Islamic Jihad unravels BBC amplification of Hamas claim

As we saw earlier in the week some recent BBC content unquestioningly amplified a statement made by Hamas blaming Israel for the death of a fourteen-month-old girl and her pregnant female relative in the Gaza Strip.

“Several Palestinians were killed and injured with a baby among those killed, officials in Gaza said.” BBC News website 5/5/19 (the original video was replaced by another at the same URL on May 6th following communication from BBC Watch)

“This evening the Palestinian health ministry said a 14-month-old girl was killed in an airstrike.” Tom Bateman, BBC Radio 4 5/5/19

Other BBC reports amplified the claim while adding some sort of ‘Israel says’ qualification. [emphasis added]

“…this evening the Palestinian ministry of health said that a 14-month-old girl was killed in an air strike in the east of the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military has said that it has no information on that but it says that it only targets…ah…what it describes as militant sites in the Gaza Strip.” Tom Bateman BBC World Service radio 5/5/19 

“One Israeli was killed by shrapnel, while Israeli fire killed four Palestinians, including a mother and her baby daughter, Gaza officials say.

However, Israel said the mother and baby were killed by a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.” BBC News website 5/5/19

“It [Hamas] says the dead include a woman and her 14-month-old daughter. But Israel says the mother and baby may have been killed by a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.” BBC News website 5/5/19

“Seven Palestinians were killed according to the Gaza health ministry including a fourteen-month-old baby and her pregnant mother. But the Israeli army said the family may have died as a result of what it called terrorist activities.” Tom Bateman, ‘Broadcasting House’ (from 3:56 here), BBC Radio 4, 5/5/19

“A Palestinian mother and baby in Gaza have also died but Israel insists that they were killed in some misguided fire by militants.” Alan Johnston, ‘The World This Weekend’ (from 02:20 here), BBC Radio 4, 5/5/19

“…Palestinian officials say four people were killed by Israeli strikes. An Israeli army spokesman has disputed the circumstances of the deaths of a Palestinian mother and her baby, suggesting saboteurs were to blame.” Julian Worricker, ‘Weekend’ (from 00:00 here), BBC World Service radio, 5/5/19

“Civilians, including a 12-year-old boy and two pregnant women, were also among those reportedly killed.

Israel has contested the account of the death of one woman and her 14-month-old niece on Saturday. They blamed their deaths on a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.” BBC News website 6/5/19

However, as the Jerusalem Post reports, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has since admitted that the woman and child were killed by one of its own rockets.

“The Islamic Jihad, one of the terror organizations responsible for the recent wave of attacks against Israel, admitted that the baby that was killed in Gaza during the latest escalation died as a result of a misfired rocket, TPS reported on Monday. 

“A leak from the heroes of the [Islamic Jihad’s] Sarayat al-Quds (Jerusalem Brigades) on the circumstances of the death of the baby Saba Abu ‘Arar indicates that a rocket of the resistance exploded inside the family’s home due to a technical failure, and prematurely exploded,” a news item by Hamas’ al-Risala News said. […]

According to TPS, Islamic Jihad representatives met with the victims’ family on Sunday morning to offer them compensation and to qualify the baby as a “martyr” in exchange for their silence on the circumstances of her death.”

The BBC can therefore now clarify to its domestic and international audiences that the Hamas claim it elected to broadly amplify was false and inform them that not only ‘Israel says’ that the woman and child were not killed as a result of Israeli actions.

However with the corporation having already moved on from this story, it is doubtful that BBC audiences will ever be relieved of the inaccurate impressions they were given in numerous news bulletins and reports.

 

 

 

 

 

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BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

As we have recorded here in the past, the BBC has often failed to give its audiences a clear and accurate portrayal of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and Iranian financing and supply of weapons to the Lebanese terror group Hizballah.

The BBC, Iran and faux objectivity

Iranian military activity in southern Syria under-reported by BBC

BBC audiences have been repeatedly encouraged to view Israeli actions against the supply of Iranian arms to Hizballah as ‘involvement’ in the Syrian civil war.

