BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

Hot on the heels of Paul Adams’ July 25threport from the Gaza Strip for Radio 4 came another report from the same location on the same radio station – this time from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

Aired in the July 27th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’, the report was introduced (from 23:12 here) by presenter Jonny Dymond using a decidedly unsubtle metaphor to commence promotion of some very overt framing. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Dymond: “As depressing David and Goliath metaphors go, you don’t get much closer than the clashes between Israel and the Palestinians at the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. For 18 consecutive weekends now Palestinians – many of them children – have gathered to protest at the fence that separates Gaza from Israel: protests with rocks and burning tyres and balloons carrying flaming strips of cloth designed to set fire to nearby Israeli farmland. They have been confronted with live fire from the most sophisticated military in the region. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed in the protests since March and one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by Gaza-based militants. Amongst the Palestinians, 19 children have been killed and hundreds more injured. From Gaza, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Notably Dymond’s “David and Goliath” framing excluded all mention of the IEDs, grenades, petrol bombs and shootings which have also been an integral part of the violent rioting he euphemistically and uniformly called “protests”. Neither did he bother to inform listeners of the fact that a significant proportion of the Palestinians killed since March were linked to terror factions.

Bateman began his report with a visit to the father of a youth – reported by many other media outlets to be fifteen years old – who was shot on July 13th as he participated in violent rioting that included a grenade attack in which an Israeli soldier was injured. Notably that attack was completely excluded from Bateman’s account of those “protests”.

Bateman: “This is a road that runs parallel with the fence on the east side of the Gaza Strip. We’re just driving with the fence to our right. You can see Israeli fields and farmland on the other side. And this is an area where the sprawling suburbs of Gaza City almost meet the fence itself. I went to the home of Rami Helles. Two weeks ago his son Othman was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he tried to climb the perimeter fence. Othman was 14 years old, among the large numbers of young people in Gaza attending the weekly protests. Why did he go to the fence?”

Voiceover Helles: “Because he loved his land, his country. He went like everyone else. After he was martyred – may his soul rest in peace – it turned out that he had been going every Friday. After he came back I used to ask him where he had been and he would say I was in the coffee shop or I was here or there.”

Naturally Bateman had no questions to  about the responsibility of the parents of “children” attending weekly violent riots organised by terror factions for months on end.

Bateman: “A BBC crew in Gaza was filming as Othman Helles, away from the fence, used a sling to throw a stone towards Israeli soldiers. A few people burned tyres. Later the 14 year-old walked alongside the fence, put a hand and a foot on it and pulled himself up about a foot off the ground. He was hit with a single shot to the chest. Nineteen of those killed since the end of March have been under the age of 18. The number of children with bullet wounds is more than 600 according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency [UN OCHA – Ed.] which bases its recent figures on those of Gaza’s health ministry.”

As usual, BBC audiences were not told that “Gaza’s health ministry” is run by the same terror group which co-organises this weekly agitprop and has an interest in inflating casualty figures for PR purposes.

photo credit: ITIC

Neither were they told that Hamas has been deliberately using youths to sabotage the border fence throughout the weeks of violent rioting and that among those under the age of 18 killed since the end of March were operatives with terror factions and some linked (e.g. by family) to such factions.

Bateman then introduced IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus, saying:

Bateman: “I mean many people might look at that footage and they will think simply that it was completely disproportionate.”

After noting that the circumstances of Othman Helles’ death would be investigated (as all such incidents are), Conricus went on to say:

Conricus: “We’ve had in the last week two events where sniper fire was conducted from the Gazan side towards Israeli troops. Two Israeli soldiers have been hit – one injured, one unfortunately killed a week ago – and that has been done using the cover of these so-called demonstrations.”

Those two events are the fatal shooting of Staff Sgt Aviv Levi on July 20th and the shooting of another soldier – drawn by youths gathered near the fence – on July 25th.

Bateman then visited a clinic:

Bateman: “At a center in Gaza City of the medical charity MSF they have a rehabilitation clinic.”

Speaking to a youth reportedly 14 years old, Bateman told listeners:

Bateman: “He said he was near the fence burning tyres on the 3rd of July. The soldiers shot him in the leg.”

Although the involvement of terror organisations including Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the DFLP in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ was known even before the events began, Bateman whitewashed them as “political factions”.

