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 Hardtalk for Israel, Softchat for Palestinians

This is a guest post by Aron White.

In his October 21st Hardtalk interview, Israeli MK Yair Lapid turned the tables on presenter Stephen Sackur and made the following remark:Hardtalk logo

Yair Lapid: “I have been watching the show. Whenever a Palestinian is on, you don’t ask the questions that are that difficult.”

Steven Sackur: “Well you haven’t been watching the show enough then, because the Palestinians say exactly what you just said, “Oh, you are tougher on me than you are on him (the Israeli).”

An objective analysis will show that Yair Lapid is totally correct – Israeli guests on the show face a tough grilling whereas Palestinians and their supporters get basically a free pass.

Here is the introduction Stephen Sackur gave Yair Lapid last week:

“The latest paroxysm of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has conjured up a wave of horrifying images. Israelis stabbed in random street attacks, Palestinian suspects shot dead by Israeli police when seemingly no longer a threat, an innocent bystander beaten to death by an incensed Israeli crowd. Well, my guest is Yair Lapid, former finance minister, and leader of the Yesh Atid party. He has called on Israelis to”shoot to kill” at the first sign of danger. Will that kind of language enhance anyone’s security?”

This is a genuinely harsh introduction – and considering that Sackur draws no distinction between the Israeli victims of terror attacks and Palestinian attackers killed by policemen, it maybe is too harsh. But let us compare this with the opening Hardtalk laid out for Saeb Erekat during an interview in February 2014.

“What does the new right-wing Israeli coalition government under Benjamin Netanyahu mean for the Palestinians? The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has made moves recently to win international backing for his cause, particularly through the United Nations. Will this strategy help or hinder their aspirations for statehood? My guest today is the Palestinian veteran chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat. Can they isolate Israel, and achieve recognition of a Palestinian state through international diplomatic channels?”

This is not the opening to a difficult interview in which Palestinian intransigence, rejectionism, incitement, corruption and human rights violations will truly be open for discussion. The question on the table is how best can the Palestinians isolate Israel: instead of asking hard-hitting questions, the BBC is merely asking whether the Palestinians can achieve their goals.

The Hardtalk bias was open for all to see during last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas. Hardtalk conducted two interviews on consecutive days – the first interview, on July 24th, was with Danny Danon, a former Israeli government minister, and the second interview the next day was with Khaled Mashal, leader of Hamas.

Here is the introduction to the interview with Danny Danon:

“Israel says its current campaign in Gaza is in response to rocket strikes from Hamas militants, and is aimed at destroying its illicit tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle arms. In more than two weeks of conflict, more than six hundred Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, and nearly four thousand wounded. The U.N. Human Rights Commission (sic.) says Israel may have committed war crimes. About thirty Israeli have died, nearly all of them, soldiers. My guest today is Danny Danon, a member of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, He was dismissed as deputy defence minister earlier this month, for accusing the prime minister of being too weak in his Gaza campaign. How does he justify the high Palestinian death toll?”

Compare this to the introduction to the interview the very next day, with Khaled Masha’al.

“My guest today is Khaled Masha’al, the political chief of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, which is currently locked in a grim and costly military confrontation with Israel in Gaza. Right now, the pressure on Hamas is immense, military, political and diplomatic. So, is the showdown in Gaza a battle for Hamas’ survival?”

Masha’al is not being asked any hard questions at all – no question about Hamas rockets, human shields, human rights abuses, or its openly jihadist constitution. Rather than hard questions, sympathy for Hamas simply oozes from the description of a “costly” conflict with Israel that may be a battle for Hamas’ very survival.

This highlights a further point: not only does Hardtalk ask Israelis far tougher questions than Palestinians; the interviewers openly display sympathy for Palestinians and their supporters. 

During his interview with William Schabas, initially appointed head of a U.N. Human Rights Council commission of inquiry into the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas who resigned from the post due to concerns about his objectivity, Stephen Sackur asks:

“You have talked about the campaign against you. We remember the full-page ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal condemning you, talking about your bias, I believe also, you had personal emails. You had threats. Did it get to a point where you could just stand it no longer?”

Yet when he interviews Yehuda Glick, the man who was shot four times because of his activism to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Stephen Sackur never asks him how he felt, but instead offers this musing:

“I am guessing, Yehuda Glick, that what happened to you wasn’t entirely a surprise to you. You have been a controversial figure described by many Israelis, indeed many Israelis in the Israeli government and security establishment as a provocative figure and as an extremist for years. You have known that there have been threats upon you for years too. So although it was awful, it wasn’t really a surprise was it?”

