Serial BBC failure to report rocket attacks comes home to roost

On the afternoon of February 17th an incident took place along the border fence with the Gaza Strip in the Khan Younis region.

“Four IDF soldiers were wounded when an explosive device was detonated on an IDF patrol along the Gaza Strip border on Saturday. Two of the soldiers were in a serious condition and two were moderately hurt, the army said. […]

The [IDF] spokesperson told reporters that the patrol stopped along the border to remove a flag that had been placed at the fence a day earlier during a protest, and that a device planted below the flag then detonated.”

Following that attack the IDF carried out strikes on Hamas military installations in the Gaza Strip. Residents of the Western Negev spent the night in air-raid shelters as alarms went off repeatedly and one house in the Sha’ar HaNegev district was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip – fortunately with no physical injury to the family of five. Further strikes on Hamas and PIJ targets took place after that attack and the following morning another incident took place when two Palestinians approaching the border fence in the southern sector were killed.

On the evening of February 17th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel Gaza: Four Israeli soldiers injured in border blast” on its Middle East page. The incident that sparked the chain of events was described as follows:

“Four Israeli soldiers have been hurt, two of them seriously, in an explosion near the Israeli-Gaza border.

The army said a Palestinian flag was flying in the area, and when the troops approached they were hit by the blast.”

And:

“No group has so far said it was behind Saturday’s explosion, which happened at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) east of the town of Khan Younis.

The army said the explosive device had been planted during a demonstration there on Friday and was attached to a flag.

The troops were approaching from the Israeli side when the device detonated.”

BBC audiences were not informed that the army also commented on Hamas’ involvement in that “demonstration” and others.

“The [explosive] device belonged to rogue organizations and not Islamic Jihad. Hamas is responsible for the incident because it brought protesters to these ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations during the past few weeks, which are then utilized for terror.”

Despite photographs of the damage caused to the house that took a direct hit on its roof being readily available in the Israeli media, the BBC’s report described that incident as follows:

“Israeli media also said a rocket from Gaza fell near a house in the south of the country on Saturday evening. There were no casualties.” [emphasis added]

Readers were told that:

“Correspondents say the border area has been generally quiet in the last few years but there has been an increase in violence since US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The same statement (together with the claim that “a rocket from Gaza fell near a house”) appeared in an article titled “Israel Gaza: Air strikes follow bomb blast on Gaza border” which replaced the previous one on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of February 18th.

While the “correspondents” who made that statement were not identified, it is of course significant that throughout 2017 BBC journalists based in Jerusalem ignored the vast majority of missile attacks that were launched from the Gaza Strip and that two of the three attacks that were reported were attributed – as in this report – to ‘rising tensions’ following the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In late 2014 and throughout 2015 the majority of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip were not reported in English and in 2016 the BBC ignored all but one attack. The four attacks in 2018 which took place before this latest one were similarly ignored.

It is hence unsurprising that BBC journalists describe the Gaza border area as “generally quiet” despite the fact that – as noted by the ITIC in a summary (Hebrew – see p. 42) of last year’s terror attacks – during 2017 there was a 50% rise in rocket fire against Israel compared to the previous year.

As has been noted here on several occasions in the past, the fact that the BBC routinely under-reports terrorism against Israel – including missile attacks – leads to audiences and BBC journalists alike being unable to put events into their appropriate context when Israel is obliged to respond.

Related Articles:

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

BBC News reverts to ignoring Gaza missile fire

 

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BBC jumbles cause and effect, amplifies disinformation in Iran drone story – part one

As readers are probably aware, an Iranian UAV infiltrated Israeli air-space early on the morning of February 10th, triggering a series of events that were initially reported on the BBC News website under the headline “Israeli jet downed by Syrian fire – army” – even though the investigation into the circumstances under which the crew had to evacuate their plane is still ongoing.

The BBC subsequently changed that headline to “Syria war: Israeli fighter jet crashes under Syria fire, military says” – once again erroneously suggesting that the events were linked to the civil war in Syria. In the sixth version of the report, the BBC added a qualification:

“It was not clear whether the F-16 jet was hit by anti-aircraft fire or went down for other reasons.”

The final version of the report was re-titled “Syria shoots down Israeli warplane as conflict escalates“.

In other words, the headlines of all thirteen versions of this report confused cause and effect by informing BBC audiences that the story was about an Israeli plane crashing rather than the infiltration of Israeli air-space by an Iranian drone.

In the final version of the BBC’s report the first reference to the first and second occurrences in that sequence of events – the UAV infiltration into Israel and its interception by an Israeli air force helicopter – came only in its third paragraph.

“The plane was hit during air strikes in response to an Iranian drone launch into Israeli territory, Israel says.

