Inaccurate BBC Yom Kippur war claim – 14 years and counting

Six years ago we documented the BBC’s correction of inaccurate Israeli casualty figures during the 1973 Yom Kippur War:

BBC Yom Kippur war accuracy failure perpetuated over years

However as was noted at the time, at least two other items of BBC content include the same error, stating that the number of Israeli casualties in that war was “about 6,000”.

That claim is found for example in a backgrounder titled ‘A History of Conflict which is undated, but appears to come from around 2005.

It also appears in another side-box of ‘context’ appended to an ‘On This Day’ feature – likewise undated, but apparently from around 2005 at the latest. 

According to the Israeli Ministry of Defence archives concerning the 1974 Agranat Commission 2,689 Israeli soldiers were killed, 7,251 injured, 301 taken prisoner and 16 declared missing in action during the Yom Kippur War. The IDF website gives a figure of 2,691 soldiers killed during the three weeks of war and other sources quote figures of between “more than 2,500“, 2,569 and 2,688 Israeli casualties, with the differences probably being attributable to later deaths as a result of injuries sustained, MIAs whose status was later confirmed and prisoners of war who did not return alive. Despite the differing estimates of Israeli casualties, none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in these BBC articles.

And yet, despite having corrected one report six years ago, the BBC is apparently unperturbed by the fact that webpages it still makes available to the general public have been disseminating inaccurate information for at least fourteen years.  

 

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BBC Yom Kippur war accuracy failure perpetuated over years

h/t Judge Dan (via Twitter)

An article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly titled “Legacy of 1973 Arab-Israeli war reverberates 40 years on” which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th 2013 includes a side-box according to which:

 “Egypt and Syria lose estimated 8,500 soldiers; Israel loses 6,000 troops”

side box connolly article

That same claim is also to be found in previous BBC articles on the subject of the Yom Kippur war – for example here in the backgrounder titled ‘A History of Conflict’ which is undated, but appears to come from around 2005.

HoC 1973

It also appears in another side-box of ‘context’ appended to an ‘On This Day’ feature – also undated, but apparently from around 2005 at the latest. 

OTD casualties YK

But in fact, that number does not accurately represent the number of Israeli casualties in the Yom Kippur War.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Defence archives – quoting the preface to the report of the Agranat Commission in 1974 – 2,222 Israeli soldiers were killed, 7,251 injured, 301 taken prisoner and 16 declared missing in action during the Yom Kippur War. The Knesset website cites 2,350 Israeli casualties, 15,000 Egyptian ones and 3,500 Syrian dead. Other sources quote figures of between “more than 2,500“, 2,569, 2,688 and 2691 Israeli casualties, with the differences probably being attributable to later deaths as a result of injuries sustained, MIAs whose status was later confirmed and prisoners of war who did not return alive. With regard to Egyptian and Syrian casualties, reliable information is sparse and so the estimates vary.

Despite the differing estimates of Israeli casualties, none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in this BBC article and others. Interestingly, casualties recorded during the 1948 War of Independence do stand at over 6,000 Israelis (soldiers and civilians), so perhaps we can conclude that the BBC has mixed up its Middle East wars.  

This example of failure to meet the expectations of accuracy as stipulated in the BBC editorial guidelines raises an additional interesting point beyond the error itself. The fact that the same inaccuracy has been repeated in article after article over a period of several years suggests that the BBC lazily relies on its own sources – and hence perpetuates its own mistakes – rather than engaging in proper fact checking. 

Related articles:

BBC backgrounder on Yom Kippur war misleads on Syria

BBC removes claim of ‘pre-emptive’ Yom Kippur strike

BBC’s educational resource website describes Yom Kippur attack by Syria and Egypt as ‘pre-emptive’

BBC accuracy and equivalence in 1973

Update:

The side box in Kevin Connolly’s report of October 5th was revised a few hours after the publication of this article and now reads as follows:

revised version YK

 

The two backgrounders still cite the inaccurate number at the time of writing. 

 

BBC backgrounder on Yom Kippur war misleads on Syria

The entry for the year 1973 in the backgrounder titled “A History of Conflict” which appears on the BBC website opens with the following words:

“Unable to regain the territory they had lost in 1967 by diplomatic means, Egypt and Syria launched major offensives against Israel on the Jewish festival of the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.”

1973 page

That statement of course suggests that Egypt and Syria had tried engagement in diplomacy – i.e. negotiation between the parties involved – and failed. A reasonable reader would also understand from that statement that it was the failure of negotiations which lead those countries to initiate the Yom Kippur war. But is that actually the case?

With regard to Egypt, the statement over-simplifies the issue and ignores multiple additional factors, including domestic ones, but with regard to Syria, it is obviously inaccurate. 

Neither in this entry or in the one preceding it (1967) is any mention made of the Khartoum Declaration of September 1st 1967, according to which the Arab states rejected negotiations with Israel.

“The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June.” 

“This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.” [emphasis added]

Later efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict by the UN’s Special Representative Gunnar Jarring were rejected outright by Syria. 

“Delivering messages to the different sides, Jarring shuttled between Jerusalem, Amman and Cairo, and sometimes also Beirut. Damascus was not part of the picture, since the Syrians categorically rejected Resolution 242.” [emphasis added]

Syria also rejected other diplomatic initiatives:

“Syria did not accept the resolution and continued its adamant opposition to it throughout the period. It gave its negative reaction to the five-point general plan for peace advanced by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 19, 1967 and also refused to accept the reactivation of the negotiations as provided for in Resolution 242 through the offices of U.N. representative Dr. Gunnar Jarring. It also refused to consider the Rogers peace proposals of June 25, 1970.”

Hence, the BBC’s claim that Syria’s decision to take part in the Yom Kippur war was the product of failed negotiations is patently false and misleading.