Source of 2012 BBC story on faux Israel ‘briefing document’ in racist tweet row

Over the years, quite a few mainstream media organisations have been taken in by various notoriously imaginative ‘scoops’ published by the American anti-Zionist blogger Richard Silverstein.

Readers may recall that in August 2012 (before the launch of BBC Watch), the BBC joined those dubious ranks by publishing two written items on its website based on Silverstein’s false claim to have acquired a “briefing document” which allegedly detailed Israel’s plans to attack Iran “sometime before November 6th [2012]”, as he told the BBC in an additional audio interview with the World Service which is appended to both reports. Silverstein audio

One of the written reports was titled “Israel ‘prepared for 30-day war with Iran’” and the other was a piece going under the title “‘Leaked Israel memo’: propaganda or Iran war plan?” by BBC diplomatic/defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus. Both those items are still available on the internet – as is the audio interview – and the BBC responded to criticism at the time by bizarrely defending its decision to run stories based on a fictional document. 

Seven months later, in March 2013, we noted here another report by Jonathan Marcus on a subject which had also featured in a Silverstein article. Mr Marcus took umbrage and responded in our comments section.

BBC source Richard Silverstein has recently been in the news yet again. For more on that saga – which will probably not come as much of a surprise to those familiar with the record of the “American journalist” as he was described by the BBC World Service – read our colleague Adam Levick’s reports over at CiF Watch – see (in chronological order) here, here and here.

This latest row certainly reinforces the impression that insufficient critical thinking was employed by the BBC before the use, promotion and amplification of material from a source with a clear political agenda.


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