BBC inaccurately promotes Banksy propaganda as a ‘documentary’

The Oxford dictionary defines a documentary as:

“A film or television or radio programme that provides a factual report on a particular subject.”

The key word in that definition is of course ‘factual': defined as “concerned with what is actually the case”.

So, when the BBC describes something as a documentary, it is in fact telling its audience that the information in that film is true and endorsing its content as fact.Banksy report website

A filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website (as well as on BBC television news programmes) on February 26th was accompanied by a synopsis which opens:

“One of the most famous graffiti artists in the world, Banksy, has turned his attention to the streets and walls of the Gaza Strip for a new documentary.”

On its Youtube channel, BBC News presented the same report under the following title:

“Gaza: Banksy artwork for a new documentary – BBC News”

However, that short video is not a documentary at all, but a puerile exercise in propaganda which propagates existing clichés and politically motivated allegations about the Gaza Strip which are not based in fact.

banksy vid 1

banksy vid 2

Banksy vid 3

(footage from Qalandiya checkpoint – not the Gaza Strip)

banksy vid 4

banksy vid 5

The BBC’s own filmed report on the topic – by Rushdi Abualouf – also promotes inaccurate clichés such as the notion of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip and “occupation” which has not existed there for almost a decade.

“I think, yes, it’s clear that the watchtower means the siege and means occupation.”

The BBC was far from the only media organization to provide PR for Banksy’s propaganda stunt, as our colleagues at CAMERA have documented. However, other media outlets are not bound by editorial guidelines which state, inter alia:

“We must not knowingly and materially mislead our audiences with our content.”

By presenting a piece of agitprop as a “documentary” the BBC has, however, done exactly that. 

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

Lyse Doucet’s second filmed report from the Gaza Strip (the first was discussed here) seen by viewers of BBC television news on February 25th took the now well-worn ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme to its logical conclusion by having Doucet deliver a two and a half-minute monologue while standing on a pile of earth, metal and concrete in Shuja’iya.

The report also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page where it was titled “Caught in a wasteland: Gaza six months after the ceasefire“.Doucet filmed Gaza 2

“Gazans, the international community, certainly didn’t expect Gaza to look like this. Six months ago there was a welcome, there was a celebration among Gazans, among Israelis – particularly in southern Israel – that a ceasefire had been reached. But look at this now. It’s like a wasteland. You could be forgiven for thinking there’d been a natural disaster here.”

Whilst Doucet made copious use of those ‘wasteland’ and ‘natural disaster’ themes in all of her latest reporting from the Gaza Strip, at no point did she bother to try to put the scenes of destruction she promoted so enthusiastically on radio, television and social media into their correct context. BBC audiences were not informed that the scenes from the neighbourhood of Shuja’iya upon which her reports focused are not representative of the situation in the entire Gaza Strip.

That same practice was already in evidence six months ago when BBC reporters likewise nudged audiences towards the mistaken belief that the isolated images of structural damage which had been selected to appear in BBC reports reflected the situation as a whole. Doucet continues:

“But this was the result of 51 days of war as Israeli forces entered on the ground and carried out airstrikes and artillery fire looking for the network of underground tunnels in what they had described as a Hamas stronghold.”

As we see, Doucet is still unwilling to tell audiences the facts about Shuja’iya without ‘Israel says’ style qualification. She goes on:

“But there was a huge human cost as well. And today you can see behind me, in the shell of that home, there’s one pneumatic drill hard at work. In most neighbourhoods we go to we see one digger, one drill. It’s not enough. And just take a closer look at these mounds of slabs of concrete and twisted wires: the white signs that have been posted. Each sign says…gives a description of what stood there once – you can hard….you don’t know what it is now – what stood there, which family lost it and a telephone number to call when aid is going to arrive.  

But unfortunately, a lot of the aid hasn’t arrived. And so people – you see clothing lines – people are living in what’s left of their houses and here – right across this crossing here – we’ve been seeing a man in the window of his home, waiting every day, hoping against hope that someone – the United Nations, the Palestinian authorities – someone will come to deliver money.”

Whether or not there is any substance to Doucet’s pathos filled suppositions about a man viewers do not hear or see, we do not know. She continues with more use of the famous ‘Israel says’ formula, which BBC audiences have been very well trained to interpret as actually meaning ‘the BBC refuses to take a position on whether or not this is true’.

“Now, Israel says it has allowed some construction materials in.”

But, as we noted in our previous post:

“In January 2015 alone, 15,205 tons of construction materials were imported into the Gaza Strip. Since the end of the conflict, 50,000 tons of building materials have entered the Strip and more than 42,000 residents have purchased them.”

There was, therefore, no reason whatsoever for Doucet to use the ‘Israel says’ formula here. She could have easily verified the exact amounts of construction materials which have been imported into the Gaza Strip over the last six months and informed her viewers accurately and impartially on that topic. Significantly, she chose not to do that. Doucet’s monologue goes on:

“The international community – the UN – says some donors have been generous and given some aid.”

Once again, Doucet avoids providing audiences  with factual information about the factors which have caused other donors to be less forthcoming and instead opts for dramatic and emotive generalisations.

“But look at the scale of this. The United Nations in the summer said that nearly 20,000 homes and schools were completely destroyed. There’s not enough aid and construction materials to rebuild these homes and certainly not enough to rebuild lives. But in Gaza nothing is ever simple. They’re caught in the politics of disunity between Hamas and the Palestinian authority. Caught in the ongoing conflict with Israel, tensions with Egypt which also keeps its border shut. The appeal of Gazans today to the aid agencies is don’t let the people suffer because of the politics.”

So far we have looked at three reports from Shuja’iya put out by Lyse Doucet in the last few days. All of those reports were lacking in detailed, factual information which would help BBC audiences to understand why reconstruction in Gaza is happening so slowly or to appreciate what has been done so far. All three reports placed the focus on emotive, generalized, over-dramatic, context-free descriptions more suited to a telethon appeal than to contributing to viewers’ or listeners’ fact-based knowledge and one report was replete with Hamas propaganda. The bottom line of all these reports is that Doucet avoided adequately explaining to BBC audiences that the reconstruction of housing in the Gaza Strip has been hampered primarily by the Palestinians themselves.

Lyse Doucet is not some rookie reporter or even a local bureau staffer: she is the chief international correspondent of the world’s biggest media organization. The fact that she appears to believe that reports of this mediocre quality contribute anything to fulfilling the BBC’s obligations to its funding public should be cause for considerable concern.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

On February 25th viewers of BBC television news saw two filmed reports from Shuja’iya in the Gaza Strip by the corporation’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet. One of Doucet’s other reports produced during the same visit was previously discussed here.

Both filmed reports also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, with the earlier one going under the title “Gaza resident: ‘Everyone has forgotten us’“. In Doucet’s dramatic introduction to that report we learn that she does not understand the difference between smoke and dust.Doucet filmed Gaza 1

“War pulled life from the heart of Gaza. It left a wasteland. Smoke still rises. Today it’s only a digger clearing some of the rubble. Gazans put up signs to describe what stood here, which family lost it, what number to call to deliver help. But almost none has arrived.”

Offering no factual evidence for her claim that a house in a neighbourhood riddled with missile launching sites, booby-trapped Hamas command centres and weapons stores was destroyed by “Israeli artillery fire” and failing to clarify that the cause of death she cites has not been confirmed by medical professionals, Doucet continues:

“The Khesi family’s home was destroyed in Israeli artillery fire. Just before the ceasefire six months ago, their first son, Wadie, was born. Last month he froze to death in what is now another battle just to survive.”

She goes on:

“His grandmother Fati’a [phonetic] points an accusing finger at all Arab countries, saying they haven’t helped Gaza. Wadie’s mother says nobody did.”

Voiceover mother: “All countries take care of their children and people. All countries except here. Here the people in charge just sit on their chair. They care only for their own children. They forget about us.”

Doucet: “Now they just want to rebuild their home so that their two girls will survive.”

This would obviously have been an appropriate juncture to explore the subject of the performance of both Gaza’s de facto Hamas government and the Palestinian Unity government (which supposedly has been in charge of the Gaza Strip since last June) in helping the local population to get back on its feet after the summer war initiated by Hamas. Doucet’s treatment of that topic is exceptionally superficial. She continues:

“Everyone talks about rebuilding Gaza but nobody’s doing it. And as always here, there’s more than one reason. Israeli restrictions, Palestinian infighting, the failure of donors to keep their promises. And why would there be much rebuilding when everyone fears there’ll be another war?”

Doucet then interviews UNRWA’s deputy director of Gaza operations, Scott Anderson.

Doucet: “Ten thousand Gazans still live in UN schools and that number may rise when families’ money runs out.”

Anderson: “You think conflict’s inevitable, whether it’s internal conflict or another conflict between Gaza and Israel. Unless the situation on the ground changes there will be no other action for people to take other than the resumption of violence.”

Doucet apparently has no comment to make regarding the promotion by a UN representative of that very thinly veiled threat of violence in the absence of cash handouts which comes straight out of the Hamas handbook. She goes on:

“And Hamas fighters are ready: they don’t hide it. I’ve seen marches like this on almost every visit in recent months.”

The question BBC audiences will no doubt be asking themselves at this juncture is why, if that is the case, it has taken Doucet six months to get around to mentioning those marches organized by a terrorist organization she declines to name as such. Doucet then gets Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad on camera but, instead of posing any incisive questions about his organisation’s responsibility for the conflict and its aftermath, she merely provides him with a stage from which to promote the usual propaganda unhindered.

Hamad: “Main reason for all this catastrophe is the occupation. Now Gaza’s turned to be like a big prison. There’s no exit, no import, no export.”

Not only does Doucet fail to clarify to viewers that the Gaza Strip has not been under “occupation” since August 2005, she makes no effort to correct the inaccurate impression received by audiences as a result of Hamad’s lies.

In January 2015 alone, 15,205 tons of construction materials were imported into the Gaza Strip. Since the end of the conflict, 50,000 tons of building materials have entered the Strip and more than 42,000 residents have purchased them. 804 tons of agricultural produce were exported from the Gaza Strip to the PA controlled areas in January, bringing the total tonnage of merchandise exported to that destination since September 2014 to 2,130. 11,826 people crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip in January alone – 2,038 of them for humanitarian reasons. 3,054 tons of gas entered the Gaza Strip during January, along with 1.8 million litres of fuel, 6.8 million litres of gasoline and 76,000 litres of oil.

Doucet continues:

“But there are reports – credible reports – that Hamas is again digging tunnels, that Hamas has been test-firing missiles in preparation for the next war.”

Hamad: “Look, I think this time – that’s right – but I think that Hamas is doing this in order to protect our people here. We don’t want to be surprised with a new war – a new aggression against us.”

In addition to displaying no interest whatsoever in questioning Hamad about where the money and materials for rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities are coming from and why Hamas is doing nothing to improve the lives of the ordinary people it holds hostage, Doucet also makes no attempt to enlighten viewers with regard to the fact that Hamad’s faux victimhood is mere propaganda. Instead of pointing out that Hamas initiated last summer’s conflict she closes with yet more drama and unsupported speculations.

“In the ruins of Gaza young men train in Parkour – the sport of overcoming obstacles. Resilient Gazans are good at that. But after three wars in six years, even the strongest are starting to break.

Clearly BBC audiences learned nothing new from this superficial and mediocre reporting which merely regurgitates the same themes promoted by the BBC time and time again. Moreover, in addition to failing to provide viewers with the real facts and background to the issue of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, Doucet once again self-conscripted to the cause of promotion of Hamas propaganda. The BBC’s funding public which paid for Lyse Doucet’s trip to Gaza must surely be asking themselves how her reporting can possibly be termed value for money.

Doucet’s second filmed report will be discussed in an upcoming post. 

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

Under no circumstances would it be accurate to say that BBC audiences have been deprived of information relating to the topic of structural damage and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip either during or after last summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel. In fact, since the ceasefire came into effect at the end of August 2014, not a month has gone by without at least one BBC report on the topic.

Nevertheless, the BBC obviously found it necessary to revisit the same theme yet again and sent Lyse Doucet off to the Gaza Strip to mark the occasion of the passing of six months since the ceasefire. Thus, BBC audiences were once again exposed to context-free pictures of rubble and ruin on a variety of BBC social media platforms.

Doucet Gaza FB

Doucet Gaza twitter 1

Doucet Gaza twitter 2

The BBC World Service radio Twitter account also promoted an audio report by Doucet broadcast on an unidentified programme under the title “Gaza – the struggle to survive“. Doucet introduced the item as follows:Doucet Gaza audio on Twitter

“You reach the top step of this four-storey building that’s still standing and you look in front of you and for street after street all you can see is rubble. Cement blocks, trees torn from their roots, bits of clothing and plastic: all of it still strewn across this wasteland. It looks like the scene of a natural disaster: the immediate aftermath. But this is Gaza six months on. There isn’t the cement to rebuild, there isn’t the money and for many people, not even the will because everyone fears there’s going to be another war sometime soon.”

Doucet refrains from providing any explanation to listeners as to why there “isn’t the money”, failing to clarify that the donor pledges made at last October’s Cairo conference so enthusiastically reported by the BBC have largely failed to materialise because of internal Palestinian politics. Neither does she address the issue of the already evident failures of the mechanism adopted by the UN to ensure that construction materials were not diverted to Hamas or the fact that residents’ fears that “there’s going to be another war” may have something to do with the fact that there is obviously no shortage of funds available for the rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities.  

Accompanied by a person she describes as “Gazan journalist Jihad Rustam [phonetic]”, Doucet talks to a resident of Shuja’iya neighbourhood.

“Can we talk to these people? They’ve got…put a bit of cloth and they’ve put some wooden planks together and it almost looks like a bus stop but actually it’s a very makeshift…a little wooden cabin in front with some signs inside.”

Her companion says:

“Yeah; this is also a photo of one of the guys who died in this house during the war. His name is Mohammed Tsukur [phonetic] – he’s a martyr. They hang his picture inside this little tent with a picture of Abu Amar – Yasser Arafat….”

Via her companion and translator Doucet asks the man in the cabin to tell her “what happened here?” and the translated response is as follows:

“It was during the dawn of the massacre on Shuja’iya when missiles and bombs were falling everywhere. We had to run out of the house. We didn’t get a chance to grab anything. My brother died instantly while we were running and we kept heading west. A couple of days later we came back and we found this: just rubble, just a bunch of rubble. No house, no store, no nothing.”

Neglecting to inform listeners that in fact the residents of Shuja’iya were given a four-day advance warning to evacuate the neighbourhood before military activity began there, Doucet observes (and it is worth noting her tone of voice as she does):Shuja'iya map sites

“Yes, it’s interesting they use the word ‘massacre’ because Israel calls it a targeting of military sites. But for the people here; so many died they do call it a massacre.”

Doucet cannot fail to be aware of the fact that over 140 missiles were fired from the Shuja’iya area into Israel between July 8th and July 20th. She must also know that the entrances to no fewer than ten cross-border attack tunnels, numerous weapons caches and Hamas command posts were to be found in that neighbourhood. Her failure to clarify those facts to listeners and her defence of the use of the inaccurate and loaded term ‘massacre’ hence shows a blatant disregard for supposed BBC editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Later on Doucet asks the man “who do you blame?” and the answer she gets via her translator is:

“We blame the Arab countries. We blame the donor countries who are supposed to be our brothers and just stood there while we were under attack and under the siege and contributed to the siege. Before we blame Israel we blame the Arab countries – especially Egypt – and then we blame Israel and the occupation and what they’re doing to us.”

Doucet makes no attempt to clarify to listeners that the Gaza Strip has not been under ‘occupation’ for almost a decade or why the term “siege” is not an accurate description of the restrictions on the entry of weapons and dual-use goods imposed by Israel in order to curb Hamas’ procurement of arms. She again fails to point out the factor of internal Palestinian politics which has caused the donor countries to hold back on their pledges.

Instead, she simply ends her pathos rich but fact lacking report there.

Back in July 2014 Doucet was one of the BBC’s reporters on the ground in Shuja’iya. Then too she amplified false claims of a ‘massacre’ and avoided giving BBC audiences a realistic picture of the terrorist infrastructure in that neighbourhood.

Over six months on, BBC audiences have still not been told what really happened in Shuja’iya and it is clear from this report that the BBC has no intention of rectifying that. The political agenda which underpinned the vast quantities of one-sided reporting produced by Lyse Doucet and her colleagues in the Gaza Strip last summer is still all too apparent.

Part two of this post will deal with additional reports produced by Doucet on her latest trip to the Gaza Strip.

 

 

BBC contributors on the ‘flood libel’ bandwagon

Readers who follow our colleagues at CAMERA will know that they recently exposed a fabricated story by AFP’s Yahia (or Yahya) Hassouna in which it was claimed that Israel had deliberately flooded areas of the Gaza Strip by opening dams. The same fictitious story was also promoted by Al Jazeera, the Daily Mail and Russia Today, among others.

“In the video, Ead Zino, a resident of Al-Maghraqa, accuses Israel: “Every four years there is a war but here in Maghraqa every year there is a flood. This water comes from Israel. This is political. All Israel wants is to destroy us.”

 In addition, AFP’s caption at the beginning of the video is “Gaza village flooded as Israel opens dam gates.”

AFP did not include any Israeli voice to refute the false charge.

 Regarding the claim that Israel opened dams, thereby flooding Gaza, a spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told CAMERA:

‘The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams. Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel.

Prior to the storm, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories allowed the transfer of four water pumps belonging to the Palestinian Water Authority from Israel into Gaza to supplement the 13 pumps already in the Gaza Strip in dealing with any potential flooding throughout the area.’ “

That same malicious ‘flood libelwas also promoted on social media.

Abu Warda 3

Abu Warda 2

Abu Warda 1

Readers may recall that Dr Bassel Abu Warda of Shifa hospital was one of numerous Gaza Strip-based doctors given BBC airtime and column space last summer – ostensibly in order to provide audiences with a supposedly authoritative and objective view of the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Another person who promoted the false flooding story on Twitter was Human Rights Watch’s MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson.

Whitson tweet

As regular readers know, Human Rights Watch is one of the NGOs most promoted and quoted by the BBC – including on the topic of the Gaza Strip.

It is always worth bearing in mind that – as cases like this one show – people from whom the BBC sources content may have an underlying political agenda.  That, of course, is why the BBC has editorial guidelines which instruct its staff that “we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint”. Unfortunately, adherence to that guideline is highly selective

A view of the 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict you won’t hear from the BBC

Since covering the story of the resignation of William Schabas from the position of chair of the jaundiced UN HRC inquiry into the 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel (see here and here), the BBC has dropped that story.

A house in Be'er Sheva after a missile hit on 13/7/14. Photo credit: IDF

A house in Be’er Sheva after a missile hit on 11 July 2014. Photo credit: IDF

One does not need a crystal ball in order to predict that the inquiry’s findings will be reported extensively when they are finally published. It remains to be seen whether or not the BBC will then finally get round to clarifying to its audiences that the mandate of the commission of inquiry set up by the UN HRC was biased and politically motivated by definition, with its start date defined as one day after the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teenagers by a Hamas-funded terror cell and its geographic stipulations excluding “violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” in Israel – such as missile fire at civilian targets.

“Decides to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults, and to report to the Council at its twenty-eighth session.” [emphasis added]

The deadline for submissions to the commission of inquiry was extended after Schabas’ resignation and one of the people to have submitted evidence is Colonel Richard Kemp CBE – formerly the commander of British forces in Afghanistan. Colonel Kemp’s professional view of the issue makes for fascinating reading, especially for anyone who got their news of the 2014 conflict exclusively from BBC reporters lacking military experience and expertise – such as Jeremy ‘I see no human shields’ Bowen.

A school in Rishon LeZion after a missile hit on 15 July 2014. Photo credit: IDF

A school in Rishon LeZion after a missile hit on 15 July 2014. Photo credit: IDF

“Much of the Hamas military infrastructure was located amongst the civilian population in Gaza. In these circumstances, neutralizing the threat from Hamas made civilian casualties unavoidable. Under the Laws of Armed Conflict this fact does not render such operations illegal assuming they were necessary. However the IDF had a duty to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians and to ensure that operations were conducted in accordance with the principle of proportionality as well as necessity.

It is worth emphasizing that proportionality is not, as often believed by critics of Israel, a relationship between the numbers of casualties on either side in a conflict, but a calculation that considers whether the incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated in an attack. […]

Turning now to Hamas’s conduct in the 2014 conflict. During my time in Israel during this conflict I witnessed what I believe to be a series of war crimes and planned war crimes by Hamas and other Gaza groups, both by missile attack against civilians and by construction of attack tunnels from which to kill and abduct civilians. I am also aware of, but did not witness, Hamas and other groups’ use of their own civilian population as human shields. […]

I know of the deliberate policy of using human shields, including women and children, which is also a war crime, by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. I am aware of this as a result of my previous British government work involving secret intelligence on these groups, from public statements made by the Hamas leadership on a number of occasions since the 2008-09 Gaza conflict, from media reports including film footage showing such action and statements by individuals forced to remain in declared target areas, from publication of training manuals found in Gaza by the IDF and from debriefing of IDF personnel and journalists. From the same sources I am also aware of Hamas’s use of buildings and vehicles protected under the Laws of Armed Conflict including schools, hospitals, UN buildings, mosques and ambulances. Use of such facilities for military purposes constitutes a war crime.”

