BBC response to complaint about report criticized by MP and former BBC chair

As readers will recall, a BBC News report by Orla Guerin broadcast on October 11th was the subject of criticism from Sir Eric Pickles MP and from the BBC’s former chairman, Lord Grade, prompting reports in the mainstream media in the UK and in Israel.Guerin filmed 11 10

That same report by Orla Guerin was also the topic of a complaint submitted to the BBC by a member of the public. Here is the response received.

“Orla Guerin’s report looked at the increasing violence from both sides of the conflict. During the live introduction to her report from Jerusalem she mentioned recent Palestinian casualties, but also pointed to the stabbing of three Israelis in the city of Hadera [the attack was actually near Gan Shmuel – Ed.]. Orla emphasised that this was the third such attack on Israelis that weekend.

While reporting on the Israeli Defense Forces’ strike in Gaza, Orla Guerin reflected Israel’s position that the IDF were targeting a weapons facility following a rocket attack into southern Israel. The report also went on to mention Israel’s security forces stopping a potential attack on the road to Jerusalem earlier that day. We believe we reported clearly on the threat of violence faced by Israelis on an increasingly regular basis. 

Orla Guerin then spoke to the father of Muhannad Halabi, the Palestinian who was shot dead by Israeli security forces after he attacked an Israeli couple in the Old City in Jerusalem the previous weekend. She clearly described Halabi as a “Palestinian law student, turned killer”. She went on to describe the attack, where Halabi stabbed an Israeli couple, killing the husband and a rabbi who intervened. Viewers were given a clear account of what Muhannad Halabi had done.

BBC News tries to report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an accurate and duly impartial manner. Sometimes this means we can’t always reflect the full extent of the complexities of the conflict during one standalone report. We try to tell the story of the conflict as experienced by both sides, across programmes and bulletins and over time.Guerin filmed 9 10

With this in mind, you may not be aware of Orla Guerin’s report during the News at Ten two day before the report being discussed here was shown. This report showed video footage of Muhannad Halabi’s attack on the Israeli couple in the Old City. Orla also spoke to the injured wife of the man killed by Muhannad Halabi. From her hospital bed, Odel Bennet spoke of her fear and pain, and of the poor treatment she endured by Palestinian passers-by while she lay wounded on the street after the attack.

BBC News has reported extensively on the escalation in violence in recent weeks and we’ve heard from those affected from both sides of the conflict. We feel we have allowed our audience to make up their own minds, but we’re sorry to read you felt this wasn’t the case on this occasion. We’ve raised your complaint with senior editorial staff at BBC News and we would like to assure you that your feedback is very important to us.”

The earlier report by Guerin cited in this response (in which she told BBC audiences that al Aqsa Mosque is “sacred to Jews” and that stabbing attacks on Israelis are “new”) was discussed here.  

One does hope that Sir Eric Pickles and Lord Grade will receive a more substantive response.

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