BBC News reports Jerusalem terror attack with politicised description of location

Early on the afternoon of February 3rd a terror attack took place at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

“Three terrorists committed a combined stabbing and shooting attack Wednesday afternoon at Jerusalem’s Damascus gate, wounding two female Border Police officers and a young man. […]

The three attackers arrived at the scene armed with Carl Gustav rifles, knives and explosive devices. The Border Police unit noticed them and became suspicious. One terrorist presented a national ID card to a Border Police officer as another pulled out his weapon and opened fire.

The two wounded officers’ colleagues opened fire on the terrorists in response. According to Palestinian sources, the attackers – Ahmed Abu Al-Roub, Mohammed Kamil and Mohammed Nasser – came from the Jenin area, and were aged between 20 and 21. Two of the attackers had been barred from entering Israel by the Shin Bet, and all three crossed over illegally.

Later on, two explosive devices were found at the scene along with two guns. The explosives were neutralized.

Hamas praised the attack, calling the terrorists “heroes” and saying that the incident proved that “the Palestinian people will persist with the intifada.””

One of the injured Border Police officers – 19 year-old Hadar Cohen – later died of her wounds.

Version 1

Version 1

The BBC News website’s initial report on the attack was titled “Israeli border guards shot in Jerusalem attack” but after news of the death of one of the victims broke, that headline was changed to read “Jerusalem attack: Israeli border guard dies after shooting“. Obviously neither of those headlines supplies readers with any information concerning the perpetrators of the “Jerusalem attack”.

Later on additional amendments were made to the article but all versions state that two victims sustained wounds during the attack rather than three. All versions also open with a politicized description of the location of the attack.  

Version 1: “Two female Israeli border guards have been shot and wounded in an attack by three young Palestinian men in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police say.”

Versions 2 & 3: “A female Israeli border guard has died in hospital after an attack by three young Palestinian men in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police say.”

That is presumably the result of the fact that the BBC relies on maps from political NGOs which, inter alia, describe the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City as being a “settlement” and depict areas which were in fact classified as ‘no man’s land’ in the 1949 Armistice Agreement – including the area in front of Damascus Gate – as “Palestinian”.

Damascus Gate map

The first two versions of the article inform readers that:

“In the past four months, 28 Israelis have been killed in a wave of stabbing, shooting or car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.”

That number was later changed to 29 but the BBC apparently does not find it newsworthy that additional people who did not hold Israeli citizenship have also been killed in this ongoing wave of terror which has claimed 31 victims since it began. The articles also include the usual “Israel says” caveat with regard to Palestinian attackers.

“More than 160 Palestinians – mostly attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period.” [emphasis added]

As has been noted here before on numerous occasions, the BBC has had ample opportunity to verify the information independently and should by this time be able to tell its audiences in its own words that the majority of those killed were in the process of carrying out terror attacks at the time.

Version 2

Version 2

All versions of the report include commentary from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in which he describes almost daily terror attacks as “sporadic”, adopts the standard BBC approach of whitewashing incitement from official Palestinian sources and even manages to apportion blame to Israel for “inflaming the mood”.

“Our correspondent says the wave of violent incidents shows no sign of abating, and although the attacks are sporadic they are persistent.

Some Israeli politicians accuse Palestinian politicians of incitement and many Palestinians blame the readiness of the Israeli security forces to resort to lethal force for further inflaming the mood.

But, our correspondent adds, it does seem as though the incidents are spontaneous, with attackers drawing motivation from material on social media rather than following orders from any militant organisation.”

Hours after this attack took place, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party was already praising the perpetrators on social media but BBC audiences were of course not informed of that part of the story.

As the BBC report itself states, the three attackers were armed with knives, automatic weapons and improvised explosive devices. Nevertheless, Kevin Connolly tells readers that such a heavily armed and obviously pre-planned attack was “spontaneous”. 

Once again we see that the BBC has no intention of carrying out any serious reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism from official Palestinian sources which fuels the current wave of violence. 

A job well done: local BBC radio and TV coverage of Israeli help for UK flood victims

When a delegation from the Israeli humanitarian aid organization IsraAID arrived recently in flood-stricken West Yorkshire to help locals with the massive clean-up operation, BBC Radio Leeds reporter Daragh Corcoran went along to interview one of the team members.

The local TV news programme BBC Look North also reported on the story.

“It’s a job well done” says Cathy Booth at the end of her report, referring to the clean-up efforts. The same description applies to the typically Yorkshire matter-of-fact reporting of this Israel-related story by both Cathy Booth and her colleague from BBC Radio Leeds.  

The same can be said of a report aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme at the end of December. With guest editor Rohan Silva at the helm, Kevin Connolly produced a report described as follows:

“Israel likes to think of itself as the ‘start-up’ nation and there is evidence that it’s better than most other countries at getting small high-tech businesses off the ground and on to the stock exchanges of the world.
Our guest business editor for the week Rohan Silva wondered if that success might be down to the Israeli government’s creation of a post called chief scientist.”

That untypically business-like report can be found here.  

Inaccuracies in BBC News reports on Tel Aviv gunman

After a week-long manhunt, on January 8th Israeli security forces located the terrorist who murdered three people in Tel Aviv a week beforehand and the attacker was killed after he opened fire on the police unit trying to arrest him.  The BBC News website reported the story in an article titled “Tel Aviv shooting suspect killed in northern Israel” which opens as follows:mosque Arara 1

“An Israeli Arab wanted for shooting dead three people in Tel Aviv on 1 January has been killed by security forces in northern Israel.

Nashat Melhem was tracked down to a mosque in his home town of Arara and killed in a gun battle, police said.” [emphasis added]

As the Times of Israel reported, that information was quickly shown to be inaccurate but, despite several other amendments having been made, the BBC’s report has not been updated accordingly.

“Channel 2 reported that the Israeli forces, from an elite police unit and the Shin Bet, had sought to capture him alive, but were fired upon by Milhem, who was using the same weapon he used for last Friday’s shootings.

Channel 2 said he was tracked down to a building where his family had lived in the past. The building is very close to the family’s current home. An initial report that Milhem was killed in a mosque in Umm a-Fahm was inaccurate.”

That same inaccuracy also appeared in another BBC News website report published on January 9th.

mosque Arara 2

In its reporting of the attack on January 1st, BBC News promoted irrelevant speculations about the background to the incident which still remain in situ on its website. Readers of this latest report are told that:

“Police have not yet established a motive for the Tel Aviv killings.”

BBC News did not cover the subsequent week-long search for the attacker and audiences remain unaware of the fact that in addition to the Simta bar – where two of the victims were shot dead – Nashat Milhem targeted a nearby café and a restaurant. This article also fails to provide that information – which is obviously relevant to any reporting on the topic of motive.

Unlike the BBC, Hamas has no doubts about Milhem’s motive.

“The television network of Palestinian terror group Hamas on Friday evening said Arab Israeli gunman Nashat Milhem “died as a shahid [martyr] from shooting by occupation forces,” after he was killed in a shootout Friday afternoon with officers from the police and Shin Bet security service. […]

The station also showed footage, filmed before Friday’s events, of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh addressing hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza City.

“He went in the streets of Tel Aviv like a brave hero,” Haniyeh said of Milhem, “in order to bring them death.””

The BBC has refrained from informing its audiences about Hamas’ glorification of the attack.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Kevin Connolly promotes irrelevant speculation on Tel Aviv shootings

BBC’s Kevin Connolly promotes irrelevant speculation on Tel Aviv shootings

BBC News coverage of the shooting attack which took place in Tel Aviv on the afternoon of January 1st included an article which continued to appear on the BBC News website under the headline “Tel Aviv shooting: Two dead, Israeli police say” long after the murders had been confirmed and the identities of the victims released into the public domain.Connolly filmed pigua TA 1 1

A filmed report for BBC television news programmes was also posted on the BBC News website under the title “Tel Aviv attack: Footage emerges of gunman“.

In that filmed report, BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Kevin Connolly told viewers:

“At first the motive for the shooting wasn’t clear. There were speculations it was linked to criminality and may even have been a hate crime against the gay community. But gradually it emerged that the police had identified a suspect and that the killings were almost certainly linked to the long-running dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Readers of later versions of the written report found ‘analysis’ of the story from Kevin Connolly which included similar messaging.

Connolly analysis pigua TA 1 1

As those in Israel who watched or listened to real-time reporting as the incident unfolded will know, there was indeed a lack of clarity concerning the background to the incident in the first hours after the lethal attack.

Local media outlets moved from scheduled programming to rolling coverage of the attack and – as happens worldwide in such cases – audiences heard journalists and interviewees hastily recruited to fill time and the vacuum created by the absence of verified information engaging copiously in unsubstantiated conjecture and guesswork for hours on end.

The “speculations” concerning a possible hate crime against the gay community which Connolly found it appropriate to amplify were not voiced by official sources but by local journalists unable to bring their audiences concrete information during an unfolding event and later further constrained by a gag order on publication of details of the case.

BBC guidance on reporting war, terror and emergencies stresses that “[a]t such times, when there may be conflicting information and opinions, and with reliable information hard to come by, we need to be scrupulous in applying our principles of accuracy and impartiality.”

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy state:

“The BBC’s commitment to accuracy is a core editorial value and fundamental to our reputation. Our output must be well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested and presented in clear, precise language. We should be honest and open about what we don’t know and avoid unfounded speculation.” [emphasis added]

The editorial decision to amplify that particular item of unsupported speculation on various platforms – and especially after the circumstances of the incident had become clearer and its irrelevance demonstrated – is therefore one which requires explanation from the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism”.  

Why did the BBC’s Kevin Connolly resurrect an irrelevant moggie story?

If blessed with a long memory, listeners to the December 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme might have concluded that Kevin Connolly has spent so long at the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau that he has simply run out of fresh stories to tell. After all, barely three years have passed since Connolly last devoted one of his reports to the subject of street cats in Israel – “The lairy, wary cats stalking Jerusalem bins“, 18 October 2012. 

However, those listening to the item (from 01:20:00 here and promoted separately in abridged version here and a filmed version here) would quickly have understood the intent behind Connolly’s purported feline-interest report – which actually relates to a story over a month and a half old. The synopsis to the abridged version reads:Connolly cats R4

“Israel has a feral cat problem, with as many as two million feral cats living rough and scavenging for food around the country.

A neutering programme run by an animal charity has been keeping the numbers down but this year faced a challenge from a right-wing, religious Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who felt that it was against Jewish ethical principles to spend Israeli state money on interfering with the reproductive cycle.”

Presenter Mishal Husain’s introduction to the item was as follows:

“For decades Israel has had a problem with feral cats. There are an estimated 2 million of them on the streets. A neutering programme run by an animal charity has been keeping the numbers down but this year it faced a challenge from a right-wing minister who said it was against Jewish ethics to spend state money on interfering with the reproductive cycle. For now the charity has won the argument so our correspondent Kevin Connolly went to see it at work.”

In the report itself Connolly inaccurately tells listeners that the charity-run neutering programme is “controversial” in Israel. 

“For the cats the neutering clinic offers a brief respite of cleanliness and care. But in Israel its work is suddenly controversial.”

He goes on:

“The religious right-wing agriculture minister Uri Ariel has tried to direct state funding away from the programme, arguing that a prohibition in Judaism on interfering with the Almighty’s preferred arrangements for reproduction applies to animals as well as humans.”

Later he says:

“At one point the Agriculture Ministry was talking about transferring them [street cats] to other countries – although without saying where or how. A little internet mockery has put paid to that idea – at least for now.”

In fact it was not “the Agriculture Ministry” which proposed that idea but the same minister in a letter to his opposite number at the Ministry for Environmental Protection and what Connolly does not adequately clarify to listeners is that Ariel’s outlandish ideas were quickly shot down by the public, animal welfare activists, lawmakers and the attorney general, meaning that the story he now tells is long since irrelevant.

Nevertheless, that did not prevent Connolly from resurrecting it over a month and a half later even though British listeners to this report would not have learned anything about methods of catching, neutering and releasing street cats which does not also happen in their own country But of course the real subject matter of this item is not the cats: they are merely the hook for the promotion of a story about a “right-wing, religious” politician in one of the BBC’s ‘Israeli Jews behaving weirdly’ stories.

Radio 4 listeners also heard Connolly imply that Israelis like to blame the British for their problems:

“And if you’re British and you’re waiting to hear how this problem in the Middle East is somehow your fault – keep listening.”

An interviewee then says:

“The legend in Israel is that there was a rat problem and that the British brought cats to Israel to take care of the rats and now we have no rat problem and we have many, many cats.”

