BBC Arabic’s record of omission on the targeting of Israeli civilians

A post by CAMERA Arabic.

On October 16th the Telegraph published a report by Victoria Ward titled ‘BBC programme questions whether Hamas massacre took place’.

“A BBC programme has raised questions about whether the Hamas massacre at Kfar Aza kibbutz had really taken place. […]

Trending, a programme on BBC Arabic, suggested there were different versions of the story and that even Jeremy Bowen, the corporation’s Middle East editor who went to the scene, was simply repeating what he had been told by Israeli forces.

The original BBC headline said: “Hamas rejects accusations that its gunmen carried out atrocities in the Israeli Kfar Aza village.”

The headline was later changed before the entire report was removed from the BBC website, and later from YouTube.

A BBC spokesman said: “This report was quickly removed from BBC output as it failed to meet our editorial standards.

“It should not have remained on YouTube, it has been taken down and we are looking into how it remained accessible.” 

The Telegraph’s report does not include any explanation from that BBC spokesman as to how an item which the BBC admits failed to meet its editorial standards saw the light of day in the first place. Readers are told that:

“Reporting on the attack at Kfar Aza, Serena Ghokeh, a BBC Arabic presenter, suggested that reports of a massacre had come from Israeli soldiers but that there were different versions of the story.

She introduced testimony from a local woman whose life had been spared by Hamas fighters as proof of a counter narrative. […]

Ms Ghokeh, who is based in London, went on to state that the commander of the Israeli military division that went into Kfar Aza had described how some victims were beheaded.

She said there were pictures of Hamas fighters who were also killed and that such images “reflect a different picture” from the testimonies of the Israelis. […]

“The Hamas movement said in a statement that ‘in its operation, it targeted the Israeli military and security system’,” she added.

“It rejected accusations that it had committed violations and added that the Western media must be accurate and not blindly side with the Zionist narrative, which is full of lies and slander.

“Al-Qassam targeted the military and security system, which is a legitimate target, and the video clips from the field and the settlers’ witnesses confirm that civilians and children were spared.””

The report quotes CAMERA Arabic:

‘“Between September 2022 and June 2023, we documented six reports in which the BBC itself admitted that its Arabic service wrongfully omitted the practice of targeting Jewish civilians in Israel, thus prompting necessary corrections to the output.”

Those six reports – along with two other cases which the BBC refused to correct – are as follows:

CASE NO.1 – September 11th, 2022 (see here): BBC Arabic radio omitted Nasser Abu Hmaid’s past convictions – 7 counts of murder: six of Israeli civilians and one of a police officer. The BBC then acknowledged that West Bank correspondent Eman Eriqat should have included that fact in her report:

“We accept that during the radio interview with BBC Arabic’s Ramallah correspondent Iman Ereikat on Sunday 11th September, she should have explained the background of Nasser Abu Hmeid and why he is serving a jail sentence […] This has been discussed with our correspondent in order to avoid these mistakes in the future.”

CASE NO.2 – September 26th, 2022 (see here): BBC Arabic’s obituary of  the Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf Qaradawi omitted the fact that he supported killing Israeli civilians. After a month, the BBC acknowledged the error and corrected it:

“The editors of the Service accept your complaint about the line in question in the article which we have amended to say that Qaradawi supported suicide attacks against ‘Israelis’ (and not Israeli soldiers).”

CASE NO.3 – October 26th 2022 (see the Jewish Chronicle website here): BBC Arabic aired the Palestinian folksong “Mother, there is a knock on our door”, without mentioning the fact that it glorifies a 1970s terrorist who fired rockets at civilians and takes pride of it to this day (see CAMERA Arabic’s subtitled video here for more details). The BBC refused to remove the segment, replying to the JC’s inquiry as follows:

“We don’t believe the Dunyana episode […] condone[s] violence.”

CAMERA Arabic filed a complaint. BBC Arabic then took down the video but both its editors and ECU are of the opinion there’s nothing wrong with it and are still threatening to reintroduce it back to the news cycle “in due course.”

CASE NO.4 – October 29th-30th 2022: a case of selective reporting. On Saturday night, October 29th, a shooting attack in Kiryat Arba killed Israeli civilian Ronen Hanania and on the afternoon of the next day a car ramming attack on the Dead Sea highway moderately wounded two IDF soldiers and lightly wounded three others. On both occasions, the Palestinian perpetrators were shot dead at the scene.

BBC Arabic only covered the second incident. Thus, it completely ignored the one in which an Israeli civilian (not a soldier) was the fatally (not moderately) wounded victim. The BBC refused to correct [emphasis added]:

“We do not accept that the coverage of BBC Arabic is selective and that it omits stories about Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians. The latest such example were last week’s twin bomb attacks in Jerusalem which were reported/covered on all BBC Arabic platforms by the Service’s correspondent in the city.

“BBC Arabic endeavours to cover the news fairly and impartially. We may at times miss some news of attacks by both Palestinians and Israelis. This is never selective but rather a consequence of any combination of issues connected to competing events, resources, timings, etc.

CASE NO.5 – November 15th 2022: a BBC Arabic report misrepresented the previous weeks’ violence as “between Israeli forces and Palestinians”, omitting the fact that Israeli civilians had been continuously targeted throughout this entire period. The BBC acknowledged the error and corrected it:

“We accept that the phrase ‘between Israeli force[s] and Palestinians’ may be misleading and have amended the text to ‘between the Palestinian and Israeli sides’.”

CASE NO.6 – December 18th 2022: BBC Arabic’s translation of an English report about Salah Hammouri’s deportation to France, omitted one sentence from the English language original: the one which mentioned that he was tried and imprisoned for attempting to assassinate a prominent Israeli rabbi (Ovadia Yosef). Notably, nearly all other Arabic-speaking Western media outlets which covered the story included that important detail. The BBC acknowledged the error and corrected it:

“The editors of BBC Arabic […] accept that the piece published on their page contained inconsistencies with the English version. This has been remedied and the article now contains the line that Al-Hamouri was jailed for six years in 2005 after being accused of attempting to assassinate an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and political leader.”

CASE NO.7 – December 20th 2022: BBC Arabic once again omitted Nasser Abu Hmaid’s past convictions of seven murders, this time in an online report. The BBC acknowledged the error and corrected it:

“The text has now been amended to refer to Abu Hmeid as a “prisoner” with the addition of the fact that he was serving a life sentence for his role in killing Israelis during the second Intifada”

CASE NO. 8 – June 22nd, 2023: Four civilians killed in a terror attack were labeled “soldiers” and their deaths were described as the result of “clashes […] between Palestinian and Israeli forces.” The BBC belatedly acknowledged the error and corrected it:

“The editors of the Service reviewed the article […] they accept that the four Israelis killed should have been described as civilians and have amended the article accordingly. […] It now reads:

‘The West Bank is witnessing an escalation in violence as over the past seven days Israeli forces killed 14 Palestinians, including armed militants and civilians and Palestinian militants killed 4 Israeli civilians.’”

As we see, there is nothing at all novel about attempts by BBC Arabic to downplay attacks on Israeli civilians.

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  1. says: john in cheshire

    To recall what James Delingpole once said:
    The bbc should be razed to the ground and the land on which it stood salted over.
    Hear,hear, says I.

  2. says: Grimey

    The BBC gladly reports any utterings by Hamas and/or Palestinians that are anti-Israel – but never reports any truths uttered by Israel and/or the IDF. It is so blatantly against Israel that even politicians are accusing it of bias and incitement to kill Jews.

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