BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – part two

In addition to its main article on the subject of the November 18th terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem and its inaccurately illustrated profile of the PFLP (both of which were discussed here), the BBC News website also published a number of additional articles on that day.

Profiles of the dual British and American citizens murdered in the terror attack appeared on the website’s UK and US & Canada pages respectively. The BBC News website also ran a live page throughout the day on November 18th under the title “As it happened: Jerusalem synagogue attack“. On the banner at the head of the page BBC audiences were provided with a number of “Key Points” concerning the story, none of which included the word terror but which did ‘contextualise’ the attack by attributing it to “rising tensions” over what is inaccurately described as a “disputed holy site” (Temple Mount) and “Israeli plans for settler homes”.

Pigua Har Nof Key PointsAmong the numerous notable features of that live page was the fact that just over an hour after it was opened, it was used to amplify inaccurate hearsay concerning a bus driver who committed suicide earlier in the week, with no effort made to inform BBC audiences of the fact that pathologists – including one chosen by the dead man’s family – had already ruled out foul play until the appearance almost an hour later of a partially informative tweet by a BBC employee.

Pigua HAr Nof Live page 1

 

Pigua Har Nof live page 2

The page also included the item below, with no attempt made by the BBC to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing readers that Daniel Seiderman is in fact a political activist with the foreign-funded organisations  Ir Amim and Terrestrial Jerusalem.

Pigua Har Nof live page 3

Like the day’s main article, this live page promoted an inaccurate BBC article from April 2014.

“For more on what makes Jerusalem so holy – to Christianity, Islam and Judaism – take a look at this explainer by the BBC’s Erica Chernofsky.”

The BBC supplied readers with a variety of ‘explanations’ for the background to the terror attack.

“A key source of tension in Jerusalem has been the renewal of an ancient dispute over the rights of prayer at a key holy site, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. By long-standing convention, Muslims alone have the right to pray there, but some religious Jews have been campaigning to end that monopoly of worship.”

Yolande Knell, BBC News, Jerusalem

Political vacuum

The Palestinian position has been that the issue of the al-Aqsa mosque and announcements about settlements have all added fuel to the fire here.

The breakdown of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in April created a political vacuum, and now it seems it has been filled by violence.”

“There have been several deadly attacks and clashes in Jerusalem recently amid tension over a disputed holy site.”

Quentin Sommerville, BBC Middle East correspondent

As horrifying as this incident was, I do not think many people in this city were incredibly surprised by it. More than anything there is a sense of hopelessness here after the failure of peace talks, with no road map or talks. We are hearing a lot of fighting talk, but not a lot of peace talk by either the Israeli or Palestinian leaders to try to de-escalate the tensions.”

“Some background on East Jerusalem: Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area in 1980 in a move that was not recognised internationally. Palestinian residents have long complained of discrimination, and blame increasing tension on the growing number of Jewish settlers moving to the area.

The BBC’s Yolande Knell has written a report about the rising tensions.”

Knell’s article was previously discussed here.

“What caused the attack?

What led to the deadly attack in Har Nof? It follows months of unrest and apparent revenge killings, as our video explains.”

That video will be discussed separately in a later post.

In addition to the BBC’s own above ‘explanations’ of the surge in violence and terrorism in Jerusalem, it also saw fit to provide context-free amplification on this live page for assorted inaccurate statements and downright lies from a variety of Palestinian officials.

“Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hammad tells the BBC most people in Jerusalem “expected this would happen today or tomorrow, because every day Jerusalem is boiling. Every day, there is a crime against Palestinian citizens in either al-Aqsa mosque or in Jerusalem as a city”.

Mr Hammad would not say whether Hamas supported the attack, but said Israel was to blame for the tensions. “We did not see any effort, any action from the Israeli government in order to stop the settlers, in order to stop the radical religious men when they decided to attack the al-Aqsa mosque.” “

And:

“‘Israel responsible’

Mustafa Barghouti from the Palestinian Legislative Council tells the BBC that Israel is “responsible for the bloodshed”.

“In this case, it is the Israeli government that provoked the Palestinians in this terrible manner,” he said, adding that more than 2,000 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers this year.

Most of the deaths occurred during the Israel-Gaza conflict over July and August.”

And:

“Sabri Saidam, political adviser to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, tells the BBC: “Tensions have been mounting because Israel has been pushing for more annexation of land, confiscating more homes and has been working vividly to build more and more settlements.

“As you know this formula is totally unsustainable and infuriates the Palestinians and creates the scenes that we saw today.” “

As has been the case in all previous BBC News reporting on the issue of the rise in violence and terrorism in Jerusalem, the topic of Palestinian incitement (including that from partners in the current ‘unity government’) was not independently reported – or even acknowledged – by the BBC and was mentioned only in the form of second-hand statements from Israeli spokespeople.

That editorial policy might perhaps be explained by Jeremy Bowen’s contribution to this live page, in which he defined inflammatory calls by the PA President to ‘defend’ the Al Aqsa Mosque from a ‘threat’ which does not exist as sounding “reasonable” to Palestinians – of whom he apparently has very low expectations indeed.

“Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor

Many Palestinians believe Israel is preparing to allow Jews to pray in the compound of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. The Israeli government has denied that emphatically. But Palestinians listen to calls from hard right-wing Jewish nationalists and believe it might happen.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for Palestinians to defend al-Aqsa. For Palestinians that sounds reasonable. The Israeli government has condemned it as incitement to terrorism. Both Palestinians and Israelis are now talking about a third Palestinian uprising – or intifada. It’s too early to say one has started. But in the absence of political action to stop the violence escalating, another intifada is a distinct possibility.”

A version of that statement was also featured in Bowen’s separate article published on November 18th under the title “Jerusalem attack reflects rising Israeli-Palestinian tension“. There, displaying a remarkable ability to deny elements of both pre and post 1948 Palestinian violence, Bowen also told readers that:Pigua Har Nof Bowen art

“The two sides are further apart than ever. Their conflict used to be, at root, about the possession of land. But since Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967 it has become more defined by religion.

Perhaps that was why the Palestinians chose a synagogue for the attack that killed the four Jewish worshippers. There have been other attacks on Israelis in recent months by Palestinians, one of which killed a baby.”

