The Tripod: CAMERA Links in Three Languages – August 25th-26th edition

BBC Arabic reports on Syrian patients in Israeli hospitals – but not in Arabic
After months of ignoring the subject of Syrian patients being treated in Israeli hospitals, the BBC finally got round to reporting the story – but not to its Arabic Service audiences. (BBC Watch)

BBC describes known terror finance man as ‘activist’
A senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official with a record of terror financing is described by the BBC as an ‘activist’. (BBC Watch)

Israel’s most deadly war?
There are historical facts, and there are Gidon Levy’s facts. (Presspectiva)

3rd time’s a charm: CiF Watch prompts correction to Telegraph “correction” on refugees
After two unsuccessful attempts, The Telegraph finally published accurate information on the number of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war. (CiF Watch)

The Little Activist that Could
A Canadian student’s reflections on the CAMERA Training Conference: “The day before my flight to Boston for training, I almost backed out.” (In Focus)

Middle East headlines in the Spanish speaking press
Headlines focus on Palestinians walking out of the negotiation process and Israel’s opinion about the Syrian conflict. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)





Unnecessary BBC correction does a makeover on Nasrallah

On August 16th 2013 the BBC News website carried an article on its Middle East page now titled “Hezbollah chief blames radical Islamists for Beirut bomb“. 

Nasrallah speech art

On August 23rd a footnote appeared at the bottom of that article:

correction nasrallah speech art

So what exactly was amended in this report? Its latest version opens:

“The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, has said extremist Islamists bombed a Beirut suburb, killing 22 people.

Mr Nasrallah said “takfiris” – militants who believe Muslim society has reverted to a state of non-belief – were likely to have been responsible.

A previously unknown group calling itself the Battalions of Ayesha said it carried out Thursday’s bombing.

The attack took place in a Shia area known to be a stronghold of Hezbollah.”

The article’s previous version was titled “Beirut bomb: Hezbollah’s Nasrallah blames Sunni radicals” and opened:

“The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, says radical Sunni Muslim militants bombed a Beirut suburb, killing 22 people.

Mr Nasrallah’s Shia group supports the government of President Assad in the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

“I will go myself to Syria if it is necessary in the battle against the takfiris (Sunni radicals)”, Mr Nasrallah said, on his own TV channel.”

As we see, all references to “Sunni radicals” and “Sunni Muslim militants” have been removed in the amended version of the article. 

Nasrallah did use the word “takfiri” in his speech – translated here by his Iranian backers’ TV station:

That term is generally used to describe extremist Sunnis – as pointed out for example in this article about the same Nasrallah speech from Reuters.

” “It is most likely that a takfiri group was responsible for yesterday’s explosion,” Nasrallah said, referring to radical Sunni Muslim factions linked to al Qaeda, many of whom are fighting with Syrian rebels against President Bashar al-Assad.”

 The term is certainly used in that sense by the Iranian regime and the media it controls, by the Syrian government and its media and by Hizballah. All three of those elements promote the notion of an alliance between the United States, Israel and ‘takfiris’ aimed at deposing Assad. 

“Iranian propaganda in support of the Assad regime is far from a new phenomenon in the Syrian conflict. In recent weeks, however, the declarations have become louder and more shrill — with the specter of the dreaded “takfiri”, a deviant Muslim who turns against other Muslims, suddenly appearing alongside the well-known foreign-backed (and probably Zionist) “terrorist”.”

In the speech to which this article relates Nasrallah told his audience that:

“…U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies had “undoubtedly” managed to infiltrate takfiri groups, which he added were now working to serve Israel’s interests.

Nasrallah vowed to apprehend those responsible for the bomb attacks. “If you are working for Israel, our hands will reach you if the state fails to do so,” he said.”

In another speech in May Nasrallah said:

“The events in the last couple of years have proved that there is an axis lead by the United States while the rest are working under its orders. Everyone knows this axis is supported by Israel while al-Qaida and other Takfiri organizations from around the world were paid to take part in it,” he detailed.

Nasrallah remarked: “The Takfiris are the most prevailing group in the Syrian opposition.”

“If Syria falls in the hands of the Takfiris and the U.S., the resistance will become under a siege and Israel will enter Lebanon. If Syria falls, the Palestinian cause will be lost.”

Of course the conspiracy theory of a US/Israel/Al Qaida-affiliated jihadists alliance to take over Syria sounds to most observers exactly like the fairy-story it is, but the promotion of that conspiracy theory has an ulterior motive: the deflection of criticism from both home and abroad of Hizballah’s Syrian adventure. 

“Fighting with the Syrian regime until victory over the “takfiris” or extremist Sunni Muslims, as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently vowed to do, is no simple matter for the Shiite group. If anything Hezbollah now seems to be laying bare what is at heart an Iranian proxy fighting on behalf of a regime vital to Iran’s interests, rather than a Lebanese movement concerned about the well-being of its Lebanese Shiite constituency.[…]

Hezbollah also recognizes that its Syria surge is potentially dodgy at home. There is a campaign being waged by Nasrallah and by its al-Manar television station to sell the fighting against the Syrian opposition as a war against Israel and therefore a continuation of the resistance legacy. In this context Israel and the United States are lumped in Hezbollah pronouncements together with the “takfiri” fighters in a broad conspiracy against the “resistance axis” of Syria, Hezbollah and Iran. “

Not by chance then do we see Hizballah’s Al Manar media organization seeking to defuse domestic criticism of the violence plaguing Lebanon as a consequence of Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war by stressing the point that Nasrallah stated in that speech that the “takfiris” are not Sunnis. Significantly, Nasrallah also declared the ‘takfiris’ not to be rather a lot of other things too, putting the “not Sunnis” remark in its proper context.

“In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah pointed out that the goal of these Takfirists is to stir up sectarian incitements among Lebanese, calling upon the Lebanese people to be aware of that.

He further stressed that those terrorists did not belong to the Sunni sect.

“They are not Sunnis, they don’t belong to any religion, sect, nation, or people. They are neither Syrians, nor Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims or Sunnis. They are murderers and they adopt murderers’ logic.” “

Now, as we see, the BBC has amended its original article on Nasrallah’s speech to conform with the Hizballah public relations campaign to portray it (and in a wider context, Hizballah’s Syrian campaign too) as ‘non-sectarian’. The person taking credit for that change on Twitter is one Miqdaad Versi who appears to have something of a penchant for Hizballah’s former ‘spiritual mentor’ Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.

Tweet Versi

The BBC’s willingness to make an unnecessary correction to this article, based on an overly literal and politically motivated interpretation of the words of the leader of a terrorist organization which has its very existence rooted in sectarianism, certainly does not inspire confidence in the BBC’s ability to fulfil its task of enabling audiences to “build a global understanding of international issues”.

Rioters attack Israeli security forces, BBC reports ‘confrontation’

An article titled “Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli police” was published on August 26th 2013 on the Middle East page of the BBC News website.

The term “clashes” is repeated in the opening paragraph, with the incident later being described as a “confrontation”

“Three Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces in Qalandiya refugee camp in the West Bank, Palestinian sources say.

Nineteen Palestinians were wounded in the confrontation, Palestinian medical sources said.”

The article goes on to state:

“Israeli officials said a large crowd attacked police with rocks and petrol bombs during an arrest operation and “riot dispersal methods” were used.”

That “large crowd” apparently numbered around fifteen hundred rioters – as was noted in earlier versions of the BBC report but omitted in later ones. Some idea of the type of “rocks” used to attack the Border Policemen who – as BBC readers only learn in the eighth paragraph – were in the process of trying to arrest a terror suspect, can be gained from this video apparently filmed by onlookers. 

One of the men killed – Yunis Jahjouh – was apparently released in the Shalit deal of 2011. A photograph of a ‘martyrs’ poster’ later appearing in Qalandiya which was Tweeted by the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood shows that it sports the Hamas logo

Sherwood poster

An earlier version of the article closed with the statement – later removed:

“Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority president, issued a statement condemning Israel for the deaths.”

It does not however inform BBC audiences of Abu Rudeineh’s bizarre claim that the violent rioters had been ‘assassinated’:

“Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement condemning Israel for what he termed its assassination of the three men in Qalandiya. He added that the slew of crimes committed by the Israelis and their continued settlement construction were a clear sign of Israel’s true intentions.”

Later versions of the BBC report inform readers that the Palestinian Authority decided to cancel its participation in talks scheduled for the evening of the same day.

“Palestinians cancelled a session of peace talks with Israel which were due to take place on Monday, in response to the killings, unnamed Palestinian sources said.”

The report then promotes the now habitual misleading BBC version of the breakdown of the previous round of talks in 2010:

“Direct negotiations between the two sides resumed earlier this month after a three-year hiatus. The last round of peace talks broke down in 2010 amid disagreement over the issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

As has for sometime been its standard practice, the BBC neglects to inform audiences that those talks broke down when the Palestinians refused to continue them after a ten-month building freeze expired or that for 90% of those ten months, they refused to come to the negotiating table at all. 

The latest version of the article adds a partial second-hand quote of a version of events which the BBC clearly cannot have verified before publishing:

“The Associated Press news agency quoted Hatim Khatib, whose brother Youssef, it says, was arrested in the raid, as saying troops dressed in civilian clothing arrived at their home at 04:30 (02:30 GMT).

“After half an hour we started hearing shooting from the soldiers inside our house, and then people started throwing stones at them,” he said.”

As well as this quote from Khatib, the article includes one from Palestinian PM Hamdallah, one from “unnamed Palestinain sources”, one from other “Palestinian sources” and two from “Palestinian medical sources”. The Israeli side of the story is presented with quotes from the Police Spokeswoman and the IDF Spokesman. 


Change to photo caption for Part 2 of BBC WS programme on Talmud

Last week we noted here the use of a gratuitous mention of “Young Jewish settlers” in the caption to a photograph chosen to illustrate the webpage of the first part of a ‘Heart and Soul’ BBC World Service programme by Rabbi Naftali Brawer about the Talmud.

Here is a screenshot of that webpage which, at the time of writing, still stands.

Heart & Soul Talmud

Part two of the programme was broadcast on August 24th. Whilst the webpage of that programme uses the same photograph, the gratuitous caption no longer appears. 

Synopsis Talmud prog 2

BBC’s Knell amplifies Hamas propaganda, downplays its terror designation

On August 23rd 2013 an article titled “Gaza: Hamas urges Egypt to reopen Rafah crossing” by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. 

Knell Rafah crossing

Knell’s subject matter is Egypt’s latest closure of the Rafah crossing, but beyond amplifying Hamas propaganda on the issue, she makes little effort to provide her readers with the background information necessary to understand the context of the Egyptian move. She opens: 

“Officials from the Islamist group Hamas are urging Egypt to reopen the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian authorities closed the crossing point this week after more than 20 Egyptian policemen were killed near the border by suspected militants.

Thousands of Palestinians, including students and medical patients, wanting to leave or enter Gaza have been stuck.

Hamas deputy foreign minister, Ghazi Hamed [sic], told the BBC it was “a humanitarian issue.” “

She later adds:

“Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and has accused Palestinians of supporting Islamist militants in the increasingly restive Sinai region.

“They have a plan in order to distort the image of Gaza in order to start propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas, in order to show Gaza is like a devil and Hamas is like a devil,” Mr Hamed said.

“I think they succeeded to do this on the Egyptian street, in the Egyptian society.” “

Knell offers no balance to this blatant propaganda from BBC regular Ghazi Hamad. She fails to draw her readers’ attention to this latest manifestation of the tried and trusted Hamas modus operandi of turning a blind eye to terrorism originating in the territory it purports to govern and then crying ‘humanitarian crisis’ when the targets of that terrorism take action against it.

Crucially, she neglects to inform her readers of the fact that some of the terrorist groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula are based in the Gaza Strip

“Some 15 different Salafi groups affiliated with the global jihad movement and Al-Qaida are operating in Sinai, according to senior officials in the Shin Bet security service. […]

The four groups most active against Israel are Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has fired rockets at Eilat several times, most recently last week; Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen Fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis, which killed an Israeli civilian working on the border fence in June 2012; Al-Takfir wal-Hijra, which perpetrated the August 2012 attack in which 16 Egyptian policemen were killed, ; and Jaish al-Islam, a group started by the Dughmush clan from Gaza that was involved in kidnapping soldier Gilad Shalit, and has since branched out into Sinai, where it has tried unsuccessfully to kidnap Israeli tourists. […]

“…another significant factor in this development was Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, which brought Gaza and Sinai much closer together. This process increased further after Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, and peaked after the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt in 2011.

Contrary to what the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence had expected, after the disengagement Gaza began exporting terror to Sinai rather than the other way around.” […]

“Moreover, over the last two years, Gaza has become a base for Salafis from all over the Arab world seeking military training. The senior official said that most of the training camps are run by Mumtaz Dughmush, the head of Jaish al-Islam. The group gets money from individuals and organizations abroad that support global jihad, and its courses last several weeks. Its trainees then go on to Sinai, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

The official said Hamas is aware of Dughmush’s activities, but has agreed to let the Gaza training camps operate in exchange for Dughmush’s promise that neither the operatives who train there nor Jaish al-Islam itself will operate from the Gaza Strip.”

Knell’s article is illustrated with the bizarrely captioned photograph below:

photo Knell article

“Smugglers have often tried to bring in goods to Gaza through tunnels underneath this border area” [emphasis added]

That is a very tame way of describing an entire industry, but Knell’s euphemisms do not stop there.

“As part of its operation against Islamic extremists in the Sinai, the Egyptian military has also demolished many of the tunnels that lie under the border with Gaza.

Palestinian smugglers mainly use them to bring in cheap fuel and goods. However, sometimes militants use them too.” [emphasis added]

One has to wonder if Yolande Knell has actually bothered to familiarize herself with the subject of weapons trafficking routes into the Gaza Strip.

And of course Knell is predictably incapable of writing an article about Hamas and Egypt without at least one gratuitous side-swipe at Israel.

“Rafah is Gaza’s main gateway to the world while other crossings and transit points on the border with Israel are subject to strict restrictions, which Israel says are for reasons of security.” [emphasis added]

Knell also informs her readers that:

“Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist group.”

This reversion to the BBC’s old form is particularly jarring given that in recent months we have seen something of an improvement in compliance with editorial guidelines on accuracy with regard to the subject of Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organization.

In April  BBC audiences read that:

 ”Israel, as well as the United States and the European Union, regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation.”

In June Yolande Knell managed to write:

“Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan.”

Of course that is not the entire picture – for example, Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization, as does New Zealand since 2010 – but nevertheless, it is considerably more accurate than Knell’s latest offering of “Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist group”.

Another accuracy issue in Knell’s article is that the day before it was published – on Thursday, August 22nd – Maher Abu Sabha, who is Hamas’ Director General of the Rafah crossing, had already informed journalists that the crossing was to be opened for four hours daily as from Saturday August 24th – as indeed was the case. Not only did Knell fail to inform BBC audiences of that development in her article, but as of the time of writing, no mention of it has been made on the BBC News website.  


BBC blurs Iranian regime role in 2012 attacks

On August 22nd 2013 a short report titled “Thailand court jails Iranians over bomb plot” appeared on the Middle East and Asia pages of the BBC News website. 

Thailand court

In the report’s sixth paragraph readers learn that:

“The two defendants were part of what Thai officials believe was a team sent to Thailand to target Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.

The blasts came a day after two bomb attacks targeted Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia.”

The BBC then adds:

“Israel has accused Iran of orchestrating the attacks, a charge which Iran denies.”

The BBC neglects to inform its readers that the police investigation into the attack in New Delhi – in which the wife of an Israeli diplomat, her driver and two bystanders were injured – resulted in India’s police concluding that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were behind the attack or that US counter-terrorism officials have reached the same conclusion as their Israeli counterparts.  

The BBC also omits any information regarding the related Red Notice put out by Interpol in March 2012.


Hence, BBC audiences are herded towards forming the mistaken impression that the two claims – accusation and denial – are of equal weight, whilst the fact that evidence gathered by other bodies supports the Israeli assessment is concealed from them.

That is not impartial reporting: it is misleading reporting. 

BBC backgrounder on peace process erases twenty years of terror

Readers of the BBC News website’s Middle East page may have noted the interesting use there of the word ‘crisis’. At the bottom of that page audiences have for some time now seen the heading “Egypt in Crisis”.

me page egypt in crisis

That link leads to a dedicated page with the same header.

Egypt in crisis

However, according to the BBC, Syria is not “in crisis”, but in “conflict”.

Syria conflict

But there is also an additional “crisis” on the Middle East page: one which has been consistently promoted there for the past nine months and which is apparently much more widespread and of broader consequence than the “crisis” in Egypt or the “conflict” in Syria because it is called the “Mid-East crisis”. 

Mid East crisis 2

Yes, the subject of talks between Israel and the Palestinians somehow justifies the title “Mid-East crisis” according to the BBC.

Under that header readers seeking information on that “crisis” will find a variety of articles presumably intended to provide them with the type of background information which the BBC claims compliments its news reports. 

“.. our strategy is to supplement our news coverage by providing detailed background on BBC News Online. It has the space to carry more information than broadcast news programmes, helping readers to understand the political, historical or economic background to an event.”

So let’s take a look at what BBC audiences might “understand” from what is clearly intended to be an informative article – titled “Q&A: Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jerusalem” – dated August 14th 2013 and compiled by BBC Monitoring. 

Q&A talks

Apart from the bizarre Anglicisation of the name of one of the Israeli negotiators, Yitzhak Molcho, the piece does pretty well for the first few paragraphs as far as accuracy and impartiality are concerned. Then, under the heading “What has happened so far?” readers are told that:

“…as part of the process, Israel has agreed to release 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners. This began with 26 in the early hours of 14 August.”

Accuracy demands that the above statement be accompanied by a clarification to the effect that the three subsequent tranches in the agreed prisoner release are – according to most reports – subject to progress in the talks themselves. Clearly, mention should have been made of the fact that the prisoners concerned are “long-serving” because they had been convicted of murder, attempted murder or accessory to murder. 

The article goes on to promote the now standard BBC canard of Israeli building plans “sabotaging” the talks and includes its default – and misleading – clause on the subject of “international law“.   

“The resumption of talks was preceded by the Israeli government’s announcement of the construction of some 2,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians voiced dismay but Mr Kerry said the move was “not unexpected”.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

But things really begin to go downhill once the reader reaches the heading “Why is it so hard to reach agreement?”

“The Palestinians are divided politically between the West Bank-based Fatah and Islamist Hamas movement, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and has condemned the talks.

Some other Palestinian groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), staged protests against the talks.”

That phrasing of course erases the fact that Hamas and the PFLP are terrorist organisations which reject any negotiation whatsoever with Israel – not just “the talks” at present ongoing – and promote terrorism as the alternative with the aim of eradicating Israel. The next paragraph of the article seems to try to compare democratically elected parties within the Israeli political system with the (albeit euphemistically described) terrorist organisations named in the prior paragraphs.

“Mr Netanyahu also faces internal challenges. Despite the public support for peace talks, some of his coalition partners – for example the Jewish Home party – and members of his own Likud party oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Curiously, given that the PLO negotiators are not able to claim to represent the Palestinian people as a whole (Hamas is not a member) and are clearly incapable of enacting the terms of any agreement which may be signed in the Gaza Strip, the writer of this article then dismisses the crucial subject of Palestinian divisions by writing the following: [emphasis added]

More importantly, the two sides appear to have wide gaps separating their optimal positions. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their state, an idea that is vehemently opposed by some parties in the Israeli cabinet, who maintain Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel.”

Under the heading “What has been agreed in previous deals?” comes this gross distortion of history: [emphasis added]

“The 1993 Oslo accords ushered in a new era with the formation of the Palestinian Authority as an interim body and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 put the process on hold. Subsequent Israeli governments carried out more territorial withdrawals and signed further economic agreements, but without ending the conflict.”

The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was signed on September 28th 1995 – thirty-eight days before Rabin’s murder. Following that event, a number of additional stages to the process took place including the practical implementation of that agreement, the signing of the Wye River Memorandum on October 23rd 1998, the signing of the Sharm el Sheikh Memorandum on September 4th 1999 and the resumption of final status negotiations at Erez on September 13th 1999. On July 11th 2000 the Camp David Summit began and further talks were held in Washington from December 19th to 23rd 2000. In late January 2001 another round of talks was held in Taba and at the end of April 2003 the Roadmap was presented. One cannot accurately describe all that as a “process on hold”.

