BBC WS radio’s ‘context’: falsehoods about counter terrorism measures

BBC coverage of last week’s escalation of violence during which terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired 690 rockets at civilian communities in Israel included an item aired in the May 5th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’, hosted by James Menendez.

The item (from 00:10 here) commenced with analysis from Alan Johnston who referred to a “deal” brokered by the Egyptians to bring an end to the previous exacerbation in March which he described as including:

“…easing of the blockade which Israel imposes on Gaza – the blockade that cripples economic and many other aspects of life in Gaza…”

Making no effort to inform listeners why that blockade was put in place or how Palestinian Authority actions and Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism over civilian well-being have contributed to the current state of affairs in the Gaza Strip, Johnston went on to amplify the narrative promoted by Gaza Strip based terror groups.

“Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza are unhappy with the Israelis for not implementing that…their side of the deal. That’s the Palestinian Gazan view of the situation.”

Johnston’s contribution ended there, with listeners hearing nothing at all about the Israeli “view of the situation” – including the rocket fire days earlier (unreported by the BBC) which brought about a reduction of the fishing zone or the fact that Israel disputes the claims made by Gaza Strip terror groups concerning the delay of transfer of cash from Qatar.

With that one-sided framing in place, Menendez introduced another ‘analyst’ at 04:08.

Menendez: “Well Tareq Baconi is an analyst with the non-profit International Crisis Group. He’s based in Ramallah in the West Bank. He’s also the author of ‘Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance’. Why does he think the violence has flared up again now?”

Despite the BBC having editorial guidelines which stipulate that audiences should be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of contributors, listeners were told nothing of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) record, agenda and fundingincluding its receipt of donations from Qatar which are obviously relevant to the story, given that country’s history of support for Hamas.

Neither were listeners informed that Tareq Baconi – formerly a Policy Fellow with Al Shabaka – has repeatedly made his own position on Hamas clear, including in his book:

“Hamas rules Gaza and the lives of the two million Palestinians who live there. Demonized in media and policy debates, various accusations and critical assumptions have been used to justify extreme military action against Hamas. The reality of Hamas is, of course, far more complex. Neither a democratic political party nor a terrorist group, Hamas is a multifaceted liberation organization, one rooted in the nationalist claims of the Palestinian people.” [emphasis added]

Obviously that information would have been critical in helping audiences reach informed opinions about the one-sided talking points they were about to hear but rather than providing it, the BBC chose to present Baconi’s contribution as impartial analysis. Like Johnston, Baconi presented just one explanation for the “quite dire” situation in the Gaza Strip, erasing Hamas terrorism and inter-factional Palestinian disputes from the picture.

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

Baconi: “I think the cause is that there are fundamental demands that the Palestinians in Gaza are requesting that Israel abide by – namely the humanitarian suffering and the economic situation in Gaza – and by virtue of the blockade the situation in Gaza continues to be quite dire. So often these escalations are ways for the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to pressure Israel into abiding by its side of ceasefire agreements. We can pinpoint the specific reason for this latest escalation. There are several things that are happening. The Eurovision contest is happening next week and we’re coming up to milestones and anniversaries that are quite full of emotion for Palestinians: Nakba of course on May 15 which is the same day that Israel celebrates its Independence Day. And domestically within Israel Netanyahu is currently in discussions to form a new coalition government.”

Menendez: “I mean is there any reason to think from the Palestinian point of view that doing this will bring that relief that they want, that at the moment they have any greater leverage – because it doesn’t look like it, does it?”

Listeners heard nothing about the context to the counter-terrorism measure which is the blockade and they were wrongly led to believe both that Israel has made agreements with “the factions in Gaza” and that the terms of understandings in fact brokered by third parties “never translates into action”.