BBC says what it said was happening in 2013 may be happening now

BBC News again claims Israeli involvement in Syria’s war

BBC Syria war backgrounder recycles inaccurate claim

Moreover, the BBC rarely reports on Iran’s serial threats against Israel.

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

BBC News promotes Iranian missile ‘deterrent’ propaganda

It was therefore refreshing to see BBC Radio 4 taking a step in the right direction – albeit only for domestic audiences – in the April 15th edition of ‘The World This Weekend’.

A significant proportion of that programme was devoted to the previous day’s strikes on targets in Syria by the US, the UK and France. After domestic aspects of the story had been discussed, presenter Jonny Dymond introduced (from 09:50 here) another Syria related topic.

Dymond: “106 years ago today the captain of the Royal Merchant Ship Titanic breathed a sigh of relief. Thanks to some sharp steering, the ship had apparently avoided the iceberg poking out of the freezing seas. Those allowing themselves to exhale after the airstrikes on Syria by the West early on Saturday morning might bear the fate of the Titanic in mind. There was much more to the iceberg than met the eye. Saturday’s attacks were not the only strikes from beyond Syria’s borders this week.”

Listeners heard a recording of a related news bulletin before Dymond continued:

Dymond: “On Monday war planes widely believed to be from Israel sent missiles into a Syrian airbase known as T4 situated between the city of Homs and the ruins of Palmyra. More than a dozen people were killed, most of them believed to be Iranians.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been informed that seven of the Iranians killed were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Dymond went on:

Dymond: “It was not the first time T4 had been struck. Back in February Israeli war planes hit the base, amongst other targets, in retaliation for the incursion of a drone into Israeli airspace and the subsequent downing of an Israeli jet.”

Two days before this programme was aired Israel had announced that the Iranian UAV was armed with explosives but listeners were not given that information.  Dymond then continued with what is for the BBC an unusually lucid portrayal of Iranian activities in Syria.

Dymond: “Iran now reaches deep into every nook and cranny of Syria. Its military advisors direct operations on the ground. It sponsors Hizballah, the Lebanese militia that has thousands of fighters in Syrian territory. It pays and arms the thousands of Shia faithful that have come from around the world to fight for Bashar al Assad. It has established a web of military positions and bases up and down the west of the country. Its cash has sustained Syria’s war economy. Salman Shaikh runs a political consultancy firm that mediates on conflicts in the Middle East.”

Shaikh: “It’s been very, very determined. It had understood from the start that Syria was a state – even a failed state – which needed to belong in its column rather than in the Western alliance and it’s done everything it can since this war started – this civil war, this conflict started – to make sure of that. It was the one that first rescued Assad’s forces in 2012 by sending in military advisors and since then it’s probably 50,000 or so Iranian backed Shia militias coming from around the world who are now part of the conflict in Syria. But on top of that, they have been trying to exact a price – economic – from the regime, social and of course on the military. This is a full full-court press from the Iranians to establish themselves.”

Dymond: “To its regional rivals Iran is an imperial threat. The talk is of a crescent of influence stretching from Iran itself, west through Iraq – now led by Iran-friendly Shia Muslim politicians – into Syria and on into Lebanon where Iranian sponsored Hizballah is in government. For the Sunni Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia such influence is deeply troubling. But Israel, which borders both Syria and Lebanon, perceives the expansion in Iranian might as a threat to its very existence.”

Unfortunately, as noted above, BBC audiences have long been denied the background information which would help them understand why Israel’s perceptions are such but at least listeners to this programme did get to hear an accurate portrayal of Israel’s view of Iran related issues in Syria.

Dymond: “Jerusalem-based political analyst Jonathan Spyer.”

Spyer: “Israel’s key concerns throughout the conflict have been, I think, twofold. Firstly that the conflict should not allow the transfer of sophisticated…certain sophisticated weapon systems from Iran via Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon. And then secondly Israel’s concern has been to prevent the Iranians and their allies from reaching the border with the Golan Heights. Israel’s becoming increasingly concerned about the build-up of Iranian infrastructure in southern Syria and that’s, I think, the context in which you see the recent raid on the T4 airbase near Palmyra.”

