BBC News distorts language and mistranslates in report on Palestinian prisoner

On February 26th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Palestinian Mohammed al-Qiq ending marathon hunger strike“. The report provides some interesting examples of the way in which information provided to audiences is filtered by means of the distortion of language and inaccurate translation.Al Qiq art  

Readers are told that:

“A Palestinian on hunger strike for more than three months in protest at his detention without charge by Israel has agreed to end his fast.

Mohammed al-Qiq will be freed in a deal which will see him released on 21 May, Palestinian officials said.

Israel said he would stay in custody until then, when it would review the case and possibly extend his detention.

It says Mr al-Qiq, 33, is involved in militancy linked to the Islamist group, Hamas. He denies the allegation.” [emphasis added]

Obviously official Israeli sources would not have not used the words “involved in militancy” but rather (in contrast with the BBC’s standard use of that euphemistic terminology) would have employed the accurate term terrorism. 

Indeed, on February 5th AFP reported that: “Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic security service, says Qiq was arrested for “terror activity”…” and other media organisations, including Hebrew language reportsused the same term.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines concerning “Language when reporting terrorism” state:

“…we should not change the word “terrorist” when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves.”

Clearly the representation of what ‘Israel says’ in this report has been distorted and does not meet the requirements in those guidelines.

Whilst telling readers that al Qiq “denies the allegation”, the report does not inform them that he has twice in the past (2004 and 2008) been convicted of being a member of Hamas. Readers of this report are therefore left to guess whether or not al Qiq was involved in terror activity – and not least because nowhere are they informed that Hamas is a terror organisation.

Later on readers are told that:

“Earlier this month, Israel’s Supreme Court said Mr al-Qiq was “clearly a Hamas activist involved in militant terrorism” but suspended his detention order.”

That translated quotation is inaccurate. In fact, the word “militant” does not appear in the court decision: the relevant passage describes al Qiq as being engaged in military terrorism.

“.בתמצית, המדובר איפוא בפעיל חמאס מובהק העוסק בטרור צבאי”

The same court decision also justified al Qiq’s arrest on the grounds of suspicion of his being involved in military activity, suspicion of activity with Kutla Islamiya (a Hamas group operating in educational institutions) in Birzeit University and contact with operatives in the Gaza strip.

Towards the end of the report readers are told that:

“Administrative detention allows suspects to be held without charge for six-month intervals and can be renewed by a judge indefinitely.

Israel says the measure is necessary for security, but civil liberty groups say the practice is a violation of human rights.”

Clearly readers of this report have not been provided with the full range of available information concerning the reasons for al Qiq’s detention. The distortion of language and inaccurate translation in parts of the report which do supposedly inform them of the background to the case further exacerbate the problem. That obviously influences the ability of audiences to put the conflicting statements concerning administrative detention into their appropriate context and thus properly understand this story. 


More evidence of BBC News double standards on use of the word terror

BBC coverage of the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorism against Israelis which began in mid-September has been hallmarked by blanket avoidance of the use of the word terror to describe the attacks or of the term terrorist to describe the perpetrators.

Experienced observers of BBC content will not have been surprised by that: the relevant BBC editorial guidelines state:

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

As such, we should not change the word “terrorist” when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves.” [emphasis added]

Whilst those guidelines are controversial and considered by many to be unfit for purpose, they are ostensibly the basis for all BBC reporting on the subject of terror attacks. Nevertheless, we have often documented the BBC’s inconsistency in adhering to those guidelines on these pages, pointing out that they are applied in some geographical locations but not in others. We have also criticized the corporation’s use of coy euphemisms such as ‘militants’ or ‘radicals’ to describe members of recognized terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hizballah and its serial avoidance of use of the word terror in reports on violent attacks against Israelis.

In our view, the BBC’s inconsistent application of those editorial guidelines and the resulting two-tier system of reporting is evidence of precisely the type of “value judgement” it supposedly seeks to avoid and indicates that the choice of language when reporting acts of terror is subject to political considerations which undermine the BBC’s claim of impartiality.

If further evidence of those double standards were needed, it could be found in an article published on the BBC News website on January 3rd under the title “Israelis charged over fatal West Bank family arson attack“.Duma attack indictments

There, not for the first time, readers found the words “Jewish terrorists” used not in a quote, but by the BBC itself.

