Massive Tel Aviv rally for kidnapped teens ignored by BBC

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page wouldn’t know it, but on the evening of June 29th some 85,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square at a rally in support of the families of the three teenagers kidnapped on June 12th.

“Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) told the crowd, “We must not cease our efforts to bring back the boys. Gilad, Eyal and Naftali are not a symbol, but boys whose normal lives were broken off in an instant by terrorists. … I’ve come to this square tonight with thousands of people from every corner of the country to say to the Shaar, Fraenkel and Yifrach families, ‘We will not rest until we bring [your] sons home.'”

Aside from a few random quotes from people at bus stops, the BBC’s coverage of reactions in Israel to the kidnappings has to date been limited to an article by BBC Monitoring on hitchhiking and part of a report by BBC Trending concerning the related social media campaign. BBC audiences hence remain unaware of how the general public in Israel views the incident or of typical Israeli reactions such as the spontaneous organization of donations for care packages for the soldiers involved in the search and rescue operation.

Thus, an important part of the context to this story, vital for comprehension of why Israel as a country acts as it does, continues to be ignored by an organization which is committed to the enhancement of “audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. 


When does the BBC call a kidnapping a kidnapping?

As has been noted here previously, the vast majority of recent BBC reports on the subject of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th have refrained from describing the youths as kidnapped, instead preferring to use more ambiguous language such as “missing”, “apparent abductions”, “believed seized” or “disappeared”.

Concurrently, the BBC has on numerous occasions inaccurately informed audiences that there has been no claim of responsibility for the kidnappings (there have in fact been four such claims, although their credibility is doubtful) whilst stressing that Hamas denies responsibility and cherry-picking quotes from that organisation’s officials. In a nutshell, the BBC’s current approach to the incident can be summed up in a sentence used in its June 18th report:

“He [The Israeli Prime Minister] has accused the group [Hamas] of abducting the students, but not provided proof.” 

Despite the fact that Israeli intelligence reports point to Hamas responsibility for the kidnappings, the BBC might perhaps claim that the fact that no group has so far provided concrete evidence that it holds the abducted teens is the reason for its ambiguous approach. It is therefore interesting to take a look at how it portrayed another kidnapping seven years ago – that of BBC reporter Alan Johnston in the Gaza Strip.Johnston kidnapping

Alan Johnston was kidnapped on March 12th 2007 by the Salafist Jihadist group ‘The Army of Islam’, not far from the BBC’s Gaza office. Nearly two months later – on May 8th – that group (which had previously denied any connection to Johnston’s disappearance) sent a tape to Al Jazeera which included the first concrete evidence that he had been kidnapped.

One might therefore expect that a look through the archives would show that between March 12th and May 8th, the BBC’s almost daily reports on the topic would have referred to Johnston as “missing”, “apparently abducted”, “believed seized” or “disappeared”. That was indeed the case during the first week – see for example reports here, here and here.  However, one week into the incident, the BBC’s approach changed.

“Earlier, the BBC said it now seemed certain the reporter had been abducted.

The BBC’s Middle East bureau chief Simon Wilson said he was disappointed there was no firm news, adding it was time to redouble efforts to find him.”

From then and up until the arrival of the tape on May 8th, BBC reports and statements made by BBC officials presented the issue in very unambiguous terms, as the April 12th statement from the BBC’s Director General illustrates.

“It is exactly one month ago today that our colleague Alan Johnston was abducted in Gaza City while travelling home, from the BBC office to his apartment.”

Another example comes in this report from April 16th:

“BBC colleagues have rallied for Mr Johnston, 44, who was abducted at gunpoint in Gaza City on 12 March.”

And yet another in this one from April 10th:

“Johnston was taken hostage by masked gunmen as he returned to his apartment in Gaza City on March 12.

Kidnappers have abducted dozens of foreigners in Gaza, but none has been held so long as Johnston.

Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s head of newsgathering, said: “The longer it goes on, the more concerned that we become. He is incarcerated, and what that must be doing to his mental state and his general health, we have no idea.” “

So as we see, the BBC did not have to wait for concrete evidence and a clear claim of responsibility in order to declare Alan Johnston kidnapped.

Different standards, however, appear to be at play in the case of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar.

Related Articles:

Don’t mention the baklava: BBC reports on kidnapping of Israeli teens

Still no BBC reporting on Palestinian celebrations of kidnappings

BBC’s Evan Davis promotes notion that search for kidnapped teens is ‘collective punishment’

A fourth BBC report on kidnapping refrains from reporting Palestinian celebrations

Two more misleading BBC News reports on search for kidnapped teens

Nicky Campbell ‘contextualises’ kidnapping of Israeli teens on BBC radio 5 live

Knell to BBC TV audiences: Israel ‘provoked’ Palestinians with search for kidnapped teens

Eighth BBC article on search for kidnapped teens ignores attack on Ramallah police

BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme continues template coverage of teens’ abduction

BBC News report on kidnapping suspects downplays Hamas connections



On BBC Monitoring’s fantasy ‘ban’ and short skirt syndrome

On June 16th BBC Monitoring informed audiences – in an article titled “Israel: Hitchhiking continues despite kidnap dangers” on its ‘News From Elsewhere’ page on the BBC News website – that the Israeli prime minister had ‘banned’ hitchhiking.BBC Monitoring hitchhiking

“Travellers are likely to ignore a directive from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that “bans” hitchhiking in the wake of the disappearance of three teenagers, it seems.

According to the Ma’ariv Hashavu’a newspaper, the prime minister has directed “all settlers and travellers in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] not to take rides offered by strangers”. The order comes as Israel makes scores of arrests and blames Hamas for the disappearance of one 19-year-old and two 16-year-old youths near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank on their way home from lessons.”

The link to Ma’ariv Hashavua appearing in BBC Monitoring’s piece leads to its main page rather than to the source of that quote, but the same website did report on June 13th that:

“The Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, today requested to convey a guidance to residents not to travel by hitchhiking, following the disappearance of three youths from Judea and Samaria.”

Other media outlets reported “Netanyahu to residents of Judea & Samaria: don’t travel by hitchhiking” (Ynet) and “Netanyahu also expressed his sympathies to the families in Judea and Samaria and urged its residents not to hitchhike” (Jerusalem Post). So – in contrast to the claims made by BBC Monitoring (which apparently seriously over-estimates the Israeli prime minister’s authority)  – no “ban”, no “order” and no “settlers”.

The more remarkable aspect of this article, however, is its promotion and amplification of an ‘analysis’ piece which appeared in Ha’aretz less than 72 hours after the kidnappings.

“However, as Anshel Pfeffer points out in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, neither the fact that people have gone missing nor any government discouragement will stop young Israelis from hitchhiking. The culture of “tremping” (hitchhiking) is deeply ingrained in the country’s youth, despite the dangers of accepting lifts from strangers. Tremping, Pfeffer says, is a “hallowed institution”, and teenagers are more likely to continue tremping in defiance.”

The link provided by BBC Monitoring to Anshel Pfeffer’s article lies behind a pay wall, meaning that the majority of readers will not be able to view it in full. Most will therefore be unaware that, beyond the curious suggestion that hitchhiking is a mode of transport used only by “teenagers” (in fact, many people who have long since ceased to belong to that category also hitchhike in Israel) as a form of “defiance”, Pfeffer also has some additional cod psychology theories which BBC Monitoring apparently saw fit to amplify.

“But there are much deeper reasons, that go beyond logistical necessity. For mitzvah-observant adolescents who have been going to gender-segregated schools since before puberty, there are few places where they can feel as free and as unregulated as on the road. And for them, the roads of Judea and Samaria — the West Bank — are not the dangerous, ominous regions they seem to most Israelis. To them it’s home, and no one, certainly not the IDF officers who periodically warn the settlement elders of the perils of allowing their children to hitch rides, will tell them they can’t travel freely throughout their homeland. Trempim to them aren’t just a way of getting around — they’re a rite of passage, a way of life, a declaration of independence and of ownership of the land.”

Whilst Pfeffer does point out in his pay-walled article that (as is the case in many countries) public transport in remote rural areas is often infrequent, inadequate and expensive, BBC Monitoring does not adequately clarify that point to audiences, stating only that hitchhiking continues to be “attractive” rather than, in many cases, necessary.  Neither does it bother to remind readers that not too long ago, a bus ride anywhere in Israel (not only in Judea & Samaria) was literally a life and death gamble due to the appalling frequency of attacks by suicide bombers and that Israeli public transport is still a target for terror attacks.

But what is really interesting is the decision by the BBC – an organization one presumes would define itself as holding liberal and progressive values – to promote Pfeffer’s ‘short skirt syndrome’ approach to this topic.

The fact that a person carries the title ‘journalist’ does not of course immunize him or her from producing content intended to advance a particular political viewpoint or mean that every notion promoted is written in stone. One can be fairly certain that the BBC – which as we know defines itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” – would not see fit to promote and amplify an article from another country claiming that despite past incidents of rape, young women continue to wear short skirts “in defiance”.

Remarkably though, BBC Monitoring elected to focus audience attentions on the ‘short skirt’ presentation of hitchhiking in Israel rather than any of the numerous articles or opinion pieces dealing with the actual problem – Palestinian terrorism – which have appeared in the Israeli media concurrently. 

BBC erases Gaza Strip Salafist-Jihadists from its map

An article by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner, which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 19th under the title “Jihadist groups around the world“, opens with an assertion which perhaps reveals more about the ‘accepted wisdom’ prevalent in the corridors of the BBC than anything else.GJ art Gardner

“A large number of al-Qaeda’s leaders and commanders have been captured or killed over the last decade, many by controversial air strikes by unmanned aerial drones. […]

But the world’s counter-terrorism officials have little cause to celebrate.

Rather than eliminating al-Qaeda, they have caused it to atomise and disperse, morphing into several different organisations around the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with large numbers of jihadist sympathisers in Europe.” [emphasis added]

The article also informs readers of factors the author considers to be “sustaining the global jihadist phenomenon”, including “local, national and regional grievances”. Under the sub-heading “Bad governance” the author proposes that:

“This is really one of the prime drivers towards extremism. In Muslim-majority countries where national governments and their security forces are viewed as corrupt, predatory and abusive, it is easy for jihadist recruiters to find volunteers.

When those governments are perceived as having a cosy, supportive relationship with the US and the West, it becomes even easier for al-Qaeda’s followers to recruit.”

He also asserts that:

“Many recruits to global jihadism are prompted by a sense that their religion has been discriminated against, oppressed or insulted.”

Last but not least, readers are encouraged to view the Global Jihad phenomenon in terms of “personal issues”.

“Many of the most fanatical adherents of al-Qaeda’s violent West-hating worldview are young men looking for a role, a purpose, in life.

Some European jihadists are converts or have had troubled adolescences, getting into trouble with the police.

Spells in prison often leave them more radicalised than when they went in. Nearly all have a highly negative view of government authority.”

The connections between the Global Jihad phenomenon and the age-old Sunni-Shia conflict do not get a mention in this article and its underlying incentive – the drive to impose a specific supremacist religious-political ideology – is ignored, as is its imperialist objective of re-establishing a Caliphate.  

The article includes a map of locations of “main Jihadist groups”.

map GJ art

Notably, despite the BBC’s own experiences with one such group when its correspondent there was kidnapped in 2007, the Gaza Strip does not appear on this map as a location of Global Jihad activity, even though a number of groups operate in and from that territory, as has been occasionally reported by the BBC in the past.  


BBC News report on kidnapping suspects downplays Hamas connections

As readers are no doubt aware, on the evening of June 26th the Israel Security Agency (ISA) published the names of two Hamas operatives from Hebron suspected of carrying out the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar on June 12th.

On the same evening an article titled “Israel identifies two suspects in hunt for teenagers” was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The report opens as follows, once again presenting the kidnappings in ambiguous terms:kidnapping art 9

“Israel has named two men as suspects in the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers believed abducted in the West Bank earlier this month.

The Shin Bet security service said Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha were associated with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.” [emphasis added]

In fact, officials from that internationally designated terrorist organization (rather than mere “militant group” as the BBC euphemistically describes it) have confirmed that Qawasmeh and Abu Aisha are members of Hamas rather than merely “associated” with it.

“Hamas officials in Hebron confirmed the two suspects were members, and said Israeli troops have targeted the men’s homes since the beginning of the operation. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears for their safety, said troops had entered the homes several times, conducting intense searches and confiscating items as evidence.”

Moreover, four years ago Qawasmeh [also spelt Kawasme – Ed.] himself admitted that he belongs to Hamas.

“In 2010, when security forces last investigated Kawasme, he confessed that Hamas’ military wing had recruited him to operate for the organization in Hebron. In 2009, Kawasme participated in Hamas-led military training, attempted to obtain materials for explosives, and helped the terrorist organization recruit new operatives.  In response to these actions, Israel detained Kawasme until March 2012.”