The drone was shot down.”

Later on readers were told that:

“The Israeli military says a “combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel”.

It tweeted footage which it says shows the drone flying into Israeli territory before being hit.” [emphasis added]

However, the BBC – which, notably, recently took it upon itself to launch “a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information” – had no qualms about amplifying Iranian disinformation.

“Meanwhile Iran and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – which are allied with the Syrian government – dismissed reports that an Iranian drone had entered Israeli airspace as a “lie”.”

The third event to take place on the morning of February 10th was an IAF strike on the mobile command vehicle that launched and guided the Iranian UAV at the T4 airbase near Tadmor in central Syria. The BBC reported that event as follows:

The drone was shot down. Israel later launched further strikes in Syria. […]

In a further response, the IDF “targeted Iranian targets in Syria”, according to the military. The mission deep inside Syrian territory was successfully completed, it said.”

In other words, BBC audiences were not informed that the drone was launched from a Syrian airbase used by Iran’s Quds Force.

Syrian air defence systems attacked the planes carrying out that strike, leading to event number four – the evacuation of the plane that crashed near Harduf in the Galilee region and the sounding of air-raid sirens in communities in the Golan Heights. In other words, the headlines and initial paragraphs used in various versions of this BBC report all relate to the fourth event in the sequence rather than the first.

“An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed after being hit by Syrian air defences during an offensive in Syria, the Israeli military says.

The two pilots parachuted to safety before the crash in northern Israel. It is believed to be the first time Israel has lost a jet in the Syrian conflict.[…]

After coming under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, the F-16’s two crew members ejected and were later taken to hospital. One of them was “severely injured as a result of an emergency evacuation”, the IDF said. […]

Alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights because of Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel’s borders with Jordan and Syria.”

The BBC also chose (not for the first time) to amplify Syrian propaganda:

“Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had opened fire in response to Israeli “aggression” against a military base on Saturday, hitting “more than one plane”.”

The fifth event in the chain was a number of strikes by the IAF on additional Syrian and Iranian military sites in Syria. Syrian anti-aircraft fire again triggered sirens in northern Israel. The BBC reported that event as follows:

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say they hit aerial defence batteries and Iranian military sites in the latest strikes. […]

Israel launched its second wave of strikes in Syria. Eight of the Syrian targets belonged to the fourth Syrian division near Damascus, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.

All the Israeli aircraft from this sortie returned safely.”

final version

Towards the end of the report – under the subheading “What is the Iranian presence in Syria?” – readers were provided with background information which failed to enhance their understanding of Iran’s use of Syrian territory as a launch pad for attacks against Israel (with Syrian cooperation) in recent years while conflating the role played by Iran and Hizballah in the Syrian civil war with their pre-existing hostility towards Israel.

“Iran is Israel’s arch-enemy, and Iranian troops have been fighting rebel groups since 2011.

Tehran has sent military advisers, volunteer militias and, reportedly, hundreds of fighters from its Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

It is also believed to have supplied thousands of tonnes of weaponry and munitions to help President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, which is fighting on Syria’s side.

Tehran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

While subsequent analysis from Jonathan Marcus was more lucid, it conformed to the usual BBC policy of failing to clarify that Iran’s transfer of weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon breaches UN Security Council resolution 1701.

As we see the BBC’s reporting on this story focused primarily on the loss of an Israeli jet rather than on what caused that event – also the story’s main issue – the attempt by Iran to infiltrate Israel. Not only did the BBC choose to amplify Iranian and Syrian disinformation on the story but it also implied to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the veracity of official Israeli accounts. 

That approach was also seen in additional BBC reporting – as we shall see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

Superficial BBC News reporting on southern Syria ceasefire

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during January 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 118 incidents took place: 91 in Judea & Samaria, twenty-two in Jerusalem and five in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded one hundred attacks with petrol bombs, nine attacks using improvised explosive devices, three shooting attacks and one vehicular attack. Also recorded were three separate incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip.

One civilian was murdered in a shooting attack near Havat Gilad on January 9th which was reported by the BBC. Three members of the security forces were wounded in attacks throughout the month: one in an IED attack on January 1st and two in a shooting attack on January 17th – neither of which was reported on the BBC News website. The missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip likewise did not receive any BBC coverage.

In all, the BBC News website covered 0.85% of the terror attacks that occurred during January 2018.

Related Articles:

Gaza missile fire continues to be ignored by BBC News

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2017 and year summary

Reviewing the BBC’s presentation of Jerusalem history

The US administration’s announcement of its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6th 2017 prompted an exceptionally large number of BBC reports on all its various platforms.

In six of the twenty-two written reports on the story (see here) that appeared on the BBC News website throughout December, no historical background was given at all. In eight of those articles audiences were given ‘background information’ on the city of Jerusalem that eliminated its history prior to June 1967 – for example:

Israel occupied the area in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and according to 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries, including Israel’s closest ally the US, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital.

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.” [emphasis added] BBC News website, 4/12/17

And:

Israel occupied the east of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.” [emphasis added] BBC News website, 22/12/17

Seven of the 22 articles made a cursory reference to the Jordanian occupation that existed before June 1967 but failed to clarify its context or even its duration:

Israel occupied the sector, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital. [emphasis added] BBC News website, 5/12/17

One report mentioned Jordan but failed to explain that it occupied parts of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967.

“Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state. […]

Israel annexed the sector from Jordan after the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.” [emphasis added] BBC News website, 6/12/17

Of the twelve filmed reports relating to the story which appeared on the BBC News website during December, only one – which, significantly, was presented as a backgrounder: “Yolande Knell explains why the city is so important” – gave any historical information. Knell told BBC audiences that:

“Most Israelis see Jerusalem as their “eternal, undivided capital”. Not long after the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Israeli parliament was set up in the west of the city. But it wasn’t until the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab countries that Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, and it later annexed it in a move that’s not recognised internationally.”

As we see, Knell’s ‘backgrounder’ made no mention whatsoever of Jordan’s nineteen-year occupation of parts of Jerusalem and the fact that the later Jordanian annexation was unrecognised by the international community.

Like all the BBC’s numerous reports, this ‘backgrounder’ too failed to note the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland. The belligerent British-backed Jordanian invasion and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews from districts including the Old City in 1948, together with the destruction of synagogues and cemeteries, was completely ignored, as was the fact that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically stated that the ceasefire lines were not borders. Israel’s warning to Jordan not to participate in the Six Day War was also eliminated from all the BBC’s accounts of events.

A radio report by Yolande Knell aired on BBC Radio 4 on December 23rd likewise failed to inform BBC audiences of those significant factors.

“But what makes the status of the city so contentious is the part where we’re standing: East Jerusalem. It was captured by Israel in a war with its Arab neighbours fifty years ago and annexed. That move wasn’t internationally recognised…”

In response to a complaint from a member of the public about the lack of historical context in that programme, BBC Complaints claimed that:

“It is important to note that the aim of Yolande’s report was to offer insight to the listeners of the local reaction of Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In this five minute report it would not be possible to give the full context and history of the city of Jerusalem.

In relation to what Yolande said about the annexing of East Jerusalem by Israel, she said it was during “a war with it’s [sic] Arab neighbours 50 years ago”. […]

The BBC have [sic] of course explored the subject of the 1967 war in detail, for example in:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-39960461

That link leads to a long article by Jeremy Bowen that appeared on the BBC News website in June 2017 and in which no attempt was made to explain Jerusalem’s pre-1948 history – including its Jewish majority – and the topic of Jordan’s occupation and subsequent unrecognised annexation of parts of the city was ignored.

There is of course nothing new about the BBC’s failure to provide its audiences with the full range of information that would enhance their understanding of the background to stories concerning Jerusalem.

But while that practice has been in evidence for years, the failure to provide even one accurate, impartial and comprehensive account of the relevant history of the city which was the topic of dozens of BBC reports on multiple platforms in one month alone is obviously remarkable.

Related Articles:

Multiple inaccuracies in BBC WS Jerusalem history backgrounder

Inaccuracy and omission in BBC backgrounder on Jerusalem

Gaza missile fire continues to be ignored by BBC News

On the evening of February 1st a missile was fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. The projectile was later located in open land in the Hof Ashkelon district. The following evening another missile hit the Sha’ar HaNegev region. The IDF responded in both cases with strikes on Hamas installations in the Gaza Strip.

The BBC did not produce any reporting on either of those incidents.

The corporation similarly ignored two incidents last month: on January 1st a missile launched from the Gaza Strip landed in the Eshkol district and on January 3rd three mortars were fired at the same area.

Last year the BBC failed to produce any English-language coverage of 86% of the attacks launched against Israel from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. The year before that, just one attack was reported. As we see, that editorial policy – which results in audiences and BBC journalists alike being unable fully understand events and their context when Israel is obliged to respond to rising terrorism – continues into 2018.

(The table relates only to missiles that landed in Israeli territory and does not include shortfalls, interceptions or failed attacks)

Related Articles:

BBC News reverts to ignoring Gaza missile fire

Where does the BBC report on air-raid sirens and shelters?

BBC coverage of missile attacks in two ME locations

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2017 – part two

As recorded in part one of this post, between October 1st and December 31st 2017, one hundred and six reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page (compared to 58 reports in Q3), some of which were cross posted from other sections of the site. 12.3% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism.

The remaining reports 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.)

Six reports related to historical subject matter:

Albert Einstein’s happiness note sold for $1.6m (24/10/17 to 25/10/17)

‘My house was occupied by Israeli soldiers’ (4/10/17 to 5/10/17) discussed here

Battle of Beersheba charge recreated for centenary (1/11/17 to 2/11/17) discussed here

Israel’s ancient underwater treasure BBC Travel (9/11/17 to 10/11/17)

Was this the first Dead Sea Scroll? BBC Travel (2/12/17 to 3/12/17)

‘It was an uprising from the heart’ (20/12/17 to 26/12/17) discussed here

Seven items can be categorised as miscellaneous:

Poland asked to explain naked Nazi gas chamber video (30/11/17 to 2/12/17)

Argentina judge seeks arrest of ex-leader Cristina Fernández (8/12/17 to 10/12/17)

Who invented hummus? BBC Travel (12/12/17 to 14/12/17 and 16/12/17 to 19/12/17)

Bethlehem Christmas: Church of the Nativity hosts pilgrims (25/12/17 to 26/12/17)

Bethlehem celebrates Christmas amid heightened tensions  Tom Bateman (24/12/17 to 27/12/17)

Urbi et Orbi: Pope calls for peace for Jerusalem (25/12/17 to 26/12/17) discussed here

Urbi et Orbi: Pope addresses world crises (25/12/17 to 26/12/17)

Fifty-one reports (48.1%) related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict – with two main topics apparent.

a) the Balfour Declaration centenary – 7 reports:

The Balfour Declaration: My ancestor’s hand in history Jane Corbin (31/10/17 to 6/11/17) discussed here and here

Balfour Declaration: Banksy holds ‘apology’ party for Palestinians (1/11/17 to 2/11/17) discussed here

Balfour Declaration: The divisive legacy of 67 words Yolande Knell (2/11/17 to 7/11/17) discussed here and here

New Banksy work unveiled at ‘apology’ party for Palestinians (2/11/17 to 4/11/17) discussed here

Balfour Declaration: Theresa May hosts Israeli PM for centenary (2/11/17 to 4/11/17) discussed here

Balfour Declaration: 100 years of conflict Yolande Knell (2/11/17 to 5/11/17) discussed here

Palestinians call for Balfour Declaration apology  Tom Bateman (2/11/17 to 7/11/17) discussed here

b) the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – 34 reports:

Jerusalem: Opposition to mooted Trump Israel announcement grows (4/12/17) discussed here

Jerusalem: Turkey warns Trump against crossing ‘red line’ (5/12/17) discussed here

Why Jerusalem matters Yolande Knell (6/12/17 to 11/12/17) discussed here

US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (6/12/17)

Jerusalem: Trump move prompts negative world reaction (6/12/17 to 7/12/17)

Palestinians and Israelis on US Jerusalem recognition (6/12/17 to 9/12/17)

Jerusalem status: World condemns Trump’s announcement (7/12/17)

What Trump’s Jerusalem decision means for peace Lyse Doucet (7/12/17 to 11/12/17)

Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift Barbara Plett-Usher (7/12/17) discussed here

Middle East media reacts to ‘slap of the century’ BBC Monitoring (7/12/17 to 8/12/17)

Trump says US recognises Jerusalem: The speech in full (7/12/17 to 8/12/17)

Trump’s Jerusalem move: Anger in Ramallah and Israeli delight Yolande Knell (8/12/17 to 21/12/17)

Trump’s Jerusalem move: US warns against scrapping Abbas talks (8/12/17)

Trump Jerusalem shift puts counter-terror efforts at risk Frank Gardner (8/12/17 to 22/12/17) discussed here

Tensions high in wake of Donald Trump’s Jerusalem announcement (8/12/17 to 11/12/17)

In Jerusalem on the ‘Day of Rage’ (8/12/17 to 9/12/17)

Muslims protest worldwide against Trump (8/12/17 to 9/12/17)

Jerusalem clashes: Sheltering in a sweet shop (9/12/17 to 12/12/17)

Trump’s Jerusalem move: Arab allies attack decision (10/12/17)

Netanyahu: Palestinians must face reality over Jerusalem (10/12/17 to 11/12/17)

Beirut protests: ‘Jerusalem remains a rallying cry’ Martin Patience (10/12/17 to 19/12/17)

Trump Jerusalem move: Tear gas at Lebanon US embassy protest (10/12/17 to 11/12/17)

EU’s Federica Mogherini rebuffs Netanyahu on Jerusalem (11/12/17 to 13/12/17)

The Israeli PM meets EU foreign ministers, but differences emerge immediately (11/12/17 to 20/12/17)

Muslim nations urge recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital (13/12/17 to 14/12/17) discussed here

Jerusalem: US vetoes UN resolution rejecting Trump’s declaration (18/12/17 to 20/12/17) discussed here

UN Jerusalem vote: US ‘will be taking names’ (20/12/17) discussed here

Jerusalem UN vote: Trump threatens US aid recipients (20/12/17 to 21/12/17)

Trump: Jerusalem UN votes being watched by US (20/12/17 to 21/12/17)

Jerusalem: UN resolution rejects Trump’s declaration (21/12/17 to 22/12/17)

How did your country vote on the Jerusalem resolution? (21/12/17 to 23/12/17)

Nikki Haley warns US will remember UN’s Jerusalem rebuke (21/12/17 to 23/12/17)

Jerusalem: Palestinian leader Abbas spurns US peace plan (22/12/17 to 25/12/17)

US plays hardball at UN over Jerusalem vote Nada Tawfik (23/12/17 to 24/12/17)

c) other:

Israel to join US in quitting Unesco (12/10/17 to 16/10/17) discussed here

Texas city requires Israel pledge for hurricane relief (20/10/17 to 22/10/17) discussed here

Iran ‘sentences Sweden resident to death’ for spying (24/10/17 to 25/10/17)

Miss Iraq and Miss Israel selfie strikes a nerve BBC Trending (16/11/17 to 24/11/17)

Kuwait Airways ‘within its rights’ to ban Israeli – German court (16/11/17 to 20/11/17)

Israeli man’s photos in holy Muslim site cause social media rage (21/11/17 to 23/11/17) discussed here

Israel and Saudi Arabia: What’s shaping the covert ‘alliance’ Jonathan Marcus (24/11/17 to 27/11/17)

Outrage as Iranian wrestler ‘forced’ to lose match BBC Trending (27/11/17 to 5/12/17) discussed here

Jerusalem: Guatemala follows US in planning Israel embassy move (25/12/17 to 28/12/17) discussed here

Saudi chess tournament starts without Israeli players (26/12/17 to 28/12/17)

Ten reports (9.4%) related to Palestinian affairs with half of those devoted to the topic of a Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’:

Palestinian PM in rare Gaza visit as rift with Hamas eases (2/10/17 to 4/10/17) discussed here

Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah end split on Gaza (12/10/17 to 16/10/17) discussed here

Palestinian unity deal: Gazans hope for end to feud Yolande Knell (13/10/17 to 23/10/17)

Hamas must disarm to join Palestinian unity government – US (19/10/17 to 22/10/17) discussed here

Gaza conjoined twins ‘need life-saving treatment abroad’ (23/10/17 to 24/10/17) discussed here

Gaza amputees explain their unique friendship (13/10/17 to 17/10/17) discussed here

Hamas hands PA control of Gaza border crossings (1/11/17 to 2/11/17) discussed here

Gaza commemorates Yasser Arafat anniversary (11/11/17 to 13/11/17)

Palestinians ‘could freeze US ties’ over Washington office closure (18/11/17 to 21/11/17)

Palestinians recall envoy to US (31/12/17 to 1/1/18) discussed here

The thirteen reports (12.3% of the total) concerning Israeli affairs can be divided into sub categories:

a) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues:

Paradise Papers documents raise questions over African mining deal (6/11/17 to 8/11/17)

Israeli president rejects pardon for soldier Elor Azaria (19/11/17 to 21/11/17) discussed here

b) society:

‘Bloody hour’: Israeli bar discount for women on period (29/10/17 to 31/10/17)

Aharon Shteinman: Ultra-Orthodox spiritual leader dies in Israel (12/12/17 to 14/12/17)

Teva Pharmaceuticals: Israeli drugmaker to cut 14,000 jobs (14/12/17 to 17/12/17)

c) domestic news/politics:

Israel Facebook: Mistranslated post creates security alert (22/10/17 to 23/10/17)

Israel approves 176 new settler homes in East Jerusalem (25/10/17 to 27/10/17) discussed here

Israel honours first recognised Arab Holocaust saviour (27/10/17 to 30/10/17)

Israel health minister resigns over Sabbath rail works (26/11/17 to 28/11/17)

Jerusalem: Israel plans ‘Trump station’ near Western Wall (27/12/17 to 28/12/17)

Israel parliament passes law restricting police powers (28/12/17 to 30/12/17)

Israel: Minister leads prayers for rain to end drought (28/12/17 to 31/12/17)

d) science and technology:

