One to watch out for on BBC Radio 4

This coming Monday evening, August 3rd, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a programme titled “Women of Terror“. Its synopsis reads as follows:R4 Women of Terror

“From Russia’s 19th century Nihilists to contemporary Sri Lanka and Palestine women have played central roles in terrorist organisations. Attacks planned or executed by women attract attention and inspire fear in a way that male terrorists can only dream of.

Why are we still shocked by female terrorists? Why are they so effective? How can women be dissuaded from joining terrorist organisations? BBC Diplomatic Correspondent, Bridget Kendall investigates the motives that drive women to kill and considers the response of the media and the public to those who have planted bombs, hijacked planes and killed innocents in their quest for political change.”

The claim that the programme “considers the response of the media […] to those who have planted bombs, hijacked planes and killed innocents…” is particularly interesting given the images selected to illustrate both its webpage and an accompanying promotional article by Bridget Kendall which appeared on the BBC News website on July 28th under the title “What drives women to terrorist acts?“.R4 Women of Terror written

Of course BBC audiences are no strangers to those photos of PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled seeing as they have been used in prior BBC content – and not infrequently with linkage to the word ‘icon’ or ‘iconic’ – as seen in the caption to the photograph heading Kendall’s article: “Leila Khaled in iconic pose”. In the body of the article readers are told:

“Leila Khaled was probably the most famous female hijacker in the world in the late 1960s – beautiful, dangerous and politically committed to doing whatever might further the Palestinian cause.

She featured in an iconic photo – sultry-eyed, a Kalashnikov at her side, headscarf carefully draped over her head.” [emphasis added]

Kendall’s 1,277 word article has two hundred and twenty-six words devoted to Khaled alone and the only one of the female terrorists she mentions who is deemed worthy of an insert carrying a further 140 words of biography is Leila Khaled.

As recently as last December another BBC Radio 4 programme also purported to examine “how media organisations tread the fine line of giving publicity to terrorists and reporting the news” but was plagued by accuracy and impartiality issues in its portrayal of Leila Khaled’s organisation’s Dawson’s Field hijackings.

It remains to be seen whether Bridget Kendall’s efforts will be any more successful but her promo article’s romanticised embellishment of the Khaled ‘icon’ does not bode well.

Related Articles:

BBC R4 gives a platform to terrorist Leila Khaled

BBC R4 programme on terror and the media rebrands PFLP terrorists



42+1 years on BBC still refrains from using the word terror

On May 27th the BBC World Service sent the following Tweet to its one hundred and ninety-four thousand followers.

WS Tweet Lod

The link promoted in that tweet leads to a filmed report which was actually first broadcast a year ago.  As was noted here then, the synopsis to that report about the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre makes no use of the words terror, terrorism or terrorists.

That observation still stands.


BBC R4 programme on terror and the media rebrands PFLP terrorists

On December 22nd BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme called “Terror and the Oxygen of Publicity” made by the BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera. The broadcast is available here and individual clips from the programme have also been put online here.Gordon Corera prog

According to the programme’s synopsis, it “examines the jihadists’ social media strategy, the attempts to combat it, and how media organisations tread the fine line of giving publicity to terrorists and reporting the news”. Near the beginning of the broadcast Corera states that his aim is “to ask what the media and government can and should do”.

There is much of interest in Corera’s programme but one topic he does not address is that of the media’s use of language when reporting on terrorism. As BBC Watch readers are doubtless aware, that subject is a particularly pertinent one in relation to the corporation itself as it regularly employs double standards regarding the use of the word terrorism and by doing so communicates to its audiences which political violence it regards as terror and which – due to its own political motivations – it does not. Ironically, listeners heard a small example of that phenomenon early on in this programme.

Corera’s introduction to the topic of what he describes as the “relationship between terror and modern media” comes through the example of the Dawson’s Field hijackings in 1970 which he describes thus:

“A Palestinian group called the PFLP had simultaneously hijacked a number of passenger planes and then flown them to a landing strip in the middle of the Jordanian desert known as Dawson’s Field.”

He later states:

“The PFLP’s spectacular act was intended to capture the world’s attention. They wanted the release of political prisoners held by Israel in return for the hostages…” [emphasis added]

By describing members of an internationally designated Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization as ‘political prisoners’ Corera of course promotes a stance which speaks volumes about his own approach to the subject of PFLP terrorism. But as well as the obvious impartiality issue raised by the use of that phrase, Corera also fails on accuracy.

The Dawson’s Field hijackers did indeed demand the release of prisoners held in Israel, but – as shown in US State Department cables from the time – the PFLP’s primary demand was for the release of prisoners held in three other countries.

“The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has issued a  72-hour ultimatum to the Swiss Government to release three Palestinian Commandos currently serving 12 year sentences in Switzerland for attacking an Israeli airliner in Zurich in 1969.”

Those prisoners were not incarcerated for ‘political’ reasons but due to their having launched a terror attack.

“On February 18, 1969 El Al flight 432, on its way from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv via Zurich, was due to take off at Zurich International Airport. While slowly advancing toward the take-off starting point, the plane was attacked by four terrorists, who opened automatic fire and hurled demolition charges at the aircraft.”

A later US State Department cable states:

“According to news reports, the PFLP has made three demands for release of the aircraft and passengers:  1) release and return to Amman of three PFLP commandos imprisoned in Switzerland; 2) return to Amman of the commando killed in the abortive El Al hijacking and release of his female accomplice; and 3) release of three fedayeen being held in West Germany. A fourth demand, relayed by the PFLP office in Beirut, calls for the release of all fedayeen held in Israel.”

That “female accomplice” was terrorist Leila Khaled who, together with Patrick Argüello, tried to hijack an El Al plane as part of the Dawson’s Field operation. The three terrorists imprisoned in West Germany had carried out an attack on a bus carrying El Al passengers at Munich airport on February 10th 1970, killing one person and wounding 11 others.

The provision of the “oxygen of publicity” for terrorists by the mainstream media and on social media is certainly an interesting topic for discussion. No less crucial to that debate, however, is the issue of how the mainstream media picks and chooses its terrorists and the way in which journalists’ own political opinions affect their portrayal of terrorism to the wider world – as seen in this example unintentionally provided by Gordon Corera.

At the beginning of the programme Corera informs listeners that:

“Here in the newsroom some of the toughest decisions relate to how we cover the subject of terrorism – even the use of the ‘T-word’ itself.”

Having set out to ask “what the media […] can and should do”, it is clear that a topic awaits for a sequel to Corera’s programme.

Related Articles:

Debate widens on BBC avoidance of the word terrorist

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

Where can terrorism be named as such by the BBC?

BBC R4 gives a platform to terrorist Leila Khaled

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack – part one

BBC coverage of the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, on the morning of November 18th appeared on multiple platforms including the corporation’s website, radio stations and television. Part one of this post deals with written material appearing on the BBC News website.

Coverage began with typical BBC refusal to independently categorise the premeditated murders of civilians going about their daily business as terrorism.

Pigua Har Nof tweet bbc breaking

In the first four versions of the website’s main article on the incident – currently titled “Jerusalem synagogue: Palestinians kill Israeli worshippers” – the term terrorist attack was placed in the quotation marks routinely employed by the BBC to distance itself from the description.

Pigua Har Nof on HP


Pigua Har Nof 1

Pigua Har Nof 2

In subsequent versions of the article – of which there were twenty-one in all – the word terror and its derivatives also appeared exclusively in the form of quotes; for example:

“US Secretary of State John Kerry said the act of “pure terror… simply has no place in human behaviour”. He called on the Palestinian leadership to condemn it.”


“Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed a harsh response.

He ordered the homes of the attackers to be destroyed and called for the people of Israel to stand together in the face of a “wave of terror”.”

Versions 3 and 4 of the report inaccurately informed BBC audiences that Rabbi Yehuda Glick had been shot at Temple Mount.

Pigua Har Nof 3

From version 7 onwards, readers were told that:

“Praising the attack, Hamas said it was in revenge to the death of a Palestinian bus driver found hanged inside a vehicle in Jerusalem on Monday.

Israeli police said it was a case of suicide, but his family did not accept the post-mortem findings.”

The information concerning Hamas’ praise for the attack was removed from later versions.

“Hamas said it was in revenge for the death of a Palestinian bus driver found hanged inside a vehicle in Jerusalem on Monday.”

The BBC did not make any effort to inform audiences that the verdict of suicide was in fact not given by “Israeli police” but by pathologists who conducted a post-mortem, including one chosen by the deceased’s family. As the statement issued by the Ministry of Health indicates, the pathologists concluded that there was no evidence of foul play.

“On Monday afternoon, 17 November 2014, an autopsy was carried out on the body of Yousef Hassan Al-Ramouni by personnel from the National Center for Forensic Medicine with the participation of Dr. Saber al-Aloul, who was chosen by the family.

The findings of the autopsy indicate self-hanging.

There were no findings that indicated the involvement of any external agent in the act of hanging.

We are continuing various laboratory tests in order to clarify whether or not any foreign substances are present in the body fluids.

During the autopsy, there was agreement – including by the pathologist chosen by the family – regarding the findings and their significance; there was no suspicion that death was caused by anyone else.”

As has been the case in other recent BBC reports relating to terror attacks in recent weeks and in the ‘backgrounder’ by Yolande Knell which appeared on the BBC News website on November 7th and appears as a link in this article, the report provides audiences with a number of ‘explanations’ for the terror attack. Despite the Israeli government having stated unequivocally on several occasions that the status quo regarding Temple Mount will not be changed to include equal rights of worship for non-Muslims, the BBC continues to promote that issue as a cause of “tensions”, along with Israeli planning decisions.

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

“In the last few weeks, tensions have risen sharply – largely as the result of the revival of an ancient dispute over rights of worship at a site within the walls of the Old City. […]

In recent times, some religious Jews have begun to argue for a change in the status quo which would also allow them to pray there. Any hint of such change is viewed with deep anger in the Islamic world.”

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

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

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

Once again we see the inaccurate portrayal of the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount as an “Orthodox” issue. 

As has been the case in all previous BBC reports on recent terror attacks in Jerusalem, incitement by senior Palestinian figures – including partners in the Palestinian unity government – is not presented to BBC audiences as a contributing factor to the surge in violence and terrorism. The BBC informed readers of this report that:

“Earlier, the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement saying: “The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in their place of prayer and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.””

It did not, however, inform them of the praise for the attack issued by Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor and his party Fatah.Pigua Har Nof PFLP art

An additional link appearing in this report leads readers to an inaccurate article – still uncorrected – published in April 2014 in which Temple Mount is described as being situated in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The report also includes an insert on the topic of the terrorist organization to which the Har Nof attackers belonged and on the same day the BBC produced a profile of the PFLP which is inaccurately illustrated with a photograph of flags belonging to another terrorist organization – the DFLP.

Late in the evening of November 18th, the above article was replaced on the BBC News website’s Middle East homepage by an additional report which will be discussed – along with others – in a later post. 

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 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.