BBC News’ televised coverage of missiles attacks on Israel July 30 – August 3

In our previous post we looked at coverage of the hundreds of missile attacks on Israeli civilians between July 30th and August 3rd inclusive on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. In this one we will look at coverage of the same events by the BBC’s correspondents on the ground in Israel at the time: Orla Guerin, Bethany Bell and James Reynolds.Missiles filmed 1

To recap: on July 30th 140 missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip. On July 31st 102 missiles were launched, 17 of which were intercepted and 76 hit Israel including one direct hit on an apartment in Kiryat Gat. On August 1st over sixty missiles were fired and on August 2nd, eighty-six, of which 58 hit Israel and six were intercepted. On August 3rd 119 missiles were launched, of which 109 hit Israel and eight were intercepted.

Filmed reports broadcast on BBC television news during that time which supposedly showed the Israeli side of the story included three by Orla Guerin, one by Bethany Bell and two by James Reynolds.

Aspects of Orla Guerin’s report of July 30th (“Gaza crisis: Israel’s military strategy“) have already been discussed here. The only mention of missile fire at Israeli civilians in that report comes from Guerin’s interviewee Ya’akov Amidror.

“If Hamas will not stop launch missiles and rockets, as it did even today…”

Viewers did however see a full 20 seconds of footage of Israeli tanks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment in that 160 second-long report.Missiles filmed 2

Guerin’s July 31st report (“Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video“) in which she visited an air-force simulator has also been discussed here previously. No mention of missiles fired by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians appears at all in that 189 second-long report, but its last 59 seconds are all dedicated to footage of Israeli soldiers and more tanks and jeeps.

On August 1st Orla Guerin was to be found presenting a report inaccurately and misleadingly titled “Israeli soldier ‘captured’ by militants as ceasefire ends“. That report also opens with thirteen seconds of footage of Israeli tanks and in addition Guerin takes a ride on an Israeli naval vessel – or as she calls it, a “fast attack missile boat”. Towards the end of the report Guerin goes to visit Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

Guerin: “Back on dry land, the deserted streets of Kfar Aza. This Israeli kibbutz sits on the border with Gaza. Most residents have fled.”

Her interviewee shows damage to a building.

“Luckily this is a bomb shelter so it took most of the impact and you can see nothing actually penetrated the house.”

Guerin: “Noam Stahl is one of the few who remains after twelve incoming hits in recent weeks and the constant percussion of outgoing Israeli artillery.”Missiles filmed 3

But if viewers perhaps anticipated at this point that they may get to hear more about Mr Stahl’s experiences of living under terrorist missile fire not just in “recent weeks”, but for the past thirteen years, they would be disappointed. Orla Guerin had other priorities.

“Do you still believe in the idea of peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Do you think it can be achieved?”

On August 2nd Bethany Bell produced a report titled “Israeli forces continue search for soldier missing in Gaza“. With the exception of 14 seconds of footage, that entire 73 second-long report shows images of tanks, APCs and soldiers. Bell does tell viewers:

“…and Hamas has fired more rockets into Israel – about ten today. Sirens have been sounding over various parts of central Israel and along the border with the Gaza Strip…”

James Reynolds produced a report on August 3rd titled “Gaza crisis: BBC reports from Israeli staging post“. All of the footage of that 94 second-long report shows Israeli tanks. Reynolds gives a decent, if short, representation of the scale and purpose of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels and also says:Missiles filmed 4

“But of course Israelis in this border area want the army to do much more than just find tunnels. They want the army to stop all rocket fire, all mortar fire from Gaza towards Israel. And just before we started recording we heard an alarm here and everyone was told to get in their tanks. There was a warning of a mortar coming in. It didn’t land around this area but nevertheless I think it shows that the overall fight between Israel and Hamas continues…”

An additional report by James Reynolds later on the same date – August 3rd – appeared under the rather pompous title “Gaza conflict: BBC assesses Israel’s military campaign” and the first 30 seconds of that report (104 seconds all told) also show Israeli tanks and APCs. Reynolds then goes to Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

“Batya Holin lives in the border village of Kfar Aza – a target of Palestinian rockets. Ninety percent of her neighbours have fled their homes.”

Holin: “I want that all the missiles will stop. I really want that all our people that live now outside of this area will come back and we can live quiet.”

Reynolds also interviews a reservist who says:

“You know the motivation is very high because before most of us came here we had like shooting in our places. I was caught up like next to my place in Tel Aviv. I was in the shelter and there was nothing I can do so I understand that we have to do Missiles filmed 5something and we have to come and finish here the thing with Hamas.”

Reynolds closes with the following odd and unsourced claim regarding the fallen soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin:

“Israel calls his death part of this country’s unfinished war of independence.”

