Redundant framing in BBC radio reporting on Jerusalem terror

Previously we have reviewed coverage of the November 23rd terror attacks in Jerusalem on the BBC News website and in early reports on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio:



As the day went on, listeners to those two radio stations heard additional reporting from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell which included some notable similarities in the language used as well as themes also seen in the previous reports.

Those themes include the failure to explain the factors behind the rise in the number of terror attacks such as the lack of Palestinian Authority control in certain areas, the promotion of false equivalence between terror attacks and counter-terrorism operations and the absence of any clarification of the fact that the “more than 130” Palestinians killed to date includes a high proportion of terrorists and/or people engaged in violent rioting against Israeli forces at the time, whereas the overwhelming majority of the Israelis and foreign nationals killed since March were civilians.

An additional theme found in the BBC News website report was the promotion of redundant linkage between the terror attacks and the unrelated topic of post-election coalition talks.

A news bulletin aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on November 23rd [from 03:39 here] told listeners of a lower number of people injured than had already been reported by the local media at the time of broadcast. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “A 16-year-old boy has been killed and more than a dozen other people injured in two explosions at bus stops in Jerusalem. Israeli police have blamed Palestinian militants for what they suspect were coordinated attacks. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports from Jerusalem.”

Knell: “The twin blasts struck half-an-hour apart during the morning rush hour. Two bags containing explosives had been left at bus stops. Unconfirmed reports say they were detonated remotely. Bombings were a feature of the second Palestinian uprising which began more than two decades ago but Jerusalem hasn’t seen one in seven years. In response to these attacks there was praise from Palestinian armed groups but none said its members were involved. This escalation comes as Israel’s veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu negotiates to form a new government with far-Right allies after an election that centered on security.”

Five hours later the number of wounded people was again reduced by ten in a report on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ [from 11:53 here]:

Newsreader: “Two bombs planted at bus stops in Jerusalem have killed a 15-year-old boy and injured more than a dozen other people in the first such attack in the city since 2016. Israeli police have described the two blasts as a terror attack and blamed Palestinian militants. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell, who’s in the city, reports on the explosions and the aftermath.”

Knell: “[recording in Hebrew] ‘There’s just been a huge explosion’ a caller tells the Israeli emergency services just after a second blast targeting a busy bus stop during this morning’s rush hour. Israeli police say these were powerful devices detonated remotely. While armed Palestinian groups including Hamas praised the attack, none has said its members were involved. For many here this brings back bad memories of the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s which saw a series of deadly bus bombings. [recording in Hebrew] ‘We have here an outline of an attack that we haven’t seen in many years’ the Israeli police commissioner Kobi Shabtai said. ‘At the moment we can’t tell if it was one terrorist or a group that split’. The latest escalation comes as Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiates to form a new government with his far-Right allies. Visiting the wounded in hospital, he promised to restore security. There’s been a recent surge in violence, particularly in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli army increased its raids after a series of deadly gun and knife attacks in Israel. In total at least 25 Israelis and more than 130 Palestinians have been killed.”

Listeners to the afternoon edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ [from 14:05 here] similarly heard presenter Razia Iqbal refer to “more than a dozen” people injured but this time the number was subsequently corrected by Knell.

Iqbal: “To Israel now and news of something that has not happened in the country for several years. There have been two explosions at bus stops in Jerusalem which the Israeli authorities are blaming on Palestinian militants. They suspect the attacks were coordinated. A 16-year-old boy has been killed and more than a dozen other people injured. Let’s speak to our correspondent Yolande Knell who joins us now live from Jerusalem. What more can you tell us about what’s happened today, Yolande?”

Knell found it necessary to portray the Jerusalem neighbourhood in which one of the explosions was detonated as a “settlement”:

Knell: “Well just now we’ve been having a funeral for…ultra-Orthodox Jews gathering for the funeral of this 16-year-old Canadian Israeli, a Jewish seminary student. So more than 20 people wounded as well in these two explosions that happened in the rush hour near to bus stops: one at an exit for Jerusalem, another at a junction in an Israeli settlement on the outskirts of the city. And Israeli security sources are blaming Palestinian militants, saying that these were powerful explosive charges; quite high quality, to use one official’s words. That suggests there was an organised cell responsible. Sources are saying that they detonated these devices remotely and so accordingly they’re looking for suspects. But as you were suggesting there, I mean to put this in perspective, while Israel did see these repeated deadly bus bombings – usually suicide attacks by Palestinian militants – in the second Intifada or uprising in the early 2000s, there has not been a coordinated attack like this for years. It’s brought back very painful memories for people.”

Listeners then heard a convoluted and opaque portrayal of the anti-terrorist fence:

Iqbal: “And the reason why it…those attacks have not happened is to do with the way in which Israelis built the infrastructure – the physical infrastructure on the ground – to prevent people from coming in, is that right?”

Knell: “I mean certainly that’s what…erm…Israeli security officials say; that the creation of the separation barrier…ehm…in and around the West Bank is something that made it much more difficult for Palestinians from the West Bank to come into Israel and carry out those attacks of course and controls that have been put in place; a blockade around Gaza as well. But also a lot of security work that goes on behind the scenes. We’re told that in recent years there have been more than 30 attempted bombings that were thwarted by Israeli security services.”

Given that the BBC has for years failed to inform audiences of statistics showing the anti-terrorist fence’s proven track record of preventing attacks while at the same time ‘impartially’ promoting Palestinian claims of a “land grab”, that statement by Iqbal is particularly remarkable. Also notable is Knell’s recognition of counter-terrorism operations which the BBC usually refrains from reporting. Knell went on:

Knell: “Ahm…I mean it’s also to do with politics as well; a lot of things in the background. I mean to say about what’s been happening today, there has been praise from Palestinian militant groups, from Hamas and others. They haven’t said at the moment one of their members was responsible. They’re linking what’s happened to tensions in East Jerusalem and around settlements in the West Bank.”

Indeed, as reported by the Jerusalem Post:

“The two bombing attacks in Jerusalem are not related to the results of the Israeli elections, but came in response to the ongoing Israeli security crackdown in the West Bank and visits by Jews to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound (Temple Mount), Palestinian sources said on Wednesday.”

Nevertheless, Knell proceeded to once again promote the unrelated theme of coalition talks:

Knell: “But all of this is just happening at such a sensitive time because you have the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiating with his allies, including these far-Right parties, to form a new Right-wing government expected to be the most Right-wing government Israel’s ever seen. This was an election in which security featured very high up on the agenda. That added support for the far-Right. So Benjamin Netanyahu’s been visiting a hospital with the injured today, saying he’ll do everything he can to restore security. ‘The battle against terror has lifted its head again’ he said. We’ve also had the far-Right extremist Itamar Ben Gvir – a man who wants to be a minister responsible for police – going out saying he wants tough action against militants.”

One can be very confident that Ben Gvir did not use the standard BBC euphemism “militants”.

Knell closed her report with more promotion of equivalence between Palestinian terror attacks against civilians and Israeli counter-terrorism operations.

Knell: “And you know, on top of this it’s just a time when tension’s been rising so high in the West Bank in particular for months. I mean going back to March when Israel saw some of its most deadly attacks in years by Palestinians, by Israeli Arab citizens. Since then there have been these Israeli military raids in the West Bank nearly every night. The UN says it has been the most deadly year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005. So now there’s so many tensions going on. You can see this is going to raise tensions further.”

It has been clear for months that the BBC’s ongoing failure to provide its audiences with information about the multiple factors which lie behind the rise in violence emanating from Palestinian Authority controlled areas in Judea & Samaria has already hampered audience understanding of these and other terror attacks. In addition, the BBC’s insistence on repeatedly framing this news story as being linked to Israeli politics is nothing more than a distraction from the real background to the story.

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  1. says: Sid+Levine

    Knell lives inside the Jerusalem Municipal border in Beit Safafa, but presumably holds a PA certificate of citizenship. How can she be accredited to hold an Israeli Government Press Card – let’s hope the new minister of Internal Security will take steps to curtail her activities

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