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

As noted in part one of this post, between July 1st and September 30th 2016, eighty-seven reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians (along with a few others relating to non-Israeli Jews) appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, some of which were cross posted from other sections of the site. 13.8% of those reports covered stories relating to security/

The remaining 86.2% of those articles can be divided into a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Seven reports related to historical subject matter.

Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos ‘saw hostage murdered’  (3/7/16 to 4/7/16)

Researchers make ‘first discovery’ of Philistine cemetery (10/7/16 to 11/7/16)

Ancient barley DNA gives insight into crop development (18/7/16 to 20/7/16)

Rio 2016: Widow welcomes Munich massacre memorial (2/8/16 to 3/8/16) discussed here

Rio 2016 Olympics: Widow’s wish sees ceremony mark killings of Israeli athletes (3/8/16 to 8/8/16) discussed here

Jerusalem Biblical Temple floor designs ‘restored’ (6/9/16 to 8/9/16) discussed here

Digital technology reveals secret of ancient biblical scroll (22/9/16 to 23/9/16)

Two reports can be categorised as miscellaneous.

Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel dies aged 87 (3/7/16 to 4/7/16)

Microscope observes life of the ocean floor (13/7/16 to 16/7/16)

20 reports related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel and Palestinians: Powers warn of ‘perpetual conflict’ (1/7/16 to 3/7/16) discussed here

Israel-Palestinians: Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay (1/7/16 to 8/7/16) discussed here 

Turkey sends Gaza aid after six-year rift with Israel ends (3/7/16 to 4/7/16) discussed here

Israeli politician Tzipi Livni ‘summonsed by UK police’ (4/7/16) discussed here

Netanyahu in Entebbe: A personal journey amid a diplomatic push (4/7/16 to 5/7/16) discussed here

Israel’s Netanyahu in Entebbe to mark hostage-rescue anniversary (4/7/16 to 5/7/16) discussed here

US criticises Israel over plans for new settlement homes (6/7/16 to 7/7/16) discussed here

Israel and Palestinians: Egypt FM urges two-state solution in rare visit (10/7/16 to 11/7/16) discussed here

Palestinians plan to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour act (26/7/16 to 28/7/16) discussed here

Rio 2016 Olympics: Lebanese athletes refuse to travel with Israel team (6/8/16 to 9/8/16) discussed here

Rio Olympics 2016: ‘Not what the Olympics are about’ – judo player refuses to shake hands  (12/8/16 to 16/8/16) discussed here

Rio Olympics 2016: Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby ‘sent home for handshake snub’ (16/8/16 to 17/8/16) discussed here

Celtic fans raise £85,000 ‘for Palestine’ after Uefa charge (22/8/16) discussed here

Israel ‘approves 464 settlement homes in West Bank’ (31/8/16 to 2/9/16) discussed here

Rio Paralympics: Algeria goalball team absence investigated (11/9/16)

Rio Paralympics: Algeria goalball team ‘did not boycott’ games (12/9/16 to 13/9/16)

US approves record $38bn Israel military aid deal (14/9/16 to 15/9/16) discussed here and here

UN’s Ban: Netanyahu ethnic cleansing remarks ‘outrageous’ (16/9/16 to 18/9/16) discussed here

Israel’s Netanyahu asks Palestinian president to address parliament (22/9/16 to 25/9/16)

The hopes for peace between Israelis and Palestinians (27/9/16 to 29/9/16)

Three reports cross-posted on the Middle East page related to antisemitism.

Poland’s Duda vows anti-Semitism fight at Kielce anniversary (4/7/16 to 5/7/16)

Amos Oz: Saying Israel should not exist is anti-Semitic (13/9/16 to 14/9/16) discussed here

Amos Oz: Saying Israel should not exist is anti-Semitic (14/9/16)

Six reports related to Palestinian affairs.

Palestinian authorities investigate mosque music mix-up (12/8/16 to 15/8/16) 

Palestinian suspect in police killings ‘beaten to death’ (23/8/16 to 25/8/16) discussed here

Gaza’s last tiger to leave for new home in South Africa (24/8/16 to 25/8/16) discussed here

Palestinian court delays municipal elections after challenges (8/9/16 to 9/9/16) discussed here

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ‘was KGB agent’ (8/9/16 to 9/9/16) discussed here

Palestinian women fight elections name ‘censorship’ (13/9/16 to 21/9/16) 

Of 37 reports concerning Israel related stories, nineteen related to the illness and death of former president Shimon Peres. The reports can be divided into sub categories including:

a) Shimon Peres:

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres ‘critical but stable’ after stroke (14/9/16) 

Shimon Peres: Ex-Israeli president ‘showing improvement’ after stroke (14/9/16 to 16/9/16) 

Shimon Peres, former Israeli president, dies aged 93 (28/9/16)

Obituary: Shimon Peres, Israeli founding father (28/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres: Long legacy of Israel’s elder statesman (28/9/16 to 2/10/16) discussed here

Chief rabbi pays tribute to former Israel PM Shimon Peres (28/9/16) 

Shimon Peres on turning 90 (28/9/16 – originally from 2013)

Chemi Peres: ‘Farewell to our beloved father (28/9/16 to 29/9/16)

Shimon Peres’ wish for peace lives on – Yossi Beilin (28/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres: An emigre who became a world statesman (28/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres: Tributes from around the world (28/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres’s death closes a chapter in Israel’s history (28/9/16 to 3/10/16)

Israel’s Shimon Peres lies in state at parliament (29/9/16)

Shimon Peres: The Nobel Peace Prize winner’s final speech (29/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Body of Shimon Peres lies in state (29/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres funeral: Leaders hail legacy of former Israeli leader (30/9/16 to 3/10/16)

Palestinian and Israeli leaders shake hands at Peres funeral (30/9/16 to 7/10/16)

Shimon Peres was a great man of the world, says Israeli PM (30/9/16 to 3/10/16)

Obama: Abbas at Peres funeral ‘a reminder of unfinished peace’ (30/9/16 to 3/10/16) 

b) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues:

Jerusalem Gay Pride: Jailed killer Schlissel ‘planned new attack’ (21/7/16 to 24/7/16)

Israeli tourist ‘gang-raped’ in northern India, two arrested (25/7/16 to 27/7/16)

Franz Kafka: Israeli library wins legal battle over unpublished papers (9/8/16 to 10/8/16)

Israeli woman and baby kept at airport in DNA case (9/8/16 to 11/8/16)

c) society:

Four-legged friends get cinema outing in Tel Aviv (12/7/16 to 18/7/16)

Jerusalem LGBT parade returns after stabbing attack (21/7/16 to 25/7/16)

The ultra-Orthodox Jews combining tech and the Torah (9/9/16 to 11/9/16)

The island where thousands go to get married (11/9/16 to 13/9/16)

World’s oldest man, Yisrael Kristal, 113, to hold bar mitzvah (15/9/16 to 16/9/16)

d) domestic news/politics:

Israel army names new chief rabbi criticised over rape comments (12/7/16 to 13/7/16) discussed here

EU criticises Israel law forcing NGOs to reveal foreign funding (12/7/16 to 13/7/16) discussed here

Israeli parliament passes controversial impeachment law (20/7/16 to 21/7/16) discussed here and here

Israel police chief: ‘Natural’ to suspect Ethiopians of crime (31/8/16 to 1/9/16) discussed here 

Israel: Three dead in Tel Aviv after car park collapses (5/9/16 to 6/9/16)

Israeli restaurant bill: Chinese tourists paid $4,393 (8/9/16 to 9/9/16)

e) technology:

Who are the hackers who cracked the iPhone? (26/8/16 to 7/9/16) discussed here

Apple tackles iPhone one-tap spyware flaws (26/8/16 to 29/8/16)

Meeting Cellebrite – Israel’s master phone crackers (26/9/16 to 29/9/16)

Even excluding the reports on the death of Shimon Peres, Israeli domestic affairs once again received considerably greater coverage than did Palestinian affairs in the third quarter of 2016.


Overall throughout the first three quarters of 2016, 23.7% of the BBC News website’s reporting on Israel and the Palestinians related to security issues. Israeli internal affairs were the subject of 33% of the BBC’s reporting while just 8.8% of the coverage related to Palestinian internal affairs.


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

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


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.