Jon Donnison’s breach of BBC editorial standards unravels

Several days ago we noted here the part played by the BBC’s Jon Donnison in the creation of a story published in the NY Magazine in late July, according to which Hamas was not involved in the kidnappings and murders of the Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Frankel on June 12th.Donnison

Donnison claimed on Twitter that an Israeli police spokesman had told him that whilst the Hebron-based cell which carried out the kidnappings and murders was affiliated with Hamas, it was operating alone and did not receive direct orders from Hamas leadership. Donnison’s claims became the one of the bases for a widely circulated article saying Israel now conceded that the kidnappers acted alone and Hamas had nothing to do with it.

BBC Watch (along with others) contacted police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld who told us the following in relation to Donnison’s claims:

“I said and confirmed what is known already, that the kidnapping and murder of the teens was carried out by Hamas terrorists from the Hebron area and the security organizations are continuing to search for the murderers.” 

Donnison responded by saying he stood by his earlier Tweets.

Donnison tweets police spox

What was the point of the NY Magazine article in which Donnison played a lead role and of Donnison’s own Tweets on the topic? The aim was to ‘prove’ that Operation Protective Edge was not justified, and that was achieved by promoting false linkage between the kidnappings and the operation, suggesting that the latter was Israel’s reaction to the former and even that Israel has used the kidnappings as an excuse to act in the Gaza Strip. In fact the operation began after weeks of serious escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip and the ground operation as a result of Hamas’ use of cross-border attack tunnels.

But if Donnison and others could show that Hamas in Gaza had no link to the kidnappings they falsely touted as the reason for the operation, then they could present Israel’s actions as unjustified and Hamas as the wronged victim acting in self-defence against unwarranted Israeli aggression.

That theory – as shown here by Professor William Jacobson – gained significant traction in certain circles.

On August 5th the following information was released into the public domain. [translation BBC Watch]

“Today (Tuesday) it was permitted to publish that in the case of the kidnapping and murders of the three youths Gilad Sha’ar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frankel, Hussam Kawasme was arrested on July 11th at the home of a relation in Anata. He obtained the funding to carry out the terror attack from Hamas members in the Gaza Strip. He was arrested by the Yamam [counter-terrorism] unit in light of information from the ISA.

With the discovery of the bodies, Hussam Kawasme left his house, hid and intended to disappear to Jordan using forged papers, with the help of his family. During his interrogation he admitted that he operated as the leader of the terrorism and kidnapping operations [carried out by] Marwan Kawasme and Ama’ar Abu Aiysha who have not yet been caught. In that role, Hussam secured funding for the terror attack from Hamas members in the Gaza Strip and admitted that he purchased weapons, which he passed on to Marwan Kawasme.”

 Hussam Kawasme has yet to be charged and stand trial and it can be assumed that during that process more information about the case will come to light.

But as far as the BBC is concerned, what should matter about this story is that – using the BBC’s reputation for reliability as back-wind – one of its employees misrepresented statements provided to him because he is a BBC correspondent in order to promote a politically motivated version of events designed to influence public opinion on the topic of Israel’s actions.

That, of course, is activism – not journalism – and the BBC clearly needs to respond appropriately to this latest breach of its editorial standards by Jon Donnison.

But will it do so? Its own report on the arrest of Hussam Kawasme (“Palestinian arrested over murder of Israeli teenagers” – August 6th – BBC News website) states:

The killings set off an escalating cycle of violence and led to a conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip that has so far claimed more than 1,900 lives.

The report concludes:

“Israeli officials have said Marwan Qawasmeh and Mr Abu Aisha are known Hamas operatives, but the group has denied any involvement. Some have argued that the Qawasmeh clan might have acted on its own.”

Jon Donnison’s flouting of supposed BBC standards of impartiality is obviously not an isolated problem. 

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