Inaccurate BBC Balfour Declaration claim misleads audiences

On November 1st an article titled “Battle of Beersheba charge recreated for centenary” was published on the BBC News website’s Australia and Middle East pages.

In among an otherwise reasonable account of the commemoration of that First World War battle, readers found the following two paragraphs:

“The Battle of Beersheba led to the Balfour Declaration – the first time the British government endorsed the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

While many Israelis believe it was the foundation stone of modern Israel and the salvation of the Jews, many Palestinians regard it as a betrayal.” [emphasis added]

The Battle of Beersheba took place on October 31st 1917. The Balfour Declaration was published just two days later on November 2nd 1917. Apparently though the BBC would have its audiences believe – as the use of the words “led to” indicates – that it was the allied forces’ victory in that battle in the Negev desert which caused Lord Balfour’s letter to be written.

That, of course, is an inaccurate representation of events. The document published on November 2nd 1917 was in fact the end product of several months of drafts, revisions and consultations, as the Balfour 100 website explains:

“Balfour’s November 1917 typewritten letter to Rothschild was ‎drafted after a great deal of back-and-forth within Lloyd George’s government and considerable input by Zionist leaders led by Nahum Sokolow (1859-1936) and Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952); and by British Jews adamantly opposed to Zionism.

On June 13, 1917 Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour met with Lord Walter Rothschild, leader of the British Jewish community, and Zionist statesman Chaim Weizmann and suggested they submit a draft document encapsulating their hopes for Palestine that he could submit for Cabinet discussion.

The formula which the Zionists preferred was submitted by Rothschild to Balfour on July 18, 1917.

But the to-and-fro over the letter’s wording continued. […]

On October 6, 1917 the War Cabinet decided to send out the latest draft text to eight Jews—four anti-Zionists and four Zionists—for comment. The cover letter acknowledged that “in view of the divergence of opinion expressed on the subject by the Jews themselves,” the Government “would like to receive in writing the views of representative Jewish leaders, both Zionists and non-Zionists.””

One of the four anti-Zionists was Sir Philip Magnus, whose response can be found in the National Library of Israel. Also on October 6th 1917, the British sought the opinion of the US president Woodrow Wilson and, as Martin Kramer documents, the French government had also expressed its approval for “the renaissance of the Jewish nationality [nationalité juive] in that land from which the people of Israel were exiled so many centuries ago” in June 1917 in the Cambon letter.

In short, the Balfour Declaration had been a ‘work in progress’ for at least five months before the ANZAC forces won the Battle of Beersheba and the BBC’s claim that the victory against the Ottomans “led to” Lord Rothschild’s letter is historically inaccurate and misleading to audiences.

Update:

Following communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and the first paragraph now reads:

“The Battle of Beersheba came days before the Balfour Declaration – the first time the British government endorsed the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.”

 

 

 

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Three inaccuracies and an omission in one BBC News sentence

The sentence below is to be found in an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 8th:accuracy

“In October last year, an Eritrean immigrant was shot and beaten to death by an angry crowd after being mistaken for an Arab militant in the town of Beersheba, prompting concern about mob reactions to people thought to be suspicious.”

Habtom Zerhom was not an “immigrant” but an Eritrean asylum seeker. The investigation into the incident showed that the cause of his death was internal bleeding from a gunshot wound – i.e. he was not “beaten to death” as claimed by the BBC. The incident occurred when Zerhom was mistaken for a second terrorist – not an “Arab militant” – during a terror attack at Be’er Sheva bus station on October 18th 2015 which is completely erased from this portrayal of events.

In addition to those omissions and inaccuracies, the link provided leads to a BBC report from October 2015 which, as has been noted here before, inaccurately represents the victim’s name and age, calling him “Mr Mulu” aged 19.

So much for editorial standards of accuracy.

“You have an implied contract with your audiences. You’re asking them to trust you to check that what you’re saying is true and that your overall account isn’t misleading.”

Operation Pillar of Cloud – Day 2

Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ continues, as do rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip – over 110 since the start of the operation at the time of writing – on Israeli civilian targets in the south. 

It is, however, difficult to appreciate exactly what is happening in southern Israel from BBC coverage. Whilst Jon Donnison is currently located in Gaza, and turning out fairly frequent reports, there is no comparable BBC presence in the towns and cities of South Israel. 

In this TV News report, we have Donnison – against a background of dramatic images – talking about “civilians caught up in the violence: the impact of Israel’s military might”. 

Donnison – like his boss, Jeremy Bowen – is still pushing the ‘it’s all to do with the upcoming Israeli elections’ theme. He also seems to be having a little trouble defining reality, claiming that Ahmed Jabari was “the man it [Israel] blames for a string of attacks” and “Israel says the strike [on Jabari] followed a wave of rocket attacks”. 

Perhaps if the BBC actually bothered to send a reporter to Sderot, Ofakim or Be’er Sheva, it would be capable of sounding less vague about the realities of attacks on Israeli civilians.

Below are pictures taken on Wednesday evening in Be’er Sheva after one of many rocket attacks: images the BBC is not broadcasting.

 Update: 

It would appear that as of Thursday, November 15th at around 08:00 local time, the BBC actually does have a correspondent in southern Israel: 

Also this morning: the IDF has distributed leaflets in the Gaza Strip advising residents to distance themselves from the sites of terror operations in order to ensure safety.  

Update:

Three people critically injured this morning in a direct rocket hit on a building in Kiriyat Malachi have died of their wounds. A baby is seriously injured. 

Here is the BBC’s short report on the above events.

“At least three people have been killed in southern Israel by rockets fired from Gaza, amid escalating violence.

It marks the first Israeli fatalities since militants fired into Israel after it killed Hamas’ military commander in an air strike on Wednesday.

Eleven Palestinians, including militants, have been killed in the ensuing Israeli operation. More than 50 rockets hit Israel overnight.

The Israelis were killed in a strike on a house in Kiryat Melachi.”

In fact, since the start of the operation on Wednesday afternoon, and as of 09:20 local time on Thursday, some 150 rockets have been fired at Israeli civilian targets.

Here is the BBC’s Wyre Davies promoting a specific narrative regarding combatant/civilian fatalities: 

 Hamas operatives known to have been killed include:

Ahmed Jabari, Mohammad al Homs, Esam Abu Meza and Mohammad Kusaih (possibly also known as Mohammad Hani Ibrahim).

Update: 

The BBC’s Jon Donnison appears to be angling for a position with the Hamas propaganda department. 

 

Update:

The BBC’s Wyre Davies is apparently not averse to promoting Hamas propaganda either:

 

(No such missile was fired.)

In other news, it seems that the BBC’s sojourn in southern Israel may be coming to an end: