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

June 22nd saw the publication of the BBC News website’s eighth article on the subject of the ongoing search for three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12th under the title “Israeli troops kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes“.kidnapping art 8

In common with most previous BBC reports on the topic, this one too presents the kidnapping in ambiguous terms.

“The three teenagers disappeared while hitchhiking home”

“They [Palestinian officials] say the troops – who were searching for three Israeli teenagers believed seized in the West Bank last week – fired on stone-throwing crowds.” […]

“Israel accuses Hamas militants of seizing the teenagers, who went missing on 12 June. The Israeli search has been accompanied by a crackdown on Palestinians linked to the group. […]

“Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, who are both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach went missing at a junction near the city of Hebron as they hitchhiked their way home. Naftali Frenkel holds US-Israeli citizenship.” [emphasis added]

As has been previously pointed out here, Alon Shvut junction where the kidnapping took place is 27 kms from Hebron: hardly “near”. Only right at the end of the article are readers informed that:map Alon Shvut

“Earlier this week, the Israeli police revealed that one of the students had alerted them by phone, minutes after being kidnapped.”

The article reports on the deaths of two Palestinians.

“Israeli soldiers have shot dead a Palestinian man in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian officials say. […]

The man shot in Nablus was named by the Palestinian security officials and medics as 26-year-old Ahmad Fahnawi.

Israeli officials said he had approached soldiers in a “threatening manner”. His family said he had been undergoing treatment for mental illness.”

Regarding the incident in Ramallah, the report states:

“Another Palestinian was reportedly killed in separate clashes in Ramallah. Israel says it is checking the reports.” […]

“Palestinian medics were also quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that a 30-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead overnight in Ramallah in a separate incident.

No more details of the clashes were immediately known.”

Notably, the report does not inform readers that violent rioting was also directed at the Palestinian police force in Ramallah on the same night – including an attack on a police station – and that the possibility that the man may have been killed by Palestinian forces is being investigated, according to the Israeli media.

The report amplifies Palestinian Authority propaganda, but yet again fails to inform readers of expressions of support for the kidnappings by Palestinian officials and public alike.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of using the teenagers’ disappearance as “a pretext to impose tough punishment against our people and besiege them”.”

Inaccurately describing the concurrent terrorist missile fire against civilians in communities in southern Israel as a “separate” issue, the report states:

“In a separate development, Israeli fighter jets hit several targets in the southern Gaza Strip late on Saturday, following rocket fire into southern Israel, officials say.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it would “not tolerate attempts to harm Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers, and will act against anyone who operates terror against Israel”.

There were no reports of any casualties.”

Readers are not adequately informed of the fact that throughout Saturday three missiles fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in Israeli territory or that on the morning of June 22nd a man from the Gaza Strip carrying a grenade managed to infiltrate into the Eshkol region.

Likewise, once again no mention is made in this report of the vast numbers of weapons and arms caches discovered by security forces during their search for the three abducted youths.

As this report and its predecessors show, BBC News has adopted a template for reporting on this search and rescue operation. The kidnappings themselves are reported in ambiguous terms, Palestinian public and official lauding of the act is erased from every report, along with the seizure of weapons caches. Missile fire from the Gaza Strip is afforded a cursory ‘last-first’ mention only when Israel responds and the notion of “punishment” of Palestinian civilians is promoted. None of the BBC News website’s reports so far has ventured out of the boundaries of that editorial template.  

BBC News ignores arrest of Route 35 Hamas terrorist

Readers may recall the BBC News website’s dismal performance with regard to reporting the terror attack on April 14th in which Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi was killed and his wife and son injured. After having initially ignored the incident, the BBC eventually managed to come up with thirty-four words on the subject, but avoided clarifying to audiences that the shooting attack on a family travelling to the Pessach Seder was an act of terrorism.  

On June 23rd it was announced that the terrorist responsible for the murder of Baruch Mizrachi, father of five, had been indicted following his arrest last month.

Ziad Awad homecoming party, Idna, 2011. (source: Youtube)

Ziad Awad homecoming party, Idna, 2011. (source: Youtube)

“An indictment was filed Monday against Ziad Awad, a resident of the village of Idna near Hebron, for murder and attempted murder.

