BBC News redesigns Jerusalem’s Old City

Over the Easter and Pessah holidays, the BBC News website’s Middle East page included in its ‘Features & Analysis’ section a written report about Jerusalem published on April 17th.Jerusalem written

What makes Jerusalem so holy?” – by Erica Chernofsky - laudably avoids some of the more common errors made by many a foreign journalist by correctly pointing out the 1949 ceasefire (or armistice) line and by accurately depicting the Western Wall.

“The Jewish Quarter is home to the Kotel, or the Western Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Holy Temple once stood.

Inside the temple was the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism.

Jews believe that this was the location of the foundation stone from which the world was created, and where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Today, the Western Wall is the closest place Jews can pray to the Holy of Holies.”

However, the article also states that:

“The Muslim Quarter is the largest of the four and contains the shrine of the Dome of Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque on a plateau known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.”

Jerusalem written 2

The Temple Mount or Haram al Sharif – location of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque – is of course a separate area and it is not located within the Muslim quarter any more than it is situated in the adjacent Jewish quarter, although both those quarters adjoin parts of its walls.   


One to listen out for on the BBC World Service

On Saturday April 19th the BBC World Service programme ‘The Documentary’ will broadcast an edition titled “Africans in the Holy Land” at 18:06 GMT. The programme’s synopsis reads as follows:Africans in the Holy Land WS

“Paul Bakibinga travels to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to explore the lives and experiences of people from three different African communities. 

Mahmoud Salamat takes Paul around the narrow alleyways of the old city of Jerusalem to the hidden African quarter and introduces a small but close-knit community, who are descendants of Muslim pilgrims or soldiers who came to the Holy Land during the time of the British Mandate. 

Paul also explores the experiences of different Ethiopian Jews who have returned to their ancient homeland, including rising star musician Ester Rada. 

And he spends time in South Tel Aviv, where the bulk of African asylum-seekers live – stuck in a legal limbo amid growing hostility from politicians and local residents. The state cannot deport them – but neither will it grant them refugee status.”

Mahmoud Salamat previously appeared in another BBC feature back in March 2010 – titled “In pictures: Jerusalem’s African quarter” by Heather Sharp.

BBC African quarter 2010

The ‘Magazine’ section of the BBC News website currently features a filmed report about Israeli singer Ester Rada which also appears on the website’s Middle East page.

Ester Rada

With Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt of course being part of Africa, it will be interesting to see whether Paul Bakibinga also addresses the subject of the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who originate from those African countries and the reasons for their mass exodus from the countries of their birth.

The BBC World Service might care to correct the caption to the photograph illustrating this programme’s webpage which currently reads:

“Picture: A ‘Kessim’, a leader of the Ethiopian Jewish community”

The ending ‘im’ in Hebrew indicates the plural form of a masculine word: thus the two words “A Kessim” are incompatible. One religious leader of the Ethiopian Jewish community is a Kess - spelled קס or קייס in Hebrew and originating from Amharic – and the plural form of the word is Kessim קסים or קייסים.  




Mapping the BBC’s inconsistent use of the word ‘terror’

As we well know, the BBC’s use of the word terror and its derivatives is highly inconsistent (and has been for many years) – as it stated itself last year in a reply to a complaint from a member of the public.

“The BBC has specific guidelines on this that do not proscribe use of the term but advise editors to consider the particular circumstances. It has never been outlawed by the whole of BBC News and so there’s little we can usefully add to your comparison, which involves citing one specific story in comparison with the BBC’s Middle East coverage more generally, despite their clear differences, in your belief that our approach is inconsistent.

We can only reiterate that there is no general approach and decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis.” [emphasis added]

In previous posts we have noted here that terrorism can apparently be named as such by the BBC in Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as in Spain. Three more recent BBC reports show that according to the BBC, terrorism also happens in Norway and in the United States and that “terrorism messages” can be sent in the Netherlands.

Terror Norway

In Kenya and in some parts of the Middle East, however, different standards have been shown to prevail, with use of the word terror or its variations more often than not presented in deliberately distancing punctuation or as a quotation and consistent adoption of euphemistic terms such as “militants”.

The BBC’s guidance on “Language when Reporting Terrorism” seems to contradict the above response to a complaint: [emphasis added]

“Our policy is about achieving consistency and accuracy in our journalism. We recognise the existence and the reality of terrorism – at this point in the twenty first century we could hardly do otherwise. Moreover, we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.

We also need to ensure that when we report acts of terror, we do so consistently in the stories we report across our services. We have learnt from the experience of covering such events in Northern Ireland as much as in Israel, Spain, Russia, Southern Africa or the many other places where violence divides communities, and where we seek to be seen as objective by all sides, that labels applied to groups can sometimes hinder rather than help.”

Clearly, as the examples above indicate, that aspiration for consistency is not being achieved. The apparent reason for that can – ironically – be presumed to lie in another section of those same guidelines.

“The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words “terrorist” or “terrorist group” can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality. [….]

We also need to ask ourselves whether by using “terrorist” we are taking a political position, or certainly one that may be seen as such.”

As has been posited here before, the BBC’s avoidance of use of the word terror in certain definable geographic areas is just as much a “value judgement” and a statement of a “political position” as is its employment in stories which take place elsewhere.

If shooting attacks by a far-right extremist in Norway justifiably get the editorial thumbs-up for description as “terror attacks” and “terrorist activity” is used to describe the actions of members of an armed group in Northern Ireland,  then it is difficult to conceive of any motivation for the markedly different description of similar attacks or activities elsewhere which does not stem from a political position regarding the perpetrators – or their victims.

A particularly interesting case study is that of the January 2013 attacks on the Amenas gas plant in Algeria. BBC coverage at the time was criticized in the UK Parliament for its choice of wording.  

“The Prime Minister said the attack that killed six Britons should be “condemned utterly” after a Conservative MP expressed “surprise and disappointment” at the broadcaster’s reporting.

The BBC, which has strict guidelines for reporters on the terms they should adopt, described the attackers as “militants” 12 times in one report on its website.

However, in the same report, the only use of the term “terrorists” occurred in a quotation from remarks by the Algerian prime minister.

During a debate on the hostage crisis in the Commons, Andrew Bridgen the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, asked the Prime Minister: “Are you as surprised and disappointed as I am that the BBC have consistently described the perpetrators of these heinous crimes as militants rather than the terrorists which they are?”

Mr Cameron said his colleague had made a “good point” adding: “These are terrorists and they should be described as such.

“This was a terrorist attack, it was to take hostages, to kill them, to kill innocent people and it should be condemned utterly.” “

Notably, later BBC reporting on the incident showed a reversal of policy. An edition of the BBC Two programme ‘This World’ broadcast in August, September and November 2013 used the word terror in its title and in the programme synopsis.

This World

An article which appeared in the magazine section of the BBC News website in August 2013 under the title “Algeria siege: ‘I wore a necklace bomb’” also did not shy away from clarifying to readers that the attackers were terrorists. The article opens:

“The survivors of January’s siege of an Algerian gas plant still cannot believe they are alive. Forty of their colleagues died when Islamic militants took them hostage. The Algerian army opened fire on the convoy of hostages and terrorists as they broke out of the plant. It is only now that some have felt able to tell their stories.

For BP team leader Lou Fear and his wife Lori at home in the UK, the morning of 16 January 2013 began as usual with a text message from Lou. But the content was anything but normal.

It told her terrorists were roaming around – the plant was under attack. Lou was barricaded in his office with some colleagues and hiding behind a filing cabinet. The militants were just outside.” [emphasis added]

Later it states:

Three dozen terrorists from the Signed in Blood Battalion linked to al-Qaeda had taken Algerian military police, responsible for security, completely by surprise. First they attacked a bus carrying workers just outside the compound then broke into the plant itself.” [emphasis added]

In fact, the word ‘terrorists’ – or versions of it – appears some nineteen times in that article. Clearly the claim made in the BBC’s guidelines that “we try to avoid the word ourselves” because “terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones” did not apply in this case.

Whether that shift in policy was the result of the previous criticism from parliamentary sources is unclear, but certainly the BBC should not be surprised when people in other countries raise concerns similar to those expressed in the British parliament.

