Another BBC News correction misses its point

One of the suggestions made in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS BBC Charter Review consultation is for the BBC News website to set up a dedicated corrections page where visitors would be able to find details of corrections or amendments made to articles they have already read.

“The BBC News website currently has no dedicated corrections page of the kind seen in reputable newspapers. Hence, when corrections are made to online articles users remain unaware of the fact that information they previously read was inaccurate. Relatedly, the use of footnotes informing the public that a correction has been made to an article is erratic and amendments are sometimes made without notification. A dedicated corrections page would make corrections more visible and accessible, increase the likelihood that people will receive the corrected information and contribute to the BBC’s transparency as well as reducing the likelihood of waste of public funding on unnecessary complaints.”

We recently came across yet another example of just such a case in an article which originally appeared on September 2nd 2015 under the headline “Arafat poisoning inquiry dropped by French prosecutors“.

At the time we noted on these pages that the article did not inform readers that the Russian investigation had ruled out poisoning.

Over two weeks after its initial publication, the article was amended and a footnote was added.  

footnote Arafat art

It is of course highly unlikely that those who read the original article would have returned to it more than two weeks later and seen that amendment and footnote. One must therefore ask once more why an organization supposedly committed to rigorous standards of accuracy does not implement the simple measure of posting such corrections on a dedicated webpage in order to ensure that audiences receive the information. After all; that is surely the point of making corrections. 

BBC News passes up the chance to set the record straight on Gaza shortages

On countless past occasions BBC audiences have been mistakenly led to believe that chronic shortages of medical supplies and electricity in the Gaza Strip are the result of Israeli restrictions on the entry of goods into the territory.

In fact, both those chronic shortages are rooted in disputes between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. Regarding medical supplies:

“The long-standing shortage of medicines and medical supplies in Gaza emanates primarily from a dysfunctional relationship between the Palestinian Ministries of Health in Gaza and Ramallah.

The conflicts between the two offices have resulted not only in a shortage of medicines and supplies, but also in restricted access to medical treatment for patients outside of Gaza.

The healthcare system in Gaza is marked by a shortage of 400-500 varieties of medical equipment and an average shortage of 33% of desired types of drugs at any given time.

The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that medical suppliers are often reluctant to sell supplies to Gaza due to issues of non-payment.”

Regarding the electricity supply:

“The Palestinian Authority purchases a liter of fuel for the power plant for approximately 4 shekels from Israeli gas companies and has tried to sell it to Hamas for almost double, including excise tax.

Hamas has rejected those prices outright and stopped purchasing fuel for its power plant. The dramatic consequence was that the power plant has shut down and the electricity supply has been completely disrupted. The PA refuses to waive the excise tax, a critical part of its own budget.” 

The topics of medical supplies and electricity both appeared again in a recent BBC filmed report made for television programmes which was also promoted on the BBC News website on November 20th under the title “Life as a cancer nurse in Gaza’s main hospital“. The synopsis to that report reads as follows:Gaza nurse report

“At the age of 27, Azza Jadalla has already lived through six wars – three in the past seven years alone. She is a cancer nurse in Gaza’s main hospital, Al-Shifa. Every day she deals with fall-out of the on-going conflict between Israel and Gaza’s ruling party, Hamas.

Living in a place with a failing economy means she faces daily electricity and supply shortages at work.

“Sometime we go for two or three months without pay,” she says. “But this doesn’t make me want to do my job any less, because it’s not the patient’s fault.”

Despite her dedication and due to shortages in Gaza, there is often only so much Ms Jadalla can do for her patients. For one patient Abdul (name has been changed), who is suffering from leukaemia, the only option for further treatment is outside Gaza.”

In the report itself, viewers are told that:

“Here in Gaza all kinds of supplies – cannulas, syringes – are very rare.”


“And the electricity keeps going on and off. We have to restart the monitors.”

With BBC audiences having been inaccurately informed many times in the past that such shortages are the result of the restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods which could also be appropriated for the purposes of terrorism and with the synopsis to this report clearly suggesting a ‘connection’ between “fall-out of the on-going conflict between Israel and Gaza’s ruling party, Hamas” and “shortages at work”, it would not be surprising to find that viewers would once again go away with a misleading impression about the root causes of those shortages.

This report presented the BBC with an ideal opportunity to finally tell audiences the truth about the reasons behind the chronic shortages of medical supplies and electricity in the Gaza Strip. Notably, the corporation chose to pass up on that opportunity. 

