BBC implies Palestinian dead are Israeli

The everyday violence of the Israeli occupation is almost always ignored by the BBC, even while it focus on Israeli deaths.

Mahfouz Abu Turk APA images

A fresh Israeli onslaught against Palestinians began at the start of October, resulting in almost 50 Palestinians killed in just under three weeks.

Nearly 10 Israelis were slain during that same period.

While extreme and sustained Israeli violence against Palestinians is a routine feature of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, just as predictable is the BBC’s coverage of it.

And so it comes as no surprise to witness the BBC focusing almost exclusively on Palestinian attacks on Israelis while presenting Israel, not only as the victim, but the sole victim of October’s violence — while mentioning Palestinian fatalities only in passing.

A prime example this week was a segment on the BBC’s flagship radio news program Today. On 19 October it broadcast a four-minute chat between veteran presenter John Humphrys and one of its Middle East correspondents, Kevin Connolly.

With 42 Palestinians killed at that time, and thousands more injured in attacks by settlers and soldiers, Humphrys began his conversation with Connolly like this: “Yet another attack on Israelis last night. This time an Arab man with a gun and a knife killed a soldier and wounded 10 people. Our Middle East correspondent is Kevin Connolly. The number is mounting, isn’t it Kevin? The number is about 50 now, isn’t it?”

Not only does Humphrys’ introduction make it sound as though only Israelis are being attacked, he quite extraordinarily implies that the 50 who had been killed since the beginning of the month were all Israelis.

Connolly doesn’t correct him. He instead adds: “We think around 50 dead over the course of the last month or so, John. This sudden sharp uptick of violence; not just that attack at the bus station in Beersheva, inside Israel itself, but also, on Saturday, a wave of stabbing attacks in Hebron and in Jerusalem.”

Concern for the occupier

The Middle East correspondent corroborates the presenter’s estimate of “around 50 dead” but fails to mention that all but eight of them were Palestinian, including young children, and allows the idea that all the victims are Israeli to remain floating in listeners’ minds.

He then backs this up by talking about the “uptick of violence” with his subsequent references to attacks on Israelis in Beersheva, Hebron and Jerusalem.

The two continue in the same vein for four minutes, only ever referring to Palestinians as attackers of Israelis, never as victims of Israeli violence.

Midway through, Connolly launches into an emotive description of Israeli fear of Palestinians.

The “very random and spontaneous nature of the attacks,” he says, “has left many Israeli citizens feeling that any Palestinian passing them in the street might be carrying a knife, might be planning to attack them. Any passing car might at any moment be used as a vehicle against Israeli civilian pedestrians.”

Palestinians in the West Bank suffered more than 130 settler attacks in the first week of October alone and, in Gaza, have endured more than 700 Israeli attacks since a ceasefire was signed on 26 August last year. But they are unlikely to ever have their fears of armed settlers and soldiers described with such understanding by Connolly.

Connolly’s concern is for the occupiers, not the occupied. That there have been any Palestinian fatalities at all is only given a passing mention in the very last sentence of this two-way conversation. Connolly tells Humphrys that “individuals are taking the decisions to stage these attacks for reasons we’re often left to guess at because, of course, the attackers often die in the course of the attack.”

Palestinian deaths ignored

The Palestinians, then, are “attackers” only, and they just happen to “die in the course of the attack.”

The reality, which Connolly does not want to go into, is that Palestinians are being gunned down by Israeli soldiers and settlers. And not just “in the course of the attack.”

Connolly chooses to ignore the growing video evidence which shows that several of the Palestinians shot dead or wounded by Israeli soldiers over the last three weeks have not posed any danger, despite Israeli claims to the contrary.

He chooses to ignore condemnation of these killings by human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem.

He chooses not to criticize Israel for shooting dead suspected attackers rather than arresting them and putting them through a proper trial.

And he chooses to ignore the fact that the toddler Rahaf Hassan and her pregnant mother, Nour, were not attacking anyone when Israel hit Gaza with an airstrike on 11 October, killing them both. Or that 14 of the Palestinians killed in October were shot dead in Gaza.

And he chooses to pretend that we cannot possibly know why Palestinians are so frustrated that some of them are attacking Israelis — Israelis who occupy their land, who demolish their homes, who raid their refugee camps at night and drag their children, terrified, from their beds and into detention.

Israel as victim

For the BBC’s audiences, Palestinians must be presented only as attackers: attackers who deserve what they get, and their violence must be presented as random and inexplicable to the rational observer.

The choices made by Connolly and Humphrys in this odd conversation, which was neither a news item nor an interview, but felt more like a little interlude for Israeli propaganda on Today, are mirrored elsewhere in the BBC’s reporting.

A BBC Online article, insultingly headlined “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?“ purports to provide “some key questions and answers about what is going on.”

The BBC’s answer to “what is going on” is, of course, given entirely from the Israeli perspective of Israel as victim, Palestinians as crazed attackers.

The first question asked is: “What is happening between Israelis and Palestinians?”

Echoing Humphrys’ introduction on Today, the BBC article begins: “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.”

It adds: “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.”

Again, what is happening between Israelis and Palestinians is not the occupation, as far as the BBC is concerned, but Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

In fact, the BBC does everything it can to take responsibility for what is happening away from the occupation and Israel. According to the BBC’s coverage, Israel does not actively attack Palestinians. It merely “tightens security,” and this happens to “lead to Palestinian deaths.”

Specific numbers, which would make it shockingly clear that Palestinian fatalities far outnumber those on the Israeli side, are not given. The killing of 14 Palestinians in Gaza is reduced to “associated violence.”

“Israelis hurt”

This concern for the occupier is highlighted in the article with a graph titled “Stabbing attacks on Israelis by Palestinians.” The graph uses statistics dating back to December 2014.

There is no graph showing Israeli settler and soldier attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank during the same period.

If there was, it would show countless attacks and 47 fatalities – 19 Palestinians in the West Bank killed between January and August 2015 – a figure which would shoot up if fatalities in Gaza were included.

But the BBC does not like to bring its audience’s attention to the pain Israel inflicts on the people it holds under occupation.

On the morning of 10 October, Marwan Barbakh, 10 years old, and Khalil Othman, 18, were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. Their slayings were not covered anywhere on the BBC.

Instead, the BBC Online headline for the day was: “Jerusalem attacks: Israelis hurt in two Palestinian stabbings.”

That evening the Palestine Solidarity Campaign highlighted this extraordinary omission on its social media sites, particularly Facebook, and asked people to send complaints to the BBC.

An hour later, the BBC changed the headline to “Israeli-Palestinian violence continues” and began the article with news of the killing of the two Palestinians in Gaza. It could not bring itself to humanize the youths, however, by providing their names, and the rest of the article continued with details of stabbing attacks on Israelis.

Similarly, when the toddler Rahaf, and her mother Nour, were killed in their Gaza home, the BBC did not name them when it mentioned their deaths in an online article, nor did it report on the grief of their family as it might have done had they had been Israeli.

The horror of their killing was not reflected in the headline and it merited only two sentences in an article which, again, focused on detailing Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

It is disgraceful that a news organization which has a commitment to impartiality written into its charter chooses to show such open concern for Israelis under attack while, at the same time, displaying a near disdain for the killing of occupied Palestinians.

Yes, the BBC’s Israel-centered reporting and the way it rallies behind the occupier at times like this is predictable, but its reports are watched, heard and read worldwide, and the global dissemination of this shocking bias should concern us all.




Those who deny Palestinian suffering, who turn a blind eye to occupation, siege and oppression as causes for the intifada, possess the same mentality as those who deny the holocaust.


I have submitted a complaint and I copy a transcript of the broadcast below.

Humphries – 21 minutes to 7 - Yet another attack on Israelis last night. This time an Arab man with a gun and a knife killed a soldier & wounded 10 people. The number is mounting, it’s about 50 now isn’t it?
No mention that 40 of them Palestinians – including executions
Kevin Connolly: We think about 50 in the past month. Sharp uptake of violence – Not just that attack in Beer Sheba inside Israel itself. On Saturday a wave of stabbing attacks in Hebron & Jerusalem. No sign that this wave of rising tension & rising casualties is going to abate. The Israeli government frankly is casting about for a convincing answer because the nature of the acts of violence still appears to be random and spontaneous. The decisions of individuals at a given moment to stage an attack are not the work of organised extremist groups. For that reason it’s been very tough to formulate a convincing security answer
Humphries It is not Intifada is it?
Kevin Connolly: It’s a very difficult question part of the problem is that media organisations begin asking that question very early in these upsurges of violence. Whatever we call it, it’s an extraordinarily difficult situation for the Israeli government to deal with because its own people look to it for security. That very random and spontaneous nature of the attack has left many Israeli citizens feeling that any Palestinian passing them in the street might be carrying a knife, might be planning to attack them and any passing car might at any moment be used as a vehicle against Israeli civilian pedestrians. So although it’s not at all at the level of critical mass of violence that you would need to use the word Intifada, it doesn’t have the leadership perhaps that an Intifada might require it has achieved an extraordinary change in the atmosphere of daily life here, hence the political urgency for the Israeli government.


