Why the accuracy and impartiality of BBC reporting matters

Last week a debate on the conditions and health of Palestinian children was held in the House of Lords.  As noted by NGO Monitor, a briefing paper was prepared ahead of that debate.HoL pic

“In July 2016, the UK House of Lords Library posted a briefing paper: “Living Conditions, Health and Wellbeing of Palestinian Children,” which was “withdrawn” without explanation on July 19, but is available on unofficial websites.” 

As NGO Monitor points out, that briefing paper relied heavily on information promoted by various political NGOs – but it also included information gleaned from several BBC reports.

Footnote 4 (and 11) referred readers to an article titled “Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers” which was published on January 6th, 2015 as the source for the following information:

HoL doc 1

As was noted here at the time that article was published:

“The BBC report plays down Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders:

“The leader of Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza, said in an interview in August that a Hamas cell had killed the teenagers but had not acted on instructions from above.”

The article fails to adequately clarify that funding for the terror attack came from Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip or that high-ranking Hamas operative Saleh al Arouri admitted the organisation’s involvement in August 2014.”

Footnotes 14 and 15 referred readers to a BBC article dating from September 1st 2014 as the source of the information below:

HoL doc 2

Notably, no effort is made to distinguish Palestinian civilian casualties from combatants. That of course will not come as a surprise to those who are aware of the sources of those UN quoted figures. As was previously noted here in relation to that BBC article:

“Once again we see the BBC quoting “the UN” as though that body were impeccably objective, but with no effort made to inform audiences with regard to the very significant issue of the background to those UN statements and the political motivations involved.”

Footnote 16 referred readers to a BBC report from August 27th 2014 titled “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce”.

HoL doc 3

As was noted here at the time:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

Footnotes 33, 34 and 36 referred readers to an article by Yolande Knell from July 8th 2015 titled “Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?”

HoL doc 4

As was noted here at the time, that politicised campaigning article by Knell made no mention of Hamas’ misappropriation of construction materials or its renewed tunnel building and it misrepresented the topic of dual-use goods.

The BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist organisations in the summer of 2014 was highly – and consistently – problematic: not least for its serial misrepresentation of the topic of civilian/combatant casualty figures and the use of data supplied by Hamas and its supporters. Both during and after the conflict, the corporation adopted a campaigning role on the issue of the restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel in response to terrorism and presented a partisan view of the topic of reconstruction in Gaza.

It is obviously very disturbing to see reporting which did not meet the BBC’s professed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality being promoted to members of the House of Lords ahead of a debate but the fact that the house’s researchers use such material as the basis for a briefing paper serves to highlight exactly why the British public, their politicians and public officials should be all the more concerned about the accuracy and impartiality of BBC journalism which later becomes “historical record“.  

 

BBC News ignores a ‘highly unusual’ Middle East story

At the beginning of June, the BBC’s Middle East editor put considerable effort into reporting on a three-hour long meeting in Paris which – despite the fact that neither Israel nor Palestinian representatives were present – was described as “Middle East peace talks”.No news

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

BBC’s Bowen employs apartheid analogy in report on Paris conference

Earlier this month, the BBC News website reported on a visit to Israel by the Egyptian foreign minister which was intended to kick-start an alternative track for direct negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

With the topic of the ‘Middle East peace process’ being one which – in one form or another – is rarely off the BBC’s agenda, it was rather surprising to see that a story billed by the local press as “highly unusual” received no coverage from the corporation whatsoever.

“Retired Saudi General Anwar Eshki visited Israel this week and met with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai. 

Eshki, who headed a delegation of Saudi academics and business people, also met with a group of Knesset members to encourage dialogue in Israel on the Arab Peace Initiative .[…]

While this wasn’t an official visit, it was a highly unusual one, as Eshki couldn’t have traveled to Israel without approval from the Saudi government. […]

The former general and the delegates met with opposition Knesset members on Friday. The meeting was organized by Meretz MK Esawi Freige, and was attended by MK Michal Rozin of the same party and Zionist Union MKs Ksenia Svetlova and Omer Bar-Lev. Freige told Haaretz that Eshki and the delegates also met with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid on Tuesday. He said that Lapid wanted two members of his party, MKs Ofer Shelah and Jacob Perry, to attend Friday’s meeting, but it didn’t work out due to scheduling conflicts.

