What do BBC journalists think you should be reading?

Among the recommended reading on the current hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip which BBC employees have recently promoted to their followers on social media is an article by Jeremy Bowen in the New Statesman.

Tweet Ghattas Bowen art

In that article Bowen makes no attempt whatsoever to adhere to those famous BBC values of accuracy and impartiality. Moreover, he further amplifies the line he already began promoting whilst on the ground in the Gaza Strip, claiming that he saw “no evidence” of Hamas’ use of the local population as human shields.

“I was back in London for my son’s 11th birthday party by the time all those people were killed in Shejaiya. But my impression of Hamas is different from Netanyahu’s. I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. I saw men from Hamas on street corners, keeping an eye on what was happening. They were local people and everyone knew them, even the young boys. Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, told me that Hamas, whatever you think of it, is part of the Palestinian DNA.

I met Sourani first when he was condemning abuses by Yasser Arafat’s men. He has taken an equally tough stance on Hamas. Now he says Israel is violating the laws of war by ignoring its legal duty to treat Palestinian civilians as protected non-combatants.”

Bowen refrains from informing readers that Raji Sourani is far from the impartial human rights campaigner he portrays, but in fact one of those currently leading the lawfare campaign against Israel. Bowen, it is all too apparent, has elected to lend his own clout to that campaign.

“Hamas, human rights groups say, also violates the laws of war by firing missiles at civilians. […]

But it is wrong to suggest that Israeli civilians near Gaza suffer as much as Palestinians. It is much, much worse in Gaza.”

It is of course worth remembering that those words – and in particular that ‘scorecard’ of suffering – were written by the man ultimately responsible for the accuracy, impartiality and tone of the BBC’s reporting on the Middle East. 

Another article which proved popular with BBC employees was written by Channel 4′s Jon Snow. 

Tweet Swift Snow art

Snow – who incidentally supports a ‘charity’ banned in Israel because of its ties to Hamas – makes little effort to put up any kind of show of journalistic impartiality either and he too appoints himself as judge and chief awarder of points in the league tables of suffering invented by Western journalists.

“I could see the young Israeli IDF guards peering at me through the steel room’s bullet-proof glass. They were the same women who, from another glass window, had barked commands at me though a very public address system.

“Feet apart!” they said. “Turn! No, not that way – the other!” Then, in the next of five steel security rooms I passed through - each with a red or green light to tell me to stop or go – a male security guard up in the same complex above me shouted “Take your shirt off - right off. Now throw it on the floor… Pick it up, now ring it like it was wet” (it was wet, soaked in sweat).

From entering the steel complex until I reach the final steel clearing room where I held the baby, I was never spoken to face to face, nor did I see another human beyond those who barked the commands through the bullet-proof windows high above me. […]

I feel guilty in leaving, and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.

It is accentuated by suddenly being within sumptuously appointed Israel. Accentuated by the absolute absence of anything that indicates that this bloody war rages a few miles away. […]

In and out of an Israeli transit hotel for a few hours in Ashkelon, an hour from the steel crossing-point from Gaza, there were three half-hearted air raid warnings. Some people run, but most just get on with what they are doing.

They are relatively safe today because Israel is the most heavily fortified country on earth. The brilliant Israeli-invented, American-financed shield is all but fool-proof; the border fortifications, the intelligence, beyond anything else anywhere.”

Perhaps predictably, Snow closes by promoting the cringingly uninformed claim that Israel’s battle against a terrorist organization trying to destroy it (a fact he somehow neglects to mention) is in fact the cause of conflict the world over.

“This is humankind’s most grievous cancer, for its cells infect conflicts in every corner of the world.”

BBC licence fee payers might reasonably wonder what chance they have of getting anything approaching the accurate and impartial reporting they are promised if these are examples of the type of vitriolic polemics the corporation’s employees read and recommend. They might, however, have already ceased to wonder why so many UK media reports  fail to address the topic of the responsibility of terrorist organisations for the suffering of the people of Gaza. 

Why doesn’t the BBC tell audiences about Gaza’s shortfall missiles?

On the evening of July 15th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen sat on a roof in Gaza and witnessed just one of the many instances (around 10 -15%) in which missiles fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip fall short of their target and land inside the territory.

Bowen tweet shortfall 1

Bowen tweet shortfall 2

The IDF informs us that since the start of Operation Protective Edge, some 100 missiles fired by terrorist groups have fallen short, landing inside the Gaza Strip.

Shortfalls tweet IDF

As recently as June 24th a three year-old girl was killed and other members of her family injured when a shortfall missile fired by terrorists hit their home in Beit Lahiya. That incident (along with others) was not reported by the BBC at the time.

The BBC does however know from previous experience that misfired and shortfall missiles cause the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Despite that, in all the BBC’s extensive reporting of Operation Protective Edge that we have seen so far, no attempt has been made to inform BBC audiences of the factor of shortfall missiles and to clarify to them that the casualty figures it quotes will – according to the source of its figures – include civilian deaths caused by missiles fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Neither has the BBC told its audiences about the interest of Hamas (including of course its health ministry, which the BBC regularly quotes on the issue of casualty figures) in promoting as many civilian casualties as possible to the watching world, as chillingly demonstrated in this July 13th Al Aqsa TV interview with Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.  

 

 

BBC’s Bowen promotes accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’

On July 14th the BBC News website’s Middle East page promoted a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen under the title “Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day” which was also aired on the BBC World News programme ‘Newsday’.Bowen 14 7 Newsday Sourani

In that report the PCHR’s Raji Sourani is once again given a BBC platform from which to promote his unproven allegations.

Bowen: “Back in Gaza in the bombed fishing port, Raji Sourani – a Palestinian human rights campaigner – said Israel’s tactic of destroying the homes of men it says are Hamas fighters guarantees it will also kill non-combatants: neighbours, families, children.”

Sourani: “They know they committed war crimes, crimes against humanity – and deliberately. Intending to destroy houses where civilians living in it that’s totally illegal in a clear-cut way Geneva Convention article 52 paragraph 3.”

Bowen makes no effort to inform viewers that Sourani’s interpretation of Article 52 is less than “clear-cut” with regard to buildings used, for example, as weapons stores or missile launching sites.  

Seeing as this report is the fourth item of BBC content in less than a week which has promoted assorted unproven accusations made by Raji Sourani of the PCHR and seeing as the BBC does not apparently consider it necessary to wait for any kind of investigation or proof before broadcasting and amplifying Sourani’s grave accusations concerning the ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’, ‘war crimes’ or ‘crimes against humanity’, it is obviously imperative to take a closer look at the record of Mr Sourani and his organization.

That necessity is further compounded by the fact that as was recently revealed here, the UN OCHA civilian casualty figures which the BBC is currently quoting across the board are based on information coming from three primary sources, one of which is Mr Sourani’s PCHR.

Founded in Gaza City in 1995, the PCHR rejects the Oslo Accords and promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees. It consistently refers to the IDF as IOF (‘Israel Occupation Force’) and engages in‘lawfare’ – including lobbying against the changes made to the ‘universal jurisdiction’ law by the British Parliament. The PCHR also engages in the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope and accusations of the ‘Judaisation’ of Jerusalem and ‘ethnic cleansing’. In 2000 the PCHR described Hizballah as “the legitimate Lebanese resistance against Israeli occupation in Lebanon”, comparing the Iranian-backed terror organization to the French Resistance during World War II. In 2010 the PCHR claimed that the rededication of the restored Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem (destroyed by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948) was a “war crime”. 

After Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 the PCHR alleged that “1,167 non-combatants (82.2%) and 252 resistance activists (17.8%)” were killed. As is well known, even the Hamas Minister of the Interior later admitted that between 600 and 700 of the casualties were members of Hamas and other terrorist groups; figures which matched the Israeli assessment of 709 casualties from terrorist factions.

Throughout that same operation, the PCHR put out statements claiming that Israel was committing “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” and engaging in “collective punishment” and “indiscriminate killing”. When Richard Goldstone retracted the substance of his ‘Goldstone Report’ on Operation Cast Lead, Raji Sourani attributed that to a “psychological war orchestrated by Jewish and Israeli groups”.

After Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, the PCHR claimed that 105 of 160 casualties were civilians. A study by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre showed that 101 of 169 casualties identified (60%) belonged to terrorist organisations.

Readers no doubt recall the tragic incident in which the infant son of a BBC employee was killed in November 2012 by what the BBC – and the PCHR – claimed at the time was an Israeli airstrike.

“…an Israeli warplane fired a missile at a house… Two members of the family (a woman and a toddler) were killed: Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Masharawi, 19, and Omar Jihad al-Masharawi, 11 months.  Additionally, a child from the same family was wounded”.

A UN HRC report later determined that the deaths had been caused by a short-falling missile fired by one of the terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.Bowen 14 7 Newsday PCHR pic

In short, the record of Mr Sourani and his organization clearly shows a distinct lack of reliability and objectivity, as well as clear political motivation behind figures provided, statements given and accusations made. Whilst many people may perhaps expect nothing less from an organization which operates under the assumed mantle of ‘human rights’ whilst inviting a leader from an internationally designated terrorist organization to one of its conferences, for the BBC (and UN OCHA) the penny has obviously not yet dropped.

Mind you, that may well be explained by Bowen’s closing statement in this report.

“Smoke from burning buildings spread across Gaza as Palestinians buried men they said were fighting in a legitimate resistance. Israel calls them terrorists.”

So does the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan – as the BBC’s own profile of Hamas clearly states and as any journalist with integrity would report. 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 irreversible damage being done by Jeremy Bowen to the BBC’s reputation as a provider of accurate and impartial news over the last five days since his arrival in the Gaza Strip continues to pile up. 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen tries to persuade TV audiences that Hamas does not use human shields

BBC editorial guidelines on “Reporting Death, Suffering and Distress” state:Bowen report 14 7 on ME pge

“We must always balance the public interest in full and accurate reporting against the need to be compassionate and to avoid any unjustified infringement of privacy when we report accidents, disasters, disturbances, violence against individuals or war.

We will always need to consider carefully the editorial justification for portraying graphic material of human suffering and distress.” […]

“There are very few circumstances in which it is justified to broadcast the moment of death.  It is always important to respect the privacy and dignity of the dead.  We should never show them gratuitously.  We should also avoid the gratuitous use of close-ups of faces and serious injuries of those who are dead, suffering or in distress.” […]

Editorial guidelines on “War, Terror and Emergencies” state:

“We will respect human dignity without sanitising the realities of war, terror, emergencies and similar events.  There must be clear editorial justification for the use of very graphic pictures.”

A guidance also exists for “Violence in News and Current Affairs“.

Readers can judge for themselves whether or not the filmed report by Jeremy Bowen shown on BBC television news and featured on the BBC News website on July 14th under the title “Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes” conforms to those guidelines and whether the use of images of blood in a morgue and repeated pictures of dead bodies is gratuitous in this case.

They might perhaps also ponder the question of whether a BBC film crew would have filmed inside a British morgue at all and whether such images would have been broadcast if the events had taken place in or were connected to the United Kingdom.  Existing BBC research suggests that they would not.

Bowen report 14 7 all images

But once readers have got past Bowen’s use of images obviously intended to shock and appall BBC viewers as much as possible, there is the commentary to consider and in this report Bowen uses interviewees as well as his own words to put his message across.

Against a backdrop of images of explosions, Bowen says:

“Gaza was pounded. For Israel this is self-defence with American support.”

Interviewing a family member inside a morgue, Bowen says:

“Israel says it goes after Hamas.”

Man: “That’s not true. It’s not true.

Bowen: “They’re children, said Munsar al Batsh [phonetic] – a cousin. It’s not logical they’d be Hamas.”

No attempt is made by Bowen whatsoever to provide any context to the tragic event, the circumstances of which are not yet fully known apart from the fact that the head of the family – Tayseer al Batsh was indeed a member of Hamas.

Bowen tells audiences:

“Every time Israel kills Palestinians, especially civilians, Hamas gets a boost of popularity. Now, Israel is not trying to win any friends here, but it does want to weaken Hamas as an organization. Hamas draws strength from the suffering Israel inflicts. When the Israelis say they’re retaliating for attacks on their civilians, no Palestinian listens.”

Of course what Bowen neglects to clarify to audiences is that the suffering of the ordinary people in the Gaza Strip is actually inflicted by Hamas which – rather than using concrete to build homes and nursery schools – chooses to build cross-border tunnels for terrorist purposes and – rather than using their taxes for social and health programmes – elects to put resources into its missile arsenal.

As we have previously noted here, none of the BBC reports from the Gaza Strip so far have even tried to adequately inform audiences about Hamas’ use of human shields. In this report, Bowen not only fails once again to provide accurate information on that topic; he uses another interviewee to try to persuade audiences that it is not true.

Bowen: “He rejected Israel’s claims that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.”

Man: “It’s not true. I have a family and I have seven of my daughters-in-law at home. I’d never put Hamas people near my house.”

Bowen does not inform viewers that the ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip have no say in the matter of where weapons storage facilities and missile launchers are located and are therefore turned into human shields regardless of whether they agree or not. He also fails to clarify to audiences that Hamas’ use of human shields is not merely a ‘claim’ made by Israel, but an increasingly well-documented fact.

BBC licence fee payers pay a lot of money in order to be informed of facts. Hamas’ use of human shields is one of many important facts audiences need to know about in order to be able to reach an understanding of this particular international issue as they are promised in the BBC’s constitutional document. It is bad enough that in over a week of reporting from the Gaza Strip, not one BBC journalist has explained the human shields issue properly to BBC audiences. It is beyond grave when the man in charge of Middle East reporting – not some junior journalist – not only fails to inform, but actively seeks to deny and refute the issue.

Bowen’s inaccurate and partial reports – which increasingly give the impression that he has self-conscripted to the Hamas media campaign – are coming in thick and fast. As long as the BBC continues to allow that, it breaches the public purpose remit which obliges it to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and that is a problem which BBC management should not be allowed to ignore. 

How the BBC’s ME editor prevents audiences from understanding the background to the Gaza conflict

Back in 2006, the role of BBC Middle East editor was described thus:

“The challenge for our daily news coverage is to provide an appropriate balance between the reporting of a ‘spot news’ event and the analysis that might help set it in its context.

This challenge is particularly acute on the television news bulletins, where space is at a premium, and because the context is often disputed by the two sides in the conflict. To add more analysis to our output, our strategy is to support the coverage of our bureau correspondents with a Middle East editor. 

Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Notably, some of the recent “context” and “analysis” provided by Jeremy Bowen since his arrival in the Gaza Strip on July 11th has actually done the exact opposite by herding audiences towards a narrow and misleading view of the current conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip as being a consequence of the fact that an independent Palestinian state has not yet come into being.

In both Bowen’s filmed reports shown on BBC television news and promoted on the BBC News website on July 11th (here and here) he wound up his items with the following words:

“There’s a terrible familiarity – a sameness – about what’s been happening in the last few days and that’s because it’s happened before. The underlying political realities of the conflict haven’t been tackled. Many Israelis would say that’s because Palestinians won’t accept the existence of their state. Palestinians and plenty of others say the problem is that they don’t have independence. That if they had their own state, things might be very different. The latest peace talks collapsed recently. In the past, death, destruction and human pain have filled the gap left by failed negotiations. It’s happened again.”

In a written report titled “Jeremy Bowen: Israel and Hamas not ready for ceasefire” which appeared on the BBC News website on July 12th under the heading ‘analysis’, Bowen wrote:Bowen art 12 7

“Small wars break out between the two sides regularly. This one has been brewing for months, long before the kidnap and murder of three Israeli youths and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.

The reason is that the underlying political realities of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have not been settled.

Hamas rejects any peace talks with Israel.

The Israelis were criticised, indirectly, by their allies in the White House and state department after the collapse of the last round of negotiations with Fatah, the other main Palestinian faction.

It seems clear that the periodic small wars between Hamas and Israel will keep happening, like a gory Groundhog Day, until the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is at least made safe and stable, if not settled outright.

If that doesn’t happen, the chances are that the fights will break out more often, morphing into an attritional struggle that neither side would win.

The wider Middle East is highly unstable. That means a greater chance of the conflict in and around Gaza spreading its poison further afield.”

Readers may also recall that in an interview with BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme on July 3rd, Bowen responded to a question from presenter John Humphrys thus:

JH: “The Jerusalem Post is writing this morning about the murder of the teenagers obviously and it says this: ‘it’s another reminder that swathes of Palestinian society continue to be irreconcilably committed to Israel’s destruction’. Is it the case that it’s not just terrorist organisations such as Hamas that are bent on Israel’s destruction, but the Palestinian people generally are irreconcilably opposed to the existence of Israel?”

JB: “No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the vast majority of Palestinians are absolutely reconciled to the existence of Israel. What they’re not reconciled to is the continuing occupation of land taken in 1967, the growth of settlements. You know you’ve heard all this many times before and it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.”

Let’s have a look at what Bowen has to conceal from audience view in order to persuade them that Hamas, the PRC, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the PFLP and numerous other terrorist groups of various stripes would desist from firing missiles at Israeli civilians if only a Palestinian state came into being.

First of all, there’s the rather obvious fact that violence against Jews and later Israelis predates the existence of Israel and the first organized terror group – Fatah – predated the 1967 war and ‘the occupation’. Secondly, as Bowen himself writes, Hamas opposes any sort of negotiations with Israel and its virulently antisemitic charter – echoed frequently in statements by Hamas’ leadership – rejects Israel’s right to exist. Hamas’ terrorist activity has often been aimed at undermining the PA’s ability to negotiate with Israel and when negotiations have made some sort of headway – as was the case in the mid-1990s – Hamas did its level best to scupper any agreements reached.

Another aspect to this is Bowen’s inversion of reality by means of the following statement:

“The wider Middle East is highly unstable. That means a greater chance of the conflict in and around Gaza spreading its poison further afield.”

That pronouncement erases from the equation important incoming factors in the Gaza Strip such as Iranian funding, training and weapons supplies for terrorist organisations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It also ignores (not for the first time, as the above Radio 4 interview shows) the topic of the rising number of Salafist-Jihadists in the Gaza Strip.

Equally important is Bowen’s focus on the recent round of negotiations.

“The Israelis were criticised, indirectly, by their allies in the White House and state department after the collapse of the last round of negotiations with Fatah, the other main Palestinian faction.”

As we documented here at the time, the BBC’s messaging to audiences – conveyed, significantly, exclusively by Jeremy Bowen himself - was that Israel was to blame for the breakdown of those talks. BBC audiences therefore already ‘know’ why there is no peace and no Palestinian state and so when Jeremy Bowen claims that the terror emanating from the Gaza Strip would cease if there was such a state, they also ‘know’ which party is responsible for the fact that warheads are being fired at its civilians.

But in the world according to Jeremy Bowen, if only Israel would vacate “land taken in 1967″ and stop the “growth of settlements”, then all could be “very different”. The problem with that theory of course is that it has already been tested. Next month will mark nine years since Israel left the Gaza Strip and dismantled all the towns and villages there, but instead of peace and instead of a Palestinian effort to build a viable economy and a society preparing itself for statehood, terrorism against Israel only increased.

Another aspect of coverage of the current events in Israel and the Gaza Strip by Jeremy Bowen and his colleagues is no less important for complete evaluation of the framing of their ‘root cause’ by Bowen.

To date, the BBC has completely failed to report the fact that terrorist groups linked to Fatah – the dominant party in both the PLO and the PA – have, according to their own announcements, been playing an active part in the hostilities. Likewise, as previously noted here, the BBC’s reporting has made no effort to inform audiences of the incitement and glorification of terror coming from Fatah and PA sources.

Of course there is nothing novel about such serious omissions: the BBC consistently refrains from reporting Fatah and PA incitement and glorification of terrorism, with the examples during the recent kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers being just the latest.

Together with all that, the BBC is also consistent in avoiding informing audiences of the real significance of the fact that the Palestinian unity government inaugurated at the beginning of June made no effort to disarm the plethora of terrorist organisations – including Hamas – in the Gaza Strip in order to comply with existing agreements with Israel and the resulting ‘Hizballah model’ whereby an internationally recognized terror group retains its own rival militia whilst at the same time being party to a government.

So instead of being presented with a realistic and accurate picture of the situation as it exists, BBC audiences are being steered towards an inaccurate and dumbed-down caricature according to which only ‘the occupation’ and ‘settlements’ matter. That framing of the issue does not allow audiences to arrive at informed opinions on the issues faced by Israel or to understand the rationale behind its actions. But that failure to meet the BBC’s obligations under the terms of its public purposes remit is of course likely to continue for as long as the current Middle East editor – and his idée fixe – remains at the helm.  

 

BBC Watch uncovers the sources of Jeremy Bowen’s cited casualty figures

Several readers wrote in to bring our attention to the less than impartial Tweets sent by Jeremy Bowen since his arrival in the Gaza Strip on Friday morning. A couple of examples are shown below, and readers can see more here.

Bowen tweet 1

Bowen tweet 2

In some of his reports filed since July 11th too, Bowen has promoted his own amateur opinion (and here is a professional one from a real professor of humanitarian law, for comparison) that Israel has “serious questions” to answer, with another notable recurrent feature of those reports (and his Tweets) being the citing of figures reported by the UN.

In a filmed report broadcast on BBC television news on July 11th – and also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Israel defends Gaza military campaign” – Bowen promoted figures provided by the health ministry in Gaza, but without clarifying to viewers that the ministry is run by Hamas.

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

In a similar report from later in the same day – also promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100” – Bowen tells viewers:

“Israel says it tries hard to make sure civilians don’t get killed. It says it targets Hamas and its fighters. [….] More than half of over 100 people killed in Gaza by Israeli raids so far this week were women and children, according to the health ministry. […] The UN Human Rights commissioner says there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians.”

As noted here previously, Bowen’s paraphrasing of the Navi Pillay’s statement from July 11th omits her criticism of the Hamas practice of launching missiles indiscriminately at Israeli civilians from residential areas in the Gaza Strip and concealing weapons caches in such areas.

A third report from Bowen which was broadcast to viewers of BBC television news on July 12th and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya” includes footage of a relative of one of theBowen filmed 3 casualties saying:

“How many of the people killed so far are civilians? […] and how many are terrorists? And they’re not terrorists; they’re resistance – we’re proud of them.”

Bowen goes on to cite more figures – this time from “the UN”:

“The United Nations says that 77% of the Palestinians killed in this campaign were civilians. […]

Belligerents are obliged under the laws of war to protect civilians. The UN has already asked whether Israel is working in the way that it should to fulfill those obligations. After the attack on the centre for the disabled it is clear that the Israelis have some serious questions to answer.”

Revealingly, Bowen fails to clarify to viewers that the missile launched by some terrorist organization from the vicinity of the location from which he was reporting, whilst he was reporting – as shown in the footage – could indeed be the reason for Israeli operations in the area. He closes:

“So do Hamas about their attacks. Both sides say they’re protecting their people.”

