No BBC report on latest missile attack from Gaza Strip

With the BBC having sent at least two of its Jerusalem Bureau staff to cover the story of migrants and refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean (Quentin Sommerville has been reporting from Libya and Yolande Knell from Sicily), coverage of events in Israel has been decidedly sparse over the past two weeks.No news

One significant incident – which did not even receive coverage in the form of an agency-based report on the BBC News website – occurred on the evening of April 23rd when a missile was fired from the Gaza Strip for the first time since December.

“Sirens went off sounded in the city of Sderot and in other Gaza-bordering communities just before 10 P.M. on Thursday, and residents of the area reported hearing several explosions shortly after. Security services are scouring the area in an attempt to locate the precise landing site.

“We heard the siren, grabbed our child and rushed to the safe room,” said Adi Betan Meiri, a resident of Sderot. “At first we thought it was a false alarm, probably because the rain had messed up the siren. Then we heard a loud explosion. The child was very scared, as were we. We closed the steel shutter which had been open for months.””

Fortunately, the missile did not land in a residential area.

“The projectile exploded harmlessly in an open, uninhabited area, the IDF said, adding that security forces were searching for its remnants.

In response, the IDF struck a terror target in northern Gaza to the earlier rocket attack, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Thursday shortly before midnight.

It was not immediately clear which organization launched the attack. The assessment within the army is that a small Gazan terror group, not Hamas, fired the rocket.”

Expanding on that latter topic, Y-Net reported:

“In recent days Hamas has executed a wave of arrests of Salafists in the Strip, following a series of explosions across Gaza. Hamas’ security forces have searched relentlessly for those responsible but the identity of the mastermind behind the attacks remains unclear.

 According to Salafi sources, 13 of their members were arrested, and it is possible the rocket fire on Israel tonight was intended to embarrass Hamas over the arrests.”

The BBC has also not reported on that recent wave of explosions in the Gaza Strip – including one near the UNRWA headquarters.

Readers may recall that at the beginning of April the BBC gave multi-platform promotion to Khaled Masha’al’s bizarre claim that there are no Jihadist groups in the Gaza Strip. Five days after that interview with Jeremy Bowen was broadcast, Hamas reportedly arrested an ISIS-linked Salafist.

“Gaza’s Hamas-run security services have arrested a radical Salafist sheikh, accusing him of membership in the Islamic State (IS) group, a security source said on Monday.

“Adnan Khader Mayat from the Bureij refugee camp (in central Gaza) was arrested as part of an investigation,” the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity and without giving further details.

Sources close to the Salafists said Mayat had been arrested on Sunday “by the Hamas government security services who fight mujahedeen who belong to the Salafist movement.””

Despite the fact that the BBC has a permanent office in the Gaza Strip, internal Palestinian affairs continue to be severely under-reported. That fact obviously not only detracts from audience understanding of Palestinian politics and society but also hampers their ability to comprehend Israeli responses to the attacks on its civilian population by assorted factions operating in the Gaza Strip.

That scenario is of course all too familiar. Between June 14th and July 8th 2014 (the beginning of Operation Protective Edge), two hundred and eighty-eight missiles hit Israeli territory. Not only did the BBC fail to adequately report on those attacks (which were mostly carried out by groups other than Hamas) at the time, but it has subsequently also managed to erase them from its accounts of the causes of last summer’s conflict.  

Related Articles:

The BBC News website’s Middle East priorities: missile ignored, football fight reported

Missile from Gaza not news for the BBC but Israeli response gets headlines

BBC WS radio interview with writer conceals anti-Israel activism

Sadly, there is nothing novel about context-free BBC promotion of the Anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) and its proponents. But whilst that political crusade to bring about the demise of Jewish self-determination by means of delegitimisation and demonization is not infrequently directly or indirectly amplified in BBC programming, the corporation inevitably refrains from informing its audiences exactly for what its ‘one-stater’ supporters are campaigning.

“With pressure imposed by the international community through a BDS campaign a la anti-Apartheid campaign which brought Apartheid South Africa to an end, we believe that Israel itself can be transformed into a secular democratic state after the return of 6 million Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948, a state for ALL of its citizens…therefore, we think that one of the major tools of the struggle towards a secular democratic state is BDS.” Haider Eid, 2009

“So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state…I view the BDS movement as a long-term project with radically transformative potential… the success of the BDS movement is tied directly to our success in humanizing Palestinians and discrediting Zionism as a legitimate way of regarding the world.” Ahmed Moor, 2010

“BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine.” Ronnie Kasrils, 2009

Concurrently, the BBC also often falls short of its own Editorial Guidelines on impartiality by failing to clarify that interviewees are involved with the BDS campaign and/or additional anti-Israel political activities. Such was the case on April 17th when the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outlook’ interviewed Dervla Murphy – correctly introduced by presenter Matthew Bannister as a travel writer, but with no mention made of her equally relevant anti-Israel political activities.Outlook 17 4

The programme’s synopsis – which is similar to the verbal introduction – reads:

“In 1963, Dervla Murphy left her tiny village of Lismore in Ireland to fulfil a childhood ambition to cycle all the way to India. It was the first of many epic journeys on a shoestring which she turned into best-selling books. Now in her eighties, Dervla has been to destinations as far apart as Siberia, Peru, Cameroon and Tibet. Her latest book tells of spending months living in Israeli settlements and refugee camps in the Palestinian territories.”

