BBC’s Paul Danahar at the Frontline Club

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Our monthly count of Israel-related articles and comparison with the amount of exposure given to other countries in the region on the BBC News website’s Middle East page relates to written articles only. Also featured on the same webpage, under the heading “Watch/Listen”, are filmed reports which previously appeared on BBC television news.

During the month of August, a total of twelve such reports relating to Israel appeared on the Middle East page and they are categorized here according to the number of days they were left up on the site. 

Appeared for one day:

Kerry hopeful on Mid-East talks despite settlement move


Appeared for two days:

Syria crisis: Israelis queue for gas masks – Richard Galpin.

Galpin gas masks

Israel frees Palestinian prisoners – Yolande Knell – discussed here.

Knell prisoner release

Israel frees Palestinian prisoners – Yolande Knell – discussed here.

Knell prisoner release 2

Shimon Peres: ‘Live in peace side by side’


Israel’s President Shimon Peres turns 90 – Lyse Doucet. 

Peres 90 Doucet

Appeared for three days:

Israeli hospital treats Syrian war-wounded – Sam Farah – discussed here.

Syrian wounded

Appeared for four days:

Would new Israeli ports bring efficiency or job losses? – Jonathan Frewin.

Ports Jonathan Frewin

Why Mid-East peace talks now? – Bethany Bell – discussed here. Originally posted in July, continued to run in August. 

Bell talks

Appeared for five days:

‘Last airlift’ of Ethiopian Jews to Israel – Emily Thomas. Still on the website at the time of writing.

Ethiopian new immigrants

New Israeli settlement homes anger Palestinians – Kevin Connolly – discussed here.

Connolly construction

Appeared for six days:

Palestinian prisoner release highlights divisions – Kevin Connolly – discussed here.

Connolly prisoner release

As we see, more than half of these filmed reports are connected to the subject of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians and in terms of exposure, that issue was the subject matter of two of the longest running reports. Seven of the items promote the theme of Israeli construction as ‘sabotaging’ or jeopardizing the talks (which was a major theme on the BBC News website throughout August) and the BBC-written synopsis of the report featuring Shimon Peres’ speech does the same. The total number of days the eight articles promoting that theme remained on the website is twenty-four. 

BBC Arabic reports on Syrian patients in Israeli hospitals – but not in Arabic

Over the past few months we have noted here on numerous occasions the BBC’s failure to cover the stories of Syrians wounded in the civil war in their country receiving medical care in Israel – see here, here, here and here for example.  

Now a welcome step has been taken towards changing that with a short filmed report by BBC Arabic’s Sam Farah which appeared both on BBC television news and on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on August 20th

wounded Syrians Israel

Unfortunately though, Sam Farah’s report does not appear to have made it to the Middle East page, the video pageor any other page on the BBC Arabic website. Isn’t this exactly the kind of news which the BBC claims to be providing for people who are unlikely to hear it from the media in their own countries?

As a former BBC Director General once said:

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

BBC Arabic sweetens up terrorists

A filmed report from BBC Arabic’s Sam Farah which appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on April 16th 2013 waxes lyrical about the confectionery skills of two of the terrorists released to the Gaza Strip under the terms of the Shalit deal in 2011.

Terrorists Knafe Gaza

Of course Farah does not describe the men as terrorists – instead using the generalised terms “inmates” and “prisoners” – and he completely neglects to inform viewers of the distinctly less than sweet reasons behind the incarceration of the two.  

Nader Abu Turki from Hebron was a senior Hamas operative who was arrested in November 2002 and convicted of conspiracy to murder, stone-throwing, planting bombs and membership of the military wing of Hamas. According to one youth (17 years old at the time) conscripted to Hamas by Abu Turki, he was selected to carry out a suicide bombing attack in Israel because of his European appearance and blue eyes. Abu Turki was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

Hamuda Salah from Nablus (Schem) was sentenced to 22 years in prison after having been convicted of conspiracy to murder, planting bombs, shooting attacks and membership of a terrorist organisation.

Farah also fails to inform viewers why the two men ended up in Gaza, rather than returning to Hebron and Nablus after their release. In fact, both were considered too dangerous to be freed to PA controlled territory. 

The BBC’s sanitised depiction of the subjects of this report as former “prisoners” and “inmates” without any reference to the reasons for which they were imprisoned and their involvement in terrorism is not only a failure by omission to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy, but also compromises the BBC’s impartiality by whitewashing terrorism.