Bateman: “The protest camps are set well back from the fence, organised by a committee of political factions.”

Failing to clarify that the aim of the so-called ‘right of return’ is to eradicate Israel and avoiding the question of why there are no “protests” along Gaza’s border with Egypt, Bateman told listeners:

Bateman: “The focus has been on the Palestinian claim of a right of return to the land that is now Israel and on the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, which Israel says is for security reasons. The Israelis believe Hamas has used the protests to attempt militant attacks and threaten its population. I spoke to 17 year-old [name unintelligible]. He said three people had thrown petrol bombs towards the fence. He went to help the injured, he said, and was shot. He has had his right leg amputated. Now he is waiting for a prosthetic limb, for which he would need to travel to Turkey.”

Refraining from telling audiences who laid on buses, he continued:  

Bateman: “Messages at the Mosques and buses laid on have boosted the protests. Why did the boys at the clinic go? Most told me simply they went like everyone else. One wanted to give Trump a message, he said, that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. Another spoke of supporting a Hamas leader attending. But Israel says children were used to distract its troops during the incident this week when an Israeli soldier was shot and wounded by Palestinian gunmen from the fence area.”

Radio 4 listeners next heard from the same Hamas official promoted by the BBC World Service days earlier.

Bateman: “Hamas’ deputy foreign minister is Ghazi Hamad.”

Hamad: “The main goal [of] this march; just to get attention of the international community to the miserable situation in Gaza.”

Bateman: “It’s not peaceful; it’s not all peaceful though is it? There have been, you know, Molotov cocktails, people trying to break the fence down, explosive devices placed at the fence.”

Hamad: “No, look I think I can say we control 99% of the march. Maybe there’s some [unintelligible] done by some individuals but this is not an excuse for Israel to kill people.”

Failing to clarify that most of the “ten Palestinians” he cited were Hamas operatives killed in strikes in response to massive rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman closed his report as follows:

Bateman: “The tension along the Gaza boundary has risen. There have been a series of military flare-ups in recent weeks. At least ten Palestinians have died in Israeli air strikes on militant sites. An Israeli soldier was shot dead and four civilians have been wounded in recent rocket attacks. Palestinians have been sending flaming kites and helium filled condoms to burn Israeli fields. The air is combustible. Gaza’s clinics will hope there are not more young patients coming in.”

The same report by Bateman was aired the following day – July 28th – in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 36:29 here) and in the evening edition (from 30:06 here) of the same programme. Presenter Julian Marshall introduced it thus:

Marshall: “Tensions have escalated again in recent days between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist group which runs the Gaza Strip. It comes against a backdrop of Palestinian protests at Gaza’s perimeter fence, now in their 18th consecutive weekend. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during the protests since March. Another reportedly died of his injuries today. And one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by Gaza-based militants. Among the Palestinians killed are 19 children, with hundreds more injured – something that the UN has previously condemned.”

photo credit: ITIC

Obviously this widely promoted report from Tom Bateman fails to give BBC audiences – domestic and worldwide – the full range of information needed in order for them to understand Hamas’ cynical exploitation of the under-18s described as “children” in its weekly agitprop that is designed to prompt media coverage of exactly the type that Bateman has produced.

Instead, listeners heard a context lite “David and Goliath” story in which Palestinian “boys” and “children” who throw rocks, burn tyres and fly kites are “confronted with live fire from the most sophisticated military in the region” with results portrayed by the BBC’s reporter as “completely disproportionate”.

Ghazi Hamad was no doubt very pleased with this effort to “get attention of the international community”. 

Related Articles:

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BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

BBC WS radio listeners told Israel prevents Gazans from getting fresh air

 

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BBC News website adopts selective history in royal visit article

An article titled “Prince William makes historic visit to Middle East” that appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East pages on June 24th includes an insert of analysis from the BBC’s royal correspondent Jonny Dymond and a link to an article by the same journalist.

The title of that linked article – “Prince William set to ‘wander among bones of Empire’” – and the heading given to the insert – ‘The prince wanders among the bones of Empire’ – both steer readers towards a misleading view of the history of the places Prince William is visiting. The article opens:

“The Duke of Cambridge is embarking upon an historic tour of the Middle East – visiting both Israel and the Palestinian territories – in a trip in which ironies and sensitivities will abound.”

The caption to the photograph at the head of the article reads:

“The itinerary is scrupulously balanced between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories”

Neither what is today Israel, Jordan or the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority were part of the British Empire system of colonies, protectorates and dominions: rather they were territory administered by Britain on behalf of the League of Nations.

Bateman’s account of history, however, makes no mention of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine

“For just under three decades, after World War One, Britain controlled present-day Jordan, Israel and the occupied territories; three decades that would see the Middle East reshaped by European design, compromise, and failure.”

The Middle East was of course first and foremost reshaped because the Ottoman Empire chose to ally itself with the side that lost the First World War and the former German and Ottoman territories and colonies subsequently came under the supervision of the League of Nations.

Dymond’s portrayal of the fact that the British government chose to terminate its administration of the mandate originally granted by the League of Nations is similarly unhelpful to anyone hoping to understand the history behind the royal visit.

“When Palestine slipped from the hands of an exhausted and broken post-war Britain in 1948, the Prince’s great-grandfather George VI was on the throne.” [emphasis added]

Dymond found it appropriate to mention just one episode of political violence in his account:

“When Prince William lays his head this week at his Jerusalem hotel, the King David, he will be at the site of one of the worst attacks on British forces during the Jews’ battle for independence. It was an attack condemned at the time as Jewish terrorism.”

However, he failed to provide readers with any meaningful information on the Arab rioting and revolt – or the ensuing British restrictions on Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine before, during and after the Second World War.

“From the Balfour declaration to the White Paper, the promises and pledges that Britain has made to different parties at different times in Palestine are now part of the region’s collective memory.”

Significantly, Dymond refrained from clarifying to the domestic audiences reading his article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page that the British government failed to meet the primary remit with which it was entrusted under the terms of the Mandate for Palestine: the establishment of a Jewish national home:

“The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self­-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.”

Once again the BBC has passed up the opportunity to provide its funding public with an accurate and impartial account of the role played by their country in the history of the region currently being visited by a member of their royal family.  

Related Articles:

BBC World Service misleads on Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

As we have recorded here in the past, the BBC has often failed to give its audiences a clear and accurate portrayal of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and Iranian financing and supply of weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hizballah.

The BBC, Iran and faux objectivity

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

BBC audiences have been repeatedly encouraged to view Israeli actions against the supply of Iranian arms to Hizballah as ‘involvement’ in the Syrian civil war.

BBC says what it said was happening in 2013 may be happening now

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

Moreover, the BBC rarely reports on Iran’s serial threats against Israel.

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

It was therefore refreshing to see BBC Radio 4 taking a step in the right direction – albeit only for domestic audiences – in the April 15th edition of ‘The World This Weekend’.

A significant proportion of that programme was devoted to the previous day’s strikes on targets in Syria by the US, the UK and France. After domestic aspects of the story had been discussed, presenter Jonny Dymond introduced (from 09:50 here) another Syria related topic.

Dymond: “106 years ago today the captain of the Royal Merchant Ship Titanic breathed a sigh of relief. Thanks to some sharp steering, the ship had apparently avoided the iceberg poking out of the freezing seas. Those allowing themselves to exhale after the airstrikes on Syria by the West early on Saturday morning might bear the fate of the Titanic in mind. There was much more to the iceberg than met the eye. Saturday’s attacks were not the only strikes from beyond Syria’s borders this week.”

Listeners heard a recording of a related news bulletin before Dymond continued:

Dymond: “On Monday war planes widely believed to be from Israel sent missiles into a Syrian airbase known as T4 situated between the city of Homs and the ruins of Palmyra. More than a dozen people were killed, most of them believed to be Iranians.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been informed that seven of the Iranians killed were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Dymond went on:

Dymond: “It was not the first time T4 had been struck. Back in February Israeli war planes hit the base, amongst other targets, in retaliation for the incursion of a drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent downing of an Israeli jet.”

Two days before this programme was aired Israel had announced that the Iranian UAV was armed with explosives but listeners were not given that information.  Dymond then continued with what is for the BBC an unusually lucid portrayal of Iranian activities in Syria.

Dymond: “Iran now reaches deep into every nook and cranny of Syria. Its military advisors direct operations on the ground. It sponsors Hizballah, the Lebanese militia that has thousands of fighters in Syrian territory. It pays and arms the thousands of Shia faithful that have come from around the world to fight for Bashar al Assad. It has established a web of military positions and bases up and down the west of the country. Its cash has sustained Syria’s war economy. Salman Shaikh runs a political consultancy firm that mediates on conflicts in the Middle East.”

Shaikh: “It’s been very, very determined. It had understood from the start that Syria was a state – even a failed state – which needed to belong in its column rather than in the Western alliance and it’s done everything it can since this war started – this civil war, this conflict started – to make sure of that. It was the one that first rescued Assad’s forces in 2012 by sending in military advisors and since then it’s probably 50,000 or so Iranian backed Shia militias coming from around the world who are now part of the conflict in Syria. But on top of that, they have been trying to exact a price – economic – from the regime, social and of course on the military. This is a full full-court press from the Iranians to establish themselves.”

Dymond: “To its regional rivals Iran is an imperial threat. The talk is of a crescent of influence stretching from Iran itself, west through Iraq – now led by Iran-friendly Shia Muslim politicians – into Syria and on into Lebanon where Iranian sponsored Hizballah is in government. For the Sunni Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia such influence is deeply troubling. But Israel, which borders both Syria and Lebanon, perceives the expansion in Iranian might as a threat to its very existence.”

Unfortunately, as noted above, BBC audiences have long been denied the background information which would help them understand why Israel’s perceptions are such but at least listeners to this programme did get to hear an accurate portrayal of Israel’s view of Iran related issues in Syria.

Dymond: “Jerusalem-based political analyst Jonathan Spyer.”

Spyer: “Israel’s key concerns throughout the conflict have been, I think, twofold. Firstly that the conflict should not allow the transfer of sophisticated…certain sophisticated weapon systems from Iran via Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon. And then secondly Israel’s concern has been to prevent the Iranians and their allies from reaching the border with the Golan Heights. Israel’s becoming increasingly concerned about the build-up of Iranian infrastructure in southern Syria and that’s, I think, the context in which you see the recent raid on the T4 airbase near Palmyra.”

No BBC programme is of course complete without a tick of the impartiality box – however irrelevant.

Dymond: “Iran is traditionally presented as the aggressor in the region; an expansionist power that is dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. But as Azadeh Moaveni – former Middle East correspondent for Time Magazine and co-author of ‘Iran Awakening’ – says, Iran sees itself very differently.”

Moaveni: “I think they do see themselves in marked contrast to how they’re perceived, you know, in the West and certainly by the Arab Gulf states as on the back foot. They see these policies that they pursued in Yemen, in Syria, as what they call forward defence. You know this is their perception of it – they’re conventionally militarily very weak. They are shut out of the global financial system. They kind of hobbled along but they do not see themselves in a position of any kind of potential normalcy. And I think that feeling of solitude, as was mentioned in a recent report, kind of drives its security view.”

Dymond was not however distracted:

Dymond: “Forward defence may be how it seems to Iran but Israel’s alarm grows week by week and month by month as it sees Iran establishing military bases in Syria, transferring drone technology there and building a supply route through to Hizballah in Lebanon. Salman Shaikh.”

Shaikh: “It now takes us to a very dangerous situation because the Israelis will not allow that to happen. They may be too late – and I think within Israeli circles there is that fear – but that only just means that we’re actually at a heightened sense of tension.”

Dymond: “And within Israel, where once there was division between the military and political establishment over the need to face down Iran, now – says Jonathan Spyer – there is unity.”

Spyer: “Unlike in the period six, seven years ago when the issue of a possible raid on Iranian nuclear facilities was coming up, now the sense is that the conception whereby Iranian entrenchment in Syria represents a grave and urgent danger to Israel is as much emerging from the security echelon as from the political echelon. So given that, the near unanimity of the system makes it quite likely that that will be acted upon. It’s a very serious professional red line being expressed and it’s not simply political rhetoric.”

Dymond: “Bashar al Assad has consolidated his position mightily over the past year. Both rebel groups and so-called Islamic State have been driven back with the help of Russian air power and Iranian sponsored boots on the ground. You might think stability would follow but as US policy twists and turns in the breeze of President Trump’s Twitter feed, US allies are thinking of how they might have to act on their own. Israel will not stand idly by as its enemy moves ever closer to its borders.”

Next time the BBC tells its audiences that Iran has “been accused” of building up its military presence in Syria or “been accused” of supplying weaponry to Hizballah, this programme will serve as a useful reminder that in fact the BBC is well aware of Iran’s activities and that the corporation’s habit of qualifying that information with faux ‘objectivity’ is nothing but a barrier to the understanding of its funding public.

 

BBC WS continues promotion of two-state solution narrative

As has already been documented here, following last week’s visit by the Israeli prime minister to the White House both the BBC News website and BBC Radio 4 told their audiences of a “major policy shift” on the part of the US administration. [emphasis added]

“A White House official says a two-state solution may not be the only option to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, signalling a major policy shift.”

“US President Donald Trump has dropped decades of US policy insisting on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“…President Trump appeared to tear up what has been the US foreign policy objective under his three most recent predecessors – Democrat and Republican alike.”

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 15th heard similar messaging in the lead story (from 01:22 here) which was introduced by Paul Henley as follows:newshour-15-2-17

“First, President Trump has given a warm welcome to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on a visit to the White House. The two leaders held a joint news conference full of mutual praise.”

Following a number of audio clips from the press conference, the item continued:

Henley: “Probably the most eagerly awaited question was whether President Trump would change the US’s long-standing policy of promoting a two-state solution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This is how he responded.”

Trump: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians…if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Henley: “So what is the reaction to what’s been interpreted by some as the ripping up of 30 years of US policy on Israel? Our correspondent in Jerusalem, Jonny Dymond, has been giving me his assessment.” [emphasis in bold added]

That messaging was then reinforced by Jonny Dymond. [emphasis in bold added]

Dymond: “I think it represents a pretty serious shift – albeit one which was perhaps clouded by Trump’s oratorical style. Before we’d heard from President Trump and from the unnamed White House official who trailed this policy shift, the policy was pretty clear. It was that there was a two-state solution and that’s what negotiations would drive towards. Ah…ah…the State of Israel and a Palestinian state emerging next to it and the Palestinians had signed up to that, the Israelis had signed up to that with some caveats.”

Like his colleagues from the BBC News website and BBC Radio 4, Dymond presented “the Palestinians” as a homogenous group, refraining from pointing out to audiences that the Palestinian faction which gained the most votes last time elections were held certainly has not “signed up” to the idea of a two-state solution or that Hamas’ rival faction Fatah refuses to countenance a crucial component of the two-state solution concept: recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. He went on:

Dymond: “It was US policy, it was the policy of the EU, it was the policy pretty much agreed upon by a number of Arab states as well. Ehm…now the president has said ‘well, take your pick; one-state solution, two-state solution’. He has effectively said the US no longer has an end point for negotiations. It will no longer drive negotiations towards any particular end point. And that is a pretty big shift in policy given that the two-state solution has been the policy for – what? – three decades or so.”

Once again BBC audiences were told that the two-state solution has been accepted policy for decades despite the fact that the Oslo Accords of the 90s make no reference to a two-state solution, leaving the issue of the final, permanent status of the territories to be negotiated between the parties.

The item continued with Dymond – in accordance with what is now standard BBC framing – describing Area C as “Palestinian land” despite the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, its final status is to be resolved through negotiations.

Henley: “And we hear that many in the Israeli government are cheered by the presence of Donald Trump in the White House and his obviously warm stance towards Israel. Are they cheered because there’s any more prospect of a peaceful resolution to this long-running conflict or simply because they think that Donald Trump will fight their corner?”

Dymond: “Oh very much the latter; that they think that Donald Trump is a supporter of Israel and will not place what they see as undue pressure on Israel over issues such as building in Palestinian land – the settlements – and forcing Israel to make painful compromises towards an eventual deal. And I think we saw and heard in the news conference which the two men gave an extraordinary level of amity from Donald Trump towards both Mr Netanyahu as an individual and also towards Israel in general. The language was extraordinary and the one moment where he mentioned the possible compromise…ah…which was on the issue of building in Palestinian land known as settlements, he said I’d like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit. It was hardly the kind of hard line with which Mr Netanyahu was greeted when he went to see Barack Obama and they made it very clear – the administration then made it clear that as far as they were concerned, settlements were a red line. There was nothing like this. This is a much, much more friendly administration for Israel in general and for Mr Netanyahu in particular.”

As we see in this item and others (see ‘related articles’ below), February 15th brought multi-platform BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion that the US administration had changed its policy regarding the two-state solution as well as inaccurate portrayal of the Oslo Accords as including the two-state solution and inaccurate claims of a Palestinian consensus regarding acceptance of the two-state solution.

