Open thread – for comments of general Biased BBC interest:

Please use this thread for off-topic, but preferably BBC related, comments. Please keep comments on other threads to the topic at hand. N.B. this is not an invitation for general off-topic comments – our aim is to maintain order and clarity on the topic-specific threads. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog. Please scroll down to find new topic-specific posts.

Matt Frei on last night’s BBC Ten O’Clock News:

“in the tropical island of Cuba lies the detention camp that is seen by many around the world as America’s gulag”

Typical Matt Frei – light on facts, heavy on spin. Who are your “many around the world” Matt? Do you mean many BBC reporters around the world? Many Guardian readers around the world, many lefties around the world or what?

And what does it matter what these so-called ‘many’ think, when their alleged comparison is so fundamentally flawed? Unless of course you’re spinning us a line rather than giving us unvarnished facts in an impartial manner?

Do you Matt, have any idea what the Gulags were like? How many millions of people were detained in the Gulags? Over how many decades? How many died in the Gulags? Answers, for you Matt, according to Wikipedia, 18-20 million detained over four decades, with 1,606,748 deaths, not including “the more than 800,000 executions of ‘counterrevolutionaries’ during the period of the ‘Great Terror’, since they were mostly conducted outside the camp system” or the 390,000 plus peasants who died in labour camps.

Compare that with Guantanamo – a few hundred detainees, duration so far three to four years, health and welfare generally taken care of, with just a few deaths, none due to execution.

Do you know what you’re talking about Matt? It’s time for you to read some Solzhenitsyn before you go shooting your mouth off again. Sure, Guantanamo is an aberration in need of urgent resolution, but your unsubstantiated comparison of Guantanamo with the Soviet Gulags, based on nothing more than what you think ‘many people around the world’ (how conveniently anonymous) allegedly think is nothing but far-fetched, over the top, biased hyperbole. Plus ca change.

Try asking more questions.

Hat tip to George (UPDATE and also to dumbcisco), who has pointed out this post from LGF: BBC Prisoner Sob Story Hides Terrorist Facts.

The post refers to this BBC story by Martin Patience, Palestinians back prisoner release call, featuring a Palestinian woman imprisoned by the Israelis. The BBC story simply says, “Mr Houdaly says his wife, Ataf, 44, headed a women’s organisation dedicated to providing health services for poor Palestinians.” LGF says:

Notice that Mr. Houdaly doesn’t say—and the BBC apparently doesn’t care—why his wife is imprisoned. They don’t even tell us her full name.

You have to search Google’s cache to find out who his wife really is, and why she’s in an Israeli jail, but it’s very probable that this man’s wife is an Islamic Jihad terrorist who planned to execute a suicide bombing by detonating a car bomb in Jerusalem in 1987, and was jailed for 10 years.

Charles Johnson of LGF then provides links.

Quite apart from the wife, what of the husband? The BBC story says,

Mr Houdaly knows more than most about imprisonment.

Apart from his wife, Mr Houdaly was himself jailed for 12 years for being a political organiser.

To me, that statement cries out for some supplementary questions. What sort of politics, exactly? Did your charge sheet actually say “being a political organiser”, Mr Houdaly? Did Mr Houdaly’s charge sheet actually say “being a political organiser”, Mr Israeli Government Spokesman?

UPDATE: I went looking myself. I found enough to convince me that the usual transcription of Mr Houdaly’s name is Walid al-Hodali. This article by Gideon Levy, in French, made me more sympathetic to both Mr and Mrs Hodali. It says that they had promised each other never again to get involved in the activities that got them into prison.

But what was he imprisoned for? Gideon Levy’s article is coy, diminishing my burst of sympathy. It only says, “Les années 1990-2002, Walid Hodali les a passées dans une prison israélienne, pour atteintes à la sécurité pendant la première Intifada.” That means “undermining security during the first Intifada.” I kept looking.

According to this link from the French language site of the Palestine Information Centre:

The authorities of the “Israeli” occupation freed a leader of Hamas after fifteen years of captivity.
June 24, 2005, 01:10

Ramallah – CPI

The “Israeli” occupation authorities have freed on Wednesday the leader of the Hamas movement Sheikh Sami Yousef Hussein, a resident of the Jalazon refugee camp in the village of Ramallah, after fifteen years in captivity.

