The missing word in the BBC’s report on the capture of a Hamas terror cell

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 27th found the following headline:

Surit incident on ME HP

That link led them to an article with a title which similarly suggested to audiences that there was reason to doubt Mohammed Fakih’s involvement in a terror attack reported by the BBC earlier in the month: “Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian suspected of killing rabbi“. The article opened:Surif incident main

“Israeli forces have shot dead a Palestinian who they said was behind a recent attack which killed an Israeli father-of-10 in the West Bank.” [emphasis added]

However, audiences were not told that one of Fakih’s accomplices had previously identified him as the gunman – as reported by Israeli media.

“The hunt for the rabbi’s killers began proper on July 4, three days after his death, when [Mohammed] Omaireh — a member of the Palestinian Preventive Security Services — was arrested. He told Shin Bet officials during questioning that it was he who drove the car on the night of the attack, but that it was Fakih who had actually fired the shots.”

Readers of the report were told that:

“Three other suspects were arrested in the night-time operation. […]

The Israeli military said the three Palestinians who were arrested were linked to the ambush on the car and were “members of a terrorist cell with ties to Hamas”.

A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister said a member of the Palestinian security forces who was recently arrested had driven Fakih to the location of the attack.”

According to the IDF the three were arrested “earlier this month” rather than during the operation which is the topic of this article and it was not clarified to readers that the “member of the Palestinian security forces” is also a member of Hamas

“The army said the three other cell members — Fakih’s brother, Sahir; their cousin Muaz Fakih; and Mohammed Omaireh — all belong to the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip and has seen growing popularity in the West Bank.”

The BBC article describes Fakih as follows: [emphasis added]

“Mohamed Fakih, of the Islamist group Hamas, died in a gun battle with troops who surrounded his hideout in the village of Surif. […]

Hamas said Fakih belonged to its armed wing, the the [sic] Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades.”

Readers were not informed that:

“Fakih was imprisoned in the past for planning terror attacks along with others while he was a member of the terror organization Islamic Jihad. While in prison, he joined the ranks of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.”

In short, in a report concerning a terrorist cell linked to a proscribed terror organisation which carried out a fatal terror attack on Israeli civilians, the BBC once again refrained from using any form of the word ‘terror’ itself, with the sole use of the term ‘terrorist’ found in a quote preceded by the qualifier “The Israeli military said”. Apparently the BBC was once again afraid of making a “value judgement“. 

Related Articles:

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

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

Behind the BBC’s ‘lone wolf’ portrayal of terrorism in Israel

 

BBC News, PA Balfour agitprop and British history

BBC amplification of the latest pseudo-legal agitprop from the vexatious Palestinian Authority came in the form of an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 26th under the misleading title “Palestinians plan to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour act“.PA Balfour Decl art

The Balfour Declaration was of course a statement of British government policy – not an “act” as this headline states.

Later on in the article, readers were further misled by an inaccurate portrayal of the end of British administration of the Mandate for Palestine.

“Israel declared its independence in 1948 after the UK mandate expired.”

The mandate did not ‘expire‘: the British government chose to terminate its administration of the mandate originally granted by the League of Nations.

Remarkably, the article omitted any mention of British restrictions on Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine before, during and after the Second World War.

“Jewish immigration to Palestine accelerated from the 1920s to the 1940s, latterly spurred by Nazi persecution and the Holocaust in Europe. The growth of the Jewish population was opposed by Palestine’s Arab community, which rejected the eventual establishment of a Jewish state.”

The article provided uncritical amplification to spurious claims made by a PA representative:

“Palestinian FM Riad Malki said the document led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine “at the expense of our Palestinian people”. […]

Speaking at an Arab League summit in Mauritania on Monday, Mr Malki said the UK was responsible for all “Israeli crimes” since the end of the mandate in 1948.

