BBC Trust rejects appeals on Willcox ‘Jewish hands’ complaints

Eighteen months after the original broadcast, the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee has now published its findings concerning complaints about remarks made by Tim Willcox during a broadcast from Paris after the terror attacks at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hypercacher supermarket in January 2015.Willcox

Readers will no doubt recall that in response to complaints, the BBC originally claimed that Willcox’s subsequent apology on Twitter sufficed. Having received a large number of complaints, the BBC then decided to consolidate them. Concurrently, additional complaints made to OFCOM were rejected.

In February 2015 the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit provisionally rejected the consolidated complaint, sparking condemnation from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In May 2015 the ECU finalised its decision.

On June 16th 2016 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee published the outcome of appeals against that decision. A summary can be found on page 4 and the full decision is on page 11 here.

Unsurprisingly, the ESC rejected all the appeals and the convoluted ‘rationale’ behind that decision raises issues in itself. [all emphasis added]

“The Committee noted the response from the Editor of the BBC News Channel:

“Given the apology by [the presenter] at the time, it is clear we accept that the question itself was somewhat clumsy, and the phrase ‘Jewish hands’ might not have been chosen in a scripted context, given the specific point behind the question was about Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. We note the earlier findings that this phrase, while clumsy and insufficiently specific, was not a breach of the BBC’s guidelines given the regular conflation of Israel and Jewish by critics of Israel’s policies, and the use by some of the phrase ‘Jewish state’ to describe Israel.” […]

The Committee did not uphold the points of appeal, for the following reasons:

  • whilst some of the audience clearly found it both harmful and offensive to conflate Jewish and Israeli, the perspective was clearly attributed to critics of Israel
  • it was posited neither as the presenter’s view nor as a valid position. The presenter’s remarks were positing a reason the perpetrators might have used or others might use to try to justify or legitimise their actions in making Jews a target of the attack. The Committee did not accept the suggestion that the presenter had been seeking to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel
  • while it is abhorrent to murder Parisian Jews as a response to the actions of the State of Israel, and the actions of the State of Israel cannot be used to excuse or legitimise the events in Paris or to connect Parisian Jews to the State, it is evidently a justification used by those who perpetrate such acts of violence
  • physical attacks in Paris on Jewish people and their institutions during the war in Gaza a few months prior to the January massacres are evidence that the presenter’s observation was factually based
  • there have been comments by Jewish community leaders in France and the UK acknowledging that the war in Gaza was the motivation for anti-Semitic attacks […]
  • the conflation of Jewish and Israeli was duly accurate and editorially justified in this particular instance: it was clearly attributed, well-sourced, based on sound evidence, and was adequate and appropriate to the output.The Committee acknowledged the sensitivity of the subject matter and the genuine offence felt by some listeners. However, Trustees considered it important to note that the Editorial Guidelines permit the legitimate use of challenging material and allow reporters and presenters, where appropriate, to raise difficult issues in accordance with generally accepted standards. Trustees considered that, although the presenter had acknowledged that some viewers may have been offended by his choice of language, for which he had apologised promptly, given all the circumstances, his phraseology did not breach the Harm and Offence Guidelines.The Committee concluded that the BBC had demonstrated a clear editorial purpose in positing a connection between Jews “being the targets now” and “many critics of Israel’s policy” who would “suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands”.”

In other words, the BBC Trust appears to be claiming that because anti-Israel activists – and murderous antisemites – use the terms ‘Israel’ and ‘Jewish’ interchangeably, it is legitimate for it to adopt the same language and that the use of such language is legitimate according to its editorial guidelines. One can of course only speculate whether or not the BBC would find it similarly appropriate to adopt and amplify the language of ‘justification’ used by those perpetrating acts of violence against, for example, the gay community.

The ESC likewise rejected appeals concerning the inadequacy of Willcox’s Twitter apology and the absence of any apology broadcast on the station which aired the remarks.

“The Committee noted the response from the Editor of the BBC News Channel:

“It is important to note that far from failing to recognise the issue, action was taken soon after the interview took place with [the presenter] accepting that the question he posed had been poorly phrased. He gave a clear apology the following morning via the social media network Twitter… This apology was also provided to media organisations by the BBC Press Office.”

The Committed noted the decision of the Editorial Complaints Unit at Stage 2 that the Twitter apology was sufficient because the presenter’s comments did not constitute a serious breach of editorial standards which would require a formal public correction and apology.

The Committee concluded that as the presenter’s comments had not breached the Editorial Guidelines on Harm and Offence, the Twitter apology for the poor phrasing and its wider circulation in the media via the BBC Press Office, was adequate and appropriate.”BBC Trust

Notably, this is not the first time that the self-regulating BBC Trust has rejected appeals concerning remarks made by this reporter, despite their having been flagged up by expert bodies dealing with antisemitism: the CST and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

It is of course also remarkable that the BBC Trust (along with OFCOM, as cited in this document) is apparently convinced that it possesses the authority and expertise to make judgements what is – or in this case, what is not – antisemitic discourse. And that despite the fact that both OFCOM and the BBC have yet to inform their funding public which accepted definition of antisemitism – if any – they use as the basis for such decisions. 

 

 

 

 

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Continuing the mapping of BBC inconsistency in terrorism reporting

A decade has passed since the publication of the ‘Report of the Independent Panel for the BBC Governors on Impartiality of BBC Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’ – also known as the Thomas Report.

Notwithstanding its many shortcomings, one of the recommendations made in that report called for the use of clear and consistent language.

“We say that the BBC should get the language right. We think they should call terrorist acts “terrorism” because that term is clear and well understood. Equally, on this and other sensitive points of language, once they have decided the best answer they should ensure it is adopted consistently”. […]

“The term “terrorism” should accordingly be used in respect of relevant events since it is the most accurate expression for actions which involve violence against randomly selected civilians with the intention of causing terror for ideological, including political or religious, objectives, whether perpetrated by state or non-state agencies.”

In June 2006 the BBC Governors published their response to the Thomas Report in which that particular recommendation was rejected. At the time a BBC article stated:

“Managers also questioned the use of the word “terrorism” as defined in the independent report, chaired by British Board of Film Classification president Sir Quentin Thomas.

In the report, “terrorism” was described as “the most accurate expression for actions which involve violence against randomly selected civilians with the intention of causing terror”.

Such a definition, executives argued, “would exclude attacks on soldiers” and oblige journalists to make “the very value judgements” they are asked to avoid making under the BBC’s editorial guidelines.” 

The topic of “value judgements” still forms a significant part of the BBC’s Guidance on Language when Reporting Terrorism.

“The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words “terrorist” or “terrorist group” can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality. For example, the bombing of a bus in London was carried out by “terrorists”, but the bombing of a bus in Israel was perpetrated by a “suicide bomber”. Or again, “terrorists” in London bombed a tube train, but “insurgents” in Iraq have “assassinated” the Egyptian ambassador. The use of the words can imply judgement where there is no clear consensus about the legitimacy of militant political groups.

Have we assessed the merits of the different perpetrators’ cause, the acts of the different Governments against the perpetrators, or even the value of civilian lives further from home?  We must be careful not to give the impression that we have come to some kind of implicit -and unwarranted – value judgement.

Some will argue that certain events are so evidently acts of terror (and, therefore, perpetrated by “terrorists”) that those descriptions are reasonable, and non-judgemental. However, the language we choose to use in reporting one incident cannot be considered in isolation from our reporting of other stories. So to use the word in incidents which we may consider obvious creates difficulties for less clear-cut incidents. […]

We also need to ask ourselves whether by using “terrorist” we are taking a political position, or certainly one that may be seen as such.”

As we have frequently remarked on these pages, deliberate abstention from use of the word terror is often just as much a ‘value judgement’ and an expression of a “political position” as is its use.

That Guidance also demands consistency from BBC journalists:

“We can no longer isolate the BBC’s coverage of the UK from how it reports the rest of the world. With global access to our services, the concept of a “primary audience” is problematic: reports made for News 24 are often shared on BBC World; UK bulletins are streamed on the internet; and users of BBC Online can compare the words used on global and UK pages with just a few mouse clicks.

Importantly even within the same bulletin on the same service, there can be issues of inconsistency in how we describe who is doing what to whom. “Militants in Gaza launch a rocket attack: terrorists plant bombs in London…” Don’t assume that what you write or say is confined to a small part of our audience.”

We have frequently documented on these pages the lack of consistency in the BBC’s use – or not – of the word terror (see ‘related articles’ below) and this past week has unfortunately provided several additional examples of the phenomenon.

The BBC News website’s coverage of the June 8th terror attack at Sarona Market in Tel Aviv did not include any use of the word terror and its derivatives by the BBC itself and the word was only seen in direct quotes from Israelis.

A similar approach appears to have been adopted in most of the reporting on the terror attack in Orlando on June 12th with use of the word terror confined to direct quotes – see for example here, here and here. Exceptions were seen in indirect references to terrorism which appeared in written and filmed analysis from the BBC’s security correspondent Gordon Corera and in a ‘Newsbeat’ article headlined “Concerns over UK LGBT venues ‘copycat’ style terror attacks“.Paris attack 13 6 on Europe pge

Coverage of the terror attack in France on June 14th also included reports which only used the word terrorism to describe the incident in direct quotes – see for example here, here and here – while other reports made references to the perpetrator’s past links to terrorism. A filmed report by the BBC’s Paris correspondent Lucy Williamson stood out for its refreshing use of accurate terminology.

“Last night France’s battle with terrorism came to this suburban street….”

“This is the man who brought terror to a quiet commuter town.”

An ambiguous approach is also seen in recently produced material concerning the 20th anniversary of the IRA terror attack in Manchester. An article appearing on the BBC News website does clarify what the story is about in its headline – “Manchester IRA bomb: Terror blast remembered 20 years on” – but anyone unfamiliar with the story who read the ‘About The BBC Blog’ post promoted by the corporation on social media would have great difficulty understanding that the “1996 Manchester Bomb” was a terror attack committed by the IRA.

As we see once again, the BBC not only has difficulty in achieving consistency – and therefore impartiality – in its reporting of terrorism in assorted locations, but even in different reports about the same incident. 

Ten years have passed since the BBC chose to ignore the Thomas Report’s call to “get the language right”. As the past week has shown once again, that decision does not serve the corporation’s funding public by helping them understand international and domestic events and it certainly has not enhanced the BBC’s reputation as an impartial broadcaster. 

Related Articles:

Mapping the BBC’s inconsistent use of the word ‘terror’

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

No terror please, we’re the British Broadcasting Corporation

BBC News website does ‘one man’s terrorist’

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

BBC News website flip-flops on description of Brussels attacks as terrorism – part two

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC double standards on terrorism surface yet again

 

BBC post terror attack report focuses on travel permits rather than victims

Following the deadly acts of terror in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in March 2016, the BBC found it appropriate to provide its audiences with information about the victims killed and wounded in those attacks.

The morning after the June 8th terror attack in Tel Aviv in which four people were murdered and sixteen wounded, the BBC News website found it appropriate to focus audience attentions on a topic other than its victims.  The website’s Middle East page ran the headline “Palestinian permits frozen after attack”, linking to an article titled “Tel Aviv shooting: Israel suspends Palestinian permits“.

Pigua Sarona mkt follow up art permits

The third version of that report was amended to include the names, ages and gender of the four victims of the previous evening’s attack. In contrast to the articles concerning the Paris and Brussels attacks, no additional personal details or photographs were provided.

“Two women – Ilana Nave, 39, and Mila Mishayev, 32 – and two men – Ido Ben Aryeh, 42, and Michael Feige, 58 – were killed in the shootings, police said.”

Editors did however consider it necessary to amend the report in order to inform BBC audiences of the terrorists’ sartorial tastes.

“The two gunmen, who were smartly dressed, opened fire with automatic weapons on diners and passers-by after sitting down and ordering food at one of the complex’s restaurants.”

Once again, the only use of the word terrorism in the report came in the form of a direct quote.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Sarona complex shortly after Wednesday night’s attack, calling it “a savage crime of murder and terrorism”.”

While failing to note the fact that Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organization, the report included the following information:

“Islamist group Hamas praised what it called an “heroic attack” but did not say it was behind it.

In a statement a day after the killings, the West Bank-based Palestinian Presidency said it “repeatedly emphasised its rejection of all operations targeting civilians regardless of their identity and irrespective of the justifications”, without directly addressing the Tel Aviv attack.”

Readers were not however told that Fatah – also headed by Mahmoud Abbas – put out statements concerning the terror attack which used language remarkably similar to that adopted by Hamas spokesmen.  [emphasis added]

“”The Fatah Movement stated in a notice from the Mobilization and Organization Commission” that the Tel Aviv operation (i.e., terror attack, 4 murdered) which occurred last night is a private and spontaneous natural response to Israel’s choosing force…

Head of the Information Committee of the Fatah Mobilization and Organization Commission Munir Al-Jaghoub said: ‘Israel needs to understand the results of its actions, [which are] a continuation of the promotion of the option of violence and the policy of demolishing homes and expelling residents of Jerusalem, and the ongoing invasions of the Al-Aqsa Mosque plaza by the herds of settlers… and the cold blooded murder of Palestinians at their checkpoints, which are spread through the territories occupied since 1967.'”

