BBC News one-sided reporting of Ahed Tamimi story persists

Early on the morning of July 29th the BBC News website published an article billed “Palestinian viral slap video teen freed” on its main homepage as well as on its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages. The framing of the story was reinforced using two items of previously published related content offered to audiences under the headings “Was slap terrorism?” (discussed here) and “Spotlight on slap video teen” (discussed here).

The same messaging was further reinforced in the report’s original headline – “Ahed Tamimi: Israel frees Palestinian viral slap video teen” – which was later amended to read “Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian viral slap video teenager, freed in Israel“.

Clearly the intention was to lead BBC audiences towards the understanding that this story is about a “Palestinian teen” who had been in prison because of a filmed “slap” even before they had read one word of the report.  That same framing was evident in the vast majority of the large number of reports on this story produced by the BBC between December 2017 and March 2018 (see ‘related articles’ below).

The latest article opens in the same style:

“A Palestinian teenager who was filmed assaulting an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank has been freed after eight months in jail.

Video showing Ahed Tamimi slapping and kicking the soldier outside her home in Nabi Saleh last year went viral.”

Only in the article’s seventh paragraph were readers told that there is actually more to the story than a “slap”.

“Sixteen at the time, she was originally charged with 12 counts of assault, incitement, interference with soldiers and stone throwing.

In March, she agreed to plead guilty to four of the charges, including incitement and assault.”

However, once again BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement to which Ahed Tamimi pleaded guilty relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which she was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a public call for violence.

“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”

Readers were also told that:

“Ahed Tamimi told a pre-trial hearing that she had lashed out at the soldiers because she had seen them shoot her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed in the head with a rubber bullet that same day.

The Israeli military said it had dispatched the soldiers to the Tamimis’ home, where Palestinian youths had been throwing stones at troops sent to quell violent protests.

It also later contested the cause of Mohammed’s head injury, saying last month that the boy had told interrogators he sustained it from falling off a bike.”

That link leads to a Times of Israel report from February 2018 – not “last month” as this article claims. Apparently in the haste to get this article out, the BBC’s copy/paste from one of its own reports published in March went awry.

As has been the case in many of the BBC’s previous reports on this story, readers found promotion of the Tamimi brand:

“For Palestinians, she became a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation, but many Israelis see her as a publicity-seeking troublemaker. […]

For Palestinians, Ahed Tamimi has become a national icon for what they see as acts of bravery in standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land.

Her face has appeared on street murals and posters, while an online petition organised by her father calling for her release gathered 1.7m signatures.”

However, they were not informed that violent rioting has been taking place weekly in Nabi Saleh since December 2009, that Ahed Tamimi’s father Bassem is the main organiser of those Friday riots or that, together with other family members, he and his brother Bilal run a ‘news agency’ called ‘Tamimi Press’ which produces and distributes footage and images from those weekly riots, often featuring children from the Tamimi clan such as Ahed.

Between December 19th 2017 and March 22nd 2018 the BBC produced at least fourteen reports on this story but only in one of those – aired on a domestic BBC radio station – were audiences been provided with any information concerning the background to the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. The BBC’s treatment of this story – including this latest report – has overwhelmingly diverted audience attention away from the main charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi and propagated the deliberately misleading notion that she was arrested, tried and imprisoned for a “slap”.

That deliberate repeated framing of the story indicates that the corporation which is committed to providing its audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards” has in this case chosen to abandon impartiality and accuracy – and instead lend its voice and outreach to one-sided promotion of a blatantly political campaign. 

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

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

BBC’s Bowen diverts Ahed Tamimi story with a disingenuous red herring

Jeremy Bowen’s Tamimi PR continues on BBC World Service radio

BBC continues its campaigning with eleventh report on Ahed Tamimi

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ continues to trivialise the Ahed Tamimi story

The BBC’s partisan coverage of the Ahed Tamimi case continues

 

 

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BBC’s dual standards on terror attacks continue

On the evening of July 26th a terror attack took place in the community of Geva Binyamin (Adam), north of Jerusalem.

“The regional council spokesman said the terrorist climbed over Adam’s security fence. He then walked deeper into the settlement, crossing a playground area, where he encountered the 31-year-old resident, and stabbed him repeatedly in the upper torso. A second resident, the 58-year-old, came out of a nearby home and was also stabbed. A third resident, hearing the disturbance, went outside and, realizing that an attack was occurring, shot the Palestinian terrorist three times, killing him.”

Doctors were unable to save the life of the first victim, who was later named as Yotam Ovadia – a father of two young children.

Early on the morning of July 27th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israeli stabbed to death by Palestinian in West Bank attack” on its Middle East page.

As is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on terror attacks against Israelis (but not when reporting attacks in the UK or Europe), the BBC refrained from describing the attack as terrorism, with the only reference to terror coming in a direct quote from an Israeli official.

“An Israeli civilian has been stabbed to death in a settlement near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

The 31-year-old victim was taken to hospital where he died of his injuries, a hospital spokesman said.

Two other Israelis were wounded in the attack in Adam on Thursday. One, aged 50, is in a critical condition and the other suffered minor injuries.

The Israeli army says the attacker was shot and killed, reportedly by a civilian who was passing by.

It says troops will be sent to nearby Kubar village, where the 17-year-old Palestinian attacker is reported to have lived.

“The terrorist infiltrated the community of Adam, north of Jerusalem, and stabbed three civilians,” the army said in a statement. “Troops arrived at the scene and are searching the area.””

The BBC did not bother to update its article after the victim’s identity was made public.

Readers were also given the following piece of context-free information:

“Palestinian militant group Hamas said the attack was an act of heroism and revenge for three fighters who were killed in Gaza on Wednesday.”

The BBC however had not reported that previous incident, meaning that audiences were unaware of the fact that it began when:

“Soldiers patrolling the southern part of the Gaza Strip border came under fire Wednesday evening from a sniper within the Hamas-controlled territory, according to the IDF.

The Israeli military later said an officer was moderately wounded by the sniper fire. It said he was taken to Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba for treatment.”

Neither do BBC audiences know that Hamas used a group of children to draw the patrol to the area.

“According to the IDF, the sniper fire came as a group of IDF soldiers arrived at a part of the fence that saw a group of 20 minors rioting on the other side. The minors were used as a decoy by the sniper to fire on the soldiers. […]

Military sources told Army Radio late Wednesday…that Hamas had encouraged the demonstration by young Gazans at the fence, drawing an IDF patrol, and then its snipers opened fire on the soldiers.”

Israel responded to the incident with strikes on Hamas military installations in which the members of the terror organisation described by the BBC as “three fighters” were killed. BBC audiences have also not been informed that during the same incident, terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched nine rockets at Israeli civilian communities.

The latter part of the report was given over to what was clearly intended to be background information. Despite the number of terror attacks having declined over the past year, the BBC told its audiences that:

“There has been a wave of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings of Israelis predominantly by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since late 2015.

Dozens of Israelis have been killed in nearly three years of mainly lone-wolf attacks.

Some 300 Palestinians – most of them assailants, Israel says – have also been killed in that period, according to news agencies. Others have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.” [emphasis added]

As we see, “in nearly three years” the BBC has still not bothered to independently confirm that information itself.

An old mantra was once again recycled:

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

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.

The report closed with the BBC’s standard one-sided presentation of ‘international law’:

“More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

There are also some 100 outposts – small settlements built without the government’s authorisation.”

Related Articles:

BBC News reports another fatal terror attack without the word terror

Quantifying BBC ‘due impartiality’ on ‘international law’

 

 

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

In recent weeks we have been documenting the BBC’s coverage – or lack of it – of the arson attacks on farmland, woodland and nature reserves adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Comparing BBC coverage of fires in England and Israel

After three months, BBC News website notices Gaza arson attacks

As was noted on several occasions during that time:

“Since they began in April, not one BBC Jerusalem bureau reporter has found the time to travel to the border district to report on how the attacks are affecting the people living there.”

Apparently somebody at the BBC also noticed that fact because on July 12th a filmed report by Erica Chernofsky appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “How kites and balloons became militant weapons“.

Although the arson attacks had been going on for three months by the time this video appeared, they were described as a “new threat” in its synopsis. [emphasis added]

“Israelis living close to the border with Gaza face a new threat from Palestinian militants – ‘fire kites’ and balloons.”

In just over half of the two-minute twenty-seven second video viewers hear from Yael Raz Lachiani – spokesperson for Kibbutz Nahal Oz. In the rest they are told by the BBC that:

“Palestinian militants in Gaza are using some unusual weapons to attack Israel. These rudimentary weapons have caused more than 500 fires in the area. The balloons are often made from condoms because of their durability.”

At that point viewers see footage of such a balloon being filled with some sort of gas.

They are not told that the gas is helium and that it is intended to be used for medical purposes – notably MRI machines – or that last month Israel announced that it would “be more critical in assessing the requests made by hospitals and medical facilities in the Gaza Strip to ensure that the gas was being used for the correct purposes and not for arson balloons”.

The video goes on:

More than 6,000 acres of land have been destroyed by the fires.”

In fact, over a week before this video was published the figure was already over 7,400 acres.

“In Nahal Oz, some 250 acres of wheat fields have been scorched. The damage is estimated to be about $2m (£1.5m). The attacks began amid a period of violence along the border which saw about 120 Palestinians killed.”

No context concerning the pre-planned nature of that “period of violence”, the part played by terror groups in initiating, facilitating and financing it or the fact that over 80% of those “120 Palestinians” were linked to terror factions was provided to viewers, who were then told that:

“The Israeli army has developed drone technology to down the kites but it doesn’t catch them all.”

So finally, after three months of arson attacks, members of the BBC’s audience who happened to visit its website may now have seen one minute and twenty seconds of comment from one resident of the area bordering the Gaza Strip.

 

 

Comparing BBC coverage of fires in England and Israel

Readers may recall that last month we documented the BBC News website’s first ‘reporting’ on the arson attacks upon agricultural land and nature reserves adjacent to the Gaza Strip which have been going on since April.

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

“…sharp-eyed visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 7th may have noticed that a photograph captioned “Flaming kites sent from Gaza during the protests have burnt 2,250 acres of land in Israel” was included in a report titled “Israel blames Iran for Gaza border violence“.”

The only additional reference to that terrorism that visitors to the BBC News website have seen since then came in a report published on June 20th in which readers were initially told that:

“The military said Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted seven rockets fired by militants. Kites carrying containers of burning fuel were also sent into Israel, the military said.” [emphasis added]

Several hours later the following information was added to the report:

photo credit: KKL

“The escalation came hours after Israel bombed three sites in retaliation for the launching of incendiary kites and balloons over the Gaza border.

Israeli officials say the crude devices have sparked more than 450 fires in recent weeks, burning 2,800 hectares of land and causing $2m (£1.5m) of damage.

Palestinians began launching kites and balloons carrying containers of burning fuel and explosive devices during mass protests at which Gaza health officials say more than 120 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since 30 March.”

In other words, BBC News website users have seen no dedicated coverage whatsoever of the countless Hamas organised daily arson attacks that have destroyed thousands of acres of agricultural land, crops, nature reserves and woodland – as well as wildlife – in southern Israel throughout the past three months.

Since they began in April, not one BBC Jerusalem bureau reporter has found the time to travel to the border district to report on how the attacks are affecting the people living there.

In contrast, a series of wildfires in the United Kingdom which broke out in late June have been given their own tag – “England Moor fires” – on the BBC News website. There, BBC News website users can find dozens of written and filmed reports on the topic, including interviews with the local people affected by the fires, aerial footage of the devastation and reports on the fires’ effects on health, environment and wildlife.

While obviously the UK fires are a domestic story which would naturally be covered by Britain’s national broadcaster in depth, one would have thought that the corporation could have mustered at least one item of serious reporting on the issue of fires in southern Israel caused not by exceptionally hot weather, negligent picnickers or arson but by three months of deliberate non-stop terrorism.  

BBC R4 ‘Today’ listeners sold short by Knell’s portrayal of Jerusalem

The BBC’s domestic coverage of the Duke of Cambridge’s visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority controlled territories continued on June 26th with no fewer than three items aired on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

In addition to reports from the corporation’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond at 0:12:30 and during the news bulletin at 2:08:38, listeners also heard a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell at 1:20:40.

During that report Knell – like Jeremy Bowen in the previous day’s programme – brought up the topic of the objection of an Israeli minister to the wording of the itinerary put out by the Royal Household.

[emphasis in italics in the original]

1:22:26 Knell: “On his solo trip the prince will watch Jewish and Arab Israeli children playing football. But political differences here aren’t always so easy to overcome. Israeli politicians are criticising his schedule for presenting Jerusalem’s Old City as part of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Obviously if the BBC’s domestic audiences are to understand the reason for the objection to that description of the Old City of Jerusalem as ‘occupied Palestinian territory’ they would need to be told of the inclusion of Jerusalem in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland. They would also need to be informed of the belligerent British-backed Jordanian invasion and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews who had lived in Jerusalem for generations from districts including the Old City in 1948, together with the destruction of synagogues and cemeteries, as well as the fact that the 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan specifically stated that the ceasefire lines were not borders.

However in typical BBC style, Yolande Knell erased all the history prior to June 1967 from her simplistic account:

Knell: “Israel captured the east of the city in the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move that’s not internationally recognised. It sees all the city as its capital but Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital.”

Knell then went on to provide listeners with an overtly partisan view of the issue from the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi:

Knell: “Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi says the Palace is using the right descriptions.”

Ashrawi: “The only country that has violated international law openly and admitted Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is the US…is Trump. And the UK has not changed its position. It still considers Jerusalem as occupied territory. You cannot expect the royal visit to come and become complicit in land theft and the illegal annexation of Jerusalem.”

Not only did Knell not bother to challenge Ashrawi’s inaccurate and deliberately provocative claim of “land theft” or to clarify that her selected contributor’s claims concerning “international law” are a matter of opinion, she did not even make the effort to inform Radio 4 listeners that – as she doubtless knows, because their embassies are located in the same Jerusalem complex as the BBC’s own offices – in addition to the United States, Guatemala and Paraguay have also recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

Instead, Knell simply changed the subject and moved on with her report.

While it is standard BBC practice to avoid informing audiences of the history and status of Jerusalem before June 1967 – including the internationally unrecognised 19 year-long Jordanian occupation of parts of the city – obviously that practice does not contribute to meeting the BBC’s public purpose obligation 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”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s presentation of Jerusalem history

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ forces Brexit and Gaza into royal visit report

BBC News website adopts selective history in royal visit article

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Readers of a BBC News website article titled “May raises concerns with Israel over Gaza violence” which appeared on the ‘UK Politics’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on June 6th (with the tag “Gaza border clashes”) were probably rather confused when they saw a reference to burning fields.