Most of the interview (available from 09:15 here) relates to other topics but from 19:28 listeners heard the following:

Bannister: “What took you to Israel and the Palestinian territories? I think you’ve been back there in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. You’ve even lived in a refugee camp. What took you to that part of the world?”

Murphy: “Well I suppose that is a bit like the impulse that sent me to the north of Ireland and then of course it became much more complicated because, you know, I realized that our world – the West if you like – we really bear a lot of the guilt for how the Palestinians are ill-treated. So I mean it’s one hell of a mess.”

Bannister: “What did you think that your contribution was going to be to the debate because so many words have been spoken and written about that area? What did you feel when you set out to live there for long periods of time that you would be able to add?”

Murphy: “Well I didn’t think that I would be able to add anything in the way of information or insights; anything like that. But why I wrote the two books is because friends said to me ‘well yes; there are hundreds – thousands probably – of really, really good well-researched, well-written books on this theme but if you write a book on the same theme – just your own experiences – it’s possible that you will be able to reach a readership that is not interested in the problems’. I mean the world is so full of problems [laughs]. But, you know, that because they happen to like my travel books, they would read it and therefore the understanding would be widened.”

Bannister: “I understand”.

In other words, the political aims behind Murphy’s book promoted in this programme are clearly of prime importance and of course some insight into those motivations would have helped listeners put the unchallenged simplistic claim that “Palestinians are ill-treated” into its appropriate context.

“In all the countries I’ve visited,” she told me, “that is the only one where I felt it was my actual duty as a writer not to be neutral. Not to play this game of… we must look at this, look at that. We must only look at the fact that the Palestinians are treated utterly outrageously.” But each side, she says, must relinquish a dream in return for peace: the one-state solution is the only answer. “The Palestinians have to give up any notion of having their own separate, independent state, just as the Israelis have to give up having their Jewish-only state… In a sense that’s a good beginning: they both have to give up.”

As one reviewer of Murphy’s previous book about the Gaza Strip put it:

“…it is evident that this is not a travel book at all. The genre has a tendency towards self-indulgence, but there is at least a convention that the reader goes on a psychological, spiritual or political journey with the author as he or she is changed by the otherness of the experience of being somewhere else. There is none of that here. This is a travelogue entirely without a journey. Dervla Murphy has decided what she thinks about the Israel-Palestine conflict long before she sets foot in Gaza and everything she experiences merely reinforces her view that Zionism is a colonial disease that lives only to spread its poison.”

So here we have yet another example of the BBC’s casual mainstreaming of anti-Israel political activism by means of context-free promotion of its inadequately introduced proponents and their activities. We learn that the BBC apparently has no qualms about giving free promotion to a book designed to spread the propaganda of a campaign seeking to destroy a sovereign state and thus deny self-determination to a specific group of people. We might of course ponder the question of whether the corporation would be similarly eager to add its weight to the promotion of a campaign to revoke the basic rights of any other group of people. 

 

 

PLC elections 5 years overdue, but BBC Capital touts Hamas as ‘democratically elected’

h/t DG

Jui Chakravorty is a former Reuters journalist who founded a company called ‘b-yond tv’ which, according to its mission statement, is “a digital video startup that brings you short, socio-cultural stories from around the world by training and working with aspiring journalists on the ground”.

On April 16th the business feature section called BBC Capital – which appears on the international version of the BBC’s website – published a report apparently purchased from ‘b-yond tv’ titled “Young, female and forging ahead in Gaza“.BBC Capital Gaza

As readers are no doubt aware:

“All BBC programmes and content must comply with the BBC’s policies and guidelines. […]

During production it is an independent production companies [sic] responsibility to work in accordance with the BBC Editorial Guidelines.” [source]

Those Editorial Guidelines include a section on accuracy and hence viewers of Jui Chakravorty’s video may have been surprised to hear her speak of “the democratically elected ruling party Hamas” and to see the same phrase used in the video’s synopsis.

That statement is obviously misleading to any member of the BBC’s audience not already aware of the fact that not only did Hamas gain control of the Gaza Strip by violent and decidedly undemocratic means but its mandate to govern expired long ago and elections are already more than five years overdue.

Viewers also hear a variety of context-free statements such as this one from interviewee Mona Shawa of the political NGO PCHR:

“Gaza faced more than three wars in less than six years. All these circumstances affected the lives of women.” [emphasis added]

And this one from Chakravorty herself:

“Each time, during the conflict and for months after, women – especially mothers to young children – had to fend for [sic] water, food, basic survival necessities. Even today, homes lie in rubble and power outages are frequent.”

Chakravorty tells viewers:

“Said Hassan, communications consultant at Gaza Sky Geeks, said one aspect of life in Gaza that makes entrepreneurship a little bit easier for women is the ease of travel.

SH: “Well, being a woman entrepreneur in Gaza it’s much easier for you to get visas and to get outside of Gaza.”