BBC News promotes equivalence between terrorists and victims

November 22nd marked seventy days since the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis began on the eve of Rosh HaShana with the murder of Alexander Levlovich. On that day a further three terror attacks took place: an attempted stabbing attack at a bus stop at the Samaria Junction, an attempted vehicular attack and stabbing near Kfar Adumim and a stabbing attack in Gush Etzion in which 21 year-old Hadar Buchris was murdered. In all three attacks the perpetrators were killed in the act.

Hadar Buchris’ murder brings the total number of fatalities from terror attacks carried out by Palestinians in the last seventy days to twenty-one, with eighteen of the victims being Israeli citizens, one a Palestinian civilian, one an American national and one an Eritrean national.

The BBC News website’s Middle East page promoted a report on the events of November 22nd with a headline which fails to make the obviously necessary distinction between terrorists and victims: “Four dead in West Bank violence”.

ME pge after Sun attacks

The article to which that headline leads is currently titled “West Bank: Israeli woman killed as West Bank deaths spiral” and amendments to the headline and the body of the report can be viewed here. The first version of the report included the following information:

“Seventeen Israelis and 83 Palestinians – many of them attackers – have been killed in the violence.

Israeli police say at least 50 of the Palestinians killed were attackers. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.”

Notably, by the time the report reached its third and final version, part of that information had been removed and that passage now reads:

“Seventeen Israelis and 83 Palestinians – many of them attackers – have been killed in the violence.”

Once again the BBC provided readers with ‘context’ which fails to clarify in its own words that the conspiracy theories surrounding Temple Mount which underpin the current wave of terror are entirely baseless.

“The surge in violence began in September, when tensions at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims boiled over, amid rumours that Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex.

Israel has repeatedly denied such claims.”

And – as has been the case in BBC reporting throughout the last two months – no effort was made to inform audiences of the official and unofficial incitement and glorification of terrorism which has kept this wave of terror going for the past seventy days.

One of the BBC’s public purpose remits obliges it to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”. The repeated promotion of the notion of equivalence between terrorists and their victims, together with the serial avoidance of telling audiences the facts about the Palestinian Authority’s promotion of conspiracy theories, incitement and glorification of terrorism, mean that for the last 70 days, the BBC has failed to meet that legally binding obligation.

Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Whilst stuck in early morning traffic on the way to Manchester airport last Monday I found myself listening to BBC Radio 5 live’s morning broadcast. The programme understandably focused mostly on the weekend’s terror attacks in Paris and one feature particularly notable to Israeli ears was the effort made to personalise and humanise the victims. 

Listeners were given a range of information which typically included names, ages, occupations, family statuses, places of birth and education and in some cases also heard of the reactions of loved ones. Such information of course enables the listener to get beyond mere casualty figures and goes some way towards helping audiences appreciate the individual personal tragedies of victims and their families.

A week on from the attacks, that trend continues to be a feature of BBC content, with an article titled “Paris attacks: Who were the victims?” appearing on the homepage and World page of the BBC News website on November 20th and the BBC News Twitter account promoting a Facebook post devoted to tributes to the victims.

BBC News Twitter paris Victims 1

BBC News Twitter Paris victims 2

BBC News FB Paris victims

By way of contrast, the BBC’s descriptions of five victims of terror murdered in two separate attacks on November 19th in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion are notable for the paucity of personal details. TA & Gush attacks 19 11

“Five people have been killed in two attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank, officials say.

In the first attack, two Israelis were stabbed to death by a Palestinian man at the entrance of a shop that serves as a synagogue in the city of Tel Aviv.

Later, a third Israeli, a Jewish American and a Palestinian were killed in an attack near a Jewish settlement.” […]

“One of the victims, a man in his 20s, was declared dead at the scene by the Magen David Adom ambulance service. The second was rushed to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.” […]

“Hours later, an attacker in a car opened fire at a busy junction and then crashed into a group of pedestrians, killing three people and injuring several others, the Israeli military said.

Two of the dead were identified as Jewish – an 18-year-old American tourist and a 50-year-old Israeli. The third was a Palestinian.”

Rabbi Aharon Yesayev, 32, from Tel Aviv, Reuven Aviram, 51, from Ramle, Ezra Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Massachusetts, Yaakov Don, 49, from Alon Shvut, and Shadi Arafa, 40, from Hebron were not even named by the BBC in its report on the two incidents – even though that information was in the public domain by the time its final version was updated. Their photographs and personal stories are not featured in any dedicated BBC article or Facebook post.