“It also prompted the Israeli government to approve the use of administrative detention – a procedure under which a military court can order suspects to be detained indefinitely without charge or trial – for suspected Jewish terrorists.”

The BBC’s description of detainees in cases such as the murders of three sleeping members of the Dawabshe family in the arson attack in Duma on July 31st 2015 as “suspected terrorists” is of course accurate. Despite the fact that this article confines itself to noting “international condemnation” of the Duma attack and even amplifies baseless accusations concerning the investigation into the attack from a family member, such wording appropriately reflects the Israeli government’s classification of the attack from the very beginning.

However, the people who murdered five members of the Fogel family as they too slept in 2011 and the people who murdered the parents of the Henkin family in October 2015 and the people who murdered early morning worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue in 2014 and the people who murdered Malachi Rosenfeld in June 2015 (in an attack now mentioned in this report but not reported in English by the BBC at the time) are also terrorists.

The trouble is that the BBC does not use the term terrorists to describe them or the perpetrators of countless other attacks against Israelis to its audiences. It is high time that it explained to its funding public why that is the case.

BBC responses to complaints on accuracy failures

As readers may recall, in early August an article published on the BBC News website inaccurately informed audiences that:BBC brick wall

“Israel has used administrative detention against Palestinians but not against Jewish suspects.”

A correction was subsequently made to that report and additionally, the Jewish Chronicle brings news of the BBC’s response to a complaint concerning the same inaccuracy in other BBC content.

“The BBC has apologised for a radio report which inaccurately claimed that Israeli authorities only detained Palestinian terror suspects without trial.

The Radio 4 news report came after an arson attack on a Palestinian family in the West Bank town of Duma in July, which resulted in the death of a mother and father and their 18-month-old son. At the time, Jewish extremists were detained on suspicion of committing the atrocity. [the detentions were actually related to a different case – Ed.]

However, the BBC claimed that: “The process, known as administrative detention, has previously been used only against Palestinian militant suspects.”

The report sparked a complaint from Noru Tsalic, an Israeli blogger who heard the broadcast. He described it as “bias and inaccuracy in reporting”. […]

After initially rejecting Mr Tsalic’s criticism, the BBC’s complaints division apologised for the report.

In an email, a BBC spokesman told Mr Tsalic, from Bushey in Hertfordshire: “We have discussed the matter with senior editorial staff at the radio newsroom and they see your point.

“The script shouldn’t have referred to administrative detention only being used against Palestinian militant suspects.

“We are sorry for this.””

Concurrently, several members of the public have informed us of receipt of the following reply to complaints concerning the headline to an article about a terror attack in Jerusalem – “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two” – which appeared on the BBC News website on October 3rd.

reply Lions Gate attack complaints

That’s a whole lot of ‘discussing’ going on.

BBC News zig-zags again on Palestinian Islamic Jihad detainee

As readers may recall, BBC News has a record of providing audiences with conflicting and confusing information concerning the Palestinian Islamic Jihad affiliation of administrative detainee Mohammed Allan.

On August 14th 2015, Allan was described asan alleged activist for the Islamic Jihad militant group” in an article appearing on the BBC News website. [all emphasis added]

On August 19th an article appearing on the same platform described Allan as “a lawyer and member of the militant group Islamic Jihad” and early versions of another report published on the same date used the same wording. A later version of that same article was however amended to read “an alleged member of the militant group Islamic Jihad”.

On August 20th BBC audiences were told that:

“Islamic Jihad had previously threatened reprisals should one of its activists in Israeli detention, Mohammed Allan, die of a hunger strike…”

On September 16th, following his release from hospital, Allan was rearrested. The BBC News website’s report on the topic – titled “Israel re-arrests hunger striker Mohammed Allan” – tells readers that:Allan PIJ rearrest

“Mr Allan, an alleged member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, began refusing food in protest at being held indefinitely under a controversial policy of administrative detention.”


“The Israeli justice ministry has alleged that Mr Allan is involved in “grave terrorism”. It says “classified information” warrants keeping him detained.

Mr Allan denies the allegations and any involvement with Islamic Jihad.”

As noted here previously, BBC Watch has been advised by official sources that:

“He [Allan] is a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative. He was first arrested in 2006 after recruiting a suicide bomber. He was tried and served a sentence of 35 months. 

