BBC News zig-zags on PIJ affiliated detainee

As previously noted here, an article which appeared on the BBC News website on August 14th described Mohamed Allan as “an alleged activist for the Islamic Jihad militant group” [emphasis added].

A follow-up article published on the BBC News website on August 19th under the title “Mohammed Allan: Palestinian hunger striker may be freed” included this passage:Allan PIJ art 1

“Mr Allan, a lawyer and member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, lost consciousness and was placed on a respirator on Friday after his lungs stopped working and he had seizures.” [emphasis added]

Whilst it would have been more informative for audiences had the Palestinian Islamic Jihad been described in more accurate terms as an Iranian backed terror organisation, at least the BBC appeared to have amended its previous inaccuracy.

Some seven hours later, that article was replaced by another one – this time titled “Israel suspends Palestinian hunger striker’s detention“. The first two versions of that article used the following terminology:

“Mr Allan, a lawyer and member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, began refusing food in June in protest at his indefinite administrative detention.”

And:

Mohammed Allan, a lawyer and member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, began refusing food in June in protest at his indefinite administrative detention.”

Curiously however, the third version of the report reverted to the inaccurate language used in the August 14th article:Allan PIJ Ad Det suspended

“Mohammed Allan, an alleged member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, began refusing food in June in protest at his indefinite administrative detention.” [emphasis added]

The following statements were also added:

“The Israeli justice ministry has alleged that Mr Allan is involved in “grave terrorism”. It says that “classified information” warrants keeping him detained.

Mr Allan denies the allegations and any involvement with Islamic Jihad.”

BBC Watch has been advised by official sources that:

“He [Allan] is a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative. He was first arrested in 2006 after recruiting a suicide bomber. He was tried and served a sentence of 35 months. 

He was arrested in administrative detention in 2014 following substantial and grave intelligence that he was in contact with PIJ operatives that intended in carrying out severe attacks. On July 20 2015 the Supreme Court confirmed and approved his detention.”

Both these August 19th BBC reports concerning Mohammed Allan include the following superficial description of the process of administrative detention, which is of course used in many countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States and Australia.

“Mr Allan began the hunger strike on 16 June in protest against his incarceration since November 2014 under what Israel calls administrative detention.

The system allows a military court to order suspects to be detained indefinitely, subject to renewal every six months by the court, without charge or trial.”

Clearly that portrayal does not adequately inform BBC audiences of the very specific circumstances in which the procedure is used or the safeguards in place.

“…a Military Commander (namely, a high-ranking IDF officer with specific authority) may order the administrative detention of a person if there are reasonable grounds to consider that taking such a measure is necessary for imperative reasons of security.

Such an order must rely on credible, current and reliable information, as detailed as possible, showing that the person poses a specific and concrete threat of a substantial nature to the security of the West Bank or its population.

Administrative detention is used solely as a preventive measure and only as a last resort, and cannot be employed where criminal prosecution is possible or less restrictive administrative procedures would adequately contend with the security risk posed by the individual.

The procedure for issuing orders for administrative detention includes several safeguards against both abuse and arbitrariness:

First, prior to the issue of a detention order, an independent military prosecutor provides a legal review through conducting an assessment of the order that is legally binding on the Military Commander.

Second, once a detention order has been issued, it is subject to a multi-layered system of judicial review by the Military Courts in the West Bank. Detainees wishing to challenge detention orders may also file a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice. Detainees have the right to legal counsel of their choice throughout this process.

Administrative detention orders mostly rely on sensitive and classified information gained from intelligence sources. Due to its confidential nature, this information cannot be disclosed in full to the detainee or their attorney so as not to endanger the safety of the source or frustrate future intelligence gathering abilities. In these cases, detainees are provided with the general reasons for their detention.

Administrative detention may be ordered for a period of no more than six months. Following this period, a renewed detention order may only be issued on the basis of an updated assessment of the threat posed by the person, which establishes that continued detention is required to confront the threat posed by that person. Any renewed detention order is subject to the same avenues of review and appeal as an initial order.”

The earlier article also includes the following statement:

“Mr Allan’s hunger strike has continued despite Israel’s parliament passing a law last month, which doctors strongly opposed, that would allow the authorities to force-feed detainees to keep them alive.”

The link provided is to a BBC report from July 30th titled “Israel passes law allowing force-feeding of prisoners” in which the term “force-feeding” is used an additional three times. The accepted meaning of that term obviously implies to readers that detainees would be “force-fed” food by means of an orogastric or nasogastric tube. As the MFA explains, that is not the case.

