BBC’s Donnison promotes Al Haq translation of PA propaganda

At best, the Palestinian NGO Al Haq is just one of many political organisations abusing the halo of the title ‘human rights’ in order to make its anti-Israel campaigning more palatable in the West. At worst, it has a much more sinister side. 

At the beginning of February 2013, Al Haq director Shawan Jabarin visited France and whilst there, gave an interview to a French television station.

“Jabarin claimed that members of the French Parliament had promised him they would relay the matter of administrative detentions to the French foreign minister so that he could exert pressure on Israel to cancel the policy of administrative detentions and to release the imprisoned Hamas activists of the Palestinian Legislative Council.”

It therefore comes as no surprise to find that Al Haq, together with another political NGO – Addameer – took the trouble to translate into English the decidedly strange autopsy report on Arafat Jaradat produced by Dr Saber al Aloul of the Palestinian Medico-legal Institute. 

Assuming that the translation (which can be seen here) is accurate, one may at first glance wonder if Dr al Aloul is angling for a part in ‘Silent Witness’ or ‘CSI’. Not for him the usual accepted terminology of an autopsy’s findings being “consistent with” this or that. No, this super-pathologist has eliminated the need for lab tests, a police investigation, a court and a judge. He has the whole case solved in the blink of an eye, with time left over for commercials. 

“All bruises (injuries) are very recent and strong resulting from direct intensive torture”

“THE REASON OF DEATH: nervous shock as a result of extreme pain from the intensity of the injuries described above, which resulted from multiple direct and extensive acts of torture.”

Dr al Aloul’s Israeli counterparts who took part in the same autopsy are apparently nowhere near as efficient. 

“It was found that the hemorrhages and fractured ribs found during the autopsy occurred close to death and are characteristic of the resuscitation attempts that were performed on the deceased by Prison Service and MDA medical staff for 50 minutes in an effort to save his life.

No signs of other contusions were found. The toxicology tests were also negative.

There were no signs of significant change due to illness in other organs that could indicate cause of death; therefore, further tests to determine the cause will be performed.”

However, the Israeli doctors are not hurried along by the catalyst of a Palestinian Authority minister of prisoner affairs who had already pronounced that Jaradat had been “killed during the investigation” only hours after his death. Neither are they faculty members at a Palestinian university which boasts a “museum for prisoner affairs” named after one of the architects of the Munich Olympic massacre. 

Informed observers would of course take the combination of a politically motivated autopsy report and a convenient English translation provided by an NGO with a long history of delegitimisation of Israel with several pinches of salt.

Not so the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Jon Donnison, who saw fit to promote the Al Haq translated report on Twitter.

Donnison Al Haq

But hey; what is this? A mere day after Donnison kindly took care of promoting that particular chapter of PA propaganda, the PA ministry of prisoner affairs has changed its story

“The Palestinian Authority claimed Saturday that Arafat Jaradat, the 30-year-old Palestinian who died in Megiddo Prison last week, was killed by Palestinian “collaborators.”

The PA Prisoners Affairs Ministry said that Jaradat died two days after being transferred to a cell where “collaborators” were being held.”

It looks as though we will have to wait for the rest of the tests and lab results after all.

It’s a thankless job being a voluntary PA mouthpiece, isn’t it Jon?

Related posts:

BBC’s Jon Donnison Tweets unverified information again

BBC idea of ‘balance’: presenting fact and fiction on an equal footing

BBC helping along Palestinian incitement

BBC helping along Palestinian incitement

A filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Jon Donnison from the funeral of Arafat Jaradat on February 25th 2013 in the village of Saeer near Hebron was broadcast on BBC television news. 

Donnison filmed report Saeer

Let’s take a look at Donnison’s report line by line. He begins:

“The body of Arafat Jaradat: the man who Palestinians are calling their latest martyr. There are conflicting versions of how the thirty year-old father of two died.”

Notably, Donnison opens with an immediate attempt to lay down a base line of equivalence between what he terms “conflicting versions”. As previously pointed out here, that approach involves the juxtaposition fact and fiction. Donnison continues: 

 “He was being held in an Israeli prison on suspicion of stone-throwing when he was pronounced dead on Saturday.”

Donnison neglects to point out that a person was injured by Jaradat’s stone throwing and that he had confessed to the crime:

“According to sources within the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service), Jaradat was arrested on Monday, after residents from his village of Sa’ir outside Hebron said that he took part in a rock-throwing attack in November that wounded an Israeli. Jaradat confessed to the attack during questioning”.

Donnison goes on:

“Israeli officials initially said he suffered a heart attack but after an autopsy, Palestinian doctors say his body showed signs of being badly tortured.”

In fact, the spokesperson for the Israeli Prison Service initially said that Jaradat had “died of an apparent heart attack” – with apparent being the operative word. Donnison’s unquestioning repetition of claims by “Palestinian doctors” (actually, just one Palestinian doctor – the PA’s chief pathologist – was present at the autopsy) is especially bizarre in light of the fact that the results of the post mortem do not present any evidence to suggest that Jaradat was “badly tortured” at all. 

The BBC report then cuts to an interview with Issa Qaraaque, the PA Minister of prisoner affairs who – apparently having no need to wait for the results of the autopsy – had already begun flinging about accusations as early as Saturday evening; just hours after Jaradat’s death.

“The prisoner was in the hands of the Israeli Security Agency and was detained in an Israeli jail, so Israel is responsible for what happened to him.”

Donnison resumes the narration:

“The Israeli government had acknowledged Jaradat had broken ribs and bruises, but said this could have been as a result of efforts to resuscitate him.”

Donnison’s use of the word “acknowledged” here is interesting because it implies having to admit something to be true, whereas in fact it was the Israeli pathologist’s report which made that information public in the first place. This is the wording of the statement made by the Israeli Ministry of Health on Sunday evening: [emphasis added]

“This afternoon (Sunday, 24 February 2013), at the National Center for Forensic Medicine, an autopsy was performed on the body of Arafat Jaradat by Prof. Yehuda Hiss, in the presence of Prof. Arnon Afek, Director of the Health Administration at the Ministry of Health, and Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber Aloul. During the autopsy, no signs of external trauma were found apart from those pertaining to resuscitation [attempts] and a small graze on the right side of his chest. No evidence of disease was found during the autopsy. Two internal hemorrhages were detected, one on the shoulder and one on the right side of the chest. Two ribs were broken, which may indicate resuscitation attempts. The initial findings cannot determine the cause of death. At this stage, until microscopic and toxicology reports are in, the cause of death cannot be tied to the autopsy findings.”

Donnison continues:

Funeral of Arafat Jaradat

“The body of Arafat Jaradat has just been lowered into the grave in his home village of Saeer. Thousands of people have gathered here for the funeral.”

Donnison neglects to mention that Jaradat was a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, that he was given a military funeral or that many of those present at the funeral were students from the Birzeit and Al Aqsa universities bussed in for the occasion by the Palestinian Authority. 

He goes on to say: 

“There’s a lot of anger here and it comes after a week where tension has already been building across the West Bank. More than a hundred and fifty people have been injured in clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinian protesters angry at the continued detention of four Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails. There was more violence today. There are fears Jaradat’s death could fuel the flames.”

Donnison fails to inform his viewers that the “clashes” are the result of attempts by the IDF to prevent rioters from blocking roads or reaching areas inhabited by Israelis and that these riots are orchestrated.  Yet again Donnison’s report fails to mention the terror connections of those Palestinian hunger strikers and the reasons for their detention. 

The report then cuts to an interview with the Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev:

“Israel expects the Palestinian Authority to act responsibly and to prevent incitement and violence that can only exacerbate the current situation.”

Donnison concludes: 

“There has been much speculation in the Israeli media about the possibility of a third Intifada, or uprising. Many Palestinians will tell you there is little appetite for that, but there is a feeling that the status quo cannot continue. The rise in tension comes just weeks before President Obama arrives in the region and the prospect of a resumption in [sic] Middle East peace talks is as bleak as ever.”

