BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

On the morning of September 13th the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, sent a context-free tweet to his 170,000 followers.

Later that day, Bowen was to be found reporting on the same story in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘. Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 45:06 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “Israel now, and security forces have today dismantled several shacks built by Palestinian protesters near Khan al Ahmar – the Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank which Israel has targeted for demolition. The village houses around 180 Bedouin but has become a symbol of something bigger and many European countries have urged Israel to stop the demolition. I’ve been speaking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. I asked him first to map out the geography of this village.”

Neither Iqbal nor Bowen bothered to adequately clarify to listeners that the structures removed on the morning of September 13th had actually been placed there deliberately just days earlier by Palestinian activists on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and were not part of the encampment itself. 

Bowen commenced his report by failing to explain to listeners that what he described as “a road” is actually a major highway – Route 1.

Bowen: “There’s a road going down from Jerusalem – a steep road going downhill to the Dead Sea and to Jericho – and about a third of the way down that road, I suppose, there is this very small village Khan al Ahmar which is…it’s like a typical Bedouin settlement in that most of the dwellings there are shacks. And it’s just opposite an absolutely massive Jewish settlement called Ma’ale Adumim and so the argument being made by those on the Israeli side who say it’s got to go, they say that it’s unsafe, it’s in the wrong place, it shouldn’t be happening. People on the other side say they’re just trying to get rid of it so Israel can tighten its grip even further on that bit of territory.”

As can be seen on the UNOCHA produced map below, Khan al Ahmar is not located “just opposite” Ma’ale Adumim but further to the east and neither is it located in the area known as E1. Bowen did not bother to clarify to listeners that the location of the story is in Area C which, according to the Oslo Accords, is under Israeli control pending final status negotiations.

Nevertheless, Iqbal and Bowen went on to advance a false narrative about ‘contiguity’ that the BBC has been promoting for years.

Iqbal: “And that bit of territory, from the Palestinians’ perspective, is the idea from their point of view is that the Israelis want to cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, both of which the Palestinians seek for an independent state.”

Bowen: “Yeah. 1967 was when they captured East Jerusalem. Israel has built a string of settlements that essentially…ahm…ring East Jerusalem and separate it from the rest of the West Bank. Now there is one gap and the gap is quite a large area and this very small settlement is part of it. But Israel has a whole master plan for developing that particular gap – it’s an area known as E1 – and the argument the Israelis say for it is that this is their territory; that they need to develop their capital. And the argument against it is that if the Palestinians ever want a hope of some kind of contiguous state, then the fact that East Jerusalem – where there are many Palestinians – is ringed in by these settlements is going to make it next to impossible.”

Iqbal then went on to ask Bowen whether or not the Israeli Supreme Court had got its facts right.

Iqbal: “The Supreme Court rejected petitions to stop this from happening, siding with the authorities, and they said that the village was built without the required permits. That’s right, is it?”

Carefully avoiding inconvenient details of the story – such as the fact that the residents of Khan al Ahmar do not even claim to own the land on which they built illegal structures without planning permission – Bowen went on:

Bowen: “Yeah, it wasn’t built with permits and a lot of Palestinians build without permits because they can’t get permits. The whole planning process in Jerusalem and in the occupied territories – in East Jerusalem – is highly politicized. For Israel, once it was more about security but now I’d say it’s mostly about nation building and mostly about hanging on to territory. And planning reflects the wider needs of the state and they don’t encourage Palestinians to build, even though the Palestinian population is growing, and as a result of that Palestinians don’t get permits to build. They build anyway and then quite often those dwellings get knocked down.”

Iqbal: “This particular village, Khan al Ahmar, is a Bedouin village as you described. It affects just under 200 people but it’s symbolic of much more and that clearly has been recognised by European Union countries urging the Israeli government not to go ahead with the plan. Presumably that’s all going to fall on deaf ears.”

Obviously at that point it would have been appropriate for BBC audiences to have been told that the EU has also carried out illegal construction at that site and others in the vicinity. It would also have been helpful to listeners to know that under previous peace proposals, the area of E1 was set to remain under Israeli control.  

Bowen: “Well they’ve urged the Israelis many times not to expand their settlement activities in the occupied territories and it’s always fallen on deaf ears. The only voice that was ever listened to by successive Israeli governments was the American one and the American voice now under the Trump administration is really quite different. I think under Obama, and before that under previous administrations as well, moves to develop this area E1 were always strenuously objected to on the grounds that it makes the pursuit of peace even more difficult. Just recently the American ambassador to Israel – close ally of Donald Trump – said he doesn’t know why Israel needs to ask permission of the US before it builds. So that, I think, is another green light for Israel to go ahead and push as much as it wants. Having said that, they are aware of international opinion and they’re sensitive to it. But that doesn’t change – based on history – the objective.”

Iqbal: “Complicated story – unpacked expertly there by our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen speaking to me from Jerusalem.”

Yes – despite Bowen’s faulty geography, his amplification of the ‘contiguity’ myth and his failure to provide BBC audiences with the full background to this story (not least the fact that related court cases have been going on for nine years and the residents of Khan al Ahmar have been offered free plots of land on which to build homes nearby) and notwithstanding his erasure of the politically motivated interventions by the Palestinian Authority and the EU in this case, BBC World Service listeners were told that they had just heard an ‘expert’ explanation.

Related Articles:

Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

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MEDIA EMBRACE E1 FALSEHOODS  (CAMERA) 

 

 

 

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Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

On September 5th the BBC News website published a 609 word report headlined “Khan al-Ahmar: Israel court approves demolition of Bedouin village” which opened by telling readers that:

“Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected appeals against the demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank whose fate has been a subject of international concern.

Judges upheld an order to raze Khan al-Ahmar, where about 180 people live in shacks between two Jewish settlements. […]

An injunction against the demolition will expire within seven days.”

The caption to the main photograph illustrating the article, together with a later paragraph, suggests that the BBC’s journalists did not read the court’s decision in which it is stated that the settlement was built during the last twenty years.

“Khan al-Ahmar was established in the 1950s by members of a tribe from the Negev desert”

“Khan al-Ahmar, which is 8km (5 miles) east of Jerusalem, was established in the early 1950s by members of a semi-nomadic tribe the UN says was displaced from the Negev desert in southern Israel.”

Readers are told that:

“Israel’s government says the structures were built illegally, but Palestinians say permits are impossible to obtain.”

And:

“Palestinians complain that the Israeli military refuses the vast majority of Palestinian building requests and say they are left with little option except to build without permission.”

They are not however informed that the court’s decision notes that the residents make no claim of ownership of the said land and that the site – and in particular the illegally built school – is too close to a major highway for construction to be permitted there under planning laws. Neither were they informed that the court stressed the importance of an equal approach to illegal construction, regardless of the ethnicity of the petitioner.

The article states:

“Since 2009, residents have been fighting demolition orders issued for the wooden and corrugated iron shacks in which they live, as well as a clinic, mosque and an Italian-funded primary school.”

Readers are not informed of the relevant fact that the residents were represented by lawyers hired by the Palestinian Authority.

The article states:

“In May, the Supreme Court rejected petitions to prevent the demolitions at Khan al-Ahmar and the relocation of its residents to a site designated by the Israeli government near the Palestinian town of Abu Dis.”

Readers were not told that the offer of relocation includes a free plot of land already connected to utilities at a site with existing services including a school.

The BBC’s report includes the following:

“Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman congratulated the court on Wednesday’s ruling upholding the demolition order, which he said had come despite “the orchestrated hypocrisy of Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], the Left and European states”.

“Nobody is above the law, nobody will keep us from acting on our sovereignty and responsibility as a state,” he added.”

Readers found no explanation of that reference to “European states” and so remain unaware of the fact that some of the illegal construction at that site and others was carried out by the EU.

In addition, readers found forty words of comment from what is described as the PLO’s “human rights body” along with a link to the B’tselem website. The only other link in the article leads readers to the UNRWA website and readers are provided with 145 words of highly questionable legal interpretation attributed to “the UN”.

In other words, in addition to the serious omissions in the BBC’s representation of this story, audiences saw four times more comment (and two links) from outside sources opposing the evacuation of the illegally constructed settlement than they did opinions in favour. 