Clearly the editorial policy behind all those reports was based on narrative rather than fact and clearly none of these reports contributed to meeting the BBC’s remit of providing its audiences with accurate and impartial information which would enhance their understanding of the topic of the two-state solution.  

Related Articles:

BBC News and the US ‘major policy shift’ that wasn’t

BBC Radio 4 amplifies PLO interpretation of the two-state solution

 

 

 

The BBC, European ‘fear’ and Israeli ‘paranoia’

Last October we discussed an article by Kevin Connolly – then of the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau – which has since been promoted as ‘related reading’ many times on the BBC News website.Paranoia Connolly

“During the first three weeks of October 2015, ten Israelis were killed and 112 wounded – eleven of them seriously – in forty stabbing attacks, four shootings and five vehicular attacks which took place throughout the country.

On October 23rd, however, BBC News told its audiences that Israelis are suffering from either a collective psychosis ‘characterised by delusions of persecution’ or ‘unjustified suspicion and mistrust of other people’ – depending on which definition of the word paranoia BBC editors intended their headline to communicate.

Either way, it is obviously extremely hard to believe that if British citizens had been subjected to such a wave of terror attacks, the BBC would characterise their mood as unjustified or disconnected from reality by using the term ‘paranoia’. And it is of course equally unlikely that after over fifty attacks on British citizens in three weeks, the BBC would still be avoiding the use of the word ‘terror’ – as it continues to do in its current coverage of Israel.”

Happily, such a scenario has not transpired in Britain but at the end of July, the BBC World Service turned its attentions to “the fear that lies over Europe” in an edition of ‘The World This Week’.

TWTW 31 7 tweet

Presenter Jonny Dymond described the item at the beginning of the programme:

“As one brutal attack has followed another in France and Germany, I’ll take the mood of the continent with one of our most experienced Europe watchers – the editor of our Europe bureau.”

His introduction (from 00:47 here) was as follows:

“Europe has not known a week or two like the last ones for many, many years. First the terrible slaughter in Nice that left at least 84 dead, then a string of attacks in southern Germany. Then this week the killing of a French priest in a quiet town as he and his parishioners celebrated morning mass on a summer’s day.

An anguished debate over how to deal with violent Islam, both imported and homegrown, is in full swing. A new national guard will be created to defend citizens against terror attacks. Not for the first time, a beleaguered President Francois Hollande spoke darkly of war.” […]

In Germany shootings, stabbings and bombings – some connected with so-called Islamic State; all connected in some way with Germany’s embrace of migrants – have rocked a country that has over the decades become a by-word for cautious, conservative stability.”

Introducing the editor of the BBC’s Europe bureau, Simon Wilson, Dymond spoke of Europeans “confronted with a darker version of their continent; one gloomy about the future and nervous about what some perceive as the enemy within.”

Wilson told audiences:

“I was in Nice within a few hours of the attack there. People were really scared. That’s a really scary thought if anyone can take control of a vehicle and drive it into you. Those feelings will fade in weeks and months and other cities have overcome terror attacks and got back to normal. I think people are changing their plans. Do you want to be in a big crowd watching a football match on a big screen in Brussels or Paris at the moment? Probably not. ‘Climate of fear’ probably a bit too strong but I think in little ways individuals all over Europe are shaping up to a new reality and the one consistent thing you do hear people saying is ‘this isn’t going to go away soon, is it? This is the new normal and we’re going to have to live with it’.”TWTW 31 7

So as we see, in contrast to its portrayal of Israeli fears of what it refuses to term terrorism as ‘paranoia’, the BBC is perfectly able to identify – and empathise with – the understandable fears of Europeans following what it has no problem defining as “terror attacks”. And remarkably, it also has no qualms about identifying the cause: “violent Islam”.  

The item went on to include reference to an issue rarely if ever acknowledged in BBC coverage of Israel: the obligation of a state to defend its citizens.

JD: “How have the attacks changed the position of the leaders of the two great EU countries France and Germany?”

SW: “For Francois Hollande this is devastating politically. He was already pretty weak […] the elections are up next year. The primary function of a state is to protect its citizens and plainly over a period of 18 months they’ve found that very, very difficult to do. So clearly for Francois Hollande and the French socialists, there’s a huge challenge and I think they’re in big trouble politically.”

Wilson later added that the German chancellor “also faces elections next year and it wouldn’t take much more I think for her to be in big trouble.”

Asked by Dymond if the terror attacks “lead to a more introspective Europe”, Wilson remarked that “Europe’s leaders are consumed with the internal problems […] they are absolutely absorbed with these crises” and noted that European Council president Donald Tusk “has said publicly he thinks Western civilisation is being threatened by everything that’s going on”.

As readers no doubt recall the BBC long since made it clear that it believes that terror attacks against Israelis are “very different” from – and not comparable to – those perpetrated against citizens of other nations. Apparently it is also of the opinion that the concerns of Israeli civilians can be portrayed differently from those of citizens of EU countries. While the BBC refuses to acknowledge that the double standard it promotes is a “significant issue of general importance”, we remain convinced that it compromises the BBC’s claim to impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel

 

 

 

 

BBC double standard on use of the word ‘terror’ reaches new peak

The inconsistency of BBC reporting on terrorism and the corporation’s devout avoidance of the use of the word terror and its derivatives when reporting on Palestinian attacks against Israelis, are topics which, sadly, feature regularly on these pages.

Last November, following the attack in Har Nof, Jerusalem, we observed that:

“One outstanding – although predictable – feature of the BBC’s coverage is that despite the fact that the core story was about a terror attack perpetrated on the congregation of a synagogue, in all of the above reports the word terror and its derivatives were never used directly by the BBC. References to terrorism came only in the form of quotes from Israeli officials (placed in inverted commas by the BBC), from Israeli interviewees or from the US Secretary of State in the filmed report of his statement to the press.”

Nine months later, a surprise was in store for BBC audiences unused to seeing the word ‘terror’ in the corporation’s Middle East reporting.

The August 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’, presented by Razia Iqbal, included an item on the subject of administrative detention which is available here from 19:26. Iqbal discussed the issue with BBC journalist Jonny Dymond – apparently newly arrived in Jerusalem.Newshour 3 8

RI: “Now let’s go to our Jerusalem bureau and join our correspondent Jonny Dymond to discuss a story about Israel’s security cabinet approving detaining Jewish extremists without trial. This follows a Palestinian toddler who was killed in an arson attack in his home. Jonny; just…erm…is that the reason why this has come up now? Just give us a little bit of background.”

JD: “Yes it’s a direct response to an attack that happened on Friday when a home of a Palestinian family came under attack. They were…it was firebombed in the small hours of the morning on Friday…err…leading to severe injuries to the mother and father and a four year-old boy and the death of an eighteen year-old [sic] toddler. And amid a fair amount of revulsion and outrage, the Israeli security cabinet announced that it would authorize administrative detention – which is, as you say, imprisonment without trial – for those suspected of what are effectively Jewish terror attacks because the finger of blame was immediately pointed at ultra-nationalists, probably in the settler community – those who live in the West Bank; the Palestinian territories on the West Bank.” [emphasis added]

Dymond’s classification of an arson attack on a sleeping family as terror is of course appropriate. However it does not come in a vacuum.

It comes from a representative of an organization which refrained from describing the attack in which four rabbis were hacked to death or another attack in which a baby in a pram was deliberately run down in the same terms. It comes from a corporation which excused its failure to adequately report the slaughter of another baby and her sleeping family with the claim that it was a “very busy news period” and avoided using the word terror in its follow-up coverage of the Fogel family murders. And it comes from an organization which completely ignored the attempted murder by firebombing of an eleven year-old girl and her father last December and failed to report on three fatal terror attacks in April and June 2015.

Notable too is Dymond’s use of the word ‘Jewish’ before the phrase ‘terror attacks’. We do not of course see the comparable term ‘Muslim terror attacks’ used in BBC coverage: the prevailing term is ‘Islamist’ and recognized terror organisations such as Hamas are euphemistically described as “Palestinian militant Islamist groups”.

Whilst similar terminology to that employed by Dymond has been used by Israeli officials and quoted by the BBC, the BBC’s guidance on “language when reporting terrorism” tells its journalists that [w]e should not adopt other people’s language as our own” and hence there is obviously a need for the BBC to address the question of why the use of the generalized phrase “Jewish terror attacks” is acceptable if “Muslim terror attacks” is not.

Likewise, another issue obviously in need of consideration relates to the BBC’s adoption and amplification of terminology used by governments and officials. When the Israeli government defines attacks carried out by Israeli citizens as terrorism and the BBC reports that there is obviously no problem. But seeing as the Palestinian government never describes attacks carried out by its citizens in the same terms, it is clearly problematic for the BBC to refrain from clarifying to audiences in its own words what those attacks actually are. After all, the key message in that above mentioned guidance is “[o]ur policy is about achieving consistency and accuracy in our journalism” and it is obviously problematic if the BBC’s description of attacks as terrorism – or not – hinges upon the honesty of the government concerned.

Another issue worthy of discussion whilst this story is still in its early stages is the suitability of BBC’s use of the term “ultra-nationalists” – defined as “[e]xtreme nationalism that promotes the interest of one state or people above all others”. As was reported in an article appearing on the BBC News website on August 3rd, one of those recently arrested is Meir Ettinger – considered a ringleader among Israeli extremists. As the Times of Israel reported, Ettinger appears to have more in common with anarchy than ‘ultra-nationalism’.

“In 2013, Ettinger wrote a document entitled “the rebel manifesto” which calls to bring down the Israeli leadership.

“The idea of the rebellion is very simple. Israel has many weak points, many issues which it handles by walking on eggshells so as to not attract attention. What we’re going to do is simply fire up these powder kegs,” he wrote in the document.

“The aim is to bring down the state, to bring down its structure and its ability to control, and to build a new system. To do it, we must act outside the rules of the state we seek to bring down,” Ettinger wrote.

“We must break the status-quo. In doing so, we must differentiate between ‘breaking’ the state, an act that would insufficiently shed light on the remains and between ‘taking it apart’ which is the same but with care, and with attention. At the end of the day, the goal is to shake up the foundations of the state until we have a situation in which Jews must decide whether they are part of the revolution or part of the repression [of the rebellion],” he went on.”

This ‘Newshour’ programme continued with Jonny Dymond telling audiences:

“Now this administrative detention has been used against Palestinians for many years now – there’s just under four hundred Palestinians in administrative detention – and it’s been used very, very rarely before against…ah… Jewish extremists. But this is the first time that the cabinet has said we are ready to use this and we are ready to act to crack down on these groups and these individuals.”

As of June 2015, there were actually 370 Palestinians in administrative detention and as for Dymond’s claim that “this is the first time” that the Israeli government has shown itself to be “ready to act”, he apparently forgets that three years ago one of his colleagues produced a report which included the following:

“The Israeli authorities say they are determined to put an end to this and orders have gone out to the police and security services.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, said the price-taggers would be stopped.”

Razia Iqbal then introduces an implication which shows how crucial it is for the BBC to properly understand the ideology driving the extremism in order to both meet its own guidelines on accuracy and, more simply, get the story right.

RI: “So the cabinet has initiated this. How much support is there for it inside the Knesset generally because of course there are parties – ultra-nationalist parties – in the Knesset.”

JD: “Yeah, there are – and in the government. I think most people would say that a constituent part of the coalition government is a fairly firmly nationalist force – the Jewish Home party.”

Later on, and despite no arrests having yet been announced in connection with the Duma attack, Iqbal expands her insinuations with the implication that firebombing Palestinian homes is part of Israeli culture:

RI: “There has, Jonny, hasn’t there, been a sense that this has been part of the culture: that these people have been able to get away with attacks like this because it has on some level been encouraged by politicians in the cabinet.” [emphasis added]

Dymond cooperates, lumping construction and lethal arson in the same category.

JD: “Encouraged or a blind eye turned to certainly…ahm….illegal settler actions – if not attacks on property and on people, then the actions of some of the more extreme settler groups in setting up outposts completely against the law. Definitely a blind eye has been turned to that and there has been some encouragement of it at an official level. But this is a step gone a step too far clearly for the government which now wants to rein in those who’ve been carrying out these attacks.”

Whether or not Jonny Dymond is set to become a long-term fixture in the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau is at this point unclear but if he is planning on staying around, expansion of the scope of his reading material would be an aid to producing accurate and impartial reports which are more than a mere rehash of the latest Guardian article and actually contribute to audience understanding of a complex issue rather than just recycling well-worn stereotypes.

Dymond twitter 2

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