BBC double standards in reporting social media incitement evident again

As we have seen in the past BBC reporting on social media incitement to violence and/or glorification of terrorism differs depending on location.

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In April of this year the BBC News website’s domestic pages reported the sentencing of a Salford man previously found guilty of “encouragement of terrorism”.

“Muslim convert Adam Wyatt, 48, admitted disseminating a terrorist publication that said “Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine” and posting on social media that jihad was an obligation for all Muslims.”

The following month the website reported the sentencing of a man from Sunderland who had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences.

“A shopkeeper who tweeted support for Islamic State (IS) and called for “death to Shias” has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Mohammed Zahir Khan, of Nora Street, Sunderland, had admitted encouraging terrorism, dissemination of a terror publication and stirring up religious hatred.”

Unsurprisingly, the BBC did not send a reporter to interview either of those men before they were sentenced. Neither did it promote the notion that they were put on trial because of their identity to millions of audience members or portray either of their cases as being about “free speech”.

However, when an Israeli-Arab woman was sentenced to five months in prison after having been convicted of incitement to violence in her poems and social media posts, the BBC News website amplified her claims of political persecution in a July 31st report titled “Dareen Tatour: Israeli Arab poet sentenced for incitement“.

“An Israeli Arab poet has been jailed for inciting violence and supporting a group banned as a terrorist organisation based on her online posts. […]

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the poet’s case has become a cause celebre for free speech advocates and has drawn attention to a recent rise in Israeli arrests – of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – accused of incitement or planning attacks online. […]

Following her sentencing, Tatour said that she was not surprised by the verdict.

“I expected prison and that’s what happened. I didn’t expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I’m Palestinian, because it’s about free speech and I’m imprisoned because I’m Palestinian”, she told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.”

The BBC’s report also provides readers with two links to Tatour’s ‘poem’ – one a written version and the other a video.

On the same day the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a pre-recorded translated interview with Tatour by Tim Franks (from 30:04 here). The story was similarly portrayed by presenter James Menendez as being about ‘free speech’. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Menendez: “To a case now that’s become a cause celebre for free speech advocates in Israel and beyond. Dareen Tatour is an Arab-Israeli poet living near Nazareth. In October 2015 she was arrested and subsequently charged with inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organisation. That’s because of her social media posts including one in which she read a poem called ‘Resist, my people, resist’ accompanied by footage of Palestinian protesters throwing stones at Israeli police. At that time tension was running high in Israel after a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians. Well today, more than two and a half years on, Dareen Tatour has been sentenced for her crimes. The sentence was five months in prison. She’s already spent 3 months in prison and was then placed under house arrest. Well that prompted writers from around the world, including Alice Walker and Naomi Klein, to call for her release. Well on Monday Dareen spoke to Newshour’s Tim Franks who asked her first how she was feeling ahead of sentencing.”

During that interview BBC audiences around the world heard Tatour state that she does not think “there is any fairness in the Israeli justice system” and claim that she was being sentenced “only because I’m Palestinian. This is a political sentence”.

Listeners also heard her claim that she writes “about 70 years of occupation” with no effort made by Franks to explain to listeners what that phrase actually means. Similarly unchallenged was Tatour’s claim that she speaks about “the Israeli Zionist crimes against innocent people”.

When Franks raised the issue of one of her posts praising the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, she claimed that the “accusation is only based on a news story that I shared which mentions the Islamic Jihad” and “all I did was share the article”.

Haaretz however reported that her post said:

“Allah Akbar and Baruch Hashem, Islamic Jihad declared intifada throughout the whole West Bank and expansion to all Palestine. We should begin inside the Green Line” 

Franks then provided Tatour with the cue for her claim that she is “against all forms of violence” before asking her about her use of the word ‘shahid’ – martyr – while giving listeners the cumbersome explanation that:

“It is the word that is used to describe people who – Palestinian militants – who have lost their lives involved in militant activity”

Listeners then heard Tatour claim that “the word shahid that I use means victim” and twice state that “every martyr in Palestine is a victim”. She also made the false claim – unchallenged by Franks – that:

“More than a thousand people died in the last Gaza war – most of them children.”

Following that interview, James Menedez interviewed former Israeli MK Danny Ayalon, asking him first:

Menedez: “What is Israel doing locking up poets?”

As we see, while the BBC produces factual, judgement free reporting on people convicted of “encouragement of terrorism” in the UK, a similar story in Israel gets entirely different treatment. And so, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism persist.

