In addition to Kevin Connolly’s filmed report on the subject of the death of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein after an altercation at a demonstration near Turmus Aya and Yolande Knell’s filmed report from his funeral, the BBC News website also produced a written article on December 10th titled “Palestinian minister dies at West Bank protest“.
The report underwent numerous changes after its initial publication which can be seen here. However, even the later versions of the article continued to amplify unverified rumours promoted by assorted actors.
“Palestinian medics told the BBC Ziad Abu Ein had died from complications related to tear gas exposure.
But several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers. One said he had been hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister fired by them.” […]
“Leading Palestinian activist Mahmoud Aloul, who was also at the protest, told the Associated Press news agency the soldiers had fired tear gas and had beaten some of the activists with rifle butts.
At one point, Mr Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister, Mr Aloul said.
A Reuters photographer said he had seen Mr Abu Ein being struck by a hand on the neck during an altercation with two soldiers.
An AFP news agency photographer said the minister had been hit in the chest.”
Mahmoud Aloul is actually a member of the Fatah Central Committee rather than a mere “activist” and although none of the various video reports filmed during the incident have shown that Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister, the BBC nevertheless elected to amplify his evidence-free claims.
Like Connolly’s filmed report, this one also misrepresents the background to the demonstration, failing to inform BBC audiences that it was organized by local councils to coincide with their presentation – together with the political NGO Yesh Din – of a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad.
“Mr Abu Ein, a minister without portfolio, was among dozens of foreign and Palestinian activists taking part in a protest against land confiscations.
They had planned to plant olive tree saplings on a patch of land near the Jewish settlement of Shiloh, which Palestinians believe has been earmarked for annexation by Israel.”
The report includes the following cryptic statement:
“There are reports he [Abu Ein] had a health condition that may have contributed to his death.
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Palestinians are likely to see the exact cause of death as a secondary issue, and it will serve to sharpen tensions.”
No attempt is made to inform readers why the actual circumstances of the incident should be considered “a secondary issue” in Palestinian circles or how the assorted and inconsistent ‘witness statements’ amplified by the BBC should be viewed in light of that legitimate observation by Connolly.
Ziad Abu Ein’s conviction for a terror attack in 1979 is presented in vague terms at the end of the report. His extradition from the US is not mentioned.
“Mr Abu Ein once received the death sentence, commuted to life imprisonment, from a court in Israel for a 1979 bombing that killed two Israeli teenagers.”
On December 11th the BBC News website produced an additional article titled earlier “Palestinian minister’s funeral held amid Israel tensions” and currently going under the heading “Palestinian minister buried amid tensions over cause of death“, changes to which can be seen here.
Once again the BBC fails to contribute to its audiences’ understanding of the issue by providing them with a clear, factual, verified account of events and instead opts to juxtapose fact with rumour and propaganda which – as readers will no doubt notice – changes from article to article and even from version to version. Earlier editions of this report stated:
“Palestinians have blamed Israel for his death, saying he died after being hit by a soldier and inhaling tear gas.”
Later versions informed readers that:
“Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Ziad Abu Ein had been suffocated and beaten by Israeli soldiers.” […]
“Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the BBC his death had been caused by “Israeli soldiers suffocating and beating up Ziad Abu Ein”, saying he held the Israeli government fully responsible.”
As was noted here in relation to Yolande Knell’s uncritical amplification of Erekat’s claims, none of the ample video evidence shows Abu Ein being either ‘suffocated’ or ‘beaten up’ and, despite a similar lack of proof that Abu Ein was “killed”, the BBC also elected to promote the following statement from Erekat.
“He said the [pathologists’] report clearly stated that Mr Abu Ein had been “killed in cold blood”.”
The article also informs readers that:
“Earlier in the day, Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian pathologists attended a preliminary examination of Mr Abu Ein’s body, but Israel and the Palestinians issued differing accounts. […]
Palestinian pathologist Saber Aloul told reporters the main cause was a blow to Ziad Abu Ein, not natural causes.
But Israel’s ministry of health said the examination showed Mr Abu Ein had underlying heart problems, and the immediate cause of death was a blockage to a cardiac artery.”
Sharp-eyed readers will no doubt have noticed that the quoted pathologist has appeared in previous BBC reports. Back in March 2013 Dr Saber al Aloul was quoted and promoted by the BBC’s Jon Donnison when he determined (despite evidence to the contrary) that Arafat Jaradat had died of “intensive torture” whilst in an Israeli prison. Notably, the PA’s Ministry of Prisoner Affairs changed the official story just one day later to “killed by collaborators”. The same PA chief pathologist was also present at the autopsy of bus driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni last month.
“Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine director Dr. Chen Kogel notes that Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber Al-Aloul, appointed by the family of the driver, was present throughout the autopsy and concurred with the conclusion that the cause of death was suicide. […]
The controversy over Ramouni’s death began with a report from the Palestinian news agency Ma’an saying that the Palestinian coroner had reached the opposite conclusion and that Al-Aloul, who attended the autopsy on the family’s behalf, believed the cause of death to be homicide and not suicide. The report did not quote Al-Aloul directly, but ascribed this claim to him. The Palestinian pathologist has neither confirmed nor denied the report since its publication.”
The Times of Israel reported that the Palestinian pathologist refrained from answering calls and as was also noted here at the time, despite the available scientific evidence the BBC promoted the notion that the bus driver had been murdered on no fewer than seven different occasions and suggested that was a relevant ‘background factor’ to the terror attack at the synagogue in Har Nof.
Obviously Dr Al Aloul has quite a history of questionable statements but nevertheless, the BBC continues to quote him without qualification.
Like the filmed reports by Connolly and Knell, this article also avoids mentioning that in between his altercation with the Border Police officer and the point at which he sat down on a rock feeling unwell, Ziad Abu Ein managed to give an interview to the media.
“Footage and images from the scene of the protest, near the unauthorised Jewish outpost of Adei Ad, showed a standoff between troops and Palestinians, followed by a scuffle between a protester and a soldier.
At one point Mr Abu Ein is seen being pushed by his throat by the border guard. He is subsequently seen collapsed on the ground. He was later taken to hospital in Ramallah but died on the way.”
And also in common with those two reports, the full background to the demonstration in which Abu Ein took part is not provided to readers.
As was the case in the earlier written report, this one also promotes the allegation made by a Fatah central committee member, despite the lack of evidence in support of that claim.
“Palestinian witnesses and news agency journalists said tear gas was fired. Palestinian activist Mahmoud Aloul said Mr Abu Ein was hit by a tear gas canister.”
Ziad Abu Ein’s conviction for a terrorist attack was not included in this report.
As we see in both these written reports the BBC has promoted a plethora of varied and often contradictory ‘witness accounts’ of the events surrounding Ziad Abu Ein’s death. Those accounts, along with the BBC’s own descriptions of events, include “complications related to tear gas exposure”, “hit and shoved by soldiers”, “hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister”, “struck by a hand on the neck”, “hit in the chest”, “suffocated and beaten”, “grabbed by the throat”, “pushed by his throat” and “killed in cold blood”.
Clearly the sheer number of different versions of the story alone should have been enough to prompt some serious fact-checking before these two articles were published. Instead, the BBC simply published whatever rumour and second-hand hearsay came its way, once again failing to provide audiences with anything which can be described as a reliable, informative, evidence-based account of events.