BBC Arabic producer breaches social media guidelines again

Few would have been surprised to see Ha’aretz publisher Amos Schocken’s March 22nd Tweet promoting the notion that Israel is guilty of ‘apartheid’: he has, after all, touted such  allegations on the pages of his paper for years.

“Of the characteristics of apartheid: one legal system for Jews and another for natives”

Members of the BBC’s funding public may, however, have been disturbed to see a clearly identified BBC Arabic producer retweet that controversial smear to his own Twitter followers.

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

Clearly that retweet of an ‘apartheid’ smear by BBC Arabic producer Michael Shuval certainly does have an impact on public perceptions of impartiality in BBC reporting on Israel. 

Related Articles:

BBC News, impartiality and the Israeli elections

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

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The BBC’s partisan coverage of the Ahed Tamimi case continues

On March 21st the BBC News website published a report billed “Palestinian slap video teen gets jail term”. That framing of the story was reinforced in two items of related content offered to audiences under the headings “Was slap terrorism?” and “Spotlight on slap video teen”.

The same messaging was further reinforced in the report’s headline – “Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal” – and in the caption to the same video offered as related content (a highly problematic report by the BBC’s Middle East editor dating from January 31st) which was embedded at the top of the article: “Is a slap terrorism?”.

Clearly the intention was to lead BBC audiences towards the understanding that this story is about a “Palestinian teen” who got a “jail term” for a “slap” deemed “terrorism” even before they had read one word of the report.

The article opens in the same vein:

“A Palestinian teenager arrested after slapping an Israeli soldier has accepted a plea deal that will see her serve eight months in prison.

Ahed Tamimi had agreed to plead guilty to four of the 12 charges she faced, including assault, her lawyer said.”

Only in the eighth paragraph do readers learn the nature of the additional charges against Ahed Tamimi.

“Ahed Tamimi would plead guilty to one count of assault, one of incitement, and two of obstructing soldiers, Ms Lasky said.”

However, as has been the case in the vast majority of the BBC’s copious reporting of this story throughout the last three months (see ‘related articles’ below), BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

Furthermore, the BBC’s report amplifies a clear misrepresentation of the charge of incitement from a representative of a political NGO that has been campaigning on Tamimi’s behalf – without clarifying that obviously relevant fact to readers.

“Human rights groups said her case highlighted what they considered Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian minors.

“Ahed will be home in a few months, but Israel is putting this child behind bars for eight months for calling for protests and slapping a soldier, after threatening her with years in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.” [emphasis added]

Notably, as the Times of Israel reports, Tamimi admitted to having made the call for violence which the BBC conceals from audience view.

“Under the terms of the plea bargain, Ahed admitted to the aggravated assault of an IDF soldier, incitement to violence and disrupting soldiers on two other occasions.”

In addition to amplifying statements from the political NGO Human Rights Watch that has been campaigning on behalf of Tamimi (a previous BBC report similarly amplified another NGO involved in that campaigning), this report even includes a link directing audiences to a petition promoted by the political campaigning group Avaaz.

“For Palestinians, she has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.

Her face has appeared on street murals and posters, while an online petition organised by her father calling for her release has gathered 1.75m signatures.”

As has been the case in several previous BBC reports on this topic, readers find several quotes from Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky in this article – including the following:

“Asked why she had agreed to a plea deal, Ms Lasky said: “When they decided to keep her trial behind closed doors, we knew that we were not going to get a fair trial.””

No alternative view is provided of either that allegation or the similar one from Human Rights Watch with which the BBC chose to close this report.

“Plea bargains are the norm in Israel’s military justice system, which is characterised by prolonged pre-trial detention, abuse of kids and sham trials. Hundreds of Palestinian children remain locked up with little attention on their cases”

In the past three months the BBC has produced at least thirteen reports on this story but only in one of those – aired on the BBC’s domestic channel Radio 4 – have audiences been provided with any information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. In all the other reports (and in all those provided to international audiences) the fact that Ahed Tamimi called for violent acts against Israelis has been concealed.

Some of the thirteen reports have included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor.

In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story has promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists including B’tselem, Jonathan Pollack, Amnesty International, Avaaz and Human Rights Watch.

Significantly, although video footage filmed by Tamimi’s mother has been generously promoted in many of the reports, the part of that footage showing Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence has not been presented to BBC audiences at all.

In summary, the BBC’s treatment of this story has overwhelmingly diverted audience attention away from the background to the main charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi and propagated the deliberately misleading notion that she was arrested, tried and imprisoned for a “slap”.

The BBC’s repeated promotion of partisan NGOs that have been campaigning on this case once again highlights the fact that the corporation which is committed to providing its audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards” has in this case chosen to abandon impartiality and accuracy – and instead lend its voice and outreach to one-sided promotion of a blatantly political campaign.  

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ continues to trivialise the Ahed Tamimi story

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ hosts Ahmad Tibi – part one

Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi from the Joint List travelled to London earlier this month to speak at a conference organised by the pro-Hamas organisation ‘Middle East Monitor’ (MEMO).

