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Friday, 20 November 2015

Once Again BBC Changes a Headline to Conform to Israeli Government Demand

The Murder of a Hospital Visitor by Israeli Death squad is Changed to Arrest of Suspect

Brighton PSC Demonstration outside Radio Sussex
Even a child realises the truth!
Before (left) and after: a BBC headline was changed to obscure the fact Israeli killed a Palestinian in cold blood. (Screenshots by Media Lens)
On 12th November, an Israeli death squad entered Hebron hospital disguised as a pregnant Palestinian woman in a wheelchair and accompanied by minders.  They brandished weapons threatening medical staff and doctors and seized a ‘suspect’ from the hospital.
Demonstration outside Radio Sussex
In the process a cousin of the patient, who was unarmed and had just come out of the bathroom, was gunned down and killed.  No attempt was made to save him and the killers left him where he was. The lie was broadcast, which the BBC of course lapped up, that he had attacked a heavily armed military squad.  Unlikely in the circumstances.
Hospital Visitor Gunned Down by Israeli Death Squad
The death squad then made away with their kidnap victim.

As the article below from Electronic Intifada  shows, the BBC in a rare example of reporting an Israeli atrocity covered the story with a headline  “Israelis shoot dead Palestinian in Hebron hospital raid.”.  However this was too near the truth for the Israeli government’s liking and so the headline was changed later in the day, after Israel exerted pressure no doubt, to “Israelis in disguise raid Hebron hospital, seizing suspect.”.  The emphasis therefore changed from the murder of an unarmed Palestinian visiting a relative in hospital to ‘Israelis in disguise’ [Father Xmas?] raiding a hospital in order to arrest a suspect.
Doctors and staff at Makassed hospital protest at attack on hospital
Here is a major story on an Israeli atrocity and a breach of international  law.  What is the BBC response?  It didn’t cover it in its news broadcasts of course but even in the obscurity of the web it changed the headline to emphasise that it was a ‘suspect’ was was arrested, as if there is any chance that he will receive a fair trial under military law.
Israeli attacks on media in Occupied Territories - using pepper at journalists - not something the BBC ever covers
This is not the first time the BBC has done this.  Indeed it is becoming a regular occurrence.  In a story I covered in October Israel Demands a Changed Headline – The BBC Jumps to Obey exactly the same happened.
Death Squad Enters Hebron Hospital

A factual heading ‘Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two’ was changed, three times under Israeli pressure, to ‘Jerusalem:  Palestinian kills 2 Israelis in Old City’.

In a story Israel raps BBC for ‘unethical’ terror attack headline The Times of Israel reported that ‘A harshly-worded letter was sent to Richard Palmer, the head of the BBC bureau in Israel, by the head of the GPO after the British network initially published a headline that read “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.” 

The BBC’s offence was that the report referred to the two Israeli victims ‘in a passive voice and neglected to mention that the Palestinian casualty — Muhannad Halabi, 19 — was shot by police at the scene of the deadly attack, was widely condemned in Israel.’  

Demonstration in Queens Road Brighton outside BBC Radio Sussex
Naturally the BBC rushed to accommodate the Israeli Ministry of Propaganda’s desires but ‘head of the GPO [General Propaganda Office] Nitzan Hen told [the BBC’s Head of Bureau in Jerusalem] Palmer in the letter that the BBC’s efforts were “far from satisfactory.” The Times reports how
Brighton PSC Demonstration
 ‘Hen charged that the BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “unethical” and could serve to incite more violence against Israelis.

Officials in both the GPO and the Israeli Embassy in London asked the network to change the headline and it was changed at least three times, but each time to a phrase that did not accurately reflect the events of Saturday’s attack, the Hebrew language NRG website reported.'

The BBC responded by accepting that it’s headline wasn’t pro-Israeli enough.  The BBC“identified that the headline didn’t accurately reflect the events, nor the details reported in our online story, so changed it of our own accord.”

‘According to a GPO official, Israel expects an official apology from the network, and said the office was considering annulling the press cards of BBC journalists.’

You might now expect the BBC, which is not know for possessing a spine, would call a halt to this self abasement and tell the Israeli Propaganda Office where to get off.  Any self-respecting news agency would take umbrage at this threat and defy Israel to do its worst. After all that is what happened in Zimbabwe.  The BBC wouldn’t comply with Mugabe’s dictates and it had to report covertly or from South Africa.   But of course in Zimbabwe, the British government was at loggerheads with Robert Mugabe.  In Israel the British government is all over Netanyahu. 

The Times of Israel, in the best traditions of neutral Israeli journalism, reported that The [BBC] network, which has a long history of alleged anti-Israel bias, claimed in its defense that the headline in question was written by a junior editor and was not the result of an anti-Israel agenda.’  What the Times of Israel means by anti-Israel bias is not jumping quick enough when the Zionists kick up a fuss.

