Multiple accuracy failures in BBC reporting on two Jerusalem terror attacks

Two security incidents took place in Jerusalem on August 4th. The first was an attack on a bus and a pedestrian by means of a method with which the city is sadly familiar.

“A tractor driven by a Palestinian man rammed into a bus in central Jerusalem early Monday afternoon, close to the “seam” between the western and eastern parts of the city.

A male pedestrian, later named as Avraham Walz, 29, was run over by the tractor as it headed toward the bus and was killed. The tractor driver, identified as East Jerusalem resident Muhammed Naif El-Ja’abis, 23, turned the bus over onto its side during the attack, making several efforts to do so before he succeeded. The bus driver as well as five others were lightly hurt.

Police said the attack, which took place at the end of Shmuel Hanavi Street, near the Olive Tree Hotel, was nationalistically motivated.

A police officer and Prisons Service official who realized what was happening ran up to the tractor and fired a volley of shots at the terrorist as he sat in the cab and killed him, Jerusalem police chief Yossi  Pariente said. […]

The attacker worked at a building site nearby, Pariente said. He said three of those lightly injured were on the bus. He said the quick action of those who shot the attacker “averted a much more serious incident.””

A few hours later a soldier in uniform waiting at a bus stop was shot and seriously injured by a gunman who escaped on a motorcycle.

“The shooting took place on Hanadiv Street, which separates the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz from the Hebrew University. The soldier, 20, was rushed to the nearby Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, where he was listed in serious condition. […]

Jerusalem police chief Yossi Pariente said the soldier was “shot at close range by a man dressed in black,” adding that the shooting was, with “very, very high likelihood,” a terror attack.”

The BBC News website’s coverage of these two incidents began in an August 4th article titled “Gaza conflict: Israeli partial ceasefire slows violence“. The report’s later version includes the following statements:

“In Jerusalem, Israeli police said a Palestinian construction vehicle driver was shot dead after an attack on a bus that killed an Israeli passer-by.

Israeli media later said one person – reportedly a soldier – had been seriously injured in a suspected drive-by shooting in Jerusalem’s Mt Scopus area.”


“In Jerusalem, a construction vehicle driven by a man, identified by police as a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, overturned a bus in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood.

A passer-by was killed and several people were injured before police shot dead the driver.”

The article is illustrated with the following photograph (among others), vaguely captioned:

“One Israeli passerby and the Palestinian driver of an excavator were killed in Jerusalem”

Bus article 1 pic

An additional article appearing later the same day under the title “Gaza conflict: Israel ‘to pursue campaign’ as truce ends” states:

“Two attacks on Israelis were reported in Jerusalem and Israel said militant rocket fire from Gaza had continued. […]

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, a construction vehicle driven by a man, identified by police as a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, overturned a bus in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood.

A passer-by was killed and several people were injured before police shot dead the driver.

Later one person – reportedly a soldier – was seriously injured in a suspected drive-by shooting in Jerusalem’s Mt Scopus area.”

That report includes the following photograph, confusingly captioned:

“An attack on a bus in Jerusalem left an Israeli and a Palestinian dead”

Bus article 2 pic

The first incident was also reported on BBC television news on August 4th by Bethany Bell. The synopsis of that report as it appears on the BBC News website (“Gaza-Israel: Attacks on both sides of border despite ceasefire“) reads:

“Meanwhile, Israeli police said that someone driving a digger overturned a bus in an ultra-orthodox neighbourhood near East Jerusalem. They said that police opened fire and shot the driver.”

Why it was deemed relevant by the BBC to identify the religious persuasions of the residents of the neighbourhood in which the incident took place is unclear. 

Presenter: “We’re also getting reports that there’s been an attack on a bus in Jerusalem just in the last hour: that it was rammed into by a bulldozer. What more do you have on that?”

Bell: “Well the Israeli police say that… erm…someone driving a digger overturned a bus…err…near East Jerusalem. Emm…they say the police opened fire and shot the driver to prevent this incident from continuing and Israeli media are reporting that…emm…at least one person has died in this incident. We don’t have confirmation of that yet…err…but…emm…the police say they are treating this as what they call a terror attack at the moment. They say they’re looking into the identity of the driver.” [emphasis added]

A filmed report on the first incident by James Reynolds appeared on BBC television news as well as on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the interestingly worded and punctuated title “Israel: Suspected ‘attack’ on bus with digger in Jerusalem“. The synopsis to that August 4th report reads:Bus Reynolds filmed

“A construction vehicle has been driven into a bus in west Jerusalem killing a passer-by, in what Israeli police are calling an “attack” which may have been “politically motivated”.

The driver of the digger, identified by police as a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, was shot by police and died at the wheel of the vehicle.

Alongside the one Israeli passer-by who died, several more were injured when the digger hit the bus.”

Reynolds’ account includes an interesting lesson on the BBC version of Jerusalem geography:

“I’m on the edge of Israeli West Jerusalem and a little earlier today a man, we’re told, stole a digger and he drove it towards this main road. You can see the digger – the 2011 yellow Hyundai. As he drove it he toppled over this bus – the 291. Let’s come and have a look here. The police have subsequently tilted it up again. The police at this stage say that they realized that there was an attack going on so the police who were nearby congregated around this excavator or digger. Come and have a look over here. And they shot dead the driver. Just have a look through here; you’ll see the broken glass. Well the driver was killed and the Israeli police say that they believe that this was possibly a politically motivated attack. That’s certainly what the Mayor of Jerusalem has said as well. We know that one Israeli civilian was killed in this attack and three others were wounded. And just to show you where we are in Jerusalem; this is the edges of Israeli West Jerusalem but just over there, beyond the second set of traffic lights, is where Arab East Jerusalem begins. The entire city is administered by Israel itself. A lot of the attention of the conflict has been focused of course on Gaza but right now today, Israel is looking at what happened here.”

The basis for Reynolds’ claim that the digger was “stolen” is not clear: according to numerous local media reports, the attacker worked at a nearby construction site.

“Ja’abis left the construction site in the digger and after travelling some 50 meters hit the bus, said a member of the Israel Police. Three people were lightly hurt when the bus was attacked. He attacked the pedestrian several dozen meters from the bus.”


“The assailant, Naif Jabis of Jabek Mukaber, drove his vehicle out of a construction site, hit a 25-year-old passerby, then turned toward a nearby square, and after several meters used the digger’s arm to flip over the bus.”

The Israeli police of course did not say that the attack was “politically motivated” as Reynolds claims: they said nationalistically motivated – i.e. a terror attack. Reynolds refrains from informing audiences that the attack was later praised by Hamas officials both in the Gaza Strip and in Qatar (though not claimed) and that the perpetrator was known to the police. He also refrains from telling audiences that just days ago Hamas spokesman and frequent BBC interviewee Fawzi Barhoum called for such attacks.

