BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

We have previously discussed two aspects of a response received by a reader from the BBC Complaints department here and here.

The third (and final, readers will no doubt be relieved to know) part of that response related to the issue of the BBC’s reporting of casualty figures in the Gaza Strip during the recent conflict.Complaint pic

“We dispute the suggestion that using numbers provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza and the UN on the death toll in Gaza indicates a pro-Palestinian bias.

The Health Ministry in Gaza is in touch with all the hospitals in Gaza. The Ministry is where all deaths are registered. It is the key source of information on deaths in the conflict for all news organisations and for other external organisations, including foreign embassies. Israeli authorities simply do not have access to hospitals and morgues in Gaza to provide such reporting. When the BBC reports death tolls they are clearly attributed to the Health Ministry, so the source has been clear in our coverage. Generally, during the conflict the Health Ministry itself did not make claims as to what number of those killed were civilians or combatants. They were collating information coming in from their morgues and passing on quickly to the media a number of times each day.

The UN has made claims as to the number of Palestinians killed and the number of those who are civilians. The BBC reports these numbers attributed to the UN which is of course an internationally recognised organisation. The UN has a large staff in Gaza who compile these reports. The question of who has officials in Gaza collating such reports is important. Some Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes when the IDF would have had surveillance of the aftermath of the strike from the air. However, many people have been killed by sustained artillery assault on certain areas which caused death from shrapnel fire, buildings collapsing and other factors. The BBC’s approach to reporting these numbers is common to the rest of the media.

We have, however, at a number of stages during the conflict broadcast interviews with Israeli officials who questioned the accuracy of the UN figures produced, and suggested that in future they may be revised downwards as has sometimes happened in previous conflicts. It’s also worth noting that Israel has not provided evidence as to why their figures on civilian casualties differed so significantly from the figures produced by UN officials on the ground in Gaza.”

The claim that “[w]hen the BBC reports death tolls they are clearly attributed to the Health Ministry, so the source has been clear in our coverage” is true in so far as it goes. However, those reports consistently failed to sufficiently clarify to BBC audiences that “the Health Ministry” is run by the same terrorist organization engaged in conflict with Israel and hence not an impartial or reliable source.

The claim that “[g]enerally, during the conflict the Health Ministry itself did not make claims as to what number of those killed were civilians or combatants” avoids recognition of the fact that the Gaza Health Ministry’s policy of identifying all casualties as civilians was a deliberate one designed to influence public opinion. Throughout its reporting on the conflict the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the very relevant issue of the instructions put out by Hamas’ Interior Ministry specifically ordering all parties to describe all casualties as ‘civilians’. The BBC also adopted the Hamas stance according to which all casualties were the result of Israeli actions and consistently ignored issues such as casualties resulting from misfired missiles or booby-trapped buildings.

The statement “[t]he UN has made claims as to the number of Palestinians killed and the number of those who are civilians. The BBC reports these numbers attributed to the UN which is of course an internationally recognised organization” clearly indicates that the BBC not only ignores the very relevant topic of the bias of UN bodies themselves, but also the political motivations of the sources of the figures quoted by the UN.

As was noted here at the time, UN statistics were compiled from a variety of primary and secondary sources and the BBC’s claim that “[t]he UN has a large staff in Gaza who compile these reports” is not supported by the information BBC Watch received from the UN itself.

“Katleen Maes informed us that UN OCHA’s three primary sources are B’Tselemthe PCHR and Al Mezan – all of which are political NGOs with a less than pristine record on impartiality in Israel-related matters. Maes added that the secondary sources used by UN OCHA to arrive at its 77% civilian casualty rate figures are the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the local Arabic media in Gaza, some of which is also run by Hamas and with the rest operating with Hamas consent, of course.”

The statement “[t]he question of who has officials in Gaza collating such reports is important” is undoubtedly true – although not in the manner intended in this response. The fact that the UN relies on local NGOs concurrently engaged in lawfare against Israel is a highly relevant factor in the assessment of the reliability of those claims.