Israeli spies ‘watched Russian agents breach Kaspersky software’ BBC Technology (11/10/17 to 12/10/17) 

Three reports related to British politics:

Priti Patel held undisclosed meetings in Israel  James Landale (3/11/17 to 5/11/17)

Priti Patel apologises over undisclosed Israeli meetings  (6/11/17 to 7/11/17)

Priti Patel quits cabinet over Israel meetings row  (8/11/17 to 9/11/17)

Three related to the US and the JCPOA:

What will Trump do about the Iran nuclear deal? Jonathan Marcus (12/10/17 to 16/10/17)

Trump aims blow at Iran and threatens landmark nuclear deal (13/10/17) discussed here

Iran nuclear deal: Global powers stand by pact despite Trump threat (14/10/17 to 18/10/17) discussed here

As was the case throughout 2016 and in the first three quarters of 2017, (see ‘related articles’ below) Israeli domestic affairs once again received more extensive coverage than did Palestinian affairs in the final quarter of 2017 – notwithstanding the story of the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’.

Throughout the whole of 2017 security related reports accounted for 14.2% of the BBC News website’s articles pertaining to Israel and/or the Palestinians. 25.2% of the coverage related to Israeli affairs while internal Palestinian affairs were the topic of just 8.6% of the articles. The subject most frequently covered in BBC reporting continues to be international relations and conflict politics – 37.9%.

Related Articles:

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story

Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part one

An overview of BBC coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2017 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2017 – part one

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

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 Q4 2017 – part one

Between October 1st and December 31st 2017, a total of one hundred and six reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.  

Some of the reports were produced by other departments (e.g. BBC Technology, BBC Travel) 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 404 terror attacks during the fourth quarter of 2017 (see ‘related articles’ below), very few of those incidents received dedicated 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.)

Palestinian shot dead by Israeli settler in West Bank  (30/11/17 to 1/12/17) discussed here

Israeli soldier stabbed to death in ‘terror attack’ (1/12/17 to 2/12/17) discussed here

Israel strikes Gaza Hamas sites after rocket attacks (9/12/17) discussed here

Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket fire (14/12/17 to 17/12/17)

One report related to the neutralisation of a cross-border tunnel dug by the PIJ terror group:

Gaza: Palestinian militants killed as Israel hits tunnel (30/10/17 to 1/11/17) discussed here

Two reports related to alleged Israeli attacks on military sites in Syria:

Syria war: Israeli jets ‘strike factory near Homs’ (2/11/17)

Israel targets Syrian military base – Syrian state TV (2/12/17 to 4/12/17)

One report concerned alleged Iranian activities in Syria:

Iran building permanent military base in Syria – claim Gordon Corera (10/11/17 to 12/11/17)

Three reports related to violent rioting by Palestinians:

Jerusalem: Palestinians killed in fresh clashes with Israel (15/12/17 to 18/12/17) discussed here

Deadly clashes erupt over Jerusalem row (15/12/17 to 17/12/17)

Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops clash in Gaza (22/12/17 to 24/12/17)

Two reports related to the arrest of a Palestinian girl who assaulted soldiers:

Palestinian girl arrested after troops ‘slapped’ in video (19/12/17 to 21/12/17) discussed here

Palestinian girl arrested after ‘slap’ video (19/12/17 to 24/12/17)

In all, 12.3% of the BBC News website’s reports in Q4 covered stories relating to security and/or terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the last quarter of 2017 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2017 and year summary

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2017 – part one

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

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) 

BBC News continues to entrench a narrative by means of omission

As was noted here previously, in BBC News website coverage of the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach in a terror attack near Havat Gilad on January 9th audiences were twice told that “Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised the attackers” but were not informed that the Palestinian Authority president’s party, Fatah, also lauded the attack.

Nine days after the attack the security forces tried to arrest the suspected perpetrators in Jenin. One member of the cell escaped, one was apprehended and one killed after they opened fire on the soldiers. The BBC did not produce any reporting on that incident.

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences also remain unaware of the fact that senior Fatah figures and Palestinian Authority officials subsequently visited the Hamas-affiliated family of the dead terrorist to offer condolences.

“On January 22, 2018, three senior Fatah figures paid a condolence call at the mourning tent erected by the family of Ahmed Isma’il Muhammad Jarar […]. They were Mahmoud al-‘Alul, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and deputy Fatah chairman; Jamal Muheisen, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and in charge of the bureau of mobilization and organization; and Dalal Salameh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee. […]

Before the visit of the senior Fatah figures, Ibrahim Ramadan, the governor of the Jenin district, came to offer his condolences. He was accompanied by several commanders of the PA security forces. He also gave the family the condolences of Mahmoud Abbas.”

The public purposes laid out in the BBC’s Royal Charter oblige it (inter alia) to:

“… provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them: the BBC should provide duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world. Its content should be provided to the highest editorial standards. It should offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers, using the highest calibre presenters and journalists, and championing freedom of expression, so that all audiences can engage fully with major local, regional, national, United Kingdom and global issues and participate in the democratic process, at all levels, as active and informed citizens.” [emphasis in the original]

However, for years the BBC has hindered rather than built its funding public’s understanding of and ability to engage in an informed manner with the topic of the Arab-Israeli conflict – and in particular, the ‘peace process’ – by serially avoiding stories relating to the Palestinian Authority and its leadership which do not fit the BBC’s chosen narrative on the topic.

This past month alone we have seen the corporation heavily censor a speech given by the PA president (and reject a subsequent complaint on the topic), fail to report decisions taken at an important meeting of the PLO, refrain from reporting on another history distorting speech made by Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo and – as we see above – ignore Fatah and the PA’s lauding of terrorism.

The result is that audience understanding – and consequently views – are being shaped by omission.

Related Articles:

BBC News airbrushes Fatah praise from report on terror attack

BBC News continues to blame Palestinian violence on US

BBC claims Abbas’ historical distortions and smears not ‘relevant’

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

 

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

Since the US administration announced on January 16th that it would be withholding part of its donation to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) the BBC has produced numerous reports on the story (see some in ‘related articles’ below).

Nevertheless, none of the corporation’s reports to date have provided its funding public with information concerning the multiple issues that have made UNRWA so controversial or any in-depth examination of the agency’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

BBC audiences may therefore have expected to find such information in an article presented not as a news item with limited space but as a ‘feature’ that appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 30th under the title “Palestinians fear cost of Trump’s refugee agency cut“.

However, just 72 words in Yolande Knell’s 882 word report were devoted to the provision of superficial background information on UNRWA.  

“Unrwa was originally set up to take care of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Nearly 70 years on, some of those refugees and many of their descendants continue to live in camps, which are now chronically overcrowded breeze block neighbourhoods.

Unrwa supports some five million people not only in the Palestinian Territories but also in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – where Palestinian refugees have limited rights.”

Knell made no attempt to explain to readers why people who have lived under Palestinian rule in Gaza since 2005 or those holding Jordanian citizenship are still classed as ‘refugees’ and why some Arab countries give only “limited rights” to Palestinians.

Her approach to the highly relevant issue of inherited refugee status was to present it as an ‘Israel says’ subject – including quotes from the Israeli prime minister – and she refrained from informing readers how that issue is used for political ends or that ‘”right to return” to parts of historic Palestine’ for millions of people registered as ‘refugees’ would in fact mean the end of the Jewish state and hence the politically motivated perpetuation of that Palestinian “call” is unrealistic .

“The fate of the refugees is a core issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict and they have often been at the heart of Palestinian political and militant activity.

Palestinians call for their “right to return” to parts of historic Palestine – land which is now in Israel.

Israel rejects that claim and has often criticised the set-up of Unrwa for the way it allows refugee status to be inherited, which it points out is uniquely applied to Palestinians among all the world’s refugees.”

Knell countered that with statements from UNRWA’s spokesman Chris Gunness.

“Unrwa officials stress that the UN General Assembly sets their mandate and dismiss the idea it obstructs any Israel-Palestinian peace deal.

“It is the failure of the political parties to resolve the refugee issue that perpetuates it,” says Unrwa spokesman Chris Gunness.

“As soon as there’s a resolution of that based on international law, based on United Nations resolutions, Unrwa will go out of business and hand over its service.””

She then amplified UNRWA’s current fundraising campaign, citing support from what she blandly described as “humanitarian groups” – with no mention of the blatant political agenda of some of those organisations, including AFSC, Oxfam, Church World Service, Amnesty International and Islamic Relief.

“The agency has now launched a global appeal to fill the gap in its budget and is receiving many messages of support – including from celebrities and 21 international humanitarian groups.”

The prime focus of Knell’s article – over 300 words – was promotion of its main protagonist.

“Unrwa was there every moment for me,” says Najwa Sheikh Ahmed, an information officer with the UN Relief and Works Agency.

“It gave not only food, clothes, education and healthcare but also a job and the opportunity that offers your family.”

Najwa was born in Khan Younis refugee camp and brought up in tough conditions. […]

I watch her eldest daughter, Salma, as she excels in an English lesson. She is one of 270,000 Unrwa students in Gaza.

“As a mother I feel very worried,” Najwa confides.

“If the funding gap isn’t bridged, then Unrwa might find itself in a situation where [it has] to close the schools and health services. My children will be at risk.” […]

“Without Unrwa nobody will identify us as refugees,” says Najwa Sheikh-Ahmed – whose father fled from his home in al-Majdal – now in Ashkelon in southern Israel – as a boy in 1948.

“My refugee number, my ration card is witness to the fact that once upon a time I had a homeland,” she says. “Without this we will lose the right to fight for our rights.”

When UNRWA advertised last year for an ‘information officer’ in another location the job was described as a PR position:

“…maintains regular contact with local or regional and international media representatives; keeps the press informed of the Agency’s activities to promote better understanding and coverage of the Agency’s work, and to encourage the media to use UNRWA as a source of information on refugees.”

In other words, Knell’s main interviewee in this article is an employee of UNRWA’s public relations department whose job description includes contact with the international media and fund-raising. In addition to producing emotional UNRWA press releases, in the past Najwa Sheikh Ahmed has written for local publications and political NGOs as well as for the ‘Palestine Chronicle’, Channel 4 and the Times.

It is therefore hardly surprising that in addition to her story and comments, readers also found amplification of UNRWA’s fundraising and the protests by UNRWA employees in the Gaza Strip.

“”Dignity is priceless,” read the signs as thousands of employees of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees march through central Gaza City.

They fear Washington’s recent decision to withhold $65m (52.5m euros; £46m) in funds could affect their positions as well as basic services which most of them, as refugees, rely on. […]

At the rally in Gaza City, participants focus on the impact of any Unrwa cutbacks on the most needy but also on existential issues.”

While content provided by UNRWA staffers Najwa Sheikh Ahmed and (former BBC employee) Chris Gunness makes up nearly half of Yolande Knell’s 882 word article, once again this PR item amplifying UNRWA’s campaign against the US administration’s reduced donation fails to provide BBC audiences with the full range of impartial information concerning the UN agency that is needed for broader understanding of the story.

Related Articles:

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

Three BBC articles on US aid promote an irrelevant false comparison

 

BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

On January 17th the BBC News website published yet another report about Ahed Tamimi – its fourth item in less than a month.

Written by Yolande Knell, the article is titled “Ahed Tamimi: Spotlight turns on Palestinian viral slap video teen” and much of its content is recycled from an audio report by Knell that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme the previous week.

As was the case in that radio report, Knell’s written article does not inform BBC audiences that the video she describes in her opening paragraphs was filmed by Ahed Tamimi’s mother, Nariman, or that the latter has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project. Knell does however provide readers with a link (the only one in the article) to Nariman Tamimi’s Facebook account.

Throughout the article Knell describes Ahed Tamimi in the following terms:

“To some she’s a modern-day Joan of Arc.”

“…Ahed Tamimi is now a famous Palestinian prisoner…”

“For many Palestinians, Ahed is a hero of their nationalist struggle for the digital age. They see her standing up to the reality of Israeli occupation, defending her home with her bare hands.”

Knell tells readers that:

“Aged 11, Ahed was filmed threatening to punch a soldier after her older brother was arrested. Two years ago, she bit a soldier trying to detain her younger brother.”

As was the case in the audio report, she did not bother to inform readers that Tamimi’s then 12 year-old brother was throwing rocks at the time.

The four interviewees who appeared in Knell’s audio report – Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky, her father Bassem Tamimi, Israeli MK Anat Berko and former IDF chief prosecutor Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch – are also quoted in this written report.

As was noted here when the indictment against her was issued at the beginning of the month, in addition to charges of assault and stone-throwing, Ahed Tamimi was also charged with incitement.

“Regarding the incitement charge, the MAG [Military Attorney General] cited a statement given by Ahed to her mother, who was filming the December 15 incident on Facebook Live. Immediately following the squabble, Nariman asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [Donald] Trump made his declaration and [the Americans] need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us,” Ahed added, apparently referring to the US president’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” she concluded.”

However, in one of her final paragraphs Knell presents BBC audiences with a very different interpretation of Tamimi’s call for violence.  

“At the end of the online video, Ahed calls for large demonstrations as “the only way to reach results”, but says US President Donald Trump must bear responsibility for any Palestinian violence, including stabbings and suicide attacks.”

Interestingly, a report in the Jerusalem Post shows that Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky used a remarkably similar claim in court.

“Gaby Lasky, a high-profile human rights lawyer and Meretz activist who is defending Tamimi, told the court Monday that the Palestinian teen mostly was protesting US President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

She said Tamimi’s message was “Trump needs to take responsibility” for a negative decision which led to an outcry of Palestinian protests.”

And that raises the question (not for the first time) of whether Yolande Knell is a reporter or a political activist who compromises the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. 

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi