BBC’s Mike Thomson entrenches an inaccurate narrative

The Foreign Affairs correspondent for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Mike Thomson, recently produced a feature on the subject of the kidnappings and murders of Naftali Frenkel, Gil-ad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach on June 12th 2014 and Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2nd 2014.

That feature appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “The lost sons“.  Additionally, an audio version of Thomson’s report was broadcast by the BBC World Service on January 23rd in the programme ‘The Documentary’ under the title “The Lives And Deaths Of Naftali and Mohammed” and the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme featured segments from the audio version on January 22nd (from 2:40:20 here) and on January 23rd (from 2:50:27 here).Kidnappings on WS

On one level, all versions of this feature present the personal stories of two families – Frenkel and Abu Khdeir – coping with the loss of their sons. The chosen format naturally promotes equivalence between the two murders and Thomson does not adequately clarify the differences between them. Whilst he does inform listeners that a Hamas cell carried out the murders of the three Israeli teenagers, the fact that the operation was financed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip is not adequately explained. Neither the issue of the logistical help that the two murderers obviously received from their community during the three months in which they were on the run nor the widespread support for the kidnappings in Palestinian society (which went completely unreported by the BBC at the time) gets coverage in Thomson’s various reports. Significantly too, no mention is made of the condemnation of the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir at all levels of Israeli society or the fact that he was recognized as a victim of terror by the State of Israel, which entitles his family to monthly financial benefits.

In both the website version and the World Service radio version of the feature, conspiracy theories about the deaths of the three Israeli teenagers are amplified. Whilst one must obviously question the editorial justification for the inclusion of such baseless claims at all, credit is due to Mike Thomson for challenging part of them – although not the one made in the audio version which falsely asserted that the boys were soldiers.

“But Mohammed’s parents insist, despite all the evidence, that Naftali and his two Israeli friends weren’t actually murdered at all – they died in an accident and the Israeli government used the deaths to fuel anger against Palestinians.

His mother says the Israeli government “wanted to bomb Gaza and planned to use this as a justification”.

I ask how widespread is this belief. She replies: “Everyone knows this story, not only us. We didn’t come up with this story.”

But, I point out, senior Hamas figures have admitted that members of the organisation carried out the killings.

Hussein says: “I am not a politician, I am an ordinary man and didn’t hear of this story. The story that we know is that they died in a traffic accident.” “

However, in the World Service audio version Thomson’s conclusion regarding those bizarre conspiracy theories is that they “show the depth of distrust” between Israelis and Palestinians and he makes no attempt to place them within the broader – and highly relevant – context of the baseless rumours and incitement seen in official Palestinian media or heard in sermons in PA mosques on a quotidian basis.

In that same audio version broadcast on the World Service, Thomson adopts the usual BBC practice of failing to meet its own supposed standards of impartiality by refraining from any mention of the existence of legal opinions which do not conform to the spirit of his statement:

“Under international law the West Bank is occupied territory…”

He goes on to say:

“…but many Israelis, like the speaker you are about to hear, still see it as part of Israel and use biblical language to describe it.”

The speaker is an IDF officer who was responsible for the coordination of the search operation for the three teenagers and the “biblical language” Thomson obviously finds worthy of note is the term Judea and Samaria. Of course that term was universally in use  – including by the British mandate administration – until Jordan’s belligerent occupation and later unrecognized annexation of the districts of Judea and Samaria, after which the term ‘West Bank’ was invented in order to cement that occupation in language. In Thomson’s case that rebranding clearly worked.

A particularly significant aspect of this feature is its vigorous promotion of a theme which the BBC has been pushing for months.

Kidnappings Thomson tweet 1

In the introduction to the item in the January 22nd edition of the ‘Today’ programme, listeners were told that:

“The murders further fuelled hatred and bitterness on both sides, sparking riots in the West Bank, rocket attacks by Hamas and the Israeli invasion of Gaza.”

The next day listeners to the same programme were told that:

“After a summer war in Gaza and bloody clashes on the West Bank, Israel has suffered a winter wave of attacks, the latest wounding a dozen bus passengers in Tel Aviv. The catalyst for much of this was the abduction and murder of four teenagers – three Jewish and one Palestinian – in June and July.”

