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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More BBC amplification of the ‘ISIS worse than Assad’ meme

Just three weeks ago the synopsis to a filmed report appearing on the BBC News website told its visitors that:

“Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, has said that the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe is the direct result of terrorist aggression against Syria.

He blamed Islamist militants for forcing thousands from their homes and said the government had helped millions of displaced people.”

In the report itself, BBC audiences heard Faisal Mekdad say:

“The Syrian army has never, ever attacked or initiated any attack against a city or against a village and if you see at least the most recent attacks you will see them initiated by the terrorist factions and when these terrorist groups attack villages and cities you see a very big flood of people leaving those areas.”

On September 21st the BBC News website’s Europe and Middle East pages carried a filmed report by the corporation’s correspondent in Moscow, Sarah Rainsford, which was promoted under the headline “Russia says Islamic State, not Assad, the danger in Syria” and that message was repeated in the synopsis:Rainsford report Russia

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting Moscow to voice concerns over reports of a Russian military build-up in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

The US has already warned that Russian action risks complicating the conflict further.

However Russia says that the real threat in Syria is Islamic State, not the country’s leader.” [emphasis added]

In the report itself viewers heard Rainsford say:

“Russia’s line is clear: the real danger in Syria today is Islamic State.”

They then heard from a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson:

“Absolutely for sure we know that [the] terrorist threat in Syria is something very dangerous and it’s very dangerous not only for [the] Middle East region but also for Europe and also for Russia.”

It is of course perfectly reasonable for the BBC to report statements from interested parties such as the Syrian deputy foreign minister or his regime’s Russian and Iranian allies just as long as audiences are also given the background facts which would enable them to put such statements into their correct context.

These two examples join previous reports in which no such background information has been provided, with the result being that BBC audiences are being steered towards a grossly simplistic and distorted view of the conflict in Syria which does nothing to meet the corporation’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues”.

 

BBC exploits European migrant crisis for political messaging on ‘educational’ site

BBC produced content is of course widely used by researchers, academics, educators and teachers as well as members of the general public seeking factual information. One of the corporation’s projects is a website called ‘iWonder’ – billed as “the BBC’s new factual and educational site” at the time of its launch in 2014.

As we have had occasion to note here before (see related articles below), one might expect that a website with such a mission statement would make all the more effort to ensure that its content is historically accurate, factual and impartial.

In the midst of its recent special coverage of the migrant crisis in Europe, BBC News offered audiences a link to additional content on the topic of migrants.

Tweet iWonder link

That link leads to the iWonder website and a feature titled “The Longer View: Migrant crises” which is introduced as follows:

“Echoes through history

The current migrant crisis in Europe has made headlines around the world as millions seek refuge in countries across the continent.

The scale of the crisis in 2015 has not been seen since the end of World War Two, but tackling mass migration has proved to be an almost constant concern. From Biafra to the Balkans, solutions are rarely straightforward.”

The first item in that feature is titled “Exodus” and includes an archive video which does nothing to clarify to audiences that the British policy of restricting immigration of Jews to Palestine began long before July 1947 and fails to explain the legal basis of Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine.

iWonder Exodus

Those following the link titled “Watch: People of the Exodus” arrive at content produced by film-maker – not historian – Adam Curtis (who has a blog hosted by the BBC) headlined “21 Miles Off The Coast of Palestine“.

The post was written on June 2nd 2010 – and the significance of that soon becomes apparent. The article begins:

“Here is a strange echo from history.

It is a documentary made by the BBC in 1973 about the story of the ship, the Exodus.

It was the ship full of Jewish refugees – many of them survivors of the Holocaust – that tried to break the British blockade of Palestine in 1947. The participants from both sides appear and describe in detail how British soldiers boarded the ship 21 miles off the coast of Palestine killing 3 of the refugees and wounding others.

It caused an international scandal and was a PR disaster for the British government. It is seen in Israel today as one of the most significant events that led to the founding of the modern Israeli state.

The shock was compounded when the British took most of the refugees back to Germany and put them on trains and sent them to internment camps.”

But then the material promoted by BBC News as educational background to the current migrant crisis takes a sinister turn as Curtis continues:

“As you watch the film – it raises complex reactions and thoughts in your mind. But it is ironic that, although the two events are in many ways completely different, the Israelis are now preventing Palestinians and supporters of Hamas from doing what the Israeli defence organisation – the Haganah – tried to do over 60 years ago.” [emphasis added]

Yes – BBC ‘educational’ content on the subject of Holocaust survivors trying to reach Mandate Palestine really does promote a politicized and totally redundant comparison between the story of the ‘Exodus’ and the agitprop of the Mavi Marmara incident which took place two days before Curtis published this post.

The third item on this feature’s homepage is titled “Palestinians in exile”.

iWonder Palestinians in exile

There too audiences see highly partisan archive material which fails to explain to viewers why refugees who received Jordanian citizenship and were at the time living in territory occupied by Jordan were still the holders of refugee status. Those clicking on the link titled “Obstacles to Arab-Israeli peace: Palestinian refugees” arrive at the highly problematic article of the same name dated 2010 (but actually produced by Martin Asser quite some time before that) which was previously discussed on these pages here and here.

The failure to meet editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality is of course a grave issue at any time but when content specifically described as “factual and educational” fails to live up to those standards and is further employed as a platform for political messaging, it is time to ask some serious questions about the BBC’s role as a provider of educational material.

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More BBC Bowen beating of the Assad regime drum

Last week we discussed several reports produced by Jeremy Bowen during the time he recently spent in and around Damascus and took note of the fact that BBC audiences were provided with a very one-sided portrayal of the situation in Syria which exclusively reflected the Assad regime’s interests.

One feature seen in that round of reporting by the BBC’s Middle East editor was unchallenged amplification of a Syrian government deputy minister’s claim that the regime had never targeted its own civilian population. In that and all of his later reports Bowen failed to inform audiences of the fact that there is ample evidence to contradict that claim.Bowen written 14 7 Damascus

After having left Damascus, Bowen produced some further reports. A written article titled “Syria conflict: No sign of Assad regime crumbling” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 14th. At least in that piece (in contrast to the reports produced previously) the man whose job title was created with the aim of “providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” finally got round to making a brief mention of the support supplied to the Assad regime from Iran and its Lebanese proxy.

“But President Assad has his vital trio of supporters: Russia, Iran and Hezbollah from Lebanon. Russia seems to be increasing its military support for the regime.

Hezbollah men are fighting along the border with Lebanon. Iran provides vital financial and military assistance.”

However, Bowen managed to place the responsibility for the Syria refugee crisis at the door of parties other than Bashar al Assad.

“The war exports trouble, violence and refugees. Half of Syria’s pre-war population has fled from the fighting. Eight million are still in Syria, displaced, refugees in their own country. Four million have left Syria.

Britain and others hoped that helping with a relief effort for refugees would encourage them to stay put.

But hopes among refugees that the war would end relatively quickly disappeared as the killing went on. […]

It was even worse when it sunk in that they might face years more in camps in Jordan and Turkey, or even worse, in informal shanty towns and the slums of Lebanon.

What made matters worse was that the rich countries that funded the relief effort led by the UN agencies have made big cuts to their contributions.”

Bowen also produced two filmed reports for BBC television news – both of which also appeared on the BBC News website. “Syria crisis: Jeremy Bowen on the subterranean battle in Damascus” – September 14th – repeated a theme also seen in Bowen’s above written report.

“They do not look like a beaten army. I think those people who are predicting the fall of the Assad regime once again will once again be guilty – certainly in the foreseeable future – of wishful thinking.”

In a report from the same location dated September 15th – “Syria: On the front line in Damascus” – Bowen once again provided an unchallenged platform for Syrian regime propaganda – this time from an officer in the Syrian Republican Guard.Bowen filmed 15 7 Damascus

Bowen: “The colonel and his men say they are patriots fighting terrorists. He rejects accusations that the Syrian army targets civilians. The claim is that more civilians are killed by the Syrian army than by any other armed force here in Syria.

Col. Sultan: “This is all propaganda to slander the reputation of the army. It’s all lies. We were brought up not to harm peaceful civilians. We only kill people we see with our own eyes holding a weapon.”

Bowen made no attempt to challenge that obvious falsehood on camera and neither was any qualifying statement reminding audiences of the numerous incidents which contradict Sultan’s claims added to Bowen’s voice-over in later editing.

Interestingly, the keen interest in alleged breaches of the laws of armed combat displayed by Jeremy Bowen in his reporting from the Gaza Strip in July 2014 appears to have completely evaporated upon his arrival in Damascus.

BBC fails to meet its remit in article about Rafah tunnels

One of the public purposes defined in the BBC’s Charter is titled “Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK” and under that remit the BBC pledges to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”.

Clearly audience understanding of international issues can only be achieved if they are told the whole story and a recent article provides a prime example of how BBC reporting can fall short of that pledge.

On September 18th a short article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Egypt ‘starts flooding Gaza tunnels’“. Readers are told that: [all emphasis added]Rafah tunnels art

“The Egyptian military has begun flooding tunnels used by Palestinian militants and smugglers under the border with Gaza, reports say.

