BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less’ and Radio 1’s ‘Newsbeat’ were commended in the recent BBC Trust review of the impartiality of the corporation’s reporting of statistics in its news and current affairs output. Those two programmes recently came together with BBC Monitoring to produce a multi-platform feature on the subject of deaths resulting from terrorism in Western Europe.Newsbeat terror

Terror deaths in Western Europe at highest level since 2004” Newsbeat

“The start of 2016 saw the highest number of terrorism deaths in Western Europe since 2004, BBC research has revealed.

The first seven months of the year saw 143 deaths, which is also the second worst start to the year since 1980.”

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC Radio 4

“Is 2016 an unusually deadly year for terrorism?

In a joint investigation with BBC Newsbeat and BBC Monitoring, we’ve analysed nearly 25,000 news articles to assess whether 2016 so far has been a unusually [sic] deadly year for terrorism. It certainly feels like it. But what do the numbers say? We estimate that, between January and July this year, 892 people died in terrorist attacks in Europe – making it the most deadly first seven months of a year since 1994. But the vast majority of those deaths have been in Turkey. The number for Western Europe is 143, which is lower than many years in the 1970s.”More or Less R4 terror

Counting Terror Deaths” ‘More or Less’, BBC World Service Radio

“With high profile attacks in Brussels, Nice and Munich, you might think that 2016 has been a particularly bad year for terrorism in Europe. But what happens when you put the numbers in historical context and compare them with figures for the rest of the world?”

The research underlying all those reports used a “working definition” of terrorism described as follows in the radio programmes:

“Terrorist attacks are acts of violence by non-state actors to achieve a political, social, economic or religious goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Since the surge in terror attacks against Israelis began last September, the BBC has provided its audiences with a variety of explanations for the violence. The preferred explanation proffered by the corporation’s Middle East editor has been ‘the occupation’.

“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.”

“Palestinians say they don’t need to be told when to be angry after almost fifty years of an occupation that is always coercive and often brutal.”

Another ‘explanation’ repeatedly offered to audiences goes along the following lines:More or Less WS terror

“The recent rise in violence is blamed by Palestinians on the continued occupation by Israel of the West Bank and the failure of the Middle East peace process.”

In addition to those political factors, the BBC has frequently cited a religious factor as context to the surge in violence.

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.”

“In the last few weeks what we’ve had is this big flare-up in tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound; about access to this important religious site.”

“But the key to all of this, we think, is this ancient dispute about rights of worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque – which is called Temple Mount by Jews of course.”

“Tensions have been particularly high in recent weeks over the long-running issue of access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.”

But despite having cited political, social and religious factors as explanations for the Palestinian violence against Israelis in recent months, as has been documented here on countless occasions the BBC nevertheless universally refrained from describing those attacks as terrorism or their perpetrators as terrorists. 

With the corporation now having finally found a working definition of terrorism with which it is apparently comfortable, its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology when covering Palestinian attacks on Israelis clearly becomes even more egregious.  

Related Articles:

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

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Weekend long read

1) This coming Sunday CAMERA on Campus’ annual student conference will open in Boston, US.

“Students are coming from as far away as England, Scotland, and Canada to attend our training program,” said Aviva Slomich, CAMERA’s international campus director. “This in itself shows that campus anti-Zionism is a global problem, affecting many students.”

Read more about the conference here.Weekend Read

2) At the Tower, Jamie Palmer returns to the issue of the British Labour party and its recent inquiry into antisemitsm within its ranks.

“The Chakrabarti Report was a missed opportunity, the importance of which extends far beyond the parlous state of the Labour Party or the wider British Left. Across Europe, Islamist assassins and vandals are targeting Jewish schools, businesses, museums, synagogues, cemeteries, and kosher food establishments. It has become a cliché that a wave of anti-Semitism is washing over Europe.

Some on the Left have taken notice. Four days after the murder of four Jewish hostages during the siege of the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris, France’s Socialist Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, described “the intolerable rise in acts of anti-Semitism in France” as a “symptom of a crisis of democracy [and] the French Republic.” But such urgent and necessary diagnoses from the political Left have been notable for their scarcity.”

3) At the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman ponders the question of “Why Western leftists adore right-wing religious extremists abroad”.

“On a fairly consistent basis people in the West embrace values abroad that they shun at home. 

This is particularly odd and contradictory among those who self-identify as “Left” and “liberal” and then embrace movements, leaders, ideologies and religions that are manifestly illiberal and right- wing extremist abroad. For instance American philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler said in 2006 that “understanding Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of the global left, is extremely important.””

4) At the Fathom Journal, Oxford academic Michael Yudkin discusses the academic boycott promoted by the BDS campaign.