Chakravorty continues:

“Gaza has two crossings for people: the Erez crossing controlled by Israel in the north and the Rafah crossing into Egypt in the south. Permits for Erez are extremely hard to get and for Rafah, men need visas but women don’t.”

The Rafah crossing has of course been kept largely closed by Egypt since mid-2013 and most recently for 100 consecutive days. However, residents of the Gaza Strip do use the Erez crossing and in January 2015 alone, 5,670 business people exited the territory by that route. In other words, Chakravorty’s suggestion that travel is easier via Egypt because permits to cross into Israel are “extremely hard to get” is obviously not an accurate portrayal of reality.

One would imagine that in addition to stipulating that independent production companies must comply with BBC Editorial Guidelines, the BBC must have some sort of system in place for checking the accuracy and impartiality of commissioned content before it is published. If it does, the system obviously did not work in this case.

A way but no will: BBC coverage of Palestinian affairs in Q1 2015

We have often noted on these pages that the BBC’s coverage of Palestinian affairs is for the most part focused on subjects with some sort of connection to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and that the corporation shows considerably less interest in reporting on internal Palestinian topics such as domestic politics, human rights or social issues. Even reports which ostensibly do deal with purely Palestinian stories are frequently used as a hook for political messaging.

Throughout the first quarter of 2015 twenty-nine reports relating to the Palestinian Authority, PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip appeared on the BBC News website, along with an additional three previously discussed reports relating to specific incidents of terrorism perpetrated by Palestinian attackers. 

Four of those reports related to the Palestinian Authority’s bid to join the ICC:ICC probe art

Palestinians sign up to join International Criminal Court (discussed here)

Palestinians submit ICC membership bid documents

Will ICC membership help or hinder the Palestinians’ cause?  (originally published on January 14th – discussed here)

Israel-Palestinian ‘war crimes’ probed by the ICC (discussed here)

Three reports were about PA tax revenue transfers suspended – and later reinstated – by Israel:

Israel freezes Palestine tax funds over ICC bid

US opposes Israeli tax freeze on Palestinians

Israel to resume tax transfers to Palestinian Authority (discussed here)

One report related to the PLO’s recommendation to halt security cooperation with Israel:

PLO votes to end historic Israeli security agreement (discussed here)

One report concerned Palestinian views of the Israeli election:

Israel election: The view from Ramallah  – Yolande Knell  (discussed here)Knell filmed 17 3

One report marked the ten-year anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat:

Arafat’s widow on husband’s legacy  (discussed here)

Two reports related to water issues connected to the city of Rawabi:

Rawabi: A new Palestinian city in the West Bank and The new Palestinian city that lacks only one thing – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Three reports concerned terrorism:

Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers (discussed here)

The lost sons (discussed here)

Palestinian groups face $218m Israel attacks fine in US (discussed here)

Three reports related to damage to buildings in the Gaza Strip resulting from last summer’s conflict and the slow pace of reconstruction:

Gaza resident: ‘Everyone has forgotten us’ – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Caught in a wasteland: Gaza six months after the ceasefire  – Lyse Doucet (discussed here)

Banksy artwork appears on the streets and walls of Gaza – Rushdi Abualouf (discussed here)

Two reports concerned Palestinian Islamic Jihad rearmament:

Palestinian Islamic Jihad have rearmed and replenished ranks and Inside Gaza’s tunnels, militants get ready for the next war – Quentin Sommerville (discussed here)

One article was about an Amnesty International report on the subject of Hamas war crimes:

Amnesty: Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes

Examples of reports ostensibly covering Palestinian stories but used as a hook for political messaging include a feature by Yolande Knell on Christmas in Bethlehem, an article by Yolande Knell on Palestinian democracy, a sports article and a report about a protest in Ramallah.Knell Democracy Day art

The town with three Christmas Days – Yolande Knell (discussed here)

How Palestinian democracy has failed to flourish – Yolande Knell (discussed here)

Palestine lose 4-0 to Japan in first Asian Cup match (discussed here)

Canada’s foreign minister egged in Ramallah by protesters and Palestinians throw eggs at Canada’s John Baird (discussed here)

Just three of the reports appearing on the BBC News website during the first quarter of 2015 can be said to give audiences some sort of glimpse into Palestinian social issues.  In “Saving Gaza’s only grand piano” Tim Whewell briefly touches on the issue of attitudes towards music:

“but with […] a steady growth of conservatism in local society, such performances became a thing of the past. After the Islamist militant movement, Hamas, took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, live music events became even rarer.”

And:

“The music school has existed for seven years, discreetly hidden away inside the Gaza headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent. It operates only in the evenings but provides a rare space for music in a society where some reject it as haram – forbidden by God.”

The BBC Monitoring report titled “Palestinian paper apologises over ‘Muhammad cartoon'” includes a brief description of what it deems to be the prevalent social attitude on that topic and the Palestinian Authority’s reaction.

Whilst Rushdi Abualouf informs readers of his article titled “Can music help to de-stigmatise disability in Gaza?” that “despite the high prevalence of people with disabilities in the territory, disabled children are still shrouded in social stigma” he refrains from informing readers about the relevant topic of congenital disabilities – instead focusing their attentions on ‘the conflict’ as a cause of disability.

“The tiny territory has been blighted by successive conflicts between Palestinian militants and Israel, which have had serious physical and psychological impacts on the population.

It’s estimated that between 126,000 and 270,000 members of the population in Gaza are disabled, according to a 2012 report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and the 50-day conflict last summer has left many more with a long-term or permanent impairment.”

Palestinian paper apologises over ‘Muhammad cartoon’

Can music help to de-stigmatise disability in Gaza?  – Rushdi Abualouf

Saving Gaza’s only grand piano – Tim Whewell

However, visitors to the BBC News website during the first quarter of 2015 learned nothing substantial about the ongoing animosity between ‘unity government’ partners Hamas and Fatah which continues to deter international donors from contributing to reconstruction in the Gaza Strip. They were also not informed of the resignation of the unity government’s deputy prime minister or of allegations of human rights abuses by Hamas and a PA crackdown on social media users and journalists. The topic of Hamas’ rearming and reorganization was only briefly mentioned in a couple of BBC reports with no serious attempt made to explore that obviously important issue.  And of course the topic of the long overdue elections for both the Palestinian legislative body and president remain a no-go area for BBC journalists – along with subjects such as women’s rights, gay rights and the rights of religious minorities.

As the BBC’s World Editor acknowledged last year, the fact that it has permanent offices in Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem – as well as an entire Arabic-speaking division – means that the BBC is better placed than most if not all Western media organisations to provide its audiences with quality in-depth journalism which goes beyond the usual flat-pack reports on the subject of ‘the conflict’. So whilst there is already a way, what appears to be lacking is a will – and the question the corporation’s funding public must be asking is why. 

Comparing BBC coverage of civilian casualties in Yemen and Gaza

As readers no doubt recall, within twenty-four hours of the commencement of Operation Protective Edge in July 2014, the BBC had begun promoting the theme of ‘Israeli war crimes’. In the first week of the conflict, BBC audiences were also told that Israel deliberately targeted civilians and heard claims of ‘collective punishment’ and a ‘disproportionate’ Israeli response to the actions of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Throughout the BBC’s coverage of the seven week-long hostilities, the topic of civilian casualties was by far the most prominent with thousands of words and hours of air-time devoted to emotive reporting of the plight of civilians in the Gaza Strip and Hamas-supplied casualty figures quoted unquestioningly.

Six days after the commencement of airstrikes on Yemen on March 26th by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition, the UN estimated that almost a hundred civilians had been killed and some 364 injured. The actual figure can be reasonably assumed to be higher by now.

The BBC has to date refrained from ‘parachuting in’ to Yemen star reporters such as Lyse Doucet and Jeremy Bowen as it did during last summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip and it is interesting to ponder the question of whether the corporation’s reporting on civilian casualties in Yemen is affected by that fact.

In an article titled “Saudi Arabia launches air strikes in Yemen” published on the BBC News website on March 26th readers were informed that:Yemen 1

“A civil defence source told the AFP news agency that 13 civilians were killed when seven homes near the al-Dulaimi air base were destroyed. The Houthis’ al-Masirah TV quoted the health ministry as putting the death toll at 18.”

The BBC refrained from making any pronunciations with regard to the legality of the airstrikes or their ‘proportionality’. Likewise, no accompanying claims of ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’ appeared in the BBC’s March 28th article titled “Yemen crisis: Saudis lead fresh air strikes on Houthis” which informed readers that:

“Since the air campaign began, at least 39 civilians – including six children under the age of 10 – have been killed, Yemen health ministry officials say.”

An article titled “Yemen crisis: Dozens killed by ‘air strike’ near refugee camp” published on March 30th was guarded in its presentation of information not independently verified by the BBC.

“An air strike has killed at least 40 people at a refugee camp in northwest Yemen, aid workers have said.

State media said Saudi planes were responsible, but the Yemeni foreign minister said “artillery strikes” by Houthi rebels were to blame.”

An article published on April 1st under the title “Yemen crisis: Blast at Hudaydah factory ‘kills 35′” also presented the story in cautious language, acknowledging that the causes of incidents are not always immediately clear.Yemen 2

“At least 35 workers have been killed by a blast at a dairy factory in western Yemen, medics say, as Saudi-led air strikes continue against Houthi rebels.

There were conflicting reports about the cause of the overnight explosion in the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah.

Witnesses said coalition aircraft hit warehouses belonging to the factory. Anti-aircraft guns then returned fire, before the factory itself caught fire.

The UN has expressed alarm at the rising number of civilian casualties.”

The article also states:

“The Saudi-led coalition also bombarded Houthi positions in Aden overnight. A military official told the AFP news agency that there were “many dead and wounded”.

The coalition has insisted that it is trying to avoid killing civilians.

“Collateral damage can happen… but I confirm to you that the coalition takes all care,” spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri was quoted as saying by AFP.

But on Tuesday Amnesty International accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of “turning a blind eye to civilian deaths”, and the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) reported that at least 62 children had been killed and 30 hurt over the past week.”

Jeremy Bowen was not on hand to inform the world that Saudi Arabia “has serious questions to answer”.

An additional article from April 1st – “Yemen crisis: Where does Saudi offensive go next?” by Frank Gardener – is equally cautious in attributing responsibility:

“At least 35 civilians were killed on Tuesday night in an attack on a dairy factory suspected of being used by rebels as a weapons cache, although the cause of the deaths was unclear.”

An April 2nd report titled “Yemen crisis: Fighting intensifies in Aden” has a subsection headed “Civilian deaths” which states:

“As the fighting continues, concern over casualties has risen.

A spokeswoman for the aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) told the BBC that its hospital in Aden had received more than 500 injured people from all sides in the conflict over the last two weeks.

Coalition spokesman, Gen Ahmed Asir, told the BBC’s Frank Gardner in Riyadh that “it was a hard task to target” the rebels.

The coalition was “using all intelligence resources to make sure they are not hitting the wrong target. We do not hit any target without making sure it is a Houthi or troops loyal to former President Saleh,” he said.

The UN has also expressed alarm at the rising number of civilian deaths in Yemen.”

So what caused BBC reporting on civilian casualties in the first week of conflict in Yemen to be so different from its reporting on the first week of last summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip and why are audiences not reading or hearing the same amateur opinions on ‘international law’ or accusations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, collective punishment and deliberate targeting of civilians?

The all too obvious answer to those questions is that in this case the BBC’s correspondents are not focused on promoting a pre-existing politically motivated narrative and amplifying unquestioned and unchallenged messaging from NGOs with a similar political world view to that held by visiting journalists. Instead, they are reporting the news. 

 

More enablement of Hamas propaganda from BBC’s ME editor

In addition to the previously discussed written and filmed reports based around Jeremy Bowen’s recent interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al in Doha published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 1st, other filmed reports appeared on BBC television news programmes on that date.

In one report viewers yet again saw Masha’al being given a platform from which to promote the notion that his organisation is different from other Islamist groups operating in the region. Bowen’s failure to challenge the statement “There is no Daesh [ISIS], no IS or Al Qaeda in Palestine. There are some lone wolves but they are isolated. We don’t allow such thoughts in Palestine” should of course be assessed within the context of the fact that a BBC reporter was kidnapped by the Al Qaeda affiliated group Jaish al Islam in Gaza in 2007 and in light of the history of Hamas’ relations with that group and others.

“In a previous agreement between the two groups, Hamas had given Jaish al-Islam $5 million and more than a million Kalashnikov bullets in compensation for its freeing of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Jaish al-Islam also received formal recognition from Hamas as a legitimate jihadi organization, and it was agreed that joint actions carried out in the past would not be revealed.”

Notable too is the fact that whilst Bowen clearly does not believe the oft-touted myth that all unrest in the Middle East is ultimately attributable to the Palestinian –Israeli conflict, he still gives Masha’al a platform for promotion of that ridiculous notion and others – including the claim that “we are the owners of the land”.

Another report seen by viewers of BBC television news programmes opens with aerial footage of Shuja’iya which has already been used in several BBC reports. No attempt is made to put that footage into its correct context, meaning that audiences are led to believe that it is representative of the situation in the whole of the Gaza Strip.

Bowen tells viewers that:

“Israel has walled and fenced Gaza so Hamas opened up another front – underground.”

He provides no background information concerning the reasons why Israel had to construct walls against snipers and fences against infiltrators and even goes on to promote the regularly used – and repeatedly disproved – Hamas propaganda line according to which it only attacks military targets.

“Hamas says the tunnels were part of an active defence aimed at military targets.”

Of course there are plenty of examples of Hamas officials stating that the terror organisation’s policy is to target Israeli civilians – including this one from Fawzi Barhoum.  

“We say to [Israeli Arabs], living in Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, Lod, Ramla, and the Negev: The rockets fired by the Al-Qassam Brigades will not hit you. We know those parts. We are familiar with the geography and with the history. Not a single Arab Palestinian child will be hit by one of our missiles. Our rockets are aimed at the Hebrews, the murderers, the Israelis, the criminals. […] We say to our people in Haifa: The missiles of Al-Qassam will not hit any Arab home. Rest assured, our missiles accurately target the homes of the Israelis and the Zionists.” [ Al-Aqsa TV, July 11, 2014] [emphasis added]

With regard to the cross-border tunnels specifically:

“On four separate occasions throughout the 2014 Gaza Conflict, Hamas militants emerged from covert tunnels onto Israeli territory, within the territory or in close proximity to Israeli residential communities:

  • On July 17, thirteen Hamas militants infiltrated into Israel through a tunnel that opened just 1.5 km from civilian homes in an Israeli community, Kibbutz Sufa. In light of the imminent danger, the residents of 12 nearby residential communities were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes for up to five hours.
  • Two days later, on July 19, approximately 10 Hamas militants emerged from a tunnel opening 4.7 km from civilian homes in Kibbutz Be’eri armed with lethal weapons as well as tranquillizers and handcuffs for kidnapping Israelis. The residents of five residential communities near the border with Gaza were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes in the hours surrounding the attack.
  • On July 21, approximately 12 Hamas militants infiltrated Israel via an underground tunnel that opened in the territory of Kibbutz Nir Am, just 1.3 km from civilian homes in the Kibbutz and 1.1 km from civilian homes in the town of Sderot, communities bordering Gaza. Militants disguised as IDF soldiers and armed with lethal weapons headed towards Nir Am. To ensure their protection, the IDF instructed the residents of all of the communities in the Otef Aza border region to barricade themselves in their homes for hours.
  • On July 28, nine Hamas militants infiltrated Israeli territory through a tunnel opening in the territory of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, just 2 km from civilian homes in the Kibbutz. The residents of the residential communities of Nahal Oz and Alumim were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes in the hours surrounding the attack. Following the attack, three ready-to-use motorcycles and deadly weapons were found inside the tunnel, attesting to the militants’ ability to penetrate deep into Israeli territory and carry out attacks.”

