BBC Radio 4 recycles an evasive report by Kevin Connolly

At the beginning of November 2016 the BBC World Service radio programme “On Background” ran an episode that included an item supposedly about antisemitism in Europe. As was noted here at the time:

“The item begins with Kevin Connolly revisiting the May 2014 shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in which an Israeli couple, a French woman and a Belgian man were murdered. Notably – in light of the BBC’s record – the incident is accurately described on two occasions as a “terrorist attack”. However, the identity of the suspected attacker and his apparent Islamist motives are not mentioned at all in Connolly’s report.

Given the chosen starting point of the attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels, listeners familiar with its background would perhaps have been rather surprised by the item’s focus on the unrelated topic of Christian antisemitism in Europe.”

For no obviously apparent reason, that report by Connolly was recycled four months later in the February 26th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Broadcasting House’ which describes itself as discussing “the big stories of the week”.broadcasting-house-26-2

In the programme’s introduction listeners were told:

“Nearly three years on, we go back to the Jewish Museum in Brussels where four people were killed in a terror attack.”

They then heard a voice say:

“Today not only the Jew are afraid; everybody is afraid. Terrorism can attack everybody and today we have to help everybody to protect our society.”

Presenter Jane Garvey introduced the item itself (from 37:25 here) as follows:

“On the 24th of May 2014 a lone gunman walked into the Jewish Museum in the Belgian capital, Brussels, and opened fire. Four people were killed. The chief suspect was arrested in France and extradited back to Belgium. Kevin Connolly has been looking back at the impact of this attack on the museum, which reopened in the autumn of 2014.”

After the sound of archive recordings of news bulletins concerning the attack, Kevin Connolly opened his somewhat amateurishly edited report. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Connolly: “We remember the scenes of terrorist attack like the Jewish Museum in Brussels just as they were at the moment when it all happened: intense and frozen like a flash photograph. For most of us, the sounds of daily life quickly surge back into the familiar streets and squares and wash away the horror. For the characters in the story though, at such a moment everything changes for ever. That’s how it feels now in the elegant streets and squares near the Jewish museum in Brussels where the cafés and antique shops are of course busy again two years after a lone attacker wandered in off the streets and opened fire.”

Listeners then heard a voice later identified as the museum’s director briefly telling how he was informed of the attack before Connolly went on to repeat a sentence heard only seconds earlier.

Connolly: “For the characters in the story though, at such a moment everything changes forever. Not just the dead and those who loved them but men like Philippe Blondin, the museum’s director who’d always believed that the absence of heavy security at the building sent a signal not of vulnerability but of openness.”

Connolly went on to interview the director of a Jewish community centre in Brussels, emphasising the employment of heavy security measures.

Connolly: “After every act of violence that makes the news and then fades from it, shock waves ripple outwards. At this Jewish community centre not far from the museum in Brussels there are soldiers on guard at the main entrance these days, double door entry systems, document checks and private guards inside.”

Connolly also spoke to another member of the community.

Connolly: “Philippe Markovitch [phonetic] – a lawyer and another leader of Belgium’s Jewish minority has thought deeply about the lessons of the attack on the Jewish museum too. He emphasises that this is not simply European history repeating itself; that in its modern form antisemitism is the prejudice of a minority – not the policy of a state – but that these days Jews are not alone in their vulnerability to terrorist attack.”

Connolly then told the story of how the Jewish museum’s director hid as a small child in Nazi-occupied France before telling listeners that:

Connolly: “Philippe believes that families like his that lived through the Holocaust in Europe had a tremendous joy and energy about them in the post-war years. And he applies in modern Brussels a lesson he learned in the Europe of the past: that the best response to adversity is to keep alive a sense of purpose.”

Connolly closed the item thus:

Connolly: “The Brussels attack has naturally faded from the headlines of course and from the streets of Sablon too but there are those whose lives it touched who still live with it every day and there are lessons it has to teach the rest of us – if we’re prepared to listen.”

Exactly what those “lessons” are supposed to be is unclear from Connolly’s cryptic commentary. However, one topic he and the BBC appear to be serially keen to avoid is the identity, ideology and motives of the terrorist who murdered four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, together with any serious discussion of the issue of contemporary Islamist antisemitism in Europe or examination of the question of why Jewish institutions and establishments such as the community centre he visited need to employ security measures that other groups in European society thankfully do not require.

