Early on the morning of April 24th a report by Lucy Williamson was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page with the following headline:
The report itself carries a different headline – ‘West Bank: Brother of Palestinian killed in Hawara seeks answers’ – and in paragraph ten readers discover that, despite that unequivocal presentation on the ‘Middle East’ page, the identity of whoever shot Sameh al-Aqtash on February 26th is as yet unknown:
“It is not clear who fired the bullet that killed Sameh.”
Following the incident, some members of the al-Aqtash family accused IDF troops of shooting their relative. The IDF stated that it did not use live fire during the incident.
Williamson quotes a member of the family:
“Rashdan al-Aqtash said the residents of Zaatara – all part of the al-Aqtash extended family – were unarmed when confronted by the crowd of settlers on 26 February.
“They started throwing stones, and we pelted them with stones as well while shouting ‘Allah is Great’,” he said.
“In situations like this, the army usually fire tear gas to disperse people, and then rubber bullets, and finally they fire into the air. This time, they started firing live ammunition directly into the people.””
However another member of the family, in an interview given to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in February, had already contradicted the claim that tear gas had not been used:
“Al-Aqtash noted that some of the settlers carried guns. Then, he says, Israeli forces arrived at the scene and attempted to push both sides back, when severe clashes ensued. According to him, the army used live fire, tear gas and smoke grenades against the Palestinians.”
As noted on February 27th by the Times of Israel:
“The Palestinian Authority health ministry laid the blame for Aqtash’s death on “the aggression of the army and settlers.”
Haaretz said that the ministry did not specify the source of the shooting. “Aqtash’s family requested to bury him immediately, before an autopsy could be conducted in order to determine” the cause of death, the report said.”
Williamson’s report promotes extensive quotes from the executive director of ‘Yesh Din’ which she describes simply as an “Israeli human rights organisation”, with no effort made to inform readers of that NGO’s “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” as required by BBC editorial guidelines. Among those quotes is the following:
“Ziv Stahl says 93% of complaints filed with Israeli police regarding settler violence or ideologically motivated crimes are closed without indictments.
“It says something about the quality of the investigations and resources that only 7% of complaints end with indictments,” she told me.”
Notably, Williamson chose not to inform her readers that some of those who rioted in Huwara on February 26th have been placed in administrative detention and two people have been indicted in connection with a later incident in the same town.
The final paragraphs of Williamson’s report include the following:
“Violent confrontations and attacks between [sic] Palestinians and Israelis in the occupied West Bank have been rising for months.
The riots in Hawara – in which settlers torched houses, shops and vehicles – came hours after two brothers from a nearby settlement were killed by a Palestinian gunman on the main road passing through the town.
Since then, three British-Israeli women were killed when they were shot by suspected Palestinian gunmen as they drove through the Jordan Valley; an Italian tourist died after a car-ramming attack by an Israeli Arab in Tel Aviv; and a Palestinian teenager was shot dead during an Israeli raid near Jericho.”
Unsurprisingly Williamson’s account does not include any mention of the word terror despite the fact that the BBC knows that the perpetrator of the attack on the two brothers was a member of Hamas. Williamson also refrains from informing BBC audiences that two subsequent shooting attacks in Huwara were claimed by the PFLP terrorist organisation. As has been observed in other BBC content, she promotes false equivalence between the April 7th terror attacks – which she fails to name as such – in the Jordan Valley and Tel Aviv and the death of a Palestinian during violent rioting against members of the security forces engaged in a counter-terrorism operation.
As previously documented here, the BBC News website the attacks carried out by Israelis in Huwara on February 26th were the topic of three dedicated BBC news website reports (two of which are repromoted in Williamson’s article) and were also covered in the two additional reports on other topics. In other words, Williamson’s report – which does not provide any new information – is the fourth dedicated piece of content on that topic to appear in less than two months.