BBC double standards in reporting social media incitement evident again

As we have seen in the past BBC reporting on social media incitement to violence and/or glorification of terrorism differs depending on location.

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In April of this year the BBC News website’s domestic pages reported the sentencing of a Salford man previously found guilty of “encouragement of terrorism”.

“Muslim convert Adam Wyatt, 48, admitted disseminating a terrorist publication that said “Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine” and posting on social media that jihad was an obligation for all Muslims.”

The following month the website reported the sentencing of a man from Sunderland who had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences.

“A shopkeeper who tweeted support for Islamic State (IS) and called for “death to Shias” has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Mohammed Zahir Khan, of Nora Street, Sunderland, had admitted encouraging terrorism, dissemination of a terror publication and stirring up religious hatred.”

Unsurprisingly, the BBC did not send a reporter to interview either of those men before they were sentenced. Neither did it promote the notion that they were put on trial because of their identity to millions of audience members or portray either of their cases as being about “free speech”.

However, when an Israeli-Arab woman was sentenced to five months in prison after having been convicted of incitement to violence in her poems and social media posts, the BBC News website amplified her claims of political persecution in a July 31st report titled “Dareen Tatour: Israeli Arab poet sentenced for incitement“.

“An Israeli Arab poet has been jailed for inciting violence and supporting a group banned as a terrorist organisation based on her online posts. […]

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the poet’s case has become a cause celebre for free speech advocates and has drawn attention to a recent rise in Israeli arrests – of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – accused of incitement or planning attacks online. […]

Following her sentencing, Tatour said that she was not surprised by the verdict.

“I expected prison and that’s what happened. I didn’t expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I’m Palestinian, because it’s about free speech and I’m imprisoned because I’m Palestinian”, she told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.”

The BBC’s report also provides readers with two links to Tatour’s ‘poem’ – one a written version and the other a video.

On the same day the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a pre-recorded translated interview with Tatour by Tim Franks (from 30:04 here). The story was similarly portrayed by presenter James Menendez as being about ‘free speech’. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Menendez: “To a case now that’s become a cause celebre for free speech advocates in Israel and beyond. Dareen Tatour is an Arab-Israeli poet living near Nazareth. In October 2015 she was arrested and subsequently charged with inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organisation. That’s because of her social media posts including one in which she read a poem called ‘Resist, my people, resist’ accompanied by footage of Palestinian protesters throwing stones at Israeli police. At that time tension was running high in Israel after a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians. Well today, more than two and a half years on, Dareen Tatour has been sentenced for her crimes. The sentence was five months in prison. She’s already spent 3 months in prison and was then placed under house arrest. Well that prompted writers from around the world, including Alice Walker and Naomi Klein, to call for her release. Well on Monday Dareen spoke to Newshour’s Tim Franks who asked her first how she was feeling ahead of sentencing.”

During that interview BBC audiences around the world heard Tatour state that she does not think “there is any fairness in the Israeli justice system” and claim that she was being sentenced “only because I’m Palestinian. This is a political sentence”.

Listeners also heard her claim that she writes “about 70 years of occupation” with no effort made by Franks to explain to listeners what that phrase actually means. Similarly unchallenged was Tatour’s claim that she speaks about “the Israeli Zionist crimes against innocent people”.

When Franks raised the issue of one of her posts praising the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, she claimed that the “accusation is only based on a news story that I shared which mentions the Islamic Jihad” and “all I did was share the article”.

Haaretz however reported that her post said:

“Allah Akbar and Baruch Hashem, Islamic Jihad declared intifada throughout the whole West Bank and expansion to all Palestine. We should begin inside the Green Line” 

Franks then provided Tatour with the cue for her claim that she is “against all forms of violence” before asking her about her use of the word ‘shahid’ – martyr – while giving listeners the cumbersome explanation that:

“It is the word that is used to describe people who – Palestinian militants – who have lost their lives involved in militant activity”

Listeners then heard Tatour claim that “the word shahid that I use means victim” and twice state that “every martyr in Palestine is a victim”. She also made the false claim – unchallenged by Franks – that:

“More than a thousand people died in the last Gaza war – most of them children.”

Following that interview, James Menedez interviewed former Israeli MK Danny Ayalon, asking him first:

Menedez: “What is Israel doing locking up poets?”

As we see, while the BBC produces factual, judgement free reporting on people convicted of “encouragement of terrorism” in the UK, a similar story in Israel gets entirely different treatment. And so, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism persist.

 

 

 

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One to watch out for on BBC One and BBC Four

The BBC’s Easter programming will include a two-part programme titled “Painting the Holy Land” presented by Scottish artist Lachlan Goudie.

Episode one will be shown on BBC One on Friday, March 30th and on BBC Four on Sunday, April 1st.

“In the first episode, Lachlan follows Jesus’s last days on earth, travelling from the north of what is now Israel to Jerusalem. It’s a pilgrimage that millions undertake and a story of love and suffering that has inspired some of the world’s most remarkable masterpieces. […]

Along the way, in a series of surprising encounters, Lachlan meets locals who have their own take on daily life in the Holy Land. This is personal odyssey for Lachlan, exploring the places his father painted but never saw, rooted in the past but brimming with life in the present day.”

Episode two will be shown on BBC One on Sunday, April 1st and on BBC Four on Monday, April 2nd.

“Lachlan Goudie traces the story of Mary through the gospels with a personal question – why is the life of the Mother of God barely described in the Bible, but so well-represented in art?

He looks at her role in the story of the Resurrection and the subsequent events up to Pentecost, fifty days after Easter. In Nazareth he visits the well where legend states the teenage Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, and at one of seventeen Churches of the Annunciation sees the wealth of imagery that has helped secure for Mary a place in the hearts of the faithful. In Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, now in a grotto beneath the Church of the Nativity, he watches and draws pilgrims from all over the world. […]

During this journey Lachlan discovers that Mary and her miraculous story are inspiring not just to Christians. Mary the Mother of Jesus is a major figure to Muslims, the only woman named in the Koran.”

Clips from the second programme can be seen here and here.

 

BBC WS radio listeners told that Nazareth is a ‘Palestinian city’

The October 14th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 38:06 here) that was introduced by presenter Paul Henley as follows:

Henley: “Now a film called ‘Wajib’ by the Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir has been shown at the London film festival. The film is the only Arab entry in competition and follows a father and his estranged son who must come together to hand-deliver his daughter’s wedding invitations to each guest, as is the custom in…in Palestine.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide specifically states that the corporation’s staff:

“…should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Henley’s choice of words is even more egregious in light of the fact (not clarified to listeners) that the film’s story is based in Nazareth in northern Israel. Nevertheless, listeners heard another reference to ‘Palestine’ just seconds later.

Henley: “Now my colleague Razia Iqbal spoke to Annemarie for Newshour and she asked her how difficult it was as a Palestinian to keep politics and art separate.”

Jacir: “I don’t think it’s possible to make a film in Palestine that’s not somehow political because that’s just daily life. It’s everywhere. It’s in the way you travel, it’s in parents dropping their kids off to school, you know, you get round a checkpoint or not.”

Later on in the interview (40:53) listeners heard the following statements from Bethlehem born, Saudi raised, US educated Annemarie Jacir:

Jacir: “I think the Palestinians that are living in, you know, historic Palestine in a city like Nazareth – which is the biggest Palestinian city [sic] in Israel – they aren’t…who are they represented by? You know they are Israeli citizens on paper but they’re second, third class citizens. They don’t have the same rights. They’re not represented by the Israeli government for sure. They’re definitely not represented by the Palestinian Authority and so I feel like it is a community that lives a contradictory life and they’re struggling to find an identity…the identity and also, yeah, a political representative.”

Arab-Israelis living in Nazareth or anywhere else in Israel of course have the same rights as any other citizen – including the right to vote for their chosen parliamentary representatives. Eighteen (i.e. over 20% – reflecting the proportion of minorities in the population as a whole) of the current members of the Knesset are Arab-Israelis, Druze or Bedouin representing six different political parties (three of which – in contrast to Jacir’s claim – are part of the current coalition government) and surveys repeatedly indicate that the majority of Arab-Israelis view Israel in a positive light.  

Despite that, Razia Iqbal failed to present any challenge whatsoever to Jacir’s politically motivated, inaccurate and materially misleading claims and swiftly moved on to the next topic.

And yet, the BBC continues to claim that it provides its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”.  

 

Where do ISIS related indictments make BBC news – and where not?

On December 8th the BBC News website reported that four residents of Luton, UK, had been charged with “encouraging support for the so-called Islamic State group”.  

