Cherry picking terror and ‘explaining’ radicalisation at the BBC

h/t RS

On August 30th the BBC News website published an updated version of a commissioned backgrounder which first appeared in June of this year. Titled “Who was behind the jihadist attacks on Europe and North America?“, the backgrounder is based on a study analysing 63 terror attacks in the 28 EU countries, Norway, Switzerland and North America over the past three years.

“A series of attacks in Europe over the summer months has raised the number of people killed in the West by jihadists during the past three years to more than 420, writes Dr Lorenzo Vidino.

The deaths of 16 people in Barcelona and Cambrils earlier this month highlighted the continued threat posed by Islamist militants.”

Along with many other countries, Israel does not fall into the geographic area covered by the study concerned and readers are told that:

“Although the vast majority of Islamist attacks are elsewhere in the world, an unprecedented number have taken place in Europe and North America since the declaration of a “caliphate” by the so-called Islamic State, in June 2014.”

The first link in that paragraph leads to a feature published on the BBC News website in December 2014 under the title “Jihadism: Tracking a month of deadly attacks”. Israel was not included in that study either for reasons discussed here at the time.

The BBC’s narrow focus on what it terms ‘jihadist attacks’, together with its long-standing refusal to classify attacks against Israelis as terrorism, means that while audiences are provided with a backgrounder concerning 63 terror attacks that resulted in 424 deaths in geographical areas with a combined population of some 883 million, a country with less than 1% of that population that saw over 70 people killed in acts of terror during the same time period (September 2014 to August 2017) remains off the radar.

At the foot of this backgrounder readers are provided with a link to the study upon which it is based. That paper includes analysis (from page 78) that does not appear in the backgrounder but is relevant in light of the BBC’s standard portrayal of the topic of radicalisation.

“…it is not uncommon for many voices within the media, the policymaking community and the general public to make sweeping statements about what causes radicalization, often attributing the phenomenon to one causal factor. Arguably the most common factors utilized in these mono-causal approaches is integration – or, more specifically, the lack thereof – and socio-economic deprivation. While variations of this argument abound, at its core the theory argues that radicalization is simply the byproduct of the marginalization that plagues large cross-sections of Muslim communities, particularly in Europe. The theory argues that a lack of access to opportunities education, and jobs, alongside a general level of disenfranchisement, that drive young Muslims to lash out at the societies in which they were born and embrace an ideology that enables them to avenge their frustrations and offers new meaning to their lives.

This theory applies the broader axiom that extremism and terrorism are byproducts of poverty and exclusion to the specific case of Western Muslims. The issue has been debated for decades and has polarized both the academic and policymaking communities. While it is not this report’s aim to enter this debate, it can be safely said that a large body of evidence has refuted the existence of a clear and linear link between poverty and terrorism. Rather, many studies analyzing radicalization dynamics throughout the world have shown that contrary to commonly made assumptions, higher degrees of sympathy for extremist ideas and involvement in terrorist groups are found in individuals with higher degrees of education or economic success.” [emphasis added]

Following last month’s attacks in Spain, the half-hourly news bulletin ‘BBC Minute’ told audiences around the world that:

“The factors pushing people towards groups advocating violence are familiar. Unemployment, a feeling of exclusion from Spanish society, a certain degree of racial prejudice. There is a class that feels it’s excluded from normal society.”

Similar messaging was seen at the time of the 2015 attacks in Paris when the BBC heavily promoted the message that the terror attacks were attributable to radicalisation prompted by socio-economic factors and alienation.

On the BBC Teach website, a video titled “E is for Extremism” (intended for pupils aged 11 to 14) answers the question “what causes extremism?” as follows:

“…when someone becomes an extremist later in life, it’s called radicalisation. Why does this happen? Well, life can be hard. Complicated problems to do with politics, economics, culture, jobs, environment, jobs, government, can overwhelm us. When life feels unfair extremists attract other angry people by giving them someone to blame.”

Obviously the BBC’s presentation of the issue of radicalisation is rooted in a chosen political narrative rather than being based on the evidence found in studies such as those cited in Dr Vidino’s report and elsewhere. 

 

More selective BBC reporting on Middle East Jihadists

Regular visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page cannot have failed to notice that in the section titled “Special Reports” it offers audiences “background, features and analysis” on the topic of what it terms the “Islamic State Crisis”.special reports

As readers no doubt recall, a recent feature included in that section was devoted to the topic of mapping and tracking Jihadist violence.  One of the organisations included in that BBC report was Ansar Bayt al Maqdis which operates in the Sinai Peninsula and hence the lack of BBC coverage of recent reports coming out of Egypt concerning that group’s collaboration with elements in the Gaza Strip is notable.

“Egyptian intelligence has specific information on assistance that Sinai terrorists have been receiving from the Gaza Strip. Many activists trained in Gaza, and received arms there that they have been using against Egyptian forces.

That is the source of the urgency around creating the buffer zone [in Rafah – Ed]: the goal is to cut the jihadis off from their Gaza supply train. On Monday Egyptian media reported on a jihadist cell that enjoyed massive help from Hamas, and tried to infiltrate Sinai through tunnels. Most of the tunnels aren’t open, but occasionally smugglers on both sides of the border manage to build a new one. The Egyptian army recently uncovered a 1,700-meters-long passage. […]

Egyptian intelligence also located recently another smuggling route other than the tunnels — the sea. Though there is a fence stretching out to sea along the Sinai-Egypt border, smugglers in Zodiac boats have been bypassing it to reach the beaches on both sides.

Most of these boats are carrying components used to build rocket launchers, and explosive materials. The rockets themselves are also being assembled by the Sinai jihadis.”

On the other hand, there is nothing new about the BBC’s failure to join the dots linking Sinai-based Jihadists to elements in the Gaza Strip.

Similarly, the BBC has shown no interest to date in reporting the recently publicized apprehension of a terror cell with ideological links to ISIS in the Palestinian Authority controlled city of Hebron.

“Security forces have arrested a group of three men in the West Bank city of Hebron believed to be ideologically affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group

The cell members were arrested in November 2014 by operatives of the Shin Bet security service and stand accused of launching an unsuccessful attack against IDF soldiers and conspiring to kidnap and kill civilians and military personnel in the West Bank, according to a press release issued Monday by the security apparatus.”

Jihadist extremism and violence is of course by no means limited to Syria and Iraq and in order to fulfil its remit of informing audiences of international affairs, the BBC’s coverage of that topic cannot neglect other geographical areas in the region.  

BBC’s Bowen builds framing on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme

Last week we noted an item which appeared in the July 3rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme and one of several additional items of interest from the same broadcast was a conversation between presenter John Humphrys and the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen which is available at around 1:09:12 here for a limited period of time.Today 3 7

Given that Bowen is the ‘gatekeeper’ of the BBC’s Middle East reporting, it is useful to note the nature of the opinions and beliefs he holds which, in turn, shape the BBC ‘world view’ promoted to millions of viewers, listeners and readers around the world.

John Humphrys: “Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are dangerously high. Earlier in the week the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank. The Israelis say they were murdered by Hamas. Yesterday a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and murdered and the Palestinians blame Israel. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen about the wider implications of this latest outbreak of violence between the two sides.”

Jeremy Bowen: “First of all, I’m talking to you sitting in Baghdad and you look across the region and the region is boiling and in the last few years one of the relatively quieter areas has been the front between Israelis and Palestinians, but I think that while it’s been a bit out of the headlines, all the old issues have been there and I think it’s also not immune to the kinds of anger that you can see elsewhere in the region. So right around the area you see all this trouble and I’m not surprised that things have started to come to a head again between the Israelis and the Palestinians as well.”

If readers can get past the risible notion that Israel has been “out of the headlines” at any time as far as the BBC is concerned, they will note that Bowen’s ‘one size fits all’ description of the Middle East of course erases from audience view the issue of the Sunni-Shia dispute which currently fuels so much of the conflict in the region, but does not have a role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

JH: “The Jerusalem Post is writing this morning about the murder of the teenagers obviously and it says this: ‘it’s another reminder that swathes of Palestinian society continue to be irreconcilably committed to Israel’s destruction’. Is it the case that it’s not just terrorist organisations such as Hamas that are bent on Israel’s destruction, but the Palestinian people generally are irreconcilably opposed to the existence of Israel?”

