BBC’s Knell showcases Electronic Intifada

A recent article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell indicates that the BBC is not even trying to pretend to appear impartial on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict any longer. 

Knell uses a report dated March 2nd 2013 – entitled “Israeli army ire over social media posts” – as a platform from which to advertise and promote the virulently anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada and its co-founder Ali Abunimah, with some 28.5% of her total word count dedicated to showcasing Abunimah’s activities and views. 

Knell social media

With Egypt in turmoil yet again and Syria imploding by the day, the decision by BBC News website editors to find the space on their Middle East page to run a piece based on such spectacularly trivial subject matter is nothing short of jaw-dropping. But of course the daily drip drip of material portraying Israel as a dark and unenlightened society must be offered up, and who better to recruit for that purpose than a man who dedicates his life to the demonization of Israel, with the aim of bringing about that country’s demise.  

Perhaps it was information from Abunimah which prompted Knell to make the claim that:

“Israeli citizens and Jews overseas have been recruited to various public diplomacy campaigns to promote Israel on the internet.”

Then we arrive at the ‘starring Ali Abunimah’ corner:

Ali Abunimah (L) at Leeds University ‘Israel Apartheid week’ 2011

“Online activists on both sides also scour the net for videos, comments and photos giving insights that support their views. IDF soldiers’ personal accounts are among those monitored.

Last month, a 20-year-old Israeli soldier was reprimanded for posting a photograph of a Palestinian boy’s head in the crosshairs of a sniper’s rifle.

The picture was discovered on Instagram by Palestinian activist, Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website.

“We look at social media accounts coming out of Palestine/Israel, whether it’s Instagram or Twitter or YouTube. We’re really looking for anything interesting and newsworthy,” he says. “We’ll investigate it and try to find some context.”

His website had hundreds of thousands of hits after it published sets of controversial Instagram pictures by Israeli recruits. International media also picked up on them.

“They had an enormous impact. I think people saw different things in them. When I looked at the picture of the child in the crosshairs, to me it really captured in a sense symbolically the way that the Israeli army and occupation views Palestinians – as potential targets,” Mr Abunimah says.

The IDF was quick to tell reporters that sharing the photograph was “a severe incident”, out of keeping with its values.

Other Instagram photographs since highlighted by Electronic Intifada include an American-Israeli soldier apparently posing naked with guns while on base and illegally smoking marijuana. His public comments express hatred of Arabs.”

“Newsworthy”? “context”? Anyone familiar with Abunimah’s  petty, yet relentless, mudslinging and ugly ad hominem campaigns will by now be wondering if this is the same Ali Abunimah they know only too well. 

Abunimah Burgas tweet

Abunimah Holocaust tweet

Abnimah jail state tweet

Abunimah tweet 3rd intifada

abunimah gaza tweets

So to sum it up: in an article about social media, the BBC promotes and sanitises the opinions of a man who uses social media to propagate conspiracy theories about a terror attack, to promote antisemitic Nazi analogies and to excuse and advocate terrorist violence against Israeli civilians, and who also runs a website which turns out a daily tirade of defamatory and even dangerous incitement against Israel.  

Ali Abunimah (L) at the 2010 ‘one-state’ conference in Stuttgart

But as we see, Yolande Knell and her editors have completely neglected to inform the BBC audiences reading this report of the nature of Ali Abunimah’s website or of his wider associations and his prime function as a campaigner for the dismantling of the Jewish State. Apparently they need reminding of the clause in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines which states: 


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

Clearly the fact that Ali Abunimah is “associated with a particular viewpoint” which promotes the destruction of a particular state and the denial of self-determination to one particular ethnic group is of considerable relevance when he is being quoted in an article concerning that particular country. 

The fact that the BBC News website’s editors are willing to promote and grant the BBC stamp of respectability to an extremist site such as ‘Electronic Intifada’ – together with its co-founder – indicates that their own political sympathies render them incapable of self-regulation. Presumably they will therefore continue down the road of making a laughing-stock of the supposed BBC value of impartiality. 


Which sources does the BBC Jerusalem Bureau use?

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page will notice among the articles concerning Israel a video report by Wyre Davies on the subject of the exchange of fire in the Golan Heights on November 12th, as well as a report on the continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Wyre Davies’ report, entitled “Israeli tanks ‘hit Syrian units “, appears to have been broadcast on BBC domestic news programmes. 

As well as the obvious – and by now pretty predictable – ‘last-first’ headline, which places the accent on the Israeli response rather than on the incident which caused it, the report has Wyre Davies telling viewers that:

“We understand there is quite a lot of military activity on the ground and in the air…”


“…the Israeli military is in the area in large numbers, we understand”

The use of the word ‘understand’ suggests that neither Davies nor any of his extensive Jerusalem Bureau team were actually present in the Golan at the time, and his source for the information is not disclosed. But the addition of those two sentences to the report certainly adds tension to it and affords support to Davies’ opening claim that “this is a significant development”. 

There is, however, just one problem. Davies’ source apparently forgot to inform him that a large-scale military exercise – entirely unconnected to the border events, planned a long time in advance and announced on national radio stations – took place yesterday (November 12th) in the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee. 

It was, therefore, to be expected that there would be “quite a lot of military activity” in the area and Davies’ attempt to connect that to the Syrian breaches of border integrity is inaccurate.

Down on the south-western front where, as of Tuesday morning, the rocket fire at civilian communities continues, the BBC has finally managed to come up with an accurate headline. 

Further down the article, however, we read the following: [emphasis added]

“Militant factions, excluding Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said they fired the latest round of rockets. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from there.”

One wonders how this latest BBC attempt to exonerate Hamas from responsibility for the deliberate targeting of civilians with military-grade weapons managed to ignore the various statements and articles put out by Hamas itself.

The lack of accuracy of both the above reports raises questions as to the nature of the sources upon which the BBC Jerusalem Bureau relies for information which it then transmits to the general public.

Then again, perhaps those questions are actually not too difficult to answer

For more on Donnison’s Twitter buddy – and apparent source of information – read here, here , here and here.