Humphries: There is talk of more powers for the Police to stop and search but that seems to be fairly inadequate in a way doesn’t it?
Kevin Connolly: I think that is true. They are reviving a plan which existed a few years ago to expand stop and search powers so the Police wouldn’t need reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed before they stopped and searched somebody. I think that was actually originally formulated to deal with a wave of night club stabbings. So they have that on the books, they have erected a concrete screen between an Arab and Jewish area of Jerusalem, not far from where I’m talking to you, that also has a bit of an ad-hoc feeling to it and they also of course have armed reinforcements in the West Bank. You have Police reinforcements here in Jerusalem. So they are doing what they can with visible security. But you can’t get away from the fact that they are struggling with the nature of this upsurge of violence. And that’s also a problem for the politicians. Because you will be having Benjamin Netanyahu meeting John Kerry later this week. Probably Kerry also meeting Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. So the big politics is beginning to kick in here. But it’s hard to see where the connecting wheels are between those big political meetings and the fact that individuals are taking the decision to stage these attacks for reasons which we are often left to guess at. Because the attackers often die in the course of the attack.
Humphries: Kevin, many thanks.
It’s 17 minutes to 7.

My complaint
Humphries interview with Kevin Connolly re violence in Israel. Mentions 50 dead but not that 40 are Palestinians. No mention mob violence against Palestinians or murder of Fadi Alloun, chased by lynch mob, executed by Police. No background to events eg firebombing of Dawabshe family in Duma. 3 dead. No prosecutions - culprits known.


No prosecutions - culprits known. No mention that West Bank is Occupied. No mention of 'Death to Arabs' marches in Jerusalem. And no mention of murder of Eritrean refugee last night though other reporters picked it up. All of these are documented by video footage Connolly doesn't report.

Connolly says 'individuals are taking the decision to stage these attacks for reasons which we are often left to guess at.' Let me see, what might be the reasons:
i. An occupation for 48 years. ii. settler violence that is abetted by Military. iii. That this is not a question of law and order but one where the law is in the hands of one party which deprives the other party of basic human rights. iv. Israel is in breach of perpetual breach of international law. vi. The attack by Police on the Al Aqsa mosque and the Temple Mount Institute and similar messianic groups which openly call for the Mosque's demolition, its replacement by 3rd Temple. Groups r funded by Israeli gov. Connolly mentioned Hebron, where violent settlers repeatedly attack Palestinian civilians. No mention of death of Hadeek al-Hashlamon last month killed by army.
In other words a complete lack of context


Many thanks to Tony Greenstein for his excellent complaint on that hideous piece of propaganda from BBC. Your name provides a little extra OOMPH to the situation, friend. Thank you and Shalom !
Jeff Hill, Arkansas, U.S.A.


I tend to console myself on such occasions by thinking of the effect of such one-sided reports. If 'people like us' are under threat (as opposed to Palestinians whose lives don't matter) doesn't it have a dreadful effect on tourism for a start? And hopefully investment?


The BBC has become a notorious purveyor not merely of Zionist hasbara, but of right wing propaganda on a more general basis. Their economic coverage consists of regurgitated neo-liberal attitudes and platitudes, while their political reporting is the most consistently reactionary of any broadcast outlet in Britain-including Murdoch's SkyNews. Humphreys is a die-hard promoter of conservatism, and his program, Today, ushers listeners into a parallel universe where the poor, the oppressed and the vilified bear sole responsibility for their misery.

A good source of informed outrage on the dishonesty of the BBC and the Guardian is Medialens. They're worth a perusal.


Couldn't agree more. I cancelled my tv licence over the bbc failure to cover the privatisation of the nhs. They are just as complicit in all right wing arenas. But that isn't surprising; the bbc trust are tory dominated, and the entire political unit broadcasters are tories too. The bbc has failed.


I complained to the BBC over their totally pro-Israeli bias and this was their reply!

Thank you for contacting us about the recent escalation in violence in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. We have received a wide range of feedback about our coverage of this subject across our television and radio programmes, and the BBC News website. In order to use our TV licence fee resources efficiently, this response aims to answer the key concerns raised in complaints received by us, but we apologise in advance if it doesn’t address your specific points in the manner you would prefer.

We appreciate you believe our coverage of this story has shown bias in favour of Israel and against the Palestinians. In this response we hope to explain why we feel this has not been the case.

Across our news bulletins and programmes we have reported on the increasing number of Palestinian deaths and casualties following the actions of Israeli security forces. We have broadcast reports where our reporters have spoken to the families of Israelis and Palestinians killed in the recent violence and have heard their respective stories and own specific takes on the conflict.

We have reported on criticism of Israel’s response to the attacks, which has included the implementation of curfews in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and the destruction of homes of Palestinians Israel claims are connected to the attackers.

We have tried to explain how the current situation has come to pass from the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives. This has included reporting on the tensions around the holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem, the building of settlements and on the daily realities faced by Palestinians living under occupation. We have explored the apathy held by many Palestinians toward the impasse in reaching a lasting peace settlement, and on what many see as Israel’s unwillingness to end the occupation which would see the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state...


This is the standard response of the BBC to initial complaints. I got one of these and wrote back and have now appealed against their nonsensical response. You have to perservere and occasionally you get a positive. But as people have said, the BBC is born in the womb of the British state. It is seen as independent but only in the sense that a puppet is independent of its glovemaster.


BBC News tries to report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an accurate and duly impartial manner. Sometimes this means we can’t always reflect the full extent of the complexities of the conflict during one standalone report or bulletin. We try to tell the story of the conflict as experienced by both sides, across programmes and bulletins and over time. We believe this has been the case during our coverage of this recent spike in violence.

We have raised your concerns with senior editorial staff at BBC News, who consider the range of feedback received from our audience when deciding how they approach reporting on stories. Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints


The BBC is paid for by British Citizens, and this is ostensibly kept separate from the government, in order that it should remain scrupulously neutral and independent. Recently Benjamin Netanyahu had the temerity to take the BBC to task for the way it it reported on the current Israeli-Palestine situation and threatened to remove its reporters from Israel(Palestine), and to my grave concern the BBC amended its reportage! I have complained to the BBC and in its reply it sent its regular spiel about attempting neutrality between the two warring sides, but nothing about its own behaviour in relation to Netanyahu's criticisms about it. Unfortunately I cannot take this further as I cannot find the original articles - I think I came across it in the American press, but wondered if you knew ?
anything more so I could follow it up further?


It is exactly the same in the US, all broadcast news is one-sided against Palestinians and the dead are always described as Palestinian "terrorists" (who therefore deserved it) and "innocent Israelis". To the US TV media (the worst news we have), this all happens in a vacuum, the attacks are random, inferring that Palestinians are inherently violent, like wild animals. This racism is embedded in all of our news, more so against Palestinians than any other people in the Middle East. It makes me sick, but you know, very few Americans question this slanted "news" and all of our politicians feel Israel is mostly blameless. Again, Americans are kept ignorant by our horrendously awful TV/radio media.


i live in theUK we have the same situation with the BBC. Israel is portrayed as the victim and the Palestinians as perpretators.We need through social activism need to counter this.As individuals we are powerless but by organizing we can put the Palestinian point of view.I have a website part of it deals with the injustice against the Palestinians. called
Apartheid South Africa was defeated we must do the same for the Palestinians.We must not give up,Justice is on our side.The Israeli's are now losing the propaganda war,it hard for Zionists and pro-Israel supporters to justify the killing of innocent,men,women and children......its all on youtube and social media.
We must thank those Israeli's who are morally just people who record and put these terrible crimes,against the Palestinians on youtube and social media


People need to wake up to auntie beeb and her true intentions. Your funding of the beeb allows these atrocities to continue on the huge scale it has been doing since 1948.

Never paid for a licence and never will.

Amena Saleem

Amena Saleem's picture

Amena Saleem is a journalist and activist. She has twice driven on convoys to Gaza and spent seven years working for Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK.