Jeremy Bowen’s Radio 4 hostage deal claims do not hold water

Previously we discussed one of several items concerning news of a deal to free some of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas that were aired on the November 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme:


Another related item in the same programme came in the form of a conversation between presenter Nick Robinson and the BBC’s international editor Jeremy Bowen (from 2:20:01 here) which was aired immediately after an interview with an Israeli spokesman.

During that conversation Bowen made the following claims: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Bowen: “Yeah, the point you made, Nick, is a good one: that Netanyahu could have had this deal weeks ago. I heard it from three strong diplomatic sources that the deal was on the table and the Qataris thought they were almost there on the eve of the ground invasion but the Israelis decided to go ahead with the ground invasion. And I think it is a variety of things: pressure from the Americans and pressure as well from hostage families…ah…to get them back. That has been growing in Israel with marches and meetings – difficult meetings between the government and its supporters and hostage families. And so I think they feel that they had to do this. They of course are arguing that it’s military pressure that did it but I think the point is there was something very similar on the table before that ground invasion.”

In other words, Bowen told domestic BBC audiences that his “diplomatic sources” in Qatar – the country which hosts Hamas leaders, has funded Hamas for years and controls Al Jazeera – told him that “something very similar” to a deal whereby 50 Israeli female and child hostages would be released over a period of four days in exchange for up to 150 female and under-18 Palestinian security prisoners not convicted of murder, a pause in military activity and the entry of supplies into the Gaza Strip “was on the table” prior to October 27th. That claim of course also infers that the IDF’s ground operation was unnecessary. 

Apparently Jeremy Bowen has already forgotten that on the evening of October 27th he reported the following:

Bowen: “What’s been happening is that the Qataris – the Gulf oil state – have been acting as an intermediary between Israel and Hamas and Egypt has been helping out as well. And we were getting information – actually earlier in the day – that things were moving in those talks. They were hoping they may get a positive result: some kind of hostage release, perhaps even a humanitarian pause, a ceasefire of some sort, in the next few days. And then all of this happened [the ground operation]. My information is that the talks had been stalling and, well, now they’re not happening at all for the time being and it’s unlikely that they will continue while this [the ground operation] is going on.”

While reports of Qatari efforts to persuade Hamas to negotiate some sort of a deal did emerge in the days after the terrorist organisation invaded Israel, brutally massacred hundreds and took over 200 Israelis and foreign nationals hostage, on October 9th a Hamas spokesman made it clear that – as has been the case for years – its aim was to secure the release of all the convicted Palestinian terrorists held by Israel, including those with blood on their hands.

“Abdel-Latif al-Qanoua, a spokesman for the terror group, said Monday that Hamas wants to “liberate all Palestinian prisoners” from Israel and end Israeli “provocations” in the West Bank and Jerusalem, particularly at Al-Aqsa Mosque.” [emphasis added]

On October 27th the Times of Israel reported that:

“Israel believes that Hamas has been dragging out hostage negotiations as a tactic to delay a ground offensive by the Israeli military into the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Friday.

The official said that despite leaks from Egyptian and Qatari officials over the past few days purporting significant progress in the talks to release a large number of hostages, no breakthroughs currently appear to be imminent. […]

Earlier Friday, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network reported that talks to release a large group of hostages were advancing and would include a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The report cannot be verified or corroborated.”

The Times of Israel also reported a statement made by Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip on October 28th:

“Sinwar said earlier that his terror group was ready to “immediately” swap with Israel in a deal “that includes “releasing all prisoners in the prisons of the Zionist occupation enemy in return for the release of all prisoners held by the resistance,” in a comment posted Saturday evening on Hamas media groups.” [emphasis added]

The same report included remarks made to a US media outlet by a spokesman for Qatar’s foreign ministry on October 28th:

“He stresses that the talks were “ongoing” […]

“We are talking around the idea of more hostages coming out, we’re talking about the idea of a prisoner exchange [sic],” al-Ansari said.

“We are optimistic that the dots are heading more toward all civilian hostages, but obviously it’s a fluid situation on the ground,” he adds.”

In other words, Bowen’s claim that a “very similar” deal to the one that emerged on November 22nd was already “on the table” before October 27th is not supported by the evidence, including his own previous reporting.

Notably, the BBC News website’s October 22nd live page includes the following entry at 13:32 – some five hours after Bowen had made his claims on BBC Radio 4:

However, that edition of the ‘Today” programme is still available online – and will remain so in weeks to come – with no effort made to inform listeners that Israel had “contacted the BBC to contradict” the claim made earlier by Jeremy Bowen.

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  1. says: Neil

    Jeremy Bowen for the dole queue along with his entourage of deceptive cohorts all of whom are an utter disgrace to journalism #defundthebbc

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