‘Lowbrow’, ‘Highbrow’ and the BBC

On September 30th the business section of the BBC News website produced an article described on its main homepage as being about “lowbrow click-bait”.

Click bait article

BBC business reporter Will Smale’s article (titled “Taboola: The internet firm at the forefront of ‘click-bait’“) opens:

“You may not have heard of a company called Taboola, but what it does may annoy you greatly.

“Controversial slimming pill sweeps the UK”, “15 inconveniences of being a woman”, “Nine people you won’t actually believe exist”, “Danger! Don’t watch this with your wife” – if you’ve ever seen any of these headlines screaming out at you, then you’ll be familiar with the company’s work.

Taboola is one of the main providers of sponsored stories on news and gossip websites.

When you scroll to the bottom of the page, there are picture and caption links to three, six or eight external stories, typically under the headings “More stories from around the web” or “You may like”.

More often than not the captions hoping to tempt you to click on them are just a little lowbrow, and the photos accompanying them typically show celebrities or women in bikinis (or both).

Critics have described Taboola’s (and its rivals’) content as “spam”, “click-bait”, “degrading”, “representing a race to the bottom” and many other derogatory terms.”

Whilst the pejorative term ‘click-bait’ is usually employed to describe material aimed at generating online advertising revenue, the method behind it is of course the presentation of content under an enticing ‘bait’ headline which raises readers’ curiosity to a level which causes them to click on the link.

Philosophically minded readers might care to ponder the question of the difference, if any, between that type of “lowbrow” click-bait and a recent example (from the end of August) of the BBC’s own use of the fashionably ‘highbrow’ equivalent of a celeb in a bikini when the then ‘hot’ topic of Gaza was used to prompt readers of the BBC News website to click on an article about immigration in Australia.

Click bait Gaza art

And if the BBC is going to engage in ‘highbrow’ explanation of Latin terms, audiences might of course be more impressed were it to do so accurately before publication That error has since been corrected. 

Click bait art pic

The Catch 22 clause in the BBC’s complaints procedure

Several readers have brought to our attention instances of the BBC’s recent employment of what is known as the Expedited Complaints Procedure. According to that BBC protocol (introduced in June 2012 – see Annex B):

Expedited Complaints Procedure 1

Expedited Complaints Procedure 2In one case a correspondent has had his access to the BBC complaints system limited until September 2016 and in another case a reader has been informed by the BBC that the Expedited Complaints Procedure will be applied to his complaints in the coming two years on the basis of clauses (d) and (e) in the above protocol.

“(d) are shown on investigation to have no reasonable prospect of success; or

(e) after rejection of the complaint at an earlier stage (eg Stage 1), are persistently and repeatedly appealed unsuccessfully to the next stage (eg Stage 2).”

Of course the body which rules whether or not a complaint has a “reasonable prospect of success” and which rejects or accepts an appeal is none other than the self-regulating BBC itself.

The concept of stakeholders in an organisation they are obliged to fund by law being subjected to limitations on complaints on the basis of arbitrary decisions made by that same self-regulating organisation is surely one which is worthy of public debate ahead of the renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter in 2016.

Related Articles:

The saga of three questions the BBC did not want to answer – part one

The saga of three questions the BBC did not want to answer – part two

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

On September 1st the BBC News website published a feature titled “Gaza crisis: Toll of operations in Gaza” which has since become a frequent appendage to numerous other articles published on the website’s Middle East page. As we know, the BBC has stated that its online content is intended to act as “historical records” and hence the accuracy and impartiality of that content is of prime importance.Toll of Operations art

This particular feature opens with the following words:

“The number of civilians killed during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge offensive has raised international concern and condemnation.

Between 8 July and 27 August, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, along with 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel.

The UN says the vast majority of Palestinian deaths are civilian. But figures from previous operations over the past six years in the densely populated Gaza Strip show it is not the first time civilians have paid a heavy price.”

Once again we see the BBC quoting “the UN” as though that body were impeccably objective, but with no effort made to inform audiences with regard to the very significant issue of the background to those UN statements and the political motivations involved.

The feature then goes on to address the topic of casualties in three conflicts in reverse chronological order. First comes a section titled “2014: Operation Protective Edge” in which readers are told that:

“The overwhelming majority of those killed were Palestinians.

The UN says at least 2,104 Palestinian died, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 women.

An Israeli government official told the BBC that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had killed 1,000 “terrorists” during the assault on Gaza.”

No effort is made to inform BBC audiences, for example, of the ongoing analysis being carried out by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre which, after examination of some 35% of the named casualties, so far indicates that the ratio of combatants to civilians stands at 49% to 51% respectively.

The section goes on to present graphics including one complied on the basis of information provided, inter alia, by the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health and “Al Akhbar” – an anti-Israel Lebanese online media organization considered by some to be pro-Hizballah. It further includes ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s head of statistics who – as readers may recall – was forced to radically amend a previous article on the topic of casualties in the Gaza Strip due to outside pressure from politically motivated organisations.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The section goes on to state that “[s]atellite images released by the United Nations show how a section of Shijaia [sic] neighbourhood in Gaza City has been razed by attacks since 8 July” but no attempt is made to provide BBC audiences with the all-important context behind those images by informing them of the military installations deliberately placed by Hamas and other terrorist organisations in that neighbourhood.

The feature then moves on to a section titled “2012: Operation Pillar of Defense” in which readers are informed that:

“Israel’s previous major air strike offensive on Gaza was Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

It began with an air strike that killed the commander of Hamas’s military wing, Ahmed Jabari, whom it accused of responsibility for “all terrorist activities against Israel from Gaza” over the past decade.

Prior to the operation, there had been spates of Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas’s Qassam Brigades, firing hundreds of rockets into southern Israel and the Israeli military shelling Gaza and carrying out air strikes.”

In other words, the BBC continues its now well-entrenched practice of downplaying the months of terror attacks which preceded – and caused – Operation Pillar of Defense. Casualty figures promoted in that section come from one source alone:

“An Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, said 167 Palestinians were killed, including 87 civilians. Six Israelis – two soldiers and four civilians – were also killed.”

Detailed examination of the names of casualties by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre put the ratio of combatants to civilians at 60:40 compared to B’Tselem’s 52% civilian casualty rate.

The feature’s third and final section is titled “2008-2009: Operation Cast Lead” and it opens with the (apparently copy pasted) claim that:

The last time Israeli ground troops went into Gaza was in December 2008, as part of Operation Cast Lead. Around 1,391 Palestinians were killed, including an estimated 759 civilians, according to B’Tselem. Reports say this included 344 children and 110 women.” [emphasis added]

The section goes on to promote two more politically motivated NGOs and to advance the myth of the use of white phosphorous as a weapon during Operation Cast Lead.

“Israel’s military had put the overall Palestinian death toll at 1,166, of whom it said 295 were “uninvolved” civilians. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights estimates that 1,417 Palestinians died, 926 of whom were civilians.

An Amnesty International report into the operation said lives were lost because Israeli forces “frequently obstructed access to medical care.” It also condemned the use of “imprecise” weapons such as white phosphorous and artillery shells.”

No mention is made of the fact that Hamas’ Fathi Hamad admitted in a 2010 interview that around half the casualties in that operation were terrorists, thus negating the inaccurate claims made by the PCHR still being promoted by the BBC.

But by far the most egregious aspect of this BBC feature is the fact that it makes no attempt whatsoever to provide BBC audiences with the crucial context of casualty ratios in the Gaza Strip as compared to those in other conflicts.

Let us assume for a moment that the UN figures quoted and promoted by the BBC are correct and that 495 children were killed during Operation Protective Edge and that none of those under 18s (as UNICEF defines child casualties) were in fact operatives for terrorist organisations. Even if we take those figures at face value, the percentage of children killed in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014 is, as Ben Dror Yemini has pointed out, considerably lower than the percentage of children killed by coalition forces (including British troops) in Iraq and by NATO forces (also including British troops) in Kosovo.

And even if we take the BBC’s claim that 1,462 (69%) of a total of 2,104 casualties in the Gaza Strip were civilians as being accurate (despite the fact that – as noted above – ongoing analysis suggests that the ratio of civilians to combatants may actually be lower), that would still mean that – as Col. Richard Kemp has pointed out on numerous occasions – there is nothing exceptional about that ratio.

“The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed.

That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one.

In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia.”

Now let us remind ourselves of the BBC’s opening statement in this feature:

“The number of civilians killed during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge offensive has raised international concern and condemnation.”

That statement would lead any reasonable reader to believe that the number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge was somehow exceptional enough to prompt “international concern and condemnation”. The BBC’s editorial decision to omit from this feature any comparison to other conflicts means that audiences are unable to put that statement into its correct perspective and are hence likely to be misled.

Of course that editorial decision will not come as much of a surprise to anyone who closely followed BBC coverage of Operation Protective Edge throughout its duration because one dominant theme discernible throughout that coverage was the inaccurate portrayal of the conflict as an Israeli attack upon the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The feature tells readers that:  

“…figures from previous operations over the past six years in the densely populated Gaza Strip show it is not the first time civilians have paid a heavy price”

Indeed the price paid by Gaza’s civilian population for the actions of terrorist organisations embedded in their midst is a “heavy” and regrettable one. However – in contrast to the impression this anonymously written feature deliberately attempts to create – it is nevertheless no heavier than that paid by civilian populations in conflict zones elsewhere in the world. The BBC’s decision not to inform its audiences of that fact can only be attributed to political motivations being allowed to trump editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Jeremy Hardy promotes stereotypes of Israelis on BBC Radio 4

Judging by our inbox, quite a few of the people listening to BBC Radio 4 whilst in the midst of preparations for Rosh HaShana eve on September 24th were not amused by the BBC’s decision to air the polemics of anti-Israel activist Jeremy Hardy in an episode of the programme “Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation” titled “How to Define Oneself in Terms of Regional, Cultural and Geopolitical Identity Without Tears”.R4 Jeremy Hardy

Although Hardy’s show is ostensibly a comedy programme, even he describes the relevant parts of the programme (available for a short period of time here, mostly between 08:50 – 13:00 and 16:32 – 17:09 and also scheduled for repeat) in terms of his ability to “pontificate pompously”. On that point at least Hardy is not wrong; his ensuing monologues are however considerably less accurate. [all emphasis added]

“People who don’t have the right to national self-determination are likely to want it. Tamils, Tibetans, Basques, Kurds, Palestinians. And to take one of the more talked-about territorial disputes of our age, the State of Israel came about because some Jewish people wanted somewhere that a widely persecuted, dispersed, ethno-religious group could have a national home. Sadly one of the things that shapes our identities is other people being bastards to us. […] Zionism was a mixture of secular nationalism, religious separatism and desperation. The main problem with the plan was that the place chosen already had people living there. Palestine was ruled by Turkey until the First World War, after which it fell under British colonial administration. Yes – I’m afraid it’s another one of ours: we who have been responsible for so many partitions and nearly got our comeuppance last week.

The first British governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs, described the idea of the new Jewish homeland as ‘a little loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism’. A prescient warning you might think, but this was a man speaking in favour of the idea. And the British encouraged significant Jewish migration on taking charge. There is the narrative that Palestine had been an empty wasteland – which is a lie. Yes, the new arrivals were industrious: you’re not gonna get that many people turning up from Poland without seeing a lot more construction than the British would get. But there were already Palestinian towns, villages and farms, mosques and churches that had been there for centuries.

Nevertheless, even some of Israel’s most passionate critics today are people who supported its founding in 1948. They argue that although Israeli governments are increasingly racist and colonial, the founding principles were noble. Other critics would see even that view as rosy-spectacled but whatever you think about that period, the State of Israel exists and one of the frequent demands of its government is that others recognize its right to exist. I’m not sure any state has rights. Whether a person has rights is a moral question – they’re not like kidneys – but at least ethical judgments apply more sensibly to human beings. We’d all say a person has a right to a house. We wouldn’t say the house has rights. No-one thinks a house has a right to exist: certainly not an Israeli driving a bulldozer.

Let’s imagine that all Israel’s critics recognize its right to exist as a de-facto state. That wouldn’t guarantee its continued existence in its present form or any other. Even now we don’t even know where its borders are supposed to be, so what are we ratifying? That’s what happens when you’re greedy: you keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger – people have trouble recognizing you.

And there might be a two-state or one-state solution. Over time states come and go. Yugoslavia doesn’t exist – it lasted 70 years and broke up disastrously on ethnic lines. Czechoslovakia lasted about the same length of time and split peacefully on ethnic lines. But Belgium was formed 140 years ago and still exists – if you can call it that. The Israeli government further complicates matters by insisting the country is not only recognized as a state, but as a Jewish state. But most Jewish people don’t live there; thankfully because we need them. One of the most popular voices on Radio 4 is that of Michael Rosen – the non-Zionist Jewish poet and children’s author. It would have been our loss if his parents had decided to raise him in Israel rather than north London and what a horrible book ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ might have been. How many bears might have died on the pretext of the one he was looking for? Moreover, many Israelis have only little Jewish ancestry or none. Even without the occupied territories, a fifth of the population is Palestinian and demographics change and ideas about who we are change. […]

Speaking of food, Israelis famously insist the falafel is their national dish. Now you can lay claim to a two thousand year-old wall, but that’s just taking the piss. Of course falafels have always been eaten by Middle Eastern Jews – they were Middle Eastern people. That underlines the differences between those Jews and the Europeans who came to the region. And yes – we white Britons say the curry is our national dish, but we say it in a self-mocking way that acknowledges and thanks the various cultures that have improved ours. We don’t say it to celebrate the lasting trauma we brought to the Indian sub-continent. Well the BNP claims that we invented the curry during the Raj, but they are founded on an ideology that gave quite a boost to the idea that Europe’s Jews might be safer in a Middle East hotspot.”

So as we see, in addition to inaccuracies such as the representation of the Mandate for Palestine as a British colonial project, the claim that the British “encouraged Jewish migration”, the (obviously) unsupported claim that Israeli governments are “racist and colonial” and the falsehood that “greedy” Israel is “getting bigger and bigger”, Hardy aims for cheap and easy laughs by using offensive stereotypes of Israelis as being violent and aggressive.

Given Hardy’s track record of collaboration with the ISM, one would probably not have expected anything other than the exploitation of a ‘comedy’ show for the promotion of his own embarrassingly uninformed politics. That, of course, is a factor of which Radio 4 editors must have been aware in advance but, as we have seen before, the BBC seems to think that the promotion of inaccurate information and crude national stereotypes is perfectly acceptable – just as long as a ‘comedy’ label is appended. 

Related Articles:

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BBC News website continues to promote inaccurate feature on casualties

The BBC News website’s presentation of its recent report on Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UNGA (discussed here) included several ‘related articles’ offered to readers both on the Middle East homepage and in the article itself as complimentary information on the topic. Among those articles was one originally published on August 8th under the title “Gaza conflict: The hundreds who lost their lives“.

Abbas UNGA linked art 2

Not only is that feature long out of date but – as we pointed out here when it originally appeared – it is also inaccurate on the topic of Israeli casualties with both its text and a graphic claiming to inform readers “where people were killed” presenting incorrect information.

“The article also includes some glaring inaccuracies with regard to Israeli casualties.

“Meanwhile, two Israeli civilians died in Haifa and near the Erez border crossing into northern Gaza; and a Thai farm worker was killed in Ashkelon.”

In fact, the locations of casualties in Israel from missile fire by terrorists in the Gaza Strip are as follows:

Jul 15, 2014 – Dror Hanin, 37, of Beit Aryeh was killed near the Erez Crossing after suffering a direct hit from a mortar fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip, while delivering food to soldiers there.

Jul 19, 2014 – Ouda Lafi al-Waj, 32, was killed and three members of his family were injured, when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a small Bedouin settlement near Dimona.

Jul 23, 2014 – Narakorn Kittiyangkul, 36, from Nan’s Pua district in Thailand was killed by a mortar fired from Gaza while working in a greenhouse in one of the Israeli communities in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council.

Dimona is nowhere near Haifa and the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council (Hof Ashkelon) is not the city of Ashkelon.”

Although this feature has remained available to BBC audiences online since its original publication nearly two months ago, no effort has been made to correct its inaccuracies. The editorial process which lies behind the continued promotion of a feature which is both so obviously out of date and incorrect must surely be called into question.

Unqualified amplification of Abbas’ ‘genocide’ agitprop on BBC News website

If – as one sincerely hopes is the case – it can be assumed that BBC staff are sufficiently well-informed to be able to recognize Mahmoud Abbas’ inaccurate and repeated use of the term ‘genocide’ to describe this summer’s conflict in his recent speech at the UNGA as nothing more than the agitprop that it is, then one must necessarily ask why BBC editors considered it appropriate to plaster that and additional defamation on the pages of the BBC News website.

Abbas UNGA on HP

Click to enlarge

One must also ask why the September 27th article titled “Palestinian leader accuses Israel of ‘genocide’ at UN” makes no effort to clarify to readers that the accusation amplified in its headline and in the body of the report is entirely baseless and that Abbas’ additional accusations of “war crimes” have not been proven in any legal forum.Abbas UNGA art

The BBC’s report on Abbas’ polemical speech is highly selective, dealing only with specific parts of its content.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of carrying out a “war of genocide” in Gaza in his speech at the UN General Assembly.

Mr Abbas said Israeli “war crimes” in Gaza should be punished, but stopped short of saying he would take the issue to the International Criminal Court.” […]

“Mr Abbas said the scale of damage in Gaza was unprecedented and surpassed that of earlier wars.

“This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment,” he told the UN General Assembly in New York.

He added that it was “impossible” to return to negotiations with Israel that did not address what he called “fundamental questions”.

“There is no meaning or value in negotiations for which the agreed objective is not ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the independence of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the entire Palestinian Territory occupied in the 1967 war,” he said.” […]

The Palestinian leader also said the “hour of independence of the state of Palestine” had arrived. He added that he would be seeking a UN Security Council resolution on a two-state solution, but gave no time frame.”

Notably, the BBC ignored Abbas’ delusional and embarrassingly uninformed claim that the “devastation” in Gaza is “unmatched in modern times”. It erased from audience view his hallucinatory allegations concerning Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa mosque and – perhaps most significantly – Abbas’ references to “our national struggle established by the Palestinian fedayeen […] in early 1965″ and “Al-Nakba of 1948″ which clearly indicate that his interpretation of the causes of the conflict (and its solutions) does not begin in 1967. That point is of course critical to proper understanding of the rest of Abbas’ speech, including the short sections which the BBC did elect to report.

The BBC is of course perfectly entitled to report inaccurate and misleading allegations and claims made by Mahmoud Abbas or anyone else. What it is not at liberty to do is to mislead audiences by failing to provide them with the relevant factual information which would enable them to put falsehoods amplified by the BBC into their correct context.

R4 ‘Today’ editor: listener numbers down because BBC couldn’t ‘report on the ground’ in Gaza

A recent report in the Guardian reveals that the editor of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ thinks that its coverage of the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip has contributed to reduced numbers of listeners.Today 3 7

“Jamie Angus said some listeners had stopped tuning in to Today and had told him they could not take any more of “this terrible thing that I can’t influence”. This follows a period when the news has been dominated by the escalating civil war in Ukraine, with the threat of Russia and Nato being drawn into a wider conflict, the Israeli assault on Gaza, and most recently the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.” […]

“Today had a weekly reach of 6.7 million listeners in the second quarter of this year, the last period for which figures are available, down from a high of more than 7 million in the previous three months.”

Notably, Jamie Angus attributes the drop in numbers of listeners to a non-existent factor.

“The difficulty in getting BBC journalists in to the conflict zones, he added, resulted in “a lot of argumentative phone interviews with angry people on either side”, which also proved a turn off.” […]

“He added: “One of the big challenges for us, if we can’t report on the ground which we couldn’t very easily in Gaza because the BBC only had two correspondents there, you end up doing a lot of argumentative phone interviews with angry people on either side and generally that’s an unrewarding listen and audiences will switch off after too much of it.” ” [emphasis added]

However, just days before the conflict commenced, the BBC’s Andrew Roy told BBC World Service listeners that:

“…the BBC’s one of the few organisations that has permanent offices in Gaza, in Ramallah, in Jerusalem, so we are better placed than many to make sure that we report both sides of the story.” 

Indeed, the BBC does have an office in Gaza City and in addition to that, between July 8th and August 26th BBC journalists reporting from the Gaza Strip included Yolande Knell, Jeremy Bowen, Lyse Doucet, Paul Adams, James Reynolds, Ian Pannell, Martin Patience, Quentin Somerville, Jon Donnison, Chris Morris, Orla Guerin and Kevin Connolly. For most of that period there were typically at least three BBC foreign correspondents in the Gaza Strip, together with their support crews and along with the permanent local staff.

The sheer volume of reporting produced by BBC staff during those seven weeks clearly undermines the claim that the corporation could not easily “report from the ground”, as does the well-known fact that the Gaza Strip is – as indicated by the arrival of some 700 international journalists this last summer – one of the easier places from which to report.  

Revealingly, the issue with which Mr Angus appears to be less concerned is the content and quality of BBC reporting from the scene rather than its mere amount. Had the BBC adopted an editorial policy which ventured beyond repetitive, homogeneous, context-free ‘disaster zone’ style depictions of casualties and damage and instead actually lived up to its existing commitment to provide audiences with factual and impartial background information on issues such as the reasons for the conflict and its development, listeners might well have felt that they were being informed rather than herded towards a specific view and hence shown more interest in what the BBC had to offer. But in fact, during seven weeks of coverage, audiences were fed little which deviated from repeated emotive, context-free ‘reporter in the rubble’ reports and politically motivated campaigning items.

Unsurprisingly, Angus’ statistics suggest that BBC audiences may expect higher quality fact-based content from a programme purporting to deal in news and current affairs. 

Dumbed down BBC reporting on the Palestinian Unity Government continues

September 25th saw the appearance of an article titled “Hamas and Fatah agree unity government’s return to Gaza” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.PUG art

The report opens with the specious suggestion that the reason that the Palestinian Unity Government which came into being on June 2nd has not brought the Gaza Strip under its authority to date is the conflict between Israel and Hamas which began 36 days after that government’s inauguration (and which it did nothing to prevent) rather than internal Hamas-Fatah disagreements.

“Palestinian negotiators in Cairo say they have agreed a “comprehensive” deal for a national unity government to take responsibility for running Gaza.

A cabinet backed by Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, was unveiled in June.

But the move was eclipsed by Israel’s conflict with militant groups in Gaza.”

The article continues:

“The territory has been governed by Hamas, which won the last parliamentary elections in 2006, since it ousted forces loyal to the PA in 2007.

The PA was left to run parts of the occupied West Bank not under Israeli control.”

Readers are not informed that the electoral mandate won by Hamas in 2006 long since expired and elections to the PLC are long overdue. Neither is it made clear that what the BBC euphemistically describes as Hamas having “ousted” the PA was in fact a violent coup. Likewise, the fact that PA control over Areas A and B is a product of agreements between Israel and the PA is not adequately clarified to readers. The article continues:

“Earlier this month, PA President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of operating a “shadow government” in Gaza. Hamas denied the claim, calling it “against the reality”.”

No effort is made to enable BBC audiences to place that Hamas denial in its correct context by informing them that, despite the establishment of the unity government on June 2nd, Hamas continued to run ministries such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Information – both of which played active roles during the recent conflict.

Next, readers are provided with the following analysis from Kevin Connolly:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says bringing unity between Hamas and Fatah is a strategic aspiration for the Palestinians – but differences between the factions are bitter and profound.

The new deal is described as “comprehensive”, but not enough detail is being published to allow a real judgement on its prospects, our correspondent adds.”

In line with the BBC’s policy since the beginning of June, Connolly fails to clarify to readers that – despite the placatory assurances at the time of its inauguration – the PUG has failed to live up to the PA’s existing agreements with Israel on various issues, including the disarming of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Connolly apparently does not consider it relevant to inform audiences about crucial clauses in those existing agreements such as the ban on local weapons manufacture and import.

Later on, the report states:

“However, a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA’s own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory. He described the deal as “partial”.” [emphasis added]

Despite that very clear writing on the wall, the BBC obviously does not see the necessity of making audiences aware of the fact that if Hamas and other terrorist organisations are not disarmed by the PUG and the territory not brought under the sole control of PA security forces, then the Gaza Strip – along with the rest of the PA-controlled areas – will find itself in a ‘Lebanon-style’ situation whereby the actions of a foreign-sponsored terrorist organization can continue to spark conflict whenever that suits its own (or its sponsors’) agenda.

Additionally, the obviously relevant topic of the recent exposure of a planned Hamas coup against the PA is once again ignored by the BBC in this report.

Nearly four months since the Palestinian Unity Government came into existence, the BBC has still not met its obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” by providing audiences with anything more than superficial reporting on the topic. That failure clearly not only hampers audiences’ ability to understand current events, but also means that they will be ill-equipped to comprehend any future developments. 

Anjem Choudary’s BBC appearances ignored in reports on his arrest

The ‘England’ page of the BBC News website published a report titled “Anjem Choudary held in London terror raids” on September 25th  in which Choudary is described as a “radical Islamist preacher”. Given that most readers will naturally associate the use of the word ‘preacher’ with some sort of religious qualification, the accuracy of the BBC’s description is questionable – as Mehdi Hasan noted in 2010:

“Is Choudary an Islamic scholar whose views merit attention or consideration? No. Has he studied under leading Islamic scholars? Nope. Does he have any Islamic qualifications or credentials? None whatsoever.”

The article also included the following analysis from the BBC’s Home Affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani:Choudary arrest

“Anjem Choudary is a deeply controversial Islamic figure, a man who many Muslims despise because they believe he causes enormous damage to their position in British society.

Alongside another now-banned cleric, he once spearheaded al-Muhajiroun, a group that argued that the West is fighting a war against Muslims and Islam.

When the government banned the group, some of its former members founded new organisations, including Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades – which were also later banned.

The latter group’s protests against British soldiers returning from Afghanistan, led to counter-protests and the subsequent formation of the English Defence League.

Mr Choudary has always denied allegations that he has either incited or glorified acts of terrorism.”

Despite his promotion of Choudary’s denials, Casciani made no attempt to provide readers with an in-depth view of the actual agenda of Choudary’s various groups or of the nature of his opinions – such as his recent statement of support for ISIS and the practice of crucifixion.

The following day – September 26th – the BBC News website produced an additional report titled “Radical preacher Anjem Choudary released from custody” which once again included multiple descriptions of Choudary as a “preacher” and context-free amplification of his outlandish claims.

“He described his arrest as “politically motivated”, in order to silence him on the eve of the Parliamentary vote on military intervention in Iraq.”

The various reincarnations of Choudary’s extremist group under assorted titles have of course been common knowledge for a long time. Neither his prominent position in groups serially banned by the British government, his promotion of bigoted views nor his connections to the export of European Jihadists to the Middle East has, however, presented a barrier to Choudary’s regular invitations to appear on various BBC programmes.

Curiously, that fact was not reflected in either of the BBC’s reports concerning Choudary’s recent arrest.

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BBC misleads audiences regarding cause of Operation Protective Edge

On September 23rd the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israel kills Palestinians suspected of teenagers’ murders“. The original version of the report read as follows.

Qawasme shootout art

The article was subsequently amended twice but all its versions continue to promote the notion that the seven weeks of hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip were caused by the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th.

The final version of the report informs readers that:

“The abduction of the teenagers was a trigger of the recent conflict in Gaza.[…]

Israel launched a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank following the abduction, detaining hundreds of members.

Then on 2 July, a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was abducted and burned alive in an apparent revenge attack two days after the bodies of the Israeli teenagers were found. One Jewish man and two youths have been charged with the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdair, 16.

The killings set off an escalating cycle of violence, leading to a 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip that claimed more than 2,000 lives.”

As can be seen, the sequence of events presented to audiences by the BBC completely erases the fact that “the recent conflict” did not only take place “in Gaza” but also in Israel, with thousands of residents of the southern part of the country forced to leave their homes during that time.

Even more misleading is the fact that the BBC has completely airbrushed from audience view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between June 12th and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that incessant missile fire which was the reason for the military operation, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.

“A Hamas official, who did not give his name to Palestinian news agency Sawa, said overnight Friday-Saturday [July 4th/5th – Ed.] that “those who expect Hamas to stop the rocket fire [on Israel], should to turn [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Rami Hamdallah.”

The official was alluding to the fact that the salaries of 40,000 Hamas clerks in Gaza were still unpaid, which was reportedly a key Hamas demand since agreeing to a unity government deal in late April with the Palestinian Authority.”

There is unfortunately nothing novel about this article’s promotion of the erroneous notion of an irresistible “cycle of violence” and its failure to inform BBC audiences that the events of this summer could have been prevented had Hamas so chosen.

Another point worthy of remark in this report is the fact that the penny seems to have finally dropped with regard to Hamas’ involvement in the kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teenagers.

“The militant Islamist group Hamas initially denied being behind the killings but later on its political leader Khaled Meshaal said members had carried them out.

“Hamas praises the role martyrs Abu Aisha and Qawasmeh played in chasing down Israeli settlers and we stress that their assassination will not weaken the resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.”

That belated epiphany means that the BBC should now ensure that all its previously published content promoting the notion that Hamas was not responsible for the murders (material which of course remains accessible to the general public online) is amended to include a footnote informing audiences that the BBC’s claims were inaccurate. An organization truly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality would also carry out a review of the role played by Jon Donnison in promoting politically motivated inaccurate information which deliberately misled audiences with regard to Hamas’ involvement in the kidnappings and murders.