Reviewing BBC News website follow-up reporting on terrorism in Israel

On July 3rd the BBC News website published a report titled “Jesus ‘miracle church’: Jewish extremist found guilty of arson” about a trial concerning an incident that took place just over two years ago.

“A Jewish extremist has been convicted of setting fire to a church in Israel which Christians believe is built at the site of one of Jesus’ miracles.

Yinon Reuveni set light to the Roman Catholic church at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee, in 2015, the court found.”

At the time of that incident the BBC produced two reports – one written and one filmed – and an additional report appeared on the BBC News website in February 2017 when the church was reopened after restoration.

“A mass has been held to reopen a Roman Catholic church in northern Israel badly damaged in an arson attack by Jewish extremists in 2015. […]

Three Jewish extremists have been indicted but not yet sentenced.”

As we see, that brings the total number of BBC News website reports on this story to four: two at the time and two follow-up articles. If readers are perhaps asking themselves whether or not the BBC usually follows up its coverage of nationalistic security incidents in that way, including reporting on the outcome of court cases months or years after events have taken place, the answer to that question is interesting.

In the case of the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in July 2014, the BBC News website did indeed follow the trial closely.

Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder July 17 2014

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis found guilty November 30 2015

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis jailed February 4 2016

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader found guilty April 19 2016

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader jailed for life May 3 2016

In the case of the arson attack in Duma in July 2015, in addition to reports published at the time of and after the attack, the BBC News website also produced follow-up reporting concerning related arrests and indictments.

Israel arrests youths over fatal West Bank arson attack December 3 2015

Israelis charged over fatal West Bank family arson attack January 3 2016

Israel arrests six members of ‘Jewish terror cell’ April 20 2016

However, when the suspected perpetrators are not Israelis, the BBC is obviously a lot less interested in producing follow-up reporting on arrests and trials.

Since October 1st 2015, visitors to the BBC News website have in the overwhelming majority of cases seen no follow-up reporting on arrests, trials or convictions related to the hundreds of terror attacks that have taken place.

The one exception is the October 1st 2015 attack in which Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were murdered. The arrest of suspects was briefly mentioned in a report on another topic and nine months after the attack the BBC News website produced a report on the sentencing of the perpetrators which did not include any mention of the word terror.

However, as has been noted here in the past, BBC News website reports concerning attacks perpetrated by Israelis have repeatedly used the word terror and the BBC has ‘explained’ that double standard by claiming that  it makes use of the term “Jewish terrorists” – including not in direct quotes and in apparent contradiction to BBC editorial guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ – because Israeli officials use such wording.

It is therefore unsurprising to find that in this latest report concerning the attack on the church in Tabgha, readers are told that:

“Prosecutor Avi Pasternak said the verdict made a strong statement on Jewish terrorism…” 

As we see, not only does the BBC News website employ a double standard in terminology according to the identity of perpetrators of attacks, but a quantitative difference in follow-up reporting dependent upon the same factor is also in evidence.  

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

BBC coverage of the terror attack in Duma last summer and the subsequent investigation has thrown a spotlight on the differing terminology employed to describe the suspects in that case and other terrorists.

There are two aspects to that differing terminology, one of which is the use of the word ‘terrorists’ – a term which is never used by the BBC to describe Palestinian attackers. As we noted here last month:

“The BBC’s description of detainees in cases such as the murders of three sleeping members of the Dawabshe family in the arson attack in Duma on July 31st 2015 as “suspected terrorists” is of course accurate. Despite the fact that this article confines itself to noting “international condemnation” of the Duma attack and even amplifies baseless accusations concerning the investigation into the attack from a family member, such wording appropriately reflects the Israeli government’s classification of the attack from the very beginning.

However, the people who murdered five members of the Fogel family as they too slept in 2011 and the people who murdered the parents of the Henkin family in October 2015 and the people who murdered early morning worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue in 2014 and the people who murdered Malachi Rosenfeld in June 2015 (in an attack now mentioned in this report but not reported in English by the BBC at the time) are also terrorists.

The trouble is that the BBC does not use the term terrorists to describe them or the perpetrators of countless other attacks against Israelis to its audiences. It is high time that it explained to its funding public why that is the case.”

The second difference is the specification of the suspects’ religion – as noted here last August in relation to a radio report which referred to “Jewish terror attacks”.

“Notable too is Dymond’s use of the word ‘Jewish’ before the phrase ‘terror attacks’. We do not of course see the comparable term ‘Muslim terror attacks’ used in BBC coverage: the prevailing term is ‘Islamist’ and recognized terror organisations such as Hamas are euphemistically described as “Palestinian militant Islamist groups”.”

A member of the public who questioned the BBC’s unusual reference to the religion of the suspects in one of its reports on the investigation into the Duma attack received a reply from BBC Complaints which includes the following:Duma attack indictments

“There were two references to the religion of suspects in this article. The first was in a line reporting how:

Investigations have focused on young Jewish extremists, based largely in the occupied West Bank.

During the investigation into the Duma attack, Israeli leaders publicly and specifically referred to the suspected culprits as “Jewish”.

On 15 October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters: “Sometimes it is hard, as in this single case, to find the Jewish terrorists, but we will”.

Likewise Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio on 15 December that the Duma firebombing was “clearly a Jewish attack.”

A second line in the story referred to how:

It also prompted the Israeli government to approve the use of administrative detention – a procedure under which a military court can order suspects to be detained indefinitely without charge or trial – for Jewish terror suspects.

This was in reference to the fact that the Israeli Defence Minister issued a statement after the security cabinet (of which he is a part) approved the use of administrative detention against Jewish suspects, in which he said:

“The cabinet made important decisions yesterday, including my recommendation to use administrative detention against Jewish terrorists and fanatics.”

I hope you’ll find this response useful in explaining our references to “Jewish” and thank you once again for contacting us with your views.”

So what the BBC is actually saying here is that it makes use of the term “Jewish terrorists” – including not in direct quotes and in apparent contradiction to BBC editorial guidelines on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ – because Israeli officials use such wording.

However, the rub lies in the fact that Palestinian officials will never be found using comparable terminology to describe their own citizens who carry out attacks against Israelis and so the BBC will not apply similar practice when reporting those stories.

The obvious outcome of that is a double standard according to which the accuracy of the terminology used by the BBC is dependent upon the honesty of the government or authority concerned – and that is clearly a big problem for a media organisation supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

BBC’s Connolly turns R4 report on Duma case into racism smear

The February 13th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included an item (from 18:41 here) which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson as follows:Today 13 2

“When three members of a Palestinian family were killed in an arson attack last summer, their deaths made headlines around the world. Now two Israelis have been charged with the killing of an eighteen month-old and his parents. It’s triggered angry protests because interrogation techniques normally used only against Palestinian security prisoners were employed against the Jewish Israeli suspects. These techniques include amongst others sleep deprivation, use of stress positions and the denial of the right to see a lawyer. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly has been examining the case.”

In fact the suspects were indicted six weeks prior to the appearance of this report rather than “now” as Robinson claimed.

Connolly’s report opened with sounds from a demonstration held in Tel Aviv in late December 2015.

KC: “In Tel Aviv a little play-acting with a purpose. A group of far-Right Jewish political activists are re-enacting the interrogation of a suspect at the hands of the Shabak – Israel’s internal security agency. The blindfolded suspect is tied to a bed frame and beaten while the interrogators shout questions. It’s shocking stuff and a banner held by a protester in the background gives a clue as to why some Israelis are shocked. A Jew, it says, doesn’t torture a Jew.”

Listeners then heard an unidentified voice say:

“They tried to force him to admit in this crime that he was not…eh…involved in by torturing him, literally.”

KC: “This is the voice of the father of a teenager who is one of two young settlers charged in connection with an arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma which killed three members of the Dawabshe family. The case is thought to be the first in which enhanced interrogation techniques have been used against Israeli suspects and the teenager’s father is angry at their use against his son and sceptical about their effectiveness.”

Father: “He was beaten up. He was…ah… sitting on a special chair that’s called a torturing chair. While he was screaming with pain and begging for…from his investigators to let him go they said fine – if you admit in this murder in Duma we’ll let you go.”

Connolly continued with a stereotypical portrayal of the supposed views of the hundreds of thousands of people the BBC labels “settlers” – for which he did not produce a source.

“For settlers and for their supporters the decision of the Israeli state to use the weapon of enhanced interrogation is a shock and they’ve responded with shock tactics of their own – like this demonstration outside the house in Jerusalem of Yoram Cohen, the head of Shabak.”

That demonstration actually took place in December 2015 too. Connolly’s report then took a bizarre turn with the amplification of unfounded opportunistic allegations of Israeli racism from an official at the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department.

KC: “Elsewhere though the issue is viewed through different lenses. Palestinians say the same techniques have been used against them for decades. A clear double standard says Xavier Abu Eid of the PLO.”

XAE: “It’s basically that we’re not seen as equals; that’s a main point. We’re not equals of the [unintelligible] state. We’re not equals of the [unintelligible] equal rights. We’ve seen a transformation in Israeli society that it’s way more Right-wing and closer to religion. Many Israelis would justify what’s going on just by saying that we’re gentiles or non-Jews living here: that we don’t have the right to be treated under the same laws. Others would say no: you have the right to be treated under the same laws, however we have a special conditions that make us do this or that.” [emphasis added]

At no point in this report were listeners told that the Israeli High Court of Justice outlawed the use of ‘moderate physical pressure’ during interrogations in 1999. At no point were they informed that the provisions for exceptions to that ruling in the case of an impending threat to civilian lives depend not on the suspect’s nationality or ethnic identity but to the practical issue of the threat he poses to others. Abu Eid’s baseless claims of racist discrimination and “double standard” are therefore an impediment to audience understanding of this story which – for reasons best known to themselves – the producers of this item nevertheless chose to amplify.

Connolly’s item continued with promotion of the view of a political NGO.

KC: “The arson attack on the Palestinian village of Duma was a shocking crime and there was huge pressure on the authorities to identify suspects and to bring charges. But there are voices raised inside Israel against the use of anything that approximates to torture – whatever the euphemism used to describe it. The voice of Yael Stein from the human rights group B’tselem is among them.

YS: “It doesn’t matter if it works. It can be the most effective way to know what happened. It may be the most effective way to prevent future attacks. It doesn’t matter. I mean there are things that a society must say – I mean there are things that are not done. Beating people or torturing people or ill-treating people during interrogation is something that society that we live in should not accept.”

Listeners were not informed that in this specific case the authorisation of the use of special interrogation methods was given by the Attorney General after seventeen days of questioning during which the main suspect refused to talk to investigators. One can of course well imagine the tone the reports from Kevin Connolly and his colleagues would have taken had the investigation into the terror attack in Duma not resulted in the indictment of suspects.

Connolly closed his report as follows:

“The purpose of all the protests of course is to make the treatment of the Israeli suspects in the Duma arson attack a central issue in the case. And you can expect the arguments that have been rehearsed on the street to be played out again in court when it comes to trial.”

Significantly, Connolly failed to include in his report any official responses to the allegations made or any alternative views of the story. After Connolly’s report ended, Nick Robinson told listeners that:

“Israel has said that the questioning of the suspects in that Duma arson case was carried out under full judicial supervision and it also says it doesn’t draw any distinction between Jewish and Arab suspects in the investigation of terror offences.”

That short statement however obviously did little to balance the messaging and lack of relevant information in Connolly’s report and it certainly did nothing to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impressions received as a result of the inclusion in this report of Xavier Abu Eid’s baseless and immaterial smears.


More evidence of BBC News double standards on use of the word terror

BBC coverage of the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorism against Israelis which began in mid-September has been hallmarked by blanket avoidance of the use of the word terror to describe the attacks or of the term terrorist to describe the perpetrators.

Experienced observers of BBC content will not have been surprised by that: the relevant BBC editorial guidelines state:

“There is no agreed consensus on what constitutes a terrorist or terrorist act. The use of the word will frequently involve a value judgement.

As such, we should not change the word “terrorist” when quoting someone else, but we should avoid using it ourselves.” [emphasis added]

Whilst those guidelines are controversial and considered by many to be unfit for purpose, they are ostensibly the basis for all BBC reporting on the subject of terror attacks. Nevertheless, we have often documented the BBC’s inconsistency in adhering to those guidelines on these pages, pointing out that they are applied in some geographical locations but not in others. We have also criticized the corporation’s use of coy euphemisms such as ‘militants’ or ‘radicals’ to describe members of recognized terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hizballah and its serial avoidance of use of the word terror in reports on violent attacks against Israelis.