While in the British capital, Tibi also gave an interview (available here to UK audiences and also here) to the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ which was aired on March 7th on the BBC News Channel and the BBC World News Channel. A clip from the interview was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Ahmad Tibi: Trump ‘promoting anarchy’ in Middle East” and an audio version was broadcast on BBC World Service radio (and also made available as a podcast) where it was presented with the following synopsis: 

“Stephen Sackur speaks to Ahmad Tibi. He is a veteran Arab Israeli MP and one time adviser to Yasser Arafat. President Donald Trump claimed he could broker the deal of the century between Israel and the Palestinian. Instead he seems to have entrenched the hostility after recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Is the Arab-Israeli experience a sign that the status quo is the only viable response to the conflict between Jews and Arabs?”

Stephen Sackur gave a very similar introduction to the filmed version of the interview but the audio version had a different introduction: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sackur: “My guest today is an elected politician who insists that his is a life stripped of genuine freedom and democracy. Ahmad Tibi is a member of the Israeli Knesset – one of its deputy speakers in fact. He leads the Arab Movement for Change party and is a familiar figure to Israelis making impassioned speeches on the floor of the chamber in fluent Hebrew. Roughly a fifth of Israel’s population is Arab. They have citizenship, they can vote, but according to Tibi they remain second-class citizens in a state that he likens to apartheid South Africa. His parents were originally from Jaffa but fled during the war of 1948 and made a new home in the area of Israel known as the Arab Triangle. He is a trained gynecologist. But he became a prominent political figure who was a close advisor to Yasser Arafat during the Oslo peace process. Now of course that process is lifeless. President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and suggested he isn’t committed to that old trope the two-state solution. So where does that leave the Arabs – both inside Israel and those Palestinians outside? Well Ahmad Tibi joins me now.”

Predictably, given the BBC’s intense focus on that topic in recent months, Sackur began with the subject of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – also the topic of the MEMO conference attended by Tibi.

SS: “I think we have to start with the impact of the Donald Trump presidency on relations between Palestinians and Israelis. Would you agree that it has fundamentally changed the dynamic in the region?”

AT: “Yes, for the negative. I think that Trump and his administration promoted and promoting anarchy in the region and anarchy in the world by supporting, enhancing, encouraging, violation of international law and adopting one side on behalf of another. President Trump via his speech about Jerusalem, he totally adopted the Israeli narrative and the occupation narrative. To say that he and his Three Musketeers – advisors who are great supporters of the settlements – adopted the talking points of Benjamin Netanyahu…”

Far from challenging Tibi’s specious claim concerning ‘international law’, Sackur endorsed it.

SS: “Well, you can…you can make your point about international law but surely what Donald Trump has actually done is recognise reality in perhaps a more honest way than previous US presidents because the truth is it’s obvious to everyone that the Israeli capital is in Jerusalem.  That’s where the prime minister’s office is, it’s where the cabinet meets, it’s where the government buildings are and Donald Trump has said enough with this nonsense; let’s just recognise reality.”

AT: “That’s nonsense. Because 1967 – East Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, this is the reality. And if there is a thief in the area and he stole your house, it is a reality but you’re not supposed to accept reality as it is legitimate fact.”

Sackur refrained from reminding audiences that parts of Jerusalem were occupied before 1967 – by Jordan.

SS: “Sure but Trump did say in the course last December of announcing that he would move the embassy to Jerusalem – and we understand it may happen quicker than we thought this year – he did say look I’m not prejudging what the two parties finally agree on Jerusalem; they can do what they want, they can divide it in the future as they wish. We are simply recognising what we now see to be Israel’s capital.”

AT: He said more than that. In 1980, there was a motion, a law in the Knesset, saying exactly what he is saying in his speech. He adopted that law of unified capital of Israel, containing Supreme Court, government, parliament. He adopted that phrasing, even. He did not say that East Jerusalem is an occupied area. He did not say that East Jerusalem can be the capital, or should be the capital, of the Palestinians. He – and this is the most dangerous thing – he is dealing with the issue of Jerusalem as it is internal of the Israelis – and it is not.”

SS: “The fact is, he remains the most powerful man in the world – you could perhaps argue about that, China is the rising power – but none the less, Donald Trump when it comes to the Middle East is the most important man in the world. He has made a decision which reflects the fact that, frankly, many Palestinians would now acknowledge; you’ve lost. You have lost in the sense that your interests are never going to be achievable.”

AT: “I do not agree with you totally.”

SS: “You do…in part you do?”

AT: “It is one of the most toughest and difficult areas for the Palestinian people, I agree with that. But we had much more difficult phases in our history…of the Palestinian history. This nation, the Palestinian people, is very much insisting in implementing and achieving his national rights and it is rights of the people under occupation seeking to be free, to be independent, to be sovereign, alongside the state of Israel. And Mr Trump is saying to Palestinians…and to Israelis, you will take it all and to Israelis, you will take nothing. That’s why he has disqualified himself as a broker.”

