Template BBC report on prisoner release

BBC News website coverage of the latest round of releases of Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism and violent crimes began on December 30th with an article titled “Israel prepares to release 26 Palestinian prisoners”.

prisoner release art 30 12

The caption to the photograph used to head early versions of the report (which also appears in later ones) states:

“The prisoners’ releases are deeply resented by families of their mainly Israeli victims”.

In fact, as those who have studied the list of prisoners provided by the Israeli Prison Service will be aware, in this particular round of releases, the number of Palestinian victims is higher than the number of Israeli victims. Like the rest of the Western media, the BBC however is determined to avoid exploring the subject of Palestinians murdered by Palestinians.

The article also claimed that:

“The prisoners were convicted of murder or attempted murder prior to the Oslo Accords and have served 19 to 28 years”. 

As was noted here in our recent report on the subject, two of the prisoners were in fact convicted of murders committed after the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993. Shai Shuker was murdered by strangulation in February 1994 and Yosef Zandani was stabbed to death in his home in March 1994.

As the evening progressed, this report underwent many changes and now appears at the same URL under the title “Israel releases 26 Palestinian prisoners“. 

prisoner release art 31 12

The report’s later versions also erroneously state that:

“The prisoners committed murder or attempted murder before the 1993 Oslo accords and have served 19 to 28 years.”

The article fails to adequately explain to audiences the political capital gleaned from these releases by the Palestinian president whose term of office expired almost five years ago (January 15th 2009) and the significance of the lavish public celebrations organized by the PA as a public relations attempt to bolster support for Abbas’ waning and divided Fatah party

As was the case in past BBC reports on previous rounds of prisoner releases, the notion of terrorists and murderers as “heroes of the Palestinian cause” and “freedom fighters” is amplified, with no serious exploration of the effects of the glorification of terrorism and incitement which are central to such framing on the prospects for a viable end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“The Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqai, dismissed the Israeli complaints, saying: “Israel is a murderous state and these prisoners are freedom fighters.” “

Previous BBC content relating to the prisoner releases in August and October 2013 has for the most part been notably economical with portrayals of the Israeli side of the story – see for example here and here – and has in general failed to make readers properly aware of the violent nature of the terrorist acts committed by the prisoners. In this latest article the Israeli side is presented by using second-hand information gleaned from an Israeli newspaper.

“Palestinians celebrate the releases as victories over Israel – something deeply resented by families of Israeli victims of political violence, our correspondent says.

Relatives of the victims of the latest prisoners being freed – 18 from the West Bank, three from Gaza and five from East Jerusalem – have staged days of protests against the releases and appealed to the Supreme Court to block them.

In the past, the court has allowed such releases to take place.

“One of the things we knew when we captured these detainees is that they needed to stay in prison for the maximum period,” Meir Indor of Israeli victims’ association, Almagor, told the Jerusalem Post.

“These men are time-bombs. Wherever they go they kill, because that’s the purpose of their lives.” “

Notably that choice of wording downplays terrorism by turning it into “political violence” and ignores the broad consensus within Israeli society – not just the victims’ families as implied by the BBC – which opposes the release of convicted terrorists, views Palestinian glorification of murderers in a negative light and has no confidence that these releases will do anything to improve the chances of success of talks with the PLO, particularly in view of the past experience of the high proportion of released prisoners known to have returned to terrorist activities.

Once again, the BBC’s reporting on this latest round of releases has failed to provide to audiences with any real insight into the views of the families of the victims of the released prisoners. With the list of those to be released having been published on Saturday night, the BBC had 48 hours in which to carry out interviews with relatives of their victims, but no such items have so far been produced. In contrast, a recent BBC News website article on the subject of the release of prisoners belonging to the Basque terrorist organization ETA in Spain included the following illustration, caption and text.

pic ETA report

“Ms Carmen’s husband, Jesus Maria Pedrosa, was a Popular Party councillor in the Basque town of Durango. He was killed by Eta in June 2000.

“They shot him near where we live, with one bullet in the head,” she says. “I was listening to the radio at home and straightaway I knew it was him.” “

Towards the end of the BBC’s report comes the standard and inevitable introduction of the subject of Israeli construction plans, with the usual repetition of jaded and misleading mantras concerning “international law”.

“Our correspondent says that after the two previous releases, the Israeli government has sugared what the right-wing parties within its coalition regard as a bitter pill by making announcements about Jewish settlement plans in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli media reports suggest Mr Netanyahu is likely to unveil plans to build an additional 1,400 housing units, including 600 at Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.” 

Ramat Shlomo is of course a neighbourhood of Jerusalem which, according to any realistic scenario, will remain under Israeli control under the terms of an agreement between Israel and the PLO.  BBC audiences should of course be made aware of that fact in order for them to be capable of understanding that any building there is of no consequence. 

Instead, the article goes on:

“Palestinians say continued settlement construction undermines the direct peace talks, which have shown little sign of progress since resuming in July after a three-year hiatus.”

Although it eagerly promotes that Palestinian view to its audiences, the BBC is predictably less interested in informing them of the undermining effects on the talks of Palestinian incitement and glorification of terror – as manifested in the PA-organised celebrations of the release of convicted terrorists and murderers of Palestinians and in addition to its daily stream of inflammatory official television programmes, sermons and statements.  

One has no need of a crystal ball to appreciate that for months now, BBC News has been preparing the ground for future reporting of any collapse of the current talks by keeping audiences focused on one issue – that of Israeli building – whilst consistently ignoring the many other no less relevant factors at play.  That, of course, is an editorial decision inspired by a particular political viewpoint and it flies in the face of the BBC’s obligation under the terms of its Charter to provide audiences with information which will “enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”. 


BBC continues to under-report PA affairs

Last month we took note here of the fact that the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau consistently under-reports Palestinian Authority news, citing the PA crackdown on Palestinian journalists and bloggers which included the arrest and physical assault of the director of the radio station ‘Bethlehem 2000’ with which the BBC has or had a partnership.

“The BBC has FM relays in Gaza, Ramallah and Hebron, and a partner FM station, Radio Bethlehem 2000.”

We also noted in that post that the BBC had failed to report an assassination attempt on a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council who had previously published an article describing Mahmoud Abbas as a “tyrant” and a “dictator”. The failure to report on such a significant event of course contrasts sharply with the often gossip column style interest shown by the BBC in domestic Israeli politics.

More recent events have also failed to spark any BBC interest in PA domestic politics, despite their obvious potential influence on the sustainability of any agreements reached during the current talks between Israel and the PLO. 

“The most recent crisis in Fatah erupted last week when Fatah legislator and activist Jamal Abu al Rub, who is nicknamed “Hitler,” punched senior Fatah rival Jibril Rajoub three times in the face after a violent confrontation in Ramallah’s Grand Park Hotel, where Rajoub, a former Fatah security commander, was waiting to meet with the Chinese foreign minister. […]

Abbas, in response, decided to expel Abu al Rub from Fatah.

The decision drew strong condemnations from Abu al Rub’s supporters in the Jenin area of the northern West Bank, where dozens of Fatah activists tendered their resignations to Abbas. In a further escalation, Fatah gunmen loyal to Abu al Rub expelled Palestinian Authority policemen from the town of Qabatya near Jenin. […]

By expelling Abu al Rub from Fatah, Abbas has managed to enrage many Fatah activists in the northern West Bank, who have anyway long been complaining that the Palestinian president was “marginalizing” them.

Some Palestinians see the recent events in the northern West Bank as the beginning of a mutiny against Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah.”

With the exception of one recent lackluster article pertaining to a recently published EU audit which criticized the payment of salaries to PA civil servants in the Gaza Strip who have not been to work since the 2007 Hamas coup there, the BBC generally avoids anything which could be even remotely described as investigative reporting into the Palestinian Authority’s finances, its use of foreign donor contributions or corruption. Hence, BBC audiences are not informed of the fact that some 6% of the PA budget is spent on salaries for imprisoned terrorists or of the financial packages allocated to those recently released. And of course the related subjects of PA incitement and glorification of terrorism are pastures which the BBC consistently avoids.

No presentation of the subject of talks between Israel and the PLO can be comprehensive and conducive to audience understanding of this “international issue” without coverage of internal PA politics and other crucial factors such as incitement and glorification of terrorism. 

BBC Sport amplifies Anelka excuses, downplays antisemitism

On December 29th the sports section of the BBC News website published a story titled “Nicolas Anelka: West Brom striker defends goal celebration“.

BBC sport Anelka

The article opens with amplification of Anelka’s reactions to the criticism levelled against him as a result of his having used what is widely regarded as a neo-Nazi salute during a live-televised football match the previous day.

“Nicolas Anelka says he is “neither racist nor anti-Semitic” after using his official Twitter account to defend a controversial goal celebration. […]

Anelka made the “quenelle” gesture – described as an inverted Nazi salute.

“Of course, I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic and I fully assume my gesture,” Anelka, 34, tweeted.

“The meaning of quenelle is anti-system. I do not know what religion has to do with this story.” “

The article then goes on to state:

“The French government is trying to ban comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala’s shows over his use of the gesture and Anelka confirmed he did it in support of the performer.

“This is a dedication to Dieudonne,” Anelka said on Twitter.”

As the CST explains:

“The quenelle was invented by French comic Dieudonné Mbala Mbala. Anelka has excused his quenelle by saying that it was “just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné”; but this is no excuse, it just confirms the offence. Dieudonné has numerous convictions for antisemitism in France. One of these was for a sketch in which he gave a heroism award to French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson. The ‘comedy’ was that the award was presented by a man in a concentration camp uniform, complete with a yellow star.”

The BBC’s claim that the concerns of the French government are confined to Anelka’s friend’s “use of the gesture” of course whitewashes the fact that the ‘comedian’ who has made a career out of antisemitism has a long history of brushes with the French authorities because of hate speech and racial incitement.  

“Nevertheless, on the eve of Anelka’s celebration, French Home Office minister Manuel Valls had indicated that he was looking at ways to ban Dieudonné’s ‘shows and public meetings’ after the comedian’s latest anti-semitic tirade, which had been directed at journalist Patrick Cohen.

Quote-unquote: ‘when I hear him [Cohen], I tell myself, you know, gas chambers…too bad’.

If Anelka’s quenelle was indeed nothing but a show of solidarity with a friend who’d found himself embroiled in trouble, it’s just as well we know what kind of trouble that is; and it’s not as if Dieudonné had no ‘previous’ in that department.

He’s been found guilty of incitement to racial hatred on several occasions, his first condemnation coming in November 2007 after making the following comment: ‘All of them [Jews] are slave-straders who’ve moved into banking, show-business and, today, terrorist action’.

Two years later, he contested the European elections as one of the star candidates of the so-called PAS (Anti-Zionist Party), a hotch-potch of an organisation – partly funded by the regime of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also financed Dieudonné’s 2012 feature film, L’Anti-sémite in which he shared the limelight with Yahia Gouasmi, the chairman of the French chi’ite federation, and the failed film-maker and professional polemicist Alain Soral, whose political trajectory has veered from hardcore communism to membership of the extreme right-wing Front National.”

The BBC article also amplifies the uninformed reaction of Anelka’s club’s manager.

“Albion caretaker manager Keith Downing said Anelka was “totally surprised” by the furore, despite the French government announcing on Friday that it was studying legal options to ban performances by Dieudonne.

“It has got nothing to do with what is being said,” Downing said. “It is absolute rubbish.” “

Given that the target audience of this report is for the most part unlikely to be well versed on the subject of antisemitic trends in some of the darker corners of French social media and considering that this offensive trend appears to be spreading in the sporting world, it is especially regrettable that BBC Sport has wasted the opportunity to adequately clarify the background to the controversy surrounding Anelka’s action to BBC audiences, instead opting to amplify assorted excuses and downplay the antisemitism of Anelka’s racist friend.

But it is not just writers at the BBC’s Sport department who is apparently afflicted with the inability to recognise antisemitism when it stares them in the face. On December 30th the Tweet below was sent from the BBC News Magazine account. 

Tweet BBC News magazine Anelka

The Tweet promotes an article appearing on the BBC News website under the title “Who, What, Why: What is the quenelle gesture?” which describes the gesture’s inventor as having run an “anti-Zionist” campaign in the 2009 European elections and apparently seeks to perpetuate the myth that antisemitism is only to be found on the far-Right of the political map. 

“I think it’s likely to be more complex than just being associated with the far right,” says Jim Shields of Aston University, an expert on the French far right, because Dieudonne has been involved with anti-racist left-wing activists as well as far-right activists. “At the moment, the use of this gesture seems too diffuse to fit any simple right-left interpretation.”

As Tim Marshall of Sky News correctly points out:

“Dieudonne instead inverts this to argue, as we heard in the 1930’s, and again more recently, that a powerful Jewish lobby is now “controlling” the system.

He is on record as having said this several times, most recently to Iranian television.

He appeals to “anti-racists” who can point to a Jewish influence in the slave trade, and to Muslims, by celebrating the Palestinian cause.

Thus you can support him, pretend you believe the nonsense he spouts about the quenelle not being anti-Semitic and move on to bask in the warm glow of the self-righteously prejudiced.”

It is distinctly disturbing that – once again – the BBC cannot find similar clarity of perspective on the subject of antisemitism.

Related articles:

The Guardian whitewashes antisemitism of Nicolas Anelka pal, Dieudonné

Faux equivalence, ‘last-first’ reporting in BBC report on rocket attack from Lebanon

At around 7 a.m. on December 29th, residents of Kiryat Shmona preparing for school and work suddenly had their morning punctuated by loud explosions. Some five missiles had been fired from nearby Lebanon, with one landing site having been found in open ground just west of the town and two missiles apparently having fallen short in Lebanese territory. SONY DSC

The IDF responded to the attack with artillery fire directed at its source near Marj Ayoun and lodged a complaint with UNIFIL. 

So how did the BBC News website report that incident? Visitors to the Middle East home page saw the headline “Israel-Lebanon border fire exchanged” which of course gives readers no indication of which of the two parties mentioned triggered the incident or from where. The sub-heading read:

“Israel says it fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon after two rockets landed in Israel, amid heightened cross-border tensions.”

In other words, more ‘last-first’ reporting instead of a clear presentation to audiences of what happened first.

K8 rockets

The link leads to an article with the similarly ambiguous, equivalence-promoting headline “Fire exchanged on Israel-Lebanon border“.

K8 rockets art

The caption to the unrelated photograph chosen to open and illustrate the article’s earlier version stated:

“The border has witnessed sporadic violence since the war of 2006”

Borders of course do not ‘witness’ anything – people do.

Another version of that statement appears in the body of the article:

“There has been sporadic cross-border violence since 2006, when Israel and the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah fought a month-long war.”

That same misleading information was also promoted in another BBC report just a couple of weeks ago. As we noted then:

“Contrary to the impression created by the BBC, cross-border violence also occurred before 2006, with the most well-known example being the kidnapping and killing of Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Sueid in October 2000.”

The report opens with more ‘last-first’ reporting:

“Israel has shelled Lebanon after two rockets landed in northern Israel, its military says.”

It goes on to produce even more of the same:

“Border tensions increased two weeks ago when Israel shot two Lebanese troops after an Israeli soldier was killed.”

Whether this convoluted fashion of writing stems from a simple inability to portray events in an easily comprehensible, straightforward manner or whether it is the product of some mistaken notion of clever ‘style’, BBC writers are clearly in need of help, so here is a suggestion of how that information could – and should – have been presented.

“Two rockets fired from Lebanon landed in northern Israel. The Israeli military stated that it had fired shells into Lebanon in response.”

“Two weeks ago an Israeli soldier was killed near the Lebanese border, increasing tensions in the area. Whilst investigating the incident, Israeli forces later shot two Lebanese troops.”

There; that wasn’t too difficult, was it? 

Without informing readers of the basis for its speculations, the article goes on to claim:

“But Hezbollah, which has been pre-occupied by the conflict in Syria, does not appear to have been involved in the death of the Israeli soldier on 16 December.”

The report ends by erroneously stating:

“UN troops were deployed along the border following the 34-day war in 2006 which killed more than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 45 Israeli civilians.”

In fact, UN troops have been deployed in southern Lebanon since 1978 and successive UN Security Council resolutions (1559, 1680, 1701) have included clauses stating that militias operating in the area – primarily Hizballah – must be disarmed. UNIFIL has of course a long history of failing to carry out the part of its mission which should have prevented the massive flow of arms to terrorist groups in southern Lebanon and it hence incubated the conditions for the 2006 Second Lebanon War which was sparked by a cross-border attack by Hizballah combined with missile fire on civilian communities.

As is well known, since then UNIFIL has yet again failed to curb the flow of arms into the region and so Hizballah now has even greater stocks of weapons than it had in 2006. Those same UN SC resolutions state that only the Lebanese Armed Forces should be present along the border with Israel, but of course that has not been properly implemented either and the current crumbling state of the LAF makes implementation increasingly unlikely, meaning that Hizballah – which exercises significant control over the whole of southern Lebanon – has free rein to either make use of its beefed-up arsenal itself, or to allow the activities of other assorted actors.


Hizballah flag viewed from Metulla

But apparently the BBC does not consider such background information relevant to its audiences’ understanding of the issue and instead prefers to promote false ‘they’re all as bad as each other’ equivalence.

Beyond the glaring and worryingly repetitious failures to meet editorial guidelines on accuracy evident in this article, it prompts another cause for concern. At no point in the report is it made clear to readers that Hizballah is an international criminal and terrorist organization financed and controlled by Iran which has created a ‘state within a state’ in Lebanon. Neither is it made clear that missile fire directed at Israeli civilian communities, be it carried out by Hizballah (which denied involvement in this latest attack) or by other groups present in the area, is an act of terrorism. Rather, the very transparent attempt to promote the notion of equivalence between missile fire by a terrorist organization and retaliatory fire by the defence forces of a sovereign country with an obligation to defend its citizens is all too apparent in this report. 

One cannot but think back to the 2012 report commissioned by the BBC Trust on the subject of the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Arab Spring’ in which Edward Mortimer wrote (page 12):

“Equally,” the Guidelines go on to say, impartiality “does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles.” This language originated as part of a Government amendment to the Broadcasting Act 1990, after concerns had been raised in Parliament that new detailed impartiality requirements might oblige broadcasters to balance any criticism of murderous regimes such as that of Pol Pot in Cambodia. […]

But how should this permission to stray from “absolute neutrality” be interpreted by BBC journalists? Not, surely, as authorising or encouraging them to espouse uncritically the perspective of the insurgents…”

Or, one might add, that of internationally recognised terrorists or any twopenny Al Qaeda-wannabe group which happens to have laid its hands on a few Grad missiles.

Related articles:

New resource on Hizballah gives information not supplied by BBC

Background to the scheduled prisoner release you won’t find at the BBC

Late on December 28th the Israeli Prison Service published the list of prisoners who are scheduled for release later this week. As readers will be aware, this is the third round of releases (out of four) intended as a ‘goodwill gesture’ within the framework of talks between Israel and the PLO which recommenced in late July.

Details of the previous two rounds are available here and here. At the time of those previous releases, information provided by the BBC on the subject of the crimes committed by prisoners scheduled for release was at best partial. Details of their victims and their families have been even more sparse. 

Below is a translation of the list of the latest 26 prisoners scheduled for release with added information. In much of the media these prisoners are described as having committed crimes ‘pre-Oslo’, but as can be seen below, the list also includes prisoners convicted of crimes carried out after the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13th 1993. Notable too is the high number of Palestinian victims appearing on this list, reflecting the ‘intrafada’ (consistently ignored by the mainstream media) which raged alongside the first Intifada, in which around a thousand Palestinians were killed in internal violence. 

Alefendi Mohammed Yusuf Adnan (born 1971) was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for attempted murder, having stabbed and wounded two Israeli civilians with a kitchen knife. 

Sh’hade Farid Sh’hade Ahmed (born 1962) was sentenced to 45 years imprisonment for the murder of suspected ‘collaborator’ Yosef Farhan in Jaffa in 1985 and was due to be released in February 2030.  

Yacoub Mohammed Ouda Ramadan (born 1963, member of PFLP-GC) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sarah Sharon. 

Afana Mustafa Ahmed Mohammed (born 1964, member of PFLP-GC) was sentenced to forty years imprisonment for his part in the murder of Sarah Sharon and was due to be released in 2033. 

Da’agna Nofel Mohammed Mahmoud (born 1948, member of PFLP) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sarah Sharon. 

Mother of seven Sarah Sharon (photo right)was 38 years old when she was stabbed to death in Holon on January 20th 1993.

Abu-Alrub Mustafa Mahmoud Faisal (born 1969, member of Fatah) was sentenced to two life terms for the shooting and murder of Yoram Cohen and for beating Mohammed Kamil to death. He was also found guilty of the manslaughter of an additional four Palestinians suspected of ‘collaboration’. 

Kamil Awad Ali Ahmed (born 1962, member of Fatah) was sentenced to sixteen life terms for the murder of Yoram Cohen and fifteen Palestinians suspected of ‘collaboration’.

20 year-old IDF soldier Sgt. Yoram Cohen was shot and killed in an ambush on the truck in which he was travelling in Jenin in 1991. 

Damara Ibrahim Mustafa Bilal (born 1969, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Frederick Rosenfeld. 

48 year-old Frederick Steven Rosenfeld  (photo right) was murdered in June 1989. Rosenfeld was hiking in the hills near Ariel when he came across a group of shepherds who stabbed him to death with his own knife and hid his body. 

Abu Muhsan Khaled Ibrahim Jamal (born 1971, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Shlomo Yehia in 1991. 

Shlomo Yehia (photo left) was born in 1915 in Yemen and immigrated to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. He settled in Moshav Kadima where he worked as a gardener even after reaching retirement age. On September 26th 1991 he went out to work as usual and was stabbed to death in a public park. Shlomo was 76 years old at the time of his death and was survived by his wife and six children.

Tamimi Rushdi Mohammed Sa’id (born 1972, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Chaim Mizrachi.

Chaim Mizrachi grew up in Bat Yam and Holon, later moving to Beit El. On Friday, 29th October 1993, he went to buy eggs from an Arab-owned farm near his home and was met by terrorists who fled in his vehicle after wounding him and stuffing him into the car’s trunk. The terrorists murdered Chaim, then burned and abandoned the vehicle north of Ramallah. Chaim was 30 at the time of his death, and was survived by his pregnant wife, his parents, his sisters, and his brother. Half a year after his murder, his daughter was born.  

Silawi Khaled Kamal Osmana (born 1972, member of Fatah) was sentenced to four life terms for the murder of Motti Bitton and three Palestinians suspected of ‘collaboration’. In addition, was also convicted of manslaughter of another Palestinian and took part in the violent interrogation of others. 

32 year-old father of three Motti Bitton (photo right) from Ganim was shot and killed whilst shopping with his wife Mali (who was injured in the attack) in a convenience store along the road from Jenin to Jezreel Junction.

Tzouafta Sudki Abdel Razak Muhlas (born 1974, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yosef Ben Ya’akov Malkin (Malka). 

Yosef Malkin (Malka) (photo left) was murdered in his apartment on December 29th 1990 in Haifa by two infiltrators from Jenin. He was 60 years old at the time of his death and worked as manager of the industrial engineering department of a company in Haifa. 

Braham Fawzi Mustafa Nasser (born 1975, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his former employer Morris (Moshe) Edri.

Morris Edri (photo right) was born in Marrakesh, Morocco in 1928 and immigrated to Israel in 1964 where he settled in Netanya. Morris worked in the pharmaceutical industry until his retirement due to ill-health and then worked in his son’s electrical shop. On November 24th 1991 he arrived at the shop in the morning to find a former employee waiting for him who claimed that he had left some clothes in the storeroom. Whilst Morris was making coffee, the former employee stabbed him in the back. He was 65 at the time of his death and was survived by his wife and nine children. 

Al Shalbi Yusuf Ahmed Nuaman (born 1971, member of Fatah) was sentenced to three life terms for the murders of Jamil Koftan Hasun, Mufid Ali Kna’an and Ahmed Ziud. 

Jaradat Mohammed Anis Ayman (born 1972, member of Fatah) was sentenced to four life terms for the murders of Jamil Koftan Hasun, Mufid Ali Kna’an, Mohamed Tawfik Jaradat and Ibrahim Said Ziud. Also convicted of the manslaughter of an additional Palestinian. 

On October 15th 1991 Jamil Hasun (photo left) from Daliyet el Carmel was celebrating his 32nd birthday. An operator of heavy machinery, he went that morning to pick up workers from a village near Jenin. There he was shot at point-blank range by two attackers. Jamil was survived by his wife and two children. 

Mufid Kna’an from Yarka went out hunting with friends near Jenin on January 15th 1992. There he was shot by two attackers. Mufid was 46 at the time of his death and was survived by his wife and six children. 

Shuamra Yunes Mohammed Naim was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yossi Hayoun.

Yossi (Yosef) Hayoun was a police sapper who was killed whilst trying to disarm a bomb planted in Moshav Shekef in the Lachish area in June 1993. 

Mahmud Mohammed Salman was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Shai Shuker.

22 year-old Shai Shuker (photo right) from Herzliya was murdered on February 2nd 1994 near Tira. His attacker strangled him with a shoelace.

Abu-Gamal Ahmed Ibrahim Jamal was sentenced to twenty-two years imprisonment for attempted murder and was due to be released in May 2016.

Abu-Ali Faiz Mahmoud Ibrahim was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Roni Levi. 

Roni Levi (photo left) from Petah Tikva was saving up to get married and worked in marketing for a factory during the week and as a taxi driver at the weekends. On Saturday December 29th 1990 he was working an evening shift when radio connection with his taxi was lost. The blood-stained taxi was found the next day in Tel Aviv, but Roni’s body was only discovered three weeks later in an orchard. Roni was 24 years old at the time of his death. 

Barbach Judat Zaki Raami was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment for the murder of Yosef Zandani.

28 year-old Yosef Zandani (photo right) was strangled and stabbed to death in his home in Moshav Bnei Aiyish near Gadera on March 30th 1994.

Halaf Juma’a Mustafa Ahmed was sentenced to 21 years and three months imprisonment for aggravated assault and was due to be released in February 2014.

Abu Hasin Ahmed Yusef Bilal was sentenced to a thirty-six year term for the murder of Farouk Raud Abdelhamid Abu Khader and was due to be released in 2027.

Abu Hadir Mohammed Yassin Yassin was serving a twenty-eight year sentence for the murder of Yigal Shahaf and was due to be released in 2016.

Twenty-four year-old student Yigal Shahaf (photo left) from Jerusalem was shot in the head whilst walking through the Old City with his wife on October 10th 1987. He died the next day and was survived by his wife, parents, sisters and brother. 

Tsalah Khalil Ahmed Ibrahim (born 1960, member of Fatah) was sentenced to three life terms for the murders of Menahem Stern, Eli Amsalem and Hassan Zaid. 

Eli Amsalem (photo right) was born in Fez, Morocco and arrived in Israel with his family in 1957, where they settled in Jerusalem. Eli worked as a television technician. On July 28th 1989 he was murdered in his home near the Mahane Yehuda market. 

Muamar Atta Mahmoud Mahmoud (born 1961, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of Menahem Stern and Hassan Zaid.

Professor Menahem Stern (photo right) was born in Poland in 1925. He was an Israel Prize laureate and professor of history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was 64 years old when he was stabbed by two terrorists whilst walking to work on June 22nd 1989. Professor Stern was survived by his wife and four children.

Taktuk Lufti Halma Ibrahim (born 1972, member of Hamas) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Binyamin Meisner.

24 year-old reservist Binyamin Meisner was murdered in February 1989 by a group which lured him into an ally in Nablus (Schem) where they had pre-prepared a stockpile of rocks. Binyamin Meisner was killed by a blow to the head with a stone. 

The BBC story making 2013 round-up headlines

One particular BBC story has been making the headlines in various round-ups of Middle East media coverage throughout 2013.

Although it was first publicized extensively in and around late 2012, the story relating to the unfortunate death of the son of BBC employee in Gaza Jihad Masharawi came into the spotlight once again in March 2013 when the BBC’s unproven and unsupported claim that the little boy had been killed in an Israeli operation had the rug pulled from under it by a UNHRC report. 

CAMERA’s “Top Ten MidEast Media Mangles for 2013” notes that: 

“Though it was later determined that the death was likely the result of a misfired Palestinian rocket, subsequent corrections received far less attention. Promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers,’ an image of Jihad Masharawi holding his son’s body became entrenched in the minds of many as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing. The image has since been used in several anti-Israel protests and continues to foment hatred against Israel. Months later, the flawed account of Omar Masharawi’s death was still featured prominently in the Magazine section of the BBC website.”

The “2013 Dishonest Reporting Awards” also highlight the BBC’s inappropriate response:

“Months afterwards, the UN concluded that Baby Omar had, in fact, been killed by a Palestinian rocket. To their credit, most Western papers picked up on the new findings. But despite the revelations, the BBC — Misharawi’s employer — continued waving its fists at reality, arguing that Israeli responsibility was still disputable.”

Of course the real issue behind this story – the fact that the BBC knowingly published and extensively promoted a story for which it had absolutely no proven evidence, purely because it fit in with the political narrative accepted and promoted by the BBC – has to this day not been adequately addressed by the corporation which claims commitment to editorial values of accuracy and impartiality. 

Related articles:

BBC’s Omar Masharawi story has rug pulled by UNHRC

A reminder of the chronology of the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

BBC appoints Jon Donnison as ‘Shin Gimmel’ of Masharawi story

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

80% of December missile attacks from Gaza Strip ignored by BBC

The shooting of an Israeli civilian near the Gaza Strip-Israel border on December 24th was – as noted here previously – one of numerous recent incidents  in that area including attempts to breach the border fence, rioting and attempts to lay improvised explosive devices.   On December 26th two separate incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip occurred; one in the early hours of the morning and one in the evening. In response, the Israeli air force targeted a weapons manufacturing facility and a weapons storage facility. Neither of those missile attacks on the Hof Ashkelon area – home to 13,500 civilians – was reported by the BBC. 

Not all missiles fired by terrorist groups from the Gaza Strip land in Israeli territory: a significant proportion of them (some estimates say as many as 40%) fall short, landing in the Strip itself and hence endangering the local civilian population. Even if they eventually fall short, missiles fired do however trigger the early warning sirens which give residents of the area fifteen seconds to find cover from the incoming attack and of course for the local population, every sounding of the ‘Colour Red’ siren is a real incident which demands an instant and rapid response at whatever time of night or day. 

Both aspects of this story – that of the residents of the Gaza Strip endangered and sometimes injured or killed by short-fall missiles and that of residents of southern Israel living with the constant threat of missile attacks – are severely under-reported by the BBC.

Since the beginning of this month at least five separate incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip have taken place, including the two mentioned above. Only one of those incidents got a brief mention from the BBC in an article relating to another subject.

“Early on Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in a community near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, without causing damage or injuries.”

In other words, BBC audiences have been kept in the dark with regard to 80% of terror attacks from the Gaza Strip by missile fire alone during the last four weeks.  

Related articles:

BBC silent on doubling of terror attacks since renewed ME talks

Patchy BBC reporting on security incidents compromises context and accuracy

BBC’s Knell continues the downplaying of terror from the Gaza Strip

BBC corrections and complaints – 2013 round-up

With the end of the year approaching fast, it is time to take a look at some of the corrections the BBC has made over the past year – and some it has not. 

On the BBC News website, corrections can be divided into those made clear to audiences in a footnote and those which are ‘stealth’ corrections with no public acknowledgement of changes made to reports.

In the former category we have this year seen the BBC correct a statement on Egypt’s closure of the Rafah border after a complaint from a member of the public, the recognition by the BBC of the fact that the ‘Mavi Marmara’ was not an “aid ship” and a partial correction of whitewashed remarks made by the Iranian president. 

A reader also secured corrections to articles misrepresenting the size of the Jewish community in Iran and another member of the public had a complaint regarding the BBC’s portrayal of remarks made by David Ward MP upheld. An additional complaint made by a member of the public resulted in the amendment of inaccurate claims about the partial blockade on the Gaza Strip.

In the category of unacknowledged corrections we have seen a change to a photograph of Mount Bental wrongly captioned as an “army position”, although interestingly, the revised caption has since been altered yet again as can be seen below.

changed caption GH profile

An inaccurate claim that Israel opposed the P5+1 talks with Iran was quietly removed from the BBC News website, as was a claim that Arab Jerusalemites are uniformly not Israeli citizens. Inaccurate portrayal of the crimes of Palestinian prisoners was corrected following a complaint by a member of the public, but no footnote to that effect was added to the article concerned.

As we have noted here on several previous occasions, there is a pressing need for a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website to which readers can refer in order to keep up with changes made to articles they are unlikely to re-read and all corrections and amendments should be clearly marked. 

Complaints made by members of the public also produced changes to a BBC World Service programme which mislead audiences on the subject of the health of Palestinians in Gaza, a clarification added to a World Service interview by Lyse Doucet with Shimon Peres and acknowledgement of an inaccurate portrayal of the beginning of the Six Day War in Dan Snow’s ‘A History of Syria’ documentary on BBC Two.  

On the Twitter front, a complaint regarding the misrepresentation of Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital was upheld, as was another one regarding a Tweet sent by Wyre Davies during ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’ which misrepresented casualty figures.

There were also less satisfactory outcomes, including a complaint concerning an edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ which revealed a quiet make-over done on an inaccurate synopsis.

This year the BBC’s Editorial Standards Committee ruled that translations are not obliged to be accurate and the BBC Complaints department continued to tie itself in knots over the use of the word terror.

Some of the more ‘creative’ responses to complaints from members of the public have included claims of a “smaller operation at the weekend“, the classification of anti-Israel political slogans on clothing as “a form of expression“, the claim that the term settler “most accurately and completely describes” a murder victim and condescending reassurances that the BBC ‘judges’ a terror attack on a toddler as “serious important [sic]” even though it refrained from reporting on the subject.

Other complaints from audience members have resulted in the complete failure to address the substance of a complaint, the whitewashing of Islamist antisemitism in Tunisia and the bizarre excuse that the word antisemitism is too long to be included in a BBC headline.

Hopefully, the complicated, user-hostile, time-consuming, self-regulating BBC complaints system will be one of the subjects examined in the DCMS “fundamental examination of the future of the BBC” due to take place next month.






The one where BBC Business goes bananas

A filmed report by Jeremy Howell titled “Growing crops in drought conditions” which was shown on BBC television news programmes also appeared on the business page of the BBC News website last month.

Technion report

Howell opens his report by telling audiences:

“Travelling up the Jordan Valley and across the Galilee region to reach Haifa in northern Israel makes you aware how serious a problem water is for both Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. To grow the fruit and olives this region produces means taking millions of litres of water a year from the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan. Water volumes in both are at record low levels.”

Unless this report has been trapped in some kind of BBC vaults time warp for the past twelve years – i.e.  since November 29th 2001, when the Sea of Galilee reached its lowest recorded level of -214.87 m – Howell’s latter statement is clearly inaccurate. In fact in early 2013 the water level in the Sea of Galilee reached an eight year high and on November 17th 2013 – the date of Howell’s report – it stood at -211.39 m: 161 cm above the lower red line and 101 cm above the level on the same day the previous year. Since then, the recent storms have added a further 10 cm to the water level. In other words, those “record low levels” are nothing but a figment of Howell’s imagination.

