Another ‘soft’ BBC portrayal of terrorism

A report from April 23rd entitled “Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi to end hunger strike” which appeared in the Middle East section of the BBC News website is marred by inaccuracies and omissions. 

Issawi

The report states:

“Issawi had faced the prospect of serving an entire 26-year sentence originally imposed in 2002.”

In fact, Issawi faced the prospect of serving the remainder of his original 26 year sentence as a result of his having violated the terms of his 2011 release. Issawi was sentenced to 26 years’ imprisonment after being convicted of  – amongst other things – membership of a terror organization (DFLP), attempting to cause grievous bodily harm and the possession of weapons. 

The article continues:

“He was jailed for shooting attacks on Israeli vehicles, released in a prisoner exchange and later rearrested for violating the terms of his release.”

The laconic description “shooting attacks on Israeli vehicles” whitewashes the fact that Issawi’s activities were not directed at inanimate objects, but at the people travelling in those vehicles, as well as others. As CAMERA noted earlier this year:

“[Issawi] was convicted of severe crimes, which including five attempts of intentional death. This included four shootings, between July 2001 and February 2002, in which Isawi and his partners fired on police cars and buses travelling between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. In one attack, a policeman was injured and required surgery. On October 30, 2001, Isawi, together with an accomplice, fired at two students walking from the Hebrew University campus to their car in a nearby parking lot. In another case, Isawi provided guns and explosive devices to a squad, who fired on a bus. Finally, in December 2001, Isawi ordered an attack on security personnel at Hebrew University, providing a squad with a pistol and a pipebomb. Two of the squad members tracked security personnel but opted not to execute the attack.”

The BBC report goes on: [emphasis added]

“Members of his family travelled to the jail where he has been refusing food to tell him that he could now end his protest.”

In fact, Issawi was not in prison at the time, but at the Kaplan Medical Centre in Rehovot – a non-governmental civilian hospital – where he has been hospitalized since February 27th 2013.

This is, of course not the first time that the BBC has presented a ‘soft’ portrayal of Issawi and whitewashed his (and others’) violent terrorist activities. As long as it continues to conceal from its audiences the full facts about these cases, the BBC will also continue to compromise its own reputation for accuracy and impartiality. 

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BBC promotion of PA narrative on Jewish heritage sites

The statement “history is written by the victors” is often attributed to Winston Churchill – although he may well have changed his mind about that had he lived to see some of the modern-day inversions and distortions of Middle East history which are becoming increasingly commonplace. 

We previously addressed here the subject of archaeological excavations in Area C when Yolande Knell conscripted herself to the Palestinian Authority’s publicity campaign on the subject of Herodion, but it is necessary to now revisit that subject  in light of an April 15th article by Raffi Berg entitled “Israel heritage plan exposes discord over West Bank history“. 

Berg heritage

First, the facts. In February 2010 the Government of Israel announced a much-needed long-term plan to invest in the conservation of hundreds of archaeological and heritage sites all over Israel.

“Today, we are due to approve a comprehensive plan, the largest ever, to strengthen the national heritage infrastructures of the State of Israel. We will do four things:

We will rehabilitate archaeological and Zionist heritage sites. We will build and enrich archives and museums. We are talking about approximately 150 sites.

We are due to invest almost NIS 400 million, with the assistance of 16 Government ministries. We will create two trails: An historical trail of archaeological sites from the Biblical, Second Temple and other eras in the history of the Land of Israel and a trail of the Israeli experience that joins the main sites which relate the history of a people’s return to its land.”

Among the sites and projects selected for investment, a handful are located in Area C which, according to the Oslo Accords signed willingly by the representatives of the Palestinian people, remains under Israeli control until the outcome of negotiations stipulates otherwise. Most of those sites are located in areas which according to any reasonable appraisal of the possible outcome of final status negotiations (if and when they ever come about) would remain under Israeli control. 

In his article about this comprehensive conservation project, Raffi Berg chose to ignore well over 90% of the projects, focusing only upon those considered ‘controversial’ by the Palestinian Authority and a politically motivated NGO. The core of Berg’s article bears eerie resemblance to a publication put out in June 2012 by that NGO – ‘Emek Shaveh’ – which was written by Yonatan (Yoni) Mizrachi.