SS: “But I suppose what I’m wondering is what you as an Arab – and let’s not forget, you’re an Israeli citizen, you serve in the Israeli Knesset, the Israeli parliament, you represent the interests of the Arab Israeli population in Israel. I wonder what you make of the reaction from Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniyeh saying things like, you know, ‘we would not allow Trump’s declaration to pass even if we lose our heads in the process’. All the talk of a new intifada, all the talk of Palestinians putting their lives on the line to protest, we have been here so many times before. Is there not now a weary resignation that says to you, in the privacy of your own mind, there is no point anymore to this sort of talk of laying down our lives, new Intifadas. It’s gone.”

AT: “I am representing the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel. We are part of the Palestinian people. There are three parts: Palestinians inside Israel, Palestinians in ’67 areas and Palestinians in the diaspora. But we are also citizens of the State of Israel.”

SS: “That’s right.”

AT: “We are supporting Palestinians self-determination and this right is not negotiable. And we are, as citizens also, saying in the Knesset, from the podium, I am saying in Arabic, in English, in Hebrew that we are promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace. We are not supporting violence – we said it in the past always – I am supporting nonviolent popular resistance. It succeeded in the last year when the magnometers [metal detectors] were put in the Al Aqsa Mosque and it succeeded when the church closed…the church because the government official tried to impose taxes on the Christian church in Jerusalem.”

Sackur provided no context to either of Tibi’s examples, meaning that audiences remained unaware that metal detectors were not “put in the Al Aqsa Mosque” at all but at the entrance to Temple Mount following a terror attack at the site by three Arab-Israelis. Neither were they told that the “taxes” are not “on the Christian church” but on church-owned properties that are not used for worship – just as in the UK.

Neither did he question Tibi as to how his claim that “we are not supporting violence” squares with the fact that members of his Knesset list paid a condolence visit to the families of terrorists in 2016.

Sackur then brought up the Ahed Tamimi case – but failed to inform BBC audiences that the charges against her include incitement to violence: again a relevant topic given Tibi’s claim to support exclusively non-violent protest.

SS: “Yeah, one could say it is easy for you to talk about protests; the usual words in the Knesset. But if you live in the occupied West Bank, the reality of protest is much more dangerous. I mean we have in our minds perhaps right now the case of Ahed Tamimi – the young girl, teenage girl, in the West Bank village who struck out at an Israeli officer because she was so angry at what the Israeli troops were doing in and around her village. She is now in a court facing serious charges and may well end up in prison. You know, it is easy for you as an Arab-Israeli to say this but much more difficult for protesters in the West Bank not to jeopardise their own security in this call for civil disobedience.”

AT: “First of all I am accompanying Ahed Tamimi in her military court. She’s courageous…”

SS: “You can walk away at the end of the day. She can’t.”

The second half of the interview will be discussed in part two of this post. 

 

 

The BBC ME editor’s response to criticism of his recent reporting

The February 11th edition of the BBC Radio 5 live programme hosted by Peter Allen and Caroline Barker included an interview (from 01:37:07 here) with the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

Following stories about Bowen’s experiences in Bosnia and Bangladesh, Peter Allen turned the conversation (at 01:45:27) to an incident which will be familiar to long-time readers because Bowen has recounted it on various platforms on numerous occasions in the past.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Allen: “The turning point for you, I guess, came with the death of your driver, your friend, your producer Abed Abu [unintelligible] in Lebanon.”

Bowen: “Yeah…in 2000 when the Israelis were pulling out.”

Allen: “You thought you’d set up for a piece to camera, wasn’t it?”

Bowen: “I was gonna stop…the Israelis were leaving Lebanon after an occupation in the south that had lasted more than 20 years. And there was this guy Abed Takkhoush who had worked with the BBC for many years and he was very experienced and he loved doing what he was doing and we had…I was working as well with a Lebanese cameraman – a guy called Malek. And Malek and I we stopped to do a piece to camera by the border wire – you could see into Israel. And we didn’t want to get anywhere close to the retreating troops because, you know, a retreating army leaving is always dangerous. But I didn’t enough think…I didn’t think enough about the fact that they could shoot at us from the other side of the border wire. I thought because we were a long way back from the troops they wouldn’t.

But a couple of minutes after I got out with Malek there was a bright – you know, early summer day – there was a huge explosion and I turned round. And it was filmed because we were trying to do the piece to camera at the time it was…and there was a big explosion behind me and then I could see…he leapt out through the window – not leapt: he managed to force his body out –I mean he was on fire. And I said to Malek ‘come on, let’s get up there’ and he said ‘no, no; don’t go up there Jeremy because believe you me he’s dead. He may have had the strength to get out  but he’ll be dead now and if you move up there they’ll kill you too’. And eventually I did try and move up there, they opened up in our direction with a heavy machine gun from the tank and a colleague from the Times, his driver had heard the radio traffic in Hebrew and they had said ‘we’ve got one, we’ll get the other two with a heavy machine gun’. So I know that if I’d gone up there I’d have been killed or badly hurt but I still feel bad that, you know, I didn’t have a Hollywood ending, you know, or rather he couldn’t.”

Allen: “You had to shelter under a rock while you made…”

Bowen: “Yeah, yeah we were stuck there, we were shouting to him. I was under cover trying to keep out of trouble myself and shouting out to him and he didn’t answer. In fact in the end…the Lebanese Red Crescent take the bodies off the road in these situations and they couldn’t get up there for hours and hours and hours until they…I think they…through the UN. They coordinated a, you know, a mission to pick up the body between the UN and the Israelis. But the Israelis claimed that we were terrorists. I don’t believe that there was any sign that we were terrorists. I think that they were just trigger happy. And I even went to see a…a general in Tel Aviv when I got back to Israel – I was living in Israel at the time – and he said ‘look, look you’ve got to imagine what it’s like. There were three young boys in that tank. They were terrified. They’d had warnings there’d be…there’d be…ah…terrorists in the area’. And you know I thought where do you start with all of that? You know the fact is that my colleague, my friend, got killed. I think that they…we did a big investigation and we showed that they were shooting quite a lot at civilian vehicles. I think maybe what they were trying to do is to keep people back from the army as it went back. But you know we shouldn’t have stopped. I mean that was my fault for stopping.”

Allen: “At the time you thought it was safe. I mean…”

Bowen: “I thought it was safe.”

Allen: “You felt you were indestructible in those years; you thought it won’t happen to me.”

Bowen: “Yeah and I was wrong.”

Allen: “And that changed it. That changed everything.”

Israel did not of course ‘claim’ that Bowen and his crew “were terrorists”. As the IDF’s investigation into the incident at the time showed:

“…in the early morning hours of that day an intelligence alert was passed to the tank crew regarding the possibility of the firing of rockets by terrorists at IDF tanks and armoured vehicles. The tank crew identified a vehicle and in it people in civilian clothing and suspected that they were a terror cell with equipment to fire anti-tank missiles. In line with the protocol the tank crew passed on the information to the appropriate bodies and was given permission to open fire. Later, said the IDF spokesperson, it transpired that a tragic mistake had been made and that a BBC film crew had been mistakenly identified as a terrorist cell.”

The interview included questions from listeners and later on (at 01:51:58) Caroline Barker read one of them.

Barker: “…Jeff says ‘how hard is it to stay impartial in your reporting after you’ve seen your friend killed?'”

Allen: “And of course you’ve had accusations, haven’t you? Plenty of accusations from the Israelis.”

Bowen: “Well the last few weeks, after a story – the most recent story I did over there which was about a young woman who’s been accused of all sorts of things and is in prison awaiting trial after she slapped a soldier. Ahm…so yeah; I’m very used to that. Actually I think it’s remarkably easy.”

The “recent story” to which Bowen refers is of course that told in his filmed and audio reports concerning Ahed Tamimi (see ‘related articles’ below) in which he concealed an actual charge of incitement against her while disingenuously leading BBC audiences to believe that Israel is charging her with terrorism offences because of “a slap”.

And yet, Mr Bowen still claims that keeping to professed BBC standards of impartiality is, for him, “remarkably easy”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC’s Peter Allen: “Israel always wreaks its revenge”

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ continues to trivialise the Ahed Tamimi story

The February 13th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item described in its synopsis as follows:

“Also in the programme; the trial of a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier and lunged at another has begun in an Israeli military court”

Presenter Julian Marshall also used the terms ‘slapped’ and ‘lunged’ in his introduction to the item (from 14:04 here).

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “Now, so the trial of a Palestinian teenager who slapped an Israeli soldier and lunged at another has begun in an Israeli military court. Ahed Tamimi, aged 17, is charged with 12 offences including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence. If convicted, she could face a lengthy jail term.”

Marshall then went on to introduce a recording of a statement made by Tamimi’s lawyer – who has been featured in two previous BBC reports by Yolande Knell.

Marshall: “The case of Ahed Tamimi is being heard behind closed doors on the judge’s orders as the 17 year-old is being tried as a minor. Speaking to reporters outside the court, Miss Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky criticised the decision to close the trial to the public.”

Lasky: “The court decided what is good for the court and not what is good for Ahed. They understand that people outside of the military court are interested in Ahed’s case. They understand that her rights are being infringed and her trial is something that shouldn’t be happening. So the way to keep it out of everybody’s eyes is to close doors and not allow people inside the court for her hearings.”

A report by the Times of Israel provides some background to the statement from Lasky which the BBC chose to promote.

“Lasky popped out of the courtroom to provide a quick statement to reporters — in English, of course — expressing her outrage over the ruling.

The attorney explained that upon returning inside chambers, she would argue that because Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people is illegal, the military court hearing Tamimi’s case was illegitimate as well.

The line of defense appeared to establish an uphill battle for Lasky in that it required the judge to denounce his own authority in order to rule in Tamimi’s favor.

But her audience outside the caravan, didn’t seem concerned as they nodded their heads in approval of the defense.”

Marshall next introduced the BBC’s Rome correspondent who appears, once again, to have been temporarily reassigned to the Middle East.

Marshall: “Well let’s speak now to the BBC’s James Reynolds live in Jerusalem and James, remind us of the facts of this case – those, that is, that are not disputed.”

