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

On the morning of December 19th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit the Eshkol region of the Western Negev in the third such incident since the ceasefire in late August which brought the fifty-day summer conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist organisations to a close. Like those previous incidents of missile fire, this one too was not reported by the BBC at the time.

During the night between December 19th and 20th, the Israeli air-force launched a retaliatory strike against a Hamas military installation near Khan Yunis. That event was considered news by the BBC.

With no mention of the obviously crucial context of the preceding missile attack some hours earlier, the BBC World Twitter account informed its 8.22 million followers:

KY strike bbc world tweet 1

Jerusalem bureau correspondent Quentin Sommerville did inform his 24 thousand followers that the Israeli action came in response to missile fire, whilst taking the opportunity to revive the well-trodden BBC theme of “home-made rockets”. There is no evidence to suggest that Sommerville was at the scene of the impact and hence his ‘diagnosis’ of the missile’s nature is apparently based on guess-work. Equally questionable is Sommerville’s geography: there is no city called Eshkol: that name refers to a regional council. Nevertheless, that inaccurate information was retweeted by the BBC World Twitter account.

KY strike Sommerville tweet 1

KY strike Sommerville tweet 2

More context-free ‘last-first’ reporting was seen on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of December 20th where visitors were informed that “Israel launches an air strike on an alleged Hamas site in Gaza, in the first such action since the declaration of a truce in August”, but with no mention in the headline or sub-heading of the missile attack several hours beforehand.

KY strike on HP

That headline leads to an article titled “Israel launches Gaza air strike on ‘Hamas target’” which fails to clarify to BBC audiences that this latest missile attack was the third since the end of August.

Readers will note that one of the recommended articles presented on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with that article is headed “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” which was discussed here. Whilst the BBC has put much effort in recent months into the production of numerous ‘reporter in the rubble’ items showcasing the topic of damage to houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (see some additional examples here, here and here), it has refrained from carrying out any reporting whatsoever on the subject of Hamas’ reconstruction of its military infrastructure, including cross-border tunnels and missile capabilities.

Once again licence fee-payers relying on the BBC to meet its half of the bargain by providing them with reporting which will enhance their understanding of international issues are being sold short. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the corporation’s continuing policies of ‘last-first’ reporting and framing by omission. 

BBC News presentation of EU court’s Hamas terror designation decision

December 17th saw the appearance of a report on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list“. Readers who proceeded past that somewhat misleading headline discovered only in later versions of the report, however, that in fact the story is not quite so straightforward.EU Hamas art

“In December 2001, the Council of the European Union – representing the governments of member states – adopted a “common position” and a regulation to combat terrorism.

It established a list of designated entities and people whose funds would be frozen. Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, was named on the initial list, and its political wing was added two years later.

Hamas contested the decision and on Wednesday the EU’s General Court found it had been “based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet”.

The court said it was therefore annulling Hamas’ designation but would temporarily keep existing measures against the group “in order to ensure the effectiveness of any possible future freezing of funds”.

This would be maintained for three months, or, if an appeal is brought before the European Court of Justice, until it was closed, it added.

“The court stresses that those annulments, on fundamental procedural grounds, do not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group within the meaning of the common position.”

[…] European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the EU continued to “consider Hamas a terrorist organisation” and would consider its response to the ruling.” [emphasis added]

Remarkably, the BBC report does not relate to the key question of why the EU has not come up with its own independent evidence regarding Hamas’ terror activities either in the eleven years since the designation was first brought into effect or in the four years since Hamas’ lawyers first launched the appeal against its designation.

Notably too, the article presents a partial picture of the obviously relevant issue of Hamas’ terror designation worldwide.

“Israel, the United States and several other nations have designated Hamas a terrorist organisation due to its long record of attacks and its refusal to renounce violence.”

What the BBC’s article does do, however, is amplify Hamas’ subsequent spin of the ECJ decision.

“Hamas deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said the decision was “a correction of a historical mistake”.

“Hamas is a resistance movement and it has a natural right according to all international laws and standards to resist the occupation,” he told the Reuters news agency.”

Moreover, despite informing readers that “[u]nder its charter, the movement is committed to Israel’s destruction”, the BBC article additionally promotes the inaccurate and misleading notion of Hamas as a “resistance movement” in both its text and photo caption, whilst concurrently whitewashing its violent 2007 coup in the Gaza Strip.EU Hamas art 2

“Hamas, which was founded in 1987, won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and reinforced its power in Gaza the following year after ousting its Fatah rivals.

Its supporters see it as a legitimate resistance movement against Israel, with whom it has fought for years.”

Photo caption: “Hamas is designated a terrorist group by many nations, but to its supporters it is a resistance movement”.

No effort is made to adequately clarify to BBC audiences that, as far as Hamas and its supporters are concerned, its efforts to destroy a UN member state count as “legitimate resistance” or that Hamas’ definition of “the occupation” includes the whole of Israel – as expressed just days ago by Mahmoud al Zahar at one of several recent rallies celebrating the 27th anniversary of Hamas’ founding.

“Anyone who thinks that we will recognize the existence of the [Zionist] entity or the 1967 borders is deluded… Palestine stretches from the Egyptian border in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean sea in the west, and we will never recognize anything less than this.” He added: “If part of our land is liberated, we will establish our state in that part without relinquishing even an inch of the rest. Just as we liberated Gaza and established a genuine administration in it, [with] an army and security apparatuses that defend us, rather than the Israeli enemy [unlike those of the PA], we will do the same in the West Bank, as a prelude to attaining all of Palestine.”

Significantly, there was no BBC coverage of those rallies whatsoever. 

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Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

As we noted here the other day, the Israeli Military Attorney General (MAG) has published the findings of some of the investigations conducted into incidents which occurred in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

One of the incidents investigated was the deaths of ten civilians on July 28th at the Shati refugee camp, along with an alleged attack on Shifa hospital on the same afternoon. The findings are as follows:Tweet Shifa

“Various media reports alleged that on 28 July 2014, an incident occurred involving a strike on medical clinics belonging to the Al-Shifa Hospital, as well as a strike on a park where children were present in the Shati Refugee Camp, and as a result of which ten persons (including nine children) were killed and tens injured. Some of these reports alleged that the strikes were carried out by the IDF. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM [Fact Finding Assessment Mission – Ed.].

Following a thorough review conducted by the FFAM, such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident. Under these circumstances, and in light of the fact that the strike on the hospital was the result of rocket fire from Palestinian terrorist organizations, the MAG ordered the case to be closed.”

Material relating to those incidents which is still available to the general public on the BBC News website includes:

Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” – originally published on July 31st 2014 and discussed here.

“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.”

Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon” July 28th 2014

“Police and health officials said separate Israeli airstrikes had hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby playground on Monday afternoon, causing casualties.

But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said both explosions were caused by misfired rockets that were launched from Gaza by “terrorists”.”

Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts” originally published on July 28th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.”

Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign” July 29th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.”

Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza” Ian Pannell, July 28th 2014Pannell report

“A hospital already overflowing with casualties was engulfed in chaos. Parents and relatives frantically searching for their children. The wards were full of them. Fourteen year-old Mohammed had shrapnel in his back. ‘We were playing in the street and they hit us’, he said. ‘They targeted us. Lots of children were killed.’ And next to him, four year-old Ola [phonetic]. Shrapnel cut into her small body. Israel has denied it was responsible for this.

Woman: “Then who fired it? I ran outside and found my daughters. If the Israelis didn’t do it, who did? Did my daughters launch the rocket?”

Marching up the hill to bury two small boys. They’d played together, they were killed together and now, they were going to be buried together. The boys’ father says his sons are martyrs who died for the resistance against Israel.”

All of the above are discussed here.

Clearly the BBC’s June 2014 announcement stating that “however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it” means that all the above reports need to have a note of clarification urgently added, informing audiences of the actual circumstances of the incident. 

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

On December 9th the BBC News website published an article titled “Amnesty: Israeli strikes on Gaza buildings ‘war crimes’” on its Middle East page. Ninety-one of the article’s 535 words are devoted to BBC produced background information. Of the remaining 444 words, two hundred and eighty-three are repetition or paraphrasing of Amnesty International’s claims and one hundred and sixty-one represent Israel’s response to the report.AI report

Whilst the article uncritically repeats the various claims made by Amnesty International – including that of “collective punishment” – it does not inform BBC audiences of the dubious methodology used in the report’s compilation. Neither are readers informed that the report was written without AI having access to information regarding the military value of the sites beyond the hearsay its unnamed researchers gleaned from members of the public in the Gaza Strip and cherry-picked quotes from media reports.

In its background information, the article informs readers that:

“The 50-day conflict in Gaza between Israel and militant groups led by Hamas left at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,000 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.”

Let’s look at that oddly phrased claim more closely. The BBC tells its audiences that “at least” 2,189 Palestinians died, of whom “more than” 1,486 (a very precise number) were civilians. But how many more? If the BBC is sure that “more than” the 1,486 were civilians, why can it not tell audiences exactly how many of the casualties were civilians and how many were combatants? Of course what these quoted numbers also mean is that the BBC is informing audiences that at the very most, 703 of the casualties were not civilians. In other words, a maximum 32% of the casualties were, according to the BBC, combatants.

As we know, the BBC has been uncritically quoting Hamas and UN supplied casualty figures (for details on how the UN arrives at those figures, see here) from the beginning of the summer conflict itself and ever since. However, nearly four months after the conflict came to an end we have still not seen evidence of any effort by the BBC to independently confirm the figures it repeatedly promotes.

The ITIC has to date examined approximately 54% of the names of casualties provided by Palestinian sources. Its research so far indicates that some 52% of those casualties were terrorist operatives and 48% civilians. That is obviously a very different picture than the one presented by the figures the BBC chooses to quote and yet, at no point has the BBC adhered to its own impartiality guidelines by informing audiences of the existence of the ITIC’s research.

As regular readers will be aware, this is far from the first time that the BBC has provided uncritical amplification of reports or statements from political NGOs in general and Amnesty International in particular. Examples of BBC promotion of Amnesty material relating to Israel during the past year alone can be seen here, here, here, here and here.  

The raison d’être of Amnesty International’s latest report is, once again, not difficult to determine.

“These attacks need to be independently and impartially investigated, as do all serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law alleged to have been committed during the conflict. Amnesty International’s view is that no official body capable of conducting such investigations currently exists in Israel. It is therefore all the more important that the Commission of Inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council in July 2014 is allowed to conduct its investigations without hindrance.”

In other words, this report is part of the lawfare campaign initiated just days after the start of the summer conflict by Amnesty International and additional political NGOs (several of which have also been extensively promoted by the BBC). And once more, that campaign is getting uncritical BBC wind in its sails.

One cannot but be reminded of the words of Matti Friedman in his recent article on the topic of foreign media coverage of Israel.

“The best insight into one of the key phenomena at play here comes not from a local reporter but from the journalist and author Philip Gourevitch. In Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa, Gourevitch wrote in 2010, he was struck by the ethical gray zone of ties between reporters and NGOs. “Too often the press represents humanitarians with unquestioning admiration,” he observed in The New Yorker. “Why not seek to keep them honest? Why should our coverage of them look so much like their own self-representation in fund-raising appeals? Why should we (as many photojournalists and print reporters do) work for humanitarian agencies between journalism jobs, helping them with their official reports and institutional appeals, in a way that we would never consider doing for corporations, political parties, or government agencies?”

This confusion is very much present in Israel and the Palestinian territories, where foreign activists are a notable feature of the landscape, and where international NGOs and numerous arms of the United Nations are among the most powerful players, wielding billions of dollars and employing many thousands of foreign and local employees. […]

In my time in the press corps, I learned that our relationship with these groups was not journalistic. My colleagues and I did not, that is, seek to analyze or criticize them. For many foreign journalists, these were not targets but sources and friends—fellow members, in a sense, of an informal alliance. This alliance consists of activists and international staffers from the UN and the NGOs; the Western diplomatic corps, particularly in East Jerusalem; and foreign reporters.”

As we see above, the BBC continues to indulge its ‘journavism’ habit of uncritical repetition and amplification of claims made by political NGOs of a certain genre.   

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

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

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

It’s a story BBC audiences have heard many times before but on December 8th two more reports produced by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell continued the now well established tradition of context-free descriptions of damage to structures resulting from the summer conflict in the Gaza Strip as a means of amplification of the campaign by Hamas and its sympathisers to lift restrictions on dual-use goods into the territory, to which the corporation – and Knell in particular – self-conscripted back in July.

Listeners to BBC World Service radio heard an item titled “Slow reconstruction of Gaza” which was also promoted as a podcast on Twitter. The synopsis to that podcast reads as follows:Knell reconstruction audio 8 12

“At least 100,000 Palestinians lost their homes in this summer’s conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, according to the UN. The BBC’s Yolande Knell has found that very little reconstruction has taken place in this Palestinian territory. Israel tightly monitors the import of building materials and equipment into Gaza, arguing that militants could use them to rebuild tunnels and carry out attacks.”

As has been noted here previously, the BBC has shown no interest whatsoever in investigating how Hamas managed (despite supposed supervision by international bodies and aid agencies) to comandeer thousands of tons of construction materials in order to build the dozens of cross-border attack tunnels which led to the ground operation in this summer’s conflict. Instead, what has already been shown to be reality continues to be represented by the BBC as theoretical Israeli claims.

English teacher's house

click to enlarge

Knell opens her audio report with a visit to Shuja’iya – the neighbourhood also featured in her big report last September. Once again, she refrains from informing listeners of the scale of Hamas operations in that neighbourhood which caused parts of it to become military targets, or specifically that the street highlighted in her report is near the location of missile launching sites used by the terrorists during the summer war.

“Three months on from the ceasefire that ended this summer’s fighting in Gaza, I’ve come back to Nazaz Street in one of the worst affected neighbourhoods – Shuja’iya. It’s much colder than last time I was here and some areas are flooded because there’s been really wet, wintry weather in the past week. But otherwise, surprisingly little has changed: there is still rubble everywhere.

[Man’s voice] See – this is the kitchen. Our cups…destroyed here.

Knell: I’ve met up once again with Abdul Kareem Abu Ahmed. An English teacher, he shows me around the ruins of his large home and rose garden.

AKAA: We were hoping that they will immediately rebuild our houses. But after three months we feel now very frustrated.

Knell: Have you had any progress with the United Nations coming to look at the house?

AKAA: Yes, they came here. They visit us, they took photos. They promised us they will give us money to pay for renting flat but nothing happened. They didn’t give us concrete. They didn’t give us equipments to rebuild, so we still as we were.”

The same Brontë-loving, rose-growing English teacher has of course already appeared in a succession of BBC reports – see examples here, here and here. Regular listeners to BBC World Service radio were no doubt confused by the next segment of Knell’s report seeing as just days earlier they had been told that there are no building materials (or electricity or water) in the Gaza Strip.

“Knell: But here at the Burj al Jamil [phonetic] building firm we’ve finally found some signs of progress. There’s a big crowd of men around the office door. They’re getting their ID cards checked against names on a computerized system. Then they get given a coupon which they hand over here at the warehouse. There’s a forklift truck loading up cement into the back of a horse and cart. Now, there are security cameras all around this warehouse so that monitors can keep an eye on what’s happening to these bags of cement. This company had to get special clearance to import the building materials into Gaza.

[Man’s voice] If the system stays like this it will take at least ten years to rebuild Gaza.

Knell: And yet the manager, Sami Abu Obeid, is disheartened. He tells me he could easily distribute much more cement.

Manager: Instead of 160 tons a day coming in, make it six or seven thousand tons. Also send in more gravel and iron. I will guarantee that everyone gets the right amount. Give me the names and I’ll take responsibility.”

Again, Knell makes no effort to inform listeners how the previous system of supervision failed to prevent cement, gravel and iron from reaching Hamas. She continues, describing the half year-old Palestinian unity government as “new” and failing to clarify to BBC audiences that Robert Serry’s decidedly cryptic message actually means that – as has been obvious for some time – that ‘unity government’ is not capable of solving the problems facing the population of Gaza Strip.

“The UN special coordinator Robert Serry was just in Cairo for more talks on Gaza. He secured the current arrangements to work around Israel’s blockade – tracking goods to make sure they don’t fall into militants’ hands. The new Palestinian unity government is supposed to oversee reconstruction. But Mr Serry admits there have been a lot of hold-ups.

Serry: I understand the frustrations in Gaza: that it has taken time and that it is still not really working at the required scale. To be successful, we need a government of national consensus to be empowered there. They don’t even control the crossings yet. We still have a very fragile ceasefire and then that’s why I’m worried because I also know that the consequences of failure can be that a next conflict is around the corner. Nobody wants that.

Knell: So for now, people in Gaza face an uncertain future and a long wait to rebuild their homes. For many of those I’ve been revisiting here, life is simply miserable. I’ve come into the Habeeb family house in Shuja’iya. There’s lots of water on the stairs as I go up. There’s still the whole exterior wall that’s missing from the last conflict – it was blown away – and you have more than 20 members of the family living here in just two rooms.

When it rains it’s a disaster. It’s like we have waterfalls coming through the roof and all the children are soaked, says Um al Ez [phonetic]. We just use blankets to keep warm. What else can we do?

And as her grandchildren play football in the next room, their warm breath misting up the cold air, there’s no easy answer.”

Of course had the Palestinian unity government fulfilled its existing obligation to disarm terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip when it first came into being, Knell might be telling a very different story now. 

Knell’s second report from December 8th was a filmed item promoted on BBC television news as well as on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza struggling to rebuild after conflict“. The synopsis to the report includes the following statement, once again failing to clarify that the use of construction materials imported into the Gaza Strip for the purposes of terrorism is not theoretical.Knell reconstruction filmed 8 12

“Very little reconstruction has taken place in Gaza since the conflict there which killed over 2,100 Palestinians and destroyed more than 100,000 homes.

Donors have pledged more than $5bn but Israel strictly regulates the import of building materials and equipment into the Palestinian territory.

They say that militants could use the equipment to carry out attacks.”

In that report audiences once again heard from the BBC’s favourite English teacher and from the manager of the building supplies warehouse. They were also informed by Knell that:

“A deal brokered by the UN works around Israel’s blockade of Gaza.”

“Israel wants guarantees militants won’t take these goods to rebuild tunnels they can use for cross-border attacks.”

She goes on to introduce an interview with UNRWA’s director of operations in the Gaza Strip.

Knell: “The huge sale of destruction means it’s taking longer than expected to assess the damage. UN officials also blame Palestinian politics for delays in reconstruction and say ultimately Israel needs to lift its tight border restrictions. Their efforts can only achieve so much.

Robert Turner: The mechanism is a significant step. It’s important to ensure that the families that were affected by the conflict can rebuild their homes. It’s not a replacement for the lifting of the blockade. If there’s going to be peace and security, if there’s going to be stable Gaza, then the blockade needs to be lifted.”

This of course is not the first time that BBC audiences have heard ostensibly ‘neutral’ UNRWA officials promoting the Hamas demand to lift border restrictions designed to prevent it from rearming and acquiring dual-use goods for the purposes of terrorism: a step which Turner apparently bizarrely believes would bring “peace and security”. In October of this year, listeners to the BBC World Service heard Turner’s colleague – the former BBC correspondent with a direct line to the BBC’s Middle East editor, Chris Gunness – say of the UN’s supervision of building materials:

“But let’s be clear: this mechanism is not a substitute for lifting the blockade.”

Neither is there anything new about the fact that UNRWA’s political campaigning dovetails with the agenda of the internationally recognised terrorist organization which took control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup and the BBC’s collaboration in amplifying it. Yolande Knell was to be found doing exactly that long before the last conflict.

“But a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees Chris Gunness says that ultimately, the precarious situation in Gaza is created by seven years of tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt.”

And:

“Unrwa spokesman Chris Gunness said […] “While Unrwa understands the frustration of the population, heightened by the tightened blockade on the Gaza Strip, and respects the right to peaceful demonstrations, Unrwa must ensure the safety and security of its staff.” ” [emphasis added]

Of course were the BBC to actually get around to providing an accurate and impartial representation of when and why those border restrictions had to be imposed in the first place, audiences would be able to judge UNRWA’s political campaigning – and the BBC-supplied free PR – for what it really is. Instead, the BBC continues to uncritically quote UNRWA, obviously with no journalistic curiosity as to why the ‘human rights’ organisation’s agenda is indistinguishable from that of an Islamist terror group. 

BBC claims that Israel targeted a centre for the disabled in Gaza shown to be inaccurate

On July 12th 2014 the BBC produced four separate reports which included descriptions of an incident in which two women were killed in Bet Lahiya in what was described as an Israeli airstrike on a shelter for disabled people.

Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises” – BBC News website, July 12th.

“Israel hit a residential home for disabled people in Beit Lahiya, Palestinian officials said. Two female residents were killed and four other people seriously injured, they said. Israel did not comment.”

Israeli strike on disability shelter in Gaza’s Beit Lahiya” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website and BBC television news, July 12th.Knell Beit Lahiya 1

“We don’t know why Israel targeted this house; a shelter for the mentally and physically disabled. You can see where the missile came through the ceiling. There’s a big crater on the floor and all around; wheelchairs, a hospital gurney, burnt books. If you look outside the building you can see how the sides were simply sheared off – there’s rubble now everywhere. And there were four people here who were badly wounded, including the carer. Two women were killed. Israel gave a warning for the people to vacate the property but it just wasn’t enough time for people with disabilities to be able to leave.” [emphasis added]

Death toll rises in Gaza as air strikes and rockets continue” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website and BBC television news, July 12th.

“Meanwhile, in the north of the Gaza Strip, another body is discovered. This was a severely disabled woman; one of several residents at a shelter. Just after dawn it was hit by Israeli war planes. This crater is where the missile landed. Neighbours heard a big explosion.

Neighbour: We were very surprised this centre was hit. We expect the Israelis to bomb places linked to the militants. Here there were disabled people unable to move.

Two women were killed here. They’re among the rising number of Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel gave a warning for people to vacate the property but it just wasn’t enough time for people with disabilities to be able to leave.”

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya” – Jeremy Bowen, BBC News website and BBC television news, July 12th.

“Suha’s brother Yussef waited for her to be prepared for her funeral. He took us to see her body. Yussuf rejected Israel’s claims that it tries hard not to kill civilians.

Yussuf: How many of the people killed so far are civilians? Even those they call terrorists – they are not terrorists; they are resistance and we are proud of them.” […]

“Belligerents are obliged under the laws of war to protect civilians. The UN has already asked whether Israel is working in the way that it should to fulfil those obligations. After the attack on the centre for the disabled, it is clear that the Israelis have some serious questions to answer.” [emphasis added]

As has been noted here previously, the Military Attorney General (MAG) began examining and investigatingKnell Beit Lahiya 2 incidents which took place during the summer conflict even before it had ended. The results of the investigation into the above incident in Beit Lahiya show that the centre for the disabled was not the target of that operation as stated in no uncertain terms in  the BBC’s various reports. [emphasis added]

“According to correspondence and reports from various NGOs, on 12 July 2014, two women were killed and four others injured as a result of an IDF aerial strike on a care centre for the mentally and physically disabled, belonging to the ‘Alambra Association’, in Beit Lehia. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM [Fact Finding Assessment Mechanism – Ed.].

According to the factual findings and materials collated by the FFAM and presented to the MAG, the strike was directed at a weapons depot located inside the residential home of a senior Hamas commander, in a building comprising of four apartments. While the operating forces were aware of the existence of a kindergarten in the same building, close to the weapons depot, there was no information indicating the existence of a care center.

Prior to the attack a number of precautionary measures were undertaken in order to minimize potential civilian harm – including several attempts to telephone the residents of the building and the firing of two warning projectiles towards the structure (as part of the ‘knock on the roof’ procedure). No reaction was identified by the residents, and no presence of persons at the site was discerned prior to the attack. As an additional precaution, the attack was carried out late at night, in order to avoid any possible harm to children attending the kindergarten during the day.

The findings further indicated that at the time the attack was decided upon, the operational assessment concluded that, as none of the precautionary measures resulted in any response, no civilians were present and no civilians were expected to be harmed as a result of the attack.

In light of these factual findings, the MAG found that the targeting process followed in this case accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The attack was directed against a military objective, while adhering to the requirements of the principle of proportionality, and the decision to attack was made by the authorities authorized to do so. Further, the MAG found that the attack was carried out after a number of precautions were undertaken intended to minimize the potential for civilian harm, and that the professional assessment at the time of the attack – that civilians would not be harmed as a result of the attack – was not unreasonable under the circumstances. Although seemingly civilians were harmed as a result of the attack, this is indeed a regrettable result, but it does not affect its legality post facto.Bowen Beit Lahiya

In light of the above, the MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct. As a result, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident.”

It is of course highly unlikely that we will see the BBC going to the trouble to inform all the many members of its audiences across various platforms who were mistakenly led to believe that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked a home for the disabled that the real reason that building was targeted was because Hamas had placed a weapons store in the same building as a kindergarten and a centre for disabled people.

However, those four inaccurate reports remain on the BBC News website and now form part of the corporation’s “historical records”. As readers may recall, the BBC announced in June that its archive content is subject to editorial guidelines and may be the topic of complaints. One would therefore now expect to see clarifications attached to all the above reports – if only to prevent an unnecessary waste of public funding in dealing with any such complaints. 

 

 

How Hamas put a tax on building materials the BBC told audiences don’t exist

As readers no doubt recall, on November 28th listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ were told by BBC Arabic correspondent Shahdi Alkashif that Israel is not allowing building materials into the Gaza Strip for the repair of houses damaged during the summer conflict.

As was noted here at the time, that claim is untrue. Even Arabic language media (which one presumes Alkashif reads) reported that 600 tons of cement has entered the Gaza Strip via Kerem Shalom crossing on December 2nd  and Gaza-based journalist Hazem Balousha snapped a photograph apparently showing some of the building materials BBC audiences were told does not exist.

Twitter Balousha

However, there’s a lot more to the story too, as told here by blogger Elder of Ziyon.

Back in October the BBC devoted quite a lot of coverage to the Cairo donors conference and the topic of the touted UN monitored  “temporary mechanism” intended to prevent building supplies being used for the purposes of terror. Perhaps it is time to send a BBC reporter to find out just how well that temporary mechanism is working – if it can find one who recognises a bag of cement when he sees it.

Matti Friedman sheds more light on the reporting of the summer conflict

Back in the summer we noted an article written by former AP correspondent Matti Friedman which shared some important insider insights into why so many of the news reports coming out of the Gaza Strip lacked the context and content essential for audience understanding of that conflict between Israel and Hamas.TV camera

Now, Matti Friedman has written a follow-up article which sheds even more light on the issue of the way in which that conflict was reported by the Western media – and why. For those of us who closely followed BBC coverage of the summer conflict, his insights have a disturbing familiarity.

“Most consumers of the Israel story don’t understand how the story is manufactured. But Hamas does. Since assuming power in Gaza in 2007, the Islamic Resistance Movement has come to understand that many reporters are committed to a narrative wherein Israelis are oppressors and Palestinians passive victims with reasonable goals, and are uninterested in contradictory information. […]

Hamas’s strategy is to provoke a response from Israel by attacking from behind the cover of Palestinian civilians, thus drawing Israeli strikes that kill those civilians, and then to have the casualties filmed by one of the world’s largest press contingents, with the understanding that the resulting outrage abroad will blunt Israel’s response. This is a ruthless strategy, and an effective one. It is predicated on the cooperation of journalists. […]

In previous rounds of Gaza fighting, Hamas learned that international coverage from the territory could be molded to its needs, a lesson it would implement in this summer’s war. Most of the press work in Gaza is done by local fixers, translators, and reporters, people who would understandably not dare cross Hamas, making it only rarely necessary for the group to threaten a Westerner. The organization’s armed forces could be made to disappear. The press could be trusted to play its role in the Hamas script, instead of reporting that there was such a script. Hamas strategy did not exist, according to Hamas—or, as reporters would say, was “not the story.” There was no Hamas charter blaming Jews for centuries of perfidy, or calling for their murder; this was not the story. The rockets falling on Israeli cities were quite harmless; they were not the story either.

Hamas understood that journalists would not only accept as fact the Hamas-reported civilian death toll—relayed through the UN or through something called the “Gaza Health Ministry,” an office controlled by Hamas—but would make those numbers the center of coverage. Hamas understood that reporters could be intimidated when necessary and that they would not report the intimidation; Western news organizations tend to see no ethical imperative to inform readers of the restrictions shaping their coverage in repressive states or other dangerous areas. In the war’s aftermath, the NGO-UN-media alliance could be depended upon to unleash the organs of the international community on Israel, and to leave the jihadist group alone.

When Hamas’s leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. […] Cameramen waiting outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City would film the arrival of civilian casualties and then, at a signal from an official, turn off their cameras when wounded and dead fighters came in, helping Hamas maintain the illusion that only civilians were dying.”

Read the whole article here.

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Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part five

BBC continues to promote the notion of a ‘siege’ on Gaza in report on flooding

As regular readers know, whilst the BBC has still not comprehensively and accurately informed its audiences what happened during the battles in the Gaza Strip neighbourhood of Shuja’iya in July of this year or why the fighting there was so intense, it has – on the other hand – devoted much airtime and column space to context-free depictions of the destruction of buildings in that district. November 28th saw the continuation of that practice in an article which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza floods: UN declares state of emergency“.Flooding Gaza written

That report was presented on the Middle East page together with links to four additional items of recommended reading which included Yolande Knell’s problematic feature on Shuja’iya from September 15th and her August 19th report “Gaza’s infrastructure crippled by conflict“.

In this article, readers were informed that:

“In the Shejaiya neighbourhood, where air strikes during the recent conflict damaged many of the buildings, residents already face a cold winter without electricity or water.”

An illustrative photograph was captioned:

“Shejaiya’s infrastructure remains extremely damaged since the summer conflict”.

No mention was made of the very relevant fact that Shuja’iya was the location of considerable Hamas infrastructure, including the entrances to numerous cross-border attack tunnels, weapons stores and missile launching sites. 

Also evident in this report is the BBC’s continuing practice of quoting old UN statements on the subject of civilian/combatant casualty ratios in the Gaza Strip which were already problematic at the time they were published and have been shown to be even more so in the light of subsequent research – completely ignored by the BBC – which indicates that the ratio between civilians and combatants is similar.Flooding Gaza on HP

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

The flooding in the Gaza strip was also the topic of an item in the BBC World Service’s radio programme ‘Outside Source’ on November 28th (available here for a limited period of time from 27:15). Presenter Chloe Tilley spoke with BBC Arabic’s Shahdi Alkashif in Gaza City who, after describing the situation, told listeners:

“But this bad weather made the situation more worse here in Gaza Strip that is still under siege. And there is no enter now Israeli permits to allow to the building material to go to Gaza to rebuild the homes that destroyed it.”

As has been pointed out here before, the definition of the term ‘siege’ does not accurately describe the restrictions on the import of dual-use goods with the potential for use in terrorist activities which is applied to the Gaza Strip by Israel and yet, as we see, that Hamas-favoured terminology is still being used by the BBC.Flooding Gaza OS

And what of Alkashif’s claim that Israel is not allowing building materials for reconstruction into the Gaza Strip? Let’s take a look at just a few of the recent reports from COGAT.

On November 23rd 2014, 311 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 94 of which carried 3,760 tons of construction materials.

On November 20th 2014, 403 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 93 of which carried 3,720 tons of construction materials.

On November 18th 2014, 340 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 101 of which carried 4,002 tons of construction materials.

On November 17th 2014, 274 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip, 99 of which carried 3,960 tons of construction materials.  