Bowen’s cursory ‘impartiality’ box-ticking with that brief mention of Hamas does not mean that his report conforms to BBC standards of accuracy and impartiality. To date, the BBC has not made any serious effort to inform audiences of Hamas’ deliberate use of human shields and its violation of the laws of war by both storing weapons in, and firing them from, residential areas. Neither has it been adequately clarified that every missile fired indiscriminately at civilians in Israel also breaches those laws.

Clearly, Bowen’s primary aim is to steer audiences towards a view that Israel is in breach of legal standards and he does that by creating false linkage between casualty figures provided by a source he fails to clarify is connected to Hamas and figures and statements from a supposedly neutral and reliable source; the UN.

That practice was repeated in written BBC reports too, such as the one titled “Gaza: Israel hits security HQ and rocket site” which appeared on the BBC News website on July 13th.

“Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants and facilities, including the homes of senior operatives. However, the United Nations has estimated that 77% of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians.”

An additional written report from July 13th – titled “UN calls for Israel-Gaza ceasefire” – leads with Bowen’s above video report which is captioned:

“The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen: “It is clear the Israelis have some serious questions to answer” “

The report also includes the following passage:

“Israel says it is targeting militants and militant facilities, including the homes of senior operatives. “Dozens of terrorists” are among those who have been killed, it says.

However, the UN has estimated that 77% of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians.”

In other words, the notion the BBC – led by Jeremy Bowen – is trying to advance here is that the proportion of civilians to combatants among the casualties is a litmus test for the legality of Israel’s actions. That notion is of course incorrect. As Col. Richard Kemp noted after Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9:

“The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed.

That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one.

In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia.”

But, whilst it is obviously important to appreciate that Bowen et al are deliberately misleading BBC audiences with regard to the bearing of the proportion of civilian casualties on the legality of Israeli actions, it is also important to understand the additional intent behind their repeated amplification of those figures and the reliability of the source of that information being promoted to BBC audiences.

Earlier BBC reports cited casualty figures provided by the notoriously unreliable ministry of health in Gaza. That ministry is still run by Hamas and the personalities quoted in previous conflicts and incidents have not changed. Later reports stress figures supplied by what Bowen describes as “the United Nations”. In fact he – and those other BBC reports – refers to a document put out by UN OCHA on July 11th which can be seen here. That report does indeed state:

“114 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Gaza emergency, of whom 88 (77%) are civilians.” 

The question is, of course, where did UN OCHA – an organization which has itself been the subject of controversy in the past – get its information?

So – BBC Watch telephoned the person who complied that report in order to find out.

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.

We also asked Katleen Maes if those casualty figures include civilians killed by short-falling missiles launched by terrorist organisations which land in the Gaza Strip and she replied that they do, but that so far they had no knowledge of any such incident in this particular round of conflict. In other words, UN OCHA figures for civilian casualties in Gaza – currently being used by the BBC as ‘evidence’ of Israeli ‘wrongdoing’ – would also include those killed by Palestinian terrorist organisations. 

Readers no doubt recall that the BBC’s recent repeated promotion of the lie that Israel deliberately targets civilians came from one of the sources of these UN OCHA figures – the PCHR.

In conclusion, Jeremy Bowen and his colleagues are promoting to BBC audiences figures from an ostensibly neutral and reliable source – the “United Nations” – which they have not independently verified and which in fact come from highly partisan politically motivated sources with an interest in promoting the notion of a high number of civilian casualties in order to influence world opinion. In addition to providing amplification for those figures, Bowen and colleagues then employ them to advance the mistaken notion that Israel is not adhering to the laws of war – a theme also obviously intended to influence public opinion, especially because it is based on inaccurate and amateur interpretation of those laws.

That is not accurate and impartial reporting: it is self-conscription to political campaigning, led by the man who is the gate-keeper of all the BBC’s Middle East reporting.   

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

July 8th:  

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

July 9th:

July 10th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He goes on:

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

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

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

Sommerville adds:

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

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

GAZA MOI

July 11th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen builds framing on Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme

Last week we noted an item which appeared in the July 3rd edition of BBC Radio 4′s ‘Today’ programme and one of several additional items of interest from the same broadcast was a conversation between presenter John Humphrys and the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen which is available at around 1:09:12 here for a limited period of time.Today 3 7

Given that Bowen is the ‘gatekeeper’ of the BBC’s Middle East reporting, it is useful to note the nature of the opinions and beliefs he holds which, in turn, shape the BBC ‘world view’ promoted to millions of viewers, listeners and readers around the world.

John Humphrys: “Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are dangerously high. Earlier in the week the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank. The Israelis say they were murdered by Hamas. Yesterday a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and murdered and the Palestinians blame Israel. I’ve been talking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen about the wider implications of this latest outbreak of violence between the two sides.”

Jeremy Bowen: “First of all, I’m talking to you sitting in Baghdad and you look across the region and the region is boiling and in the last few years one of the relatively quieter areas has been the front between Israelis and Palestinians, but I think that while it’s been a bit out of the headlines, all the old issues have been there and I think it’s also not immune to the kinds of anger that you can see elsewhere in the region. So right around the area you see all this trouble and I’m not surprised that things have started to come to a head again between the Israelis and the Palestinians as well.”

If readers can get past the risible notion that Israel has been “out of the headlines” at any time as far as the BBC is concerned, they will note that Bowen’s ‘one size fits all’ description of the Middle East of course erases from audience view the issue of the Sunni-Shia dispute which currently fuels so much of the conflict in the region, but does not have a role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

JH: “The Jerusalem Post is writing this morning about the murder of the teenagers obviously and it says this: ‘it’s another reminder that swathes of Palestinian society continue to be irreconcilably committed to Israel’s destruction’. Is it the case that it’s not just terrorist organisations such as Hamas that are bent on Israel’s destruction, but the Palestinian people generally are irreconcilably opposed to the existence of Israel?”

JB: “No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the vast majority of Palestinians are absolutely reconciled to the existence of Israel. What they’re not reconciled to is the continuing occupation of land taken in 1967, the growth of settlements. You know you’ve heard all this many times before and it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.”

Those who saw the two filmed reports produced by James Reynolds on July 4th – the day after this programme was broadcast – will note the remarkable similarity of messaging and promotion of the inaccurate notion of a ‘two-tier’ justice system.  Bowen continues:

“And of course there are some who would like to eliminate the Israeli state – I’ve spoken to them – but the vast majority I think are prepared to live alongside it as an equal.”

So let’s take a look at what the Palestinians themselves said in a poll commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy which was published a week before Bowen made the above statements.

WINEP 1

As we see above, the majority of Palestinians (60.3%) think that their goal over the next five years is “reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean]“. That of course means the elimination of Israel. A further 10.1% favour a “one-state solution” – which also means the elimination of Israel as the Jewish state. Only 27.3% favour making a two-state solution their goal and only 27.2 – 31.6% see a two-state solution as final, with the majority regarding it as a ‘stepping stone’ towards future elimination of Israel.

WINEP 2

Jeremy Bowen’s received wisdom apparently does not ‘do’ updates.

Humphrys then asks:

“Living alongside people is one thing. Are there any other forces beyond Hamas who would weigh into this now; would take advantage or are likely to take advantage of this situation and spread the terror threat wider? Because it’s not that long ago, is it, that we in this country were terrified of Palestinian terrorism because it was beginning to affect us directly?”

Airbrushing from audience view the PA-instigated second Intifada and the fact that in the last PLC elections “mainstream” Palestinian political parties failed to beat Hamas, Bowen replies:

“Yes, certainly back in the 70s people were very concerned about that but the mainstream Palestinians have been engaged in various kinds of attempts at peace processes for more than twenty years now. Hamas themselves have talked about a long-term truce. While not recognizing Israel’s existence – and also saying it should go – they’ve also talked about a long-term truce. One thing that is interesting is that in recent years the Palestinians have not been swept up in the Jihadist current in the way that other Arabs have. Perhaps that will change – who knows.”

Whether or not Bowen really does not understand the tactical basis of and motivation for the often-touted proposal of a Hudna – or “truce” – is unclear, but he is certainly not going out of his way to inform listeners of the real significance and meaning of that proposal.

Likewise, Bowen’s airbrushing of the rising number and influence of Salafist Jihadist groups is distinctly odd considering that, whilst its reporting on the topic is by no means comprehensive (see here and here for example), other BBC reporters have written about the emergence of such groups both in the PA controlled regions of Judea & Samaria and in the Gaza Strip.  

Particularly in light of the template BBC reporting on the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers which included across the board eradication of any mention of Palestinian public and official celebration of the deed, it is notable that Bowen elects to end his item as follows:

“I think as well you’ve got to look at the calls for vengeance coming from the other side. Senior Israelis have called rabbis and so on to tone it down because it is heating people up after the huge anger of course following the death of those three teenagers. The head for example of Bnei Akiva, which is the largest religious Zionist youth movement, called for vengeance and that’s been criticized by Israelis. So the fact is that there are hot-heads on both sides and there are people who aren’t reconciled to the other side on both sides and that’s one of the factors that makes it an incendiary and difficult situation. And certainly if you talk to Palestinians, many of them speak about a third Intifada – a third uprising – and I have spoken to Palestinians who believe only in non-violent resistance who’ve said to me it’s only a matter of time before it happens and if it happens, it’ll come because it’ll be sparked by something. Now I don’t know if this’ll be the case on this particular occasion but what we’re seeing I think is a very good barometer – an indication – of the tension that’s there, actually on both sides as well.”

Radio 4 listeners are unlikely to be informed that – despite his later apologies – the head of Bnei Akiva is unlikely to remain in his position as a consequence of his remarks, with an emergency meeting on the issue already scheduled.

Notable too is Bowen’s promotion of the notion that a third Intifada will be “sparked by something”. As readers well know, it has been consistent BBC policy to inaccurately claim that the second Intifada was “sparked” by Ariel Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount in September 2000 and to deny the preplanned nature of that event, despite the ample documentation available.

It is therefore worth noting the manner in which the currently ongoing rioting in Jerusalem, the Triangle area, northern Israel and elsewhere is being portrayed by the BBC as ‘protests’ and ‘demonstrations’ caused by a spontaneous outburst of apparently irresistible anger after the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir last week.

That, of course, is far from the entire picture but as we see from this interview with Jeremy Bowen, the framing is already being put in place. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article ruled not impartial by ESC five years ago remains on BBC website

This anniversary week of the Six Day War we have been looking at some of the portrayals of that event which appear when a member of the public conducts an internet search for BBC produced content on the subject: see here and here.

Another item which appears on the first page of search results is Jeremy Bowen’s 2007 article titled “How 1967 defined the Middle East“. As readers may recall, the original version of that article was the subject of complaints to the BBC and the Editorial Standards Committee’s subsequent findings – which can be viewed here – upheld and partially upheld a range of specific points – much to Jeremy Bowen’s continuing chagrin.

Today, at the bottom of that article’s current version, readers will find the following footnote:

JB 67 am footnote

Readers might therefore reasonably assume that the article as it now stands is both accurate and impartial and so it is worth taking a look at the changes which were made to it, supposedly in order to bring it in line with the ESC’s rulings. Below are screenshots of the original article (on the left) and the amended version (on the right). Changes in wording are underlined in red and the screenshots can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The article’s introduction has been amended to clarify that this is Bowen’s “own assessment”, presumably in light of the ESC’s decision to uphold one complaint on the grounds of impartiality and partly uphold the other complaint on the same grounds (see pages 14 and 8 respectively here).

JB 67 both a 1

The next amendment makes little difference to Bowen’s ensuing claim and, although it arguably does inform readers that there are additional views beyond the one promoted by the BBC’s Middle East editor, such views are still not presented.

JB 67 both b

JB 67 both c

The next amendment presumably relates to the upholding of both complaints (pages 13 and 5 here) with regard to the accuracy of Bowen’s following statement.

“The statement that, “the Israeli generals…had been training to finish the unfinished business of Israel’s independence war of 1948 for most of their careers.”

  • that, although the Middle East Editor stated that he had meant it to be understood that he was referring to the capture of East Jerusalem, it would have been impossible for a reader of the article to know which “unfinished business” had been meant; and
  • that there had been a breach of the guideline on accuracy with regard to the use of “clear, precise language” in this respect.”

JB 67 both d 1

Two additional amendments reflect the ESC’s upholding of complaints of breaches of accuracy on two further points.

“The reference to Zionism’s “innate instinct to push out the frontier”

  • that this statement had been unqualified and, as a result it had not been clear and precise; and
  • that there had been a breach of the guideline on accuracy in this respect.”

And:

“The statement that the Israeli settlement of occupied land was in defiance of”everyone’s interpretation of international law except its own”

  • that use of the word “everyone” had been imprecise and that it would have been simple to qualify this term;
  • that, particularly when writing about the Middle East, the BBC has to be careful about its use of “clear, precise language”;
  • that this sort of generalisation should have been picked up by BBC Online’s editorial processes; and
  • that there had been a breach of the guideline on accuracy”

JB 67 both e 1

JB 67 both f

With regard to the points raised in the ESC report on the issue of impartiality, it is distinctly obvious that the amendments made to the article do little to correct that breach of editorial guidelines as upheld by the ESC.

“Impartiality

  • that the article was on the news section of the BBC website and that, although it dealt with a historical subject, the legacy affects the Middle East today and is a matter of political controversy;
  • that this was a piece by the Middle East Editor, under his by-line;
  • that this was not a “personal view” under the guidelines and that the personal view guidelines did not apply;
  • that the article should be duly accurate and impartial in its own right;
  • that, although it was possible on the web to create a series of articles providing alternative views, linked to allow exploration of the range of views, there was no suggestion that this article was part of such a series;
  • that a “professional judgement” on a matter of opinion regarding a highly controversial subject should be contextualised to indicate that other views exist;
  • that the author of the article should have done more to explain that there were alternative views on the subject which had some weight;
  • that readers might come away from the article thinking that the interpretation offered was the only sensible view of the war;
  • that it was not necessary for equal space be given to the other arguments, but that the existence of alternative theses should have been more clearly signposted; and
  • that the article had breached the guideline on impartiality.”

Nevertheless, not only does this problematic article – albeit with minor cosmetic amendments – remain on the BBC website seven years after its initial publication and more than five years after the ESC’s rulings, but also still available via a link in the article is Bowen’s four-part radio series from 2007 on the same topic which promotes many of the same inaccuracies as the original article (as well as additional ones) and has not been amended in light of the ESC’s findings.

This material continues to be used as a basis for additional BBC material produced by Bowen and his colleagues. As has been noted here on numerous occasions, the BBC’s presentation of current Israel-related issues more often than not frames issues such as the status of Jerusalem using a selective account of history which commences in June 1967. That practice in itself obviously compromises the BBC’s ability to produce accurate and impartial content, but the problem is further compounded by the fact that – as this article clearly demonstrates – the person ultimately responsible for all BBC Middle East content is dedicated to the promotion of a politically motivated version of the events of June 1967 which paints Israel as a premeditating, expansionist aggressor. 

 

Wall to wall political messaging in BBC coverage of Pope’s visit

Yesterday we took a look at Yolande Knell’s context-free amplification of politically motivated falsehoods and inaccuracies in her May 25th article concerning the Pope’s visit to the Middle East. Some of those same themes were to be found repeated in much of the rest of the BBC’s written and filmed coverage of the visit, suggesting that an element of editorial policy is at work.

In the May 24th report titled “Pope Francis praises Jordan at start of Middle East visit” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the first day of the visit, there appears an insert of commentary from the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Despite the fact that the first leg of the visit took place in Jordan, Bowen was already promoting specific misleading and inaccurate themes.Pope Bethlehem Bowen insert 1

“In Bethlehem, which is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinians say they are threatened by the encroachment of Jewish settlements.”

Bethlehem is of course situated in Area A and has been under Palestinian Authority control since 1995, in accordance with the terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In other words, it – like the rest of the PA controlled areas – is not “Israeli-occupied” as Bowen inaccurately informs readers. Not content with eradicating the Oslo Accords, Bowen also misleads BBC audiences with regard to the geography of the area by amplifying the baseless claim that Bethlehem is “threatened by the encroachment of Jewish settlements”. It is patently ridiculous to suggest that any “settlement” would at any time in the future ‘encroach’ into Areas A or B and – as has been repeatedly shown here – there are no Israeli towns, villages or neighbourhoods to the east and south of Bethlehem at all.

map Bethlehem

But by far the most heavily promoted theme in all of the BBC’s remarkably extensive coverage of the Pope’s visit, both on its website and in television reports, was a distorted representation of the anti-terrorist fence.

Let’s remind ourselves what the BBC’s style guide says about BBC presentation of that topic.

“BARRIER

BBC journalists should try to avoid using terminology favoured by one side or another in any dispute.

The BBC uses the terms “barrier”, “separation barrier” or “West Bank barrier” as acceptable generic descriptions to avoid the political connotations of “security fence” (preferred by the Israeli government) or “apartheid wall” (preferred by the Palestinians).

The United Nations also uses the term “barrier”.

Of course, a reporter standing in front of a concrete section of the barrier might choose to say “this wall” or use a more exact description in the light of what he or she is looking at.”

So did BBC journalists reporting the Pope’s visit stick to the use of accepted variations of the term ‘barrier’ and thus avoid “political connotations”?

An article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 25th indeed runs with that BBC approved terminology in the headline “Pope prays at Israel’s West Bank separation barrier” and opens:

“Pope Francis has prayed at the concrete barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank during his three-day tour of the Middle East.”

Later on in the article readers are told that:

“On his way to Bethlehem, he stopped to pray at an 8m concrete wall that is part of the barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank.

The Pope rested his head against the wall – which Israel says is needed for security, but the Palestinians see as a land grab – near graffiti reading: “Free Palestine.” “

Those statements are clearly inaccurate and misleading to BBC audiences: Israel is not building a “concrete barrier….In and around the West Bank”. 97% of the anti-terrorist fence is just that – fence – with only 3% being constructed from concrete, mainly in areas where protection from snipers is necessary.

This article also includes an insert from Jeremy Bowen in which he states:Pope Bethlehem Bowen insert 2

“Palestinians have used social media to post pictures of Pope Francis praying at the 8m concrete wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The Israelis say the wall and other parts of the separation barrier are vital for the security of their people. But for Palestinians the wall is tangible symbol [sic] of what they say is Israel’s intention to grab as much land as possible.”

Here Bowen is misleadingly suggesting to BBC audiences that the aim of what the BBC elects to term the “separation barrier” is to separate Palestinian towns such as Bethlehem “from Jerusalem” when in fact the aim is to curb the infiltration of Palestinian terrorists into Israeli towns and cities. Notably, Bowen uses the standard BBC formula which presents audiences with two narratives concerning the anti-terrorist fence and reduces its proven record of stopping terror attacks to the subjective level of “Israel says”, whilst amplifying the notion of a “land grab” which has not taken place.  As we have noted here before:

“Clearly, the BBC is very comfortable with its standard antique mantra on the subject of the anti-terrorist fence, but that does not mean that it complies with BBC standards of impartiality as set out in its editorial guidelines.

The systematic failure to present audiences with the readily available factual evidence which proves the anti-terrorist fence’s efficiency – rather than the subjective presentation of “Israel says” – is clearly a failure to distinguish “opinion from fact” and a major “omission of an important perspective”.  The fact that a standard formula has been employed for over a decade also represents a failure to adhere to the demand for “impartiality over time”, presenting the same jaded “land grab” theme over a long period of years in which no such thing has happened.”

As we will see below, however, that theme was repeatedly promoted in additional BBC coverage.

In an article published on the BBC News website on May 26th under the title “Pope visits Jerusalem holy sites on last day in Middle East“, the misleading and inaccurate suggestion that the role of the anti-terrorist fence is to separate “Bethlehem from Jerusalem” was repeated and a structure which has saved countless Israeli lives was described to BBC audiences as “controversial”.

“The Pope spent a few minutes praying at the [Western] wall, as he did on Sunday at the controversial Israeli security barrier that separates the biblical town of Bethlehem in the West Bank from Jerusalem.”

In a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen titled “Pope visits refugee camp on Middle East tour” from May 25th which appeared on the BBC News website as well as on BBC television news, audiences were told:

“…the Pope earlier on today decided to stop to pray at the eight foot high – eight meter, I should say – high wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The Israelis say it’s vital for their security. The Palestinians say that it’s a naked land grab and shows that Israelis aren’t serious about peace.”

In the synopsis to another filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Europe page on May 25th under the title “What type of Pope is Francis? In 90 seconds” BBC audiences were again misled when they were informed that:Pope visit 90 secs

“Pope Francis has prayed at the concrete barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank…..”

In Yolande Knell’s May 25th filmed report which appeared on BBC television news and on the BBC News website under the heading “Pope Francis prays at Israel’s West Bank barrier” BBC audiences were told that:

“….the Pope got out of his vehicle as he was driving here to the square and he made a prayer next to the eight meter-high concrete wall that Israel has built to separate Bethlehem from Jerusalem. It’s part of the West bank barrier that Israel’s building in and around the West Bank, saying it’s needed for security but the Palestinians see this wall, this barrier, as a land grab.”

In Jeremy Bowen’s May 25th report titled “Pope prays at Israel’s West Bank separation barrier” which appeared on the BBC News website and on BBC television news programmes, BBC audiences heard a Papal mind-reading Bowen say:

“Pope Francis touched his forehead on the wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem to show his concern at the failure to bring peace to the Holy Land. […] Israel says the separation barrier is to keep its people safe. Palestinians say Israel is grabbing land they want for a state.”

So as we see, BBC audiences have been bombarded time and time again with the same jaded mantra: a mantra which deliberately misrepresents the aim and physical characteristics of the anti-terrorist fence.

Not once in any of the above reports were they told of the real reason why the anti-terrorist fence had to be built. Not once werePope Bethlehem graffiti they reminded of the thousands of Israeli civilians of all creeds and ethnicities killed and maimed by Palestinian terrorists during the dark years of the second Intifada. Not once was the phrase ‘Palestinian terrorism’ even mentioned, nor likewise the rise in terror attacks seen since the last round of negotiations commenced. And not once was it pointed out to readers or viewers that the Pope’s photo-op took place beside Palestinian graffiti promoting the antisemitic comparison of Bethlehem to the Warsaw Ghetto.

The uniformity of the style and content of BBC’s ‘wall’ mantra is remarkable: not even one BBC correspondent stepped out of line to bring any remotely deviating information to audiences. It is difficult to believe that this blatant exercise in – excuse the pun – wall to wall politically motivated amplification of PA propaganda was not pre-coordinated at editorial level, but if it was not, it certainly shows the extent to which a uniform political viewpoint has permeated the BBC’s staff. 

Related Articles:

Does BBC reporting on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence meet standards of ‘due impartiality’? – part 3

BBC’s Knell exploits Christmas report to lie about anti-terrorist fence

The politics of BBC approved terminology on Israel’s security fence