BBC News describes Henkin family attackers as “alleged militants”

On October 5th the Israeli security services announced the arrest of the terrorist cell responsible for the murders of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin four days previously.

“The Shin Bet named the cell leader as Ragheb Ahmad Muhammad Aliwi, a previously jailed Hamas fighter from Nablus, who recruited the other four terrorists, instructed them how to carry out attacks and provided them with their weapons.

The other four were named as Yahia Muhammad Naif Abdullah Hajj Hamad, who carried out the shooting itself; Samir Zahir Ibrahim Kusah, the driver of the car who is linked to previous terror attacks; Karem Lufti Fatahi Razek, the gunman who was wounded by gunfire from one of his fellow cell members during the attack; and Zir Ziad Jamal Amar, who cleared the way for the car to carry out the attack.

All four are Hamas activists from Nablus.

Razek was arrested in a hospital in Nablus by an undercover police unit. The other suspects were arrested at their homes and other locations.

The Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades, a group affiliated with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, had claimed on Friday that it carried out the terror attack. In fact, said the Shin Bet, Hamas was to blame. It was not clear whether the killing was organized higher up the Hamas hierarchy.”

The next day, the security services also recovered the weapon used in the attack.

Despite having covered the terror attack on the Henkin family (without actually naming it as such, of course), the BBC News website did not produce any stand-alone follow-up reporting on the subject of the arrests and the only brief mention of them came in an article titled “Palestinian youths killed in West Bank clashes” which appeared on the website’s Middle East page on October 5th.

Although the terrorists had admitted their involvement in the shooting attack (as well as two previous ones which fortunately did not result in fatalities) by the time the public announcement concerning their arrest was made, and although Hamas welcomed the announcement and again praised the attack, the language used by the BBC in its brief mention of the arrests curiously suggests to readers that the men might not after all be “Hamas militants”.

terror cell Henkin murders

Commenting on the arrests, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said:

“”Hamas is trying all of the time to carry out terror attacks in various forms. The main orchestration, funding, and training comes, generally, from [Hamas’s] Gaza headquarters, which oversees West Bank attacks, and through Salah Arouri, who runs the organization’s terror activities from his base in Istanbul. It would be appropriate for the free world not to sweep this reality under the rug,” the defense minister added.”

As regular readers know, the BBC has abstained for more than a year from reporting on Hamas’ efforts – including those orchestrated by Saleh al Arouri from Turkey – to increase its terror activity in Judea & Samaria.

If BBC audiences are to fully understand the background to the current wave of terror in Israel; that is a part of the story the BBC must begin to tell.




BBC News flunks headline of report on Jerusalem terror attack

On the evening of October 3rd a terror attack took place near the Lion’s Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

“Two Israeli men […] died of their wounds Saturday night after being stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City in a terror attack.

The wife of one of the men is in serious condition and their two-year-old baby was lightly wounded. The mother was taken to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and is undergoing surgery. The toddler was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment where he remains in stable condition. […]

When the attack began, the injured woman managed to run and alert a group of Border Police forces nearby who arrived on the scene and shot and killed the attacker.”

So how did the website of the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” report that terror attack? Here is the Tweet promoting the article sent from the BBC News account.

Pigua Lions Gate tweet BBC

The headline to that article – “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two” – is not only a prime example of the ‘last-first reporting’ regularly employed by the BBC but of course fails to clarify to audiences that the dead Palestinian was the terrorist who killed two people (later named as father of seven Rabbi Nechemia Lavi and father of two Rabbi Aharon Benita) and wounded a mother and her two year-old son.

Pigua Lions Gate art vers 1

Predictably, that headline prompted considerable protest on social media and shortly after its publication the title was changed to one displaying yet another regular feature of BBC reporting; the use of superfluous punctuation.

Pigua Lions Gate art vers 2

Following further complaints, the headline was amended again.

Pigua Lions Gate art vers 3

And later on – yet again.

Pigua Lions Gate art vers 4

In other words, professional journalists supposedly fluent in the English language had to make three changes to the article’s headline in not much more than an hour.

And what of the report itself? In line with standard BBC practice, the word terror does not appear in any of the versions of an article describing a terror attack on Israeli civilians. Readers are told that:

“It comes two days after an Israeli couple, who were in a car with their four children, were shot dead in the West Bank.”

Of course BBC audiences had not been informed that was a terror attack either.

Readers of the third version of the report were told that:

“Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, issued a statement praising the attack which it described as “heroic”.”

They were not, however, informed that social media accounts belonging to Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party similarly praised the attack and described its perpetrator as a ‘hero’. The information concerning Hamas was later removed.

As was the case in reports concerning the previous fatal terror attack just two days before, BBC audiences were provided with ‘context’ which made no mention of the incitement from Palestinian sources which underpins the recent wave of violence and terrorism.

“There has been a recent flare-up in tensions between Israel and Palestinians, with violent confrontations between security forces and Palestinian youths in a compound holy to both Jews and Muslims in East Jerusalem.

Earlier this week, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly that Israel risked creating “an explosive situation” in Jerusalem and the West Bank with its use of “brutal force”.”

Once again BBC News reporting on terror attacks against Israelis is shown to be unfit for purpose.


Missile attack on Ashdod gets fifteen words of BBC coverage

Late on the evening of September 29th around a quarter of a million people in Israel’s fifth largest city, Ashdod, and surrounding areas had to scramble for cover in their safe rooms and air raid shelters as sirens warned them of an incoming missile from the Gaza Strip.

Fortunately, the Iron Dome defence system was able to intercept the Grad missile and no injuries were reported. The attack was claimed by the Gaza Strip based Salafist Jihadist group ‘Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade’ which has also taken responsibility for some of the previous missile attacks on Israeli civilians in recent months. Several hours later, Israel responded to that attack with four strikes on Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

BBC correspondents in the region were aware of the incident.

missile 29 9 tweet Shuval

missile 29 9 tweet Rushdi

However, visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of September 30th did not find any stand-alone reporting concerning that missile attack on sleeping Israeli civilians in a major city well over 20 miles away from the Gaza Strip.

ME HP 30 9 15a

The only mention of the attack comes right at the end of an article on another topic altogether  – “Palestinian flag to be raised at United Nations” – where, in typical ‘last-first reporting’ style, readers are told that:

“Early on Wednesday, Israel carried out a series of air strikes on Gaza, hours after the Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted a rocket from the enclave.”BBC Arabic 30 9 hp

Visitors to the BBC Arabic website on the morning of September 30th found a headline informing them exclusively of the Israeli response.

Whilst he article itself – “Israel launches raids on several military sites for “Hamas” in Gaza Strip” –  does use the ‘last-first reporting’ technique to inform readers that the Israeli strikes came “in response to a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip”, much of its word count is devoted to description of the locations targeted in Israel’s response.

Civilians in southern Israel have been subjected to three separate incidents of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip throughout the month of September 2015. The BBC’s record on reporting those attacks and the additional ones which have taken place since the end of the summer 2014 hostilities is summarised below.

September 16th 2014 – mortar fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News but briefly mentioned in a later article on another topic.

October 31st 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News.

December 19th 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not covered by BBC News at the time but Israeli response reported in English.

April 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Sha’ar HaNegev region – not reported by BBC News.

May 26th 2015 – missile fire at Gan Yavne area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

June 3rd 2015 – missile fire at Sdot Negev region – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic

June 6th 2015 – missile fire at Hof Ashkelon area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic. Later briefly mentioned in a June 10th report by Yolande Knell.

June 11th 2015 – missile fire (fell short in Gaza Strip) – later mentioned in a June 12th article by Yolande Knell.

June 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Yad Mordechai area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

July 16th 2015 – missile fire at the Ashkelon area – not reported by the BBC in English.

August 7th 2015 – missile fire at the Kissufim area – not covered by the BBC’s English language services, but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

August 27th 2015 – missile fire at the Eshkol area – not reported by BBC News in English, but Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.

September 18th 2015 – missile fire on Sderot and Ashkelon – 19 words of reporting in a BBC News article on a different topic. Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

September 21st 2015 – missile fire at the Hof Ashkelon area – not reported by BBC News.

