Weekend long read

1) The Jewish News has an interview with the creator of a new documentary concerning reporting from the Middle East.Weekend Read

“Curious to discover how this came to be the media’s viewpoint, Himel has interviewed combatants, civilians and politicians from both sides of the conflict for his provocative documentary, Eyeless In Gaza, which premieres in London later this month. […]

“It’s something I call ‘group think’,” explains Himel.  “Group think isn’t a malicious attempt to lie or distort the truth, but there is a strong herd instinct of what is allowable and what is not. […]

“The idea of objectivity, that was very sacrosanct in journalism 50 years ago, is basically gone. Everything is from a point of view today, so you can’t just rely on one source – even if it is an established source.””

2) Freelance journalist Hunter Stuart has written an interesting account of his change of views following a stint in Jerusalem.

“In the summer of 2015, just three days after I moved to Israel for a one-and-a-half year stint freelance reporting in the region, I wrote down my feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A friend of mine in New York had mentioned that it would be interesting to see if living in Israel would change the way I felt about it. My friend probably suspected that things would look differently from the front-row seat, so to speak.

Boy was he right.”

3) The JCPA takes a look at the evolution of the two-state solution.

“The term “two-state solution” seems to have become a form of “lingua franca” within the international community, the magic panacea for all the ills of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the wider problems of the Middle East.

Not a day goes by without some leading politician, journal, or international body mentioning it as the buzz-word for the ultimate outcome, while at the same time usually accusing Israel – and only Israel – of “undermining the two-state solution.””

4) The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has produced a summary of Palestinian terrorism in 2016.

“In 2016 there was an increase in the number of shooting attacks. Shooting attacks made up 23% of all the significant terrorist attacks carried out during the year. The number of shooting attacks was also high in January 2017. In 2016 shooting attacks accounted for the deaths of ten people, more than half of those killed during the year.”

An upcoming event for UK based readers

UK-based readers may be interested in an upcoming event in the North Manchester area.

On Wednesday December 28th 2016 at 7 pm, the Managing Editor of our sister site UK Media Watch, Adam Levick, will address the question “What can you do today to promote accurate coverage of Israel in the UK media?”.

Admission is free but those interested in attending should register at:  zcc.man@zen.co.uk or office@jewishmanchester.org



Jeremy Bowen’s annual reminder of why BBC coverage of Israel is as it is

h/t GB

The May 28th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ included an item (from 22:55 here) described in the synopsis thus:FOOC 28 5

“And the news media may love an anniversary, but some of its senior correspondents have dates they’d sooner forget …”

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the piece as follows:

“Anniversaries are a regular feature of news coverage these days. Words like ‘it’s 12 months since’ or ‘100 years ago today’ preface many a tale. This can be useful for editors: it provides not only an opportunity to revisit and reassess a story but also, of course, a way to fill up space and airtime. But some anniversaries – as Jeremy Bowen knows – are marked more quietly, away from the public gaze.”

There is nothing “away from the public gaze” about the anniversary Jeremy Bowen chose to mark by broadcasting this particular item on national radio and – as can be seen in the examples in the related articles below – Bowen does not mark that anniversary “quietly”: he in fact makes a point of recounting the story annually.

But whilst the story and its yearly narration by the BBC’s Middle East editor are not novel, it does provide some insight into why the corporation’s coverage of Israel is as it is because it reveals what lies behind the long-standing approach to that country adopted by the gatekeeper of BBC Middle East content.

JB: “Sixteen years ago this week my friend and colleague Abed Takkoush was killed by the Israeli army. Abed was Lebanese from Beirut. He’d worked for the BBC since the [Lebanese] civil war started in the 1970s. Abed was in his early 50s with three boys and a wife. His business card said ‘driver producer’. He was a fixer: the kind of person without whom foreign correspondents could not function. We rely on people like Abed around the world, though he was exceptional because of his experience, his sense of humour and his bravery. He used to pick me up in his battered Mercedes taxi when I arrived at Beirut airport and accelerate away into the traffic, boasting that he was a better driver than Michael Schumacher. Istill miss him when I arrive at the airport and he isn’t there. I’ve never had the heart to delete his phone number from my contacts book.