In the written version appearing on the BBC News website, audiences are told that:Kidnappings Thomson tweet 2

“These brutal killings, and those of two other innocent boys, have had far-reaching consequences. Riots in the West Bank, a war in Gaza and a deepened divide between Israelis and Palestinians.”

In the audio version broadcast on the BBC World Service, listeners heard Mike Thomson say:

“There is little doubt that the slaughter of these four innocent and like-minded boys proved a catalyst for the deaths and injuries of thousands more people last summer.”

Since the hostilities ended six months ago, it has become standard BBC practice to promote the narrative of the conflict of summer 2014 as having taken place exclusively “in Gaza”, erasing any mention of the fact that in Israel thousands of southern residents had to leave their homes and millions ran for cover in air-raid shelters from over four thousand missile attacks launched at civilian targets throughout the seven weeks of hostilities.

It is also apparently BBC policy to mislead audiences by downplaying or erasing from audience view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between the date of the kidnappings – June 12th – and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that surge in missile fire which was the reason for Israel’s military action rather than the kidnappings and murders of the three teenagers, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. 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 but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons by no means exclusively connected to Israel such as the PA’s refusal to pay Hamas employees after the formation of the unity government. 

Over the last six months this same distortion of the background to Operation Protective Edge has been seen time and time again in BBC content. Accurate and impartial representation of Hamas’ motives for instigating that conflict has been usurped by a simplistic narrative promoting the notion of a ‘cycle of violence’ which actively prevents BBC audiences from forming a realistic understanding of events. Mike Thomson obviously put a lot of work into this feature and hence it is all the more unfortunate that one of its main themes is based on an inaccurate narrative which it in turn goes on to further entrench. 

 

Yolande Knell exploits BBC’s Democracy Day for political messaging

On January 20th the BBC ran a special cross-platform project titled ‘Democracy Day’ to mark the 750th anniversary of the establishment of the first parliament of elected representatives at Westminster. The contribution to that project appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page came in the form of an article by Yolande Knell which was promoted under the heading “Democracy in doldrums” and carried the sub-heading “What’s to blame for Palestinians’ failure to hold fresh polls?”.Knell DD on HP

The answers supplied to that question in Knell’s article – titled “How Palestinian democracy has failed to flourish” – were as predictable as both the topics she chose to avoid and the messaging unrelated to the article’s subject matter which she elected to promote.

The two descriptions of Hamas in Knell’s article are as follows:

“In 2005, after the Palestinian Islamist militant group, Hamas, participated in elections for the first time, it took over several local councils, including Qalqilya.”

And:

“In 2006 Israel banned Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organisation, from campaigning in East Jerusalem and blocked its inclusion on ballot papers in the sector.” [all emphasis added]

Of course Israel is far from the only country to classify Hamas as a proscribed terrorist organization; so do the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan. In addition, Jordan and Egypt have banned Hamas and Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Had readers been informed of those facts, they would have been in a better position to understand the background to the following part of Knell’s article:

“…Hamas went on to win a decisive victory in the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 – winning 74 of the 132 seats.

Turnout was high at 78% and international monitors said the vote was largely free and fair.

But the result was met with dismay by Israel and Western donors – which prop up the Palestinian Authority (PA).

They refused to deal with Hamas politically unless the group renounced violence and its commitment to the destruction of Israel. Funds to pay for vital services were stopped or diverted.”

Indeed, the international community in the form of the Quartet (composed of the UN, the US, the EU and Russia) refused to deal with a government run by a terrorist organisation which, in addition to refusing to renounce violence and recognize Israel as its predecessor had done, also refused to honour the existing agreements signed between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel (and witnessed and guaranteed by some Quartet members) which had created the former institution.Knell Democracy Day art 

However, the simplistic take-away messaging which Yolande Knell chose to promote to BBC audiences is as follows:

“We’re only allowed democracy if the West likes our choices,” comments one Qalqilya shopper as he reflects on this troubled political history. “They supported us when we went to the ballot boxes but did a u-turn when Islamists won.”

The issue of the refusal of Hamas and other groups to renounce terror as an obstacle to democracy does not come under discussion in Knell’s report and neither does the fact that Hamas cannot be accurately described as a democratic body in itself. Its violent military coup against the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip is described by Knell in the following euphemistic terms:

“While a new unity government was briefly set up a year later, it was soon dismissed amid bitter infighting between Fatah and Hamas.