The topic of the double standards displayed by the BBC’s selective and inconsistent use of the term terror is one well worth continued observation and mapping.  

BBC’s profile of Ansar Bayt al Maqdis out of date

The BBC News website’s profile of the Sinai-based Salafi Jihadist terrorist group Ansar Bayt al Maqdis – complied by BBC Monitoring – was last updated in January 2014.Profile Ansar Bayt al Maqdis

Since the beginning of April 2014 Ansar Bayt al Maqdis has been declared a proscribed terrorist organization by the UK government (see page 5) and designated as a foreign terrorist organization and a specially designated global terrorist entity by the US State Department. In addition, an Egyptian court ruled on April 14th that the group is a terrorist organization.

Clearly it is time for an update to the BBC’s Ansar Bayt al Maqdis profile.

Related Articles:

Sources, outsourcing fact-checking and the BBC

Latest Sinai-based terror attack on tourism targets comes as a revelation to the BBC

75% of January terror activity on Israel’s southern borders ignored by BBC







More changes to BBC website article on Route 35 terror attack

Since the appearance of our post yesterday evening regarding the BBC’s treatment of the terror attack on April 14th in which Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi was killed and his wife and son injured as they travelled to a family holiday meal, the BBC’s report on the subject has undergone further changes, including a new title.later vers route 35 attack art

The report now appears on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Middle East peace talks meeting postponed after killing” and readers can view all the changes which have been made to the report since its initial publication at around 22:35 GMT/UCT on April 15th (approximately 28 hours after the terror attack took place) here.

In the original version of the report a mere thirty-four words were used to inform BBC audiences about the terror attack on the family and the victim remained unnamed in the first two versions of the article – despite that information having been available since the late evening of April 15th. In the report’s latest version, the attack is described as follows in non-consecutive paragraphs appearing throughout the piece. [all emphasis added]

“A meeting between Palestinian and Israeli peace negotiators has been postponed in the wake of a killing of an Israeli in the West Bank. […]

Israeli officials declined to give a reason, but the shooting of an off-duty policeman on Monday has caused outrage. […]

The official declined to explain the decision, but said Monday’s killing of Baruch Mizrahi, a high-ranking officer in Israeli police intelligence, had been the “direct result of ongoing incitement and glorification of terrorism that we see in the official Palestinian media and education system”. […]

Israeli security forces are still hunting for the gunman who opened fire on Mr Mizrahi’s car outside Hebron. His wife and child were also wounded.”

In other words, the BBC has still not adequately clarified to its audiences the fact that this was a terror attack, with the only reference to terrorism coming in the form of a quotation from an unidentified Israeli official. Once again, no mention is made of the praise for the attack issued by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Additionally, the report’s latest version continues to promote to BBC audiences the misleading notion of six-month-old building tenders as a reason for the collapse of negotiations and introduces the subject of the deduction of debt payments from tax transfers, but again without fully clarifying the issue to readers.

Related Articles:

Route 35 terror attack gets a grand total of 34 words in BBC report

Fatal terror attack in Judea – BBC silent

Route 35 terror attack gets a grand total of 34 words in BBC report

Over twenty-eight hours after the April 14th terror attack on Route 35 in which father of five Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi was murdered and his wife and son injured, the BBC finally managed to come up with a brief mention of the incident, buried at the bottom of an article titled  “Israelis and Palestinians in bid to extend peace talks” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the night of April 15th.

The article was illustrated using the misleading photograph below (which appeared at the top of the report’s original version and was moved further down about 12 hours after its initial publication, only to be removed completely in an even later version of the report) which reasonable readers would interpret as intending to inform them of some sort of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians.

talks art w attack pic

The photograph’s equally misleading caption reads:

“Tensions are high in Hebron after an Israeli policeman was killed in the West Bank”

That choice of wording reinforces the mistaken impression already given to BBC audiences by the photograph that the said policeman was killed in the line of duty rather than in a terror attack against him and his family. 