September 29th 2015 – missile fire at Ashdod – 15 words of coverage in an article on another topic. Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.

Clearly BBC audiences are not being provided with the full range of information necessary for them to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and remarkably, not one BBC correspondent has found the time or inclination to venture down to southern Israel during the past year to report on the views and experiences of the civilians living under the constant threat of missile attacks by terrorists located in the Gaza Strip. 

Update: Later amendment to the BBC News website article which originally included fifteen words of coverage of the Grad missile attack on Ashdod September 29th removed that information.  





BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part two

Although order was restored following the rioting on Temple Mount on the eve of Succot (September 27th), the attempts by Palestinian agitators to inflame tensions at the site did not end there.  

“Palestinian protesters are planning for more violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Monday, stockpiling rocks inside the al-Aqsa Mosque at the site after a morning of clashes, new images indicated Sunday.

The photographs, which Channel 2 television said Sunday night were released by Palestinians and obtained by Jerusalem district police, show lines and heaps of masonry inside the mosque, hours after rioters clashed with police as Muslims marked the end of Eid al-Fitr [sic – actually Eid al Adha – Ed.] and Jews prepared to celebrate the festival of Sukkot.

According to Channel 2, the stones were prepared in advance of Monday’s return of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, after they were banned from entering Sunday in an effort to maintain the recent calm after days of riots. Some religious Jews traditionally ascend to the site, considered the holiest in Judaism, during the week-long Sukkot holiday that began Sunday evening.

The discovery of the images led Jerusalem police chief Moshe Edri on Sunday evening to impose an indefinite ban on male Muslim worshipers under the age of 50 from entering the site, the TV report said.”

And indeed, early the next morning – September 28th – the rioting recommenced.

“Police said forces entered the Temple Mount at approximately 6:45 Monday morning after repeated efforts at dialogue to end the standoff and clear the site of dangerous materials failed.

According to police, the forces were met with an onslaught of rocks and firebombs thrown by protesters who had barricaded themselves in the al-Aqsa Mosque. Police also said bottles filled with unknown material were hurled at them, as well as firecrackers.”

In an article titled “Jerusalem holy site witnesses fresh clashes” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 28th, readers were told that:AAM 28 9

“There have been fresh clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians at a disputed holy site in Jerusalem.

Police fired tear gas at youths who were throwing stones and petrol bombs.”

Only in the article’s sixth paragraph did readers gain an inkling of insight into the premeditated nature of the violence.

“After clashing with Israeli police at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound on Sunday morning, Palestinian protesters barricaded themselves inside the al-Aqsa mosque overnight, stockpiling stones and other projectiles.”

Baseless rumour rooted in deliberate incitement was again amplified but, in contrast to the previous day’s report, this time at least the Israeli side of the story was included.

“Many Palestinians suspect Israel wants to make changes to the status quo that has governed rights of access since 1967 – something Israel has denied.”

“Palestinians have been alarmed by rumours that Israel is planning to change the delicate status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, which allows Jews to visit the site but not pray there.

However, Israel’s prime minister has insisted he is committed to maintaining it.

“We are not the ones to change the status quo. Those who take pipe bombs to mosques are the ones changing the status quo,” Benjamin Netanyahu said last Thursday.”

Readers were told that the “protesters” (as they were inaccurately termed):

“…vowed to “defend” the mosque – the third holiest in Islam – during the eight-day Jewish festival of Sukkot, which began on Monday and was expected to bring an increase in Jewish visitors….”  

As was later reported after calm was restored, the ‘increased’ number of Jewish visitors to Temple Mount on September 28th came to the grand total of twenty-four.

No effort was made in this report to inform readers that non-Muslim visitors to the site do not enter the Al Aqsa Mosque or that there is of course no need to “defend” it. Neither were readers informed that these repeated attempts to prevent visits to the site by non-Muslims are in breach of the existing agreements concerning the site and contrary to accepted norms of religious freedom. Readers were however told that:

“Israel has banned Muslim men under the age of 50 from worshipping at the compound on occasion – including during Sukkot this year – but argues that it is about maintaining order.”

Although these repeated incidents of violent rioting on Temple Mount inevitably receive BBC News coverage, audiences have not been provided with the back-story which would enable them to understand the issue properly. Like its predecessors, this article too neglects to tell audiences about the frequent and extensive incitement coming from official Palestinian sources as well as others and no information concerning the Northern Islamic Movement and Hamas funding of the agitators on Temple Mount is included in the report. Moreover, the BBC has on occasion uncritically amplified the myths, rumours and libels which underwrite the violence on Temple Mount, thus contributing to the entrenchment of this particular lethal narrative.

In the absence of that essential background, BBC audiences continue to be herded towards the mistaken view that this recurring story is about “clashes” which occasionally and mysteriously ‘break out’ between Palestinian “protesters” and the Israeli police rather than an ongoing attempt to gain exclusivity on Temple Mount and prevent access for members of two of the three religions for whom the site is significant. 

It is high time the BBC got round to telling its audiences the real story. 

BBC coverage of Succot Temple Mount riots – part one

As was the case on the previous Jewish holidays of Tisha B’Av and Rosh HaShana, on the eve of Succot (September 27th) Palestinian agitators once again initiated violent riots on Temple Mount and the Israeli security forces were obliged to intervene in order to keep the peace.

““Masked youths threw stones and shot firecrackers at police and Border Police securing the site,” police said in a statement.

Police were on alert Sunday morning amid reports that extremists had barricaded themselves in the compound overnight, in anticipation of possible clashes.”

The rioting took place despite the fact that the site had been closed to Jewish visitors.

“On Sunday, the Mount was open solely to Muslim worshipers, with Jewish visitors kept away in an attempt to maintain the calm. Some religious Jews traditionally ascend to the site, considered the holiest in Judaism, during the week-long Sukkot festival that began Sunday evening. […]

But dozens of masked Palestinians hurled rocks and firecrackers at Israeli police at the site on Sunday morning, as Muslims closed out the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday and Jews prepared for Sukkot. There were no reports of injuries, and officers used riot dispersal means to break up the riot.”

However, visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 27th learned from an article titled “Violent clashes at East Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque” that the violence just ‘broke out’ all by itself.AAM 27 9

“Clashes have broken out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.”

Once again audiences were presented with an inadequate portrayal of the significance of the site in the Jewish religion.

“Al-Aqsa is one of Islam’s holiest sites and is in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif site also revered by Jews.”

The article presented readers with a number of statements apparently intended to tick the box of providing context to the story – but which failed to inform audiences of its real background.

“The site is a source of religious and political tension between Israelis and Palestinians and a frequent flashpoint for violence. […]

Tensions have been running high in Jerusalem since Israel Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon earlier this month banned two Muslim groups which confront Jewish visitors to the compound.”

Yet again the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the organised nature of the violent incidents on Temple Mount, of the incitement which underwrites that violence or of the funding of agitators at the site by Islamist elements. In fact, even though the BBC has recycled that above latter paragraph several times over the past few weeks, no effort has been made to inform audiences who those “two Muslim groups” are, where their financial support comes from or why they were banned.

Readers of this article were also invited to step into the rioters’ shoes.

“Dozens of Palestinians entered the compound overnight, fearing that large numbers of Jews would visit because of the [Succot] festival, according to the AP news agency.”

Only later on in the article were readers informed that in fact there was no basis for those ‘fears’ because visits by Jews had been halted. No effort was made to clarify to readers that attempts to prevent non-Muslims from visiting Temple Mount contradict the “Protection of Holy Places Law” and go against the agreed status quo at the site.

The article also amplified rumours concerning Temple Mount but failed to inform readers that those claims have no basis in reality and that the Israeli government has repeatedly voiced its commitment to the current conventions governing the site.

“Muslims who use the mosque have reportedly been alarmed by an increase in visits by Jews and fear rules governing the compound will be changed. Jews are allowed to visit but not pray in the compound, to avoid any perception of change to the status quo which has existed there since 1967, and to avoid an inflammation of tension with Muslims.”

This of course is far from the first time that the BBC has amplified baseless rumour concerning Temple Mount whilst failing to inform its audiences worldwide of the facts behind the story and the politically motivated sources of such incitement.

The following day also saw riots on Temple Mount and a new BBC News website article on the subject. That report will be discussed in a future post. 

More uncritical amplification of a HRW report from BBC News

On September 22nd an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Egypt ‘demolishes thousands of homes’ for Sinai buffer zone“. That article is in fact yet another piece of ‘churnalism‘, with almost its entire content being devoted to amplification of a report by one of the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGOs – Human Rights Watch (HRW).HRW report Rafah

Despite the fact that the HRW report is based on information gathered from selected media reports, anonymous witnesses and unidentified ‘activists’, the BBC uncritically repeated its claims, with variations of the phrase “HRW says” appearing seven times throughout the article and no attempt made to provide readers with further relevant background material. Thus, for example, readers were steered towards the view that no justification exists for Egypt’s actions on its border with the Gaza Strip.

“The [Egyptian] military aims to eventually clear an area of about 79 sq km (30 sq miles) along the Gaza border, including all of the town of Rafah, which has a population of about 78,000 people, HRW says.

The government says the operation will allow the military to close smuggling tunnels it alleges are used by jihadists to receive weapons, fighters and logistical help from Palestinian militants in Gaza.

But HRW said little or no evidence had been offered to support this justification, citing statements from Egyptian and Israeli officials that suggested weapons were more likely to have been obtained from Libya or captured from the Egyptian military.”

Were the BBC’s own record of reporting on the subject of collaboration between the Sinai based Salafists and elements within the Gaza Strip less dismal, it would of course have been able to provide readers with background information crucial to their being able to put that HRW claim into context. As the Times of Israel reported in January 2015:

“Egyptian intelligence has specific information on assistance that Sinai terrorists have been receiving from the Gaza Strip. Many activists trained in Gaza, and received arms there that they have been using against Egyptian forces.

That is the source of the urgency around creating the buffer zone: the goal is to cut the jihadis off from their Gaza supply route. On Monday Egyptian media reported on a jihadist cell that enjoyed considerable help from Hamas, and tried to infiltrate Sinai through tunnels. Most of the tunnels aren’t open, but occasionally smugglers on both sides of the border manage to build a new one. The Egyptian army recently uncovered a 1,700-meter passage.”

As has been the case on many past occasions, the BBC makes no effort to inform readers of this article of HRW’s political agenda – despite the need to do so being clearly stated in the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality.

That recurrent omission is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that in earlier this year, HRW (once again) took up the BBC’s case at the United Nations periodic review of Rwanda.

“The HRW’s Submission for the Universal Periodic Review March 2015 contains the following recommendations for Rwanda: […]

Allow the BBC Kinyarwanda service to resume its broadcasts in Rwanda.”

Public impressions of BBC impartiality and independence will of course not be enhanced by the appearance of articles uncritically amplifying content produced by a political NGO which just happens to have used its UN platform to promote the BBC’s interests.

Related Articles:

BBC fails to meet its remit in article about Rafah tunnels

Weekend long read

Back in July, BBC coverage of the P5+1 deal with Iran included assurances from some of the corporation’s senior correspondents that funds freed up by sanctions relief would be used by the Iranian regime to improve the country’s economy.Weekend Read

“President Rouhani was elected because people hoped that he would end Iran’s isolation and thus improve the economy. So the windfall that they will be getting eventually, which is made up of frozen revenues – oil revenues especially –around the world, ah…there are people who argue that look; that will go to try to deal with loads and loads of domestic economic problems and they’ll have trouble at home if they don’t do that. If people – the argument goes on – are celebrating in Iran about the agreement, it’s not because they’ll have more money to make trouble elsewhere in the region; it’s because things might get better at home.”  Jeremy Bowen, PM, BBC Radio 4, July 14th 2015

“In exchange it [Iran] will get a lot. It will get a release of the punishing sanctions. We heard from Hassan Rouhani saying as Iran always says that the sanctions did not succeed but he conceded that they did have an impact on the everyday lives of Iranians. There’s an estimate that some $100 billion will, over time, once Iran carries out its implementation of this agreement, will be released into the Iranian economy.”  Lyse Doucet, Newshour, BBC World Service radio, July 14th 2015.

Notably, BBC coverage avoided the issue of the potential for increased financial support to Iranian projects and terrorist proxies in the wider region and even went so far as to censor a pledge of support for the Syrian regime and for terrorist organisations including Hizballah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from its reporting on a speech made by Khamenei.

In the absence of any serious BBC reporting on that topic, readers may find two expert testimonies given to the US Congress’ House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on September 17th of interest:

Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi – Foundation for Defense of Democracies – ‘The Iran Nuclear Deal and its Impact on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’.

Dr. Matthew Levitt – The Washington Institute for Near East Policy – ‘Major Beneficiaries of the Iran Deal: IRGC and Hezbollah’.

Relatedly, Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff reports that increased Iranian support for regional terror organisations is already evident.

“Since the [JCPOA] deal was signed, Iran has significantly increased its financial support for two of the largest terror groups in the region that have become political players, Hamas and Hezbollah. In the years before the deal was signed, the crippling sanctions limited this support, which had significantly diminished along with Iran’s economy. But Tehran’s belief that tens, or hundreds, of billions of dollars will flow into the country in the coming years as a result of sanctions relief has led to a decision to boost the cash flow to these terror organizations.

This support, for example, has enabled Hezbollah to obtain highly developed new armaments, including advanced technologies that many militaries around the world would envy. Al-Rai, a Kuwaiti newspaper, reported Saturday that Hezbollah has received all the advanced weaponry that Syria has obtained from the Russians. The report cited a security source involved in the fighting in Zabadani, on the Syria-Lebanon border, where Hezbollah is fighting the al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State, and other groups. It is evidently the growing Iranian financial support that is enabling the Lebanese Shiite militia to purchase advanced weapons, including ones that were hitherto outside of its reach.”

Read the rest of that report here.






BBC fails to meet its remit in article about Rafah tunnels

One of the public purposes defined in the BBC’s Charter is titled “Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK” and under that remit the BBC pledges to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”.

Clearly audience understanding of international issues can only be achieved if they are told the whole story and a recent article provides a prime example of how BBC reporting can fall short of that pledge.

On September 18th a short article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Egypt ‘starts flooding Gaza tunnels’“. Readers are told that: [all emphasis added]Rafah tunnels art

“The Egyptian military has begun flooding tunnels used by Palestinian militants and smugglers under the border with Gaza, reports say.

It is the latest move by Egypt to destroy the tunnels, part of an offensive against insurgents. […]

Scores of Egyptian soldiers and civilians have been killed in an insurgency which has intensified, especially in the Sinai, since the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.”

So on the one hand, BBC audiences learn that Egypt is conducting “an offensive against insurgents” which includes the destruction of underground tunnels situated along its border with the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, readers are also told that the tunnels were used “by Palestinian militants and smugglers” – but no effort is made to clarify how or why those tunnels play a part in Egyptian efforts to combat that Islamist insurgency.  

Further, one aspect of the tunnels which has nothing to do with Egypt’s offensive in Sinai is highlighted. The caption to the main image illustrating the article reads: [emphasis added]

“Tunnels have been used for smuggling weapons between Gaza and Sinai, but have also been a lifeline for civilians“.

And in the body of the report readers find the following:

“The tunnels, which emerge in the Sinai Peninsula, have played a vital role in the economy of Gaza, which has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007 as a measure against the territory’s Islamist Hamas rulers.”

Clearly that portrayal’s omission of the crucial factor of terrorism from the Gaza Strip – the real reason for the measures introduced by Israel in September 2007 – actively prevents audiences from building an understanding of the issue – as does the unqualified amplification of Hamas propaganda.

“Hamas has accused Egypt of collaborating with Israel to try to further isolate Gaza.”

This article represents just one more link in a long chain of BBC failure (see related articles below) to provide its audiences with a comprehensive picture of the connections between elements in the Gaza Strip and the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. Hence, whilst BBC audiences may now know that Egypt is flooding tunnels in Rafah, they still have no idea why.  

