Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2016 – part one

Between July 1st and September 30th 2016, eighty-seven reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Some of the reports were produced by other departments (e.g. BBC Technology) or appeared on other pages of the website (e.g. ‘Europe’ or ‘Asia’) but were also posted on the Middle East

Four of those articles related to the wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis which began in the autumn of 2015 and continued – albeit with lower intensity – during 2016. As readers can see for themselves, not one of those headlines included the term ‘terror’ and that editorial policy is similarly apparent in the reports themselves. 

(The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Israel seals off Hebron after surge of attacks (1/7/16 to 3/7/16) discussed here

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian suspected of killing rabbi (27/7/16 to 28/7/16) discussed here

Israel launches Gaza strikes after rocket attack on Sderot (22/8/16 to 23/8/16) discussed here

Spate of attacks on Israelis leaves three assailants dead (16/9/16 to 18/9/16) discussed here

A further two articles related to incitement to terrorism on social media.

Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules (4/7/16 to 5/7/16) Technology discussed here

Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks (11/7/16 to 13/7/16) discussed here

Four reports appeared around the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War and also dealt with the topic of possible future conflict between Israel and Hizballah.

Hezbollah: Five ways group has changed since 2006 Israel war (11/7/16 to 13/7/16)

Ten years on, is Hezbollah prepared for another war with Israel? (12/7/16 to 15/7/16) discussed here

Israel ‘readier’ for new Hezbollah war (12/7/16 to 14/7/16) discussed here together with report below

On patrol with the Israel Defense Forces on Lebanon border (12/7/16 to 14/7/16)

Two reports related to Hamas’ conscription of aid workers at international organisations for the purposes of terrorism.

Israel: World Vision Gaza boss diverted cash to Hamas (4/8/16 to 5/8/16) discussed here

Israel: ‘Gaza UN worker helped Hamas’ (9/8/16 to 11/8/16) discussed here

In all, 13.8% of the BBC News website’s reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the third quarter of 2016 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part one 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part two

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – July 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – September 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – September 2016

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during September 2016 shows that throughout the month a total of 109 incidents took place: 78 in Judea & Samaria, 26 in Jerusalem and five incidents originating from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 77 attacks with petrol bombs, 19 attacks using explosive devices, two shooting attacks and six stabbing attacks in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. One missile attack, three shooting attacks and one petrol bomb attack originated in the Gaza Strip.

Ten people (one civilian and nine members of the security forces) were wounded during September.

The BBC reported three attacks that took place on September 16th, including a stabbing attack in Hebron in which a soldier was wounded. The missile attack from the Gaza Strip on September 14th did not receive any coverage on the BBC News website.

Among the other incidents not reported by the BBC were a shooting attack at Joseph’s Tomb on September 1st in which a soldier was wounded, a shooting attack on September 4th and another two days later on the Gaza Strip border, a stabbing attack on September 17th in Hebron in which a soldier was wounded, a stabbing attack in Efrat on September 18th in which a soldier was wounded and a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on September 19th in which two police officers were wounded.

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported three (2.75%) of the 109 attacks during September and since the beginning of the year it has covered 3.55% of the terror attacks which have taken place.


Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2016

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: October 2015 to March 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2015 and Q4 summary

BBC News again misrepresents the ‘Mavi Marmara’ as an “aid ship”

October 19th saw the appearance of an article by Selin Girit titled “Gas pipeline hope heals rupture in Israel-Turkey ties” in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.girit-art-19-10

Readers are told that:

“Bilateral relations went into the deep freeze in May 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship as it tried to breach the blockade of Gaza. Ten Turkish activists on board were killed.”

The Mavi Marmara was of course not an “aid ship” at all. As documented in the UN’s Palmer Report (p. 47), it carried 546 passengers but no humanitarian aid supplies for the people of the Gaza Strip.

“If the flotilla had been a purely humanitarian mission it is hard to see why so many passengers were embarked and with what purpose. Furthermore, the quality and value of many of the humanitarian goods on board the vessels is questionable. There were large quantities of humanitarian and construction supplies on board the Gazze 1, Eleftheri Mesogeio and Defne-Y. There were some foodstuffs and medical goods on board the Mavi Marmara, although it seems that these were intended for the voyage itself.  Any “humanitarian supplies” were limited to foodstuffs and toys carried in passengers’ personal baggage. The same situation appears to be the case for two other of the vessels: the Sfendoni, and the Challenger I. There was little need to organize a flotilla of six ships to deliver humanitarian assistance if only three were required to carry the available humanitarian supplies. The number of journalists embarked on the ships gives further power to the conclusion that the flotilla’s primary purpose was to generate publicity.”

The same inaccuracy has been seen in previous BBC reports and it has on occasion (though not consistently) been corrected or amended. Despite that, nearly six and a half years after the incident and over five years since the publication of the Palmer Report, the BBC continues to promote an inaccurate portrayal of the Mavi Marmara, its purpose and its passengers


Following the publication of this post and communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and the above passage now reads as follows:




BBC article on antisemitism report recycles problematic backgrounder

Following the publication of the UK Parliament Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism on October 16th, a relatively long article appeared on the UK politics page of the BBC News website under the headline “Jeremy Corbyn’s response to anti-Semitism in Labour criticised by MPs“.ha-select-comm-report-art

20.9% of the article’s 1,007 words are describe the report’s criticism of the response to antisemitism within the Labour Party while reactions to that criticism from Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone take up 14.3% of the word count.  The committee’s criticism of the failure of Twitter to combat antisemitism on its platform is described in 7.5% of the article’s word count and 4.5% describes the report’s criticism of the National Union of Students president.

Towards the end of the article, readers are given a superficial account of two aspects of the report.

“The report expressed concern about use of the word “Zionist”, saying “use of the word in an accusatory context should be considered inflammatory and potentially anti-Semitic”.”

In its conclusions the actual report states:

“‘Zionism’ as a concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel. The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society. It has been tarnished by its repeated use in antisemitic and aggressive contexts. Antisemites frequently use the word ‘Zionist’ when they are in fact referring to Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere. Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This should be communicated by the Government and political parties to those responsible for determining whether or not an incident should be regarded as antisemitic.”

The BBC article also tells readers:

“But it [the report] did say free speech should be allowed on the Palestinian issue, saying it was not anti-Semitic to criticise actions of the Israeli government.”

However that is just part of the story – as Professor Alan Johnson notes at the Telegraph:

“The Committee is very clear about two things. First, criticism of Israel is absolutely acceptable. Second, vile demonisation and conspiracism, with its cartoons dripping in blood and its hook noses and its wild claims of global domination and its Nazi comparisons is not “criticism of Israel”.”

The report itself states:


Crucially, the IHRA definition of antisemitism recommended by the committee (which was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s 31 member countries earlier this year) includes the following example of a manifestation of antisemitism often prevalent among those active “on the Palestinian issue”:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”ha-select-comm-art-related-reading

This BBC article twice offers readers the same ‘related article’ titled “What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?”.

As was noted here when that ‘backgrounder’ first appeared, its problematic aspects (which, regrettably, have not been addressed since publication) include promotion of the Livingstone Formulation.

We have in the past noted here the need for the BBC to work according to a recognised definition of antisemitism in order to prevent the appearance of antisemitic discourse in its own content as well as on its comments boards and social media chatrooms and such a proposal was included in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the renewal of the BBC’s charter.

In light of the Home Affairs Select Committee recommendation, it would of course be appropriate for the BBC and OFCOM to now adopt the IHRC working definition of antisemitism.


BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

On October 14th the BBC News website published an article on its Middle East page about reactions to the text of the document approved by UNESCO’s executive committee the previous day.

Titled “Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’“, the report commendably avoids inaccuracies which have previously been seen in BBC reporting on the subject of Temple Mount and the Western Wall by using correct terminology and providing an accurate portrayal of the significance of Temple Mount to Jews.unesco-art

“It comes after the body approved a text which repeatedly used only the Islamic name for a hilltop complex which is also the holiest site in Judaism.

The site is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.”

However, the fact that BBC audiences have not been informed of prior attempts to pass a similar document at UNESCO or of previous decisions taken at that body concerning other historic sites means that readers of this report lack the background information necessary to understand the story fully and the relevance of the word ‘another’ in one of the quotes used.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Facebook post that Unesco had become a “theatre of the absurd” in taking “another delusional decision”.”

Without being provided with the relevant context of Palestinian terrorism and rioting on Temple Mount, readers are told that:

“The stated aim of the text was “the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem”.

It repeatedly denounced Israeli actions, including the use of force, imposition of restrictions on Muslim worshippers and archaeological work. Israel regards such criticism as politically motivated.”

BBC audiences have also been serially deprived of the background information which would enable their understanding of the role of this document in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel. The article closes with an anodyne quote from a PA spokesman:

“”This is an important message to Israel that it must end its occupation and recognise the Palestinian state and Jerusalem as its capital with its sacred Muslim and Christian sites,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Readers are not however informed of the reaction of Mahmoud Abbas’ own party, as reported by Ynet:

“Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority, welcomed on Thursday a UNESCO resolution which fails to acknowledge Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

“This decision is an important victory for the Palestinian people, the protectors of al-Aqsa, and in terms of national defense,” a Palestinian spokesperson said.

 A Fatah press release said that the importance of the decision lies in its content, specifically that it denies any historical connection between Jews and Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

Back in January the BBC’s UN correspondent told listeners to BBC World Service radio that:

“The Israelis always believe that they are victimised at the UN; that they are singled out unfairly; that they are isolated…”

Had BBC audiences been provided in the past with the information and context which would enable their understanding of this latest example of abuse of the UN forum for anti-Israel campaigning, they would of course be able to appreciate why Israelis take that view.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage

A story the BBC hasn’t told

Throughout the past year’s surge in terrorism the first-aiders and paramedics of Magen David Adom (Israel’s emergency services) have of course been among the first on the scene at all the hundreds of attacks.

The story of those ethnically and religiously diverse first responders – many of whom are volunteers – providing essential care to an equally diverse population plagued by daily terrorism is one which one might have thought would have interested foreign journalists based in the region but has not been told by the BBC. 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2016

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during August 2016 shows that throughout the month a total of 93 incidents took place: 77 in Judea & Samaria, 13 in Jerusalem and three incidents originating from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 73 attacks with petrol bombs, 13 attacks using explosive devices, one rock throwing attack and three stabbing attacks in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. One missiles attack and two shooting attacks originated in the Gaza Strip.

Seven people (one civilian and six members of the security forces) were wounded during August.

For the first time since the beginning of 2016, the BBC News website reported – albeit belatedly – the missile fire from the Gaza Strip on August 21st but the two shooting incidents were not covered.

None of the attacks which took place in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria during August received coverage on the BBC News website – including the stabbing of a civilian in Jerusalem on August 11th, the stabbing of a soldier at the Shaked checkpoint on August 14th or the stabbing of a soldier near Yizhar on August 24th.  

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported 1.08% of the attacks during August and since the beginning of the year it has covered 3.65% of the terror attacks which have taken place.


Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – July 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2016

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: October 2015 to March 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2015 and Q4 summary

BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

On October 13th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Fifa urged to give red card to Israeli settlement clubs“.knell-fifa-art

Knell opens her piece with an account of some pre-planned agitprop which took place on the eve of Yom Kippur.

“A dozen Palestinian boys dressed in football kit and carrying balls, march towards a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli police and soldiers come to block the way as they approach the gates of Maale Adumim, where some 40,000 Israelis live, to the east of Jerusalem.

Surrounded by journalists, protest organiser, Fadi Quran, tells a senior officer that the children want to play a game in the local football stadium.

“You know exactly why they can’t come in,” says the officer.

“Is it because they’re Palestinian?” Mr Quran asks.

“No, no, because you need a permit,” the officer replies.

“Well, people in the world are watching and I think it’s important to know you have segregation,” says Mr Quran.”

Were it not for reports like this one from a member of the pre-conscripted press pack, “people in the world” would of course know nothing about the exploitation of a dozen boys for a campaign which has nothing to do with sport and everything to do with the political campaign of delegitimisation of Israel.

But despite the BBC’s decision to use its world-wide reach to put wind in the sails of this particular political campaign, its editorial standards concerning accuracy and impartiality should at least ensure that audiences would be told the whole story. That, however, is not the case in Knell’s report.

The ‘star’ of Knell’s account of the event is the man she tepidly describes as “protest organiser” Fadi Quran. BBC audiences receive no information concerning Quran’s affiliations and are not told, for example, which organisation – if any – he represents, who funded the boys’ transport to Ma’ale Adumim or who paid for the identical T-shirts they and Quran are seen wearing in the photographs which accompany the article.avaaz-logo

A closer look at those T-shirts and the accompanying placards shows that they bear the Avaaz logo and that would come as no surprise had BBC audiences been informed that American citizen Fadi Quran is a “senior campaigner” for Avaaz. A former employee of Al Haq, Quran is also a “policy member” at Al Shabaka and a “Popular Struggle community organizer”.

Obviously that information is critical to audience understanding of the wider story behind the agitprop she describes, but Yolande Knell refrains from providing it to her audience. She goes on to ostensibly provide readers with the background to that “small protest” but similarly fails to inform them that the meeting to which she refers is the fruit of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to use FIFA to delegitimise Israel.

“The small protest is soon over but it has symbolic significance ahead of this week’s meeting of the council of world football’s governing body, Fifa, in Switzerland.

It is due to discuss whether teams from settlements, including Maale Adumim, should be barred from the Israeli Football Association (IFA).”

Knell’s reporting once again falls short of editorial standards of impartiality when she presents a one-sided portrayal of ‘settlements’ while failing to inform readers that all those communities are located in Area C which – according to the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians were willing signatories – is to have its final status determined through negotiations.

“Settlements are built on land captured and occupied by Israel in 1967, which the Palestinians want for a future, independent state. The international community sees them as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace”, but Israel strongly disagrees.”

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality require clarification of the “particular viewpoint” of outside contributors but Knell makes do with the inadequate term “advocacy group” when describing the political NGO Human Rights Watch which has long been involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

“The advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests the IFA should be made to move all Fifa-sanctioned matches inside the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

“By holding games on stolen land, Fifa is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” says Sari Bashi, HRW’s country director for Israel and Palestine.

report by the group notes that some settlement playing fields are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, and that West Bank Palestinians, apart from labourers with permits, are not allowed to enter settlements and use their services.”

The HRW report to which Knell provides readers with a link was already given context-free and partial promotion on the BBC World Service last month.  Significantly, the HRW country director quoted by Knell has also found it appropriate to give an interview on the same topic to the BDS campaign’s South Africa branch.

Knell goes on to promote an old but unsupported claim:

“To underscore the inequalities, the Palestinian boys leaving the demonstration at Maale Adumim continue to chant: “Infantino, let us play.”

Some come from nearby Bedouin communities, which have lost access to their land due to settlement expansion, and have pending demolition orders against their homes.” [emphasis added]

As has previously been documented here, the Jahalin tribe’s claims of ownership of the said land have been examined – and rejected – in courts of law.

Knell similarly amplifies a specific political narrative when she promotes – as fact – the notion of “Israeli restrictions” on Palestinian footballers without any mention of the very relevant context of the links of some of those players to terrorist organisations.

“…a monitoring committee was set up, headed by the Fifa official Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician and former anti-apartheid activist.

It was asked to address Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players and visiting teams, alleged racism and discrimination, and the clubs based in settlements, all of which play in Israel’s lower leagues.”football-terrorist

And of course Knell’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian football does not extend to telling her audiences that one team saw fit to ‘honour’ a terrorist who murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem only this week.

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to Yolande Knell’s signature blend of journalism and activism and this latest report provides yet another example of her serial amplification of political narratives and campaigns in the guise of ‘news’. And yet, the BBC remains silent on the issue of Knell’s repeated compromise of its supposed editorial standards of impartiality.

Related Articles:

Presenting the “progressive” (Guardian approved) group, Avaaz – astroturfing for Hamas  UK Media Watch

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality