Top BBC Watch posts of 2015

Over the past twelve months BBC Watch has welcomed nearly a quarter of a million visits to the site and this is an ideal opportunity to thank you – our readers – for your interest and support throughout the past year.

We would also like to thank all those who have taken the trouble to contact us with feedback, updates on your complaints to the BBC and tips concerning items of BBC content. Your contributions are invaluable – please carry on in the coming year.

The most read article on BBC Watch in 2015 was ‘BBC’s Tim Willcox in Paris: a new low and follow-up to that story also featured among the top ten most viewed posts.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the second most visited page on our website in 2015 was our guide on How to Complain to the BBC.Pigua Lions Gate art vers 1

The third most read post of 2015 related to the miserable headline used by the BBC in its report on the terror attack at Lions Gate in Jerusalem in October – ‘BBC News flunks headline of report on Jerusalem terror attack‘ – and additional posts concerning BBC reporting on terrorism against Israelis were also among the most viewed articles together with our monthly statistical round-up of BBC reporting on terror and a post titled ‘BBC News tells audiences Israeli fears of terror attacks are ‘paranoia’‘ which discusses an October 2015 article by Kevin Connolly.

Our most viewed posts of 2015 also included ‘BBC’s Doucet explains why Yemen gets less coverage than Gaza‘ and ‘More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah‘.

Wishing all our readers a happy, healthy and peaceful 2016. 

Antisemitic rant on BBC Radio London gets media attention

The inadequately challenged thirteen minute-long antisemitic rant of a caller to a BBC Radio London phone-in show on December 22nd has attracted media attention both in the UK and Israel.BBC Radio London

The story has been covered by the Israeli news site nrg (Hebrew) and at the Times of Israel in a report titled “BBC radio hosts 13-minute Jewish conspiracy rant” which points out that:

“At no point did the presenter, who challenged Andy intermittently on his arguments, note that he was spouting anti-Semitism.”

In the UK, the Jewish News reported the story on December 28th and the following day the Jewish Chronicle published an article titled “Caller’s shocking antisemitic rant on BBC radio phone-in“.

As both those reports point out, the BBC spokesman’s defence of the corporation’s handling of the incident includes the claim that “[f]ollowing the interview reaction from other listeners was also broadcast” with – as the Jewish Chronicle notes – “one saying the caller was an “angry conspiracy theorist”.

That would of course suggest that the BBC is trying to claim that its own obligations – as laid out in the editorial guidelines, in the Agreement accompanying the Royal Charter and in the OFCOM guidance notes on harm and offence – can be outsourced to members of the general public.

The fact that some additional callers who happened to be listening to BBC Radio London at the time reacted to this item after it was broadcast clearly in no way mitigates the fact that the BBC presenter failed to adequately challenge the inaccuracies, conspiracy theories and antisemitic tropes heard by listeners to the programme. 

BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS public consultation on the BBC charter review included the following proposal:

“The BBC also needs to commit to mandatory education for its staff – including producers, journalists, handlers of complaints and message board moderators – on the issue of recognizing and identifying antisemitism.  The issue of propagation of antisemitic discourse on BBC message boards and social media must be tackled vigorously through improved moderation and the promotion of antisemitic tropes in BBC content should obviously be entirely unacceptable.”

This case clearly once again underscores the need for action on this issue. 

Are BBC News reports on Palestinian deaths accurate and impartial?

As noted here earlier in the month, the BBC refrained from reporting on many, if not most, of the terror attacks against Israelis which took place during December. But on occasions when the corporation did cover violent incidents resulting in the deaths of Palestinians, misleading, inaccurate or incomplete reporting was evident.

Here, for example, is how the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell portrayed events which took place on December 24th in a report for the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’. [emphasis added]

“This was in different parts of the occupied West Bank; three Palestinians shot dead, apparently while carrying out attacks. One stabbed two security guards at the entrance to an Israeli settlement. Another is said to have tried to attack soldiers close to Hebron with a screw driver. Another tried to run a car into a military post close to Jerusalem according to the Israeli military. There was a fourth Palestinian man killed in clashes with Israeli troops….”

Notably, Knell qualifies (unnecessarily) her accounts of the first three incidents, but not the last one. Here is a report from the Jerusalem Post relating to that fourth incident in which, according to Knell, a Palestinian man was simply “killed in clashes”.

“Separately, during a Palestinian riot that broke out in the Kalandiya refugee camp, the IDF killed a Palestinian gunman, Bilal Omar Zayed, 23. The soldiers had entered the camp to arrest two Palestinians for their suspected involvement in a shooting attack against Israelis.

The Palestinian gunman fired at the soldiers while they were in the camp, an army spokeswoman said. Soldiers returned fire, and it is believed that Zayed was killed at this point. After the exchange of fire, a large-scale disturbance ensued in which local residents threw rocks and fire bombs, wounding two soldiers.”

Did BBC audiences receive an accurate impression of the circumstances of that incident from Knell’s portrayal? Obviously not. Clearly too, in her account of the first three incidents, Knell’s focus is on the attackers rather than the victims.

The “Israeli settlement” she mentions is Ariel – a town with a population of over 18,000 people.

“Thursday’s violence began in the morning, when Muhammad Abdel Hamid Zahran, 23, from Kufr al-Dik, stabbed two security guards at the entrance to the settlement of Ariel, next to the city’s industrial park.

Both of the 24-year-old guards suffered stab wounds to their upper bodies that left one in serious condition and one in moderate condition.”

Contrary to the impression given by Knell, the attacker in the third incident did not try to strike an inanimate object as suggested by the wording “run a car into a military post”.

“Two hours later, around noon, Wissam Abu Ghawileh, 22, from Kalandiya, tried to mow down Border Police and soldiers with a car, just outside the Rama army base, located by the Adam junction in Samaria.

The Border Police released a statement made by “A.,” the commander of the Border Police officers who shot and killed the attacker, who explained that the attack occurred as the security forces were leaving the base on a routine mission.

“We saw a vehicle veer toward us on the path leading to the base, which is used only by people approaching the base, which left us with no doubt that this was a vehicular attack. The fighters actually leapt in the direction of a nearby shelter while we shot at the terrorist until he was neutralized,” A. said.

One officer lightly wounded in the incident was treated at the scene with an injury to one of his hands.”

Another example – from December 26th – is seen in a BBC Radio 4 news bulletin relating to incidents which took place on December 25th.Midnight news

“Israeli police say a Palestinian woman was shot dead when she tried to run her car into a patrol in the West Bank. At a border crossing with Gaza, another Palestinian was killed during a protest.”

By the time that news bulletin was broadcast, even the spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry had already clarified that the man was engaged in violent rioting at the time of his death.

“A Palestinian was killed on Friday east of Gaza City in clashes with Israeli troops, a spokesman for the Palestinian health ministry said.

Hani Whadab [Wahdan], 22, was killed as he was throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers near the Nahal Oz crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.”

The BBC’s classification of the circumstances as a “protest” therefore clearly fails to provide audiences with the full picture.

In both these examples we see that BBC reporting erases from audience view the fact that the deaths of Palestinians came about because they were carrying out violent acts. Not only is such reporting obviously inaccurate and misleading in that it fails to inform audiences of the full circumstances of the incidents but the failure to include key information also raises concerns about the impartiality of such reporting. 


More PLO messaging from Yolande Knell in Christmas report for BBC WS radio

In addition to the politicised Christmas Eve feature produced by Yolande Knell for the BBC News website on December 24th, she also reported from Bethlehem for BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour 24 12

In that item (from 30:00 here) Knell recycled themes and interviewees seen in her other report, focusing on a low-key Christmas and economic hardship in Bethlehem. Once again audiences were not informed of the Palestinian Authority’s instructions to municipalities to dampen this year’s celebrations or the Council of Churches’ similar dictate.

Setting the scene in his introduction, presenter Tim Franks failed to adequately clarify to listeners exactly which party has been initiating the acts of violence seen over the last three months, using passive language to promote a false sense of equivalence and – through use of the ‘Israel says’ formula – implying that the BBC cannot independently confirm that most of the Palestinian casualties were either terrorists killed in the act or violent rioters. [emphasis added]

“Even as visitor numbers continue to dwindle Christmas upon Christmas, this year the reason is pretty clear: the tensions that have washed over Israel and the occupied territories show no sign of abating.”

“More than 130 Palestinians have been killed – more than half were said by Israel to be attackers.”

“In Bethlehem – a short distance to the south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank – confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers continue on an almost daily basis….”

Of course if no Palestinian rioters take to the streets, there are no “confrontations” but as usual, the BBC conceals cause and effect and Knell’s later description did little to help listeners understand the context of the violence either.

“But for weeks now this has been the sound on the streets. An Israeli jeep fires tear gas at the young Palestinians all around me. They’ve been using catapults to fling stones at the Israeli soldiers next to the high concrete wall here: part of Israel’s West Bank barrier.”

As in her written report, Knell provided a platform for opportunistic political messaging. [emphasis added]

Knell: “Back at the road where protests regularly break out in Bethlehem, I meet a priest: Father Jamal Khader.”

Khader: “Now more than ever we see more despair. People don’t believe any more in the two state solution with increase of settlements, with heavy presence of the Israeli army.”

That messaging compliments Knell’s later portrayal of the background to the ongoing wave of terror.

“Israel blames the recent violence on incitement by Palestinian leaders and social media but Palestinians say it stems from the lack of hope after the failure of years of peace efforts.”

More than three months into this wave of terror, the BBC has still not provided its audiences with a factual and comprehensive picture of the incitement underpinning the violence. As a result, BBC audiences are not in a position to be able to determine the relative merits of the Israeli and Palestinian claims paraphrased in this item – which have also appeared in previous reports from Knell and her colleagues.

As readers may recall, the PLO’s guidance document distributed in November to members of the international media under the title “Key Points to Remember when Reporting on Occupied Palestine states:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

It therefore becomes increasingly difficult to avoid reaching the conclusion that BBC journalists have indeed chosen to ‘remember’ those ‘key points’ and to keep audiences in the dark on the topic of Palestinian incitement whilst simultaneously refraining from informing them of the actual circumstances of “the failure of years of peace efforts” which include the PA initiated Second intifada, the PA’s rejection of Olmert’s 2008 peace offer and the PA’s decision to scupper the round of talks held in 2013/14.

The corporation asserts that its audiences “can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world” and that its priority is to “build a global understanding of international issues”. A media organization committed to doing that could not have systematically avoided informing its audiences about the incitement fueling a wave of terror attacks and violence which has been going on for over a hundred days.

Mainstreaming antisemitic discourse on BBC Radio London

Brought to us by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the audio clip available here comes from a phone-in programme broadcast on BBC Radio London on December 22nd and hosted by Simon Lederman.BBC Radio London

That inadequately challenged collection of classic antisemitic tropes, conspiracy theories and factual inaccuracies has obviously raised concerns and via the Jewish News we learn that the BBC has responded as follows:

“A BBC spokesperson said: “The aim of the programme is to discuss and debate issues raised by our listeners. This was a live phone in and the caller was challenged on his views throughout the conversation. Following the interview reaction from other listeners was also broadcast.””

But was the caller really “challenged on his views throughout the conversation” and were obvious inaccuracies corrected by the presenter?

The repeated claim that “Zionist Jews” control and “own” the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve, corporate America and the media was not adequately challenged: at no point did the presenter inform listeners that those claims are simply untrue.

The inaccurate claim that “most of the Jews of the world” come from “an empire called Khazaria” was not challenged at all. That perhaps is a little less surprising when one considers that the BBC has previously given airtime to the main proponent of that myth.

The inaccurate assertion that “real” Judaism “has nothing to do with Zionism” was not challenged and neither were the inaccurate claims that “Balfour created essentially the State of Israel” and that “the British had a protectorate” in Palestine. Indeed the reaction from the presenter to those last two inaccuracies was to say “right”.

Moreover, Lederman himself fed listeners historical factual inaccuracies.

“I mean in terms of Zionism and in terms of the creation of Israel, I was under the impression – and I’m sure many of our listeners were too – that came out of the end of the Second World War where the League of Nations – slash United Nations as they later became – decided that was probably one of the best solutions in order to ensure the safety of a race of people who were almost exterminated in the Second World War. You don’t believe that’s the case?”

The BBC presenter also found it appropriate to mainstream the notion that discussion of whether or not one sole member state of the United Nations should exist is legitimate.

“And there is a debate – listen, I’m not saying there is no debate – clearly there is a debate about whether Israel in its current form should be where it is, whether the rights of the Palestinians have been outweighed by the rights of the Israelis, whether some of the decisions that were made – possibly some would perceive as in haste at the end of the Second World War – were the right decisions….”

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on Harm and Offence include the following words:

“We aim to reflect fully and fairly all of the United Kingdom’s people and cultures in our services.  Content may reflect the prejudice and disadvantage which exist in societies worldwide but we should not perpetuate it.  In some instances, references to disability, age, sexual orientation, faith, race, etc.  may be relevant to portrayal.  However, we should avoid careless or offensive stereotypical assumptions and people should only be described in such terms when editorially justified.” [emphasis added]


“The Agreement accompanying the BBC Charter requires us to apply “generally accepted standards so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion of offensive and harmful material“.” 

The dissemination and mainstreaming of classic antisemitic tropes concerning Jews, power and money is clearly both offensive and harmful.

BBC guidance concerning live output states:

“If offensive comments are expressed during live interviews, the interviewer should normally intervene, challenge the comments where appropriate and/or distance the BBC from the comments. If this doesn’t happen we should make an on-air apology at the earliest opportunity. Offensive comments include remarks that may be interpreted as, for example, racist, sexist, homophobic, prejudiced against a religious group, or reflecting an unflattering national stereotype.”

The OFCOM guidance notes on Harm and Offence state:

“Racist terms and material should be avoided unless their inclusion can be justified by the editorial of the programme. Broadcasters should take particular care in their portrayal of culturally diverse matters and should avoid stereotyping unless editorially justified. When considering such matters, broadcasters should take into account the possible effects programmes may have on particular sections of the community.”

In his July 2015 address on the topic of extremism the British Prime Minister spoke about “certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish” and in that category he included “ideas also based on conspiracy: that Jews exercise malevolent power…”.

The fact that a BBC presenter not only failed to adequately challenge precisely such conspiracies but – as he himself stated – gave this particular caller “more [time on air] than I have done anyone” should clearly be cause for serious concern.


BBC Radio London contact details



What does the BBC Academy teach the corporation’s journalists about Judaism?

If you happened to be a BBC journalist looking for information about an unfamiliar faith, the place to go would be the BBC Academy’s Subject Guide on Religion. There you would find the following introductory statement:

“Attitudes to religion are influenced by understanding – and it’s a journalist’s job to inform. So it’s important to be aware of the principles behind the world’s religions. In this section of the BBC Academy website, some of the BBC’s most experienced commentators […] guide you through the basics.”

One of the eight items on that page is former BBC religious affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan’s guide to Judaism which consists of text and a ten and a half-minute video. At the end of that video Buchanan tells her colleagues:Academy Judaism

“A knowledge of the history and of the different practices within Judaism is essential if journalists are going to report accurately any story connected with the Jewish faith.”

Indeed – and one might therefore expect Buchanan’s filmed guide to pay particular attention to the accuracy of its presentation of Judaism and Jews. So how does it fare?

Standing in front of the Western Wall, Buchanan tells viewers:

“This is the remains of the outer wall of the Jewish Second Temple, built by King Herod the Great.”

No – that is a retaining wall of the Temple Mount plaza: not a remnant of the Temple itself.

Buchanan goes on:

“The Western Wall is the holiest place in the world for Jews to pray.”

Misleading: the holiest place in Judaism is Temple Mount but Jews do not pray there under the terms of the status quo. The Western Wall is the closest site to Temple Mount where Jews are currently permitted to pray.  

“It’s also called the Wailing Wall because for centuries Jews have come here to lament the destruction of their Temple.”

The anachronistic term “Wailing Wall” is of course an English invention which is not used by those for whom the site has cultural and religious significance.

With regard to the Temple, viewers are also told that:

“Inside used to be the Ark of the Covenant: scrolls containing the Ten Commandments which the prophet Moses brought to Israel after the exodus from Egypt.”

The Ark of the Covenant is of course viewed as an object in itself, the Ten Commandments are said to have been inscribed on stone tablets rather than scrolls and Moses did not enter Israel.

Footage of worshippers laying Tefillin is accompanied by the statement “from the age of 13 men wrap this black tape around their arms….” and the Torah is confusingly described as “the first five books of the Christian bible”. [emphasis added]

There is also no shortage of dubious political commentary in this film. Despite the fact that Israel’s first Knesset included sixteen representatives from the United Religious Front, viewers are told that:

“Israel was created in 1948 by Jewish nationalists who were not, in the main, religious. But in the years since then the influence of religious Jews in politics has grown.”

As is usually the case in BBC content, the terms of the Mandate for Palestine and the Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem are erased, with history hence conveniently beginning after the Six Day War.

“….Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war….”

“This then inspired Jewish settlers to move into Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza…” [emphasis added]

Those “Jewish settlers” are portrayed as a homogeneous group, with the kibbutz movement erased from history:

“The settlement movement, driven by religious Zionists, came to dominate the Israeli Right and became the most dynamic movement in the politics of the Jewish state.”

British Jews too find themselves subject to some dubious labelling:

“The more Orthodox communities are finding their numbers growing because of their higher birth rate while more moderate Jews are seeing their numbers drop as some marry out of the faith.”

Near the beginning of the film viewers are told that;

“There are 12 million Jewish people in the world – most of them here in Israel and in America and the former Soviet Union.”

The former Soviet Union actually has fewer Jews today than France, the UK or Canada. Buchanan then goes on to promote the following stereotype:

“The numbers are small compared to the other major faiths but Jewish people exert considerable political and cultural influence.”

Towards the end of the film, viewers are told that:

“The so-called Jewish lobby in the United States has done much to keep America’s loyalty to Israel unshaken. It’s also teamed up with the Christian Right to find a common goal in opposing Islamic influence in the Holy Land.”

This film is supposed to be a reference item for BBC journalists, designed to help them produce accurate, impartial and informative content. It is therefore little wonder that we see, for example, repeated inaccuracies concerning the Western Wall and Temple Mount in BBC reporting or that promotion of the ‘Jewish lobby’ trope has become such a regular feature of BBC content.

UK government’s MB review shows 2014 BBC report misleads

On December 17th the UK Government published the main findings of an internal review of the Muslim Brotherhood which was commissioned by the Prime Minister in April 2014. Mr Cameron also made a written statement to Parliament on the topic on the same day.

The published main findings were the subject of a report titled “UK will not ban Muslim Brotherhood, says David Cameron” which appeared on the BBC News website’s UK page on December 17th.  

Another article relating to the same topic and published over a year previously in October 2014 still appears on the same webpage under the headline “Muslim Brotherhood: ‘Cleared of UK terrorism link’“. The opening paragraph of that report tells readers that:MB 2014 art

“A review of the Muslim Brotherhood’s UK activity has cleared it of links to terrorism, its lawyers have said.” [emphasis added]

Later analysis by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner includes the following:

“Whitehall insiders have been saying privately that – while there are concerns about some individual members – nothing has emerged to link the Brotherhood as an institution to any acts of terrorism.” [emphasis added]

That article was published long before the review’s findings were made public and, as can be seen below, those findings now call the accuracy of the above statements into question, both in terms of material and ideological support.

In his statement to Parliament, Mr Cameron noted that:

“Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism.”


“Individuals closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK have supported suicide bombing and other attacks in Israel by Hamas, an organisation whose military wing has been proscribed in the UK since 2001 as a terrorist organisation, and which describes itself as the Palestinian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The published main findings state that:

“The Hamas founding charter claims they are the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood treat them as such. In the past ten years support for Hamas (including in particular funding) has been an important priority for the MB in Egypt and the MB international network.”


“…the Muslim Brotherhood at all levels have repeatedly defended Hamas attacks against Israel, including the use of suicide bombers and the killing of civilians. The Muslim Brotherhood facilitate funding for Hamas. The leadership of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, its Jordanian counterpart and Hamas are closely connected. There are wider links with Muslim Brotherhood affiliates throughout the region. Senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood routinely use virulent, anti-Semitic language…”


“They have deliberately, wittingly and openly incubated and sustained an organisation – Hamas – whose military wing has been proscribed in the UK as a terrorist organisation (and which has been proscribed in its entirety by other countries).”

The report goes on to state:

“Many Brotherhood groups have raised funds in the UK. A complex network of charities associated with the Muslim Brotherhood has developed here over many years. Whilst some of these seem to be raising funds only for the Brotherhood in the UK others have been linked to Hamas. In 2003 the UK charity Interpal was designated as a terrorist entity by the US Treasury, primarily on the grounds of alleged links to Hamas. Interpal has been investigated three times by the Charity Commission in the UK. In 2006 the Charity Commission found that Interpal was a member of the Union of Good, a wider group of charities believed to have Hamas links and that in 2003 an Interpal partner was designated as a terrorist entity under UK law. The Charity Commission took regulatory action against Interpal in 2009. Though never publicly acknowledged by the Muslim Brotherhood charities in the UK are an important part of the Hamas and Brotherhood infrastructure in this country.” […]

“The Muslim Brotherhood has not been linked to terrorist related activity in and against the UK. […] However, in common with the Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere, Muslim Brotherhood-related organisations and individuals in the UK have openly supported the activities of Hamas. People associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK have applauded suicide bombing by Hamas, in some cases against civilians. Hamas terrorist activities have not been publicly disowned or condemned.”

Among the report’s conclusions is the following:

“…aspects of Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security.”

The statements from the October 2014 article highlighted above obviously do not present BBC audiences with an accurate picture of the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach to and relationship with Hamas terrorism according to the findings of the government review. The BBC’s editorial guidelines on the subject of online content management state:

“News pages and any content that advertises its topicality, or where users might reasonably expect it to be topical, must be kept up to date.  Content that appears to be topical but is, in fact, clearly out of date may undermine the BBC’s reputation for high editorial standards.  This includes databases of material gathered over time.”

Clearly then this article requires appropriate amendment in order for it to be accurate and up to date.  

Jerusalem explosives lab not newsworthy for the BBC

Had the British security services uncovered an explosives laboratory in the suburban apartment of a man recruited by a designated terrorist organisation, it is difficult to imagine that the BBC would have ignored the story.

The Times of Israel reports:

“The Shin Bet uncovered a large Hamas terror cell, among whose members were Israeli citizens, which planned to carry out suicide bombings and other terror attacks in Israel, the security service revealed on Wednesday.

The Shin Bet, alongside the IDF and Israel Police, have thus far arrested 25 Hamas operatives, the majority of them Al-Quds University in Abu Dis students, who they suspect were preparing to attack Israeli targets, the agency said in a statement. The arrests were carried out over the past few weeks.

The service also uncovered a makeshift laboratory in Abu Dis, in east Jerusalem, which was being used to create the explosives necessary for bombing attacks. It said the cell was controlled by Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“Had the attacks not been thwarted, they could have led to mass-casualty attacks and dangerously escalated the security situation, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) warned in a statement.”

Back in October, when BBC News was still making an effort to report major incidents in the ongoing wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, the theme of ‘lone wolf attacks’ was frequently seen in the corporation’s coverage. In cases in which the terrorists had known affiliations with terror groups such as Hamas or with the Palestinian Authority and/or Fatah, those connections have for the most part been downplayed or ignored in BBC reporting. The incitement and glorification of terrorism which have underpinned the current wave of violence have not been adequately covered by the BBC and the corporation has instead opted to promote the PLO approved narrative according to which the hundreds of stabbings, vehicular attacks and shootings perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists over the last three months stem from ‘frustration’ at the lack of a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This recent discovery of a Hamas-run terror cell in Jerusalem clearly does not fit into that narrative either and so – like the many previous stories concerning Hamas’ attempts to strengthen its infrastructure outside the Gaza Strip – it has not made BBC headlines.

BBC News Christmas report amended to remove misleading description

An article currently appearing on the BBC News website under the title “Christmas marked around the world” and with the date stamp December 25th is made up of photographs from seven different locations appearing under the short introduction “Across the world, billions of Christians have been marking Christmas, the traditional birthday of Jesus Christ.”Christmas art

The original version of that article – published on the evening of December 24th – carried a different introduction.

“Across the world, Christians have begun marking Christmas with services, with Pope Francis holding midnight mass at the Vatican.

In the holy city of Bethlehem, the West Bank town where it is believed that Jesus was born, events have been overshadowed by recent violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

“There’s lights, there’s carols, but there’s an underlying sense of tension,” one pilgrim to Bethlehem, Briton Paul Haines, told Associated Press news agency.” [emphasis added]

Fortunately, that misleading description of over three months of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis was removed from later versions of the report.

BBC’s Knell yet again politicises Christmas in Bethlehem report

The Christmas season inevitably brings with it opportunistic, politicised messaging from the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau and this year was no different. Apparently short on fresh ideas, Yolande Knell casts local residents in the role of nativity story figures in her report titled “Christmas in Bethlehem: Hopes and fears for the future” (December 24th, BBC News website Middle East page) – a device she previously used in her 2011 seasonal report.Knell Bethlehem main

Including both text and video clips, the report promotes the themes of a low-key Christmas and economic hardship for Bethlehem residents. No mention is made of the Palestinian Authority’s instructions to municipalities to dampen this year’s celebrations or the Council of Churches’ similar dictate.

The surge in Palestinian terrorism that began in mid-September and which has obviously had an effect on the tourist industry in the region receives minimal coverage in Knell’s account, although when it is mentioned she portrays it as equivalent “Israeli-Palestinian violence” and – in line with PLO messaging – downplays the incitement fueling that violence. Instead, Knell focuses more on what she terms “protests” and “clashes” whilst erasing the agency of Palestinian rioters and terrorists sabotaging their own community’s all-important tourism industry.

“Young Palestinians regularly join protests that result in confrontations with Israeli soldiers. There are flashpoints across the West Bank including on the edge of Ramallah and in Bethlehem.”

“Nowadays clashes regularly take place by one of these gates. Typically, young Palestinians throw stones, marbles and petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers who respond with tear gas, rubber bullets, skunk water and live rounds.

Israel blames the violence on incitement by Palestinian leaders and social media. Father Jamal says that on the Palestinian side there are feelings of hopelessness and despair.”

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 1

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 2

Knell Bethlehem equivalence 3

The predominant messaging in this report relates to the anti-terrorist fence. In line with the corporation’s usual portrayal of that subject, Knell fails to provide BBC audiences with an objective and transparent account of the reasons behind the fence’s construction and its proven record of reducing the number of terror attacks against Israelis.

“Israel has also built part of its separation barrier here. It says this is needed for security, but Palestinians see it as a land grab.”

“In 2003, an 8m (26ft)-high concrete wall was erected in Bethlehem – part of Israel’s barrier built in and around the West Bank. A series of gates were constructed in the wall so that church leaders could continue to pass.”

“About 40% of the Bethlehem economy relies directly on tourism. However since the town was separated from Jerusalem by Israel’s barrier, most tourists now enter through an Israeli checkpoint.”

Knell Bethlehem fence 1

Knell Bethlehem fence 2

Knell Bethlehem fence 3

The fence is also the hook for promotion of the theme of restricted access resulting in reduced business.

“Local souvenir sellers say that restricted access to the city has greatly affected their trade.” 

Video clip 5: “…Bethlehem is now surrounded with a wall; not easily accessed in and out like before between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This limited the number of tourists who come to Bethlehem to doing shopping for Christmas. “

Knell Bethlehem access 1

In fact, the crossing used by tourists going from Israel to Palestinian-Authority controlled Bethlehem is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and foreign tourists do not need permits. As usual, this year too arrangements have been put in place to enable Palestinian Christians to celebrate the holiday with their relatives.

An additional theme in this report relates to ‘settlements’ – alleged to be “expanding” – with the standard BBC mantra concerning ‘international law’ appearing together with a recycled map.

“Recently shepherding has become much more difficult because of a lack of open land. Jewish settlements are expanding nearby. They are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel disagrees.”

Knell Bethlehem economic 1

Absent from Knell’s reporting is any mention of non-Israel related factors which might have an influence on Christmas celebrations and tourism in Bethlehem such as crime or violence related to internal Palestinian politics.

“The car taking Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, head of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, was struck Friday, Christmas Day, in Bethlehem by rocks thrown by Palestinian rioters. […]

Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces said Friday that they arrested two suspected Islamic radicals for burning a Christmas tree in the northern West Bank.

A Palestinian security officer said Friday the suspects set fire Wednesday to the tree in Zababdeh, a village near Jenin populated mainly by Christians. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters.

He said both suspects were under investigation for possible ties to extremist Islamist groups.

He also said Palestinian security forces arrested Wednesday about a dozen suspected radical Islamists in Bethlehem.

A report in the Palestinian Ma’an news agency put the number of detainees at 16. According to the report, the group are Salafi radicals who were preparing to carry out a terror attack against Western tourists arriving in Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas there.”

Yolande Knell’s selective portrayal of Christmas in Bethlehem is clearly designed to promote a political agenda and there is no reason to be surprised about that given her past record and her openly displayed identification with such political causes. Amazingly for a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting, the BBC continues to countenance her annual exploitation of Christmas for the opportunistic force-feeding of its audiences with trite anti-Israel delegitimisation.

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BBC report on Christmas in Bethlehem amplifies PA political messaging yet again

BBC’s Knell exploits Christmas report to lie about anti-terrorist fence