BBC acknowledges misstatement on Rachel Corrie but refuses correction

When do words not mean precisely what they say? The answer, for the BBC at least, is when the question involves Israel.

EI reader Michael Clayton sent us the response he received from the BBC to a complaint he made about the network’s coverage of the 28 August court verdict exonerating the Israeli state of responsibility in the death of Rachel Corrie.

Clayton’s complaint was prompted by Amena Saleem’s excellent critique of BBC coverage which pointed out that:

BBC Radio 4’s World at One program ran a seven-minute segment on the court’s decision, including an interview with Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev.

Partway through this interview, the BBC presenter, Martha Kearney, made this astonishing claim: “Clearly Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day, and I know Israeli soldiers died too.”

Except, there’s no evidence Israeli soldiers died that day. There is ample evidence, as Saleem showed, that the only other victims on the day Corrie died were two Palestinian civilians, in a week in which Israel killed 27 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 7 children.

So, Clayton wrote to the BBC through its online complaints form.

BBC response

In its response to him – which appears to be a form letter that was likely sent to others as well – the BBC acknowledged that Kearney made the statement but claimed:

She [Kearney] did not intend to imply that Israeli soldiers were killed on the same day as Rachel Corrie’s death. Her question was actually an attempt to focus on the issue of the bulldozing of Palestinian homes. But we acknowledge this could have been made clearer and that her question could have been better phrased.

In other words, the BBC seems to have conceded that Kearney’s statement is false, but it is now trying to claim that she meant something different – even though her words are clear and unambiguous.

If the BBC can’t show that any Israeli soldiers died on the day Rachel Corrie was killed, why can’t it simply acknowledge that Kearney said something that wasn’t true and offer a straightforward correction?

BBC response in full

Dear Mr Clayton
Thank you for contacting us regarding ‘The World at One’ broadcast on 28th August.

We are aware of online lobby activity on this issue.

The programme broadcast an interview with Rachel Corrie’s father, Craig, who described the court’s finding as “outrageous…it’s almost as if the judge just simply let the attorneys for the defence write his opinion” and said he planned to appeal against the decision.

Martha Kearney then interviewed the Israeli Prime Minister’s spokesman Mark Regev. During that interview, Martha Kearney questioned Mr Regev about why the bulldozer driver was unable to see Rachel Corrie, citing the evidence of fellow activist Tom Dale who had toldthe Court, “..the bulldozer went towards her very slowly. She was fully in clear view, straight in front of them wearing a bright orange high visibility jacket”. She also raised with him the view of Rachel Corrie’s mother that it wasn’t a fair trial because “the Israeli state has worked extremely hard so that the truth behind what happened to my daughter is not exposed.” Martha also said:

“Clearly Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day - and I know Israeli soldiers died too - but has this meant there’s a rethink of the policy of what was happening at that time - bulldozing Palestinian houses?”

She did not intend to imply that Israeli soldiers were killed on the same day as Rachel Corrie’s death. Her question was actually an attempt to focus on the issue of the bulldozing of Palestinian homes. But we acknowledge this could have been made clearer and that her question could have been better phrased.

We hope this clarifies the issue for you.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints

Tags

Comments

picture

I got the same reply even though I asked specific questions. So did a friend who also complained via the BBC website.They did not respond to individual complaints or questions. Almost worse was the dismissive & condescending line in the reply, "we are aware of online lobby activity on this issue" I have rewritten to them requesting an on air apology & retraction. I am not holding my breath...

picture

It's always the same. Entrenched, unaccountable power wears it's ethos fashionably and is committed only to itself. How else could it be so blithe when challenged and so irrational when revealed for what it is?
The 'Fourth Estate'; lofty words for a profligate sycophant with the means to be so much more...

picture

The BBC is british brainwashing coorporation full of lies, propoganda, miss statement and pro - israel with mainly concentrating on showbiz and sports. I dont know why we are all made to pay the Tv License fee no one in my family ever watch the crap on bbc.

picture

For the BBC to say "we are aware of online lobby activity on this issue" devalues a complaint and even implies it is part of a sort of spamming of the BBC. At least this is how the sentence comes across. Can Martha Kearney, a respected and decent broadcaster, really be happy with her erroneous remark and the way the BBC has handled the complaints about it? The BBC's complaints procedure seems to be deteriorating.

picture

But you are part of a lobby, spamming them withn complaints. Can't you think for yourselves?

The BBC is publicly funded, that means you're wasting public money everytime you persist with nonsense with this.

You should also know that there is a complaints process, you don't email the presenter or the Cjhair of the Trust direct.

This complaint is going nowhere, its beyond silly. She clearly didn't say that Israeli soldiers died that day, the statement makes no real material difference to the interview or listeners understanding. When human beings speak the words don't always come out perfectly.

If this is what gives you the perception the BBC is 'brainwashing' people, fankly it devalues any opion or campaign you promote. And it questions your rationality a bit too.
You must have more important causes surely?

picture

What I'd like to know is who wrote this reply to the complaint? How do they know what Kearney meant to say? Should not it be Kearney who replies to complaints as he is the one that made the mis-leading assertion? Since when did word complaint become lobby? Clearly, I think there needs to be a complaint over the quality of the complaint reply.

picture

I made complain over BBC Panorama "dead in the Med", for been, as usuall, BIAS BBC still didnt give the appropaite response. Rapper on BBC Radio had the word PALESTINE been cut it out from his song. You can check on you tube.Rechal Corrie been killed, and BBC only care about defende and protect Israel. Why do we paid the TV licence?

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.