Bowen whitewashed the PA’s scuppering of the last round of negotiations (as indeed he did at the time) by erasing from audience view that body’s decision to form a unity government with the terrorist organization Hamas.

“An attempt by the Americans to revive a peace process failed, despite energetic diplomacy from the US Secretary of State John Kerry.”

Predictably, Bowen also promoted the decidedly stereotypical and condescending notion that Palestinians are unable to refrain from attacking Jews with meat-cleavers, knives guns or vans because of Israeli planning decisions and –as has been the case in previous BBC reports – portrayed property legally purchased by Jews in specific neighbourhoods of Jerusalem as being inhabited by “settlers”.

“Palestinians are also angry about the continued growth of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. The big settlements in occupied land in East Jerusalem were built on largely open ground. But now the emphasis is on settling Jewish families in areas that are otherwise populated by Palestinians.

The proximity of the two sides, and the feeling that Palestinians have that their land is being taken by armed settlers, leads to trouble.

A particular flashpoint is Silwan, near the walled old city, which settlers have renamed City of David.”

The existence of Kfar Shiloach and the expulsion of Jews from that area during the Arab Revolt of course does not fit into Bowen’s ‘Arab East Jerusalem’ narrative any more than does Jerusalem’s ancient history.

A link to Bowen’s article and quotes from it were also featured in the BBC News website article titled “Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vow in ‘battle for Jerusalem’” which replaced the main article on the Middle East page later in the evening on November 18th.Pigua Har Nof evg art

Like its predecessor, that article also failed to properly describe the oddly termed “deadly attack on a synagogue” as terrorism. Once again, the report ‘contextualised’ the terror attack by providing readers with the same ‘explanations’ for the violence.

“Jerusalem has seen weeks of unrest, partly fuelled by tension over a disputed holy site.”

“Tensions in the city have risen in recent weeks, with two deadly attacks by Palestinian militants on pedestrians in the city and announcements by Israel of plans to build more settler homes in East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem compound that has been the focus of much of the unrest – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif – is the holiest site in Judaism, while the al-Aqsa Mosque within the compound is the third holiest site in Islam.

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel are challenging the longstanding ban on Jews praying at the compound.”

And again, no mention was made by the BBC of the incitement and glorification of terrorism from Palestinians of various factions, including partners in the ‘unity government’.

The article again failed to inform readers of the fact that a team of pathologists – including one chosen by the dead man’s family – had determined that Yousef Hassan Al-Ramouni’s death earlier in the week was self-inflicted.

“He [Netanyahu] accused Mr Abbas and militant group Hamas of spreading “blood libel” that a bus driver who reportedly took his own life in East Jerusalem on Monday had been “murdered by Jews”.

Hamas had said the Jerusalem attack was in revenge for the death of the driver, who was found hanged inside a vehicle. His family did not accept the post-mortem findings of suicide.”

As we see, this latest batch of BBC News website reports on the subject of a terror attack in Jerusalem joins all the others produced during the last four weeks in promoting a plethora of ‘reasons’ for the surge in violence and terror attacks in that time, all of which imply that the deterioration of the security situation can ultimately be attributed to Israeli actions. The only references to Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism have been in second-hand quotes from Israelis and the BBC’s news reports continue to avoid independently informing audiences of that crucial factor, thus actively denying them the ability to enhance their awareness and understanding of this particular “international issue“. 

 

BBC amplification of Hizballah propaganda

On November 13th the head of the BBC’s Middle East bureau proudly announced a scoop on Twitter.

Hizb int Colebourn tweet

Mishal Husain’s interview with Muhammad Fneish of Hizballah – conducted as part of the BBC’s recent Syria feature – was promoted on a variety of BBC platforms. An abridged version appeared in the November 13th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (from 02:10:10 here) with Husain describing the organization her interviewee represents as follows:Hizb int on website

“…founded to resist Israel, regarded by the United States as a terrorist organization, blamed for the killing of US marines and the kidnapping of Western hostages in Beirut in the 1980s…”

Following the interview, listeners heard ‘analysis’ from Jeremy Bowen, who likewise played down Hizballah’s terrorist designation:

“…seen by the likes of Britain and America as a terrorist organization…”

Listeners were told by Bowen that Hizballah is one of the “friends of Iran” with no proper information provided on the topic of Iran’s role in the organisation’s founding, the material support it provides or the agenda it dictates.

Hizballah is of course designated as a terrorist organization in its entirety by Bahrain, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and the US and in part by Australia, the EU, New Zealand and the UK.

The interview was also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Hezbollah minister blames foreign ‘intervention’ for Syrian suffering” with no mention made of the fact that Husain’s interviewee is a member of a terrorist organization in that version’s synopsis and the Iranian connection erased altogether.

A video of most of the interview was also uploaded to Youtube by BBC News. Like the website version, its synopsis informs audiences that Husain’s interview marks the “first time the Hezbollah leadership has spoken to the international media since the Syrian crisis began in 2011″.

So, did the corporation which claims to be “the standard-setter for international journalism” use this rare opportunity to challenge the Lebanese minster with regard to his party’s primary allegiance to Iran and its role in exacerbating  the Sunni-Shia conflict both inside Lebanon and further afield? Was any attempt made to raise the issue of the terrorist-militia-within-a-state maintained by Fneish’s organization in contradiction of multiple UN resolutions? Did Husain question the Hizballah representative with regard to its terrorist and criminal activities both at home and abroad? Was he asked why his organisation provides support for a regime which has killed more than 200,000 of its own people? And did she ask him why Hizballah even continues to exist given that Israel withdrew from Lebanon almost a decade and a half ago?

Well; no. Instead BBC audiences were treated to undiluted, unchallenged Hizballah propaganda comparing Israel to ISIS, promoting the notion that Western support for parties opposing the Assad regime is designed to “protect Israel” and claiming that the organisation’s involvement in the Syrian civil war is part and parcel of its so-called “resistance” against Israel.

Husain: “I wonder which you think is the bigger enemy today; the Islamic State or the enemy that Hizballah was founded to fight, which was Israel?”

