Missile from Gaza not news for the BBC but Israeli response gets headlines

On the morning of December 19th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit the Eshkol region of the Western Negev in the third such incident since the ceasefire in late August which brought the fifty-day summer conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist organisations to a close. Like those previous incidents of missile fire, this one too was not reported by the BBC at the time.

During the night between December 19th and 20th, the Israeli air-force launched a retaliatory strike against a Hamas military installation near Khan Yunis. That event was considered news by the BBC.

With no mention of the obviously crucial context of the preceding missile attack some hours earlier, the BBC World Twitter account informed its 8.22 million followers:

KY strike bbc world tweet 1

Jerusalem bureau correspondent Quentin Sommerville did inform his 24 thousand followers that the Israeli action came in response to missile fire, whilst taking the opportunity to revive the well-trodden BBC theme of “home-made rockets”. There is no evidence to suggest that Sommerville was at the scene of the impact and hence his ‘diagnosis’ of the missile’s nature is apparently based on guess-work. Equally questionable is Sommerville’s geography: there is no city called Eshkol: that name refers to a regional council. Nevertheless, that inaccurate information was retweeted by the BBC World Twitter account.

KY strike Sommerville tweet 1

KY strike Sommerville tweet 2

More context-free ‘last-first’ reporting was seen on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of December 20th where visitors were informed that “Israel launches an air strike on an alleged Hamas site in Gaza, in the first such action since the declaration of a truce in August”, but with no mention in the headline or sub-heading of the missile attack several hours beforehand.

KY strike on HP

That headline leads to an article titled “Israel launches Gaza air strike on ‘Hamas target’” which fails to clarify to BBC audiences that this latest missile attack was the third since the end of August.

Readers will note that one of the recommended articles presented on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with that article is headed “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” which was discussed here. Whilst the BBC has put much effort in recent months into the production of numerous ‘reporter in the rubble’ items showcasing the topic of damage to houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (see some additional examples here, here and here), it has refrained from carrying out any reporting whatsoever on the subject of Hamas’ reconstruction of its military infrastructure, including cross-border tunnels and missile capabilities.

Once again licence fee-payers relying on the BBC to meet its half of the bargain by providing them with reporting which will enhance their understanding of international issues are being sold short. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the corporation’s continuing policies of ‘last-first’ reporting and framing by omission. 

BBC reporting on Abu Ein incident: the numbers and the narrative

In addition to the grossly inaccurate account of the circumstances preceding the death of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein presented in the afternoon version of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 10th, the programme’s evening version, presented by Tim Franks, included a report on the same topic by Kevin Connolly (available from 00:39:00 here).Newshour 10 12 Franks

As has been the case in all the BBC’s reporting on this subject, Connolly failed to provide listeners with an accurate representation of the circumstances behind the demonstration at Turmus Aya, saying:

“A group of demonstrators set out for the village of Turmus Aya because they believe that Israel’s marking out land there to build a new settlement of the sort regularly condemned by the international community near the existing settlement of Shilo.”

In fact, the protesters – who were organized by the councils of adjacent villages – arrived at the specific location at the particular juncture because on that day the political NGO Yesh Din, together with the same local councils, presented a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad. The demonstration – as stated by the organisation’s lawyer Shlomi Zacharia in the interview here (Hebrew, from 07:24) – was intended to garner publicity for that move, as the presence of film crews obviously informed of the event in advance also indicates. Whilst Connolly may have been told that the demonstrators “believe” there are plans to build a new community in the area, he obviously did not bother to fact-check the existence of any such plans before repeating that hearsay.

Once again, Connolly’s account of the sequence of events is also misleading.

“The Palestinians found the Israeli security forces waiting for them and a confrontation which was perhaps inevitable began quickly. In television images you can see an old man pushed to the ground and getting up and striking Israeli soldiers with a flag pole. There is a lot of violent shoving and tear gas is used. In the midst of it, Ziad Abu Ein finds a camera and begins telling the crew what’s going on. Listen carefully and you can hear him fighting for breath before he begins to speak.

Voiceover: They are assaulting us. This is the terrorism of the occupation. This is their terrorist army; practices terrorism against the Palestinian people. Nobody threw a stone and nobody fought back.

Connolly: Now, within minutes of recording that brief interview Ziad Abu Zain [sic] had died in an ambulance taking him to hospital and it’s still not clear exactly what caused his death. At one point an Israeli Border Police officer was seen to grab him by the throat but perhaps very briefly. He would have inhaled tear gas and there are also stories of him being hit and shoved.”

Connolly fails to clarify that the use of tear gas was in response to an attempt by the demonstrators to approach Adei Ad and that the media interview given by Abu Ein occurred after his provocation of and altercation with the Border Police officer rather than beforehand, as clarified by Channel 10 reporter Roy Sharon here (Hebrew) from 03:16.

Connolly then uses an extended version of the interview with Hanan Ashrawi (who was not present at the scene) also found in his television report on the subject from the same day and, despite the lack of any evidence proving that Abu Ein was “killed”, nevertheless includes that allegation in this item.

Ashrawi: “Well first of all it’s extremely sad that a colleague and an old friend has been killed in such a cruel way. But I’m also…I have a sense of outrage. Ziad was guilty of nothing more than planting olive trees where Israel would uproot trees, was guilty of nothing more than ensuring that we remain on the land where Israel was trying to expel people: that we save the land where Israel was attempting to steal the land.”

No mention is made in this report of Abu Ein’s conviction for the murder of two Israeli teenagers and the injury of over 30 others in a terror attack on Tiberias market in 1979. Neither are listeners informed that when the terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti was arrested by Israeli special forces in 2002, he was hiding in Abu Ein’s house.

The next day, December 11th, the evening version of Newshour (also presented by Tim Franks) included a report by Yolande Knell (from 00:45:00 here) which contained a statement from Saeb Erekat similar to the one used in her television report from the same day.Newshour 11 12 Franks  

Knell’s description of the previous day’s events is as follows:

“Yesterday television crews filmed Mr Abu Ein as he joined dozens of protesters in a demonstration against Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. But Israel’s security forces were waiting for them. After scuffles broke out an Israeli Border Policeman briefly grabbed Mr Abu Ein’s throat and later he fell to the ground, clutching his chest. An Israeli doctor was present at the Palestinian post-mortem examination and Chen Kugel from the National Institute of Forensic Medicine gave Israel’s conclusions.

Kugel: The findings of the autopsy were that the cause of death was a heart attack. Now this type of heart attack is caused by stress and apparently he had a stressful event just before – we all saw it – and we found some bruises in the muscle layer and the sub-cutaneous layer of the neck.

Knell: For the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, it was more clear-cut.

Erekat: Ziad Abu Ein was killed in cold blood. The autopsy report said he had an explosion in the major artery. What caused this was Israeli soldiers suffocating and beating up Ziad Abu Ein. They are fully responsible.”

As was the case in her filmed report, Knell refrains from informing audiences that there is no evidence to show that Abu Ein was “killed” or ‘suffocated’ or ‘beaten’. Note too how she places the evidence-free rhetoric of Erekat on the same level as the scientific opinion of a senior physician. Neither is any attempt made by Knell to inform listeners of Abu Ein’s past conviction for terrorism.

A look at the coverage of this incident across various BBC platforms (see related articles below) shows that in two filmed reports for television, two written articles and three World Service radio programmes, the picture presented to audiences adheres predominantly to the Palestinian narrative.

In addition to hearing or reading differing and conflicting reports from unidentified Palestinian “witnesses”, “medics” and local reporters for foreign news agencies, BBC audiences were presented with two interviews with Hanan Ashrawi, one interview with Abdallah Abu Rahma and two interviews with Saeb Erekat, who was also quoted in one of the written articles. Despite the lack of any supporting evidence, audiences have been told that Ziad Abu Ein’s collapse and subsequent death was caused by inhaling tear gas, being hit and/or shoved, being hit by a tear gas canister, being beaten up, being suffocated and being hit on the head with a helmet – to name but some of the proffered accounts. They have also been told on two separate occasions across all platforms that Abu Ein was “killed” and on three further separate occasions that he was “killed in cold blood”.

In contrast, audiences heard one interview with an Israeli official (the pathologist) and in two other reports the BBC paraphrased statements concerning Abu Ein’s medical condition made by the Israeli authorities. Abu Ein’s terror conviction was only briefly mentioned in one of these reports.

The amplification of unproven, inaccurate hearsay, rumour and propaganda from obviously interested parties is not ‘impartiality’ as demanded by the BBC editorial guidelines. It is the BBC’s job to present its audiences with the verified facts behind a story in order to enable them to become better informed about events – not to blindly repeat the narratives promoted by anyone and everyone willing to speak to journalists.

Unfortunately, this kind of jumble sale journalism, in which all the tales offered to the BBC – however bizarre or disconnected from the facts – are promoted and presented as legitimate news, seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent in BBC Middle East reporting.

Related Articles:

Multiple inaccuracies in Kevin Connolly’s filmed BBC report on death of Ziad Abu Ein

BBC’s Knell at Abu Ein funeral: all the rumour not worth reporting

BBC News website’s written reports on Abu Ein continue to spread rumour

Palestinian activist gets open mic for propagation of lies on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

 

 

BBC’s Knell at Abu Ein funeral: all the rumour not worth reporting

On December 11th viewers of BBC television news were shown a filmed report by Yolande Knell about the funeral of Ziad Abu Ein which was also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Thousands attend funeral for Zaid Abu Ein amid tensions“.Knell funeral Abu Ein filmed

By the time that report was broadcast well over 24 hours had passed since Abu Ein’s death, during which not only had filmed material from a number of sources come to light, but an autopsy had been carried out. One may therefore have expected that Knell’s report would be free of the many inaccuracies which marred Kevin Connolly’s filmed report from the previous day. That, however, was not the case.

Like Connolly, Knell does not adequately inform audiences of the circumstances of the demonstration attended by Abu Ein, saying:

“A day ago, dozens of protesters gathered to plant olive trees by a Palestinian village. This was meant to be a symbolic show that the land, near a Jewish settlement, is rightly theirs.”

As was noted here in connection with Connolly’s very similar representation of the subject:

“In fact, the protesters – who were organized by the councils of adjacent villages – arrived at the specific location at the particular juncture because on that day the political NGO Yesh Din, together with the same local councils, presented a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad – as stated by the organisation’s lawyer Shlomi Zacharia in the interview here (Hebrew, from 7:24).”

Like Connolly, Knell also misrepresents the sequence of events, telling viewers that:

“…Israel’s security forces were waiting for them and Mr Abu Ein was caught up in angry scenes. At one point an Israeli border policeman briefly grabbed his throat. He fell to the ground.”

The fact that (as can be seen in filmed footage of the incident) Abu Ein engaged in physical and verbal provocation of the security forces goes unmentioned in Knell’s account of events. Likewise, she inaccurately tells audiences that Abu Ein “fell to the ground” when he actually sat down of his own accord and implies that happened immediately after the altercation with the Border Police officer, whilst in fact Abu Ein managed to give an interview to the media between the two events. Knell also fails to mention that an Israeli paramedic tried to treat Abu Ein, but that he was instead quickly evacuated by a Palestinian ambulance and died on the way to hospital.

Knell misrepresents the results of the autopsy, presenting the fact that Abu Ein was already suffering from ischemic heart disease as an Israeli claim only. She both amplifies Palestinian conspiracy theories herself and provides an unchallenged platform for Saeb Erekat to further embroider the tale.

Knell: “Israel says he died of a heart attack and had a pre-existing condition. But after a post-mortem exam, Palestinians say he was killed in cold blood.”

Erekat: “Of course, ya’ani, he could have been killed by his…eh…an explosion his main artery but what caused this? What caused this was Israeli soldiers suffocating and beating up Ziad Abu Ein. They are fully responsible. The Israeli government is held fully responsible in accordance with the autopsy report.”

There is of course no evidence to show that Abu Ein was either ‘suffocated’ or ‘beaten up’ but nevertheless Knell fails to communicate that fact to viewers.

This is of course far from the first time that we have seen the BBC not only failing to provide audiences with the necessary information which will help them to distinguish between reality and the chaff of rumour, hearsay and propaganda but also amplifying the latter on an equal footing with established facts. Just last month when an autopsy determined that a Palestinian bus driver had committed suicide, the BBC saw fit to promote unproven claims that he had been murdered in no fewer than seven reports on numerous platforms.

Licence fee payers are no doubt wondering what is the point of funding a news organization which cannot – or will not – distinguish between blatant political propaganda and reality and thus repeatedly fails to help its audiences understand the facts behind events. 

 

Multiple inaccuracies in Kevin Connolly’s filmed BBC report on death of Ziad Abu Ein

On December 10th the BBC produced several reports concerning the death of PA official Ziad Abu Ein after an altercation with Israeli security forces near Turmus Aya.

One of those reports was a filmed item by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which appeared on BBC television news programmes as well as on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian minister dies during West Bank protest“. In fact, Abu Ein was not a “Palestinian minister” at the time of his death; his title (since September 2013) was head of the PLO’s ‘Commission Against the Separation Wall and Settlements’. Previously Abu Ein had held the position of deputy minister for prisoners’ affairs. The synopsis to that report amplifies assorted unverified rumours concerning the cause of his death:Abu Ein filmed Connolly

“A Palestinian minister has died after a confrontation with Israeli troops at a protest in the West Bank.

Palestinian medics told the BBC Ziad Abu Ein had died from complications related to tear gas exposure.

