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

Lyse Doucet’s second filmed report from the Gaza Strip (the first was discussed here) seen by viewers of BBC television news on February 25th took the now well-worn ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme to its logical conclusion by having Doucet deliver a two and a half-minute monologue while standing on a pile of earth, metal and concrete in Shuja’iya.

The report also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page where it was titled “Caught in a wasteland: Gaza six months after the ceasefire“.Doucet filmed Gaza 2

“Gazans, the international community, certainly didn’t expect Gaza to look like this. Six months ago there was a welcome, there was a celebration among Gazans, among Israelis – particularly in southern Israel – that a ceasefire had been reached. But look at this now. It’s like a wasteland. You could be forgiven for thinking there’d been a natural disaster here.”

Whilst Doucet made copious use of those ‘wasteland’ and ‘natural disaster’ themes in all of her latest reporting from the Gaza Strip, at no point did she bother to try to put the scenes of destruction she promoted so enthusiastically on radio, television and social media into their correct context. BBC audiences were not informed that the scenes from the neighbourhood of Shuja’iya upon which her reports focused are not representative of the situation in the entire Gaza Strip.

That same practice was already in evidence six months ago when BBC reporters likewise nudged audiences towards the mistaken belief that the isolated images of structural damage which had been selected to appear in BBC reports reflected the situation as a whole. Doucet continues:

“But this was the result of 51 days of war as Israeli forces entered on the ground and carried out airstrikes and artillery fire looking for the network of underground tunnels in what they had described as a Hamas stronghold.”

As we see, Doucet is still unwilling to tell audiences the facts about Shuja’iya without ‘Israel says’ style qualification. She goes on:

“But there was a huge human cost as well. And today you can see behind me, in the shell of that home, there’s one pneumatic drill hard at work. In most neighbourhoods we go to we see one digger, one drill. It’s not enough. And just take a closer look at these mounds of slabs of concrete and twisted wires: the white signs that have been posted. Each sign says…gives a description of what stood there once – you can hard….you don’t know what it is now – what stood there, which family lost it and a telephone number to call when aid is going to arrive.  

But unfortunately, a lot of the aid hasn’t arrived. And so people – you see clothing lines – people are living in what’s left of their houses and here – right across this crossing here – we’ve been seeing a man in the window of his home, waiting every day, hoping against hope that someone – the United Nations, the Palestinian authorities – someone will come to deliver money.”

Whether or not there is any substance to Doucet’s pathos filled suppositions about a man viewers do not hear or see, we do not know. She continues with more use of the famous ‘Israel says’ formula, which BBC audiences have been very well trained to interpret as actually meaning ‘the BBC refuses to take a position on whether or not this is true’.

“Now, Israel says it has allowed some construction materials in.”

But, as we noted in our previous post:

“In January 2015 alone, 15,205 tons of construction materials were imported into the Gaza Strip. Since the end of the conflict, 50,000 tons of building materials have entered the Strip and more than 42,000 residents have purchased them.”

There was, therefore, no reason whatsoever for Doucet to use the ‘Israel says’ formula here. She could have easily verified the exact amounts of construction materials which have been imported into the Gaza Strip over the last six months and informed her viewers accurately and impartially on that topic. Significantly, she chose not to do that. Doucet’s monologue goes on:

“The international community – the UN – says some donors have been generous and given some aid.”

Once again, Doucet avoids providing audiences  with factual information about the factors which have caused other donors to be less forthcoming and instead opts for dramatic and emotive generalisations.

“But look at the scale of this. The United Nations in the summer said that nearly 20,000 homes and schools were completely destroyed. There’s not enough aid and construction materials to rebuild these homes and certainly not enough to rebuild lives. But in Gaza nothing is ever simple. They’re caught in the politics of disunity between Hamas and the Palestinian authority. Caught in the ongoing conflict with Israel, tensions with Egypt which also keeps its border shut. The appeal of Gazans today to the aid agencies is don’t let the people suffer because of the politics.”

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

Lyse Doucet is not some rookie reporter or even a local bureau staffer: she is the chief international correspondent of the world’s biggest media organization. The fact that she appears to believe that reports of this mediocre quality contribute anything to fulfilling the BBC’s obligations to its funding public should be cause for considerable concern.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

On February 25th viewers of BBC television news saw two filmed reports from Shuja’iya in the Gaza Strip by the corporation’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet. One of Doucet’s other reports produced during the same visit was previously discussed here.

Both filmed reports also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, with the earlier one going under the title “Gaza resident: ‘Everyone has forgotten us’“. In Doucet’s dramatic introduction to that report we learn that she does not understand the difference between smoke and dust.Doucet filmed Gaza 1

“War pulled life from the heart of Gaza. It left a wasteland. Smoke still rises. Today it’s only a digger clearing some of the rubble. Gazans put up signs to describe what stood here, which family lost it, what number to call to deliver help. But almost none has arrived.”

Offering no factual evidence for her claim that a house in a neighbourhood riddled with missile launching sites, booby-trapped Hamas command centres and weapons stores was destroyed by “Israeli artillery fire” and failing to clarify that the cause of death she cites has not been confirmed by medical professionals, Doucet continues:

“The Khesi family’s home was destroyed in Israeli artillery fire. Just before the ceasefire six months ago, their first son, Wadie, was born. Last month he froze to death in what is now another battle just to survive.”

She goes on:

“His grandmother Fati’a [phonetic] points an accusing finger at all Arab countries, saying they haven’t helped Gaza. Wadie’s mother says nobody did.”

Voiceover mother: “All countries take care of their children and people. All countries except here. Here the people in charge just sit on their chair. They care only for their own children. They forget about us.”

Doucet: “Now they just want to rebuild their home so that their two girls will survive.”

This would obviously have been an appropriate juncture to explore the subject of the performance of both Gaza’s de facto Hamas government and the Palestinian Unity government (which supposedly has been in charge of the Gaza Strip since last June) in helping the local population to get back on its feet after the summer war initiated by Hamas. Doucet’s treatment of that topic is exceptionally superficial. She continues:

“Everyone talks about rebuilding Gaza but nobody’s doing it. And as always here, there’s more than one reason. Israeli restrictions, Palestinian infighting, the failure of donors to keep their promises. And why would there be much rebuilding when everyone fears there’ll be another war?”

Doucet then interviews UNRWA’s deputy director of Gaza operations, Scott Anderson.

Doucet: “Ten thousand Gazans still live in UN schools and that number may rise when families’ money runs out.”

Anderson: “You think conflict’s inevitable, whether it’s internal conflict or another conflict between Gaza and Israel. Unless the situation on the ground changes there will be no other action for people to take other than the resumption of violence.”

Doucet apparently has no comment to make regarding the promotion by a UN representative of that very thinly veiled threat of violence in the absence of cash handouts which comes straight out of the Hamas handbook. She goes on:

“And Hamas fighters are ready: they don’t hide it. I’ve seen marches like this on almost every visit in recent months.”

The question BBC audiences will no doubt be asking themselves at this juncture is why, if that is the case, it has taken Doucet six months to get around to mentioning those marches organized by a terrorist organization she declines to name as such. Doucet then gets Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad on camera but, instead of posing any incisive questions about his organisation’s responsibility for the conflict and its aftermath, she merely provides him with a stage from which to promote the usual propaganda unhindered.

Hamad: “Main reason for all this catastrophe is the occupation. Now Gaza’s turned to be like a big prison. There’s no exit, no import, no export.”

Not only does Doucet fail to clarify to viewers that the Gaza Strip has not been under “occupation” since August 2005, she makes no effort to correct the inaccurate impression received by audiences as a result of Hamad’s lies.

In January 2015 alone, 15,205 tons of construction materials were imported into the Gaza Strip. Since the end of the conflict, 50,000 tons of building materials have entered the Strip and more than 42,000 residents have purchased them. 804 tons of agricultural produce were exported from the Gaza Strip to the PA controlled areas in January, bringing the total tonnage of merchandise exported to that destination since September 2014 to 2,130. 11,826 people crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip in January alone – 2,038 of them for humanitarian reasons. 3,054 tons of gas entered the Gaza Strip during January, along with 1.8 million litres of fuel, 6.8 million litres of gasoline and 76,000 litres of oil.

Doucet continues:

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

Hamad: “Look, I think this time – that’s right – but I think that Hamas is doing this in order to protect our people here. We don’t want to be surprised with a new war – a new aggression against us.”

In addition to displaying no interest whatsoever in questioning Hamad about where the money and materials for rehabilitation of Hamas’ military capabilities are coming from and why Hamas is doing nothing to improve the lives of the ordinary people it holds hostage, Doucet also makes no attempt to enlighten viewers with regard to the fact that Hamad’s faux victimhood is mere propaganda. Instead of pointing out that Hamas initiated last summer’s conflict she closes with yet more drama and unsupported speculations.

“In the ruins of Gaza young men train in Parkour – the sport of overcoming obstacles. Resilient Gazans are good at that. But after three wars in six years, even the strongest are starting to break.

