After three months BBC corrects inaccurate claim

Back in January the BBC News website published an article about one of the communities of Jews who immigrated to Israel from India in which readers were told that:

“…the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962 when the chief rabbinate prohibited Bene Israelis from marrying Jews from other communities.”

As noted here at the time, that portrayal is inaccurate and BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website but did not receive a reply.

Mr Stephen Franklin made a complaint to the BBC on that issue which was initially rejected. Mr Franklin filed a second complaint and – two months later – received the following response:

“Thank you for getting in touch again about our feature article entitled: Israel’s Indian Jews and their lives in the ‘promised land’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-42731363) and we’re sorry that the initial response from our central complaints team did not address your specific concerns.

To hopefully do so now, you are quite correct and we’ve since amended this sentence to now read:

But the biggest crisis faced by the community was in 1962, when a rabbinic council decreed that Bene Israelis would have to have their maternal ancestry investigated if they wanted to marry Jews from other communities.

We’ve also added a correction note at the bottom of the article which outlines this change.

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

The footnote added to the article reads:

The continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website of course means that anyone who read this article in the three months since its publication will be unlikely to know that it included inaccurate information.

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BBC News inaccurately reports an Israeli story from the sixties

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One month on BBC corrects inaccuracy regarding Israeli cabinet decision

In the original version of its February 6th report on a terror attack near Ariel – “Israeli man stabbed to death at West Bank settlement” – the BBC News website claimed that:

“It [the attack] comes a day after Israel retroactively legalised an unauthorised settlement outpost in response to the killing of a resident last month.”

A later version of the same report included the same claim:

“Israel retroactively legalised Havat Gilad, an unauthorised settlement, in response to the murder [of Rabbi Raziel Shevach].”

As was noted here at the time:

“Both those statements are inaccurate and misleading: Havat Gilad was not “retroactively legalised” on February 4th as the BBC claims. Rather – as the Times of Israel reported: [emphasis added]

“The cabinet on Sunday voted unanimously to begin the process of legalizing the Havat Gilad outpost less than a month after the murder of resident Raziel Shevach.

The approved proposal declares the government’s intention to establish the hilltop community southeast of Nablus as a full-fledged settlement “on lands that are privately owned by Israelis or state lands.”

The proposal authorized Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to instruct relevant government bodies to examine the legal aspects of recognizing Havat Gilad as an official settlement. It also tasked the Finance Ministry with auditing the financial costs of establishing a new settlement. […]

However, the proposal’s language regarding the legal ownership of the land hinted at a significant hurdle that still remains ahead of the outpost’s legalization.””

BBC Watch immediately contacted the BBC News website to point out that error but did not receive a reply and no action was taken to correct the inaccurate claim. A complaint was therefore submitted and the response received includes the following:

“…after considering this complaint we have amended the sentence in question to now read:

The Israeli cabinet backed a plan to retroactively legalise Havat Gilad, an unauthorised settlement, in response to the murder

We hope you’ll find this satisfactory and thank you once again for getting in touch.”

A footnote advising readers of the amendment has not however been added to the article and of course the enduring absence of a corrections page on the BBC News website means that those who read the claim that “Israel retroactively legalised Havat Gilad” over a month ago will remain completely unaware that it is inaccurate.

We have previously observed here on many occasions that it would not be difficult for the BBC News website to set up a dedicated corrections page along the lines of the one run by the NYT. As Craig Silverman wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2011:

“The point of an online corrections page is to have a centralized place where readers can see the latest mistakes and corrections. It gives them the opportunity to discover if a recent article they read, or reporting they heard or saw, has been updated or corrected. It also provides a basic element of transparency. A dedicated page makes corrections more visible and accessible, and it increases the likelihood that people will receive the corrected information. After all, that’s the point of making correction in the first place.”

After all, one would expect that an organisation which regularly promotes itself as a trustworthy media source would be enthusiastic about taking onboard such a simple method of increasing transparency and improving its reputation for accuracy.

