The curious case of a dual-identity BBC interviewee in Gaza

On July 29th a filmed report by Chris Morris which appeared on BBC television news was also posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Middle East crisis: BBC at Gaza mosque ruins“.Morris mosque report 29 7

Morris opens his report:

“This is a mosque in Gaza City which people who live in this area say it was hit at least twice during the night. A lot of mosques have been targeted in Gaza since this Israeli aerial campaign began. The Israelis say there were 60 airstrikes overnight and there’s certainly been more this morning. We’ve seen mosques targeted. We’ve seen security buildings. Earlier on we were just down by the Gaza port where fishermen’s huts had been hit as well.”

Morris does not provide us with the name or precise location of the mosque from which he reports and so it is impossible to check the circumstances of his story. He does, however, take care to stress no fewer than three times that mosques are being “targeted” in Gaza – but makes no attempt to explain to audiences why that might be the case.

The film below – showing the entrances to Hamas tunnels located inside a mosque – provides the type of context which Morris conceals from BBC viewers.  Mosques have also been found to be storing weapons, missiles and explosives.

Morris continues:

“And the overwhelming mood in Gaza is becoming one of defiance, even among people who don’t support Hamas, and Hamas’ political popularity was probably falling before this Israeli bombardment began. But faced with this kind of thing, people tend to come together.”

Interestingly, this theme of a supposed rise in the popularity of Hamas is being found more and more in BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip in recent days.  What BBC audiences have not seen, however, is any BBC investigation into reports of summary executions carried out by Hamas of people deemed ‘collaborators’ or any attempt to interview people who do not support Hamas.

The rest of Morris’ report is devoted to an interview with a man described in the synopsis on the website version as follows:

“Following the overnight strikes, Chris Morris met defiant citizen Nasman Al-Ashi, who said that the world was failing Gaza.”

Morris mosque report al ashi

Mr al Ashi says:

“It’s just unbelievable what they’re doing. They lost their mind. They don’t have any targets to target but worship place. And whatever claim they have is baseless. They just losing the war. Anybody who’s acting by targeting worshipping places, that mean he lost the war. And we who live in dignity and free or we all die. I mean the children. They see the children; they’re coming. They’re not accepting what’s happening. The Israelis are mad and they’re doing it with impunity. In front of the whole free world and the free world is watching and they’re approving their action by not reacting to what they’re doing; they’re approving it.”

Morris: “So the world is failing Gaza?”

Al Ashi: “It’s failing us. The world is failing and the leader of the world – even the US, England, France, Russia, all the Arab worlds – they’re just puppets. They’re following their pocket and the money. But here in Gaza as small as it is, we’re defying the world and we tell the world that we either live free or we die here.”

Morris: “But however disproportionate this is, what do you think of the argument that if Hamas stopped firing rockets into Israel…”

Al Ashi [interrupts]: “No! No! This is not an argument. We…we’ve been blockade for the last seven years. Don’t talk to me about rockets that is so tiny small. Look at this. Look at this. This is not sense argument. It’s not sense. We didn’t start it. They started it and they’ve been…In the 2008 agreement they have fulfilled nothing. 2012 they have fulfilled nothing. So why should we believe that this time ceasefire… they say – hey, let’s negotiate. Negotiation with the Israeli is waste of time.”

Viewers are not informed how Chris Morris came across the “defiant citizen Nasman Al-Ashi”, but one part of his context-free rant piqued this writer’s curiosity:

“…even the US, England, France, Russia, all the Arab worlds – they’re just puppets. They’re following their pocket and the money.”

The obvious antisemitic undertones of that comment echo another interview done by the BBC’s Paul Adams earlier on in the month in which the interviewee used a Nazi analogy. The name of that interviewee was Basman Al Ashi and he was presented as the director of Wafa hospital.

Michigan-trained Dr Basman Al Ashi has been appearing quite a lot in the Western ‘progressive’ media and blogs lately, not infrequently in efforts to try to spin the fact that after Paul Adams’ interview with him (during which Adams stressed that “Israel says rockets have been fired from Basman al-Ashi’s hospital, a charge his staff deny completely”), the hospital under his directorship was found to house the entrance to a Hamas attack tunnel leading into Israeli territory and was also used as a Hamas command and control centre, a weapons storage site, a missile launching site and a sniper post.

Here is a picture of Dr Basman Al Ashi in his hospital.

Morris mosque al ashi 2

Unless, several decades ago, Mrs Al Ashi gave birth to identical twin boys and named them Nasman and Basman, it would appear that Chris Morris’ “defiant citizen” – whom he implies in his introduction is one of the people in Gaza who “don’t support Hamas” – is actually none other than the man who allowed Hamas to spend years digging a tunnel from the hospital under his authority and to turn it into a military facility – and who is now busy giving interviews in an effort to cover up that blatant use of helpless patients as human shields.

If that is the case, then obviously the BBC has some serious questions to answer regarding the misrepresentation of Dr Al Ashi as an ordinary man in the street. It would also be interesting to know how Morris met Mr Al Ashi in the first place. Were his interview services provided to the BBC by a local stringer or by Hamas itself? Why did the BBC not notice that it had interviewed the same man under a different name and description only eleven days earlier? Or – if the BBC was aware of Al Ashi’s identity – why did Morris not take the opportunity to tell BBC audiences what really happened at Wafa hospital and to correct at long last the obviously inaccurate and misleading report put out by Paul Adams? And why did Morris not question Al Ashi about his distinctly unprofessional collaboration with Hamas in turning his severely disabled patients into human shields?  

Finally, of course, there is the not insignificant matter of the now repeated failure to edit out antisemitic remarks in BBC interviews; an issue which also clearly requires some very urgent answers. 

Why has the ‘impartial’ BBC adopted Hamas terminology?

Over the past week or so, the BBC has put considerable effort into amplifying and promoting Hamas’ main pre-condition for a ceasefire: the removal of border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to terrorism against their citizens carried out by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Documentation of some of those BBC efforts can be seen here, here, here and here.

In the past few days, however, we have seen a shift in the BBC’s approach to the topic. No longer content with ‘merely’ providing context-free advertisement for the demands of a proscribed terror organisation, the BBC has now adopted that organisation’s terminology, ditching its former use of the phrase “economic blockade” for the inaccurate and partial term “siege”.

Here is a screenshot from the July 28th edition of BBC Two’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight’.

Screenshot Newsnight 28 7  siege

One presumes that the BBC is familiar with the Oxford English Dictionary. Here is its definition of a siege:

“A military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender.”

A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them – sometimes at its own expense – in its own hospitals.

Israel of course does all of the above – and more – and critically, Israel’s aim is not to compel “those inside to surrender”, but to prevent in as far as is possible the flow of weapons and dual-use goods which can be used to manufacture weapons into the Gaza Strip because for fourteen years its own civilians have been under attack by terrorist organisations located there.

So why does Hamas insist upon inaccurately calling the border restrictions implemented by Israel and Egypt a “siege”? Firstly because it sounds much more dramatic for propaganda purposes and enables it to assume the role of the attacked. Secondly, any real and honest presentation of the situation should prompt observers to ask why those restrictions were implemented in the first place and that leads to the subject of Hamas terrorism, which does not line up with the current Hamas strategy of presenting itself to the world as the freedom-loving champion of impoverished, besieged Palestinian victims.

Another example of this recent embrace of the language of that terrorist organization was seen on July 30th in yet another filmed backgrounder report produced by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Robbins. The item was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza conflict: Is there hope for a ceasefire?“.Robbins 30 7 siege

There, Robbins distinguished himself by managing to present BBC audiences with an inaccuracy and/or a serious omission in almost every sentence of his report.

“It’s almost three weeks since Israeli airstrikes against Hamas in Gaza began.”

What preceded those airstrikes – almost a month of incessant missile fire on Israeli civilian communities – is not communicated to BBC audiences.

“All the appeals to both sides to stop have so far failed.”

Not so. The actual timeline of events reads thus:

  • 15 July: Israel accepted the ceasefire initiated by Egypt and stopped all fire at 09:00. However, terrorists fired more than 50 rockets at Israeli communities. Only after six hours of continuous rocket attacks did the IDF respond.
  • 17 July: Israel agreed to a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire. The terrorist organizations rejected it and fired rockets, including at the city of Be’er-Sheva.
  • 20 July: Israel approved a two-hour medical/humanitarian window in the area of Shejaiya, following an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) request. Forty minutes after the ceasefire began, Hamas violated it. Nevertheless, Israel implemented the ceasefire, even extending it for two more hours.
  • 26-27 July: Israel respected an UN-requested humanitarian ceasefire from 08:00-20:00 on Saturday, 26 July. Israel announced its readiness to prolong the ceasefire until midnight, but a few minutes after 20:00, Hamas renewed firing rockets at Israeli civilians. On the same day (26 July), Hamas announced a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire, at 14:00. Hamas violated its own ceasefire a short time later.Despite Hamas’ continuous fire, Israel decided to extend the humanitarian ceasefire a second time, from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday.
  • 28 July: Israel accepted Hamas’ request for a ceasefire in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The IDF was instructed to cease military attacks, but Hamas continued to launch rockets at Israel.
  • 30 July: Israel announced a temporary humanitarian ceasefire between 15:00-19:00. A few minutes after the ceasefire began Hamas fired rockets at the southern cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, as well as other Israeli communities.

Robbins goes on:

“The scale of civilian death and suffering in Gaza has opened up rifts between Israel and her traditional ally the United States, creating another layer of mistrust.”

Aha – that must be why the US has just approved a new transfer of military equipment to Israel.

“Israeli deaths, although much lower and overwhelmingly of soldiers – not civilians – continue to rise. It’s a price Israel’s leaders believe has to be paid to disarm Hamas completely.”

Robbins makes no effort to inform viewers of two very significant factors which contribute to the difference in the numbers of civilian casualties in Israel and Gaza: Israel’s extensive investment in civil defence, including the Iron Dome, and Hamas’ use of civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields. Then, for the second time in six days, he misrepresents the aim of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip: a topic on which he goes on to inaccurately elaborate.

“So what is still driving this conflict? Why is the search for a ceasefire proving so difficult? Partly because Israel’s overriding aim is to disarm the militant Palestinian organization Hamas completely. To destroy so much of its arsenal that it would be hard for Hamas to rearm in the future. Israel needs more time to continue that destruction.”

Remarkably, Robbins fails to inform viewers of the rather critical fact that Hamas is an internationally proscribed terrorist organization.

The disarming of Hamas was never declared an objective of this operation by Israeli leaders. Its often repeated aim is to enable the civilians of Israel to live their lives quietly and securely without missile fire from terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. The attempted cross-border tunnel infiltration by Hamas terrorists on the morning of July 17th made a ground operation to neutralize Hamas’ attack tunnels necessary. Whilst many politicians and members of the general public in Israel are of the opinion that Hamas should be disarmed and the Gaza Strip made into a demilitarized zone for the wellbeing of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, it was never Israel’s declared (and unrealistic) aim to destroy every last missile in the Gaza Strip.

Robbins continues, with use of Hamas terminology both in his narration and in the accompanying illustrative graphic.

Robbins 30 7 seige lge

“The Hamas priority is to force the lifting of the siege of Gaza and get Israel to commit to that before – not after – a ceasefire. For the past eight years the thin sliver of land which is the Gaza Strip has been largely cut off, with Israel and Egypt controlling all movement in and out across its borders – of people and supplies as well as food – while the Israeli navy blockades Gaza from the sea.”

Once again, Robbins fails to inform BBC audiences what brought both Egypt and Israel to implement border restrictions, but of course it is rather difficult to explain Hamas terrorism if one has already avoided any mention of the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Despite Robbins’ obviously deliberate attempt to mislead viewers, there are of course no restrictions on the entry of foodstuffs to the Gaza Strip; the only controlled items are dual-use goods which could be used for the purpose of terrorism.

He carries on with still more use of Hamas terminology:

“But the siege hasn’t stopped Hamas building a network of concrete reinforced tunnels under its borders and arming itself with rockets to fire at Israeli towns and cities.”

Notably, Robbins makes no attempt to explain to audiences the purpose of those tunnels and – like all BBC reporting in the past three weeks – fails to mention which regional actors have helped Hamas to arm itself and why the removal of border restrictions would make rearming – and further conflict – inevitable in the future.

Robbins then goes on to display the full extent of his lack of Middle East expertise.

“And there are wider reasons why it’s so difficult to stop the fighting. Israel insists that Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist and says it can never trust Hamas if it’s committed to destroying the Jewish state. But Hamas won’t trade away that big card – at least until peace talks are at such a stage that they’re much closer to delivering an independent Palestinian state.”

Frankly, it is becoming excruciatingly embarrassing to see a succession of so-called BBC experts claiming that Hamas would down arms and disband if only a Palestinian state came into being. The fact that this grossly inaccurate notion is pawned off to BBC audiences as analysis not only shows the lack of competence at work, but also the inability of BBC staff to come to terms with the unpleasant underlying realities of the conflict.

Robbins then brings in an expert – Dr Hisham Hellyer – whose decidedly non-academically objective sentiments on the topic are easily identifiable on his Twitter feed.

“So expert observers suggest this current conflict can have no good outcome.”

Hellyer: “I think it produces yet another generation of people in Gaza who will not be interested in securing Israel’s security but ensuring Israel’s insecurity. And I think that bombardment is simply not going to work. It may delay another period of disquiet, as the Israelis put it, but that’s all it’s going to achieve; a delay.”

Robbins closes:

“For now the killing seems unstoppable. Both sides want any eventual ceasefire to look like their victory. And so far, neither side has got what it wants.

Beyond the glaringly obvious problem presented by the fact that a publicly funded Western media organisation has chosen to embrace, amplify and promote the language of a proscribed terror group, there is clearly another very simple issue at stake with the BBC’s adoption of the term “siege” in relation to the Gaza Strip: it is not accurate.

And not only does it not accurately describe the situation, but its use actively prevents BBC audiences from understanding why border restrictions do exist. Remarkably, despite this topic being the subject matter of numerous BBC reports over the past week or so, the BBC apparently thinks it acceptable to fob off audiences with dumbed-down Hamas propaganda rather than to accurately and comprehensively explain the issue. 

 

BBC interviews: CAMERA’s Alex Safian compares and contrasts

MicrophoneOur CAMERA colleague Alex Safian has been taking a look at the differing styles of three recent BBC interviews with officials from Israel, Hamas and UNWRA.

Read the article here.

Over at Presspectiva, Yishai Goldflam notes the inaccuracies promoted in Gideon Levy’s recent interview with the BBC World Service

That article (Hebrew) can be found here

BBC smokescreen for terrorists’ use of human shields reaches new low

On the afternoon of July 28th, at around 17:00 local time, explosions took place near Shifa hospital and in the Shati area of Gaza CityShifa Sahti tweet 1 and around half an hour later, it was reported that ten people had been killed, including children. Along with Hamas spokesmen, many members of the international media in Gaza immediately jumped to – and promoted – the conclusion that the explosions were the result of Israeli airstrikes.

Just after 18:00 the IDF stated that it had not been operating in the area at the time and confirmed that both explosions were in fact missiles misfired by terrorists. Not long afterwards, an aerial photograph was made public showing the trajectory paths of four missiles launched simultaneously by terrorists from inside the Gaza Strip, as recorded by IDF radars and sensors. One of those missiles exploded near Shifa hospital, another exploded in the Shati area, a third landed at sea and the fourth was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system over Ashkelon.

Missiles Al-Shifa and Shati tatsa

Three reports which appeared on the BBC News website, however, all failed to tell audiences what really happened, electing instead to present them with a ‘he said/she said’ version of events.

A report dated July 28th and titled “Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon” states:

“Shortly after he [Ban Ki-moon] spoke, there were reports of two explosions in Gaza City – one in a children’s playground and one near Gaza’s main hospital. […]

Police and health officials said separate Israeli airstrikes had hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby playground on Monday afternoon, causing casualties.

But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said both explosions were caused by misfired rockets that were launched from Gaza by “terrorists”.”

Another report titled “Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts” – now dated July 29th but which originally appeared on July 28th – states:

“Explosions in Gaza City reportedly killed 10 people, including children. […]

At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.”

A third article dated July 29th and titled “Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign” states:

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.”

In other words, the BBC would have audiences believe that it cannot possibly tell them which is more reliable: the evidence provided by a sophisticated system of radars and trackers which are part of a technologically advanced early warning system, or the unverified word of ‘health officials’ belonging to a terrorist organization which, if it did not fire the specific missiles itself, is collaborating with the terrorist organization that did.  

Notably, the BBC’s journalists on the ground apparently had no inclination to carry out their own investigations into the incident. 

On the evening of July 28th, some seven hours after the incident occurred and long after the above aerial photograph had been made public, viewers of BBC television news were nevertheless shown a filmed report by Ian Pannell which was aimed solely at whipping up emotions and did absolutely nothing to inform them of the real circumstances behind the tragic incident.Pannell Shati report filmed 28 7

That report was also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza“.

“It was supposed to be a day of celebration in Gaza. But it ended with the blood of children. They’d been playing in the park, celebrating the Eid holiday. That’s when the rocket landed. At least ten were killed, eight of them children. Dozens more were injured. Ola [phonetic] is just four years old. She was out on the street when a rocket exploded. Her sister Bethaina [phonetic] was with her. ‘I was sitting in front of the house’, she says, ‘a rocket landed and it hit me and my sister’.

A hospital already overflowing with casualties was engulfed in chaos. Parents and relatives frantically searching for their children. The wards were full of them. Fourteen year-old Mohammed had shrapnel in his back. ‘We were playing in the street and they hit us’, he said. ‘They targeted us. Lots of children were killed.’ And next to him, four year-old Ola [phonetic]. Shrapnel cut into her small body. Israel has denied it was responsible for this.

Woman: “Then who fired it? I ran outside and found my daughters. If the Israelis didn’t do it, who did? Did my daughters launch the rocket?”

Marching up the hill to bury two small boys. They’d played together, they were killed together and now, they were going to be Shifa Shati Campbell tweetburied together. The boys’ father says his sons are martyrs who died for the resistance against Israel.

Today was supposed to be one of a ceasefire. The first day of Eid, the end of Ramadan, a holy festival, a time for celebration and for families to be together. Instead you have families going to the cemetery to bury their children. Gaza’s seen many bloody days. Few have been as painful as this one. The children here have paid heavily. The militants are under pressure but there’s little sign their support is ebbing. Days like this only harden hearts and compromise seems ever more remote.”

Pannell’s tabloid style report does nothing to inform BBC audiences of the real circumstances behind the deaths of those children, with the missiles misfired by terrorists not even getting a mention. If readers wonder why Pannell chose to feed his audiences fact-free emotion rather than providing them with insight into what really happened, then a clue might be found in a Tweet sent by an Italian journalist after he left the Gaza Strip.

Tweet Italian journo Shati

“The children here have paid heavily”, says Pannell and indeed they have. But until Western journalists start telling the truth about the way in which terrorists in the Gaza Strip launch missiles from residential areas, schools, hospitals and mosques; endangering the local population and turning them into human shields, then children in both Gaza and Israel will continue to pay a heavy price. Like the rest of the Western media though, Ian Pannell and his team will soon be safely moving on.

Related Articles:

 WSJ Reporters Delete Twitter Posts Implicating Hamas  (CAMERA)

 

What word is missing from BBC reporting on Gaza?

If we take a ‘zoom out’ look at BBC reporting since July 8th on the current hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip, one obviously very significant factor is its almost exclusive focus on the micro.

BBC audiences have seen, heard and read ample reporting at ground level, with the overriding emphasis being the portrayal of the effects of the conflict on civilians in the Gaza Strip and the majority of still and filmed images showing destroyed buildings, civilian casualties, hospitals and residents who have fled their homes.

However, as we have noted here previously, audiences have seen, read or heard very little indeed about the terrorist activities of Hamas and other organisations which initiated these hostilities. Apart from the occasional tepid interview with a Hamas spokesman and rare vague references to “gunfire” or “rockets fired”, BBC audiences could quite well reach the mistaken conclusion that this is a story exclusively about Israeli military strikes and civilians.Gardner filmed 22 7

But zooming out even further, we see that there is one word in particular which has been remarkably absent from all BBC reporting and that word is Iran. The issue of where many of those missiles currently being launched at Israeli civilian communities came from apparently fails to arouse the curiosity of BBC reporters, who have put great effort into promoting the theme of “homemade rockets“. The subject of Iranian training and financial support for Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been completely absent from the picture presented to BBC audiences, meaning that this conflict is being framed solely in terms of a powerful Israeli military assault on an impoverished and beleaguered Palestinian civilian population.

One rare occasion upon which the word Iran did make it into BBC coverage of Operation Protective Edge was seen in a backgrounder report produced by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner, aspects of which were previously discussed here. That July 22nd report purported to explain to BBC audiences “why is Middle East truce so hard to broker?” and in it Gardner informed them:

“Three years ago Hamas had more allies in the region. Now the whole political map has changed. Egypt has switched rulers from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to the secular Sisi. Syria and Iran were once big supporters of Hamas but relations have been strained by Hamas’ sympathy for the rebels in Syria. Qatar is now the sole big benefactor for Hamas, but Qatar is not an acceptable mediator for the Israelis.”

The graphic accompanying Gardner’s voice-over shows Iran being erased from the map of Hamas supporters under the title “Hamas isolated”, with the clear suggestion to viewers being that Hamas no longer enjoys Iranian support.

Gardner filmed 22 7 Iran erased graphic

But does Gardner’s backgrounder provide BBC audiences with an accurate view of the situation? One person who would probably disagree with this BBC analysis is Ahmad Jibril of the PFLP-GC who recently told Al Manar TV – run by Iran’s proxy in Lebanon Hizballah – the following.

“After 2008, hundreds of our young people left the Gaza Strip for Syria, Lebanon, and Tehran, to train and to learn how to improve these weapons,” Jibril said referring to Hamas’s missiles. […]

… Jibril described the route by which arms were smuggled from Syria to the blockaded Gaza Strip, explaining that the armed [arms] from Iran can’t be transferred by the Persian Gulf because it “is under surveillance.”

“We transferred [the missiles] from the airports in Damascus to Khartoum, from Khartoum to Port Sudan, and from there to the Sinai. From the Sinai, they were transferred via tunnels to the Gaza Strip,” the Palestinian faction leader explained. “The brothers in Hezbollah established cells of Bedouin and so on in the Sinai Desert. You could transfer the weapons to them, and they would get them into Gaza.” “

And it seems that the Iranians themselves might take umbrage at Gardner’s suggestion that Hamas no longer enjoys their support, with their deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian having told the same Hizballah TV station on July 27th that:

“Even under the worst conditions, Iran maintained good ties with Hamas. During the recent crisis, we were in direct contact and held consultations with Hamas, with Ismail Haniya, and with Hamas Political Bureau head Khaled Mash’al.

Two days ago, the Iranian foreign minister called Khaled Mash’al and talked with him for 20 minutes. This was a very important and productive conversation.

We regularly support Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and all factions of the Palestinian resistance.”

It seems too that Iranian intentions are not limited to the Gaza Strip.

“A former adviser to Iran’s defense minister said this week that Tehran would seek to arm Palestinians in the West Bank with “strategic weapons” including missiles to target Tel Aviv and Haifa. […]

“A new front must be opened from the West Bank, after it has been armed, especially with missiles,” Mousavi said in comments relayed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, “because we know very well that the distance between the West Bank and Tel Aviv, Haifa, and other areas is much shorter than the distance from Gaza. Therefore, simple means are required. There is no need for long-range missiles. Short-range missiles can change the entire picture in the occupied lands.” “

Those remarks should be viewed in conjunction with a comment (not reported by the BBC) made recently by Khaled Masha’al at a press conference in Qatar.

“Mashal said the Gaza-based group “would not accept an initiative that does not include lifting the blockade. Today Israel is worried about what happened at Ben Gurion Airport. Do you want a blockade in return for the blockade? Today the resistance in Gaza can blockade you, in the future it will from the West Bank.” ” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s failure to adequately inform audiences of the Iranian factor in this conflict (and also the Qatari one; an entire topic in itself) clearly means that it is falling short of its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”. But that failure also has an additional, more immediate effect.

The past few days have seen extensive BBC amplification of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demand to remove border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to the actions of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Yet not one BBC journalist has made any real effort to place that demand within the crucial context of the rearming of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip, the import of dual-use goods and building materials for the reconstruction of attack tunnels and the shared agenda of terrorist organisations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other actors in the wider region.

That’s one very serious ‘oversight’ for an organization which claims to set the standards for international journalism.  

BBC Radio 5 Live goes for the emotional jugular in context free promoted item

Last week BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast an interview with a doctor from ‘Medecins du Monde’ who inaccurately claimed that the shortage of medicines and disposables in Gaza Strip hospitals is attributable to Israeli policies.

“As you know we are under siege for a long time in Gaza and this affects the medical parts in Gaza and there is a lack of disposables and basic drugs needs in emergency. We need really, really action from the world for intervention to help people in Gaza.”

Despite that previous failure to adhere to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality and despite the fact that Dr Hosam Abu Elwan’s claim was – like sadly too many of the claims made by medical staff in Gaza Strip at present – clearly political in motivation, on July 29th the same radio station saw fit to invite the doctor to speak again and his reportappearing on a dedicated webpage – was promoted on the Radio 5 Live official Twitter account.

R 5 live doctor 29 7

 

“I am Dr Hosam Abu Elwan from Nasser hospital south of Gaza. We see that is no clear ceasefire declaration. We are not sure if it’s valid or not but we see the number of wounded cases is decrease but the number of murders is increased because they was killed two, three or five days before and the number of murders is increased about 20 cases per day coming to hospital by…Unfortunately I want to speak that is bad situation in hospital because the murders dying before five days with offensive odours and I can’t describe the situation because it was very bad in hospital. The number of murders is increased at least 20 cases per day. There is no spaces in the hospital for this huge number. And we hope to be there is ceasefire declaration and for medical teams to evacuate their murders and dead body from their houses or from under destroyed houses.”

R 5 live doctor 29 7 web

The version of this ‘report’ promoted by BBC Radio 5 live on Twitter and on the dedicated webpage lacks all context and clearly plays exclusively on the emotions of listeners who cannot possibly discern from it whether the dead are civilians or combatants or in what circumstances – or by whom – they were killed.

The term ‘murder’ – used no fewer than five times in the 77 second-long report, twice on the webpage and twice in the Tweet – has a specific meaning in the English language which attributes intention and premeditation – as this programme’s UK listeners will know. As someone for whom English is not a first language, Dr Abu Elwan may perhaps not be aware of that nuance, but the editors of this item most definitely should be and hence their decision to air and promote such a recording as a raw, stand-alone item and to use the word ‘murder’ as part of their promotion clearly calls editorial standards of impartiality into question. 

BBC’s Jon Donnison misrepresents PFLP ‘fighter commander’ as charity worker

On Friday July 25th the BBC’s Jon Donnison reported from Jerusalem for BBC television news on the topic of the ‘Day of Rage’ called for by assorted Palestinian factions including Hamas on that date. The report also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza and Israel brace for ‘day of anger’“.Donnison 25 7 Jlem

In that report Donnison described the events of the night before at Qalandiya checkpoint.

“Now you mentioned those clashes in Ramallah overnight – ah…pretty bad. Ten thousand people demonstrating. They marched towards the Qalandiya checkpoint which separates Ramallah from…err… East Jerusalem. We had two Palestinians killed, more than 250 injured and 29 Israeli police officers also injured. So – as you say – a day of anger being called for and I think it could be a difficult day.”

Like all the other BBC journalists who reported on those violent riots in Qalandiya, Donnison failed to inform BBC audiences that the two Palestinians killed were shooting live ammunition at the police officers present at the time and that the shootings were claimed by Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

On July 29th Donnison produced another filmed report for BBC television news (which also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “West Bank Palestinians politically divided, but united in anger“. In that report too Donnison referred to the rioting in Qalandiya – which he insists of course on describing as “protests” and “clashes” – without informing BBC audiences of the live fire claimed – significantly – by a terrorist group affiliated with the PA’s dominant party.Donnison 29 7 Beit Ummar

“In clashes with the Israeli army more than ten West Bank Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured since the war in Gaza began. At one protest well over ten thousand turned out. Just about every night for the past three weeks or so there have been clashes across the West Bank. Here at the Qalandiya checkpoint you can see the rocks thrown by Palestinian youths littering the streets as well as the tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli army.”

But that is not Donnison’s only serious omission in this report. At the beginning of the item he tells audiences the following story:

“Palestinian grief. Not in Gaza, but in the West Bank. Hashem Abu Maria was shot dead by Israeli soldiers last week as he demonstrated against Israel’s actions in Gaza. He was 47 years old, a father of three and worked for a children’s charity. By his graveside his wife Samira tells me Hashem gave his life trying to protect children.”

Donnison does not inform viewers of the location of the rioting during which Hashem Abu Maria was shot, but it happened in his home town of Beit Ummar – a place which might be familiar to some readers because of the not infrequent attacks on Israeli drivers there and the fact that the town’s residents seem to have a repeated habit of flying Nazi flags.

Donnison is equally vague about that “children’s charity” for which the pleasant-sounding Mr Abu Maria worked. In fact he was an employee of a political NGO with which many readers will also be familiar Defence for Children International – Palestine SectionThat NGO – frequently quoted and promoted by Western journalists – has links to other anti-Israel organisations including the Alternative Information Centre and the ISM – which has a permanent representative also connected to the extended Abu Maria family in Beit Ummar. But most notably, that “children’s charity” also has links to a terror organization – the PFLP – via one of its board members and also, it transpires, via none other than its former employee Hashem Abu Maria. Below is a screenshot of the PFLP’s Facebook announcement and here is an obituary on the PFLP website which describes Jon Donnison’s ‘charity worker’ as “fighter commander”.

PFLP Abu Maria

Below is footage filmed in Beit Ummar on July 25th – apparently after Hashem Abu Maria was killed – showing one of those “protests” as Donnison euphemistically describes them. The tower is an Israeli army position – note the PFLP flag.

Clearly BBC editorial standards of accuracy would demand that Jon Donnison tell audiences about the real nature of the so-called “children’s charity” for which Hashem Abu Maria worked and his membership of the PFLP. But just as obvious is the fact that Donnison’s lack of accuracy serves a higher goal: the sympathy-inducing presentation of Abu Maria as a family man and a ‘charity worker’ who “gave his life trying to protect children” would be somewhat less convincing to audiences if they knew he was a member of a terrorist organization.

Clearly too, Abu Maria as he is portrayed is intended to serve as signposting for audiences in Donnison’s overall representation of ‘protesting’ Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Like his failure to inform viewers of the live fire at the Qalandiya riots, the aim of that selective portrayal is to direct audiences towards a specific understanding of events which does not include the entire picture. And that can only be interpreted as a deliberate breach of BBC guidelines on impartiality.

 

BBC’s Ian Pannell does a convincing impression of Al Aqsa TV

“BBC News aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism…” [source]

On July 28th BBC television news audiences viewed some of that ‘standard setting’ journalism in the form of yet more unchallenged Hamas propaganda, this time facilitated by Ian Pannell. The item also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Hamas: ‘We are getting killed but we won’t give up’“. Pannell’s ‘interview’ (and that term is used very loosely here) with Hamas spokesman Ehab al Ghossein begins with the latter saying:Pannell int Hamas spox

“This my relatives, my people. Maybe I’m gonna get killed in the next hour. So; whenever we stand in front of this Israeli occupation that…this army that has no ethics – they are just killing civilians, kids, and the world is watching – the only thing I have is to continue standing in front of it. To continue to resist in front of it. I’m looking for my freedom and I know that the price of freedom will be high so I…nobody can make me give up or hold the white flag without getting my freedom and this is the sense for all the Palestinians. We are paying, we are getting killed but we won’t give up.”

Does Pannell bother to point out to BBC audiences – and al Ghossein – that the Gaza Strip has not been under “Israeli occupation” for nine years? In light of that fact, does he dig deeper in order to give viewers some sort of insight as to how Hamas defines ‘occupation’ and which geographical areas its definition actually includes? Does he pick up on the glaring aberration of an internationally designated terrorist organization – which has targeted Israeli civilians with thousands of military grade missiles for fourteen years and sent dozens of suicide bombers to carry out carnage in Israeli cafes, shopping malls and buses – lecturing BBC viewers on “ethics”? The answer to all those questions is of course no. Instead, Pannell allows al Ghossein a platform from which to cynically commandeer the language of human rights, turning a violent, antisemitic terrorist organization into a popular movement for “freedom”.  

Pannell then tries to steer al Ghossein towards expatiation of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands – a theme we have seen being advanced repeatedly in BBC coverage in recent days.

“So let’s talk about those objectives. What are the key demands of Hamas? You say that you will abide by a humanitarian truce during Eid. The implication is you will resume the conflict after that until you get – what?”

EaG: “Well the problem is in the Israelis who are keeping to kill us. Not us. They started this war and they continue…”

Pannell interrupts, but not to clarify to audiences that al Ghossein’s version of events is inaccurate and untrue. Instead, Pannell is looking for advancement of his selected theme.

“But the objectives that would lead to the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian people saying enough…”

EaG: “Well…err…nobody will tell the Palestinians to stop defending themselves. The problem is the Israelis who are continuing to kill my people. And so I’m telling you…”

Pannell still hasn’t got what he came for.

“I’m just keen to know…yeah…what is it that you actually want now?”

Finally, al Ghossein responds to Pannell’s repeated prompts and the buzz words arrive.

EaG: “The solution is easy. We’re talking about two million people living in a big jail. 140 square miles with…err…no borders, with no products, with no electricity. There is no life. It’s a slow death since eight years. What we are looking for is lifting the siege, opening the borders and this is actually our rights. We shouldn’t get with all this blood. We should get it without anything but the problem is unfair international community that keep in silence since eight years in front of them.”

Predictably, Pannell makes no effort to ask his interviewee why – if it is so concerned about conditions in the Gaza Strip – Hamas initiated, carried out, allowed and facilitated the terrorism in the territory under its control which brought upon the population there the implementation of border restrictions by both Israel and Egypt in order to protect their own civilians. Neither does Pannell bother to enquire whether – in the event of the lifting of border restrictions – Hamas will rearm with the help of its foreign sponsors Iran and Qatar and continue to carry out terrorism against its neighbouring countries. He goes on:

“Are you any closer to achieving those aims now than you were one month ago?”

EaG: “Well we believe that we are going to get and achieve our goals. It’s not our goals as Hamas goals – no: it’s the Palestinian goals. And whatever happened we won’t change our stance. We look our freedom. If they kill all of us, all of us at all, we should get in the end our freedom. The only thing we have is dignity. We’re saving our dignity and looking for our freedom whatever surprise is continue to happen.”

As an aspiring “standard-setter for international journalism” the BBC should be deconstructing Hamas propaganda in order to help audiences cut through the terrorist organisation’s rhetoric and understand the real issues at stake, but audiences have not seen that happen at any time during the last three weeks. This lackluster performance by Ian Pannell in which he failed to challenge even one of al Ghossein’s falsehoods on the one hand and facilitated the portrayal of a terrorist organization as some sort of troop of benevolent human rights campaigners on the other, shows yet again that in its reporting from the Gaza Strip, the BBC’s ‘standards’ are much more in line with those of the propaganda spouting Al Aqsa TV run by its Hamas hosts. 

The return of the BBC’s Jon Donnison and his tall Twitter tales

As readers may already be aware, one of the people recently ‘parachuted in’ by the BBC to provide back-up to its local staff since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge is former Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison.Donnison

Despite only having been here for a few days, Donnison has already managed to get himself in the news once again, as Eli Lake documented here.

“Over the weekend it appeared that an Israeli official conceded something very valuable to Hamas. A BBC reporter in Israel tweeted out comments from the spokesman for Israel’s national police who allegedly said Hamas was not behind the kidnapping and murder last month of three Israeli teens on the West Bank, an incident that was the spark for the current war in Gaza. […]

Donnison tweeted that [police spokesman] Rosenfeld told him that while the cell on the West Bank was operating alone, it was affiliated with Hamas. However, it did not receive direct orders from Hamas leadership. 

Those tweets became the basis for a widely shared blog post saying Israel now conceded that the kidnappers acted in a lone cell and Hamas had nothing to do with it. […]

But when reached by The Daily Beast on Sunday, Rosenfeld said that he had told Donnison what the Israeli government had been saying all along. “The kidnapping and murder of the teens was carried out by Hamas terrorists from the Hebron area,” he told The Daily Beast. “The security organizations are continuing to search for the murderers.”

Donnison on Saturday said he stood by his earlier tweets. ” 

BBC Watch also contacted police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld who told us the following in relation to Donnison’s claims:

“I said and confirmed what is known already, that the kidnapping and murder of the teens was carried out by Hamas terrorists from the Hebron area and the security organizations are continuing to search for the murderers.” 

Jon Donnison and his Twitter tales remain a liability to the BBC. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Jon Donnison Tweets malicious fauxtography

BBC’s Jon Donnison Tweets unverified information again

 

Misleading BBC presentation of a ‘ceasefire’ and its ‘breaches’

On July 27th BBC television news programmes aired a report by Ian Pannell which also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Hamas-declared ceasefire in Gaza stalls as conflict continues“.CF Pannell 27 7

Before we take a look at Pannell’s report, let’s remind ourselves of the timeline of events over the weekend.

On Saturday July 26th a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire came into effect at 08:00 local time. Before that, nine missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel between midnight and 08:00. Throughout the agreed twelve-hour period, Hamas showed that it is capable of holding its own fire and preventing other terrorist organisations from acting when it wants to do so. At around 18:20 on Saturday evening, Israel said it would be willing to extend the ceasefire for a further four hours until midnight on Saturday night. Despite media reports that Hamas had also agreed to a four-hour extension, missiles were fired at Israeli communities at 20:04, and at least four subsequent barrages followed throughout the evening, including on Tel Aviv. At around 21:30 a Hamas spokesman said that Hamas would not extend the ceasefire until midnight after all. Just before midnight, the Israeli cabinet said it would further extend the ceasefire until 20:00 on Sunday, July 27th.

At 05:00 on July 27th mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip at communities in the Hof Ashkelon area. Further attacks took place at around 05:57, 08:10, 08:11, 08:33, 09:08 and 09:34 – with targeted areas including the Sharon and Shfela regions of central Israel. Just after 10:00 Israel announced that it was resuming fire in response to the missile attacks. Further missile attacks from the Gaza Strip took place at around 12:52 and 13:45. At around 13:30 Hamas announced a 24-hour truce starting at 14:00. Missiles were fired at approximately 14:19, 15:30, 16:18 (a woman was injured in that attack in a direct hit on her home while she slept), 16:42, 16:51, 17:22 and continued into the evening. From the morning of July 27th until 19:00, over 50 missiles were fired.

Ian Pannell’s report was filmed at around 10:00 on the morning of July 27th according to his account. In other words, at least seven missile attacks had been launched from the Gaza Strip by the time his camera began rolling. So let’s take a look at how he presented the situation to BBC audiences.

“Today was supposed to be quiet in Gaza. Israel extended its ceasefire, but Hamas did not. This was filmed by the Israeli military. They say it shows rockets being fired from a school across the border into Israel. “

Pannell then interviews Hamas spokesman Ehab Abu Ghossein.

IP: “What is the benefit to the Palestinian people of Hamas breaking the truce and then having massive Israeli airfire?”

EaG: “We’re looking for a total agreement and a full agreement that will end the killing and lift the siege totally and get our freedom.”

With a curious choice of words, Pannell goes on:

“This was Israel’s response. Well, it’s just gone ten o’clock in the morning…ahm…we were told that Israel was adhering to the ceasefire and that we were OK to travel on this area but we’re hearing a fairly constant barrage of artillery incoming. We’re seeing smoke rising in a number of different locations. There. There. Israel has declared its ceasefire over, but many residents were simply unaware.”

As noted above, Israel announced at around 10:00 that it would no longer hold fire due to the numerous missile attacks throughout the morning. Pannell, however, has nothing informative to say about those attacks meaning that BBC audiences remain ignorant of the circumstances behind Israel’s announcement that it would resume fire.

The rest of Pannell’s report is devoted to context-free accounts from local residents.

“The young mother said she was running away with her children because her house had been hit.”

“And while we talked to another resident, more shells were landing.”

The possibility that the Israeli fire might be directed at locations from which missiles were fired at Israel is not raised by Pannell, who also shows audiences footage of a context-free medical evacuation.

“An emergency team has been called out. People have been injured. Four people have been wounded. They said they’d been working on their farm. All of them had shrapnel wounds.”

As has been the case for the last three weeks, BBC camera crews apparently did not capture any of that abundant missile fire from the Gaza Strip on tape.

Pannell’s report was also featured in a written report titled “Hamas-declared ceasefire in Gaza stalls as conflict continues” which appeared on the BBC News website on the evening of July 27th. That article opens with the following interesting portrayal: [emphasis added]CF written 27 7

“A 24-hour ceasefire announced by Hamas in Gaza appears to be stalling, with both Palestinian militants and Israel continuing their offensives.

Hamas fired more rockets into Israel, accusing it of failing to abide by the ceasefire.

Israel rejected the truce, PM Benjamin Netanyahu saying: “Israel will do what it must do to defend its people”.”

In other words, the BBC presents Hamas missile fire during a truce it had declared unilaterally as a response to Israeli fire during a truce to which it had not agreed.

The article’s fifth paragraph contains this interesting piece of information:

“The Gaza health ministry on Sunday revised the number of dead down by 30 after some relatives found missing family members.”

In other words, from that we seem to be able to conclude that the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry – which of course has been quoted numerous times a day by the BBC since the beginning of hostilities – does not overly trouble itself with definite identification of casualties before it announces the numbers – and civilian status – of dead.

That article does not provide readers with any independent BBC reporting of the missile fire on the morning of July 27th which caused Israel to resume activities, but presents it solely in the form of an Israeli claim.   

“However, the Israeli military announced on Sunday morning it had decided to resume its air, ground and naval raids on Gaza in response to “incessant rocket fire” from Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since seizing power there in 2007.”

“Dozens of Hamas rockets were fired into Israel on Sunday, with some intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).”

The article also includes a filmed report by Orla Guerin which was shown on BBC television news on July 27th and also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Rockets lands in Israel after ceasefire stalls“. The synopsis to that report as it appears on the website again promotes the misleading notion that Israel broke the Hamas-declared unilateral ceasefire to which Israel did not agree.CF Guerin 27 7

“Hamas fired more rockets into Israel, accusing it of failing to abide by the ceasefire.”

Guerin opens her report with footage from the direct hit on the house in the Sha’ar HaNegev district in which a woman was injured, saying in her perennially dramatic tone:

“Mid-afternoon in Israel. A message from Hamas. A rocket landed one hour into a ceasefire it had announced. The home-owner was moderately wounded.

And here; Israel’s response. The government insists it’s pounding Gaza to stop the rockets and to destroy a network of tunnels that can be used to launch attacks.”

Of course some of those tunnels have already been used to launch attacks, but Guerin does not inform her viewers of that.

“Well, Israeli troops remain in position here close to the Gaza border and they’re still in position on the other side. In recent days the defence minister has said the ground operation could be broadened significantly. Twenty days on, by Israeli standards, the army has already suffered heavy losses and we’re just hearing the sound now of outgoing fire.

The justice minister Tsipi Livni was at the bedside of one of the wounded troops. We’re not allowed to show his face. Israel has lost 43 soldiers but it has killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians.”

After that context-free statement based on figures provided by the Hamas health ministry but not independently verified by the BBC to date, Guerin goes on to ask Israel’s minister of justice one of her trademark ‘impartially’ vitriolic questions – clearly more intended at broadcasting her own inaccurate statement than actually getting any information which might be informative to viewers from her interviewee.CF Guerin densely

“How can Israel try to justify raining missiles down on one of the most densely populated areas on earth?”

Tsipi Livni responds:

“Well, we’ve tried to stop more than once. Just yesterday we took a decision – the Israeli government – to have a humanitarian ceasefire when Hamas said no, so….”

Guerin continues:

“She wouldn’t comment further but internationally, the questions keep coming about the huge number of innocent victims.”

Again – Guerin has no independently verified facts regarding the number of uninvolved civilians or the number of terrorist combatants. Likewise, she has no independently verified information regarding the number of casualties who were actually killed by misfired or short-falling missiles fired by terrorist organisations. She goes on:

“On a hill overlooking Gaza Israelis come to watch the warfare. For some – a spectator sport. For others – a painful vista.”

That flippant interpretation by Guerin shows that she – predictably – joins the ranks of those foreign journalists who prefer to advance their own knee-jerk theories rather than actually trying to understand what they are seeing.

Guerin closes by misleading viewers with the implication that Hamas’ terrorism against Israeli civilians has something to do with the fact that a Palestinian state has not yet been established.

“Ceasefires may come and go but there’s no Palestinian state on the horizon.”

Bear in mind that Guerin – reporting as she is from Israel – is supposed to be giving BBC audiences the Israeli side of this story. Clearly that is not what she was trying to do in this report.