So one man who actually got shot four times (for campaigning for what he sees as religious freedom) should have seen it coming because he received threats but another man who received threats (though admittedly, by “personal email,” no less) deserves our deepest sympathy. I mean, how bad are four bullets compared to an advertisement in a newspaper?

Hardtalk is deeply biased. It challenges Israelis about how they defend themselves, but poses no hard questions to the inciters, jihadists, rocket launchers and terrorists. For Israelis, an appearance on the show is a hard talk. For Palestinians and their supporters, it is merely a soft chat. 

Related Articles:

‘Hardtalk’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’



Selective framing, inaccuracies and omission of context on BBC’s Hardtalk

Israeli MK and leader of the ‘Yesh Atid’ party Yair Lapid appeared on the BBC World News and BBC News Channel programme ‘Hardtalk‘ on October 21st. Readers in the UK can find the programme on BBC iPlayer here and a clip also appeared on the BBC News website.Hardtalk Lapid

Many of the questions posed by presenter Stephen Sackur during the interview provide an opportunity to look at the way in which inaccuracies, falsehoods and selective framing can be casually promoted by an interviewer.

In his introduction, Sackur frames audience views of the programme’s subject matter by depicting a wave of terror attacks carried out by Palestinians on mostly civilian Israelis as equivalent violence “between Israelis and Palestinians”, whilst portraying attacks in which people were deliberately sought out because of their ethnicity as “random” and their perpetrators as “suspects”. [all emphasis in bold added]

“The latest paroxysm of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has conjured up a host of horrifying images. Israelis stabbed in random street attacks. Palestinian suspects shot dead by Israeli police when seemingly no longer a threat. An innocent bystander beaten to death by an incensed Israeli crowd.”

In that last sentence Sackur refers – as is evident later on in the interview – to Haftom Zarhum who was killed during a terror attack at the main bus station in Be’er Sheva on October 18th. As the post-mortem showed, Zarhum’s death was actually caused by bullet wounds sustained when members of the security forces shot him after mistaking him for a second terrorist – but that does not prevent Sackur from promoting an inaccurate and context-free version of the story.

Sackur steers viewers towards a specific view of the cause of the current wave of terrorism in several ‘questions’, whilst again promoting the notions of equivalence and random attacks:

“Are you suggesting that the violence coming from the Palestinian side; that is the random stabbings we’ve seen – primarily stabbings – are you suggesting that it has nothing to do with the realities that Palestinians have to live with?”

“Of course that narrative may suit you but the Palestinians are quite clear. As Mahmoud Abbas has said, you know, ‘we are living’, he says, ‘under unbearable conditions’. And when that is the case, you get the kind of desperation – particularly amongst nihilistic young people – that results in the violence on your streets.”

Sackur manages to insert several ‘questions’ relating to a particular incident without providing viewers with a particularly important piece of context.

“Are you saying that some of the videos we have seen uploaded onto Youtube and elsewhere of Israeli police appearing to shoot in cold blood young Palestinians who appear to present no real and present threat – are you saying that those must be investigated and the police must be punished?”

“Have you seen the videos? Have you seen the killing of Fadi Aloon? You used the word justification earlier; are you saying to me that in the case of the young teen Fadi Aloon who was running toward the police, trying to get away from a mob who were baying for his blood and when the police apprehended him he ended up shot dead – are you telling me that was justified?”

Crucially, Sackur neglects to clarify to audiences that nineteen year-old Fadi Aloon had just stabbed a fifteen year-old boy when he was shot.

Sackur goes on to deliberately conflate terrorism with crime and imply Israeli institutional racism.

“But the bottom line is when people are committing crimes you don’t necessarily know whether they’re Jewish, whether they’re Muslim – whatever they are. Coming back to the words of the police chief; he says anyone who stabs a Jew is due to be killed. I mean, let’s face it; there are serious crimes in Israel that doesn’t involve Muslims. […] Do you think that the police chief would have said of a Jewish criminal that as soon as he commits any sort of crime like that he is due to be killed?”

The actual words of the Jerusalem police chief were spoken immediately following yet another terror attack – which Sackur again refrains from mentioning.

