What does the BBC tell audiences about Iraqi attacks on Israel in 1991?

Last weekend marked 29 years since the first Iraqi missile attack on Israel during the Gulf War of 1991. 

A review of available BBC online content relating to those five and a half weeks of attacks shows that anyone searching today for information on those events will find only minimal references to the topic.

The timeline in the BBC’s profile of Israel reads:

1991 January – Gulf War. Iraq fires 39 Scud missiles at Israel in failed attempt to regionalise conflict. Israel refrains from responding at US request.”

An entry for January 18th 1991 in the BBC’s ‘On This Day’ archive titled “Iraqi Scud missiles hit Israel” states:

“Iraq has attacked two Israeli cities with Scud missiles, prompting fears that Israel may be drawn into the Gulf War.

Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, its main seaport, were hit in the attacks, which began at 0300 local time (0100 GMT), when most residents were asleep.

Reports from Tel Aviv say the air was filled with the wail of sirens and minutes later up to eight missiles streaked in and exploded in balls of flame.

Residents scrambled for protective clothing and gas masks, issued to most of the population before the conflict began.

Casualties are believed to have been light – nobody was killed, and only a few people injured.

It is the first time Tel Aviv has been hit in the history of the Israel-Arab conflict.”

That latter claim is of course inaccurate: Tel Aviv was attacked by Egyptian planes during the War of Independence.

A page in a feature titled “Saddam’s Iraq: Key Events” apparently dating from around 2002 informs BBC audiences that:

“On Thursday 17 January, Iraq launched its first Scud missile strikes on Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel. […]

In total, 39 Scud missiles were fired into Israel, causing damage but few casualties.”

Another archive reported dated 2003 – titled “Flashback: 1991 Gulf War” – likewise states:

“On Thursday 17 January, Iraq launched its first Scud missile strikes on Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel.”

A video published in 2016 – titled “BBC Archive: The 1991 Gulf War revisited” – includes footage from January 18th 1991 which is captioned:

“The first of several Iraqi scud missile attacks on Tel Aviv begins”

In other words, any student, school pupil or member of the general public searching the internet for information from the UK’s ‘trusted‘ national broadcaster about what happened in Israel between January 17th and February 28th 1991 would remain completely unaware of the fact that:

“Directly, these attacks caused 2 civilian deaths, although indirectly, they caused the following casualties: 4 heart attacks, 7 deaths as a result of incorrect use of biological/chemical warfare kits, 208 injured, 225 cases of unnecessary injection of atropine. Damage to general property consisted of 1,302 houses, 6,142 apartments, 23 public buildings, 200 shops and 50 cars.”

And:

“Since the beginning of the war, most Israel[is] stayed indoors, and the country’s economy suffered as a result. Schools were closed and tourism came to a standstill.” 

Once again the BBC’s “permanent public record” is found wanting.

BBC yawns at PA paper’s call for violence at Holocaust commemoration

Ahead of a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp which is to be held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem later this week with the participation of numerous world leaders including Prince Charles, the Palestinian Authority’s official newspaper published an op-ed which, after translation by PMW, has received local and wider Jewish media coverage.

“The official Palestinian Authority daily published an opinion piece on Saturday that called for a terrorist attack on a major upcoming memorial ceremony in Israel marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, saying, “One shot will disrupt the ceremony and one dead body will cancel the ceremony.” […]

According to a translation from Palestinian Media Watch, columnist Yahya Rabah wrote in PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that Israel “is now energetically planning to hold a ceremony for the Holocaust in occupied Jerusalem, and it is accustomed to the world participating with it in this ceremony, as the Jews’ Holocaust is terrible, but the Palestinian holocaust by Israel that still continues is insignificant, beautiful, spectacular, and good.”

“Of course, the Palestinians will never accept this equation, and it can be assumed that they will resist the ceremony being held in Jerusalem itself, as Jerusalem is theirs, despite Trump, who gave it to Israel as part of the filthy deal of the century,” he added.

Rabah then called for an act of terrorism, writing, “One shot will disrupt the ceremony and one dead body will cancel the ceremony.””

Like the rest of the British media the BBC – which of course has an entire department dedicated to translation of foreign language media – has to date not deemed that narrative-busting article published by a Palestinian Authority mouthpiece to be remotely newsworthy.

BBC audiences denied offshore gas news

In December the BBC News website told its readers that “[t]he Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel are…exploring for gas” but those getting their news from the BBC will be unaware of the fact that last week Israel began to supply gas to Egypt. 

“Israel has started pumping natural gas to Egypt from two massive offshore fields, marking a major milestone and a historic cooperation between the countries, according to a joint statement. […]

Jerusalem’s and Cairo’s energy ministries issued the rare joint statement on Wednesday morning, calling the move “an important development that will serve the economic interests of both sides.

“The step will both enable Israel to export some of its natural gas to the region via Egypt’s gas liquefaction plants, and promote Egypt’s status as a regional gas hub,” the statement said. […]

In the October deal, the partners in the Israeli fields signed a contract with the privately held Egyptian firm Dolphinus Holdings to transfer some 85 billion cubic meters (3 trillion cubic feet), to be supplied by both the Tamar and the Leviathan fields starting in 2020.

Signing the export permit in December, [energy minister] Steinitz said, “The export of gas to Egypt, from Leviathan and Tamar, is the most significant economic cooperation between Israel and Egypt since the signing of the peace treaty between the countries.””

Earlier this month gas from the Leviathan field began to be pumped to Jordan.

photo credit: Ministry of Energy

“An experimental supply of natural gas from the Leviathan gas field was pumped to Jordan from Israel by the Noble Energy Company on Wednesday, according to Jordan’s Petra national news agency.

The experimental pumping will continue for three months and will test the infrastructure prior to the flow of the actual commercial supply, according to Jordan’s National Electric Power Company (NEPCO). […]

Gas from the Tamar field has been pumped to Jordan for the past two years, so the new exports from Leviathan are not the first exports to Israel’s eastern neighbor. They will be on a much larger scale, however, since the Leviathan deal with Jordan is worth $10 billion, while the one concerning the Tamar field is worth about $500 million.

The first natural gas pipeline from Israel to Jordan was constructed in the Sodom area by the Dead Sea in 2017, aiming to supply gas from the Tamar reservoir to private customers in Jordan. A second pipeline in the Beit She’an area will supply gas from the Leviathan reservoir to NEPCO.”

Some in Jordan are however opposed to the deal.

“Earlier this month, Jordan’s National Electric Power Co., said gas pumping had started as part of a multi-billion-dollar deal with Texas-based Noble Energy aimed at lowering the cost of power in the energy-poor kingdom. […]

In a statement then, NEPCO said importing the gas from Israel was “the last option” after supplies of Egyptian gas came to an end after its pipeline was repeatedly targeted by Islamic State-affiliated militants in Sinai. NEPCO said Israel was “the only available source.”

At odds with the kingdom’s official policy, many Jordanians still see Israel as an enemy and often meet steps toward normalization with great public backlash. […]

Dozens of police Friday formed lines to prevent protesters from marching. The demonstrators chanted anti-Israel slogans and held banners reading, “The gas of the enemy is an occupation!” and “Down with the gas deal.”

The Jordanian flag-waving protesters also threatened to overthrow the government if it sticks by the gas deal.

Murad al-Adayleh, secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front Party, called on the government, “which has allowed the start of importing the gas,” to step down.

When the deal was signed in 2016, it was not reviewed by Jordan’s lower house of Parliament. Last year, that body issued a non-binding resolution against the agreement.”

Although the lower house of the Jordanian parliament once again made its position clear in a vote on January 19th, it is unclear whether or not the government will grant approval to the motion requesting a law banning Israeli gas imports to Jordan.

BBC audiences however remain completely unaware of developments in the Eastern Mediterranean energy sector.

 

UK government anti-terrorism sanction disregarded by BBC News

On January 17th the UK government’s economic and financial ministry announced that its Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation had designated the entire organisation of Hizballah under the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act of 2010.

That announcement was reported by the Reuters news agency and the story was picked up by other agencies and numerous media outlets worldwide. 

