BBC: Fatah is funding Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades

November 10, 2003

[Today's dispatch is divided into two emails for space reasons]

CONTENTS

1. Arafat retains control of Palestinian security/terror
2. "Beebwatch is closing down - but we are still watching you" (Daily Telegraph London, November 7, 2003)
3. "Arafat: Obstacle or the key to peace?"
4. Text of Israeli draft resolution to the United Nations General Assembly GPO, (November 5, 2003)



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to several previous dispatches concerning Yasser Arafat's corrupt finances. In the last two days both the American network CBS and the British network the BBC have broadcast investigative programs on the subject. This evening a third TV network, Britain's respected (but very anti-Israel) Channel 4 will also broadcast a program at least in part critical of suicide bombers. It is titled: "In the Mind of a Suicide Bomber". There is a summary of this program below by someone on this list who has seen an advance copy of it.

Although, it is widespread knowledge in the Middle East that through his Fatah organization Yasser Arafat funds the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the group responsible for some of the worst suicide attacks in the last three years, very few major media outlets have been willing to highlight this until now. Further, newspapers such as the New York Times have during this time specifically downplayed the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades role in terrorism.

The Brigades, at their own admission, have claimed responsibility for at least 13 suicide bombs.

The BBC program marks a change from its previous reluctance to examine the Palestinian leader in a critical light. Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

 

ARAFAT RETAINS CONTROL OF PALESTINIAN SECURITY / TERROR

Yasser Arafat and prime minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) agreed yesterday to appoint Hakam Balawi, a member of Fatah's Central Committee and one of Arafat's close associates, as the new Interior Minister. The Interior Ministry oversees three of the PA's eight security forces: the Preventive Security Service, the police and civil defense. The appointment means that Arafat will retain effective control of the PA security services and is a clear victory for him. Qureia had been trying for weeks to get his own candidate, General Nasser Yussef, into the appointment. The decision is a set back for peace in the Middle East.

 

SUMMARY OF YESTERDAY'S BBC PROGRAM

The BBC program broadcast Sunday evening "revealed" that Fatah, the dominant faction in the Palestinian Authority headed by Yasser Arafat, has been funding the terrorist group the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Abdel Fattah Hamayel, who had served as the PA's Minister for Sports and Youth until Abu Mazen resigned as Palestinian prime minister in September, said on air that the policy of paying the money was carried out with Arafat's knowledge and agreement.

The leader of the al-Aqsa Brigades in Jenin, a center for terrorist activities, said that he would not stop attacking Israel until ordered to do so by Arafat. "When Arafat calls for a ceasefire, we will respect his decision and stop," he said.

[I attached below "Arafat: Obstacle or the key to peace?" (BBC Online website. By Jeremy Bowen, The BBC's special correspondent.) This was written on November 7, 2003, two days before the program was broadcast.]

CRITICISM OF THE BBC PROGRAM

(Prepared by a journalist on this email list, who wishes to remain anonymous.)

While showing the brutal side of Fatah, parts of this programme in my view, also attempted to justify Palestinian support for suicide attacks by taking Israel's (defensive) actions in isolation and not putting them into context. For example, it states: "In April 2002, Israel re-occupied the West Bank" without mentioning the horrendous wave of attacks suffered in March 2002 resulting in the deaths of 124 Israelis and culminating in the Park Hotel Seder massacre.

Palestinian spokesmen blamed everything on "the problem of the occupation", with plenty of references to "collective punishments", "massacres committed by Israel" "killing of our people daily". All this was unchallenged by BBC presenter Jeremy Bowen.

Reference was made to the killing of the mother of the Al Aqsa Brigades leader in Jenin "by the Israelis" last year - with no explanation of the circumstances.

Bowen's commentary included remarks such as (Arafat's) "links with people that the Israelis consider terrorists" and the "contrast with the lush farmland (on the Israeli side)".

Arafat was shown making inflammatory speeches, for example, extolling Dalal al Magrabi (translation "Dalal al Magrabi is the road to victory") who led the 1978 coastal road attack, but this was dismissed as rhetoric and going along with what the Palestinian people wanted to hear.

However, links between Fatah and the Al Aqsa Brigades were clearly shown; Bowen stated that Fatah had arranged his meeting with the Brigades in Jeninand that they were supervised by the local Fatah boss.

Bowen concluded that while Arafat "was part of the problem, he is also part of the solution".

 

CHANNEL FOUR DOCUMENTARY TONIGHT

(This summary is prepared by someone else on this email list who has seen an advance copy of the film.)

Tonight Channel 4 are showing "In the Mind of a Suicide Bomber".

I saw the video yesterday. The program clearly exposes the manipulation and horror involved in suicide bombing. It mainly speaks through the translation of what the bombers and their trainers and recruiters say, some of which is not historically accurate.

