occupied territories. Can you really shrug your shoulders then when three teenagers - not members of any military organisation, apparently hitchhiking on their way home from school - die in circumstances like this? [1 interruption]
13.56 (Shaun Ley) Interview with Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF spokesman
- Lt. Col Lerner, what proof do you have of Hamas' responsibility?
- (interrupting) Indeed, but this particular incident...
- (interrupting) Indeed, but this particular incident...
- (interrupting) OK, in other words, you don't have evidence that they were responsible for this. What you're saying is they've created a climate or a culture where this is allowed to take place?
- As regards how you have responded to the disappearance of these three teenagers, who have now been found dead, there has been concern about the scale of that and whether it has been proportionate. We've seen, obviously, the arrests - several hundred Palestinians, raids, property damaged, and there have been fatalities.
- (interrupting) No, forgive me, I'm asking for your response as a government organisation, as the representative of the official State of Israel, not about what Hamas has done. You've told us about Hamas. I'm asking about you.
- (interrupting) Indeed, but I think that Human Rights Watch's concer is about whether it's been a proportionate response in trying to find the teenagers, find who's responsible, is their concern about the number of civilians who have been caught up.
[5 interruptions]
17.22 Further introduction, including clip of UK Home Office minister Hugh Robertson.
17.52 (Shaun Ley) Interview with Daniel Levy, European Council on Foreign Relations.
- Daniel Levy, how great do you think the impact could be of these deaths in terms of the wider dispute between Israelis and Palestinians?
- Are you then surprised by the vigour with which PM Netanyahu has pinned this on Hamas,or tried to pin this on Hamas, as an organisation?
[No interruptions]
20.17 End.
[The awful Hamas spokeswoman was a nasty harpy (#sexist?) but Shaun Ley was much more aggressive with Lt Col Lerner. Then came a soft interview with an Israel-bashing Israeli left-winger. Bias is suggested here - and it's not a pro-Israel bias].

PM 1st July
5.32 Kevin Connolly reporting live from the funeral of the three Israeli teenagers, including an interview with Jason Perlman, a British Israeli mourner.
10.44 Interview with Jon Donnison, BBC, on the popularity of hitchhiking in Israel.
14.07 End
[The interview with Jason was moving. He made the case for Israel in a most beautiful way. The BBC are to be credited for broadcasting it. Jon Don's hitchhiking piece felt a little inappropriate in the circumstances though. I felt it was the wrong day for such a piece and JD's tone was a bit too light for the occasion].

No coverage

24.02 Introduction, and interview with Newsnight's Mark Urban.
25.42 Report from Mark Urban, featuring vox pops from Israeli mourners (talking heads: Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman & Dore Gold, former advisor to PM Netanyahu)
29.41 (Emily Maitlis) Interview with Avi Sharit, Ha'aretz.
- It was interesting Mark's end to that...talked about PM Netanyahu's speech. He was asked by the families not to mention the Israeli response. So I wonder what that tells us about the need to keep the politics and the private separate?
- It looks as if there's an interesting cabinet split - some members talking of building up the settlements, naming them after the young teenagers; others, Tzipi Livni in particular, warning against this.
- Do you think - and, of course, Israel, like any nation, closes ranks when its young are killed...but do you think it will be able to respond to this as a crime? If it knows who the perpetrators are, or who it thinks they are, just to try them?
[No interruptions]
33.44 End.
[Another soft interview with an Israel left-winger - albeit a more nuanced one than Daniel Levy. A pattern of bias may be emerging in that voices from the Israeli left that are critical of Israeli actions seem to be getting softer interviews.]

TODAY 2nd July
2:45:29 Introduction, and interview with BBC correspondent Kevin Connolly.
2:47.21 (Sarah Montague) Interview with Oliver McTernan, Forward Thinking & Dani Dayan, Yesha Council
- [To DD] Dani Dayan, now one of these boys lived in a settlement. What is the feeling among the settler community about what has happened?
- [To OM] Oliver McTernan, that's the way to fight terrorism?
- [To OM] But the Israeli government says it was Hamas that was responsible.
- [To DD] Dani Dayan, do you accept that that would be the best thing, that the people the Israeli government think are responsible should be put on trial?
- (interrupting DD] [to DD] Hold on a second, sorry, [to OM] just let me bring in Oliver McTernan here.
- [To DD] Dani Dayan, can I ask you, one of the proposals that has been put forward already is that there should be a new settlement built in the West Bank in honour of these dead Israelis. Is that a serious proposal?
- (interrupting DD] [to DD] Dani Dayan, can I ask you, people will judge individuals on their words and what they've said but, Dani Dayan, I won't to ask you this: Is it seriously the proposal to build a new settlement on the West Bank in honour of these boys?
- (interrupting DD] [to DD] But does that mean building a new settlement?
- (interrupting DD] [to DD] So that's a 'yes'?
- [To DD] So that it a 'yes'?
[No interruptions for Oliver McTernan, 3 interruptions for Dani Dayan]
2:52:28 End
[Sarah M introduced Mr McTernan as a former 'TFTD' speaker, an ex Catholic priest. She gave him a soft ride, unlike Dani Dayan who she interrupted and asked questions to in an incredulous and hostile tone. Very unbalanced interviewing from Sarah M. Dani Dayan accused Mr McTernan of engaging in 'apologetics' for terrorism, saying he was well known for it! This, I think, betrays some kind of bias on Sarah M's part - whether that be anti-Israel bias, anti-settler bias, or merely a soft spot for a former 'TFTD' speaker I cannot say].

36.55 Introduction, and report from Kevin Connolly, featuring the mother of Mohammed Abu Khdair.
40.03 End.
[Surprisingly little coverage, and surprisingly low in the running order].

PM 2nd July
16.43 Introduction, and report from correspondent Kevin Connolly, featuring the mother of Mohammed Abu Khdair & Micky Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israeli police.
19.35 End.
[Surprisingly little coverage again. If the BBC is as virulently anti-Israel as some people say, then surely this story would have been much more prominently reported and given much more space here, and on WATO, and - later - on Newsnight?].

7.34 Introduction, featuring the mother of Mohammed Abu Khdair and Israeli cabinet minister Amir Peretz.
9.09 Interview with the BBC's Christian Fraser.
11.16 (Ritula Shah) Interview with Husam Zomlot of Fatah's Foreign Relations Committee.
- What evidence is there to show this was a revenge killing?
- Are you saying the previous killings have followed this pattern? That's why you're suggesting that it's by this particular group?
- But how do you pull back from the situation? On the one hand you have the Israeli government blaming Hamas for the killing of those three Israeli teenagers; on this side you're blaming Jewish settlers for the killing of this Palestinian teenager. These are tit-for-tat killings, if what you say is true. There's an escalation of both violence and rhetoric.
- (interrupting) But you have now entered a unity government with Hamas, which hasn't always pursued a peaceful agenda.
- (interrupting) But as you yourself pointed out, there has been mainly peace for some time. This is a random act of violence which has led to the current escalation of violence - the killing of the three teenagers and today the death of this young Palestinian as well. These are not peaceful acts on either side.
- But if, as you suggest, Israel needs to reign in the activities of the settlers, equally do you need to put presure...does Hamas need to put pressure on some of the extremist elements to end that violence?
15.10 End.
[2 interruptions]
[Ritula adopted an fairly strong tone of voice but her questions were surprisingly weak and pursued the 'equivalence angle'. Her statement that Hamas "hasn't always pursued a peaceful agenda" is one heck of an understatement that that it's long been a highly active terrorist organisation. Moreover, has there really been "mainly peace for some time", given the never-ending supply of rockets fired from Gaza in recent years? Having only a Palestinian guest balanced Monday's edition, which had only an Israeli guest].