“Responding to her [Theresa May’s] comments, Mr Netanyahu said the problems in Gaza were “rooted in the fundamental goal of Hamas to destroy Israel”.

He added: “We are not witnessing a peaceful protest. In addition to burning our fields, these people are being paid for and pushed by Hamas to try to break into Israel’s defences, kill as many Israelis as they can when they get through the border and kidnap our soldiers.” [emphasis added]

Photo credit: KKL

We have previously noted here that BBC audiences have seen no coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ arson attacks that have destroyed thousands of acres of agricultural land, crops, nature reserves and woodland in southern Israel.

“Since the “March of Return” protests began along the Gaza border at the end of March, hundreds of kites and helium balloons have been flown into Israel outfitted with Molotov cocktails and containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of land, though no injuries have been reported.

Israeli officials have said fires have destroyed over 17,500 dunams (4,300 acres) of land, the majority of it in nature reserves and parks.

There have been at least 285 separate fire incidents in the KKL/JNF nature reserves since April 11, burning 3,000 dunams (740 acres) of conservation area in the Beeri and Kissufim forests, Ben David [of the JNF] said. According to the Nature and Parks Authority, a total of 10,000 dunams in parks and reserves in southern Israel have been torched, including the KKL/JNF parks. Fires also burned an additional 7,500 dunams (1,800 acres) of farmland, mostly cattle grazing areas but also parts of some fields. […]

Israel’s Tax Authority said the agricultural damage alone stood at NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) and that damage caused to nature reserves and other land could drive up the figure.”

On one occasion the BBC changed a photo caption, thereby turning an image depicting “a fire in a wheat field near the Kibbutz of Nahal Oz” into one telling BBC audiences that “Israeli soldiers patrolled along the Gaza border”.

However, sharp-eyed visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 7th may have noticed that a photograph captioned “Flaming kites sent from Gaza during the protests have burnt 2,250 acres of land in Israel” was included in a report titled “Israel blames Iran for Gaza border violence“.

The original caption to that photograph clarified what type of “land in Israel” has been burned:

“Israeli firefighters try to extinguish a fire that ignited at a field as a result of a Molotov cocktail kite that was sent from Gaza Strip few kilometers from the border with Gaza near Kibbutz Or Haner, in southern Israel, 05 June 2018. Media reports that after a cease-fire was achieved between Israeli military and Palestinian militants in Gaza on 29 May 2018 Palestinians from Gaza continue to send Molotov kites to the Israeli territory and cause damage to thousands of acres of agriculture and nature reserves in Israel as Palestinians mark the ‘Naksa Day’ or the so-called Six-days war.”

The arson attacks have continued since the BBC published that photo caption on June 7th but as we see, after two months and hundreds of arson attacks causing damage to thousands of acres of crops, agricultural land, woodland and nature reserves – including wildlife – the BBC has managed to come up with the grand total of just sixteen words on that story.

Related Articles:

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

 

 

Superficial BBC News reporting from Qatar hinders understanding

Plucky: Having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties.”

The article promoted by the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief in that Tweet appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th under the headline “Qatar cash and cows help buck Gulf boycott“. Written by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell after a visit to Doha, the report includes a video about a dairy farm in Qatar in which BBC audiences are told that: [emphasis added]

“The cows were shipped, and even flown into Qatar when it was cut off by its Arab neighbours. They accused it of supporting terrorism – which it denies.”

In the article itself readers find the following:

“On 5 June last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off all diplomatic, trade and transport links to Qatar.

They accused it of supporting terrorism, stirring up regional instability and seeking close ties with their arch-rival, Iran.

Qatar denied that and refused to comply with a long list of demands, including closing its Al Jazeera news network. […]

“The main thing that the blockading states are aiming for [is] a power consolidation in the region,” Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, tells me.

They started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The exact same messaging is seen in the synopsis to a filmed report that also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 5th.

“Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani says “they started to draw the picture of terrorist on anyone who is different from them.””

The same statement opens the filmed report itself.

So what information were BBC audiences given that would help them judge whether there is any truth in that repeatedly promoted claim, according to which accusations of support for terrorism are merely a smear because Qatar is “different”?”

Knell’s portrayal of the issue begins with a year-old story.

“Qatar blames the start of last year’s crisis on what it says was a cyber-attack on its state-run news agency, which published comments purportedly from the ruling emir.

He was quoted as expressing sympathy for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and claiming that Donald Trump might not last long as US president.

However, analysts say the roots of the disagreement go back much further.

“This was an issue that was kept bottled for 20 years but it just came out in the open a year ago,” says Ali Shihabi, the Saudi founder of the Washington-based, Arabia Foundation.

He refers to tapes that emerged after the fall of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 which appeared to show the Qatari emir’s father plotting against Saudi royals when he was ruler.

Mr Shihabi says that Qatar reneged on agreements to stop payments to dissidents in other Arab countries and gave them a platform on Al Jazeera.”

Who those “dissidents” are and what they ‘dissented’ remains unclear in Knell’s report.

Significantly, Knell made no effort whatsoever to inform BBC audiences of Qatar’s record of negligence on terror financing. Neither did she bother to tell audiences about Qatar’s selective definitions of terrorism, its hosting of senior Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood figures or Qatari leaders’ ties to a terror financier.

As one Middle East analyst put it earlier this year:

“Qatar is on a charm offensive designed to portray itself as a victim of rivalries in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies have isolated the emirate. […]

The problem with Qatar’s attempt to rebrand itself as the moderate state being victimized by Saudi Arabia is that Qatar has never come clean about its support for Hamas and terror financing. “Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, has for many years openly financed Hamas, a group that continues to undermine regional stability,” U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said at the Center for a New American Security in March 2014. He said that fundraisers for Al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, then known as Nusra Front, had operated in Kuwait and Qatar.”

Yolande Knell’s superficial reporting clearly does nowhere near enough to enhance the ability of the BBC’s funding public to look beyond that charm offensive. Quite the opposite in fact: it provides back wind for Qatar’s rebranding campaign.

Related Articles:

Qatar’s expulsion of Hamas officials not newsworthy for the BBC

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

BBC media editor’s softball interview with fellow journalist sold audiences short

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of Gaza mortar and rocket attacks

Right at the end of the May 29th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ listeners heard a short item relating to the mortar and rocket fire by terror groups in the Gaza Strip that had, at the time of broadcast, been going on for over nine hours.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that report – from 51:03 here – as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “And just before we go, there has been some significant activity on the border between Gaza and Israel. The BBC’s Tom Bateman joins us now on the line from Jerusalem. Ah, Tom, this has been the heaviest military exchange of fire for some time.”

Located over a hundred kilometres away from the scene of the events he was reporting, Tom Bateman began in typical BBC ‘last-first’ mode by describing Israel’s response to – by that time – four rounds of attacks on civilian communities. In line with BBC editorial policy he refrained from describing the people responsible for those attacks as terrorists.  

Bateman: “Yeah, well this is a series of Israeli airstrikes that the Israeli military is describing as its largest response in Gaza since the war of 2014. It says it carried out airstrikes on 30 targets. Eh…speaking to colleagues in Gaza City…I mean they heard very loud explosions over a period of about three hours from around lunchtime. The Israeli military says it’s been targeting militant…ah…groups’ sites there and this follows this morning…ehm…rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Now most of those mortars were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system but at least two landed in Israeli communities…eh…and one – the Israelis say – in the garden of a children’s nursery that was empty at the time. But the Israeli prime minister said there would be a forceful response. The Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that this has been a massive and powerful strike and it seems that rocket alert sirens are continuing in southern Israel, so there are signs that this may escalate yet further.”

Notably the first three barrages (at around 07:00, 08:00 and 09:30 local time) got just fifty words of coverage from Bateman, who did not bother to inform listeners how many mortars had been fired (28) but added the unnecessary qualification “the Israelis say” to his portrayal of the landing site of one of them. By the time Bateman’s live report was aired, the IDF had announced the destruction of a cross-border tunnel but ‘Newshour’ listeners heard nothing of that.  

Iqbal: “And nothing, no…eh…statement from Gaza at all yet?”

Bateman: “Well we know that, as I say, there has been an escalation since…on Sunday an Islamic Jihad military post was targeted by the Israelis. Three Islamic Jihad militants were killed in that but we await further statements from the groups in Gaza themselves.”

The BBC did not report on that incident on May 27th and so audiences would be unaware of the part missing from Bateman’s account: the fact that the Israeli fire on the PIJ observation post came after the terror group had planted an explosive device on the border fence.

Iqbal: “Tom Bateman joining us live from Jerusalem on that increased military activity – heavy exchange between Gaza and Israel.”

Still located in Jerusalem, Bateman returned to report on the same story in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 50:14 here). Presenter Julian Marshall stuck to the BBC’s editorial line by failing to inform listeners that over 80% of the people he portrayed simply as “Palestinians” were linked to terrorist groups.  

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “And we go now to Israel’s border with Gaza: the scene earlier this month of mass protests during which more than a hundred Palestinians were killed by Israeli live fire. And there’s been a further upset of violence today with massive Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in response to a barrage of shells from Palestinian militants. I heard more from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman began with the inaccurate claim that “sirens sounded across southern Israel” when in fact that they were initially confined to areas close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

Bateman: “Well it was early on Tuesday morning that…ah…rocket sirens sounded across southern Israel. There was then a…what Israel describes as a barrage of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. Now most of the projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. There were more than 25 fired all together but at least two landed in Israeli communities. Israel is saying one landed in the…in a kindergarten yard. There was no-one there at the time. And after this, which the Israeli military has described as…ehm…the biggest event of its kind from the Gaza Strip since the war in 2014, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised a forceful response and then around lunchtime for around three hours there were intensive Israeli airstrikes at locations across the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says that they targeted more than 30 sites. I was speaking to colleagues in Gaza City. I mean there were incredibly loud explosions that could be heard from there and it appears these were targeting – as far as the Israelis were concerned – Hamas and Islamic Jihad military sites. They believe that most of the rocket and mortar fire had come from Islamic Jihad and from Hamas as well.”