Related Articles:

More selective BBC reporting on Middle East Jihadists

BBC recycles an AP inaccuracy

BBC erases Gaza Strip Salafist-Jihadists from its map

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

Two missile attacks on southern Israel get nineteen words of coverage from BBC News

On the evening of September 18th air-raid sirens sounded in Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip after a missile was launched from the adjacent territory. The projectile exploded in Sderot.Pic missile Sderot 18 9

“Israel Police said that a bus was damaged in the strike, while the Ynet website reported that a home was also damaged. The residents were inside at the time of the strike, Ynet said, adding that several people were treated at the scene for shock. One woman was taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon after complaining of chest pains and ringing in her ears, the website reported.”

Later on the same evening Ashkelon also came under attack.

“An Iron Dome anti-rocket battery shot down a Gazan rocket over the southern city of Ashkelon on Friday night. 
There were no injuries or damages, the IDF said. 
Warning sirens rang out across the city, sending residents fleeing for cover, before Iron Dome went into action. It was the second rocket attack by terrorists in Gaza within a few hours.”

The second bout of missile fire was reportedly claimed by a Salafist group in the Gaza Strip affiliated with ISIS and hours later Israel responded with strikes on Hamas terrorist infrastructure.

In typical ‘last-first reporting’ style BBC Arabic informed it audiences of “Israeli raids on Gaza after the launch of two missiles“.missile fire 18 9 BBC Arabic

Visitors to the English language BBC News website found no stand-alone report on the two incidents of missile fire but an article on a different topic originally published on September 18th – “Israel steps up Jerusalem security after Palestinian clashes” – did dedicate the grand total of nineteen words to the attacks and fourteen words to the response.

“At least two rockets were fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory of Gaza, with one damaging a bus

Israel responded with overnight air strikes on training camps belonging to Hamas in Gaza”

The article does not tell readers of the claim of responsibility for the missile attacks and that ties in with the overall trend in this report (and earlier ones) according to which the BBC refrains from identifying the perpetrators of incidents in the recent wave of violence and attacks just seem to happen all by themselves – for example:

“An Israeli motorist died earlier in the week in an accident apparently caused by a rock-throwing attack in Jerusalem.”

“In East Jerusalem, police said three border guards were injured by a fire bomb thrown at their vehicle”

“Also in East Jerusalem, a bus was attacked with stones and set ablaze” [all emphasis added]

Clearly BBC audiences cannot properly understand this story if they are not told who is firing missiles and who is throwing rocks and fire-bombs.

This report also provides two equally useless ‘explanations’ for the current wave of violence:

“Palestinians have also been angered by Israeli plans that could allow police to open fire on stone-throwers. […]

Tensions have been running high in Jerusalem since Israel banned two Muslim groups which confront Jewish visitors to the [Temple Mount] compound.”

The proposed changes to the rules of engagement in Jerusalem of course came about as a result of the violent rioting and not – as this article implies – the other way round. Once again we see that the BBC avoids telling its audiences who those banned “Muslim groups” are, who finances them and to what aim and as usual, the all-important topic of official PA incitement relating to Temple Mount is excluded from the BBC’s narrative. 

BBC article on Temple Mount riot notes ban on groups it previously failed to report exist

Readers no doubt recall that a couple of months ago the BBC produced some unsatisfactory reporting (see related articles below) on the topic of violent riots on Temple Mount which were instigated in order to disturb visitors to the site on Tisha B’Av. On the eve of Rosh HaShana (New Year), a similar incident took place at the same site and the BBC’s reporting showed little improvement.

The BBC News website published an article on its Middle East page on September 13th which was originally headlined “Clashes at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque” and currently goes under the title “Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque sees Israeli-Palestinian clashes“.AAM 13 9 final

The timeline of the events described in that BBC report was explained as follows by the Israeli police:

“During the night pipe bombs were seized in an apartment in east Jerusalem in a joint operation by the central [police] unit of the Jerusalem district and the Israel Security Agency. In addition, intelligence was received concerning masked individuals who barricaded themselves inside Al Aqsa Mosque during the night.

