BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

Throughout the years of the Syrian civil war, the BBC has on multiple occasions given unchallenged and unquestioned amplification to falsehoods put out by the Assad regime alleging Israeli support for Syrian rebel factions.

BBC unquestioningly promotes Assad’s “destabilisation” claims

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC Q&A on alleged Israeli air strikes is political polemic

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ promotes more Syrian regime propaganda

BBC report on shootings in Golan parrots Assad propaganda

Vital information missing in BBC reports on alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria

Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

On November 30th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Syria conflict: ‘Israeli jets’ strike outside Damascus“. The initial version of that report read as follows:

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Around an hour later the article was amended to include Syrian regime propaganda.

“The Syrian military source said Wednesday’s missile strikes were “an attempt to distract attention” from the Syrian army’s “successes” and a “bid to raise the morale of the collapsing terrorist gangs”, an apparent reference to recent rebel losses in Aleppo.”

That propaganda was already in the public domain when the BBC published the first version of its report but, remarkably, someone at the BBC News website thought it appropriate to amend the article to include that false information – which once again goes unquestioned and unchallenged – and amplify it to international audiences.

So much for “the standard-setter for international journalism“.  

 

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Another Temple Mount related story ignored by the BBC

As readers may recall, a year ago the BBC refrained from reporting on its English language website the Israeli government’s decision to declare the Northern Islamic Movement an illegal organisation – but did cover that story on the BBC Arabic website.Kotel at night 2

English-speaking audiences were therefore deprived of information concerning the Northern Islamic Movement’s network of paid activists who disrupt visits by non-Muslims to Temple Mount. Those networks – known as the Murabitat and Murabitun – were banned by the Israeli authorities in September 2015.

Earlier this week the Israeli Security Agency announced the arrest and indictment of four members of the Northern Islamic Movement.

“According to a statement by the Shin Bet, the defendants incited unrest at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and four of them tried to keep up the activity of the Murabitun and Murabitat, two groups outlawed in Israel since last year for harassing Jewish visitors. […]

Members were paid for being present on the Temple Mount and for taking actions toward Jewish visitors.

The Shin Bet named the four “senior members” as Hikmet Fahim Mustafa Naama, 35, from the town of Arrabe, Yahya Muhammad Mahmoud Sutri, 54, from Nazareth, Abdel Karim Muhammad Abdel Qader Karim, 65, from Kfar Kana and Ismail Diab Mahmoud Lohani, 61, from Arrabe.

According to the Shin Bet, the four “operated an extensive network for fund-raising and paying Murabitun activists, which included transportation from all over the country to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.””

While the BBC has frequently covered outbreaks of unrest on Temple Mount, it has serially ignored the very relevant issue of the organised harassment of non-Muslim visitors to the site by paid Islamist activists. It was hence unsurprising to see that this latest story received no coverage and audiences were once again deprived of information which would enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue“.

Related Articles:

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

The part of the Temple Mount story the BBC refuses to tell

BBC article on Temple Mount riot notes ban on groups it previously failed to report exist

 

 

Reviewing BBC portrayal of the 1947 Partition Plan

Members of the public looking for BBC produced information concerning the 1947 Partition Plan will find a mixed bag of results.

The content available online is untagged and hence does not appear in one place or in chronological order of publication. Members of the public might therefore encounter backgrounders in which no mention is made of the fact that the Partition Plan was rejected by the Arab states and the ‘Higher Arab Committee’ – and thus rendered irrelevant – or that violence ensued.partition-plan-2

For example, a backgrounder dating from 1997 states: 

“The Palestine partition plan was approved by the United Nations in its 128th plenary session November 29, 1947. This is the official text of the resolution which divided Palestine and created one Jewish and one Arab state.

The resolution was approved by the general assembly – 33 votes in favour, 13 votes against, with 10 abstentions.”

The timeline appearing in the BBC’s online Israel profile states:

“1947 – United Nations recommends partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with international control over Jerusalem and its environs.”

A BBC feature commemorating the First World War centenary (previously discussed here) states:

“The UN voted to divide Palestine into two states: one Arab, one Jewish. In 1948, Israel declared its independence; the first Arab-Israeli war began the moment the British left.”

A piece of ‘analysis‘ from 1997 even leads audiences to mistakenly believe that the fact that the Partition Plan was never implemented is attributable to the UN rather than to Arab rejection.

“Even as the votes were cast, it was unclear if the Zionists would get the two-thirds majority they needed. In the end, the resolution was passed by 33 votes to 13; Britain was one of 10 states that abstained.

The UN lacked the means to enforce the resolution and Britain had already said it intended to withdraw from Palestine. But the partition resolution gave new impetus – and new legitimacy – to the quest for Jewish statehood.”

In additional BBC material still available to audiences online the rejection is inaccurately portrayed as coming from one particular source and the role of the Arab nations in opposing the plan (and threatening violence should it be implemented) is erased from audience view.partition-plan-1

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the native Arabs, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The UN set up a special committee which recommended splitting the territory into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. Palestinian representatives, known as the Arab Higher Committee, rejected the proposal; their counterparts in the Jewish Agency accepted it.” [emphasis added] (source)

“The United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem to be an international city. The plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians, was never implemented.” [emphasis added] (source)

“1947 – United Nations recommends partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states after Britain signals end to Mandate, with international control over Jerusalem and its environs. Arab High Committee rejects partition.” (source)

The one backgrounder (dated November 2001) in which the Arab states’ rejection of the Partition Plan is documented was corrected in 2014 after BBC Watch highlighted its erroneous claim that Ben Gurion had rejected the UN resolution.

“The Palestinians and Arabs felt that it was a deep injustice to ignore the rights of the majority of the population of Palestine. The Arab League and Palestinian institutions rejected the partition plan, and formed volunteer armies that infiltrated into Palestine beginning in December of 1947.”

The BBC’s inconsistent portrayal of the Partition Plan is obviously relevant from the point of view of the accuracy of information provided to audiences but it also has wider implications. As readers may be aware, the corporation bases its enduring refusal to describe Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on the misguided claim that:partition-plan-3

“…a UN resolution passed in 1947 has not been rescinded. It calls for the whole of Jerusalem to be an international city, a corpus separatum (similar to the Vatican City), and in that context, technically, West Jerusalem is not Israeli sovereign territory.”

Ahead of next year’s 70th anniversary of that UNGA resolution, it is clearly high time for the BBC to ensure that all its available related content meets editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality and that its audiences – as well as journalists and other staff – are given an accurate understanding of the relevance of the resolution today.

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

As readers no doubt recall, one of the many remarkable features of BBC coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was the corporation’s failure to report on Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields.

Not only did BBC journalists refrain from reporting adequately on the issue of Hamas’ placement of military assets in populated areas (with the BBC later claiming that it was “very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”) and the terror group’s instructions to civilians to stay put in such areas but some BBC correspondents even went out of their way to deny the phenomenon.

“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” Jeremy Bowen, July 22, 2014.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” Orla Guerin, August 13, 2014.

Complaints from members of the public on that issue were eventually dismissed by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in a tortured and self-contradicting ruling which adopted an interpretation of the term human shields that conflicts with existing definitions. The ESC advisor wrote:

“…there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas.” 

In contrast to that ‘radio silence’ on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza in 2014, recent BBC coverage of the multinational military operation to drive ISIS out from the Mosul area in Iraq which began on October 16th has included several reports concerning that terror group’s use of human shields.human-shields-1

Just three days after the operation commenced, the BBC News website published an article titled “Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields” which amplified statements made by one of the parties to the Combined Joint Task Force conducting the operation.

“The US has accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces move closer to the group’s stronghold in Mosul. […]

Asked by reporters in Washington if IS was using civilians as human shields, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said “absolutely”.

“They are being held there against their will,” he said on Tuesday. “We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.”

Residents reached by telephone by Reuters news agency said IS was preventing people fleeing the city and had directed some of them towards buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.”

The report did not include any indication of independent BBC confirmation of those claims.

October 21st saw the publication of an article headlined “Mosul battle: IS ‘may use civilians as human shields’” which amplified speculative statements made by a UN official.

“At least 200 Iraqi families have been made to leave their homes for Mosul by Islamic State (IS) fighters and could be used as human shields, the UN warns. […]

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was “a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” using an acronym for IS.”human-shields-2

On October 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Mosul Iraq battle: ‘Tens of thousands of civilians’ used as IS human shields” which again amplified UN statements.

“Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted tens of thousands of civilians from around the Iraqi city of Mosul to use as human shields, the UN says. […]

“Credible reports” suggested that civilians in sub-districts around Mosul had been forced from their homes and relocated inside the city since the offensive began earlier this month, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. […]

“Isil’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Ms Shamdasani added, using an acronym for IS.”

Once again, there was no indication of the BBC having independently confirmed those reports before their publication.

On November 7th visitors to the BBC News website and viewers of BBC television news saw a filmed report titled “Battle for Mosul: IS ‘herded human shields like sheep’“.

“The BBC’s Karen Allen spoke to residents of one town near Mosul who say they were used as “human shields” by retreating militants.”

So as we see, within less than a month since the launch of the military operation against ISIS in the Mosul region, BBC audiences were alerted to the terror group’s use of civilians as human shields on at least four occasions. The majority of those reports were based on information provided by outside sources and – in contrast to the 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, where the corporation did have journalists on the ground in the relevant areas – the BBC apparently did not find it necessary in this case to find “evidence” of its own before reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS. 

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

At around 8:30 a.m. on the morning of November 27th an incident took place along the border in the south Golan Heights.

“Soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit had crossed the security fence with Syria to conduct an “ambush operation,” while remaining inside Israeli territory, when they came under attack from small arms fire, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

They returned fire, but soon came under attack from mortar shells.

In response, the Israel Air Force targeted a truck “that had some sort of machine gun on top of it” and killed the four terrorists who were riding in it. […]

According to the IDF, the four men were members of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist group in Syria that is connected with the Islamic State. […]

The incident was the first major confrontation between Israeli forces and Islamic State affiliated terrorists in the Golan, though Israel has clashed with other fighters on the Syrian side of the border several times.”

The incident received coverage on the BBC Arabic website on the same day. Bizarrely, the article was tagged “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” even though it obviously has nothing to do with that subject matter.

During the night between November 27th and 28th, a building used by the ISIS linked terrorist group was struck by the Israeli air force.

“The IDF said Monday that the target in the overnight airstrike was an “abandoned UN building that has been used by the Islamic State as an operations center along the border in the southern Syrian Golan Heights,” adding that “the compound was the base for yesterday’s attack against IDF forces.”

“This is an additional response to yesterday’s attack, and it is aimed at preventing the terrorists from returning to the installation which poses a significant threat,” the IDF said.”

In the early afternoon of November 28th the BBC News website published a report concerning that strike and the previous day’s incident – which had hitherto gone unreported in English.golan-incident-report

Headlined “Israeli aircraft target IS position in Syrian Golan Heights“, the article opens with an account of the last of the story’s events.

“The Israeli Air Force has bombed a building used by Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights, Israel’s military says.

The air raid targeted an abandoned UN peacekeeping facility used as a base for an attack on Sunday against Israeli soldiers on Israeli-occupied territory.

The four militants behind that attack were killed in an earlier strike.”

Readers are not provided with any explanation as to why the UN building was “abandoned” and are not reminded that the so-called ‘demilitarised zone’ has long since ceased to meet that definition, with UNDOF forces having largely retreated from the area. Moreover, towards the end of this report readers find the standard – but now irrelevant – BBC mantra concerning the Golan Heights.

“Israel seized the region in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake it in 1973.

Both countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which a UN peacekeeping force was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.”

Only in the sixth paragraph do readers find out about the attack that sparked events.

“In Sunday’s incident, Israeli soldiers came under machine-gun and mortar fire, according to the Israeli military.

The air force bombed a vehicle carrying the assailants, whom the military said were members of the IS-linked Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade, a Syrian group formerly called the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade.” [emphasis added]

Not only did the IDF ‘say’ that the four terrorists were members of the ISIS linked group: the BBC refrains from informing its audiences that ISIS later published their photographs.

Readers are not provided with any further information concerning Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed or its recent internal conflicts. Neither are they reminded that one of the groups making up that organisation – the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade – kidnapped UN forces in 2013. Readers are not given any information concerning the size of the area controlled by the ISIS affiliated group adjacent to Israel’s border and the Syrian civilians living in that region have not been the topic of any BBC coverage.

BBC beats around the bush on women’s rights in Gaza

A filmed report produced as part of the BBC’s fourth100 Women” season appeared on the BBC News website (including the Middle East page) on November 26th under the title “The woman defying Gaza’s biking ‘ban’“.

The issue of women’s rights under the Hamas regime is one which has long been under-reported or downplayed by the BBC, meaning that audiences suffer from a serial lack of information about the restrictions on the rights of women (and other groups) and the religious ideology that lies behind such policies. While this report gives audiences a brief glimpse into one of the symptoms, it does little to contribute to the series’ stated aim of examining the issues behind their cause.

Audiences hear from the woman featured in the film, Amna Suleiman.100-women-gaza

“I posted on social media that I was going on a bike ride with two female friends. Many women got in touch and said they would love to join us. But on the day, none of them showed up. I’m sure what stopped women from coming is fear of the authorities.”

And later on:

“Gaza women have to abide by a strict social code. If a girl tries to defy cultural restrictions, she becomes an outcast.”

Leaving audiences to fill in the blanks for themselves, the BBC informs viewers that:

“An unwritten rule in Gaza bans women from riding bicycles after they reach puberty.”

And:

“The Islamist movement Hamas has been ruling Gaza since 2006.”

In fact the violent Hamas coup which brought the end to Palestinian Authority rule in the Gaza Strip took place in June 2007.

This all too rare glimpse into a social issue faced by women in the Gaza Strip once again avoids providing BBC audiences with the context necessary for its full comprehension.

Related Articles:

BBC euphemism of the (International Women’s) day

BBC Trending’s preposterous International Women’s Day question

How the BBC whitewashed the issue of women’s rights in Iran

BBC News follow-up report on fires in Israel ignores developments

On the morning of November 25th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published a second report relating to the wave of fires in Israel. Despite remaining the lead story on that webpage for over two days, the article – titled “Israel fires: Dozen suspects arrested on suspicion of arson” – was not updated to inform audiences of developments in the story, although ‘analysis’ from Yolande Knell was added later in the day.fires-art-2

BBC audiences hence remain unaware of the severe fire damage in the community of Nataf or of the fact that 350 families had to be evacuated from Halamish where tens of homes were destroyed and dozens damaged. Neither were they informed that in all some 32,000 acres of forest were destroyed by the fires along with hundreds of homes – over 500 in Haifa alone. The fact that more than 130 people had to be given medical treatment was described in the BBC’s report thus:

“Several people have been treated for smoke inhalation but no serious injuries have been reported.”

Readers of this article were told that:

“Another town in the north, Horashim, has also been evacuated as a blaze approaches, Haaretz reported.”

Anyone trying to locate the ‘town’ of ‘Horashim’ would have had considerable difficulty seeing as no such place exists. In fact, the community which was evacuated on the morning of Friday, November 25th is called Harashim – as the BBC should have been able to report given that the name is accurately presented in the source link.

BBC Watch has contacted the website regarding that inaccuracy.

As the article’s title and opening sentence indicate, its main focus is the topic of the arrests made in connection with the fires.

“Israeli police have arrested 12 people on suspicion of arson over a series of wildfires that have burned around the country for four days.”

Readers are told that:

“Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services operations chief Shmulik Fridman told Israel radio on Friday that more than half the fires had been caused by arson.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if any of the fires were started deliberately they would be treated as an act of terrorism.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, hinted at seditious Israeli Arab or Palestinian involvement, Tweeting: “Only those to whom the country does not belong are capable of burning it.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement said Israeli officials were “exploiting the fire” to accuse Palestinians.”

Yolande Knell’s ‘analysis’ continues the same theme:

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On this topic too, the article was not been updated to reflect developments after its initial publication.

“In all, at least 35 people have been arrested since Thursday on suspicion of setting fires or inciting others to do so. More than 15 were Palestinians arrested by the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service, an army spokesperson said. At least 10 of those being held are Israeli Arabs, according to Hebrew media reports.”

Deprived of that information, BBC audiences are obviously unable to put Yolande Knell’s statement “several Israeli politicians have implicated Arabs” into context.

The investigations into the causes of the fires are of course still ongoing but it will be interesting to see whether the BBC will report their results.

Related Articles:

BBC coverage of fires in Israel misleads on Carmel casualties

BBC News website corrects Carmel fire inaccuracy

As noted here previously, multiple versions of a BBC News website article concerning the forest fires in Israel which ran on November 24th and 25th included an inaccurate portrayal of the number of people who died in the fire on Mount Carmel in 2010.haifa-fires-art

“All versions of the written report – which is currently headlined “Israel fires: Tens of thousands flee as fires hit Haifa” – inform BBC audiences that:

“In 2010, 42 people died in a fire on Mount Carmel, just south of Haifa.”

In fact, as the state ombudsman’s report into that disaster and many additional sources note, the number of fatalities was forty-four.”

Following communication from BBC Watch that inaccuracy was corrected.  

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Weekend long read

This week’s ‘long read’ is actually a long watch.Weekend Read

A video of the event organised by ‘Campaign 4 Truth’ and ‘Reservists on Duty’ which was held earlier this month in London and at which Professor Asa Kasher, Ben Dror Yemini,  Maj. Gen. (Res.) Gershon HaCohen and Col. Tim Collins OBE discussed the ethics of war can be found at this link, along with shorter videos of the individual speakers.

BBC coverage of fires in Israel misleads on Carmel casualties

On the third day of the wave of fires currently afflicting Israel the BBC News website produced its first reports on the story. Originally titled “Israel forest fires: Hundreds evacuated as flames reach Haifa”, a written article was published on the afternoon of November 24th and has since been frequently updated to reflect some – though not all – of the developments.

In addition, a filmed report (without commentary) and a feature titled “In pictures: Israel wildfires force evacuations in Haifa” appeared on the BBC News website.

All versions of the written report – which is currently headlined “Israel fires: Tens of thousands flee as fires hit Haifa” – inform BBC audiences that:haifa-fires-art

“In 2010, 42 people died in a fire on Mount Carmel, just south of Haifa.”

In fact, as the state ombudsman’s report into that disaster and many additional sources note, the number of fatalities was forty-four.

Later versions of the written report open as follows:

“About 80,000 people have been told to evacuate their homes as wildfires swept into Israel’s third largest city of Haifa.

The fires follow a two-month drought and are being fanned by strong winds in the north of the city.” [emphasis added]

The winds causing the fires to spread rapidly are evident country-wide and of course are not limited to the “north” of Haifa: some of the more badly affected neighbourhoods are in fact located in the central and southern parts of the city.

Later versions of the report promoted unqualified Fatah propaganda claiming that Israeli territory (and forest) is ‘Palestinian’.

“….Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, […] said Israeli officials were “exploiting the fire” to accuse Palestinians.

“What is burning are our trees and our land of historical Palestine,” it said in a statement.”

Readers were then correctly informed that:

“On social media, the Arabic-language hashtag #Israel_on_fire began trending, with most tweets expressing pleasure over the outbreak.”

The article does not however note that similar expressions were also seen in the English language – including in response to a Tweet promoting the written report from the BBC Breaking News Twitter account.

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