Munich Olympics terrorists get BBC rebranding

On September 22nd the BBC News website’s Middle East page carried an article titled “Israeli Mossad spy Mike Harari dies, aged 87“.

Remarkably, in that report the terrorists responsible for the murders of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games are rebranded “militants”, the terrorist organization to which they belonged is termed merely a “group” and no mention is made of the Black September Organisation’s links to Fatah and the PLO.

Harari art text

No less bizarre is the article’s failure to inform readers that the rescue operation at Entebbe which it mentions was brought about by a hijacking carried out by another Palestinian terrorist organization – the PFLP – and just as interesting is the fact that the title of this report was changed some thirty-five minutes after its publication, with the original headline having read “Mossad agent behind Palestinian assassinations dies”.

The BBC’s ‘rationale’ for avoiding the use of the word terror and its derivatives is that the term “carries value judgements”.  As we have on occasion noted here before, the corporation’s abstention from use of the word in some circumstances and geographic locations (see related articles below) is evidence of a double standard which reveals politically motivated “value judgements” in itself.

Related Articles:

 Mapping the BBC’s inconsistent use of the word ‘terror’

No terror please, we’re the British Broadcasting Corporation

Debate widens on BBC avoidance of the word terrorist

Where can terrorism be named as such by the BBC?

 

How the BBC made missile fire from the Gaza Strip almost disappear

The 72-hour ceasefire which came into effect on August 11th and was supposed to expire at midnight on August 13th was broken when missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip some two and a half hours before its end. Between 21:30 and 01:00 local time, eight missiles were fired at Israel, some of which were intercepted. The IDF responded with strikes on missile launching sites and weapons facilities. Whilst a Hamas spokesman denied that Hamas had fired the missiles, other terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip claimed responsibility.

“Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas “denies there was any rocket fire at the occupation this evening”, referring to Israel.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades [Fatah – Ed.] and the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have claimed responsibility for the first round of rocket fire.”

Despite the above, a new 120 hour truce came into effect at midnight on August 13th.

So how did the BBC News website report those events? The article which currently appears under the title “Israel and Palestinians begin tense five-day Gaza truce” with the date August 14th opens with typical ‘last-first’ reporting:Article 14 8 alleged

“Israel and the Palestinians have begun a fresh five-day ceasefire in Gaza, agreed at the end of a three-day truce.

As the ceasefire was announced, Israel launched air strikes in response to alleged rocket fire from Gaza.” [emphasis added]

Later on readers are informed that:

“Hamas, which controls Gaza and is involved in the Cairo talks, has denied its members launched rockets at Israel on Wednesday night.”

That sleight of hand – in which a denial from one terrorist organization is used to cast doubt on the fact that missiles were fired at all and thus question the validity of the Israeli response – is enabled by two factors. The first is the omission of any reporting of the claims of responsibility for the missile fire made by other terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip. The second is the failure to clarify to readers that not only is Hamas responsible for preventing all attacks during a ceasefire to which it agreed precisely because it “controls Gaza” as the BBC’s article points out, but it is clearly perfectly capable of doing so when it wishes, as shown by previous truces.

That article in fact began its numerous incarnations on the evening of August 13th and it is possible to track the progress of the evolving descriptions both of that evening’s missile fire and the subsequent Israeli response.

The second version of the article – titled “Israel, Palestinians ‘extend Gaza truce by five days'” – stated:

“Earlier, three rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel, Israel’s military said”.

Version three, with the same title, informed readers:

“Five rockets have meanwhile been fired from Gaza, Israel’s military says.

No casualties have been reported in Israel. Hamas militants have denied they fired the rockets.

However, an Israeli official said the Israeli military had been ordered to respond to the rocket fire.”

The fourth version of the report had its title changed to “Fresh strikes follow five-day Gaza truce extension”, making Israeli actions the focus, but with the reason for them disappeared from audience view in the headline.bbc head1

“Israel has launched air strikes on Gaza after being targeted by rocket fire, just as agreement had been reached on extending a truce by five days.

Israel’s military said it was targeting “terror sites” after at least five rockets were launched from Gaza.” […]

“Israel’s military said at least five rockets had been fired from Gaza on Wednesday evening.

No casualties were reported in Israel. Hamas militants have denied they fired the rockets.”

Version five ran under the headline “Israel and Palestinians begin tense five-day Gaza truce” and it was at that stage that the previous night’s missile fire (which the BBC obviously knew about because it had reported it earlier) was downgraded to “alleged”.

“As the ceasefire was announced, Israel launched air strikes in response to alleged rocket fire from Gaza.” […]

“Hamas, which controls Gaza and is involved in the Cairo talks, has denied its members launched rockets at Israel on Wednesday night.”

The article then presents a selectively partial quote, presumably designed to provide back up to the previous statement.

“Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said on Twitter: “No need to jump to conclusions. I don’t know who launched 10pm (19:00GMT) rocket at Israel.”

Here is the original version of the Tweet sent by Lt Col Lerner in response to Al Jazeera journalist Nick Schifrin. As readers can see for themselves, the context of that conversation puts it in a different context than the way in which it is presented by the BBC.

Tweet peter lerner 13 8

Here is the earlier tweet to which Schifrin responded:

Tweet Peter Lerner 13 8 b

The relevant parts of the sixth and final version of the article are identical to those in the fifth version.

As we see, within a matter of hours, that article had evolved from reporting cases of missile launches from the Gaza Strip into turning them into “alleged” missile fire, with the denial issued by a terrorist organization presented as back up for that classification and claims of responsibility by other terrorists ignored, along with Hamas’ responsibility to enforce the ceasefire. The focus is instead placed on Israeli actions which are represented as a response to something which might not have actually happened.

In other words, what we witness in the evolvement of this report is a clear case of facts obviously known to the BBC being tailored to fit editorial policy. 

 

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

On Friday July 25th the BBC’s Jon Donnison reported from Jerusalem for BBC television news on the topic of the ‘Day of Rage’ called for by assorted Palestinian factions including Hamas on that date. The report also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza and Israel brace for ‘day of anger’“.Donnison 25 7 Jlem

In that report Donnison described the events of the night before at Qalandiya checkpoint.

“Now you mentioned those clashes in Ramallah overnight – ah…pretty bad. Ten thousand people demonstrating. They marched towards the Qalandiya checkpoint which separates Ramallah from…err… East Jerusalem. We had two Palestinians killed, more than 250 injured and 29 Israeli police officers also injured. So – as you say – a day of anger being called for and I think it could be a difficult day.”

Like all the other BBC journalists who reported on those violent riots in Qalandiya, Donnison failed to inform BBC audiences that the two Palestinians killed were shooting live ammunition at the police officers present at the time and that the shootings were claimed by Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

On July 29th Donnison produced another filmed report for BBC television news (which also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “West Bank Palestinians politically divided, but united in anger“. In that report too Donnison referred to the rioting in Qalandiya – which he insists of course on describing as “protests” and “clashes” – without informing BBC audiences of the live fire claimed – significantly – by a terrorist group affiliated with the PA’s dominant party.Donnison 29 7 Beit Ummar

“In clashes with the Israeli army more than ten West Bank Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured since the war in Gaza began. At one protest well over ten thousand turned out. Just about every night for the past three weeks or so there have been clashes across the West Bank. Here at the Qalandiya checkpoint you can see the rocks thrown by Palestinian youths littering the streets as well as the tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli army.”

But that is not Donnison’s only serious omission in this report. At the beginning of the item he tells audiences the following story:

“Palestinian grief. Not in Gaza, but in the West Bank. Hashem Abu Maria was shot dead by Israeli soldiers last week as he demonstrated against Israel’s actions in Gaza. He was 47 years old, a father of three and worked for a children’s charity. By his graveside his wife Samira tells me Hashem gave his life trying to protect children.”

Donnison does not inform viewers of the location of the rioting during which Hashem Abu Maria was shot, but it happened in his home town of Beit Ummar – a place which might be familiar to some readers because of the not infrequent attacks on Israeli drivers there and the fact that the town’s residents seem to have a repeated habit of flying Nazi flags.

Donnison is equally vague about that “children’s charity” for which the pleasant-sounding Mr Abu Maria worked. In fact he was an employee of a political NGO with which many readers will also be familiar Defence for Children International – Palestine SectionThat NGO – frequently quoted and promoted by Western journalists – has links to other anti-Israel organisations including the Alternative Information Centre and the ISM – which has a permanent representative also connected to the extended Abu Maria family in Beit Ummar. But most notably, that “children’s charity” also has links to a terror organization – the PFLP – via one of its board members and also, it transpires, via none other than its former employee Hashem Abu Maria. Below is a screenshot of the PFLP’s Facebook announcement and here is an obituary on the PFLP website which describes Jon Donnison’s ‘charity worker’ as “fighter commander”.

PFLP Abu Maria

Below is footage filmed in Beit Ummar on July 25th – apparently after Hashem Abu Maria was killed – showing one of those “protests” as Donnison euphemistically describes them. The tower is an Israeli army position – note the PFLP flag.

Clearly BBC editorial standards of accuracy would demand that Jon Donnison tell audiences about the real nature of the so-called “children’s charity” for which Hashem Abu Maria worked and his membership of the PFLP. But just as obvious is the fact that Donnison’s lack of accuracy serves a higher goal: the sympathy-inducing presentation of Abu Maria as a family man and a ‘charity worker’ who “gave his life trying to protect children” would be somewhat less convincing to audiences if they knew he was a member of a terrorist organization.

Clearly too, Abu Maria as he is portrayed is intended to serve as signposting for audiences in Donnison’s overall representation of ‘protesting’ Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Like his failure to inform viewers of the live fire at the Qalandiya riots, the aim of that selective portrayal is to direct audiences towards a specific understanding of events which does not include the entire picture. And that can only be interpreted as a deliberate breach of BBC guidelines on impartiality.

 

42 years on – no change in BBC’s reluctance to use the word terror

Forty-two years after the Lod Airport massacre the BBC still will not use the word terror to describe the politically motivated indiscriminate murder of twenty-six civilians and the wounding of some eighty others.

In the misdated article (the attack took place on May 30th rather than May 29th) which appears in the ‘On this Day’ section of the BBC News website under the title “1972: Japanese kill 26 at Tel Aviv airport” the word terror does not appear once and the PFLP – which organised the attack – is not defined as a terrorist organisation.Witness Lod

That word also does not appear in the synopsis to a filmed item from the BBC World Service’s ‘Witness’ series which appeared in the BBC News website’s ‘Magazine’ section and on its Middle East page on May 21st with the heading ‘I survived the Israeli airport massacre’.

“On 29 May 1972 three Japanese students arrived at Israel’s Lod airport in Tel Aviv on an Air France flight from Paris.

Once their luggage came through to the baggage hall, they drew out automatic guns and hand grenades, and began shooting people indiscriminately.

They killed 26 people and injured more than 70 others. One of the men killed himself, another was shot by security guards and the third was arrested.

The gunmen were hired by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who said they had recruited the trio from Japan’s Red Army terror group, to carry out the attack, in revenge for the killing of two Arab hijackers earlier in May.

Ros Sloboda, who was living in Israel at the time, was seriously wounded in the attack.” 

