The last few days have seen vigorous promotion on BBC Twitter accounts of an article by BBC Trending which appeared on the BBC News website on June 20th under the title “Israel’s ‘#BringBackOur…’ hashtag“. The item also appeared as a ‘related article’ on the website’s Middle East page on June 22nd.
Ostensibly reporting on the apolitical social media campaign organized by Israeli students to raise awareness about the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, the article opens with yet another example of the BBC’s apparent policy decision not to report the incident as a clear-cut kidnapping case.
“The hashtag #BringBackOurBoys has been used 127,000 times since last Thursday when three Israeli teenagers, students from Jewish seminaries in the occupied West Bank, went missing. Israeli authorities believe they were kidnapped.”
But after quoting one of the campaign’s organisers, the article quickly moves on to devote nearly half its content to presentation of a counter campaign launched by anti-Israel activists which, in contrast, is highly political in nature. In doing so, BBC Trending of course adds its own wind to the sails of a delegitimising campaign designed to promote the notion of equivalence between the abduction of three teenage students and Palestinians who, following their decision to involve themselves in violent riots and rock-throwing, are detained by security forces.
“But Palestinian campaigners on social media saw the issue quite differently. They moved quickly and were accused of “hijacking” the hashtag by using it to publish pictures of detained or dead children to highlight what they said was the disparity in the treatment of Palestinian children and young people by Israeli authorities. A Palestinian blogger, for instance, tweeted: ‘Who will bring u back #AhmadAlSabarin 20 y/o …” in reference to a young Palestinian killed during clashes near Ramallah, which erupted after soldiers conducted house-to-house searches on Sunday night.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Media Relations specialist at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), who have used the hashtag to highlight the plight of Palestinians, told BBC Trending that the ADC decided to use the same hashtag because “we also want people that access #BringBackOurBoys wanting to learn about the missing Israelis to also learn about the Palestinian children that have been abducted, imprisoned, and killed by Israeli forces.” “
Readers will no doubt recall that the organization quoted and promoted above by BBC Trending – the ADC – is the same body which elected to honour journalist Helen Thomas after her anti-Semitic statement was made public.
Interestingly though, despite the fact that BBC Trending purports to bring audiences “[a] hand-picked selection of stories trending on social media around the world”, it – like the rest of the various BBC departments which have covered this subject so far – elected not to inform them of related topics such as the use of social media to promote Palestinian approval of the kidnappings, including on a Fatah Facebook page and threats against Mohammed Zoabi who posted his thoughts on the topic on Youtube and against another teenager from Umm el Fahm have likewise gone unreported by the BBC.