Awad was freed in the first tranche of the Shalit prisoner exchange deal, after he was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Palestinians who had collaborated with Israel. […]

Awad, 42, was arrested last month by the Shin Bet and the police in a special joint operation with the IDF. He was arrested together with his son Izz a-Din, 18, who helped him plan the attack as well as flee the murder scene and hide afterwards. Both father and son are members of Hamas. […]

Despite initial assessments, the investigation pointed to the attack being carried out by a lone terrorist. The assumption was based on the large number of shells found at the scene. What led investigators to Awad was DNA evidence collected from the shell casings.”

The BBC has to date not seen fit to report this news to its audiences.

BBC News website gives platform to political campaigning article

Judging by the amount of correspondence in our inbox, a great many readers were disturbed by the appearance on June 17th of a long political campaigning article in the magazine section of the BBC News website (which was also promoted on the same website’s Middle East page for four consecutive days) under the misleading title “The Christian family refusing to give up its Bethlehem hill farm“.ToN art

Writer Daniel Silas Adamson – described by a “good friend” as a “Middle East writer and campaigner” – uses the former skill to promote the latter aim throughout this deliberately naïve portrait of a story which is in fact considerably less monochrome than either Adamson reveals or the average reader will be aware. 

Adamson’s brush-strokes of choice include carefully chosen emotive statements which often fail to stand up to scrutiny, but push the intended campaigning buttons. He opens his article thus:

“A Palestinian Christian family that preaches non-violence from a farm in the West Bank is battling to hold on to land it has owned for 98 years. Now surrounded by Israeli settlements, the family is a living example of the idea of peaceful resistance.”

Clearly, readers are encouraged right from these opening words to sympathise with this ‘non-violent’ family which epitomises ‘peaceful resistance’ (although exactly what that means, they are not informed) and faces the double threat of losing its land and being “surrounded” by “Israeli settlements”.

That latter claim is revisited and expanded by Adamson later on in the article.

“At that time the West Bank had been under Israeli military rule for almost a decade, and Jewish settlers were just beginning to move into the area south of the farm. For the most part, though, the hills around Bishara’s land were still open countryside, farmed by Palestinian families or used as grazing by shepherds. In the 40 years since, Israeli settlements have been built on every one .

There are five settlements in total, the nearest so close that the settlers’ voices carry across the valley to the farm. The most recent, Netiv Ha’avot, is little more than a strip of houses encircled by coils of razor wire and festooned with Israeli flags. The largest, Beitar Illit, is a town of more than 40,000 people, a blaze of lights on the hillside at night. All of them are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

A map follows those two paragraphs, but as the enhanced version below shows, that map does not clarify to BBC audiences that the Tent of Nations farm is also “surrounded” by various Palestinian villages and towns (marked in green), with the nearest of those being Nahal’in.

ToN map

And what of the claim that, in 1976, “Jewish settlers were just beginning to move into the area south of the farm”? Well of course the area under discussion here is Gush Etzion and in fact, around the same time as the Nasser family’s Lebanese-born grandfather was registering his land with the British Mandate authorities in the early 1920s, Jews were also buying land in that area: around 70,000 dunams of it, in fact.

Before the Jordanian invasion of 1948, several Jewish communities were established in that area, including Kfar Etzion, Massu’ot Yitzhak, Ein Tzurim and Revadim. The modern-day community of Neve Daniel – whose residents’ voices apparently so inconvenience the peace-loving Nasser family – is built on land purchased by the Cohen family in 1935 from the nearby village of Al Khader.

But Daniel Adamson erases from his long story the fact that these communities were destroyed and any remaining inhabitants not massacred by the advancing British-led Jordanian troops expelled from their lands, and so he is able to present readers with the false idea that, until the mid-1970s, no Jews had lived in that area. Those familiar with Adamson’s previously demonstrated ability to remove Israel’s main tourist attractions from a section of an article about tourism in Israel might not be surprised by this deft sleight of pen.

Adamson’s promotion of the notion that the Nasser family is “battling to hold on to land it has owned for 98 years” is presented in such a manner as to imply to readers that the story of uprooted fruit trees presented at the beginning of the article is part and parcel of that battle. That, however, is not the case.

