BBC Arabic inaccurately portrays 2002 terror attack victims

On the morning of August 4th 2002 a terror attack took place on a bus travelling to Tsfat. Nine people died and some 40 were wounded in that suicide bombing near Meron Junction. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which was reported by the BBC at the time.

Among those murdered in that attack were two foreign nationals from the Philippines, two members of the Galilee Druze communities of Sajur and Maghar, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh and residents of the Galilee towns and villages Karmiel, Safsufa, Mitzpe Adi and Mitzpe Aviv.

Following the attack Israeli forces arrested Hamas commander Mazen Fuqaha, who was responsible for dispatching the suicide bomber, in his home town of Tubas in Area A. In 2003 Fukha was sentenced to nine life sentences for his role in the attack. He was released from prison in 2011 as part of the Shalit deal prisoner exchange and deported to the Gaza Strip.

On March 24th 2017 Fuqaha was assassinated outside his home in Gaza City by unidentified gunmen.

While that story did not receive any coverage on the BBC’s English language services, on March 25th a report about Fuqaha’s funeral did appear on the BBC Arabic website. In paragraph 15 of that report the victims of the 2002 Meron Junction terror attack are described as “nine Jewish settlers”.

Four of the nine people murdered in the attack were not Jewish. None of them lived in what the BBC would term ‘settlements’.

This is not the first time that BBC Arabic has portrayed Israeli victims of terror attacks to its audiences as “Jewish settlers” regardless of their ethnicity and place of residence. Clearly that description is neither accurate nor impartial.

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Why is BBC Arabic feeding its audiences politicised terminology?

Absurdity of BBC’s ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ guidance on display again

As regular readers know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’ instruct its journalists to avoid unattributed use of the term terrorist and urge consistency of terminology regardless of the story’s location.

“We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.

The word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding.”

The corporation’s accompanying guide on ‘Language when Reporting Terrorism’ similarly states:

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.”

Under the sub-heading ‘Value Judgements’ the same guidance states:

“The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words “terrorist” or “terrorist group” can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality. For example, the bombing of a bus in London was carried out by “terrorists”, but the bombing of a bus in Israel was perpetrated by a “suicide bomber”. […]

Some will argue that certain events are so evidently acts of terror (and, therefore, perpetrated by “terrorists”) that those descriptions are reasonable, and non-judgemental. However, the language we choose to use in reporting one incident cannot be considered in isolation from our reporting of other stories. So to use the word in incidents which we may consider obvious creates difficulties for less clear-cut incidents.”

Fortunately, the BBC’s reporting of the terror attack in London on March 22nd did not comply with those guidelines; in multi-platform reports and on social media audiences were told in clear language what the story was about.

As was noted here (Reviewing BBC reporting of vehicular attacks in France and Israel) when a vehicular terror attack took place in Nice in July 2016, terror attacks using vehicles have not been afforded the same clarity of description by the BBC when perpetrated against Israelis.

When four people were murdered in a vehicular attack in Jerusalem in January 2017, the BBC did stick to its guideline of only using the word terror with attribution and avoiding the term itself.

Likewise, the BBC consistently refrains from using the word terror to describe stabbing attacks on Israeli civilians or members of the security forces.

When the BBC does manage to report terror attacks in London, Nice, Berlin, Brussels or Paris using appropriate language, its long-standing editorial policy of eschewing accurate terminology in coverage of Palestinian attacks on Israelis becomes even more discordant and the redundancy of its inconsistently applied guidelines and guidance is highlighted all the more.

Those guidelines are clearly in need of serious review if the BBC wants its audiences to believe that its reporting is impartial.

Related Articles:

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe  

BBC coverage of Berlin terror attack again highlights double standards

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

As has been noted here before, the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists is a topic which is serially excluded from the view of BBC audiences.

That subject is obviously of interest to governments and tax payers alike in the many countries that donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course the BBC’s funding British public. Familiarity with the issue is also key to understanding of both the eternal PA budget deficit and the background to Palestinian terrorism.  

The Palestinian National Fund (PNF) – which was established in 1964 as part of the PLO and is now controlled by the Palestinian Authority – was blacklisted by Israel’s Minister of Defence last week.

“Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, today (Thursday, 16 March 2017), pursuant to his authority under Article 3 of the 2016 Fight Against Terrorism Law, declared the “Palestinian National Fund” (hereinafter “the fund”) to be a terrorist organization. 

The decision to declare the fund a terrorist organization stems from its continuing and ongoing activity in providing massive support for elements responsible for committing severe acts of terrorism against Israel. 

The fund serves – inter alia – as a significant financial pipeline for tens of millions of shekels that are transferred on a monthly basis to security prisoners held in Israel for committing acts of terrorism and to members of their families. In effect, the longer the sentence, the greater the payments to the prisoner and his family. 

The fund also supports family members of terrorists who were wounded and killed while perpetrating acts of terrorism against Israel. 

The fund has a vital role in the financial support for Palestinian terrorist operatives imprisoned in Israel, and it is used as the most significant route for transferring funds. 

The fund is headed by Ramzi Elias Yousef Khouri, a senior PLO official who is close to senior Palestinian Authority leaders. 

As of today, all necessary actions will be taken in Israel and overseas in order to seize and confiscate property and assets designated for, or belonging to, the fund.”

The PNF is – to put it mildly – not the most transparently run body.

“The Palestinian National Fund was founded in 1964 by members of the PLO in order to serve as the body which will manage the Palestinian people’s funds. The person who headed the fund was unofficially considered the Palestinian finance minister. The fund’s sources of funding were defined as taxes collected from PLO members (about 5 percent of the salaries of PLO members in the Gulf), donations from businesspeople, donations from Arab and other states, from organizations, and more.

Over the years, tens of billions of dollars were transferred to the fund’s coffer (it is estimated that some $30 billion passed through the fund’s accounts by early 2000). The Arab states’ annual financial aid to the PLO reached some $300 million since the mid 1960s.

Over the years, the fund also received different grants in light of the organization’s political stance. After the occupation of Kuwait in 1990, for example, Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein gave the Palestinian fund a “gift” worth $150 million to thank the PLO for its support of his policy. This is only one example of many.

The Palestinian fund has not only maintained its status since the PA was established after the Oslo Agreements in 1993, but it seems it has also increased its influence. One could say that since the PA’s establishment, the Amman-based National Fund has turned into a sort of secret coffer of the two PA chairmen, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. The control of the fund and the billions it manages have given the two leaders huge political power. […]

According to PLO regulations, the Palestinian National Fund should be run by a special council, and its chairman should be one of the members of the organization’s Executive Committee. In practice, however, the fund has not had a chairman for 15 years now, against regulations. About a decade ago, Abbas decided, as the PLO chairman, to appoint Ramzi Khoury, who served as Arafat’s bureau chief, as the fund’s CEO.

This means that Abbas basically controls the fund’s money, and that he knows of and approves the flow of funds to finance anti-Israel activity and propaganda.”

As readers may be aware, until a few years ago the monthly payments to convicted terrorists were made directly by the Palestinian Authority itself. However, in August 2014 changes were ostensibly made to the system.

“In 2014, the PA announced that in order to continue receiving more than a billion dollars in financial support annually, it was acceding to US and European donor countries’ demands that the PA stop paying salaries to terrorist prisoners. The PA claimed the money for prisoners salaries would no longer be paid by the PA but instead by the PLO.”

Nevertheless, as Palestinian Media Watch has documented:

“In 2015, after the PA had assured Western donors it was no longer paying the salaries, and after it had closed the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, it suddenly transferred more than double what it had transferred to the PLO in previous years. The additional amount transferred by the PA to the PLO in 2015 was almost identical to the budget the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs used to have. This extra money the PLO received from the PA in 2015 matches the amount the PLO now needed to pay the salaries of terrorist prisoners.
The payments may be made by the PLO, but the money is still PA money.”

The role of the newly blacklisted Palestinian National Fund is explained as follows by PMW:

“…PMW has uncovered PA Ministry of Finance documents that indicate a money trail, showing the transfer of money from the PA to the Palestinian National Fund (PNF), the body that funds the PLO, in the amount needed to pay the salaries to terrorist prisoners […]

In 2015, after the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs was closed, the PA raised its annual transfer to the PLO via the Palestinian National Fund by 481 million shekels ($128 million):

2014 transfer – 294 million shekels

2015 transfer – 775 million shekels    

The additional 481 million shekels the PLO received from the PA in 2015 was the amount it needed to fund the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, undertaking the responsibilities of the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. The transfer of 481 million is virtually identical to the budget of the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs in 2014 (442 million), plus 10% yearly growth due to rising prisoners salaries. According to PA law, the salaries of terrorist prisoners rise the longer they are in prison.

This route – money transfers from the PA to the PNF and then to the PLO – is the way the PA is transferring money to the PLO in order to continue funding salaries to terrorist prisoners, and to keep their payments hidden from donor countries.”

If a president (particularly one with an expired mandate) in any other location in the world had control over a shadowy fund that, among other things, facilitated the provision of rewards – and incentives – for terrorism, one can be pretty sure that the BBC’s journalistic curiosity would be piqued. However in the case of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, the BBC remains typically dumb.

Related Articles:

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PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

 

 

MK’s plea bargain resignation not newsworthy for BBC

Late last December we noted that the BBC had ignored the story of the arrest of a member of the Knesset from the Balad party on suspicion of smuggling cellphones to convicted terrorists.

The MK – Basel Ghattas – has now resigned from the Knesset.

“MK Basel Ghattas, accused of exploiting his position to smuggle cellphones to convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, resigned from the Knesset Sunday as part of a plea deal that will see him face two years in prison.

Prosecutors on Friday filed an indictment in the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court against the Joint (Arab) List lawmaker, formally charging him with smuggling phones into prison, smuggling documents and breach of trust.

The charges came a day after Ghattas signed a deal with the state in which he will resign from the Knesset and serve two years. In return he avoided more serious charges of aiding the enemy and being an accomplice to terror. […]

Ghattas was under criminal investigation after being caught on prison surveillance video passing envelopes to Palestinian security prisoners in January [sic – actually December].

Police said that the MK exploited his position as a member of Knesset — who cannot be subjected to a body search — during a visit to Ketziot Prison in southern Israel last year, where he met with Walid Daka, a Palestinian prisoner serving a 37-year sentence for the 1984 abduction and murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Moshe Tamam. The MK also met with Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre, who is serving a 15-year sentence on a terror conviction.”

In the past the BBC has given its audiences incomplete and partisan portrayals of stories concerning Balad MKs and terrorism – see here and here.  

Despite its usual interest in the workings of the Israeli Knesset and its having produced no fewer than four articles in ten days (see here, here, here and here) on a different police investigation concerning an Israeli politician during the same period of time, on Basel Ghattas’ indictment and resignation the corporation has chosen to stay mum.

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BBC failure to provide context in Hizballah weapons stories continues

On March 17th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit’“. The article opens with a ‘last-first’ summary of the story:

“Israel has shot down a Syrian missile using its most advanced anti-missile system for the first time, Israeli media say.

A surface-to-air missile (SAM) was intercepted using the Arrow system, designed to stop long-range ballistic missiles, reports say.

The SAMs were fired at Israeli jets which had just raided sites in Syria.”

The article goes on:

“In a rare admission, the Israeli military said its aircraft had attacked several targets in Syria before Syria launched the missiles.”

However, only in the report’s seventh paragraph do BBC audiences find out what those “several targets” actually were.

An insert of analysis from the BBC’s defence correspondent tells readers that:

“It is rare for Israel to admit to air strikes in Syria though there have been reports of at least four similar raids against Hezbollah weapons shipments since the start of December last year. […]

It’s a signal perhaps to all concerned that if weapons supplies to Hezbollah continue, then Israel is ready to escalate its air campaign.”

In the body of the article readers find the following:

“Air strikes, said to have been carried out by Israel, have hit sites in Syria on numerous occasions, reportedly targeting weapons shipments for Lebanon’s Shia militant movement Hezbollah.” [emphasis added]

As is inevitably the case in content relating to such stories, the BBC refrains from giving an accurate description of Hizballah as a terror organisation and no background information concerning the suppliers of these “weapons shipments” is provided. Also as usual, this article fails to provide BBC audiences with the very relevant context concerning UN Security Council resolution 1701’s requirement of “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon” and its ban on “sales or supply of arms and related material” to Hizballah or any other Lebanese militia.

The same omissions were evident in coverage of the story on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on March 17th (from 30:04 here), with presenter Julian Marshall describing the terror organisation Hizballah as “militants in Lebanon”.

Related Articles:

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BBC continues to conceal Gaza missile attacks from its audience

On the morning of March 18th residents of the western Negev region once again came under missile attack, just days after a previous incident.

“Rocket sirens broke the Sabbath calm and sent residents throughout the Gaza periphery scrambling Saturday morning, as two projectiles were launched from the Strip.

One rocket exploded near the city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza, causing no casualties or damage. The second apparently fell inside Palestinian territory.

The Israel Defense Forces responded with tank fire and air strikes at several Hamas targets in the Strip. There were no reports of casualties.”

Yet again the BBC chose not to report the attack.

Since the beginning of the year seven missile attacks against Israel have taken place – five from Gaza and two from Sinai – none of which have been reported by the BBC’s English language services. Israel’s response to three of the attacks launched from the Gaza Strip has however been the subject of coverage on the corporation’s Arabic language website.

The pattern of reporting whereby the majority of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is reported in Arabic has been in evidence since the end of the summer 2014 conflict. Throughout 2016 just one of ten attacks received BBC coverage in the English language.

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BBC ignores Gaza missile in English but reports response in Arabic

BBC ignores Gaza missile in English but reports response in Arabic

Late on the evening of March 15th a missile launched from the Gaza Strip exploded in the Western Negev district.

“A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed late Wednesday in an empty field in the Sdot Negev Regional Council near Netivot.

The rocket exploded on impact. No one was hurt and no damage was reported from the explosion.”

Hours later the IDF responded with strikes on two Hamas installations in the Gaza Strip.

No coverage of the attack appeared on the BBC’s English language website despite the fact that a member of staff at the BBC’s Gaza bureau knew it had taken place. However, the BBC Arabic website did publish a report concerning the Israeli response to the attack.

Since the beginning of the year six missile attacks against Israel have taken place – four from Gaza and two from Sinai – none of which have been reported by the BBC’s English language services. Israel’s response to three of the attacks launched from the Gaza Strip has however been the subject of coverage on the corporation’s Arabic language website.

The pattern of reporting whereby the majority of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is reported in Arabic has been in evidence since the end of the summer 2014 conflict. Throughout 2016 just one of ten attacks received BBC coverage in English.

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BBC News silent again on Gaza missile attack

Superficial BBC News report on Naharayim killer’s release

On March 12th an article headlined “Jordan releases soldier who shot Israeli schoolgirls” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

As is clear from the opening paragraph of the report, the BBC is aware of the fact that Ahmed Daqamseh did not only shoot at Israeli schoolgirls; he killed seven thirteen and fourteen year-olds on a school trip.

“A Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 has been released after serving 20 years in prison, Jordanian officials say.”

One must therefore wonder why the writer of that headline (which was also promoted on social media) chose the word ‘shot’ rather than ‘killed’ and why the BBC’s report makes no mention of the six additional victims who survived the attack or of the names and ages of those murdered.

The report tells readers:

“A military court deemed him mentally unstable at the time and sentenced him to life in prison.

In Jordan, this usually means 25 years. However, some lawmakers had lobbied for him to be freed early.”

It does not however clarify that “some lawmakers” actually means the vast majority of Jordan’s MPs.

Readers are also told that:

“Daqamseh is seen as a hero by some opposition activists in Jordan, who oppose the country’s peace treaty with Israel, signed in 1994.”

In fact, over the years Daqamseh has been championed by a range of supporters besides the euphemistically titled “opposition activists”, including Islamists, ‘human rights’ activists, trade unionists and lawyers – not least the former Justice Minister.  

Remarkably, the BBC’s report did not make any mention of the enthusiastic welcome given to Daqamseh upon arrival in his home village and the article was not updated to include the remarks he made in an interview with Al Jazeera.

“Hours after his release from 20 years in jail for gunning down seven Israeli schoolgirls, ex-Jordanian solider Ahmed Daqamseh declared on Sunday that Israelis are “human waste” that must be eradicated.

Daqamseh made his remarks to al-Jazeera TV station, shortly after returning from jail to his home village of Ibdir to cheering friends and family.

“The Israelis are the human waste of people, that the rest of the world has vomited up at our feet,” he told the TV station. “We must eliminate them by fire or by burial. If this is not done by our hands, the task will fall on the future generations to do.””

Apparently the BBC did not find the broadcast of that xenophobic incitement to the Doha-based channel’s millions of viewers around the Middle East newsworthy. 

 

 

BBC News ignores another UNRWA – Hamas story

At the end of last month we noted that the BBC had chosen not to report the story of an employee of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) who was suspended following allegations of his election to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip.

Now another similar story has come to light.

“A senior Palestinian employee of a Gaza-based United Nations humanitarian agency was reportedly elected to Hamas’s political bureau, the top governing body of the terrorist organization the rules the Strip.

One the 15 members elected to the bureau in February’s internal elections was Muhammad al-Jamassi, a senior engineer employed by UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

Jamassi has held various positions within Hamas since 2007, including in the group’s public relations department and its affiliated charities, the center said.

He currently serves as board chairman for the UNRWA engineering department in central Gaza, and oversees all off the agency’s infrastructure projects in the area.”

According to UNRWA figures, the UK was its third most generous donor in 2015, contributing nearly a hundred million US dollars to its budget. Hence, members of the British public may well be interested in seeing some serious investigative reporting from their national broadcaster on the issue of alleged links between the UN agency they help fund and the terror organisation that is proscribed by the British government.

Despite being one of the few international media organisations to have an office in the Gaza Strip and therefore being well-placed to cover this story, the BBC continues to date to refrain from doing so.  

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2017

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during February 2017 shows that throughout the month a total of 102 incidents took place: eighty-two in Judea & Samaria, fourteen in Jerusalem, one in Petah Tikva and five attacks from the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula.

The agency recorded 86 attacks with petrol bombs, 8 attacks using explosive devices, one shooting attack and one vehicular attack in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem as well as one shooting attack in Petah Tikva and one shooting attack and four missile attacks from the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula.

Fourteen people – nine civilians and five members of the security forces – were injured in attacks during February.

As regular readers know, the four separate incidents of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula during February did not receive any coverage whatsoever on the BBC News website.

A vehicular attack at the entrance to the community of Adam on February 2nd in which three people were injured was not reported by the BBC. A shooting attack in the market in Petah Tikva in which seven people were wounded on February 9th also did not receive any coverage. A petrol bomb attack on Route 443 on February 12th in which one civilian was injured, a petrol bomb attack in Issawiya on February 24th in which two members of the security forces were injured and an IED attack in Balata on February 23rd in which a soldier was injured were also among the attacks not reported by the BBC.

In conclusion, the BBC News website did not cover any of the terror attacks which took place during February. Since the beginning of the year, the corporation has reported 0.49% of the total attacks that have taken place and coverage of missile attacks stands at zero.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2016 and year summary

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2017

Fourth missile attack against Israel in three weeks ignored by BBC News