Baconi: “Well the issue that we need to remember here is that Israel has historically – certainly over the course of the last decade since the blockade was first imposed on the Gaza Strip but definitely over the course of the past year or so – it has shown that it only really responds to force. It has reinforced that message time and again. It’s only when Hamas and other factions fire rockets at Israel that Israel countenances taking any measures that might relieve the suffering in the Gaza Strip. Even though every kind of ceasefire agreement between Israel and the factions in Gaza have been predicated on the simple understanding that there will be calm in Israel’s southern communities if the situation in the Gaza Strip changes, that never translates into action so while Hamas and other factions do restrain any kind of activity from the Gaza Strip, Israel never responds by meeting its obligations under a ceasefire. So really whether or not Hamas has more of a chance now is unclear but that’s sort of beside the point because it’s unclear what other measures Hamas has. If the Gaza Strip isn’t a source of rocket fire, it’s forgotten from Israel’s perspective and the collective punishment of two million Palestinians sort of becomes acceptable or forgotten.”

Menendez had nothing to say about Baconi’s promotion of the “collective punishment” myth but went on to describe terror groups that launch military-grade rockets at civilians as “militants”.

Menendez: “Is there a danger then, if the Palestinian militants feel that they’ve got nothing to lose at this stage, that we could be on the brink of another big conflagration as we saw, what, in 2014?”

Baconi: “Absolutely. I think that’s always a danger. I think neither Hamas nor Israel wants an escalation which is what’s so ironic about this dynamic. The dynamic keeps repeating itself every few months but neither party necessarily wants an escalation. Hamas certainly; it rightly believes that any escalation will be hugely destructive for the Gaza Strip in terms of the loss of life – certainly civilian life – but also in terms of infrastructure and the destruction that we’ve seen Israel unleash over the Gaza Strip repeatedly in the past. The Gaza Strip is already according to the UN close to being uninhabitable. Another military assault by Israel would be devastating. And in return, Israel certainly doesn’t want an escalation because Netanyahu is quite…in a quite sensitive position in his own coalition discussions. However, having said that, even though no party wants an escalation, the dynamic is such that neither party is willing to pay the political will to get out of this dynamic and here I shouldn’t actually equate both parties. The political will here rests with Israel as the stronger party and the enforcer of the blockade. The only thing that can change fundamentally this dynamic is for the blockade to be lifted and for the Gaza Strip to be dealt with as a political reality, not as a humanitarian reality.”

Menendez: “But don’t the rocket attacks just play into Israel’s hands in the sense it proves to the Israeli government that the blockade has to continue because it needs to put the squeeze on people who are firing rockets at their civilian centres?”

Baconi: “This is obviously not to justify the use of rockets: rockets in the form that Hamas is using them is a war crime because they are indiscriminate and they fall on civilians and combatants in an indiscriminate manner. But nonetheless, one needs to understand the drivers of these forms of activities and seeing the rocket fire as a response to the blockade is fundamental here. The blockade is itself an act of violence that is indiscriminately treating two million Palestinians – the vast majority of whom are youth and refugees – under collective punishment. So the idea that Israel has imposed the blockade because of the rockets is false, actually. The blockade has been imposed on the Gaza Strip in many ways since before Hamas was even created. The fundamental issue in Gaza is the fact that it’s [a] Palestinian political issue that Israel doesn’t need to or doesn’t want to address.”

Menendez made no effort whatsoever to challenge Baconi’s inversion of the facts and whitewashing of terrorism. Listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip was designated ‘hostile territory’ by Israel over two years after Israel’s disengagement from the territory and following over 2,000 rocket attacks by Gaza Strip based terrorists in which 14 Israelis were killed.

The item was closed by Menendez at that point but listeners to the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day heard a slightly different version of the same interview with Baconi which was presented by Menendez (from 00:11 here) as “the context for this sudden escalation of fighting”.

In other words, BBC World Service radio’s idea of “context” that would aid audiences to understand the story was falsehoods concerning the counter-terrorism blockade from a known Hamas apologist representing an inadequately introduced political NGO.