The Nasser family has had several legal tussles with the Israeli authorities – some still ongoing – including demolition orders for structures they constructed without planning permission and – critically in a place open to the public – without adherence to building safety regulations.  That story was publicised at the time in similarly political language to that which this article adopts. Adamson makes no effort to inform readers of the illegal nature of the construction, preferring instead to use the emotive but imprecise language of a propagandist:

“The demolition orders posted on the gate, threatening to destroy the Nassars’ home and water wells.” 

In 2006 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Nassers could re-register their land according to Israeli law, but that apparently has yet to be done. However, the section of land upon which the trees which are ostensibly the topic of this article were planted is apparently not included in that Supreme Court decision because it is a separate plot of state land. Our colleague Dexter Van Zile has documented the case and aerial photographs and maps of the land in question are viewable here.

It is important to note that the subject of land ownership in Area C – where the Nasser farm is situated – is far from simple, with old Ottoman, British and Jordanian laws complicating the matter considerably. The photograph of the Nassers’ land deeds from 1924 presented in this BBC article, for example, clearly shows that it is classed as ‘Miri’ land – a specific category under Ottoman land law.

Eventually, of course, this land dispute will likely be resolved by legal process, but what is significant about this story from the point of view of its having  being taken up and promoted by the BBC is that, beyond being a land dispute like any other, this particular case – like those of the Nasser family before it – is in the meantime being employed to promote a specific political narrative by campaigners.

Whilst Daniel Adamson’s article is vigorous in its promotion of the Nasser family’s “educational and environmental farm” as a centre of ‘non-violent peaceful resistance’, he does nothing to clarify to readers that it is actually a political project, run at least in part on basis of the contributions – practical and financial – of foreign volunteers and ‘friends of’ groups abroad.  Adamson also makes no attempt to inform readers of the political agenda of ‘Tent of Nations’ supporters , its connections to other anti-Israel political campaigns or of Daoud Nasser’s main career as an international campaigner.

The narrative promoted by the Nasser family (an example of which can be seen here) to encourage their ‘peace tourism’ business rests primarily on the painting of a picture very similar to the one depicted in this article: environmentally friendly, peace-loving, ‘authentic’ Palestinians being pressured and crowded out by non-indigenous “settlements” and inexplicably harassed by the Israeli authorities.

In reality, Area C is currently under Israeli administration under the terms of agreements signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people and its eventual fate will of course be decided in negotiations which, under any realistic scenario, will most likely leave the Gush Etzion area under Israeli control. In the meantime, however, political campaigning to influence world opinion continues, with Daniel Silas Adamson having made his contribution in the form of this article and the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC obviously only too willing to provide generous amplification of his ‘high on emotion, low on facts’ campaigning propaganda.    

BBC Trending highlights anti-Israel social media campaign

h/t MD

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.BBC Trending

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.  

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

On Friday June 20th a filmed report about the search for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell which appeared on BBC television news broadcasts was also posted on the BBC News website under the title “Thousands mourn Palestinian teen killed in clashes“.Knell filmed Dura incident

Knell opens her report thus:

“Grief and anger at this funeral for a fifteen year-old boy. Mohamed Dudin was shot in the chest in the latest clashes with Israeli soldiers. Across the West Bank young Palestinians have thrown stones when troops have tried to make arrests.”

Knell fails to point out that rock-throwing has not been the only method used to attack Israeli soldiers involved in the search: firebombs and pipe-bombs have also been employed and in at least one case, a grenade was thrown at troops, injuring a soldier. The incident in Dura on the night between June 19th and 20th in which Mohamed Dudin was killed also involved rock and firebomb throwing by youths, but Knell refrains from providing audiences with that vital context.

The report then cuts to images of Israeli soldiers walking up a street, with Knell informing audiences in the voice-over:

“And this is what provoked their anger: a massive Israeli search operation began in Palestinian neighbourhoods a week ago to try to find three missing Israeli teenagers.”

In other words, Knell affords no agency or free will to those rioting Palestinian youths; according to her patronising account, their “anger” is uncontrollably “provoked” by the very sight of Israeli soldiers conducting an operation to rescue three abducted teens.

Adhering to the BBC policy adopted around the middle of the first week of searches, Knell continues by suggesting that there is room for interpretation regarding whether the three teens were actually kidnapped.

“They’re believed to have been kidnapped. The city of Hebron has been virtually closed by the Israeli army.”

