On March 10th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Islamic State video claims killing of ‘Israeli Arab spy’“. Since its initial appearance that article about the murder of Muhammad Musallam has been amended several times and whilst in general the report is reasonably accurate, it included a couple of noteworthy points.
The third and fourth versions of the report stated:
“The video shows a boy aged about 12 accompanied by an older, French-speaking militant. He issued threats against Jews in France before the boy shot an orange-suited figure dead.”
That wording was slightly changed in the fifth and sixth versions:
“The video shows a boy aged about 12 accompanied by an older, French-speaking militant who voices threats against Jews in France. The boy is then shown shooting an orange-suited figure in the head before firing more shots as the man lies on the ground.”
In the seventh version of the article those words were replaced by the following:
“He [Musallam] is later shown kneeling in an empty field, facing the camera. Behind him stand two figures in camouflage fatigues, one of whom appears to be a boy.
The boy appears to shoot the kneeling figure in the head with a handgun and then to fire further shots into the body.
The video then carries a warning from an older, French-speaking militant aimed at the Jewish people.”
Screenshots from the video publicized by numerous media outlets support the BBC’s original statement that “[t]he video shows a boy aged about 12” and so it is unclear why it was found necessary to change that to “two figures in camouflage fatigues, one of whom appears to be a boy” [emphasis added].
Whilst the original description of “threats against Jews in France” was indeed less than accurate, it is not clear why the ISIS terrorist’s words were later reclassified as “a warning […] aimed at the Jewish people”. In fact, as noted by MEMRI, the terrorist’s words are indeed threats – mainly against Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis:
“… he praises attacks on Jews in France, […] He threatens that ISIS will soon be attacking the Jews’ “lands and fortresses” and will “liberate Jerusalem” from the Jewish “filth.” He calls upon Muslim ISIS supporters to target several other alleged Mossad agents [including Arab Israelis – Ed] in Jerusalem whose names and addresses appear at the end of the video.”
In the latest version of the article readers find an insert titled “At the scene: Yolande Knell, BBC News, East Jerusalem”. The report also states:
“The 19-year-old left his home in East Jerusalem for Turkey last year, apparently intending to fight in Syria.” [emphasis added]
The Musallam actually family lives in Neve Ya’akov: a neighbourhood of Jerusalem usually described by the BBC as a ‘Jewish settlement’ despite the fact that it was established in 1924 on land purchased by Jews, evacuated during the War of Independence and reconstructed after the Six Day War.
But the prospect of explaining to audiences why an Israeli Arab Muslim family lives in a ‘Jewish settlement’ obviously generated too much cognitive dissonance and so Neve Ya’akov became “East Jerusalem” and thus the standard insert to the effect that “settlements are illegal under international law” could be omitted from this report.