Broadly speaking, BBC coverage of Israel-related issues which do not concern politics or the Arab-Israeli conflict is usually informative and objective. One sector which stands out for its generally accurate and impartial coverage is the BBC News Technology department.
Several reports from that department have recently appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website including an interesting set of diary reports by Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones recording his impressions of a visit to Israel – see here, here and here.
Another report, dated January 27th, is titled “Israel defence computers hit by hack attack” and, like similar articles appearing at other outlets, appears to be largely based on a Reuters report on the same subject. The BBC’s version, however, has one notable addition.
“The attack left hackers temporarily in control of 15 computers that are part of Israel’s defence forces.
Pro-Palestinian hackers are believed to be behind the attack.” [emphasis added]
The BBC article also states:
“Mr Raff pointed the finger at Palestinian involvement because of the attack’s similarity to another incident that took place in 2012. That too involved booby-trapped messages sent to Israeli government staff.
The email messages sent in both attacks were written and formatted in a very similar style, said Mr Raff, adding that they also shared some technical commonalities.”
From other sources we learn that:
“Raff told Reuters that Palestinians were suspected to be behind the cyber attack, citing similarities to a cyber assault on Israeli computers waged more than a year ago from a server in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
While the latest attack was conducted from a server in the United States, experts noticed writing and composition similarities with the earlier attack, he said.”
As the BBC article correctly points out:
“One of the computers successfully penetrated using the booby-trapped email was at Israel’s Civil Administration agency, said Mr Raff. This defence agency issues entry permits for Palestinians who work in Israel and oversees the passage of goods between the country and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
It is not made clear in this article why the BBC chooses to define as “pro-Palestinian” those hackers perpetrating a cyber attack on a body which organises and facilitates the daily entry of supplies and aid into the Gaza Strip, the exit of locally produced exports and persons seeking medical care from that territory and the issuing of work permits to ordinary people from Palestinian Authority controlled areas seeking higher paid employment in Israel. If anything, any attempt to disrupt activities which contribute to improving the health, welfare and financial situation of ordinary Palestinians should surely be defined as anti-Palestinian.
This is the third time in ten days that the BBC has made dubious use of the term “pro-Palestinian”. Apparently editors have not yet got round to having a serious think about what the term actually means or when its use is – and is not – appropriate.