Not accurate, not impartial: BBC report on murder in Brosh HaBika’a

On October 11th a report titled “Israeli man beaten to death in West Bank settlement” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website, pertaining to the murder of Col. (res.) Sariya Ofer at his home in Brosh HaBika’a in the early hours of that day.

Roughly an hour later, the title was changed to “Palestinians held after Israeli man killed in West Bank” and that headline stands in the current version of the report available to visitors to the website. 

BBC report Brosh

The first two versions of the report claimed that:

“The attack took place at around 01:00 (22:00 GMT) at the Shadmot Mehola settlement…”

That claim was later changed to read:

“The attack took place at around 01:00 (22:00 GMT) at Brosh Habiqa resort, part of the West Bank settlement of Shadmot Mehola.”

In fact, Brosh HaBika’a – a former Jordanian army base which later served as a facility for the Israeli army before being converted into a tourist resort – is located 4.3 kilometers south of the collective moshav of Shadmot Mehola. According to its website, Brosh HaBika’a is run by the private company ‘Keren Energiot 2002 Ltd’ – not by Shadmot Mehola. 

Brosh

The BBC report goes on to say:

“The incident happened in a part of the Jordan Valley which Israel captured in the war of 1967 where the construction of Israeli homes and businesses is widely considered a breach of international law – something Israel does not accept, says the BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem.”

Whilst this phrasing may be perceived as something of an improvement on the standard BBC mantra (according to which “Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this”), it nevertheless fails to adequately inform BBC audiences of the existence of other legal opinions on the subject which support the view of the Israeli government. In addition, audiences are not provided with any factual supporting information which would explain Kevin Connolly’s tendentious interpretation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention as prohibiting the establishment of businesses.

The report neglects to inform BBC audiences that Brosh HaBika’a and the other villages in the Jordan Rift Valley are located in Area C according to the terms of the Oslo Accords – which were of course willingly signed by Palestinian representatives – and hence come under Israeli control according to those internationally brokered and supported agreements. Likewise, no mention is made of the fact that final status negotiations to determine – inter alia – the status of Area C (including the Jordan Rift Valley) were truncated by the Palestinian Authority’s decision to launch the second Intifada in September 2000. 

Towards the end of the report we find a paragraph which is phrased in such a way as to imply to readers that there is reason to question Israeli definitions of terror attacks – including the murder of Tomer Hazan, which the perpetrator admitted was intended to extort the release of a relative imprisoned for terror offences. 

“The dead man is the third Israeli to be killed in what Israel characterises as “terror attacks” in the last month in the West Bank. Two serving soldiers have also died.” [emphasis added]

The article ends with the words:

“Israel security officials quoted in the local media have not appeared to detect a pattern in the sudden increase in the level of violence, but at least one right-wing member of the cabinet has said Israel should respond by ending peace talks with the Palestinians, our correspondent adds.”

Interestingly, no mention is made of recent statements (unreported by the BBC) by leaders of Palestinian terrorist organisations calling for a third Intifada and the fact that the Israeli security services reported a rise in terrorist incidents in September goes unmentioned. 

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