Fneish: “We don’t really differentiate between the two really because the whole problem as we see it revolves around ending the resistance. When Israel, backed by the US, failed in 2006 to end the resistance, the focus on Syria was to stop it supporting the resistance. Therefore this whole battle aims to protect Israel. The role of the jihadists is to benefit from the political developments in the region and to work on their project which is a threat to the region and to all those who oppose their views. Syria is a key component in the balance of the regional conflict and was threatened by those groups due to Western policies. And those groups threaten Lebanon and the resistance movement in it. It means that this continues to be a battle against Israel but the rules and the locations of the engagement have changed.”

Given the docile and unchallenging nature of Mishal Husain’s interview with Fneish and her reverent approach to that senior representative of an international terrorist organisation, one can hardly find it surprising that Hizballah decided that speaking to the BBC fit its agenda. 

What is missing from Yolande Knell’s BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem violence?

Two weeks and two days after the first of the recent terror attacks in Jerusalem the BBC News website published a backgrounder article by Yolande Knell in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of its Middle East page on November 7th under the title “Jerusalem a city on edge as tensions spiral“. Readers were told at the top of the article that:Knell backgrounder written

“Tension is growing around Jerusalem’s holy compound – Yolande Knell examines the issues”

Predictably, the article adopts the standard BBC practices of erasing all history before June 1967 and falling short of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of the many legal opinions which fall outside the BBC’s chosen narrative.

“Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the sector in 1980 in a move not recognised internationally.”

“The settlements on occupied land are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

Knell’s article provides BBC audiences with a range of ‘explanations’ for the surge of Palestinian violence in Jerusalem.

  1. The murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and police measures to contain rioting:

“He was the spark that lit this uprising. Now we’re facing a lot of problems with the [Israeli] Occupation and having the Israeli border police next to our home only makes matters worse,” says Mr Abu Khdeir. “Anger is rising.”

  1. Alleged ‘discrimination':

“Palestinian residents have long complained of discrimination…”

  1. ‘Settlers':

“[Palestinians] blame increasing tension on the growing number of Jewish settlers moving to the area.”

  1. The existence of a campaign for equal Jewish prayer rights at Temple Mount:Knell backgrounder filmed

“Recent clashes have been fuelled by Jewish demands to lift a ban on their religious practices at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site in the heart of the Old City.”

  1. Temporary restrictions on access to Temple Mount for Muslims as a means of reducing violent rioting:

“At the al-Aqsa mosque compound, age restrictions continue to be imposed on Palestinian worshippers heading to Friday prayers, a move described by Israeli authorities as a security measure.”

  1. The absence of ‘peace talks':

“In the absence of peace talks to address the core issues, there are many reminders that the political vacuum can quickly be filled by violence.”

Those last two points were also promoted in a filmed report by Knell published on the same day under the title “Growing tension at Jerusalem holy site“. In that report – also shown on BBC television news – audiences were told: 

“Tensions have been mounting over restrictions at this site – holy to Muslims and Jews. Today Israeli police lined up around the Old City to impose restrictions on Palestinian Muslims heading to the Al Aqsa Mosque. They said this was for security.”

And:

“Recently there have been fresh reminders of how the political vacuum can be filled with violence. On Wednesday a Palestinian militant from Hamas drove into pedestrians, killing two people. It was the second such attack in Jerusalem in two weeks.”Knell backgrounder Bowen Tweet

However neatly the notion that recent violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere is fuelled by a lack of negotiations may fit into the BBC’s narrative, there is one blatantly obvious hole in Knell’s “excellent Jerusalem analysis” as it was dubbed by her Middle East editor. No amount of ‘peace talks’ or political process would have dissuaded Hamas or the PIJ from carrying out the recent terror attacks or inciting violent riots because those terrorist organisations are inherently opposed to any kind of political negotiation with Israel.

Of course those of us with apparently better memories than Yolande Knell also remember the spate of terrorism which followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, not to mention the initiation of the second Intifada by the Palestinian Authority as a means of bringing political process to an abrupt end.

The last round of talks (July 29th 2013 to April 29th 2014) was no different: the statistics show that during the nine months of negotiations a rise in terrorism was seen in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria (consistently under-reported by the BBC) rather than the opposite – as Knell’s redundant theory would have it.

Knell backgrounder chart

Notably though, Knell’s article refrains from making any mention whatsoever of the issue of incitement and glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority: major contributing factors to the recent violence, terror and unrest seen in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Truly “excellent Jerusalem analysis” genuinely intended to inform audiences of the background to this particular issue would of course not have omitted that all-important factor. The advancement of a politically-motivated narrative, however, would.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell tells WS audiences violence in Jerusalem caused by Jews trying to enter Al Aqsa Mosque

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

Amnesty International is one of several organisations which have sadly deviated from their original important purpose by allowing politics to dominate their agenda in the Middle East. AI’s anti-Israel reports – now legend for their bias and faulty methodology - are frequently promoted and quoted by the BBC. During this summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip, BBC news reports repeatedly used statements from AI to advance the notion of Israeli wrongdoing.

Amnesty International’s latest report was published on November 5th and as usual is based on subjective ‘eye witness’ accounts. Predictably the report reaches the conclusion that the incidents it examined are evidence that: “[t]he repeated, disproportionate attacks on homes indicate that Israel’s current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with the principles of international humanitarian law”.

Of course any objective assessment of whether or not a specific Israeli action adhered to principles of proportionality is dependent upon the assessor being familiar with their target and perceived military benefit. There is no evidence to suggest that the writers of this AI report were privy to such information.

Amnesty International further concludes that:

“Given the failure of Israeli and Palestinian authorities to independently and impartially investigate allegations of war crimes, it is imperative that the international community support the involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Amnesty International is renewing its calls on Israel and the Palestinian authorities to accede to the Rome Statute and grant the ICC the authority to investigate crimes committed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The organization is also calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Israel and the OPT to the ICC so that the prosecutor can investigate allegations of crimes under international law by all parties.”

With Amnesty International being one of the NGOs involved in political warfare against Israel, it is hardly surprising to find it promoting such assertions. And with the BBC having made its own frequent contributions to advancing the agendas of those NGOs engaged in ‘lawfare’ during and after the recent conflict (see here, here and here), it was also not astonishing to see the man responsible for the BBC’s Middle East content promoting that flawed AI report on Twitter.

AI report Bowen Tweet

Another view of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip this summer provided on November 6th by a man who has somewhat more credible credentials when it comes to assessing military matters.