He was arrested in administrative detention in 2014 following substantial and grave intelligence that he was in contact with PIJ operatives that intended in carrying out severe attacks. On July 20 2015 the Supreme Court confirmed and approved his detention.”

How embarrassing for the BBC that not only can it not provide its audiences with consistently accurate information but it cannot even be consistent in getting the story wrong.

BBC Radio Wales promotes and endorses anti-Israel activist with a penchant for Nazi analogy

The ‘Stop the War Coalition’ is just about the last organisation one would approach for rational, impartial, factual and informative comment on anything connected to the Middle East. As has been noted here before, the StWC:

“… collaborates with 9/11 ‘troofers’ and antisemites such as Lowkey. It supports the annual Al Quds Day anti-Israel hate-fest organized in London by the Khomenist-regime’s UK supporters at the IHRC. It dabbles in anti-Americanism and antisemitism of its own and has rallied in support of the Assad regime in Syria and the Iranian dictatorship.” 

Nevertheless, that was precisely the group from which BBC Radio Wales solicited comment in an item concerning Cardiff council’s cancellation of a photography exhibition showing coexistence in Israel through football less than a day after it opened which was broadcast on September 4th on its ‘Good Evening Wales’ programme.BBC Radio Wales Cardiff exhib

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality demand that the “viewpoint” of interviewees be clarified to audiences.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

However, no adequate clarification was in evidence when presenter Gareth Lewis introduced the first section of this two-part item (available from 36:36 here for a limited period of time).

Lewis: “The Israeli embassy has called Cardiff Council ‘outrageous’ for ending early an exhibition about multi-faith football between Jews and Palestinians just days before the Wales-Israel European qualifying match. Cardiff Council said it received a complaint about the exhibition and was made aware of the potential for a large demonstration outside the city’s main library where the exhibition was being held. It also said it didn’t want to be seen as displaying political bias. Well, Adam Johannes joins us. He’s from the Stop the War Coalition. Good to have you with us.”

That brief introduction of course did nothing to inform listeners of the “particular viewpoint” lying behind the inaccurate information they heard from Johannes during the next four and a half minutes, which included the following:

Palestinian 'footballer' Ayman Alkurd killed in 2009 (photo: Elder of Ziyon)

Palestinian ‘footballer’ Ayman Alkurd – killed in 2009 (photo: Elder of Ziyon)

Johannes: “Erm, well, I think the exhibition should have never really been staged in the first place. It was sponsored by the Israeli embassy. It was essentially, I think, a PR stunt to gloss over the reality of football in the Middle East which is a very serious situation. For instance – if I can give you an example – over the last decade or so four players in the Palestinian national team have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military. Other players have been detained without trial sometimes for months or years. Players are regularly prevented from attending matches. The Palestinian national team for instance…Israel is playing in Wales but at the same time Israel’s preventing Palestinian players going from Gaza to the West Bank to play an important match against the UAE. So when you have a country which prevents other, you know, other FIFA members from playing football, then really I think we have to say that Israel – until it allows Palestinians to play football – should be expelled from UEFA and FIFA.”BBC radio Wales Cardiff cogat tweets

Gareth Lewis made no effort to provide listeners with the much-needed context deliberately omitted by Johannes. He failed to tell them that it is the known connections of some Palestinian footballers to terrorist organisations which have brought about their detention. He neglected to inform BBC audiences that at least three of those four players who “lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military” were active members of terrorist organisations (two Hamas and one PIJ) who took part in fighting against Israel during Operation Cast Lead. And he omitted any mention of the fact that it is precisely issues such as those above which make security checks for Palestinian footballers exiting the Gaza Strip necessary and that the topic of movement is often more complex than meets the eye.

Lewis also failed to correct the misleading impression created by Johannes’ risible claim that “Palestinians want to keep politics out of sport” by informing listeners of Jibril Rajoub’s record of coopting sport precisely for political purposes. He neglected to inform audiences of the all-important context behind the following statement from Johannes:

“….the Palestine stadium in Gaza has been bombed twice by the Israeli military – the main football stadium, you know, for Palestinians….”

 And Lewis obviously had no concerns about providing Johannes with a BBC platform for the promotion of additional crude delegitimisation:

“…remember the days of apartheid South Africa. People used to hold up these small examples of coexistence […] to gloss over the fundamental reality of institutionalized racism, of apartheid.”

