BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – the TV news interview

Four months ago, during the summer conflict, we noted here that the BBC has a number of guidelines relating to the subject of the broadcast of images of people killed or injured in violent circumstances.

The corporation’s guidance on “Violence in News and Current Affairs“, for example, instructs on the issue of consistency.

“News teams should apply consistent editorial values to content, regardless of the availability of material.” 

“News teams should apply consistent editorial values to content, regardless of where it comes from.”

That topic was raised here because of the BBC’s recurrent use of graphic images of casualties filmed in the Gaza Strip during this summer’s hostilities, with one example being the filmed report by Jeremy Bowen from July 14th which showed particularly graphic footage taken in a morgue. At no point during the seven weeks of BBC coverage of the conflict were BBC audiences shown comparable images filmed in Israel, indicating a clear lack of application of “consistent editorial values”.Bowen filmed 14 7

It is of course highly unlikely that a film crew would be permitted to film at all inside a morgue in Israel (or other Western countries) and extremely doubtful whether such footage – even if it were filmed – would be considered appropriate for broadcast by BBC editors. But the fact that it is socially acceptable to film such explicit images in a certain society or country does not – according to the above guidance – provide automatic legitimacy for their broadcast.

Nevertheless, BBC editors somehow did apparently find it editorially justifiable to show graphic images from one side of the summer conflict but not from the other, despite those instructions to “apply consistent editorial values”.

This topic now comes up again because on November 18th during an interview with BBC World News about the terror attack which took place in the synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem just hours beforehand, Minister Naftali Bennett held up a photograph of the scene of the attack which included one of the victims. Bennett was immediately told by the presenter:

“Sorry, we don’t want to actually see that picture: if you could take that down.”

It would be understandable if the BBC did not wish to show images it has not previously seen and deemed editorially justified according to the numerous related guidelines – although that is clearly not the message conveyed by the presenter. However, the fact is – as has been pointed out elsewhere – that from the point of view of the content itself, no less graphic images from the Gaza Strip were shown to BBC audiences during the summer with the only difference being that they were usually filmed by the BBC itself – obviously in many if not most cases with Hamas permission (and presumably encouragement) to record footage in the hospitals and morgues it runs and the areas it controls.

As long as only Gaza is allowed to bleed on BBC television news, the lack of consistency in BBC editorial decisions will of course remain an issue for public discussion.

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: the backgrounder

As was mentioned in an earlier post, the BBC News website’s live page reporting on the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Jerusalem on November 18th claimed to be able to provide audiences with the answer to the question “what caused the attack?”.

Pigua Har Nof filmed backgrounder on live page

Readers were directed to a ninety second video titled “Synagogue attack: Months of tension and revenge attacks” which was also promoted separately on the BBC News website as well as appearing as a link titled “Unrest explained” in at least three of the written articles appearing on that day.Pigua Har Nof filmed backgrounder

The synopsis to the video reads as follows:

“Four Israelis have been killed and eight injured as two men armed with a pistol and meat cleavers attacked a West Jerusalem synagogue, police say.

The attackers – Palestinians from East Jerusalem – were shot dead.

The deadly attack comes after months of unrest and apparent revenge killings, as BBC News explains.”

It has not been updated to reflect the fact that Master Sgt Zidan Saif also died later in the day of injuries he sustained whilst responding to the terror attack, bringing the number of Israeli dead to five.

As we see, the synopsis and the title both inform BBC audiences that “apparent revenge killings” (note the plural) have been taking place for “months”. In fact there was one murder – that of Muhammed Abu Khdeir – which can accurately be described as a revenge killing and the suspected perpetrators  were caught by the Israeli security forces within days and are currently standing trial. 

The other deaths in recent months have been the result of terror attacks, of the summer war instigated by Hamas, cases in which Palestinians engaged in violent rioting were shot or cases in which terrorists were killed.

The video’s message is related in text which reads as follows:

“In a city constantly on edge, the attack on a Jerusalem synagogue comes after months of unrest.

In July a Palestinian teenager was killed in an apparent reprisal for the killing of three Israeli teenagers.

Escalating violence led to a conflict in Gaza that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

In October a dispute over a holy site in Jerusalem triggered further unrest.

Palestinians have carried out several deadly attacks against Israelis.

Killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces have also fuelled anger.

Jewish settlement activity in occupied East Jerusalem heightened tensions.

Some believe this could be the start of a third intifada or Palestinian uprising.”

The wisdom of trying to explain the background to the current surge in Palestinian terrorism and violence in a ninety-second video is obviously questionable from the start but as we have seen above, the BBC claimed it could pull it off and explain the issues to its audiences in that time frame and medium. 

Beyond the glaring fact that the word terrorism does not (once again) get a mention in a video purporting to explain a terrorist attack, audiences are not told that Hamas carried out the kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teenagers or who killed the Palestinian teenager. Neither are they told (yet again) that it was actually the hundreds of missiles fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians by Hamas and other terrorist groups which sparked the conflict in Gaza (and of course in Israel too, although the BBC manages to make that fact disappear) and the discovery of dozens of cross-border attack tunnels dug by Hamas which exacerbated the hostilities.

The claim of “a dispute over a holy site in Jerusalem” is of course misleading and inaccurate. Israeli officials of the highest level have repeatedly and unequivocally stated that there will be no change in the status quo at Temple Mount, so no “dispute” actually exists. What does exist, however, is a deliberately manufactured campaign of incitement by Palestinian leaders from assorted factions which has been going on since long before October, and of which the myth of ‘threats’ to Muslim holy sites is just one aspect. The BBC of course erased PA incitement and glorification of terrorism during the period following the kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teenagers from audience view, just as it ignored incitement from the same source during the summer conflict and continues to do even after four weeks of terror attacks in Israel.

Viewers of this video are not informed that “killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces” happened because those Palestinians were engaged either in violent rioting or in carrying out terror attacks at the time. That lack of context of course creates a very misleading impression, implying justification for “anger” which manifests itself as terror attacks and violent rioting.

And of course no BBC report can pass up on the opportunity of promoting the simplistic notion that Jerusalem planning committee meetings on the topic of housing which will not be constructed for years in areas which, according to any reasonable scenario, will remain under Israeli control in the event of a peace deal causes “tensions” which prompt the apparently irresistible urge to run down pedestrians with a van.

Not content with having misled audiences for months now with regard to the cause of the summer’s conflict, the BBC continues to promote an inaccurate narrative of a ‘cycle of violence’ in which the advancement of the notion of moral equivalence trumps facts and acts of terror are portrayed as ‘revenge killings’. It comes as no surprise to find the BBC sticking to form by avoiding calling terrorism by name even though most of the euphemistically termed “deadly attacks” were carried out by members of assorted terrorist organisations and claimed by their leaders. 

Whether or not we elect to name this recent surge of violence and terrorism a third Intifada is irrelevant but in order to properly understand current events, BBC audiences do need to know that they – like the previous “uprising” as the BBC so romantically puts it – are running on the fuel of deliberate incitement and glorification of terrorism supplied by the Palestinian leadership: this time around members of a ‘unity government’ made up of those incapable of negotiating a peace agreement and those who reject that possibility outright.

This video backgrounder does nothing to help BBC audiences understand “what caused the attack” in Har Nof as its promotion claims. In fact, it does everything to avoid telling them about the most significant factor behind that attack and others by further perpetuating a narrative which BBC staff have obviously embraced to the hilt, but which is also a smokescreen concealing the story which the BBC shows no sign of intending to tell. 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – part two

In addition to its main article on the subject of the November 18th terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem and its inaccurately illustrated profile of the PFLP (both of which were discussed here), the BBC News website also published a number of additional articles on that day.

Profiles of the dual British and American citizens murdered in the terror attack appeared on the website’s UK and US & Canada pages respectively. The BBC News website also ran a live page throughout the day on November 18th under the title “As it happened: Jerusalem synagogue attack“. On the banner at the head of the page BBC audiences were provided with a number of “Key Points” concerning the story, none of which included the word terror but which did ‘contextualise’ the attack by attributing it to “rising tensions” over what is inaccurately described as a “disputed holy site” (Temple Mount) and “Israeli plans for settler homes”.

Pigua Har Nof Key PointsAmong the numerous notable features of that live page was the fact that just over an hour after it was opened, it was used to amplify inaccurate hearsay concerning a bus driver who committed suicide earlier in the week, with no effort made to inform BBC audiences of the fact that pathologists – including one chosen by the dead man’s family – had already ruled out foul play until the appearance almost an hour later of a partially informative tweet by a BBC employee.

Pigua HAr Nof Live page 1

 

Pigua Har Nof live page 2

The page also included the item below, with no attempt made by the BBC to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing readers that Daniel Seiderman is in fact a political activist with the foreign-funded organisations  Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem.

Pigua Har Nof live page 3

Like the day’s main article, this live page promoted an inaccurate BBC article from April 2014.

“For more on what makes Jerusalem so holy – to Christianity, Islam and Judaism – take a look at this explainer by the BBC’s Erica Chernofsky.”

The BBC supplied readers with a variety of ‘explanations’ for the background to the terror attack.

“A key source of tension in Jerusalem has been the renewal of an ancient dispute over the rights of prayer at a key holy site, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. By long-standing convention, Muslims alone have the right to pray there, but some religious Jews have been campaigning to end that monopoly of worship.”

Yolande Knell, BBC News, Jerusalem

Political vacuum

The Palestinian position has been that the issue of the al-Aqsa mosque and announcements about settlements have all added fuel to the fire here.

The breakdown of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in April created a political vacuum, and now it seems it has been filled by violence.”

“There have been several deadly attacks and clashes in Jerusalem recently amid tension over a disputed holy site.”

Quentin Sommerville, BBC Middle East correspondent

As horrifying as this incident was, I do not think many people in this city were incredibly surprised by it. More than anything there is a sense of hopelessness here after the failure of peace talks, with no road map or talks. We are hearing a lot of fighting talk, but not a lot of peace talk by either the Israeli or Palestinian leaders to try to de-escalate the tensions.”

“Some background on East Jerusalem: Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area in 1980 in a move that was not recognised internationally. Palestinian residents have long complained of discrimination, and blame increasing tension on the growing number of Jewish settlers moving to the area.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell has written a report about the rising tensions.”

Knell’s article was previously discussed here.

“What caused the attack?

What led to the deadly attack in Har Nof? It follows months of unrest and apparent revenge killings, as our video explains.”

That video will be discussed separately in a later post.

In addition to the BBC’s own above ‘explanations’ of the surge in violence and terrorism in Jerusalem, it also saw fit to provide context-free amplification on this live page for assorted inaccurate statements and downright lies from a variety of Palestinian officials.

“Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hammad tells the BBC most people in Jerusalem “expected this would happen today or tomorrow, because every day Jerusalem is boiling. Every day, there is a crime against Palestinian citizens in either al-Aqsa mosque or in Jerusalem as a city”.

Mr Hammad would not say whether Hamas supported the attack, but said Israel was to blame for the tensions. “We did not see any effort, any action from the Israeli government in order to stop the settlers, in order to stop the radical religious men when they decided to attack the al-Aqsa mosque.” “

And:

“‘Israel responsible’

Mustafa Barghouti from the Palestinian Legislative Council tells the BBC that Israel is “responsible for the bloodshed”.

“In this case, it is the Israeli government that provoked the Palestinians in this terrible manner,” he said, adding that more than 2,000 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers this year.

Most of the deaths occurred during the Israel-Gaza conflict over July and August.”

And:

“Sabri Saidam, political adviser to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, tells the BBC: “Tensions have been mounting because Israel has been pushing for more annexation of land, confiscating more homes and has been working vividly to build more and more settlements.

“As you know this formula is totally unsustainable and infuriates the Palestinians and creates the scenes that we saw today.” “

As has been the case in all previous BBC News reporting on the issue of the rise in violence and terrorism in Jerusalem, the topic of Palestinian incitement (including that from partners in the current ‘unity government’) was not independently reported – or even acknowledged – by the BBC and was mentioned only in the form of second-hand statements from Israeli spokespeople.

That editorial policy might perhaps be explained by Jeremy Bowen’s contribution to this live page, in which he defined inflammatory calls by the PA President to ‘defend’ the Al Aqsa Mosque from a ‘threat’ which does not exist as sounding “reasonable” to Palestinians – of whom he apparently has very low expectations indeed.

“Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor

Many Palestinians believe Israel is preparing to allow Jews to pray in the compound of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. The Israeli government has denied that emphatically. But Palestinians listen to calls from hard right-wing Jewish nationalists and believe it might happen.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for Palestinians to defend al-Aqsa. For Palestinians that sounds reasonable. The Israeli government has condemned it as incitement to terrorism. Both Palestinians and Israelis are now talking about a third Palestinian uprising – or intifada. It’s too early to say one has started. But in the absence of political action to stop the violence escalating, another intifada is a distinct possibility.”

A version of that statement was also featured in Bowen’s separate article published on November 18th under the title “Jerusalem attack reflects rising Israeli-Palestinian tension“. There, displaying a remarkable ability to deny elements of both pre and post 1948 Palestinian violence, Bowen also told readers that:Pigua Har Nof Bowen art

“The two sides are further apart than ever. Their conflict used to be, at root, about the possession of land. But since Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967 it has become more defined by religion.

Perhaps that was why the Palestinians chose a synagogue for the attack that killed the four Jewish worshippers. There have been other attacks on Israelis in recent months by Palestinians, one of which killed a baby.”

Bowen whitewashed the PA’s scuppering of the last round of negotiations (as indeed he did at the time) by erasing from audience view that body’s decision to form a unity government with the terrorist organization Hamas.

“An attempt by the Americans to revive a peace process failed, despite energetic diplomacy from the US Secretary of State John Kerry.”

Predictably, Bowen also promoted the decidedly stereotypical and condescending notion that Palestinians are unable to refrain from attacking Jews with meat-cleavers, knives guns or vans because of Israeli planning decisions and –as has been the case in previous BBC reports – portrayed property legally purchased by Jews in specific neighbourhoods of Jerusalem as being inhabited by “settlers”.

“Palestinians are also angry about the continued growth of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. The big settlements in occupied land in East Jerusalem were built on largely open ground. But now the emphasis is on settling Jewish families in areas that are otherwise populated by Palestinians.

The proximity of the two sides, and the feeling that Palestinians have that their land is being taken by armed settlers, leads to trouble.

A particular flashpoint is Silwan, near the walled old city, which settlers have renamed City of David.”

The existence of Kfar Shiloach and the expulsion of Jews from that area during the Arab Revolt of course does not fit into Bowen’s ‘Arab East Jerusalem’ narrative any more than does Jerusalem’s ancient history.

A link to Bowen’s article and quotes from it were also featured in the BBC News website article titled “Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vow in ‘battle for Jerusalem’” which replaced the main article on the Middle East page later in the evening on November 18th.Pigua Har Nof evg art

Like its predecessor, that article also failed to properly describe the oddly termed “deadly attack on a synagogue” as terrorism. Once again, the report ‘contextualised’ the terror attack by providing readers with the same ‘explanations’ for the violence.

“Jerusalem has seen weeks of unrest, partly fuelled by tension over a disputed holy site.”

“Tensions in the city have risen in recent weeks, with two deadly attacks by Palestinian militants on pedestrians in the city and announcements by Israel of plans to build more settler homes in East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem compound that has been the focus of much of the unrest – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif – is the holiest site in Judaism, while the al-Aqsa Mosque within the compound is the third holiest site in Islam.

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the longstanding ban on Jews praying at the compound.”

And again, no mention was made by the BBC of the incitement and glorification of terrorism from Palestinians of various factions, including partners in the ‘unity government’.

The article again failed to inform readers of the fact that a team of pathologists – including one chosen by the dead man’s family – had determined that Yousef Hassan Al-Ramouni’s death earlier in the week was self-inflicted.

“He [Netanyahu] accused Mr Abbas and militant group Hamas of spreading “blood libel” that a bus driver who reportedly took his own life in East Jerusalem on Monday had been “murdered by Jews”.

Hamas had said the Jerusalem attack was in revenge for the death of the driver, who was found hanged inside a vehicle. His family did not accept the post-mortem findings of suicide.”

As we see, this latest batch of BBC News website reports on the subject of a terror attack in Jerusalem joins all the others produced during the last four weeks in promoting a plethora of ‘reasons’ for the surge in violence and terror attacks in that time, all of which imply that the deterioration of the security situation can ultimately be attributed to Israeli actions. The only references to Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism have been in second-hand quotes from Israelis and the BBC’s news reports continue to avoid independently informing audiences of that crucial factor, thus actively denying them the ability to enhance their awareness and understanding of this particular “international issue“. 

 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – part one

BBC coverage of the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, on the morning of November 18th appeared on multiple platforms including the corporation’s website, radio stations and television. Part one of this post deals with written material appearing on the BBC News website.

Coverage began with typical BBC refusal to independently categorise the premeditated murders of civilians going about their daily business as terrorism.

Pigua Har Nof tweet bbc breaking

In the first four versions of the website’s main article on the incident – currently titled “Jerusalem synagogue: Palestinians kill Israeli worshippers” – the term terrorist attack was placed in the quotation marks routinely employed by the BBC to distance itself from the description.

Pigua Har Nof on HP

 

Pigua Har Nof 1

Pigua Har Nof 2

In subsequent versions of the article – of which there were twenty-one in all – the word terror and its derivatives also appeared exclusively in the form of quotes; for example:

“US Secretary of State John Kerry said the act of “pure terror… simply has no place in human behaviour”. He called on the Palestinian leadership to condemn it.”

And:

“Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed a harsh response.

He ordered the homes of the attackers to be destroyed and called for the people of Israel to stand together in the face of a “wave of terror”.”

Versions 3 and 4 of the report inaccurately informed BBC audiences that Rabbi Yehuda Glick had been shot at Temple Mount.

Pigua Har Nof 3

From version 7 onwards, readers were told that:

“Praising the attack, Hamas said it was in revenge to the death of a Palestinian bus driver found hanged inside a vehicle in Jerusalem on Monday.

Israeli police said it was a case of suicide, but his family did not accept the post-mortem findings.”

The information concerning Hamas’ praise for the attack was removed from later versions.

“Hamas said it was in revenge for the death of a Palestinian bus driver found hanged inside a vehicle in Jerusalem on Monday.”

The BBC did not make any effort to inform audiences that the verdict of suicide was in fact not given by “Israeli police” but by pathologists who conducted a post-mortem, including one chosen by the deceased’s family. As the statement issued by the Ministry of Health indicates, the pathologists concluded that there was no evidence of foul play.

“On Monday afternoon, 17 November 2014, an autopsy was carried out on the body of Yousef Hassan Al-Ramouni by personnel from the National Center for Forensic Medicine with the participation of Dr. Saber al-Aloul, who was chosen by the family.

The findings of the autopsy indicate self-hanging.

There were no findings that indicated the involvement of any external agent in the act of hanging.

We are continuing various laboratory tests in order to clarify whether or not any foreign substances are present in the body fluids.

During the autopsy, there was agreement – including by the pathologist chosen by the family – regarding the findings and their significance; there was no suspicion that death was caused by anyone else.”

As has been the case in other recent BBC reports relating to terror attacks in recent weeks and in the ‘backgrounder’ by Yolande Knell which appeared on the BBC News website on November 7th and appears as a link in this article, the report provides audiences with a number of ‘explanations’ for the terror attack. Despite the Israeli government having stated unequivocally on several occasions that the status quo regarding Temple Mount will not be changed to include equal rights of worship for non-Muslims, the BBC continues to promote that issue as a cause of “tensions”, along with Israeli planning decisions.

“Jerusalem has seen weeks of unrest, partly fuelled by tension over a disputed holy site.”

“In the last few weeks, tensions have risen sharply – largely as the result of the revival of an ancient dispute over rights of worship at a site within the walls of the Old City. […]

In recent times, some religious Jews have begun to argue for a change in the status quo which would also allow them to pray there. Any hint of such change is viewed with deep anger in the Islamic world.”

“Tensions in the city have risen in recent weeks, with two deadly attacks by Palestinian militants on pedestrians in the city and announcements by Israel of plans to build more settler homes in East Jerusalem.”

“The Jerusalem compound that has been the focus of much of the unrest – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif – is the holiest site in Judaism, while the al-Aqsa Mosque within the compound is the third holiest site in Islam.

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the compound.”

Once again we see the inaccurate portrayal of the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount as an “Orthodox” issue. 

As has been the case in all previous BBC reports on recent terror attacks in Jerusalem, incitement by senior Palestinian figures – including partners in the Palestinian unity government – is not presented to BBC audiences as a contributing factor to the surge in violence and terrorism. The BBC informed readers of this report that:

“Earlier, the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement saying: “The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.””

It did not, however, inform them of the praise for the attack issued by Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor and his party Fatah.Pigua Har Nof PFLP art

An additional link appearing in this report leads readers to an inaccurate article – still uncorrected – published in April 2014 in which Temple Mount is described as being situated in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The report also includes an insert on the topic of the terrorist organization to which the Har Nof attackers belonged and on the same day the BBC produced a profile of the PFLP which is inaccurately illustrated with a photograph of flags belonging to another terrorist organization – the DFLP.

Late in the evening of November 18th, the above article was replaced on the BBC News website’s Middle East homepage by an additional report which will be discussed – along with others – in a later post. 

Anachronism and inaccuracy in BBC News Jerusalem reporting

Two recent BBC News website articles – “Jerusalem tension: John Kerry brokers Israel-Jordan talks“, November 13th and “Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access“, November 14th – made use of the illustration below.

Temple Mount graphic

The term ‘Wailing Wall’ is of course a British invention, appearing in nineteenth century English travel literature and employed by the British after their conquest of Jerusalem in 1917. It is not used by Israelis or Jews: the much older place-name HaKotel HaMa’aravi – translated as the Western Wall – is the one used by the people for whom the site has cultural and religious significance. And yet, despite the fact that the BBC is conscientious about employing place-names such as Mumbai and Beijing rather than the old Anglicised terms Bombay or Peking, it continues to promote the anachronistic term ‘Wailing Wall’ even in its style guide.

“Western Wall – (in Jerusalem) avoid ‘Wailing Wall’ except after a first reference – eg: The man attacked tourists near the Western Wall (the so-called Wailing Wall).”

In both the above reports, BBC audiences were told that:

“Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the compound [Temple Mount].”

Orthodox Judaism is of course by no means homogenous and includes numerous different streams of thought, with some groups coming under the umbrella term Orthodox strongly opposed to visits by Jews to Temple Mount, let alone Jewish prayer at the site. Among those who have been involved in the campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount are people ranging from members of the National-Religious movement (Dati Leumi) to Labour Party MP Hilik Bar. Thus the BBC’s presentation of the campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount as an “Orthodox” issue is as inaccurate and misleading to audiences as its portrayal in previous reports of the issue as a “Right-wing” campaign. 

 

BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast’s massive Middle East mangle

Mishal Husain’s deferential and decidedly uninformative ‘interview’ with Hizballah’s Muhammad Fneish on November 13th was apparently the inspiration for an item on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Breakfast programme on the same day.5 live breakfast

Presenter Rachel Burden’s introduction to the item (available here for a limited period of time from 02:39:40) began as follows:

“Now, the Lebanese militant group Hizballah has told the BBC that the fight against Islamic State has given it a common purpose with Western powers. In an interview with the BBC one of its leaders blamed IS for killing more Muslims than its longtime enemy Israel.”

Of course the implication that until ISIS came along Israel held some sort of record for killing Muslims is grossly inaccurate and misleading, but Burden made no attempt to clarify that fact to listeners – or to inform them of Hizballah’s terrorist designation – before introducing her interviewee; former British Ambassador to Libya, Sir Richard Dalton.

After a conversation about developments in Libya, Burden said:

“It’s interesting, isn’t it, what the Lebanese militant group Hizballah have told the BBC: that the fight against Islamic State has given it a common purpose with Western powers – it’s on the same side of a conflict as American forces for once. Is this just an extreme example of our enemy’s enemy being our friend and if it is, does it herald any possible rapprochement with the group and maybe a way of hope for the Israel-Palestine process – peace process?”

Why the topic of negotiations between Israel and the PLO was introduced into an item supposedly broadcast within the framework of a BBC special feature on Syria is unclear, but given that this was the second time in a matter of minutes that Burden had informed audiences that Hizballah had told the BBC that it now has “a common purpose” with Western powers, let’s take a closer look at the relevant segment of that interview.

Mishal Husein: “And do you therefore see those Western states as your allies then rather than your enemies, given the fact that you have a common fight at the moment?”

Fneish: “Sometimes common interests do cross, but not necessarily for the same goals. These Jihadi groups would not have thrived and expanded if it wasn’t for some policies by Western states like the United States, Britain and France and also the involvement of some regional states. […] For us, if there’s a convergence at the moment, it is the result of those states changing their positions and not because of common political goals.”

Clearly Burden’s interpretation of the Hizballah representative’s words does not accurately reflect what was said. Richard Dalton replied to her question as follows:

“I wouldn’t go as far as that, no. These are local conflicts with local dynamics. One of the reasons for example that Iran has got such a strong link with Hizballah in Lebanon is that it wishes to provide deterrents against attacks on Iran’s own territory. So this is not a simple matter of being able to count on a particular alliance for one purpose and then seeing that alliance extended for another. The fact is that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is currently getting worse, with a negotiated solution further off than ever – largely because of policies adopted in Israel. And the fact is unless Western policy changes towards Israel and towards the Palestine-Israel conflict as a whole, we’re not going to see progress on that issue just because of a temporary coincidence of interest in confronting Islamic State.” [emphasis added]

Rachel Burden made no attempt whatsoever to clarify or challenge Dalton’s pejorative and inaccurate allegations or to point out to listeners that the last round of negotiations failed because the Palestinian Authority chose to form a unity government with a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction whilst knowing full well that act would bring an end to talks.

In other words, listeners to a peak-time breakfast show were misled by inaccurate representation of the words of a senior figure in a terrorist organization not defined as such, with that misrepresentation used as hook for an equally inaccurate representation of the reasons for failure of negotiations between Israel and the PLO – all in an item supposedly forming part of the BBC’s coverage of events in Syria.

So much for the BBC’s claim to “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

 

 

BBC amplification of Hizballah propaganda

On November 13th the head of the BBC’s Middle East bureau proudly announced a scoop on Twitter.

Hizb int Colebourn tweet

Mishal Husain’s interview with Muhammad Fneish of Hizballah – conducted as part of the BBC’s recent Syria feature – was promoted on a variety of BBC platforms. An abridged version appeared in the November 13th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (from 02:10:10 here) with Husain describing the organization her interviewee represents as follows:Hizb int on website

“…founded to resist Israel, regarded by the United States as a terrorist organization, blamed for the killing of US marines and the kidnapping of Western hostages in Beirut in the 1980s…”

Following the interview, listeners heard ‘analysis’ from Jeremy Bowen, who likewise played down Hizballah’s terrorist designation:

“…seen by the likes of Britain and America as a terrorist organization…”

Listeners were told by Bowen that Hizballah is one of the “friends of Iran” with no proper information provided on the topic of Iran’s role in the organisation’s founding, the material support it provides or the agenda it dictates.

Hizballah is of course designated as a terrorist organization in its entirety by Bahrain, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and the US and in part by Australia, the EU, New Zealand and the UK.

The interview was also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Hezbollah minister blames foreign ‘intervention’ for Syrian suffering” with no mention made of the fact that Husain’s interviewee is a member of a terrorist organization in that version’s synopsis and the Iranian connection erased altogether.

A video of most of the interview was also uploaded to Youtube by BBC News. Like the website version, its synopsis informs audiences that Husain’s interview marks the “first time the Hezbollah leadership has spoken to the international media since the Syrian crisis began in 2011″.

So, did the corporation which claims to be “the standard-setter for international journalism” use this rare opportunity to challenge the Lebanese minster with regard to his party’s primary allegiance to Iran and its role in exacerbating  the Sunni-Shia conflict both inside Lebanon and further afield? Was any attempt made to raise the issue of the terrorist-militia-within-a-state maintained by Fneish’s organization in contradiction of multiple UN resolutions? Did Husain question the Hizballah representative with regard to its terrorist and criminal activities both at home and abroad? Was he asked why his organisation provides support for a regime which has killed more than 200,000 of its own people? And did she ask him why Hizballah even continues to exist given that Israel withdrew from Lebanon almost a decade and a half ago?

Well; no. Instead BBC audiences were treated to undiluted, unchallenged Hizballah propaganda comparing Israel to ISIS, promoting the notion that Western support for parties opposing the Assad regime is designed to “protect Israel” and claiming that the organisation’s involvement in the Syrian civil war is part and parcel of its so-called “resistance” against Israel.

Husain: “I wonder which you think is the bigger enemy today; the Islamic State or the enemy that Hizballah was founded to fight, which was Israel?”

Fneish: “We don’t really differentiate between the two really because the whole problem as we see it revolves around ending the resistance. When Israel, backed by the US, failed in 2006 to end the resistance, the focus on Syria was to stop it supporting the resistance. Therefore this whole battle aims to protect Israel. The role of the jihadists is to benefit from the political developments in the region and to work on their project which is a threat to the region and to all those who oppose their views. Syria is a key component in the balance of the regional conflict and was threatened by those groups due to Western policies. And those groups threaten Lebanon and the resistance movement in it. It means that this continues to be a battle against Israel but the rules and the locations of the engagement have changed.”

Given the docile and unchallenging nature of Mishal Husain’s interview with Fneish and her reverent approach to that senior representative of an international terrorist organisation, one can hardly find it surprising that Hizballah decided that speaking to the BBC fit its agenda. 

BBC’s favourite Norwegian doctor given multiple platforms for medical agitprop

On November 14th the Twitter account linked to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ promoted a segment from that day’s broadcast as a stand-alone item.

OS Tweet Mads Gilbert

That podcast can be heard here. The programme from which it is taken can be heard here for a limited period of time, with the relevant item beginning at 36:55. Presenter Chloe Tilley introduced the item as follows:

“Now, people who listen regularly to ‘Outside Source’ may be familiar with the name Mads Gilbert. He’s a Norwegian doctor who has spoken to us lots on the programme and he’s been told he’s been banned from Gaza for the foreseeable future over Israeli government claims he poses a security threat. Dr Gilbert’s been travelling to Gaza to treat patients for over 15 years and he told Outside Source’s Louise Webster what had happened.”

Of course Mads Gilbert has not only been frequently featured on the BBC World Service, but on a variety of other BBC platforms too and, as has so frequently been the case in the past, in this item no attempt whatsoever was made to correct the misleading impressions received by BBC audiences as a result of Gilbert’s promotion of unchallenged propaganda.OS podcast Mads Gilbert

“The fundamental reason for the ill-health in the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing.”

“The siege of Gaza of course has to be lifted. We cannot accept the siege is now also including international medical staff who seek to support the medical sector in Gaza. That is totally unacceptable.”

“Well, I think – you know – the siege of Gaza has been going on for seven years now and they have been denied all sorts of daily commodities; building material, medical supplies and so on. And it seems like the Israeli authorities are also trying to limit the number of foreigners who are allowed to travel through Israel to Gaza. So what is lost is actually the flow of information about the realities in Gaza and we need to know what is the circumstances and the situation for the population in Gaza.”

In fact the main causes of death in the Gaza Strip are cardiovascular disease, cancer and cerebrovascular disease. There is, of course, no “siege” on the Gaza Strip, but nevertheless the BBC still continues to energetically promote that particular falsehood. As we had cause to note here on numerous occasions during this summer’s conflict, the issue of shortages of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip has nothing to do with the restriction on the entry of dual-use goods imposed by Israel as part of counter-terrorism measures and in fact arises from long-standing disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Clearly too, Gilbert’s hysterical claim of a limit or ban on foreign medical staff travelling to Gaza is a gross distortion.

So yet again we see the BBC providing an unhindered platform for Mads Gilbert to promote his usual deliberate misinformation.

In the full version of the item, Gilbert’s monologue was followed by Chloe Tilley informing listeners that:

“…an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman told Outside Source that an investigation was underway into Dr Gilbert, who he described as a ‘Jekyll & Hyde figure hiding behind a cloak of being a humanitarian doctor’. He said there was strong suspicion that he had been involved in matters relating to supporting terror activities. An investigation is underway and Dr Gilbert’s position would be reassessed when it came to a conclusion.”

That statement was omitted from the version of the item promoted on Twitter, a link to which also appeared in a written article titled “Israel bans Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from Gaza” published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 14th. That article further amplified Gilbert’s inaccurate “siege” propaganda:Gilbert on website

“”The fundamental reason for the ill health of the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing,” he said.”

It also told readers that:

“In July, Dr Gilbert was one of the co-signatories in a strongly-worded letter denouncing Israeli action in Gaza, published in the medical journal, the Lancet.”

Notably, the BBC made no effort to inform audiences of the controversy surrounding that letter when two of Gilbert’s co-signatories were found to have a history of disseminating antisemitic material or of the Lancet editor’s subsequent comments on the issue.

The BBC knows full well that there is no “siege” on the Gaza Strip and it should by now also be aware of the fact that Israel does not pose any limitations on the entry of medical supplies. However, it continues to mislead BBC audiences worldwide by providing an unhindered platform for Mads Gilbert’s promotion these falsehoods, thus clearly breaching its own supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

Hamas terminology and propaganda in BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Mads Gilbert

What is missing from Yolande Knell’s BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem violence?

Two weeks and two days after the first of the recent terror attacks in Jerusalem the BBC News website published a backgrounder article by Yolande Knell in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of its Middle East page on November 7th under the title “Jerusalem a city on edge as tensions spiral“. Readers were told at the top of the article that:Knell backgrounder written

“Tension is growing around Jerusalem’s holy compound – Yolande Knell examines the issues”

Predictably, the article adopts the standard BBC practices of erasing all history before June 1967 and falling short of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of the many legal opinions which fall outside the BBC’s chosen narrative.

“Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the sector in 1980 in a move not recognised internationally.”

“The settlements on occupied land are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Knell’s article provides BBC audiences with a range of ‘explanations’ for the surge of Palestinian violence in Jerusalem.

  1. The murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and police measures to contain rioting:

“He was the spark that lit this uprising. Now we’re facing a lot of problems with the [Israeli] Occupation and having the Israeli border police next to our home only makes matters worse,” says Mr Abu Khdeir. “Anger is rising.”

  1. Alleged ‘discrimination':

“Palestinian residents have long complained of discrimination…”

  1. ‘Settlers':

“[Palestinians] blame increasing tension on the growing number of Jewish settlers moving to the area.”

  1. The existence of a campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount:Knell backgrounder filmed

“Recent clashes have been fuelled by Jewish demands to lift a ban on their religious practices at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site in the heart of the Old City.”

  1. Temporary restrictions on access to Temple Mount for Muslims as a means of reducing violent rioting:

“At the al-Aqsa mosque compound, age restrictions continue to be imposed on Palestinian worshippers heading to Friday prayers, a move described by Israeli authorities as a security measure.”

  1. The absence of ‘peace talks':

“In the absence of peace talks to address the core issues, there are many reminders that the political vacuum can quickly be filled by violence.”

Those last two points were also promoted in a filmed report by Knell published on the same day under the title “Growing tension at Jerusalem holy site“. In that report – also shown on BBC television news – audiences were told: 

“Tensions have been mounting over restrictions at this site – holy to Muslims and Jews. Today Israeli police lined up around the Old City to impose restrictions on Palestinian Muslims heading to the Al Aqsa Mosque. They said this was for security.”

And:

“Recently there have been fresh reminders of how the political vacuum can be filled with violence. On Wednesday a Palestinian militant from Hamas drove into pedestrians, killing two people. It was the second such attack in Jerusalem in two weeks.”Knell backgrounder Bowen Tweet

However neatly the notion that recent violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere is fuelled by a lack of negotiations may fit into the BBC’s narrative, there is one blatantly obvious hole in Knell’s “excellent Jerusalem analysis” as it was dubbed by her Middle East editor. No amount of ‘peace talks’ or political process would have dissuaded Hamas or the PIJ from carrying out the recent terror attacks or inciting violent riots because those terrorist organisations are inherently opposed to any kind of political negotiation with Israel.

Of course those of us with apparently better memories than Yolande Knell also remember the spate of terrorism which followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, not to mention the initiation of the second Intifada by the Palestinian Authority as a means of bringing political process to an abrupt end.

The last round of talks (July 29th 2013 to April 29th 2014) was no different: the statistics show that during the nine months of negotiations a rise in terrorism was seen in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria (consistently under-reported by the BBC) rather than the opposite – as Knell’s redundant theory would have it.

Knell backgrounder chart

Notably though, Knell’s article refrains from making any mention whatsoever of the issue of incitement and glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority: major contributing factors to the recent violence, terror and unrest seen in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Truly “excellent Jerusalem analysis” genuinely intended to inform audiences of the background to this particular issue would of course not have omitted that all-important factor. The advancement of a politically-motivated narrative, however, would.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell tells WS audiences violence in Jerusalem caused by Jews trying to enter Al Aqsa Mosque

Inaccurate BBC representation of Golan Heights ‘relics’

BBC News’ recent big multi-platform feature on Syria (more on that later) included a filmed report from the Golan Heights by Kevin Connolly which, in addition to being aired on BBC television news, also appeared on the BBC News website on November 13th under the title “Could Syria be a catalyst for change in the Middle East?“.

In the report, Connolly correctly told viewers that:

“The landscape is littered with relics of the fighting in 1967 and in 1973 when Syria tried and failed to win back the land it lost.”

However, the footage used to illustrate that statement by Connolly included the following images, neither of which have anything to do with either the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War or indeed with the modern states of Israel or Syria.

Connolly Goaln filmed 2

Connolly Golan filmed 3

The first image shows a pillbox constructed by the British in 1941 near Ein Tawfik in the south Golan Heights, close to the 1923 border between British-administered Mandate Palestine and French-administered Mandate Syria. The second image shows a nearby tank barrier also constructed during the Second World War with the intention of preventing French and/or German tanks entering Mandate Palestine via the Golan Heights.

Had the BBC’s cameraman swung a little to the right, he would have seen a statue and a plaque commemorating the fact that Eli Cohen passed through that tank barrier on his way to El Hama in 1962 – five years before the Six Day War.

Photo: Dr Avishai Teicher

Photo: Dr Avishai Teicher

Later on in the report, Connolly told audiences:Connolly Golan filmed

“Land on the Syrian side of the UN-controlled checkpoint [Kuneitra] is in the hands these days not of the Syrian army but of an Islamist rebel group.”

In fact there is more than one rebel group currently holding positions in that area. Connolly also stated that:

“Israel has been fortifying its fences and responding with force whenever shells or missiles hit land under its control.”

In actual fact, whilst Israel has indeed responded with retaliatory fire on occasion, it has by no means done so in all of the dozens of cases of cross-border fire – deliberate or accidental – which have taken place in the past months and so Connolly’s assertion that Israel responds “whenever” such fire takes place is inaccurate.