As those listeners with a long memory may have recalled, Connolly promoted that same theme three years ago in his previous cat story.

“There are plenty of feral cats elsewhere in the Middle East too but the great thing about being a citizen of a former colonial power is that almost any problem you ask about can somehow be traced back directly to your national door.

So there is a theory that the feline population of Jerusalem began to expand when the city was under British rule between the wars when cats were introduced to control rats.”

Apparently this kind of non-story is what the audiences of a media outlet which has apparently lost interest in reporting terror attacks against civilians and serially avoids touchy subjects such as internal Palestinian politics or the situation of minorities living under PA and Hamas rule must come to expect. 

BBC upholds PSC inspired complaints against ‘Today’ programme

Via the Guardian we learn that:

“The BBC has ruled that a Today programme misled viewers in a report on the recent period of renewed violence in Israel and Palestine.”Today

The report concerned was broadcast on the October 19th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme.

“The BBC received a number of complaints about an on-air conversation between presenter John Humphrys and Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly on 19 October about an ongoing flare-up in violence between Palestinians and Israelis that began on 1 October.

The conversation began with Humphrys referring to the most recent attacks, and summing up the total number of casualties.

John Humphrys: “Yet another attack on Israelis last night – this time an Arab man armed with a gun and a knife killed a soldier and wounded 10 people. Our Middle East correspondent is Kevin Connolly. The number is mounting, isn’t it Kevin? It’s about 50 now, isn’t it?”

Kevin Connolly: “We think about 50 dead over the last month or so, John – this sharp uptick of violence – not just that attack on the bus station in Beersheba, in Israeli itself but also on Saturday a wave of stabbing attacks in Hebron and Jerusalem.””

According to the Guardian’s report:

“The BBC head of editorial complaints, Fraser Steel, has written to those who complained saying that while it was clear the reference to 50 dead was meant to take in casualties on both sides, it would be “natural” to infer from the broadcast that only Israelis had been killed.

“In the context of a discussion of attacks carried out by Palestinians, and in the absence of clarification on the point, the natural inference for listeners was that it referred to the number of Israeli dead – which, in view of the actual incidence of mortality, would have been misleading,” wrote Steel. “To that extent, the report did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards regarding accuracy and I am proposing to uphold this part of your complaint.””

At the time of that broadcast ten Israelis had been murdered by Palestinian terrorists since the wave of attacks began. The Palestinian casualties were for the most part either terrorists shot whilst carrying out attacks or violent rioters threatening the lives of others. Ironically, it is the BBC’s attempt “to take in casualties on both sides” (seen not only in this report but also in many others) and the ensuing promotion of a false notion of moral equivalence between terrorists and their victims which was the root cause of this inaccuracy.

Should the BBC by chance deviate from its usual practice by issuing an on-air correction, in the interests of the same editorial guidelines concerning accuracy it should of course clarify that the Palestinian casualties include a high proportion of terrorists.  

Insight into the source of inspiration for the complaints comes not only the fact that the Guardian’s report includes comment from a representative of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign but also from the fact that the PSC’s Amena Saleem flagged up the ‘Today’ report at her usual ‘electronic Intifada’ slot the day after its broadcast.

As has been noted here before with regard to the PSC:

“Ironically, on numerous occasions in the past the BBC has failed to conform to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality when interviewing both Amena Saleem and other members of the opaquely funded anti-Israel, pro-Hamas lobbying and campaigning group with which she is associated.

For some time now the nature of the BBC’s relationship with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been a topic of interest and the corporation’s swift capitulation to political pressure following the publication of an article last summer [2014] about Hamas-supplied casualty figures and the subsequent ‘top-down’ dictated alterations made to that article – along with additional ‘damage control’ – brought the issue further into public view.”

Given the above statement from Colborne and the article by Saleem, the BBC complaints department might care to revisit its own words concerning “interested groups/supporters” – written in response to a complaint concerning a different report by Kevin Connolly in the same month. Additional BBC responses to less successful complaints concerning the BBC’s reporting on the current wave of terrorism can be seen here and here.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ECU upholds complaint from the UK’s pro-Hamas lobby

Kevin Connolly tells BBC Radio 4’s ‘Feedback’ complaints rooted in narratives

BBC explains why it can’t always report history accurately

Context-free amplification of BDS in BBC reports on London Mayor’s remarks

As our colleague Adam Levick noted over at UK Media Watch, the Guardian’s coverage of the Mayor of London’s recent visit to Israel and the PA controlled areas did not inform readers of the fact that a journalist covering Boris Johnson’s trip on behalf of the Jewish Chronicle was banned from attending an event in Ramallah because she is Israeli.