This report – like previous ones produced by the BBC on the subject of the PA’s current political campaign surrounding the hunger strikers, together with the associated organized rioting – leads to a couple of observations.

The first of those is that the BBC appears to be avoiding presenting an accurate portrayal to its audiences of the bigger picture behind the rise in violent incidents in Judea & Samaria over the past few months (most of which it has not bothered to report at all) and the use of hunger strikers as leverage for a campaign which includes violent rioting. 

The second unavoidable observation is that some BBC correspondents and article writers are rushing to make their own contributions to the PA’s factory of incitement by regurgitating unverified allegations instead of waiting until the facts about Jaradat’s death become clear. 

Rushdi tweet Jaradat

This is not the behaviour of a reputable news outlet dedicated to accurate reporting of the facts surrounding the news. It is the behaviour of an organisation legitimising dangerous propaganda intended to stoke the fires of violent behaviour which – as has so often been the case in the past – could cost lives. 

BBC idea of ‘balance’: presenting fact and fiction on an equal footing

On February 25th 2013 the BBC sent Jon Donnison off to the village of Saeer near Hebron to cover the funeral of Arafat Jaradat who died of causes as yet unknown on Saturday at Megiddo prison.

Donnison Saeer

The resulting BBC article on the subject – which currently appears in the Middle East section of the BBC News website – is at the time of writing on its fourth version. Versions zero (original) and one can be viewed here, version two is here and version three here

Military guard of honour at Jaradat’s funeral

To its credit, the BBC report does mention Arafat Jaradat’s membership of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades although, true to form, it refers to members of the organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians as “militants” and fails to explain to readers what the organisation actually is and its connection to the ruling PA faction Fatah or to inform them of the fact that Jaradat was buried with military honours.  

“Militants from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, to which Mr Jaradat belonged, fired into the air and vowed to avenge his death, AFP news agency reported.

“This horrific crime will not go unpunished and we promise the Zionist occupation that we will respond to this crime,” it said in a statement distributed at the scene, the agency said.”

What the BBC also fails to explain to readers is that the above statement is a declaration of intent to carry out more terror attacks. In a section not reported by the BBC, the same statement also said:

“Al Aqsa brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah national liberation movement, mourns with all pride its hero, the martyr of freedom, the prisoner Arafat Jaradat”.

Interestingly, the BBC’s reporter on the ground did not apparently think it necessary to inform his readers of scenes from Jaradat’s funeral such as the one below, photographed by journalist Asaf Gabor.

ילדות פלסטיניות בהלוויתו של ערפאת ג'רדאת

But the most notable feature about this article is the manner in which it juxtaposes the findings of professional criminal pathologists (not “morticians” as the BBC described those who carried out the autopsy on Jaradat in version two of its article, or even “physicians” as stated in version three) with the politically motivated, agenda-driven propaganda of a PA minister who not only was not present at the autopsy, but, along with several others, began an energetic campaign to promote the notion that Israel is responsible for Jaradat’s death literally hours after the event. 

The article opens:

“Palestinians say Arafat Jaradat, 30, died from torture, while Israel says a post-mortem was inconclusive and that investigations into his death continue.”

Actually, “Israel” – or more accurately, the Israeli Ministry of Health – did not say that the post-mortem was “inconclusive”, but that, as yet, it has not been completed:

“The initial findings cannot determine the cause of death. At this stage, until microscopic and toxicology reports are in, the cause of death cannot be tied to the autopsy findings.”

(It is worth knowing that in some 2% of all autopsies it is not possible to determine the cause of death; for example in cases of cardiac arrhythmia.)  

The BBC report continues:

“The father-of-two died six days later at Megiddo prison, from what the Israel Prison Service (IPS) said appeared to be a heart attack.

Palestinian officials, however, said an autopsy, carried out by Israeli physicians showed he had suffered two broken ribs and had bruising.

“[Arafat Jaradat] faced harsh torture, leading to his immediate, direct death. Israel is fully responsible for his killing,” Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs Issa Karake said.”

In the accompanying “at the scene” side box in the report, Donnison also uncritically repeats Palestinian claims – not only despite having no evidence of their veracity, but also in spite of there being no basis for such claims according to the initial autopsy report and with no cause of death having been determined so far.

“There’s real anger here. Palestinians believe Mr Jaradat was tortured before he died in an Israeli prison. Israel disputes this. But this comes after a week where tension has already been building across the West Bank.”

One would expect a Western media outlet which prides itself on its commitment to accuracy to be able to distinguish between the wheat of a scientific medical report and the chaff of agenda-driven rumour mongering. One would also expect that organisation’s self-declared role as an enabler of its audiences’ understanding of world events to cause it to refrain from presenting the factual and the fictional on an equal basis as though both were of comparative legitimacy. 

Audiences do not need to go to the BBC for a dose of rumour and speculation: for that there is a whole host of agenda-driven websites on the internet. From the BBC, audiences expect facts – not to mention the ability to distinguish between an as yet uncompleted autopsy report and an “inconclusive” one. 

BBC’s Jon Donnison Tweets unverified information again

Will the BBC’s Jon Donnison ever learn? 

Donnison Jaradat tweet

For those not familiar with Twitter, the letters MT at the beginning mean ‘modified tweet’. In other words, Donnison took someone else’s Tweet and modified it before retweeting it to his own followers. In this case, the original Tweet came from the none too objective Reuters correspondent in Ramallah, Noah Browning, just seven minutes before Donnison’s retweet. 

Browning tweet

Of course neither Browning nor Donnison have produced any evidence to support their claim that Arafat Jaradat, who died suddenly on February 23rd in Meggido prison, was “in interrogation” at the time of his death. At present, the suspected cause of death is a cardiac arrest, but the full investigation into the incident has of course not yet been completed. 

“Investigators have already started collecting testimonies from guards at the prison and those in contact with Jaradat before his death. Defense officials have offered Palestinian Authority officials to be involved  in the autopsy, if one is conducted, and said they will be updated on the investigation.”

The so far uncorroborated rumour that Jaradat was “in interrogation” at the time of his death was promoted by the PA’s Minister for Prisoner Affairs:

” “Arafat Jaradat… was arrested a few days ago. He was killed during the investigation,” the Palestinian minister in charge of prisoner affairs Issa Qaraqaa told AFP.

“We demand the creation of an international commission of inquiry to probe the circumstances of his death,” Qaraqaa added.”

The Minister seems not to have coordinated his version of the story with representatives of other Palestinian groups:

“Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, denounced Israel and accused it of negligence. He said Jaradat died because he was not properly diagnosed and hospitalized. He called on the international community to intervene to prevent similar cases.”

 Jaradat had been in detention for several days:

“Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, said in a statement to reporters that the 30-year-old Jaradat was arrested on Feb. 18 after residents in his West Bank village of Saeer said he was involved in a rock-throwing attack that injured an Israeli citizen. Jaradat admitted to the charge, as well to another West Bank rock-throwing incident last year, the Shin Bet said.”

Unsurprisingly, more rioting took place after the news of Jaradat’s death became public and the violence continued into Sunday, mainly in areas around Hebron and with attempts made to block roads. In recent weeks, there has been an orchestrated rise in the level of violence, with the self-inflicted hunger strikes by four Palestinian prisoners used as leverage. As veteran reporter and analyst Khaled Abu Toameh wrote recently:

“Although the Palestinian Authority probably does not want an all-out confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis at this stage, some Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah believe that a “mini-intifada” would serve the Palestinians’ interests, especially on the eve of Obama’s visit.

The officials hope that scenes of daily clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank will prompt Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to make far-reaching concessions to the Palestinian Authority.

This is why the Palestinian Authority leadership has been encouraging its constituents lately to wage a “popular intifada” against Israel, each time finding another excuse to initiate confrontations between Palestinians and Israel.”

Donnison’s latest irresponsible contribution (hallmarked, of course, with the stamp of BBC reliability) to the reservoir of unsubstantiated accusations and rumours which feed these violent confrontations shows that he has learned nothing from his previous trigger-happy Twitter blunder.

Some organisations committed to accuracy might see that as a liability.