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. 

 

 

 

 

Third example of BBC promotion of the lie that Israel deliberately targets civilians

In the past couple of days we have already documented here two instances of BBC promotion and amplification of the false claim that Israel deliberately targets civilians in the Gaza Strip (see here and here) in written reports on the BBC News website.Knell filmed PCHR

On July 9th the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell produced a filmed report – broadcast to television audiences around the world and also promoted to millions more on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza death toll rises as air strikes continue” – which amplified and promoted the same inaccurate claim from the head of a political NGO – the PCHR.

In that report, the BBC aired footage of Raji Sourani saying:

“This is a third consecutive war against Gaza since 2008 and Israel always, I mean, do target the civilians and they are in the eye of the storm.”

In actual fact, Israel of course does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties in a territory in which terrorists fire missiles from, and store military grade weapons in, residential areas – turning the local civilian population into human shields.

On three separate occasions now the BBC has deliberately amplified what it knows full well to be a lie propagated for the purpose of political propaganda.  That is not accurate and impartial journalism: it is self-conscription to the public relations campaign of a terrorist organisation and its supporters.  

 

BBC’s Knell again passes up on telling audiences about Hamas’ human shields

Since July 8th, BBC television audiences are having much of their news from the Gaza Strip delivered by Yolande Knell. Two of the filmed reports she produced on July 9th also appear on the BBC News website.

The earlier report is titled “A night of Gaza rocket attacks on Israel” and its synopsis reads as follows.Knell 9 7 a

“A series of rocket attacks were launched overnight from Gaza into Israel territories [sic] as tension continues to mount in the region.

Israel said four rockets hit southern Israel overnight and that rocket fire continued on Wednesday, with more shot down over Tel Aviv and Ashkelon.

Israel said there were 160 air strikes on Gaza overnight in response.” [emphasis added]

The IDF did indeed announce that four missiles had hit southern Israel between midnight and 07:00 on July 9th. However, that description – like the BBC News website’s main article from July 8th – does nothing to inform audiences of the fact that between dusk and midnight, dozens of missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip.

Knell tells viewers:

“Well, it was a very noisy night here in Gaza and it’s been a noisy morning as well. And certainly after it went dark last night we heard this volley of rockets that were being fired by militant groups here into Israel. This is really the most significant development of the last 24 hours, I think: the fact that they’re using these longer range missiles now. The militant groups here claim that they’re both locally made rockets but also some that the Israeli military has said appear to be Syrian-made using Iranian technology. And the militant groups here have managed to obtain these rockets despite the fact that Gaza is of course…em…kept under very tight border restrictions by both Israel and Egypt. The Israeli military says that more than 45 rockets…em…were fired overnight, targeting…ah…big cities – Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and also Hadera which is more than eighty miles away from the Gaza Strip. It says although no-one was actually hurt directly as a result of these rockets, that the majority of the Israeli population was placed in immediate danger.”

Knell does not bother to explain to viewers how Israel manages to limit casualties by investment in means such as early warning systems, missile defence systems, air-raid shelters and safe rooms. Neither does she trouble them with details of the locally made M75 and Syrian-made M302 missiles. But most significantly, she does not clarify the topic of Iranian involvement in the supply of those latter missiles – an example of which was seen in March of this year – or the fact that during Morsi’s presidency, the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was under considerably less control than it has been of late, due to the close relations between Hamas and its parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Knell’s second filmed report from July 9th is titled “Video shows Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Strip” and its synopsis once again promotes the inaccurate notion that the terrorists’ missile strikes are a ‘reaction’ to Israeli actions.Knell 9 7 b

“Palestinian militants have fired more rockets at Israeli cities after Israel carried out dozens of overnight air strikes on the Gaza Strip.”

The synopsis fails to inform audiences how many of the casualties it cites are civilians and how many terrorists.

Knell tells viewers:

“It’s very quiet here on the streets of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip. Most residents are just staying indoors trying to remain safe. There’ve been a lot of Israeli airstrikes here in the past day or so, several of them targeting houses. If you look at this one over here, it’s been almost destroyed. Locals say that it was an Islamic Jihad leader that was living here. He and his family weren’t in the house at the time. But in another home nearby there were six members of one family who were killed as the Israeli military went after another Islamic Jihad leader. Now the IDF says what it’s targeting here are rocket-launching sites as well as known militants, but of course this is also a residential area and now we’re starting to see the number of civilians killed in this latest conflict mounting up, as well as the numbers of wounded.”

Yet again, no effort is made to explain to viewers that the houses targeted also act as command and control centres for assorted terrorist organisations and in some cases as missile storage and/or launch sites – as Knell herself documented the previous day in another BBC report – and that fact makes them legitimate targets

“Nearby a house had just been damaged by an Israeli air strike. Two ambulances whizzed by carrying away the injured.

“[Militants] used to launch rockets from here. [The Israeli military] targeted these houses several times,” a local man told us.”

Neither does Knell inform viewers of the fact that Hamas and other terrorist organisations use the local civilian population as human shields, both by urging them to ignore IDF warnings of airstrikes and by deliberately placing missile launchers and weapons stores in residential areas – thereby intentionally raising the number of civilian casualties for propaganda purposes.

The BBC has so far erased all these very important topics from the view of its audiences in all of its reporting. Until it begins to tell them the whole story, BBC audiences will not be able to establish informed opinions on the issue of the current conflict.  

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

Perhaps the only vaguely surprising thing about Yolande Knell’s promotion of the tried and trusted theme of a shortage of medical supplies in Gaza in her July 8th filmed report for BBC television news was the fact that she did not wait longer than a few hours after Operation Protective Edge commenced before producing it.

The report was also publicised on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza doctors ‘running out of medicine’ to treat civilians” and the same topic was also promoted in another report by Knell for BBC television news.Knell 8 7 medicine

Knell tells viewers:

“In the past few hours here in the Gaza Strip we’ve heard the loud thuds of a lot of Israeli airstrikes. And what you see afterwards is the ambulances that come whizzing by. Many of them come here – to the Shifa hospital in Gaza City – and we’ve been speaking to the doctors in the hospital. They tell us the kinds of injuries they’re seeing are of civilians who have bad shrapnel injuries. And what they’re worried about at the moment is if this crisis continues, they say they’re going to run out of medical supplies very quickly. That’s because already there are tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt. They say they don’t have enough medicines and that their fuel is running low to run the generators. Already they’ve full occupancy in the hospital. So these are very tense times here. It’s a real hive of activity as they try to prepare for whatever happens next.” [emphasis added]

Now of course any reasonable viewer would conclude from Knell’s portrayal of the situation that the shortage of medical supplies is caused by those “tight border restrictions” she makes sure to mention. However, as was documented here in November 2012 when the very same theme was promoted by another BBC reporter at the very same hospital – that is not the case.

Firstly, the claim that medical supplies are affected by restrictions on dual-use goods (which can also be used for purposes of terrorism) into the Gaza Strip is a complete fabrication. There is not – and never has been – any restriction on the entry of medical supplies to the Gaza Strip. The actual causes for the permanent and already existing shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip are explained here.

“The long-standing shortage of medicines and medical supplies in Gaza emanates primarily from a dysfunctional relationship between the Palestinian Ministries of Health in Gaza and Ramallah.

The conflicts between the two offices have resulted not only in a shortage of medicines and supplies, but also in restricted access to medical treatment for patients outside of Gaza.

The healthcare system in Gaza is marked by a shortage of 400-500 varieties of medical equipment and an average shortage of 33% of desired types of drugs at any given time.

The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that medical suppliers are often reluctant to sell supplies to Gaza due to issues of non-payment.

COGAT works to facilitate the transfer of medication and medical supplies both through the international community and the private sector, however shortages remain.”

Further, BBC Watch inquired on July 9th regarding the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge and was informed by a Ministry of Defence official that: [emphasis added]

“Border crossings into Gaza are open but for limited use.  Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings are open for emergency medical assistance and the transfer of humanitarian aid (i.e. televisions, appliances etc. are not being let in, but food, medicine etc. is).  Yesterday alone [the day of Knell's report – Ed.] more than 180 trucks crossed into the Gaza Strip via the border crossings.  Red Cross workers can pass when necessary, but access for reporters is conditional on the security situation and must be coordinated a few hours beforehand.”

Notably, that same theme of a shortage of medical supplies is being promoted in other Western media sources too; a fact which of course should have prompted Yolande Knell to do some more serious fact checking before she repeated the information she was given by staff at a Hamas-linked hospital.

And what of Knell’s other topic – a shortage of fuel? Well, as has frequently been documented here in the past, that problem too is due to Fatah-Hamas infighting and has absolutely nothing to do with “tight border restrictions”.

Clearly millions of BBC viewers and website visitors have been misled by this report by Yolande Knell. A prominent public correction is therefore in order.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s unhealthy reliance on information from medics in Gaza

BBC gives one-dimensional view of shortages in Gaza hospitals