Freige, Svetlova and Rozin said in conversations with Haaretz that Eshki and the delegates sought to meet with Israeli lawmakers in order to encourage dialogue in Israel about the Arab Peace Initiative. They added that during Friday’s meeting, the MKs proposed that Eshki invite Israeli lawmakers who support the initiative to a meeting in Saudi Arabia. “The Saudis want to open up to Israel,” Freige said. “This is a strategic step for them. They said they want to continue what former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat started. They want to get closer to Israel. This is clearly evident.” “

That is not a story which one would have thought could be ignored by a self-described “serious student of the Middle East” representing an organisation which pledges to keep its audiences “in touch with what is going on in the world”. 

Weekend long read

1) Our CAMERA colleague Sean Durns has recently produced two backgrounders which readers may find useful:

Hezbollah Backgrounder: 2016

Palestinian Islamic Jihad Backgrounder: 2016Weekend Read

2) As readers are probably aware, it is not unusual to find the BBC promoting the notion that the Gaza Strip is still under Israeli occupation, despite nearly eleven years having passed since the disengagement. Gilead Sher and Dr Dana Wolf explain why that is not the case.

Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations outlines legal requirements for occupation, which include the physical existence of hostile troops in an area, so that the legitimate government is incapable of exercising effective powers of government. Conversely, military withdrawal is a prerequisite for clearly demarcating the end of occupation. As such, never since the enactment of the Hague Regulations has an occupation been recognized without a foreign army present.” 

3) At The Tablet, David Collier asks “Do NGOs that work in and around Israel use their volunteers for propaganda?”.

“There are hundreds of websites dedicated to providing information on volunteering opportunities worldwide and almost all of these sites contain a section on Palestine. One of the main concerns, wherever the NGO is based, is always safety. The African Volunteer Network, in a section on Somalia, as well as the group Hand in Hand for Syria both explicitly state they cannot send nonmedical volunteers into their specific areas because of the dangers. So how can there be so many aid agencies advertising for volunteers in Palestine? How can there be NGOs claiming Israel is conducting “genocide,” and is engaged in “war crimes” at the same time as organizations advertise for volunteers to help plant olive trees, teach English and work in refugee camps?”

4) BBC coverage of the recent anniversary of the Iran deal focused on highlighting negotiators’ recollections but the corporation refrained from providing its audiences with any substantial analysis of the topic.

“My favourite was the Persian chicken with crushed pistachios,” recalls Wendy Sherman. “Those times of breaking bread together are always useful in building the relationships you need when you are the middle of such tough negotiations.”

The Henry Jackson Society and the Friends of Israel Initiative have published a paper titled The Iran Deal a Year On: Assessing Iranian Ambitions.

“Key findings include:

  • Iran has breached the JCPA and associated agreements, with no penalty and in some cases active collusion by Western supporters of the deal.
  • Serious concerns exist over IAEA finding and reporting in relation to the implementation of the deal and the military dimension of Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • Iranian forces, in particular the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), are still involved in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen as an integral part of the Iranian government’s destabilising agenda.
  • Iran remains the principal sponsor of terrorism in the world – as acknowledged by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Iran continues to develop its ballistic missile programme.
  • The grave violations of human rights and freedom within Iran have not ceased and the hopes for a moderation of the regime have remained unmet.”

The full report can be found here

BBC News misleads audiences on Palestinian boy’s death

Towards the end of the BBC News website’s recent report on the topic of a new Israeli law – discussed here – readers were told that:impeachment law art

“On Tuesday, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was killed during a clash in the occupied West Bank town of al-Ram, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Muhey al-Tabakhi died as a result of a wound inflicted by a projectile that struck his chest and caused heart failure, according to a ministry spokesman.

An Israeli police spokeswoman said border police officers had fired tear gas and stun grenades after a petrol bomb was thrown at them.”

Although the article does not specifically tell them so, most readers would obviously understand those three paragraphs to mean that Israel was responsible for the boy’s death. But is that established fact?

The Times of Israel reports:

“The Israel Police said, however, that the violence broke out when Border Police officers who were returning the body of a Palestinian terrorist were “pelted with Molotov cocktails.”

The troops responded with tear gas and stun grenades, and did not use live fire, police said.”

The BBC’s Israeli newspaper of choice, Ha’aretz, reported that:

“Palestinian reports said that the boy was shot in the chest on Tuesday afternoon in clashes that erupted in Al-Ram. He was then transferred for treatment to a nearby hospital in Ramallah but died of his wounds hours later.