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BBC misrepresents cabinet decision in report on Ariel terror attack

Another ‘stealth’ correction on the BBC News website

 

BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

A member of the public who submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning Tweets sent by its Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas criticising a ‘Newsweek’ headline to a story about Ahed Tamimi received the following reply from BBC Complaints.

“Thanks for contacting us with your comments regarding a tweet by Middle East [sic] correspondent Kim Ghattas. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.

Kim was making the point that the newspaper concerned had not placed enough context in its headline. That’s made clear in the follow up tweets.

She is making a point about there being two sides to the issue. Her tweets were not about the incident itself but the need for more sophisticated reporting from Newsweek. She was pointing out the other perspective on the issue which was not reflected in the Newsweek headline.

We hope this is helpful, and thank you again for your feedback.”

Leaving aside the obviously highly relevant question of whether it is in fact a BBC journalist’s job to call out “the need for more sophisticated reporting” at another media organisation, let’s take another look at those Tweets which the BBC claims “were not about the incident itself”.

Obviously the statements “Her 15 yr old cousin had just been shot in the head” and “Ahed Tamimi, unarmed, slapped a gun toting Israeli soldier who was in her backyard” not only refer to the incident but portray it in a specific light. 

Moreover, Ghattas’ use of the phrase “Blame the victim?”, her claim that Ha’aretz “wrote an editorial describing her as the victim, not an assailant” and her claim that “she lives under occupation” (Nabi Saleh is in Area B) clearly show that she is advancing a specific narrative – just as she accused Newsweek of doing in a subsequent Tweet in which she also promoted the notion of “double standards”.

Although BBC editorial guidelines state that “those involved in News and Current Affairs or factual programming should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects” and “News and Current Affairs staff should not […]  advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate”, the BBC’s outsourced complaints system has, as we see, chosen to ignore those directives in its response.

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BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

BBC claims Abbas’ historical distortions and smears not ‘relevant’

Two weeks ago we noted that the BBC’s report on a long speech given by Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the PLO’s Central Council made no mention whatsoever of the assorted distortions of history, anti-Israel smears and renewed commitment to rewarding terrorism that made up a significant proportion of the Palestinian president’s address.

A member of the public who wrote to the BBC to complain about those omissions received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our report on Mahmoud Abbas’s comments following the announcement of US plans for an embassy in Jerusalem.

He gave a two-hour speech and we have selected what we believe to be the relevant sections as far as the topic in hand is concerned.

We don’t believe the rest of Mr Abbas’s comments are relevant, or reveal anything that was not previously known – our report contains a section entitled “Did he say anything new?”.

Out of his full speech, you have made a selection of comments that you felt were of note – we believe we have carried the most newsworthy and there will be many more from such a long presentation that will not get reported.” [emphasis added]

Apparently we can therefore conclude that the BBC does not consider it relevant that the Palestinian leader it frequently touts as a ‘moderate’ denied the Jewish people’s historical and religious links to the region and portrayed modern Israel as a Western colonialist endeavour.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday night implied European Jews during the Holocaust chose to undergo “murder and slaughter” over emigration to British-held Palestine, and alleged that the State of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion imported Jews from Yemen and Iraq to the country against their will.

The Palestinian leader further asserted that the State of Israel was formed as “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism” to safeguard European interests.”

Obviously the BBC does not believe that – even at a time when the topic of foreign donations to the Palestinians is in the news – its audiences needed to know that Abbas pledged to continue the PA’s policy of making payments to convicted terrorists – a subject that it serially under-reports.

“There is an important matter, and it is the issue of the payments to [the families of] the martyrs, to the families of the martyrs and the prisoners. We steadfastly refuse to stop these payments, and we will not allow anyone to infringe on the payments to the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners. They are our sons, and we will keep paying them money.”

As David Horovitz aptly put it at the time:

“The man whose doctoral thesis blamed Zionist agitation for the Holocaust, and disputed the number of Jewish victims, on Sunday set out a series of falsehoods obvious to the most casual student of 20th century events. He detailed a narrative that allowed no historic Jewish connection to this land — no Biblical history, no Temples, no ancient sovereignty. He airbrushed the Jewish nation out of its own past.

Obviously, no leader so determinedly blinded to his enemy’s legitimacy could ever have agreed to reconciliation. Abbas’s public excuse for rejecting Olmert’s statehood offer in 2008 may have been “He didn’t give me a map.” What plainly motivated his rejection, however, was his insistent conviction that the Jews have no right to be here whatsoever.”

While the BBC may claim that the Palestinian president did not “say anything new”, the fact is that his refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state, his denial of Jewish history, his false allegations against Israel and his incitement and glorification of terrorism is new to BBC audiences because the corporation repeatedly censors such statements from its coverage. Even the BBC’s profile of Abbas gives more space to his own denial of charges concerning his book titled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement” than it does to explaining the criticisms leveled at it.

The bottom line is of course that this response from BBC Complaints further shows that the corporation will not report statements made by Abbas or any other Palestinian Authority official that would open audiences’ eyes to factors beyond the narrative it has chosen to promote regarding the ‘reasons’ for the failure of the so-called peace process to yield results.

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BBC censors parts of Mahmoud Abbas speech once again

BBC reports the parts of Abbas’ OIC speech that fit its narrative

Guess what the BBC News website tells audiences is “preventing peace”

 

 

 

 

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

For almost two years the BBC News website has been using maps credited to UNOCHA and/or the political NGO B’tselem which purport to inform audiences about the geo-political status of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, those maps describe the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City along with many other locations of pre-1948 Jewish habitation as ‘Israeli settlements’ and – as regular readers are aware – the BBC consistently steers its audience towards the view that such neighbourhoods and communities “are considered illegal under international law”.

BBC tells audiences location of centuries-old Jewish habitation is an ‘illegal settlement’

Mapping the BBC’s use of partisan maps

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

Among the inaccurate features on those maps is the portrayal of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus as “Israeli settlements”.

Map as it appeared on the BBC News website between February – September 2017

The Hebrew University (established in 1925) and Hadassah Hospital (established in 1938) were both built on land purchased by Jews in 1914 and the Mount Scopus enclave remained Israeli territory throughout the 19 year Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem. Interestingly, B’tselem’s own map does not mark Mount Scopus as a ‘settlement’.

Map produced by B’tselem

Earlier this month BBC Watch submitted a complaint raising that specific topic and others (including the portrayal of the Jewish Quarter as a ‘settlement’), as well as the general issue of the compromise of impartiality caused by the use of partisan maps sourced from a foreign funded political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel.

The response received includes the following:

“We have rectified our map of the area of the Hebrew University/Mount Scopus. The source map had incorrectly identified it as an Israeli settlement and we have now corrected this.

The issue of Israeli settlements and East Jerusalem is obviously contentious and given the different political positions held on the matter, no map can be considered strictly neutral.

The BTselem map corresponds with the position of the UN, which considers the Jewish Quarter a settlement in occupied territory, as it does all the Jewish communities beyond the pre-1967 ceasefire line, and for this reason we do not consider it a breach of the guidelines on impartiality.”

In other words, the BBC would have us believe that its impartiality is not compromised by the use of maps that it admits are not “strictly neutral” which it sourced from an interested party because they reflect the non-legally binding position of a body which is neither a legislature nor a court. Moreover, the BBC makes no effort to meet its editorial guidelines on impartiality by providing its audiences with maps reflecting any alternative views.

The amended map now looks like this:

After amendment

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CAMERA Arabic prompts amendment to BBC Arabic website report

CAMERA’s new Arabic department has prompted an amendment to an article published last month on the BBC Arabic website.

Although the arrest of the leader of the banned northern Islamic Movement – Raed Salah – on August 15th did not receive any BBC coverage in English, the corporation’s Arabic language website published both a report on that story and a profile of Salah.

In that profile, readers were told that Israel often arrests members of the northern Islamic Movement for protesting against archaeological excavations in the vicinity of Temple Mount.

As CAMERA has previously noted, the Waqf has in fact repeatedly carried out unauthorised excavations at the sensitive site.

“The 1967 Protection of Holy Places Law mandates prior agreement from the Ministry of Religious Affairs or Ministry of Education and Culture in order to carry out excavations in or near a holy site. A 1978 Antiquities Law stipulates that where such a site is used for religious reasons, paving, quarrying, and interment and other actions can only be carried out with the written agreement of the Director of the Department of Antiquities.

The Muslim Waqf, however, consistently refuses to recognize Israeli sovereignty or the laws governing holy sites. Attempting to change the status quo of the Temple Mount, the Waqf has repeatedly flouted these laws with excavations and construction of new mosques. Many believe that under the guise of renovations on the Temple Mount, the Waqf is deliberately destroying archaeological evidence of the site’s Jewish history.”

Original version

CAMERA’s Arabic department contacted BBC Arabic requesting a correction and pointing out that, contrary to the BBC’s claim, none of the legal action against the northern Islamic Movement or its leader has been related to protests against archaeological excavations: rather the group has been outlawed since late 2015 due to its links to Hamas, incitement and provocation of violence.

Although no reply was received, that part of the report was subsequently amended and readers are now informed that “the Israeli authorities accuse the Islamic movement of incitement, instigating rioting and misleading the public”.

However (as is all too often the practice at the BBC) the article does not include a footnote alerting audiences to the fact that it has been amended.

Related Articles:

The Battle Over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount  (CAMERA)

BBC ignores another Northern Islamic Movement story – in English

BBC News ignores Northern Islamic Movement ban – in English

 

BBC Teach to edit inaccurate educational video

Readers may recall that last month we noted some inaccuracies in BBC produced educational videos. Using BBC Watch’s post, Mr Dennis Levene contacted BBC Teach to raise the problematic points.

In the response received, BBC Teach’s producer denied that in the video titled “J is for Jesus“ viewers are told that the Jews “…turned against him [Jesus] and had him executed by the Romans; nailed to a cross.”

BBC Teach stated:

“We don’t […] say that ‘The Jews’ turned against Jesus and had him executed.  The script says: “Eventually, many of the religious teachers and the people… turned against [Jesus] and had him executed by the Romans’.  This is fair reflection of widely-accepted events.”  [emphasis added]

Apparently it is not sufficiently clear to BBC Teach that – like Jesus himself – those “religious teachers and the people” were Jews or that the ‘Jews killed Jesus’ calumny has been at the root of Christian antisemitism for centuries.

The video titled “T is for Temples” tells viewers that:

“Centuries later the Jewish people were able to rebuild, only to have the Second Temple destroyed by the Roman as punishment for a rebellion. But a small part – the Western Wall – still stands and it is the most sacred place for Jewish people.”

And:

“It’s [Jerusalem] also where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. The rock he ascended from was incorporated into the Islamic shrine the Dome of the Rock. It’s built where the Jewish Temple used to stand and is sacred to both Jewish people and Muslims.”

BBC Teach’s response to Mr Levene’s email states:

“The Western Wall formed part of the second temple complex.  It was a section of the retaining wall of the temple plaza.  Because the terms ‘temple complex’ and ‘temple’ can be, and are, used interchangeably, the Western Wall could reasonably be described as part of the temple.” [emphasis added]

However, BBC Teach did concede two other points.

“The Rock is sacred to the Jewish and Muslim faiths.  But, as ‘BBC Watch’ points out, the Dome of the Rock isn’t sacred to Jewish people.  I don’t believe the script writers intended to say it was, but I can see how the phrasing of the sentence could give that impression.”

