Catching up with a story the BBC reported in 2015

Back in March 2015 the BBC News website published a report relating to the issue of arrest warrants for three men suspected of having been among those responsible for the 1982 terror attack on the Jo Goldenberg restaurant in Paris in which six people were killed and 22 wounded.

BBC News recycles three year old factual failures in Abu Nidal report

Three months later the BBC reported that one of the suspects had been arrested in Jordan. We have however not been able to find any follow-up BBC reporting on Jordan’s refusal to extradite that suspect and another one.

“The suspects in the Chez Jo Goldenberg attack were not formally identified until 2014, when two anonymous informants associated with Abu Nidal’s group supplied the French authorities with the missing information.

The following year, France’s top magistrate tasked with combating terrorism, Marc Trévidic, issued arrest warrants for several suspects, including Hamada and fellow Jordanian citizen Souhair Mouhamed Hassan Khalid al-Abassi — aka Amjad Atta — reputedly the mastermind behind the attack.

A French request to the Jordanian courts for al-Abassi’s extradition was similarly rejected in Oct. 2015 — just three months after the Hashemite Kingdom signed an extradition treaty with the French government.”

Neither have we been able to find any BBC coverage of a story which emerged around the 37th anniversary of that terror attack, for which no-one has stood trial. Several French, British and Israeli media outlets – including the BBC’s preferred paper, the Guardian – have reported that:

“Families of the victims of a 1982 terrorist attack in Paris are demanding a parliamentary inquiry after reports that the former chief of French intelligence made a secret pact with the perpetrators. […]

On Friday, Le Parisien newspaper reported that the former head of France’s intelligence service Yves Bonnet had admitted negotiating a “secret deal” with the [Abu Nidal Organisation] terrorist group. Now 83, Bonnet is said to have told investigators that he agreed the group’s members could continue travelling to France if they carried out no more attacks on French soil.

“We made a kind of verbal deal in which I said I don’t want any more attacks on French soil and in return I’ll let you come to France and I guarantee nothing will happen to you,” Bonnet reportedly said in an interview with investigating magistrates in January. […]

To date no reporting on that story appears on the BBC News website’s ‘France’ page.

 

 

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BBC WS history programme claims Israel started the Lebanese civil war

The Lebanese civil war began in 1975 and lasted fifteen years. Listeners to the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness’ were however recently told that it began in June 1982 – and that Israel started it.

The June 5th edition of ‘Witness’ was titled “The Assassinaton [sic] Attempt that Sparked a Middle East War“.

“In June 1982, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Shlomo Argov, was shot and critically injured by a Palestinian gunman outside the Dorchester Hotel in London. The attack was the trigger for the start of the devastating war in Lebanon just days later. Simon Watts talks to Shlomo Argov’s son, Gideon Argov.”

Simon Watts introduced the programme as follows:

Watts: “Today I’m taking you back to the summer of 1982 and a gun attack on the Israeli ambassador to London which started a war in the Middle East.”

Listeners later heard the perpetrators of that attack described as a “Palestinian hit squad” but only six minutes and fourteen seconds into the nine-minute programme were they informed of the name of the faction responsible.

At 04:56 Watts asked Gideon Argov about the reaction in Israel to the attempted assassination of his father. Having mentioned the “outpouring of shock and sorrow and support” from the general public, Argov went on to say “and then the war broke out”.

Watts interjected:

[05:17] Watts: “That war turned out to be the Lebanese civil war.”

Listeners then heard an archive recording of a news bulletin.

“Israel has launched air attacks against Palestinian targets in Lebanon in retaliation for the shooting of her ambassador in London. The Israeli air raids were aimed around the Lebanese capital Beirut. Targets included a Palestine Liberation Organisation training school. Several other buildings including this sports stadium were damaged. The PLO said at least 30 civilians were killed. Later, Palestinian guerillas are said to have carried out rocket attacks against the Jewish settlements in north Israel.” [emphasis added]

Watts went on:

[05:49] Watts: “It’s now known that the Israeli defence minister Ariel Sharon had been planning an assault on PLO targets in Lebanon for months. He later described the assassination attempt as the spark that lit the fuse.”

Remarkably, listeners to this ‘history’ programme did not hear a single word about the additional – and highly relevant – background to those plans and Operation Peace for Galilee.

“In March 1978, PLO terrorists infiltrated Israel. After murdering an American tourist walking near an Israeli beach, they hijacked a civilian bus. The terrorists shot through the windows as the bus traveled down the highway. When Israeli troops intercepted the bus, the terrorists opened fire. A total of 34 hostages died in the attack. In response, Israeli forces crossed into Lebanon and overran terrorist bases in the southern part of that country, pushing the terrorists away from the border. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdrew after two months, allowing United Nations forces to enter. But UN troops were unable to prevent terrorists from reinfiltrating the region and introducing new, more dangerous arms.

Violence escalated with a series of PLO attacks and Israeli reprisals. Finally, the United States helped broker a cease­fire agreement in July 1981. The PLO repeatedly violated the cease-fire over the ensuing 11 months. Israel charged that the PLO staged 270 terrorist actions in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and along the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Twenty-­nine Israelis died and more than 300 were injured in the attacks.

Meanwhile, a force of some 15-18,000 PLO members was encamped in scores of locations in Lebanon. About 5,000-6,000 were foreign mercenaries, coming from such countries as Libya, Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, Chad and Mozambique. Israel later discovered enough light arms and other weapons in Lebanon to equip five brigades. The PLO arsenal included mortars, Katyusha rockets and an extensive anti­aircraft network. The PLO also brought hundreds of T­34 tanks into the area. Syria, which permitted Lebanon to become a haven for the PLO and other terrorist groups, brought surface-to-air missiles into that country, creating yet another danger for Israel.

Israeli strikes and commando raids were unable to stem the growth of this PLO army. The situation in the Galilee became intolerable as the frequency of attacks forced thousands of residents to flee their homes or to spend large amounts of time in bomb shelters. Israel was not prepared to wait for more deadly attacks to be launched against its civilian population before acting against the terrorists.”

Obviously the BBC World Service needs to correct its inaccurate claim concerning the Lebanese civil war immediately.

 

 

BBC News revisits a 30 year-old terror attack – avoiding the term terror

On March 31st an article by Megha Mohan appeared on the BBC News website – including in the ‘Features’ section of its Middle East page. Titled “Inside a hijack: The unheard stories of the Pan Am 73 crew“, the article brings accounts of that September 1986 hijacking from six members of the plane’s crew and obviously most of its subject matter focuses on those testimonies of the events.Pan Am 73 art

However, it is interesting to note the way in which the perpetrators of the hijacking – and their perceived motives – are portrayed by the BBC.

The terrorists’ aims are described as follows: [emphasis added]

“The gunmen’s plan was to force the pilots to fly them to Cyprus and Israel, where other members of their militant group were incarcerated on terror charges.”

And:

“Around four hours into the siege, the hijackers began trying to identify the Americans on board. The Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO), which they were members of, was opposed to US and Israeli policy in the Middle East.”

The hijackers are described as follows:

“Security forces laid siege to the New York-bound plane for 16 hours at Karachi airport after the jet was taken over by Palestinian militants on 5 September 1986. There was a bloody end – 22 people killed and about 150 injured.” [emphasis added]

Additional descriptions used throughout the article include “gunmen”, “militants” and “hijackers”.

The description “terrorists” appears in one direct quote:

“Dilip Bidichandani, another steward, is adamant that the pilots’ escape actually saved more lives.

“The pilots evacuating the airplane… meant that we were not at the mercy of the terrorists, who could have instructed the plane to be flown into a building, or even blown up whilst in flight.””

An insert providing background information reads:

“The Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO) is a Palestinian militant group, now considered largely inactive. Also known as Fatah-The Revolutionary Council, it is listed as a terrorist group by the United States, Israel and the European Union. It was blamed for a string of attacks in the 1970s and 80s, killing and wounding hundreds of people.” [emphasis added]

Despite those terror listings – and the events described in the article – the BBC continues to employ the euphemistic term “militant” in accordance with its guidelines on “Language when Reporting Terrorism“.

“There is no agreed consensus on what constitutes a terrorist or terrorist act. The use of the word will frequently involve a value judgement.”

Apparently, even over thirty years after the Pan Am 73 hijacking took place, the BBC is still afraid of making a “value judgement” which would involve describing the event and its perpetrators in accurate language.  

Related Articles:

BBC News recycles three year old factual failures in Abu Nidal report

BBC avoidance of the word terror criticized by MPs – again

BBC News recycles three year old factual failures in Abu Nidal report

On March 4th the BBC News website published a report on its Europe page titled “Rue des Rosiers: France seeks three men for 1982 attack“.Abu Nidal art 2015

The report relates to the issue of arrest warrants for three men suspected of having been among those responsible for the terror attack on the Jo Goldenberg restaurant in Paris in which six people were killed and 22 wounded. The wording used by the BBC to describe both the Abu Nidal Organisation, on behalf of which the suspects allegedly carried out the terror attack, and the attack itself conforms to the corporation’s usual template of avoidance of the use of the word terror. [emphasis added]

“A judge in France has issued arrest warrants for three people suspected of being behind a deadly attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris in 1982.

The men, believed to be former members of a radical Palestinian group, have been identified 33 years after the Rue des Rosiers assault.” […]

“Two of the wanted suspects are believed to have been the gunmen who stormed the Jo-Goldenberg restaurant and delicatessen on 9 August 1982 …” […]

“The third suspect, a 64-year-old living in Jordan, is suspected of having a commanding role in the attack, Paris Match said. Other reports gave different ages for the men.

The three men are said to have belonged to a group led by Palestinian militant Abu Nidal, which was active in the 1970-80s.” […]

Right at the end of the report, readers are informed that:

“Abu Nidal – whose real name was Sabri Banna – died in Iraq in 2002, reportedly committing suicide.

For decades he was regarded as a terrorist and a wanted man – inside the mainstream Palestinian community as much as in the world at large.” [emphasis added]

The Abu Nidal Organisation was not merely “regarded” but in fact officially designated a terrorist organization by the EU, the US and Israel. The approach adopted by “the mainstream Palestinian community”, as it is termed by the BBC, was not however the result of a similar view of the terror attacks carried out by the organization as readers may understand from the phrasing of that sentence, but in fact stemmed from internal disputes.

“After the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Paris, Abu Nidal effectively split with Mr. Arafat, and began trying to take over Al Fatah by forming his own group called Fatah Revolutionary Council. This split was formalized in June 1974 after Mr. Arafat pushed a resolution through the Palestine National Council, the P.L.O.’s parliament, authorizing the P.L.O. to establish a state ”on any Palestinian territory that is liberated.”

In October 1974, Abu Nidal dispatched a ”hit team” to Damascus to assassinate Mr. Arafat and the P.L.O. treasurer, Abu Mazen. The team was captured by Syrian and P.L.O. guards. The P.L.O held a trial and sentenced Abu Nidal to death in absentia for attempting to kill the P.L.O. chairman.”

The BBC report also informs readers that:

“The Abu Nidal group is blamed for a series of attacks across the world, which left at least 900 people dead.”

Readers are not informed of the origin of that cited number of casualties, but most sources (for example the CFR, TRAC and Israeli terrorism expert Ariel Merari) put the number of people murdered by the Abu Nidal organization at around 300 and some – including most media organisations – cite the number 900 as an estimate of the total number of people killed or injured by that terrorist organization.Abu Nidal art 2012

Interestingly, that same unsourced number – together with some of the same phrasing used in this latest report – can also be found in a previous BBC report from March 2012 which appears as a link in the sidebar.

“The Abu Nidal group is blamed for a series of attacks across the world, which left at least 900 people dead.

Abu Nidal – whose real name was Sabri Banna – died in Iraq in 2002, reportedly committing suicide.

For decades he was regarded as a terrorist and a wanted man – inside the mainstream Palestinian community as much as in the world at large.”

Clearly fact checking did not take place before that three year old information was recycled.