For example, one of them says: "As they kill we must kill them."

Another justifies killing civilians and women by saying "They came to live in my country - that's an assault on me so I attacked them".

One part of the program talks about blowing up the homes of suicide bombers and shows one being blown up - immediately followed by saying the families get $25,000 dollars which could give the impression that it is for the home and not the blood money it really is for the suicide bomber.

There are some snippets of the effects of the bombs, but nothing about the victims.

 

BEEBWATCH IS CLOSING DOWN - BUT WE ARE STILL WATCHING YOU

"Beebwatch is closing down - but we are still watching you" (By Damian Thompson, The Daily Telegraph, London, November 7, 2003)

"For the past two months, I have been The Daily Telegraph's Beebwatcher. Three times a week, with the help of research by an experienced media monitoring unit, I have written a column attempting to show how the BBC's output - news, current affairs, drama and, above all, the wretched website - is slanted to reflect the Left-liberal opinions of the majority of its employees...

"... As for the Middle East, I defy anyone, however sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, to trawl through the BBC's website archive and conclude that its reports are even-handed. One practice in particular strikes me as repugnant: the refusal to describe the blowing up of innocent families in restaurants as "terrorism" in case it offends Arab sensibilities, when even the BBC's beloved Kofi Annan cheerfully uses the word.

"Subliminal tricks abound ... [such as] the following headline on a story about a Palestinian suicide killer and his two Jewish victims: "Three dead in West Bank attack." Does the BBC have any idea how much damage to its international reputation is being done by its website?"

[Full article attached below]

 

TEXT OF ISRAELI DRAFT RESOLUTION TO THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Text of Israeli Draft Resolution to the United Nations General Assembly

Last week, Israel submitted a draft resolution to the 3rd committee of the UN General Assembly on the effects of Palestinian terrorism on Israeli children.

The submission of this resolution marks the first time in decades that Israel has introduced a resolution to the agenda of any committee at the UN General Assembly.

The resolution entitled, The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children, will be considered under Agenda Item 117(b) of the Third Committee which deals primarily with issues of human rights.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade is among the groups the resolution mentions as directing terror attacks against Israeli civilians, including children.

According to other delegations at the UN, the resolution has "next to no chance of being passed."

[I attach the full resolution below]

 



FULL ARTICLES

ARAFAT: OBSTACLE OR THE KEY TO PEACE?

Arafat: Obstacle or the key to peace?
By Jeremy Bowen
The BBC's special correspondent

Once a regular guest at The White House, Yasser Arafat is now politically isolated by Israel and America who insist he has the power to stop suicide bombings against Israelis.

But could a peace deal be made without the man who has led the Palestinians for decades?

Zakariya Zubaydi pulled a picture out of his wallet. It was a grainy black and white snapshot, cut from a newspaper.

Zubaydi is the leader of the Palestinian armed group al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank town of Jenin.

The photo was of his hero, Yasser Arafat. It was taken in the late 1960s, when Arafat was not much older than Mr Zubaydi is now. It showed him out of doors, squatting on the ground and carrying a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle.

Mr Zubaydi, who is in his late 20s, was wearing a pistol in a holster on the belt of his jeans.

With him were two younger men, barely out of their teens. They were carrying American-made M-16 rifles with telescopic sights.

The rifles' markings showed that they had come from the Israeli army. They said that the guns had been captured.

Zubaydi put away his picture of Arafat with a smile. Arafat, he said, was an honest man. He was sharing the pain of the Palestinian people. The Israelis were persecuting him because he would not give in to them.

For the best part of two years, Israel has confined Yasser Arafat to his headquarters in Ramallah on the West Bank.

Deportation threat

It has refused to deal with him, arguing that he is a terrorist killer, the inspiration and controlling force behind the suicide bombers.

The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has stated its intention of deporting him to an unspecified location, although pressure from the United States has stopped them carrying out their threat.

Members of Mr Sharon's cabinet have mused publicly about killing Arafat.

Israel has the whole-hearted support of President Bush for its policy of regime change. They have succeeded in imposing a certain amount of international isolation on Yasser Arafat.

Not all that long ago, when Bill Clinton was in the White House, Arafat was a regular visitor. Now he cannot leave the ruins of his compound in Ramallah.

But Israel's actions have demonstrated, once again, that Arafat is the unchallenged leader of the Palestinian people.

When the peace process with Israel was floundering in the late 1990s he was less popular with his own people than he is today. They thought he was being forced into unsustainable concessions and getting precious little in return.

After Rabin

Now they identify with him. Israel, they say, is doing to Arafat exactly what it does to them.