However, residents of the village contradicted the Palestinian Health Ministry statement. They said that the boy’s death should be investigated since direct evidence of the circumstances that lead to the incident was not immediately available. They claimed that the medical teams that arrived to treat the boy at the scene were not sure what was had happened there.”

So as we see, the circumstances are far from clear but nevertheless, the BBC allowed its readers go away with an impression of the incident that happens to dovetail with the messaging put out by the PA Health Ministry.

Related Articles:

Despite conflicting claims, Daily Mail pronounces Israel guilty of killing Palestinian boy  (UK Media Watch)

 

 

Was BBC News presentation of a new Israeli law balanced and accurate?

On July 20th an article appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Israeli parliament passes controversial impeachment law“.

The article included a brief portrayal of the new law which is its ostensible subject matter:

“Israel’s parliament has passed a law that would allow it to impeach an MP who incites racism or supports armed struggle against the state. […]

The law would require three-quarters of the Knesset’s 120 members to vote in favour of any impeachment motion.”

The Jerusalem Post has more details – which the BBC did not apparently find it necessary to report.

“The bill […] allows MKs to vote to dismiss a fellow lawmaker for incitement to violence or racism, and support for armed conflict against Israel, which are among the reasons cited in the Basic Law: Knesset for banning a party or person from running.

The impeachment process would begin with 70 MKs, 10 of whom must be from the opposition, petitioning the Knesset House Committee, and could only be finalized with a vote of 90 MKs in favor of the dismissal. If an MK is expelled, he or she would be replaced by the next person on his or her party’s list. […] the law will not apply retroactively to actions MKs took before it passed.”

In addition:

“The deposed lawmaker could then appeal the decision with the Supreme Court.

Under the terms of the law, Knesset members cannot be removed from office during an election period.”

The 415 word BBC News article included a twenty-three word portrayal of the point of view of a supporter of the law whilst one hundred and twelve words – and a link to an EU funded political NGO’s website – were devoted to portrayal of opinions opposing the law.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the measure ended an “absurd situation” whereby someone who “supports terror” was allowed to serve in the Knesset.

But critics said it was anti-democratic and aimed mainly at Israeli Arab MPs. […]

A spokeswoman for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel expressed similar concerns about the new impeachment law, which was approved by 62 votes to 47 early on Wednesday.

“It harms the very building blocks of democracy – the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to representation,” said Debbie Gilad-Hayo.

“Arab [MPs] whose actions and remarks do not find favour with the political majority will be the first people harmed by the bill – however, it is a slippery slope and the bill has potential to affect all,” she added.”

In addition, the article highlighted a previous statement from the EU – which does not relate to the specific subject matter concerned – both in its text and in a photo caption.impeachment law art

“The move comes a week after the European Union warned that the Knesset had risked undermining democracy and freedom of speech by approving legislation that requires NGOs receiving most of their funding from abroad to declare so publicly.”

“The EU warned Israel’s parliament earlier this month that it risked undermining democracy”

The article made no effort to provide readers with the relevant context of impeachment laws in other democracies such as the United States and some EU member countries. It failed to provide readers with information concerning the type of actions to which the new law would presumably apply such as an MK’s participation in a flotilla in support of Hamas organised by a group proscribed under Israeli law.

As was the case at the time, the report gave a whitewashed portrayal of an event which took place earlier in the year.  

“In February, three of the 18 Israeli Arab MPs caused outrage and were suspended from parliamentary activity for several months by an ethics committee after they met the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.”

Clearly this article did not provide uninformed readers with a comprehensive view of the legislation itself or the types of activities to which it may apply. However, there is one specific take away message which it obviously tried very hard to get across to BBC audiences.

“The EU warned Israel’s parliament earlier this month that it risked undermining democracy”

“But critics said it was anti-democratic…”

“… the Knesset had risked undermining democracy and freedom of speech…”

“It harms the very building blocks of democracy…” 

Reports of the death of Israeli democracy are of course greatly exaggerated – but notably, such reports frequently come from the media organisation supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC News portrayal of Israeli law airbrushes political NGOs

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ promotion of Haneen Zoabi omits crucial information

BBC News ignores Hizballah terror designation development

BBC Watch complaint on ‘banned’ book upheld

As readers may recall, since late last year various BBC radio programmes have misled their audiences by promoting assorted versions of the inaccurate claim that Dorit Rabinyan’s book ‘Gader Haya’ (‘Borderlife’) has been banned in Israel.