Clearly BBC audiences learned nothing new from this superficial and mediocre reporting which merely regurgitates the same themes promoted by the BBC time and time again. Moreover, in addition to failing to provide viewers with the real facts and background to the issue of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, Doucet once again self-conscripted to the cause of promotion of Hamas propaganda. The BBC’s funding public which paid for Lyse Doucet’s trip to Gaza must surely be asking themselves how her reporting can possibly be termed value for money.

Doucet’s second filmed report will be discussed in an upcoming post. 

A view of the 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict you won’t hear from the BBC

Since covering the story of the resignation of William Schabas from the position of chair of the jaundiced UN HRC inquiry into the 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel (see here and here), the BBC has dropped that story.

A house in Be'er Sheva after a missile hit on 13/7/14. Photo credit: IDF

A house in Be’er Sheva after a missile hit on 11 July 2014. Photo credit: IDF

One does not need a crystal ball in order to predict that the inquiry’s findings will be reported extensively when they are finally published. It remains to be seen whether or not the BBC will then finally get round to clarifying to its audiences that the mandate of the commission of inquiry set up by the UN HRC was biased and politically motivated by definition, with its start date defined as one day after the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teenagers by a Hamas-funded terror cell and its geographic stipulations excluding “violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” in Israel – such as missile fire at civilian targets.

“Decides to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults, and to report to the Council at its twenty-eighth session.” [emphasis added]

The deadline for submissions to the commission of inquiry was extended after Schabas’ resignation and one of the people to have submitted evidence is Colonel Richard Kemp CBE – formerly the commander of British forces in Afghanistan. Colonel Kemp’s professional view of the issue makes for fascinating reading, especially for anyone who got their news of the 2014 conflict exclusively from BBC reporters lacking military experience and expertise – such as Jeremy ‘I see no human shields’ Bowen.

A school in Rishon LeZion after a missile hit on 15 July 2014. Photo credit: IDF

A school in Rishon LeZion after a missile hit on 15 July 2014. Photo credit: IDF

“Much of the Hamas military infrastructure was located amongst the civilian population in Gaza. In these circumstances, neutralizing the threat from Hamas made civilian casualties unavoidable. Under the Laws of Armed Conflict this fact does not render such operations illegal assuming they were necessary. However the IDF had a duty to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians and to ensure that operations were conducted in accordance with the principle of proportionality as well as necessity.

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

Turning now to Hamas’s conduct in the 2014 conflict. During my time in Israel during this conflict I witnessed what I believe to be a series of war crimes and planned war crimes by Hamas and other Gaza groups, both by missile attack against civilians and by construction of attack tunnels from which to kill and abduct civilians. I am also aware of, but did not witness, Hamas and other groups’ use of their own civilian population as human shields. […]

I know of the deliberate policy of using human shields, including women and children, which is also a war crime, by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. I am aware of this as a result of my previous British government work involving secret intelligence on these groups, from public statements made by the Hamas leadership on a number of occasions since the 2008-09 Gaza conflict, from media reports including film footage showing such action and statements by individuals forced to remain in declared target areas, from publication of training manuals found in Gaza by the IDF and from debriefing of IDF personnel and journalists. From the same sources I am also aware of Hamas’s use of buildings and vehicles protected under the Laws of Armed Conflict including schools, hospitals, UN buildings, mosques and ambulances. Use of such facilities for military purposes constitutes a war crime.”

Read Colonel Kemp’s entire submission here.  

 

BBC mantra on Gaza casualties further challenged by new information

Readers cannot have failed to notice that the standard insertion into any BBC report relating however circumspectly to last summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip goes along the following lines:BBC

“The war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, the majority civilians, according to the UN.”

As has been noted here on numerous occasions over the past few months, the BBC continues to promote those problematic UN supplied figures to its audiences without having carried out any independent verification of civilian/combatant casualty ratios and whilst concurrently ignoring the fact that investigation into the lists of casualties provided by Hamas and other Palestinian sources carried out by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center indicates a different picture.

On February 11th the Center published an additional report relating to the subject of seventeen casualties classified by Hamas’ Information Office as ‘journalists’ – and therefore categorized as civilians. The Jerusalem Post reports:

““The study, not yet complete, found that eight out of the 17 names were operatives who belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, or who worked in Hamas media outlets,” the report, published Thursday, stated.

“The Palestinian Journalists Union and the Gazan branch of the Information Office tried to hide the military-terrorist identity of the terror operatives, and present them as journalists in every way,” it added.”

Notably, two of the people listed who really were civilians were not killed during Israeli operations.

“AP photographer Simone Camilli and Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash, both who appear on the list, were killed during a truce while covering Palestinian police sappers who were trying to neutralize unexploded Israeli munitions. There were no IDF units in the area at the time.”

As we have previously noted:

“The footnote added belatedly to the BBC article on casualty figures which was revised due to political pressure stated:

“We expect to return to this subject at a later date.”

That has not happened and the BBC’s continued blind promotion of unverified statistics is clearly not only an issue in terms of accuracy but, as time goes on and the BBC continues to stubbornly and inexplicably ignore later work done on this topic, it also obviously becomes a growing issue of impartiality.”

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

 

What is missing from the BBC’s post-conflict reporting from Gaza Strip?

Since the implementation of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas towards the end of August last year, the BBC’s reporting from the Gaza Strip has focused on very specific topics.BBC building

The vast majority of reports have related to the topic of damage to buildings in the Gaza Strip, with a prominent theme in that reporting being promotion of the inaccurate notion that efforts to repair and rebuild housing are hampered solely by Israeli restrictions on imports of construction materials to the Gaza Strip. Examples can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here

Another trend seen in BBC reporting since the end of the conflict has been the amplification of reports by politically motivated NGOs involved in lawfare: see examples here, here, here and here. Audiences have also seen and heard reports on what can be loosely termed medical issues in the Gaza Strip: see examples here and here.

BBC reporting on breaches of the ceasefire has been patchy. A mortar fired from the Gaza Strip at the Eshkol district on September 16th was not reported at the time but given a brief mention in a later report. A missile fired on October 31st was ignored and a missile attack on December 19th was only reported when Israel responded. A sniper attack on December 24th was reported in Arabic alone.Kissufim attack BBC Arabic report

Notably, the BBC’s post-conflict reporting on the Israeli side of the story has been limited to one article

Audiences have not been provided with any information whatsoever on the issue of the Gaza Strip based terrorist organisations’ rehabilitation of their military capabilities, including Hamas’ missile testing which has been taking place very frequently in recent months.  

“Hamas’ military wing launched three rockets aimed at the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported, as part of experiments designed to restore Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ firepower to what it was before Operation Protective Edge. This marks the third day in a row that test rockets were launched. […]

The rockets testing joins a long list of recent experiments made by Hamas in the past few weeks. It is estimated that since the end of Operation Protective Edge, dozens of rockets have been launched towards the Mediterranean Sea from within Gaza for experimental purposes.

Hamas official in Cairo Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed that Hamas has conducted experimental rocket launches and said that they do not constitute a violation of the ceasefire agreement between Gaza and Israel because the agreement did not mention and was not agreed upon that Hamas was prevented from carrying out experiments with rockets.”

Similarly, publication of the news that the Israeli navy prevented the smuggling of materials for missile manufacture by sea on January 19th has been totally ignored by BBC correspondents.

“The incident occurred in the early morning hours of January 19th, when naval forces identified the suspicious boat making its way from the shores of Sinai to the Strip’s shores. Before it arrives at the Gazan beach, the navy soldiers called on three Palestinians aboard the ship to stop.

A search by the soldiers discovered liquid fiberglass on the vessel. The three Palestinians were taken in for investigation by the Shin Bet, where they admitted the materials were meant for rocket and mortar manufacture in Gaza.

They said they were sent to collect the materials from Sinai and deliver it to Hamas’ military wing in a timely manner. An indictment was filed against the three at a courthouse in Be’er Sheva.”

The issue of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip is invariably presented to BBC audiences in terms of ‘Israel says it is a necessary security measure’. Obviously the BBC can only continue to employ such partisan terminology as long as it continues to refrain from informing its funding public of attempts to smuggle arms and weapons manufacturing materials into the Gaza Strip.

The BBC’s framing of post-conflict issues keeps audience attention focused on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip but fails to make them aware of no less important issues vital for their understanding of current and future regional developments. If – or when – Israel is once again obliged to respond to situations created by Hamas policies, BBC audiences will once again be lacking the essential context behind the story. 

  

Lazy BBC reporting on Turkish FM’s quitting Munich conference

On February 6th an article appeared on both the Europe and Middle East pages of the BBC News website under the headline “Turkish FM quits Munich summit over Israeli presence“.Turkish FM art

Of the report’s 388 words, only one hundred and three relate to the subject matter presented in that headline.

“Turkey’s foreign minister has withdrawn from a security conference in Munich after Israeli officials were invited.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters he had pulled out after an Israeli delegation was asked to attend a session on the Middle East at the last minute.

