BBC News website promotes an ‘Israeli attack’ that wasn’t

On April 27th an article titled “Syria war: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. As can be understood from its headline, the report relates to an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria and it is based on claims made by sources linked to the Assad regime.

“An Israeli missile strike has caused a large explosion and fire at a military site near Damascus international airport, Syrian state media report.

A fuel tank and warehouses were damaged, the Sana news agency said. […]

Sana said several missiles had been fired at a military site south-west of the airport, causing explosions that resulted in some material losses.

Pro-government Al-Mayadeen TV cited sources as saying that missiles had been fired by Israeli jets flying inside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”

The article also includes an alternative version of the story sourced from groups opposed to the Assad regime.

“But Syrian rebel sources said an arms depot run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which is fighting in Syria as an ally of the government, was hit. […]

Two senior rebel sources based in Damascus told Reuters news agency that the missiles had hit an ammunition depot in a closed military area that was used by Iran-backed militias operating alongside the Syrian army, led by Hezbollah.”

In an insert of analysis by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent readers are told that Israel “has been conducting an intermittent air campaign to prevent sophisticated weapons transfers to the Lebanese Shia militia group Hezbollah” and that it “clearly intends to continue its campaign against Hezbollah weapons shipments”.

However, as is invariably the case in content relating to such stories, the BBC’s article refrains from giving an accurate description of Hizballah as a terror organisation, provides no factual information concerning the Iranian link to those “weapons shipments” and fails to provide audiences with the relevant context concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701’s requirement of “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” and its ban on “sales or supply of arms and related material” to Hizballah or any other Lebanese militia.

Instead, the article passes off the following two sentences as background information.

“Israel regards Hezbollah, and its key backer Iran, as its biggest threat. It went to war with Hezbollah in 2006 and the group has grown considerably more powerful since then.”

At the end of the article is an insert titled “Recent suspected Israeli attacks in Syria”. First on the BBC’s list is the following:

Readers are not informed what the “Syrian pro-government National Defence Forces” actually are or that they have ties to Iran. Neither are they told that the sources of the claims concerning that alleged strike are, once again, the official Syrian regime news agency Sana together with the Iranian and Syrian regime linked outlet ‘Al Mayadeen’ and Al Jazeera.

Only last year the BBC uncritically amplified claims regarding an ‘Israeli airstrike’ made by Al Mayadeen which later turned out to be fiction. On numerous occasions in the past, the BBC has also amplified baseless propaganda from the Syrian regime. One might therefore have thought that the corporation would take the precaution of thoroughly checking allegations made by unreliable sources such as Al Mayadeen and Sana before amplifying them to its audiences.

 Had it done so in this case, the BBC would have learned that security sources in Israel dismissed those reports of Israeli involvement in that April 23rd incident.

The news BBC audiences are getting concerning alleged Israeli actions in Syria clearly cannot meet the standards to which the BBC is supposedly committed as long as it continues to be based on unverified claims made by highly partisan sources and fails to include the background information crucial for proper understanding of such stories.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

BBC failure to provide context in Hizballah weapons stories continues

In which BBC News manages to avoid Syrian propaganda for a change

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Terrorist murderer of four Samir Kuntar dubbed ‘militant’ by BBC News

 

BBC News parrots inaccurate claim from a politicised UN agency

On April 27th an article titled “Palestinian Authority ‘stops paying Israel for Gaza electricity’” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.  

“The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has told Israel that it will stop paying for electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials say.

There was no confirmation from the PA. But President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened “unprecedented steps” to end the political division with the rival Hamas movement, which dominates Gaza. […]

On Thursday, the Israeli military’s Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat) announced that it had been notified by the PA that payments for electricity supplied to Gaza would stop immediately.”

The report provides readers with accurate background information relating to the chronic power crisis in the Gaza Strip.

“Israel currently provides Gaza with 125MW, which accounts for 55% of the territory’s usual electricity supply. Israeli media say the cost is about $11m a month, which Israel deducts from tax revenue collected on behalf of the PA. […]

On 17 April, the Gaza Power Plant, which produced about 30% of the territory’s electricity supply, was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds.

Days later, malfunctioning power lines coming from Egypt, which accounts for 15% of the supply, exacerbated the outages.”

However, the broader background to the article’s subject matter is less accurately portrayed.

“On 12 April, Mr Abbas said Palestinians faced a “dangerous and tough situation” and that he was “going to take unprecedented steps in the coming days to end the division [between Fatah and Hamas]”.

He did not elaborate, but the PA has already cut the salaries of civil servants based in Gaza and taxed Israeli fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the salary cuts would stay in place until Hamas moved towards reconciliation.

“I think there is a golden and historic chance to regain the unity of our people,” he said. “Hamas should relinquish control of Gaza.””

Those “civil servants based in Gaza” are of course the former PA employees who have been paid to stay at home for almost a decade. As for the PA’s policy of demanding payment of fuel taxes, it is not – as suggested by this report – new, having first been introduced in 2015.

The BBC’s report does not provide readers with any further information concerning the apparent reasons behind Abbas’ moves – as explained at the Times of Israel two days previously.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to issue a dramatic ultimatum to the Gaza Strip’s terrorist Hamas rulers, demanding that they either hand over governance of the area or face a funding freeze, sources close to the Palestinian leader said. […]

Among Fatah’s leadership there is a consensus supporting the measure. More than one senior official told The Times of Israel that there is no sense in maintaining the current situation.

“This time, Abbas is serious” one official said on condition of anonymity. “He doesn’t plan to drag things out and is unwilling to allow Hamas to continue to play games and drag its feet. It can either hand over authority in Gaza to us, or take responsibility and start to pay.”

Officials said that while Hamas is collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes from the residents of Gaza, it is in no hurry to help the PA pay to run the Strip.

“It’s incomprehensible,” one official said. “In the past 10 years Hamas’s coffers have been enriched by more than a billion dollars in taxes, and yet they never shared the [financial] burden of the Strip. They invested most of it in their military wing.””

The ToI has also noted that:

“The renewed push by the PA to regain a foothold in Gaza comes ahead of Abbas’s meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House next week. Ahead of the Washington confab, Abbas was under pressure to show that he represents all Palestinians, including those in Gaza.

In March, Hamas announced it would form an administrative committee to further its governance in Gaza. The announcement infuriated Abbas, who immediately began taking steps to squeeze Hamas out of power.”

As usual, readers of the BBC’s article were given a toned-down portrayal of the violent coup which led to the terrorist group taking control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

“In 2006, Hamas won Palestinian Legislative Council elections. It reinforced its power in Gaza the following year after a violent rift with Mr Abbas’ Fatah faction.”

And yet again, the BBC could not resist promoting the false notion that the chronic shortage of electricity in the Gaza Strip is in part attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

“Gaza’s electricity supply has been also affected by restrictions on the import of goods imposed by Israel as part of a land, sea and air blockade that is now in its 10th year. Egypt is meanwhile blockading Gaza’s southern border.

Israel and Egypt maintain the blockades as a measure against attacks by Islamist militants based in Gaza.”

Interestingly, an almost identical statement is to be found in a document produced by UN OCHA to which a link is provided in this article’s fifth paragraph:

“Gaza’s longstanding electricity deficit has been also affected by the restrictions on the import of goods imposed by Israel as part of a land, air and sea blockade, now in its 10th year.”

Obviously if BBC journalists conducted their own research rather than blindly parroting claims made by a highly partial and politicised UN body, their reporting would be more likely to meet the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy.

Related Articles:

Revisiting the BBC’s 2013 PA funding audit story

More BBC disinformation on Gaza power crisis

Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

BBC News again avoids telling audiences real reasons for Gaza power crisis

BBC’s sketchy reporting on Gaza power crisis highlighted

 

BBC: ‘Israel is deeply controversial’ and BDS is a ‘human rights’ group

For years the BBC has reported stories relating to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) without adequately clarifying to its audiences that what that campaign ultimately seeks to achieve is the end of Israel as the Jewish state.  Moreover, in August 2015, we learned that the BBC considers the provision of such crucial background information “not our role“.

Nevertheless, one might have expected that in two reports specifically relating to the issue of support for the BDS campaign from student unions in British universities, the corporation would have made an effort to get the facts right.

On April 27th BBC Two’s current affairs programme ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ included a report by Jon Ironmonger (available here or here) about a Charity Commission investigation into 17 student unions that have endorsed the BDS campaign.

Having told audiences that Israel is “one subject” that “bitterly divides” students, Ironmonger went on to inform them that:

“The Jewish state of Israel is deeply controversial; accused of wide-ranging human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and provoking anger around the world.”

He of course provided no evidence for that “human rights abuses” smear.

Audiences were later told that: [emphasis added]

“Students’ unions in increasing numbers have been voting to adopt strict anti-Israel policies under the banner of a global movement called BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. […]

BDS pressures Israel to end the occupation of Arab lands by calling for the boycott of Israeli companies and institutions.”

Obviously the use of such partisan terminology to describe disputed territory is not consistent with supposed BBC editorial standards of impartiality.

That report included two appearances by Sai Eglert who was described on screen as a “student teacher” and portrayed by Ironmonger as “a member of the Palestine Society at SOAS”. Viewers were not told that Eglert – who has appeared in BBC content before – is a BDS supporter and anti-Israel campaigner.

While interviewing a Jewish student about his experiences, Ironmonger appeared to question the existence of antisemitism at some UK universities.

“What’s fueling this antisemitism – if you like – on campus?” [emphasis added]

In addition to the filmed report, Ironmonger also produced a written article which was published on the BBC News website’s UK page on April 27th under the headline “Concerns raised over students’ unions’ anti-Israel stance“.

The portrayal of the BDS campaign in that article was no better. 

“Seventeen student bodies have endorsed the BDS movement – which calls for an international boycott of Israel over the way it treats Palestinians. […]

The BDS – which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – describes itself as a human rights organisation and criticises Israel for its human rights record.

It says it stands for “freedom, justice and equality”, saying it is “inclusive and categorically opposes as a matter of principle all forms of racism” – including anti-Semitism.”

Had audiences been told in the BBC’s own words that the BDS campaign is opposed to Jews having the basic human right to self-determination in their own country and that denial of Israel’s right to exist is considered – including by the UN Secretary General and according to the definition adopted by the UK government – to be a form of antisemitism, they would have been able to put the BDS campaign’s claim to be a non-racist human rights organisation into its correct context.

The subject matter of Jon Ironmonger’s two reports is important and serious. It is therefore all the more regrettable that BBC audiences were not provided with the full range of information critical for proper understanding of this story. 

 

 

BBC News portrays political NGOs as ‘human rights activists’

On April 25th an article billed “Israel PM snubs German foreign minister” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with the sub-heading “Sigmar Gabriel had refused to call off talks with Israeli human rights activists”.

The report itself – headlined “Israel’s Netanyahu scraps talks with German minister over rights groups” – opens with a description of the NGOs concerned in the same terms.

“Israel’s prime minister has cancelled talks with Germany’s foreign minister after he refused to call off a meeting with Israeli human rights activists.

Sigmar Gabriel had been due to meet Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu had warned he would not see Mr Gabriel if he met the groups Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.”

The fact that the BBC chose to describe those two political NGOs as “human rights activists” should not be surprising: after all, both ‘B’tselem‘ and ‘Breaking the Silence‘ are among the campaigning NGOs (overwhelmingly from one end only of the political spectrum) that are routinely quoted and promoted in BBC content.

However, in breach of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality, the BBC has a longstanding policy of consistently refraining from adequately informing its audiences with regard to the foreign funding, agenda and “particular viewpoint” of the NGOs it promotes in Israel-related content – including ‘B’tselem‘ and ‘Breaking the Silence‘.

In this particular report readers are told that:

“Breaking the Silence, a group of former soldiers, gathers anonymous testimony from within the military about alleged abuses of Palestinians by the army.

Israeli authorities have accused it of making unreliable accusations.”

They are not however informed that a significant proportion of those ‘testimonies’ have been shown by persons completely independent of the “Israeli authorities” to be false, exaggerated or unverifiable.

With regard to B’tselem, the BBC’s report states:

“B’Tselem is one of Israel’s leading human rights groups and has come under similar criticism.”

Readers are not told that B’tselem was one of the sources of dubious casualty figures (also used by the BBC) during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas or that it engages in ‘lawfare‘ campaigns intended to delegitimise Israel – the one country it openly admits to wanting to see “punished” by the international community.

Both ‘B’tselem’ and ‘Breaking the Silence’ are generously foreign funded campaigning NGOs with a clear and specific political agenda. The BBC’s anodyne portrayal of those groups as ‘human rights activists’ is a barrier to audience understanding of this story.

Related Articles:

Investigative report highlights BBC’s NGO impartiality fail

The context of the BBC’s promotion of ‘Breaking the Silence’

BBC News producer breaches impartiality guidelines on social media

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC News portrayal of Israeli law airbrushes political NGOs

 

 

 

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

Since the commencement on April 17th of a hunger strike by some of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons led by Marwan Barghouti, the BBC News website’s Middle East page has published no fewer than three reports on the subject.

April 17th: “Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike” 

April 18th: “Israel rules out talks with Palestinian hunger striking inmates

April 19th: “Palestinian anger at Israeli refusal to talk to hunger striking inmates

However, in that remarkable display of conscription to the cause of publicising that story, the BBC has refrained from providing its audiences with background information crucial to their understanding of the topic.

In all three of those articles readers are told that the strike:

“…is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders.”

They are not, however, informed of the full background of Barghouti’s role in instigating the second Intifada or his involvement in additional acts of terror. Predictably, his victims do not even get a mention from the BBC.

BBC audiences are also told in all three reports that:

“Barghouti has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

They have not, however, been informed of the political background to the strike which is rooted in internal Fatah power struggles.

Readers of those three reports are told that the hunger strikers are protesting “detention conditions” and “conditions in Israeli jails”. They are not told what those conditions are or what the strikers are demanding.

“Among the demands from Barghouti and the prisoners are the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.”

Significantly, in all three of the reports, readers find (not for the first time) amplification of the PLO’s narrative concerning Palestinian prisoners – as promoted, for example, in a PLO ‘media brief’ from June 2015. [emphasis added]

Report 1: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 2: “Palestinians say the detainees are political prisoners, while Israel describes them as “terrorists”” (photo caption)

                  “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis and other offences.”

Report 3: “Palestinians regard the detainees as political prisoners. Many have been convicted of attacks against Israelis.”

The idea that people who have been convicted of perpetrating acts of terrorism are ‘political prisoners’ is rejected in Europe and we certainly do not see the BBC promoting the notion that people imprisoned in the UK for terror related offences may be defined in such terms.

There is of course nothing novel about BBC compliance with the PLO’s ‘advice’ to the media. However, the repeated promotion of the narrative according to which convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’ in this over-generously covered story obviously calls BBC impartiality into question.   

Related Articles:

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’

 

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

As noted in part one of this post, between January 1st and March 31st 2017, ninety-one reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, some of which were cross posted from other sections of the site and seven of which were carried over from 2016. 12.09% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism.

The remaining 87.91% of those articles can be grouped into a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Five reports (5.49% of the total) related to historical subject matter:

‘Anne Frank link’ unearthed at Sobibor camp (16/1/17 to 17/1/17)

‘Yolocaust’: How should you behave at a Holocaust memorial? (20/1/17 to 29/1/17)

New Dead Sea Scrolls cave discovered (9/2/17 to 12/2/17)

British WWI alcohol stash unearthed in Israel (22/3/317 to 23/3/17)

Holy Sepulchre Church: Discovery at ‘Jesus’s tomb’ in Jerusalem (22/3/17 to 26/3/17)

Middle East page, 13/2/17

Four reports (4.4%) can be categorised as miscellaneous:

Hilarion Capucci: Arms-smuggling archbishop dies aged 94 (2/1/17 to 4/1/17)

Peru asks Trump to consider deporting ex-President Alejandro Toledo (13/2/17)

Jordan releases soldier who shot Israeli schoolgirls (12/3/17 to 13/3/17) discussed here

Israel: Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine ‘killed by own men’ (21/3/17 to 23/3/17) discussed here

One report related to the US administration:

Pro-settlement hardliner Friedman confirmed as US envoy to Israel (23/3/17 to 26/3/17) discussed here

35 reports (38.46%) related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

Israel and the Palestinians: Can settlement issue be solved? (29/12/16 to 3/1/17 – date stamp later changed) discussed here and here

Trump and the Middle East: an impossible disengagement?  Jonathan Marcus (30/12/16 to 7/1/17)

Obama and the Middle East – too little, too late? Paul Adams (29/12/16 to 7/1/17)

Five issues which shaped the Middle East in 2016 Jeremy Bowen (31/12/16 to 8/1/17)

Downing Street criticises US comments on Israel (30/12/16 to 2/1/17)

Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment (8/1/17 to 9/1/17) discussed here

Can Paris summit save fading two-state solution? Yolande Knell (14/1/17 to 20/1/17) discussed here

Mahmoud Abbas: US embassy move to Jerusalem would hurt peace (14/1/17 to 16/1/17) discussed here and here

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Summit warns against unilateral actions (15/1/17 to 17/1/17) discussed here

Why aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking? (14/1/17 to 22/1/17) discussed here

Obama fears moment ‘may be passing’ for two-state solution (19/1/17 to 20/1/17)

Israel approves settlement homes following Trump inauguration (22/1/17 to 24/1/17) discussed here

UN condemns Israel’s West Bank settlement plans (25/1/17 to 27/1/17) discussed here

Netanyahu: Iran missile test must not go unanswered (31/1/17 to 1/2/17) 

New Israel settlements ‘may not be helpful’ to peace, says US (3/2/17 to 6/2/17) discussed here

What will the Trump presidency mean for Israel?  Jonathan Marcus (3/2/17 to 8/2/17)

Benjamin Netanyahu discusses Iran threat with Theresa May (6/2/17 to 8/2/17)

Is a new Middle East war on Israel’s horizon? Jonathan Marcus (8/2/17 to 14/2/17) discussed here

Trump urges Israel to ‘act reasonably’ on settlements (10/2/17 to 12/2/17)

Do Trump and Netanyahu see eye to eye? Barbara Plett Usher (14/2/17 to 20/2/17)

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Two-state solution not only option, US says (15/2/17) discussed here

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution (15/2/17 to 16/2/17) discussed here

Trump and Netanyahu – in 90 seconds (15/2/17 to 16/2/17)

Trump: ‘Mideast peace up to them’ (15/2/17 to 16/2/17)

PJ Crowley: Trump unveils a subtle but vital shift in US policy (16/2/17 to 24/2/17) discussed here

Israel-Palestinian conflict: US ‘thinking outside box’ (16/2/17 to 19/2/17)

Israel and the Palestinians: What are alternatives to a two-state solution? Colin Shindler (17/2/17 to 24/2/17)

Israeli PM criticises UN ‘hypocrisy’ on historic Australia visit (22/2/17) discussed here

Australian ex-PM Kevin Rudd berates Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (23/2/17 to 25/2/17) discussed here

Banksy decorates West Bank hotel with views of Israel’s wall (3/3/17 to 6/3/17) discussed here

Banksy hotel, The Walled Off, opens in Bethlehem  3/3/17 to 7/3/17) discussed here

Putin and Netanyahu: A complex diplomatic dance  Jonathan Marcus (9/3/17 to 20/3/17)

UK pro-Palestinian activist deported from Israel (13/3/17 to 14/3/17) discussed here

UN’s Rima Khalaf quits over report accusing Israel of apartheid (17/3/17 to 20/3/17) discussed here

Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years  (30/3/17 to 3/4/17 – date stamp changed) discussed here

Four reports (4.4%) related to Palestinian affairs:

Gaza electricity crisis: Hamas breaks up protest (13/1/17 to 14/1/17) discussed here

Angry protests in Gaza over crippling power shortages Rushdi Abu Alouf (14/1/17 to 21/1/17) discussed here

Hamas hardliner Yehiya Sinwar elected as Gaza leader (13/2/17 to 16/2/17) discussed here

Trump Middle East: Palestinian leader invited to White House (10/3/17 to 13/3/17) discussed here

The thirty-one reports (34.07% of the total) concerning Israeli affairs can be divided into sub categories including:

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

Israel’s Netanyahu denies wrongdoing ahead of investigation (30/12/16 to 2/1/17)

Israeli police question PM Netanyahu in corruption probe (2/1/17 to 4/1/17)

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria convicted over Hebron death (4/1/17) discussed here

Israeli PM Netanyahu backs pardon for manslaughter soldier (4/1/17 to 5/1/17)

Israel police arrest two over threats to judges in Elor Azaria case (5/1/17 to 6/1/17)

Israel PM Netanyahu questioned again in corruption probe (5/1/17 to 8/1/17)

Israel bribery inquiry: ‘Audiotape’ adds to pressure on PM Netanyahu (8/1/17 to 9/1/17)

Israeli soldier gets 18 months for killing wounded Palestinian attacker (21/2/17 to 22/2/17) discussed here

Israeli policeman filmed beating Palestinian driver (23/3/17 to 26/3/17)

Video of Israeli policeman hitting Palestinian driver draws anger (23/3/17 to 24/3/17)

Israel holds 19-year-old over threats against Jewish centres (23/3/17 to 26/3/17) discussed here

b) society:

Israel’s Mossad spy agency on the hunt for women agents (5/1/17 to 7/1/17)

The female soldiers serving in Israel’s army (11/2/17 to 14/2/17)

Israeli army sets sights on recruits with autism (1/3/17 to 8/3/17)

c) domestic news/politics:

 Israeli policeman and Bedouin killed during clashes over demolitions (18/1/17 to 19/1/17) discussed here

Israel ‘to take in 100 Syrian orphans’ (26/1/17 to 27/1/17) discussed here

Israel approves 3,000 new settler homes as Amona evacuation begins (1/2/17) discussed here

Amona settlers dragged from homes by Israeli police (1/2/17 to 3/2/17)

Israeli police move in on unauthorised Amona outpost (1/2/17 to 2/2/17)

Israel police evict settlers from unauthorised Amona outpost (2/2/17)

Amona: Israel police clear last protesters from settler outpost (2/2/17 to 3/2/17)

Israel passes controversial law on West Bank settlements (6/2/17 to 8/2/17 – date stamp changed)

Rights groups challenge Israel settlements law in court (8/2/17 to 10/2/17)

Jesus miracle church in Israel reopens after arson attack (12/2/17 to 14/2/17)

Israel’s Netanyahu criticised over 2014 Gaza war preparations (28/2/17 to 2/3/17) discussed here

Israel marijuana: Users to face fine rather than criminal charge  (5/3/17 to 7/3/17)

Israel Arafat street sign dropped after Netanyahu anger (6/3/17 to 7/3/17) discussed here

Israeli Arab anger as parliament backs ‘muezzin bill’ (8/3/17 to 10/3/17) discussed here

Israeli nurse dies after being set alight by patient (14/3/17 to 17/3/17)

Netanyahu denies claim he was ejected from convoy by wife (14/3/17 to 16/3/17)

d) technology:

Intel buys driverless car technology firm Mobileye (13/3/17 to 15/3/17)

As was the case throughout 2016 (see ‘related articles’ below) Israeli domestic affairs once again received considerably greater coverage (34.07%) than did Palestinian affairs (4.4%) in the first quarter of 2017. Remarkably, 16.48% of the headlines of the 91 reports published included the name Netanyahu while Mahmoud Abbas’ name was present in just one headline. 

Related Articles:

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Between January 1st and March 31st 2017, a total of ninety-one reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Seven of those reports were carried over from December 2016.

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

Although the Israeli security services recorded 321 terror attacks during the first quarter of 2017 (see ‘related articles’ below), just one of those attacks received coverage on the BBC News website.

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

Jerusalem lorry attack: Four Israeli soldiers killed (8/1/17 to 9/1/17) 

Jerusalem attack: Uncle of the lorry driver speaks out (8/1/17 to 12/1/17)

Jerusalem attack eyewitness: ‘I saw the truck hitting the soldiers’ (8/1/17 to 17/1/17) 

Jerusalem lorry attack: ‘I fired until my magazine was empty’ (9/1/17 to 18/1/17) 

Netanyahu: ‘We will overcome terror attacks’ (8/1/17) 

Jerusalem lorry attacker ‘was IS supporter’ (9/1/17 to 10/1/17)

One article (carried over from December) related to a terror warning issued by the Israeli security services:

Israel warns of New Year terror threat in India (30/12/16 to 1/1/17) discussed here

Two articles related to Hamas:

Israel will no longer return bodies of Palestinian Hamas militants (1/1/17 to 2/1/17) discussed here