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THE LA TIMES, THE BEDOUIN OF KHAN AL AHMAR AND ‘THEIR LAND’  (CAMERA)

Five years of BBC reports on one story show impartiality failure

For the past five years the BBC has been reporting on a proposed housing project in the south Jerusalem district of Givat HaMatos.

Givat HaMatos

In December 2012 BBC audiences were told that:

“…on Wednesday, Jerusalem’s planning committee granted approval for 2,610 homes in a new settlement in East Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos – the first to be built in the area since 1997.”

And, quoting the EU:

“If implemented, these plans would jeopardise the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State and of Jerusalem as the future capital of both Israel and Palestine”.

In October 2014 the BBC told audiences that:

“Israel has been criticised this month for approving new settlement construction in Givat Hamatos neighbourhood in East Jerusalem”

Two months later, in December 2014, the BBC’s Tim Franks revisited the same story.

“When I was posted here a few years ago as Middle East correspondent, one of the dominant stories was over the expansion of Jewish settlements on territory which Israel had occupied in the aftermath of the 1967 war. Undesirable if not downright illegal, said the rest of the world. Israel, for its part, said that the status of the territory was a matter of dispute and in the meantime it needed a place for its burgeoning population to live. So much might be familiar but in the last couple of months the announcement of a big new building development in occupied East Jerusalem has been described as a game-changer and brought furious international criticism. Why?”

Audiences heard just one view on the topic from a representative of the political NGO ‘Ir Amim’ which has received funding from foreign sources – including from the EU.

In late January 2017 Tim Franks returned to the same location and BBC audiences again heard one view of the story; this time from the inadequately introduced founder of that same political NGO.

Franks: “This is Givat HaMatos – an area of scrubland really – on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Just a couple of kilometres behind me to the south is the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. And I’m here with a man called Danny Seidemann – he’s an Israeli attorney and specialist on the mapping of Jerusalem.”

Seidemann: “Givat HaMatos is pretty unique. It’s one of two or three schemes that we call a Doomsday settlement. These settlements are in and of themselves capable of making the two-state solution impossible.”

None of the BBC’s various reports on Givat Hamatos has informed audiences that part of the planned housing units have been ear-marked for Arab residents of the adjacent neighbourhood of Beit Safafa.

To date, not one brick has been laid in the proposed project on which the BBC has already produced four reports and the JCPA recently published a backgrounder that explains why that is the case.

“The plan to build a Jewish residential neighborhood in Givat Hamatos in southern Jerusalem was already approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee in 2014. However, it has been frozen for four years.

Under pressure from the United States, Germany, and other European Union countries, the issuing of the construction tenders has been suspended time after time. […]

Germany is playing a central role in pressuring Israel not to build Givat Hamatos; other European countries oppose it as well. In October 2014 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the decision to build homes in Givat Hamatos threatened the two-state solution: “One cannot claim to support a solution and at the same time do things against without consequences being drawn.” In October 2017, the European Union requested clarifications from Israel about plans for housing units in Hamatos, saying that such building “is likely to harm severely the continuity and the existence of a future Palestinian state.””

While the views of representatives of an EU funded political NGO have been amplified in half of the BBC’s four reports on the story and the EU itself quoted in one other, audiences have not heard any alternative views whatsoever.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“We must apply due impartiality to all our subject matter.  However, there are particular requirements for ‘controversial subjects’, whenever they occur in any output, including drama, entertainment and sport. […]

When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.  Opinion should be clearly distinguished from fact.” [emphasis added]

Obviously BBC reporting on the proposed housing project in Givat HaMatos throughout the past five years has not complied with those guidelines. Rather, it has exclusively promoted monochrome framing of the story that has denied audiences access to information and perspectives that contradict the BBC’s chosen narrative.

BBC report on ECJ Hamas terror ruling recycles old themes

Just over two and a half years ago the BBC News website published a report with the misleading title “EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list”.

That report was noteworthy for its incomplete portrayal of Hamas’ designation as a terror organisation in countries worldwide, for its promotion of Hamas spin, for its whitewashing of the violent Hamas coup in Gaza in 2007 and for its amplification of the notion that the terror group might be seen as a “legitimate resistance movement”.

In September of last year the website published another article about the same story headlined “EU advised to drop Hamas and Tamil Tigers from terror list“.

That article similarly amplified the Hamas narrative of ‘resistance’, provided incomplete information concerning the countries that proscribe Hamas as a terror organisation and downplayed Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip while failing to provide readers with factual information concerning Hamas’ long history of terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

On July 26th the news that the Court of Justice of the European Union had ruled that Hamas should stay on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations was reported on the BBC News website’s Europe and Middle East pages in an article titled “EU top court keeps Hamas on terror blacklist“.

After an explanation of the court’s ruling and the background to the story, the article went on to repeat the themes seen in the previous reports.

1) ‘Resistance’:

“Hamas has always argued it is a resistance movement rather than a terrorist organisation, although under its charter it is committed to Israel’s destruction.”

2) Designation:

“It is seen as a terrorist group by the EU, US, Canada and Japan.”

Israel of course also designates Hamas in its entirety. In addition, Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organisation, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

3) 2007 coup:

“After winning parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas ousted its Fatah rivals from Gaza the following year and has since fought several conflicts with Israel.”

The report told readers that the ECJ:

“…said its verdict reaffirmed that the EU “may maintain a person or an entity on the list if it concludes that there is an ongoing risk of that person or entity being involved in the terrorist activities which justified their initial listing”.”

However, it once again failed to provide readers with factual information concerning Hamas’ long history of terror attacks against Israeli civilians or its current activities such as digging cross-border attack tunnels and manufacturing missiles – despite their obvious relevance to the article’s subject matter.

Related Articles:

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BBC report on EU Hamas terror designation gives incomplete picture 

 

 

 

Revisiting the BBC’s 2013 PA funding audit story

In December 2013 the BBC News website reported the conclusions of EU auditors in relation to funds transferred to the Palestinian Authority. Audiences were told that:

“European auditors say the EU should stop paying the salaries of thousands of Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip who are not going to work.

The auditors examined about 1bn euros (£840m; $1.3bn) of EU spending in Gaza between 2008 and 2012.

They called for a major review, saying money spent on civil servants there should go to the West Bank instead. […]

The EU pays about one-fifth of the salaries of the PA’s 170,000 civil servants, both in the West Bank and Gaza, under a programme known as Pegase.

Hans Gustaf Wessberg of the European Court of Auditors said overall EU funding had played an important role in supporting vulnerable families, and maintaining health and education services in Palestinian areas.

But he pointed out that “the payment of civil servants who do not work does not meet one of [the EU’s] main objectives to provide public services to the Palestinian people”.

When Hamas took control of Gaza, President Abbas decided to keep paying the salaries of the estimated 61,000 civil servants and members of the security forces who stopped reporting for the jobs, so long as they stayed home and did not work for the rival administration.”

Since the EU auditors’ report was published over three years ago there has been no follow-up reporting on that story from the BBC and audiences were not informed whether or not the recommendations were implemented. 

Last week – apparently in light of a recent EU announcement that, for the first time, its 2017 contributions would not include funding for PA civil servants in the Gaza Strip and an earlier UK announcement to the same effect – the Palestinian Authority decided to make some changes.

“The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority announced on Wednesday it was slashing by nearly one third the salaries of tens of thousands of government employees in the Gaza Strip who have been sitting idly since the rival Hamas militant group took over the coastal territory a decade ago. […]

In the West Bank, government spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud said a reduction in foreign aid had forced the Palestinian Authority to cut Gaza salaries by 30 percent. “Without this step, the government cannot pay the salaries of its employees,” he said.

Affected workers expressed shock, anger and frustration as they gathered outside Gaza banks. In Gaza City, nearly 200 people joined a protest outside a Bank of Palestine branch. “The salary is our children’s right,” said one of the banners.”

On Saturday, a demonstration was held in Gaza City.

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested in Gaza City on Saturday against recent salary cuts announced by the Palestinian Authority.

The decision on Wednesday by the West Bank-based PA to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in the Gaza Strip has sparked anger among government employees affected. Demonstrators at Saturday’s protest, the largest since the 30 percent cut was announced, called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to sack his government. […]

On Friday, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah defended the salary cuts, saying they were necessary in order to “manage financial crises suffered by the Palestinian government due to reductions in international funds,” […]

Hamdallah also blamed Hamas for the economic situation in the Gaza Strip, while also calling on the terror group to return to control of Gaza to the PA, “the only representative of the Palestinian people.”

Hamas “keeps its income for himself, while the PA has spent more than 17 billion dollars in the Gaza Strip during the last 10 years,” he said. […]

Hamas condemned the PA salary reductions as “abusive and irresponsible,” while the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group said they were “illegal and unacceptable,” according to Ma’an.

On Friday, the Islamic Jihad terror group held a rally in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis protesting the pay cuts, which demonstrators said were mean [sic] to “drown” the residents of Gaza…”

Although tax payers in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain – would no doubt welcome some objective, in-depth, fact-based reporting on the subject of the perennial PA budget deficit and the related issues of prioritisation of payments to civil servants in the Gaza Strip who have not worked for nearly a decade, payments to families of terrorists and salaries for imprisoned terrorists, those topics remain firmly off the BBC agenda.  

Related Articles:

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Updates on a Hamas story under-reported by the BBC

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In October 2015 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder which underwent extensive editing during the ten days following its original publication and is currently available online under the headline “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?“.backgrounder

As was noted here at the time, the backgrounder failed to provide BBC audiences with a comprehensive view of its purported subject matter.

“The question posed in its headline is addressed in a relatively small section of the report (fewer than 200 words) which actually does little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the role of incitement spread via social media in fueling the current wave of terror, of the kind of content appearing on such platforms or of the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.” 

Moreover, incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism on official social media accounts belonging to Fatah was downplayed in another section of the backgrounder: [emphasis added]

“The stabbing attacks seem to be spontaneous and although they have been praised by militant groups and supporters of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction on social media, Mr Abbas has said Palestinians are not interested in a further escalation.”

In July 2016 the BBC published two articles relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook: “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“ and “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“. The first article opened with the following interestingly punctuated statement:FB art technology

“Government ministers in Israel have accused Facebook of failing to tackle “inciteful” posts against the country on the social network.”

In the second of those reports the BBC found it appropriate to amplify a statement from Hamas:

“Hamas called the lawsuit an Israeli attempt to blackmail Facebook. […]

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused Israel of trying to turn it [Facebook] into a spy tool against Palestinians. […]

“The real test for the owners of Facebook is to reject this pressure,” he said.”

Despite quoting a report by the Quartet which “identified “the spreading of incitement to violence on social media” by Palestinians as a key issue” (an aspect of the report downplayed in previous BBC reporting), the second article nevertheless used the frequently seen qualifying ‘Israel says’ formula to describe the links between incitement on social media and acts of violence.

“Israel says Palestinian incitement on social media has fuelled a wave of attacks since October, which have killed 35 Israelis and four people of other nationalities.

In October 2016, listeners to a programme broadcast on the BBC World Service relating to the Twitter hashtag ‘Facebook Censors Palestine’ were told:

“And this is really the problem: narrative. With two completely opposing views on events, what Israelis see as inciting violence, the Palestinians see as telling the truth and vice versa.”

To date – notwithstanding recognition of the issue by the Quartet and Facebook – the BBC has yet to provide its audiences with information which would broaden their understanding of the connection between official and unofficial Palestinian incitement and terrorism.

In contrast, on December 6th 2016 BBC Technology produced an article titled “EU criticises tech firms for slow action on hate speech“.eu-social-media

“Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are falling short of a commitment to tackle hate speech quickly, research suggests.

The European Commission looked into whether the tech giants were meeting a pledge to remove hate speech within 24 hours of it being reported. […]

The pledge was made in May when the firms signed up to a “code of conduct” brokered by the Commission.”

Notably, the BBC did not find it necessary to amplify statements made by those posting online hate speech and incitement in Europe suggesting that the monitoring and removal of such posts amounts to “a spy tool”.

In the link directing readers to the EU’s press release concerning the “code of conduct”, BBC audiences find the following:

“Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said, “The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred. […]

Following the EU Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in October 2015 on ‘Tolerance and respect: preventing and combating Antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe’, the Commission initiated a dialogue with IT companies, in cooperation with Member States and civil society, to see how best to tackle illegal online hate speech which spreads violence and hate.

The recent terror attacks and the use of social media by terrorist groups to radicalise young people have given more urgency to tackling this issue.”

Ms Jourova is also quoted twice in the body of the article itself:

‘”The last weeks and months have shown that social media companies need to live up to their important role and take up their share of responsibility when it comes to phenomena like online radicalisation, illegal hate speech or fake news,” said Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova in a statement. […]

“It is our duty to protect people in Europe from incitement to hatred and violence online,” said Ms Jourova. “While IT Companies are moving in the right direction, the first results show that the IT companies will need to do more to make it a success.”‘

Notably, the BBC did not find it necessary to qualify the EU’s statements describing such social media posts as incitement or to question the EU’s linkage between online hate speech and violence. Indeed, the caption to the image illustrating the article informs readers that:

“Terror attacks in Europe led the Commission to seek support from tech firms in tackling hate speech”

Neither did this report find it appropriate to portray racist posts on social media as “narrative” or to suggest to audiences that hate speech might be seen as “telling the truth”.

While Israel and the EU are both trying to tackle the problem of online hate speech and incitement to violence in similar ways, we see that the BBC’s approach to the story differs according to geography. 

Related Articles:

Revisiting the BBC’s ‘explanation’ of the current wave of terror

Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

BBC still portraying incitement as an ‘Israel says’ story

BBC Trending presents Palestinian incitement as ‘narrative’

Revisiting the BBC News website’s PFLP profile

Following the terror attack at the Kehilat Ya’akov Synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem on November 18th 2014, the BBC News website produced a profile of the organisation with which the two terrorists were affiliated.Pigua Har Nof PFLP art

Two years later, that profile remains online with its inaccurate main illustrative photograph. The article’s presentation of the number of Israelis murdered in the Har Nof attack is also inaccurate: [emphasis added]

“It was also not clear how involved the PFLP leadership had been in the attack in November 2014 that saw two members of the group armed with axes storm a synagogue complex in West Jerusalem and kill four rabbis in the middle of their morning prayers.

A statement by the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades praised the “heroic operation” by Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, but did not specify whether the cousins had been instructed to carry out the attack.”

In fact, five people (four worshippers and a policeman) were killed during the attack and one additional victim succumbed to his wounds a year later but the BBC’s article has not been updated accordingly.

The article refrains from describing the PFLP as a terrorist organisation in the BBC’s own words, with that definition attributed to Israeli authorities in quotation marks:

“The PFLP leader was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in an Israeli prison for heading an “illegal terrorist organisation”…” 

Readers of the profile are not informed that the PFLP is defined as a proscribed terror organisation by the United States, Canada, Israel and the EU.

NGO Monitor recently produced a report concerning the financial support provided to various NGOs linked to the PFLP.

“Many European countries fund a network of organizations, some of which are directly affiliated with the PFLP, and others with a substantial presence of employees and officials linked to the PFLP. The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) include Addameer, Al-Haq, Alternative Information Center (AIC), Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), Health Work Committee (HWC), Stop the Wall, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC). […]

Donors to the NGOs include the EU, the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Ireland, UK, Netherland, Germany, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, and the United Nations. Continued funding raises serious questions about due diligence and evaluation on the part of the governments and the UN, as well as compliance with domestic and international laws.”

Some of those NGOs have been directly or indirectly quoted and promoted by the BBC in its Middle East coverage – for example Addameer, Al Haq, Defence for Children International – Palestine and of course the PCHR, which received particularly extensive exposure during the 2014 conflict between Israel and terror organisations in the Gaza Strip and which was one of the sources behind the casualty figures amplified by the BBC at the time.

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BBC report on EU Hamas terror designation gives incomplete picture

Back in December 2014 the BBC News website produced a report which was misleadingly headlined “EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list”. The following month the Council of the European Union decided to appeal the court decision that was the subject of that article but the BBC News website did not cover that chapter of the story.

An article appearing on the website’s Europe page (though not on its Middle East page) on September 22nd under the title “EU advised to drop Hamas and Tamil Tigers from terror list” opened with a summary of the story so far.hamas-eu-art  

“The EU may have to remove Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and the Sri Lankan separatist Tamil Tigers from its list of terrorist organisations, a top European Court adviser has said.

The Court ruled in 2014 they should be taken off the list on technical grounds, not as a reassessment of their classification as a terrorist group.

The Council of the EU, which represents all 28 governments, launched an appeal.

Now the European Court adviser has recommended the appeal be rejected.

The opinion of the adviser, known as the Advocate General, is not final but is generally followed when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivers its judgement.”

As was the case in the December 2014 report, the article goes on to amplify the Hamas narrative of ‘resistance’ and to provide incomplete information concerning the countries which proscribe Hamas as a terror organisation.

“Hamas has always argued it is a resistance movement rather than a terrorist organisation, although under its charter it is committed to Israel’s destruction. It is seen as a terrorist group by the EU, US, Canada and Japan.”

As the BBC’s own profile of Hamas states, Israel also designates Hamas. In addition, Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organisation, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  

Like the December 2014 report, this one too gives a whitewashed account of Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip.

“After winning parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas ousted its Fatah rivals from Gaza the following year and has since fought three conflicts with Israel.”

The caption to the image illustrating the report similarly states:

“Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 and has since been involved in three conflicts with Israel”.

Remarkably, in an article all about Hamas’ terror designation in the EU, the BBC did not find it necessary to provide readers with factual information concerning Hamas’ long history of terror attacks against Israeli civilians, including the thousands of missile attacks which brought about those tepidly portrayed “three conflicts”.  

The BBC, European ‘fear’ and Israeli ‘paranoia’

Last October we discussed an article by Kevin Connolly – then of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau – which has since been promoted as ‘related reading’ many times on the BBC News website.Paranoia Connolly

“During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterise their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.”

Happily, such a scenario has not transpired in Britain but at the end of July, the BBC World Service turned its attentions to “the fear that lies over Europe” in an edition of ‘The World This Week’.

TWTW 31 7 tweet

Presenter Jonny Dymond described the item at the beginning of the programme:

“As one brutal attack has followed another in France and Germany, I’ll take the mood of the continent with one of our most experienced Europe watchers – the editor of our Europe bureau.”

His introduction (from 00:47 here) was as follows:

“Europe has not known a week or two like the last ones for many, many years. First the terrible slaughter in Nice that left at least 84 dead, then a string of attacks in southern Germany. Then this week the killing of a French priest in a quiet town as he and his parishioners celebrated morning mass on a summer’s day.

An anguished debate over how to deal with violent Islam, both imported and homegrown, is in full swing. A new national guard will be created to defend citizens against terror attacks. Not for the first time, a beleaguered President Francois Hollande spoke darkly of war.” […]

In Germany shootings, stabbings and bombings – some connected with so-called Islamic State; all connected in some way with Germany’s embrace of migrants – have rocked a country that has over the decades become a by-word for cautious, conservative stability.”

Introducing the editor of the BBC’s Europe bureau, Simon Wilson, Dymond spoke of Europeans “confronted with a darker version of their continent; one gloomy about the future and nervous about what some perceive as the enemy within.”

Wilson told audiences:

“I was in Nice within a few hours of the attack there. People were really scared. That’s a really scary thought if anyone can take control of a vehicle and drive it into you. Those feelings will fade in weeks and months and other cities have overcome terror attacks and got back to normal. I think people are changing their plans. Do you want to be in a big crowd watching a football match on a big screen in Brussels or Paris at the moment? Probably not. ‘Climate of fear’ probably a bit too strong but I think in little ways individuals all over Europe are shaping up to a new reality and the one consistent thing you do hear people saying is ‘this isn’t going to go away soon, is it? This is the new normal and we’re going to have to live with it’.”TWTW 31 7

So as we see, in contrast to its portrayal of Israeli fears of what it refuses to term terrorism as ‘paranoia’, the BBC is perfectly able to identify – and empathise with – the understandable fears of Europeans following what it has no problem defining as “terror attacks”. And remarkably, it also has no qualms about identifying the cause: “violent Islam”.  

The item went on to include reference to an issue rarely if ever acknowledged in BBC coverage of Israel: the obligation of a state to defend its citizens.

JD: “How have the attacks changed the position of the leaders of the two great EU countries France and Germany?”

SW: “For Francois Hollande this is devastating politically. He was already pretty weak […] the elections are up next year. The primary function of a state is to protect its citizens and plainly over a period of 18 months they’ve found that very, very difficult to do. So clearly for Francois Hollande and the French socialists, there’s a huge challenge and I think they’re in big trouble politically.”

Wilson later added that the German chancellor “also faces elections next year and it wouldn’t take much more I think for her to be in big trouble.”

Asked by Dymond if the terror attacks “lead to a more introspective Europe”, Wilson remarked that “Europe’s leaders are consumed with the internal problems […] they are absolutely absorbed with these crises” and noted that European Council president Donald Tusk “has said publicly he thinks Western civilisation is being threatened by everything that’s going on”.

As readers no doubt recall the BBC long since made it clear that it believes that terror attacks against Israelis are “very different” from – and not comparable to – those perpetrated against citizens of other nations. Apparently it is also of the opinion that the concerns of Israeli civilians can be portrayed differently from those of citizens of EU countries. While the BBC refuses to acknowledge that the double standard it promotes is a “significant issue of general importance”, we remain convinced that it compromises the BBC’s claim to impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

 

 

 

 

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

On July 20th the BBC News website’s UK page published an article titled “Record number of EU terror attacks recorded in 2015“.EU terror attacks

“A record number of terrorist attacks were planned, foiled or carried out in European Union countries last year, with the UK reporting the highest number of attacks.

EU law enforcement agency Europol said there were 211 attacks in 2015, the highest since records began in 2006.”

However, later on readers are told that the number 211 also includes “planned” and “foiled” attacks:

“A spokeswoman for Europol said it did not have a breakdown of the number of terror attacks that had actually been carried out in the EU.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s 458 word article makes use of the word ‘terror’ four times (including in its headline). The words ‘terrorism’ is used six times – including twice in quotes – and the word ‘terrorist’ is used seven times, including four times in quotes.

In other words, the BBC rightly had no problem telling readers in its own words that citizens of EU countries were subjected to actual, planned and attempted terror attacks during 2015.

In contrast, as has been documented here on numerous occasions, the BBC does not tell its audiences in its own words that terrorism – on a significantly larger scale – exists in Israel (unless the perpetrators belong to a particular ethno-religious group) and it has an editorial policy of using the words ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ only in direct quotes; usually from Israeli officials. For example:

BBC reports on Kiryat Arba attack without using the word terror

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

BBC News reports Jerusalem bus bomb without using the word terror

BBC News revisits a 30 year-old terror attack – avoiding the term terror

The BBC’s editorial guidelines concerning “Language when Reporting Terrorism” 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.”

In this report the BBC clearly did not find it necessary to comply with that guideline, having used the words terror, terrorist and terrorism itself eleven times and on six additional occasions in quotes. And – despite the guideline’s claim of the absence of a consensus on terrorism – the article’s writer was apparently able to accept the definition of terrorism used in the Europol report which is its subject matter.

“The definition of the term ‘terrorist offences’ is indicated in Article 1 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (2002/475/JHA)1 , which all EU Member States have implemented in their national legislation. This Framework Decision specifies that terrorist offences are intentional acts which, given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organisation when committed with the aim of:

  • seriously intimidating a population, or
  • unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act, or
  • seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.”

In other words, when it comes to terrorism in Europe the BBC apparently has no problem with “value judgements”.

What this article shows us yet again is that those editorial guidelines on “Language when Reporting Terrorism” are not worth the virtual paper upon which they are written. When the BBC wants to use words such as ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’, it does. When it wants to make “value judgements”, it does and in fact what dictates the BBC’s choice of terminology is “a political position” of precisely the type it purports to avoid.

Absurdly, the corporation would still have its funding public believe that its coverage of terrorism is consistent, accurate and impartial.

Related Articles:

Continuing the mapping of BBC inconsistency in terrorism reporting

Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: October 2015 to March 2016

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”