Omissions in the BBC Jerusalem correspondent’s story of ‘fanaticism’

Back in July the BBC published a number of items on different platforms which clearly communicated to audiences what they should think about the Nation State law passed by the Knesset that month after seven years of deliberation.

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Two months later the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman returned to that topic in two reports – mixing in a partially told, unrelated story from an Israeli town with a name he could not be bothered to learn to pronounce properly.

On September 19th viewers of the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight‘ saw a filmed report by Bateman.

On September 22nd listeners to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio 4 heard an audio version (from 06:24 here) of the same report which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie at the beginning of the programme as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Adie: “Today we’re in Israel on the hunt for the finest falafel while hearing what Arab and Jewish Israelis think of the controversial new law which characterises the country as principally a Jewish state.”

Adie’s introduction to the item itself included overt signposting.

Adie: “In July Israel’s parliament – the Knesset – narrowly voted in favour of a new Nation State law. It promotes Israel’s Jewish character and has been celebrated by religious nationalists, among other supporters, and not just within Israel itself but in the USA and Europe. It’s also sparked condemnation at home and internationally. Among its harshest critics have been the country’s nearly 2 million Arab-Israeli citizens who say it underlines their second class status, as Tom Bateman’s been finding out.”

Bateman’s report began in a falafel shop in Afula and listeners were told that he has “set out to gauge reactions to one of Israel’s most controversial new laws” before Bateman introduced his linkage of a local story to his main agenda.

Bateman: “My lunch companion wants to tell me about that. This is the world’s only Jewish state says Ilan Vaknin, a local lawyer turned mayoral candidate. Israel is surrounded by Arab nations and needs protecting, he asserts. He supports the new Nation State law. The legislation is an emblem for the Israeli Right, championed by Benjamin Netanyahu – a prime minister with an eye on elections next year, trying not to be outflanked by more hardline nationalists in his coalition.”

Bateman went on to give a particular view of the legislation.

Bateman: “The single-page law is stacked with symbols of Jewish sovereignty. It states that Jews have the unique right to national self-determination in Israel. That what it calls Jewish settlement is a national value. That Hebrew is the state’s official language – a statement seen as downgrading Arabic. But what of the central complaint from the law’s many critics, I ask, that it shreds Israel’s founding pledge of equality for all the inhabitants regardless of their religion or race?”

Given that account, uninformed listeners could of course be forgiven for reaching the conclusion that Jewish self-determination in Israel is an innovation that first appeared in the Nation State law. What Bateman refers to as “Israel’s founding pledge” is of course the Declaration of Independence which does indeed pledge “equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” but also – he refrains from clarifying – clearly defines Israel as “a Jewish state”.

Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Ilan Vaknin says that the Jewish people in Israel must safeguard their land. There has certainly been a struggle among the people of Afula. When 48 Arab-Israeli families tried to buy plots of land on the edge of this Jewish majority town, there were protests by Jewish residents. Mr Vaknin acted for those who wanted to stop the sales. He claimed the Arab families had illegally coordinated bids. The courts ultimately threw out much of that argument and most of the sales went ahead. Many such land disputes elsewhere have not always gone the way of Arab citizens. Afula’s story seemed to echo a desire in the Nation State law to assert Jewish identity.”

Presuming to tell audiences what Israel “is supposed to stand for”, in his filmed report Bateman described the same story thus:

Bateman: “An empty space to be filled – but by whom? There has been a struggle among the people of Afula. What should this town in northern Israel look like? Who should live here? From whose past should it seek its character? Afula isn’t a story of troops and teargas filling the foreign news but a less visible confrontation between Jews and Arabs that goes to the heart of what the State of Israel is supposed to stand for. Ilan Vaknin wants to be the mayor. The lawyer told me how he tried to stop the sale of land to nearly 50 Arab families in this majority Jewish town. The dispute, which started well before the row over Israel’s new Nation State law, provides an example of the tensions that led to the law’s drafting and why its supporters think Israel’s Jewish character needs protecting. […] He [Vaknin] fought the sale of this land to Arab-Israeli families, saying they illegally coordinated bids But, after two years, Israel’s High Court allowed most of the sales to go ahead.”

The only Israeli politician mentioned by Bateman in these two reports is the current prime minister and so BBC audiences could be forgiven for concluding that it was he who proposed the Nation State law. In fact, the legislation was originally proposed in 2011 by Avi Dichter – who was at the time a member of the Kadima party – together with 39 other MKs. In contrast to the impression given by Bateman, the Afula building plots story began in late 2015.

While some of those who demonstrated against the sale of plots to 48 families from Arab villages in the district may have had racist motives, there are relevant parts of the story that Bateman did not bother to tell BBC audiences – not least the fact that the full complement of tenders in the proposed new neighbourhood was won by Arab applicants.

“The protesters claimed that the winning tender applicants may have coordinated their bids to ensure the neighborhood is populated mainly by Arab residents. They also charged that the tenders were poorly publicized within the city, and only announced in two local newspapers.

Many of the protesters have previously expressed their opposition to having an all-Arab neighborhood in the city.

The tender was run by the Israel Land Administration, which accepted bids on almost 50 plots for homes in a planned community next to the Afula Illit neighborhood. The results, published last month, showed that none of the plots had been won by current residents of Afula and all had been awarded to residents of Arab villages in the area.”

In April 2016 the Nazareth District Court revoked the tenders.

“Court president Justice Avraham Avraham said in his decision that the 48 Arab families violated housing tender rules by coordinating their bids on several of the 50 lots for homes in a planned neighborhood next to the Afula Illit neighborhood in an effort to fix prices for the homes.

“The coordination between bidders severely damages the principle of equality,” Avraham said in his decision. “The bidders joined forces to coordinate their proposed prices in an effort to unfairly divide the market among themselves.””

In August 2017 the High Court found that while a bidding group which had won ten of the 27 available plots had indeed coordinated bids, the other applicants had not. The court ruled that, rather than cancelling all the tenders as the Nazareth court had ruled, only the tenders of those shown to have coordinated bids would be cancelled.

While those parts of the story are missing from Bateman’s account, he did make sure to tell his radio audience of statements made by another interviewee – Ghayadad Zoabi.    

Bateman: “She says when Jewish protests took place against families like hers buying plots in Afula the sense of division felt overwhelming. She worries for her children who she fears have harder days to come. As long as the Right-wing controls Israel, she claims, it is heading for fanaticism. She believes the Nation State law sends a message to people like her that they are citizens second to Jews.”

And that of course is the agenda behind Bateman’s sudden interest in a local story that the BBC has ignored for nearly three years. Despite the fact that Arab-Israelis won tenders organised by a government agency and the 63% of bidders who were shown not to have coordinated bids had their tenders upheld in Israel’s High Court, The BBC’s Jerusalem correspondent still has a tale of “fanaticism” to tell about just one of the 22% of the world’s countries – including the UK – that have a religion enshrined in their constitution or basic law.  

 

 

 

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during June 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 220 incidents took place: 88 in Judea & Samaria, 6 in Jerusalem, one within the ‘green line’ and 125 in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 77 attacks with petrol bombs, fourteen attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), two shooting attacks, and one vehicular attack. One stabbing attack took place in Afula.

Attacks recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 78 attacks with petrol bombs, five shooting attacks, 8 attacks using IEDs and three grenade attacks. 29 separate incidents of rocket fire were recorded, with 76 launches.

Five people were wounded in attacks that took place throughout the month. A high-school student was stabbed in Afula on June 11th. The BBC did not produce any reporting on that attack. A member of the security forces was wounded by a petrol bomb on June 5th in Jerusalem and three members of the security forces were wounded in a vehicular attack on June 23rd near Bethlehem. Neither of those incidents was covered by the BBC News website.

The website’s coverage of the incidents in the Gaza Strip sector during June is listed below.

June 2nd: “Gaza violence: Thousands attend funeral for Palestinian medic” – discussed here.

“Later on Saturday rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel reportedly responded with air strikes. […]

Israel’s military said its troops along the border had been attacked by militants with gunfire and a grenade on Friday. […]

Hours after the funeral two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, the IDF said, triggering air raid sirens in Israeli villages near the border.

One rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system and the other apparently landed inside Gaza, a statement said.”

June 20th: “Gaza rocket barrage triggers Israeli air strikes” – discussed here.

“Twenty-five targets linked to the Hamas movement were hit overnight in response to a barrage of about 45 projectiles. […]

Israeli officials say six rockets fired from Gaza landed inside populated areas, causing damage to buildings and vehicles but no casualties. One rocket exploded just outside a kindergarten.”

Additional rocket attacks earlier and later in the month did not receive BBC coverage.

