A BBC quotee opines on Brussels terror attacks

On February 1st the BBC News website published an article which described a temporary roadblock set up following a terror attack by a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces (which it had not reported at the time) as “collective punishment”.

That allegation included a quote from “Palestinian police spokesman Adnan Damiri”.

collective punishment

Courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch we learn that the same Adnan Damiri had comments to make on the topic of the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22nd.

“Following the terror attacks in Brussels yesterday, in which at least 30 people were murdered and hundreds were injured, PA Security Forces Spokesman Adnan Al-Damiri wrote in a post on his Facebook page that the US and Europe are the ones who created international terror. He claimed, for example, that Europe and the US are responsible for “exporting Jewish terror to Palestine,” and therefore Europe is directly responsible for the terror that strikes it:

“Those who prepare the poison will taste it themselves, and today Europe is having a taste of what it prepared with its own hands.”

[Facebook page of PA Security Forces spokesman Adnan Al-Damiri, March 22, 2016]”

Let’s hope that BBC journalists remember those remarks the next time they are tempted to promote and amplify a quote from Damiri on the subject of terrorism.  

 

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Weekend long read

Despite the sadly ever-increasing topicality of the subject of ISIS terrorism in Europe, the BBC has shown remarkably little interest in informing its audiences of the collaboration between that terror organisation’s branch in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Hamas.Weekend Read

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre has produced an interesting report which touches on that issue as well as additional Egyptian allegations against Hamas and the current state of relations between the two. That report is available here.

The ITIC has also produced a report – available here – on the subject of Iranian funding for the families of Palestinian terrorists and the Palestinian Authority’s interesting response: a topic which the BBC ignored when it came to light last month.

Another benefactor of Iranian funding is of course Hizballah and one of the foremost experts on that terror organisation’s financing, Dr Matthew Levitt, recently gave testimony to the US Congress’ Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

“Increased Iranian spending in the wake of the Iran deal is likely to benefit Hezbollah’s regional and international operations. The group is no longer limited to jockeying for political power in Lebanon and fighting Israel. With more money, it should be expected to step up its aid to Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen in cooperation with Iran, sending small numbers of skilled trainers to bolster local forces and, in some cases, fight alongside them. In Iraq, Hezbollah is training and fighting with Shiite militias, and that will likely expand. Though they are fighting on behalf of the government, their tactics exacerbate sectarian tensions. In Yemen, Hezbollah’s footprint is small, but it could expand with additional resources. The group is already trying to find long-term support for these operations, such as investments in commercial front organizations in Iraq.”

Dr Levitt’s full remarks are available here.

Egyptian journalist Ramy Aziz recently visited Israel for the first time.

“I met with both Arabs and Jews of Arab origin, and they recounted their memories of life in Iraq, Egypt, and the other countries from which they had come. I listened to how they had left those countries after bitter experiences of incitement and hatred. Life had brought them to a place where they peacefully coexisted. Unfortunately, the truth of coexistence has been muddled with the help of many media organizations.

In another repudiation of another false claim, my visits to places of worship were not stopped or barred from entry by either the Israeli army or police force, as they have been rumored to do, despite the escalating incitement and violence in the city. Life in the holy city goes on, filled with vitality during all hours of the night and day. It is a city that does not sleep, filled with people from all over the world.”

The full account of his trip can be found here.

BBC News alleges racial discrimination in Israeli airport security

Among the copious BBC News website coverage of the March 22nd terror attacks in Brussels was an article by Home Affairs correspondent Tom Symonds titled “Brussels attacks: Airport security under the spotlight again” which opened as follows:Brussels airport security art

“Global airport security is again under the spotlight following the attacks in Brussels. Is it ever possible to prevent a suicide bomber entering an airport to kill and maim?”

What followed was a fairly superficial discussion of the security measures employed at airports which could have been written by anyone who has ever travelled by air. The topic then turned to differing approaches to security and, predictably, the measures employed at Israel’s international airport came up.

“Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, often cited as the world’s most secure, relies on profiling. Passengers are closely watched and intensively questioned about who they are and where they are going.

It works because it allows a more fluid and less predictable line of security.”

However, Symonds then went on to tell his readers:

“But it is a technique often criticised as “politically incorrect” because those without white faces, travelling to and from “non-western” countries, face more scrutiny.

Passengers complain of being forced to answer personal questions or even hand over personal items deemed to pose a risk. It can be highly intrusive.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no basis to Symonds’ crude allegation of racial discrimination and in fact a CIA report apparently instructed personnel that:

“Security personnel at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, commonly refer military-aged males traveling alone with backpacks to secondary screening, regardless of their nationality or skin color,” the report notes. “Israel’s security personnel focus on frequent travel to Islamic countries.” [emphasis added]

That modus operandi would no doubt sound quite logical to anyone more worried about getting blown up than political correctness but nevertheless, readers of this stocking-filler piece – obviously intended to fluff up the volume of coverage on a particularly busy news day – went away with the inaccurate notion that security checks at Israel’s main airport depend upon the colour of one’s skin.