“While the amendment‘s goal is to save lives, attempts are currently being made to misrepresent it. Opponents to the law are attempting to portray it as being equivalent to forced feeding through a feeding tube administered without pain killing measures. This is not the case. The life-saving treatments available under the law include regular medical procedures such as the intravenous administration of total parenteral nutrition (TPN), widely used for patients – including children – who cannot consume a diet in the regular manner. 

Previously existing legislation also gives physicians the right to consider other necessary medical procedures, such as performing blood and urine tests and dispensing medications and salts. 

Any treatment or test must be done in a manner consistent with a doctor’s ethical obligations, including the proper use of pain management methods. The law does not instruct doctors what to do – any treatment is subject to the medical and ethical judgement of the treating physician. What it does do is give the medical community the authority to save the lives of hunger strikers. A similar authority traditionally exists in the case of individuals who want to commit suicide or who suffer from diseases such as anorexia, and who reach a life-threatening condition.”

Clearly the BBC’s framing of this topic does not meet its obligation to report fully, accurately and impartially.

 

BBC continues to conceal terror connections of Palestinian hunger strikers

On February 28th 2013 an article entitled “Two Palestinians held in Israeli jail end hunger strike” by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. 

Knell end hunger strike

As has been the case with all the BBC’s reporting on the subject of these hunger strikes and the associated riots, this article too avoids informing BBC audiences of the terror connections of the Palestinian prisoners involved in the campaign.

Writing about the two men who have ended their hunger strike, Knell informs her readers:

“Two Palestinian held in an Israeli jail without trial have ended their hunger strike, Israeli officials said.

Tariq Qaadan and Jafar Ezzedine started taking food on Wednesday after a military court hearing.”

And:

“Mr Qaadan and Mr Ezzedin are under administrative detention orders that run until 21 May. Both began a hunger strike in November taking in only water and refusing food supplements. They were transferred to a hospital earlier this month.

Another hearing for their case is expected at Ofer military court on 6 March but their lawyer says they have been told their detention will not be extended further.”

Knell conceals from her readers the fact that the two men – both from Arabe near Jenin – are senior members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization and in doing so, compromises the BBC’s commitment to accuracy. On the subject of the other two hunger strikers, Knell writes:

DFLP march in support of Issawi

“Two others, Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna, are still on hunger strike and are being observed in hospital.”

And:

“The men were released in October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal that led to the freeing by Hamas of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Both were later re-arrested by the Israeli authorities for allegedly violating the terms of their release. Israel has ordered they should serve out the remainder of their original sentences.

This prompted Mr Issawi to begin his hunger strike in August, but the BBC understands that at points he has broken off his protest for short periods. Mr Sharawna has been on hunger strike since July, except for a brief break in January.”

Yet again, Knell fails to inform readers of the terrorist activity which caused the DFLP associated Issawi and the Hamas member Sharawna to be imprisoned in the first place, as has been previously detailed on these pages. 

“According to the Israel Prison Service, Samer Issawi of Issawiyeh, Jerusalem was arrested in April 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for attempted murder, belonging to an unrecognized (terror) organization, military training, and possession of weapons, arms and explosive materials.”

“It is important to point out the grave terrorism offences of which Al-Issawi was convicted, including firing a gun at a civilian vehicle in October 2001, indiscriminately firing an AK47 assault rifle at civilian buses, and manufacturing and distributing pipe bombs used in attacks on Israeli civilians.”

“Ayman Sharawna, from Dura near Hebron, was also released under the Shalit deal in October 2011, by which time he had served ten years of a 38 year sentence for attempted murder and bomb-making. Sharawna is a member of the Hebron branch of Hamas and was rearrested on January 31st 2012 due to violating of the terms of his release by returning to Hamas activities. Shawarna was originally apprehended on May 10th 2002 when he and another terrorist planted an explosive device near a branch of Bank HaPoalim on HaAtzmaout Street in Be’er Sheva. The device malfunctioned, but despite that eighteen people were injured in the attack. Sharawna and his accomplice were caught fleeing the scene by members of the public and he was also found to have taken part in prior shooting attacks during the second Intifada.” 

The recurrent failure of the BBC to fully disclose the associations and actions of these prisoners cannot be excused as a mere oversight. Rather, this is a clear attempt to shape audience perception of events by placing the accent of the story upon the subject of their imprisonment, whilst downplaying their terror connections to the point of non-existence. That practice is rendered even more egregious by Knell’s observation later in the article that:

“There have been widespread demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent weeks to show support for Palestinian prisoners who are widely seen as heroes of the national cause.” [emphasis added]

Neither Knell nor any of her colleagues who have written about this subject have bothered – even in the name of token impartiality – to report how Israelis see convicted attempted murderers and members of terrorist organisations. Neither has a full and factual profile of the practice of Administrative Detention been provided for BBC audiences’ information and understanding, nor any column space whatsoever been devoted to the Israeli view of why it is necessary.