In the original article’s final paragraph the BBC managed to come up with the following thirty-four words to describe the incident, with notable use of the politically partial term “occupied West Bank”:

“Israel is also angry at the killing of an off-duty Israeli policeman in the occupied West Bank on Monday on the eve of the Passover Jewish holiday. The officer’s wife and child were wounded.”

talks art w attack para

The fact that this was a terror attack in which a Palestinian terrorist deliberately targeted random Israelis travelling along a major road is concealed from readers, along with the actual circumstances of the incident - details of which were amply available by the time the BBC got round to composing this report.

“The senior Israeli police officer was killed while driving to Hebron to celebrate Passover with his wife’s family. His pregnant wife, Hadas, was moderately injured in the attack and was transferred to Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for treatment. The couple’s five children spent the holiday with their relatives as planned, and on Monday night were informed by their mother of their father’s death.

Hadas Mizrahi told the Ynet news website that while driving, her husband had seen the terrorist and cried “They’re shooting, they’re shooting, there’s a terrorist.” After her husband was shot, she took the wheel, drove out of sight, and alerted the authorities.

“I covered my blood with a rag,” Hadas, who was shot twice and broke a rib, said. “I saw that Baruch was dead. When the soldiers arrived I told them ‘Bandage me and take the children to the armored vehicle, so that they don’t see their father lying [there] dead.’

In the version of the report after amendment some 12 hours later, those thirty-four words became forty-one with the appearance of “a gunman”, an apparent realisation of the inappropriateness of the use of the term “occupied West Bank” by a supposedly impartial news organisation and a misleading new location for the incident which actually took place near the village of Idhna.

“Israel is also angry at the killing of an off-duty Israeli policeman by a gunman in the West Bank on Monday, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. His wife and child were wounded in the attack outside Hebron.”

In the even later version of the report, that paragraph was changed slightly yet again:

“Tensions were raised on Monday when an off-duty Israeli policeman was killed by a gunman in the West Bank, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. His wife and child were wounded in the attack outside Hebron.”

In the report’s first two versions, audiences were not informed of the fact that no condemnation of the attack came from the Palestinian Authority until two days afterwards or of the celebratory announcements issued by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The report’s later version promotes the statement made in condemnation of the attack by the PA Minister for religious affairs, but fails to inform audiences that the same minister praised convicted terrorists just two weeks previously.talks art w attack

Additionally, the article continues to mislead BBC audiences with regard to the current impasse in the talks between Israel and the PLO, with the original version having stated:

“The talks hit a major crisis this month when both sides took what Washington called “unhelpful steps”.

The Palestinians launched moves to join 15 UN treaties and bodies, while Israel refused to release a tranche of Palestinian prisoners and unveiled plans for more settler homes in east Jerusalem.”

In the later version those paragraphs were altered to read as follows:

“The direct talks, which resumed last July, appeared on the verge of collapse earlier this month when both sides took what the US called “unhelpful steps”.

The Palestinians submitted applications to join 15 UN treaties and conventions, while Israel refused to release a fourth group of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners and reissued tenders for more than 700 new homes at a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.”

Whilst in fact there is no clause in the agreement which was the precursor to this round of talks which limits Israeli construction of what it chooses to term “settler homes” (thereby pinning clearly political colours to its supposedly impartial mast), the BBC continues – as has been the case in its last two reports on the subject – to imply to audiences that the reissuing of building tenders first publicized six months ago for housing in a Jerusalem neighbourhood which, according to any realistic scenario will remain under Israeli control in any final status agreement, was somehow a contributing straw to the breaking of the camel’s back.

Notably too, Israel is inaccurately described as having “refused” to release the fourth and final tranche of Palestinian prisoners whereas in fact the release was actually delayed until the PA made its unilateral bid to join UN agencies: a move which was in breach of the agreement from last July which kick-started the current round of negotiations.

 The organization which cynically claims to aspire to “remain the standard-setter for international journalism” continues to lower the bar in order to reduce those ‘standards’ to the deliberate misleading of audiences and the whitewashing of Palestinian terrorism. Hence, it is worth reminding ourselves of the wording of the opening sentence of the BBC’s own guidelines on the subject of reporting terrorism: 

“We must report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly.” 

None of those four conditions was met in the BBC’s reporting of the Route 35 terror attack.  