No BBC programme is of course complete without a tick of the impartiality box – however irrelevant.

Dymond: “Iran is traditionally presented as the aggressor in the region; an expansionist power that is dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. But as Azadeh Moaveni – former Middle East correspondent for Time Magazine and co-author of ‘Iran Awakening’ – says, Iran sees itself very differently.”

Moaveni: “I think they do see themselves in marked contrast to how they’re perceived, you know, in the West and certainly by the Arab Gulf states as on the back foot. They see these policies that they pursued in Yemen, in Syria, as what they call forward defence. You know this is their perception of it – they’re conventionally militarily very weak. They are shut out of the global financial system. They kind of hobbled along but they do not see themselves in a position of any kind of potential normalcy. And I think that feeling of solitude, as was mentioned in a recent report, kind of drives its security view.”

Dymond was not however distracted:

Dymond: “Forward defence may be how it seems to Iran but Israel’s alarm grows week by week and month by month as it sees Iran establishing military bases in Syria, transferring drone technology there and building a supply route through to Hizballah in Lebanon. Salman Shaikh.”

Shaikh: “It now takes us to a very dangerous situation because the Israelis will not allow that to happen. They may be too late – and I think within Israeli circles there is that fear – but that only just means that we’re actually at a heightened sense of tension.”

Dymond: “And within Israel, where once there was division between the military and political establishment over the need to face down Iran, now – says Jonathan Spyer – there is unity.”

Spyer: “Unlike in the period six, seven years ago when the issue of a possible raid on Iranian nuclear facilities was coming up, now the sense is that the conception whereby Iranian entrenchment in Syria represents a grave and urgent danger to Israel is as much emerging from the security echelon as from the political echelon. So given that, the near unanimity of the system makes it quite likely that that will be acted upon. It’s a very serious professional red line being expressed and it’s not simply political rhetoric.”

Dymond: “Bashar al Assad has consolidated his position mightily over the past year. Both rebel groups and so-called Islamic State have been driven back with the help of Russian air power and Iranian sponsored boots on the ground. You might think stability would follow but as US policy twists and turns in the breeze of President Trump’s Twitter feed, US allies are thinking of how they might have to act on their own. Israel will not stand idly by as its enemy moves ever closer to its borders.”

Next time the BBC tells its audiences that Iran has “been accused” of building up its military presence in Syria or “been accused” of supplying weaponry to Hizballah, this programme will serve as a useful reminder that in fact the BBC is well aware of Iran’s activities and that the corporation’s habit of qualifying that information with faux ‘objectivity’ is nothing but a barrier to the understanding of its funding public.

 

Terrorist? Motorist? It’s all the same to the BBC’s Kevin Connolly

As noted in a previous post, the October 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ included an item by Kevin Connolly (available for a limited period of time from 25:41 here).The World This Weekend

In addition to Connolly’s amplification of baseless conspiracy theories pertaining to Temple Mount and promotion of the notion that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”, a number of additional themes seen repeatedly in BBC coverage of the current wave of terrorism in Israel were promoted by Connolly and the programme’s presenter, Edward Stourton.

Stourton’s introduction began with promotion of equivalence between Israelis murdered by terrorists and the perpetrators of those attacks – who clearly interest him more than their victims.

“Forty-one Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the latest eruption of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories but the figures don’t really tell the full story. Many of the attacks which have resulted in those deaths were carried out by young Palestinian men with knives and they must surely have acted in the knowledge that they would almost certainly be killed themselves. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has thrown up violence in all sorts of forms, but this is new.”

The inaccurate notion that the current violence is “new” has also been seen in previous BBC content but of course there is nothing “new” at all about knife attacks or – as the second Intifada showed – about Palestinians committing terror attacks in which the likelihood of their being killed in the process was either obvious or intended.

Kevin Connolly opened his report in his typical flowery style.

“I have brought you to the Hass Promenade – a steeply terraced park not far from my home that looks east towards the hills of Jerusalem: a holy city, wholly divided.”

He later told listeners that:

“One of the recent stabbing attacks happened a few hundred meters from where I’m standing. The Palestinian village of Jabel Mukaber – home to at least one of the attackers of the last few weeks – is just beside me.”

In fact at least four perpetrators of attacks which took place before Connolly’s report was aired came from Jabel Mukaber – including the two who carried out an attack on a city bus in East Talpiot which has now claimed three fatalities and the one later described by Connolly in this report as “a motorist” – not, of course, a terrorist – who murdered a Rabbi waiting for a bus.

Connolly continued; his commentary too garnished with ample dollops of equivalence:

“Now I said ‘wholly divided’ but that’s not quite right. When the atmosphere suddenly sours as it has soured here in the last few weeks, Israelis and Palestinians alike are angry and frightened. There are victims on both sides, of course. But most people would struggle to identify with the sufferings of the victim on the other side.”

He next promoted a theme which has been dominant in his own previous reports and in other BBC coverage: the description of attacks directed at Jews (rather than “Israelis” as Connolly suggests) as ‘random’ events. Concurrently, Connolly ignored the known affiliations of some of the attackers with terrorist organisations and, predictably, refrained from telling listeners about the connecting thread between all those ‘random’ attacks: incitement.

“Israelis see their country as an island of democracy in a region of chaos and Islamic extremism and they crave a sense of normality. The attacks of the last few weeks have punctured that sense. They have been the work of individual Palestinians who’ve decided to take knives from their kitchens to randomly stab Israelis – soldiers, police officers and civilians. In one case a motorist drove his own car into a queue of pedestrians, with deadly intent. Those knives tear at the fabric of daily life here. Jewish Jerusalem is an edgy place these days where people suddenly feel that any Palestinian might be a knife attacker; any passing car might pose a deadly danger.”

But just in case listeners were by now drifting off message, Connolly brought them back with more promotion of equal suffering and inaccurate portrayal of violent riots as “protests”.

“But Palestinians are fearful too. It’s nearly fifty years since Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank. You are almost a pensioner if you can remember when every detail of daily life wasn’t under the control of the occupier. […]

And there’s deep anger and resentment at the readiness with which Israeli forces resort to lethal force against Palestinians in protests.”

Of course the vast majority of Palestinians in “the West Bank” have actually lived under the control of the Palestinian Authority for the past two decades, meaning that Connolly’s attempt to persuade listeners that Israel controls “every detail of daily life” in places such as Ramallah, Nablus or Jenin is decidedly embarrassing.

This report from Connolly contributed nothing new to audience understanding of the wave of terrorism in Israel because it followed the now well-established template of BBC coverage according to which attacks not named as terrorism are portrayed as ‘random’ or ‘spontaneous’  and attributed to ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ created by “the occupation”. 

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

After almost four weeks of BBC coverage of the current wave of terror attacks in Israel, the promoted themes – and the deliberate omissions – which reflect the corporation’s editorial approach to the story have become clear and we will be addressing that topic fully in a future post.

One particularly disturbing aspect of some of the BBC’s coverage in recent weeks (especially given the corporation’s global outreach) has been the amplification of baseless conspiracy theories concerning Temple Mount – as was noted in this article:

“According to that conspiracy theory, Israel seeks or intends to change the status quo on Temple Mount and whilst assorted versions of that libel have been published and broadcast by the BBC, the corporation has to date not told its audiences in its own words that they are baseless. At best, it has opted to tell them that “Israel says” it has no intention of changing the status quo at the site. At worst, it has lent the BBC’s reputation of reliability to such lies.”

As can be seen in the above link, on September 13th listeners to the BBC World Service were told by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad that Temple Mount is a “Muslim site” and that: [all emphasis added]

“The Israeli government seems like it’s going towards a situation where there would be shared times of prayers in that area which Muslims consider it to be their third holiest mosque.”

And:

“Muslims in Jerusalem are petrified that Israel plans to rebuild the Temple Mount which means that they will have to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque.” 

Nawal Assad also promoted the Palestinian narrative according to which all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque”.

On October 9th viewers of a filmed report broadcast on  BBC television news programmes heard Orla Guerin also promoting the inaccurate notion that all of Temple Mount is “the al Aqsa Mosque” when she told them that “It’s [the Old City of Jerusalem] home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews“.  

On October 13th an interviewee in a report by Yolande Knell told viewers of BBC television news programmes that al Aqsa Mosque had been ‘invaded’ and ‘disrespected’ and that Israel is “fighting our religion” – Islam. Not only did Yolande Knell fail to relieve viewers of the misleading impressions created by those inaccurate claims, she went on to amplify them yet again in an audio report broadcast two days later on BBC Radio 4.

On October 16th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen also told viewers of a filmed report shown on BBC television news programmes that Temple Mount is “the Aqsa Mosque”.

“Only Muslims can pray in the compound around the golden Dome of the Rock at the Aqsa Mosque.”

On October 24th in an audio report aired on BBC Radio 4 Kevin Connolly likewise promoted the notion that Temple Mount is “al Aqsa compound” – and that the entire site is solely “Islamic”.

“The victory brought the holy places – the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish Western Wall and the Islamic al Aqsa compound – under Israeli control…” 

Prior to that, on October 18th, Connolly had also told listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World This Weekend’ (from 25:41 here – the rest of the item will be discussed in a separate post) that the “identity” of Temple Mount is “Islamic”:The World This Weekend

“There’s a nagging fear that Israel might be planning to erode the Islamic identity of the sacred compound around that golden dome in the distance.”

Refraining once again from clarifying to listeners in his own words that such claims are entirely baseless, he continued:

“Israel repeatedly denies having any such plans but the denials fall on deaf ears. That is an issue with the power to provoke a kind of anger which is just not understandable in Europe or North America.”

Had BBC audiences received comprehensive information over the past four weeks on the topic of the incitement concerning Temple Mount which has been put out by Palestinian Authority sources and officials of the highest level (among others), they might have been able to understand what causes those “deaf ears”.

Likewise, had they been informed of the religious motifs evident in much of that incitement, they would have been better placed to join the dots between the whipping up of anger to a point at which young Palestinians murder Jews on the street in Jerusalem and the murders of cartoonists and Jews in a shop in Paris or a British soldier on a London street. 

But of course the topic of the incitement fueling this wave of terror – and in particular that disseminated by the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority and its ‘secular’ president – has been studiously avoided by the BBC over the last few weeks, except when alluded to briefly using the standard ‘Israel says’ formula. The reason for that is that the religious aspect of this story is one which does not comfortably fit into the BBC’s wider narrative and so it has been consistently sidelined in favour of ‘contextualisation’ featuring ‘occupation’, ‘humiliation’ and ‘failure of the peace process’.

However, as can be seen in the examples above, the BBC apparently has no problem accepting – and amplifying – the falsehood that Temple Mount (significant to all three Abrahamic religions) is “the al Aqsa Mosque” and exclusively “Islamic” or “Muslim”. The aim of that narrative is of course to deny Jewish history and negate Jewish links to Jerusalem.

Who would have thought that we would have reached a point where the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” has embraced the role of amplifier of a false narrative rooted in religious and racial intolerance? 

 

When R4 audiences got an on-air correction about Israel – but not from a BBC journalist

On January 11th the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World This Weekend’ focused entirely on the subject of the terror attacks in Paris and that day’s rally, with presenter Mark Mardell reverting to the usual BBC’s usual ‘value judgement’ free formula for describing terrorists in his introduction.Mardell R4

“We’re live in Paris as world leaders gather to show support after a week when Islamic militants murdered seventeen people.”

Available here for a limited period of time, the programme’s attempts to ‘contextualise’ the terror attacks for BBC audiences are particularly remarkable because of what is omitted from the framing. At 11:24, during an interview with Andrew Hussey of the University of London, Mardell asks:

“What do you think, when we see radicalisation causing obviously terrible massacre here this week but also problems in the United States, in Britain and of course throughout the Middle East. What do you think drives people to be radicalised? Is it a reaction to modernity, to colonialism, to the West – or something else entirely?”

Hussey: “All of the above and something else entirely. It’s to do with a very old-fashioned word actually: alienation. How people cope and deal with alienation. Radicalisation, which is a complicated process, is one of the easy ways to deal with that.”

Later on (13:14) Mardell informs listeners that:

“…one can argue for ages about whether there’s any connection between France’s colonial past and what happened here this week…”

And still later (15:18) listeners hear an interviewee described as one of the leaders of an organization countering Islamist radicalisation in Paris suggest that:

“Maybe it’s something to do with the injustices happening across the world – in Palestine, Iraq, in Syria and Libya…”

But the most notable part of this programme comes at 24:05 onwards when Mardell brings in two interviewees but only finds it necessary to signpost the political leanings of one of them, whilst refraining from providing any insight into Kundnani’s place on the political map.

“With me now Professor Arun Kundnani who teaches terrorism studies at John Jay College in New York and has written several books on Islamophobia and extremism and Rene Girard; he’s chief correspondent at the French right of centre newspaper le Figaro. Can I start with you, professor: does this display of solidarity today lead anywhere?”

Kundnani: “Ahm…I think it would probably lead to a kind of entrenchment of the kind of ‘them and us’ mentality that..ahm….has been part of the problem I think. Ahm…you know, what would be good is to see a genuine movement for freedom of expression but if we were doing something like that, we certainly wouldn’t be having Netanyahu attend for example….erm….you know the Israeli government has….”

Mardell: “Why not?”

Kundnani: “Well the Israeli government has been responsible for killing multiple journalists over the last couple of years in Gaza. Ahm…you know in this country we’ve seen through the war on terror quite a restriction on freedom of expression. We’ve actually put people in prison over the last couple of years for the books they own. Ahm…so…ahm…you know what has happened here is that freedom of expression has become a kind of slogan and a kind of icon of Western values. Ahm…but it’s not a genuine commitment to freedom of expression: it’s more about saying this is something that we have in the West and you don’t have. It’s the them and us mentality that is part of the problem here.”

As we see, Mardell makes no attempt to interrupt Kundnani’s bizarre monologue in order to relieve BBC audiences of the inaccurate impression that Israel has deliberately killed journalists.  Fortunately, a journalist with honesty and integrity happens to be on hand.

Mardell: “Rene Girard; how do you feel about the march that we’re seeing? Does it lead to any change of policy? Should it lead to any change of policy?”

Girard: “I have to say something on Netanyahu because I don’t want to be seen as sharing this opinion. I don’t think that Netanyahu policy for Palestine, for Israel, for the peace is a good one. I prefer Rabin’s policy. But as a fact I was covering the war in Gaza this summer and the Israelis don’t target journalists. They don’t kill journalists….”

Mardell [interrupts] “Well, I mean….”

Girard: “…they allow them to go together so I think…”

Mardell: [interrupts impatiently] “Thank you for making that point but what about the general point….”

The BBC has editorial guidelines on live output:

“Factual Errors

If it is established during a live programme that a factual error has been made and we can accurately correct it then we should admit our mistake clearly and frankly. Saying what was wrong as well as putting it right can be an important element in making an effective correction. Where the inaccuracy is unfair, a timely correction may dissuade the aggrieved party from complaining. Any serious factual errors or potential defamation problems should be referred immediately to Programme Legal Advice.

Impartiality

Due impartiality lies at the heart of the BBC’s standards. It is a core value and no area of programming is exempt from it. It is vital that any package or interview broadcast during a live event is impartial and fair. Care should be taken to ensure that there is no suggestion of bias. This can be achieved by careful casting and ensuring the presenter/interviewer is properly briefed to conduct a robust interview.”

How fortunate that Rene Girard was on hand to do the BBC correspondent’s job for him.