“Police said officers who ran to the scene “saw two Jewish men with stab wounds to their upper bodies. The policemen saw the terrorist with a knife in his hand and called on him to halt. The terrorist ran towards them with his weapon and the two cocked their weapons, fired at him and neutralized him.” […]

Jerusalem Police chief Moshe Edri praised the officers’ actions, and warned that anyone attacking civilians faced a similar fate.

“Policemen carried out their duties and arrived quickly. The terrorist was killed in under 90 seconds. Anyone who stabs Jews or hurts innocents — his due is to be killed,” Edri said.”

Sackur promotes the notion that Israeli politicians are to blame for “fear and anger” among the population while again inaccurately describing 29 year-old Haftom Zarhum as having been killed “by a mob” and giving a very tepid account of the terror attack in the bus station in which Sgt Omri Levy was killed:

“Did it give you any sort of pause when the young Eritrean man in Be’er Sheva was beaten to death by a mob who thought, wrongly, that he was involved in the shooting of an Israeli soldier? Did that make you wonder whether your message to the Israeli people was perhaps inflammatory and dangerous?”

“Senior politicians like you help to establish that fear and anger.”

Although he categorically states that Israelis have ‘dehumanised’ Palestinians (with no factual evidence provided for the claim), Sackur has nothing to say on the topic of whether those who shoot, stab or deliberately run over identifiably Jewish people have dehumanised their victims.

“Why do you think that – you called it a lynching – that kind of incident can happen in today’s Israel? Why is it, do you believe, that some Israelis have dehumanised the other – the Palestinians – to the point where they are prepared to engage in that sort of behavior?”

Viewers are told by Sackur that the “Palestinian leadership” (he doesn’t clarify whether that includes Hamas) is “committed” to the two-state solution.

“Of course the Palestinian leadership is committed to a search for a two-state solution. They say the problem is that Binyamin Netanyahu and his government have no intention of delivering a two-state solution and they say Netanyahu’s own words prove that because during the election campaign he made it quite plain: under his watch there would be no two-state solution.”

That very selective presentation of course fails to inform viewers that following the March 16th interview with NRG, Netanyahu later clarified his stance.

When Lapid tries to explain the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, Sackur interrupts:

“Jerusalem is also the site of the third holiest religious site in all of Islam. […] Palestinians see what has happened; they see the facts of the last ten years. Used to be only hundreds of Jews every year would make the ascent up onto the top of the Haram al Sharif, Noble Sanctuary, the Temple Mount – call it what you will. Now it is thousands. They see that the Ministry of Religious Affairs in your government is now offering prayers of service guidance to people for the top of the esplanade. To Palestinians it looks as though this idea that the government of Israel will guarantee the status quo as was is no longer true.”

BBC Watch has been unable to find any factual information pertaining to that claim that the Ministry of Religious Services – as it is actually titled – “is now offering prayers of service guidance to people for the top of the esplanade”. The Israeli government, as Lapid notes, has repeatedly clarified that there is no intention of changing the status quo on Temple Mount. 

Once again donning his Palestinian advocate hat, Sackur also misleads viewers on the topic of construction.

“Let’s talk about settlements too because you say, you know, what’s happening today has nothing to do with the facts on the ground but the Palestinians beg to differ and they point to the massive growth of settlement activity over the last decade. Now, most of their towns across the West Bank, ringed by Jewish settlements.”

Had Sackur consulted the BBC’s favourite Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, he would know that:

“In fact, since Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009, there has been less construction activity in the settlements than under any other prime minister since 1995.

According to data from the Housing and Construction Ministry, an average of 1,554 houses a year were built in the settlements from 2009 to 2014 — fewer than under any of his recent predecessors.

By comparison, the annual average was 1,881 under Ariel Sharon and 1,774 under Ehud Olmert. As for Ehud Barak, during his single full year as prime minister, in 2000, he built a whopping 5,000 homes in the settlements.”

So Sackur’s claim of “massive growth of settlement activity over the last decade” is as inaccurate and misleading as his claim that most Palestinian towns are “ringed” – i.e. surrounded – by “Jewish settlements” and that has happened within the last ten years.

During this interview, Sackur claims that Palestinian interviewees on Hardtalk are ‘challenged’.

“Believe me; we challenge the Palestinians on the language they use….”

Readers wishing to judge for themselves whether that claim is true can find several interviews with figures such as Saeb Erekat and Suha Arafat here. Notably, Erekat was not challenged when he told ‘Hardtalk’ audiences that there is such a thing as “the ’67 borders” and Stephen Sackur had nothing to say about Erekat’s claim to be “a Canaanite”. 

So, while this may have been an interview with an Israeli politician, BBC audiences were also treated to selective framing, omission of relevant context and the promotion of inaccurate information which was not only materially misleading but would clearly influence their views of the subjects selected for discussion and the wider topic in general.




BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ keeps Arafat conspiracy theory going

The BBC’s flagship interview programme ‘Hardtalk’ is broadcast on both BBC World News and the BBC News channel. On August 27th, both those channels showed a repeat of a previous edition of the programme originally aired in January 2015 (and previously discussed here) in which Zeinab Badawi travelled to Malta to interview Suha Arafat.  

As readers may recall, Badawi made no effort at the time to correct the inaccurate impressions given to audiences by Suha Arafat via statements such as:

“When there’s a rocket on Israel we have 1,000 people who are killed in the same day.”

“Gaza…the most crowded city in the world…”

“…more than 1,000 people who are still in the coma…” [after the conflict last summer]

“….nothing happen [with the peace process] because Israel continue to do settlements, Israel continue to build the wall….”

Obviously the corporation supposedly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality did not identify any problem in repeating the broadcast of such inaccuracies.Hardtalk Arafat repeat

The synopsis of the repeat states:

“Earlier this year Zeinab Badawi went to Malta to meet Suha Arafat – the widow of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Ten years after his death, Mrs Arafat gave a rare broadcast interview about their marriage, why she believes her husband was assassinated and why she has chosen to live in Malta and not amongst the Palestinian people who so revered him.” [emphasis added]

Two months after the original interview took place, French experts ruled out the possibility of foul play in Arafat’s death.

“French experts have ruled out that the 2004 death of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was the result of poisoning, a prosecutor told AFP Monday

The prosecutor of the western Paris suburb of Nanterre said the experts found there was no foul play in Arafat’s death, which sparked immediate and enduring conspiracy rumors. […]

The French experts “maintain that the polonium 210 and lead 210 found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature,” Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis said.”

Last month – as the BBC itself reported – the French authorities closed the case.

“A French prosecutor has said there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

A murder inquiry was ordered by a court in Nanterre in August 2012 after his widow Suha alleged he was poisoned with polonium-210, a radioactive element.

On Tuesday, the local prosecutor concluded the case should be dismissed.”

It would therefore be extremely interesting to gain some insight into the editorial considerations which led to this programme being repeated and BBC audiences being yet again exposed to amplification of a conspiracy theory which has already been shown to be a figment of Ms Arafat’s imagination.

Related Articles:

BBC News yet again amplifies Arafat conspiracy theories

‘Special edition’ of BBC’s Hardtalk to commemorate a terrorist

BBC portrayal of the Iran nuclear deal – part three

In this series of posts we have already looked at how the JCPOA agreement between the P5+1 and Iran was framed by the BBC’s Middle East editor and its chief international correspondent on domestic and World Service radio programmes. In this post we will see an example of what viewers of BBC World News television learned – or not – about the deal’s essentials when presenter Babita Sharma interviewed Israeli minister Naftali Bennett on July 14th.Babita Sharma

Bennett’s opening comments related to the problematic aspects of the deal’s verification mechanism, including the 24-day prior notice of inspections.

Bennett: “You cannot have verifiable inspections if you have to notify them in advance, if they can object and then there’s a committee. This is not serious.”

Sharma’s response to that point prompts the very obvious question of why the BBC bothered to invite Bennett for an interview in the first place.

Sharma: “You say it’s not serious but it is very serious. A deal has been done with the world’s major powers and Iran. Israel wasn’t there. It doesn’t really matter what you say about this because this deal has been done. It will be implemented.”

When Bennett tried to answer that point she quickly interrupted him.

Sharma: “But what can Israel do? What can Israel do at this stage?”

Seventeen seconds into his reply she interrupted again.

Sharma: “And how will you do that? And how will you do that?”

Without even waiting for a reply she interrupted once more.

Sharma: “Let me just ask you though – forgive me for interrupting. I just want to ask on the point you’ve just said that you will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. You’re echoing the words of Benjamin Netanyahu some hours ago saying that we did not commit to preventing an agreement but we commit to preventing Iran from acquiring weapons. What do you mean by that? It sounds like a threat of sorts. I mean what are you proposing here?”

Eight seconds into Bennett’s reply to that, Sharma yet again interrupted him.

Sharma: “But what does that mean? Now hold on a second. You’re quite happy…let me start over…you’re very happy to share with us your views about what’s not happening and how a deal isn’t right but you’re not able to tell us how you believe Israel is able to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. So with statements like that issued into the public domain, what are we supposed to read from that if you’re not going to back it up with telling us exactly what you’re going to do?”

Did Ms Sharma and her producers really think that an Israeli minister was going to provide them with the intimate details of any plans relating to the Iranian nuclear programme? Of course not: the clue to why this exchange even took place is in the prior framing: “it sounds like a threat”. Forty-four seconds later Sharma continued her theme of an Israeli ‘threat’ by introducing a topic unrelated to the P5+1 agreement with Iran.

Sharma: “Let’s talk about the security and stability of what’s happening in the Middle East; in the region that you’re part of. Ehm…let me just begin by asking you – Israel; is it not the only country in the Middle East in 2015 that currently has a stockpile that’s capable of making up to eighty nuclear weapons? Is that correct?”

Fifteen seconds into Bennett’s reply to a question she knew in advance he was not going to answer Sharma interrupted once more.

Sharma: “Forgive me though, that’s not quite answering my question. The question was does Israel have…does Israel have a stockpile of nuclear weapons? Is it a yes or is it a no to that question?”

And three seconds later she interrupted again.

Sharma: “Does Israel have a stockpile of nuclear weapons?”

Eleven seconds after that she cut him off once more.

Sharma: “OK. Naftali Bennett I have to…Naftali Bennett I did ask you – and it was a simple yes or no – does Israel have the ability to make eighty nuclear weapons from its stockpile in 2015? Does it have that capability?”

Clearly the aim of this interview was not to provide BBC audiences with an understanding of Israel’s concerns about the JCPOA agreement. What Babita Sharma and her editorial team did however seek to do was to frame Israel as a greater threat to “security and stability” in the Middle East than the theocratic regime which has already breached its NPT obligations and sponsors terror throughout the region and beyond.

Unfortunately, such cringingly transparent ‘journavism’ no longer comes as a surprise to BBC audiences.

Related Articles:

R4 ‘Today’ expounds BBC ‘World View’ on Iran


BBC ‘Gaza war anniversary’ coverage continues to mislead on the causes of the conflict

Back in February 2015 the BBC decided to produce a series of reports and programmes (see some examples in ‘related articles’ below) to mark six months since the ceasefire which brought the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas – along with other assorted terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip – to an end.

The occasion of the one year anniversary of the beginning of that conflict likewise received special BBC coverage and once more, the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet was at the forefront of the corporation’s efforts.anniversary progs 2

One of many problematic aspects of the BBC’s coverage of that conflict – both whilst it was ongoing and ever since – has been the corporation’s presentation of why it began and some examples can be seen here, here and here.

As some further examples from the BBC’s generous cross-platform ‘anniversary’ coverage show, one year on the corporation is nowhere nearer to providing its audiences with an accurate and impartial account of why Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8th 2014.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ on July 8th 2015 heard the presenter introduce an item “to mark the conflict” (from 16:10 here for a limited period of time) in the following terms.

“Now it’s exactly a year since Israel launched a military offensive against Gaza which it said was intended to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets from there. Over the next fifty days 73 Israelis died and, according to the UN, 2,200 Palestinians.”

The BBC World News channel’s website promotes Lyse Doucet’s programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ with the following synopsis:Anniversary progs 1

“The war in Gaza is a war about children. It began when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered. A Palestinian child was later dragged into a Jerusalem forest, beaten, and burned alive.”

Listeners to the July 8th 2015 edition of the BBC World Service’s ‘BBC World Update:Daily Commute’ heard Rebecca Kesby tell them (from 03:14 here):

“Now on this day last year another war erupted in Gaza. It lasted 51 days and turned into the longest, most costly conflict of the three wars in the past six years. More than 2,100 people were killed in Gaza and 72 were killed on the Israeli side including 66 soldiers. And a very high price paid by civilians – and most of all children – became a defining issue in this confrontation.”

As we see, all three of those examples inaccurately describe the conflict as having taken place exclusively in Gaza: BBC audiences are not informed that hostilities also took place in Israel.

Completely erased from audience view are the events which led up to the launch of the operation.

“In the three weeks leading up to July 8, according the official IDF figures, militants fired 250 rockets capable of reaching Israel’s largest cities and population centers and endangering 3.5 million Israeli lives.”

Also censored from these accounts are the cross-border tunnels which made the ground operation imperative.