JB: “No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the vast majority of Palestinians are absolutely reconciled to the existence of Israel. What they’re not reconciled to is the continuing occupation of land taken in 1967, the growth of settlements. You know you’ve heard all this many times before and it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.”

Those who saw the two filmed reports produced by James Reynolds on July 4th – the day after this programme was broadcast – will note the remarkable similarity of messaging and promotion of the inaccurate notion of a ‘two-tier’ justice system.  Bowen continues:

“And of course there are some who would like to eliminate the Israeli state – I’ve spoken to them – but the vast majority I think are prepared to live alongside it as an equal.”

So let’s take a look at what the Palestinians themselves said in a poll commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy which was published a week before Bowen made the above statements.

WINEP 1

As we see above, the majority of Palestinians (60.3%) think that their goal over the next five years is “reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean]”. That of course means the elimination of Israel. A further 10.1% favour a “one-state solution” – which also means the elimination of Israel as the Jewish state. Only 27.3% favour making a two-state solution their goal and only 27.2 – 31.6% see a two-state solution as final, with the majority regarding it as a ‘stepping stone’ towards future elimination of Israel.

WINEP 2

Jeremy Bowen’s received wisdom apparently does not ‘do’ updates.

Humphrys then asks:

“Living alongside people is one thing. Are there any other forces beyond Hamas who would weigh into this now; would take advantage or are likely to take advantage of this situation and spread the terror threat wider? Because it’s not that long ago, is it, that we in this country were terrified of Palestinian terrorism because it was beginning to affect us directly?”

Airbrushing from audience view the PA-instigated second Intifada and the fact that in the last PLC elections “mainstream” Palestinian political parties failed to beat Hamas, Bowen replies:

“Yes, certainly back in the 70s people were very concerned about that but the mainstream Palestinians have been engaged in various kinds of attempts at peace processes for more than twenty years now. Hamas themselves have talked about a long-term truce. While not recognizing Israel’s existence – and also saying it should go – they’ve also talked about a long-term truce. One thing that is interesting is that in recent years the Palestinians have not been swept up in the Jihadist current in the way that other Arabs have. Perhaps that will change – who knows.”

Whether or not Bowen really does not understand the tactical basis of and motivation for the often-touted proposal of a Hudna – or “truce” – is unclear, but he is certainly not going out of his way to inform listeners of the real significance and meaning of that proposal.

Likewise, Bowen’s airbrushing of the rising number and influence of Salafist Jihadist groups is distinctly odd considering that, whilst its reporting on the topic is by no means comprehensive (see here and here for example), other BBC reporters have written about the emergence of such groups both in the PA controlled regions of Judea & Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.  

Particularly in light of the template BBC reporting on the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers which included across the board eradication of any mention of Palestinian public and official celebration of the deed, it is notable that Bowen elects to end his item as follows:

“I think as well you’ve got to look at the calls for vengeance coming from the other side. Senior Israelis have called rabbis and so on to tone it down because it is heating people up after the huge anger of course following the death of those three teenagers. The head for example of Bnei Akiva, which is the largest religious Zionist youth movement, called for vengeance and that’s been criticized by Israelis. So the fact is that there are hot-heads on both sides and there are people who aren’t reconciled to the other side on both sides and that’s one of the factors that makes it an incendiary and difficult situation. And certainly if you talk to Palestinians, many of them speak about a third Intifada – a third uprising – and I have spoken to Palestinians who believe only in non-violent resistance who’ve said to me it’s only a matter of time before it happens and if it happens, it’ll come because it’ll be sparked by something. Now I don’t know if this’ll be the case on this particular occasion but what we’re seeing I think is a very good barometer – an indication – of the tension that’s there, actually on both sides as well.”

Radio 4 listeners are unlikely to be informed that – despite his later apologies – the head of Bnei Akiva is unlikely to remain in his position as a consequence of his remarks, with an emergency meeting on the issue already scheduled.