This led to the political bifurcation of the West Bank – where Fatah reasserted its authority – and the Gaza Strip – where Hamas ran a rival administration.”

Her so-called discussion of Palestinian democracy also fails to make any mention of the Hamas practice of carrying out extra-judicial executions and its institutional persecution of religious minorities, women, gays and political rivals.

Knell bases her article around the town of Qalqilya and that provides the opportunity for some of her inevitable politically motivated messaging, despite the fact that it is irrelevant to the supposed topic of her report.

“The mayor points to a large map on the wall that shows Qalqilya virtually encircled by concrete sections of the separation barrier that Israel has built in and around the West Bank. The barrier is made up mainly of chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, but in some areas consists of 8m- (25ft-) high walls.

Israel says the barrier is needed to protect it from Palestinian attackers but it also restricts the movements of ordinary Palestinians and cuts them off from profitable agricultural land.”

No effort is made to provide audiences with the all-important context of the terrorist infrastructure in that town which made it the source of many terror attacks during the second Intifada, including the Dolphinarium attack. In line with the usual BBC practice, Knell fails to inform readers of the proven effectiveness of the anti-terrorist fence and employs the standard ‘Israel says’ nod to impartiality.

Knell also fails to inform her readers that Qalqilya is in Area A and that, like the vast majority of the Palestinians, its residents have lived under the control of the Palestinian Authority for two decades. Of course had she included that vital context, her article’s money quote would have been considerably less effective because readers would have realized that most of the Palestinians do not live “under Israeli occupation” at all.

“We’re a democratic society. It’s in our blood,” Mr Dawood says. “We have long had different political factions and ideologies. There are public consultations. But in the end we cannot have a real democracy under Israeli occupation.” [emphasis added]

Knell makes no effort to point out to readers that issues such as freedom of the press, freedom of association and rights for women and minorities are entirely under the control of the Palestinian Authority. She also fails to clarify the important point that Palestinian basic law stipulates that “the principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation” – a fact which obviously has considerable influence on the degree of democracy in Palestinian society.

With regard to the issue of the absence of presidential and PLC elections, Knell writes:

“Although a new unity deal was struck between Hamas and Fatah last April, so far their technocratic government has failed to pave the way for promised elections across Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the latter annexed by Israel in a move not recognised internationally.”

Her tepid portrayal fails to adequately clarify that the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement stipulated that elections would be held six months after its implementation – i.e. in January 2015 – and she makes no attempt to discuss the political background to the Palestinian unity government’s failure to call elections or to enhance readers’ understanding of why the Fatah-dominated PA might not be too keen to gamble on the current status quo.

With the BBC generally avoiding any meaningful coverage of internal Palestinian affairs, this article could have gone some way towards rectifying that had Yolande Knell been more interested in her mission to inform BBC audiences on international issues than in promoting her standard political messaging.

As it is, BBC audiences remain little the wiser as to why Palestinian democracy is in “the doldrums” or what is the state of affairs regarding basic tenets of democracy such as human rights, freedom of the press and the rule of law in the areas under PA or Hamas control. Instead, readers once again herded towards a view of passive Palestinians lacking agency to change anything in their society because whatever ills there are – it’s always Israel’s fault. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC News website reporting of Tel Aviv terror attack

As news broke of the terror attack on the number 40 Dan bus in Tel Aviv early on the morning of January 21st, the BBC News website grabbed its scare quotes and got to work.

All versions of the report titled “Israel bus attack: Tel Aviv passengers stabbed” opened in typical ‘last-first’ reporting style by informing audiences that a man had been shot by the police before informing them why and the same policy was seen on BBC social media. Inverted commas placed around the words terror attack in earlier versions of the report were removed from later editions.

Bus attack 21 1 a

Bus attack 21 1 b

Bus attack 21 1 c

The use of unnecessary punctuation continued, however, on the BBC News website’s Middle East homepage in a link to a filmed report on the same topic.

Bus attack 21 1 on HP 2

The first two versions of the report informed readers that “In November, an Israeli soldier was killed in a knife attack in Tel Aviv, while an Israeli woman was stabbed to death in the West Bank in a separate attack” without clarifying that those two incidents were both terror attacks.

Subsequent versions of the article noted that the terrorist came from Tulkarem, stating that “Tulkarem is a town in the occupied West Bank” whilst in fact it is located in Area A and, in accordance with the Oslo Accords, has been under PA control for two decades.

