Revisiting a BBC story from 2002

During the Second Intifada, on September 9th 2002, BBC News reported the arrests of three Jerusalem residents in an article titled “Palestinians ‘planned to poison diners’“.Cafe Rimon art 1

“Israel is holding three young Palestinians from East Jerusalem on suspicion of plotting to poison diners at a café in the city.

Two of the men, who were arrested in August, are also suspected of planning to mount a suicide bomb attack.”

Six days later, BBC News produced another report on the same case – “Palestinian ‘poison plan’ cook charged” – in which audiences were told that:

“A Palestinian cook has been charged by the Israeli authorities with plotting to poison customers at a restaurant in West Jerusalem where he used to work

The man – named as 23-year-old Othman Said Kianiya – was arrested last month along with two other Arab residents of East Jerusalem who have already been charged.

All three were alleged to be working on behalf of the militant group Hamas.”

This week the ringleader of the would-be poisoners was released after completing a fourteen-year prison sentence and photographs of his reception in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber show that the BBC’s use of the word “alleged” with regard to Sufian Bakri Abdu’s links to Hamas was superfluous.

Jabel Mukaber 1

Jabel Mukaber 2

Over the last couple of years, BBC reports have variously told audiences that terrorists hailing from Jabal Mukaber were “ground down by the occupation“, angered by the demolition of houses of other terrorists or enraged by “threats to an important Muslim site“. Audience understanding would of course have been enhanced had BBC also covered the topic of the long-standing links of some residents of that Jerusalem neighbourhood to proscribed terrorist organisations and carried out some serious reporting on the much neglected issue of Hamas’ efforts to boost its infrastructure in PA controlled areas. 

More Fatah glorification of terrorism ignored by the BBC

Last month we noted the predictable absence of any BBC coverage of the annual paramilitary summer camps organised by the terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad for children and youth in the Gaza Strip.

Now Palestinian Media Watch brings us news of another terror glorifying children’s summer camp.  This one, however, did not take place in the Gaza Strip and was not run by Islamist terror groups.

“As part of the closing ceremony of a summer camp for Palestinian children organized by the Palestinian National Committee of Summer Camps and the Fatah Movement, Palestinian children performed a play showing the alleged “cruel attitude of the Zionist jailer towards our [Palestinian] heroic prisoners.”  […]

The summer camp was named after terrorist Muhammad Al-Shubaki, who stabbed and wounded an Israel soldier at the entrance to the Al-Fawwar refugee camp on Nov. 25, 2015. The terrorist’s father spoke at the closing ceremony of the summer camp, expressing his “pride and thanks for the gesture of memorializing the heroic Martyrs.””Fatah profile

The BBC’s profile of Fatah continues to inform audiences that the movement “signed a declaration rejecting attacks on civilians in Israel and committing themselves to peace and co-existence.”

As long as the corporation continues to avoid reporting cases of blatant glorification of terrorism by the PA’s dominant party Fatah such as this summer camp, audiences will of course be unable to put that supposed Fatah ‘commitment’ to “peace and co-existence” into its appropriate context and the BBC will continue to fail to meet its purpose remit of building “understanding of international issues”.   

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Flaws in BBC’s ‘explanation’ of Palestinian terror again exposed

Despite at least one BBC News producer being aware of the incident, the corporation chose not to report a narrowly averted terror attack against travellers on the Jerusalem light rail system last month.

“Police in downtown Jerusalem on Sunday morning arrested a Palestinian man who was found to be carrying explosives and knives in his backpack.

The suspect, identified as a West Bank resident, was detained near the light rail stop on Jaffa Road after he raised the suspicions of a security guard.

Police said the man was standing “behind the stop, with a bag in his hand.” When the guard asked to examine the contents of the bag, he noticed a bomb and called police.”

Over the past ten months the BBC has promoted a standard ‘explanation’ for Palestinian terrorism which funnels audience attentions towards the subject of ‘the occupation’. As has been noted here throughout that time, that selective framing removes from view issues such as official Palestinian Authority incitement and glorification of terrorism and downplays or erases the often relevant factor of religious ideology.

The investigation into the thwarted attack on users of the Jerusalem light rail system revealed the would-be bomber’s motive.

“On July 15, Ali Abu Hassan entered Israel through a valley outside of the eastern Tsur Baher neighborhood, with the intention of carrying out an attack in the capital as a form of “revenge for visits by tourists and Israeli Jews to the Temple Mount,” police said in a statement.

He was armed with three pipe bombs he had linked together into one large explosive and had covered with nails and screws dipped in rat poison. “In his bag there were also two knives and a cellphone,” police said Tuesday.”

Since last autumn the BBC has consistently avoided informing its audiences about the Temple Mount related incitement propagated by even the highest Palestinian Authority officials.Abbas filthy feet

“The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours… and they have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.” [Official PA TV, Sept. 16, 2015 and official website of PA Chairman Abbas, Sept. 16, 2015]

That BBC policy however goes back further than the particular wave of terror which began last autumn, with the corporation long having refrained from providing its audiences with any meaningful reporting on the religious ideology which lies behind the frequently seen violent opposition to visits by non-Muslims at a site of significance to all three Abrahamic religions. 

As long as the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” continues to employ that policy of self-censorship, this is obviously one “international issue” on which BBC audiences will continue to be sold short.

BBC ignores annual terrorist indoctrination of Gaza youth yet again

The summer season is upon us and with it come the annual ‘summer camps’ organised by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The Tower reports:

“Hamas has opened three-week-long training camps in Gaza for over 50,000 elementary, middle, and high school students, the Gaza-based terror organization said in a press release Sunday.

Hamas official Ismail Radwan explained that the theme of the camps is the “Jerusalem Intifada,” and that the goal is “to raise a generation of Palestinians who love the resistance and the liberation of Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The camps also include scouting and religious educational programming.”

In previous years the BBC has completely ignored these ‘youth camps’ but last year it made a minor exception: BBC audiences got a full fifty-two seconds of coverage of that topic in a programme made by Lyse Doucet. So far this year, the corporation appears to have reverted to form.

As Khaled Abu Toameh has previously explained:Hamas summer camp

“The declared goal of the camps to is to “prepare a new generation of Palestinian youths spiritually, mentally and physically for the battle to liberate Palestine.” When Hamas talks about the “liberation of Palestine,” it is not referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip only, but to the whole of Israel. In other words, these Palestinian children are being educated and trained to prepare for joining the war aimed at destroying Israel.

The children are being taught that their role models are Hamas suicide bombers and terrorists responsible for the death of hundreds of Israelis over the past few decades. […]

Hamas’s religious education is aimed at teaching the children about Islam and its sharia laws. The children are being told that the whole of the land of Palestine (including Israel) is Muslim-owned land that can’t be given away to non-Muslims. They are also being taught that making peace with the “infidels” is prohibited under the teachings of Islam.”

The BBC is of course notoriously reluctant to provide its audiences with information on the issues of Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism and its portrayal of what it likes to term ‘obstacles to peace’ is hence perennially one-sided. It therefore comes as no surprise to see the corporation once again ignore the mass indoctrination of children with terror lauding ideology – even as it continues to promote a politicised narrative on the ‘reasons’ for the failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

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BBC News amplifies a false story of the ‘dark Israel’ genre

On July 12th the BBC News website’s Middle East page ran an article headlined “Israel army names new chief rabbi criticised over rape comments” which opened by informing readers that:Chief Rabbi art

“Israel’s military has nominated a new chief rabbi criticised for remarks he made in the past that seemed to condone the rape of non-Jewish women in war.

In an answer to a religious website in 2002, Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim implied that such an act was permissible.”

The link in that second paragraph directs BBC audiences to the English language version of an article published by Yediot Aharonot in Hebrew on its Ynet website, as well as in print, on the day that this BBC News article appeared.

As the respected media watchdog website ‘The Seventh Eye’ showed on the same day, Yediot Aharonot’s story – including the alleged ‘quotes’ it promotes – is false.

The BBC has enough Hebrew speakers working in its Jerusalem bureau to have been able to determine that amplification of Yediot Aharonot’s false claims is not in line with the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy and that is perhaps why the subsequent paragraph read as follows:

“He [Rabbi Karim]  clarified in 2012 that his words had been taken out of context and that rape was forbidden “in any situation”.”

Nevertheless, the next 96 words of the article were devoted to the amplification of vacuous reactions to the non-story which were lifted directly from the linked Ynet article.chief rabbi art on hp

“But his appointment, which requires the defence minister’s approval, was condemned by a top female politician.

Zehava Galon, leader of the Meretz party, described Rabbi Karim as “not suitable to represent Jewish morality in any way whatsoever”.

“His appalling, racist and violent statement makes women fair game,” she added.

The head of the Israeli parliament’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint Arab List, said: “Col Karim’s ruling on permitting raping non-Jewish women is similar to the fatwa of a murderous organisation that’s not so far from Israel’s borders.””

That was followed by a response from the IDF.