Mizrachi is also featured extensively in Berg’s report, where his organization is given the brief anodyne description of being one which “opposes the “politicisation” of archaeology”.  Perusal of Mizrachi’s above-mentioned publication will quickly bring readers to the understanding that any opposition by ‘Emek Shaveh‘ to the “politicization” of archaeology is, to put it mildly, very selective. In fact, that NGO’s entire raison d’etre is to promote a particular political standpoint through the use of archaeology, as can be seen on its campaigning website and in its contributions to politically motivated campaigns on the subject of Jerusalem

Berg’s failure to accurately inform BBC audiences of the political motivations of ‘Emek Shaveh’ represents yet another in the growing collection of instances in which the BBC advances the agenda of a political NGO, thus compromising its own editorial guidelines on impartiality which clearly state: [emphasis added]

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

Berg’s article also includes quotes from the PA Ministry of Tourism’s Hamdan Taha.

“The West Bank is an integral part of the history of Palestine,” says Hamdan Taha, director of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. “Netanyahu’s heritage plan is an aggression against the cultural right of Palestinian people in their own state,” as the West Bank’s status is considered to be by many Palestinians.

Mr Taha says the Israeli government’s emphasis on the Jewish historical aspect of some sites is “an ideological misuse of archaeological evidence”.

“Jewish heritage in the West Bank – like Christian or Islamic – is part of Palestinian heritage and we reject categorically any ethnic division of culture.”

Raffi Berg chooses to ignore some of Mr Taha’s more colourful past statements on the subject of archaeology, including his belief that “archaeology can put Palestine on the map, literally and figuratively” and his concurrent and presumably not unrelated denial of Jewish history in Judea and Samaria which is often expressed in less than ministerial terms.

“In Shiloh the settlers pretended to have found the tabernacles,” he [Taha] proclaimed. “They can find the chicken bone my grandfather ate 50 years ago and say it was a young calf for ancient sacrifice.”

Whilst it is not made clear in the article whether or not Raffi Berg is also responsible for the interactive graphic featured under the heading “Israeli national heritage sites in the West Bank”, that graphic includes two historic sites which even the ‘Emek Shaveh’ document from June 2012 does not pretend are included in the project, although they were among the hundreds of additional sites originally proposed. Of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb, ‘Emek Shaveh’ states:

 “However, after reevaluation it was decided not to include the two sites on the list.”

Despite that, the BBC’s graphic inaccurately informs readers otherwise.

Rachel's Tomb

Cave of the Patriarchs

Whilst Berg’s article does nod to the required impartiality by including quotes from a resident of Shiloh, a representative of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the head of the archaeology department of the Civil Administration, the very choice of subject matter and the presentation of heritage projects as having political motivations indicates that the intent of the article is to advance a specific political narrative, ironically by seemingly highlighting an opposing one and by promoting the idea of moral – and historic – equivalence. 

By lending oxygen to the long-existing Palestinian Authority campaign to distort history and deny Jewish connections to what objectively (whatever one’s opinions of the desired form a negotiated settlement to the conflict should take) cannot be seen as anything other than a geographical area steeped in Jewish heritage, Berg is severely compromising the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. 

BBC recognizes that the Mavi Marmara was not an “aid ship”

As we noted here on March 24th, in the plethora of BBC reports concerning what it (wrongly) termed the “Israeli apology for flotilla deaths”, the ‘Mavi Marmara’ was repeatedly and inaccurately described as an “aid ship” and its passengers framed as “activists”. 

One of those articles was amended on April 8th and the word “aid” was removed from the description of the ship, with the following footnote added to the report.

Aid ship

Whilst additional amendments would have contributed to bringing this report and others into line with the standards of accuracy demanded by the BBC Editorial Guidelines, this is nevertheless a (small) step in the right direction. 

It would of course be useful to members of the general public considering making a complaint – and hence help to conserve publicly funded BBC resources – were such corrections routinely published on a dedicated page on the BBC News website. Currently, the BBC’s ‘Corrections and Clarifications‘ page does not fill that function.

More substance-free BBC ‘reporting’ on the Iron Dome

Six weeks after the BBC’s Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus based an entire article on speculations raised in an opinion piece written by Reuven Pedatzur in Ha’aretz, we now have two more BBC reports on the subject of the Iron Dome – this time by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly. 

Both those reports – a filmed version entitled “Does Israel’s Iron Dome actually work?” which also appeared on BBC television news, and a written version titled “Doubts fail to dent confidence in Israel’s Iron Dome” – appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 22nd.

Iron Dome filmed

ID written version

 

Neither of the reports, however, brings anything new to the subject. Like Marcus’ previous piece, they too are based on the same speculations by the same people. In both items Connolly interviews the man who wrote the original Ha’aretz article.

Haaretz iron Dome article

Connolly opens his narration in the filmed item by describing the Iron Dome as:

“All just possibly a kind of optical illusion.”

Of course, he is unable to provide any concrete evidence upon which to base that statement. He goes on to say:

“Iron Dome is a missile defence system, credited by Israel with destroying nearly ninety percent of the rockets fired at it during the last conflict with Palestinian militants in Gaza.”

Accurately put, those missiles were not fired at the Iron Dome or at Israel (depending on how one wishes to interpret Connolly’s English), but at civilian communities within Israel. 

Admitting that the content of his report is actually based on the opinions of “a handful of sceptics” who do not have access to the relevant data necessary in order to be able to make qualified statements on the subject, Connolly also interviews the former Director of the Israel Missile Defence Organisation, Uzi Rubin – whose recent article concerning the speculations BBC Watch brought to the attention of readers some time ago. As Mr Rubin stated in that article:

“His [Ted Postol’s] claim that Israel has not provided the US with accurate data on the Iron Dome’s performance is ridiculous. Anyone who has had any contact with the US government knows that it would never agree to allocate such a large amount of funding to manufacture Iron Dome systems without carefully checking their performance.”

And as BBC Watch pointed out in relation to Jonathan Marcus’ article, Israeli and American scientists work on this project together, thus Connolly’s insinuation that the Iron Dome’s success rate is exclusively an Israeli claim is inaccurate.

“BBC Watch, however, did speak to the Ministry of Defence and was told that not only does the 84% success rate stand, but that post-event analysis by the Israel Missile Defence Association and the American Missile Defence Agency – carried out by scientists with access to the full range of data, of course – suggests an even higher success rate.”

In his written article Connolly opens with a particularly ugly insinuation. [Emphasis added]

“During his lengthy nomination process in Washington, Mr Hagel was forced to counter allegations that he did not feel quite the degree of enthusiasm for Israel which is part of the job description for senior American cabinet ministers these days.”

That turn of phrase sails dangerously close to the kind of antisemitic winds which whisper of “Jewish power” and Connolly should know better than to play to the bigots’ gallery in this fashion.

Connolly goes on:

“It is perhaps not a coincidence that on the eve of his visit, it emerged that the US is preparing to increase its investment in Iron Dome, the missile defence system said by Israel to have shot down nearly 90% of the rockets fired at it from Gaza last November.

That will eventually bring the total American investment in Iron Dome to around $750m – the clearest possible indication that the US government has not been troubled by recent attempts to cast doubt on how well the system works.”

At a press conference in Israel on April 22nd, Secretary Hagel said:

“The United States Department of Defense and Israel’s Ministry of Defense are continually working together to ensure their militaries have the necessary capabilities in place to deal with changing security environments. These include major advances in cooperative rocket and missile defense efforts between the United States and Israel including Iron Dome, Arrow and David Sling.

Since its deployment, the Iron Dome system has saved many lives, and we are continuing to build on the program’s success. To date, the United States has provided more than 460 million dollars to support the ‘Iron dome’ program and we are requesting another 220 million [dollars] in our fiscal year 2014 defense budget request for Israel to acquire additional Iron Dome batteries.”

So according to the man who, it is safe to assume, knows rather more about this than Kevin Connolly, “preparing to increase its investment” is actually “requesting” and “$790m” is actually $680 million. And if Mr Hagel does not appear to be as “troubled” by the kind of evidence-free speculations tossed around by that “handful of sceptics” as Connolly appears to think he should be, that is probably because he has access to information to which neither Connolly nor the Ha’aretz writer are privy.

Connolly then goes on to quote two men who dismiss Pedatzur’s allegations – Uzi Rubin and Amos Harel.

“He [Rubin] says it is perfectly reasonable for Israel to keep detailed infra-red images of Iron Dome at work a closely-guarded secret. Publishing them might help the country’s enemies to work out how to evade the system.”

Connolly brings no new information to his audiences in either of these reports. Except for a near-antisemitic smear in his written piece and a snide dig at Israelis in the filmed report, he achieves little apart from padding out the BBC website.

“Most Israelis just think they [Iron Dome batteries] work and think they’re making the country safer and stronger.”

So what exactly is the point of the BBC’s repeated publication of articles on this subject which are based on nothing more than uninformed speculation? That remains unfathomed, but certainly the BBC would enhance its credibility were it to review its apparent policy of relying upon Ha’aretz as a source.

 

BBC deems parts of Israeli right of reply statement “irrelevant”

Section 6 of the BBC Editorial Guidelines deals with the subject of the Right of Reply and states:

“6.4.25

When our output makes allegations of wrongdoing, iniquity or incompetence or lays out a strong and damaging critique of an individual or institution the presumption is that those criticised should be given a “right of reply”, that is, given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations.

We must ensure we have a record of any request for a response including dates, times, the name of the person approached and the key elements of the exchange.  We should normally describe the allegations in sufficient detail to enable an informed response, and set a fair and appropriate deadline by which to respond.

6.4.26

Any parts of the response relevant to the allegations broadcast should be reflected fairly and accurately and should normally be broadcast in the same programme, or published at the same time, as the allegation.”

Further details come in the Guidance section on ‘Right of Reply’:

“To be fair, we should include material that is relevant to the allegations. It is not necessary to include material that may be considered irrelevant to the allegations. If we choose to paraphrase material rather than use direct quotes, the meaning must be fairly represented.”

Jon Donnison’s recent report on the subject of the Bethlehem Marathon appeared to include a response from an Israeli source to the allegations made in the article:

“An Israeli military statement said: “The entrance of the Gaza Strip residents to Israeli territory, and their passage to the West Bank, is possible only in exceptional humanitarian cases, mainly urgent medical cases.”

It added that this was because Gaza was ruled by Hamas which Israel considers a “terror organisation”.”

However, BBC Watch has learned that the version published in Donnison’s article was not the complete ‘Right of Reply’ statement provided to the BBC. The full text of the response provided by COGAT appears below in Hebrew, and then in English – translated by BBC Watch.

“בקשתם של 26 תושבים מרצועת עזה להשתתף במרתון בית לחם נבחנה על ידי הרשויות המוסמכות והוחלט לסרב לפנייה מאחר ואינה עומדת בקריטריונים שנקבעו לצורך מעבר בין עזה לאיו”ש.

בעזה שולט ארגון טרור, המנהל לחימה נגד מדינת ישראל ואזרחיה. משכך, בהתאם להחלטת ממשלת ישראל, כפי שאושרה על ידי בית המשפט העליון, כניסה של תושבי רצועת לשטחה של מדינת ישראל ומעברם לאיו”ש מתאפשר רק מטעמים הומניטאריים חריגים, בדגש על מקרים רפואיים דחופים. הבקשה הנוכחית לא העלתה טעמים מסוג זה”

“The request by 26 residents of the Gaza Strip to take part in the Bethlehem Marathon was examined by the authorised authorities and it was decided to refuse the application as it does not meet the criteria established for the passage between Gaza and Judea and Samaria.

Gaza is ruled by a terrorist organisation which wages warfare against the State of Israel and its citizens. Thus, in accordance with the decision of the Government of Israel – as has been approved by the Supreme Court – the entry of residents of the [Gaza] Strip to the territory of the State of Israel and their passage to Judea and Samaria is possible only for exceptional humanitarian reasons, with emphasis on urgent medical cases. The current request did not raise such reasons.” File:Flickr - Israel Defense Forces - Humanitarian Passage through the Erez Crossings.jpg

We can therefore understand that the parts of this official response which were deemed by the BBC “not necessary to include” on the grounds of their being “irrelevant” are the fact that the specific requests made by the Gaza runners were examined and considered, together with the fact that the criteria for entry from the Gaza Strip into Israel were established by the Government of Israel and the Supreme Court, rather than by the IDF as readers of this article might well be led to understand. Additionally, the fact that Hamas wages war against Israel and its civilian citizens was apparently also deemed “irrelevant”.

The BBC’s reputation for accuracy and impartiality – together with its audiences’ understanding of the Middle East – would be much enhanced were it to publish ‘Right of Reply’ responses in full rather than resorting to manipulative censorship.  

News, UK Jews and the BBC

As readers of the Jewish Chronicle and The Commentator may already be aware, a recently released report from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research reveals that according to data collected in early 2010, whilst 88% of the Jewish community in the UK watched BBC television news and 52% used the BBC News website, 79% of those polled perceived some degree of bias against Israel in BBC-produced material. 36% considered the BBC’s output to be ‘heavily biased’ and 43% considered it ‘somewhat biased’ against Israel. 