Fatal terror attack in Judea – BBC silent

On April 14th – the eve of Pessah – as Israelis travelled to join family for the traditional holiday meal, a terror attack took place on Route 35 near the Tarqumiya checkpoint when several vehicles travelling along that road were attacked by a gunman with an automatic weapon. One man died at the scene and a pregnant woman and a child were injured.Route 35

“An Israeli man was killed and a woman and child were wounded Monday evening, when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli cars near the West Bank city of Hebron. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the people were members of the same family, travelling to a Passover Seder.

The 40-year-old man was critically hurt in the attack and received CPR at the scene, but succumbed his wounds. Two other people were wounded – his 28-year-old wife, who was moderately hurt, and a nine-year-old boy who sustained light wounds.”

Whilst terrorist organisations have already praised the attack, no group has to date claimed responsibility.

“A Hamas spokesman called the shooting “heroic” on his Facebook page.

Islamic Jihad called the attack “a natural reaction to the crimes of the occupation and settlers against our people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” “

Israeli security forces are still searching the area.

At least one BBC journalist is aware of the fact that a fatal terror attack took place.

Tweet Shuval route 35 incident

However, as of mid-morning on April 15th, no report on this latest incident of terror in Judea & Samaria has appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Related Articles:

A round-up of BBC reporting of security incidents in March 2014

Another dose of context-free Gaza Strip pathos from Yolande Knell

On April 12th an article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Egypt gives Hamas and Gaza the cold shoulder“. On the Middle East page itself, the link was presented under the title “Hemmed in”, with the sub-heading “Gazans suffering effects of Egypt’s drive against Muslim Brotherhood”.Knell piece on hp

The article is actually a near transcript of an audio report by Knell which was broadcast in the April 12th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent” on BBC Radio 4. The audio version of the report can be heard here from around 12:23 or as a podcast here. Presenter Kate Adie opens her introduction of Knell’s item with a gratuitous context-free statement which, like a recent BBC News article on the same subject, neglects to inform audiences that “economic sanctions” are actually a way of trying to reclaim over $400 million of Palestinian Authority debt to Israel.

“Israel this week said it would bring in new economic sanctions against the Palestinians. The move came amid mounting pessimism over the eventual outcome of the ongoing peace talks between the two sides. And in Gaza it came as the Islamic militant group Hamas was facing its deepest crisis since it took control of the Strip in 2007. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union. And now, as Yolande Knell has been finding out, the interim government in neighbouring Egypt has begun to take a tougher approach as well.”

Had she simply added the two words ‘among others’ after her incomplete list of countries which designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, Adie could have avoided the pitfall of inaccuracy caused by her elimination of Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand from that list.Knell GAza FOOC

Since the departure of Jon Donnison last summer, the BBC has not had a permanent foreign correspondent in the Gaza Strip, but Knell has been among those paying occasional visits and reporting from there. Like most of her previous reports from the past few months (see for example here, here and here),  this one too is an exercise in context-free pathos and promotion of the theme of poor, blameless, downtrodden Gazans.  

The most striking feature of Knell’s report is its framing of Egyptian actions and policy solely as a “crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood” and the failure to make any mention of the connections between the Gaza Strip and terrorist activity in the northern Sinai.

“Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has led to a sharp deterioration in relations with the Islamist group Hamas in neighbouring Gaza, and the people there are paying the price. […]

Relations with Gaza’s Hamas government have dramatically worsened since Egypt’s elected president Mohammed Morsi was ousted last summer following mass protests.

Hamas was closely aligned with Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Now Cairo’s new military-backed authorities accuse Hamas of meddling in their affairs. They have banned all its activities.

And ordinary Palestinians feel the consequences.”

Also notable is Knell’s anodyne portrayal of the cross-border smuggling tunnels and her failure to clarify to audiences that Egypt’s actions against those tunnels were not inspired by their use for the smuggling of commercial goods, but because they are also used to move weapons and Jihadist fighters in and out of sovereign Egyptian territory.

“Already hundreds of smuggling tunnels under Egypt’s border have been destroyed by its troops.

They used to act as a lifeline to get around restrictions that Israel tightened seven years ago after Hamas wrested control of the Palestinian territory from Fatah forces loyal to the president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Trade is visibly down at a market in southern Gaza.

