BBC’s summary graphic continues to mislead on Gaza casualty ratios

It would appear that the graphic below (which appeared in a recent BBC News website article titled “Gaza conflict: Israeli PM Netanyahu says war was ‘victory’“) can be said to represent the BBC’s summing up of Operation Protective Edge.

Graphic Op PE

As we see, the BBC is still promoting statistics and civilian/combatant casualty ratios provided by the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health and UN OCHA which relies on information provided by political NGOs.

“UN estimates 70% of deaths are civilians”

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre has now published the fourth part of its analysis of casualties in the Gaza Strip (previous chapters can be found  herehere and here) and has so far examined a total of 667 names.

“Weighting the findings of the current examination and the findings of the three previous examinations (detailed in the previous documents) yields the following results:

273 of those killed were terrorist operatives(65 + 66 + 71 + 71).

316 of those killed were non-involved civilians (76 + 93 + 66 + 81).

The identity of 78 people who were killed is unknown at this stage (34 + 26 + 15 + 3). Therefore, it is not possible to determine whether they were terrorist operatives or non-involved civilians.

Of the 589 dead who could be identified on the three lists that were examined, terrorist operatives constitute approximately 46% of the names. Non-involved civilians constitute approximately 54% of the names. This ratio may vary as the ITIC continues to examine the names of those killed.”

As we also see, there is still no evidence to suggest that the BBC has independently verified the statistics it quotes and promotes and BBC audiences have still not been informed of that lack of independent verification or of the political backdrop to the figures cited.

Readers may be interested to know of the existence of a petition to try to persuade the BBC to correct its obviously problematic policy.

Notable too is the fact that at no point during its last seven weeks of coverage of the conflict has the BBC attempted to put the topic of civilian/combatant casualty ratios in Gaza into their broader context. Audiences in the UK and other Western countries have not been informed how those ratios compare to other conflicts in which their own armed forces were involved. Some interesting thoughts on that topic and many others come from former BBC journalist Richard Miron.

“Israel must be held to account not in comparison to elsewhere in the Middle East but rather to other Western armies operating under similar conditions. And yet in reading and watching the coverage out of Gaza it seems the media held Israel to an altogether different standard. Civilian casualties were often portrayed as the consequence of deliberate Israeli vengefulness and bloodletting.

I have seen for myself how Western armies operate during conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans and elsewhere, and tragically there is no such thing as a clean conflict. I still have the photos I took in an Afghan village of what remained after a US air strike destroyed a family compound killing about fifty civilians in pursuit of one Al Qaeda operative. While there has been some questioning by the media over the extent of civilian casualties (numbering in their tens of thousands) in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, it has been muted by comparison to Gaza. […]

[…] the (Western) media must also account for itself and for its own conduct including apparent omissions and failures in the reporting of the conflict. It must question where reporting may have ended and emoting began, if it held Israel to a standard apart from all others, and why it allowed Hamas a free pass in controlling the flow of information. “

Read the whole piece here.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ does damage control on Gaza casualty figures article

BBC content continues to mislead on Gaza casualties

 

 

Why did the BBC downplay years of Hamas extrajudicial killings?

On August 22nd Quentin Sommerville produced a filmed report for BBC television news which also appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Suspected informants killed in Gaza“.Sommerville 22 8 executions

The appearance of this filmed report and an accompanying written one on the BBC News website was particularly interesting because previous announcements in the local media with regard to the execution of four people on July 17th and the execution of thirty more people on or around July 28th had been completely ignored by the BBC despite its plethora of correspondents on the ground at the time. The reason for the anomaly appears to be that this time the information came from Hamas itself, as Sommerville noted in his report.

“On a Gaza City street just after Friday prayers a group of men are led to their deaths. Bound and hooded, they’re made to kneel. As a crowd looks on, they’re shot dead. Hamas, which supplied these pictures, say they were collaborators. It was a bloody day in Gaza; as well as the men killed here, eleven were earlier put to death by firing squad, accused of the same crime.”

The only brief reference to the lack of due legal process comes later on in Sommerville’s filmed report with the written version failing to relate to that topic at all.

“Hamas said the men were sentenced by an emergency court but human rights groups say these were extrajudicial killings. Two women were among the dead.”

The written report ‘explains’ the incident to readers as follows:

“After the first 11 executions, Hamas warned that “the same punishment will be imposed soon on others”.

It added that “the current circumstances forced us to take such decisions”, suggesting a link between the executions and the killing of the three senior Hamas leaders.”

Sommerville also promoted a similar ‘explanation’.

“The deaths come a day after Israel dealt its heaviest blow to the militants: an air strike here in the south of Gaza killed three of its top military commanders. The brutality and the swiftness of today’s killings are an indication of the severity of the blow struck by Israel against Hamas with the killing of its three military commanders. The militants suspect that Palestinians here in Gaza colluded with Israel to bring about these deaths. Today’s shootings are an attempt to disable any network of informants but also to send a message to deter others from collaborating with Israel’s intelligence services.”

Sommerville closes with the following odd remark:

“Hamas is an armed movement but it’s been years since it turned its weapons with such force against its own people. Even so, it warns that more killings will follow.” [emphasis added]

It is not of course apparent how Quentin Sommerville defines “years” or “such force”, but extrajudicial killings and torture by Hamas are by no means a rare occurrence and indeed formed an integral part of its violent take-over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Some other examples of that practice (by no means all) appear below.

In 2009 Human Rights Watch produced a report which stated that thirty-two suspected collaborators had been killed between December 2008 and April 2009 and at least 49 people from the rival Fatah movement had been shot in the legs by masked gunmen.