Two and a half hours before this programme went on air it had already been reported that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for the attacks. Bateman’s description of that as something that “the Israelis…believe” is therefore both superfluous and misleading. Failing to adequately clarify that the IED was placed at the border fence by PIJ activists, he continued:

Bateman: “That…it appears to have been in response to an event on Sunday when Israelis fired tank fire at a military post inside the Gaza Strip, killing three Islamic Jihad members. That, the Israelis said, was in response to an explosive device being laid at the Gaza perimeter fence. And so what you have here is a serious escalation.”

Marshall: “And will it escalate further, Tom?”

Bateman: “Well this is a question that was asked of the Israeli military this afternoon and they have said – which is what they always say in these events – that they do not seek an escalation but they won’t tolerate missiles – rockets or projectiles – coming from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli communities. Now there were more rocket sirens whilst Israeli airstrikes were going on. More interceptions it seems and the Israeli media is reporting that at least three Israelis have been wounded from shrapnel. They don’t seem to be very serious injuries but of course that may yield yet another wave of responses from Israel.”

By the time that report from Bateman was aired residents of the western Negev had been rushing to shelters for sixteen hours and at least 70 rockets and mortars had been fired into Israeli territory with more hits recorded than the two mentioned in this report. The number of projectiles portrayed in Bateman’s report – “more than 25” – was accurate thirteen and a half hours before it was aired. Once again listeners heard nothing about the cross-border tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Egypt and then into Israel which had been destroyed some seven hours previously.

Obviously the total of just over five minutes of reporting that BBC World Service audiences heard in these two editions of ‘Newshour’ did not provide them with the full picture of this story – and not least the fact that the two organisations that initiated the violence with massive mortar attacks are terrorist groups rather than “militants”.

Related Articles:

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

Over the past few weeks we have documented some of the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ events that began at the end of March. Between March 30th and early May, BBC reporting was sporadic but as the anticipated May 14th climax approached – and with it the chance to promote the notion of linkage between the pre-planned events along the Gaza Strip-Israel border and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem – the pace of coverage increased, as the examples below demonstrate.

Tuesday, May 8th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, (from 02:18:25 here) interview by Mishal Husain with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev.

Husain: “Why are your soldiers using live ammunition to shoot people on the other side of the fence? [….] The Israeli rights group Adalah […] says that […] there’s been systematic use of live fire with no justification.”

Wednesday, May 9th:

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with James Coomarasamy (from 0:14:00 to 0:20:30 here) discussed here

Friday, May 11th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’: live broadcast from Jerusalem with Martha Kearney (from 08:09 here)

Sunday, May 13th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Sunday’: broadcast from Jerusalem with Edward Stourton (from 00:13 here)

BBC World Service, ‘Weekend’ with Julian Worricker (from 04:40 here) discussed here

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with James Coomarasamy (from 00:53 here)

Monday, May 14th:

BBC World Service, ‘Newsday’: live broadcast from Jerusalem (here)

BBC News website: “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014” – discussed here

BBC News website: “As it happened: Gaza protest violence” 

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’: with Justin Webb and John Humphrys (from 0:34:00 to 0:38:15, from 1:48:30 to 1:57:30 and from 2:43:30 to 2:48:30 here)

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’ with Sarah Montague (from 0:01:00 to 0:02:30 and from 0:07:00 to 0:17:35 here)

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Razia Iqbal (from 0:00:00 to 0:13:00, from 0:14:00 to 0:20:45, and from 0:30:00 to 0:49:30 here) – discussed here, here, here and here

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Julian Marshall (from 00:11 to 0:23:00 and from 0:26:30 to 0:42:45 here)

Marshall: “At 4pm local time the United States officially moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. As the ceremony took place, more than 50 Palestinians protesting in Gaza were killed by Israeli forces.”

BBC World News, ‘Beyond 100 Days’ with Katty Kay and Christian Fraser (from 0:01:28 to 0:13:15 and from 0:31:00 to 0:41:30 here)

BBC Two, ‘Newsnight’ with Mark Urban (from 0:01:30 to 0:11:00 here)

Tuesday, May 15th:

BBC News website “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence in years“.

“Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and thousands wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

The violence came as the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has infuriated Palestinians.”

BBC News website: “‘Hear our message’: Gaza border violence in pictures” – discussed here

BBC News website: “What’s at the root of the protests in Gaza?” by Jeremy Bowen – discussed here

BBC News website: “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years

BBC News website: “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

BBC News website: “May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, presented by Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson (from 0:07:45 to 0:08:30, from 0:10:15 to 0:13:00, from 0:48:15 to 0:54:15, from 1:09:00 to 1:13:30, from 2:10:00 to 2:21:30, and from 2:38:15 to 2:42:15 here)

“Palestinian officials say nearly 60 people died in Gaza yesterday, when Israeli forces opened fire as America opened its new embassy in Jerusalem.”