“Stephen Pollard, editor of the JC, said: “This is the reality of BDS. Forget the lies about it targeting institutions rather than people. As this outrageous ban on a journalist for no reason other than her nationality shows, it is about singling out individual Israelis and telling them that they are banned as people.””

So did the BBC do any better than the Guardian? Whilst the corporation covered the subject of the cancellation of some of the Mayor’s scheduled programme extensively on a variety of platforms, the banning of a fellow journalist simply because of her nationality was obviously not considered newsworthy by the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism”.

All the BBC’s reports did, however, highlight Boris Johnson’s previously made remarks concerning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. But – as is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on the issue of BDS – no effort was made to inform BBC audiences of the underlying agenda of that campaign.Boris filmed

In a filmed report for BBC television news programmes which was also posted on the BBC News website on November 11th under the title “Boris Johnson forced to cut short West Bank visit“, Karl Mercer told audiences that:

“What he said to them [Israeli leaders] over the movement that wants to ban Israeli products and maybe ban Israeli services is that he completely disagrees with any boycott. […]

The Mayor’s comments have been seen as controversial. […] They may be comments he’s going to regret now. […] He flies back to London tomorrow having learnt – you might think – a valuable lesson in international diplomacy.”

The BBC News website also produced a written article on the subject under the title “Boris Johnson cancels West Bank events amid Israeli boycott row” in which readers were told that:

“Advocates of a boycott, which has been in place by some organisations in recent years, claims it exerts pressure on the Israeli government, particularly in relation to the building of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, which have been condemned by the UN.”Boris written

The article makes no mention of the fact that the BDS campaign’s ultimate agenda is to bring about Israel’s demise by means of delegitimisation and it even goes on to amplify misleading claims from the vociferously anti-Israel – and not infrequently antisemitic – group known as the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Also on November 11th BBC Radio 4 audiences heard a report on the same topic from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly on the ‘PM’ programme.

“These are remarks that the Mayor came up with when he was discussing his views on calls in the outside world for a boycott of Israel and of course they’re calls that you hear all the time in both the academic and the economic spheres.”

Yet again none of the context vital for audience understanding of the BDS campaign’s agenda was supplied and so BBC audiences were not only deliberately deprived of information which would contribute to their understanding of the issue in general, but also of background vital for the formation of informed opinions concerning the Mayor of London’s remarks.

Kevin Connolly later told Radio 4 listeners:

“You know, official visitors here; foreign embassies, international news organisations, us – everyone weighs their words on these matters with infinite, exquisite care – or at least we try to – because it is just so easy to give offence to one side or the other….”

That a publicly funded corporation legally charged with enhancing audience understanding of international issues is apparently more concerned about ‘giving offence’ than fully informing audiences of the real background to this story (and the many previous ones in which it has similarly failed to provide crucial context) should be remarkable. Sadly, the BBC’s long history of whitewashing and mainstreaming the BDS campaign means that is no longer the case.  

Kevin Connolly tells BBC Radio 4’s ‘Feedback’ complaints rooted in narratives

h/t MD

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Feedback’ (which, as readers may know, has a ‘get involved’ facility) describes itself as a “forum for comments, queries, criticisms and congratulations”. The October 30th edition of that programme included an item (from 02:29 here) concerning criticism of the BBC’s reporting on the current wave of terror in Israel, introduced by presenter Roger Bolton as follows:R4 Feedback Connolly

“But we begin this week with the long-running conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Violence has escalated once again and with it, allegations of bias in the BBC’s coverage.”

Later on, a statement from BBC News concerning such allegations was read out on air.

“The BBC’s responsibility is to remain impartial and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments. We cover stories as they happen and our role is to explain and give context and so we endeavor to reflect a range of voices amid deeply held views. BBC News reports widely and extensively across TV, radio and online on many different aspects of this ongoing and complex conflict and we are committed to do so in an accurate, fair and balanced way across our coverage.”

Listeners then heard from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Kevin Connolly.

“The pressure comes and goes according to the pressure of the news. The higher the profile the story has in our news bulletins, the more we will hear from people who have very strong views on the conflict themselves about how our coverage measures up against their own feelings and they will scrutinize every aspect of our language, the words we choose to use, the amount of historical context we manage to add to pieces, the precise manner in which we report disputed factual circumstances. We absolutely accept that, you know, we are accountable to the British public and they are entitled to express what are often very, very strong opinions and a very strong sense of disappointment when they feel that our narrative is not close enough to the narrative of one side or the other.”

Referring specifically to his reports for Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, Connolly goes on to reveal his system of collegial fact checking – which readers may find particularly interesting given his recent item broadcast on that programme.

The BBC’s public purpose remit requires it to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. However, Connolly’s above response suggests that the fulfillment of that remit by means of the provision of accurate and impartial information is being eclipsed by the fact that the corporation is caught up in a narrative of narratives.

Of course narratives concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict exist just as they do on many other topics such as climate change, immigration or Britain’s membership of the EU. But there are facts which should transcend any attempt to package a story in a particular fashion and it is that factual information which members of the British public pay to receive – precisely in order to enable them to assess the validity of any particular narrative and enhance their understanding of the facts behind the story. 

However, as Matti Friedman wrote last year:

“The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it, a role with consequences for the millions of people trying to comprehend current events, including policymakers who depend on journalistic accounts to understand a region where they consistently seek, and fail, to productively intervene.”

Were the BBC to get back to journalistic basics, Kevin Connolly might be better placed to appreciate that when members of the public complain about his misrepresentation of Britain’s administration of the Mandate for Palestine, his distorted accounts of the Six Day War or his recent claim that Temple Mount is an exclusively “Islamic” site, it is because he is factually wrong.

Connolly’s dismissive assertion that such complaints are rooted in a wish to see the BBC adhere to a certain “narrative” do little to convince audiences of the BBC’s commitment to accurate and impartial reporting as its main priority – or its capacity for self-criticism.

BBC explains why it can’t always report history accurately

Readers no doubt recall the audio report from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which – despite including inaccurate portrayals of both Israeli and British history – was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on October 24th.FOOC Connolly 24 10

A member of the corporation’s funding public who wrote to BBC Complaints about that report received a response which includes the following ‘explanations’. [all emphasis added]

“I fully appreciate your concerns surrounding BBC reporting of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians during From Our Own Correspondent broadcast on 24 October 2015.

There are lots of newsworthy events happening the world over that deserve just as much time spent on them as that dedicated to the Middle East. We’ve to make difficult decisions based on the evidence and independent verification our news teams can gather in order to report on the news we do. This does lead to subjective decisions being taken on what news we report on and as is often the case the lack of reporting on any issue lays the BBC open to criticism from interested groups/supporters who accuse the BBC of deliberately failing to tell the whole story. This is never our intention.

We’re subject to ensuring our news coverage is of national interest to our domestic audience and there isn’t the time or resources available to cover every current or historical aspect of a conflict that some sections of our audience would like.

As a public service broadcaster and ingrained in our Royal Charter all journalists and news teams have a firm commitment to impartiality and we cannot be seen to be taking the word of interested groups and we always aim to verify all stories we receive before we give airtime to them. The situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is fraught with difficulties, two sides with opposing views, each seeking to undermine the other. It is a difficult path our journalists take, they’ve to bury their emotions as much as possible to remain impartial when reporting on the attacks that take place in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and any other conflict. They come under intense pressure to report on what one side is saying but they’ve to keep a clear head and remain committed to reporting events as they happen to avoid emotional language.

I can tell you feel very strongly that the BBC has failed to properly convey the impossible situation that Israelis are in. Our only goal is to report truthfully and honestly the situation faced by both Israelis and Palestinians without bias. “

Common sense would of course dictate that if indeed “there isn’t the time or resources available to cover every current or historical aspect of a conflict”, then it would be prudent to avoid featuring sloppy and inaccurate accounts which mislead the BBC’s “domestic audience” about its own (and others’) history so prominently in BBC reports. The “national interest” of that audience is surely not served by misrepresentation of Britain’s administration of the Mandate for Palestine and one must also ask just how much “time or resources” are required in order for BBC correspondents to portray the well-recorded events of decades ago accurately.

Perhaps if the BBC focused more on reporting facts rather than promoting narratives, it would find the presentation of historic events, which in this case are crucial to audience understanding of the context of a news story, far less time and resource consuming. 

Terrorist? Motorist? It’s all the same to the BBC’s Kevin Connolly

As noted in a previous post, the October 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ included an item by Kevin Connolly (available for a limited period of time from 25:41 here).The World This Weekend

In addition to Connolly’s amplification of baseless conspiracy theories pertaining to Temple Mount and promotion of the notion that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”, a number of additional themes seen repeatedly in BBC coverage of the current wave of terrorism in Israel were promoted by Connolly and the programme’s presenter, Edward Stourton.

Stourton’s introduction began with promotion of equivalence between Israelis murdered by terrorists and the perpetrators of those attacks – who clearly interest him more than their victims.

“Forty-one Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the latest eruption of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories but the figures don’t really tell the full story. Many of the attacks which have resulted in those deaths were carried out by young Palestinian men with knives and they must surely have acted in the knowledge that they would almost certainly be killed themselves. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has thrown up violence in all sorts of forms, but this is new.”

The inaccurate notion that the current violence is “new” has also been seen in previous BBC content but of course there is nothing “new” at all about knife attacks or – as the second Intifada showed – about Palestinians committing terror attacks in which the likelihood of their being killed in the process was either obvious or intended.

Kevin Connolly opened his report in his typical flowery style.

“I have brought you to the Hass Promenade – a steeply terraced park not far from my home that looks east towards the hills of Jerusalem: a holy city, wholly divided.”

He later told listeners that:

“One of the recent stabbing attacks happened a few hundred meters from where I’m standing. The Palestinian village of Jabel Mukaber – home to at least one of the attackers of the last few weeks – is just beside me.”

In fact at least four perpetrators of attacks which took place before Connolly’s report was aired came from Jabel Mukaber – including the two who carried out an attack on a city bus in East Talpiot which has now claimed three fatalities and the one later described by Connolly in this report as “a motorist” – not, of course, a terrorist – who murdered a Rabbi waiting for a bus.

Connolly continued; his commentary too garnished with ample dollops of equivalence:

“Now I said ‘wholly divided’ but that’s not quite right. When the atmosphere suddenly sours as it has soured here in the last few weeks, Israelis and Palestinians alike are angry and frightened. There are victims on both sides, of course. But most people would struggle to identify with the sufferings of the victim on the other side.”

He next promoted a theme which has been dominant in his own previous reports and in other BBC coverage: the description of attacks directed at Jews (rather than “Israelis” as Connolly suggests) as ‘random’ events. Concurrently, Connolly ignored the known affiliations of some of the attackers with terrorist organisations and, predictably, refrained from telling listeners about the connecting thread between all those ‘random’ attacks: incitement.

“Israelis see their country as an island of democracy in a region of chaos and Islamic extremism and they crave a sense of normality. The attacks of the last few weeks have punctured that sense. They have been the work of individual Palestinians who’ve decided to take knives from their kitchens to randomly stab Israelis – soldiers, police officers and civilians. In one case a motorist drove his own car into a queue of pedestrians, with deadly intent. Those knives tear at the fabric of daily life here. Jewish Jerusalem is an edgy place these days where people suddenly feel that any Palestinian might be a knife attacker; any passing car might pose a deadly danger.”

But just in case listeners were by now drifting off message, Connolly brought them back with more promotion of equal suffering and inaccurate portrayal of violent riots as “protests”.

“But Palestinians are fearful too. It’s nearly fifty years since Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank. You are almost a pensioner if you can remember when every detail of daily life wasn’t under the control of the occupier. […]

And there’s deep anger and resentment at the readiness with which Israeli forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians in protests.”

Of course the vast majority of Palestinians in “the West Bank” have actually lived under the control of the Palestinian Authority for the past two decades, meaning that Connolly’s attempt to persuade listeners that Israel controls “every detail of daily life” in places such as Ramallah, Nablus or Jenin is decidedly embarrassing.

This report from Connolly contributed nothing new to audience understanding of the wave of terrorism in Israel because it followed the now well-established template of BBC coverage according to which attacks not named as terrorism are portrayed as ‘random’ or ‘spontaneous’  and attributed to ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ created by “the occupation”.