The barricaders collected stones and fireworks and put up barriers to prevent the closing of the entrance door to the mosque which included metal poles, planks, ropes and more, with their intention being to clash with the security forces and to disturb visits to Temple Mount. The Jerusalem police force prepared for entry to the [Temple] Mount area […]

The police force […] surprised the barricaders and entered the Temple Mount area this morning with the aim of enabling the commencement of visits to the site. Immediately with the entry of the forces the rioters ran away into the mosque and began throwing stones and [concrete] blocks at the policemen as well as firing fireworks directly at them. During the operation pipes suspected as being pipe bombs were seized and removed from the site by a police bomb disposal expert.

The security forces […], operating while rocks, fireworks and metal poles were being thrown at them, removed the barriers and gained control of the rioters. Visits to the [Temple] Mount area are now taking place as usual.”

In other words, this was yet another attempt (continuing, by the way for the third consecutive day at the time of writing) by violent rioters to disturb visits to Temple Mount on a Jewish holiday. So how did the BBC describe the incident?

The article has undergone numerous changes (viewable here) since its initial publication. Early versions clearly suggested to readers that the violence was the result of the entry of the police into the compound, with no mention made of the intentions of the rioters and their prior organisation of pipe bombs and other objects intended to be used as weapons.

AAM 13 9

The article’s second version included the following opaque statement:

“Tensions have been running high since Israel Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon last week banned two Muslim groups which confront Jewish visitors to the compound.”

That statement was slightly expanded in later versions:AAM 13 9 V2

“Tensions have been running high in the city since Israel Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon last week banned two Muslim groups which confront Jewish visitors to the compound.

Mr Yaalon said the groups were the main sources of tension and violence at the site and said banning them was necessary to public order.”

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC has consistently failed to report on the topic of the salaried agitators who harass non-Muslim visitors (not just Jewish ones, as claimed in this report) to Temple Mount. It is therefore highly unlikely that readers of that sentence would understand how those “Muslim groups” – the Murabitat and Murabitun – disturb public order or why they were recently outlawed.

All versions of the article fail to clarify to readers that Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism.

“Al-Aqsa is one of Islam’s holiest sites and is in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif site also revered by Jews.”

Only in the third version of the report did BBC audiences begin to get any inkling of the background to the story.

“Officers had been searching for a number of Palestinians who were believed to have hidden explosive devices in East Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post reported.                                                       The suspects had escaped to al-Aqsa mosque and barricaded themselves in, the newspaper said.”

Only in the fifth version of the report were audiences made aware (by means of second-hand quotes) of the context of the intention to disturb visits to the site.

“Police were quoted in the Israeli media as saying the Palestinian youths who had barricaded themselves into the mosque were planning disruption to prevent Jews visiting the site.

Security forces launched a surprise raid at around 06:45 (03:45 GMT) in the hope of opening the site as planned, Haaretz newspaper reports.

The police said in a statement that masked youths within the mosque “threw stones and fireworks” and that pipe bombs had been found.”

Of course those who read the report’s earlier versions were deprived of that context seeing as visitors to the BBC News website have no way of knowing that an article they have already read has been updated.

From version six of the article onwards it was deemed appropriate to give unqualified amplification to a statement which clearly detracts from audience understanding of this story rather than contributing to it.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called an “attack by the occupier’s military and police against the al-Aqsa mosque and the aggression against the faithful who were there”.”

The real story here is the continued attempts by Palestinian agitators to disturb visits to a site of significance for members of three religions – particularly at the time of Jewish holidays. In this particular incident the storage of pipe bombs at a holy site clearly represents a serious escalation which is not adequately clarified to audiences in the BBC’s report. Notably too, the BBC passed up on the opportunity to correct its previous long-standing omission by beginning to report on the organised groups which hassle non-Muslim visitors to Temple Mount and the funding behind them. 

This story was also the subject of a radio report which will be discussed in a future post.

Related Articles:

BBC News twists Tisha B’Av Temple Mount incident with ‘last-first’ reporting

More misleading BBC reporting on Tisha B’Av Temple Mount rioting

BBC amendments to Tisha B’Av Temple Mount rioting report