The full report can be read here

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

Back in March, when the UN HRC produced a report in which it established that the son of BBC Arabic journalist Jihad Masharawi had been killed as a result of a misfired terrorist rocket in November 2012, BBC Watch wrote:

“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”

Last week the Zionist Federation in the UK held a concert to celebrate Israel’s 65th anniversary. Outside the venue, a demonstration organized by one of the Iranian regime’s mouthpieces in the West – the Islamic Human Rights Commission – was documented by British blogger Richard Millett. Below is one of Richard’s photographs of the demonstration.

IHRC at ZF event

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that Khomeinist sympathisers intent upon Israel’s destruction and the spread of hate speech against Jews use that image to promote their cause? No.

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that the picture of a father carrying his son who was killed as a result of a terrorist missile can be misrepresented as an image depicting Israeli “murder”? Yes. 

Because if BBC journalists in the Gaza Strip at the time had adhered to their own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that story would not have been promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers’ and that image would not have become entrenched in the minds of the general public as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing.

The reputation for trustworthy reporting which the BBC cultivates carries with it great responsibilities. But with regard to its Middle East reporting, the BBC often appears to be disturbingly cavalier about the potentially very serious consequences of its negligence of editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality.  

And by the way – five months on, Jon Donnison’s flawed account of Omar Masharawi’s death is still featured prominently in the Magazine section of the BBC website. 

Magazine 22 4

 

More missile attacks on Israel ignored by BBC

The BBC News website’s Middle East page of April 21st included a very reasonable report on the Grad missile attacks on Eilat on April 17th 2013 which originated from Sinai. 

Rocket Eilat HP 21 4

Unfortunately however, by April 21st there had been two further incidents of missile fire on Israeli communities – both from the Gaza Strip – which did not receive any coverage from the BBC.

Late in the evening on April 18th 2013, two missiles hit the Eshkol Regional Council area. No injuries were reported. Shortly after midnight on April 21st, another missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit the same region. 

These are of course not the only instances of missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the end of Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ which the BBC has failed to report. In fact it increasingly looks as though such attacks are only considered ‘newsworthy’ when they are followed by an Israeli response. Whether by accident or intent, the practice of ignoring the war crime of military-grade missiles being deliberately fired at civilian communities obviously fails to keep BBC audiences adequately informed and distorts audience views of events upon which the BBC does decide to report. 

BBC’s Wyre Davies Tweeting for illegal building

Here are two consecutive Tweets sent by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Wyre Davies on April 18th 2013 to his 14,775 followers. (Read from the bottom up).

Davies Beit Jala tweets

Davies apparently did not bother to fact check the details of the incident before sending his Tweets, seemingly making do with whatever he was told by his sources. But BBC Watch did check out the details of story with COGAT.

The site of the Al Mahrour (also spelt Al Makhrour) restaurant is situated in Area C where, according to the Oslo accords signed willingly by the representatives of the Palestinian people, Israel has administrative and security control.

The restaurant was constructed without planning permission or the appropriate building permits and hence was the subject of a demolition order issued in 2005 and carried out in May 2012. The restaurant was then rebuilt – also illegally without the necessary planning permission or building permits. The restaurant’s owner/constructor was given the opportunity to appear before the planning committee of the Civil Administration. A second demolition order was issued and that was carried out on April 18th 2013. The electricity line to which Davies refers was also illegally connected.

One presumes that back in his native Wales, Wyre Davies would not raise so much as an eyebrow if his local authority issued a demolition order for a food and drink establishment intended to host members of the public which made no attempt to comply with planning regulations on issues such as fire safety, sanitation, hygiene, structure safety, drainage, waste disposal, electricity supply and so forth. In fact, he might be quite relieved to see such an obvious disregard for public safety being addressed by those responsible. 

Quite why Davies should consider the safety of potential visitors to the Al Mahrour restaurant any less important is a mystery. But what is clear is that Davies’ Tweets breach BBC Editorial Guidelines on both accuracy and impartiality, as well as BBC News social media guidance and the specific guidelines on the use of microblogs.

“Those involved in editorial or production areas must take particular care to ensure that they do not undermine the integrity or impartiality of the BBC or its output on their blogs or microblogs. For example those involved in News and Current Affairs or factual programming should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects relevant to their areas.”

