BBC finally gets round to (briefly) reporting crimes of Palestinian prisoners

As regular readers of BBC Watch well know, we have on too many occasions been obliged to take note of the BBC’s downplaying or ignoring of the crimes committed by Palestinian or Israeli Arab prisoners who have been the subject of BBC reports usually either due to their engagement in hunger-strikes or the upcoming slated prisoner release. See for example here, here, here, here and here.

On August 12th 2013 an article entitled “Israel names 26 Palestinian prisoners for release” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, although it disappeared not long afterwards.  

prisoners named

The article once again amplifies the PA-promoted notion that the issue of building tenders is an attempt by Israel to “sabotage the peace talks” and rehashes quotes from Hanan Ashrawi and Saeb Erekat already used in previous BBC reports. As can be expected, the report also includes some of the now standard misleading BBC slogans which appear in most of its recent written content.

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The article also promotes yet again the erroneous notion that:

“The Palestinians have previously agreed in principle to minor land swaps.”

In fact, as previously pointed out here, only the Fatah Central Council has accepted such an idea, and even then under very limited terms.

Refreshingly though, the article does include a link to the list of prisoners scheduled for release and even carries brief descriptions of the crimes committed by two of the men and a reaction from a family member of one of the victims. Whilst it may not be much given the scale of atrocities carried out by the prisoners scheduled for release, this is at least a step in the direction of the accurate, impartial and comprehensive reporting which BBC audiences need in order to be fully informed.

Unfortunately, that positive step is somewhat negated by the inclusion of a side-box of ‘analysis’ by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande analysis KnellKnell which opens with a tear-jerker reaction from the brother of one of the prisoners scheduled for release, but neglects to point out that the reason he has spent “22 years in an Israeli jail” is that he murdered a French tourist with a 16 inch kitchen knife. 

“Relatives of the Palestinian prisoners due to be freed have reacted enthusiastically to this news. In Bethlehem, Nayef Asakreh’s brother, Khaled, is due home after 22 years in an Israeli jail. “I feel good but I wish my parents were still alive to welcome him,” he says.”

Bizarrely, Knell goes on to discuss the trials and tribulations of Palestinian plans for celebrations of the release of murderers.

“This makes it difficult for the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to build political capital out of this release. Although he plans an event at his Moqataa headquarters in Ramallah, the number of former detainees will look small after at least 14 are sent to the Gaza Strip. Celebrations could be further muted if Israel releases the prisoners as soon as it legally can – 48 hours after publishing the list. That would see the inmates heading home very early on Wednesday.”

Should such celebrations take place – as they no doubt will – it will be interesting to see whether the BBC presents them to its audience as a move also intended to “sabotage the peace talks”. 

Notably, the BBC has so far scrupulously avoided informing audiences about the effects on the ‘peace process’ of the PR campaign run by the Palestinian Authority on the subject of prisoners as recently reported by Barak Ravid in Ha’aretz.

“Over the past two weeks, since the Israeli government decided to release 104 pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian Authority has been conducting a political and PR campaign focused on this issue. Palestinian ambassadors around the world were asked to relay letters to foreign ministries in the countries where they are serving, which emphasize that contrary to Israeli’s claim, the prisoners are not terrorists. […]

One of the letters relayed by Palestinian ambassadors around the world was obtained by Haaretz. The letter, which was distributed by the Palestinian Embassy in Santiago, Chile, a day after the cabinet’s decision on the prisoner release, claimed that Israel is the one terrorizing the Palestinians, and not vice-versa. “A terrorist is someone who forcefully occupies the other’s land, expels him and comes to live in his place,” the letter read, “…not the Palestinian political prisoner, the freedom fighter.”

The letter from embassies around the world also criticized senior Israeli officials for defining prisoners as terrorists. […]

“The [Palestinian] Foreign Ministry strongly condemns the Israeli statements and positions and sees them as a diversion attempt aimed at drawing attention from the accusation against the true Israeli criminals,” the letter says. “They distort the image of the Palestinian freedom fighter, who struggles against the occupation and fights in accordance to international law.” “

In addition to the above article, another report on the subject of the prisoners scheduled for release also appeared on the evening of August 12th. Entitled “Profiles of Palestinian prisoners set to be released” and compiled by BBC Monitoring, it gives some details of fewer than half of the 26 prisoners concerned. Somewhat oddly though (considering that this is an ongoing story) whilst this additional welcome step in the right direction was promoted briefly to audiences on the home page of the BBC News website, the article did not appear at all on its Middle East page and it currently appears only as one of several ‘related articles’ appended to this report.

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Perhaps though – now that someone at the BBC has at long last begun recording the fact that these prisoners were convicted of violent acts of terrorism – we may finally see a correction made to the BBC’s article of April 2nd 2013 (still available online) in which they were erroneously described as “political prisoners”.

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