On March 21st the BBC News website published a report billed “Palestinian slap video teen gets jail term”. That framing of the story was reinforced in two items of related content offered to audiences under the headings “Was slap terrorism?” and “Spotlight on slap video teen”.
The same messaging was further reinforced in the report’s headline – “Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal” – and in the caption to the same video offered as related content (a highly problematic report by the BBC’s Middle East editor dating from January 31st) which was embedded at the top of the article: “Is a slap terrorism?”.
Clearly the intention was to lead BBC audiences towards the understanding that this story is about a “Palestinian teen” who got a “jail term” for a “slap” deemed “terrorism” even before they had read one word of the report.
The article opens in the same vein:
“A Palestinian teenager arrested after slapping an Israeli soldier has accepted a plea deal that will see her serve eight months in prison.
Ahed Tamimi had agreed to plead guilty to four of the 12 charges she faced, including assault, her lawyer said.”
Only in the eighth paragraph do readers learn the nature of the additional charges against Ahed Tamimi.
“Ahed Tamimi would plead guilty to one count of assault, one of incitement, and two of obstructing soldiers, Ms Lasky said.”
However, as has been the case in the vast majority of the BBC’s copious reporting of this story throughout the last three months (see ‘related articles’ below), BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.
“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”
Furthermore, the BBC’s report amplifies a clear misrepresentation of the charge of incitement from a representative of a political NGO that has been campaigning on Tamimi’s behalf – without clarifying that obviously relevant fact to readers.
“Human rights groups said her case highlighted what they considered Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian minors.
“Ahed will be home in a few months, but Israel is putting this child behind bars for eight months for calling for protests and slapping a soldier, after threatening her with years in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.” [emphasis added]
Notably, as the Times of Israel reports, Tamimi admitted to having made the call for violence which the BBC conceals from audience view.
“Under the terms of the plea bargain, Ahed admitted to the aggravated assault of an IDF soldier, incitement to violence and disrupting soldiers on two other occasions.”
In addition to amplifying statements from the political NGO Human Rights Watch that has been campaigning on behalf of Tamimi (a previous BBC report similarly amplified another NGO involved in that campaigning), this report even includes a link directing audiences to a petition promoted by the political campaigning group Avaaz.
“For Palestinians, she has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.
Her face has appeared on street murals and posters, while an online petition organised by her father calling for her release has gathered 1.75m signatures.”
As has been the case in several previous BBC reports on this topic, readers find several quotes from Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky in this article – including the following:
“Asked why she had agreed to a plea deal, Ms Lasky said: “When they decided to keep her trial behind closed doors, we knew that we were not going to get a fair trial.””
No alternative view is provided of either that allegation or the similar one from Human Rights Watch with which the BBC chose to close this report.
“Plea bargains are the norm in Israel’s military justice system, which is characterised by prolonged pre-trial detention, abuse of kids and sham trials. Hundreds of Palestinian children remain locked up with little attention on their cases”
In the past three months the BBC has produced at least thirteen reports on this story but only in one of those – aired on the BBC’s domestic channel Radio 4 – have audiences been provided with any information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. In all the other reports (and in all those provided to international audiences) the fact that Ahed Tamimi called for violent acts against Israelis has been concealed.
Some of the thirteen reports have included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor.
In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story has promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists including B’tselem, Jonathan Pollack, Amnesty International, Avaaz and Human Rights Watch.
Significantly, although video footage filmed by Tamimi’s mother has been generously promoted in many of the reports, the part of that footage showing Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence has not been presented to BBC audiences at all.
In summary, the BBC’s treatment of this story has overwhelmingly diverted audience attention away from the background to the main charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi and propagated the deliberately misleading notion that she was arrested, tried and imprisoned for a “slap”.
The BBC’s repeated promotion of partisan NGOs that have been campaigning on this case once again highlights the fact that the corporation which is committed to providing its audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards” has in this case chosen to abandon impartiality and accuracy – and instead lend its voice and outreach to one-sided promotion of a blatantly political campaign.