Later editions of the report also included contributions from the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly.

“Israeli police say there has been a pattern established in recent months where individual Palestinians, without sophisticated weapons, have attacked civilians at random, the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem reports.

Late last year, a number of Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinians using weapons including knives and even vehicles to run down pedestrians.

Four Israelis were killed in November after two Palestinians armed with a pistol and meat cleavers attacked a synagogue in West Jerusalem.”

In addition to the fact that it would have been more accurate and informative to cite the exact number of people murdered in October and November 2014 instead of “a number of Israelis”, the article originally inaccurately stated that four people were killed in the Har Nof Synagogue attack rather than five as was actually the case. That error was subsequently corrected. Notably, no mention is made of the affiliations of many of those “individual Palestinians” with assorted terrorist organisations.

The report then goes on to state:

“Our correspondent says the latest round of tensions began to increase last year, after the summer conflict in Gaza and disputes over access to religious sites in the old city of Jerusalem.

More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza during the Israel-Gaza conflict, the majority of them civilians according to the UN.

Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers, and six civilians in Israel, were also killed.”

As we see, readers are not informed that “the summer conflict” took place in Israel as well as the Gaza Strip or that it began because terrorist organisations based there fired hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians and constructed cross-border attack tunnels. In addition, the article continues the now well-established practice of quoting out of date civilian/combatant casualty ratios which the BBC has not independently verified. The BBC News website found it appropriate to illustrate this report about a terror attack in Tel Aviv with the image below.

Bus attack 21 1 pic Gaza

The BBC’s consistent practice of downplaying or ignoring Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism makes the phrasing of the following segment of this report particularly notable:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for the attack.

The attack was “the direct result of the poisonous incitement being disseminated by the Palestinian Authority against the Jews and their state”, he said.

The Israeli government frequently accuses Palestinian groups of inciting violence.

The government has been angered by Mr Abbas’ efforts to secure Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and agreement to a unity government with militant group Hamas.

The Palestinians blame Israeli government policies, particularly the expansion of settlements, for the increase in violence, correspondents say.”

Audiences are not told who those anonymous “correspondents” are, but it is probably not too much of a gamble to assume that they include the same BBC employees who repeatedly promoted the notion that ‘settlements’ were the main reason for the terror attacks during October and November 2014. In fact, whilst this particular terrorist did not mention ‘settlements’ as a motivating factor for his actions, he did cite other factors, including “extremist Islamist television programs”.

Apparently refusing to connect the dots between “a unity government with militant group Hamas” and glorification of terrorism from “a senior Hamas official”, the writer of this report went on to inform audiences that:

“Izzat Risheq, a senior Hamas official, praised the stabbing attack.

Speaking from Qatar, he described it as “a natural response to the crimes of the occupation and terrorism against the Palestinian people”.”

Risheq was not the only Hamas official to condone the attack:

“The event was deemed a “natural response to Israeli terrorism,” by Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, who issued an official statement as events unfolded in Tel Aviv. 

The incident, the statement said, was a response to ongoing “Israeli crimes” against the Palestinian people. “

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum posted this status on Facebook, the Fatah Facebook account lauded the stabbings and some Palestinian media outlets also praised and celebrated the attack with a series of cartoons.

Throughout this report the language used by the BBC to describe the terrorist includes “suspect” (three times), “perpetrator” and “attacker”. The word terrorist is only used in quotes from Israeli sources. The continuing refusal to use accurate language to portray terror attacks in Israel must be assessed together with the BBC’s consistent avoidance of any serious reporting on Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism, its concurrent repeated promotion of subjectively selected factors (such as “expansion of settlements”) as ‘context’ for terror attacks against Israelis, and its transparent attempts to separate the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority from “militant” Hamas despite the existence of a unity government. Together, all those factors continue to obstruct audience understanding of this issue. 

 

Where’s the BBC follow up?

On December 17th 2014 the BBC News website produced no fewer than six versions of an article titled “EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list”.BBC News logo 2

On January 19th 2015 the Council of the European Union announced that it had decided to appeal that court decision.

“The Council of the European Union has decided to appeal today the Judgment of the General Court (in Case T-400/10 – Hamas v. Council) of 17 December 2014. 