On the day Abed was killed the Israelis were ending a long occupation of southern Lebanon. They were driven out by Hizballah – the Shia militia that also became a political and social movement. We kept a safe distance from the Israeli forces as they retreated. My big mistake was deciding to stop to do a piece to camera near the Lebanese border with Israel. I didn’t think they’d shoot from the other side of the wire. I asked Abed to pull over. He stayed in the car making a phone call while the cameraman Malek Kenaan and I got out. A couple of minutes later an Israeli tank about a kilometer away on their side of the border fired a shell into the back of the car. Somehow Abed forced his way out of the window and then dropped down onto the road. Malek told me not to go up to the remains of the car, which was on fire, because Abed was dead and the Israelis would kill me too. A colleague on the Israeli side heard the tank crew saying they’d got one of us and they’d kill the other two with a heavy machine gun. When I stuck my head out of the place where Malek and I had taken cover, they opened fire as they said they would. I’m as certain as I can be that the Israelis would have tried to kill me too if I’d gone up to find him. But I still feel guilty that I didn’t.

Looking into south Lebanon from the Menara area

Looking into south Lebanon from the Menara area

A few weeks later when I was back in Israel where I was based at the time, I went to see a General in Tel Aviv whom I’d been promised would explain their version of events. He said they’d thought we were terrorists about to attack them. Hizballah did not drive Israel out in 2000 by sauntering along a road in the midday sun of South Lebanon. They’re way cleverer than that. When I said that to the General he shrugged and said there were frightened boys in the tank who’d been warned they might be attacked.

 I believe the soldiers in the tank could see us clearly for what we were – harmless civilians. It was a bright, blue sky day and the optics in Israeli tanks are excellent. I think, for them, Lebanese lives were cheap and they assumed we were a Lebanese news team – not the BBC. […] Reporting wars is a dangerous business, obviously. I think it’s more dangerous now than it was when I went to my first war in 1989 or in that dreadful week in 2000. The reason is the 24/7 news cycle. Killing journalists is a good way of sending a message about power and ruthlessness.

I gave up going to wars for a while after the awful few days sixteen years ago. But it would be impossible to report the Middle East as it is now without accepting a degree of risk. I try to stay away from the front lines but sometimes they’re part of the job. Many of my working days in the Middle East involve men with guns. If I get an easier job I won’t regret saying goodbye to them. But for now they’re part of my working life and of increasing numbers of journalists in our troubled world.”

In short, the BBC has allowed Jeremy Bowen to use this item to once again promote the unsupported, unproven and unfounded allegation that Israel deliberately targets and kills journalists/civilians. And yet, for the last decade (since the creation of the position of Middle East editor in 2006) the man shooting that accusation from the hip at every opportunity has also been the person entrusted with ensuring that BBC coverage of Israel is accurate and impartial.

That, sadly for the BBC’s reputation, says it all.

Related Articles:

Middle East Editor – Jeremy Bowen

Jeremy Bowen: “The Israelis would have killed me too”

Jeremy Bowen’s pink shirt

Context-free Twitter messaging from BBC’s Jeremy Bowen

BBC Russian mangles headline on Jerusalem terror attack

h/t V

The continuing phenomenon of biased media reporting of the ongoing wave of terror against Israelis sparked a warning from the head of Israel’s Government Press Office this week.

“The Israeli government official responsible for accrediting foreign journalists said on Wednesday that he will consider revoking press credentials for media members who “are derelict in doing their jobs and write headlines that are the opposite of what happened.””

That announcement came after CBS produced a report on the February 3rd terror attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem with the headline “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on”.

After having come under severe criticism for a similarly egregious headline last October, the BBC News website managed to find a more reasonable title for its English language report on the February 3rd attack – “Israeli border guards shot in Jerusalem attack”.

However, it would appear that not all BBC departments have learned the lessons regarding accurate and impartial headline writing. BBC Russian’s report on the February 3rd attack was headlined “Israeli police killed three Palestinians in Jerusalem”.

BBC Russian Damascus Gate attack

Following protest on social media, that headline was later amended and a footnote was added to the article to reflect that fact.

Nevertheless, the BBC has obviously still has a way to go before it can claim to have adequately dealt with the issue of inaccurate headline writing in all its departments. 

Weekend long read

At Commentary magazine Evelyn Gordon has an interesting piece titled Ramadi, Gaza, and Western Hypocrisy which is also available here.Weekend Read  

“The other factor in Ramadi’s devastation was airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition. As AP reported, these strikes “smashed large parts of the city into rubble.” Nor is that surprising: When a target area is extensively booby-trapped, even precision airstrikes often cause greater-than-expected damage, because the attacking force can’t know which buildings are wired with explosives, and hitting a wired building will set off massive secondary explosions. Yet airstrikes are unavoidable when fighting militants entrenched in a sea of tunnels and booby-trapped buildings, because using ground troops alone would result in unacceptably high losses for the attacking force.

Consequently, a Pentagon spokesman correctly blamed Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) for the damage to Ramadi: “One hundred percent of this is on ISIL because no one would be dropping any bombs if ISIL hadn’t gone in there,” Colonel Steven H. Warren told Hubbard.

Yet in Gaza, both the Obama Administration and European officials largely blamed the damage on Israel rather than Hamas, even though Israeli airstrikes were employed for the exact same reason, sometimes caused greater-than-expected damage for the exact same reason, and obviously wouldn’t have been launched at all had Hamas not attacked Israel to begin with. Indeed, Israel’s airstrikes were arguably far more justified than America’s were: Islamic State wasn’t firing missiles at America from Ramadi or digging attack tunnels into American territory from Ramadi. In contrast, Hamas had fired thousands of rockets at Israel from Gaza over the previous decade and dug dozens of cross-border attack tunnels, including one that notoriously emerged right next to a kindergarten.”

Given the BBC’s repeated portrayal of the ongoing wave of terrorism against Israelis as ‘lone wolf’ attacks and the differing terminology it employs when reporting terrorism in Israel and elsewhere, an essay by Irwin J Mansdorf published by the JCPA under the title ‘The Psychology of “Lone Wolf” Palestinian Arab Violence: The Interaction between Religious, Cultural and Political-National Motives’ is of interest.

“To many Western minds, the increasing amount of knife attacks by mostly individual young Palestinian Arabs on Israeli Jews is simply an expression of the despair and hopelessness that years of occupation and lack of freedom have nourished. To many Israelis, the violence is clearly a manifestation of endless incitement against Jews that includes false allegations and education based on hate. This discrepancy is at the root of a difference in worldview when it comes to how one views acts of violence against Israel as opposed to violence clearly seen as “terror” elsewhere in the world. What is missing from both views, however, is an understanding of precisely how factors interact to create the cognitive set or ideology that drives this behavior.”

The BBC’s general avoidance of the topic of internal Palestinian politics means that consumers of BBC News do not get to see the kind of perspectives recorded by Avi Issacharoff in a recent article at the Times of Israel.

““How do you explain the fact that no resident of the [Jenin refugee] camp took part in the ‘intifada of knives’ over the past three months?” I ask him.

“It’s not an intifada. It’s a fad,” he says. “Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Jericho — nothing is happening in any one of those places. Things have calmed down even in Hebron. True, people were killed there, but it’s a passing phase. The ones that created this intifada were the media and Facebook.

“And let’s be honest,” he continues. “What did we gain from the Second Intifada? What did we get? Those of us who live here in the camp paid the heaviest price. And what did that do for us? Did we get representation on the Revolutionary Council [one of the leadership groups] or on the Central Committee [Fatah’s supreme leadership group]? So why should we take part in this? What will we get out of sending a kid to stab somebody with a knife?”


Weekend long read

As has been noted here previously, BBC reporting on the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis has frequently made use of the term ‘lone wolf attacks’. In an interview with the Times of Israel, Anat Berko – currently a member of the Knesset and formerly a criminologist specializing in suicide terrorists – addressed that topic.Weekend Read

“I don’t accept the idea that these are lone wolves. This wave of terror is directed from above. The incitement is insane. It’s on TV, satellite broadcasts, in mosques, on the street and in schools, including East Jerusalem, in schools that we actually pay for. It’s so bad that it’s a surprise that not everyone is a terrorist. If you look at the website of the Palestinian Authority, they speak of all of Palestine, pre-1948, not just pre-1967.”

Read the full interview here.

At Standpoint magazine, John Ware writes about “‘Anti-Extremists’ Who Equate Israel With IS: a must read which underscores the importance of accurate and impartial reporting on Israel and the Middle East for domestic BBC audiences.

“Swallowing fantastical conspiracy theories — especially about Jews — is an early sign of vulnerability to radicalisation, and is symptomatic of the marked grievance narrative that says the West is persecuting Muslims. […]
The grievance narrative that Muslims are the eternal victims of Jews and the West is known to set David Cameron’s eyes rolling and is one of several extreme but non-violent drivers that can lead to radicalisation. Others include disdain for parliamentary democracy, sectarianism, and regressive attitudes to equality. The entire extremist narrative is now the target of the government’s counter-extremism strategy published this autumn, a narrative which Mr Cameron has exhorted the nation to fight “every day at the kitchen table, on the university campus, online and on the airwaves”. So how exactly are we doing on this side of the Channel?”

An interesting recent discussion between Dave Rubin and Nick Cohen on the topic of “the Regressive Left and Identity Politics” (note the reference to “BBC-type people”) can be found at The Rubin Report.

Reviewing BBC compliance with PLO media guidance

Early in November the PLO’s ‘Negotiations Affairs Department’ – headed by frequent BBC contributor Saeb Erekat – issued a guidance document to members of the international media titled “Key Points to Remember when Reporting on Occupied Palestine“.  

Analysis of the document’s content falls outside our remit but has already been carried out by Dr Eran Lerman at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.  In this post we will take a look at the degree of BBC compliance with some of the PLO messaging laid out in that ten-point media guidance.

The PLO’s first point is titled “Israel occupies the State of Palestine” and journalists are told that “Israel is the occupying power and Palestine a nation under foreign occupation”.

Whilst the BBC stops short of describing the geographical areas controlled by different Palestinian factions as a state, it does describe them as ‘occupied’ – including the Gaza Strip.

A BBC profile of the Gaza Strip dating from 2009 and still available online informs readers that:

“In 2005, Israel pulled out the troops occupying Gaza, along with thousands of Jews who had settled in the territory. As far as Israel was concerned that was the end of the occupation.

However, that has not been accepted internationally as Israel still exercises control over most of Gaza’s land borders, as well as its territorial waters and airspace.”

That messaging has been frequently repeated in BBC News reports – see examples here, here and here – and was defended by the BBC Trust’s ESC in 2013.

The BBC regularly used the phrases “occupied West Bank” (see recent examples here, here and here) and “occupied East Jerusalem” (see for example here and here) in accordance with the BBC Academy ‘style guide’ which states:

“Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. A law in 1980 formalised an administrative measure tantamount to the annexation of land taken as a result of the 1967 War. The claim to East Jerusalem is not recognised internationally. Instead, under international law, East Jerusalem is considered to be occupied territory.”

Individual locations are also described in BBC content as being “occupied” – including the H2 area of Hebron.

Regarding this point, the BBC obviously adopted PLO messaging long ago.   

The second point in the PLO document is headed “The main issue is the Israeli Occupation” and in relation to the current wave of terrorism, members of the media are informed that:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

BBC audiences have seen that messaging promoted on numerous occasions in recent weeks – not least by the corporation’s Middle East editor.

“I think that there is…err….there’s a lot of anger and rage at the continuing occupation and the fact is that the underlying context of all the violence that really ever happens here to do with the conflict is the conflict itself and the almost fifty year occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israelis and that generates a sense of hopelessness, of hatred and – in some people as well – murderous rage.” (Jeremy Bowen, ‘Newsnight’, 13/10/15)

“Many Palestinians have told me they believe the reason for the attacks is that another generation is realising its future prospects will be crippled by the indignities and injustice of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. […]

Violence does not come out of the blue. It has a context. Once again, the problem is the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is at the heart of all the violence that shakes this city.

A big part of the conflict is the military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, that has lasted for nearly 50 years. It is impossible to ignore the effects of an occupation that is always coercive and can be brutal.

In successive Palestinian generations, it has created hopelessness and hatred. In some cases, that bursts out into murderous anger.” (Jeremy Bowen, BBC News website, 15/10/15)

“The current violence stems from decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. At its most basic, it is a fight over land and national rights.” (BBC News website, 13/10/15)

Clearly that PLO talking point has been well absorbed and embraced.

Point four is headed “For Israel, forcible displacement and colonization are an official policy, not the two-state solution” and reporters are told that “On the eve of Israeli elections in March 2015, Netanyahu promised his constituents, “If I’m elected, there will be no Palestinian State””.

The BBC has engaged in selective, context-free promotion of that statement both at the time that it was made and subsequently.

The PLO’s fifth point is titled “East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Occupied State of Palestine” and journalists are told that “the legal status of East Jerusalem is an occupied territory, and must continue to be referred to as such”.

As can be seen in the above link to the BBC’s ‘style guide’, the corporation has long complied with that dictate. Specific neighbourhoods are also similarly portrayed.

“The rabbi’s killer, who was shot dead, came from Jabel Mukaber in occupied East Jerusalem.”

Point six also relates to Jerusalem and is headed “Israeli settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem are as illegal as settlements in the rest of the Occupied State of Palestine”. Members of the media are told that:

“Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo, French Hill, Neve Ya’akoub, Har Homa, Ramat Shlomo, Giva’at Hamatos, East Talpiyot (Armon HaNetziv) and Ramot, among others, are all illegal Israeli settlements and should be referred to as such.”

The BBC has long complied fully with that dictate too and recent reports have described Pisgat Zeev and East Talpiot, among other places, as “settlements”.

The document’s seventh point – titled “The Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound is under Israeli Occupation just as the rest of East Jerusalem” – includes the following statement:

“While some media outlets have preferred to focus their discussion on whether Al-Aqsa is holy for Muslims or for Jews, they tend to omit the fact that this Muslim holy site is under Israeli Occupation, as is the rest of Occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City.”BBC map settlements

The BBC has even produced a handy map to aid promotion of the notion that the Old City of Jerusalem – including Temple Mount – is under occupation and its Jewish Quarter an “illegal settlement”.

Point eight is headed “Israel has effectively changed Al-Aqsa’s Status Quo” and it describes the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif as follows:

“The Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound is a holy site comprised of 144 dunums [sic] of land, which includes the two mosques (the Dome of the Rock and Al-Qibli) as well as open areas for prayers around them.”

Recent months have seen repeated cases in which BBC journalists have likewise promoted the erroneous notion that Temple Mount is “al Aqsa Mosque”. The PLO also circulated an earlier directive to journalists on that topic, urging them not to use the term Temple Mount.

Notably, throughout its coverage of the recent wave of terrorism, the BBC has failed to inform audiences in its own words that Israel has neither changed – nor has any intention of changing – the status quo on Temple Mount and has even amplified conspiracy theories relating to that issue.

In point nine – titled “International protection is a right for the Palestinian people” – journalists are told that Israeli policy towards the Palestinians includes “forced displacement and collective punishment”.

In October BBC audiences heard Kevin Connolly describe temporary checkpoints at the entrances to Jerusalem neighbourhoods from which many of the terrorists carrying out recent attacks had come as creating “the sense that restrictions on movement are a form of collective punishment”. Within 24 hours of the commencement of the 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip the BBC began promoting the notion of ‘collective punishment’ and that evidence-free distortion of a legal term became a theme repeated in its coverage of the conflict. 

Throughout this document the ‘apartheid’ trope is promoted several times. The BBC is of course no stranger to promotion of that trope. The term ‘Israeli occupying force’ is also used by the PLO in this document and recently we saw similar phrasing used by BBC Arabic. The term “international law” is also liberally scattered throughout the guidance and as veteran readers will be aware, partisan presentation of that topic is a permanent fixture in BBC content.

Whilst we do not know whether or not BBC journalists received this PLO document at the beginning of November, it is obvious that BBC content has already long complied with much of the ‘guidance’ for the media as laid down by that organisation and that recent reports have included messaging eerily similar to that promoted in this document.  

But whilst the query of whether the PLO managed to save itself a stamp remains unanswered, the real question is how BBC adoption and promotion of specific terminology and themes – which are obviously viewed by the PLO as furthering its aims and narrative – can be said to contribute to meeting the corporation’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience understanding of international issues through accurate and impartial reporting. 






BBC WS passes up opportunity to tell audiences about Hamas media censorship

A year ago, former AP journalist Matti Friedman wrote an article about Western media coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas:

“In previous rounds of Gaza fighting, Hamas learned that international coverage from the territory could be molded to its needs, a lesson it would implement in this summer’s war. Most of the press work in Gaza is done by local fixers, translators, and reporters, people who would understandably not dare cross Hamas, making it only rarely necessary for the group to threaten a Westerner. The organization’s armed forces could be made to disappear. The press could be trusted to play its role in the Hamas script, instead of reporting that there was such a script. Hamas strategy did not exist, according to Hamas—or, as reporters would say, was “not the story.” There was no Hamas charter blaming Jews for centuries of perfidy, or calling for their murder; this was not the story. The rockets falling on Israeli cities were quite harmless; they were not the story either.”

Hamas censorship of both local and foreign media did not of course begin in the summer of 2014 but that conflict provided some particularly outstanding examples of the phenomenon – including the BBC’s failure to report on the terror group’s use of human shields. The subsequent verbal gymnastics employed by various BBC bodies to justify that lack of reporting when called to account by members of the public making complaints were particularly remarkable.

It was therefore all the more notable that when the topic of Hamas censorship of the media came up recently in a BBC World Service radio broadcast, it was addressed very superficially.

In a programme called ‘The Conversation’ broadcast on December 1st, two women working in the media discussed their experiences with presenter Kim Chakanetsa.  One of those women – Ameera Ahmad Harouda – is a fixer working in the Gaza Strip. From 13:00 the discussion went as follows:The Conversation

KC: “Ameera; I’m curious about your work because you have to really maintain good relations with the authorities but you also have to hold them to account. How do you maintain that line?”

AAH: “This is the issue here in Gaza; that you can’t deal with them as [though] they are not the authority even if they are not legal, you know, or even if they finish their election time and they just need to quit. They are the authority; they are controlling Gaza and they are doing their job here so you have to be in a good contact with them.”

KC: “And by the authorities we mean Hamas who control Gaza.”

AAH: “Eh…of course sometimes I’m facing some difficulties in this aspects because it’s not easy, you know, and specially when I start and when they taking over of Gaza, I faced serious difficulties with them because they want to prevent me of working: to stop me of working as a freelancer producer here in Gaza and to work under their umbrella, which I completely refused because I have my ideas, I have my beliefs and, you know, I can’t just work through their umbrella and under their ideas or the stories we want to work on it. You know, some journalists they ask for this story and even if it’s against them [Hamas] or it’s not with them, always I find the door, you know, to talk with them about it. It’s not easy but at the same time it’s not difficult.”

KC: “When you say working under their umbrella, you mean they wanted to make the suggestions of what stories you should cover?”

AAH: “Stories we should cover, people we should talk and some other stories we shouldn’t talk about at all.”

KC: “So it’s important to you to remain independent?”

That part of the conversation ends there: listeners did not gain any insight into why Hamas tries to censor some stories or what sorts of topics are deemed out-of-bounds. Likewise, they received no concrete information on how local and foreign media function under Hamas censorship or what sort of pressures are applied to ensure compliance. The opening question of how the Hamas authorities are ‘held to account’ was not answered.

Given that audiences worldwide have their opinions shaped by the quality and content of reporting coming out of the Gaza Strip, the issue of Hamas censorship of the media is obviously one which deserved much more meaningful examination. 

Later on in the same programme (from 19:30) listeners heard Chakanetsa ask Ameera Ahmad Harouda “what is the one story that stands out for you that you’ve covered?”

AAH: “…we were filming with Al Jazeera and we were filming a film about journalists here in Gaza and they call it ‘Shooting the Messenger’ – it’s like three parts. And during that time when we were filming, we filming with one of the cameramen – his name is Fadel Shana’a, he works for Reuters in that time – and we cover, you know, his work; to be a cameraman working in the field like this. Eh…Fadel also get attacked by the Israeli army and he was killed.”

The highly partial Al Jazeera programme concerned can be found here. Following that context-free presentation of the story, Kim Chakanetsa presented a seven and a half year-old statement which listeners could also have found on Wikipedia.

KC: “At the time of Fadel Shana’a’s death the Israeli Defence Force said ‘the IDF wished to emphasise that – unlike terrorist organisations – not only does it not deliberately target uninvolved civilians; it also uses means to avoid such incidents. Reports claiming the opposite are false and misleading’.”

After that, Harouda was allowed to continue with more context-free portrayal of that incident in particular and the Gaza Strip in general, with Palestinian actions and terrorism being completely erased from the portrayal presented to World Service listeners.

AAH: “So it’s very hard, you know, to being with people that you know them very well and sometimes you work with them then suddenly you just find out that they disappeared – they just go on, you know, because of this attack or that attack. [….] It’s not easy, you know, to go [get] over this feeling because you live with it all the time when there is an attack, when there is a war or when there is any invasion. You just lost some people that you know or some people that you love. Or a place: you get used to go to it; suddenly you can’t find it because it just disappeared; it just, you know, vanish.”

The background to the April 2008 incident in which Fadel Shana’a was killed is obviously completely absent from the account presented in this programme.  