December 2015, BBC World Service: BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist.

January 2016, BBC World Service: BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’.

February 2016, BBC Radio 4: How an uncorrected inaccuracy became BBC conventional wisdom.

March 2016, BBC World Service: BBC WS yet again promotes inaccurate claim of Israeli book ‘ban’.

With previous efforts to alert BBC World Service programme makers to the inaccuracy having proved fruitless, after the February 22nd broadcast of ‘Front Row’ on Radio 4, BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the following inaccurate claims made in that programme:

“…recently the [Israeli] culture minister banned a novel about a mixed Israeli-Palestinian relationship…ahm…Dorit Rabinyan’s ‘Border Life’.”

As readers may recall, the complaint was twice rejected by the BBC Complaints department, with the second response including the programme production team’s claim that:

“This was a discussion that wasn’t specifically about the Rabinyan case – it was about another author’s work and the discussion strayed into political interference in Israeli culture. As such, Samira used the shorthand “banned” in reference to the book. The book was removed from the school syllabus, but in a discussion as wide ranging as this, the point about political involvement in arts and culture still stands whether the book has been banned from society at large, or removed from the school syllabusThe decision to interfere in the distribution of this book was made by, or under pressure from, politicians. That was the point the interviewee was making and to which the presenter responded.” [emphasis added]

As we noted at the time:

“The book ‘Borderlife’ was not “banned” in Israel and is freely available to all would-be purchasers in book shops. Neither was it “removed from the school syllabus” – because it was never on it. The decision not to include the book in the curriculum was made by a professional pedagogic body – not “by, or under pressure from, politicians”.”

BBC Watch pursued the matter further and the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit upheld our complaint, as is now noted on the BBC website’s ‘corrections and clarifications’ page.

Borderlife correction

The ECU’s reporting of its findings includes a section titled ‘Further action’.

Borderlife ECUGiven the production team’s above response to the second stage complaint, one must obviously question whether in fact it is in a position to “ensure that presenters are appropriately briefed”.Front Row 22 2

During our correspondence with the ECU, we raised the question of how the listeners who were misled by the inaccurate broadcast would be made aware of that fact and suggested that an on-air correction in the same programme would be the most efficient way of ensuring that a correction reached the original audience.

We learned from the ECU that the practical steps to be taken after a complaint has been upheld are left to the discretion of the division of the BBC concerned.

“At this stage, it’s for the management of the Division responsible for the programme (BBC Radio in this case) to notify me of the action they propose to take as a result of the finding, so any decision about broadcasting a correction will be theirs in the first instance (though it’s also open to me to say whether I consider the action adequate).”

As we have previously noted here in connection to the absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website, the whole point of making corrections is to ensure that audiences receive the corrected information.

One cannot but question the efficacy – and commitment to transparency – of a publicly funded complaints system which apparently does not include a mechanism to ensure that audiences are automatically informed in the most efficient manner possible of the fact that they were given misleading information, rather than the outcome being dependent upon decisions made by individual departments. 

 

Casually reinforcing the narrative on BBC Radio 4

Kate Adie’s introduction to an item about rock-climbing which was broadcast in the July 16th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (from 17:09 here) sounded promising.FOOC 16 7

“In sixty years this programme has broadcast many dispatches from the Middle East – particularly the West Bank. They’re often about religion or politics and all too often about violence. Many journalists have written about the scene in Ramallah; just six miles from Jerusalem. But Ed Lewis has found something different: a sports centre that’s opening up new horizons.”

So was that item about a Palestinian rock-climbing club really “something different” and did it indeed manage to avoid politics? Not quite.

Tourism consultant and freelance journalist Edward Lewis managed to get a gratuitous, context-free mention of Israel’s anti-terrorist fence into his introduction – but without of course informing listeners why the construction of that fence (only a small percentage of which is actually “wall”) was necessary.

“Ramallah has a new wall. Not a vertical grey concrete wall but a bright blue, green and white one. It has no look-out posts, razor wire or steel gates. Instead there are bungee ropes, crash mats and colour. Far from emitting a message to stay away, this wall is encouraging Palestinians to approach and explore.”

The context of Palestinian terrorism was also erased from later remarks made by Lewis, as were the Oslo Accords arrangements which divide the region into Areas A, B and C.

“Despite the challenges of mobility in the West Bank…”

“In the wake of a rash of violent incidents since October 2015, tension with Israel has risen and it has become harder for single Palestinian men to get work permits in East Jerusalem.”

“The West Bank has not become an adventure playground overnight – nor will it anytime soon. Israeli restrictions and the designation of many parts of the West Bank as military zones or nature reserves severely restrict the scope for more outdoor activity.”

Could Lewis have reported on that climbing club in Ramallah without the insertion of that unnecessary and context-free mention of the anti-terrorist fence which contributed nothing to his report? Of course he could. But as we all too often see, even the most seemingly benign subject matter can be opportunistically used by self-conscripted journalists to casually reinforce an adopted narrative.  

BBC discovers that MP’s “Israel” Facebook posts were antisemitic

Placement of a pay-walled article in a newspaper read by less than 5% of the population midweek was probably not the best advice ever given to a British politician apparently seeking to reassure Israelis but nevertheless, on July 18th the Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, had an article published in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz under the title “My Understanding of anti-Semitism Was Lacking“.

The same sentiment was voiced by Shah in an interview with Becky Milligan on BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the same day (from 29:11 here) and that interview prompted articles at additional outlets including the Independent, the Jewish Chronicle and on the BBC News website’s UK politics and ‘Leeds & West Yorkshire’ pages.

The BBC’s promotion of the radio interview included a choice of language that – given its past approach to the same story – was remarkable.

Naz Shah tweet WaO 1

Naz Shah tweet WaO 2

Naz Shah art Leeds pge 18 7

As readers may recall, when the story of Naz Shah’s offensive social media posts broke in April, the BBC refrained from informing its audiences that their content was antisemitic.

Naz Shah art main

In subsequent related articles, the corporation likewise gave audiences an anodyne description of just one of Shah’s controversial Facebook posts while ignoring the others.

“It follows the suspension of Bradford West MP Naz Shah after it emerged she had once suggested, among other things, that Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 29/04/2016)

“Ms Shah, the MP for Bradford West, was suspended after social media posts emerged in which she suggested Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 30/06/2016)

“Ms Shah was stripped of the parliamentary whip in April over comments about Israel she made online, including one suggesting Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 05/07/2016)

However, now that Naz Shah has herself acknowledged her use of antisemitic discourse, the BBC has redefined those Facebook posts and is suddenly able to tell its audiences that they were in fact antisemitic.

So what happened here? Did the BBC really not know that before Shah’s admission? If not, then the fact that the corporation does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism has clearly once again failed audiences. If, on the other hand, the BBC was able to identify the antisemitic discourse in Shah’s posts back in April but nevertheless refrained from describing them accurately, then audiences have been similarly sold short.

One cannot of course imagine that the corporation would wait until the writer of a homophobic or anti-black racist social media post defined them as such in his or her own words before it got round to telling its audiences exactly why such posts were offensive. 

Illegal weapons production in PA areas not news for BBC

BBC coverage of terror attacks against Israelis in recent months has included several reports on incidents in which automatic weapons were used – for example:No news

“The three Palestinians were challenged by the border guards, who asked to see their identification cards, Israeli police said.

At least one then produced a firearm and shot the guards. Other Israeli security forces at the scene then shot and killed the three assailants.

Police said the men were carrying three automatic weapons, as well as knives and two pipe-bombs.” (‘Jerusalem attack: Israeli border guard dies after shooting’, BBC News website, 03/02/2016)

“Two Palestinians from the occupied West Bank opened fire on shoppers and diners at the Sarona precinct, officials said. […]

The two gunmen, who were smartly dressed, opened fire with automatic weapons on diners and passers-by after sitting down and ordering food at one of the complex’s restaurants.” (‘Tel Aviv shooting: Israel suspends Palestinian permits’, BBC News website, 09/06/2016)

The BBC has however shown no interest in informing audiences of the origins of automatic weapons used in such attacks and so it came as no surprise to see that the latest in a series of efforts by the Israeli security forces to combat illegal weapons production in PA controlled areas has gone unreported – notwithstanding the involvement of Palestinian Authority security personnel.

“Israeli forces arrested four Palestinian men outside of Nablus on Sunday night, including two members of the Palestinian security service, who are believed to be involved in the production and sale of illegal weapons in the West Bank and Israel, the Shin Bet security agency said.

Numerous guns, ammunition and four drill presses, believed to have been used to create improvised weapons, were also seized in the raid, which took place in the village of Urif, just south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, the Shin Bet said.

During the raid, Israeli forces picked up Assem Najah Sharif Safadi and Ali Najah Sharif Safadi, residents of Urif who serve as intelligence officers in the Palestinian Authority’s security service, the Shin Bet said.”

Yet again we see that the BBC’s funding public gets some of the news, some of the time.

Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC has made little serious effort to inform its audiences on the issue of the part played by social media in fuelling the wave of terrorism seen in Israel during the past nine months.

In October 2015 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder headlined “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?” which did very little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the incitement spread via social media, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party – for incitement and the glorification of terrorism. 

Against that background, BBC audiences recently found two articles on the corporation’s website relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook.FB art technology

On July 4th BBC Technology published a report headlined “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“.

“Government ministers in Israel have accused Facebook of failing to tackle “inciteful” posts against the country on the social network.

Public security minister Gilad Erdan said Facebook had set “a very high bar for removing inciteful content”.

Justice minister Ayelet Shaked wants social media companies to pre-emptively remove content which Israel considers to be a security threat.

Facebook said it worked closely with Israel to tackle threatening content.

Mrs Shaked has complained that threatening content must be manually reported by the website’s users before any action can be taken.

“We want the companies… to remove posts by terrorist groups and incitement to terrorism without us having to flag each individual post, in just the same manner, for example, that they today do not allow posts and pages with child pornography,” she told Israel’s Army Radio.”

The issue of incitement to terrorism, antisemitism and hate speech on social media was of course recognised long before the wave of terror began in October 2015, with the problematic fact that Facebook relies on members of the public to flag up offensive posts having been previously raised at the 2015 Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism. As the BBC’s article correctly notes, Israel is of course not the only country to have concerns about such issues and the UK is no exception.  However, Israel does face one rather unique situation which the BBC’s article does not explain:

“Defending his legislation, Erdan said European countries such as France and Germany already have similar laws in place, and Facebook complies with them. Yet, according to a spokesman for the minister, Facebook recently agreed to remove just 23 out of 74 pages brought to its attention by Israel for spreading Palestinian incitement. “Their policy of removing [content] is very, very, very strict and the bar is set very high,” the spokesman told The Times of Israel.

Facebook also does not recognize Israeli control in the West Bank, the spokesman added. “More than that, if someone writes something problematic and they live in Judea and Samaria, they [Facebook] won’t cooperate with us and they say it’s outside of Israel and therefore they can’t cooperate,” he said. Facebook declined to comment on this allegation.”

On July 11th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“.FB art Shurat haDin

“An Israeli rights group is suing Facebook for $1bn on behalf of families of victims of Palestinian attacks.

The Shurat Hadin group says Facebook violates the US Anti-Terrorism Act by allowing militant groups such as Hamas a platform for spreading violence.”

Later on in the article, readers were told that:

“A report on the Israel-Palestinian conflict last week by the Quartet group of international mediators identified “the spreading of incitement to violence on social media” by Palestinians as a key issue.

“Hamas and other radical factions are responsible for the most explicit and widespread forms of incitement. These groups use media outlets to glorify terrorism and openly call for violence against Jews, including instructing viewers on how to carry out stabbings,” the report said.”

Nevertheless, the BBC found it appropriate to include amplification of the response of a terrorist organisation, which has long used social media for the propagation of terrorism, in its report.

“Hamas called the lawsuit an Israeli attempt to blackmail Facebook. […]

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused Israel of trying to turn it into a spy tool against Palestinians.

He said some Israeli politicians and soldiers had “expressed pride at the killing of Palestinians” on Facebook and other social media.

“The real test for the owners of Facebook is to reject this pressure,” he said.”

And readers were told that:

Israel says Palestinian incitement on social media has fuelled a wave of attacks since October, which have killed 35 Israelis and four people of other nationalities.” [emphasis added]

Obviously audiences’ understanding of the context to these two reports (and others) would have been greatly enhanced had they previously been adequately informed of the scale and nature of incitement on Palestinian social media and the use of such platforms by official Palestinian groups and bodies as well as individuals. That of course has not been the case and so the corporation’s funding public continues to lack key facts in a developing story the BBC has had over nine months to tell in its own words – but has not.

Related Articles:

BBC backgrounder manipulates audience perceptions of wave of terror in Israel

Revisiting the BBC’s ‘explanation’ of the current wave of terror

Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism 2015

BBC’s account of Quartet report exposes the holes in its own narrative