“In the first 48 hours of the ground operation, the IDF uncovered more than 30 tunnels, including both defensive and storage tunnels as well as offensive terror tunnels leading into Israel. The soldiers uncovered a labyrinth of tunnels dug 20 meters deep and running 2 kilometers towards Israeli territory with multiple exits. The IDF Corps of Engineers detonated and demolished the discovered tunnels.”

The BBC’s narrative does not inform audiences that the military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th or that the terrorist organisation chose not to do so for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.

Neither does the BBC’s version of events clarify to audiences that the conflict could have been considerably shorter – and hence less costly in human life – had Hamas accepted any of the numerous offers of a ceasefire presented before the one which finally ended the hostilities.

The distortion of the factors which led to the summer 2014 conflict has over the past year become standard BBC practice. The version of events repeatedly promoted by the BBC is obviously not accurate due to its omission of the firing of hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians before Operation Protective Edge even began and nor is it impartial as it clearly seeks to erase Hamas’ responsibility for igniting and prolonging that conflict from audience view.

We have said it before and regrettably we have to say it again: it is high time the BBC got a grip on its serial misrepresentation of this issue. Its failure – or refusal – to do so over the past twelve months severely compromises its claim to impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part one

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

Lyse Doucet’s promotion of her BBC Two ‘Children of the Gaza War’ programme

Promotion for Lyse Doucet’s programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ – timed to be broadcast on the anniversary of the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th – has been appearing, inter alia, on the BBC News website and on social media.

Doucet tweet children 1

Doucet tweet children 2

Doucet tweet children 3

Doucet tweet children 4

Doucet tweet children 5

From the second of those Tweets from Lyse Doucet we learn that whilst the BBC was filming in southern Israel on July 16th 2014 it caught an incoming missile alert and the resulting scramble of two children to their home’s fortified safe room on camera. Insofar as we are aware, that footage was not shown to BBC audiences at the time.

Visitors to the BBC News website on July 5th found a filmed report by Doucet titled “Battle scars: Gaza children living with war’s legacy” and two days later a written report by Doucet also appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the website’s Middle East page under the headline  “The children scarred by war“.Doucet art 7 7 Gaza

Of the 1,086 words making up that article, two hundred and thirty-six can be categorized as background information. The Israeli children’s side of the story is told in two hundred and sixty words and five hundred and ninety words are devoted to the stories of Palestinian children. One can only hope that the upcoming programme itself will show better balance.

Among the notable aspects of Doucet’s written report is a curious focus on why her first interviewee was where he was when disaster struck.

“A week after the fighting began, Syed’s life was shattered on the day the 12-year-old, his 11-year-old brother Mohamed, and their six cousins went to Gaza’s beach to play football.

It was the natural playground for young boys from a family of fishermen which has lived off the sea for generations.

“We didn’t know that beach was dangerous,” says Syed – his eyes still, round, sad pools, as he remembers 16 July, one of the most harrowing days of the war.” [emphasis added]

Doucet makes no effort to inform readers that – as noted in the MAG report on the incident – the location was known to be a Hamas site and that prior events made the fact that it was dangerous clear.

“From the factual findings collected by MPCID investigators, it arose that the incident took place in an area that had long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas’s Naval Police and Naval Force (naval commandos), and which was utilized exclusively by militants. The compound in question spans the length of the breakwater of the Gaza City seashore, closed off by a fence and clearly separated from the beach serving the civilian population. It further arose in the course of the investigation (including from the affidavits provided to the MPCID by Palestinian witnesses), that the compound was known to the residents of the Gaza Strip as a compound which was used exclusively by Hamas’s Naval Police. The IDF carried out a number of attacks on the compound in the days prior to the incident. In the course of one such attack, which took place on the day prior to the incident (15 July 2014), a container located inside the compound, which was used to store military supplies, was attacked.”

Doucet even casts doubt on the nature of the site through her use of punctuation in the following sentence:

“An Israeli investigation said its air force mistook the children for Hamas fighters when a pilot fired twice at a “compound” next to the beach.”

Click to enlarge

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In a video clip embedded into the article, Doucet tells audiences that the apartment she visits together with a girl called Samar “lies next to the main crossing with Israel”. That information would suggest that the area is in Beit Hanoun but Doucet makes no effort to inform viewers of the highly relevant context of the terrorist activity which took place in that district.

“Of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014, 69.4% were fired from the northern part of the territory with the towns of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun being major centres of missile fire, cross border tunnels and other terrorist activity.”

Without revealing the source of her claim, Doucet tells readers that:

“By the end of the 51-day conflict, 551 Gazan children had lost their lives.”

Throughout the past year, the BBC has repeatedly quoted and promoted casualty figures sourced from Hamas agencies and/or UN bodies relying on information from Hamas agencies and sympathisers. No independent BBC verification of the figures or of civilian/combatant casualty ratios has been made available to the public. Hence, BBC audiences cannot know whether or not the number quoted by Doucet includes child combatants, terrorists presented with false ages or even those killed by short-falling missiles fired by terrorist organisations such as the children killed in Shati on July 28th 2014.

Doucet’s article also includes promotion – including a link – of a very one-sided and context-free report from the political NGO ‘Save the Children’ which relates almost exclusively to children in the Gaza Strip and manages to avoid all use of the words terrorism or Hamas.

“A report released this week by Save the Children, A Living Nightmare, says the vast majority of children in the hardest-hit area still experience nightmares and bed wetting.”

The most remarkable part of Doucet’s article, however, is the following paragraph:

“Israel says its 2014 campaign, Operation Protective Edge, was launched to stop rocket attacks from Gaza and destroy a vast network of tunnels, some of which extended into Israeli communities. Hamas, which controls most of Gaza, said it was fighting against Israeli air strikes and incursions, and trying to ease severe restrictions on its crossings with both Israel and Egypt.”Doucet filmed 5 7

The BBC knows full well that Operation Protective Edge commenced after hundreds of missiles were fired by terrorist groups at civilian targets in Israel in the preceding weeks and following considerable efforts to persuade Hamas to stop those attacks. It also knows that thousands more rockets and mortars were fired during the period between July 8th and August 26th and what was the aim of the cross-border tunnels constructed by Hamas. It therefore has no justification for presenting that information with the qualifier “Israel says”.

Likewise, the BBC knows perfectly well that Israeli airstrikes were responses to missile fire on Israeli civilians and that the ground operation was necessary in order to decommission the cross-border tunnels. It also knows – even though it does not tell its audiences – that the border restrictions are the result of a decade and a half of terrorism by Hamas and other terror groups located in the Gaza Strip.

Doucet’s equivocal presentation of the background to Operation Protective Edge therefore does not represent an effort to meet editorial standards of impartiality but an active attempt to promote misleading ambiguity regarding the causes of the conflict.

One can only hope that a higher standard of journalism will be evident in the programme to be aired to UK audiences tonight on BBC Two and to viewers elsewhere this coming Saturday on BBC World News television.  


BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ provides propaganda platform for Erekat yet again

The last thing that can be said about the PLO’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is that he suffers from a lack of BBC airtime but nevertheless, the end of May saw him back at one of his regular spots – ‘Hardtalk‘.Erekat Hardtalk May 2015

Not only did Erekat have nothing new to tell host Zeinab Badawi, he even recycled statements made during previous appearances on the same programme. At 10:32 in the video below, Erekat says:

“See, in my opinion Christian and Muslim Palestinians will not convert to Judaism and become Israelis. Jews will not convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinians.”

If that sounds familiar, that may be because only last year Erekat made a very similar statement during a previous ‘Hardtalk’ interview.

“Are Christian and Muslim Palestinians going to convert to become Israelis? Or are Jews going to convert to Christianity and Islam and become Palestinians? This is not happen.” 

And if it rang a bell even in 2014, that could be because back in 2011 Erekat told Zeinab Badawi in yet another ‘Hardtalk’ interview:

“I don’t think Christian and Muslim Palestinians would convert to Judaism and become Israelis. I don’t think that Jews would convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinian.”

In other words, for four years at least Saeb Erekat has been pushing the same broken record mantra and not one BBC journalist has bothered to follow it up by informing audiences that not all Israelis are Jews – as the country’s two million strong non-Jewish population (25.1%) indicates – or by asking him why Jews cannot be citizens of a Palestinian state.

Let’s take look at some of the other falsehoods propagated by Erekat – with no disturbance from Badawi – in this programme.

“I have as a Palestinian recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the ’67 borders.”

“We recognize them to live in peace and security in the ’67 borders – that’s 78% of historic British mandated Palestine – and accepted to establish our state in the remaining 22% of the land.”

There is of course no such thing as “’67 borders” because the 1949 Armistice Lines were specifically defined as not being borders – as even the BBC’s style guide notes. Nevertheless, Badawi makes no effort to clarify the point to viewers.