In fact, the BBC’s reporting across the board on this subject seems to suggest that it has decided to join in with the PA’s portrayal of Palestinian prisoners as wronged tragic heroes and with its public campaign against the detention of terror operatives which includes the attempt to redefine them as ‘political prisoners’. That impression is only reinforced by Knell’s choice of quote towards the end of the article.

“On Wednesday, a UN human rights investigator called for an international inquiry into Mr Jaradat’s death.

“The death of a prisoner during interrogation is always a cause for concern, but in this case, when Israel has shown a pattern and practice of prisoner abuse, the need for outside credible investigation is more urgent than ever,” stated Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories.”

The highly discredited Richard Falk was recently removed from a concurrent post at Human Rights Watch on account of a long history of anti-Israeli bias, 9/11 conspiracies and often overt antisemitism. Falk – who predictably repeats and promotes the Palestinian Authority’s entirely unproven accusation that Arafat Jaradat died “during interrogation” in an Israeli prison in this quote – would of course have been highly unlikely to say anything else, but the use of that quote allows Knell to garnish her article with what she apparently assumes to be an air of UN-related supposed authority. 

Knell’s failure to adhere to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality means that her article joins its predecessors on the subject as yet another example of political campaigning badly disguised as journalism. 

 

What the BBC classified as ‘riots’ in London become ‘protests’ in Beitounya

London, August 2011

In August 2011 thousands of people took to the streets in London and other English cities and engaged in several days of violence after a man was fatally shot by the police in Tottenham. The BBC had no doubts as to what term to use to describe those actions: riots. 

London riots: Rival gangs joined forces

London riots: Looting and violence continues

As it happened: England riots day five

England riots one year on: Culprits jailed for 1,800 years

Just three days after its previous article on the subject of Palestinian hunger strikers, the BBC published another report on February 21st about the riots – ostensibly in support of those hunger strikers – which took place at Beitounya near Ofer prison outside Ramallah on that day. 

Beitounya, February 2013

“More than 60 people have been injured in clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army in the West Bank, the Palestinian Red Crescent has said.”

“The demonstrators were calling for the release of four Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike.”

That article – like the one before it – refrains from fully informing BBC audiences of the actions and affiliations of the four hunger strikers, despite the fact that – as previously documented here – the information is readily available

Interestingly, given the BBC’s close interest in the subject of journalists in war zones, the article neglects to mention that in addition to the injuries reported, three Israeli journalists were also injured by Palestinian stone-throwers. 

“Palestinians threw stones at the security forces, and lightly wounded three Israeli journalists – Nadar Bagdasa and Roy Sharon of Channel 10 and Yoram Cohen of Channel 1 – during the protest, which lasted from 11 a.m. until the evening.”

Tweet Roi Sharon 1

Channel 10 cameraman is evacuated after being hit by a rock in his chest.

The article also states:

“Youths, gathered outside Ofer prison near Ramallah, threw stones and petrol bombs towards Israeli soldiers.

The soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets. There were reports of live fire being used.”

Evidently the BBC did not bother to check that latter claim with the IDF Spokesman’s Unit before publishing it.

“The IDF denied that soldiers used live ammunition at Ofer.”

Outside Ofer prison, February 2013

The next day, February 22nd, the BBC produced yet another report  – entitled “Clashes over hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners” – on the continuing violent riots yet again  dubbed as “protests” by the BBC. [emphasis added]

“Hundreds of Palestinians have clashed with Israeli forces across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, amid protests over hunger-striking prisoners.”

Note this strange use of punctuation in this next sentence, suggesting that the BBC is not only reluctant to use the word “rioters” itself, but also keen to rebrand them as “protesters”:

“Stun grenades were fired “to disperse rioters” in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, after protesters there threw stones at police, officials said.”

Yet again the article does not inform audiences of the full facts surrounding the hunger strikers, neglecting to mention that Qaadan and Ezzedine are senior members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or that Sharwana’s rearrest was due to his return to Hamas activity following his release. Interestingly, the article also states:

“Issawi was initially arrested in 2002, and in 2004 sentenced to 26 years in prison. He was convicted of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), proscribed by Israel as a terrorist group, and of shooting at Israeli vehicles.”

Issawi is actually connected to the DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) rather than the PFLP, but seeing as one of the few to make that same mistake is Wikipedia, one must wonder if the BBC has been using that notoriously unreliable source. 

The article also includes a filmed report by Jon Donnison – apparently broadcast on BBC television. In that report Donnison also uses toned-down language to describe the Palestinian rioters and promotes the rumour of live fire having been used: [emphasis added]

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli security forces during clashes next to Ofer prison, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on February 22, 2013. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Outside Ofer prison, February 2013

“…some reports of live fire towards one hundred or so Palestinian protestors who were throwing stones…ah..in some cases Molotov cocktails…”

“Now these protesters were here demonstrating against the continuing detention of four Palestinian prisoners who are being held in Israeli jails who are on hunger strike.”

Yet again, Donnison fails to inform his audience of why the men are in prison or of their affiliations to terror organisations. He continues:

“Now these prisoners are all protesting a situation in Israel where prisoners can be held without trial or even charges if they’re regarded as a security threat. That is a system called Administrative Detention…err..in Israel and those prisoners – or at least some of those prisoners – are being held under those conditions.”

 

West Bank protest

Hebron, February 2013

Donnison fails to make it clear to his audience that Administrative Detention is not an exclusively Israeli phenomenon: sometimes known as ‘internment’, it is also used in his own country, in Ireland, in the US and in Australia. Donnison’s ‘explanation’ makes Administrative Detention sound like a pretty arbitrary affair, but in fact the practice is governed by strict rules

“In accordance with the Order Concerning Security Provisions applicable in the West Bank,[1] a Military Commander (namely, a high-ranking IDF officer with specific authority) may order the administrative detention of a person if there are reasonable grounds to consider that taking such a measure is necessary for imperative reasons of security.

• Such an order must rely on credible, current and reliable information, as detailed as possible, showing that the person poses a specific and concrete threat of a substantial nature to the security of the West Bank or its population.

• Administrative detention is used solely as a preventive measure and only as a last resort, and cannot be employed where criminal prosecution is possible or less restrictive administrative procedures would adequately contend with the security risk posed by the individual.

• The procedure for issuing orders for administrative detention includes several safeguards against both abuse and arbitrariness:

First, prior to the issue of a detention order, an independent military prosecutor provides a legal review through conducting an assessment of the order that is legally binding on the Military Commander.

Second, once a detention order has been issued, it is subject to a multi-layered system of judicial review by the Military Courts in the West Bank. Detainees wishing to challenge detention orders may also file a petition with Israel’s Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice. Detainees have the right to legal counsel of their choice throughout this process.

• Administrative detention orders mostly rely on sensitive and classified information gained from intelligence sources. Due to its confidential nature, this information cannot be disclosed in full to the detainee or their attorney so as not to endanger the safety of the source or frustrate future intelligence gathering abilities. In these cases, detainees are provided with the general reasons for their detention.

• Administrative detention may be ordered for a period of no more than six months. Following this period, a renewed detention order may only be issued on the basis of an updated assessment of the threat posed by the person, which establishes that continued detention is required to confront the threat posed by that person. Any renewed detention order is subject to the same avenues of review and appeal as an initial order.”

Donnison’s inaccurate portrayal of the Administrative Detention process, together with his and the general BBC failure to inform audiences of the terror connections of the hunger strikers and the downplaying of the organized rioting through use of words such as “protesters” and “demonstrations”, all combine to create an overall impression of a spontaneous reaction to an injustice perpetrated against passive Palestinians. 

Palestinian protesters dispersed by Israeli security forces during clashes next to Ofer prison, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on February 22 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Outside Ofer prison, February 2013

That, of course, is far from being an accurate picture of the reality behind these orchestrated riots and the part they play in the political campaign engineered by the Palestinian Authority and intended to create leverage through international opinion against Israeli counter-terrorism measures. Whether or not the Palestinian Authority will be able to contain and control the violence it is currently mobilising for political reasons remains to be seen, especially in light of the fact that Hamas – which has greatly consolidated its power in PA controlled areas of late – is now rallying its supporters behind the same banner.  

What is clear is that the BBC’s consistent failure to accurately report the real political agenda behind the hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners, together with its playing down of the associated organised riots in order to present them as some sort of legitimate protest, actively denies BBC audiences the ability to fully understand the real issues behind the news. 

When the BBC classifies violent events in London as riots, but rebrands similar events in Jerusalem, Ramallah or Hebron as “protests”, it should not be surprised if audiences view that as a clear case of double standards.  

Politicised BBC report on hunger strikers omits crucial information

On February 18th 2013 the BBC published an article in the Middle East section of its website entitled “Protest in West Bank for Palestinian hunger strikers“. 

Hunger strikers

Like many other media organisations, the BBC made much of the numerous uninformed statements on the subject coming from abroad.

“The Middle East Quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia) has recently issued warnings about the condition of the strikers.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was “following with concern” the deteriorating health of four Palestinian hunger strikers.”

And:

“On Saturday the EU called on Israel to “[fully respect] international human rights obligations towards all Palestinian detainees and prisoners”.

Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair expressed concern about “the deteriorating health condition of the four prisoners”.

Earlier in the week, the UN expressed concern for the hunger strikers and called on Israel to end its practice of administrative detention.”

The BBC article also includes comments from Palestinian sources.

“Mukid Abu Atwan, the Director General of Palestinian Prisoners’ Ministry, told the BBC that the hunger strikers should be released immediately.

“We want to tell Israelis and the rest of the world that we won’t accept for Palestinian prisoners to come out of jail in coffins. They deserve to be free and live a dignified life,” he said.

The hunger strikers and their supporters say they are being unfairly held.”

What this BBC article fails to do, however, is to inform its readers of who the striking prisoners actually are and why they are in prison in the first place. The article states:

“One, Samer Issawi, has been on an intermittent protest for 200 days and is said to be in a critical condition.

The three other hunger strikers are Tariq Qaadan, Jafar Ezzedine and Ayman Sharawna.”

It is pointed out later in the article that Issawi and Sharawna were among the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released as part of the Shalit deal in October 2011, but no information is given regarding the reasons for their imprisonment. 

Our colleagues at CAMERA have more details on Samer Issawi: 

“According to the Israel Prison Service, Samer Issawi of Issawiyeh, Jerusalem was arrested in April 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for attempted murder, belonging to an unrecognized (terror) organization, military training, and possession of weapons, arms and explosive materials.”

“It is important to point out the grave terrorism offences of which Al-Issawi was convicted, including firing a gun at a civilian vehicle in October 2001, indiscriminately firing an AK47 assault rifle at civilian buses, and manufacturing and distributing pipe bombs used in attacks on Israeli civilians.”

Issawi was rearrested in July 2012 due to violations of the terms of his release. Whilst the BBC includes in its article brief mentions of some of the various protests in support of Issawi, it notably refrains from mentioning the violent events initiated by Issawi’s family during a court hearing last December, the violent demonstration which took place three days before the article was published outside the Ofer prison or the involvement of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in some of those demonstrations, as can be noted from observation of the flags bearing Issawi’s image below.

Demonstration in Abu Dis

Ayman Sharawna, from Dura near Hebron, was also released under the Shalit deal in October 2011, by which time he had served ten years of a 38 year sentence for attempted murder and bomb-making. Sharawna is a member of the Hebron branch of Hamas and was rearrested on January 31st 2012 due to violating of the terms of his release by returning to Hamas activities. Shawarna was originally apprehended on May 10th 2002 when he and another terrorist planted an explosive device near a branch of Bank HaPoalim on HaAtzmaout Street in Be’er Sheva. The device malfunctioned, but despite that eighteen people were injured in the attack. Sharawna and his accomplice were caught fleeing the scene by members of the public and he was also found to have taken part in prior shooting attacks during the second Intifada. 

Tariq Qaadan and Jafar Ezzedine are both from Arabe near Jenin and both are senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives.

Qaadan has been arrested several times in the past, including in 2002 and 2004. In March 2011 Qaadan was arrested by the Palestinian Authority in connection with investigations into the terror attack in Jerusalem in which British national Mary Jean Gardner was killed and over 50 people injured.

 Jafar Ezzedine has also been arrested in the past and took part in a previous hunger strike organized by Palestinian prisoners in May 2012. Earlier this month, Ezzedine took his case to the High Court of Justice, which rejected his appeal , clarifying that a hunger strike cannot be considered a factor in decisions relating to the length of administrative detention. 

The BBC’s portrayal of Palestinian prisoners who have chosen to go on hunger strike as victims, and its failure to inform audiences of the true nature of their past crimes and their activities with terror organisations, does not only breach BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.

The hunger strikes themselves – and the massive public relations campaign which surrounds them – are organised political acts designed to rally outside pressure on Israel with the aim of securing the release of people involved in terrorist activities. Neither the BBC nor the numerous foreign dignitaries expressing an opinion on the subject will, of course, have to live with the consequences of the success of that campaign. That task will be left to the Israeli public, some members of which have already fallen victim to acts perpetrated by these men.

It is highly inappropriate for the BBC to be lending its voice and its reputation to such a political public relations campaign by producing one-sided reports such as this one which hide the true issues from BBC audiences.