What Beit Hanoun tells us about BBC impartiality

Here is a Tweet from one of those impartial BBC journalists currently reporting from the Gaza Strip: Tweet Chris Morris Beit Hanoun So, did the IDF actually say that “people didn’t die” in Beit Hanoun last Thursday as Morris facetiously claims? No. What the IDF investigation into the incident at the UNRWA school in which sixteen people were killed did reveal is that during a battle between IDF soldiers and terrorists located in the area, an IDF mortar did land in the schoolyard, but that yard was empty at the time. Ha’aretz has further details:

“The IDF released the findings of its investigation into the incident on Sunday morning. According to the inquiry, Palestinian militants opened fire from the area of the school, shooting mortars and antitank missiles at Israeli forces. In response, the investigation reveals, the IDF decided to return fire with mortars.

According to the army, whose inquiry included investigations of the ground forces and video footage of the incident, “one of the mortars fell in the school’s courtyard whilst it was empty of people.” “

An official statement adds:

“It has been established that Hamas rockets landed in the area and may have hit the UN facility. The investigation of the incident has revealed that Hamas terrorists fired anti-tank missiles at IDF soldiers from the area of the UN school. The IDF responded with mortar fire, and one of the rounds fell in the school’s courtyard, which was empty at the time. This was the only IDF fire that hit the school compound. These findings disprove the claim, made by various parties, that IDF fire caused casualties on the school grounds. Israel regrets all civilian casualties, but they are the direct result of Hamas’ decision to use Palestinian civilians as human shields.” [emphasis added]

In light of these findings BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis would of course do well to address the topic of her hastily reached conclusion that “You hit it. You killed them.” – which was broadcast to millions of viewers in the UK on July 24th.Maitlis Likewise, the editors of the filmed report by Yolande Knell which was shown to television audiences and promoted on the BBC News website on July 24th might like to reconsider the wisdom of the inclusion – before the circumstances of the incident were clear – of footage of a woman saying:

“The Israelis hit us in our homes and they hit us at the school”

That same footage of the same woman also appeared in a filmed report by Ian Pannell from the same date which was promoted on the BBC News website and shown on BBC television news. Both Pannell’s report and the ‘Newsnight’ interview by Emily Maitlis appear in a written report published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th. Listeners to an edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newsday’ heard the presenter saying:

“For the fourth time in as many days a UN facility there found itself in the eye of the storm; hit by what the Palestinians say was an Israeli shell.”

If readers are perhaps anticipating that this incident will prompt the BBC to reconsider its current policy of refraining from anything approaching robust reporting on the issue of the use of the local civilian population as human shields – which is precisely what a terrorist who fires anti-tank missiles at Israeli soldiers from the vicinity of a UN school is doing – then they may be in for some disappointment. That same ‘Newsday’ programme includes parts of Stephen Sackur’s recent interview with Khaled Masha’al. In addition, amplification is given to the following denial by Masha’al of Hamas’ use of human shields.GAZA MOI

“This is wrong information. Hamas does not give orders to people to stay inside their home. Hamas encourages people to stand fast and let the Palestinians show their steadfastness. This is the will of the people. Go to Gaza and see the people in hospitals and see the areas destroyed. These people are determined to preserve their land. You should not put the blame on the victims. The blame should go to the Israeli that has committed this massacre. We have several hundred Palestinians killed – most of them civilians – whereas Hamas is focusing on killing Israeli soldiers who came to Gaza to attack Palestinians. This is the ethical difference between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli aggression.”

One presumes that the BBC must be aware of the ample filmed and written evidence of Hamas’ spokesmen and Ministry of the Interior telling civilians in the Gaza Strip not to leave their homes. Nevertheless, its journalists not only fail to report adequately on the issue itself and even promote denial of it, but also amplify Masha’al’s obviously inaccurate claims. In that ‘Newsnight’ interview on July 24th, Emily Maitlis asked Mark Regev:

“If, after the fog of war has passed, this does turn out to be the fault of Israel, will you pause? Will you reset your rules of engagement tonight?”

We might well ask Emily Maitlis, her editors and numerous other BBC correspondents, editors and producers a very similar question.

Update:

Here is the IDF video footage showing the empty school yard at the time of the errant mortar strike. 

 

BBC reports on Qalandiya rioting omit live fire by Fatah terror group, whitewash Fatah terrorist

On July 25th and 26th the BBC put out a number of reports concerning the rioting in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria.

The first report to go out on BBC television news was produced by BBC Arabic’s Nawal Assad and it also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 25th under the title “Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march“. Reporting from Qalandiya, Assad told viewers:Rioting Qalandiya Assad

“This is definitely the biggest demonstration I have seen in any city or town in the West Bank since the war in Gaza. Those young people had reached the Israeli checkpoint and they are engaging in clashes with them and they are heeding the call of a group of young people. One of them is the child of a prominent Palestinian leader called Marwan Barghouti who is serving a lifetime imprisonment sentence in Israeli jails. It is too early to say this is the beginning of a third Intifada but the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas had definitely called for one two days ago.”

Assad failed to inform viewers that Marwan Barghouti is a convicted Fatah terrorist and one of the leaders of both the first and second Intifadas. He was in fact sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment after having been found guilty of involvement in terror attacks in which five people were murdered and an additional 40 years imprisonment for attempted murder. Barghouti has on numerous occasions called for a third Intifada but Assad fails to mention that significant point.

Neither does she – nor any other of the BBC journalists reporting on this topic – make any mention of the calls from the Hamas leadership for violence.

“Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip and abroad are calling on Palestinians in the West Bank to start a Third Intifada.

Qatar-based Hamas spokesman Husham Badran, responding to the reports of clashes between thousands of Palestinians and police at the Qalandiya checkpoint, says the timing is right to rise up, Israel Radio reports.

“This is your opportunity,” he says to West Bank Palestinians.

Hamas official Izat a-Rishk calls, on Twitter, for a revolution against the enemy, adding that the blood of Gazans ignites the West Bank.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says the events at Qalandiya prove that the Palestinians are one people and that Gaza cannot be isolated.”

Also on July 25th, the BBC News website published a written report under the same title of “Palestinians killed in West Bank Gaza solidarity march“. That article includes an equally tepid description of Marwan Barghouti from Nawal Assad.Rioting Qalandiya written

“The demonstration was called for by a group of youths on Facebook, among them the son of the popular imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged Palestinians to expand the protests, and leaders in the West Bank have called for a “day of anger” on Friday.”

The same report states:

“At least two Palestinians have been killed and 200 wounded in the West Bank during protests against Israel’s campaign in Gaza, officials say.

About 10,000 protesters marched from Ramallah towards East Jerusalem, where they were met by Israeli forces. […]

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank have called for a “day of anger” on Friday, one of the last days of Ramadan.

The protest at Qalandia, outside Ramallah, saw Israeli border police use “riot control measures” and live fire. Protesters also used live ammunition, Israel said.” [emphasis added]

The Israeli police did indeed report the use of live fire by rioters but in fact, not just “Israel said” that its security personnel had been shot at: Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has clearly stated on more than one occasion that its members used live fire at the riot in Qalandiya. That fact has not been reported by the BBC at all.

The BBC report goes on:

“Large protests were also reported in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, after Israeli police prevented men under 50 from visiting the al-Aqsa mosque.

At least 20 protesters were arrested after they threw rocks at police, Israeli police said.”

The report fails to adequately clarify that the age restriction on males entering the most sensitive site in Jerusalem was part of measures to prevent violence.

“Security forces in the capital received reinforcement in the Old City on Thursday night in light of concerns that violent demonstrations would erupt on the occasion of Laylat Al-Qadr (Night of Destiny) celebrations, which marks the day the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.”

Concurrently, calls for a “Day of Rage” (not a “Day of Anger” as written in some BBC reports) on Friday July 25th also came from assorted Palestinian sources.

That same theme of supposed Israeli interference with freedom of worship – whilst failing to adequately clarify the context of incitement to violence from Palestinian leaders of various factions – also appeared in a July 26th filmed report by Orla Guerin; ‘parachuted in’ from Cairo. Guerin’s report also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Clashes as diplomatic efforts continue to secure Gaza truce“.Rioting Guerin rep

“In Jerusalem’s Old City, open-air prayers under the watchful eye of Israeli troops. Young Palestinian men were blocked from reaching the city’s most important mosque which is often a flash point. Israel’s struggling to contain the fury over the killings in Gaza.

Well, prayers are just coming to a close here. There is a very heavy Israeli security presence in the area. They’re determined to stop these Palestinian worshippers from coming any closer. This is the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and for Palestinians it’s been a bloody month. There’s a great deal of anger on the streets.” [emphasis added]

Whilst it is entirely predictable that the BBC would frame these riots as a reaction to the Hamas-initiated hostilities in the Gaza Strip, the fact is of course that calls for a third Intifada and incitement to violence have been going on for quite some time now. As we have noted here previously on numerous occasions, the BBC has consistently failed to report incitement coming from Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and has likewise been silent on the topic of that organisation’s missile fire from the Gaza Strip during the recent hostilities and on Fatah incitement during the searches for the three kidnapped and murdered Israeli teenagers last month.

The whitewashing of convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti and the failure to inform BBC audiences that a Fatah terrorist organization used live fire against Israeli security personnel is therefore entirely consistent with the BBC’s track record. 

BBC News backgrounder downgrades Hamas’ terror designation

Here is another one of those filmed BBC backgrounder reports – presumably intended to provide BBC audiences with information and context which it might be more difficult to give in reports from the field. This one – produced by BBC News’ diplomatic correspondent James Robbins – appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza: What are the obstacles to peace?” in addition to being aired on BBC television news programmes.Robbins filmed 24 7

One of several notable features of that report is the editorial decision to insert a particular portion of footage from Khaled Masha’al’s recent press conference in Qatar in which he says:

“In this battle between us and Israel they are the executioners, the occupiers, the settlers and we are the true owners of the land.”

The best Robbins can come up with after that vitriol is:

“Israel rejects that…”

Later on, Robbins purports to explain the item’s main topic to viewers.

“So what are the main obstacles to peace – either a ceasefire or something more permanent? Well on the Hamas side, the leadership demands an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory. Gaza is effectively sealed off at sea and overland, including by Egypt – increasingly hostile to Hamas. Israel says the blockade is vital to stop Hamas getting materials to build new weapons.”

Yet again we see BBC amplification of Hamas’ pre-condition for a ceasefire without proper clarification to BBC audiences regarding the Hamas terrorism which brought about the introduction of restrictions by both Israel and Egypt in the first place. We also see a highly inadequate portrayal of the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. Robbins goes on to present half a story with regard to Hamas’ founding principles, deftly avoiding any mention of the violent practical manifestations of Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel.

“But a fundamental obstacle is that Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist.”

He then makes an unsourced claim which this writer at least has not heard made by the Israeli government in the format in which it is presented here.

“On the other side, Israel says it wants to destroy Hamas’ entire rocket arsenal.”

Notably, the topic of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels – the neutralization of which is the main objective of the current ground operation – does not get a mention at all. Robbins then comes up with the following curious statement:

“Israel calls Hamas a terrorist organization – not an elected government – and doesn’t accept that negotiations involving Hamas will ever deliver a long-term peace for Israel and Palestinians.”

The interestingly punctuated visual on the screen as Robbins makes that statement says:

Hamas “a terrorist organisation”

This is not the first time we have seen Hamas’ terror designation being misrepresented in BBC reports during the current round of conflict, although it has much more frequently simply been ignored altogether, meaning that audiences are not made aware of the basic fact that these hostilities are actually between a country and a terrorist organisation.

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

But no less bizarre is Robbins’ suggestion that Hamas should be seen as an “elected government” – not least because no PLC elections have taken place in over eight and a half years and the term of the PLC legislature elected in 2006 with a Hamas majority expired in 2010.

Clearly this latest backgrounder contributes little if anything to BBC audiences’ “understanding of international issues“. 

Half a picture, half a story: how the BBC compromises its own impartiality in Gaza

As was noted in this recent post, an article by Yolande Knell titled “Gaza: Hamas seeks to emerge stronger” appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th. The article includes the following interesting passages:Crossings Knell written

“Israel says its military offensive in Gaza targets militants from the Palestinian movement, Hamas. Yet for the most part the Islamist fighters remain shadowy figures during this latest conflict.

In northern Gaza last week, heavy exchanges of gunfire with advancing Israeli ground troops suggested the presence of militants nearby.

However, it was only during Sunday’s bloody scenes in Shejaiya, north-east of Gaza City, that journalists saw masked men hurrying down the streets and talking furtively into walkie-talkies on street corners. […]

There have been occasional televised statements by the former Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, but most of the Islamist group’s officials have gone to ground during this conflict. Their houses tend to be empty when they are targeted by Israeli air strikes.

The only place where we have been able to approach Hamas spokesmen is at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where they make periodic appearances. […]

The large turnouts for funerals of local Hamas leaders killed in the latest conflict are a reminder of how the Islamist movement still commands wide respect in Gaza, which remains among the most socially conservative Palestinian areas.”

BBC television audiences have not seen any footage of those “large turnouts” at Hamas funerals which Knell has apparently witnessed and have not been provided with combatant casualty figures. Although interviews with Hamas spokesmen at Shifa hospital have been aired, audiences have not seen any real reporting of the fact that the Hamas leadership is in hiding in that hospital. Apart from a couple of brief mentions by Lyse Doucet of those “masked men hurrying down the streets and talking furtively into walkie-talkies on street corners”, BBC audiences have not seen any footage or read any accounts of the actions of Hamas terrorists.

They have not seen or been told anything of the fierce battles between terrorists and the IDF: no images of Hamas members firing RPGs, anti-tank missiles or mortars at Israeli troops have been aired. They have not seen footage of the launching of even one of more than 2,350 missiles which have been fired at Israeli civilians since July 8th or of the effects of the 10 to 15% of  missiles which fall short and land in the Gaza Strip itself. Neither have they seen any reporting on the topic Hamas’ use of child soldiers.

Yolande Knell would apparently have us believe that not one of the plethora of BBC reporters on the ground in the Gaza Strip in the last nineteen days has witnessed or recorded any of the above.

Now it may well be that foreign correspondents in Gaza – and the BBC among them – are being subjected to pressures which prevent them from reporting anything which does not fall into the category of Israeli military actions or dead and wounded Palestinian civilians. Certainly the social media accounts of some of those reporters would suggest that is the case. But if it is, audiences should obviously be informed for the sake of accuracy and impartiality that they are only receiving a partial picture of events and why that is the case – and that has so far not happened.

In an interesting article in Ha’aretz, former BBC journalist Stephen Games asks “[c]an the BBC really report from Gaza?” and refers to a BBC interview with Andrew Roy who readers may remember was recently to be found patting his organization on the back for its Middle East coverage.

“On another popular BBC radio programme, “Feedback”, which provides a platform for public comment, listeners are said to have complained in equal numbers that BBC coverage was biased either towards Israel or towards the Palestinians.

In response to such contradictory criticism, BBC executives stereotypically say that if they are being criticized from both sides, they must be getting the balance just about right. On this occasion the “Feedback” host, Roger Bolton, stepped back from this glib reply and tried to explore the alternative possibility that the BBC was getting it badly wrong, but this tack was instantly dismissed by his studio guest, the World Editor of BBC News, Andrew Roy.

Roy admitted that covering Gaza was difficult because reporters are at physical risk; but he went on to argue that the BBC was adept at navigating pressure by lobbyists on both sides to adapt its reporting to their liking. He also claimed that its authority came from its being one of the few international broadcasters with a permanent presence in Gaza and having a website to provide further context.

What Roy would not address, however, was Bolton’s suggestion that unlike reporters working in Israel, those in Gaza are hampered by lack of access and by the dangers, not so much to BBC staff, but to potential interviewees, of being targeted if they talk openly. Roy would only acknowledge the danger of working “under bombardment”, giving the impression that the threat to honest journalism came only from Israeli rockets, not from Hamas enforcers. 

It was not clear whether Roy refused to acknowledge the impossibility of carrying out normal investigative journalism under Hamas because he—personally or corporately—cannot see it, or because the BBC dare not tell the truth for fear of losing its ringside seat at one of the world’s worst trouble spots. 

What did emerge from the interview is the unintended damage caused by the BBC’s ostensible policy of even-handedness. Because it cannot be seen as editorialising, the BBC bends over backwards to maintain a policy of “show-don’t-tell”. Thus, the only truths about Gaza that BBC reporters can convey are those that a camera can point at. Never has a BBC reporter broken a story from Gaza, interviewed a Hamas commander about splits in the ranks, examined the Palestinian justice and detention system, exposed the climate of fear that Gazans are subject to, shown missile stockpiling or residential defensive positions, or challenged the brainwashing of children in schools.” 

The obvious result of censorship of vital parts of this story – be it the result of direct outside pressure or self-imposed – is of course that journalists deny their audiences information which is crucial to their being able to reach informed opinions on the topic. But such censorship also has another important effect; it turns journalists into one of the factors actively playing a part in a war which is not only being fought in the alleys of Shuja’iya and Beit Hanoun, but also on the internet, in print, on television, on radio and on social media.

Hamas and the other terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip know full well that they cannot compete with Israel militarily and hence, as ever, a no less important battle for public opinion around the world is taking place. If BBC journalists continue their current practice of refraining from properly reporting the part being played by Hamas in bringing about the tragic scenes they do film, photograph and report – or at least explaining to audiences why they cannot report the missing parts of the picture – then they clearly compromise their own impartiality by self-conscripting to one side of the battle for public opinion.  

More BBC amplification of Hamas ‘siege’ propaganda

On July 24th the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured an excerpt from what it termed an “exclusive” ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al who of course resides very comfortably in Qatar.Hardtalk mashaal

If audiences were expecting the BBC’s representative Stephen Sackur to fulfil the corporation’s mission of cutting through Hamas slogans and propaganda in order to bring them accurate and impartial information which would help them reach informed opinions and enable them to “participate in the global debate on significant international issues“, they would have been sorely disappointed.

Stephen Sackur: “What would it take for Hamas to sign on to a ceasefire now?”

Khaled Masha’al: We want a ceasefire as soon as possible that’s parallel with the lifting of the siege on Gaza. This is the demand of the Gazan people. I call on the UN, the UK and the US to go to the Gazan people and ask them what they want. I can guarantee that will be the answer of the Gazan people.”

SS: “What the Americans seem to be working on is a two-stage deal where there will be a truce – where the guns, the rockets, will stop firing – and then there will be a serious negotiation about how to boost the Gazan economy, how to ease the blockade on Gaza and to give the people of Gaza a better life. Are you prepared to accept a two-stage solution to this?”

KM: “Regardless of the mechanisms, what is important to me is there should be a genuine guarantee to lift the siege on Gaza. These promises have been made in the past but nothing was done. Gaza is part of the Palestinian land. We have 1.8 million people. They need to live without a blockade. We want an airport. We want a port. We want to open up to the world. We don’t want to be controlled by a border crossing that makes Gaza the biggest prison in the world. People cannot go for medical treatment or to work. Why are the people of Gaza being punished with a slow death in the world’s biggest prison? This is a crime. We want a halt in the aggression and the end of the siege. We are eager that the bloodshed should end in Gaza.”

SS: “You talk of resistance. How can any idea of resistance justify putting rockets in a school building?”

“KM: “Frankly speaking this is a lie. Let Israel show where the rocket launchers are in Gaza.”

SS: “In respect, this is not something that has come from Israel. This is the UN relief and Works Agency which has said that up to 20 rockets were deposited in a school building inside Gaza. They are furious. The Secretary General of the United Nations has expressed his outrage. He said those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets and endangering the lives of innocent children.”

KM: “This is not true. Rocket launchers in Gaza belong to the resistance. They are underground and Israel is unable to reach them. This is why it pretends they are in civilian areas. Israel is hitting hospitals, mosques, towers and buildings. It committed a massacre in Shuja’iyeh, Tufah district. There is a new massacre in Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis, that the world has witnessed this morning. This is butchery in Gaza and the world is sitting idle and it blames Hamas.”

Now obviously Khaled Masha’al is lying (unhindered) through his teeth in every single answer here and – difficult as it must be to interview a compulsive liar so disconnected from reality – if the BBC is not going to challenge Masha’al’s blatant falsehoods and cut through his propaganda, then the obvious question must be what journalistic value does such an interview have in the first place?

Questions Stephen Sackur could and should have asked Masha’al in order to provide BBC audiences with some insight into this issue include:

If Israel and Egypt lift the blockade and ease border restrictions, will Hamas rearm itself with missiles and weapons imported from Iran, Libya and elsewhere as it has done in the past? Will it import concrete and other materials in order to reconstruct its attack tunnel network currently being destroyed by the IDF? Will foreign aid money for the rehabilitation of Gaza be commandeered for reconstruction of terrorist infrastructure? 

If Hamas is so worried about the effects of the blockade on the people of Gaza, why did it not stop carrying out acts of terrorism itself and facilitating terrorism by other groups which are the reason for the implementation and continuation of the blockade and border restrictions?

Why did Hamas breach the ceasefire agreement of November 2012 and why did it initiate this current escalation?

If you, Khaled Masha’al, reach a ceasefire agreement with Israel, can you ensure that Mohammed Deif will honour it and do you – based as you are in Qatar – actually have any control over Hamas’ armed militia?

Why should Israel open its borders and allow people from Gaza to work in Israel given the history of terror attacks and suicide bombings carried out by workers from Gaza in the past?

Are you eager to stop the bloodshed in Israel as well as in Gaza? Will you stop all acts of terror against Israelis for good?

Sackur, however, failed to present anything approaching a robust challenge to Masha’al’s blatant lies. Hence, this interview joins the previous items of BBC content in the category of one-sided, context-free promotion and amplification of Hamas’ demands.

Related Articles:

‘Hardtalk’ presenter gets reality check from Khaled Masha’al

BBC News website whitewashes attack on Israeli footballers

An article titled “Pro-Palestinian protest halts Maccabi Haifa match” appeared on the Europe and Middle East pages of the BBC News website on July 24th.Maccabi Haifa art

The BBC’s version of events is as follows:

“Pro-Palestinian protesters have disrupted a football match in Austria between the Israeli club Maccabi Haifa and French team Lille.

The pre-season friendly in Bischofshofen was stopped close to the final whistle when protesters waving Palestinian flags stormed the pitch.

It seems that no-one was seriously hurt in the incident.”

Readers might wonder why the BBC found it necessary to point out that no-one was seriously hurt if the disruption only involved “protesters waving Palestinian flags”. The answer to that conundrum is that rather more than just flag waving went on. The Daily Telegraph reported:

“Pro-Palestinian protesters invaded the pitch and physically attacked Maccabi Haifa players towards the end of a preseason match against French side Lille in Austria on Wednesday”

Ynet reported:

“Anti-Israel protesters invaded the pitch late Wednesday in Bischofshofen, near Salzburg, in a pre-season friendly late Wednesday between Maccabi Haifa and French side Lille, and physically confronted Israeli players towards the end of a the training match.

Police said Thursday the disturbance was the work of locals, most of them of Turkish origin, whose identities were known.

The Austria Press Agency cited Maccabi as saying team members Idan Vered und Dekel Keinan were physically accosted before police broke up the melee. […]

The rioting fans tried to attack Yossi Benayoun, the national team captain, as well as other members of the squad. One player was spat on, while the coach entered the pitch to protect his players.

None of the players were injured. They walked to the dressing rooms as security forces cleared the protesters. One player, defender Samuel Scheimann, claimed at least one of the rioters was armed with a pocket knife.”

That is a rather different picture to the one presented by the BBC article – and particularly interesting because the image later added to this BBC report clearly shows one of the ‘protesters’ kicking an Israeli player, but that part of the story is not reflected in the text. The Daily Mail has similar images, as well as a picture suggesting that the BBC’s euphemistically termed “Pro-Palestinian protesters” would be more accurately described as anti-Israel.

photo credit: Daily Mail

photo credit: Daily Mail

photo credit: Daily Mail

photo credit: Daily Mail

The article goes on:

“Israel launched a military offensive on 8 July, with the declared objective of stopping rocket fire from Gaza.

At least 649 Palestinians and 32 Israeli soldiers, plus three Israeli civilians, have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting, officials say.”

Once again, the BBC fails to inform readers of the sources of its Palestinian casualty figures and of the fact that they have not been independently verified by the BBC.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC avoids giving audiences the whole picture on Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands

There is nothing novel about BBC misrepresentation of Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and the restrictions placed on the entry of dual-use goods to that territory. However, that topic now moves into the limelight once again because one of the demands put forward by Hamas – and, significantly, now backed by the PA – is the lifting of the blockade as a pre-condition for a ceasefire to bring an end to the current hostilities.

” “We reject the cycle of ceasefire and negotiations,” said Hamas’ political chief Khaled Mashal on Wednesday night at a press conference in Qatar. “We rejected it today and we will reject it in the future.”

Mashal said the Gaza-based group “would not accept an initiative that does not include lifting the blockade. Today Israel is worried about what happened at Ben Gurion Airport. Do you want a blockade in return for the blockade? Today the resistance in Gaza can blockade you, in the future it will from the West Bank.”

“You blockade our air space, we will blockade your air space,” threatened Mashal.”

That Hamas demand, among others, has been voiced numerous times over the past couple of weeks, but notably recent days have seen it being amplified – and justified – in BBC coverage along with the concurrent and similar Hamas demand regarding the border with Egypt.

On July 22nd Lyse Doucet was to be found in Rafah. The filmed report she produced – aired on BBC Television news and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza: Why is Rafah crossing so important?” – opens with an airbrushed explanation as to why that crossing has been closed for much of the last year or so, in much the same way as her colleague Yolande Knell reported on the same topic last August.Crossings Rafah Doucet

“Rafah crossing. Gaza’s only opening to the world which isn’t controlled by Israel. But the road to Egypt has been all but shut for the past year. Relations between Hamas and Egypt are badly strained.”

Notably, Doucet makes no mention of the Gaza Strip-based Salafist groups which have committed acts of terrorism in Egypt’s northern Sinai area and no effort is made to present the Egyptian viewpoint.

After some scenes of people unable to cross the border, Doucet tells viewers:

“A crossing like this is a relief valve for the people of Gaza. For most who live here this is their only way out, which is why during these difficult ceasefire talks, opening the road to Egypt is one of the main demands.”

Later Doucet turns her attentions elsewhere.

“Israeli attacks are striking at the very core of Gaza life. Water pipes, electricity lines, sewage systems have been hit and hit.”

Doucet of course refrains from informing viewers that on at least two occasions since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, terrorists in Gaza have cut off the electricity by damaging power lines with missiles fired at Israel and that – despite ongoing attacks – technicians from the Israel Electric Corporation went out to repair those high voltage lines. Other repair operations to infrastructure in the Gaza Strip carried out by Israel can be followed in COGAT’s daily updatesCrossings  repairs

Doucet goes on:

“Even before this war most Gazans didn’t have running water or more than a few hours of electricity. A seven-year Israeli blockade – ever since Hamas came to power – is paralysing the economy. Israel says it’s a security measure but it’s choking life here.”

Here we see yet another BBC report erroneously attributing problems in the Gaza Strip exclusively to Israel’s policies when in fact – like the shortages of medicines – the issues with electricity and fuel supply have nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with internal Hamas-Fatah disputes.

Not only does Doucet imply to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the real reasons for Israel’s policy with her use of the phrase “Israel says it’s a security measure”, but she fails to inform them that those policies – in fact implemented three months after Hamas carried out its violent coup in the Gaza Strip – were a direct response to escalating Hamas terror attacks.

So, Doucet erases the core issue of terror against both Egypt and Israel from the picture she presents to audiences of border restrictions affecting the Gaza Strip. She closes with this context-free promotion of Hamas messaging:

“In Gaza today they were clearing rubble again. War has made life much harder. But for Gazans ending the war must mean easing the blockade, otherwise life itself is just a long battle to survive.”

The day after that report, July 23rd, viewers of BBC television news saw another one by Yolande Knell which was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East crisis: Normal life on hold in Gaza“. That report found Knell once again visiting a market in Gaza.Crossings knell filmed

“The market here is really one of the only places you can find a lot of people. We’ve been asking them what do they want from a ceasefire deal.”

Woman: “To lift the siege, open the borders of Gaza and to let everything in. And free the prisoners from Israeli jails. This is the most important part of the conditions.”

Man: “Open the borders, have a – you know – promise from Israel that they will not do this what they did again. We want our rights, we want our freedom, we want our state. We want to be safe from their jets and their rockets.”

Knell continues:

“One positive sign for the truce efforts has been general support for Hamas’ demands from the other Palestinian factions. I’ve been to see Fatah parliamentarian Faisal Abu Shahla.

Abu Shahla: “They decided that…to accept the Egyptian initiative but at the same time that the requirements for the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, should be achieved.”

She closes:

“Everywhere you look in Gaza there’s so much evidence of the death and destruction that this latest fighting has brought and that’s why people here are really insisting that any deal to bring peace should be comprehensive and long-term.”

Yet again, no effort whatsoever is made to explain to BBC audiences how the actions of  terror organisations from the Gaza Strip caused two neighbouring countries to implement policies to protect their own citizens.

Recent written BBC reports on the same topic have been no better. An article titled “Gaza conflict: Abbas backs Hamas ceasefire demands” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 23rd opens:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has backed calls by Hamas for an end to the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip as a condition for a ceasefire.”

It later goes on to state:

“Hamas, which is dominant in Gaza, says it will not agree to a ceasefire that does not allow for freer movement of goods and people across its borders.

Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the new unity government backed by Hamas and Fatah, said it was time to end what he said was the cycle of unrelenting suffering for the Palestinians.

“We demand justice for our people, who everyday and since the beginning of the Israeli occupation have been subject to the occupation for 47 years,” he said.

“It’s time for this aggression to stop and it’s time for this siege to stop.”

Mr Abbas, a co-founder of Fatah, also chairs the Palestine Liberation Organisation, an umbrella group which has endorsed Hamas’s ceasefire demands.

Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.”

Israel has of course not occupied the Gaza Strip for nine years, but that point is not clarified to readers. Again, no mention is made of the fact that it was the escalation of Palestinian terrorism following the June 2007 Hamas coup which caused the Israeli government to declare the Gaza Strip a hostile territory in September 2007.

This article also includes further promotion of the falsehood that the shortage of medicines in the Gaza Strip is caused by Israeli policies by including the item broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live on the same day.Crossings 5 live item

An additional article titled “Hamas says Gaza blockade must end before ceasefire” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th begins:

“The leader of Islamist militant group Hamas has said there can be no ceasefire to ease the conflict in Gaza without an end to Israel’s blockade.

Khaled Meshaal said Hamas would continue to reject a lasting ceasefire until its conditions were met.”

Later on it states:

“In addition to lifting the eight-year economic blockade, Mr Meshaal’s list of demands also included the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

“We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices,” Khaled Meshaal told reporters at a news conference in Qatar on Wednesday.”

Yet again no information is given to readers regarding the terror attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas and other terrorist organisations which brought about the restrictions.

“Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.”

Another article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th under the title “Gaza: Hamas seeks to emerge stronger” was written by Yolande Knell. One of many notable features of that report is yet another inadvertent documentation of the fact that Hamas uses civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields.Crossings Knell written

“The only place where we have been able to approach Hamas spokesmen is at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where they make periodic appearances.”

Another is Knell’s now habitual misrepresentation of Hamas’ international designation as a terrorist organization.

“Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist organisation; the group’s founding charter is committed to the destruction of the Israeli state.”

Knell too presents a portrayal of Israeli policy which completely erases the Hamas terrorism which brought it about:

“They [Hamas] consistently demand that any ceasefire deal must include a release of prisoners from Israeli jails and an easing of the border restrictions imposed on Gaza by both Israel and Egypt.

“Until now we are under a complete suffocating siege and embargo. They have isolated Gaza from the world,” says spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum. “There’s no justification of this crime.”

A blockade of the Palestinian territory was tightened after Hamas seized control of it in 2007, a year after winning legislative elections.”

Gaza Strip-based terrorism against Egypt is also seriously downplayed in Knell’s account and the smuggling of weapons through tunnels under the Rafah border is erased.

“Meanwhile Egypt’s military-backed governments have always had a testy relationship with Hamas because of its ideological links with the country’s Muslim Brotherhood. […]

Hamas wants Egypt to reopen fully the Rafah border crossing. It has said it will not stop fighting until there is a full agreement on the table. […]

Since the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from office a year ago, Rafah, Gaza’s main gateway to the world, has been kept shut most of the time.

The Egyptian military has also closed down the network of hundreds of Hamas-licensed smuggling tunnels that ran under its border. These provided a lifeline to the coastal enclave and provided Hamas with vital funds.

The new government in Cairo accuses Hamas of supporting Islamist militants in its restless Sinai region along the Gaza border; a charge it denies.”

Knell provides readers with some ‘man in the Gaza street’ opinions:

“When Egypt offered the deal, the Israelis picked it up but to be honest for the Palestinians it seemed like a trap,” says Ibrahim, from Gaza City. “People want commercial crossings reopened. We want to go back to a normal life.”

“We need a ceasefire that will give us our human rights and end the siege,” a charity worker, Haneen tells me. “We want the Rafah crossing opened so that we can travel again.”

So as we see, five separate items of content over three consecutive days have presented BBC audiences with information on the issue of Hamas’ pre-condition for a ceasefire which exclusively portrays the Hamas view of border restrictions. None of those reports has given readers or viewers an accurate account of how, when and why both Egypt and Israel adopted policies concerning their borders with the Gaza Strip. The terrorism which brought about those policies has not even been mentioned and no explanation has been given regarding the vital role played by the naval blockade and border restrictions in curbing the flow of missiles and other weapons to the Gaza Strip.

Clearly, BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions or “participate in the global debate” on this very topical subject without that vital information and context.  But the repeated promotion and amplification of inaccurate, politically motivated claims of shortages of medicines and food in the Gaza Strip because of Israeli policies which we have seen across many BBC platforms in the past few days suggests that the BBC has no intention of providing comprehensive, accurate and impartial reporting on this topic and that intends instead to use emotive partial accounts to amplify the same version of the story as is promoted by Hamas. 

 

BBC TV news airs claim that Gazans are being deliberately starved to death by Israel

BBC audiences might very reasonably expect that studio-produced backgrounders would be capable of meeting editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality more easily than reports produced under pressure in the field. Apparently that is not the case.

A filmed report by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner which was broadcast on BBC television news programmes and also featured on the BBC News website on July 22nd under the over-hyped title “Why is Middle East truce so hard to broker?“, once again promoting the erroneous and ridiculous notion that the current conflict between Israel and Hamas is the most important – and only – thing going on in the Middle East.Gardner filmed 22 7

Gardner opens:

“Grief and mourning spread across two communities – Israeli and Palestinian – although the death toll in Gaza is twenty times higher than that suffered by Israel.”

No attempt whatsoever is made to explain to audiences why that is the case. Israel’s extensive investment in civilian defence gets no mention and of course, in common with BBC practice throughout the last two weeks, viewers are not told how Hamas’ policy of using the local population as human shields by storing weapons in residential neighbourhoods and firing missiles from those locations guarantees a higher civilian death toll on the Palestinian side. Gardner goes on:

“This is carnage on a horrific scale. Over 600 Palestinians have been killed so far. The UN says that three-quarters of them are civilians. Thirty Israelis have also died – most of them military.”

Notably, Israelis die whilst Palestinians get killed. Gardner fails to inform audiences of the dubious sources of the figures and ratio he cites and of course also refrains from noting that the BBC has not independently verified those figures. He continues:

“This mounting death toll has prompted an international outcry. So, just why can’t the fighting be stopped? The diplomatic deadlock over Gaza stems from the two sides’ demands being apparently irreconcilable. But what do they actually want? Israel has one primary aim: for no more rockets to be fired from Gaza onto Israeli towns. Its prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made a pledge to stop the rocket attacks. He sent troops into Gaza to blow up the supply tunnels being used by Hamas militants to hide them.” [emphasis added]

You might think that the BBC’s chief security correspondent would know the difference between the various types of tunnels in the Gaza Strip, but obviously that is not the case. The prime aim of the Israeli ground operation is not to “blow up the supply tunnels” on the Gaza/Egypt border (most of which have already been put out of action by Egypt in its own struggle against Islamist and Jihadist terror), but to neutralise the attack tunnels along the border with Israel, some of which have already been used to carry out infiltrations into Israeli territory with the intention of carrying out mass terror attacks on civilians.

“There are three types of tunnel, experts say. The first are economic: hundreds of tunnels burrowing into Egypt, which allowed Hamas to funnel in resources, guns and rockets until the Egyptians sealed off many of them.

Another set of tunnels reportedly services the Hamas high command. “Every single leader of Hamas, from its lowest ranking bureaucrats to its most senior leaders, is intimately familiar with the route to the security tunnel assigned to him and his family,” al-Monitor reported. “The most senior leadership has its own specific tunnel.”

The last kind is allegedly driving the Israeli invasion: tunnels that can carry Hamas militants under the Gaza border and into Israel.”

But that is not the only inaccuracy in the BBC’s security expert’s report. After footage of the Israeli prime minister speaking, Gardner turns to presentation of the Hamas point of view, but fails to tell viewers that it is the activities of terrorists of various stripes in the Gaza Strip which prompted both Egypt and Israel to introduce means to secure their borders with that territory. Thus, audiences are mistakenly led to believe that “the blockade on Gaza” is a product of neighbouring governments being “hostile”.

“Now Hamas have one overriding aim and that’s to end the blockade on Gaza, hemmed in as it is by hostile governments in Israel and Egypt. Its leadership also wants the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but Hamas are in a tight corner.”

Hamas actually demands the release of convicted terrorists who were released under the terms of the Shalit deal in 2011, but rearrested during the search for the murderers of three Israeli teenagers last month.

The report then cuts to a filmed interview with Fawaz Gergas of the LSE who says:

“Hamas is basically forced to choose between death by starvation – slow death – because you have a twin siege by Israel and Egypt of Hamas – of Gaza – or basically a fight to the end.”

The Oxford dictionary defines a siege as follows:

“A military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender”

Rather than cutting off essential supplies, Israel actually goes to great lengths to facilitate their entry into the Gaza Strip, even whilst under fire from the terrorist organisations based there. In fact, just since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge two weeks ago, eight hundred and sixty-four truckloads of supplies and humanitarian aid have entered the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing. Armies conducting a siege usually do not supply the ‘besieged’ with electricity, cooking gas, fuel and medical care as Israel does. 

Clearly, there is no “siege” of Gaza as Gergas inaccurately states. Neither are the residents of the Gaza Strip under threat of “death by starvation” as can be seen in Yolande Knell’s frequent reports from markets.  

The editorial decision to include the inaccurate, misleading, demonising and obviously politically motivated falsehoods promoted by Fawaz Gergas in this report is a very grave matter indeed and – unless we choose to believe that Frank Gardner and his editors are shockingly ignorant and incompetent – can only stem from the BBC’s own political motivations. 

 

Some BBC bright spots and the remarkable reaction of a presenter confronted with reality

They may be few and far between, but there are some bright spots among the BBC’s reporting of Operation Protective Edge.

After its initial failure to provide audiences with any sort of comprehensive background on the subject of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels (see here and here) and following the distinctly inadequate “Gaza ‘terror tunnels’ in 60 secs” video report, the BBC News website finally got round to publishing a proper backgrounder on the topic on July 22nd titled “Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew“. Television and radio audiences – the majority – are obviously in need of a similar backgrounder.Simpson filmed 21 7

Some BBC journalists have suggested in their recent reports that the rising number of soldiers killed is changing Israeli views of Operation Protective Edge. In a filmed report from July 21st, for example, John Simpson opined:

“Israel’s losses are mounting sharply. Nothing remotely like the losses on the Palestinian side, but deeply disturbing for Israelis all the same. […]

Israel isn’t used to losing soldiers on such a scale and pictures like these are starting to have a powerful effect on public opinion.”

How Simpson reached that conclusion (or the sadly incorrect notion that “Israel isn’t used to losing soldiers on such a scale”) is unclear.

It was therefore helpful to see some properly informed analysis of the Israeli mood on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in the form of an article by Gil Hoffman titled “Why Israelis are rallying behind latest Gaza campaign“.

Among the subjects still missing from the BBC’s coverage is some in-depth coverage of the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and the way in which that deliberate policy contributes to the high number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. Without that essential knowledge, BBC audiences will still be unable to reach informed conclusions regarding this particular international issue. One attempt to shed some light on that issue was made by Barak Seener of the Royal United Services Institute in an interview with BBC World News on July 21st – with a remarkable reaction from the presenter when presented with an expert opinion (which is presumably what the BBC sought when it invited the specific interviewee) on the realities underpinning Hamas strategy.

“That is obviously a very…ah…controversial thing to say and many people will refute that the leadership of Hamas want to see their own people, supporters, women and children killed…ah…unnecessarily…”

BBC Radio 5 live broadcasts inaccurate claim on shortage of medicines in Gaza

Readers may recall that the first day of Operation Protective Edge saw the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell promoting the claim that the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is caused by “tight border restrictions” imposed by Israel.Knell 8 7 medicine

As we pointed out here at the time, that claim is completely inaccurate.

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

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

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

In the two weeks since then, nothing has changed. Humanitarian aid continues to enter the Gaza Strip as daily reports show, despite terrorist attacks on the crossings themselves. The video below was filmed this last Saturday – July 19th.

Nevertheless, on July 23rd BBC Radio 5 live promoted that same inaccurate claim yet again in an interview it broadcast with a doctor from Medecins du Monde at the Nasser hospital in the Gaza Strip. The same interview was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza doctor claims there’s a ‘lack of basic drug needs’“.R 5 live doctor

In that Radio 5 live Breakfast interview, the doctor named by the BBC as Dr Homam Abu Elwa (but more likely to be Dr Hosam Abu Elwa) says:

“As you know we are under siege for a long time in Gaza and this affects the medical parts in Gaza and there is a lack of disposables and basic drugs needs in emergency. We need really, really action from the world for intervention to help people in Gaza.”

Let’s be quite clear about this: there is a shortage of medicines and disposables in Gaza Strip hospitals and that shortage existed even before Operation Protective Edge began, but it has absolutely nothing to do with any Israeli policies or actions.  

The attempt to create linkage between actions taken by Israel to curb the flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip and the shortage of medicines there is entirely politically motivated. By promoting and amplifying that false claim, the BBC breaches editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality and displays its political campaigning colours very plainly.

Contact details for Radio 5 live: e-mail: 5live@bbc.co.uk, Twitter: @bbc5live