BBC coverage of the protest by members of Israel’s Ethiopian community in Tel Aviv on May 3rd has included the following reports:
A written article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page now appearing under the title “Israel police clash with Ethiopian Jewish protesters” – originally headlined “Teargas used as Ethiopian Jews protest in Israel”.
A filmed report by Kevin Connolly which, in addition to appearing on BBC News programmes, was also publicized on the BBC News website under the title “Israeli police use tear gas during Ethiopian Jewish protest“.
An item on the BBC World Service programme ‘Newsday‘.
Another written article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 4th under the title “Israeli Ethiopian protests ‘reveal open wound’, president says“.
All in all, the reports are reasonably balanced and accurate but a few points are worthy of note.
The BBC does not inform audiences that the May 3rd demonstration followed an earlier one in Jerusalem on April 30th in which major roads were also blocked and violent incidents were also reported.
“The protest started with a few hundred protesters and grew to around 1,000 by the evening, moving from the police HQ to the center of the city, a short distance from the Prime Minister’s Residence. Later in the night, the protesters blocked the intersection between King George St. and Jaffa St.
Israel Police said that forces tried to disperse the protesters, who they said threw stones and bottles. There were also reports of protesters throwing fire bombs.
Medical teams treated 10 protesters and three police officers for injuries. Two police officers and seven protesters were rushed to Jerusalem hospitals for further treatment. Two protesters who tried to attack police were detained.”
The BBC also does not clarify that neither of the two protests had been authorized by the police. Despite that fact, the police allowed the Tel Aviv demonstration to continue as long as it remained peaceful.
The BBC’s first written report includes the following:
“Tel Aviv police chief Yohanan Danino told Channel 10: “The use of violence by a small minority of the many protesters does not serve their struggle.
“Whoever harms police or civilians will be brought to justice.””
However, the BBC did not report that both police and the protest’s organisers noted the influence of outside groups on the turn of events. For example:
“Brig. Gen. Yoram Ohayon, deputy commander of the police’s Tel Aviv district, accused social activists and organizations of “inciting members of the community to keep protesting after the police has already reached understandings with them.””
“Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said on Sunday evening that the police will bring to justice anyone who hurt civilians and policemen, adding that the rally “was not a legitimate protest in a democratic state” and blaming a handful of agitators for harming the Israeli Ethiopians’ struggle.”
“The commander of the North Tel Aviv precinct, Chief Superintendent Nissim Daoudi, claimed that “anarchist groups” had taken advantage of the protest to clash with police.
“At some point the demonstrators crossed a boundary that cannot be crossed in a democratic state,” he said. “The demonstrators started throwing bricks and bottles at police.””
One of the demonstration’s organisers, Gentu Mengisto (head of the Ethiopian students’ association), told Channel Two that “groups took advantage of the protest for their own ends” and “we were joined by all sorts of organisations that provoked everything”.
A former member of the Knesset gave a similar account:
“Everyone was doing their job: the demonstrators as well as the police,” said former MK Shimon Solomon, who immigrated from Ethiopia at age 10 and who attended Sunday’s protest. At Rabin Square, suddenly “anarchic interest groups that jumped on the bandwagon did almost everything to bring about violence,” he recalled. “Someone threw a water bottle toward the policemen and that incited the entire story.”
Clearly this is a relevant aspect of the story which has been omitted from the BBC’s many reports.