Predictably, the BBC article on the attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion does not mention the word ‘terror’ whilst the article about the victims murdered in Paris opens with the words “Tributes have been paid to the 130 people who lost their lives in the Paris terror attacks”. Evidently the BBC’s two-tier system of reporting terror attacks is not only confined to the use of language.

BBC removes the word ‘terror’ from follow-up report about Kuwait attacks

Whilst discussing the BBC’s employment of geographically selective double standards in its reporting on terrorism we recently noted here that the corporation’s coverage of the terror attack on a mosque in Kuwait in June 2015 had rightly included the use of the word terror.

On November 20th a short follow-up report on that story was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Kuwait crackdown on ‘IS-supporting extremist cell’“.Kuwait report

The version of that article appearing on the BBC News website at the time of writing opens:

“Kuwait has arrested members of an alleged cell accused of supplying funds and weapons to the so-called Islamic State (IS), reports say.”

Later on, readers are told that:

“In June, 27 people died after an attack on one of Kuwait’s oldest Shia mosques.

It was the deadliest bombing in decades in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country. An affiliate group of IS calling itself Najd Province said it carried out the attack.”

However, those paragraphs underwent amendment about three hours after the article’s initial publication. The first paragraph originally read:

“Kuwait has arrested members of an alleged terror cell accused of supplying funds and weapons to the so-called Islamic State (IS), say reports.” [emphasis added]

The other paragraphs highlighted above originally read:

“In June, 27 people died after an attack on one of Kuwait’s oldest Shia mosques.

It was the worst terror attack in decades in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country. An affiliate group of IS calling itself Najd Province claimed responsibility the attack.” [emphasis added]

Oddly, the phrase “terror attack” remained in place in the caption to the photograph illustrating the report.

Readers will no doubt recall that it is not long since the BBC complaints department ‘explained’ the corporation’s use of the word terror in reporting on the June attack in Kuwait by telling BBC Watch that “We don’t believe the Har Nof murders [in Jerusalem, November 2014] are comparable to the recent attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait” and “We don’t believe it is unreasonable to say that the Har Nof attacks were very different to the events in Tunisia and Kuwait…”.

As the BBC ridiculously continues to tie itself in ever more embarrassing knots over the issue of the language used when reporting acts of terror, Kuwaitis may be interested to know that they too are apparently now subject to the BBC’s two-tier system of reporting which censors the use of the word terror and its derivatives in certain geographical locations.

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

h/t DL

As regular readers know, one topic frequently discussed on these pages is the double standard employed by the BBC when reporting terrorism in Israel and terrorism in other locations.The Media Show

The November 18th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Media Show’ was devoted in part to the subject of media coverage of last weekend’s terror attacks in Paris and one of the topics discussed by host Steve Hewlett and his guests was described as follows in the introduction:

“… should journalists and presenters use the words terrorist and terrorism, as many did without attribution?”

From around 16:30 here, that topic was discussed quite extensively, with contributions from former OFCOM official Stewart Purvis and the BBC’s Controller of Daily News Programmes Gavin Allen providing some interesting insight into the background to the corporation’s lack of consistency in the use of language when reporting terror attacks – despite its apparently recently altered guidelines on the topic stressing the importance of consistency in reporting.

Steve Hewlett: “…the BBC says ‘since there is no agreed consensus on what constitutes a terrorist or a terrorist act, the use of the word will frequently involve value judgements. As such we should not change the word terrorist when quoting someone else but we should avoid using it ourselves. We try to avoid using the term terrorist without attribution’. So, Stewart, where do you think people should be on this question?”

Stewart Purvis: “Well I think the origin of this problem arises from the difference between broadcasting just for the UK and broadcasting out [side] the UK. I think there are very few people who would say that for instance the bombs that the IRA planted in London – or what happened in Paris, to be blunt – was anything other than terrorism. It was a tactic to shock and terrorise people in a city. But what happens when you talk about what might happen in the middle of Israel or in the Palestinian territories? If a bomb goes off there or they’ve stabbed someone to death, what is the language to describe that? And I think that’s partly why the BBC has taken against this word terrorism because it actually – on its international services – does not want to have to make a judgement in these particular countries. The result is that it doesn’t use it so much in the UK which actually annoys some people who say ‘well how else would you describe what’s going on?’.”

Steve Hewlett: “Gavin; I heard some BBC correspondents use the word unattributed [in reporting on the Paris attacks] …ah….and your guidelines sort of say you shouldn’t.”

Gavin Allen: “They don’t really say that. […] But it doesn’t say don’t use it. It’s quite an important distinction. I mean Stewart’s absolutely right; there are complications about using it when you’re broadcasting on the World Service etc. But actually it’s not that we don’t use the word. I think invariably it’s about how much does it clarify and how much does it cloud.”

This discussion yet again highlights the fact that the BBC’s approach to the use of the word terror and its derivatives when reporting on events in Israel is not rooted solely in the objective of informing audiences of the nature of the events which have taken place. After all, shooting and stabbing passengers on a city bus in Jerusalem is obviously intended to “shock and terrorise people in a city” in exactly the same way as planting a bomb in London or gunning down concert-goers in Paris.

It has been clear for a long time that the BBC employs differing approaches to such obviously similar acts of terrorism because its handling of the topic does not distinguish between method and aims, means and ends. The result is that even though the acts may be identical or similar, the BBC’s use – or not – of the word terrorism hinges on its political judgement of the aims of the perpetrators and the description of the means is adjusted accordingly.

In this discussion, however, we also gain insight into an additional factor which apparently prevents the BBC from reporting terrorism against Israelis consistently and accurately: second-guessing of how the description of, say, the brutal murders of early morning worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue as an act of terror would be received by specific audience groups – and the adjustment of language accordingly. Interestingly, the incident at a mosque in Kuwait in June was described by the BBC as a terror attack on its international services and on social media. 

That bizarre approach clearly not only patronizes and stereotypes BBC audiences worldwide (does the BBC really think that its Middle East audiences for example are too delicate to hear the politically motivated murders of Israelis described as terror?) but obviously also seriously undermines the corporation’s claim that it strives to achieve consistency “across all our services” when reporting terrorism.

Related Articles:

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’


BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

As readers already know, the BBC’s coverage of the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis has regularly included ‘contextualisation’ of the events in a style shown in the example below:

“The surge in violence began in September when tensions at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims boiled over, amid rumours that Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex.

Israel has repeatedly denied such claims.”

However, BBC audiences have been provided with little, if any, information on the topic of the sources and history of those “rumours” or the mechanics of their dissemination – including by means of official Palestinian Authority and Fatah channels. That fact will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the BBC’s coverage – or lack of it – of one of the prime sources of conspiracy theory and incitement surrounding Temple Mount: the Northern Islamic Movement.

Two years ago the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell portrayed that organization as “conservative” but failed to inform audiences of its agenda and its links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Whilst citing issues concerning Temple Mount as contributing to “tensions” which led to a wave of terror attacks against Israelis in October and November 2014, the BBC refrained from informing its audiences about the existence of organised groups purposely set up by the Northern Islamic Movement to cause unrest at that site. When, in September 2015, two of those organised groups were outlawed, the BBC described them as “Muslim groups” (rather than Islamist) and failed to provide audiences with information concerning their political and ideological affiliations.

On November 17th the Israeli government declared the Northern Islamic Movement an illegal organisation.

“For years, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement has led a mendacious campaign of incitement under the heading ‘Al Aqsa is in danger’ that falsely accuses Israel of intending to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque and violate the status-quo. In this context, the northern branch has established a network of paid activists (Mourabitoun / Mourabitat) in order to initiate provocations on the Temple Mount. This activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount. A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda.
Outlawing the organization is a vital step in maintaining public security and preventing harm to human life.

The northern branch, headed by Sheikh Raad Salah, is a sister movement of the Hamas terrorist organization. The two movements maintain a close and secretive cooperation. The northern branch of the Islamic Movement is a separatist-racist organization that does not recognize the institutions of the State of Israel, denies its right to exist and calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in its place. The northern branch of the Islamic Movement belongs to radical Islam and is part of the global ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ movement. The two movements share an extremist ideology and a common goal – the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Whilst there was no reporting of that news on the English language BBC News website, we can determine that the corporation is aware of it because the story did get coverage on BBC Arabic. In that report the Northern Islamic Movement is described as a group “which provides educational, religious services for the Palestinians inside Israel” and its Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood links are once again concealed.BBC Arabic Raed Salah

In June 2011 journalist John Ware wrote an article about the ban on entry into the UK of the Northern Islamic Movement’s leader, Raed Salah, in which he noted that:

“Although the Islamic Movement is not banned in Israel, it is closely aligned to Hamas, which is designated in the UK and mainland Europe as a terrorist organisation.[…]

Sheikh Salah’s Islamic Movement is reported to have mourned the death of Osama Bin Laden, calling him a “martyr” and his killers “Satanic”.[…]

Another consideration may have been an article that Sheikh Salah wrote three weeks after the 9/11 attacks, in which he said that unlike Muslim workers in the World Trade Center, Jewish workers had been absent on 9/11. […]

He [Salah] is also reported to have made a speech in February 2007 during a protest in East Jerusalem in which he accused Jews of using children’s blood to bake bread – allegations the sheikh strongly denies.”

That article appeared – and is still available – on the BBC News website. We can therefore conclude that the BBC knows full well that the Northern Islamic Movement is much more than a group engaged in the provision of “educational, religious services” and that of course raises the question of why the corporation continues to whitewash an Islamist group responsible for much of the incitement underpinning the current wave of terrorism against Israelis. 


BBC News continues to conceal PA’s glorification of terrorism

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 12th had its original title amended from “Israelis in disguise snatch Palestinian in hospital raid” to “Israelis shoot dead Palestinian in Hebron hospital raid” before it was finally headlined “Israelis in disguise raid Hebron hospital, seizing suspect“.Shalaldeh arrest

The incident reported in that article took place when IDF Special Forces arrested 20 year-old Azzam Shalaldeh who was wounded whilst carrying out a terror attack in Gush Etzion on October 25th.

“The Israeli’s car was pelted with stones at the entrance to the settlement of Metzad. He was hit in the head, causing him to pull over and leave his vehicle. He was then stabbed by a Palestinian man.

The Israeli opened fire at the terrorist and wounded him, but the terrorist managed to flee the scene, likely towards the nearby village of Si’ir.”

The BBC article tells readers that:

“Mr Shalaldeh is alleged to have stabbed and wounded an Israeli on 25 October before escaping after being shot by the victim.

Palestinian officials said Mr Shalaldeh’s 27-year-old cousin, Abdallah Azzam Shalaldeh, was shot and killed in Azzam Shalaldeh’s hospital room.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said he was shot after attacking the Israeli forces. Azzam Shalaldeh’s brother Bilal, who was also in the room at the time, said Abdallah Azzam Shalaldeh was shot without warning when he emerged from a bathroom.

Shin Bet said Azzam Shalaldeh belonged to “a family of Hamas militants”, AFP news agency reported.”

It is of course highly unlikely that the Israel Security Agency used the term “militants” to describe the proscribed terror group Hamas and several other media organisations – including Sky News and CNN reported the same statement as having described “a family of Hamas operatives”.

The BBC did not clarify in its report that the Shaladeh family’s version of events supports that given by the ISA – thus leaving readers with a confusing impression which clearly does not contribute to meeting the corporation’s remit of building “understanding” of international issues.

“The Shalaldeh family, that came to collect Abdullah’s body, claimed Israel had executed him, but admitted that he tried to fight the soldiers after realizing they were trying to arrest his cousin.” [emphasis added]

According to the BBC report:

“The Israeli military operates an undercover unit colloquially known as Duvdevan, which sometimes mingle undetected with Palestinians during riots before snatching suspects.” [emphasis added]

The unit’s official name is Duvdevan and that title is not, as stated by the BBC, an informal appellation.

The ‘context’ provided to readers of the BBC’s report inaccurately states that ten – rather than twelve – Israelis had been murdered in the recent wave of terror as of November 12th:

“Ten Israelis and dozens of Palestinians have been killed in recent unrest.

Many of the Palestinian fatalities were attackers in near-daily stabbings of Israelis, shot by their victims or security forces.

The surge in violence began in September when tensions at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem revered by Jews and Muslims boiled over, amid rumours that Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the complex.

Israel has repeatedly denied such claims.”

As we see, the BBC not only continues to avoid telling audiences in its own words that such rumours are baseless, but also continues to refrain from informing them on the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s role in promoting the incitement which underpins the wave of violence and its subsequent glorification of terrorism through acts such as erecting monuments to and naming streets after terrorists.



Context-free amplification of BDS in BBC reports on London Mayor’s remarks

As our colleague Adam Levick noted over at UK Media Watch, the Guardian’s coverage of the Mayor of London’s recent visit to Israel and the PA controlled areas did not inform readers of the fact that a journalist covering Boris Johnson’s trip on behalf of the Jewish Chronicle was banned from attending an event in Ramallah because she is Israeli.

“Stephen Pollard, editor of the JC, said: “This is the reality of BDS. Forget the lies about it targeting institutions rather than people. As this outrageous ban on a journalist for no reason other than her nationality shows, it is about singling out individual Israelis and telling them that they are banned as people.””

So did the BBC do any better than the Guardian? Whilst the corporation covered the subject of the cancellation of some of the Mayor’s scheduled programme extensively on a variety of platforms, the banning of a fellow journalist simply because of her nationality was obviously not considered newsworthy by the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism”.

All the BBC’s reports did, however, highlight Boris Johnson’s previously made remarks concerning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. But – as is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on the issue of BDS – no effort was made to inform BBC audiences of the underlying agenda of that campaign.Boris filmed

In a filmed report for BBC television news programmes which was also posted on the BBC News website on November 11th under the title “Boris Johnson forced to cut short West Bank visit“, Karl Mercer told audiences that:

“What he said to them [Israeli leaders] over the movement that wants to ban Israeli products and maybe ban Israeli services is that he completely disagrees with any boycott. […]

The Mayor’s comments have been seen as controversial. […] They may be comments he’s going to regret now. […] He flies back to London tomorrow having learnt – you might think – a valuable lesson in international diplomacy.”

The BBC News website also produced a written article on the subject under the title “Boris Johnson cancels West Bank events amid Israeli boycott row” in which readers were told that:

“Advocates of a boycott, which has been in place by some organisations in recent years, claims it exerts pressure on the Israeli government, particularly in relation to the building of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, which have been condemned by the UN.”Boris written

The article makes no mention of the fact that the BDS campaign’s ultimate agenda is to bring about Israel’s demise by means of delegitimisation and it even goes on to amplify misleading claims from the vociferously anti-Israel – and not infrequently antisemitic – group known as the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Also on November 11th BBC Radio 4 audiences heard a report on the same topic from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly on the ‘PM’ programme.

“These are remarks that the Mayor came up with when he was discussing his views on calls in the outside world for a boycott of Israel and of course they’re calls that you hear all the time in both the academic and the economic spheres.”

Yet again none of the context vital for audience understanding of the BDS campaign’s agenda was supplied and so BBC audiences were not only deliberately deprived of information which would contribute to their understanding of the issue in general, but also of background vital for the formation of informed opinions concerning the Mayor of London’s remarks.

Kevin Connolly later told Radio 4 listeners:

“You know, official visitors here; foreign embassies, international news organisations, us – everyone weighs their words on these matters with infinite, exquisite care – or at least we try to – because it is just so easy to give offence to one side or the other….”

That a publicly funded corporation legally charged with enhancing audience understanding of international issues is apparently more concerned about ‘giving offence’ than fully informing audiences of the real background to this story (and the many previous ones in which it has similarly failed to provide crucial context) should be remarkable. Sadly, the BBC’s long history of whitewashing and mainstreaming the BDS campaign means that is no longer the case.  

BBC ‘world view’ of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations laid out by Jeremy Bowen

Using the dramatic heading “The night hope died”, the BBC News website published an article by Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in the ‘Features’ section of its Middle East page on November 4th which invited audiences to ponder the question “Did Rabin assassination kill the best chance for peace?“.Bowen Rabin on ME pge

As readers of the article would soon see, the question posed in that headline is a rhetorical one: Bowen’s take away messaging leaves audiences in no doubt as to which side in the Arab-Israeli conflict killed off “hope” and “peace”. But in order to deliver that take-away messaging, Bowen has to make some rather important components of the story disappear from view.

Bowen’s own approach to the topic is evident in his opening statements:

“My view is that Rabin’s assassination, 20 years ago today, was one of the most successful political killings of the 20th Century; his assassin, Yigal Amir, wanted to destroy the Israel-Palestinian Oslo peace accords by shooting dead the only Israeli leader who had a chance of making it work.”

Later on he adds:

“Of course it is impossible to map out with certainty an alternative future for Israelis and Palestinians had Rabin lived.

The Oslo peace process had a slow death, but I believe it contracted its fatal illness on 4 November 1995 when Yigal Amir shot Yitzhak Rabin in the back.”


“There was a chance of peace with the Palestinians when Rabin was alive. He was forging an unlikely understanding with Yasser Arafat, his detested old enemy. […]

But between them, Rabin and Arafat might have seized the chance to make history.”

Addressing the same topic at the Times of Israel, David Horovitz writes:

“…the sorry fact is that Yasser Arafat — whom Clinton said so trusted Rabin, and was even “a little intimidated by him” — wasn’t sufficiently trusting, or intimidated, or committed to peacemaking, as to put a halt to Palestinian terrorism even as they were all shaking hands on the various interim deals. As Dalia Rabin noted starkly in my recent interview with her, “The waves of terror hit the peace process, undoubtedly… (and) I have the feeling that (Rabin) wouldn’t have let it continue. There would have been a stage where he would have decided: We’re in a phased process. Let’s evaluate what we have achieved and what the price has been. He wouldn’t have stopped Oslo, but he would have done what Oslo enabled him to do: to look at it as a process and assess whether it was working.”

Eitan Haber, Rabin’s closest aide whom I interviewed two years ago, also sounded rather less than convinced, giving me a series of somewhat ambiguous answers, including this bleak sentence: “I didn’t believe for a second that Arafat was a partner and I’m not at all sure that Rabin believed he was.””

A caption to a photograph illustrating Bowen’s article tells BBC audiences that “Israel shifted to the right after Rabin, with the election of Benjamin Netanyahu” but the article fails to clarify that at the election after that, Israel elected the Labour party’s Ehud Barak as prime minister after he ran on a manifesto which included withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and negotiations with the Palestinians or that a decade after Rabin’s death, Israel under Ariel Sharon disengaged from the Gaza Strip.

Regarding the 1996 general election, Bowen speculates:Bowen Rabin main

“But when Israel woke, the final votes had given victory to Mr Netanyahu and the right. Yitzhak Rabin would most likely have beaten Mr Netanyahu. The future would have been different.”

David Horovitz points out that:

“…Netanyahu was carried to victory, by a nailbiting 29,457 votes, by those very same waves of terrorism — specifically four suicide bombings in February and March 1996 that persuaded a narrow majority of Israelis, however much they mourned for Rabin and for a country that could produce his killer, that the Oslo path, the Arafat path, was a bloody disaster.”

However, the obviously very relevant topic of Palestinian terrorism – which killed more Israelis after the Oslo Accords were signed than in the years prior to the agreement – only gets a walk-on part in Bowen’s overall portrayal.

“Among the Palestinians, militants in Hamas had already started a suicide bomb campaign. They would have nothing to do with Oslo, saying it was surrender and that there could be no territorial compromise with an Israeli state they believed should not exist. […]

Shimon Peres was sworn in as prime minister after the assassination. Instead of calling a snap election to capitalise on a surge in the polls he decided to see out the government’s term. A succession of blunders followed, and so did an intensification of the Hamas suicide bombings.”

Hamas was not of course the only terrorist organization carrying out terror attacks during that period but Bowen erases the acts of terror perpetrated by other groups and – more crucially – those carried out by terrorists affiliated with Arafat’s Fatah party.  Thus he avoids the issue of Arafat’s failure to tackle terrorism from within his own ranks as well as by other groups and –strikingly – entirely erases the Palestinian Authority initiated second Intifada from his account of how ‘peace died’.

Bowen also claims that:

“Rabin himself had not stated publicly that he supported the idea of a Palestinian state, though his closest aides said after his death that he knew it would be part of a final settlement.”

Over at the Tablet, Yair Rosenberg reminds us that Rabin’s vision – as presented to the Knesset a month before his death – was distinctly at odds with Bowen’s speculations.

Bowen’s take-away message to BBC audiences is abundantly clear: peace and hope died together with Rabin because the Israeli right killed both. In order to get that political message across, Bowen has to erase from view the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO after November 1995, the second Intifada, the Gaza disengagement and the peace offers made by Barak in 2000 and Olmert in 2008.

Predictably, Bowen’s distorted presentation of this topic patronizingly affords no agency or responsibility to the Palestinian side whilst firmly placing the onus of blame for the failure of negotiations to deliver at one door only.

Readers familiar with the identical messaging appearing in day-to-day BBC coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict in general and the peace process in particular will at least have gained some insight into that messaging’s roots in this article.