 

 

 

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A BBC journalist asks ‘what’s wrong with Hamas?’

On March 28th the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn posted a link on his Facebook account to an interview he had given earlier to the Jewish News.

Among the hundreds of comments below that post was one from a ‘broadcast journalist’ at the BBC called Becky Branford.

As regular readers know, BBC editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” state:

“The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial. The public must be able to trust the integrity of BBC programmes and services. Our audiences need to be confident that the outside activities of our presenters, programme makers and other staff do not undermine the BBC’s impartiality or reputation and that editorial decisions are not perceived to be influenced by any commercial or personal interests. […]

Even if they are not identified as a BBC staff member, editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should not be seen to support any political party or cause.”

Branford’s comment has since been removed. Nevertheless, the fact that a journalist creating content for the BBC News website apparently thinks there is nothing “wrong” with a terror organisation responsible for the murders of hundreds of civilians gives plenty of food for thought.

Activist’s posts dispute BBC’s equivocal account of 2010 flotilla incident

A significant number of BBC reports relating to the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 still remain accessible online and many of the later ones present a ‘he said-she said’ account of events.

For example, a report published in January 2011 states:

“Israel says its commandos used live fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and guns.

But activists on board the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara say the commandos started shooting as soon as they boarded the vessel.”

Two articles dating from September 2011 both state:

“At the time, the Israeli military said its commandos fired live rounds only after being attacked with clubs, knives and guns. But activists on board said the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck.”

Under the sub-heading “Who started the violence?” an article from June 2016 tells BBC audiences that:

“This is disputed. The activists say the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck. Israeli officials say the commandos opened fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and a gun which was taken from them. Video released by the Israeli military stops just before the shooting begins. A UN inquiry was apparently unable to determine at exactly which point the commandos used live fire.”

Interestingly, some of the BBC’s earlier reports presented a less vague picture.

In an article dating from June 2010, the BBC’s Paul Reynolds quoted an Israeli journalist:

“The reporter states that the protesters “attempted to wrest away [the soldiers’] weapons”. They got hold of one handgun, he says, when one soldier, seen on the video, was thrown from the upper deck on to the lower. […]

The Israelis claim that the activists got hold of two pistols and must have fired them as their magazines were found to be empty when recovered.”

In another June 2010 article titled “Activists describe Israeli raid on Gaza aid convoy” the leader of the IHH is quoted as saying that:

“…some of the activists had grabbed the guns off soldiers in self-defence.

“Yes, we took their guns. It would be self-defence even if we fired their guns. We told our friends on board: ‘We will die, become martyrs, but never let us be shown… as the ones who used guns’. By this decision, our friends accepted death, and we threw all the guns we took from them into the sea.””

As those who have read David Collier’s two-part report about the secret Facebook Group called ‘Palestine Live’ will be aware, Israel’s account of the events aboard the ship has inadvertently been supported by one of its members – Greta Berlin – who was quoted in a 2010 BBC profile of the Mavi Marmara flotilla organisers.

The Times of Israel sums up that story:

“A leading pro-Palestinian campaigner involved in the flotilla that attempted to enter Gaza in May 2010 has appeared to corroborate Israel’s version of the events which led to the bloody confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara. […]

In newly revealed posts from a secret British Facebook group, Greta Berlin, the co-founder and spokesperson of the Free Gaza Movement, states that the Israeli troops did not open fire until after Ken O’Keefe, a former US marine aboard the Mavi Marmara, had seized a gun from one of them. […]

“He was responsible for some of the deaths on board the Mavi Marmara. Had he not disarmed an Israeli terrorist soldier, they would not have started to fire. That’s enough. Most of you have no idea what you’re talking about,” she wrote.”

As the ToI notes, Berlin’s 2014 posts at ‘Palestine Live’ contradict the messaging she gave to the international media – including the BBC – immediately following the May 2010 incident. The BBC also interviewed O’Keefe less than a month after the incident. 

Obviously the BBC would do well to review the accounts of events that appear in its available content relating to the Mavi Marmara incident in light of those posts from Greta Berlin.

Related Articles:

BBC reporter revealed to be member of secret anti-Israel Facebook group

Greta Berlin: Gaza Flotilla Propagandist (CAMERA)

 

BBC reporter revealed to be member of secret anti-Israel Facebook group

The indefatigable David Collier has published a long two-part report about a secret Facebook Group called ‘Palestine Live’ that includes among its membership Holocaust deniers, antisemites and conspiracy theorists. 

