When two different BBC platforms promoted filmed reports by the BBC’s Middle East editor last week on the topic of Ahed Tamimi and her upcoming trial, many called out the bias and manipulation evident in Jeremy Bowen’s reports and in particular the fact that, while concealing from audiences the fact that the charges against Tamimi include incitement, he disingenuously promoted the false notion that she has been charged with terrorism offences because of a “slap”.
Jeremy Bowen is of course well-known for being impervious to any criticism – which he takes very grudgingly – and so it did not come as much of a surprise to see that, despite the flaws in his report having been called out, five days later an audio version that is very similar to the filmed reports was aired on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘.
Iqbal: “Now, is a slap an act of terrorism? A 16 year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, is soon to go on trial in an Israeli military court after she tried to eject two Israeli combat soldiers from her family’s property during a demonstration last month. She slapped one of the men when he wouldn’t go. Her mother, Nariman, videoed what happened. When that went viral, amid a storm of anger in Israel at what Ahed Tamimi had done, soldiers raided their home and took mother and daughter to jail.”
In fact Nariman Tamimi was arrested later and not at her home. Iqbal continued:
Iqbal: “Now they’ve both been charged with offences that usually carry stiff custodial sentences. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen reports now from the Tamimis’ home village Nabi Saleh in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.”
Bowen: “I’m on a hill in Nabi Saleh, a Palestinian village on the occupied West Bank about 45 minutes north of Jerusalem. From this hill I can see a microcosm of the conflict: neighbouring Palestinian village where clouds of tear gas arising from a minor clash. Then, across the valley, an Israeli military base and a Jewish settlement – illegal under international law.”
Bowen refrained from informing his listeners that alternative interpretations of ‘international law’ exist. Predictably, his “microcosm of the conflict” does not include Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state or Palestinian terrorism – even though three members of one family were murdered just last summer in that same “Jewish settlement” seen from his vantage point. He went on:
Bowen: “And behind me is the home of Ahed Tamimi who’s become a symbol of the conflict for both sides. Her mother Nariman filmed her slapping the Israeli soldier and Ahed’s father Bassem – a leading Palestinian activist here – is contemplating the fact that his wife and daughter are facing charges that carry years of jail time.”
Tamimi: “It’s hard for me as a father, as a husband, that my wife, my daughter, in the hands of my enemy. I am scared, worried, proud. It’s like knives in my heart, in my body. Err…”
Bowen: “You know a lot of Israelis have said in any country if you attack a soldier you face the consequences, you’re gonna end up in jail. They’re saying that she shouldn’t have done this.”
Tamimi: “What should she done under the occupation? To give them a rose and welcoming them? I think our responsibility included to resist. She should do what she done. The worst issue that the occupation is continue and she will go out of jail to continue the struggle and maybe she will [be] killed.”
Bowen: “This village Nabi Saleh is steeped in protest against the occupation. They have regular demonstrations here which often end up in stone-throwing, tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammo too. Everybody in the village has been affected by the occupation.”
Bowen had no place in his report for any mention of the victims – and their families – of terrorists from that village or the fact that Bassem Tamimi is one of the main instigators of those “regular demonstrations”. The report continued:
Unidentified voice: “There is no occupation. There is no Palestinian nation. There will never be Palestinian state and we didn’t conquered nothing. We don’t occupied nothing.”
Misrepresenting the charges against Tamimi once again, Bowen introduced that voice:
Bowen: “Some Israelis are horrified about the prospect of jailing a 16 year-old girl for a slap. But many more support the soldiers, who could be their sons or brothers. In Jerusalem, here at Israel’s parliament – the Knesset – a leading right-wing MP Oren Hazan goes much further.”
Oren Hazan is number 30 on his party’s list – hardly a “leading” slot – and is considered a highly controversial figure even within his own party. Despite Hazan having been suspended from Knesset activity on the same day that Bowen’s previous reports were aired, he was still portrayed in this audio report as “a leading right-wing MP”.
Bowen: “Let’s talk specifically about Ahed Tamimi and her case. She’s going to go to court very soon. Potentially she faces time in prison.”
Hazan: “I hope so. We need to send her to rehab: to rehab from terror. You talk about her like she’s some innocent girl that just slapped a soldier. She do it for many years.”
Bowen: “When you saw that video of her slapping the soldier, what went through your mind?”
Hazan: “If I was there she would finish in the hospital for sure. Nobody could stop me. I would kick…kick her face. Believe me.”
Bowen: “She’s a 16 year-old girl.”
Hazan: “No, I don’t look at it like this because today as a 16 year-old girl she punched a soldier. Tomorrow she will stuck a knife in his throat. It’s what she do. Today it’s a slap, tomorrow it’s a knife.”
As was the case in one of his previous filmed reports, Bowen implied to BBC World Service listeners that Israeli military courts lack due process.
Bowen: “The chances are that Ahed Tamimi and her mother will end up with jail sentences. The Israeli military courts usually convict. The occupation has been going on for 50 years and it shows no sign of ending. Incidents like this indicate the level of tension and anger that’s often just below the surface. The question is how long before, once again, it erupts into much more serious violence.”
The BBC and Jeremy Bowen knew very well even before his January 31st reports were aired that the twelve charges against Ahed Tamimi include a count of incitement that relates to a video put out by her mother on social media in which Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as it was described by Nariman Tamimi – was:
“Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine”
After his reports appeared numerous people reminded Bowen of that fact on social media. The fact that five days later the BBC chose to broadcast yet another report in which that crucial context was not provided to audiences indicates once again that the corporation and its Middle East editor have self-conscripted to a political campaign that has now included no fewer than ten separate reports on Ahed Tamimi since December 19th.