“Nobody can bring in goods any more and people are suffering,” says a grizzled stallholder, Waleed, “our economy’s at zero.”

Without the tunnel business, unemployment has risen sharply.

There is a shortage of building materials.

And there is no cheap, subsidised Egyptian fuel. That means longer power cuts.”

Of course Knell does not bother to make any attempt to provide audiences with any relevant background as to why it is essential that there are limitations on the entry of dual-use goods – including some building materials – to the Gaza Strip and she fails to clarify that legitimate construction projects are able to receive the supplies they need.  Neither does she inform audiences of the full background to the Gaza Strip’s electricity crisis.  

“Recent Egyptian military activity rendered out of commission hundreds of tunnels that once connected Sinai and Gaza and were used to import one million liters of fuel into Gaza each day. As a result, Hamas has no choice but to purchase fuel from Israel via the Palestinian Authority at prices similar to those found in the Israeli market, namely over seven shekels ($2) per liter of gasoline. That is a major problem for private car owners.

The more acute problem is that fuel is needed to operate the Gaza power plant that generates the majority of the local electricity. 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. And the residents of Gaza are the ones who suffer.”

Knell goes on to quote Raji Sourani, whom she describes simply as a “human rights campaigner” without clarifying his link to the PCHR as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines. Using Sourani’s words as a hook, she implies that the recent barrage of missile attacks on Israeli civilians in communities surrounding the Gaza Strip was the inevitable – and hence presumably ‘understandable’ – result of economic frustration.

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas addresses the PCHR 2006 conference

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas addresses the PCHR 2006 conference


“Back in Gaza City, I find the veteran human rights campaigner Raji Sourani looking uncharacteristically miserable.

“Egypt’s added another dimension to this siege that’s suffocated Gaza socially and economically. It’s a collective punishment. We’re reduced to hostages and beggars,” he says.

“And I don’t think anybody should expect Gazans to be good victims. Things will ultimately explode.”

Already there have been explosions. Last month fighters from Islamic Jihad in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets at their historic enemy, Israel.”

That is quite a remarkable piece of whitewashing of the motivations of an internationally proscribed terrorist organization (which, in the audio version of the report is revealingly described by Knell simply as “an armed group more extreme than Hamas”) inspired by religious supremacist ideology and funded by Iran. Knell’s downplaying of Hamas’ extremism also includes the failure to mention its recently improved ties with Iran and a distinctly woolly portrayal of the latest Hamas rally in Gaza which the BBC failed to report in English at the time.

“Hamas – which fell out with its other regional patrons Syria and Iran earlier during the Arab uprisings – was left feeling even more squeezed.

A massive rally held soon after in Gaza was meant as a show of force.

Hamas leaders spoke defiantly about Israel and the failing peace talks led by their political rival, President Abbas.

But some also criticised Egypt and what they called its military coup.”

Once again BBC audiences are herded towards focusing their attentions exclusively on the issue of the economic difficulties facing the ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip without any proper context being provided regarding the responsibility of the ruling Hamas regime for those very real hardships. And once again, that policy actively prevents BBC audiences from being able to form an understanding of international issues based on the full range of facts.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell amplifies Hamas propaganda, downplays its terror designation

BBC science and technology reporters continue to lead on accuracy and impartiality

Showing once again that some of the best BBC reporting on Israel comes from the corporation’s science and technology correspondents, here are a few recent reports which have appeared on the BBC News website.Phone battery story

On April 2nd a written report by science reporter Melissa Hogenboom on a study of the effects of oxytocin on the behaviour of members of groups, carried out by a researcher from Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, appeared on the ‘Science & Environment’ page of the BBC News website.

On April 8th a written report on an Israeli start-up company which is in the process of developing a mobile phone battery capable of full charging in thirty seconds appeared in the BBC News website’s ‘Technology’ section.

The next day, a filmed report on the same topic from a BBC news programme also appeared on the ‘Technology’ page of the website.

What a pity it is that the same standards of interesting, pertinent, accurate and impartial reporting are so hard to come by on Israel-related topics with a political component.

In which the BBC ‘forgets’ to tell readers about $400 million of Palestinian debt to Israel

April 11th saw the appearance of an article titled “Israel to impose sanctions against Palestinian Authority” on the Middle East page of the BBC News website.sanctions art

Like the previous report on the subject of the impasse in the talks between Israel and the PLO published two days earlier, this one too signals the beginning of a departure from the promotion of the faux equivocal stance enabled by carefully selected omissions which has so far been adopted to describe to audiences the reasons for the breakdown in negotiations.

As we noted in relation to the previous article:

“The report goes on to quote and promote unnamed “correspondents”, providing no information which would enable audiences to assess the relevance or validity of the claim made by those anonymous sources.

“Correspondents say Mr Netanyahu’s action has dealt another blow to the faltering US-brokered peace process.” “

This latest article has equally anonymous “observers” instead of “correspondents” but the message to BBC audiences is the same: Israel is to blame for the talks’ lack of success.

“Israel has imposed sanctions against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in retaliation for signing a number of international treaties, officials say. […]

Observers say it further complicates US-led talks, which resumed on Thursday and have faltered in recent weeks.”

Likewise, this latest report again promotes the inaccurate notion of reissued building tenders in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo as being “new” and fails to inform readers that the very same tenders were already issued six months ago, that not even the Palestinians believe that Gilo will become part of a future Palestinian state or that the agreement which preceded the commencement of the latest round of talks in no way limited Israeli building. The report even uses the same picture (see below) as it predecessor and audiences are clearly meant to conclude (mistakenly) that these building tenders were one of the reasons for the breakdown in talks.

“Talks had previously stalled after Palestinians were angered by Israel’s decision to approve 700 new settlement units in East Jerusalem – which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 and formally annexed the area in 1980.

Settlements built there and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

sanctions art pic

Notably, the report makes no attempt whatsoever to inform audiences of the nature of the “debt payments” it describes.

“In the latest development, Israeli officials are quoted as saying that debt payments would be deducted from tax transfers routinely received by the PA.

Israel collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinians, and transfers about $100m (80m euros) per month, accounting for two-thirds of the authority’s budget.

It is not yet clear how much money will be withheld or for how long.”

Hence – and not for the first time – readers remain unaware of the fact that “[t]he Palestinians owe Israeli companies hundreds of millions of dollars for electricity, power and other services” or that the PA’s Minister of Labour recently admitted that:

“… the PA owes the Israel electric company alone some $400 million.”

Despite the fact that another aspect of the withholding of tax transfers has been noted by the Israeli media, the BBC – in keeping with its long tradition – avoids any mention of the subject of PA payments to convicted terrorists. As the Times of Israel, for example, reports:

“On Wednesday, a senior official warned about the imminent drastic tax cuts, but said the suspended funds were “the money they spend on terrorists and their families.”

“This step would be less dramatic than cutting entirely our monthly tax payments to the PA, but it would be step that would be in place,” he said.

Israel considers the Palestinian payments to Palestinian security prisoners and their families as “funding terrorism,” the senior official said.”

Although that same subject was also raised by the chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the BBC – as we have previously noted here – scrupulously avoids informing audiences even of the existence of such PA policy.  

WSJ art

The BBC’s latest report does, however, include uncritical promotion of statements made by Saeb Erekat - with no qualification or balancing quotes from named Israeli officials.

“Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat has condemned the move as “Israeli hijacking” and “theft”. […]

Mr Erekat told AFP news agency it was “theft of the Palestinian people’s money” and a “violation of international law and norms by Israel”.”

Is the BBC really at ease with promoting the notion to its audiences that “international law” dictates that Israeli citizens must subsidise the electricity bills of their Palestinian neighbours to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars?

Much of the latter half of this report is no more than a bland reproduction of the BBC’s previous April 9th article and once again it promotes misleading impressions of the terms of the agreement which preceded the current round of negotiations and omits from audience view vital background information crucial to their understanding of the current status of those talks.

Despite being an organization committed under the terms of its constitutional document to building “a global understanding of international issues”, the BBC is making a remarkable job of doing the exact opposite of that with regard to this topic.