Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2016 – part two

As noted in part one of this post, between July 1st and September 30th 2016, eighty-seven reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians (along with a few others relating to non-Israeli Jews) appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, some of which were cross posted from other sections of the site. 13.8% of those reports covered stories relating to security/

The remaining 86.2% of those articles can be divided into a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Seven reports related to historical subject matter.

Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos ‘saw hostage murdered’  (3/7/16 to 4/7/16)

Researchers make ‘first discovery’ of Philistine cemetery (10/7/16 to 11/7/16)

Ancient barley DNA gives insight into crop development (18/7/16 to 20/7/16)

Rio 2016: Widow welcomes Munich massacre memorial (2/8/16 to 3/8/16) discussed here

Rio 2016 Olympics: Widow’s wish sees ceremony mark killings of Israeli athletes (3/8/16 to 8/8/16) discussed here

Jerusalem Biblical Temple floor designs ‘restored’ (6/9/16 to 8/9/16) discussed here

Digital technology reveals secret of ancient biblical scroll (22/9/16 to 23/9/16)

Two reports can be categorised as miscellaneous.

Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel dies aged 87 (3/7/16 to 4/7/16)

Microscope observes life of the ocean floor (13/7/16 to 16/7/16)

20 reports related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel and Palestinians: Powers warn of ‘perpetual conflict’ (1/7/16 to 3/7/16) discussed here

Israel-Palestinians: Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay (1/7/16 to 8/7/16) discussed here 

Turkey sends Gaza aid after six-year rift with Israel ends (3/7/16 to 4/7/16) discussed here

Israeli politician Tzipi Livni ‘summonsed by UK police’ (4/7/16) discussed here

Netanyahu in Entebbe: A personal journey amid a diplomatic push (4/7/16 to 5/7/16) discussed here

Israel’s Netanyahu in Entebbe to mark hostage-rescue anniversary (4/7/16 to 5/7/16) discussed here

US criticises Israel over plans for new settlement homes (6/7/16 to 7/7/16) discussed here

Israel and Palestinians: Egypt FM urges two-state solution in rare visit (10/7/16 to 11/7/16) discussed here

Palestinians plan to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour act (26/7/16 to 28/7/16) discussed here

Rio 2016 Olympics: Lebanese athletes refuse to travel with Israel team (6/8/16 to 9/8/16) discussed here

Rio Olympics 2016: ‘Not what the Olympics are about’ – judo player refuses to shake hands  (12/8/16 to 16/8/16) discussed here

Rio Olympics 2016: Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby ‘sent home for handshake snub’ (16/8/16 to 17/8/16) discussed here

Celtic fans raise £85,000 ‘for Palestine’ after Uefa charge (22/8/16) discussed here

Israel ‘approves 464 settlement homes in West Bank’ (31/8/16 to 2/9/16) discussed here

Rio Paralympics: Algeria goalball team absence investigated (11/9/16)

Rio Paralympics: Algeria goalball team ‘did not boycott’ games (12/9/16 to 13/9/16)

US approves record $38bn Israel military aid deal (14/9/16 to 15/9/16) discussed here and here

UN’s Ban: Netanyahu ethnic cleansing remarks ‘outrageous’ (16/9/16 to 18/9/16) discussed here

Israel’s Netanyahu asks Palestinian president to address parliament (22/9/16 to 25/9/16)

The hopes for peace between Israelis and Palestinians (27/9/16 to 29/9/16)

Three reports cross-posted on the Middle East page related to antisemitism.

Poland’s Duda vows anti-Semitism fight at Kielce anniversary (4/7/16 to 5/7/16)

Amos Oz: Saying Israel should not exist is anti-Semitic (13/9/16 to 14/9/16) discussed here

Amos Oz: Saying Israel should not exist is anti-Semitic (14/9/16)

Six reports related to Palestinian affairs.

