The BBC’s coverage of the funeral of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh – the 64 year-old Palestinian terrorist who died last week of esophageal cancer – includes a written report placed on the Middle East page of the BBC News website and a filmed report by Jon Donnison which appeared on BBC television news, both dated April 4th.
Both reports continue the practices of previous recent related BBC articles in that they promote unverified Palestinian Authority propaganda regarding Abu Hamdiyeh’s death and downplay the rioting incited and fuelled by that propaganda.
The written report states:
“The clashes began after thousands took to the streets to mourn the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who died of cancer in an Israeli jail.
Palestinian officials have accused Israel of medical negligence – Israel says care was provided.
Abu Hamdiyeh was serving a life sentence for a failed bombing attack on a Jerusalem cafe in 2002. Palestinians say he should have been released on compassionate grounds and the death has sparked protests across the West Bank.”
Later on it also states:
“Palestinian officials claim Israel did not provide the 64-year-old with adequate medical care and failed to release him after diagnosing that his illness was terminal.”
The synopsis to the filmed report states:
“His death has sparked angry protests, with Palestinian officials accusing Israel of medical negligence.”
This repetition of PA propaganda does not represent ‘impartiality’ but rather the spreading of baseless hearsay and rumour which – as pointed out here previously – has long been employed by the PA in order to whip up fervour on the streets in order to serve its own political motives. The fact that the BBC – in this case and others – voluntarily aids and abets the spread of that conspiracy theory based propaganda, whilst lending it the coveted BBC stamp of legitimacy, raises some very serious concerns regarding the nature of the working relationship between the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau and the Palestinian Authority and calls the BBC’s impartiality into question.
The written report opens: [emphasis added]
“Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron following the funeral of a prisoner who died in an Israeli jail.
Soldiers used tear gas and rubber bullets – protesters threw stones.”
The construction of that last sentence shows a clear attempt to dictate the impressions received by the reader through the deliberate inversion of cause and effect.
The report also states: [emphasis added]
“The clashes began after thousands took to the streets to mourn the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who died of cancer in an Israeli jail.”
“Thursday also saw the funerals of two Palestinian teenagers killed by Israeli forces on Wednesday during clashes between soldiers and youths.”
In the article’s side box titled ‘At the Scene’, Yolande Knell writes:
“Many shops and businesses have been shut in a general strike and there have been violent clashes with Israeli soldiers.”
The synopsis of the filmed report states:
“Two Palestinian teenagers were killed by Israeli forces on Wednesday during clashes between soldiers and youths.”
The repeated use of the word ‘clashes’ in this article and others deliberately creates an impression in the reader’s mind of a violent conflict between two opponents. What it does not do is reflect the fact that all of the violent riots (whatever their pretext) and the hundreds of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers of the past few months – the majority of which have gone completely unreported by the BBC – are not inevitable. Contrary to the manner in which the issue is approached by the BBC, Palestinians are not obliged to throw stones and firebombs at Israeli vehicles or to riot after funerals and the Palestinian Authority has the ability to contain those riots should it wish to do so.
The fact that instead of presenting audiences with an accurate and realistic picture of the scale of violence and its causes, the BBC adopts and promotes the PA narrative by inevitably rebranding riots as ‘protests’ or ‘demonstrations’ is displayed in this report by the decision to include the following:
“He [Mahmoud Abbas] also criticised Israel for continuing to use force to suppress what he described at peaceful protests.”
Donnison’s filmed report also includes an example of the advancement of a narrative by means of the failure to include relevant information.
At around 1:05 Donnison says:
“..there is nowhere else in the West Bank which is quite as tense as Hebron. It’s a city with around 160,000 Palestinian people and right in the middle there is an Israeli settlement which has a large number of soldiers in order to protect it.”
Of course Donnison fails to inform his audience that Israelis living in Hebron do so according to the terms of Article VII of Annex I of the Oslo Accords – i.e. with the consent of the Palestinian Authority and the approval of the agreement’s international midwives – and that according to the 1997 agreement signed by the PA, Israel is responsible for their security. Given the BBC’s repeated promotion of the notion that Israeli ‘settlements’ are ‘illegal’ that omission is a particularly glaring example of disingenuous inaccuracy.
The BBC’s approach to the subject of the recent rise in violence in general, and the rioting under the pretext of various issues relating to Palestinian prisoners in particular, is increasingly problematic. A serious review of that approach’s role in repeated breaches of editorial standards is urgently needed because clearly the mechanisms put in place in order to guarantee adherence to those standards are not functioning.