The inhabitants of the camp organised a big party to receive the liberated Sheik at the entrance to the camp and brandished green banners and Palestinian flags.

Sheikh Sami was arrested on 4 February 1990, accused of being a member of the armed wing of Hamas and of having attempted to kidnap a soldier in order to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners, in cooperation with Sheikh Fuad Al-Hodali and his brother Walid.

Emphasis and translation mine. If Mr Hodali was himself a would-be kidnapper of an Israeli soldier, that is something I would expect to be told by the BBC when hearing about his feelings as the husband of a woman imprisoned by the Israelis – particularly when what prompted the story was the kidnapping of another Israeli soldier.

UPDATE: Google cache of same story in English here.

UPDATE: Gideon Levy article about Walid Hodali in English here.

Open thread – for comments of general Biased BBC interest:

Please use this thread for off-topic, but preferably BBC related, comments. Please keep comments on other threads to the topic at hand. N.B. this is not an invitation for general off-topic comments – our aim is to maintain order and clarity on the topic-specific threads. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog. Please scroll down to find new topic-specific posts.


“Violence before diplomacy in Gaza”, says the BBC.

Violence moves faster than negotiation. Now that Israel has its tanks in Gaza, military force will drown out everything else until Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decides that his business there is done.

“Now that Israel has its tanks in Gaza…” Everything was just peachy before? Two Israeli soldiers were killed and one was kidnapped in a totally non-violent manner?

Standard stuff. But this next bit is just so weird.

Palestinians feel very uncomfortable about splits, and are always conscious of the pressure and power radiating from Israel.

Palestinians, you see, are like Counsellor Troi, only not with that dress.

Captain, I sense a great mass of … Israelis – the pressure – the power, radiating out – I can’t bear it…


  • Two handfuls. First off, hat tip to USS Neverdock. Hat particularly tipped because I nearly got this one myself. On Tuesday morning I saw a story on Ceefax saying that demonstrations against rendition flights at Scottish airports have attracted “just a handful of protesters”. I was, I really was, going to do a quick post praising the BBC. We have often complained here that titchy demos get disproportionate coverage so long as they are for favoured BBC causes, and here was an example of a titchy demo for a favoured BBC cause being reported as titchy. Only when I looked again the story was different. I hadn’t written anything down, and, you know how it is, ordinary life intervened and the post never got done.

    However USS Neverdock followed the same story on the web, and has screenshots.

    Incidentally, 30 demonstrators at one airport and six at another is still titchy.

  • “A life in power” indeed. An anonymous commenter writes:

    Beeb’s puff piece on Kenneth Kaunda:

    Kenneth Kaunda: A life in power

    A more balanced account from Wikipedia here:

    Kenneth Kuanda

    To the point.

  • Max comments regarding this story: Israel soldier’s family wait for news .

    After misspelling the name of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit as ‘Shilat’ no less than seven times in the same article, the BBC’s Martin ‘I take cookery class lessons from terrorists’ Patience inserts a bit of agenda:

    “A mayor from a nearby Palestinian village paid a visit to the family to show his support.”

    Since there are no Palestinian villages nearby, one has to assume that Martin ‘Israeli drones would love to see what I can see’ Patience might refer to the Christian Arab village of Me’ilya (not sure if it’s spelled correctly in English) 2 kilometers down the road from Mitspe Hilla – where he’s ‘reporting’ from. For BBC reporters Arab Israeli citizens are Palestinians. Also, he doesn’t bother to identify this village by name; too difficult to spell I suppose.

    Then again I guess that for someone who writes that “Gilad’s older brother, a university student in the nearby city of Haifa [approx. 60 kilometers away]..” accuracy is not a priority.

Open thread – for comments of general Biased BBC interest:

Please use this thread for off-topic, but preferably BBC related, comments. Please keep comments on other threads to the topic at hand. N.B. this is not an invitation for general off-topic comments – our aim is to maintain order and clarity on the topic-specific threads. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog. Please scroll down to find new topic-specific posts.