Palestinian authorities investigate mosque music mix-up (12/8/16 to 15/8/16) 

Palestinian suspect in police killings ‘beaten to death’ (23/8/16 to 25/8/16) discussed here

Gaza’s last tiger to leave for new home in South Africa (24/8/16 to 25/8/16) discussed here

Palestinian court delays municipal elections after challenges (8/9/16 to 9/9/16) discussed here

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ‘was KGB agent’ (8/9/16 to 9/9/16) discussed here

Palestinian women fight elections name ‘censorship’ (13/9/16 to 21/9/16) 

Of 37 reports concerning Israel related stories, nineteen related to the illness and death of former president Shimon Peres. The reports can be divided into sub categories including:

a) Shimon Peres:

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres ‘critical but stable’ after stroke (14/9/16) 

Shimon Peres: Ex-Israeli president ‘showing improvement’ after stroke (14/9/16 to 16/9/16) 

Shimon Peres, former Israeli president, dies aged 93 (28/9/16)

Obituary: Shimon Peres, Israeli founding father (28/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres: Long legacy of Israel’s elder statesman (28/9/16 to 2/10/16) discussed here

Chief rabbi pays tribute to former Israel PM Shimon Peres (28/9/16) 

Shimon Peres on turning 90 (28/9/16 – originally from 2013)

Chemi Peres: ‘Farewell to our beloved father (28/9/16 to 29/9/16)

Shimon Peres’ wish for peace lives on – Yossi Beilin (28/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres: An emigre who became a world statesman (28/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres: Tributes from around the world (28/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres’s death closes a chapter in Israel’s history (28/9/16 to 3/10/16)

Israel’s Shimon Peres lies in state at parliament (29/9/16)

Shimon Peres: The Nobel Peace Prize winner’s final speech (29/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Body of Shimon Peres lies in state (29/9/16 to 30/9/16)

Shimon Peres funeral: Leaders hail legacy of former Israeli leader (30/9/16 to 3/10/16)

Palestinian and Israeli leaders shake hands at Peres funeral (30/9/16 to 7/10/16)

Shimon Peres was a great man of the world, says Israeli PM (30/9/16 to 3/10/16)

Obama: Abbas at Peres funeral ‘a reminder of unfinished peace’ (30/9/16 to 3/10/16) 

b) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues:

Jerusalem Gay Pride: Jailed killer Schlissel ‘planned new attack’ (21/7/16 to 24/7/16)

Israeli tourist ‘gang-raped’ in northern India, two arrested (25/7/16 to 27/7/16)

Franz Kafka: Israeli library wins legal battle over unpublished papers (9/8/16 to 10/8/16)

Israeli woman and baby kept at airport in DNA case (9/8/16 to 11/8/16)

c) society:

Four-legged friends get cinema outing in Tel Aviv (12/7/16 to 18/7/16)

Jerusalem LGBT parade returns after stabbing attack (21/7/16 to 25/7/16)

The ultra-Orthodox Jews combining tech and the Torah (9/9/16 to 11/9/16)

The island where thousands go to get married (11/9/16 to 13/9/16)

World’s oldest man, Yisrael Kristal, 113, to hold bar mitzvah (15/9/16 to 16/9/16)

d) domestic news/politics:

Israel army names new chief rabbi criticised over rape comments (12/7/16 to 13/7/16) discussed here

EU criticises Israel law forcing NGOs to reveal foreign funding (12/7/16 to 13/7/16) discussed here

Israeli parliament passes controversial impeachment law (20/7/16 to 21/7/16) discussed here and here

Israel police chief: ‘Natural’ to suspect Ethiopians of crime (31/8/16 to 1/9/16) discussed here 

Israel: Three dead in Tel Aviv after car park collapses (5/9/16 to 6/9/16)

Israeli restaurant bill: Chinese tourists paid $4,393 (8/9/16 to 9/9/16)

e) technology:

Who are the hackers who cracked the iPhone? (26/8/16 to 7/9/16) discussed here

Apple tackles iPhone one-tap spyware flaws (26/8/16 to 29/8/16)

Meeting Cellebrite – Israel’s master phone crackers (26/9/16 to 29/9/16)

Even excluding the reports on the death of Shimon Peres, Israeli domestic affairs once again received considerably greater coverage than did Palestinian affairs in the third quarter of 2016.


Overall throughout the first three quarters of 2016, 23.7% of the BBC News website’s reporting on Israel and the Palestinians related to security issues. Israeli internal affairs were the subject of 33% of the BBC’s reporting while just 8.8% of the coverage related to Palestinian internal affairs.


Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part one  

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2016 – part one


BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

On October 13th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Fifa urged to give red card to Israeli settlement clubs“.knell-fifa-art

Knell opens her piece with an account of some pre-planned agitprop which took place on the eve of Yom Kippur.

“A dozen Palestinian boys dressed in football kit and carrying balls, march towards a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli police and soldiers come to block the way as they approach the gates of Maale Adumim, where some 40,000 Israelis live, to the east of Jerusalem.

Surrounded by journalists, protest organiser, Fadi Quran, tells a senior officer that the children want to play a game in the local football stadium.

“You know exactly why they can’t come in,” says the officer.

“Is it because they’re Palestinian?” Mr Quran asks.

“No, no, because you need a permit,” the officer replies.

“Well, people in the world are watching and I think it’s important to know you have segregation,” says Mr Quran.”

Were it not for reports like this one from a member of the pre-conscripted press pack, “people in the world” would of course know nothing about the exploitation of a dozen boys for a campaign which has nothing to do with sport and everything to do with the political campaign of delegitimisation of Israel.

But despite the BBC’s decision to use its world-wide reach to put wind in the sails of this particular political campaign, its editorial standards concerning accuracy and impartiality should at least ensure that audiences would be told the whole story. That, however, is not the case in Knell’s report.

The ‘star’ of Knell’s account of the event is the man she tepidly describes as “protest organiser” Fadi Quran. BBC audiences receive no information concerning Quran’s affiliations and are not told, for example, which organisation – if any – he represents, who funded the boys’ transport to Ma’ale Adumim or who paid for the identical T-shirts they and Quran are seen wearing in the photographs which accompany the article.avaaz-logo

A closer look at those T-shirts and the accompanying placards shows that they bear the Avaaz logo and that would come as no surprise had BBC audiences been informed that American citizen Fadi Quran is a “senior campaigner” for Avaaz. A former employee of Al Haq, Quran is also a “policy member” at Al Shabaka and a “Popular Struggle community organizer”.

Obviously that information is critical to audience understanding of the wider story behind the agitprop she describes, but Yolande Knell refrains from providing it to her audience. She goes on to ostensibly provide readers with the background to that “small protest” but similarly fails to inform them that the meeting to which she refers is the fruit of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to use FIFA to delegitimise Israel.

“The small protest is soon over but it has symbolic significance ahead of this week’s meeting of the council of world football’s governing body, Fifa, in Switzerland.

It is due to discuss whether teams from settlements, including Maale Adumim, should be barred from the Israeli Football Association (IFA).”

Knell’s reporting once again falls short of editorial standards of impartiality when she presents a one-sided portrayal of ‘settlements’ while failing to inform readers that all those communities are located in Area C which – according to the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians were willing signatories – is to have its final status determined through negotiations.

“Settlements are built on land captured and occupied by Israel in 1967, which the Palestinians want for a future, independent state. The international community sees them as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace”, but Israel strongly disagrees.”

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality require clarification of the “particular viewpoint” of outside contributors but Knell makes do with the inadequate term “advocacy group” when describing the political NGO Human Rights Watch which has long been involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

“The advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests the IFA should be made to move all Fifa-sanctioned matches inside the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

“By holding games on stolen land, Fifa is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” says Sari Bashi, HRW’s country director for Israel and Palestine.

report by the group notes that some settlement playing fields are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, and that West Bank Palestinians, apart from labourers with permits, are not allowed to enter settlements and use their services.”

The HRW report to which Knell provides readers with a link was already given context-free and partial promotion on the BBC World Service last month.  Significantly, the HRW country director quoted by Knell has also found it appropriate to give an interview on the same topic to the BDS campaign’s South Africa branch.

Knell goes on to promote an old but unsupported claim:

“To underscore the inequalities, the Palestinian boys leaving the demonstration at Maale Adumim continue to chant: “Infantino, let us play.”

Some come from nearby Bedouin communities, which have lost access to their land due to settlement expansion, and have pending demolition orders against their homes.” [emphasis added]

As has previously been documented here, the Jahalin tribe’s claims of ownership of the said land have been examined – and rejected – in courts of law.

Knell similarly amplifies a specific political narrative when she promotes – as fact – the notion of “Israeli restrictions” on Palestinian footballers without any mention of the very relevant context of the links of some of those players to terrorist organisations.

