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. 

 

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