A BBC terror indoctrination feature highlights longstanding omission

Last month the BBC website published a special feature by Quentin Sommerville and Riam Dalati titled “An education in terror“.

“On the streets of Europe, we meet teenage boys trained by IS. Their testimony reveals wide-ranging plans to turn children into killers.”

“First came the grooming, then the recruitment and training to create a new army of child jihadists, who might grow into adult militants. The Islamic State’s next generation of hate.”

“Many armed groups across Africa, the Middle East and South America, have trained children for battle. Recruiting child soldiers is a war crime. But few have refined the process so efficiently as the Islamic State group.”

As well as personal stories the feature includes a section with the heading “Curriculum of hate”.

“IS not only concentrated its attention on recruits for the battlefield, it reached deeper into society, into the homes, classrooms, and minds of the youngest children. […]

Just like the Hitler Youth movement indoctrinated children to serve the Nazis’ 1000-year Reich, IS developed a feeder apparatus to regularly inject new blood into its veins. By the time it took full control of Raqqa in the winter of 2014 and turned it into its de-facto capital, the plan to subvert the education system was set in motion.”

Readers learn that ISIS’ focus on indoctrination through ‘education’ began three years ago.

“By July 2014, Mosul had fallen and the caliphate had been declared. The rich Iraqi city, six times bigger than Raqqa, had a lot more to offer in terms of human resources and infrastructure. Now, the Islamic State had both the expertise and the assets to take on the formidable task of drafting its own curriculum from scratch.

“They started in earnest during the fall of 2014, but the Diwan [ministry of education] had been recruiting loyal, ideologically aligned experts all throughout that summer,” Yousef, a Moslawi teacher who lived through that phase, told the BBC. […]

The IS curriculum was finally rolled out for the 2015-2016 school year. Children would enrol at the age of five and graduate at 15, shaving four full years off the traditional school life. They would be educated in 12 various disciplines, but these would be steeped in Islamic State’s doctrine and its world vision.”

This feature – described as a ‘resource’ in its URL – provides the BBC’s audience with information that will enhance their understanding of the ISIS terror group’s ideology and methodology. Interestingly though, the same audience has never been provided with such a resource on a comparable system that pre-dates the ISIS curriculum in Raqqa or Mosul.

The BBC did not report on the topic of child soldiers recruited by Hamas during the 2014 conflict. The paramilitary ‘summer camps’ run by Palestinian factions such as Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as well as by the PA and PLO have rarely received any BBC coverage. When Lyse Doucet visited a Hamas-run winter camp in Gaza in January 2015, the result was a mere one minute of coverage in her film ‘Children of the Gaza War’, with Doucet telling viewers that:

Hamas summer camp, Gaza 2016

“Some boys as young as Abdul Rahman [phonetic] take part in this first youth camp organized by Hamas’ military wing. It’s for men [sic] aged 15 to 21. Some are clearly younger and at the closing ceremony there’s younger still. For the outside world it’s hard to comprehend why parents would put children in situations like this. Hamas says the camps keep boys off the street and teach values and martial arts for defence. But the young also learn about weapons and hatred: it’s what Hamas calls a culture of resistance.”

Neither have BBC audiences seen any comprehensive reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism found in Palestinian schoolbooks, official PA radio and TV children’s programmes and Hamas’ online children’s ‘magazine’.

So as we see, while the BBC did consider a feature on “the Islamic State’s next generation of hate” editorially justifiable, it continues to avoid providing its audiences with information about the very similar indoctrination and abuse of Palestinian children.  

 

 

 

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A BBC story from 2015 resurfaces

Back in August 2015 BBC correspondents in the Middle East Tweeted the following news:

Sinai kidnapping Abualouf

Sinai kidnapping Sommerville

The missing men turned out to be members of Hamas but in its report on the story, the BBC did not clarify that they belonged to the terror group’s Izzadin al Qassam Brigades.Sinai kidnapping main

As was noted here at the time:

“Whilst not stating so outright, like the above tweets this report clearly steers readers towards the impression that the four Hamas men travelling on the Cairo airport bound bus were abducted by members of the ISIS affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ which operates in Sinai.

“The road from the Rafah border crossing runs through northern Sinai. The most active militant group in the area is an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.””

However, Hamas soon put out statements claiming that the men had been seized by Egyptian security forces rather than by the Sinai-based ISIS affiliate – which has not since made any mention of them in its statements.

Now that story has taken another turn.

“The Qatar-based Al Jazeera aired on Monday a photo that purports to show two Palestinians allegedly kidnapped by Egypt in the Sinai a year ago, in what could further deteriorate the relations between Hamas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime.

The photo was taken from afar reportedly at a security facility in Cairo.”

Al Jazeera apparently received the photograph via Hamas but whatever the real story behind it, BBC audiences are still unaware of the developments which have taken place since that one article was published in August 2015. Audience understanding of the related broader topic of the increasingly strained relations between Hamas and Egypt (which has long been both under-reported and inaccurately reported) would obviously be enhanced by some up to date coverage.  

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Sinai Hamas kidnapping story tells a partial tale

On August 20th BBC correspondents in the Middle East tweeted the following news:

Sinai kidnapping Abualouf

Sinai kidnapping Sommerville

As was stated in the report which appeared later the same day on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Hamas members seized from bus near Egypt-Gaza border“, those “4 Palestinians” later turned out to members of Hamas but the BBC did not clarify that they belong to its Izzadin al Qassam Brigades.

“Masked gunmen have seized four members of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas from a bus travelling to Cairo from the Gaza Strip, officials have said. […]

The driver was assaulted and the Hamas members captured after their identity documents were checked.”

The incident took place during a rare three-day opening of the Rafah crossing by Egypt. The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been mostly closed for the last two years and the last time it was opened was during Ramadan in June 2015. Nevertheless, the photograph used to illustrate this article is laconically captioned “Egypt occasionally opens the Rafah border crossing with Gaza”.Sinai kidnapping main

Whilst not stating so outright, like the above tweets this report clearly steers readers towards the impression that the four Hamas men travelling on the Cairo airport bound bus were abducted by members of the ISIS affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ which operates in Sinai.

“The road from the Rafah border crossing runs through northern Sinai. The most active militant group in the area is an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.”

However, as the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reports, Hamas appears to believe otherwise.

“Initial reports claimed that the four – members of Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam armed wing – were kidnapped by an extremist Islamist group affiliated with Islamic State.

Sources close to Hamas, however, accused the Egyptian authorities of kidnapping the men, who were among 50 Palestinian passengers who left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.

The sources claimed that one of Egypt’s security apparatuses was behind the abduction and held its government fully responsible for their safety.

They said that the four Palestinians were kidnapped about 200 meters from the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal.”

Whether this incident turns out to indeed be an operation by the Egyptian security services or an attempt by Sinai-based Jihadists to pressure Hamas due to its recent crackdown on Salafists in the Gaza Strip remains to be seen. Clearly though, BBC audiences cannot be said to have been provided with the full range and depth of information they require to understand this developing story when the corporation continues to employ unhelpful statements such as this one:

“Egypt has previously accused Hamas of supporting militants in the Sinai desert, who seek to topple the Cairo government. Hamas has denied that allegation.”

Whilst the issue of the Gaza branch of Hamas’ relations with Sinai-based Jihadists is clearly an important component of this story, it continues to be seriously under-reported by the BBC.

Related Articles:

BBC News gets round to mentioning some of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip

BBC’s Knell amplifies Hamas propaganda, downplays its terror designation

More selective BBC reporting on Middle East Jihadists

Laconic BBC reporting on Egypt’s closure of Rafah crossing

 

 

BBC’s Sommerville showcases PIJ rearmament but refrains from asking who supplied the weapons

On February 26th the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau’s Quentin Sommerville produced two reports – one written and one filmed – about the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

The filmed report – first shown on the BBC News television programme ‘Impact’ – appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian Islamic Jihad have rearmed and replenished ranks“. Sommerville opens the report with the same message as that appearing in the title:Sommerville tunnels filmed

“The threat of war is looming again in Gaza. These are the men of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Six months since their last battle, they’ve rearmed and replenished their ranks in expectation of their next confrontation with Israel.”

Notably, BBC audiences are not informed at this juncture or at any other point in this report (or in the written article) how the PIJ has been able to rearm or who has supplied those weapons.

Of course the likelihood of any future confrontation between terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and Israel depends entirely upon the policies chosen by the former: for as long as they elect to refrain from attacking Israeli civilians, there will be no “next confrontation”. Sommerville, however, allows one of his masked interviewees to mislead viewers with the inference that Israel is the party initiating the recurrent bouts of conflict.

“We are prepared for any aggression on the Gaza Strip.”

 A short way into the report Sommerville tells audiences:

“….right by its [Israel’s] border…120 mm mortars. There’s an ample supply and there’s more inside.”

However, he refrains from commenting on the fact that the mortar marked ‘M48’ displayed by the PIJ terrorist he and his crew filmed bears a remarkable resemblance to the Iranian-made 120mm mortars intercepted by the IDF in 2009 aboard the ‘Francop and of course he makes no effort to inquire where and how his hosts obtained their “ample supply”.

Sommerville tunnels filmed M48

M48 Francop

Iranian-made 120 mm M48 mortar found on the Francop. Photo: MFA

Later on in the report viewers are shown an image of what Sommerville describes as:

“The aftermath of an explosion on Gaza’s western border …”

The Gaza Strip’s western border is of course the Mediterranean coastline. Apparently just as geographically challenged as his colleague who recently described the Golan Heights as being west of Haifa, Sommerville is actually referring to the southern border of the Gaza Strip – as can be determined from the commentary which follows.

“Egyptian soldiers are piling on the pressure. They’re tightening the border and wiping out smuggling tunnels that have been a lifeline to Gaza. Egypt blames militants from here for aiding attacks in the Sinai.”

No effort is made to explain to viewers why Egypt makes such statements.

Throughout this report the PIJ are predictably referred to as “militants” and Sommerville informs viewers that:

“They [the PIJ] and Hamas are regarded by the West as terrorists.”

Of course there are also non-Western countries which take the same approach – now including Egypt.

In the closing interview with a masked terrorist, viewers are told that the ‘achievement’ of the PIJ during last summer’s conflict was:

“…we challenged the occupier […] we are still able to say no to the occupation.”

Sommerville fails to inform BBC audiences of the fact that the Gaza Strip has not been occupied by Israel since August 2005.

In the written version of his report  – appearing in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Inside Gaza’s tunnels, militants get ready for the next war” – Sommerville promotes some of the same themes.Sommerville tunnels written

“Viewed as a terrorist group in the West, Islamic Jihad is committed to Israel’s destruction.”

And:

“Egypt’s soldiers move around in armoured vehicles. Border controls have been tightened and they are using explosives to destroy homes and smuggling tunnels that have been a lifeline to Gaza.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi blames Hamas and others for aiding attacks in the Sinai.”

He again makes no effort to correct the inaccurate impressions received by readers from statements made by his interviewees.

“Standing inside, his face hidden, is a fighter, with the nom de guerre, Abu Hamza.

“In the last war we noticed that every moving thing on the surface of the earth was bombed, whether it was ambulances, civilians or fighters walking on the street,” he said. [emphasis added]

And:

“Our biggest achievement is that we stood our ground, and we challenged the occupier,” said Abu Ibrahim, a commander of their Saraya al-Quds brigade.

“Unlike the whole world, we are still able to say ‘no’ to them, ‘no’ to the occupation. We are still able to resist.” [emphasis added]

Sommerville continues the practice of promoting casualty figures which have not been independently verified by the BBC.  

“The 50-day conflict in Gaza left at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,000 injured.”

His emotive descriptions of the Gaza Strip lack context and no effort is made to clarify to readers that the factor most hindering reconstruction in the Gaza Strip is infighting between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

“Large parts of neighbourhoods in Gaza are in ruins, and the Strip is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis which has left many thousands of families homeless.

Six months on, the rubble from the war lies mostly uncleared and there has been little rebuilding.” […]

“Gaza is being cornered, more isolated than ever before…”

Sommerville’s take-away message in both these reports is that the “next confrontation” between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip is just a matter of time. Whilst that supposition is entirely reasonable, he fails to present BBC audiences with the information they need in order to be able to properly understand why that is the case.

The fact that he refrains from accurately defining the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas as terrorist organisations, along with his overall failure to clarify to BBC audiences that any future hostilities depend entirely upon the choices made by those groups and his concurrent promotion of myths such as the non-existent “occupation”, means that readers and viewers remain none the wiser about the real causes of the war around the corner.

In addition, Sommerville’s avoidance of the issue of the PIJ’s Iranian backing and the sources of its rearmament mean that a crucial piece of the overall picture is concealed from BBC audiences and hence, what could have been informative journalism is instead disappointingly predictable and superficial, tapping into the same themes recycled by the BBC so many times before. 

 

BBC report on Christmas in Bethlehem amplifies PA political messaging yet again

Attempts to co-opt Christmas for Palestinian political messaging are nothing new and neither is the BBC’s collaboration with those public relations campaigns. In previous years we have seen Jon Donnison and Yolande Knell using the occasion of Christmas Eve celebrations in Bethlehem for opportunistic promotion of political messaging. This year coverage of the celebrations was assigned to Quentin Sommerville who managed to produce a reasonable filmed report free of political messaging. The accompanying written article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, however, was not.Bethlehem Christmas art main

Titled “Christians hold Christmas Eve Mass in Bethlehem“, the report was amended no fewer than five times and those changes can be seen here. Just under 40% of that report’s word count is devoted to context-free amplification of political statements with descriptions of the religious celebrations themselves barely appearing in the article.

With no background information provided to BBC audiences on the obviously significant context of the political activities of some members of the clergy in the region, the report states:

“In a homily, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal called on Jews, Muslims and Christians to “live together as equals”.

Referring to violence in Gaza and Jerusalem, he said he hoped 2015 “would be better than this difficult year”.” […]

“Patriarch Twal, the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, said the region had become “a land of conflict”.

“I hope next year there will be no separation wall and I hope we will have bridges of peace instead,” he said, referring to the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank, which separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. Israel says the barrier is necessary to prevent attacks by militants.

“Peace comes from justice and we have a cause which we hope will be solved soon,” the Patriarch added.” […]

“Patriarch Twal urged Christians not to forget the residents of Gaza, where up to 19,600 families displaced by the 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants are still in need of medium- and long-term shelter…”

As usual, the proven effectiveness of the anti-terrorist fence is ignored by the BBC – along with the events which brought about its construction – and the reason for its existence presented in the partial language of “Israel says”. Readers are not reminded that the summer conflict lamented by the Latin Patriarch was instigated by Hamas or of the obviously relevant issue of continuing Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians.

Additionally, the writer of this report saw fit to use it as a hook for the promotion of quotes from the PA Minister for Tourism.

“His sentiment was echoed by Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah.

“Our message this Christmas is a message of peace like every year, but what we added this year is that all we want from Christmas is justice,” the minister said.

“Justice for our people, justice for our case and the right to live like all other people in the world in our independent state without the occupation.” “

Readers are not informed that the phrase ‘all I want for Christmas is justice” is the official Christmas political campaign slogan chosen this year by Ms. Maayah’s department and neither are they told anything about the circumstances of how that quote reached the BBC just in time for its Christmas Eve report from Bethlehem.

Similar messaging was apparent in some of the images chosen to illustrate the report and their captions.

Bethlehem Christmas art pics

The article also includes the following snippet of unrelated information, echoing the BBC’s coverage at the time:

“On Tuesday, Pope Francis – who prayed at the West Bank barrier and called for an end to the “increasingly unacceptable” Palestinian-Israeli conflict when he visited the region in May – sent a message of solidarity to Christians in the Middle East.” [emphasis added]

If readers of this article assumed that – as suggested in its title – they were going to learn something about the celebration of the religious festival itself in Bethlehem, they were of course mistaken. Instead, the BBC has once again self-conscripted to the opportunistic exploitation of Christmas for promotion of context-free PA political sloganeering.  

Missile from Gaza not news for the BBC but Israeli response gets headlines

On the morning of December 19th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit the Eshkol region of the Western Negev in the third such incident since the ceasefire in late August which brought the fifty-day summer conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist organisations to a close. Like those previous incidents of missile fire, this one too was not reported by the BBC at the time.

During the night between December 19th and 20th, the Israeli air-force launched a retaliatory strike against a Hamas military installation near Khan Yunis. That event was considered news by the BBC.

With no mention of the obviously crucial context of the preceding missile attack some hours earlier, the BBC World Twitter account informed its 8.22 million followers:

KY strike bbc world tweet 1

Jerusalem bureau correspondent Quentin Sommerville did inform his 24 thousand followers that the Israeli action came in response to missile fire, whilst taking the opportunity to revive the well-trodden BBC theme of “home-made rockets”. There is no evidence to suggest that Sommerville was at the scene of the impact and hence his ‘diagnosis’ of the missile’s nature is apparently based on guess-work. Equally questionable is Sommerville’s geography: there is no city called Eshkol: that name refers to a regional council. Nevertheless, that inaccurate information was retweeted by the BBC World Twitter account.

KY strike Sommerville tweet 1

KY strike Sommerville tweet 2

More context-free ‘last-first’ reporting was seen on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of December 20th where visitors were informed that “Israel launches an air strike on an alleged Hamas site in Gaza, in the first such action since the declaration of a truce in August”, but with no mention in the headline or sub-heading of the missile attack several hours beforehand.

KY strike on HP

That headline leads to an article titled “Israel launches Gaza air strike on ‘Hamas target’” which fails to clarify to BBC audiences that this latest missile attack was the third since the end of August.

Readers will note that one of the recommended articles presented on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with that article is headed “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” which was discussed here. Whilst the BBC has put much effort in recent months into the production of numerous ‘reporter in the rubble’ items showcasing the topic of damage to houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (see some additional examples here, here and here), it has refrained from carrying out any reporting whatsoever on the subject of Hamas’ reconstruction of its military infrastructure, including cross-border tunnels and missile capabilities.

Once again licence fee-payers relying on the BBC to meet its half of the bargain by providing them with reporting which will enhance their understanding of international issues are being sold short. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the corporation’s continuing policies of ‘last-first’ reporting and framing by omission. 

Overview of BBC reporting on recent violence and terror in Israel

Since late October much of the BBC’s Israel-related subject matter has been focused on the surge in terror attacks and violence, with an integral part of that coverage being ‘explanations’ to BBC audiences of its supposed causes. As was noted in a previous post concerning BBC coverage of the November 18th terror attack in Har Nof, the factors promoted by the BBC as causes for that attack included (in reverse order of frequency) ‘discrimination’ against Arab Jerusalemites, a ‘cycle of violence’, supposed ‘attacks’ on or threats to Al Aqsa Mosque by Jews, the absence of negotiations between Israel and the PLO, the Gaza casualty toll of the summer conflict, the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount and ‘settlements’.

The fact that so many and such varied factors were promoted as being the cause of “tensions” which, according to the BBC led to two Palestinians carrying out a brutal terror attack on early morning worshippers at a synagogue, of course indicates that the promotion of one factor or another in BBC reports depended very much upon the particular journalist.

In contrast, the subject of incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian functionaries and official Palestinian sources was presented uniformly and exclusively in the form of second-hand quotes, with the BBC making no effort whatsoever to independently inform audiences of those factors and their role in the creation of “tensions”.

In this post we will take a broader look at BBC coverage of other incidents which took place between late October and late November and examine the narrative promoted in the reports below.Pigua Jerusalem

October 22nd: terror attack on light rail passengers, Ammunition Hill, Jerusalem.

BBC News website: Jerusalem car ‘attack’ kills baby at rail station  (discussed here)

October 23rd:

BBC News website: Israel’s Netanyahu accuses Abbas over Jerusalem car attack (discussed here)

October 25th:

BBC News website: US urges probe after teenager shot dead in West Bank  (discussed here)

October 26th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem: Palestinian car attack claims second victim (discussed here)

October 29th: shooting of Yehuda Glick in central Jerusalem.Glick art main

BBC News website: Jerusalem holy site closure ‘declaration of war’ – Abbas  (discussed here)

October 30th:

BBC News website & television news: Abbas: Mosque closure a ‘declaration of war’  Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ (discussed here)

October 31st:

BBC News website: Jerusalem holy site is reopened amid tension (discussed here)

November 5th: terror attack on light rail passengers & pedestrians, Shimon Hatsadik, Jerusalem.Pigua 5 11 report

BBC News website: Jerusalem: Palestinian van attack kills policeman  (discussed here)

BBC News website & television news: Driver hits pedestrians in East Jerusalem  Yolande Knell

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ 1 (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ 2 (discussed here)

November 6th:

BBC World Service ‘WHYS’ (discussed here)

November 7th:

BBC News website: Israel to destroy homes of Palestinian Jerusalem attackers  (discussed here)

BBC World Service ‘Outside Source’ (discussed here)

BBC News website: Jerusalem a city on edge as tensions spiral  Yolande Knell (discussed here)

BBC News website & television news: Growing tension at Jerusalem holy site  Yolande Knell

November 8th:

BBC Radio 4 ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (discussed here)

November 10th: terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Gush EtzionTA terror attack bbc report

BBC News website: Israel: Palestinian held as Israeli soldier stabbed and Israeli woman and soldier killed in two knife attacks  (both discussed here)

November 13th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem tension: John Kerry brokers Israel-Jordan talks (discussed here)

November 14th:

BBC News website: Jerusalem tension: Israel ends age limit on holy site access  (discussed here)

November 21st:

BBC News website: Israel: ‘Hamas plot to kill FM Lieberman foiled’  (discussed here)

November 28th:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ (discussed here)

As was the case in BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack, any use of the word terror or its derivatives in the above reports came in the form of quotes from (mostly) Israeli or American officials and in inverted commas. On no occasion did the BBC independently identify the incidents as terror attacks or the perpetrators as terrorists.

Likewise, all mentions of incitement propagated by Palestinian leaders in the above reports were presented to BBC audiences in the form of quotes from Israeli officials: no independent reporting on that issue was provided by the BBC.

In addition to the factors presented as causing “tensions” – and hence terrorism – appearing in the reports on the Har Nof attack, in the reports above a number of additional factors were to be found. On two occasions audiences were told that “tensions” had risen because Israeli security forces had killed Palestinians, on three occasions they were informed that “tensions” had risen because Israel had confiscated or demolished Palestinian homes (with no context provided) and on eleven occasions audiences were told that age restrictions and/or the closure of Temple Mount were the cause of “tensions”.

Once again the prime factor promoted by the BBC as context for the surge in violence and terror attacks was ‘settlements’. Taking the above articles together with the coverage of the Har Nof attack, we see that factor has been promoted by the BBC more than any other. Like the vast majority of the additional factors presented by the BBC, that one too would be perceived by audiences as Israeli action and thus the underlying message is that Palestinian violence and terrorism is attributable to rising “tensions” caused almost exclusively by Israeli actions.

Factors

Another interesting aspect of the framing seen in BBC reporting was that of the use of political labelling – or not. The people (according to the BBC’s narrative) driven to violent rioting and terror attacks on civilians because of “tensions” caused by a campaign for equal prayer rights for non-Muslims at a site holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike – and those inciting them to such actions – were not afforded any kind of political label in any BBC report.

In contrast, the BBC did find it necessary to describe to its audiences on numerous occasions the assumed political affiliations/stances/opinions of the people visiting Temple Mount and/or the people campaigning for equal rights there for people of all faiths, as can be seen in the few examples below.

“Jews are allowed to visit the site but not to pray there. Now some right-wing religious groups say Jews should be allowed to pray – a demand which causes anger and unease in the Muslim world.” (source)

“Fears that Israel is set to legislate to remove the ban have led to furious scenes as Palestinian Muslims try to block visits by parties of far-right, religious Jews escorted by Israeli police.

“We love it when it is calm to pray but the Israeli government is not helping the situation by sending right-wing extremists and ministers to visit,” says Omar Kiswani, director of al-Aqsa mosque.”

“On Thursday, a week after the attempted murder of a prominent right-wing Jewish activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, there was a rally by his supporters.” (source)

“A Palestinian suspected of shooting and wounding a prominent right-wing activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, in Jerusalem at the end of last month was also shot dead in a gun battle with Israeli police.” (source)  

On other occasions, the campaign for equal prayer rights at Temple Mount was inaccurately portrayed as an “Orthodox” issue.  

In earlier reports, audiences were sometimes provided with information about the links of some of the perpetrators to terrorist organisations – although of course they were not described as such. For example:

“Shaloudi was the nephew of a leading bomb-maker from Hamas, the Islamist militant group opposed to Israel, who was killed in the West Bank in 1988.” (source)

“Police say Hejazi belonged to the Islamic Jihad militant group and served time in jail in Israel before being released in 2012.” (source)

“The driver of the van – named as Ibrahim al-Akari – was from Shuafat refugee camp in the east of the city, police said.

His Facebook page states that he is a member of Hamas, and the Twitter account for the group’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, described him as a member and a martyr.” (source)

As time went on, however, those links were downplayed in later reports by means of statements such as the ones below:

“…the attacks appear spontaneous: the acts of individuals, not organisations.” (source)

“BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly says there has been no real pattern to the recent spate of attacks – the attackers appear to have acted suddenly, meaning there is no advance intelligence to forewarn the authorities.” (source)

BBC reporting on the surge of violence and terror during October and November 2014 was largely limited to fatal attacks, with dozens of other non-fatal incidents ignored. As we see, the reports adhered to a specific template which ‘explained’ events by attributing them to “rising tensions” caused almost inevitably by Israeli actions.

For over a month, audiences have been provided with a picture of Israeli action and Palestinian reaction: a narrative which includes no Palestinian responsibility or agency and is carefully framed to exclude one of the story’s most important elements – the crucial issue of the repeated incitement and glorification of terrorism by Palestinian leaders and official organisations, with no independent BBC reporting on that issue having appeared at all to date.

In short, the BBC’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” has once again been trumped by a political narrative.  

Related Articles:

A round up of BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack

 

A round up of BBC coverage of the Har Nof terror attack

The BBC’s coverage of the terror attack in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof on November 18th provides us with an opportunity to take a closer look at how the corporation framed this story across a variety of platforms.

Below is a sample of BBC coverage: obviously it does not include all of the content broadcast across the range of BBC platforms on the two days upon which the story was run.Pigua Har Nof 2

November 18th:

BBC News Website:

Written:

Jerusalem synagogue: Palestinians kill Israeli worshippers    

Profile: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)  (both above are discussed here)

British-born man named as Jerusalem synagogue victim

Jerusalem synagogue: Three victims were US rabbis

As it happened: Jerusalem synagogue attack  live page

Jerusalem attack reflects rising Israeli-Palestinian tension   Jeremy Bowen

Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vow in ‘battle for Jerusalem’ (all of the above are discussed here)

Filmed: (the reports also appeared on BBC television News programmes)

Synagogue victim ‘concerned about radicalisation’  An interview with the cousin of Avraham Goldberg

Israel: ‘No justification for this wanton violence’  Mark Regev

‘Chaotic scenes’ after Jerusalem synagogue attack  Yolande Knell

Jerusalem synagogue attack: ‘We heard a flurry of shots’  Eye witnesses

Israeli Police: ‘Terrorists killed in gun battle’  Micky Rosenfeld

 John Kerry on Jerusalem attack: ‘An act of pure terror’

Hamas spokesperson: ‘Every day Jerusalem is boiling’  Ghazi Hamad (discussed here)

Mustafa Barghouti: ‘Occupation responsible for attack’  (discussed here)

Synagogue attack: Months of tension and revenge attacks  backgrounder  (discussed here)

Television:

Interview with Naftali Bennett (discussed here)

Jerusalem synagogue attack ‘followed months of tension’  Jeremy Bowen

Radio:

BBC Radio 4 – ‘PM’ (discussed here and here)

BBC World Service radio – ‘Newshour’  (edition 1 discussed here, edition 2 discussed here)

November 19th:

BBC News Website:

Written:

Jerusalem attack: Synagogue reopens for worshippers  (discussed here)

Regional media trade blame for Jerusalem attack

Filmed: (also on appeared on BBC television news programmes)

Anger in Jerusalem after deadly synagogue attack  Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

Synagogue attack: Eyewitness describes shootout

Palestinian intifada ‘dangerously close,’ warns former US envoy

Radio:

BBC World Service radio –’Newshour’ (discussed here)Pigua Har Nof 1

One outstanding – although predictable – feature of the BBC’s coverage is that despite the fact that the core story was about a terror attack perpetrated on the congregation of a synagogue, in all of the above reports the word terror and its derivatives were never used directly by the BBC. References to terrorism came only in the form of quotes from Israeli officials (placed in inverted commas by the BBC), from Israeli interviewees or from the US Secretary of State in the filmed report of his statement to the press.

Another remarkable fact is that in seven of the above reports and despite the existence of a pathologist’s report, the BBC nevertheless amplified or allowed the amplification of baseless Palestinian claims that a bus driver who committed suicide the day before the terror attack took place had been murdered by Israelis and presented that as a background factor for the attack.

On the day of the attack itself the BBC saw fit to broadcast interviews with Palestinian officials from several factions – Ghazi Hamad from Hamas, Mustafa Barghouti from the PNI and Hussam Zomlot from Fatah – all of whom were given free rein to promote falsehoods and propaganda, including claims of “attacks” on the Al Aqsa Mosque by Israelis.

The terror attack was presented across the board as being the result of “rising tensions” between Israelis and Palestinians and those tensions were attributed by the BBC to a variety of factors, with more than one usually proffered in each report and some factors emphasized multiple times in a particular item.

Two of the reports suggested that tensions could be explained by “discrimination” against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the issue of their right to Israeli citizenship was inaccurately represented. In three reports audiences were told that rising tensions were the result of “a cycle of violence” which, according to the BBC, began with the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers in June (not stated by the BBC as having been carried out by a Hamas cell) and the later murder of a Palestinian teenager from Shuafat.Pigua Har Nof filmed backgrounder

On five occasions tensions were attributed to the fact that no peace negotiations are currently underway and six reports cited the Palestinian death toll in the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas as a contributing factor but with no information provided to audiences with regard to Hamas’ instigation of that conflict or its strategies – such as the use of human shields – which contributed to the civilian death toll.

The campaign by some Israelis for equal rights of worship for non-Muslims on Temple Mount was cited on ten occasions as causing “tensions” but the BBC elected not to explore the topic of why that should be the case. On five occasions Temple Mount was described by the BBC as a “disputed site” and viewers of BBC television news were even told by Jeremy Bowen that Palestinians are “enraged” by “fears about the future of Aqsa Mosque”, with no attempt to put those “fears” in their correct and factual context.

But the factor most frequently promoted as a cause of “tensions” which purportedly led to the terror attack was what the BBC termed “settlements” or “settler homes”, with that factor being cited on eleven occasions and the district of Silwan once again being specifically named in two reports.

Clearly most of the factors presented were framed as Israeli actions. The overall impression received by audiences therefore was that the “tensions” which lead to Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis are Palestinian reaction to Israeli action.

Another interesting aspect of the BBC’s framing of this story relates to the issue of Palestinian incitement. That factor was mentioned directly in two reports (John Kerry’s statement to the press and the interview with Mark Regev), but not by BBC correspondents. In two additional reports the BBC quoted the Israeli prime minister on the issue of Palestinian incitement. Incitement coming directly from the president of the Palestinian Authority was downplayed and dismissed by Jeremy Bowen and Tim Franks. In the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ listeners heard Yolande Knell paraphrase a supposed Palestinian claim that “Israel is also inciting the violence”.

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, BBC audiences have not been informed at all about incitement and glorification of terrorism on the part of PA and Fatah officials (see recent examples here, here and here) and official Palestinian Authority media and institutions (see recent examples here, here, here, here and here). The sole reference to the issue of incitement to appear on the BBC News website in recent months has been an article by BBC Trending titled “The Palestinians calling for the ‘car uprising’” which appeared on November 13th and related to a social media campaign rather than to incitement from official PA sources.

So, whilst BBC audiences were repeatedly told that the “rising tensions” which supposedly led to the terror attack in Har Nof can be attributed to a variety of factors which are mostly – according to the BBC’s portrayal – attributable to Israeli actions, they remained completely ignorant on the issue of the crucial factor of the atmosphere being engineered by the Palestinian Authority and its main party Fatah – also headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

That glaring and continuing omission in BBC coverage can only be attributed to a politically motivated narrative being allowed to trump the corporation’s public purpose remit. 

 

 

 

BBC coverage of Har Nof terror attack: Sommerville drops the ball

The day after the terror attack at the synagogue in Har Nof – November 19th – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Quentin Sommerville produced a filmed report titled “Anger in Jerusalem after deadly synagogue attack” which appeared on the BBC News website as well as on BBC television news.Pigua Har Nof Sommerville 19 11

Sommerville’s report starts off well enough but as it enters its third minute, viewers hear him say:

“Predictably, the killing sparked clashes across the occupied West Bank.”

Sommerville does not explain to audiences why the premeditated murder of Jews at prayer by Palestinian terrorists should be a trigger for  violent rioting by Palestinians at all – let alone why that should be ‘predictable’. He goes on:

“Palestinian anger has been rising over threats to an important Muslim site.”

Of course there are no actual threats to the Al Aqsa Mosque or any other “important Muslim site”:  the only ‘threats’ which exist are the mythical ones invented by Palestinian leaders in order to incite the population to violence. Not only does Sommerville fail to clarify that point to BBC audiences, but he goes on to state that the terror attack in Har Nof should be understood as having been “motivated” by what are in fact non-existent ‘threats’.

“It was this that motivated the killers – Ghassan [and] Uday Abu Jamal – said Uday’s father. He told me ‘this was done to protect our holy sites; to prove that we won’t be moved. This is a religious war’.”

Later on Sommerville tells audiences that “Mahmoud Abbas condemned the violence” and the report then cuts to footage of Abbas saying:

“We strongly condemn this kind of incidents. We categorically reject attacks against civilians. At the same time I would like to say that while we denounce these acts, we also condemn attacks against Al Aqsa Compound and other holy places.”

Sommerville fails to correct the misleading impression given to viewers by Abbas’ words by informing them that there have not been any “attacks against Al Aqsa Compound”.

It is the BBC’s job to enhance audience understanding of international affairs by means of accurate and impartial reporting. The corporation cannot achieve that aim if its correspondents simply regurgitate Palestinian propaganda whilst making no effort to inform audiences of the facts behind that deliberate misinformation. 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part five

In the first four installments of this post (see ‘related articles’ below) we documented BBC News website coverage of the first forty days of Operation Protective Edge. Part five relates to the final ten days of the conflict and the day after the ceasefire agreement was reached: August 17th to August 27th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

August 17th:Chart Aug 17

Written:

Gaza conflict: Peace talks resume in Cairo  (discussed here)

Features:

Gaza: What does the future hold for the children?  Kevin Connolly (discussed here)

August 18th:

Written:Chart Aug 18

Arrests at protests against Israeli mixed wedding

Gaza conflict: Peace talks continue as deadline looms

Filmed:

Interfaith wedding: ‘It’s time the Muslims leave Israel’

August 19th:

Written:Chart Aug 19

Gaza ceasefire ‘extended by a day’ after Cairo talks  (discussed here)

Features:

Gaza’s infrastructure crippled by conflict  Yolande Knell 

Filmed:

Strikes hit Gaza after rockets fired  Yolande Knell in Gaza & Kevin Connolly in Israel

Gaza conflict: Israel hits Gaza after rockets fired  Kevin Connolly

Israel-Gaza crisis: Palestinians downbeat on Cairo talks   Azzam al Ahmed

Israel: Ceasefire in Gaza ‘a two-way street’  Mark Regev

Bristol doctor Rachael Craven treats wounded in Gaza  Gaza

August 20th:Chart Aug 20

Written:

Gaza conflict: Truce ends amid fresh fighting (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’ (discussed here)  

Filmed:

Daniel Barenboim: ‘No one winning Middle East conflict’

Gaza conflict: Operation ‘not finished’ – Benjamin Netanyahu

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’  Yolande Knell in Gaza

August 21st:Chart Aug 21

Written:

Gaza crisis: Israel kills three top Hamas commanders  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Hamas: Palestinians ‘will continue to resist’  Ihab Al-Ghussin

Gaza crisis: Israel kills three top Hamas commanders  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza: Thousands rally for Hamas leaders’ funerals  Shahdi Alkashif in Gaza

August 22nd:Chart Aug 22

Written:

Gaza: Hamas says 18 suspected informants executed   (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israeli boy’s death ‘will intensify ops’  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Suspected informants killed in Gaza  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Israeli child ‘killed by rocket fired from Gaza’  Mark Lobel in Israel (discussed here)

August 23rd:Chart Aug 23

Written:

Gaza conflict: Mahmoud Abbas urges fresh talks in Egypt  (discussed here)

Holocaust families criticise Israel over Gaza  later amended and date changed (discussed here)

Filmed:

Israel continues air strikes on Gaza targets  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

August 24th:Chart Aug 24

Written:

Gaza conflict: Erez crossing ‘attacked’ amid Israel raids  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Gaza residences targeted in Israel air strikes  Alpa Patel  (discussed here)

Apartment block destroyed after Israeli air strike   Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

August 25th:Chart Aug 25

Written:

Gaza: Eight die in Israeli strikes as ‘new truce floated’

August 26th:

Features:

Gaza-Israel conflict: Is the fighting over?

Filmed:Chart Aug 26

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree new truce  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Abbas declares acceptance of truce

Ceasefire ‘good for Gaza, good for Israel’ – Mark Regev

August 27th:Chart Aug 27

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce (discussed here)

Gaza ceasefire: Thousands return home as calm returns

Gaza conflict: Israeli PM Netanyahu says war was ‘victory’ (discussed here)

Features:

Indecisive end to Gaza conflict  Kevin Connolly

Filmed:

Gaza ceasefire: ‘It feels like normal life’  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

Steinitz: Israel paid heavy price over Gaza  Yuval Steinitz

Military reoccupation of Gaza ‘was seriously considered’  Yuval Steinitz

Gaza-Israel ceasefire: Scepticism on Jerusalem streets

As was also the case in the previous ten days of the conflict, the period between August 17th and August 27th showed a drop in the amount of content produced by the BBC in comparison with its coverage of the first thirty days of hostilities after the number of journalists working in the Gaza Strip was reduced and media attentions shifted somewhat to the ISIS-related events in Iraq and Syria.

However, BBC audiences still saw over four times as much filmed content depicting the situation in the Gaza Strip as they did concerning the situation in Israel.

Graph Aug 17 to 27

BBC promotion of Hamas’ demands to lift border restrictions remained a prominent theme in the final days of coverage. The theme of Gaza’s damaged infrastructure – also a popular topic in the weeks since the conflict’s end – also continued to be promoted.

The BBC continued to misrepresent the terrorists’ breaches of truce agreements and bizarrely and misleadingly portrayed the ceasefire negotiations held in Cairo as “peace talks”. Missile fire into Israel was again severely under-reported. 

Graph Jul 8 to Aug 27

In the period between July 8th and August 27th, four hundred and sixteen separate items of content (not including the exceptions noted above) appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page; an average of over eight items a day. The predominant type of report presented was written news reports – 121 in total. Over a quarter of the content made available to visitors to the BBC News website came in the form of filmed reports depicting the situation in the Gaza Strip (also shown on BBC television news programmes). Throughout the entire 51 days of coverage, BBC audiences saw nearly three times more filmed reports from the Gaza Strip than they did comparative filmed reports from Israel.

Another interesting aspect of BBC coverage is to be found in the wording of the headlines used to present reports. The most frequently appearing wording for headlines included the categorization of their topic as the “Gaza conflict” (85 reports) with that term being employed from day one of the hostilities. The categorization “Gaza crisis” first appeared on the conflict’s fourth day and was to be found in 38 headlines. Day two of the conflict saw the appearance of the term “Middle East crisis” and that description was used in the titles to twenty reports. Headlines reflecting the fact that the conflict was also taking place in Israel – using the terms “Israel-Gaza conflict”, “Israel-Gaza crisis” or “Gaza –Israel” – appeared in only 22 reports in total.

Thus, as we see, both in the signposting to audiences by means of headline composition and in the proportion of filmed reports from the Gaza Strip compared to those depicting the situation in Israel, the BBC’s presentation of the conflict was heavily tipped towards focus on its effects upon the civilian population of the in the Gaza Strip, indicating that the corporation’s claims of “equal coverage” and “fair balance”of the two sides of the conflict do not stand up to scrutiny.

Related articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part three

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part four

BBC WS ‘Newshour’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

The BBC’s pictorial portrayal of conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip

‘From Our Own Correspondent’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’