“In a brief press release on Thursday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri deemed the operation a natural response to the Israeli occupation’s crimes against Palestinians and the constant Israeli desecration of al-Aqsa Mosque and Muslim sanctities.”

The report did include a rarely seen mention of Palestinian celebration of the terror attack.

“News of the attack was greeted in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with fireworks and cheering. Some Palestinians handed out sweets and waved flags in celebration.”Pigua Sarona mkt follow up art

The main focus of the report was on the topic of the temporary suspension of entry permits into Israel previously issued to Palestinians resident in the PA and Hamas controlled territories.

“Israel says it has suspended entry permits for 83,000 Palestinians after gunmen killed four people in an attack at an open-air complex in Tel Aviv. […]

Israel later announced a permit ban that will impact Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip who had planned to visit relatives in Israel, attend Ramadan prayers in Jerusalem or travel abroad via Tel Aviv’s airport.”

The report did not clarify to readers that those permits were announced several days earlier within the framework of the special goodwill measures adopted for Ramadan. 

Related Articles:

Compare and contrast: BBC News personalisation of victims of terror

Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel

BBC coverage of Sarona Market terror attack – part one

BBC coverage of Sarona Market terror attack – part two

 

BBC’s Bowen employs apartheid analogy in report on Paris conference

Following on from his reporting on the conference hosted by the French government in Paris on June 3rd on the BBC News website and on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen also appeared on the June 5th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The World This Week’, hosted by Peter Hunt.TWTW 5 6

In that item (from 00:41 here) Bowen repeated some of the themes and messaging promoted in his previous reports as well as introducing new ones.

Listeners yet again heard exaggeration of the significance of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Just because events between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been largely overshadowed by the war, chaos, tumult elsewhere in the Middle East doesn’t mean that the conflict still isn’t very poisonous. And President Hollande as well said that because of the way that – as he put it – terrorism is spreading around the world, that other countries have a legitimate interest in trying to bring some peace and stability to one of the most troubled places on earth.” [emphasis added]

Once more promoting PLO talking points as he did in his ‘Newshour’ report two days earlier, Bowen again steered audiences towards the view that the main obstacle to a peace agreement is Israeli construction, citing “lots of people” whose identities – and relevant expertise – he declined to share with listeners. 

“The idea of making peace by setting up an independent Palestine to exist alongside Israel – the two state solution – lots of people these days say that because of the growth of settlements – Israeli settlements on occupied land which is in defiance of international law; it’s illegal – it’s just physically going to be very difficult for the Palestinians to set up an independent state.”

The Middle East editor made no effort to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing audiences that the legal view he promotes is just one interpretation of ‘international law’ and that other views also exist.

Despite the wealth of evidence of incitement and glorification of terrorism from official Palestinian sources, Bowen presented that issue using the “Israel says” caveat as he also did in the ‘Newshour’ item. It is of course worth remembering that BBC audiences have not received any serious coverage of the topic of Palestinian incitement since the surge in terrorism began nine months ago and so listeners lack relevant background information on that topic.

“Ah…the Israelis say it’s nothing to do with building houses, as they put it: really the problem is that the Palestinians are brainwashed from early life to hate Israelis.”

A ‘question’ from the presenter gave Bowen the cue for the presentation of a cherry picked view of Israeli politics.

Hunt: “And Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last year at the UN said ‘I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples’ – do people believe him?”

Bowen: “Well, it’s a question of which Mr Netanyahu turns up because he’s also said that there’ll never be a Palestinian state on his watch.”

The statement to which Bowen refers was made during the 2015 election campaign and – as noted here at the time – it included additional comments.

“When asked if it was correct to say that “…if you are prime minister a Palestinian state will not be established”, Netanyahu replied “indeed”. Before that, however, he gave context which this BBC article does not provide to readers.

“I think that anyone today going to set up a Palestinian state – anyone going to evacuate territory – is simply giving extremist Islam territory for attacks against the State of Israel. That’s the reality which has emerged here in the recent years. Whoever does not understand that is simply putting…burying his head in the sand. The Left does that – it buries its head in the sand time after time.” [translation: BBC Watch]”

Erasing from audience view both the recent failed negotiations to bring the centre-Left Zionist Union into the coalition government and that party’s reappraisal of its stance on the two state solution earlier in the year, Bowen continued:

“He’s [Netanyahu] also put into his government people who are from the far right in Israeli politics which means people who are least likely to make concessions to Palestinians. You know, politically it’s difficult to see how the Israelis could go that way and it’s also difficult to see how Palestinians could make any kind of agreement that meant anything when they continue – politically – to be as split as they are between the two main movements Hamas and Fatah.”

As was the case in the written report which appeared on the BBC News website on June 3rd, audiences were not informed that Hamas is among the Palestinian factions that completely reject the concept of the two state solution and that Fatah is increasingly weakened by internal division.

The most remarkable aspect of this report from Bowen came in the form of a clear Apartheid analogy. [emphasis added]

Hunt: “And is that [Hamas-Fatah] split one of the many challenges facing negotiators like the French?”

Bowen: “Yeah, it’s one of the many, many challenges that are out there. One angle to look at is to say the Israelis are being intransigent. The Israelis don’t want to have a Palestinian state that is anything other than a Bantustan next to them.”

Bantustans were of course a mechanism imposed by the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Analogies between Israel and Apartheid South Africa are employed by anti-Israel activists seeking to delegitimise the Jewish state by signalling that it is a moral travesty of the same order which the world similarly cannot tolerate.

Jeremy Bowen’s job description should mean that he is familiar with the context in which the term Bantustan is used in relation to Israel – and by whom. It should also mean that he is aware of the fact that previous offers of peace agreements such as the Olmert plan in 2008 (rejected by Mahmoud Abbas) and the Clinton parameters in 2000 (rejected by Arafat) proposed a contiguous Palestinian state – not ‘Bantustans’. Despite ostensibly being bound by BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, Bowen nevertheless chose to use that inaccurate and politically motivated term in his report.

Bowen continued with more use of the “Israel says” caveat to describe what the BBC should be capable of telling its audiences in its own words: that Fatah rejects recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, thus refusing to bring an end to future claims and that the PA rejects direct negotiations.

 “Ahm…and the other way of putting it – as many Israelis would say – is that the Palestinians haven’t been straight with the outside world; that they’re not prepared to accept a primarily Jewish state alongside them and that eventually they’d want all the territory.”

He closed the item with promotion of the notion of equivalence between the sides.

“When this whole peace process started there were basically two largely secular leaderships talking to each other but on both sides now, religion is more influential and the problem is that when you have people on either side who think that they’re doing the will of God, it’s very hard to make a deal with them.”

As was the case when the last round of talks collapsed in April 2014, BBC audiences have been provided with selective information on the subject of the Paris conference and the wider issue of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians which has passed through the Jeremy Bowen filter. In those two years, Bowen has gone from second-hand amplification of the ‘apartheid’ trope to direct use of apartheid analogy. Little wonder then that BBC audiences are being sold short on the corporation’s pledge to enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue”.

Related Articles:

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

What is missing from the BBC’s ME peace process narrative?

 

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Paris conference falsehood

From the outset, the French government’s announcements concerning its recently held one day conference on the Middle East peace process made it perfectly clear that neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives would be invited.

“France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try and relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday. He told the international press, however, that Israel and the Palestinian officials would not be invited to the meeting, which will take place in Paris.” (Times of Israel & AFP, 21st April 2016)

“France will host a meeting of ministers from 20 countries on May 30 to try to relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday.

In an interview with four newspapers including Israel’s Haaretz and pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al-Arabi, the minister said however that Israel and the Palestinians would not be invited to the meeting in Paris.” (France 24, 22nd April 2016)

“Paris plans to host a ministerial meeting of 20 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as a first step to discuss the peace process which has been effectively frozen since a US-brokered initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Israel and the Palestinians have not been invited.” (France 24, 17th May 2016) [all emphasis added]

However, when Jeremy Bowen reported on that conference to BBC World Service radio listeners in the June 3rd edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 30:07 here) he presented a markedly different picture.Newshour 3 6

Presenter Julian Marshall opened the item as follows:

“He’s beset by flooding and strikes at home but President François Hollande has nevertheless taken time to host talks in Paris with the aim of reviving Middle East peace talks. But surprisingly, neither Israel nor the Palestinians are attending. Jeremy Bowen, our Middle East editor, is in Paris; so why aren’t they there?”

Bowen: “Well the Israelis don’t wanna come. They think that having an international meeting like this is completely the wrong way to proceed. They say there should be one-on-one negotiations between the two leaders of the Palestinians and of the Israelis. Ah…the Palestinians welcomed the conference but I think the fact that the Israelis aren’t coming meant that they decided to go ahead without either of them.”

In other words Bowen promoted two falsehoods in those four sentences: rather than telling listeners that Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to the meeting, he falsely attributed Israel’s absence to a refusal to attend and then ‘explained’ Palestinian non-participation by means of the myth he has created.

Later on Bowen – who has been the gatekeeper of information provided to BBC audiences on the topic of this conference – once again promoted the notion that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the lynchpin of strife in the Middle East and beyond.

“What this is about is trying to get the international community to talk again about the need to have peace between the Israelis and Palestinians because it’s really rather slipped off the agenda in the last few years. There’s no peace process whatsoever and it’s been somewhat eclipsed – their own conflict has been somewhat eclipsed – by the tumult and war and chaos elsewhere in the Middle East.”

“Ah…what President Hollande, the French president, said today was that just because there are dramatic things happening elsewhere in the region, it is no reason to ignore the real dangers of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And he also said that at a time – as he put it – when terrorism was spreading everywhere in the world, then people are…I think essentially he was saying that people, outsiders, had a legitimate interest in what was happening there and in trying to settle it because his belief would be that’s one of the drivers for the violence that is spreading.”

Regardless of whether or not Bowen’s paraphrasing of the French president’s “belief” is accurate, it is noticeable that he made no attempt to relieve listeners of the mistaken impression that a prime cause of terrorism in France, Belgium, Turkey, Syria or elsewhere is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He then went on to promote a theme increasingly seen in BBC content:

“What the French foreign minister said in his closing remarks was that that idea of two state solution is in great danger – he said because of the colonization of the occupied territories by the Israelis; the fact that settlements have been growing apace.”

Apace of course means swiftly or quickly and that is the term Jeremy Bowen apparently thinks is an accurate description of fewer than fourteen hundred completed construction projects annually in existing communities throughout the whole of Judea & Samaria in the three years between 2013 and 2015 inclusive. Neither of course did he bother to advise listeners of the fact that the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians – the Oslo Accords – place no limitations whatsoever on construction in Area C or Jerusalem. 

Bowen closed his report with some by now standard promotion of PLO talking points.

“Now the Israelis say that the problem is the fact that there is incitement against them; that Palestinians are brainwashed into hating them. The Palestinians essentially say that their people – after getting on for 50 years of occupation – are at their wits’ end, at the end of their tether and if violence happens, that’s the reason: because of those frustrations and anger and humiliation.”

An additional report by Bowen on the topic of the Paris conference will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Related Articles:

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

BBC News produces eight versions of report on three-hour Paris meeting

An article which first appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 3rd under the headline “Middle East peace talks to start in Paris” underwent amendments and changes no fewer than seven times in the hours that followed and it now appears under the title “Israel-Palestinian two-state solution ‘in serious danger’“.Paris conf art 

The caption to the image currently appearing at the head of the report presents readers with some clear framing, invoking anonymous “experts” but failing to provide information which would enable them to assess the relevance or validity of the claims made by those sources.

“Violent attacks and ongoing settlement activity are a big obstacle to the revival of the Israeli-Palestinian talks, experts say”

All versions of the report include a highly selective and superficial portrayal of the collapse of the last round of talks between Israel and the PLO.

“There have been numerous rounds of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians since the early 1990s, with the most recent collapsing in acrimony in April 2014.

The Palestinians accused Israel of reneging on a deal to free prisoners, while Israel said it would not continue negotiations after the Palestinians decided to bring the Islamist Hamas movement into a unity government.”

The actual sequence of events was of course much more complex and as has been noted here before:

“…the Palestinian Authority made three important choices between March 17th and April 23rd (not to accept the American framework, to join international agencies in breach of existing commitments and to opt for reconciliation with Hamas) which had a crucial effect on the fate of the negotiations.”

All versions of the article include the following statement:

“Some of the most intractable issues include the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Palestinian statehood.”

Notably, no less crucial issues such as the insistence upon the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees, Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian refusal to relinquish any future claims by recognising Israel as the Jewish state are not brought to the attention of readers.

From its third version onwards the article included ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s Middle East editor which was altered in the last version. The earlier comments from Jeremy Bowen promoted the often seen theme of aggrandizement of the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

“The French President, Francois Hollande, said that with terrorism spreading around the world it is essential to push once again for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

President Hollande delivered a stern warning. Violence is rife, he said, and hope is diminishing. People should not fool themselves that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has become a peripheral issue just because of the turmoil elsewhere in the region.

The president is right. The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis is as full of poison as ever and can still create new international crises.”

The version of Bowen’s analysis found in the latest version of the report includes curious speculation and irrelevant – but nevertheless revealing – messaging.

“The Israeli foreign ministry called the conference a missed opportunity. It said pressure should have put on Mr Abbas, to talk one on one with Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

That suggests the Israeli government feels under pressure. Mr Netanyahu has also been criticised for appointing a controversial hardliner, Avigdor Lieberman, as defence minister. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said the move showed the seeds of fascism had infected Israel.”

Incredibly, over some sixteen hours BBC News devoted publicly funded resources to producing eight different versions of this report about an at best symbolic ‘conference’ (described even by the New York Times as an “extended photo opportunity”) that lasted the grand total of three hours.

Whilst it did seize the opportunity to communicate one-sided politicised framing of the topic to audiences, bizarrely the BBC had nothing to tell them about the prime factor behind the message in the article’s headline and opening paragraph.

“Hopes of a “two-state solution” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are in “serious danger”, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has warned.”

Apparently the BBC’s Middle East ‘experts’ did not think it necessary to “enhance audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” by informing them of the decidedly relevant fact that various Palestinian factions – including Hamas – completely reject the concept of the two-state solution.

Related Articles:

Revisiting the BBC’s framing of the 2013/14 Israel-PLO negotiations

Background to the BBC’s inaccurate framing of the end of Middle East talks

BBC claims final tranche of prisoner release included “hundreds” – reader secures correction

 

One to watch on BBC One

Via the BBC Media Centre we learn that a programme titled “Never Again: Fear And Faith In Paris” will be broadcast on BBC One on Tuesday, April 26th at 22:45. Matsa

“The end of April marks the Jewish Passover festival, when Jews remember the Israelites escaping slavery in ancient Egypt. This documentary will explore a much more recent phenomenon, the decision of 8,000 Jews to leave France in 2014, concerned about terror attacks and rising anti-Semitism in the country.

We will hear from the families most affected, and explore the reasons behind the rise in anti-Semitism. With insight from those who live in the notorious Paris suburbs, often accused of being a breeding ground for anti-Semitism, and from Lassana Bathily, a Muslim from the suburbs who saved Jewish lives during the kosher supermarket attack in 2015.

Many French Jews are coming to London, and one synagogue has been transformed recently by French arrivals, with their congregation in a few years becoming 90 percent French. Is the climate for Jews any better in Britain?”

Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel

Following the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, various BBC platforms – including the BBC News website – produced content paying tribute to the victims of those attacks which included photographs and some biographical details.Paris victims

A similar feature appeared on the BBC News website after last month’s terror attacks in Brussels under the title “Victims of the Brussels attacks” and it not only included photographs and personal information about the majority of the people murdered in the attacks but also about several of the wounded.

As has been noted here previously, such information of course enables BBC audiences to get beyond mere casualty figures and goes some way towards helping them appreciate the individual personal tragedies of victims and their families.

Throughout the last six months – October 2015 to March 2016 – the BBC has also been reporting on terror attacks in Israel (although it of course refrains from naming them as such) but in that reporting, personalisation of the victims is very much the exception rather than the rule.Brussels victims

During that six-month period articles appearing on the BBC News website have included photographs of only four victims of two separate terror attacks.

On October 2nd 2015 a follow-up report concerning the terror attack in which Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were murdered included their photographs. On October 3rd and 5th the BBC produced reports about the terror attack in which Aharon Banita-Bennett and Nehemia Lavi were murdered – here and here – which included their photographs.

Since October 5th, however, not one of the BBC’s reports about the many terror attacks in which Israelis and/or foreign nationals have been killed has included photographs of the victims and the deaths of three people have not been reported at all.

October 13th: the murder of Yeshayahu Krishevsky in a vehicular/stabbing attack in Jerusalem was reported in an article which also noted the murders of Chaim Haviv and Alon Govberg during a combined shooting/stabbing attack on passengers on a city bus in Jerusalem earlier on the same day but did not name any of the victims of either attack. The death of a third victim of the same bus attack – Richard Lakin – two weeks later did not receive any BBC coverage.

October 18th: the terror attack at Be’er Sheva bus station in which Sgt Omri Levy and Eritrean national Habtom Zerhom were killed was covered in this BBC report and a follow-up article.  

October 20th: the murder of Avraham Hasno at al Fawar junction was briefly mentioned in this article but the victim was not identified.

November 4th: a vehicular attack took place at Halhul junction and those wounded in that attack included St. Sgt. Binyamin Yakobovitch who succumbed to his injuries four days later. There was no BBC News coverage of either the initial attack or St.Sgt Yakobovitch’s death.

November 13th: the murders of Rabbi Ya’akov Litman and his son Netanel near Otniel were reported in an article titled “Israelis killed in West Bank as Palestinians shot dead“.

November 19th: the murders of Rabbi Aharon Yesayev and Reuven Aviram in Tel Aviv and the murders of Ezra Schwartz, Yaakov Don, and Shadi Arafa at Alon Shvut junction on the same day were reported in an article titled “Palestinian attacks in Israel and West Bank kill five” although none of the victims were named.Israel victims 1

November 22nd: the stabbing attack at Gush Etzion junction in which Hadar Buchris was murdered was reported in this article.

November 23rd: the murder of Cpl. Ziv Mizrahi at a petrol station on Route 443 was reported in this article.

December 7th:  Gennady Kaufman was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack in Hebron. Neither the original attack nor Mr Kaufman’s later death on December 30th received any BBC News coverage.

December 23rd: the BBC News website covered an attack in Jerusalem in which two people were killed and one wounded. The victims – Rabbi Reuven Birmajer and Ofer Ben Ari – were not named in the report.

January 1st 2016: two of the victims of the terror attack in Tel Aviv – Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi – were first named in a follow-up report which appeared the next day. The third victim –Amin Shaaban – was only named a week later in a subsequent report.

January 17th: the murder of Dafna Meir in Otniel was reported in this article.Dafna Meir murder BBC headline

January 25th: the stabbing attack in Beit Horon in which Shlomit Krigman was murdered was only covered on the BBC News website the following day and the victim was not named.

February 3rd: the attack at Damascus Gate in which Cpl Hadar Cohen was shot and killed was covered in this report.

February 18th: the attack at Sha’ar Binyamin in which off-duty soldier Tuvia Yanai Weissman was murdered was reported here.

February 24th: the attack at Gush Etzion Junction in which Eliav Gelman was killed was covered in this article

March 8th: the terror attack in Jaffa in which US citizen Taylor Force was murdered was covered here.

As we see the BBC clearly employs a markedly different approach to the victims of terror attacks in Europe and in Israel. Dedicated coverage of the victims of the attacks in Paris and Brussels has ensured appropriate personalisation and humanisation of those murdered in attacks the BBC is (for the most part) comfortable describing as terrorism.

However, for BBC audiences the vast majority of victims in Israel remain faceless and, in very many cases, even nameless victims of violence which the corporation refuses to describe as terrorism.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News website flip-flops on description of Brussels attacks as terrorism – part two

In part one of this post we documented the changes made to the BBC News website’s main report on the terror attacks in Brussels on March 22nd and the way in which the term ‘terror’ was removed from its later versions.  

Another article which appears to have undergone a similar editing process is titled “In pictures: Brussels blasts“. The current version of that report opens:Brussels In Pictures

“Scores of people have been killed and wounded in attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station during the morning rush hour.

There has been heightened security in the Belgian capital since it emerged that several of the men behind last November’s Paris attacks had come from Brussels.”

However, that second paragraph originally read:

“There has been heightened tension and security in the Belgian capital since it emerged that several of the men behind last November’s terror attacks in Paris had come from the city. Just days ago, a man suspected of involvement in the attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was arrested in Brussels after four months on the run.” [emphasis added]

In other words, the BBC edited the word terror out of that reference to attacks it accurately described at the time (for example here, here and here) and subsequently (for example here and here) as terrorism.

On March 23rd the BBC News website published a report titled “Brussels attacks: Belgium mourns amid hunt for suspect” which was promoted on the BBC News (World) Twitter account.

Tweet BBC News replacement

However, minutes before that Tweet went out, the same article had been promoted in an earlier one which was apparently deleted.

Tweet BBC News deleted 2

The BBC of course knows full well that the premeditated and coordinated attacks in Brussels were acts of terrorism and that the people who executed them are terrorists. That fact is still reflected in some of its many reports on the events but the removal of the word terror from other reports indicates once again that the corporation has real difficulty distinguishing between the means and ends of violent attacks on civilians and that its inconsistent employment of the term terror hinges on political judgements.Brussels terror 1

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on War, Terror and Emergencies state:

“We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.”

As its reporting on the Brussels attacks shows, the BBC is not achieving consistency even within coverage of one story. Some of its journalists appropriately employed the term terror whilst other members of its staff were busy expunging that word from coverage. Until the corporation is capable of coming up with a uniform approach to reporting acts of terrorism wherever – and by whom – they are perpetrated, its reputation for objectivity and accuracy will obviously remain compromised.

Related Articles:

Another example of the BBC’s double standards on terror

BBC avoidance of the word terror criticized by MPs – again

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel