BBC promotes political NGO in coverage of Azaria verdict

On January 4th the BBC News website published two articles relating to the topic of the verdict in the Elor Azaria case: “Israeli soldier Elor Azaria convicted over Hebron death” and “Israeli PM Netanyahu backs pardon for manslaughter soldier“.azaria-art-1

The third version of the first article (which was promoted by the BBC in a push alert) included a quote from the political NGO Human Rights Watch and a link to a highly partisan report on its website.

“Human Rights Watch said on Monday that there had been more than 150 instances since October 2015 in which Israeli security forces fatally shot Palestinian adults and children suspected of trying to stab, run over, or shoot Israelis.” [emphasis added]

The superfluous and misleading term “suspected” (a quote from the linked report) was later removed by the BBC and from version four onward that section of the report read:

“Sari Bashi, Israel advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, described the verdict as “a positive step toward reining in excessive use of force by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians”.

The shooting happened during a wave of knife, gun and vehicle ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs in Israel and the West Bank that has killed at least 42 people since September 2015, according to the Israeli authorities.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday that video footage or witness accounts raised serious questions about many of the more than 150 instances in which Israeli forces have fatally shot Palestinians during attacks or attempted attacks on Israelis.”

From its third version, the second article – published later on the same day – was amended to include the same three paragraphs, together with the link to the HRW report.

As usual (and in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality) readers were not provided with any information concerning HRW’s political agenda or the fact that it engages in lawfare against Israel.

Both articles included sections relating to the reactions of Israeli politicians to the verdict. In the earlier article readers were told that:

“…a right-wing member of the governing coalition, Naftali Bennett, has called for an immediate pardon for the soldier.

The final decision lies with President Reuven Rivlin, who said in a statement that he would only deal with the issue once the judicial process had run its course.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who expressed support for Sgt Azaria before taking office in May, said the verdict was “difficult” and that the defence establishment would “do everything it can to assist the soldier and his family”.

But he also called on the public to respect the court’s decision.”

The second article opened:

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a pardon for a soldier convicted of manslaughter for killing a wounded Palestinian attacker.”

It went on:

“Mr Netanyahu issued his call on Facebook, writing: “I support giving Elor Azaria a pardon.”

“This is a difficult and painful day for all of us – and first and foremost for Elor and his family, soldiers and for the parents of our soldiers, and me among them.”

In March, the prime minister called Azaria’s family to express sympathy for their predicament.

He joins some other members of the governing coalition in calling for a pardon, including right-wing Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

But centre-left politician and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the verdict should be accepted.

“Only that way can we stop the bleeding within Israeli society since the event occurred and reunite around the military and Israel as a state of laws, whose army is outside political discourse.”

President Reuven Rivlin said he could only deal with the issue of a pardon once the judicial process had run its course. […]

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who expressed support for Azaria before taking office in May, said the verdict was “difficult” and that the defence establishment would “do everything it can to assist the soldier and his family”.

But he also called on the public to respect the court’s decision.”

BBC audiences were not informed that those “calling for a pardon” were not exclusively “members of the governing coalition”. Opposition MK and former Labour party leader Sheli Yachimovich made the same call and other coalition MK’s opposed a pardon, meaning that the ‘Right-Left’ picture painted by the BBC is simplistic, inaccurate and misleading.

 

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