Inaccurate BBC Yom Kippur war claim – 14 years and counting

Six years ago we documented the BBC’s correction of inaccurate Israeli casualty figures during the 1973 Yom Kippur War:

BBC Yom Kippur war accuracy failure perpetuated over years

However as was noted at the time, at least two other items of BBC content include the same error, stating that the number of Israeli casualties in that war was “about 6,000”.

That claim is found for example in a backgrounder titled ‘A History of Conflict which is undated, but appears to come from around 2005.

It also appears in another side-box of ‘context’ appended to an ‘On This Day’ feature – likewise undated, but apparently from around 2005 at the latest. 

According to the Israeli Ministry of Defence archives concerning the 1974 Agranat Commission 2,689 Israeli soldiers were killed, 7,251 injured, 301 taken prisoner and 16 declared missing in action during the Yom Kippur War. The IDF website gives a figure of 2,691 soldiers killed during the three weeks of war and other sources quote figures of between “more than 2,500“, 2,569 and 2,688 Israeli casualties, with the differences probably being attributable to later deaths as a result of injuries sustained, MIAs whose status was later confirmed and prisoners of war who did not return alive. Despite the differing estimates of Israeli casualties, none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in these BBC articles.

And yet, despite having corrected one report six years ago, the BBC is apparently unperturbed by the fact that webpages it still makes available to the general public have been disseminating inaccurate information for at least fourteen years.  

 

Yom Kippur war inaccuracies persist in BBC archive content

Four years ago we pointed out that an article concerning the Yom Kippur War (that is still available online in the BBC’s ‘On This Day’ archive under the date October 6th 1973) tells audiences in both its text and in a photo caption that:

Both sides have accused each other of firing the first shots, but UN observers have reported seeing Egyptian and Syrian troops crossing into Israeli-held territory.” [emphasis added]

That misleading forty-four year-old claim has still not been amended.

The same report also includes an inaccurate portrayal of the number of Israeli casualties in that war.

“Most hostilities ended on 22 October. Both sides suffered heavy losses. An estimated 8,500 Syrian and Egyptian soldiers died, while Israel lost about 6,000.”

As was also noted here four years ago, while various sources give slightly differing figures for Israeli casualties during the Yom Kippur War, “none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in this BBC article and others”.

At the time the BBC did amend one of the articles citing the inaccurate casualty figures but this archive report remains uncorrected, as does a separate backgrounder.

 

BBC’s Bowen resurrects the ‘Arafat was poisoned’ canard on Radio 4

Episode 14 of the ongoing BBC Radio 4 series ‘Our Man in the Middle East’ was devoted entirely to Jeremy Bowen’s portrayal of Yasser Arafat.

“The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen looks back over the life of Yasser Arafat. Thousands of his supporters turned out when the Palestinian’s body was flown back into Ramallah on the West Bank. “Love him or hate him, he was Mr Palestine,” says Bowen. “In death as well as in life he was the symbol of the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence – much more than a politician.” The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s view was that Arafat was ‘ a murderer and a pathological liar’.”

Originally broadcast on June 15th under the title “Guns and Olive Branches“, the programme now opens with notification that “this programme has been edited since broadcast” – but BBC audiences are not informed what that editing entailed and the BBC’s ‘corrections and clarifications‘ page does not include any related information.

The programme begins with Bowen’s recollections from November 2004 and an interpretation of Arafat’s sartorial propaganda that unquestioningly endorses the notion that the State of Israel is actually “Palestine”. [all emphasis in italics in the original]

“Even his keffiyeh – his black and white headscarf – carried a message. Arafat always wore it pushed back behind his left shoulder and down the front of his chest on the right, broad at the top, tapering down to the south: the shape of Palestine.” [emphasis added]

Listeners repeatedly hear Bowen refer to a Palestinian “struggle for independence” with just one brief and inadequately explained reference to the fact that the said “struggle” was actually intended to wipe Israel off the map and with no mention made of the absence of any claim to “independence” during the nineteen years that Palestinians lived under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation.

“Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinians since the 1960s, was one of the world’s most famous or notorious people – depending on you view of Palestinian nationalism. Love him or hate him, Yasser Arafat was Mr Palestine.”

“In death as well as life, Arafat was the symbol of the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence; much more than just a politician.”

“Yasser Arafat’s position as the human embodiment of Palestinian hopes for independence were [sic] sealed in 1974 when he was invited to address the United Nations.”

“Yasser Arafat was born in 1929 and spent most of his childhood in Cairo. He fought in the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and went on to found Fatah – a group that wanted to destroy what it called the colonialist, Zionist occupation of Palestine.”

“His [Arafat’s] last three years, spent under siege by Israel in the wrecked Muqata in Ramallah, made him even more of a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for independence and freedom. Palestinians still don’t have a state.”

Listeners also hear repeated references to an ‘unequal’ conflict – with no explanation of the fact that the Palestinians were junior players in a wider conflict between the Arab states and Israel.

“Other, more cautious Palestinians called Arafat a madman at first because of his desire to take on the much stronger Israelis.”

“His critics said a wiser leader might have finished the job. But a wiser man might not have started such an unequal fight.”

Bowen erases the Arab League’s role in the creation of the PLO.

“Egypt’s president Nasser had founded the PLO to control Palestinian nationalists. Arafat used it to unite Palestinian factions, to campaign for international recognition and most of all, to fight Israel.”

Throughout the item Bowen refrains from describing Palestinian attacks against Israelis as terrorism in his own words and promotes the ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ myth.

“Many Israelis regarded Arafat as an unreformed terrorist. They blamed him for decades of attacks, including the suicide bombs that had killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in his last few years.”

“Arafat was a prime mover behind many attacks. Fatah and other Palestinian factions shot, bombed and hijacked their way into the headlines. In 1972 Fatah gunmen calling themselves Black September killed 11 Israeli athletes and a German policeman at the Munich Olympic games.”

“Some Palestinians believed they were winning the argument that their cause was just. Other Palestinians said the armed struggle – terrorism in Israeli eyes – meant they could no longer be ignored.”

Listeners hear context-free references to the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur war and the first Lebanon war.

“His [Arafat’s] first attacks in the mid-1960s weren’t more than pin-pricks. But his moment came in 1967 in the months after Israel inflicted a crushing defeat in only six days on the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.”

“The Middle East was boiling. The Palestinian-Israel conflict was at a new pitch and there was a full-scale war in 1973. Israel narrowly came out ahead.”

“They [Israel] invaded Lebanon in 1982 where the Palestinians had established what amounted to a mini-state.”

Bowen misrepresents the first Intifada as ‘non-violent’, erasing from audience view the Israelis murdered during that period of PLO orchestrated violence as well as some 1,000 Palestinians executed by their fellow Palestinians – with Arafat’s approval.

“What changed everything was entirely unexpected. In December 1987 an Israeli truck collided with a car, killing 4 Palestinians. Protests exploded into a full-blown uprising: the Intifada. Images of Palestinian children taking on tanks with stones went around the world and became a symbol of the oppression inherent in the occupation.”

“Palestinian rage and frustration exploded again in 2000 but this time there were armed clashes and unlike the first Intifada, the Palestinians lost the propaganda battle when suicide bombers killed many Israeli civilians.”

Bowen’s portrayal of the Oslo Accords era erases the Palestinian terrorism that immediately followed the signing of the agreement and fails to inform listeners of Arafat’s role in the pre-planned second Intifada terror war.

“But Israel and the Palestinians signed an historic peace deal and Arafat was allowed to live in the occupied territories.”

“The peace process was flawed for both sides but for a few years there was a lot of hope. Then the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist who wanted to kill the chance of peace as well.”

A recording of Saeb Erekat speaking in 2004 which further gives listeners an inaccurate impression of Arafat’s role in the campaign of terrorism that surged in the autumn of 2000 was selected by Bowen for inclusion in this programme..

Erekat: “I’m afraid if Mother Theresa were to be our president, Nelson Mandela were to be our prime minister, Martin Luther King to be our speaker and Mahatma Gandhi would be our chief negotiator, the Israelis would find a way to link them to terrorism and some voices in Washington would echo that. The question wasn’t Arafat.”

Throughout the item Bowen repeatedly promotes a romantic image of Arafat as a charismatic “revolutionary”.

“As Israelis settled into their occupation of the West Bank, Arafat took the fight to them, moving around in disguise and organising hundreds of attacks. Israel hit back in 1968 with a major military operation at the Karameh refugee camp in Jordan which had become a big Fatah base. […] The battle established Arafat’s legend. He was on the cover of Time magazine and the young revolutionary gave countless interviews.”

“For the first time posters of Arafat started appearing wherever there were Palestinians. They’d never had a leader with his charisma. By the summer of 1969 Arafat was chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.”

“Arafat swaggered into the General Assembly in New York wearing combat fatigues and sunglasses. He delivered his most famous lines: ‘I come to you bearing an olive branch in one hand and a freedom-fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand’. Arafat repeated that last warning three times. He was offering Israel a choice: peace or war.”

“The General Assembly gave him a standing ovation though among Arab leaders Arafat had plenty of enemies. He’d wanted to carry a pistol into the hall to make his point and had to be persuaded that an empty holster would do just as well. I remember the outrage among Jewish friends at my school in Cardiff that he’d even been allowed to speak. For Israelis, Arafat was an arch-terrorist and his olive branch was a joke.”

“Arafat was caught between his obligations under the peace process – satisfying the Israelis and the Americans – and his self-image as a revolutionary focusing the frustration and anger of his people.”

“It was always strange being in the same room as one of the most famous faces in the world. His legend was always there with him to be deployed at all times for his dream of Palestine. If being the human form of so many people’s’ hopes was a burden – and it must have been – he didn’t show it.”

Bowen’s own view of Arafat is further clarified at the end of the item.

“Back in 2004 outside the hospital in Paris where Arafat was dying, I felt that for all his weaknesses, his unique position as the father of his nation gave him a strength that genuine peace-makers would miss.

Recording Bowen: Yasser Arafat may have been part of the problem over the years but he’s also been part of the solution as well. And when he finally goes, his enemies – the Israelis and the Americans who’ve tried to isolate him – may find that far from it being easier to reach some kind of stability in the Middle East, it may even be more difficult.”

Bowen completely whitewashes Arafat’s cultivation of the culture of personal and organisational corruption that hallmarked the Palestinian Authority under his rule, as well as his funding of terrorism.

“Arafat preferred yes-men to straight talkers, tolerated corruption and he wasn’t much interested in the nitty-gritty of building a state. But for most Palestinians he was a national icon.”

Similarly, Bowen whitewashes Mahmoud Abbas’ incitement and glorification of terrorism.

“Abbas has never had Arafat’s charisma and even though he’s condemned Palestinian violence many times, the current Israeli government says he’s not a partner for peace.”

One of the more egregious parts of this programme comes towards its end when Bowen resuscitates an old canard:

“Some say Arafat was poisoned by Israel. His body was exhumed and tests found high levels of radioactive Polonium in his remains. The results were not conclusive but most Palestinians are convinced.”

As Bowen knows full well, those “high levels” of Polonium were pronounced by experts who tested them to be “of an environmental nature”. Both the French and Russian investigating teams ruled out foul play and the investigation closed two years ago, with the French prosecutor saying “there is no case to answer regarding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat”. 

Nevertheless, the man whose job description is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” dishonestly promotes the notion that “the results were not conclusive”, thereby suggesting to BBC audiences that long-standing but entirely unproven Palestinian messaging on that topic may not, after all, be baseless propaganda.

Once again, Jeremy Bowen’s standards of adherence to BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality are on full view in this programme – together with some revealing insights into his own views of a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.

Related Articles:

BBC report that breached impartiality rules still intact online 12 years on

BBC News report whitewashes Arafat’s terrorism

Arafat ‘poisoning’ case closed: an overview of 3 years of BBC News coverage

BBC ME editor recycles his ‘Israeli Right killed the peace process’ theory

 

 

 

BBC News website recycles previous Golan Heights inaccuracies

Hot on the heels of his audio report from the Golan Heights which was broadcast on June 15th on BBC Radio 4, Andrew Hosken produced a written article on the same subject for the BBC News website’s Middle East page’s ‘Features’ section on June 20th – “Syrian conflict: The view from Golan Heights” –  which suffers from many of the same factual inaccuracies.Hosken Golan written

Hosken’s report opens with a description of his visit to a chocolate factory. Seeing as that factory is located in Kibbutz Ein Zivan, it is reasonable to assume that he would have noticed the nearby border fence and, just beyond that, the town of Quneitra.

When the Six Day War ended with the ceasefire of June 10th 1967, Quneitra was left under Israeli control and remained so until the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Under the terms of the 1974 agreement between Israel and Syria, Israel evacuated territory it had captured during the Yom Kippur war as well as some 60 square kilometers in the Quneitra area, captured in 1967. Following the 1974 agreement, ITN reported that “Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad personally hoisted the Syrian flag over the ruined town of Kuneitra [Quneitra] on Wednesday (June 26) to mark the end of seven years of Israeli occupation”.

Nevertheless, readers of this report by Hosken were again told that the Israeli Golan is 54.5 square miles larger than is actually the case and that the border is “the 1967 ceasefire line” rather than the 1974 line.

“Territory encompassing most of the Golan Heights, approximately 500 square miles, was captured by Israel in the last stages of the so-called Six Day War of 1967.

Israel effectively annexed the land in December 1981 when it officially extended Israeli law and government to the Golan.

The “border” between Israeli-occupied land and Syria is now the 1967 ceasefire line that is enforced by the United Nations.”

The mandate of the UNDOF forces in the area is to “maintain” and “supervise” – rather than ‘enforce’ – the 1974 agreement.

The article portrays Hizballah as “Islamist militants” rather than an international terror organization.

“Assad has been heavily supported by Iran and, in particular, the Islamist militants funded and backed by Tehran, Hezbollah. Hezbollah has vowed to destroy the state of Israel.”

In common with the audio report, the population of the Golan Heights is inaccurately portrayed as being over a third smaller than is the case and the location of the Druze residents of the Golan is described in confusing terms.

“Of the 30,000 or so people in Israel-occupied Golan, fewer than half – about 14,000 – are Jews. The rest are mainly Druze Arabs, who straddle the 1967 ceasefire line.”

Visiting Moshav Yonatan, Hosken tells readers that:

“The village lies in south-eastern Golan just four miles from the ceasefire line. On the other side, so-called Islamic State is believed to be fighting Assad’s Hezbollah-backed forces.”

In fact, Yonatan is located in the central Golan and the ISIS affiliated groups (which have of late been fighting other rebel groups more than Assad and his allies) are positioned further to the south.

Despite the existence of documentation, Hosken once again tells BBC audiences that:

“…Israel believes a small number of Syrian Druze are being used in sporadic attacks against Israelis in the Golan Heights by Hezbollah” [emphasis added]

As noted here previously, the topic of Hizballah and Iranian activity on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights has been under-reported by the BBC in the past and so it is good to see a journalist finally giving some air-time and column space to that issue. It is however a pity that such long overdue reporting is marred by very basic factual inaccuracies.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service reduces Golan Heights population by a third

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

Airbrushing Hizballah: BBC News report on Nasrallah speech

Yom HaZikaron

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,320 casualties of war and terrorism.

Thirty five soldiers are commemorated at the memorial at Tel Saki.

SONY DSC

“At the battle of Tel Saki, one of the first of the 1973 Israeli Yom Kippur War, a handful of Israeli paratroopers and armored soldiers stood their ground, fighting off thousands of Syrian troops for three days. […]

Tel Saki is located on the Southern Golan Heights near the Syrian-Israeli border. On that small but strategically positioned hill was located the undersized military reconnaissance post. A small group of IDF soldiers from the 50th Airborne Battalion and the 7th and 188th armor brigades, fought against what we now is known to be an 11,000 infantry soldiers Syrian division, including 900 tanks and countless armored vehicles.”

Parts two and three of this film can be found here and here.

May their memories be blessed.  

BBC Yom Kippur war accuracy failure perpetuated over years

h/t Judge Dan (via Twitter)

An article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly titled “Legacy of 1973 Arab-Israeli war reverberates 40 years on” which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 5th 2013 includes a side-box according to which:

 “Egypt and Syria lose estimated 8,500 soldiers; Israel loses 6,000 troops”

side box connolly article

That same claim is also to be found in previous BBC articles on the subject of the Yom Kippur war – for example here in the backgrounder titled ‘A History of Conflict’ which is undated, but appears to come from around 2005.

HoC 1973

It also appears in another side-box of ‘context’ appended to an ‘On This Day’ feature – also undated, but apparently from around 2005 at the latest. 

OTD casualties YK

But in fact, that number does not accurately represent the number of Israeli casualties in the Yom Kippur War.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Defence archives – quoting the preface to the report of the Agranat Commission in 1974 – 2,222 Israeli soldiers were killed, 7,251 injured, 301 taken prisoner and 16 declared missing in action during the Yom Kippur War. The Knesset website cites 2,350 Israeli casualties, 15,000 Egyptian ones and 3,500 Syrian dead. Other sources quote figures of between “more than 2,500“, 2,569, 2,688 and 2691 Israeli casualties, with the differences probably being attributable to later deaths as a result of injuries sustained, MIAs whose status was later confirmed and prisoners of war who did not return alive. With regard to Egyptian and Syrian casualties, reliable information is sparse and so the estimates vary.

Despite the differing estimates of Israeli casualties, none of them reaches even half of the 6,000 claimed in this BBC article and others. Interestingly, casualties recorded during the 1948 War of Independence do stand at over 6,000 Israelis (soldiers and civilians), so perhaps we can conclude that the BBC has mixed up its Middle East wars.  

This example of failure to meet the expectations of accuracy as stipulated in the BBC editorial guidelines raises an additional interesting point beyond the error itself. The fact that the same inaccuracy has been repeated in article after article over a period of several years suggests that the BBC lazily relies on its own sources – and hence perpetuates its own mistakes – rather than engaging in proper fact checking. 

Related articles:

BBC backgrounder on Yom Kippur war misleads on Syria

BBC removes claim of ‘pre-emptive’ Yom Kippur strike

BBC’s educational resource website describes Yom Kippur attack by Syria and Egypt as ‘pre-emptive’

BBC accuracy and equivalence in 1973

Update:

The side box in Kevin Connolly’s report of October 5th was revised a few hours after the publication of this article and now reads as follows:

revised version YK

 

The two backgrounders still cite the inaccurate number at the time of writing. 

 

BBC backgrounder on Yom Kippur war misleads on Syria

The entry for the year 1973 in the backgrounder titled “A History of Conflict” which appears on the BBC website opens with the following words:

“Unable to regain the territory they had lost in 1967 by diplomatic means, Egypt and Syria launched major offensives against Israel on the Jewish festival of the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.”

1973 page

That statement of course suggests that Egypt and Syria had tried engagement in diplomacy – i.e. negotiation between the parties involved – and failed. A reasonable reader would also understand from that statement that it was the failure of negotiations which lead those countries to initiate the Yom Kippur war. But is that actually the case?

With regard to Egypt, the statement over-simplifies the issue and ignores multiple additional factors, including domestic ones, but with regard to Syria, it is obviously inaccurate. 

Neither in this entry or in the one preceding it (1967) is any mention made of the Khartoum Declaration of September 1st 1967, according to which the Arab states rejected negotiations with Israel.

“The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June.” 

“This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.” [emphasis added]

Later efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict by the UN’s Special Representative Gunnar Jarring were rejected outright by Syria. 

“Delivering messages to the different sides, Jarring shuttled between Jerusalem, Amman and Cairo, and sometimes also Beirut. Damascus was not part of the picture, since the Syrians categorically rejected Resolution 242.” [emphasis added]

Syria also rejected other diplomatic initiatives:

“Syria did not accept the resolution and continued its adamant opposition to it throughout the period. It gave its negative reaction to the five-point general plan for peace advanced by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 19, 1967 and also refused to accept the reactivation of the negotiations as provided for in Resolution 242 through the offices of U.N. representative Dr. Gunnar Jarring. It also refused to consider the Rogers peace proposals of June 25, 1970.”

Hence, the BBC’s claim that Syria’s decision to take part in the Yom Kippur war was the product of failed negotiations is patently false and misleading. 

BBC removes claim of ‘pre-emptive’ Yom Kippur strike

On September 15th we highlighted the fact that the BBC’s ‘Learning Zone’ website – a resource for teachers – claimed that Egypt and Syria “acted pre-emptively” when they launched the surprise attacks which began the Yom Kippur war forty years ago. 

Via the JTA we learn that the erroneous claim has been removed from the website after the JTA approached the BBC’s Head of Communications.

“Asked by JTA whether BBC had indications that Israel had threatened or planned to attack its Arab neighbors 40 years ago, BBC’s head of communications, Claire Rainford, wrote  in an email on Monday that the producers of Learning Zone “have reviewed the copy and decided to remove the word preemptive.” “

Here is a ‘before’ screenshot:

Clip 10213 YK

This is the page as it stands now:

clip 10213 YK corrected

Seeing as there is no publication date on that webpage, we have no way of knowing for how long that politically motivated claim was presented to educators and it is of course impossible to estimate  how many teachers have passed on that historically inaccurate information – provided by the ‘trusted’ BBC – to their pupils. 

BBC’s educational resource website describes Yom Kippur attack by Syria and Egypt as ‘pre-emptive’

From the Oxford dictionary:

preemptive 1

From the BBC’s Ethics guide (in its ‘Religion and Ethics’ section):

preemptive 2

In other words, a military action can only be defined as pre-emptive if there is concrete evidence of the fact that the other side intends to attack.

Consider then the statement below which appears in the section titled “The Middle East from the 1880s” on the BBC’s ‘Learning Zone’ website: supposedly a resource for secondary school educators. 

“During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Egypt and Syria acted pre-emptively against Israel at the Suez Canal.” [emphasis added]

Beyond the rather obvious fact that Syrian forces were nowhere near the Suez Canal at the time, the description of ‘Operation Badr’ as a pre-emptive action is clearly inaccurate. The Israeli government had not ordered a general mobilization of reserve forces during the build-up to the Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack and the US had received confirmation from Golda Meir that no pre-emptive Israeli strike would take place. 

So why would the BBC present such an inaccurate and obviously politically motivated picture of the start of the Yom Kippur war as a resource for teachers?  The clue to that perhaps comes in the form of the personalities the BBC chooses as sources for its information.

“Expert comment on the geo-political changes and the impact this war had upon region is provided by Benny Morris, journalist Robert Fisk and Professor Noam Chomsky.” [emphasis added]

Clip 10213 YK

The BBC’s previous ‘Key Terms’ guide stated:

“MIDDLE EAST EXPERT”
“Some “experts” may have a history of sympathising with one cause or another even if they have no overt affiliation.

It is preferable, where time and space allow, to provide a lengthier indication of the contributor’s views on past issues so that the audience might calibrate his or her statements for themselves.

In all reporting we should avoid generalisations, bland descriptions and loose phrases which in fact tell us little about a contributor or event. The phrase “Middle East expert” implies the BBC thinks this person’s views have weight and independence. If we can defend that judgement – that’s fine. If not it may be better to avoid the phrase.

Overall, we should seek a precise description – for example, what job does this person hold? Who employs them? Where do they stand in the debate?”

Clearly in the cases of both Chomsky and Fisk, such background on the political motivations behind their “expert comment” (as the BBC describes it) would be essential information for any teacher searching for accurate and impartial information. 

BBC accuracy and equivalence in 1973

Still available online under the title “On this Day” is a BBC report from October 6th 1973 which informs readers that:

“Heavy fighting has erupted between Arab and Israeli forces along two fronts.

To the south, Egyptian armoured forces have broken the Israeli line on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal.

In the north, Syrian troops and tanks are battling with Israeli defences along the Golan Heights seized by Israel from Syria in 1967.

Both sides have accused each other of firing the first shots, but UN observers have reported seeing Egyptian and Syrian troops crossing into Israeli-held territory.” [emphasis added]

The same obviously misleading statement is made in the caption to the accompanying illustrative photograph:

Both sides have accused

Clearly, both the article and the photograph were uploaded to the BBC website many years after the exact circumstances of the start of the Yom Kippur War had been amply clarified.

Perhaps a clarification is finally in order after forty years?