BBC showcases convicted anti-Israel activist in context-free illustration

On July 31st 2013 an article by Bethany Bell titled “Scepticism all round amid renewed Mid-East peace talks” appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section on the Middle East Page of the BBC News website. 

F and A Bell article hp

Bell’s article is of little interest, being nothing more than a collection of ‘he said, she said’ beachcombed from other media outlets and hearsay, and with the usual BBC euphemisms used to describe a terrorist organization.

“Many Palestinians are deeply sceptical about the prospects for peace, both in the West Bank, where President Mahmoud Abbas is in power, and in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas.” [emphasis added]

To her credit, however, Bell does at least mention the Hamas Charter:

“Under its charter, Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel. It has repeatedly condemned efforts for peace.”

But what really stands out about this article is the choice of photograph used to illustrate it. 

bell article abu rahma

That picture is over five and a half years old, having been taken in December 2007 in Bil’in.

Source pic abu rahma

The person on the right is prominent anti-Israel campaigner Adib (also spelt Adeeb) Abu Rahma (also spelt Rahmeh) who has played a lead role (literally) in the weekly violent demonstrations in Bil’in and appears extensively in the film ‘Five Broken Cameras’. Abu Rahma’s deliberate, and sometimes violent, provocation of Israeli soldiers guarding the fence at Bil’in is extremely well documented.  

abu rahma 1

abu rahma 2

abu rahma 3

In 2009/10 Abu Rahma – a taxi driver and father of nine who is a member of Bil’in’s ‘Fence Committee’ – spent 18 months in detention after having been convicted of incitement to violence and disturbing the public order, among other things. Ironically, filmed footage of Abu Rahma’s actions – shot by the co-director of ‘Five Broken Cameras’, Emad Burnat – was instrumental in his conviction.

The BBC, however, does not trouble its audiences with the all-important background to this picture: it presents it out of context as a representation of ‘the conflict’, when in fact it is an illustration of Palestinian provocation through amateur dramatics.

But of course what readers are supposed to take away after viewing this BBC-selected image is the simplistic impression of unarmed Palestinian civilians up against armed Israeli soldiers: an impression of an imbalanced conflict. And that is the overall narrative which the BBC promotes in words and by omission, as well as through the use of selected images.  


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