Related Articles:

BBC headline promotes a lie

BBC’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’: Israeli airport security ‘Kafkaesque intimidation’ and ‘mind-games’

 

One to watch out for on BBC One

The BBC’s Easter weekend schedule includes a programme titled “In The Footsteps Of Judas” which will be shown on BBC One at 09:00 local time on Friday, March 25th.In the footsteps of Judas

“To mark Good Friday this one-hour documentary sees one of Britain’s best-loved vicars, Kate Bottley, re-open the case against the Bible’s most notorious villain – Judas Iscariot.

Kate’s journey takes her from her parish in Nottingham to Jerusalem, where she pieces together the events leading up to the Crucifixion. Why did Judas betray his Master at his most desperate hour? And on a day when we remember that Jesus died for all our sins, is Judas excluded from that forgiveness?

A number of leading theological experts contribute to Kate’s investigation, as she visits the Upper Room of the Last Supper; Gethsemane – the scene of Judas’ treacherous kiss; and the Field of Blood, where, according to Christian tradition, Judas hanged himself.

Ultimately, Kate demonstrates why Judas matters and why he is central to our understanding of the Christian message today.”

Hopefully the programme will avoid politics – not least because, after her first ever visit to Jerusalem, Ms Bottley appears to have come away with some very clichéd and inaccurate impressions.

“But it [Jerusalem] was a place that also broke my heart – because here is a place that the three main religions share a site, Jews Christians and Muslims – one of the holiest places for those three religions and yet they literally and metaphorically miss each other in the street. You know we share a geography there we share a commonality there, even the same god some would argue, and yet Jerusalem is a place that is completely divided. And that’s really sad because if we can’t get it together there where can we get it together?” 

BBC News and BBC World Service report on airlift of Yemenite Jews

The news that some of the last remaining members of the Jewish community in Yemen had been airlifted to Israel brought some rare BBC reporting on the topic of Jews from Arab lands.

The story was reported on the BBC News website on March 21st in an article titled “Yemeni Jews brought to Israel in secret mission“. That accurate and impartial report even included information omitted in previous BBC reporting.

Yemenite Jews airlift art

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ also reported the story in an item (from 30:07 here) which included an interview with the Jewish Agency spokesman Avi Mayer and then later (at 38:55, following a technical fault) with historian Tudor Parfitt.

During that conversation presenter Razia Iqbal posed the following question-cum-statement:

“…the absence of the Jewish history and culture in not just Yemen but other Arab countries is a really sad reflection of the sectarianism that exists now in the Middle East.”

Given the paucity of BBC reporting on the topic of the long history of Jews from Arab lands in general and the religious roots of some of the hostility towards them in particular, it is rather unlikely that statement would have contributed much to audience understanding of background to this story – especially with the curious insertion of the word “now”. 

Nevertheless, it was good to see some reasonable reporting on a much neglected topic.

BBC News website flip-flops on description of Brussels attacks as terrorism – part two

In part one of this post we documented the changes made to the BBC News website’s main report on the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22nd and the way in which the term ‘terror’ was removed from its later versions.  

Another article which appears to have undergone a similar editing process is titled “In pictures: Brussels blasts“. The current version of that report opens:Brussels In Pictures

“Scores of people have been killed and wounded in attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station during the morning rush hour.

There has been heightened security in the Belgian capital since it emerged that several of the men behind last November’s Paris attacks had come from Brussels.”

However, that second paragraph originally read:

“There has been heightened tension and security in the Belgian capital since it emerged that several of the men behind last November’s terror attacks in Paris had come from the city. Just days ago, a man suspected of involvement in the attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was arrested in Brussels after four months on the run.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the BBC edited the word terror out of that reference to attacks it accurately described at the time (for example here, here and here) and subsequently (for example here and here) as terrorism.

On March 23rd the BBC News website published a report titled “Brussels attacks: Belgium mourns amid hunt for suspect” which was promoted on the BBC News (World) Twitter account.

Tweet BBC News replacement

However, minutes before that Tweet went out, the same article had been promoted in an earlier one which was apparently deleted.

Tweet BBC News deleted 2

The BBC of course knows full well that the premeditated and coordinated attacks in Brussels were acts of terrorism and that the people who executed them are terrorists. That fact is still reflected in some of its many reports on the events but the removal of the word terror from other reports indicates once again that the corporation has real difficulty distinguishing between the means and ends of violent attacks on civilians and that its inconsistent employment of the term terror hinges on political judgements.Brussels terror 1

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on War, Terror and Emergencies state:

“We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.”

As its reporting on the Brussels attacks shows, the BBC is not achieving consistency even within coverage of one story. Some of its journalists appropriately employed the term terror whilst other members of its staff were busy expunging that word from coverage. Until the corporation is capable of coming up with a uniform approach to reporting acts of terrorism wherever – and by whom – they are perpetrated, its reputation for objectivity and accuracy will obviously remain compromised.

Related Articles:

Another example of the BBC’s double standards on terror

BBC avoidance of the word terror criticized by MPs – again

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News website flip-flops on description of Brussels attacks as terrorism – part one

The March 22nd terror attacks at the airport and on the metro in Brussels in which over thirty people were murdered and hundreds wounded were of course covered in depth on the BBC News website and in particular on its Europe page. The website’s main article on that day went through numerous understandable changes as events unfolded and information came to light.

Originally titled “Brussels Zaventem airport rocked by two explosions”, the article now appears under the headline “Brussels attacks: Zaventem and Maelbeek bombs kill many” but the journey between those two headlines highlights some interesting editorial decisions.

The original headline was later changed to read “Brussels Zaventem airport blasts cause casualties” and still later to “Brussels Zaventem airport and metro explosions ‘kill at least 13′” and then “Brussels explosions: Airport and metro hit with ‘at least 13 killed'”.

Brussels main art 1

[Source]

Around four hours after the first attacks took place the headline was amended to read “Brussels explosions: Many dead in airport and metro terror attacks” and the article’s opening paragraph also used the term “terrorist attacks”.

“Many people have been killed or seriously injured in terrorist attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station, Belgium’s PM says.”

Brussels main art 2

[Source]

The next two versions of the report carried the same headline and opening paragraph and at around the same time the BBC News website’s Europe page also used the word terror in its main headline.

Brussels attacks terror Europe page

Just under two hours later, that headline was again amended to read “Brussels attacks: At least 26 dead at Zaventem and Maelbeek” but the opening paragraph still informed readers that terror attacks had taken place.

“At least 26 people have been killed or seriously injured in terrorist attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station.”

Final version

Final version

Subsequently the headline was again updated to “Brussels attacks: At least 31 dead at Zaventem and Maelbeek” and the word ‘terrorist’ was removed from the opening paragraph.

“At least 31 people have been killed and many seriously injured in attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station.”

None of the five subsequent versions of the article used the word terror in either the headline or the opening paragraph.

So as we see, despite having at some point been accurately able to identify and name the horrific events in Brussels as terror attacks, BBC editors later went out of their way to expunge that description from the website’s main report. As we shall see in part two of this post, that article was not the only one affected by that editorial policy.

Organisation quoted by BBC hosts terror glorification event

Regular readers of BBC News reports concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will not infrequently come across information sourced from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s Ramallah and Gaza branches. For example:PRCS

“There were clashes in several places in the occupied West Bank, with the Red Crescent saying seven Palestinians suffered injuries from live fire”.

And:

“Scores of Palestinians were wounded in the violence across the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.”

As readers may recall, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society was one of the sources relied upon by UNOCHA for the compilation of casualty figures and civilian/combatant ratios in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas. Those highly dubious figures were unquestioningly quoted, promoted – and defended – by the BBC during and after the conflict without any independent verification having been carried out.

During that same conflict the BBC also amplified claims made by a representative of the Palestinian Red Crescent without providing audiences with any evidence of its having independently confirmed the allegations described in the article as amounting to war crimes.

“”Our ambulances are often targeted although they are clearly marked and display all signs that they are ambulances,” said Dr Bashar Murad, director of Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) emergency and ambulance unit, which lost at least two members of staff.”

Audiences were not however informed of documented cases of the use of PRCS ambulances for the purposes of terrorism.

PMW reports that earlier this month the Palestinian Red Crescent Society headquarters in Ramallah hosted an event organized by Fatah to mark the anniversary of a terror attack in which thirty-seven civilians (including 12 children) were murdered and over seventy wounded.

“Every year the Palestinian Authority and Fatah celebrate the anniversary of the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history by honoring the female terrorist Dalal Mughrabi who led it. This year, one such celebration was hosted by the office of the Palestinian Red Crescent, which is under the International Red Cross.”

The BBC, however, continues to promote information sourced from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society as though it were an impartial source. 

Another example of BBC double standards on disputed territories

The double standards employed by the BBC in its reporting on disputed territories have been noted here before in relation to Cyprus and Western Sahara.  The latter region was recently in the news again and on March 17th the BBC News website produced an article titled “Western Sahara: Morocco threat over UN peacekeepers” which displays an interesting choice of language.W Sahara art

“Morocco has threatened to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions in a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

It is furious with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after he used the term “occupation” about the territory, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975.” [emphasis added]

Later on in the article readers were told that:

“Morocco annexed most of the disputed former Spanish colony in 1976.” [emphasis added]

In contrast to its reporting on Israel which – in line with the directives of the BBC’s dedicated style guide – is inevitably peppered with phrases such as ‘occupied’ or ‘illegal under international law’, this article uses the much more politically neutral term “disputed” which is also how the region is described in the corporation’s general style guide.

W Sahara style guide

The BBC is far from the only media organization to use differing terminology depending on who is contesting a region, as our colleagues at CAMERA have documented. Nevertheless, as long as the BBC continues to employ such blatant double standards, it should not be surprised that its supposed impartiality is called into question.