“Do you not have cars, motorcycles, knives, clubs, diggers and trucks? If you do and do not hit Jews or settlers, and do not kill dozen of Zionists – then you are not Palestinian.”

A report appearing on the BBC News website early on the morning of August 5th under the title “Gaza conflict: Israel and Hamas ‘agree ceasefire’” informs readers:

“And in Jerusalem, a construction vehicle driven by a man, identified by police as a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, overturned a bus in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood.

A passer-by was killed and several people were injured before police shot dead the driver.

Later a soldier was seriously injured in a suspected drive-by shooting in Jerusalem’s Mt Scopus area.”

The report includes the following photograph, inaccurately captioned:

“At the same time Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem were burying a man killed in the city on Monday by a Palestinian man who had stolen a bus” [emphasis added]

Bus article 3 pic

The same article also includes a video clip of James Reynolds’ above report, again promoting the unsubstantiated notion of a stolen digger.

“James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem after Israeli police shoot a man who allegedly attacked a bus with a stolen digger” [emphasis added]

Bus article 3 pic 2

An additional report appearing on the BBC News website on August 5th under the title “Israeli troops ‘withdraw from Gaza’” has no written account of the attacks but originally included the same photograph as above with the same inaccurate caption describing a ‘stolen bus’. That photograph has now been removed.

So as we see, apart from Bethany Bell’s second-hand reference (“what they call a terror attack”), BBC audiences have not been informed that two terror attacks took place in Jerusalem on August 4th and some BBC reports even cast doubt on whether an attack took place at all. Additionally, BBC coverage includes unsubstantiated reports of a “stolen” digger along with inaccurate reports of a “stolen” bus and James Reynolds misleads audiences by misquoting the Israeli police as having described the attack as “politically motivated”. The context of previous similar attacks is erased, as is Hamas praise for the latest one.

One can only wonder what these reports would have looked like were the BBC not committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality. 

Related Articles:

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BBC’s Jon Donnison misrepresents PFLP ‘fighter commander’ as charity worker


BBC reports on Qalandiya rioting omit live fire by Fatah terror group, whitewash Fatah terrorist

On July 25th and 26th the BBC put out a number of reports concerning the rioting in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria.

The first report to go out on BBC television news was produced by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad and it also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 25th under the title “Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march“. Reporting from Qalandiya, Assad told viewers:Rioting Qalandiya Assad

“This is definitely the biggest demonstration I have seen in any city or town in the West Bank since the war in Gaza. Those young people had reached the Israeli checkpoint and they are engaging in clashes with them and they are heeding the call of a group of young people. One of them is the child of a prominent Palestinian leader called Marwan Barghouti who is serving a lifetime imprisonment sentence in Israeli jails. It is too early to say this is the beginning of a third Intifada but the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had definitely called for one two days ago.”

Assad failed to inform viewers that Marwan Barghouti is a convicted Fatah terrorist and one of the leaders of both the first and second Intifadas. He was in fact sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment after having been found guilty of involvement in terror attacks in which five people were murdered and an additional 40 years imprisonment for attempted murder. Barghouti has on numerous occasions called for a third Intifada but Assad fails to mention that significant point.

Neither does she – nor any other of the BBC journalists reporting on this topic – make any mention of the calls from the Hamas leadership for violence.

“Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip and abroad are calling on Palestinians in the West Bank to start a Third Intifada.

Qatar-based Hamas spokesman Husham Badran, responding to the reports of clashes between thousands of Palestinians and police at the Qalandiya checkpoint, says the timing is right to rise up, Israel Radio reports.

“This is your opportunity,” he says to West Bank Palestinians.

Hamas official Izat a-Rishk calls, on Twitter, for a revolution against the enemy, adding that the blood of Gazans ignites the West Bank.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says the events at Qalandiya prove that the Palestinians are one people and that Gaza cannot be isolated.”

Also on July 25th, the BBC News website published a written report under the same title of “Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march“. That article includes an equally tepid description of Marwan Barghouti from Nawal Assad.Rioting Qalandiya written

“The demonstration was called for by a group of youths on Facebook, among them the son of the popular imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged Palestinians to expand the protests, and leaders in the West Bank have called for a “day of anger” on Friday.”

The same report states:

“At least two Palestinians have been killed and 200 wounded in the West Bank during protests against Israel’s campaign in Gaza, officials say.

About 10,000 protesters marched from Ramallah towards East Jerusalem, where they were met by Israeli forces. […]

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank have called for a “day of anger” on Friday, one of the last days of Ramadan.

The protest at Qalandia, outside Ramallah, saw Israeli border police use “riot control measures” and live fire. Protesters also used live ammunition, Israel said.” [emphasis added]

The Israeli police did indeed report the use of live fire by rioters but in fact, not just “Israel said” that its security personnel had been shot at: Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has clearly stated on more than one occasion that its members used live fire at the riot in Qalandiya. That fact has not been reported by the BBC at all.

The BBC report goes on:

“Large protests were also reported in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, after Israeli police prevented men under 50 from visiting the al-Aqsa mosque.

At least 20 protesters were arrested after they threw rocks at police, Israeli police said.”

The report fails to adequately clarify that the age restriction on males entering the most sensitive site in Jerusalem was part of measures to prevent violence.

“Security forces in the capital received reinforcement in the Old City on Thursday night in light of concerns that violent demonstrations would erupt on the occasion of Laylat Al-Qadr (Night of Destiny) celebrations, which marks the day the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.”

Concurrently, calls for a “Day of Rage” (not a “Day of Anger” as written in some BBC reports) on Friday July 25th also came from assorted Palestinian sources.

That same theme of supposed Israeli interference with freedom of worship – whilst failing to adequately clarify the context of incitement to violence from Palestinian leaders of various factions – also appeared in a July 26th filmed report by Orla Guerin; ‘parachuted in’ from Cairo. Guerin’s report also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Clashes as diplomatic efforts continue to secure Gaza truce“.Rioting Guerin rep

“In Jerusalem’s Old City, open-air prayers under the watchful eye of Israeli troops. Young Palestinian men were blocked from reaching the city’s most important mosque which is often a flash point. Israel’s struggling to contain the fury over the killings in Gaza.