Israeli soldiers ‘caught in Hamas online honey trap’ (12/1/17 to 13/1/17)

Two articles related to Syria:

Syria accuses Israel of bombardment (13/1/17 to 15/1/17) discussed here

Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit’ (17/3/17 to 20/3/17) discussed here

In all, 12.09% of the BBC News website’s reports in Q1 covered stories relating to security/terrorism. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the first quarter of 2017 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2017

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2017

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

More BBC disinformation on Gaza power crisis

The chronic shortage of electricity in the Gaza Strip is – as frequently documented on these pages – a story that is consistently badly reported by the BBC. Rather than informing its audiences of the real reasons behind that permanent crisis, the corporation’s journalists regularly promote the entirely inaccurate notion that it is connected to the restrictions on entry of certain dual-use goods to the Gaza Strip that are part of Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

In recent days the crisis was further exacerbated.

“The Gaza Strip’s only functioning power plant was not functioning Sunday after running out of fuel, the head of the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave’s electricity provider told AFP.

Samir Metir said that all the plant’s fuel, purchased with funding from Qatar and Turkey, had been used up.

He said it was not clear when the Palestinian territory would receive more, owing to a “dispute” between the electricity authority in Gaza and Palestinian authorities in the West Bank.

The Gaza Health Ministry warned of a humanitarian crisis as a result.”

As the Jerusalem Post notes, this is yet another chapter in a long-running dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

“Hamas appealed to Ramallah on Monday to lift an onerous fuel tax which it said would force the Gaza power plant to shut down on Tuesday for the third day in a row.[…]

“We were surprised by the decision of the government [in Ramallah] to fully reimpose the taxes on the price of fuel used for operating the power plant,” the Gaza Energy Authority said on its web page.

The authority added that it “appealed” to Ramallah to waive the taxes. It further charged that Ramallah had delayed projects that would help resolve the electricity problem in Gaza.

A similar electricity crisis in December was resolved by tax-free donations from Qatar and Turkey that ran out last week. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is no longer willing to allow the plant to operate on tax-free fuel.”

On April 18th the BBC News website posted a filmed report – apparently also shown on BBC television news programmes – titled “Gaza power cuts: Man shares his tricks“. The report profiles an engineer from Gaza who has developed alternatives to mains electricity and the background to that story is described as follows:

“Power cuts in Gaza typically last 8 to 12 hours a day – sometimes longer. […]

There are strict controls on the movement of goods and people going in and out of Gaza.

Israel and Egypt tightened their blockade after Hamas, a militant group, took control in 2007.

Electricity is imported from both countries and there’s only one power plant.

Demand far outstrips supply.”

Leaving aside the predictable whitewashing of Hamas’ terrorism, obviously BBC audiences would understand – wrongly – that the electricity crisis in Gaza has something to do with the “strict controls” imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Not only is that not the case but the BBC has once again erased the real reason for the crisis from audience view.

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BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

As regular readers are aware, despite having offices in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza the BBC does not devote much coverage to the topic of internal Palestinian politics. In particular, the story of internal Fatah power struggles is one that has been serially under-reported in recent months.

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That chronic lack of coverage means that BBC audiences are not well placed to understand the developing story of a pre-planned hunger strike by Fatah prisoners serving time in Israeli prisons.

As analyst Avi Issacharoff pointed out when it was announced earlier this month, while ostensibly about prison conditions, the hunger strike – led by convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti – is actually rooted in the Fatah power struggle.

“Officially, the Barghouti-led prisoners’ move is in protest of what they see as the Israel Prison Service’s failure to meet their demands regarding an improvement of conditions in the detention centers.

The strike will be Barghouti’s most significant test since he entered prison some 15 years ago. […]

In the Fatah Central Committee’s leadership elections (the party’s most senior institution) in December, he won first place. His wife, Fadwa, took the top place in the movement’s Revolutionary Council elections (the party’s second most senior institution). He is ostensibly the movement’s undisputed leader, despite being behind bars.

However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his loyalists in the Fatah leadership have carried a series of steps to isolate and weaken him. Abbas did not appoint him as deputy chairman of Fatah, as Barghouti had expected, and other senior positions were divided between rivals Jibril Rajoub and Mahmoud al-Mottak.

Barghouti’s backers also failed to be elected to other spots in the Central Committee, and he’s realized that he has been slowly pushed out of the picture.

Forced from the halls of power, Barghouti is using the strike to signal to the PA with that he can still wield considerable power in the Palestinian street.”

The strike commenced on April 17th and at the time of writing is limited to just over a thousand of the Fatah-linked prisoners.

“The hunger strike initiated by jailed Fatah official Marwan Barghouti is expected to start Monday – to coincide with Palestinian “Prisoners Day,” an annual event held in solidarity with the more than 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails. Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences for his role in murderous terror attacks during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.

With the annual event comes the concern of increased tensions in the prisons, and in the West Bank with Israeli security forces. Hamas, Fatah’s main rival, announced Sunday that its members will also join the strike, as did the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), another Palestinian faction. […]

Barghouti began to call for a strike after talks between prisoners’ representatives and the Israel Prison Service on improving prison conditions reached an impasse. Those talks began more than a year and a half ago. […]

Among the demands from Barghouti and the prisoners are the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being cancelled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands include more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.

According to sources close to Barghouti, the gradual increase in prisoners joining the strike is a planned step intended to prevent it from breaking early. But some have said that the fact that only about half of the Fatah prisoners announced that they would join points to a disagreement over Barghouti’s measure.

Barghouti supporters are also planning parades and demonstrations in the West Bank in support of the strike.”

On April 17th the BBC produced coverage of the strike on various platforms.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ heard from the anonymous mother of an anonymous prisoner. A context-free clip from that programme was circulated on BBC social media accounts under the title “A mother’s plea for prison visitations” with the following synopsis:

“More than a thousand Palestinians held in Israeli prisons have begun a mass hunger strike against detention conditions. Rallies in support of the prisoners have been held in the occupied West Bank, and led to clashes with the Israeli security forces in the city of Bethlehem. The BBC spoke to the mother of a Palestinian inmate.”

Viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a short filmed report which was also posted on the BBC News website under the title “Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in support of prisoners“. The background to the story was described as follows in that report:

“Palestinian youths are clashing with Israeli forces in the West Bank. They are out in support of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners who are on mass hunger strike against their detention conditions. There are fears that the protests could fuel tensions in the region.”

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Palestinians in Israeli jails hold mass hunger strike” which informs them that:

“More than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails have begun a mass hunger strike against detention conditions.”

The report does clarify that the hunger strike is led by Marwan Barghouti:

“The action is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders.

Barghouti has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

However, like the other reports, the strike’s political background is entirely erased from this account of the story and instead audience attentions are focused on “detention conditions” without clarification of the specific demands.

Securing amplification from international media organisations is of course part of the strategy of the organisers behind this pre-planned action. If the BBC is going to collaborate with that strategy, it should at least be telling its audiences the whole story behind the motives for the strike.

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BBC reports on British student murdered in Jerusalem exclude the word terror

On April 14th a British exchange student was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem.

“The young British woman murdered on Friday in a terror attack in Jerusalem was named as Hannah Bladon, 21, an exchange student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. […]

Bladon died of her wounds after being stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife by a Palestinian terrorist while riding on Jerusalem’s light rail.

An off-duty police officer and a passerby wrestled the terrorist, a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem, to the ground before he could harm anyone else. Two other people were lightly injured when the tram made an emergency stop.”

A report on the attack appeared on the BBC News website some two and a half hours after it took place.

Originally titled “Jerusalem stabbing: British woman killed in train attack”, the report was amended numerous times and its headline changed as details emerged and the victim was identified – but the word terror does not appear in any of its thirteen versions.

An additional report on the same story appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘England’ page on April 15th under the title “Hannah Bladon Jerusalem stabbing: Family ‘devastated’ at attack“. The word terror is likewise absent from all versions of that article. 

When British tourists were murdered in Tunisia in 2015, the BBC accurately described the incident as a terror attack. When an attack in which some of the victims were visitors to Britain took place in London in March 2017, the BBC similarly used accurate terminology to describe it to its audiences.

However, when visitors to Israel have been murdered in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians, the corporation has consistently refrained from using accurate language to describe those attacks.  

Once again, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism, together with the redundancy of its inconsistently applied guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’, are glaringly apparent.

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