This week marks the eighth anniversary of the assassination of the Israeli prime minister and war hero Yitzhak Rabin.

I clicked on the BBC News Online link to a report I filed from Jerusalem on the evening of 4 November, 1995, when Rabin was shot by Yigal Amir, a Jewish extremist.

The report included a clip of a desperately concerned looking Yasser Arafat, condemning what he called an awful and terrible crime and hoping that the peacemakers would be able to overcome the loss of Rabin, a "brave leader".

In the atmosphere of shock that followed the assassination, he was allowed to visit Rabin's widow, Leah, at their flat in Tel Aviv. He was even photographed with her bare-headed, without his famous black and white checked keffiyah.

It was the closest he ever came to acceptance in Israel. As the peace process crumbled without Rabin, the old Israeli view that Arafat was an unreconstructed terrorist, which many of them had anyway never lost, once again reasserted itself.

Yasser Arafat may well, as they say, be part of the problem. But the response of Palestinians to his confinement shows that he is part of the solution as well, just as he always has been.

If Israel wants to engage in a political process with the Palestinians, it will only happen with his consent.

[Correspondent: Arafat Investigated will be broadcast in the UK on BBC Two at 19.15 GMT on Sunday, 9 November, 2003.

Immediately after the programme, Jeremy will answer your questions in a live interactive discussion.]

 

BEEBWATCH IS CLOSING DOWN - BUT WE ARE STILL WATCHING YOU

Beebwatch is closing down - but we are still watching you
By Damian Thompson
Daily Telegraph (U.K.)
November 7, 2003

For the past two months, I have been The Daily Telegraph's Beebwatcher. Three times a week, with the help of research by an experienced media monitoring unit, I have written a column attempting to show how the BBC's output - news, current affairs, drama and, above all, the wretched website - is slanted to reflect the Left-liberal opinions of the majority of its employees.

Not everyone has appreciated the exercise. Roger Mosey, the BBC's head of television news, has condemned Beebwatch as "mean-spirited". It's an interesting choice of adjective. Imagine if a government department were using public funds to further the political and cultural agenda of its employees, without the shadow of a democratic mandate. Would it be "mean-spirited" of a newspaper to record this fact?

But Mosey's griping is only the BBC's official response. I did not expect the many messages of support - heavily off-the-record, delivered by circuitous routes - from senior BBC journalists, some of them household names. Most of them said the same thing: we might not agree with all of Beebwatch's observations, but the BBC has a serious problem with objectivity that needs to be sorted out.

Are there signs that this is beginning to happen? Mosey admitted last week that the BBC had been slow to report the furore over asylum seekers, imagining that the whole thing had been got up by the Daily Mail or the BNP; he also pointed out that George W Bush is not "automatically wrong" about everything. That is encouraging; but the evidence gathered by Beebwatch suggests there will have to be wholesale changes to the BBC's output before any sort of balance is achieved.

That said, it would be silly to pretend that the BBC is uniformly slanted towards a liberal consensus. It is hard to fault Jeff Randall's reporting of the postal strike; Newsnight is often magnificent when it is not being presented by Gavin Esler.

When I compared notes with David Keighley, head of the Minotaur monitoring unit, we agreed that certain programmes and products are far worse offenders than others, and that much of the bias is tied up with sloppy editing. So, in a spirit of constructive criticism, let me suggest a few steps that the BBC could take to move itself back towards the centre.

First, it needs to loosen the grip exercised by old-style liberals, feminists and minority rights activists over large chunks of Radio 4's output. The World Tonight thinks nothing of running several anti-Bush stories in a single programme: on October 16, its first three items were a report on America and the UN that relied solely on Arab and Democrat interviewees; a crude plug for Wesley Clark's presidential campaign; and a sneering item about American evangelical universities. Likewise, Woman's Hour seems locked into an outmoded political mindset. Too often, its idea of a "debate" consists of two activists calling for more state aid or counselling for a victimised group, with supportive noises from Jenni Murray.

This brings us to another reform that the BBC must initiate. One of the easiest ways to skew a debate is through the choice of interviewees; but, by the same token, it is also a painfully easy device to spot. Newsnight, please note: Chris Patten is not an impartial commentator on a European defence force. And the issues raised by Oliver Letwin's remarks about comprehensive schools deserve better than a World Tonight report whose three contributors - two former Labour advisers and a Left-wing academic - differed only in the violence of their opposition to Letwin's views. The BBC should issue new producer guidelines on the range of opinions it represents. Progressive voices should be balanced by conservative ones; it's not rocket science.

Third, the BBC needs to conduct an urgent review of its reporting in two sensitive, related areas: the Bush Administration and the Middle East. For BBC correspondents to suggest, as they did a few days ago, that anti-war demonstrators in Washington were representative of American public opinion is simply bad journalism; and I am sick of hearing spokesmen for anti-Bush think tanks introduced as disinterested observers. (Pro-Bush interviewees, in contrast, are given a health warning: "the conservative commentator".)

As for the Middle East, I defy anyone, however sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, to trawl through the BBC's website archive and conclude that its reports are even-handed. One practice in particular strikes me as repugnant: the refusal to describe the blowing up of innocent families in restaurants as "terrorism" in case it offends Arab sensibilities, when even the BBC's beloved Kofi Annan cheerfully uses the word.

Finally, that website. It has featured prominently in Beebwatch, and rightly so. In 2002-03, the BBC spent 72.3 million on it, the equivalent of 600,000 licence fees; even Radio 4 costs only 64.8 million. Presumably, the money has gone towards its superb technical functions, because there is precious little evidence of it being spent on good journalism.

Again, subliminal tricks abound: a photograph of Mussolini on a story about the Conservatives encouraging people to have more children; or the following headline on a story about a Palestinian suicide killer and his two Jewish victims: "Three dead in West Bank attack." Does the BBC have any idea how much damage to its international reputation is being done by its website? On the other hand, the site does make it easier for the corporation's critics to make their point: as Nicholas Boles recently pointed out in The Spectator, its coverage of the grammar schools debate, measured by references to various pressure groups, was well to the Left of that of the Guardian.

That would be acceptable, if the BBC were a subscription-only service for crusading Lefties. But it isn't. The BBC is funded by a tax, and therefore it should be held to higher standards of fairness than those of other news organisations. Let us be generous, and assume that Roger Mosey's grudging comments represent the first green shoots of impartiality. They will mean something only if they bear fruit in changes to editorial policy. Our monitoring exercise is over for the time being - but we are still watching.

 

TEXT OF ISRAELI DRAFT RESOLUTION TO THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY GPO, NOVEMBER 5, 2003

"The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children"

Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN

Israel introduces for the first time a draft resolution to the agenda of the UN

Israel submitted this week a draft resolution to the 3rd committee of the UN General Assembly on the effects of Palestinian terrorism on Israeli children.

The submission of this resolution marks the first time in decades that Israel has introduced a resolution to the agenda of any committee at the UN General Assembly.

The resolution entitled, The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children, will be considered under Agenda Item 117(b) of the Third Committee which deals primarily with issues of human rights.

For the second straight year, the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine will introduce a biased and distorted resolution in the Third Committee entitled, The Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Children. This resolution serves to further the political aims of one side of the conflict, and stands devoid of any reference to the destructive effects of Palestinian terrorism and suicide bombings on innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Indeed, the central threat to the well being of Palestinian children is terrorism itself, which causes severe physical and psychological harm, and destroys hopes for peace and a more secure future for the region.

Israel shares the concern for the plight of Palestinian children, but we believe that all the world's children are deserving of protection, Israeli and Palestinian alike. The Israeli draft resolution on The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children recognizes the basic and universal rights of all children to live a normal life free from terrorism, destruction and fear, and expressly condemns all acts of violence and incitement to violence and terrorism. Indeed, to afford specific protection to Palestinian children, and not to Israeli children perpetuates a false reality which pretends that one side of the conflict has a monopoly on the status of victim.

The Israeli resolution also raises global awareness for the suffering of Israeli children as a result of the tragic consequences of terrorist acts, and the responsibility of the Palestinian side to fulfill its obligations to fight terror.

The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children

58th Session

Draft Resolution

Agenda Item 117(b)

The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children

The General Assembly,

Recalling the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Recalling also the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and Plan of Action for Implementing the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in the 1990s, adopted by the World Summit for Children, held in New York on 29 and 30 September 1990,

Recalling further the Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the General Assembly at its twenty-seventh special session,

Concerned that Israeli children suffering from the effects of Palestinian terrorism are deprived of many basic rights under the Convention,

Concerned also about the continuous grave threat to Israeli children from Palestinian terrorism, and about the severe consequences of continuing terrorist attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade directed against Israeli civilians, including children,

Expressing its condemnation of all acts of violence and incitement to violence and terrorism, resulting in extensive loss of human life and injuries, including among Israeli children,

Deeply concerned about the severe consequences, including psychological consequences of Palestinian terrorist attacks on the present and future well-being of Israeli children,

1. Stresses the urgent need for Israeli children to live a normal life free from terrorism, destruction and fear;

2. Demands, that the Palestinian Authority respect its obligations to undertake effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and the dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure, and to guarantee that those responsible for terrorist acts are brought to justice;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to report on compliance with paragraph 2 above within one month and upon receipt of which further actions should be considered, if necessary, within the United Nations System.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.