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BBC’s director of news discusses antisemitism – up to a point




BBC’s director of news discusses antisemitism – up to a point

On November 5th BBC World Service radio broadcast an edition of the programme ‘On Background’ which included (from 34:20 here) an item described in the synopsis as “author Howard Jacobson with the BBC’s Kevin Connolly on anti-Semitism in Europe”.on-background-5-11

The programme has several notable aspects, one of which is the fact that it is co-presented by the BBC’s director of news.

“BBC News’ James Harding and Zanny Minton Beddoes from the Economist dig a little deeper into some of the big stories of the week.”

The item begins with Kevin Connolly revisiting the May 2014 shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in which an Israeli couple, a French woman and a Belgian man were murdered. Notably – in light of the BBC’s record – the incident is accurately described on two occasions as a “terrorist attack”. However, the identity of the suspected attacker and his apparent Islamist motives are not mentioned at all in Connolly’s report.

Given the chosen starting point of the attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels, listeners familiar with its background would perhaps have been rather surprised by the item’s focus on the unrelated topic of Christian antisemitism in Europe.

Referring to his Jewish interviewees from Belgium, Connolly tells audiences:

“Their view is – to some extent because of the Holocaust – that Christian tradition of antisemitism in Europe has been fixed, in inverted commas, by education or by a sense of what is or what is not socially acceptable. But they worry now that new minorities coming into Europe bringing with them the attitudes, for example, of the Middle East or of North Africa, will give antisemitism a new vitality on the continent and will revisit an ancient problem in a modern way.”

Presenter James Harding’s response to that is to ask:

“But is there any evidence […] that antisemitism within a Christian tradition still exists in Europe?”

Later on, following a description of manifestations of antisemitism by Howard Jacobson, Harding responds by saying:

“But Howard Jacobson – wouldn’t there be people listening to you now, particularly Muslim listeners, who’d say consider Islamophobia in Europe; consider the plight of Muslims who are facing much more critical commentary and, frankly, much more hostility across Europe.”

The issue raised by Connolly’s Belgian interviewees in fact receives no serious discussion throughout the item.

Another interesting point about the item is the absence of any introspection on the part of the BBC’s director of news concerning content produced by his own organisation which has amplified the kind of tropes described by his expert guest Howard Jacobson.

Jacobson [46:28]: “And here we get onto the very thorny problem of Israel because in my view – which has got nothing to do with defending Israel at all: the politics of Israel; we can leave that out. But I do think that Israel has enabled a vocabulary of antisemitism to surface and express itself again. I’m not just talking about how we feel about individual Israeli policy. We will find descriptions of what’s happened in Israel that are too close to comfort to medieval tropes about what Jews were like. You will hear people saying Israel is supported by a ‘Jewish lobby’ or there’s an immense amount of money supporting Israel politics or when it comes to Israel, the Jewish lobby is the tail wagging the American dog. So these are all old ways of talking about the Jews that go all the way back to things that were said in Mein Kampf but they now have another…another battle ground if you like.”

Readers may recall that the ‘tail wagging the dog’ theme was promoted by a senior BBC correspondent in September 2013 and that amplification of the notion of a powerful ‘Jewish lobby’ has regrettably been an all too frequent feature of BBC content – for example here, here and here.

Later on in the discussion, Jacobson refers to the Livingstone Formulation.

“I’ll tell you what’s a real problem here: every time you say look, there seems to be an antisemitism problem here, you’re met with a blank wall – I find it quite impertinent actually; I find it insolent – that says all you’re trying to do is stop criticism of Israel. That is such a mantra now, you’ve no idea. In any argument now about the issue of antisemitism, it’s silenced by people who say that they are being silenced: ‘you’re only saying I’m an antisemite to stop me talking; to stop me criticising Israel’. It’s entirely untrue. Criticise Israel all you like but they must see that every time they say that, they are silencing those who say there is a problem with antisemitism.”

As regulars readers know, the BBC has itself frequently promoted the Livingstone Formulation in its own content – including in a backgrounder supposedly designed to help audiences understand the ‘difference’ between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Antisemitism is a subject with which the BBC has been visibly struggling for a long time. That struggle manifests itself both as the frequent failure to report accurately (or sometimes, the failure to report at all) on stories involving antisemitism and the failure to adequately address the issue of antisemitism in its own content and on its message boards.

It is therefore all the more regrettable that a programme which claims to ‘dig deeper’ hosted by such a prominent figure as the BBC’s director of news did not actually deliver.