He said his decision was not linked to Turkey’s relationship with Germany. […]

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Mr Cavusoglu said a collective decision had been taken to withdraw from the joint session.

“I was going to participate in the conference but we decided not to after they included the Israeli representatives in the Middle East session,” he told reporters.”

One hundred and fifty-eight words are devoted to the subject of the May 2010 incident in which Turkish pro-Hamas activists aboard the Mavi Marmara attacked Israeli soldiers attempting to prevent the ship from breaching the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“Ties between Israel and Turkey have been strained since a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish ship trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed in clashes with Israeli commandos, who boarded the Mavi Marmara when the ship, which was leading a convoy carrying aid, refused to stop.

Israel has maintained a naval blockade of Gaza since 2007, part of what it says are necessary security measures against the militant Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. […]

Relations between the Israeli and Turkish governments have been particularly fraught since the deadly raid on 31 May 2010.

Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara, which was leading a flotilla containing five other vessels, in international waters, around 130km (80 miles) from Israel’s coast. . Clashes ensued, leaving nine activists dead and 10 soldiers injured.

The then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel had committed a “bloody massacre” and withdrew his country’s ambassador.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC inaccurately represents the start date of the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip which was actually implemented in January 2009. The use of the phrase “what it says are necessary security measures” disingenuously conceals from audience view the numerous cases in which attempts have been made to smuggle arms to Hamas by sea.

On the Middle East page this report was presented to audiences together with two additional items of recommended reading: “Q&A: Israeli deadly raid on aid flotilla” (also included in the article’s ‘related stories’ sidebar) and “Mavi Marmara: US extracts last-minute Israeli apology” which was previously discussed here.

Clearly, the intention of the writer of this report was to imply that the Turkish Foreign Minister’s withdrawal from the security conference in Munich was directly attributable to the Mavi Marmara incident which took place almost five years ago. But is there actually any evidence to show that is the case? Certainly this report does not include any direct quote from Mevlut Cavusoglu supporting the BBC’s speculation.

Other media outlets also covered the same story. The New York Times did not report a direct quote from the Turkish FM explaining a specific reason for his withdrawal either, but it did provide the following piece of relevant information completely ignored by the BBC:

“A senior Turkish official said his country would still be represented, but by a lower-level diplomat. He spoke on the condition of anonymity under his government’s diplomatic protocols.”

Reuters has the same vague quote from Cavusoglu which appears in the BBC article, as do the Hurriyet Daily News,  Ynet and the Jerusalem Post – which also reports the following information:

“Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP who chairs the Germany-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag, sharply criticized the Turkish decision to boycott the Munich conference: “That is an outrageous act.

It is an affront against Israel and an affront against Germany!” He added, “The federal government must condemn the Turkish government. The anti-Israel course of the Turkish government is cause for concern. The cancellation of Turkey’s Foreign Ministry is not an isolated act, rather part of a set of actions. In December, the Turkish prime minister welcomed and celebrated a Hamas leader at the [Turkey’s ruling] AKP party conference,” said Beck.”

Whilst the five year-old Mavi Marmara affair may indeed have contributed to the Turkish FM’s decision to boycott the Munich conference, it is certainly not – as the BBC would have its audiences believe – the entire background to the story.

The Hamas leader invited to the AKP conference last December was Khaled Masha’al, but with the strengthening of relations between Turkey and Hamas in recent years being a topic consistently under-reported by the BBC, audiences are unlikely to be aware of the fact that a number of prominent Hamas operatives – including Saleh al Arouri who took credit on behalf of Hamas for the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 – are domiciled in Turkey. The Turkish president Erdogan recently claimed that his political rivals work in cooperation with the Israeli intelligence services and the Turkish prime minister even more recently declared that his government “will not succumb to the Jewish lobby…”.

But rather than making the effort to provide its audiences with the full range of information which would enhance their understanding of the context to this particular story, the BBC obviously thought it could make do with simply dusting off its old – and in parts still inaccurate – reports relating to the five year-old Mavi Marmara incident. 

 

 

BBC WS Newshour enables the Schabas show

On the same day that the BBC News website published its selectively framed report on the resignation of William Schabas from the position of chair of the UN HRC commission of inquiry (established in July 2014 before the conflict between Hamas and Israel had even come to an end), the BBC World Service Radio programme ‘Newshour’ broadcast a five-minute long item on the same story.Newshour 3 2 15

That entire item (from 37:33 here) was devoted to the provision of a platform for Schabas to promote his version of events. Presenter Tim Franks introduced it as follows:

“The Israeli government has called on the UN Human Rights Council to scrap its inquiry into last year’s Gaza-Israel conflict. The Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made the demand after the Chairman of the commission of inquiry handed in his resignation on Monday. William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, stepped down after Israel had complained that in 2012 he’d offered legal advice to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Earlier, Professor Schabas came into the Newshour studio.”

William Schabas: “Israel has been attacking me since the day…since the minute…I was appointed, claiming that I show appearance of bias or that I’m biased and that campaign has continued. A few weeks ago they announced that they were organizing their attack on the report of the commission and that personal attacks on me would be an important part of that.”

Schabas is not asked to provide a credible source for that latter claim and Franks fails to inform listeners that criticism of Schabas’ appointment has also come from many non-Israeli sources. Schabas continues:

“About a week ago – or more than that – they formulated a complaint to the Human Rights Council asking formally for my removal and that was discussed last night by the executive of the Human Rights Council and they decided to follow up on the complaint and to investigate it. So what that means is that there’s an investigation ongoing into my alleged lack of impartiality.”

TF: “What – just to be clear – you did paid work for the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, back in 2013: is that right?”

WS: “Twelve.”

TF: “2012.”

WS: “I did a…I was asked as an international lawyer to provide a legal opinion to the Palestine Liberation Organisation about the International Criminal Court. I did that. I have done lots of work for governments. They call me and ask me for legal opinions and they pay me for them and sometimes, if they don’t want to bother, they read my books and they do it even in Israel.”

Franks refrains from inquiring whether the $1,300 fee Schabas charged the PLO for that seven-page legal opinion is the going rate for all governments seeking his advice.  He continues:

TF: “Sure, but as a lawyer you will know that it’s not just about justice being done – it’s about justice being seen to be done. There at least could be the perception of a conflict of interests; the fact that you had done work for the PLO.”

WS: “Well that appears to be the conclusion – that there’s an issue there. As I say it’s probably on the scale of things that they’ve been criticizing me about not the major event. So in any case, they’ve decided to investigate this.”

TF: “Why had you not declared that you’d done this?”

WS: Well when I was appointed by the Human Rights Council I was called up and asked if I wanted to do it and then the next thing they know I was appointed. So I wasn’t asked to make a long disclosure or anything. I have a long list of things that I’ve done – writings about Palestine, speeches and all of that. That wouldn’t be at the top of the list. There would be a long list and they knew about it. Everybody knew about it.”

In fact, in his previously submitted unsuccessful application for the post of ‘Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories since 1967′ in 2013, Schabas had also failed to declare his paid work for the PLO in 2012.  Refraining from joining the obvious dots between Schabas’ claim that “everybody knew” about his record of anti-Israel statements and activities, the fact that – according to him – he was not required by the UN HRC to declare any conflict of interests and his appointment to the post nonetheless, Franks continues:

TF: “A long list – what – of your views on Israel?”

WS: “Views, engagement in one way or another; participating in events and so on. So that was not a secret to anybody.”

TF: “OK. And just for new readers here, to – I mean – if I can summarise that it would be that you’ve been strongly critical of the Israeli government policy and strongly supportive of the Palestinians over the past few years. Would that be a reasonable summary?”

WS: “As a brief summary – my views in the past – that’s fair enough.”

Schabas’ on-record remarks of course go far beyond Tim Franks’ tepid description: “Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur and not the president of Israel for Gaza?” is not by any stretch of the imagination criticism of “Israeli government policy”, not least because the president of Israel has no role in determining government policy.

Franks then goes on to ask whether or not the inquiry will have to start from scratch in light of Schabas’ resignation, to which his interviewee replies in the negative before going on to describe what the commission has done so far. Schabas says:

“We made solemn affirmations to be independent and impartial and I believe we conducted ourselves. We’ve surprised many people. Netanyahu even today was saying why are they only looking at Israel – why don’t they look at Hamas? They should be looking at Hamas. And everybody in Israel knows we did look at Hamas.”

Franks makes no effort to clarify to listeners that the mandate of the commission of inquiry set up by the UN HRC was biased and politically motivated by definition, with its start date defined as one day after the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teenagers by a Hamas-funded terror cell and its geographic stipulations excluding “violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” in Israel – such as missile fire at civilian targets.

“Decides to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and on ways and means to protect civilians against any further assaults, and to report to the Council at its twenty-eighth session.” [emphasis added]

Schabas – who is on record as stating that it would be “inappropriate” for him to answer the question of whether or not he considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization – continues:

“We’ve had witnesses – victims – from inside Israel who travelled – had to travel – to Geneva. One poor man who’d lost his legs – blown off by a mortar – and he had to make that long, painful trip to Geneva to meet us because they wouldn’t let us go and see him at his kibbutz in southern Israel where we wanted to go because they wouldn’t let us into the country.”

In contrast to the impression perhaps received by listeners, the seven-person Israeli delegation to Geneva was not organized by Schabas and his commission, but by the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

Schabas ends the item by complimenting himself on the commission’s treatment of the Israeli delegation.

“The Israeli victims who came to meet with us in Geneva came back – I think pleasantly surprised is the way to describe them – with the dignity in which they were…and the welcome and the way they were treated and the genuine interest that three commissioners – not just myself but the others – had in learning about their victimization because there are victims on all sides of the fence in this conflict.”

Clearly listeners to the BBC World Service learned very little about the all-important background to the story of Schabas’ resignation from this item. Schabas’ record of anti-Israel statements and activism is blurred by Franks and misleadingly presented as criticism of Israeli government policy. Schabas is given a platform from which to promote himself as a victim of Israeli “attacks” whilst the much more important topic of the political motivations which lie behind mandate he accepted with his appointment – and the implications for the objectivity and relevance of the report which will be produced in his absence – is completely avoided.

Once again the BBC has failed in its mission to “build a global understanding of international issues”. 

Is a BBC documentary about Hamas’ child soldiers upcoming?

The video below shows footage taken at a youth camp for 15 to 21 year-olds recently organized in the Gaza Strip by Hamas’ Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades.

Among the few Western media outlets which reported that story were the Washington Post and the Telegraph.  However, a tweet from Lyse Doucet suggests that the BBC is also going to cover the topic at some point.

Doucet tweet Hamas 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.  

BBC pot calls the Russian media kettle black

h/t MW

In an article titled “Ukraine conflict: Is Russia stoking war or pushing peace?” published on the BBC News website’s Europe page on January 20th, Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford made the following observations:BBC logo

“For months, Moscow has accused a “fascist” government in Kiev of conducting a “punitive” operation – even genocide – against Russian speakers in Donetsk and Luhansk.

That message is hammered home daily by state-controlled television, which portrays patriotic rebel warriors alongside helpless civilians under attack by indiscriminate Ukrainian artillery. The fact that insurgents frequently fire from residential areas is never mentioned.”

The caption to a picture used to illustrate the article also informed audiences that:

“Russian state TV depicts rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk as warriors defending civilians”

Those observations may indeed be accurate and justified, but one does have to note the irony of the fact that the BBC finds it worth pointing out to audiences that the Russian state media’s failure to report that “insurgents frequently fire from residential areas” is one method used to influence the public’s perception of the hostilities in Ukraine. 

After all, it took the BBC itself no fewer than thirty-six days to get round to telling its audiences that “at times” terrorists in the Gaza Strip “have operated from civilian areas” in its coverage of last summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel. And when members of the public complained about the corporation’s failure to report adequately on the issue of terrorist missile fire from residential areas, they were informed that “[i]t was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”.

If the BBC is serious about safeguarding its reputation as an accurate, impartial and independent reporter of news, it might care to examine how – and why – its own reporting of the conflict between Hamas and Israel was tailored to influence public opinion in ways apparently not all that different from those used by Russia’s non-independent media outlets. 

BBC’s Mike Thomson entrenches an inaccurate narrative

The Foreign Affairs correspondent for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Mike Thomson, recently produced a feature on the subject of the kidnappings and murders of Naftali Frenkel, Gil-ad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach on June 12th 2014 and Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2nd 2014.

That feature appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “The lost sons“.  Additionally, an audio version of Thomson’s report was broadcast by the BBC World Service on January 23rd in the programme ‘The Documentary’ under the title “The Lives And Deaths Of Naftali and Mohammed” and the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme featured segments from the audio version on January 22nd (from 2:40:20 here) and on January 23rd (from 2:50:27 here).Kidnappings on WS

On one level, all versions of this feature present the personal stories of two families – Frenkel and Abu Khdeir – coping with the loss of their sons. The chosen format naturally promotes equivalence between the two murders and Thomson does not adequately clarify the differences between them. Whilst he does inform listeners that a Hamas cell carried out the murders of the three Israeli teenagers, the fact that the operation was financed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip is not adequately explained. Neither the issue of the logistical help that the two murderers obviously received from their community during the three months in which they were on the run nor the widespread support for the kidnappings in Palestinian society (which went completely unreported by the BBC at the time) gets coverage in Thomson’s various reports. Significantly too, no mention is made of the condemnation of the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir at all levels of Israeli society or the fact that he was recognized as a victim of terror by the State of Israel, which entitles his family to monthly financial benefits.

