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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Amnesty said rocket fire had also endangered Palestinian civilians.

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

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

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

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

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New report on legal aspects of Gaza Strip border restrictions

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

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

 

BBC does free PR for UN HRC

Three times a year the UN Human Rights Council turns its attentions to ‘Agenda item 7′.

“While all 193 countries of the world are addressed under Agenda Item 4, “Human rights situations requiring the world’s attention,” only Israel gets its own special treatment, under Agenda Item 7, “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories .””

It is precisely that long-existing disproportionate focus on Israel which prompted the US Secretary of State to make the following statement earlier this month:

“No one in this room can deny that there is an unbalanced focus on one democratic country,” he said, decrying the fact that no country other than Israel has a permanent agenda item on the council’s schedule. “The (council’s) obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization.”

And of course the HRC is not the only UN body to display such politically motivated bias: just last week, for example, its Commission on the Status of Women singled out one country alone for censure in its latest resolution.

That context is obviously relevant to any article written about UN HRC statements concerning Israel but readers of the BBC’s March 23rd article titled “Israel accused at UN over Gaza war casualties” were not provided with any such objective background. Instead, readers found the following versions of the BBC’s standard ‘Israel says’ formulation in its fourth and thirteenth paragraphs:UN HRC art 23 3

“Israel has previously accused the body of being biased against it.”

“In Israel, the foreign ministry told Reuters that the UN’s annual debate about human rights in Gaza and the West Bank “negatively singles out Israel and Israel every year asks its friends on the council not to express themselves”.”

The article misleads BBC audiences by the use of unqualified quotes from the latest ‘special rapporteur’ (with no mention of the Arab League’s involvement in his appointment to the post) suggesting that the number of civilian casualties in a conflict is indication of violation of the Law of Armed Combat.

“The scale of civilian deaths in Gaza during the 2014 war with Israel puts Israel’s adherence to international law in doubt, a UN official has said. […]

At the meeting, special rapporteur Makarim Wibisono criticised Israel’s conduct during the July-August conflict.

“The ferocity of destruction and high proportion of civilian lives lost in Gaza cast serious doubts over Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law principles of proportionality, distinction and precautions in attack,” he told the council.”

However – as noted (page 35 onwards) in the recent report ‘2014 Gaza War Assessment’– that is not a sound legal argument.

“One of the asymmetries that irregular forces seek to take advantage of against their conventional opponents – especially if that opponent is a liberal democracy – is commitment to the rule of law. States that respect their own citizens’ rights and observe the rule of law generally demand that their armed forces conduct operations in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law. This is rarely the case among guerillas, insurgents, terrorists and non-state armed groups. Unconventional adversaries frequently seek to exploit the presence of civilians, believing it will provide functional immunity from law-committed militaries.

These tactics are emboldened by widespread misunderstanding of LOAC not just among warring parties but also media, observers and the international public – a misunderstanding built on the false assumption that the law prohibits the infliction of any and all civilian casualties. In fact, LOAC tolerates the infliction of harm to civilians and destruction of civilian property during armed conflict, prohibiting such harm only when it is inflicted deliberately, or when it is assessed as an excessive incidental consequence of a deliberate attack on a lawful target. However, the persistence of misconceptions about LOAC’s content and requirements will enable continued manipulation of legal arguments, risk incentivizing further exploitation of civilian populations and thereby risk greater civilian deaths in future urban conflicts. For this reason, clarity on LOAC’s requirements is paramount.”

And, as Col Richard Kemp has noted:

“It is worth emphasizing that proportionality is not, as often believed by critics of Israel, a relationship between the numbers of casualties on either side in a conflict, but a calculation that considers whether the incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated in an attack.”

Neither does the writer of this article clarify to readers that the number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip in July and August 2014 (which the BBC has not independently verified since the end of the conflict) is not a “high proportion” at all in comparison to other conflicts.

Readers again came across the “Israel says” formulation (a way of supposedly ticking the impartiality box without actual BBC endorsement of statements) in the following section of the article:

“He [Wibisono] lamented “acute” needs in Gaza, warning that Israel’s continued “blockade keeps Gaza in a stranglehold which does not even allow people to help themselves”.

Israel says its tight restrictions over Gaza’s northern and eastern borders and coastline are vital to protect it from attacks by militants.”

No effort is made by the BBC to provide readers with objective and factual information regarding the reasons for the border restrictions and naval blockade, including the smuggling of weaponry to terrorist organisations.

At no point since the start of the 2014 conflict has the BBC made even a semblance of an effort to speak truth to UN power. Despite the UN HRC’s record of abysmal bias towards Israel, the corporation has uncritically quoted and promoted statements made by its officials and unquestioningly adopted and amplified UN provided casualty figures – regardless of their highly problematic origins.

Any media organization which took its fifth estate role seriously and really did aspire to be “the standard-setter for international journalism” would of course do more than merely provide free pubicity for regurgitated politically motivated statements from a body which discredits itself day by day.

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BBC’s Gaza blockade campaign continues with amplification of another NGO

As we noted in our discussion here of the plethora of reports recently produced by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip (see related articles below), UNRWA employees were given platforms from which to promote their political campaign against Israel’s policies regarding its border with the Gaza Strip in many of those items, as well as in an additional related programme.

But UNRWA was not the only organisation to be given BBC airtime for the promotion of politically motivated messaging in Doucet’s series of reports. The video below shows a report aired on BBC World News in February in which Doucet interviewed Roger Hearn of Save the Children. Note his answer to Doucet’s request to identify “the main problem” holding up reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

Hearn: “Look, fundamentally people can’t get the equipment and the building supplies to rebuild Gaza. Its…it’s the blockade – the Israeli blockade on Gaza that’s preventing us from moving forward. We can apply a band-aid as aid organisations but it’s a band-aid on a gaping wound and we will expect another war if we don’t actually start rebuilding soon.” [emphasis added]

Hearn was also featured in an audio report by Doucet (from 35:10 here) which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 25th. There he expanded on the above theme:

Doucet: “And what do you think has to happen if this is going to change? It seems there are so many reasons why it’s [reconstruction] failing.

Hearn: “Clearly the blockade – the Israeli blockade on Gaza – has to be lifted. Without that no amount of money can ever fix the damage that we’re seeing here in Gaza.”

Doucet: “But the border with Egypt is also closed: it’s a double whammy.”

Hearn: “It’s a double whammy but Israel has the legal responsibility to – actually as the occupying power – to…to lift the blockade. There’s a humanitarian imperative for Egypt but the clear responsibility lies with Israel.”

Doucet made no attempt to relieve BBC audiences of the erroneous impression given by Hearn that the Gaza Strip is still occupied by Israel almost a decade after all soldiers and civilians were removed from that area – or even to inform them that any other view of the issue exists. Hearn (who in the past has also worked for UNRWA and Oxfam, among others) has no discernible training in international law which could form a basis for his claims. Someone who does have the relevant qualifications is Professor Euguene Kontorovich and as he explained in a two-part essay (here and here) written in November 2014:

“An occupation is traditionally defined as a power exercising “effective control” over the territory in a way that displaces the prior government. The occupying power is expected to provide law and order, essential services, and all the basic functions of government – and is thus required to have the kind of control that allows for that. As the ICJ has put it, occupation requires a territory to be “actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” There has never been a finding of a such “remote” occupation, lasting nine years after the end of physical occupation and in the presence of a distinct and hostile local government.”

And of course even Hamas has stated that the Gaza Strip is no longer ‘occupied’.

Likewise, Doucet makes no attempt in either of these interviews to explain to audiences why Israel finds it necessary to restrict the entry of dual-use goods to the Gaza Strip (and those alone) which can be used for the purposes of terrorism against its civilian population. Hamas terrorism gets no mention at all and BBC audiences are herded towards the inaccurate belief that responsibility for “the main problem” holding up the reconstruction of buildings in the Gaza Strip lies exclusively with Israel.

As we have seen so many times before, the motivation for Doucet’s uncritical amplification of Roger Hearn’s inaccurate and misleading claims obviously lies both in a shared political view and in the BBC’s failure to treat NGOs with the same sort of journalistic standards it applies to other sectors. Hence, once again the BBC’s obligation to enhance its audiences’ understanding of international issues by means of accurate and impartial reporting is trumped by the opportunity to promote a political agenda.

The BBC self-conscripted to amplification of the campaign promoted by Hamas and assorted NGOs and ‘humanitarian’ groups against Israeli policies concerning its border with the Gaza Strip even as last summer’s conflict still raged. As we see, the exploitation of its unrivalled outreach for that purpose continues. 

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

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

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

Examining Lyse Doucet’s claim that she reported new Hamas tunnels on BBC

BBC World Service amplifies UNRWA’s political campaigning yet again

 

Examining Lyse Doucet’s claim that she reported new Hamas tunnels on BBC

The BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet recently engaged in a Twitter conversation on the subject of her organisation’s reporting of the topic of Hamas’ cross-border tunnels. Some threads from that conversation can be seen here, here and here but readers will get the gist from the screenshot below.

Doucet tunnels twitter convo

Quentin Sommerville’s two reports (previously discussed here) actually related more to the subject of PIJ rearmament than to the reconstruction of tunnels. As for Doucet’s claim that she “mentioned tunnels in many live broadcasts” – that is true as long as one sticks to the dictionary definition of the word ‘mention‘.

In one of her filmed reports from February 25th Doucet said:

“Six months ago there was a welcome, there was a celebration among Gazans, among Israelis – particularly in southern Israel – that a ceasefire had been reached. But look at this now. It’s like a wasteland. You could be forgiven for thinking there’d been a natural disaster here. But this was the result of 51 days of war as Israeli forces entered on the ground and carried out airstrikes and artillery fire looking for the network of underground tunnels in what they had described as a Hamas stronghold.”

In her other filmed report from the same day Doucet said to Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad:

“But there are reports – credible reports – that Hamas is again digging tunnels, that Hamas has been test-firing missiles in preparation for the next war.”

As we noted here previously, Doucet displayed “no interest whatsoever in questioning Hamad about where the money and materials for rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities are coming from”.

In an item for the February 25th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (available here from 2:45:28) Doucet said:

“….where I’m speaking to you from – I’m essentially standing on a huge mound of rubble with slabs of concrete and twisted wire rods, fragments of children’s clothing threaded through these stones and rubble and dirt. But this is what most of Shuja’iya looks like. It still lies in ruins six months after that ceasefire was reached. It lies very close to Gaza’s border with Israel. It bore the brunt of Israeli airstrikes, artillery fire and the ground offensive as Israel said it was searching for Hamas tunnels and Hamas military targets.”

In an audio report for the February 25th edition of BBC World Service’s ‘Newshour’ (available from 30:00 here), Doucet introduced an extended version of this item as follows:

“Well there’s a warm winter sun today in Gaza after days of cold rain but I have to say it’s one of the few bright spots – the only bright spot really – you’ll find here in Gaza. I’m in Shuja’iya which lies very close to the border with Israel. And this was a place which bore the brunt of Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire as well as the ground invasion as Israeli forces came into this area to destroy the underground tunnels of Hamas and to target – they say – Hamas targets. But the devastation is all around us: the witness to what really happened here around the Gaza Strip.”

So yes: Doucet did “mention” tunnels. She did not, however, present BBC audiences with the comprehensive picture of the threat those tunnels posed to Israeli civilians in the summer of 2014 which would have enhanced their understanding of the actions taken by Israel and the scenes Doucet now reports with so much pathos. Given that most of the reporting produced by Doucet and her colleagues on that subject whilst the conflict was ongoing was similarly lacking – see examples here, here and here – that omission is obviously very significant.

But no: Doucet did not provide BBC audiences with anything which can seriously be described as meaningful reporting on Hamas’ reconstruction of tunnels since the end of the conflict in any of her many recent reports (see related articles below) from the Gaza Strip.

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

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

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

 

 

Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

As readers know, less than 24 hours after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th 2014, the BBC began to promote the notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip.Bowen tweet 1

That theme, along with related ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’, continued to be advanced throughout the 50-day operation and after its conclusion, in large part by means of amplification of claims made by political NGOs such as the PCHR (see examples here and here), Human Rights Watch (see examples here and here) and Amnesty International (see examples here, here and here).

In addition, BBC audiences were fed amateur commentary from journalists with no credentials in the field of the Law of Armed Conflict, with Jeremy Bowen’s frequently proffered  ‘diagnoses’ being particularly notable.Bowen tweet 2

In a new report on last summer’s conflict written by five American Generals and commissioned by JINSA, the topic of amateur commentary on the legality of IDF operations is addressed.

“…Numerous individuals claiming to be experts in the relationship between law and military operations quickly seemed to accept Hamas’s assertions of unlawful IDF operations. On July 23, 2014, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated: “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.” The U.N. Human Rights Council subsequently issued a resolution condemning “in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations” in Gaza. In September, Human Rights Watch issued a report declaring that “three Israeli attacks that damaged Gaza schools housing displaced people caused numerous civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war.” And, in November, Amnesty International concluded that the IDF’s “use of large aerial bombs [to attack civilian homes] suggests that these attacks either were intended to cause the complete destruction of the targeted structure or a determination to ensure the killing of targeted individuals without due regard to the killing and destruction to those in their immediate vicinity,” which would constitute “prima facie evidence of serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

These condemnations were premised on premature, effects-based assessments of military operations, or on the same flawed understandings of the law that Hamas was promoting, while refusing to apply that same law to its own actions. These routine distortions of the actual law applicable to military operations produced a fundamentally false narrative of legal compliance and non-compliance during this conflict, one that misrepresented Israeli attempts to minimize civilian deaths and the legality of their targeting Hamas and other factions engaged in military operations.”

The report – which is well worth reading in full – is available here.

The speed and alacrity with which BBC correspondents adopted the theme of ‘war crimes’ within hours of the commencement of the conflict was clear indication of the existence of an underlying political agenda even before the hostilities began. The fact that the corporation has continued its unqualified amplification of the same theme on behalf of NGOs engaged in lawfare since the conflict ended – whilst failing to provide audiences with the professional background information on the topic of the Law of Armed Conflict which would enable them to put such claims into their correct context – only reinforces the unavoidable impression that the BBC has no interest in dealing with this subject accurately or impartially.

 

BBC World Service amplifies UNRWA’s political campaigning yet again

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) long since ceased to confine its activities to humanitarian work and frequently acts as a political campaigning group, with one focus of its efforts being the issue of the border restrictions imposed by Israel as a means of curbing Hamas terrorism.  Notably, UNRWA’s approach to that issue dovetails with Hamas’ standpoint as seen in the terrorist organisation’s ceasefire demands made during last summer’s conflict.

The BBC has frequently used its various platforms to amplify UNRWA’s political campaigning  on that topic – examples can be seen here, here, here and here. UNRWA employees are also not infrequently given unchallenged airtime to promote their messaging on additional subjects – see examples here and here – and as we know, UNRWA’s spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness successfully pressured the BBC last August to get the content of an article about casualty figures in the Gaza Strip amended to be more to his political tastes.  

Recently UNRWA employed the six month anniversary of the ceasefire which brought last summer’s hostilities to an end to promote further campaigning. Coincidentally – or not – that anniversary also saw the appearance of a series of reports by Lyse Doucet on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip (see related articles below), some of which included contributions from UNRWA employees.

In addition to that, on March 2nd the BBC World Service promoted an interview with UNRWA’s Commissioner General which was broadcast on an unspecified radio programme and can be heard as a podcast titled “UNRWA accuses the world of abandoning Gaza” here.UNRWA WS tweet

In that interview Pierre Krähenbühl told World Service listeners that:

“The people of Gaza have now experienced another round of devastating conflict and destruction which was the most widespread in recent years and then of course also have to endure the cumulative effect of years of blockade with lack of freedom of movement, with no opportunities in terms of employment. So that combination is really leading it to a tipping point.”

Rather than informing listeners how Hamas’ policy of terrorism against Israeli civilians brought about that blockade and explaining exactly what it entails, the BBC presenter added his own fuel to the fire:

“I’m looking at another figure here. It says that UNRWA gave food aid to 80 thousand Palestinians fifteen years ago and now it’s 868,000 – almost a million – according to your figures. Why the huge increase? Is this still related to this blockade you’re talking about?”

Krähenbühl answered:

“That’s a direct consequence of the blockade because of course it imposed a situation on the people that you can no longer export material. There is essentially no import so no job opportunities.”

In fact, there is no restriction on exports from the Gaza Strip and all goods are allowed into Gaza with the exception of weapons and “dual use” goods (items that can be appropriated for terrorist activities) but the BBC’s presenter made no effort to clarify those points to his listeners. He likewise failed to inform audiences of the relevant fact that the number of Palestinians classified as refugees by UNRWA rose from 750 thousand in 1950 to five million in 2013 due to that organisation’s unique policy of awarding hereditary refugee status and that the number of refugees in the Gaza Strip (which has the thirteenth highest population growth rate in the world) has consequently risen by over 400,000 people during the last 15 years. Predictably, he also refrained from asking Krähenbühl why Palestinians living under Palestinian rule for almost a decade are still classified as refugees at all.

The BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state that:

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

That stipulation is never applied to UNRWA (or other UN agencies) and hence BBC audiences are led to believe that the information they receive comes from an objective, apolitical and unbiased source. That, of course, is far from the case and the problem is further exacerbated by the BBC’s collaboration with the promotion of UNWRA’s political agenda – be it by means of generous airtime, by succumbing to the demand to alter articles or via its own campaigning reports which so often show a similarity of timing and agenda.

As Matti Friedman noted last year, international organisations such as UNRWA are not viewed by journalists as subject matter . 

“Confusion over the role of the press explains one of the strangest aspects of coverage here—namely, that while international organizations are among the most powerful actors in the Israel story, they are almost never reported on. Are they bloated, ineffective, or corrupt? Are they helping, or hurting? We don’t know, because these groups are to be quoted, not covered. Journalists cross from places like the BBC to organizations like Oxfam and back. The current spokesman at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, for example, is a former BBC man. A Palestinian woman who participated in protests against Israel and tweeted furiously about Israel a few years ago served at the same time as a spokesperson for a UN office, and was close friends with a few reporters I know.”

The BBC’s approach to UNRWA is a prime example of that phenomenon and as long as it continues, the corporation can in no way justify its claim to be the ‘standard setter’ for international journalism.

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

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

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

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

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

After the undisguised political monologue from Lyse Doucet which opened the item concerning reconstruction in the Gaza Strip featured in the February 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ (available here from 26:30 for a limited period of time), listeners heard presenter Chloe Tilley say:WHYS 26 2 15

“I want to bring in Najla who’s an aid worker and a blogger in Gaza City and is on the line now.”

No further introduction was given – not even a surname – and so listeners were not able to put the contribution of Najla Shawa (now working for Oxfam and previously an UNRWA employee) into its appropriate context, including her endorsement of Doucet’s previous inaccurate and context-free statements. Shawa also made plenty of context-free statements of her own, with no attempt from Chloe Tilley to rectify that problem.

“…ordinary people […] suffer daily problems such as power cuts, fuel, cooking gas for heating, for cooking…”

“We’re totally locked in – we can’t travel, we can’t leave. We’re just simply locked in a place that is being more and more problematic each day.”

“…having like tons of explosives being hit around your house, this is not something that ordinary people should go through. [….] people are traumatised – specially children – and all the mothers I know – the families, my friends – they suffer with their babies, with their kids; even the older ones – the children and the teenagers – from the effects of such traumatic events.”

As we see, Hamas and its terrorism had no place in the picture presented by this BBC selected guest. Doucet then came in again (33:56):WHYS Gaza facebook

“Coincidentally, I’ve just come out of a studio where we finished a recording for an hour-long documentary that we’ve just finished on children of the Gaza war where for the last nine months we’ve been following the children through the war, after the war and what’s happening to them. And it’s heart-breaking that, you know, a vast majority of Gazan children have seen loved ones dying before their eyes. They’ve seen their homes destroyed. They can’t make sense of why this war has anything to do with them. And as Najla just says, who cares for those who need care? Fathers are traumatised, mothers are traumatised. Even people who lead Gaza’s main trauma counselling centres have lost dozens of family members. Its…the whole of Gaza in some way is in a state of trauma. Notwithstanding that, I have to say after having again spent time there, as you know Gazans don’t lose their sense of hospitality. They don’t lose their sense of humanity. It’s very humbling to see how they survive but now they’re saying….even the people of Gaza – as resilient as they are – are beginning to break. Going mad, one man said to me. How do you possibly cope with this? They call it the world’s biggest prison and it does feel that for people there. And Najla mentioned the young people and there was…I spoke to a university student who studied English Literature – now if that is not a statement of hope and trying to be engaged with the world – and I said to her ‘do some of your friends discuss taking the risky path of going on a boat, trying to cross to Europe’, because we are seeing Gazans appearing on these boats. They’re smuggled out to Egypt or Libya. And she said ‘yes, they’re doing it’. She used this expression: she said ‘from dead to dead’. There’s no exit from Gaza and the only exit is one which has a very, very, very high risk that you may not survive.” [emphasis added]

According to the CIA World Fact Book there were some 753,000 children aged between 0 -14 in the Gaza Strip in July 2014. Doucet failed to provide any factual evidence for her unsourced claim that the “vast majority” of those children “have seen loved ones dying before their eyes” and “their homes destroyed”. Likewise, her egregious promotion of the “world’s biggest prison” trope and the notion that “there’s no exit from Gaza” is contradicted by the fact that 8,708 Gazans used the Erez crossing to exit the Gaza Strip in January 2015 alone.

The programme’s next guest was the controversial UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness .

“Let me introduce Chris Gunness who’s from the UN Relief and Works Agency. Chris, I know you’ve written so much about this and you’ve written an article in the Guardian as well – we’ll Tweet out a link to it for people who haven’t seen it. Ehm…your thoughts on what’s happening in Gaza and why – why it seems that all these pledges of money don’t seem to be materialising.”

Indeed that article was promoted by the BBC on Twitter and Gunness repeated some of the same themes in his contribution to this programme after having clarified his place in the very cosy echo chamber.WHYS Gaza tweets Gunness

“Well first of all, one important point to make I think – and I entirely endorse what Lyse and Najla have so brilliantly said – is that this is man-made. These things which the last two speakers have described are the result of deliberate political choices which the world community is making. We have chosen to allow huge swathes of Gaza to be destroyed because, you know, security guarantees – if there’d been proper engagement with Gaza – could have been in place because what Gaza desperately needs is political engagement. […] So first of all it’s a direct result of political choices and we have to make different political choices.”

In other words, Gunness would have BBC audiences worldwide believe that the international community is responsible for the situation in the Gaza Strip rather than the terrorist organisations which initiated the last war and the previous ones. After long, emotive, context-free descriptions of the situation in the Gaza Strip rivalled only by those in Doucet’s introduction, he went on to rubber stamp more of her context-free sound bites:

“I mean not only is Gaza unique in the annals of contemporary warfare in being a…a war zone with a fence around it – there is nowhere safe to flee – but even within Gaza the international community has failed to provide people with adequate standards of housing.”

After Gunness’ portrayal of the failure of donors to meet the pledges made at last year’s Cairo conference and his own organisation’s activities, Tilley introduced another contributor – Nuraddin Biladi [phonetic] – described as “associate professor at the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University”.

Relating to the question of why his country had not met its financial pledge to the reconstruction of Gaza, Biladi noted that donors were “outstretched” due to the numbers of refugees from Syria and Iraq and also cited the issue of ISIS as having affected the policy makers in the Middle East, Europe and the US.

After an interjection from Lyse Doucet, listeners heard Chris Gunness (44:05) make the following bizarre claims:

“It’s interesting hearing Nuraddin talk about ISIS. I was told by a good source that in an area where ISIS is actually minting money, believe it or not, on one side of the coin is the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. And another interesting vignette: on the mobile phone of one of the kids that were arrested in Paris recently – a Muslim child – was a speech of Yasser Arafat. And I guess that’s by way of saying that, you know, we have been thinking about extremism in this region – out there in Afghanistan, out there in Pakistan. The fact is that having a deeply marginalised Muslim Arab community is becoming a cause celebre also. So the idea that there’s this extremist element out there somewhere and Gaza is something different: it isn’t like that. So these moderate Arab countries and other Arab countries to which Lyse refers have to realise that what is…they’re allowing to happen in Gaza is having a direct impact on the rising tide of extremism which they’re so concerned about. So don’t see Gaza as an isolated factor. Don’t see it as something which is simply sort of there: it is very much part and parcel of the narrative of extremism and the rising tide of extremism that is, you know, so prevalent and so shocking today in the Middle East.”

Yes, dear readers: the BBC World Service actually did broadcast Chris Gunness’ transparent attempt to portray Israel and Israeli self-defence against Palestinian terrorism as the root cause of Jihadist extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Ironically, the next segment of the programme involved Gunness making repeated declarations about UNRWA’s ‘neutrality’ which he claimed “we take […] extremely seriously”. Gunness claimed that “no-one has ever produced any evidence whatsoever” that building materials intended for UNRWA have been commandeered by terrorist organisations but neither Doucet nor Tilley asked him to comment on the documented evidence of building materials supposedly safeguarded by the UN supervised mechanism being sold on the black market in Gaza.  

Gunness’ political campaigning then shifted to an old theme he has promoted via the BBC World Service on at least one previous occasion.

“….what is the morning after strategy – not just for moderate Arab states but also for Western governments who are spending tax-payers’ money, if it ever comes through – to rebuild Gaza? Are there any security guarantees that Gaza will not be destroyed again? I mean it’s been….we’ve seen the destruct….as Lyse said, children of the age of six have seen three such rounds of destruction. And, you know, what is the point also of reconstructing a society which you don’t allow to trade?”

Again, neither Doucet nor Tilley made any effort to correct the misleading impression given to listeners by Gunness by informing them that exports are in fact transported out of the Gaza Strip. In January 2015, for example, 804 tons of merchandise left the Gaza Strip.

The final guest on this programme was introduced by Chloe Tilley only as “Belal who is a doctor in Gaza City”. Belal Dabour – who works at Shifa hospital – was also interviewed by the BBC World Service during last summer’s conflict and promoted the notion of a ‘massacre’ in Shuja’iya. Like many of his colleagues, Dabour finds as much time for political activity as he does for medicine but listeners to this programme were not informed of that fact before they heard the ‘neutral’ doctor claim that:WHYS Gaza tweets doctor

“…the Israeli policy is to impact a cumulative effect on both the…on the population, on the economy, on the overall situation in Gaza which will be after period – after many wars – which would bring us to the verge of collapse…”

If the aim of this programme had been to inform listeners worldwide about the real reasons for the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip then obviously it would have failed miserably. But that outcome was of course entirely predictable, with the choice of three guests (two of whom were inadequately identified) all subscribing to the same politically motivated point of view together with the heavily featured context-free propaganda from Lyse Doucet ensuring that the emotion-laden take-away message absorbed by audiences contributed little to their understanding of the background to the situation as it stands today.

It is therefore not difficult to determine that the provision of accurate and impartial information to which the BBC is supposedly committed was trumped by the opportunistic use of half an hour of this programme to promote a particular political narrative. The BBC clearly needs to explain to licence fee payers why that is the case. 

 

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

In addition to the three reports produced by Lyse Doucet last month on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip which have already been discussed here (see related articles below), she also took part in the February 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme “World Have Your Say”, half of which was devoted to the same subject matter.WHYS 26 2 15

The item – available here from 26:30 – was introduced by presenter Chloe Tilley who, like so many of her colleagues before her, inaccurately described last summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel as having taken place in one location alone.

“Well it’s six months since the war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel ended….”

Towards the end of her introduction Tilley referred to Doucet’s filmed reports already discussed on these pages.

CT: “As I say, Lyse Doucet – our chief international correspondent – has just returned from Gaza and she’s made some incredibly moving films – we’ll Tweet links out to them in the next few minutes – and speaking to the people of Gaza about the realities of life there right now. Lyse; for people who haven’t seen these films, just give us an idea of people you met and what you saw.”

The BBC’s chief international correspondent gave the following account, making no effort whatsoever to introduce context into her emotional – and blatantly political –monologue and frequently straying from BBC standards of accuracy and impartiality.

LD: “Imagine if you live on a densely populated sliver of land along the sparkling Mediterranean but your piece of land is about 30 miles long. The borders to it are largely shut: you can’t control your sea limits, you don’t have a way of getting out by air. And you just went through the worst war in six years: you’ve had three wars in six years. The world promised you $5.4 billion but you find yourself six months after that ceasefire was reached living in most parts of Gaza on mounds of rubble. I’ve been going to Gaza almost every month since the war ended in August and I was there for large parts of the war. It just keeps getting worse. It’s like a pressure cooker and even for resilient people…people are angry, people are frustrated and people fear there will be another war.”

CT: “And you met a family who’d lost their baby. It was just heart-breaking.”

LD: “People have lost everything. More than two thousand people died – most of them Gazans. Five hundred of them were children. 18 thousand homes were completely destroyed. Others were partially destroyed. People have lost so much. They’ve lost children and as you say we met a family which lost a six month-old baby. Ironically, Wadie was as old as the ceasefire: six months old. He died in the new battle which is just a battle to survive. He’s living in a house – well, call it a house but it has no roof, no walls, the place is freezing. His two sisters are walking around barefoot. And nobody has come to say we’re really sorry. Even when they took Wadie to the hospital, the mother crying and saying ‘he wasn’t sick, he wasn’t sick, what happened to my son?’, the doctors say ‘he’s dead’ and she says ‘look at my baby’. He goes ‘it’s…your baby is dead – go bury him’. And she sobbed into her hands and said ‘nobody is helping us’. Not – as she put it – the men who sit on the chairs; the people who run Gaza. Not the international community, not the Arab states, not Israel – who destroyed the nearby hospital which might have given Wadie an ability to survive.”

So let’s take a closer look at what Doucet did – and did not – do in this programme broadcast to millions of people worldwide.

1) She failed to provide the background information essential for audiences to be able to put her description of the Gaza Strip’s borders and access into its correct context and completely erased the crucially relevant issue of Hamas terrorism from the grim picture she painted.

2) She failed to provide listeners with any understanding of why a war took place last summer or why there have been three wars in six years – again erasing terrorism (and thousands of missile attacks on Israeli civilians) from the picture and thereby painting a false picture of the residents of the Gaza Strip as passive victims.

3) She falsely claimed that people in “most parts of Gaza” live “on mounds of rubble”. In fact, the vast majority of the damaged structures in the Gaza Strip lie within three kilometres of the border with Israel – mainly in proximity to the entrances to Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels which Doucet also refrained from mentioning.

4) She once again regurgitated Hamas-supplied casualty figures (which the BBC has made no effort to verify independently since the end of hostilities) and she failed to make any distinction between combatants and civilians or even to note that the former existed.

5) She gave a highly emotional account of the experiences of a mother whose infant son died on January 15th 2015 without clarifying to audiences that the information she repeats is second-hand and that she was not present to verify it at the time.

6) She linked Israel to the child’s death by means of the claim that it “destroyed” an unnamed “nearby hospital” which she presumes might have saved him. Seeing as the family lives in Shuja’iya, it is likely that Doucet was referring to Wafa hospital (actually not a general hospital but a rehabilitation facility) which was commandeered by terrorist organisations for military purposes but of course Doucet made no mention of Hamas’ use of that medical facility and others and so as far as listeners were concerned, Israel just “destroyed” hospitals for no reason and because of that, babies die.

This is not the accurate and impartial journalism to which the BBC professes to adhere. It is blatant political activism using the selective presentation of information in the style usually seen coming from anti-Israel campaigning groups and the Hamas PR department.

But there was even more to come in this programme, as we will see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

A side to the Gaza reconstruction story the BBC isn’t telling

BBC inaccurately promotes Banksy propaganda as a ‘documentary’

 

A side to the Gaza reconstruction story the BBC isn’t telling

As readers know only too well, the BBC’s considerable efforts to promote the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip since the end of last summer’s conflict recently reached something of a climax with a series of reports by Lyse Doucet.  Those already discussed here (and there are more still to come) include a radio report broadcast on the BBC World Service, a filmed report for BBC television and another filmed report for television news programmes which, like its predecessor, also appeared on the BBC News website.Doucet Gaza twitter 2

In the third of those posts we concluded that:

“So far we have looked at three reports from Shuja’iya put out by Lyse Doucet in the last few days. All of those reports were lacking in detailed, factual information which would help BBC audiences to understand why reconstruction in Gaza is happening so slowly or to appreciate what has been done so far. All three reports placed the focus on emotive, generalized, over-dramatic, context-free descriptions more suited to a telethon appeal than to contributing to viewers’ or listeners’ fact-based knowledge and one report was replete with Hamas propaganda. The bottom line of all these reports is that Doucet avoided adequately explaining to BBC audiences that the reconstruction of housing in the Gaza Strip has been hampered primarily by the Palestinians themselves.”

On March 8th Ha’aretz carried an interesting report ($) related to the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.Doucet Gaza audio on Twitter

“The five largest European Union members – Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain – protested to the Palestinian Authority last week that it was not doing enough to rebuild the Gaza Strip, according to European diplomats and senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials.

Envoys from the five nations met last Thursday with Alon Ushpiz, a senior diplomat in the Foreign Ministry, for talks focused mainly on the situation in Gaza. […]

The Europeans complimented Israel’s cooperation with the reconstruction apparatus that the United Nations is operating, Israel’s doubling of the water supply to Gaza and the ease on export restrictions from the Gaza Strip to Israel, the West Bank and abroad. The European representatives also requested to increase the scale and pace of transferring goods from Israel to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza. […]Doucet filmed Gaza 1

According to a senior official in the Foreign Ministry, the European diplomats remarked the consuls general of their nations held a meeting with senior PA officials several days earlier, in which they conveyed a sharp protest to the PA leadership over the lack of sufficient cooperation in everything regarding reconstruction in Gaza.

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

The European diplomat said that in a meeting between representatives of the five EU states and senior officials from the Egyptian foreign ministry in Cairo, the Europeans expressed concern that Egypt is not assisting the reconstruction process in Gaza and is continuing to close the Rafah crossing for extended periods of time. […]Doucet filmed Gaza 2

Likewise, diplomats from the five EU powers held talks with a number of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, to complain that those countries have yet to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars pledged for Gaza reconstruction, further delaying resolution to the crisis.

“There is positive movement on the Israeli side in everything regarding Gaza,” the EU diplomat said. “While you always need more, the Israelis are removing hurdles and assisting reconstruction. At the same time, reconstruction is still stuck because of the internal fights on the Palestinian side, Egyptian behavior and failure to deliver funds pledged by the Arab states. We fear that if nothing will move on Gaza reconstruction, we will find ourselves facing another round of violence in Gaza.”” [emphasis added]

Despite the fact that Haaretz is the Israeli newspaper most frequently quoted by the BBC, we can’t seem to find a report on this topic on the corporation’s website.