What was missing from a ‘not to be missed’ report on BBC Two’s Newsnight?

The July 3rd edition of the BBC Two programme ‘Newsnight’ included a report by the Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman which was described by the BBC as “not to be missed”.

As well as being shown on the programme itself, a clip from the report was posted on the Newsnight webpage under the title “Growing tensions between West Bank Palestinians & Israeli settlers”.

“The fate of the two state solution between Israelis and Palestinians is looking bleaker than ever.

The Americans now barely mention the term; their envoy in Jerusalem speaks instead of Israel’s “right” to sovereignty in parts of the occupied West Bank and UN figures suggest growing cases of violence by settlers amid a recent spike in bloodshed by both sides.”

Neither in that synopsis nor the report itself were audiences told which UN agency produced those figures but it is more than likely the highly partisan UNOCHA which produces regular reports based on information provided by political NGOs, some of which are involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigns against Israel.

Bateman opened his report with an incident which took place in Yasuf in early June, telling viewers that:

“The Israeli police say they are searching for the suspects but so far they’ve found no-one: a common outcome in these kinds of cases.”

After giving air-time to unevidenced claims from another interviewee from the same village, Bateman told viewers that:

“These villagers grew up under military occupation. Now their children see the Israeli watch towers too. Reported hate crimes against Palestinians doubled to nearly 300 last year says the UN. Villagers must ultimately turn to the Israeli army for protection, with all the complexity that entails. A military drawn from one people among two hostile populations.”

Having spoken to the deputy mayor of Yasuf, Bateman told BBC audiences:

“I think the main thing is that this is not just about isolated incidents. When you come here and you speak to people, you’re really struck by how this is a way of life: a low-level conflict. People feel intimidated, under threat. And at the end of that really you have two sides, both seeking control of the same land.”

By now at the half-way point in his report, Bateman told viewers that “the village [Yasuf] looks out onto several settlements – and they’re growing” and then went on to interview an Israeli couple from Tapuach West, promoting the BBC’s partisan international law mantra en route.

“Rivka took me to see the settlement outpost her family built. Like most Israelis she rejects the view of international law that sees the settlements as illegal. She is among the most ideological supporters. But an anti-occupation group recently petitioned the Israeli courts and her home was demolished.”

While Bateman did not identify that “anti-occupation group”, he was apparently referring to the political NGO ‘Yesh Din’. He told viewers:

“They talk of a constant threat. Late last year there was a surge of violence in the West Bank. In a matter of months five Israelis were killed by Palestinians and alleged attacks by settlers saw at least two Palestinians die.”

Between October and December 2018 inclusive five Israelis were murdered in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians. We have been able to find record of one Palestinian fatality during the same period of time. Bateman did not inform viewers that a suspect has been charged in connection with that case.

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC has a long record of under-reporting Palestinian terrorism, particularly when attacks do not result in fatalities. In 2018 the BBC News website reported at most 30.2% of the terror attacks that actually took place and 93.3% of the resulting fatalities. Throughout the whole of 2017 the BBC News website reported a total of fourteen incidents – i.e. 0.92% of the terror attacks which actually took place –  and 89% of the total fatalities.

Quoting anonymous “campaign groups” but providing no evidence to support the claim, Bateman closed his report by telling viewers that:

“Settler violence reinforces the goals of the state, say campaign groups, to take as much land as possible.”

He did not bother to clarify that such attacks have long been publicly and repeatedly condemned by Israel’s prime minister, leaders of the communities in Judea & Samaria, security officials and the Israeli public.

Bateman concluded with two further claims:

“Israel routinely says it investigates these cases but conviction rates are extremely low.”

“…the settlement movement is arguably enjoying more support than ever…”

The most notable aspect of this “not to be missed” report from Tom Bateman is, however, the part of the story that he chose to leave out. Throughout the entire item, no effort was made to inform BBC audiences of the differences between the policies of the Israeli authorities – investigations, arrests, and legal action taken against those suspected of carrying out attacks – and the approach of the Palestinian Authority to those of its citizens carrying out violent attacks against Israelis: glorification of the acts and their perpetrators and financial rewards

That is obviously a very serious omission, particularly given that the BBC’s record of reporting on PA incitement, glorification of terrorism and payment of salaries to terrorists means that audiences would be unlikely to be able to fill in the gaps for themselves.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints clarifies discrepancies in terminology when reporting terrorism

Reviewing BBC News website follow-up reporting on terrorism in Israel

 

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Multiple inaccuracies in Kevin Connolly’s filmed BBC report on death of Ziad Abu Ein

On December 10th the BBC produced several reports concerning the death of PA official Ziad Abu Ein after an altercation with Israeli security forces near Turmus Aya.

One of those reports was a filmed item by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly which appeared on BBC television news programmes as well as on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian minister dies during West Bank protest“. In fact, Abu Ein was not a “Palestinian minister” at the time of his death; his title (since September 2013) was head of the PLO’s ‘Commission Against the Separation Wall and Settlements’. Previously Abu Ein had held the position of deputy minister for prisoners’ affairs. The synopsis to that report amplifies assorted unverified rumours concerning the cause of his death:Abu Ein filmed Connolly

“A Palestinian minister has died after a confrontation with Israeli troops at a protest in the West Bank.

Palestinian medics told the BBC Ziad Abu Ein had died from complications related to tear gas exposure.

But several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers. One said he had been hit in the chest by a tear-gas canister fired by them.”

The report opens with Kevin Connolly informing viewers that:

“The Palestinian protesters came to Turmus Aya in the occupied West Bank because they believe Israel has earmarked this land for its own future development. It’s near an existing Jewish settlement. The demonstrators came to plant olive trees: a way of saying the land is theirs.”

In fact, the protesters – who were organized by the councils of adjacent villages – arrived at the specific location at the particular juncture because on that day the political NGO Yesh Din, together with the same local councils, presented a petition to the Supreme Court demanding the eviction of the nearby outpost Adei Ad – as stated by the organisation’s lawyer Shlomi Zacharia in the interview here (Hebrew, from 7:24). Connolly continues:

“Israel’s security forces were waiting for them. The clashes were nothing new in this bitterly contested place. Israeli troops used tear gas as the confrontation developed. Ziad Abu Ein appeared, breathless, before the cameras to condemn Israel.”

Viewers then see footage of Abu Ein speaking to the media with a voiceover translation of his words:

“They are assaulting us. This is the terrorism of the occupation. This is a terrorist army, practices terrorism against the Palestinian people. Nobody threw a stone and nobody fought back.”

The BBC News website also saw fit to publish a separate filmed item under the title “They’re assaulting us – Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein” with a synopsis also amplifying unverified rumour.Abu Ein filmed 2

“There are conflicting reports about his death – medics told the BBC he died from complications related to exposure to tear gas, but several witnesses said the minister had been hit and shoved by soldiers.”

Returning to Connolly’s report, he then tells viewers:

“Then, Mr Abu Ein – a veteran Palestinian official – emerged at the centre of the angry scenes. Apparently grabbed by the throat at one point by an Israeli border police officer, he fell to the ground and was treated at the scene. But minutes after these images were captured, he had died on his way to hospital.”

Connolly’s chronology of events is in fact inaccurate. Reporter Roy Sharon from Channel 10 was at the scene and standing by Abu Ein at the time of the altercation. According to Sharon, who also filmed the events (see here from 8:25 and here from 3:16 – Hebrew), the security forces used tear gas in response to an attempt by the protesters to approach the outpost (not mentioned by Connolly), the altercation between Abu Ein and the Border Police officers took place about 15 minutes after the tear gas had been used and the interview given by Abu Ein to the media took place after his provocation of the security forces – not before as Connolly claims. Some four minutes later Abu Ein sat down on a rock feeling unwell, an Israeli paramedic approached him to offer help and roughly five minutes after that an ambulance arrived to transport him to hospital. Sky News correspondent Tom Rayner who was also at the scene tweeted:

Abu Ein Rayner tweet

A subsequent autopsy showed that Ziad Abu Ein died of a heart attack.

“The deceased suffered from heart disease, and there was evidence that plaque buildup were clogging more than 80% of his blood vessels, as well as signs that he had suffered heart attacks in the past.”

Connolly’s report goes on to show an interview with Hanan Ashrawi who, despite not having been present at the scene as far as is known, states:

“Ziad was guilty of nothing more than planting olive trees where Israel would uproot trees, was guilty of nothing more than ensuring that we remain on the land where Israel was trying to expel people.”

Despite seeing fit to amplify Ashrawi’s baseless propaganda, Connolly did not find it necessary to inform BBC audiences that Ziad Abu Ein was a convicted terrorist responsible for the deaths of two Israeli boys and the wounding of thirty others in a bomb attack on the market in Tiberias in 1979. Neither were audiences informed that when the terrorist leader Marwan Barghouti was arrested by Israeli forces in 2002, he was hiding in Abu Ein’s house.

Connolly closes:

“As news of Ziad Abu Ein’s death spread the Palestinian Authority declared three days of mourning. It hasn’t said how it will respond politically but Mr Abu Ein’s death will further escalate the tension that’s been steadily rising here. Israel says it’s sorry for his death, is investigating and has offered to help with the autopsy. But Palestinian anger runs deep.”Abu Ein Davies Tweet

In fact, shortly after the incident Jibril Rajoub stated that the PA would halt security coordination with Israel – although such a move does not appear to have been implemented so far.

One thing, however, is certain: inaccurate reporting of the kind seen in Connolly’s report and on from BBC employees on social media can only add to the already incendiary cocktail of rumour and propaganda surrounding Abu Ein’s death and hence contribute to a potentially dangerous escalation of tensions.