“…a monitoring committee was set up, headed by the Fifa official Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician and former anti-apartheid activist.

It was asked to address Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players and visiting teams, alleged racism and discrimination, and the clubs based in settlements, all of which play in Israel’s lower leagues.”football-terrorist

And of course Knell’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian football does not extend to telling her audiences that one team saw fit to ‘honour’ a terrorist who murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem only this week.

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to Yolande Knell’s signature blend of journalism and activism and this latest report provides yet another example of her serial amplification of political narratives and campaigns in the guise of ‘news’. And yet, the BBC remains silent on the issue of Knell’s repeated compromise of its supposed editorial standards of impartiality.

Related Articles:

Presenting the “progressive” (Guardian approved) group, Avaaz – astroturfing for Hamas  UK Media Watch

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

Last week the US State Department announced the designation of the former Hamas interior minister – and occasional BBC quoteeFathi Hamad (also spelt Hammad).

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. Hammad served as Hamas’s Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, which is a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Al-Aqsa TV was designated in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury under E.O. 13224.”

Readers may recall that when Israeli forces carried out strikes on communications antennae on buildings housing Hamas’ TV stations (including Al-Aqsa TV) during the conflict in 2012, the Foreign Press Association – which at the time was headed by the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar – and the then BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison promoted the false accusation that Israel was “targeting journalists”.

Related Articles:

BBC covers US terror designations for Hamas and Hizballah operatives – but not in English

BBC reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

A number of terror attacks which took place on Friday, September 16th were the topic of an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on that day under the title “Spate of attacks on Israelis leaves three assailants dead“.art-terror-16-9

The report relates to three separate attacks. An attempted stabbing at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem by a Jordanian national who had entered Israel the previous day is described thus:

“In East Jerusalem, a Jordanian man was killed by security forces after trying to stab police outside Damascus Gate, according to Israeli authorities.

The site has been the scene of multiple attacks on Israelis, and killings of assailants, in previous months.”

A vehicular attack near Kiryat Arba by a Palestinian couple is described as follows:

“In one [attack], a Palestinian was shot dead after ramming his vehicle into civilians at a bus stop near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, the military said. Three people were wounded.

Another Palestinian who was involved in the attack was shot and wounded, officials said.”

A stabbing attack at a checkpoint in Hebron is portrayed as follows:

“Hours later, a Palestinian who stabbed and wounded a soldier at a junction near Hebron was shot dead, officials said.”

Notably – but entirely predictably – despite the fact that it describes three separate terror attacks, the word ‘terror’ does not appear in this report at all.

On the same day the driver of a bus travelling from Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim was injured in an additional attack. The next day – September 17th – a soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. Early on the morning of September 18th, a soldier was wounded in additional attack in Efrat. Despite still being available online, the BBC’s report was not updated to include any of those attacks and no stand-alone reporting of them was published.

Although the BBC has had almost a year in which to independently verify the circumstances of the deaths of Palestinian terrorists, it continues to employ the qualifying “Israel says” formula and erases from audience view the four foreign nationals also killed during terror attacks since last October.

“Thirty-five Israelis been killed in a wave of knife, gun and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since last October.

More than 200 Palestinians – mostly attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period.”

The article closes with another now standard BBC mantra that amplifies PLO messaging:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

As regular readers will be aware, the corporation has failed to provide its audiences with any meaningful reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian bodies throughout the past year. It has also refrained from informing them of the existence of additional factors underpinning the violence such as religious ideology.

One of the perpetrators of the vehicular attack reported in this article clarified her motivation in writing.

“A Palestinian woman who took part in a car-ramming attack that injured three Israeli teenagers last week left a note stating her motive: to atone for her premarital relationship with the driver of the vehicle.

Raghad Khadour, 20, detailed her reasons for joining her boyfriend — who drove a pickup truck on Friday into a group of Israelis waiting at a bus stop outside the Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank — in a written testament, Arabic media sources said.”

Since that motive does not fit in with the BBC’s much promoted mantra of “frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation”, it is of course highly unlikely that BBC audiences will be informed of the real background to an attack the corporation cannot even bring itself to accurately define as terrorism.

BBC News amplifies PA’s spin on Abbas KGB story

On September 8th an article titled “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ‘was KGB agent’” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The article relates to a story first promoted by Channel 1 in Israel the previous day and it informs readers that:abbas-kgb-story  

“Israeli researchers have alleged that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, worked for the Soviet intelligence agency the KGB in the early 1980s.

Researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem say a Soviet-era document lists him as an agent. […]

Researchers Gideon Remez and Isabella Ginor said the document, in an archive at Cambridge University, shows that Mr Abbas was a KGB spy when he lived in Damascus in Syria.

The document, which the University of Cambridge’s Churchill Archives Centre confirmed was authentic, was smuggled in to the UK by a defector called Vasily Mitrokhin.

It is entitled “KGB developments – Year 1983” and Mr Abbas identifies him [sic] by the codename “Krotov” or “mole”.

“‘Krotov’ – Abbas, Mahmoud, born 1935, origin Palestine, member of the executive committee of Fatah, PLO, Damascus, agent of the KGB,” says the brief entry.”

However, the report also promotes irrelevant linkage between that story and a completely unrelated topic.

“The [PA] president’s spokesman described the claim as an absurd Israeli “smear”.

He suggested it was made to derail attempts to re-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. […]

An adviser to the [PA] president told the BBC the allegation was made up by Israel.

He said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained reluctant to meet Mr Abbas in a potential new round of peace talks organised by Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB staff member.””

Readers of the article are not told how “Israel” supposedly “made up” documents in the Cambridge University archives and despite uncritically amplifying the spin of PA officials, the article does not adequately clarify that the academic researchers have no connection to the Israeli government.  

Towards the end of the article, readers are told that:

“Mr Abbas was born in 1935 in what was then British mandate of Palestine. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 his family fled to the Syrian capital, where he was educated.”

In fact, historical record shows that it is more likely that Abbas’ family decided to leave Tsfat (Safed) before Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948.

“And what about Safed? Having declined an offer by Gen. Hugh Stockwell, commander of the British forces in northern Palestine, to mediate a truce, the Arabs responded to the British evacuation of the city with a heavy assault on the tiny Jewish community, less than a quarter their size. “Upon the British evacuation on April 16, we occupied all the city’s strategic positions: the Citadel, the Government House, and the police post on Mount Canaan,” recalled a local Arab fighter.

“We were the majority, and the feeling among us was that we would defeat the Jews with sticks and rocks.”

What this prognosis failed to consider was the tenacity of the Jewish resolve to hold on to Safed, awarded by the partition resolution to the prospective Jewish state, on the one hand, and the intensity of Arab flight psychosis, on the other. As tens of thousands of Arabs streamed out of Tiberias and Haifa within days of the British evacuation of Safed, members of the city’s leading families and ordinary residents alike decided that now was the time to escape – which is probably when Abbas’s affluent family fled. In the words of a British intelligence report, “Such is their state of fear [that] Arabs are beginning to evacuate Safed although the Jews have not yet attacked them.” […]

On May 2, following the bombing of the Arab quarter by the deafening albeit highly ineffective home-made “David’s mortar,” scores of Arabs fled Safed en route to the Jordan Valley, accompanied by a substantial number of Arab Liberation Army fighters. Four days later, the ALA’s regional commander reported that “the majority of the inhabitants have left [Safed’s neighboring] villages.

Their morale has collapsed completely.”

Heavy artillery bombardments of Jewish neighborhoods failed to do the trick, and as the final battle for the city was joined on the night of May 9 a mass flight ensued. By the time fighting was over the next morning, Safed’s entire Arab population had taken to the road; a day later, Hagana patrols reported that “the [Arab] quarter had emptied to a man,” with evacuees leaving behind “a huge quantity of weapons and ammunition.””

The article’s penultimate paragraph quotes a newly arrived BBC journalist currently visiting the Middle East.

“Although the biographical details are correct, the BBC’s Thomas Fessy in Jerusalem notes that the document does not say how and when Mr Abbas would have been recruited, whether he was paid, and how long he might have worked for the KGB.”

Interestingly, the article does not reflect an additional observation from Fessy.


As Reuters noted:

“Adding to the intrigue, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, whom Putin has tasked with arranging the Moscow summit, served two stints in the Soviet embassy in Damascus between 1983 and 1994, covering the period in which Abbas was purportedly recruited.

Bogdanov was in the area this week for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.”

Clearly the BBC’s unchallenged amplification of vacuous spin from PA officials detracts from audience understanding of this story.








Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part one

Between April 1st and June 30th 2016, fifty-four reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Some of the reports were produced by other departments or appeared on other pages of the website (e.g. ‘Europe’ or ‘UK Politics’) but were also posted on the Middle East

Six of those articles related to the wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis which began in the autumn of 2015 and continued during 2016, albeit with lower intensity. As readers can see for themselves, not one of those headlines included the term ‘terror’ and that editorial policy is similarly apparent in the reports themselves. 

(The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Jerusalem bus bombing injures 21 (18/4/16 to 20/4/16) (discussed here)

Israel says Jerusalem bus bombing was Hamas suicide attack (21/4/16 to 24/4/16) (discussed here)

Tel Aviv shooting: Four killed in shopping centre attack (8/6/16 to 9/6/16) (discussed here)

Tel Aviv shooting: Israel suspends Palestinian permits (9/6/16 to 10/6/16) (discussed here)

Israeli troops ‘mistakenly kill Palestinian bystander’ (21/6/16 to 22/6/16)

Israeli girl stabbed to death by Palestinian inside bedroom (30/6/16 to 1/7/16) (discussed here)

A further 2 articles related to incidents concerning Hamas’ cross border tunnels.

Israeli troops uncover ‘new’ tunnel leading from Gaza (18/4/16 to 19/4/16) (discussed here)

Israel tank fire kills Gaza woman, medics say (6/5/16 to 8/5/16) (discussed here)

One report related to security issues along the border with Syria.

Syrian conflict: The view from Golan Heights (20/6/16 to 25/6/16) (discussed here)

One report related to a previous terror attack from October 2015.

Palestinians jailed for life for killing Israeli couple (22/6/16 to 26/6/16) (discussed here)

Notably, the word terror was found in the headline of one of three articles relating to terror attacks by Israelis.

Israel arrests six members of ‘Jewish terror cell’ (20/4/16) (discussed here)

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader found guilty (19/4/16 to 20/4/16) (discussed here)

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader jailed for life (3/5/16 to 5/5/16)

In all, 24% of the second quarter reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism which were either current at the time or were follow-ups to previously reported incidents. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the second quarter of 2016 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part two

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2016


BBC’s ME bureau chief flags up Hamas treatment of journalists

On August 22nd the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief put out this Tweet:

Colebourn tweet

The link leads to the following statement from the Foreign Press Association (FPA):

FPA stmt

Readers may recall that two years ago, during the conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip, the FPA found it necessary to put out an even more strongly worded statement concerning Hamas’ treatment of foreign journalists at the time.

FPA statement Hamas Aug 14

Back then, however, BBC audiences were not informed – even via Twitter – of restrictions placed on journalists by the terror group.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in the BBC’s disclosure of restrictions on journalists

First BBC English language report on a Gaza missile attack in eight months

Well over 24 hours after the incident took place, a day after colleagues at BBC Arabic published two articles on the story and following the appearance of this post, the BBC News website finally informed its English-speaking audiences that a missile had been fired by “Palestinian militants” in the Gaza Strip at an Israeli town.

Titled “Israel launches Gaza strikes after rocket attack on Sderot“, in its fourth paragraph the report from August 22nd tells readers that:Sderot attack art

“Earlier, a rocket launched in Gaza landed near a house in the Israeli town of Sderot without causing any injuries.”

It continues:

“Israel and militants in Gaza led by Hamas, which dominates the coastal territory, fought a 50-day war in the summer of 2014.

Since then, a ceasefire has largely held, but some small jihadist groups have defied the agreement and periodically fired rockets at Israel.”

Does that portrayal provide BBC audiences with an understanding of the rate of missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the end of the 2014 conflict? The facts behind the BBC’s claim that the ceasefire which came into force in August 2014 “has largely held” are as follows (an attack represents one incident rather than the number of missiles fired. Short falling missiles which were fired towards Israel but landed inside the Gaza Strip are not included):

2014: September: one mortar attack. October: one mortar attack. December: one missile attack.

2015: April: one missile attack. May: one missile attack. June: three separate missile attacks. July: one missile attack. August: three separate missile attacks. September: four separate missile attacks. October: five separate missile attacks. November: two separate missile attacks and one mortar attack. December: one missile attack.

2016: January: two separate missile attacks. March: two separate missile attacks. May: two separate missile attacks and twelve mortar attacks. July: one missile attack. August: one missile attack.

In the 24 months since the ceasefire came into effect, fifteen mortar attacks and thirty missile attacks have taken place. In addition, shooting attacks, IED attacks and one incident of anti-tank missile fire have also occurred. According to the BBC, that is a ceasefire which has “largely held” and the attacks can be described as ‘periodic’.  

The 2014 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas reportedly stated that “all Palestinian factions in Gaza will stop all attacks against Israel by land, air or sea, and will stop the construction of tunnels from Gaza into Israel”. Not only has Hamas obviously flouted that latter term, but it has also neglected its obligation as party to the agreement to prevent attacks by other factions. That point, however, is not adequately clarified to readers of this article. Instead, the BBC chose to amplify the terror group’s messaging.

“Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: “We hold [Israel] responsible for the escalation in the Gaza Strip and we stress that its aggression will not succeed in breaking the will of our people and dictate terms to the resistance.”

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar later blamed “a group not committed to the principles of the resistance of the occupation” for firing the rocket at Sderot.”

As regular readers are aware, the majority of the missile fire directed at Israeli civilian communities since the end of the 2014 conflict has been ignored by the BBC. This article is the first English language report on missile fire since the beginning of 2016, despite the fact that seven previous attacks have taken place in that time. BBC audiences have certainly not been provided with any reporting in the last two years on how the people who live near the border with the Gaza Strip cope with the continuing attacks, despite the fact that the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau is less than an hour and a half’s drive from Sderot.

The corporation’s public purposes remit commits it to “giving insight into the way people live in other countries” and building “understanding of international issues”. The BBC apparently believes that on this particular issue it can meet those obligations by producing one belated report in eight months which includes a generalised portrayal of ‘periodic’ missile fire rather than providing audiences with the readily available concrete statistical information.

The BBC, European ‘fear’ and Israeli ‘paranoia’

Last October we discussed an article by Kevin Connolly – then of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau – which has since been promoted as ‘related reading’ many times on the BBC News website.Paranoia Connolly

“During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterise their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.”

Happily, such a scenario has not transpired in Britain but at the end of July, the BBC World Service turned its attentions to “the fear that lies over Europe” in an edition of ‘The World This Week’.

TWTW 31 7 tweet

Presenter Jonny Dymond described the item at the beginning of the programme:

“As one brutal attack has followed another in France and Germany, I’ll take the mood of the continent with one of our most experienced Europe watchers – the editor of our Europe bureau.”

His introduction (from 00:47 here) was as follows:

“Europe has not known a week or two like the last ones for many, many years. First the terrible slaughter in Nice that left at least 84 dead, then a string of attacks in southern Germany. Then this week the killing of a French priest in a quiet town as he and his parishioners celebrated morning mass on a summer’s day.

An anguished debate over how to deal with violent Islam, both imported and homegrown, is in full swing. A new national guard will be created to defend citizens against terror attacks. Not for the first time, a beleaguered President Francois Hollande spoke darkly of war.” […]

In Germany shootings, stabbings and bombings – some connected with so-called Islamic State; all connected in some way with Germany’s embrace of migrants – have rocked a country that has over the decades become a by-word for cautious, conservative stability.”

Introducing the editor of the BBC’s Europe bureau, Simon Wilson, Dymond spoke of Europeans “confronted with a darker version of their continent; one gloomy about the future and nervous about what some perceive as the enemy within.”

Wilson told audiences:

“I was in Nice within a few hours of the attack there. People were really scared. That’s a really scary thought if anyone can take control of a vehicle and drive it into you. Those feelings will fade in weeks and months and other cities have overcome terror attacks and got back to normal. I think people are changing their plans. Do you want to be in a big crowd watching a football match on a big screen in Brussels or Paris at the moment? Probably not. ‘Climate of fear’ probably a bit too strong but I think in little ways individuals all over Europe are shaping up to a new reality and the one consistent thing you do hear people saying is ‘this isn’t going to go away soon, is it? This is the new normal and we’re going to have to live with it’.”TWTW 31 7

So as we see, in contrast to its portrayal of Israeli fears of what it refuses to term terrorism as ‘paranoia’, the BBC is perfectly able to identify – and empathise with – the understandable fears of Europeans following what it has no problem defining as “terror attacks”. And remarkably, it also has no qualms about identifying the cause: “violent Islam”.  

The item went on to include reference to an issue rarely if ever acknowledged in BBC coverage of Israel: the obligation of a state to defend its citizens.

JD: “How have the attacks changed the position of the leaders of the two great EU countries France and Germany?”

SW: “For Francois Hollande this is devastating politically. He was already pretty weak […] the elections are up next year. The primary function of a state is to protect its citizens and plainly over a period of 18 months they’ve found that very, very difficult to do. So clearly for Francois Hollande and the French socialists, there’s a huge challenge and I think they’re in big trouble politically.”

Wilson later added that the German chancellor “also faces elections next year and it wouldn’t take much more I think for her to be in big trouble.”

Asked by Dymond if the terror attacks “lead to a more introspective Europe”, Wilson remarked that “Europe’s leaders are consumed with the internal problems […] they are absolutely absorbed with these crises” and noted that European Council president Donald Tusk “has said publicly he thinks Western civilisation is being threatened by everything that’s going on”.

As readers no doubt recall the BBC long since made it clear that it believes that terror attacks against Israelis are “very different” from – and not comparable to – those perpetrated against citizens of other nations. Apparently it is also of the opinion that the concerns of Israeli civilians can be portrayed differently from those of citizens of EU countries. While the BBC refuses to acknowledge that the double standard it promotes is a “significant issue of general importance”, we remain convinced that it compromises the BBC’s claim to impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel





BBC News amplifies a false story of the ‘dark Israel’ genre

On July 12th the BBC News website’s Middle East page ran an article headlined “Israel army names new chief rabbi criticised over rape comments” which opened by informing readers that:Chief Rabbi art

“Israel’s military has nominated a new chief rabbi criticised for remarks he made in the past that seemed to condone the rape of non-Jewish women in war.

In an answer to a religious website in 2002, Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim implied that such an act was permissible.”

The link in that second paragraph directs BBC audiences to the English language version of an article published by Yediot Aharonot in Hebrew on its Ynet website, as well as in print, on the day that this BBC News article appeared.

As the respected media watchdog website ‘The Seventh Eye’ showed on the same day, Yediot Aharonot’s story – including the alleged ‘quotes’ it promotes – is false.

The BBC has enough Hebrew speakers working in its Jerusalem bureau to have been able to determine that amplification of Yediot Aharonot’s false claims is not in line with the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy and that is perhaps why the subsequent paragraph read as follows:

“He [Rabbi Karim]  clarified in 2012 that his words had been taken out of context and that rape was forbidden “in any situation”.”

Nevertheless, the next 96 words of the article were devoted to the amplification of vacuous reactions to the non-story which were lifted directly from the linked Ynet article.chief rabbi art on hp

“But his appointment, which requires the defence minister’s approval, was condemned by a top female politician.

Zehava Galon, leader of the Meretz party, described Rabbi Karim as “not suitable to represent Jewish morality in any way whatsoever”.

“His appalling, racist and violent statement makes women fair game,” she added.

The head of the Israeli parliament’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint Arab List, said: “Col Karim’s ruling on permitting raping non-Jewish women is similar to the fatwa of a murderous organisation that’s not so far from Israel’s borders.””

That was followed by a response from the IDF.

So what was the point of the BBC’s amplification of this second-hand non-story? Obviously it certainly wasn’t to report news or contribute to audiences’ “understanding of international issues” because the ‘news’ is false and the issue non-existent.

Rather, this is yet another BBC report belonging to the ‘dark Israel’ genre: the succession of stories which – often with little or no regard for accuracy – paint a portrait of a country parting ways with democracy that is rife with racism, sexism, xenophobia, government censorship and more.  

The publication of articles such as this of course does nothing to support the BBC’s claim that its reporting from Israel reporting is “impartial” and professional.