“These days the phrase ‘academic boycott’ seems to have acquired a thoroughly restricted meaning. It has nothing to do with China, which has been in occupation of Tibet since 1949 and which routinely imprisons or ‘disappears’ human-rights lawyers; nothing to do with the US or the UK, which invaded Iraq in 2003 without the authorisation of the UN Security Council; and nothing to do with Russia, which seized 27,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory two years ago and has (with the enthusiastic support of Iran) been helping the government in Damascus to bomb Syrian civilians. Instead, ‘academic boycott’ is a term of art to describe a means of punishing Israeli academics for the actions of a government over which they have little or no power.”

5) An interesting paper titled “Understanding Iran’s Role in the Syrian Conflict” has been published by the RUSI.  

“Iran’s role in Syria is critical not only to the course of the latter’s five-year civil war, but also to longer-term developments in the wider region, not least because the country’s relations with key players, including Russia, Hizbullah, the Gulf States and the Syrian regime, will inevitably be affected by the outcome of the conflict.

The alliance between the Syrian regime and the Iranian leadership is, on the face of it, puzzling. The former is Arab, Alawite and secular, while Iran is Islamic, Shia and deeply religious. Nevertheless, since the civil war in Syria erupted in March 2011, Iran has been one of the key supporters of the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, and has maintained significant influence over the evolution of the conflict.

This paper presents the findings of a project designed to establish a better understanding of Tehran’s ultimate ambitions in Syria, its relations with the other state and non-state actors involved in the conflict, and its influence on Damascus and the outcome of the civil war.”

Weekend long read

At the Weekly Standard, Willy Stern has a long article about Israel, Hizballah and what the next conflict might look like.Weekend Read

“Hezbollah has a nasty collection of more than 130,000 rockets, missiles, and mortars aimed at Israel. This is a bigger arsenal than all NATO countries (except the United States) combined. Why, a reasonable person might wonder, does Hezbollah need an offensive arsenal bigger than that of all Western Europe?”

The same topic naturally came under discussion at the recent Annual Herzliya Conference and the address given by the IDF’s head of military intelligence was covered by the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel.

“Halevy put particular emphasis on the threat of Hezbollah in Lebanon, as Israel prepares to mark 10 years since the Second Lebanon War next month.

Hezbollah is believed to have an arsenal of more than 100,000 missiles and rockets, along with weapons systems “that they never had before,” Halevy said.

The intelligence chief wouldn’t say the next round of violence with the Iran-backed terror group would result in mass casualties among Israel’s civilian population, but came close.

“In the Yom Kippur War, we had one person killed on the home front from a Syrian missile. The situation in the next conflict will be completely different,” he said.”

Jonathan Spyer offers some sober reflections on the previous round of conflict between Israel and Hizballah.

“From the perspective of a decade later, however, much of the euphoria of Hizballah and the despair on parts of the Israeli side seem exaggerated.  The results of the war from an Israeli perspective in 2016 are mixed.

The border has indeed been quieter since 2006 than at any time since the late 1960s.  This fact in itself says more about Hizballah’s true assessment following the damage suffered in 2006 than any al-Akhbar editorial excitedly proclaiming divine victory.

And of course Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah himself told a Lebanese TV channel shortly after the war that had the movement known of the scale of the IDF response, Hizballah would have never have carried out the kidnappings which sparked the war.

At the same time, Resolution 1701, which was intended to keep the Shia Islamist movement north of the Litani has failed. Hizballah has built an extensive new infrastructure south of the river since 2006, under the noses of UNIFIL and often with the collusion of the Lebanese Armed Forces.  And Hizballah has vastly increased its rocket and missile capacity.”

At Fathom, Professor Richard Landes discusses anti-Zionism and the ‘global progressive Left’.

“At one point, a contributor to our panel on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement called that movement ‘anti-Semitic’. The panelist next to me almost jumped out of his skin. Apparently, he found that statement offensive. He was in the wrong room, among those with whom ‘good people’ do not speak.”

Read the whole article here

Weekend long read

On the occasion of the 100th birthday of Professor Bernard Lewis, Mosaic magazine carries an essay by Martin Kramer about the man and his work.Weekend Read

“As the year 1976 opened, the Middle East hardly seemed poised for a great transformation. The shah of Iran remained firmly seated on his peacock throne. Off in Iraqi exile, an elderly Iranian cleric named Ayatollah Khomeini nursed his grievances in obscurity. Anwar Sadat, Egypt’s confident president, had the country under his thumb; the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots languished in ineffectual opposition. In Saudi Arabia, a young man named Osama bin Laden finished his education in an elite high school, where he had worn a tie and blazer. Since the previous summer, Lebanon had been roiled by battles, according to Western reportage, between “leftists” and “rightists.” A key player there was the Palestine Liberation Organization under Yasir Arafat, darling of the international left and champion of a “democratic, secular state” in Palestine.

The role of Islam in politics? There wasn’t any to speak of.

Imagine, then, the surprise of the readers of Commentary magazine when the January issue landed in their mailboxes bearing these words on the bright yellow cover: “The Return of Islam.” The byline beneath that sensational headline did not belong to a roving journalist or a think-tank pundit but to Bernard Lewis, the eminent British historian of the Middle East, just recently transplanted to America. Thus did the West receive its very first warning that a new era was beginning in the Middle East—one that would produce a tide of revolution, assassination, and terrorism, conceived and executed explicitly in the name of Islam.”

At J-TV, Dr Qanta Ahmed talks about BDS and more with Dr Alan Mendoza.

Over at Tim Marshall’s website, Nehad Ismail brings some interesting impressions from his recent visit to Jerusalem.

“I had spoken to dozens of people, on average 5 or 6 a day. I spoke to street vendors, shop keepers, café owners, taxi drivers, academics, teachers, Beir Zeit university students, mothers, hotel receptionists, car salesmen, petrol station attendants, pancake makers, falafel fryers and even a medical doctor. […]

The most shocking revelation to me was most of the people I spoke to are not happy with the Ramallah administration of Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues.  Several people told me that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt and is run by merchants or business people not by nationalist statesmen.  In Arabic the words ‘merchant and businessman’ are interchangeable. They see Abbas as putting his family’s business interests above the national interests. They say he has compromised too much and has given too many concessions to Israel without getting anything tangible in return.”

At the Times of Israel, Avi Issacharoff has an interesting article titled “Deceiving Cairo and helping IS, Hamas sets Gaza on course for new troubles”.

“According to an abundance of Arab, Israeli and Palestinian sources, wounded members of Islamic State are still being brought into Gaza for medical treatment at almost the same rate as before the Hamas delegation’s visit to Cairo two months ago. Likewise, arms smuggling from the Gaza Strip to Sinai and vice versa continues, albeit at a reduced rate, supervised by members of Hamas’s military wing. Overall, in short, it is largely business as usual.” 

Yom HaZikaron

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,447 casualties of war and terrorism.

The memorials erected to commemorate Sgt Avi Mizrahi and Captain Omri Tal are just a few hundred paces – and forty-six years – apart.

SONY DSC

Sgt Avi (Avraham) Mizrahi from Jerusalem and Kibbutz Kfar Szold was on patrol near Nahal Meitzar in the south Golan Heights with the infantry squad he commanded on December 10th 1968 when he was killed during an encounter with terrorists. Aged 31 at the time of his death, Avi left his wife, son and one month-old daughter. He is buried in Kibbutz Kfar Szold in the Upper Galilee.

SONY DSC

Captain Omri Tal, aged 22 from Yahud, was killed on July 31st 2014 during Operation Protective Edge. His armoured corps unit was in the Eshkol district near the border with the Gaza Strip when it was hit by Hamas mortar fire. Omri and four others were killed and sixteen soldiers were wounded in the attack. Survived by his parents and older brother, he is buried in Yahud. A recently established look-out point named in Omri’s memory overlooks the Sea of Galilee from the south Golan Heights.

May their memories be blessed.  

Yom HaShoah

יום הזכרון לשואה ולגבורה תשע”ו

“Even after they grow old in years and age…still they’ll be called the Tehran Children” – Natan Alterman.  

Like many Israeli children preparing for their Bar Mitzva, ours too researched family history for their ‘Roots’ project. Our eldest son’s project included childhood memories recounted by his grandmother’s elder brother Moshe.

Atlit camp

Atlit camp

“We were born in the town of Govorovo in Poland. When the Nazis invaded Poland, we ran away to stay with relatives who lived on the border with Russia. The Germans gave an order allowing passage of the border into Russia. Immediately they changed their minds and did not let us cross into Russia. As we were passing the Germans expelled us to the Russian side. We progressed to central Russia. My mother Bella was advised not to go deep into Russia because she wouldn’t be able to get out. We went down to White Russia. The Russians began rounding up people who did not have Russian ID and sent them to Siberia and Ural – us among them. At the same time the German attack on Russia began. After half a year in the Ural Mountains we were released and we travelled by train to Tashkent. In Samarkand we were gathered into groups. By way of Baku we travelled to Tehran for half a year. In Tehran a lot of the children died of typhoid and from lack of food. My sister Rachel was sick with typhoid in Tehran. From there we went out in a convoy with the British army and we arrived in Karachi and Bombay in India. We were given food there. From there we travelled to Alexandria and continued on a train via Gaza (where we scrambled for oranges) to Atlit. There was a reception there with chocolate and sweets. My sister and I were sent to a sanatorium in Haifa and later the children were sent to Kibbutzim and Moshavim. We arrived in Moshav Kfar Yehoshua. We were each taken in by a different family and we lived there for seven years until our parents came to fetch us…”

Moshe and Rachel – who was four years old when their long journey began in 1939 – are two of the 870 ‘Tehran Children’ who found refuge in Israel in 1943. Over two decades on since that ‘Roots’ project was completed, Savta Rachel now has two great-grandsons – and counting.