On August 28th the BBC News website published a filmed report by the ‘Gender & Identity correspondent’ for the BBC World Service and BBC World, Megha Mohan. Others involved in the production of the eleven-minute video include Yousef Eldin and Ramallah-based Tala Halawa of BBC Monitoring.
The report is titled “Palestinian conflict: Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention”. The word ‘childhood’ is defined as the period of time between infancy and puberty. The people showcased in this film would be better described as adolescents and of course none of them spent their entire “childhood in Israeli military detention”. That sort of manipulation however is evident throughout the entire report.
The report’s synopsis promotes an unsubstantiated claim from unidentified “critics”. The likewise unidentified “human rights group” is HaMoked: a political NGO with a very limited definition of human rights which campaigns solely on behalf of Palestinians.
“Last month Israel’s Supreme Court refused to hear a petition by a human rights group demanding that Palestinian children detained in Israeli jails be allowed to telephone their parents.
The case cast a spotlight on children tried in military courts for crimes committed in the occupied West Bank. Israel is believed to be the only country that tries children that way. Critics have said the ill-treatment of detainees is widespread.”
The first of the “children” showcased by Mohan is Ahed Tamimi, whose case was vigorously promoted by the BBC last year. Showing footage from December 2017, Mohan tells viewers:
“It was this slap that made global headlines. Then sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi spent eight months in prison after it.”
Ahed Tamimi of course spent that time in prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of assault, one count of incitement, and two counts of obstructing soldiers. BBC audiences were however once again led to believe that she was convicted for a “slap” and even though towards the end of the film (10:12) viewers were told that “the Israeli military told the BBC that Ahed Tamimi accepted a plea deal for a number of charges”, they were not told what those charges were and no information concerning the context of the grooming of Ahed Tamimi by her family of professional activists was provided.
Later on viewers heard that Tamimi “alleges that she was mistreated on several occasions following her arrest” and later still Tamimi told BBC audiences of ‘difficulties’ concerning sanitary pads. When interviewed by a Russian TV journalist a year ago, Tamimi told a different story.
“I did a lot of things: a legal course, we spent a lot of time on that, and matriculation exam studies; I read books; we would sing; we even had joint breakfasts of the entire wing – we would go outside, every room would bring its things, and we would eat together. We also ate lunch together most of the time. We also had parties; we would sit and sing, and dance. There were a lot of things that we did to pass the time: We watched TV, for example we jumped around in the rooms and did silly things; we did a lot of things.”
Another of the cases highlighted by Mohan is presented as follows:
“Malah is now 16 years old. At 14 she was arrested at a checkpoint for an alleged knife attack on Israeli soldiers.”
The teenager is described as having spent “8 months in detention” and viewers hear her account of how she refused to sign a document allegedly written in Hebrew before she says:
“…and I said no, I haven’t done anything.”
Apparently the BBC thinks it legitimate to describe travelling to a checkpoint with a knife and failing to stop when told to do so by police officers as “haven’t done anything”.
Neither in this nor any of the other showcased stories does the BBC offer viewers any information concerning the incitement and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian society which prompts teenagers to try to carry out terror attacks against Israelis.
Mohan does however tell viewers that:
“Israel is the only country in the world where children are prosecuted through a dedicated juvenile military court system. Israeli military law is applied to Palestinian children in the West Bank because it is under military occupation. Every year more than five hundred Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are arrested by Israeli forces. Israel argues that the children it detains are threats to national security.”
As was noted here last July when similar claims were made on BBC World News TV:
“Of course if Palestinians accused of security offences were tried in Israeli civil courts, the BBC would be the first to be jumping up and down shouting ‘annexation!’ because that would mean that Israeli sovereignty had been extended to Judea & Samaria.”
Viewers hear Mohan claim that “it can take the family up to six hours to cross checkpoints” in order to visit their imprisoned son. The Beit Fajjar resident interviewed by Mohan states:
“The checkpoint. The issue is with the checkpoint. Searching, come forward, go backward, go there. And the machine beeps because of anything. It’s a mess. It’s exhausting, torture. As if we’re also detained.”
Viewers are at no point provided with an explanation of why checkpoints are needed and neither are they informed that until the Palestinians decided to conduct a terror war against Israel’s civilian population – the ‘intifada’ – those checkpoints did not exist.
One of the main interviewees in the report is Sahar Francis of ‘Addameer’ who is presented as follows:
Mohan: “Conversations involving Palestinian territories and Israel are polarising and emotive. Child detention especially so. But Saher [sic] Francis, a lawyer for Addameer – an organisation that advocates for Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank – says the issue is not just moral but legal.”
Viewers are told nothing of Addameer’s political agenda – or of its ties to a terror organisation proscribed by the UK. They do however get a generous dose of Francis’ falsehoods and propaganda.
Francis: “…arresting children is part of the whole system. When you raid a house after midnight in order to arrest a 14-year-old boy it’s not just against the boy himself. It’s against the whole family. Imagine the father and the mother that they cannot protect their son and they see their son is dragged out of his bed at night. I wouldn’t believe it’s about security; it’s about control. It’s about control and maintaining the oppression against the whole society. Especially children. It’s affecting a whole generation at the end of the day.”
Mohan goes on to assert that:
Mohan: “The most controversial form of incarceration is known as Administrative Detention. It allows the Israeli military to hold people without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence that is not shown to the detainee or their lawyer. The military says administrative detainees pose a threat to the national security and their cases are therefore classified.”
That of course is not an accurate or impartial portrayal of Administrative Detention (also used in other countries including the UK), which is only used in specific circumstances.
The report includes an interview with former IDF chief military prosecutor Maurice Hirsch who explains that:
“The military system is specifically for the Palestinians because that is the requirement of international law. Article 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention said given a breach of the criminal law, protected people – the Palestinians – can only be brought to justice before the military court.”
Hirsch also clarifies that the earlier claims that teenagers had been asked to sign confessions written in Hebrew is not true. As we see, that did not prevent the editors of this film from airing those allegations anyway.
Mohan then moves to another topic.
Mohan: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a legally binding international agreement that states that children should only be arrested as a last resort. Israel is a signatory. The law says children should not be held in shackles, have prompt access to a lawyer and translations and be treated with respect.”
The relevant articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (37 and 40) do not mention the word “shackles” at all. Mohan of course does not bother to inform viewers that the Palestinian Authority also became a signatory to that Convention in April 2014 and that Article 38 states:
“States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.”
Regular readers may recall that last December the BBC’s ECU acknowledged that there is a “question” regarding “the extent to which this [the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child] can be described as “international law”” and the BBC claimed that it had “reminded” its journalists that “the reach of international law is not always as it is claimed and should be checked for accuracy”. Apparently Megha Mohan and her team did not receive that memo because she closes her report as follows:
Mohan: “Israel currently denies Palestinian children detained in the West Bank protections granted to Israeli children. Yet agreed international law states the same legal rights should apply to every person going through the judicial process. Especially those under the age of 18.”
As Maurice Hirsch had already explained, “Palestinian children” and “Israeli children” are not subject to the same “judicial process” because:
“Article 66 of the 4th Geneva Convention refers to the role of military courts in areas under military control. The article states that members of protected populations accused of crimes may only be brought before courts whose members have military status (and are subordinate to the military authorities).”
Nevertheless, Mohan’s claim is not justified, as explained here.
It is of course amply obvious that this highly partisan report falls into the category of journalistic activism and does not meet either supposed BBC standards of accuracy or impartiality or the corporation’s public purpose remit.
Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism
BBC’s ECU acknowledges ‘international law’ inaccuracy