Of course what this BBC article spectacularly fails to inform readers is that between the signing Declaration of Principles in September 1993 and the start of the second Intifada in late September 2000, two hundred and sixty-nine people were murdered in attacks by Palestinian terrorists in Israel and since September 2000, a further 1,234 people have been killed and thousands of others injured. The BBC, however, makes all that disappear from the information it provides for its audiences, thus concealing the fact that the Palestinian Authority’s decision to engage in, finance, support and glorify terrorism exists at all – and of course failing to inform audiences of the influence of terror on the progress of the peace process.

In the next paragraph a similar sleight of hand manages to further excuse the PA of any responsibility for the lack of progress towards peace: [emphasis added]

“In September 2008, the two sides appeared to be close to signing a final peace deal during talks between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mr Abbas. However, this round ended fruitlessly after Mr Olmert’s resignation over corruption charges and the alleged refusal by Mr Abbas to accept the Israeli offer.”

That “alleged refusal” was of course well documented, including by the BBC’s favourite Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.  

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday rejected an Israeli peace proposal, which included withdrawal from 93 percent of the West Bank, because it does not provide for a contiguous Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, Abbas’s spokesman, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan showed a “lack of seriousness.” “

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote about Olmert’s offer in her memoir:

“The following day, Rice brought Olmert’s proposal to Abbas in Ramallah. He rejected it, telling Rice the PA could not agree to a deal that prevented nearly 4 million Palestinians from being able to “go home” (i.e., to return to their ancestors’ former homes in pre-Six Day War Israel).”

This BBC article is not some quickly cobbled-together news story but supposedly a fact-based reference item from which readers can find information to help them understand the latest chapter in the complex subject of the Middle East peace process.

It is bad enough, therefore, that it fails to meet the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy on so many counts, but the deliberate and systematic erasing of all mention of terrorist deeds by Palestinian prisoners, of terrorist ideology on the part of organisations such as Hamas and the PFLP and of the thousands of terror attacks which have taken place since the Declaration of Principles twenty years ago is ample testimony to the unavoidable fact that the BBC has absolutely no intention of allowing ‘trivialities’ such as its obligation to impartiality to get in the way of its attempts to shape audience perceptions.

The Tripod: CAMERA Links in Three Languages – August 22nd-23rd edition

BBC documentary on Tel Aviv gay pride fails to keep up with the news
A BBC World Service radio documentary on Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride parade paints a picture two months out of date. (BBC Watch)

Inaccuracy corrected in one BBC Rouhani article, left standing in another
Two BBC articles made the same erroneous claim but, following complaints, the BBC corrected only one of them. (BBC Watch)

Telegraph revision to false claim on Palestinian refugees is still misleading
Despite a revision made by editors at The Telegraph to a story which grossly inflated the number of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war, the passage in question still fails to accurately convey the accurate number of refugees. (CiF Watch)

Setting the Pace to Finish a Marathon
What You Missed at the CAMERA Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference. (In Focus)

My Life Has Taken an Interesting Turn
A Students’ Reflections from the CAMERA Student Conference. (In Focus)

Nothing to see: BBC reports on missile attacks focus on grading damage

In the early hours of the morning of Friday, August 23rd 2013 the Israeli Air Force struck a target at a location south of Beirut in response to the missile fire on communities in northern Israel the previous afternoon. 

The BBC news website’s Middle East page carried an article originally titled “Israeli jets bomb Lebanon target” and later amended to “Israeli jets bomb Lebanon target after rocket strike” on Friday morning, with its prior report on the missile fire itself having been taken down from the page. 

hp leb strike

Lebanon strike

The article opens:

“Israeli jets have bombed a target south of Beirut a day after rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel.

They targeted a “terror site” near the coastal town of Naameh, between Beirut and Sidon, the Israeli military said.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) said one of its bases had been hit.”

Despite the fact that it reports that a terrorist organization designated by the United States, the European Union, Canada and Israel “said one of its bases had been hit”, the BBC apparently cannot appreciate the cognitive dissonance of the use of scare quotes around the phrase “terror site”. 

In fact, the PFLP-GC apparently does not even merit the standard BBC “militants” euphemism for terrorists and the casual reference to its “support” for Assad whitewashes its involvement in the Syrian civil war.

“The PFLP-GC, a Palestinian group known to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, denied it fired any rockets into Israel.” [emphasis added]

The organization which claimed responsibility for the deliberate firing of missiles at civilians is afforded that misnomer:

“Al-Qaeda linked militant group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, said it carried out the attack.” [emphasis added] 

Interestingly, the BBC seems to be overly focused on playing down the deliberate firing of military grade hardware at civilians – including elderly Holocaust survivors – in a neighbouring country. Readers of this article are told that:

“Neither incident caused casualties or much damage.”


“They [the missiles] caused some minor damage at a kibbutz near the Israeli coastal town of Nahariya.”

In the BBC’s prior report on the missile attacks themselves, the same point was emphasized:

“Sirens sounded across the area, but no casualties were reported. Footage showed some minor damage at a kibbutz near the coastal town of Nahariya.”

One of course doubts that the BBC would be busying itself quite so much with the grading of “damage” had four missiles been fired at British civilians in an unprovoked attack on, say, Gibraltar or Belfast.

The misleading statement which also appeared in the previous article is unfortunately repeated verbatim in this one too:

“Rockets have been fired into Israel intermittently by militant groups since the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006.”

Yet again the BBC fails to make it sufficiently clear to audiences that terrorists have been firing missiles at Israeli civilians from Lebanon for over thirty years – not just since August 2006. Neither does it bother – again – to make any attempt to inform readers that such missile fire and the very presence of armed terrorist militias in southern Lebanon (including Hizballah) are breaches of UN SC resolution 1701 which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War and the ensuing significance of incidents such as this latest one. 

The ‘nothing to see: move along’ approach adopted by the BBC in both these articles about Thursday’s missile attacks is certainly not contributing to fulfilling its stated mission to “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.


Curious choice of image illustrating BBC WS programme on Talmud

On August 17th 2013 the BBC World Service programme ‘Heart and Soul’ broadcast the first episode of a two part series called “The Talmud” by Rabbi Naftali Brawer.  The programme itself is engaging and innocuous, but the photograph selected to illustrate it – together with its caption – is interesting. 

Heart & Soul Talmud

The image shows two young religiously observant Jewish men studying by a window. At the bottom of the programme’s synopsis we find a caption:

“Picture: Young Jewish settlers study the Talmud, Credit: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images”.

In the programme itself, Rabbi Brawer visits the Mir Yeshiva in the Beit Yisrael neighbourhood of Jerusalem, which lies west of the 1949 Armistice Line. 

map Mir Yeshiva

The picture – with its caption describing the young men as “settlers” and its depiction of people who, by their dress appear more likely to belong to the Religious Nationalist movement than an Orthodox yeshiva – was clearly not taken at the Mir Yeshiva, even though that location would seem to be the obvious subject matter for an illustrative photograph seeing as it features extensively in the programme. Alternatively an image of, say, a page of the Talmud or of Beit She’arim which the presenter also visits could have been used, but they are not. 

So curiously, the picture must come from a location not featured in the programme – but where? A search for photographs taken by the same photographer turns up this image – reportedly taken in Beit El in the Binyamin area of Judea & Samaria, apparently before December 2011. Towards the top left, we see a back view of two young men by a window who appear to be the same people appearing in the photo selected by the BBC.

Beit El pic Pedro Ugarte

The yeshiva in Beit El does not feature at all in this BBC World Service programme, and neither do any other yeshivot in locations where the BBC would describe the residents as “settlers”, but the BBC chose to use a picture taken there anyway – for no apparently relevant reason.

It also chose to adopt the words “young Jewish settlers” from what appears to be the photo’s original caption – whilst dropping the location.  It is of course difficult to believe that the BBC could have fact checked that description with regard to the specific students appearing  in the image, taking into consideration that Beit El yeshiva has students hailing from a wide range of locations.   

Now, even assuming that the BBC really could not come up with any other more relevant picture to illustrate the webpage of this programme, would not the caption “Yeshiva students study the Talmud” have been sufficient instead of the gratuitous and – thanks to the BBC’s politicisation of the term – loaded inclusion of the term “settler”? 

The second part of the series will be broadcast on August 24th – details here.