Knell does not explain to audiences why Hebron has been closed. She fails to inform them that Hebron is a major centre of Hamas activity and that intelligence assessments suggest that the abducted teens are still being held in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

“Speaking to Channel 10, the official said that, based on security assessments, the teens were still somewhere in the West Bank and that their abductors were unsuccessful in moving them in the direction of Jordan, Gaza, or Sinai.

Troops were concentrated in large numbers in an area close to Hebron on Friday night, with soldiers searching house-to-house and the area was closed off to outside traffic.”

The BBC report then cuts to two short interviews with unnamed ‘Palestinians in the street’, with BBC editors having elected to include promotion (unchallenged by the BBC) and amplification of the inaccurate claim that an Israeli search for kidnapped teenagers is “collective punishment”, along with a DIY interpretation of ‘international law’.

Woman: “So many people are worried and afraid that…ah….they might lose somebody from the family, either being detained, either being killed.”

Man: “It’s a big violation of the international law by imposing a collective punishment on the Palestinian civilians who are living in Hebron.”

Knell goes on, again using the neutral term “disappeared” to describe the kidnapped youths.

“But outside this home in central Israel thoughts and prayers are for the students who’ve disappeared. We spoke to the aunt of sixteen year-old Naftali Frenkel.

After that short interview Knell continues, erasing Hamas’ terror designation from the picture and again steering audiences towards an equivalent view of statements made on the basis of intelligence reports by an official of a sovereign country and claims made by an internationally designated terrorist organization.

“Israel’s Prime Minister says the missing teenagers have been taken by his country’s sworn enemy; the Islamist movement Hamas, although Hamas hasn’t said it was involved.”

The term “sworn enemy” is defined as meaning  people who will always hate each other”. In using that term, therefore, Knell misleads BBC audiences by steering them towards a 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.

Knell continues by suggesting that Israeli efforts to locate and rescue three of its citizens will be to blame for any potential collapse of the PUG, but fails to inform viewers of that government’s obligation under existing treaties to prevent exactly this kind of attack on Israelis.

“But all the Palestinian factions are feeling the pressure. Fury over the Israeli raids threatens to open fresh divisions and could break their new unity government. What began as a personal crisis for three Israeli families has quickly turned into a deadly political drama.”

Of course what Knell describes to viewers as a “personal crisis” was, from the very beginning, a politically motivated act. Gil-ad Sha’ar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach were not random victims; they were kidnapped because they are Israeli Jews.

A written article on the same topic (the seventh consecutive one) also appeared on the BBC News website on the same day under the headline “Palestinian killed as hunt for Israeli youths continues“.

In that report too, rioting and attacks instigated against Israeli soldiers are depicted as some sort of force majeure which is beyond the control of unsuspecting Palestinians who perpetrate them.

“Mohammed Dudin, 15, was shot after violence flared following an arrest raid in village of Dora [sic].” [emphasis added]

Yet again, the BBC refrains from informing audiences that the three teens were kidnapped even though it does later on mention the phone call made by one of the boys.  

“A Palestinian teenager has been killed during clashes with Israeli troops searching for three Israeli teenagers believed abducted in the West Bank.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested in the hunt for the teenagers, who went missing eight days ago.”  [emphasis added]


“Earlier this week, the Israeli police revealed that one of the students had alerted them by phone, minutes after being kidnapped.”

Like its predecessor, this report once again inaccurately informs readers that:

“No group has claimed to have taken the students.”

In fact, there have been three claims of responsibility: one the day after the kidnapping from a Salafist Jihadist organization called Dawat al Islam, one the following day from a group calling itself the Liberators’ Battalion of Hebron and one two days after that by Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Whilst all these claims are unverified, it is not accurate on the BBC’s part to state that no claims have been made.

As has been the case in all six previous reports on this topic, this article too makes no mention of Palestinian celebrations of the kidnappings or of the vast amounts of explosives and weapons discovered during the IDF’s searches. Concurrent missile attacks on Israeli civilians near the Gaza Strip are also not reported to BBC audiences in either of these reports.   


Victim of Golan Heights terror attack unnamed in BBC News report

On the afternoon of June 22nd the BBC News website published a report on its Middle East page under the rather clumsy title “Israeli teen ‘killed by Syria firing’ in Golan Heights“.Golan incident main

The report states:

“A 15-year-old boy has been killed in the occupied Golan Heights by firing from Syria, Israel says.

Officials say he was with his father in a truck which took a “direct hit”.

The father and another contract worker are reported to have been injured. They were was [sic] carrying out maintenance work on the border fence,

It is unclear whether Syrian rebels or government forces were behind the incident, but Israel responded with tank shelling into Syria.

The exchange took place in the Tel Hazeka area, near the Quneitra crossing, the Israeli defence ministry said.”

Although details of the event were released for publication around half an hour after this BBC report was published, it has so far not been updated to include the victim’s name or correct age. In fact, Mohammed Karakra was thirteen years old; not 15 as initially reported and he had accompanied his father to work on the first day of his summer holidays from school. Mohammed’s father – from the village of ‘Arrabe in the Galilee – is part of a team of contractors working on the border fence in the Golan Heights on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.  He was seriously injured and is currently hospitalized in Haifa. Two other workers were also injured in the cross-border terror attack which took place at around 11 a.m. near Tel Hezeka, in the vicinity of the community of Alonei HaBashan.

Mohammed Karakra photo credit: alarab.net

Mohammed Karakra
photo credit: alarab.net

The BBC report continues:

“It is the first time an Israeli has been killed by firing from Syria in the Golan Heights since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

Israeli military spokesman, Lt Col Peter Lerner, told AP news agency the firing from Syria was “clearly intentional” but it was unclear whether it was the result of mortar fire, a roadside bomb or shelling.”

The Israeli media reports that it is now believed that an anti-tank missile was fired at Mohammed’s father’s vehicle. Whilst the vicinity on the other side of the border where the incident took place is currently controlled by anti-regime forces, it is not yet known which of numerous organisations operating in the area – which include Hizballah – is responsible for the attack.

The BBC article then goes on to present readers with its standard insert to any report relating to the Golan Heights.

“The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, was seized by Israel from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Middle East War.

The two countries remain technically in a state of war, and UN observers are deployed to monitor a 70km-long (44-mile) demilitarised zone.”

Of course the BBC has done little to keep audiences informed of changes to UNDOF’s operations in recent months or of the full scale of cross-border incidents in the area. 

BBC’s ‘Echo Chambers’ blog promotes inaccurate information on kidnapped teens

h/t BK

The BBC News website blog titled ‘Echo Chambers’ (edited by Anthony Zurcher) purports to present audiences with “a review of the best commentary on and around the world”. Its June 18th edition included a section titled “BBC Monitoring’s quotes of the day” with the sub-heading:

“Israeli and Palestinian commentators offer their views on the three missing Israeli teens the Israeli government believes were kidnapped by Hamas militants.”

The first of those selected quotes comes from the pro-Fatah Palestinian daily Al Ayyam.

Echo Chambers 1

As we see, the words “of the three settlers” have been added to the quote in square brackets – presumably by BBC Monitoring.

The term “settlers” is of course used pejoratively by the BBC to describe people – specifically and exclusively Jews – living in towns and villages in geographical areas in which, according to the BBC’s political views, they should not be living. Those geographical areas are located on a particular side of the 1949 Armistice lines and apparently even children or teenagers whose parents decided to make their homes where the BBC thinks they should not have done so can be termed “settlers” , even if they had no part in that decision themselves or were actually born there.

In the case of the three kidnapped teenagers who are the subject of this quote, the assertion that they are “settlers” is not only loaded with political intent; it is also inaccurate. Sixteen year-old Gil-ad Sha’ar comes from Talmon: a village founded ten years before Gil-ad was born which is located in Judea & Samaria and hence would be classified as a ‘settlement’ by the BBC. Naftali Frenkel – also aged 16 – comes from Nof Ayalon and nineteen year-old Eyal Yifrach lives in Elad. Both those two latter communities are on the ‘right’ side of the 1949 Armistice lines according to the BBC world view.

map yishuvim

As we see, however, the BBC has chosen to describe all three of the kidnapped youths as “settlers” even though that description is both inaccurate and – quite frankly – irrelevant. Unless the BBC is trying to press a political point to readers of this blog post (and if it is, that is another topic altogether which goes far beyond mere inaccuracy), then the politically motivated epithet allocated according to the location (mistaken or not) of the family homes of the three missing boys is of no consequence to the story itself.

The second selected quote promoted in this post comes from ‘Filastin Online’ and there the three abducted youths are inaccurately described as “soldiers”.

Echo Chambers 2

No effort is made by the BBC to clarify to readers that this “quote of the day” includes inaccurate and misleading information.

As a reminder, BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality apply to all BBC content. 

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

Listeners who tuned into BBC Radio 5 live’s ‘World Cup Breakfast’ programme on June 16th for coverage of the football also got to hear presenter Nicky Campbell’s promotion of a comparison between convicted terrorists and illegal infiltrators into Israel and three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12th.World Cup Breakfast R 5 live

The item (available for a short period of time here from around 01:47:53) was also promoted in part on the BBC News website under the title “‘Maximum effort’ in search for kidnapped Israeli teens“.

In his introduction of the item, Campbell neglects to clarify to listeners Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation:

“Israeli troops have arrested the speaker of the Palestinian Parliament Aziz Dweik as they investigate the kidnapping of three Israeli students in the West Bank. Ah…Aziz Dweik is a member of the militant group Hamas which denies seizing the students and says Israel’s claims that it has are silly.”

Campbell’s co-presenter Rachel Burden continues the item, with the BBC’s pronunciation unit apparently not having been available at that early hour in order to help with correct pronunciation of some of the names mentioned.

“Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar, both sixteen, disappeared from the West Bank along with nineteen year-old Eyal Yifrach last Thursday. The Foreign Secretary William Hague has condemned the abductions. Naftali Frenkel’s mother Racheli is hoping for their safe return.”

The item then cuts to a recording of Racheli Frenkel speaking, after which Nicky Campbell continues by introducing the spokesman for Israel’s Prime Minister’s office, Mark Regev.

NC: “Why have you arrested the Speaker of the Parliament?”

Mark Regev: “He’s one of the most senior Hamas operatives in the West Bank and as such, the assumption is that he has knowledge of where these three boys are. Ultimately, we’re conducting at this moment obviously a very large police and security operation to try to locate these three kidnapped boys. That’s our obligation: to try to find them.

NC: “Can you tell us anything more about that Palestinian report of a man being killed by Israeli soldiers – reports from Ramallah?”

MR: “I know that as our people went in to look for places of…suspicious places where these boys might be being hidden, there were some places of violence where our troops were attacked, but we’re not trying to hurt anyone. We’re just trying to get our three teenagers back home.”

Campbell then goes on to quote some unsourced numbers, critically failing to inform audiences that most of the people to whom he refers are convicted terrorists.Campbell item on website

NC: “Well, at the end of April 2014 – many would point this out – 5,021 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners were held in Israeli prisons – 373 of them from the Gaza Strip. An additional 1,333 Palestinians were held in Israeli Prison Service facilities for being in Israel illegally. You know, the Palestinians would say perhaps these people were in the West Bank illegally. But those figures; there are those that would argue that gives this some perspective.”

MR: “I beg to disagree. When someone has been convicted and tried through a due process of law, you can’t compare that with a terrorist coming up to a bus stop in the West Bank and kidnapping three youngsters. It’s just no comparison; morally, legally, it just doesn’t compare. We have a situation where there’s a huge operation for these three young men – or boys, I should say – that we’re looking for. We’re very concerned about their lives, we’re very concerned what is happening to them now and what could happen to them in a short time and so of course we’re making a maximum effort to try to find them. Now this is a terrorist kidnapping and I don’t think it can be compared with anything else.”

The item ends at that point. Campbell’s attempt to compare the kidnapped Israeli teenagers with convicted terrorists, his claim that the issue of those terrorists convicted by a due process of law “gives…some perspective” to the topic of three youths kidnapped whilst travelling home from school,  his odious implication that the teens were in fact to blame for their own abduction because they “were in the West Bank illegally” and that their being forcefully held by parties unknown is comparable to the detention of Palestinian illegal infiltrators into Israel, clearly calls into question the impartiality of this item. 



Two more misleading BBC News reports on search for kidnapped teens

After a slow start the BBC News website has, since June 14th, produced an article a day on the subject of the extensive search for three Israeli teenagers kidnapped last Thursday night (see ‘related articles’ below for the first four reports).

On June 18th the website’s fifth article on the topic appeared under the heading “Israel holds ex-Palestinian prisoners in teenagers hunt“.kidnapping art 5

Continuing a theme promoted in the previous report, the article opens with a description of the kidnapped youths as “missing”, despite the fact that one of them managed to make a phone call reporting the abduction – a point which the BBC has so far failed to report in any of its articles on the topic.

“Israeli troops have arrested another 65 Palestinians, including 51 freed in a 2011 prisoner swap, as they search for three missing teenagers.

The total number of people detained since the Jewish seminary students went missing last Thursday is now 240.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, the report continues:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the arrests in the West Bank had sent an “important message” and dealt a substantial blow to Hamas.

He has accused the group of abducting the students, but not provided proof.” [emphasis added]

Like its predecessors, this report juxtaposes statements made by Israeli officials during an ongoing operation with those made by leaders of an internationally designated terrorist organization.

“Hamas has dismissed the allegation that it is involved as “stupid”.”

Also like previous reports, this one reports inaccurately on the location of the kidnapping as being “near” Hebron.map Alon Shvut

“Many of those held were arrested during raids on houses in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and Hebron, in the south, near where Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, who are both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach went missing as they hitchhiked their way home.”

Notably, the article describes Hamas’ Al Aqsa radio station as a “civilian” institution, despite the fact that the Al Aqsa media operations are controlled by senior Hamas operative Fathi Hamad.

“Troops raided institutions that provide civilian support for Hamas, including its radio station, al-Aqsa, which has offices in Ramallah and Hebron. Computers and documents were seized.”

The report goes on to amplify a baseless claim made by Qadoura Fares, providing no background information to BBC audiences concerning the terms of the 2011 prisoner release deal, including the provisos for re-arrest.

“Palestinians accused Israel of reneging on the prisoner-swap deal.

“What Israel is doing has nothing to do with security, but is a policy of revenge,” said Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, which assists Palestinians in Israeli jails.”

June 19th saw the appearance of a sixth report on the topic titled “Missing Israeli teenagers: Jenin clashes follow arrests“.

In that report too, the teenagers have been downgraded from kidnapped to “missing” and, seeing as this is the third consecutive report to do so, it must be assumed that this is now BBC editorial policy. Once again, no mention is made of the fact that one of the boys managed to report the kidnapping by phone.

“Israel’s military says its soldiers have exchanged gunfire with Palestinians during raids in the West Bank in the hunt for three missing teenagers. […]

Clashes erupted after 30 Palestinians were arrested in the investigation over the missing Jewish seminary students.” [emphasis added]

Likewise, the report once again promotes the notion of equivalence between intelligence-based Israeli statements and the denials of a designated terror organization.kidnapping art 6

“The total number of Palestinians detained in the search is now 280.

Israel says 200 of these were “operatives” of Hamas, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused of abducting the students.

Hamas has dismissed the allegation that it is involved as “stupid”.”

The article then goes on to mislead audiences with inaccurate information on another topic.

“No group has claimed to have taken the students, who disappeared last Thursday.”

In fact, as previously noted here, there have been three separate claims of responsibility, including one by Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, although their credibility has not been established. In addition – and unreported by the BBC – Hamas’ Salah Bardawil stated on June 19th that what he termed “the Palestinian resistance” had carried out the kidnappings.

The report again misleads audiences with an inaccurate description of the site of the kidnapping (Alon Shvut junction) as being “near” Hebron even though the two locations are some 27 kms apart. It also once again fails to identify Hebron as a centre of Hamas activity.

“Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, who are both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach went missing at a junction near the city of Hebron as they hitchhiked their way home.”

Towards the end of the report, audiences are presented with selected quotes from two recent statements by the PA president.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a statement, has criticised Israel for using the teenagers’ disappearance “a pretext to impose tough punishment against our people and besiege them” in violation of international humanitarian law.

Mr Abbas said on Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority was co-ordinating efforts with Israel in the search, comments that drew sharp condemnation from Hamas, which said the remarks were “unjustified” and “harmful” to the Palestinian reconciliation deal between it and Mr Abbas’s Fatah faction.”

That second paragraph relates to a statement made by Abbas whilst in Saudi Arabia (also mentioned in the report from the previous day). The statement referred to in the first paragraph came the following day and – possibly in light of reactions from assorted Palestinian factions to the previous one – its full text shows rather more than mere ‘criticism’ as the BBC would have readers believe.

Yet again, neither of these articles informs BBC audiences of the vast amounts of explosives and weapons uncovered by the IDF during the operation to find the three abducted youths or of the Palestinian celebrations of various descriptions in reaction to the kidnappings.

Also absent from either of these reports is news of the ongoing missile fire from the Gaza Strip targeting civilian communities in southern Israel. On the night of June 18th one of those missiles hit a home in an agricultural community near the border, fortunately causing no injuries.

Related Articles:

BBC News website ignores search for missing Israeli teens

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

Still no BBC reporting on Palestinian celebrations of kidnappings

A fourth BBC report on kidnapping refrains from reporting Palestinian celebrations

BBC ties itself in knots over antisemitism yet again

Readers may recall that in early April we noted the following antisemitic slur made by guest Alpesh Patel during a BBC News broadcast.BBC News pic

“One thing which struck me when I used to work in Washington – when I used to work in Congress – is just how influential the Israeli lobby is. Now we all know that – how influential AIPAC is: a role model for lobbying and taking control of a foreign government effectively in terms of the US.”

As was also noted at the time, the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism includes the definition below:

“Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

Viewer Mr Stephen Franklin complained to the BBC about that broadcast and the reply he received included the following:

“I understand you were unhappy with comments made which you felt were anti Semetic [sic] about an Israeli [sic] lobby group.

Nothing is included in our broadcasts with the intention of causing offence and we are sorry if you felt this way.

However, the comments were made by contributor to the programme, Alpesh Patel and were his own views which aren’t representative of the BBC.

It’s also worth noting that across our News broadcasts a range of guests and contributors feature ensuring a wide range of views and opinion are included.

However, I can assure you we appreciate your feedback and your complaint has been registered on our audience log. This log is made available to all members of the BBC, including the News teams and senior BBC management and ensures your comments and others we receive are considered across the BBC.”

Hang on there: is the BBC really claiming that if a contributor appearing on one of its programmes makes racist remarks that is alright because his or her views “aren’t representative of the BBC”? Such a claim clearly has very far-reaching implications as far as all BBC content is concerned and certainly BBC editorial guidelines would suggest otherwise.

Obviously, Mr Franklin was not satisfied with that response and so he contacted the BBC again, with the relevant sections of the reply he received reading as follows:

“Thanks for getting back in touch regarding the BBC News Channel. We apologise for the delay in replying. We appreciate our correspondents expect a quick response and we’re sorry you‘ve had to wait on this occasion.

We raised your concerns with the relevant editorial staff at BBC News.

They explained that paper reviewers feature in order to give their own take on the stories of the day. On this occasion Alpesh Patel reflected on his own experience having worked in Washington while discussing a story on a Palestinian push for UN recognition. Mr Patel acknowledged that his comments on the conflict would garner attention on social media, given the divisive nature of the subject. That said, it is clearly inaccurate to say that AIPAC controls the US government and we accept the assertion should have been challenged.

We hope this goes some way in addressing your concerns.”

So now the BBC obfuscates the issue of the racist slur by trying to suggest that the real issue at stake is the “divisive nature” of the topic of the PA push for UN recognition. That subject certainly is one for debate, but it was perfectly possible for Alpesh Patel to take part in the discussion without the casual introduction of that racist slur and one imagines that the majority of licence fee payers would prefer to see the BBC taking a much more robust stance against the introduction of racist slurs of any type into debates which are part of its content.  

The problem is, of course, that the BBC relates to this as an issue of accuracy alone, refusing to recognise the statement’s antisemitic nature and – yet again –  bizarrely affording itself the authority to decide what is and what is not racist.

The more technical question which arises from this exchange of correspondence is how the BBC intends to inform audiences that Patel’s factually inaccurate racist slur “should have been challenged” and whether Mr Patel (or others) will be invited back to offer any other racist ‘reflections’ concerning additional ethnic groups.

Related Articles:

The numbers behind BBC promotion of the ‘Israel lobby’

BBC again dithering (impartially, of course) over antisemitism

BBC pussyfooting around antisemitism again

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ featured in CST report on antisemitic discourse