As we see BBC reporting mentioned one shooting incident and one grenade attack as well as rockets fired on two separate days. At the very most it can therefore be said that BBC News website audiences saw coverage of 21.8% of the terror attacks which took place during June.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has at best reported 18.7% of the terror attacks that have taken place and 83.3% of the resulting fatalities.

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2018

Terror attack in Afula ignored by BBC News

Those getting their news from the BBC will not be aware that a secondary school student on her way to sit an exam was the victim of a terror attack in the northern Israeli town of Afula on June 11th.

“Shuva Malka, from the northern city of Migdal Ha’emek, was on her way to a matriculation examination in citizenship when the stabber approached, her mother, Michal, told Hadashot news on Monday. […]

Malka was stabbed shortly before noon on the street and collapsed outside a local coffee shop, police said.

“When we arrived at the scene, it was very chaotic. There was an 18-year-old girl sitting on a chair at the entrance to a store. She was conscious and suffering from multiple stab wounds to the upper body,” one of the medics who treated her said.

She was taken to the nearby HaEmek Medical Center in serious condition, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.”

Although the attacker tried to flee, police subsequently apprehended him.

“The Shin Bet security service on Tuesday declared a stabbing attack, in which an 18-year-old Israeli high school student was seriously injured in the northern city of Afula the day before, to be a terror attack.

On Monday, Shuva Malka was stabbed on the street in Afula shortly before noon. Her attacker fled the scene.

A short while later, police officers arrested the suspected terrorist, identified as Nour al-Din Shinawi, a Palestinian man in his 20s from the West Bank city of Jenin, who had entered Israel without a permit, police said.”

None of the BBC’s numerous platforms have produced any reporting about that attack.

Last week the trial of the perpetrator of another terror attack ignored by the BBC came to a close.

“An Arab Israeli man was convicted Tuesday of carrying out a pair of shooting attacks in the northern city of Haifa in January 2017, killing an Israeli man and seriously wounding another.

Muhammad Shinawi, 22, was convicted of all the charges against him after admitting to all the facts laid out in the indictment, according to a statement from the Justice Ministry.

The Haifa District Court found Shinawi guilty of murder out of a religious, nationalist or ideological motive, attempted murder, possessing and transporting a gun for terror purposes, attempted robbery and theft of a car, and possessing a knife. […]

Yehiel Iluz, 48, a senior judge on a Haifa rabbinic conversion court, was wounded at 9:30 a.m., in the first shooting on the city’s Haatzma’ut Road. A few minutes later, the shooter opened fire at a Jewish woman, but missed. And a few minutes after that, Guy Kafri, 47, a van driver from Haifa’s Nesher neighborhood, was shot and killed on the nearby Hagiborim Street.

Shinawi was caught several days later after a large manhunt.”

As was noted here at the time:

“In a shooting attack which took place in Haifa on January 3rd, one civilian was murdered and one wounded. Although the background to that incident was not initially clear and the perpetrator was identified only two days later, the subsequent investigation confirmed that it was a terror attack. BBC News has not covered that incident at all.”

One month later, in February 2017, the BBC took umbrage on behalf of the media community when the US president “accused the media of under-reporting terror attacks“.

While Mr Trump’s claim – and the BBC’s response – related to attacks carried out or inspired by ISIS, the BBC News website’s record of reporting on terror attacks in Israel shows that in 2015 3.2% of the total attacks and 77% of the fatalities were reported, in 2016 2.8% of the total attacks and 100% of the fatalities were reported and in 2017 0.92% of the total attacks and 89% of the fatalities were reported. In the first four months of 2018, the BBC News website reported 1.6% of the total attacks and 100% of the fatalities.

As we see above, the trend continues.

 

 

 

 

BBC coverage of October 8 terror attacks downgrades terrorist to ‘suspected attacker’

Visitors to the BBC News website seeking information concerning the multiple terror attacks against Israelis which took place on October 8th found no information on that subject until the appearance of an article titled “Israelis injured in new spate of stabbings” some four and a half hours after the first major attack took place in Jerusalem and two hours after the attack in Tel Aviv. The article was subsequently amended several times to include information on additional attacks in Kiryat Arba and Afula.Oct 8 attacks art

The first attack is described as follows in the version of the report currently appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page:

“Hours earlier, a Jewish seminary student was seriously injured when he was stabbed in the neck by a Palestinian near a light rail station in the French Hill area of East Jerusalem, police said.

The assailant then reportedly fled the scene after attacking a security guard at the station and attempting to steal his weapon. He was eventually apprehended, police said.”

The report then goes on to state:

“Israeli security forces then shot dead a Palestinian man during clashes that erupted as they were moving towards the suspect’s home, Palestinian medics said.”

Earlier on in the report, that same incident is portrayed as follows:

“Israeli forces targeting the house of a suspected attacker in the West Bank then shot dead a Palestinian as clashes began, Palestinian medics said.”

The incident actually took place in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Shuafat rather than in “the West Bank” and the “clashes that erupted” when police went to search the house of Subhi Abu Khalifa would be more accurately described as violent riots.

“On Thursday night, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that a riot ensued in Shuafat when Border Police officers approached Khalifa’s home.

“When the Border Police went to Shuafat to enter the terrorist’s house, hundreds of Palestinians attacked them with rocks, pipe bombs and firebombs,” he reported.

“Fearing for their lives, police responded by firing shots at the lower parts of the bodies of the suspects that approached them.”

Rosenfeld said at least nine officers were wounded during the clash, but he could not confirm reports that a Palestinian man was killed.”

The second attack reported in this article took place in Tel Aviv at around 3 p.m. and is initially described as follows, with further detail added later on:

“Seven Israelis have been wounded and one suspected assailant killed in the latest spate of stabbing attacks.

Police said four Israelis were hurt in Tel Aviv before the suspected attacker was shot dead.”

Notably, earlier versions of the article accurately described Taeer Abu Gazala from Jerusalem as the “assailant” and “attacker”, with the word “suspected” having been added to the report hours later.

The third attack – in Kiryat Arba – is described in the report thus:

“Shortly afterwards, a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded a man near the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, close to the West Bank city of Hebron, the Israeli military said.

The attacker fled the scene and Israeli forces were searching the area, it added.”

The fourth attack, which took place in Afula at around 7 p.m., is described as follows:

“In yet another attack later on Thursday, an Israeli soldier was stabbed by an attacker in the northern Israeli town of Afula, police said.

They said the assailant – who was not identified – was arrested.”

The article has not been updated to inform audiences that the terrorist – Tarak Yaha – came from Jenin.

Towards the end of the report, readers are provided with the following ‘context’:

“Tensions between Israel and Palestinians have soared in the past couple of weeks, with the attacks on Israelis following clashes between troops and Palestinian youths at a flashpoint holy compound in East Jerusalem.”

The fact that what the BBC chooses to describe as “clashes” were in fact organized episodes of premeditated rioting aimed at preventing visits by non-Muslims to Temple Mount is clearly not adequately conveyed by that wording and yet again we see that no effort is made to inform BBC audiences of the related incitement from assorted official and unofficial Palestinian sources.

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Over 42% of BBC report on murdered Israeli soldier devoted to Israeli building tenders

On the morning of November 13th nineteen year-old Israeli soldier Pvt. Eden Attias from Upper Nazareth, who joined the army just a few weeks ago, was travelling on a public bus to his base when he fell asleep. As the bus reached the central bus station in Afula, he was attacked by a Palestinian infiltrator from the Jenin area and sustained critical stabbing injuries which led to his death in hospital shortly afterwards. 

The BBC published a report on the incident on the Middle East page of its website.

terror attack afula

The BBC’s report is 236 words long. One hundred and thirty-five of those words relate to the terror attack itself, although of course as can be expected, the writer refrains from using the term ‘terror’. A further one hundred and one words – 42.7% of the report – are devoted to the subjects of what the BBC describes (for the second time in days) as “faltering peace talks” and building tenders. 

“The violence comes as the US attempts to revive faltering peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Eden Attias (Facebook)

Eden Attias (Facebook)

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a halt to controversial plans for the construction of 24,000 new homes at Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu said the plan, announced by his housing minister, had caused unnecessary conflict with the international community at a time when Israel is pressing for a tougher stance on Iran’s nuclear programme.

The US said it had no prior knowledge of the plan, which prompted a Palestinian threat to walk out of the peace talks.”

Interestingly, the BBC apparently has no analysis to offer its audiences with regard to the potential effects of increasingly frequent terror attacks against Israelis on the “faltering peace talks”, preferring to keep attentions focused on the subject of early stage building tenders which are part of a long planning process