In October 2014 the Hamas newspaper al Risalah interviewed a Hamas commander who said:

“The Al-Qassam Brigades use the tunnels for several military missions, such as: firing rockets on Israeli cities; firing massive barrages of hundreds of mortars on the settlements around the Gaza Strip, and carrying out quality operations behind enemy lines that have resulted in the killing and capture of soldiers and terrorized millions of Israelis…” [emphasis added]

Clearly – when addressing its domestic audience – even Hamas itself does not buy into Jeremy Bowen’s promotion of the notion of exclusively “military targets”.

Bowen continues:

“Israel calls them terror tunnels to back up rocket attacks which Amnesty International says showed a flagrant disregard for civilian lives.”

In fact, as the BBC reported on March 26th, Amnesty International said rather more than that: it described Hamas’ missile attacks as “unlawful attacks” which “amount to war crimes”. Bowen, however, conceals that information from viewers.

Predictably, these filmed reports from Bowen join the two previous ones on the same topic in not only failing to meet the BBC’s commitment to “build a global understanding of international issues”, but actively sabotaging that public purpose as defined in the BBC’s charter. 

BBC’s Knell returns to the Gaza rubble

More than an entire month has gone by since BBC audiences got their last ‘reporter in the Gaza rubble’ fix from Lyse Doucet and so it came as little surprise to see the baton handed to Yolande Knell on April 1st.

Knell’s written and filmed versions of the same story – “Gaza family ‘tricked’ into selling Banksy painting for $175” and “Palestinian ‘tricked’ over Banksy art” – both appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.Knell Banksy written  

In the written report readers learned that:

“A Palestinian man says he was tricked into selling a mural by the artist Banksy that is estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Rabie Darduna told the BBC he was given less than $175 (£118) for the image drawn on the only remaining door of his house in Gaza.

It was one of thousands of homes destroyed during last year’s war.

Banksy visited Gaza in February and used the rubble as a canvas for his politicised graffiti.”

That story was also covered at the time by the BBC’s Gaza correspondent Rushdi Abualouf.

In the filmed version of Knell’s report shown on BBC television news programmes, viewers heard the following context-free introduction:

“Their lives in ruins: thousands of families in Gaza lost their homes in last year’s brutal war with Israel.”

Throughout the report Knell continues to use the story of a man who now regrets selling something he got for free after he discovered its proper value as a hook upon which to hang her real message.

“And when the British artist Banksy made a surprise visit here a month ago, this rubble inspired his politicized art.”

“The street art that Banksy left here in Gaza […] is meant to highlight the destruction here…”

“Back in Gaza the Darduna family can’t get over this cruel twist of fate. Banksy painted on their destroyed house to show he cares about Palestinians’ plight but now they’ve lost his unexpected gift they feel their suffering even more acutely.” [emphasis added]

At the bottom of the filmed report’s synopsis, audiences are invited to click on a link titled “Writing on the Wall” which leads them to the BBC’s ‘iWonder’ website. That site is billed as a project intended to “educate and inform” and “a ‘one-stop-shop’ for factual and educational content” and so – as we have noted here before – one might expect it to stick to accurate and impartial facts.Knell Banksy filmed

The page to which that promoted links leads includes, however, the following context-free politicized slogans: [all emphasis added]

“Banksy is the most well known graffiti artist in the world, even though he has never revealed his true identity. Quirky and political, his work has satirised oppression in Palestine, hypocrisy in politics and capitalist greed in London.”

Continuing his use of public spaces to display his work, he choose one of the most controversial walls in the world.

In 2005, to comment on Israeli involvement in Palestine, Banksy travelled to the Middle East and targeted the West Bank wall. His satirical stencils criticised Israeli militarism and oppression. The works provoked fierce debate in the media over whether a wall judged to be “illegal” by the International Court of Justice could in fact be vandalised. Banksy described the wall as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers”.

Yes – that is what the BBC apparently defines as “educational content”.  

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Revisiting BBC reporting on July 2014 Shuja’iya market incident

On July 30th 2014 the BBC News website published an article (which is still available) titled “Gaza conflict: ‘Israeli market strike kills 17′” in which audiences were told that:market written

“At least 17 people have been killed and 160 wounded in an Israeli strike that hit a fruit and vegetable market near Gaza City, Palestinian officials say.

Hundreds of people were shopping in the market in Shejaiya, a spokesman for the Gaza health ministry said.

The attack came during a four-hour truce called by the Israeli military. Hamas, which controls Gaza, had rejected the truce as meaningless. […]

Witnesses at the scene of the market strike in Shejaiya spoke of smoke billowing over the site, with ambulances racing victims to hospital.

