More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

Early on the morning of December 7th reports began to emerge from pro-Assad and pro-Hizballah sources concerning an explosion at the Mazzeh military airport near Damascus.

““Residents of the capital Damascus awoke at approximately 4:00 a.m. to the [sound] of explosions and rising flames and smoke inside the Mazzeh Military Airport,” Al-Mayadeen reported Wednesday morning, citing a statement issued by the Hezbollah-affiliated War Media.

“It is almost certain that Zionist rockets targeted the Mazzeh Military Airport from Lebanese airspace,” the statement said, adding that the Syrian government has yet to make an official announcement on the matter.

Explosions rocked the facility for half an hour while ambulances rushed to the scene, according to the statement carried by Al-Mayadeen, a Beirut-based network that staunchly supports the Bashar al-Assad regime. […]

Meanwhile, a pro-Assad news page based in the regime’s coastal heartland was one of the first to claim that Israeli raids targeted the Mazzeh facility.

“Two Israeli raids targeted the Mazzeh military airport… a number of people have been martyred and injured,” the Al-Bahluliyah News Agency alleged in a post that included footage purporting to show blasts rip through the airport. […]

However, another claim circulated on pro-regime social media outlets held that the explosions were merely the result of an accidental discharge in an arms depot located within the airport.”

Later on in the day, Syrian state media made similar claims, peppered with the usual regime propaganda.

““At 3:00 a.m., the Israeli enemy fired several surface-to-surface missiles from inside occupied territory,” the state news agency SANA said, citing a military source. The report said the Israeli missiles caused a large fire but no injuries or deaths.

SANA said the missiles were fired from a position “west of Tal Abu Nada,” a mountain in the Israeli Golan Heights known as Mount Avital in Israel.

The Syrian military source called the alleged missile attack against the Mazzeh airbase part of “desperate attempts by the Israeli enemy to support terrorist groups and raise their low morale.”

Other Arabic media, including al Jazeera and al Arabiya, confirmed that a large explosion had occurred at the airport. Some reports said the fire was caused when a weapons depot exploded.”

Despite the unreliability of those obviously partisan sources and the absence of any confirmation of the allegations, some 17 hours after the event visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page were informed that “‘Israeli missiles’ hit Damascus airbase”.

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The article to which that link leads is headlined “Syria conflict: ‘Israel missiles’ hit Damascus military airport” and tagged ‘Syrian civil war’ despite the fact that its subject matter is not connected to that topic.damascus-airbase-art

“Syrian state media say an Israeli missile strike has targeted a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus.

The attack in Mezzeh is reported to have caused fires, but no casualties.

The Israeli military has made no comment, but it is the second time in a week that it is alleged to have carried out a strike on Syrian territory.”

The BBC’s report uncritically amplifies the Syrian regime allegations:

“Syria’s state news agency, Sana, cited a military source as saying that a number of surface-to-surface missiles landed around Mezzeh airport at 03:00 (00:00 GMT).

They were reportedly fired by Israeli forces from a position “west of Tal Abu Nada”, a mountain in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights known as Mount Avital to Israelis.”

It then goes on to unquestioningly amplify Syrian regime propaganda:

“The military source said the attack was part of Israel’s “desperate attempts” to support “terrorist groups and raise their deteriorating morale”, an apparent reference to recent losses on the battlefield by Western-backed rebel forces.”

This is the second time in a week – and at least the tenth time in the last three years – that the BBC has given unchallenged and unquestioned amplification to falsehoods put out by the Assad regime alleging Israeli support for Syrian rebel factions.

The BBC clearly needs to explain to its funding public why they are being serially fed unqualified, inaccurate Syrian regime propaganda that obviously hinders understanding of this particular “international issue“.  

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BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

 

 

 

 

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

Throughout the years of the Syrian civil war, the BBC has on multiple occasions given unchallenged and unquestioned amplification to falsehoods put out by the Assad regime alleging Israeli support for Syrian rebel factions.

BBC unquestioningly promotes Assad’s “destabilisation” claims

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC Q&A on alleged Israeli air strikes is political polemic

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ promotes more Syrian regime propaganda

BBC report on shootings in Golan parrots Assad propaganda

Vital information missing in BBC reports on alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria

Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

On November 30th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article titled “Syria conflict: ‘Israeli jets’ strike outside Damascus“. The initial version of that report read as follows:

alleged-airstrike-syria

Around an hour later the article was amended to include Syrian regime propaganda.

“The Syrian military source said Wednesday’s missile strikes were “an attempt to distract attention” from the Syrian army’s “successes” and a “bid to raise the morale of the collapsing terrorist gangs”, an apparent reference to recent rebel losses in Aleppo.”

That propaganda was already in the public domain when the BBC published the first version of its report but, remarkably, someone at the BBC News website thought it appropriate to amend the article to include that false information – which once again goes unquestioned and unchallenged – and amplify it to international audiences.

So much for “the standard-setter for international journalism“.  

 

Twenty-nine hours later – BBC News reports Golan cross-border attack

At around 8:30 a.m. on the morning of November 27th an incident took place along the border in the south Golan Heights.

“Soldiers from the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit had crossed the security fence with Syria to conduct an “ambush operation,” while remaining inside Israeli territory, when they came under attack from small arms fire, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

They returned fire, but soon came under attack from mortar shells.

In response, the Israel Air Force targeted a truck “that had some sort of machine gun on top of it” and killed the four terrorists who were riding in it. […]

According to the IDF, the four men were members of the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, formerly known as the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist group in Syria that is connected with the Islamic State. […]

The incident was the first major confrontation between Israeli forces and Islamic State affiliated terrorists in the Golan, though Israel has clashed with other fighters on the Syrian side of the border several times.”

The incident received coverage on the BBC Arabic website on the same day. Bizarrely, the article was tagged “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” even though it obviously has nothing to do with that subject matter.

During the night between November 27th and 28th, a building used by the ISIS linked terrorist group was struck by the Israeli air force.

“The IDF said Monday that the target in the overnight airstrike was an “abandoned UN building that has been used by the Islamic State as an operations center along the border in the southern Syrian Golan Heights,” adding that “the compound was the base for yesterday’s attack against IDF forces.”

“This is an additional response to yesterday’s attack, and it is aimed at preventing the terrorists from returning to the installation which poses a significant threat,” the IDF said.”

In the early afternoon of November 28th the BBC News website published a report concerning that strike and the previous day’s incident – which had hitherto gone unreported in English.golan-incident-report

Headlined “Israeli aircraft target IS position in Syrian Golan Heights“, the article opens with an account of the last of the story’s events.

“The Israeli Air Force has bombed a building used by Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights, Israel’s military says.

The air raid targeted an abandoned UN peacekeeping facility used as a base for an attack on Sunday against Israeli soldiers on Israeli-occupied territory.

The four militants behind that attack were killed in an earlier strike.”

Readers are not provided with any explanation as to why the UN building was “abandoned” and are not reminded that the so-called ‘demilitarised zone’ has long since ceased to meet that definition, with UNDOF forces having largely retreated from the area. Moreover, towards the end of this report readers find the standard – but now irrelevant – BBC mantra concerning the Golan Heights.

“Israel seized the region in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War, and thwarted a Syrian attempt to retake it in 1973.

Both countries signed an armistice in 1974, after which a UN peacekeeping force was put in place to monitor the demilitarised zone.”

Only in the sixth paragraph do readers find out about the attack that sparked events.

“In Sunday’s incident, Israeli soldiers came under machine-gun and mortar fire, according to the Israeli military.

The air force bombed a vehicle carrying the assailants, whom the military said were members of the IS-linked Khaled Ibn al-Walid Brigade, a Syrian group formerly called the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade.” [emphasis added]

Not only did the IDF ‘say’ that the four terrorists were members of the ISIS linked group: the BBC refrains from informing its audiences that ISIS later published their photographs.

Readers are not provided with any further information concerning Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed or its recent internal conflicts. Neither are they reminded that one of the groups making up that organisation – the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade – kidnapped UN forces in 2013. Readers are not given any information concerning the size of the area controlled by the ISIS affiliated group adjacent to Israel’s border and the Syrian civilians living in that region have not been the topic of any BBC coverage.

Weekend long read

1) At the Tower Jamie Palmer meticulously documents an important phenomenon in an article titled “The Pro-Palestinian Left is Tearing Itself Apart Over Syria“.Weekend Read 

“This silence has confounded the activists and writers of the Syrian revolution. If the anti-war Left was moved to outrage by air-strikes in Gaza and Baghdad, why was it unmoved by the sight of Syrian bodies and buildings being smashed to atoms in Aleppo and Homs?

The Syrian revolutionaries’ confusion gave way to frustration that in turn gave way to anger, particularly when they noticed that what did galvanize protests was not a pitiless dictator smashing his fiefdom to smithereens, but any suggestion that the West might do something to stop him. When the Assad regime fired sarin gas into the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21, 2013, killing hundreds of civilians, it looked for a moment as if the West, led by America, might finally intervene. It was only then that the anti-war movement lurched back to life.”

2) At the Weekly Standard, Lee Smith gives his take on the recent presidential election in Lebanon.

“Many observers believe this election signifies that Lebanon has now come fully under Hezbollah management. But this has been the case already for years. Hezbollah has controlled key Lebanese institutions, especially the security and military portfolios, since the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005. Hezbollah’s instigation of war against Israel in 2006 was further proof that it had final say over the country’s foreign policy. That Iran’s praetorian guard on the eastern Mediterranean has now placed some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel throughout Lebanon reinforces the fact that Hezbollah alone has the power to make life-and-death decisions of state, affecting the fate of millions of Lebanese, whether they back the group or oppose it. What the election shows is that Hezbollah has finally replicated the system of its patron, the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

3) Khaled Abu Toameh takes a look at the likely outcomes of the scheduled Fatah conference.

“Barring last-minute changes, the Palestinian Fatah faction, which is headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to hold its Seventh Conference in Ramallah on November 29. This will be the first gathering of its kind since August 2009.

The upcoming conference coincides with mounting tensions in Fatah, the result of internal bickering and growing discontent with Abbas’s autocratic rule. Some 1,300 delegates to the conference will be asked to vote for two of Fatah’s key decision-making bodies — the 23-member Central Committee and the 132-member Revolutionary Council.

Palestinian political analysts predict that the Fatah conference will deepen divisions among the faction’s rival camps, particularly in the wake of Abbas’s continued efforts to eliminate his critics. Abbas, they say, decided to convene the parley in a bid to tighten his grip on Fatah and block the emergence of new leaders.”

4) At the Times of Israel, Lyn Julius discusses one aspect of a BBC programme broadcast last weekend.

“The great historian Bernard Lewis says that the myth of Muslim tolerance is one of the great myths propagated by 19th century Jewish historians who wanted to embarrass the west into giving European Jews greater civil rights. Belief in the myth of Muslim tolerance was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam. “The myth was invented by Jews in nineteenth-century Europe as a reproach to Christians – and taken up by Muslims in our own time as a reproach to Jews,” he writes.”

remembrance-day

Weekend long read

1) At the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman ponders “White privilege and the love of dictators – the Syrian case“.Weekend Read

“When you start to survey the large number of voices, particularly in media, who sympathize with Assad or take his side you come across a constellation of white men and women from privileged Western backgrounds.

Simon Jenkins tells us that “the Syrian horror began with a sectarian insurgency of Syria’s own peculiar making…the West’s support for Assad’s enemies, like its toppling of Saddam and Gaddafi, aided the cause not of democracy but of chaos. It displayed the arrogance of empire without its true commitment.” Jenkins, who titled an article in 2015 with “bombing is immoral, stupid and never wins wars,” then wrote in the same article that “the only intervention likely to work in Syria just now is from Moscow.”

Read that again. “Bombing doesn’t work.” Ok. But Russian bombing on behalf of Assad will “work.” What? This type of logic from an educated British intellectual like Jenkins is symbolic of the warped thinking of so many. Western bombs bad, Russian bombs good.”

2) The Boston Globe has an editorial on the recent resolution adopted by UNESCO.

“UNESCO’s tendentious semantics play into an ongoing propaganda campaign by the Palestinian Authority to “de-Judaize” the identity of Jerusalem, the foremost Jewish city on earth. UNESCO erred by allowing itself to be dragged into this controversy. This blatant historical fabrication is a relatively recent endeavor. It began in the 1990s, when Yasser Arafat took to insisting that Jesus was “a Palestinian” and when the Arafat-appointed mufti of Jerusalem declared, “There is no proof at all that the Jews were ever in Jerusalem.” In reality, the Jewish significance of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount is so clear-cut that, decades ago, even the city’s Muslim leaders once stressed the point.”

3) At the Spectator, Nick Cohen discusses the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent ‘fatwa’.

“In short, a section of the Western left has adopted the ideology of the Salafists, Khomeinists and Islamists. It supports their blasphemy codes, and apologias for murder. Not for white leftists, you understand, only for ‘the other,’ for we are in a culture where racist double standards abound. I have no doubt, for instance, that Alabama’s Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) would be appalled if white supremacists hacked to death writers on the New York Times for challenging racial prejudice, as Islamists hack Bangladeshi liberal writers to death for challenging theocratic prejudice.

What makes SPLC’s embrace of what it would in other circumstances correctly call fascist politics heart-breaking as well as contemptible is that it was once a  great civil rights institution in the American south with a proud record of fighting the Ku Klux Klan.” 

BBC News’ bizarre ‘Newsbeat’ backgrounder on Syria

An article which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th was billed as follows:

syria-art-cataclysm

The link leads to a backgrounder produced by BBC News for ‘Newsbeat‘ – and hence specifically tailored for younger audiences – which is titled “How the history books will remember Syria in 2016“.

The backgrounder – headed “Newsbeat Explains” – may well raise eyebrows both for what it does tell those ‘younger audiences’ and what it does not. No mention is made, for example, of the fact that the vast majority of casualties in the Syrian civil war have died at the hands of the Syrian regime or of issues such as the barrel bombs, the use of chemical weapons against civilians or the siege and starvation policy employed by Bashar al Assad. Apparently ‘Newsbeat’ does not consider those points worthy of the history books: a section headed “It’s hard to know exactly how many people have been killed in Syria” does not even try to inform audiences about such issues.

syria-art-cataclysm-number-killed

Readers are told that the root of the conflict in Syria goes back to “March 2003 when Britain and America and other countries decided to invade Iraq” and that the ‘Arab Spring’ can be attributed to the “economic crash of 2007/08”. The oppressive nature of the Syrian regime pre-March 2011 is severely whitewashed.

syria-art-cataclysm-tv

In a section concerning Syrian refugees audiences are told that Britain is characterised by “endemic racism” and in a section about the “international players” in Syria, readers are bizarrely informed that:

syria-art-cataclysm-israel

It is of course remarkable that the dubious notion that “Israeli security” is a prime factor behind US intervention in Syria (such as it is) was included in this BBC backgrounder without any concrete evidence being provided to back up that statement. Given that the information comes from an academic – Tim Jacoby – with a record of supporting anti-Israel boycotts and delegitimisation, the BBC’s amplification of that entirely unsupported claim obviously requires explanation.

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Tony Badran asks “why hasn’t the [US] administration done anything about Syria, and won’t?”.  

“Recently, portions of the strategic-communications façade erected by the administration have started to crumble, allowing interested analysts and members of the public to see the administration’s actual policy more clearly. In a recent interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon revealed that in 2013, Iran told President Obama that if he were to strike the regime of Bashar Assad following the latter’s chemical-weapons attack, the Iranians would collapse the talks over their nuclear program. Obama canceled the strike, of course, and later reassured Iran that the United States would not touch Assad. Solomon’s reporting confirms a critical fact about Obama’s Iran and Syria policies: They are one and the same. Or, stated differently, Syria is part of the price for the president’s deal with Iran.”

2) The Times of Israel has an interesting interview with Professor Monika Schwarz-Friesel on the topic of antisemitism on the internet and in European discourse.Weekend Read

“A psychologist, linguist and professor of cognitive science at the Technical University of Berlin, Schwarz-Friesel is one of the most quoted experts on anti-Semitism in both international academic literature and the German media.

In her numerous publications she analyzes and exposes new manifestations of old anti-Semitic sentiments — disguised though they might be — employing much of the same Jew-hatred that has been shaping European discourse throughout the years, even when officially outlawed.

These analyses are evidence that recent anti-Israeli tropes demonizing the Jewish state are actually work-arounds of old anti-Semitic sentiments that have been with us for two millennia.”

3) The CST has produced a handy guide to definitions of antisemitism currently in use.

4) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gave an address titled “The Mutating Virus: Understanding Antisemitism” at a conference at the European Parliament last month.  

“Antisemitism is not about Jews. It is about anti-Semites. It is about people who cannot accept responsibility for their own failures and have instead to blame someone else. Historically, if you were a Christian at the time of the Crusades, or a German after the First World War, and saw that the world hadn’t turned out the way you believed it would, you blamed the Jews. That is what is happening today. And I cannot begin to say how dangerous it is. Not just to Jews but to everyone who values freedom, compassion and humanity.”

5) Adam Bienkov reports on the Momentum view of the British media – including the BBC.

“There must be a “socialist” solution to media ownership in the UK, Unite’s chief of staff insisted last night.

Speaking at a Momentum meeting on “Jeremy Corbyn and media bias,” Andrew Murray said there had to be a “change in ownership” away from the “tax exiles and ne’er-do-wells” who currently own most newspapers and broadcast media. […]

He added that any socialist solution to media bias against Corbyn must include the BBC.

“[There is] a narrow clique at the top of the BBC increasingly controlled and appointed by government,” which needed to be removed, he insisted.

Murray singled out the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg for criticism.” […]

A representative from the Corbyn-supporting ‘Media Response Unit’ called for Momentum to engage in mass complaints against the broadcaster.

“We’re building an army at Momentum so let’s use it,” he told the meeting. 

 

 

BBC’s news from southern Syria front: for Arabic speakers only

With the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen on the ground in northern Syria, audience attentions have been focused on that region where, according to the corporation’s reports, the ceasefire which came into effect on the evening of September 12th is “largely holding“. However, another front is currently rather less quiet.

Throughout the past week or so, multiple incidents of mortar fire from Syria into the Israeli Golan have taken place – attributed to spill-over from the heavy fighting between opposition groups and regime forces and their supporters near the border which continued under the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

On September 13th, after Israel responded to one of the incidents of cross-border mortar fire, the Syrian regime claimed to have shot down two Israeli aircraft. That claim was swiftly refuted by the IDF.

“The statement from the Syrian army said one aircraft was downed over the skies of the Syrian town of Quneitra, near the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, and the other, a drone, was shot down closer to Damascus.

“Our air defenses blocked the attack and shot down the military aircraft in (the southern province of) Quneitra and a drone west of Sa’sa” in the province of Damascus, said the statement carried by state news agency SANA.

The alleged achievement was highlighted widely in Syrian state media.

The IDF in a statement confirmed it had been shot at, but said aircraft used to target Syrian positions overnight were safe.bbc-arabic-plane-golan

“Two surface-to-air missiles were launched from Syria after the mission overnight to target Syrian artillery positions,” an IDF statement said. “At no point was the safety of IDF aircraft compromised.””

Once again, the degree of reliability of information put out by the Syrian regime – which the BBC has in the past unquestioningly amplified and promoted – is glaringly apparent.

The Syrian regime’s claim was the subject of a report – “Syria says it shot down an Israeli airliner and Israel denies” – which appeared on the BBC Arabic website on September 13th. The BBC’s English-speaking audiences, however, have not been informed of that incident or the recent tension-raising uptick in cross-border mortar fire from Syria into Israel.

Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

An interview with the Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen appeared on several BBC platforms on September 7th.

An audio version of the interview was heard by listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Newsroom’.mekdad-the-newsroom

A filmed version of the interview was shown on BBC News television programmes and posted on the BBC News website.

The same filmed clip was also embedded into an article titled “Syria conflict: Opposition unveils transition plan” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

In all versions of that interview – which was slightly edited on the different platforms – BBC audiences heard barely challenged denials from Faisal Mekdad with regard to the Syrian regime’s use of barrel bombs against the civilian population and the fact that most of the civilian casualties of the civil war have been caused by Assad’s forces and supporters.

Audiences also heard the following falsehood go completely unchallenged by the man whose job ostensibly includes the provision of “analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”.mekdad-filmed

“This is a war against Syria. This is war from, I mean, the most horrible…ah…I mean, forces in the entire world. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are giving money. Turkey is using its army. The United States and Western Europe – and particularly France and UK – are doing, I mean, whatever they can do to end the role being played by Syria. Israel is there in the middle of the conflict.” [emphasis added]

As any Middle East reporter worth his salt of course knows, Israel is not involved in the Syrian civil war and it is certainly not the cause of that conflict. Jeremy Bowen however did not bother to relieve BBC audiences of the inaccurate impression promoted by his interviewee and instead went straight on to his next question.

Not for the first time – see ‘related articles’ below – Jeremy Bowen’s reporting on Syria actively hinders the meeting of his employer’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues”.

Related Articles:

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More BBC Bowen beating of the Assad regime drum

BBC does damage control after Bowen’s Assad advocacy

 

BBC News passes up on an unusual Middle East story

Eighteen months have passed since the BBC last reported on the topic of the sick and wounded Syrians receiving medical care in Israel and so its audiences may not be aware of the fact that the provision of that humanitarian aid continues.

One of the patients arriving at the border earlier this year presented a particular challenge to the medical teams.

“The girl arrived at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa in recent weeks with very serious wounds that she received after finding herself caught in a firefight between rival militias […]

Some two weeks after she arrived at the hospital, after her wounds had nearly healed, Rambam doctors discovered the young girl had cancer.

They refused to release her, insisting that they could not let her cancer go untreated. […]

And so a search began for a bone marrow donor, a search that led to a relative living in a Middle Eastern country designated an “enemy state” under Israeli law, a designation that prevented the relative from entering Israel.

It was at this point that Israel’s security services stepped in, mounting a secret operation in the enemy country that helped smuggle the relative out of that country and into Israel.”

Rambam

Photo credit: Rambam hospital

The treatment was successful and this week the little girl was discharged from hospital.

“Rambam Health Care Campus has treated 140 Syrian civilians, men, women and children over the past three years. However, the departure, yesterday, of a six-year-old girl, “B”, was especially emotional for everyone.  Wearing a white dress, white shoes, and a little silver crown, “B” was the guest of honor at a farewell party held by an entire department, where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze stood together with tears in their eyes, surrounding her with love and concern for the future that awaits her. […]

After all the parting messages, some of which were painstakingly read in Arabic by Jewish doctors and nurses, the mother asked to read her own thank you wishes. In a small voice, she said “I would lie if I said that I expected the kind of humanity I discovered here. I am grateful for your care and sensitivity; may God protect you. And we will always remember what you did for us.””

To date, BBC audiences have not been told this unusual story.