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Revisiting the BBC’s policy on naming and personalising victims of terror

Earlier this month the trial of one of the two terrorists who carried out an attack on a Jerusalem bus last October in which three Israelis were murdered and dozens injured came to a close.

“A Jerusalem court on Monday sentenced an East Jerusalem terrorist to three consecutive life sentences and an additional 60 years in prison for killing three people in an attack on a bus in the capital last October.

Last month, Bilal Abu Ghanem was convicted of three counts of murder, seven counts of attempted murder and aiding the enemy in wartime for his role in killing three people in a terror attack on a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood.”

As readers may recall the BBC News website reported the murders of Chaim Haviv and Alon Govberg but did not name them or provide any other personal details. The death of a third victim of the same bus attack – Richard Lakin – two weeks later did not receive any BBC coverage at all.

In another trial this month:

“A Palestinian man who stabbed two Israelis to death in Tel Aviv last year was convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday on two counts of murder and three of attempted murder after confessing to the charges.

Raed Masalmeh, 36, a father of five from the Hebron-area town of Dura in the West Bank, previously pleaded not guilty to murdering Reuven Aviram and Aharon Yesiav in a Tel Aviv office building synagogue on November 19, 2015.”

The BBC News website reported that attack, together with another one on the same day, but once again the victims were not named. There has been no BBC reporting on either of these trials.Istanbul attack victims

After last November’s terror attacks in Paris, the BBC News website produced an article paying tribute to the people murdered and that practice of naming, personalising and humanising victims of terror attacks has since continued.

BBC audiences have learned about victims of the March 2016 attack at Brussels airport and the June 2016 attacks in Orlando and at Istanbul airport. In July 2016 the BBC News website made efforts to personalise victims of terror in Baghdad, in Kabul, in Nice and in Munich. Five policemen killed in a shooting attack in Dallas were the subject of an article titled “Dallas police shootings: Who are the victims?“.

However, for BBC audiences the vast majority of terror victims in Israel remain faceless and in very many cases such as those noted above, even nameless.  

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

As has been mentioned here on prior occasions, it is extremely rare to see any follow-up reporting by the BBC after Palestinian terrorists have been arrested and put on trial but just such a report did appear on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 22nd under the headline “Palestinians jailed for life for killing Israeli couple“.Henkin terrorists sentencing art

However, despite this being a story about the sentencing of convicted terrorists belonging to the Hamas terrorist organisation who murdered two Israelis in a pre-planned terror attack, the words terror, terrorist or terrorism do not appear even once in this report.

“An Israeli military court has sentenced four Palestinians to life in prison for the murder of an Israeli couple in the occupied West Bank, the military says.

Eitam and Naama Henkin were killed in front of their four young children in a drive-by shooting on 1 October.

The military said the assailants, members of the Islamist movement Hamas, opened fire at the Henkins’ car after an attempt to abduct them failed.”

What does appear in this article is the above link to the BBC’s original report on the attack. There we learn that over nine months since its publication, BBC Online has still not got round to correcting its inaccurate presentation of Eitam Henkin’s name.

Pigua Henkin family names

Sadly, there is of course nothing surprising about the BBC’s censoring of the word terror from this article: the same pattern was seen in its earlier reporting on the same story (see ‘related articles’ below).

However, just a few days earlier the BBC was capable of reporting that “jihadist terror struck Paris in November“.

terror Paris a

Similarly, BBC audiences were recently informed of “counter-terror raids” in Belgium which resulted in three men being charged.

“The charges they face include attempting to commit murder through terrorism and participating in a terrorist group.”

The BBC was also able to tell audiences in its own words that these raids were:

“…the biggest coordinated operation since the terror attacks here in Brussels three months ago.”

And that:

“Thirty-two people were murdered in the terror attacks in March…”

terror Belgium

Once again we see that while the BBC rightly uses the word terror when it reports on that topic in Europe, the same word is censored from its reporting from Israel, even an article about terrorists already convicted in court.  

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BBC News describes Henkin family attackers as “alleged militants”


BBC post terror attack report focuses on travel permits rather than victims

Following the deadly acts of terror in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in March 2016, the BBC found it appropriate to provide its audiences with information about the victims killed and wounded in those attacks.

The morning after the June 8th terror attack in Tel Aviv in which four people were murdered and sixteen wounded, the BBC News website found it appropriate to focus audience attentions on a topic other than its victims.  The website’s Middle East page ran the headline “Palestinian permits frozen after attack”, linking to an article titled “Tel Aviv shooting: Israel suspends Palestinian permits“.

Pigua Sarona mkt follow up art permits

The third version of that report was amended to include the names, ages and gender of the four victims of the previous evening’s attack. In contrast to the articles concerning the Paris and Brussels attacks, no additional personal details or photographs were provided.

“Two women – Ilana Nave, 39, and Mila Mishayev, 32 – and two men – Ido Ben Aryeh, 42, and Michael Feige, 58 – were killed in the shootings, police said.”

Editors did however consider it necessary to amend the report in order to inform BBC audiences of the terrorists’ sartorial tastes.

“The two gunmen, who were smartly dressed, opened fire with automatic weapons on diners and passers-by after sitting down and ordering food at one of the complex’s restaurants.”

Once again, the only use of the word terrorism in the report came in the form of a direct quote.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Sarona complex shortly after Wednesday night’s attack, calling it “a savage crime of murder and terrorism”.”

While failing to note the fact that Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organization, the report included the following information:

“Islamist group Hamas praised what it called an “heroic attack” but did not say it was behind it.

In a statement a day after the killings, the West Bank-based Palestinian Presidency said it “repeatedly emphasised its rejection of all operations targeting civilians regardless of their identity and irrespective of the justifications”, without directly addressing the Tel Aviv attack.”

Readers were not however told that Fatah – also headed by Mahmoud Abbas – put out statements concerning the terror attack which used language remarkably similar to that adopted by Hamas spokesmen.  [emphasis added]

“”The Fatah Movement stated in a notice from the Mobilization and Organization Commission” that the Tel Aviv operation (i.e., terror attack, 4 murdered) which occurred last night is a private and spontaneous natural response to Israel’s choosing force…

Head of the Information Committee of the Fatah Mobilization and Organization Commission Munir Al-Jaghoub said: ‘Israel needs to understand the results of its actions, [which are] a continuation of the promotion of the option of violence and the policy of demolishing homes and expelling residents of Jerusalem, and the ongoing invasions of the Al-Aqsa Mosque plaza by the herds of settlers… and the cold blooded murder of Palestinians at their checkpoints, which are spread through the territories occupied since 1967.'”

“In a brief press release on Thursday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri deemed the operation a natural response to the Israeli occupation’s crimes against Palestinians and the constant Israeli desecration of al-Aqsa Mosque and Muslim sanctities.”

The report did include a rarely seen mention of Palestinian celebration of the terror attack.

“News of the attack was greeted in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with fireworks and cheering. Some Palestinians handed out sweets and waved flags in celebration.”Pigua Sarona mkt follow up art

The main focus of the report was on the topic of the temporary suspension of entry permits into Israel previously issued to Palestinians resident in the PA and Hamas controlled territories.

“Israel says it has suspended entry permits for 83,000 Palestinians after gunmen killed four people in an attack at an open-air complex in Tel Aviv. […]

Israel later announced a permit ban that will impact Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip who had planned to visit relatives in Israel, attend Ramadan prayers in Jerusalem or travel abroad via Tel Aviv’s airport.”

The report did not clarify to readers that those permits were announced several days earlier within the framework of the special goodwill measures adopted for Ramadan. 

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Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel

BBC coverage of Sarona Market terror attack – part one

BBC coverage of Sarona Market terror attack – part two


Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel

Following the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, various BBC platforms – including the BBC News website – produced content paying tribute to the victims of those attacks which included photographs and some biographical details.Paris victims

A similar feature appeared on the BBC News website after last month’s terror attacks in Brussels under the title “Victims of the Brussels attacks” and it not only included photographs and personal information about the majority of the people murdered in the attacks but also about several of the wounded.

As has been noted here previously, such information of course enables BBC audiences to get beyond mere casualty figures and goes some way towards helping them appreciate the individual personal tragedies of victims and their families.

Throughout the last six months – October 2015 to March 2016 – the BBC has also been reporting on terror attacks in Israel (although it of course refrains from naming them as such) but in that reporting, personalisation of the victims is very much the exception rather than the rule.Brussels victims

During that six-month period articles appearing on the BBC News website have included photographs of only four victims of two separate terror attacks.

On October 2nd 2015 a follow-up report concerning the terror attack in which Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were murdered included their photographs. On October 3rd and 5th the BBC produced reports about the terror attack in which Aharon Banita-Bennett and Nehemia Lavi were murdered – here and here – which included their photographs.