A journalist who worked for a local news agency was reported to have been killed.

One witness, Salim Qadoum, told Associated Press: “The area now is like a bloodbath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre.”

The Palestinian al-Aqsa satellite TV channel quoted Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum as saying that the market attack required “an earth-shattering response”.

The Israeli military had said the ceasefire would last between 15:00 (12:00 GMT) and 19:00.

However, it had warned that the truce would only apply to areas where Israeli soldiers were not currently operating, and it told residents not to return to areas they had previously been asked to evacuate.”

On the same day, Martin Patience produced a filmed report on the same incident for BBC television news which still appears on the corporation’s website under the title “Gaza conflict: ‘Israeli market strike kills 15′“. Like the written report, Patience’s account tells of civilians attacked by “an Israeli airstrike” and he informs viewers that:market filmed

“…it’s difficult to know which areas were actually covered by this partial ceasefire….but what areas are covered, I don’t think most Palestinians know.”

That incident is one of several which appear in the latest report from the Military Attorney General. Investigation into the incident shows that the BBC’s rapid and unquestioning repetition of Hamas officials’ tales of an out-of-the-blue Israeli airstrike on civilians during a cease-fire breached editorial guidelines on both accuracy and impartiality.

“In reports published in various media sources, it was alleged that on 30 July 2014, IDF forces fired upon the marketplace in Shuja’iyya, at a time when a ceasefire was in place, and as a result of these strikes, between 15 to 17 people were killed, including children, emergency services personnel, and reporters. Subsequently, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, the incident was referred to the FFA Mechanism for examination. […]

According to the factual findings collated by the FFA Mechanism and presented to the MAG, the events associated with the incident started at approximately 16:10, when an anti-tank (AT) missile was fired at IDF forces operating in an open area on the outskirts of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood. Immediately after the anti-tank missile was fired, there commenced an intense and ongoing burst of mortar fire, emanating from a built-up area in the neighborhood, targeting the forces. As a result of this fire an IDF soldier was injured and the rest of the soldiers at the scene were placed in real danger. Further, in light of this use of fire, and the situation in which the forces found themselves (including a tank that could not move due to malfunction), the conclusion drawn by the commanders in the field was that this fire could provide cover for an attempt to abduct a soldier. During this episode of mortar fire, five sites in a built-up area were identified as points from which shells had been fired at IDF forces. Nevertheless, IDF forces did not return fire towards the sources of this fire, because of their proximity to “sensitive sites” (in the IDF, “sensitive sites” are civilian sites that receive special protection from attack under the law of armed conflict (such as medical facilities), as well as other civilian sites that warrant special consideration for policy reasons, even when there is no legal obligation (such as schools); such sites are identified in advance by the IDF and integrated into IDF’s operational systems).

At approximately 16:40, when the mortar fire had not yet ceased, IDF forces fired a number of rounds of smoke-screening shells, in order to screen the troops, and frustrate the enemy fire. At approximately 17:00, as the mortar fire upon the troops from the built-up area continued, and in light of the ongoing threat to the lives of the troops, the forces were able to identify two additional sources of fire, from which most of the fire towards them was originating at that time. After it was concluded that one of these points was sufficiently distant from sensitive sites, it was decided to return a limited amount of fire, of five mortar shells, with the aim of suppressing the fire targeted at IDF forces. The IDF fire was carried out using mortars, since there was no available alternative for carrying out the strike, including aerial alternatives, which would allow the necessary operational effect to be achieved. In this context, the possibility of using 155 mm high-explosive artillery shells was also considered, in order to address the danger faced by the forces. This possibility was dismissed for the reason that the collateral damage expected from mortar shells was more limited.

Approximately 18 minutes after the initial mortar fire was carried out by the forces, towards the source of the fire, and after the fire emanating from that site had not ceased, it was decided to fire an additional ten mortars towards it. After this round of fire, the mortar fire on IDF forces ceased. Only around 40 minutes after the execution of the above-mentioned fire were reports received by the IDF regarding the hit on civilians in this area.

The FFA Mechanism’s findings further revealed that at the time of the incident, the forces had believed that the likelihood of civilians being harmed as a result of the fire was low. Before the start of the ground incursion in Shuja’iyya, a widespread warning to evacuate had been provided, which, according to the information in the force’s possession, had resulted in the evacuation of the vast majority of the civilian population in the neighborhood. An additional warning to evacuate was made two days prior to the incident, on 28 July, in order to keep the civilian population at a distance from the area of hostilities. Moreover, during the ongoing aerial surveillance carried out in the area in the period leading up to the incident, no civilian presence was identified on the roads and in the open areas of the neighborhood – which are the areas in which the danger posed by mortar shells is generally greater than the danger to those inside a building. In real time, no aerial surveillance capabilities were available to the forces. Thus, even if the possibility of civilian presence in the area had not been entirely ruled out, in consideration of the assessment that most of the population had evacuated and that no civilian presence was identified in the area prior to the incident, the understanding was that the risk of harm as a result of the limited fire was low.

After the event, by comparing the actions taken by IDF forces with the allegations contained in the complaint received by the MAG Corps, it can be concluded that one of the shells from the first round of fire carried out by IDF forces apparently struck the roof of the Al-Salak family, at a time when the family was on the roof, and killed seven family members; and that two shells from the second round of fire carried out by IDF forces apparently struck the crowd which had gathered next to the Al-Salak house in the wake of the first strike. At the same time, the possibility that the harm to civilians during this incident resulted from a misfire by a Palestinian terror organization has not been ruled out, in light of the extensive enemy mortar fire emanating from the area at the time.

In addition to the above, intelligence information indicated that six of the deceased in this incident appear to have been militants, and thus the total civilian fatalities is lower than that alleged in the complaint.

The FFA Mechanism’s findings further concluded, that the incident in question did not take place during a ceasefire in Shuja’iyya. The IDF announced a unilateral humanitarian ceasefire between the hours of 15:00 and 19:00 on that day, but clarified that this would not apply in a number of specific areas in which IDF forces were operating at that time, including Shuja’iyya (along with a number of other areas). This was transmitted in the media and in messages that were passed to the Palestinian side.” [all emphasis added]

In light of the fact that last year the BBC announced that “However long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”,  the BBC clearly needs to either remove those two reports from its website or to amend them with prominent clarification of the actual circumstances of the incident.

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Revisiting BBC reporting of civilian deaths in Gaza on July 28th 2014

Revisiting BBC reporting of civilian deaths in Gaza on July 28th 2014

On page 29 of its 2014 Antisemitic Incidents report the Community Security Trust provided the following information:

“Almost half the incidents recorded in those two months [July and August 2014 – Ed.] – 258, or 48 per cent of the 542 incidents recorded in July and August – made direct or indirect reference to the conflict in Israel and Gaza that began on 8 July 2014 and concluded on 26 August. There was also a daily correlation between the number of antisemitic incidents reported to CST during this period and specific events in the conflict in Israel and Gaza. […] On 28 July, a day when media reported an explosion at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, CST recorded 22 antisemitic incidents in the UK.” [emphasis added]

With BBC content reaching the vast majority of the UK population and BBC One television news identified by the public as the UK’s most important source of news, the manner in which the BBC reported a story which prompted twenty-two antisemitic  incidents in that country is obviously of interest.Shifa Sahti tweet 1

Here at BBC Watch we have been tracking the BBC’s reporting of that particular story since it first emerged. On July 30th 2014 we noted that – despite information having been provided around an hour after the incidents at Shifa hospital and the Shati refugee camp occurred which showed that the cause of the civilian casualties was missiles fired by a terrorist organization – the BBC’s reporting of the story on July 28th and 29th promoted the Hamas version of the story according to which Israeli missile strikes caused the deaths of some eight children and several adults.Pannell Shati report filmed 28 7

Several days later we noted here that the BBC had produced a report on July 31st (updated on August 4th) titled “Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” which – despite the above-mentioned information – continued to encourage audiences to believe that Hamas’ version of the story was at least as credible as the information provided by Israel.

‘The BBC’s presentation of that incident, however, places data gathered from sophisticated tracking equipment on a par with the unverified verbal claims of assorted bodies all ultimately run by a proscribed terrorist organization.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”’Shifa Shati Campbell tweet

On August 12th 2014 we noted that – despite a visit by the BBC’s chief international correspondent to an IDF missile tracking unit – the article defining the July 28th incident as “disputed” still stood.

On December 12th 2014 we noted that the IDF Military Attorney General’s investigation into the July 28th incidents at Shifa hospital and Shati concluded that they were caused by missiles fired by a terrorist organization. Despite that, all the five reports suggesting to BBC audiences that it was reasonable to assume that the deaths of civilians – mostly children – had been caused by Israeli missiles were still available to visitors to the BBC News website with no correction added.  

On March 26th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Amnesty: Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes“.  The article includes the following:AI Shati report

“Amnesty said rocket fire had also endangered Palestinian civilians.

The group said an independent munitions expert had concluded that a Palestinian rocket had exploded next to a supermarket in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 28 July, killing 13 civilians, 11 of them children aged between seven and 14.”

As we know, the BBC sets great store by any report – accurate or not – produced by Amnesty International. Perhaps then the appearance of this one will at long last prompt the corporation to append clarifications to those five reports – all of which are still accessible in their original inaccurate and misleading form on the BBC News website. It is, after all, in the BBC’s interest to do so in light of the fact that – according to its own statement from June 2014:

“…however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”

The corporation’s continued failure to add appropriate clarifications to those five BBC reports (and any others still available to the public) risks wasting licence fee payer-provided funding on dealing with unnecessary complaints. More seriously, it also continues to provide the agar for antisemitic incidents in Britain. 

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New report on legal aspects of Gaza Strip border restrictions

With the BBC having self-conscripted last summer to the campaign (also promoted by Hamas, assorted ‘humanitarian’ agencies and NGOs) against the border restrictions on the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel as a means ofKerem Shalom curbing terrorism against its civilians and with inaccurate BBC use of the term ‘collective punishment’ sadly not a rare occurrence, readers will no doubt be interested to read a new JCPA report which addresses both those topics.

The report by international human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner is titled “Israel and the Gaza Strip: Why Economic Sanctions Are Not Collective Punishment” and it can be found here.