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’, with Sarah Montague (from 0:01:10 to 0:02:20 and from 0:07:00 to 0:17:30 here)

“Funerals have been taking place for many of the Palestinians killed during protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel yesterday. The United Nations Human Rights office has condemned what it called the appalling deadly violence by Israeli forces who killed nearly 60 people.”

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Razia Iqbal (from 0:00:00 to 0:12:45 and from 0:30:00 to 0:42:45 here)

“As the funerals are held in Gaza of the 58 people killed on Monday by Israeli security forces, Hamas and the Israeli government blame each other for the violence – while both insist they want peace.”

BBC World Service, ‘Newshour’ with Julian Marshall (from 0:00:40 to 0:14:00, from 0:30:00 to 0:43:00 and from 0:45:00 to 0:50:10 here)

BBC World Service, BBC OS, “What’s it like living in Gaza?

BBC Radio 4, ‘PM’ with Eddie Mair (from 0:01:00 to 0:02:15 and from 0:05:30 to 0:17:30 here)

BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’ with Ritula Shah (from 0:00:00 to 0:02:30 and from 0:07:45 to 0:23:45 here)

BBC World News and BBC 4, ‘Beyond 100 Days’ with Katty Kay and Christian Fraser (from 0:01:00 to 0:13:20 here)

Wednesday, May 16th:

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, presented by Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson (from 1:12:00 to 1:15:45 and from 2:43:00 to 2:44:45 here).

“The Arab League will hold emergency talks today, with some members calling for Israel to be taken to the International Criminal Court, for the massacre of 59 Palestinians at the border with Gaza on a single day.” [emphasis added]

BBC Radio 4, ‘World at One’ with Sarah Montague (from 0:25:00 to 0:31:45 here) – discussed here

BBC News website, BBC One ‘News at 10’, BBC News Channel, “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on” by Jeremy Bowen – discussed here.

BBC News website: “Gaza: The history behind the anger” by Paul Adams

 

On the day of the violent events that prompted so much BBC coverage – May 14th – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that three of those killed belonged to its terror organisation. The following afternoon – May 15thHamas put out a ‘martyrdom poster’ for ten members of its internal security apparatus also killed in the May 14th incidents.

On the afternoon of May 16th reports emerged concerning an interview given by Hamas’ Salah Bardawil to a local TV channel.

“A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were “official.”

“I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” he said.”

Also on May 16th, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he admitted that “many” of those involved in the May 14th incidents “took off their military uniforms” and went on to say:

“When we decided to embark on these marches, we decided to turn that which is most dear to us – the bodies of our women and children – into a dam blocking the collapse in Arab reality, a dam to prevent the racing of many Arabs towards the normalization of ties with the plundering entity, which occupies our Jerusalem, plunders our land, defiles our holy places, and oppresses our people day and night.”

In other words, by late afternoon on May 16th it was known that fifty-three of the 62 people reported killed on May 14th had been claimed by the terror organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One would of course have expected the BBC to have given that information equal prominence to its repeated claims of a “massacre” and “slaughter” of “Palestinian protesters”.

However, at that point the BBC did a disappearing act.

On May 16th the BBC News website published an article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” which makes no mention of the fact that the vast majority of those killed were members of terror groups [ see ‘updates’ below] and BBC World Service and domestic radio programmes dropped all coverage of the story.

So perhaps the BBC was not aware of the fact that over 85% of those killed had been claimed by terrorist organisations? In an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ aired on May 18th – presented by Jon Donnison (from 17:14 here) – we discover that the corporation was perfectly aware of Bardawil’s statement.

Donnison: “Now the UN’s Human Rights Council has voted for an independent investigation into the killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters by the Israeli forces in Gaza this week. Health officials in Gaza say 60 people were killed by Israeli forces on Monday and a further 2,700 Palestinians injured, many of them with live fire. A Hamas official has said 50 of those killed were from the Islamist group which is in power in the territory. Israel has insisted that its response to the protests was proportionate but that is not the view of the UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein who said Israel’s actions were wholly disproportionate. He called for an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, on May 22nd the BBC News website published an article titled “Palestinians demand full ICC investigation into ‘Israeli war crimes’” in which it failed to state that the majority of those killed on May 14th had been claimed by terror groups while continuing to promote the notion that they can be described as “unarmed civilians”.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out “massacres” of unarmed civilians. But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted its troops acted in self-defence and blamed the militant group Hamas, which orchestrated the protests, for the deaths.” [emphasis added]

The public purposes laid down in the BBC’s charter oblige it to provide its audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”. In order to meet that obligation the BBC would have had to inform audiences of the fact that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed a very high proportion of those the BBC spent days describing as “protesters” on multiple channels and platforms.

Significantly, it failed to do so.

Update: 

A reference to Bardawil’s statement appeared at the end of an article published on the BBC News website on May 18. A qualified reference to the statement was added to the article titled “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?” the day after its initial publication. 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

In previous posts we looked at how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border were portrayed as they happened in the May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ (available here).

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

In this post we will look at what BBC audiences worldwide were told in real-time about the context to the poorly portrayed violence along that border.

The long introduction given by presenter Razia Iqbal included misrepresentation of the locations of previous ‘Great Return March’ events – which actually were confined to the Gaza Strip border. Iqbal also promoted the blatant falsehood that the displacement of all Palestinians in 1948 was “forced”.

01:28 Iqbal: “Dates are significant here. It is the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Israel and there has been a six-week protest by Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and – the most deadly – in Gaza. Scores have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to culminate on May the 15th, tomorrow, called the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians as the day when they were forced from their land and homes as Israel was established.”

In contrast to the very clear – but inaccurate – impression given by Razia Iqbal, the facts are of course much more nuanced:

“Historians agree that there was no single cause of the Arab flight from Palestine. In large part, the masses fled because they saw the Palestinian elite doing the same thing. In part, it was in response to exhortations by Arab military and political leaders that Palestinian civilians evacuate their homes until the end of the fighting. Vast numbers were simply fleeing the heavy fighting that surrounded them, or that they expected to soon disrupt their lives. In some instances, Palestinians were forced from their homes by the Jewish military.”

The vast majority of the context to what was, as we saw earlier, overwhelmingly portrayed as “peaceful marches” and “protests” came in Yolande Knell’s report near the beginning of the programme.

05:15 Iqbal: “Yolande, just remind listeners that this has been going on for several weeks now and it’s very specifically to mark a day tomorrow for the Palestinians.”

Knell: “That’s right. This has been called the Great March of Return by the Palestinians. It was organised in Gaza over the past 6 weeks. The 15th of May is always a date of protest for Palestinians when they remember how, back in 1948, more than 700,000 people lost their homes on land that became part of Israel. [….] The people [Knell spoke to in Gaza] were saying that they really felt that the historic injustice as they saw it was at the heart of all the modern-day problems that they have in Gaza, where they have chronic electricity shortages, this long-time blockade that’s been enforced by Israel and Egypt which now means that the Gaza Strip is an extremely poor place – it suffers from extremely high unemployment.”

Obviously the fact that there are chronic electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip has nothing whatsoever to do with the refugee issue (it is, as Knell well knows, in fact due to infighting between Hamas and Fatah) and neither do the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt in response to the surge in terrorism since Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Knell went on:

Knell: “One woman told me ‘I wouldn’t have come down here if Gaza wasn’t in the state it was but people need to see what the issues are for us’. They felt that this was putting back the suffering of people in Gaza back into the spotlight. Also a lot of concern…they think that the issue of Palestinian refugees – which is a key issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict – they feel that there have been attempts – particularly by Washington – to try to push this off the table of any future negotiations. They say that because of course earlier this year the US did announce big cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.”

Yolande Knell (nor anyone else in this programme) made no effort to inform listeners why Palestinians – even when living under PA or Hamas control – are still kept in refugee status by UNRWA, their own leaders and the leaders of Arab countries seventy years on.

Listeners were also told that:

Knell: “Now on top of that, another key issue – the future status of Jerusalem. That is also at stake and of course that’s just added fuel to the flames, brought more people out for these demonstrations. “

As we see, listeners to this broadcast were wrongly led to believe that Palestinians were ‘protesting’ on the border because of a bad electricity supply, high unemployment and poverty – even as the BBC serially ignored the repeated attacks by ‘protesters’ on the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Additional factors cited included “the future status of Jerusalem” and the anniversary of a “historic injustice” which Knell failed to put into its correct context. Interestingly, while BBC reports on previous bouts of ‘Great Return March’ violence had touted the ‘right of return’ that is supposedly the publicity stunt’s raison d’être (see for example here and here), in this report that topic was largely avoided and listeners were not informed of the basic fact that the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means rejection of the two-state solution and that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state. 

Listeners also heard nothing of the fact that the ‘Great Return March’ events were organised by factions including Gaza-based terror groups. They were not told of the payments made by Hamas to participators or of the organisers’ calls for breaching of the border fence and martyrdom. Even Yahya Sinwar’s March 31st statement of intent – “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies” – did not receive any BBC coverage either in this programme or elsewhere.

Sadly it is all too obvious that both of the topics covered in this May 14th ‘split screen’ edition of Newshour – the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting on the Gaza border on the same day – were presented in a manner intended to amplify a specific political narrative rather than to provide BBC audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.

In the context of the question of whose interests this edition of ‘Newshour’ served, it is worth noting what Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar had to say about the Western media’s ‘split screen’ reporting two days after this BBC programme was broadcast:

“Our people have imposed their agenda upon the whole world. There was supposed to be a romantic picture of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on the world’s television screens, but our people, in their collective consciousness, forced the whole world to split the television screens between the footage of fraud, deception, falsehood, and oppression, manifest in the attempt to impose Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and between the image of injustice, oppression, heroism, and determination painted by our own people in their sacrifices – the sacrifice of their children as an offering for Jerusalem and the Right of Return.”

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BACKGROUNDER: PALESTINIAN ARAB AND JEWISH REFUGEES (CAMERA)