BBC brushes off a complaint about a journalist’s Tweets

A member of the public who submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning Tweets sent by its Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas criticising a ‘Newsweek’ headline to a story about Ahed Tamimi received the following reply from BBC Complaints.

“Thanks for contacting us with your comments regarding a tweet by Middle East [sic] correspondent Kim Ghattas. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.

Kim was making the point that the newspaper concerned had not placed enough context in its headline. That’s made clear in the follow up tweets.

She is making a point about there being two sides to the issue. Her tweets were not about the incident itself but the need for more sophisticated reporting from Newsweek. She was pointing out the other perspective on the issue which was not reflected in the Newsweek headline.

We hope this is helpful, and thank you again for your feedback.”

Leaving aside the obviously highly relevant question of whether it is in fact a BBC journalist’s job to call out “the need for more sophisticated reporting” at another media organisation, let’s take another look at those Tweets which the BBC claims “were not about the incident itself”.

Obviously the statements “Her 15 yr old cousin had just been shot in the head” and “Ahed Tamimi, unarmed, slapped a gun toting Israeli soldier who was in her backyard” not only refer to the incident but portray it in a specific light. 

Moreover, Ghattas’ use of the phrase “Blame the victim?”, her claim that Ha’aretz “wrote an editorial describing her as the victim, not an assailant” and her claim that “she lives under occupation” (Nabi Saleh is in Area B) clearly show that she is advancing a specific narrative – just as she accused Newsweek of doing in a subsequent Tweet in which she also promoted the notion of “double standards”.

Although BBC editorial guidelines state that “those involved in News and Current Affairs or factual programming should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects” and “News and Current Affairs staff should not […]  advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate”, the BBC’s outsourced complaints system has, as we see, chosen to ignore those directives in its response.

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BBC’s Knell reports on the Tamimi case again – and raises a question

On January 17th the BBC News website published yet another report about Ahed Tamimi – its fourth item in less than a month.

Written by Yolande Knell, the article is titled “Ahed Tamimi: Spotlight turns on Palestinian viral slap video teen” and much of its content is recycled from an audio report by Knell that was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme the previous week.

As was the case in that radio report, Knell’s written article does not inform BBC audiences that the video she describes in her opening paragraphs was filmed by Ahed Tamimi’s mother, Nariman, or that the latter has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project. Knell does however provide readers with a link (the only one in the article) to Nariman Tamimi’s Facebook account.

Throughout the article Knell describes Ahed Tamimi in the following terms:

“To some she’s a modern-day Joan of Arc.”

“…Ahed Tamimi is now a famous Palestinian prisoner…”

“For many Palestinians, Ahed is a hero of their nationalist struggle for the digital age. They see her standing up to the reality of Israeli occupation, defending her home with her bare hands.”

Knell tells readers that:

“Aged 11, Ahed was filmed threatening to punch a soldier after her older brother was arrested. Two years ago, she bit a soldier trying to detain her younger brother.”

As was the case in the audio report, she did not bother to inform readers that Tamimi’s then 12 year-old brother was throwing rocks at the time.

The four interviewees who appeared in Knell’s audio report – Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky, her father Bassem Tamimi, Israeli MK Anat Berko and former IDF chief prosecutor Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch – are also quoted in this written report.

As was noted here when the indictment against her was issued at the beginning of the month, in addition to charges of assault and stone-throwing, Ahed Tamimi was also charged with incitement.

“Regarding the incitement charge, the MAG [Military Attorney General] cited a statement given by Ahed to her mother, who was filming the December 15 incident on Facebook Live. Immediately following the squabble, Nariman asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [Donald] Trump made his declaration and [the Americans] need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us,” Ahed added, apparently referring to the US president’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” she concluded.”

However, in one of her final paragraphs Knell presents BBC audiences with a very different interpretation of Tamimi’s call for violence.  

“At the end of the online video, Ahed calls for large demonstrations as “the only way to reach results”, but says US President Donald Trump must bear responsibility for any Palestinian violence, including stabbings and suicide attacks.”

Interestingly, a report in the Jerusalem Post shows that Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky used a remarkably similar claim in court.

“Gaby Lasky, a high-profile human rights lawyer and Meretz activist who is defending Tamimi, told the court Monday that the Palestinian teen mostly was protesting US President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

She said Tamimi’s message was “Trump needs to take responsibility” for a negative decision which led to an outcry of Palestinian protests.”

And that raises the question (not for the first time) of whether Yolande Knell is a reporter or a political activist who compromises the BBC’s reputation for impartiality. 

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BBC reporter’s Tweets breach impartiality guidelines

h/t @Salted2

As readers may be aware, the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality state:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.” [emphasis added]

Additionally, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on “Social Networking and Other Third Party Websites (including Blogs, Microblogs and Personal Webspace): Personal Use” include the following:

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.”

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not: […]

  • advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, on January 5th the BBC’s Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas did just that while criticising another media organisation.

So much – once again – for BBC impartiality.

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BBC radio’s inconsistent coverage of charges against Ahed Tamimi

As was noted here last week, an article published on the BBC News website on January 1st failed to inform BBC audiences that, in addition to charges of assault and stone-throwing, Ahed Tamimi was also charged with incitement.

“Among the charges against Ahed were aggravated assault of a soldier, threatening a soldier, preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties, incitement, disturbing the public peace and stone throwing.

Regarding the incitement charge, the MAG [Military Attorney General] cited a statement given by Ahed to her mother, who was filming the December 15 incident on Facebook Live. Immediately following the squabble, Nariman asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [Donald] Trump made his declaration and [the Americans] need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us,” Ahed added, apparently referring to the US president’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” she concluded.”

That video can be seen here.

However, an item (from 17:55 here) broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on the same day – January 1st – shows that the BBC’s Yolande Knell was already aware of the charge of incitement.

After having told BBC audiences that Tamimi is a “star on social media”, seen as “a symbol of resistance”, “a Palestinian hero” and that she is “very brave, it seems”, Knell stated:

Knell: “Now there are 12 charges against Ahed Tamimi. She’s appeared before a military court. These relate to six different incidents. She’s charged with 5 counts of assaulting soldiers, also with throwing rocks, incitement to violence…”

Two days later, on January 3rd, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today‘ programme also aired an item on the same subject. Presenter Carrie Gracie opened the item (from 02:32:15 here) by telling listeners that:

Gracie: “A 16 year-old Palestinian girl who has a history of protesting against Israel has been charged with assaulting Israeli soldiers near her home in the occupied West Bank and she has appeared in a military court.”

No mention of the additional charges of rock-throwing and incitement was made throughout the item, which included interviews with Israeli MK Dr Michael Oren and B’tselem’s research director Yael Stein. Neither were listeners told that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project.

On January 8th BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme aired yet another item (from 45:16 here) on the same topic. Presenter John Humphrys introduced it as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Humphrys: “Confrontations between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers are almost daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank but since last month one case has been the subject of intense public debate. Ahed Tamimi, who is 16, was filmed slapping and kicking two soldiers outside her home. She has now been charged with five counts of assault. Today she’s going to appear at an Israeli military court for a remand hearing. As Yolande Knell reports, many Palestinians see her as a new hero of their nationalist struggle while Israeli politicians accuse her family of staging anti-Israeli propaganda.”

Listeners were not told that the video concerned was filmed and distributed by Ahed Tamimi’s mother. After describing the video, Knell again told listeners that:

Knell: “Last month Ahed was arrested. She’s been charged with assault.”

Listeners then heard from the girl’s lawyer, Gabi Lasky, who ascribed extra significance to the case.

Lasky: “Not only is this a regular criminal case in the occupied territories but it has a lot of weight on it regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Notably, that theme that was repeated by Knell when she later closed the report:

Knell: “Their case will be watched closely – not just for its legal outcome but for all that it’s seen to symbolise.”

After the interview with Lasky, Knell brought in a recording from a television programme in Hebrew.

Knell: “On Israel’s Channel 10 the presenter asks if the soldiers hit by Ahed were cowardly or showed exemplary restraint. A military expert points out that they were in her village to deal with Palestinians throwing stones. An Israeli peace activist explains how Ahed’s cousin had just been badly injured – shot in the face with a rubber bullet.”

So who is that “peace activist” and is he a reliable and objective source that can be unquestioningly amplified by the BBC?

The interviewee concerned is Yonatan (Jonathan) Pollak – a founder of ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’, a BDS campaign supporter and a regular participant in the weekly rioting in Nabi Saleh organised by Ahed Tamimi’s father.

Knell continued:

Knell: “But this isn’t the first time Ahed’s actions have sparked debate. Two years ago she was the blonde curly-haired child filmed biting an Israeli soldier trying to detain her brother. In an earlier video she threatens to punch a soldier.”

Knell of course did not bother to tell listeners that Tamimi’s then 12 year-old brother was throwing rocks at the time. She then went on to say:

Knell: “While Palestinians liken her [Ahed Tamimi] to Joan of Arc, Israel’s media calls her Shirley Temper.”

