BBC’s report on European Parliament vote on Palestinian statehood misses the point

On December 17th a report appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the heading “Push for Palestine”. The report came from the BBC News ‘Inside Europe’ blog where it was titled “MEPs back Palestinian statehood bid” and it was written by Sofia Bettiza – now a researcher at BBC News in Brussels and formerly a European Parliament and European Commission employee.F&A push for palestine

The ‘Inside Europe’ blog informs visitors that:

“This blog is where BBC journalists in Brussels and across the continent will point you to diverse opinions, insightful analysis and nuggets of news you might otherwise miss.”

So did BBC audiences actually get any “insightful analysis” into the European Parliament’s decision to adopt a motion concerning Palestinian statehood? They were told by Sofia Bettiza that:

“The European Parliament voted to recognise Palestine as a state “in principle”, by an overwhelming majority – 498 in favour and 88 against.”

They were not, however, informed that one hundred and eleven parliamentarians abstained from the vote.

They were also told that:

“The MEPs voted to support “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution”, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. The text also says that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, and calls on the EU to become a facilitator in the Middle East peace process.”

The EU is of course already a partner in that process via its membership of the Quartet.

Readers of this article were not told that the text of the motion links recognition to negotiations.

“The European Parliament “supports in principle the recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced,””

Neither was it clarified to readers that the version of the motion which was eventually adopted in fact rejects the idea of unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state:European Parl vote

“Lawmakers on the left had originally wanted to urge the EU’s 28 member states to recognize Palestine now without conditions. […]

However, conservatives and centrists said recognition should only form part of a negotiated agreement with Israel.

“With this vote, the European Parliament has clearly rejected an unconditional recognition separate from the peace negotiations,” said Elmar Brok, a German conservative who chairs the parliament’s foreign affairs committee.”

In fact, Bettiza goes on to suggest to BBC audiences that the European Parliament vote should be seen in the same light as previous ones in assorted European capitals which did fail to link recognition to negotiations, writing:

“There is growing momentum to recognise Palestinian statehood. In the past couple of months the parliaments of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Spain and France have all passed non-binding motions in favour. Sweden has gone further, officially recognising Palestine as a state. […]

The European Parliament clearly doesn’t want to lag behind.”

Bettiza closes:

“This vote is not legally binding, but it sends a strong message to the international community. Palestinian officials say they will press on with a bid for statehood at the UN – and this European support no doubt helps their cause.”

Quite how Bettiza imagines that a motion which clearly ties recognition to negotiations supports or helps the assorted unilateral Palestinian moves aimed at avoiding negotiations is unclear. It is, however, worth remembering one relevant point which the BBC’s researcher failed to note at all: the EU is part of the Quartet (together with the UN, the US and Russia) which is committed to solving the conflict through negotiation alone.

Clearly this article does little to meet the BBC’s remit of building “understanding of international issues” with its main achievement being to confuse audiences with regard to the motion and its significance. Perhaps if Sofia Bettiza had not limited her quest for quotes to MEPs from the Socialist group and the Greens, she might have come up with a more balanced, accurate and informative picture of the issue.

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BBC News presentation of EU court’s Hamas terror designation decision

December 17th saw the appearance of a report on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list“. Readers who proceeded past that somewhat misleading headline discovered only in later versions of the report, however, that in fact the story is not quite so straightforward.EU Hamas art

“In December 2001, the Council of the European Union – representing the governments of member states – adopted a “common position” and a regulation to combat terrorism.

It established a list of designated entities and people whose funds would be frozen. Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, was named on the initial list, and its political wing was added two years later.

Hamas contested the decision and on Wednesday the EU’s General Court found it had been “based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet”.

The court said it was therefore annulling Hamas’ designation but would temporarily keep existing measures against the group “in order to ensure the effectiveness of any possible future freezing of funds”.

This would be maintained for three months, or, if an appeal is brought before the European Court of Justice, until it was closed, it added.

“The court stresses that those annulments, on fundamental procedural grounds, do not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group within the meaning of the common position.”

[…] European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the EU continued to “consider Hamas a terrorist organisation” and would consider its response to the ruling.” [emphasis added]

Remarkably, the BBC report does not relate to the key question of why the EU has not come up with its own independent evidence regarding Hamas’ terror activities either in the eleven years since the designation was first brought into effect or in the four years since Hamas’ lawyers first launched the appeal against its designation.

Notably too, the article presents a partial picture of the obviously relevant issue of Hamas’ terror designation worldwide.

“Israel, the United States and several other nations have designated Hamas a terrorist organisation due to its long record of attacks and its refusal to renounce violence.”

What the BBC’s article does do, however, is amplify Hamas’ subsequent spin of the ECJ decision.

“Hamas deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said the decision was “a correction of a historical mistake”.

“Hamas is a resistance movement and it has a natural right according to all international laws and standards to resist the occupation,” he told the Reuters news agency.”

Moreover, despite informing readers that “[u]nder its charter, the movement is committed to Israel’s destruction”, the BBC article additionally promotes the inaccurate and misleading notion of Hamas as a “resistance movement” in both its text and photo caption, whilst concurrently whitewashing its violent 2007 coup in the Gaza Strip.EU Hamas art 2

“Hamas, which was founded in 1987, won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and reinforced its power in Gaza the following year after ousting its Fatah rivals.

Its supporters see it as a legitimate resistance movement against Israel, with whom it has fought for years.”

Photo caption: “Hamas is designated a terrorist group by many nations, but to its supporters it is a resistance movement”.

No effort is made to adequately clarify to BBC audiences that, as far as Hamas and its supporters are concerned, its efforts to destroy a UN member state count as “legitimate resistance” or that Hamas’ definition of “the occupation” includes the whole of Israel – as expressed just days ago by Mahmoud al Zahar at one of several recent rallies celebrating the 27th anniversary of Hamas’ founding.

“Anyone who thinks that we will recognize the existence of the [Zionist] entity or the 1967 borders is deluded… Palestine stretches from the Egyptian border in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean sea in the west, and we will never recognize anything less than this.” He added: “If part of our land is liberated, we will establish our state in that part without relinquishing even an inch of the rest. Just as we liberated Gaza and established a genuine administration in it, [with] an army and security apparatuses that defend us, rather than the Israeli enemy [unlike those of the PA], we will do the same in the West Bank, as a prelude to attaining all of Palestine.”

Significantly, there was no BBC coverage of those rallies whatsoever. 

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Confusing and conflicting messaging on Jabhat al Nusra in BBC reports

On December 9th an article by State Department correspondent Kim Ghattas appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Syria war: Southern rebels see US as key to success“. Despite its title, the report is illustrated using a photograph taken in Damascus in February 2013 rather than in southern Syria.Ghattas art

The article opens by informing readers that:

“Rebels in southern Syria are working to convince Washington to provide more decisive support as they continue to make small but steady gains against government forces.

While most of the world’s attention and the Syrian government’s forces have been focused on Kobane and Aleppo in northern Syria, moderate rebels south of Damascus have successfully taken territory and held it over the last three months, in the Deraa province, along the Jordanian border and along the Golan Heights.” [emphasis added]

Audiences will of course be likely to conclude that those “moderate rebels” differ essentially from the Jihadists profiled two days later in the BBC’s special feature on “Jihadist attacks”. One of the groups named in that feature is Jabhat al Nusra which, according to the BBC’s data, was responsible for 36% of the Jihadist attacks in Syria during the month of November.

Jabhat al Nusra attacks

Much later on in Ghattas’ long article, however, readers discover that one in ten of the rebels operating in southern Syria she previously described as “moderate” actually belong to the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al Nusra.

“Abu Majd el-Zoubi, a spokesman for the Southern Front, acknowledged that the Nusra Front operated in the region but insisted they were only 10% of the fighting force and that the rebels were all “100% Syrians”.”

That information in turn conflicts with a previous statement (still uncorrected) made by the BBC in its profile of Jabhat al Nusra (not updated since its publication in April 2013), according to which the Free Syrian Army does not cooperate with the Jihadist group.

“Al-Nusra’s connection to al-Qaeda has led the Free Syrian Army (FSA) opposition to distance itself from the movement.

“We don’t support the ideology of al-Nusra,” FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad said.

“There has never been and there will never be a decision at the command level to coordinate with al-Nusra.””

The take-away message for BBC audiences in Ghattas’ report is that the ability of the rebels in southern Syria to challenge the Assad regime is being hampered by a lack of American support.

“The growing coalition of 58 US-backed rebel groups south of Damascus known as the Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is inching closer to the capital but with restricted military supplies and only half-hearted political support from the White House, they admit their progress will be limited.

“For three years most factions in the opposition have been asking Washington ‘what can you do for us?'” said one activist speaking by phone from the Middle East.

“We want to make Washington want to help us because of what we achieve on the ground,” added the activist, who is close to the rebel groups.”

Notably, Ghattas backs up her message by linking to an article produced by Charles Lister of the Doha branch of the Qatari-funded Brookings Institute.

“There are growing warnings that the US is on the verge of losing the last remnants of influence it has on the ground in Syria.

Reluctant backing has led to a lack of trust by the moderate rebels, and the newly announced Pentagon programme to train and equip new rebel recruits only starts in the spring of 2015.

So the southern front is even more crucial for any short-term Western strategy in Syria, especially if it still envisages putting the squeeze on the government in Damascus.”

However, Ghattas fails to inform BBC audiences that as well as funding the think-tank which produced that article, Qatar has also funded some of the extremist groups promoted by Lister as ‘invaluable actors’ in the battle against the Assad regime; Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.

Jabhat al Nusra is currently designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and the US. Ghattas’ simplistic (though revealing) admonishment of American policy towards “moderate rebels” in southern Syria fails to mention the very relevant fact that those forces include a designated terrorist organization defined by the BBC itself as a Jihadist group.  

BBC’s Matthew Price produces superficial report on charity audit

On December 12th the BBC News website published an article titled “Audit ‘clears Islamic Relief’ of terror funding claim” by Matthew Price; the chief correspondent for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. In addition to appearing on the website’s UK page, the article was also posted on the Middle East page where it remained for three consecutive days.Islamic Relief art

The article opens by informing readers that:

“Britain’s biggest Islamic charity says an audit of its activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has found no evidence to support accusations it has funded terrorism.”

In the next paragraph readers learn that the audit was commissioned by the organization itself.

“Islamic Relief Worldwide denied claims made first by Israel and later the United Arab Emirates and hired leading auditors to review its West Bank work.”

Further along readers also learn that the public is not being informed which company carried out the audit, although it is obviously a very efficient one because it managed to carry out the work “in a few days”.

“It [Islamic Relief] says the audit, carried out over a few days in September this year, shows “absolutely no evidence” of any link to terrorism.” […]

“The charity is not publicly saying which company they paid to do the audit – but they do say it is a leading global audit firm.

Islamic Relief says because of what it calls the “sensitivities in the region” it has agreed with that firm not to identify it.”

Although the BBC report does not relate to the topic of the publication of the report, we learn from Reuters that it too will be kept from the public view.

“Islamic Relief has not named the ‘leading global audit firm’ which carried out the investigation or published the audit because of what it calls “sensitivities in the region” and the need to ensure people’s safety.”

Via the charity itself we also discover that “a number of major stakeholders” have been given access to the audit, one of which we can conclude from the BBC’s report is the DEC

“The Disasters Emergency Committee, which brings together 13 leading UK charities to deal with acute crises, said in a written statement that it “has considered the independent audit report which reviewed Islamic Relief’s operations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

It added: “We are satisfied that Islamic Relief has robust systems in place to ensure aid money is properly accounted for and spent appropriately. The DEC is not aware of any evidence that Islamic Relief has used aid funds inappropriately in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” “

Matthew Price refrains from informing readers that the chief executive of Islamic Relief Worldwide, Mohammed Ashmawey, also sits on the DEC board of trustees.

Price does however inform BBC audiences that:

“Israel has not responded so far.” […]

“Neither the Ministry of Defence in Israel nor the Israeli embassy in London would comment on the report.”

Reuters journalists apparently put a little more effort into getting an official Israeli response:  

“A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London said on Friday that Israel stood by its designation of Islamic Relief as an “unlawful association” and repeated a previous statement that the charity funnelled millions of dollars a year to Hamas.”

So, to recap the story so far: a charity banned in Israel because of Hamas ties commissions and pays for an audit by an unidentified company which produces a report not made accessible to anyone other than a selected few chosen by the charity itself and, on the basis of the charity’s own interpretation of the unpublished findings, the BBC rushes to inform its audiences (on the same day that the charity puts out its press release) that the organization is above-board, implying that Israel’s reasoning for banning the charity is invalid.  

Clearly the BBC is remarkably unperturbed by the blatant lack of transparency displayed by Islamic Relief Worldwide. It also apparently lacks any journalistic curiosity with regard to the methodology used in this audit such as, for example, the critical questions of how the auditors chose to define “links to terrorism” and “funding terrorism”. As John Ware explained in an article from August of this year, the answers to those questions are far from obvious, but very important: an issue which clearly Matthew Price did not find cause for concern.

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How the BBC cherry-picked its Jihadist terrorists

In recent days quite a few people have let us know via e-mail or social media that they were surprised to find that a BBC special feature on “Jihadist attacks” during the month of November did not include Israelis murdered during that month by terrorists linked to organisations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.countries Jihadists

After all, in a fourteen day period during that month, nine Israelis were killed by Palestinian terrorists and a tenth victim injured in the November 5th attack died of his wounds a month later. Despite that fact, Israel does not appear on the list of countries in which, according to the study carried out by the BBC and the ICSR, Jihadist attacks took place. Notably too, the word terrorism does not appear in the BBC’s main feature on the topic – “Jihadism: Tracking a month of deadly attacks“, December 11th – although it is evident in the complimentary article by Professor Peter Neumann, “Jihadist violence: The devastating cost“.

The reason for the absence of any data concerning Israel in that study is to be found in a document detailing the study’s methodology. There, the interpretation of the term Jihadism used in the study is explained as follows:

definition Jihadism

Neither Hamas nor the PIJ are of course Salafists or Wahhabists and they do not belong to the Deobandi or Ahl e Hadith traditions. Hence, those two Palestinian terrorist organisations are not included in the BBC’s study despite the fact that Israel is cited as a ‘motive’ and even though some of their aims and ideologies dovetail neatly with those of groups which are defined as Jihadists and they have certainly proved their “readiness to kill” to achieve their religiously motivated aims.

It is, of course, much easier to promote (even by omission) the notion of a fundamental difference between Hamas and Salafist Jihadists such as Ansar Beit al Maqdis which does appear in this study if one ignores the relationship between them (as the BBC has largely done) and if one presents (as the BBC consistently does, according to its own politically motivated narrative) the Hamas raison d’être exclusively as politically inspired ‘resistance’ to ‘occupation’ whilst ignoring the religious elements underpinning it as demonstrated, for example, in article 11 of the Hamas charter.

“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement.”

It is probably pretty safe to assume, therefore, that we will not be seeing the outcome of acts by Palestinian terrorist organisations classified as “Jihadist violence” by the BBC anytime soon and hence its audiences will continue to lack crucial information on the issue of terrorism against Israelis. 

 

BBC’s Israel profile updated to include Jewish refugees from Arab lands

On December 13th an article by Matthew Teller titled “The Jews of Arabia” appeared in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page and in its Magazine section.Jews of Arabia

Based on material recently digitized by the British Library, the article represents one of the rare occasions on which the BBC relates to the topic of Jews from Arab lands. However, it also includes the following statement:

“…Bahrain has a tiny Jewish minority, comprising only a few families – though they wield significant power. Until last year, Bahrain’s ambassador to the US was a Jewish woman, Houda Nonoo.” [emphasis added]

According to most accounts, there are about three dozen Jews in Bahrain. Their one synagogue is permanently closed and they are not permitted to visit Israel. The BBC would nevertheless have audiences believe that, in an absolute monarchy ranked ‘not free’ by Freedom House in 2014, those thirty-odd people “wield significant power” without giving any further details with regard to what that power entails and how it is “significant” in that authoritarian regime, beyond the fact that one Jewish woman served as an ambassador for five years. 

Relatedly, via the Point of No Return website, we learn that an addition has apparently been recently made to the timeline on the BBC’s Israel profile which, despite its many other faults, now includes the following:

“1949-1950s – About a million Jewish refugees from Arab countries, plus 250,000 Holocaust survivors, settle in Israel.”

That at least is a step in the right direction. 

 

Acid attack on Israeli children not news for BBC, false Barghouti ‘arson’ claim left standing

On December 12th a terror attack took place at the al Khader junction on Route 60, north of Gush Etzion.

“A terrorist threw acid on seven Israelis in the West Bank on Friday, including a mother with her three young daughters and her niece. Two other pedestrians were wounded in the attack. The Palestinian suspect then chased another Israeli with a screwdriver and was shot by an armed passerby.”BBC News logo

Like other non-fatal attacks, the incident has not been reported by the BBC.

Also on December 12th, a shooting attack took place at the Israeli embassy in Athens with no reported injuries. The incident was not reported on the BBC News website.

On December 7th a man wounded in the terror attack which took place at the Shimon Hatsadik light rail station in Jerusalem on November 5th died of his injuries. Sixty year-old Abd al-Karim Nafith Hamid was a resident of Jerusalem and his death brings the number of people killed in that terror attack to three. The BBC has not reported Mr Hamid’s death.

On December 11th investigators from the Fire Department announced that the November 12th incident in which a mosque in the village of Mughayir was severely damaged by fire occurred as a result of an electrical fault and was not a case of arson as had been suggested by Fatah’s Husam Zomlot in an interview with BBC World Service radio and stated by Mustafa Barghouti in an interview with BBC News.

Zomlot: “The incitement is happening on the ground on a daily basis. When every other week we have a theft of our land, this is an incitement for violence. When every other day we have a provocation to enter mosques and burn mosques, this is an incitement every day. We Palestinians are the occupied, are the ones who are subjected to the de-Arabisation of Jerusalem.”

Barghouti: “But Palestinians are attacked. During the last week a mosque was burnt. Yesterday a Palestinian bus driver was hanged by Israeli settlers.”

Both those interviews are still available on the BBC website. To date no footnote has been added to inform audiences that the claim that Israelis had burned the mosque in Mughayir is unfounded. 

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

In addition to Kevin Connolly’s filmed report on the subject of the death of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein after an altercation at a demonstration near Turmus Aya and Yolande Knell’s filmed report from his funeral, the BBC News website also produced a written article on December 10th titled “Palestinian minister dies at West Bank protest“.Abu Ein written 10 12

The report underwent numerous changes after its initial publication which can be seen here. However, even the later versions of the article continued to amplify unverified rumours promoted by assorted actors.

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

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

“Leading Palestinian activist Mahmoud Aloul, who was also at the protest, told the Associated Press news agency the soldiers had fired tear gas and had beaten some of the activists with rifle butts.

At one point, Mr Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister, Mr Aloul said.

A Reuters photographer said he had seen Mr Abu Ein being struck by a hand on the neck during an altercation with two soldiers.

An AFP news agency photographer said the minister had been hit in the chest.”

Mahmoud Aloul is actually a member of the Fatah Central Committee rather than a mere “activist” and although none of the various video reports filmed during the incident have shown that Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister, the BBC nevertheless elected to amplify his evidence-free claims.

Like Connolly’s filmed report, this one also misrepresents the background to the demonstration, failing to inform BBC audiences that it was organized by local councils to coincide with their presentation – together with the political NGO Yesh Din – of a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad. 

“Mr Abu Ein, a minister without portfolio, was among dozens of foreign and Palestinian activists taking part in a protest against land confiscations.

They had planned to plant olive tree saplings on a patch of land near the Jewish settlement of Shiloh, which Palestinians believe has been earmarked for annexation by Israel.”

The report includes the following cryptic statement:

“There are reports he [Abu Ein] had a health condition that may have contributed to his death.

The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Palestinians are likely to see the exact cause of death as a secondary issue, and it will serve to sharpen tensions.”

No attempt is made to inform readers why the actual circumstances of the incident should be considered “a secondary issue” in Palestinian circles or how the assorted and inconsistent ‘witness statements’ amplified by the BBC should be viewed in light of that legitimate observation by Connolly.

Ziad Abu Ein’s conviction for a terror attack in 1979 is presented in vague terms at the end of the report. His extradition from the US is not mentioned.

“Mr Abu Ein once received the death sentence, commuted to life imprisonment, from a court in Israel for a 1979 bombing that killed two Israeli teenagers.”

On December 11th the BBC News website produced an additional article titled earlier “Palestinian minister’s funeral held amid Israel tensions” and currently going under the heading “Palestinian minister buried amid tensions over cause of death“, changes to which can be seen here.Abu Ein written 11 12

Once again the BBC fails to contribute to its audiences’ understanding of the issue by providing them with a clear, factual, verified account of events and instead opts to juxtapose fact with rumour and propaganda which – as readers will no doubt notice – changes from article to article and even from version to version. Earlier editions of this report stated:

“Palestinians have blamed Israel for his death, saying he died after being hit by a soldier and inhaling tear gas.”

Later versions informed readers that:

“Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Ziad Abu Ein had been suffocated and beaten by Israeli soldiers.” […]

“Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the BBC his death had been caused by “Israeli soldiers suffocating and beating up Ziad Abu Ein”, saying he held the Israeli government fully responsible.”

As was noted here in relation to Yolande Knell’s uncritical amplification of Erekat’s claims, none of the ample video evidence shows Abu Ein being either ‘suffocated’ or ‘beaten up’ and, despite a similar lack of proof that Abu Ein was “killed”, the BBC also elected to promote the following statement from Erekat.

“He said the [pathologists’] report clearly stated that Mr Abu Ein had been “killed in cold blood”.”

The article also informs readers that:

“Earlier in the day, Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian pathologists attended a preliminary examination of Mr Abu Ein’s body, but Israel and the Palestinians issued differing accounts. […]

Palestinian pathologist Saber Aloul told reporters the main cause was a blow to Ziad Abu Ein, not natural causes.

But Israel’s ministry of health said the examination showed Mr Abu Ein had underlying heart problems, and the immediate cause of death was a blockage to a cardiac artery.”

Sharp-eyed readers will no doubt have noticed that the quoted pathologist has appeared in previous BBC reports. Back in March 2013 Dr Saber al Aloul was quoted and promoted by the BBC’s Jon Donnison when he determined (despite evidence to the contrary) that Arafat Jaradat had died of “intensive torture” whilst in an Israeli prison. Notably, the PA’s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs changed the official story just one day later to “killed by collaborators”. The same PA chief pathologist was also present at the autopsy of bus driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni last month.

“Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine director Dr. Chen Kogel notes that Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber Al-Aloul, appointed by the family of the driver, was present throughout the autopsy and concurred with the conclusion that the cause of death was suicide. […]

The controversy over Ramouni’s death began with a report from the Palestinian news agency Ma’an saying that the Palestinian coroner had reached the opposite conclusion and that Al-Aloul, who attended the autopsy on the family’s behalf, believed the cause of death to be homicide and not suicide. The report did not quote Al-Aloul directly, but ascribed this claim to him. The Palestinian pathologist has neither confirmed nor denied the report since its publication.”

The Times of Israel reported that the Palestinian pathologist refrained from answering calls and as was also noted here at the time, despite the available scientific evidence the BBC promoted the notion that the bus driver had been murdered on no fewer than seven different occasions and suggested that was a relevant ‘background factor’ to the terror attack at the synagogue in Har Nof.

Obviously Dr Al Aloul has quite a history of questionable statements but nevertheless, the BBC continues to quote him without qualification.

