BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

In part one of this post we documented BBC News website coverage of the first ten days of Operation Protective Edge. Part two relates to the next ten days: July 18th to 27th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

July 18th:Chart Jul 18

Written:

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive

Israel ready to widen Gaza ground offensive – PM  (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: UN says number of displaced almost doubles   (discussed here)

Features:

Gaza-Israel: ‘We don’t want civilians to die’

What drove Hamas to take on Israel?  Dr Jeroen Gunning

Gaza: What does Israel’s ground offensive aim to achieve?  Jonathan Marcus

Hospital on Gaza conflict’s front line  Paul Adams (discussed here)

Filmed:

Gaza-Israel conflict: Journalists evacuated from Gaza hotel  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Gaza City resident: ‘Continuous bombing’  Gaza

Gaza conflict: UN says number of displaced almost doubles  Lyse Doucet in Gaza & Quentin Sommerville in Israel (discussed here)

With Israel’s ground operation having commenced late the previous night following the terrorist infiltration via cross-border tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa (scantily covered by the BBC), much of the BBC’s coverage on that day related to that topic, but with a notable lack of information on the subject of the tunnels themselves. 

July 19th:Chart Jul 19

Written:

Gaza conflict: Obama warns Israel amid rising death toll   (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Casualties mount amid fresh violence   (discussed here)

July 20th: (discussion here)

Live page:

As it happened: Gaza conflict intensifies

Written:

Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict  (discussed here)Chart Jul 20

Features:

In pictures: Gaza conflict intensifies

Filmed:

Hamas ‘defiant’ as Gaza casualty toll rises   Lyse Doucet in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: 87 Gazans and 13 Israeli soldiers killed Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers and 87 Gazans killed  Chris Morris in Israel (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel conflict: ‘Families are on the run again’  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

With fierce fighting having commenced in the neighbourhood of Shuja’iya the night before, the BBC focused its attentions on that topic on July 20th. Themes which appeared early on in the extensive reporting included the vigorous promotion of second-hand claims of a ‘massacre’, the failure to film or adequately inform audiences of the presence and actions of terrorists in that district and the failure to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties. As was the case in previous reporting, the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields was ignored and the prior warnings issued to residents of Shuja’iya to evacuate the neighbourhood played down. 

July 21st: (discussion here)Chart Jul 21

Written:

Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers, scores of Gazans killed

Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500

Features:

Gaza crisis: Shejaiya assault defines grimmest day  Lyse Doucet

Filmed:

Ron Prosor: ‘Only by demilitarising Hamas can we move on’  interview Israeli Ambassador to the UN

Gaza crisis: Israeli soldiers’ funerals take place  John Simpson in Israel

Middle East crisis: BBC on deserted streets of Sha’af  Paul Adams in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Five dead at hospital hit by Israeli strike  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Israel releases ‘Gaza tunnel footage’  (discussed here)

Clashes go on as Israel holds funerals for the dead  John Simpson in Israel (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: Kerry Israel air strike remarks caught on mic

‘Israel united’ on Gaza offensive to eliminate militants’ tunnels  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Coverage of the fighting in Shuja’iya continued in the same vein as the previous day and with continued promotion of unverified Hamas-supplied casualty figures which failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. It is worth noting that to date, BBC audiences have not yet been provided with a comprehensive picture of the circumstances of the fighting in Shuja’iya. Three days after the commencement of the ground operation, the BBC produced a very unsatisfactory filmed ‘guide’ to the topic of cross-border tunnels. 

July 22nd:Chart Jul 22

Written:

Gaza conflict: Five dead at hospital hit by Israeli strike

Gaza conflict: Diplomats push for ceasefire

Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban urges end to fighting

US and European airlines suspend Israel flights

Features:

Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew  Dr Eado Hecht

Filmed:

Gaza-Israel: John Kerry and Sameh Shoukry hold news briefing

Gaza: Why is Rafah crossing so important?  Lyse Doucet in Gaza (discussed here)

Airlines halt flights into Israel   Samira Hussain in New York

Gaza-Israel: Casualties mount as violence continues  Paul Adams in Gaza

Relatives mourn Israeli soldier deaths as clashes go on  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Why is Middle East truce so hard to broker?   Frank Gardner (discussed here)

John Kerry in Egypt in push for Gaza-Israel ceasefire

$47m in aid to Gaza “to alleviate the immediate humanitarian crisis”  Kerry

Notable on this day was the appearance of the first real effort to inform audiences with regard to cross-border tunnels; some four days after the ground operation their use prompted began. Also notable was the continued amplification of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands concerning the lifting of border restrictions and the misrepresentation of those restrictions, along with their inaccurate description as a “siege”: a theme which flourished in subsequent BBC coverage.

July 23rd:Chart Jul 23

Written:

Gaza conflict: Abbas backs Hamas ceasefire demands  (discussed here)

UN’s Navi Pillay warns of Israel Gaza ‘war crimes’

Features:

Why Israelis are rallying behind latest Gaza campaign  Gil Hoffman

What is it like to be blind in Gaza and Israel?  Emma Tracey

Filmed:

Middle East crisis: Normal life on hold in Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Red Cross van attacked by civilians in Gaza   Paul Adams in Gaza

UN human rights boss: Israeli action ‘could be war crimes’  Navi Pillay

Middle East crisis: Israel holds funerals for soldiers  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Middle East crisis: Airlines suspend flights to Ben Gurion, Israel

#BBCtrending: Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies

Along with renewed promotion of the notion of ‘war crimes’, reporting on this day continued with promotion of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands, misrepresentation of the border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel and continued amplification of unverified casualty figures.  

July 24th:Chart Jul 24

Written:

Hamas says Gaza blockade must end before ceasefire (discussed here)

UN: Gaza humanitarian situation ‘dire’

Gaza UN school shelter hit, ‘killing 13′

Europe lifts ban on flights to Tel Aviv airport

Features:

Gaza: Hamas seeks to emerge stronger   Yolande Knell (discussed here)

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Rescue mission to reach Gaza wounded Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Save the Children: Gaza shelter attack ‘shocking’

Gaza’s hospitals struggle with civilians  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Gaza UN school shelter hit, ‘killing 13′  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Gaza family on living in warzone   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel ‘knew building was UN shelter’ – UNRWA  Chris Gunness

Middle East crisis: UN criticism ‘a travesty’ – Netanyahu

Gaza: What are the obstacles to peace?  James Robbins (discussed here)

BBC exclusive interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal   (discussed here)

Much of the day’s coverage was devoted to the incident in Beit Hanoun which the BBC immediately promoted as an Israeli ‘attack’ on a UN school, revealing much about its own impartiality. Also notable was James Robbins’ ‘backgrounder’ which provided one example among many of BBC content which downplayed or erased Hamas’ terror designation.

July 25th:Chart Jul 25

Written:

Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march  (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israel rejects truce ‘as it stands’

Features:

Israeli and Palestinian women on Gaza conflict

#BBCtrending: Sexy selfies in support of IDF

Filmed:

Gaza-Israel crisis: UNRWA ‘not informed’ before shelter attack  Chris Morris in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Israeli government on Gaza shelter deaths  Mark Regev (full interview discussed here)

Gaza-Israel: ‘You can hear the bombs and missiles’ – Israeli family  Bethany Bell in Israel

Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march  Nawal Assad in Qalandiya (discussed here)

Gaza baby rescued from mother killed by Israeli airstrike Ian Pannell in Gaza

Ban Ki-moon and John Kerry news briefing in Cairo

Gaza and Israel brace for ‘day of anger’  Jon Donnison in Jerusalem

Coverage of the Beit Hanoun incident continued, along with problematic reporting on riots in PA-controlled areas.

July 26th:Chart Jul 26

Written:

Gaza conflict: 12-hour truce as deaths top 900

Hamas fires rockets into Israel after Gaza truce bid

Features:

Gaza crisis: Toll of operations in Gaza (later amended and date changed to September 1st)

Filmed:

Clashes as diplomatic efforts continue to secure Gaza truce Orla Guerin in Jerusalem (discussed here)

Mark Regev: Israel ‘wants peace and quiet’

Gaza truce: ‘Smell of destruction’ in the air  Chris Morris in Gaza

Israel and Hamas agree 12-hour truce  Chris Morris in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict: Bodies recovered amid ceasefire  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Philip Hammond on ceasefire: ‘Stop the loss of life’    UK Foreign Secretary

 July 27th:Chart Jul 27

Written:

Israel rejects Gaza school shelter attack blame

Israel resumes Gaza offensive after Hamas rockets

Hamas announces new 24-hour Gaza ceasefire with Israel

Hamas-declared ceasefire in Gaza stalls as conflict continues (discussed here)

Features:

No place to hide for children of war in Gaza and Syria  Lyse Doucet

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Dubai’s huge humanitarian aid mission  Mark Lobel

Israeli military: Hamas ceasefire ‘an opportunity perhaps’   Peter Lerner

Hamas announces new 24-hour Gaza ceasefire with Israel  Osama Hamdan

Hamas-declared ceasefire in Gaza stalls as conflict continues  Ian Pannell in Gaza (discussed here)

Rockets lands in Israel after ceasefire stalls  Orla Guerin in Israel (discussed here)

Middle East: Ed Miliband on Israel and Gaza violence

Prominent on this day was misleading coverage of the ceasefire and Hamas’ violations of that agreement.

Between July 18th and July 27th the predominant type of content presented to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page was written news reports and a live page on the topic of the fighting in Shuja’iya was introduced for the first time on July 20th.

Foreign-based Hamas spokesmen were interviewed on just two occasions (in contrast with five interviews or footage from press conferences with Israelis) meaning that the focus of BBC reporting remained on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The majority of footage of interviews or press conferences with others (not Israelis or Palestinians) focused on the diplomatic efforts of the US Secretary of State, with two additional ones from UN representatives Navi Pillay and Chris Gunness and two with British politicians.

The total number of filmed reports describing the situation in Gaza during those ten days of the conflict was once again more than double the number of filmed reports describing the situation in Israel and continued to focus on emotive coverage of the effects of the conflict on the civilian population. Three additional filmed reports related to the topic of violent rioting in PA-controlled areas and Jerusalem.

Chart 18 to 27 Jul

By July 27th, visitors to the BBC News website had seen twenty-four filmed reports depicting the situation in Israel compared to fifty-three filmed reports depicting the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Chart 8 to 27 Jul

Themes which dominated initial BBC coverage of the conflict such as the promotion of the notion of ‘war crimes’ and attacks on civilians carried out by Israel continued, as did the failure to report adequately on Hamas’ use of human shields and the amplification of unverified casualty figures. The theme of border restrictions became more prominent, together with misrepresentation of the reasons for those restrictions and promotion of the inaccurate notion of a ‘siege’ on Gaza. 

Related Articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

 

 

 

 

BBC offers course on 1919 Paris Peace Conference

Readers may be interested to learn of a free three-week course – beginning today – being offered by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the BBC and titled “World War 1: Paris 1919 – A New World Order?“.

David Lloyd George with other delegates at the 1919 Peace Conference at Versailles - Parliamentary Archives

David Lloyd George with other delegates at the 1919 Peace Conference at Versailles – Parliamentary Archives

“This course is part of a series designed in partnership with the BBC to commemorate the war.”

According to the promotional material:

“The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 ended a Great War, but it also designed the post-war future. In 1919, world leaders assembled in Paris redrew the map of the world, partitioned and created countries, and ushered in a new era of international relations. The naivety of the peace-makers of 1919 has been justly criticised. However, in setting up a permanent ‘world organisation’, the League of Nations, they changed the management of world affairs forever…

Produced in collaboration with the BBC, this three-week course will let you retrace the steps of those who took those momentous decisions almost a century ago. You’ll have a chance to assess how, over the past century, world organisations (first the League of Nations, then the United Nations) have become a forum for international cooperation. And you’ll be encouraged to debate many of the issues that have vexed international politics since then.”

With past BBC content relating to that subject matter having been somewhat lacking, it will be interesting to see whether the inaccuracies, omissions and distortions reappear in this course’s content.

Related Articles:

Omissions, distortions and inaccurate history in BBC WW1 ‘educational’ feature

BBC R4 presents jaundiced account of San Remo conference

 

The BBC World Service, a Nazi analogy and George Clooney’s mum-in-law

h/t RL

This one may have to be filed under ‘you couldn’t make it up’.

On October 11th the BBC World Service’s radio programme ‘Weekend‘ was presented by Julian Worricker and, as usual, included two studio guests invited to “discuss and comment on themes and ideas of the week’s news, from the realms of politics, science, music and the arts”.Weekend 11 10

One of the items included in the programme (from 36:00 here for a limited period of time) was an interview with film director Vanessa Lapa about her film ‘The Decent One’, described as follows by the Jerusalem Post.

“Vanessa Lapa’s documentary portrait of SS chief Heinrich Himmler, The Decent One, is eerily fascinating. The movie is both a biography of Himmler and a history of Nazism, its soundtrack composed entirely (except for a brief interview in English at the beginning and the end, and background music) of excerpts from Himmler’s and his family’s letters and diaries. A few titles give historical context, but the words we hear are from these letters, read by actors.
Lapa, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, came into possession of these letters when her father bought them at auction so she could use them to make this film, which won the Best Israeli Documentary Award at this summer’s Jerusalem Film Festival.”

Following the conversation between Lapa and Worricker, the latter invited his studio guests to comment on what they had just heard with the first to speak being author and Economist correspondent Tim Judah. Worricker’s second guest – foreign editor of Al Hayat, Bariaa Alamuddin (aka George Clooney’s mother-in-law) – was then invited to comment too (from 49:04 in the link above).

Worricker: “Bariaa – what did you draw out of what you heard from Vanessa Lapa?”

Alamuddin: “Ah…quite a few things actually. Of course one always should look back at this with horror of course. The massacres and the Holocaust was a very bad point in the history of human beings. Nevertheless, it’s interesting the audience in Jerusalem – I’m sure there were no Palestinians in the attendance there – and what is something that I do not understand at all is where the Jews have suffered all this, how they can inflict on the Palestinians what they do. It’s something that must be in the psychic of every Jew and for them to elect people like Netanyahu or the rest of his cabinet and to…for them to go onto wars like the last Gaza war – I mean indeed since ’48 they must have killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians – this is an aspect that I do not understand about the Holocaust. I love history…”

Worricker: “Hmm…”

Alamuddin: “…and I think any nation that does not look deep into its history is not a good thing. I talk to Germans a lot about this. Some of them have fatigue about this and indeed I haven’t met one German that celebrates what Hitler has done and nevertheless the younger generation does not really want to be blamed for what Hitler has done, so I understand in a way…”

Worricker: “Sure. Tim: come back on what you’ve just heard from Bariaa.”

Judah: “No, I don’t want to talk about that.”

Worricker: “No. I mean you brought it to the present day…ehm…and your view of what’s going on in the Middle East. I didn’t get into that with Vanessa Lapa obviously but that film, as I say, is being shown in Los Angeles; it starts…”

Alamuddin: “It’s a very valid point, Julian, the one I’m just bringing…”

Worricker: “Is it a valid point? Or…”

Judah: “Yes. I mean to a certain extent, yes. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it.”

Worricker: “I was going to invite you to [laughs] ….fair enough….if you want to leave it there…”

Clearly there are two issues arising from this broadcast, with one being a matter of accuracy. Bariaa Alamuddin claimed that “since ’48 they must have killed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians”. The word “they” refers to Jews: notably Alamuddin never used the word Israelis. 

The estimated number of Arab casualties – not just Palestinians – in all of the wars, riots, uprisings and operations since 1920 stands at less than one hundred thousand. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that 13,000 Palestinians and Israelis were killed between 1948 and 1996. Those figures do not distinguish between civilians and combatants but what is quite obvious is that the figures promoted by Alamuddin are blatantly exaggerated. 

Julian Worricker, however, made no attempt to correct Alamuddin’s inaccurate statement and thus allowed BBC audiences to be grossly misled.

The second issue is that of Alamuddin’s use of a thinly-veiled Nazi analogy. Alamuddin claims that the victims of Nazi persecution have become persecutors of the same order; conveniently erasing context, circumstance and, of course, the actions of Palestinians from her narrative. There is nothing original about Alamuddin’s prejudice: as Howard Jacobson noted in 2011 it has been around for years. 

“Forget Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is old hat. The new strategy – it showed its hand in Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children, and surfaced again in Channel 4’s recent series The Promise – is to depict the Holocaust in all its horror in order that Jews can be charged (“You, of all people”) with failing to live up to it. By this logic the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t. “Jews know more than anyone that killing civilians is wrong,” resounds an unmistakably authorial voice in The Promise. Thus are Jews doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to the moral wasteland of having found no humanising redemption in its horrors.”

The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism includes the following:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”

Alamuddin, as mentioned above, did not even bother to use the word ‘Israeli’: like MP David Ward before her, she exclusively used the word Jews, suggesting that – as also defined in the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism – she has no compunction about:

“Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”

Worricker’s failed – and not particularly convincing – attempts to get Tim Judah to respond to Alamuddin’s obviously offensive remarks do not of course excuse either his own dithering inaction or the BBC’s promotion and amplification of racist statements and inaccurate ‘statistics’. No less problematic is the fact that those statements have been left standing in the recorded version of the programme currently available on BBC iPlayer. 

BBC fails to provide essential background to Commons vote on recognition of Palestinian state

On October 11th the BBC News website’s UK Politics page included an article titled “MPs to vote on recognising Palestine as a state“. Both the caption to the photograph illustrating the article and its opening sentence inform readers that the vote is “historic”.MPs to vote

“MPs will take part in an historic vote calling for the recognition of Palestine as a state”

“MPs are to take part in an historic vote in Parliament that will call on the government to recognise Palestine as a state.

Labour backbencher Grahame Morris will present the motion on Monday as MPs return to the Commons.

The motion has the full backing of the Labour shadow cabinet, the BBC has been told.”

Curiously, the vote quickly moves from “historic” to “symbolic”.

“The vote is symbolic and would not change government policy but could have international implications.”

Later on in the report, under the subheading “Swedish move”, readers are reassuringly told:

“The vote comes amid moves elsewhere in Europe to recognise Palestine officially.

Sweden’s new centre-left government announced last week that it intends to officially recognise Palestine as a state, becoming the first long-term European Union member state to do so.

It will join more than 100 other countries that have already recognised Palestinian statehood.

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry said this week that recognition would be a positive step at some point in the future.”

A previous BBC article from October 3rd on the topic of the announcement by the new Swedish prime minister is promoted at the bottom of this report and in the sidebar of ‘related stories’. As was also the case in that superficial report (which failed to make any mention of the past anti-Israel activities of some members of the new Swedish cabinet or of that country’s history of financing anti-Israel NGOs), this one concerning the UK vote makes no attempt to inform BBC audiences of the implications and significance of such a move.

No mention is made of the fact that one party to the current Palestinian Unity Government is a terrorist organization designated by the EU with a private militia which is additionally proscribed by the UK. Readers are not informed of the fact that despite a pledge to abide by all existing agreements with Israel, that unity government has failed to do so since its inauguration on June 2nd and yet has remained unaccountable for that failure in the international arena.

The BBC’s report does inform readers that:

“Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, writing on the LabourList blog, said: “This conflict will only be resolved ultimately by both sides engaging in a negotiated peace process towards that two state solution.””

It does not, however, bother to clarify that Hamas is not a member of the body with which Israel conducts negotiations – the PLO – or that it rejects the concept of a two-state solution and that its raison d’etre is the destruction of the Jewish state.

British MPs may well elect to take the step of recognizing a state with an internationally designated terror organization which seeks to destroy its neighbour (a UK ally) party to its current government. They may decide that it is acceptable to recognize a state in which the official security forces are outmatched by a much stronger terrorist militia backed by countries (Iran and Qatar) which fund terror throughout the Middle East and which, as we saw only this last summer, is capable of dragging that government into conflict as and when its own (or its backers’) interests dictate. British MPs should, however, be frank about their motives and ought not to be allowed to pretend that they are doing so in the interests of ‘peace’.

The people those MPs represent (most of whom are of course also BBC licence fee payers) are clearly in need of – and entitled to – the full range of information concerning the background to this issue if they are to be able to make their views on the subject known to their elected representatives before Monday’s vote.

As we have seen in both the previous BBC article about the Swedish move and in this one, the BBC has failed to provide its funders with that information.

BBC Radio 4 programme on UAVs lacks transparency and adherence to editorial guidelines

On October 6th BBC Radio 4 aired a half-hour programme titled “The Year of the Drone”. The programme was commissioned from Whistledown productions and was presented by Will Robson and produced by Harry Graham. It can be heard here for a limited period of time and its synopsis reads as follows.Drones R4

“Will Robson gets exclusive access to some of the British military’s most secretive, sophisticated and controversial drones, and talks to the men and women who operate them. He gets an insider perspective on what it means to fight a war remotely, and finds out how long distant combat affects those at the controls.

In a remote corner of west Wales, in a matt green shipping container, a group of engineers and military officials crowd around a high-tech bank of screens and joysticks. A monitor feeds them live aerial footage of the Carmarthenshire coastline. The image is crisp, they can make out dolphins swimming in the wake of a fishing trawler. They’re testing the limits of the British Army’s Watchkeeper surveillance drone, one of a new fleet of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) which have an £850m pound price tag.

The British military is a global leader in UAS technology, and Watchkeeper is just one element. As drones become ever more important to the way Britain fights its wars, the Government’s Select Defence Committee are demanding more transparency.

While the military have welcomed UAS as a way of reducing costs and casualties, not everyone is convinced. Critics say that drones could bring an age of airborne occupation and dispassionate warfare. They claim that when war can be fought without consequence to the aggressor, violence quickly becomes easier than diplomacy.

Will Robson explores the debate around one of this generation’s most divisive military technologies.”

Three minutes and forty-four seconds into the programme, listeners hear an unidentified female voice saying:

“The result is a lot of dead civilians and a lot of people unable to live in their own houses. It has brought safety to nobody.”

The identity of the unidentified speaker will not be a mystery to anyone who happened to be listening to Radio 4 on September 3rd: she is “Palestinian performance poet and human rights activist” (and now apparently also UAV expert) Rafeef Ziadah. At 06:45 Ziadah appears again – this time with an introduction.

Robson: “But that’s of little comfort for campaigners like Rafeef Ziadah of War on Want who believes that drones lead pilots into a state of dangerous disconnect.”

Ziadah: “It’s somebody sitting in an air-conditioned room miles away deciding who should die, who should live. There have already been many mistakes made and a lot of civilian casualties killed by drones. It really is not saving anyone.”

Robson: “Do you need to look your enemy in the eye before you kill them?”

Ziadah: “Does it make it easier to kill the enemy if you don’t look them in the eye? It’s the ability to wage war, to kill people and not feel anything about it or justify it because you are not there on the ground that is a very dangerous development. It was actually people within the militaries that said it’s better when people are not on the battleground. However, already there’s documentation of how drones pilots do get affected by what they’re doing, so I don’t think the psychological impacts are completely gone. We haven’t studied them enough.”

Listeners may by this time be wondering what the somewhat self-contradicting arguments of a campaigns officer for a charity which supposedly “fights poverty” are doing in a programme ostensibly dealing with the topic of unmanned aerial vehicles but – as is all too well known – War on Want long since departed from the agenda of fighting poverty and ventured into political campaigning. The connection between that and Ziadah’s appearance in this broadcast will soon become clear, but in the meantime it is notable – and of course entirely predictable – that Rafeef Ziadah has nothing to say about Palestinian terrorists who launch rockets at Israeli civilians from “miles away” without looking their intended victims “in the eye”. 

At 18:50 Robson introduces another contributor.

Robson: “Israel is also reported to be using armed drones over Gaza, although the Israel Defence Force has never confirmed or denied this. Chris Cole-Smith – formerly an officer in the Royal Regiment of Artillery – has carried out recent Amnesty International investigations on the ground in Gaza.”

Cole-Smith: “You know, the population are pretty much used to it now. They are a constant presence. Virtually every trip I’ve made into Gaza there has been the whine of drones overhead. They know they’re under constant surveillance. The population know very well that these drones have the capacity to kill people instantaneously and very accurately. Well, I’ve looked into the eyes of so many families of children who’ve been killed by the so-called state of the art weapons system which is just making far too many mistakes. One child was given a coin by his grandfather to go out and buy a new pen for his baby sister. Walking down the street he was struck by a drone missile. Now where’s the legitimacy in that?”

Robson: “You’ve obviously seen the effects of drones in conflict zones. Do you think the British public are as aware of the issues surrounding drones, or are there some misconceptions out there in the people you’ve talked to?”

Cole-Smith: “I do not think the British public are at the moment fully aware of how drones are being used in certain areas of the world and they certainly are not aware of the huge number of errors that is taking place in some of this targeting and needs to be made much more public.”

Robson: “The Israeli Embassy told us that as there was no detail on the alleged incidents they could not judge their veracity. But they did say that the IDF operates within international law while facing an enemy which operates from civilian areas.”

So in other words, Robson and producer Harry Graham thought it was perfectly acceptable to amplify Cole-Smith’s unproven third-hand anecdote whilst at the same time finding it completely unnecessary to clarify to listeners the fact that it is the numerous Islamist terrorist organisations operating in the Gaza Strip which are the target of Israeli surveillance – not the civilian population.

We will return to Mr Cole-Smith later, but in the meantime Robson continues with more amplification of Rafeef Ziadah’s real agenda at 20:24.

Robson: “Rafeef Ziadah from War on Want is concerned none the less.”

Ziadah: “Israel continues to rely deeply on drones. Not only that: they then export them to the rest of the world saying that they are field-tested. And currently the British government is importing this technology to produce a new drone called the Watchkeeper drone. This drone is based on a model that’s for Elbit Systems – Israel’s largest military company. It’s completely, completely wrong for the UK to be importing this technology.”

And at 26:13 Ziadah is heard again saying:

Ziadah: “So drones are a way to continue wars by remote control. This raises questions of accountability. When do we know how these wars are being launched? How they’re being stopped? The UK government is saying it’s going to leave Afghanistan, yet do we know that the drones programme – the drones flying over Afghanistan – is going to stop? There has been no indication of that.”

As regular readers well know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality and accuracy (applicable to all BBC content, including commissioned items) state that contributors should be properly identified, with the section titled “Avoiding Misleading Audiences” including the following statement:

“We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.”

So let’s take a look at some of the “credentials” of Will Robson’s interviewees which were not disclosed to listeners to this programme and yet, along with other facts, have bearing on its declared subject matter.

First of all, no mention is made of War on Want’s BBC-related funding via Comic Relief – a charity with no fewer than three BBC executives on its various boards.  Neither are listeners told about War on Want’s long-established record of anti-Israel campaigning and support for the anti-peace BDS movement. They are not even told of the very pertinent fact that War on Want has been running an anti-drone campaign for quite some time, with one of the main aims of that campaign being the promotion of a two-way military embargo on Israel.  

Had listeners been made aware of those very relevant facts, they would have been able to both comprehend Rafeef Ziadah’s motives for participating in this programme and place her contribution to it in its correct context. Notably, they were not informed of those factors and so the result is free BBC promotion for an organization which campaigns virulently against Israel on various fronts. 

It would also have been appropriate for audiences to be informed of the fact that War on Want is part of what is known as the ‘Drone Campaign Network’ and that another member of that group is an organization called ‘Drone Wars UK’ which is run by someone named Chris Cole: an extraordinarily similar name to that of the person appearing in this BBC programme. That Chris Cole is also ‘convener‘ or ‘coordinator‘ for the Drone Campaign Network. In addition, Cole is also a member of Pax Christi: an organization which does its own fair share of anti-Israel campaigning and promotion of BDS and is also a member of the ‘Drone Campaign Network’.

Coincidentally or not, this BBC commissioned programme was aired during the Drone Campaign Network’s “Drones Week of Action 2014” which includes events sponsored by Pax Christi and Friends of Sabeel UK, the publicity for which includes a link to Cole’s website. One of those events is a “vigil” at the Elbit Systems factory in Shenstone which has already been the target of previous actions by anti-Israel campaigners, supported – inter alia – by the ‘Drone Campaign Network’, Amnesty International and War on Want.

It is of course very revealing (and hardly coincidental) that the only “critics” of UAVs heard by listeners to this programme are those who also have an anti-Israel agenda, even though – as is noted in the programme – around a hundred countries manufacture drones. As is all too apparent, the claim made in the synopsis of this programme that it would “explore the debate” surrounding UAVs is actually nothing more than an opening for the context-free amplification of professional activists from organisations which employ the subject of UAVs as part of their political campaigns to delegitimise Israel. 

Tonight: two to watch out for on BBC 2

On Saturday October 11th BBC Two will screen ‘The Gatekeepers’ at 21:45 UK time. The programme’s synopsis reads as follows:

“For the first time ever, six former heads of Israel’s domestic secret service agency, the Shin Bet, share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions.

Since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been unable to transform its crushing military victory into a lasting peace. Throughout that entire period, these heads of the Shin Bet stood at the centre of Israel’s decision-making process in all matters pertaining to security. They worked closely with every Israeli prime minister, and their assessments and insights had – and continue to have – a profound impact on Israeli policy.

The Gatekeepers offers an exclusive account of the sum of their successes and failures. In the process it sheds light on the controversy surrounding the occupation in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.”

Gatekeepers on BBC 2

Following that, at 23:20, BBC’s Two’s ‘Newsnight’ will be hosting a discussion on the topic with a group of as yet unidentified guests.

“Evan Davis presents a discussion in which a panel of guests debate the issues raised by Dror Moreh’s documentary about Israeli secret service Shin Bet, which features interviews with six of the agency’s former heads.”

As readers are no doubt aware, this is by no means a new topic for the BBC.

Related Articles:

BBC uses ‘Gatekeepers’ to advance its own weary mantras on Israel

BBC Four’s documentary series ‘Storyville’ to show Palestinian propaganda film

Beyond the BBC caricature of Israel

As readers may be aware, the deputy chief of mission at Israel’s embassy in Norway is George Deek – a Christian Arab Israeli from Jaffa. In a speech given in Oslo on September 27th, Mr Deek told the extraordinary story of his family and gave some interesting insight into Israel as it really is.

The sound quality of this video begins poorly, but improves about five minutes in. A transcript of the speech is available here.

 

 

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

On October 8th listeners to the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme on Radio 4 heard an item by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available here for a limited period of time from 43:58) which was introduced by presenter John Humphrys in the following flippant – and inaccurate – terms.Connolly Today

Humphrys: “The guns and the rockets have pretty much fallen silent in Gaza but the two sides are hardly at peace with each other in any real sense. The Palestinians accuse the Israelis of genocide. Israel sees its armed forces as the most moral in the world. Israel calls Hamas terrorists whose every operation is a war crime. Hamas sees its resistance to occupation as legitimate. Previous rounds of fighting produced controversial war crimes investigations and it’s likely that this year’s fighting will be no different. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly has been listening as each side makes its case.”

The BBC is of course well aware of the fact that no “genocide” took place in the Gaza Strip. It also knows full well that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that its designation as such is by no means exclusively an Israeli view.

“Hamas is of course defined as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan – as the BBC’s own profile of Hamas clearly states. In addition, Jordan and Egypt have banned Hamas and Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.”

The BBC knows equally well that the Gaza Strip has not been under “occupation” for over nine years and that Hamas’ so-called “resistance” is aimed at ending the existence of Israel. One presumes that the BBC is also aware of the fact that the head of a prior UN HRC ‘investigation’ later stated “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document”.

Nevertheless, John Humphrys made no attempt whatsoever to inform listeners to Radio 4 of the actual facts behind his statements, thereby deliberately misleading listeners.

Kevin Connolly opened as follows:

Connolly: “The sounds of the summer war between Israel and the militant groups of Gaza have faded but the accusations that war crimes were committed on both sides haven’t gone away. It is a sort of second front to the bitter violence; an attempt to win the politics after an inconclusive conflict. [sound of an air-raid siren] The Israeli case against Hamas is simple: here’s an organization that hides amongst its own civilians to fire rockets at Israel’s. Two clear breaches – says Israel – of the laws of war. And here’s the senior Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti with his charge sheet against Israel.”

Barghouti: “Targeting civilians and targeting children and killing them. Indiscriminate destruction of very wide areas as well as using forbidden weapons like depleted uranium and other weapons that include…eh…cancerogenous [sic – carcinogenic – Ed.] materials. One very important point here was the unjustified massive destruction of whole neighbourhoods in Gaza.”

Connolly made no effort to clarify to audiences that there is no proven evidence to support any of Barghouti’s wild claims, thus deliberately leaving listeners with the inaccurate impression (for the second time in minutes) that the accusations made by that old BBC favourite may have some basis.

Listeners then heard a recording from a news bulletin: “A deafening blast. An Israeli airstrike…” after which Connolly continued:

“We all remember individual moments from the summer’s conflict. This is the American network ABC reporting the deaths of four little boys hit by Israeli missile fire as they played on a beach.”

Connolly neglected to provide listeners with any context to the simplistic account he promoted or to inform them that the circumstances of the incident are still under investigation. He continued:

“No-one would dispute that something terrible happened there, but I asked Israel’s deputy Military Attorney General Eli Baron if he thought it amounted to a war crime.”

Baron: “Basic presumption that every death has to be translated into a breach of the laws of war is just wrong because death – even of civilians – is not an unreasonable consequence of war. During war people die and it doesn’t always mean that there has been a breach of the rules. You may sometimes rely on wrong intelligence and sometimes you just make mistakes.”

The item continued with a recording of radio communications in Hebrew followed by Connolly saying:

“Israelis often describe their armed forces as the most moral in the world; a claim based on this kind of evidence. It’s a recording of a pilot aborting an attack because there are civilians in the target zone. The release of that kind of tape is meant to demonstrate Israel’s adherence to two basic laws of war: discrimination – you have to distinguish between military and civilian positions – and proportionality – any civilian casualties must be proportionate to any possible military gain. But Israel still has plenty of questions to answer. It hit UN-run schools in Gaza for a start and it targeted the homes of militant leaders, arguing they were also used to store weapons or control operations.”

Again, Connolly failed to provide necessary context such as the fact that terrorists fired missiles at Israeli civilian targets from the vicinity of UN-run schools. He went on:

“Israel’s military now says it’s conducting its own investigations. But Sarit Michaeli from the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem says that’s not enough.”

Connolly’s introduction of Michaeli and her organization is obviously intended to give listeners the impression that a “human rights organization” is a neutral body with unbiased opinions they can take as fact. That, of course, is not the case. B’Tselem is a political NGO which has employed a ‘human rights halo’ to advance its political agenda before, throughout and since the recent conflict, collaborating with additional political NGOs engaged in political warfare against Israel.

Michaeli: “The military advocate general provided the army with legal advice both before and during the hostilities. It seems absurd that the same person; the same – you know – office will now look at the orders that he himself approved to see whether those orders could have been unlawful. Clearly there is a major conflict of interests there. It is simply unacceptable as a way to ascertain the truth and as a way to ensure accountability.”

Obviously Connolly did not bother to fact check Michaeli’s insinuations before broadcasting them to millions in the UK.

“The IDF Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, has ordered that a General Staff Mechanism for Fact-Finding Assessments (the ‘FFA Mechanism’) will examine Exceptional Incidents that occurred during Operation ‘Protective Edge’. The FFA Mechanism, headed by a Major General, was activated soon after the commencement of Operation ‘Protective Edge’, in the midst of the ongoing hostilities. […]

The FFA Mechanism is currently headed by Major General Noam Tibon and is comprised of a number of fact-finding assessment teams. Each team is led by a senior IDF officer (in active service or in the IDF reserves), with a rank ranging from Colonel to Major General. The teams are comprised primarily of high-ranking IDF reservist officers, possessing operational expertise in a range of military areas (such as artillery, intelligence and aerial operations), as well as members possessing both legal qualifications and professional experience in the field of investigations. Each team is also provided with ongoing legal advice from legal officers in the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps, who have particular expertise and experience in international law. An additional senior officer from the IDF reserves, with expertise in international law, has also been appointed to assist the head of the FFA Mechanism. None of the fact-finding assessment teams’ members served in the chain of command during Operation ‘Protective Edge’.” [emphasis added]

Connolly closed:

“Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in negotiations to firm up the ceasefire in Gaza. It says much about the prospects for any lasting deal that these allegations of war crimes will be traded and investigated in parallel with those talks.”

Not content with the promotion of this item replete with misleading inaccuracies on BBC Radio 4, a written article on the same topic by Kevin Connolly was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the same day. Titled “Israeli-Palestinian conflict: How ‘lawfare’ has become a weapon“, the article misrepresents Israel’s motives for conducting the routine investigations into the actions of its armed forces.Connolly written

“Each side sees the advantage of establishing the justice and virtue of its cause over the other – seeking a clear political and diplomatic victory after an inconclusive military outcome.”

Further, Connolly later adds:

“Israel’s fear of standing condemned before an international tribunal prompted it to begin those investigations before the fighting had stopped.”

In fact the Military Attorney General (MAG) investigates all allegations as a matter of course and without any connection to external ‘tribunals’.

In this article Connolly repeats the amplification of Mustafa Barghouti’s baseless claims heard in the audio version. (Incidentally, Connolly’s “influential Palestinian politician” gained the grand total of 26,909 votes in the last PLC elections in 2006.)

“The influential Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, who spent time in Gaza during the latest bombardment, gave me a kind of charge sheet for Israel.

“Their war crimes included the collective disproportional use of force, targeting civilians and targeting children and killing them.

“There’s also the indiscriminate destruction of very wide areas, as well as using forbidden weapons like depleted uranium and other weapons that include cancerous materials. One very important point here was the unjustified massive destructions of whole neighbourhoods in Gaza, including in some cases the destruction of a whole town like Shejaiya.””

No effort is made by Connolly to clarify to readers that Barghouti’s accusation of “unjustified massive destructions” in Shuja’iya is inconsistent with the fact that the neighbourhood was the site of Hamas military assets including the entrances to almost a third of the 32 cross-border attack tunnels discovered during the operation. That very serious omission is of course hardly surprising: the BBC has consistently failed to inform its audiences of what actually happened in Shuja’iya – and why – throughout the entire three months since the fighting there took place.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In the written version, Barghouti is also quoted as saying:

“If Palestinians have a problem, they are ready to go to the court,” he explained. “But the most important thing is to hold Israel responsible in front of the ICC. Israel has enjoyed a status of impunity to international law and to international humanitarian law. This cannot be allowed to continue.

“Israel has to be held responsible for the war crimes it has committed against the Palestinian population. Not only in the last war but in many previous wars on Gaza and in many previous attacks in the West Bank”.

As Connolly correctly points out, a Palestinian Authority decision to join the ICC could well prove to be a double-edged sword.

Connolly writes:

“The United Nations Human Rights Council has already established an independent commission of enquiry under the Canadian professor of international law, William Schabas – but Israel regards the council as a kind of standing kangaroo court which is biased against it.”

He fails to inform BBC audiences of Schabas’ record of statements which are the basis for that view and that it is also shared by others.

In both these items Connolly inaccurately presents the subject of ‘lawfare’ as though it were a policy used equally by both sides and passes up on the opportunity to inform BBC audiences how ‘lawfare’ is actually used by anti-Israel organisations as a means of delegitimizing Israel.

Connolly’s amplification of Mustafa Barghouti’s baseless claims in both his written article and the audio item join numerous previous BBC reports in which unqualified promotion was given to similarly baseless accusations from Hamas spokesmen and employees of political NGOs involved in political warfare against Israel – literally from day one of the recent conflict. Once again, the BBC’s supposed commitment to accurate and impartial reporting is trumped by its self-conscription to the provision of publicity for ‘lawfare’ campaigners.

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

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

 

 

Attacks on Israel’s northern border not news for the BBC

On October 7th an explosive device was detonated in the Har Dov area of the Golan Heights, wounding two Israeli soldiers. Shortly afterwards a second device was detonated with no injuries caused. Israel responded with artillery fire.SONY DSC

“An initial army investigation into the attacks found the explosives were planted in advance and were waiting for the troops. Following the attacks, IDF troops were searching the area for additional explosives. […]

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the incident violated a UN Security Council resolution that was adopted to end the 2006 Second Lebanon War. He said the UN force in Lebanon, which has been in place for decades, has launched an investigation and contacted both sides to urge restraint.”

Later in the day the terrorist organisation Hizballah claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Hezbollah operatives “detonated an explosive device on the Shebaa hills against a motorized Israeli patrol causing a number of injuries among the occupation’s soldiers,” the group said in a statement.

A Hizballah official added:

“”This is a message.. Even though we are busy in Syria and on the eastern front in Lebanon our eyes remain open and our resistance is ready to confront the Israeli enemy,” Sheikh Naim Qassem told Lebanese OTV television late on Tuesday.”

The incidents followed an earlier one on October 5th in which two infiltrators were identified in the same region border region.

BBC staff in the region were aware of the incidents.

Shuval tweets Har Dov

However, cross-border attacks carried out and claimed by an Iranian-backed terrorist organization were apparently not deemed newsworthy enough for coverage on the BBC News website.