Part one of the report can be found here and part two here.

The group was founded in 2013 by a London-based anti-Israel activist called Elleanne Green.

“The group is listed as ‘secret’. This means you cannot find it by using the Facebook search function and need to be invited or added by someone inside the group who has permissions to add new members. It changed from ‘Closed’ to ‘Secret’ in early November 2014.

Elleanne Green is an admin of the group, and the most prolific contributor. She is well-linked with other activists across the globe. Possessing an impressive networking skillset, Elleanne Green turned Palestine Live into one of the largest, and well-connected of the anti-Israel groups. Palestine Live contains high-placed representatives, from almost every anti-Israel activist organisation.

There are two other admins to the group. Tony Gratrex (added by Elleanne Green on 15 November 2013) and Carol Foster (added by Elleanne Green on 10 August 2015). Gratrex was at one time, an organiser of the Reading Branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Foster was co-chair of the Greater London Branch of the ‘Labour Representation Committee’ and was at the PSC 2016 AGM selling pamphlets such as ‘In defence of Trotskyism’ for ‘Socialist Fight’.

The aim of the group:

‘Created not so much for long and detailed discussion of words used and semantics but to gather together a group of good friends all of whom wholeheartedly support the people of Palestine in their struggle’

Among the members of that group are several people who have appeared on BBC programmes such as Avner Gvaryahu of ‘Breaking the Silence’, Rebecca Vilkommerson of JVP, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Tony Greenstein, Haim Bresheeth and Glyn Secker.

Additional members of the group featured in other BBC content include Deborah Fink, David Ward, Jenny Tonge and Richard Falk.

However the name of one member of that secret Facebook group where antisemitic material, Holocaust denial and anti-Israel propaganda is regularly posted may come as a surprise (see Pt 2, p. 175).

The item promoted by Green appears to be Knell’s April 23rd 2016 report from Gush Etzion.

Whether or not Yolande Knell’s editors know about her membership in a secret group of anti-Israel activists where discussions are rife with anti-Israel conspiracy theory, gross antisemitism and Holocaust denial is unclear. What is however once again very obvious is that Knell’s position as an ‘impartial’ BBC correspondent reporting from the corporation’s Jerusalem bureau is severely compromised. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

 

BBC waives chance to inform on Fatah Facebook incitement

Shortly after a surge in terror attacks against Israelis began in the autumn of 2015, the BBC News website produced a backgrounder titled “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?”. As was noted here at the time, the backgrounder failed to provide audiences with the full range of information necessary for understanding of the role played by social media in spreading incitement.backgrounder

“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.” 

Neither did the backgrounder (or any other BBC report) inform audiences that both traditional and social media had also been used to promote incitement and glorification of terrorism long before that particular wave of violence began.

Since then, the BBC has made no further effort to provide its audiences with a realistic picture of incitement and glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian sources including the PA and Fatah, even when reporting on attempts to tackle such incitement. One BBC World Service radio programme even went so far as to tell listeners:

“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.”

It therefore came as no surprise to see that the BBC did not bother to report the story of the recent closure of the official Fatah Facebook account.

“Facebook on Monday closed the official page of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party amid a crackdown by the social media giant on Palestinian incitement.

In a statement on its Twitter account, Fatah, which is headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed that Facebook closed the account after it posted a historical picture of former Fatah leader Yasser Arafat holding a rifle, standing alongside Fatah leader Mahmoud al-Aloul.

The page, which had garnered over 70,000 likes, routinely posted material that glorified Palestinian terrorism and martyrdom. […]

Munir al-Jaghoub, who heads Fatah’s Information Department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, wrote on his personal Facebook page that this was actually the second time the social media giant had closed Fatah’s account, but he did not specify when the first time was.”

The closure did not however last long:

“Three days ago, Facebook shut down Fatah’s terror promoting account. The Palestinian Authority protested the closure as evidence of unfair collaboration between Israel and Facebook against the Palestinians. Yesterday, Facebook reinstated the account, without removing any of the terror promoting material that is regularly posted on the page by Fatah. In 2016 alone, Palestinian Media Watch documented over 130 posts glorifying individual terrorist murderers and terror attacks, and posts encouraging violence and terror.”

Yet again the BBC has passed up an opportunity to inform its audiences on the gravely under-reported issue of the dissemination of incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian bodies.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

 

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’

BBC Trending presents Palestinian incitement as ‘narrative’

As has been documented here on countless occasions throughout the last year, the BBC’s coverage of the incitement and glorification of terrorism which fuelled the surge in Palestinian attacks that began in October 2015 – and of the role played by social media in particular – has done very little to meet the corporation’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience understanding of that issue.

Last month we noted that the BBC had refrained from reporting on the visit to Israel by Facebook executives for discussions on the incitement to violence frequently seen on its platform and so it was particularly interesting to see that visit employed in an item which appeared in the ‘BBC Trending’ programme on BBC World Service radio on October 2nd.bbc-trending-2-10

The item relates to the very brief closure of Facebook accounts associated with two Palestinian online news outlets last month. As the Times of Israel reported at the time:

“Facebook pages of a number of editors of Quds News Network were suspended for several hours last Friday, a campaigner said, in what the social media giant later called a “mistake.”

Pages linked to the Shehab News Agency were also disabled, an editor there said.

Quds has 5.2 million likes on Facebook, while Shehab has 6.35 million.

The Arabic versions of the online newspapers are supportive of the Hamas terror group and have been accused of incitement to violence against Israelis.

“The pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate,” Facebook said in a statement.

“Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.””

BBC Trending presenter Mike Wendling introduced that item (from 09:41 here) as follows:

“Our next story looks at the hashtag ‘Facebook Censors Palestine’ [#FBCensorsPalestine – Ed.] which appeared last weekend. Kate Lamble is still with us. Kate – explain.”

Lamble: “Yes the hashtag has now been used over 120 thousand times on Twitter this week and it’s all part of a campaign run by Palestinian journalists to highlight recent decisions by the social media giant. You see, Facebook plays a key role in the long-running conflict between Israel and Palestine, with both sides using it as a way to get their point across and drum up international support.”

Lamble – who clearly chooses to ignore the fact that the BBC Academy’s style guide instructs “you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank” – goes on: 

“But over the last year, Israel has become more and more concerned that some people have been using the network to incite violence and glorify stabbing attacks, which have become more common.”

Listeners are not told that the violence has in no way been confined to “stabbing attacks” or who has been perpetrating the violence.

Wendling: “And Kate; Facebook specifically prohibits inciting violence. It’s right there in its terms and conditions – right – so if a post is brought to their attention and they think it violates those terms – it incites violence – they’ll delete it.”

Lamble: “Yeah and it’s that spotlight on online activity that really sets the scene for why this #FBCensorsPalestine campaign was started. Raja Abdulhaq is one of the co-founders of the Quds News Network which is based in Ramallah and has over 5 million likes. Last week they woke up to realise that their Facebook page had a bit of a problem.”

Abdulhaq: “So basically the online editors – at least four of them – their accounts were suspended. So once we started looking around we realised that at least two more networks had the same issue. There’s no way it’s a coincidence, especially after there is a big push from the Israeli government to shut down Palestinian inciting for violence online.”

Failing to clarify that the whole episode lasted no more than a few hours, Lamble goes on:

Lamble: “Now it’s worth saying that Facebook have since apologised and called their actions a mistake but that’s not enough for Raja; he’s still on the campaign trail because he’s convinced that Facebook have somehow agreed to help Israel target content on the platform that they’re unhappy with – including news providers.”

Wendling: “How does the evidence stack up? Is there anything to support that view?”

Lamble: “Well we do know that earlier this year two Israeli ministers announced that they were trying to pass laws to make it illegal to incite violence online and at the beginning of September – less than two weeks before the #FBCensorsPalestine campaign was launched – those same ministers met with Facebook officials.”

Wendling: “Hmm…I wonder what they discussed.”

Lamble: “Yes – well we approached the Israeli government for comment but they didn’t respond. Facebook also haven’t commented on what happened in those meetings and simply say they regularly meet with leaders across the world. But afterwards Israeli newspapers ran headlines claiming that the company had agreed to run joint groups with the country to tackle the issue. Now that obviously worried Palestinians who were concerned that Facebook’s approach would become more biased.”

Wendling: “OK, so I guess there’s this context here and I suppose a little bit of circumstantial evidence for what the Palestinian campaigners believe.”

Lamble: “Yeah – context but not really solid evidence that Facebook might be working with Israel. But if the suggestion is that Palestinian journalists had their accounts unfairly closed because of an over-zealous Israeli campaign against violent content, we have to look at what they were actually publishing. Here’s Raja again.”

Abdulhaq: “The problem here is that Israel and Facebook looking at this without contextualising. When we go to a family and when they talk about their right to resist the occupation, we’re not in any way endorsing or not endorsing. We’re just reporting what the people on the ground are saying.”

Quds News Network Facebook page - Photo credit: Times of Israel

Quds News Network Facebook page – Photo credit: Times of Israel

Lamble: “I mean you say that you just report the facts but it’s not a neutral news service. At the very least it does use inflammatory language: it talks about martyrs, it puts Israel in quote marks, it published a cartoon of a woman in Arabic dress threatening a tank with a knife. Your cover photo is two people in Palestinian scarves throwing stones. Do you not understand at all that some of that content might contribute to this impression?”

quds-news-pic

From Quds News Network

Abdulhaq: “No, absolutely not. We are not in a position to do or to have call of action material. And when it comes to martyrdom, this is the terminology that is used in our culture. When you call a martyr it’s not a call to action that we’re telling people to go and kill yourself or kill somebody else. We’re just saying, based on our narrative.”

Interestingly, when one of Abdulhaq’s colleagues gave an interview to AP a year ago, he was very clear about the fact that his outlet aims to do far more than “just reporting”.

“The Quds News Network, which operates one of the most prominent Palestinian Facebook news sites, has about 3.7 million Facebook followers and says it relies on a network of some 300 stringers throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. It breaks news so rapidly that it tends to beat out traditional Palestinian media outlets — even providing those outlets with video and photos.

The site says it is independent, but has a reputation for being affiliated with Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group. Another active Facebook site, run by the Shehab News Network, has about 4.2 million followers and is regarded by Palestinians as being linked with Hamas. Both militant groups oppose Israel’s right to exist, and have killed scores of Israelis in suicide bombings and shootings over the years.

“Our message is twofold. Number one is to support the resistance . second, expose the aggressive acts of the Israeli occupation,” said Ahmed Yousef, 25, an editor at Quds News Network. Sitting in a baklava shop on a recent afternoon, he coordinated coverage with other editors in a Facebook chat group on his cell phone.

Yousef said his site does not encourage violence, but only reflects the attitude of the streets. “During this uprising we have to match the mood of the people,” he said.”

Lamble goes on to give listeners her take-away messaging:

“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.”

Wendling: “So Facebook weighing in on the issue. I mean, you know, even if they managed to do it in a completely impartial manner it could be seen as biased by people on either side.”

Lamble: “Yeah, but if we try and figure out if Facebook are being impartial or not, there’s one other issue to take into account. As well as any potential governmental pressure, Facebook is also currently being sued by Shurat HaDin – an Israeli law centre which represents victims of terrorism – for not doing enough to curb online incitement posted by Palestinians.”

Wendling: “‘For not doing enough’…so I mean that’s exactly the opposite of what the Palestinians are accusing Facebook.”

Lamble: “Yeah. I did warn you [giggles] it was slightly complicated. Here’s Nitsana Darshan-Leitner who’s involved in that case.”

Darshan-Leitner: “We basically have two lawsuits against Facebook. One is an injunction: asking the court to compel Facebook to delete all pages that call to kill Jews or incitement to acts of terrorism against Israelis and Jews. The other lawsuit is a monetary lawsuit for $1 bn against Facebook for aiding and abetting terrorism. Facebook is allowing Hamas and other terror organisations to use their platform to spread the ideology and to fundraise and the Anti-terrorism Act does not allow any American company to provide them any type of material support.”

Apparently uninterested in the fact that proscribed terror groups are using Facebook, Lamble changes the subject to introduce false equivalence:

“Do you accept that content which incites violence also comes from Israelis against Palestinians and a lot of that is currently present online?”

Darshan-Leitner: “I’m sure there are calls that call to kill Palestinians. We ourselves did an experiment where we created two identical pages: one page called to kill Palestinians and the other called to kill Israelis. And after two days we asked for Facebook to take both pages down. Facebook immediately took down the page that called to kill Palestinians but left the page that called to kill Israelis standing.”

Lamble: “But are you claiming that those calls against Palestinians and against Israelis are being treated differently?”

Darshan-Leitner: “Absolutely – hundred percent.”

Wendling: “So there we have an equally passionate claim that Facebook are discriminating – this time against Israelis.”

Lamble: “And for what it’s worth, Facebook say both of the pages Nitsana described were eventually taken down and I’ve read about almost an exact same experiment being repeated with the opposite result.”

Wendling: “OK. [laughs] So is Facebook just stuck in the middle of these two warring factions, being attacked from all sides? Or have they opened themselves up to claims that they might have been irresponsible in meeting Israeli ministers but not the Palestinian authorities who tackle online hate speech?”

That latter statement obviously exposes the dire level of Wendling’s understanding of the issue on which he is supposedly informing BBC audiences. There are of course no “Palestinian authorities who tackle online hate speech” and had the BBC done a better job of reporting on incitement and glorification of terrorism throughout the past year, he would perhaps know that official Palestinian bodies – including the PA and Fatah – have themselves regularly used Facebook and other social media platforms (as well as more traditional outlets) to incite violence and glorify acts of terrorism.

Lamble closes the item:

“Well at the moment it seems like Facebook are walking a very thin tightrope of neutrality but they’re trying to please everyone. They’re meeting with the Israeli government to show that they’re listening to their concerns and they’ve also told us they want Palestinians to know their voices will be as safe on Facebook as every other community. It obviously depends where you stand on the political spectrum when deciding whether that’s a successful balancing act.”

Clearly this item once again does little to help BBC audiences understand the gravity of the issue of Palestinian incitement and indeed actively hinders that aim by misleadingly presenting the subject as being about “narrative” and portraying efforts to combat the spread of incitement as “bias”. It does however provide amplification for a campaign run by some Palestinians (apparently with connections to terror groups and ideologies which BBC Trending was obviously not interested in investigating) which is clearly designed to hamper Facebook’s efforts to clamp down on the incitement that they and others have long spread unhindered.

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Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

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Facebook Allows Hamas News Agency to Operate Freely, But What about The Algemeiner?  (CAMERA) 

 

 

BBC still portraying incitement as an ‘Israel says’ story

Back in October 2015 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder titled “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?” which actually did very little to inform audiences of the scale and significance of the incitement spread via social media, the kind of content appearing on such platforms or the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party – for incitement and the glorification of terrorism.backgrounder 

BBC coverage of a report produced by the Quartet at the beginning of July 2016, in which Palestinian incitement was identified as one of several factors ‘driving’ the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, played down that issue, preferring to focus audience attentions on the topic of ‘settlements’.

Also in July, BBC Technology produced a report titled “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules” and incitement on social media was the topic of an additional article published later the same month under the title “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“.

Although BBC audiences had not been provided with any serious, comprehensive reporting on the subject of Palestinian incitement and the link between social media and the wave of terrorism against Israelis which emerged in the autumn of 2015, as was noted here at the time:

‘Nevertheless, the BBC found it appropriate to include amplification of the response of a terrorist organisation, which has long used social media for the propagation of terrorism, in its report.

“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 into a spy tool against Palestinians.

He said some Israeli politicians and soldiers had “expressed pride at the killing of Palestinians” on Facebook and other social media.

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

However, Facebook obviously takes the subject seriously and so senior officials from the company recently visited Israel to discuss the issue of incitement. Ha’aretz reported that:

“Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Monday that Facebook and YouTube had been complying in recent months with up to 95% of Israel’s requests for taking down content that the government says incites Palestinian violence. […]

Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, both of whom have been at the forefront of a campaign to force social media companies to crack down on incitement, met with Facebook executives visiting Israel on Monday.

The meeting comes amid growing concerns in Israel about so-called lone-wolf terrorists who are unaffiliated with formal organizations but are encouraged to acts of violence over the social media.

Yedioth Ahronoth on Monday reported that Shaked and Erdan had proposed to the Facebook executives that the company treat words like “intifada,” “stabbing,” “Nazis” and expressions such as “death to Jews” and “death to Arabs” as grounds for removing content. They also called for the same policy toward videos inciting viewers to stabbing attacks or containing anti-Semitic caricatures.”

According to Globes:

“Facebook said, “The Facebook delegation’s visit to Israel is part of the company’s “ongoing dialogue with policymakers and experts around the world to keep terrorist content off our platform and support counter-speech initiatives. Online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies, and this is true in Israel and around the world. We had constructive discussions about these important issues and look forward to a continued dialogue and cooperation.””

There has to date been no follow-up reporting from the BBC concerning the visit of Facebook executives to Israel.

As recently as last Friday, BBC audiences were still being told that: [emphasis added]

Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

Despite the fact that the Quartet has said the same thing and Facebook obviously agrees, 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 the violence which first surged a year ago. 

 

Poor BBC reporting on Palestinian incitement again mars audience understanding

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC has made little serious effort to inform its audiences on the issue of the part played by social media in fuelling the wave of terrorism seen in Israel during the past nine months.

In October 2015 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder headlined “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?” which did very little to inform readers of the scale and significance of the incitement spread via social media, 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 – for incitement and the glorification of terrorism. 

Against that background, BBC audiences recently found two articles on the corporation’s website relating to the topic of Palestinian incitement of terrorism against Israelis on Facebook.FB art technology

On July 4th BBC Technology published a report headlined “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules“.

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

Public security minister Gilad Erdan said Facebook had set “a very high bar for removing inciteful content”.

Justice minister Ayelet Shaked wants social media companies to pre-emptively remove content which Israel considers to be a security threat.

Facebook said it worked closely with Israel to tackle threatening content.

Mrs Shaked has complained that threatening content must be manually reported by the website’s users before any action can be taken.

“We want the companies… to remove posts by terrorist groups and incitement to terrorism without us having to flag each individual post, in just the same manner, for example, that they today do not allow posts and pages with child pornography,” she told Israel’s Army Radio.”

The issue of incitement to terrorism, antisemitism and hate speech on social media was of course recognised long before the wave of terror began in October 2015, with the problematic fact that Facebook relies on members of the public to flag up offensive posts having been previously raised at the 2015 Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism. As the BBC’s article correctly notes, Israel is of course not the only country to have concerns about such issues and the UK is no exception.  However, Israel does face one rather unique situation which the BBC’s article does not explain:

“Defending his legislation, Erdan said European countries such as France and Germany already have similar laws in place, and Facebook complies with them. Yet, according to a spokesman for the minister, Facebook recently agreed to remove just 23 out of 74 pages brought to its attention by Israel for spreading Palestinian incitement. “Their policy of removing [content] is very, very, very strict and the bar is set very high,” the spokesman told The Times of Israel.

Facebook also does not recognize Israeli control in the West Bank, the spokesman added. “More than that, if someone writes something problematic and they live in Judea and Samaria, they [Facebook] won’t cooperate with us and they say it’s outside of Israel and therefore they can’t cooperate,” he said. Facebook declined to comment on this allegation.”

On July 11th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“.FB art Shurat haDin

“An Israeli rights group is suing Facebook for $1bn on behalf of families of victims of Palestinian attacks.

The Shurat Hadin group says Facebook violates the US Anti-Terrorism Act by allowing militant groups such as Hamas a platform for spreading violence.”

Later on in the article, readers were told that:

“A report on the Israel-Palestinian conflict last week by the Quartet group of international mediators identified “the spreading of incitement to violence on social media” by Palestinians as a key issue.

“Hamas and other radical factions are responsible for the most explicit and widespread forms of incitement. These groups use media outlets to glorify terrorism and openly call for violence against Jews, including instructing viewers on how to carry out stabbings,” the report said.”

Nevertheless, the BBC found it appropriate to include amplification of the response of a terrorist organisation, which has long used social media for the propagation of terrorism, in its report.

“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 into a spy tool against Palestinians.

He said some Israeli politicians and soldiers had “expressed pride at the killing of Palestinians” on Facebook and other social media.

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

And readers were told that:

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.” [emphasis added]

Obviously audiences’ understanding of the context to these two reports (and others) would have been greatly enhanced had they previously been adequately informed of the scale and nature of incitement on Palestinian social media and the use of such platforms by official Palestinian groups and bodies as well as individuals. That of course has not been the case and so the corporation’s funding public continues to lack key facts in a developing story the BBC has had over nine months to tell in its own words – but has not.

Related Articles:

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

Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism 2015

BBC’s account of Quartet report exposes the holes in its own narrative

BBC World Service continues to promote the fiction of an Israeli ‘book ban’

Not content with having misled audiences worldwide on December 31st by propagating the inaccurate notion of a ‘ban’ on Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan’s novel ‘Gader Haya’, the BBC World Service has continued to promote more inaccurate information about that same story.Rabinyan Arts Hour

The January 12th edition of ‘The Arts Hour’ included Lyse Doucet’s interview with Rabinyan already broadcast on ‘Newshour’ on December 31st. As was noted here in connection with that programme:

“…during her subsequent conversation with the book’s author, Doucet makes no attempt to relieve listeners of the inaccurate impression given by Dorit Rabinyan that the decision not to include the book in the curriculum was made by politicians rather than by a pedagogic committee.

Rabinyan: “This is a time of extremers [sic]. I think deciding to reject a book is an act of the regime that has been controlling Israel in the past decade.” […]

“There is a professional artistic committee who had recommended this book to be taught and the ministerial committee had rejected it and then they appealed again […] the ministerial guys rejected it again.”

Neither does she challenge Rabinyan’s later inaccurate and misleading allegations concerning the significance of the committee’s decision. 

“and it’s [purchase of the book by members of the public] a big declaration of support and belief that the freedom of speech – the artistic freedom – shouldn’t be harmed, shouldn’t be even threatened….”RAbinyan arts hour menu

On the menu page for ‘The Arts Hour’ the item is described as follows: [emphasis added]

“Israel bars an Arab-Jewish love story written by Dorit Rabinyan from schools”

The programme’s synopsis states:

“Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan responds as her prize-winning novel about a love affair between an Arab and an Israeli is taken off the school curriculum.”

Both those statements are inaccurate and misleading. Rabinyan’s book was never on the school curriculum and it has not been ‘barred’.

The synopsis to the January 8th edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘World Have Your Say’ is equally inaccurate and misleading.WHYS radio main

“A banned book and a Facebook video highlight the taboo of love between Jews and Arabs in Israel.” [emphasis added]

That inaccurate description was repeated – with no challenge from presenter Chloe Tilley – by one of the interviewees in the programme itself.  Listeners were also told by another interviewee (ironically, from Haifa) that: [emphasis added]

“You need to understand that Israel is not going…it’s going into a very dark place. This means that the segregation that they have between Arabs and Jews makes a certain demonification of the Arabs.”

And:

“A whole society is united behind a hatred for Arabs.”

And – again from the previously mentioned interviewee:

“…in 2016 the Ministry of Education in Israel still afraid from Palestinians, still says oh don’t mix it up, don’t hang up [out] with Palestinians, don’t marry, don’t kiss, don’t love Arab men or Arab women.”

As has been the case in all the BBC’s coverage of this story, no effort was made to inform audiences what the literature curriculum in Israeli schools does already include. Writer Liel Leibovitz recently provided some insight into that topic.

“Because I aced my Bagrut in literature, and was taught very well at HaRishonim High School how to closely read text, I was a bit puzzled as to why a decision by professional educators not to include a book in a list of mandatory novels amounted to anything akin to a ban. And because it hasn’t been that long since I graduated high school—or at least that’s what I like to tell myself while shaving away those gray patches in my beard—I remember the list of mandatory novels quite well: It already includes Sami Michael’s A Trumpet in the Wadi, the moving tale of Huda and Alex—she a young Arab woman, he a musically inclined Jew, both beautiful and doomed in Haifa in the 1980s; Amos Oz’s My Michael with its Jewish heroine, Hannah, overcome with erotic fantasies about her friends, the Arab twins Halil and Aziz; and I.B. Singer’s The Slave, in which an indentured Yid falls in love with his master’s shiksa daughter Wanda. For a ministry allegedly run by a bunch of right-wing guardians of racial purity, that’s quite a list.”WHYS FB main

Only one of this programme’s six interviewees was a Jewish Israeli and Tilley twice noted that it was “a real challenge to get an Israeli Jewish perspective”. Although the topic of gay relationships did feature in the conversation, the fact that three of her gay Arab interviewees live in the Tel Aviv area did not prompt Tilley to enquire about the level of tolerance for gay and/or mixed couples in their home towns. The impression listeners to this show received from the personal stories of participants was overwhelmingly that their Muslim Arab families are far more tolerant of mixed relationships that the Jewish families of their partners.

As usual, listeners to the programme were invited to participate via social media and as has all too often been the case in the past, the ‘World Have Your Say’ Facebook page moderators failed to handle offensive comments appropriately.

WHYS FB 1

WHYS FB 2

WHYS FB 3

WHYS FB 4

While this story has been covered very generously by the BBC, it is starkly obvious that the corporation’s interest in it has been fueled primarily by the opportunity it presented to promote existing politically motivated narratives of a ‘dark’ society which ‘bans’ books, ‘silences’ free speech and frowns upon the multi-cultural icon of racially mixed relationships. So keen has the BBC been to promote that narrative that its reporting has failed to meet the basic editorial standards of accuracy which would supposedly have ensured that audiences would not be repeatedly fed a story about a ‘book ban’ which does not exist.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ reports a ‘book ban’ that does not exist

How many inaccuracies can the BBC cram into a 23 word sentence?

Resources:

BBC World Service contact details