Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part two

As noted in part one of this post, between April 1st and June 30th 2017, seventy reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, some of which were cross posted from other sections of the website and one of which was carried over from the previous quarter. 7.14% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism.

The remaining 92.86% of those articles can be grouped into a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Nine reports (12.86% of the total) related to historical subject matter, including the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War:

The Holocaust: Who are the missing million? Raffi Berg (24/4/17 to 1/5/17)

How the Six Day War brought elation and despair Tom Bateman (4/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War Israeli veteran: ‘Occupation risked suffocation’ (4/6/17 to 7/6/17)

Six Day War Israeli veteran: ‘I saw a miracle’ (4/6/17 to 6/6/17)

Six Day War: ‘We were completely defeated’ (4/6/17 to 6/6/17)

1967 war: Six days that changed the Middle East Jeremy Bowen (5/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War: What happened – in 60 seconds (5/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Six Day War: Six ways the conflict still matters Paul Adams (9/6/17 to 12/6/17) discussed here

Uncovering a story of ill-fated romance and tragic death (11/6/17 to 13/6/17)

Four reports can be categorised as miscellaneous:

Israeli comic novel up for International Booker Prize (21/4/17)

Christianity’s most important church? BBC Travel (6/5/17 to 9/5/17)

Why isn’t there more ‘Jewish food’ in Israel? BBC Travel (15/6/17 to 16/6/17) discussed here

Man Booker International Prize: David Grossman wins for stand-up comic novel (15/6/17 to 16/6/17)

21 reports (30%) related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict with nine of those relating to the visit to Israel by the US president.

Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years  (31/3/17 to 3/4/17) discussed here

Israel’s Netanyahu scraps talks with German minister over rights groups (25/4/17 to 27/4/17) discussed here

UK should not back US Middle-East policy, say peers (2/5/17)

Trump tells Abbas ‘very good chance’ of Mid-East peace deal (3/5/17 to 4/5/17) discussed here and here

Trump to visit Israel, Vatican and Saudi Arabia in first foreign trip (4/5/17 to 8/5/17)

Archbishop of Canterbury to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders Yolande Knell (8/5/17 to 9/5/17) discussed here

Time for Middle East peace efforts, says Justin Welby Yolande Knell (10/5/17 to 12/5/17) discussed here

Israel says ties with US unaffected after Trump-Lavrov accusations (17/5/17 to 18/5/17)

Trump tells Israel Iran will never have nuclear weapons (22/5/17)

Trump’s visit to Israel and Palestinians: What are key issues? (22/5/17)

Donald Trump: A rare opportunity to bring peace (22/5/17 to 25/5/17)

Trump visits Western Wall in Jerusalem (22/5/17 to 30/5/17)

So, just what did Trump’s note in the Western Wall say? (22/5/17 to 23/5/17)

Trump ‘to do everything’ for Middle East peace (23/5/17 to 24/5/17)

Trump in Middle East: Symbols but little substance Jeremy Bowen (23/5/17 to 1/6/17) discussed here

Trump: ‘I never mentioned the word Israel’ to the Russians (24/5/17 to 31/5/17)

Wonder Woman banned by Lebanon over Israeli lead Gal Gadot (31/5/17 to 6/6/17) discussed here

Trump delays moving US embassy to Jerusalem (1/6/17 to 6/6/17) discussed here

US warning over its UN Human Rights Council role (6/6/17 to 7/6/17) discussed here

Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim visits West Bank Yolande Knell (13/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Israel starts work on first new West Bank settlement in 20 years (20/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Eleven reports (15.7%) related to Palestinian affairs:

Hamas executes three ‘Israel collaborators’ in Gaza (6/4/17 to 10/4/17)

Gaza power cuts: Man shares his tricks (18/4/17 to 20/4/17) discussed here

Palestinian Authority ‘stops paying Israel for Gaza electricity’ (27/4/17 to 1/5/17) discussed here 

New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image’ (1/5/17 to 3/5/17) discussed here

How much of a shift is the new Hamas policy document? Yolande Knell (2/5/17 to 8/5/17) discussed here

The ancient path through Palestine BBC Travel (2/5/17 to 3/5/17 and 6/5/17) 

Hamas chooses Ismail Haniya as new leader (6/5/17 to 9/5/17) discussed here

Gaza residents left in the dark amid Palestinian power struggle Yolande Knell (18/5/17 to 21/5/17) discussed here

Gaza Palestinians: Hamas kills three ‘collaborators’ (25/5/17 to 28/5/17)

Qatar Gulf row threatens cash crisis for Gaza Yolande Knell (20/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

Gaza’s only power plant resumes after Egypt fuel delivery (22/6/17 to 24/6/17)

The 20 reports (28.57% of the total) concerning Israeli affairs can be divided into sub categories including:

a) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues, with the majority (7) relating to a ‘hunger strike’ led by convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons:

Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike  (17/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here and here

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in support of prisoners (17/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here

Israel rules out talks with Palestinian hunger striking inmates (18/4/17 to 19/4/17) discussed here

Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates (19/4/17 to 20/4/17) discussed here

US-Israeli man, 18, in court over threats against Jewish centres (24/4/17 to 26/4/17)

Palestinian hunger strike leader Barghouti ‘filmed eating’ (8/5/17 to 10/5/17) discussed here

Arabs call for Pizza Hut boycott after prisoner ad (10/5/17 to 11/5/17) discussed here

Palestinians in Israeli jails end 40-day hunger strike (27/5/17 to 30/5/17) discussed here

Netanyahus win libel case over car row in convoy story (11/6/17 to 14/6/17)

Israeli airline El Al banned from asking women to switch seats (22/6/17 to 24/6/17)

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s jailed ex-PM, to be released early (29/6/17 to 2/7/16) 

b) society:

Israel boy, 14, ‘kept at home since birth’ (11/5/17 to 15/5/17) discussed here

The deafblind actors of Jaffa (21/5/17 to 23/5/17) discussed here

Missing babies: Israel’s Yemenite children affair Yolande Knell (21/6/17 to 22/6/17) discussed here

c) domestic news/politics:

Israeli news presenter gets tearful reporting own show’s cancellation 10/5/17 to 16/5/17 discussed here

Israeli TV channel’s sudden closure shocks staff 10/5/17 to 11/5/17 discussed here

Jewish group cancels Netanyahu dinner over Western Wall decision (26/6/17 to 28/6/17) discussed here

d) science and technology:

Smartphones that charge in five minutes ‘could arrive next year’ BBC Technology (12/5/17 to 15/5/17)

Open Sesame: Science centre unveiled in Jordan BBC Science (16/5/17 to 17/5/17)

Sesame project opens in Jordan BBC Science (16/5/17 to 19/5/17)

As was the case throughout 2016 and in the first quarter of 2017, (see ‘related articles’ below) Israeli domestic affairs once again received greater coverage (28.57%) than did Palestinian affairs (15.7%) in the second quarter of 2017 although the gap in coverage was narrowed in Q2. 

During the first half of 2017 security related reports accounted for 9.9% of the BBC News website’s articles pertaining to Israel and/or the Palestinians. 31.7% of the coverage related to Israeli affairs while internal Palestinian affairs were the topic of just 9.3% of the articles. The subject most frequently covered in BBC reporting continues to be international relations and conflict politics.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part two (includes links to previous reports) 

 

 

 

 

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part one

Between April 1st and June 30th 2017, a total of seventy reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, one of which was carried over from the previous quarter.

Some of the reports were produced by other departments (e.g. BBC Technology) or appeared on other pages of the website (e.g. ‘UK’ or ‘US & Canada’) but were also posted on the Middle East page.

Although the Israeli security services recorded 356 terror attacks during the second quarter of 2017 (see ‘related articles’ below), just three of those attacks received coverage on the BBC News website.

(The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which a report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Israeli killed in West Bank car-ramming attack  (6/4/17 to 10/4/17) discussed here

Jerusalem stabbing: Tributes paid to Hannah Bladon (14/4/17 to 18/4/17) discussed here

Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem (16/6/17 to 20/6/17) discussed here and here 

Two other reports related to Syria:

Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport (27/4/17 to 30/4/17) discussed here and here

Syria war: Israel Patriot missile downs ‘target’ over Golan (27/4/17)

In all, 7.14% of the BBC News website’s reports in Q2 covered stories relating to security/terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the second quarter of 2017 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2017

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2016 – part two (includes links to previous reports) 

Landmark Israel-PA agreements not news for the BBC

In the past week two major agreements have been signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which relate to topics the BBC has covered – from certain angles – in the past.

The first deal involves the electricity supply to Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

“High-ranking Palestinian and Israeli officials gathered in a field outside the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday to turn on the first-ever piece of Palestinian-owned electricity infrastructure and ink a new electricity agreement between the two sides.

The deal, hailed as “historic” by signatories, will for the first time set parameters for the supply of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which for years has seen the PA default on billions of shekels of debt and Israel subsequently withhold electricity. […]

The station will allow Israel to send up to 135 more megawatts to the northern West Bank area, though the agreement currently calls for just 60 more. The energy will provide a much-needed boost to the Jenin area, which has suffered power outages more than any other Palestinian West Bank region.

The station also represents the first time the Palestinians will be able to control the distribution of the electricity to their own towns and cities.

The PA will still have to buy its power from the Israel Electric Corporation. But apart from that, once the power is handed off to the PA, it’s in Palestinian hands.

When infrastructure breaks down — which once necessitated Israeli teams escorted by the army to perform repairs, which inevitably caused delays — Palestinian teams will be responsible for dealing with any problems.

The station was built by the Israel Electric Corporation, by both Israeli and Palestinian workers, but it is owned by the Palestinian Electric Authority (PEA) and the PA. The IEC also trained Palestinians to work, maintain and fix the site.

[Israeli Energy minister] Steinitz described the deal as a “win-win project” for Israel and the Palestinians.

“It’s good for Palestinians because they will get more electricity, which will be more stable and of higher quality. It’s good for Israel because…the responsibility [for Palestinian electricity] won’t fall on the shoulders of the Israeli Electric Corporation,” he said. […]

Jenin is the first region to receive a substation, but three more are on the way — in the Hebron region in the south, in the Ramallah region in the center and in Nablus in the mid-northern West Bank. With all four stations, the Palestinian Authority will control the power flow across all the territory it controls.”

When the agreement that paved the way for this new substation was signed last September, the BBC ignored that story and there has to date been no reporting of this latest news.

While the topic of Israel’s withholding of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority has cropped up time and time again in the corporation’s Middle East coverage over the years, the BBC has repeatedly failed to adequately inform audiences of the relevant context of the PA’s massive debt to the Israel Electric Corporation and the reasons why that debt has accumulated.

The second agreement signed last week concerns water and a project that the BBC has covered in the past.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday announced an agreement that will provide millions of cubic meters of drinking water to the Palestinians from a desalination process. […]

The agreement announced Thursday is part of a larger trilateral agreement for the construction of a 220-kilometer (137-mile) pipeline transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea — the lowest body of water on earth — to benefit Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and replenish the dwindling Dead Sea. As the water runs down the gradient it will be used to generate electricity that will also power a desalination plant to produce drinking water. […]

The water sharing deal reached on Thursday calls for an Aqaba desalination plant in Jordan to sell water to southern Jordan and Eilat, while water from the Sea of Galilee will be sold to northern Israel and Jordan. Israel will sell 32 million cubic meters of water to the Palestinian Authority from Mediterranean desalination plants — 10 million to Gaza and 22 million to the West Bank…”

BBC audiences have seen much politicised coverage of the topic of water in the past. Only last March BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged promotion of the falsehood that Israelis consume ‘Palestinian’ water.

Nevertheless, the media organisation that pledges to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world” did not find this latest landmark water-related story newsworthy either.

Related Articles:

No BBC coverage of energy sector agreements between Israel and the PA

NYT reports on a topic consistently off the BBC radar

BBC’s “Obstacles to Peace” do not hold water – part 2

 

BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part one: BBC News website

Version 10

Some two hours after the terror attack at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem on the morning of July 14th in which police officers Haiel Sitawe and Kamil Shnaan were murdered and two others wounded, the BBC News website published an article titled “Israelis injured in gun attack near Jerusalem holy site”. As further details of the incident emerged the article was repeatedly amended and its tenth version now appears on the BBC News website under the title “Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site“.

Unsurprisingly – given the BBC’s record of double standards in the language used when reporting terror attacks in different locations – in none the ten versions of that article did the writer/s use the word terror to describe the incident he or she was reporting.

From the second version onward readers found a paragraph that has been frequently seen in previous BBC reporting on terror attacks against Israelis since October 2015.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

Once again, it is worth remembering that since the surge in terror attacks began in late 2015, the BBC has consistently failed to provide its audiences with any serious reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials. Readers are hence unable to judge for themselves whether or not what ‘Israel says’ is accurate.

Likewise, it is noteworthy that the portrayal of terrorism as being attributable to “frustration rooted in decades of occupation” conforms to a guidance document for members of the international media put out by the PLO in November 2015.

Version 1

Even after it emerged that in this case the three terrorists were Israeli citizens from Umm al Fahm, that paragraph remained in situ.