“The highest-ranking U.S. military officer said on Thursday that Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to limit civilian casualties in the recent war in Gaza and that the Pentagon had sent a team to see what lessons could be learned from the operation.

Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged recent reports criticizing civilian deaths during the 50-day Gaza war this year but told an audience in New York he thought the Israel Defense Forces “did what they could” to avoid civilian casualties. […]

“I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties,” Dempsey told the group.

“In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized for civilian casualties,” he added. […]

Dempsey said the Pentagon three months ago sent a “lessons-learned team” of senior officers and non-commissioned officers to work with the IDF to see what could be learned from the Gaza operation, “to include the measures they took to prevent civilian casualties and what they did with tunneling.”

The general said civilian casualties during the conflict were “tragic, but I think the IDF did what they could” to avoid them.”

Needless to say, Jeremy Bowen’s one hundred and eleven thousand Twitter followers have, at the time of writing, yet to be informed of General Dempsey’s assessment.

Jeremy Bowen compromises BBC impartiality via Twitter

The flimsiness of the BBC Middle East editor’s adherence to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality in his own Israel-related reporting is by now legend. It therefore came as little surprise to see that Jeremy Bowen applies a similarly politically motivated approach to the issue of the accuracy of content produced by other media outlets which he chooses to promote on social media.

Here is a Tweet sent by Bowen to his one hundred and ten thousand followers on October 29th:

Tweet Bowen buses

Bowen’s intentions are amply evident: he uses an article produced by the supposedly authoritative London Times to promote the notion of a ‘bus ban’ on Palestinians which purportedly shows that Israel is guilty of ‘apartheid’.

The ‘apartheid’ trope – now a prime component in the toolbox of anti-Israel campaigners – is of course employed to portray Israel as a country beyond the pale, the existence of which no right-thinking person can tolerate just as the apartheid regime in South Africa could not be allowed to persist.

However, the Times’ article was inaccurate, as our colleague Adam Levick at CiF Watch demonstrated. Moreover, the Times has since issued a correction to that article – a fact which Jeremy Bowen has to date failed to communicate to the 110 thousand people he misled.

The BBC’s own editorial guidelines on impartiality in news, current affairs and factual output state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” 

Similar principles appear in other sections of BBC policy documents on the use of social media with the BBC News social media guidance clearly instructing staff as follows: 

“You shouldn’t state your political preferences or say anything that compromises your impartiality. Don’t sound off about things in an openly partisan way.”

There is no way in which the intentional amplification of an inaccurate article promoting a defamatory slur well-known for its use by anti-Israel campaigners by the man responsible for the BBC’s Middle East content can be viewed as anything other than seriously compromising the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. Likewise, it is patently obvious that this Tweet from Bowen – along with many others – clearly communicates his “personal prejudices” to audiences.

Will the BBC do anything about this latest blatant breach of its own editorial guidelines by a senior member of staff? We’re not holding our breath.

 

Bowen tweets reveal the BBC’s idea of ‘pressing’ news from the Middle East

It’s olive picking season in the Middle East and – seeing as of course there is absolutely nothing more pressing (sorry about the pun) going on in the region at the moment – it would appear that the BBC’s Middle East editor has plenty of free time in which to provide audiences with yet another one of those perennial political propaganda items loosely tied to the topic of the olive harvest. 

Tweet Bowen olives 1

 

Tweet Bowen olives 2

Tweet Bowen olives 3

Well that already oozes impartiality, doesn’t it? 

 Related Articles:

BBC serves up political propaganda with olives

The Naked (BBC Middle East Editor) Chef

BBC’s Bowen promotes BDS in ‘analysis’ of Commons vote

As readers are no doubt aware, fewer than half of the MPs making up the lower house of the British parliament took part in a vote on a non-binding motion to recognise a Palestinian state on October 13th.

Whilst the motion does nothing to change UK government policy, those who have perused the transcript of the debate would no doubt be struck by the appalling ignorance and distortion of facts voiced by some of the elected representatives of the British public in a debate which – with context-free references, for example, to “punitive restrictions on Palestinian movement” and “the construction of an illegal annexation wall through Palestinian land” – at times (and perhaps not coincidentally) bore resemblance to some of the BBC’s more egregious content.

Following that parliamentary debate, the BBC’s Middle East Editor appeared on television news to ‘analyse’ the issue for audiences. The item was also promoted on the BBC News website’s UK Politics and Middle East pages.Bowen filmed Commons vote

Bowen: “It’s symbolic because Britain is still important in the Middle East. Britain is a member of the [UN] Security Council. Other Western members of the Security Council haven’t recognized an independent State of Palestine and of course Britain doesn’t intend to at the moment either. But the fact that the…the parliament in this country is pushing for it is something that the Israelis do not like and it’s something that the Palestinians are going to be cock-a-hoop about. Because their whole diplomatic strategy in recent times has been trying to carve out…eh…a sort of virtual independence – even if they don’t have actual independence – by moves at the UN, trying to join international organisations and a country of Britain’s stature – and Britain’s historic role in the Middle East as well – doing this is something which they will like very much. The Israelis have lobbied against this – they believe that everything should go through a bi-lateral negotiation. However, there isn’t one at the moment: that’s the so-called peace process. Doesn’t exist right now.”

Notably, Bowen refrained from informing BBC audiences that the reason the peace process “doesn’t exist right now” is because the last round of talks was curtailed by the PA’s decision to form a unity government with a terrorist organization which rejects Israel’s right to exist and just weeks later initiated a seven-week war with Israel. He continued:

“And the Israelis of course continue to build their settlements – illegal under international law – in occupied land and that’s something that the Palestinians say is a unilateral action by them.

As usual, no attempt was made to conform to BBC guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences that differing legal opinions on that topic also exist and hence BBC audiences were once more deliberately misled.

Not unpredictably, Bowen then went on to give some free publicity to what has emerged in recent months as one of his most frequently plugged causes.

“So I think what we’re seeing at the moment is a change in the shape of the conflict; a change as well in the way that the diplomacy around it is evolving. And also moves like this will do other things that will strengthen other…other….vestiges of it. There is this move to try to boycott and divest and sanction Israel. I think they will be encouraged by that and the Israelis are more and more worried about that as well.”

As we see, Jeremy Bowen’s provision of promotion and publicity for the BDS campaign continues – see previous examples in ‘related articles’ below. With absolutely no effort having been made by the BBC to date to clarify to its audiences that the BDS movement is a major actor in the anti-peace campaign which seeks to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state to the point of extinction, the majority of viewers of this item will have been unable to appreciate the redundant nature of Bowen’s suggestion that the ‘one-stater’ advocates of the BDS campaign will be “encouraged” by the passing of a motion which was defined by its supporters “as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”. Those viewers would therefore also be unable to recognize the gratuitous nature of Bowen’s irrelevant shoe-horning of the BDS campaign into the topic under discussion.

As this example once again shows very clearly, Bowen’s repeated promotion of the BDS campaign on assorted BBC platforms can only be viewed as inappropriate and unacceptable exploitation of his position to advance his own political views.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen promotes BDS and apartheid analogy on main TV news programme

Bowen again promotes BDS in three separate BBC programmes

 

 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

On July 31st the BBC World Service radio presenter Rebecca Kesby made the following remark during an interview with an Israeli politician:

“But what the Americans and others across the world are seeing on their television screens are dead civilians and they’re seeing your artillery hitting schools and hospitals and the power supply and people see that as collective punishment against the Palestinians.”

Wordle headlines 8 to 17 Jul

BBC News website headlines July 8 to 17 incl.

Of course what people “across the world” were “seeing on their television screens” throughout the months of July and August this year was dictated by what media organisations decided they should – or should not –see.

Over the next few days we will be taking a look at the BBC News website’s coverage of Operation Protective Edge and examining the corporation’s claims of equal coverage of the two sides of the story.

Content on the BBC News website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were indeed “seeing on their television screens” – as well as what they were not seeing.

In part one of this analysis we will look at the content appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page during the first ten days of Operation Protective Edge: from its commencement on July 8th until the beginning of the ground operation on July 17th. A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

July 8th:Graph Jul 8

Written:  Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip

Israel ‘ready for escalation’ of Gaza conflict (discussed here)

Features:  Gaza conflict: Why Israeli invasion would be risky  Jonathan Marcus

Filmed: Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip  Rushdi Abualouf in Gaza

 50 strikes, 15 injuries: Israel and Gaza in 45 seconds

Israel ‘no alternative’ but airstrikes after rocket attacks interview with IDF spokesman Peter Lerner

Gaza doctors ‘running out of medicine’ to treat civilians  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Notably, the BBC’s second written article on the very first day of the operation already promoted Hamas claims of Israeli ‘war crimes'; a theme which was to be repeated in the days to come. Also notable was Yolande Knell’s promotion of the inaccurate notion that shortages of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip were attributable to border restrictions imposed by Israel. That obviously pre-existing theme was frequently promoted in subsequent BBC coverage.

July 9th:Graph Jul 9

Written: Hamas fires rockets amid Israeli air strikes on Gaza  (discussed here)

Israel ‘to intensify Gaza attacks’ (discussed here)

Filmed: Israel steps up plans to stop rocket attacks from Gaza James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

A night of Gaza rocket attacks on Israel  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Video shows Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Strip  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here

‘Scrambling for cover’ in Ashkelon as tanks mass  James Reynolds in Israel

Where are Gaza militants firing rockets?   James Reynolds in Israel

Mid-East crisis: Israel vows to expand Gaza operation  James Reynolds in Israel

Gaza death toll rises as air strikes continue  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Hamas spokesman on restoring ceasefire  interview with Osama Hamdan

Israeli adviser Dore Gold on hopes for Mid-East peace   interview with Dore Gold

Day two of the operation saw further promotion of the notion of ‘war crimes’ in the day’s first written article along with amplification in both that item and a filmed report by Yolande Knell of the false claim made by a political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel that Israeli forces were deliberately targeting civilians in the Gaza Strip. The topic of Hamas’ use of human shields – already evident by this stage – was ignored in both written and filmed reports.

July 10th:Graph Jul 10

Written: UN chief Ban Ki-moon: Gaza situation ‘on knife-edge’

Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pleas for Gaza ceasefire

Features: Yo app warns Israeli citizens of missile strikes

Filmed: Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israeli villagers escape unharmed after Gaza rocket attack  James Reynolds in Israel

Call for calm on Gaza Israel border as death toll rises  Kevin Connolly in Israel

Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

Gaza situation ‘on knife-edge’ – UN chief Ban Ki-moon  press conference 

On July 10th BBC audiences heard amplification of claims of ‘collective punishment’ of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The practice of unqualified promotion of casualty figures supplied by Hamas sources (but not verified by the BBC) was evident and continued to be so throughout the conflict. No effort was made by the BBC to establish the number of combatant casualties and the issue of Hamas’ use of human shields – including directives issued by Hamas officials to the public – continued to be ignored.

July 11th:Graph Jul 11

Written: US prepared to broker Gaza ceasefire, says Obama

Gaza crisis: Fresh attacks follow US ceasefire offer

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′

Features: In pictures: Gaza conflict escalates  (discussed here)

 Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?  Kevin Connolly

 Gaza-Israel conflict: ‘It’s not worth living’

Mothers in Israel and Gaza ‘want the same thing’  audio – Yolande Knell Gaza and Israel

Filmed: ‘Five killed’ as Israeli air strike flattens Gaza house  Tim Wilcox Gaza

 Gaza crisis: Rocket strikes Israeli petrol station  James Reynolds in Israel

Israel defends Gaza military campaign  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Amateur footage after Israeli air strike on Gaza  Gaza

Baroness Amos calls for ceasefire on Gaza Israel border  interview Valerie Amos

Jerusalem mayor defiant in face of Hamas rocket attacks  interview Nir Barakat

The BBC continued to report casualty figures supplied by Hamas or Hamas-linked sources with no effort made either to inform audiences of the motives of the sources, to verify those figures or to determine the civilian to combatant ratio. Notably, within hours of Jeremy Bowen’s arrival in the Gaza Strip on July 11th he was already promoting the concept that “there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians” and claiming that Israel had “serious questions” to answer. Bowen also began the promotion of UN casualty figures, but failed to inform audiences of the sources of those statistics.