So what was the point of the BBC’s amplification of this second-hand non-story? Obviously it certainly wasn’t to report news or contribute to audiences’ “understanding of international issues” because the ‘news’ is false and the issue non-existent.

Rather, this is yet another BBC report belonging to the ‘dark Israel’ genre: the succession of stories which – often with little or no regard for accuracy – paint a portrait of a country parting ways with democracy that is rife with racism, sexism, xenophobia, government censorship and more.  

The publication of articles such as this of course does nothing to support the BBC’s claim that its reporting from Israel reporting is “impartial” and professional. 

Revisiting a missing chapter in the BBC’s 2015 election coverage

Shortly after the March 2015 general election in Israel, the then BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Kevin Connolly told radio audiences that:

“…Mr Netanyahu now has the chance to replace a rather fractious and recalcitrant old coalition with a new one, which should prove more manageable. Foreign governments, of course, are far too well-behaved to interfere in the internal politics of a democratic state. But the outside world tends to view Israeli politics through the prism of the state of the peace process with the Palestinians.” [emphasis added]Main art 17 3

At the time we commented:

“As has been noted here in previous discussions of BBC coverage of the recent Israeli election (see here and here), one topic which all the corporation’s journalists avoided like the plague in all its reporting was that of foreign funding for organisations such as V15 which campaigned to influence the outcome of the election.”

Although the redundancy of Connolly’s claim was apparent at the time, this week its specious reasoning became even clearer, as Yair Rosenberg reports at the Tablet.

“In a bipartisan report issued Tuesday, the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations criticized the State Department for issuing $349,000 in grants to OneVoice, an Israeli-Palestinian peace-building organization, with insufficient oversight. The report, signed by Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, found that the funds were used by to build infrastructure that was subsequently turned into an anti-Netanyahu apparatus for Israel’s 2015 elections, in contravention of State Department practice. […]

The report found no legal wrongdoing by the State Department, even as it rapped it for negligence, given that OneVoice had a history of electoral activism, was building electoral infrastructure, and had informed the State Department of its electoral plans. Whether this American funding of anti-Bibi advocacy was a deliberate design, the consequence of incompetence, or the product of benign neglect, will likely never be known with certainty.”

The Washington Times adds:

“The State Department ignored warnings signs and funded a politically active group in a politically sensitive environment with inadequate safeguards,” said Sen. Rob Portman, chairman of the investigative subcommittee. “It is completely unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars were used to build a political campaign infrastructure that was deployed — immediately after the grant ended — against the leader of our closest ally in the Middle East. American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.”

Oddly, we have been unable to find any BBC reporting on the topic of that investigative subcommittee’s conclusions.

Related Articles:

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Elections 2015: round up of BBC coverage – election day website reports

Elections 2015: the morning after – BBC News website coverage

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

After a shaky start, BBC News was soon able to provide its audiences with an accurate description of the horrendous attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice on the evening of July 14th.

Attack Nice Tweet 1

Attack Nice Tweet 2

BBC News website 'World' page

BBC News website ‘World’ page

BBC News website 'Europe' page

BBC News website ‘Europe’ page

Terror attacks using vehicles have not been afforded the same clarity of description by the BBC when perpetrated against Israelis.

In August 2014 BBC News reported a “Suspected ‘attack’ on bus with digger in Jerusalem”.

Bus Reynolds filmed

On October 22nd 2014 a vehicular attack in Jerusalem in which two people were murdered was described as a “car ‘attack'”.Pigua Jerusalem version 2

 

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BBC reports on vehicular attack in Jerusalem on November 5th 2014 in which two people were murdered were headlined “Driver hits pedestrians in East Jerusalem” and a follow-up report described a “van attack”.

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Pigua 5 11 2nd victim

A fatal vehicular attack in Jerusalem on April 15th 2015 did not receive any coverage from the BBC and neither did a fatal vehicular attack at Halhoul Junction on November 4th of that year. Numerous additional attacks have either been ignored or reported without use of the word terror. In one case, not only did the BBC not tell audiences that a terror attack had taken place but even amplified anonymous hearsay suggesting it had not.

Once again the BBC’s double standards when reporting terrorism are all too apparent.

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BBC News ignores another Iranian funded terror group

Iran’s financing of terror is not a topic to which the BBC has devoted much serious reporting, despite the ample available evidence available. It is therefore not surprising to see that the following story has to date been ignored by the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau.Iran Hizballah

“Israel announced Monday it had outlawed a Palestinian group it said acted as a front for Iran-directed terror activities targeting Israelis and the regime of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman signed the order outlawing Al-Hirak Al-Shababi (“The Youth Movement”) at the recommendation of the Shin Bet internal security agency, a ministry statement read.

