BBC report on UNESCO row marred by lack of context and previous omission

On October 14th the BBC News website published an article on its Middle East page about reactions to the text of the document approved by UNESCO’s executive committee the previous day.

Titled “Israel freezes Unesco ties for ‘denying Jewish holy sites’“, the report commendably avoids inaccuracies which have previously been seen in BBC reporting on the subject of Temple Mount and the Western Wall by using correct terminology and providing an accurate portrayal of the significance of Temple Mount to Jews.unesco-art

“It comes after the body approved a text which repeatedly used only the Islamic name for a hilltop complex which is also the holiest site in Judaism.

The site is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.”

However, the fact that BBC audiences have not been informed of prior attempts to pass a similar document at UNESCO or of previous decisions taken at that body concerning other historic sites means that readers of this report lack the background information necessary to understand the story fully and the relevance of the word ‘another’ in one of the quotes used.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Facebook post that Unesco had become a “theatre of the absurd” in taking “another delusional decision”.”

Without being provided with the relevant context of Palestinian terrorism and rioting on Temple Mount, readers are told that:

“The stated aim of the text was “the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem”.

It repeatedly denounced Israeli actions, including the use of force, imposition of restrictions on Muslim worshippers and archaeological work. Israel regards such criticism as politically motivated.”

BBC audiences have also been serially deprived of the background information which would enable their understanding of the role of this document in the long-standing Palestinian campaign to erase Jewish heritage and history as part of the tactical delegitimisation of Israel. The article closes with an anodyne quote from a PA spokesman:

“”This is an important message to Israel that it must end its occupation and recognise the Palestinian state and Jerusalem as its capital with its sacred Muslim and Christian sites,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Readers are not however informed of the reaction of Mahmoud Abbas’ own party, as reported by Ynet:

“Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority, welcomed on Thursday a UNESCO resolution which fails to acknowledge Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

“This decision is an important victory for the Palestinian people, the protectors of al-Aqsa, and in terms of national defense,” a Palestinian spokesperson said.

 A Fatah press release said that the importance of the decision lies in its content, specifically that it denies any historical connection between Jews and Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

Back in January the BBC’s UN correspondent told listeners to BBC World Service radio that:

“The Israelis always believe that they are victimised at the UN; that they are singled out unfairly; that they are isolated…”

Had BBC audiences been provided in the past with the information and context which would enable their understanding of this latest example of abuse of the UN forum for anti-Israel campaigning, they would of course be able to appreciate why Israelis take that view.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in the terminology used by the BBC to describe Temple Mount

BBC R4 programme on UNESCO omits negation of Jewish heritage

A story the BBC hasn’t told

Throughout the past year’s surge in terrorism the first-aiders and paramedics of Magen David Adom (Israel’s emergency services) have of course been among the first on the scene at all the hundreds of attacks.

The story of those ethnically and religiously diverse first responders – many of whom are volunteers – providing essential care to an equally diverse population plagued by daily terrorism is one which one might have thought would have interested foreign journalists based in the region but has not been told by the BBC. 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2016

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during August 2016 shows that throughout the month a total of 93 incidents took place: 77 in Judea & Samaria, 13 in Jerusalem and three incidents originating from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 73 attacks with petrol bombs, 13 attacks using explosive devices, one rock throwing attack and three stabbing attacks in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. One missiles attack and two shooting attacks originated in the Gaza Strip.

Seven people (one civilian and six members of the security forces) were wounded during August.

For the first time since the beginning of 2016, the BBC News website reported – albeit belatedly – the missile fire from the Gaza Strip on August 21st but the two shooting incidents were not covered.

None of the attacks which took place in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria during August received coverage on the BBC News website – including the stabbing of a civilian in Jerusalem on August 11th, the stabbing of a soldier at the Shaked checkpoint on August 14th or the stabbing of a soldier near Yizhar on August 24th.  

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported 1.08% of the attacks during August and since the beginning of the year it has covered 3.65% of the terror attacks which have taken place.


Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – July 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2016

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: October 2015 to March 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2015 and Q4 summary

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

BBC WS presenters fail to challenge politically motivated narrative

As noted here previously, among its coverage of the death of former Israeli president Shimon Peres announced just hours earlier on September 28th, the 08:06 edition of BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ broadcast an interview with anti-Israel activist Ben White. In that interview listeners heard repeated context free and inaccurate promotion of a particular theme.

“And in 1996, notoriously, he was prime minister during a particularly brutal Israeli operation in Lebanon that included the massacre at Qana.” […]

“Remember of course that, you know, the Qana massacre for example, you know, more than a hundred civilians killed in Lebanon…” […]

“That military venture by Peres – and remember; this is ’96: this is sort of 3 years after his apparent sort of conversion to the cause of peace – that campaign was widely seen by people as a pre-election move. OK: so killing Lebanese civilians is a pre-election gesture even if it didn’t…even if it didn’t work.” 

The edition of that same programme broadcast one hour earlier – presented by Bola Mosuro and Julian Keane – included similarly context free promotion of the same subject. After tributes to Peres from past and present US presidents were read out, Keane told listeners:newsday-28-9-0706

“Just worth noting; there are also of course some contrasting views. Sultan al Husseini [phonetic] who is a commentator who’s quite present on Twitter – a commentator from the United Arab Emirates – who was…well he made a reference to the killing…the al Qasa [sic] killing of…when the Israelis shelled a UN compound in southern Lebanon, saying Shimon Peres was an example of how the world can forget someone’s crimes if they only live long enough.”

The programme also included an interview introduced by Mosuro as follows:

“Well let’s go now to Daoud Kuttab who’s a Palestinian columnist for Al Monitor and joins us now from Jordan. Good morning to you, Daoud. We’ve been hearing this morning how Shimon Peres was seen by many Israelis as a peacemaker. How will he be remembered by those in Palest…by Palestinians: how will he be remembered?”

Among Kuttab’s comments listeners heard the following:

“But he [Peres] also made a terrible mistake right after Rabin was killed which is that he attacked Lebanon fiercely and there was one attack right before the elections in which hundred Lebanese and Palestinians were killed in an attack on a village at a UN outpost and that actually cost him the elections and brought to us Binyamin Netanyahu who’s been terrible about peace.”

Of course the real cause of Peres’ loss in that election was the post-Oslo surge in Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis.

In neither of these ‘Newsday’ programmes did BBC presenters bother to provide listeners with the crucial context concerning Operation Grapes of Wrath in general or the Qana incident in particular. The escalation of Hizballah missile attacks against civilian communities in northern Israel that triggered the operation was completely erased from audience view. The fact that Hizballah forces had fired missiles and mortars from the vicinity of the UN compound in Qana (with no intervention by UNIFIL) on several occasions in the hours before the tragic accident goes completely unmentioned.monitoring-peres-art

‘Newsday’ listeners were however not the only ones left with inaccurate impressions concerning the Qana incident. For example, the writer of an article by BBC Monitoring titled “Mixed reaction to Peres’ legacy in world media” (which was published on the BBC News website on September 28th and promoted as a link in several other reports) found it appropriate to give context free amplification to propaganda from a semi-official Iranian regime news agency.

“Fars news agency says: “Shimon Peres is dead; Butcher of Qana dies following two weeks in coma” in a reference to the 1996 shelling of Qana in southern Lebanon that killed over 100.”

There is of course nothing surprising about the fact that elements such as the Iranian regime or anti-Israel campaigners of various stripes would try to exploit an Israeli statesman’s death for the promotion of an inaccurate, politically motivated narrative about an historic event. The problem is that the BBC – supposedly the “standard-setter for international journalism” committed to editorial values of accuracy and impartiality – provides an unchallenged platform for such exploitation.

Related Articles:

Coverage of Shimon Peres’ death promotes the BBC’s political narrative

BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part one

BBC radio marks Peres’ death with Palestinian propaganda – part two

BBC WS breaches impartiality guidelines with Ben White interview on Peres

BBC headlines for same story differ according to target audiences

While failing to accurately describe it as terrorism, the BBC News website’s English language report on the attack in Jerusalem on October 9th did make it clear to audiences that the perpetrator was a “Palestinian gunman” in both the headline and the opening paragraph.


In contrast, the headline selected for the BBC’s Arabic language report on the same incident failed to provide visitors to the BBC Arabic website with any information concerning the identity of the attacker. 

The headline reads “Two Israelis killed and 6 wounded in shooting in Jerusalem”. The report’s opening paragraph reads:

“The Israeli police said that two Israelis were killed and six others injured as a result of shooting near the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.”


Related Articles:

Why is BBC Arabic feeding its audiences politicised terminology?

Major omissions in BBC News report on Jerusalem terror attack

On the morning of October 9th a terror attack in which two people were killed and five others were wounded took place in Jerusalem.

“The attack began as the assailant drove by police headquarters on Haim Bar-Lev Street, a main artery also served by the city’s light rail, and opened fire at a group of people, hitting one woman, police said.

He sped off toward Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau Street and shot a woman who was in her car, critically wounding her.

He continued toward the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Police officers on motorcycles from the city’s Special Patrol Unit saw the shooting and gave chase, police said.

The assailant then opened fire at the officers, who shot and “neutralized him,” police said.

During the shootout, one officer was critically wounded, while a second was lightly to moderately injured, police said.”

Some four hours after the incident took place the names of the two people killed in the attack – Levana Malihi and First Sgt Yosef Kirma – were released.

The BBC News website’s first report on the incident appeared on the Middle East page some three hours after the attack took place and following the announcement of the deaths of two of the wounded.



Some three hours after that – and around two hours after the names of those killed were released for publication – the article was amended.


Notably, the updated report omitted much of the relevant information which was already available at the time of its publication.

1) Once again, the victims were not identified or personalised.

2) The second shooting of the woman in her car was omitted.

3) The report stated that “[t]he police said the attacker was a Palestinian from East Jerusalem” but readers were not informed that the terrorist – from Silwan – held an Israeli identification card or of his apparent links to a banned Islamist group as reported by Ha’aretz and others.

“The assailant behind Sunday’s Jerusalem shooting attack that left two dead was set to begin a four-month prison sentence for assaulting a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported on Sunday.

According to Palestinian sources, the assailant – a 39-year-old resident of East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood whose identity remains under gag order – was linked to the Mourabitoun, an outlawed Islamist group active at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Its members demonstrate on Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif, whenever Jews visit there.”

4) BBC audiences were not informed that Hamas claimed the terrorist as one of its members and – along with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – praised the attack. Neither were they told of the celebrations seen on the streets of Gaza and elsewhere after the attack. Similarly, BBC audiences learned nothing of the Fatah Jerusalem branch’s call for a general strike after the incident or of the glorification of the terrorist on Fatah’s social media accounts.  The BBC’s report did however continue the policy of amplifying PLO messaging on the topic of terrorism against Israelis.

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

5) In line with BBC editorial policy, the words ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’ do not appear anywhere in the BBC’s coverage of an attack in which a 60 year-old grandmother of six was gunned down in broad daylight at a city tram stop. Significantly, the morning after this report appeared the BBC did find it appropriate to use such terminology when reporting on an attack which did not take place – in Germany.


The following day – October 10th further changes were made to the article. Over twenty-six hours after the incident had taken place the BBC noted the names of the victims and reported that Hamas had praised the attack and identified the terrorist as one of its members but the article’s additional omissions remained.


It is of course highly unlikely that members of the BBC’s audience who had read the report the previous day would have revisited it twenty or more hours later on the off-chance that it might have been updated. 

The BBC’s coverage of this incident clearly fails to meet the remit of providing audiences with the full range of available information necessary for their understanding of both the specific story and its broader context. It does, however, provide yet another example of the double standards and lack of consistency at play in BBC reporting on terrorism.  




BBC News’ bizarre ‘Newsbeat’ backgrounder on Syria

An article which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th was billed as follows:


The link leads to a backgrounder produced by BBC News for ‘Newsbeat‘ – and hence specifically tailored for younger audiences – which is titled “How the history books will remember Syria in 2016“.

The backgrounder – headed “Newsbeat Explains” – may well raise eyebrows both for what it does tell those ‘younger audiences’ and what it does not. No mention is made, for example, of the fact that the vast majority of casualties in the Syrian civil war have died at the hands of the Syrian regime or of issues such as the barrel bombs, the use of chemical weapons against civilians or the siege and starvation policy employed by Bashar al Assad. Apparently ‘Newsbeat’ does not consider those points worthy of the history books: a section headed “It’s hard to know exactly how many people have been killed in Syria” does not even try to inform audiences about such issues.


Readers are told that the root of the conflict in Syria goes back to “March 2003 when Britain and America and other countries decided to invade Iraq” and that the ‘Arab Spring’ can be attributed to the “economic crash of 2007/08”. The oppressive nature of the Syrian regime pre-March 2011 is severely whitewashed.


In a section concerning Syrian refugees audiences are told that Britain is characterised by “endemic racism” and in a section about the “international players” in Syria, readers are bizarrely informed that:


It is of course remarkable that the dubious notion that “Israeli security” is a prime factor behind US intervention in Syria (such as it is) was included in this BBC backgrounder without any concrete evidence being provided to back up that statement. Given that the information comes from an academic – Tim Jacoby – with a record of supporting anti-Israel boycotts and delegitimisation, the BBC’s amplification of that entirely unsupported claim obviously requires explanation.