A story ignored by the BBC for thirty-four months

Last week five Palestinians were sentenced to 15 years in prison for their part in a terror attack nearly three years ago.

The fact that there was no BBC coverage of that story is not very surprising when one considers that the corporation also refrained from covering the incident when it took place on Highway 5 in March 2013, despite the fact that the rock-throwing attack resulted in serious brain injury to a three year-old Israeli child.Adele Bitton

Nearly a year ago, when that little girl died due to complications resulting from her injuries, the BBC still did not tell its audiences about Adele Bitton and her family.

And so, an entire story of a fatal terror attack on an Israeli mother and her children remains unknown to audiences of the media organization which, despite claiming to enhance “awareness and understanding of international issues”, systematically under-reports Palestinian acts of terror and particularly those perpetrated by rock-throwers. 

BBC Africa misrepresents campaigning reports as ‘scoop’

It is not difficult to discern when the BBC is running a campaign rather than merely reporting a story. One indication is the promotion of an item on multiple platforms and such was the case on February 3rd when listeners to the 6 am news bulletin on BBC Radio 4 were told that:

“The BBC has found evidence that Israel is sending unwanted African migrants to third countries under secretive deals which may be in breach of international law. Migrants from Eritrea and Sudan say they’re fleeing violence. Israel says they are a threat to security but strongly denies acting illegally.”

The news bulletin on the same station one hour later – at 7 am – further expanded the topic.

“The BBC has found evidence that Israel is sending unwanted African migrants to third countries under secretive deals which may be in breach of international law. There are about 45,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants in Israel. Kathy Harcombe has more details.

KH: The Israeli government calls them infiltrators who pose a threat to the security and identity of the Jewish state. But the migrants from Eritrea and Sudan say they’re fleeing violence and persecution. Israel doesn’t forcibly deport them but has introduced a policy that gives the choice to leave for a third country in Africa or be jailed indefinitely. Those third countries, the BBC has been told, are Rwanda and Uganda. Lawyers taking the Israeli government to the Supreme Court argue that increasingly tough measures against the migrants amount to a breach of the UN Refugee Convention. Israel however says that it has no doubt that it is acting legally. Rwanda has never confirmed the deal and the Ugandan government has denied that any such agreement exists. It’s also told the BBC it’s now investigating how migrants who claim to have been sent from Israel are entering the country.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 3 Breakfast show on the same day also heard similar promotion of that story in the 8 am news bulletin.

“The BBC has found evidence that Israel is sending unwanted African migrants to third countries under secretive deals which may be in breach of international law. It’s alleged the migrants are made to choose between going to prison indefinitely and being sent away. Israel’s government says it’s acting legally.”

All that, however, was only the aperitif. Throughout the day, reports from BBC Africa’s Kathy Harcombe were to be found on a variety of BBC platforms.Migrants story Newsday

BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newsday’ broadcast an audio report which was also promoted separately on social media under the inaccurate and misleading title “Israel accused of illegally deporting Africans“. Harcombe’s expertise in her subject matter was demonstrated in her opening sentence:

“Deep in the Negev desert in Israel – hours away from the capital Tel Aviv – is the Holot detention centre.” [emphasis added]

Using very questionable wording with religious associations, the BBC News website promoted a written article by Harcombe headlined “Israel’s unwanted African migrants” on several of its pages including the Magazine, Middle East and Africa pages.

migrants stroy on ME pge

Filmed reports shown on BBC News television programmes were also promoted on the website under the headlines “Israel ‘sending away African migrants’” and “Life in Israel camp is a ‘waste of time’“.migrants story filmed 1

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme heard another audio report  – from 38:59 here – which also included an inaccurate reference to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital and was introduced by Eddie Mair as follows:

“BBC Africa has gathered evidence that Israel is sending unwanted African migrants to third countries under secretive deals which may be in breach of international law.”

All of the above news bulletins and reports present the story as though it were a BBC scoop, with repeated use of the claim that “the BBC has gathered evidence” or “found evidence”.

In fact, there is nothing new or “secretive” about this story at all: it has been in the public domain for nearly two years and related court cases initiated by a coalition of NGOs (which includes ACRI, Kav LaOved and Physicians for Human Rights)  have been going on since April 2015. Lawyer Anat Ben Dor, who appears in most of Harcombe’s pieces, has provided legal representation for that coalition of NGOs in these court cases but that fact and the name of the organization she represents is not adequately communicated to BBC audiences in some of the reports.

Harcombe steers audiences towards the mistaken belief that the migrants in Israel are without exception refugees with commentary such as this from her audio and filmed reports:

“The people here say that they came to Israel to seek refuge from conflict or persecution. But the Israeli government has granted asylum to fewer than 1%.”

She does not clarify what that percentage actually means (1% of the total number of migrants? 1% of those requesting asylum?) and she does not inform audiences that in fact, whilst almost 50,000 Sudanese and Eritreans have illegally entered Israel, only about 1,800 of them had requested asylum as of January 2014. 67% of the mostly younger male migrants who entered Israel via Egypt come from Eritrea and 25% from Sudan and – as Harcombe should know because the BBC has reported the story – the status of migrants from Eritrea has also come under discussion in Europe – including in the UK.

Harcombe’s headline-grabbing claims of “breach of international law” are based on her assertion that:

“By failing to ensure the safety of its unwanted African migrants, some legal experts say Israel is in breach of its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.”

A decision from Israel’s Supreme Court in 2015 (paragraph 4) provides information concerning Israeli efforts to ensure the welfare of those leaving Israel for a third country, including the inspection and confirmation of implementation of agreements with that country by envoys of the Israeli government (including meetings with migrants) and the appointment of a personal contact in Israel’s Population and Immigration Bureau for each person moving to a third country in order to facilitate communication if problems arise.migrants story written

BBC audiences are not told how Harcombe managed to locate and contact the “two men who say that they were abandoned as soon as they got off the plane” whose stories form the basis of the allegations in these reports and the backbone for the claim of a scoop.

However, it is not unreasonable to assume that contact with those two men may have been facilitated by the campaigning NGOs which are obviously the source of this story. Last year a representative of one of those organisations – Sigal Rozen who is interviewed in Harcombe’s written article – produced a report that includes remarkably similar stories which were collected by Harcombe’s other interviewee, lawyer Anat Ben Dor. The background to the BBC’s repeated claims that it has “found evidence” or “gathered evidence” therefore requires clarification.  

Clearly, this BBC ‘scoop’ is in fact a self-conscripted contribution to the PR efforts of a campaign being run by a coalition of political NGOs.  That in itself does not come as much of a surprise: the BBC has a record of reporting on the issue of African migrants in Israel which includes the regurgitation of a report from Human Rights Watch, the amplification of allegations of racism from a very dubious anti-Israel campaigner and one-sided reporting which has serially failed to present the viewpoint of the people of the neighbourhoods of south Tel Aviv where the majority of the migrants live.

However, the BBC’s funding public has the right to know that such an energetically promoted multi-platform ‘scoop’ is in fact part of a political campaign. Audiences also have the right to expect transparency concerning any third-party involvement in locating and recruiting interviewees and BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality dictate that the political agendas of the campaigning NGOs which are obviously the source of these multiple reports should have been made known to viewers, readers and listeners. 

 

BBC News still downplaying Hamas terror

Last week the BBC News website covered the collapse of one of Hamas’ offensive tunnels with an article which sidestepped the real issues behind the story.

The day after that article was published Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh made the organisation’s intentions amply clear.tunnels

“Hamas “heroes” are tirelessly digging Gaza Strip tunnels designed for use in attacks on Israel, a senior official said Friday, as the terror group buried seven excavators killed this week when the tunnel they were working on collapsed due to heavy rains and floods.

Thousands turned out for the funerals in the Hamas-ruled Gaza, Army Radio reported, where Ismail Haniyeh vowed that the group is growing stronger and will use any measures to preparation for the next confrontation with Israel.

“Some believe that the calm, when the noise of the cannons fall silent, is intended for rest. But the [Izz ad-Din] al-Qassam Brigades continue with their campaign through preparation and training,” said Haniyeh, referring to the Hamas military wing. The resistance, he said, is permanently in a state of continuous preparation.

“East of Gaza City, heroes are digging through rock and building tunnels, and to the west they are experimenting with rockets every day. The resistance continues on its path of liberation of the land,” Haniyeh said during the funerals at the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City.”

And as Khaled Abu Toameh has documented, Haniyeh is not the only Hamas official openly discussing the terror group’s intentions.

“Hamas makes no secret of the goal of its renovations. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar readily admits that the tunnels are being rebuilt to target Israel.