In our view, the BBC’s inconsistent application of those editorial guidelines and the resulting two-tier system of reporting is evidence of precisely the type of “value judgement” it supposedly seeks to avoid and indicates that the choice of language when reporting acts of terror is subject to political considerations which undermine the BBC’s claim of impartiality.

If further evidence of those double standards were needed, it could be found in an article published on the BBC News website on January 3rd under the title “Israelis charged over fatal West Bank family arson attack“.Duma attack indictments

There, not for the first time, readers found the words “Jewish terrorists” used not in a quote, but by the BBC itself.

“It also prompted the Israeli government to approve the use of administrative detention – a procedure under which a military court can order suspects to be detained indefinitely without charge or trial – for suspected Jewish terrorists.”

The BBC’s description of detainees in cases such as the murders of three sleeping members of the Dawabshe family in the arson attack in Duma on July 31st 2015 as “suspected terrorists” is of course accurate. Despite the fact that this article confines itself to noting “international condemnation” of the Duma attack and even amplifies baseless accusations concerning the investigation into the attack from a family member, such wording appropriately reflects the Israeli government’s classification of the attack from the very beginning.

However, the people who murdered five members of the Fogel family as they too slept in 2011 and the people who murdered the parents of the Henkin family in October 2015 and the people who murdered early morning worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue in 2014 and the people who murdered Malachi Rosenfeld in June 2015 (in an attack now mentioned in this report but not reported in English by the BBC at the time) are also terrorists.

The trouble is that the BBC does not use the term terrorists to describe them or the perpetrators of countless other attacks against Israelis to its audiences. It is high time that it explained to its funding public why that is the case.

More stereotyping of half a million Israelis from the BBC

On September 7th the news of the death of a third victim of the arson attack on a house in Duma at the end of July was featured prominently on the BBC News website with the wording:

“The mother of a baby Palestinian boy killed in an arson attack in the West Bank that was blamed on militant Israeli settlers succumbs to her severe burns.”

Duma mother death on HP

Duma mother death World

ME HP 7 9 15a

Oddly tagged ‘Europe’, the report on Riham Dawabsha’s death once again includes broad brush stereotyping of the half million people the BBC regularly describes to its audiences as ‘settlers’.Duma mother death art

“Riham Dawabsha suffered severe burns to 90% of her body in the July attack, blamed on Israeli settlers. […]

Palestinians have accused Jewish settlers of carrying out the attack; Israel has not said whether it holds settlers responsible, and an investigation is ongoing.”

Obviously “Israel has not said” who was responsible for the murders in Duma because, as the article itself points out, there has to date been no public announcement concerning the indictment or even arrest of suspected perpetrators of the arson attack – let alone their postcode – and in Israel (as opposed to the BBC newsroom or the Palestinian street) responsibility for a crime is a matter to be proven in a court of law.

“The deaths provoked international condemnation. So far no suspects have been arrested. […]

After the attack, the Israeli government announced new measures to combat vigilante Jewish groups who attack Palestinians and their property, including administrative detention for extremists.

A number of detentions have been made but none in direct connection with the firebombing in Duma.”

Yet again no attempt is made to inform BBC audiences of the context of the estimated numbers of those extremists and it is not clarified that the overwhelming majority of those whom the BBC describes as “Jewish settlers” abhor and condemn their criminal activity. Once more it is notable that BBC reporting on Palestinian terror suspects rarely, if ever, specifies the subject’s religion and clearly BBC audiences would have been no less informed had the phrase ‘Israeli extremists’ been used instead of “Jewish settlers” in this and previous reports.

Related Articles:

The Duma terror attack and BBC consistency

BBC ‘Dateline London’ guest: Israel kills babies as policy

Yolande Knell passes up chance to mend previous BBC stereotyping

Yolande Knell passes up chance to mend previous BBC stereotyping

The August 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ – presented by Eddie Mair – included an item (from 36:40 here) by Yolande Knell of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau.

Mair’s introduction includes the simplistic description of a village located in Area B according to the terms of the Oslo Accords as being “in the occupied West Bank”:PM hilltop youth

“Last month an arson attack in the occupied West Bank killed a Palestinian baby and his father. It brought wider attention to a small group of young Jewish settlers who in the past conducted acts of vandalism but now advocate violence against Muslims and Christians and try to undermine the Israeli state. Yolande Knell reports.”

Neither Mair nor Knell bothered to clarify to listeners that to date no-one has been charged with the arson attack in Duma and Knell opened with some clear signposting for audiences. 

Knell: “Back at the scene of a shocking attack, Mohammed Dawabshe shows me the blackened interior of his cousin’s tiny house in Duma, south of Nablus.  Last month it was set on fire at night. Eighteen month-old Ali burned to death and later his father died of his injuries. His mother and brother remain seriously ill in hospital. ‘Revenge’ in Hebrew was painted on a nearby wall. It’s thought Israeli settlers did this.” [emphasis added]

Knell continues, paraphrasing her guide’s words:

“‘Nothing like this ever happened in our village before. Nobody in the world would accept it’, Mohammed says. ‘These are crazy terrorists’.

She goes on:

“In the car, we’ve left Duma and we’re driving around this part of the West Bank where there are many Jewish settlements but also outposts. These are usually just collections of caravans or tents where young Israelis are living up on the hilltops. While settlements are seen as illegal under international law, these outposts are also illegal under Israeli law.”

As usual, no effort is made to inform audiences of the existence of other legal opinions on the topic.

Knell continues:

“I’ve come to meet a settler grandmother who’s an inspiration to many from the so-called hilltop youth. They believe Jewish settlement of the land is a primary obligation and some advocate violent means. To most Israelis the views of Daniella Weiss are extreme but she has her own disputes with ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious settlers.”

Were Knell to aspire to true accuracy and impartiality, she would have informed her listeners that not only do the overwhelming majority of Israelis find Weiss’ views extreme, but so too do most of those whom the BBC elects to call ‘settlers’. Listeners then hear from Daniella Weiss, although it is difficult to imagine that those few sentences would have contributed much to audience understanding of the report’s supposed subject matter.

Weiss: “It’s not the majority numbers: this is the sect which is composed of a few hundred people who thinks that Jews and Arabs cannot live hear together – no option at all. And there’s another philosophy which would not accept the idea that the current – mainly secular- government in the existing state of Israel is of any value.”

Knell goes on:

“After the Duma attack Israeli security forces and the media went into overdrive, investigating individuals they described as Jewish terrorists. Israeli Channel 10 reported a manifesto belonging to one cell. It details how to set churches and mosques ablaze and recommends burning people inside their houses. The aim is to stoke violence and weaken the Israeli state.”

Knell refrains from informing listeners that the security forces did not just ‘investigate’ but also made arrests – including the author of the ‘manifesto’ she describes and his cell. She continues:

“The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a tough approach but Palestinian officials say that if his right-wing government wants to stop settler attacks, it must stop supporting settlements on land they want for their future state.”

Knell refrains from clarifying to audiences that according to the Oslo Accords – signed willingly by representatives of the Palestinian people – the future of Area C is to be determined in final status negotiations or that the same accords include no restrictions on Israeli building in Area C.

After a short contribution from PMO spokesman Mark Regev, Knell moves on to another location.

“It’s evening time in Qusra – a Palestinian village near Duma. In recent years it’s experienced dozens of attacks by settlers from nearby outposts. They’ve lost land and trees, had property damaged and their sheep killed. This area’s under full Israeli control so there are no Palestinian police. Now local men such as Abdel al Addin [phonetic] organise night watches.”

Both a report by the Palestinian political NGO ARIJ and maps produced by the NGO B’Tselem (often quoted and promoted by the BBC) place the residential part of Qusra in Area B where civil affairs are fully the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority and security is under the joint control of Israel and the PA. Some of the village’s agricultural lands apparently do lie in Area C but Knell’s claim that Qusra is “under full Israeli control” is clearly inaccurate and misleading. Coincidentally, the Wikipedia entry for Qursa wrongly places the village in Area C, apparently on the basis of an inaccurate claim in an article which appeared in the Economist four years ago.

After telling audiences more about the night watches (which are actually not as new as this report suggests), Knell closes with the following take-away message:

“With no efforts to reach a peace deal in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tensions here continue to simmer and can flare up dangerously at any time.”

This report was billed from the beginning as being about the ‘hilltop youth’ and – as Eddie Mair correctly noted in his introduction – the aim of at least some of the groups falling under that title is to “try to undermine the Israeli state”. Knell also noted that the aim of the cell whose members are now in custody is to “stoke violence and weaken the Israeli state”.

It is therefore unclear why in her closing lines Knell materially misleads audiences by suggesting that the absence of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has any influence whatsoever upon what are essentially anarchist groups which reject the authority of the Israeli government. Clearly that knee-jerk closing mantra did nothing to enhance audience understanding of this particular ‘international issue’.

This item presented an ideal opportunity for the BBC to undo some of its previous stereotyping of the half million people it calls ‘settlers’ by providing audiences with more comprehensive background information on the small groups known as ‘hilltop youth’ and explaining the differences between them and the vast majority of residents of Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. Unfortunately for the BBC’s reputation for impartiality, Yolande Knell did not rise to the occasion.

Related Articles:

The Duma terror attack and BBC consistency

BBC News misleads audiences on administrative detention

BBC ‘Dateline London’ guest: Israel kills babies as policy

BBC News coverage of terrorism – July 2015

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks during July 2015 (English here, Hebrew here) shows that throughout the month a total of 107 incidents took place: 63 in Judea & Samaria, 42 in Jerusalem, one incident of missile fire from the Gaza Strip and one incident of missile fire from the Sinai Peninsula.

Two Palestinian civilians were killed and two injured (in the arson attack in Duma on July 31st) and three members of the Israeli security forces were wounded in those attacks. The agency recorded 90 attacks with petrol bombs, one stabbing, two shooting attacks and 12 attacks using explosive devices.

BBC News website reporting on those 107 attacks was confined to two incidents: the July 3rd firing of three Grad missiles from Sinai by ISIS’ ‘Sinai Province’ affiliate was covered in one written report and the July 31st arson attack in Duma was covered in two written articles and two filmed reports. The missile attack from the Gaza Strip on July 16th and the stabbing of a soldier the previous day were among the many incidents which did not receive BBC coverage.

In short, the BBC covered 1.87% of the terror attacks which took place in July 2015.

Table terror July

Since the beginning of the year the BBC has reported just 0.98% of the terror attacks which have actually taken place. Its record on coverage of Israeli fatalities stands at 0% whilst 100% of Palestinian fatalities have been reported.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2015 & Q2 2015


Terrorism the BBC chose not to report this week

Most of the coverage of Israel appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page over the past week has been devoted to the topic of the arson attack in Duma on July 31st (which has now claimed another life) and associated subject matter.

In addition to that attack, several other terrorist incidents took place in the region this last week.

On August 1st missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip and on August 6th another attack took place. In both cases the missiles fell short and landed in the Gaza Strip or near the border fence and the attacks were claimed by Gaza based Salafist Jihadists. BBC News did not report those attacks.Kissufim missile 7 8 BBC Arabic

On August 7th one of several missiles fired from the Gaza Strip landed in the Kissufim area of southern Israel. The attack was claimed by Salafist Jihadists and the IDF responded with a strike on a Hamas training facility. In the now well-established pattern, there was no English language coverage of that attack but Israel’s response was reported on the BBC Arabic website.

On the evening of August 3rd a couple driving near the Beit Hanina junction in north Jerusalem were attacked with a firebomb.

“A 27-year-old Israeli woman was moderately hurt by the Molotov cocktail, suffering burns on her body. The woman and her husband abandoned their burning car, which proceeded to roll down and hit a 20-year-old pedestrian, who was lightly hurt.

A third man was lightly injured after he tried to extinguish the car.”

Despite at least one BBC staffer clearly being aware of the attack, it was not reported by BBC News on its website’s Middle East page.

On August 6th a vehicular attack took place near Shilo.

“Three IDF soldiers were wounded when a car deliberately ran into them on Thursday afternoon near the Shiloh junction north of Ramallah in the West Bank. The attacker was shot and neutralized by a fourth soldier.

Magen David Adom [ambulance service] reported that two were seriously wounded and another lightly. Officials said that one of the wounded was 20-years-old and suffered from a head injury.”

The attack was praised by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Whilst the BBC was clearly aware of the incident and a report on the subject appeared on the BBC Arabic website, no English language coverage was to be found on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

That same BBC Arabic report also mentions an explosion which occurred in Rafah in the Gaza Strip on August 6th, killing four people and wounding many others. Interestingly, whilst the BBC Arabic report unequivocally attributes the blast to “Israeli missile remnants” – i.e. unexploded ordnance – other media outlets reporting on that story were more cautious. Reuters reported:

“Media outlets of the Hamas Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip blamed the blast on an unexploded Israeli missile from last year’s war.

The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said it was checking the cause of the explosion, which destroyed the home of Ayman Abu Nqeira, a Hamas member.”

The Guardian’s report on the subject states:

“Early reports suggested the blast was caused by unexploded ordnance (UXO) left from last summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Gaza. Swaths of Rafah were almost obliterated during weeks of shelling from air, sea and land. Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Gaza ministry of health, said the dead men had been clearing rubble from a house that was destroyed during the war. The home was hit in an Israeli air strike on 9 July last year.

However, masked and armed men from Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, blocked access to the area, fuelling suspicions that the house or a nearby property may have been used to store explosives or rockets. Some locals said the area was a weapons base for Al-Qassam Brigades; others said Israeli unexploded ordnance was the cause of the blast.

A spokesman for Gaza’s interior ministry said: “We can’t give a clear reason for what happened.” An investigation was under way, he added.”

Remarkably, BBC Arabic – part of the organization which describes itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” – appears to have unquestioningly adopted and amplified the exact same line as Hamas’ media outlets.

BBC News misleads audiences on administrative detention

On August 5th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel jails suspected Jewish militant without trial“.Admin det Meir art orig

The original version of the article – which remained in situ for around seven hours – was illustrated with two photographs previously used in the BBC’s reports on the July 31st terror attack in Duma and its opening lines were as follows:

“Israel has taken the unusual step of jailing a suspected Jewish militant without trial following the death of a Palestinian infant in an arson attack.”

Readers might therefore naturally have assumed that the detention is connected to the attack in Duma and that impression was strengthened by later statements appearing in the article.

“The use of such [administrative detention] orders against Jews suspected in Friday’s arson in the West Bank was among new measures approved on Tuesday by Prime Minister Prime Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet.

The attack killed 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian toddler, and severely injured three relatives in the West Bank village of Duma.

The child’s parents and four-year-old brother were seriously injured in the attack, suspected to have been carried out by Jewish settlers.”

The amended version of the article (the changes can be viewed here) uses a different main photograph which has nothing to do with the report’s subject matter and actually dates from September 2012.  The second photograph from Duma appears in this version too and although the language in the second version is slightly more ambiguous, readers would again understand that the detention which is the topic of the report is connected to the July 31st arson in Duma.Admin det Meir art vers 2

“Israel has taken the unusual step of jailing a suspected Jewish militant without trial, amid a tightening of measures against Jewish extremists.

The use of such orders against Jewish militants was approved on Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet.

The measure was taken in the wake of an arson attack which killed an 18-month-old Palestinian, Ali Saad Dawabsha, and severely injured his parents and brother in the West Bank village of Duma on Friday.”

However, this case is not connected to the Duma attack at all. Both versions of the BBC report inform readers that:

“Mordechai Meyer, a resident of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, has been placed under administrative detention for six months.

He is suspected of violent activity as part of a Jewish terror group.”

Whilst it is correct to say that an administrative detention order was issued for Mordechai Meyer (also spelt Meir) on August 4th, the BBC does not inform audiences that Meyer – from Ma’ale Adumim – was among five suspects arrested in July on suspicion of involvement in the arson at the church in Tabgha in June or that at the time that his arrest was publicized on July 29th, the security services already announced that “administrative steps” would be taken against him and others.

“Indictments have been filed against two of the group (Yinon Reuveni and Yehuda Asraf); administrative steps will be taken against the other three.”

Although BBC News covered the story of the June 18th arson at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee in written and filmed reports (“Jesus miracle church in Israel damaged ‘by arson’” and “Fire destroys Jesus miracle church in Israel“), it did not report on the related arrests when they were announced. Had it done so, it would perhaps have avoided misleading readers of this report by implying a connection between the administrative detention of Meyer and the attack in Duma.

Both versions of this report inform BBC audiences that:

“Israel has used administrative detention against Palestinians but not against Jewish suspects.”

That claim is inaccurate, as shown by examples such as Tali Fahima (2004), Ephraim Khantsis (2010), Noam Federman (1996, 2003 etc) and Baruch Ben Yosef (1980), Neria Ofen (2005) and others.

Clearly that inaccuracy needs urgent and prominent correction.


BBC News – contact