The BBC ME editor’s response to criticism of his recent reporting

The February 11th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live programme hosted by Peter Allen and Caroline Barker included an interview (from 01:37:07 here) with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Following stories about Bowen’s experiences in Bosnia and Bangladesh, Peter Allen turned the conversation (at 01:45:27) to an incident which will be familiar to long-time readers because Bowen has recounted it on various platforms on numerous occasions in the past.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Allen: “The turning point for you, I guess, came with the death of your driver, your friend, your producer Abed Abu [unintelligible] in Lebanon.”

Bowen: “Yeah…in 2000 when the Israelis were pulling out.”

Allen: “You thought you’d set up for a piece to camera, wasn’t it?”

Bowen: “I was gonna stop…the Israelis were leaving Lebanon after an occupation in the south that had lasted more than 20 years. And there was this guy Abed Takkhoush who had worked with the BBC for many years and he was very experienced and he loved doing what he was doing and we had…I was working as well with a Lebanese cameraman – a guy called Malek. And Malek and I we stopped to do a piece to camera by the border wire – you could see into Israel. And we didn’t want to get anywhere close to the retreating troops because, you know, a retreating army leaving is always dangerous. But I didn’t enough think…I didn’t think enough about the fact that they could shoot at us from the other side of the border wire. I thought because we were a long way back from the troops they wouldn’t.

But a couple of minutes after I got out with Malek there was a bright – you know, early summer day – there was a huge explosion and I turned round. And it was filmed because we were trying to do the piece to camera at the time it was…and there was a big explosion behind me and then I could see…he leapt out through the window – not leapt: he managed to force his body out –I mean he was on fire. And I said to Malek ‘come on, let’s get up there’ and he said ‘no, no; don’t go up there Jeremy because believe you me he’s dead. He may have had the strength to get out  but he’ll be dead now and if you move up there they’ll kill you too’. And eventually I did try and move up there, they opened up in our direction with a heavy machine gun from the tank and a colleague from the Times, his driver had heard the radio traffic in Hebrew and they had said ‘we’ve got one, we’ll get the other two with a heavy machine gun’. So I know that if I’d gone up there I’d have been killed or badly hurt but I still feel bad that, you know, I didn’t have a Hollywood ending, you know, or rather he couldn’t.”

Allen: “You had to shelter under a rock while you made…”

Bowen: “Yeah, yeah we were stuck there, we were shouting to him. I was under cover trying to keep out of trouble myself and shouting out to him and he didn’t answer. In fact in the end…the Lebanese Red Crescent take the bodies off the road in these situations and they couldn’t get up there for hours and hours and hours until they…I think they…through the UN. They coordinated a, you know, a mission to pick up the body between the UN and the Israelis. But the Israelis claimed that we were terrorists. I don’t believe that there was any sign that we were terrorists. I think that they were just trigger happy. And I even went to see a…a general in Tel Aviv when I got back to Israel – I was living in Israel at the time – and he said ‘look, look you’ve got to imagine what it’s like. There were three young boys in that tank. They were terrified. They’d had warnings there’d be…there’d be…ah…terrorists in the area’. And you know I thought where do you start with all of that? You know the fact is that my colleague, my friend, got killed. I think that they…we did a big investigation and we showed that they were shooting quite a lot at civilian vehicles. I think maybe what they were trying to do is to keep people back from the army as it went back. But you know we shouldn’t have stopped. I mean that was my fault for stopping.”

Allen: “At the time you thought it was safe. I mean…”

Bowen: “I thought it was safe.”

Allen: “You felt you were indestructible in those years; you thought it won’t happen to me.”

Bowen: “Yeah and I was wrong.”

Allen: “And that changed it. That changed everything.”

Israel did not of course ‘claim’ that Bowen and his crew “were terrorists”. As the IDF’s investigation into the incident at the time showed:

“…in the early morning hours of that day an intelligence alert was passed to the tank crew regarding the possibility of the firing of rockets by terrorists at IDF tanks and armoured vehicles. The tank crew identified a vehicle and in it people in civilian clothing and suspected that they were a terror cell with equipment to fire anti-tank missiles. In line with the protocol the tank crew passed on the information to the appropriate bodies and was given permission to open fire. Later, said the IDF spokesperson, it transpired that a tragic mistake had been made and that a BBC film crew had been mistakenly identified as a terrorist cell.”

The interview included questions from listeners and later on (at 01:51:58) Caroline Barker read one of them.

Barker: “…Jeff says ‘how hard is it to stay impartial in your reporting after you’ve seen your friend killed?'”

Allen: “And of course you’ve had accusations, haven’t you? Plenty of accusations from the Israelis.”

Bowen: “Well the last few weeks, after a story – the most recent story I did over there which was about a young woman who’s been accused of all sorts of things and is in prison awaiting trial after she slapped a soldier. Ahm…so yeah; I’m very used to that. Actually I think it’s remarkably easy.”

The “recent story” to which Bowen refers is of course that told in his filmed and audio reports concerning Ahed Tamimi (see ‘related articles’ below) in which he concealed an actual charge of incitement against her while disingenuously leading BBC audiences to believe that Israel is charging her with terrorism offences because of “a slap”.

And yet, Mr Bowen still claims that keeping to professed BBC standards of impartiality is, for him, “remarkably easy”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC’s Peter Allen: “Israel always wreaks its revenge”

7 comments on “The BBC ME editor’s response to criticism of his recent reporting

  1. He left out the rock-throwing part of the Tamimi trial, as if it’s Jews that die, like Asher Palmer and his son, then it’s just a couple of Jews.

  2. “And yet, Mr Bowen still claims that keeping to professed BBC standards of impartiality is, for him, “remarkably easy”.”

    It IS easy for him because he’s a lying anti-semitic piece of shit and BBC standards of impartiality are weighted against Israel. Simples.

  3. In this same interview Jeremy Bowen has the effrontery to declare ‘…And you’ve GOT to tell the truth about what’s happening…’

    The truth, that is, other than any of the following:

    “The US has charged a Jordanian woman in connection with a 2001 bombing of a Jerusalem pizza restaurant that killed 15 people and injured dozens of others.

    The case against Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi (Ahed’s aunt) was filed under seal in 2013 but announced publicly by the Justice Department on Tuesday.

    Al-Tamimi pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in an Israeli court in 2003 and was sentenced to life in prison. But eight years in to her sentence, she was released as part of a prisoner exchange with Hamas for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, and returned to Jordan in 2011.

    US officials are seeking to take her into custody, though it was not clear Tuesday that she would ever be brought to the US to stand trial.

    The charge against Al-Tamimi stems from an August 9, 2001 bombing at a Sbarro restaurant that, in addition to killing 15 people (including 7 children and a pregnant woman), and also injured 130 others. Two of those killed were US nationals.

    Mary McCord, the acting head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, called Al-Tamimi an “unrepentant terrorist.”

    “The charges unsealed today serve as a reminder that when terrorists target Americans anywhere in the world, we will never forget – and we will continue to seek to ensure that they are held accountable.”

    The FBI has added Al-Tamimi to its list of Most Wanted Terrorists.”

    In September 2017, a 16-year old Ahed Tamimi was photographed with Leila Khaled, PFLP terrorist and airplane hijacker (1969 and 1970), at the EU in Brussels.

    Someone at the blog at the Washington Post (underneath a letter from Tamimi’s cousin) has posted a link to a photograph of Khaled & Tamimi together, allegedly taken in Spain.

    “Nariman Tamimi – Bassem’s wife and Ahed’s mother – hardly ever fails to take to Facebook after a terrorist attack to praise the perpetrator as a hero. The frightening depth of Nariman Tamimi’s hatred is reflected in a Facebook post she shared from a Tamimi family member in June 2016.

    That post honored the teenage Palestinian terrorist who had just killed 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel in her sleep, after breaking into her home. As far as the Tamimis are concerned, the murder of the Jewish teen by a Palestinian just a few years older than her helped “to return to the homeland its awe/reverence.””

    – Al-Tamimi was one of the 280 convicted murderers, together responsible for the death of 569 Israelis, who was released in exchange for Shalit.

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  5. What in practical terms can we do about this? The BBC is a comfortable middle class and upper class organisation. It is largely arts graduates good people but insulated and a fixed mind set. It is generally people who have not been bought up in tough neighbourhoods and never had to live in fear of attack. That is what the World War 2 generation won for their kids. Bomb and rocket attacks do not come over from France and Germany. The biggest worry has been Ireland. It is a multi cultural organisation but I suspect you would not progress far if you were to say you wre in favour of Israels right to exist within secure borders. Many like to think of Palestinans akin to black people in Apartheid South Africa. … forgetting that Israel is the only real democracy in the area.
    It is vital to control bad behaviour by Israeli troops It only allows a propoganda victory
    against the people,.
    Few people in UK understand how vulnerable Israeli people were before teh wall was built.
    Few understand the need to keep a defence on the Golan Heights or just what a threat it would be were that removed. How easily enemy forces could fire on individuals in the fields as happened before.
    Few know how what even the UK government refer to as “The Occupied Territiories on the West Bank also would allow easy attack given the strategic height advantage .
    In Northern Ireland peace only came by small steps.
    The problem will always be both in Israel and in Ireland that whatever agreement is
    reached it will never please. Other extremist groups will always emerge who have nothing in their lives but continual conflict.
    Extremist groups always target poor neighbourhoods to do their fighting for them.
    They do not want the people to have a good life as then they cannot be manipulated.
    .Pictures of Palestinians living comfortably do not make good propoganda for groups who want to show them to be oppressed.
    Perhaps we all need to sit back and say – we have a good deal here – we have a good life and potentially a far happier one.
    Instead of that Israel compromise sand Jew leave the Gasa Strip – and rockets are fired from the vacated territory.
    A new initiative is needed. The extremist Palestinian and Iranian backed groups love to play the victim.
    By focusing on the Palestinian people corrupt leaders among Israels neighbours can divert attention from their own repression of their people and the lack of freedom there.
    Come on Israel. Jew are bright people. Do not copy the behaviour of your neighbours.
    You need to use brains not force wherever possible.
    It can be done.
    Peace is worth an awful lot if it brings security for all.

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