The Judgment of the General Court of the European Union annulled measures taken by the Council of the European Union against Hamas, namely the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation and the freezing of Hamas’ funds. This ruling was clearly based on procedural grounds and did not imply any assessment by the Court of the merits of designating the Hamas as a terrorist organization. 

The Council has now decided to challenge some of the findings of the Court regarding the procedural grounds to list terrorist organizations under EU autonomous measures to combat terrorism, as set out in Common Position 2001/931. As a result of the appeal, the effects of the Judgment are suspended until a final judgment is rendered by the Court of Justice.”

There has been no follow-up reporting on that decision by the Council on the BBC News website’s Middle East page to date.

Whilst BBC News website’s reporting of the PA’s bid to join the ICC has been extensive – including a Q&A feature on the topic – two recent developments have also not received any BBC coverage.ICC Q&A

On January 18th the Jerusalem Post revealed that:

“The Palestinians want the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch an investigation into the death of Yasser Arafat, a senior Fatah official announced on Sunday.

Jamal Muheissen, member of the Fatah Central Committee, claimed that Israel was responsible for the death of Arafat, who died in November 2004.

“This file will be presented to the International Criminal Court,” Muheissen told the Palestinian Shms News Agency. “We want to bring the Israeli occupation to trial for every crime it committed against our people.” “

On the same day the Times of Israel reported that the PA is prepared to drop its ‘war crimes’ suit against Israel if construction in ‘settlements’ is frozen.

“A senior Palestinian official said Sunday that the first subject to be brought before the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Palestinian Authority’s legal campaign against Israel would be settlement construction

The official told The Times of Israel that land seizures in occupied territory constituted a clear violation of international law. Still, he noted that the appeal to the ICC would be withdrawn if Israel were to freeze settlement construction, and added that the Palestinian Authority had conveyed to Israel an official message to that effect, through Jordan and Egypt.”

In its above-mentioned Q&A from January 14th, the BBC noted that:

 “Some legal commentators suggest that it [the court] would open itself up to charges of politicization and set itself up for another damaging failure.”

The two reports above clearly demonstrate that PA’s bid to join the ICC is first and foremost a political tactic aimed at pressurizing Israel and avoiding the negotiations to which it is already committed. BBC audiences, however, remain in the dark with regard to the PA’s cynical and frivolous exploitation of the ICC.

BBC News coverage of worldwide anti-Charlie Hebdo protests omits Jerusalem

The BBC News website’s coverage of demonstrations against the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo which took place in various locations around the world on Friday, January 16th has included a filmed report about clashes in Karachi (“Clashes at Pakistan Charlie Hebdo protest“) and a written report on the same topic, a filmed report about protests in Amman (“Protests in Jordan against Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon“) and a written report about clashes in Zinder (“Charlie Hebdo: ‘Four dead’ in Niger protest“).BBC News logo 2

In that latter report BBC audiences were informed that:

“Protests against the magazine were also seen on Friday in Pakistan, where protests turned violent in Karachi, the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and the Algerian capital, Algiers.”

That same information was repeated in an additional report on more rioting in Niger published the next day (January 17th) along with the following information:

“People in Somalia took to the streets on Saturday.”

Apparently though, there were no BBC journalists available to cover the demonstration held on January 16th at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem - a twenty-minute drive from the corporation’s offices in the city.

“Hundreds of Palestinians attended a rally on Friday afternoon on the Temple Mount against the new cover of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which featured a drawing of the Prophet Mohammad.

In a video uploaded by the Hamas-affiliated Shehab News Agency, protestors can be seen burning a French flag , and shouting: “Burn it burn it! ….. in the cause of God. Allah the greatest. Prophet Muhammad is our leader forever”.”

Considering that the BBC has devoted considerable column space and air-time to the subject of Temple Mount in recent weeks, it is notable that this use of the site as a venue for protest by extremists was not reported. 

On the BBC News ICC Q&A

On January 14th an article was published in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Will ICC membership help or hinder the Palestinians’ cause?“.  The writer of the piece is not identified but from its layout we can determine that it is intended to provide a guide to the topic in Q&A format.ICC Q&A

The article includes several points worthy of note.

