Weekend long read

As noted here earlier this week, the BBC’s reporting on the October 3rd terror attack near Lions Gate in Jerusalem not only prompted protest on social media but was also the subject of official complaints and coverage in the media. Unusually, two Israeli media organisations also produced opinion pieces on the topic.Weekend Read

The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed titled “BBC bias” on October 6th.

“The BBC website headline announced: “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.”

The BBC didn’t note that the murderer was shot in the midst of his killing spree. The BBC left it unclear who killed whom and who the “killed two” (mentioned in the passive voice) were. After repeated complaints, the phrasing was changed three times – yet in all the truth remained obfuscated.

Significantly, the BBC never apologized.

Its conduct was worse than al-Jazeera’s, whose re-cap was only slightly less misleading: “Palestinian shot dead after fatal stabbing in Jerusalem; 2 Israeli victims also killed.”

Clearly we expect less of the Qatar-based network than of the London one. Yet, unlike the BBC, al-Jazeera apologized and revised the headline to read, “Two Israelis killed in stabbing attack; Palestinian suspect shot dead.””

Read the rest of that piece here.

Over at Ynet, an article by Gilad Halpern was published on the same day under the title “Why the BBC is biased against Israel”.Pigua Lions Gate art vers 1

“It’s happened. The BBC, the pinnacle of quality journalism, joined a string of world-renowned news networks to have grossly misreported a terror attack against Israelis. “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two” read the headline on Saturday, failing to convey that the casualty was a terrorist who perpetrated a deadly stabbing and shooting attack, rather than an innocent victim.”

Considering the reports of an unofficial BBC statement attributing the offending headlines to “the mistake of a junior editor at the desk”, Halpern’s theory is interesting.

“More than latent anti-Semites, the journalists who wrote these shoddy headlines were simply ignorant. They failed to grasp the very rudimentary elements of the story, and exhibited a shocking unawareness of the general context – namely, the “most important story on earth.”

This should set the alarm bells ringing for the network executives, whether in London, Atlanta or New York. The last competitive edge that remains for big news organizations, amid a seemingly endless flow of information that the Internet provides, is their ability to separate the chaff from the wheat and tell a story that is coherent and truthful. And in these cases, they demonstrated none of that.”

Read the full article here.


BBC News describes Henkin family attackers as “alleged militants”

On October 5th the Israeli security services announced the arrest of the terrorist cell responsible for the murders of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin four days previously.

“The Shin Bet named the cell leader as Ragheb Ahmad Muhammad Aliwi, a previously jailed Hamas fighter from Nablus, who recruited the other four terrorists, instructed them how to carry out attacks and provided them with their weapons.

The other four were named as Yahia Muhammad Naif Abdullah Hajj Hamad, who carried out the shooting itself; Samir Zahir Ibrahim Kusah, the driver of the car who is linked to previous terror attacks; Karem Lufti Fatahi Razek, the gunman who was wounded by gunfire from one of his fellow cell members during the attack; and Zir Ziad Jamal Amar, who cleared the way for the car to carry out the attack.

All four are Hamas activists from Nablus.

Razek was arrested in a hospital in Nablus by an undercover police unit. The other suspects were arrested at their homes and other locations.

The Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades, a group affiliated with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, had claimed on Friday that it carried out the terror attack. In fact, said the Shin Bet, Hamas was to blame. It was not clear whether the killing was organized higher up the Hamas hierarchy.”

The next day, the security services also recovered the weapon used in the attack.

Despite having covered the terror attack on the Henkin family (without actually naming it as such, of course), the BBC News website did not produce any stand-alone follow-up reporting on the subject of the arrests and the only brief mention of them came in an article titled “Palestinian youths killed in West Bank clashes” which appeared on the website’s Middle East page on October 5th.

Although the terrorists had admitted their involvement in the shooting attack (as well as two previous ones which fortunately did not result in fatalities) by the time the public announcement concerning their arrest was made, and although Hamas welcomed the announcement and again praised the attack, the language used by the BBC in its brief mention of the arrests curiously suggests to readers that the men might not after all be “Hamas militants”.

terror cell Henkin murders

Commenting on the arrests, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said:

“”Hamas is trying all of the time to carry out terror attacks in various forms. The main orchestration, funding, and training comes, generally, from [Hamas’s] Gaza headquarters, which oversees West Bank attacks, and through Salah Arouri, who runs the organization’s terror activities from his base in Istanbul. It would be appropriate for the free world not to sweep this reality under the rug,” the defense minister added.”

As regular readers know, the BBC has abstained for more than a year from reporting on Hamas’ efforts – including those orchestrated by Saleh al Arouri from Turkey – to increase its terror activity in Judea & Samaria.