Read Colonel Kemp’s entire submission here.  

 

BBC mantra on Gaza casualties further challenged by new information

Readers cannot have failed to notice that the standard insertion into any BBC report relating however circumspectly to last summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip goes along the following lines:BBC

“The war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, the majority civilians, according to the UN.”

As has been noted here on numerous occasions over the past few months, the BBC continues to promote those problematic UN supplied figures to its audiences without having carried out any independent verification of civilian/combatant casualty ratios and whilst concurrently ignoring the fact that investigation into the lists of casualties provided by Hamas and other Palestinian sources carried out by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center indicates a different picture.

On February 11th the Center published an additional report relating to the subject of seventeen casualties classified by Hamas’ Information Office as ‘journalists’ – and therefore categorized as civilians. The Jerusalem Post reports:

““The study, not yet complete, found that eight out of the 17 names were operatives who belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, or who worked in Hamas media outlets,” the report, published Thursday, stated.

“The Palestinian Journalists Union and the Gazan branch of the Information Office tried to hide the military-terrorist identity of the terror operatives, and present them as journalists in every way,” it added.”

Notably, two of the people listed who really were civilians were not killed during Israeli operations.

“AP photographer Simone Camilli and Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash, both who appear on the list, were killed during a truce while covering Palestinian police sappers who were trying to neutralize unexploded Israeli munitions. There were no IDF units in the area at the time.”

As we have previously noted:

“The footnote added belatedly to the BBC article on casualty figures which was revised due to political pressure stated:

“We expect to return to this subject at a later date.”

That has not happened and the BBC’s continued blind promotion of unverified statistics is clearly not only an issue in terms of accuracy but, as time goes on and the BBC continues to stubbornly and inexplicably ignore later work done on this topic, it also obviously becomes a growing issue of impartiality.”

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

 

What is missing from the BBC’s post-conflict reporting from Gaza Strip?

Since the implementation of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas towards the end of August last year, the BBC’s reporting from the Gaza Strip has focused on very specific topics.BBC building

The vast majority of reports have related to the topic of damage to buildings in the Gaza Strip, with a prominent theme in that reporting being promotion of the inaccurate notion that efforts to repair and rebuild housing are hampered solely by Israeli restrictions on imports of construction materials to the Gaza Strip. Examples can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here

Another trend seen in BBC reporting since the end of the conflict has been the amplification of reports by politically motivated NGOs involved in lawfare: see examples here, here, here and here. Audiences have also seen and heard reports on what can be loosely termed medical issues in the Gaza Strip: see examples here and here.

BBC reporting on breaches of the ceasefire has been patchy. A mortar fired from the Gaza Strip at the Eshkol district on September 16th was not reported at the time but given a brief mention in a later report. A missile fired on October 31st was ignored and a missile attack on December 19th was only reported when Israel responded. A sniper attack on December 24th was reported in Arabic alone.Kissufim attack BBC Arabic report

Notably, the BBC’s post-conflict reporting on the Israeli side of the story has been limited to one article

Audiences have not been provided with any information whatsoever on the issue of the Gaza Strip based terrorist organisations’ rehabilitation of their military capabilities, including Hamas’ missile testing which has been taking place very frequently in recent months.  

“Hamas’ military wing launched three rockets aimed at the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported, as part of experiments designed to restore Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ firepower to what it was before Operation Protective Edge. This marks the third day in a row that test rockets were launched. […]

The rockets testing joins a long list of recent experiments made by Hamas in the past few weeks. It is estimated that since the end of Operation Protective Edge, dozens of rockets have been launched towards the Mediterranean Sea from within Gaza for experimental purposes.

Hamas official in Cairo Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed that Hamas has conducted experimental rocket launches and said that they do not constitute a violation of the ceasefire agreement between Gaza and Israel because the agreement did not mention and was not agreed upon that Hamas was prevented from carrying out experiments with rockets.”

Similarly, publication of the news that the Israeli navy prevented the smuggling of materials for missile manufacture by sea on January 19th has been totally ignored by BBC correspondents.

“The incident occurred in the early morning hours of January 19th, when naval forces identified the suspicious boat making its way from the shores of Sinai to the Strip’s shores. Before it arrives at the Gazan beach, the navy soldiers called on three Palestinians aboard the ship to stop.

A search by the soldiers discovered liquid fiberglass on the vessel. The three Palestinians were taken in for investigation by the Shin Bet, where they admitted the materials were meant for rocket and mortar manufacture in Gaza.

They said they were sent to collect the materials from Sinai and deliver it to Hamas’ military wing in a timely manner. An indictment was filed against the three at a courthouse in Be’er Sheva.”

The issue of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip is invariably presented to BBC audiences in terms of ‘Israel says it is a necessary security measure’. Obviously the BBC can only continue to employ such partisan terminology as long as it continues to refrain from informing its funding public of attempts to smuggle arms and weapons manufacturing materials into the Gaza Strip.

The BBC’s framing of post-conflict issues keeps audience attention focused on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip but fails to make them aware of no less important issues vital for their understanding of current and future regional developments. If – or when – Israel is once again obliged to respond to situations created by Hamas policies, BBC audiences will once again be lacking the essential context behind the story. 

  

BBC WS Newshour enables the Schabas show

On the same day that the BBC News website published its selectively framed report on the resignation of William Schabas from the position of chair of the UN HRC commission of inquiry (established in July 2014 before the conflict between Hamas and Israel had even come to an end), the BBC World Service Radio programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast a five-minute long item on the same story.Newshour 3 2 15

That entire item (from 37:33 here) was devoted to the provision of a platform for Schabas to promote his version of events. Presenter Tim Franks introduced it as follows:

“The Israeli government has called on the UN Human Rights Council to scrap its inquiry into last year’s Gaza-Israel conflict. The Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made the demand after the Chairman of the commission of inquiry handed in his resignation on Monday. William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, stepped down after Israel had complained that in 2012 he’d offered legal advice to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Earlier, Professor Schabas came into the Newshour studio.”

William Schabas: “Israel has been attacking me since the day…since the minute…I was appointed, claiming that I show appearance of bias or that I’m biased and that campaign has continued. A few weeks ago they announced that they were organizing their attack on the report of the commission and that personal attacks on me would be an important part of that.”

Schabas is not asked to provide a credible source for that latter claim and Franks fails to inform listeners that criticism of Schabas’ appointment has also come from many non-Israeli sources. Schabas continues:

“About a week ago – or more than that – they formulated a complaint to the Human Rights Council asking formally for my removal and that was discussed last night by the executive of the Human Rights Council and they decided to follow up on the complaint and to investigate it. So what that means is that there’s an investigation ongoing into my alleged lack of impartiality.”

TF: “What – just to be clear – you did paid work for the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, back in 2013: is that right?”

WS: “Twelve.”

TF: “2012.”

WS: “I did a…I was asked as an international lawyer to provide a legal opinion to the Palestine Liberation Organisation about the International Criminal Court. I did that. I have done lots of work for governments. They call me and ask me for legal opinions and they pay me for them and sometimes, if they don’t want to bother, they read my books and they do it even in Israel.”

Franks refrains from inquiring whether the $1,300 fee Schabas charged the PLO for that seven-page legal opinion is the going rate for all governments seeking his advice.  He continues:

TF: “Sure, but as a lawyer you will know that it’s not just about justice being done – it’s about justice being seen to be done. There at least could be the perception of a conflict of interests; the fact that you had done work for the PLO.”

WS: “Well that appears to be the conclusion – that there’s an issue there. As I say it’s probably on the scale of things that they’ve been criticizing me about not the major event. So in any case, they’ve decided to investigate this.”

TF: “Why had you not declared that you’d done this?”

WS: Well when I was appointed by the Human Rights Council I was called up and asked if I wanted to do it and then the next thing they know I was appointed. So I wasn’t asked to make a long disclosure or anything. I have a long list of things that I’ve done – writings about Palestine, speeches and all of that. That wouldn’t be at the top of the list. There would be a long list and they knew about it. Everybody knew about it.”

In fact, in his previously submitted unsuccessful application for the post of ‘Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories since 1967′ in 2013, Schabas had also failed to declare his paid work for the PLO in 2012.  Refraining from joining the obvious dots between Schabas’ claim that “everybody knew” about his record of anti-Israel statements and activities, the fact that – according to him – he was not required by the UN HRC to declare any conflict of interests and his appointment to the post nonetheless, Franks continues:

TF: “A long list – what – of your views on Israel?”

WS: “Views, engagement in one way or another; participating in events and so on. So that was not a secret to anybody.”

TF: “OK. And just for new readers here, to – I mean – if I can summarise that it would be that you’ve been strongly critical of the Israeli government policy and strongly supportive of the Palestinians over the past few years. Would that be a reasonable summary?”

WS: “As a brief summary – my views in the past – that’s fair enough.”

Schabas’ on-record remarks of course go far beyond Tim Franks’ tepid description: “Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur and not the president of Israel for Gaza?” is not by any stretch of the imagination criticism of “Israeli government policy”, not least because the president of Israel has no role in determining government policy.

Franks then goes on to ask whether or not the inquiry will have to start from scratch in light of Schabas’ resignation, to which his interviewee replies in the negative before going on to describe what the commission has done so far. Schabas says:

“We made solemn affirmations to be independent and impartial and I believe we conducted ourselves. We’ve surprised many people. Netanyahu even today was saying why are they only looking at Israel – why don’t they look at Hamas? They should be looking at Hamas. And everybody in Israel knows we did look at Hamas.”

Franks makes no effort to clarify to listeners that the mandate of the commission of inquiry set up by the UN HRC was biased and politically motivated by definition, with its start date defined as one day after the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teenagers by a Hamas-funded terror cell and its geographic stipulations excluding “violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” in Israel – such as missile fire at civilian targets.

“Decides to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults, and to report to the Council at its twenty-eighth session.” [emphasis added]

Schabas – who is on record as stating that it would be “inappropriate” for him to answer the question of whether or not he considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization – continues:

“We’ve had witnesses – victims – from inside Israel who travelled – had to travel – to Geneva. One poor man who’d lost his legs – blown off by a mortar – and he had to make that long, painful trip to Geneva to meet us because they wouldn’t let us go and see him at his kibbutz in southern Israel where we wanted to go because they wouldn’t let us into the country.”

In contrast to the impression perhaps received by listeners, the seven-person Israeli delegation to Geneva was not organized by Schabas and his commission, but by the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

Schabas ends the item by complimenting himself on the commission’s treatment of the Israeli delegation.

“The Israeli victims who came to meet with us in Geneva came back – I think pleasantly surprised is the way to describe them – with the dignity in which they were…and the welcome and the way they were treated and the genuine interest that three commissioners – not just myself but the others – had in learning about their victimization because there are victims on all sides of the fence in this conflict.”

Clearly listeners to the BBC World Service learned very little about the all-important background to the story of Schabas’ resignation from this item. Schabas’ record of anti-Israel statements and activism is blurred by Franks and misleadingly presented as criticism of Israeli government policy. Schabas is given a platform from which to promote himself as a victim of Israeli “attacks” whilst the much more important topic of the political motivations which lie behind mandate he accepted with his appointment – and the implications for the objectivity and relevance of the report which will be produced in his absence – is completely avoided.

Once again the BBC has failed in its mission to “build a global understanding of international issues”. 

Is a BBC documentary about Hamas’ child soldiers upcoming?

The video below shows footage taken at a youth camp for 15 to 21 year-olds recently organized in the Gaza Strip by Hamas’ Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.

Among the few Western media outlets which reported that story were the Washington Post and the Telegraph.  However, a tweet from Lyse Doucet suggests that the BBC is also going to cover the topic at some point.

Doucet tweet Hamas camp

Whether or not this is part of the documentary on children in the Gaza Strip about which Doucet was interviewed by the Guardian last September is not clear. It will however be interesting to see whether the opportunity is used to inform BBC audiences about Hamas’ use of child soldiers – including during the most recent conflict – and whether or not it will be clarified that one of the UN conventions signed by the Palestinian Authority in April 2014 was the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, according to which no soldier should be under the age of 18.