Examining another BBC theme from Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’

One of the main themes created by the BBC during Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ – and still being promoted long after it – is the notion that the fighting between terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and Israel began with the targeted assassination of Ahmed Jabari on November 14th

In order to actually understand the build-up to the operation, it is necessary to go back to the end of August when, after a period of relative quiet in which ‘only’ 19 rockets had been fired in July and twenty two in August (as opposed, for example, to 179 in June), terrorists targeted school children returning to their studies after the summer holidays on August 27th 2012.

In response to those attacks a weapons manufacturing site and a weapons storage site in the northern Gaza Strip were targeted. On the night of September 2nd/3rd an additional terror site was targeted in the same region and on September 5th a rocket launching squad in action was targeted as it prepared to launch missiles into Israel.  

On September 6th a 3 man terror cell in the process of planting an improvised explosive device (IED) along the northern section of theMen inspect damage to a house in Netivot that was hit by long-range Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, Sunday Sep. 9 (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)  border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip was targeted. During the first nine days of September, over ten rockets hit civilian communities in Israel, including the destruction of a house in Netivot on September 9th and school had to be cancelled in some southern communities. 

On September 10th, several terror sites in the Gaza Strip were targeted and on September 20th Israel targeted two known terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip. On September 21st a major terrorist attack was thwarted on the Egypt-Israel border, during which Cpl. Natanel Yahalomi was killed and another soldier injured. 

On October 7th, two terrorists affiliated to the Global Jihad were targeted; the BBC’s version of the story can be seen here. The next day, a barrage of dozens of rockets and mortars hit southern Israel, for which a number of terrorist groups – including Hamas – took responsibility

“The military-terrorist wings of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket and mortar shell fire. In addition, the Popular Resistance Committees and networks affiliated with the global jihad also claimed responsibility. Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, said “shelling Israeli posts [sic]” was a message to Israel that the “resistance” [i.e., terrorist organizations] would not allow unilateral Israeli “aggression,” and that Israeli “aggression will lead to a more powerful and extensive response.” He claimed that the response had been coordinated at the highest levels with the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad(Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, October 8, 2012).”

The IDF targeted a number of Hamas sites and terror squads and on October 10th a tunnel was also targeted. In response to the Bedroom damaged in Grad rocket attackcontinued rocket fire, another terror site was targeted on October 11th. The rocket fire – over 40 missiles in a week – was claimed by several organisations.

“Several organizations claimed responsibility for the rocket and mortar shell fire, among them the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP Facebook page, October 14, 2012) and the Popular Resistance Committees (Website of the organization’s military-terrorist wing, October 14, 2012). Responsibility was also claimed by networks affiliated with the global jihad, among them the Shura Council of the Jihad Fighters of Greater Jerusalem (Global jihad forum website, October 10, 2012) and a network calling itself “Taliban Palestine” (Global jihad forum website, October 14, 2012).”

On October 12th a top global jihad operative, Hisham Saidani, was targeted and on October 13th and 14th the IDF targeted additional terror sites and rocket-launching squads

At this point, we are a whole month prior to Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’.

Rocket fire on southern Israel continued and a Hamas training camp was targeted on October 17th, with another site targeted the next day.  On October 22nd the IDF targeted a missile-launching cell in response to a mortar attack on a routine IDF patrol near Nir Am and, as rocket fire on Israeli civilian communities continued, later an additional cell was targeted.  The BBC reported the Israeli response, but gave little context to the reasons behind it. 

Home in southern Israel damaged by rocket fire (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)On October 23rd an IDF officer was seriously wounded  by an IED whilst on a routine patrol near the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The PFLP claimed responsibility and the BBC ignored the incident.  On the same day, a rocket launching squad was targeted in the northern Gaza Strip and the next day, another one. Nearly 70 rockets and mortars hit Israeli territory on October 24th alone and schools were closed in the area. The IDF continued to respond by targeting rocket launching squads and other terror facilities.

On October 24th, much of the media had reported on a so-called “lull” between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt and to supposedly come into effect as of midnight on the 24th.

“On the ground, however, the lull was not honored by the terrorist organizations, which publicly denied its existence: Abu Mujahed, spokesman for the PRC, said that the [terrorist] organizations would respond to Israeli “aggression” against the Gaza Strip and denied the existence of a formal lull with Israel (Safa News Agency, October 25, 2012). Ayman Taha, a senior Hamas figure, also denied the existence of a lull, adding that there was “enforcement on the ground” and that Hamas would respond to any new “Israeli aggression” (Resala.net website, October 24, 2012). Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas’ Executive Committee, said that there was no truce (hudna) between Israel and Hamas, rather a lull in the fighting, which as far as he was concerned meant that as long as Israel did not attack, there would be no rocket fire from the Gaza Strip (BBC Radio, October 28, 2012).”

By this stage, over 150 rockets and mortars had been fired from the Gaza Strip in October alone. On October 28th, another rocket-launching squad was targeted and also on October 29th – after during the morning, a barrage of some 30 missiles had been fired at Israel, with Hamas taking responsibility

“The military-terrorist wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the barrage, calling it retaliation for so-called “continuing Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip” (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, October 29, 2012).”

Hamas posted a video of its own rocket fire on its website on October 29th.

On November 4th a Palestinian was shot dead near the border fence after having refused to halt.  On November 6th three IDF soldiers were wounded by an IED placed at the border fence – an incident not reported by the BBC. On November 8th an explosive device in a tunnel near the border fence was detonated. Hamas took responsibility. 

On November 10th an anti-tank missile was fired at an IDF jeep patrolling the border region, within Israeli territory, and four soldiers A citizen clears away wreckage caused by a Grad rocket hitting a house in Netivot on Monday, November 12 (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)were wounded. The IDF responded, which of course the BBC reported first. That same evening, another heavy barrage of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians was launched from Gaza and the IDF responded by targeting a rocket-firing squad. By 4 am on November 11th, 30 rockets and mortars had hit Israel in 7 hours and rocket fire continued throughout the day, with the IDF striking rocket-launching cells.  Although there were media reports of a 6pm ceasefire, missile fire continued into the next day – November 12th – too, with schools of course closed once again. 

Also on November 12th, Hamas convened a meeting of the heads of terror groups in the Gaza Strip. 

“On November 12 the heads of the terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip held an emergency meeting chaired by Hamas, where they reviewed the situation and discussed a response to Israel (Ma’an News Agency, November 12, 2012). Fatah, the PFLP and the DFLP did not attend. After the meeting Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhriheld a press conference where he said the participants had accused Israel of being fully responsible for events in the Gaza Strip, and stressed the alleged “right of the Palestinian people to resist Israel and deal with all types of aggression with every means at their disposal.” He added that the response would depend on how what he called “Israeli aggression” continued (Al-Aqsa TV and Filastin al-‘Aan, November 12, 2012). The Egyptian media reported Egyptian mediation attempts to broker a lull.”

Between the evening of Saturday, November 10th and the morning of Tuesday, November 13th, a total of 123 rockets had hit Israel. During the previous month – October 2012 – 121 rockets had hit Israel. By November 13th, 797 rockets had hit Israel since the start of the year. No BBC reporter had yet set foot in Sderot, Netivot, Ashkelon or any of the other towns, cities and villages paralysed by six weeks of almost continuous rocket and mortar fire on civilian targets. 

rocket fire 10 -13 Nov

rocket fire 2012

 

Then, on November 14th, the IDF targeted Ahmed Jabari and along came Jeremy Bowen to inform BBC audiences of a “deliberate escalation” on Israel’s part. Since then, the claim that the responsibility for recent round of violence can be laid at Israel’s door has been repeated countless times by the BBC.

It takes a very peculiar kind of obtuseness to be able to ignore all that happened in the weeks leading up to November 14th

 

BBC’s Jeremy Bowen: “a deliberate escalation by Israel”

On November 14th, not long after the commencement of Operation Pillar of Cloud, the BBC’s Middle East Editor – and one of the ‘gatekeepers’ of BBC Middle East reporting – Jeremy Bowen appeared on BBC television news to provide ‘analysis’ of the situation to audiences. 

(Note the rather interesting choice of graphic in the background.)

This was Bowen’s report (all emphasis added).

“The assassination of the head of the Hamas armed wing, Ahmed al Jabari, is a deliberate escalation by Israel“.

The firing of hundreds of military-grade missiles at Israeli civilians – a clear war crime – apparently does not enter Bowen’s equation as a cause for escalation. 

“The risk of a new war is the reason why its chief military spokesman has warned Israelis to brace themselves.”

Actually, it is the inevitable upsurge in rocket fire after any Israeli action which promoted that warning. 

Bowen’s report then goes on to show rocket fire from populated residential areas in Gaza, with the concurrent endangering of Palestinian civilians, but that point is not made clear to viewers.

“This is why Israel says it’s attacking Gaza: to stop Palestinian rocket fire. Israel also said that the assassinated Hamas leader had a lot of blood on his hands.”

Note the use of the term ‘assassinated’ in order to suggest illegality and the dismissal of Jabari’s terrorist record . Footage is shown of the attack with an anti-tank missile on an Israeli patrol jeep inside Israeli territory, but no context or explanation is offered. 

“The armed groups who are active in Gaza say they’re the protectors of Palestinians, engaging in legitimate resistance.”

Bowen of course neglects to point out that seven years after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, there is nothing to ‘resist’, except the very existence of Israel itself, of course.

“After days of exchanges of fire, this is damage in Israel.”

Accompanying footage shows a rocket crater. Images of much more serious damage to homes and property or wounded Israeli civilians are not shown. 

“Questions are being asked about the timing of the assassination – two months before an Israeli election.”

The BBC has repeatedly pushed this ‘elections’ motif both before and since the beginning of the current operation. Bowen fails to inform viewers exactly who (apart from himself and his colleagues) is asking the ‘questions’ he promotes.

“In the past, military strikes have been used to send messages about the toughness of Israeli leaders.” 

Cut to a clip of PM Netanyahu at a recent press conference.

Bowen’s cynical use of this unfounded and unproven allegation is especially sickening as it implies that Israeli politicians gamble with the lives of regular and reserve soldiers merely for political gains. 

Cut to footage of grieving Palestinians and a funeral in Gaza.

“Hamas have sworn to hit back. They said the same thing during the last Gaza war, either side of the New Year of 2009. But it showed Hamas’ limitations against Israel’s modern hi-tech army.”

This is a clear attempt to paint the terrorists as underdogs – and we are all familiar with the significance of that in British culture. The use of Fajr 5 and other missiles against civilian targets is of course not the action of ‘underdogs’. 

“Before the assassination the Egyptian government had been working to establish a cease-fire between the two sides and its effects had been praised by top Israeli security officials.”

The ‘officials’ are not named, so that claim cannot be corroborated. In actual fact, the ‘ceasefire’ negotiated by Egypt on Monday, November 12th did not even last until the next day as rockets continued to be fired at Israeli civilian targets. Bowen’s attempt to blame Israel for the failure of a ceasefire does therefore not hold water. 

“Egypt’s President is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot. The assassination will be seen in Cairo as a calculated and dangerous insult.”

Any analyst worth his salt would, at this juncture, also point out the contrast between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s attitudes towards its affiliated terror faction in Gaza and its own actions against Salafists attacking Egyptian troops in the Sinai. 

“What has changed since the 2009 Gaza war is that the West and Israel have lost their most reliable Arab friend, Egypt’s President Mubarak. They saw him as an indispensable part of the solution at times like this.”

Seeing as – according to the BBC ethos – we are all supposed to greet the ‘Arab Spring’ with open arms, this is a clear attempt to place Israel in the camp of the ‘bad guys’. Mubarak was not Israel’s ‘friend': he was the leader of a country with which Israel has a peace treaty and was aware of the dangers of Islamist extremism in his own country and on its borders. 

“This is the first Palestinian – Israeli crisis since the Middle East began changing profoundly two years ago.”

Over 1,100 rockets fired at Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip (not including those fired since November 14th) since the beginning of 2011 were not, apparently, a ‘crisis’ in Bowen’s view. 

“That increases the uncertainty and the risk and that’s why immediate warnings about escalation were issued by Britain and the UN Secretary General, among others”. This is another dangerous moment in a region that was already unstable.”

In other words, Bowen wants his audience to go away with the feeling that it is Israel – and Israel alone – which is pushing the entire region to the edge of disaster, rather than the actions of terrorist organisations dedicated to its destruction which commit war crimes against civilians on a daily basis.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the standard of ‘analysis’ which the BBC’s top Middle East expert has to offer you. For more on that, head over to The Commentator .  

BBC’s Peter Allen: “Israel always wreaks its revenge”

Several people have written to us (thank you all) to bring the following BBC radio broadcast to our attention.

On Wednesday, November 14th 2012, at 16:00 GMT, BBC Radio 5 broadcast an edition of its programme ‘5 live Drive’ with presenters Peter Allen and Anna Foster which can be heard here.  

Sections of the broadcast dealt with the subject of Operation Pillar of Cloud, which had commenced less than two hours previous to the start of the programme.

At the beginning (01:18), one can hear the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Wyre Davies talking about the “targeted assassination” of Ahmed Jabari and speculating as to the likelihood of further “assassinations”. 

The correct term is of course ‘targeted killing’ – which is the intentional killing of a targeted person who is taking part in terrorism. Assassination, on the other hand, is defined as “to murder (a usually prominent person) by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons”. 

In electing to use the word ‘assassination’, Davies is clearly attempting to impart an air of illegality to the action of targeting the head of the Izz ad Din al Qassam brigades terrorist militia.

At around two hours into the broadcast, one can hear a Mr El Hadad from Gaza being interviewed by the BBC without any context whatsoever being given for the strikes in the Gaza Strip which he describes. El Hadad is also allowed to make an entirely speculative remark about the supposed connection of the timing of the operation to the upcoming Israeli elections: a theme which the BBC has been promoting vigorously throughout its coverage of the current operation and before. 

At 2:05:37 Peter Allen conducts an interview with Gil Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post. Bearing in mind that Operation Pillar of Cloud had at that time been underway for less than four hours, here are Allen’s ‘contributions’ to the interview:

“We’re all aware of the arguments that a lot of rockets have been fired at Israel and that the retaliation was both necessary and just, but from the outside it just looks like part of this never-ending cycle of violence. It won’t stop anything, this, will it?”

“Yeah – but it’s not just this man [Jabari] who’s been killed. There’s a lot of innocent people getting killed at the same time.”

“Yeah – but nevertheless, if you count it up – the casualties – it’s those inside Gaza who are suffering rather than those inside Israel.”

“Yeah. You can count up the casualties. I’m sorry, you know, but the outside world would count up the casualties and see – you know – that Israel always wreaks its revenge and the revenge it takes is greater than the original – erm – suffering in this war. It does it all the time.”

Impartial? Balanced? Accurate?

Allen is not even pretending to try to meet any of those supposed BBC standards. 

BBC reports on Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’

This afternoon (around 16:50 local time) the IDF announced that it had targeted Ahmed Jabari – the Hamas military commander. 

“In the past hour, the IDF targeted Ahmed Jabri, the head of Hamas’ military wing, in the Gaza Strip. Jabri was a senior Hamas operative who served in the upper echelon of the Hamas’ command and was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the State of Israel in the past number of years.

The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure. This was a surgical operation in cooperation with the Israeli Security Agency, that was implemented on the basis of concrete intelligence and using advanced capabilities.”

זירת החיסול בעזה

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz announced the beginning of Operation ‘Amud Anan (Pillar of Cloud): schools and universities have already been closed in the south of Israel and residents instructed to stay near their safe rooms and shelters. Around 17:00, rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the Hof Ashkelon area in Israel. 

Israeli television also reported that a storage facility of long-range (75km) Fajr missiles had been targeted, as well as other terror-related sites.

The BBC’s initial news report on the events can be read here , including a list of ‘Hamas leaders assassinated by Israel’ – which includes among others Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, despite there being to date no proof of that claim. 

The BBC News website is also carrying a live page which can be seen here .

This post will be updated as necessary. 

Update: 

The IDF has released video footage of the strike against Jabari. 

Reports that Jabari’s successor Ra’ad Atar had also been killed appear to be mistaken. Reportedly, Atar put out a statement saying that “All Zionist targets are legitimate – even beyond Tel Aviv”. 

In the precision strikes carried out so far, 7 terrorists and 2 civilians appear to have been killed. 

A barrage of rockets was fired at Be’er Sheva and other areas shortly after 20:00. Some were intercepted by the Iron Dome. All shopping centres and non-essential places of work in regions up to 7 kms from the Gaza Strip will be closed tomorrow. 

On the BBC News website’s live news feed we find Jeremy Bowen giving his particular strain of ‘analysis’ of events both in writing and TV interviews: 

Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor says: “The assassination of the head of the Hamas armed wing Ahmed al-Jabari is a deliberate escalation by Israel. The inherent risk of a new war is the reason why its chief military spokesman has warned Israelis to brace themselves. It is hard to imagine Hamas not hitting back.”

Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor says: “Israel says it killed the Hamas military leader because he had a lot of blood on his hands – and as an answer to Palestinian rocket fire. But there will be questions about the timing of Israel’s action. The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called an election in January. In the past, military strikes have been used to send messages about the toughness of Israeli leaders.”

The erroneous idea that today’s operation has connections to the upcoming Israeli elections – a theme we have previously seen used on several occasions by Jon Donnison – was also promoted by the newsreader. 

Update:  

As of 20:20, the Iron Dome missile defence system had intercepted 13 rockets above Be’er Sheva, Netivot and Ofakim.

The BBC now has a News in Pictures item up on its website featuring pictures of the strike on Ahmed Jabari’s vehicle. Notably, there was no ‘news in pictures’ from southern Israel earlier in the week whilst over 110 rockets targeted Israeli civilians.

The BBC’s Wyre Davies Tweets: 

As mentioned above, at least seven of the dead are known to be terror operatives. Davies neglects to mention the fact that Hamas places military installations in civilian areas:

“IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai blamed Palestinians in Gaza for storing weapons in residential areas of the Strip, saying, “unfortunately, some of the targets are near kindergartens and near mosques.” “

Update:

Here is a video, released yesterday by the Popular Resistance Committees, of the November 10th attack on an Israeli patrol jeep – inside Israeli territory – which began the latest round of escalation in the south.  

Update: 

The IDF has released an aerial photograph of the Zeitoun neighbourhood in Gaza City showing the proximity of a Hamas underground Fajr 5 rocket launching pad in relation to civilian structures. 

Update: 

As of 22:32 local time, 55 rockets had been fired throughout Wednesday evening at civilian targets in Israel. 

Here is yet another BBC News presenter pushing the ‘election campaign’ line – as well as referring to the deliberate targeting of civilians as “tit for tat responses”.  Fortunately, this time the claim was met by an appropriate response. 

Update: 

In contrast, in this BBC News broadcast, former ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ organizer and participant Mustafa Barghouti is given a fairly free rein to misrepresent events by claiming that “This escalation started with Israeli air attacks on Gaza” and promote the “apartheid” and “election campaign” narratives. The “very peaceful, non-violent acts of resistance” which Barghouti mentions as having taken part in on Wednesday were actually a series of disturbances which resulted in the injury of two Israelis due to stone throwing.  

The presenter once again uses the phrase “tit for tat” and states that “over a thousand Palestinians were killed” in Operation Cast Lead without clarifying that over half of them were members of terrorist organisations.