If BBC audiences are to fully understand the background to the current wave of terror in Israel; that is a part of the story the BBC must begin to tell.




BBC News reporting on October 7 terror attacks avoids the word terror

October 7th saw a wave of terror attacks across Israel, three of which were reported on the BBC News website in an article which was originally headlined “Two Israelis stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City” and later retitled “Israeli stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City” as circumstances became clearer.

The first two versions of the report related to an attack carried out by a Palestinian woman from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sur Baher. Both versions included the following statement which presents victims of terrorism and their attackers on an equal footing:

“The stabbing comes amid a surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank that has left eight people dead.”

Readers subsequently discover that those eight people are in fact four Israeli victims of terrorism, two Palestinian terrorists shot whilst in the process of carrying out attacks and two Palestinians shot due to their having been engaged in violent rioting.

“On Monday, Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian youths during clashes with protesters in the West Bank. Israeli media subsequently quoted military officials as saying one of them, a 13-year-old boy, had been shot by mistake.

Two days earlier, a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis to death in Jerusalem. Another stabbed and wounded an Israeli teenager. Israeli police killed both attackers.

And last Thursday, gunmen shot and killed an Israeli couple as they drove with their four young children in the West Bank.”

The statement concerning the 13 year-old paraphrased by the BBC in these and later versions of the report can be seen here.

Later on in the day another incident took place in the southern town of Kiryat Gat. Once again, the BBC managed to provoke protest on social media with its updated headline to the report.

Kiryat Gat pigua

That headline was later amended but retained its ‘last-first reporting’ style.

Kiryat Gat pigua 2

Readers of the first three versions of the BBC’s report on that incident were informed that:

“The man [terrorist] then fled into a residential building, where police forces tracked him down and shot him dead…”

Only in version five did readers discover that there was rather more to the story.

“The man [terrorist] then fled into a residential building, where he reportedly forced his way into one woman’s flat, grabbed a kitchen knife and attempted to stab her after realising that the rifle did not have a magazine. Israeli police then arrived at the scene and shot the man dead.”

The later two versions of the report – including the one which currently appears on the BBC News website – were titled “Israelis stabbed in three attacks as tensions escalate” and were updated with reporting on yet another attack which took place in Petah Tikva in the early evening.Oct 7 art final

The latest version of the report now opens with the following confusing description which suggests some sort of linkage between the first two attacks:

“Israelis have been targeted in a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians, Israeli police say, amid escalating tensions in the region.

A Palestinian man was shot dead by police after attacking a soldier, after a Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli man who then shot her, police said.

Later, an Israeli man was stabbed by a Palestinian man, police said.” [emphasis added]

There are several notable points concerning this evolving article.  No attempt was made to clarify to readers that the three specific attacks reported in the various versions of this article were by no means the only attacks to have taken place on that day.

Whilst the reports named the towns of Kiryat Gat and Petah Tikva, no clarification was provided to readers with regard to the fact that the attacks in those places represent an expansion of what was described in the article’s early versions as “a surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank”. In addition, there was no BBC reporting on the protests – some of which turned violent – in towns such as Jaffa and Lod.

Notable too is the fact that the BBC’s reporting adopts and promotes the notion of equivalence between victims of terrorism and their attackers, as well as those engaged in violent rioting, by means of the use of phrasing such as “a surge in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank that has left eight people dead” and – immediately following a description of Israelis injured in terror attacks:  

“Dozens of Palestinians were also reportedly hurt in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank.” [emphasis added]

But the most obvious notable point about this article is that despite all its versions being devoted to reporting on three separate terror attacks in one single day, yet again the word terror did not appear even once in any of them.

The BBC cannot claim to be meeting its public purpose of enhancing the public’s understanding of international issues as long as it continues to avoid clarifying to audiences by means of the use of accurate language that what is happening in Israel at present is a wave of terror.

BBC News website alters description of Palestinian terrorist

The October 3rd BBC News website report on the terror attack at Lions Gate – which created considerable controversy with its original headline “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two” – continued to be amended in the two days following its publication and on the evening of October 4th a footnote was added to the article.

Pigua Lions Gate footnote

Earlier on the same day, the article’s headline was changed for the fourth time to read “Israelis killed in Jerusalem, Palestinians banned from Old City” and the report was updated with news of an additional incident in which fifteen year-old Moshe Malka was stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist from Issawiya.Palestinians banned art 1

“In the second incident, a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli teenager on a street in West Jerusalem in the early hours of Sunday. The attacker was also shot dead by police, similar to the earlier incident on Sunday.”