11.11 Introduction.
11.34 Interview with Newsnight's Mark Urban.
14.11 End.
[Surprisingly little coverage. See earlier].

[Lots of coverage here though:]
TODAY 3rd July
10.41 Interview with the BBC's Kevin Connolly.
13.51 End

1.09.10 Introduction.
1.09.27 Interview with the BBC's Jeremy Bowen.
1.13.39 End.

2.10.11 Introduction.
2.10.46 Interview with the BBC's Yolande Knell, featuring (from 2.12.05) an interview (by Yolande Knell) with two of Mohammed Abu Khdair's cousins: The expression of their views lasted exactly three minutes.
2.15.18 (John Humphrys) Interview with Dr Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
- Dr Abdullah, given the horror of what happened to that teenager yesterday, we have to remind people of the horror that befell three Israeli teenagers earlier this week. Their bodies had been discovered. They had been kidnapped on their way home from school. How would you expect Israel to react in the face of that?
- (interrupting) They have the names! They have the names of the two men who did it, who they say...
- (interrupting) But you can't...Look, this is counter-productive, isn't it, because you can't prove for can't prove who killed than Palestinian boy?
- (interrupting) That is speculation. We don't know what happened to him anymore than we know exactly in detail what happened to the other boys.
- (interrupting) Yeah, Dr Abdullah. What I'm trying to...Look, forgive me, what I'm  trying...We're going to be talking to an Israeli spokesman later in the programme. We will certainly put those points to him, but what I'm trying to do is ask you where we go from here, because...
- (interrupting) Can we just cut the rhetoric for a moment and try to detail with the practicalities!
- Right, look, you've made your...look, sorry, Dr Abdullah, you have made that point very strongly indeed. What I'm trying to do is ask you what you think can happen now and should happen now. A bit less rhetoric perhaps and a bit more thought to what is actually going to take place in the Middle East because these are dangerous times for everybody, aren't they?
- (interrupting) To do what?
- (interrupting) Can we talk about now instead of 50 years ago! That's what I'm trying to do, is talk about what should happen now.
- (interrupting) We've been going to the root cause of it for 50 years! It hasn't got anywhere, has it?
- (interrupting) Dr Abdullah, we have to deal with the world as we find it, surely? We have to deal with the world as we find it. Israel exists. And if you are saying this morning that nothing can move forward until Israel is destroyed, well at least we know what your position is! But that's not your position, is it?
- (interrupting) And should not, should not in light, Dr...
- Alright, just in a few sentences, if you would, in language that people who are confused by what is happening in the Middle East can understand, what simple, practical measure should the rest of the world take? And if we could do it, you know, fairly calmly that would help a lot of people.
2.20.54 End
[10 interruptions]

2.35.15 Introduction.
2.35.46 (John Humphrys) Interview with Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli PM.
- Let's just deal with what has happened in the last 24 hours or so, Mr Regev - the murder of this Palestinian teenager. I take it your government condemns it without reservation?
- Can I ask you this question? Would you like to live in the Gaza Strip under the conditions that Palestinians have to live there?
- (interrupting) No, but they're surrounded by you. They may not be in Gaza, but they are on the borders of Gaza and they cannot lead a normal life in Gaza, can they?
- Do you accept that you can't go on like this? Do you accept that something has to be done? What about Dr Abdullah's idea that there should be some sort of international conference convened at which all the parties would be present, as well as many other countries, and in the end - of course, it's obvious what he wants! He wants Israel to be 'dealt with' - but is there, possibly, some merit to that suggestion?
- But you still haven't been able to prove who killed those teenagers. You've named people. You've shown their photographs. You don't have any evidence of what happened, do you? That's the problem.
2.39.16 End
[1 interruption]
[Yes, given its length and inflammatory nature, the three-minute contribution from the two female cousins should have been contextualised afterwards. That suggests anti-Israel bias. However, John Humphrys' interview with Abdullah (x2) was so unfriendly on John H's part that no-one could sensibly claim that as anti-Israel bias - especially as the interview with Mark Regev was so much more respectful. I bet the Media Lens brigade have been busy comparing these two interviews and shouting 'Bias!' right back at us. However, as Mr Regev was a reasonable, calm guest while Mr Abdullah ranted wildly, what was John Humphrys to do?...However, what's with John H's questions about Gaza? Where did they come from? What relevance did they have here? Are they evidence of John H's opinions about Israel and Gaza and, therefore, evidence of bias? Or evidence of an interviewer who's expert at playing devil's advocate? I think the latter. I hope the latter.]

No coverage.

PM 3rd July
19.49 Report from Kevin Connolly, featuring a short clip of the father of Mohammed Abu Khdair and an extended interview (from 21.34 to 24.54) with the uncle of the murdered Israeli teen Naftali Fraenkel.
25.14 End. 
[A touching interview with Yishai Fraenkel by Kevin Connolly. Mr Fraenkel's message of condolence to the family of the Palestinian family was full of good sense too. Again, credit to the BBC for broadcasting this. It reflects so well on the Israeli families as a whole.]

37.15 Introduction.
37.53 (Philippa Thomas) Interview with Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesman
- And from the point of view of Palestinians in the West Bank, has life become more claustrophobic, more difficult, would you say, in the last few weeks and months?
[No interrruptions].
39.59 (Philippa Thomas) Interview with Giora Eiland, former head of the Israeli National Security Council
- How do you view this week's developments?
- Do you think there will be behind-the-scenes contacts now between Israel and Hamas about whether they can pull back from such a confrontation?
- General Eiland, I want to put to you some thoughts this week from the former U.S. special envoy Martin Indyk. He has said, 'Trust between Mr Netanyahu and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has completely dissolved. Neither believes the other is serious.' He seems to be saying any chance of a peace deal is dead. What would you say to that?
[No interrruptions].
43.47 End 
[Featuring Chris Gunness - self-described on Twitter as "Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness). UNRWA Spokesman advocating passionately for Palestine refugees to enjoy all their rights to the full" - and not describing his pro-Palestinian stance in advance isn't good -  though it soon became very obvious where his 'passions' lie. The helpful question Phillipa put to him isn't good either. He liked her use of the word "claustrophobic" so much that he used it twice himself, both times adding "as you say". That was bad. That said, it was a short interview and to some extent balanced by the interview with General Eiland - who, very reasonably, put the Israeli side against Hamas and got more time than CG. Plus, Phillipa's questions to Giora Eiland weren't loaded ones.]

No coverage.

TODAY 4th July
10.50 Introduction, and interview with the BBC's Kevin Connolly.
13.23 End

20.34 Introduction, and report from Kevin Connolly from the funeral of the Palestinian teenager, featuring a short statement from Micky Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israeli police.
23.22 End.

PM 4th July
No coverage.

7.52 Introduction.
8.41 Report from Yolande Knell, featuing the father of the murdered Palestinian teenager and Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri. 
12.55 [Phillipa Thomas] Interview with Gideon Remez, Harry Truman Institute at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
- Would you say  that there has been a rise in levels of...let's call it 'vigilante' violence?  
- Tell me what 'Price Tag' attacks are.
- I should say the Israeli government, the Attorney General, has ordered more action on this, hasn't he? For example, he says there needs to be more investigation of incitement to violence on social media.
- What recent evidence do we have about the public's view on this settler violence...this anti-Arab violence?
[No interrruptions].
16.44 Further introduction [RE THE SITUATION IN GAZA].
17.03 Interview with Mouin Rabbani, senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.
- How important have the Egyptians been to this process? 
- Why might they have stepped in now?
- But it's diplomatically delicate for Egypt, isn't it, as it was the Muslim Brotherhood, which had such strong relationships with Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, of course, which was overthrown by General Sisi? 
[No interrruptions].
20.04 End.
[I wasn't going to discuss the reports here but the extended Yolande Knell report would certainly merit the attention of Hadar at 'BBC Watch'. It had a clear slant towards the Palestinian perspective - and not just in the fact that it described that perspective to the exclusion of the other perspective. That, in certain circumstances, is perfectly acceptable. This didn't merely describe that perspective; it added to it, it enhanced it. It sounded {to my ears} as if it had passed through the Palestinian Authority's press office on the way to the BBC. Gideon Remez brought up the 'Price Tag' attacks and gave a nuanced analysis of matters, though focusing on the extreme-right in Israel. Phillipa can be credited for pointing out that the Israeli government has been taking action against those responsible for such attacks. Mr Rabbani largely behaved like an academic but when he began talking about the latest "slaughter" in Gaza his true colours crept through.]

