How the BBC News website made Hamas’ ceasefire violation disappear

On the afternoon of August 19th terrorists in the Gaza Strip violated a ceasefire agreement which had been due to expire some eight and a half hours later at midnight. The BBC News website’s reporting of that event at the time was documented in this article.

Since then, several additional reports have appeared on the BBC news website’s Middle East page and presentation of the events of the afternoon of August 19th has become increasingly divorced from reality.Deif article

In the report titled “Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’” from August 20th, readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“At least 19 Palestinians have died since hostilities resumed on Tuesday, with both sides blaming each other for the collapse of the Cairo peace talks.”

An insert of ‘analysis’ by Kevin Connolly informs readers:

“Hamas blames Israel for the end of the ceasefire just as Israel blames Hamas…”

In paragraphs 21 to 24 inclusive readers discover that:

“The Israeli government accused Hamas of breaking the ceasefire by launching a salvo of rockets about eight hours before it was to have expired, and told its delegation in Cairo to return home shortly afterwards.

Palestinian negotiators blamed Israel for the failure of the indirect talks.

“Israel thwarted the contacts that could have brought peace,” said Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior member of the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

However, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev rejected the accusation, saying rockets from Gaza were “a clear violation of the ceasefire” and “destroyed the premise upon which the talks were based.” “

The BBC knows full well that the ceasefire was violated by Palestinian terrorists; it reported the missile fire which broke the truce one hour after it happened and so has no need to present the sequence of events as third-party statements. And yet, rather than conveying to audiences what it knows, the BBC elects to present the issue as though it were open to interpretation.Shamala et al art

By August 21st BBC News website presentation of the subject had become even foggier. In a report titled “Gaza crisis: Israel kills three top Hamas commanders” readers were told: [emphasis added]

“Hostilities between the two sides resumed after talks on a long-term ceasefire deal collapsed on Tuesday.”

In fact, the accurate chronology of events shows that the missile fire by Gaza Strip-based terrorists at around 15:30 on August 19th was the reason for the collapse of the talks.

The article closes with the following euphemistic description of the truce violation:

“Gaza officials say a total of 54 Palestinians have been killed since the temporary ceasefire broke down.”  [emphasis added]

The August 21st article includes short profiles of the three terrorists killed.

Profiles Atar et al

Remarkably, no mention is made of the fact that Raed al Attar and Mohamed Abu Shamala were named by Egypt as suspects in the 2012 killing of sixteen Egyptian soldiers and that their extradition had been demanded. Neither are readers told that Attar’s name was also linked to the 2011 prison breaks in Egypt or that Attar was sentenced to death and Shamala to life imprisonment by the Palestinian Authority in 1999 for killing a policeman in Rafah.executions  

On August 22nd the BBC News website published a report relating to the topic of some of the summary executions carried out by Hamas in recent days  under the title “Gaza: Hamas says 18 suspected informants executed“. Notably, reported previous incidents of summary executions earlier on in the conflict had been ignored by the BBC and no interest is shown in this article in the topic of whether or not those executed had access to any kind of due legal process or the significance of those executions from the point of view of the fact that officially, the Gaza Strip has been under the control of the Palestinian unity government since the beginning of June.  

With regard to the August 19th breach of the ceasefire, readers are told in the caption to the main photograph illustrating that article that:

“Hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians resumed, scuppering efforts at a long-term ceasefire”

In the body of the report similar euphemistic terminology is employed:

“Hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza resumed on Tuesday, scuppering efforts in Cairo to achieve a long-term ceasefire deal.”

The BBC appears to be determined to erase any trace of Hamas responsibility for the breakdown of that ceasefire – and hence the Cairo talks – from the record by failing to report events accurately and factually. 

The missing piece in the BBC Hague correspondent’s Gaza story

Between August 16th and August 20th inclusive the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured an article titled “Dutchman returns Holocaust medal after family deaths in Gaza“. The same article also appeared on the website’s Europe page, as did a filmed version of the report (also shown on television news) by the BBC’s correspondent in The Hague, Anna Holligan, under the headline “Dutchman returns Holocaust medal to Israeli embassy over Gaza deaths“.Anna Holligan report

The written version states:

“A Dutchman honoured by Israel for hiding a Jewish child during World War Two has handed back his medal after six of his relatives were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

Henk Zanoli, 91, wrote to the Israeli embassy in The Hague to say he could no longer hold the honour.

He said an Israeli F-16 had destroyed his great-niece’s home in Gaza, killing all inside, in the recent offensive. [….]

His great-niece is a Dutch diplomat who is married to Palestinian economist Ismail Ziadah, who was born in a refugee camp in central Gaza.

Mr Ziadah’s mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and nine-year-old nephew were all killed after their family home was hit by Israeli aircraft.”

Similarly, the filmed version informs viewers:

“In it [a letter] he says his great-niece’s family home in Gaza was destroyed by an Israeli F16, killing everyone inside.”

Mr Zanoli’s story got considerable exposure from other news organisations too, including the New York Times. But, as Elder of Ziyon reported, there was also someone else present in the house at the time of the incident on July 20th.

The Ziadah family’s “guest” – as he was described by the PCHR – was Mohammed Mahmoud al-Maqadma, aged 30, who was a member of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades.

That information was in the public domain for almost a month before BBC News ran this report. It is a very relevant part of the story which provides context important to proper audience understanding. And yet, the BBC elected to refrain from providing that information to readers and viewers.

Holligan also tells viewers:

“Henk Zanoli ends his letter by saying the only way he could ever take the Righteous Among Nations medal back would be if Israel granted all those living under the control of the state the same political, social and economic rights and opportunities.”

That of course suggests to viewers that at present that is not the case – which is misleading to viewers.

All Israelis regardless of religion, gender or ethnic background of course enjoy the same political, social and economic rights and opportunities. The residents of PA controlled areas of Judea & Samaria (areas A and B) and of the Gaza Strip do not live under the control of the Israeli state: their political, social and economic rights are controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The residents of Area C (less than 5% of the total Palestinian population) do indeed still lack full rights because the agreements signed by the PA which created the situation whereby Israel retains control over Area C were intended to be a temporary step on the way to a negotiated solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority chose to end negotiations by initiating the second Intifada. 

Whilst Mr Zanoli may prefer to ignore the real reason why a minority of Palestinians still lack some rights, there is no reason for Anna Holligan to uncritically amplify his misleading statement to BBC audiences. 

BBC sticks to inaccurate narrative despite Hamas claim of June kidnappings

A couple of days ago we noted here that the BBC had refrained from making any mention of the news that a planned ‘Gaza June ’07’ style coup against the PA has been prevented. That observation still stands. 

“Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Monday it thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and starting a third intifada uprising

The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks. It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.”

The leading architect of that planned coup was Hamas’ Saleh al Arouri who resides in Turkey.

“The infrastructure for the operation was exposed in May, along with the identity of its leader, Hamas operations officer Saleh al-Arouri, who remains in Turkey, according to the Shin Bet.

Ynet was told that in recent months there was an active movement of Hamas activists arriving to Hebron from abroad. These operatives were known to security forces to be loyal to al-Arouri.

The operatives were assisted by Jordanian couriers, who transferred $600,000 – $50,000 in each border run. The funds were moved through Turkey and Jordan and were intended to purchase vehicles and safe-houses.

The Shin Bet confiscated the cash, as well as 24 M-16 rifles (not of Israeli manufacture), six handguns, and seven missile launchers, magazines, and loads of ammunition.”

Two days after that news broke Saleh al Arouri was in the spotlight again when he spoke at a conference in Istanbul. In his speech Arouri stated that Hamas’ Izz al Din al Qassam Brigades carried out the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers Naftali Frankel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach on June 12th.

A longer video of al Arouri’s speech – as broadcast on Al Jazeera – can be seen here courtesy of MEMRI.

“Our goal was to ignite an intifada in the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as within the 1948 borders [Israel]. The activity of the people has broadened to include all the occupied land, reaching its peak in the heroic operation, carried out by the Al-Qassam Brigades, in which three settlers were captured in Hebron. There has been a lot of confusion regarding this operation. Some said that this was a conspiracy of the occupation [Israel]. That’s not true. Your brothers in the Al-Qassam Brigades carried out this operation to support their imprisoned brothers who were on hunger strike.”

Al Arouri’s admission of course ties in with the information divulged earlier by Hussam Kawasme after his arrest in July. It also puts Jon Donnison’s recent campaign to exonerate Hamas of any responsibility for the kidnappings and murders (see here, here and here) into its correct context. 

But Donnision’s thinly disguised politically motivated ‘journavism’ is not the only issue highlighted by Saleh al Arouri’s statement. For weeks the BBC has been promoting a version of events which goes along these lines: [emphasis added]

“Israel accused Hamas of responsibility for the disappearance of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach and launched a crackdown on the group in the occupied West Bank, detaining hundreds of members despite Hamas denying any involvement.

Then on 2 July, a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was abducted and burned alive in an apparent revenge attack two days after the bodies of the Israeli teenagers were found. The killings set off an escalating cycle of violence and led to the current conflict in Gaza.”

The fact is, of course, that the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip began immediately after the disappearance of the Israeli teenagers on June 12th and continued throughout the three weeks of search and rescue operations. In the week preceding Operation Protective Edge, Hamas was given ample opportunity to curb its own missile fire and that of other factions, but elected not to do so.  In other words, the BBC’s much-touted “cycle of violence” is a myth: the “current conflict in Gaza” began because Hamas chose not to stop its cause – missile attacks on Israeli civilians.

Albeit usually in a somewhat more subtle manner than that adopted by Jon Donnison, the BBC has consistently pushed the line that Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teenagers was nothing more than an Israeli claim and remarkably even after the arrest of Hussam Kawasme it still promoted that notion.

“Israeli officials have said Marwan Qawasmeh and Mr Abu Aisha are known Hamas operatives, but the group has denied any involvement. Some have argued that the Qawasmeh clan might have acted on its own.”

In other words, BBC audiences have, for well over two months now, been fed an inaccurate version of events according to which it was Israel’s supposedly unwarranted claim of Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders of three of its citizens that, having prompted “increased tensions”, led to a “cycle of violence” which culminated in the current conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip. 

Saleh al Arouri’s Istanbul speech and the exposure of Hamas’ planned coup against the PA show the poverty of that BBC ‘analysis’ which lays the blame for the current violence at Israel’s door. It is of course high time that BBC audiences were provided with the full picture of events but remarkably, the corporation has so far failed to inform them of the latest important developments and currently shows no sign of deviating from its existing inaccurate narrative.  

 

BBC content continues to mislead on Gaza casualties

There is still no evidence of the BBC having carried out any independent verification of the casualty figures from the Gaza Strip which it continues to cite in its various reports. Examples of the type of phrasing currently being used in BBC content include:stats

“Close on two thousand died – nearly all civilians – and thousands more were injured, many seriously.” ['Hardtalk', 18/8/14]

“Since then [July 8th], at least 2,029 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry.” ["Gaza conflict: Israel 'targets Hamas leader Deif'", 20/8/14]

“Officials say 2,016 Palestinians and 66 Israelis have died since Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July.” ["Gaza conflict: Israel hits Gaza after rockets fired", 19/8/14]

“The Palestinian health ministry says that 2,016 Palestinians have been killed since the offensive began, including 541 children and 250 women.” ["Gaza conflict: Truce ends amid fresh fighting", 20/8/14]

As we see, the BBC continues to cite figures and civilian/combatant ratios provided the “Palestinian health ministry” but without adequate clarification to audiences that the body concerned is under the direct control of Hamas which has issued directives, via its Ministry of Information, to refrain from disclosing combatant casualties.

“The ministry of the interior and national security [in Gaza] calls on all our [Palestinian] people and the resistance factions [i.e. the terrorist organizations] to be wary of disseminating information and pictures of fatalities of the resistance, and [about] mentioning details about [the circumstances of] their deaths as martyrs and where they died. That is because the occupation is collecting all the information and reports [about the martyrs] and uses them as evidence to justify its crimes against [Palestinian] civilians and [to justify] the destruction of buildings and to take advantage [of the information] for security purposes. [We appeal] especially to social network activists and in the media belonging to the resistance factions. During the past few hours we have located many postings with sensitive information detrimental to our people and its resistance. Mention of the acts of heroism of our martyrs and of the men of our resistance should not be a reason for causing greater damage, because our people’s battle against the occupation continues.”

At no point during the last six weeks have BBC audiences been informed that the casualty figures and civilian/combatant ratios it cites are subject to such Hamas manipulation.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre has to date issued three reports examining the names provided on Hamas casualty lists – see here, here and here. In the most recent report we see an example of the type of practice which makes independent verification of casualties essential for any reputable news organization – and in particular one supposedly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

“The Palestinian Health Ministry’s list included the names of two young boys aged 13 and 15, who were operatives in a Fatah terrorist network by the name of the Ahmed Abu al-Rish Battalions. The two were killed in the same incident. Our investigation revealed that the first 13-year-old “boy” was a 26-year-old operative. On the other hand, the other boy was indeed a 15-year-old terrorist operative. This shows that when boys appear in the Palestinian Health Ministry’s list, the immediate tendency is to classify them as non-involved civilians, but they may actually be operatives involved in terror.”

In addition, the BBC News website continues to promote and amplify statistics provided by UN OCHA. The inaccurate article titled “Gaza conflict: The hundreds who lost their lives” which was discussed here has now appeared prominently on the website’s Middle East page for twelve consecutive days.

As we reported here over a month ago, UN OCHA figures come from three primary sources.

“Katleen Maes informed us that UN OCHA’s three primary sources are B’Tselem, the PCHR and Al Mezan – all of which are political NGOs with a less than pristine record on impartiality in Israel-related matters. Maes added that the secondary sources used by UN OCHA to arrive at its 77% civilian casualty rate figures are the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the local Arabic media in Gaza, some of which is also run by Hamas and with the rest operating with Hamas consent, of course.”

As we have also previously noted, two of UN OCHA’s primary sources – the PCHR and Al Mezan – are actors in the current lawfare campaign against Israel with the former having been heavily promoted by the BBC in recent weeks. B’Tselem’s director was also featured in a BBC report on July 16th.

Via NGO Monitor we learn that one of the primary sources used by B’Tselem’s three field workers in the Gaza Strip to collect data on casualties is none other than Hamas itself.

“We rely on lists provided by other organizations and by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. We try to do a basic check of those lists, which is just cross-referencing them one to another, trying to get the basic data.” 

B’Tselem’s method of verification apparently involves ringing up relatives to ask if their deceased loved ones were members of terrorist organisations.

“With the current military campaign ongoing, B’Tselem is taking testimony from Gaza residents, mainly by telephone. B’Tselem verifies, to the best of its ability, the reliability and precision of the information reported; nevertheless, in these circumstances, reports may be incomplete or contain errors.”

It is of course not inconceivable that families of members of terrorist organisations would be motivated to comply with Hamas’ directives to describe all casualties as ‘innocent civilians’ and conceal their terror connections.

BBC audiences have not been told about that or any other aspects of the all-important background to casualty figures provided by UN OCHA and cited in BBC reports.

One might well have expected that an organization which purports to adhere to standards of accuracy and impartiality would take care to inform audiences that the statistics it quotes are obtained from partisan sources with a distinct political agenda enabled by presentation of those figures in a certain manner. One would certainly also expect such an organization to make audiences aware of the fact that it has not independently verified the information it provides.

Six weeks on, that is still not happening in BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

 The BBC’s Janus-faced approach to the issue of casualties in Gaza

Vital statistics: stealth changes made to the BBC’s Gaza casualty figures article

Hamas denies firing missiles: BBC reports. Hamas claims missile fire: BBC silent

As readers are no doubt aware, terrorists in the Gaza Strip violated the ceasefire which was due to end at midnight on August 19th some eight and a half hours before it expired with missile fire at the city of Be’er Sheva. Around half an hour after that violation, Israel announced the renewal of strikes on terror infrastructure and targets in the Gaza Strip. By the time the truce’s designated expiry time arrived, around fifty missiles had been launched at civilian targets in Israel. So how did the BBC News website report those events?ceasefire break 19 8 article 1

About an hour after the first missiles had been fired an existing article on the BBC News website’s Middle East page – “Gaza ceasefire ‘extended by a day’ after Cairo talks” – was amended and the following information added:

“On Tuesday afternoon three rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, landing in open areas in Beersheba, an IDF spokesperson told the BBC.

No-one was injured in the attack, which was the first instance of rocket fire in several days.”

It was not made clear to BBC audiences that this missile fire was a violation of a ceasefire agreement, nor was it pointed out that Hamas had also breached several previous ceasefires.

Very shortly after that article was amended, a new one appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Israel PM orders new Gaza strikes following rocket fire”. Typically, readers were informed of the last occurrence first.

“Israel’s prime minister has ordered its military to launch strikes on the Gaza Strip following fresh rocket fire from militants there, officials say.

One Israeli official said “terror sites” would be targeted “in response to Hamas’ violation of the truce”. “

That report underwent considerable changes in the hours after its publication with its later ‘last-first’ headlines being “Israel launches Gaza strikes following rocket fire” and “Gaza conflict: Israel launches strikes after rocket fire” before eventually arriving at the ambiguous “Gaza conflict: Truce ends amid fresh fighting“.ceasefire break 19 8 headline

At no point does the article clarify to readers in the BBC’s own words that terrorists in the Gaza Strip violated the ceasefire. Earlier versions of the article include the following statements regarding the missile fire into Israel:

2nd, 3rd and 4th versions:

“There was no immediate claim of responsibility from any of the Palestinian factions in Gaza, which is dominated by the Islamist movement Hamas.”

5th, 6th and 7th versions:

“There was no immediate claim of responsibility from any of the Palestinian factions in Gaza, which is dominated by the Islamist movement Hamas. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Islamist movement, told the BBC that it “had no idea or information about the firing of any rockets”.”

8th version:

“Hamas – the group that rules Gaza – denies firing the rockets.”End cf 19 8 art 2

From the ninth version onwards, the topic of responsibility for the missile fire disappears from the article completely. That fact is remarkable because around half an hour before the ninth version was published, Hamas did claim responsibility for the missile fire but – unlike its denials – that event was obviously not considered newsworthy by the BBC.

“11:42 P.M. Hamas’ military wing takes responsibility for the rocket fire on Israel and says it has launched a M75 missile as well, according the Palestinian Maan news agency.”

Now that does require some explaining.

Related Articles:

How the BBC made missile fire from the Gaza Strip almost disappear

Hamas terminology and propaganda in BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Mads Gilbert

On August 18th the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ aired an interview with Mads Gilbert. The programme is promoted on multiple platforms: on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK or as a podcast or, for a limited period of time, on BBC World Service radio.  

This is not the first time that the BBC has provided amplification for claims made by Gilbert himself or other members of the medical profession working at Shifa hospital since the commencement of Operation Protective Edge – as was documented here.

It is obviously difficult to comprehend the rationale behind ‘Hardtalk’ producers’ thinking in terms of their evaluation of any contribution to audiences’ factual knowledge and understanding of the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip which could possibly be made by the blatant propaganda of a long-time political activist such as Mads Gilbert.  But in addition to the fact that nevertheless the BBC elected to allow amplification of Gilbert’s plethora of inaccurate and misleading claims, it is no less interesting to note the points at which his extremist narrative dovetails with that of the BBC representative conducting the interview, Zeinab Badawi.

Badawi’s introduction includes the following inaccurate statement:

“Close on two thousand died – nearly all civilians – and thousands more were injured, many seriously.” [emphasis added]

Preliminary examination (as yet uncompleted) of the casualties in fact shows that 46% were terrorist operatives.

She allows Gilbert to mislead audiences with a dishonest portrayal of the reasons for the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip.

“And bear in mind that Shifa hospital, along with the rest of the healthcare system in Gaza is suffering severely from the 7 years of siege and blockade. They are lacking everything: drugs, equipment, modern machinery, even – you know – trolleys and respirators to treat the patients…”

Badawi also permits Gilbert to lie unhindered about the topic of non-payment of salaries to Hamas employees which is in fact the result of a dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian unity government.

“On top of that they [medical staff] have not had any normal salaries for the last year actually due to the dispute between…between the Israeli…you know….politics of not allowing the Palestinians to pay these so-called Hamas-employed staff in the healthcare system from 2006. So they are working for nothing. For the last three months they have not had their salaries and this is extremely demanding.”

She makes absolutely no effort to counter Gilbert’s distorted description of the situation in Gaza as exclusively attributable to Israel by informing them that Hamas was given every opportunity to avoid the conflict but chose not to do so.

“All this could have been avoided if the bombing had stopped and the siege had been lifted.”

On two separate occasions Badawi allows Gilbert to wriggle out of the issue of Hamas’ use of Shifa hospital – despite journalists (including Yolande Knell) having documented the presence of Hamas leaders in that civilian facility.

“I haven’t been in every corner of Shifa but I’ve been there for many years and I’ve never seen any militants – armed people – in Shifa.”

“I have not seen it with my own eyes. I have not seen armed militias in Shifa or in any other hospital.”

Badawi makes no attempt to correct the inaccurate and misleading impression given by Gilbert to audiences on the issue of proportionality in warfare.Hardtalk Gilbert WS

“There has so far been killed almost 1,900 Palestinians and three civilian Israelis. That says everything about the proportionality or the disproportionality of the use of weapons. It is not the Palestinians who are killing the Israelis. It is actually the Israelis who are killing the Palestinians by the thousands.”

Badawi fails to challenge Gilbert’s blatant lie about travel from the Gaza Strip:

“The point about Gaza is that nobody is allowed to leave…”

She likewise fails to correct his false claim that Israel broke the 2008 six-month lull. In fact it was Hamas which breached the agreement by both continuing to fire rockets and mortars throughout and with the construction of a cross-border tunnel aimed at kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

Not only does Badawi not challenge Gilbert’s inaccurate and misleading description of border restrictions implemented to curb the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip as a “siege”, but – like many of her colleagues before her – she adopts that Hamas terminology herself.  She also fails to adequately correct Gilbert’s inaccurate version of events, which of course entirely erases Hamas terrorism from the picture presented to audiences, as well as the violent Hamas coup of 2007.

Badawi: “Let me just pick up the siege first […] Gaza was free [in August 2005] – there are no Jews living there, there’s no occupation there, but what happened when the settlers left…”

Gilbert: “Who says there is no occupation? The Israeli government and army has full control of the land space, the airspace…”

Badawi: “But no siege, no siege. Picking up the point that you made: lift the siege – there was no siege originally.”

Gilbert: “It came in 2006.”

Badawi: “Fairly early on.”

Gilbert: “[….] and Hamas won the election. They tried to make a unified government. It was shot down. Then came the siege and it was, you know, increased and increased and increased as a collective punishment.”

Badawi: “Sure. But […] when the Jewish settlers did withdraw from Gaza and Gaza was left open there wasn’t a siege imposed straight away. Instantly it was very clear that the Palestinians in Gaza – or at least some of them: the militants – were not going to leave Israelis alone.”

Gilbert: ” […] It was still under full Israeli control with the airspace, with the sea, with the borders and with the electronic space. So the Palestinians in Gaza have never been unoccupied.”

Badawi: “No, the occupation remains. It was the siege I was pointing out.”

Gilbert: “Why did the siege come? The siege came as a collective punishment because they have elected [unintelligible].” [emphasis added]

At no point does Badawi clarify to audiences that Israeli control of Gaza’s coastal waters and airspace was agreed to by the representatives of the Palestinian people in 1995 when they signed the Interim Agreement and that no amendments were made to that status quo in the agreement signed by the PA and Israel after the 2005 withdrawal. Neither does she point out that – despite Gilbert’s inaccurate claim that the Gaza Strip is still occupied – the facts show otherwise.

Badawi’s vigorous promotion of statements made by Mahmoud Abbas in relation to missile fire from the Gaza Strip is not accompanied by the very relevant information that Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have actively engaged in missile fire throughout the recent conflict.

Even Gilbert’s most off the wall comments go unchallenged and uncorrected by Badawi.

“Anybody who opposes the grand plan of the Israeli political government today – political Zionism – will be stamped as a terrorist and will be sort of outlawed. The Palestinians have been under strict, hard, brutal Israeli rule and oppression for the last seventy years and they have the right to defend themselves.” [emphasis added]

“…I don’t support Hamas, I don’t support Fatah or any faction. I support the Palestinian people and their right to resist occupation like we [the Norwegians] did.” (Nazi analogy)

“[Palestinians say] …we don’t want to live as slaves in our own country.”

“In my view the [Hamas-Fatah] coalition government now was the pretext for the attack on Gaza. […] It had nothing to do with the rockets.”

“I think that with the power distribution in the world today poor people – not only in Palestine and in other parts of the global south – are suffering from a new colonial wave of oppression which is coming precisely from the United States and they support the Israeli colonial project…”

“Respect for international law – totally omitted by Israel. Respect for the UN charter – totally omitted by Israel. We need all of us to stand up against this degeneration of the international order I think.”

Whilst viewers and listeners may have gained some insight into the mindset of Mads Gilbert from this interview, they gleaned no factual information which would help them better understand the conflict and indeed were actively misled by Gilbert’s propaganda thanks to Zeinab Badawi’s failure for the most part to challenge his blatant inaccuracies. What this interview does provide, however, is yet another example of the BBC’s adoption of Hamas terminology in its willfully inaccurate misrepresentation of border restrictions aimed at combatting terrorism against Israeli civilians as a “siege”.

BBC’s Jon Donnison breaches editorial guidelines in straw-clutching Tweet

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.”    

(Source: BBC Editorial Guidelines, section 4.4.13)

On August 18th the BBC’s Jon Donnison (now back in Sydney after his recent brief yet ignominious return to Middle East reporting) sent the following tweet:

Tweet Donnison Pappe

There is no doubt that BBC audiences can discern the precise nature of Donnison’s “personal prejudices” from his promotion of the video in that Tweet. There is also no doubt that they can determine the type of ideology which underlies his reporting and commentary on Israel and the common disregard for accuracy shared by Donnison and Pappe.

However, there is also another layer to the promotion of this video by Donnison to his 17.6 thousand followers a whole 22 days after it initially appeared. Perusal of the transcript of the video shows that Donnison makes a cameo appearance in its content.

“AMY GOODMAN [presenter]: Professor Pappé, over the weekend, BBC correspondent Jon Donnison reported on what was called an Israeli admission that Hamas was not responsible for the killing of the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June. On Twitter, Donnison said Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told him the suspects who killed the three teenagers were a lone cell affiliated with Hamas but not operating under its leadership. What is the significance of this?”

As we know, Donnison’s politically motivated claims designed to exonerate Hamas and discredit Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip have since unraveled, but it would appear that Donnison is still trying to cling to any vestige of his reputation as a journalist and that he misguidedly believes that Pappe’s answer to that question somehow supports his fabricated story.Donnison

“ILAN PAPPÉ: It’s very significant, because this was, of course, known to the Israelis the moment they heard about this abduction and the killing of the three young settlers. It was very clear that Israel was looking for a pretext to try and launch both a military operation in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip in order to try and bring back the situation in Palestine to what it was during the failed peace process, with a sort of good domicile, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in a way that they could forget about it and continue with the colonization of the West Bank without the need to change anything in their attitude or policies. And the depression in the West Bank, the frustration, the anger, especially in May 2014, of the killing of five young Palestinians by the Israeli army, burst out in this local action, this local initiative, that had nothing to do with the strategy of the Hamas, that was willing to try and give Abu Mazen leeway to create a unity government and to try the new initiative—going to the United Nations, going to international bodies, in order to make Israel accountable for more than 46 years of colonization and occupation. So it really highlights the connection between a pretext and a policy and a strategy which has wreaked such carnage in Gaza today.”

However, whilst Jon Donnison continues to cut a pathetic figure by clutching at a straw tossed by one of the most extremist figures from the anti-Israel fringe, his politically motivated fairy-tale crumbles even more.

“Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Monday it thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and starting a third intifada uprising

The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks. It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.

[PA president] Abbas said later Monday that the revelation was “a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future”. “

Remarkably, at the time of writing the BBC has maintained total silence on the topic of this recently broken news.

Those wishing to complain about Jon Donnison’s obvious breach of BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality may find our guide useful and the BBC’s guidance on social media use is available here

 

 

 

‘From Our Own Correspondent': a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

Readers no doubt remember that on July 5th – three days before Operation Protective Edge commenced – the BBC’s World Editor Andrew Roy appeared on the World Service’s ‘Outside Source’ programme to explain how the BBC ensures equal coverage of what the programme termed “Israel-Palestine”.

Andrew Roy: “Well we try to look at the entirety of our coverage. We’re not minute counting. We are ensuring that across the whole thing we can look back on our coverage of this and say we did give fair balance to each side. So it’s not a minute by minute thing, no.” […]

Presenter: “When you get people complaining that they feel one side has been given more air-time or more favour than the other, what do you do?”

Andrew Roy: “We answer them by giving them the evidence that we’ve tried to put the other side as often as we can.”

Let’s take a look at the accuracy and validity of Roy’s claims by using a test case: BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.FOOC

Between July 8th (commencement of Operation Protective Edge) and the present, eight editions of the programme have been broadcast. The first two (July 10th and July 12th) did not include any content related to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The July 17th edition included an item by Yolande Knell (available here from 00:42) which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie using the description ‘fasting under fire’. Knell’s report focuses entirely on the presentation of life in the Gaza Strip with descriptions of shortages of food, frightened children, reduced business in markets and evacuees. Much focus is also put on the topic of border restrictions with Knell twice quoting interviewees referring to a “siege” which of course does not exist and no explanation given regarding the terrorism which brought about the border restrictions.

On July 19th the programme featured an item by Jeremy Bowen which is available here from 00:45. Whilst the item is introduced as being about the whole Middle East, the BBC’s Middle East editor has his sights firmly set on one tiny part of that region. Using the language of Hamas Bowen tells listeners:

“Gaza’s economy is definitely not able to support a population of 1.7 million people but that’s because of the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.” [emphasis added]

Like Knell before him, Bowen makes no attempt to tell listeners about the Hamas terrorism which brought about border restrictions.  He later continues:

“And there’s been a reminder in the last few days of the terrible potency of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. [..] But the new war in Gaza shows how the Palestinian –Israeli conflict still has resonance across the world as well as in the region. People care about it, get angry about it in a way that they don’t about other crises and wars. I’m calling what’s happening in Gaza a war though I’m aware that it perhaps is not a perfect description. Some people have even told me I shouldn’t use the word because of the enormous imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. I disagree. Wars are increasingly fought between the strong and the weak. By the way, it’s wrong to pretend that there’s any kind of equality between what Israeli citizens are going through and the experience of Palestinians. The trauma of Israelis caught up in mass attacks is unquestionable but the trauma in Gaza is of an utterly different degree. The only long-term way to end this chronic killing is through a permanent settlement of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. It has to be one both sides can tolerate. An imposed peace would just contain the seeds of the next war. But at the moment peace is not conceivable. Even a long-term absence of war is unattainable. What’s the alternative? If nothing changes more and more of these mini wars, which will eventually become major wars.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s Middle East editor makes no effort to inform listeners that Hamas is not interested in the kind of “permanent settlement” which has been on the table for two decades, neglecting to inform them that Hamas was one of the Palestinian factions which rejected the Oslo accords.

On July 26th listeners to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ heard Paul Adams. That item is available from 00:50 here and includes the following. [all emphasis in bold added]

“Generations have experienced nothing but occupation, embargo, blockade, war and death. It’s had a slow, brutalising effect. Perhaps that’s why some of them are seized by such a furious desire to tunnel out and seek revenge. For Gaza is a giant prison surrounded by a wall, watch towers and the most sophisticated military in the Middle East.”

Although he makes no effort to inform listeners of the fact that nine years ago, when Israel withdrew, Gaza stood at a crossroads which could have taken it in a very different direction had its leaders not chosen terrorism as their raison d’être, notably Adams does tell of things which – like the rest of his colleagues – he failed to report whilst he was in Gaza

“Of course it would be wrong to suggest that this prison 66 years in the making is full only of the innocent. There are men of violence here. Men who will never, ever accept Israel’s right to exist in the land they still regard as theirs. Men who will store weapons in mosques and schools and take great pride in launching almost entirely indiscriminate rockets from the midst of populated areas, hoping – in the name of resistance – to cause death and fear on the other side. During a week in Gaza I caught occasional glimpses of them; weapons stuffed under shirts, furtive in civilian clothes, moving with purpose through the ravaged streets of Shuja’iya looking for a fight. But when so many of those dismembered and burned by Israeli rockets and shells are not the fighters but women, old people and especially children, then it’s really, really hard not to conclude that the Palestinians are being collectively punished.”

The August 2nd edition of the programme included an item by Chris Morris, available here from 00:42 or here. In addition to Morris’ very graphic descriptions, audiences hear the following. [emphasis added]FOOC Morris

“Because things have got worse; much worse. Could anyone have imagined that twenty years on this would be their fate? Bombed from land, sea and air. Stuck inside the world’s largest prison with nowhere to run. […]

That’s why Hamas’ main demand is now in tune with public opinion: lift the siege of Gaza, open the borders, give people a chance to live.”

Like his colleagues, Morris of course makes no attempt to explain to listeners that it was Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians which brought border restrictions into being.

On August 9th listeners heard a report by Tim Whewell: the first (and last) making any attempt to portray the Israeli side of the story. That item can be heard here or here from 00:45. Especially, given the track record of his BBC colleagues as far as promoting the notion of a mythical ‘siege’ and failing to report on the context and background of border restrictions is concerned, one interesting part of Whewell’s report is this:

“Why, they [Israelis] demand, don’t you – foreign correspondents – ever report that? And again and again I slip into the same argument. We do report the reasons but we also have to report the results and then much of the audience for our reporting concludes that being afraid or traumatized like Honi [phonetic] is bad, but not nearly as bad as being dead – as so many more Palestinians now are. We’re talking now uncomfortably about hierarchies of suffering and Israelis reply ‘so what do you want? More dead Jewish children? Do we also have to die just to make you report the story fairly?’ “

The August 16th edition of the programme featured a report by Kevin Connolly on the children of Gaza already discussed here and with the audio versions available here from 06:00 or here.

As we see, between July 17th and August 16th six editions of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio 4 included items pertaining to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Only one of those items presented an Israeli point of view, with the other five not only presenting the opposite viewpoint, but often promoting the terminology of a terrorist organization and failing to provide essential context.

Surely even Andrew Roy cannot possibly claim that any attempt was made to “give fair balance to each side” in that series of programmes.

Related Articles:

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Hundreds and thousands: BBC under-reports missile attacks on Israel yet again

In the weeks which preceded Operation Protective Edge attacks from the Gaza Strip escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th alone. Since the commencement of the operation on July 8th 2014, terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip have fired over 3,500 missiles of various types at Israeli civilian targets. The Iron Dome missile defence system, which only targets projectiles analysed as set to land in populated areas, intercepted some 600 of those missiles at a 90% success rate. Missiles which evaded the Iron Dome and mortars (which the system is not designed to target, although it has had some success in that field too) account for around a hundred missile hits in Israeli civilian communities since July 8th. In the first week of the operation alone, 417 buildings and 228 vehicles were damaged by missiles. 

So how did the BBC News website present those facts (all readily available in the public domain) to audiences in its August 17th article titled “Gaza conflict: Peace talks resume in Cairo“? Remarkably, according to the BBC’s account, missiles fired from the Gaza Strip do not seem to land anywhere.Article 17 8 talks

“Israeli civilians have been forced to seek shelter from hundreds of rockets launched at Israel, though many missiles have been blocked by the Iron Dome defence system.”

The actual number of missiles fired is severely under-reported and presented in vague language even though the precise statistics are available. The consequences of those missiles are presented exclusively in terms of Israelis running for cover with no mention of what happens when they land and the fact that around a hundred of them have hit populated areas with destructive results to buildings, infrastructure, property and people. Whilst the Iron Dome system has indeed intercepted “many missiles” thus preventing much more loss of life, injury and damage, that does not – as the BBC’s wording implies – mitigate the effect of those missiles as weapons intended to terrorise Israel’s civilian population and paralyse normal life.

In the paragraph prior to that one, however, readers discovered that in contrast, Israeli weapons do hit the ground.

“Israeli air strikes and shell fire have sharply increased the hardship suffered by civilians in Gaza, with homes destroyed and a lack of water and medical supplies.”

No less interesting is the choice of wording used with regard to casualties: whilst Israelis “have died” – phrasing which does not imply cause – Palestinians are killed – a term which does indicate an outside cause of loss of life.

“Most of the more than 1,900 Palestinians killed are civilians, according to the United Nations.

On the Israeli side, 67 people, all but three of them soldiers, have died.”

Paragraph five of this report states:

“Israel started its offensive in response to militant attacks, including rocket fire, from Gaza.”

Later on, the report presents a different account of the cause of the conflict but with no information given concerning the efforts made by Israel to avoid the hostilities, meaning that audiences are left with no clear understanding of which party initiated them. Likewise, Hamas involvement in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli civilians is still being airbrushed from the BBC’s version of events.

“The latest Gaza conflict began as tensions escalated over the arrests of Hamas-linked militants blamed by Israel for the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers.”

As has been the case throughout BBC coverage of the conflict, the dissolving of the Hamas government in Gaza after the establishment of the Palestinian unity government at the beginning of June and the resulting Palestinian Authority responsibility for attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip is ignored.

“Hamas, which controls Gaza, is demanding an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the territory.”

In that sentence in the body of the article and separately both in a sidebar of related articles and a similar extended menu at its foot, three links are provided to the inaccurate and inadequate backgrounder on the topic of border restrictions which the BBC produced on August 13th.

The article concludes:

“Israel occupied Gaza in 1967 and pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005.

However, it still exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, water and air space, while Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.”

Once again, no effort is made by the BBC to explain to audiences that Israeli control of the Gaza Strip’s coastal waters and airspace is in fact part of the Interim Agreement signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people, rather than some Israeli caprice. Likewise, the BBC has made no attempt whatsoever to clarify to audiences that according to the terms of existing agreements between Israel and the PA, there should be no paramilitary groups in the Gaza Strip.

“Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

“Except for the arms, ammunition and equipment of the Palestinian Police described in Annex I, and those of the Israeli military forces, no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment, unless otherwise provided for in Annex I.”

That information is vital if audiences are to understand why the terms presented by Israel in ceasefire discussions include the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip and why it will not agree to lift the naval blockade and border restrictions for as long as Hamas and other terrorist organisations continue their efforts to import prohibited weapons into the territory. To date the BBC has failed to provide its audiences with that crucial context meaning that they are unable to build an accurate understanding of an international issue to which the BBC has devoted thousands of words.

Related Articles:

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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.