Dumbed down BBC reporting on the Palestinian Unity Government continues

September 25th saw the appearance of an article titled “Hamas and Fatah agree unity government’s return to Gaza” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.PUG art

The report opens with the specious suggestion that the reason that the Palestinian Unity Government which came into being on June 2nd has not brought the Gaza Strip under its authority to date is the conflict between Israel and Hamas which began 36 days after that government’s inauguration (and which it did nothing to prevent) rather than internal Hamas-Fatah disagreements.

“Palestinian negotiators in Cairo say they have agreed a “comprehensive” deal for a national unity government to take responsibility for running Gaza.

A cabinet backed by Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, was unveiled in June.

But the move was eclipsed by Israel’s conflict with militant groups in Gaza.”

The article continues:

“The territory has been governed by Hamas, which won the last parliamentary elections in 2006, since it ousted forces loyal to the PA in 2007.

The PA was left to run parts of the occupied West Bank not under Israeli control.”

Readers are not informed that the electoral mandate won by Hamas in 2006 long since expired and elections to the PLC are long overdue. Neither is it made clear that what the BBC euphemistically describes as Hamas having “ousted” the PA was in fact a violent coup. Likewise, the fact that PA control over Areas A and B is a product of agreements between Israel and the PA is not adequately clarified to readers. The article continues:

“Earlier this month, PA President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of operating a “shadow government” in Gaza. Hamas denied the claim, calling it “against the reality”.”

No effort is made to enable BBC audiences to place that Hamas denial in its correct context by informing them that, despite the establishment of the unity government on June 2nd, Hamas continued to run ministries such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Information – both of which played active roles during the recent conflict.

Next, readers are provided with the following analysis from Kevin Connolly:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says bringing unity between Hamas and Fatah is a strategic aspiration for the Palestinians – but differences between the factions are bitter and profound.

The new deal is described as “comprehensive”, but not enough detail is being published to allow a real judgement on its prospects, our correspondent adds.”

In line with the BBC’s policy since the beginning of June, Connolly fails to clarify to readers that – despite the placatory assurances at the time of its inauguration – the PUG has failed to live up to the PA’s existing agreements with Israel on various issues, including the disarming of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Connolly apparently does not consider it relevant to inform audiences about crucial clauses in those existing agreements such as the ban on local weapons manufacture and import.

Later on, the report states:

“However, a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA’s own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory. He described the deal as “partial”.” [emphasis added]

Despite that very clear writing on the wall, the BBC obviously does not see the necessity of making audiences aware of the fact that if Hamas and other terrorist organisations are not disarmed by the PUG and the territory not brought under the sole control of PA security forces, then the Gaza Strip – along with the rest of the PA-controlled areas – will find itself in a ‘Lebanon-style’ situation whereby the actions of a foreign-sponsored terrorist organization can continue to spark conflict whenever that suits its own (or its sponsors’) agenda.

Additionally, the obviously relevant topic of the recent exposure of a planned Hamas coup against the PA is once again ignored by the BBC in this report.

Nearly four months since the Palestinian Unity Government came into existence, the BBC has still not met its obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” by providing audiences with anything more than superficial reporting on the topic. That failure clearly not only hampers audiences’ ability to understand current events, but also means that they will be ill-equipped to comprehend any future developments. 

BBC misleads audiences regarding cause of Operation Protective Edge

On September 23rd the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israel kills Palestinians suspected of teenagers’ murders“. The original version of the report read as follows.

Qawasme shootout art

The article was subsequently amended twice but all its versions continue to promote the notion that the seven weeks of hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip were caused by the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th.

The final version of the report informs readers that:

“The abduction of the teenagers was a trigger of the recent conflict in Gaza.[…]

Israel launched a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank following the abduction, detaining hundreds of members.

Then on 2 July, a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was abducted and burned alive in an apparent revenge attack two days after the bodies of the Israeli teenagers were found. One Jewish man and two youths have been charged with the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdair, 16.

The killings set off an escalating cycle of violence, leading to a 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip that claimed more than 2,000 lives.”

As can be seen, the sequence of events presented to audiences by the BBC completely erases the fact that “the recent conflict” did not only take place “in Gaza” but also in Israel, with thousands of residents of the southern part of the country forced to leave their homes during that time.

Even more misleading is the fact that the BBC has completely airbrushed from audience view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between June 12th and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that incessant missile fire which was the reason for the military operation, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.

“A Hamas official, who did not give his name to Palestinian news agency Sawa, said overnight Friday-Saturday [July 4th/5th – Ed.] that “those who expect Hamas to stop the rocket fire [on Israel], should to turn [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Rami Hamdallah.”

The official was alluding to the fact that the salaries of 40,000 Hamas clerks in Gaza were still unpaid, which was reportedly a key Hamas demand since agreeing to a unity government deal in late April with the Palestinian Authority.”

There is unfortunately nothing novel about this article’s promotion of the erroneous notion of an irresistible “cycle of violence” and its failure to inform BBC audiences that the events of this summer could have been prevented had Hamas so chosen.

Another point worthy of remark in this report is the fact that the penny seems to have finally dropped with regard to Hamas’ involvement in the kidnappings and murders of the three Israeli teenagers.

“The militant Islamist group Hamas initially denied being behind the killings but later on its political leader Khaled Meshaal said members had carried them out.

“Hamas praises the role martyrs Abu Aisha and Qawasmeh played in chasing down Israeli settlers and we stress that their assassination will not weaken the resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.”

That belated epiphany means that the BBC should now ensure that all its previously published content promoting the notion that Hamas was not responsible for the murders (material which of course remains accessible to the general public online) is amended to include a footnote informing audiences that the BBC’s claims were inaccurate. An organization truly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality would also carry out a review of the role played by Jon Donnison in promoting politically motivated inaccurate information which deliberately misled audiences with regard to Hamas’ involvement in the kidnappings and murders. 

 

 

BBC Business covers one terror banking story, ignores another more close to home

On September 22nd a report titled “Arab Bank found liable by US court in Hamas attacks” was published on both the BBC News website’s Business page and its Middle East page.Arab Bank art

Here is what the BBC’s ‘Style Guide’ has to say about the use of the word Palestine in BBC reporting:

“There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”.

The change allows the Palestinians to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies.

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.

But clearly BBC journalists should reflect the changed circumstances when reporting on the UN itself and at the Olympics, where the International Olympics Committee recognises Palestine as a competing nation.

Best practice is to use the term Palestine firmly and only in the context of the organisation in which it is applicable, just as the BBC did at the Olympics – for example: “At the UN, representatives of Palestine, which has non-member observer status…” ” [emphasis added]

That point does not seem to be clear to the writer of this article who – although he or she did make refreshing and accurate use of the term terrorist – also misleadingly declared locations which have yet to have their status determined in negotiations to be ‘Palestine’ and led readers to believe that such a state existed as long ago as “the early 2000s”.

“A New York jury has found Arab Bank liable for providing material support to Hamas.

As a result, the Jordan-based bank must provide compensation to victims of nearly two dozen terrorist attacks that Hamas carried out in Israel and Palestine in the early 2000s.” [emphasis added]

Another notable point about this report is that it (or any other currently appearing on the BBC News website) does not inform readers that the same court in the United States ruled on the same day that a similar case is to be reinstated. As Reuters and the WSJ reported:

“The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a federal district judge got it wrong when she threw out legal claims by about 200 U.S. victims of Hamas attacks who claimed that National Westminster Bank PLC provided banking services to a London-based charity with alleged ties to the group.

The lawsuit, which the Second Circuit sent back to federal trial court in Brooklyn, was filed under the Antiterrorism Act, a 1990 law that gives victims of international terrorism recourse in U.S. courts. […]

In the lawsuit, NatWest, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, is accused of maintaining bank accounts and transferring funds for the Palestine Relief & Development Fund, also known as Interpal, which the plaintiffs allege solicited funds for and otherwise supported Hamas.”

Although eight years have passed since the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ documentary on Interpal, many of the issues it raised are still very relevant to the topic of this revived court case. If that did not spark the BBC’s curiosity, one might at least have expected that the British public’s interests in the RBS group would have prompted the corporation to cover this development. 

Will the BBC’s Doucet report on the real reasons for lost childhoods in Gaza?

On September 21st the Guardian published an interview with the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet in which we learn that she is apparently in the process of making a documentary about children in Gaza, whom the Guardian – not unexpectedly of course – wrongly describes as being ‘targeted’ by Israel. Doucet Guardian interview

“However, even with this wealth of experience, the BBC’s chief international correspondent admits the targeting of civilians, and in particular children, she has witnessed over the past two years in Syria and Gaza has prompted “an editorial shift in my journalism”, evident in last month’s BBC2 documentary The Children of Syria. Doucet is already working on a follow-up based on her experience of reporting from Gaza during the Israeli onslaught this summer.

“The way the wars of our time are fought, as punishing, sustained attacks on neighbourhoods, towns, cities, means assaults on families and childhood,” Doucet says. “Most places I cover young children are everywhere, in Gaza they are pouring out of every crevice.” [emphasis added]

Clearly Doucet (in addition to holding extremely ahistorical notions about warfare before “our time”) is disinterested in the very significant difference between an attack on a military target intentionally located in an urban area and a deliberate attack on a residential neighbourhood.

“In these crises, they are no longer the kids caught in the crossfire, they are the centre. We saw that in Gaza too. I began to realise there was a story to be told from the ground up. Just do the children.” […]

“Doucet intends to take a similar approach with her documentary on Gaza. “I keep thinking of the children, the families we spent time with there. I don’t get nightmares, but we are going back and following some of the stories.”

She is cagey about saying too much but explains: “We are trying to tell a very old Middle East story in a new way.”

“This will include the impact on both sides, a method established in Children of Syria, which included two heavily politicised boys, one an Alawite in Damascus, another in a refugee camp on the Turkish border.”

So will Doucet finally get round to telling the story (so far ignored by the BBC) of the Israeli children who have lived – and died – under the threat of constant missile attacks by terrorists in the Gaza Strip for the past thirteen years? That remains to be seen.

“Doucet says she believes in being “compassionate, not emotional”, suggesting she would not go so far as Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow’s anguished online video about the children of Gaza. “Empathy is a good thing. [But viewers] don’t want to see me, or anyone falling apart. It is not about us.” “

The vast volume of BBC coverage of events in the Gaza Strip during July and August – including from Lyse Doucet – actually provided audiences with very little which did not fall into the category of ‘anguished’ and ‘emotional’ reporting. One example of that was Doucet’s written report titled “No place to hide for children of war in Gaza and Syria” which appeared on the BBC News website on July 27th.

If this new documentary is not to be merely more of the heart-string-tugging, context-free same and is actually to provide BBC audiences with some insight into why Lyse Doucet sees “childhood […] being destroyed” in the Gaza Strip, then obviously it is going to have to address the root cause of the repeated violence: Islamist terrorism.

Her interest in children means that Doucet could do a lot worse that to begin her research with these names: Wasim Rida Salhia (aged 15), Anas Yusuf Qandil (aged 17) and Obeida Fadhel Muhammad Abu Hweishel (aged 9). Two of those youths appear on the Hamas Ministry of Health’s list of children killed during Operation Protective Edge: a list extensively promoted and quoted by the BBC as readers well know. The youngest boy was also listed on Hamas’ casualty lists, but with a false age. All three of them were acting as auxiliaries for terrorist organisations (including in one case Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade) at the time of their deaths.

Doucet could also tackle in her documentary a topic which the BBC has so far studiously avoided: the summer camps run by internationally designated terrorist organisations for the children of the Gaza Strip. And of course the issue of the contribution made by Hamas children’s TV programmes to the phenomenon of “childhood […] being destroyed” is worthy of a documentary in itself.

Somehow, though, one doubts that any of those subjects are on Lyse Doucet’s “compassionate” agenda.

 

 

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

h/t JK

Since July a prevalent theme in BBC reporting on the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip has been the context-free amplification of Hamas’ demands to lift border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to the activities of that terror organisation and others.

Initially, Hamas declared that the lifting of border restrictions was a precondition to any negotiations on a ceasefire and the BBC provided plenty of publicity for that obviously unrealistic demand – see examples here, here, here and here. Notably, the BBC also adopted Hamas terminology as part of its amplification of the terror group’s demands and began to inaccurately describe very specific restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip as a “siege”.

Later, Hamas found itself obliged to climb down from that particular tree and demands for the lifting of border restrictions joined others, such as the construction of a seaport and an airport, as part of what Hamas promoted as its conditions for a long-term ceasefire. Those demands were also given ample promotion by BBC correspondents – see examples here, here, here, here, here and here.  

Even before the August 26th ceasefire agreement was reached the BBC’s focus turned to promoting the topic of the lifting of border restrictions via the subject matter of reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. With BBC representation in the area having returned to pre-conflict staffing levels, most of that particular advocacy campaign has been carried out by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell who has in recent weeks produced several ‘reporter in the rubble’ items all designed to impress upon BBC audiences that those same border restrictions must be lifted in order to facilitate the reconstruction of houses destroyed or damaged during the conflict. Examples can be seen here, here and here. PM 18 9  

On September 18th the BBC Radio 4 news magazine ‘PM’ broadcast an audio item by Yolande Knell (available for a limited period of time from 50:52 here) which recycles material from two of her previous reports for television and the BBC News website.

The programme’s presenter Eddie Mair introduces the item with citation of Gaza Strip casualty figures which fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

EM: “The human toll of the most recent violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza is well known. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven civilians were killed. As our correspondent Yolande Knell reports, the physical damage to Gaza is also significant.”

Knell opens:

“There’s a single bulldozer working to clear a path through an enormous pile of rubble in Shuja’iya in Gaza. The scale of destruction here is overwhelming. Last month this area was pounded with tank fire and airstrikes as the Israeli military said it set out to destroy a network of tunnels used by militants for cross-border raids and storing rockets. Dozens of local people were killed and thousands were left homeless.”

There is of course absolutely no editorial justification for Knell’s use of the phrase “as the Israeli military said”. Knell and her editors know full well that Hamas turned the Shuja’iya neighbourhood into a district overflowing with military targets including missile launching sites and the entrances to some ten cross-border attack tunnels. There is also no reason to assume that Knell is unaware of the fact that among the “dozens of local people” killed in Shuja’iya were a significant number of terrorists who engaged in fierce fighting with Israeli forces tasked with decommissioning the tunnels. And yet Knell deliberately refrains from communicating that fact to listeners, who next hear a local man – who cannot have been unaware that his neighbourhood had been used by terrorists as a missile launch site – feigning surprise that those sites came under attack.

Man: “I was shocked. I didn’t expect to see my house, my street, my neighbours’ houses destroyed like this. Now the war is ended but really we suffer from now here diseases. We suffer from no water, no electricity. Everything is destroyed really.”

Knell: “Abdel Karim Abu Ahmed is an English teacher. As the chickens run through the ruins of his house he shows me where he sleeps on a mattress alongside his brother and sons.”

Man: “Now we haven’t furnitures, we haven’t blankets, we haven’t walls. This is a problem. But we have – inshallah – to rebuild these houses. We hope through negotiation – inshallah – they will bring what we need here.”

Abdel Karim Abu Ahmed the English teacher also appeared in Knell’s recent feature on the BBC News website which included an aerial photograph of the location of his house in Shuja’iya.  

English teacher's house

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

English teacher's house missiles fired

Knell continues with promotion of the main purpose of her report.

“But so far, nothing’s changed to ease the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt and that means reconstruction can’t yet begin. By the Kerem Shalom crossing lorries are bringing in commercial goods – mainly food – but Israel bans the import of building materials for private use, saying that militants use them to build tunnels.”

Again, Knell’s presentation of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for the purposes of terror in terms of “Israel says” has no editorial justification. She also fails to clarify that construction materials for the private sector were imported into the Gaza Strip until last October when a cross-border tunnel was discovered. Knell continues with a Norwegian Refugee Council official who also appeared in one of her previous filmed reports.

“Now international aid agencies are calling for a rethink. Ruth Allan represents the Shelter Cluster. It’s worked out there would still be a housing crisis in Gaza even if this crossing ran at its full capacity.”

Allan: “We’ve calculated that it would take 20 years to rebuild the homes. This is not including schools, not including hospitals, not including any other civilian infrastructure – oly houses. Basically 17 thousand homes were destroyed in this last war. Also, there is huge population growth and therefore there is a shortfall of homes.”

Next comes promotion of propaganda straight from the Hamas horse’s mouth.

“In Gaza City I meet another Palestinian inspecting his damaged house. Mahmoud Zahar knows that he was Israel’s intended target here as a founder and leader of the Islamist movement Hamas. He insists the recent conflict was a great victory.”

Al Zahar: “Now I think if we are going to make any election in any area in Palestine, Hamas will be number one – just because this is the first war that Israel failed to achieve any of its goals. Destruction of the tunnels: tomorrow we are going to start doing more tunnels. Tunnels was a self-defence. Rockets was a self-defence. Resistance was our style. Israel started the war and they finished by big losses.”

Knell makes no effort to ensure that listeners are not misled by the inaccurate claims of a man who, despite being on record as having legitimised the murder of Jewish children anywhere in the world and despite UK legislation on the encouragement of terrorism, is apparently still deemed by the BBC to be an appropriate interviewee with something to contribute to audiences. She continues:

“Such attitudes have angered the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who heads a unity government backed by Hamas. He’s warned they hamper efforts to rebuild Gaza. As far as Israel’s concerned, they justify its caution, particularly when it comes to construction supplies. Mark Regev is the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman.”

Regev: “As to materials that could be syphoned off by Hamas to once again rebuild their terror machine, well we’re taking now to the international community – to the United nations, to relevant governments – of how we can have mechanisms in place that will prevent Hamas stealing what is ultimately supposed to reach the people of Gaza. I mean the amount of cement that went into those terror tunnels could have built a dozen hospitals; let’s be clear.”

Knell concludes:

“Back in Shuja’iya residents are trying to clean up their homes. While Gaza’s now calm, they know there’s still no political solution to its underlying problems and now they’re feeling them more acutely than ever.”

Despite al Zahar’s clear declaration of intent to re-engage in the construction of terrorist infrastructure, Knell fails to join the dots and clarify to listeners that there is no chance of success for any “political solution” to the Gaza Strip’s “underlying problems” which does not include adherence to the PA’s existing agreements with Israel – i.e. the disarming of all terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Neither is she apparently concerned by the fact that her own role in the BBC’s repeated advocacy for Hamas’ political campaign to lift border restrictions is likely to contribute to the current calm in the Gaza Strip being very short-lived. 

More on the BBC’s ‘Dutchman returns Holocaust medal’ story

Readers may recall that last month we noted here that two reports – one written and one filmed – which appeared (and are still available) on the BBC News website failed to inform audiences of a very significant factor in the story they told.Anna Holligan report

That story was recounted by the BBC as follows:

“A Dutchman honoured by Israel for hiding a Jewish child during World War Two has handed back his medal after six of his relatives were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

Henk Zanoli, 91, wrote to the Israeli embassy in The Hague to say he could no longer hold the honour.

He said an Israeli F-16 had destroyed his great-niece’s home in Gaza, killing all inside, in the recent offensive. [….]

His great-niece is a Dutch diplomat who is married to Palestinian economist Ismail Ziadah, who was born in a refugee camp in central Gaza.

Mr Ziadah’s mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and nine-year-old nephew were all killed after their family home was hit by Israeli aircraft.”

However, the BBC did not inform readers and viewers that in addition to Mr Zanoli’s family members, a “guest” was also present in the house at the time: Mohammed Mahmoud al-Maqadma – a member of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades. As we noted at the time:Ziyadeh poster

“That information was in the public domain for almost a month before BBC News ran this report. It is a very relevant part of the story which provides context important to proper audience understanding. And yet, the BBC elected to refrain from providing that information to readers and viewers.”

Now further research by Elder of Ziyon reveals that al Maqadma was not the only Hamas terrorist present in the Ziadah family home on July 20th. Omar Ziadah – Mr Zanoli’s great-niece’s brother-in-law – was a field commander in Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades.

The BBC’s written report ended with amplification of the following statement from Mr Zanoli:

” “Against this background it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel,” he wrote in the letter addressed to Israeli ambassador Haim Davon.”

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality should mean that – having elected to amplify that very serious accusation – the BBC is now obliged to inform audiences that in fact one of Mr Zanoli’s relatives was a member of Hamas and a combatant.

And perhaps the BBC’s correspondent in the Hague who produced the original filmed report might care to ask the Dutch government how a diplomat from an EU member country – in this case the Deputy Head of the Netherlands’ mission to Oman and former policy advisor on the Middle East to the Dutch MFA – happened to have a relative who was a member of a terrorist organization proscribed by the EU.  

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

On September 15th a big feature titled “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” by Yolande Knell and no fewer than eight additional contributors appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage and on its Middle East page, with the item being heavily promoted on various BBC Twitter accounts.

Knell feature on ME HP

Knell feature on HP

Almost two months on – and long after clarification of the circumstances of the battles in Shuja’iya – the BBC continues to misrepresent the events as partially as it did at the time, promoting many of the same themes which were evident in its initial reporting from the district.Knell Shuja'iya pt 1

The feature – which includes text, video and photographs – opens:

“More than 400,000 of Gaza’s residents were displaced by Israel’s recent 50-day military operation. Some 18,000 homes were also destroyed and many more were damaged. One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Shejaiya, near the eastern border, where the Israeli military says it targeted Palestinian militants and their tunnels.”

Note how this conflict has been turned into “Israel’s recent 50-day military operation” with all mention of the missile attacks on the civilian population of Israel – which not only sparked the conflict but persisted until its final minutes – erased from the picture presented to BBC audiences. Notably, another article appearing on the BBC News website the previous day similarly referred to “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in July” – suggesting that such framing is not coincidental.

As has been the case in all of its reporting from the Gaza Strip since July 8th, the BBC continues in this item to conceal from audience view the issue of buildings deliberately booby-trapped by Hamas and other terrorist organisations or those hit by missiles misfired by terrorists or destroyed as a result of their being used to store explosives. BBC audiences are hence led towards the mistaken belief that every single structure damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip during the seven weeks of conflict was the result of Israeli actions.

Once again, the BBC fails to adequately inform audiences of the true scale of Hamas operations in Shuja’iya, opting instead for its usual “Israel says” formulation. The fact is of course that the only reason fighting – and the resulting damage – occurred in Shuja’iya was because Hamas had turned it into a neighbourhood replete with military targets, including entrances to some ten cross-border attack tunnels, ammunition and weapons stores, missile launching sites and command and control centres.

Shujaiya comparative map

Knell’s feature continues:

“The crowded eastern district of Shejaiya in the Gaza Strip saw one of the bloodiest days of the recent conflict. Israel told the 80,000 residents to leave before it targeted the area. However, many did not believe the assault would be so serious and remained in their homes.”

Indeed, Israel did advise the residents of Shuja’iya to leave their homes four days before the operation there commenced and even delayed it in order to give people additional opportunity to relocate. This BBC report, however, deliberately misrepresents the reason why some residents failed to heed that advice, claiming that “many did not believe the assault would be so serious” and thereby concealing from BBC audiences the fact that Hamas ordered civilians to stay put. This deliberate distortion of the facts dovetails with the BBC’s policy – evident throughout coverage of the conflict – of downplaying and even denying Hamas’ use of human shields.

The feature goes on:

“On the night of Saturday 19 July, Shejaiya was pounded with heavy artillery, mortars and air strikes sending up columns of thick, black smoke. Within 24 hours, dozens of Palestinians and at least 13 Israeli soldiers were killed.

From early on Sunday morning there were chaotic scenes as thousands of local people tried to flee. They headed to Gaza City, searching for shelter at United Nations’ schools and at the main Shifa hospital, which was overwhelmed with casualties.

Battles erupted between Israeli troops and Hamas militants in the streets. Israel’s officials say the residential neighbourhood contained a fortified network of tunnels used for attacks and to produce and store rockets. The Palestinian government has described the killing of civilians as a “heinous massacre”.”

Details of the events in Shuja’iya on the night of July 19th and the day of July 20th have been in the public domain for many weeks now and so there is no excuse whatsoever for the BBC’s above incoherent account which misrepresents the sequence of events, downplays Hamas’ actions and yet again misleadingly presents the crucial issue of Hamas’ deliberate location of military assets in the Shuja’iya district in terms of “Israel says”.

Knell’s report goes on to show a graphic illustrating the locations of the houses of the four people later interviewed.

Knell Shuja'iya graphic

What that graphic of course does not show is the context of Hamas activity such as missile launching or the locations of the entrances to any of the cross-border tunnels found in the same area. Of the four houses showcased on that graphic, one is described as belonging to a “Grandmother” who, readers are later told, “lost one of her sons, Ismail, in the latest conflict”.

The photographs accompanying the section on the Grandmother include one of what the BBC describes as “a poster in his memory”. As sharp-eyed readers will be able to see, that poster includes the logo of Hamas’ Izz a Din Al Qassam Brigades, which could go a long way towards explaining what Ismail was doing “on the top floor of their four-storey building” and why “it came under heavy bombardment”, although Yolande Knell does not trouble her readers with such inconvenient details which would distract them from her story.

Knell art martyrdom poster

Readers are also told:

“Now the battered district stands as a reminder of the ferocity of the latest fighting and Gaza’s unsolved political problems. Locals, like the four featured below, long to rebuild their homes but are unable to do so while tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt remain in place. Israel says these are for security reasons. It is worried militants will use construction supplies to rebuild tunnels and it currently allows very limited imports for international projects.”

As was noted here only recently:

“If there is one thing which should have become perfectly clear to foreign journalists since the beginning of July it is that the entry of building supplies into the Gaza Strip – which was increased in recent years due to intense pressure from assorted international bodies and aid agencies – was abused by Hamas to construct cross-border attack tunnels rather than for the advancement of projects which would have improved the lives of the people of Gaza.

However, not only has the BBC shown no interest whatsoever in discussing Hamas’ misappropriation of those building supplies or the very serious subject of the accountability of the aid agencies and international bodies which were supposed to be supervising and guaranteeing the construction projects for which those materials were destined; it continues to present the issue in terms of “Israel says”.”

Rather than investing the work of the nine BBC staff members it took to produce this feature in an in-depth investigation of how considerable sums of European tax-payers’ money has been misappropriated by Hamas over the years, the BBC has instead produced a feature designed solely to feed BBC audiences with yet more out of context images of rubble and damage in the Gaza Strip and to continue the campaign being promoted by the BBC in general – and Yolande Knell in particular – with regard to the border restrictions made necessary by the very terrorism which also brought about those images. 

Related Articles:

BBC omits vital context in reporting from Shuja’iya

Themes in BBC reporting on events in Shuja’iya

BBC’s Reynolds in Shuja’iya: still no reporting on what really happened

BBC’s Knell continues the Gaza border restrictions PR campaign

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

 

One to watch: BBC’s Panorama on ‘The War of the Tunnels’

An edition of ‘Panorama’ titled “The War of the Tunnels” – which has already been postponed twice for reasons unknown – is now scheduled for broadcast on BBC One on Monday, September 15th with repeats on the BBC News channel and BBC Two as shown below.

Panorama Corbin

The programme’s synopsis states:

“For seven weeks Hamas rockets roared over the border into Israel while Israeli bombs pounded Gaza. Panorama’s Jane Corbin goes deep into the underground tunnels where battles have been fought to investigate the war that has devastated Gaza.

What has each side really gained in this war and can there be a solution to the conflict which is fuelling hatred and fear all over the world?”

As readers are no doubt aware, Jane Corbin’s previous Israel-related documentaries have included the January 2010 programme titled “A Walk in the Park” which was extremely problematic and generated numerous complaints.  

In August of the same year Jane Corbin produced another documentary titled “Death in the Med” which related to the May 2010 ‘Mavi Marmara’ incident in which anti-Israel activists attacked soldiers trying to prevent the ship of that name from breaching the naval blockade. In that case Corbin’s reporting was considerably more accurate and impartial but nevertheless was the subject of complaints – partially at least as the result of an organized campaign by the PSC.

Assuming that “The War of the Tunnels” is finally aired, it will be interesting to see which of the above styles of reporting it more resembles.

Update:

It would appear that this programme’s broadcast in the UK has been cancelled yet again with the BBC One Panorama webpage currently informing visitors that “There are no upcoming broadcasts of this programme”. However, viewers of BBC World News not located in either the Middle East or Europe will apparently now (perhaps) be able to watch the programme on September 20th and 21st.

Panorama update

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News report on Palestinian rioter shot near Ramallah fails to provide context

On September 10th a short report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian man shot dead in West Bank raid“.Jelazoun

“A Palestinian has been killed during an Israeli raid on a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Palestinian medics said Issa Qatari, 22, was shot in the chest and died shortly before reaching hospital.

The Israeli military said its forces had clashed with dozens of protesters after entering the al-Amari camp on Wednesday to arrest a Hamas operative.

“A main instigator attempted to hurl an explosive device” at the troops, who opened fire in response, it added.

Witnesses in the camp gave a similar account of the incident.

Protesters “showered the invading forces with stones, and soldiers responded with live ammunition, injuring a number of other Palestinians”, one told the Maan news agency.

The Israeli military said the Hamas operative was arrested in the raid.”

The BBC’s “dozens of protesters” would have been more accurately described as rioters.

“An IDF unit sent to arrest a Hamas member in Ramallah encountered violent disturbances when approximately 50 Palestinians hurled rocks, firebombs, and burning tires, the army said. One of the rioters was seen throwing an explosive device at soldiers, according to the IDF Spokespersons Unit. Soldiers opened fire at the suspect, striking him. The man later died of gunshot wounds.”

What is missing from this report is of course the context necessary to enable BBC audiences to understand the background to the incident. There has been no BBC reporting of any of the recent violent rioting and attacks in Jerusalem and in Judea & Samaria. In fact, the last time visitors to the BBC News website were told anything about violence in those areas was on July 25th when Jon Donnison presented a very selective report on incidents in Qalandiya and elsewhere. BBC audiences are hence entirely unaware of the fact that the number of attacks in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem has – according to ISA reports – risen dramatically since the beginning of July with 507 attacks having taken place during that month compared to 100 the month before.

The chart below was compiled using the monthly statistics provided by the ISA but does not include separate representation of kidnappings, murders, stabbings or attacks using vehicles.

Chart jan 13 to jul 14

Of course there is nothing new about the BBC’s failure to report on security incidents, as we have frequently documented here in the past (see related articles below). However, that practice means that incidents such as the one reported in the above article are seen by BBC audiences in isolation, without the essential understanding of their backdrop.

Related Articles:

BBC silent on doubling of terror attacks since renewed ME talks

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

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

Round-up of BBC coverage of security incidents – April 2014

100% of missile fire from Gaza Strip in May ignored by BBC

 

 

 

NYT sheds new light on the topic of BBC expert guests

A New York Times article titled “Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks” from September 6th makes for fascinating reading. There we discover, for example, that there is such a thing as the Norway lobby and that one of the prominent contributors to the Brookings Institution – from whence came the US special envoy to the last round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO and to which he returned – is Qatar; the country which harbours the Muslim Brotherhood’s antisemitic, homophobic and misogynistic ‘spiritual leader’ Yussuf Qaradawi and which of course finances Hamas.Riyal

“Some scholars say the donations have led to implicit agreements that the research groups would refrain from criticizing the donor governments.

“If a member of Congress is using the Brookings reports, they should be aware — they are not getting the full story,” said Saleem Ali, who served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and who said he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government in papers. “They may not be getting a false story, but they are not getting the full story.” “

The article also reveals details of foreign funding to other think-tanks such as the Atlantic Council (UAE, Kuwait and others) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (UAE, China, Saudi Arabia and others).

“More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research. […]

The arrangements involve Washington’s most influential think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Each is a major recipient of overseas funds, producing policy papers, hosting forums and organizing private briefings for senior United States government officials that typically align with the foreign governments’ agendas.

Most of the money comes from countries in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, particularly the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway, and takes many forms. The United Arab Emirates, a major supporter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House. Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world.”

The appearance of such scholars as expert guests of the media is of course not a rare occurrence and the BBC is no exception. In the past couple of months alone the Atlantic Council has, for example, been represented by Damon Wilson, Shuja Nawaz and Bilal Saab on BBC World News. Employees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies cite BBC appearances as part of their biographies – see for example here and here. In July 2014 an article titled “Will Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood return to political violence?” appeared on the BBC News website. That analysis was written by Dr Omar Ashour  – a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.

The NYT article informs us that:

“… in 2012, when a revised agreement was signed between Brookings and the Qatari government, the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself praised the agreement on its website, announcing that “the center will assume its role in reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones.” Brookings officials also acknowledged that they have regular meetings with Qatari government officials about the center’s activities and budget, and that the former Qatar prime minister sits on the center’s advisory board.”

Perhaps it is little wonder then that whilst the above article informed BBC audiences that “[i]n Gaza, Hamas, an ideological affiliate of the Brotherhood, is currently in its third war in six years with Israel”, no mention was made of Qatar’s funding of that terrorist organisation.

As we know, the BBC’s 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.”

Obviously the New York Times’ revelations mean that expert guests and contributing writers from foreign-funded think-tanks – whom BBC audiences might very reasonably assume to be objective – should also have their less transparent connections made clear; especially if the topic under discussion happens to be connected to one of their organisations’ foreign funders.