Wyre Davies has obviously lost the ability to report from this part of the world without the injection of his own personal views and prejudices – thus severely compromising his employer’s reputation for impartiality.

BBC’s Donnison promotes Bethlehem Marathon as non-political event

On April 18th 2013 the Middle East section of the BBC News website featured a report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Jon Donnison entitled “Israel bars Gaza runners from first West Bank marathon“. 

Bethlehem marathon

The report features an unchallenged quote from the Palestinian Olympic Committee spokeswoman.

“The athletes, the race organisers and the Palestinian Olympic Committee have asked the Israeli authorities to reconsider their position but have not received a reply.

“The Israelis should look at this purely as a sporting event. It has nothing to do with politics,” says Samia al-Wazir, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian Olympic Committee.

“This is an event in the West Bank and every Palestinian, not just athletes, should have the right to attend.” ” [emphasis added]

Donnison makes no attempt to verify the accuracy of the claim that the event (due to take place on April 21st) has “nothing to do with politics” for his readers. A quick perusal of the marathon’s website would have been enough to inform him of the fact that the reality is quite different. 

marathon 1

marathon 2

A look at the marathon’s official Facebook account – including, inter alia, the promotion of an article entitled “Running is a subversive act” which indicates some foreign runners’ links to the politically motivated NGO the Amos Trust – would also have relieved Donnison of any impression that the event is not political. 

“And of course, in Palestine, where movement is so restricted, where people are separated from their family, land and friends by 8m high concrete barriers, where it’s not possible to travel 26.2 miles in a straight line without encountering road blocks, when people from Gaza are forbidden to enter the country, then running a marathon is a wonderfully subversive act.”

marathon 3

Among the co-organisers of the marathon, according to its own website, is the ‘Higher Council of Youth and Sports’ – a Palestinian Authority government body (also known as the ‘Supreme Council for Youth and Sports’) which is headed by Secretary General Jabril Rajoub – who also heads the Palestinian Football Association and the Palestinian Olympic Committee; from which Donnison conveniently got his quote. 

Jibril Rajoub will of course be familiar to many readers, both for his own terrorist past and his use of his various sports-related positions in anti-Israel campaigns. Ironically – but not unrelated – two of the organisations headed by Rajoub, including the one now involved in the organisation of the Bethlehem Marathon, were party to a call to boycott the Jerusalem Marathon just a couple of months ago. 

Donnison’s failure to fact check the claim that the marathon does not have political aims, as made in the quote he elected to include in his article, clearly renders the report inaccurate and partial. Donnison continues:

“Israel strictly controls movement in and out of Gaza making it difficult for Palestinians there to make the short journey to the West Bank.

It also controls entry to the West Bank via the border with Jordan.

An Israeli military statement said: “The entrance of the Gaza Strip residents to Israeli territory, and their passage to the West Bank, is possible only in exceptional humanitarian cases, mainly urgent medical cases.”

It added that this was because Gaza was ruled by Hamas which Israel considers a “terror organisation”. “

Donnison’s distortion of the reality behind the necessity for restriction of movement from a territory under the de facto control of a terrorist organization is as obtuse as his use of quotation marks around the phrase terror organization. As has been previously mentioned here on numerous occasions, Israel is far from the only country to categorise Hamas as such. Once again we see that the BBC’s effort to avoid making “value judgements” on the subject of terrorism constitutes a value judgement in itself – one which severely compromises BBC impartiality. 

Donnison goes on to feature another quote in his report – this time from the political NGO ‘Gisha‘ which is regularly promoted by the BBC – as well as a link to the NGO’s press release on the subject. As previously noted here, it is not in the BBC’s remit to amplify the messages of  politically motivated NGOs and the fact that it does so without informing audiences of such organisations’ political stances severely compromises its own guidelines on impartiality.

Donnison ends his article with a snide swipe at the IDF Spokesman’s Unit:

“The Gazan runners’ inability to compete in the Bethlehem marathon is their second disappointment this month.

The United Nations cancelled its annual Gaza marathon after Hamas refused to allow women to take part.

An official Israel Defense Forces blog criticised Hamas for that decision.”

It takes a particularly perverse version of moral equivalence to be able to imply that the Hamas ban on women taking part in a sporting event in territory it controls is in any way comparable to a restriction on travel due to only too real security factors brought about by Hamas’ engagement in terrorism.