Curiously, we have been unable to find any coverage of that Treasury announcement on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ or ‘Middle East’ pages or under relevant tags such as UK government, HM Treasury, UK Finance or Hezbollah.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores Twitter’s terror groups suspensions

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

 

BBC News ignores rocket fire at school children

On the afternoon of January 15th residents of three communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip were forced to run for cover as warning sirens sounded.

“Four rockets were fired in total and the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted two of the projectiles, the army said. […]

The sirens sounded in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Kibbutz Sa’ad and Kfar Aza, which are all within a short distance of the Gaza border.

The strikes took place as local children were disembarking from buses at the end of the school day.

“They ran to the bomb shelters, and acted perfectly,” local residents said.”

The IDF later responded with strikes on Hamas infrastructure.

BBC News did not find that attack newsworthy and the re-emergence of attacks using incendiary balloons over the past few days has likewise been ignored.

 

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2019

Regular readers will be aware of BBC Watch’s long-standing documentation of the BBC’s problematic portrayal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). For years the corporation has reported related stories without adequately clarifying to audiences in its own words that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

In 2019 we saw that even when covering stories directly related to individual supporters of the BDS campaign, the BBC continued to avoid the obviously central issue of what the campaign they promote is actually about.

Such was the case for example in the generous BBC amplification of the story of Omar Shakir of ‘Human Rights Watch’. Descriptions of the BDS campaign were qualified using the phrase “Israel says” and suggested reading twice included a link to a previous BBC report promoting the falsehood that the BDS campaign solely relates to a “cultural boycott” of Israel.

BBC News report uncritically amplifies political NGO’s talking points

A third superficial BBC News website report on ‘Human Rights Watch’

Listeners to BBC World Service radio were inaccurately informed that the BDS campaign is “Palestinian led” and given a false portrayal of its aims.

BBC WS radio facilitates unchallenged HRW monologue – part one

The same editorial policy was also seen in BBC coverage of stories relating to two BDS supporting US Congresswomen. Although the topic of the agenda of the BDS campaign was obviously relevant to the story, audiences were not provided with a proper explanation.

BBC R4 report on antisemitism in the US uses the Livingstone Formulation

In one report BBC audiences were told that the “aim” of the BDS campaign is “to put economic pressure on the Israeli government”. In others, no effort whatsoever was made to inform audiences what the two Congresswomen actually support.

Superficial BBC reporting of Tlaib and Omar story

BBC Radio 4’s uncritical amplification of Ilhan Omar’s falsehood

BBC WS radio listeners get Ashrawi’s unchallenged propaganda

BBC audiences saw amplification of a specific boycott campaign, inadequate portrayal of the BDS campaign which did not allow readers to put a quote into context and quotes from BDS supporters who were not identified as such.

But by far the most intense campaign conducted by the BBC throughout 2019 related to the Eurovision Song Contest. Having rejected the calls of BDS supporters to boycott the event in Tel Aviv, the BBC then spent four months amplifying such campaigns, with an epilogue two months later.

BBC News Eurovision BDS report follows the usual template

BBC Radio Ulster audiences hear that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’

BBC News website ignores counter call to boycott it repeatedly promoted

More Eurovision boycott promotion on BBC Radio 5 live

Newsbeat continues the BBC’s Eurovision framing

Context-free amplification of Eurovision boycott calls persists at BBC News

BBC gives multi-platform amplification to antisemitism

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ amplifies the BDS campaign yet again

Some of those reports included descriptions of the BDS campaign which were qualified using the phrase “Israel says” while others included inaccurate portrayals of the campaign as a “Palestinian led movement” which “calls on artists to avoid performing in Israel”.  None of that content clarified to audiences in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism.

The adoption of that partisan editorial policy – especially while providing self-conscripted amplification for the BDS campaign – clearly does not serve the interests of the BBC’s funding public but does seriously compromise the BBC’s claim to be ‘impartial’.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2017

Reviewing BBC reporting on the BDS campaign in 2018

 

More disappearing Jews at the BBC

On January 10th the ‘updates’ sections of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ and ‘Africa’ pages promoted a short item (without a URL) in which audiences were told that:

“Alexandria was once home to tens of thousands of Jewish people”

and:

“Alexandria was once home to tens of thousands of Jews – but only a handful now remain”.

No further information concerning that ‘disappearance’ of the ancient community of Jews in Alexandria was provided and BBC audiences would be unlikely to be able to fill in the blanks for themselves seeing as the last time they were given any (far from complete) information about the history of Egyptian Jews was in 2014:

BBC whitewashes 20th century Jewish emigration from Egypt

Reporting the same story, the Jerusalem Post noted that:

“Egypt reopened a restored historic synagogue on Friday in the coastal city of Alexandria, but only three local Jews were on hand at the ceremony.”

A timeline of the measures which led to the eradication of Egypt’s Jewish community is available here.

 

Revisiting two BBC News website reports from July 2019

In early July 2019 the BBC News website published a report headlined “Clashes as Ethiopian Israelis protest over police shooting” which remained on its ‘Middle East’ page for two days. BBC audiences were told that: [emphasis added]

“Protesters have clashed with police across Israel following the funeral of a teenager of Ethiopian descent who was shot dead by an off-duty officer. […]

The killing of 18-year-old Solomon Tekah near Haifa on Sunday caused outrage among the Ethiopian community, with one member of the teenager’s family accusing the off-duty police officer of murder.

A police statement cited the officer as saying he had tried to intervene in a fight between two groups of youths. After he identified himself, the youths began throwing stones at him and he opened fire after “feeling that his life was in danger”, the statement added.

However, Israeli media cited witnesses as saying the officer was not attacked.”

A photo caption stated:

“The family of Solomon Tekah said the off-duty officer’s actions were disproportionate

The BBC also told its readers that:

“Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s. They say they have faced systematic discrimination, racism and a lack of empathy for their hardships ever since. […]

“We’ll do whatever we can to make sure police will stop killing people because of their skin colour,” one protester told AFP news agency.”

A week later the BBC News website decided to publish a video also dated July 3rd in the ‘Watch/Listen’ section of its Middle East page. By the time that video was published separately on July 10th, a ballistics report had confirmed that “the officer fired at the ground and the bullet apparently ricocheted into Solomon Tekah” and the DNA of the deceased had been found on a rock recovered from the scene. Nevertheless, the BBC presented that video with a synopsis stating that:

“Israeli police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protests by Ethiopian Jews prompted by the funeral of a teenager who was shot dead by an off-duty policeman.”

Details of the investigation into the incident that sparked those violent protests in July were recently published by the Justice Ministry. As reported by Ha’aretz, the BBC’s second-hand quote from “witnesses” who claimed that “the officer was not attacked” was shown to be fabricated.

“The latest findings also reveal that two teenagers who initially said they had witnessed the incident later testified to department officials that they lied, and weren’t even in the area at the time. One said he had deliberately lied so the officer would be punished for Teka’s death. […]

The findings also suggest that some evidence had been fabricated. Two 14-year-old boys who claimed to have witnessed the shooting later turned out not to have been at the scene.

These so-called witnesses became instant internet stars on the day of the incident when they were videotaped claiming, in front of a large audience, that the officer had shot Teka in the chest for no good reason. The video clip was circulated on the web and cited as proof that “Israeli policemen murder under the auspices of the law,” as one person shouted in the footage.

But when the two youths were summoned for questioning, they said that they hadn’t been at the scene. One of them initially stuck to his story of seeing the shooting but later retracted it when questioned a second time, and said he had lied “to protect my friend” and so that “the officer would get what’s coming to him.”

The other youth told ministry investigators: “They dragged me there and I spoke under pressure. I said what my friend had told me, but I wasn’t there. I was at the gym.””

The BBC’s repeated claim that Teka was “shot dead by an off-duty policeman” was shown to be an incomplete portrayal of events.

“Teka died after the officer shot a bullet that ricocheted off the ground, during the altercation in a park in the Kiryat Haim neighborhood north of Haifa.

The details released by the ministry department in charge of investigating police misconduct attest that traces of DNA had been found in the park that support the officer’s account that he suffered bruises from stones Teka had thrown at him. Information on forensics tests indicate that sizable quantities of alcohol and hashish were found in Teka’s remains.”

Back in July 2019 we noted that the BBC had failed to produce any follow-up reporting to inform audiences of the findings of the early investigation into the incident. To date the BBC has likewise shown no interest in informing its audiences of the Justice Ministry’s latest findings. That of course means that the BBC’s “permanent public record” – the reports which remain available to the public online without any update – continue to promote partial and inaccurate information, including the allegation that the Israeli police kill people “because of their skin colour”.

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes context-free video

 

 

Reviewing BBC News website coverage of Palestinian affairs in 2019

Our monthly summaries of BBC News website coverage of Israel and the Palestinians show that throughout 2019 audiences saw eight and a half times more coverage of internal Israeli affairs than they did of internal Palestinian affairs. Four of the year’s twelve months (May, October, November and December) saw no reporting on Palestinian affairs whatsoever.

Throughout the year the BBC produced four reports concerning internal Palestinian politics. Audiences learned of the new Palestinian Authority prime minister three months after he had taken office and were not informed of the resignation of the previous government.

Five arrested after Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation raided (5/1/19) discussed here

Palestinian Authority removes staff from Gaza-Egypt crossing (7/1/19) discussed here

Anger at Palestinian ministers’ secret 67% pay rises (6/6/19) discussed here

Gaza explosions: ‘Suicide bombers’ kill three police officers (28/8/19)

The economic crises in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip were the topic of just two reports throughout the year:

US stops all aid to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Yolande Knell (1/2/19) discussed here

Gaza economic protests expose cracks in Hamas’s rule Yolande Knell (18/3/19) discussed here

BBC coverage of social affairs within Palestinian society during 2019 included two reports about sex education (one of which was removed without explanation) published in July:

Teaching Palestinians to talk about sex – removed (9/7/19) discussed here

Talking about sex no longer so taboo in the Arab world Shereen El Feki (17/7/19)

The same month BBC audiences saw a report about a singer which did not provide any substantial information on the issue of the challenges faced by LGBTQ Palestinians living under Hamas or Palestinian Authority rule. 

Meet Bashar Murad: The Palestinian singer blurring gender lines Newsbeat (14/7/19) discussed here

In September the BBC News website published two reports about the murder of a Palestinian woman.

Israa Ghrayeb: Murder charges for Palestinian ‘honour killing’ (12/9/19)

Israa Ghrayeb: Palestinian woman’s death prompts soul-searching Tom Bateman (16/9/19) discussed here

Issues the BBC chose to ignore in 2019 included the arrests of Palestinians by the PA in connection to property sales, protests against social security reforms, legal cases concerning the torture of Palestinian citizens, Palestinian Authority harassment of LGBTQ activists and hate speech in school text books.

As has often been observed here in the past, only very occasionally do BBC audiences see stand-alone reports concerning internal Palestinian affairs which are not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and do not have an Israel-related component. That editorial policy continued throughout 2019.

 

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2019 and year end summary

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during December 2019 shows that throughout the month a total of 116 incidents took place: 75 in Judea & Samaria, 31 in Jerusalem and inside the ‘green line’ and ten in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 81 attacks with petrol bombs,19 attacks using pipe bombs, four arson attacks and two shooting attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included two shooting attacks, one petrol bomb attack, one IED attack, one grenade attack and five incidents of rocket fire.

There were no fatalities or injuries during December.

The BBC News website reported just one of those 116 incidents – a rocket attack on Ashkelon on December 25th which was mentioned 14 hours later in an article on another topic. Previous rocket attacks on December 7th and December 19th did not receive any BBC coverage.

Throughout 2019 the BBC News website reported under a third (32%) of the terror attacks which actually took place and most of that reporting appeared in months (March, May and November) in which a high number of rocket attacks took place. In five of the year’s twelve months, no reporting on terrorism was produced at all and 72.7% of the fatalities resulting from terror attacks received BBC coverage.

Related Articles:

BBC News belatedly reports rocket fire for the first time in a month

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2019

Summary of BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians – December 2019