Ms Sloboda’s account is of course both interesting and touching, but surely – over four decades on – it is time for the BBC to term the attack and its perpetrators accurately. 

The messaging in a BBC World Service programme on Africans in Israel

Last month we noted the then imminent broadcast of an edition of the ‘Documentary’ programme titled “Africans in the Holy Land” on BBC World Service radio. Since that post was published, the grammatical error in the picture caption on the programme’s webpage has been corrected.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Paul Bakibinga’s fifty-three minute programme begins with a short introduction, after which he informs listeners:

“I start my journey in the coastal city of Tel Aviv. It’s home to most of the 56 thousand Africans who’ve arrived in Israel in the past six years or so. Most are from Eritrea and Sudan, seeking asylum from the human rights atrocities in Eritrea and war in the Darfur region of Sudan. But Israel has granted refugee status to only a handful and says the rest are illegal economic migrants.”

The next fifteen minutes or so of the programme are devoted to the stories of three migrants living in the Tel Aviv area – two from Eritrea and one, Oscar Oliver of the ARDC, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition, listeners hear the words of two more migrants at the Holot detention centre.

Bakibinga makes no substantial attempt to find out whether or not the migrants are indeed refugees or economic migrants and fails to clarify to audiences that approximately 85% of those who have entered Israel since 2006 are males between the ages of 21 and 40. He dwells on the subject of “the language that the politicians are using”, but fails to clarify that his reference actually relates to a small number of Israeli politicians rather than all of them, as implied. Whilst blaming tensions between migrants and local residents in south Tel Aviv upon the language used by unnamed, unquantified politicians, neither Bakibinga nor his interviewees make any attempt to inform listeners of other very relevant issues such as the crime in those areas. Likewise Bakibinga makes no attempt to correct the inaccurate impression given by Oscar Oliver that all the migrants “are put in this same place, in this same neighbourhood”.

Some six minutes of the programme are then devoted to statements from the deputy spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry and Professor Amnon Rubinstein. Bakibinga fails to make any attempt to explore the subject of why only 1,800 of the migrants have actually applied for asylum.

Listeners are left with a clear take away message in Bakibinga’s conclusion to this part of the programme:

“All [the migrant interviewees] talk about how hard life is for them in Israel and how they feel stuck in a legal limbo amid growing hostility from politicians and local residents.”

MK Pnina Tamano-Shata

MK Pnina Tamano-Shata

After some four minutes of news and promotions, Bakibinga turns his attentions to the subject of Ethiopian Jews in Israel in a section lasting just over thirteen minutes.  His interviewees are Ester Rada (whom he describes as having grown up in “an Israeli settlement…in the occupied West Bank”) and Shira Shato, along with Shira’s husband Shlomi Assoulin. During the conversation with the latter – the son of immigrants from Morocco – listeners are told that Zionism is a European phenomenon and encouraged to view Israel as a society in which there is discrimination and prejudice against Ethiopians and “Jewish Arab people”.

The next ten minutes of Bakibinga’s programme are located in Jerusalem and are dedicated to Mahmoud Salamat and others “who are Palestinian, but have their roots in Africa”.  

Salamat says:

“I’m from the Old City of Jerusalem but originally from Chad. My father came pilgrimage here and he set up in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th century.”

Bakibinga: “And you were born here?”

Salamat: “Yes I was born here during the war of 1948 and we were kicked out of the city from there to Jordan.”

Bakibinga makes no attempt to clarify why – or by whom – Salamat’s family were “kicked out” of an area conquered by Jordan and occupied for the next nineteen years. The conversation then continues to a decidedly curious portrayal of the Entebbe hijacking.

Salamat: “I belong at that time to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. That time they hijacked the plane and they went to Uganda in 1972…”

Bakibinga: “1976. So that was when I think there was an Air France plane that was captured by the Popular Front and taken to Entebbe and there was an Israeli raid on Entebbe.”

Salamat: “Yes and they killed many people.”

Bakibinga: “And your friend was killed as well.”

Salamat: “Yes my friend at that time.”

Bakibinga goes on to ask:

“So your friend was with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which you were a member of. Did you meet any consequences as a result of being a member of that group?”

Salamat replies:

“Yes, I was in prison in 1968 and I was sentenced to 25 years. I was released later on prisoner exchange, exactly on twentieth of May 1985.”

Bakibinga makes no attempt to clarify whether Salamat’s 17 years in prison were actually “as a result of being a member” of the PFLP, or whether in fact they were the consequence of terrorist activity.

The final three minutes of Bakibinga’s programme are dedicated to a conclusion which promotes the message of discrimination against an Eritrean woman who gave birth in an Israeli hospital, a man from the DRC who is “still without refugee status” and Ethiopian Jews who do not “feel at home” and are not “part of this society”.

As has been the case in previous BBC coverage of the topic of African migrants, no attempt is made to place the stories promoted to listeners within the context of the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers in other countries. Neither is any attempt is made to place the experiences of Ethiopian-born Israelis within the context of the experiences of other immigrants to Israel (or indeed to other countries) from non-African countries.

Instead, Bakibinga opts to focus on the emotional aspects of the stories he elects to tell and listeners are clearly intended to take away a message of across the board prejudicial and discriminatory treatment of people of African descent in Israel, regardless of how they happen to have arrived there. That message is particularly relevant in light of another BBC report which appeared just a few days after Bakibinga’s programme: more on that in an upcoming post.   

At long last: a BBC report on previously ignored aspects of ME talks

Over the last nine months, the BBC News website’s coverage of the subject of the currently ongoing negotiations between Israel and the PLO under American tutelage has for the most part ignored the very significant issues of the rejectionist factions on the Rushdi Abualouf artPalestinian political spectrum and the question of the legitimacy and workability of any deal reached and signed by a Palestinian president whose term of office expired years ago.  

Obviously, understanding of such issues is crucial for BBC audiences if they are to be able to fully comprehend events and take part in informed discussion on the topic – as the BBC pledges they will be able to do in its Public Purposes outline.

Given that, it was especially good to see an effort finally being made to repair previous omission of coverage of those vital topics in an article by Rushdi Abualouf of the BBC’s Gaza office which appeared in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 17th under the title “Gaza’s Hamas government critical as Abbas meets Obama“.

The article could have been even further enhanced had it informed readers that “the war that followed Israel’s creation in 1948″ was the result of the decision by five Arab countries, along with assorted irregulars and foreign volunteers, to attack the nascent Jewish state. It could also have been considerably more frank and informative with regard to what Abualouf euphemistically terms as Hamas having “ousted forces loyal to Mr Abbas in Gaza and set up a rival government”. And of course the description of the PFLP as one of the Palestinian political scene’s “leftist movements” clearly breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy by concealing that organisation’s terror designation by the US, Canada, Israel and the European Union.

But all in all, Abualouf makes a decent effort to provide some of the background information of which BBC audiences have been deprived for too long.  Let’s hope this is not just one long-awaited swallow. 

BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part two

As was noted in the first part of this post, on February 27th the BBC’s local station Radio Lancashire used the occasion of the publication of a report on the same morning by Amnesty International to provide a platform for a political activist associated with Amnesty and the Hamas-linked ISM to promote anti-Israel propaganda.

Later the same afternoon, a written report unequivocally titled “Israeli troops ‘using excessive force’ in West Bank” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. The 743 word article (including sub-headings and photo captions) is composed of 421 words presenting Amnesty International’s views and supporting information added by the BBC, 148 words presenting the IDF’s response to the AI report and 153 words describing an unrelated incident which took place in Bir Zeit on February 27th in which a wanted PFLP terrorist was killed.  BBC Amnesty report website

In addition to its extensive quotations from the AI report – which relates exclusively to incidents in Judea & Samaria – the BBC article adds some extra context-free information of its own which does nothing to clarify to readers the fact that the latter half of 2013 saw a sharp rise in Palestinian terror attacks.

“According to the UN, 27 West Bank Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces last year, nine more than the totals in 2011 and 2012 combined.

Nine Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were reportedly killed by Israeli forces in 2013, while Palestinians killed three Israeli civilians and three Israeli security forces personnel in Israel and the West Bank.”

The BBC article provides a link to the AI report and states:

“Amnesty documented the killings of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, of which it said at least 14 were connected to protests. In all of the cases, those killed did not appear to have posed a direct and immediate threat to life, it said.” [emphasis added]

” “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said.” [emphasis added]

Clearly, BBC audiences are being herded towards acceptance of a paradigm of non-threatening ‘peaceful protest’ by Palestinians and excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, which is a hallmark of the AI report itself. But just how many of those ‘peaceful protests’ were actually as Amnesty and the BBC are trying to portray them?

The Amnesty International report is notable for the fact that the cases it profiles rely upon anecdotal evidence provided by family and friends of the deceased, along with information gathered from various media outlets and politically motivated NGOs. Some of those cases were also reported by the BBC during 2013.

The Oxford dictionary defines a protest as “[a]n organized public demonstration expressing strong objection to an official policy or course of action” and a peaceful protest is obviously one which does not include violent acts on behalf of the protesters. However, examination of examples of the cases highlighted by Amnesty International shows that many of those incidents were neither protests nor peaceful. 

The AI report includes the case of Mutaz Sharawnah who was killed on July 2nd 2013 in Dura. As a BBC report on the incident stated at the time: [emphasis added]

“Moataz Sharawna, 19, died after being shot and, according to Palestinians, subsequently hit by an army vehicle.

It followed confrontations between stone-throwing youths and soldiers in the village of Dura, south of the city of Hebron.

The Israel military said it was investigating the circumstances of Mr Sharawna’s death.

A military spokeswoman confirmed that a young Palestinian man was shot.

“Palestinians hurled stones at security forces, which responded with crowd-control measures,” the spokeswoman said.

A Palestinian witness told the BBC that Mr Sharawna had been throwing stones and then climbed on top of an Israeli army jeep.

He said that soldiers fired at him and he was then run over by another army vehicle.”

Clearly Sharawnah was not participating in ‘peaceful protest’ at the time of his death, but in a violent riot. 

Another case profiled in the AI report is that of an incident on August 26th 2013 in Qalandiya in which three Palestinians were killed – Jihad Aslan, Yunes Jahjouh and Rubin Abdal Rahman Zayed. During that incident, Border Policemen trying to arrest a terror suspect were attacked by some 1,500 rioters with rocks and fire-bombs. Video footage of what Amnesty International (and apparently the BBC) would have members of the public believe was a non-threatening ‘peaceful protest’ can be seen hereQalandiya riot

An additional case appearing in the AI report also took place in August 2013 when Israeli forces attempting to arrest a terror suspect in Jenin were attacked by a mob and Majd Lahlouh and Karim Abu Sbeih were killed. As the BBC reported at the time: [emphasis added]

” “During the [raid], shots were fired at the forces and improvised explosive devices and rocks were hurled at the security personnel, injuring two soldiers,” a military spokeswoman told AFP news agency.

The military said troops returned fire, killing the Palestinian and wounding the others.”

Seemingly then, AI’s definition of a ‘peaceful protest’ includes one at which shooting takes place and of course it should be noted that – according to Amnesty’s claim uncritically repeated by the BBC – shots fired and IEDs thrown at soldiers apparently do not constitute “a direct and immediate threat to life”.