Notably, this response completely avoids the topic of the BBC’s failure to independently verify the statistics it quoted and promoted and the fact that at no point did the BBC attempt to put the figures it quoted into their correct context.

The response states:

“The BBC’s approach to reporting these numbers is common to the rest of the media.”

“The rest of the media”, however, is not bound by the same editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality relevant to BBC coverage.

The statement “[i]t’s also worth noting that Israel has not provided evidence as to why their figures on civilian casualties differed so significantly from the figures produced by UN officials on the ground in Gaza” is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the BBC has made no such demand for “evidence” from the Hamas Health Ministry or the political NGOs which supply figures to the UN.

As the work of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre has shown, examination of the lists of names provided by those bodies reveals instances in which names were recorded more than once and cases in which the ages of casualties were misrepresented. As ‘Elder of Ziyon’ has demonstrated, many of those described by sources used by the BBC (particularly the PCHR) as ‘civilian casualties’ have turned out to be terrorists.

This response from the BBC Complaints department is clearly also unsatisfactory in that it completely fails to acknowledge the very relevant topic of manipulation of civilian casualty figures by Hamas and its supporters as part of their propaganda war aimed at garnering Western public opinion. The BBC’s promotion and amplification of Hamas-supplied figures, its failure to independently verify casualty statistics and civilian/combatant ratios and its documented capitulation to political pressure from interested parties on the topic of casualty figures is all evidence of its adoption of a specific politically motivated narrative.

No wonder, therefore, that complaints have been made on this subject but – as is amply clear from the official response above – the self-regulating BBC is incapable of providing an  appropriately impartial response to complaints from its funding public, resorting instead to attempted self-justification of its editorial policies.  

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ provides a platform for UNRWA’s political campaigning

As has been noted here previously, the BBC’s coverage of the recent Cairo donor conference aimed at securing funding for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip was quite extensive with the scene set by Yolande Knell on October 11th and a very partial representation of the topic appearing on the BBC News website on October 12th.

In addition to that, radio audiences heard a long item on the October 12th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (available here from 00:50 to 09:30) which recycled a previously aired item by Yolande Knell as well as including contributions from Orla Guerin in Cairo and the partisan UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.Newshour 12 10 14

In that programme presenter James Menendez twice states that “Hamas controls Gaza” whilst – confusingly for listeners – Orla Guerin describes a “fragile unity government which is supposed to be in place”. No effort is made to properly clarify the situation for audiences.

Neither is any effort made to inform listeners that the reason Israel imposes border restrictions on the Gaza Strip is the years of terrorism against Israeli civilians perpetrated by Hamas and other terrorist organisations based there and so listeners hear the following context-free statements from Guerin.

“…but the Israeli blockade of Gaza remains in place. Now that is a blockade by air, land and sea. It is Israel which decides which trucks and how many and carrying what goods are allowed in and out of Gaza. There are serious concerns being expressed by aid agencies about whether or not Israel will allow enough construction materials in. A temporary mechanism has been agreed and that will involve monitoring by the United Nations but they are literally almost at the level of counting the grains of sand going in and out of Gaza and there are serious fears that the volume of cement and construction materials that would be required will simply not be allowed in. Israel of course views cement as a dual-use item and it has been used by Hamas to build tunnels right out of Gaza under the ground into Israeli territory, so cement is particularly carefully monitored.”

The BBC has shown no interest to date in carrying out any serious reporting on the topic of Hamas’ misappropriation of the building supplies previously allowed into the Gaza Strip or the related – and very serious – subject of the accountability of the aid agencies and international bodies which were supposed to be supervising and guaranteeing the construction projects for which those materials were intended. With funds supplied, among others, by tax-payers in the West now scheduled for the reconstruction of housing in the Gaza Strip, those tax-payers might actually have been interested to hear how this latest “temporary mechanism” intended to prevent building supplies being used for the purposes of terror (which would of course eventually result in yet more conflict and further destruction of structures their taxes have paid for) is actually any different – and more efficient – than the previous failed one.

Audiences would also of course have benefited from information on the topic of why their governments are prepared to commit vast amounts of money to the reconstruction of a territory in which the government which supposedly runs it is unable to compete with terrorist-run militias funded and backed by foreign governments such as Iran and Qatar and why no demand has been made to disarm those terrorist organisations in order to prevent further hostilities and destruction.

But as Menendez’s final interview in this programme shows, its aim is not to provide BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which would enable them to reach a comprehensive understanding of this particular “international issue“, but to promote the agenda of those supporting the Hamas campaign to lift border restrictions. One of the major players in that long-standing campaign is of course the highly politicized UNRWA and its spokesman Chris Gunness (who, readers may recall, was instrumental in the BBC’s revision of an article concerning casualty figures in the Gaza Strip) is given a three and a half minute long unchallenged platform for that purpose.

Gunness: “But let’s be clear: this mechanism is not a substitute for lifting the blockade. There is little point in reconstructing Gaza if the world refuses to allow Gaza to trade. Otherwise we’re gonna have people in lovely new houses but completely aid-dependent, which is why we say the blockade must be lifted, Gaza must be allowed to trade, to export, and the natural export markets of Gaza is…are…the West Bank and that’s what we need to see first of all.”

Menendez makes no attempt to point out to audiences that – contrary to the impression they will have received from Gunness, exports do leave the Gaza Strip. He also makes no attempt to challenge the following over-vehement protestations from Gunness.

“Well I have to be honest here and say that UNRWA has been taking materials – building materials – into Gaza for years and there is no evidence whatsoever that one grain of sand that UNRWA has taken into Gaza has ever been stolen or expropriated by any organization, least of all the militant organization. So we have a proven track record and I can speak for UNRWA and certainly we are able to get building materials into Gaza and for it not to be subverted or taken by any group and certainly not any militant group.”

Menedez does not raise the question of how an organization which could not prevent its aid being stolen or missiles being stored in and fired from its schools by terrorists is in a position to guarantee anything. He passes up on the opportunity to ask Gunness why sacks of UNRWA materials were discovered inside tunnels during the recent conflict.

Since July augmented context-free amplification of Hamas’ demands to lift border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to the activities of that terror organisation and others has been all too evident in BBC reporting. The promotion of UNRWA’s political campaigning on that issue is also by no means new for the BBC. As we see in this edition of ‘Newshour’, that editorial policy continues. 

 

 

BBC Complaints: ‘it was hard for journalists in Gaza to see rockets being fired’

A few days ago we discussed part of a response received by a reader from the BBC Complaints department.Blindfold

Another section of that same response reads as follows:

“…we did raise your concerns with the relevant editorial staff at BBC News who covered the recent conflict in Gaza. They explained that there are number of reasons why BBC News has not shown images or footage of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants firing rockets. The main reason is that militant groups keep the location of launch sites secret. It was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out, however, during Orla Guerin’s report for the News at Ten on 12 August we reported on allegations that Hamas and other militants put Palestinian civilian lives at risk by operating from residential areas, as well as launching rockets near schools and hospitals. During the aforementioned report Orla Guerin explained that: “During this conflict Palestinian militants have kept a low profile, avoiding the cameras, but we know that at times they have operated from civilian areas.”

The report went on to show an area of ground used by Hamas to launch rockets. It was clearly shown that the site was in very close proximity to apartments inhabited by civilians. The same piece went on to show footage from Indian television, purportedly showing Hamas firing from a residential area near the hotel where the Indian crew were staying.”

The above-mentioned report by Orla Guerin is this one. The BBC Complaints representative notably refrains from pointing out that just prior to the quoted section, Orla Guerin misled BBC audiences by inferring that Hamas’ use of civilian areas as launch sites for missiles is not evidence of its use of human shields.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.”

The relevant section of that one report cited by BBC Complaints as showing that the BBC did report on “allegations that Hamas and other militants put Palestinian civilian lives at risk by operating from residential areas, as well as launching rockets near schools and hospitals” makes no mention of schools or hospitals. The specific section is just 44 seconds long and the report appeared thirty-six days into the conflict – by which time the BBC’s narrative was very well entrenched.

