Ask Jeremy: Twitter Q&A gives insight into ME Editor’s approach

The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen held a Q&A session on Twitter on December 14th, which the BBC then turned into an article which was posted in the Middle East section of its BBC News website. 

Some of Bowen’s answers to questions posed by the public were –to say the least – disappointingly predictable. 

 “Question from @carolshorenye: BBC reports seem critical of Israel. Does the BBC recognise this bias and want to report more neutrally?

Jeremy answers: I don’t think BBC is biased against Israel. Sometimes our reporting makes Israel’s supporters uncomfortable”

In other words, barely a month after a BBC reporter joined the anti-Israel propaganda campaign by Tweeting a picture of a Syrian child casualty as though it came from Gaza, the BBC Editor in charge of Middle East content – whose post was created in the wake of the unpublished Balen Report specifically to act as a ‘gatekeeper’ of that content –  is apparently still of the opinion that the BBC meets its obligations on accuracy and impartiality impeccably. 

“Question from @cruachan8520: What and where has been your scariest moment?

Jeremy answers: Scariest place ever was Grozny winter of 1994/5. Worst day was when Israelis killed BBC fixer in Lebanon in 2000.”

Bowen was not asked what his “worst day” was, but uses the opportunity to push the story of his Lebanese driver anyway – yet again – with a very interesting and revealing choice of words. We learn nothing about what was scary in Grozny, but Bowen does take the trouble to ensure that readers are left with the impression that “Israelis killed” a BBC employee rather than his driver having been killed in an unfortunate accident.  The questions raised in this article on the subject therefore remain as relevant as ever. 

“Question from @JackMendel4: Do you think a two-state solution is still a viable option?

Jeremy answers: Two-state solution viable if both sides want it. Hamas and Israeli government showing signs they don’t.”

This answer is interesting from several aspects. Firstly, the use of the term “both sides” clearly reflects a lack of comprehension of the fact that with Palestinians divided into multiple factions, there are much more than two sides to be taken into consideration. 

Secondly, Bowen’s ability to ignore Israel’s repeated commitment to the two state solution is almost as bizarre as his suggestion that Hamas ever embraced it. His apparent wish to ignore what Hamas has been saying repeatedly and clearly for the past 25 years since its establishment – along with the numerous other terrorist organisations which rejected the Oslo accords and engaged in a war of terror to bring about their demise – is nothing less than negligent coming from a person whose job it is to inform BBC audiences of the facts about the Middle East.

This Q&A session gives little reason for hope of improvement in the BBC’s Middle East reporting as long as the editorial keys to it are held by Jeremy Bowen.

35 comments on “Ask Jeremy: Twitter Q&A gives insight into ME Editor’s approach

  1. BBC reporting of Israel does indeed make me feel uncomfortable, not because I am a supporter of Israel, but because as a licence fee payer I am appalled by the bias of the BBC against the only liberal democracy in the Middle East..

    • What ‘BBC Watch’ strangelt forgets to mention is that at least 30 children were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza last month.

      The BBC did not fabricate the death of a child in Israeli airstrikes – 30 of them died in such airstrikes on Gaza!

      • I’m a bit surprised at ‘BBC Watch’ rewriting of Mr Bowen’s coming under Israeli fire in Lebanon, an experience entirely relevant to the question he was asked, as ‘BBC Watch’ would had found out, had they done some research.

        In what Bowen was later to describe as the pivotal moment of his life, a colleague and friend was killed on 23 May 2000 in Lebanon. This took place while Bowen was covering the Israel Defense Forces’ pullout from Lebanon: Bowen’s car came under tank fire and his fixer and driver were killed. Bowen and his cameraman escaped, but Bowen suffered post traumatic stress disorder and retreated from the frontline.

        • Bowen’s car came under tank fire and his fixer and driver were killed

          Of course that should be “Bowen’s car came under tank fire and his fixer and driver was killed”

          The fixer and driver were one person.

          • I wonder whether Ms Sela is a journalist, and whether she’s ever reported from the field. She does not seem to understand what it means to be a war reporter. At all.

          • Pardon me, Ms. Sela,
            But you said that you had planned to rid us of this “Nat” nuisance, and moderate him indefinitely.
            I’m afraid his trolling is no longer even amusing, it’s simply tedious.
            Please, clear these pages for a rational debate.
            (The comment, “Nat’s”, above is a case in point).

          • Dear Commentary 101, you seem to forget a basic fact: Israel is a democracy and as such, is committed to freedom of expression.