Later on in the programme (from 1:35:55 here) a further five minutes were devoted to the same topic and the interviewee this time was the Israeli embassy in London’s spokesman, Yiftach Curiel. Introduced by presenter Peter Johnson, the segment began with an edited rerun of some of Johannes’ propaganda, again without adequate clarification concerning the views of man and his organisation.

Johnson: “Well earlier on this programme we spoke to Adam Johannes from the Stop the War Coalition who was supporting the withdrawal of the exhibition. He said it glossed over the reality of the situation in the Middle East.”

Johannes: “Erm, well, I think the exhibition should have never really been staged in the first place. It was sponsored by the Israeli embassy. It was essentially, I think, a PR stunt to gloss over the reality of football in the Middle East which is a very serious situation. For instance – if I can give you an example – over the last decade or so four players in the Palestinian national team have lost their lives at the hands of the Israeli military. Other players have been detained without trial sometimes for months or years. Players are regularly prevented from attending matches. So when you have a country which prevents other, you know, other FIFA members from playing football, then really I think we have to say that Israel – until it allows Palestinians to play football – should be expelled from UEFA and FIFA.”

Johnson: “Adam Johannes of the Stop the War Coalition speaking on this programme a little earlier.”BBC Radio Wales Cardiff Johannes FB PSC

In addition to failing once again to provide the much-needed missing background and context to Johannes’ claims broadcast to listeners twice within the space of an hour, during his conversation with Curiel, Johnson even told audiences that they were legitimate.

Johnson: “OK, the point that Adam Johannes made is a valid one – that it isn’t actually easy for Palestinians to play football in the Middle East and that Israel has actually impeded the travel of Palestinian footballers. I mean that much is true.” [emphasis added]

Ironically in an item laden with anti-Israel propaganda, Johnson later added:

“There will be those, Yiftach, who merely see this [exhibition] as an opportunity for Israeli propaganda in Wales….”

So what should BBC Radio Wales have told its listeners about Adam Johannes before it provided him with an unhindered platform for partisan political messaging which even got BBC endorsement from Peter Johnson?

Here, in his own words, is Johannes’ bio from a site called ‘Radical Wales’:

BBC Radio Wales Johannes bio

Audiences should also obviously have been told that Johannes has been involved in football-related anti-Israel campaigning for some time and is one of those involved in organizing the opportunistic agitprop ahead of the Israel-Wales match in Cardiff. Listeners would also have been better able to put Johannes’ contribution to this programme into its correct context had BBC Radio Wales bothered to tell them that he is fond of using Nazi analogies during his anti-Israel campaigning, as the following example from 2012 shows.

Not only did BBC Radio Wales clearly breach its own editorial guidelines by failing to provide listeners with any of the very relevant background on Adam Johannes or the ‘Stop the War Coalition’, but it also materially misled audiences on the topic of Palestinian football by failing to provide the facts and context missing from its interviewee’s politically motivated diatribe.  

Related Articles:

Beyond the BBC narrative: Cardiff, coexistence and Israel

BBC yet again conceals terror connections of Palestinian ‘footballers’


BBC Radio Wales – contact details

BBC Complaints






BBC News zig-zags on PIJ affiliated detainee

As previously noted here, an article which appeared on the BBC News website on August 14th described Mohamed Allan as “an alleged activist for the Islamic Jihad militant group” [emphasis added].

A follow-up article published on the BBC News website on August 19th under the title “Mohammed Allan: Palestinian hunger striker may be freed” included this passage:Allan PIJ art 1

“Mr Allan, a lawyer and member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, lost consciousness and was placed on a respirator on Friday after his lungs stopped working and he had seizures.” [emphasis added]

Whilst it would have been more informative for audiences had the Palestinian Islamic Jihad been described in more accurate terms as an Iranian backed terror organisation, at least the BBC appeared to have amended its previous inaccuracy.

Some seven hours later, that article was replaced by another one – this time titled “Israel suspends Palestinian hunger striker’s detention“. The first two versions of that article used the following terminology:

“Mr Allan, a lawyer and member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, began refusing food in June in protest at his indefinite administrative detention.”


Mohammed Allan, a lawyer and member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, began refusing food in June in protest at his indefinite administrative detention.”

Curiously however, the third version of the report reverted to the inaccurate language used in the August 14th article:Allan PIJ Ad Det suspended

“Mohammed Allan, an alleged member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, began refusing food in June in protest at his indefinite administrative detention.” [emphasis added]

The following statements were also added:

“The Israeli justice ministry has alleged that Mr Allan is involved in “grave terrorism”. It says that “classified information” warrants keeping him detained.

Mr Allan denies the allegations and any involvement with Islamic Jihad.”

BBC Watch has been advised by official sources that:

“He [Allan] is a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative. He was first arrested in 2006 after recruiting a suicide bomber. He was tried and served a sentence of 35 months. 

He was arrested in administrative detention in 2014 following substantial and grave intelligence that he was in contact with PIJ operatives that intended in carrying out severe attacks. On July 20 2015 the Supreme Court confirmed and approved his detention.”

Both these August 19th BBC reports concerning Mohammed Allan include the following superficial description of the process of administrative detention, which is of course used in many countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States and Australia.

“Mr Allan began the hunger strike on 16 June in protest against his incarceration since November 2014 under what Israel calls administrative detention.

The system allows a military court to order suspects to be detained indefinitely, subject to renewal every six months by the court, without charge or trial.”

Clearly that portrayal does not adequately inform BBC audiences of the very specific circumstances in which the procedure is used or the safeguards in place.

“…a Military Commander (namely, a high-ranking IDF officer with specific authority) may order the administrative detention of a person if there are reasonable grounds to consider that taking such a measure is necessary for imperative reasons of security.

Such an order must rely on credible, current and reliable information, as detailed as possible, showing that the person poses a specific and concrete threat of a substantial nature to the security of the West Bank or its population.

Administrative detention is used solely as a preventive measure and only as a last resort, and cannot be employed where criminal prosecution is possible or less restrictive administrative procedures would adequately contend with the security risk posed by the individual.

The procedure for issuing orders for administrative detention includes several safeguards against both abuse and arbitrariness:

First, prior to the issue of a detention order, an independent military prosecutor provides a legal review through conducting an assessment of the order that is legally binding on the Military Commander.

Second, once a detention order has been issued, it is subject to a multi-layered system of judicial review by the Military Courts in the West Bank. Detainees wishing to challenge detention orders may also file a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice. Detainees have the right to legal counsel of their choice throughout this process.

Administrative detention orders mostly rely on sensitive and classified information gained from intelligence sources. Due to its confidential nature, this information cannot be disclosed in full to the detainee or their attorney so as not to endanger the safety of the source or frustrate future intelligence gathering abilities. In these cases, detainees are provided with the general reasons for their detention.

Administrative detention may be ordered for a period of no more than six months. Following this period, a renewed detention order may only be issued on the basis of an updated assessment of the threat posed by the person, which establishes that continued detention is required to confront the threat posed by that person. Any renewed detention order is subject to the same avenues of review and appeal as an initial order.”

The earlier article also includes the following statement:

“Mr Allan’s hunger strike has continued despite Israel’s parliament passing a law last month, which doctors strongly opposed, that would allow the authorities to force-feed detainees to keep them alive.”

The link provided is to a BBC report from July 30th titled “Israel passes law allowing force-feeding of prisoners” in which the term “force-feeding” is used an additional three times. The accepted meaning of that term obviously implies to readers that detainees would be “force-fed” food by means of an orogastric or nasogastric tube. As the MFA explains, that is not the case.

“While the amendment‘s goal is to save lives, attempts are currently being made to misrepresent it. Opponents to the law are attempting to portray it as being equivalent to forced feeding through a feeding tube administered without pain killing measures. This is not the case. The life-saving treatments available under the law include regular medical procedures such as the intravenous administration of total parenteral nutrition (TPN), widely used for patients – including children – who cannot consume a diet in the regular manner. 

Previously existing legislation also gives physicians the right to consider other necessary medical procedures, such as performing blood and urine tests and dispensing medications and salts. 

Any treatment or test must be done in a manner consistent with a doctor’s ethical obligations, including the proper use of pain management methods. The law does not instruct doctors what to do – any treatment is subject to the medical and ethical judgement of the treating physician. What it does do is give the medical community the authority to save the lives of hunger strikers. A similar authority traditionally exists in the case of individuals who want to commit suicide or who suffer from diseases such as anorexia, and who reach a life-threatening condition.”

Clearly the BBC’s framing of this topic does not meet its obligation to report fully, accurately and impartially.


BBC claims prisoner’s terror group affiliations ‘alleged’

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 14th under the title “Palestinian detainee on hunger strike unconscious” opens as follows:PIJ Allan

“A Palestinian held without charge by Israel has lost consciousness after nearly two months on hunger strike in protest at his detention.

Mohammed Allan, an alleged activist for the Islamic Jihad militant group, was on a respirator and was being given fluids, an Israeli hospital said.” [emphasis added]

Apparently the BBC has not seen the following at the Qatari site ‘Al Araby Al Jadeed’:

“Naser Allan says Israel arrested his son, Mohammed, in November 2014 and placed him under administrative detention for two six-month periods. He says his son was imprisoned from 2006-2009 for affiliation with the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.”

Neither, it seems, has it noticed the following at MEMO:

“Palestinian resistance faction Islamic Jihad warned on Friday that it would end the ceasefire between Palestinian factions and Israel if its member Mohammed Allan dies, Quds Press reported.”

Likewise, the demonstrations organised by the PIJ in support of Allan appear to have escaped the BBC’s attention, as has Hamas’ opposition to the PIJ’s threats of violence.

BBC double standard on use of the word ‘terror’ reaches new peak

The inconsistency of BBC reporting on terrorism and the corporation’s devout avoidance of the use of the word terror and its derivatives when reporting on Palestinian attacks against Israelis, are topics which, sadly, feature regularly on these pages.

Last November, following the attack in Har Nof, Jerusalem, we observed that:

“One outstanding – although predictable – feature of the BBC’s coverage is that despite the fact that the core story was about a terror attack perpetrated on the congregation of a synagogue, in all of the above reports the word terror and its derivatives were never used directly by the BBC. References to terrorism came only in the form of quotes from Israeli officials (placed in inverted commas by the BBC), from Israeli interviewees or from the US Secretary of State in the filmed report of his statement to the press.”

Nine months later, a surprise was in store for BBC audiences unused to seeing the word ‘terror’ in the corporation’s Middle East reporting.

The August 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’, presented by Razia Iqbal, included an item on the subject of administrative detention which is available here from 19:26. Iqbal discussed the issue with BBC journalist Jonny Dymond – apparently newly arrived in Jerusalem.Newshour 3 8

RI: “Now let’s go to our Jerusalem bureau and join our correspondent Jonny Dymond to discuss a story about Israel’s security cabinet approving detaining Jewish extremists without trial. This follows a Palestinian toddler who was killed in an arson attack in his home. Jonny; just…erm…is that the reason why this has come up now? Just give us a little bit of background.”

JD: “Yes it’s a direct response to an attack that happened on Friday when a home of a Palestinian family came under attack. They were…it was firebombed in the small hours of the morning on Friday…err…leading to severe injuries to the mother and father and a four year-old boy and the death of an eighteen year-old [sic] toddler. And amid a fair amount of revulsion and outrage, the Israeli security cabinet announced that it would authorize administrative detention – which is, as you say, imprisonment without trial – for those suspected of what are effectively Jewish terror attacks because the finger of blame was immediately pointed at ultra-nationalists, probably in the settler community – those who live in the West Bank; the Palestinian territories on the West Bank.” [emphasis added]

Dymond’s classification of an arson attack on a sleeping family as terror is of course appropriate. However it does not come in a vacuum.

It comes from a representative of an organization which refrained from describing the attack in which four rabbis were hacked to death or another attack in which a baby in a pram was deliberately run down in the same terms. It comes from a corporation which excused its failure to adequately report the slaughter of another baby and her sleeping family with the claim that it was a “very busy news period” and avoided using the word terror in its follow-up coverage of the Fogel family murders. And it comes from an organization which completely ignored the attempted murder by firebombing of an eleven year-old girl and her father last December and failed to report on three fatal terror attacks in April and June 2015.

Notable too is Dymond’s use of the word ‘Jewish’ before the phrase ‘terror attacks’. We do not of course see the comparable term ‘Muslim terror attacks’ used in BBC coverage: the prevailing term is ‘Islamist’ and recognized terror organisations such as Hamas are euphemistically described as “Palestinian militant Islamist groups”.

Whilst similar terminology to that employed by Dymond has been used by Israeli officials and quoted by the BBC, the BBC’s guidance on “language when reporting terrorism” tells its journalists that [w]e should not adopt other people’s language as our own” and hence there is obviously a need for the BBC to address the question of why the use of the generalized phrase “Jewish terror attacks” is acceptable if “Muslim terror attacks” is not.

Likewise, another issue obviously in need of consideration relates to the BBC’s adoption and amplification of terminology used by governments and officials. When the Israeli government defines attacks carried out by Israeli citizens as terrorism and the BBC reports that there is obviously no problem. But seeing as the Palestinian government never describes attacks carried out by its citizens in the same terms, it is clearly problematic for the BBC to refrain from clarifying to audiences in its own words what those attacks actually are. After all, the key message in that above mentioned guidance is “[o]ur policy is about achieving consistency and accuracy in our journalism” and it is obviously problematic if the BBC’s description of attacks as terrorism – or not – hinges upon the honesty of the government concerned.

Another issue worthy of discussion whilst this story is still in its early stages is the suitability of BBC’s use of the term “ultra-nationalists” – defined as “[e]xtreme nationalism that promotes the interest of one state or people above all others”. As was reported in an article appearing on the BBC News website on August 3rd, one of those recently arrested is Meir Ettinger – considered a ringleader among Israeli extremists. As the Times of Israel reported, Ettinger appears to have more in common with anarchy than ‘ultra-nationalism’.

“In 2013, Ettinger wrote a document entitled “the rebel manifesto” which calls to bring down the Israeli leadership.

“The idea of the rebellion is very simple. Israel has many weak points, many issues which it handles by walking on eggshells so as to not attract attention. What we’re going to do is simply fire up these powder kegs,” he wrote in the document.

“The aim is to bring down the state, to bring down its structure and its ability to control, and to build a new system. To do it, we must act outside the rules of the state we seek to bring down,” Ettinger wrote.

“We must break the status-quo. In doing so, we must differentiate between ‘breaking’ the state, an act that would insufficiently shed light on the remains and between ‘taking it apart’ which is the same but with care, and with attention. At the end of the day, the goal is to shake up the foundations of the state until we have a situation in which Jews must decide whether they are part of the revolution or part of the repression [of the rebellion],” he went on.”

This ‘Newshour’ programme continued with Jonny Dymond telling audiences:

“Now this administrative detention has been used against Palestinians for many years now – there’s just under four hundred Palestinians in administrative detention – and it’s been used very, very rarely before against…ah… Jewish extremists. But this is the first time that the cabinet has said we are ready to use this and we are ready to act to crack down on these groups and these individuals.”

As of June 2015, there were actually 370 Palestinians in administrative detention and as for Dymond’s claim that “this is the first time” that the Israeli government has shown itself to be “ready to act”, he apparently forgets that three years ago one of his colleagues produced a report which included the following:

“The Israeli authorities say they are determined to put an end to this and orders have gone out to the police and security services.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, said the price-taggers would be stopped.”

Razia Iqbal then introduces an implication which shows how crucial it is for the BBC to properly understand the ideology driving the extremism in order to both meet its own guidelines on accuracy and, more simply, get the story right.

RI: “So the cabinet has initiated this. How much support is there for it inside the Knesset generally because of course there are parties – ultra-nationalist parties – in the Knesset.”

JD: “Yeah, there are – and in the government. I think most people would say that a constituent part of the coalition government is a fairly firmly nationalist force – the Jewish Home party.”

Later on, and despite no arrests having yet been announced in connection with the Duma attack, Iqbal expands her insinuations with the implication that firebombing Palestinian homes is part of Israeli culture:

RI: “There has, Jonny, hasn’t there, been a sense that this has been part of the culture: that these people have been able to get away with attacks like this because it has on some level been encouraged by politicians in the cabinet.” [emphasis added]

Dymond cooperates, lumping construction and lethal arson in the same category.

JD: “Encouraged or a blind eye turned to certainly…ahm….illegal settler actions – if not attacks on property and on people, then the actions of some of the more extreme settler groups in setting up outposts completely against the law. Definitely a blind eye has been turned to that and there has been some encouragement of it at an official level. But this is a step gone a step too far clearly for the government which now wants to rein in those who’ve been carrying out these attacks.”

Whether or not Jonny Dymond is set to become a long-term fixture in the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau is at this point unclear but if he is planning on staying around, expansion of the scope of his reading material would be an aid to producing accurate and impartial reports which are more than a mere rehash of the latest Guardian article and actually contribute to audience understanding of a complex issue rather than just recycling well-worn stereotypes.

Dymond twitter 2

Dymond twitter



BBC News website corrects inaccurate administrative detention claim

As was noted in this previous post, a recent BBC News website article inaccurately informed audiences that:correction

“Israel has used administrative detention against Palestinians but not against Jewish suspects.”

Following communication from BBC Watch that sentence was amended and now reads:

“Israel frequently uses administrative detention against Palestinians but its use against Jewish suspects is rarer.”

A footnote was added at the bottom of the report.

Admin det Meir correction

All changes to that article can be viewed here.

Yet again, the absence of a much-needed dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website means that those who read this report in the first fifteen or so hours after its publication will most likely remain unaware of the fact that they received inaccurate information.

One must again ponder the question of why an organization committed by its founding charter to standards of accuracy continues to refrain from taking the very simple step of introducing a dedicated corrections page in order to relieve members of its audience of any misleading impressions they may have received from its online news output, prevent the waste of resources on unnecessary complaints and increase its transparency. 

BBC News misleads audiences on administrative detention

On August 5th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel jails suspected Jewish militant without trial“.Admin det Meir art orig

The original version of the article – which remained in situ for around seven hours – was illustrated with two photographs previously used in the BBC’s reports on the July 31st terror attack in Duma and its opening lines were as follows:

“Israel has taken the unusual step of jailing a suspected Jewish militant without trial following the death of a Palestinian infant in an arson attack.”

Readers might therefore naturally have assumed that the detention is connected to the attack in Duma and that impression was strengthened by later statements appearing in the article.

“The use of such [administrative detention] orders against Jews suspected in Friday’s arson in the West Bank was among new measures approved on Tuesday by Prime Minister Prime Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet.

The attack killed 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian toddler, and severely injured three relatives in the West Bank village of Duma.

The child’s parents and four-year-old brother were seriously injured in the attack, suspected to have been carried out by Jewish settlers.”

The amended version of the article (the changes can be viewed here) uses a different main photograph which has nothing to do with the report’s subject matter and actually dates from September 2012.  The second photograph from Duma appears in this version too and although the language in the second version is slightly more ambiguous, readers would again understand that the detention which is the topic of the report is connected to the July 31st arson in Duma.Admin det Meir art vers 2

“Israel has taken the unusual step of jailing a suspected Jewish militant without trial, amid a tightening of measures against Jewish extremists.

The use of such orders against Jewish militants was approved on Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet.

The measure was taken in the wake of an arson attack which killed an 18-month-old Palestinian, Ali Saad Dawabsha, and severely injured his parents and brother in the West Bank village of Duma on Friday.”

However, this case is not connected to the Duma attack at all. Both versions of the BBC report inform readers that:

“Mordechai Meyer, a resident of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, has been placed under administrative detention for six months.

He is suspected of violent activity as part of a Jewish terror group.”

Whilst it is correct to say that an administrative detention order was issued for Mordechai Meyer (also spelt Meir) on August 4th, the BBC does not inform audiences that Meyer – from Ma’ale Adumim – was among five suspects arrested in July on suspicion of involvement in the arson at the church in Tabgha in June or that at the time that his arrest was publicized on July 29th, the security services already announced that “administrative steps” would be taken against him and others.

“Indictments have been filed against two of the group (Yinon Reuveni and Yehuda Asraf); administrative steps will be taken against the other three.”

Although BBC News covered the story of the June 18th arson at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee in written and filmed reports (“Jesus miracle church in Israel damaged ‘by arson’” and “Fire destroys Jesus miracle church in Israel“), it did not report on the related arrests when they were announced. Had it done so, it would perhaps have avoided misleading readers of this report by implying a connection between the administrative detention of Meyer and the attack in Duma.

Both versions of this report inform BBC audiences that:

“Israel has used administrative detention against Palestinians but not against Jewish suspects.”

That claim is inaccurate, as shown by examples such as Tali Fahima (2004), Ephraim Khantsis (2010), Noam Federman (1996, 2003 etc) and Baruch Ben Yosef (1980), Neria Ofen (2005) and others.

Clearly that inaccuracy needs urgent and prominent correction.


BBC News – contact