As we see, the BBC Complaints department promotes the claim that “militant groups keep the location of launch sites secret” and apparently believes it reasonable to claim that “it was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out” despite the fact that 4,562 missiles were fired throughout the 50 day conflict – an average of over ninety a day.

Notably, the BBC is still obviously unwilling to openly discuss the topic of Hamas intimidation of journalists, although correspondents from other media outlets have been more frank in explaining why audiences worldwide saw so little footage of missiles being fired or terrorists in action, as one Israeli filmmaker described.

“I met today with a Spanish journalist who just came back from Gaza. We talked about the situation there. He was very friendly. I asked him how comes we never see on television channels reporting from Gaza any Hamas people, no gunmen, no rocket launcher, no policemen.. We only see civilians on these reports, mostly women and children. He answered me frankly : “it’s very simple, we did see Hamas people there launching rockets, they were close to our hotel, but if ever we dare pointing our camera on them they would simply shoot at us and kill us.”  “

Two days before Guerin’s report was aired, a Norwegian journalist reported:

“There are decent working conditions here, however several foreign journalists have been kicked out from Gaza because Hamas does not like what they have said or written. We have received clear directions that if we see Hamas launching or shooting rockets, we cannot record them. If we do then there will be serious consequences which can lead to expulsion from Gaza. Our fixers, the person that is translating and is helping us around with everything, will also be in grave trouble if we film soldiers from Hamas, especially if they are firing rockets. Apart from that it is fairly OK to work here.”

A CNN reporter stated on camera:

“…we’ve witnessed at least the firing of rockets from this vantage point here. We haven’t seen the actual launcher per-se, but you can see the flash, you can see that it was in between buildings, and you can the thunder as the rockets roar into the air, so clearly you can tell that this is being launched from a populated area.”

Despite these and many other examples, the BBC is still pretending in response to complaints from members of its funding public that the reason it did not report adequately on the actions of terrorists in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge is that – unlike the staff of other media organisations – its own numerous correspondents on the ground did not see anything to report.

It may of course well be that the BBC’s lack of coverage of missile launches and other terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip was motivated by concern for the personal safety of its correspondents on the ground at the time and its permanent local bureau staff. Whilst that would be perfectly understandable, that policy did however affect the credibility of BBC reporting and had a major effect on its adherence to BBC editorial guidelines concerning accuracy and impartiality, thus affecting the way in which audiences understood the story as a whole.

Such an obvious lack of transparency – and common or garden honesty – in dealing with complaints from the public as shown in the above response clearly compromises the BBC’s reputation in a very serious manner. 

Blatant political messaging in BBC report on Cairo donor conference

The second of the BBC News website’s reports on last weekend’s donor conference in Cairo was a report currently headlined “Donors pledge $5.4bn for Palestinians at Cairo summit” which underwent numerous changes after its initial appearance on October 12th.Cairo conf art

The article’s most notable feature is its repeated promotion of a specific theme.

“Earlier the Palestinian and Egyptian presidents called on Israel to commit to a long-term peace initiative.

Mahmoud Abbas and Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged Israel to give up land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and accept a fair solution for Palestinian refugees in exchange for full recognition.” […]

“He [John Kerrry] added that anything other than a long-term commitment to peace would be a “band-aid fix”.

At the opening of the conference, President Sisi urged “the Israelis, both the people and the government” to put an end to the conflict.

“We should turn this moment into a real starting point to achieve a peace that secures stability and flourishing and renders the dream of coexistence a reality,” he said.” […]

“Announcing the UK’s $32m donation in Cairo, International Development Minister Desmond Swayne said the international community could not continue to pick up the pieces of the conflict indefinitely.

“It is critical that reconstruction efforts now form part of a process of meaningful political change,” he said.”

However, despite the repeated amplification of that theme, at no point in the article does the BBC bother to inform readers that the terrorist organization which still controls the Gaza Strip, which is party to the current PA unity government and to which the incumbent President of the PA has already stated that he will cede control in the event of its victory in the supposedly upcoming elections, not only opposes holding negotiations in order to reach a peace agreement with Israel, but rejects the very existence of the Jewish state.

Likewise, the related and highly relevant topic of the failure of the Palestinian unity government to disarm Hamas in accordance with existing agreements with Israel  – by which it declared it would stand (and yet failed to do so) when that government was inaugurated in June – is not introduced into this article.

Instead, BBC audiences are fed the following trite version of events:

“The Gaza Strip, sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, has been a recurring flashpoint in the Israel-Palestinian conflict for years.

Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005.

Israel considered this the end of the occupation, though the UN continues to regard Gaza as part of Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace, while Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.”

As we see, the elephant-in-the-room issue of Palestinian terrorism is completely ignored in this account, with the BBC clearly trying to promote the politically motivated myth of an ‘occupation’ of the Gaza Strip which has not existed for nine years. As has been the case on numerous previous occasions, the BBC misleadingly proposes that Israeli control over “Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace” is evidence of continuing ‘occupation’ but deliberately refrains from informing audiences that the representatives of the Palestinian people were party to the creation of that arrangement when they signed the Oslo Accords and further confirmed it when they signed the later Agreement on Movement and Access in November 2005 following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

An additional notable factor in this report is its continued promotion of casualty figures which have still not been independently verified by the BBC and with no transparency regarding the partisan nature and political background of their sources.

“The seven-week Gaza conflict, which ended in a truce on 26 August, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, the UN says, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel.”

Cairo conf art graphic

As has been the case in all BBC reports to date, no effort is made to inform audiences of the existence of other estimates of the civilian/combatant casualty ratio in the Gaza Strip. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, which has so far carried out detailed examination of 42% of the casualties named by Palestinian sources has so far identified 49.8% of those names as terrorists and 50.2% as civilians. Yet again, no attempt is made by the BBC to inform audiences of how the civilian/combatant casualty ratio in Gaza compares to that of other conflicts.

This report – ostensibly a news item – once again demonstrates that the BBC’s practical interpretation of its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” is shaped by the political messaging it aspires to promote rather than by any genuine commitment to accurate and impartial reporting of events and the provision of all relevant information which would allow audiences to fully and comprehensively understand the issues at stake. 

BBC’s Knell turns planned mixed Jerusalem neighbourhood into ‘Jewish settlement’

The BBC News website’s efforts to promote the topic of last weekend’s donor conference in Cairo were evident before, during and after the event.

On October 11th – the day before the Cairo conference – an article by Yolande Knell titled “After Gaza war, Palestinians seek new path to statehood” appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the website’s Middle East page.Knell Cairo conf art

Roughly half of Knell’s article is devoted to amplification of the PA’s various current unilateral strategies, with her closing sentences so encumbered by redundant understatement that they fail to inform readers of the true significance and implications of the PA’s breach of its existing commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict in favour of additional headline-grabbing unilateral moves.

“The Palestinians know that their latest plan to return to the Security Council, which has been criticised by Israel, is very likely to fail. However, they hope for a show of support for statehood.

A draft resolution calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territory by November 2016 and for an international presence in East Jerusalem to protect the Palestinian population.

The Palestinian back-up plan is to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to pursue legal action against Israel.

Both moves would stir up tensions with the US and other major donors to the Palestinian Authority. While they will raise the political profile of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, they are unlikely to bring a real peace deal much closer.”

Knell’s characterization of the PA’s attempts to bring about externally imposed actions rather than negotiated agreements as merely “unlikely” to bring about an end to the conflict is clearly absurd. Notably, she fails to make any mention of the fact that one partner in the current PA unity government – Hamas – refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and is not a member of the body with which Israel negotiates – the PLO.

 No less remarkable is her earlier misrepresentation of an existing construction project in the Jerusalem district.

“But in the coming days, Palestinian officials hope a series of events will put their cause back in the spotlight.

At a donors’ conference in Cairo on Sunday, President Mahmoud Abbas will seek $4bn (£2.5bn) for Gaza reconstruction.

A day later the British parliament is scheduled to hold a non-binding vote on whether the government should recognise Palestine as an independent state within the boundaries of the ceasefire lines which existed prior to the 1967 Middle East war.

