BBC-quotee Seumas Milne whipping up the crowd against Israel

Readers may remember that we recently drew attention to the fact that on its ‘live updates’ page which ran in the Middle East section of the BBC News website during Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’, the BBC saw fit to promote an article by the Guardian’s Seumas Milne on November 20th 2012. 

As we remarked at the time:

“As you see, the BBC informs readers that:

“The Guardian’s Seamus Milne says in a new article that looking at the timeline of events, Israel is responsible for the military escalation that led to the current conflict.”

Well, seeing as the BBC has been pushing that theme incessantly for the past week at least, it is hardly surprising that it would promote the same kind of selective vision from a fellow bird of a feather. Not surprisingly, Milne’s screed also promotes another favourite BBC trope: ‘it’s all because of the elections’.

But that is not all that Milne’s BBC-endorsed article says. It also condones rocket attacks and other forms of violence against Israeli civilians, glorifies terror and even calls for the further arming of Palestinian militias.”

A few days later, on November 24th, Milne was to be found on the streets of London at a ‘Stop the War Coalition’ rally (the organisers perhaps had been too busy to notice that a cease fire came into effect two days previously) – once more inciting violence against Israeli civilians. 

In case anyone is wondering who the person presenting Milne is, allow us to introduce Mohammed Kozbar. Here he is (second from the right) pictured at the Gaza Legislature building with a delegation from the Muslim Brotherhood-linked ‘charity’ Interpal – which is proscribed by Israel and the United States due to its links to the Hamas-financing ‘Union of Good’. 

Does the BBC’s News website editor still think that the citation of Milne as an ‘authority’ on events in the Middle East represents the kind of balanced, accurate and impartial information to the corporation’s audiences are entitled? 

Ignored by the BBC: the voices of children from southern Israel

Overall, the BBC’s coverage of events in southern Israel during and in the period leading up to Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ was, to say the least, somewhat sketchy – despite the presence of at least four BBC reporters on the ground in Israel after the operation began and a permanently well-staffed Jerusalem Bureau.

One of its better reports in terms of accuracy, impartiality and the presentation of a balanced view was this one by Katya Adler, filmed in Be’er Sheva on the day following the cease fire.

However prior to that, for example, we had seen a report entitled “Ashkelon bears the brunt of rockets” which featured 80% of footage from places other than Ashkelon, a report from Kiryat Malachi which failed to interview even one resident of the town and a general tendency to dedicate proportionately more air-time to images filmed in the Gaza Strip (which also had more BBC staff on the ground: seven, not including those of the BBC Arabic Service’s Gaza Bureau).

The BBC reporting from southern Israel which did take place focused mainly on what was happening there at the time. Little effort was made to ensure that audiences understood that the one million residents of southern Israel have been living under the pall of terror by missile attack for almost twelve years and how that affects a generation of children who have never known anything else.

This short film allows us to briefly hear the voices of those children and to see how some of them cope with their reality. 

BBC’s Science Editor’s preconceived ideas of the Middle East

Here’s a strange little story.  

The BBC’s Science Editor David Shukman has an article in the BBC News website’s ‘Science and Environment’ section entitled “Inside the world’s most ‘impossible’ science project“.

Ostensibly, the piece is about a joint science initiative going on in Jordan, with participants from all over the Middle East. Practically, it is yet another of those BBC items in which the journalist becomes the focus rather than the subject itself.  The article tells us very little about the actual science project, but much about the writer’s preconceived stereotypical ideas of the Middle East.

Take this, for example: [emphasis added]

“Given the hostility felt towards Israel, for instance, would any Arabs or Iranians ever consent to being pictured in the same room as Israeli scientists? If we were seen talking to one, would others boycott us? And, worst of all, would our filming put anyone in danger back home? Not everyone in Iran or Israel or the Arab countries likes the idea of their people fraternising with the other side.”

Really? Perhaps David Shukman would like to tell us about the last time he heard of an Israeli scientist being “in danger” because he or she collaborated with colleagues from an unfriendly country? 

A masterclass in subtle messaging from the BBC’s Barbara Plett

The BBC’s correspondent at the United Nations in New York, Barbara Plett, broadcast a report on BBC television news on November 29th 2012 (also appearing on the BBC News website) concerning the Palestinian Authority’s latest UN bid.

At 0:17 Plett says: [emphasis added]

“Last year Mahmoud Abbas applied for full UN membership, with much fanfare, but that got bogged down at the Security Council amidst US opposition. This time he’s coming to the UN for a lesser upgrade: from an observer to an observer state – like the Vatican.”

 Plett’s exclusive mention of “US opposition” to Abbas’s 2011 bid is of course inaccurate and disingenuous. In fact, the 15 member UN SC Admissions Committee was “unable to make a unanimous recommendation” – as necessary – to the Security Council. 

She continues:

“It’s a largely symbolic move, but Palestinians argue at least it will grant formal recognition to their state, which is practically being eroded by Israeli settlement building.”

The uninformed viewer hearing that sentence may well be left with the impression that a Palestinian state already exists and that it merely lacks “formal recognition”. But it is the second half of the sentence which is particularly interesting.

Plett does not say “but Palestinians argue at least it will grant formal recognition to their state, which they claim is practically being eroded by Israeli settlement building”. Instead, she states it as though it were fact. 

So our uninformed viewer may well now think that there already is a Palestinian state, and that it is becoming smaller because of Israeli settlement building. Of course Plett does not actually say that, but neither does she make any effort to refrain from leaving that impression.

At 1:02 Plett says:

“With such opposition from Israel – and therefore America – the Palestinian leadership is taking a risk.”

So American opposition is, according to Plett, a direct consequence of Israeli opposition. In other words, America cannot think for itself: it has to follow Israel’s lead.

That assertion sails very close to the age-old wind of stereotypical antisemitic motifs of Jewish power and control over governments and it is a highly inappropriate theme for a BBC journalist to advance – even through subtle messaging. 

BBC’s Jon Donnison gets yellow card

BBC Watch can report that at the hearing held on Wednesday, November 28th 2012 at the Government Press Office, Jon Donnison and the head of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau, Paul Danahar stated that an apology had already been made – as required – to BBC readers for Donnison’s retweet of unverified and misleading material and that the incident was a mistake. 

Jon Donnison received a formal warning and was informed that any future transgression may result in the GPO exercising its right to confiscate his Press Card. 


The wording of this post was amended shortly after its original publication in order to correct an error of comprehension whereby BBC Watch had understood that Jon Donnison and Paul Danahar had apologised for the former’s retweet of a falsely-captioned photograph, during the hearing at the GPO. 

However, it transpires that no such apology was made – a point which, for reasons best known to themselves, the BBC apparently feels extremely compelled to make perfectly clear. 

Some, of course, may find it odd that whilst the BBC can make mistakes, others “lie”.


The BBC’s Arafat overdose

As readers have no doubt noticed, there has been something of an Arafat overdose going on at the BBC recently. 

Not that the fascination with a dead terrorist is anything new – Jon Donnison alone has  managed to get considerable mileage out of the subject in the past few weeks. 

But on the November 28th homepage of the BBC News website’s Middle East section, no fewer than five articles on the subject of the Arafat exhumation were displayed. Readers could have read the main article, perused a pseudo-scientific piece on polonium-210, opted for a Q&A item, found a link to a fawning, white-washing obituary, listened to Jon Donnison describing an exhumation at which journalists were not permitted to be present or watched the Palestinian in the street express his or her opinion. 

“Sure, I agree with the exhumation of Yasser Arafat’s body because first of all, he did not simply die. His death was not normal.”

“I agree with the exhumation so we can let the world know the truth.”

“I disagree with the exhumation because if the reason of death is known, what else do we need? What we know is that he was poisoned, so what is remaining is to investigate who laid the poison.”

“To exhume the body of former President Yasser Arafat now might cause harm to the dead body itself and to his family as well.”

At the risk of stating the completely obvious, the BBC has gone overboard on this subject. But the problem is not just the sheer volume of coverage of what is, after all, a non-event. The question many license-fee payers must be asking themselves is how does the flagship media organization of their country justify the investment of such quantities of resources, air time and column space on the propagation of fact-free myth-cum-folklore – and why is the BBC lending an air of plausibility to this particular conspiracy theory?  


BBC employee: “What was done by the Jews is a shame for the entire Umma”

Last weekend the BBC went to great lengths to publicise the tragic story of Omar, the infant son of BBC Arabic Service employee Jihad Masharawi, who died on November 14th during the hostilities between Hamas and Israel. 

Jon Donnison told the story on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, it was also broadcast on the BBC World Service and in addition appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza baby ‘only knew how to smile“. 

On November 26th, Jihad Masharawi’s brother Ahmed, who was injured in the same incident, died. 

A report from November 26th by the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool showed footage of Ahmed Masharawi wrapped in a Hamas flag at his funeral. 

The English language website of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades featured a report on Ahmed Masharawi’s death on November 27th. 

BBC Watch contacted the IDF Spokesperson for the Gaza Division who was able to confirm that a terror site in the vicinity of the Mashrawi house had been targeted on November 14th and that the known terrorist Ahmed Masharawi was injured. 

The footage below was also filmed at the funeral of Ahmed Masharawi, who is described as a “shahid”, by Hamas’ Al Quds TV

At 1:34 BBC employee Jihad Masharawi says (as translated from Arabic):

“Thanks to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, who chose him [i.e. Ahmed] to be a martyr, from all the people. What was done by the Jews is a shame for the entire Umma [Islamic nation], a shame for the West, a shame for the Arabs, who are silent. The entire war struck only the children and the innocent. They didn’t hit a single muqawim [resistance fighter], nor anyone who works for the government, or whatever.”

Clearly, Jihad Masharawi is not only lying about the facts of the conflict, but he also makes no distinction between Israel and Jews as a whole, blaming the latter for having “struck only children and the innocent”. The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism states that one of its manifestations is:

 “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”

It is implausible that the BBC – having filmed and broadcast Ahmed Masharawi at his funeral wrapped in a Hamas flag – is unaware of the Masharawi family’s connections to Hamas – a terror organization proscribed by the British government and many others.

The BBC’s funding public will naturally find it unacceptable on all levels that a BBC employee should engage in propagating lies and antisemitic vitriol on a television station owned and run by a terror organization. 



BBC promotes the false concept of ‘1967 borders’

The BBC News website’s Middle East page of November 28th featured an article concerning France’s apparent decision to back the Palestinian Authority’s upcoming bid for ‘non-member observer state’ status at the UN General Assembly. 

In the side-box of ‘analysis’ the BBC’s Barbara Plett has, perhaps predictably, found a very euphemistic way in which to describe the OIC-led bloc which so often manages to turn UN proceedings into something between a farce and a witch-hunt. [emphasis added]

“The Palestinians are guaranteed to win the vote for an upgrade to the status of non-member state because of strong sympathy from the post-colonial nations which dominate the General Assembly.”

In the rest of the report, besides the rather glaring absence of the word ‘Hamas’ which should surely be of relevance when discussing the bid’s implications and potential results, readers will no doubt notice the erroneous use of the term “1967 borders”. 

Nowhere in this article does the BBC make it clear that the so-called “1967 borders” are in fact the 1949 armistice lines and that not only do those lines not represent any kind of territorial frontier but that, at Arab insistence, they were specifically defined as lacking any such status in the 1949 Armistice Agreement

“Article II

With a specific view to the implementation of the resolution of the Security Council of 16 November 1948, the following principles and purposes are affirmed:

1. The principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council is recognised;

2. It is also recognised that no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.

Article VI

9. The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.”

The BBC’s Steve Herrmann – Editor of the BBC News website – needs to ensure that a correction is made to this article in order for it to meet Editorial Guidelines on accuracy.

What the BBC is not reporting from Gaza’s border with Israel

Painting a very pastoral and idyllic picture of poor Gazan farmers dedicatedly tending their fields, the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool reported from the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel on November 26th

However, Aleem Maqbool’s report tells only part of the story of events along that border since the cease fire ending Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ came into effect on November 22nd.

On Friday, November 23rd, a mob tried – and in one case succeeded – to breach the fence and one man was killed after ignoring warning shots fired in the air. As we noted at the time, the BBC’s Jon Donnison suggested that the rioters may have been farmers or scrap metal collectors. 

On Saturday, November 24th, the mob was back at the fence. This time, however, Hamas policemen prevented them from reaching the fence itself. There was no report of this incident on the BBC website. 

Around 4 a.m. on Monday morning (November 26th) a man from Gaza infiltrated the southern village of Sde Avraham, after having breached the border fence, and broke into a home. The mother of the family, whose members were all asleep at the time, was at home alone with her four young children. She fought off the attacker and trapped him in the bathroom until help arrived, but was stabbed by him in the face and shoulder in the process. No report of this incident appeared on the BBC website. 

On Monday night, a Palestinian man tried to climb the border fence and, after ignoring verbal warnings and warning shots fired in the air by IDF soldiers, was shot in the legs. No report of this incident appears on the BBC website. 

The border between the Gaza Strip and Israel is nowhere near as pastoral as the BBC would have its audiences believe, but of course the creation that sort of  idyllic impression sets the stage for oft repeated narratives of ‘stolen land’ whilst hindering viewers’ understanding of why Israel created a buffer zone in the first place. 


The rioters from the Gaza Strip were back on Wednesday, November 28th too. 


BBC’s Jon Donnison summoned to Government Press Office hearing

BBC Watch can now confirm that a report (Hebrew) which appeared on the Israeli website ‘Walla!’ on November 25th2012 is correct. 

An article on the same subject in English also appeared at The Algemeiner.  

The BBC’s Jon Donnison, together with the head of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau and head of the Foreign Press Association, Paul Danahar, has been summoned by the Government Press Office in Israel to a hearing this coming Wednesday (November 28th) on the subject of Donnison’s Tweet of a picture of a child casualty from Syria as though it were from Gaza – as first publicised by BBC Watch on November 19th 2012. 

Potentially, this exceptional and unusual step on the part of the GPO could lead to Donnison’s Press Credentials being revoked, which would make it very difficult indeed for him to work in the region.  

BBC Watch’s Managing Editor Hadar Sela said:

“It is unfortunate that Donnison has jeopardised his career in such a manner, through his failure to adhere to the BBC’s own Editorial Guidelines on accuracy and impartiality and its existing guidance on the use of social media.

The BBC’s funding British public, as well as millions of people around the world who rely on the BBC for trustworthy information, no doubt also await the results of a BBC investigation into Donnison’s breach of his organisation’s Editorial Guidelines.”