Inaccurate BBC Yom Kippur war claim – 14 years and counting

Six years ago we documented the BBC’s correction of inaccurate Israeli casualty figures during the 1973 Yom Kippur War:

BBC Yom Kippur war accuracy failure perpetuated over years

However as was noted at the time, at least two other items of BBC content include the same error, stating that the number of Israeli casualties in that war was “about 6,000”.

That claim is found for example in a backgrounder titled ‘A History of Conflict which is undated, but appears to come from around 2005.

It also appears in another side-box of ‘context’ appended to an ‘On This Day’ feature – likewise undated, but apparently from around 2005 at the latest. 

According to the Israeli Ministry of Defence archives concerning the 1974 Agranat Commission 2,689 Israeli soldiers were killed, 7,251 injured, 301 taken prisoner and 16 declared missing in action during the Yom Kippur War. The IDF website gives a figure of 2,691 soldiers killed during the three weeks of war and other sources quote figures of between “more than 2,500“, 2,569 and 2,688 Israeli casualties, with the differences probably being attributable to later deaths as a result of injuries sustained, MIAs whose status was later confirmed and prisoners of war who did not return alive. Despite the differing estimates of Israeli casualties, none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in these BBC articles.

And yet, despite having corrected one report six years ago, the BBC is apparently unperturbed by the fact that webpages it still makes available to the general public have been disseminating inaccurate information for at least fourteen years.  

 

Yom Kippur war inaccuracies persist in BBC archive content

Four years ago we pointed out that an article concerning the Yom Kippur War (that is still available online in the BBC’s ‘On This Day’ archive under the date October 6th 1973) tells audiences in both its text and in a photo caption that:

Both sides have accused each other of firing the first shots, but UN observers have reported seeing Egyptian and Syrian troops crossing into Israeli-held territory.” [emphasis added]

That misleading forty-four year-old claim has still not been amended.

The same report also includes an inaccurate portrayal of the number of Israeli casualties in that war.

“Most hostilities ended on 22 October. Both sides suffered heavy losses. An estimated 8,500 Syrian and Egyptian soldiers died, while Israel lost about 6,000.”

As was also noted here four years ago, while various sources give slightly differing figures for Israeli casualties during the Yom Kippur War, “none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in this BBC article and others”.

At the time the BBC did amend one of the articles citing the inaccurate casualty figures but this archive report remains uncorrected, as does a separate backgrounder.

 

BBC Yom Kippur war accuracy failure perpetuated over years

h/t Judge Dan (via Twitter)

An article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly titled “Legacy of 1973 Arab-Israeli war reverberates 40 years on” which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th 2013 includes a side-box according to which:

 “Egypt and Syria lose estimated 8,500 soldiers; Israel loses 6,000 troops”

side box connolly article

That same claim is also to be found in previous BBC articles on the subject of the Yom Kippur war – for example here in the backgrounder titled ‘A History of Conflict’ which is undated, but appears to come from around 2005.

HoC 1973

It also appears in another side-box of ‘context’ appended to an ‘On This Day’ feature – also undated, but apparently from around 2005 at the latest. 

OTD casualties YK

But in fact, that number does not accurately represent the number of Israeli casualties in the Yom Kippur War.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Defence archives – quoting the preface to the report of the Agranat Commission in 1974 – 2,222 Israeli soldiers were killed, 7,251 injured, 301 taken prisoner and 16 declared missing in action during the Yom Kippur War. The Knesset website cites 2,350 Israeli casualties, 15,000 Egyptian ones and 3,500 Syrian dead. Other sources quote figures of between “more than 2,500“, 2,569, 2,688 and 2691 Israeli casualties, with the differences probably being attributable to later deaths as a result of injuries sustained, MIAs whose status was later confirmed and prisoners of war who did not return alive. With regard to Egyptian and Syrian casualties, reliable information is sparse and so the estimates vary.

Despite the differing estimates of Israeli casualties, none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in this BBC article and others. Interestingly, casualties recorded during the 1948 War of Independence do stand at over 6,000 Israelis (soldiers and civilians), so perhaps we can conclude that the BBC has mixed up its Middle East wars.  

This example of failure to meet the expectations of accuracy as stipulated in the BBC editorial guidelines raises an additional interesting point beyond the error itself. The fact that the same inaccuracy has been repeated in article after article over a period of several years suggests that the BBC lazily relies on its own sources – and hence perpetuates its own mistakes – rather than engaging in proper fact checking. 

Related articles:

BBC backgrounder on Yom Kippur war misleads on Syria

BBC removes claim of ‘pre-emptive’ Yom Kippur strike

BBC’s educational resource website describes Yom Kippur attack by Syria and Egypt as ‘pre-emptive’

BBC accuracy and equivalence in 1973

Update:

The side box in Kevin Connolly’s report of October 5th was revised a few hours after the publication of this article and now reads as follows:

revised version YK

 

The two backgrounders still cite the inaccurate number at the time of writing.