Later this month there is a plan to ask the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for recognition and to set a deadline for Israel to pull out from occupied Palestinian territory.

The latter two steps are likely to be little more than symbolic but the Palestinians hope to increase political pressure on Israel, which has recently continued to expand its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

The location of the “settlements” to which Knell refers is indicated by an accompanying photograph with the following caption:

“Israel has been criticised this month for approving new settlement construction in Givat Hamatos neighborhood in East Jerusalem”

Knell Cairo conf art pic

Seeing as it already reported on the same planning application in 2012, the BBC should be aware of the fact that there is nothing remotely “new” about the plan to build housing in the Givat HaMatos district of Jerusalem. Knell, however, refrains from informing readers that the neighbourhood was the site of temporary housing for new immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia from 1991 onwards. She neglects to state that initiatives to replace caravans with proper housing were first proposed nine years ago and that the plans approved by the district planning committee in late September allocate around half of the planned apartments to Arab residents of nearby Beit Safafa - which itself straddles the 1949 armistice line and yet of course is never referred to by Knell and her colleagues as a “settlement”.  

Had she made sure to accurately and impartially inform BBC audiences of the above facts, Knell would of course have found it rather more difficult to make use of the BBC’s misleading standard editorial guideline breaching insertion “Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this”. The Givat HaMatos project is not a “Jewish settlement” but a planned mixed neighbourhood of Jerusalem in an area which would remain under Israeli control according to any realistic scenario of a negotiated two-state solution.

In other words, Yolande Knell has once again ditched her commitment to the BBC’s supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality, as well as her obligation to enable audiences to reach an “understanding” of international issues, in favour of exclusive amplification of the PA’s political narrative. 

 

Extremist links of charities ignored in BBC reports

The BBC’s Julia Macfarlane recently showcased a trip to the Gaza Strip by four British surgeons in a series of reports across a variety of BBC platforms.Macfarlane art main

On October 10th a feature titled “A war within a war: The battles fought by Gaza’s medics” appeared on the BBC News website where it remained for five consecutive days. A filmed version of the report – which also appeared on BBC television news – was posted on the same webpage on the same day under the title “Gaza conflict: UK surgeons help treat wounded“. On October 11th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’, presented by Julian Marshall, included an audio version of Macfarlane’s report – available from 12:25 here.  

The subject of the organizations behind the doctors’ trip to the Gaza Strip is not raised at all in the radio version of the report. In the televised version, one of the doctors says:

“I think myself as part of a charity like Ideals and MAP can actually now start setting something to try to sort these people out.”

Very few viewers of course are likely to be aware of the fact that the acronym MAP is in fact Medical Aid for Palestinians. The written version of Macfarlane’s report states:

“The surgeons belong to the charity Ideals, and were sent to Gaza by Medical Aid for Palestinians to visit the main hospitals there to carry out assessments and to perform post-traumatic, reconstructive surgeries.”

The same written feature also includes the following graphic displaying information provided by MAP.

Macfarlane art graphic

Like the rest of the content in all of Macfarlane’s context-free reports, this graphic makes no attempt to inform BBC audiences of the real reasons behind the information presented. There is of course nothing novel about that: from the very first day of the seven-week conflict the BBC misled its audiences by stating or implying that shortages of medical equipment in the Gaza Strip are a consequence of border restrictions imposed by Israel. On no occasion has any effort been made to clarify to BBC audiences that the permanent shortage of drugs and medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is the result of ongoing disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and that Israel does not place any restrictions whatsoever on the entry of such items into the Strip.

Notably, the same context-free theme was also promoted by the BBC during Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, including in an interview with the then WHO representative Tony Laurance who has since become the chief executive of MAP.

All of these reports by Julia Macfarlane were obviously made with the collaboration of the charities involved in organizing and funding the doctors’ trip.

The charity ‘Ideals‘ states on its website that its ‘donors/supporters’ include Interpal – a UK charity with known connections to Hamas which is designated a terrorist entity by the United States and was the subject of a ‘Panorama‘ programme in 2006.

