BBC WS ‘Newshour’ fails to deliver on PA arrests of Hamas operatives

Late last week Palestinian Authority security forces arrested a large number of Hamas operatives in PA controlled areas of Judea & Samaria. The Times of Israel reported as follows:

“Palestinian Authority forces arrested 108 Hamas members in the West Bank in one of the biggest raids in years.

According to reports in Hamas-affiliated media, the raids began early Thursday morning and continued overnight Thursday-Friday. The arrests included senior Hamas officials, according to the reports.

The raids were conducted in Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem, Walla News reported.”

Ha’aretz added:

““They were planning to set up an infrastructure designed to strengthen Hamas in the West Bank, which would then operate against Israel and create security chaos,” a senior [PA] official said.”

According to Al Jazeera:

“Adnan al-Damiri, the PA security services’ spokesman, said the arrests were not related to political activities but were made for security reasons.

“We will not allow that the West Bank disintegrates into carnage and wars just because Hamas wants escalation,” he told Al Jazeera.”

Analyst Avi Issacharoff adds some relevant context in this article:

“A recent spate of terror attacks in the West Bank, as well as revelations by the Shin Bet security service concerning Hamas infrastructure in Nablus, prompted an awakening of sorts on the Palestinian side, especially at the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas, who has proven time and again that he won’t abide any challenge to the stability of his rule, realizes full well that murdering Jews is only the secondary goal of Hamas activists carrying out attacks. The main aim of its deadly operations is to weaken the Palestinian Authority, heighten tensions with Israel, and ultimately undermine the government in the West Bank. […]

None of this means Hamas will admit defeat or relinquish its efforts to challenge the PA’s rule. While the organization is doing its best to maintain a state of relative calm in the Gaza Strip, it will most likely continue to send operatives from Turkey and the Strip to the West Bank to plan more terrorist attacks in hope of undermining the PA.”

As readers are aware, BBC audiences have been consistently deprived of information concerning Hamas’ foreign based operatives’ attempts to strengthen its presence in PA controlled areas – including the latest plot. Likewise, BBC reporting on the recent uptick in terror attacks against Israelis has been virtually non-existent – at least in English.

So did the news of the arrests carried out by the PA prompt the BBC to try to fill in some of the story’s pieces which have until now been missing for its audiences?

Listeners to the July 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard (from 14:02 here) the following introduction to an item on the topic from presenter Owen Bennett-Jones.Newshour 3 7

“Palestinian Authority forces have arrested more than a hundred members of the Hamas militant network in the Israeli occupied West Bank.”

Actually, as noted above, the arrests took place in areas under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. Bennett-Jones continued:

“Last month the Palestinian Authority’s unity government resigned. President Mahmoud Abbas said Hamas wouldn’t allow that government to operate in Gaza so it all fell apart.”

In fact the one year-old Palestinian Unity Government was unilaterally dissolved by Abbas.

Bennett-Jones then introduced his interviewee Ghassan Khatib, asking “how deep are these divisions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority?”. Readers may recall that Khatib was also interviewed by the BBC World Service just a couple of weeks earlier and that his account of the dissolution of the Palestinian Unity Government at the time focused in no small part on the promotion of anti-Israel falsehoods and propaganda irrelevant to the subject matter.

Khatib’s explanation of the arrests of scores of Hamas operatives by the PA was as follows:

“The arrests that has been reported in the West Bank is an expected outcome of the deterioration in the relation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. There has been two main reasons for this deterioration that led to those arrests. The first one is news about direct and indirect contacts between Israel and Hamas regarding a separate future of Gaza from the West Bank. The second is the difficulties Hamas created for the Palestinian government that was agreed upon with Hamas earlier and Hamas preventing this government from functioning in Gaza Strip. These two things led into gradual deterioration in the relation of the two sides and usually, when relations are deteriorating, one of the typical outcomes is that PA would start arresting Hamas activists in the West Bank and Hamas would start arresting Fatah activists in Gaza strip.”

Bennett-Jones turned the item’s focus away from its supposed subject matter:

“So just tell us a bit more about the contacts with Israel. How serious is the suggestion of basically splitting Gaza from the West Bank and how great is Hamas’ willingness to consider that?”

As Khatib then admitted, his speculations concerning “contacts between Israel and Hamas” are based on “leaks” and indeed the sources of that story have been mostly Arab media outlets and Fatah officials. Even if such contacts are going on, the likely agenda is a ‘hudna‘ – or long-term truce – rather than an intention to ‘split’ the Gaza Strip and the PA controlled territories.

Bennett-Jones’ final question to Khatib related to the “prospect of a stable political arrangement for the Palestinians when they have one united leadership” and he failed to question his interviewee on the obviously relevant topic of Hamas’ aspiration to undermine the Palestinian Authority. Likewise, no attempt was made to adequately inform listeners of Hamas’ practical efforts to strengthen its presence in PA controlled areas or of the context of the recent rise in terror attacks.

As a result, BBC audiences remained yet again in the dark with regard to the threat presented by Hamas to PA rule, the likelihood of destabilization in areas currently controlled by the PA and the real background to this latest spate of arrests. 

BBC avoids yet another Hamas story

Over the past year we have on several occasions had cause to note the fact that the BBC has consistently avoided telling its audiences about efforts to strengthen and increase Hamas’ presence in Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria in general and those directed by senior Hamas figures residing in Turkey in particular.No news

Equally absent from the reporting provided to BBC audiences has been information concerning the links of Hamas’ Qatar-based branch to terrorist activity in the same area – for example in January 2013 and June 2014 – and the connections between the Turkey and Qatar-based branches of the terrorist organisation.

On July 1st the Israel Security Agency announced that, together with the IDF and the Israeli police, it had exposed extensive Hamas activity in the Nablus (Schem) area and that some forty arrests had been made. As Ha’aretz reported, the ISA noted the role of Hamas spokesman Husam Badran (also spelt Hossam or Hussan) in the plot.

“Several of the detainees have already been charged in the military court in Samaria, and more charges are expected in the coming weeks. Two of those arrested are considered to be the top Hamas operatives in Nablus: Ghanem Salme, who the Shin Bet defines as the Hamas commander in the region, and Samih Aliwi, owner of a gold shop in the city who was responsible for the Hamas HQ’s finances. Several of the arrested activists had previously served time in Israeli prisons for involvement in Hamas activity.

The establishment of the headquarters in Nablus, the Shin Bet believes, was assisted by Hamas spokesman Husam Ali Badran, who used to be the commander of the organization’s military wing in the Samaria area. Badran was released as part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and expelled to Qatar. According to the Shin Bet, he is currently operating in Turkey under Saleh Aruri, who is in charge of Hamas operations in the West Bank. […]

The Shin Bet claims that Badran was involved in the decision to recruit operatives for the new headquarters in Nablus, transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to them in order to finance their activity.”

Seeing as it has been covered extensively by the Israeli media as well as by foreign news agencies it is of course highly unlikely that the staff of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau are unaware of this story’s existence. Nevertheless, there has once again been no coverage of this latest link in the chain of Hamas efforts to strengthen its presence in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Perhaps next time the BBC approaches Khaled Masha’al for a quote or invites him to do a sympathetic interview it could also make the most of the opportunity to do some journalism on a topic which would undoubtedly contribute to meeting its remit of building “understanding of international issues”.

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two

On April 24th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article by Lina Sinjab extolling the virtues of Qatari foreign policy. Headlined “Qatar casts size aside with assertive foreign policy“, the report tells readers:Qatar 2

“But Qatar is not satisfied with being just a wealthy country – it wants to be seen as a serious regional power as well.

It is a role it is already carving out for itself, for example having mediated in peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, and having opened offices in Doha for the Afghan Taliban.

And, in sharp contrast to its neighbours, Qatar openly supports both the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Hamas movement. It has hosted Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshaal since he was kicked out of Damascus for supporting the anti-government protests.

It is a foreign policy principle of Qatar that in the search for peace and stability no-one should be excluded and everyone should be engaged with.” [emphasis added]

Sinjab’s first two supporting arguments for that debatable claim are provided by none other than the leader of Qatar’s protégé terrorist organization Khaled Masha’al and the editor of a newspaper with a vice-chairman and managing director from the Qatari ruling family which, unsurprisingly, takes a pro-government stance.

“It is an example of what Jaber al-Harmi, editor-in-chief of Al Sharq, one of Qatar’s leading papers, sees as an attempt by the emirate to forge a new approach to dealing with the region’s problems.

“Qatar tried to suggest a new attitude in the Arabic sphere and wanted to say that there is another view to what’s prevailing,” he said.

This became apparent at the start of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Qatar’s government publicly supported protests in the region and its leading pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera gave voice to those opinions.

“Qatar believed that it had to side with the Arab streets, the people and their aspirations for reforms and freedoms. What distinguished Qatar is its transparency in its policies,” said Mr Harmi.”

At this point any journalist truly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality would surely have told audiences about the Qatari regime’s lack of transparency and its disregard for “reforms and freedoms” in its own back yard.

“Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, both print and broadcast media content are influenced by leading families. The top five daily newspapers are privately owned, but their owners and boards include members of the ruling family. In 1996, Hamad permitted the creation of Al-Jazeera, which has achieved global reach. Although it is privately held, the government has reportedly paid for the channel’s operating costs since its inception. As a result, Al-Jazeera generally does not cover Qatari politics. All journalists in Qatar practice a high degree of self-censorship and face possible jail sentences for slander. In October 2013, a 15-year prison sentence was upheld for poet Mohamed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, who was convicted in 2012 for insulting the emir through his poetry. Local news outlets were reportedly ordered by a Qatari court to refrain from covering the 2013 trial of two members of the royal family convicted for 19 deaths in a 2012 shopping mall fire.

In 2012, the Advisory Council approved a draft media law that would prevent journalists from being detained by authorities without a court order, and would allow them to protect their sources unless required to reveal them by a court. However, it also would impose fines of up to $275,000 for publishing or broadcasting material that criticizes the Qatari regime or its allies, insults the ruling family, or damages national interests.”

Sinjab’s next interviewee is Al Jazeera’s Director General and her report includes the following – apparently written with a straight face.

“Mr Abou Hilaleh says, contrary to a popular view, Al Jazeera’s coverage is not dictated by Qatar’s foreign policy.

“When I worked for Al Jazeera as a correspondent and now as a director, in both cases, we have nothing to do with Qatar’s foreign policy. But in certain countries, our offices are treated as embassies for Qatar.”

Let’s take a look at what Mohamed Fahmy – one of the Al Jazeera journalists detained and tried in Egypt – recently wrote in the New York Times.

“When Al Jazeera was started in 1996, Qatar was widely praised for its enlightened thinking. […]

Like many young Arabs, I was impressed. Al Jazeera seemed a model of courageous broadcasting in a region not known for upholding freedom of speech. That was still my view when I became Cairo bureau chief in September 2013.

I have since realized how deeply I, like the viewing public, was duped. I came to see how Qatar used Al Jazeera as a pernicious, if effective, tool of its foreign policy. […]

The Doha management also neglected to tell me that it was providing Brotherhood activists in Egypt with video cameras and paying them for footage, which it then broadcast, without explaining its political provenance, on the banned Arabic channel. During my detention, I met a number of prisoners who told me how this worked, and I have seen court documents confirming it.

Al Jazeera’s managers crossed an ethical red line. By attempting to manipulate Egypt’s domestic politics, they were endangering their employees.”

Those familiar with Al Jazeera’s record will of course not be surprised by Mr Fahmy’s words.

Lina Sinjab’s final ‘character witness’ is, like Khaled Masha’al, apparently also dependent on Qatari generosity.

“Husam al-Hafez, a former Syrian diplomat who defected to Doha, sees Qatar’s policy as pragmatic.”

In other words the BBC’s glowing – but cringingly superficial – portrayal of Qatari foreign policy is based entirely on the testimonies of two journalists from media outlets with links to the Qatari ruling regime and two people dependent upon that regime’s hospitality. No effort is made whatsoever to provide audiences with views which do not adhere to the party line or analysis from contributors not in some way dependent on the Qatari regime.

“One of the things about Qatar’s foreign policy is the extent to which it has been a complete and total failure, almost an uninterrupted series of disasters,” says Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. “Except it’s all by proxy, so nothing bad ever happens to Qatar.”

So much for the BBC’s self-awarded title of “the standard-setter for international journalism“.

Related Articles: 

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part one

BBC coverage of Ramadan terror ignores attacks in one country – in English

The BBC has quite understandably devoted considerable air-time and column space to coverage of the June 26th terror attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait and some of that content (see for example here on BBC television news and here on the BBC News website) has addressed the fact that the attacks took place during Ramadan.  

One particularly interesting discussion on that topic and others took place in the June 28th edition of “Sunday Politics” on BBC One – presented by Andrew Neil – with the sensible contributions from Maajid Nawaz and Tim Marshall being especially refreshing. As Nawaz pointed out:Sunday Politics terror Ramadan

“Jihadists in particular don’t see this as a month of prayer. They don’t see this as a month of merely spiritual replenishment. They see it as a month of war or a month of jihad.”

He later added:

“Yes, we are in a war but actually the target in this war – if we see it as just ISIS we’re incredibly short-sighted and prior to that we saw it as just Bin Laden who the international community killed and yet we had something far worse than Bin Laden emerge because we are fundamentally unable – due to reasons of political correctness or fear of being accused of being racist – we are unable to identify what the problem is here. […] President Obama – who is meant to be leading on this front – has not up until now named this ideology: it’s called the Islamist ideology. “

Of course in order to be able to name the ideology, people first need to be aware of what is happening and whilst Israelis are among those who have seen a sharp uptick in the already high number of terror attacks since Ramadan commenced, most of the BBC’s worldwide audience remains unaware of that fact.

On June 19th a fatal terror attack took place near Dolev with Hamas later claiming responsibility. BBC English language services did not report the incident but it was covered in Arabic.

On June 21st a Border Police officer was seriously injured in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and another man was injured when a bus was firebombed later the same day. The BBC did not report either of those incidents.

On June 23rd a missile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. That attack was not reported by the BBC’s English language services but the Israeli response to it did get coverage in Arabic.

On June 26th a Palestinian gunman opened fire on soldiers at Beka’ot checkpoint in the Jordan Rift Valley. There were no BBC English language reports on that incident but it was mentioned briefly in a later report in Arabic.

On June 27th an ambulance traveling near Beit El was attacked with live gunfire. There was no BBC coverage of that attack.

On the morning of June 29th a female soldier was injured in a stabbing attack at a crossing near Bethlehem. Later in the evening of the same day, four Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack near Shvut Rachel.

“The four had been driving back from a basketball game near Route 60, the main north-south artery running through the West Bank, when they were attacked. Security forces were initially unsure whether the four were shot at from a passing vehicle or a roadside ambush.”

Neither of those incidents was reported by the BBC’s English language services even after the most seriously wounded victim of the second attack died but both the earlier and later attacks were reported in Arabic. According to Palestinian media outlets, Hamas claimed responsibility for the Shvut Rachel shooting. 

As we can determine from the fact that at least some of the above incidents were reported on the BBC Arabic website, the corporation is obviously well aware of the fact that they took place. One question therefore arising is why – in a similar pattern to that already established in relation to coverage of missile fire from the Gaza Strip – the attacks are not being reported in English. An additional and related point worthy of note is that BBC audiences have not been informed about Hamas’ efforts to build up its terrorist infrastructure in Judea & Samaria.

It seems that another factor needs to be added to Maajid Nawaz’s list of reasons why some people are unable to identify the problem of Islamism. That factor is the politically motivated refusal to accurately recognise some terrorists’ motives and ideology.  

Related Articles:

The BBC, terrorism and ‘consistency’

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel in May 2015

BBC World Service promotion for Mads Gilbert’s new book

The June 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by James Coomarasamy – included an item (from 14:00 here) introduced as follows:Newshour Gilbert

“Last year’s conflict between Israel and Gaza lasted 51 days and claimed more than two thousand lives. Israel and Hamas continue to argue about who was responsible, over the number of casualties and over each other’s conflict during the war. But the impact on Gaza’s infrastructure was undeniably considerable. Its only power station was hit by an airstrike.”

That portrayal is of course inaccurate: the fuel tanks at the Gaza power plant (not the structure itself) were hit by errant tank shells (not by “an airstrike”) whilst the IDF tried to prevent an imminent attack by terrorists carrying anti-tank missiles. Additionally, the conflict was not “between Israel and Gaza” but between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip and Coomarasamy’s bizarre and unsourced ‘they’re each as bad as the other’ claim that “Israel and Hamas continue to argue” actively hinders audience understanding of the facts behind the conflict.

All that, however, was merely the entrée to the real purpose of this item: licence fee funded promotion of a new book by the BBC’s long-time favourite medic-cum-terrorist supporter. Coomarasamy continues:

“One man who witnessed that war at close hand is a Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert. He returned to Gaza to work in al Shifa hospital as he’d done in three previous conflicts there. He documented his experiences – he’s collated them in a new book called ‘Night in Gaza’. So why did he think it was important to do that?”

Coomarasamy makes no effort to relieve listeners of the misleading impressions created by Gilbert’s inaccurate claim of a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip or to inform them that the descriptions they hear of a shortage of medical supplies actually have nothing to do with Israel.

Gilbert: “I had been in Gaza for two weeks in June to make a report for the UN about the situation in the healthcare system and basically the whole civilian sector in Gaza was down on its knees because of the siege and then on top of that came this horrific 51 days. Shifa was totally drained of supplies, drugs, equipment – everything you need to run a hospital.”

One of the issues regularly raised on these pages is the BBC’s frequent breaching of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality due to its failure to inform audiences of the “viewpoint” of interviewees. At one point during the item listeners hear Coomarasamy say to Gilbert:

“You are a medical doctor but you are an activist. You are a pro-Palestinian activist. Would you say that’s fair?”

Gilbert answers:

“Like many others I support the Palestinian people’s right to resist occupation and I think that’s part of my medical duty. Medicine and politics are Siamese twins – you can’t separate the one from the other.”

Unfortunately, rather than clarifying to audiences that the Gaza Strip has not been under occupation for a decade and instead of pursuing the subject of what Gilbert really means when he talks of a “right to resist” (in a recent interview with the Guardian, Gilbert stated that “[t]he right to resist implies also the right to resist with arms, if you’re occupied”), Coomarasamy gets into a futile academic discussion with Gilbert about medicine and politics before providing him with the opportunity to whitewash Hamas abuses.

JC: “What about…I mean have you tried to understand the point of view of Hamas and what they were doing in the hospital? Because if you look at the Amnesty International report from last month they very clearly say ‘Hamas forces used the abandoned areas of Shifa, including the outpatients clinic area, to detain, interrogate torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical centre’. And first of all, do you recognize that portrait?”

MG: “I don’t support Hamas. I don’t support Fatah. I don’t support any Palestinian faction. I support the Palestinian people.”

JC: “But do you recognize the Amnesty International characterization of what was happening in the hospital when you were there?”

MG: “Bear in mind that Amnesty was not allowed to enter Gaza. I am not saying that this is not taking place. I’m saying that where I worked it was a proper hospital. And yes, the Palestinian Authorities had their press conferences outside. I am allowed to work freely. I walk around wherever I want. I’m never controlled. I never have my pictures controlled. So from what I have seen in Shifa hospital and in the other Palestinian hospitals in Gaza, this is not the picture I recognize.”

Coomarasamy ends the interview there and, as has so often been the case in the past, BBC audiences have once again been fed Gilbert’s unhindered falsehoods and propaganda – as well as promotion of his book. Mads Gilbert is not a “pro-Palestinian” activist as claimed by Coomarasamy in his ostensible impartiality box-tick. Those who are truly pro-Palestinian (and perhaps especially those supposedly bound by a professional oath) would not whitewash Hamas’ torture of its political opponents, its exploitation of patients as human shields or its diversion of resources which could improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians for the purposes of terrorism. Sadly, the BBC continues to avoid telling Mads Gilbert as he really is.

Related Articles:

Guardian highlights doctor who supported 9/11 attacks  UK Media Watch

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

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

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

 

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

As readers know, the BBC’s coverage of the recently released UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict (see here and here) has been superficial and uncritical, doing nothing to inform audiences of the political motivations behind the commission’s formation or of the political agendas of some of the report’s contributors.

Despite its unquestioning approach to the report’s contents, one aspect of its findings has been completely ignored by the BBC – even though it has bearing on some of the corporation’s own content still available on the internet.Shifa Shati Campbell tweet

On pages 128 and 129 the report states:

“In another incident, which occurred in the afternoon of 28 July on the first day of the Eid holiday, an explosive hit Swaidi street next to a children’s swing in the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. Eleven children, between 5 and 14 years old, and two adults were killed and up to 45 people were injured, some seriously and many of them children. According to witnesses it was the Eid holiday and a temporary ceasefire had been declared so parents were outside in the street celebrating with their children. The street was also more crowded than usual because many people displaced during the conflict had moved to the Al-Shati camp seeking safety. Between 4 and 5 p.m. an explosive landed on the street between a food store and the children’s swing where children were playing.  The single explosion spread a large amount of shrapnel across the area. Three eyewitnesses told the commission that the explosion threw children’s bodies around and tore them to pieces.

The MAG [Military Attorney General] announced on 7 December 2014 that following a thorough review of the incident by the Fact-Finding Assessments Mechanism (FFAM),  “…such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident…” Hamas publicly denied this allegation and the Chief of Police in Gaza told the commission that the bomb disposal team that went to the Al-Shati playground found that the remnants of the weapons were Israeli.

The commission received information from NGO’s who conducted field research and a UN source who collected information indicating that the explosion had been caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket. One of them inspected the site after the attack and concluded that the impact of the explosion on the ground could not have been caused by an Israeli missile or artillery shell; the NGO also indicated that eyewitnesses had reported seeing a rescue team go to the place just after the attack, whose members did not collect the wounded but cleared and collected the remnants of the weapons. In addition, two journalists who spoke to the commission also suggested the attacks had been caused by Palestinian rockets misfiring. One of them said that Hamas members had gone to the site immediately after the events and cleared away the debris. The other said he had been prevented by local authorities from going to the site of the attack.

The commission found there was credible information pointing to the conclusion that a misfired Palestinian rocket was the source of this explosion. Given the gravity of the case, in which 13 children were killed in a place crowded with civilians, and the allegations that local authorities may have attempted to hide evidence of the cause of the incident, all relevant Palestinian authorities should conduct a thorough investigation of the case to determine the origin and circumstances of the attack.”

Shortly after that incident occurred we noted here that, despite the information already available, multiple BBC reports portrayed the story in a manner which suggested that the circumstances were not clear and presented the Hamas version of events as a valid option.Shifa Sahti tweet 1

In August 2014 we noted that the BBC had produced another article in which, despite the information available, the Shati incident was defined as one of several “disputed deadly incidents”.

In December 2014 we noted the MAG report on the incident and the fact that all the inaccurate information was still available on the BBC website in its original form.

In March 2015 we noted that despite BBC coverage of an Amnesty International report which stated that “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″, none of the BBC reports from the time had been amended to clarify to audiences the actual circumstances of the incident.Pannell Shati report filmed 28 7

Now, in late June 2015, despite the fact that UN commission has reached conclusions identical to those publicized by MAG and Amnesty International and consistent with the information released by the IDF around an hour after the incident occurred, those inaccurate and misleading BBC reports still stand as they did when they were originally published nearly a year ago.

In June 2014 the BBC announced that “however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”. Clearly the prospect of wasting publicly funded resources on dealing with unnecessary complaints concerning those reports has not prompted the corporation to amend them with the required notes of clarification. 

 

The BBC and the UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict – part two

In addition to the written article about the newly released UN HRC report which appeared on the BBC News website on June 22nd, the corporation produced two filmed reports for BBC television news programmes, both of which also appeared on the website.

The first report – dated June 22nd and titled “Gaza conflict: ‘War crimes by both sides’ says United Nations” – is by Lyse Doucet and – like the UN commission which revealingly titled its report as being about the “Gaza conflict” of 2014 – Doucet’s opening lines negate the fact that hostilities took place in Israel too.

“The war last summer was the third in Gaza in six years. This one was the most protracted, most punishing, between Israeli forces who attacked Gaza and Palestinian armed groups who fired rockets and dug tunnels into Israel.”

The fact that Hamas initiated the hostilities and that the fighting was protracted because time and time again Hamas refused the ceasefires offered on numerous occasions is obviously not deemed need to know information for BBC viewers. Doucet continues:

“Now an independent inquiry says both sides may have committed war crimes.”

As was the case in the BBC’s written report, Doucet makes no effort whatsoever to inform audiences of the inquiry’s ignominious beginnings or of the ensuing report’s many problematic aspects – not least its reliance on ‘evidence’ from anti-Israel activists and political NGOs engaged in lawfare against Israel. And so, with no critical analysis of the report’s value and validity offered to audiences, Doucet goes on to promote some cherry-picked quotes against a background graphic again featuring a literally one-sided picture.UN report Doucet filmed 22 6 main

“The purpose of this UN report was to gather testimony. It’s damning on both sides. On Israeli forces it says ‘impunity prevails across the board’. It also calls on Israel to break with its ‘lamentable track record of holding wrongdoers accountable’. And the attacks carried out by Palestinian militants were in its words ‘inherently indiscriminate’ and Palestinian authorities have also consistently failed to bring to justice those who violate international law.”

Doucet makes no effort to clarify to audiences that one of the report’s many shortcomings is its failure to acknowledge the fact that “Palestinian authorities” in the Gaza Strip are the exact same people carrying out the war crimes, targeting Israeli civilians and performing extra-judicial killings of political opponents.

After a clip showing the reaction of the Israeli prime minister, Doucet’s report shows Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad saying:

“I don’t know from where that they believe that Hamas focus on the civilians; that they target civilians. And I think they should blame Israel that they did not give them permission to enter Gaza and to make investigation in Gaza and to listen to people.”

Doucet makes no effort to inform viewers that Egypt too refused the commissioners entry to the Gaza Strip via its territory.

The impression audiences are intended to take away from this report is amply clear in Doucet’s closing remarks which dedicate ten words to a very sterile presentation of the Israeli side of the story and almost four times as many words to description of the Gazan side.

“Last summer Israelis lived with indiscriminate and constant rocket fire. And in Gaza we saw the huge price paid by civilians in the densely populated and impoverished territory. The report speaks of unprecedented devastation. Nearly one year on many Gazans still live in the rubble of their homes.”

Likewise, the links offered to visitors viewing this report on the BBC News website display a similar lack of impartiality.

UN report Doucet filmed 22 6 read more b

Audiences are offered the BBC’s uncritical and unchallenging written report on the same story, a BBC News report from May 2015 which amplified anonymous claims promoted by the inadequately presented political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ (a major contributor to the UN’s report), and another BBC News report from May 2015 which amplified a report by Amnesty International (also a significant contributor to the UN report) whilst ‘contextualising’ Hamas torture and execution. Most notably, audiences are also provided with a link to a seriously flawed ‘guide’ produced by CBBC (the BBC’s children’s department) which has still not been corrected since its publication last August.

The following day – June 23rd – viewers of BBC television news programmes saw another filmed report – this time by Yolande Knell and titled “Gaza conflict: War crimes on both sides, says UN” – which again included no critical analysis of the UN report whatsoever.UN report Knell filmed

Viewers found Knell using the standard ‘Israel says’ formula in her opening sentences – employed regularly by the BBC to communicate to audiences that it does not endorse the statements which follow.

“Over fifty days last summer the Gaza Strip was pummeled by Israeli airstrikes and shelling. Israel says it was targeting tunnels used by Palestinian militants and trying to stop them firing volleys of missiles at its towns and cities. Now a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council says it’s possible both sides committed war crimes. But Israel rejects the findings as biased. It says its actions in Gaza were meant to protect its civilians and its own inquiries found it acted lawfully.”

Like Doucet before her, Knell has nothing to tell viewers about why, when or how the report was commissioned or of the political agendas of some of the sources of the testimonies and information appearing in the report. Knell goes on to amplify the view of the terrorist organization which initiated the conflict:

“Today in Gaza the Hamas authorities said the report created a false equality between victims and their killers.

She goes on, failing to inform audiences of the political back story to the UN’s casualty figures which the BBC has been religiously quoting and promoting for almost a year.

“The war left widespread destruction across Gaza and some 2,200 Palestinians were killed. The UN says most were civilians but Israel disputes that. On the Israeli side 73 were killed – mostly soldiers.”

Knell then tells viewers that:

“The UN investigators weren’t able to come here to Gaza to see scenes like this for themselves and to meet the residents because Israel refused to cooperate with them.”

As was the case in the previous day’s written article and in Doucet’s filmed report, she fails to mention that Egypt also did not grant the commission entry – even though that fact is noted in the UN report.

“The commission repeatedly requested Israel to cooperate, including by granting it access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Regrettably, Israel did not respond to these requests. Subsequently, the commission learned from a press release that no such cooperation would be forthcoming. The Government of Egypt, when requested to facilitate entry into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, responded that it was not possible owing to the prevailing security situation.” (emphasis added.)

Knell then goes on to make the following opaque assertion:

“At the same time there’s been a lot of criticism over how Israel carried out its own inquiries into attacks that killed Palestinian civilians.”

How much is “a lot of criticism” and by whom it was levelled is not made clear to viewers. She continues:

“This was one of the most controversial incidents of the war. Four cousins aged 9 to 11 were killed by Israeli missiles while playing on the beach. The UN commissioners criticized the Israeli army’s inquiry which cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing.”

Indeed they did, but Knell does not attempt to make any critical examination of whether or not that criticism was relevant or justified – hardly surprising perhaps when one considers that the BBC only recently elected to pass up the opportunity to correct the misleading impressions it too propagated regarding that same incident.

Knell closes by narrowing down audience attention to possible war crimes in one location alone:

“It’s calm now on the Gaza beachfront – almost a year on from the fierce fighting. But with further investigations underway, the bitter debate about whether war crimes were committed here is set to continue.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s three reports on this topic have all been superficial, uncritical and unchallenging. Audiences have had no choice but to take the slivers of the report’s content selected by BBC journalists for amplification at face value and no attempt has been made to objectively inform them of the political background to the commission and its report. Likewise, no effort has been made to put the process and content of this report into its wider context of the effect it may have upon all Western armies fighting terrorists anywhere in the world. 

 

 

Yet again: Gaza missile attack ignored by BBC News but Israeli response reported in Arabic

At around 10 p.m. on the evening of June 23rd residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip once again had to scramble for cover from incoming missile fire.

“The rocket landed in an open area near the Yad Mordechai Kibbutz just north of the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. […]

There were no reports of injuries or damage directly after the alarms, which sounded in the communities of Zikim, Karmia, Netiv Ha’asara and Yad Mordechai just after 10 p.m., the IDF said.”

Several hours later Israel responded with a strike on the rocket launcher used in the attack.

Following the now established pattern, there was no reporting of the missile attack on the BBC News English language website but the Israeli response to it was reported on the BBC Arabic website.missile 23 6 BBC Arabic

In the months since the end of last summer’s conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip the ceasefire has been broken on multiple occasions by missile fire – with none of those incidents having received dedicated coverage by the BBC in English at the time.

September 16th 2014mortar fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News but briefly mentioned in a later article on another topic.

October 31st 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News.

December 19th 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not covered by BBC News at the time but Israeli response reported.

April 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Sha’ar HaNegev region – not reported by BBC News.

May 26th 2015 – missile fire at Gan Yavne area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

June 3rd 2015 – missile fire at Sdot Negev region – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic

June 6th 2015 – missile fire at Hof Ashkelon area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic. Later briefly mentioned in a June 10th report by Yolande Knell.

June 11th 2015 – missile fire (fell short in Gaza Strip) – later mentioned in a June 12th article by Yolande Knell.

June 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Yad Mordechai area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

To sum up, five separate incidents of missile fire aimed at Israeli civilian communities in the last month have been covered as follows on the BBC News website (June 12th):

“Three rockets have since been fired at Israel and a group calling itself the Omar Brigades said via social media that it was responsible. On Thursday, a fourth rocket was launched but fell short inside Gaza.

While the missiles have not caused injuries, they have drawn Israeli air strikes in response – some targeting Hamas military sites – and endangered a 10-month-long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”

Like this on BBC television news (June 10th):

“In the past week, several rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza, endangering the 10-month-long ceasefire that ended last summer’s deadly war.”

And as follows (from 00:50) on BBC World Service radio (June 11th):

“In the past few days several rockets have been fired from Gaza towards Israel jeopardizing the ceasefire that ended last summer’s war.”

“…militants linked to IS fired several rockets at Israel. It holds Hamas responsible and hit back with airstrikes.”

The focus of all three of those reports was the threat posed to Hamas rule in Gaza by Salafist Jihadists and the danger to the ceasefire agreement.

Once again, the BBC has not produced any reporting whatsoever from the regions in Israel targeted by those missile strikes and audiences remain uninformed with regard to how people who have been terrorized by the constant threat of missile fire from assorted terrorist groups for over fourteen years and suffered fifty days of intense attacks less than a year ago are now coping with the deteriorating security situation.

If audiences are to be provided with the “understanding of international issues” laid out in the corporation’s public purpose remit, the BBC must obviously tell that side of the story too. The current curious practice of omission of timely reporting of missile attacks in English, whilst covering the Israeli responses to those attacks in Arabic, is clearly also not conducive to meeting the BBC’s obligations.

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Obviously not content with the previous amplification of propaganda rhetoric used by anti-Israel campaigners on BBC World Service radio last month, the BBC recently decided to promote business reporter Roger Hearing’s mainstreaming of the same ‘open air prison’ trope on several of its other platforms too.Hearing ice cream Gaza written

The June 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ includes a piece from Hearing introduced by presenter Kate Adie (from 22:27 here) as follows:

“It’s nearly a year now since Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks on Gaza in response – they said – to a series of rocket attacks launched from inside the Palestinian territory. More than two thousand people were killed in the conflict and many homes and business properties in Gaza were damaged or destroyed. Rebuilding started soon after a ceasefire was announced last August but progress has been slow. A blockade on the territory imposed by Israel has delayed the arrival of construction materials. Roger Hearing has been to see how one business has carried on despite the difficulties.” [emphasis added]

So, in addition to casting doubt on the reasons for the outbreak of hostilities on July 8th 2014 (almost a month of incessant attacks on civilians, with hundreds of missiles fired rather than “a series”), Adie also fails to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties, refrains from noting Egypt’s closure of its border with the Gaza Strip and misleads audiences with the inaccurate claim that the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip is because of Israeli restrictions on the import of dual use goods whilst making no effort to inform them of the terrorism which is the cause of those restrictions.

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ also has a BBC World Service radio version presented by Pascale Harter and Hearing’s report was featured in that programme’s June 20th edition too. Harter’s introduction to the item (from 17:55 here) was notably more accurate and impartial than the one heard by listeners to Radio 4.

“But right now, a glimpse of Gaza as you might not know it. It’s nearly a year since Israeli forces launched air and ground attacks there after weeks in which hundreds of rockets were fired into Israel from inside the Palestinian territory. More than two thousand people were killed in the conflict and many homes and business properties in Gaza were destroyed. It is a very difficult business environment but Roger Hearing finds one entrepreneur winning fame if not fortune.”

A written version of that audio report from Hearing was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East and Magazine pages on June 21st and in addition that version of the report was translated into Arabic and promoted on the BBC Arabic website.

All four versions of the report include overly dramatic, context-free descriptions from Hearing.

“…despite the apocalyptic destruction in parts of the city from last year’s war, you do also see a lot of giggling, playing children among the ruins.”

All four versions also fail to inform audiences that, in addition to ice cream making equipment, the Rafah area smuggling tunnels have of course been used to import weapons into the Strip and that metal piping of assorted types is regularly used by terrorists to manufacture missiles.

“He proudly showed us the shiny Italian gelato machines installed in the back rooms of his cafe building. When he was trying to import them, it was hard to convince the Israelis apparently that there wasn’t some other, more threatening purpose for the tall chrome boxes with pipes and chutes and nozzles.

It’s likely at least some of the machines were hauled through the tunnels under the border with Egypt, until that smuggling operation was closed down a few months back. Now that’s a strange image: young men in pitch darkness, sweating to drag huge boxes through rickety holes in the sand, and all so that Gazans could eat fine ice cream.”

Whilst BBC audiences remain serially unaware of Hamas’ activities in Judea & Samaria and in Turkey, they do now at least know that Hamas officials in Gaza like ice cream.

“Very nice,” said Ghazi Hamed, the deputy foreign minister for Hamas. “Everyone here knows Kazem’s.”

All four of these reports conclude with the same canard promoted by Hearing a month earlier in one of his radio reports from the Gaza Strip.

“And I have to say – and this is one of the oddest things – from the decrepit heart of a half-destroyed city in a besieged and blockaded enclave, sometimes described as the biggest open air prison in the world, comes the best ice cream I have ever tasted.” [emphasis added]

The Gaza Strip is of course not “besieged” at all and those who inaccurately describe it as “the biggest open air prison in the world” do so out of clear political motivations. Thousands of people exit and enter the Gaza Strip every year – as anyone who follows the daily reports publicized by COGAT online and on social media will be aware.

But, electing to ignore the facts behind the deliberate misnomer which he has so vigorously promoted over the past few weeks, Roger Hearing continues to mainstream the baseless rhetoric of anti-Israel delegitimisation in a style more suited to the Hamas supporting Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s PR department than a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting. The BBC is undoubtedly capable of identifying the motives and agenda behind the promotion of the inaccurate notion of Gaza as an ‘open air prison’. The fact that it chooses to adopt, amplify and repeatedly mainstream such propaganda on multiple platforms tells audiences all they need to know about the BBC’s supposed ‘impartiality’.

Related Articles:

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

Resources:

‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Twitter

Roger Hearing on Twitter

BBC World Service contact & complaints

BBC Radio 4 contact

How to Complain to the BBC

The BBC and the UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict – part one

On June 22nd the UN HRC published the long-anticipated report by its self-styled ‘independent’ commission of inquiry into what it revealingly calls the “Gaza conflict” of 2014. Readers can find the full report here and will not be surprised to discover that – like its predecessor the Goldstone Report – this document too is heavily based on anonymous testimony and contributions from political activists such as Mads Gilbert and tens of political NGOs, indicating that ‘independent’ can be a relative term. Hence, it is not surprising to find among the report’s text ‘gems’ such as the ones below highlighted by Avi Issacharoff.UNHRC report BBC breaking

“The report notes that the probe “cannot conclusively determine the intent of Palestinian armed groups with regard to the construction and use of these tunnels. However, the commission observes that during the period under examination, the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”

With regard to warnings, the UN report risibly interpreted threats by Hamas that it would target Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport as concrete warnings to Israeli civilians.”

One of many examples of the way in which the report’s reliance on selective information provided by interested parties and political NGOs affects its findings can be seen on page 142.

“On 25 July 2014, three Palestinian men – Hashem Abu Maria, Sultan Za’qiq and Abdelhamid Breighith – were killed during a demonstration that took place in the village of Beit Umar in the Hebron area to protest against the hostilities in Gaza. In its assessment of the incident, the commission relied on eyewitness testimony, as well as information gathered by OHCHR and NGOs. […]

Hashem Abu Maria was quickly transferred by protesters to an ambulance and taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Mohammad Awad survived the incident. Hashem Abu Maria was a well-known civil society activist, who worked for the NGO Defence for Children International, in the Hebron area.”

As was pointed out here last July in light of a problematic report by the BBC’s Jon Donnison on that same incident, Hashem Abu Maria was described by the PFLP terrorist organization as one of its ‘commanders’ and the charity where he held his day job is known for its PFLP links.PFLP Abu Maria

Another example of the report’s many shortcomings is seen on page 134:

“According to information received by the commission, after the abduction of the Israeli youths, tensions were further fueled by a rise in extreme anti-Palestinian rhetoric by some Israelis, notably in social media, inciting revenge and hatred against Palestinians; as well as reported harassment; and sometimes, attacks on Palestinians and damage to businesses employing Palestinians. The anti-Palestinian rhetoric included sexual and negative references to female relatives of persons connected with armed groups and individuals killed during the conflict.”

However, no mention whatsoever is made of the celebrations on the Palestinian street which followed the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers or of the related incitement and glorification of terrorism promoted by Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

The BBC News website’s article on the subject of the report currently appears under the title “Gaza conflict 2014: ‘War crimes by both sides’ – UN” and the many changes made to it since its initial publication on June 22nd can be viewed here. The caption to the main photograph at the top of that report reads:UN HRC report main

“Israel and Palestinian militants fought for 50 days before agreeing to a ceasefire”

An accurate representation would have clarified that Hamas refused numerous ceasefire offers and, as was pointed out here at the time, that:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

The BBC’s report is predictably superficial and uncritical. With the BBC itself still quoting UN supplied casualty figures despite the subsequent information which has since come to light, it is little wonder that no effort is made to inform audiences of their highly problematic sourcing.   

“On the Palestinian side, 2,251 people, of whom 1,462 were civilians, were killed, the report said. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers were killed along with six civilians, it noted.”

The BBC’s standard ‘Israel says’ formula is employed.  

“Israel says it launched the offensive on Gaza to put an end to rocket fire and remove the threat of attacks by militants tunnelling under the border.”

The article misleads readers by once again inaccurately suggesting that Israel was the sole party to object to William Schabas’ appointment as head of the commission.

“The head of the inquiry, William Schabas, quit part-way through amid Israeli allegations of bias, acknowledging he had previously done work for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).”

The article also states:

“It [the commission] said Israel had refused to allow its team into the West Bank or Gaza, which made it difficult to carry out the investigation.”

Audiences are not informed that Egypt also did not permit entry into the Gaza Strip from its territory – as noted in the UN report:

“The commission repeatedly requested Israel to cooperate, including by granting it access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Regrettably, Israel did not respond to these requests. Subsequently, the commission learned from a press release that no such cooperation would be forthcoming. The Government of Egypt, when requested to facilitate entry into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, responded that it was not possible owing to the prevailing security situation.” (emphasis added.)

Whilst the article highlights selected statements and conclusions from the 183 page report, no effort is made to provide BBC audiences with objective analysis of its many very obvious shortcomings, such as the fact that it ignores Israel’s efforts to avoid the conflict and Hamas’ repeated breach of agreed ceasefires.

And of course nowhere does the BBC’s report – including the insert of ‘analysis’ from Yolande Knell – clarify to audiences the fact that the UN report is built upon the foundation of political NGOs, many of which concurrently engage in lawfare against Israel.

“B’Tselem was the most referenced NGO with 69 citations, followed by Amnesty International (53), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (50), and Al Mezan (29). UNWRA and UN-OCHA were also featured throughout the report.”

That, however, comes as no surprise because – as has been documented here in the past – the BBC itself quotes and promotes many of the same NGOs uncritically and unquestioningly.

In addition to this written article, the BBC also produced two filmed reports on the same topic which will be discussed in a later post.