Notable too is Bowen’s promotion of the notion that a third Intifada will be “sparked by something”. As readers well know, it has been consistent BBC policy to inaccurately claim that the second Intifada was “sparked” by Ariel Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount in September 2000 and to deny the preplanned nature of that event, despite the ample documentation available.

It is therefore worth noting the manner in which the currently ongoing rioting in Jerusalem, the Triangle area, northern Israel and elsewhere is being portrayed by the BBC as ‘protests’ and ‘demonstrations’ caused by a spontaneous outburst of apparently irresistible anger after the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir last week.

That, of course, is far from the entire picture but as we see from this interview with Jeremy Bowen, the framing is already being put in place. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC erases Gaza Strip Salafist-Jihadists from its map

An article by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner, which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 19th under the title “Jihadist groups around the world“, opens with an assertion which perhaps reveals more about the ‘accepted wisdom’ prevalent in the corridors of the BBC than anything else.GJ art Gardner

“A large number of al-Qaeda’s leaders and commanders have been captured or killed over the last decade, many by controversial air strikes by unmanned aerial drones. […]

But the world’s counter-terrorism officials have little cause to celebrate.

Rather than eliminating al-Qaeda, they have caused it to atomise and disperse, morphing into several different organisations around the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with large numbers of jihadist sympathisers in Europe.” [emphasis added]

The article also informs readers of factors the author considers to be “sustaining the global jihadist phenomenon”, including “local, national and regional grievances”. Under the sub-heading “Bad governance” the author proposes that:

“This is really one of the prime drivers towards extremism. In Muslim-majority countries where national governments and their security forces are viewed as corrupt, predatory and abusive, it is easy for jihadist recruiters to find volunteers.

When those governments are perceived as having a cosy, supportive relationship with the US and the West, it becomes even easier for al-Qaeda’s followers to recruit.”

He also asserts that:

“Many recruits to global jihadism are prompted by a sense that their religion has been discriminated against, oppressed or insulted.”

Last but not least, readers are encouraged to view the Global Jihad phenomenon in terms of “personal issues”.

“Many of the most fanatical adherents of al-Qaeda’s violent West-hating worldview are young men looking for a role, a purpose, in life.

Some European jihadists are converts or have had troubled adolescences, getting into trouble with the police.

Spells in prison often leave them more radicalised than when they went in. Nearly all have a highly negative view of government authority.”

The connections between the Global Jihad phenomenon and the age-old Sunni-Shia conflict do not get a mention in this article and its underlying incentive – the drive to impose a specific supremacist religious-political ideology – is ignored, as is its imperialist objective of re-establishing a Caliphate.  

The article includes a map of locations of “main Jihadist groups”.

map GJ art

Notably, despite the BBC’s own experiences with one such group when its correspondent there was kidnapped in 2007, the Gaza Strip does not appear on this map as a location of Global Jihad activity, even though a number of groups operate in and from that territory, as has been occasionally reported by the BBC in the past.  

 

Context-free Tweet from BBC’s Gaza correspondent

Here is a Tweet sent by the BBC’s Gaza correspondent Rushdi Abualouf on the night of June 11th.

Abualouf tweet 11 6

The context of that Tweet – which Abualouf did not bother to provide to his followers – is that the man killed was involved in terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

Mohamed Awwar (also spelt in some reports Alaawor, Alarur or Awaer) was a member of a Salafist Jihadist terror cell which was responsible for the April 21st missile attacks on Sderot among others. He was also employed as a Hamas policeman and at his funeral, both Hamas and Global Jihad flags were used to wrap the body.

Hamas & Salafist flags funeral

Below is the ‘martydom’ poster produced by the PRC’s Al Nasser Salah al Deen Brigades.

Poster Alarur

A photograph of Awwar was also promoted on a Fatah Facebook account.

Fatah FB

At around 9 a.m. on the same day – June 11th – a missile fired from the Gaza Strip landed in the Eshkol region. Yet again, that incident was not reported by the BBC despite the fact that the new PA unity government is – as of June 2nd – now responsible under existing agreements for the prevention of terror attacks from the Gaza Strip. 

Latest Sinai-based terror attack on tourism targets comes as a revelation to the BBC

Although the latest version of the report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in relation to the February 16th terror attack at the Egyptian side of the Taba border terminal – titled “Sinai attacks: Deadly bombing hits Egypt tour bus” – is dated February 17th, coverage at the same URL began the day before and the article was amended several times as information came to light. Taba attack

The report’s later version states:

“Egypt’s struggling tourist trade – which is a slim lifeline for the economy – looks set to be another casualty of the bombing, says the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo. […]

Our correspondent says the bombing could signal a shift in strategy by al-Qaeda-inspired militants in Sinai, from attacks on the police and army, to softer targets.”

Of course attacks on tourism-related targets are actually already part of the “strategy” of what the BBC insists upon euphemistically terming “militant groups” operating in Sinai. Just last month there were two separate incidents of missile fire by Global Jihad terrorists on the city of Eilat – which has an economy primarily based on tourism. However, both those attacks were ignored by the BBC meaning that its audiences – and apparently also its staff – lack the context necessary to appreciate the inaccuracy of Orla Guerin’s statement.

Notably too, this report makes no attempt to inform readers of the connections between Global Jihad affiliated terrorists operating in the Sinai and Salafi Jihadist elements in the Gaza Strip.

“Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis maintains strong links with the Gaza Strip, partnering with groups such as the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). This allows Gaza terrorists to “subcontract” attacks on Israel away from the Strip, to protect the ruling Hamas regime from Israeli retaliation. […]

With hundreds of Salafi jihadists based in Gaza, and many of them moving to and from Sinai, smuggling weapons and plotting attacks, it is no longer possible to view Gaza and Sinai as fully separate sectors. The danger of these networks merging with the extensive jihadist networks in Syria is substantial.”

As has been noted here before, such background information is crucial to BBC audience understanding of counter-terrorism operations – past or future – carried out by Israel or Egypt.  

BBC continues to ignore Gaza Strip missile fire at Israeli civilians

Since the beginning of February, multiple missile attacks on civilian communities in southern Israel have been carried out by terrorist groups operating in the Gaza Strip.

On the morning of February 4th, as children were on their way to school just after 7 a.m., a missile landed in the Eshkol region.

On the afternoon of February 6th an attack was launched on the Ashkelon area. On the same evening another missile landed in the Ashkelon region and later that night at around 11 p.m. an incoming missile hit the Eshkol district.

On February 8th a missile hit the Sdot Negev area.

On the afternoon of February 10th a missile landed in the Hof Ashkelon area and later that night another missile hit the same region. The IDF responded by targeting terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

None of the above incidents was reported by the BBC. 

SONY DSC

Deir el Balah area of central Gaza Strip as seen from the Eshkol region

On the morning of February 9th the IDF targeted Abdallah Kharti – a member of the Popular Resistance Committees and also a Global Jihad operative.  

“According to intelligence data, Kharti played a central role in setting up the terrorist infrastructure in Sinai, which has been firing rockets at Eilat sporadically in recent months, including the most recent rocket attack, launched on January 31, and intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket battery.

In Gaza, Kharti is a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, but he apparently wears more than one hat. In Sinai, he is affiliated with the al-Qaida- inspired Ansar Beit Al-Maqdes group, which has been targeting both Israel and Egyptian security forces. [..]

The attempted strike is a reminder that Gaza is a base not only for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism but also for a growing al-Qaida-affiliated presence as well. According to Israeli intelligence estimates, there are hundreds of Salafi-jihadis in Gaza armed with rockets, and many move between Sinai in Gaza regularly.

Hamas has attempted to persuade these factions to refrain from endangering it by provoking an Israeli response against Gaza’s regime, but it has also signaled to the groups that they are otherwise free to attack Israel as they please.”

Notably, the BBC did not report on that incident either. 

As we see, the BBC continues its habit of selective reporting of security incidents on Israel’s southern borders, thus denying audiences information and context vital to their understanding of the region in general and specific Israeli responses to terrorist threats.

Related Articles:

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75% of January terror activity on Israel’s southern borders ignored by BBC