Similar wording was seen in a subsequent report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th under the headline “Jerusalem Old City ban on Palestinians after killings“.

“In the second incident, a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli teenager on a street in West Jerusalem in the early hours of Sunday. The attacker was also shot dead by police.”

Technically, the BBC’s identical description of both the nineteen year-old terrorist Fadi Alun and his fifteen year-old victim as teenagers may be considered accurate but notably, the terrorist who perpetrated the earlier attack at Lions Gate is described in different terms in both articles, despite also being 19 years old. The first report reads:

The Palestinian man – named as Mohammad Halabi, a 19-year-old law student from a village near Ramallah in the West Bank – attacked Mr Bennett, his wife, their two-year-old son and baby daughter who were on their way to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.” [emphasis added]Palestinians banned art 2

The second report reads:

A Palestinian man attacked Aharon Benitah, 21, his wife, their two-year-old son and baby daughter who were on their way to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.” [emphasis added]

Even more remarkable is the fact that the description of Fadi Alun in the first report was changed. Three earlier versions of the report read:

“In the second incident, the Palestinian man stabbed the teenager on a street in West Jerusalem in the early hours of Sunday. The attacker was also shot dead by police, similar to the earlier incident on Sunday [sic – the earlier incident took place on Saturday evening].” [emphasis added]

However, the words “the Palestinian man” were replaced with “a Palestinian teenager” in version 7 of the report.

No less notable is the fact that despite having had to change two inaccurate headlines to earlier versions of the first report, the BBC chose to inaccurately advise readers that Palestinians had been “banned from Old City” in its later headline when in fact – as the second article showed – the temporary arrangements were distinctly more nuanced

BBC Technology report on Facebook satellite plans omits Israeli aspect

When it comes to reporting on Israel-related topics, BBC Technology is usually one of the corporation’s better departments. It therefore came as something of a surprise to see that in his October 6th report titled “Facebook plans satellite ‘in 2016′“, BBC Technology’s North America reporter Dave Lee neglected to provide readers with a rather relevant piece of information concerning that story.FB satellite art

Lee has clearly read the announcement on the topic put out by Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“Facebook is to launch a satellite that will provide internet access to remote parts of Africa, the social network’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced.

In partnership with French-based provider Eutelsat, Facebook hope the first satellite will be launched in 2016.

“We’re going to keep working to connect the entire world – even if that means looking beyond our planet,” Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.”

But that announcement also includes information about the satellite itself – obviously a crucial part of the project.

“As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The AMOS-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa.”

As the Times of Israel and others have reported, the AMOS-6 satellite is produced in Israel.

“European satellite operator Eutelsat Communications and social media giant Facebook said Monday they are working jointly to deliver satellite broadband Internet to connectivity-hungry sub-Saharan Africa using an Israeli satellite.

The firms revealed they have reached a multi-year agreement with satellite communication firm Spacecom to use the entire broadband payload of the AMOS-6 satellite due to come on stream in the second half of next year and provide coverage for large swaths of sub-Saharan Africa, after identifying “pent-up demand for connectivity.”

The multi-million dollar AMOS-6 satellite, built by the Israel Aerospace Industries, will be ready for launch in 2016, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.”

Oddly, that information did not appear in the BBC’s report on the story.


Bad press, complaints lodged over BBC’s Lions Gate terror attack headline

The egregious headline which appeared on the BBC News website on the evening of October 3rd following the murders of two Israelis and the wounding of two more by a Palestinian terrorist – “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two” – has been the topic of broader media attention (see for example herehere, here and here) as well as the subject of official complaints lodged by the Government Press Office in Jerusalem and the Israeli embassy in London, which have in turn prompted further reports on the story.Pigua Lions Gate art vers 1

“According to a GPO official, Israel expects an official apology from the network, and said the office was considering annulling the press cards of BBC journalists, a decision that if implemented would not allow the network to continue operating in Israel.”

The Israeli website NRG reported that an unofficial BBC response stated that:

“It seems to have been about […] the mistake of a junior editor at the desk ‘and not about a clear agenda’…..”

This of course would not be the first time that the BBC has used the ‘shin gimmel formula’ to deflect criticism concerning its failure to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality. Similar strategies employed to divert criticism of the frequently seen failure to report terror attacks on Israeli civilians at all include the “very busy news period” and “smaller operation at the weekend” formulae. 

Obviously, BBC editorial guidelines apply to all content produced by the corporation, regardless of whether the person manning the desk at the time happens to be a “junior” employee or not and it is worth recalling that the BBC’s guidelines on reporting War, Terror and Emergencies stress that:

“At such times, when there may be conflicting information and opinions, and with reliable information hard to come by, we need to be scrupulous in applying our principles of accuracy and impartiality.”

