Examining the facts behind a claim from BBC Complaints

A number of readers have written to BBC Watch over the past months to inform us of the receipt of a template response to their complaints concerning the BBC’s portrayal of the surge of terror attacks against Israelis which began last September. That response from BBC Complaints – also sent in at least one case in reply to a complaint about another issue – includes the following:EG

“We appreciate you believe our coverage of this story has shown bias in favour of the Palestinians and against Israelis and the state of Israel. In this response we hope to explain why we feel this has not been the case.

Across our news bulletins and programmes we have reported on the increasing number of attacks committed by Palestinians on Israeli civilians and security forces. We have broadcast reports where our reporters have spoken to the families of Israelis and Palestinians killed in the recent violence and have heard their respective stories and own specific takes on the conflict.

For example, during BBC One’s News at Ten on 9 October we heard from Odel Bennet. She and her husband were attacked by a Palestinian in the Old City the previous weekend. She was seriously injured; her husband and a rabbi who intervened were both killed. During the report we showed amateur video footage of the attack. We then heard from Mrs Bennet who, from her hospital bed, spoke of her fear and pain, and described how Palestinian passers-by mocked and verbally abused her while she lay wounded on the street.” [emphasis added]

Indeed Orla Guerin’s report from October 9th did include a thirty-eight word-long interview with Mrs Bennett. As was noted here at the time, it then cut straight to an interview with the mother of a Palestinian youth accidentally killed during violent rioting near Bethlehem.

That interview with Adele Bennett was however the one and only occasion on which BBC audiences heard from Israeli victims of terror or their families in the six-month period between mid-October 2015 and mid-April 2016. Later in April Yolande Knell interviewed the sons of Yaakov Don in a filmed report and in May 2016 Jeremy Bowen interviewed Racheli and Shiran Dadon – the mother and sister of the most seriously injured victim of the April 18th bus bombing in Jerusalem – in written, audio and filmed reports.

In all, therefore, BBC audiences have had the opportunity to hear from one Israeli victim of terror and from members of the families of two additional victims. In addition to the above mentioned interview by Orla Guerin on October 9th, interviews with relatives of Palestinian terrorists or rioters during the same period of time have included:

11/10/15: interview with the father of terrorist Muhannad Halabi by Orla Guerin.

15/10/15: interview with the father of terrorist Hassan Manasra by Jeremy Bowen.

16/10/15: interviews with the father of terrorist Hassan Manasra and the cousin of terrorist Alaa Abu Jamal by Jeremy Bowen.

30/10/15: interview with the mother of terrorist Saad al Atrash by Yolande Knell.

30/10/15: interview (radio) with the mother of terrorist Saad al Atrash by Yolande Knell.

10/1/16: interview (radio) with another cousin of terrorist Alaa Abu Jamal.

23/4/16: interviews with the father of terrorist Izz al-Din Abu Shakhadam and the family of terrorist Amani Sabateen by Yolande Knell.

4/5/16: interview with the mother of terrorist Abdul Hamid Abu Srour by Jeremy Bowen.

4/5/16: interviews with thwarted terrorist Dima al Wawi and the family of Maram and Ibrahim Taha by Jeremy Bowen.

5/5/16: interview with the mother of terrorist Abdul Hamid Abu Srour by Jeremy Bowen.

In other words, whilst the claim from BBC Complaints that “our reporters have spoken to the families of Israelis and Palestinians killed in the recent violence” is true, BBC audiences have heard, read or seen considerably more interviews with the families of Palestinian attackers than they have from those of Israeli victims. That fact of course raises questions concerning the BBC’s adherence to its own editorial guidelines demanding “due impartiality”.

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