BBC editorial guidelines breached in report on Hebron incident

On September 23rd a Tweet sent from the BBC News account suggested that the most important thing audiences needed to know about a woman who tried to stab an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron was that she was a “student”.

Hebron incident BBC World tweet

That Tweet linked to an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Clashes after funeral of Palestinian shot in West Bank” and opened with interesting use of a revealing adjective:Hebron incident art

“There have been clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the West Bank after the funeral of a woman shot at a checkpoint on Tuesday.

The youths threw stones at the troops in the divided city of Hebron, who fired stun grenades and tear gas.” [emphasis added]

Readers are not informed that the arrangements in Hebron, whereby Israel controls Area H2 and the PA controls Area H1, are the result of the 1997 Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, signed by the representatives of the Palestinians within the framework of the Oslo Accords.

One hundred and thirteen words of this 487 word article are given over to the IDF’s account of the incident.

“The Israeli military said Hadeel al-Hashlamun, an 18-year-old student, was killed after she pulled out a knife and attempted to stab a soldier. […]

The Israeli military said that Ms Hashlamun was walking through a checkpoint dividing the Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled parts of Hebron on Tuesday when a metal detector went off.

“Forces called for her to halt, which she ignored, and she continued moving while also pulling out a knife,” a statement said.

“At this point, forces fired at the ground, then at her lower extremities in attempts to stop her advancement. The perpetrator continued and at this point, recognising a clear and present danger to their safety, the forces fired toward her.””

Double that word count – 226 words – is devoted to promotion of a contradictory account of the incident and statements from the attacker’s family. Readers are told that:

“Photographs of the incident published by Palestinian activists show a veiled woman believed to be Ms Hashlamun standing in front of two soldiers who are aiming their rifles at her.”

The article includes a photograph similar to the above description which is credited to ‘Youth Against Settlements’ but – not for the first time and in breach of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality – the BBC refrains from informing audiences of the political agenda of that group and its “activists”.

Notably, despite its generous amplification of the messaging of ‘Youth Against Settlements’ (which included claims that she was not carrying a knife) the BBC did not find it appropriate to show readers another available photograph showing the knife carried by the attacker.

Hebron incident ABD tweet

Earlier on in the report readers are accurately informed that:

“Ms Hashlamun’s death came shortly after that of another Palestinian, who the Israeli military said was killed when a bomb he was trying to throw at soldiers blew up in a village near Hebron.”

Notably however, the BBC refrains from informing readers that the man – Dia al Talahmeh – was a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and that misinformation concerning that incident was also promoted by Palestinian sources, with false claims that he had been shot by Israeli forces circulating widely.

It is worth recalling that the opaquely funded group ‘Youth Against Settlements’, which is actually the source of the narrative amplified in this report, has previously been given BBC platforms (see related articles) from which to promote the claim that last summer’s search and rescue operation in Hebron following the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers was “a kind of revenge against the Palestinian civilians” and the notion that “Israeli society is getting more aggressive and extreme”.

As long as the BBC continues to promote messaging from political NGOs without informing audiences of their underlying agenda as its editorial guidelines demand, it cannot of course meet its remit of enhancing audience understanding of international issues.

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