Despite more than 30 Palestinians, almost half of them children, being killed by Israel in the first two weeks of October, the BBC’s reporting has focused on the far fewer attacks which have been carried out against Israelis. The BBC has also refused to place October’s events in the context of the occupation. Many of the aspects of its pro-Israel reporting can be found in a Q&A on the BBC website, headlined Is social media driving Israel-Palestine violence?
This Q&A is reproduced below, in sections, along with PSC’s analysis of each section. Our analysis shows how the BBC carefully constructs its reporting to portray Israel, the occupier, as the victim, and the Palestinians, the occupied, as aggressors.
The BBC says:
Is social media driving Israel-Palestinian violence?
Violence between Israel and the Palestinians is once again spiralling, with casualties mounting by the day.
Here are some key questions and answers about what is going on.
What is happening between Israelis and Palestinians?
There has been a spate of stabbings and gun attacks on Israelis by Palestinians since early October, and one apparent revenge stabbing by an Israeli.
The attacks, some of which have been fatal, have struck in Jerusalem and in northern and central Israeli cities and towns, and in the occupied West Bank.
Israel has tightened security and clashed with rioting Palestinians, leading to deaths on the Palestinian side.
There has also been associated violence in the border area inside the Gaza Strip
In answer to ‘what is happening between Israelis and Palestinians’, the BBC ignores the occupation, Palestinians killed by Israelis in the West Bank before ‘the spate of stabbings and gun attacks on Israelis by Palestinians since early October’ (19 West Bank Palestinians killed between January and September 2015), the siege and occupation of Gaza (more than 700 Israeli attacks on Gaza between August 26 2014 and September 2015), and the closure of Al Aqsa to Palestinians during Jewish New Year in September. These are all ignored by the BBC, which decides to start its narrative with Palestinian attacks on Israelis.[This mirrors BBC reporting in 2014, when it decided that Israel’s July/August onslaught on Gaza was provoked by the killing of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinians in the West Bank. Every BBC article and broadcast gave this – an act of violence by Palestinians – as the starting point and reason (by implication, a justified reason) for the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza which followed.]
The BBC’s answer to ‘what is happening’ does not dwell on the fact that Palestinians, as well as Israelis, are being killed. And in far greater numbers. To date, since 1 October, 32 Palestinians have been killed and eight Israelis. More than 2,000 Palestinians have been injured (far more than the number of Israelis injured).
However, the BBC article begins very clearly by stating that it is Israelis who have been subject to attacks – a whole ‘spate’ of them, says the BBC. Some ‘have been fatal’, the BBC adds, and goes on to list areas where it says Israelis have been attacked by Palestinians.
In contrast, according to the BBC, Palestinians have not been actively subjected to attacks by Israelis. Israel, says the BBC, has had to tighten security in the face of Palestinian aggression, the Palestinians have rioted, provoking clashes and ‘leading to Palestinian deaths’.
‘Leading to Palestinian deaths’ is all the BBC has got to say about the 32 Palestinians killed in 15 days by Israel – at least 13 of whom have been children, aged from two to 18 (and including a 10-year-old, 13, 14, 15 and 16-year-old) and a woman who was five months pregnant (neither she, nor her two-year-old daughter were involved in ‘clashes’. They were at home when Israel killed them, contrary to the BBC reporting in this article)
What the BBC is saying is that the Palestinians are to blame for their own ‘deaths’. And it makes these ‘deaths’ seem incidental to the real issue for the BBC, which is Israelis being attacked and killed.
Why are no numbers given? Numbers which would show how Palestinian deaths outnumber Israeli deaths during this period? Why does the BBC ignore the huge numbers of Palestinian children being killed? And why does it ignore the video evidence which shows how some of the Palestinians labelled as attackers weren’t attacking at all? Once again, the BBC allows Israel to get away with cold blooded murder and the execution of Palestinian children.
On 9th October, Israeli soldiers killed seven Palestinians in Gaza. The BBC reduces this to ‘associated violence’ in the Gaza Strip, showing a blatant disregard for providing real information to its audience.
The BBC also fails to make any distinction between the kind of violence faced by Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians are facing a high-tech army and heavily armed settlers, settlers who have the protection of the army when they attack. The Israelis are facing mainly stones and knives, and the occasional gun, from a population under occupation. And yet this article presents the Israelis as the victims.
Finally, the BBC makes no distinction between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem. The BBC refers to ‘the occupied West Bank’. However, East Jerusalem is also occupied Palestinian territory, as is Gaza, but you wouldn’t know it from this BBC Q&A.
The BBC says:
What’s behind the latest unrest?
After a period of relative quiet, violence between the two communities has spiralled since clashes erupted at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site in mid-September.
It was fuelled by rumours among Palestinians that Israel was attempting to alter a long-standing religious arrangement governing the site. Israel repeatedly dismissed the rumours as incitement.
Soon afterwards, two Israelis travelling with their four children were shot dead by Palestinians in the West Bank. Two days later the stabbing attacks began.
Both Israel and the Palestinian authorities have accused one another of doing nothing to protect each other’s communities.
Israel says the Palestinian leadership is inciting attacks, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas blames “acts of aggression” by the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers for causing the latest violence.
There is no such thing as a ‘period of relative quiet’ for Palestinians. They are living under a brutal military occupation and constantly under attack, whether from Israeli soldiers or settlers. (130 settler attacks on Palestinians in the first week of October).
Again, the only focus for the BBC is Israel. Because things have been relatively quiet for Israel, the occupier, the BBC applies this to the situation in general. It is staggering bias.
And it is a method of reporting – reporting which ignores constant Israeli aggression against Palestinians – which allows the BBC to pin the shooting dead of two Israelis in the West Bank as a starting point for the violence in October.
The BBC says:
Are the attacks being driven by social media?
While there is no clear evidence that the attacks have been centrally organised, Palestinians have taken to social media to celebrate and encourage them.
In the wake of the first attacks, Hamas, the militant group which dominates Gaza, published a video online showing Arabs how to knife Jews. The staged scene, set to dramatic music, depicted two “Jews” bullying Arab children, before an Arab bystander knifes them both.
The clip was removed from Hamas’ YouTube channel after Israel’s foreign ministry complained that it glorified violence and incited more attacks. Other posts praising and encouraging attacks on Israelis have also emerged on YouTube and Facebook, while Twitter hashtags including “Jerusalem Intifada” or “Intifada of the Knives” are gaining traction on Palestinian social media.
Many of the attacks and aftermath have been filmed on mobile phones and CCTV, getting quickly uploaded and shared. Israeli officials have expressed fear that images of assailants being shot could fuel anger and inspire further attacks.
The question itself is insulting. Responsibility for what is happening lies with the occupation, but the BBC will try and allocate responsibility and blame anywhere except Israel, even resorting to trying to make social media a culprit.
The bias also lies in the BBC’s decision to highlight only Palestinian ‘glorification’ of violence.
This video shows an Israeli mob chasing 19-year-old Fadi Alloun through the streets of Jerusalem on 4th October and shouting ‘Death to the Arabs’ and ‘Shoot him, bi***’ to Israeli police who appear on the scene. Alloun is blocked in all directions and shot dead.
Israel later claimed that Alloun had a knife. The video clearly shows he didn’t. This was a racist lynching, an execution of a teenage boy in which Israeli civilians and Israeli police participated. The BBC, which has dutifully reported all of Israel’s claims of stabbing attacks in its reports, has not used or mentioned this video in any of its reports, and fails to do so in this Q&A.
As an additional point, Alloun had not seen his mother or brother for 18 years as Israel refused to allow them to return to Jerusalem after visiting his dying grandfather in Jordan. This is the true face of the occupation, an occupation the BBC chooses to ignore as much as it can, and which from it tries to shift the blame for any violence, putting the blame, instead, on the occupied Palestinians.
However, the BBC never puts any blame on Israel for the violence it commits. Israel merely tightens security measures to protect itself and this happen to lead to Palestinian deaths, as far as the BBC is concerned.
The following are examples of Israeli Facebook pages and Twitter posts inciting murder against Palestinians, which the BBC has chosen not to highlight during previous ‘periods of unrest’:
Kill a Palestinian every hour
Next time you kill an Arab boy, call me and let me torture him
There are many, many more. The point is, they never receive any attention from the BBC – which also ignores regular racist incitement against Palestinians from Israeli politicians – because the image they give isn’t the image the BBC wants to portray of Israelis and Israel as peace loving victims.
The BBC also chooses to ignore statements by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, made on 11th October, that Israel is ‘deliberately killing’ Palestinians. Such statements, made by international human rights group, destroy the idea of Israel as an innocent victim, and are ignored in BBC news reports.
Palestinians, however, are regularly portrayed by the BBC as loving and glorifying violence, particularly in its documentaries/Panorama programmes.
Another attempt to remove responsibility from the occupation is the last sentence in this BBC answer, which gives an Israeli line that sharing images on social media could fuel further attacks.
The simple fact is that Palestinian resistance is not fuelled by social media, it is fuelled by the occupation. However, the BBC will not even examine this as a line of journalistic inquiry in its allegedly impartial Q&A.
The BBC says:
Is this a new Palestinian intifada?
There have been two organised intifadas, or uprisings, by Palestinians against Israeli occupation, in the 1980s and early 2000s.
With peace talks moribund, some observers have questioned whether we are now seeing a third.
The stabbing attacks seem to be random and opportunistic and although they have been praised by militant groups and supporters of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction on social media, Mr Abbas has said Palestinians are not interested in a further escalation.
However, there is a danger that the attacks could gain momentum and become orchestrated by militant groups, and beyond any control of the recognised authorities.
Again, this is all about Palestinian violence, not about Israeli violence. There is no questioning by the BBC as to whether the Israeli violence and closing of Al Aqsa could have been orchestrated by the Israeli government as part of its campaign of occupation and cementing East Jerusalem as part of an undivided Israeli Jerusalem. That Israeli violence is a deliberate part of the Israeli occupation would never be a line taken by the BBC, even as just a line of journalistic questioning.
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