7.05 Introduction. 
7.35 Interview with Mark Urban, Newsnight's Diplomatic Editor.
9.14 Report from Mark Urban, featuring the mother of Mohammed Dudeen (a 15-year old Palestinian protestor killed by Israeli troops last month), a short clip of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Sheikh Hatem al-Bakri of the Hebron Islamic Charitable Society (a Hamas fundraiser?), Palestinian blogger Khalid Amayreh, Daoud Zatari, (Fatah) Mayor of Hebron and Issa Amro of Youth Human Rights Defenders.
15.41 (Emily Maitlis) Interview with Osama Hamdan, Foreign Affairs spokesman, Hamas.
- Just clear one thing up for us, first of all. We've heard a ceasefire has been declared, with Egypt's help. Is that right?
- So they haven't agreed a ceasefire yet then?
- Hamas has been blamed for the abduction of the Israeli teenagers, there, we saw in Mark's film. Who do you believe was behind that abduction and murder?
-  (interrupting) Let me take this step by step. Let me take this step by step. Do you condemn first of all the murder of the teenager? We heard Netanyahu unequivocally condemning the murder of the Palestinian boy. Do you condemn the murder of the Israelis?
-  (interrupting) Do you condemn the murder of the teenage boys?
-  (interrupting) So you don't condemn the murder of the boys? It's a very simple question.
- We know that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has said 1,200 people have been killed by Palestinians in terrorism since 2000. Clearly there are deaths on both sides. But let me ask you something. Have you given up on a two-state solution now?
-  (interrupting) What about you?
-  (interrupting) But you say 'chance'. Would you like to see that?
- What do you mean you're not in favour of talking about the Israeli side? Do you think Israel should carry on existing as a state?
-  (interrupting) Osama Hamden...and we ask those same questions to the Israelis, as I'm sure you know. Osama Hamden, thank you very much indeed.
[6 interrruptions].
20.46 End.
[This was a rum one. As we know from a comment we received at 'Is', pro-Hamas people didn't enjoy Emily Maitlis's interview with Osama Hamden. She showed up how he refused to condemn the murder of teenage boys - if they weren't from his side. She pointed out how PM Netanyahu had behaved decently. She countered his complaints about Israeli killings of Palestinians by [properly] pointing out that 1,200 Israelis have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists since 2000. Then Emily began asking some strange questions: (a) "Have you given up on a two-state solution now?" {Hamas have NEVER been in favour of a two-state solution!"}, (b) "Would you like to see (a two-state solution)"? {Hamas have NEVER been in favour of a two-state solution!"}, (c) What do you mean you're not in favour of talking about the Israeli side? {Hamas has always opposed talking to Israel}, (d) "Do you think Israel should carry on existing as a state?" {Hamas had never hidden the fact that it wants to destroy Israel and that it does not want Israel to exist in any way, shape or form}. Those questions - taken literally - suggest extraordinary naivety/ignorance on Emily's part. UNLESS (as is perfectly possible) they were deliberate attempts to feign naivety/ignorance as a means of bringing out the extreme nature of Hamas to 'Newsnight' viewers.

Those seeking to use Emily's interview to suggest evidence of pro-Israeli bias at 'Newsnight' would have to pretend NOT to have seen Mark Urban's preceding report, which gave Palestinian voices (pro-Fatah and pro-Hamas - and ALWAYS anti-Israel) full reign. It was a report that made Israel look bad, no question of that. As a huge Mark Urban fan, I'm inclined to trust him on most things. His insights are often uncanny, and I don't think he was entirely wrong here [and his earlier interview with Emily was full of informed-sounding speculations that, in retrospect, sound astonishingly astute true]. Plus he did give some context/nuance (not much though, it has to be said). Yet, I was shocked by his report, its pushing of the Palestinian perspective and the pointedness of some of his criticisms of Israeli actions.]

TODAY 5th July
No coverage.

PM 5th July
No coverage.

No coverage.

TODAY 7th July
1:13.59 Introduction, and interview with the BBC's Kevin Connolly.
1:17:25 End.

2:42:15 Introduction. Initial focus on Tariq Khdair, the cousin of the murdered Palestinian teenager seemingly beaten-up by Israeli police officers, featuring an interview with his father, Salah Abu Khdair.
2:42:53 [James Naughtie] Interview with Salah Abu Khdair, Tariq's father.
- So you say he wasn't throwing rocks but there is a video clip just come out showing, apparently, him being beaten by policemen.
- Now, and then what happened to him after this incident with the police where, apparently, he was beaten?
- And was any evidence produced?
[No interruptions]
2:44:34 [James Naughtie] Interview with Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesman
- This is an interesting one because I made the point that in the atmosphere that we've now got, after the murder of the three young Israelis then the murder of the Palestinian...young Palestinian, people on both sides are feeling very, very sensitive. Here's a case where the family of this young man say that he was guilty of nothing and there is video evidence that he was being beaten up by police, and the problem for you, I would suggest, is that, you know, Israel says, 'Look, we are simply trying to hold the line here. We are being law-abiding and when action is taken it is in response to something'. Here's a situation when a kid in the street is being beaten up as if it's routine and there's no evidence produced in court to show that he is guilty of what they suggested he was. 
- I mean, it is interesting because these circumstances, as everyone knows, feeling are running so high that any kind of incident of this sort stirs up, you know, very, very strong feelings on both sides and, you know, you're suggesting that if there is an inquiry into this that suggests that he was unjustly and illegally beaten up, then those who did it will be held to account publicly?
[No interruptions]
2:47:07 End.
[It's easy to mock James Naughtie for his long-winded questions - and, serious subject as this is, transcribing his first question did make me snigger at how long it took to do so! - but Jim was understandably gentle with Tariq's father and far from antagonistic towards Mark Regev, very carefully balancing reasonable criticisms of Israel with accurate representations of Israel's position. It was sympathetic interviewing all round from James N. there. Mark Regev was excellent too, striking just the right balance. He made me proud to be pro-Israeli. I think this was exemplary coverage, all in all. Foaming-at-the-mouth types at Media Lens and Electronic Intifada may disagree. They would be simply be being unreasonable though.]

23.59 Introduction.
24.21 Report from Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem, featuring Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian negotiator & Tzipi Livni, Israeli Justice Minister.
27.44 End.

PM 7th July
No coverage.

36.29 Introduction.
37.06 (Ritula Shah) Interview with Ari Shavit, Haaretz
- Ari Shavit, how would you describe today's attacks?
- (interrupting) So are you suggesting the lack of a mediator or an American presence is going to make this situation much worse than anything that we've seen in the past?
- But what makes you think that Israel, in particular, would continue to launch airstrikes against Hamas?
[1 interruption]
39.55 End.
[Notable that the BBC again turns to Haaretz for an Israeli opinion. Ari Shavit, however, made the following point: "Look, just imagine that the IRA had rocket abilities and it would have shot rockets at Birmingham and Manchester. Would David Cameron today, with his cabinet, have the ability not to react? The 70 rockets sent into Israel, some of them reaching areas not very far from central Israel. All that Israel's prime minister, of whom I'm very critical on many issues, he was very restrained for long days, but after such an attack he has no option, politically or otherwise, but to defend the sovereignty of Israel and the result may be more rockets launched into Israel and a major escalation."]

No coverage.

TODAY 8th July
34.56 Introduction, and interview with Kevin Connolly.
37.50 End.

1:34:21 Introduction.
1:34:42 Interview with Rushdi Abu Alouf, BBC producer in Gaza.
1:36:35 [Mishal Husain] Interview with Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, former chief of staff in the Israeli Defence Ministry.
- Are you expecting this to be a contained operation or something that will escalate into a ground offensive?
- You still have to ask the question though of whether escalating this operation would make Israel safer. The fact is there have been ground offensives in the past and these rocket attacks continue.
- You seem to be suggesting that there is a cycle of the rocket attacks and then periodically the demand for Israel to take action, even if no one really believes that that action will bring an end to rocket attacks?
- (interrupting) But the thing that has..the thing that has changed though since the operations that you're talking about, most notably in the past few weeks, has been the kidnapping and then the discovery of the bodies of these three young Israelis. How much would you say that that has affected the public mood in Israel?
[1 interruption]
1:40:22 End.
[I expected the worst from Mishal Husain here. It didn't really come, though the initial angle concerned possible Israeli escalation of the situation. Her main angle was to question the effectiveness of such operations. Despite Brig. Gen. Herzog saying that the 2008 and 2012 had resulted in dramatic reductions in rocket attacks for several years, Mishal simply recast the question and asked it again, adding "even if no one really believes that that action will bring an end to rocket attacks".]

19.40 Introduction, and interview with Yolande Knell in Gaza.
21.31 [James Robbins] Interview with Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israeli Defence Force.
- What is the justification for the attacks on Gaza?
- Many people listening to you would I'm sure be sympathetic to the idea of a defence force needing to provide protection for a civilian population but they might also think that injuring Palestinian women and children, among those who have been the casualties of your attacks, is disproportionate.
- Colonel, you've talked about Israel's desire to de-escalate this situation but I think...correct me if I'm've built up ground forces on the borders with the territory of Gaza. You seem to be preparing for the use of ground forces in a ground incursion?
- (interrupting) You're now in the business of escalating?
- (interrupting) You're in the business now of escalation?
- Should we now expect an Israeli ground incursion?
- Many people listening to this will think, I'm sure, 'This is a tragedy. Three Israeli teenagers were murdered. A Palestinian teenager was murdered in Jerusalem. And the only response seems to be violence from both sides'.
- But there was the abduction of a Palestinian inside Israel.
[2 interruptions]
24.48 [James Robbins] Interview with Osama Hamdan, Hamas spokesman.
- Israel is very clear that its aerial strikes into Gaza are completely justified on the grounds of self defence, to protect Israeli citizens who are the victims of so many Hamas rocket attacks into Israel.
- (interrupting) This was the young Palestinian who was apparently abducted in East Jerusalem.
- Each side...and you speak, of course, for Hamas...accuses the other of instigating or starting this violence but the fact is we're now moving very rapidly, aren't we, away from any prospect of dialogue, even if Hamas was prepared to have dialogue with Israel. We're just drifting deeper and deeper into a crisis of violence from both sides.
[1 interruption]
28.01 End.
[James Robbins was noticeably tougher with the Israeli defence spokesman than with the Hamas spokesman. You can see that from the questions above. He also adopted a gentler manner with Mr Hamdan (despite the latter being the spokesman of a terrorist organisation). This pair of interviews troubles me. As with Mishal Husain earlier, the idea that Israel is escalating the conflict was pushed here. Yes, the opening question put to Osama Hamdan put the Israeli case but Mr Hamdan was not pressed on the rocket attacks on Hamas' policy of deliberate abductions and James Robbins' final question laid the blame for the violence on both sides equally. This seems to me to mark the moment when the old BBC groupthink - moral equivalence - came back into the open].

PM 8th July
No coverage.

27.39 Introduction.
28.15 [Ritula Shah] Interview with Sheera Frenkel, BuzzFeed's Middle East correspondent.
- Sheera Frenkel, what more can you tell us about those rocket attacks on Israel?
- And what has the Israel prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, been saying this evening?
- Have you been out and about today? Have you been able to guage the mood as this evening has worn on among Israelis?
- Are there any voices of moderation that could intervene?
- And, presumably, while Israelis feel under this threat - and, as you say, these rockets are reaching further than they've ever reached before - many people are going to want to see a much more hardline approach?
[No interruptions]
30.30 Further introduction, and report from Yolande Knell in Gaza.
32.01 End.
[This began with the rocket attacks on Israel and ended with the air-strikes on Gaza.]

No coverage (so far as I can tell, as it is being kept on the i-Player for some reason).

TODAY 9th July
14.12 Introduction, & interview with the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem.
17.00 End.

2:37:11 Introduction, & interview with the BBC's Yolande Knell in Gaza.
2:38:49 [John Humphrys] Interview with Raji Sourani, head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
- What's your reaction, Mr Sourani?
- Couldn't you stop it if you stopped firing rockets into Israel?
- (interrupting) Israel initiated your firing rockets at them?
- (interrupting) Three Israeli teenagers have been murdered. 
[2 interruptions]
2:40:40 [John Humphrys] Interview with Daniel Taub, Israeli ambassador.
- You won't agree with much that he said but you would agree that there is no such thing as 'holy or unholy blood', all deaths are?
- (interrupting) You've just killed 25 civilians, or mostly civilians, including women and children.
- Except you know you can't stop them. You've been trying for a very long time and it doesn't work. You have to find another way.
- (interrupting) And now you're facing something very serious indeed. 
- And what are you next going to do? You tried what you did...what you have been doing...over the past several days - the air-raids. What is the next step? Are you prepared to send ground forces into Gaza?
- (interrupting) Are you prepared to do it?
- (interrupting) So is that an active option? Are you...have plans been made for an invasion of Gaza?
- (interrupting) And what would push you over the edge to do it? 
- (interrupting) But let us assume that the rockets continue and your air-raids don't deal with them - and there's plenty of reasons to suppose that will be the case - will you then go in to stop them on the ground?
- (interrupting) But you know what the reaction would be to an invasion of Gaza? Israel would suffer enormously in world councils.
- (interrupting) I'm not the person you should be asking. 
- (interrupting) But you know as well as everybody that in the end you've got to talk and you've got to talk seriously and you've got to make concessions. For instance, you stop building settlements, as a beginning.
- (interrupting) So you seem to be saying war is inevitable, the next stage - a full-scale war - is inevitable?
[11 interruptions]
2:44:49 End.
[John Humphrys gave Raji Sourani a short, abrasive interview then gave Daniel Taub a longer, tough interview. In terms of style and tone, they were quite different but neither could be called 'easy'. On the one hand John H made it plain that Hamas started it all through the murder of the three Israeli teenagers and through their unprovoked rocket attacks on Israel, on the other he betrayed confusion over the number of civilians killed in the strikes on Gaza, brought up the issue of settlements and pursued his habitual 'jaw-jaw is better than war-war' angle. I'm sticking with my not unreasonable belief that he was doing his best here.]


I will hold off on drawing conclusions for the time being. You may feel free to draw your own in the meantime.

However, it may help to list the interviewees (other than bereaved family members) invited to take part in set-piece interviewers (with duplicate mentions for those interviewed on more than one occasion).

I've tried to put them on one side or the other. Some 'on the Israeli side' are critical of Israeli policy though (particularly Daniel Levy).

On the Israeli side
Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF spokesman
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli PM
Giora Eiland, former head of the Israeli National Security Council
Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesman
Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, former chief of staff in the Israeli Defence Ministry
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Israeli Defence Force
Daniel Taub, Israeli ambassador
Dani Dayan, Yesha Council
Daniel Levy, European Council on Foreign Relations
Gideon Remez, Harry Truman Institute at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Avi Sharit, Ha'aretz
Avi Sharit, Ha'aretz

On the Palestinian side
Mustafa Bargouti, Palestinian National Initiative Party
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian National Initiative Party
Israa al-Mudallal, Palestinian foreign affairs spokeswoman
Husam Zomlot, Fatah's Foreign Relations Committee
Dr Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council
Mouin Rabbani, senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies
Osama Hamdan, Foreign Affairs spokesman, Hamas
Osama Hamdan, Hamas spokesman
Raji Sourani, head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesman
Oliver McTernan, Forward Thinking

Sheera Frenkel, BuzzFeed's Middle East correspondent

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