Clearly Alkashif’s presentation of that topic is inaccurate and misleading. Later on he also told BBC World Service listeners that:

“Gaza needs everything: Gaza without electricity, Gaza without clean water…”

Whilst the situation in the Gaza Strip may be far from ideal, it is certainly not accurate to say – as Alkashif does – that there is no electricity or clean water there at all.

“The electricity supply to the Gaza Strip remains at approximately 75% of the norm, 125 MW from Israel and 32 MW from Egypt.Over 80% of the damage to the electricity grid in the Gaza Strip has been repaired.”

“Water access remains constrained, following extensive damage to infrastructure and the electricity shortage. Over 80% of the damage to water infrastructure in Gaza has been repaired.”

Obviously Shahdi Alkashif’s reporting is neither accurate nor impartial and the BBC World Service needs to urgently correct the inaccurate impressions given to its listeners. 

 

BBC’s favourite Norwegian doctor given multiple platforms for medical agitprop

On November 14th the Twitter account linked to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ promoted a segment from that day’s broadcast as a stand-alone item.

OS Tweet Mads Gilbert

That podcast can be heard here. The programme from which it is taken can be heard here for a limited period of time, with the relevant item beginning at 36:55. Presenter Chloe Tilley introduced the item as follows:

“Now, people who listen regularly to ‘Outside Source’ may be familiar with the name Mads Gilbert. He’s a Norwegian doctor who has spoken to us lots on the programme and he’s been told he’s been banned from Gaza for the foreseeable future over Israeli government claims he poses a security threat. Dr Gilbert’s been travelling to Gaza to treat patients for over 15 years and he told Outside Source’s Louise Webster what had happened.”

Of course Mads Gilbert has not only been frequently featured on the BBC World Service, but on a variety of other BBC platforms too and, as has so frequently been the case in the past, in this item no attempt whatsoever was made to correct the misleading impressions received by BBC audiences as a result of Gilbert’s promotion of unchallenged propaganda.OS podcast Mads Gilbert

“The fundamental reason for the ill-health in the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing.”

“The siege of Gaza of course has to be lifted. We cannot accept the siege is now also including international medical staff who seek to support the medical sector in Gaza. That is totally unacceptable.”

“Well, I think – you know – the siege of Gaza has been going on for seven years now and they have been denied all sorts of daily commodities; building material, medical supplies and so on. And it seems like the Israeli authorities are also trying to limit the number of foreigners who are allowed to travel through Israel to Gaza. So what is lost is actually the flow of information about the realities in Gaza and we need to know what is the circumstances and the situation for the population in Gaza.”

In fact the main causes of death in the Gaza Strip are cardiovascular disease, cancer and cerebrovascular disease. There is, of course, no “siege” on the Gaza Strip, but nevertheless the BBC still continues to energetically promote that particular falsehood. As we had cause to note here on numerous occasions during this summer’s conflict, the issue of shortages of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip has nothing to do with the restriction on the entry of dual-use goods imposed by Israel as part of counter-terrorism measures and in fact arises from long-standing disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Clearly too, Gilbert’s hysterical claim of a limit or ban on foreign medical staff travelling to Gaza is a gross distortion.

So yet again we see the BBC providing an unhindered platform for Mads Gilbert to promote his usual deliberate misinformation.

In the full version of the item, Gilbert’s monologue was followed by Chloe Tilley informing listeners that:

“…an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman told Outside Source that an investigation was underway into Dr Gilbert, who he described as a ‘Jekyll & Hyde figure hiding behind a cloak of being a humanitarian doctor’. He said there was strong suspicion that he had been involved in matters relating to supporting terror activities. An investigation is underway and Dr Gilbert’s position would be reassessed when it came to a conclusion.”

That statement was omitted from the version of the item promoted on Twitter, a link to which also appeared in a written article titled “Israel bans Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from Gaza” published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 14th. That article further amplified Gilbert’s inaccurate “siege” propaganda:Gilbert on website

“”The fundamental reason for the ill health of the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing,” he said.”

It also told readers that:

“In July, Dr Gilbert was one of the co-signatories in a strongly-worded letter denouncing Israeli action in Gaza, published in the medical journal, the Lancet.”

Notably, the BBC made no effort to inform audiences of the controversy surrounding that letter when two of Gilbert’s co-signatories were found to have a history of disseminating antisemitic material or of the Lancet editor’s subsequent comments on the issue.

The BBC knows full well that there is no “siege” on the Gaza Strip and it should by now also be aware of the fact that Israel does not pose any limitations on the entry of medical supplies. However, it continues to mislead BBC audiences worldwide by providing an unhindered platform for Mads Gilbert’s promotion these falsehoods, thus clearly breaching its own supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

Hamas terminology and propaganda in BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Mads Gilbert