BBC’s Bowen tells WS listeners Israel bombs Syria ‘regularly’

The lead story in the January 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Paul Henley (from 01:00 here) as follows:newshour-13-1-17-syria

“First; not for the first time, Syria has accused Israel of military aggression, blaming it for a series of explosions at a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian government said it had been a flagrant attack and that there would be repercussions. Their stance was possibly born of a new-found sense of confidence that things in Syria are going the way of the Assad government. Russian involvement in the war has been hugely important and the possibility of a more Moscow-friendly White House come the end of this month will be greeted with delight in Damascus. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen who’s on route from the Syrian capital to Aleppo; was he surprised by these accusations of an Israeli military strike in Damascus?”

The idea that the Syrian regime’s response to this incident is any different to the statements it has put out previously on similar occasions is of course not supported by reality. The term ‘flagrant’ was used by Assad spokespeople back in 2013 and the Syrian regime has threatened retaliation against Israel in the past.

Listeners then heard Jeremy Bowen make the following claim:

“No; the Israelis have bombed various parts of Syria before. It’s something they do relatively regularly. “

Israel does not usually officially confirm its involvement the airstrikes it is alleged to have carried out in Syria since 2013 and so Bowen’s “relatively regularly” assertion is based on conjecture and the claims of the Syrian regime. His broad-brush claim that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria before” is inaccurate and misleading in that it does not clarify that the alleged strikes have been specifically and exclusively connected to weapons supplies to Hizballah or terrorism against Israel and Bowen’s choice of words is likely to lead the uninformed listener to the inaccurate belief that Israel is involved in the war in Syria.

Bowen continued:

“And the question is what they were after hitting that base. Now, it may well be that there was a target there belonging to Hizballah –  the Lebanese group which of course is a mortal enemy of the Israelis – and perhaps that’s what they were after but, you know, it’s a lot of speculation. One of the things that’s very important to Hizballah is their supply of weapons; not just for their activities in Syria but for their operations in Lebanon as well and perhaps the Israelis had some knowledge that something was going on in that department.”

The conversation between Bowen and Henley then moved on to a different topic, with no mention made of the fact that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation, no information provided regarding the identity of its providers of arms and no reminder of the fact that the supply of weapons to Hizballah is specifically forbidden under UNSC resolution 1701. As readers may recall, those exact same pieces of information were likewise absent from the BBC News website’s report on the same event.

The BBC defined Jeremy Bowen’s job description as follows in 2006:

“Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Here we see that rather than making this story more “comprehensible for the audience”, his omission of key information does the exact opposite and his inaccurate and context-free assertion that Israel has “bombed various parts of Syria….relatively regularly” in fact prevents listeners from comprehending the story correctly.

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Reviewing BBC coverage of UNSC resolution 2334 in R4 news bulletins – part one

The December 23rd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’clock News’ included an item (from 08:01 here) concerning the resolution which was at the time due to come up at the UN Security Council.

Presenter Corrie Corfield told listeners: [all emphasis in bold added]r4-6pm-news-23-12

“The Israeli and US governments have become involved in an unprecedented diplomatic row at the United Nations. Israel has described as shameful a planned UN Security Council vote this evening on a resolution which demands an end to Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. In a departure from a long-standing policy, the United States – which normally votes against such calls – is expected to abstain. The vote will take place following a feverish 24 hours of diplomacy which involved senior figures in the outgoing Obama administration and president-elect Trump taking opposing sides. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has been following developments.”

Listeners then heard from Bowen:

“If the vote passes it will be a big parting gift from President Obama to the Palestinians and to other opponents of Israel’s policy of settling Jews on territory captured in the 1967 war. The United States, like the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council can veto any resolution. The US has used its veto dozens of times to protect Israel. The draft resolution demands that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. It says that the establishment of Israeli settlements in the territories is a flagrant violation under international law. Israel argues forcefully it has the right to build homes for Jews anywhere in Jerusalem; a right disputed by most members of the UN. Israel also says that international laws prohibiting the settlement of an occupier’s citizens on territory it captured do not apply to the West Bank, including Jerusalem. If the Americans and the other permanent members of the Security Council allow the resolution to pass, Israel’s argument that it has law on its side will suffer a big blow. It wouldn’t immediately affect the settlement expansion programme but it would show how bad relations have become between President Obama and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.bowen-tweet-unsc

If President Obama had allowed a similar resolution to pass much earlier in his time in office, it would have had much more impact. In his last few weeks in the White House it’s symbolic, though it tosses a fizzing diplomatic firework into the Middle East policy of president-elect Donald Trump.”

As was noted here in a previous post about BBC reporting on the same topic:

“The BBC Academy’s ‘style guide’ states that:

“Strictly speaking, the phrase ‘Palestinian Territories’ refers to the areas that fall under the administration of the Palestinian Authority…”

Obviously there are no Israeli ‘settlements’ in those areas and so the use of such inaccurate terminology misleads listeners.

Israeli communities do exist in Area C and in parts of Jerusalem previously occupied by Jordan for nineteen years. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords no limits are placed on construction in those regions and their final status is to be determined in negotiations.”

As was the case in that previous report, the language used by Corfield and Bowen clearly endorses and promotes the Palestinian side’s political claims and narrative, thereby compromising BBC impartiality and misleading listeners.

Bowen’s suggestion that only Jews live in the parts of Jerusalem he deems “occupied” is inaccurate.  As Reuters reported in 2014:

“…a small but growing number of Arabs are moving into Jewish settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem, drawn by cheaper rent and better services. […]

…in one such settlement, around Mount Scopus where the Hebrew University is based and many Palestinians study, about 16 percent of residents are either Arab citizens of Israel or Palestinians, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. […]

 Official figures from 2013 show 7.4 percent of French Hill residents are Arabs, and Mazal believes the true non-Jewish population is closer to 20 percent.

While the high proportion of Arab residents in French Hill and Mount Scopus is probably exceptional, the trend is visible in other East Jerusalem settlements too.

In the working-class areas of Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Yaacov to the northeast of Jerusalem’s Old City, 1 to 2 percent of residents are now Israeli Arab or Palestinian, figures show.”

While ostensibly ticking the ‘impartiality’ box with a brief mention of the view taken by Israel and others on what he describes as “international laws prohibiting the settlement of an occupier’s citizens on territory it captured”, Bowen fails to provide listeners with the context necessary for proper understanding of that issue. Seeing as the BBC has exclusively promoted one view of that topic for years, the majority of listeners obviously would not understand why “Israel says” what it does.

Once again we see that the BBC’s presentation of this story lacks balance and accuracy, steering audiences towards a particular view of the topic. An additional news bulletin will be discussed in a future post.   

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A review of BBC News website coverage of UNSC resolution 2334

BBC WS report on UNSC resolution endorses Palestinian narrative

A review of BBC News website coverage of UNSC resolution 2334

Events at the UN Security Council received generous coverage on the BBC News website on December 23rd and 24th. BBC audiences found articles relating to Egypt’s withdrawal of its draft resolution and reports concerning the subsequent tabling of  the resolution by New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia which was approved by the UNSC on December 23rd.

December 23rd:un-sc-2334

1) Egypt delays UN motion on Israel as Trump intervenes

2) Israel blasts US over UN vote on settlements

3) UN Security Council votes against Israeli settlements Barbara Plett Usher (also appeared on BBC television channels and embedded in written reports)

4) Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end (date stamp changed

December 24th:

5) Israel settlements: Netanyahu rejects ‘shameful’ UN vote

6) Israel settlements: Netanyahu orders UN ties review

The narrative promoted in those reports was uniform and conformed to existing BBC editorial policy.

a) BBC audiences were repeatedly told that the resolution related to Israeli communities on “occupied” – rather than disputed – land and that the said territory is “Palestinian”.

“Egypt has delayed a UN vote on a text condemning Israeli settlements in occupied territory after Israel asked Donald Trump to intervene.” (report 1)

“Israel has reacted furiously over a renewed bid to bring a resolution condemning settlements on occupied land before the UN Security Council.” (report 2)

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a UN call to end settlement activity on occupied land is “shameful”. […]

The resolution, approved by 14 votes to zero, with only the US abstaining, demands that Israel immediately “cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”.” (reports 5 and 6)

“The move comes after the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.” (report 6)

b) BBC audiences were also repeatedly told that Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem are “illegal” and breach “international law” while the presentation of alternative views on that issue was limited to a box-ticking reference to the Israeli view with no further detail or explanation.

“The resolution submitted by Egypt called for Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it said breached international law. […]

About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.” (reports 1, 2, 4, 5, 6)

“Barbara Plett-Usher explains the significance of the UN Security Council’s vote against illegal Israeli settlements.” (report 3)

“The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution urging an end to illegal Israeli settlements after the US refused to veto it.” (report 4)

“It [the resolution] says Jewish settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”. (reports 5 and 6)

c) The reports failed to distinguish between “settlement building” and construction in existing communities, thereby giving audiences the mistaken impression that new communities are being built.

“The Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement building and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.” (report 1)

“But the outgoing Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.” (report 2)

“This is a vote on a resolution that condemns the building of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. It says it’s illegal under international law. […]

“They themselves [the US administration] have been very critical of settlement building over the last year.” (report 3)

“The resolution reflects an international consensus that the growth of Israeli settlement-building has come to threaten the viability of a Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” (‘analysis’ from Barbara Plett Usher, reports 4 and 5)

d) One of the reports promoted the inaccurate implication that construction under the current Israeli government is exceptional. 

“And it [the resolution] says that the amount of building under this Israeli government is threatening the possibility of the creation of  Palestinian state in any future peace deal.” (report 3)

e) The reports uncritically amplified the PLO narrative of ‘settlements as an obstacle to peace’.

“The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.” (reports 1, 2, 4)

f) References to the parts of the resolution condemning terror and incitement were to be found in just one of the BBC’s reports. In contrast to the impression given to BBC audiences, the word ‘Palestinian’ is in fact not included in that part of the text

“French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said the “key goal” of the resolution was “to preserve and reaffirm the two-state solution”. […]

“It also condemns the violence and terrorism. It also calls to prevent all incitement from the Palestinian side so this is a balanced text.”” (report 2)

g) While some of the later reports included reactions from “the Palestinian leadership”, none of them informed audiences of the fact that the resolution was hailed by the terror organisations Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“The Palestinian leadership welcomed the UN resolution, which was passed by 14 votes to zero, with one abstention.” (report 4)

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman said the resolution was a “big blow to Israeli policy”.” (report 5)

“A spokesman for Mr Abbas said: “The Security Council resolution is a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution.”” (report 6)

h) Three of the later articles (reports 4, 5 and 6) quoted the US ambassador to the UN as saying that “even if all settlements were dismantled, both sides would still have to acknowledge “uncomfortable truths” and make “difficult choices” to reach peace” but none of the reports reminded BBC audiences that although Israel did indeed remove all ‘settlements’ and ‘settlers’ from the Gaza Strip in 2005, peace was not forthcoming and the Hamas terror group continues to seek the destruction of Israel.

i) None of the reports reminded BBC audiences of the 2009 freeze of construction in communities in Judea & Samaria and the fact that the Palestinians refused to negotiate during most of that ten-month freeze.

j) None of the reports provided readers with the relevant context of the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to impose an outside ‘solution’ to the conflict in preference to negotiations.

k) None of the reports provides any relevant historical background on the subject of the 1948 Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem or the 1967 Jordanian attack which subsequently left Israel in control of those areas.

Anyone wondering why the generous coverage of this story was uniformly one-sided and failed to provide BBC audiences with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding might find the following Tweet from the BBC’s Middle East editor (also retweeted by the BBC correspondent who contributed to much of the coverage) enlightening.

bowen-tweet-unsc

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BBC’s Bowen dismisses Aleppo fears

On December 13th the BBC News website reported several UN statements concerning the situation in Aleppo.

“Syrian pro-government forces in eastern Aleppo have been killing people, including women and children, on the spot in their homes and on the street, the United Nations says.

The UN’s human rights office said streets were full of bodies.

Meanwhile, the UN children’s agency cited a doctor as saying a building housing as many as 100 unaccompanied children was under heavy attack. […]

“We’re filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner” of eastern Aleppo, UN human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference.

He said that 82 civilians had reportedly been killed by pro-government forces, of whom 11 were women and 13 children, adding that the death toll could be much higher. […]

The UN’s humanitarian adviser on Syria, Jan Egeland, earlier spoke of “massacres of unarmed civilians, of young men, of women, children, health workers”.

He named a pro-government Iraqi Shia militia as being responsible for the killings, but placed overall blame for any atrocities in the hands of the Syrian and Russian governments.

“Those who let them loose in this area are also accountable,” he said.” [emphasis added]today-15-12

Two days later – on December 15th – Jeremy Bowen appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (available for a limited period of time from 02:13:35 here) to discuss the situation in Aleppo. The BBC’s Middle East editor is of course charged with providing “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.

Towards the end of the item (02:21:57) presenter Mishal Husain asked:

“Jeremy, finally, what we heard from that member of the White Helmets was this fear that after the regime takes full control of this area, everyone will be executed. What will happen? Will there be any sense of accountability? Any parameters?”

Bowen: “You know, let’s hope that doesn’t happen and it makes you…I mean I tend to wonder what they would get out of executing people. You know, I think that it’s not like there’s a crazed militia who are taking over there. They are, you know, I think relatively disciplined troops and you’d wonder why an order to execute everybody would be given. I think, particularly since the…we’re hearing from the ICRC in Geneva that the ICRC and SARC – the Syrian Arab Red Crescent – are gonna be there as well facilitating the evacuation of the wounded, so they’ve allowed in some witnesses potentially. If you’re going to do a massacre I doubt that would happen.” [emphasis added]

For the record.

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A Jeremy Bowen interviewee highlights an issue serially ignored by the BBC

In early May of this year the BBC’s Middle East editor produced a report for the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ which included an interview with Dima al Wawi who had been released from custody several days earlier.Today 4 5

“Bowen’s report opens with a recording of the voice of a girl who was prevented from carrying out a stabbing attack in Karmei Tzur on February 9th – a story not covered by the BBC at the time.

“You can hear how young Dima al Wawi is in her voice. She’s a 12 year-old Palestinian schoolgirl sitting with her parents in the kitchen, engrossed in Facebook. But instead of checking out her friends, she’s looking at video of her arrest. Dima has only recently been released from an Israeli jail. She served 75 days of a four-month sentence for planning to stab an Israeli at a Jewish settlement. She was arrested near her home in Halhoul on the West Bank. Dima didn’t get close to any Israelis as security guards stopped her.”

Apparently Bowen does not count the security guard himself as Israeli. Listeners then hear a voice-over of al Wawi speaking:

“The settlers saw me and stopped me. They made me lie on the ground, tied my wrists with plastic handcuffs and they stepped on my back.”

Bowen goes on:Knife al Wawi

“She pleaded guilty but now she says she was innocent and bullied into confessing. Twice her parents said she was questioned without a lawyer present.”

Voice-over: “I [unintelligible] we’re young kids. It’s sad that they do this to us. We’re oppressed. What I know is that I’m from Palestine. I don’t know about politics.”

Had the BBC covered the story at the time, Bowen would perhaps know about the knife found in al Wawi’s possession.”

As has been the case in much of his additional reporting on the wave of terror attacks which began in the autumn of 2015, Bowen steered listeners to that report towards the view that Palestinian violence is caused by “the occupation” while amplifying unchallenged falsehoods from additional interviewees and ostensibly ticking the ‘impartiality’ box with the following one-liner:

“The Israeli government says that’s untrue. That Palestinians attack Israelis because they’ve been taught to hate them from childhood.”

A report recently broadcast on Israel’s Channel 10 included a short interview with Dima al Wawi (which can be seen in this clip) provides insight into her hatred of Israelis and Jews, highlighting a factor Bowen and his colleagues have chosen to serially ignore in their coverage of Palestinian child attackers. 

ch-10-tweet-al-wawi

Below is a translation of al Wawi’s statements.

“I arrived at the prison, on the first day I was put in a dungeon. It was a civilian facility, it was underground. There had been Jews there so it was full of dirt. On the floor, under the bed, there were rotting Clementines. There was disgusting and stinking food there because of all those Jews, Israel. I don’t like even to bring its [Israel] name to my lips. [Interviewer: Why?] Because it’s disgusting, leper, leper, leper. I don’t like it. They [the Jews] are impure.”

The issue of incitement and hatred as catalysts for violence have not been seriously addressed by the BBC in all of its extensive coverage of Palestinian violence during the past 14 months or so. Until the corporation’s journalists – and in particular the man charged with providing “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – begin to provide its funding public with information concerning those factors rather than focusing their attentions on the amplification of PLO talking points, the BBC cannot be said to be fulfilling its remit of enhancing audience understanding of this particular international issue.

 

BBC Academy touts Jeremy Bowen Gaza report as model journalism

Under the heading “Journalism Skills Reporting”, the BBC Academy published a video of a report produced by Jeremy Bowen in 2009 as an example of best practice when “Describing the scene”.academy-bowen

“At its most basic, journalism is about telling people what you’ve found out, what’s around you, and what you can see. You’re there – the audience isn’t. Some of the most powerful reporting is cast in this mould.

It’s tempting, especially when you’re reporting from an extraordinary scene, to overload your audience with how you feel about the events whose aftermath you’re witnessing.

It’s also easy to leap to considering the causes or context. Sometimes that’s important; often it gets in the way.

Watch Jeremy Bowen as he reports from a bomb site in Gaza in 2009. His commentary on what he sees as he walks around the room is cool, clear, dispassionate, and powerful.”

Like the BBC Academy’s portrayal of the circumstances in which the report was made, Bowen’s commentary is completely devoid of the context behind that story.

“The IDF concluded Wednesday that Israeli tank shells caused the deaths of four Palestinian girls, including three daughters of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, when his house was accidentally attacked on January 16, during Operation Cast Lead. Following the investigation, the army confirmed that two shells had hit the building. […] The IDF said that a Golani Brigade force was operating near Beit Lahiya when it came under sniper and mortar fire in an area laden with explosives. After determining that the source of the fire was in a building adjacent to Abuelaish’s home, the force returned fire. While the IDF was shooting, suspicious figures were identified in the top floors of the doctor’s house, and the troops believed the figures were directing the Hamas sniper and mortar fire, the army said. Upon assessing the situation in the field while under heavy fire, the commander of the force gave the order to open fire on the suspicious figures, and it was from this fire that his three daughters were killed, said the IDF. Once the soldiers realized that civilians, and not Hamas gunmen, were in the house they ceased fire immediately, continued the army. […] The IDF Spokesman’s Unit stressed that in the days prior to the incident, Abuelaish – who had worked before at Beersheba’s Soroka University Medical Center and had very good connections with Israelis – was contacted personally several times by officers in the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration to urge him to evacuate his home because of Hamas operations and the intense fighting that was already taking place in that area for several days. In addition to the personal contact made directly with the doctor, the IDF issued warnings to the residents of Sajaiya by dropping thousands of leaflets and by issuing warnings via Palestinian media outlets.”

While the BBC Academy apparently holds the view that “context […] often… gets in the way”, it is difficult to see how BBC journalists can fulfil the corporation’s remit of building “understanding of international issues” if context is deemed an optional extra.

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Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

As readers no doubt recall, one of the many remarkable features of BBC coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was the corporation’s failure to report on Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields.

Not only did BBC journalists refrain from reporting adequately on the issue of Hamas’ placement of military assets in populated areas (with the BBC later claiming that it was “very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”) and the terror group’s instructions to civilians to stay put in such areas but some BBC correspondents even went out of their way to deny the phenomenon.