            Every post I write is factual and I usually post links proving all the facts which I report. Is this why you’re so annoyed – because some people report on FACTS ?

            I believe that it is important to remind everyone that Israel is a democracy and that it is committed to a two-state solution that will bring peace and security to both Israelis and Palestinians, as stated in the ‘Road Map’.

            Do you have a problem with people who say that Israelis and Palestinians both deserve peace and security?

          • I have a problem with incompetent trolls, lime yourself.
            Now “Nat”, you’ve been already warned. More outbursts like yours, and will surely get shown the door.
            But keep us entertained while you’re at it, who sent you here?
            Is it NIF? I read somewhere they actually pay their charlatans for this drudgery work of spamming forums.
            In any case, your “labours” here are wanting. Only half-wage for you, I guess.
            (You can’t even troll properly).

  2. Pingback: Ask Jeremy: Twitter Q&A gives insight into ME Editor’s approach | Blogs about Israel aggregation

  3. He got this right:
    “Sometimes our reporting makes Israel’s supporters uncomfortable”

    Of course it does, since it’s frequently so prejudiced, agenda-loaded, and ignorant.

    You’re correct about that “worst day” – a gratuitous addition to the answer; he has alluded to it very often, and it’s clear it affected him deeply. I believe much of his bias against Israel can be attributed to that unfortunate incident – he’s written of “trigger-happy” Israeli soldiers in reliving it for the “Daily Telegraph” and in his video “On the Frontline” re being a war correspondent he speaks at length about it. That video begins with footage of the incident and there’s much more later.

    I get the impression, given his jejune “analysis” and mediocre reports, his blooper about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and apparent lack of knowledge re the Palestinian factions, that Bowen is not in the first rank of genius as far as understanding of the politics of the region is concerned.

  4. Duvidl’s usual question to Jeremy, the ME educator at the BBC’s college of journalism:

    How are your own Hebrew/Arabic/Farsi/ Yiddish lessons coming along, if at all?

    • Great question in search of an answer! I suspect that, like the query “Are you pro-Palestinian?” asked of Jezza on Twitter on 13 December, it will wait indefinitely for a reply.

    • …but not when the British forces in Afghanistan do the same thing, in circumstances where the threat posed to the UK is not nearly so acute as the threat faced by Israel?

      These constant phony emotional outbursts by spratty and Gnat, who simply reel off casualty figures with no mention of context, cause and effect or intent simply dunb down the entire conflict into casualty lists, and do nothing to further an understanding of the root causes of the conflict – much like the BBC, in fact.

  5. Bowen clearly carries psychological baggage from the incident when his driver was killed. This baggage colours his reporting as he appears unable to acknowledge that his reports and those of his more junior colleagues are highly subjective – it may well be that his junior colleagues simply follow his lead and assume that his way of working is the right one.

    If we’ve seen how deeply that incident affects him, wouldn’t you think the BBC would have too and done something about it?

    • City, BBC journalists are just that: journalists. They report on facts in an independent, impartial manner.

      They work as journalists, not as PRs. Therefore you cannot expect them to copy-paste the press releases of Tsahal or Benyamin Netanyahu, as some do on this website.

      • Nat, I went to school with someone who is now a BBC Foreign Correspondent. He once casually stated his belief that it was Israel’s fault that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He is a porpagandist, not a journalist. Believe me, he wasn’t that bright in his academic work either – as such a statement demonstrates.

          • No Nat – there’s nothing to be jealous of. You’ve visited this silly notion that anyone critical of a BBC “journalist” must be consumed by jealousy. OK Nat, then I’m jealous of all antisemites too.

            And you have no idea what I do.

      • They work as journalists, they report as pr men. They are neither impartial, independent or objective.

        I want them to tell it as it is, not as they fancy telling it. The entire edifice of BBC news is a joke – it is no longer trusted or relied on by whole swathes of its licence payers and others around the world, just because it is partial and subjective and economical with the truth.

        I’m well aware of the shortcomings of the Israeli state as I am of the UK and I don’t want or expect anyone to sugar coat them for me, but neither do I want a so-called news organisation to take sides, which it clearly, patently and obviously does.

        If you cannot see that, your powers of reasoning and comprehension require working on.

      • Gnat, you made the accusation previously that Israeli plce had deliberately killed an unarmed Palestinian 16 year old, presumably for sport.

        The video has now been released of the incident, clearly showing the 17 year old (not 16) attacking the policeman. It was also not a toy gun, as you alleged, but a lighter made to look like a gun, which apparently he produced before attcking the policeman (and continued to hold in his right hand throughout his attack).

        Will you apologise?

        • Dear Adam, you have a strange tendency to make up facts. I never said that the Israeli police had “deliberately killed an unarmed Palestinian 16 year old, presumably for sport”.

          I suggest you Google the term “libel”.

          I said that your website, which claims to be monitoring the BBC, is not working as independent media do. You basically copy-paste reports from the spokespersons of the Israeli army or from the Government of Israel without doing any proper investigation on the ground as real journalists – BBC and Israeli media included – do.

          I also said that writing “Here is the photo of the gun used by the Palestinian teenager” in one of your previous posts demonstrated poor standards. Any serious media would have written: “Here is the photo provided by a spokesperson for the Israeli army, who said that this was the gun used by the Palestinian teenager”.

          As for the video, it is so grainyt that it was impossible to learn anything from it.

        • “It was also not a toy gun, as you alleged, but a lighter made to look like a gun”

          A lighter made to look like a gun… an Israeli friend has one of these.

          In brief: a toy.

          • No Nat – people don’t light cigarettes with toys.

            No the video is not grainy – one clearly sees the Palestinian throw a punch and jump on the Israeli – you really are a fool.

    • Precisely, cityca. Bowen’s deep and anguished reaction to the death of his driver, which that “On the Frontline” video he narrates demonstrates, may be understandable but it clearly informs his stance towards Israel. Like Donnison, he would appear to have “gone native,” and if the BBC had any integrity and any genuine interest in maintaining stritly impartial reportage and commentary it would move both these gentlemen to pastures new.

      • Daphne, I could not agree more. Having followed in particular, Donnison on Twitter, he has so obviously built up a circle of friends in Gaza, it would be impossible for him to operate with anything like journalistic freedom. He clearly identifies with his neighbours and local fixers and has quite simply gone native.

        Residing there for some weeks at a time as he does, his work must inevitably be censored by Hamas. Hamas themselves are not just prescriptive, but very good at enforcing their point of view, at the barrel of a gun if need be.

        I watched a video this morning – which is about Crime and Punishment in the Gaza Strip. It was ‘relatively impartial’, and showed what Gaza was like – in particular the criminal justice system such as it is. Its quite a long video – about 33 minutes but I found it fascinating viewing.

        Were I in Donnison’s position, I think I’d write as he does – it would be too dangerous not to.

        • I’ll be interested in watching that video, cityca, if my stomach proves strong enough.
          I’ve long since felt that reporters based in Gaza must surely have in mind the fact that discretion is the better part of valour!

  6. Dear Jeremy Bowen:
    I have a very good solution to Syria’s problem. In fact, it is an excellent solution. I recommend that Syria have a peace festival every week until the war is ceased. Tell every person in Syria, all of the people, to hold peace celebrations every day and every week, such functions as, cultural dances, giving of cultural speeches on the attractiveness of Syria’s culture, Tell the people of Syria to focus on the magic in their culture. Tell stories of fairies, magic, folklore, Halloween. Keep ceremonies for the dead. Celebrate All Hallows and acknowledge the dead. Speak about them at these All Hallows functions and remember the dead.. They must also, focus on the attractions that the country has, such as, spices, herbs, ointments, the produce benefits, and help to the happiness of mankind. When they focus on all this, they begin to realize that preserving their culture is more important than destroying themselves. Stop being divided as a people. Stop fighting amongst yourselves. Think of peace, and establish peace. Say peace to every Syria you meet.

  7. Dear Jeremy Bowen:

    Also, tell the people of Syria to focus on magic. It is the season for magic from here on out to the end of the world. Magic is the key. Focus on the fairy culture around, the mystic, the lore of witches, fairies, sorcerers, wizards, and the magic of getting lost into that world. It brings happiness to every man, in every culture, and it will in Syria. Stop fighting amongst yourselves now.. Do not destroy your culture. Also, Jeremy Bowen, I think that food should be issued to Syria immediately. Because there is a great hunger everywhere for food in Syria. Feed the people of Syria food. They need food right now, immediately. That is my contribution. That is the solution I am offering to end the war in Syria. It is a very wise solution and if we are sensible enough we will ALL follow MY advice. A pleasant afternoon to you and a very good day. Sincerely, Annie Brown

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