BBC News uncritically promotes framing from inadequately presented source

On December 8th the BBC News website produced three items of content relating to social media video clips of adult men detained by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip that had emerged the previous day.

The first of those reports – a filmed item by Jeremy Bowen – comes with a warning.

The synopsis to that filmed report – titled ‘Gaza: Video appears to show Palestinian men stripped and detained by IDF’ – reads as follows:

“Video circulating on social media shows dozens of Palestinian men stripped to their underwear kneeling on the ground and being guarded by Israeli soldiers.

The images are thought to have been filmed in the town of Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza.

London-based news outlet The New Arab said one of its journalists, Diaa Al-Kahlout, had been arrested in the area, along with relatives and “other civilians”.

A spokesman for The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that “IDF fighters and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officers detained and interrogated hundreds of terror suspects. Many of them also turned themselves in to our forces during the past four hours”.

The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has this assessment of the images.”

In that report, Bowen promotes statements from unidentified “Palestinian diplomats”:

Bowen: “Palestinian diplomats said these were savage images, evoking humanity’s darkest times.”

He also tells BBC audiences that:

Bowen: “One of the captives, Diaa Al-Khalout, is a journalist. He was forced to leave his disabled daughter, according to the newspaper he works for in London.”

The second report published on December 8th (and updated several times in the following six hours) was written by Paul Adams and is headlined ‘Video shows stripped Palestinian men detained in Gaza’. It includes the above filmed report by Jeremy Bowen and readers discover the identity and source of the statements from the “Palestinian diplomats” (plural) promoted by Bowen: [emphasis added]

“In a post on social media, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK described the footage as “savage images of Israeli occupation forces detaining and stripping civilians taken from a UN shelter”.

“This evokes some of humanity’s darkest passages of history,” Husam Zomlot said.”

Readers may recall that in 2020 the BBC acknowledged that Husam Zomlot is the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK rather than an ambassador:

“We have spoken with senior staff about your concerns. We acknowledge the point that Husam Zomlot is not strictly speaking an ambassador, although the phrase is in common parlance in the media. We will remind editors of his actual title, but it is clear from our wider reporting that the UK does not recognise Palestine as a state.”

Nine of the twenty-nine paragraphs in Adams’ report are devoted to the same Palestinian journalist named in Bowen’s report:

“One of the men identified as having been detained is a well-known Palestinian journalist, leading his employers to accuse Israel of carrying out “invasive searches and humiliating treatment” of civilians. […]

Palestinian journalist, Diaa al-Kahlout, a correspondent for al-Araby al-Jadeed, has been identified among those who were in the video of the detainees.

The Arabic language news outlet, which also publishes in English under the name the New Arab, said Mr al-Kahlout had been arrested along with his brothers, relatives and “other civilians” by Israeli forces in Beit Lahia.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed has condemned what it describes as the “humiliating” detention of Mr al-Kahlout on Thursday.

It added that soldiers forced the men to remove their clothes and “subjected them to invasive searches and humiliating treatment upon their arrest, prior to transporting them to undisclosed locations”.

The outlet “urges the international community, journalists’ rights defenders and watchdogs, and human rights bodies to denounce this ongoing assault” by Israel on journalists in the territory.

A colleague of Mr al-Kahlout, Palestinian journalist Lamis Andoni, told Radio 4’s PM programme on Friday that a number of prisoner had been released – but not Mr al-Kahlout.

Ms Andoni said those freed told Mr Kahlout’s family that he had been transferred to Zikim military base in Israel. The BBC has not verified this claim.

“We have no idea about his fate. The photos and videos of these men is horrifying. I’m shocked,” she said, adding that her media outlet was liaising with Israeli forces via the UN.”

The third report was published on the evening of December 8th under the headline ‘Palestinian recounts being stripped and driven away by Israeli army’. Credited to Ethar Shalaby and Shereen Youssef of BBC Arabic, it includes the following:

“One of the detained men, Diaa al-Kahlout – who has not been released yet, according to a colleague – is a correspondent for The New Arab, or Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, a London-based pan-Arab outlet.

Some of those later released told al-Kahlout’s family that the journalist had been transferred to Zikim military base in Israel, according to Lamis Andoni of The New Arab.

“We have no idea about his fate,” she told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme. “The photos and videos of these men are horrifying. I’m shocked.”

Describing Mr al-Kahlout as very ambitious, she said he “always had a smile on his face, but like many Gazans, felt suffocated”.

Ms Andoni said her outlet was speaking to Israeli forces through the UN. She said the IDF’s suggestion the men were just suspects and that forces needed to investigate them was “not a good answer”.”

Despite all that extensive and unquestioned promotion of claims made by ‘The New Arab’ and one member of its staff, none of those three reports informs BBC audiences that the “London-based pan-Arab outlet” is – as the BBC itself reported in 2014 – a Qatari owned operation founded by former Balad MK Azmi Bishara who fled Israel in 2007 after having been charged with treason. The BBC’s own profile of Qatari media describes Al Araby TV – the television channel owned and launched by the same Qatari company – as “largely aligned with the Qatari government”.

The absence of that information from all three of these BBC reports is of course particularly relevant given that Qatar is the country which has hosted Hamas leaders and has funded Hamas for years.

Had that highly relevant context been provided, BBC audiences would of course have been much better placed to put that extensively promoted framing by ‘The New Arab’ of attempts to apprehend terrorists – from a terrorist organisation with a long record of using explosive vests who were hiding among the civilian population – into its appropriate perspective.

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  1. says: Robert Wiseman

    This picture shows the capture of Hamas Fighters who were saved to live another day. The men in shorts confirm that nobody is wearing a suicide vest. This picture also confirms Victory over Hamas fighters, so if the Hamas supporters feel out raged than the picture brings home the fact that Hamas fighters have an option in this war, surrender or die for a cause that deprives your life and future.

  2. says: Sid

    So typical of Tim Davies BBC – just write and tell him at
    and the acting chairwomen
    It is enough of this nonsense when the BBC becomes overtly concerned with comments from the PA representative in UK (Note address 5 Galena Rd, Hammersmith, London) who is so concerned about humanity when it was Hamas who killed 1200 on 7/10 and kidnapped hundreds. The man needs, together with the BBC scum, to be silenced.

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