Two additional names appearing in the AI report are those of Naji Balbesi and Amer Nassar who were killed on April 3rd 2013 when they attacked an army post near Einav with fire-bombs. 

The AI report also includes the case of Hamas operative Mahmoud Adel Fares al Titi who was killed on March 12th 2013 in al Fawar when soldiers in pursuit of suspects who had thrown petrol-bombs at Israeli motorists on Route 60 were attacked by rioters with rocks and Molotov cocktails when their vehicle broke down. Video footage of that ‘peaceful protest’ can be seen here and here.

Those familiar with Amnesty International’s long-standing anti-Israel campaigning and its dubious modus operandi will of course not be surprised to see its politically motivated misrepresentation of violent riots and deliberate attacks on security personnel as ‘peaceful protest’ carried out by Palestinians armed only with placards. The BBC, however, should – in theory at least – be a different kettle of fish

Embarrassingly though, its eager self-conscription to the promotion and amplification of the political messaging which underlies the Amnesty International report has apparently caused the BBC to forget that it has previously reported on several of the violent incidents which form the basis of a deeply flawed and blatantly political report supposedly pertaining to Palestinians killed at ‘peaceful protests’.

Related Articles:

BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part one

 

 

BBC’s selective, context-free reporting from the Gaza Strip continues

On the morning of January 22nd visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page were informed that “Israel Gaza strike kills militants” and in the sub-heading:

“Two Palestinian militants are killed by an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian and Israeli officials say.”

Zaanin on ME pge

That link originally led to a report with the rather more ambiguous title of ” ‘Two militants’ dead in Israel Gaza Strip air strike”, although it was unclear from the BBC’s use of punctuation whether it was in doubt about the number of terrorists killed or their title.

The report opened with an interestingly captioned photograph:

Israel says that airstrikes are necessary to protect the south of the country from rocket attacks” [emphasis added]

Zaanin art vers 1

The report itself also included a plethora of statements using the familiar “x says” theme. [emphasis added]

“Two Palestinian militants have been killed by an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian and Israeli officials say.

The Israeli army said that one of the dead was Ahmad Zaanin, a militant who fired rockets during the funeral of former PM Ariel Sharon last week.

A Hamas radio station said the two men were members of Islamic Jihad.”

Although Za’anin was later claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a member of the Al Quds brigade, postings on PFLP sites and social media described him as a member of the PFLP, as did the IDF in its related statement. It is of course not unusual for terrorists to be claimed by more than one group. 

Zaanin PFLP FB

Zaanin PFLP tweet

The report went on:

“The Islamist group has been blamed by Israel for a recent surge in cross-border rocket attacks.

The Israeli military said the overnight strike in Gaza had been necessary “to eliminate an imminent threat to the lives of Israeli civilians”.

It said Mr Zaanin had been behind several recent rocket and shooting attacks in southern Israel.

Locals in Gaza were reported by the Reuters news agency as saying that Mr Zaanin and another militant – a relative of him [sic] – had been sitting in a parked car when it was hit by a missile.”

The article ended:

“There has been intermittent violence along the border since a ceasefire ended an eight-day conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza in November 2012.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 under the orders of Mr Sharon.”

Actually, although the disengagement from the Gaza Strip was Ariel Sharon’s initiative, the plan was endorsed by the cabinet and by the Knesset. Contrary to the suggestion made in this BBC report, Israeli prime ministers do not issue “orders” to civilians. 

The use of language such as “Israel says that airstrikes are necessary to protect the south of the country from rocket attacks” and “The Israeli military said the overnight strike in Gaza had been necessary “to eliminate an imminent threat to the lives of Israeli civilians”” is all the more significant when one considers that this article does nothing beyond the vague and oblique mention of “intermittent violence” to provide BBC audiences with the background and context to the event which is its subject.

The BBC’s last report on Gaza Strip-related incidents was published six days previously on the morning of January 16th. Since that report appeared, numerous incidents of terrorists targeting civilians with missiles have taken place.

Just before 9 p.m. on the evening of January 16th air-raid sirens sounded again in Ashkelon (after the barrage of at least five missiles the previous night) as a missile was fired from the Gaza Strip, but fell short. Unprotected schools in the area were closed the next day.

Late in the evening on January 18th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit the Sdot Negev area. The IDF later responded to that attack by targeting two terror sites.

On January 19th the IDF targeted the PIJ’s Ahmad Sa’ad who was responsible for the firing of the barrage of missiles at Ashkelon days beforehand. 

Early on the morning of January 20th another missile was fired from the Gaza Strip and in the evening two missiles were fired at Eilat from the Sinai, with that attack later being claimed by the Salafist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Shortly before midnight, a further three missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at the Eshkol region. Jan 20 tweet rocket fire

On the morning of January 21st an improvised explosive device was activated near the fence marking the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. In the evening more missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at civilian targets in Israel. 

None of the above was reported by the BBC at the time and so BBC audiences lack the context which would enable them to view the ‘Israel says’ statements used by the BBC in their proper light.  

Later on in the morning, some eleven hours after initial publication, that article was replaced by an extended version with a less ambiguous title, but still with a notable photo caption opening the report.

“Israel says air strikes are necessary to protect its territory from rocket and mortar attacks”

Actually, Israel is trying to protect the lives of human beings – its citizens – rather than “its territory”.

Zaanin vers 2 2 a

Zaanin vers 2 2 b

The amended version does mention the strike on Ahmed Sa’ad on January 19th, but fails to note his connection to the missile attacks on Ashkelon three days before.

“On Sunday, another militant in Gaza was wounded in an air Israeli strike. The Israeli military said Ahmed Saad was a member of Islamic Jihad who specialised in launching rockets.”

However, the numerous missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip and Sinai during the past week are still not reported in this article and audiences are again left without context.

 

BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’

The BBC’s coverage of the release of twenty-six convicted Palestinian murderers on the night of October 29th – 30th includes a filmed report by Yolande Knell – broadcast on BBC news programmes – and a written article. Both those reports appeared on the BBC News website’s home page as well as on its Middle East page.

pris rel HP

pris rel mep

In her filmed report from Ramallah Knell says:

“There’s a big fanfare as the Palestinian president has welcomed back twenty-one Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails to the West Bank, along with their families here and many supporters. They’re among twenty-six Palestinians that have been released tonight; the other five were sent back home to the Gaza Strip. All of these men were convicted of killing Israelis before or just after the 1993 Oslo peace accords were signed and they’re seen here as political prisoners.” [emphasis added]

In fact, not “all” of the released prisoners were convicted of “killing Israelis”: Fatah member Tsabbag Mohammed was convicted of the torture and murder of three Palestinians, but as usual the BBC does not appear to be overly interested in the subject of violence directed at Palestinians by fellow Palestinians.  

As she once again repeats and amplifies the politically motivated Palestinian narrative of convicted murderers as “political prisoners”, Knell makes no attempt to inform her audiences why that claim is invalid by clarifying that these prisoners were imprisoned for violent crimes – not because of their political opinions – or that the Council of Europe’s  definition of political prisoners specifically excludes those convicted of terrorist acts from that category.

“Those deprived of their personal liberty for terrorist crimes shall not be considered political prisoners for having been prosecuted and sentenced for such crimes according to national legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Knell continues:

“Israel agreed to release a total of 104 long-term detainees in July as part of a deal with the Palestinians to get peace talks restarted and this is the second batch. But the decision to release these men has proved very unpopular with the Israeli public, who see them as terrorists and there have been large protests too against these releases, including protests by relatives of their victims.”

Ironically, just as Knell is informing audiences that Israelis “see” the murders of civilians by members of terrorist organisations as terrorists, the filmed footage shows a plethora of flags belonging to the PFLP – a terrorist organization proscribed by the US, Canada, the EU and Israel – in the welcoming crowd.  

Knell filmed pris

In the written article (titled “Israel frees new batch of 26 Palestinian inmates“) it is erroneously stated that:

“All but one of those released on Thursday were imprisoned for murders committed before the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.”

In fact, two of the prisoners committed murders after the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13th 1993: Amawi Halmi murdered 22 year-old Yigal Vaknin on September 24th 1993 and Shabir Hazam murdered 67 year-old Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg with an axe in March 1994.

The report also repeats Knell’s promotion of the notion of terrorists as “political prisoners” and “heroes of the Palestinian cause”:

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from the West Bank that those who have been freed are seen there as political prisoners and heroes of the Palestinian cause – but that the decision has been hugely unpopular with the Israeli public.”

Neither in the article itself nor in the ‘on the scene’ side box written by Knell is any analysis offered to audiences with regard to the Ramat Shlomopotential effects on the peace process of the public displays of glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority. In contrast, the report implies that the announcement of the construction of apartments in the Jerusalem suburb of Ramat Shlomo (described in political terms by the BBC as a “settlement”) could endanger the future of talks and repeats its now habitual misrepresentation of the reason for the cessation of the last round of talks in 2010.

“Shortly after the prisoners were freed, Israeli media reported that the government had announced that it would build 1,500 new homes in the east Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo.

The move was seen as an effort to mollify government hardliners. Talks between Israel and the Palestinians were suspended in 2010 after an Israeli freeze on settlement construction expired.”

Notably, the BBC once again fails to inform its audiences that before that ten month-long building freeze expired, the Palestinians refused to come to the negotiating table for 90% of its duration. 

Throughout this report just one brief mention is made of the actual crimes committed by the men released.

“The longest serving prisoner, Isa Abed Rabbo, was convicted of murdering two students while they were hiking south of Jerusalem in October 1984.”

In the side box, Knell describes and quotes the murderer’s mother, whom she also promoted in one of her Tweets.

“A prisoner’s elderly mother, Amuna Abed Rabbo, had come from Bethlehem in a wheelchair wearing her traditional embroidered dress. “Thank God my son returned back to me before I die. I have all the happiness in the world,” she said.”

Knell Ramallah

Apparently in an attempt to present impartiality, Knell’s side box continues with a short second-hand quote from the wife of one of the murdered Israelis – although in this case BBC audiences learn no engaging details about her age, dress, medical condition or place of residence.

“Esther Caspi, the widow of an Israeli taxi driver murdered by a Palestinian man who was set free, told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper: “We shouldn’t release prisoners who have committed murder because they will do it again.” “

An additional BBC article included in the coverage of this event is titled “Profiles: Palestinian prisoners released by Israel” produced by BBC Monitoring on October 29th.

article profiles pris

There, as was the case in a previous similarly themed article published in August, short profiles of a few (nine out of twenty-six) of what are bizarrely termed “the better known prisoners” are provided.

The article repeats the inaccurate claim that:

“All but one were imprisoned for murders committed before the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. This is the second of four batches to be freed.”

Whilst the inclusion of references – albeit sparse and partial ones – to the crimes committed by the released prisoners is an improvement on previous BBC coverage of the subject of Palestinian prisoners, the lack of balance in coverage is still very apparent, with no BBC reporter on the spot to cover the demonstrations against the release and the reactions of the victims’ families. 

BBC has ‘few details’ of upcoming release of terrorists: here is what it could not find

On October 28th the BBC News website ran an article on its Middle East page titled “Israel to free next 26 Palestinian prisoners under deal“. 

prisoners

The article opens:

“The Israeli government has approved the release of another 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a US-brokered deal for the resumption of peace talks.

They will be the second round of prisoners to be freed since August.

The prisoners were all convicted of murders committed prior to the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation).”

The latter statement is inaccurate – as can be seen below, one of the murders was committed eleven days after the signing of the Oslo Accords and another six months later in March 1994. 

The article promotes the Palestinian narrative of terrorists as “heroes of the Palestinian cause” as was advanced by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell at the time of the previous prisoner release.

“The 26 Palestinian inmates previously released by Israel had also been convicted of murder or attempted murder.

They were taken by bus in the early hours of 14 August to the Beitunia checkpoint in the West Bank and the Erez crossing with Gaza.

Correspondents said they were mobbed by relatives, friends and well-wishers, who see them as heroes of the Palestinian cause.”

The report goes on to promote another erroneous BBC mantra:

“Peace talks broke down in 2010 amid disagreement over the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In fact, talks halted in September 2010 when the Palestinian negotiators refused to continue them after having refused to come to the table for 90% of the duration of a building freeze. 

At the bottom of the report readers are once again encouraged to be sceptical about whether the recent murders of Israeli citizens are actually acts of terror.

“A number of Israelis have also been killed and a nine-year-old Israeli girl stabbed in the past two months in what Israel characterises as “terror attacks” in the West Bank.”

The BBC also states:

“Few details have been published about the second phase of releases.”

In fact, on October 27th the Israeli Prison Service published a list of those scheduled for release and the local media has of course covered the subject extensively. 

With the notable exception of one article, the BBC largely ignored the subject of the crimes committed by the last group of prisoners released in August. Below is a list of those scheduled for release on October 29th.

Nasser Mohammed:  born in 1965, a member of Hamas and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Aharon Avidar.

Karaja Rafaa: born in 1962, a resident of Judea & Samaria.  Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Aharon Avidar.

Aharon (Roni) Avidar was born in Jerusalem and was a computer programmer. He was 29 years old when, in February 1985, he was shot by terrorists whilst on reserve duty guarding a government office in Al Bireh, near Ramallah. Roni was survived by his wife and daughter – his infant son had died some three months before he was murdered. 

Tsabbag Mohamed:  born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria was arrested in 1991 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Whilst a minor, he tortured and brutally murdered three local residents (Hassan Katbia, Lutfi Sa’adi and one other person) suspected of collaboration.

Shabbir Hazam: born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of the Gaza Strip was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment. As an initiation into a terror organization, together with an accomplice released in the previous round, he murdered a work colleague – Isaac Rotenberg from Holon – with an axe. 

Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg was born in Poland. Most of his family was murdered in the Sobibor death camp, but Isaac managed to escape and joined the partisans. After the war he tried to make his way by ship to mandate Palestine, but was interred by the British and sent to a detention camp in Cyprus until 1947. After his release Isaac arrived in pre-state Israel and fought in the War of Independence. He continued his work as a plasterer even after pension age and in March 1994 was at his place of work in Petah Tikva when he was attacked by two Palestinian labourers with axes. He died, aged 67, two days later. 

Amawi Halmi: born 1968, a member of Hamas and a resident of the Gaza Strip was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yigal Vaknin.

 22-year-old tractor operator Yigal Vaknin was stabbed to death in an orchard at his place of work in Moshav Batzra on September 24th 1993 (the eve of Yom Kippur), eleven days after the signing of the Oslo accords, when Halmi and an accomplice lured him with a request for help. Yigal, who grew up in Dimona, was survived by his parents and eight brothers and sisters.

Damouni Ahmed: born 1970, a member of Hamas and a resident of the Gaza Strip, was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the lynching of reservist Amnon Pomerantz.

Amnon Pomerantz was an electrical engineer and scientist and worked in research and development. On September 20th 1990, Amnon left his home in Havatzelet Hasharon for reserve duty in Gaza. Three hours later, he was brutally murdered by a gang of Palestinian rioters after he took a wrong turn on the way to his base and accidentally entered Al Burj Refugee Camp. After they threw rocks at him, they poured gasoline on his vehicle and ignited it with Amnon inside. Amnon was 46 at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Matsalha Yusuf: born 1966, a member of Hamas and a resident of the Gaza Strip, was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to two life sentences for his part in the murders of Yigal Vaknin (see above) and Reuven David. During his imprisonment, together with an accomplice, he caused grievous bodily harm to a prisoner suspected of collaboration with the authorities.

Reuven David was born in Iraq and was the owner of a mini-market in Petah Tikva. In May 1991, together with an accomplice who was released in the previous round, Matslaha entered 59 year-old David’s shop, tied him up, gagged him and then beat him to death, before escaping in the victim’s car. Reuven David left a wife, three children and several grandchildren. 

Abu Dahila Sharif: born 1955, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, was arrested in 1992 for the murder of Avi Osher and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Avi Osher, aged 40 from Moshav Beka’ot in the Jordan Rift Valley was an agricultural instructor who also managed the date grove at Moshav Mesu’a. In June 1991 Avi was stabbed to death in that date grove by Abu Dahila, with whom he had worked for 15 years. Avi was survived by his wife Eilat and their two children. 

Gnimat Mustafa and Gnimat Ziad: both born 1962, both residents of Judea & Samaria and members of Fatah, were arrested in 1985 and each sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two Israeli civilians – Meir Ben Yair (33) and Michal Cohen (32) who were sitting in a car in Messu’a forest, near Beit Shemesh.

חזרה ל->Tsalah Razak: born 1963, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Guy Fridman. In addition, he threw firebombs at Israeli vehicles.

In December 1990 nineteen year-old Guy Fridman was killed and two other soldiers were injured in Bethlehem when bombs exploded in an ambush. He was survived by his parents and two brothers. 

Shakir Al Afu: born 1964, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1986 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Shaltiel Akiva.

On the eve of Pessach 1985, Sgt. Shaltiel Akiva, aged 21, arrived home from Lebanon to spend the holiday with his family in Rosh HaAiyn. However, he was immediately called back to his base in Samaria. On April 6th he set out to visit his family but en route was kidnapped and strangled to death by a terrorist cell. His body was found two days later near Beit Ariyeh. He was survived by his parents and five siblings. 

Haga Mouid: born 1966, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yosef Shirazi.

Yosef Shirazi (62) was born in Baghdad and immigrated to Israel in 1950. He resided in Eilat where he had just begun working as a security guard for the Hebrew Unversity’s marine biology research centre when he was shot at close range by members of a terror cell who had swum from Aqaba in Jordan to Eilat with the intention of carrying out a terror attack.  

Mukbal Najah: born 1966, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to 38 years imprisonment for the murder – together with an accomplice – of Ya’akov Shalom. He was due for release in July 2028.

Ya’akov Shalom was born in Jerusalem in 1949 where he studied law after his military service. In later years he opened a restaurant in Ein Kerem and it was in the flat above the restaurant that he was stabbed to death in May 1990 by two of his employees. 

Yusef Hazaa: born in 1967 and a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two civilians

In July 1985, whilst a minor and together with an accomplice, he murdered two Israeli teachers from a school in Afula on a preparatory hike in a JNF forest on the Gilboa mountains. 35 year-old father of five Yosef Elihau was shot at close range and 19 year-old National Service volunteer Leah Almakayis was strangled.

Abed Alhaj Rahman: born in 1972, a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Genia Friedman and attempted murder.

Genia Friedman immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine in 1991. She was 41 years old when, in February 1992, she was stabbed to death on a main street in Kfar Saba, where she lived. The terrorist also stabbed and injured her father and two other people. 

Abdel Aziz Ahmed: born 1973, a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Motti Bitton. He planned, initiated and carried out the attack in October 1992 which led to the death of 32 year-old father of three Motti Bitton from Ganim and the injury of his wife, Mali Bitton whilst they were shopping in convenience store along the road from Jenin to Jezreel Junction.

Abu Hanana Usama: born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Motti Bitton (see above) and the injury of his wife by throwing an explosive device at her.

Turkeman Mohamed: born 1973, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting and killing Motti Bitton (see above) and shooting and injuring the deceased’s wife who got out of her vehicle to help her husband. 

Issa Abed Rabbo: born 1962, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria (Deheishe). Arrested in 1984 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two hikers.

Revital Seri (22) and Ron Levy (23) were both students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In October 1984 they were hiking near the Cremisan monastery when they were attacked by Abed Rabbo (whose mother was honored by Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year), tied up and shot to death at close range with a stolen weapon. 

Aashur Mohamed:  born 1960, resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1985 and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment (scheduled release date May 2017) for murder and grievous bodily harm.

Together with two accomplices, he shot 33 year-old taxi driver David Caspi in the head whilst he was driving them through the neighbourhood of Shuafat and then dumped his body by the side of the road. David Caspi left a wife and two daughters.

While in prison he was involved in the assault and injury of another prisoner. 

Amar Massoud: born 1974, a member of the PFLP and a resident of the Gaza Strip. Arrested in 1993 and sentenced to three life terms for the murder of Ian Feinberg (with accomplices) and for the kidnapping, interrogation and murder of three civilians suspected of being collaborators. 

Ian Sean Feinberg was born in South Africa and immigrated to Israel after finishing High School. Having qualified in law before his enlistment, he spent five years serving as a lawyer in the Gaza Strip and was later involved professionally with Palestinian economic development as a legal advisor. On April 18th 1993, during a business meeting in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, terrorists burst into the room announcing that they had ‘come to kill the Jew’. They then murdered him with gunshots and an axe. Ian was 30 at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Al Azrak Khaled: born 1966, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1991 and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and attempted murder. He took part in the planting of a bomb in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem in May 1990 which led to the death of one civilian and injured nine others. Additionally, he took part in another attempted bomb attack in the Mahane Yehuda market and planned the planting of a bomb in the Carmel market.

Shimon Cohen, who was 71 years old when he was killed in the terror attack on Mahane Yehuda market, was a sixth generation Jerusalemite who was born in the Old City in 1920. After his retirement from the family’s fish stall in the same market, he used to visit friends there frequently. 

Beni- Hassan Othman: born 1966, resident of Judea & Samaria, member of Fatah. Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of Yosef Eliyahu and Leah Almakayis (see above).

Samarin Asrar: born 1969, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Tzvi Klein and for attempted murder.

Kara’an Musa: born 1969, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 for his part in the murder of Tzvi Klein and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Scheduled release date: August 2020.

Tzvi Klein was born in 1947 in Czechoslovakia. A mathematician and an educator, he made his home in Ofra, teaching and also active at the pedagogic centre of the Binyamin council. On the first day of Hannuka 1991, he was travelling from Jerusalem to Ofra when shots were fired at his vehicle. Tzvi was fatally injured in the head, a passenger was also injured and his daughter who was also travelling with him was unharmed. 44 years old at the time of his death, Tzvi was survived by his wife and three children. 

The information above is all available in the public domain, so why the BBC has “few details” to report to its audiences is something of a mystery. 

Related articles:

Upcoming prisoner release – the details you won’t hear from the BBC

The facts behind the BBC myth of “Palestinian political prisoners”