The decision followed “significant information indicating that the group is directed by Hezbollah and Iran to carry out attacks against Israelis, and ignite a wave of violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” it read. […]

Members of Al-Hirak Al-Shababi were engaged in firebombing and bombing attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as stirring unrest on the volatile Temple Mount compound in the city, the ministry said.”

This of course is not the first time in recent months that Iranian efforts to destabilise the region have been ignored by the media organisation committed to enhancing its funding public’s “awareness and understanding of international issues”.  

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The continuing disservice of the BBC’s black and white narrative

In his recent parting musings, Kevin Connolly told listeners to BBC Radio 4 that:

“In thousands of work places from hospitals and hotels to building sites and banks, Israeli Jews and Palestinians rub along a little better and for much more of the time than outsiders might imagine.”

That statement is of course true, but it raises the question of why “outsiders” are not familiar with the day-to-day realities of co-existence in Israel – especially as it comes from a journalist who represents a media organisation which pledges to give it audiences “insight into the way people live in other countries”.

The cartoon portrayal of Israel so often seen in the reporting of Connolly and his colleagues leaves no room for the provision of such insight. The black and white narrative promoted day after day mean that audiences rarely get to see reality’s other hues and a correspondent such as Connolly can spend five years reporting from Jerusalem without making any significant contribution to their understanding of how the vast majority of people making up Israel’s different ethnic and religious communities live, work, learn and relax together.

When a terror attack took place on Route 60 on July 1st, the BBC News website reported that:route 60 attack art

“…an Israeli man was killed and his wife and two children wounded after their car was fired on near the Jewish settlement of Otniel. […]

The victims of Friday’s attack were members of the same family. Local media named the dead man as 48-year-old Michael “Miki” Mark, a father-of-10.

He was killed when the car crashed after the attack. His wife and two children were taken to hospital for treatment.”

A few days later it emerged that the first people to arrive at the scene and offer help and first aid were a Palestinian couple from Hebron.

““At first I thought it was an accident. I opened the door, which was difficult because the car was overturned,” the Palestinian man, a resident of Hebron, told Channel 2. “The girl was inside the car screaming, ‘They’re killing us,’ so I just kept telling her not to be afraid and that everything would be fine.”

After he managed to pry one of the doors open, the man, who wasn’t named in the report, said he pulled 14-year-old Tehila from the wrecked car.

He said his wife, who is a medical doctor, worked to stanch the bleeding from the teen’s abdominal wound while he called an ambulance to the scene.”

They were joined by a Palestinian doctor who treated the injured until medical crews arrived on the scene.

While anyone who is not an “outsider” as Connolly puts it will be able to recount numerous similar examples of Palestinians helping Israelis and Israelis helping Palestinians, to BBC audiences this story would be news. It is, however, a story which falls outside the corporation’s narrative driven caricature of “the way people live” in Israel and the Palestinian controlled areas and one which – like so many others – the BBC has refrained from telling to date.

Let’s hope that Kevin Connolly’s successor will be better committed to the pledges laid out in the BBC’s public purposes and that audiences will receive some of that long neglected “insight” into how people really live in Israel long before his or her stint comes to an end. 

BBC’s Knell airbrushes two-thirds of Quartet report out of the picture

Later versions of the BBC News website’s June 30th article concerning that morning’s terror attack in Kiryat Arba included the following:

“Also on Thursday, a senior United Nations official cited a long-awaited report by the Middle East Quartet as saying that hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians were being severely undermined by three “negative trends”.

Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that they were continuing violence, terrorism and incitement; Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank; and a lack of control of the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority.”

As noted here previously, in its July 1st article relating to that report from the Quartet the BBC herded audiences’ attentions towards one of those three “negative trends” in particular by devoting 282 words to the topic of “settlement expansion”, 213 words to the subject of “violence, terrorism and incitement” and a mere 91 words to issues related to the PA’s “lack of control of the Gaza Strip” whilst completely ignoring the Quartet’s concerns about weapons smuggling, cross border tunnels and terrorism.

In case audiences had not quite got the message, an additional article by Yolande Knell appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 1st with some very clear signposting seen in its promotion.

“Fate of settlements core to Israel-Palestinian peace”

Knell settlements art on ME pge

Titled “Israel-Palestinians: Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay“, the article’s opening paragraphs include some equally overt signposting.

“For retired West Bank farmer Issa Hamed, the idea that Jewish settlements are destroying a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a no-brainer.

From the rooftop of his home in Silwad, north-east of Ramallah, the sprightly 86-year-old points to the red roofs of the settlement of Ofra, set up in 1975.

“At first, they took just one dunam (1000 sq m), where there used to be a Jordanian military camp, then they kept expanding and blocked access for the landowners,” Mr Hamed recalls.

“It became like a cancer growing quickly over the hills.”” [emphasis added]

Knell’s article contains many of the usual features of any BBC report relating to the topic of construction in Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. As far as Knell is concerned, history begins in June 1967: she makes no effort to inform audiences of the legal status of Judea & Samaria, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip before they were attacked and occupied in 1948.

“Settlement construction began after Israel defeated Arab armies in the 1967 Middle East war. It captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt.”

Moreover, while failing to inform her readers about San Remo and the Mandate for Palestine, Knell does find it necessary introduce the subject of religion – but refrains from mentioning the no less relevant topic of Hamas’ approach to ‘Islamic lands’.

“Some Israelis choose to live in settlements for lifestyle reasons but others are religious nationalists.

They believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people – including Jerusalem and the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria.”

Readers see the inevitable BBC mantra on ‘international law’ which fails to inform audiences of legal opinions which do not conform to the corporation’s chosen narrative.

“Since the 1970s, left- and right wing governments have encouraged Israelis to move to settlements. There are now at least 570,000 settlers.

Under international law, their presence is seen as illegal, but Israel disagrees. Officials have argued they are built on “disputed”, not “occupied” territory.”

The 1949 Armistice lines – specifically designed not to be permanent boundaries or borders – are misleadingly presented as such.

“The current coalition government includes pro-settler parties and ministers who live inside the so-called “Green Line”, marking pre-1967 boundaries.”

Knell promotes and amplifies the topic of the BDS campaign in her article but, as is inevitably the case in BBC content, fails to inform readers what that campaign aims to achieve: the dissolution of the Jewish state.

“They [Israeli officials] have already fought against EU moves to label settlement products and a civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

“The vast majority of international parties have refrained so far from any serious pressure on Israel,” says Palestinian politician, Mustafa Barghouti, who supports BDS.

“It’s not enough to condemn settlements and say they block peace.”

Palestinians plan to renew their calls for further sanctions, including a ban on products from settlements and companies that invest or work in them.”

Among the links to additional related material promoted to readers of this article is one presented as “The settlement issue”. That link leads to a highly partisan article originally published nine years ago which has already been discussed here.

Beyond her grandstanding of the ‘settlements are to blame’ theme, Knell does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue. After quoting a spokesman from the Yesha Council, she writes:

“It points to the fact that Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, with the removal of 8,500 settlers, only led to further conflicts.”

Obviously Knell did not consider it useful to her case to discuss that topic further or to try to use that experience to enhance audience understanding of the potential scenarios in Judea & Samaria. Later on, under the sub-heading “What if?”, she makes a brief mention of a topic usually ignored by the BBC.

“If a peace deal was reached, it is generally accepted that many settlements would remain. Past negotiations are understood to have included mutually agreed land-swaps in which Israel would keep its major settlement blocs.”

She then goes on to say:

“However, it is estimated these could leave over 100,000 settlers in the West Bank.”

Knell does not clarify why she apparently thinks that would be an issue and again chooses not to discuss the fact that the evacuation of Israelis from their homes in the Gaza Strip did not prove conducive to ending the conflict.Knell settlements art

If readers are perhaps wondering how much of the column space in her nine hundred and sixteen-word article Yolande Knell devoted to presentation of the two additional “negative trends” cited in the Quartet’s report, the answer to that question is below: eighty-two words in which key points raised in the Quartet’s report are completely ignored.

“Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – also identify Palestinian violence and incitement and the political situation in Gaza as obstacles to peace.

The Israeli government believes that these are the factors that should be highlighted.

In recent days there has been a series of attacks. An American-Israeli girl was stabbed to death in a settlement near Hebron and an Israeli car in the West Bank was shot, causing it to crash, killing the driver and injuring three passengers.”

Once again we see that the Palestinian Authority’s incitement and glorification of terrorism, together with Hamas’ terrorism, tunnel building, its weapons smuggling and production and its violent rivalry with the PA – all of which are noted in the Quartet’s report – are airbrushed out of an article obviously intended to herd BBC audiences towards one specific view of what – and who – is “destroying a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict”.

While completely consistent with Yolande Knell’s record, this of course is the type of editorialised advocacy journalism which flies in the face of the BBC’s claim to provide its audiences with ‘impartial’ reporting.

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