July 12th:Graph Jul 12

Written: Israel to ‘resist international pressure’ over Gaza

 Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises

Features: Jeremy Bowen: Israel and Hamas not ready for ceasefire  (discussed here)

Filmed: Death toll rises in Gaza as air strikes and rockets continue  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya   Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Israeli strike on disability shelter in Gaza’s Beit Lahiya  Yolande Knell in Gaza

 Israel ‘will do what it takes to stop the fire of rockets’  interview with Mark Regev

One of the notable themes appearing on this day (as well as in subsequent BBC coverage) was the depiction of the missiles used by terrorists in the Gaza Strip as “homemade rockets“.

July 13th:Graph Jul 13

Written: UN calls for Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Gaza: Israel hits security HQ and rocket site

Filmed: Israel warns north Gaza civilians to evacuate ahead of strikes Yolande Knell in Gaza

 Gaza hit by Israeli shells  Gaza

Israel’s Iron Dome intercepts rockets fired from Gaza  Israel

Fleeing Gaza families take shelter at UN school  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Again, the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and directives issued by Hamas officials instructing civilians to stay in their homes despite Israeli warnings was absent from the emotive coverage of the conflict’s impact on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

July 14th:Graph Jul 14

Written: Thousands flee northern Gaza after Israel warnings  (originally published on July 13th and discussed here)

Israel’s Gaza campaign in seventh day as rocket fire continues

Features: Life in the Gaza Strip (updated version of a feature originally published in 2012)

Filmed: Middle East conflict: Palestinians flee Israeli air strikes  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day   Jeremy Bowen in Gaza (discussed here)

Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel continues Gaza campaign   Quentin Sommerville in Israel

 Why has Israel-Gaza conflict flared?  Paul Adams

July 14th saw not only continuation of the BBC policy of ignoring Hamas’ use of human shields, but active denial of that policy on the part of Jeremy Bowen.  In addition, Bowen continued to promote claims of Israeli ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ made by the head of a political NGO engaged in anti-Israel lawfare.

July 15th:Graph Jul 15

Written: Egypt proposes Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Israel accepts Egypt proposal to end Gaza conflict

Gaza conflict: Israel restarts air strikes amid rocket fire

Features: Hamas and Israel step up cyber battle for hearts and minds

Filmed: President Obama urges peace in Gaza Strip  press conference 

Hamas spokesman says Egypt truce plan is ‘like an ambush’  interview with Sami Abu Zuhri

Israel spokesman: Hamas threw away chance of a ceasefire  interview with Mark Regev

‘Essentials, not luxuries’ being bought in Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel accepts Egypt proposal to end Gaza air strikes  Yolande Knell in Gaza & James Reynolds in Israel

Palestinians reject Gaza ceasefire proposal  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Netanyahu: Prepared to ‘continue and intensify operation’  press conference

Gaza conflict: Strikes will ‘intensify’, says Netanyahu  press conference

Gaza-Israel ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt  Simon Clemison

Gaza conflict: Anger at scene of Hamas rocket attack in Ashdod  James Reynolds in Israel

Israel to ‘intensify’ Gaza air strikes as Egypt truce fails  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel restarts air strikes amid rocket fire  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Gaza Strip residents give their views on ceasefire  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

The issue of Hamas’ use of human shields continued to be ignored, despite visual documentation of the practice by the BBC. The topic of “tight border restrictions” was again promoted without provision of the context necessary for BBC audiences to comprehend why those restrictions came about and their roots in Hamas terrorism. Unqualified promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures continued.

July 16th:Graph Jul 16

Written: Israel warns Gazans to leave homes as air strikes continue

Features: Crowley: Israel and Palestinians increasingly disillusioned

Filmed: Middle East crisis: Gaza house destroyed after Israeli warnings  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Smoke rises over Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Four boys killed on beach by rocket fire  Lyse Doucet in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel conflict: Peace deal still possible, says Arab League Orla Guerin in Cairo

 Gaza-Israel conflict: BBC assesses the mood in Ashkelon  James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

 Israeli air strike warnings: What the footage tells us  (discussed here)

By this stage the BBC’s promotion and amplification of the PR messaging of political NGOs had been extended to include B’Tselem as well as the PCHR and UN OCHA.

July 17th:Graph Jul 17

Written: Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and Israel begins

Israel-Gaza ceasefire deal denied  (discussed here)

Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder  (discussed here)

Features: #BBCtrending: The rise of Hitler hashtags

Why Egypt remains key to Gaza-Israel truce

Filmed: Israeli president ‘sorry’ over four child deaths in Gaza  interview with Shimon Peres

Gazans flock to banks and shops during brief ceasefire   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive  Quentin Sommerville in Israel (discussed here)

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Gaza crisis: New exchanges of fire after truce ends  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

 ‘Journalists told to evacuate hotel’ – Paul Adams in Gaza

Notable in the second written article on this day was the disappearance of Hamas’ breach of a ceasefire and the downplaying of the cross-border infiltration into Israel by Hamas terrorists which made a ground operation inevitable.

Between July 8th and July 17th the predominant type of content presented to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page was filmed reports from the Gaza Strip, with the majority of those items concentrating on what can only be described as emotive coverage of the conflict’s impact on civilians. Hamas spokesmen were interviewed on just two occasions (in contrast with four times as many interviews or footage from press conferences with Israelis) meaning that the focus of BBC reporting remained on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The total number of filmed reports describing the situation in Gaza during those first ten days of the conflict was more than double the number of filmed reports describing the situation in Israel.

Graph all

Within the first few days of BBC coverage of the conflict, certain themes became apparent. Just hours after the operation commenced the BBC had already introduced the topic of ‘war crimes’ into its coverage and that theme and similar ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’ continued to be promoted; particularly by means of generous amplification of the messaging of selected political NGOs. The speed with which the BBC adopted that theme – along with the lack of any attempt to provide factual evidence that the use of such terminology was justified – does not encourage the belief that the corporation’s foreign correspondents arrived in the Gaza Strip free of preconceived political views.

An additional theme promoted right from the start of BBC coverage of the conflict was that of the supposed deliberate targeting of civilians by Israel – described on numerous occasions in the Hamas-style terminology ‘collective punishment’. Whilst BBC audiences were shown ample footage and images of destruction and casualties in the Gaza Strip (including graphic filmed reports from hospitals and morgues) the subject of Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields was ignored and even denied.  Also noticeable was the BBC’s failure to carry out any discernible independent verification of the casualty figures and ratios supplied by Hamas and Hamas-linked sources, yet unquestioningly and vigorously amplified by the BBC.

Whilst BBC compliance with Hamas restrictions placed on the foreign media throughout the conflict (for example, refraining from filming Hamas terror operatives) was all too apparent to those with additional sources of knowledge and information, general audiences were not informed of that factor either during the conflict or since (in contrast, for example, to BBC statements concerning restrictions on reporting in Iraq in 2003) meaning that they would naturally conclude that all BBC content presented a freely reported, accurate and impartial picture of the situation on the ground upon which they could rely as a source of knowledge and understanding and use to reach informed judgements on the issue.

The BBC’s adherence to Hamas messaging, its advancement of pre-existing politicised themes and its heavy focus on the promotion of context-free emotive images of civilian suffering in the Gaza Strip meant, however, that the story was being framed in a very specific way already from the opening hours and days of coverage. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wasted opportunity: BBC R4’s ‘Media and the Middle East’

As we noted here a few days ago, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Archive on 4′ broadcast an edition titled “Media and the Middle East” on September 13th, presented by John Lloyd. On September 15th a written article by Lloyd appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How the Western media’s Middle East coverage has changed“.Archive on 4

Those who had anticipated hearing answers to the questions posed in the radio programme’s synopsis would have been largely disappointed.

A significant proportion of the programme is made up of archive material from the BBC and others: a glimpse of how the subject was reported in yesteryear. Unfortunately, quite a few of those ‘historical’ parts of the programme are accompanied by inaccurate and misleading statements.

For example, after a segment from a Movietone News feature, Lloyd tells listeners:

“Its coverage of Palestine in the years before Israel became a state described as criminals the armed Jewish guerilla groups dedicated to ridding the country of British soldiers. Groups like the Stern Gang and the Irgun used the terror tactics of bombs and assassinations against the army deployed to keep the peace in Palestine, for which the British then had the mandate.”

Similarly, in his written article Lloyd states:

“In the closing years of World War Two and in the three years after it, the Jewish Irgun and Stern gangs who sought to force the British out of Palestine carried out a series of bloody attacks on British soldiers and officials.

Jews were labelled by the British as “terrorists”.”

John Lloyd might be interested to learn that they still are: for a fee of £195, educators can purchase a video from the BBC on the topic of “Early Israeli Terrorism“. But of course what is really important here is that Lloyd misrepresents the purpose of the mandate with which Britain was entrusted. The aim of that mandate was not to “keep the peace”, but to establish a Jewish homeland in accordance with the San Remo declaration and the League of Nations directive. That was a mandate, it transpired, the British had no intention of fulfilling – as was apparent from British actions such as the restrictions imposed on Jewish immigration to Palestine (though never on Arab immigration), even as persecution of Jews in Europe escalated and reached its unprecedented climax.

Likewise, Lloyd completely ignores events such as the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936 and even the post-Partition Plan violence of 1947, taking listeners to 1949 by means of an archive broadcast which states:

“Nearly a million harmless Arab villagers have been made homeless as a result of war in the Holy Land.”

The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur war are not presented with any better context and listeners hear Lloyd claim that:

“In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon in retaliation for an attempted assassination of the country’s ambassador in London by a Palestinian dissident group.”

The fact that by June 1982 Israeli civilians all over the Galilee had been under Katyusha fire from Palestinian terrorists in southern Lebanon for months and 29 people had been killed and over 300 injured in PLO attacks since July the previous year despite a supposed ceasefire is not imparted to BBC audiences.

The first intifada is described by Lloyd in the anodyne terms of “an escalating campaign of disobedience” with no mention of violence from the Palestinian side. The post-Oslo campaign of terrorism is completely ignored and the peace process is described as having been “broken” by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin rather than by Arafat’s decision to launch the second Intifada. Moreover, Lloyd uses an archive clip obviously from the autumn of 2000 which repeats one of the BBC’s most egregious – and most widely promoted – falsehoods.

“The violence was sparked off three days ago when the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon visited one of Islam’s holiest sites in Jerusalem.”

So as we see from the examples above, one very serious problem with this programme is that its attempt to use historic events as a means by which to explain the shifts in the media’s approach to Israel are hampered by the fact that Lloyd is unable to step outside the often incorrect accepted BBC narratives relating to those events and even amplifies them further. If one perhaps thought that basing a theory of changes in media attitudes as having resulted from Israeli actions would necessarily involve getting the history right, one would obviously be mistaken. 

With the help of his guests – heavily tipped in favour of the Palestinian narrative by number – Lloyd lays out a theory according to which Western media reporting from 1948 to 1967 was dominated by a colonialist attitude which, according to Daoud Kuttab, meant that Palestinians were sold short by Western journalists because they were not represented as a nation. Of course one very significant factor in that discussion should have been the fact that whilst Palestinians lived under Egyptian and Jordanian control for those 19 years, neither they nor their Arab rulers made any move to establish a Palestinian nation-state or to promote Palestinian nationhood. The reasons for that are well documented, but they do not fit into the narrative this programme seeks to promote.

According to another of Lloyd’s guests, David Cesarani, the “watershed in media coverage and perceptions of Israel” came in 1982 as a result of the first Lebanon war. Cesarani claims that from then on, Israel was no longer seen as a “plucky little state” and that instead it turned into “the bullying regional superpower, crushing relentlessly the Palestinian people – dispossessed refugees – turning all the might of a modern military force on people who could barely fight back”. Of course that simplistic theory only works if – as Lloyd takes care to do – one isolates the Palestinian issue and ignores the fact that actually it is just one aspect of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict.

That framing is reinforced by Chris Doyle of CAABU:

“Now I think in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian issue it is a question of the Palestinians being David to the Israeli Goliath and this is something that is not always there in the framing of the coverage: the permanent reminder – as I believe is necessary – that it is a question of an occupying power and an occupied people and that the Palestinians have very, very few options.”

One of the more disturbing aspects of this programme from this listener’s point of view was the way in which it promoted the inaccurate and ridiculous notion that Jewish self-determination can legitimately be defined as colonialism. Anton la Guardia of the Economist told audiences that “in a sense Palestine is the last great anti-colonial struggle” and later – as part of the programme’s effort to answer the question “why does this particular conflict, above all others, attract the attention it does?” – promoted the theory that:

“To some extent your position on Palestine defines your political position on other things – in part because of this question of colonialism and the Palestinian struggle.” 

Lloyd made no attempt to clarify to audiences the illegitimacy of the colonial analogy, which was also used by other guests. Moreover, no effort was made to examine the effects of factors prevalent in Western society as part of a possible answer to the question of why so many people who know precious little about the Middle East express such strong opinions on the topic. Lloyd written

The fact, for example, that whilst Europeans have for several decades now regarded the model of European ‘unity’ and the sidelining of national identities as the best means to ensure peace on their continent certainly affects the way in which they view a people whose answer to the horrors of World War Two was to go and build a nation state. The fact that fewer and fewer of those expressing an opinion – including journalists – on the topic of Israel’s military conflicts have actually lived through war themselves, seen their loved ones go off to battle, been attacked by missiles or suicide bombers or experienced anything even approaching an existential threat is also a factor which needs to be taken into account.

And of course the fact that a simplistic and one-dimensional version of ‘the Palestinian cause’ (notably characterized by an astounding lack of interest in the basic rights of Palestinian women, gays and Christians) has become a fashion accessory-cum-political statement in Western society which is simultaneously nurtured and fed upon by the media (for example in programmes such as the BBC’s ‘World Have Your Say’) is also significant in terms of the style and content of coverage presented. Western society – including its media mirror – sanctifies the view according to which one does not need to have an understanding of a topic in order to express an opinion about it and all opinions are equally valid. That approach may be harmless when it comes to texting a vote for the perceived best dancer of the waltz in a televised reality show, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when uninformed and often prejudicial views on international affairs are amplified – unchallenged – on ‘have your say’ style current affairs programmes.  

An additional notable aspect of this programme was the platform given to Jeremy Bowen to promote his well-known frustrations with regard to what he perceives as organized campaigns of complaint regarding BBC coverage.

“And there would be phone calls sometimes which we’d try to deal with and of course there’d be letters. Almost all from supporters of Israel – 99% I’d say. […] Palestinians weren’t organized in the same sort of way.”

Lloyd too appears to have adopted the same view:

“Palestinians weren’t geared to complain as Israelis and the Jewish diaspora were.”

Of course as we know very well, veteran organisations such as CAABU and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – both of which have now been active for decades – are in fact extremely well-organized when it comes to orchestrating complaints campaigns and lobbying the BBC.

The programme’s brief coverage of this summer’s conflict failed to address relevant topics such as Hamas’ intimidation of foreign journalists and why hardly any footage was shown by Western media crews of terrorists in action, with the result being that most organisations falsely framed the subject as an Israeli war against the people of Gaza. Ethical questions such as should the BBC film in morgues and hospital wards in Gaza if it would not film similar footage in the UK were ignored. The fact that Israeli society does not accept the screening of graphic images of dead or injured people – and therefore no such images were filmed in Israel even though lethal events happened there – whilst Palestinian society has no such social taboos and hence graphic images were broadcast to Western audiences in abundance, raises professional questions this programme made no attempt to address.

Two separate segments of the radio programme related to Jon Snow of Channel 4’s decision to place his personal need to “bear witness” to what he saw in the Gaza Strip this summer above his obligations to journalistic ethics. Snow was of course far from the only journalist to adopt such an approach even though others – including BBC employees – may have been more subtle in expressing their self-indulgence. However, the programme made no attempt to explore the question of whether the industry’s acceptance of such an approach actually renders it insignificant. After all, if audiences are going to hear and read the personal views of Jon Snow or Orla Guerin in place of accurate and impartial reporting, they can just as well find similarly expressed personal opinions – for which they do not have to pay a licence fee – at thousands of other locations on the internet. 

All in all, this programme can be described as a wasted opportunity as far as its success in informing audiences about the issues it ostensibly set out to address is concerned. More worrying was the promotion (also in Lloyd’s written article) of historical inaccuracies, existing misleading BBC narratives and the language of anti-Israel propaganda. That aspect of these two items of BBC content suggests that objective examination of the media’s role in shaping public opinion on the Middle East and its adherence to the standards of journalism expected by the general public cannot effectively be carried out solely by members of a profession who have, in no small numbers, revealed over the past few months the existence of an organisational culture which allows personal politics to trump commitment to professional standards and obligations. 

An upcoming event with the BBC’s Middle East editor

On September 3rd the Frontline Club – with which the BBC frequently collaborates – will be hosting an event titled “Reporting the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict – Emotion, Bias and Objectivity” which we are informed is already fully booked.

The topic of discussion is promoted as follows:

“The latest chapter in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has again highlighted the difficulties of covering this complex and deep-rooted conflict that provokes such a strong emotional response from the general public.

The BBC has faced accusation that it is not critical enough of Israel’s actions and that its reporting is one-sided, whereas Channel 4 News has been accused of crossing the line between journalism and campaigning. Is there a middle ground?

In the face of such devastation should we expect correspondents to offer an objective view devoid of emotion? If we encourage correspondents to show more emotion do we risk compromising the credibility and standard of journalism in this country?

Join us as we take a view of the coverage we have seen, talk to the journalists that have produced it and ask what we can learn.”

On the panel selected to provide answers to those questions are Jeremy ‘I see no human shields’ Bowen and Channel 4’s Jon Snow.Nelson

The discussion would doubtless be enhanced were Bowen  (along with his colleague Orla Guerin) to take the trouble to brush up beforehand on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and that policy’s role in causing so many of the civilian casualties which he graphically reported during his recent stint in the Gaza strip.

That, of course, is unlikely to happen but if any of our readers do intend to attend the event and would like to report on it afterwards, we would be interested in hearing from you.

In the meantime, what do readers think of the questions above? Is it really too much to ask journalists to report conflicts objectively and factually? Would we accept that other professions – say doctors or policemen – should have leeway to bend professional standards in light of emotionally difficult scenes or experiences? Is reporting based on journalists’ emotions of any value to the BBC’s funding public? Has the “credibility and standard of journalism” displayed by the BBC indeed been compromised by its coverage of the recent conflict and do readers identify any effects of the style and content of its coverage in broader society? Tell us in the comments below.