Tony Greenstein

How Israel pressures BBC into changing headlines

Amena Saleem Media Watch 19 November 2015

In the early hours of 12 November, approximately two dozen Israeli gunmen, one disguised as a pregnant Palestinian woman, others wearing fake beards, invaded a hospital in Hebron and gunned down a 28-year-old man.

In a rare burst of reporting on an Israeli atrocity, the BBC ran an article on its website headlined: “Israelis shoot dead Palestinian in Hebron hospital raid.”

It was a straightforward headline which summed up the story. But later in the day, a different headline appeared above the report, reading: “Israelis in disguise raid Hebron hospital, seizing suspect.”

As is standard practice for the BBC, the amendment was not noted at the bottom of the page, so newcomers to the story would not have known the headline had been altered.
It was spotted, however, by the watchdog Media Lens, which posted a screengrab of the two headlines on its Facebook page, asking: “What happened? Pro-Israeli flak? Bending to pro-Israeli pressure?”

These questions are even more pertinent in the light of a documented exchange which took place between the BBC, the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) and the Israeli embassy in London at the beginning of October about another of the broadcaster’s headlines.

Headline changes

The Times of Israel reported then on Israeli fury sparked by the 4 October BBC Online headline “Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.”

The headline is factually correct, but offense was caused to Israel’s PR machine because the killing of 19-year-old Muhannad Halabi took precedence in the headline over the slaying of two Israelis.

The Times of Israel wrote: “The [Israeli] Government Press Office on Sunday warned the BBC it could face sanctions for running a news headline highlighting the death of the Palestinian terrorist shot by the police Saturday after fatally stabbing two Israelis, rather than the attack itself.”

The website added that a “harshly worded letter was sent to Richard Palmer, the head of the BBC Bureau in Israel, by the head of the GPO,” and that “the Israeli Embassy in London asked the network to change the headline.”

Whatever the GPO’s harsh words were, they appear to have been enough to scare the BBC into changing the headline, which went through three alterations – documented by the Zionist lobby group BBC Watch – before it met with the satisfaction of the Israeli embassy and the Israeli GPO.

The Israeli-approved headline ran: “Jerusalem: Palestinian kills two Israelis in Old City.” 

(This headline has since been changed again, apparently unnoticed by either the Israeli embassy or the GPO, to “Israelis killed in Jerusalem, Palestinians banned from Old City.”)

In its report of 4 October, The Times of Israel noted: “According to a GPO official, Israel expects an official apology from the network, and said the office was considering annulling the press cards of BBC journalists, a decision that if implemented would not allow the network to continue operating in Israel.”

This is not an idle threat, and BBC staff know it.

“A very evil light”

In 2003, the Israeli government severed ties with the corporation, accusing it of the “worst of Nazi propaganda” after it broadcast the documentary Israel’s Secret Weapon which shed light on the country’s nuclear and chemical arsenal.

Danny Seaman, then head of the Israeli GPO, said it was “because of what we feel to be a bias and an anti-Israel line … that portray Israel in a very evil light.” Seaman said government officials would no longer help BBC journalists get expedited press accreditation.

When Orla Guerin, then a BBC Middle East correspondent, questioned Israel’s repressive attitude towards the corporation, she too found herself in the Israeli government’s line of fire.

In an interview with the London Evening Standard in 2003, she said, “How can you still be a democracy and try to harass the press? This is not how a democracy behaves.”

Guerin was later pulled from the Middle East, the decision being announced just days after the BBC’s director general at the time, Mark Thompson, returned from a visit to Israel in 2005 where he met with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Journalist Keith Dovkants, writing in the London Evening Standard in 2012, noted that “on [Thompson’s] return to London the corporation instituted the Middle East reporting regime that exists today and which, many believe, influenced the decision to refuse to show the charity aid appeal for Gaza.”

This is a reference to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal of January 2009, which was aired by major television channels to raise money for Gaza as another Israeli massacre there came to an end. But the BBC, in an unprecedented move, refused to show it.

Arthur Neslen, a journalist who worked at the BBC for four years, told me: “They take Israeli calls very seriously, and critical stories about Israel get shot down through official pressure and the fear of official pressure. These are very powerful lobbyists — people know their careers can be broken.”

Swedish academic and media expert Leon Barkho told Dovkants: “I have investigated this and I am convinced [BBC] policy is dictated from the top because of the enormous sensitivity … The message is: don’t antagonize the Israelis.”

And so the questions asked by Media Lens when the BBC amends a headline to soften public perception of an Israeli crime — “What happened? Pro-Israeli flack? Bending to pro-Israeli pressure?” – answer themselves.

It is a sad state of affairs for a news organization which prides itself as a leader in global journalism. BBC journalists and editors, it would seem, sit at their desks in London and cower in fear at the thought of an angry phone call from the Israeli embassy.

They let us all down, but, most of all, they let down the Palestinian people, whose cry for freedom goes unheard at BBC Broadcasting House, drowned out by the undemocratic machinations of the Israeli PR machine.

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