Like the filmed reports by Connolly and Knell, this article also avoids mentioning that in between his altercation with the Border Police officer and the point at which he sat down on a rock feeling unwell, Ziad Abu Ein managed to give an interview to the media.

“Footage and images from the scene of the protest, near the unauthorised Jewish outpost of Adei Ad, showed a standoff between troops and Palestinians, followed by a scuffle between a protester and a soldier.

At one point Mr Abu Ein is seen being pushed by his throat by the border guard. He is subsequently seen collapsed on the ground. He was later taken to hospital in Ramallah but died on the way.”

And also in common with those two reports, the full background to the demonstration in which Abu Ein took part is not provided to readers.

As was the case in the earlier written report, this one also promotes the allegation made by a Fatah central committee member, despite the lack of evidence in support of that claim.  

“Palestinian witnesses and news agency journalists said tear gas was fired. Palestinian activist Mahmoud Aloul said Mr Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister.”

Ziad Abu Ein’s conviction for a terrorist attack was not included in this report.

As we see in both these written reports the BBC has promoted a plethora of varied and often contradictory ‘witness accounts’ of the events surrounding Ziad Abu Ein’s death. Those accounts, along with the BBC’s own descriptions of events, include “complications related to tear gas exposure”, “hit and shoved by soldiers”, “hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister”, “struck by a hand on the neck”, “hit in the chest”, “suffocated and beaten”, “grabbed by the throat”, “pushed by his throat” and “killed in cold blood”.

Clearly the sheer number of different versions of the story alone should have been enough to prompt some serious fact-checking before these two articles were published. Instead, the BBC simply published whatever rumour and second-hand hearsay came its way, once again failing to provide audiences with anything which can be described as a reliable, informative, evidence-based account of events. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

As we noted here the other day, the Israeli Military Attorney General (MAG) has published the findings of some of the investigations conducted into incidents which occurred in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

One of the incidents investigated was the deaths of ten civilians on July 28th at the Shati refugee camp, along with an alleged attack on Shifa hospital on the same afternoon. The findings are as follows:Tweet Shifa

“Various media reports alleged that on 28 July 2014, an incident occurred involving a strike on medical clinics belonging to the Al-Shifa Hospital, as well as a strike on a park where children were present in the Shati Refugee Camp, and as a result of which ten persons (including nine children) were killed and tens injured. Some of these reports alleged that the strikes were carried out by the IDF. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM [Fact Finding Assessment Mission – Ed.].

Following a thorough review conducted by the FFAM, such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident. Under these circumstances, and in light of the fact that the strike on the hospital was the result of rocket fire from Palestinian terrorist organizations, the MAG ordered the case to be closed.”

Material relating to those incidents which is still available to the general public on the BBC News website includes:

Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” – originally published on July 31st 2014 and discussed here.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”

Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon” July 28th 2014

“Police and health officials said separate Israeli airstrikes had hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby playground on Monday afternoon, causing casualties.

But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said both explosions were caused by misfired rockets that were launched from Gaza by “terrorists”.”

Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts” originally published on July 28th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.”

Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign” July 29th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.”

Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza” Ian Pannell, July 28th 2014Pannell report

“A hospital already overflowing with casualties was engulfed in chaos. Parents and relatives frantically searching for their children. The wards were full of them. Fourteen year-old Mohammed had shrapnel in his back. ‘We were playing in the street and they hit us’, he said. ‘They targeted us. Lots of children were killed.’ And next to him, four year-old Ola [phonetic]. Shrapnel cut into her small body. Israel has denied it was responsible for this.

Woman: “Then who fired it? I ran outside and found my daughters. If the Israelis didn’t do it, who did? Did my daughters launch the rocket?”

Marching up the hill to bury two small boys. They’d played together, they were killed together and now, they were going to be buried together. The boys’ father says his sons are martyrs who died for the resistance against Israel.”

All of the above are discussed here.

Clearly the BBC’s June 2014 announcement stating that “however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it” means that all the above reports need to have a note of clarification urgently added, informing audiences of the actual circumstances of the incident.