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Media Analyses





BBC Corrects False Report


Update: March 13, 2008:  BBC forthrightly corrected its original  false report of the demolition of the Abu Dheim home. Click here for more. 

Updated: March 12, 2008

On Friday, March 7, 2008, the BBC’s World News with Jonathan Charles (seen in the U.S. on PBS stations as part of BBC America) aired footage purporting to show the demolition and burning of a house that belongs to the family of Ala Abu Dheim, the terrorist who murdered eight students and wounded nine others in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva (Rabbinical Seminary) .

Against footage of a bulldozer destroying a burning home, BBC reporter Nick Miles was heard in voiceover proclaiming:

In the hours after the attack, Israeli bulldozers destroyed his [the terrorist’s] family home. Later, his mourners set up Hamas and Islamic Jihad banners nearby.

Here are excerpts from the BBC report:

But the BBC allegation was patently false.

After being ordered by Israeli police, Palestinians take down flags used by the Islamic group Hamas in front of the home of Alaa Abu Dheim, who family members say shot and killed eight Israelis at a rabbinical seminary Thursday, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Friday March 7, 2008.  (AP Photo/Atta Awisat)

In fact, the  film clip selected by BBC staff could not possibly have been of the terrorist’s family home, as it is still standing (as of March 12) and, together with the nearby public mourning tent erected by the family, serves as a shrine dedicated to the "martyred" terrorist. That such a shrine is still allowed to remain in place has, in fact, prompted public outrage among Israelis and members of Knesset across the political spectrum. On Monday, March 10 – three days after the report aired – Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik (Labor) petitioned the Attorney General to order the demolition of the public tent and the terrorist’s family home.

Update, March 12: Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter has asked police to take the appropriate legal steps to allow them to demolish the home, and the Defense Ministry has been asked to clarify what legal steps must be taken. Dichter said, "the demolition of any home, particularly in Jerusalem, requires several legal examinations. I hope that eventually the justice system will allow such a move, but without its authorization we cannot carry it out." Yediot Aharonot)

Contrary to the BBC’s report, however, the only action taken at the time by Israeli police against the Abu Dheim home was ordering the removal of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah flags from the front of the house. To the right is an AP photograph showing Palestinians removing flags from the front of the Abu Dheim home. The photo was taken on Friday, March 7 – well after the time that the demolition was supposed to have taken place, according to the BBC report.

Below is a picture of the mourning tent, hung with posters of the terrorist, outside the home.  The photograph is dated Sunday, March 9 and shows Israeli police who have come to the home to question members of the terrorist's family.

Israeli policemen walk inside a special mourning tent set up in memory of Alaa Abu Dheim, who family members say was responsible for shooting and killing eight yeshiva students, in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Sunday March 9, 2008. The Israeli policemen came to the house of Abu Dheim in order to summon some of his family members for questioning in a police station.(AP Photo/Atta Awisat)

Below are several other AP photographs with captions taken on March 7  — well after the time the BBC alleged the destruction took place — showing Abu Dheim family members in front of or inside their undemolished home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palestinian relatives of Alaa Abu Dheim, who family members says shot and killed eight yeshiva students sit at the family's home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Friday March 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

 

A relative of Alaa Abu Dheim who family members say shot and killed eight Israelis at a rabbinical seminary Thursday, holds his photograph outside the family house in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Friday March 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Atta Awisat)

 

A Palestinian relative of Alaa Abu Dheim, who family members say shot and killed eight yeshiva students reads the Quran, Islam's holy book, at the family's home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Friday March 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

 

Palestinian relatives of Alaa Abu Dheim, who family members say shot and killed eight yeshiva students, mourn at the family's home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Friday, March 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill) Fatima, center, the mother of Alaa Abu Dheim, the gunman that killed eight yeshiva students is comforted by his sister, center left, as relatives watch a news story about Abu Dheim in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, Friday, March 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

The questions still remains—why did the BBC mislead its viewers by showing false "evidence"? And will the BBC now publicly correct its falsehood?

BBC's rush to judgement is consistent with its pattern of minimizing Israeli suffering while emphasizing Palestinian victimhood. After all, the BBC – far from being the impartial news organization it claims to be – is well-known for its biased coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. (See CAMERA critiques of the BBC.) This time, however, the BBC has gone a step further by offering false evidence of Abu Dheim's home demolition that had not even taken place. 

Update, March 12:  The film clip selected by the BBC looks remarkably similar to photos taken by the Palestinian Maan news agency said to depict the demolition of the house of Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed Shihada during an Israeli military operation in Bethlehem.on March 7, 2008.  (On March 12, Shihada was killed by Israeli counter-terror commandos.) The following picture and caption are from the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Israeli army bulldozers demolish the house of an Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed Shihada during a military operation in the West Bank city of Bethlehem early on March 7, 2008. (Luay Sababa/ MAANIMAGES/MAXPPP)

Updated: March 13, 2008

To BBC's credit, Geeta Guru-Murthy has forthrightly corrected the original false demolition  report on BBC World News, March 13 (seen on PBS at 8:25 AM EDT) as follows:

Now, we would like to clarify a report we heard at this hour last Friday about the attack by a Palestinian gunman on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem.  In the report, the day after the attack, BBC World said that the gunman's home in east Jerusalem had been demolished by the Israeli authorities.  That was not correct, and the images broadcast were of another demolition.

Still to be clarified are the underlying judgements and procedures that led the BBC to air this footage.


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