A Polish reporter’s account of the human shields the BBC refused to see

Last year the BBC Complaints department responded to complaints concerning the lack of BBC coverage of terrorist missile fire from the Gaza Strip by claiming that “it was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out” and by citing a filmed report by Orla Guerin from August 12th 2014 as support for the claim that it did in fact report “on allegations that Hamas and other militants put Palestinian civilian lives at risk by operating from residential areas, as well as launching rockets near schools and hospitals”.BBC Trust

Earlier this year the BBC Trust’s ESC produced a decidedly tortured and self-contradicting verdict rejecting complaints from members of the public about a statement made by Orla Guerin in that same filmed report from Gaza in which she said that there was “no evidence” to support the claim that civilians in the Gaza Strip were being used as human shields.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz recently published an article by Polish Radio’s foreign correspondent Wojciech Cegielski in which he recounts some of his own experiences whilst in the Gaza Strip last summer.

“Yes, Israel bombed Palestinian houses in Gaza. But Hamas is also to blame for its cruel and selfish game against its own people. I do not have hard evidence, but for me, spending a month in the middle of this hell, it was obvious that they were breaking international rules of war and worst of all, were not afraid to use their own citizens as living shields.

The first incident happened late in the evening. I was in the bathroom when I’ve heard a loud rocket noise and my Spanish colleague, a journalist who was renting a flat with me near the Gaza beach, started to scream. He wanted to light a cigarette and came to one of the open windows. The moment he was using his lighter, he saw a fireball in front of his eyes and lost his hearing.

From what our neighbors told us later, a man drove up in a pickup to our tiny street. He placed a rocket launcher outside and fired. But the rocket failed to go upwards and flew along the street at ground level for a long time before destroying a building. It was a miracle that nobody was hurt or killed.

When we calmed down, we started to analyze the situation. It became obvious that the man or his supervisor wanted the Israel Defense Forces to destroy civilian houses, which our tiny street was full of. Whoever it was, Hamas, Iz al-Din al-Qassam or others, they knew that the IDF can strike back at the same place from which the rocket was fired. Fortunately for us, the rocket missed its target in Israel.

The second story happened in the middle of the day. I was sitting with other journalists in a cafe outside one of the hotels near the beach. During wartime, these hotels are occupied by foreign press and some NGOs. Every hotel is full and in its cafes many journalists spend their time discussing, writing, editing stories or just recharging the phones. Suddenly I saw a man firing a rocket from between the hotels. It was obvious that we journalists became a target. If the IDF would strike back, we all would be dead. What would Hamas do? It would not be surprising to hear about the “cruel Zionist regime killing innocent and free press.”

For me, provoking is also creating living shields.”

Mr Cegielski’s testimony joins the many others provided by foreign reporters who were working in the Gaza Strip at the same time as unprecedented numbers of BBC journalists. Curiously, the BBC would have us believe that its own staff somehow failed to witness what so many others have already described and it continues to clutch at a definition of human shields which does not stand up to scrutiny.

BBC yet again ignores Gaza missile fire – in English

Late on the night of August 26th/27th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip landed in the Eshkol region of the Western Negev. The IDF responded by targeting a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility in the central Gaza Strip. There was no coverage of the attack on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of August 27th.

ME HP 27 8 15a

This was the second case of missile fire from Gaza hitting Israeli territory since the beginning of this month (at least two additional launches fell short). The prior attack was also ignored by BBC News but – like many of the previous incidents over the past year – the Israeli response to that attack on August 7th did receive Arabic language coverage.BBC Arabic report response missile 26 8

So too was the case with latest incident: whilst there was no English language coverage of the Wednesday night attack despite the BBC clearly being aware that it took place, on the morning of August 27th an article appeared on the BBC Arabic website with a last-first headline which leads with the Israeli response.

The BBC’s record of reporting missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the end of last summer’s conflict can be seen below. Not one of the missiles hitting Israeli territory was reported in English at the time the incident happened. On one occasion the Israeli response to missile attacks was reported in English and on six other occasions it was reported in Arabic.

September 16th 2014 – mortar 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 in English.