Later versions of the report stated:

“Elsewhere, a Palestinian was shot dead in clashes with Israeli forces at a refugee camp near Bethlehem on Friday, Palestinian sources said.

Barra Hamamdeh, 21, was killed during a raid by troops on the Dheisheh camp, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.”

The BBC did not clarify to readers that those “clashes” included attacks on the soldiers.

“According to the military, during an arrest raid in the Deheishe refugee camp, outside Bethlehem, Palestinians began throwing large rocks and explosive devices at the troops.”

The report tells readers that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack in a phone call to Mr Netanyahu” and that “the militant Palestinian Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, praised the attack as a “natural response to the Zionist ongoing crimes”. It does not mention the additional praise for the attack from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or clarify that members of Abbas’ Fatah party also put out inflammatory statements.

“A member of the Fatah leadership, Abbas Zaki, said closing the Temple Mount “is a blatant violation, which we will not accept. Everyone must resist Israel’s moves. The three young men who were killed in Jerusalem were the ones who faced the real terrorism. We are now paying the price of the fake peace from the Oslo Accords. Resistance is the choice of all Palestinians and it is what will free the homeland.””

Version 2

The sequence of events is described by the BBC as follows:

“Two Israeli policemen have been killed and a third wounded in a shooting attack near a sacred site in Jerusalem.

They were shot by three Israeli Arabs close to the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Police chased the attackers into the site and shot them dead.”

And:

“Police say the gunmen opened fire as they made their way from the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif towards Lions’ Gate, an opening in the Old City walls about 100ft (30 metres) away.

The attackers were then pursued back to the compound, where they were killed.”

That description does not adequately clarify that the terrorists had been on Temple Mount for an unknown period of time before the attack – and had even posted photographs of themselves there on social media – or that, as the Times of Israel reports, they deliberately returned to that site after the attack.

“According to police, the attackers came from the Temple Mount. They walked toward the Lions Gate exit, then opened fire at the officers.

After the shooting, the terrorists fled back toward the Temple Mount and other officers gave chase. Police then opened fire, shooting the terrorists dead inside the complex.”

Version 3

This report does however explain that the closure of the site after the incident was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigation.

“In the wake of the incident, police sealed off the site to search it for weapons. It is the first time in decades that the compound, which contains the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, has been closed for Muslim Friday prayers, which normally draws thousands of worshippers.

The site is administered by an Islamic authority (Waqf), though Israel is in charge of security there. Police are investigating how the attackers managed to smuggle in a handgun, sub-machine gun and knife.”

The fact that the BBC clearly understands why the unusual step of closing Temple Mount had to be taken following the terror attack is particularly noteworthy given two radio reports on the same subject broadcast later in the day that will be discussed in part two of this post.

BBC’s Bateman shoehorns anti-Israel NGO into hi-tech story

Despite the BBC’s regularly displayed interest in Israel’s national intelligence agency, its pronunciation unit has apparently still not got round to explaining to presenters how to say the word ‘Mossad’ properly or that it should be preceded by the definite article – as was evident once again in an item broadcast in the July 9th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘.

Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 37:51 here) with a typical mispronunciation of the name of its subject matter.

“The Israeli spy agency Mossad has launched a multi-million dollar fund to invest in the country’s hi-tech sector. It wants access to new technologies at their earliest stage of development; everything from miniature robotics to software that predicts people’s online behaviour. Collaboration between intelligence agencies and industry is common in many countries but rarely is it advertised this openly. From Jerusalem, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Tom Bateman opened his report on that story with a clip from the soundtrack of a promotional video and the curious claim that the hi-tech sector in Israel is “new”.

Bateman: “Its reputation may be formidable, its work shadowy but now – a publicity drive from Mossad. The video for the agency’s investment fund borrows heavily from Bourne or Bond films but it’s not popcorn eating audiences they want. The ad featuring a cocktail drinking spy appeals to Israeli hi-tech firms.

Well we’ve come to a neighbourhood of Tel Aviv. The car workshops here are graffitied, the old diamond polishing businesses gone. These days this is the heart of a new Israeli industry – hi-tech. Israel boasts more start-up firms per head than virtually any other country and Mossad has its eyes on the tech they develop; everything from miniature robotics to high-speed encryption to machine learning.”

Bateman then interviewed a person from a software company that has no connection to the story itself before going on:

Bateman: “The Mossad investment launch saw the head of the agency, Yossi Cohen, appeal for firms to step forward. He said the fund would help fulfil Mossad’s national mission, allowing freedom of action for visionary entrepreneurs. His call follows a growing trend by surveillance agencies to invest in emerging IT but its publicity has perhaps been the most bold. The CIA puts cash into Silicone Valley start-ups through an intermediary called In-Q-Tel while Britain’s eaves-dropping agency GCHQ has announced grants to work with cyber-security firms in the UK.”

Having spoken to a second interviewee who also has no direct link to his subject matter, Bateman then proceeded to politicise the story.

Bateman: “But spies with technology have proved controversial in the past. The leaks by the former US intelligence worker Edward Snowdon inflicted PR damage on big web-based firms. In Israel the military has previously fended off accusations from veterans of an elite army intelligence unit who claimed information was used for what they called the political persecution of Palestinians.”

Bateman was of course referring to allegations made in 2014 by a small group of politically motivated reservists from the 8200 unit but – like the BBC’s report at the time – did not bother to tell listeners the whole story

He then brought in his final interviewee, who has even less to do with the story ostensibly being reported in this item than the previous two.

Bateman: “Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, is sceptical about such tie-ups between companies and security agencies.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is of course one of the political NGOs consistently most quoted and promoted by the BBC but, in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, Bateman failed to inform listeners of that group’s political agenda, of its long record of anti-Israel campaigning or of Omar Shakir’s own personal history as a BDS activist.

Shakir: “It raises significant concern. I mean on one hand governments are regularly involved and often have been the engine for technological growth in many parts of the world but on the other hand it further raises concern around facilitating rights abuses and you worry about the lack of transparency, especially in a system where there is rampant impunity for abuse. And you worry again about practices that occur in the shadows – without oversight, without accountability.”

And so, although this new initiative from the Mossad has not yet even got off the ground, the BBC has already signposted theoretical “rights abuses” to its audiences and provided a platform for amplification of HRW’s entirely unsubstantiated allegations of “rampant impunity for abuse” without any Israeli official being given the right of reply.

Once again we see a BBC correspondent exploiting a news story for opportunistic leveraging of politicised messaging concerning Israel from an interested party touted as a ‘human rights defender’ without the required full disclosure to audiences of that political NGO’s agenda and anti-Israel activities.  

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2014

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2015

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2016

BBC bases rejection of complaint on word of anti-Israel NGOs 

BBC’s silence on missile attacks from Gaza Strip continues

On the evening of June 26th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in the Western Negev district.

“A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel Monday night, not causing any damage, but breaking a tense calm amid rising tensions with the Palestinian enclave.

The Israeli military said the projectile landed in open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev region.

“No injuries have been reported. Forces are searching the area,” the army said in a statement.”

An ISIS affiliated group in Gaza claimed the missile fire. The IDF subsequently responded to the attack with strikes on two Hamas installations in the Gaza Strip.

Neither the missile attack nor the response received any BBC coverage.

Since the beginning of this year ten separate incidents of missile fire from either the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula have taken place. The BBC’s English language services have not informed audiences of any of those attacks.

The pattern of reporting whereby the vast majority of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is sometimes reported in Arabic has been in evidence since the end of the summer 2014 conflict. Throughout 2016 just one of the ten attacks that took place received BBC coverage in the English language.

A similar policy of omission appears to have been adopted regarding missile attacks perpetrated by a terrorist group located in a neighbouring country, with all of the four attacks launched from the Sinai Peninsula since the beginning of 2017 having been ignored by the BBC’s English language services.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2017 

Postscripts to the BBC’s coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack

As readers no doubt recall, the BBC’s report on the terror attack that took place in Jerusalem on June 16th failed to tell audiences that ISIS had claimed the attack or that Hamas had rejected that claim of responsibility, saying that one of the terrorists was its own operative and that the other two belonged to the PFLP.

“Early on Saturday morning, Hamas rejected IS’s claim of responsibility, saying the three belonged to Palestinian terrorist organizations.

“The claim by the Islamic State group is an attempt to muddy the waters,” said Sami Abou Zouhri, spokesman for the terrorist group which runs the Gaza strip.

The attack was carried out by “two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a third from Hamas,” he said.”

Moreover, in the final version of the BBC’s report readers found the following distorted portrayal of a statement from Israeli officials saying that there was no indication that the terrorists were connected to ISIS:

“Police said there was “no indication” of a link between the suspects and a terror group.”

As far as BBC audiences are concerned, therefore, the attack was perpetrated by three people unconnected to any organisation.

However, as MEMRI reported, one of the terrorists was claimed by Fatah on multiple social media platforms: a claim confirmed by his family.

“Bereavement notices were posted on the Fatah Deir Abu Mash’al Facebook page, one of which claimed attacker Osama Ahmad ‘Atta as one of its members: “The Fatah movement in Deir Abu Mash’al in the Ramallah and Al-Birah region mourns, with great pride, its martyr hero Osama Ahmad ‘Attah… perpetrator of the heroic operation at Bab Al-‘Amoud [Damascus Gate]…”

In addition, the Fatah Facebook page posted a notice from relatives of Osama ‘Atta saying that although the family honored all the delegations that had come to pay tribute following ‘Atta’s killing – including PFLP representatives who claimed that he was one of that group’s members – “we informed them that our martyr son Osama is a Fatah member.””

In other words, even though Fatah, Hamas and the PFLP have each clearly stated that they were linked to the terrorists that carried out the attack, not only do BBC audiences have no knowledge of that fact but the BBC report that remains on the website as “historic public record” still specifically tells readers that the perpetrators were not linked to “a terror group”.

Referring to the terrorism seen in Israel since October 2015, that same report also informed BBC audiences that:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

As has been frequently noted on these pages during that time, the BBC has consistently avoided providing its audiences with the relevant information relating to incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian officials which would enable them to understand why “Israel says” that.

Shortly after news of the June 16th attack had broken, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Education, Sabri Saidam (Saydam) – who is also a member of the Fatah Central Committee and has for years been quoted in BBC content – took to Facebook, describing the terrorists as ‘martyrs of Jerusalem’.

The BBC will not of course produce any follow-up reporting on that or any other Palestinian Authority or Fatah glorification of terrorism. That means that when the next attack comes around, the corporation can once again tell its funding public that “Israel says” that incitement fuels terrorism while continuing to sidestep any real accurate and impartial journalism on the issue.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘historical record’ compromised by absence of follow-up reporting

BBC News changes headline, deletes Tweet after anger at portrayal of terror attack in Jerusalem 

 

 

 

BBC’s Knell promotes more Hamas messaging on Qatar crisis

On June 20th an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Qatar Gulf row threatens cash crisis for Gaza“.

The article is very similar to the audio report by Knell that was broadcast five days earlier on BBC Radio 4 and is notable for many of the same omissions.

Here too no mention is made whatsoever of issue of Hamas’ designation as a terror organisation by the EU, the US and numerous additional countries, meaning that readers are unable to put statements – such as the following – into their correct context.

“In recent years, Qatar has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new homes, a hospital and main roads in the Gaza Strip. It has pledged about $1bn (£780m) more.

It is not yet clear how its projects will be affected by the ongoing row with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries. They are trying to economically isolate Qatar, accusing it of fostering terrorism – a charge the emirate strongly denies.” [emphasis added]

Like the audio report, this one too gives a whitewashed portrayal of Qatar’s recent expulsion of some Hamas officials but fails to mention that Hamas operatives based in Qatar have directed terror plots against Israel in the past. 

“Many leaders of the group [Hamas] – including its former head, Khaled Meshaal, have been living in luxurious exile in Doha.

Now as Hamas seeks to ease pressure on its patron, several have reportedly left at Qatar’s request.”

Knell tells readers that:

“One of Saudi Arabia’s demands has been for Qatar to stop backing Hamas, which runs Gaza.”

However, as was also the case in her audio report, Knell does not clarify that one of Saudi Arabia’s complaints is that Qatari support for Hamas undermines the Palestinian Authority.

As in her radio report, BBC audiences find unchallenged amplification of the terror organisation’s messaging in this latest report from Knell.

“Hamas leaders insist that Qatari help to Gaza has been primarily charitable.

“The houses that were built are not for Hamas, the streets that were asphalted are not for Hamas,” one senior figure, Mahmoud Zahar, tells the BBC.

“The humanitarian institutions – hospitals and schools, they’re also for the Palestinian people. All attempts to hitch Hamas to Qatar are wrong and void.””

And:

“”Qatar is being punished for speaking freely and supporting the Arab Spring,” remarks Hamas parliamentarian, Yahya Musa, at a small rally in Sheikh Hamad City.

“It’s being punished for supporting us and the resistance. We stand with our brothers to reject US plans against Qatar and the conspiracy against the resistance.””

Readers also find the following bizarre depiction of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip:

“Last week, Israel agreed to a PA plan to cut power supplies to two million people in Gaza that will reduce their daily average of four hours of electricity by 45 minutes.

Hamas accuses its political rivals of plotting with the Trump administration and Israel to unseat it in Gaza.”

Anyone unfamiliar with the story would not understand from Knell’s portrayal that the ongoing electricity crisis is actually the result of a long-standing internal Palestinian disagreement that was recently exacerbated when the Palestinian Authority announced its refusal to continue footing the entire bill for electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip by Israel. Hamas too refuses to pay for that electricity, preferring instead to spend millions of dollars on its military infrastructure. Yolande Knell, however, shoehorned Israel and the US into her warped portrayal of the story – even though she knows the true background to the crisis full well.

The BBC of course has a long record of under-reporting the relevant story of Hamas’ known misappropriation of construction materials for the purpose of terrorism and in this article readers find only the following poorly composed and unnecessarily qualified statement:

Israel says Hamas has also used foreign funding to bolster its military infrastructure, which its blockade aims to keep from strengthening.” [emphasis added]

Knell also erases from audience view the root cause of both the border restrictions and past conflicts: Hamas terrorism.

“Nevertheless, Qatar’s initiatives have buoyed Hamas through difficult times – the tight border restrictions imposed by both Israel and Egypt, and three bloody conflicts with Israel.”

The very least that the BBC’s funding public would expect to find in a report concerning accusations of “fostering terrorism” by Qatar is an accurate and factual overview of the terror activities of one of its prime protégés. Both of Knell’s recent reports from the Gaza Strip fail to provide that information but do uncritically promote messaging that could just as easily be found in a Hamas press release.

According to its public purposes the BBC is supposed to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” in order to enhance their understanding of a particular story. In this case, that purpose is clearly not being met. 

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Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas 

 

 

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

The June 15th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘ included an item relating to the ongoing diplomatic rift between Qatar and various other Arab and Muslim majority states.

Presenter Eddie Mair introduced the item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Mair: “Qatar in the Middle East is getting the cold shoulder from many of its neighbours. They accuse Qatar of meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and of supporting terrorism. Saudi Arabia has demanded that Qatar stop supporting Hamas, which controls Gaza – all of which might have quite an effect on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In the past five years Qatar has spent the equivalent of hundreds of millions of pounds building homes, a school, a hospital and main roads in Gaza. Reporting for ‘PM’; our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell now.”

One would of course expect that a report on Qatari funding of Hamas – especially within the framework of the current row between Qatar and other countries – would include clarification of Hamas’ designation as a terror organisation by the EU, the US and numerous additional countries. However, while that obviously relevant context was completely absent from this report by Yolande Knell, listeners did get to hear about the colour scheme at one of Qatar’s building projects.

Knell: “Work is still underway at Sheikh Hamad City; built with money Qatar and named after the country’s former ruler. It’s become one of the best new addresses in Gaza. The apartment blocks here are an attractive peach colour. On the grass there are children playing. They’re from some of the poorer Palestinian families who’ve already moved in here. There’s a new mosque and a new school. But residents like Baha Shalabi [phonetic] are fearful about the crisis between Qatar and other Gulf States.”

Shalabi [voiceover]: “The problems between Saudi Arabia and Qatar will affect us a lot, of course. Everything’s going to stop: the money, the support, the infrastructure. The buildings you see; all of this is going to stop. We’re going to be the victims.”

Knell: “All across this Palestinian territory you can see the effects of Qatari cash. I’m at the edge of a brand new road where cars are whizzing along the coast. Doha’s pledged well over a billion dollars to fix Gaza and while most of its help is humanitarian, it also buoys up Hamas – the Islamist group that seized control here ten years ago.”

After that tepid portrayal of the violent and bloody coup in which Hamas ousted the internationally recognised representatives of the Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip, Knell went on, failing to tell listeners that Qatar is one of the few countries to have recognised and supported Hamas’ regime in Gaza over that of the Palestinian Authority.

Knell: “Until now, the Emir of Qatar is the only head of state to have visited Gaza while Hamas has been in charge. It was a show of regional influence. But today Qatar stands accused of destabilising the Middle East by backing religious extremists – claims it denies. It’s been told to break off ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The usually fiery Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar is cautious in his response.”

The terror organisation then got a BBC stage for amplification of its unchallenged messaging.

Zahar [voiceover]: “Qatar was supporting the Palestinian people. The houses that were built are not for Hamas. The streets that were asphalted are not for Hamas. And the schools and hospitals, they’re also for the Palestinian people. All the efforts to hitch Hamas to Qatar are wrong and void.”

Making no effort to clarify to audiences that funding provided by Qatar has also reportedly been diverted to terrorist purposes such as the reconstruction of cross-border attack tunnels or that Qatar pledged funding for Hamas employees, Knell went on with a whitewashed portrayal of Qatar’s recent expulsion of some Hamas officials:

Knell: “Back in Sheikh Hamad City, outside the large Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Mosque, there’ve been rallies in support of Qatar. Meanwhile, some top Hamas figures living in exile in Doha have moved away to ease pressure on their patron.

Knell failed to inform listeners that Hamas operatives based in Qatar have directed terror plots against Israel in the past. She went on:

Knell: “In a new policy document, Hamas tried to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood. So will the Qatari money keep flowing here? I asked Mushir Amar [phonetic] from the Islamic University in Gaza.”

Amar: “The situation is not really very clear. We heard some statements here and there from Saudi Arabia trying to reprimand Qatar for supporting Hamas and Hamas political leadership. They say that we’re not involved in any sort of inter-Arab conflict because this is really not in the best interest of Hamas and this is not in the best interest of the Palestinian people.”

Knell refrained from informing listeners that one of Saudi Arabia’s complaints is that Qatari support for Hamas undermines the Palestinian Authority. She closed her report with a superficial portrayal of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Knell: “For now, the noise of bulldozers continues at Gaza’s Qatari funded building sites, providing much-needed jobs in this broken economy. But recently, when the local power plant ran out of fuel, Doha didn’t make a donation as it has previously. Palestinians here are trying not to get drawn into a damaging dispute but already they’re feeling its effects.”

Among the public purposes set out in the BBC’s constitutional document is “[t]o provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. Obviously this superficial report by Knell, with its unchallenged Hamas messaging and its failure to provide basic context and background information, does not serve that purpose.

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BBC News continues to ignore the story of Hamas-ISIS Sinai relations

Last month we noted here that the BBC had not produced any coverage of reported developments in the Sinai Peninsula.

“Although BBC audiences have heard nothing on the topic, analysts and media outlets in Egypt and Israel have been reporting for several weeks on increasing tensions between the ISIS affiliate in northern Sinai and local Bedouin tribes.”

As that story continues to be ignored by the BBC, analysts meanwhile report that it has taken on another interesting twist.

The JCPA notes that:

“On May 24, 2017, the Tribal Union of Sinai released a leaflet in which it accused Hamas of being an ally to ISIS in Sinai.

The leaflet strongly criticized Hamas for allowing ISIS members to enter the Gaza Strip through the Sinai tunnels and for supplying them with weapons, training, medical care, and shelter in the Gaza Strip.

The leaflet warned Hamas not to assist ISIS activists and demanded the extradition to Egypt of all ISIS operatives hiding in the Gaza Strip.”

As has been noted here in the past, the BBC has for years refrained from producing any serious coverage of the topic of cooperation between Hamas and the ISIS franchise operating in Sinai and has even provided amplification for Hamas PR messaging on that topic.

Avi Isacharoff at the Times of Israel notes that:

“On Sunday, a Hamas delegation led by Yahya Sinwar, Tawfik Abu Naim and others set out from Gaza for a series of meetings with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo, after a long period in which Egyptian authorities refused to allow the terror group’s leaders to leave the Strip through the Rafah Border Crossing. Egypt’s stubborn refusal on the matter stemmed from a number of reasons, among them the ongoing ties between Hamas and IS.

While cooperation between the two sides has declined, and it is no longer the case that every injured Sinai Province operative is taken to Gaza for medical treatment from Hamas-affiliated doctors, Hebrew media reports and information coming out of Egypt have exposed claims by Hamas that it has cut ties with IS as a bluff. Time after time, senior Hamas figures promised that the terror group would take action against IS and time after time the Egyptians have been surprised to learn that in fact Hamas was keeping up its close-knit ties with the Sinai Province.

However, this time something appears to have a changed: a negative development in the relationship between Hamas and IS. […]

Still – to no one’s surprise – ties between Hamas and IS have continued, even if they are not what they once were. A small coterie of IS operatives from Sinai and Egypt continues to take refuge in the Gaza Strip, while an estimated 15-16 Gazans are currently among the ranks of IS in Sinai, most of whom were former Hamas members.”

The BBC’s funding public, however, remains entirely unaware of developments in the relations between Hamas and Wilayat Sinai: a subject which in the past has even been presented to BBC audiences as a “propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas”.

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