Eleven years online for a BBC promoted conspiracy theory

This week marked the 42nd anniversary of the operation in which 103 hostages were rescued from Entebbe airport by the IDF – Operation Yonatan.

Over the years the BBC has produced numerous reports relating to that event but one in particular – which is still available online – stands out.

On June 6th 2007 the BBC News website found fit to publish a report by Dan Parkinson titled “Israel hijack role ‘was queried’” in which BBC audiences were told that:

“It has been seen as a daring raid by crack Israeli troops to rescue dozens of their countrymen held at the mercy of hijackers.

But newly released documents contain a claim that the 1976 rescue of hostages, kidnapped on an Air France flight and held in Entebbe in Uganda, was not all it seemed.

A UK government file on the crisis, released from the National Archives, contains a claim that Israel itself was behind the hijacking.

An unnamed contact from the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association told a British diplomat in Paris that the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Bet, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) collaborated to seize the plane. […]

In the document, written on 30 June 1976 when the crisis was still unresolved, DH Colvin of the Paris Embassy writes of his Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association source: “According to his information, the hijack was the work of the PFLP, with help from the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Beit.

“The operation was designed to torpedo the PLO’s standing in France and to prevent what they see as a growing rapprochement between the PLO and the Americans.”

He adds: “My contact said the PFLP had attracted all sorts of wild elements, some of whom had been planted by the Israelis.””

After eleven years it is surely time for the BBC to remove that ridiculous conspiracy theory from its website – not least for the sake of its own organisational credibility. 

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NGOs’ political campaign opportunistically recycled by BBC News

As readers may be aware, on July 4th the Israeli prime minister embarked on an official visit to four countries in Africa.Africa visit art 1  

The BBC News website’s Middle East page published two articles on that topic: “Israel’s Netanyahu in Entebbe to mark hostage-rescue anniversary” and, in the ‘Features’ section, “Netanyahu in Entebbe: A personal journey amid a diplomatic push” by defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Both those reports include features made no less noteworthy by their predictability.

In Marcus’ article readers found context-free amplification of the narrative of ‘occupation’.

“A whole combination of factors prompted a souring of ties between Israel and African capitals between 1966 and 1973.

There was Israel’s occupation of territory captured in the 1967 Six Day War. There was growing pressure from Arab states and, by the Middle East War in 1973, the oil weapon was a potent tool.”Africa visit art 2

In the other article terrorists were described as “militants”.

“His [Netanyahu’s] elder brother, Jonathan, was shot dead as he led the operation to free hostages, who had been taken captive on an Air France flight by Palestinian and German militants.”

Uncritical amplification was given to the false narrative of “colonialism” in a superfluous quote from a party unconnected to the story.

“However, Palestinian government spokesman Jamal Dajani said he believed Israel’s attempt to gain influence would fail.

African states would see through Netanyahu’s “propaganda” because Africans and the Palestinians shared a history of “occupations and colonialism”, he told AP news agency.”

But perhaps most remarkable is the fact that among the related reading promoted in both these articles is a link titled “Israel’s unwanted African migrants”.links Africa visit arts

The article to which the link leads has nothing at all to do with the subject of Netanyahu’s current visit to Africa and yet the BBC opportunistically recycled that highly problematic report (one of several produced by Kathy Harcombe in February 2016) which is nothing more than a self-conscripted contribution to the PR efforts of a campaign run by a coalition of political NGOs and certainly does not provide readers with accurate and impartial information likely to enhance their understanding of either that unrelated issue or the subject matter of these two reports. 

Somebody at the BBC News website made the editorial decision to include that link in both of its articles covering the Israeli PM’s visit to Africa and that person apparently believes that enhances the corporation’s reputation for ‘impartial’ journalism.

BBC article on Entebbe anniversary marred by euphemism

June 27th saw the appearance of two reports on the BBC News website’s Middle East page (one written and one filmed) concerning the 1976 hostage rescue operation at Entebbe.