“Nearly a century has passed since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917,” he was quoted as saying by the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

“And based on this ill-omened promise hundreds of thousands of Jews were moved from Europe and elsewhere to Palestine at the expense of our Palestinian people whose parents and grandparents had lived for thousands of years on the soil of their homeland.””

The article refrained from clarifying to readers that this latest PA stunt does not come out of the blue and it failed to provide them with the relevant context of the long record of denial of Jewish history by official Palestinian bodies, as ‘The Tower’ explains:

“Article 20 of the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose chairman Mahmoud Abbas is also president of the Palestinian Authority, declared that “The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood.”

In 1993, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat promised, as part of the Oslo peace process, to revoke elements of the charter that denied Israel’s right to exist as part of the Oslo peace process. After initially failing to keep his commitment, Arafat specified in a 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton that Article 20 would be among those that would be revoked. In December 1998, the Palestinian legislature officially voted to revoke those sections of the charter that were inconsistent with the Palestinians’ commitment to peace. By questioning the legality of the Balfour Declaration, the Palestinian Authority may be in violation of its international commitments to peace.”

This latest PA agitprop is of course unlikely to do more than create a few headlines. Nevertheless, if the BBC is going to give it amplification, it should at least also inform audiences about the real aim of an exercise that highights the redundancy of the BBC’s repeated promotion of the notion that ‘settlements’ and ‘occupation’ are the “obstacles to peace”.

Obviously too, the UK’s national broadcaster should be capable of presenting its funding public with an accurate account of Britain’s role in that particular chapter of history.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Connolly contorts Israeli – and British – history to fit his political narrative

BBC’s Kevin Connolly erases Iranian patronage of terror, distorts history

BBC World Service misleads on Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine

Omissions, distortions and inaccurate history in BBC WW1 ‘educational’ feature

How does the BBC define ‘pro-Palestinian’?

BBC R4 presents jaundiced account of San Remo conference

 

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part two

A review of the content produced by the BBC a decade ago at the time of the Second Lebanon War shows that many of the themes found in that coverage resurfaced eight years later in the corporation’s reporting of a different summer war: the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

SONY DSC

One theme found very early on in the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 war was the promotion of the unsubstantiated notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip, based on unverified claims from political NGOs – some of which were already engaged in lawfare against Israel.

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part three

After the fighting had ended, the BBC continued to amplify the agenda of NGOs including Human Rights Watch (“More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO“) and in particular Amnesty International:

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

More BBC wind in the sails of NGO’s lawfare campaign

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

The green shoots of that editorial policy were apparent – albeit on a smaller scale – eight years earlier when – just eight days into the Second Lebanon War – the BBC News website ran an article headlined “UN warning on Mid-East war crimes” which was based on statements made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time. An additional article published on the same day told BBC audiences that:

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, warns that those involved in the spiral of violence between Israel and Lebanon could face war crimes charges if they are found to have deliberately attacked civilians”

On August 23rd 2006 the BBC News website promoted a report by Amnesty International under the headline “Israel accused of war crimes“.

“Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. […]

The document details what it describes as “massive destruction by Israeli forces of whole civilian neighbourhoods and villages”, together with attacks on bridges “in areas of no apparent strategic importance”, on its list of supporting evidence. […]

“Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” said Ms Gilmore.”

In September 2007 the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel accused over Lebanon war” which amplified a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“A human rights group has accused Israel of carrying out indiscriminate air strikes that killed hundreds of civilians during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Human Rights Watch said Israel showed “reckless indifference” to the fate of civilians and queried its argument that Hezbollah used them as human shields.”

Despite the existence of publicly available evidence discrediting the claims made by AI and HRW (see for example here and here) the above BBC reports (and others) remain available online  – without any clarifying footnote – as ‘historical record’.SONY DSC

Another theme seen in BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War was promotion of the notion of ‘disproportionate’ (and by implication, illegal) actions by Israel – already from day two of the conflict.

“A Lebanese cabinet minister said the Israeli response was disproportionate, and called for a ceasefire. […] France and Russia condemned Israel’s “disproportionate use of force”.” (July 13, 2006)

“The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel.” (July 13, 2006)

“President Jacques Chirac of France called Israel’s acts “disproportionate” while Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to fighting. […]But he said Israel’s response was “completely disproportionate”, adding: “One can ask oneself whether there isn’t a sort of desire to destroy Lebanon.”” (July 14, 2006)

“Amnesty’s report said Israeli attacks into Lebanon were “indiscriminate and disproportionate”. (November 21, 2006)

Seeing as the BBC did not make any effort at the time (or since) to inform its audiences (and its own staff) of what the principle of proportionality in warfare actually means, it is not surprising to see that the ‘disproportionality’ theme regularly resurfaces in BBC reporting.

In June 2015, for example, viewers of BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Evan Davis promote the false notion that proportionality means equality in death and suffering. During the summer 2014 conflict BBC audiences heard and read generous amplification of equally uninformed comment from assorted British politicians and in November 2012 listeners to the BBC World Service heard Julian Marshall tell an Israeli spokesperson:

“I think one of the observations made by critics of Israel is that you always respond disproportionately and – ah – in a way the figures tell the story. Since this offensive of yours began, 39 Palestinians have been killed, three Israelis. There’s a disproportionate use of force going on here.”

In the next instalment of this post we will take a look at additional common themes found in the BBC’s 2006 reporting from Lebanon and its subsequent coverage from the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part one

 

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

On July 20th the BBC News website’s UK page published an article titled “Record number of EU terror attacks recorded in 2015“.EU terror attacks

“A record number of terrorist attacks were planned, foiled or carried out in European Union countries last year, with the UK reporting the highest number of attacks.

EU law enforcement agency Europol said there were 211 attacks in 2015, the highest since records began in 2006.”

However, later on readers are told that the number 211 also includes “planned” and “foiled” attacks:

“A spokeswoman for Europol said it did not have a breakdown of the number of terror attacks that had actually been carried out in the EU.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s 458 word article makes use of the word ‘terror’ four times (including in its headline). The words ‘terrorism’ is used six times – including twice in quotes – and the word ‘terrorist’ is used seven times, including four times in quotes.

In other words, the BBC rightly had no problem telling readers in its own words that citizens of EU countries were subjected to actual, planned and attempted terror attacks during 2015.

In contrast, as has been documented here on numerous occasions, the BBC does not tell its audiences in its own words that terrorism – on a significantly larger scale – exists in Israel (unless the perpetrators belong to a particular ethno-religious group) and it has an editorial policy of using the words ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ only in direct quotes; usually from Israeli officials. For example:

BBC reports on Kiryat Arba attack without using the word terror

What word is missing from BBC report on sentencing of Hamas terrorists?

BBC News reports Jerusalem bus bomb without using the word terror

BBC News revisits a 30 year-old terror attack – avoiding the term terror

The BBC’s editorial guidelines concerning “Language when Reporting Terrorism” state:

“There is no agreed consensus on what constitutes a terrorist or terrorist act. The use of the word will frequently involve a value judgement.

As such, we should not change the word “terrorist” when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves.”

In this report the BBC clearly did not find it necessary to comply with that guideline, having used the words terror, terrorist and terrorism itself eleven times and on six additional occasions in quotes. And – despite the guideline’s claim of the absence of a consensus on terrorism – the article’s writer was apparently able to accept the definition of terrorism used in the Europol report which is its subject matter.

“The definition of the term ‘terrorist offences’ is indicated in Article 1 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (2002/475/JHA)1 , which all EU Member States have implemented in their national legislation. This Framework Decision specifies that terrorist offences are intentional acts which, given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organisation when committed with the aim of:

  • seriously intimidating a population, or
  • unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act, or
  • seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.”

In other words, when it comes to terrorism in Europe the BBC apparently has no problem with “value judgements”.

What this article shows us yet again is that those editorial guidelines on “Language when Reporting Terrorism” are not worth the virtual paper upon which they are written. When the BBC wants to use words such as ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’, it does. When it wants to make “value judgements”, it does and in fact what dictates the BBC’s choice of terminology is “a political position” of precisely the type it purports to avoid.

Absurdly, the corporation would still have its funding public believe that its coverage of terrorism is consistent, accurate and impartial.

Related Articles:

Continuing the mapping of BBC inconsistency in terrorism reporting

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: October 2015 to March 2016

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Israel headline writing style moves to Germany

h/t GS

The purpose of a headline is to give audiences an idea of the main points of the news story they are about to read or hear but as Israelis know only too well, BBC News website headlines sometimes create more confusion than clarity.

Pigua Lions Gate art vers 1

Pigua art 26 10

Pigua 5 11 report

After news broke of a bombing attack in Ansbach, Germany, on the evening of July 24th, the BBC News website promoted its much amended report on the issue using the misleading headline “Syrian migrant dies in German blast” even though – as the sub-heading shows – at the time of writing the BBC was well aware of the fact that the “German blast” had been caused by the “Syrian migrant”.

Bavaria attack orig

That headline was later changed to read “Syrian blows himself up in Germany”. Whether or not the previous version will once again be attributed to a “mistake of a junior editor” remains to be seen.  

 

 

 

Why the accuracy and impartiality of BBC reporting matters

Last week a debate on the conditions and health of Palestinian children was held in the House of Lords.  As noted by NGO Monitor, a briefing paper was prepared ahead of that debate.HoL pic

“In July 2016, the UK House of Lords Library posted a briefing paper: “Living Conditions, Health and Wellbeing of Palestinian Children,” which was “withdrawn” without explanation on July 19, but is available on unofficial websites.” 

As NGO Monitor points out, that briefing paper relied heavily on information promoted by various political NGOs – but it also included information gleaned from several BBC reports.

Footnote 4 (and 11) referred readers to an article titled “Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers” which was published on January 6th, 2015 as the source for the following information:

HoL doc 1

As was noted here at the time that article was published:

“The BBC report plays down Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders:

“The leader of Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza, said in an interview in August that a Hamas cell had killed the teenagers but had not acted on instructions from above.”

The article fails to adequately clarify that funding for the terror attack came from Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip or that high-ranking Hamas operative Saleh al Arouri admitted the organisation’s involvement in August 2014.”

Footnotes 14 and 15 referred readers to a BBC article dating from September 1st 2014 as the source of the information below:

HoL doc 2

Notably, no effort is made to distinguish Palestinian civilian casualties from combatants. That of course will not come as a surprise to those who are aware of the sources of those UN quoted figures. As was previously noted here in relation to that BBC article:

“Once again we see the BBC quoting “the UN” as though that body were impeccably objective, but with no effort made to inform audiences with regard to the very significant issue of the background to those UN statements and the political motivations involved.”

Footnote 16 referred readers to a BBC report from August 27th 2014 titled “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce”.

HoL doc 3

As was noted here at the time:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

Footnotes 33, 34 and 36 referred readers to an article by Yolande Knell from July 8th 2015 titled “Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?”

HoL doc 4

As was noted here at the time, that politicised campaigning article by Knell made no mention of Hamas’ misappropriation of construction materials or its renewed tunnel building and it misrepresented the topic of dual-use goods.

The BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist organisations in the summer of 2014 was highly – and consistently – problematic: not least for its serial misrepresentation of the topic of civilian/combatant casualty figures and the use of data supplied by Hamas and its supporters. Both during and after the conflict, the corporation adopted a campaigning role on the issue of the restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel in response to terrorism and presented a partisan view of the topic of reconstruction in Gaza.

It is obviously very disturbing to see reporting which did not meet the BBC’s professed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality being promoted to members of the House of Lords ahead of a debate but the fact that the house’s researchers use such material as the basis for a briefing paper serves to highlight exactly why the British public, their politicians and public officials should be all the more concerned about the accuracy and impartiality of BBC journalism which later becomes “historical record“.  

 

BBC News misleads audiences on Palestinian boy’s death

Towards the end of the BBC News website’s recent report on the topic of a new Israeli law – discussed here – readers were told that:impeachment law art

“On Tuesday, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was killed during a clash in the occupied West Bank town of al-Ram, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Muhey al-Tabakhi died as a result of a wound inflicted by a projectile that struck his chest and caused heart failure, according to a ministry spokesman.

An Israeli police spokeswoman said border police officers had fired tear gas and stun grenades after a petrol bomb was thrown at them.”

Although the article does not specifically tell them so, most readers would obviously understand those three paragraphs to mean that Israel was responsible for the boy’s death. But is that established fact?

The Times of Israel reports:

“The Israel Police said, however, that the violence broke out when Border Police officers who were returning the body of a Palestinian terrorist were “pelted with Molotov cocktails.”

The troops responded with tear gas and stun grenades, and did not use live fire, police said.”

The BBC’s Israeli newspaper of choice, Ha’aretz, reported that:

“Palestinian reports said that the boy was shot in the chest on Tuesday afternoon in clashes that erupted in Al-Ram. He was then transferred for treatment to a nearby hospital in Ramallah but died of his wounds hours later.

However, residents of the village contradicted the Palestinian Health Ministry statement. They said that the boy’s death should be investigated since direct evidence of the circumstances that lead to the incident was not immediately available. They claimed that the medical teams that arrived to treat the boy at the scene were not sure what was had happened there.”

So as we see, the circumstances are far from clear but nevertheless, the BBC allowed its readers go away with an impression of the incident that happens to dovetail with the messaging put out by the PA Health Ministry.

Related Articles:

Despite conflicting claims, Daily Mail pronounces Israel guilty of killing Palestinian boy  (UK Media Watch)

 

 

Was BBC News presentation of a new Israeli law balanced and accurate?

On July 20th an article appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Israeli parliament passes controversial impeachment law“.

The article included a brief portrayal of the new law which is its ostensible subject matter:

“Israel’s parliament has passed a law that would allow it to impeach an MP who incites racism or supports armed struggle against the state. […]

The law would require three-quarters of the Knesset’s 120 members to vote in favour of any impeachment motion.”

The Jerusalem Post has more details – which the BBC did not apparently find it necessary to report.

“The bill […] allows MKs to vote to dismiss a fellow lawmaker for incitement to violence or racism, and support for armed conflict against Israel, which are among the reasons cited in the Basic Law: Knesset for banning a party or person from running.

The impeachment process would begin with 70 MKs, 10 of whom must be from the opposition, petitioning the Knesset House Committee, and could only be finalized with a vote of 90 MKs in favor of the dismissal. If an MK is expelled, he or she would be replaced by the next person on his or her party’s list. […] the law will not apply retroactively to actions MKs took before it passed.”

In addition:

“The deposed lawmaker could then appeal the decision with the Supreme Court.

Under the terms of the law, Knesset members cannot be removed from office during an election period.”

The 415 word BBC News article included a twenty-three word portrayal of the point of view of a supporter of the law whilst one hundred and twelve words – and a link to an EU funded political NGO’s website – were devoted to portrayal of opinions opposing the law.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the measure ended an “absurd situation” whereby someone who “supports terror” was allowed to serve in the Knesset.

But critics said it was anti-democratic and aimed mainly at Israeli Arab MPs. […]

A spokeswoman for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel expressed similar concerns about the new impeachment law, which was approved by 62 votes to 47 early on Wednesday.

“It harms the very building blocks of democracy – the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to representation,” said Debbie Gilad-Hayo.

“Arab [MPs] whose actions and remarks do not find favour with the political majority will be the first people harmed by the bill – however, it is a slippery slope and the bill has potential to affect all,” she added.”

In addition, the article highlighted a previous statement from the EU – which does not relate to the specific subject matter concerned – both in its text and in a photo caption.impeachment law art

“The move comes a week after the European Union warned that the Knesset had risked undermining democracy and freedom of speech by approving legislation that requires NGOs receiving most of their funding from abroad to declare so publicly.”

“The EU warned Israel’s parliament earlier this month that it risked undermining democracy”

The article made no effort to provide readers with the relevant context of impeachment laws in other democracies such as the United States and some EU member countries. It failed to provide readers with information concerning the type of actions to which the new law would presumably apply such as an MK’s participation in a flotilla in support of Hamas organised by a group proscribed under Israeli law.

As was the case at the time, the report gave a whitewashed portrayal of an event which took place earlier in the year.  

“In February, three of the 18 Israeli Arab MPs caused outrage and were suspended from parliamentary activity for several months by an ethics committee after they met the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.”

Clearly this article did not provide uninformed readers with a comprehensive view of the legislation itself or the types of activities to which it may apply. However, there is one specific take away message which it obviously tried very hard to get across to BBC audiences.

“The EU warned Israel’s parliament earlier this month that it risked undermining democracy”

“But critics said it was anti-democratic…”

“… the Knesset had risked undermining democracy and freedom of speech…”

“It harms the very building blocks of democracy…” 

Reports of the death of Israeli democracy are of course greatly exaggerated – but notably, such reports frequently come from the media organisation supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC News portrayal of Israeli law airbrushes political NGOs

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ promotion of Haneen Zoabi omits crucial information

BBC News ignores Hizballah terror designation development

BBC discovers that MP’s “Israel” Facebook posts were antisemitic

Placement of a pay-walled article in a newspaper read by less than 5% of the population midweek was probably not the best advice ever given to a British politician apparently seeking to reassure Israelis but nevertheless, on July 18th the Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, had an article published in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz under the title “My Understanding of anti-Semitism Was Lacking“.

The same sentiment was voiced by Shah in an interview with Becky Milligan on BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the same day (from 29:11 here) and that interview prompted articles at additional outlets including the Independent, the Jewish Chronicle and on the BBC News website’s UK politics and ‘Leeds & West Yorkshire’ pages.

The BBC’s promotion of the radio interview included a choice of language that – given its past approach to the same story – was remarkable.

Naz Shah tweet WaO 1

Naz Shah tweet WaO 2

Naz Shah art Leeds pge 18 7

As readers may recall, when the story of Naz Shah’s offensive social media posts broke in April, the BBC refrained from informing its audiences that their content was antisemitic.

Naz Shah art main

In subsequent related articles, the corporation likewise gave audiences an anodyne description of just one of Shah’s controversial Facebook posts while ignoring the others.

“It follows the suspension of Bradford West MP Naz Shah after it emerged she had once suggested, among other things, that Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 29/04/2016)

“Ms Shah, the MP for Bradford West, was suspended after social media posts emerged in which she suggested Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 30/06/2016)

“Ms Shah was stripped of the parliamentary whip in April over comments about Israel she made online, including one suggesting Israel should be moved to the United States.” (BBC News website, 05/07/2016)

However, now that Naz Shah has herself acknowledged her use of antisemitic discourse, the BBC has redefined those Facebook posts and is suddenly able to tell its audiences that they were in fact antisemitic.

So what happened here? Did the BBC really not know that before Shah’s admission? If not, then the fact that the corporation does not work according to an accepted definition of antisemitism has clearly once again failed audiences. If, on the other hand, the BBC was able to identify the antisemitic discourse in Shah’s posts back in April but nevertheless refrained from describing them accurately, then audiences have been similarly sold short.

One cannot of course imagine that the corporation would wait until the writer of a homophobic or anti-black racist social media post defined them as such in his or her own words before it got round to telling its audiences exactly why such posts were offensive. 

Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC has made little serious effort to inform its audiences on the issue of the part played by social media in fuelling the wave of terrorism seen in Israel during the past nine months.

In October 2015 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder headlined “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?” which did very little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the incitement spread via social media, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party – for incitement and the glorification of terrorism. 

Against that background, BBC audiences recently found two articles on the corporation’s website relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook.FB art technology

On July 4th BBC Technology published a report headlined “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“.

“Government ministers in Israel have accused Facebook of failing to tackle “inciteful” posts against the country on the social network.

Public security minister Gilad Erdan said Facebook had set “a very high bar for removing inciteful content”.

Justice minister Ayelet Shaked wants social media companies to pre-emptively remove content which Israel considers to be a security threat.

Facebook said it worked closely with Israel to tackle threatening content.

Mrs Shaked has complained that threatening content must be manually reported by the website’s users before any action can be taken.

“We want the companies… to remove posts by terrorist groups and incitement to terrorism without us having to flag each individual post, in just the same manner, for example, that they today do not allow posts and pages with child pornography,” she told Israel’s Army Radio.”

The issue of incitement to terrorism, antisemitism and hate speech on social media was of course recognised long before the wave of terror began in October 2015, with the problematic fact that Facebook relies on members of the public to flag up offensive posts having been previously raised at the 2015 Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism. As the BBC’s article correctly notes, Israel is of course not the only country to have concerns about such issues and the UK is no exception.  However, Israel does face one rather unique situation which the BBC’s article does not explain:

“Defending his legislation, Erdan said European countries such as France and Germany already have similar laws in place, and Facebook complies with them. Yet, according to a spokesman for the minister, Facebook recently agreed to remove just 23 out of 74 pages brought to its attention by Israel for spreading Palestinian incitement. “Their policy of removing [content] is very, very, very strict and the bar is set very high,” the spokesman told The Times of Israel.

Facebook also does not recognize Israeli control in the West Bank, the spokesman added. “More than that, if someone writes something problematic and they live in Judea and Samaria, they [Facebook] won’t cooperate with us and they say it’s outside of Israel and therefore they can’t cooperate,” he said. Facebook declined to comment on this allegation.”

On July 11th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“.FB art Shurat haDin

“An Israeli rights group is suing Facebook for $1bn on behalf of families of victims of Palestinian attacks.

The Shurat Hadin group says Facebook violates the US Anti-Terrorism Act by allowing militant groups such as Hamas a platform for spreading violence.”

Later on in the article, readers were told that:

“A report on the Israel-Palestinian conflict last week by the Quartet group of international mediators identified “the spreading of incitement to violence on social media” by Palestinians as a key issue.

“Hamas and other radical factions are responsible for the most explicit and widespread forms of incitement. These groups use media outlets to glorify terrorism and openly call for violence against Jews, including instructing viewers on how to carry out stabbings,” the report said.”

Nevertheless, the BBC found it appropriate to include amplification of the response of a terrorist organisation, which has long used social media for the propagation of terrorism, in its report.

“Hamas called the lawsuit an Israeli attempt to blackmail Facebook. […]

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused Israel of trying to turn it into a spy tool against Palestinians.

He said some Israeli politicians and soldiers had “expressed pride at the killing of Palestinians” on Facebook and other social media.

“The real test for the owners of Facebook is to reject this pressure,” he said.”

And readers were told that:

Israel says Palestinian incitement on social media has fuelled a wave of attacks since October, which have killed 35 Israelis and four people of other nationalities.” [emphasis added]

Obviously audiences’ understanding of the context to these two reports (and others) would have been greatly enhanced had they previously been adequately informed of the scale and nature of incitement on Palestinian social media and the use of such platforms by official Palestinian groups and bodies as well as individuals. That of course has not been the case and so the corporation’s funding public continues to lack key facts in a developing story the BBC has had over nine months to tell in its own words – but has not.

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