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.

July 16th 2015 – missile fire at the Ashkelon areanot reported by the BBC in English.

August 7th 2015 – missile fire at the Kissufim area – not covered by the BBC’s English language services, but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

August 27th 2015 – missile fire at the Eshkol area – not reported by BBC News in English, but Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.missile 26 8 Rushdi tweet

This now well-established pattern of omission of timely reporting of missile attacks in English, whilst covering the Israeli responses to those attacks in Arabic, is clearly not conducive to meeting the BBC’s pledge to audiences that it will “keep them in touch with what is going on in the world”. 

 

 

 

 

 

No BBC coverage of Abbas’ PLO resignation

Even for an organization which serially avoids serious coverage of internal Palestinian affairs, the BBC’s failure to report on a recent story coming out of Ramallah is remarkable – especially as it is obviously aware of events.

Abbas resig PLO Rushdi tweet

As readers are no doubt aware, eighty year-old Mahmoud Abbas presides over three bodies: he is president of the Fatah party, president of the Palestinian Authority (although his elected mandate expired long ago) and chair of the executive committee of the PLO. According to reports disputed by some, Abbas resigned from that latter post on August 22nd, together with several other committee members. What prompted that apparent move is explained in an article by Khaled Abu Toameh:

“Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri said that, if true, the resignations are merely an attempt to “reengineer” the PLO and its institutions after more than 20 years of “negligence.”

The entire move, he said, was simply made to replace some members of the Executive Committee.

“These are not real resignations,” Masri explained.

“Those who reportedly submitted their resignations have no intention to leave. They just want to use the resignations to call for an extraordinary meeting of the Palestinian National Council in accordance with Article 14 of the Palestinian Basic Law.””

The Palestinian National Council – the PLO’s legislative body and highest authority – has not held a regular session since 1996. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are of course not members of the PLO but the former had been slated to join that body according to the ill-fated Hamas-Fatah ‘unity agreement’ of 2014. Khaled Abu Toameh again:

“Hamas responded to the reports [of the resignations]by describing what happened in Ramallah as a “play,” calling the move “invalid,” because it did not take into consideration efforts to achieve reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Musa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas official, said the purported resignations were designed to pave the way for allowing Abbas to have exclusive control over the decision- making process.”

Ghaith al-Omari has more about the broader significance of this story the BBC apparently did not find any interest in covering.

 

BBC’s Hamas ‘spy dolphin’ story raises a serious question

On August 20th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published a tongue-in-cheek article under the headline “Hamas ‘seizes Israeli spy dolphin’ off Gaza“.Dolphin story

“Hamas claims to have captured a dolphin being used as an Israeli spy off the coast of Gaza, local media report.

The militant Palestinian Islamist group, which dominates Gaza, says the mammal was equipped with spying devices, including cameras, according to the newspaper Al-Quds (in Arabic).

It was apparently discovered by a naval unit of Hamas’s military wing and brought ashore.

No photographs of the alleged marine secret agent have been released.

Al-Quds said that the newest recruit was “stripped of its will” and turned into “a murderer” by the Israeli security services.

It shows the extent of Israel’s “anger” and “indignation” at the formation of Hamas’s naval combat unit, the paper reports.”

Apart from ignoring it, there is of course not much to do with such a silly story other than poke fun at it. However, the fact that the BBC clearly recognizes this latest Hamas claim for what it is and correctly places it within the context of the regional penchant for Israel-related animal conspiracy theories prompts a much more serious question.

Only a year ago the BBC was uncritically quoting civilian casualty figures supplied by the same terrorist organization which now wants us to believe that it has captured a well-equipped spy dolphin. 

So how does the BBC explain to its audiences – and more crucially, to itself – its obvious cognitive dissonance concerning the reliability of Hamas as a source of credible information? Why can the BBC see a fishy story about a marine mammal on a mission of espionage for what it is but fail to acknowledge the need to independently verify other claims and allegations produced by the same source? 

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC’s Sinai Hamas kidnapping story tells a partial tale

On August 20th BBC correspondents in the Middle East tweeted the following news:

Sinai kidnapping Abualouf

Sinai kidnapping Sommerville

As was stated in the report which appeared later the same day on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Hamas members seized from bus near Egypt-Gaza border“, those “4 Palestinians” later turned out to members of Hamas but the BBC did not clarify that they belong to its Izzadin al Qassam Brigades.

“Masked gunmen have seized four members of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas from a bus travelling to Cairo from the Gaza Strip, officials have said. […]

The driver was assaulted and the Hamas members captured after their identity documents were checked.”

The incident took place during a rare three-day opening of the Rafah crossing by Egypt. The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been mostly closed for the last two years and the last time it was opened was during Ramadan in June 2015. Nevertheless, the photograph used to illustrate this article is laconically captioned “Egypt occasionally opens the Rafah border crossing with Gaza”.Sinai kidnapping main

Whilst not stating so outright, like the above tweets this report clearly steers readers towards the impression that the four Hamas men travelling on the Cairo airport bound bus were abducted by members of the ISIS affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ which operates in Sinai.

“The road from the Rafah border crossing runs through northern Sinai. The most active militant group in the area is an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.”

However, as the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reports, Hamas appears to believe otherwise.

“Initial reports claimed that the four – members of Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam armed wing – were kidnapped by an extremist Islamist group affiliated with Islamic State.

Sources close to Hamas, however, accused the Egyptian authorities of kidnapping the men, who were among 50 Palestinian passengers who left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.

The sources claimed that one of Egypt’s security apparatuses was behind the abduction and held its government fully responsible for their safety.

They said that the four Palestinians were kidnapped about 200 meters from the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal.”

Whether this incident turns out to indeed be an operation by the Egyptian security services or an attempt by Sinai-based Jihadists to pressure Hamas due to its recent crackdown on Salafists in the Gaza Strip remains to be seen. Clearly though, BBC audiences cannot be said to have been provided with the full range and depth of information they require to understand this developing story when the corporation continues to employ unhelpful statements such as this one:

“Egypt has previously accused Hamas of supporting militants in the Sinai desert, who seek to topple the Cairo government. Hamas has denied that allegation.”

Whilst the issue of the Gaza branch of Hamas’ relations with Sinai-based Jihadists is clearly an important component of this story, it continues to be seriously under-reported by the BBC.

Related Articles:

BBC News gets round to mentioning some of the missile fire from the Gaza Strip

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

More selective BBC reporting on Middle East Jihadists

Laconic BBC reporting on Egypt’s closure of Rafah crossing

 

 

BBC News continues to ignore terrorism against Israelis

Earlier this week three men were indicted in connection with the June 19th terror attack in which Danny Gonen was murdered and his friend wounded. At the time, the BBC did not report on that terror attack in English and the later arrest of the suspects also did not receive coverage.

On the same day two additional men were indicted for the June 29th terror attack near Shvut Rachel in which Malachi Rosenfeld was killed and three others injured. That incident was also not reported by the BBC in English.

There has been no BBC coverage of those indictments and the corporation continues to ignore the broader related topic of Hamas activity in Judea & Samaria – some of which is orchestrated from abroad.  

“In July 2015, Israeli security forces uncovered a Hamas military network from the village of Silwad (north of Ramallah), whose operatives were involved in the shooting attack on June 29, 2015, near the village of Shvut Rachel, north of Ramallah. Malachi Rosenfeld was killed in the attack and three people were wounded. Two days earlier, this network had carried out a shooting attack on an Israeli ambulance. Under questioning, the network operatives, some of whom also detained by the Palestinian Authority, revealed that their handler was a Hamas operative in Jordan. The handler was Ahmed al-Najjar, from the village of Silwad, who was previously imprisoned in Israel, released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal (hereinafter: the Shalit deal) and deported to the Gaza Strip. He moved from the Gaza Strip to Jordan and from there he handled the Hamas terrorist network.”

In contrast to its extensive coverage of the arson attack in Duma on July 31st, the BBC has refrained from reporting on numerous additional terror attacks which have taken place then. As well as the incidents documented here, attacks which have received no coverage include:No news

August 9th: the stabbing of an Israeli man filling his car at a petrol station on Route 443.

August 15th: the stabbing of a soldier at Ofer checkpoint – also on Route 443 – and the later stabbing of a Border Guard officer near Tapuach Junction.

August 17th: an additional stabbing of a Border Police officer at Tapuach Junction.

August 18th: a rock-throwing attack on a bus in Jerusalem which caused injury to five passengers.

Regarding terror attacks prevented by the security forces, the Times of Israel reports:

“According to the Shin Bet’s own statistics, Israeli security forces have prevented 17 suicide attacks so far this year — that’s 17 in just seven months. This figure does not include attacks prevented by the Palestinian Authority, which has dismantled several cells that planned such attacks.

Five of the 17 attacks thwarted by Israel were planned by members of Hamas, five were planned by other groups, and the remaining seven were not associated with any organization. […]

…so far this year, too, Israel prevented eight kidnappings planned by these so-called amateurs — and, again, this figure does not include kidnappings prevented by the Palestinian Authority. Of those eight, four were planned by members of Hamas and the rest by Islamic Jihad and other groups.

In all, over the first seven months of 2015, Israel’s defense and security establishment prevented 111 attempted terror attacks, including shooting attacks and bombings along with the kidnappings and suicide attacks.

Hamas is the prime offender, the Shin Bet figures show, responsible for more than half of those attempts (62, to be precise, or 55 percent).”

BBC audiences, however, remain severely under-informed with regard to both terror attacks perpetrated against Israelis and those prevented by the security forces, despite the corporation’s pledge that “they can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world”. 

BBC WS Gaza disengagement retrospective promotes narrative of equivalence

Anyone searching for BBC coverage of the ten-year anniversary of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip would have been struck by the absence of content relating to that topic – until now.

On August 15th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ devoted just over five minutes (from 44:03 here) to a conversation between presenter James Menendez and journalist Anshel Pfeffer which was notable for its selective framing of the topic, its omission of vital context and the astounding fact that the word terrorism did not appear even once.Newshour Gaza disengagement

No historical context to explaining why Israel came to be in control of the previously Egyptian occupied Gaza Strip was evident in Menendez’s introduction but listeners did hear that region characterised as “Palestinian territory”.

James Menendez: “Now it’s exactly ten years since Israeli troops were sent into Gaza to evict settlers who’d refused to leave voluntarily. It was the culmination of then prime minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the Palestinian territory and pull out approximately eight and a half thousand settlers from the Strip along with the 3,000 troops needed to guard them. The surprise move drew both praise and some criticism at the time. So a decade later, how is it perceived in Israel? Anshel Pfeffer writes for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. He’s also the Economist’s Jerusalem correspondent. I asked him first about the pull-out – completed in just a week – and the fact that in the end, there wasn’t much of a backlash.”

Anshel Pfeffer: “That’s very, very true and it was surprisingly quick, surprisingly painless in actual casualties. Obviously the ones who were being evacuated were deeply traumatised – and perhaps the community of settlers and right-wing groups who supported them – but the move proved to be very popular at the time amongst the Israeli public and I think it had 60 or 70% support within the Israeli public.”

That is the only mention of the thousands who lost their homes, communities and livelihoods and even had to exhume their dead: listeners learn nothing of what became of those people or how they have fared in the decade since the disengagement.  Pfeffer’s rather simplistic ‘for or against’ portrayal fails to reflect the trauma and emotional turmoil which gripped much of Israeli society at the time, including many who supported the move itself. Menendez continues:

JM: “And do you think there’s a similar level of support for that move now?”