Related Articles:

Islamic Jihad unravels BBC amplification of Hamas claim

BBC News recycles past inaccuracies and invents new ones

BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

BBC News reporting on rocket attacks marred by inaccuracy and omission

BBC News again promotes false claims concerning death of Gaza baby

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Islamic Jihad unravels BBC amplification of Hamas claim

As we saw earlier in the week some recent BBC content unquestioningly amplified a statement made by Hamas blaming Israel for the death of a fourteen-month-old girl and her pregnant female relative in the Gaza Strip.

“Several Palestinians were killed and injured with a baby among those killed, officials in Gaza said.” BBC News website 5/5/19 (the original video was replaced by another at the same URL on May 6th following communication from BBC Watch)

“This evening the Palestinian health ministry said a 14-month-old girl was killed in an airstrike.” Tom Bateman, BBC Radio 4 5/5/19

Other BBC reports amplified the claim while adding some sort of ‘Israel says’ qualification. [emphasis added]

“…this evening the Palestinian ministry of health said that a 14-month-old girl was killed in an air strike in the east of the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military has said that it has no information on that but it says that it only targets…ah…what it describes as militant sites in the Gaza Strip.” Tom Bateman BBC World Service radio 5/5/19 

“One Israeli was killed by shrapnel, while Israeli fire killed four Palestinians, including a mother and her baby daughter, Gaza officials say.

However, Israel said the mother and baby were killed by a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.” BBC News website 5/5/19

“It [Hamas] says the dead include a woman and her 14-month-old daughter. But Israel says the mother and baby may have been killed by a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.” BBC News website 5/5/19

“Seven Palestinians were killed according to the Gaza health ministry including a fourteen-month-old baby and her pregnant mother. But the Israeli army said the family may have died as a result of what it called terrorist activities.” Tom Bateman, ‘Broadcasting House’ (from 3:56 here), BBC Radio 4, 5/5/19

“A Palestinian mother and baby in Gaza have also died but Israel insists that they were killed in some misguided fire by militants.” Alan Johnston, ‘The World This Weekend’ (from 02:20 here), BBC Radio 4, 5/5/19

“…Palestinian officials say four people were killed by Israeli strikes. An Israeli army spokesman has disputed the circumstances of the deaths of a Palestinian mother and her baby, suggesting saboteurs were to blame.” Julian Worricker, ‘Weekend’ (from 00:00 here), BBC World Service radio, 5/5/19

“Civilians, including a 12-year-old boy and two pregnant women, were also among those reportedly killed.

Israel has contested the account of the death of one woman and her 14-month-old niece on Saturday. They blamed their deaths on a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.” BBC News website 6/5/19

However, as the Jerusalem Post reports, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has since admitted that the woman and child were killed by one of its own rockets.

“The Islamic Jihad, one of the terror organizations responsible for the recent wave of attacks against Israel, admitted that the baby that was killed in Gaza during the latest escalation died as a result of a misfired rocket, TPS reported on Monday. 

“A leak from the heroes of the [Islamic Jihad’s] Sarayat al-Quds (Jerusalem Brigades) on the circumstances of the death of the baby Saba Abu ‘Arar indicates that a rocket of the resistance exploded inside the family’s home due to a technical failure, and prematurely exploded,” a news item by Hamas’ al-Risala News said. […]

According to TPS, Islamic Jihad representatives met with the victims’ family on Sunday morning to offer them compensation and to qualify the baby as a “martyr” in exchange for their silence on the circumstances of her death.”

The BBC can therefore now clarify to its domestic and international audiences that the Hamas claim it elected to broadly amplify was false and inform them that not only ‘Israel says’ that the woman and child were not killed as a result of Israeli actions.

However with the corporation having already moved on from this story, it is doubtful that BBC audiences will ever be relieved of the inaccurate impressions they were given in numerous news bulletins and reports.

 

 

 

 

 

Mapping the BBC’s branding of declarations on Jerusalem as ‘controversial’

On December 25th the BBC News website published a report titled “Jerusalem: Guatemala follows US in planning Israel embassy move” which opened as follows:

“Guatemala is to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, becoming the first country after the US to vow to do so.

It was one of only nine to vote against a UN resolution which in effect repudiated the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Israel’s PM thanked Guatemala’s president, but Palestinians branded the decision “shameful and illegal”.

Donald Trump’s controversial declaration on Jerusalem has been widely spurned around the world.”

Under the sub-heading “Why is Guatemala doing this?” readers were told that:

“President Jimmy Morales made the announcement on Facebook, noting the “excellent relations” between Guatemala and Israel.

He did not say when the move would happen.

Guatemala, along with 12 other countries, had their embassies in Jerusalem until 1980, when they moved them to Tel Aviv after Israel annexed East Jerusalem, in a move not recognised internationally. All other countries still have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Guatemala and Israel have a long history of political, economic and military ties. The Central American country is also a major recipient of US aid – something which Donald Trump threatened to cut to states that voted in favour of the UN resolution.”

Guatemala’s embassy in Israel is currently in Herzliya rather than Tel Aviv but the same erroneous statement also appeared in a report aired on BBC World Service radio programme ‘OS‘ on December 25th. Presenter Ben James told listeners (from 05:35 here) that:

James: “We’re going to talk more about Guatemala’s decision now to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, backing the US president Donald Trump’s controversial announcement that the US recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, expressing that through the location of the embassy.”

James then introduced his colleague Arturo Wallace from the BBC World Service’s Spanish language service BBC Mundo.

Wallace: “A lot of it has to do with, you know, what the United States wanted and Guatemala trying to prove that they are, like, reliable allies from [of] the United States. You know it’s always been a very, very strong relationship. United States is the biggest foreign investor, you know, huge provider of foreign aid. Guatemala, I believe, is the fourth country in the whole world in terms of foreign aid from the United States.”

After telling listeners that a lot of people from Guatemala live in the United States, Wallace seemed to suggest that repercussions against those people could occur if Guatemala did not follow the US’ lead, saying:

“…policies regarding immigration from that would have a big effect on Guatemala’s economy.”

He continued:

Wallace: “But funnily enough Guatemala also has a very strong relationship with Israel. […] Guatemala was actually the second country in the world to vote for the recognition of Israel at United Nations and ever since they have had diplomatic relationships. It was the first country ever in having an embassy in Jerusalem and they kept it there till 1980.”

BBC World Service Middle East analyst Alan Johnston then joined the conversation but had little to add other than more promotion of a now well-established BBC mantra:

Johnston: “…There’s a huge amount of tension on the city [Jerusalem] as a result of President Trump’s move…”

As we see, both these BBC reports steer audiences towards the view that Guatemala’s decision was dictated by its relations with the United States. Guatemala’s foreign minister has rejected such claims.

“The United States did not pressure Guatemala into announcing it will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Central American state’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

“There wasn’t any pressure. There wasn’t any overture from the United States to make this happen. This was a decision by the government, the state and the foreign policy of Guatemala,” the minister, Sandra Jovel, told a news conference in Guatemala City. […]

Jovel said the plan to put the embassy in Jerusalem “had been considered for the past five months, and things just lined up in a certain way and also the resolutions in the UN and everything contributed to saying that now was the right time.”

Guatemala’s assertion that it decided the move alone, without being pressed by the United States, follows criticism from the Palestinian foreign ministry and a focus on how reliant the country is on US aid and trade.”

Notably, in contrast to its copious portrayal (including in these two reports) of the December 6th US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as “controversial”, the BBC did not use that term to describe the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s December 13th declaration of “East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine”. And when Iran’s parliament declared Jerusalem “the everlasting capital of Palestine” on December 27th, the BBC did not even report that development, let alone brand it as “controversial”.  

Related Articles:

BBC reports the parts of Abbas’ OIC speech that fit its narrative

The BBC WS finds a use for the word terror, misleads on Jerusalem

BBC WS ME editor gives a partial portrayal of the Temple Mount story

When the BBC’s former Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston was kidnapped in Gaza City in 2007, another BBC journalist gave an interesting view of his job description.

“”It is his job to bring us day after day reports of the Palestinian predicament in the Gaza Strip,” said the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent, Paul Adams, himself a former Middle East reporter.” [emphasis added]

At the time, the BBC also reported the following statement:

“On Tuesday, Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti said the government was making every effort it could to secure Mr Johnston’s release.

“We in the government are deeply sorry and ashamed that this kidnapping is ongoing, especially since he is a friend of our people and has done a lot for our cause.

“His kidnapping is detrimental to our nation and our national cause,” Mr Barghouti said.” [emphasis added]

Another member of the Barghouti clan had this to say:

“Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti appealed Wednesday to the kidnappers of BBC journalist Alan Johnston to release him immediately, calling him a “friend” of the Palestinians. […] “From my cell, and in the name of 10,000 prisoners in the occupation jails, I appeal and call immediately for the release of journalist Alan Johnston, the friend of the Palestinian people,” Barghouti said in a statement sent to reporters.” [emphasis added]

Following his release in July 2007, Johnston spent several years broadcasting and reporting on issues unrelated to the Middle East but was later appointed to the post of BBC World Service Middle East editor. Although those following the BBC’s Israel related coverage have heard comparatively little from Johnston since that appointment came into effect some two years ago, that has changed in the last couple of weeks, with Johnston providing commentary on the latest flare-up of violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere. 

The lead story in the July 23rd late edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ concerned the attack on a security official at the Israeli embassy in Amman (from 00:11 here). Presenter James Coomarasamy brought in “our Middle East analyst” Alan Johnston who had little news to bring listeners about the incident itself at that stage. However, Johnston went on to tell listeners:

Johnston: “Now, we have no more information; it’s just not clear what sparked this but in the absence of more concrete information, I think there is bound to be speculation – speculation – that this was an attack of some kind and that it was linked to the current tensions in Jerusalem. And as you know, Palestinians there have been angered by Israel’s introduction of new security measures at the holy site known to Muslims as the Haram al Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.”

Coomarasamy: “What’s the latest about that particular controversy?”

Johnston then gave a noteworthy portrayal of the story that began on July 14th.

Johnston: “Well that controversy [sighs] began when there were two Israeli policemen killed in the vicinity of the holy site and the Israelis introduced metal detectors in the area.”

Remarkably, the BBC World Service’s senior “analyst” did not bother to inform listeners who murdered the two Israeli policemen or that the incident was a terror attack. Neither did he make any mention of the all-important fact that the terrorists used weapons smuggled into al Aqsa mosque by an accomplice – as shown in footage released by the Israeli police three days before this programme was aired. Although that footage is obviously crucial for understanding of the decision to install metal detectors, it has not been shown or described to BBC audiences on this or any other BBC platform. Johnston continued:

Johnston: “They [Israel] would argue that that’s a wholly legitimate security measure but of course Palestinians see this very, very differently. They see the arrival of the metal detectors as a sign of their Israeli occupiers seeking to gain more control over this crucially important, sensitive holy site.” [emphasis added]

Johnston did not bother to balance his uncritical amplification of the Palestinian narrative with factual information that would help listeners understand that Israel is responsible for security at the site and that the installation of metal detectors does not breach existing arrangements. Neither did he make any effort to tell listeners of the incitement and repeated calls for ‘days of rage’ by Palestinian leaders before he went on to promote equivalence between Palestinians killed while rioting and Israelis murdered by a terrorist while having a family dinner.

Johnston: “There’ve been protests, there’s been violence and there’s [sic] been deaths on both the Israeli and Palestinian side.”

After Johnston had noted the installation of CCTV security cameras at the site, Coomarasamy summed up his framing of the story as follows: [emphasis added]

Coomarasamy: “So it’s a case of popular frustration and anger. But what sort of impact is this having on a political and diplomatic level?”

Johnston: “Well this site is of such huge importance; it’s difficult to overstate that and everybody involved knows just how dangerous tensions there can become. They can rip across not just the Palestinian territories but the entire Muslim world.”

That of course is true – and it is precisely the reason why journalists reporting this story need to tell it in its entirety rather than editing out or downplaying Palestinian terrorism, incitement and pre-planned violence and rioting.

This is not however the first time that Johnston has done just that. Exactly two years ago when Palestinians rioted on Temple Mount, Johnston ‘explained’ to BBC audiences that Israel was to blame:

“…it’s more than just religious feeling that gives rise to scenes like this. Decades of Israeli occupation fuels an endless, simmering frustration among Palestinians and that always feeds into this kind of violence in Jerusalem.”

While reporting that promotes the notion of ‘frustrated’, ‘angered’ Palestinians devoid of any agency or responsibility for their actions while avoiding uncomfortable facts such as the racist hatred, incitement and glorification of terror regularly promoted by Palestinian leaders may be conducive to being lauded as a “friend of the Palestinian people”, it certainly does not serve the interests of the BBC’s funding public or meet the BBC’s obligations.

One would of course expect better from any BBC journalist – but in particular from one carrying the title BBC World Service Middle East editor.

Related Articles:

 More misleading BBC reporting on Tisha B’Av Temple Mount rioting 

 

More misleading BBC reporting on Tisha B’Av Temple Mount rioting

In addition to the written report (since slightly, but not significantly, amended) about the rioting on Temple Mount on July 26th which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and was discussed here, BBC television news audiences saw two filmed reports on the same topic.

Both reports also appeared on the BBC News website. The earlier one – by Mariko Oi – is titled “Palestinians and Israeli police clash at al-Aqsa mosque” and, like the written report, its synopsis misleads audiences on cause and effect, erasing the premeditated nature of the violence.AAM 26 7 filmed 1

“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police who have entered the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians are understood to have barricaded themselves into the mosque on Saturday.

Israeli media said the Palestinians had intended to disrupt visits to the area known to Jews as the Temple Mount.”

The filmed footage in that report does not show the rioting on Temple Mount at all. Nevertheless, Oi’s commentary is as follows:

“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police at the Al Aqsa complex in East Jerusalem – one of Islam’s holiest sites. The Palestinians occupied the mosque on Saturday and Israeli police said they were planning to disrupt visits to the area which is also sacred to Jews, who call it Temple Mount. When police moved into the mosque they were hit by a barrage of stones. They then forced the Palestinians to back into the mosque and away from the area visited by Israelis.”

Once again this report fails to make any mention of the fact that a high volume of visitors to the Western Wall and Temple Mount was expected on that day due to the fast of Tisha B’Av. Like the written report, this one too leads audiences to believe that violence came as a result of the arrival of the police at the Al Aqsa mosque rather than the other way round.

Later on in the day, viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a second filmed report on the same subject – this time from Alan Johnston. Despite being headlined “Fighting flares at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque“, that film too includes no footage of the actual rioting on Temple Mount. Its synopsis on the BBC News website reads as follows:AAM 26 7 filmed 2

“Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police who entered the al-Aqsa mosque complex in East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians are said to have barricaded themselves inside the mosque and thrown stones at police, who moved in to stop them.

The mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, is in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif site also revered by Jews.”

The opening lines of Johnston’s commentary suggest to viewers that the violence was sparked by Jews observing the fast of Tisha B’Av – which he neither names nor explains.

“Rage in the Holy City. Extreme tension in the alleyways in the heart of old Jerusalem. The trouble came as Jewish worshippers were being drawn into the area in large numbers; coming to gather here at the Western Wall to pray on a particularly significant day in their religious calendar.”

Johnston goes on to portray the premeditated violent rioting as “protest”:

“But up above there was trouble. According to the Israeli side there was a Palestinian protest at the Al Aqsa mosque.”

After a brief interview with the spokesman for the Israeli police force, Johnston continues his narrative whilst on screen viewers see still photographs from the scene.

“The police had forced their way into the entrance of this holy place, cleared barricades, then slammed the doors with the demonstrators inside.”

Although filmed footage of the rioting on Temple Mount on July 26th is available in the public domain, the BBC has chosen not to show it to audiences. The footage below – filmed by the Israeli police spokesman’s unit – shows the scenes which the above words from Johnston purport to describe.

Johnston closes his report as follows:

“Inevitably, the tensions up on the sacred site spilled into the surrounding neighbourhood. But it’s more than just religious feeling that gives rise to scenes like this. Decades of Israeli occupation fuels an endless, simmering frustration among Palestinians and that always feeds into this kind of violence in Jerusalem.”

Johnston’s messaging for BBC audiences is amply evident. In addition to the implication that this particular bout of violence was brought about because Jews went to pray “in large numbers”, viewers are clearly told that the problem of violence in Jerusalem in general is also caused by Israelis and their “occupation”.

According to Johnston’s narrative ‘frustrated’ Palestinians are devoid of any agency or responsibility and there is no room in his account for uncomfortable facts such as the racist hatred, incitement and glorification of terror regularly preached in the Al Aqsa mosque and others, propagated by official PA media and schoolbooks and promoted by Palestinian leaders. Neither does Johnston’s narrative include any mention of the female ‘guardians of the compound’ – paid by the Hamas-linked Northern Islamic Movement to harass non-Muslim visitors to Temple Mount – or of the paid rioters at the same site.

Johnston’s messaging is of course symptomatic of the BBC’s general approach to this issue. After the rioting on July 26th, Hamas issued calls for one of its ubiquitous ‘days of rage’ this coming Friday (July 31st).

AAM Hamas day of rage 2

AAM Hamas day of rage 1

BBC audiences have of course been told nothing about that by the media organization supposedly committed to building “a global understanding of international issues”.  

When does the BBC call a kidnapping a kidnapping?

As has been noted here previously, the vast majority of recent BBC reports on the subject of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th have refrained from describing the youths as kidnapped, instead preferring to use more ambiguous language such as “missing”, “apparent abductions”, “believed seized” or “disappeared”.

Concurrently, the BBC has on numerous occasions inaccurately informed audiences that there has been no claim of responsibility for the kidnappings (there have in fact been four such claims, although their credibility is doubtful) whilst stressing that Hamas denies responsibility and cherry-picking quotes from that organisation’s officials. In a nutshell, the BBC’s current approach to the incident can be summed up in a sentence used in its June 18th report:

“He [The Israeli Prime Minister] has accused the group [Hamas] of abducting the students, but not provided proof.” 

Despite the fact that Israeli intelligence reports point to Hamas responsibility for the kidnappings, the BBC might perhaps claim that the fact that no group has so far provided concrete evidence that it holds the abducted teens is the reason for its ambiguous approach. It is therefore interesting to take a look at how it portrayed another kidnapping seven years ago – that of BBC reporter Alan Johnston in the Gaza Strip.Johnston kidnapping

Alan Johnston was kidnapped on March 12th 2007 by the Salafist Jihadist group ‘The Army of Islam’, not far from the BBC’s Gaza office. Nearly two months later – on May 8th – that group (which had previously denied any connection to Johnston’s disappearance) sent a tape to Al Jazeera which included the first concrete evidence that he had been kidnapped.

One might therefore expect that a look through the archives would show that between March 12th and May 8th, the BBC’s almost daily reports on the topic would have referred to Johnston as “missing”, “apparently abducted”, “believed seized” or “disappeared”. That was indeed the case during the first week – see for example reports here, here and here.  However, one week into the incident, the BBC’s approach changed.

“Earlier, the BBC said it now seemed certain the reporter had been abducted.

The BBC’s Middle East bureau chief Simon Wilson said he was disappointed there was no firm news, adding it was time to redouble efforts to find him.”

From then and up until the arrival of the tape on May 8th, BBC reports and statements made by BBC officials presented the issue in very unambiguous terms, as the April 12th statement from the BBC’s Director General illustrates.

“It is exactly one month ago today that our colleague Alan Johnston was abducted in Gaza City while travelling home, from the BBC office to his apartment.”

Another example comes in this report from April 16th:

“BBC colleagues have rallied for Mr Johnston, 44, who was abducted at gunpoint in Gaza City on 12 March.”

And yet another in this one from April 10th:

“Johnston was taken hostage by masked gunmen as he returned to his apartment in Gaza City on March 12.

Kidnappers have abducted dozens of foreigners in Gaza, but none has been held so long as Johnston.

Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s head of newsgathering, said: “The longer it goes on, the more concerned that we become. He is incarcerated, and what that must be doing to his mental state and his general health, we have no idea.” “

So as we see, the BBC did not have to wait for concrete evidence and a clear claim of responsibility in order to declare Alan Johnston kidnapped.

Different standards, however, appear to be at play in the case of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-ad Sha’ar.

Related Articles:

Don’t mention the baklava: BBC reports on kidnapping of Israeli teens

Still no BBC reporting on Palestinian celebrations of kidnappings

BBC’s Evan Davis promotes notion that search for kidnapped teens is ‘collective punishment’

A fourth BBC report on kidnapping refrains from reporting Palestinian celebrations

Two more misleading BBC News reports on search for kidnapped teens

Nicky Campbell ‘contextualises’ kidnapping of Israeli teens on BBC radio 5 live

Knell to BBC TV audiences: Israel ‘provoked’ Palestinians with search for kidnapped teens

Eighth BBC article on search for kidnapped teens ignores attack on Ramallah police

BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme continues template coverage of teens’ abduction

BBC News report on kidnapping suspects downplays Hamas connections

 

 

Post Vatican prayer meet missile from Gaza Strip ignored by BBC

The BBC News website’s coverage of the June 8th visit by Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican for a joint prayer meeting with the Pope included a written report titled “Pope Francis peace plea at Israel-Palestinian prayer meeting” (changes to which can be seen here) and a filmed report by Alan Johnston titled “Pope hosts Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas at Vatican“.Vatican filmed

Both those vapid reports focus primarily on the ceremony of the emblematic event but do little to clarify its lack of consequence to readers and viewers beyond the following inscrutable one-liner appearing in Alan Johnston’s insert of analysis in the written report and in the filmed version.

“But those most familiar with the harsh realities of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute are likely to look on with some considerable scepticism.”

Parts of speeches made by the Pope and his guests are quoted in both reports and readers are informed that the guests “were driven together to the Vatican gardens”, that “[t]he Pope then sat between the two presidents as a chamber orchestra played” and that “[t]he three men then shook hands and planted an olive tree”. They are also told, correctly, that:

“The Israeli president occupies a largely ceremonial position and has no formal role in peace talks. He is due to leave office at the end of this month.”

However, in line with the BBC’s usual practice, audiences are not informed that the Palestinian president’s term of office ended well over five years ago and that he has since held onto power despite holding no elected mandate.

Notably, the BBC’s written report was not updated to include the related news that, on the same evening as the Vatican event took place, Israelis living in towns and villages in the Western Negev once again found themselves running for shelter when terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a missile at civilians in the Ashkelon area.

There is, of course, nothing novel about the BBC ignoring missile attacks on Israeli civilians by Gaza Strip-based terrorist organisations, but the fact that as of the swearing-in of the new PA unity government at the beginning of June, Mahmoud Abbas and the PUG are now officially responsible for the prevention of such terror attacks is relevant and essential information with which BBC audiences have not yet been provided.