Terrorism, double standards and the BBC

In the BBC’s reporting on the three rounds of prisoner releases to date, audiences have been told relatively little about the acts of terrorism committed by those prisoners and even less about the way in which Israeli society in general views the release of convicted terrorists or the effects of those releases on the families of the victims.

When attempts have been made to touch on such issues, the result has often been the herding of audiences towards a viewpoint based on a supposed moral equivalence between terrorist and victim which is framed in terms of competing political narratives made all the more opaque by the fact that the BBC of course refuses to use the word ‘terrorist’ to describe people who have been convicted in a court of law of the politically motivated murder of Israeli citizens.

Earlier in the week we noted the fact that BBC Arabic producer Michael Shuval had sent a Tweet which included a photograph of the mother of an Arab-Israeli prisoner convicted of the murder of nineteen year-old off-duty soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984.

Tweet Shuval Walid Daka

 

Two days later, on March 25th, Shuval also sent the Tweet below, which includes a photograph of Moshe Tamam’s mother, Galia.

Michael Shuval Tweet Galia Tamam

So, one might say, both sides of a story have now been presented in an equal and balanced manner. But before we reach that conclusion there is one point for consideration which cannot be overlooked.

Twenty-nine years after Moshe Tamam’s murder, another young off-duty soldier was brutally murdered by terrorists. It can however be reasonably assumed that editorial judgement at least would preclude BBC journalists’ promotion of empathic photographs of the weeping mothers of the imprisoned murderers of Drummer Lee Rigby on social media. That story has not and would not be presented by the BBC to its audiences as one of morally equivalent narratives, the essence of which can be captured in two similar images of the mothers of murderer and victim.

And that of course leads to the question of why the same considerations and standards do not apply outside the BBC’s domestic patch.

 

 

The BBC, the elderly mothers of convicted terrorists and Twitter

As readers will no doubt be aware, the fourth and final round of releases of prisoners as a ‘goodwill gesture’ to the Palestinian Authority is scheduled to take place later this week. Many of those released in the previous rounds last August, October and December were convicted terrorists most – but not all – of whom committed their crimes before the signing of the Oslo Accords.

In its coverage of the previous rounds of prisoner releases the BBC’s reporting has largely focused on the celebrations of the events organized by the Palestinian Authority but notably, at no point has the BBC raised the question of how such displays of PA sanctioned glorification of terrorism fit into the ‘peace process’. 

Some BBC reports have erroneously portrayed the convicted terrorists as “political prisoners” – thus promoting and amplifying the PA’s narrative – and there has been little coverage of the crimes the prisoners committed and even less coverage (with one exception) of the terrorists’ victims and their families. 

Last October’s round of releases saw the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell promoting an emotional quote from the elderly mother of one of the released murderers in her report on the event.

“A prisoner’s elderly mother, Amuna Abed Rabbo, had come from Bethlehem in a wheelchair wearing her traditional embroidered dress. “Thank God my son returned back to me before I die. I have all the happiness in the world,” she said.”

Knell also promoted a photograph of the woman on Twitter.

It would appear that we can expect more of the same in this round too, with the BBC Arabic producer Michael Shuval having sent the following context-free tweet on March 23rd.

Tweet Shuval Walid Daka

Farida Daka’s son Walid is currently serving 37 years imprisonment for his part in the kidnapping, murder and mutilation of a nineteen year-old Israeli soldier named Moshe Tamam in August 1984. Like his three accomplices, Walid Daka (also spelt Daqqa or Dakah) was a member of the PFLP at the time.

Moshe Tamam’s mother is called Galia. Whether or not BBC audiences will be told about her tears – or those of any other family members of the victims of the terrorists scheduled for release – remains to be seen. 

Template BBC report on prisoner release

BBC News website coverage of the latest round of releases of Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism and violent crimes began on December 30th with an article titled “Israel prepares to release 26 Palestinian prisoners”.

prisoner release art 30 12

The caption to the photograph used to head early versions of the report (which also appears in later ones) states:

“The prisoners’ releases are deeply resented by families of their mainly Israeli victims”.

In fact, as those who have studied the list of prisoners provided by the Israeli Prison Service will be aware, in this particular round of releases, the number of Palestinian victims is higher than the number of Israeli victims. Like the rest of the Western media, the BBC however is determined to avoid exploring the subject of Palestinians murdered by Palestinians.

The article also claimed that:

“The prisoners were convicted of murder or attempted murder prior to the Oslo Accords and have served 19 to 28 years”. 

As was noted here in our recent report on the subject, two of the prisoners were in fact convicted of murders committed after the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993. Shai Shuker was murdered by strangulation in February 1994 and Yosef Zandani was stabbed to death in his home in March 1994.

As the evening progressed, this report underwent many changes and now appears at the same URL under the title “Israel releases 26 Palestinian prisoners“. 

prisoner release art 31 12

The report’s later versions also erroneously state that:

“The prisoners committed murder or attempted murder before the 1993 Oslo accords and have served 19 to 28 years.”

The article fails to adequately explain to audiences the political capital gleaned from these releases by the Palestinian president whose term of office expired almost five years ago (January 15th 2009) and the significance of the lavish public celebrations organized by the PA as a public relations attempt to bolster support for Abbas’ waning and divided Fatah party

As was the case in past BBC reports on previous rounds of prisoner releases, the notion of terrorists and murderers as “heroes of the Palestinian cause” and “freedom fighters” is amplified, with no serious exploration of the effects of the glorification of terrorism and incitement which are central to such framing on the prospects for a viable end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“The Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqai, dismissed the Israeli complaints, saying: “Israel is a murderous state and these prisoners are freedom fighters.” “

Previous BBC content relating to the prisoner releases in August and October 2013 has for the most part been notably economical with portrayals of the Israeli side of the story – see for example here and here – and has in general failed to make readers properly aware of the violent nature of the terrorist acts committed by the prisoners. In this latest article the Israeli side is presented by using second-hand information gleaned from an Israeli newspaper.

“Palestinians celebrate the releases as victories over Israel – something deeply resented by families of Israeli victims of political violence, our correspondent says.

Relatives of the victims of the latest prisoners being freed – 18 from the West Bank, three from Gaza and five from East Jerusalem – have staged days of protests against the releases and appealed to the Supreme Court to block them.

In the past, the court has allowed such releases to take place.

“One of the things we knew when we captured these detainees is that they needed to stay in prison for the maximum period,” Meir Indor of Israeli victims’ association, Almagor, told the Jerusalem Post.

“These men are time-bombs. Wherever they go they kill, because that’s the purpose of their lives.” “

Notably that choice of wording downplays terrorism by turning it into “political violence” and ignores the broad consensus within Israeli society – not just the victims’ families as implied by the BBC – which opposes the release of convicted terrorists, views Palestinian glorification of murderers in a negative light and has no confidence that these releases will do anything to improve the chances of success of talks with the PLO, particularly in view of the past experience of the high proportion of released prisoners known to have returned to terrorist activities.

Once again, the BBC’s reporting on this latest round of releases has failed to provide to audiences with any real insight into the views of the families of the victims of the released prisoners. With the list of those to be released having been published on Saturday night, the BBC had 48 hours in which to carry out interviews with relatives of their victims, but no such items have so far been produced. In contrast, a recent BBC News website article on the subject of the release of prisoners belonging to the Basque terrorist organization ETA in Spain included the following illustration, caption and text.

pic ETA report

“Ms Carmen’s husband, Jesus Maria Pedrosa, was a Popular Party councillor in the Basque town of Durango. He was killed by Eta in June 2000.

“They shot him near where we live, with one bullet in the head,” she says. “I was listening to the radio at home and straightaway I knew it was him.” “

Towards the end of the BBC’s report comes the standard and inevitable introduction of the subject of Israeli construction plans, with the usual repetition of jaded and misleading mantras concerning “international law”.

“Our correspondent says that after the two previous releases, the Israeli government has sugared what the right-wing parties within its coalition regard as a bitter pill by making announcements about Jewish settlement plans in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli media reports suggest Mr Netanyahu is likely to unveil plans to build an additional 1,400 housing units, including 600 at Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.” 

Ramat Shlomo is of course a neighbourhood of Jerusalem which, according to any realistic scenario, will remain under Israeli control under the terms of an agreement between Israel and the PLO.  BBC audiences should of course be made aware of that fact in order for them to be capable of understanding that any building there is of no consequence. 

Instead, the article goes on:

“Palestinians say continued settlement construction undermines the direct peace talks, which have shown little sign of progress since resuming in July after a three-year hiatus.”

Although it eagerly promotes that Palestinian view to its audiences, the BBC is predictably less interested in informing them of the undermining effects on the talks of Palestinian incitement and glorification of terror – as manifested in the PA-organised celebrations of the release of convicted terrorists and murderers of Palestinians and in addition to its daily stream of inflammatory official television programmes, sermons and statements.  

One has no need of a crystal ball to appreciate that for months now, BBC News has been preparing the ground for future reporting of any collapse of the current talks by keeping audiences focused on one issue – that of Israeli building – whilst consistently ignoring the many other no less relevant factors at play.  That, of course, is an editorial decision inspired by a particular political viewpoint and it flies in the face of the BBC’s obligation under the terms of its Charter to provide audiences with information which will “enable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”. 

 

Background to the scheduled prisoner release you won’t find at the BBC

Late on December 28th the Israeli Prison Service published the list of prisoners who are scheduled for release later this week. As readers will be aware, this is the third round of releases (out of four) intended as a ‘goodwill gesture’ within the framework of talks between Israel and the PLO which recommenced in late July.

Details of the previous two rounds are available here and here. At the time of those previous releases, information provided by the BBC on the subject of the crimes committed by prisoners scheduled for release was at best partial. Details of their victims and their families have been even more sparse. 

Below is a translation of the list of the latest 26 prisoners scheduled for release with added information. In much of the media these prisoners are described as having committed crimes ‘pre-Oslo’, but as can be seen below, the list also includes prisoners convicted of crimes carried out after the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13th 1993. Notable too is the high number of Palestinian victims appearing on this list, reflecting the ‘intrafada’ (consistently ignored by the mainstream media) which raged alongside the first Intifada, in which around a thousand Palestinians were killed in internal violence. 

Alefendi Mohammed Yusuf Adnan (born 1971) was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for attempted murder, having stabbed and wounded two Israeli civilians with a kitchen knife. 

Sh’hade Farid Sh’hade Ahmed (born 1962) was sentenced to 45 years imprisonment for the murder of suspected ‘collaborator’ Yosef Farhan in Jaffa in 1985 and was due to be released in February 2030.  

Yacoub Mohammed Ouda Ramadan (born 1963, member of PFLP-GC) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sarah Sharon. 

Afana Mustafa Ahmed Mohammed (born 1964, member of PFLP-GC) was sentenced to forty years imprisonment for his part in the murder of Sarah Sharon and was due to be released in 2033. 

Da’agna Nofel Mohammed Mahmoud (born 1948, member of PFLP) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sarah Sharon. 

Mother of seven Sarah Sharon (photo right)was 38 years old when she was stabbed to death in Holon on January 20th 1993.

Abu-Alrub Mustafa Mahmoud Faisal (born 1969, member of Fatah) was sentenced to two life terms for the shooting and murder of Yoram Cohen and for beating Mohammed Kamil to death. He was also found guilty of the manslaughter of an additional four Palestinians suspected of ‘collaboration’. 

Kamil Awad Ali Ahmed (born 1962, member of Fatah) was sentenced to sixteen life terms for the murder of Yoram Cohen and fifteen Palestinians suspected of ‘collaboration’.

20 year-old IDF soldier Sgt. Yoram Cohen was shot and killed in an ambush on the truck in which he was travelling in Jenin in 1991. 

Damara Ibrahim Mustafa Bilal (born 1969, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Frederick Rosenfeld. 

48 year-old Frederick Steven Rosenfeld  (photo right) was murdered in June 1989. Rosenfeld was hiking in the hills near Ariel when he came across a group of shepherds who stabbed him to death with his own knife and hid his body. 

Abu Muhsan Khaled Ibrahim Jamal (born 1971, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Shlomo Yehia in 1991. 

Shlomo Yehia (photo left) was born in 1915 in Yemen and immigrated to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. He settled in Moshav Kadima where he worked as a gardener even after reaching retirement age. On September 26th 1991 he went out to work as usual and was stabbed to death in a public park. Shlomo was 76 years old at the time of his death and was survived by his wife and six children.

Tamimi Rushdi Mohammed Sa’id (born 1972, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Chaim Mizrachi.

Chaim Mizrachi grew up in Bat Yam and Holon, later moving to Beit El. On Friday, 29th October 1993, he went to buy eggs from an Arab-owned farm near his home and was met by terrorists who fled in his vehicle after wounding him and stuffing him into the car’s trunk. The terrorists murdered Chaim, then burned and abandoned the vehicle north of Ramallah. Chaim was 30 at the time of his death, and was survived by his pregnant wife, his parents, his sisters, and his brother. Half a year after his murder, his daughter was born.  

Silawi Khaled Kamal Osmana (born 1972, member of Fatah) was sentenced to four life terms for the murder of Motti Bitton and three Palestinians suspected of ‘collaboration’. In addition, was also convicted of manslaughter of another Palestinian and took part in the violent interrogation of others. 

32 year-old father of three Motti Bitton (photo right) from Ganim was shot and killed whilst shopping with his wife Mali (who was injured in the attack) in a convenience store along the road from Jenin to Jezreel Junction.

Tzouafta Sudki Abdel Razak Muhlas (born 1974, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yosef Ben Ya’akov Malkin (Malka). 

Yosef Malkin (Malka) (photo left) was murdered in his apartment on December 29th 1990 in Haifa by two infiltrators from Jenin. He was 60 years old at the time of his death and worked as manager of the industrial engineering department of a company in Haifa. 

Braham Fawzi Mustafa Nasser (born 1975, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his former employer Morris (Moshe) Edri.

Morris Edri (photo right) was born in Marrakesh, Morocco in 1928 and immigrated to Israel in 1964 where he settled in Netanya. Morris worked in the pharmaceutical industry until his retirement due to ill-health and then worked in his son’s electrical shop. On November 24th 1991 he arrived at the shop in the morning to find a former employee waiting for him who claimed that he had left some clothes in the storeroom. Whilst Morris was making coffee, the former employee stabbed him in the back. He was 65 at the time of his death and was survived by his wife and nine children. 

Al Shalbi Yusuf Ahmed Nuaman (born 1971, member of Fatah) was sentenced to three life terms for the murders of Jamil Koftan Hasun, Mufid Ali Kna’an and Ahmed Ziud. 

Jaradat Mohammed Anis Ayman (born 1972, member of Fatah) was sentenced to four life terms for the murders of Jamil Koftan Hasun, Mufid Ali Kna’an, Mohamed Tawfik Jaradat and Ibrahim Said Ziud. Also convicted of the manslaughter of an additional Palestinian. 

On October 15th 1991 Jamil Hasun (photo left) from Daliyet el Carmel was celebrating his 32nd birthday. An operator of heavy machinery, he went that morning to pick up workers from a village near Jenin. There he was shot at point-blank range by two attackers. Jamil was survived by his wife and two children. 

Mufid Kna’an from Yarka went out hunting with friends near Jenin on January 15th 1992. There he was shot by two attackers. Mufid was 46 at the time of his death and was survived by his wife and six children. 

Shuamra Yunes Mohammed Naim was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yossi Hayoun.

Yossi (Yosef) Hayoun was a police sapper who was killed whilst trying to disarm a bomb planted in Moshav Shekef in the Lachish area in June 1993. 

Mahmud Mohammed Salman was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Shai Shuker.

22 year-old Shai Shuker (photo right) from Herzliya was murdered on February 2nd 1994 near Tira. His attacker strangled him with a shoelace.

Abu-Gamal Ahmed Ibrahim Jamal was sentenced to twenty-two years imprisonment for attempted murder and was due to be released in May 2016.

Abu-Ali Faiz Mahmoud Ibrahim was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Roni Levi. 

Roni Levi (photo left) from Petah Tikva was saving up to get married and worked in marketing for a factory during the week and as a taxi driver at the weekends. On Saturday December 29th 1990 he was working an evening shift when radio connection with his taxi was lost. The blood-stained taxi was found the next day in Tel Aviv, but Roni’s body was only discovered three weeks later in an orchard. Roni was 24 years old at the time of his death. 

Barbach Judat Zaki Raami was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment for the murder of Yosef Zandani.

28 year-old Yosef Zandani (photo right) was strangled and stabbed to death in his home in Moshav Bnei Aiyish near Gadera on March 30th 1994.

Halaf Juma’a Mustafa Ahmed was sentenced to 21 years and three months imprisonment for aggravated assault and was due to be released in February 2014.

Abu Hasin Ahmed Yusef Bilal was sentenced to a thirty-six year term for the murder of Farouk Raud Abdelhamid Abu Khader and was due to be released in 2027.

Abu Hadir Mohammed Yassin Yassin was serving a twenty-eight year sentence for the murder of Yigal Shahaf and was due to be released in 2016.

Twenty-four year-old student Yigal Shahaf (photo left) from Jerusalem was shot in the head whilst walking through the Old City with his wife on October 10th 1987. He died the next day and was survived by his wife, parents, sisters and brother. 

Tsalah Khalil Ahmed Ibrahim (born 1960, member of Fatah) was sentenced to three life terms for the murders of Menahem Stern, Eli Amsalem and Hassan Zaid. 

Eli Amsalem (photo right) was born in Fez, Morocco and arrived in Israel with his family in 1957, where they settled in Jerusalem. Eli worked as a television technician. On July 28th 1989 he was murdered in his home near the Mahane Yehuda market. 

Muamar Atta Mahmoud Mahmoud (born 1961, member of Fatah) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of Menahem Stern and Hassan Zaid.

Professor Menahem Stern (photo right) was born in Poland in 1925. He was an Israel Prize laureate and professor of history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was 64 years old when he was stabbed by two terrorists whilst walking to work on June 22nd 1989. Professor Stern was survived by his wife and four children.

Taktuk Lufti Halma Ibrahim (born 1972, member of Hamas) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Binyamin Meisner.

24 year-old reservist Binyamin Meisner was murdered in February 1989 by a group which lured him into an ally in Nablus (Schem) where they had pre-prepared a stockpile of rocks. Binyamin Meisner was killed by a blow to the head with a stone. 

BBC coverage of prisoner release in pictures

The story of the recent release of another twenty-six Palestinians convicted of murdering Israeli (and Palestinian) civilians has of course two aspects to it: the Israeli aspect and the Palestinian one.

The imbalance in the BBC’s coverage of those two aspects is apparent not only in the word count and the language used in its various reports on the subject, but also in the images selected to illustrate those articles.

In the article appearing on October 28th on the BBC News website, two images were used.

Images 1

Images 2

In the article from October 29th one photograph was used.

Images 6

In the filmed report of October 30th all the footage was of celebrations in Ramallah.

Knell filmed pris

The written article from October 30th included the video clip of the filmed report as well as two additional images.

images 3

Images 4

Also in that article, one photograph taken at the October 28th demonstration against the prisoner release held outside Ofer prison (which was not covered at all by the BBC) was featured. 

Images 5 I

Not one image of any of the twenty-five victims of the murders committed by the twenty-six prisoners was shown by the BBC and yet again the faces of family members of the victims also remain unseen.  That is not because such photographs do not exist; it is an editorial decision.

Below are just some of the other pictures taken at the same demonstration by photographers from the same agency – Getty Images – as credited on the image the BBC did choose to use. 

G I 1

G I 2

G I 3

BBC coverage of prisoner release amplifies narrative of ‘political prisoners’

The BBC’s coverage of the release of twenty-six convicted Palestinian murderers on the night of October 29th – 30th includes a filmed report by Yolande Knell – broadcast on BBC news programmes – and a written article. Both those reports appeared on the BBC News website’s home page as well as on its Middle East page.

pris rel HP

pris rel mep

In her filmed report from Ramallah Knell says:

“There’s a big fanfare as the Palestinian president has welcomed back twenty-one Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails to the West Bank, along with their families here and many supporters. They’re among twenty-six Palestinians that have been released tonight; the other five were sent back home to the Gaza Strip. All of these men were convicted of killing Israelis before or just after the 1993 Oslo peace accords were signed and they’re seen here as political prisoners.” [emphasis added]

In fact, not “all” of the released prisoners were convicted of “killing Israelis”: Fatah member Tsabbag Mohammed was convicted of the torture and murder of three Palestinians, but as usual the BBC does not appear to be overly interested in the subject of violence directed at Palestinians by fellow Palestinians.  

As she once again repeats and amplifies the politically motivated Palestinian narrative of convicted murderers as “political prisoners”, Knell makes no attempt to inform her audiences why that claim is invalid by clarifying that these prisoners were imprisoned for violent crimes – not because of their political opinions – or that the Council of Europe’s  definition of political prisoners specifically excludes those convicted of terrorist acts from that category.

“Those deprived of their personal liberty for terrorist crimes shall not be considered political prisoners for having been prosecuted and sentenced for such crimes according to national legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Knell continues:

“Israel agreed to release a total of 104 long-term detainees in July as part of a deal with the Palestinians to get peace talks restarted and this is the second batch. But the decision to release these men has proved very unpopular with the Israeli public, who see them as terrorists and there have been large protests too against these releases, including protests by relatives of their victims.”

Ironically, just as Knell is informing audiences that Israelis “see” the murders of civilians by members of terrorist organisations as terrorists, the filmed footage shows a plethora of flags belonging to the PFLP – a terrorist organization proscribed by the US, Canada, the EU and Israel – in the welcoming crowd.  

Knell filmed pris

In the written article (titled “Israel frees new batch of 26 Palestinian inmates“) it is erroneously stated that:

“All but one of those released on Thursday were imprisoned for murders committed before the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.”

In fact, two of the prisoners committed murders after the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13th 1993: Amawi Halmi murdered 22 year-old Yigal Vaknin on September 24th 1993 and Shabir Hazam murdered 67 year-old Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg with an axe in March 1994.

The report also repeats Knell’s promotion of the notion of terrorists as “political prisoners” and “heroes of the Palestinian cause”:

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from the West Bank that those who have been freed are seen there as political prisoners and heroes of the Palestinian cause – but that the decision has been hugely unpopular with the Israeli public.”

Neither in the article itself nor in the ‘on the scene’ side box written by Knell is any analysis offered to audiences with regard to the Ramat Shlomopotential effects on the peace process of the public displays of glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority. In contrast, the report implies that the announcement of the construction of apartments in the Jerusalem suburb of Ramat Shlomo (described in political terms by the BBC as a “settlement”) could endanger the future of talks and repeats its now habitual misrepresentation of the reason for the cessation of the last round of talks in 2010.

“Shortly after the prisoners were freed, Israeli media reported that the government had announced that it would build 1,500 new homes in the east Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo.

The move was seen as an effort to mollify government hardliners. Talks between Israel and the Palestinians were suspended in 2010 after an Israeli freeze on settlement construction expired.”

Notably, the BBC once again fails to inform its audiences that before that ten month-long building freeze expired, the Palestinians refused to come to the negotiating table for 90% of its duration. 

Throughout this report just one brief mention is made of the actual crimes committed by the men released.

“The longest serving prisoner, Isa Abed Rabbo, was convicted of murdering two students while they were hiking south of Jerusalem in October 1984.”

In the side box, Knell describes and quotes the murderer’s mother, whom she also promoted in one of her Tweets.

“A prisoner’s elderly mother, Amuna Abed Rabbo, had come from Bethlehem in a wheelchair wearing her traditional embroidered dress. “Thank God my son returned back to me before I die. I have all the happiness in the world,” she said.”

Knell Ramallah

Apparently in an attempt to present impartiality, Knell’s side box continues with a short second-hand quote from the wife of one of the murdered Israelis – although in this case BBC audiences learn no engaging details about her age, dress, medical condition or place of residence.

“Esther Caspi, the widow of an Israeli taxi driver murdered by a Palestinian man who was set free, told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper: “We shouldn’t release prisoners who have committed murder because they will do it again.” “

An additional BBC article included in the coverage of this event is titled “Profiles: Palestinian prisoners released by Israel” produced by BBC Monitoring on October 29th.

article profiles pris

There, as was the case in a previous similarly themed article published in August, short profiles of a few (nine out of twenty-six) of what are bizarrely termed “the better known prisoners” are provided.

The article repeats the inaccurate claim that:

“All but one were imprisoned for murders committed before the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. This is the second of four batches to be freed.”

Whilst the inclusion of references – albeit sparse and partial ones – to the crimes committed by the released prisoners is an improvement on previous BBC coverage of the subject of Palestinian prisoners, the lack of balance in coverage is still very apparent, with no BBC reporter on the spot to cover the demonstrations against the release and the reactions of the victims’ families. 

BBC has ‘few details’ of upcoming release of terrorists: here is what it could not find

On October 28th the BBC News website ran an article on its Middle East page titled “Israel to free next 26 Palestinian prisoners under deal“. 

prisoners

The article opens:

“The Israeli government has approved the release of another 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a US-brokered deal for the resumption of peace talks.

They will be the second round of prisoners to be freed since August.

The prisoners were all convicted of murders committed prior to the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation).”

The latter statement is inaccurate – as can be seen below, one of the murders was committed eleven days after the signing of the Oslo Accords and another six months later in March 1994. 

The article promotes the Palestinian narrative of terrorists as “heroes of the Palestinian cause” as was advanced by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell at the time of the previous prisoner release.

“The 26 Palestinian inmates previously released by Israel had also been convicted of murder or attempted murder.

They were taken by bus in the early hours of 14 August to the Beitunia checkpoint in the West Bank and the Erez crossing with Gaza.

Correspondents said they were mobbed by relatives, friends and well-wishers, who see them as heroes of the Palestinian cause.”

The report goes on to promote another erroneous BBC mantra:

“Peace talks broke down in 2010 amid disagreement over the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In fact, talks halted in September 2010 when the Palestinian negotiators refused to continue them after having refused to come to the table for 90% of the duration of a building freeze. 

At the bottom of the report readers are once again encouraged to be sceptical about whether the recent murders of Israeli citizens are actually acts of terror.

“A number of Israelis have also been killed and a nine-year-old Israeli girl stabbed in the past two months in what Israel characterises as “terror attacks” in the West Bank.”

The BBC also states:

“Few details have been published about the second phase of releases.”

In fact, on October 27th the Israeli Prison Service published a list of those scheduled for release and the local media has of course covered the subject extensively. 

With the notable exception of one article, the BBC largely ignored the subject of the crimes committed by the last group of prisoners released in August. Below is a list of those scheduled for release on October 29th.

Nasser Mohammed:  born in 1965, a member of Hamas and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Aharon Avidar.