Well, prayers are just coming to a close here. There is a very heavy Israeli security presence in the area. They’re determined to stop these Palestinian worshippers from coming any closer. This is the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and for Palestinians it’s been a bloody month. There’s a great deal of anger on the streets.” [emphasis added]

Whilst it is entirely predictable that the BBC would frame these riots as a reaction to the Hamas-initiated hostilities in the Gaza Strip, the fact is of course that calls for a third Intifada and incitement to violence have been going on for quite some time now. As we have noted here previously on numerous occasions, the BBC has consistently failed to report incitement coming from Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and has likewise been silent on the topic of that organisation’s missile fire from the Gaza Strip during the recent hostilities and on Fatah incitement during the searches for the three kidnapped and murdered Israeli teenagers last month.

The whitewashing of convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti and the failure to inform BBC audiences that a Fatah terrorist organization used live fire against Israeli security personnel is therefore entirely consistent with the BBC’s track record. 

BBC’s James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem

In addition to the BBC’s ‘parachuting in’ of Christian Fraser from Paris, further back up for its Jerusalem Bureau’s coverage of recent events in the region came from the corporation’s correspondent in Istanbul, James Reynolds.

On July 4th Reynolds produced two filmed reports for BBC television news about the funeral of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, both of which were also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Both those reports appeared two days before it was announced that six suspects had been arrested by the police on July 6th on suspicion of having carried out the kidnapping and murder. 

The first report – titled “Palestinian teenager funeral: ‘We can hear explosions’” – is presented on the website with a synopsis which includes the following statement:Reynolds 1

“The family of Mohammad Abu Khdair believe he was abducted and killed in revenge for the murders of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found in the West Bank earlier this week.”

Yet again, no effort was made to inform BBC audiences that at that time that synopsis was written, no arrests had been made and so the identity of the killers and their motive was still a matter for speculation.  

Reynolds tells viewers:

“This is the funeral procession for 16 year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir. He…his body has just been taken along this road. The women are towards the end of the procession and if we just have a look around here, the men are in front. They’ve been about 400 meters in front. They’re heading right towards here. But we can hear – I don’t know if you can hear it in the background – some explosions. We can see some people throwing stones just over there, down towards the end. That gives us an indication that there may be clashes at the moment between some protestors and mourners and the Israeli police. We’re just gonna stay here for safety’s sake and keep an eye on what’s going on down the hill. We can see already one Palestinian ambulance is making its way down the street and there’s a real sense of anger among these Palestinians here. They say that they want justice for 16 year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir. They want those who kidnapped, who abducted him, to be brought to trial.”

At the time that Reynolds made those statements there was no reason to suppose or evidence to suggest that the Israeli authorities were not doing their utmost to solve this crime and bring the perpetrators to trial, but Reynolds nevertheless ‘contextualised’ the riots in Jerusalem’s streets with the insinuation that they were the product of a failing system of justice, and in his second report the background to that insinuation became clearer.

Beyond his speculative narration of “clashes” – in fact violent rioting – which he could not see, and his amateurish report of “explosions” – most likely riot-control measures – Reynolds had nothing to actually tell audiences. Notably, what he could see – the black and white Jihadist flags which were in ample evidence at the funeral procession – were not explained to viewers either in this report or the subsequent one.

Reynolds 1 flags

Reynolds’ second report on the same topic appeared several hours later. The synopsis to the BBC News website’s version of that report – titled “Crowds flock to Jerusalem funeral for Palestinian teenager” – again promoted what was at that stage evidence-free speculation, but at least this time the ongoing police investigation got a brief mention.

“Mohammad Abu Khdair’s family believe he was killed in revenge for the murders of three young Israelis in June, but police have yet to establish a motive.”

Reynolds opened his report by saying:

“Palestinian mourners clear the way for the coffin of Muhammed Abu Khdeir. At least seventy Palestinian children have been killed in the past five years. But the abduction and killing of this teenager so soon after the killing of three Israeli teenagers stands out.”

Reynolds did not inform viewers of the source of his cited numbers, how that source defines “children” or whether or not they were involved in violent rioting or terrorism when they were killed. He continued:

“Muhammed – here taking a selfie – was a sixteen year-old with a fashionable hair-cut. On Wednesday, before dawn, he was abducted and killed. Israel says its investigation continues. His family says that this is the moment of his kidnapping. They argue that these CCTV pictures show a group of Israelis throwing Muhammed into their car across the road. You can’t make out the teenager in the pictures, so it’s hard to verify the footage.”

One of course also cannot determine from that footage the identity of the abductors either, but that is not pointed out to audiences.Reynolds 2

“Muhammed’s father Hussain went over CCTV pictures with me. He follows three Israeli families this week in mourning a teenage son.

Three Israeli teenagers were killed. Do you have any sympathy with their parents who are going through what you’re going through?”

Father: “I don’t have anything to do with them. I don’t know how they were killed but we do know who killed my son.”

Of course that statement from the father is inaccurate: at the time it was made, no-one had been arrested for the murder of his son and the case still has to be tried and proved in a court of law before it can be concluded that his son’s killers’ identities are known. However, it is known how the three Israeli teens were killed. Reynolds did not clarify those facts to BBC audiences. He continued:

“Naftali Frenkel – on the left of this poster – was one of the three Israeli teenagers found dead on Monday. Naftali’s family wants justice for them and also for Muhammed, the seventeen year-old Palestinian.”

The report then cuts to footage of Yishai Frenkel – Naftali’s uncle – speaking.

“Let’s put it very simple. A murder is a murder. When we read in the Bible ‘thou shalt not kill’, it doesn’t say a Jew or an Arab or a Christian. A murder is a murder and a killer – regardless of motive – should be brought to justice.”

Reynolds continued:

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.”

Reynolds’ advancement of the idea that the urge to “build a state and a justice system of their own” is what fuels the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is of course simplistic to the point of ridiculous. Notably, he failed to inform audiences that the vast majority of Palestinians already have their own justice system in PA controlled areas and that those living in Jerusalem like the Abu Khdeir family are protected by the same justice system as their neighbours of all other ethnicities – as the arrest of six suspects four days after the crime was committed clearly indicates. Remarkably too, Reynold’s phrasing signposts to audiences that neighbourhoods of Jerusalem fall into the category of “Palestinian towns and cities” even though their status is to be determined in negotiations between the parties concerned.

Reynolds concluded:

“This week has shown Israelis – and now Palestinians – that their children, their teenagers, are often the most vulnerable. The young pay the price for the conflict waged by adults. This week has left parents on each side more frightened and more angry. Israelis and Palestinians share suffering, but not necessarily understanding.”

Four heinous murders have indeed been committed within the space of three weeks by extremists on both sides of the divide. In one of those cases suspects have now been arrested and – despite Reynolds’ insinuations – will now go through the judicial process necessary to determine their guilt. In the other three cases, the two main suspects are still on the run after nearly four weeks – obviously supported and helped by others. 

