BBC Reporter: Genuine Eyewitness or Palestinian Propagandist?
The BBC’s “From Our Own Correspondent” program broadcast on Radio 4 and published on BBC Online allows BBC journalists the opportunity to report their personal reflections from a particular event or location. Sometimes this removes the charade of objectivity that the BBC claims to uphold, most famously in the case of Barbara Plett’s tears for Arafat.
Now, the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool reports from Ramallah, where he includes this dramatic story:
One weekday last year, at about three in the afternoon, Israeli armoured jeeps moved into the centre of Ramallah, pulling up outside the most popular hummus cafe.
In full view of passers-by, including children on their way back from school, the troops dragged a man in his early 20s out of the cafe. He was a wanted militant. They shot him – first in the legs, then stomach, then his head.
Within minutes, the “Palestinian reflex” had kicked in. Schoolboys piled into the area to throw stones at the soldiers until they left. As we arrived, the troops fired back with live bullets, injuring four people, before the jeeps sped out of the city.
In the next paragraph Maqbool implies that he was an eyewitness to this incident, which is portrayed as an IDF “execution”:
Once the army had gone, I have to say, I was a little surprised to see grown Palestinian men standing by the side of the road, weeping and hugging, and teenagers who’d been throwing stones, breaking down.
Maqbool appears to be describing the death of Palestinian terrorist Omar Abdel-Halim. CAMERA, however, investigated media coverage of this incident and discovered countless contradictions between the accounts of so-called Palestinian “eyewitnesses”, Palestinian NGOs and media outlets, which could not even agree on the correct name of the terrorist.
While Maqbool claims that the man was dragged out of a cafe, Ha’aretz, The New York Times and AFP all reported that a firefight had broken out between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen. The Financial Times, meanwhile, reported that “witnesses said Halim was in civilian clothes, wore a holstered service weapon and was carrying an AK-47 as he left the Nazareth restaurant” in Ramallah. Was Halim “dragged” out of the restaurant as Maqbool claims?
Maqbool claims that “Israeli armoured jeeps” were present. The FT report, however, refers to “a white van bearing Palestinian number plates” from which Israeli troops exited.
According to the IDF:
The force identified Abed Al-Halim aiming his AK-47 assault rifle at them and opened fire at him. Abed Al-Halim attempted to flee the scene. Forces fired at him once more and identified hitting him. The soldiers ceased fire at the moment Abed Al-Halim no longer posed a threat to him. …
During the operation, shots were fired and stones were hurled at the Border Police force, which responded with warning shots and specific fire at an identified source of fire. The IDF has received no information regarding civilian injuries and no such claims were registered with the DCO.
Perhaps it is not clear exactly what occurred during this incident. What is clear from CAMERA’s investigation, however, is the patent unreliability of Palestinian eyewitnesses and sources along with the media’s apparent willingness to report conjecture as fact.
So, is the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool a genuine eyewitness to these events in Ramallah a year ago? And if so, which version of this contradictory story is he prepared to stick by? Or is he simply regurgitating the Palestinian version designed to cause maximum damage to Israel’s image in a minimum number of sentences?
Typical of the BBC’s reporting is the failure to provide adequate context to its stories or to verify unreliable sources. If the BBC is prepared to make such a serious allegation of an IDF “execution”, then the least its reporter can provide is hard facts and background material, which was severely lacking in this particular story.
Please write to BBC Complaints – http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints – and ask if Aleem Maqbool can clarify his version of events that day in Ramallah. (Please remember to include the program “From Our Own Correspondent”, the story hyperlink and the appropriate date, 3 June 2008.)
(With thanks to CAMERA for its original investigation and assistance.)
BBC’S CHRONOLOGICAL INVERSION
Amnon Rosenberg, 51, was killed on 5 June, the third fatality from Palestinian mortar fire from Gaza in a month, as terrorists hit Kibbutz Nir Oz in the western Negev. In response, the Israeli Airforce targeted Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, which tragically claimed the life of a 4 year old Palestinian girl as an airstrike missed its target.
However, in a clear case of chronological inversion, the BBC’s report “Two dead in Gaza-Israel attacks” only mentions as far down as the fourth paragraph that “The attack, which also injured two women, came after Palestinian militants shelled an Israeli kibbutz, killing a civilian and wounding four others.”
Why does the BBC fail to make clear the chronological order of events? Thus, the BBC fails to differentiate between terrorists who initiated the attack with intent to kill civilians and those who responded in self-defense, seeking to protect their civilians.