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BBC coverage of the battle of Jenin – the so-called demolition of a refugee camp

Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review                                                                20 November 2005
BBC Governance Unit
Room 211, 35 Marylebone High Street
London, W1U 4AA                                                                                                By Air Mail and e-mail

 To: Sir Quentin Thomas 
and the Select Panel for the BBC Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review

 Sub: BBC coverage of the battle of Jenin - the so-called demolition of a refugee camp

 Dear Sirs,

This letter deals with the BBC's reporting on the battle of Jenin in April 2002, in particular the false reporting on the extent of destruction in the Palestinian refugee camp. Although it started in 2002, this complaint is absolutely valid even today, since the reporting exists up till today on the BBC website.

First I shall present the facts, as presented by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) aerial imagery of the Jenin refugee camp as 13 April, 2002. Analysis of pictures shows that the combat-damaged area in the refugee camp measured approximately 160 x 250 meters or 40,000 square meters. This represents about 6 percent of the total size of the refugee camp, as can be seen on the following photo.


The precise extent of destruction could only be determined after publication of the aerial images, however it became clear quite soon that the fighting took place in only a small part of the camp and the destruction was limited to this part of the camp. However the BBC did his best to give the impression that there was total destruction of the refugee camp by the IDF.

Since I did not make video recordings of BBC's television news programs, I can only relate to what I found now at the website of BBC. I present here some samples of which I am confident that they may prove my point. In the presented cases, the relevant data was underlined and put in bold format. My text is written in italic font. 


By Jeremy Cooke, Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 16:13 GMT

Eyewitness: Inside ruined Jenin

The scene inside Jenin refugee camp is one of almost complete devastation - whole blocks of what used to be homes have been laid to waste by Israeli bulldozers.

Further on:
It is very difficult for us to verify that given that all our movements were monitored by the Israelis. But there is no disguising the fact that this huge level of destruction had taken place.


In the video file http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/1930000/video/_1932943_jenin22_cooke_vi.ram

Jeremy Cooke's report he mentions "massive devastation"


Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK

Plea for access to devastated Jenin

Here I find this text:

'War crime'

Our correspondent said any buildings still standing were marked with gunfire.

"Any buildings still standing" is a clear hint that the number of buildings still standing is small.


Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 06:10 GMT 07:10 UK

Widespread horror at Jenin's rubble

The front pages of the broadsheets are dominated by the bleak shell that was the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin.

The word "was" in "was the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin", hints that this camp is no more.



UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen surveys the remains of the refugee camp



The expression "remains of the refugee camp" is a blunt exaggeration. Even within days after the battle, it was clear that the majority of the camp remained intact.


It was brought to my attention that BBC's website shows a text on IDF general Mofaz:

Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 19:49 GMT

Arrest call for Israeli ex-army chief

"He directed some of Israel's most controversial military operations in the West Bank earlier this year, including Jenin -- where a Palestinian refugee camp was all but demolished -- and Ramallah."

Looking at this website I did not find "Palestinian refugee camp was all but demolished" but this:

"He directed some of Israel's most controversial military operations in the West Bank earlier this year, including Jenin - where bulldozers were sent to demolish large parts of a Palestinian refugee camp - and Ramallah"

Using a web tool that checks internet archives, it appears that above BBC page of October 29,2002 was updated on February 20, April 7, December 8 of 2003 and again on July 13, 2004. I assume that somebody at BBC understood that "all but demolished" was too much and changed the text. It should be noted however that the time of writing the original article, October 29,2002 was half a year after the Jenin battle, when the extent of destruction was already known and "all but demolished" was clearly untrue.


The above samples show the effort BBC undertook to depict the destruction of a relatively small part of the Jenin refugee camp by the battle, as massive devastation.

I do not underestimate the suffering on anybody whose home is destroyed and BBC's reporting of human suffering of war actions, anywhere in the world, is laudable. However one can not escape the impression that the BBC's endless repetition on "destruction of the Jenin refugee camp by Israel" has been a deliberate lie.

In the case of Jenin, this lie was part of an "unholy triangle" brought to the world every hour on the BBC news: "Massacre - total devastation - war crimes", all of whom have been proven to be false accusations. By doing so the BBC has disseminated false and defamatory information about Israel and keeps doing so even today in 2005 as long as the texts appearing at the BBC web site are not corrected.


 Dr. Yair Malachi

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