The article goes on to once again mislead audiences by stating that the site of the kidnapping is near Hebron when in fact it is 27 kms (16.7 miles) away from that Alon Shvut

“Shin Bet said both men had served time in Israeli prisons for “terrorist activity” and were from the Hebron area, where the boys disappeared from earlier this month.

Amer Abu Aisha’s father told the Agence France-Presse news agency that his son was not involved in the disappearance of the youths.

But he added that he had not seen his son since the day after the teenagers went missing.” [emphasis added]

In fact, the father has told journalists that his son has not been seen since the evening on which the kidnapping took place – rather than the day after, as this BBC report misleadingly suggests.

“Abu Aysha, a 32-year-old locksmith, was last seen at a family gathering only hours before the kidnapping, according to his father Omar, who spoke to The Times of Israel in Hebron several days ago. Abu Aysha’s father, Omar, who has spent time in Israeli prisons for ties with Hamas, said that his son left the family gathering abruptly without offering any details as to his destination.”

In addition, the BBC report states:

“Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of kidnapping the teenagers, a claim it strongly denies.”


“The leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, reiterated on Thursday that “we do not have information about what happened”.”

Whilst it is not clear to which statement made “on Thursday” the BBC refers, just two days earlier – in a June 23rd interview – Hamas leader Khaled Masha’al was considerably less explicit about Hamas’ involvement in the kidnappings than the BBC would have audiences believe.

“In a lengthy interview with Al-Jazeera on Monday evening, Mashaal insisted that Gil-ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, abducted while hitchhiking in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem, were “settlers and soldiers in the Israeli army.”

“No one claimed responsibility so far. I can neither confirm [Hamas’s responsibility] nor deny it,” Mashaal said, quickly adding that the circumstances of the kidnapping were more important than the perpetrators.

“Blessed be the hands that captured them,” Mashaal said. “This is a Palestinian duty, the responsibility of the Palestinian people. Our prisoners must be freed; not Hamas’s prisoners — the prisoners of the Palestinian people.” ” [emphasis added]

Additionally, Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil stated on June 19th that “the Palestinian resistance” had carried out the kidnappings. The BBC has not made any attempt to inform audiences so far of the context of the dozens of attempted kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and civilians in the months prior to this incident, nor of the statements made by several Hamas leaders in the days leading up to June 12th.

“In Gaza, Hamas has practiced kidnapping in public to cheering crowds. Last year, the organization even distributed an 18-page “Field Manual for Kidnapping” to its Qassam Brigades, providing detailed explanations on how to target Israeli soldiers, when to kidnap (rainy days are best) and how to avoid being caught (don’t use the Internet or phone).

If Hamas has not abducted anyone in the past eight years, it’s not for lack of trying. According to a study published this week by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Israeli security forces have foiled at least 48 kidnapping attempts since January 2013, 14 of them this year alone.”

As we see, this report downplays the level of the two suspects’ known membership of Hamas, erases from audience view that organisation’s international terror designations and record of kidnapping attempts and encouragement. In addition it promotes cherry-picked statements made by Hamas leaders regarding the organisation’s involvement in the kidnappings.

Concurrently, the article yet again fails to make any mention of the vast quantities of weapons and explosives discovered during the search for the missing teens, of the underground tunnels also uncovered, the concurrent rise in missile fire from the Gaza Strip at civilian targets in Israel or of the public and official praise of the abductions on the Palestinian street, social and mainstream media.

Likewise, since the beginning of its reporting on this topic, the BBC has failed to clarify to audiences the significance of the involvement of a partner in the Palestinian unity agreement – and resulting unity government – in this kidnapping.

All that from a corporation pledged to the enhancement of “audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”. 

BBC Monitoring’s news: repetition of an anonymous BTL comment

h/t DM

On June 18th BBC Monitoring brought readers of the News From Elsewhere section of the BBC News website the horrific news that some Lebanese football fans are being forced to watch the World Cup on an Israeli TV station.BBC Monitoring Lebanon world cup art

“Football supporters in Lebanon have apparently been tuning in to Israeli television for their World Cup fix, rather than pay cable fees.

Qatari cable television provider Sama was granted exclusive rights to broadcast the games in the Middle East, but many households have been unable to pay the fees demanded by the sole agent in Lebanon. Instead, the Al-Nahar newspaper reports, “Israeli commentators’ voices in Hebrew can be heard everywhere in south Lebanon; in people’s houses, balconies and courtyards because the country has failed to allocate money to enable them to watch the games,”.”

That, apparently, has now changed but notably the writer of this report chose to end it with the following paragraph.

“The decision to air the matches free-to-air can’t end soon enough for one viewer, who complained to Al-Nahar that the Israeli commentators were biased against “the Muslims of Bosnia” during their match against Argentina.”

Did BBC Monitoring even bother to fact check that anonymous accusation from a person writing in the below the line comments to an internet article before electing to highlight and amplify it on the pages of the BBC News website as “news”?  

BBC ignores attack on journalists in Hebron

Over the past few months and weeks BBC audiences have been presented with extensive coverage on all BBC outlets of the trial and sentencing of three Al Jazeera journalists in an Egyptian court – including on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. A BBC-led campaign on the issue has also been promoted heavily, including by BBC employees on social media.

Greste story on ME pge

In April of this year the BBC Media Centre published a “Joint statement issued at the BBC’s Safety of Journalists Symposium” which included these words:

“In too many countries journalists are facing serious intimidation and violence, which in turns leads to disturbing patterns of censorship and self-censorship. We stand against these abuses and today we call on the governments concerned to investigate each one of those crimes promptly and effectively so as to bring those responsible to justice.”

All the more curious, therefore, is the fact that BBC News has completely ignored a story from June 20th involving the attack by members of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces on CNN journalists covering a pro-Hamas demonstration in Hebron.

Related Articles:

Where’s the BBC coverage? Journalists beaten up in Beitunia

Yolande Knell’s ‘analysis’ of teens’ kidnappings breaches BBC editorial guidelines

As readers no doubt recall, last October the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit reaffirmed the corporation’s commitment to the section (4.4.14) of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality in which it is stated:

“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.”

Further, the ECU stated that with regard to BBC News:

“The production team have been reminded of the importance of clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant and not immediately clear from their position or the title of their organisation.”

Since then (and also beforehand) we have documented on these pages numerous breaches of that editorial guideline – see just a few examples here, here and here.  

Those breaches usually manifest themselves in one of two ways. In some instances an interviewee or contributor to BBC content is presented to audiences by name and with the title of his or her organization, but the political agenda of that organization and the interviewee’s “standpoint” are not clarified. In other cases, interviewees or contributors are presented by name only and BBC audiences are not informed of their affiliations with campaigning organisations or of the fact that their contribution should be assessed within the context of a particular political agenda.

An example of that latter form of breach of BBC guidelines on impartiality was seen on June 20th in an article by Yolande Knell titled “Tensions mount amid hunt for Israeli teens” which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

In that report, Knell amplifies the views of people she terms simply “locals”, adding her own politically motivated  promotion of the inaccurate notion of a search and rescue operation as ‘collective punishment’.Knell analysis kidnappings

“The southern city of Hebron has been virtually closed by the Israeli military. Most Hebronites are prevented from travelling freely around the West Bank and going abroad.

This week in Taffuh village we watched as Israeli soldiers took over a Palestinian house on a strategic position on the hillside and moved supplies inside.

Locals feel they are being collectively punished for the disappearance of the three Israelis.

“More checkpoints, more closures. I’ve not been to my job all week,” says Issa Amro.

“You are waiting for the soldiers to come to your house any time. You are completely terrified about your children, your family, your neighbours.

“This is a kind of revenge against the Palestinian civilians for what happened to the Israelis and we’re not responsible for it.”

“I’m so worried about the situation escalating,” says Zleikha Muhtaseb, a resident of the Old City of Hebron.

“Detaining people in big numbers like this is meant to send a message and create more tension in society.”

Like many Palestinians, Ms Muhtaseb, expects a significant political fallout.

“Now many Palestinians are angry with the Palestinian Authority [which governs parts of the West Bank] as they feel it’s not protecting them,” she says. “Of course there’s probably nothing they can do. We know Israel doesn’t want to see Palestinians united.” “

Having read Knell’s signposting of these two interviewees as “locals”, the average BBC audience member would of course conclude that Zleikha Muhtaseb and Issa Amro are just ordinary ‘man in the street’ interviewees who merely happened to run into Yolande Knell as she was out and about in Hebron.

That, however, is not the case.

Sharp-eyed readers may recall that just last month BBC Trending’s Cordelia Hebblethwaite was promoting an agitprop campaign run by none other than Issa Amro – coordinator of ‘Youth Against Settlements’.  That article also failed to provide audiences with any “summarizing” of the political viewpoints of Amro and his organization but, unlike Knell, Hebblethwaite did at least report the organisation’s title.

“Not content with misrepresenting the story to BBC audiences herself, Hebblethwaite also amplifies the messaging of ‘Youth Against Settlements’ coordinator Issa Amro but refrains from providing BBC audiences with details of the full range of Amro’s activities, his International Solidarity Movement links (apparently including financial arrangements) and his organisation’s connections – all of which are necessary to view his statements in their appropriate political perspective.”

BBC audiences are therefore denied the possibility of putting Amro’s description of search and rescue operations for three kidnapped youths, in a city which is one of the main strongholds of the terrorist organization responsible for their abduction, as “a kind of revenge against the Palestinian civilians” into its correct – politically motivated – context.

Zleikha Muhtaseb is also a long-time political activist who works with a variety of organisations and NGOs, including giving political tours of Hebron to Christian Peacemaker Teams. She has also worked with Save the Children, ICAHD and HRW among others.  In a 2010 interview Muhtaseb proffered the following opinion: “These settlers, I don’t consider them Jewish actually.”

Clearly, BBC audiences would need to be aware of Zleikha Muhtaseb’s campaigning activities in order to be capable of judging the relevance of her claim that the detention of members of a terrorist organization holding kidnapped teens “is meant to send a message and create more tension in society” and her promotion of the notion that “Israel doesn’t want to see Palestinians united”.

Yolande Knell, however, apparently decided – in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines – that her chosen political messaging would be more effective were BBC audiences kept in the dark regarding the all-important context of the campaigning activities of the people she just ‘happens’ to highlight and select for quotation in her ‘analysis’.    



BBC World News’ Maryam Moshiri amplifies PA spin

The political spin promoted by the Palestinian Authority after the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar on June 12th, and the subsequent launch of the search for the abducted teenagers throughout Judea & Samaria, included in its early days two very specific claims.BBC WN

One of those claims, made the day after the abductions on June 13th, was that the Palestinian unity government could not be held responsible for a kidnapping which took place in Area C.

“Adnan Dmeiri said the PA was not responsible for the safety of settlers [sic] and had no way to prevent the possible kidnapping of the teenagers. […]

Dmeiri was quoted as saying that the PA had no information about the missing settlers [sic], noting that Gush Etzion, the settlement [sic] from which the teenagers are believed to have disappeared, “is under Israeli security control.” “

The other inaccurate claim – made by the PUG spokesman Ehab Bessaiso on June 15th and later repeated by other PA officials – was that the Israeli searches for three missing youths constitute “collective punishment” of the Palestinian population.

“Bessaiso also said that the detention of 80 people across the West Bank and the bombing of Gaza overnight constitute “collective punishment against the entire Palestinian people,” and called upon the “international community and all international human rights organizations to protect the Palestinian people against the Israeli escalation.” “

Interestingly, both those examples of misleading PA spin were amplified in a BBC World News broadcast on June 15th.

Interviewing former Ambassador Dr Dore Gold, presenter Maryam Moshiri said:

“We’re talking about three teenagers who’ve been abducted. We’re talking about the Israelis blaming the Palestinians, or at least passing some of the blame onto their door. How can the blame be there if the teenagers went missing in Israeli-controlled territory?”

Later on, Moshiri said:

“They [the PA] deny that. They say that the detention of eighty people across the West Bank is a collective punishment against the entire Palestinian people. I mean, they have a point, don’t they?”

And still later, Moshiri came up with the following bizarre statement-cum-question:

“But Dore Gold, you talk about any response necessary – what is that response going to take the shape of? I mean, you know, you’ve deployed your Iron Dome missile defence system near Gaza. Why have you done that? Are we going to see further military action now?

As readers will see in the video below, Dr Gold provided robust responses to Moshiri’s baseless assertions, but nevertheless it is of considerable interest that the statements and questions of a BBC World news presenter dove-tail so seamlessly with the PA propaganda messaging put out in the day or so beforehand.


BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme continues template coverage of teens’ abduction

The June 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item concerning the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th which again adheres to the editorial template currently in use by the BBC to frame coverage of that topic.

Presented by James Naughtie, the item can be heard from 02:37:14 here for a limited period of time.Today prog 24 6

That editorial template is composed of:

  • Ambiguous presentation of the kidnappings and lack of presentation of the context of dozens of previous attempts and plots to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.
  • Eradication of any mention of both public and official Palestinian praise for the kidnappings.
  • Patchy mention of concurrent missile attacks from the Gaza Strip solely in the framework of reporting on Israeli responses to those attacks.
  • Eradication of any mention of caches of weapons and explosives discovered during the search.
  • Emphasis on the notion of the search as ‘punishment’ of the Palestinians.
  • Portrayal of the search for the teenagers as escalating tensions, rather than the kidnapping itself.
  • Implication that the search for the kidnap victims will bring about the collapse of the PUG, rather than the kidnappings’ perpetration by a party to the Palestinian unity deal.

James Naughtie introduces the item – which conforms to all of the above points – as follows: [all emphasis in bold added]

“The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has given his support to people who’re trying to establish the whereabouts of three Israeli teenagers who’ve been missing for three days after apparently – for several days actually; there are three of them – after apparently being kidnapped. The incident’s caused great tension on the West Bank. The Israeli armed forces say they have detained 361 people since the students went missing on June the twelfth. The mother of one of them, Rachel Frenkel, is in Geneva. She’s appealing for international support in her efforts to find her son and his friends. A few minutes ago I spoke to her and she recalled what happened to them.”

Rachel Frenkel: “They were on their way back from school and that was already twelve days ago. My son texted me; he’s on his way home. And then they never showed up. Over the night we discovered that this is…that they’re missing, that this is serious and ever since, everybody’s trying to find them.”

JN: “What do you believe happened to them?”

RF: “They were obviously kidnapped. The government thinks it’s done by Hamas. And we’re waiting for any sign of life, any….We had no contact with them whatsoever.”

JN: “And you want people to rally round, really, to try to help the search for these three teenagers and perhaps to put pressure on those who may have taken them.”

RF: “Yeah well, this is not a political issue at all; this is on the humanitarian level. They are three kids; three boys on their way home from school. Their parents are waiting for them; their siblings are waiting for them. We have no idea where they are and we just want anybody who has anything to do with….in any way… that they can help. We came here to Geneva to try to speak to officials and to speak in the assembly of human rights. We could use any help we can…”

Notably, Naughtie makes no mention of the abundant examples of Palestinian public and official praise for the kidnappings on the streets or in both social and mainstream media before he goes on to say:

JN: “Now, clearly there will be people…ahm…on both sides of the divide, in a divided country, who will share your horror on this…ahm…including Palestinians.”

RF: “Surely. We got many supporting messages from Palestinians – they’re horrified by this story. Abu Mazen himself condemned it. This is not a political issue: children should be kept out of this game. There’s no reason to use children as tools in any struggle. 

Rachel Frenkel speaking at the UN in Geneva, June 24th

Rachel Frenkel speaking at the UN in Geneva, June 24th

JN: “You believe they were kidnapped by Hamas. Has that organisation said anything about this case?”

RF: “No they haven’t.”

JN: “They’ve said nothing?”

RF: “No.”

In fact, James Naughtie should have been able to tell Rachel Frenkel that whilst she was travelling to Geneva on the evening before this interview, Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al was doing an interview of his own with Al Jazeera, in which he said of the kidnappings:

““No one claimed responsibility so far. I can neither confirm [Hamas’s responsibility] nor deny it,” Mashaal said, quickly adding that the circumstances of the kidnapping were more important than the perpetrators.

“Blessed be the hands that captured them,” Mashaal said. “This is a Palestinian duty, the responsibility of the Palestinian people. Our prisoners must be freed; not Hamas’s prisoners — the prisoners of the Palestinian people.””

That statement joins others made by Hamas officials, including the one made on June 19th by Salah Bardawil in which he stated that “the Palestinian resistance” had carried out the kidnappings. Naughtie goes on:

JN: “Whereas Mr Abbas – Abu Mazen as you call him – has said something.”

RF: “Yes, sure; he condemned it.”

JN: “Ahm…what is your hope now?”

RF: “Well we have every reason to believe they’re alive. This definitely looks like a kidnapping; an abduction that was meant to keep them alive. And we have no counter-indication that anything happened to them. So they’re just being hidden and kept and not… You know; just the time that the kidnappers are waiting is just…it’s just excruciating suffering. We just hope to get them back – sound and safe and healthy – and our problem should just be getting them back in life.”

JN: “Rachel Frankel: the mother of one of those teenagers apparently kidnapped on June the twelfth.”

Notably, throughout that entire interview, Naughtie never asks Rachel Frenkel her son’s name or any other personal details about her, her family or the other abducted youths. He goes on to inform listeners that it is the search efforts which are causing “tension” – not the kidnappings themselves – and fails to inform listeners that the vast majority of the “people” arrested are members of Hamas.

“We can go to our correspondent Yolande Knell. I mentioned, Yolande, in introducing Rachel Frenkel there, the tension on the West Bank – there is always tension – but this episode has really been something that has ratcheted it up. I mean I mentioned that the Israeli armed forces say that they have detained 361 people in the last few days.”

Knell responds by throwing in a gratuitous mention of “Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank” and once again uses her pet “sworn enemy” phrase which steers audiences towards a mistaken view of Israel’s operations against Hamas as motivated by emotion – rather than by the legal obligation to defend its citizens from terrorist activity, as in fact the case.

Yolande Knell: “That’s right and overnight this huge military operation continued the search for the missing teenagers. It’s now in its twelfth day. They were studying at Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank when they went missing. Ahm…now, the Israeli military has made clear that its operation has two objectives. First; to find these three Israelis but second; to also target the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas – its sworn enemy – in the West Bank. Hamas hasn’t said it was behind the teenagers’ disappearance but the Israeli prime minister has said there’s unequivocal proof that it’s responsible.”

She then goes on to promote once again the falsehood of “punishment” of the Palestinians.

“And really there’s a lot of resentment on the Palestinian side. Palestinians say that the search goes beyond just finding the missing teenagers or even targeting Hamas: that all kinds of offices and businesses have been raided that have no Hamas connection. More than one and a half thousand premises have been searched and it’s putting a lot of political pressure on the Palestinians. We’ve also seen four Palestinians killed in the past week by Israeli soldiers as there have been clashes as they’ve gone about their raids.”

Naughtie then interjects, adding his shoulder to the promotion of the notion of Israeli actions as the cause of tensions, rather than the kidnappings themselves, and in contrast, notably neither he nor Knell appear to have any interest in informing listeners about the current mood on the Israeli street. Notably too, Naughtie fails to inform audiences that the kidnappings themselves are an act of political violence.

The mothers of Naftali, Gil-ad and Eyal, Geneva, June 24th

The mothers of Naftali, Gil-ad and Eyal, Geneva, June 24th

JN: “It’s interesting because Rachel Frenkel said several times in the course of my conversation with her about half an hour ago that she did not regard this as a political issue; she doesn’t want it to turn into a political issue, but the truth of it is that in the circumstances that pertain there, it’s bound to become that and the minute the Israeli military crank up their operations as you’ve just described, naturally on the Palestinian side there is outrage – even among some people who might feel passionately that these young people should be found and brought safely home.”

YK: “Yes, that’s right. I mean there are huge political implications for all of this. It’s putting a lot of pressure on the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He has condemned what he called the kidnapping of the teenagers and he said that his security forces were cooperating with the search for them. He’s since criticised what he’s described as Israeli aggression, but really you can see that he’s lost a lot of support over his stance on all of this. There have even been protests by Palestinians against the Palestinian security forces because of the security coordination – that’s been quite an unusual development.

And all of this is threatening to break the new Palestinian unity government. It’s only just been set up as part of the reconciliation deal between Mr Abbas’ secular Fatah movement and Hamas: the two main Palestinian factions. This government’s made up of technocrats and it’s supposed to pave the way for new elections. Israel’s opposed it from the start because it sees Hamas as a terrorist group and that now…this new government….it’s very unclear whether it will really be able to get to work.”

As has been the case in all BBC coverage of the Palestinian unity government, Knell fails to inform audiences of its obligation under the terms of existing agreements to take action against just such instances of terrorist acts, instead promoting the notion that it will be Israel’s fault if the PUG collapses. She also neglects yet again to accurately define Hamas’ terrorist designation or to inform audiences of inflammatory (if not downright delusional) statements made by that “technocrat” government’s foreign minister – a man with prior links to the PFLP.

“Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki claimed on Sunday that Israel may have staged the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers 10 days ago to deflect international criticism from it, arguing that the Jewish state had no proof that Hamas was behind the abduction.”

Clearly this across the board template reporting of the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar is shaped by a particular political viewpoint which erases uncomfortable facts and distorts others. It is certainly doing nothing to enable the BBC to fulfil its purpose of building “a global understanding of international issues”.