Makeover by BBC’s Knell produces ‘conservative’ northern Islamic Movement

On October 2nd two reports – one filmed (also broadcast on BBC television news) and one written – by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. Both relate to the same subject – an Arab-Israeli from Musheirifa in Wadi ‘Ara who was recently killed whilst fighting with an Al Qaeda-linked militia in Syria. 

Agbaria HP

Knell Agbaria filmed

In the written report, the BBC seems to have had a spot of bother deciding how to spell Mueid Juma’a Agbariya’s name, and so has apparently opted to include several versions.

Knell Agbaria

But beyond the actual story about Agbariya, no less interesting is Knell’s euphemistic description of the Islamic Movement – or as it prefers to be termed, the Islamic Movement in ’48 Palestine. In the filmed report Knell says at 1:25:

“People in this area are mostly observant Muslims. There’s a lot of support here for the conservative Islamic Movement in Israel, but the leaders of the group don’t support the decision by young men to go and fight in Syria. They say the priority should be the struggle for Palestinian independence at home.”

In the written report she states:

“The more hardline branch of the conservative Islamic Movement in Israel has a strong following in the north and officially supports the Syrian opposition.

However, its leaders have said they are focused on the Palestinian struggle for independence.

“It’s true that we support the Syrian revolution, but we believe the Syrian people can handle this responsibility alone,” the Islamic Movement’s deputy leader, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, said recently on Nazareth-based Radio al-Shams.

“We as Palestinians have a responsibility for what’s happening here and our own burning issues top our agenda. We don’t need to look for fights over the border.” “

Knell’s unsourced, generalised assertion that the residents of the Umm el Fahm municipal district – of which Musheirifa is part – are “mostly observant Muslims” of course does not necessarily support the linkage with political opinions that she implies.  In the last elections, the United Arab List – on which the southern branch of the Islamic movement runs (the northern branch rejects participation in the political process) – received 24% of the vote in Umm el Fahm whilst the far Left secular ‘Hadash’ party got 50%.


Knell’s efforts to persuade readers that the northern Islamic branch has a policy of confining itself to “the struggle for Palestinian independence at home” also seem distinctly bizarre in the context of the recent demonstrations the movement held in support of its parent movement in Egypt.

“More than 2,000 people affiliated with the Israeli branch of the Islamic Movement held a pro-Morsi demonstration in the Arab town of Kafr Kanna on Saturday.

The protesters were led by the movement’s leader Raed Salah. They held pictures of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and blocked the town’s main road.

“Morsi is head of state, we oppose the army, we oppose the revolution,” Arab-Israelis chanted in a rare show of support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Protesters also shouted that they would be willing to give their life for Morsi.”

But it is Knell’s euphemistic description of the Islamic Movement as “conservative” and her failure to inform readers of its ideology, its activities and its Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood links which stand out most in this article. Her ‘makeover’ actively prevents BBC audiences from gaining any information or insight which might “[e]nhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues” as defined in the BBC’s ‘Public Purposes’ .

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