“Mr Alamgir is charged with four counts of addressing a meeting, the purpose of which was to encourage support for IS, contrary to s12(3) of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Mr Bashir has been charged with one count of the same offence.

Mr Rahman, meanwhile, is charged with three counts of arranging, managing or assisting in arranging or managing a meeting which he knew was to support IS, contrary to s12(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Mr Khan faces one count of arranging, managing or assisting in arranging or managing a meeting to encourage support for IS, and another count of addressing a meeting with the intention of encouraging support for IS.”

On the same day, five residents of Nazareth were also indicted on similar charges as well as the illegal possession of weapons.

“Israel has arrested five Israeli Arabs from Nazareth on suspicion of supporting the Islamic State and preparing to carry out terror attacks, the Shin Bet security service announced Tuesday. […]

The five relatives held secret meetings and trained in the use of weapons ahead of planned attacks in Israel, according to the Shin Bet. Over the past year, the suspects became more religious and expressed support of the Islamic State and the so-called jihad against apostates. […]

Two rifles, a Russian SKS and a Swedish Carl Gustav were also confiscated in the arrests, after the suspects revealed the weapons’ whereabouts. According to the security service, they practiced using the guns in a grove not far from Nazareth.

The police’s Northern District filed indictments against all five men at the Nazareth District Court on counts of illegal possession of weapons, supporting an illegal terror group and meetings held in support of an illegal organization.”

As in previous similar cases, the BBC did not find that story newsworthy but a similar story from Australia two days later did receive coverage. 

Another recent ISIS related story also apparently escaped the BBC’s attention.al Menei

“The commander of Islamic State forces in the Sinai is currently on what was intended to be a secret visit to the Gaza Strip, meeting with Hamas terror leaders to widen their cooperation and coordinate attacks on Egyptian and Israeli targets, Israeli television reported Thursday.

Shadi al-Menei is meeting with leaders of the Hamas military wing, and discussing the ongoing supply of weapons sought by Hamas, the Channel 2 TV report said.

For its part, Hamas has smuggled weaponry from Gaza to al-Menei’s terror group in Sinai, including Cornet anti-tank missiles, which have caused heavy losses to Egypt, including considerable loss of life, at least one naval vessel and numerous tanks and armored personnel carriers, Channel 2 news said.”

With the BBC having reported al Menei’s demise in May 2014, one might have thought that this report would have aroused its interest.

An Israeli mayor who does not fit into the BBC narrative

BBC coverage of the current wave of terror in Israel has included little if any reporting on the violent rioting seen in Arab towns and villages around Israel.

“An Arab Israeli man is arrested in Kafr Kanna early Sunday on suspicion of throwing rocks at security forces in late Saturday riots in the village.

Another Arab Israeli, age 17, is arrested in Bu’eine Nujeidat, east of Haifa. He is suspected of setting a tire on fire at the entrance to the nearby Jewish village of Beit Netofa.

A man and a woman were lightly injured late Saturday in a rock-throwing attack near the Galilee Arab vilage of Tour’an.

The two victims were hit by flying glass when their cars’ windows shattered after being struck by stones as they drove on Road 77 near the village.”

Rioting also took place in Um el Fahm, Rahat, Ramle and Nazareth.

“In Nazareth, some 1,500 Israeli Arabs took to the streets “in protest of the Israeli occupation,” Channel 2 reported. The demonstrators also hailed a local Arab woman who attempted to stab an Israeli security guard in a suspected terror attack on Friday. She was shot by security forces and is being treated in hospital.”

Of course the majority of Israeli Arabs have no truck with these violent disturbances and the Mayor of Nazareth went on national radio to make his views clear.

“Nazareth Mayor Ali Salem on Sunday criticized Arab Knesset members for their role in recent violent demonstrations, saying in two separate interviews to the Israeli media that their actions were detrimental to the Arab community.

“I blame the leaders; they are destroying our future, they are destroying coexistence,” Salem, the Muslim mayor of Israel’s largest Arab city, told Army Radio. […]

“We need to find a way to live together. We cannot fight like this. We are damaging ourselves,” he told Israel’s Walla website site.”

And when the head of the Joint Arab List was being interviewed by an Israeli TV channel in Nazareth on October 11th, Mr Salem found a novel way to express his displeasure.

Of course that story does not fit into the BBC’s monochrome narrative of the current wave of violence or its broader coverage of Israeli affairs.