An article appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on March 13th entitled “Funeral held for Palestinian shot by Israeli soldiers” omits information relevant to the context of the incident in which its subject, Mahmoud Titi, was killed.
As is so often the case with BBC articles, the report begins with the last chronological event – Titi’s funeral.
“The funeral of a Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli soldiers has taken place in the West Bank.
Mahmoud Titi, 22, was killed during clashes in a refugee camp near Hebron on Tuesday, after soldiers entered the camp to make arrests.”
Only in the fifth paragraph do readers begin to get some idea of the circumstances surrounding Titi’s death.
“The Israeli military said its soldiers entered the al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron, after Palestinians threw a petrol bomb onto a road towards Israeli cars. Clashes then broke out, during which Mr Titi was killed, it added.
The military confirmed that live ammunition was used during the operation. Two other Palestinians were injured during the incident.”
The first sentence does not make sufficiently clear the fact that the soldiers who entered al Fawar did so whilst in pursuit of the throwers of petrol bombs at Israeli vehicles travelling on Route 60 near Beit Hagi at around 8:30 pm on March 12th 2013.
The neutral choice of phrasing “clashes broke out” disguises the fact that the soldiers were attacked with rocks and petrol bombs in an incident initiated by rioters in the camp. The BBC report fails to mention that the vehicle in which the soldiers were travelling got stuck and that the rioters pelted it with rocks, smashing its bullet-proof windows and causing the soldiers to assess that their lives were in immediate danger. Only then was live ammunition used.
Video footage uploaded to Youtube, apparently filmed by the rioters themselves, shows the incident.
The soldiers were evacuated by back-up.
The BBC article also fails to mention that Mahmoud Titi (described as being between 22 and 25 years old in different reports) was, according to Palestinian sources, a known Hamas operative who had spent three years in prison in Israel and had been released from a Palestinian Authority prison just a few days before his death following his arrest by the PA security forces several weeks ago.
The article also makes no mention of the statements made by Palestinian terror organisations in relation to Mahmoud Titi’s death. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad statement said that:
“The blood of the shahid Mahmoud Titi was not shed in vain. It will continue the Palestinian resistance and bring about the wished-for intifada and resistance to the occupation, which have no replacement. The Palestinian people in the [West] Bank must continue the clashes with the Israeli enemy.
Conflict with the Zionist occupation is the only option in order to gain our rights.”
The Hamas statement described Titi as:
“..a martyr who is a role model to all the Hamas youth to act against the occupation with the aim of releasing the Palestinian prisoners.”
The BBC report states that:
“The BBC’s Jon Donnison in Jerusalem says there has been an increase in tension in the West Bank in recent weeks, with frequent clashes between Israeli soldiers and protesters angry at treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.”
Of course the BBC has failed to report the majority of the rioting and terrorist incidents which have led to a significant rise in the violence. The month of February saw a 70% rise in the number of terror attacks in comparison with the preceding month, with 139 incidents recorded and three Israelis injured.
However, Donnison’s assertion that the rise in violence can be attributed to anger “at treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails” ignores both the organized political campaign behind those riots and the recent increased efforts by Hamas to establish terrorist cells in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.
The omission of crucial information results in a superficial presentation of this incident which distorts audience understanding of events and compromises the BBC’s obligations to both accuracy and impartiality.