Those facts – along with numerous others related to these incidents such as the celebrations of the kidnappings of the three Israeli teenagers on the Palestinian street – do not fit into the BBC’s favoured Middle East narrative, but unless they are reported, the corporation will continue to fail to meet its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”. 

The Israeli police also made another statement on the same day that the arrests of those suspected of murdering Muhammed Abu Khdeir was announced. That statement also related to a teenager murdered at the beginning of May, apparently out of ‘nationalistic’ motives. Shelly Dadon’s story was not reported by the BBC at the time and it does not appear on the BBC News website over four hours after details of the murder were released.  

BBC’s Knell continues to promote ‘revenge killing’ speculation

A filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell – shown on BBC television news programmes – also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 3rd under the title “Unrest in East Jerusalem after Palestinian teen killed“.rioting shuafat 3 7 knell filmed

The synopsis to the report as it appears on the website opens:

“There have been more clashes between the Israeli security forces and Palestinians, following the kidnap and murder of a Palestinian teenager in a suspected revenge attack for the killings of three young Israelis.”

Yet again, insufficient effort is made by the BBC to clarify to audiences that so far, no evidence has been made public by the authorities investigating the incident which would support the unproven speculations promoted by Palestinian sources and extensively amplified by the BBC, among others.

Against background footage of damage to the Jerusalem light rail system, Knell opens by using the neutral term “clashes” to describe what is in fact violent rioting.

“The smouldering aftermath of overnight clashes. Palestinians in East Jerusalem vented their anger over the death of a local boy. Stones were their ammunition against Israeli police.”

Knell neglects to inform audiences that in addition to the “stones” she mentions, fire-bombs, improvised explosive devices and other means were also employed by the rioters. She also refrains from informing them what the graffiti sprayed on the light rail shelter in Israel’s capital city – as shown in her report’s footage – reads:  ‘Death to Israel’. ‘Death to Jews’. ‘Price Tag’. 

Knell report light rail pic

Knell continues:

“The body of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, who was seventeen, was found in a forest yesterday just hours after he was seen being bundled into a van. Israeli police say they’re still investigating, but his family believe that he was abducted and killed in revenge for the recent murder of three Israeli teenagers.”

Again, it is not adequately clarified to viewers that so far no factual evidence has been presented which would support the family’s speculations. Stating the obvious, Knell continues:

“The funeral can’t take place until an autopsy is done.”

The report then cuts to an interview with the boy’s father.

“He was stabbed multiple times and burnt. We weren’t allowed to see the body. They had to use DNA to identify my son.”

Knell goes on:

“Now mourners wait for the funeral outside the family home. Everywhere you look you’ve got plenty of evidence of the overnight violence, but it reached much further than East Jerusalem. There were also clashes in Palestinian cities across the West Bank, where the Israeli army’s been doing raids, and in the Gaza Strip.”

Knell makes no effort to inform viewers that those “raids” are part of efforts being made to apprehend the murderers of the three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were discovered in Halhul on June 30th. She continues:

“Explosions lit up the night sky in Gaza. This was Israel’s response to the rockets fired by militants. In southern Israel homes were hit. No-one here was injured.”

The report cuts to an interview with a Sderot resident named as Avihai Giorno.

“It’s impossible to start the day without fear and the children, even though I tell them not to be afraid, when it reaches you it changes everything – the whole situation.”

Indeed, luckily there were no physical injuries that particular morning in Sderot, even though thirteen missiles exploded in the area between midnight and 9 a.m alone on July 3rd and two houses took direct hits, including that of the man interviewed. One of those houses was used as a nursery for toddlers, but Yolande Knell apparently did not consider it necessary to provide viewers with that information.

Knell ends her report with what is rapidly becoming standard BBC promotion of a view of events in the region as a “cycle of violence”.

“The cycle of violence is a familiar pattern in this decades-old conflict but the latest developments are a worrying sign of a potential escalation.”

It is worth taking a look at what the BBC’s promotion of a “cycle of violence” – or “tit-for-tat” as it has been described in other recent reports – actually conveys to its audiences. Such presentation suggests symmetry between the two sides, inevitability and equal responsibility on the part of the parties involved.

But in fact, the recent significant rise in missile fire by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip – the majority of which was not reported by the BBC – began as searches commenced on June 12th for the three missing Israeli teenagers. Israeli responses to that missile fire were caused by the decision made by terrorist organisations to carry out those attacks against civilians the Israeli government is obliged to protect. Had those attacks (some 130 missiles in three weeks) not been carried out, there would of course have been no Israeli response.

Similarly, had terrorists not decided to kidnap and murder three Israeli teenagers, there would have been no searches for them in Hebron and other PA-controlled areas and no “clashes” as Yolande Knell euphemistically terms the organized riots and violence aimed at disturbing those searches. Likewise, had the residents of Shuafat chosen to express their anger and grief in a non-violent manner – and perhaps even to assist (or at least not hinder) the police with their inquiries rather than taking to the streets to carry out violent rioting, there would currently be no riot-control personnel on Jerusalem’s streets.

Curiously though, the BBC affords no agency to terrorists who chose to launch of missiles or to mobs rioting in the streets, preferring instead to present a patronizing picture of a Palestinian people controlled by an outside force: a “cycle of violence”. That policy of course actively hinders BBC audiences’ ability to properly understand events.   















BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme broadcasts 3 minute anti-Israel diatribe

Many readers have written in over the last few days in order to bring our attention to items of BBC content on a range of platforms and we would like to thank all those who took the time to help out, especially during such an intense period.

One item which was the subject of several e-mails was a report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 3rd, along with several other items pertaining to the rioting in Jerusalem and the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir. We will address other aspects of that programme in a future post, but Knell’s item is of particular interest because in addition to being broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme, it has also been vigorously promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, appearing under the inflammatory and of course inaccurate title “Cousins of Palestinian teenager: Police ‘protecting killers’“, so far for three consecutive days.

Cousins on HP 3 7



Cousins on HP


Cousins on HP 5 7

In the ‘Today’ broadcast, the item was introduced by Yolande Knell with the following words:

“Now when I was in the area late yesterday covering the clashes, I met two of Muhammed Abu Khdeir’s cousins – Dima and Sumoud Abu Khdeir and I asked them for their response to what happened.”

Following Knell’s audio report, during which she does not intervene at all (transcript below), presenter John Humphrys made do with the following comment:

“Well those were a couple of cousins of that teenager who was kidnapped and murdered yesterday talking to Yolande Knell…”

In other words, no effort was made either by Knell or Humphrys  – either before, during or after the interview – to provide listeners with any kind of balance or perspective which would enable them to put the three minutes of undiluted defamation and propaganda they were about to hear or had just heard into its appropriate context.

To clarify: what the cousin terms “settlements” are neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.

Cousin A: “They took him at 3:30 in the morning while he was waiting for prayer. They took him, they killed him and they burned him. In the morning we woke up to police guarding the settlements. No man woke up thinking let we go run to the settlements and let’s attack these settlements. No: they already have it in their mind that they were gonna protect these settlements. Before it was even confirmed that it was him, they were already protecting these settlements and these people that took our cousin, killed him. They’re protecting them – the murderers.”

The accusation that the Israeli security forces are “protecting” the perpetrators of the crime is of course a very serious one indeed. It is also one for which there is absolutely no factual basis and at this stage of the ongoing investigation, the police have not yet named, apprehended or charged anyone in connection with the crime. One must therefore question the BBC’s extensive and unchallenged amplification of such a serious defamation.  The cousin continues:Knell cousins

“What does that tell you about the laws?  The laws they don’t care about us. They don’t care about Palestinians. We’re second class citizens. We’re not considered citizens. We’re garbage. They killed us: one down, five million to go, right? Less than five million. Every day there’s a martyr and they go and protect their settlements. So yeah, we’re mad, we’re upset, we’re throwing rocks. That’s all we can do is throw rocks. That’s our reaction; we’re upset.”

Of course all residents of Shuafat and other Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem are entitled to apply for Israeli citizenship and the laws of the land apply equally in all regions. The interview continues with the second cousin denying Palestinian involvement in the murders of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar and the promotion of a conspiracy theory.

Cousin B: “Five thousand prisoners. Palestinian prisoners in their jails and three of them we didn’t kill them and we all know that it’s a play from Netanyahu to kill all these kids. Your aim is kids? Kids?”

Cousin A: “Yeah. A kid was almost kidnapped – a child from his mother was almost kidnapped two days ago in front of my uncle’s store. Thank God our community is strong enough to protect this woman and her child. Unfortunately it was 3:30 in the morning when this kid got kidnapped in front of the mosque. No-one saw them. There was a few people that saw them but they got away before they could help ‘cos it was 3:30 in the morning. And they know it’s Ramadan. They know it’s Ramadan. They took him during Ramadan.”

Cousin B: “What would a kid do to you? He’s a kid. Seventeen years old. What he can do to you? To all your weapons, your sick things. Your sick settlements. There are settlers they are just killing us. Living in our land and killing us. That’s sick.”

Cousin A: “Stolen property and stolen children. Stolen. Now they’re stealing our kids and killing them. Our kids; not adults. Not people that are – hey, I’m pro-Palestinian, I wanna – no: children that haven’t even passed the [unintelligible]. Let them get into college. Let them live life a minute before you go kidnap and kill them. No-one cares. Who’s….the media doesn’t….I mean obviously you’re talking to me; you’re part of the media, but there’s something crazy going on. But for the most part no-one talks about the Palestinian situation, the Palestinian case. It’s quieted, it’s shushed because most people support the Israeli government. No-one cares if six people are missing, ten people die, two kids are kidnapped, ten women are killed. No-one cares about Palestinians.”

Cousin B: “We’re nothing, we’re nothing, we’re nothing.”

There is nothing in this uninterrupted three-minute diatribe which could possibly contribute to the enhancement of BBC audiences’ knowledge and understanding of the facts behind the event to which it supposedly relates – quite the opposite, in fact.  And yet, an editorial decision was made not only to broadcast the item on Radio 4, but also to further amplify it on the BBC News website. 

More BBC News promotion of unproven rumour surrounding murdered teen

BBC television news coverage of the rioting in Shuafat and other districts in Jerusalem after the discovery of the body of Muhammed Abu Khdeir on July 2nd has included two reports from the same day (also promoted on the BBC News website) by the BBC’s Christian Fraser, who was apparently brought in from Paris to provide back up to the Jerusalem Bureau.

The first of those BBC television news reports appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “On ‘front line’ in East Jerusalem as Palestinians clash with police“. Fraser opens:Fraser filmed 1

“Well this is the front line in East Jerusalem. We’re on the Palestinian side. You can see; these young Palestinians are throwing rocks that are littered around the floor. If you just spin round here, Jimmy [cameraman], you’ll see that someone’s just delivered more rocks for this man to throw. Ahm…just up here they’ve built this barricade. In fact in the last few minutes they’ve maneuvered a skip in place to try and give themselves some protection. Because on the other side, on the roofs, there are snipers. There’s a line of Israeli soldiers who have been firing rubber bullets at the Palestinians and in fact media crews have been hit this morning – one Palestinian crew and also one photographer who strayed too close. The air is thick with the smell of burning plastic and over here, right on the front line, is the house of the young boy that went missing this morning. Seventeen years old. His mother Suha told me he disappeared on his way to the mosque, which is over here across the road.”

Fraser’s ‘David and Goliath’ pastiche focuses audience attentions on rock-throwing, failing to clarify that other methods of attack such as firebombs and IEDs were also used by the rioters and making no mention of Palestinians attacked by the rioters or the vandalism of the section of the light rail system serving Shuafat. His description of members of the Israeli security forces engaged in riot control as “snipers” is of course inaccurate and misleading – especially as they are obviously in full view of the camera. He continues with an interview with an unidentified woman.

CF: “I want to just get a feeling of the anger that there is in this Palestinian community. Can I just talk to you? Just come over here. Tell us a little bit about this region ‘cos we’re very close to….”

Woman: “Settlements.”

CF: “To settlements. To an Israeli settlement.”

The “settlements” which Fraser promotes after the woman’s cue are of course Jerusalem neighbourhoods such as Pisgat Ze’ev.

Woman: “Yeah, it’s very bad. All of these guys they are relatives and they are boiling. They can’t want to do…Imagine if this boy he’s Jewish and he’s killed. What can they do they Jewish with us?”

CF: “Hmm..”

Woman: “What they did in Hebron. What they did.”

Fraser then puts his own words into the woman’s mouth:

“As a mother, are you sad that children on both sides are dying in this conflict?”

Woman: “Ehh…it’s not fair but we are, but we are, we like peace, we love peace. But if you – somebody take your house, your land, your kids, what can…imagine what can you do with them. Imagine. This is our life. This everyday. This is our life. This is our life.”

Fraser has nothing to say about the woman’s defamatory portrayal of Israelis as stealers of land, houses and children. Instead, he closes with a description of events which does nothing to inform BBC audiences why a community which might be expected to help the police with their inquiries into the murder of a local boy is instead obliging security forces personnel to engage in full-time riot control.

CF: “As the lady says, this is the cycle of violence; this eye for an eye mentality that in this region can spill out of control.

The same woman interviewee was also featured in a second filmed report by Fraser broadcast later in the day on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Mother of kidnapped Palestinian: ‘My son wasn’t answering’” with a synopsis which, like many other BBC reports on the topic, irresponsibly promotes an unproven version of events.  

“Hundreds of Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police in east Jerusalem after a Palestinian teenager was found dead in a forest.

It is the thought the 17-year-old was kidnapped and murdered in a revenge attack for the deaths of three Israeli teenagers last month.”

Fraser also opens his report with the promotion of a completely unverified accusation.

CF: “Jerusalem forest, where Israeli police recovered this morning the remains of a body: a young man who’d been beaten and set alight. He was Muhammed Abu Khdeir – a seventeen year-old Palestinian schoolboy that neighbours say was kidnapped by Israeli settlers.”

Neither Fraser, nor the anonymous “neighbours”, nor indeed the police investigators currently dealing with the case have so far any proof that Israelis – let alone “settlers” – kidnapped the teenage boy. And yet the BBC has no qualms about broadcasting that speculative rumour to millions of viewers and readers around the world.

Unlike Fraser and his BBC crew, an Israeli journalist specializing in Arab affairs did go to enquire about the basis for those claims by “neighbours” that “settlers” had kidnapped the boy.

“Were they wearing kippot? I asked the family members; they answered that they weren’t. Did they have beards, tziziot [fringes]? No. What are settlers? I asked and came up against unclear answers. ‘They escaped to Jerusalem, so they’re settlers’ they answered at the end of the short interview….”

Fraser continues:

“His home is in East Jerusalem and it now marks a makeshift front line in the running battles with Israeli soldiers. Inside the house; the grieving relatives. Among them, Muhammed’s mother Suha who had the grim task of identifying her son in a police morgue.”

Mother: “They told me someone was kidnapped on the way to the mosque. I called his phone. I kept calling and calling. It was switched off. My son wasn’t answering.”

The BBC’s ‘style guide’ defines ‘Palestinian territories’ as follows, but Fraser seems to have concluded that certain neighbourhoods of Jerusalem which are not of course under the control of the PA, can also be described as such.

“Strictly speaking, the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority (above). These are complicated to work out because of the division of the West Bank into three areas and because of the changes on the ground since the Intifada.”

CF: “The confrontations with soldiers are an everyday part of life in the Palestinian territories. They’ve seen it many times before. But there’s nothing normal in this: young men risking lives throwing stones in the direction of snipers.”

There’s that inaccurate description of riot control police as “snipers” yet again promoted to BBC audiences, along with a bizarre framing of the rioters as some sort of heroic figures “risking lives”. Next the unnamed woman from Fraser’s previous report makes a reappearance.Fraser filmed 2 Amil Peretz

Woman: “It’s bad. Our situation is very bad. It’s very bad. All of these guys they are relations and they are boiling.”

Fraser then goes on to make the very dubious claim that riot control police attacked the family’s house.

“The patience is wearing thin on all sides. Suddenly the house becomes the focus of a sustained Israeli assault. Stun grenades, rubber bullets, pandemonium. The relatives of the murdered boy take shelter.”

Fraser continues by making the unjustified and inaccurate implication that there may be some sort of difference in the way this incident is being handled because of the boy’s ethnicity.

“This is the cycle of violence; that eye-for-an-eye mentality that in this region can quickly spiral out of control. The Palestinian anger is underpinned by the feeling on their side that their lives are worth less, so it’s incumbent on the Israeli authorities that they condemn and pursue the perpetrator of this crime as they would had it been an Israeli child.”

He goes on to relate to the three boys kidnapped and murdered on June 12th, notably with the introduction of a caveat regarding the perpetrators despite – in that case – the evidence available.

CF: “Of course earlier in the week it was an Israeli child. Three of them: abducted and murdered – say Israel – by Hamas.”

Next comes an interview with an Israeli minister inaccurately named as “Amil Peretz” in the sub-titles.

CF: “But this cabinet minister told me he considers today’s murder every bit as abhorrent.”

Amir Peretz: “It shames our country and if it is proven to be Israelis who are responsible, then I would consider it a terrorist attack.”

Fraser concludes:

“A resumption of the peace talks then looks as distant as ever. There are ten standoffs continuing in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank. Mortars were fired today from the Gaza Strip. Tomorrow, it’s the funeral.”

If Christian Fraser or anyone else at the BBC has actual evidence to suggest that “Israeli settlers” were responsible for the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, they should of course contact the Israeli police immediately. If they do not, then Fraser and others should clearly cease the propagation of speculation and rumour which has been evident in all BBC reporting on this topic since the first hours of the incident and start behaving like journalists from an organization committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

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BBC News promotes unverified speculation on motive for killing of Palestinian teen

BBC News promotes unverified speculation on motive for killing of Palestinian teen

At around 04:00 local time on the morning of July 2nd a teenager from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Shuafat was reported missing. At 05:45 the Israeli police announced the discovery of a body in the Jerusalem forest but at that stage, no connection had been established between the two events.

Just over four hours later, and hours before the body had been officially identified, the BBC News website published the first version of an article which now appears under the title “Palestinian teenager’s body found in Jerusalem“. That initial version read as follows:Shuafat first art

“Israeli police have found a body they believe may be that of a Palestinian teenager kidnapped in East Jerusalem.

A boy was seen being forced into a car in Beit Hanina early on Wednesday. Within hours, a body was discovered in a wood in Givat Shaul, to the west [sic].

Israeli police were unable to confirm the motive, but Palestinian sources said it appeared to be a revenge attack for the murder of three Israeli teens.

Later, Palestinians clashed with Israeli police outside the boy’s home.

The protesters threw stones at the officers, who reportedly responded by firing sound bombs and rubber bullets.”

Around an hour later, that article was amended and expanded (all changes to it can be viewed here). Despite the fact that at that stage the circumstances had still not been established and the body was still in the process of DNA identification, the second version of the article opened thus:

“Israeli police have found the body of a Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped overnight in East Jerusalem.

A boy was seen being forced into a car in Shufat [sic] early on Wednesday. Within hours, a partly-burned corpse was discovered in a forest in Givat Shaul.

Israeli police were unable to confirm the motive, but Palestinian sources said it appeared to be a revenge attack for the murder of three Israeli teens.”

In other words, despite the fact that the police and forensic investigations were still in their initial stages, (and in sharp contrast to its two-day wait in reporting the kidnapping of three Israeli teens on June 12th) the BBC was already telling its audiences that the teenager, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, had been kidnapped, that the body found in the forest was his and that the motive “appeared to be” a “revenge attack” by Israeli Jews.

Although the language used later on in that article is a little more guarded, nevertheless the BBC elected to promote and amplify a version of events which, even over 24 hours later, has still not been established as fact.

Yolande Knell was quoted in that article as saying:

“While there has been no confirmation that this was a revenge attack for the three murdered Israelis whose bodies were found in the West Bank earlier this week, there is no doubt among Palestinians here about what has happened.”

A quote from Kevin Connolly also advanced the same theory.

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly says it is too early to say for sure, but there is a real possibility that the killing is a tit-for-tat reprisal, with all the dangers that would pose for the broader relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Knell’s quote appeared in all five subsequent versions of the report and Connolly’s quote in all but the most recent version, which was published just before 3 p.m. local time.

Just before 7 p.m. local time the police spokesman made the following announcement:

“Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says police are investigating the possibility that the motive behind the abduction and killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir was criminal or an honor killing, as well as the option that it was nationalistically motivated.

“There are no clear-cut conclusions at the moment,” he says. “We will have to see how things develop.” “

On the same evening the Minster for Public Security also made a statement.

“Minister Aharonovitch emphasized that at this stage all avenues of investigation are being checked and added that the motive for the murder cannot be determined at present. The Minister noted that units in Jerusalem and around the country are being reinforced and asked the public to show restraint and patience at this time in order to allow the investigators to carry out their work.” [emphasis added]

The BBC News website, along with other BBC platforms, continues however to promote and amplify an unproven, highly inflammatory and – as past experience shows – potentially very dangerous version of events which at this stage is based entirely upon supposition and speculation.

Is this really the standard of reporting expected from an organisation which informs its funding public that “BBC News aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism”?   



BBC’s Donnison returns with inaccurate promotion of armistice lines as ‘borders’

The BBC’s former Gaza Strip and West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison was back on the BBC News website’s Middle East page (and Asia page) on June 9th with an article titled “Israel and Australia: New best mates?” in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section.Donnison Israel Australia

Readers who are wondering about the connection between the image used to illustrate that article and the obviously unconnected caption appended by the BBC may be interested to learn that the original photograph was captioned as follows:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the original flag Israeli paratroopers waved at the Western Wall during the 1967 Middle East War, before a special cabinet meeting marking Jerusalem Day at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem May 28, 2014.”

Donnison begins by implying that there is something untoward about the fact that the Israeli prime minister congratulated Egypt’s new president on his win of elections which Donnison appears to believe lack legitimacy.

“After a quick call to congratulate the new President of Egypt Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on his election victory, which many regard as far from democratic, Mr Netanyahu singled out Australia for high praise at his weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday.”

Of course President Sisi also received congratulations from many other nations, including the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and China, but that point does not seem to concern Donnison quite as much.

Next Donnison moves on to the real topic of his article: the recent statement by Australia’s Attorney General on the issue of the use of the term ‘occupied’ to describe specific neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. Donnison, however, only quotes part of the statement:

“Last week the Australian Attorney General George Brandis issued a statement saying: “The description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful.” “

That quoted line would of course have been better understood by BBC audiences were it placed within the context of the words coming before it:

“Australia supports a peaceful solution to the dispute between Israel and the Palestinian people, which recognises the right of Israel to exist peacefully within secure borders and also recognises the aspiration to statehood of the Palestinian people,” Senator Brandis said.

”The description of areas which are subject to negotiations in the course of the peace process by reference to historical events is unhelpful.

”The description of East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied East Jerusalem’ is a term freighted with pejorative implications, which is neither appropriate nor useful.”

Jon Donnison, however, is apparently of the opinion that the Australian government is incapable of deciding on its approach to this subject all by itself and so he goes on to provide readers with obviously speculative ‘explanations’ for the Attorney General’s statement which involve “extreme right-wing Israeli lobbyists” who have “influence”.

“Australia’s support for Israel is contentious here.

The former Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr has recently said that extreme right-wing Israeli lobbyists here had an extraordinary influence on Australian policy in the Middle East under former Prime Minister Julia Gillard that he regarded as “very unhealthy.”

Mr Carr’s comments were strongly criticised by the Israeli government and some of the country’s supporters.

Why Australia has chosen now to change its position is not clear.

It’s possible Mr Brandis was speaking off the cuff or out of turn, but the clarifying statement suggests not.

The country has a relatively small Jewish population of about 100,000 (0.4% of the total).

The Arab population is much larger: roughly 300,000 people, mostly of Lebanese origin, but including around 7,000 Palestinians.

Israel’s critics will say the change on policy shows the influence of the lobby group Mr Carr talked about.”

As someone who spent over three years reporting from the Middle East, Donnison should be capable of avoiding the breaches of accuracy and impartiality evident in other parts of this article.

“Jerusalem is at the heart of the Middle East’s most intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Donnison provides no evidence for his claim that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is “the [..] most intractable” in the Middle East or that it is any more intractable than, say, that between Sunni and Shi’a which has been going on for considerably longer and with much more lethal consequences.

“Israel captured East Jerusalem along with Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula during the 1967 Six Day Arab Israeli war.”

Donnison fails to provide any context to that statement and of course neglects to inform readers that the eastern part of Jerusalem was only separated from the rest of the city for the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation and that its later annexation by Jordan was not recognized by the international community. Likewise, he fails to inform audiences that Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria and the Gaza Strip are all areas designated for the creation of the Jewish homeland under the terms of the Mandate for Palestine.

Next comes a statement which must have crept past the BBC editorial checks.

Donnison piece deal

Donnison cites assorted countries and organisations in order provide backing for the viewpoint he wishes to promote, but fails to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing readers of opposing opinions.

“Almost the entire international community, including the United States, does not recognise Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem

The United Nations and the International Court of Justice regard East Jerusalem as occupied territory.

President Obama has called for the ending of “the occupation, which began in 1967″. Although in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly he did not specify if he was referring to East Jerusalem.”

He then goes on to state:

“The United States, European Union and the United Nations all believe a future Palestinian state should be based around the pre-1967 borders.”

There is, of course, no such thing as “pre-1967 borders” because – as Donnison surely should know – the 1949 Armistice lines were not borders, as the agreement which created them specifically states.  [emphasis added]

“Article II

With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:

1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognised;

2. It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.”

“Article VI

8. The provisions of this article shall not be interpreted as prejudicing, in any sense, an ultimate political settlement between the Parties to this Agreement.

9. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

Donnison’s inaccuracies are outdone only by his lack of impartiality in what is a blatantly political polemic barely disguised as ‘analysis’.