It is the latest move by Egypt to destroy the tunnels, part of an offensive against insurgents. […]

Scores of Egyptian soldiers and civilians have been killed in an insurgency which has intensified, especially in the Sinai, since the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.”

So on the one hand, BBC audiences learn that Egypt is conducting “an offensive against insurgents” which includes the destruction of underground tunnels situated along its border with the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, readers are also told that the tunnels were used “by Palestinian militants and smugglers” – but no effort is made to clarify how or why those tunnels play a part in Egyptian efforts to combat that Islamist insurgency.  

Further, one aspect of the tunnels which has nothing to do with Egypt’s offensive in Sinai is highlighted. The caption to the main image illustrating the article reads: [emphasis added]

“Tunnels have been used for smuggling weapons between Gaza and Sinai, but have also been a lifeline for civilians“.

And in the body of the report readers find the following:

“The tunnels, which emerge in the Sinai Peninsula, have played a vital role in the economy of Gaza, which has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007 as a measure against the territory’s Islamist Hamas rulers.”

Clearly that portrayal’s omission of the crucial factor of terrorism from the Gaza Strip – the real reason for the measures introduced by Israel in September 2007 – actively prevents audiences from building an understanding of the issue – as does the unqualified amplification of Hamas propaganda.

“Hamas has accused Egypt of collaborating with Israel to try to further isolate Gaza.”

This article represents just one more link in a long chain of BBC failure (see related articles below) to provide its audiences with a comprehensive picture of the connections between elements in the Gaza Strip and the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. Hence, whilst BBC audiences may now know that Egypt is flooding tunnels in Rafah, they still have no idea why.  

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BBC in hot water over antisemitic caricature in Proms programme

The Algemeiner brings us a story which once again highlights the pressing need for the BBC to educate its staff on the topic of identifying antisemitism.Algemeiner pic

“The BBC apologized on Friday for publishing an antisemitic caricature of famed Jewish violinist Leopold Auer in a program for its annual summer concert festival.

“We use a range of caricatures and illustrations in our concert programmes and wanted one of Leopold Auer,” a BBC spokesperson said in an email to The Algemeiner. “We’re sorry to anyone who was offended by the image choice – this was never our intention.”

The spokesperson also said the BBC has “no plans to use that image again.”

The offensive illustration of Auer appeared in the program for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The concert was part of the BBC Proms, an eight week-long festival of concerts, lectures, workshops and family events, ending with the famous Last Night of the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall. A number of composers specifically dedicated pieces to Auer, including Tchaikovsky.”

Read the rest of the Algemeiner article here and the Jewish Chronicle’s report here.  

Two missile attacks on southern Israel get nineteen words of coverage from BBC News

On the evening of September 18th air-raid sirens sounded in Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip after a missile was launched from the adjacent territory. The projectile exploded in Sderot.Pic missile Sderot 18 9

“Israel Police said that a bus was damaged in the strike, while the Ynet website reported that a home was also damaged. The residents were inside at the time of the strike, Ynet said, adding that several people were treated at the scene for shock. One woman was taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon after complaining of chest pains and ringing in her ears, the website reported.”

Later on the same evening Ashkelon also came under attack.

“An Iron Dome anti-rocket battery shot down a Gazan rocket over the southern city of Ashkelon on Friday night. 
There were no injuries or damages, the IDF said. 
Warning sirens rang out across the city, sending residents fleeing for cover, before Iron Dome went into action. It was the second rocket attack by terrorists in Gaza within a few hours.”

The second bout of missile fire was reportedly claimed by a Salafist group in the Gaza Strip affiliated with ISIS and hours later Israel responded with strikes on Hamas terrorist infrastructure.

In typical ‘last-first reporting’ style BBC Arabic informed it audiences of “Israeli raids on Gaza after the launch of two missiles“.missile fire 18 9 BBC Arabic

Visitors to the English language BBC News website found no stand-alone report on the two incidents of missile fire but an article on a different topic originally published on September 18th – “Israel steps up Jerusalem security after Palestinian clashes” – did dedicate the grand total of nineteen words to the attacks and fourteen words to the response.

“At least two rockets were fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory of Gaza, with one damaging a bus

Israel responded with overnight air strikes on training camps belonging to Hamas in Gaza”

The article does not tell readers of the claim of responsibility for the missile attacks and that ties in with the overall trend in this report (and earlier ones) according to which the BBC refrains from identifying the perpetrators of incidents in the recent wave of violence and attacks just seem to happen all by themselves – for example:

“An Israeli motorist died earlier in the week in an accident apparently caused by a rock-throwing attack in Jerusalem.”

“In East Jerusalem, police said three border guards were injured by a fire bomb thrown at their vehicle”

“Also in East Jerusalem, a bus was attacked with stones and set ablaze” [all emphasis added]

Clearly BBC audiences cannot properly understand this story if they are not told who is firing missiles and who is throwing rocks and fire-bombs.

This report also provides two equally useless ‘explanations’ for the current wave of violence:

“Palestinians have also been angered by Israeli plans that could allow police to open fire on stone-throwers. […]

Tensions have been running high in Jerusalem since Israel banned two Muslim groups which confront Jewish visitors to the [Temple Mount] compound.”

The proposed changes to the rules of engagement in Jerusalem of course came about as a result of the violent rioting and not – as this article implies – the other way round. Once again we see that the BBC avoids telling its audiences who those banned “Muslim groups” are, who finances them and to what aim and as usual, the all-important topic of official PA incitement relating to Temple Mount is excluded from the BBC’s narrative. 

BBC News zig-zags again on Palestinian Islamic Jihad detainee

As readers may recall, BBC News has a record of providing audiences with conflicting and confusing information concerning the Palestinian Islamic Jihad affiliation of administrative detainee Mohammed Allan.

On August 14th 2015, Allan was described asan alleged activist for the Islamic Jihad militant group” in an article appearing on the BBC News website. [all emphasis added]

On August 19th an article appearing on the same platform described Allan as “a lawyer and member of the militant group Islamic Jihad” and early versions of another report published on the same date used the same wording. A later version of that same article was however amended to read “an alleged member of the militant group Islamic Jihad”.

On August 20th BBC audiences were told that:

“Islamic Jihad had previously threatened reprisals should one of its activists in Israeli detention, Mohammed Allan, die of a hunger strike…”

On September 16th, following his release from hospital, Allan was rearrested. The BBC News website’s report on the topic – titled “Israel re-arrests hunger striker Mohammed Allan” – tells readers that:Allan PIJ rearrest

“Mr Allan, an alleged member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, began refusing food in protest at being held indefinitely under a controversial policy of administrative detention.”

And:

“The Israeli justice ministry has alleged that Mr Allan is involved in “grave terrorism”. It says “classified information” warrants keeping him detained.

Mr Allan denies the allegations and any involvement with Islamic Jihad.”

As noted here previously, BBC Watch has been advised by official sources that:

“He [Allan] is a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative. He was first arrested in 2006 after recruiting a suicide bomber. He was tried and served a sentence of 35 months. 

He was arrested in administrative detention in 2014 following substantial and grave intelligence that he was in contact with PIJ operatives that intended in carrying out severe attacks. On July 20 2015 the Supreme Court confirmed and approved his detention.”

How embarrassing for the BBC that not only can it not provide its audiences with consistently accurate information but it cannot even be consistent in getting the story wrong.

Weekend long read

Last week members of the House of Lords debated the subject of the BBC’s finance and independence.Weekend Read

“Members highlighted the BBC as an important social, educational and cultural national institution that is admired across the world and is an important UK soft power tool.

Mismanagement of some events and high rewards for star presenters and managers were criticised, but members argued that BBC independence and sustained funding are crucial for its survival.

Some members said that the BBC was an independent body, not part of the public sector, and shouldn’t be subjected to the government’s programme of cuts. Some particularly criticised the government’s ‘over 75s deal’ with the BBC, arguing the BBC was forced to cover the cost of free licences for over 75s without consultation or debate.”

Readers can find a transcript of that debate here and two prior debates relating to review of the BBC’s charter which took place in July can be found here from column 522 and here from column 741.  

With the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ this week having egregiously amplified the pernicious myth that Israel seeks to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque, the JCPA’s publication of an e-book by Nadav Shragai on the history of that myth is particularly timely. 

“Palestinians often hear from their leaders that a Muslim holy site in Jerusalem, al-Aksa mosque, is in danger of collapse – and the Jews are to blame. Whether printed in cartoons, preached in mosques or taught in schools, the lie is accepted as common knowledge across the Arab world. Millions of Muslims accept it as truth. The message is clear: Jews seek to expel the Arabs from Jerusalem.

This lie is nothing new. For the past century, Palestinian leaders have told the “Al-Aksa is in danger” lie in order to incite their people to attack Jews. It is important to expose and counter this fabrication because it remains a spark that can lead to bloodshed.”

Readers can find ‘The “Al Aksa is in Danger” Libel: The History of a Lie” – including links to pdf and e-book versions – here