So if, perchance, the head of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau or his superiors would like to carry out a serious examination of the question of whether “a clear (political) agenda” might have played a role in the creation of that miserable headline, all he has to do is search the archives of this site – particularly under the tag ‘terrorism’.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism – August 2015

BBC News coverage of terrorism – July 2015

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2015 & Q2 2015

A worldwide platform for incitement from BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad

Reminder: DCMS consultation on BBC charter review deadline approaches

In July the Department for Culture Media and Sport launched a public consultation on the subject of the upcoming BBC charter review.DCMS consultation

“Reviewing the BBC’s Royal Charter is not just a case of publishing a consultation. We want to engage with the public and with industry to make sure that all views are given proper consideration. This is why we are engaging with people across the UK in a number of ways to make it easy for everyone to respond.”

The final date for submissions to that consultation is Thursday, October 8th. Anyone who wishes to take part but has not yet done so can find details here.

BBC prefers pageantry to serious discussion of Abbas’ threats on Oslo accords

As might have been anticipated, the BBC did not skimp on its coverage of the hoisting of the Palestinian flag at the United Nations building in New York. Audiences could choose between a filmed report aired on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website, an audio report (from 14:01 here) by Nick Bryant on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’  and a written article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page – originally under the title “Palestinian flag to be raised at United Nations” and later with the headline “Palestinian flag raised at United Nations headquarters“.Abbas UN

Whilst the subject of Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UNGA on the same day was also covered in the latter two reports, that topic was given notably less attention than the pageantry of flag-raising. In the ‘Newshour’ report, presenter Owen Bennett Jones introduced the item with the following words:

“The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says his people can no longer be bound by agreements signed with Israel. Addressing the UN, he accused the Israelis of continually violating what are known as the Oslo Accords going right back to 1993.”

Rather than providing listeners with any background information on the topic of the broader implications of Abbas’ statement, the item then went on to describe the flag-raising ceremony.

The choice of phrasing in the written article did not clarify to readers that Abbas was referring to the Oslo Accords.

“Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr Abbas said it was unconscionable that the question of Palestinian statehood remained unresolved.

He also warned that the PA no longer felt bound by agreements with Israel he claimed were “continually violated”.”

Moreover, the paragraphs immediately following that materially misled readers by implying that the Oslo Accords include some sort of restrictions on Israeli building in Judea & Samaria and dictate the release of 26 convicted terrorists.

“”As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities and to release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance with our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements,” Mr Abbas said.

“We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.””

Again, no information was provided to audiences concerning the likely implications of Abbas’ statement that he “cannot continue to be bound” by what has been described as “a contractual framework of obligations between Israel and the Palestinians, signed as witnesses and guarantors by the King of Jordan, the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Norway, the EU and endorsed by the UN”.

Oddly too, the article’s recap of the last 22 years did not include the one factor which did more than anything else to impede the possibility of a negotiated peace agreement: the PA initiated second Intifada.

“Mr Abbas has in the past threatened to dissolve the PA and hand sole responsibility for the West Bank to Israel if there is no chance of a peace deal.

The PA was set up as an interim administration for the major Palestinian cities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the 1993 Oslo Accord. It was envisaged that a comprehensive treaty would be concluded within five years.

However, more than two decades of talks with Israel have failed to achieve a final peace settlement and an independent Palestinian state. The last round of negotiations collapsed in April 2014.”

At the end of the report readers were told that:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Palestinians faced with falling living standards and life under Israeli occupation on the West Bank are growing impatient for some sign of progress in their quest for a Palestinian state.

Raising the flag at the UN may not be as effective as raising that issue further up the world’s diplomatic agenda but it is a tangible achievement and it was within Mr Abbas’s power to deliver immediately, our correspondent adds.”

The vast majority of Palestinians have of course lived under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and/or Hamas for the last two decades and whilst Kevin Connolly did not provide a source for his claim of falling living standards, PCBS statistics show that in PA controlled areas, GDP per capita increased by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2015.

As long time readers well know, the BBC generally avoids reporting on internal Palestinian politics and so it is hardly surprising to see that Connolly’s presentation did not make any mention of factors such as the unresolvable rift between the PA and Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas’ own personal unpopularity, the recent Palestinian demonstrations against the PA or the thorny issue of succession.

And so, rather than present audiences with the full range of information which would enable them to understand the factors behind Abbas’ latest move and its potential consequences, the BBC opted to put the focus on symbolic flag-raising.