BBC presentation of truce fails to tell the real story

The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas however refused to accept the Egyptian-offered terms at the time, insisting that there would be no ceasefire until its demands were met. The BBC – as we know – took it upon itself to extensively and energetically publicise and promote Hamas’ unrealistic demands concerning the lifting of border restrictions but consistently refrained from providing audiences with accurate information regarding the nature of the restrictions themselves and the reasons why they had to be imposed in the first place, thus denying them the ability to appreciate why that particular Hamas pre-condition to a ceasefire would not come about.

Six weeks and much avoidable civilian suffering on, Hamas jettisoned those preconditions and agreed to a truce without any of them having been met as Avi Issacharoff explains.

“Hamas’s defeat lies in the area it counts as most important. With all due respect to the international community, or to al-Jazeera which emerged as the Hamas propaganda arm, what interests Hamas is public opinion in Gaza and in the West Bank. Time and again its leaders — including military wing chief Muhammad Deif, of whom it is not clear what remains after the IDF airstrike that targeted his home — bragged and made promises to the Gaza public that this conflict would continue until the siege was lifted. And until the re-arrested prisoners from the Shalit deal were released. And until an airport was opened. In their enthusiasm for these causes, they cost hundreds of thousands of Palestinians their homes. Two thousand, one hundred and forty-four men, women and children who were killed in a war that they were assured by Hamas simply had to continue until those goals were achieved. The Hamas leadership swore that without a seaport (getting the Rafah border crossing reopened was not deemed a sufficient achievement because it is controlled by the Egyptians) the rockets would continue to fall on Sderot and Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and Netivot.

Hamas further promised that there would be no return to the understandings that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 or to the realities of recent years. Time after time, for almost 50 days, they rejected the Egyptian initiative, which included, almost clause for clause, the elements of the 2012 agreement.

And then, on Tuesday afternoon, when first word of the ceasefire began to emerge, it became clear that Hamas had capitulated, retreated with its tail between its legs, abandoned everything it had insisted upon. No seaport and no airport. No release of the Shalit prisoners who were re-arrested in June after the murders of the three Israeli teens. No lifting of the blockade.”

The significance was clear even to journalists at the New York Times:

“Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, declared victory even though it had abandoned most of its demands, ultimately accepting an Egyptian-brokered deal that differs little from one proffered on the battle’s seventh day. In effect, the deal put both sides back where they were at the end of eight days of fighting in 2012, with terms that called for easing but not lifting Israeli restrictions on travel, trade and fishing in Gaza.”

But have those important points been conveyed to BBC audiences in the corporation’s coverage of the August 26th ceasefire? The BBC News website’s main article on the subject ran under the headline “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce” and it was amended numerous times until its final version was reached. At no point is it made sufficiently clear to readers that the terms of the agreement are the same as those offered after the first week’s fighting or that Hamas abandoned its preconditions – including those still being promoted by the BBC in the sidebar of ‘related articles’ links. The only hint of the latter point comes in an insert of ‘analysis’ from Kevin Connolly.26 8 truce

“There have been small celebrations in the streets of Gaza City hailing a “victory” but the truth is that Hamas has not achieved the headline-making concessions it was demanding in return for a ceasefire agreement.

So, there is no deal on the opening of a sea terminal or an airport at this stage. How ordinary Palestinians view the deal probably depends on how quickly their tightly-controlled borders are opened and how wide.”

Whilst the article fails to clarify to readers that the suffering of residents of the Gaza Strip could have been dramatically and significantly reduced had it not taken Hamas six weeks to abandon its unrealistic demands, it does include amplification of the Hamas narrative.

“Hamas said the deal represented a “victory for the resistance”. “

“A spokesman for Hamas, which controls Gaza, said: “We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance.” “

The article states:

“The announcement was greeted by celebratory gunfire on the streets of Gaza City.”

It fails to inform readers that a 19 year-old girl – Randa Nemer – was killed and 45 others injured by that “celebratory gunfire”.Sommerville 26 8 cf 1

The later version of the report briefly notes that two Israelis were killed around an hour before the ceasefire came into effect, but once again father of five Zevik Etzion and father of three Shachar Melamed of Kibbutz Nirim are not named.

“A last-minute volley of mortar shells from Gaza killed two Israeli civilians in Eshkol Regional Council, medics told the BBC.”

BBC television audiences saw two reports from Quentin Sommerville on the evening of August 26th. The earlier one – which also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree new truce” – tells viewers nothing about the fact that Hamas abandoned its preconditions and settled for what it could have had six weeks earlier.

Moreover, in Sommerville’s second report of the evening (“Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce“), which one can conclude was produced after more details of the terms of the ceasefire had come to light, he not only neglects to mention the above points but misleads audiences with regard to those terms.

“After fifty days of conflict – fifty days of loss – the streets of Gaza came alive tonight. It was a fight that cost two thousand lives but here they’re calling it a victory. There have been other ceasefires – eight in total – but it hasn’t brought people out onto the streets like this. They’re celebrating tonight because they believe that the fighting is over, that Israel’s blockade of Gaza has ended.” [emphasis added]

Later on in the report viewers are shown footage of Mahmoud Abbas saying that the agreement secured includes “providing Gaza with foodstuff and supplies”. No attempt is made to clarify to viewers that food, medicines and essential supplies have continued to enter the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing throughout the 50 days of conflict: 5,359 truckloads between July 8th and August 25th to be precise.Sommerville 26 8 cf 2

Against a background of footage of a missile hit on a kindergarten in Ashdod – which fortunately was empty at the time because the school year has not yet begun and the teacher preparing for the new term had left ten minutes earlier – Sommerville informs viewers of the obvious:

“Israel says that Hamas rockets have to stop if this truce is to work. This one landed today in a playground. No-one was hurt.”

Oddly, the fact that two members of Kibbutz Nirim were killed in a mortar attack earlier in the day is not mentioned.

On the afternoon of August 27th an article by Kevin Connolly appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Indecisive end to Gaza conflict“. There readers were informed that:

“Gaza does not function as a democracy so Hamas does not have to worry about immediate accountability to its own people, but many will question its judgement on two key points.

One is the decision to embark on a conflict when the agreement ending it only guarantees the restoration of the status quo that went before, together with commitments to discuss other grievances.

The other is the tactic of insisting on huge, headline-grabbing concessions (like the construction of a seaport in Gaza) in return for merely agreeing to enter talks.

It seems possible that that tactic made it harder to secure a ceasefire.”

Unfortunately, Connolly’s use of understatement and the fact that the BBC has throughout the past seven weeks consistently failed to adequately explain the important topic of the implementation of border restrictions and the naval blockade as a means of curbing the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip mean that many readers are likely to remain unclear as regards the fact that the same ceasefire could have been accepted by Hamas six weeks previously and the extent to which Hamas’ tactics have caused unnecessary suffering to the people of the Gaza Strip.  

 

 

 

BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Gaza: high on pathos and sunsets, low on accuracy and facts

The BBC Radio 4 version of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ featured an item by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in its August 16th edition which can be heard from around 06:56 here or as a podcast here. A very similar written version of Connolly’s report appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 17th under the title “Gaza: What does the future hold for the children?“.FOOC 16 8

Kevin Connolly is currently located in the Gaza Strip and, as the title of his report suggests, his last few days there seem to have understandably prompted him to worry about the children living in that territory.

“For children in Gaza, living through war must seem like an habitual part of life. Is it possible to imagine what the future may hold for them? […]

The children fizz with energy and curiosity, singing out their names across the gap between the buildings and demanding to know ours.

They quickly learn to wait until we are on air using the balcony’s portable satellite dish, before shouting across. They know that our desperate requests for quiet then have to be mimed, much to their amusement.

I find myself worrying what the future holds for them. […]

If you are a six-year-old in Gaza, you have already lived through three separate wars – the ugly and brutal confrontations with Israel which flared in 2008, 2012 and again this year. It is as though Gaza is a kind of junction box where the dysfunctional neural wiring of the Middle East fused a long time ago.”

Of course if you are a six year-old less than a mile away in Sderot you have also lived through those same three wars and if you are a thirteen year-old from any of the towns and villages surrounding the Gaza Strip, you have never known life without the constant missile fire from the Gaza Strip which – whenever the terrorist organisations there choose to escalate it – is the cause for the “brutal confrontations” which Kevin Connolly ambiguously describes as having “flared” without explaining why that is the case.

Interestingly though, since Connolly arrived in the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau in June 2010, neither he nor any of his colleagues have been sufficiently worried about the children in Sderot to make the 90 minute drive down there and ponder their future. The last BBC correspondents to do anything of that sort were Nick Thorpe in 2006 and Tim Franks in 2008. Perhaps some insight into Kevin Connolly’s comprehension of the situation can be gleaned from this segment of his report:

“And yet, decisive victory seems to elude Israel, just as it eludes Hamas. The fighting will probably end in ways which are ambiguous and unsatisfactory, just as it has in the past.

That will be tough on the civilians of southern Israel, who will almost certainly find themselves running for their air-raid shelters again in future.

But it will be tougher still for those children on the roof next door. They have no air-raid shelters and very little chance of escaping to the wider world as long as Israel and Egypt maintain strict controls on all movement across Gaza’s borders.”

Connolly makes no effort to inform his listeners or readers that the reason Israeli children have air–raid shelters is because their country invests considerable resources in the protection of its citizens and the reason the children in Gaza do not have air-raid shelters is that Hamas invests considerable resources in acquiring missiles and using concrete to build cross-border attack tunnels rather than air-raid shelters. Like the rest of his colleagues he of course refrains from mentioning that those controls on Gaza’s borders with Israel are necessary precisely because of those Hamas policies.

So whilst Connolly tugs at listeners’ heart strings with his artistic descriptions of Gaza and its young residents, he manipulatively blocks any mention of the root cause of the picture he paints from audience view.Connolly FOOC written 17 8

He also returns to the BBC practice of trivialising terror attacks against Israeli civilians by promoting the jaded ‘homemade rockets’ theme.

“These confrontations are hopelessly asymmetrical. Many of Hamas’s rockets are out-of-date or home-made, compared with Israel’s powerful and sophisticated weapons.”

Likewise, Connolly fails to convey to listeners and readers the fact that it was Egypt’s belligerency which eventually resulted in the Gaza Strip coming under Israeli control in 1967, that Israel withdrew from that territory nine years ago and that Israel controls the coastal waters and air-space of the Gaza Strip because the representatives of the Palestinian people – the PA – signed agreements stipulating those conditions two decades ago.

“In the Six Day War of 1967 Israel came back and has occupied Gaza – or controlled life inside it – ever since.”

Obviously, if Connolly’s statement were accurate and Israel did control life inside the Gaza Strip, there would not have been thousands of missiles fired at Israeli civilians from that territory or cross-border attack tunnels dug over the years. Connolly is no less inaccurate when he tells audiences:

“At one point, Hamas appeared to be navigating the treacherous cross-currents of the Arab Spring effortlessly. It seemed able to count, at different points, on the support of Syria, Egypt and Iran – all powerful regional players.

Now, through a combination of misjudgement and misfortune, it can count on none of them.”

The great misfortune of the children of the Gaza Strip is of course that the place they live is under the control of a nihilistic terrorist organization which puts their welfare way down its list of priorities and the terrorisation and murder of Israeli children at the top. Had Kevin Connolly bothered to properly explain that crucial point to BBC audiences instead of making do with flowery clichés and trite descriptions of sunsets, he might actually have made a step towards doing what the BBC exists to do: informing its funding public not just what is going on in the world, but why. 

 

BBC’s Gaza border restrictions campaign continues: the Yolande Knell edition

Three days after Wyre Davies’ visit to the Kerem Shalom border crossing for commercial goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the BBC apparently decided that its viewers had not heard anywhere near enough misleading, context-free and inaccurate descriptions of the situation at that crossing and so it sent Yolande Knell to report from the same place.Knell 11 8 Kerem Shalom

Notably, Knell’s August 11th report – which, in addition to being broadcast on BBC television news programmes, also appears on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza conflict: Families return home as Gaza ceasefire holds” – makes no mention of the fact that the previous day the crossing through which all goods and humanitarian aid enter the Gaza Strip had to be closed because of missile fire by terrorists (caught on CCTV cameras here) which endangered the safety of its workers.

Knell opens with her version of the standard BBC messaging:

“Supplies rolling into Gaza today, coming across the border from Israel. Most of this is bought by Palestinian businesses. And there’s aid too, but the Israelis impose tight controls. Almost no exports leave here. Now, with talks about a longer term ceasefire deal back on in Cairo, maintaining Israel’s security and lifting Gaza’s blockade are the key demands. These lorries are bringing goods into Gaza from Israel’s only commercial crossing point which is just down the road. Palestinians want it to be open more fully so they can trade effectively.”

As was pointed out here only recently, the Kerem Shalom crossing does not currently work at full capacity because there is no demand for it to do so from the Palestinian side. Should demand rise, the crossing is capable of working three shifts a day.

“Israel has invested 80 million ₪ [shekels] to expand Kerem Shalom to accommodate up to 450 trucks daily. However, due to demand on the Palestinian side, the average number of trucks that enter Gaza each day remains between 300- 350.” [emphasis added]

And what of Knell’s claim that “almost no exports leave here”? She makes no attempt to inform viewers how she quantifies “almost no” or to what period of time she refers, but before the current hostilities exports of agricultural produce were leaving the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing as can be seen in the weekly reports produced by COGAT. Most importantly, Knell fails to inform audiences that not only does Israel not place any restrictions on the export of produce abroad, it actually helps farmers in the Gaza Strip to export their vegetables and flowers, for example, to Europe.

Knell’s claim that “the Israelis impose tight controls” is of course a woefully inadequate and misleading representation of the situation. She fails to inform viewers that the only import restrictions are on weapons and dual-use goods which can be used for the purposes of terrorism – surely a highly pertinent point of background information given that less than a month has passed since the discovery of Hamas’ thirty-two cross-border attack tunnels. Also in line with the usual BBC policy, Knell neglects to inform audiences why restrictions were imposed in the first place and her presentation predictably fails to include the word terrorism at all, meaning that viewers are herded towards the misunderstanding that border restrictions are the product of some sort of Israeli vindictiveness rather than a means of trying to protect Israeli civilians by curbing the flow of arms and other materials for terrorist activity into the Gaza Strip.

Likewise, Knell’s portrayal of the situation at the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt also fails to inform viewers of the reasons for restrictions imposed by Egypt.

“And then behind me you have the Rafah crossing point with Egypt. It’s been mostly closed to travelers for the past year. But Palestinians say it should be Gaza’s gateway to the world. Currently, only those with foreign passports or residency can leave to Egypt.”

It is more than obvious that the BBC has taken upon itself to amplify Hamas’ demands concerning the restrictions on its borders with Egypt and Israel and audiences are now seeing daily reports on the topic which all promote the exact same messaging. However, not one item of BBC content has properly clarified to viewers that it was Hamas terrorism which made it necessary to impose those restrictions in the first place or what the consequences of a relaxation of restrictions are likely to be.

The BBC’s correspondents are not incompetent: they know exactly when and why those border restrictions were brought in and they are well aware of the fact that Hamas’ demand to lift restrictions stems not from any concern for the welfare of the people of Gaza, but from the dual need to be able to present an achievement as justification for initiating the recent hostilities and to be able to rearm for the next round.

Charged as they are with the responsibility of meeting the BBC’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues”, the consistent refusal of BBC journalists to present this highly topical issue to their audiences comprehensively, accurately and impartially is obviously a cause for very serious concern. 

 

 

What Beit Hanoun tells us about BBC impartiality

Here is a Tweet from one of those impartial BBC journalists currently reporting from the Gaza Strip: Tweet Chris Morris Beit Hanoun So, did the IDF actually say that “people didn’t die” in Beit Hanoun last Thursday as Morris facetiously claims? No. What the IDF investigation into the incident at the UNRWA school in which sixteen people were killed did reveal is that during a battle between IDF soldiers and terrorists located in the area, an IDF mortar did land in the schoolyard, but that yard was empty at the time. Ha’aretz has further details:

“The IDF released the findings of its investigation into the incident on Sunday morning. According to the inquiry, Palestinian militants opened fire from the area of the school, shooting mortars and antitank missiles at Israeli forces. In response, the investigation reveals, the IDF decided to return fire with mortars.

According to the army, whose inquiry included investigations of the ground forces and video footage of the incident, “one of the mortars fell in the school’s courtyard whilst it was empty of people.” “

An official statement adds:

“It has been established that Hamas rockets landed in the area and may have hit the UN facility. The investigation of the incident has revealed that Hamas terrorists fired anti-tank missiles at IDF soldiers from the area of the UN school. The IDF responded with mortar fire, and one of the rounds fell in the school’s courtyard, which was empty at the time. This was the only IDF fire that hit the school compound. These findings disprove the claim, made by various parties, that IDF fire caused casualties on the school grounds. Israel regrets all civilian casualties, but they are the direct result of Hamas’ decision to use Palestinian civilians as human shields.” [emphasis added]

In light of these findings BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis would of course do well to address the topic of her hastily reached conclusion that “You hit it. You killed them.” – which was broadcast to millions of viewers in the UK on July 24th.Maitlis Likewise, the editors of the filmed report by Yolande Knell which was shown to television audiences and promoted on the BBC News website on July 24th might like to reconsider the wisdom of the inclusion – before the circumstances of the incident were clear – of footage of a woman saying:

“The Israelis hit us in our homes and they hit us at the school”

That same footage of the same woman also appeared in a filmed report by Ian Pannell from the same date which was promoted on the BBC News website and shown on BBC television news. Both Pannell’s report and the ‘Newsnight’ interview by Emily Maitlis appear in a written report published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th. Listeners to an edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newsday’ heard the presenter saying:

“For the fourth time in as many days a UN facility there found itself in the eye of the storm; hit by what the Palestinians say was an Israeli shell.”

If readers are perhaps anticipating that this incident will prompt the BBC to reconsider its current policy of refraining from anything approaching robust reporting on the issue of the use of the local civilian population as human shields – which is precisely what a terrorist who fires anti-tank missiles at Israeli soldiers from the vicinity of a UN school is doing – then they may be in for some disappointment. That same ‘Newsday’ programme includes parts of Stephen Sackur’s recent interview with Khaled Masha’al. In addition, amplification is given to the following denial by Masha’al of Hamas’ use of human shields.GAZA MOI

“This is wrong information. Hamas does not give orders to people to stay inside their home. Hamas encourages people to stand fast and let the Palestinians show their steadfastness. This is the will of the people. Go to Gaza and see the people in hospitals and see the areas destroyed. These people are determined to preserve their land. You should not put the blame on the victims. The blame should go to the Israeli that has committed this massacre. We have several hundred Palestinians killed – most of them civilians – whereas Hamas is focusing on killing Israeli soldiers who came to Gaza to attack Palestinians. This is the ethical difference between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli aggression.”

One presumes that the BBC must be aware of the ample filmed and written evidence of Hamas’ spokesmen and Ministry of the Interior telling civilians in the Gaza Strip not to leave their homes. Nevertheless, its journalists not only fail to report adequately on the issue itself and even promote denial of it, but also amplify Masha’al’s obviously inaccurate claims. In that ‘Newsnight’ interview on July 24th, Emily Maitlis asked Mark Regev:

“If, after the fog of war has passed, this does turn out to be the fault of Israel, will you pause? Will you reset your rules of engagement tonight?”

We might well ask Emily Maitlis, her editors and numerous other BBC correspondents, editors and producers a very similar question.

Update:

Here is the IDF video footage showing the empty school yard at the time of the errant mortar strike. 

 

BBC avoids giving audiences the whole picture on Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands

There is nothing novel about BBC misrepresentation of Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and the restrictions placed on the entry of dual-use goods to that territory. However, that topic now moves into the limelight once again because one of the demands put forward by Hamas – and, significantly, now backed by the PA – is the lifting of the blockade as a pre-condition for a ceasefire to bring an end to the current hostilities.

” “We reject the cycle of ceasefire and negotiations,” said Hamas’ political chief Khaled Mashal on Wednesday night at a press conference in Qatar. “We rejected it today and we will reject it in the future.”

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.”

“You blockade our air space, we will blockade your air space,” threatened Mashal.”

That Hamas demand, among others, has been voiced numerous times over the past couple of weeks, but notably recent days have seen it being amplified – and justified – in BBC coverage along with the concurrent and similar Hamas demand regarding the border with Egypt.

On July 22nd Lyse Doucet was to be found in Rafah. The filmed report she produced – aired on BBC Television news and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza: Why is Rafah crossing so important?” – opens with an airbrushed explanation as to why that crossing has been closed for much of the last year or so, in much the same way as her colleague Yolande Knell reported on the same topic last August.Crossings Rafah Doucet

“Rafah crossing. Gaza’s only opening to the world which isn’t controlled by Israel. But the road to Egypt has been all but shut for the past year. Relations between Hamas and Egypt are badly strained.”

Notably, Doucet makes no mention of the Gaza Strip-based Salafist groups which have committed acts of terrorism in Egypt’s northern Sinai area and no effort is made to present the Egyptian viewpoint.

After some scenes of people unable to cross the border, Doucet tells viewers:

“A crossing like this is a relief valve for the people of Gaza. For most who live here this is their only way out, which is why during these difficult ceasefire talks, opening the road to Egypt is one of the main demands.”

Later Doucet turns her attentions elsewhere.

“Israeli attacks are striking at the very core of Gaza life. Water pipes, electricity lines, sewage systems have been hit and hit.”

Doucet of course refrains from informing viewers that on at least two occasions since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, terrorists in Gaza have cut off the electricity by damaging power lines with missiles fired at Israel and that – despite ongoing attacks – technicians from the Israel Electric Corporation went out to repair those high voltage lines. Other repair operations to infrastructure in the Gaza Strip carried out by Israel can be followed in COGAT’s daily updatesCrossings  repairs

Doucet goes on:

“Even before this war most Gazans didn’t have running water or more than a few hours of electricity. A seven-year Israeli blockade – ever since Hamas came to power – is paralysing the economy. Israel says it’s a security measure but it’s choking life here.”

Here we see yet another BBC report erroneously attributing problems in the Gaza Strip exclusively to Israel’s policies when in fact – like the shortages of medicines – the issues with electricity and fuel supply have nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with internal Hamas-Fatah disputes.

Not only does Doucet imply to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the real reasons for Israel’s policy with her use of the phrase “Israel says it’s a security measure”, but she fails to inform them that those policies – in fact implemented three months after Hamas carried out its violent coup in the Gaza Strip – were a direct response to escalating Hamas terror attacks.

So, Doucet erases the core issue of terror against both Egypt and Israel from the picture she presents to audiences of border restrictions affecting the Gaza Strip. She closes with this context-free promotion of Hamas messaging:

“In Gaza today they were clearing rubble again. War has made life much harder. But for Gazans ending the war must mean easing the blockade, otherwise life itself is just a long battle to survive.”

The day after that report, July 23rd, viewers of BBC television news saw another one by Yolande Knell which was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East crisis: Normal life on hold in Gaza“. That report found Knell once again visiting a market in Gaza.Crossings knell filmed

“The market here is really one of the only places you can find a lot of people. We’ve been asking them what do they want from a ceasefire deal.”

Woman: “To lift the siege, open the borders of Gaza and to let everything in. And free the prisoners from Israeli jails. This is the most important part of the conditions.”

Man: “Open the borders, have a – you know – promise from Israel that they will not do this what they did again. We want our rights, we want our freedom, we want our state. We want to be safe from their jets and their rockets.”

Knell continues:

“One positive sign for the truce efforts has been general support for Hamas’ demands from the other Palestinian factions. I’ve been to see Fatah parliamentarian Faisal Abu Shahla.

Abu Shahla: “They decided that…to accept the Egyptian initiative but at the same time that the requirements for the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, should be achieved.”

She closes:

“Everywhere you look in Gaza there’s so much evidence of the death and destruction that this latest fighting has brought and that’s why people here are really insisting that any deal to bring peace should be comprehensive and long-term.”

Yet again, no effort whatsoever is made to explain to BBC audiences how the actions of  terror organisations from the Gaza Strip caused two neighbouring countries to implement policies to protect their own citizens.

Recent written BBC reports on the same topic have been no better. An article titled “Gaza conflict: Abbas backs Hamas ceasefire demands” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 23rd opens:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has backed calls by Hamas for an end to the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip as a condition for a ceasefire.”

It later goes on to state:

“Hamas, which is dominant in Gaza, says it will not agree to a ceasefire that does not allow for freer movement of goods and people across its borders.

Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the new unity government backed by Hamas and Fatah, said it was time to end what he said was the cycle of unrelenting suffering for the Palestinians.

“We demand justice for our people, who everyday and since the beginning of the Israeli occupation have been subject to the occupation for 47 years,” he said.

“It’s time for this aggression to stop and it’s time for this siege to stop.”

Mr Abbas, a co-founder of Fatah, also chairs the Palestine Liberation Organisation, an umbrella group which has endorsed Hamas’s ceasefire demands.

Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.”

Israel has of course not occupied the Gaza Strip for nine years, but that point is not clarified to readers. Again, no mention is made of the fact that it was the escalation of Palestinian terrorism following the June 2007 Hamas coup which caused the Israeli government to declare the Gaza Strip a hostile territory in September 2007.

This article also includes further promotion of the falsehood that the shortage of medicines in the Gaza Strip is caused by Israeli policies by including the item broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live on the same day.Crossings 5 live item

An additional article titled “Hamas says Gaza blockade must end before ceasefire” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th begins:

“The leader of Islamist militant group Hamas has said there can be no ceasefire to ease the conflict in Gaza without an end to Israel’s blockade.

Khaled Meshaal said Hamas would continue to reject a lasting ceasefire until its conditions were met.”

Later on it states:

“In addition to lifting the eight-year economic blockade, Mr Meshaal’s list of demands also included the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

“We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices,” Khaled Meshaal told reporters at a news conference in Qatar on Wednesday.”

Yet again no information is given to readers regarding the terror attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas and other terrorist organisations which brought about the restrictions.

“Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.”

Another article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th under the title “Gaza: Hamas seeks to emerge stronger” was written by Yolande Knell. One of many notable features of that report is yet another inadvertent documentation of the fact that Hamas uses civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields.Crossings Knell written

“The only place where we have been able to approach Hamas spokesmen is at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where they make periodic appearances.”

Another is Knell’s now habitual misrepresentation of Hamas’ international designation as a terrorist organization.

“Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist organisation; the group’s founding charter is committed to the destruction of the Israeli state.”

Knell too presents a portrayal of Israeli policy which completely erases the Hamas terrorism which brought it about:

“They [Hamas] consistently demand that any ceasefire deal must include a release of prisoners from Israeli jails and an easing of the border restrictions imposed on Gaza by both Israel and Egypt.

“Until now we are under a complete suffocating siege and embargo. They have isolated Gaza from the world,” says spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum. “There’s no justification of this crime.”

A blockade of the Palestinian territory was tightened after Hamas seized control of it in 2007, a year after winning legislative elections.”

Gaza Strip-based terrorism against Egypt is also seriously downplayed in Knell’s account and the smuggling of weapons through tunnels under the Rafah border is erased.

“Meanwhile Egypt’s military-backed governments have always had a testy relationship with Hamas because of its ideological links with the country’s Muslim Brotherhood. […]

Hamas wants Egypt to reopen fully the Rafah border crossing. It has said it will not stop fighting until there is a full agreement on the table. […]

Since the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from office a year ago, Rafah, Gaza’s main gateway to the world, has been kept shut most of the time.

The Egyptian military has also closed down the network of hundreds of Hamas-licensed smuggling tunnels that ran under its border. These provided a lifeline to the coastal enclave and provided Hamas with vital funds.

The new government in Cairo accuses Hamas of supporting Islamist militants in its restless Sinai region along the Gaza border; a charge it denies.”

Knell provides readers with some ‘man in the Gaza street’ opinions:

“When Egypt offered the deal, the Israelis picked it up but to be honest for the Palestinians it seemed like a trap,” says Ibrahim, from Gaza City. “People want commercial crossings reopened. We want to go back to a normal life.”

“We need a ceasefire that will give us our human rights and end the siege,” a charity worker, Haneen tells me. “We want the Rafah crossing opened so that we can travel again.”

So as we see, five separate items of content over three consecutive days have presented BBC audiences with information on the issue of Hamas’ pre-condition for a ceasefire which exclusively portrays the Hamas view of border restrictions. None of those reports has given readers or viewers an accurate account of how, when and why both Egypt and Israel adopted policies concerning their borders with the Gaza Strip. The terrorism which brought about those policies has not even been mentioned and no explanation has been given regarding the vital role played by the naval blockade and border restrictions in curbing the flow of missiles and other weapons to the Gaza Strip.

Clearly, BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions or “participate in the global debate” on this very topical subject without that vital information and context.  But the repeated promotion and amplification of inaccurate, politically motivated claims of shortages of medicines and food in the Gaza Strip because of Israeli policies which we have seen across many BBC platforms in the past few days suggests that the BBC has no intention of providing comprehensive, accurate and impartial reporting on this topic and that intends instead to use emotive partial accounts to amplify the same version of the story as is promoted by Hamas. 

 

BBC fails to adequately inform audiences on terrorist tunnels (and worse)

Quentin Sommerville’s filmed report for BBC television news late on July 17th (which also appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Israel starts Gaza ground offensive“) got off to a shaky start when he implausibly claimed that:

“Many people here in Tel Aviv probably haven’t even heard the news. The bars are very busy. This is the busiest night of the weekend – of the Israeli weekend, if you like – Thursday night.”

With the vast majority of Israelis having friends, relatives or neighbours serving in the regular army or among the reservists called up since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge – or both – and with Israelis being both notorious news junkies and famously technology savvy, it is highly unlikely that there was any basis to Sommerville’s claim that almost two hours after the ground operation began, “many people” had not “heard the news”.

But happily Sommerville’s report went on to improve as he rightly informed viewers:

Tunnel discovered in Gaza Strip 19/7/14. Photo: IDF

Tunnel discovered in Gaza Strip 19/7/14. Photo: IDF

“Now the Prime Minister’s office – Benjamin Netanyahu – has made it plain that there is a specific objective of this ground offensive – clearly this is a major escalation of…ah…this ten-day conflict – but that the specific objective is to target tunnels which militants from Gaza have been using to try and enter Israeli territory. A number – we believe thirteen – heavily armed gunmen tried to make it across into Israel to attack a kibbutz this morning at 4:30 a.m. We were down in that area south [sic] of the Gaza Strip this morning.”

However, despite the BBC obviously being aware of the main objective of the ground operation as shown in Sommerville’s report, audiences have so far not been properly informed about the topic of Hamas’ cross-border tunnels. There has so far been no ‘Features & Analysis’ article or no video report explanation of what these tunnels are, how they differ from the other types of tunnels in the Gaza Strip, how, by whom and with what they are built, why they present a threat to Israel and why they cannot be neutralized other than by means of a ground operation.

Clearly, if BBC audiences are to be properly and fully informed with regard to why a ground operation is currently underway, then the information above is imperative and BBC audiences might perhaps have expected to find it in an article by the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 18th under the title “Gaza: What does Israel’s ground offensive aim to achieve?“. However, no significant information is provided by Marcus in that article.

“In the first instance the decision to give the green light to a ground phase may have a relatively limited objective – to seek out and destroy tunnels constructed by Hamas and other groups which they hope to use as a means of infiltrating heavily armed fighters into Israel.

One such operation was thwarted in the early hours of Thursday morning. Some 13 Palestinian fighters emerged from a tunnel between Kerem Shalom and Kibbutz Sufa, east of the Gaza Strip, at around 04:00 (01:00 GMT). Israeli troops quickly intercepted the intruders who took casualties and were forced back into the tunnel.

Infiltration attempts – either via tunnels or by landings on the Israeli coast – have been a relatively new tactic from the Palestinians in this crisis and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an explicit reference to the tunnels when he announced his decision to give a green light to a ground mission.” [emphasis added]

Of course in actual fact, Palestinian terrorists have been using cross-border tunnels for years.

As we noted here previously, the Hamas tunnel infiltration of July 17th near Kibbutz Sufa mentioned by Sommerville in the above report did not receive any stand-alone reporting from the BBC and was only briefly mentioned in written reports on the BBC News website on the same day.

Although much of the first day of the ground operation focused on locating tunnels, BBC reports from July 18th included only sparse information on that topic – for example here:

“Mr Netanyahu said the ground operation was targeting the Hamas tunnel network, which the Israel military could not do “only from the air”.”

And here:

“He [Netanyahu] said the military was targeting the Hamas tunnel network, which it could not do “only from the air”.” […]

“On Friday, the military announced it had arrested 13 militants and uncovered 10 tunnels since the start of the ground incursion.” […]

“Last night our forces began a ground operation to hit the terror tunnels crossing from Gaza into Israel’s territory,” Mr Netanyahu told a special cabinet session broadcast live on television on Friday.

“It is not possible to deal with the tunnels only from the air.” […]

“Palestinian militants have used tunnels to carry out attacks, some of which have been thwarted by the Israeli military.

On the morning of the ground offensive, the Israeli military intercepted 13 militants who had infiltrated Israel through a tunnel, and were believed to be planning to attack a nearby kibbutz.”

A report from July 19th states only:

Mr Netanyahu insisted that the ground operation was necessary to target a Hamas tunnel network, which the Israel military could not do “only from the air”.

On July 19th another tunnel infiltration took place in the Eshkol region. That incident received three sentences of coverage in paragraphs nine to twelve of an article of the same date titled “Gaza conflict: Casualties mount amid fresh violence” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

“The Israeli military said it killed a Palestinian militant after he infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from central Gaza.

The army said he was among several militants armed with machine-guns aiming to carry out a lethal attack on a nearby Israeli community.

An Israeli patrol repulsed the attack, forcing the militants back into Gaza but two Israeli soldiers were wounded in the incident, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.”Op PE Doucet no tunnels

In a filmed report broadcast on BBC television news and promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 18th under the title “Gaza conflict: UN says number of displaced almost doubles“, Lyse Doucet even went so far as to promote the notion that there are no tunnels.

Doucet: “Israel says its forces are searching for tunnels used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks.”

She then asks a group of local men:

“Is there…are there tunnels here used by Hamas? Is there infrastructure? Why is this area being targeted?”

Man: “There are no tunnels. There is nothing in our area here. That is just what they want to tell the other countries to justify this.”

BBC audiences’ understanding of this ground operation cannot be complete if they are not properly informed on the issue of cross-border offensive tunnels and tunnels used to store weapons. So far, the BBC has failed to meet its obligation to inform them adequately regarding that topic.

Related Articles:

BBC not sure cross-border tunnel intended for terror?

BBC’s Knell dumbs down the Gaza Strip economic situation (spoiler: it’s Israel’s fault)

A filmed report by Yolande Knell from July 15th which was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “‘Essentials, not luxuries’ being bought in Gaza” as well as being broadcast on BBC television news provides an interesting example of how the framing of a story can actively prevent audiences from properly understanding an issue.Knell 15 7 market Gaza

Knell reports from a market in Gaza City.

“This is how most of the shops look all around Gaza City. They’re completely closed up because of the ongoing fighting. But the main market here is still open and this is the busiest time of the day, although business has really been down over the past week. Abu Ahab has had a stall here in the market for the past five years. He’s selling dates, which are really popular at this time during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Abu Ahab – how is business?”

Stallholder: “The situation this year is different because of the war. Those who come here shopping come only for the essentials – not for the luxuries. Instead of taking [a] kilo of dates they take half a kilo. Why? Because some people haven’t been paid, because of the blockade and there is a war at the same time. People have no money. The war is terrifying them. They are selling their possessions so they can buy food for Ramadan.”

Knell: “Already, the economic situation in Gaza is very tough because of the tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt. That means there’s very little industry and there’s high unemployment. Recently – to make matters worse – there’s been no money to pay the Hamas government employees and that dispute has led to banks being closed and a shortage of cash for everyone.”

As we see, audiences are encouraged to believe that the difficult economic situation in the Gaza Strip is primarily – if not exclusively – attributable not to the ineptitude of the Hamas government which ruled it for the last seven years and not to that organisation’s decision to divert resources into terrorism rather than building a sustainable economy and a healthy civil society, but to Israeli and Egyptian policies enacted in order to cope with that terrorism.

This, of course, is the topsy-turvy line which Knell has been pushing for some time now – as we have documented here in the past (see examples here, here and here). The phrase “tight border restrictions” is frequently used by Knell and other BBC employees without any adequate explanation of what that actually means.

In fact the only restrictions in place are those prohibiting the import of weapons (as, one imagines, is the case at most international borders) and dual-use goods which can be used for military purposes to the Gaza Strip. Even those dual-use goods can be imported into the Gaza Strip with special co-ordination and on condition that their use is supervised. All other goods can enter the Gaza Strip from Israel freely.

Notably, neither Knell nor any other BBC journalist has in the ten days since the conflict began seen fit to inform audiences that humanitarian aid has continued to be supplied to the Gaza Strip throughout the entire time.

But Knell’s final sentence is particularly interesting – especially because of what it does not tell viewers.

“Recently – to make matters worse – there’s been no money to pay the Hamas government employees and that dispute has led to banks being closed and a shortage of cash for everyone.”

Banks in the Gaza Strip were indeed closed for six days at the beginning of June but Knell neglects to inform audiences why and the BBC did not report on the topic at the time.

“Banks in the Gaza Strip reopened Wednesday, after being closed for six days following a cash-run on the banks by Palestinian civil servants demanding unpaid salaries, Palestinian media reported.

The payment crisis sparked a severe public dispute between Fatah and Hamas, just days after the establishment of the new technocratic unity government. Hamas claimed that the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should pay the salaries, while the PA rejected the demand. […]

Jihad al-Wazir, head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the Palestinians’ central bank, said “All automatic telling machines at bank branches in the Gaza Strip are working again today.” 

Hamas forces withdrew from outside banks, where they had been preventing the use of ATMs. [….]

Hamas demanded Thursday that the Palestinian Authority take employees of the disbanded Gaza government onto its payroll, after the PA’s Gaza-based staff received their salaries but their Hamas counterparts went empty-handed.

After scuffles broke out at ATMs, Hamas security forces closed the banks.”

So in other words, the banks were closed because the Hamas private militia closed them because the Palestinian unity government to which it is party and which it agreed would rule the Gaza Strip instead of Hamas wouldn’t do what Hamas wanted.

Now doesn’t that sound rather different to the version of the story Yolande Knell is telling BBC audiences? But the really important part of Knell’s omissions in this report and others in relation to the current situation is that one of the conditions presented by Hamas for a ceasefire to end the current round of conflict is that the PA pay these people (some of whom are employees of Hamas’ Izz ad Din al Qassam Brigades) anyway. So far, the BBC has failed completely to inform BBC audiences of any of Hamas’ demands which are not related to Israel.

Another interesting point to note is that whilst the BBC took a distinctly ‘best thing since sliced bread’ approach to the Hamas-Fatah unity deal at the time, since the upsurge in hostilities it has been remarkably reticent about clarifying to BBC audiences the significance of the fact that officially, the Palestinian Authority is in charge of the Gaza Strip – from which well over a thousand missiles have been fired at Israeli civilians in just over a week – in clear breach of existing agreements between the PA and Israel.

“…Hamas has officially renounced its responsibility for governing Gaza, while the Palestinian unity government has already begun the process of taking over the administration of Gaza. Over a week ago (July 5/6), a senior Hamas official, Ahmad Yousef, was “asked about increased rocket fire on Israel in recent weeks” in an interview with Palestinian news agency Ma’an. His answer: “From a political point of view, (Prime Minister) Rami Hamdallah is responsible and he can give orders to security services to intervene. Hamas is not ruling the Gaza Strip and so it’s not responsible for protecting borders”.”

Now of course all that is a lot more of a headache to explain to BBC audiences than ‘(some) people in Gaza are poor because of Israeli and Egyptian border restrictions’, but if the BBC is to meet its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”, it is going to have to stop dumbing down its reporting and start providing them with the entire picture instead of inaccurate politically motivated sound-bites.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell inaccurately attributes shortage of medical supplies in Gaza to Israel

BBC continues to promote theme of “homemade” rockets

One of the themes we have seen being recycled in BBC reporting of Operation Protective Edge is that of the description of the missile arsenals of Gaza Strip-based terrorist organisations as “homemade rockets”.Knell 14 7 homemade rockets

Just a few examples of that practice can be seen in the following reports.

In an article titled “Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 11th, Kevin Connolly stated:

“To the outside world the Gaza rockets may seem ineffective – partly because many are homemade and partly because they’re hopelessly overmatched by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

And

“Lots of the rockets in Gaza are workshop weapons. What if Israel staged a huge operation, left declaring it a success and then found home-made rockets raining down a week or a month later?”

An article titled “Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 12th included ‘analysis’ from Connolly in which he again stated:

“To the outside world the Gaza rockets may seem ineffective – partly because many are homemade and partly because they’re hopelessly overmatched by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

Another article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 12th under the title “Israel to ‘resist international pressure’ over Gaza” includes that very same ‘analysis’ by Connolly.

In a filmed report produced by Yolande Knell on July 14th which appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East conflict: Palestinians flee Israeli air strikes” as well as having been broadcast on BBC television news’ GMT programme, Knell states:

“These pictures from Hamas militants are said to show homemade Palestinian rockets being fired at Tel Aviv.”

The remarkably uniform description of missiles with warheads of up to 60 kg as “homemade” is clearly not a matter of chance. The obvious intention is to steer audiences towards a view of these weapons as being crudely and simply made, with the implication that they are ineffective and do not present such a dangerous threat to Israeli civilians. Notably too, whilst BBC reporters take pains to promote the “homemade” theme, they have little if anything to say about the weaponry of Hamas and other terrorist organisations which is not locally produced and the fact that several terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip are supplied, funded and supported by Iran.

So what are the facts with regard to the missile stocks of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip?

According to Israeli military intelligence, of some 10,000 missiles located in the Gaza Strip, approximately 6,000 are in Hamas’ possession. The important fact that other armed terrorist groups are also in possession of military-grade weaponry is rarely adequately reported by the BBC.

Hamas arsenal

As we see, the amount of smuggled standard missiles outnumbers the locally produced ones, meaning that the BBC’s across-the-board description of Hamas missiles as “homemade” is both inaccurate and misleading. The same is the case with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s missile arsenal.

PIJ arsenal

It is also inaccurate and misleading to audiences when the BBC describes as “homemade” the products of what is in reality an organised industry which has already manufactured thousands of missiles and is funded by terrorist organisations – one of which is now party to the Palestinian unity government.

The deliberate use of the term “homemade” in relation to weapons which currently threaten the majority of Israel’s civilian population is not only inaccurate though: it also shows a clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality because its intention is to distort audiences’ views of the severity of the threat to that civilian population and thereby influence their overall view of the conflict. 

BBC fails again to report Hamas order to civilians to act as human shields

A written report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 13th under the title “Israel warns north Gaza civilians to evacuate ahead of strikes” opens with the following statement:

“Israel says it has warned residents in northern Gaza to evacuate as it prepares to launch fresh air strikes.”

In fact, Israel did not just ‘say’ it had warned residents to evacuate; it did warn them – by means of SMS and voice-mail messages, as well as with leaflets which – as other media organisations reported – were readily available in the public domain by the time the BBC published its article, including an English language translation.

warning IDF arabic

warning IDF english

A photograph illustrating the article also uses the ‘Israel said’ formula in its caption.

warning art pic

Readers have to continue until the report’s eighth paragraph in order to get a proper view of events.

“The military confirmed it had dropped leaflets over the city of Beit Lahiya on Sunday morning telling civilians to seek shelter.

“We do not wish to harm civilians in Gaza, but these civilians must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructures is extremely unsafe,” the IDF said.

By 10:30am local time (07:30am GMT), more than 4,000 Gaza residents had taken refuge at eight bases of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, spokesman Chris Gunness said.”

However, this BBC report only tells half the story. No mention is made of the fact that a Hamas spokesman and the Palestinian Interior Ministry ordered the residents to go back to their homes (the original MoI statement, together with its Palestinian National Authority logo, can be seen here).

“The Hamas Interior Ministry released a statement titled “Urgent call to the residents of the Gaza Strip” in which locals were told to ignore the calls and warnings made by Israel and the IDF. “To all of our people who have evacuated their homes – return to them immediately and do not leave the house.”

 “You must follow the directives of the Interior Ministry. This is psychological warfare, random messages to instill panic in people.””

A filmed report on the same story by Yolande Knell was also broadcast on BBC television news and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Israel warns north Gaza civilians to evacuate ahead of strikes“. Knell tells viewers:warning Knell filmed

“This isn’t a family outing; it’s an exodus. Palestinians head away from their homes in northern Gaza and take their most prized belongings with them. Israel’s warning there’ll be a heavy bombardment of the border area where they live.

‘Look how many kids I have’ this man tells me ‘ We’re forced to leave. We’re not going to stay and be killed in our house’.

The Israelis broadcast their orders on TV and dropped leaflets. We’ve seen several Palestinian families like these clutching bags of their possessions and emergency supplies and heading south. The Israeli military has told them to evacuate their homes and there’s not much time left to get away. We find hundreds of Gazans coming inside a school for shelter. They’re exhausted and distressed.

Man: ‘I hope this will be end and we still alive and we go home and find our home as we left it’.”

Notably, Knell makes no effort to inform BBC audiences why those civilians were warned to leave the area. She fails to make any mention of the fact that the northern part of the Gaza Strip is used by terrorist organisations as a launching site for missiles. And she too refrains from informing viewers about the demand made by Hamas and the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior that those people to return to their homes and act as human shields for those terrorists.  

Clearly the deliberate omission of any mention of Hamas’ use of human shields in any of the BBC’s written and filmed reports means that audiences are being denied essential information necessary for them to form an informed opinion on this issue.  

What are the dominant themes appearing in BBC filmed reports from the Gaza Strip?

As Operation Protective Edge progresses, the BBC is increasingly putting the focus of its reporting on the subject of casualties in the Gaza Strip. Notably – although the figures quoted by the BBC come exclusively from Palestinian sources and primarily from the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health – reports have not taken the trouble to clarify to BBC audiences that neither the figures themselves nor the ratio of civilians to combatants has been independently verified by the BBC.Op PE Bowen 2 11 7

Since the entry of the first BBC foreign correspondent into the Gaza Strip on July 8th, viewers of BBC television news and visitors to the BBC News website have seen the following filmed reports among others.

July 8th:  

  • Promotion of the inaccurate claim that the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is the result of Israeli policy from Yolande Knell.

July 9th:

July 10th:

  • A report by Yolande Knell in which she amplifies claims made on Hamas-run local TV stations without informing audiences that they have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“…People really are extremely afraid. They’re just watching the local television news which is telling about the number of people killed here in Gaza since Tuesday morning mounting up, saying that most of those are civilians.” [emphasis added]

In the same report, Knell also amplifies an inaccurate claim of ‘collective punishment’ from what she describes as “human rights groups”, but fails to provide audiences with the names of those organisations so that they can verify the relevance and accuracy of such claims for themselves. In addition, she once more fails to inform audiences that the “homes” targeted also served as centres for terrorist activity.

“Israel has been following a policy of targeting the homes it says belong to militants here in Gaza. Because this is a very densely crowded place that often means that because residential areas are targeted, whole families are targeted and you have what’s been described by some human rights groups as collective punishment, but also just other civilians not involved in militant activity getting caught up in this.”

  • A filmed report by Kevin Connolly, the synopsis of which also quotes Hamas officials without informing readers that the information has not been independently verified by the BBC and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

“Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip say 78 people have been killed in Israeli attacks from the air and the sea this week.”

To his credit, Connolly mentions in that report some of the methods used by Israel to avoid civilian casualties (others include aborting missions and leafleting operational areas).

“Israel says its air-force tries hard to avoid civilian casualties. Before houses are bombed, warnings are telephoned to people inside and a dummy missile is fired before the real one: a so-called ‘knock on the roof’.”

He goes on:

“It doesn’t always work. Israel today called the death of eight civilians in a house in Khan Younis on Tuesday a tragedy, saying the victims had gone back inside too soon after the warning.”

Disappointingly, Connolly fails to inform viewers that Hamas has instructed the local population to ignore warnings from the IDF, encouraging them to act as human shields.

“They didn’t warn us. […] It was the first time they hit a house without any warning.”

Sommerville adds:

“The Israeli military usually gives advance notice of an attack. If they did here, the Haj family didn’t receive it.”

Again, no effort is made to inform BBC audiences of Hamas’ calls to civilians not to heed Israeli warnings or of the significant fact that in this particular case, that instruction was issued using the Palestinian National Authority logo due to the establishment of the PUG at the beginning of June.

GAZA MOI

July 11th:

“The deaths of two Palestinians in an Israeli air-raid on a camp in central Gaza has brought the total number of people killed in the conflict to 100 in just four days. Overnight another five people were killed when a three-storey house in the southern town of Rafah was flattened. Militants have fired more rockets at Tel Aviv in the last few hours. No Israelis have so far been killed since the conflict began.”

  • A filmed report using amateur footage, the synopsis to which as it appears on the BBC News website does not clarify that the source of the information given is Hamas or that the BBC has not independently verified it and does not make any distinction between civilian and combatant casualties.

“More than 100 people have died in the Israeli air strikes on Gaza, Palestinian sources say.”

  • A filmed report by Jeremy Bowen, who arrived in the Gaza Strip on the morning of the same day. The synopsis to the version of that report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page once again fails to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties and neglects to inform audiences that the figures have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“More than 100 people have died in the Israeli air strikes in the territory, Palestinian sources say.”

Failing to point out that the Gaza Health Ministry is run by Hamas and that the BBC has not verified its claims independently, Bowen informs viewers:

“More than half of over 100 people killed in Gaza by Israeli raids were women and children according to the Health Ministry.”

  • In a separate but similar report from the same date titled “Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′”, Bowen repeats the above claim, once again failing to inform viewers that the figures come from Hamas and have not been independently verified by the BBC.

“More than half of over 100 people killed in Gaza by Israeli raids so far this week were women and children, according to the Health Ministry.”

He adds:

“The UN Human Rights Commissioner says there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians.”

Notably, Bowen’s paraphrasing of Navi Pillay’s statement does not include the part of it which conflicts with Bowen’s claim that more than half the casualties in the Gaza Strip are women and children. Bowen also fails to inform viewers that the UN Commissioner also noted Hamas’ failure to comply with the laws of war that protect civilians, both by its indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians in missile attacks and its storage of weapons and firing of missiles from residential areas in the Gaza Strip.

“Ms. Pillay warned in particular that attacks must not be directed against civilians or civilian objects, nor should military assets be located in densely populated areas or attacks be launched from such areas.”

As we see from the examples of reports above, the BBC’s main themes in its reporting from the Gaza Strip so far have been as follows:

Promotion and amplification of false claims of targeting civilians and collective punishment made by politically motivated interested parties.

Promotion of unverified casualty figures from Hamas sources with a failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Portrayal of Israeli strikes on houses without adequate clarification of the practice of use of residential buildings as command centres and weapons storage facilities by terrorist organisations.

Failure to adequately inform BBC audiences concerning the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organisations, including both the failure to report Hamas calls to the public to ignore Israeli warnings intended to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and the failure to report on the storage and firing of missiles from residential areas.

Failure to inform BBC audiences of factors contributing to the number of casualties such as secondary explosions due to the storage of explosives in houses or public buildings located in residential neighbourhoods and short-falling missiles.

Inference of failure on Israel’s part to conform to laws of war protecting civilians without adequate information on the topic of those laws being provided and with no clarification to audiences concerning obvious breaches of the same laws by terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, including the one which is party to the PA unity government.