“In one week of his government he [Netanyahu] issues more than two thousand housing units of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They’re moving their offices – his ministers – to occupied East Jerusalem and today, literally speaking, there are buses in Israel that Palestinians cannot use. They call it sterilized buses and there will be roads that they call sterilized roads.”

Those “East Jerusalem” apartments are in fact located in Ramat Shlomo and have been going through the planning process since 2010. One Israeli minister has approached the Finance Ministry with a request for new offices in Jerusalem. The same ministry has a long existing office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem: an area which was classified as no-man’s land throughout the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem. There are no “sterilized buses” and the restriction on travel for PA registered vehicles on certain small sections of road arises from the very real security issues which of course do not get a mention in this programme at all.

“I’m telling the Israelis if you worry about courts, stop committing crimes. […] I cannot have every two years 12,000 Palestinians killed and wounded in Gaza. I cannot leave the continuation of the settlement activities, by-pass roads – now they call sterilized road – sterilized buses. I cannot continue living a deeper apartheid system in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than the one that existed in South Africa. So what I’m telling the Israelis wake up, wake up. What you’re doing in the West Bank in accordance with the international law – the four Geneva Conventions and the 4th Convention of 1949 – are war crimes.”

Like the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria, Saeb Erekat lives under full Palestinian Authority control. The topic of Palestinian self-rule in areas A&B is of course not mentioned at any point in this programme either and Badawi sits idly by as Erekat promotes the false and defamatory notion of a system of ‘apartheid’ worse “than the one that existed in South Africa”.

“I know I have an agreed agenda with them, signed by the Israeli government, saying that permanent status negotiations issues are borders, Jerusalem, water, security. Is Mr Netanyahu willing to utter the sentence two states on the 1967 lines? […] Is he willing to carry out his commitment – not condition – to stop settlement activities in the land that’s supposed to be the State of Palestine?”

“What is between me and the Israelis are elements of contracts, agreements signed. There are obligations emanating from those agreements signed – on me as a Palestinian and on Israel. And Israel must stop settlement activities and must accept two states on 1967 lines and must accept to sit with me to delineate the borders on the basis of the 1967 lines. If they’re willing to honour their commitments we’ll meet tomorrow.”

The “agreements” and “contracts” signed between the Palestinians and Israel are the Oslo Accords. In contrast to the misleading impression given to viewers of this programme, nowhere in those agreements is any restriction placed on building in Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria or Jerusalem and nowhere do they state that the 1949 Armistice Lines – or “67 lines” as Erekat calls them – would be the final borders between Israel and a Palestinian state. That, of course, is precisely why the subject of borders is one of the issues to be discussed in final status negotiations.

“We’re willing to engage seriously on the basis of the agreed terms of reference specified in the Quartet’s statements saying that negotiations should be on the basis of two states on 1967.”

The Quartet’s February 2015 statement makes no mention of “1967” and neither does its 2003 roadmap stipulate that Erekat’s much-touted “1967 lines” are a basis for negotiations.

“The fact that Palestine became and has gained the legal status for observer state meant that it’s a state under occupation. The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is identified as now as a Higher [sic] Contracting Party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. […] Palestine has a status of a state under occupation like what countries like Norway, Belgium, Holland, France, Korea, the Philippines were in the Second World War under German and Japanese occupation [Badawi: sure, sure…] so the Israelis cannot say it’s disputed territories…”

Legal experts contacted by BBC Watch in connection with Erekat’s claim that the 2012 granting of the status of UN non-member observer state automatically confers High Contracting Party status advised us that “neither joining the Geneva Conventions nor receiving observer status in the General Assembly are procedures for assigning territorial sovereignty, and neither action could give “Palestine” sovereignty over the territory of “West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.”

“Zeinab, settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are illegal settlements. Actually, in accordance with the 4th Geneva Convention these settlements are war crimes.”

That inaccuracy is reinforced by Badawi at 07:45:

“And of course, as you say, international law says that the settlements are illegal.

Once again the BBC breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions which disagree with the politically partial line it chooses to promote.

Were viewers of this programme provided with factual information which would aid them in building an “understanding of international issues“? Regrettably, no. Were they provided with unchallenged misinformation in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality? Unfortunately, yes. That, however, is par for the course in any BBC content featuring Saeb Erekat.

Related Articles:

 BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one

BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two


How to Complain to the BBC