“On the morning of April 16 an IDF force operating along the border fence near Kibbutz Be’eri (4 km, or about 2 ½ miles, southwest of the Karni Crossing) observed two armed Palestinians attempting to place IEDs near the security fence. In trying to prevent their actions the force entered the Gaza Strip and was ambushed by a squad of six terrorists. The squad, which had been in hiding, shot at the IDF force, exploiting the fog covering the area. In the exchange of fire three IDF soldiers were killed and three more were wounded. The terrorist operatives apparently managed to escape into the Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed responsible [responsibility] for the killings. […]

On the same day, during an action in the northern Gaza Strip in the Nahal Oz area, and IDF force identified and attacked ten armed Palestinian terrorists. During the exchange of fire mortar shells and anti-tank missiles were fired at the IDF soldiers, from, among other places, inside a mosque on the outskirts of Sajaiya, where large quantities of explosive devices and weapons had been hidden. During the attack an IDF soldier was moderately wounded.

After the clash the Israeli Air Force carried out a number of strikes against suspicious vehicles and individuals suspected of being terrorist operatives. The Palestinian media reported that the strikes had killed 12 Palestinians and wounded 25. Among those killed was Fadel Shana’a, a Reuters photographer, who went to the area to document the events and was killed by mistake. The IDF expressed regret and examined the circumstances of his death. […]

At the same time as the aforementioned attacks, the terrorist organizations fired massive barrages of rockets at the western Negev towns. On April 16 and 17 more than 30 rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory.”

In other words, Fadel Shana’a was accidentally killed whilst the IDF was engaged in action against Palestinian terrorists who initiated attacks against Israeli targets almost three years after Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Listeners to this programme, however, were denied that all-important context and were left with the materially misleading impression that ‘attacks’ and ‘wars’ are exclusively Israeli initiated events.

Hamas’ media department could hardly have wished for more.

A Paris experiment with a BBC-style headline

Via the Algemeiner, we learn of an experiment recently conducted by an Israeli journalist.

“An Israeli reporter was met with indignation from French citizens and tourists whom he presented with a biased headline about the recent Paris terror attacks, Israeli website nrg reported on Sunday.

Zvika Klein, the Makor Rishon/nrg journalist […] filmed passersby in Paris’ Place de la Republique (Republic Square) reacting to a screenshot of a slanted headline reporting on the November 13 ISIS attacks that resonated around the world.

The format of the headline – purposely fabricated by nrg as an experiment — emulated that of certain international media outlets’ coverage of recent terror attacks against Israelis, creating the impression that terrorists are victims as well. The phony screenshot was a virtual replica of a BBC headline that appeared following the murder of two Israelis, and serious wounding of a mother and her baby, in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on October 3.”

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC Trending’s reporting on sexist abuse and anti-Jewish abuse

BBC News flunks headline of report on Jerusalem terror attack

Bad press, complaints lodged over BBC’s Lions Gate terror attack headline

Thank you from BBC Watch

After a very busy week on the road in the UK, BBC Watch is now getting back to normal.

The response to our four events held in London and Manchester last week was way beyond expectation and we would like to thank the hundreds of people who attended them, our host in Parliament Mike Freer MP and our wonderful speakers Baroness Deech, Professor Richard Landes, Dr Denis MacEoin, Lesley Klaff and Jonathan Turner. London 2

The high participation in all the events indicates just how relevant the topic of the BBC’s coverage of Israel is to the British community and it was a pleasure to meet so many BBC Watch readers and supporters from far and wide in person.

Special thanks go to the many individuals and organisations who volunteered their help in organising the events: without them, they simply could not have taken place.

Security was of course a big part of the organisation of the events and we are grateful to the wonderful Community Security Trust and the police for taking such professional care of that aspect.

Sincere thanks go to Murray Freedman for artwork and design, Sharna Kinsley and Nizza Fluss for photography, Tony Jacobs and Richard Galber for security, Jenny Scott and Nadine Dobrik for organisation, Ellie Bar-On; first-aider and computer operation and Ambrosine Shitrit and Rachel Dobrik of Campaign for Truth for logistics and organisation.

Thanks too to the community of Northwood Synagogue and the Zionist Central Council in Manchester for hosting us.  Unfortunately, a very tight schedule meant that we were not able to accept the additional invitations from many other communities in the UK this time around.  

We are grateful for the many offers of help with hospitality and transport and special thanks go to Sharon Lagnado for a very wet and windy drive up the M1.

An especially big thank-you goes to Sharon Klaff of Campaign for Truth who was instrumental in organising the first two events in London and whose boundless energies and meticulous attention to detail made them such a success.