AP: “No, I think the support has gone down. I still think there’s perhaps around 50% who’d think it was the right thing to do and there certainly is no groundswell of opinion saying Israel’s got to go back there again. But I think because of everything that’s happened  over the last ten years – the military operations, the missiles being fired from Gaza and the Israeli forces going back in again three or four times in ground incursions – I think that’s whittled away a lot of the support. But it’s also mainly because Israelis don’t see right now a credible alternative vis-à-vis the Palestinians; that lowers the support. I think one of the reasons Israelis ultimately did support the pullback ten years ago was Sharon, who was never seen as a left-winger – he was never seen as a pacifist or a limp-wristed politician. The fact that someone like that was saying ‘OK, we’re gonna have to pull back’ gave that a certain credibility among Israelis. And I think the same thing would happen today if a right-wing leader would say ‘OK, we’re gonna have to pull back from parts of the West Bank’, I think once again it would have a lot of support among Israelis, though today if you ask Israelis what they think they’re very sceptical that any pullback will result in calm and peace.”

Pfeffer fails to place the Gaza Strip disengagement within the context of the ‘land for peace’ principle and makes no mention of the pledges Israel received at the time from members of the international community concerning its post-withdrawal security. He is hence unable to adequately explain to listeners what effect the outcomes of that move (and Israel’s previous withdrawal from Southern Lebanon) – including the discovery that those international pledges were meaningless – had on the left-leaning Israeli public’s view of ‘land for peace’. That omission also hinders listener appreciation of the framing of Menedez’s next question.Neve Dekalim 2005

JM: “But if we’re dealing with the simple fact of whether it’s made Israel safer or not – which is it? Are Israelis safer in places like Tel Aviv?”

AP: “The answer is no because in the decade that’s passed the Hamas in Gaza has built a very impressive military infrastructure with missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv. Even though the missiles aren’t very accurate and don’t carry devastating payload, it’s still something which didn’t exist ten years ago.”

In fact, terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip began staging rocket and mortar attacks in 2001 and so whilst Pfeffer’s claim that missiles capable of hitting targets in Tel Aviv did not exist ten years ago may be correct, Menedez’s framing of the question clearly has the effect of ultimately misleading listeners. The all-important context of Iranian patronage of Hamas’ military infrastructure is erased from audience view and no effort is made to provide crucial background information concerning the number of missile attacks which have taken place since August 2005 or the impact on the lives of the people living closer to the Gaza Strip than in Tel Aviv.

Pfeffer continues with a narrative of equivalence:

AP: “But the question is do you look at the actual disengagement as the cause of what’s happened or everything else that’s been happening in the last ten years? And I think that we have to look at the failure on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side to try and build a different kind of situation in Gaza as the main cause and not the pull back.”

Listeners would of course have benefited at this point had they received some information about Hamas’ ideology concerning the eradication of Israel, but that was not forthcoming and neither did they hear an accurate and impartial portrayal of Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip. Menendez continues:

JM: “Hmm…and on that point, has it made Hamas – now in control of Gaza – stronger or weaker?”

AP: “Well it certainly has allowed them space to consolidate their own regime and the main Palestinian power – which is the Palestinian Authority controlled by Fatah – they don’t have any foothold in Gaza any more. So certainly Hamas is stronger within the confines of Gaza. It’s also isolated Hamas and made Hamas an organisation which has power in a pretty small place and that’s it. So you can look at it from either side.”

Failing to mention the years of PA initiated violence which preceded the Israeli decision to disengage from the Gaza Strip, Menendez continues:

JM: “I mean some at the time said it was a brave move because it might unblock what was a blocked peace process. I mean it hasn’t done that at all – has it? Because the peace process is going nowhere.”

AP: “Well it hasn’t done that because there was no follow-up. As you know Sharon slipped into a coma just four months after the pullback and after that Israel had a deeply unpopular president, Ehud Olmert, who was mired both in corruption and in a disastrous war up north in Lebanon and since then we’ve had six years of Binyamin Netanyahu who hasn’t really gone ahead. And the same thing’s happened on the Palestinian side. We’ve seen a split between Fatah and Hamas which hasn’t allowed the Palestinians really to get their act together and the pullback from Gaza could certainly have unblocked that process but everything that’s happened in the ten years since has basically wasted the momentum that could have been created by the pullback.”

Ehud Olmert was of course Israel’s prime minister – not president – and Pfeffer fails to inform audiences that not only was he elected on a platform which included further Israeli disengagement from Judea & Samaria, but that he made an unprecedented offer to the Palestinians in 2008. Likewise, no mention is made of Netanyahu’s ten-month construction freeze in Judea & Samaria – aimed at drawing the PA to the negotiating table – or the ‘goodwill gesture’ of the release of dozens of terrorists during the negotiations in 2013/4 which Mahmoud Abbas scuppered by forming his ‘unity government’ with Hamas. Of course to inform audiences of such facts would have severely jeopardised the narrative of equivalence so cosily promoted by this conversation’s partners.

Menendez then comes up with the following ‘question’, making no effort to inform listeners that the partial blockade was implemented because of Hamas terrorism:

JM: “And some would say an occupation has been replaced by a pretty tough blockade of the Gaza Strip. Are Israelis happy about that?”

AP: “I think most Israelis don’t really want to think about Gaza right now. They want to think that Gaza exists and…”

JM: [interrupts] “They just don’t care.”

AP: “It’s not about they don’t care. It’s…Gaza’s been such a trauma for Israelis. Whether it’s the missiles being fired, whether it’s the pullback, whether it’s the years before that in which the occupation in Gaza was  a rather expensive – in casualties probably more than in money – operation and Israelis said OK we’re going to get out of Gaza and Gaza will somehow do its own thing. What has happened is that neither side has seemed capable of creating any kind of neighbourly relations and also you have to remember that Egypt also plays its…ahm….very ruthless game towards Gaza so it’s remained there, like you say, isolated under blockade and neither side seems capable or really willing to try and find a way out of it.”

Listeners might of course have considered that acts such as providing medical treatment for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, supplying goods, humanitarian aid and electricity and aiding Gazan farmers and businessmen are very “neighbourly” indeed – had they been told that such things exist.

It takes quite some doing to turn a story in which Israel evacuated thousands of people from their homes and turned over an area to the control of the Palestinian Authority – only to see a dramatic increase in terrorist attacks inside its recognised boundaries – into a narrative of equivalent blame. James Menendez and his guest however managed to pull that off quite spectacularly with the aid of omission of facts, erasure of context, selective framing and an obviously politicised agenda.

Hamas man spills beans on appropriation of construction materials: BBC silent

Over the past year the BBC has devoted considerable multi-platform coverage to the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip with the main recurrent theme being the shortage of construction materials. Time and time again the obviously relevant topic of the potential appropriation of construction materials for purposes of terrorism has been presented in the qualified terms of “Israel says” but no objective, serious reporting on that topic has been evident.anniversary Knell written

“Israel and Egypt maintain tight border restrictions on the coastal enclave, which have severely hampered reconstruction efforts. They say these are needed for security.” (BBC News website, 8/7/15)

“Israel tightly monitors the import of building materials and equipment into Gaza, arguing that militants could use them to rebuild tunnels and carry out attacks.” (BBC World Service, 8/12/14)

“Donors have pledged more than $5bn but Israel strictly regulates the import of building materials and equipment into the Palestinian territory. They say that militants could use the equipment to carry out attacks.” (BBC News website, 8/12/14)

“…but Israel bans the import of building materials for private use, saying that militants use them to build tunnels.” (BBC Radio 4, 18/9/14)

“The UN estimates that around 17 thousand houses were destroyed in the conflict. But, a blockade is in place stopping companies from importing building supplies. Israel says it fears that militants would use the materials to rebuild tunnels which could be used for renewed cross-border attacks by militant fighters.” (BBC television news, 5/9/14)anniversary Knell audio

On at least one occasion, BBC audiences were told that Israel was not allowing construction materials into the Gaza Strip at all and another recurring theme has been the claim that a lack of building materials – supposedly caused by border restrictions imposed by Israel – will bring about more conflict.

The Israeli Security Agency recently released information concerning the arrest last month of a Hamas operative from Rafah called Ibraheem Adel Shehadeh Shaer. Among the information provided by Shaer (also spelt Sha’ar) is this:

“Shaer told investigators that material for Hamas’s war infrastructure is now being brought into Gaza under the guise of reconstruction programs aimed at repairing the damage caused during the fighting, when thousands of buildings were destroyed.” [emphasis added]Doucet Gaza audio on Twitter

Additional information revealed by Shaer includes:

“…a road recently built by Hamas along the border fence was intended for a surprise attack on Israel involving vehicles that would even cross the border. […]

Shaer also disclosed specific emergency procedures followed by Hamas and the organization’s intention of using tunnels rebuilt since last year’s Operation Protective Edge to launch attacks in Israel.

In particular, Shaer was able to supply the specific locations, paths, and digging sites of tunnels in the Rafah area leading in the direction of the Kerem Shalom border crossing. […]

Shaer said that Iran was sending money, advanced weapons and electronic equipment to the Gaza Strip including devices to disrupt radio frequencies meant to help down Israeli UAVs above the Gaza Strip. He also claimed that Iran had trained Hamas operatives in paragliding with the goal of infiltrating Israel.”UNRWA WS tweet

Will the BBC now stop using the qualifier “Israel says” and carry out some serious investigative reporting on this subject – not least the obvious failures of the UN administered ‘Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism’ which supposedly ensures that building materials are not misappropriated for the purposes of terrorism? Will the corporation finally recognize the significance of its long-standing self-conscription to the campaign promoted by UNRWA and Hamas to have all border restrictions lifted? And will the BBC finally clarify to its audiences that the precursor for future conflict lies in Hamas’ ongoing preparations for that scenario?

The fact that to date there has been no BBC reporting on this story does not inspire optimism on those fronts.

Terrorism the BBC chose not to report this week

Most of the coverage of Israel appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page over the past week has been devoted to the topic of the arson attack in Duma on July 31st (which has now claimed another life) and associated subject matter.

In addition to that attack, several other terrorist incidents took place in the region this last week.

On August 1st missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip and on August 6th another attack took place. In both cases the missiles fell short and landed in the Gaza Strip or near the border fence and the attacks were claimed by Gaza based Salafist Jihadists. BBC News did not report those attacks.Kissufim missile 7 8 BBC Arabic

On August 7th one of several missiles fired from the Gaza Strip landed in the Kissufim area of southern Israel. The attack was claimed by Salafist Jihadists and the IDF responded with a strike on a Hamas training facility. In the now well-established pattern, there was no English language coverage of that attack but Israel’s response was reported on the BBC Arabic website.

On the evening of August 3rd a couple driving near the Beit Hanina junction in north Jerusalem were attacked with a firebomb.

“A 27-year-old Israeli woman was moderately hurt by the Molotov cocktail, suffering burns on her body. The woman and her husband abandoned their burning car, which proceeded to roll down and hit a 20-year-old pedestrian, who was lightly hurt.

A third man was lightly injured after he tried to extinguish the car.”

Despite at least one BBC staffer clearly being aware of the attack, it was not reported by BBC News on its website’s Middle East page.

On August 6th a vehicular attack took place near Shilo.

“Three IDF soldiers were wounded when a car deliberately ran into them on Thursday afternoon near the Shiloh junction north of Ramallah in the West Bank. The attacker was shot and neutralized by a fourth soldier.

Magen David Adom [ambulance service] reported that two were seriously wounded and another lightly. Officials said that one of the wounded was 20-years-old and suffered from a head injury.”

The attack was praised by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Whilst the BBC was clearly aware of the incident and a report on the subject appeared on the BBC Arabic website, no English language coverage was to be found on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

That same BBC Arabic report also mentions an explosion which occurred in Rafah in the Gaza Strip on August 6th, killing four people and wounding many others. Interestingly, whilst the BBC Arabic report unequivocally attributes the blast to “Israeli missile remnants” – i.e. unexploded ordnance – other media outlets reporting on that story were more cautious. Reuters reported:

“Media outlets of the Hamas Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip blamed the blast on an unexploded Israeli missile from last year’s war.

The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said it was checking the cause of the explosion, which destroyed the home of Ayman Abu Nqeira, a Hamas member.”

The Guardian’s report on the subject states:

“Early reports suggested the blast was caused by unexploded ordnance (UXO) left from last summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Gaza. Swaths of Rafah were almost obliterated during weeks of shelling from air, sea and land. Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Gaza ministry of health, said the dead men had been clearing rubble from a house that was destroyed during the war. The home was hit in an Israeli air strike on 9 July last year.

However, masked and armed men from Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, blocked access to the area, fuelling suspicions that the house or a nearby property may have been used to store explosives or rockets. Some locals said the area was a weapons base for Al-Qassam Brigades; others said Israeli unexploded ordnance was the cause of the blast.

A spokesman for Gaza’s interior ministry said: “We can’t give a clear reason for what happened.” An investigation was under way, he added.”

Remarkably, BBC Arabic – part of the organization which describes itself as “the standard-setter for international journalism” – appears to have unquestioningly adopted and amplified the exact same line as Hamas’ media outlets.

BBC reporting on Hamas youth camps

Readers may recall that last February we pondered the question “Is a BBC documentary about Hamas’ child soldiers upcoming?” after a Tweet from Lyse Doucet in which she noted that she was filming at a Hamas youth camp.

“Whether or not this is part of the documentary on children in the Gaza Strip about which Doucet was interviewed by the Guardian last September is not clear. It will however be interesting to see whether the opportunity is used to inform BBC audiences about Hamas’ use of child soldiers – including during the most recent conflict – and whether or not it will be clarified that one of the UN conventions signed by the Palestinian Authority in April 2014 was the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, according to which no soldier should be under the age of 18.”

Footage from that visit to a Hamas organized youth camp did appear in Lyse Doucet’s recent film titled “Children of the Gaza War” – for less than one minute. Doucet’s commentary during that segment was as follows:

“Some boys as young as Abdul Rahman [phonetic] take part in this first youth camp organized by Hamas’ military wing. It’s for men aged 15 to 21. Some are clearly younger and at the closing ceremony there’s younger still. For the outside world it’s hard to comprehend why parents would put children in situations like this. Hamas says the camps keep boys off the street and teach values and martial arts for defence. But the young also learn about weapons and hatred: it’s what Hamas calls a culture of resistance.”

Doucet’s categorisation of the camp’s participants as “men” is obviously questionable in relation to half its age range and the camp she attended was not the “first”. Seeing as the BBC is not averse to amplifying the Hamas narrative of ‘resistance’, one might perhaps have expected that Doucet would have seized this rare opportunity to expand on a subject usually avoided by the BBC in order to inform audiences more comprehensively about what that “culture of resistance” really means.

More of those Hamas-run camps were recently held at various locations in the Gaza Strip – as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh.Hamas summer camp

“For the third running year, thousands of Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip are receiving military training as part of Hamas’s summer camps.

The camps, which are being held under the banner “Vanguards of Liberation,” are aimed at preparing children as young as 15 for fighting against Israel. More than 25,000 children have joined this year’s Hamas camps, according to Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip. […]

As in the past two years, the summer camps are being held in bases belonging to Hamas’s armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam, throughout the Gaza Strip. The declared goal of the camps to is to “prepare a new generation of Palestinian youths spiritually, mentally and physically for the battle to liberate Palestine.” When Hamas talks about the “liberation of Palestine,” it is not referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip only, but to the whole of Israel. In other words, these Palestinian children are being educated and trained to prepare for joining the war aimed at destroying Israel. […]

Hamas’s religious education is aimed at teaching the children about Islam and its sharia laws. The children are being told that the whole of the land of Palestine (including Israel) is Muslim-owned land that can’t be given away to non-Muslims. They are also being taught that making peace with the “infidels” is prohibited under the teachings of Islam. […]

Another senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Hayah, told the child-soldiers that they were being trained for jihad against Israel.

“These camps are designed to prepare a generation that carries the Quran and rifle,” al-Hayah explained. “The camps show that Palestinians support the resistance and the project of liberation of Palestine. The goal is to liberate Palestine and the Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem].””

BBC audiences’ understanding of the Middle East would of course have been enhanced considerably had Lyse Doucet elected to devote more than 52 seconds of coverage to the topic of Hamas’ organised paramilitary and theological indoctrination of children.

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