Why the accuracy and impartiality of BBC reporting matters

Last week a debate on the conditions and health of Palestinian children was held in the House of Lords.  As noted by NGO Monitor, a briefing paper was prepared ahead of that debate.HoL pic

“In July 2016, the UK House of Lords Library posted a briefing paper: “Living Conditions, Health and Wellbeing of Palestinian Children,” which was “withdrawn” without explanation on July 19, but is available on unofficial websites.” 

As NGO Monitor points out, that briefing paper relied heavily on information promoted by various political NGOs – but it also included information gleaned from several BBC reports.

Footnote 4 (and 11) referred readers to an article titled “Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers” which was published on January 6th, 2015 as the source for the following information:

HoL doc 1

As was noted here at the time that article was published:

“The BBC report plays down Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders:

“The leader of Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza, said in an interview in August that a Hamas cell had killed the teenagers but had not acted on instructions from above.”

The article fails to adequately clarify that funding for the terror attack came from Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip or that high-ranking Hamas operative Saleh al Arouri admitted the organisation’s involvement in August 2014.”

Footnotes 14 and 15 referred readers to a BBC article dating from September 1st 2014 as the source of the information below:

HoL doc 2

Notably, no effort is made to distinguish Palestinian civilian casualties from combatants. That of course will not come as a surprise to those who are aware of the sources of those UN quoted figures. As was previously noted here in relation to that BBC article:

“Once again we see the BBC quoting “the UN” as though that body were impeccably objective, but with no effort made to inform audiences with regard to the very significant issue of the background to those UN statements and the political motivations involved.”

Footnote 16 referred readers to a BBC report from August 27th 2014 titled “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce”.

HoL doc 3

As was noted here at the time:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

Footnotes 33, 34 and 36 referred readers to an article by Yolande Knell from July 8th 2015 titled “Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?”

HoL doc 4

As was noted here at the time, that politicised campaigning article by Knell made no mention of Hamas’ misappropriation of construction materials or its renewed tunnel building and it misrepresented the topic of dual-use goods.

The BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist organisations in the summer of 2014 was highly – and consistently – problematic: not least for its serial misrepresentation of the topic of civilian/combatant casualty figures and the use of data supplied by Hamas and its supporters. Both during and after the conflict, the corporation adopted a campaigning role on the issue of the restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel in response to terrorism and presented a partisan view of the topic of reconstruction in Gaza.

It is obviously very disturbing to see reporting which did not meet the BBC’s professed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality being promoted to members of the House of Lords ahead of a debate but the fact that the house’s researchers use such material as the basis for a briefing paper serves to highlight exactly why the British public, their politicians and public officials should be all the more concerned about the accuracy and impartiality of BBC journalism which later becomes “historical record“.  

 

Another BBC airbrushing of the Quartet report

As documented here previously (see ‘related articles’ below), the BBC News website’s portrayal of the report published by the Quartet on July 1st was far from satisfactory and failed to provide audiences with a balanced picture of its content. In this post we will take a look at how the same report was presented to listeners to BBC World Service radio in the July 1st edition of ‘Newshour’ – from 30:08 here.Newshour 1 jul

To recap – the report cited three main factors as “undermining hopes for peace”:

  • “Continuing violence, terrorist attacks against civilians, and incitement to violence are greatly exacerbating mistrust and are fundamentally incompatible with a peaceful resolution;
  • The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution; and
  • The illicit arms build-up and militant activity, continuing absence of Palestinian unity, and dire humanitarian situation in Gaza feed instability and ultimately impede efforts to achieve a negotiated solution.”

In its discussion of the first factor on that list, the report was remarkable for its forthright condemnation of incitement and glorification of terror by official Palestinian bodies including Mahmoud Abbas’ party Fatah and the PA itself. Those topics have long been neglected by the BBC and were once again sidelined in the two articles which appeared on the BBC News website.

Sadly, listeners who heard Owen Bennett Jones’ introduction to the ‘Newshour’ item did not learn of the Quartet’s condemnation of incitement from official Palestinian bodies because he referred generally to “the Palestinians”. Listeners did however hear the erroneous claim that Israel is “building settlements” rather than building in existing communities.

OBJ: “A long-awaited report by Middle East peace mediators says Israel should stop building settlements and the Palestinians should stop inciting violence. The so-called Quartet – the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – says current trends imperil a two state solution. Publication of these recommendations came amid further attacks in the occupied West Bank where Israel has closed off the city of Hebron. Our correspondent Yolande Knell is in Jerusalem. First of all; what’s happening in Hebron?”

A few hours before this programme went on air a fatal terror attack had taken place on Route 60. The closure on Hebron was implemented as security forces searched for the terrorists but uninformed listeners would have had difficulty understanding that connection from Yolande Knell’s reply to Bennett Jones’ clear question.

YK: “We now have hundreds of Israeli troops going to Hebron, roadblocks set up around the city. This follows a lot of concerns from the Israeli military about the number of attacks that have been perpetrated from this city. It’s always a flash point for violence but they say about eighty attacks out of 250 attacks or attempted attacks since October have been in the Hebron area.”

According to the Times of Israel, the IDF spokesman actually said that “seventy-nine terrorists have originated from Hebron” and remarkably, Knell did not bother to inform listeners that Hebron is a notorious traditional Hamas stronghold. She continued:

“And now it’s searching for a gunman who earlier shot some 20 rounds at an Israeli car on the main road – Route 60 – just close to Hebron. This led to a crash that killed one Israeli man – a father of ten – and left his wife and two of his children in hospital. The Israeli military says it also wants to prevent copy-cat attacks and stop a rise in violence which is often seen in the final days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.”

Knell did not clarify for her listeners why the close of Ramadan might bring about “a rise in violence” or inform them that during that month alone six Israelis had been murdered in terror attacks by the time she produced this report.

Prioritising the name used by Palestinians to describe the most ancient Jewish shrine, she went on to describe an attempted attack which had taken place the same morning and in which a woman tried to stab a Border Police officer as follows: [emphasis added]

“Earlier there was a Palestinian woman in her twenties who was killed in the old city of Hebron. Soldiers shot her close to a disputed holy site; the Ibrahimi mosque – also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs. She’s said to have been carrying a knife and importantly, she came from the same village as a teenager who killed a 13 year-old American-Israeli girl in her home in a settlement just outside Hebron one day ago. And even after all the attacks there’ve been recently, this very brazen attack where she was stabbed to death in her own bedroom has really caused a lot of shock and horror.”

Owen Bennett Jones then asked Knell another clear question which she failed to answer.

OBJ: “So just to give us a general picture of what’s going on in the West Bank over the last few months, say, how frequent are the attacks there against Israelis?”

YK: “Well certainly there has been a concentration of the attacks within the West Bank. This is where you have Israeli settlers – and there are more than 560 thousand of them in total in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and they’re living in close proximity to Palestinians. Often you have Palestinians of course also working inside settlements and the settlements themselves are seen as an obstacle to peace; this is something that has been reiterated by a long-awaited report from the Quartet of Middle East mediators – the US, EU, UN and Russia – that has just been published. But I have to say; over the past few months – really since the beginning of this year – it had seemed the number of attacks by Palestinians on Israelis had begun to subside. But then things have really picked up in the last few days, during the month of Ramadan.”

Obviously Knell was either unable or unwilling to answer the question of “how frequent are the attacks […] against Israelis” in Judea & Samaria and given that the BBC consistently under-reports the topic of Palestinian terror, that is hardly surprising. While Knell is correct in her claim that the number of attacks had been decreasing up until June, the fact is that according to Israel Security Agency figures, between October 2015 and June 2016 inclusive, 1,471 terror attacks took place in Judea & Samaria: an average of 163.4 attacks per month or 5.4 attacks per day. One would of course expect a BBC correspondent permanently based in the area to be able to report that information to audiences.

graph attacks Judea Samaria

Bennett Jones continued, once again promoting the inaccurate notion that Israel is building ‘settlements’ rather than constructing housing in existing communities.

OBJ: “Well now this Quartet report you mentioned is taking – if I could put it like this – the usual line: stop building settlements to the Israelis, stop inciting violence, stop using violence to the Palestinians. Is either side listening?”

Knell replied:

“Well there was so much expectation ahead of the publication of what’s turned out to be an eight-page report. There’s not much here that’s surprising: no talk really of international pressure that could be brought to bear. Already the Palestinians have come out saying this report doesn’t meet their expectations. They say that it tries to equalise the responsibilities between a people under occupation and a foreign military occupier. And we’ve just had a statement too from the Israel prime minister’s office that talks about how Israel cannot negotiate peace with itself and it rejects any attempt it says to draw moral equivalence between construction in the settlements and terrorism. So it seems to have been roundly dismissed and when authors talked about their hopes that they could help support further peace talks – well that doesn’t seem to have really helped much at the moment.”

The item ends there and as we see, once again BBC audiences have had their attentions focused on ‘settlements’ – described by Knell as an “obstacle to peace” – but have learned nothing about the much neglected subjects of incitement from official Palestinian sources as highlighted in the Quartet report and nothing about its condemnation of Hamas terror, tunnel building and arms smuggling.

This is the BBC’s third attempt to ostensibly inform its audiences what was in the Quartet report and it is the third time that it has refrained from doing so comprehensively, accurately and impartially. Obviously the way in which BBC audiences view the failure to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict will be influenced by these reports, with the fact that the BBC has airbrushed Hamas and Palestinian Authority related factors from the picture sabotaging audiences’ chances of properly understanding of the issue.

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BBC’s Knell airbrushes two-thirds of Quartet report out of the picture

Later versions of the BBC News website’s June 30th article concerning that morning’s terror attack in Kiryat Arba included the following:

“Also on Thursday, a senior United Nations official cited a long-awaited report by the Middle East Quartet as saying that hopes for peace between Israel and the Palestinians were being severely undermined by three “negative trends”.

Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that they were continuing violence, terrorism and incitement; Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank; and a lack of control of the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Authority.”

As noted here previously, in its July 1st article relating to that report from the Quartet the BBC herded audiences’ attentions towards one of those three “negative trends” in particular by devoting 282 words to the topic of “settlement expansion”, 213 words to the subject of “violence, terrorism and incitement” and a mere 91 words to issues related to the PA’s “lack of control of the Gaza Strip” whilst completely ignoring the Quartet’s concerns about weapons smuggling, cross border tunnels and terrorism.

In case audiences had not quite got the message, an additional article by Yolande Knell appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 1st with some very clear signposting seen in its promotion.

“Fate of settlements core to Israel-Palestinian peace”

Knell settlements art on ME pge

Titled “Israel-Palestinians: Blame and bitterness keeping peace at bay“, the article’s opening paragraphs include some equally overt signposting.

“For retired West Bank farmer Issa Hamed, the idea that Jewish settlements are destroying a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a no-brainer.

From the rooftop of his home in Silwad, north-east of Ramallah, the sprightly 86-year-old points to the red roofs of the settlement of Ofra, set up in 1975.

“At first, they took just one dunam (1000 sq m), where there used to be a Jordanian military camp, then they kept expanding and blocked access for the landowners,” Mr Hamed recalls.

“It became like a cancer growing quickly over the hills.”” [emphasis added]

Knell’s article contains many of the usual features of any BBC report relating to the topic of construction in Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. As far as Knell is concerned, history begins in June 1967: she makes no effort to inform audiences of the legal status of Judea & Samaria, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip before they were attacked and occupied in 1948.

“Settlement construction began after Israel defeated Arab armies in the 1967 Middle East war. It captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt.”

Moreover, while failing to inform her readers about San Remo and the Mandate for Palestine, Knell does find it necessary introduce the subject of religion – but refrains from mentioning the no less relevant topic of Hamas’ approach to ‘Islamic lands’.

“Some Israelis choose to live in settlements for lifestyle reasons but others are religious nationalists.

They believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people – including Jerusalem and the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria.”

Readers see the inevitable BBC mantra on ‘international law’ which fails to inform audiences of legal opinions which do not conform to the corporation’s chosen narrative.

“Since the 1970s, left- and right wing governments have encouraged Israelis to move to settlements. There are now at least 570,000 settlers.

Under international law, their presence is seen as illegal, but Israel disagrees. Officials have argued they are built on “disputed”, not “occupied” territory.”

The 1949 Armistice lines – specifically designed not to be permanent boundaries or borders – are misleadingly presented as such.

“The current coalition government includes pro-settler parties and ministers who live inside the so-called “Green Line”, marking pre-1967 boundaries.”

Knell promotes and amplifies the topic of the BDS campaign in her article but, as is inevitably the case in BBC content, fails to inform readers what that campaign aims to achieve: the dissolution of the Jewish state.

“They [Israeli officials] have already fought against EU moves to label settlement products and a civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

“The vast majority of international parties have refrained so far from any serious pressure on Israel,” says Palestinian politician, Mustafa Barghouti, who supports BDS.

“It’s not enough to condemn settlements and say they block peace.”

Palestinians plan to renew their calls for further sanctions, including a ban on products from settlements and companies that invest or work in them.”

Among the links to additional related material promoted to readers of this article is one presented as “The settlement issue”. That link leads to a highly partisan article originally published nine years ago which has already been discussed here.

Beyond her grandstanding of the ‘settlements are to blame’ theme, Knell does little to enhance audience understanding of the issue. After quoting a spokesman from the Yesha Council, she writes:

“It points to the fact that Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, with the removal of 8,500 settlers, only led to further conflicts.”

Obviously Knell did not consider it useful to her case to discuss that topic further or to try to use that experience to enhance audience understanding of the potential scenarios in Judea & Samaria. Later on, under the sub-heading “What if?”, she makes a brief mention of a topic usually ignored by the BBC.

“If a peace deal was reached, it is generally accepted that many settlements would remain. Past negotiations are understood to have included mutually agreed land-swaps in which Israel would keep its major settlement blocs.”

She then goes on to say:

“However, it is estimated these could leave over 100,000 settlers in the West Bank.”

Knell does not clarify why she apparently thinks that would be an issue and again chooses not to discuss the fact that the evacuation of Israelis from their homes in the Gaza Strip did not prove conducive to ending the conflict.Knell settlements art

If readers are perhaps wondering how much of the column space in her nine hundred and sixteen-word article Yolande Knell devoted to presentation of the two additional “negative trends” cited in the Quartet’s report, the answer to that question is below: eighty-two words in which key points raised in the Quartet’s report are completely ignored.

“Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – also identify Palestinian violence and incitement and the political situation in Gaza as obstacles to peace.

The Israeli government believes that these are the factors that should be highlighted.

In recent days there has been a series of attacks. An American-Israeli girl was stabbed to death in a settlement near Hebron and an Israeli car in the West Bank was shot, causing it to crash, killing the driver and injuring three passengers.”

Once again we see that the Palestinian Authority’s incitement and glorification of terrorism, together with Hamas’ terrorism, tunnel building, its weapons smuggling and production and its violent rivalry with the PA – all of which are noted in the Quartet’s report – are airbrushed out of an article obviously intended to herd BBC audiences towards one specific view of what – and who – is “destroying a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict”.

While completely consistent with Yolande Knell’s record, this of course is the type of editorialised advocacy journalism which flies in the face of the BBC’s claim to provide its audiences with ‘impartial’ reporting.

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How the BBC’s Knell censored a report on the Samaritan Passover festival

The April 30th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a report (from 44:23 here) by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell from the Samaritan Passover festival  on Mount Gerizim in Samaria.Newshour 30 4

In among Knell’s commentary, listeners heard the following:

“During the Passover feast it’s an unusual sight. Samaritans carry both Israeli and Palestinian IDs and here Israeli soldiers and settlers mix – sometimes uncomfortably – with Palestinian firefighters and officials.”

However, Knell’s coy portrayal does not tell BBC audiences what actually happened at the Samaritan festival at which she was present. As Khaled Abu Toameh recounts:

“Things went well for about two minutes on Mount Gerizim, one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of Nablus. That was how long it took for the Palestinian guests to walk out in protest at the presence of representatives of the Jewish settler community and IDF officers.

The Palestinian Authority Governor of Nablus, General Akram Rajoub, was an honored guest, as were Nablus Mayor Adli Yaish and dozens of Palestinians.

Rajoub later explained his decision to “vote with his feet”:

“Yes, we withdrew from the ceremony. We respect and appreciate the Samaritan community and have been regularly sharing with them in joyous and sad events. We consider them part of the Palestinian people. But we can’t accept the presence of settlers at the ceremony. Even worse, these settlers were given the privilege to speak at the ceremony, which is why we had to boycott the official event and leave the hall. We’re not prepared to talk to Jewish settlers because we don’t accept their presence among us.”

Shortly thereafter, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank issued a statement strongly condemning the invitation of Jewish settler leaders to the Samaritan ceremony:

“This is a dangerous precedent that must not be allowed to recur. This is something unusual for the Samaritan community to do. We consider them to be part of the Palestinian people and we hope that this invitation does not represent the will of our Samaritan people. They need to fix this and prevent it from ever happening again.”

Raed Dib’i, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank, praised the Palestinian delegation’s decision to boycott the ceremony. He said that the move reflected the Palestinians’ rejection of any form of “normalization with the occupiers and the settler gangs.””

Just days before this report was aired Yolande Knell’s filmed, audio and written reports from Gush Etzion appeared on multiple BBC platforms. In those reports she told BBC audiences that:

“For two years there have been no peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”

And:

“…I expect more bad news from the Gush Etzion junction. With no hope of a political solution in sight, it offers a worrying glimpse of a future where both sides in this conflict continue to live with simmering tension and outbreaks of violence.”

A reporter truly committed to enhancing audience understanding of why negotiations between Israel and the PLO have been non-existent for two years would of course give a story such as the one above at least as much prominence as the promotion of slogans such as ‘occupation’ and ‘illegal settlements’. Yolande Knell demonstrates once again that she is not that reporter.  

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A campaigning article resurfaces on the BBC News website

In addition to her recent filmed and audio reports about Gush Etzion junction, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell also produced a written article on the same theme which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Magazine’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on April 28th under the title “Gush Etzion Junction: The deadly roundabout“.

The article is very similar to the audio report previously discussed here and here. At the bottom of the page readers are directed to a previous BBC report from the same area.

pic Knell art link

That highly politicised campaigning article was previously discussed on these pages here. Since its publication nearly two years ago, the writer – Daniel Silas Adamsonappears to have found a new job.

Adamson profile

 

BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part two

In part one of this post we discussed some of the issues arising from Yolande Knell’s filmed and audio reports titled “Death at the Junction” which were broadcast on BBC World News television and on BBC Radio 4 on April 23rd.Knell Our World TV

An additional feature of both reports is Knell’s employment of PLO terminology and messaging. In the audio report she tells listeners:

“Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of settlements are often cited as reasons for Palestinian anger but [interviewee] Daniel believes incitement is driving the upsurge in attacks.”

Cited by whom? That Knell does not reveal but a guidance document for members of the media which was issued by the PLO in November 2015 tells foreign reporters that “The main issue is the Israeli Occupation” and in relation to the current wave of terrorism, journalists are informed that:

“The Israeli government attempts to shift the focus away from their colonization enterprise and illegal occupation, which is the root cause of the continuous uprisings of the Palestinian people who have for decades endured an Apartheid regime. Though Israeli spokespeople have claimed that the main issues are Al-Aqsa and “Palestinian incitement”, the fact of the matter is that Israel continues to systematically deny Palestinian rights.”

Knell later goes on to say:

“The current escalation was partly triggered by Palestinian fury over restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is holy to Muslims and Jews, who call it Temple Mount.” [emphasis added]

In the filmed report viewers are told that:

“The Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third holiest place in Islam. Jews call it Temple Mount and it’s also their holiest site. It lies at the heart of the conflict. Last year, with hopes of a political solution further away than ever, the latest round of violence began right here. Clashes broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians. As Jews visited during religious holidays, fears grew that Israel had plans to change a rule that forbids non-Muslims from praying at the site.”

In November 2014 the PLO put out a ‘media advisory’ document instructing foreign journalists to use the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” instead of what was described as the “inaccurate term” Temple Mount. That directive is of course part and parcel of the PLO’s habitual negation of Jewish history and the BBC – which used to use the term ‘Haram al Sharif’ – has since frequently been found complying with that attempt to promote the inaccurate notion that the whole of Temple Mount “forms the Mosque” and amplifying baseless Palestinian claims of alleged Israeli intentions to change the status quo at the site.

Knell’s filmed report also includes extensive promotion of falsehoods which go completely unchallenged. During her interview with the father of a terrorist who was shot and killed whilst in the process of carrying out a stabbing attack at Gush Etzion junction on October 27th 2015, Knell tells viewers:

“Nadi [the terrorist’s father] himself is a former militant who spent 10 years in an Israeli jail but he says his son wasn’t politically motivated in the way that he was. He was impulsive, inspired by social media.”

Knell fails to tell audiences that Izz al-Din Abu Shakhadam’s accomplice had served a 16-month prison term in Israel for Hamas activities and that Hamas issued death notices for them both.

Viewers then see the following unqualified statements from the father in the sub-titles on screen:

“Izz al-Din was always keeping up with events on Facebook. He used to see the raids of the settlers on Al Aqsa, to see the Occupation army executing our girls and boys. Of course this affected him a lot and made him determined to stand up to this horrible occupying force. If we let them do what they want, tomorrow they’ll stamp on us.” [emphasis added]

Making no effort to relieve viewers of the inaccurate impressions given by those false statements, Knell goes on to showcase another terrorist who carried out a car-ramming attack on March 4th.

“But many deadly incidents at the Gush Etzion junction are not so clear cut. Instead there are conflicting Israeli and Palestinian narratives that reflect the deepening mutual distrust. Israel’s army says the woman driving this car ploughed into soldiers and was shot dead. A knife was found on her dashboard. […] But in her village the mourners tell a different story. Mohammed Sabatin says his wife was scared and took a wrong turn at the junction.”

Viewers see the following unchallenged claim in the sub-titles translating an interviewee’s response to Knell’s question concerning the knife.

They planted it there. We haven’t got a knife like that and that is always what the occupation does. They planted the knife by the windscreen. It’s not logical; why would she put the knife where everyone could see it?” [emphasis added]

That false theme has been repeatedly seen during recent months and it is part of the incitement spread by Palestinian Authority officials. Viewers of this programme are not however informed of that crucial context before Knell goes on to show a gory display.

“The family claims Israel used excessive force to stop Amani and I’m shown her clothes, riddled with bullet holes.”

“The circumstances surrounding Amani’s death remain uncertain.”

Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas do not share Knell’s uncertainty with regard to the circumstances which brought about the death of the ‘martyr’ as she was termed in the PA president’s condolence letter to her family.

Towards the end of the filmed report Knell tells viewers that “for Palestinians […] Gush Etzion is a symbol of Israel’s occupation” and audiences then see the following on-screen translation of the words of Nadi Abu Shakhadam:

They enjoy killing our children – only God knows why.”

Like the other lies highlighted above, that too goes unchallenged by Yolande Knell.

Both the half-hour long film and the radio report presented an opportunity for Knell to provide BBC audiences with more wide-ranging background and context than news reports on the terror attacks which have plagued Israel for over half a year allow. Instead, the corporation’s funding public was fed politicised messaging by means of the use of terminology such as “Palestinian land” and “illegal” settlements, undiluted PLO propaganda and downright lies which went entirely unchallenged by a journalist supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting.   

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BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Gush Etzion – part one

On April 23rd the BBC World News television channel aired a half-hour long filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell on its ‘Our World’ programme. Titled ‘Death at the Junction’ (available for a limited period of time on iPlayer here and also here), the report was broadcast four times on that particular day, with a further eleven repeats scheduled. Its synopsis reads as follows:Knell Our World TV

“Over the past year, a new wave of violence has brought terror to the streets of Israel and the West Bank. Palestinians have attacked Israelis in apparently random acts. In some cases the attackers have been young teenagers, armed with kitchen knives. The Gush Etzion junction is one site of many attacks. It’s on the main road between Jerusalem and Hebron and is used by thousands of Jewish settlers. The junction used to be a place where Palestinians would also shop and work. Now people are scared that being there could cost them their lives. The film contains disturbing images from the start.”

An audio version of the report (from 05:41 here) was also aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on April 23rd with the synopsis reading:

“In the West Bank a roundabout encapsulates what’s going on, and going wrong, in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

Both reports raise a number of issues – including the following claims from FOOC presenter Kate Adie in her introduction to the audio item:

“In the past six months young Palestinians have carried out a series of stabbings, shootings and car rammings. Some 30 Israelis have been killed and the state response is usually lethal with about 200 Palestinians killed; most of whom – Israel says – were carrying out attacks.” [emphasis added]

With ‘usually’ meaning what typically or normally happens, it is worth taking a closer look at that claim from Adie. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center produced an overview the seven months of violence between mid-September 2015 and mid-April 2016 which does not support Adie’s use of the term ‘usually’ or her employment of the qualifier “Israel says”.

“Two hundred forty terrorists were involved in the 204 significant terrorist attacks, that is, most of the attacks were carried out by single attackers. In addition, at least 59 terrorists were detained during preventive activities, so that the total number of terrorists who carried out or planned to carry out terrorist attacks was at least 299.

Of the 240 terrorists who carried out significant terrorist attacks, 138 were killed during the attacks. Two were killed in “work accidents” (one in a car crash and one when an IED blew up in his hands). One hundred and two terrorists were apprehended and detained while carrying out attacks, or escaped.

What is the overall number of Palestinians killed during the current terrorist campaign? Dozens of Palestinians who were killed rioting against the Israeli security forces can be added to the 138 terrorists killed while carrying out significant terrorist attacks. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent (April 2, 2016), the total number of Palestinians killed is 204. That figure may indicate that 66 Palestinians were killed during riots, of whom 27 were killed in the Gaza Strip (according to an NGO calling itself the “National Association of Shaheed Families”). Therefore, 39 were killed in Judea and Samaria (Note: Since the count was not carried out by the ITIC, there is no certainty that the numbers are correct, but in ITIC assessment they accurately reflect the situation).”

Adie also tells listeners that:

“Yolande Knell has been to a previously peaceful junction in the occupied West Bank that’s become a flash point.”

Was the Gush Etzion junction really “previously peaceful”? In fact numerous fatal and non-fatal terror attacks have been perpetrated at that location over the years.

Notably, both the audio and filmed reports include some exceptionally rare – if brief – BBC reporting on the history of the location. In the audio report Knell tells listeners that:

“In the early 20th century Jews bought land in this area but in fighting with Arab armies in 1948 they were forced out or killed. After Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, Jews returned. Settlements are seen as illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

A similar portrayal is given in the filmed item, with Knell concluding her short excursion into history by telling audiences that following the Six Day War, Israelis:

“…began to rebuild Kfar Etzion. It was the first settlement in the occupied West Bank after the war. Settlements are Jewish communities built on occupied land. They’re considered illegal under international law but Israel disagrees.”

Revealingly, Knell does not provide any explanation – or logical legal argument – to support her claim that communities built on land purchased by Jews and then belligerently occupied by the invading Jordanian army for a period of 19 years are now “illegal”. As ever, audiences are not informed that the interpretation of ‘international law’ adopted and promoted by the BBC is contradicted by additional legal opinions or that past peace proposals have included Gush Etzion in areas which would remain under Israeli control.

Moreover, Knell goes on to encourage her audiences to view the location as ‘Palestinian land’, telling viewers that:

“Gush Etzion – Hebrew for the Etzion bloc – is now thirty times larger than the original sites. Ninety thousand people live in more than 20 settlements and much of it is built on confiscated Palestinian land.” [emphasis added]

And telling Radio 4 listeners that:

“Now Gush Etzion is thirty times larger than it was historically. Areas of Palestinian land have been added to it causing deep resentment.” [emphasis added]

Knell makes no effort to contribute to her audiences’ understanding of the factors – including Ottoman land laws – which form the basis for land classification in Judea & Samaria and neither does she inform them of the 1979 Israeli government decision according to which new communities in Judea & Samaria would be constructed exclusively on state land, the resulting land surveys intended to prevent construction on land privately owned by Palestinians or of the fact that under the terms of the Oslo Accords, Israel is responsible for zoning and planning in Area C – which includes Gush Etzion. Instead, Knell dumbs down the picture presented to listeners and viewers of these reports by use of the inaccurate, misleading – and politicised – term “Palestinian land”.

The use of inaccurate and misleading language is also seen in the filmed report’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian building:

“Khirbat Zachariah is surrounded by the Gush Etzion settlements and Mohammed Saad says life has become harder and more risky with new security measures at the [Gush Etzion junction] roundabout. […] Already Palestinians here feel great resentment. They’re forbidden from building by the Israelis whilst the neighbouring settlements are allowed to expand.”

Knell refrains from clarifying to her audiences where “here” is exactly and fails to prevent confusion by informing audiences that the vast majority of Palestinian towns and villages in Gush Etzion are located in Area A or Area B – meaning that their requests for planning permission and building permits are submitted to the Palestinian Authority. Khirbat Zachariah (also Sakariya) is indeed located in Area C and hence falls under Civil Administration planning laws but Knell’s report does not include any mention of the help Saad and his fellow villagers have received on that front from their neighbours in Gush Etzion.

In the filmed report Knell goes on to tell viewers that:

“The villagers (of Khirbat Zachariah) have lost parts of their land to the settlements. Most can no longer earn a living from their own farms.”

And in the audio version listeners hear the following:

“‘It’s difficult’ says Mohammed Saad, a farmer, as he prunes his grapevines.’Israel forbids us from building and we’ve lost some land’.”

BBC audiences are not told that the residents of Khirbat Zachariah were originally tenant farmers who rented land from an Arab Christian family from Bethlehem. The land was sold to a subsidiary company of the Jewish National Fund in 1944 before the family emigrated to America and when one resident of the Khirbat Zachariah claimed ownership of the land after the Jordanian occupation of the area in 1948, he lost the case in a Jordanian court and subsequently, in 1980,  his claim of ownership of the land was also rejected by the Israeli High Court of Justice.

Additional aspects of Knell’s reports will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC News reports Jerusalem bus bomb without using the word terror

On the afternoon of April 18th an explosion occurred on a public bus in Jerusalem injuring 21 people. Within a couple of hours the police and security services had established the cause of the incident.

“Police and rescue officials confirmed 21 people were hurt when the number 12 city bus exploded on Moshe Baram Street in the Talpiot neighborhood of the capital at about 5:45 p.m., setting the bus on fire.

A second intercity bus nearby and a car were also burned in the blast.

Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy told the media the blast was caused by an explosive device placed on the bus, putting an end to hours of speculation over whether the blast was terror related or a technical malfunction.

“When a bomb explodes on a bus, it is a terror attack,” he said, adding it was unclear if the bomber had been on the bus at the time of the blast.”

pigua bus Jlem 18 4

Version 4

Reporting on the incident began to appear on the BBC News website shortly after it took place and early reports correctly noted that “[a]n Israeli police spokesman said it was investigating the incident, the cause of which was not immediately clear”.

As more information was made public, later reports informed BBC audiences that:

“A police statement said bomb disposal experts had determined that a device exploded in the back half of the bus.”

And:

“A police spokesman told Israeli Channel 2 television that investigators were still trying to determine who had planted the bomb.”

However, none of the amendments made to the article currently going under the title “Jerusalem bus bombing injures 21” clarified that the authorities had confirmed that the incident was a terror attack and the word terror does not appear at all in any of the report’s six versions.

Version 6

Version 6

Moreover, later versions of the article included commentary from Yolande Knell in which the perpetrators of numerous terror attacks on Israeli public buses during the second Intifada were described using the euphemistic term “militants”.

“For many, images from the scene here will bring back worrying memories of the bomb attacks by Palestinian militants that last took place in this city more than a decade ago.”

Knell appears to have forgotten that a British citizen was murdered in a terror attack at a Jerusalem bus stop in 2011 and that bomb attacks on buses have occurred in other Israeli cities far more recently than “more than a decade ago”.

Similarly, readers of the final version of the BBC’s report were informed that:

“Palestinian militant group Hamas, which carried out a wave of bus bombings in the city in the early 2000s, praised Monday’s blast, calling it “a natural reaction to Israeli crimes”.”

They were not however told that additional terror groups likewise lauded the attack – as did the PA president’s Fatah party.

“Hamas welcomed the attack in Jerusalem as a “natural response to the crimes of occupation,” but it did not claim responsibility.

Islamic Jihad welcomes the attack as “proof of the failure of security coordination” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it “welcomes the operation as a positive and important development of the intifada.” “

It is of course difficult to imagine that had twenty-one people been injured by a bomb placed on a London bus, the BBC would have avoided using the word ‘terror’ in its reporting of the incident. But as we have known for quite some time, the corporation defends the double standards seen in its reporting of terrorism by claiming that attacks against Israelis are “very different” from those against civilians elsewhere (whilst refusing to clarify the rationale behind that claim) and it does not consider those double standards to be “a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation”.

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BBC’s Knell amplifies Hamas PR while sidestepping ISIS-Hamas collaboration

For nearly two and a half years the BBC has managed to avoid producing any serious reporting on the subject of collaboration between Hamas and the ISIS franchise operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

Back in August 2013 the BBC’s Yolande Knell told audiences that:

“Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and has accused Palestinians of supporting Islamist militants in the increasingly restive Sinai region.”

Failing to provide any objective information concerning those Egyptian claims, she then promoted the following statement from Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad:

“They have a plan in order to distort the image of Gaza in order to start propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas, in order to show Gaza is like a devil and Hamas is like a devil,” Mr Hamed [sic] said.

“I think they succeeded to do this on the Egyptian street, in the Egyptian society.”

In October 2014 the BBC told its audiences that:

“Egyptian media accuses Gaza’s Hamas administration of aiding militants in Sinai. Hamas denies the charge.”

Since then the topic of collaboration between Hamas and Wilayat Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) has been the subject of numerous articles and reports from a variety of outlets (see for example here, here, here, here, here and here) but not only has the BBC failed to adequately address the topic in that time, it has even promoted a conflicting narrative.

On March 29th 2016, Yolande Knell produced a filmed report for BBC television news programmes which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel on alert for attacks by Islamic State fighters in Sinai“. Notably, the word terror does not appear at any point during Knell’s narration and in the synopsis ISIS terrorists in Sinai are described as “militants” and “extremists”.Knell ISIS Sinai report

Knell’s report begins in Eilat where she takes a trip on an Israeli navy boat and then proceeds to the between Israel and Egypt.

“Recently the so-called Islamic State has made threats. A high state of alert extends along Israel’s 240 kilometer border with the Sinai.” […]

IS fighters have made the Sinai into another Middle East stronghold. Here they’re mostly targeting Egyptian security forces but they’ve also struck at Israel. […]

Israel and Egypt admit little publicly but they’re known to be sharing intelligence. Here there’s a constant threat of surprise attacks by Islamic extremists. What increasingly worries both Israel and Egypt is links between militants in the Sinai and groups in Gaza, which is nearby.”

Knell then goes on to make the following statement, notably failing to remind viewers of Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation:

“This month Egypt’s interior minister accused the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, of helping Jihadists to kill the Egyptian public prosecutor last year, giving them training in the Sinai.”

Given that until that point the entire report related to ISIS, it is obvious that the uniformed viewer would conclude that Knell’s reference to “Jihadists” also means that same group. However – as the BBC itself reported at the time – Egypt does not attribute the murder of Hisham Barakat to the ISIS affiliated Wilayat Sinai group, but to the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, the Egyptian interior minister did not claim that the attackers had received training in Sinai, but in the Gaza Strip.

“On March 6, 2016, tensions between Egypt and Hamas increased when Magdi Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s minister of the interior, held a press conference where he accused Hamas of involvement in the assassination of Hisham Barakat, the Egyptian attorney general. The assassination, carried out in June 2015, was attributed to operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas vigorously denied the accusations but Egyptian sources have repeatedly claimed that Hamas provides military support for Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, including training them in the Gaza Strip.”

Knell continues:

“Palestinians are also alleged to have treated injured IS fighters. I cross into Gaza where Hamas officials strongly deny the claims.”

Viewers then hear once again from Ghazi Hamad.

“We will not allow for anyone from Gaza now to do anything against or to damage or to harm the national security of Egypt and we will not allow for anyone from Sinai to come to use Gaza as a shelter.”

Sharp-eared viewers may have noted Hamad’s use of the future tense and the word “now”. That may well be linked to the fact that a senior Hamas delegation visited Cairo earlier in the month to try to defuse tensions with Egypt. The BBC did not report that visit, so viewers will naturally be unaware of that crucial context to Hamad’s words.

In this report Yolande Knell has once again avoided providing audiences with any serious, objective reporting on the topic of Hamas’ long-standing collaboration with ISIS in Sinai whilst at the same time yet again providing amplification for Hamas’ public relations messaging. She has also misled viewers with regard to the Egyptian allegations concerning Hamas’ collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood in the murder of an Egyptian official.

So much for the BBC’s claim to be the “standard-setter for international journalism”.

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BBC News website promotes 3 year old inaccurate related reading

On March 27th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article about the Israeli High Court of Justice’s decision concerning the government’s natural gas policy which was handed down on the same day.Bagatz gas art

Titled “Israel’s Mediterranean gas deal struck down by top court“, the report tells the specific story in an accurate manner – although those unfamiliar with its wider background may have had trouble understanding the court’s objections. Despite its usual interest in internal Israeli affairs, the topic of public objections and political wrangling surrounding the gas policy has not been covered by the BBC in recent months.

It was hence not very surprising to see that the article offered as additional reading on the topic both at the bottom of the report and on the main Middle East page is nearly three years old.

Unfortunately, that May 2013 article by Yolande Knell – titled “Gas finds in east Mediterranean may change strategic balance” – includes inaccuracies which the BBC has still not corrected.Knell article on ME pge

“Further south down the coastline of the Levant Basin, the Gaza Marine field, 30km off the coast of the Palestinian territory, has long been known about. In 1999, the Palestinian Authority awarded the exploration licence to British Gas.

However the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has prevented further development of the field. The situation became more complicated when the Islamist group, Hamas, took over by force in 2007, ousting its rivals from the Fatah faction. Israel then tightened its border and naval blockade of Gaza.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The violent Hamas take-over of Gaza took place between June 5th and 15th 2007 and the Palestinian Authority – the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people – was forcefully ejected from power. Following that event, both Egypt and Israel largely closed their borders with the Gaza Strip due to the fact that the body charged with joint security arrangements under the terms of the Oslo Accords – the Palestinian Authority – no longer exercised any control over the territory. 

Three months later – on September 19th 2007 – in light of the escalation of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians originating in the now Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – the Israeli government declared Gaza to be ‘hostile territory’. […]MoT notification naval blockade

However, Knell’s suggestion that the “naval blockade of Gaza” was “tightened” immediately after the 2007 Hamas coup (as any reasonable reader would understand her phrasing) is incorrect because the naval blockade was not put in place until January 2009. “

And:

“Is Knell’s wider claim that “the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has prevented further development of the [gas] field” an accurate representation of the situation? Well obviously, had the Palestinians chosen to develop the economy of Gaza Strip after Israel’s 2005 disengagement and had a terrorist organization not overrun the territory, turned it into a terrorist enclave which necessitated the implementation of maritime zones and later the naval blockade and had it not ousted the internationally recognized representatives of the Palestinian people authorized with signing agreements on their behalf, there may have been more opportunity for exploitation of offshore gas resources.”

Remarkably, despite having failed to make the necessary corrections to the factual inaccuracies in Knell’s report even after all that time, the BBC has now elected to promote it further.

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