BBC News misleads audiences on administrative detention

On August 5th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel jails suspected Jewish militant without trial“.Admin det Meir art orig

The original version of the article – which remained in situ for around seven hours – was illustrated with two photographs previously used in the BBC’s reports on the July 31st terror attack in Duma and its opening lines were as follows:

“Israel has taken the unusual step of jailing a suspected Jewish militant without trial following the death of a Palestinian infant in an arson attack.”

Readers might therefore naturally have assumed that the detention is connected to the attack in Duma and that impression was strengthened by later statements appearing in the article.

“The use of such [administrative detention] orders against Jews suspected in Friday’s arson in the West Bank was among new measures approved on Tuesday by Prime Minister Prime Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet.

The attack killed 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian toddler, and severely injured three relatives in the West Bank village of Duma.

The child’s parents and four-year-old brother were seriously injured in the attack, suspected to have been carried out by Jewish settlers.”

The amended version of the article (the changes can be viewed here) uses a different main photograph which has nothing to do with the report’s subject matter and actually dates from September 2012.  The second photograph from Duma appears in this version too and although the language in the second version is slightly more ambiguous, readers would again understand that the detention which is the topic of the report is connected to the July 31st arson in Duma.Admin det Meir art vers 2

“Israel has taken the unusual step of jailing a suspected Jewish militant without trial, amid a tightening of measures against Jewish extremists.

The use of such orders against Jewish militants was approved on Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet.

The measure was taken in the wake of an arson attack which killed an 18-month-old Palestinian, Ali Saad Dawabsha, and severely injured his parents and brother in the West Bank village of Duma on Friday.”

However, this case is not connected to the Duma attack at all. Both versions of the BBC report inform readers that:

“Mordechai Meyer, a resident of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, has been placed under administrative detention for six months.

He is suspected of violent activity as part of a Jewish terror group.”

Whilst it is correct to say that an administrative detention order was issued for Mordechai Meyer (also spelt Meir) on August 4th, the BBC does not inform audiences that Meyer – from Ma’ale Adumim – was among five suspects arrested in July on suspicion of involvement in the arson at the church in Tabgha in June or that at the time that his arrest was publicized on July 29th, the security services already announced that “administrative steps” would be taken against him and others.

“Indictments have been filed against two of the group (Yinon Reuveni and Yehuda Asraf); administrative steps will be taken against the other three.”

Although BBC News covered the story of the June 18th arson at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee in written and filmed reports (“Jesus miracle church in Israel damaged ‘by arson’” and “Fire destroys Jesus miracle church in Israel“), it did not report on the related arrests when they were announced. Had it done so, it would perhaps have avoided misleading readers of this report by implying a connection between the administrative detention of Meyer and the attack in Duma.

Both versions of this report inform BBC audiences that:

“Israel has used administrative detention against Palestinians but not against Jewish suspects.”

That claim is inaccurate, as shown by examples such as Tali Fahima (2004), Ephraim Khantsis (2010), Noam Federman (1996, 2003 etc) and Baruch Ben Yosef (1980), Neria Ofen (2005) and others.

Clearly that inaccuracy needs urgent and prominent correction.


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