But several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers. One said he had been hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister fired by them.”

The report opens with Kevin Connolly informing viewers that:

“The Palestinian protesters came to Turmus Aya in the occupied West Bank because they believe Israel has earmarked this land for its own future development. It’s near an existing Jewish settlement. The demonstrators came to plant olive trees: a way of saying the land is theirs.”

In fact, the protesters – who were organized by the councils of adjacent villages – arrived at the specific location at the particular juncture because on that day the political NGO Yesh Din, together with the same local councils, presented a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad – as stated by the organisation’s lawyer Shlomi Zacharia in the interview here (Hebrew, from 7:24). Connolly continues:

“Israel’s security forces were waiting for them. The clashes were nothing new in this bitterly contested place. Israeli troops used tear gas as the confrontation developed. Ziad Abu Ein appeared, breathless, before the cameras to condemn Israel.”

Viewers then see footage of Abu Ein speaking to the media with a voiceover translation of his words:

“They are assaulting us. This is the terrorism of the occupation. This is a terrorist army, practices terrorism against the Palestinian people. Nobody threw a stone and nobody fought back.”

The BBC News website also saw fit to publish a separate filmed item under the title “They’re assaulting us – Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein” with a synopsis also amplifying unverified rumour.Abu Ein filmed 2

“There are conflicting reports about his death – medics told the BBC he died from complications related to exposure to tear gas, but several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers.”

Returning to Connolly’s report, he then tells viewers:

“Then, Mr Abu Ein – a veteran Palestinian official – emerged at the centre of the angry scenes. Apparently grabbed by the throat at one point by an Israeli border police officer, he fell to the ground and was treated at the scene. But minutes after these images were captured, he had died on his way to hospital.”

Connolly’s chronology of events is in fact inaccurate. Reporter Roy Sharon from Channel 10 was at the scene and standing by Abu Ein at the time of the altercation. According to Sharon, who also filmed the events (see here from 8:25 and here from 3:16 – Hebrew), the security forces used tear gas in response to an attempt by the protesters to approach the outpost (not mentioned by Connolly), the altercation between Abu Ein and the Border Police officers took place about 15 minutes after the tear gas had been used and the interview given by Abu Ein to the media took place after his provocation of the security forces – not before as Connolly claims. Some four minutes later Abu Ein sat down on a rock feeling unwell, an Israeli paramedic approached him to offer help and roughly five minutes after that an ambulance arrived to transport him to hospital. Sky News correspondent Tom Rayner who was also at the scene tweeted:

Abu Ein Rayner tweet

A subsequent autopsy showed that Ziad Abu Ein died of a heart attack.

“The deceased suffered from heart disease, and there was evidence that plaque buildup were clogging more than 80% of his blood vessels, as well as signs that he had suffered heart attacks in the past.”

Connolly’s report goes on to show an interview with Hanan Ashrawi who, despite not having been present at the scene as far as is known, states:

“Ziad was guilty of nothing more than planting olive trees where Israel would uproot trees, was guilty of nothing more than ensuring that we remain on the land where Israel was trying to expel people.”

Despite seeing fit to amplify Ashrawi’s baseless propaganda, Connolly did not find it necessary to inform BBC audiences that Ziad Abu Ein was a convicted terrorist responsible for the deaths of two Israeli boys and the wounding of thirty others in a bomb attack on the market in Tiberias in 1979. Neither were audiences informed that when the terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti was arrested by Israeli forces in 2002, he was hiding in Abu Ein’s house.

Connolly closes:

“As news of Ziad Abu Ein’s death spread the Palestinian Authority declared three days of mourning. It hasn’t said how it will respond politically but Mr Abu Ein’s death will further escalate the tension that’s been steadily rising here. Israel says it’s sorry for his death, is investigating and has offered to help with the autopsy. But Palestinian anger runs deep.”Abu Ein Davies Tweet

In fact, shortly after the incident Jibril Rajoub stated that the PA would halt security coordination with Israel – although such a move does not appear to have been implemented so far.

One thing, however, is certain: inaccurate reporting of the kind seen in Connolly’s report and on from BBC employees on social media can only add to the already incendiary cocktail of rumour and propaganda surrounding Abu Ein’s death and hence contribute to a potentially dangerous escalation of tensions.  

BBC’s Knell revamps ‘reporter in the rubble’ for promotion of a political agenda

It’s a story BBC audiences have heard many times before but on December 8th two more reports produced by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell continued the now well established tradition of context-free descriptions of damage to structures resulting from the summer conflict in the Gaza Strip as a means of amplification of the campaign by Hamas and its sympathisers to lift restrictions on dual-use goods into the territory, to which the corporation – and Knell in particular – self-conscripted back in July.

Listeners to BBC World Service radio heard an item titled “Slow reconstruction of Gaza” which was also promoted as a podcast on Twitter. The synopsis to that podcast reads as follows:Knell reconstruction audio 8 12

“At least 100,000 Palestinians lost their homes in this summer’s conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, according to the UN. The BBC’s Yolande Knell has found that very little reconstruction has taken place in this Palestinian territory. Israel tightly monitors the import of building materials and equipment into Gaza, arguing that militants could use them to rebuild tunnels and carry out attacks.”

As has been noted here previously, the BBC has shown no interest whatsoever in investigating how Hamas managed (despite supposed supervision by international bodies and aid agencies) to comandeer thousands of tons of construction materials in order to build the dozens of cross-border attack tunnels which led to the ground operation in this summer’s conflict. Instead, what has already been shown to be reality continues to be represented by the BBC as theoretical Israeli claims.

English teacher's house

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Knell opens her audio report with a visit to Shuja’iya – the neighbourhood also featured in her big report last September. Once again, she refrains from informing listeners of the scale of Hamas operations in that neighbourhood which caused parts of it to become military targets, or specifically that the street highlighted in her report is near the location of missile launching sites used by the terrorists during the summer war.

“Three months on from the ceasefire that ended this summer’s fighting in Gaza, I’ve come back to Nazaz Street in one of the worst affected neighbourhoods – Shuja’iya. It’s much colder than last time I was here and some areas are flooded because there’s been really wet, wintry weather in the past week. But otherwise, surprisingly little has changed: there is still rubble everywhere.

[Man’s voice] See – this is the kitchen. Our cups…destroyed here.

Knell: I’ve met up once again with Abdul Kareem Abu Ahmed. An English teacher, he shows me around the ruins of his large home and rose garden.

AKAA: We were hoping that they will immediately rebuild our houses. But after three months we feel now very frustrated.

Knell: Have you had any progress with the United Nations coming to look at the house?

AKAA: Yes, they came here. They visit us, they took photos. They promised us they will give us money to pay for renting flat but nothing happened. They didn’t give us concrete. They didn’t give us equipments to rebuild, so we still as we were.”

The same Brontë-loving, rose-growing English teacher has of course already appeared in a succession of BBC reports – see examples here, here and here. Regular listeners to BBC World Service radio were no doubt confused by the next segment of Knell’s report seeing as just days earlier they had been told that there are no building materials (or electricity or water) in the Gaza Strip.

“Knell: But here at the Burj al Jamil [phonetic] building firm we’ve finally found some signs of progress. There’s a big crowd of men around the office door. They’re getting their ID cards checked against names on a computerized system. Then they get given a coupon which they hand over here at the warehouse. There’s a forklift truck loading up cement into the back of a horse and cart. Now, there are security cameras all around this warehouse so that monitors can keep an eye on what’s happening to these bags of cement. This company had to get special clearance to import the building materials into Gaza.

[Man’s voice] If the system stays like this it will take at least ten years to rebuild Gaza.

Knell: And yet the manager, Sami Abu Obeid, is disheartened. He tells me he could easily distribute much more cement.

Manager: Instead of 160 tons a day coming in, make it six or seven thousand tons. Also send in more gravel and iron. I will guarantee that everyone gets the right amount. Give me the names and I’ll take responsibility.”

Again, Knell makes no effort to inform listeners how the previous system of supervision failed to prevent cement, gravel and iron from reaching Hamas. She continues, describing the half year-old Palestinian unity government as “new” and failing to clarify to BBC audiences that Robert Serry’s decidedly cryptic message actually means that – as has been obvious for some time – that ‘unity government’ is not capable of solving the problems facing the population of Gaza Strip.

“The UN special coordinator Robert Serry was just in Cairo for more talks on Gaza. He secured the current arrangements to work around Israel’s blockade – tracking goods to make sure they don’t fall into militants’ hands. The new Palestinian unity government is supposed to oversee reconstruction. But Mr Serry admits there have been a lot of hold-ups.

Serry: I understand the frustrations in Gaza: that it has taken time and that it is still not really working at the required scale. To be successful, we need a government of national consensus to be empowered there. They don’t even control the crossings yet. We still have a very fragile ceasefire and then that’s why I’m worried because I also know that the consequences of failure can be that a next conflict is around the corner. Nobody wants that.

Knell: So for now, people in Gaza face an uncertain future and a long wait to rebuild their homes. For many of those I’ve been revisiting here, life is simply miserable. I’ve come into the Habeeb family house in Shuja’iya. There’s lots of water on the stairs as I go up. There’s still the whole exterior wall that’s missing from the last conflict – it was blown away – and you have more than 20 members of the family living here in just two rooms.

When it rains it’s a disaster. It’s like we have waterfalls coming through the roof and all the children are soaked, says Um al Ez [phonetic]. We just use blankets to keep warm. What else can we do?

And as her grandchildren play football in the next room, their warm breath misting up the cold air, there’s no easy answer.”

Of course had the Palestinian unity government fulfilled its existing obligation to disarm terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip when it first came into being, Knell might be telling a very different story now. 

Knell’s second report from December 8th was a filmed item promoted on BBC television news as well as on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza struggling to rebuild after conflict“. The synopsis to the report includes the following statement, once again failing to clarify that the use of construction materials imported into the Gaza Strip for the purposes of terrorism is not theoretical.Knell reconstruction filmed 8 12

“Very little reconstruction has taken place in Gaza since the conflict there which killed over 2,100 Palestinians and destroyed more than 100,000 homes.

Donors have pledged more than $5bn but Israel strictly regulates the import of building materials and equipment into the Palestinian territory.

They say that militants could use the equipment to carry out attacks.”

In that report audiences once again heard from the BBC’s favourite English teacher and from the manager of the building supplies warehouse. They were also informed by Knell that:

“A deal brokered by the UN works around Israel’s blockade of Gaza.”

“Israel wants guarantees militants won’t take these goods to rebuild tunnels they can use for cross-border attacks.”

She goes on to introduce an interview with UNRWA’s director of operations in the Gaza Strip.

Knell: “The huge sale of destruction means it’s taking longer than expected to assess the damage. UN officials also blame Palestinian politics for delays in reconstruction and say ultimately Israel needs to lift its tight border restrictions. Their efforts can only achieve so much.

Robert Turner: The mechanism is a significant step. It’s important to ensure that the families that were affected by the conflict can rebuild their homes. It’s not a replacement for the lifting of the blockade. If there’s going to be peace and security, if there’s going to be stable Gaza, then the blockade needs to be lifted.”

This of course is not the first time that BBC audiences have heard ostensibly ‘neutral’ UNRWA officials promoting the Hamas demand to lift border restrictions designed to prevent it from rearming and acquiring dual-use goods for the purposes of terrorism: a step which Turner apparently bizarrely believes would bring “peace and security”. In October of this year, listeners to the BBC World Service heard Turner’s colleague – the former BBC correspondent with a direct line to the BBC’s Middle East editor, Chris Gunness – say of the UN’s supervision of building materials:

“But let’s be clear: this mechanism is not a substitute for lifting the blockade.”

Neither is there anything new about the fact that UNRWA’s political campaigning dovetails with the agenda of the internationally recognised terrorist organization which took control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup and the BBC’s collaboration in amplifying it. Yolande Knell was to be found doing exactly that long before the last conflict.

“But a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees Chris Gunness says that ultimately, the precarious situation in Gaza is created by seven years of tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt.”

And:

“Unrwa spokesman Chris Gunness said […] “While Unrwa understands the frustration of the population, heightened by the tightened blockade on the Gaza Strip, and respects the right to peaceful demonstrations, Unrwa must ensure the safety and security of its staff.” ” [emphasis added]

Of course were the BBC to actually get around to providing an accurate and impartial representation of when and why those border restrictions had to be imposed in the first place, audiences would be able to judge UNRWA’s political campaigning – and the BBC-supplied free PR – for what it really is. Instead, the BBC continues to uncritically quote UNRWA, obviously with no journalistic curiosity as to why the ‘human rights’ organisation’s agenda is indistinguishable from that of an Islamist terror group. 

BBC claims that Israel targeted a centre for the disabled in Gaza shown to be inaccurate

On July 12th 2014 the BBC produced four separate reports which included descriptions of an incident in which two women were killed in Bet Lahiya in what was described as an Israeli airstrike on a shelter for disabled people.

Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises” – BBC News website, July 12th.

“Israel hit a residential home for disabled people in Beit Lahiya, Palestinian officials said. Two female residents were killed and four other people seriously injured, they said. Israel did not comment.”

Israeli strike on disability shelter in Gaza’s Beit Lahiya” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website and BBC television news, July 12th.Knell Beit Lahiya 1

“We don’t know why Israel targeted this house; a shelter for the mentally and physically disabled. You can see where the missile came through the ceiling. There’s a big crater on the floor and all around; wheelchairs, a hospital gurney, burnt books. If you look outside the building you can see how the sides were simply sheared off – there’s rubble now everywhere. And there were four people here who were badly wounded, including the carer. Two women were killed. Israel gave a warning for the people to vacate the property but it just wasn’t enough time for people with disabilities to be able to leave.” [emphasis added]

Death toll rises in Gaza as air strikes and rockets continue” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website and BBC television news, July 12th.

“Meanwhile, in the north of the Gaza Strip, another body is discovered. This was a severely disabled woman; one of several residents at a shelter. Just after dawn it was hit by Israeli war planes. This crater is where the missile landed. Neighbours heard a big explosion.

Neighbour: We were very surprised this centre was hit. We expect the Israelis to bomb places linked to the militants. Here there were disabled people unable to move.

Two women were killed here. They’re among the rising number of Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel gave a warning for people to vacate the property but it just wasn’t enough time for people with disabilities to be able to leave.”

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya” – Jeremy Bowen, BBC News website and BBC television news, July 12th.

“Suha’s brother Yussef waited for her to be prepared for her funeral. He took us to see her body. Yussuf rejected Israel’s claims that it tries hard not to kill civilians.

Yussuf: How many of the people killed so far are civilians? Even those they call terrorists – they are not terrorists; they are resistance and we are proud of them.” […]

“Belligerents are obliged under the laws of war to protect civilians. The UN has already asked whether Israel is working in the way that it should to fulfil those obligations. After the attack on the centre for the disabled, it is clear that the Israelis have some serious questions to answer.” [emphasis added]

As has been noted here previously, the Military Attorney General (MAG) began examining and investigatingKnell Beit Lahiya 2 incidents which took place during the summer conflict even before it had ended. The results of the investigation into the above incident in Beit Lahiya show that the centre for the disabled was not the target of that operation as stated in no uncertain terms in  the BBC’s various reports. [emphasis added]

“According to correspondence and reports from various NGOs, on 12 July 2014, two women were killed and four others injured as a result of an IDF aerial strike on a care centre for the mentally and physically disabled, belonging to the ‘Alambra Association’, in Beit Lehia. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM [Fact Finding Assessment Mechanism – Ed.].

According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, the strike was directed at a weapons depot located inside the residential home of a senior Hamas commander, in a building comprising of four apartments. While the operating forces were aware of the existence of a kindergarten in the same building, close to the weapons depot, there was no information indicating the existence of a care center.

Prior to the attack a number of precautionary measures were undertaken in order to minimize potential civilian harm – including several attempts to telephone the residents of the building and the firing of two warning projectiles towards the structure (as part of the ‘knock on the roof’ procedure). No reaction was identified by the residents, and no presence of persons at the site was discerned prior to the attack. As an additional precaution, the attack was carried out late at night, in order to avoid any possible harm to children attending the kindergarten during the day.

The findings further indicated that at the time the attack was decided upon, the operational assessment concluded that, as none of the precautionary measures resulted in any response, no civilians were present and no civilians were expected to be harmed as a result of the attack.

In light of these factual findings, the MAG found that the targeting process followed in this case accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The attack was directed against a military objective, while adhering to the requirements of the principle of proportionality, and the decision to attack was made by the authorities authorized to do so. Further, the MAG found that the attack was carried out after a number of precautions were undertaken intended to minimize the potential for civilian harm, and that the professional assessment at the time of the attack – that civilians would not be harmed as a result of the attack – was not unreasonable under the circumstances. Although seemingly civilians were harmed as a result of the attack, this is indeed a regrettable result, but it does not affect its legality post facto.Bowen Beit Lahiya

In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident.”

It is of course highly unlikely that we will see the BBC going to the trouble to inform all the many members of its audiences across various platforms who were mistakenly led to believe that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked a home for the disabled that the real reason that building was targeted was because Hamas had placed a weapons store in the same building as a kindergarten and a centre for disabled people.

However, those four inaccurate reports remain on the BBC News website and now form part of the corporation’s “historical records”. As readers may recall, the BBC announced in June that its archive content is subject to editorial guidelines and may be the topic of complaints. One would therefore now expect to see clarifications attached to all the above reports – if only to prevent an unnecessary waste of public funding in dealing with any such complaints. 

 

 

BBC’s Arab-Israeli conflict obsession distorts history

Over the past week or so the BBC has devoted quite a lot of coverage to the subject of the reburial of the ashes of Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson in Israel, in accordance with his last wishes.

Tel Hai

Tel Hai

That coverage has included:

An interview with adventurer John Henry Patterson” November 28th.

Benjamin Netanyahu recalls adventurer John Henry Patterson” November 28th.

Broadcasting House – BBC Radio 4, November 30th – Kevin Connolly from 34:33 here.

The lion-killer who became an Israeli hero” November 30th, Kevin Connolly.

Briton hailed as ‘Godfather’ of Israeli army reburied” December 4th.

Israel reburies ashes of British WW1 commander” December 4th.

The lion-killer who became an Israeli hero to be reburied in Israel” BBC World Service radio, December 4th

Much of that coverage was provided by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly and it once again provided an example of Connolly’s obviously keen interest in history and his ability to produce interesting, impartial and accurate reporting on related topics. Unfortunately though, BBC audiences do not get to read or hear such informative contributions from Kevin Connolly very often.

However, one inaccuracy did appear in an insert to Connolly’s November 30th feature article which profiled two members of the Zion Mule Corps commanded by Patterson.

Insert Connolly patterson article

SONY DSC

Tel Hai

The battle of Tel-Hai on March 1st 1920 was of course not “an early battle of the Arab-Israeli conflict”. Jewish settlement had begun there some fifteen years earlier on land purchased in 1893 by Baron Rothschild and in 1918 it became a kibbutz and was named Tel Hai. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the British withdrew from the area in 1919, handing it over to the French mandate authorities in accordance with agreements between the two powers. Local Arabs loyal to the Arab Kingdom of Syria rebelled against the French and the Jewish farming villages in the Upper Galilee – Metulla, Kfar Giladi, Hamara and Tel Hai – despite remaining neutral in the dispute, became regular targets for pillaging from December 1919 onwards, with two residents of Tel Hai killed in separate incidents in December 1919 and February 1920. The large group of armed Arabs who arrived at the gate of Tel Hai on March 1st 1920 led by Kamal Effendi demanded entry – not for the first time – in order to search for French soldiers. In the ensuing battle, six more residents of Tel Hai were killed, including Joseph Trumpeldor.

Hence, whilst Jews and Arabs were involved in that battle, its simplistic and inaccurate categorisation as part of the Arab-Israeli conflict detracts from the broader historic picture and misleads audiences. 

 

Overview of BBC reporting on recent violence and terror in Israel

Since late October much of the BBC’s Israel-related subject matter has been focused on the surge in terror attacks and violence, with an integral part of that coverage being ‘explanations’ to BBC audiences of its supposed causes. As was noted in a previous post concerning BBC coverage of the November 18th terror attack in Har Nof, the factors promoted by the BBC as causes for that attack included (in reverse order of frequency) ‘discrimination’ against Arab Jerusalemites, a ‘cycle of violence’, supposed ‘attacks’ on or threats to Al Aqsa Mosque by Jews, the absence of negotiations between Israel and the PLO, the Gaza casualty toll of the summer conflict, the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount and ‘settlements’.

The fact that so many and such varied factors were promoted as being the cause of “tensions” which, according to the BBC led to two Palestinians carrying out a brutal terror attack on early morning worshippers at a synagogue, of course indicates that the promotion of one factor or another in BBC reports depended very much upon the particular journalist.

In contrast, the subject of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian functionaries and official Palestinian sources was presented uniformly and exclusively in the form of second-hand quotes, with the BBC making no effort whatsoever to independently inform audiences of those factors and their role in the creation of “tensions”.

In this post we will take a broader look at BBC coverage of other incidents which took place between late October and late November and examine the narrative promoted in the reports below.Pigua Jerusalem

October 22nd: terror attack on light rail passengers, Ammunition Hill, Jerusalem.

BBC News website: Jerusalem car ‘attack’ kills baby at rail station  (discussed here)

October 23rd:

BBC News website: Israel’s Netanyahu accuses Abbas over Jerusalem car attack (discussed here)

October 25th:

BBC News website: US urges probe after teenager shot dead in West Bank  (discussed here)

October 26th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem: Palestinian car attack claims second victim (discussed here)

October 29th: shooting of Yehuda Glick in central Jerusalem.Glick art main

BBC News website: Jerusalem holy site closure ‘declaration of war’ – Abbas  (discussed here)

October 30th:

BBC News website & television news: Abbas: Mosque closure a ‘declaration of war’  Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ (discussed here)

October 31st:

BBC News website: Jerusalem holy site is reopened amid tension (discussed here)

November 5th: terror attack on light rail passengers & pedestrians, Shimon Hatsadik, Jerusalem.Pigua 5 11 report

BBC News website: Jerusalem: Palestinian van attack kills policeman  (discussed here)

BBC News website & television news: Driver hits pedestrians in East Jerusalem  Yolande Knell

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ 1 (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ 2 (discussed here)

November 6th:

BBC World Service ‘WHYS’ (discussed here)

November 7th:

BBC News website: Israel to destroy homes of Palestinian Jerusalem attackers  (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Outside Source’ (discussed here)

BBC News website: Jerusalem a city on edge as tensions spiral  Yolande Knell (discussed here)

BBC News website & television news: Growing tension at Jerusalem holy site  Yolande Knell

November 8th:

BBC Radio 4 ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (discussed here)

November 10th: terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush EtzionTA terror attack bbc report

BBC News website: Israel: Palestinian held as Israeli soldier stabbed and Israeli woman and soldier killed in two knife attacks  (both discussed here)

November 13th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem tension: John Kerry brokers Israel-Jordan talks (discussed here)

November 14th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access  (discussed here)

November 21st:

BBC News website: Israel: ‘Hamas plot to kill FM Lieberman foiled’  (discussed here)

November 28th:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ (discussed here)

As was the case in BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack, any use of the word terror or its derivatives in the above reports came in the form of quotes from (mostly) Israeli or American officials and in inverted commas. On no occasion did the BBC independently identify the incidents as terror attacks or the perpetrators as terrorists.

Likewise, all mentions of incitement propagated by Palestinian leaders in the above reports were presented to BBC audiences in the form of quotes from Israeli officials: no independent reporting on that issue was provided by the BBC.

In addition to the factors presented as causing “tensions” – and hence terrorism – appearing in the reports on the Har Nof attack, in the reports above a number of additional factors were to be found. On two occasions audiences were told that “tensions” had risen because Israeli security forces had killed Palestinians, on three occasions they were informed that “tensions” had risen because Israel had confiscated or demolished Palestinian homes (with no context provided) and on eleven occasions audiences were told that age restrictions and/or the closure of Temple Mount were the cause of “tensions”.

Once again the prime factor promoted by the BBC as context for the surge in violence and terror attacks was ‘settlements’. Taking the above articles together with the coverage of the Har Nof attack, we see that factor has been promoted by the BBC more than any other. Like the vast majority of the additional factors presented by the BBC, that one too would be perceived by audiences as Israeli action and thus the underlying message is that Palestinian violence and terrorism is attributable to rising “tensions” caused almost exclusively by Israeli actions.

Factors

Another interesting aspect of the framing seen in BBC reporting was that of the use of political labelling – or not. The people (according to the BBC’s narrative) driven to violent rioting and terror attacks on civilians because of “tensions” caused by a campaign for equal prayer rights for non-Muslims at a site holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike – and those inciting them to such actions – were not afforded any kind of political label in any BBC report.

In contrast, the BBC did find it necessary to describe to its audiences on numerous occasions the assumed political affiliations/stances/opinions of the people visiting Temple Mount and/or the people campaigning for equal rights there for people of all faiths, as can be seen in the few examples below.

“Jews are allowed to visit the site but not to pray there. Now some right-wing religious groups say Jews should be allowed to pray – a demand which causes anger and unease in the Muslim world.” (source)

“Fears that Israel is set to legislate to remove the ban have led to furious scenes as Palestinian Muslims try to block visits by parties of far-right, religious Jews escorted by Israeli police.

“We love it when it is calm to pray but the Israeli government is not helping the situation by sending right-wing extremists and ministers to visit,” says Omar Kiswani, director of al-Aqsa mosque.”

“On Thursday, a week after the attempted murder of a prominent right-wing Jewish activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, there was a rally by his supporters.” (source)

“A Palestinian suspected of shooting and wounding a prominent right-wing activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, in Jerusalem at the end of last month was also shot dead in a gun battle with Israeli police.” (source)  

On other occasions, the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount was inaccurately portrayed as an “Orthodox” issue.  

In earlier reports, audiences were sometimes provided with information about the links of some of the perpetrators to terrorist organisations – although of course they were not described as such. For example:

“Shaloudi was the nephew of a leading bomb-maker from Hamas, the Islamist militant group opposed to Israel, who was killed in the West Bank in 1988.” (source)

“Police say Hejazi belonged to the Islamic Jihad militant group and served time in jail in Israel before being released in 2012.” (source)

“The driver of the van – named as Ibrahim al-Akari – was from Shuafat refugee camp in the east of the city, police said.

His Facebook page states that he is a member of Hamas, and the Twitter account for the group’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, described him as a member and a martyr.” (source)

As time went on, however, those links were downplayed in later reports by means of statements such as the ones below:

“…the attacks appear spontaneous: the acts of individuals, not organisations.” (source)

“BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly says there has been no real pattern to the recent spate of attacks – the attackers appear to have acted suddenly, meaning there is no advance intelligence to forewarn the authorities.” (source)

BBC reporting on the surge of violence and terror during October and November 2014 was largely limited to fatal attacks, with dozens of other non-fatal incidents ignored. As we see, the reports adhered to a specific template which ‘explained’ events by attributing them to “rising tensions” caused almost inevitably by Israeli actions.

For over a month, audiences have been provided with a picture of Israeli action and Palestinian reaction: a narrative which includes no Palestinian responsibility or agency and is carefully framed to exclude one of the story’s most important elements – the crucial issue of the repeated incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian leaders and official organisations, with no independent BBC reporting on that issue having appeared at all to date.

In short, the BBC’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” has once again been trumped by a political narrative.  

Related Articles:

A round up of BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack

 

A round up of BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack

The BBC’s coverage of the terror attack in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof on November 18th provides us with an opportunity to take a closer look at how the corporation framed this story across a variety of platforms.

Below is a sample of BBC coverage: obviously it does not include all of the content broadcast across the range of BBC platforms on the two days upon which the story was run.Pigua Har Nof 2

November 18th:

BBC News Website:

Written:

Jerusalem synagogue: Palestinians kill Israeli worshippers    

Profile: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)  (both above are discussed here)

British-born man named as Jerusalem synagogue victim

Jerusalem synagogue: Three victims were US rabbis

As it happened: Jerusalem synagogue attack  live page

Jerusalem attack reflects rising Israeli-Palestinian tension   Jeremy Bowen

Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vow in ‘battle for Jerusalem’ (all of the above are discussed here)

Filmed: (the reports also appeared on BBC television News programmes)

Synagogue victim ‘concerned about radicalisation’  An interview with the cousin of Avraham Goldberg

Israel: ‘No justification for this wanton violence’  Mark Regev

‘Chaotic scenes’ after Jerusalem synagogue attack  Yolande Knell

Jerusalem synagogue attack: ‘We heard a flurry of shots’  Eye witnesses

Israeli Police: ‘Terrorists killed in gun battle’  Micky Rosenfeld

 John Kerry on Jerusalem attack: ‘An act of pure terror’

Hamas spokesperson: ‘Every day Jerusalem is boiling’  Ghazi Hamad (discussed here)

Mustafa Barghouti: ‘Occupation responsible for attack’  (discussed here)

Synagogue attack: Months of tension and revenge attacks  backgrounder  (discussed here)

Television:

Interview with Naftali Bennett (discussed here)

Jerusalem synagogue attack ‘followed months of tension’  Jeremy Bowen

Radio:

BBC Radio 4 – ‘PM’ (discussed here and here)

BBC World Service radio – ‘Newshour’  (edition 1 discussed here, edition 2 discussed here)

November 19th:

BBC News Website:

Written:

Jerusalem attack: Synagogue reopens for worshippers  (discussed here)

Regional media trade blame for Jerusalem attack

Filmed: (also on appeared on BBC television news programmes)

Anger in Jerusalem after deadly synagogue attack  Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

Synagogue attack: Eyewitness describes shootout

Palestinian intifada ‘dangerously close,’ warns former US envoy

Radio:

BBC World Service radio –’Newshour’ (discussed here)Pigua Har Nof 1

One outstanding – although predictable – feature of the BBC’s coverage is that despite the fact that the core story was about a terror attack perpetrated on the congregation of a synagogue, in all of the above reports the word terror and its derivatives were never used directly by the BBC. References to terrorism came only in the form of quotes from Israeli officials (placed in inverted commas by the BBC), from Israeli interviewees or from the US Secretary of State in the filmed report of his statement to the press.

Another remarkable fact is that in seven of the above reports and despite the existence of a pathologist’s report, the BBC nevertheless amplified or allowed the amplification of baseless Palestinian claims that a bus driver who committed suicide the day before the terror attack took place had been murdered by Israelis and presented that as a background factor for the attack.

On the day of the attack itself the BBC saw fit to broadcast interviews with Palestinian officials from several factions – Ghazi Hamad from Hamas, Mustafa Barghouti from the PNI and Hussam Zomlot from Fatah – all of whom were given free rein to promote falsehoods and propaganda, including claims of “attacks” on the Al Aqsa Mosque by Israelis.

The terror attack was presented across the board as being the result of “rising tensions” between Israelis and Palestinians and those tensions were attributed by the BBC to a variety of factors, with more than one usually proffered in each report and some factors emphasized multiple times in a particular item.

Two of the reports suggested that tensions could be explained by “discrimination” against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the issue of their right to Israeli citizenship was inaccurately represented. In three reports audiences were told that rising tensions were the result of “a cycle of violence” which, according to the BBC, began with the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers in June (not stated by the BBC as having been carried out by a Hamas cell) and the later murder of a Palestinian teenager from Shuafat.Pigua Har Nof filmed backgrounder

On five occasions tensions were attributed to the fact that no peace negotiations are currently underway and six reports cited the Palestinian death toll in the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas as a contributing factor but with no information provided to audiences with regard to Hamas’ instigation of that conflict or its strategies – such as the use of human shields – which contributed to the civilian death toll.

The campaign by some Israelis for equal rights of worship for non-Muslims on Temple Mount was cited on ten occasions as causing “tensions” but the BBC elected not to explore the topic of why that should be the case. On five occasions Temple Mount was described by the BBC as a “disputed site” and viewers of BBC television news were even told by Jeremy Bowen that Palestinians are “enraged” by “fears about the future of Aqsa Mosque”, with no attempt to put those “fears” in their correct and factual context.

But the factor most frequently promoted as a cause of “tensions” which purportedly led to the terror attack was what the BBC termed “settlements” or “settler homes”, with that factor being cited on eleven occasions and the district of Silwan once again being specifically named in two reports.

Clearly most of the factors presented were framed as Israeli actions. The overall impression received by audiences therefore was that the “tensions” which lead to Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis are Palestinian reaction to Israeli action.

Another interesting aspect of the BBC’s framing of this story relates to the issue of Palestinian incitement. That factor was mentioned directly in two reports (John Kerry’s statement to the press and the interview with Mark Regev), but not by BBC correspondents. In two additional reports the BBC quoted the Israeli prime minister on the issue of Palestinian incitement. Incitement coming directly from the president of the Palestinian Authority was downplayed and dismissed by Jeremy Bowen and Tim Franks. In the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ listeners heard Yolande Knell paraphrase a supposed Palestinian claim that “Israel is also inciting the violence”.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, BBC audiences have not been informed at all about incitement and glorification of terrorism on the part of PA and Fatah officials (see recent examples here, here and here) and official Palestinian Authority media and institutions (see recent examples here, here, here, here and here). The sole reference to the issue of incitement to appear on the BBC News website in recent months has been an article by BBC Trending titled “The Palestinians calling for the ‘car uprising’” which appeared on November 13th and related to a social media campaign rather than to incitement from official PA sources.