During the five days in which the above six reports were produced, hundreds of missiles were fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians. BBC television news audiences heard of “about ten” rockets from Bethany Bell and of one mortar from James Reynolds. They heard general statements regarding missile fire from various interviewees, with all those interviews conducted in calm circumstances which contrast sharply with the type of footage from the Gaza Strip which has been shown on BBC television news in recent weeks.

There are no images of injured civilians or of crying women and children, no pictures from emergency rooms or hospital wards and only one short section of footage of minor damage to a building in six reports. The direct hit on an apartment in Kiryat Gat on July 31st was not mentioned and no live footage of it or any of the other attacks were shown. Two of the reports note that many residents of area around the Gaza Strip have had to evacuate their homes because of missile fire from the Gaza Strip, but the BBC has to date not made any attempt to portray the experiences of those people.

The extensive useMissiles filmed 6 of footage of soldiers, tanks, APCs and other military equipment contrasts sharply with the fact that BBC audiences have not seen even one image of an armed terrorist, an anti-tank missile or mortar being fired by terrorists or a missile launcher in over four weeks of intense BBC coverage from the Gaza Strip. 

These filmed reports cannot be said to give BBC audiences a realistic and comprehensive idea of the Israeli side of the story or to reflect the scale and intensity of the ongoing attacks from the Gaza Strip in the period from July 31st to August 3rd. In common with the written coverage appearing on the BBC News website, they certainly cannot be said to support the claim made by the BBC complaints department that “BBC News has reported extensively on the series of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other Palestinian militants into southern and central Israel in recent weeks”.  


Will the BBC correct its insinuations of a ‘two-tier justice system’ in Israel?

On July 17th the BBC News website published an article titled “Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder“.

The report relates to the fact that eleven days after their arrest on July 6th, three people were charged with the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Ahu Khdeir on July 2nd.

The BBC’s report correctly notes that:

“The Israeli ministry of defence meanwhile said it now recognised the killing as a “terrorist act” and had decided to recognise Mohammad Abu Khdair as a “victim of terrorism”.”

It fails to inform readers however that the Defence Ministry’s decision means that the victim’s family will receive monthly benefits from the state and that Mohammed Abu Khdeir will be included in the list of names on Israel’s Memorial Day for victims of terror attacks.

Earlier in the month, during the four days which passed between the murder and the arrests, some BBC journalists promoted the notion of a ‘two-tier justice system’ in Israel, suggesting that Palestinians receive inferior treatment.

“… 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.” [emphasis added]

Jeremy Bowen, ‘Today’, BBC Radio 4, July 3rd 2014

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.”

James Reynolds, BBC News, July 4th 2014

It would of course be appropriate for the BBC to clarify to its audiences that its insinuations of Israeli state discrimination are unfounded. 

Superficial reporting from the BBC’s James Reynolds in Ashkelon

As has so often been the case in past rounds of conflict and also during ‘quieter‘ times, the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon has been under particularly heavy attack during Operation Protective Edge. Since the beginning of the operation on July 8th and as of the evening of July 16th, 102 missiles have been fired at Ashkelon alone. 64 were intercepted, 14 fell in open areas and 6 hit the city.

On July 16th BBC television news broadcast a report by James Reynolds from that battered city which was also promoted on the BBC News website under the somewhat ambitious title (considering that the city has some 120,000 residents) “Gaza-Israel conflict: BBC assesses the mood in Ashkelon“.

Distinctly less ambitious were the BBC’s efforts to meet standards of accuracy in that report’s synopsis as it appears on the website.

Reynolds 16 7 Ashkelon Beit Ariye

Thirty-seven year-old father of three Dror Hanin was actually killed near the Erez crossing whilst he was handing out food parcels to soldiers. He was a resident of the town of Beit Aryeh, which is about 90 kms away.

Three days before James Reynolds filmed this report in Ashkelon a teenager was badly wounded by missile shrapnel during one of the dozens of attacks on the city over the past ten days. Yarin Levy is hospitalized in the ICU at Barzilai Hospital in his city where, due to the missile fire from the Gaza Strip, premature babies had to be evacuated to a protected area already on the first day of the operation and the accident and emergency department was similarly evacuated on the day of Reynolds’ visit. Also on that day, one of the nineteen missiles targeting Ashkelon hit a house in the city, with a teenage girl narrowly escaping serious injury and the clinic belonging to her mother – a pediatrician sometimes practicing at home  – fortunately empty at the time.

In contrast to recent filmed BBC reports produced by Reynolds’ colleagues in the Gaza Strip, however, there were no images of a child in an intensive care hospital bed, of distraught relatives, of ruined houses or of people sifting through rubble in this report. Instead, Reynolds chose to represent the situation in Ashkelon by showing viewers a shopping mall.

He opens:

“I’m in the Israeli city of Ashkelon and Gaza is just a few miles to the south of there on the horizon.  And so far today there’ve been three rocket warnings from Gaza. Israelis have heard sirens blare across the city. They stop whatever they’re doing and they go to find shelter.”

“Rocket warnings from Gaza”? Not rocket attacks from Gaza?

He continues:

“But for the moment here they’ve decided to carry on with their lives. Now I want to show you inside this shopping centre. Have a look there at the security guard. Shalom. In all Israeli shopping centres there’s a security guard because for years the threat here was from suicide bombers. Now the threat is from rockets and if you look in here you’ll see it’s pretty empty. People here say it’s much emptier than normal but they’re continuing to follow news of the conflict from Gaza.”

So on the one hand Reynolds tells BBC audiences that the people of Ashkelon have “decided to carry on with their lives” but on the other hand the shopping mall is “pretty empty” and “much emptier than normal”. And whilst people are apparently following “news of the conflict from Gaza”, one assumes that they are also following news of the attacks on the rest of Israel which go unmentioned by Reynolds.

Reynolds then interviews three people – none of whom is a native English speaker, but nevertheless, the interviews are conducted in English rather than Hebrew with voice-over. Reynolds’ first question to the first interviewee again indicates just how Gaza-centric BBC coverage is.

“How is the offensive into Gaza affecting your life?”

Surely a more appropriate and relevant question would have been ‘how are the missile attacks from the Gaza Strip affecting your life? Notably, the message given by the first two interviewees (at least after editing) is that people get used to missile attacks.

Reynolds: “Are you scared now?”

Man: “Now less…because I got used to it.”

Woman: “I’m not afraid – I get used to that..”

Reynolds concludes:

“Israelis here in Ashkelon await word from their government about the future of the ground offensive into Gaza. Some ministers have called for a ground operation. The decision one way or another will be made by the entire security cabinet.”

Did BBC audiences really learn anything about “the mood” in Ashkelon or get a sense of the realities of life under missile fire in one of Israel’s most attacked cities where even premature babies in hospital have to be moved to air-raid shelters? Hardly. But the really revealing thing about this report is the way in which it contrasts so sharply with the emotional reports produced by Reynolds’ colleagues in the Gaza Strip.  

BBC’s Reynolds reports on Hamas terror infiltration of Israel – without using the word Hamas

A filmed report by James Reynolds for BBC television news also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in the early hours of July 9th under the title “Israel steps up plans to stop rocket attacks from Gaza“.Reynolds 9 7 Zikim

Reynolds opens his report with images of people running for cover as the air-raid siren sounds, but viewers are not provided with any sort of context regarding the frequency of such events or how many missiles had been launched at Israeli towns and cities on the day of Reynolds’ report (117 missiles hit Israel on July 8th and a further 29 were intercepted).

“In Israel’s biggest city sirens ordered a scramble for cover. Tel Aviv is 40 miles from Gaza; within the range of Hamas rockets. As dusk fell, the police closed roads next to the border with Gaza.”

Reynolds does not inform viewers why those roads had to be closed. His report goes on with some more rare (for the BBC) footage of a warning of a missile attack, this time in Ashkelon.

“We filmed empty streets in Ashkelon, just seven miles from the Palestinian territory. We’re going in. There’s an alarm – let’s come on in. Everyone in this restaurant’s been told to come on through. This alarm means that there is a possible rocket coming in from Gaza and everyone has just a few seconds to get through to the shelter. Actually there isn’t a sh….this is as good as the shelter gets here.”

Woman: “We’re very afraid. We’re always here. We have no place to run.”

Reynolds: “The Israeli army has just released these pictures. They appear to show Palestinian gunmen coming in from the sea next to Gaza to attack Israel. Here, the army goes after the four infiltrators as they climb a hill. Israel is facing both gunmen and rockets.”

What those pictures do show – rather than merely “appear to show” as Reynolds claims –is an infiltration into Israeli territory from the sea at Zikim beach on the evening of July 8th. In contrast to Reynolds’ euphemistic portrayal of generic “Palestinian gunmen”, the attempted terror attack was in fact carried out by Hamas, which quickly claimed responsibility for the infiltration. The five (not four, as stated by Reynolds) terrorists were found to be carrying grenades and explosive devices and one Israeli soldier was lightly wounded in the shoot-out. The closed roads mentioned earlier in Reynolds’ report were actually part of the operation to ensure that no additional terrorists were in the area of the civilian community of Kibbutz Zikim.

The report then cuts to filmed footage of Israel’s prime minister speaking.

“Israel will not tolerate the firing of rockets on our cities and towns. We have therefore significantly expanded our operations against Hamas and the other terrorist organisations in Gaza.”

Reynolds closes:

“On the prime minister’s order the Israeli army has massed outside Gaza. The country awaits word of further offensives.”

As we see, even a BBC report ostensibly giving ‘the Israeli side of the story’ to television audiences provides no factual information regarding the scale and intensity of the missile attacks on Israeli civilians and Hamas involvement in a serious terrorist infiltration is whitewashed.   





BBC News informs audiences ‘several rockets’ fired at Israel on evening of July 8

The BBC News website’s main report on the subject of the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th went under the title “Israel ‘ready for escalation’ of Gaza conflict“.Op PE main art 8 7

The report opens as follows, already whitewashing Hamas’ international terrorist designations:

“At least 15 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip as Israel launches a major air and sea offensive against the militant group Hamas.”

Readers had to continue right down to the eleventh paragraph and past the loaded sub-header ‘War crime’ in order to learn that some of those casualties were actually terrorists.

“Among those killed in the raids were four Hamas members who died in Gaza City when their car was struck. One of the dead was Mohammed Shaaban, a senior militant.

Later, the home of a Hamas leader in the southern city of Khan Younis was hit, killing six people. Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said two teenage boys were among those killed. Another 25 people were injured.

A Hamas spokesman condemned the air strike, calling it a “horrendous war crime”.”

No mention is made of the fact that the people killed in Khan Younis were acting as ‘human shields’ on the roof of the house (which was also used for terrorist purposes) at the time of their deaths or that a warning was given to the occupants to vacate the building before the strike was carried out.

Despite having last been updated at 22:14 local time, the report states in its opening paragraphs:

“It [the military operation] comes in response to Hamas firing more than 130 rockets at Israeli cities since Monday night.

On Tuesday evening, militants launched several rockets towards Jerusalem but did not hit the city, Israeli police said.”

Later on the report states:

“The militant group [Hamas] later said it had launched several rockets at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on Tuesday.

Israeli officials said none of the missiles had reached their target.”

The source of that last sentence is unclear but it is certainly inaccurate. In fact, on Tuesday evening alone terrorists fired tens of missiles at numerous Israeli cities including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with planes en route to Ben Gurion airport having to have their flight paths altered as a result. On the same evening a terrorist infiltration was thwarted near Kibbutz Zikim. A total of 117 missiles hit Israel on July 8th and a further 29 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. The northern town of Hadera – 100 kms from the Gaza Strip – was hit on Tuesday evening with an M302 missile: the type discovered on the ship which Israel intercepted in March of this year and which originates from Syria. The footage below shows a wedding which was taking place in Ashdod on the evening of July 8th.

The BBC, however, elected to describe all the above using the phlegmatic term “several rockets”.

One slight improvement seen in this report in comparison to previous coverage was the fact that the BBC no longer inaccurately claimed that Hamas rules the Gaza Strip.

“It [Israel] confirmed that aircraft and naval vessels had targeted militant compounds, rocket launchers and other infrastructure in Gaza, which is dominated by Hamas and until recently was governed by it.”

However, once again no attempt was made to inform audiences which body does now govern the Gaza Strip – the Palestinian unity government – and so the BBC continues to fail to provide audiences with information vital to their complete understanding of this latest escalation of conflict.

The report also includes brief contributions from Yolande Knell in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip and – in what is the  first visit by a BBC reporter since this latest surge in missile fire began four weeks earlier – James Reynolds in Sderot. In Knell’s contribution we see her documentation of the fact that Hamas and other terrorist organisations fire missiles from residential areas in the Gaza Strip.

“Nearby a house had just been damaged by an Israeli air strike. Two ambulances whizzed by carrying away the injured.

“[Militants] used to launch rockets from here. [The Israeli military] targeted these houses several times,” a local man told us.”

Notably, that documentation was not given the sub-heading ‘War crime’.


James Reynolds tells BBC viewers about Hamas’ ‘crudely made rockets’

A filmed report by James Reynolds dating from July 7th which appeared on BBC television news broadcasts was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Israeli air strikes on Gaza kill nine Palestinian militants“.Reynolds Gaza report filmed

In the synopsis to that item as it appears on the website, no mention is made of the cause of Israeli airstrikes on terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip: the firing of hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilian targets by Palestinian terrorists. However, the synopsis does promote the inaccurate notion that “tensions” in the area are related to the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, when in fact the surge in missile attacks from the Gaza Strip began four weeks ago.

“Nine Palestinian militants have been killed in a series of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip.

The armed wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas says six of its fighters died in a single strike near Rafah in the south.

Three others died in separate Israeli air strikes in response to at least 20 rocket attacks from Gaza.

Tensions in the region are high following the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdair.”

Reynolds opens his report:

“Overnight, Israel’s air-force struck targets in Gaza: the piece of land ruled by the Palestinian armed movement Hamas.”

In addition to the absence of any mention of the fact that Hamas is a designated terrorist organization and the euphemistic description of it as an “armed movement”, it is also notable that Reynolds inaccurately tells BBC audiences that the Gaza Strip is “ruled by” Hamas when in fact, since June 2nd 2014, it is officially under the authority of the Palestinian unity government which is a product of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. Notably, that aspect of the current Gaza Strip story is being consistently erased from public view by the BBC.

Reynolds goes on with that old BBC favourite “Israel says”, which of course translates as ‘we’re not going to confirm that’.

“Israel says it went after rocket launcher sites and warehouses. Israel’s airstrikes killed a number of armed men from Hamas and other groups. This was the deadliest attack on Gaza since 2012.”

In fact, some of those terrorists (rather than “armed men” as Reynolds euphemistically calls them) were killed because they were handling their own explosives in a cross-border tunnel at the time of their death.

“The IDF targeted a Hamas tunnel early Monday morning, preventing an imminent terror threat to Israeli citizens. Hamas terrorists built the tunnel, which extends from Gaza into Israel, in order to execute complex attacks against civilians and IDF soldiers.

At the time of the strike, terrorists inside the tunnel were working with explosives, causing a massive blast that killed seven Hamas operatives. The terrorists likely planned to use the explosives to carry out an attack against Israel.”

Reynolds continues:

“This morning a rocket fired by Hamas landed in the Israeli village of Nirim next to Gaza. In recent days Hamas has fired several dozen of its own crudely made rockets across the border.”

Reynolds’ description of the missiles fired as “crudely made” is obviously attempt to portray them to BBC audiences as ineffective and to downplay the danger they present. Some of Hamas’ approximately 10,000 strong missile arsenal is indeed locally produced: the M75, for example, with its 60 kg warhead and 75 km range, was responsible for the deaths of three people in the apartment shown in the picture below in 2012.

K Malachi 2012

The report then cuts to a brief two-sentence interview with the Israeli spokesman Mark Regev:

“We are acting to protect our people. We are targeting the terrorists in Gaza – those firing the rockets – and Hamas has to understand: this must stop.”

Reynolds goes on to promote a deft reversal of the actual situation, prompting audiences to mistakenly believe that Hamas is responding to Israeli actions rather than – as is actually the case – the opposite.

“Israel’s strikes on Gaza have prompted Hamas to promise further attacks of its own.”

He continues, downplaying the gravity of the fact that over a million people have had their lives paralysed by missile attacks from terrorist organisations for four weeks and describing organized violent rioting as ‘protest’.

“Fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has been a regular part of this conflict. But what may worry Israel more is the atmosphere here in Jerusalem and in nearby areas. Palestinians who live under Israeli rule have protested and they’ve fought against the police.”

The report then cuts to footage of Saeb Erekat.

“This morning the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat took diplomats to see the village of Nabi Samuel. It’s surrounded by Jewish settlements built on land the Palestinians want for a state.”

Not for the first time we see BBC reporters making inaccurate use of the words “surrounded” and “settlements” in the same sentence. Below is a map of Nabi Samuel with Israeli residential areas marked in blue and Palestinian ones in green. As readers can see for themselves, “surrounded by Jewish settlements” is an inaccurate portrayal. 

Nabi Samuel


Erekat then says:

“What we are witnessing of this wave of escalation is a systematic approach by the Israeli government to throw us in the path of bloodshed, violence, counter-violence, chaos which we have seen in 2002.”

Erekat’s reference to 2002 is of course intended to mean Operation Defensive Shield, which was preceded and brought about by eighteen months of Palestinian terrorism initiated by the Palestinian Authority which Erekat ‘neglects’ to mention and Reynolds fails to clarify to audiences. Neither does Reynolds inform viewers that had the PA not elected to start the second Intifada terror war against Israel, negotiations could have continued and the PA could have got the land it ‘wants’ for its state. Notably, the BBC did not take the opportunity to ask Erekat what the Palestinian unity government (bound, according to its own prime minister, to existing agreements with Israel) is doing to stop Hamas missile fire on Israeli civilians from a territory which has been under its authority since June 2nd.

Reynolds closes by again promoting the notion of organized violent rioting as “protests”, erasing the political motivations which lie behind it from audience view and instead advancing a patronizing theory of “anger”.

“In the north of Israel, Arabs who have Israeli citizenship have clashed with the police. These protests are more unusual. They’re a sign of increasing anger in this conflict.”

As readers have no doubt noticed, the BBC’s sporadic and incomplete coverage of the last four weeks of missile attacks on Israeli civilians has not included much effort to convey to BBC audiences what it is like for those one million residents located close to the Gaza Strip to live under ever-escalating terror attacks for weeks on end. To date, since this latest round of augmented attacks began, BBC audiences have seen just one brief one-liner interview with one man in one report – and James Reynolds did nothing to correct that imbalance in this piece. 





BBC’s James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem

In addition to the BBC’s ‘parachuting in’ of Christian Fraser from Paris, further back up for its Jerusalem Bureau’s coverage of recent events in the region came from the corporation’s correspondent in Istanbul, James Reynolds.

On July 4th Reynolds produced two filmed reports for BBC television news about the funeral of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, both of which were also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Both those reports appeared two days before it was announced that six suspects had been arrested by the police on July 6th on suspicion of having carried out the kidnapping and murder. 

The first report – titled “Palestinian teenager funeral: ‘We can hear explosions’” – is presented on the website with a synopsis which includes the following statement:Reynolds 1

“The family of Mohammad Abu Khdair believe he was abducted and killed in revenge for the murders of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found in the West Bank earlier this week.”

Yet again, no effort was made to inform BBC audiences that at that time that synopsis was written, no arrests had been made and so the identity of the killers and their motive was still a matter for speculation.  

Reynolds tells viewers:

“This is the funeral procession for 16 year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir. He…his body has just been taken along this road. The women are towards the end of the procession and if we just have a look around here, the men are in front. They’ve been about 400 meters in front. They’re heading right towards here. But we can hear – I don’t know if you can hear it in the background – some explosions. We can see some people throwing stones just over there, down towards the end. That gives us an indication that there may be clashes at the moment between some protestors and mourners and the Israeli police. We’re just gonna stay here for safety’s sake and keep an eye on what’s going on down the hill. We can see already one Palestinian ambulance is making its way down the street and there’s a real sense of anger among these Palestinians here. They say that they want justice for 16 year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir. They want those who kidnapped, who abducted him, to be brought to trial.”

At the time that Reynolds made those statements there was no reason to suppose or evidence to suggest that the Israeli authorities were not doing their utmost to solve this crime and bring the perpetrators to trial, but Reynolds nevertheless ‘contextualised’ the riots in Jerusalem’s streets with the insinuation that they were the product of a failing system of justice, and in his second report the background to that insinuation became clearer.

Beyond his speculative narration of “clashes” – in fact violent rioting – which he could not see, and his amateurish report of “explosions” – most likely riot-control measures – Reynolds had nothing to actually tell audiences. Notably, what he could see – the black and white Jihadist flags which were in ample evidence at the funeral procession – were not explained to viewers either in this report or the subsequent one.

Reynolds 1 flags

Reynolds’ second report on the same topic appeared several hours later. The synopsis to the BBC News website’s version of that report – titled “Crowds flock to Jerusalem funeral for Palestinian teenager” – again promoted what was at that stage evidence-free speculation, but at least this time the ongoing police investigation got a brief mention.

“Mohammad Abu Khdair’s family believe he was killed in revenge for the murders of three young Israelis in June, but police have yet to establish a motive.”

Reynolds opened his report by saying:

“Palestinian mourners clear the way for the coffin of Muhammed Abu Khdeir. At least seventy Palestinian children have been killed in the past five years. But the abduction and killing of this teenager so soon after the killing of three Israeli teenagers stands out.”

Reynolds did not inform viewers of the source of his cited numbers, how that source defines “children” or whether or not they were involved in violent rioting or terrorism when they were killed. He continued:

“Muhammed – here taking a selfie – was a sixteen year-old with a fashionable hair-cut. On Wednesday, before dawn, he was abducted and killed. Israel says its investigation continues. His family says that this is the moment of his kidnapping. They argue that these CCTV pictures show a group of Israelis throwing Muhammed into their car across the road. You can’t make out the teenager in the pictures, so it’s hard to verify the footage.”

One of course also cannot determine from that footage the identity of the abductors either, but that is not pointed out to audiences.Reynolds 2

“Muhammed’s father Hussain went over CCTV pictures with me. He follows three Israeli families this week in mourning a teenage son.

Three Israeli teenagers were killed. Do you have any sympathy with their parents who are going through what you’re going through?”

Father: “I don’t have anything to do with them. I don’t know how they were killed but we do know who killed my son.”

Of course that statement from the father is inaccurate: at the time it was made, no-one had been arrested for the murder of his son and the case still has to be tried and proved in a court of law before it can be concluded that his son’s killers’ identities are known. However, it is known how the three Israeli teens were killed. Reynolds did not clarify those facts to BBC audiences. He continued:

“Naftali Frenkel – on the left of this poster – was one of the three Israeli teenagers found dead on Monday. Naftali’s family wants justice for them and also for Muhammed, the seventeen year-old Palestinian.”

The report then cuts to footage of Yishai Frenkel – Naftali’s uncle – speaking.

“Let’s put it very simple. A murder is a murder. When we read in the Bible ‘thou shalt not kill’, it doesn’t say a Jew or an Arab or a Christian. A murder is a murder and a killer – regardless of motive – should be brought to justice.”

Reynolds continued:

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.”

Reynolds’ advancement of the idea that the urge to “build a state and a justice system of their own” is what fuels the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is of course simplistic to the point of ridiculous. Notably, he failed to inform audiences that the vast majority of Palestinians already have their own justice system in PA controlled areas and that those living in Jerusalem like the Abu Khdeir family are protected by the same justice system as their neighbours of all other ethnicities – as the arrest of six suspects four days after the crime was committed clearly indicates. Remarkably too, Reynold’s phrasing signposts to audiences that neighbourhoods of Jerusalem fall into the category of “Palestinian towns and cities” even though their status is to be determined in negotiations between the parties concerned.

Reynolds concluded:

“This week has shown Israelis – and now Palestinians – that their children, their teenagers, are often the most vulnerable. The young pay the price for the conflict waged by adults. This week has left parents on each side more frightened and more angry. Israelis and Palestinians share suffering, but not necessarily understanding.”

Four heinous murders have indeed been committed within the space of three weeks by extremists on both sides of the divide. In one of those cases suspects have now been arrested and – despite Reynolds’ insinuations – will now go through the judicial process necessary to determine their guilt. In the other three cases, the two main suspects are still on the run after nearly four weeks – obviously supported and helped by others. 

Those facts – along with numerous others related to these incidents such as the celebrations of the kidnappings of the three Israeli teenagers on the Palestinian street – do not fit into the BBC’s favoured Middle East narrative, but unless they are reported, the corporation will continue to fail to meet its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”. 

The Israeli police also made another statement on the same day that the arrests of those suspected of murdering Muhammed Abu Khdeir was announced. That statement also related to a teenager murdered at the beginning of May, apparently out of ‘nationalistic’ motives. Shelly Dadon’s story was not reported by the BBC at the time and it does not appear on the BBC News website over four hours after details of the murder were released.  

BBC’s Tehran correspondent bemoans West’s ‘lack of trust’ in Iran

In an October 15th report for BBC television news (also featured on the Middle East page of the BBC News website), the BBC’s Iran correspondent James Reynolds explained to viewers  why the P5+1 is sceptical of Iranian declarations regarding the peaceful intent of its nuclear programme. 

Reynolds report Geneva P5

Presenter: “These talks – it’s all about building trust – isn’t it? – between the two sides.”

Reynolds: “It is, and it always has been and there’s been a gulf of trust – a lack of trust – between Iran and the West, and in particular between Iran and the United States, for more than three decades. Of course presidents Obama and Rouhani chipped away at that lack of trust a few weeks ago when they had a telephone call. This builds on the momentum of that, but all the officials I’ve been speaking to here in Geneva stress that it will take more than just two days to build up the kind of confidence and trust needed for an agreement. Trust is so important because essentially the West has decided that it no longer wants to take Iran at its word. So when Iran says ‘we’ve got a peaceful nuclear programme’ the West simply says ‘we don’t believe you’. That is a symptom of the lack of trust.” [emphasis added]

In other words, Reynolds would have his viewers believe that scepticism with regard to Iran’s declarations of intent regarding its nuclear project (which, contrary to the impression the BBC is trying very hard to create, exists far beyond the boundaries of “the West”) all boils down to the West having issues with “trust”. 

The fact that Iran has repeatedly lied about its nuclear programme, concealed aspects of it and prevented international inspection apparently has nothing to do with that “lack of trust”: according to Reynolds’ dumbed down version, “the West” has capriciously “decided that it no longer wants to take Iran at its word” and so BBC audiences do not need to be informed of the tiresome details of the story.

So much for the BBC commitment to “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.


BBC tones down Iranian rhetoric and extremism

Precisely what does the BBC mean when it uses the word ‘occupation’? We do not have to suppose or speculate about the answer to that question because the BBC’s Key Terms guide tells us exactly what it means.

“Occupied Territories/occupation

The phrase ‘Occupied Territories’ refers to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and strictly speaking the Golan Heights. However, it is common usage for this phrase to refer to the West Bank as a whole and not the Golan Heights (unless it is in a story specifically on the 1967 War or Syrian/Israeli relations).    

This is our preferred description. It is advisable to avoid trying to find another formula, although the phrase ‘occupied West Bank’ can also be used. It is, however, also advisable not to overuse the phrase within a single report in case it is seen as expressing support for one side’s view.”   

In other words, when it uses the word ‘occupation’, the BBC intends readers to understand that it is describing areas which came under Israeli control as a result of the Six Day War. 

So consider this August 2nd BBC headline: “Iran’s Rouhani calls Israel occupation ‘old wound’ on Islamic world“.

Rouhani speech

As others have noted, Rouhani of course made no such distinction between areas east or west of the ‘green line’: his ‘problem’ is with Israel as a whole – not just this or that particular part of it.  

The article’s strap-line further shows the BBC’s transparent attempt to tone down Rouhani’s rhetoric by insertion of the phrase “Palestinian areas”.

“Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani has denounced Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas as an “old wound on the body of the Islamic world”.”

What does the BBC mean when it says “Palestinian areas”? We do not have to guess about that one either. 

“Palestinian land

This phrase has become more widely used by politicians and broadcasters to refer to the Occupied Territories – for example, to explain why the construction of settlements is considered illegal by the UN.

Critics of the phrase say it is not strictly accurate because, for example, the West Bank was captured from Jordan in 1967. 

The BBC Governors considered this issue in a complaint which was referred to in the programme complaints bulletin of July 2004. Their decision was that, although the complainant objected to references to ‘Palestinian land’ and ‘Arab land’, these terms “appropriately reflected the language of UN resolutions”.

So the use of the phrase “Palestinian areas” is clearly intended to reinforce the false impression that Rouhani was referring to land gained by Israel in the 1967 war. 

Why the BBC should find it necessary to tone down Rouhani’s remarks in a manner which it presumably thinks makes them more palatable to Western audiences is anybody’s guess, especially as other members of the Western media managed to report the geographical intentions of Rouhani’s words accurately. 

The problem is, of course, that the BBC has invested much in educating its audiences with regard to its own definition of “occupation”, but rarely bothers to clarify the fact that for other parties – including Iran and its terrorist proxies – “occupation” means every last inch of Israel. Hence, average readers would be liable to fail to grasp the real significance of Rouhani’s words quoted later on in the article:

Speaking at a rally, Mr Rouhani said: “There is an old wound on the body of the Islamic world, under the shadow of the occupation of the holy lands of Palestine and Quds [Jerusalem].

But the BBC’s whitewashing does not stop there.  

“His remarks echo those of other Iranian leaders and come on Jerusalem (Quds) Day, held every year in Iran to support the Palestinians and denounce Israel.”

 There is nothing ‘pro-Palestinian’ about the hate-filled annual event which is Al Quds day and “denounce” is a very euphemistic way to describe the aims of an event that includes demonstrations of support for an Iranian-backed terrorist organisation which also make no distinction between pre and post 1967 Israel.  As the NYT correspondent in Tehran pointed out:

“Walking among celebrators holding signs reading “Death to Israel” and pictures of maimed Palestinian children, Mr. Rouhani […] gave a preplanned statement to waiting television cameras.”

That’s “Death to Israel”, dear BBC – not “Death to the bits of Israel east of the ‘green line’ “. 

Iranians carry anti-Israeli placards during a rally to mark al-Quds Day in Tehran, Iran, 02 August 2013. Photo: EPA

Iranian man carrying the Hizballah flag at an anti-Israeli rally to mark al-Quds Day in Tehran, Iran, 02 August 2013. Photo EPA

al-Quds Day rally in Tehran

Iranians attend al-Quds Day rally on August 2, 2013 in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Maryam Rahmanian

Iran's new president calls Israel an 'old wound'

An Iranian man holds an anti-Israeli placard with a portrait of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah during an annual Al-Quds Day rally in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Aug. 2, 2013. Photo: AP

Another BBC report on the subject of Rouhani’s inauguration appeared on the BBC News websites’s Middle east page on August 3rd. In that article too, the BBC misleads readers as to the meaning of Rouhani’s remarks.  [emphasis added]

“The day before he took office, Mr Rouhani said Israeli occupation was an “old wound on the body of the Islamic world”, as Iran marked its annual Jerusalem (Quds) Day.

His remarks echo those of other Iranian leaders on the day dedicated to supporting the Palestinians and denouncing Israel.”

It appears that the BBC is having difficulty sobering up after its ‘Rouhani the moderate reformer’ binge following the June elections and that, rather than engaging in a critical review of its own misguided stance, is now attempting – fingers placed firmly in ears – to bend reality to fit its own narrative.

That policy of course does nothing to meet the corporation’s obligation to enable its audiences to “build a global understanding of international issues”. 


An edition of a BBC World News programme has the BBC Persian service’s Rana Rahimpour translating Rouhani’s words as follows: 

“The occupation of the holy land of Palestine and Quds – which is Jerusalem – is an old wound on the body of the Muslim world.”

Rahimpour hastens to add:

“But he never mentioned Israel or the Zionist regime, as Iranian politicians refer to Israel…”

Of course Rouhani had no need to mention Israel by name: his audience at what Zeinab Badawi ridiculously insists upon calling the “pro-Palestinian rally” would have understood his intention perfectly well, given the Iranian regime’s record and its long-standing support for terrorist organisations which do not accept Israel’s existence in any form. BBC audiences, however, will remain in the dark due to this latest bout of the syndrome described by Sohrab Ahmari and James Kirchick in 2012 as “We Are All Persian Grammarians Now“.

Clearly, the BBC could have avoided this case of inaccurate and misleading reporting had it simply been more vigilant in its use of quotation marks in that headline.