In fact the bizarre Joan of Arc comparison was first made by Israeli activist Uri Avinery in an article published in Ha’aretz.

Following an interview with Israeli MK Anat Berko, Knell went on to present Ahed Tamimi’s father Bassem – inserting the BBC’s standard partisan interpretation of ‘international law’ along the way.

Knell: “Making coffee at his home in Nabi Saleh in the hills north of Ramallah, I meet Ahed’s father – a political activist who’s been jailed by Israel many times. For years he’s organized protests in which villagers try to march towards land taken by an Israeli settlement. Settlements are considered illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

She continued:

Knell: “Usually the marches lead to clashes with Israeli soldiers. But Bassem Tamimi always allowed his daughter to join them and be filmed.”

Tamimi: “I am proud of my daughter. I am happy that she became the spirit and the example of the new generation for resistance.”

Knell: “Those criticising you say that these videos are like set-ups, you know, that they are staged.”

Tamimi: “Francis Bacon say how the other evaluate my method is their problem, it’s not mine. They said it’s a movie or it’s a theatre. How we can bring these soldier to our home to make this play?”

The answer to that question of course is – as Bassem Tamimi well knows – by organising violent rioting to which soldiers will have to respond but Yolande Knell refrained from pursuing that issue.

Knell’s final interviewee was Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch and BBC audiences – who, significantly, have not seen the video in which Ahed Tamimi urged viewers to carry out “stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones” were told that her call is “alleged”.

Knell: “A few hundred Palestinian children are prosecuted in this system each year. Maurice Hirsch used to be the IDF chief prosecutor for the West Bank. He says the more serious charges against Ahed involved her alleged online call for more action to support the Palestinian cause – from protests to what she calls martyrdom operations.” [emphasis added]

Knell did not bother to tell listeners that “martyrdom operations” means suicide bombings even though that information is relevant to audience understanding of Maurice Hirsch’s comments.

Hirsch: “Many minors that come before the courts are suspected of committing predominantly violent crimes similar to that of Ahed. Attacking a soldier is a crime of violence but I think that’s really one of the sidelines of the indictment. One of the main counts of the indictment is really incitement – publicly calling for others to commit other terrorist attacks.”

While once again failing to clarify to listeners that Ahed Tamimi’s mother filmed the video concerned, Knell then told listeners that:

Knell: “The other women seen in this video are both charged with assault and her mother with incitement after it was live-streamed on her Facebook page.”

As we see the BBC’s promotion of this story is on the one hand generous and on the other hand inconsistent. Some reports have included mentions, to one degree or another, of the charge of incitement while others have whitewashed it – and additional relevant information – from the picture. Significantly, although the video footage of Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence is in the public domain, it has not been presented to BBC audiences.  

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BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

BBC News omits a relevant part of the Tamimi charges story

On January 1st the BBC News website published a report titled “Palestinian girl charged after slapping soldier on video“.

Parts of that report are recycled from a BBC News website article concerning the arrest of Ahed Tamimi that was published on December 19th 2017. Four links that appeared in that previous report – a Facebook post by her father, an article from the notoriously partisan and inaccurate Al Jazeera quoting her aunt, one Ynet report quoting her father and a second Ynet report relating to a previous incident in which she was involved – are promoted once again.

While – in contrast to the previous report – this one does clarify that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman filmed and disseminated the footage of her daughter assaulting an Israeli soldier, the full extent of the Tamimi family’s activities – including the organisation of weekly rioting – is once again not revealed to BBC audiences.

Regarding the actual indictment against Ahed Tamimi, the article states:

“Israeli authorities have charged a Palestinian teenager with assault after a video of her hitting and pushing Israeli soldiers went viral. […]

She faces 12 charges including aggravated assault and throwing stones.

But the family say they were involved in legitimate resistance during protests in the occupied West Bank.”

Readers are not informed that – as reported by the Times of Israel – she has also been charged with incitement.

“Among the charges against Ahed were aggravated assault of a soldier, threatening a soldier, preventing soldiers from carrying out their duties, incitement, disturbing the public peace and stone throwing.

Regarding the incitement charge, the MAG [Military Attorney General] cited a statement given by Ahed to her mother, who was filming the December 15 incident on Facebook Live. Immediately following the squabble, Nariman asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones, and I hope that the world will unite to liberate Palestine, because [Donald] Trump made his declaration and [the Americans] need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us,” Ahed added, apparently referring to the US president’s decision last month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” she concluded.