The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the BBC’s misrepresentation of Israeli building during the period of the recently ended negotiations between Israel and the PLO and the way in which politically motivated reporting steered audiences towards a belief that thousands of new houses and apartments had been constructed in Judea & Samaria and areas of Jerusalem over the ‘green line’ during that time, despite the fact that the actual figures show a different picture.tenders bbc art

The prime cause of the inaccurate impression received by audiences on this issue is the fact that the BBC refrains from reporting on actual building and instead focuses its (and its audiences’) attentions on requests for building tenders, even though it is a known fact that a considerable proportion of those tenders do not result in one breeze-block being laid or foundations being dug either because no bids are offered by contractors or bids which are made are too low.

Unsuccessful tenders are sometimes reissued, which often means that the foreign media – including the BBC – report the same tenders more than once. Such was the case, for example, in early April of this year when reissued tenders for 708 housing units in Gilo were reported by the BBC News website no fewer than three times in nine days.

Neither does the BBC overly trouble itself when it comes to reporting where exactly building tenders are located and whether or not they are in areas which, under any realistic scenario, will remain under Israeli control in the event of a peace agreement. Hence audiences remain oblivious of whether or not the plans cited by the BBC have any actual bearing or significance.

Likewise, audiences are not made aware of the fact that no existing agreements between Israel and the PLO (including the Oslo Accords) forbid or curb construction of housing within Jerusalem or Judea & Samaria.

A report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th under the title “Israel issues tenders for new settler homes” is notable for its failure to make many of the above points clear to readers.

The article opens:

“Israel has advanced plans for 1,460 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank after the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

It goes on to state:

“The Israeli housing ministry published tenders late on Wednesday for about 900 housing units in the West Bank and 560 in East Jerusalem. It represents the final government approval before construction can begin.”

However, at no point in the article are readers informed that the vast majority of those tenders are located in areas which, under the terms of previous proposals such as the Olmert Plan and the Clinton Parameters, would – in the event of a peace agreement – remain under Israeli control after land swaps.

Map tenders 1


Tenders map 2

The article does of course include a version of the BBC’s standard problematic insert on the topic of ‘settlements’ which not only breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to note differing legal interpretations of ‘international law’ besides that of Israel, but also inaccurately informs readers that all the people living in what the BBC terms ‘settlements’ are Jews.  

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

This report also includes the amplification of assorted quotations from politically partial sources.

“The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said it viewed the announcement of new tenders as a “grave violation”.

Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said it viewed the “latest escalation with the utmost seriousness” and would appeal to the UN Security Council and the General Assembly.”

A “grave violation” of what precisely is not clarified to audiences.

“Lior Amichai, of the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, said the move showed “the government’s policy is moving us towards one state”.”

No attempt is made to place that unsubstantiated and outlandish claim from a campaigning organisation repeatedly quoted and promoted by the BBC into its appropriate political context.

In contrast to the amplification of context-free political slogans, BBC audiences are not however provided with any proper background information concerning the pressing housing shortage in Israel and its relevance to the topic of this article.

This report also breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy by once more misrepresenting Hamas’ terrorist designation.

“Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the US.”

The recent round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO commenced at the end of July 2013 and concluded towards the end of April 2014. As the statistics show, actual construction in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem as a whole – not just the neighbourhoods described as ‘settlements’ by the BBC – was nowhere near the figures cited and promoted by the BBC throughout that period.

Despite the fact that no limitations were placed on construction in the preliminary agreements which came as precursors to those talks (the PLO of course opted for prisoner releases instead), we see that between the end of July 2013 and the end of March 2014, actual construction starts and completes fell in Judea & Samaria.

construction J&S

BBC audiences will of course not be aware of that fact because the reporting they receive on this topic is uniformly designed to promote a misleading political message and hence airbrushes out the real statistics, thereby actively preventing audiences from reaching their own conclusions based on factual information. 



The BBC’s inaccurate and misleading representation of Israeli building – part one

On January 10th 2014 the BBC News website informed its audiences that “Israel announces plans for 1,400 new settlement homes“, 801 of which it described as being situated in “West Bank settlements” and 532 in “East Jerusalem”. A week later, the same message was conveyed to BBC audiences once more.building

On February 5th 2014 the BBC News website announced to its audiences that “Israel approves 558 East Jerusalem settlement homes“.

On February 18th 2014 the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ provided a platform for Saeb Erekat to claim that since the beginning of negotiations between Israel and the PLO at the end of July 2013, 10,500 housing units had been “added” (which of course any reasonable viewer would take to mean built) and host Stephen Sackur even confirmed Erekat’s false PLO propaganda to BBC audiences.  

Erekat: “They have ….10,500 housing units. They have added 10,500 housing units existing settlements in ..”

Sackur: “Yes they have.”

Erekat: “…the supposed to be Palestinian state – which is four times the natural growth of New York – in the past four months and you’re telling me this is the behaviour of a government that wants to make two-state solution?”

On March 4th the BBC News website informed audiences that:

“….Israel released statistics showing a large increase in the pace of new settlement construction in the West Bank in 2013 over the year before.”

It failed, however, to put those statistics into their appropriate context.

On April 2nd 2014 the BBC News website promoted the idea that 708 reissued building tenders in “the Jewish settlement of Gilo on the southern outskirts of East Jerusalem” had hindered the flailing peace negotiations and those same tenders were also mentioned in the same context in an article which appeared on April 9th and in another on April 11th.

As the pre-fixed deadline for the negotiations between Israel and the PLO approached, the BBC continued both to neglect to inform audiences that limitations on Israeli building had not been part of the agreed terms of the negotiations and at the same time to promote the notion that construction was one of the reasons for the lack of success of the talks.

“Talks between the two sides were already troubled after repeated disagreements over settlement building and the release of prisoners.”

As we see, BBC audiences were led to believe that thousands – or even tens of thousands – of new housing units came into being in Judea & Samaria and specific areas of Jerusalem during the period of negotiations and specifically during the first quarter of 2014, with no attempt made to clarify to audiences the all-important difference between tenders and actual construction.

Newly released statistics however show that during the first three months of 2014, a grand total of one hundred and fifty-seven building projects were completed throughout Judea and Samaria and two hundred and thirty-two begun. Throughout the whole of Jerusalem – not just in the neighbourhoods the BBC insists on describing as “settlements” – 902 units were completed and 1,941 begun in the same quarter.  The figures represent a drop of 76.4% in construction starts in Judea & Samaria compared to the first quarter of 2013 and also show that most of the 2013 construction starts in that region took place before negotiations between Israel and the PLO began.

Were the BBC interested in accurate and impartial representation of the topic of Israeli building to its audiences, it would of course report realistically on the number of houses and apartments actually built instead of using (sometimes repeatedly) on-paper-only tenders to further the advancement of politically motivated messaging. 

Part two of this post will address the subject of the BBC’s latest reporting on building tenders.