Another dose of context-free Gaza Strip pathos from Yolande Knell

On April 12th an article by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Egypt gives Hamas and Gaza the cold shoulder“. On the Middle East page itself, the link was presented under the title “Hemmed in”, with the sub-heading “Gazans suffering effects of Egypt’s drive against Muslim Brotherhood”.Knell piece on hp

The article is actually a near transcript of an audio report by Knell which was broadcast in the April 12th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent” on BBC Radio 4. The audio version of the report can be heard here from around 12:23 or as a podcast here. Presenter Kate Adie opens her introduction of Knell’s item with a gratuitous context-free statement which, like a recent BBC News article on the same subject, neglects to inform audiences that “economic sanctions” are actually a way of trying to reclaim over $400 million of Palestinian Authority debt to Israel.

“Israel this week said it would bring in new economic sanctions against the Palestinians. The move came amid mounting pessimism over the eventual outcome of the ongoing peace talks between the two sides. And in Gaza it came as the Islamic militant group Hamas was facing its deepest crisis since it took control of the Strip in 2007. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union. And now, as Yolande Knell has been finding out, the interim government in neighbouring Egypt has begun to take a tougher approach as well.”

Had she simply added the two words ‘among others’ after her incomplete list of countries which designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, Adie could have avoided the pitfall of inaccuracy caused by her elimination of Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand from that list.Knell GAza FOOC

Since the departure of Jon Donnison last summer, the BBC has not had a permanent foreign correspondent in the Gaza Strip, but Knell has been among those paying occasional visits and reporting from there. Like most of her previous reports from the past few months (see for example here, here and here),  this one too is an exercise in context-free pathos and promotion of the theme of poor, blameless, downtrodden Gazans.  

The most striking feature of Knell’s report is its framing of Egyptian actions and policy solely as a “crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood” and the failure to make any mention of the connections between the Gaza Strip and terrorist activity in the northern Sinai.

“Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has led to a sharp deterioration in relations with the Islamist group Hamas in neighbouring Gaza, and the people there are paying the price. […]

Relations with Gaza’s Hamas government have dramatically worsened since Egypt’s elected president Mohammed Morsi was ousted last summer following mass protests.

Hamas was closely aligned with Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Now Cairo’s new military-backed authorities accuse Hamas of meddling in their affairs. They have banned all its activities.

And ordinary Palestinians feel the consequences.”

Also notable is Knell’s anodyne portrayal of the cross-border smuggling tunnels and her failure to clarify to audiences that Egypt’s actions against those tunnels were not inspired by their use for the smuggling of commercial goods, but because they are also used to move weapons and Jihadist fighters in and out of sovereign Egyptian territory.

“Already hundreds of smuggling tunnels under Egypt’s border have been destroyed by its troops.

They used to act as a lifeline to get around restrictions that Israel tightened seven years ago after Hamas wrested control of the Palestinian territory from Fatah forces loyal to the president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Trade is visibly down at a market in southern Gaza.

“Nobody can bring in goods any more and people are suffering,” says a grizzled stallholder, Waleed, “our economy’s at zero.”

Without the tunnel business, unemployment has risen sharply.

There is a shortage of building materials.

And there is no cheap, subsidised Egyptian fuel. That means longer power cuts.”

Of course Knell does not bother to make any attempt to provide audiences with any relevant background as to why it is essential that there are limitations on the entry of dual-use goods – including some building materials – to the Gaza Strip and she fails to clarify that legitimate construction projects are able to receive the supplies they need.  Neither does she inform audiences of the full background to the Gaza Strip’s electricity crisis.  

“Recent Egyptian military activity rendered out of commission hundreds of tunnels that once connected Sinai and Gaza and were used to import one million liters of fuel into Gaza each day. As a result, Hamas has no choice but to purchase fuel from Israel via the Palestinian Authority at prices similar to those found in the Israeli market, namely over seven shekels ($2) per liter of gasoline. That is a major problem for private car owners.

The more acute problem is that fuel is needed to operate the Gaza power plant that generates the majority of the local electricity. The Palestinian Authority purchases a liter of fuel for the power plant for approximately 4 shekels from Israeli gas companies and has tried to sell it to Hamas for almost double, including excise tax.

Hamas has rejected those prices outright and stopped purchasing fuel for its power plant. The dramatic consequence was that the power plant has shut down and the electricity supply has been completely disrupted. The PA refuses to waive the excise tax, a critical part of its own budget. And the residents of Gaza are the ones who suffer.”

Knell goes on to quote Raji Sourani, whom she describes simply as a “human rights campaigner” without clarifying his link to the PCHR as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines. Using Sourani’s words as a hook, she implies that the recent barrage of missile attacks on Israeli civilians in communities surrounding the Gaza Strip was the inevitable – and hence presumably ‘understandable’ – result of economic frustration.

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas addresses the PCHR 2006 conference

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas addresses the PCHR 2006 conference


“Back in Gaza City, I find the veteran human rights campaigner Raji Sourani looking uncharacteristically miserable.

“Egypt’s added another dimension to this siege that’s suffocated Gaza socially and economically. It’s a collective punishment. We’re reduced to hostages and beggars,” he says.

“And I don’t think anybody should expect Gazans to be good victims. Things will ultimately explode.”

Already there have been explosions. Last month fighters from Islamic Jihad in Gaza launched a barrage of rockets at their historic enemy, Israel.”

That is quite a remarkable piece of whitewashing of the motivations of an internationally proscribed terrorist organization (which, in the audio version of the report is revealingly described by Knell simply as “an armed group more extreme than Hamas”) inspired by religious supremacist ideology and funded by Iran. Knell’s downplaying of Hamas’ extremism also includes the failure to mention its recently improved ties with Iran and a distinctly woolly portrayal of the latest Hamas rally in Gaza which the BBC failed to report in English at the time.

“Hamas – which fell out with its other regional patrons Syria and Iran earlier during the Arab uprisings – was left feeling even more squeezed.

A massive rally held soon after in Gaza was meant as a show of force.

Hamas leaders spoke defiantly about Israel and the failing peace talks led by their political rival, President Abbas.

But some also criticised Egypt and what they called its military coup.”

Once again BBC audiences are herded towards focusing their attentions exclusively on the issue of the economic difficulties facing the ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip without any proper context being provided regarding the responsibility of the ruling Hamas regime for those very real hardships. And once again, that policy actively prevents BBC audiences from being able to form an understanding of international issues based on the full range of facts.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell amplifies Hamas propaganda, downplays its terror designation

A round-up of BBC reporting of security incidents in March 2014

Security incidents of one sort or another made up the subject matter of quite a substantial proportion of the BBC News website’s coverage of Israel throughout the month of March and so it is interesting to look at what was deemed newsworthy and what was not, as well as at the quality of those reports. 

Beginning in the north, as we noted here on March 13th, by that stage of the month the BBC had already ignored the discovery of two Katyusha rockets near Majdal Shams on March 1st and an attempt to plant an improvised explosive device on the Syrian-Israeli border on the night of March 4th/5th

Tel Fares from Ramtaniya

Tel Fares from Ramtaniya


On March 14th another IED was activated against an Israeli patrol in the HarDov area on the Israel-Lebanon border. That incident was not reported by the BBC until four days later when a brief mention of that attack and the one of March 4th/5th appeared in a report relating to a separate incident. Hizballah has since claimed responsibility for that attack, but that news has not been reported by the BBC to date.

On March 18th, on the Israel-Syria border, another IED was activated against an Israeli patrol. The BBC published a report titled “Israeli soldiers wounded by bomb blast in Golan Heights” which was later replaced by another eventually titled “Israeli air strikes in Golan ‘kill Syrian soldier’” after Israel responded to the attack.

On March 28th an attempted infiltration of the border between Israel and Syria took place near Kibbutz Ein Zivan, with the two armed men reportedly killed. That incident was not reported by the BBC. 

During the month of March the BBC elected to report on two incidents occurring in the central region: the March 10th incident at the Allenby Bridge border crossing (which is still under investigation) and the March 22nd incident in Jenin in which Israeli forces trying to arrest a wanted terrorism suspect were attacked and three terrorists killed in the resulting gun-battle.

Among the many other incidents in the same region which the BBC elected not to report were a stabbing attack carried out by a member of the PFLP near Petah Tikva on March 2nd, the arrest in Hebron of a Hamas operative wanted since 1998 and the arrest of a resident of Jabel Mukaber with ties to Hamas on charges of sabotaging gas pipelines in the capital with the intention of causing explosions. The man also admitted carrying out a terror attack with an axe in 2012.

Incidents in which rocks and firebombs were thrown at Israeli vehicles included that of March 20th when a bus carrying schoolchildren was attacked with a firebomb near Nablus. On March 23rd an Israeli soldier was seriously injured at Rachel’s Tomb when a concrete block was thrown at him. In all, 107 incidents were recorded in Judea & Samaria and three in Jerusalem during March, with the majority (95) involving firebombs. All of those incidents were ignored by the BBC, as is habitually the case. In fact, throughout the last nine months since the current round of talks between Israel and the PLO commenced, according to ISA statistics, 916 firebomb attacks have taken place in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. Only one of those attacks (in November 2013) has been reported by the BBC.

Attacks July 13 to March 14 incl

In the southern region the BBC used a report on an incident on March 1st in which a woman was shot near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip to once again promote a flawed report by Amnesty International. On March 4th a strike against two terrorists who were in the process of firing missiles at Israeli civilian communities was the subject of a problematic BBC report. Incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip on the night of March 6th did not receive any BBC coverage.

On March 11th a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell fired a mortar at an Israeli army patrol on the Gaza Strip – Israel border and the IDF responded. Later that evening a missile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near Sderot. Neither of those incidents received coverage until the evening of the next day when the BBC produced the first of four reports (see also here and here)  concerning the subsequent heavy barrage of missiles from the Gaza Strip was fired at civilian communities in Israel over a period of two days. All those BBC reports were hallmarked by their amplification of PIJ propaganda, their absolving of Hamas of any responsibility for the attacks and the fact that they failed to clarify that some of the attacks were carried out by additional terrorist factions including Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Despite having sent a correspondent to Sderot, the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the point of view of Israeli civilians under attack. 

Gaza from Zikkim beach

Gaza City from Zikkim beach


Subsequent incidents on March 17th and 18th and the discovery of two improvised explosive devices on the border on March 25th were not reported. The discovery on March 21st of another cross-border tunnel prompted a BBC report which amplified Hamas propaganda.

BBC coverage of the March 5th seizure of a ship transporting weapons destined for terrorists in the Gaza Strip from Iran via Sudan included a blatant ‘smoke and mirrors’ report, the use of inaccurate maps, amplification of Iranian propaganda and the failure to inform audiences of evidence of Iranian involvement in the shipment.

Clearly a considerable proportion of security events – especially those not resulting in casualties – continue to be ignored by the BBC. Throughout March that was once again particularly notable in the central regions of Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem with the number of incidents reported by the BBC confined to two, whilst a total of 110 violent attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel actually took place. Clearly too, BBC audiences are not able to form fact-based opinions if such a large proportion of information is consistently withheld.

Related Articles:

90% of missile attacks from Gaza Strip in February ignored by the BBC

Review of the BBC’s reporting of security incidents in Judea & Samaria in January

One hundred and sixteen stories the BBC chose not to tell







Propaganda in the guise of art from the BBC News Gaza office

On April 4th a video report titled “Making art in the Gaza Strip: Mohammed al-Hawajri” appeared in the BBC News website’s ‘magazine’ section, on its main home page and on its Middle East page. The report was also apparently shown on the BBC World News programme GMT.

The synopsis to the video report as it appears on the website reads:

“The struggling artist is a stereotype that resonates throughout the world, but being a painter or sculptor in the Gaza Strip can be particularly challenging.

Mohammed al-Hawajri struggles to import the materials he needs because of border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Mohammed has been asked to participate in international exhibitions but it is so difficult for him to get permission to export his work and leave the Palestinian territory that he is staging his latest show in Gaza City.

BBC News went to meet Mohammed al-Hawajri and find out about his work.” [emphasis added]

Artist GS

The voice over to the report is narrated by Hawajri himself. [emphasis added]

“I am very interested in modern art. These are pictures that I paint of my children. We are not sure about our future here but I have use a lot of colour to show that we have hope.

My name is Mohammed al Hawajri. I am Palestinian artist from the Gaza Strip. My work is very affected by the situation here. Because of the siege in Gaza artists cannot get materials that we need. So, sometimes I make a sculpture from animals’ bones. I have done some paintings with the spices. You can smell it. This one uses curry and cumin. This is another part of my idea that you should use different senses.

This is my new project. It is an installation work. We are filming about the siege in Gaza. It is a critical of the situation but in a humorous way. It’s called ‘the red carpet’. People who support us in Gaza cannot reach us in normal ways. So the only way to enter is from the sea. I am rolling out a red carpet to welcome them and show respect.

Like everyone in Gaza I find it very difficult to get permission to leave. We can only get out through Egypt or Israel. Some galleries in Europe have shown my art work and I get many invitations to travel. My new exhibition is being shown here in Gaza City.”

No context is provided in this report with regard to why a partial blockade on the Gaza Strip exists. The words ‘Hamas’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘missile attacks on Israeli civilians’ of course have no place in this piece of filmed propaganda. Neither are viewers made aware of the fact that restrictions on the import of materials to the Gaza Strip are confined solely to dual-use goods which can be used for the purpose of terrorism.

As the lively flow of Western politicians, activists and journalists to the Gaza Strip indicates, Hawajri’s claim that “the only way to enter is from the sea” is patently inaccurate. No explanation is offered as to why the Gaza Strip does not have a functioning airport and no mention is made of the fact that thousands of people exit the Gaza Strip via the Erez crossing alone every month or that there are no restrictions on exports from the territory.

And what of Hawajri himself? Well, according to his self-composed Twitter profile he has visited Jordan, Italy, France, Switzerland and Egypt. According to his profile on the website of the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Hawajri visited Jerusalem, Alexandria in Egypt and Pescara in Italy in 2008 alone. An interview Hawajri gave to Ramallah Online in 2010 states:

“Although Mohammed has been fortunate to be granted permission to travel, owing to his higher status, it saddens him that so many of his peers are refused. “It is the most difficult thing. The denial of participation and transfer of their art, and also depriving them of the exchange of experience with artists of the world.” [...]

Al-Hawajri enjoys spending time abroad, but cannot stay away for long. “I like the freedoms in the West, but my thoughts and my art come from the crowded streets and markets of Gaza. Life is not natural, but my future is here”. “

According to his profile on the website of the artists collective to which he belongs, he was already working with animal bones in the year 1997 and with spices in 2002 – years before the Gaza Strip was declared a hostile entity in September 2007 and the partial blockade put in place due to the surge of terrorist activity after the violent Hamas coup. The choice of those media is therefore clearly not connected to any shortages of materials as the BBC’s report suggests.

Hawajri’s work is – according to his own description – political. Seven years after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip he described one of his exhibitions in the following terms:

“In my latest project entitled Guernica-Gaza, I express the reality of the world and of the Palestinians, the life under Israeli occupation, racial segregation, violence, destruction, murder and assassination. [..]

I have chosen this title because of the similarities between the war in Gaza in 2008/2009 and the German aggression against Spain in 1937, during which the village of Guernica was destroyed.”

In this report the BBC News Gaza office has clearly self-conscripted to the promotion of a similar context-free cocktail of propaganda, art and politics which obviously flouts BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality. 



BBC’s Abualouf promotes Hamas “fishermen” PR line

Here is a Tweet sent by the BBC Gaza office’s Rushdi Abualouf on March 26th.

Tweet Abualouf fishermen

However, beyond the unqualified amplification of a statement made by a Hamas spokesman, Abualouf’s Twitter followers were not informed of the actual facts behind this story.

“Israeli naval troops in the Mediterranean Sea opened fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning on suspected Palestinian smugglers travelling in two boats from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians said that four people on the boats had been wounded. […]

The incident occurred at around 3 am, several hundred meters from the Gaza coastline.  

Soldiers from a nearby naval base were patrolling the area when they noticed two small boats making their way back from the Sinai coast to southern Gaza. The IDF is still unclear as to what the boats were carrying, but the secondary explosions have raised suspicions that the two vessels were carrying weapons.”

During the incident, the naval forces also came under fire from gunmen situated near Rafah:

“As the Navy was escorting the boats in question back to the Gaza shore, gunmen on the coast opened fire on the Israeli forces.”

Another similar incident took place later on the same day.

As has previously been documented here:

“Under the terms of the Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people – Gaza’s coastal waters remained under Israeli responsibility. The agreements divide those waters into three different zones named K,L and M.

“Subject to the provisions of this paragraph, Zones K and M will be closed areas, in which navigation will be restricted to activity of the Israel Navy.”

Zone L was designated for “fishing, recreation and economic activities”, subject to specific provisions, including the following:

“As part of Israel’s responsibilities for safety and security within the three Maritime Activity Zones, Israel Navy vessels may sail throughout these zones, as necessary and without limitations, and may take any measures necessary against vessels suspected of being used for terrorist activities or for smuggling arms, ammunition, drugs, goods, or for any other illegal activity. The Palestinian Police will be notified of such actions, and the ensuing procedures will be coordinated through the MC.” [Emphasis added]

Following the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the November 15th 2005 agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Agreed documents on movement and access from and to Gaza) made no change to the above provisions.” 

In other words, Israeli counter-smuggling measures along the Gaza Strip coast are within the terms of an agreement signed with the internationally recognised representative of the Palestinian people – the Palestinian Authority.

Rather than being mere “fishing boats” as reported by Hamas and the BBC’s Gaza correspondent, the vessels involved in this incident appear to have been engaged in smuggling – likely as an alternative to smuggling via the cross-border tunnels in Rafah which have been rendered inoperative by the Egyptian army in recent months.

Given that the closure of those smuggling tunnels has resulted in financial crisis for Hamas with, by its own admission, 40% of its revenue (other observers put the figure much higher) previously having come from taxes imposed on goods smuggled through those tunnels, it would hardly be unexpected to see the development of an alternative sea route. It would also not be surprising to see a Hamas spokesman promoting the public relations line of smugglers caught in the act as innocent “fishermen” for Western consumption.

It should, however, be unacceptable for a BBC employee to unquestioningly amplify the PR of a terrorist organization with a vested interest in smuggling operations involving both taxable goods and weapons.




BBC reports on Hamas rally in Arabic – but not in English

Whilst visitors to the BBC Arabic website on March 23rd were informed that a Hamas rally attended by tens of thousands had taken place in Gaza City earlier in the day, those visiting the main English language BBC News website found no report on that topic and hence would have no idea of the rhetoric against Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority which was part and parcel of the event

With the BBC lately having taken to sedately describing Hamas as the body “which governs the Gaza Strip” and with audiences having been told on several recent occasions that Hamas has “refrained” from attacking Israel since the ceasefire of October 2012, it would of course have been useful to audiences to have an up to the minute appraisal of the terrorist organisation’s stance regarding its neighbours. Rally Gaza 1

Via Channel 10, readers can view footage (in Arabic and Hebrew) of some parts of Ismail Haniyeh’s speech at the event – translated below.

“Today Gaza says to our brothers in the [West] Bank we are with you, we will not abandon you.

All of Jenin and all of the [West] Bank is resistance. Resistance, resistance, resistance, resistance! […]

Both from the tunnels beneath the ground and also above the ground, you – the conquerors [occupiers] – will [be driven] out. You have no existence on the soil of Palestine.

We have the ability to create terror from nothing and to shake the earth of Tel Aviv. […]

I tell you and I will continue to say time after time; we will not recognise, we will not recognise, we will not recognise Israel.”

Below is more footage from the same event.

Haniyeh also called on the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas to “quit this pointless track and not to extend negotiation” and reproached Egypt for its recent stance towards the Gaza Strip’s ruling regime.

“The punishment of the people of Gaza must end. Why punish Gaza? Was it because it achieved victory against the Occupier? Why punish Gaza? Was it because it took up the rifle against Israel?” 

Given that in the past we have seen extensive BBC reporting of similar rallies organized by Hamas, it is unclear why BBC News should have chosen not to report on this particular one to English-speaking audiences and instead to confine its limited coverage to the Arabic-language site.

Related Articles:

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What Jon Donnison did not report about the Hamas rally in Nablus


Comparing the BBC’s coverage of two tragic stories from Gaza

Seventeen months ago the BBC gave extensive coverage to the story of a child killed in the Gaza Strip during the conflict between Hamas and Israel in November 2012. The corporation’s journalists rushed to promote an unquestioned and unverified version of the story of the death of Omar Masharawi – the son of a BBC employee – according to which he had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Months later, in March 2013, that already shaky story was shown to be even less rooted in accurate and impartial reporting when a UN report stated that the incident was most likely caused by a misfired rocket launched by one of the Palestinian terror organisations operating in the Gaza Strip. The BBC’s subsequent addition of a footnote to a report which had at the time appeared on its website for four straight months did little to correct the damage caused by the irresponsible and cavalier promotion of an inaccurate story which its journalists had not adequately verified, but which fit in with their own preconceived narrative.

Last week a two year-old child named Mohammed al Hamadin died as a result of injuries he had sustained in an explosion on March 11th at his family home in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip.

Mohammed was among some six people injured and three killed in that explosion. The three dead were described by Palestinian sources as being “affiliated” with Hamas and indeed the al Qassam Brigades published notification of the death of one of the men whilst two of the others appear to have also had Salafi Jihadi connections. According to AP:

“A security official said the three dead were Hamas militants, and that the blast had been caused while mishandling explosives.”

Palpress reports that:

“According to media reports that the explosion, which occurred last week in the home led to the deaths of three young men who were working on the processing of homemade rockets.”

The fact that no mention of this latest incident of a child being killed in the Gaza Strip because of the actions of Palestinian terror organisations has appeared in any BBC News report will not come as much of a surprise to readers because the BBC habitually turns a blind eye to the many cases of Palestinian casualties caused by short-falling missiles and other terrorist activity of the type which resulted in the death of little Mohammed al Hamadin.

That state of affairs raises uncomfortable questions about which factors in a story relating to Palestinian casualties make it newsworthy – or not – as far as the BBC is concerned and why an incident in which a child was killed that does not further a preconceived political narrative is not told to BBC audiences. 

‘Impartial’ BBC reporting of Hamas propaganda on cross-border tunnel

A fine example of how the BBC’s  ‘impartial’ presentation of two sides of a story can at times be counter-productive to informing audiences – and simply absurd – was given in an article which appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website under the title “Israel ‘uncovers longest Gaza tunnel’“. Tunnel art

The report relates to the recent discovery of yet another underground cross-border tunnel dug by Hamas from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Four paragraphs of the article’s total of twelve are devoted to the uncritical amplification of the less bizarre parts of a statement made at a press conference held by the terrorist organization which, by its own admission, is responsible for the tunnel’s construction. 

“The military wing of Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, dismissed the find, saying the tunnel was not new. […]

However Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, disputed Israel’s claim.

A spokesman noted “there was no military or intelligence achievement by the enemy”, adding that “this tunnel is not new.

“It is an old tunnel that Israel exposed two months ago and jihad fighters worked to rebuild it.” “

There is in fact nothing in the quoted parts of the Hamas statement which enhances BBC audiences’ wider understanding of the story’s background. Nevertheless, the writer of this report opted to construct it entirely in the form of  ‘impartial’ repetition of the latest propaganda from an internationally designated terrorist organization (which has been caught several times violating the integrity of a sovereign state’s border by tunnelling underneath it for the purpose of attacks on its citizens) side by side and on a level with the information concerning the tunnel’s discovery as provided by the IDF. 

What would have helped BBC audiences gain more insight into the significance of this latest discovery?

The subject of restrictions on the entry of specific goods to the Gaza Strip is frequently mentioned in BBC reports but this article makes no attempt to join the dots by clarifying to audiences that it is precisely this sort of abuse of dual-use construction materials which makes restrictions on their entry necessary.  

As was the case at the time of the previous discovery of a similar tunnel last October, the BBC  (in common with the rest of the Western media, it must be said) has made no attempt to further inform audiences of the manner in which building materials intended to benefit the civilian population of the Gaza Strip are expropriated by its ‘governing’ body (as the BBC describes Hamas) for the purpose of terrorism and at the expense of the welfare of its citizens. By avoiding that issue, the BBC denies its audiences vital context. 

The organization which claims that it “aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism” could surely do more to facilitate “a global understanding of international issues” than making do with this ‘impartial’ presentation of meaningless Hamas public relations slogans.  

Related Articles:

BBC not sure cross-border tunnel intended for terror?

How did the BBC report the truce that wasn’t?

On the afternoon of Thursday, March 13th, an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the heading “Gaza militants say truce renewed”.

Truce art on hp

Despite the fact that throughout the afternoon and evening terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip continued their missile attacks on Truce art p1Israeli civilian targets, the article – titled “Gaza militants Islamic Jihad say truce renewed” – remained in situ and was not updated to reflect the realities on the ground. The report stated:

“On Thursday, at least two more rockets struck Israel, after which Israel attacked seven “terror sites” in Gaza. Three Palestinians were reported hurt.”

In fact, some seventeen missiles were fired at Israeli civilians throughout Thursday (most of them after the supposed truce took effect) in addition to over sixty-five the day before. 

Notably, the BBC continues to insist upon using the euphemistic term “militants” to describe paramilitary groups deliberately targeting of civilians with military grade weapons and its description of the sites targeted in Israeli responses to that missile fire is presented in scare quotes, suggesting to audiences that there is room for doubt as to whether the sites concerned were actually connected with terrorism.

Clearly both those BBC practices do not contribute to accurate audience understanding of the events taking place and the absurdity of what can only be regarded as a policy decision to downplay terrorism is rendered even more apparent by the fact that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s concurrent PR campaign has included video evidence of indiscriminate attacks on civilians and of what it claims is a new underground missile launching system used to perpetrate those attacks. 

Truce PIJ launcher

Like the two BBC reports before it on the same topic, this article continues to uncritically amplify PIJ and Hamas propaganda concerning the reason for this latest round of missile attacks. The issue is presented to BBC audiences as one of ‘conflicting claims’ – despite the fact that video evidence of the PIJ’s mortar attack on a routine Israeli patrol along the border on March 11th produced by the PIJ itself has been available for days.

“Islamic Jihad said it fired the rockets in retaliation for Tuesday’s killing of three of its militants in an earlier Israeli air strike. Israel says it attacked the militants immediately after they launched mortars at Israeli soldiers.” […]

“Hamas did not take part in firing the rockets but accused Israel of provoking the attacks by Islamic Jihad.

AP quoted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as saying Israel bore “full responsibility” for the escalation.”

That BBC policy too is rendered absurd by the fact that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Secretary General spoke openly from Tehran about the PIJ’s real aims as the attacks were ongoing.

The article ends with a description of remarks made by the president of the Palestinian Authority.

“The president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and a rival of Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the violence.

Speaking during a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday, Mr Abbas said: “Yesterday rockets were launched from Gaza and Israeli responded.

“We condemn the aggression and all forms of military escalation, including the rockets.” “

The BBC fails to inform audiences that the day before those particular remarks were made in the presence of the British prime minister, Abbas issued a statement on the subject in which he condemned only the Israeli reaction to the terror attacks and not the attacks themselves. Likewise, no mention is made of the fact that the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – connected to the Fatah movement which Abbas also heads – claimed responsibility for several of the missile attacks in recent days. Truce art 2

At some point the BBC News website apparently realised that its “truce renewed” article did not accurately reflect the situation and the above report was removed and replaced in the early hours of March 14th with one titled “Gaza militants and Israel exchange strikes despite ‘truce’“.

That report includes the same uncritical repetition of PIJ and Hamas propaganda as its predecessor and also uses punctuation to suggest to readers that the sites targeted by Israel might not in fact be terrorist infrastructure.

“The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said about 60 rockets hit Israel on Wednesday.

It said eight more rockets struck Israel on Thursday, after which Israel attacked seven “terror sites” in Gaza.”

Both the above reports include filmed footage from March 13th (which also appeared separately on the BBC News website) of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Quentin Sommerville explaining the situation to BBC television news audiences. 

In that report audiences were informed through the use of a qualifying idiom that they could decide for themselves whether or not one of the Israeli towns under missile attack was a “target”: Sommerville filmed

“If you just look down here – this is the town of Sderot. This is…ah…the target – if you like – for many of those rockets.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s reporting of three days of missile attacks on Israeli civilians has been notable for the fact that it has failed to provide adequate background information which would enable audiences to properly comprehend the context of this latest escalation. The subject of Hamas’ weakened domestic and regional stature and the resulting power struggles has been ignored. PIJ and Hamas propaganda has been amplified without question and terrorism systematically downplayed. 

Notably too – despite the fact that a BBC correspondent stood on a hill meters away from the town of Sderot – the voices of thousands of Israeli civilians whose lives have been blighted by missile attacks perpetrated by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip for well over a decade have, once more, not been heard by BBC audiences.

Related Articles:

BBC News amplifies Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s PR line on attacks against Israeli civilians

BBC can’t tell its Hamas from its Islamic Jihad?

BBC can’t tell its Hamas from its Islamic Jihad?

“Israeli planes bombard Gaza targets” was the lead headline on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of March 13th,with no trace to be found of the previous day’s article on the subject of the barrage of missile attacks against civilians in southern Israel begun by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip on March 12th and at the time of writing, still ongoing

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That link leads to a somewhat confused report going under the title “Israeli planes hit Gaza in response to rocket strikes“. Weds art thurs am response orig

Among the introductory paragraphs to the original version of the report readers found the following statement:

“Militants fired more than 30 rockets into southern Israel, officials say.”

Later on in the report, a different number was presented.

“An Israeli army statement late on Wednesday said that the remains of 60 rockets had so far been found.”

Yes – sixty is definitely “more than 30″, but readers skimming the report’s opening lines during the first eight hours or so of its appearance on the website would have received a misleading impression of the scale of the terrorists’ attacks from the inclusion of that first statement. Appropriately, the number in that sentence was changed to sixty in the updated version of the article. 

At two points in the original version of the report the subject of the closure of crossings into the Gaza Strip was raised.

“Israel is also reported to have closed border crossings with the Gaza Strip.”


“The Voice of Israel said on Wednesday that the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) had closed border crossings in response to the rocket attacks.”

In fact, whilst the Kerem Shalom crossing was indeed closed, the Erez crossing remained open for humanitarian cases.

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The earlier version of the report stated:

“It [Israeli radio] cited Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon as saying that Israel held Hamas responsible for the escalation inWeds BBC art hamas statement violence and warned it would “pay a heavy price”.

But Hamas released an equally belligerent statement.

“Our mujahideen responded to the Zionist aggression by firing tens of rockets,” it said.

Speaking to the BBC, the group’s spokesman added: “The rockets fired today came in response to the occupation aggression against us and does not mean the collapse of the ceasefire agreement [with Israel].” “

The version appearing after amendments were made some eight hours later states:

“But Hamas accused Israel of provoking the attacks.

“Our mujahedeen responded to the Zionist aggression by firing tens of rockets,” it said.

Speaking to the BBC, the group’s spokesman added: “The rockets fired today came in response to the occupation aggression against us and does not mean the collapse of the ceasefire agreement [with Israel].” “

Unless the BBC has obtained an exclusive Hamas admission of “firing tens of rockets” unreported by any other media organization, it would seem that it has actually mixed up Hamas with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. That impression is supported by the fact that the previous day, the BBC used the same quote, but attributed it to the PIJ.

“Israeli warplanes responded by targeting Islamic Jihad positions.

The group said its attacks were in retaliation for Tuesday’s killing of three of its militants in an earlier Israeli air strike.

“Our Mujahideen responded to the Zionist aggression by firing tens of rockets,” they said in a statement.

Speaking to the BBC, the group’s spokesman added “The rocket fired today came in response to the occupation aggression against us and does not mean the collapse of the ceasefire agreement [with Israel].” ” [BBC News, 12/3/13, "Gaza militants fire rocket barrage at southern Israel"]

Like its predecessor, this report provides no background information for readers wanting to understand the context of this latest massive attack carried out by the PIJ and additional terrorist organisations. No mention is made of Hamas’ weakened stature resulting from political changes in Egypt and that country’s campaign against terrorist organisations in the northern Sinai, which has drastically reduced Hamas revenues from the smuggling tunnels. The power struggles in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and other elements including the Iranian-backed PIJ are not explained to audiences and neither are they reminded that the PIJ was by all accounts the intended recipient of the Iranian shipment of missiles, mortars and bullets seized last week aboard the Klos-C or of Hamas’ recent rapprochement with the Iranian regime.

Instead, this report continues in the vein of its predecessor by amplifying the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s flimsy propaganda, according to which the barrage of dozens of terror attacks with military-grade missiles on the civilian populations of towns and villages in southern Israel is a “response” to the IDF’s targeting of three paramilitary terrorists who launched a mortar attack on soldiers carrying out routine work near the border fence on March 11th.

Also in common with the previous report, this one too downplays Hamas’ responsibility under the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire agreement  to prevent missile fire and other terror attacks from the Gaza Strip – and its proven ability to do so when it so wishes.

“Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad and other groups have sporadically fired rockets and mortars at Israel since the 2012 conflict ended, while the Hamas movement that governs Gaza has refrained from doing so.”

The unsourced claim that Hamas has “refrained” from carrying out missile attacks since November 2012 is of course contradicted by the assertion higher up that Hamas issued a statement saying “Our mujahideen responded to the Zionist aggression by firing tens of rockets” and further supports the impression that the BBC has inaccurately attributed that quote.

The report ends by stating:

“Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip, now run by Hamas, in 2005. But it maintains a naval and air blockade and restricts the overland movement of people and goods across their shared border.”

No mention is made of Hamas’ terror designation, of the violent circumstances under which it came to “run” the Gaza Strip or of the fact that Israel’s naval blockade and border restrictions came about because of – and after – increased missile fire from the territory in the wake of the Hamas coup which ousted the internationally recognised representatives of the Palestinian people. 

Violent incidents such as the one initiated by terrorists in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday afternoon are confusing. The public is swamped by a plethora of often conflicting media reports produced under rapidly changing circumstances in which the facts are not always clear. The BBC claims to be “the standard-setter for international journalism” and professes to help audiences “remain informed about world events” and to enhance their “awareness and understanding” of those events.

Beyond the factual inaccuracies and conflicting information appearing in the BBC’s two reports so far on this latest round of terror attacks from the Gaza Strip, audiences will also remain none the wiser as to the event’s context and background dynamics because it has elected to refrain from providing information of any worth concerning the bigger picture in favour of the unquestioned repetition of propaganda put out by an internationally recognized terrorist organization. 


A correction has now been appended to the article. 

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Weds art thurs amended

BBC News amplifies Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s PR line on attacks against Israeli civilians

On the afternoon of March 12th 2013 terrorist organisations including the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a heavy barrage of missile and mortar attacks on towns and villages in southern Israel. Of over sixty missiles fired from the Gaza Strip within the first few hours (some from urban areas as can be seen in this video), at least eight landed in populated areas and several others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. 

A couple of hours after the attacks began a report appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza militants fire rocket barrage at southern Israel“. Weds missile attacks

The report opens with more use of the euphemistic term “militants” to describe terrorists deliberately targeting civilians with military-grade weapons and – perhaps through force of habit – it is liberally peppered with the standard BBC caveat “Israel says”, despite the fact that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was both quick and eager to take responsibility for the missile fire. Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade also put out statements, including one claiming four missile attacks on Sderot.

“Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 30 rockets at southern Israel, Israeli officials say.

An Israeli military spokesman said eight hit urban civilian areas and that a number of others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.

It was the heaviest barrage since the November 2012 conflict in Gaza ended.

The military wing of Islamic Jihad said it had fired the rockets in retaliation for Tuesday’s killing of three of its militants in an Israeli air strike.”

Some BBC staff also amplified via Twitter the PIJ’s PR line according to which the dozens of indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians came in “response” to the incident the previous day in which a PIJ cell attacked a routine Israeli patrol engaged in searching for IEDs on the border with mortar fire and the IDF responded.

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Weds missile attacks Shuval tweet

 That faux linkage, along with other PIJ propaganda, was further promoted later on in the BBC’s report and audiences were encouraged to view the incident in terms of equivalent conflicting narratives.

“A statement by Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, said the barrage was its “initial response” to the “crimes of the Zionist enemy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip”, the latest of which was the “assassination” of three of its members on Tuesday.

The Israeli military said it had targeted the militants after they fired mortars at its troops. The al-Quds Brigades said the Israeli soldiers had crossed into the Gaza Strip.”

However, a video  released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad the previous day is described by the terrorist organization itself as showing the mortar attack on “the enemy forces” carried out by the three members of the PIJ’s Al Quds brigade on March 11th

Weds missile attacks PIJ vid frm 11 3

Clearly the BBC’s report is lacking in accuracy in that it leads readers to mistakenly believe that only the IDF “said” that mortars had been fired at Israeli soldiers, whereas in fact the PIJ itself had already admitted that it carried out such an attack and the IDF had also filmed them in the act.

Towards the end of the report we find the following statement:

“Islamic Jihad and other groups have sporadically fired rockets and mortars at Israel since the 2012 conflict ended, while the Hamas movement that governs Gaza has refrained from doing so.” [emphasis added]

Notably, similar statements (see below) made in other recent BBC reports were somewhat more cautiously phrased and no explanation is given for the change in the BBC’s tone.

Hamas denies that it has fired any rockets since a 2012 ceasefire agreement with Israel, with other militant groups in the Gaza Strip claiming responsibility.” [emphasis added]

The report closes with the following statement:

“However, an Israeli military statement said it held Hamas “responsible for all attacks emanating” from the coastal territory.”

The BBC fails to inform audiences that the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire included the clause:

“All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.”

Seeing as Hamas – as the BBC frequently reminds its audiences – governs the Gaza Strip, it is clear that prevention of missile fire and all other types of terror attacks fall under its responsibility. Despite that above clause, a later version of the BBC’s report unquestioningly quoted a PIJ spokesman as saying the following:

“The rocket fired today came in response to the occupation aggression against us and does not mean the collapse of the ceasefire agreement [with Israel].”

No clarification of the absurdity of that statement was provided to BBC audiences.

At the time of writing Israeli forces have begun counter-attacks on terror sites and installations in the Gaza Strip and we will update as necessary.