So, whilst BBC audiences were repeatedly told that the “rising tensions” which supposedly led to the terror attack in Har Nof can be attributed to a variety of factors which are mostly – according to the BBC’s portrayal – attributable to Israeli actions, they remained completely ignorant on the issue of the crucial factor of the atmosphere being engineered by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah – also headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

That glaring and continuing omission in BBC coverage can only be attributed to a politically motivated narrative being allowed to trump the corporation’s public purpose remit. 

 

 

 

Kevin Connolly’s cameo of a ‘popular’, ‘forgiving’ terrorist on BBC Radio 4

The BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly continued his role as the corporation’s ‘chief Jerusalem explainer’ (see some previous instalments here, here, here, here and here) on November 28th with a report broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – available for a limited period of time from 02:39:22 here.Today 28 11 14

Presenter John Humphrys introduced the item as follows:

“If you’re a Muslim you will know it as al Haram al Sharif. If you’re Jewish you’ll call it Temple Mount. Home to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, this holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem is the focus of rising tensions between the two communities: tensions that some see as indicative perhaps of a kind of third Infitad…Intifada uprising. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly with this report.”

Kevin Connolly: “One by one, second by second, the mosques of East Jerusalem raise a call to prayer that hangs over the white stone skyline of this anxious, divided city. Somewhere in that plangent chorus is the call from the Al Aqsa Mosque which stands on ground sacred in Judaism and Islam alike, where Muslims have a monopoly of worship. Palestinians see a campaign by religious Jews for the right of worship to be extended to them in the context of a history of dispossession and defeat.”

Connolly fails to inform listeners that the Israeli authorities have stated on numerous occasions – including in interviews given to the BBC – that Israel has no intention of making any changes to that status quo. Audiences then hear interviewee Amir Heshin say:

“Today it’s a nuclear bomb. You just have to push the button and the whole Middle East will blow up.”

Connolly: “Amir Heshin is a former advisor on Arab affairs to the Mayor of Jerusalem. He says frustration has fuelled Palestinian fear and anger.”

Heshin: “On one side you have all these measures which are against and on the other side of the scale you have nothing. We are in the middle of the Intifada: Intifada which is based upon disappointment. They are sick of the Israeli attitude and they would like to change it.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners trying to place Heshin’s words in their appropriate context had Connolly informed them that, in addition to indeed having been an advisor to former mayors of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, Heshin is also linked to an NGO called the Jerusalem Conflict Academic Centre which promotes a specific political approach to the issue of Jerusalem, including its division and the declaration of Temple Mount as an area of no sovereignty. Connolly continues:

“Not everyone is calling this a third Intifada but there are plenty of depressing straws in the wind. [sound of a detonation] That was the Israeli army blowing up the house of one of the Palestinians who’ve run over and killed hitch-hikers, tram passengers and pedestrians in recent months. It’s a form of punishment the state has revived in Jerusalem in recent weeks. But punishment is easier than prevention. [sound of a radio broadcast in Hebrew] Take this crime. At a railway station a young Palestinian stabs an equally young Israeli soldier.”

The incident Connolly describes occurred on November 10th and the terrorist did not just ‘stab’ his random victim Almog Shiloni – who, notably, remains unnamed in Connolly’s account – but killed him. Connolly continues:

“Suddenly the weapons are cars or knives – not guns or bombs – and the attacks appear spontaneous: the acts of individuals, not organisations. Israel’s intelligence services are struggling.”

Not for the first time we see the BBC erasing from audience view the fact that among the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in recent weeks have been several members of known terrorist organisations, some of which have claimed responsibility for the attacks. Listeners then hear Connolly say:

“That young Palestinian was Nur Abu Hashem, a jobbing painter and decorator who often came from his home at Nablus in the occupied West Bank to work without papers in Israel.”

The terrorist is actually called Nur al-Din Abu Hashaya and his entry into Israel was illegal: a fact which Connolly’s euphemistic presentation does not make adequately clear. Neither does Connolly bother to inform listeners that Nablus (Schem) has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for almost two decades – since December 12th 1995 – under the terms of the Oslo Accords. Listeners then hear a recording of the terrorist’s mother speaking in Arabic, with Connolly saying:

“Nur Abu Hashem’s mother, Salsan [phonetic] waits with resignation for the inevitable demolition of her home. But worse for her than that are the nagging questions about how her popular son – a forgiving boy, she says – could have done what he’s accused of.”

So, whilst the victim of a vicious terror attack remains unnamed and impersonalised, Connolly did find it editorially justifiable to present a humanizing cameo of the murderer and his family, at the same time erasing Hashaya’s Hamas affiliations from audience view.

photo credit: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

photo credit: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

Connolly goes on:

“History focuses in Jerusalem like rays of sunlight concentrated through glass. This is the City of David archaeological site which lies between the Al Aqsa compound and the Arab suburb of Silwan; occupied by Israel in the war of 1967 and reserved in the eyes of the world for a future Palestinian state.”

Yet again we see BBC presentation of Silwan – Kfar Shiloach – without any mention of its Jewish history. Like the rest of the areas of Jerusalem which came under Israeli control after Jordan – despite an explicit warning from the Israeli prime minister – decided to attack Israel in the Six Day War, the status of Silwan is subject to final status negotiations under the terms of existing agreements signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people. Kevin Connolly, however, clearly has no time for such negotiations: he is already promoting the notion of a worldwide consensus opinion on the issue and in doing so, obviously misleads BBC audiences.

Connolly then goes on to promote a theme which has been popular with BBC correspondents in recent weeks: the notion that the legal purchase of existing property in certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem turns people of a specific religion/ethnicity into “settlers” – and that despite the BBC’s own definition of ‘settlements’ being “residential areas built by the Israeli government”.

“Daniel Luria works for an organization that helps Jews to find property in the area. He calls them residents – not settlers – and says proximity to Temple Mount – as Jews call the Al Aqsa compound – is a selling point.”

After a brief contribution from Daniel Luria, Connolly closes:

“The recent upsurge in violence here has been sporadic, unpredictable. But this jaunty cartoon video circulating on Arabic social media sites warns Israelis, in Hebrew, to expect more. No-one knows what today or tomorrow might bring but non-one thinks this is over.”

So what did listeners to Radio 4 learn about the factors causing the latest surge in violence and terror in Israel from this item by Kevin Connolly? The campaign for equal rights of worship for non-Muslims on Temple Mount and the purchase of houses in Silwan by Jews are subjects which we have also seen previously promoted by the BBC in that context. Connolly’s narrative also includes portrayal of “frustration” and “disappointment” felt by Palestinians but the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials and the role of terrorist organisations in turning those feelings into violent acts of terror were once again concealed from BBC audiences.