BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

On July 29th Amnesty International released yet another one of its reports concerning last summer’s conflict between Israel and assorted terrorist groups based in the Gaza Strip. Predictably, the BBC News website’s Middle East page quickly came up with an article headlined “Gaza: ‘Israeli war crimes’ followed soldier’s capture – Amnesty” and viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a filmed item which was also posted on the website under the title “Gaza conflict: Amnesty report says Israel committed ‘war crimes’“.AI report Rafah

There is of course nothing surprising about that: the BBC has faithfully and unquestioningly amplified the Amnesty International material produced on that subject since the hostilities came to a close, just as it also blindly reproduced statements made by that NGO during the conflict itself. And there was also nothing unexpected about that because Amnesty International is one of the NGOs most regularly promoted and quoted by the BBC.

Common sense would obviously dictate that if a media organization amplifies an NGO’s material it should tell its audiences what that NGO’s political agenda includes and report any relevant details concerning its connections to the subject matter. BBC journalists do not however have to rely on common sense: the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

None of the BBC’s Amnesty International-related material produced over the past year has informed audiences that AI is one of a group of political NGOs which launched a lawfare campaign against Israel just days after the summer 2014 conflict began. In none of that content have audiences been told that 72 hours into the conflict, Amnesty International called for an arms embargo to be imposed on a country defending its civilian population from hundreds of daily attacks by terrorist organisations and its MENA director Philip Luther (who appears in both these latest BBC reports) was already tossing around unproven accusations of ‘war crimes’.

Nowhere has the BBC informed its audiences about the all-important context of Amnesty International’s long history of obsession with Israel – which includes the production of the numerous ‘reports’ so faithfully amplified by the BBC – or of its connections with known anti-Israel campaigners and its employment of radical activists.  

In this latest article published on July 29th, readers are informed that:

“Amnesty’s report says Israeli actions in the Rafah area between 1 and 4 August 2014 might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Its study was carried out with the Forensic Architecture, a research project specialising in spatial analysis, at Goldsmiths’ College in London.”

Audiences are not however informed that the academic sounding (and by implication, neutral)  ‘Forensic Architecture’ also partnered Amnesty International in the production of a recently launched app called ‘the Gaza Platform’ which reproduces and promotes one-sided and inaccurate information put out by two of AI’s lawfare buddies – Al Mezan and the PCHR.

Neither are they told who exactly is behind ‘Forensic Architecture’ (originally funded by the European Research Council) or that it describes itself as “a team of architects, artists, filmmakers, activists, and theorists” (in other words; not military or legal experts) and that its chief researcher is veteran political activist and BDS supporter Eyal Weizman.

In this latest amplification of AI’s pseudo-legal ‘human rights’ report the BBC once again fails to inform its audiences that Amnesty International is not a neutral observer but a player in a campaign of politically motivated lawfare. As long as the BBC fails to tell its audiences the full story behind the political agenda of Amnesty International and the many other NGOs it uncritically amplifies, its claim that it provides audiences with accurate and impartial reporting in order to meet its public purpose of building an “understanding of international issues” is clearly untenable.

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BBC’s Connolly ‘contextualises’ Hamas torture and execution (spoiler – it’s Israel’s fault)

No BBC coverage of Amnesty International’s antisemitism vote

More BBC wind in the sails of NGO’s lawfare campaign

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

How did the BBC News website report renewed missile attacks on Israel?

BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part one

BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part two

BBC reporting on Hamas youth camps

Readers may recall that last February we pondered the question “Is a BBC documentary about Hamas’ child soldiers upcoming?” after a Tweet from Lyse Doucet in which she noted that she was filming at a Hamas youth camp.