And:

 “‘BBC Watch’ is right to say that Temple Mount is the most sacred place for Jewish people, not the Western Wall. The Western Wall should have been described as the most sacred place where Jewish people can pray.”  

BBC Teach producer Sam Datta-Paulin added:

“The producers of this content consulted with specialist educational consultants throughout the film-making process.  The mistake about the most scared [sic] place was made in good faith and we apologise.

We are having the film edited to correct errors and confusion, and ensure it is correct in future.”

At the time of writing the film remains available in its original form and has not yet been edited.

 

BBC WS acknowledges inaccurate claim in history show

Last month we noted that listeners to an edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘The History Hour’ had been told by its presenter Max Pearson that:

“Just the phrase ‘tension in the Middle East’ has become shorthand for referencing the decades of mistrust between Jews and Arabs following the creation of the State of Israel, carved – as it was – out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians. Giving the Jewish people of the world a homeland was supposed to be the answer to one problem but it created another.” [emphasis added]

Along with a member of the public, BBC Watch submitted a complaint regarding that inaccurate and materially misleading statement and has now received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch and your complaint about an edition of History in which you claim that the presenter made a factual error when introducing a piece about the Camp David summit in 2000 which was attended by president Clinton, the then Israeli PM Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yaser Arafat. I forwarded your complaint to the editor of the programme Kirsty Reid. Below is her reply…

Thank you for your email.  I am sorry you feel that the edition of the History Hour that went out on August 7th, was factually incorrect against Israel.  That was certainly not our intent – and I am very sorry that you got that impression. I have listened again to the programme and can see that the assertion that Israel was ‘carved out of land which had belonged to Palestinians’ should have been worded differently. I have spoken to the presenter to make sure we are more careful with our language in future. 

Kirsty Reid

Editor

Witness

I hope the above allays the concerns you have raised.”

Although no action has been taken to inform those who listened to the programme that Pearson’s statement is inaccurate, the relevant episode is currently unavailable online.  

BBC’s double standards on terror get OFCOM rubber stamp

An issue which many members of the public find objectionable and offensive is the fact that while the BBC consistently refuses to use the word terror in its reports on violent attacks against Israelis, its reports on comparable attacks in other locations (especially Europe and North America) do use such language.  

Back in April we noted a reply received from the BBC Complaints Unit by a member of the public who had submitted a Stage 1a complaint concerning that double standard in the language employed when reporting terrorism.

“Thank you for getting in touch about our report on the attack carried out on Westminster Bridge in London and please accept our apologies for the delay in our response.

The BBC sets out clear parameters on how terms such as “terrorist” might be used:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidance/terrorism-language/guidance-full

Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.

In a situation where a country that is not involved in a direct physical combat comes under attack, it may be reasonable to construe that as a terrorist incident.

The use of such terminology is never an exact science but where a continuing conflict exists, it is reasonable that the BBC would not wish to appear to be taking sides.”

Unsatisfied with that response, the complainant submitted a stage 1b complaint which was also rejected. Mr Turner then approached the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) which similarly rejected the complaint.

Using the system which came into effect in April, Mr Turner then approached OFCOM which ruled that the issue he raised is not “substantive”.

“Thank you for contacting us about material published on the BBC’s website, specifically the headlines ‘London attack: Four dead in Westminster terror attack’ and ‘Jerusalem lorry attack: Four Israeli soldiers killed’.

I understand that you are not satisfied with the final response you have received from the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit and have referred your complaint to Ofcom for its opinion.

All complaints received by Ofcom are assessed to see if they raise a significant issue which should be considered further. Not all complaints will be pursued by Ofcom. Further information about Ofcom’s role and how we consider BBC online material complaints under our procedures is available on our website: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/ofcom-and-the-bbc/bbc-online-material

We have carefully reviewed the material you are concerned about, your complaint and the BBC’s final response to you on it.

Ofcom considers that your complaint does not raise a substantive issue under the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines that requires our further consideration. We will therefore not be pursuing your complaint.”

