Last July the BBC News website published an article (which later had its inaccurate headline amended) concerning an incident which had taken place ten days earlier near the Qalandiya checkpoint.
The vast majority of the word count of that article was devoted to amplification of allegations made by the political NGO B’tselem. In addition, readers were directed to the B’tselem website and to its Youtube channel via two separate links but, in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, no attempt was made to provide them with information concerning the NGO’s political agenda.
“In a statement, B’Tselem said the footage showed Col Shomer’s claim of self-defence was “unreasonable”.
“There is no doubt that the shattering of the jeep’s front window with a stone endangered the passengers when it happened. However, Kasbeh was shot in the back after the fact, when he was already running away and posing no ‘mortal threat’ to the soldiers. Feeling a sense of danger is not enough to justify any action.”
The rights group also noted that the video contradicted the IDF’s claim that Col Shomer had carried out “suspect-arrest procedure”.
“Military open-fire regulations permit shooting at the legs of a suspect in order to facilitate his arrest. They do not permit killing him by firing three shots at his upper body,” it added.”
The article also included substantial promotion of claims made by “witnesses” (including a fellow perpetrator of the rock throwing attack) and a relative of the deceased, such as the one below:
“Thaer Kasbah, the dead teenager’s brother, told the Associated Press that it was clear from the video that Col Shomer “wanted to kill him”.”
Together, the allegations from B’tselem, “witnesses” and the relative made up 85.5% of the article whilst statements from the IDF concerning the incident were allotted 14% of the total word count.
The investigation into that incident has now been completed.
“The Military Police opened an investigation into the incident to determine if Shomer had acted appropriately in the situation.
According to the IDF, Shomer had not intended to kill al-Kasbeh, and meant only to hit him in the legs in order to stop him, something that is permitted under army protocol.
The IDF chief prosecutor’s office found that Shomer had acted in accordance with the army’s rules of engagement, though it did fault the colonel for a “professional error in the way he discharged his weapon.”
“The IDF chief prosecutor found that the weapons discharge, under the framework of the arrest protocol, was justified from the circumstances of the incident,” the army said in a statement.
Shomer missed the suspect’s legs and hit him instead in the back because he “fired his weapon while in motion, and not in a static position,” the army said.
In light of that evidence, the prosecutor determined that the colonel’s actions were not criminal and did not merit full legal proceedings, according to the army’s statement.”
Whether or not the findings of that investigation will be afforded the same prominence on the BBC News website as B’tselem’s redundant allegations were given nine months ago of course remains to be seen.