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

Footage from that visit to a Hamas organized youth camp did appear in Lyse Doucet’s recent film titled “Children of the Gaza War” – for less than one minute. Doucet’s commentary during that segment was as follows:

“Some boys as young as Abdul Rahman [phonetic] take part in this first youth camp organized by Hamas’ military wing. It’s for men aged 15 to 21. Some are clearly younger and at the closing ceremony there’s younger still. For the outside world it’s hard to comprehend why parents would put children in situations like this. Hamas says the camps keep boys off the street and teach values and martial arts for defence. But the young also learn about weapons and hatred: it’s what Hamas calls a culture of resistance.”

Doucet’s categorisation of the camp’s participants as “men” is obviously questionable in relation to half its age range and the camp she attended was not the “first”. Seeing as the BBC is not averse to amplifying the Hamas narrative of ‘resistance’, one might perhaps have expected that Doucet would have seized this rare opportunity to expand on a subject usually avoided by the BBC in order to inform audiences more comprehensively about what that “culture of resistance” really means.

More of those Hamas-run camps were recently held at various locations in the Gaza Strip – as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh.Hamas summer camp

“For the third running year, thousands of Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip are receiving military training as part of Hamas’s summer camps.

The camps, which are being held under the banner “Vanguards of Liberation,” are aimed at preparing children as young as 15 for fighting against Israel. More than 25,000 children have joined this year’s Hamas camps, according to Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip. […]

As in the past two years, the summer camps are being held in bases belonging to Hamas’s armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam, throughout the Gaza Strip. The declared goal of the camps to is to “prepare a new generation of Palestinian youths spiritually, mentally and physically for the battle to liberate Palestine.” When Hamas talks about the “liberation of Palestine,” it is not referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip only, but to the whole of Israel. In other words, these Palestinian children are being educated and trained to prepare for joining the war aimed at destroying Israel. […]

Hamas’s religious education is aimed at teaching the children about Islam and its sharia laws. The children are being told that the whole of the land of Palestine (including Israel) is Muslim-owned land that can’t be given away to non-Muslims. They are also being taught that making peace with the “infidels” is prohibited under the teachings of Islam. […]

Another senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Hayah, told the child-soldiers that they were being trained for jihad against Israel.

“These camps are designed to prepare a generation that carries the Quran and rifle,” al-Hayah explained. “The camps show that Palestinians support the resistance and the project of liberation of Palestine. The goal is to liberate Palestine and the Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem].””

BBC audiences’ understanding of the Middle East would of course have been enhanced considerably had Lyse Doucet elected to devote more than 52 seconds of coverage to the topic of Hamas’ organised paramilitary and theological indoctrination of children.

Related Articles:

An obstacle to peace the BBC won’t tell you about

BBC silent on latest Gaza power plant shut down

The extensive multi-platform coverage promoted to BBC audiences on the anniversary of the beginning of last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas included a filmed item titled “Gaza conflict one year on: The power plant“.

The inclusion of that topic was not surprising: the Gaza Strip power plant was featured extensively – though not always accurately – in BBC coverage of the conflict and some correspondents were quick to promote the notion that damage to the power plant’s fuel storage tanks was intentional and deliberate. Even after the circumstances of the July 29th 2014 incident became clear, the BBC made no effort to correct the inaccurate impressions given to its audiences at the time.Knell infrastructure

Last week the Gaza power plant was in the news again when, as AFP and others reported, production came to a halt.

“The Gaza Strip’s sole power plant has halted production, the Hamas-run energy authority said Tuesday, in the latest dispute with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over fuel tax. […]

“The levying of fuel taxes by the finance ministry in Ramallah is preventing the (Hamas) energy authority from running the power station,” a statement from the authority said.

The PA must “lift all taxes on fuel” to get the plant up and running, it said.

Hamas pays the PA for fuel imported to Gaza, but is short of cash and had been unable to cover the additional costs in tax.

In December, Qatar stepped in and donated $10 million (nine million euros) to the PA to cover the tax, effectively exempting Hamas from paying it.

But that money has dried up, and the PA is insisting Hamas begin paying the tax again, the Islamist movement says.

Hamas shut the power plant in March over the same dispute.”