Indeed, clarity seems to be the name of the game with Hamas. Senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayeh explained that his organization would continue to dig tunnels for use in future confrontations with Israel. “We have enough mujahideen [jihad warriors] to replace their brothers who were martyred [in the tunnel collapse],” he said during the funeral of the seven Hamas members.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh went a step further: the tunnels were not only designed to launch terror attacks against Israelis, but to “liberate all of Palestine.” In the words of Haniyeh, the tunnels are being dug not only to “defend the Gaza Strip, but to serve as a launching pad to reach all of Palestine.” […]

For Haniyeh, the tunnels are a “strategic weapon” in Hamas’s jihad to destroy Israel. Hamas’s military wing dug the tunnels around the Gaza Strip “to defend our people and liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem,” the Hamas leader stated.”

The BBC has of course not bothered to report those statements to its audiences and an additional tunnel collapse on February 2nd has likewise been ignored by the corporation’s journalists.

As we documented here last week, the head of COGAT recently made a statement about Hamas’ abuse of entry permits into Israel for Gazans.

“Attempts by Hamas to exploit entry permits given to Gazan residents by Israel are jeopardizing future crossings by Palestinians, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, has warned.

In an interview to the Al-Quds Palestinian newspaper, Mordechai said Hamas will force Israel to consider completely close the crossings to the Strip if attempts to recruit Gazans for terrorist missions do not cease. […]

Hamas’s “cynical exploitation of Israeli entry permits is forcing Israel to think twice before it issues permits to Gazans.

This situation will eventually lead to the closure of the Strip and the complete cessation of travel by Gazans from the Strip,” Mordechai warned.”

A story clarifying one form of that abuse of humanitarian assistance has since come to light.ambulance Erez

“Israel police and Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] arrested two Hamas operatives who had entered Israel from Gaza on forged medical documents. […]

After entering Israel, Mahmoud Matok, 31, along with his father, 51, escaped from hospital and traveled to Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, where they were arrested. […]

The two confessed under interrogation to forging the medical records by using a relative’s medical condition as a pretext for their entry, with the younger Matok assuming the relative’s identity.  

According to Shin Bet, the two had paid NIS 7,000 for the forged documents, which stated that the younger Matok suffered from paralysis of the legs and required emergency medical attention in Israel.”

The BBC continues to refrain from reporting on that issue too.

BBC News reports Jerusalem terror attack with politicised description of location

Early on the afternoon of February 3rd a terror attack took place at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

“Three terrorists committed a combined stabbing and shooting attack Wednesday afternoon at Jerusalem’s Damascus gate, wounding two female Border Police officers and a young man. […]

The three attackers arrived at the scene armed with Carl Gustav rifles, knives and explosive devices. The Border Police unit noticed them and became suspicious. One terrorist presented a national ID card to a Border Police officer as another pulled out his weapon and opened fire.

The two wounded officers’ colleagues opened fire on the terrorists in response. According to Palestinian sources, the attackers – Ahmed Abu Al-Roub, Mohammed Kamil and Mohammed Nasser – came from the Jenin area, and were aged between 20 and 21. Two of the attackers had been barred from entering Israel by the Shin Bet, and all three crossed over illegally.

Later on, two explosive devices were found at the scene along with two guns. The explosives were neutralized.

Hamas praised the attack, calling the terrorists “heroes” and saying that the incident proved that “the Palestinian people will persist with the intifada.””

One of the injured Border Police officers – 19 year-old Hadar Cohen – later died of her wounds.

Version 1

Version 1

The BBC News website’s initial report on the attack was titled “Israeli border guards shot in Jerusalem attack” but after news of the death of one of the victims broke, that headline was changed to read “Jerusalem attack: Israeli border guard dies after shooting“. Obviously neither of those headlines supplies readers with any information concerning the perpetrators of the “Jerusalem attack”.

Later on additional amendments were made to the article but all versions state that two victims sustained wounds during the attack rather than three. All versions also open with a politicized description of the location of the attack.  

Version 1: “Two female Israeli border guards have been shot and wounded in an attack by three young Palestinian men in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police say.”

Versions 2 & 3: “A female Israeli border guard has died in hospital after an attack by three young Palestinian men in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police say.”

That is presumably the result of the fact that the BBC relies on maps from political NGOs which, inter alia, describe the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City as being a “settlement” and depict areas which were in fact classified as ‘no man’s land’ in the 1949 Armistice Agreement – including the area in front of Damascus Gate – as “Palestinian”.

Damascus Gate map

The first two versions of the article inform readers that:

“In the past four months, 28 Israelis have been killed in a wave of stabbing, shooting or car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.”

That number was later changed to 29 but the BBC apparently does not find it newsworthy that additional people who did not hold Israeli citizenship have also been killed in this ongoing wave of terror which has claimed 31 victims since it began. The articles also include the usual “Israel says” caveat with regard to Palestinian attackers.

“More than 160 Palestinians – mostly attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period.” [emphasis added]

As has been noted here before on numerous occasions, the BBC has had ample opportunity to verify the information independently and should by this time be able to tell its audiences in its own words that the majority of those killed were in the process of carrying out terror attacks at the time.

Version 2

Version 2

All versions of the report include commentary from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in which he describes almost daily terror attacks as “sporadic”, adopts the standard BBC approach of whitewashing incitement from official Palestinian sources and even manages to apportion blame to Israel for “inflaming the mood”.

“Our correspondent says the wave of violent incidents shows no sign of abating, and although the attacks are sporadic they are persistent.

Some Israeli politicians accuse Palestinian politicians of incitement and many Palestinians blame the readiness of the Israeli security forces to resort to lethal force for further inflaming the mood.

But, our correspondent adds, it does seem as though the incidents are spontaneous, with attackers drawing motivation from material on social media rather than following orders from any militant organisation.”

Hours after this attack took place, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party was already praising the perpetrators on social media but BBC audiences were of course not informed of that part of the story.

As the BBC report itself states, the three attackers were armed with knives, automatic weapons and improvised explosive devices. Nevertheless, Kevin Connolly tells readers that such a heavily armed and obviously pre-planned attack was “spontaneous”. 

Once again we see that the BBC has no intention of carrying out any serious reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism from official Palestinian sources which fuels the current wave of violence. 

BBC News promotes ‘one-state’ stepping stone and political messaging

Last week marked ten years since elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council were held and the resulting split between Hamas and Fatah began. The BBC did not produce any content relating to that anniversary, the subsequent decade long Palestinian political paralysis and its effects upon an issue much touted on BBC pages and airwaves – the peace process.

Writing at Newsweek, Jonathan Schanzer of the FDD outlines the contemporary significance of that ten year-old event.

“Ten years on, the intra-Palestinian conflict is a glaring blind spot among Western policymakers. The enmity between the two factions challenges longstanding assertions of a unified Palestinian national identity. The Palestinian battle for primacy also injects new complexities into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The conflict, in fact, is now a three-way tug-of-war between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, where any one move can impact the delicate balance between the three.

After a decade of failed reconciliation efforts and a collapsed unity government in 2015, the intra-Palestinian conflict now appears intractable. The Gaza Strip remains firmly in the hands of Hamas, while the Fatah faction clings to the West Bank with the help of Israeli security and intelligence. There are two separate Palestinian governments with their own bureaucracies, two sets of cadres of political elites, two distinct economies, and increasingly two different cultures.

Nevertheless, Washington continues to call for a single Palestinian state. It’s a call that echoes across most Western capitals, too. The overriding assumption is that deft diplomacy coupled with Israeli territorial concessions could pave the way for the Palestinian Authority, unpopular and corrupt as it may be, to regain the moral and military high ground from Hamas and somehow bring the Gaza Strip back under its jurisdiction. These plans remain vague, to say the least. […]

The near collapse of the post-colonial system since the Arab Spring has challenged almost all of our assumptions on how to bring order to the chaos of the Middle East. Yet, the perceived need to create a single Palestinian state spanning the West Bank and Gaza has endured. Ten years on, the Palestinians are still divided—both ideologically and territorially. It may be time to acknowledge that if they can’t peacefully resolve their own territorial conflict, they certainly are not likely to resolve the one with Israel.”

What the BBC did see fit to publish last week, however, was an article titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Is one homeland the solution?” which was promoted in the ‘features’ section of its website’s Middle East page for four consecutive days.Thrope article

“As support for a two-state solution to their conflict declines among Israelis and Palestinians, a different approach to finding a peaceful settlement is being proposed.

Called “Two States – One Homeland”, the group, led by Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport and Palestinian politician Awni Almashni, is advocating the creation of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation.

They say that their plan, now picking up public and official backing, can solve the difficult issues – Israeli settlements, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the fate of Jerusalem – that have scuttled past negotiations.”

The article’s over-enthusiastic portrayal of the supposed popularity of a scheme few in the region will have heard of includes only minimal coverage of opposition from “the Palestinian street” whilst totally ignoring the Hamas elephant in the room.

“The group has also encountered opposition. Its inaugural public conference last June was moved from the Palestinian city of Beit Jala to nearby Jerusalem after Palestinian supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement threatened to disrupt the gathering.”

The article also fails to clarify to readers that – at least according to an article written by Mr Almashni – the plan is merely a stepping stone on the route to something other than “two states”.

“A quick glance at these ideas shows that they meet all the demands of anyone who believes in the two-state solution – taking into account that the two states are fully independent and sovereign, and within in the 1967 borders. Nevertheless, maintaining freedom of crossing, movement, and residence – that is, an open border between the two states – leaves the door ajar for a single future [binational] state, once the trust and the relationship [between the two peoples] have developed.” […]

“Ultimately, this solution reflects the desire of all who support the traditional two-state solution – it includes all the principles of the two states, as well as the actualization of the right of return. It [also] constitutes a giant step towards a single state, if the two peoples want to reach it – because it strengthens what they share, and thus opens the way to this direction.” [emphasis added]

Not content with failing to present its subject matter accurately, the writer of the article, Samuel Thrope, also misrepresents other related subjects.

“The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. UN General Assembly resolutions, meanwhile, endorse a Palestinian right of return.”

Regular consumers of BBC content are of course used to seeing the BBC frequently fail to meet its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by refraining from informing them of the existence of legal opinions which contradict its own adopted political stance on “the settlements”.

Now we see a new addition to the BBC’s repertoire of politically partisan messaging; promotion of the inaccurate claim that “a Palestinian right of return” is endorsed by the 1948 UN GA resolution 194 – which was opposed by Arab states at the time and in fact includes one clause pertaining to refugees in general but does not include the word “Palestinian” or guarantee an unconditional ‘right of return’.

As long as BBC reports continue to include unqualified promotion of Palestinian talking points, the corporation should not of course be surprised that its impartiality is so frequently called into question.  

Related Articles:

Yolande Knell ties one-state banner to BBC mast

BBC’s Yolande Knell back on the ‘one state’ bandwagon

BBC ignores Iranian Holocaust denial yet again

Back in September 2013 the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus was to be found promoting the notion of ‘moderated’ Iranian Holocaust denial on the corporation’s website. As was noted here when translations knocking the bottom out of that claim later came to light:

“Marcus’ conclusion was apparently reached after listening to the linguistic gymnastics of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, with the latter having claimed that Holocaust denial appearing on the official website of Iran’s Supreme Leader was a case of ‘lost in translation’.”

More recently, when the BBC’s Stephen Sackur  asserted that BBC audiences are in a position to “judge for themselves” the validity of Iranian denials of antisemtism and Holocaust denial, we noted that the BBC has made no effort to inform audiences of this year’s Tehran municipality organized Holocaust denial cartoon contest.

Another recent story which the BBC has refrained from reporting is that of the release by the Iranian ‘Supreme Leader’ of a Holocaust denial video on January 27thInternational Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“As the global community marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader uploaded a video to his official website questioning the magnitude of the Nazi regime’s mass murder campaign against the Jewish people during World War II.

In a video titled “Are the Dark Ages Over,” a series of photos showing killed or injured Palestinian children is displayed on screen, while a Farsi-speaking man, presumably Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself, can be heard condemning the nations of the world for offering support to Israel.

It is Western powers headed by America that are [supporting Israel],” the narrator says. “This is while they say in their slogans that they are opposed to terrorism and [the Islamic State terrorist group].”

The speaker goes on to accuse European nations of silencing any view that does not conform to the historically accepted account of the genocide against the Jews by Nazi Germany.

“No one in European countries dares to speak about the Holocaust, while it is not clear whether the core of the matter is reality or not,” the narrator continues. “Even if it is reality, it is not clear how it happened. Speaking about the Holocaust and expressing doubts about it is considered to be a great sin. If someone does this, they stop, arrest, imprison and sue him. This is why they claim to be supporters of freedom.””MEMRI clip

An English language translation of that video can be found at MEMRI.

Unlike other mainstream media outlets such as the Telegraph, the BBC did not produce any stand-alone reporting on the story. Neither did the corporation’s extensive coverage of the Iranian president’s visit to Europe at the same time as the video was released include any mention of the Iranian regime’s Holocaust denial. And whilst BBC coverage of International Holocaust Remembrance Day services and events was comprehensive, it would appear once again that the BBC is not of the opinion that its audiences also need to know about this contemporary manifestation of anti-Jewish hatred.   

BBC News portrays counter-terrorism measure as ‘collective punishment’

On the morning of January 31st a terror attack took place at a checkpoint north of Ramallah.

“Three Israeli soldiers were wounded on Sunday when a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces opened fire at an IDF checkpoint near Beit El in the West Bank. He was shot dead by forces at the scene.

Magen David Adom emergency services said that two victims were in serious condition with wounds to the neck and thigh, respectively, and one was lightly hurt.

The shooter drove up to the Focus checkpoint in a car, was asked for his ID, got out and opened fire with a handgun, injuring the three soldiers. Palestinian reports named him as Amjad Sakari, 35, and said he was a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces who was working as a bodyguard for the Ramallah district attorney.”

There was no BBC coverage of that attack at the time and so audiences were not informed of the Palestinian Authority police force’s glorification of the terrorist.

“In a statement it released following the attack, the Palestinian police announced that “with great pride, the members of the Palestinian police eulogize the brave martyrdom of their colleague, Master Sergeant Amjad Sukkari, “Abu Omar”, who committed the operation at V.I.P checkpoint in Beit El.””

poster PA police

Neither did they learn of similar praise from the PA’s dominant faction Fatah.

poster Fatah

The fact that the terrorist was later buried with honours at a PA organized funeral was also not reported to BBC audiences.  

“The Palestinian Authority on Monday held a military funeral for Amjad Sukkari, the Palestinian policeman who carried out the shooting attack near Bet El a day earlier. Three IDF soldiers were wounded in the attack. […]

Senior PA officials, including the governor of Nablus, Akram Rajoub and Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud Al-Aloul attended the policeman’s funeral.”

The only very brief mention of that terror attack came over 24 hours later in an article titled “Israel restricts entry to Ramallah after shooting attack” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 1st.

“The restrictions were imposed after a Palestinian policeman shot and injured three Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint outside the city before being killed.”

Whilst the short closure was in fact lifted several hours after the BBC’s report appeared, that information was not added to the article, which still remained on the website hours after it was no longer relevant.

The BBC’s report refrained from informing readers of the reason for the closure.

“For the first time in more than a decade, the IDF on Monday placed a partial daylong blockade around the large West Bank city of Ramallah. […]

The IDF’s Central Command imposed the closure after security consultation. It had received concrete alerts about future attacks originating from Ramallah, security sources told The Jerusalem Post.” [emphasis added]

Instead, the BBC elected to misrepresent a counter-terrorism measure to its audiences by means of amplification of Palestinian propaganda.

collective punishment

Had BBC audiences been made aware of the facts behind the partial one-day closure of Ramallah and had they been told that the quoted spokesman’s organization publicly glorified his colleague’s act of terror, they may have been able to put his irrelevant claim into more appropriate context.

But at the same time as it eagerly provides uncritical amplification for such propaganda, the BBC continues to embrace an editorial policy according to which PA incitement and glorification of terrorism are taboo subjects, thus undermining the corporation’s public purpose remit of enhancing audiences’ understanding of international issues.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance

 

The BBC, complaints, corrections and accountability

Readers may recall that a BBC Radio 4 News bulletin from December 20th 2015 misled listeners with regard to the fact that Samir Kuntar’s role in the 1979 terror attack in Nahariya was proven in a court of law.R4 6pm news 20 12

“A leading figure in the Lebanese militant group Hizballah has been killed by a rocket attack in the Syrian capital Damascus. Samir Kuntar had previously spent thirty years in an Israeli prison for his alleged role in the killing of four people. Hizballah said Israel was behind the rocket attack. An Israeli minister welcomed his death but didn’t say whether his country had carried it out.” [emphasis added]

A member of the public who immediately alerted the BBC to the use of that inaccurate and misleading wording received (over two weeks later) one of BBC Complaints’ infamous template responses – which completely failed to address the issue raised.

“Thank you for contacting us about the recent escalation in violence in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. We have received a wide range of feedback about our coverage of this subject across our television and radio programmes, and the BBC News website. In order to use our TV licence fee resources efficiently, this response aims to answer the key concerns raised in complaints received by us, but we apologise in advance if it doesn’t address your specific points in the manner you would prefer.

We appreciate you believe our coverage of this story has shown bias in favour of the Palestinians and against Israelis and the state of Israel. In this response we hope to explain why we feel this has not been the case.

Across our news bulletins and programmes we have reported on the increasing number of attacks committed by Palestinians on Israeli civilians and security forces. We have broadcast reports where our reporters have spoken to the families of Israelis and Palestinians killed in the recent violence and have heard their respective stories and own specific takes on the conflict.

For example, during BBC One’s News at Ten on 9 October we heard from Odel Bennet. She and her husband were attacked by a Palestinian in the Old City the previous weekend. She was seriously injured; her husband and a rabbi who intervened were both killed. During the report we showed amateur video footage of the attack. We then heard from Mrs Bennet who, from her hospital bed, spoke of her fear and pain, and described how Palestinian passers-by mocked and verbally abused her while she lay wounded on the street.

We have tried to explain how the current situation has come to pass from the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. This has included reporting on the tensions around the holy sites in Jerusalem. We have also reported on criticisms of the Palestinian leadership’s response to the attacks, in particular the Israeli government’s claim that President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are guilty of inciting violence in the West Bank. We believe we have reported clearly on the threat of violence faced by Israelis on an increasingly regular basis and of the difficulties faced by security forces in stopping these attacks from taking place.

BBC News tries to report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an accurate and duly impartial manner. Sometimes this means we can’t always reflect the full extent of the complexities of the conflict during one standalone report or bulletin. We try to tell the story of the conflict as experienced by both sides, across programmes and bulletins and over time. We believe this has been the case during our coverage of this recent spike in violence.

We have raised your concerns with senior editorial staff at BBC News, who consider the range of feedback received from our audience when deciding how they approach reporting on stories.”

The receipt of such an irrelevant response naturally raises the question of whether staff at the BBC Complaints department even bothered to read the complaint to which they were ostensibly replying.

Such template responses have of course long been employed by the BBC Complaints department and their primary purpose is obviously to tick a box and reduce the department’s workload. This particular member of the BBC’s funding public did not however give up in the face of an extraneous response and the complaint was resubmitted at the next stage.

The subsequent reply – received over five weeks after the original broadcast – read as follows:

“Thanks for getting back in touch. Apologies for the delay in replying. We do very much regret that we’ve not been able to get back to you as quickly as we, and you, would have liked.

Apologies also for our previous response not addressing your concerns.

We raised your complaint with senior editorial staff at radio newsroom. They appreciate your point and accept the script should have been written more clearly. It would have been better, for example, if this bulletin mirrored Radio 4’s 0900 bulletin’s on the same date (20 December), to remove any possible ambiguity about the nature of the conviction against Samir Qantar:

“The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah say a leader of the group has been killed by an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian capital, Damascus. Samir Qantar was sentenced to life in prison in Israel in 1979 for an attack in Israel that killed four people but was released seven years ago as part of a prisoner swap. An Israeli minister welcomed his death but did not comment on who was responsible.”

Thanks for taking the time to contact us, we hope this goes some way in addressing your concerns.”

So, whilst BBC staff “accept the script should have been written more clearly” they apparently have no intention of actually doing anything to correct the misleading and inaccurate impression given to Radio 4’s listeners. 

Once again, this case raises questions concerning the BBC’s accountability and its commitment to correcting its own mistakes in a consistent manner which serves the public interest. All the BBC had to do was to read this complaint properly and broadcast a correction in the next edition of that news programme. Instead, it wasted publicly provided resources by unnecessarily dragging out a very simple issue over a period of nearly a month and a half.

It is interesting to compare the BBC’s decidedly complacent approach to complaints and corrections to that of the US broadcaster NPR – as recently laid out in a CNN interview with NPR’s Head of News, Michael Oreskes.

“We don’t make silent corrections to our stories. We make corrections to help keep the public accurately informed – not to absolve ourselves of our mistakes.” 

 “So when you make an error of fact you have to correct it right away and you have to say you’ve corrected it.”

Keeping the public accurately informed is supposedly the mission of the BBC too but when members of the public alerting the corporation to inaccuracies and errors are shrugged off with tardy, irrelevant replies and forced to spend weeks navigating the labyrinthine complaints system in order to squeeze out a response which does nothing to repair the damage done by the error, it is very difficult to believe that mission is really at the peak of the BBC’s priorities.

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BBC continues to mainstream extremist group

h/t Sussex Friends of Israel

The January 31st edition of BBC One’s “moral, ethical and religious debate” programme ‘The Big Questions’ included a revival of the ‘Mossad stole my shoe’ story from last year.

The inventor of that story, Asghar Bukhari, has apparently since relocated to the UAE but the organization he previously headed – MPACUK – was represented on this BBC programme by a former assistant to the controversial ex-MP for Bradford East – who is apparently not averse to doing a bit of fund-raising for extremists in his spare time.

As readers can see in the clip from the full programme below, Raza Nadim obviously still buys into that story and unfortunately host Nicky Campbell only adds credence to the outlandish conspiracy theory.  

Of course what is really disturbing about this programme is that fact that even after the spotlight placed on MPACUK’s long-known racism and extremism by Bukhari’s ridiculous claim and despite the UK government’s recognition of conspiracy theories and antisemitism as precursors to extremism, the BBC still continues to provide a platform for an organization flagged up in the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism a decade ago (from paragraph 140, page 29, here) and included on a list of proscribed organisations holding “racist or fascist views” by the National Union of Students.

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BBC gives amplification to Middle Eastern conspiracy theories

When locals in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbeil captured and abused a griffon vulture which recently strayed from an Israeli nature reserve, the BBC could have done a story about the considerable efforts on the part of Israeli nature conservation organisations to protect that species of bird and others.  It could also have used the opportunity to highlight the problem of illegal hunting of wild birds in the Mediterranean area.

Gamla nature reserve

Gamla nature reserve

“About 25 million birds are illegally hunted and killed or captured every year in countries bordering the Mediterranean, and many of these countries have adopted a policy of looking the other way when it comes to the mass killing of the winged creatures, a report released over the weekend by the group BirdLife International claims. On the other hand, Israel, the report says, has the best record among Mediterranean countries when it comes to bird conservation.

The most wide-scale slaughter is being committed in Egypt and Italy, says the report from BirdLife International, the world’s largest organization dedicated to the protection of birds, while the island nation of Malta has the worst record in relation to its size. Many of the avian creatures are killed or captured in the course of their seasonal migration between Europe and Africa.

After Egypt and Italy, the worst offenders on the list are Syria and Lebanon, which together account for the deaths of six and a half million birds every year. “

Instead, the self-styled “standard setter for international journalism” chose to take a different approach to the story, focusing on the obviously groundless and downright ridiculous suspicions of the Lebanese villagers that the captured griffon vulture was carrying espionage equipment. The BBC was far from the only media organization to report the story from that angle, but at least the Guardian, for example, made the essence of the story quite clear to readers.

“Conspiracy theories are endemic in the Middle East.”

The BBC, however, elected to add credence to such silly conspiracy theories with wording such as “Lebanon returns Israeli vulture cleared of spying” – presumably written with a straight face.Vulture story

“A huge vulture detained in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel has been returned home after UN peacekeepers intervened, Israeli officials said.”

“The Lebanese media says the villagers freed the vulture after it became clear it was not on a spying mission.”

“It is not the first time a griffon vulture has been taken to be an agent of the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Saudi Arabia captured one, also with a Tel Aviv University tracker, in the desert city of Hyaal in 2011, sparking rumours of a “Zionist plot” that were dismissed by Israeli officials.” [emphasis added]

No better was Julian Marshall’s introduction to an item (here from 39:28) concerning the same story which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on January 30th and billed in the synopsis as being about ‘Animals as “spies”‘.

“Now to a tale of airborne espionage and conspiracy. Last night a griffon vulture was released by Lebanese authorities – cleared of spying for Israel after UN peacekeepers intervened.”

Despite the fact that the story is obviously not about “airborne espionage” at all, Marshall further stoked the fires in his conversation with his interviewee.

“Ahm…and what made the villagers suspicious was a tracking device attached to its tail. But I suppose that could equally have been a camera, couldn’t it?”

When the BBC reports on the abuse of endangered birds of prey in its own domestic arena it does not find it necessary to ‘explain’ the story by pandering to ridiculous conspiracy theories. As one of the representatives of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority put it:

“In the 21st century we expect people to understand that wild animals are not harmful.” 

The question that therefore arises is why the corporation does not similarly report stories from the Middle East – and especially those which it makes available to audiences in that region – in an equally factual and accurate manner.

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