BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

As noted here previously, in the May 15th edition of BBC One’s ‘BBC Breakfast’, presenter Louise Minchin claimed that a baby was among those killed the previous day during violent rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border.

Minchin: “Fifty-eight people have been killed. We understand that some of them were children, including a baby. Is this not excessive force?”

In a filmed report aired on domestic and international BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website on May 16th, the BBC’s Middle East editor promoted the same claim.

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

Jeremy Bowen’s report was also embedded into an article titled “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN” that was published on the BBC News website on May 15th.

The last picture featured in a photo essay published on the BBC News website’s ‘In Pictures’ page on May 15th was an image taken by Reuters photographer Mohammed Salem relating to the same story which was originally captioned:

“The mother of 8-month-old Palestinian infant Laila al-Ghandour, who died after inhaling tear gas during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at the Israel-Gaza border, mourns during her funeral in Gaza City, May 15,2018.”

The same image was used to illustrate the webpage of an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on May 15th.

A report titled “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years” that appeared on the BBC News website on May 15th includes the following:

Similar images appear in a report by BBC Hindi aired on May 15th and still available online.

It is therefore more than likely that BBC audiences will have received the impression that Israel was responsible for the death of an eight month-old baby on May 15th. However, as noted here on May 16th, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry’s claim that the baby had died from tear-gas inhalation was soon called into question.

BBC Watch contacted ‘BBC Breakfast’ with a request for on-air clarification of the fact that the cause of the baby’s death is as yet unclear but, beyond acknowledgement of receipt of the e-mail, has not received a reply.

On May 25th it was reported that:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said an 8-month-old girl has been taken off a list of Palestinians killed in border clashes with Israeli troops last week, while authorities await results of a pathologist’s report.

Layla al-Ghandour had originally been listed among the 60 Palestinians killed during massive border protests on the Gaza fence on May 14. The infant’s death intensified condemnation of Israel over the violence, though the health ministry has since signaled the child may not have been killed from tear gas inhalation but rather because of a pre-existing condition.”

The BBC’s newspaper of choicethe Guardian – reported that:

“Leila’s family has blamed the Israeli army for her death. The New York Times cited the family as saying the child suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart disease.

A copy of an initial hospital report seen by the Guardian said the infant had heart defects since birth and suffered a “severe stop in blood circulation and respiration”. It did not say if teargas inhalation had contributed to her death.”

However, as we see above, there is still plenty of BBC material available online which leads audiences to believe that Israel is responsible for the baby’s death and to date the BBC has failed to clarify to its audiences that the claim it widely promoted has been called into question.  

 

 

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After three months BBC corrects inaccurate claim

Back in January the BBC News website published an article about one of the communities of Jews who immigrated to Israel from India in which readers were told that:

“…the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962 when the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities.”

As noted here at the time, that portrayal is inaccurate and BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website but did not receive a reply.

Mr Stephen Franklin made a complaint to the BBC on that issue which was initially rejected. Mr Franklin filed a second complaint and – two months later – received the following response:

“Thank you for getting in touch again about our feature article entitled: Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-42731363) and we’re sorry that the initial response from our central complaints team did not address your specific concerns.

To hopefully do so now, you are quite correct and we’ve since amended this sentence to now read:

But the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962, when a rabbinic council decreed that Bene Israelis would have to have their maternal ancestry investigated if they wanted to marry Jews from other communities.

We’ve also added a correction note at the bottom of the article which outlines this change.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The footnote added to the article reads:

The continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that anyone who read this article in the three months since its publication will be unlikely to know that it included inaccurate information.

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BBC News inaccurately reports an Israeli story from the sixties

BBC News inaccurately reports an Israeli story from the sixties

On January 19th an article written by the BBC Hindi journalist Zubair Ahmed was published on the BBC News website’s ‘India’ and ‘Middle East’ pages under the title “Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’“.

The article relates to one of the communities of Jews who immigrated to Israel from India – Bene Israel – and readers are told that: [emphasis added]

“…the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962 when the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities.

Dr Weil said the community was up in arms. “They used to conduct sit-in strikes outside the chief rabbinate’s office saying they were Jews for more than 2,000 years and had the right to marry who they wanted.”

It took two years, but they finally succeeded in seeing their demands fulfilled.”

But is that account accurate? Did Israel’s Chief Rabbinate really ban members of the Bene Israel group from marrying other Israeli Jews in 1962?

Here is an article published in the ‘Herut’ newspaper on October 20th 1961 under the headline “The Chief Rabbinate rules: ‘Bene Israel’ from India are Jews and marriage with them is permitted”.

As the Jerusalem Post recounts: [emphasis added]

“Despite the fact that Sephardic Chief Rabbi Itzhak Nissim stated in 1961 that there was no foundation to prohibit marriage between Bene Israel and other Jews, and that “the sect of the Bene Israel in India is of the seed of the House of Israel without any doubt,” several rabbis in Israel still refused to marry Bene Israel to other Jews.

In 1962, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate appointed a commission of four rabbis to meet with representatives of the Bene Israel to research their customs. Apparently concerned about previous intermarriage and mamzerut, the committee learned that divorce was not an aspect of their culture at all, and they did not permit widows to re-marry, as per Indian customs at the time. This also meant that any concerns regarding the practice of levirate marriage (man’s duty to marry brother’s widow if she is childless) or halizah (ceremony to avoid levirate marriage) were not relevant.”

In late February 1962 the JTA reported that:

“The Chief Rabbinate was accused this weekend by Indian Jews settled in Israel with having “reversed” a ruling which ended a lengthy dispute over the status of such Jews in regard to marriage with other Jews in Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate had ruled last October that members of Indian Jewry, known as Bene Israel, were full Jews and could therefore wed other Jews. The Actions Committee of Bene Israel, charged that new directives for such marriages were a reversal of the October ruling.

The charge was based on the fact that the new directives required Israeli rabbis to ascertain whether Bene Israel applicants for marriages had parents and forebears who were Jews and also instructed rabbinical registrars to refer the applicant to the district rabbinical court “where doubts existed.”

Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim issued a statement in reply, expressing surprise about the Actions Committee charge. He said that similar regulations applied to all marriage applications in Israel.”

A few days later the then President of Israel – Itzhak Ben-Zvi – issued a statement on the topic.

“President Ben-Zvi came out vigorously today in support of the recent Chief Rabbinate’s decision permitting marriages with the Bene Israel immigrants from India. He declared that the decision should be welcomed by all leaders and members of the Bene Israel community in Israel.

The President made his statement in a comment on criticism of recent directives given by the rabbinate to marriage registrars concerning inquiry into the Jewishness of parents and grandparents of Bene Israel marriage applicants. He hailed the decision recognizing Bene Israel members as full Jews. He expressed the hope that the directives would not be misinterpreted to the extent that such criticism might negate the decision.

The President also said that he felt that the leaders of the Bene Israel community had no justification for objecting to the questions since rabbis had a complete right to question all marriage applicants concerning such Jewish matters. His statement was expected to sooth the controversy and serve as a cue for moderation both for rabbis performing such marriages and for Bene Israel members.”

‘Herut’ August 1964

That statement from the president did not however succeed in calming tempers and the Bene Israel group launched a series of protests and hunger strikes, culminating in a resolution passed by the Knesset in 1964.

“The series of demonstrations spurred the Knesset to take action, passing the Bene Israel resolution on August 16, which was read in an emergency Knesset session the next day. The resolution stressed the equal rights of Bene Israel, condemned the Chief Rabbinate and called upon it to dispel any feelings of discrimination among Bene Israel and the general public. It passed with a 43 to 2 vote. […]

“The Israeli government reiterates that it sees the Bene Israel community from India as Jews… without any restrictions or differences, equal in their rights to all other Jews in all respects, including matters of matrimony,” then-prime minister Levi Eshkol stated at the special Knesset session.” […]

The Chief Rabbinate responded to the Knesset resolution, revoking all references to the Bene Israel in the directive and substituting it with a general order which was made applicable to anyone whose family status was in doubt. […]

In other words, while the Bene Israel community doubtless suffered discrimination and some individual rabbis did for a time refuse to perform marriage services, the BBC’s claim that in 1962 “the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities” is inaccurate and misleading.