The MAG said the Facebook Live stream earned “thousands of views” and “dozens of likes.”” [emphasis added]

Notably, while the BBC did elect to amplify the Tamimi family’s claim of “legitimate resistance” and to inform its audiences that “many Palestinians have hailed Tamimi as a hero of the resistance to Israeli occupation”, it refrained from telling them of her support for terrorism and advocacy of the murder of Israelis.    

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BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again


BBC News website promotes the Tamimi clan again

It came as no surprise to find that on December 19th the BBC News website chose to promote two items – written and filmed – on its Middle East page concerning a member of an extended Palestinian family which has previously been featured in BBC content.

The filmed item – titled “Palestinian girl arrested after ‘slap’ video” – opens with footage marked “Courtesy Nariam Tamimi” who just happens to be the mother of that “Palestinian girl”. Viewers are told that:

“This is Ahed Tamimi and her cousin Noor with two Israeli soldiers. They are in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh during weekly protests. Three nights later 17-year-old Ahed was arrested. She’s accused of assault and taking part in violent riots. Just before the incident, the soldiers had been clashing with Palestinians around the Tamimis’ home who were protesting against the Israeli occupation and Donald Trump declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The next part of the footage is marked “Courtesy Bilal Tamimi” – who is Ahed Tamimi’s uncle.

“This video of Ahed Tamimi (in pink) went viral in 2015. She is a prominent child activist. She was trying to prevent her 12-year-old brother’s arrest for throwing rocks. She bit the Israeli soldier’s hand. Following that incident, she and her family met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

The video does not inform viewers that (despite the BBC’s effort to shoehorn the US president’s recent announcement on Jerusalem into the story) violent rioting has been taking place weekly in Nabi Saleh since December 2009. Neither does it clarify that Ahed Tamimi’s father Bassem is the main organiser of those Friday riots or that, together with other family members, he and his brother Bilal run a ‘news agency’ called ‘Tamimi Press’ which produces and distributes footage and images from those weekly riots, often featuring children from the Tamimi clan such as Ahed.

What this BBC video does do, however, is provide further PR for that particular Tamimi family business.

The written report – titled “Palestinian girl arrested after troops ‘slapped’ in video” – features the same amplification of the Tamimi clan’s videos at the top of the article. The report also promotes two separate links to posts from the Facebook account of Bassem Tamimi, in one of which he describes the IDF as a “terrorist and fascist army” and in the other makes claims which there is nothing to suggest have been independently verified by the BBC.

Another link promoted in the article leads to an article by Al Jazeera which includes comment from Bilal Tamimi’s wife Manal – who earlier this year was featured in two Al Jazeera puff pieces titled “How to be a Palestinian supermom” and “Motherhood and resistance in Palestine“. In addition, the report promotes two links to the Ynet website, one of which includes an interview with Bassem Tamimi.

To sum up, the BBC’s ‘reporting’ on this story promotes – twice – filmed footage for the most part produced by family members of the story’s main protagonist, two Facebook posts from her father, one article from a notoriously partisan and inaccurate media outlet quoting her aunt, one Ynet report quoting her father and a second Ynet report relating to a previous incident in which she was involved.

Let’s remind ourselves of the first of the public purposes laid out in the BBC’s Charter:

“The BBC will provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.” [emphasis added]

Let’s also take a look at what BBC editorial guidelines say about “gathering material“.

“We must take special care over how we use any material that we suspect has been supplied by a member of a lobby group or organisation with a vested interest in the story, rather than a disinterested bystander. […]

Material supplied by third parties needs to be treated with appropriate caution, taking account of the reputation of the source. […]

We should only broadcast material from third parties who may have a personal or professional interest in its subject matter if there is a clear editorial justification.” 

BBC editorial guidelines also state that:

“Where BBC online sites covering ‘controversial subjects’ offer links to external sites, we should ensure that the information on those external sites, taken together, represents a reasonable range of views about the subject.” 

Obviously the BBC cannot claim to have adhered to “the highest editorial standards” in these two reports that do little more than significantly – and unquestioningly – extend the outreach of the Tamimi family’s child exploiting propaganda.

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Revisiting the BBC’s promotion of an anti-Israel activist

Readers may recall that back in November 2012 the BBC News website published a very one-sided account of the sentencing of anti-Israel activist Bassem Tamimi which included extensive amplification of content from a press release put out by the political NGO Amnesty International and – as noted here at the time – was illustrated with a staged image of Tamimi’s daughter.Tamimi 1

Nearly three years after that BBC article appeared, Bassem Tamimi went on a speaking tour in the US which included a controversial event at a school. The ‘Legal Insurrection’ website continues the story:

“On Friday morning, September 18, 2015, the third grade classes at the Beverly J. Martin School in Ithaca, NY, heard a presentation on “human rights” by Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi and local anti-Israel activists, led by Ariel Gold. We broke the story a couple of days later, Anti-Israel activism hits elementary school in Ithaca, NY.

Based on documents produced pursuant to a NY Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request and court rulings, previously we were able to document that the Tamimi event was an anti-Israel propaganda event. At least one third-grade student suffered nightmares and a Letter of Reprimand was issued to the school principal for attempting to cover-up the nature of the event.

Previously, though, we didn’t have any video of the Tamimi Event, just the paper and electronic record of communications. While that paper and electronic record was shocking, only video could fully convey what happened.

After over a year of investigation and litigation, including a court order under the NY Freedom of Information Law, Legal Insurrection has obtained a partial video of the Tamimi Event. That partial video shows how, after the main portion of the presentation was over (for which there is almost no video), the third-grade students expressed strong hostility to Israel and were encouraged to do so.”

The rest of the article and the videos can be found here.

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BBC’s Yolande Knell dons her campaigning hat yet again


BBC’s Yolande Knell dons her campaigning hat yet again

Two recent items which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page exemplify the extent to which the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell has shifted from journalism to ‘journavism’- the amplification of political campaigning under the guise of reporting.

On February 7th a filmed report by Knell titled “Palestinian push to reclaim lost village of Ein Hijleh” appeared on the Middle East page as well as being aired on BBC television news programmes.

Knell filmed EIn Hijleh

Knell informs BBC audiences:

“This is Ein Hijleh in the Jordan Valley. Palestinian activists moved here a week ago, returning to land that Palestinian villagers had to leave during and after the 1967 Middle East war when Israel captured the West Bank.”

Let’s take a closer look at Knell’s claim of “returning to land” in Ein Hijleh – also spelt Ein Hajla. According to a paper produced by the Palestinian NGO ARIJ in 2012:

“Deir Hajla is one of the oldest monasteries in both Palestine and the world. It contains mosaic floors dating back to the Medieval Ages, which were later renovated. In the north-east side of the monastery there is located ‘Ein Hajla (Hajla Spring) which, according to popular legend, the Canaanite village of Beit Hajla (meaning the house of hopscotch) was built upon. However, in the Roman era, it was called Hajla (the translation of which refers to the partridge bird) (Al Dabbagh, 1991) which is presently frequent in the region.”

Here’s a clue to the origin of that “Roman era” name:

“The Monastery, known in Arabic as Deir Hajla, seems to preserve the Hebrew name Bet Hoglah, which is mentioned in the biblical description of the lands of the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua18:19).”

So we have a Canaanite village “according to popular legend”, an ancient Hebrew place-name (meaning a bird which is a member of the pheasant family) adopted by the Romans and a very old monastery founded by a monk from Lycia in Asia Minor.

The ARIJ report does not include any mention of a village at the location or villagers displaced from it, but it does note the illegal construction of structures at the site: map ein hijleh

“On 3rd January 2012, Israeli authorities presented a number of Palestinian farmers and residents in Deir Hajla and Az Zoor demolition orders to pull down and remove Barracks and rooms that were considered as a shelter for farmers and warehouses for agricultural equipments. The order was issued under the pretext of unlicensed construction.”

Knell continues:

“We’ve seen confrontations going on between the Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli soldiers. This is an area that still comes under Israel’s full military and administrative control and there are Jewish settlements quite nearby. But the demonstrators say that they’re determined to stay on this land to show their opposition to Israel’s continuing occupation of what is a vast, fertile stretch of land along the border with Jordan and you can see that they’re starting to farm the land and they’re also making repairs to some of the buildings.”

As anyone familiar with the area knows full well, with the exception of Jericho the Jordan Rift Valley was anything but “a vast, fertile stretch of land” until Israel brought water to the district after 1967. Whilst the recent squatters at Ein Hijleh did indeed do a bit of symbolic planting of palm trees, Knell’s romanticised claim that “they’re starting to farm the land” clearly relies on the fact that the majority of her viewers will be unaware of the fact that the soil in the area has a very high salt content indeed and – as early pioneers at nearby Beit Arava (later destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948) discovered  – has to undergo special treatment before anything can be grown in it.  

Knell goes on:

“Now this action is taking place at a time when the issue of the Jordan Valley is coming up in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s a very sensitive subject; the Palestinians say they want control of this valley, which makes up about a quarter of the West Bank, if they’re to have a viable future state. They also want control of their eastern border, although they do say that they’d be prepared to accept international troops there from NATO after an Israeli withdrawal. The Israelis say that with all of this turmoil that’s going on across the Middle East, they can’t afford to give up on such a strategically important location and they’re determined to stay here for the sake of their own security.”

Knell clearly tries to create an impression of linkage between the official Palestinian stance on the issue of the Jordan Rift Valley and the motives behind the agitprop of the squatters at Ein Hijleh. But is that actually the case? From a statement put out by the organisers – the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee – we learn that:

“Campaign organizers and participants declared:

We, the daughters and sons of Palestine, announce today the revival of Ein Hijleh village as part of Melh Al-Ard campaign in the Jordan Valley. The action aims at refusing the political status quo, especially given futile negotiations destroying the rights of our people for liberation and claim to their land.”

In other words, these squatters are opposed to the current talks. In fact, as they later clarify, they are also opposed to a two-state solution, support BDS and are tragically historically challenged. 

“Accordingly we have decided to revive an old Palestinian Canaanite village in the Jordan Valley next to so called “Route 90” linking the Dead Sea to Bisan.” [emphasis added]

“From the village of Ein Hijleh, we the participants announce that we hold tight to our right to all occupied Palestinian lands. We refuse Kerry’s Plan that will establish a disfigured Palestinian state and recognizes the Israeli entity as a Jewish State. Such a state will turn Palestinians living inside lands occupied in 1948 into residents and visitors that can be deported at anytime. We affirm the unity of our people and their struggle wherever they are for our inalienable rights.”

“Based on our support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) we call upon our friends and international solidarity groups to stand with the demands of the Palestinian people and boycott all Israeli companies including Israeli factories and companies that work in the Jordan Valley and profit from Palestinian natural resources.”

Later on February 7th, after the squatters were evicted, Knell produced a written report on the same subject titled “Israel removes Palestinians’ Jordan Valley protest camp” in which she also promoted the dubious notion that:

“The Palestinian village was abandoned after Israel captured the land from Jordan in the 1967 war.”

Whilst she does not identify her as such (in contravention of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality), Knell promotes and amplifies the views of a spokesperson for the Popular Committees; self-defined “Palestinian/Bulgarian” Diana al Zeer.

” “We’re here to demand a Palestinian existence on Palestinian land. We’ve seen political negotiations have led nowhere,” one organiser, Diana al-Zeer told the BBC before the site was cleared.

“There are Israeli plans to annex the Jordan Valley, one of the most fertile areas of land for Palestinians. Palestinian houses here are being demolished, Palestinians are being thrown off their land and we’re here to say ‘no’ to all of this.” “

No such “Israeli plans to annex the Jordan Valley” exist, of course. That idea has been proposed, but it has not passed the necessary legislative stages and is in no way an official Israeli “plan” at this stage. Knell, however, makes absolutely no effort to clarify that point to her readers. TWitter tamimi birthday

Neither does she bother to provide her readers with any proper background information on subject of the political ideologies and actions of the people engaged in the agitprop to which she chooses to give amplification and promotion. Ms al Zeer’s Israel-erasing Twitter wallpaper, the ‘right of return’ flags and placards, the blocking of Route 90, the participation of activists from the International Solidarity Movement and serial agitators from other locations such as Nabi Saleh all go unmentioned, as do visits to the site by Atallah Hanna among others.

In fact, Knell leaves BBC audiences totally in the dark with regard to the fact that this group of squatters represents those who are opposed to the existence of Israel as the Jewish state and reject any attempt to reach a two-state solution through negotiation. Rather, she misleadingly presents them as romantic would-be farmers and their agitprop as having something to do with the current talks between Israel and the PLO. Of course the words “illegal settlement” do not cross her lips or keyboard at any point, despite the fact that the future of Area C, in which Ein Hijleh is located, is subject to final status negotiations under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people.Knell written Ein Hijleh

The rest of Knell’s written report is dedicated to the promotion of unverified statements from assorted politically motivated organisations and NGOs including B’Tselem, the IRC, Oxfam, Christian Aid and UN OCHA and her adoption of politicised language is shown by her use of the term “the Palestinian Bedouin community in the Jordan Valley”.

Yolande Knell’s campaigning reports are sadly nothing new. Beyond the fact that BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality are regularly breached in her politicised articles and footage, her uncritical amplification and romanticisation of political campaigns with no proper disclosure to audiences of their real aims means that she has become nothing more than a PR mouthpiece for anti-Israel activists and that her ‘journavism’ fails to meet the public purposes of building “a global understanding of international issues” and enabling members of the audience “to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” as defined in the BBC’s Charter.

Related Articles:

Why has the BBC stopped reporting on the Israel-PLO peace talks?

BBC’s Knell skirts over Israeli security concerns in Jordan Rift Valley

Yolande Knell ties one-state banner to BBC mast


Bulk of a BBC report is a B’Tselem press release

On December 6th the Middle East page of the BBC News website featured an article titled “Israeli soldier cleared over Palestinian’s death” which relates to the results of the investigation into the death of Mustafa Tamimi during a violent riot in Nabi Saleh in December 2011. 

Nabi Saleh art

The BBC’s 395 word report can be divided into three sections: one representing the views of the family, one representing the views of the foreign-funded NGO B’Tselem and one carrying statements made by the IDF. In addition to that word-count, there are photo captions and a side box containing a quotation. 

Statements made by the IDF concerning the results of the investigation amount to a total of seventy-seven words. The report does not include adequate representation of additional background information.

“The independent criminal investigation conducted by the Military Police collected testimonies from soldiers who had participated and witnessed the event. During the investigation, the soldier responsible for shooting the tear gas canister testified that the tear gas was shot in response to heavy stone throwing at the IDF vehicle and the nearby road, and that he did not see any people in the line of fire at the time of the incident.

The investigation was complex and encountered several difficulties. For example, a central witness, who according to pictures apparently participated in the stone hurling at the military vehicle with Mustafa Tamimi, refused to testify on the matter. Additionally, violent riots, which included throwing stones at Military Police investigators, repeatedly impeded the ability to perform a reconstruction at the scene of the incident.”

No context is provided to readers regarding the organised violent riots which take place weekly in Nabi Saleh.

The BBC report’s representation of the views of Tamimi’s family amounts to seventy-four words and a twelve-word photo caption: a total of 86 words.

The report’s representation of the viewpoint of B’Tselem amounts to 159 words in the body of the report and a twenty-one word highlighted bold quote in a side-box: a total of 180 words. In addition, the article contains a link to the B’Tselem press release on the subject dating from December 5th, but fails to clarify to readers that – as is revealed in the last line of that press release – B’Tselem’s statement was made before it had reviewed the evidence gathered by investigators.

“On Sunday [December 8th – ed.], B’Tselem will demand to see all the investigation material in order to continue working to assure justice for the Tamimi family.”

So, as we see, the majority of the BBC report is devoted to the representation of one side of the story – 266 words including quotes and a photo caption – with the bulk being the promotion and amplification of a press release from an NGO described only as an “Israeli Human Rights group”.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on impartiality make it perfectly clear that the political viewpoints of contributors must be made clear to audiences.

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

No attempt is made in this article to provide audiences with information regarding the political views, aims and sources of funding which stand behind B’Tselem’s campaigning and hence audiences are once again rendered unable to form their own opinions regarding the reliability and impartiality of claims made by that organisation.

The repeated practice of failing to disclose the political motivations behind NGOs promoted and quoted by the BBC continues to do serious damage to the BBC’s reputation for impartiality in its Middle East reporting. 

Related articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

‘Churnalism’ and the BBC

BBC uses photo of exploited child to promote anti-Israel propaganda

According to the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines

“Material from Third Parties


Material supplied by third parties needs to be treated with appropriate caution, taking account of the reputation of the source.


We should only broadcast material from third parties who may have a personal or professional interest in its subject matter if there is a clear editorial justification.  The material should be labelled.  This includes material from the emergency services, charities, and environmental groups.”

Amnesty International long since ceased even trying to pretend to appear objective on the subject of Israel. Its London premises regularly host some of the more extremist anti—Israel campaigners. 

Despite that, and despite the clear guidelines quoted above, a November 6th report on the BBC News website is actually little more than a slightly re-hashed version of an Amnesty International press release on the subject of 44 year-old Bassem Mohamed Abed Alrahman Tamimi from Nabi Saleh who, having violated the terms of two suspended sentences pending against him since April 2012, was recently sentenced to a term in prison.  

Tamimi is the coordinator of the Nabi Saleh branch of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee which, among other things, organizes the weekly violent demonstrations in that village. On October 24th 2012, he was one of a group of Palestinians, anarchists and some 20 foreign activists from the International Solidarity Movement who staged an unauthorized demonstration at the Rami Levy supermarket in Sha’ar Binyamin.

The BBC article quotes Amnesty International: 

“It said he [Tamimi] had been held solely for peacefully expressing his rights to freedom of expression of assembly when he attended a non-violent protest on 24 October at an Israeli-owned supermarket near Shaar Benjamin against the encroachment of settlers onto Palestinian land.”

The supermarket in question is actually a model of co-existence and exemplifies the kind of relations of which those of us in the region – Jews and Arabs alike – who aspire to peace would like to see more. Sixty of the 134 employees at the supermarket are Palestinian. Jews and Arabs work and shop there (and elsewhere) side by side every day. 

Co-existence in the Rami Levy supermarket in Sha’ar Binyamin (Photo: Atta Awisat)

But in recent months, the Rami Levy supermarket has come under fire from those in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement who are not happy at seeing this sort of coexistence and normalization of relations between Arabs and Jews. Among those nay-sayers are the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee activists and their foreign friends. 

“Abir Kopti, an activist with the Palestinian popular committees, told Ynet that Wednesday’s protest was part of a line of steps recently taken. The first was last week’s blocking of route 443.

According to Kopti, the activists are planning additional protests in the future. “This time we chose the Rami Levy store because we want to send a message to boycott the occupation and its products. As long as the Palestinians get no justice, settlers and Israelis will not lead normal lives.”

 She added that the protest was also meant to send a message to the Palestinian people not to shop in Rami Levy. It should be noted that the retail chain has two branches in the West Bank that also serve Palestinians.”

Kopti (who is herself from Nazareth, incidentally, and is a professional activist with several organisations) is the spokesperson for the PSCC. On the day of the demonstration she Tweeted the following:

So as we see, by their own admittance the organisers of the unauthorized demonstration were not – as claimed by Amnesty International  and cited by the BBC– protesting “against the encroachment of settlers onto Palestinian land”. Rather, they were engaged in harassing and intimidating shoppers and staff in order to promote the BDS agenda. Here is some footage from the inside of the store.

But it is not only the text of this article which demonstrates how the BBC has allowed itself to be co-opted for political purposes by anti-Israel campaigners. Take a look at the second photograph chosen by the BBC to illustrate the article.

The picture was taken by AP photographer Majdi Mohammed on November 2nd at Nabi Saleh. Obviously, the contrast between the big, fully equipped and armed Israeli soldier and the small, helpless and sweet blonde Palestinian girl is designed to send a very clear symbolic message.

Now take a look at this video footage shot on the same day:

The little girl in question is named A’hd Tamimi and she is the daughter of Bassem Tamimi and his wife, Nariman who films for B’Tselem’s video project.

Tamar Sternthal of CAMERA wrote about the cynical exploitation of eleven year-old Miss Tamimi by her parents for the creation of anti-Israel propaganda in the Times of Israel two months ago. According to a recent article in the Algemeiner

“A senior IDF source told Ynet that intelligence indicates that pro-Palestinian activists pay Palestinian children from Nabi Salih and other nearby villages to confront the soldiers. “The soldiers are briefed on the fact that these protests are staged for the sake of provocation, so that they could be filmed acting violently and so that those videos could be distributed worldwide in an effort to harm the IDF’s image,” the officer said.”

 By way of the Nabi Saleh solidarity website we learn that A’hd and her cousin Marah – who also features prominently in propaganda photos and videos – even received recognition from the PA President for her “bravery”. 

A’hd Tamimi (left) and Marah Tamimi (right)

Marah Tamimi (left) and A’hd Tamimi (right) with Mahmoud Abbas

The BBC Editorial Guidelines claim that: 

“We must always safeguard the welfare of the children and young people who contribute to our content, wherever in the world we operate.

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code obliges broadcasters to take “Due care … over the physical and emotional welfare and the dignity of people under eighteen who take part or are otherwise involved in programmes.”  This obligation is irrespective of any consent that might have been given by a parent or other adult acting in loco parentis. “

It is therefore difficult to see how the BBC can justify the use of a photograph of a minor deliberately and repeatedly placed in danger by her parents in order to try to score a cheap publicity stunt for propaganda purposes.

No less puzzling is the BBC’s decision to unquestioningly and partially promote the anti-Israel, anti-peace and co-existence agenda of Bassem Tamimi and his champions at Amnesty International, not least due to the fact that the lack of scruples in promoting that agenda is exemplified by the serial exploitation of children.