Mr Turner wrote back to OFCOM’s Standards Team ask for an explanation of the rationale underpinning that ruling and received a reply including the following:

“Ofcom has considered your complaint and the BBC’s response to it, and our view is that this matter does not raise a substantive issue under the relevant editorial guidelines and therefore does not warrant further consideration by Ofcom.

The BBC’s response clearly sets out its editorial policy on Terrorism: Language when Reporting Terrorism. In our view the use of the term “terror attack” in the headline of the article relating to the incident in Westminster does not meet the threshold of being a substantive issue that requires further consideration by Ofcom because the body of the article makes clear that the Prime Minister had declared the attacker to be a “terrorist” and the matter was being dealt with by counter-terrorism police. Furthermore, the BBC’s Stage 1a response clearly sets out the reasons why they may report incidents like these differently in different contexts.”

Mr Turner then wrote back again, pointing out the many discrepancies in the BBC’s Stage 1a response that was deemed acceptable by OFCOM.

“In your response you stated that the BBC’s use of the term terrorism to describe the attack in London was legitimate because the UK authorities had used that term […]

However, the Israeli government also uses such terminology when attacks take place in Israel but in those cases the BBC does not describe the incidents as ‘terrorism’ in its own words.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on ‘language when reporting terrorism’ clearly state that:

“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.” […]

Hence, if the BBC is going to use the word terror on the basis that officials in one country have described the incident as such, consistency demands that such a policy should obviously also apply in other countries.

Moreover, in the past the BBC has justified its use of the word terrorists to describe Jewish attackers using precisely the same argument:

https://bbcwatch.org/2016/02/17/bbc-complaints-clarifies-discrepancies-in-terminology-when-reporting-terrorism/

However, Palestinian or Arab perpetrators are never described in those terms: a clear consistency failure.

You also stated that:

“…the BBC’s Stage 1a response clearly sets out the reasons why they may report incidents like these differently in different contexts.”

However, those ‘reasons’ do not hold water: UK forces are involved in the military campaign against ISIS jihadists in Iraq and Syria and the London terrorists cited that involvement as a motive for their attacks. Additionally, as noted above, the BBC did use the term ‘Jewish terrorists’ to describe the perpetrator/s of the arson attack in Duma, despite the existence of an “ongoing geopolitical conflict”.

The argument that if a person commits an act of violence against civilians with the purpose of furthering a political or religious agenda in a country in which there is “an ongoing geopolitical conflict”, that is not terrorism but if he does the exact same in a country where there is no such ongoing conflict, it is, is obviously flawed. Terrorism is a means – regardless of the ends it aims to achieve.

The BBC’s inconsistency on the use of the word terror shows that the corporation’s basic approach to the topic does not distinguish between method and aims, means and ends. The result of that is that the description of the means is adjusted according to the perceived cause.

Until BBC editors do indeed begin to separate the means from the ends, it will of course be impossible for the corporation to present a consistent, uniform approach to the subject of terrorism, to adhere to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality and to fulfil its purpose to educate and inform. 

I find it disturbing that OFCOM would not consider that to be “a substantive issue that requires further consideration”. Might I respectfully request, on the basis of the above points, that you reconsider this appeal, otherwise we allow the BBC to display a clear double standard in its reporting on terrorism: one in Israel – and a quite different policy anywhere else in the world – in breach of its own editorial guidelines.”

OFCOM’s reply to that letter included the following:

“Following the further points you made, we have looked into this matter again. However, it remains our view that your complaint about the articles headlined ‘London attack: Four dead in Westminster terror attack’ and ‘Jerusalem lorry attack: Four Israeli soldiers killed’ does not raise a substantive issue that requires further consideration, and this is our final response in relation to this complaint.”

So as we see, the double standards repeatedly evident in the language used by the BBC when reporting on terrorism in Israel and in other locations now have the OFCOM rubber stamp.