The filmed report is titled “Items from Israel Entebbe hostage rescue” and its synopsis reads:

“Forty years ago, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris with more than 250 passengers and crew was hijacked before landing in Entebbe, Uganda.

Following a week-long hostage situation, during which some passengers were released, an operation by Israeli forces saw all the remaining people on board freed.

Now original items have been gathered to preserve the memory of the event.

An ex-Mossad agent describes the role the unique objects played.”

The written article – by Raffi Berg – is titled “Entebbe: A mother’s week of ‘indescribable fear’” and like the filmed report it gives a good and accurate portrayal of the events – with one unfortunate exception.Entebbe art

Readers are told that:

“The hijackers announced their demands – the release of 53 militants jailed in Israel, France, Germany, Switzerland and Kenya, and a $5m ransom.”

Among those “militants” were of course convicted terrorists and criminals.

“Those whose release was demanded included 40 prisoners said to be held by Israel, among them Archbishop Hilarion Capuecci, serving a prison sentence imposed in December 1974 for arms smuggling [to Fatah], Mr Kozo Okamoto, the Japanese sentenced to life imprisonment after the 1972 Lod airport massacre, and Mrs Fatima Barnawi, serving a life sentence for placing a bomb [in a cinema] in 1967…”

What a pity it is that an otherwise interesting and informative article is marred by the euphemistic jargon employed in order to allow the BBC to avoid having to make a “value judgement” about someone who gunned down passengers in an airport baggage hall. 

One to listen out for on BBC Radio 4

A programme titled “One Day in Entebbe” will be broadcast on Tuesday, June 28th at 8 p.m. on BBC Radio 4. Its synopsis reads as follows:Freedland Entebbe prog

“Forty years ago, the world gasped as it witnessed one of the most outlandish rescue missions ever undertaken. Israeli commandos flew 2,500 miles to free more than a hundred hostages, passengers whose plane had been hijacked and diverted to Entebbe. In the dead of night, they were plucked out from under the nose of Uganda’s larger-than-life dictator, Idi Amin.

The operation would become a template for special forces operations, taught at military colleges around the globe. It would change the calculus in the Middle East, altering the way Israel was seen and the way it saw itself. And it would set one young man on the path to eventual power.

Through exclusive and intensely personal interviews with those involved, including Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and two of his predecessors – Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres – as well as former hostages, ex-commandos and the one-time Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled, writer and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland tells the remarkable story of that day in July 1976.

He hears Netanyahu confess that he would not be prime minister today had it not been for Entebbe where his brother led the commando unit and was killed in action – proof that the impact of that one day in Entebbe lives on.”

Jonathan Freedland has also written about the 40th anniversary of the rescue operation at Entebbe for the Guardian.

 

Munich Olympics terrorists get BBC rebranding

On September 22nd the BBC News website’s Middle East page carried an article titled “Israeli Mossad spy Mike Harari dies, aged 87“.

Remarkably, in that report the terrorists responsible for the murders of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games are rebranded “militants”, the terrorist organization to which they belonged is termed merely a “group” and no mention is made of the Black September Organisation’s links to Fatah and the PLO.

Harari art text

No less bizarre is the article’s failure to inform readers that the rescue operation at Entebbe which it mentions was brought about by a hijacking carried out by another Palestinian terrorist organization – the PFLP – and just as interesting is the fact that the title of this report was changed some thirty-five minutes after its publication, with the original headline having read “Mossad agent behind Palestinian assassinations dies”.

The BBC’s ‘rationale’ for avoiding the use of the word terror and its derivatives is that the term “carries value judgements”.  As we have on occasion noted here before, the corporation’s abstention from use of the word in some circumstances and geographic locations (see related articles below) is evidence of a double standard which reveals politically motivated “value judgements” in itself.

Related Articles:

 Mapping the BBC’s inconsistent use of the word ‘terror’

No terror please, we’re the British Broadcasting Corporation

Debate widens on BBC avoidance of the word terrorist

Where can terrorism be named as such by the BBC?