Karaja Rafaa: born in 1962, a resident of Judea & Samaria.  Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Aharon Avidar.

Aharon (Roni) Avidar was born in Jerusalem and was a computer programmer. He was 29 years old when, in February 1985, he was shot by terrorists whilst on reserve duty guarding a government office in Al Bireh, near Ramallah. Roni was survived by his wife and daughter – his infant son had died some three months before he was murdered. 

Tsabbag Mohamed:  born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria was arrested in 1991 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Whilst a minor, he tortured and brutally murdered three local residents (Hassan Katbia, Lutfi Sa’adi and one other person) suspected of collaboration.

Shabbir Hazam: born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of the Gaza Strip was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment. As an initiation into a terror organization, together with an accomplice released in the previous round, he murdered a work colleague – Isaac Rotenberg from Holon – with an axe. 

Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg was born in Poland. Most of his family was murdered in the Sobibor death camp, but Isaac managed to escape and joined the partisans. After the war he tried to make his way by ship to mandate Palestine, but was interred by the British and sent to a detention camp in Cyprus until 1947. After his release Isaac arrived in pre-state Israel and fought in the War of Independence. He continued his work as a plasterer even after pension age and in March 1994 was at his place of work in Petah Tikva when he was attacked by two Palestinian labourers with axes. He died, aged 67, two days later. 

Amawi Halmi: born 1968, a member of Hamas and a resident of the Gaza Strip was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yigal Vaknin.

 22-year-old tractor operator Yigal Vaknin was stabbed to death in an orchard at his place of work in Moshav Batzra on September 24th 1993 (the eve of Yom Kippur), eleven days after the signing of the Oslo accords, when Halmi and an accomplice lured him with a request for help. Yigal, who grew up in Dimona, was survived by his parents and eight brothers and sisters.

Damouni Ahmed: born 1970, a member of Hamas and a resident of the Gaza Strip, was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the lynching of reservist Amnon Pomerantz.

Amnon Pomerantz was an electrical engineer and scientist and worked in research and development. On September 20th 1990, Amnon left his home in Havatzelet Hasharon for reserve duty in Gaza. Three hours later, he was brutally murdered by a gang of Palestinian rioters after he took a wrong turn on the way to his base and accidentally entered Al Burj Refugee Camp. After they threw rocks at him, they poured gasoline on his vehicle and ignited it with Amnon inside. Amnon was 46 at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Matsalha Yusuf: born 1966, a member of Hamas and a resident of the Gaza Strip, was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to two life sentences for his part in the murders of Yigal Vaknin (see above) and Reuven David. During his imprisonment, together with an accomplice, he caused grievous bodily harm to a prisoner suspected of collaboration with the authorities.

Reuven David was born in Iraq and was the owner of a mini-market in Petah Tikva. In May 1991, together with an accomplice who was released in the previous round, Matslaha entered 59 year-old David’s shop, tied him up, gagged him and then beat him to death, before escaping in the victim’s car. Reuven David left a wife, three children and several grandchildren. 

Abu Dahila Sharif: born 1955, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, was arrested in 1992 for the murder of Avi Osher and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Avi Osher, aged 40 from Moshav Beka’ot in the Jordan Rift Valley was an agricultural instructor who also managed the date grove at Moshav Mesu’a. In June 1991 Avi was stabbed to death in that date grove by Abu Dahila, with whom he had worked for 15 years. Avi was survived by his wife Eilat and their two children. 

Gnimat Mustafa and Gnimat Ziad: both born 1962, both residents of Judea & Samaria and members of Fatah, were arrested in 1985 and each sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two Israeli civilians – Meir Ben Yair (33) and Michal Cohen (32) who were sitting in a car in Messu’a forest, near Beit Shemesh.

חזרה ל->Tsalah Razak: born 1963, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Guy Fridman. In addition, he threw firebombs at Israeli vehicles.

In December 1990 nineteen year-old Guy Fridman was killed and two other soldiers were injured in Bethlehem when bombs exploded in an ambush. He was survived by his parents and two brothers. 

Shakir Al Afu: born 1964, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1986 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Shaltiel Akiva.

On the eve of Pessach 1985, Sgt. Shaltiel Akiva, aged 21, arrived home from Lebanon to spend the holiday with his family in Rosh HaAiyn. However, he was immediately called back to his base in Samaria. On April 6th he set out to visit his family but en route was kidnapped and strangled to death by a terrorist cell. His body was found two days later near Beit Ariyeh. He was survived by his parents and five siblings. 

Haga Mouid: born 1966, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yosef Shirazi.

Yosef Shirazi (62) was born in Baghdad and immigrated to Israel in 1950. He resided in Eilat where he had just begun working as a security guard for the Hebrew Unversity’s marine biology research centre when he was shot at close range by members of a terror cell who had swum from Aqaba in Jordan to Eilat with the intention of carrying out a terror attack.  

Mukbal Najah: born 1966, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria, was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to 38 years imprisonment for the murder – together with an accomplice – of Ya’akov Shalom. He was due for release in July 2028.

Ya’akov Shalom was born in Jerusalem in 1949 where he studied law after his military service. In later years he opened a restaurant in Ein Kerem and it was in the flat above the restaurant that he was stabbed to death in May 1990 by two of his employees. 

Yusef Hazaa: born in 1967 and a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two civilians

In July 1985, whilst a minor and together with an accomplice, he murdered two Israeli teachers from a school in Afula on a preparatory hike in a JNF forest on the Gilboa mountains. 35 year-old father of five Yosef Elihau was shot at close range and 19 year-old National Service volunteer Leah Almakayis was strangled.