In March 2010 Hamas announced that it would reinstate the death penalty in the Gaza Strip. As HRW pointed out at the time:

“Most of those facing the death penalty in Gaza are affiliated with the rival Fatah movement or are people whom Hamas military courts have convicted of collaborating with Israel.”

In April 2010 two people were executed and in December of the same year three more men were convicted of ‘collaboration’ with one sentenced to death. In July 2011 two men were executed.

In November 2012 at least six summary executions took place with Hamas claiming responsibility in a note attached to an electricity pole. Those events got 29 words of coverage from the BBC at the time. In June 2013 the BBC failed to report on two executions and two more in May 2014 were likewise ignored. 

As Khaled Abu Toameh recently pointed out:

“Under Palestinian Authority law, all death sentences must be approved by the president of the PA. But in 2005, PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a moratorium on death sentences – a prohibition that did not stop Hamas from pursuing executions under the pretext that the PA president was no longer a legitimate leader since his term had expired in 2009.

It is notable that the latest executions in the Gaza Strip were carried out after the formation of the Hamas-backed Palestinian “national consensus” government a few months ago. These extrajudicial executions show that despite the unity agreement between the two parties, Hamas continues to act as the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, where it has its own security forces, militias and “revolutionary courts.”

It is also ironic that Hamas has chosen to execute suspected “collaborators” at a time when it is seen as part of the “national consensus” government that continues to conduct security coordination with Israel.”

The BBC has a dismal record on reporting abuses of all kinds by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and it is therefore all the more notable that these two reports came about only when Hamas wanted to publicise the executions of suspected collaborators for its own purposes.

It is also remarkable that neither report ventured beyond limited reporting of the incidents themselves to inform audiences with regard to the issue of the absence of due legal process before those killings and their implications given that the Gaza Strip is – officially at least – now ruled by the Palestinian Unity Government rather than the “armed movement” as Sommerville so quaintly dubs an internationally recognized terrorist organization. 

 

Selective PSC outrage over BBC impartiality and integrity

This article was originally published at the British political blog Harry’s Place.  

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign needs no introduction and neither does its recently accelerated campaign to try to persuade the British public that the BBC suffers from pro-Israel bias. At her usual Electronic Intifada gig on August 3rd, PSC activist Amena Saleem wrote:EG

“Pro-Israeli broadcasters are finding it ever harder to defend Israel in the face of the large-scale massacres and destruction in Gaza, but the BBC is determined to do its best, sacrificing all claims to impartiality and journalistic integrity in the process.

In addition to flooding its radio and television programs with Israeli spokespeople, while keeping Palestinian voices to a minimum, the BBC, as it did during Israel’s 2012 assault on Gaza, has taken to presenting pro-Israel commentators as independent.

BBC audiences are, therefore, given strong doses of pro-Israeli propaganda — being told that Hamas is using civilians as human shields, that Israel has shown nothing but restraint in the face of constant rocket attacks, that it is defending its citizens and so on — while under the impression that they are hearing neutral, independent comment.

These key Israeli messages are, of course, more likely to be believed by viewers and listeners if they think they are impartial observations, rather than the opinions of pro-Israeli spokespeople.”

Saleem goes on to produce a list of examples of what she claims were inadequate introductions on the part of the BBC which failed to clarify the supposedly pro-Israel stance of contributors and recounts that in one case:

“The Palestine Solidarity Campaign wrote to the BBC to remind it of its own editorial guidelines, which include this: “We should normally identify on-air and online sources of information and significant contributors, and provide their credentials, so that our audiences can judge their status.”

For once, the BBC was quick to write back, sending this by email: “We apologize for this and would like to assure you that the matter has been raised with the relevant editorial staff at the BBC News Channel, who have been reminded of the need to clearly describe the ideology of such organizations in our coverage.” “

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality do indeed relate to the issue of clarification of the viewpoint of interviewees in section 4.4.14 and in October of last year the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit recommitted to the practice of “summarising the standpoint” of contributors after the Palestine Solidarity Campaign made a complaint based on similar claims to those appearing in Saleem’s above article.

However, the selective nature of Amena Saleem’s interest in this matter indicates that it does not stem from genuine concerns about BBC impartiality and journalistic integrity but is a tactic employed in the broader PSC public relations strategy.

Read the rest of the article here

BBC presentation of truce fails to tell the real story

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

Hamas however refused to accept the Egyptian-offered terms at the time, insisting that there would be no ceasefire until its demands were met. The BBC – as we know – took it upon itself to extensively and energetically publicise and promote Hamas’ unrealistic demands concerning the lifting of border restrictions but consistently refrained from providing audiences with accurate information regarding the nature of the restrictions themselves and the reasons why they had to be imposed in the first place, thus denying them the ability to appreciate why that particular Hamas pre-condition to a ceasefire would not come about.

Six weeks and much avoidable civilian suffering on, Hamas jettisoned those preconditions and agreed to a truce without any of them having been met as Avi Issacharoff explains.

“Hamas’s defeat lies in the area it counts as most important. With all due respect to the international community, or to al-Jazeera which emerged as the Hamas propaganda arm, what interests Hamas is public opinion in Gaza and in the West Bank. Time and again its leaders — including military wing chief Muhammad Deif, of whom it is not clear what remains after the IDF airstrike that targeted his home — bragged and made promises to the Gaza public that this conflict would continue until the siege was lifted. And until the re-arrested prisoners from the Shalit deal were released. And until an airport was opened. In their enthusiasm for these causes, they cost hundreds of thousands of Palestinians their homes. Two thousand, one hundred and forty-four men, women and children who were killed in a war that they were assured by Hamas simply had to continue until those goals were achieved. The Hamas leadership swore that without a seaport (getting the Rafah border crossing reopened was not deemed a sufficient achievement because it is controlled by the Egyptians) the rockets would continue to fall on Sderot and Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and Netivot.

Hamas further promised that there would be no return to the understandings that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 or to the realities of recent years. Time after time, for almost 50 days, they rejected the Egyptian initiative, which included, almost clause for clause, the elements of the 2012 agreement.

And then, on Tuesday afternoon, when first word of the ceasefire began to emerge, it became clear that Hamas had capitulated, retreated with its tail between its legs, abandoned everything it had insisted upon. No seaport and no airport. No release of the Shalit prisoners who were re-arrested in June after the murders of the three Israeli teens. No lifting of the blockade.”

The significance was clear even to journalists at the New York Times:

“Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, declared victory even though it had abandoned most of its demands, ultimately accepting an Egyptian-brokered deal that differs little from one proffered on the battle’s seventh day. In effect, the deal put both sides back where they were at the end of eight days of fighting in 2012, with terms that called for easing but not lifting Israeli restrictions on travel, trade and fishing in Gaza.”

But have those important points been conveyed to BBC audiences in the corporation’s coverage of the August 26th ceasefire? The BBC News website’s main article on the subject ran under the headline “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce” and it was amended numerous times until its final version was reached. At no point is it made sufficiently clear to readers that the terms of the agreement are the same as those offered after the first week’s fighting or that Hamas abandoned its preconditions – including those still being promoted by the BBC in the sidebar of ‘related articles’ links. The only hint of the latter point comes in an insert of ‘analysis’ from Kevin Connolly.26 8 truce

“There have been small celebrations in the streets of Gaza City hailing a “victory” but the truth is that Hamas has not achieved the headline-making concessions it was demanding in return for a ceasefire agreement.

So, there is no deal on the opening of a sea terminal or an airport at this stage. How ordinary Palestinians view the deal probably depends on how quickly their tightly-controlled borders are opened and how wide.”

Whilst the article fails to clarify to readers that the suffering of residents of the Gaza Strip could have been dramatically and significantly reduced had it not taken Hamas six weeks to abandon its unrealistic demands, it does include amplification of the Hamas narrative.

“Hamas said the deal represented a “victory for the resistance”. “

“A spokesman for Hamas, which controls Gaza, said: “We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance.” “

The article states:

“The announcement was greeted by celebratory gunfire on the streets of Gaza City.”

It fails to inform readers that a 19 year-old girl – Randa Nemer – was killed and 45 others injured by that “celebratory gunfire”.Sommerville 26 8 cf 1

The later version of the report briefly notes that two Israelis were killed around an hour before the ceasefire came into effect, but once again father of five Zevik Etzion and father of three Shachar Melamed of Kibbutz Nirim are not named.

“A last-minute volley of mortar shells from Gaza killed two Israeli civilians in Eshkol Regional Council, medics told the BBC.”

BBC television audiences saw two reports from Quentin Sommerville on the evening of August 26th. The earlier one – which also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree new truce” – tells viewers nothing about the fact that Hamas abandoned its preconditions and settled for what it could have had six weeks earlier.

Moreover, in Sommerville’s second report of the evening (“Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce“), which one can conclude was produced after more details of the terms of the ceasefire had come to light, he not only neglects to mention the above points but misleads audiences with regard to those terms.

“After fifty days of conflict – fifty days of loss – the streets of Gaza came alive tonight. It was a fight that cost two thousand lives but here they’re calling it a victory. There have been other ceasefires – eight in total – but it hasn’t brought people out onto the streets like this. They’re celebrating tonight because they believe that the fighting is over, that Israel’s blockade of Gaza has ended.” [emphasis added]

Later on in the report viewers are shown footage of Mahmoud Abbas saying that the agreement secured includes “providing Gaza with foodstuff and supplies”. No attempt is made to clarify to viewers that food, medicines and essential supplies have continued to enter the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing throughout the 50 days of conflict: 5,359 truckloads between July 8th and August 25th to be precise.Sommerville 26 8 cf 2

Against a background of footage of a missile hit on a kindergarten in Ashdod – which fortunately was empty at the time because the school year has not yet begun and the teacher preparing for the new term had left ten minutes earlier – Sommerville informs viewers of the obvious:

“Israel says that Hamas rockets have to stop if this truce is to work. This one landed today in a playground. No-one was hurt.”

Oddly, the fact that two members of Kibbutz Nirim were killed in a mortar attack earlier in the day is not mentioned.

On the afternoon of August 27th an article by Kevin Connolly appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Indecisive end to Gaza conflict“. There readers were informed that:

“Gaza does not function as a democracy so Hamas does not have to worry about immediate accountability to its own people, but many will question its judgement on two key points.

One is the decision to embark on a conflict when the agreement ending it only guarantees the restoration of the status quo that went before, together with commitments to discuss other grievances.

The other is the tactic of insisting on huge, headline-grabbing concessions (like the construction of a seaport in Gaza) in return for merely agreeing to enter talks.

It seems possible that that tactic made it harder to secure a ceasefire.”

Unfortunately, Connolly’s use of understatement and the fact that the BBC has throughout the past seven weeks consistently failed to adequately explain the important topic of the implementation of border restrictions and the naval blockade as a means of curbing the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip mean that many readers are likely to remain unclear as regards the fact that the same ceasefire could have been accepted by Hamas six weeks previously and the extent to which Hamas’ tactics have caused unnecessary suffering to the people of the Gaza Strip.  

 

 

 

BBC News absolves Hamas of truce violation, amplifies its propaganda – and refrains from naming its victim

Normally based in Dubai, Middle East business correspondent Mark Lobel appears to be the latest BBC reporter to have been ‘parachuted in’ to provide backup to the Jerusalem Bureau team covering events in Israel and the Gaza Strip.Mark Lobel Nahal Oz

On August 22nd, Lobel produced a report for BBC television news which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the oddly punctuated title “Israeli child ‘killed by rocket fired from Gaza’“. Whether those inverted commas were intended to convey to audiences that the BBC is not sure that four year-old Daniel Tragerman was killed or not convinced that the mortar (rather than rocket) which caused his death was actually fired from the Gaza Strip is unclear. However – as was the case in the BBC News website’s written article purportedly relating to the same incident – Mark Lobel presented his entire report without mentioning Daniel’s name.

“The Israeli prime minister has come out and offered his condolences..eh…to the family of a four year-old boy who was…ehm…was announced killed by one of these mortar…eh…rounds. What had happened is that since Israel…eh…assassinated three senior Hamas military leaders in the early hours of Thursday morning, there’ve been a flurry of rockets and mortars flying over the border. Eighty – over eighty – since midnight last night and several of these mortars all landed on a kibbutz several…ehm…meters away from the border with Gaza and medics said that a four year-old boy was playing inside his living room and got hit in the head and…eh…was killed.”

Lobel’s claim that missile and mortar fire is a result of the strike in which three Hamas terrorists were killed on August 21st of course misleads viewers by concealing the fact that terrorists in the Gaza Strip had already breached a ceasefire two days prior to that event, with particularly heavy targeting of civilian communities near the border. Lobel continues by further confusing audiences with a claim that the break-down of talks in Cairo preceded the renewed fighting. In fact it was the breach of the ceasefire by Gaza Strip-based terrorists which led to the termination of negotiations.Sommerville filmed 23 8

“And…erm…you know this is all a sign that the fighting on both sides is continuing to pick up since those failed peace talks which were being brokered by Egypt fell through. And..err…since midnight last night on the other side…err…the Israelis have launched over thirty…eh….strikes from the air at Gaza and we’ve got reports from within Gaza that four people have died since midnight.”

The following day – August 23rd – BBC television news audiences viewed a report by Quentin Sommerville (titled “Israel continues air strikes on Gaza targets” in its website version) which likewise failed to name Daniel Tragerman and misled them with regard to the reason for the end of the ceasefire on August 19th.

“This was the aftermath of an earlier Hamas mortar attack. It killed an Israeli child; the fourth civilian to die there since the conflict began. Israel promised it would escalate its campaign in Gaza as a result. After a lull of the ceasefire which ended on Tuesday, the violence and the casualties have been steadily increasing here.”

The ceasefire of course did not simply ‘end’ – it was violated by Palestinian terrorists.

Also on August 23rd a written article appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Gaza conflict: Mahmoud Abbas urges fresh talks in Egypt“. In that report audiences were once again misled with regard to the reason for the ceasefire’s end.

“A previous Egyptian-brokered truce collapsed on Tuesday.”

In the article’s fourteenth paragraph readers were again informed of the incident in Nahal Oz without any mention of Daniel Tragerman’s name.

“On Friday, a four-year-old Israeli boy was killed in a village near the Gaza border, prompting Israel to warn it would “intensify” its operations.”

Moreover, the very next paragraph of that report consists of amplification of obviously false Hamas propaganda without any qualifying comment from the BBC.

“In an interview with Yahoo News, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal rejected the charge that his organisation targets Israeli civilians.

“We try most of the time to aim at military targets and Israeli bases,” Mr Meshaal said. “But we admit that we have a problem. We do not have the weapons available to our enemy… so aiming is difficult.” “

That same propaganda from the leader of a terrorist organization proscribed by numerous countries precisely because of its history of killing Israeli civilians was again amplified in an article appearing on the BBC News website on August 24th. The title of that report also included bizarre punctuation which implied to audiences that the launching of mortars at a border crossing might perhaps not be seen by the BBC as an attack: “Gaza conflict: Erez crossing ‘attacked’ amid Israel raids“.Erez crossing art

The article’s entire representation of the subject matter outlined in its headline is as follows:

“Israel says it has closed the Erez crossing after it came under rocket fire from Gaza, wounding four people.

The crossing is used by aid workers, journalists and Palestinians with Israeli permits to enter or leave Gaza.”

No mention is made of the fact that the people wounded in the attack – two of them seriously – were Arab-Israeli taxi drivers who had been waiting to transport patients from the Gaza Strip to hospitals in Israel.

“Hussein Abu-Einam, an eyewitness on the scene, told Army Radio: “The [drivers] sat in a shed and waited for the passengers and their relatives who were leaving Gaza for Israeli hospitals Ichilov and Tel Hashomer. Then seven shells fell — just one after the other. We didn’t have time to flee; it was a matter of a second.”

Eli Bean, head of Magen David Adom, said the paramedics who were dispatched to the crossing were forced to treat the victims under fire.

“During treatment, we were forced to deal with a number of sirens and mortar explosions fired at us. The mortar shells fell very close to those who were injured,” he said.

Up to 11 mortar and rocket rounds landed near the crossing, the army said.”

Once again, a revisionist version of the breakdown of the ceasefire on August 19th is presented in this report.

“Hostilities between the two sides resumed on Tuesday after a temporary truce, scuppering efforts by Egyptian negotiators to achieve a long-term ceasefire deal.”

And yet again – this time in the sixteenth paragraph – Daniel Tragerman goes unnamed.

“Israel had announced it would “intensify” its offensive after a four-year-old Israeli boy was killed in a village near the Gaza border.”

So too was the case in a filmed report by Alpa Patel which appeared on BBC television news as well as on the BBC News website on August 24th under the inaccurate headline “Gaza residences targeted in Israel air strikes“: the target of that strike was in fact a Hamas command and control centre.Alpa Patel report 24 8

“It followed the killing of a four year-old Israeli boy on Friday in this village near the Gaza border. Israel warned it would intensify its operations as a result. He becomes one of 68 Israelis killed in recent weeks – most of the dead are soldiers. On the Palestinian side more than two thousand have been killed – the majority are civilians.”

As we see, these five items appearing on BBC News platforms over the weekend of August 22nd to 24th all continue what is now evidently the BBC policy of concealing from audiences the reason for the breakdown of the last ceasefire on August 19th and the resulting renewal of hostilities. Not unrelatedly, Khaled Masha’al’s ridiculous claim that Hamas does not target Israeli civilians (contradicted of course on numerous occasions by his less media-savvy accomplices) is amplified unquestioningly by a news organization supposedly committed to bringing its funding public accurate and impartial news. In contrast, the BBC cannot be bothered to name a four year-old victim of the policies of the terrorist organisation whose propaganda it chooses to unquestioningly amplify. 

 

BBC World News’ Dani Sinha to Israeli minister: ‘why are you killing innocent people?’

We have previously documented here some of the BBC News website’s efforts to distort chronology with regard to the events which brought an end to the ceasefire which was supposed to expire at midnight on August 19th but was violated by terrorists in the Gaza Strip some eight and a half hours beforehand. Those efforts are not however confined to the website.

Below is an interview with Israel’s Minister of the Economy on BBC World News on August 20th. Presenter Dani Sinha gave a taste of things to come in the following Tweet.

Tweet Dani Sinha

Of note are Sinha’s jaw-droppingly ignorant questions and her promotion of Hamas terminology.

“Why did you choose this particular time then, or this particular moment, to end the ceasefire? After all, there have been other occasions when Hamas have fired rockets.”

Even after having been told that it was Hamas which violated the truce, she continues to promote her own revisionist version of events.

“Some will though question the timing of course when you ended the ceasefire – or indeed whether you say Hamas ended this ceasefire – because of course it does coincide with your strike – the Israeli airstrike – on a top Hamas commander.”

In actual fact, the strike on the Al Dalou house took place at 21:59: six and a half hours after the truce had been violated by the firing of three missiles at the Be’er Sheva district and also after at least four additional barrages of missile and mortar fire at Netivot, Hof Ashkelon and communities near the Gaza Strip border.

Sinha’s next ‘question’ is as follows:

“Let’s talk about the people though who are being killed because whatever way you look at this there are an unequal number of casualties. More than two thousand Palestinians killed; mostly civilians. That’s against 66 Israelis; mostly military. Well the figures just don’t add up. Why are you killing innocent people?”

We next see what happens when a journalist with no military understanding tries to pretend otherwise.

“When the ceasefire actually started though, you said that you’d destroyed all you needed to destroy regarding the tunnels. Does this mean that your operation has now failed?”

“Why did the talks then fail in Cairo? Your delegation have now gone home.”

And then a bit of promotion of inaccurate Hamas terminology: 

“Hamas want you to lift the siege. I mean why is it so difficult for Israel to do that if it will bring about peace?”

Apparently the BBC does not think that audiences have had enough of the “news presenter aggressively promoting her own political agenda regardless of the facts” party trick.  

Related Articles:

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An upcoming event with the BBC’s Middle East editor

On September 3rd the Frontline Club – with which the BBC frequently collaborates – will be hosting an event titled “Reporting the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict – Emotion, Bias and Objectivity” which we are informed is already fully booked.

The topic of discussion is promoted as follows:

“The latest chapter in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has again highlighted the difficulties of covering this complex and deep-rooted conflict that provokes such a strong emotional response from the general public.

The BBC has faced accusation that it is not critical enough of Israel’s actions and that its reporting is one-sided, whereas Channel 4 News has been accused of crossing the line between journalism and campaigning. Is there a middle ground?

In the face of such devastation should we expect correspondents to offer an objective view devoid of emotion? If we encourage correspondents to show more emotion do we risk compromising the credibility and standard of journalism in this country?

Join us as we take a view of the coverage we have seen, talk to the journalists that have produced it and ask what we can learn.”

On the panel selected to provide answers to those questions are Jeremy ‘I see no human shields’ Bowen and Channel 4’s Jon Snow.Nelson

The discussion would doubtless be enhanced were Bowen  (along with his colleague Orla Guerin) to take the trouble to brush up beforehand on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and that policy’s role in causing so many of the civilian casualties which he graphically reported during his recent stint in the Gaza strip.

That, of course, is unlikely to happen but if any of our readers do intend to attend the event and would like to report on it afterwards, we would be interested in hearing from you.

In the meantime, what do readers think of the questions above? Is it really too much to ask journalists to report conflicts objectively and factually? Would we accept that other professions – say doctors or policemen – should have leeway to bend professional standards in light of emotionally difficult scenes or experiences? Is reporting based on journalists’ emotions of any value to the BBC’s funding public? Has the “credibility and standard of journalism” displayed by the BBC indeed been compromised by its coverage of the recent conflict and do readers identify any effects of the style and content of its coverage in broader society? Tell us in the comments below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ does damage control on Gaza casualty figures article

On August 22nd the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less’ included an item on the topic of casualty figures from the Gaza Strip which purported to provide listeners with information pertaining to the questions “[w]hy are men over-represented in civilian death tolls and how are the statistics gathered?” The segment can be heard here and the whole programme is here with the relevant item beginning at 13:23.More or Less R4 22 8

After an introduction composed of statements from BBC news bulletins, presenter Tim Harford (also a Financial Times columnist) begins the item.

TH: “The number of civilians killed in Gaza during the conflict between Palestinian militants there and the Israeli military has raised international concern and condemnation. A UN report estimated that between the 7th of July and the 20th of August this year there were 1,999 deaths in Gaza caused by the conflict. Of those killed, the UN estimate that 70% were civilians and of those thought to be civilians, approximately 250 were women, 450 were children and 700 were men. The figures, say the United Nations, are subject to change based on verification. The same UN report states that on the Israeli side, 64 soldiers have been killed and three civilians.

Now the fact that among the Palestinian civilian casualties there are nearly three times as many men as women has been in the spotlight. Indeed an article on the BBC News website said “if the Israeli attacks have been “indiscriminate”, as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many more civilian men than women”. Well that’s a comment that attracted controversy and a number of e-mails from listeners who’ve written to ‘More or Less’ directly. It might be worth spelling out why. The comment invites people to conclude that if Israeli attacks were indiscriminate, we wouldn’t see far more men than women killed; we’d see roughly equal numbers. And joining the dots, perhaps many of the men thought to be civilians weren’t civilians at all. Now, none of that was explicitly said in the BBC article but some critics have complained to ‘More or Less’ that that’s what it was hinting at. And the Times of Israel – an online newspaper – ran an article citing the BBC’s analysis in support of these conclusions. All very sensitive stuff, needless to say. Well, Ruth Alexander’s here to help me investigate. Ruth, before we get to the issue of what’s happening in Gaza, what’s the latest on that BBC article?”

As BBC Watch readers already know, the original article by the BBC News head of statistics underwent initially unannounced changes several days after its publication – apparently because its content displeased certain parties. Four days after those changes were made a footnote acknowledging them was added to the article as it appears online.

Footnote to Reuben art

The programme’s producer Ruth Alexander then comes in:

RA: “Well that particular statement about how it’s hard to square the UN’s findings of indiscriminate attacks with the fact that more men than women had been killed….”

TH: “Yeah, that one.”

RA: “…it’s gone. The article’s been edited to remove it and a few days later the BBC added a note about a series of clarifications such as the inclusion of some possible explanations for why men were disproportionately likely to be casualties.”

TH: “I spoke about this gender imbalance to Matthias Behnke from the office of the United Nations High Commission of Human Rights on the 19th of August. Matthias was speaking from Ramallah in the West Bank.”

Indeed Matthias Behnke was in Ramallah on August 19th and obviously managed to find time to talk to the BBC either before or after he took part in a symposium at Birzeit University where he shared a platform with Sharwan Jabarin (known for his alleged ties to the PFLP) of the political NGO ‘Al Haq’ which is a leading organization on the lawfare scene. That symposium was promoted as follows:

“During the workshop, colleagues Matthias Behnke (The head of the OHCHR – Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Shawan Jabareen (Al-Haq’s Director) will introduce participants to the role of the ‘Independent Commission of Inquiry´ also compared to alternative investigations and comparative experiences. There will be a discussion on expectations from the said investigation and possible next steps.”

The so-called “Independent Commission of Inquiry” was announced by the UN OHCHR on July 23rd after that body accepted a draft resolution proposed by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – the same organization which claims to have been the initiator of the ‘Goldstone Report’ and has pressed the UN to introduce a “global blasphemy law”. During the ‘debate’ on whether to establish yet another of its now infamous ‘independent’ inquiries, the UN HRC heard from assorted notable champions of human rights.

Syria said that extremist gangs of settlers had been allowed to abduct a Palestinian child and burn him alive, which had led to further massacres of the innocent, particularly women and children. Israel had continuously shown utter disregard for international law. The international community had to ensure that such crimes did not go unpunished. Syria supported the legitimate resistance of the Palestinian people.

Sudan said with 650 dead, thousands wounded and many thousands more displaced, the violations committed by Israel represented a policy of racial and ethnic cleansing, a massacre and genocide at a time when mankind had rejected the racist law of the jungle and moved into a time of human dignity. The Council must recognize that Israel was an occupying power supported by a superpower that could do whatever it wanted.

Iran said the brutal use of force by Israel against the Palestinian people, including in residential areas, hospitals and schools, added to the long list of violations by Israel over the past 60 years, in systematic and flagrant breach of international law. The international community must not repeat previous mistakes; it must take some responsibly for the situation. The Council must also identify the Israeli officials who had perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

According to BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality Tim Harford should have informed listeners that his supposedly objective interviewee represents a body which – even before the conflict has ended – has initiated a politically motivated and already controversial ‘inquiry’ which is part and parcel of the lawfare campaign in which the topic of civilian/combatant casualty ratios is used as a tool. Harford however failed to meet that obligation. Listeners then hear Behnke:

MB: “Men will generally be more exposed. They will move around more. Even when they are in shelters they will be staying outside; not inside the buildings but in the hallways outside. They will go back to check on their homes. They will go out to get food and water whereas children and women will usually be more sheltered and protected.”

Ruth Alexander continues by bringing in another interviewee from an organization which – as we documented here last month – is both one of the primary sources of UN casualty statistics and is also engaged in lawfare against Israel. Like her colleague, Alexander breaches BBC Editorial Guidelines by failing to clarify that fact to listeners.

RA: “Other researchers have told us that men are usually over-represented in counts of civilian casualties in war. It can be about the tasks men undertake, how they socialize, and also that they may be in general more of a target – more easily mistaken for fighters. We’ve been speaking to Mahmoud Abu Rahma from the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza which is a Palestinian group which has researchers on the ground gathering information and statistics on who has been killed. He gave an example of an attack that hit a beach café where people were watching a World Cup match.”

MAR: “Now in a place like this in southern Gaza Strip this café is more or less man only during the evening hours at least. So you have many explain. Our colleague was killed because he was on a motorcycle and Israelis suspected him. So many more men die because of the suspicion, I believe, than women.”

Harford goes on:

“So this idea that combatants are wrongly being counted as adult male civilian casualties – it’s not necessarily true. Or at least that high male civilian death toll isn’t strong evidence that a miscount is happening. There are several groups who are publishing casualty figures and their estimates vary. For example the UN says that about 70% of casualties are civilian. The Israeli Defence Force has been reported as saying civilian casualties are 50% but when we called the IDF they said they weren’t able to confirm that. Well the UN numbers are seen as perhaps the most authoritative but they’re not without their critics. So, how are they gathered? Here’s Matthias Behnke, the man in charge of them.”

MB: “They’re gathered in partnership with a number of organisations working in Gaza. There are Palestinian, Israeli and international organisations that gather data and we compile the information in a data base that we run which we also cross-check and verify with data provided in the public domain, whether that be the Ministry of Health, the IDF, even the armed groups sometimes provide information on websites and other social networks about their dead. On top of that we have a team on the ground also checking and cross-referencing these figures so it’s quite a comprehensive process. We by no means claim that it’s a final, perfect figure. We stress very clearly that these re subject to further verification which we do as we go along.”

TH: “Some people have criticized these figures on the basis that fundamentally the source of the numbers is the Ministry of Health and that’s basically a Palestinian organization – it’s controlled by Hamas. How would you respond to that criticism?”

MB: “I would say as I said before; that the Ministry of Health figures are one of our sources. It’s certainly not the main source. For instance the Ministry of Health does not differentiate in their figures between combatants and civilians. Furthermore, you will maybe have seen at times our figures have actually been a bit higher than the Ministry of Health because we have more sources to rely on.”

TH: “I wanted to press Matthias for further detail about how exactly his statistics are created and how these armed groups figure in the process. But he said he couldn’t give any more information. Perhaps that indicates how politically sensitive these numbers are.”

So that’s it then: listeners are not told exactly how the UN gathers its information or of the political motivations of its primary sources. Neither are they informed of the results of the ongoing work of those who take the trouble to cross-reference Hamas-supplied information with announcements on the websites of terrorist organisations such as the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre. Harford goes on:

“There are several reasons the count of the dead may differ between organisations. Yes, there are of course politics but these groups are trying to make sense of what’s going on in the fog of war.”

Ruth Alexander then introduces a representative from yet another political NGO which is one of the UN’s primary sources, but does not inform listeners either of that fact or of B’Tselem’s political agenda.More or Less chapter

RA: “Hagai Elad from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has researchers on the ground in Gaza and he gave us a picture of how dangerous and how difficult their work is.”

HE: “For instance there would be news about the IDF ordering the evacuation of a certain Palestinian hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. Ideally we would want our own researcher to go there and independently tell us what is the situation on the ground. But sometimes trying to drive over there could be dangerous and sometimes being in a location itself could be dangerous. So the confusion and the general intensity of the numbers are, I would say, the number one difficulty in analysing the data.”

RA: “And how easy is it for researchers collecting statistics on the ground to tell who was a fighter and who wasn’t? I mean they can ask people but will they always get a straight answer? Here’s Hagai Elad again.”

HE: “Sometimes there’s a desire…it’s more courageous for someone to have died as a combater [sic] for some families. In other cases maybe there’s a desire to show that the percentage of non-combatants that died is high. So yeah – there will be pressures; no question about that.”

For more on B’Tselem’s methodology – see here. Ruth Alexander concludes the item by saying:

“This is why they and the other groups we’ve spoken to say that they do cross-checks. They don’t take what they’re told at face value. But counting the cost of war is always hard and usually controversial.”

So what did listeners to BBC Radio 4 get in this nine minute-long item? Well, they learned for a start that the BBC is ‘squeezy': it will amend an article written by its head of statistics not because it is inaccurate, but because of pressure from people who, for political reasons, don’t like what it says. It will then alter and add to that article to present a viewpoint more in line with its critics’ agenda and will even produce a nine-minute radio item as further damage control – because this is actually what Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander’s item actually is.

Harford and Alexander have brought listeners interviewees from three organisations which are all connected but without informing audiences of their ties or of their mutual political agenda. Beyond several opaque references to “politics”, they have failed to clarify to audiences  how civilian/combatant casualty ratios are used in the campaign of lawfare against Israel and to generate a specific climate of public opinion and they have failed to make any mention of the related directives issued by Hamas instructing that all casualties should be described as civilian.

Remarkably too they have framed this issue as one concerning a civilian/combatant ratio caused by Israeli actions alone, with no information provided to listeners regarding the very significant fact that the practices of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip such as launching missiles (a significant proportion of which fall short) and storing weapons and explosives in residential areas and booby-trapping houses all cause civilian casualties which of course are then attributed to Israeli actions – as the BBC should know only too well.  

In addition to the fact that this programme will be available on the BBC website for the coming year, it will also be repeated on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, August 24th at 20:00. It would of course be appropriate for its numerous failures to meet BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality to be corrected before that happens by means of the addition of full disclosure of the political agendas of its interviewees and their role in the lawfare campaign against Israel.

The BBC’s funding public might also be interested in some frank disclosure concerning the editorial policies behind the growing list of BBC contributions (including this programme) to that same campaign.  

Contact details for ‘More or Less’ can be found here and the programme’s e-mail address is moreorless@bbc.co.uk . 

 

BBC report on “Israeli boy’s death” totals a sentence and a half, fails to name victim

An article titled “Gaza conflict: Israeli boy’s death ‘will intensify ops” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the evening of August 22nd. The BBC’s report allots a sentence and a half to the subject matter of the story as presented in its headline.Article 22 8 Daniel T

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said military operations will “intensify” after an Israeli boy was killed by fire from Gaza.

The four-year-old died in a mortar attack on a southern Israeli village near the Gaza border.”

The caption to the photograph used to illustrate the article states:

“Mr Netanyahu sent his condolences to the boy’s family and accused Hamas of firing the rocket that killed him”.

The BBC’s report is time-stamped 20:11 GMT. By that time the name of Daniel Tregerman – the four and a half year-old victim of a mortar attack by terrorists firing from the vicinity of a school in the Gaza Strip – had already been made public.  

Notably, despite particularly heavy fire on the Israeli communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip in recent days, no BBC correspondent has filed a report from that region or anywhere else in southern Israel.

How the BBC News website made Hamas’ ceasefire violation disappear

On the afternoon of August 19th terrorists in the Gaza Strip violated a ceasefire agreement which had been due to expire some eight and a half hours later at midnight. The BBC News website’s reporting of that event at the time was documented in this article.

Since then, several additional reports have appeared on the BBC news website’s Middle East page and presentation of the events of the afternoon of August 19th has become increasingly divorced from reality.Deif article

In the report titled “Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’” from August 20th, readers were told that: [emphasis added]

“At least 19 Palestinians have died since hostilities resumed on Tuesday, with both sides blaming each other for the collapse of the Cairo peace talks.”

An insert of ‘analysis’ by Kevin Connolly informs readers:

“Hamas blames Israel for the end of the ceasefire just as Israel blames Hamas…”

In paragraphs 21 to 24 inclusive readers discover that:

“The Israeli government accused Hamas of breaking the ceasefire by launching a salvo of rockets about eight hours before it was to have expired, and told its delegation in Cairo to return home shortly afterwards.

Palestinian negotiators blamed Israel for the failure of the indirect talks.

“Israel thwarted the contacts that could have brought peace,” said Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior member of the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

However, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev rejected the accusation, saying rockets from Gaza were “a clear violation of the ceasefire” and “destroyed the premise upon which the talks were based.” “

The BBC knows full well that the ceasefire was violated by Palestinian terrorists; it reported the missile fire which broke the truce one hour after it happened and so has no need to present the sequence of events as third-party statements. And yet, rather than conveying to audiences what it knows, the BBC elects to present the issue as though it were open to interpretation.Shamala et al art

By August 21st BBC News website presentation of the subject had become even foggier. In a report titled “Gaza crisis: Israel kills three top Hamas commanders” readers were told: [emphasis added]

“Hostilities between the two sides resumed after talks on a long-term ceasefire deal collapsed on Tuesday.”

In fact, the accurate chronology of events shows that the missile fire by Gaza Strip-based terrorists at around 15:30 on August 19th was the reason for the collapse of the talks.

The article closes with the following euphemistic description of the truce violation:

“Gaza officials say a total of 54 Palestinians have been killed since the temporary ceasefire broke down.”  [emphasis added]

The August 21st article includes short profiles of the three terrorists killed.

Profiles Atar et al

Remarkably, no mention is made of the fact that Raed al Attar and Mohamed Abu Shamala were named by Egypt as suspects in the 2012 killing of sixteen Egyptian soldiers and that their extradition had been demanded. Neither are readers told that Attar’s name was also linked to the 2011 prison breaks in Egypt or that Attar was sentenced to death and Shamala to life imprisonment by the Palestinian Authority in 1999 for killing a policeman in Rafah.executions  

On August 22nd the BBC News website published a report relating to the topic of some of the summary executions carried out by Hamas in recent days  under the title “Gaza: Hamas says 18 suspected informants executed“. Notably, reported previous incidents of summary executions earlier on in the conflict had been ignored by the BBC and no interest is shown in this article in the topic of whether or not those executed had access to any kind of due legal process or the significance of those executions from the point of view of the fact that officially, the Gaza Strip has been under the control of the Palestinian unity government since the beginning of June.  

With regard to the August 19th breach of the ceasefire, readers are told in the caption to the main photograph illustrating that article that:

“Hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians resumed, scuppering efforts at a long-term ceasefire”

In the body of the report similar euphemistic terminology is employed:

“Hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza resumed on Tuesday, scuppering efforts in Cairo to achieve a long-term ceasefire deal.”

The BBC appears to be determined to erase any trace of Hamas responsibility for the breakdown of that ceasefire – and hence the Cairo talks – from the record by failing to report events accurately and factually.