1. Under the sub-heading “Why do the Palestinians want to join the ICC?” readers are informed that:

“Palestinian leaders say they are pursuing a new strategy to put pressure on Israel after decades of armed struggle and on-and-off peace talks failed to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They describe it as “internationalising” the issue.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, and other international agreements after the UN Security Council rejected a Palestinian-drafted resolution demanding “a full and phased withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces” within three years. President Abbas hopes bold actions will improve his standing with a deeply frustrated Palestinian public.”

As has been the case in all BBC reporting on the issue of the ICC membership bid (and the UN Security Council bid which went before it), no effort is made to inform audiences that such moves breach existing agreements signed by the Palestinians and witnessed and guaranteed by members of the international community.

2. Under the sub-heading “When will they become ICC members and what does it mean?” the article states:

“The Palestinians have asked it to exercise jurisdiction over any crimes committed in the occupied territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza from 13 June 2014. This covers events prior to and during last summer’s conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza.”

That, of course, is correct but notably the BBC refrains from pointing out to audiences that – as is also the case with the UN HRC’s Schabas commission – the ‘start date’ selected by the PA deliberately excludes the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers by a Hebron-based Hamas cell on June 12th 2014.

3. In the section titled “What legal action do the Palestinians want to take against Israel?” readers are informed that:

“The Palestinians believe some Israeli military actions in Gaza last July and August amounted to war crimes. During the 50-day conflict, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed – most of them civilians, according to the UN – and tens of thousands of homes in Gaza were destroyed or badly damaged. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed.”

As we see, despite the existence of research carried out since the end of the hostilities which indicates that the statement “most of them civilians” may well be inaccurate, the BBC continues to promote out of date figures which it has not gone to the trouble of independently verifying during the last four and a half months.

4. In the same section audiences are told that:

“Action is also planned by the Palestinians against the expansion of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – land it has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. Article 8 of the Rome Statute says the unlawful deportation, transfer or confinement of protected persons – those living in territory which is under military occupation – constitute a war crime.”

Whilst it is correct to say that Palestinian actions concerning settlements would be based on Article 8 of the Rome Statute, the applicable clause would not be the one paraphrased in this paragraph – 8.2.(a).vii – but clause 8.2.(b). viii:

“The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.”

5. Also in this section, readers are provided with further reading by means of a link to a BBC report from December 9th which amplified claims made in a report by Amnesty International without informing BBC audiences of the NGO’s political agenda or its involvement in the lawfare campaign against Israel.

6. Under the sub-heading “Is there are risk for Palestinians?” [sic] readers are told:

“Yes. While the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, officially supports joining the ICC, its leaders could face charges of ordering indiscriminate attacks against civilians when the ICC prosecutor considers the recent Gaza conflict. Militants from Hamas and other groups fired thousands of rockets and mortars at Israeli towns and cities. Israel, for its part, carried out hundreds of air strikes in Gaza and launched a ground offensive.”

Readers are not informed, however, that one of those “other groups” which indeed fired thousands of missiles at Israeli civilian targets was Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and hence Mahmoud Abbas could be personally open to complaints, both in his capacity as head of the Fatah movement as well as head of the Palestinian Authority with its unity government to which (at least at the time of writing) Hamas is party.

 

 

The part of the Temple Mount story the BBC refuses to tell

In recent weeks the BBC has devoted a significant amount of column space and air-time to explaining to its audiences the supposed factors lying behind the surge in violence and terrorism which was seen in Israel during October and November 2014.

As we have previously recorded here, the factor most promoted to BBC audiences as having prompted the murders of Israeli civilians and violent rioting was ‘settlements’. The second most promoted factor was the campaign for equal prayer rights for non-Muslims on Temple Mount and the amount of BBC content relating to that topic has been considerable.SONY DSC

One aspect of the story has, however, been completely ignored in all the extensive BBC coverage and that is the existence of organised groups purposely set up to cause unrest on Temple Mount. On January 12th the Israeli security services closed down three such groups.

“These groups were formed in October 2014 by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel “with the purpose of funding activities meant to disrupt the security of visitors to the Temple Mount and in order to inflame tensions and cause disturbances, while harming the sovereignty of the State of Israel at the site,” the [Israel Security] agency said. […]

The main issue appears to be paying Muslim activists, youths and students who arrive at the Temple Mount each day, often on buses organized by the Islamic Movement and the charities, and maintain a presence on the Mount during visiting hours.

These people tend to use verbal and physical violence to harass visitors “while harming freedom of religion through threatening the personal safety of visitors to the site,” the Shin Bet said. […]

In May of last year, the Shin Bet announced the arrest of a senior Hamas operative who they said told interrogators that Hamas uses the Islamic Movement in Israel as a front to advance its activities and goals in Jerusalem.

Hamas pays youths a permanent salary of NIS 4,000- NIS 5,000 a month to stay on the Temple Mount and prevent Jews from visiting the site, he told them.”

This is not the first time the security services have closed down organisations active on Temple Mount linked to the Northern Islamic Movement.

There is also nothing novel about the BBC ignoring the existence of organised provocateurs in its coverage of stories relating to Temple Mount: it did so in a February 2014 article about disturbances at the site and more recently, on December 5th 2014, Tim Franks interviewed a woman apparently belonging to such a group but failed to provide BBC audiences with the relevant context to her activities.

The BBC cannot claim to fulfil its public purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues” by means of accurate and impartial reporting if it continues to frame its coverage of the topic of Temple Mount in such a way that the existence of foreign funded groups of extremist agitators at the site is erased from audience view. 

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BBC revision of editorial guidance should not stop at cartoons

On January 8th we published a post which included a screenshot of a section from the BBC’s Guidance on Stills, Photographs and Images. The screenshot was taken on the morning of that day from the BBC website.

Ed guidelines photos Mohammed

On the evening of January 8th in the programme ‘Question Time’, presenter David Dimbleby read out that same passage – at 11:25 in the video below – saying “I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t read this out from BBC Editorial Guidelines…”.

The next day, the BBC Press Office put out a statement on the topic.

BBC press office QT statement

Obviously, that “old, out of date” guideline had still been available to both members of the general public and BBC employees on the corporation’s website just 24 hours previously. It has however since been removed and the link appearing in our article now produces this result:

Guidance removed

Concurrently, the Huffington Post and the Spectator reported that:

“A BBC spokesman added that the guidance “has not been the policy of the BBC for many years and our policy has not changed as a result of the discussion on Question Time”.”

One might of course ask why a guidance which “has not been the policy of the BBC for many years” remained on a BBC website. And one might equally wonder what the current BBC policy actually is, with the BBC’s press office claiming that “programme makers have freedom to exercise their editorial judgement” whilst at the same time the corporation’s Editorial Guidelines on Religion state in a section titled ‘Mandatory Referrals’ that:

“Any content dealing with matters of religion and likely to cause offence to those with religious views and beliefs must be editorially justified as judged against generally accepted standards and must be referred to a senior editorial figure or, for independents, to the commissioning editor.”

Ed guidelines religion

If BBC guidance on this issue really is “being revised” as the press office claims, then hopefully that revision will produce a clear, coherent, organizational stance rather than placing the burden of the decision to self-censor or not on the shoulders of individual programme makers.

Ideally too, that revision of editorial policies should cover more than just the issue of cartoons. Writing in The Observer, Nick Cohen notes that:

“Admittedly, an honest admission that terror works would shred the pretence that journalists are fearless speakers of truth to power. But it would be a small gesture of solidarity. It would say to everyone, from Pakistani secularists murdered for opposing theocratic savagery, to British parents worried sick that their boys will join Islamic State, that radical Islam is a real fascistic force.

Instead, most journalists have lived a lie for years, as have many in the arts, academia and comedy. We take on the powerful – and ask you to admire our bravery – if, and only if, the powerful are not a paramilitary force that may kill us.”

In recent months members of the public have been told that the BBC’s journalists reporting from the Gaza Strip last summer found it “very hard…to get to see rockets being fired out” and that the corporation “strives to describe the nuanced nature” of an Islamist terrorist organization which has committed thousands of attacks on civilians.

It is time for the BBC’s self-censorship on that issue to be openly and honestly revised too – or at least publicly acknowledged so that audiences can reach their own conclusions regarding the value of BBC reporting which complies with Hamas dictates. 

 

 

BBC yet again erases terrorist missile fire which led to summer conflict

On January 6th an article titled “Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. That report (changes to which can be seen here) on the sentencing of Hussam Kawasme (also spelt Qawasmeh) for his part in the kidnappings and murders of Gilad Sha’ar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah in June 2014 included several problematic features.Kawasme art

Despite the core story being about the sentencing of a member of an internationally recognised terrorist organization, nowhere in the BBC’s report is Hamas described as such. Instead, the BBC portrays Hamas as “the Islamist group dominant in Gaza”.

The report states:

“Hussam Qawasmeh, a member of Hamas, must also pay $63,000 (£41,000) in compensation to the victims’ families.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, however, the amount of compensation cited by the BBC is one-third of the actual sum.

“He was also ordered to pay NIS 250,000 to each of the victims’ families.”

Regarding Hussam Kawasme’s accomplices the BBC’s report states:

“Two other suspects were shot dead by Israeli forces in Hebron in September.”

And:

“The Israeli authorities launched a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank following the abduction and quickly identified two of the group’s operatives, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, as suspects. They managed to evade capture for several months before being killed.”

The caption to one of the photographs used to illustrate the article states:

“Suspects Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha were killed in an Israeli raid in Hebron in September”

At no point does the report bother to inform readers that the two were killed during a shoot-out as they opened fire on security forces trying to arrest them.

The BBC report plays down Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders:

“The leader of Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza, said in an interview in August that a Hamas cell had killed the teenagers but had not acted on instructions from above.”

The article fails to adequately clarify that funding for the terror attack came from Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip or that high-ranking Hamas operative Saleh al Arouri admitted the organisation’s involvement in August 2014.

Yet again, this report promotes the BBC’s now standard but inaccurate account of the causes of Operation Protective Edge.

“The teenagers’ murders in June set off an escalating cycle of violence and led to a 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.”

As we have unfortunately had occasion to note here several times before, the portrayal of events presented by the BBC completely erases the fact that the “conflict” did not only take place “in Gaza” but also in Israel, with thousands of residents of the southern part of the country forced to leave their homes during that time.

Equally misleading is the fact that the BBC has completely airbrushed from audience view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between the date of the kidnappings – June 12th – and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that surge in missile fire which was the reason for Israel’s military action, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. 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, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.

The distortion of the factors which led to the summer 2014 conflict has over recent months become standard BBC practice. The version of events repeatedly promoted by the BBC is obviously not accurate due to its deliberate omission of the firing of hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians and nor is it impartial as it clearly seeks to erase Hamas responsibility for igniting that conflict from audience awareness. It is high time the BBC got a grip on its serial misrepresentation of this topic.

Related Articles:

BBC misleads audiences regarding cause of Operation Protective Edge

BBC WS ‘Weekend’ presenter Paul Henley erases hundreds of terror attacks in 34 words

More Gaza casualties identified: BBC still mum

Last week the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre published a report (at present only in Hebrew) identifying fifty additional Palestinian casualties from Operation Protective Edge, all of whom belonged to terrorist organisations (mainly Hamas) and none of which appeared on the lists of names supplied by the Hamas health ministry and other Palestinian sources.BBC

The Jerusalem Post reports:

“A report released on Thursday said the newly identified combatant casualties belonged one of the following categories: some were terrorists left behind in Israel after being killed in fire fights with IDF units during the summer war; others were terrorists buried in tunnels or the ruins of buildings bombed by the IDF; and others were terrorists who died of their wounds in hospital and were not identified during hostilities.

“We believe that the 50 names identified by us represent a partial list and that there were many other terrorists whose names are not included in the various casualty lists,” the center added. […]

The attempt to censor the names “stem from Hamas’s policy of deliberate concealment, in order to serve the diplomatic, media, and legal campaigns against Israel,” Dr. Reuven Erlich, head of the Terrorism and Intelligence Center, told The Jerusalem Post.

He urged international bodies that cite Palestinian casualty lists to be wary, calling such lists “not serious”.”

The Centre has to date identified 1,165 of the names appearing on casualty lists supplied by various Palestinian sources, with 52% of those casualties identified as terror operatives and 48% as uninvolved civilians. Readers can view the previous reports (in English) below.

Part one , Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five, Part six, Part seven.

This latest report also notes that:

“Hamas, for its part, has not yet published a final and authorised list of the casualties from Operation Protective Edge…”

As we have unfortunately had cause to note here on several previous occasions, the BBC has also not carried out any follow-up work on this issue and continues to quote and promote increasingly problematic casualty figures and civilian combatant ratios which it has not independently verified. 

Update:

The report is now available in English here.