BBC avoids yet another Hamas story

Over the past year we have on several occasions had cause to note the fact that the BBC has consistently avoided telling its audiences about efforts to strengthen and increase Hamas’ presence in Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria in general and those directed by senior Hamas figures residing in Turkey in particular.No news

Equally absent from the reporting provided to BBC audiences has been information concerning the links of Hamas’ Qatar-based branch to terrorist activity in the same area – for example in January 2013 and June 2014 – and the connections between the Turkey and Qatar-based branches of the terrorist organisation.

On July 1st the Israel Security Agency announced that, together with the IDF and the Israeli police, it had exposed extensive Hamas activity in the Nablus (Schem) area and that some forty arrests had been made. As Ha’aretz reported, the ISA noted the role of Hamas spokesman Husam Badran (also spelt Hossam or Hussan) in the plot.

“Several of the detainees have already been charged in the military court in Samaria, and more charges are expected in the coming weeks. Two of those arrested are considered to be the top Hamas operatives in Nablus: Ghanem Salme, who the Shin Bet defines as the Hamas commander in the region, and Samih Aliwi, owner of a gold shop in the city who was responsible for the Hamas HQ’s finances. Several of the arrested activists had previously served time in Israeli prisons for involvement in Hamas activity.

The establishment of the headquarters in Nablus, the Shin Bet believes, was assisted by Hamas spokesman Husam Ali Badran, who used to be the commander of the organization’s military wing in the Samaria area. Badran was released as part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and expelled to Qatar. According to the Shin Bet, he is currently operating in Turkey under Saleh Aruri, who is in charge of Hamas operations in the West Bank. […]

The Shin Bet claims that Badran was involved in the decision to recruit operatives for the new headquarters in Nablus, transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to them in order to finance their activity.”

Seeing as it has been covered extensively by the Israeli media as well as by foreign news agencies it is of course highly unlikely that the staff of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau are unaware of this story’s existence. Nevertheless, there has once again been no coverage of this latest link in the chain of Hamas efforts to strengthen its presence in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Perhaps next time the BBC approaches Khaled Masha’al for a quote or invites him to do a sympathetic interview it could also make the most of the opportunity to do some journalism on a topic which would undoubtedly contribute to meeting its remit of building “understanding of international issues”.

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BBC downplays Palestinian terrorism in Jenin incident report

“Palestinians killed in Israeli raid” was the lead headline on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of March 22nd 2014. The sub-header also omitted any mention of what those Palestinians were doing when the incident which is the subject of the report took place.

“Israeli security forces shoot dead at least three Palestinians during an arrest operation in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.”

Jenin story on HP

The link leads to a short 132 word report titled “Three Palestinians killed in Israeli raid on Jenin“.

The article’s opening paragraph also ignores the actions of the Palestinian casualties.

“Israeli security forces have shot dead at least three Palestinians during a raid to arrest a Hamas member in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.”

Readers have to proceed to the third paragraph (out of a total of six) in order to discover that the incident actually began when a wanted member of a terrorist organization opened fire on Israeli troops trying to arrest him.

“It [the IDF] said he barricaded himself in his home and opened fire, injuring two soldiers, and was then shot dead.”

Via the Jerusalem Post we learn that:

“The terror suspect, Hamas member Hamza Abu Aleija, planned to attack Israelis in the West Bank and Israel, according to suspicions.

“He’s one of the most important terror suspects that we’ve been looking for,” a security source told The Jerusalem Post.”He’s escaped several past attempts to apprehend him.”

As Counter-Terrorism Unit members approached the house to make an arrest, shots were fired at them. The special forces stopped their approach, and the army used loudspeakers to call on all of the residents to evacuate the building.

“Everyone left the home other than the suspect. We ensured there were no family members inside,” the source said. Meanwhile, Abu Aleija continued firing bursts of gunfire at security forces, and Palestinian gunmen from the area arrived at the scene, opening fire on the infantry soldiers who were securing the operation.

The Counter-Terrorism Unit sent a dog into the home, and the animal was shot dead by Abu Aleija.

The wanted suspect then came out of the home, shooting as he went. He struck two members of the Counter-Terrorism Unit, injuring them lightly. The unit returned fire, killing him on the spot. Meanwhile, soldiers securing the operation returned fire at the gunmen attacking them, killing two.”

The wanted man’s name is not mentioned in the BBC report and the only clue given to readers as to why he was being arrested comes in the form of the following terse sentence:

“The Israeli military said it wanted to arrest a man accused of plotting attacks on Israelis.”

According to the Times of Israel, Palestinian sources made the same claimJenin incident

“The IDF said that Abu al-Hija was “wanted for numerous shooting and bombing attacks as well as planning future acts of terrorism.” […]

A Gaza-based media outlet associated with Hamas tweeted shortly after Abu al-Hija’s death that sources said the dead man was “preparing a major operation” against Israel before he was killed.”

Ynet adds:

“Israeli military sources said the attempted arrest followed a months-long pursuit of the fugitive Al-Hija. The IDF surrounded his house Saturday morning after receiving precise intelligence on his location.

Security establishment officials said he was planning terror operations against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers in the West Bank. Military sources said Al-Hija received orders directly from Hamas leadership in Gaza.

Al-Hija had been linked to at least two attacks on IDF forces in the past.”

The BBC report goes on to state:

“A further two Palestinians were killed as rioters attacked the security forces, Palestinian sources say.

The Israeli army reported in a tweet killing four “terrorists” in the clashes while, according to AFP news agency, 14 Palestinians were also wounded, two of them critically.”

Whilst the BBC places the word terrorists in scare quotes, it does not reveal to readers that at least two of the other men killed were members of other terrorist organisations.

“Hamas member Hamza Abu al-Hija, 22, Islamic Jihad operative Mahmud Abu Zeina, 25, and Yazen Jabarin, 22, a member of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades, were killed in the shootout with Israeli forces.”

That information was confirmed by Palestinian sources, as well as by the terrorist organisations themselves.

“Palestinian officials confirmed three militants had been killed, Alhija from Hamas and one each from Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Abbas’ Fatah movement.”

“In a joint statement, Hamas’ military wing al-Qassam Brigades, Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades threatened a “painful” retaliation against Israel.”

The description of the additional casualties as “rioters” who “attacked the security forces” does not make it sufficiently clear to audiences that the hundreds of attackers were armed with improvised explosive devices and firebombs. It also fails to clarify that at least some of the “14 Palestinians” also wounded in the incident were armed gunmen.

“According to Palestinian sources, several armed gunmen were also in the house, seven of which were injured in the operation and were evacuated to a nearby hospital.”

The overall effect of this BBC report is to mislead audiences by failing to clarify the fact that all three of the men killed in the incident were members of terrorist organisations, by downplaying the actions of terrorists and armed rioters and by placing the focus of attention on the actions of IDF soldiers. That imbalanced and partial presentation is clearly not conducive to accurate audience understanding of the incident.  

Related Articles:

Hamas in Jenin: pictures the BBC will not show

BBC double standards on the term counter-terrorism

BBC double standards on the term counter-terrorism

Late on the evening of December 18th the Middle East page of the BBC News website promoted an article under the headline “Palestinian dies in Israeli raid”, with the sub-header reading:

“A Palestinian man is killed and at least four wounded after Israeli troops launch a “counter terrorism” operation in the West Bank.”

HP 19 12 2

The article at the link was titled “Palestinian dies during Israeli raid in West Bank” and much of it seems to be taken from a Ma’an News Agency report.

In the body of the article itself it is written:

“Israel said its forces opened fire after being attacked during “counter terrorism activity” in the camp.”

The unnecessary use of scare quotes around the phrase counter-terrorism both on the Middle East page and in the article itself raises the question of whether that is the result of the BBC not being entirely convinced that an operation to arrest a wanted member of a terrorist organization (in this case, apparently  Hamas) should be described as counter-terrorism, or whether it is the product of the BBC’s well-known aversion to the use of the word terror and its unfortunate habit of describing recognized terror organisations as “militants”. 

Jenin incident

It is no longer possible to provide a link to that article because on the morning of December 19th it was removed and replaced at the same URL by an article going under the heading “Two Palestinians die in W Bank raids”.

19 12 me pge 2

Later on in the day, the article’s profile on the page was raised and a sub-heading added which describes a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a “militant”. 

19 12 me pge 3

The link leads to an article with the same title.

header Jenin & Qalqilya

The bulk of that article relates to a separate incident which took place in Qalqilya on the same evening in which a member of the Palestinian Security Forces was shot after he fired at Israeli soldiers. Qalqiliya 2

After quoting the IDF spokesman on the subject of the circumstances of the incident, the BBC article goes on to present unverified hearsay from anonymous Palestinian sources.

“But an unnamed local Palestinian official told Reuters news agency that Mr Yassin had been killed in cold blood while returning home from work. Local hospital staff said he had been shot in the back.”

As can be seen in photographs accompanying this report from the Ma’an News Agency (warning: graphic images), the latter claim by “local hospital staff” clearly required verification before being repeated by the BBC. 

So, does the BBC employ similar punctuation when it describes counter-terrorism activities carried out in other countries? Well, there are no scare quotes in this report or this report or this report – all from the UK. Neither does such punctuation appear in this report from Northern Ireland in which, notably, the words terrorism and terrorist do appear numerous times.

That certainly requires some explaining. 

Checking BBC-propagated untruths about checkpoints

We recently discussed the May 9th 2013 edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme in which veteran anti-Israel campaigner Ghada Karmi was given more or less free rein to propagate a collection of untruths and defamation. Among Karmi’s many deliberately misleading statements was the following:

“The reality is that life for Palestinian academics is extremely hard. They suffer from under-funding – the universities are under-funded. The universities are closed. They’re prevented from getting to their places of work. Students are prevented from going to their lectures by checkpoints. They are under extremely harsh conditions there.” 

As we remarked at the time:

“Karmi’s claim that Palestinian lecturers and students are “prevented” from travelling to universities by checkpoints conveniently whitewashes out of the picture the fact that those checkpoints did not exist before the Palestinian decision to launch a terror war in September 2000.”

Enjoying to no small extent the cooperation of some of the media, anti-Israel campaigners repeatedly try to delegitimize Israel by distorting Israeli counter-terrorism measures such as checkpoints or the anti-terrorist fence as deliberate means to cruelly inconvenience Palestinians instead of measures to protect the Israeli civilian population.  That campaigning narrative is aimed at the emotions of Western audiences in particular and relies to a very large extent on its audience’s lack of familiarity with the facts. 

So what are the facts? How many checkpoints actually exist and do they really “prevent” Palestinians from travelling to work or to university?

“The number of checkpoints in the Central Command went from 40 in July 2008 to just 12 in October 2012. Furthermore, these checkpoints are only used some of the time and the frequency of checks is dependent on the security threat at the time.”

Read more about the reality of checkpoints, crossings and movement in this useful fact sheet.