Macfarlane art Ideals

 

One of Interpal’s associates is Dr Paola Manduca who, together with MAP founder and honorary patron Dr Swee Chai Ang, was at the centre of a recent controversy caused by their publication (with others) of a highly defamatory and politicized letter in The Lancet. That controversy further escalated after the discovery of their promotion of antisemitic material.

According to Julia Macfarlane, the UK doctors’ trip was jointly funded by the British tax-payer (via DFID). The MAP website states that more such DFID-funded missions are planned in the future and that “… MAP will continue to work with the Ministry of Health in Gaza to identify key areas of need and offer specialised medical interventions”.

Both the issue of public funding and the collaboration, via MAP, with the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry should have made the extremist links of the charities showcased by the BBC even more of a matter of public interest, but yet no effort was made whatsoever to inform audiences of those links or MAP’s political agenda in any of Macfarlane’s reports. 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

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

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

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

July 18th:Chart Jul 18

Written:

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive

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

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

Features:

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

What drove Hamas to take on Israel?  Dr Jeroen Gunning

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

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

Filmed:

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

Gaza City resident: ‘Continuous bombing’  Gaza

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

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

July 19th:Chart Jul 19

Written:

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

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

July 20th: (discussion here)

Live page:

As it happened: Gaza conflict intensifies

Written:

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

Features:

In pictures: Gaza conflict intensifies

Filmed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 21st: (discussion here)Chart Jul 21

Written:

Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers, scores of Gazans killed

Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500

Features:

Gaza crisis: Shejaiya assault defines grimmest day  Lyse Doucet

Filmed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaza crisis: Kerry Israel air strike remarks caught on mic

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

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

July 22nd:Chart Jul 22

Written:

Gaza conflict: Five dead at hospital hit by Israeli strike

Gaza conflict: Diplomats push for ceasefire

Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban urges end to fighting

US and European airlines suspend Israel flights

Features:

Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew  Dr Eado Hecht

Filmed:

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

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

Airlines halt flights into Israel   Samira Hussain in New York

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

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

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

John Kerry in Egypt in push for Gaza-Israel ceasefire

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

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

July 23rd:Chart Jul 23

Written:

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

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

Features:

Why Israelis are rallying behind latest Gaza campaign  Gil Hoffman

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

Filmed:

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

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

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

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

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

#BBCtrending: Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies

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

July 24th:Chart Jul 24

Written:

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

UN: Gaza humanitarian situation ‘dire’

Gaza UN school shelter hit, ‘killing 13′

Europe lifts ban on flights to Tel Aviv airport

Features:

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

Filmed:

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

Save the Children: Gaza shelter attack ‘shocking’

Gaza’s hospitals struggle with civilians  Ian Pannell in Gaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25th:Chart Jul 25

Written:

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

Gaza conflict: Israel rejects truce ‘as it stands’

Features:

Israeli and Palestinian women on Gaza conflict

#BBCtrending: Sexy selfies in support of IDF

Filmed:

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

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

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

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

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

Ban Ki-moon and John Kerry news briefing in Cairo

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

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

July 26th:Chart Jul 26

Written:

Gaza conflict: 12-hour truce as deaths top 900

Hamas fires rockets into Israel after Gaza truce bid

Features:

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

Filmed:

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

Mark Regev: Israel ‘wants peace and quiet’

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

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

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

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

 July 27th:Chart Jul 27

Written:

Israel rejects Gaza school shelter attack blame

Israel resumes Gaza offensive after Hamas rockets

Hamas announces new 24-hour Gaza ceasefire with Israel

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

Features:

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

Filmed:

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

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

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

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

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

Middle East: Ed Miliband on Israel and Gaza violence

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

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

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

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

Chart 18 to 27 Jul

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

Chart 8 to 27 Jul

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

Related Articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Connolly opened as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connolly closed:

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

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

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

Further, Connolly later adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

Connolly writes:

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

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

 

 

After effects 3: BBC accuracy failure still being used against Israel

On July 23rd 2014 a member of staff at the Guardian decided to use a certain photograph to illustrate that particular day’s letters page and, by way of a caption, added the following amended quote from one of the letters (ironically complaining about BBC impartiality) published on the same day.

‘For Palestinians, Israel’s attacks are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state.’

With the subject of that sentence being “Israel’s attacks”, one might have expected that the image chosen would have some sort of connection to that topic. However, the photograph selected actually shows a Palestinian father holding the body of his infant son who was killed in November 2012 by a rocket misfired by one of the Palestinian terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Guardian letters page

So why would that Guardian staffer believe that the picture showed the aftermath of “Israel’s attacks”? Well, like other members of the BBC’s audience, he or she was for months mistakenly led to believe by the BBC that Omar Masharawi was killed by an Israeli airstrike.

“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”

Clearly, twenty-one months on, what still remains in people’s memories is the BBC’s extensively promoted inaccurate story – not the subsequent belated correction.

Related Articles:

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

 

 

 

Too little, too late: BBC website feature tries to ‘balance’ Gaza reporting

Six weeks after the ceasefire which brought the summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip to an end came into effect and three weeks after the publication of Yolande Knell’s big feature on Shuja’iya ( “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” – September 15th), the BBC News website published an article titled “Israeli families scarred by Gaza war” on October 6th.Chernofsky art

The article – which appeared on the website’s main homepage as well as on its Middle East page – is specifically introduced to readers as ‘balance’ to Knell’s earlier feature.

“While the August ceasefire which ended the 50-day conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza has held, families on both sides of the border continue to suffer the devastating effects. Following our report on Palestinians whose neighbourhood was destroyed by Israeli bombing, here the BBC’s Erica Chernofsky looks at the impact of the war on three Israeli families.”

Although on the whole factually accurate, the article does not adequately inform readers of almost three hundred missile attacks on Israeli civilians carried out by terrorists in the Gaza Strip during June and the first week of July, meaning that readers are not aware of why Israel needed to “restore quiet to its communities” in the first place or of the efforts made by Israel to avoid a military operation.

“This past summer, millions of Israelis – from the small southern city of Sderot to the bustling coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv – lived under regular rocket attacks from the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Attacks surged after Israel launched an offensive to restore quiet to its communities.”

The section relating to Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels fails to make any mention of the numerous attacks carried out via those tunnels during the conflict, including that of July 17th which made the subsequent ground operation inevitable.

“However this operation uncovered a far sinister threat against Israeli citizens, that which Israel calls the “terror tunnels”.

These are a vast underground network with numerous shafts, many of which led from inside Gaza to Israeli communities in southern Israel.

A tunnel opening was even found near a kibbutz dining hall and kindergarten. Israelis were shocked by media reports that Hamas had planned on using such tunnels to commit a mass attack on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

Israel said it HAD destroyed 32 of these tunnels, but Yael Raz-Lachiani from Kibbutz Nahal Oz, less than 1km (0.6 miles) from the Gaza border, is still living in fear.”

Moreover, no effort is made to clarify to BBC audiences the all-important connection between the tunnels described in this article and the scenes of destruction described by Yolande Knell in her earlier feature, even though almost a third of the tunnels which Chernofsky correctly notes were decommissioned during the operation originated in the Shuja’iya neighbourhood which was the subject of Knell’s big feature and a subsequent radio report.Tunnel shafts Shujaiya

But perhaps the most notable thing about this report is its timing. Prior to Operation Protective Edge Israeli towns and villages located in the western Negev were under escalated attack by terrorists in the Gaza Strip for almost five weeks and yet – as was similarly the case in the period preceding Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 – at no point during that period did even one BBC reporter set foot in Sderot, Nahal Oz or Ashkelon.

BBC audiences did not hear the voices of fearful mothers residing in the kibbutzim just a few hundred yards from the border with Gaza or those of people still living under constant threat of missile attack even though they were uprooted from their homes during Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip nine years ago before Israel began its military operation. Had such voices been brought to BBC audiences at the appropriate time, they may have gained a more balanced view of the subsequent conflict.

So whilst Erica Chernofsky’s article is of course welcome, it can do little at this late juncture to address the inaccurate impressions created by weeks of imbalanced BBC reporting.