Last summer’s reporting on the topic of the Gaza Strip power plant included descriptions from BBC correspondents of the potential effects of the plant’s closure on civilian life.

“And it is Gaza’s only power plant so there are electricity cuts in Gaza City, there could be problems with water supply because many of the area’s water pumps also rely on that power plant. So if that was a deliberate Israeli attempt to cause economic pain – which is certainly how most Palestinians will see it – then it could be fairly successful.” –Chris Morris, BBC WS ‘Newshour’, 29/7/14.

“It [the power plant] would to serve electricity for the civilian in Gaza almost 2 million people who are, I mean, suffer and when you are talking about electricity we are talking about water supply, water treatment plant, water sewage plant and we are talking about hospitals, we are talking about the schools. All aspects, all basic of our life requirements are not existing.” – Interview with the power plant manager, Yolande Knell, BBC television news, 15/8/14.

Notably, there has been no BBC coverage whatsoever of the power plant’s most recent closure, the effects of that on civilian life in the Gaza Strip or of the long-running dispute between Hamas and the PA which led to this latest shut-down.

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

On August 15th 2014 the BBC added a footnote to an article titled “Caution needed with Gaza casualty figures” which, after originally appearing on the BBC News website on August 8th, had undergone a series of very significant changes three days later. The last line of that footnote read:

Original version - dated August 8th

Original version – dated August 8th

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

Not only has the BBC never bothered to explain to its funding public why an article written by its own Head of Statistics was so radically altered but it has also not returned to the subject of casualty ratios during the 2014 conflict in any meaningful way, preferring to quote UN supplied figures sourced from political actors and with no independent BBC verification of those figures apparent.

One organization which has carried out meticulous identification of the names appearing on the casualty lists supplied by Hamas and additional actors is the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre and it recently published its eleventh report on the topic – available here. Links to the previous ten reports can be found here.

Notably, this latest ITIC report studies fifty names which did not appear on the lists of casualties supplied by Hamas. All of those 50 casualties belonged to assorted terrorist organisations and most of them were Hamas operatives.

The ITIC report states:

“The findings of our investigation so far (based on an examination of approximately 61% of the names of the dead) suggest that terrorist operatives constitute 48.7% of the names that have been identified, and noninvolved civilians constitute approximately 51.3%. This ratio may vary in the future, but not significantly, in our assessment.” […]

“This ratio differs from the findings of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry, indicating that 1,462 civilians were killed, out of 2,251 Palestinians fatalities, i.e., around 65% of all the casualties were civilians. Thus, by implication, according to the UN report, around 35% of the dead were terrorist operatives, although the report refrains from saying explicitly that all the others are operatives affiliated with terrorist organizations (the report uses the phrase “Palestinian armed groups”‘).”

A media organization truly committed to accuracy and impartiality would clearly have made good on its stated intention to “return to this subject at a later date” in order to ensure that the information it continues to quote and promote is indeed accurate, that its rulings on complaints on the topic are fact-based and fair and that its impartiality is not compromised by the failure to provide audiences with accurate civilian/combatant casualty ratios on one side of the conflict – as was for example evident in the BBC’s recent prolific coverage of the conflict’s anniversary.

“Now on this day last year another war erupted in Gaza. It lasted 51 days and turned into the longest, most costly conflict of the three wars in the past six years. More than 2,100 people were killed in Gaza and 72 were killed on the Israeli side including 66 soldiers. And a very high price paid by civilians – and most of all children – became a defining issue in this confrontation.” (Rebecca Kesby, ‘BBC World Update: Daily Commute’, BBC World Service, 8/7/2015) [emphasis added]

Of course the longer the BBC fails to address this topic openly and honestly, the more it fosters the impression of a political motivation behind the both changes made to its August 8th 2014 article and its subsequent presentation of the subject of civilian/combatant ratios in the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

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

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

What connects Hamas supplied casualty figures to the BBC’s expedited complaints procedure?

 

BBC’s Keyworth mainstreams an inaccurate political narrative

Listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on July 11th heard a prime example how a one-sided, inaccurate, politically motivated narrative can be mainstreamed into the public consciousness even in content which is not overtly political.

Presenter Kate Adie introduced the item (from 22:40 here) as follows, adhering to the now standard BBC practice of presenting last summer’s conflict between Palestinian terrorist organisations and Israel as an affair which took place exclusively in one location.

“It’s been a year now since the war in Gaza. Seven weeks of fighting, Israeli shells and Palestinian rocket attacks and much destruction in Gaza. Eighteen thousand properties there were destroyed, many people are still homeless today. Several hundred people crowded into a square in the centre of Gaza City on Wednesday to watch the armed wing of Hamas stage a rally marking the occasion. What were described as new missiles were put on show. Marie Keyworth recently spent the day with a Gaza family, watching them at work, going shopping with them at the market and joining them for lunch.”

If readers are curious about that Gaza City rally, which was not reported by the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau staff, more information can be found here.

As readers will recall, Marie Keyworth visited the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas in May on behalf of the BBC’s business department. Her latest report  – which also appeared as a written article titled “Love in a time of conflict” on the BBC News website’s ‘Magazine’ and Middle East pages on July 13th – is not about business matters but ostensibly tells a whimsical tale of romance. In among, however, listeners and readers are fed statements which are presented without any context or qualification.Keyworth FOOC

“Gaza is more often associated with conflict than love …”

“Of course it doesn’t take a genius to work out that some palm leaves trussed together with twine would do nothing to protect Ahmad and his siblings from the shells that fall on Gaza whenever a conflict erupts there.”

 “But what the shelter does provide is something equally important – a kind of psychological security. Something painfully absent from Gazan lives, and something Ahmad clearly craved.”

“You could almost forget you were in one of the most densely populated and frequently bombed places on earth.”

“But of course the reality for Gaza is the constant threat of war.”

“After all, it’s far more fun to talk about stolen kisses than it is to talk about bombs.”

Keyworth’s narrative is one of entirely passive “Gazan lives” in a place where “conflict erupts” – apparently all by itself – and where “the shells that fall” when it is “frequently bombed” do so for no discernible reason. In Keyworth’s world there is no cause and effect, no responsibility and no agency. And of course, there is no terrorism.

That banal and inaccurate portrayal obviously not only does nothing to meet the BBC’s remit of building understanding of “international issues” but even deliberately entrenches a politically motivated false narrative which is already disturbingly prevalent.

Resources:

From Our Own Correspondent on Twitter

Radio 4 – contact

How to Complain to the BBC

 

Yolande Knell’s political campaigning continues in BBC ‘Gaza anniversary’ coverage

The BBC’s extensive coverage of the anniversary of the commencement of Operation Protective Edge included multi-platform contributions from the Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell which focused on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

That topic has of course already been covered extensively by the BBC throughout the past year – both by Yolande Knell and by others. Examples include the reports highlighted in the following posts:

Reporter in the rubble: what is missing from BBC presentation of structural damage in Gaza?

BBC’s Knell continues the Gaza border restrictions PR campaign

BBC’s ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme gets its own feature

Yolande Knell’s Gaza borders campaign continues on BBC Radio 4’s PM

BBC’s Knell revamps ‘reporter in the rubble’ for promotion of a political agenda

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

So did Knell have anything new to contribute to BBC audiences’ understanding of the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip in her filmed, audio and written reports which appeared on July 7th and 8th?

The opening lines of the written report – which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 8th under the title “Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?” – include clear signposting.anniversary Knell written

“In the year since the 50-day conflict with Israel, which saw thousands of Gaza’s buildings reduced to rubble, not a single destroyed home has been rebuilt.

Israel and Egypt maintain tight border restrictions on the coastal enclave, which have severely hampered reconstruction efforts. They say these are needed for security.” [emphasis added]

The reason for that signposting is that, like all her many previous reports on this topic, this article too is part of Yolande Knell’s campaigning efforts against the restrictions imposed in order to combat terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip. Later on in the article, under the sub-heading “Call to lift blockade”, readers are told that:

“Israeli restrictions prevent so-called “dual use” materials from entering Gaza. These include building supplies that could be used by militants to create new tunnels, or weapons and storage sites.” [emphasis added]

In fact the dual-use materials are not – as Knell claims – “so-called”. The list of restricted items is based on the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies in which many other countries – including the UK – also participate.

Later on (and also in her audio report) Knell cuts to the chase:anniversary Knell audio

“Ultimately, the UN and international aid agencies continue to call for a lifting of the blockade. They say this is the only way to bring in all the materials needed to repair homes and infrastructure and revive the local economy.”

She makes no effort, however, to inform BBC audiences of the likely consequences for Israelis if the blockade were lifted and weapons and dual-use items flowed freely into the Gaza Strip.

Knell’s portrayal of the mechanism for the distribution of construction materials is as follows:

“To allow reconstruction to take place the UN agreed a temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) with the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

This brings in aggregate, steel bars and cement (known as ABC materials) via the Kerem Shalom commercial border crossing.

UN monitors have helped assess housing damage and needs. Full details are kept in a computer database and the Israeli military has oversight of some information.

Palestinian ministries administer lists of individuals cleared to collect materials from approved vendors. So far, about 90,000 Palestinians have been cleared to obtain supplies, mostly for small-scale repairs.”

No information is provided to readers concerning the black market trade in construction materials in the Gaza Strip – and the ensuing fact that buildings which could have been repaired had their residents not chosen to sell their allotted building materials remain a prime photo-op for foreign journalists. As was recently reported in the Times of Israel:

“According to the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the arm of the Israeli army that coordinates with the Palestinian civilian population, close to 90,000 owners of those partially damaged homes have already gotten the building materials from the warehouses in Gaza that were set aside for this purpose in order to renovate their homes. […]

But did they all use the building materials for their home repairs? That is a different question entirely. The terrible financial hardship and the lack of jobs are part of this equation. Many of those homeowners sold their construction materials on the black market for a higher price than what they had paid for them with donated funds.

Gaza residents who spoke on condition of anonymity say that the black market for construction materials in the Gaza Strip is growing at a rapid pace because the materials are being sold instead of used for renovations.

According to statistics of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Israel has brought 1.3 million tons of construction materials into the Gaza Strip since the end of the war — certainly a respectable amount. The material was intended for repairing homes that had been partially damaged and for rebuilding infrastructure.”

Like her colleague Lyse Doucet before her, Knell does not make any attempt to adequately inform audiences about the tunnels which are being rebuilt by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Knell is also taciturn on the real factors contributing to the slow pace of reconstruction.

“The UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East, Nikolei Mladenov, says delays have been caused by the huge scale of the task and the slow flow of promised foreign aid.

Renewed divisions between Hamas and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which was meant to station its security forces at Gaza’s border crossings, added to complications.”

The link in that last paragraph leads to a pay-walled Ha’aretz article which most readers will not be able to access and therefore will remain unaware that it includes the following:

“A European diplomat familiar with the details of the meetings confirmed that such protest was conveyed. He spoke on condition of anonymity. “They conveyed an unequivocal message that the PA can do more to promote reconstruction in the Strip, and that continued internal political squabbling between Fatah and Hamas are adversely affecting the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the pace and scope of reconstruction,” the European diplomat said. […]

“There is positive movement on the Israeli side in everything regarding Gaza,” the EU diplomat said. “While you always need more, the Israelis are removing hurdles and assisting reconstruction. At the same time, reconstruction is still stuck because of the internal fights on the Palestinian side, Egyptian behavior and failure to deliver funds pledged by the Arab states.”

All three of Knell’s reports include interviews with the Shuja’iya resident Abdul Karim Abu Ahmed whom she has also interviewed on at least two prior occasions over the past year. As was the case in the previous content she produced, no effort is made to inform audiences why the English teacher who claims to have been “shocked” and that he “didn’t expect to see my house, my street [….] destroyed like this” is being disingenuous.anniversary Knell filmed

As was noted here back in September 2014:

“As can be seen from the IDF’s aerial map of the neighbourhood, at least five missiles were fired from close proximity to Abu Ahmed’s house and yet Knell neglects to inform listeners of that fact and amplifies his feigned surprise at the consequences.”

Knell closes her written report with the following words:

“Without long-term political solutions to solve Gaza’s underlying problems, many warn of social unrest, instability and the increased risk of further hostilities.”

Gaza’s underlying problem is of course that it was taken over by a terrorist organization in a violent coup in 2007 and that foreign funded terrorist group and others continue to wage war on its neighbours. Somehow, though, one doubts that is what Yolande Knell intended her readers to understand.

The fact that none of these three latest reports by Knell bring any new information or insight to BBC audiences who have seen, read and heard countless similar ones in the past twelve months raises questions about the editorial considerations behind their production and broadcast. Obviously, these reports are not an attempt to report news or to provide audiences with a comprehensive, accurate and impartial “understanding of international issues“. What they are is the latest installment in Yolande Knell’s BBC endorsed political campaign to influence public opinion on the issue of the border restrictions on the Gaza Strip made necessary by the terrorism she never mentions.

Related Articles:

BBC ‘Gaza war anniversary’ coverage continues to mislead on the causes of the conflict

Resources:

How to Complain to the BBC

BBC does know how to translate ‘Yahud’ – when it is said in the UK

Thank you to all the readers who took the trouble to contact us to point out that – in contrast to its misrepresentation of the meaning of the word ‘Yahud’ in Lyse Doucet’s recent programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ – the BBC managed only relatively recently to provide its audiences with a correct translation of that Arabic word.

Miliband art

Relatedly, it would appear that complaints on that issue are being answered with one of the BBC complaints department’s template responses.

template response yahud

Of course that reply does not address the underlying issue which prompted the complaints. 

 

 

BBC’s Doucet explains why Yemen gets less coverage than Gaza

Here, for the record, is an interesting Twitter exchange:

Jed Galilee

BBC audiences would no doubt be very interested to hear more details about the easier access and safer reporting conditions in the Gaza Strip.

But of course it is not just the volume of reporting which distinguishes the BBC’s coverage of last summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip from its reporting on the ongoing conflict in Yemen: the difference in tone of reporting is remarkable too.

With the casualty toll in Yemen having surpassed that in the Gaza Strip last year, it is worth taking a look at how that news was presented in the latest report to appear on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.Yemen report

“More than 3,000 people have been killed since a Saudi-led coalition began air strikes in March to drive back Houthi rebels and restore the government.

Aid agencies say a blockade on Yemen has worsened the humanitarian crisis which is gripping the country.

More than 80% of Yemen’s 25 million people now need some form of aid. […]

On Tuesday, the UN announced that at least 1,528 civilians were among the 3,000 dead.

Another one million civilians have been displaced by the conflict.”

Markedly absent from that factual, non-emotive account are BBC journalists’ amateur opinions on ‘international law’ and the accusations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, collective punishment and deliberate targeting of civilians which characterized the BBC’s reporting from the Gaza Strip last summer.

Moreover, the BBC has no difficulties in presenting audiences with a summary of the cause of the conflict in Yemen and does not censor integral factors leading to its outbreak or use the formula “Saudi Arabia says”.

“In recent months Yemen has descended into conflicts between several different groups, although the main fight is between forces loyal to beleaguered President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and Shia Zaidi rebels – or Houthis – who forced Mr Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa in February.

After rebel forces closed in on the president’s southern stronghold of Aden in late March, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia responded to a request by Mr Hadi to intervene and launched air strikes on Houthi targets.”

That, of course, is the difference between news and narrative.

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC coverage of civilian casualties in Yemen and Gaza

BBC ‘Gaza war anniversary’ coverage continues to mislead on the causes of the conflict

Back in February 2015 the BBC decided to produce a series of reports and programmes (see some examples in ‘related articles’ below) to mark six months since the ceasefire which brought the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas – along with other assorted terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip – to an end.

The occasion of the one year anniversary of the beginning of that conflict likewise received special BBC coverage and once more, the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet was at the forefront of the corporation’s efforts.anniversary progs 2

One of many problematic aspects of the BBC’s coverage of that conflict – both whilst it was ongoing and ever since – has been the corporation’s presentation of why it began and some examples can be seen here, here and here.

As some further examples from the BBC’s generous cross-platform ‘anniversary’ coverage show, one year on the corporation is nowhere nearer to providing its audiences with an accurate and impartial account of why Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8th 2014.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’ on July 8th 2015 heard the presenter introduce an item “to mark the conflict” (from 16:10 here for a limited period of time) in the following terms.

“Now it’s exactly a year since Israel launched a military offensive against Gaza which it said was intended to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets from there. Over the next fifty days 73 Israelis died and, according to the UN, 2,200 Palestinians.”

The BBC World News channel’s website promotes Lyse Doucet’s programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ with the following synopsis:Anniversary progs 1

“The war in Gaza is a war about children. It began when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered. A Palestinian child was later dragged into a Jerusalem forest, beaten, and burned alive.”

Listeners to the July 8th 2015 edition of the BBC World Service’s ‘BBC World Update:Daily Commute’ heard Rebecca Kesby tell them (from 03:14 here):

“Now on this day last year another war erupted in Gaza. It lasted 51 days and turned into the longest, most costly conflict of the three wars in the past six years. More than 2,100 people were killed in Gaza and 72 were killed on the Israeli side including 66 soldiers. And a very high price paid by civilians – and most of all children – became a defining issue in this confrontation.”

As we see, all three of those examples inaccurately describe the conflict as having taken place exclusively in Gaza: BBC audiences are not informed that hostilities also took place in Israel.

Completely erased from audience view are the events which led up to the launch of the operation.

“In the three weeks leading up to July 8, according the official IDF figures, militants fired 250 rockets capable of reaching Israel’s largest cities and population centers and endangering 3.5 million Israeli lives.”

Also censored from these accounts are the cross-border tunnels which made the ground operation imperative.

“In the first 48 hours of the ground operation, the IDF uncovered more than 30 tunnels, including both defensive and storage tunnels as well as offensive terror tunnels leading into Israel. The soldiers uncovered a labyrinth of tunnels dug 20 meters deep and running 2 kilometers towards Israeli territory with multiple exits. The IDF Corps of Engineers detonated and demolished the discovered tunnels.”

The BBC’s narrative does not inform audiences that the military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th or that the terrorist organisation chose not to do so for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.

Neither does the BBC’s version of events clarify to audiences that the conflict could have been considerably shorter – and hence less costly in human life – had Hamas accepted any of the numerous offers of a ceasefire presented before the one which finally ended the hostilities.

The distortion of the factors which led to the summer 2014 conflict has over the past year become standard BBC practice. The version of events repeatedly promoted by the BBC is obviously not accurate due to its omission of the firing of hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians before Operation Protective Edge even began and nor is it impartial as it clearly seeks to erase Hamas’ responsibility for igniting and prolonging that conflict from audience view.

We have said it before and regrettably we have to say it again: it is high time the BBC got a grip on its serial misrepresentation of this issue. Its failure – or refusal – to do so over the past twelve months severely compromises its claim to impartiality.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part one

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

The history – and the BBC Trust decision – behind Lyse Doucet’s mistranslation of ‘yahud’

An article which appeared in the Jewish Chronicle on July 8th has been making waves on social media and in the blogosphere. Reporter Sandy Rashty revealed that:translation

“A BBC documentary has substituted the word “Israelis” for “Jews” in its translation of interviews with Palestinians, its maker has admitted.

Lyse Doucet has stood by the decision to translate “yahud” as “Israeli” in subtitles on her hour-long documentary Children of the Gaza War, which airs on BBC Two tonight.

The correct translation for “yahud” from Arabic to English is “Jew”.

The BBC’s chief international correspondent said that Gazan translators had advised her that Palestinian children interviewed on the programme who refer to “the Jews” actually meant Israelis.

In one instance, a Gazan child says the “yahud” are massacring Palestinians. However the subtitles read: “Israel is massacring us”.

Canada-born Ms Doucet said: “We talked to people in Gaza, we talked to translators. When [the children] say ‘Jews’, they mean ‘Israelis’.

“We felt it was a better translation of it.”

She added: “We checked this again yesterday.

“We are not trying to cover it up – we took advice on it and that was the advice we were given by translators.””

Anyone toying with the idea of making a complaint to the BBC on this issue should be aware that this is not the first time that the BBC has mistranslated the Arabic word ‘yahud’. In February 2013 the same issue arose in a series of multi-platform reports by Jon Donnison – the BBC’s Gaza correspondent at the time.

“Another version of the same story was also featured on Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme on February 26th […]. In that version, at 43:37, one can hear a translator interpret the words of interviewee Nour Adwan as “If we meet an Israeli and they are speaking in Hebrew..”.  Sharp eared listeners will notice that the fifteen year-old actually says the word “Yahud” – Jew – in Arabic rather than “Israeli”, but for some reason, the BBC chose to modify that in translation.” 

A member of the public submitted a complaint concerning that obvious mistranslation and in October 2013 the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee produced a decision which raised some very interesting issues concerning its interpretation of the BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy.

The ECU wrote: [all emphasis added]

“The Committee considered that the decision to translate the girl’s words as “an Israeli” was an appropriate exercise of editorial judgement. In taking this view the Committee emphasised that no interpretation of the Editorial Guidelines requires content producers to make direct word-for-word translations without also taking account of relevant context.”

And:

“The Committee noted that the programme did not deny the distinction between “Jews” and “Israelis”, but that in this context it felt that it would be misleading not to give the audience a clearer picture of whom the girl was most likely referring to and that a literal translation would not necessarily have achieved that.”

The crucial part of that ECU decision comes in the following paragraph:

“The Committee accepted that the main editorial purpose of this news item was to report that Hamas schools were teaching children Hebrew as “the language of the enemy”. The programme-makers, based on their professional judgement, understood the enemy in this case to be Israel, and the Committee understood the reasons why the programme felt it was important to communicate that clearly.” 

As was noted here at the time:

“In other words, the programme-makers’ “professional judgement” led them to believe that Hamas makes a distinction between Israelis (the enemy) and Jews (not the enemy) and intended by means of this translation distortion to clarify that. 

Apparently that “professional judgement” has never come across the antisemitic themes which dominate the Hamas Charter or the words of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar from 2009, for example.

“The Zionists have legitimised the killing of their children by killing our children. They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.” [emphasis added]

The obvious attempt by the programme-makers to tone down and censor the type of propaganda with which children in the Gaza Strip are indoctrinated by Hamas in schools, summer camps or on television by replacing the word ‘Jew’ with ‘Israeli’ – thus making it more palatable for Western audiences sensitive to issues of racism – indicates the existence of a problem far greater than mistranslation – and one which apparently exists even in the highest echelons of the BBC.”

Two and a half years on, we see that the BBC is still shielding its audiences from the antisemitism which lies at the very heart of Hamas’ Islamist ideology (and from which other Palestinian factions are not exempt) and which shapes the indoctrination of Palestinian children from an early age.

That uncomfortable reality does not of course fit in with the BBC’s narrative on the topic of why the terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip continue their attacks on Israel despite the fact that it disengaged from the territory a decade ago and so – as we see above – the BBC allows itself to use ‘professional judgement’ in order to rewrite the story according to its own political views.

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