Howell continues:

“But a solution to this area’s currently unsustainable demand for water could be at hand inside this greenhouse on the roof of a building at the Haifa Technion.”

If readers are wondering about the source of Howell’s dubious assertions of “currently unsustainable demand” for water in Israel, a clue to that will come later on. Howell then goes on to interview Professor Shimon Gepstein in connection with his work promoting drought-resistant qualities in plants. 

Howell later goes on to say:

“Plants which need 70% less water to grow could mean a welcome drop in extraction levels from the endangered Sea of Galilee and River Jordan. But Gidon Bromberg of ‘Friends of the Earth Middle East’ is worried the new technology might encourage ever more land in Israel and Jordan to be used to raise water intensive crops like bananas.”

It would of course have been appropriate for Howell to mention at this point that ‘Friends of the Earth Middle East’ has an ongoing campaign concerning the Jordan River and that the organization is not apolitical.

“FoEME supports the Palestinian call for UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, in peaceful coexistence with the State of Israel.

This is in keeping with FoEME’s longstanding position supporting a two-state solution in the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative, including mutual recognition of Israeli and Palestinian rights to two separate states based on the 1967 borders.

As far as Water Justice is concerned FoEME has developed its own Water Accord and is leading a campaign under the message that “Water Justice Cannot Wait”. “

The report then cuts to Gidon Bromberg:

“We want efficient use of water resources but then we need to look at the broader question of sustainability. So the growing of bananas in the midst of a semi-arid part of the world doesn’t make much sense. Israel is, you know, top class when it comes to efficiency and the rest of the world has a lot to learn, but on the other hand when it comes to sustainability, Israel is not where it needs to be.”

Some species of bananas have been grown in Israel since the tenth century. Currently, bananas are grown in three main areas: the Jordan Valley around the Sea of Galilee, the Western Galilee and the coastal plain. Practically all the 60,000 tons or so of fruit produced annually is for the domestic market: Israel does not export bananas. Of course some might say that it is in fact more ‘sustainable’ for Israelis to grow their own bananas rather than to import them from abroad with the associated ‘food miles’, in particular as methods are already in use which reduce the demand for water by 20 – 30%. Ironically, Howell interviews Bromberg whilst he is standing inside a banana grove using just such a method: special netting which provides shade from the sun’s rays, reduces evaporation and creates a micro-climate. 

banana netting

Howell continues:

“Professor Gepstein has sold the patents to his discovery to a Californian seed company Arcadia Bio. His real hope is for drought-resistant crops to be grown in the desert countries of the Middle East – in uncultivated areas of the Sinai, say, or the Sahara. It would boost world food supply and boost the incomes of local people. He’s asking Middle Eastern countries to collaborate with him to develop the technology. But for political reasons, most of them refuse to deal with Israel and they’ve ignored his offer. It’ll take time and delicate diplomacy to persuade them to use an Israeli discovery to help make their deserts bloom.”

What Howell neglects to inform BBC audiences is that Professor Gepstein’s discovery (first published, by the way, in 2007) is en route to a much bigger market unfettered by politically motivated self-defeating boycotts. 

“The drought-resistance technology was patented and licensed by the universities to Arcadia Biosciences, a California agro-tech company, which sublicensed it to seed companies that sell the engineered product in the United States and abroad. In July 2013, a Chinese patent was approved, paving the way for the Israeli-innovated technology in another vast market.”

This is the second BBC report in recent weeks which has promoted the agenda of ‘Friends of the Earth Middle East’ and in this case, the contribution provided by that organization adds nothing whatsoever to audience comprehension of the report’s subject matter. Once again, however, the BBC has neglected to conform to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of an NGOs political agenda.

“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.”

And of course Howell’s adherence to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy may have improved considerably had he taken account of FoEME’s agenda and hence avoided repeating such embarrassing inaccuracies about “record low levels” in the Sea of Galilee and “unsustainable demand” for water in a country now well on the other side of its former water crisis.

Related articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Four times less BBC Online coverage of Arafat ‘not poisoned’ stories

On December 26th the Russian forensic institute which was one of three organisations to have been provided with samples from the exhumation of Yasser Arafat’s remains announced that – like the French laboratory which conducted similar tests – its findings indicated that Arafat died of natural causes.

So to recap, two of the three institutions (Russian and French) which carried out tests ruled out poisoning in favour of a natural cause of death, whilst one (Swiss) said that its findings “moderately supported” the poisoning theory. 

On December 26th the BBC News website produced one article on the subject of the Russian findings. The accompanying links to ‘related articles’ all lead to recycled items. Towards the end of the report, the BBC once again opts for the promotion of Palestinian conspiracy theories.

“Many senior Palestinian officials have blamed Israel for the death, although Israel has strenuously denied having anything to do with it.”

me pge aft 26 12

Arafat Russian report

Previously, two reports were published on the subject of the French findings and thirteen related articles appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in a 48 hour period on the subject of the Swiss findings, nine of which also amplified the conspiracy theory surrounding Arafat’s death.

In other words, the BBC News website devoted over four times the number of articles to the coverage of findings interpreted as moderately supporting the theory that Arafat was poisoned than it did to the two other sets of findings which found that Arafat died of natural causes.