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”. 

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

After almost four weeks of BBC coverage of the current wave of terror attacks in Israel, the promoted themes – and the deliberate omissions – which reflect the corporation’s editorial approach to the story have become clear and we will be addressing that topic fully in a future post.

One particularly disturbing aspect of some of the BBC’s coverage in recent weeks (especially given the corporation’s global outreach) has been the amplification of baseless conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount – as was noted in this article:

“According to that conspiracy theory, Israel seeks or intends to change the status quo on Temple Mount and whilst assorted versions of that libel have been published and broadcast by the BBC, the corporation has to date not told its audiences in its own words that they are baseless. At best, it has opted to tell them that “Israel says” it has no intention of changing the status quo at the site. At worst, it has lent the BBC’s reputation of reliability to such lies.”

As can be seen in the above link, on September 13th listeners to the BBC World Service were told by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad that Temple Mount is a “Muslim site” and that: [all emphasis added]

“The Israeli government seems like it’s going towards a situation where there would be shared times of prayers in that area which Muslims consider it to be their third holiest mosque.”


“Muslims in Jerusalem are petrified that Israel plans to rebuild the Temple Mount which means that they will have to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque.” 

Nawal Assad also promoted the Palestinian narrative according to which all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque”.

On October 9th viewers of a filmed report broadcast on  BBC television news programmes heard Orla Guerin also promoting the inaccurate notion that all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque” when she told them that “It’s [the Old City of Jerusalem] home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews“.  

On October 13th an interviewee in a report by Yolande Knell told viewers of BBC television news programmes that al Aqsa Mosque had been ‘invaded’ and ‘disrespected’ and that Israel is “fighting our religion” – Islam. Not only did Yolande Knell fail to relieve viewers of the misleading impressions created by those inaccurate claims, she went on to amplify them yet again in an audio report broadcast two days later on BBC Radio 4.

On October 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen also told viewers of a filmed report shown on BBC television news programmes that Temple Mount is “the Aqsa Mosque”.

“Only Muslims can pray in the compound around the golden Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa Mosque.”

On October 24th in an audio report aired on BBC Radio 4 Kevin Connolly likewise promoted the notion that Temple Mount is “al Aqsa compound” – and that the entire site is solely “Islamic”.

“The victory brought the holy places – the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish Western Wall and the Islamic al Aqsa compound – under Israeli control…” 

Prior to that, on October 18th, Connolly had also told listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ (from 25:41 here – the rest of the item will be discussed in a separate post) that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”:The World This Weekend

“There’s a nagging fear that Israel might be planning to erode the Islamic identity of the sacred compound around that golden dome in the distance.”

Refraining once again from clarifying to listeners in his own words that such claims are entirely baseless, he continued:

“Israel repeatedly denies having any such plans but the denials fall on deaf ears. That is an issue with the power to provoke a kind of anger which is just not understandable in Europe or North America.”

Had BBC audiences received comprehensive information over the past four weeks on the topic of the incitement concerning Temple Mount which has been put out by Palestinian Authority sources and officials of the highest level (among others), they might have been able to understand what causes those “deaf ears”.

Likewise, had they been informed of the religious motifs evident in much of that incitement, they would have been better placed to join the dots between the whipping up of anger to a point at which young Palestinians murder Jews on the street in Jerusalem and the murders of cartoonists and Jews in a shop in Paris or a British soldier on a London street. 

But of course the topic of the incitement fueling this wave of terror – and in particular that disseminated by the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority and its ‘secular’ president – has been studiously avoided by the BBC over the last few weeks, except when alluded to briefly using the standard ‘Israel says’ formula. The reason for that is that the religious aspect of this story is one which does not comfortably fit into the BBC’s wider narrative and so it has been consistently sidelined in favour of ‘contextualisation’ featuring ‘occupation’, ‘humiliation’ and ‘failure of the peace process’.

However, as can be seen in the examples above, the BBC apparently has no problem accepting – and amplifying – the falsehood that Temple Mount (significant to all three Abrahamic religions) is “the al Aqsa Mosque” and exclusively “Islamic” or “Muslim”. The aim of that narrative is of course to deny Jewish history and negate Jewish links to Jerusalem.

Who would have thought that we would have reached a point where the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” has embraced the role of amplifier of a false narrative rooted in religious and racial intolerance? 


BBC’s Connolly contorts Israeli – and British – history to fit his political narrative

The BBC’s reputation as a reliable source – underpinned by a supposedly unwavering commitment to cast-iron accuracy and impartiality in its reporting – means that members of the public, researchers and educators regard its content as being an authoritative record. The BBC itself relates to its online archive content as “historical record” and its Director of Editorial Policy and Standards has stated that “[h]owever long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”.

Mr Jordan might therefore care to consider a report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available from 00:43 here) which was broadcast in the October 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent”.FOOC Connolly 24 10

Ostensibly providing listeners with a historical angle to the current wave of terror in Israel, Connolly’s report is remarkable for the fact that it once again promotes the notion that the attacks are of a “random and spontaneous nature”, ignoring the issue of incitement and the growing number of cases in which perpetrators have been shown to have links to terrorist organisations.

Concurrently, Connolly’s messaging for listeners includes the employment of statements such as:

“…the readiness with which Israel’s security forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians”

And, referring to checkpoints outside the Jerusalem neighbourhoods from which a very significant proportion of the attackers have come:

“….the sense that restrictions on movement are a form of collective punishment”.

But Connolly’s politically motivated framing of the story reaches its zenith in his inaccurate portrayal of the history of Jerusalem.

“Even the British – eternally torn between the desire to have an empire and the desire to have an empire on the cheap – left some kind of mark.”

“British rule lasted more than thirty years in the Holy Land.”

Mandate Palestine was not of course part of the British Empire, as Connolly implies in those two proximate statements. Britain indeed administered the Mandate for Palestine, but that mandate was established (along with several others) by the League of Nations with the specific aim of reconstituting a Jewish national home: a task which the administrator did not complete in the years before it returned that mandate to the League of Nations’ successor, the United Nations, on May 14th 1948.

Having distorted one very relevant part of the history by erasing the Mandate for Palestine from audience view, Connolly then goes on to promote a blatant factual inaccuracy.

“The British left in 1948, leaving the Arab kingdom of Jordan in control of East Jerusalem and the Old City and West Jerusalem in Israeli hands.”

The uninformed listener would obviously take that statement to mean that Jordanian control over parts of Jerusalem was both recognised and perfectly legitimate: the result of their having been handed over to it by the previous ‘landlord’.

Despite having erased from the picture the fact that Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem actually came about by means of a belligerent invasion of Israel by Jordan (together with four other Arab nations) immediately following Britain’s abandonment of its role as administrator of the League of Nations mandate and Israel’s declaration of independence, Connolly goes on to include a demilitarized zone (surely unexplainable according to his version of events) in his story.

“The route I follow crosses what was then an edgy and dangerous DMZ – a demilitarized zone across which Israel and the Arab world contemplated each other in mutual hostility.”

He proceeds, erasing yet another episode of Jordanian belligerence from his account:

“In the war of 1967 Israel crossed the DMZ and drove the Jordanians out of the Old City and out of East Jerusalem. The victory brought the holy places – the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish Western Wall and the Islamic al Aqsa compound – under Israeli control, where they remain to this day.” [emphasis added]

Here we have yet another example (previous recent ones can be seen here, here and here) of the BBC’s adoption and promotion of the inaccurate narrative whereby all of Temple Mount is al Aqsa and Connolly even portrays the site as exclusively “Islamic” – despite the fact that it is of significance to members of three religions.

He continues:

“…the victory of 1967 brought the Arab population of East Jerusalem and dozens of outlying villages which had belonged to Jordan under Israeli military occupation.” [emphasis added]

Of course those locations were in fact under Jordanian occupation and their later annexation by Jordan was not recognized by the international community, meaning that Connolly’s claim that they “belonged to Jordan” is inaccurate and misleading.

The take-away message promoted to listeners to this report is that the roots of the current wave of violence are to be found in the Israeli occupation of areas that previously belonged to “the Arab kingdom of Jordan”. Not only is that an inaccurate portrayal but in order to frame the story in such a way, Connolly distorts and erases the history of the region in a manner which actively hinders audience understanding of the wider issue.

Given that this report potentially risks wasting public resources by becoming the subject of editorial complaints, the BBC clearly needs to issue prompt corrections to the plethora of inaccuracies promoted by Kevin Connolly.


BBC Radio 4 – contact details

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Twitter   


BBC News tells audiences Israeli fears of terror attacks are ‘paranoia’

During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Paranoia Connolly

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterize their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.

In that article – which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly promotes the notion of equivalence between the distress of Israeli Jerusalemites who have seen at least sixteen terror attacks resulting in five fatalities in their city in the last three weeks with that of Palestinians who, according to his account, are inconvenienced by roadblocks and suspicious looks.

“But at times of rising tensions and rising casualty figures like this, the two populations that normally lead parallel lives share something very profound in common.

They are united by their fears for the dangers their families might face and by the deep urge that’s within all of us to keep our children safe.”

In the section of his report devoted to the neighbourhood of Issawiya, Connolly writes:

“Even in better times there is deep resentment in Issawiyah at the practical outworking of the occupation – Palestinians in villages like this pay the same local taxes as Israelis in West Jerusalem but strongly feel they don’t receive the same services.

They point to the condition of the roads and pavements and the absence of recreational facilities.

“There are Jewish districts where they have parks for their dogs,” one man told me, “And here we don’t even have a park for our kids.””

He of course refrains from informing readers that residents of Issawiya were at the forefront of opposition to the creation of a national park on their doorstep.

Although he describes the inconvenience of roadblocks implemented to try to deal with terrorism, Connolly does not provide audiences with relevant context, failing to clarify that a very significant proportion of the perpetrators of attacks during the first three weeks of October came from Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem.

“There is an Israeli checkpoint at the main entrance to the village. The local people say that if anyone throws stones at the soldiers who man it, they close the road and force commuters returning from Jerusalem to wait in their cars for anything up to an hour.”

Connolly tells readers that:

“Fear for the safety of children does unite the two communities, although the fears are different.

Israelis worry their children might be the victims of a politically-motivated street attack – Palestinians fear the readiness with which Israeli police and soldiers resort to lethal force, especially if they live in a part of the West Bank where it is easy to get caught up in street protests.” [emphasis added]

Those “street protests” are of course more accurately described as organised violent rioting and Connolly’s apparent belief that Palestinian parents lack the agency required to prevent their offspring from participating in such activities is quite remarkable.

Connolly closes his article with promotion of a dominant – yet inaccurate – theme seen in much BBC coverage in recent weeks.

“…the fears and anxieties triggered in this latest round of violence here are individual and deeply personal just as the attacks appear to have been spontaneous. […]

But the random nature of the violence and its lack of an apparent link to any known organisation is going to make any kind of diplomatic or political intervention here even harder than usual.”

Yet again the BBC conceals the incitement from assorted Palestinian factions which has fueled this wave of terrorism – and the known links of some of the perpetrators to terrorist groups – from audience view.

In addition to his written report, Kevin Connolly also produced a similar audio one which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on October 24th. The item (available here from 01:49:43) opens with the following introduction from host James Naughtie.

“As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, the American Secretary of State John Kerry has begun a round of diplomacy trying to reduce tension in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories where an upsurge of violence has left about 60 people dead in the last few weeks. Most of the dead are Palestinians. Some have died in the familiar violent clashes with the Israeli security forces in the West Bank but some of the deaths have occurred when individual Palestinians not known to be members of militant groups have made stabbing attacks on Israelis and then been shot by the police or the army. It’s a new kind of attack and its left people in both communities anxious and frightened.”

Could audiences determine from that introduction that one-sixth of those casualties are Israelis murdered in terror attacks? Would they understand that those killed whilst engaged in violent rioting include some 17 people from the Gaza Strip and that the border fence there has been breached by such rioters on several occasions? Would they also comprehend that Naughtie’s portrayal of “some” Palestinians shot whilst carrying out terror attacks (and not only stabbings, as he inaccurately states) actually means that they number around half of the Palestinian fatalities and that a similar number of terrorists have been caught alive?

One doubts very much that Radio 4 listeners went away with an accurate perception of events from that introduction and in addition, they were certainly misled by the inaccurate claim that such terror attacks are “a new kind”. Moreover, with the BBC having failed to provide its audiences with an accurate picture of Palestinian terrorism during the nine months preceding October 2015, listeners would have no way of knowing that Naughtie’s claim is inaccurate.

As in his written article, in that audio report Kevin Connolly promotes the notion of equivalence between victims of terror and their attackers, fails to provide context when describing the inconvenience caused by roadblocks and erases the all-important issue of incitement by portraying the attacks as “random and spontaneous”.

“We think of Jerusalem as a place of division – and so it is – but in times of rising tension and rising casualty figures, there is something that unites its two peoples: the grinding daily fear about how you keep your family safe.”

“On the way into the outlying Palestinian village of Issawiyeh there’s an Israeli checkpoint – an irritation for local people arriving home from their daily work in Israeli West Jerusalem.”

“The US Secretary of State John Kerry is working on all of this now, trying to calm fears. But what can politicians do when attacks are random and spontaneous and fears so personal and so deeply felt?”

Kevin Connolly apparently believes the narrative of equivalence he promotes in these two reports. He is obviously comfortable with promoting the idea that a pensioner murdered in a shooting attack on a city bus, a 59 year-old deliberately run over and then hacked to death with a meat-cleaver and a young father stabbed to death whilst walking with his family are just the same as the people who decided to carry out those attacks and were shot by security forces rushing to the scene.

He is also clearly at ease with promoting the myth that attacks on Jews for no other reason than the fact that they are Jews which are praised and glorified by Hamas and PA officials alike are “spontaneous” and “random”. And, as we see in these two reports, he has no qualms about promoting the narrative that the emotions of people who are experiencing “not a very nice feeling” and traffic inconveniences are the same as those of people who fear that they may be targeted by a terrorist simply because of who they are after seeing over 50 such terror attacks in a matter of a few weeks.

Whilst Connolly’s adopted narrative may serve to provide space-filling material for assorted BBC platforms and advance a political agenda, it certainly does nothing to contribute to meeting the BBC’s obligation to enhance audience understanding of this particular “international issue”.




BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – September 2015 & Q3 2015

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks during September 2015 (Hebrew – here) shows that throughout the month a total of 223 incidents took place: 151 in Judea & Samaria, 68 in Jerusalem and four incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 199 attacks with petrol bombs, four shooting attacks, one stoning attack and 15 attacks using explosive devices. One Israeli civilian was killed and two wounded in the stoning attack in Jerusalem on September 13th and another Israeli civilian was wounded in a shooting attack on her vehicle on September 9th.  

Of the four incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip, two received a total of nineteen words of coverage on the BBC News website in an article on another topic, one was not reported at all and one was mentioned – also in an article on a different subject – but the fifteen words of coverage were later deleted.

The fatal incident which took place in Jerusalem on September 13th was reported three days later, notably with no mention of the identity of the perpetrators of the attack. The September 9th incident received no BBC News coverage. An article which appeared on September 18th made brief references to two additional incidents in passive language which failed to clarify to readers who was responsible for the attacks.

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

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

The death, on September 7th, of a third victim of the arson attack in Duma which took place at the end of July was reported on the BBC News website.

In conclusion, the vast majority of the attacks which took place during September were once again ignored by the BBC and those which were reported did not receive dedicated coverage but brief mentions in articles concerning other topics. Hence, BBC audiences were not aware of the trend of rising terrorism which preceded the surge in fatal attacks beginning at the start of October 2015.

Table terror Sept 15

Throughout the first three quarters of 2015 BBC News reported just 1.08% of the terror attacks which actually took place. Its record on coverage of Israeli fatalities stands at 25% whilst 100% of Palestinian fatalities have been reported.

In some recent articles appearing on the BBC News website since mid-October, audiences have seen the following graph, indicating that BBC News can locate and report information relating to terror attacks against Israelis when it finds it appropriate to do so.

graph stabbing attacks BBC

However, the provision of that information ten months into the year is symptomatic of the approach voiced by Jerusalem Bureau correspondent Kevin Connolly earlier in the month.

“I mean we were just going back through our own news archive here. It’s far from scientific but we would say that more than twenty Palestinians have died in political violence on the West Bank this year, at least a half a dozen Israelis. Often there’s a level of tension that bubbles away somewhere below the level, frankly, that you need to make global headlines.” [emphasis added]

Unfortunately for its audiences, as the BBC’s record shows, that approach means that as far as terrorism against Israelis is concerned, they cannot necessarily “expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world” as its public purpose remit obliges.

And of course one cannot but wonder if 1,206 terror attacks on British citizens in a period of nine months would be similarly considered a “level of tension” unworthy of “global headlines”. 

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism – August 2015

BBC News coverage of terrorism – July 2015

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2015 & Q2 2015




BBC prefers pageantry to serious discussion of Abbas’ threats on Oslo accords

As might have been anticipated, the BBC did not skimp on its coverage of the hoisting of the Palestinian flag at the United Nations building in New York. Audiences could choose between a filmed report aired on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website, an audio report (from 14:01 here) by Nick Bryant on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’  and a written article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page – originally under the title “Palestinian flag to be raised at United Nations” and later with the headline “Palestinian flag raised at United Nations headquarters“.Abbas UN

Whilst the subject of Mahmoud Abbas’ speech at the UNGA on the same day was also covered in the latter two reports, that topic was given notably less attention than the pageantry of flag-raising. In the ‘Newshour’ report, presenter Owen Bennett Jones introduced the item with the following words:

“The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says his people can no longer be bound by agreements signed with Israel. Addressing the UN, he accused the Israelis of continually violating what are known as the Oslo Accords going right back to 1993.”

Rather than providing listeners with any background information on the topic of the broader implications of Abbas’ statement, the item then went on to describe the flag-raising ceremony.

The choice of phrasing in the written article did not clarify to readers that Abbas was referring to the Oslo Accords.

“Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr Abbas said it was unconscionable that the question of Palestinian statehood remained unresolved.

He also warned that the PA no longer felt bound by agreements with Israel he claimed were “continually violated”.”

Moreover, the paragraphs immediately following that materially misled readers by implying that the Oslo Accords include some sort of restrictions on Israeli building in Judea & Samaria and dictate the release of 26 convicted terrorists.

“”As long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities and to release of the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners in accordance with our agreements, they leave us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements,” Mr Abbas said.

“We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.””

Again, no information was provided to audiences concerning the likely implications of Abbas’ statement that he “cannot continue to be bound” by what has been described as “a contractual framework of obligations between Israel and the Palestinians, signed as witnesses and guarantors by the King of Jordan, the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Norway, the EU and endorsed by the UN”.

Oddly too, the article’s recap of the last 22 years did not include the one factor which did more than anything else to impede the possibility of a negotiated peace agreement: the PA initiated second Intifada.

“Mr Abbas has in the past threatened to dissolve the PA and hand sole responsibility for the West Bank to Israel if there is no chance of a peace deal.

The PA was set up as an interim administration for the major Palestinian cities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the 1993 Oslo Accord. It was envisaged that a comprehensive treaty would be concluded within five years.

However, more than two decades of talks with Israel have failed to achieve a final peace settlement and an independent Palestinian state. The last round of negotiations collapsed in April 2014.”

At the end of the report readers were told that:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Palestinians faced with falling living standards and life under Israeli occupation on the West Bank are growing impatient for some sign of progress in their quest for a Palestinian state.

Raising the flag at the UN may not be as effective as raising that issue further up the world’s diplomatic agenda but it is a tangible achievement and it was within Mr Abbas’s power to deliver immediately, our correspondent adds.”

The vast majority of Palestinians have of course lived under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and/or Hamas for the last two decades and whilst Kevin Connolly did not provide a source for his claim of falling living standards, PCBS statistics show that in PA controlled areas, GDP per capita increased by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2015.

As long time readers well know, the BBC generally avoids reporting on internal Palestinian politics and so it is hardly surprising to see that Connolly’s presentation did not make any mention of factors such as the unresolvable rift between the PA and Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas’ own personal unpopularity, the recent Palestinian demonstrations against the PA or the thorny issue of succession.

And so, rather than present audiences with the full range of information which would enable them to understand the factors behind Abbas’ latest move and its potential consequences, the BBC opted to put the focus on symbolic flag-raising. 

BBC’s Connolly refrains from using the word terror in report on terror attack

In addition to the written article on the BBC News website in which the October 1st terror attack which resulted in the deaths of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin was reported, the incident was also the subject of an item (available from 02:43:03 here) by Kevin Connolly on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on the morning of October 2nd.Pigua Henkin family Today 2 10

As can be seen in the transcript below, both Connolly and programme host James Naughtie managed to avoid all use of the word terror in that three-minute report on a terror attack.

JN: “The Israeli army is searching for the killers of a Jewish couple who were shot dead in their car in front of their four children. Hundreds of soldiers are now being deployed close to Nablus in the occupied West Bank. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly is on the line from Jerusalem. Just tell us what happened in this incident, Kevin.”

KC: “Well this married couple – Eitam and Na’ama Henkin – they were driving on a dark country road between two Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories – the nearest big city being Nablus – when they were fired on from a passing car. Now the parents were both killed – they were pronounced dead at the scene – but remarkably their four children aged between nine years and four months old – they were all in the back seat of the car – they were all unhurt.

It’s a hugely traumatising incident of course – immediately the area was flooded with emergency services and with soldiers. There is an intensive search going on; part of the role of the soldiers too is to try to keep a lid on rising tensions which of course you always see in the aftermath of this kind of shooting and of course today it is Friday prayers here in Jerusalem so there’s also a huge police operation around the Old City because any killing like this does immediately produce a predictable rise in sectarian tensions.”

JN: “And of course it is a tense moment – well it’s always a tense moment – but we’ve had this week Prime Minister Netanyahu saying that he would restart negotiations with the Palestinians immediately without preconditions but that the Palestinians weren’t interested and we’ve had President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority at a flag-raising ceremony at the UN saying he’d more or less given up on the Israelis. I mean episodes like this coming in the middle of it all just make it more and more unlikely there’ll be any progress.”

Listeners then heard Connolly equate the deaths of Palestinians – the majority of whom were killed whilst carrying out terror attacks or whilst engaged in violent rioting – with those of Israelis murdered in deliberate terror attacks.

KC: “I think that’s right. I mean I sometimes think, Jim, that the politics of it all feels as though it’s going on as a kind of abstract – almost in the background to the sectarian realities on the ground. I mean we were just going back through our own news archive here. It’s far from scientific but we would say that more than twenty Palestinians have died in political violence on the West Bank this year, at least a half a dozen Israelis. Often there’s a level of tension that bubbles away somewhere below the level, frankly, that you need to make global headlines.”

As readers will recall, the BBC has failed to report half of the Israeli fatalities resulting from terror attacks since the beginning of the year and as of the end of August, its coverage of fatal and non-fatal terror attacks stood at 0.81%.

Connolly ends with uncritical amplification of the narrative promoted by the Palestinian Authority in its quotidian incitement, encouraging BBC audiences towards the view that Jews celebrating their holidays “ratchets up the tension” rather than terrorism and violence fuelled by the incitement the BBC perennially fails to report.

“This week it’s the Jewish religious festival of Sukkot; that’s one of the times of year when Jews traditionally make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. That means, of course, that they move towards the Western Wall in the old city; that means they’re close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Many in the Arab world see that as a kind of attack on their religious identity. That ratchets up the tension too and of course the basic truth of this place is that the kindling you need to start these kind of fires of sectarian violence is lying around somewhere to hand all the time and it takes only a little spark, like last night’s killings, to ignite it.”

Notably, Connolly erased from his report both the celebrations on the Palestinian street which took place after the murders of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin and the statements praising the terror attack which were put out by leading officials from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.Pigua Henkin family art 2 10

Those topics were also absent from the BBC News website article titled “Israel hunts West Bank for couple’s killers” which appeared on the site’s Middle East page on the afternoon of October 2nd. As was the case in the prior report which this article replaced, no mention was made of the fact that the attack was claimed by a group linked to the Fatah party’s armed wing. Instead, this article also promoted the amorphous notion of “tensions” – with no clarification concerning their roots.

“It [the terror attack] comes amid a period of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, which has seen clashes in Jerusalem. […]

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

Coming as they do after weeks of unsatisfactory reporting on the topic of the violent rioting seen on Temple Mount, these reports are further examples of the results of an editorial policy which causes the BBC to fall short of its remit of enhancing “awareness and understanding of international issues”.

A good place to start in order to begin meeting that remit would of course be the employment of accurate language. Of the six cases of fatal attacks on Israelis targeted purely because of their ethnicity which have taken place during the last nine months, three have been completely ignored by the BBC and three reported without any mention of the word terror. That editorial policy is clearly not fit for purpose.