And make sure you do – lots of good stuff posted in the last 24 hours!

Paxman vs Coulter

All over the blogs, differing views on who won.

I’m trying to imagine a John Pilger or Robert Fisk getting such an introduction.

“Ann Coulter, whose right-wing rants …” Paxo opened. Discussing her new book, of which he’d read one chapter, “Coulter argues – if that’s the right word …” then his first question, “I’ve read it (chapter 1) – does it get any better ?”

Paxman then asked “You also believe there is some sort of liberal hegemony in the media, do you ? … I just don’t see how this argument stacks up.”.

“No, you’re right – with the warm introduction like you just gave me – no – no liberal hegemony there …”

You would almost have thought he was blushing at that point. Make up your own mind – the video is at Youtube.

What’s Wrong With The BBC News Search Engine ?

The BBC News search engine is a vital tool for analysis of BBC bias. How else could one find “your 99 search results for far-left” and compare against “your 1,329 search results for far-right” ?

Unfortunately the search engine ain’t very good. Worse, the ‘bog-standard’ search misses some results completely.

Eighteen months ago I wrote a post contrasting the media reporting of two murders – one by an Iraqi Kurdish refugee, one of an Iraqi Kurdish refugee.

When I wrote the original post, I could find no BBC report at all of the murder by the Iraqi. I searched using the vanilla engine for the victim’s name, Anthony Farrell and could find nothing. However I could find a result if I looked for the name of the murderer. The ‘vanilla’ engine, it turns out, will find “Anthony Farrell” in double-quotes (but not otherwise), but will find Ali Karim without quotes. The advanced engine finds both without quotes. Why ?

There’s a reason for asking. After the far-right BNP (far-right as opposed to the ‘nationalist’ Hamas) made gains in the Barking and Dagenham local council elections, some predicted a rise in racist incidents. Here’s a BBC report of such an attack, carried out on May 17th.

It was a disgusting attack, as are all such attacks on innocents, which the BBC were right to report. But it wasn’t the only violent incident in the Barking and Dagenham area that week. Six days later, on May 23rd, two men were left critically injured in a shooting in Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham.

There seems to be no report of the incident on BBC News. I’m not sure if they don’t think the story is worth reporting on, or if the search engine is so bad that I can’t find it.

UPDATE – an apology. Earlier in the post I described the death of Kalan Karim as ‘murder’. Of course the person who attacked and killed him without warning in Swansea was not at all a murderer, but was found guilty of manslaughter. His five years should be up around this time next year, given current sentencing discounts.

Cheney miffed, Beeb chuffed.

The BBC reports on the undermining of what it refers to as “the ‘so-called war on terror'” in this story which flowed from this one based on a New York Times Pulitzer-hunting, terrorist-helping sellout. [My opinion on the behavior of the NYT.] What the Beeb fails to point out in either online account is both the firm legal ground and the high degree of success of the SWIFT programme.

Here’s a slippery little paragraph used in both online stories to cast doubt on SWIFT’s legal standing without really having any supporting facts for this novel theory.(See SWIFT’s own statement on the story here and Treasury Secretary John Snow’s statement here.)

From the ‘angry Cheney’ piece:

Although there is no direct connection, the scheme has echoes of a recently revealed US surveillance programme in which millions of international and domestic phone calls and e-mails were monitored, correspondents say.

From the “US defends secret money tracking piece”:

Although there is no direct connection, the programme has echoes of a recently revealed US surveillance programme in which millions of international and domestic phone calls and e-mails were monitored, correspondents say.

They say that although the US government insists it acted on a firm legal footing, this programme is likely to elicit similar charges of enfringement of civil liberties.

We are not given the names of these ‘correspondents’. For all we know, they are 16 year-olds on MySpace. What the BBC could have told us, but didn’t, is that this programme successfully brought about the exposure and apprehension of real terrorists who had committed murder and/or were planning further massacres. Who are they? At least the New York Times reported it.

Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said. The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, “has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities,” Stuart Levey, an undersecretary at the Treasury Department, said in an interview Thursday. The program is grounded in part on the president’s emergency economic powers, Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans’ records.

Some specifics on those apprehended:

Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.

In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.

The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said. The man, Uzair Paracha, who worked at a New York import business, aided a Qaeda operative in Pakistan by agreeing to launder $200,000 through a Karachi bank, prosecutors said.

Heather McDonald reports:

The Wall Street Journal adds that the July 7, 2005, London subway bombings were fruitfully investigated through the Swift initiative and that a facilitator of Iraqi terrorism has been apprehended because of it.

One might think that the UK would be served this bit of information about this matter from its ‘so-called national broadcaster’, but that would be asking a lot.

Hat tip: PowerLine, Hugh Hewitt and RealClearPolitics

Ascribing partial responsibility for rape

to anyone other than the rapist prompted paragraph headings such as “disturbing attitudes” when the BBC reported on the Amnesty survey of attitudes towards rape. (My personal view on the subject of responsibility for rape can be read here.)

Hat tip to Grimer, who has pointed out an example of the BBC being less clear about ascribing responsibility for rape to the rapists. Grimer writes:

Stop Press!

EU and USA responsible for rape of of Palestinians (according to the BBC)

Rape in war ‘a growing problem’

Sexual violence has also been linked to development funding. Cases in Gaza and the West Bank have increased significantly since the EU and the US cut funding after January’s election of Hamas, Luay Shabaneh of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says.

So, because we’ve stopped giving them billions in aid, they are now raping each other. How quaint.

I think Grimer has somewhat overstated his case, although I have no doubt that this was overstatement was conscious and rhetorical. One aspect of the BBC climate of opinion that I have no quarrel with is its sincere abhorrence of rape. Still, feminist writers (who also sometimes use rhetorical overstatement) have pointed out that separately trivial forms of words can combine to harmful effect.

“Sexual violence has also been linked to development funding.”

Google the phrase “rape culture” and you will find many writers who would say that words such as those support a culture that excuses rape. I don’t agree – it is legitimate to raise the hypothesis of “links” between incidence of rape and other variables. But I think it likely that that particular possible link (rape to development funding) was especially congenial to the BBC, despite being so indirect. Otherwise why did the BBC not focus on another possible link, more direct, more plausible and equally implicit in the article’s own words. You can see this link by cutting out seven words from the paragraph quoted above. What is left is still a true statement.

Cases in Gaza and the West Bank have increased significantly … after January’s election of Hamas.

Read this post from Classical Values, “Hamas honors women!” on the attitudes of Palestinian society towards women who have been raped – attitudes exacerbated by the electoral victory of Hamas.

Anthropologist James Emery explained in 2003, how “among Palestinians, all sexual encounters, including rape and incest, are blamed on the woman.” Men are always presumed innocent and the responsibility falls on the woman or girl to protect her honor at all costs. When 17-year-old Afaf Younes ran away from her father after he allegedly sexually assaulted her, she was caught and sent home to him. He then shot and killed her to protect his honor.

That case and others like it happened when the EU’s development funding was in full flow. I hope the BBC takes a more questioning attitude to statements by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics next time.

Open thread – for comments of general Biased BBC interest:

Please use this thread for off-topic, but preferably BBC related, comments. Please keep comments on other threads to the topic at hand. N.B. this is not an invitation for general off-topic comments – our aim is to maintain order and clarity on the topic-specific threads. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog. Please scroll down to find new topic-specific posts.

Technical problems with comments:

I have had several emails saying that people are getting the message that they have been banned from comments.

Count yourselves lucky! Right now I myself can’t see any comments at all. Obviously there is some hiccup with the system. I’m seeking technical advice.

If you get the banned message, please email me with your IP address so we can investigate the problem. You can get your IP address here or here. If I get hundreds of emails I’ll cancel this request.

Update by Andrew: ‘Invisible’ comments problem fixed – a minor templating glitch that affected Internet Explorer. Sorry. For those still using IE, you may wish to consider downloading Firefox – it’s widely considered to be a better browser, what with tabbed browsing, all those useful add-ons and so on. It’s easy to setup – just download it and run the installer, and you can still use IE if you want to.

Update at 9pm: For those experiencing commenting problems earlier, please try again. If you still have trouble, email your IP address to me at biasedbbc AT For those who manage comments with Haloscan, you may be interested to know that you can use ‘regular expressions‘ (but without the ‘\’ escape character) to define banned ranges – a big improvement over Haloscan’s documented features.

Update at 3am: Have worked on ‘unbreaking’ whatever it was that broke the ‘new comments’ thing. I think it’s fixed – let me know if you spot anything unusual. Everything will be unread when you first view this page. Comment totals are taking a few minutes to update after comments are posted – I think this is a Haloscan issue as this lag isn’t new.

“Cardinal to reignite abortion row,”

says the BBC.

Troublemaker. Stirrer. He’s going to go to a meeting and say exactly what everyone expects a Catholic cardinal to say. Can you believe that? Just when every decent person had finally come to an agreement about what the law on abortion should be.

Hat tip: Archduke.

UPDATE: It now says, “Cardinal urges abortion rethink.” Hat tip: me, and King Herod. Mirabile dictu, the timestamp has been changed as well.

The Gaza beach explosion.

Adloyada says Human Rights Watch now says it “cannot contradict” (huh?) the findings of the Israeli Defence Force that the fatal explosion at a Gaza beach was not caused by Israeli artillery fire.

As of now (8.38 am BST) the front page of the BBC’s multi-million pound news website says that… Palestinian workers receive wages.

Given the wall-to-wall coverage by the BBC of this story when the explosion happened, and of the earlier claim by HRW that the explosion was caused by incoming Israeli artillery, it will be interesting to see how much attention this latest turn of events receives.

Expect updates to this post.

UPDATE 9.29am: Though not yer something new to report type of update. The most likely cause of the explosion, Human Rights Watch now say, was unexploded Israeli ordnance from some earlier clash. Mr Garlasco of HRW is also quoted as saying,

“… that he was impressed with the IDF’s system of checks and balances concerning its artillery fire in the Gaza Strip and unlike Hamas which specifically targeted civilians in its rocket attacks, the Israelis, he said, invested a great amount of resources and efforts not to harm innocent civilians.”

Will these remarks of Mr Garlasco’s be quoted as widely by the BBC as his earlier assessment that “it’s likely that this was incoming artillery fire that landed on the beach and was fired by the Israelis from the north of Gaza”? I trust the old stories will be updated.

UPDATE: 10.15am. Here is the BBC’s Middle East front page. Nothing there on this. OK, so why do I expect there to be? Because, as this Newswatch piece twice says, this story is “so significant.” Images of Huda Ghalia screaming in grief flew round the world on media wings. The story was presented then by the BBC as one of the Israelis first being trigger-happy and then trying to dodge responsibility. The BBC said (middle link under “as” above):

Of course, the Palestinians have rejected this case. On top of that, a military expert for the Human Rights Watch organisation, Mark Garlasco, says the evidence he has seen points to Israeli shelling as the cause.

He has been to the site of the blast. And he happens to be a former Pentagon intelligence analyst.

Smug, or what? Now the same former Pentagon intelligence analyst has praised the Israeli inquiry. The same man now thinks that the most likely cause of the tragedy is one – unexploded Israeli ordnance – that, while it can still be attributed to Israel’s past actions, is no longer in Israel’s power to clean up, since Gaza is under the control of the Palestinians. If everlasting peace were to be declared between Israel and Hamas this afternoon people would still occasionally be killed by UXBs for years to come. If Garlasco’s and HRW’s views were news last week they ought to be equally newsworthy this week.

UPDATE 6pm. Dunno why I call it an update. Still nothing from the BBC. But Barker John has pointed out that the subject is being discussed on this BBC message board. See Message 29 onwards. Here are two samples:

Message 31

A Pentagon-trained ballistics expert working for the US-based organisation Human Rights Watch is here in Gaza.

He has surveyed the scene and has forensically examined evidence from the beach.

He concludes that the explosion was *caused* by an ISRAELI shell.…

Even the LIES of Israel are clear for all to see.


Message 33

“And even Mr Garlasco of Human Rights Watch, who blamed ISrael, has now cleared Israel of responsibility. In fact he even praised the IDF’s professional investigation.”

I can find no evidence for this statement.

Can you provide a reference for it?