Since October 5th, however, not one of the BBC’s reports about the many terror attacks in which Israelis and/or foreign nationals have been killed has included photographs of the victims and the deaths of three people have not been reported at all.

October 13th: the murder of Yeshayahu Krishevsky in a vehicular/stabbing attack in Jerusalem was reported in an article which also noted the murders of Chaim Haviv and Alon Govberg during a combined shooting/stabbing attack on passengers on a city bus in Jerusalem earlier on the same day but did not name any of the victims of either attack. The death of a third victim of the same bus attack – Richard Lakin – two weeks later did not receive any BBC coverage.

October 18th: the terror attack at Be’er Sheva bus station in which Sgt Omri Levy and Eritrean national Habtom Zerhom were killed was covered in this BBC report and a follow-up article.  

October 20th: the murder of Avraham Hasno at al Fawar junction was briefly mentioned in this article but the victim was not identified.

November 4th: a vehicular attack took place at Halhul junction and those wounded in that attack included St. Sgt. Binyamin Yakobovitch who succumbed to his injuries four days later. There was no BBC News coverage of either the initial attack or St.Sgt Yakobovitch’s death.

November 13th: the murders of Rabbi Ya’akov Litman and his son Netanel near Otniel were reported in an article titled “Israelis killed in West Bank as Palestinians shot dead“.

November 19th: the murders of Rabbi Aharon Yesayev and Reuven Aviram in Tel Aviv and the murders of Ezra Schwartz, Yaakov Don, and Shadi Arafa at Alon Shvut junction on the same day were reported in an article titled “Palestinian attacks in Israel and West Bank kill five” although none of the victims were named.Israel victims 1

November 22nd: the stabbing attack at Gush Etzion junction in which Hadar Buchris was murdered was reported in this article.

November 23rd: the murder of Cpl. Ziv Mizrahi at a petrol station on Route 443 was reported in this article.

December 7th:  Gennady Kaufman was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack in Hebron. Neither the original attack nor Mr Kaufman’s later death on December 30th received any BBC News coverage.

December 23rd: the BBC News website covered an attack in Jerusalem in which two people were killed and one wounded. The victims – Rabbi Reuven Birmajer and Ofer Ben Ari – were not named in the report.

January 1st 2016: two of the victims of the terror attack in Tel Aviv – Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi – were first named in a follow-up report which appeared the next day. The third victim –Amin Shaaban – was only named a week later in a subsequent report.

January 17th: the murder of Dafna Meir in Otniel was reported in this article.Dafna Meir murder BBC headline

January 25th: the stabbing attack in Beit Horon in which Shlomit Krigman was murdered was only covered on the BBC News website the following day and the victim was not named.

February 3rd: the attack at Damascus Gate in which Cpl Hadar Cohen was shot and killed was covered in this report.

February 18th: the attack at Sha’ar Binyamin in which off-duty soldier Tuvia Yanai Weissman was murdered was reported here.

February 24th: the attack at Gush Etzion Junction in which Eliav Gelman was killed was covered in this article

March 8th: the terror attack in Jaffa in which US citizen Taylor Force was murdered was covered here.

As we see the BBC clearly employs a markedly different approach to the victims of terror attacks in Europe and in Israel. Dedicated coverage of the victims of the attacks in Paris and Brussels has ensured appropriate personalisation and humanisation of those murdered in attacks the BBC is (for the most part) comfortable describing as terrorism.

However, for BBC audiences the vast majority of victims in Israel remain faceless and, in very many cases, even nameless victims of violence which the corporation refuses to describe as terrorism.






BBC Radio London provides a platform for conspiracy theories

h/t AH

The March 24th edition of the BBC Radio London late-night phone-in show ‘Duncan Barkes’ was hosted by stand-in presenter Chris Rogers.Radio London 24 3

Under the title “Terrorism and roadworks”, one topic put forward for discussion was the potential further arming of police in the UK in light of the terror attacks (interestingly, termed as such) in Brussels and Paris.

However, during the first hour of the show (available for a limited period of time here) listeners heard very little discussion of that topic. What they got to hear instead was the repeated promotion of bizarre conspiracy theories.

In relation to the Brussels attack two days previously, from around 22:17 ‘Steve in Streatham’ told listeners that:

“This is a terrorist false flag. Anyone who knows about false flags will know that these covert operations include Israel’s Mossad, the CIA and MI5 to blame other countries for their agenda in the Middle East and this is what’s going on time and time again. […] Those Zionists out there that are doing all this, they wanna blame certain sections of people to achieve their agenda of taking over the Middle East….”

Describing his guest’s views as “pretty contentious”, Rogers continued the conversation and even encouraged him to elaborate on his conspiracy theories so that listeners were exposed to the notion that:

“Obviously…there are terrorists about – I’m not denying they’re not terrorists [sic] – but a lot of the cases they train them up and they’re joining in with them – as sick as it might sound – they’re joining in with them, turning the gun on the terrorists at the last minute and getting away with it.”


“OK: let’s get this straight, right. America and Israel are the biggest terrorists in the world.”

Rogers interjected at that stage with a cautionary “steady on” – for which he later gave an interesting explanation. Following that caller, Rogers told listeners:

“So I do apologise if you found any of his views offensive or insulting. But he’s entitled to those views. We live in a free country and that’s what we’re fighting for, isn’t it?”

After having acknowledged that “there’s a lot of conspiracy theorists listening tonight”, at 36:26 Rogers introduced a caller named Ian who told him:

“I don’t think it’s any longer plausible for […] radio stations and TV stations to dismiss the role that the US and Israel have had to play.”

Rogers interrupted him, saying in relation to his previous conversation with ‘Steve’:

“I wasn’t dismissing that. I was dismissing the barmy conspiracy theories that President Bush blew up the Twin Towers in New York to create an excuse to go to Iraq. But I know what you’re saying…”

The conversation continues with ‘Ian’ repeating the claim that “the US and Israel are the biggest terrorist states in the world at the moment” and “just in the last three months Israel has killed 200 people”.

Failing to inform listeners that those “200 people” were for the most part terrorists caught in the act or violent rioters, Rogers did however say:

“That doesn’t make Israel a terrorist organization. That makes Israel a state that is protecting itself – they would argue – from terrorism.”

‘Ian’ was allowed to continue:

“Remember, they [the US] stole land they invaded and they kept the land. Israel’s done the same thing.”

“Just because the US and Israel claim that they’re doing it to protect themselves, that doesn’t make it right. You know Hitler had a claim. Mussolini had a claim. It doesn’t matter.”

Having told ‘Ian’ that he “made some really interesting points” Rogers went on to speak to ‘Michael from Fulham’ at 50:38 and in that segment he found it appropriate to interrupt his speaker as follows:

Michael: “There are actually verses in the Old Testament of the Bible – the Jewish Bible or the Christian Bible or the Torah – that are very, extremely violent. They are unbelievably violent. They….it was all about God’s wrath, you know…”

Rogers [interrupts]: “And the right to take Jerusalem by force as well.”

In the speech he made last summer about fighting extremism, the British prime minister spoke about “certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish”.

“And ideas also based on conspiracy: that Jews exercise malevolent power; or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam. In this warped worldview, such conclusions are reached – that 9/11 was actually inspired by Mossad to provoke the invasion of Afghanistan; that British security services knew about 7/7, but didn’t do anything about it because they wanted to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash.”

As we see above, BBC Radio London defends its propagation of conspiracy theories on the airwaves of a station broadcast to over eight and a half million people by defining them as ‘free speech’. Whether or not the BBC would be equally sanguine about broadcasting conspiracy theories concerning other groups is debatable but obviously the ‘free speech’ clause was in this case used to excuse the broadcast of inadequately challenged conspiracy theories and antisemitic discourse. License fee payers funding that might well ask how that meets the BBC’s public purposes.

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A BBC quotee opines on Brussels terror attacks

On February 1st the BBC News website published an article which described a temporary roadblock set up following a terror attack by a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces (which it had not reported at the time) as “collective punishment”.

That allegation included a quote from “Palestinian police spokesman Adnan Damiri”.

collective punishment

Courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch we learn that the same Adnan Damiri had comments to make on the topic of the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22nd.

“Following the terror attacks in Brussels yesterday, in which at least 30 people were murdered and hundreds were injured, PA Security Forces Spokesman Adnan Al-Damiri wrote in a post on his Facebook page that the US and Europe are the ones who created international terror. He claimed, for example, that Europe and the US are responsible for “exporting Jewish terror to Palestine,” and therefore Europe is directly responsible for the terror that strikes it:

“Those who prepare the poison will taste it themselves, and today Europe is having a taste of what it prepared with its own hands.”

[Facebook page of PA Security Forces spokesman Adnan Al-Damiri, March 22, 2016]”

Let’s hope that BBC journalists remember those remarks the next time they are tempted to promote and amplify a quote from Damiri on the subject of terrorism.  


BBC News website flip-flops on description of Brussels attacks as terrorism – part two

In part one of this post we documented the changes made to the BBC News website’s main report on the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22nd and the way in which the term ‘terror’ was removed from its later versions.  

Another article which appears to have undergone a similar editing process is titled “In pictures: Brussels blasts“. The current version of that report opens:Brussels In Pictures

“Scores of people have been killed and wounded in attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station during the morning rush hour.

There has been heightened security in the Belgian capital since it emerged that several of the men behind last November’s Paris attacks had come from Brussels.”

However, that second paragraph originally read:

“There has been heightened tension and security in the Belgian capital since it emerged that several of the men behind last November’s terror attacks in Paris had come from the city. Just days ago, a man suspected of involvement in the attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was arrested in Brussels after four months on the run.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the BBC edited the word terror out of that reference to attacks it accurately described at the time (for example here, here and here) and subsequently (for example here and here) as terrorism.

On March 23rd the BBC News website published a report titled “Brussels attacks: Belgium mourns amid hunt for suspect” which was promoted on the BBC News (World) Twitter account.

Tweet BBC News replacement

However, minutes before that Tweet went out, the same article had been promoted in an earlier one which was apparently deleted.

Tweet BBC News deleted 2

The BBC of course knows full well that the premeditated and coordinated attacks in Brussels were acts of terrorism and that the people who executed them are terrorists. That fact is still reflected in some of its many reports on the events but the removal of the word terror from other reports indicates once again that the corporation has real difficulty distinguishing between the means and ends of violent attacks on civilians and that its inconsistent employment of the term terror hinges on political judgements.Brussels terror 1

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on War, Terror and Emergencies state:

“We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.”

As its reporting on the Brussels attacks shows, the BBC is not achieving consistency even within coverage of one story. Some of its journalists appropriately employed the term terror whilst other members of its staff were busy expunging that word from coverage. Until the corporation is capable of coming up with a uniform approach to reporting acts of terrorism wherever – and by whom – they are perpetrated, its reputation for objectivity and accuracy will obviously remain compromised.

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BBC News website flip-flops on description of Brussels attacks as terrorism – part one

The March 22nd terror attacks at the airport and on the metro in Brussels in which over thirty people were murdered and hundreds wounded were of course covered in depth on the BBC News website and in particular on its Europe page. The website’s main article on that day went through numerous understandable changes as events unfolded and information came to light.

Originally titled “Brussels Zaventem airport rocked by two explosions”, the article now appears under the headline “Brussels attacks: Zaventem and Maelbeek bombs kill many” but the journey between those two headlines highlights some interesting editorial decisions.

The original headline was later changed to read “Brussels Zaventem airport blasts cause casualties” and still later to “Brussels Zaventem airport and metro explosions ‘kill at least 13′” and then “Brussels explosions: Airport and metro hit with ‘at least 13 killed'”.

Brussels main art 1


Around four hours after the first attacks took place the headline was amended to read “Brussels explosions: Many dead in airport and metro terror attacks” and the article’s opening paragraph also used the term “terrorist attacks”.

“Many people have been killed or seriously injured in terrorist attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station, Belgium’s PM says.”

Brussels main art 2


The next two versions of the report carried the same headline and opening paragraph and at around the same time the BBC News website’s Europe page also used the word terror in its main headline.

Brussels attacks terror Europe page

Just under two hours later, that headline was again amended to read “Brussels attacks: At least 26 dead at Zaventem and Maelbeek” but the opening paragraph still informed readers that terror attacks had taken place.

“At least 26 people have been killed or seriously injured in terrorist attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station.”

Final version

Final version

Subsequently the headline was again updated to “Brussels attacks: At least 31 dead at Zaventem and Maelbeek” and the word ‘terrorist’ was removed from the opening paragraph.

“At least 31 people have been killed and many seriously injured in attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station.”

None of the five subsequent versions of the article used the word terror in either the headline or the opening paragraph.

So as we see, despite having at some point been accurately able to identify and name the horrific events in Brussels as terror attacks, BBC editors later went out of their way to expunge that description from the website’s main report. As we shall see in part two of this post, that article was not the only one affected by that editorial policy.