In both the website version and the World Service radio version of the feature, conspiracy theories about the deaths of the three Israeli teenagers are amplified. Whilst one must obviously question the editorial justification for the inclusion of such baseless claims at all, credit is due to Mike Thomson for challenging part of them – although not the one made in the audio version which falsely asserted that the boys were soldiers.

“But Mohammed’s parents insist, despite all the evidence, that Naftali and his two Israeli friends weren’t actually murdered at all – they died in an accident and the Israeli government used the deaths to fuel anger against Palestinians.

His mother says the Israeli government “wanted to bomb Gaza and planned to use this as a justification”.

I ask how widespread is this belief. She replies: “Everyone knows this story, not only us. We didn’t come up with this story.”

But, I point out, senior Hamas figures have admitted that members of the organisation carried out the killings.

Hussein says: “I am not a politician, I am an ordinary man and didn’t hear of this story. The story that we know is that they died in a traffic accident.” “

However, in the World Service audio version Thomson’s conclusion regarding those bizarre conspiracy theories is that they “show the depth of distrust” between Israelis and Palestinians and he makes no attempt to place them within the broader – and highly relevant – context of the baseless rumours and incitement seen in official Palestinian media or heard in sermons in PA mosques on a quotidian basis.

In that same audio version broadcast on the World Service, Thomson adopts the usual BBC practice of failing to meet its own supposed standards of impartiality by refraining from any mention of the existence of legal opinions which do not conform to the spirit of his statement:

“Under international law the West Bank is occupied territory…”

He goes on to say:

“…but many Israelis, like the speaker you are about to hear, still see it as part of Israel and use biblical language to describe it.”

The speaker is an IDF officer who was responsible for the coordination of the search operation for the three teenagers and the “biblical language” Thomson obviously finds worthy of note is the term Judea and Samaria. Of course that term was universally in use  – including by the British mandate administration – until Jordan’s belligerent occupation and later unrecognized annexation of the districts of Judea and Samaria, after which the term ‘West Bank’ was invented in order to cement that occupation in language. In Thomson’s case that rebranding clearly worked.

A particularly significant aspect of this feature is its vigorous promotion of a theme which the BBC has been pushing for months.

Kidnappings Thomson tweet 1

In the introduction to the item in the January 22nd edition of the ‘Today’ programme, listeners were told that:

“The murders further fuelled hatred and bitterness on both sides, sparking riots in the West Bank, rocket attacks by Hamas and the Israeli invasion of Gaza.”

The next day listeners to the same programme were told that:

“After a summer war in Gaza and bloody clashes on the West Bank, Israel has suffered a winter wave of attacks, the latest wounding a dozen bus passengers in Tel Aviv. The catalyst for much of this was the abduction and murder of four teenagers – three Jewish and one Palestinian – in June and July.”

In the written version appearing on the BBC News website, audiences are told that:Kidnappings Thomson tweet 2

“These brutal killings, and those of two other innocent boys, have had far-reaching consequences. Riots in the West Bank, a war in Gaza and a deepened divide between Israelis and Palestinians.”

In the audio version broadcast on the BBC World Service, listeners heard Mike Thomson say:

“There is little doubt that the slaughter of these four innocent and like-minded boys proved a catalyst for the deaths and injuries of thousands more people last summer.”

Since the hostilities ended six months ago, it has become standard BBC practice to promote the narrative of the conflict of summer 2014 as having taken place exclusively “in Gaza”, erasing any mention of the fact that in Israel thousands of southern residents had to leave their homes and millions ran for cover in air-raid shelters from over four thousand missile attacks launched at civilian targets throughout the seven weeks of hostilities.

It is also apparently BBC policy to mislead audiences by downplaying or erasing from audience view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between the date of the kidnappings – June 12th – and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that surge in missile fire which was the reason for Israel’s military action rather than the kidnappings and murders of the three teenagers, 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 by no means exclusively connected to Israel such as the PA’s refusal to pay Hamas employees after the formation of the unity government. 

Over the last six months this same distortion of the background to Operation Protective Edge has been seen time and time again in BBC content. Accurate and impartial representation of Hamas’ motives for instigating that conflict has been usurped by a simplistic narrative promoting the notion of a ‘cycle of violence’ which actively prevents BBC audiences from forming a realistic understanding of events. Mike Thomson obviously put a lot of work into this feature and hence it is all the more unfortunate that one of its main themes is based on an inaccurate narrative which it in turn goes on to further entrench.