Abed Alhaj Rahman: born in 1972, a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Genia Friedman and attempted murder.

Genia Friedman immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine in 1991. She was 41 years old when, in February 1992, she was stabbed to death on a main street in Kfar Saba, where she lived. The terrorist also stabbed and injured her father and two other people. 

Abdel Aziz Ahmed: born 1973, a resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Motti Bitton. He planned, initiated and carried out the attack in October 1992 which led to the death of 32 year-old father of three Motti Bitton from Ganim and the injury of his wife, Mali Bitton whilst they were shopping in convenience store along the road from Jenin to Jezreel Junction.

Abu Hanana Usama: born 1974, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Motti Bitton (see above) and the injury of his wife by throwing an explosive device at her.

Turkeman Mohamed: born 1973, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting and killing Motti Bitton (see above) and shooting and injuring the deceased’s wife who got out of her vehicle to help her husband. 

Issa Abed Rabbo: born 1962, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria (Deheishe). Arrested in 1984 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two hikers.

Revital Seri (22) and Ron Levy (23) were both students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In October 1984 they were hiking near the Cremisan monastery when they were attacked by Abed Rabbo (whose mother was honored by Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year), tied up and shot to death at close range with a stolen weapon. 

Aashur Mohamed:  born 1960, resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested in 1985 and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment (scheduled release date May 2017) for murder and grievous bodily harm.

Together with two accomplices, he shot 33 year-old taxi driver David Caspi in the head whilst he was driving them through the neighbourhood of Shuafat and then dumped his body by the side of the road. David Caspi left a wife and two daughters.

While in prison he was involved in the assault and injury of another prisoner. 

Amar Massoud: born 1974, a member of the PFLP and a resident of the Gaza Strip. Arrested in 1993 and sentenced to three life terms for the murder of Ian Feinberg (with accomplices) and for the kidnapping, interrogation and murder of three civilians suspected of being collaborators. 

Ian Sean Feinberg was born in South Africa and immigrated to Israel after finishing High School. Having qualified in law before his enlistment, he spent five years serving as a lawyer in the Gaza Strip and was later involved professionally with Palestinian economic development as a legal advisor. On April 18th 1993, during a business meeting in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, terrorists burst into the room announcing that they had ‘come to kill the Jew’. They then murdered him with gunshots and an axe. Ian was 30 at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Al Azrak Khaled: born 1966, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1991 and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and attempted murder. He took part in the planting of a bomb in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem in May 1990 which led to the death of one civilian and injured nine others. Additionally, he took part in another attempted bomb attack in the Mahane Yehuda market and planned the planting of a bomb in the Carmel market.

Shimon Cohen, who was 71 years old when he was killed in the terror attack on Mahane Yehuda market, was a sixth generation Jerusalemite who was born in the Old City in 1920. After his retirement from the family’s fish stall in the same market, he used to visit friends there frequently. 

Beni- Hassan Othman: born 1966, resident of Judea & Samaria, member of Fatah. Arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of Yosef Eliyahu and Leah Almakayis (see above).

Samarin Asrar: born 1969, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Tzvi Klein and for attempted murder.

Kara’an Musa: born 1969, a member of Fatah and a resident of Judea & Samaria. Arrested in 1992 for his part in the murder of Tzvi Klein and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Scheduled release date: August 2020.

Tzvi Klein was born in 1947 in Czechoslovakia. A mathematician and an educator, he made his home in Ofra, teaching and also active at the pedagogic centre of the Binyamin council. On the first day of Hannuka 1991, he was travelling from Jerusalem to Ofra when shots were fired at his vehicle. Tzvi was fatally injured in the head, a passenger was also injured and his daughter who was also travelling with him was unharmed. 44 years old at the time of his death, Tzvi was survived by his wife and three children. 

The information above is all available in the public domain, so why the BBC has “few details” to report to its audiences is something of a mystery. 

Related articles:

Upcoming prisoner release – the details you won’t hear from the BBC

The facts behind the BBC myth of “Palestinian political prisoners”

 

Which themes got most exposure on the BBC News website in August?

The volume of articles concerning Israel which appear consistently on the BBC News website has been recorded over the last six months in our series of articles titled “BBC Israel focus in numbers”. There we record not only the appearance of an article, but also its exposure in terms of the number of days it is left up on the webpage. A closer look at the exposure of some of the articles published throughout the month of August 2013 suggests an interesting trend. 

The longest time any Israel-related article was left up on the Middle East homepage was eight days, with four articles falling into that category, including Jon Donnison’s attempt to persuade readers that Gaza has “some of the highest population densities in the world” which was discussed here. Two other articles which appeared on the website for eight consecutive days were Jonathan Marcus’ “Does Middle-East peace process matter?”  and Bethany Bell’s “Scepticism all round amid renewed Mid-East peace talks”

The fourth article left up for eight days was titled “Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops on Gaza border” . Another article about an incident in Jenin, titled “Palestinian killed in Israeli raid in West Bank” , was left up on the webpage for seven consecutive days whilst the report on the riots in Qalandiya headlined “Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli police” was viewable for three days running.

A report titled “Israeli jets bomb Lebanon target after rocket strike” was viewable on the Middle East homepage for six consecutive days. In contrast, the BBC report on the missile fire which caused the Israeli response only appeared on the website for a matter of hours. 

A report on the closure of Eilat airport due to security assessments stayed on the website for two days whilst another article about an air-strike against terrorists in Sinai was viewable for seven consecutive days.

Here at BBC Watch we have frequently remarked on the BBC’s tendency to fail to report many if not most of the terror attacks – attempted and executed – against Israeli civilians. But according to the statistics for August, it appears that even when the BBC does report on threats or attacks against Israelis, those reports are given less exposure than articles dealing with Israeli responses to terror attacks or Israeli counter-terrorism activities in which there are Palestinian casualties. We will of course continue to monitor this apparent trend.

A great deal of the Israel-related content which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page during August was connected to the renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Three main categories of subject matter – often all appearing in the same report – can be identified: the issue of the talks themselves, the accompanying ‘goodwill gesture’ release of 26 Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist acts and the subject of Israeli construction which the BBC promoted vigorously throughout the month as ‘sabotaging’ the renewed talks – even though that was clearly not the case. 

Articles about the talks themselves included “Livni urges Israel coalition to support peace talks” which appeared on the website for three days and “Israel-Palestinian peace talks to resume in Jerusalem” which includes standard BBC presentations of the subject of Israeli building and ran for two days. The backgrounder titled “Q&A: Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jerusalem“, which also presents Israeli construction as ‘sabotaging’ talks, ran for two days on the Middle East homepage and an article called “Israel-Palestinian peace talks resume in Jerusalem” likewise including promotion of the same theme appeared for four consecutive days. 

Articles about the prisoner release included “Israel names 26 Palestinian prisoners for release” which ran for one day and “Profiles of Palestinian prisoners set to be released” which likewise ran for one day – but not on the Middle East page. Also appearing for one day was the article titled “Palestinian prisoners ‘moved’ before Israel release” which actually devoted the majority of its content to the subject of Israeli building tenders.  That subject also appeared in Kevin Connolly’s “Little hope for talks among Israelis and Palestinians” which ran for three consecutive days.

Other reports promoting the theme of construction in neighbourhoods the BBC describes as “settlements” as a threat to peace talks included “Israel widens Jewish settlement subsidies” which ran on the Middle East page for five consecutive days, “Israel backs new Jewish settlement homes” which ran for several hours before being replaced with “New West Bank settlement homes anger Palestinians” which ran for one day and “Kerry: Israeli settlements move was expected” which appeared for two days. 

Thus we see that audience exposure to written articles promoting the notion of Israeli construction as a threat to peace talks throughout August was considerably greater than, for example, exposure to the issue of terror as an obstacle to peace. Obviously, the BBC’s reputation for impartiality depends not only upon actual written or spoken content, but also on the editorial decisions behind the prioritising of some reports over others. 

Related articles:

Filmed reports on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in August

BBC Israel focus in numbers – August 2013

BBC article on Palestinian prisoners amended

Despite there being to date no acknowledgement of the fact in the form of a footnote, an article dated August 13th which appears on the BBC News website has been amended.

The paragraph concerned in the article titled “Palestinian prisoners ‘moved’ before Israel release” now reads as follows: 

“The inmates, all convicted of murder or accessory to murder, were named by Israel’s prisons service shortly after midnight on Sunday, giving victims’ families 48 hours to submit legal challenges to the High Court.”

In the original version of the article the same paragraph referred to “The inmates, all convicted of attacks…” 

Mr Raymond Solomon from Manchester made a complaint to the BBC, requesting that the wording be changed to reflect the fact that all the prisoners concerned had been convicted of murder or accessory to murder. Initially, the reply received from the BBC News website’s Middle East desk was less than satisfactory:

“We have reviewed the article in question and have amended the following sentence to read: ” The inmates, all convicted of attacks – many of them deadly – carried out before 1993, were named by Israel’s prisons service shortly after midnight on Sunday, giving victims’ families 48 hours to submit legal challenges to the High Court.” “

Mr Solomon did not find this acceptable and wrote back to the BBC to demand that the language used accurately reflect the known facts. The BBC News website’s Middle East desk accepted Mr Solomon’s point, with the result that the wording was eventually amended again to read as above.

Having therefore acknowledged that its original wording in that article was not sufficiently accurate, it would of course be appropriate for the BBC to likewise amend other items appearing on its website in which the same wording appears – such as this one.

BBC ‘In Pictures’ on prisoner release: no mention of crimes

Among the extensive coverage of last week’s release of 26 convicted terrorists which appeared on the BBC News website was an item titled “In pictures: Palestinian prisoners released” dating from August 14th.

The pictorial feature includes seven pictures – five of which show the released prisoners being received by family and crowds. None of the captions to those pictures make any mention whatsoever of the crimes they committed. In the pictures, the subjects are seen to be happy and smiling, sometimes making triumphal gestures, and with their faces well-lit. 

In pictures prisoners 1

In pictures prisoners 2

In pictures prisoners 3

In pictures prisoners 4

In pictures prisoners 5

The last two images show the ‘Israeli side’ of the story. Picture number six shows Israeli police and prison service vehicles at the entrance to Ayalon prison. The only people in the photograph are uniformed officers whose faces cannot be seen.

In pictures prisoners 6

The final picture shows Israelis – mostly male – protesting against the prisoner release. Notably, we do not see their faces except for one small child and a blurred side-view of a woman’s face half hidden behind a sign and so their protest – unlike the celebrations of the prisoners and their families – does not take on a human face with which audiences can connect.

In pictures prisoners 7

Here are some examples of other pictures of Israelis protesting the prisoner release which were not selected for this ‘In Pictures’ feature.