Reynolds: “Right, let’s take you back to December tw…last year in her West Bank village – the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. There are around 600 people live there. They often periodically every Friday have clashes with Israeli soldiers and at one point on the 15th of December, mobile phone footage shows her confronting and speaking to two Israeli soldiers on the outskirts of the driveway of her family home. And the mobile phone footage – which I’m sure a lot of people have seen – shows her arguing. It shows her first trying to hit one soldier – I think on the arm – and then she slaps him on the face. He doesn’t react. She then moves towards the second soldier and is eventually separated from them. Israel says that that mobile phone footage is enough evidence – it is enough proof of assault – to put her on trial along with a number of other incidents. But Palestinians of course see it very differently.”

Given that Reynolds was asked to state “the facts of this case”, it is of course remarkable that he failed to mention that the Friday “clashes” in Nabi Saleh are organised by Ahed Tamimi’s father and extended family or that the mobile phone footage he partially describes was filmed by her mother Nariman and live-streamed on Facebook. All the more significant is the fact that he failed to inform listeners of Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as defined by her mother – in that same footage which included the call for violence that is the basis for the charge of incitement against her.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

Those highly relevant omissions facilitated subsequent trivialisation of the charges against Ahed Tamimi by both Marshall and Reynolds.

Marshall: “It seems – well ehm…I suppose it depends on your perspective – but a relatively minor offence to be tried in front of a military court.”

Reynolds: “Yes and it does sound incredibly surprising when you think of an army – a hugely powerful army – why it would be spending its time prosecuting what on any judgement is a relatively minor misdemeanour. “

In addition to incitement, the charges against Ahed Tamimi include two counts of aggravated assault of a soldier, two counts of stone-throwing, two counts of threatening a soldier and four counts of obstructing a soldier in execution of his duty. In the UK, the charge of obstructing or assaulting a police officer would not be considered “a relatively minor misdemeanour” – i.e. a non-indictable offence – as the BBC well knows.

Displaying his ‘expertise’ by twice inaccurately describing the IDF as “a volunteer army”, Reynolds then went on to bizarrely suggest that the charges against Ahed Tamimi are steered by public mood rather than by the law and to further trivialise her actions.

Reynolds: “But Israelis say it’s about more than that. It is about soldiers. The key thing from Israel’s point of view is this: the army is at the heart of the society here. It is a volunteer army – a lot of Israelis can identify themselves with those soldiers. There’s been praise for the fact that they didn’t react and there’s been a thought among some in Israel that you have to stand up for those soldiers, who are clearly identifiable with the rest of the population, and you have to protect them against insultshowever trivial those insults may be. That might be an explanation which is very difficult to understand outside Israel but here, because of the centrality of a volunteer army to society, it is perhaps more understandable.”

Marshall: “And very briefly, James, what kind of sentence could she face if convicted?”

Reynolds: “If convicted of all crimes, essentially she could be looking at around a year in jail if found guilty.”

This is the BBC’s twelfth report (at least) on Ahed Tamimi in less than two months and the third to appear on ‘Newshour’. Only one of those reports – on the BBC’s domestic channel Radio 4 – has provided audiences with any sort of information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi.

In other words, this report continues the editorial policy of providing BBC audiences worldwide with a trivialised and one-sided portrayal of the story which resembles activism more than journalism.  

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

 

 

 

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

On February 13th the BBC News website published an article titled “Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian viral slap video teen goes on trial” which was presented to audiences together with two items of recycled ‘related reading’: a highly problematic filmed report by Jeremy Bowen dating from January 31st (also embedded in the report itself) and a written report by Yolande Knell from January 17th.

Readers were told that:

“A Palestinian teenage girl filmed slapping an Israeli soldier has gone on trial in an Israeli military court in a case which has split public opinion.

Ahed Tamimi, 17, is charged with 12 offences, including assaulting security forces and incitement to violence.

If convicted, she could face a lengthy jail term.”

However, as has been the case in the majority of the BBC’s copious past reporting on Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment, this article too failed to provide readers with details of her call for violence on social media which is the basis of that incitement charge

Given the article’s title and introductory paragraphs, readers of its first version may have been surprised to find that it actually told them nothing at all about the trial itself. The report’s original text did not clarify that the trial was closed to journalists and the only reference to that was found in a photo caption saying that “the trial is being held behind closed doors”.

Later on the article was amended to reflect the judge’s decision:

“Journalists waiting to report on the trial were ordered to leave by the judge, on the grounds that the accused was being treated as a minor. Such cases are usually tried in private.

But in Ms Tamimi’s case, this went against the wishes of the family.”

Three paragraphs were devoted to a statement given to journalists by Tamimi’s lawyer. 

What BBC audiences did find in this eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi in less than two months was repetition of information seen in previous reports and further amplification of partisan messaging.

“For Palestinians, Ms Tamimi is a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation, but many Israelis regard her as a violent troublemaker seeking publicity.”

“For Palestinians, Ahed Tamimi has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.”

Readers also found uncritical amplification of messaging from a political NGO which has been campaigning on Tamimi’s behalf.

“Amnesty International has called for Ahed Tamimi’s release, accusing Israel of discriminatory treatment of Palestinian children.”

The BBC even promoted a link to Amnesty International’s relevant campaign webpage.

“Human rights groups say Ahed Tamimi’s case highlights what they say is Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian minors.

About 1,400 Palestinian minors have been prosecuted in special juvenile military courts over the past three years, the IDF says.

Civil rights groups are very critical of the Israeli system, saying it lacks fundamental protections and gives no guarantee of a fair trial.”

BBC editorial guidelines on “controversial subjects and linking” state:

“Where BBC online sites covering ‘controversial subjects’ offer links to external sites, we should ensure that the information on those external sites, taken together, represents a reasonable range of views about the subject.”

In addition to that link to Amnesty International’s campaign page the article also included a link to Ahed Tamimi’s mother’s Facebook account and two links to articles on Israeli news sites – neither of which provides the required “reasonable range of views” on the “Israeli system”.

While Amnesty International was presented as a “civil rights” group, no mention was made of the relevant issue of the NGO’s long record of anti-Israel campaigning and its previous sponsorship of a speaking tour in the US by Ahed Tamimi’s father. Readers were not provided with any alternative views of the allegations levelled in AI’s political campaign supporting Tamimi.

This non-event of an article once again makes it blatantly obvious that the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC has elected to lend its voice and outreach to promotion of a blatantly political campaign.  

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

When two different BBC platforms promoted filmed reports by the BBC’s Middle East editor last week on the topic of Ahed Tamimi and her upcoming trial, many called out the bias and manipulation evident in Jeremy Bowen’s reports and in particular the fact that, while concealing from audiences the fact that the charges against Tamimi include incitement, he disingenuously promoted the false notion that she has been charged with terrorism offences because of a “slap”.

Jeremy Bowen is of course well-known for being impervious to any criticism – which he takes very grudgingly – and so it did not come as much of a surprise to see that, despite the flaws in his report having been called out, five days later an audio version that is very similar to the filmed reports was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme Newshour.  

Presenter Razia Iqbal began (from 45:06 here) by promoting Bowen’s ‘terrorism’ red herring once again. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now, is a slap an act of terrorism? A 16 year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, is soon to go on trial in an Israeli military court after she tried to eject two Israeli combat soldiers from her family’s property during a demonstration last month. She slapped one of the men when he wouldn’t go. Her mother, Nariman, videoed what happened. When that went viral, amid a storm of anger in Israel at what Ahed Tamimi had done, soldiers raided their home and took mother and daughter to jail.”

In fact Nariman Tamimi was arrested later and not at her home. Iqbal continued:

Iqbal: “Now they’ve both been charged with offences that usually carry stiff custodial sentences. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports now from the Tamimis’ home village Nabi Saleh in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.”

Bowen: “I’m on a hill in Nabi Saleh, a Palestinian village on the occupied West Bank about 45 minutes north of Jerusalem. From this hill I can see a microcosm of the conflict: neighbouring Palestinian village where clouds of tear gas arising from a minor clash. Then, across the valley, an Israeli military base and a Jewish settlement – illegal under international law.”

Bowen refrained from informing his listeners that alternative interpretations of ‘international law’ exist. Predictably, his “microcosm of the conflict” does not include Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state or Palestinian terrorism – even though three members of one family were murdered just last summer in that same “Jewish settlement” seen from his vantage point. He went on:

Bowen: “And behind me is the home of Ahed Tamimi who’s become a symbol of the conflict for both sides. Her mother Nariman filmed her slapping the Israeli soldier and Ahed’s father Bassem – a leading Palestinian activist here – is contemplating the fact that his wife and daughter are facing charges that carry years of jail time.”

Tamimi: “It’s hard for me as a father, as a husband, that my wife, my daughter, in the hands of my enemy. I am scared, worried, proud. It’s like knives in my heart, in my body. Err…”

Bowen: “You know a lot of Israelis have said in any country if you attack a soldier you face the consequences, you’re gonna end up in jail. They’re saying that she shouldn’t have done this.”

Tamimi: “What should she done under the occupation? To give them a rose and welcoming them? I think our responsibility included to resist. She should do what she done. The worst issue that the occupation is continue and she will go out of jail to continue the struggle and maybe she will [be] killed.”

Bowen: “This village Nabi Saleh is steeped in protest against the occupation. They have regular demonstrations here which often end up in stone-throwing, tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammo too. Everybody in the village has been affected by the occupation.”

Bowen had no place in his report for any mention of the victims – and their families – of terrorists from that village or the fact that Bassem Tamimi is one of the main instigators of those “regular demonstrations”. The report continued:

Unidentified voice: “There is no occupation. There is no Palestinian nation. There will never be Palestinian state and we didn’t conquered nothing. We don’t occupied nothing.”

Misrepresenting the charges against Tamimi once again, Bowen introduced that voice:

Bowen: “Some Israelis are horrified about the prospect of jailing a 16 year-old girl for a slap. But many more support the soldiers, who could be their sons or brothers. In Jerusalem, here at Israel’s parliament – the Knesset – a leading right-wing MP Oren Hazan goes much further.”

Oren Hazan is number 30 on his party’s list – hardly a “leading” slot – and is considered a highly controversial figure even within his own party. Despite Hazan having been suspended from Knesset activity on the same day that Bowen’s previous reports were aired, he was still portrayed in this audio report as “a leading right-wing MP”.

Bowen: “Let’s talk specifically about Ahed Tamimi and her case. She’s going to go to court very soon. Potentially she faces time in prison.”

Hazan: “I hope so. We need to send her to rehab: to rehab from terror. You talk about her like she’s some innocent girl that just slapped a soldier. She do it for many years.”

Bowen: “When you saw that video of her slapping the soldier, what went through your mind?”

Hazan: “If I was there she would finish in the hospital for sure. Nobody could stop me. I would kick…kick her face. Believe me.”

Bowen: “She’s a 16 year-old girl.”

Hazan: “No, I don’t look at it like this because today as a 16 year-old girl she punched a soldier. Tomorrow she will stuck a knife in his throat. It’s what she do. Today it’s a slap, tomorrow it’s a knife.”

As was the case in one of his previous filmed reports, Bowen implied to BBC World Service listeners that Israeli military courts lack due process.

Bowen: “The chances are that Ahed Tamimi and her mother will end up with jail sentences. The Israeli military courts usually convict. The occupation has been going on for 50 years and it shows no sign of ending. Incidents like this indicate the level of tension and anger that’s often just below the surface. The question is how long before, once again, it erupts into much more serious violence.”

The BBC and Jeremy Bowen knew very well even before his January 31st reports were aired that the twelve charges against Ahed Tamimi include a count of incitement that relates to a video put out by her mother on social media in which Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as it was described by Nariman Tamimi – was:

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

After his reports appeared numerous people reminded Bowen of that fact on social media. The fact that five days later the BBC chose to broadcast yet another report in which that crucial context was not provided to audiences indicates once again that the corporation and its Middle East editor have self-conscripted to a political campaign that has now included no fewer than ten separate reports on Ahed Tamimi since December 19th.  

 Related Articles:

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BBC’s Bowen revives five year-old grudge in Indy interview

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Between December 19th 2017 and January 17th 2018 the BBC promoted at least three written reports, one filmed report and three radio reports (see ‘related articles’ below) on the topic of the arrest of Ahed Tamimi.

On January 31st two more filmed reports on the same story – produced by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen – were aired on BBC platforms.

Viewers of BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ (also aired on the BBC News Channel) saw a report that has also been promoted on the programme’s webpage and on social media under the title “Is a slap an act of terror?” using the following description:

“16-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi is facing trial after she was filmed hitting an Israeli soldier. Jeremy Bowen reports from her home village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank”

The BBC News website promoted a filmed report titled “Ahed Tamimi: Was Palestinian teenager’s ‘slap’ terrorism?” on its main home page, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East’ page, the synopsis to which reads:

“Teenage Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi and her mother, Nariman, are due to go on trial, charged with security offences.

They were arrested after a video Nariman Tamimi filmed of her daughter slapping an Israeli soldier went viral.

Why is their village, Nabi Saleh, a ‘microcosm of the conflict’? The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen explains.”

Clearly both those headlines and presentations suggest to BBC audiences that Ahed Tamimi has been charged with terrorism following her assault of a soldier – but that disingenuous implication is false.

The twelve charges against Ahed Tamimi do however include one count of incitement that relates to a video put out by her mother on social media in which Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as it was described by her mother – was:

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”

The BBC knows about that charge and has mentioned it in two previously aired radio reports.

“Now there are 12 charges against Ahed Tamimi. She’s appeared before a military court. These relate to six different incidents. She’s charged with 5 counts of assaulting soldiers, also with throwing rocks, incitement to violence…” Yolande Knell, BBC World Service radio, 1/1/18

“Maurice Hirsch used to be the IDF chief prosecutor for the West Bank. He says the more serious charges against Ahed involved her alleged online call for more action to support the Palestinian cause – from protests to what she calls martyrdom operations. […]  

[Hirsch]: One of the main counts of the indictment is really incitement – publicly calling for others to commit other terrorist attacks.” Yolande Knell, BBC Radio 4, 8/1/18

Jeremy Bowen, however, chose to conceal Tamimi’s statement calling for violence – and the resulting charge – from viewers of both his filmed reports.

In the ‘News at Ten’ report, Bowen further promoted the red herring falsehood that Ahed Tamimi’s story is one about terrorism charges in his introduction.

Bowen: “Any peace in Nabi Saleh on a cold winter day is an illusion. It’s a small Palestinian village on the West Bank: a sharp thorn in the side of its occupier – Israel. The people here refuse to give in to Israel’s overwhelming power. For some Israelis that makes them terrorists.”

In the BBC News website report viewers are likewise told that Nabi Saleh is an “occupied village” by Ahed Tamimi’s father. BBC audiences were not told in either report that the village is in Area B and therefore under Palestinian Authority administration while Israel is responsible for security. Neither are they told that the soldier assaulted by Tamimi was located at the entrance to her family home at the time because villagers had been throwing rocks at soldiers and at a nearby road.

While that relevant context is omitted from both reports, Bowen did tell ‘News at Ten’ viewers that Ahed Tamimi:

“…told two Israeli soldiers to get off her family’s property. She’d just heard – wrongly – that [her cousin] Mohammed had died.”

Failing to explain why Palestinians are tried in military courts (and that such a situation is in fact a requirement of the Geneva Conventions) Bowen also inaccurately implied to ‘News at Ten’ audiences that those courts lack due process.

“Like all West Bank Palestinians, Ahed Tamimi is being tried in a military court which usually convicts.”

In both his reports the BBC’s Middle East editor chose to showcase one of Israel’s most controversial Knesset members, Oren Hazan, who unfortunately played right into his seasoned interviewer’s hands by claiming that “a slap is terrorism” in response to a question from Bowen.

And thus Jeremy Bowen managed to produce two widely promoted reports that not only divert audience attention away from the core issue in the story of Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment by disingenuously concealing its real background but also intentionally diminish – and indeed trivialise – the terror threat with which Israel deals on a day-to-day basis.

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

 

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

A member of the public who submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning Tweets sent by its Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas criticising a ‘Newsweek’ headline to a story about Ahed Tamimi received the following reply from BBC Complaints.

“Thanks for contacting us with your comments regarding a tweet by Middle East [sic] correspondent Kim Ghattas. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.

Kim was making the point that the newspaper concerned had not placed enough context in its headline. That’s made clear in the follow up tweets.

She is making a point about there being two sides to the issue. Her tweets were not about the incident itself but the need for more sophisticated reporting from Newsweek. She was pointing out the other perspective on the issue which was not reflected in the Newsweek headline.

We hope this is helpful, and thank you again for your feedback.”

Leaving aside the obviously highly relevant question of whether it is in fact a BBC journalist’s job to call out “the need for more sophisticated reporting” at another media organisation, let’s take another look at those Tweets which the BBC claims “were not about the incident itself”.

Obviously the statements “Her 15 yr old cousin had just been shot in the head” and “Ahed Tamimi, unarmed, slapped a gun toting Israeli soldier who was in her backyard” not only refer to the incident but portray it in a specific light. 

Moreover, Ghattas’ use of the phrase “Blame the victim?”, her claim that Ha’aretz “wrote an editorial describing her as the victim, not an assailant” and her claim that “she lives under occupation” (Nabi Saleh is in Area B) clearly show that she is advancing a specific narrative – just as she accused Newsweek of doing in a subsequent Tweet in which she also promoted the notion of “double standards”.

Although BBC editorial guidelines state that “those involved in News and Current Affairs or factual programming should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects” and “News and Current Affairs staff should not […]  advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate”, the BBC’s outsourced complaints system has, as we see, chosen to ignore those directives in its response.

Related Articles:

BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

On January 17th the BBC News website published yet another report about Ahed Tamimi – its fourth item in less than a month.

Written by Yolande Knell, the article is titled “Ahed Tamimi: Spotlight turns on Palestinian viral slap video teen” and much of its content is recycled from an audio report by Knell that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme the previous week.

As was the case in that radio report, Knell’s written article does not inform BBC audiences that the video she describes in her opening paragraphs was filmed by Ahed Tamimi’s mother, Nariman, or that the latter has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project. Knell does however provide readers with a link (the only one in the article) to Nariman Tamimi’s Facebook account.

Throughout the article Knell describes Ahed Tamimi in the following terms:

“To some she’s a modern-day Joan of Arc.”

“…Ahed Tamimi is now a famous Palestinian prisoner…”

“For many Palestinians, Ahed is a hero of their nationalist struggle for the digital age. They see her standing up to the reality of Israeli occupation, defending her home with her bare hands.”

Knell tells readers that:

“Aged 11, Ahed was filmed threatening to punch a soldier after her older brother was arrested. Two years ago, she bit a soldier trying to detain her younger brother.”

As was the case in the audio report, she did not bother to inform readers that Tamimi’s then 12 year-old brother was throwing rocks at the time.

The four interviewees who appeared in Knell’s audio report – Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky, her father Bassem Tamimi, Israeli MK Anat Berko and former IDF chief prosecutor Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch – are also quoted in this written report.

As was noted here when the indictment against her was issued at the beginning of the month, in addition to charges of assault and stone-throwing, Ahed Tamimi was also charged with incitement.

“Regarding the incitement charge, the MAG [Military Attorney General] cited a statement given by Ahed to her mother, who was filming the December 15 incident on Facebook Live. Immediately following the squabble, Nariman asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [Donald] Trump made his declaration and [the Americans] need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us,” Ahed added, apparently referring to the US president’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” she concluded.”

However, in one of her final paragraphs Knell presents BBC audiences with a very different interpretation of Tamimi’s call for violence.  

“At the end of the online video, Ahed calls for large demonstrations as “the only way to reach results”, but says US President Donald Trump must bear responsibility for any Palestinian violence, including stabbings and suicide attacks.”

Interestingly, a report in the Jerusalem Post shows that Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky used a remarkably similar claim in court.

“Gaby Lasky, a high-profile human rights lawyer and Meretz activist who is defending Tamimi, told the court Monday that the Palestinian teen mostly was protesting US President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

She said Tamimi’s message was “Trump needs to take responsibility” for a negative decision which led to an outcry of Palestinian protests.”

And that raises the question (not for the first time) of whether Yolande Knell is a reporter or a political activist who compromises the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. 

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi