Revisiting a five year-old BBC story

Five years ago this week the BBC was very busy promoting a story about the tragic death of the son of one of its employees in the Gaza Strip.

As readers may recall:

“On the evening of November 14th 2012, soon after the incident had happened, BBC Arabic in Gaza broke the story when it interviewed Jihad Masharawi as he held his son’s body. That film footage was used the next day in a report by Jon Donnison which appeared on BBC television news and can be seen here

On the same evening, BBC employees began Tweeting about the event, including for example the BBC’s correspondent in Washington who sent the following Tweet – retweeted by others 3,441 times:

On the day after the incident – November 15th – the [then] head of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau and chair of the Foreign Press Association, Paul Danahar, arrived in the Gaza Strip and visited the Masharawi house from where he began sending a series of Tweets which – less than 24 hours after the event and with no credible professional investigation having been carried out – unequivocally determined that the incident had been the result of an Israeli attack.

As BBC Watch documented […] Danahar gave permission for the photographs he had Tweeted to be used by Max Fisher at the Washington Post. Other media outlets which ran with the story on the same day – some directly citing the BBC as their source and all unquestioningly giving an Israeli attack as the cause of the infant’s death – included the Guardian, the Huffington Post , the Daily Mail, the Sun and many more. The story was of course also picked up by a plethora of anti-Israel blogs and websites. 

On November 24th 2012, the BBC ran Jon Donnison’s now infamous version of the story on its ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ programme on Radio 4, and also later on the World Service. A written version of that same report was placed on the BBC News website […] 

Within less than two weeks, the BBC had ensured that an unverified story based purely upon evidence-free speculations by its own journalists had made its way round the entire world.”

Four months later, in March 2013, a report issued by the UN HRC stated its investigation had found that Omar Masharawi’s tragic death had in fact been caused by “a Palestinian rocket that fell short”. 

The corporation’s first response to that finding came five days after the UN report was issued when the BBC News website published a ‘damage control’ article by Jon Donnison which did nothing to address the real problem underlying the story: the fact that the BBC knowingly published and extensively promoted a story for which it had absolutely no proven evidence, purely because it fit in with its chosen political narrative.

Six days after the publication of the UN report, the BBC added footnotes to two of its original reports – both of which are still available online.

However, some of the media outlets that amplified the BBC’s original story blaming Israel for the infant’s death failed to subsequently add clarification and so some reports  – for example from the Guardian, the Huffington Post and the Sun – still remain online in their original form.

Obviously no footnote can erase that inaccurate BBC story from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it at the time. Significantly, however, the BBC has never offered its funding public a satisfactory explanation as to why that unverified story was not only allowed to run but deliberately given exceptionally extensive coverage and how the editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality to which the BBC professes to adhere were so egregiously breached. 

Related Articles:

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

After effects 3: BBC accuracy failure still being used against Israel

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US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

Last week the US State Department announced the designation of the former Hamas interior minister – and occasional BBC quoteeFathi Hamad (also spelt Hammad).

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. Hammad served as Hamas’s Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, which is a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Al-Aqsa TV was designated in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury under E.O. 13224.”

Readers may recall that when Israeli forces carried out strikes on communications antennae on buildings housing Hamas’ TV stations (including Al-Aqsa TV) during the conflict in 2012, the Foreign Press Association – which at the time was headed by the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar – and the then BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison promoted the false accusation that Israel was “targeting journalists”.

Related Articles:

BBC covers US terror designations for Hamas and Hizballah operatives – but not in English

After effects 3: BBC accuracy failure still being used against Israel

On July 23rd 2014 a member of staff at the Guardian decided to use a certain photograph to illustrate that particular day’s letters page and, by way of a caption, added the following amended quote from one of the letters (ironically complaining about BBC impartiality) published on the same day.

‘For Palestinians, Israel’s attacks are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state.’

With the subject of that sentence being “Israel’s attacks”, one might have expected that the image chosen would have some sort of connection to that topic. However, the photograph selected actually shows a Palestinian father holding the body of his infant son who was killed in November 2012 by a rocket misfired by one of the Palestinian terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Guardian letters page

So why would that Guardian staffer believe that the picture showed the aftermath of “Israel’s attacks”? Well, like other members of the BBC’s audience, he or she was for months mistakenly led to believe by the BBC that Omar Masharawi was killed by an Israeli airstrike.

“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”

Clearly, twenty-one months on, what still remains in people’s memories is the BBC’s extensively promoted inaccurate story – not the subsequent belated correction.

Related Articles:

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

 

 

 

BBC’s Danahar fudges chance to explain significance of Kerry ‘apartheid’ remarks…and worse

On the evening of April 28th the BBC News website published an article titled “Kerry warns of ‘apartheid’ without Middle East peace” on its US & Canada page.Kerry apartheid art

The report relates to remarks made by the US Secretary of State during a meeting of the Trilateral Commission.

Since the publication of Kerry’s remarks, and as noted in the BBC article, both condemnations and clarifications have been made, including an official statement from Kerry himself.

The most notable point about the BBC’s report on the subject – including the appended analysis by Paul Danahar – is that at no point does it attempt to clarify to audiences one very important issue of context to the story.

The BBC makes no attempt to explain the political background to the intentional use of the ‘apartheid’ trope and its significance in the context of the campaign of delegitimisation against Israel.  

As we have noted here before:

“The small, but noisy, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel  – led by its ‘high priest’ Omar Bargouti – has, according to him, three basic aims:

“… ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year, the makers of those demands have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.” […]

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the delegitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa.

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations.” 

In order to be able to understand the full significance of John Kerry’s use – intentional or not – of a theme promoted by some of Israel’s most virulent detractors and of the subsequent reactions to that use of such a loaded word, BBC audiences would have to be made aware of what the ‘apartheid’ trope means and who uses it.

Not only did that not happen in this article, but in his side-box of analysis, former BBC Jerusalem Bureau head Paul Danahar wrote: [emphasis added]

“The US state department is telling everyone that it’s no big deal that John Kerry used the ‘A’ word to describe the impact on Israel if the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict collapses.

A spokeswoman has pointed out that senior Israeli politicians have also referenced apartheid before when talking about the risks to Israel’s reputation. This point though is frankly spin. It is one thing for Israeli politicians to use provocative language in their own political arena. When used by the US secretary of state it adds legitimacy to the debate about whether there is an equivalence between the old South African regime and the situation on the West Bank.

Whether the “apartheid” reference was a gaffe or deliberate there is no doubt that Secretary Kerry believes Israel’s government is stubbornly ignoring his warnings that a failure to agree a peace deal will feed a campaign trying to delegitimise their state.”

So as we see, not only does the BBC fail to inform readers of the political origins and aims of the ‘apartheid’ trope, its Washington Bureau chief and former Jerusalem Bureau head tells BBC audiences that there is a “debate” which already has “legitimacy” to be conducted on the subject.

Paul Danahar knows perfectly well that the vast majority of Palestinians live under either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas and vote for the legislative body which rules them and makes the laws which govern their lives. He also knows full well that Israeli policies and actions in Judea & Samaria have nothing to do with the skin colour or race of people living there, but are entirely security-related and aimed at preventing terrorism against civilians of all colours, races and creeds. And Danahar spent enough time in the Middle East to know exactly where the ‘apartheid’ trope comes from and the reasons for its employment.

But instead of using his specialist knowledge to clarify to North American readers why Kerry’s remark is so controversial and problematic, Danahar chooses instead to promote the falsehood that there is a “debate” to be had. 

 

 

 

BBC’s Paul Danahar at the Frontline Club

As was mentioned in the comments on this thread, the former BBC Jerusalem Bureau chief Paul Danahar was at the Frontline Club in London on October 15th talking about his new book. 

Courtesy of the estimable Daphne Anson blog readers can now watch a video of Danahar’s talk, which was chaired by Sam Farah of the BBC Arabic Service. 

Both Daphne Anson and the contributor in our comments section who attended the talk noted being pleasantly surprised by Danahar’s comments on Israel. I personally would take issue with his claim that the focus of the Arab-Israeli conflict has shifted from being “about land” and “about borders” to “about God”. Whilst it may be easy to identify the religious inspirations of Salafists currently situated in the Sinai and Syria, as anyone familiar with the ideologies of Hamas, Hizballah and other organisations will be aware, border adjustments have never been the real issue behind their motivations.

I would also take issue with Danahar’s comparison between Israel and the surrounding countries with regard to women’s rights and their participation in society: the major point he ignores is that equal rights are protected under Israeli law and his description of Israel’s Orthodox community is painted with a homogenous and stereotypical brush which fails to distinguish nuances between different groups within that community.

In addition, the much-promoted myth of the Assad dynasty’s keeping the Syrian –Israeli border “kind of quiet” over the years neglects to take into account that the rule of thumb regarding that border has always been that when it was in the Syrian dictatorship’s interest for it to be quiet, it was – but when it wasn’t – it wasn’t. That myth also of course blurs the fact that Assad’s support for Hizballah and other terrorist organisations has to no small degree been based on a policy of ‘having your cake and eating it’: attacking Israel via a proxy in order to avoid direct retaliation.

Have a look at the video and tell us what you think in the comments below.

 

BBC takes a stroll down the tabloid journalism side of the street

In between feverishly promoting his own book via his Twitter account, former BBC Jerusalem Bureau chief Paul Danahar (now based in Washington) found time on October 6th to make his thoughts known on an issue of dire international importance – at least for people who don’t do metaphors.

Danahar tweet jeans

Danahar tweet jeans 2

The following day, October 7th, the BBC News website saw fit to produce an entire article on the subject of what some people were posting on Twitter. 

Jeans art

Not to be outdone, on October 13th BBC Middle East Editor (and no less prolific book promoter) Jeremy Bowen Tweeted his own second-hand scoop.

Tweet 2 Iran porn

The following day the BBC News website published on its Middle East page a non-event of an article – cribbed from another media source – titled “Israel PM Netanyahu Twitter account ‘in erotica gaffe’ “.

article twitter iran porn

Tweet 1 Iran porn

Whilst visitors to the BBC News website remain in the dark with regard to issues such as missile attacks and terror attacks on Israeli civilians, Palestinian Authority incitement and glorification of terror and the phenomenon of billions of unaccounted-for Euros, they can at least rest assured that they are au fait with the latest earth-stopping developments as far as who wrote what and who followed or unfollowed whom on Twitter is concerned – just as long as it can somehow be linked to Israel’s prime minister. 

Related articles: 

What makes a story newsworthy for the BBC?

New BBC Jerusalem Bureau Chief

As readers may have already noticed, Paul Danahar moved on from his position as head of the BBC’s Middle East Bureau in Jerusalem last month and is now in Washington.

His replacement is Richard Colebourn who was formerly based in Beirut.

Colebourn twitter

Related posts:

BBC Jerusalem Bureau Editor

BBC Jerusalem Bureau personnel changes

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

Back in April we noted that the image of BBC employee Jihad Masharawi holding the body of his son Omar had been used by the Iranian regime-linked ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ at an anti-Israel protest in London. 

Blogger Richard Millett has recorded another instance of the use of the same image in recent days by the same organization, also in London. 

Richard Millett photo

As we previously remarked:

“Is the BBC responsible for the fact that Khomeinist sympathisers intent upon Israel’s destruction and the spread of hate speech against Jews use that image to promote their cause? No.

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that the picture of a father carrying his son who was killed as a result of a terrorist missile can be misrepresented as an image depicting Israeli “murder”? Yes. 

Because if BBC journalists in the Gaza Strip at the time had adhered to their own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that story would not have been promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers’ and that image would not have become entrenched in the minds of the general public as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing.”

Over six months have now passed since the BBC first promoted its irresponsible and unprofessional knee-jerk report blaming Israel for Omar Masharawi’s death without any proof whatsoever that the story it so energetically promoted had a factual basis. The subsequent corrections issued by the BBC of course received nowhere near as much exposure as the original story itself and the BBC’s response to this very grave lapse of editorial standards has been disappointing at all levels. 

In May 2010, the BBC’s former Director General Mark Thompson said:  

“The BBC’s motto is ‘Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation’ – the idea being that access to news, information and debate about different countries and cultures can ultimately help foster mutual understanding and tolerance.”

That concept of course has another side to it too. When the news and information accessed by BBC audiences is not accurate or impartial, it can very easily foster hate and intolerance – as the above photograph illustrates only too well. One would have expected Mark Thompson’s successors to be aware of that fact, and to take the resulting responsibility seriously rather than closing ranks as a response to public criticism. 

Related posts:

BBC’s Jon Donnison displays a professional and ethical conflict of interests

BBC’s Omar Masharawi story has rug pulled by UNHRC

Still no BBC accountability on Masharawi story

A reminder of the chronology of the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

Update on the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

Back in March, when the UN HRC produced a report in which it established that the son of BBC Arabic journalist Jihad Masharawi had been killed as a result of a misfired terrorist rocket in November 2012, BBC Watch wrote:

“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”

Last week the Zionist Federation in the UK held a concert to celebrate Israel’s 65th anniversary. Outside the venue, a demonstration organized by one of the Iranian regime’s mouthpieces in the West – the Islamic Human Rights Commission – was documented by British blogger Richard Millett. Below is one of Richard’s photographs of the demonstration.

IHRC at ZF event

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that Khomeinist sympathisers intent upon Israel’s destruction and the spread of hate speech against Jews use that image to promote their cause? No.

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that the picture of a father carrying his son who was killed as a result of a terrorist missile can be misrepresented as an image depicting Israeli “murder”? Yes. 

Because if BBC journalists in the Gaza Strip at the time had adhered to their own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that story would not have been promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers’ and that image would not have become entrenched in the minds of the general public as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing.

The reputation for trustworthy reporting which the BBC cultivates carries with it great responsibilities. But with regard to its Middle East reporting, the BBC often appears to be disturbingly cavalier about the potentially very serious consequences of its negligence of editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality.  

And by the way – five months on, Jon Donnison’s flawed account of Omar Masharawi’s death is still featured prominently in the Magazine section of the BBC website. 

Magazine 22 4

 

BBC stays mum on new PA restrictions on foreign journalists

Almost a week after their announcement, there has so far been no report published by the BBC regarding the new restrictions on foreign journalists introduced by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate.

Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

“Foreign journalists who ignore the latest restriction face arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces, said Jihad Qawassmeh, member of the Palestinian Journalist’s’ Syndicate.

He warned that any Palestinian journalist who helps international media representatives enter the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories without permission would face punitive measures.” […]

“The Palestinian Authority, which has often displayed a large degree of intolerance toward journalists who refuse to serve as a mouthpiece for its leaders, wants to work only with sympathetic reporters.

The timing of the ban is no coincidence. It came in the aftermath of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ramallah and Bethlehem, where Palestinian protesters set fire to and trampled on his pictures. The protests seriously embarrassed the Palestinian Authority, especially because they underscored the large gap between its leaders and the street.”

As anyone who has read Stephanie Gutmann’sThe Other War” (a riveting account of the reality behind the foreign media’s reporting of the Second Intifada) will be aware, information coming out of the PA-controlled territories via foreign correspondents already passes through a series of ‘sieves’ including fixers and local editors before it reaches the general public. This new dictate by the PA will clearly exacerbate the filtering of the news which reaches audiences worldwide. 

Khaled Abu Toameh adds:

“Particularly disturbing is that representatives of the international media have not protested against the Palestinian Authority’s threat to restrict the journalists’ work and even arrest them. One can only imagine the response of the international media had the Israeli authorities issued a similar ban or threat.

It also remains to be seen whether human rights organizations and groups that claim to defend freedom of press will react.

Once the ban goes into effect, officials of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information will find themselves serving as censors and editors of all news items concerning the Palestinians. Unless, of course, foreign journalists raise their voices and insist on their right to write their own stories from Ramallah.”

So far at least, the BBC appears to be avoiding informing its audiences of these new measures which will affect both the accuracy and impartiality of its reporting. Similarly, the Foreign Press Association – chaired by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Paul Danahar – has yet to release a statement on the subject.