“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” Jeremy Bowen, July 22, 2014.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” Orla Guerin, August 13, 2014.

Complaints from members of the public on that issue were eventually dismissed by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in a tortured and self-contradicting ruling which adopted an interpretation of the term human shields that conflicts with existing definitions. The ESC advisor wrote:

“…there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas.” 

In contrast to that ‘radio silence’ on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza in 2014, recent BBC coverage of the multinational military operation to drive ISIS out from the Mosul area in Iraq which began on October 16th has included several reports concerning that terror group’s use of human shields.human-shields-1

Just three days after the operation commenced, the BBC News website published an article titled “Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields” which amplified statements made by one of the parties to the Combined Joint Task Force conducting the operation.

“The US has accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces move closer to the group’s stronghold in Mosul. […]

Asked by reporters in Washington if IS was using civilians as human shields, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said “absolutely”.

“They are being held there against their will,” he said on Tuesday. “We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.”

Residents reached by telephone by Reuters news agency said IS was preventing people fleeing the city and had directed some of them towards buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.”

The report did not include any indication of independent BBC confirmation of those claims.

October 21st saw the publication of an article headlined “Mosul battle: IS ‘may use civilians as human shields’” which amplified speculative statements made by a UN official.

“At least 200 Iraqi families have been made to leave their homes for Mosul by Islamic State (IS) fighters and could be used as human shields, the UN warns. […]

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was “a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” using an acronym for IS.”human-shields-2

On October 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Mosul Iraq battle: ‘Tens of thousands of civilians’ used as IS human shields” which again amplified UN statements.

“Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted tens of thousands of civilians from around the Iraqi city of Mosul to use as human shields, the UN says. […]

“Credible reports” suggested that civilians in sub-districts around Mosul had been forced from their homes and relocated inside the city since the offensive began earlier this month, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. […]

“Isil’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Ms Shamdasani added, using an acronym for IS.”

Once again, there was no indication of the BBC having independently confirmed those reports before their publication.

On November 7th visitors to the BBC News website and viewers of BBC television news saw a filmed report titled “Battle for Mosul: IS ‘herded human shields like sheep’“.

“The BBC’s Karen Allen spoke to residents of one town near Mosul who say they were used as “human shields” by retreating militants.”

So as we see, within less than a month since the launch of the military operation against ISIS in the Mosul region, BBC audiences were alerted to the terror group’s use of civilians as human shields on at least four occasions. The majority of those reports were based on information provided by outside sources and – in contrast to the 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, where the corporation did have journalists on the ground in the relevant areas – the BBC apparently did not find it necessary in this case to find “evidence” of its own before reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS. 

No follow-up to a story the BBC previously featured in four reports

This week one of the juveniles who carried out a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighbourhood in October 2015 was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment.

“The 14-year-old from East Jerusalem was convicted earlier this year on two counts of attempted murder for the October 2015 knife attack, in which he and his cousin critically injured a 12-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man.

The teenage assailant was 13 when he carried out the attack along with his 15-year-old cousin, who was shot dead by security forces responding at the scene.

According to the indictment filed in May, the court rejected the defense presented by the teen’s attorneys that the cousins had no intention of murdering the Israelis, but rather had simply wanted to “scare the Jews.”

The judges determined that the cousins went on the stabbing spree in order to “help Hamas and become martyrs.” Still, they took into account the defendant’s apology and the fact that his elder cousin had stabbed the two victims.”

As has been noted here before, it is extremely rare to see any follow-up reporting by the BBC after Palestinian terrorists have been arrested and put on trial (although the corporation has produced coverage of the legal process in cases in which the perpetrators were Israeli Jews) and it was therefore unsurprising to see that audiences were not informed of the outcome of the trial of the Pisgat Ze’ev attacker even though the story was covered by the BBC extensively at the time.Pisgat Zeev attacks report

On the day of the attack (October 12th 2015) the BBC News website produced a report which was amended to include a politicised description of its location.

“Two youths were stabbed earlier at a settlement in East Jerusalem, leaving one of the victims, a 13-year-old boy, in a critical condition.”

Two days later the BBC News website published an article which initially gave context-free amplification to false claims concerning the two terrorists from the PA president.

“He also accused Israel of carrying out “executions of our children in cold blood”…” 

On October 15th and 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen produced written and filmed reports in which the father of the older attacker was showcased and Bowen roundly dismissed the subject of incitement.Bowen filmed Manasra

“When I met Khaled Mahania, the father of 15-year-old Hassan Mahania, who attacked and badly wounded young Israelis in a settlement in East Jerusalem, he is unable to explain.

Hassan was shot dead as he carried out the attack; his 13-year-old cousin and accomplice was run down by a car and badly hurt.

The Israeli government blames the attacks on incitement by political and religious extremists. A video has circulated of a Muslim cleric in Gaza waving a knife and calling on Palestinians to slit the throats of Jews.

Khaled Mahania told me he had not replaced his son’s smartphone since he broke it last year. He had no mobile internet access, and none at home.

Khaled had even thrown out the TV because he believed his children should read and talk to each other. Khaled broke down as he said his son was a typical teenager, not political and certainly no radical.”

When the recently sentenced youth was convicted in May, it was reported that:

“The indictment stated that Manasra returned from school and met his cousin. “They talked about the ‘situation’ at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the state of the Gaza Strip residents, the PA and Hamas. Intending to help them, they decided to become martyrs and be killed as part of a religious war.”

Since the surge in violence began last autumn, Bowen and his colleagues have repeatedly dismissed the issues of incitement and glorification of terrorism as contributing factors, preferring instead to promote PLO approved talking points concerning “the occupation” to their audiences.

Remarkably, the fact that this Palestinian teenager – and many others – expressed a will to die as a “martyr” in a “religious war” has not distracted the BBC from promotion of that chosen political narrative or prompted it to carry out any serious journalistic investigation into the issue of incitement.

Reviewing BBC portrayal of the Balfour Declaration

The launch by the British Jewish community of a very useful new resource in the form of a website called ‘Balfour 100’ on the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration provides an opportunity to take a look at how the BBC has portrayed that document over the years and what information is available to members of the public conducting a search online.

Significantly, the timeline in the BBC News website’s current “Israel Profile” begins in 1917. While erasing the context of World War One from its portrayal of British operations in the region, the Balfour Declaration is described as follows:balfour-in-profile

“1917- Britain seizes Palestine from Ottomans. Gives support to “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration, along with an insistence that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities”.”

In a documentary titled ‘The Birth of Israel‘ – produced within the framework of BBC coverage of the 60th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence in 2008 – Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen’s portrayal of the Balfour Declaration (from 07:50 here) started off accurately and impartially.

“In November 1917 as British troops were fighting their way up to Jerusalem, seizing Palestine from the Turks, the Foreign Secretary in London wrote a letter that became known as the Balfour Declaration. The Balfour Declaration said the British would view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and use their best endeavours to make it happen. And it also said it was clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Bowen then turned to the promotion of editorialised commentary clearly designed to shape audience opinion:

“Now, there’s a whole series of incompatible promises in that and the British never found a way to keep them. As a result they were regarded as betrayers by both sides. For the Zionists it was a big step forward. But, said the writer Arthur Koestler, it was an impossible idea: one nation promising another the land of a third. It did a great deal to create the conflict that continues today.”

In November 2001 the BBC News website produced a series of web pages presenting “Key Documents” related to “Israel and the Palestinians” which are still accessible today. The page titled “The Balfour Declaration” includes the text of the letter, preceded by the following introduction:balfour-in-key-documents

“The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was the first significant declaration by a world power in favour of a Jewish “national home” in what was known as Palestine.

Historians disagree as to what the then British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, intended by his declaration. The letter has no mention of the word “state”, and insists that nothing should be done “which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

The letter was addressed to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community in Britain. It became an important arm of the movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine.”

Another article from November 2001 which is still available online is also titled “The Balfour Declaration” and was apparently intended to act as a backgrounder. The article opens with the following assertion:

“As Prime Minister Tony Blair meets the Palestinians and Israelis, some protesters have been highlighting the role Britain played in fashioning today’s troubled Middle East.” [emphasis added]

Following a reasonable presentation of the document itself, readers are told that:

“There are various theories as to why the British came to make the declaration. These range from there being a desire to get influential Jewish American backing for the WWI effort, to a belief in the Old Testament right of Israel to claim Palestine as its own.

An Israeli revisionist historian, Tom Segev, says many of the British feared the Jews, believing they secretly ran the world. And not really knowing what to do with Palestine, the creation of a Jewish homeland was therefore convenient for the British. But, says Segev, it had the effect of setting Jew against Arab.

Whatever the truth, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is a traditional time for anti-British demonstrations by some Palestinians.

There has also been some speculation that when Osama Bin Laden said Islam had been “tasting this humiliation and contempt for more than 80 years,” it was to the Balfour Declaration he was referring.”

A timeline titled “A History of Conflict” – undated but still available online – includes an entry for 1917 which inaccurately claims that Ottoman rule over Palestine was brought to an end by “Arab forces” rather than by Allenby’s troops.balfour-in-timeline-1917

“At the time of World War I the area was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman empire. Turkish control ended when Arab forces backed by Britain drove out the Ottomans.

Britain occupied the region at the end of the war in 1918 and was assigned as the mandatory power by the League of Nations on 25 April 1920.

During this period of change, three key pledges were made.

In 1916 the British Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, had promised the Arab leadership post-war independence for former Ottoman Arab provinces.

However, at the same time, the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between war victors, Britain and France, divided the region under their joint control.

Then in 1917, the British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour committed Britain to work towards “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, in a letter to leading Zionist Lord Rothschild. It became known as the Balfour Declaration.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, the Hussein-McMahon correspondence did not include Palestine, as Sir Henry McMahon himself pointed out in a letter to the Times in 1937.

McMahon letter Times

As we see, while the text of the Balfour Declaration is accurately represented by the BBC, the corporation regularly allows itself to engage in related commentary which is less than objective. With the Balfour Declaration set to be the subject of political campaigning in the approach to its 100th anniversary this time next year (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC’s funding public is obviously in need of both accurate and impartial information on the topic.

Related Articles:

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BBC News, PA Balfour agitprop and British history

BBC WS radio promotes Avi Shlaim’s historical misrepresentations – part one

Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

An interview with the Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen appeared on several BBC platforms on September 7th.

An audio version of the interview was heard by listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Newsroom’.mekdad-the-newsroom

A filmed version of the interview was shown on BBC News television programmes and posted on the BBC News website.

The same filmed clip was also embedded into an article titled “Syria conflict: Opposition unveils transition plan” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

In all versions of that interview – which was slightly edited on the different platforms – BBC audiences heard barely challenged denials from Faisal Mekdad with regard to the Syrian regime’s use of barrel bombs against the civilian population and the fact that most of the civilian casualties of the civil war have been caused by Assad’s forces and supporters.

Audiences also heard the following falsehood go completely unchallenged by the man whose job ostensibly includes the provision of “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.mekdad-filmed

“This is a war against Syria. This is war from, I mean, the most horrible…ah…I mean, forces in the entire world. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are giving money. Turkey is using its army. The United States and Western Europe – and particularly France and UK – are doing, I mean, whatever they can do to end the role being played by Syria. Israel is there in the middle of the conflict.” [emphasis added]

As any Middle East reporter worth his salt of course knows, Israel is not involved in the Syrian civil war and it is certainly not the cause of that conflict. Jeremy Bowen however did not bother to relieve BBC audiences of the inaccurate impression promoted by his interviewee and instead went straight on to his next question.

Not for the first time – see ‘related articles’ below – Jeremy Bowen’s reporting on Syria actively hinders the meeting of his employer’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen provides a stage for Syrian propaganda

BBC News’ migrant crisis coverage: Bowen embeds with Assad

More BBC Bowen beating of the Assad regime drum

BBC does damage control after Bowen’s Assad advocacy