Predictable BBC amplification for latest HRW anti-Israel report

On January 19th an article titled “Palestinian workers banned from West Bank settlements” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The subject matter of the story portrayed in that headline takes up part of the report which then goes on to inform readers that:workers banned art

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As ever, that standard insert breaches the corporation’s own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform BBC audiences of the existence of legal opinions which contradict the corporation’s own adopted political narrative.

The article closes with provision of a link to a report published on the same day by Human Rights Watch.  

“Also on Tuesday, a new report by Human Rights Watch said businesses operating in settlements contributed to “an inherently unlawful and abusive system that violates the rights of Palestinians” and called on them to pull out of the region.

Israel’s foreign ministry called the report “one-sided”, and said it “jeopardises the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians and discourages rare examples of coexistence, co-ordination and co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians”.”

Whether the writer of this BBC article had time to read that 51,000 word report properly and to independently verify its content before promoting it to audiences is doubtful. What is apparent is that the BBC quotes from it without informing readers of HRW’s inherent agenda in relation to Israel and without informing them that its bottom line – as shown on its back page – is to add wind to the sails of the BDS movement.

“…it [the report] concludes that the only way settlement businesses can comply with their responsibilities under international human rights standards is by ending their businesses in settlements or in settlement-related commercial activity.”

As NGO Monitor points out:

“There is no rule whatsoever in international law prohibiting doing business in occupied territory and no court addressing this issue, most recently the European Court of Justice, has ruled otherwise.  In addition, many courts have ruled that boycott campaigns similar to that promoted by HRW in this publication amount to illegal national origin discrimination.”

Readers can find more on the legal aspects of the subject in a paper tiled ‘Economic Dealings with Occupied Territories’ published by Professor Eugene Kontorovich.  

Given that HRW is one of the political NGOs most frequently promoted by the BBC in Israel-related content and in light of the fact that the BBC has frequently engaged in promotion of the BDS agenda, it is hardly surprising to find this latest report promoted in BBC content without due attention to impartiality.


More uncritical amplification of a HRW report from BBC News

On September 22nd an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Egypt ‘demolishes thousands of homes’ for Sinai buffer zone“. That article is in fact yet another piece of ‘churnalism‘, with almost its entire content being devoted to amplification of a report by one of the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGOs – Human Rights Watch (HRW).HRW report Rafah

Despite the fact that the HRW report is based on information gathered from selected media reports, anonymous witnesses and unidentified ‘activists’, the BBC uncritically repeated its claims, with variations of the phrase “HRW says” appearing seven times throughout the article and no attempt made to provide readers with further relevant background material. Thus, for example, readers were steered towards the view that no justification exists for Egypt’s actions on its border with the Gaza Strip.

“The [Egyptian] military aims to eventually clear an area of about 79 sq km (30 sq miles) along the Gaza border, including all of the town of Rafah, which has a population of about 78,000 people, HRW says.

The government says the operation will allow the military to close smuggling tunnels it alleges are used by jihadists to receive weapons, fighters and logistical help from Palestinian militants in Gaza.

But HRW said little or no evidence had been offered to support this justification, citing statements from Egyptian and Israeli officials that suggested weapons were more likely to have been obtained from Libya or captured from the Egyptian military.”

Were the BBC’s own record of reporting on the subject of collaboration between the Sinai based Salafists and elements within the Gaza Strip less dismal, it would of course have been able to provide readers with background information crucial to their being able to put that HRW claim into context. As the Times of Israel reported in January 2015:

“Egyptian intelligence has specific information on assistance that Sinai terrorists have been receiving from the Gaza Strip. Many activists trained in Gaza, and received arms there that they have been using against Egyptian forces.

That is the source of the urgency around creating the buffer zone: the goal is to cut the jihadis off from their Gaza supply route. On Monday Egyptian media reported on a jihadist cell that enjoyed considerable help from Hamas, and tried to infiltrate Sinai through tunnels. Most of the tunnels aren’t open, but occasionally smugglers on both sides of the border manage to build a new one. The Egyptian army recently uncovered a 1,700-meter passage.”

As has been the case on many past occasions, the BBC makes no effort to inform readers of this article of HRW’s political agenda – despite the need to do so being clearly stated in the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality.

That recurrent omission is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that in earlier this year, HRW (once again) took up the BBC’s case at the United Nations periodic review of Rwanda.

“The HRW’s Submission for the Universal Periodic Review March 2015 contains the following recommendations for Rwanda: […]

Allow the BBC Kinyarwanda service to resume its broadcasts in Rwanda.”

Public impressions of BBC impartiality and independence will of course not be enhanced by the appearance of articles uncritically amplifying content produced by a political NGO which just happens to have used its UN platform to promote the BBC’s interests.

Related Articles:

BBC fails to meet its remit in article about Rafah tunnels

Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

As readers know, less than 24 hours after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th 2014, the BBC began to promote the notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip.Bowen tweet 1

That theme, along with related ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’, continued to be advanced throughout the 50-day operation and after its conclusion, in large part by means of amplification of claims made by political NGOs such as the PCHR (see examples here and here), Human Rights Watch (see examples here and here) and Amnesty International (see examples here, here and here).

In addition, BBC audiences were fed amateur commentary from journalists with no credentials in the field of the Law of Armed Conflict, with Jeremy Bowen’s frequently proffered  ‘diagnoses’ being particularly notable.Bowen tweet 2

In a new report on last summer’s conflict written by five American Generals and commissioned by JINSA, the topic of amateur commentary on the legality of IDF operations is addressed.

“…Numerous individuals claiming to be experts in the relationship between law and military operations quickly seemed to accept Hamas’s assertions of unlawful IDF operations. On July 23, 2014, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated: “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.” The U.N. Human Rights Council subsequently issued a resolution condemning “in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations” in Gaza. In September, Human Rights Watch issued a report declaring that “three Israeli attacks that damaged Gaza schools housing displaced people caused numerous civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war.” And, in November, Amnesty International concluded that the IDF’s “use of large aerial bombs [to attack civilian homes] suggests that these attacks either were intended to cause the complete destruction of the targeted structure or a determination to ensure the killing of targeted individuals without due regard to the killing and destruction to those in their immediate vicinity,” which would constitute “prima facie evidence of serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

These condemnations were premised on premature, effects-based assessments of military operations, or on the same flawed understandings of the law that Hamas was promoting, while refusing to apply that same law to its own actions. These routine distortions of the actual law applicable to military operations produced a fundamentally false narrative of legal compliance and non-compliance during this conflict, one that misrepresented Israeli attempts to minimize civilian deaths and the legality of their targeting Hamas and other factions engaged in military operations.”

The report – which is well worth reading in full – is available here.

The speed and alacrity with which BBC correspondents adopted the theme of ‘war crimes’ within hours of the commencement of the conflict was clear indication of the existence of an underlying political agenda even before the hostilities began. The fact that the corporation has continued its unqualified amplification of the same theme on behalf of NGOs engaged in lawfare since the conflict ended – whilst failing to provide audiences with the professional background information on the topic of the Law of Armed Conflict which would enable them to put such claims into their correct context – only reinforces the unavoidable impression that the BBC has no interest in dealing with this subject accurately or impartially.


BBC contributors on the ‘flood libel’ bandwagon

Readers who follow our colleagues at CAMERA will know that they recently exposed a fabricated story by AFP’s Yahia (or Yahya) Hassouna in which it was claimed that Israel had deliberately flooded areas of the Gaza Strip by opening dams. The same fictitious story was also promoted by Al Jazeera, the Daily Mail and Russia Today, among others.

“In the video, Ead Zino, a resident of Al-Maghraqa, accuses Israel: “Every four years there is a war but here in Maghraqa every year there is a flood. This water comes from Israel. This is political. All Israel wants is to destroy us.”

 In addition, AFP’s caption at the beginning of the video is “Gaza village flooded as Israel opens dam gates.”

AFP did not include any Israeli voice to refute the false charge.

 Regarding the claim that Israel opened dams, thereby flooding Gaza, a spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told CAMERA:

‘The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams. Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel.

Prior to the storm, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories allowed the transfer of four water pumps belonging to the Palestinian Water Authority from Israel into Gaza to supplement the 13 pumps already in the Gaza Strip in dealing with any potential flooding throughout the area.’ “

That same malicious ‘flood libelwas also promoted on social media.

Abu Warda 3

Abu Warda 2

Abu Warda 1

Readers may recall that Dr Bassel Abu Warda of Shifa hospital was one of numerous Gaza Strip-based doctors given BBC airtime and column space last summer – ostensibly in order to provide audiences with a supposedly authoritative and objective view of the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Another person who promoted the false flooding story on Twitter was Human Rights Watch’s MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson.

Whitson tweet

As regular readers know, Human Rights Watch is one of the NGOs most promoted and quoted by the BBC – including on the topic of the Gaza Strip.

It is always worth bearing in mind that – as cases like this one show – people from whom the BBC sources content may have an underlying political agenda.  That, of course, is why the BBC has editorial guidelines which instruct its staff that “we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint”. Unfortunately, adherence to that guideline is highly selective

BBC News does its convincing impression of HRW PR department yet again

At the end of last year we noted here that one of the political NGOs most quoted and promoted by the BBC during 2014 was Human Rights Watch (HRW). The media practice of uncritically amplifying press releases and reports put out by third parties – known as ‘churnalism‘ – is of course by no means limited to the BBC but the corporation’s editorial guidelines mean that, in contrast to other organisations, the BBC has an obligation to inform audiences of any political agenda and/or ideological affiliations which may have a bearing upon the impartiality of the information put out by the NGO concerned.  

It is well over five years since HRW’s founder blew the whistle on its obsessive, politically motivated focus on Israel. As has been noted on these pages on numerous occasions since last summer, HRW is one of a number of politically motivated NGOs engaged in the lawfare campaign against Israel. That background is obviously essential knowledge for any member of the BBC’s audience viewing, hearing or reading a report about Israel based on claims made by Human Rights Watch and yet time and time again, we see the BBC self-conscripting to the role of PR promoter for HRW ‘reports’ without any attempt being made to provide that crucial context.

Last month HRW produced yet another of its reports – this time on the topic of Thai agricultural workers in Israel. Having interviewed less than one per-cent of the total number of Thai nationals employed on Israeli farms (who, like all foreign workers, are of course protected by law), the NGO concluded that it had uncovered “serious abuse”.Schick art

Nine days after the publication of HRW’s report, an article appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Israel’s Thai farmworkers tell of grim plight“. The freelance writer of this article, Camilla Schick (who ironically claims to have done previous work on the issue of ‘churnalism’) makes no attempt to hide the fact that her article is based on the HRW report, with over a quarter of her word-count composed of amplification of its content or quotes from its author. Schick however devoted no words at all to informing readers of her main source’s record of anti-Israel political campaigning.

Another organization promoted, albeit to a lesser extent, in Schick’s report is Kav Laoved – also known as Workers’ Hotline. How Camilla Schick made contact with the mostly anonymous  Thai workers she interviewed for her report and whether or not HRW and/or Kav Laoved played any part in setting up those meetings is not clarified.

One of the main focuses of both the HRW report and Schick’s piece is an issue described in a sub-heading as “Unexplained deaths”. Schick writes:

“One of the most serious allegations concerns a number of farm-worker deaths.

Between 2008 and 2013, 122 Thai nationals died while employed on Israeli farms, according to government figures reported by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

The causes ranged from accidents, alcohol poisoning, heart failure and suffocation, to fire, suicide, beating and stabbing, Israel’s Ministry of Health says.

The ministry notes 43 of these deaths were due to “Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome” (Sunds), a rare condition, whose causes are little understood.

A further 22 deaths had no autopsy and were noted as “unexplained”.”

She then goes on to use a phone interview with a Thai worker and quotes from officials from the two NGOs highlighted in her report to suggest that the deaths may be connected to long working hours.

“They’re being worked incredibly long hours under incredibly hot conditions,” says HRW’s Nicholas McGeehan, who wrote the report.

“We’ve severe concerns that many are actually being worked to death, and that the Israeli authorities are not properly investigating the extent to which these deaths may be related to living and working conditions, instead falling back on an excuse that Thai workers are genetically predisposed to cardiac death.”

No attempt is made by Schick to properly explain the subject of SUNDS or to clarify to readers that absent from McGeehan’s CV is evidence of any medical training which would put him in the position of being able to make professional statements on that condition, which is also found among young men of South East Asian descent in other countries. As blogger Elder of Ziyon has already pointed out, HRW’s report includes some very questionable pseudo-medical allegations, which the report’s author has further amplified on social media.

HRW tweet 1

HRW tweet 2

HRW tweet 3

Camilla Schick shows no interest in carrying out any serious journalistic investigation of the allegations made by HRW and in fact her entire report is nothing more than an embellished amplification that NGO’s claims which once again highlights the cosy, symbiotic relationship between the media and politically motivated ‘human rights’ organisations – as portrayed in the tweet below from the author of the HRW report and contributor to Schick’s article.

HRW tweet 4

When a BBC article is based on unchallenged repetition of a HRW report and includes input from its author, it is of course to be entirely expected that such ‘journalism’ can be no more than an echo chamber giving publicity to the “same problems”. McGeehan knows that. Schick and the BBC know that. And yet audiences are being led to believe that this is independently sourced impartial news. 

BBC WS does promo for Human Rights Watch

As regular readers are no doubt well aware, one of the NGOs most frequently quoted and promoted by the BBC is Human Rights Watch. Despite the organisation’s regular appearances in content broadcast on a variety of BBC platforms, audiences are not informed of the many problematic aspects of its activities – as perhaps most famously publicised by its own founder five years ago – or of its political agenda.Outlook HRW

Notwithstanding the existence of BBC editorial guidelines requiring audiences to be provided with details of the “ideology” of interviewees and their organisations, no such information was given when, on October 30th, the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outlook’ devoted ten minutes of airtime to an interview with HRW’s Fred Abrahams. Titled “On The Frontline Against War Criminals”, the item is available from 0:44 here.

Obviously not unrelatedly – as is noted in the item – HRW is currently promoting a documentary film about its activities with the advertising material including the following:

“When atrocities are committed in countries held hostage by ruthless dictators, Human Rights Watch sends in the E-Team (Emergencies Team), a collection of fiercely intelligent individuals who document war crimes and report them to the world. Within this volatile climate, award-winning filmmakers Ross Kauffman and Katy Chevigny take us to the front lines in Syria and Libya, where shrapnel, bullet holes, and unmarked graves provide mounting evidence of atrocities by government forces. The crimes are rampant, random, and often unreported—making the E-Team’s effort to get information out of the country and into the hands of media outlets, policy makers, and international tribunals even more necessary.”

In addition to the BBC provided platform, Human Rights Watch also secured a slot in the fashion magazine ‘Elle’ for PR promotion of the film. The NGO’s executive director Kenneth Roth promoted that article on social media, revealing some interesting priorities with regard to the issue of subjugation of women in patriarchal societies. 

Tweet Ken Roth

Whilst there is of course no doubt that the world is in desperate need of human rights organisations, for such important work to be effective it must necessarily be free of political bias and motivations and must be carried out using flawless methodology. Unfortunately HRW’s record on those points is less than impeccable – a fact which the BBC, yet again, obviously did not consider to be need-to-know information for its audiences, even though their interests would clearly have been better served by an objective portrayal of the organisation.

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part four

In the first three installments of this post (see ‘related articles’ below) we documented BBC News website coverage of the first thirty days of Operation Protective Edge. Part four relates to the next ten days: August 7th to August 16th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately. Also not included in this chapter are three separate filmed reports about NHS activities (delegations to the region, donations of equipment) which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 9th, 11th and 12th.

August 7th:Chart Aug 7


Israel offers Gaza truce extension but Hamas has yet to agree

DEC launches Gaza emergency appeal

Israel Gaza: Mediators seek to extend truce in Cairo


Israelis along the Gaza Border keep calm and carry on  Lyse Doucet (discussed here)


Israeli army say main objective in Gaza achieved ‘completely’  Lyse Doucet in Israel (discussed here)

 Israel’s military strategy in Gaza under scrutiny  Paul Adams (discussed here)

Gaza awaits Israeli-Hamas truce talks verdict   Orla Guerin in Gaza

August 8th:Chart Aug 8

Written: (discussed here)

Gaza ceasefire ends as Israel reports rocket fire

Israel air strikes resume in Gaza amid rockets  


Graphic content: How media differ on use of Gaza images  BBC Monitoring

After the Gaza ceasefire: Hyper-tense and under fire   Wyre Davies (discussed here)

Caution needed with Gaza casualty figures  (discussed here, later amended, date changed – discussed here)

Gaza conflict: The hundreds who lost their lives  (discussed here)


Air strikes and rocket attacks after Gaza ceasefire ends  Orla Guerin in Gaza

BBC reports from blockaded Israel-Gaza border crossing   Wyre Davies at Kerem Shalom (discussed here)

‘We’ve seen and heard a number of explosions here in Gaza’  James Reynolds in Gaza (discussed here)

August 9th:Chart Aug 9


Gaza conflict: US and UN condemn new Gaza violence

Gaza air strikes ‘kill five’ as rockets hit Israel


Strikes resume in Gaza as ceasefire ends  Kevin Connolly in Gaza (discussed here)

Violence resumes is Gaza as truce comes to an end  James Reynolds in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel ‘very restrained’ with its offensive in Gaza  Danny Ayalon

August 10th:Chart Aug 10


Gaza conflict: Egypt seeks new Israel-Hamas ceasefire

Gaza conflict: New three-day ceasefire begins


New truce agreed in Gaza conflict  Orla Guerin in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel refuses to negotiate while ‘under fire’  Kevin Connolly in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Fears that talks in Cairo could collapse  Lyse Doucet

August 11th:Chart Aug 11


Gaza conflict: New three-day ceasefire holds

Gaza conflict: Fresh talks begin in Egypt


Gaza conflict: Families return home as Gaza ceasefire holds  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Mid-East crisis: Gazans hope for ‘open seas and borders’   Orla Guerin in Gaza (discussed here)

August 12th:Chart Aug 12


Israel export licences warning from UK

August 13th:


Six dead as Gaza disposal team tackles Israeli missile

Rocket fired from Gaza hits Israel

Filmed:Chart Aug 13

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres ‘seeks peace’ over Gaza  Wyre Davies interview with Shimon Peres

Gaza conflict: Allegations of war crimes  Orla Guerin in Gaza (discussed here)

Mid-East crisis: The blockade of Gaza – in 60 seconds  Michael Hirst (discussed here)

Israel, Palestinians ‘extend Gaza truce by five days’  Yolande Knell

August 14th:Chart Aug 14


Israel and Palestinians begin tense five-day Gaza truce  (discussed here)


Gaza conflict: Ceasefire extended by five days  Yolande Knell in Gaza

August 15th:

Written:Chart Aug 15

Jewish Chronicle apologises after running Gaza appeal advert   later amended and date changed (discussed here)


Yolande Knell meets Gazans working to restore utilities  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

August 16th:

Features:Chart Aug 16

Dutchman returns Holocaust medal after family deaths in Gaza  (discussed here and here)

Clearly the most striking aspect of this period of coverage of the conflict is the sudden decline in the number of reports produced by the BBC in comparison with the previous thirty days. Two factors contributed to that drop: like much of the foreign media the BBC apparently assumed that the August 5th ceasefire was going to hold and began moving journalists who do not normally cover the region, but had been ‘parachuted in’ to provide back up to its Jerusalem Bureau team, out of the area. Concurrently, the ISIS story in Iraq and Syria began to gather pace and resources were diverted to covering that issue.

The most obvious effect of those changes is that after the withdrawal of Israeli ground troops from the Gaza Strip on August 5th and despite the breakdown of the ceasefire of that date and the continuation of missile fire into Israel, BBC audiences saw only one filmed report depicting the situation as far as civilians in Israel were concerned between August 7th and August 16th. They did, however, see twelve filmed reports from the Gaza Strip during that period.

 Graph Aug 7 to Aug 16

By August 16th visitors to the BBC News website (and television audiences) had seen almost three times as much filmed coverage from the Gaza Strip as they had from Israel (37.5 reports compared to 100.5) since the beginning of the conflict.  

Graph Jul 8 to Aug 16

The major theme dominating BBC reporting during the period from August 7th to August 16th remained the vigorous amplification of Hamas’ demands concerning the lifting of border restrictions and the construction of a seaport. Missile attacks on Israel were severely under-reported or ignored and ceasefire violations by terrorist groups downplayed or distorted. The amplification of the agendas of NGOs engaged in political warfare against Israel continued, as did the promotion of claims of ‘war crimes’.

A particularly notable event during this period was the appearance of the article by the BBC News Head of Statistics on the issue of Gaza casualty figures after an entire month of context-free BBC citation of Hamas-supplied data. The fact that the article soon underwent changes which diluted its original message as a result of the application of outside political pressure is highly significant and of course reflects very badly on the BBC’s supposed commitment to accuracy and impartiality.

Related articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part three

BBC WS ‘Newshour’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

The BBC’s pictorial portrayal of conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip

‘From Our Own Correspondent’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’






More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO

On September 11th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israel orders criminal investigations into Gaza war incidents“.MAG art

The first half of the article indeed deals mostly with the headline’s stated subject matter: the investigations announced by the Military Attorney General the previous day.  The latter part of the report states:

“Israel is facing a series of steps in the international arena in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to take Israel to the International Criminal Court, while the UN Human Rights Council has set up a commission of inquiry into possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.”

Notably, the BBC refrains from pointing out to readers that the UN HRC commission’s mandate charges it with the investigation of “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”. In other words, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists on June 12th is not part of this already problematic investigation’s mandate.

But the most remarkable part of this article is its amplification – yet again – of claims made by the political NGO Human Rights Watch.

“New York-based Human Rights Watch carried out its own research into what it says were Israeli attacks that damaged UN schools in Beit Hanoun, Jabaliya and Rafah, killing a total of 45 people, including 17 children.

The human rights group says that the first two attacks “did not appear to target a military objective or were otherwise unlawfully indiscriminate” and that the third incident was “unlawfully disproportionate if not otherwise indiscriminate”.

It adds that “unlawful attacks carried out wilfully – that is deliberately or recklessly – are war crimes.” “

That report was published on September 11th – the same day as this BBC article – and, as readers can see for themselves here, it is based heavily on statements from local witnesses with no military expertise or qualifications with additional ‘evidence’ from equally unqualified media reports. Remarkably, yet predictably, HRW has managed to reach its self-declared “in-depth” conclusions without input from the IDF beyond what anyone could find in the public domain and without waiting for the results of professional investigations. Notably too, the HRW report includes evidence-free assumptions such as the following:

“It is highly unlikely that at least four of the inaccurate, unguided rockets used by Palestinian armed groups hit in and around the school within a few minutes.”

But beyond the fact that the BBC provides promotion and amplification for HRW’s ‘report’, what is noticeable is that once again it does so without informing BBC audiences that HRW is not a neutral human rights organization but one of several political NGOs currently engaged in lawfare against Israel.

Until the BBC begins to adhere to its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by ceasing the now commonplace practice of avoiding informing audiences of the political agenda of its preferred NGOs, it can only be considered as a self-conscripted party to that political warfare.

Related Articles:

Compromising public perceptions of BBC impartiality

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

BBC audiences again fobbed off with HRW press release presented as ‘news’

BBC audiences again fobbed off with HRW press release presented as ‘news’

On September 9th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel ‘coercing Eritreans and Sudanese to leave’” on its Middle East page and the main thing BBC audiences are able to learn from it is that a BBC staffer read a press release put out by the political NGO ‘Human Rights Watch’ on the same day.HRW PR art

The article is 555 words long, not including its headline, photo captions and sub-headings. It includes a recycled filmed report by Richard Galpin from January 2014 which was previously discussed here. One hundred and forty-five words of the report can be described as original BBC content; mostly dedicated to the response solicited from the Israeli foreign ministry. The other four hundred and ten words are rehashed statements from the HRW press release, as shown below.

BBC: “Israel is unlawfully coercing almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals into leaving the country at great personal risk, Human Rights Watch says.”

HRW: “Israeli authorities have unlawfully coerced almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals into returning to their home countries where they risk serious abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.”

BBC:  “They have been denied access to fair and efficient asylum procedures and detained unlawfully, a new report says.”

HRW: “Israeli authorities have labelled Eritreans and Sudanese a “threat”, branded them “infiltrators,” denied them access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and used the resulting insecure legal status as a pretext to unlawfully detain or threaten to detain them indefinitely, coercing thousands into leaving.”

BBC: “Eritreans and Sudanese began arriving in Israel through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in large numbers in 2006. By December 2012, about 37,000 Eritreans and 14,000 Sudanese had entered the country.”

HRW: “In 2006, Eritreans and Sudanese began arriving in Israel through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in large numbers, fleeing widespread human rights abuses in their countries. By the time Israel all but sealed off its border with Egypt in December 2012, about 37,000 Eritreans and 14,000 Sudanese had entered the country.”

BBC: “HRW says that over the past eight years, the Israeli authorities have employed various measures to encourage them to leave.”

HRW: “Over the past eight years, the Israeli authorities have applied various coercive measures to “make their lives miserable” and “encourage the illegals to leave,” in the words of former Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai and current Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, respectively. “

BBC: “They include “indefinite detention, obstacles to accessing Israel’s asylum system, the rejection of 99.9% of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum claims, ambiguous policies on being allowed to work, and severely restricted access to healthcare”, it alleges.”

HRW: “These include indefinite detention, obstacles to accessing Israel’s asylum system, the rejection of 99.9 percent of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum claims, ambiguous policies on being allowed to work, and severely restricted access to healthcare.”

BBC: “In September 2013, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that a 2012 amendment to an anti-infiltration law, which allowed for the indefinite detention of people for illegal entry, was unlawful.

In response, the Israeli parliament passed another amendment to the law in December that established the Holot facility in the remote Negev desert for those considered “infiltrators”.”

HRW: “Since June 2012, the Israeli authorities have indefinitely detained thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese for entering Israel irregularly, that is, without entering through an official border crossing. After the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in September 2013 that such detention was unlawful, the Israeli authorities responded by renaming their detention policy and began requiring Eritreans and Sudanese to live in the Holot “Residency Center” in Israel’s remote Negev desert in conditions which amount to detention despite the change in name.”

BBC: “Hundreds of Eritreans and Sudanese have since been ordered to report to the centre, where they live in conditions that HRW says breach international law on arbitrary detention.”

HRW: “Detaining people in Holot breaches the prohibition under international law on arbitrary detention because people are confined to a specific location where they cannot carry out their normal occupational and social activities.”

BBC: “The Israeli authorities say they are not detained because they can leave for a few hours at a time. However, they are required to report three times a day and to be in the centre at night. The only way for them to secure their release is to be recognised as a refugee or leave the country.”

HRW: “The only way for detainees to secure their release is to be recognized as a refugee.”

BBC: “In February 2013, Israel allowed Eritreans and Sudanese to lodge asylum claims in significant numbers. However, as of March 2014, the authorities had only reviewed slightly more than 450 “detainee” cases, and the rejection rate has been almost 100%, HRW says.”

HRW: “In February 2013, Israel allowed Eritreans and Sudanese to lodge asylum claims in significant numbers. However, as of March 2014, the authorities had only reviewed just over 450 detainees’ claims, while Israeli refugee lawyers said there was no evidence that the authorities had reviewed a single claim by Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers living in Israeli towns and cities. The rejection rate has been almost 100 percent.”

BBC: ” “Destroying people’s hope of finding protection by forcing them into a corner and then claiming they are voluntarily leaving Israel is transparently abusive,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.

“Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel are left with the choice of living in fear of spending the rest of their days locked up in desert detention centres or of risking detention and abuse back home.” “

HRW: “Destroying people’s hope of finding protection by forcing them into a corner and then claiming they are voluntarily leaving Israel is transparently  abusive,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Eritreans and Sudanese in Israel are left with the choice of living in fear of spending the rest of their days locked up in desert detention centers or of risking detention and abuse back home.”

BBC: “HRW says Israel is violating the international principle of “non-refoulement”, which forbids states from returning refugees and asylum seekers to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.”

HRW: “Eritrean and Sudanese nationals who agree to return from Israel to their own countries under threat of indefinite detention should be considered victims of refoulement, Human Rights Watch said. Refoulement, under international law, is the forcible return “in any manner whatsoever” of a refugee or asylum seeker to a risk of persecution, or of anyone to likely torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.”

There is of course a term for this sort of ‘news report’: churnalism.

“‘Churnalism’ is a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added.”

This is not the first time that the BBC has produced a churnalism piece based on a HRW press release and far from the first occasion on which the BBC has amplified the allegations of political NGOs without informing audiences of the part those organisations play in anti-Israel campaigning.  As has been noted here previously:

“[…] the sheer number of organisations putting out statements for use by the media makes it important for BBC journalists not just to make do with identifying the source of the press release, but also to inform readers of any political and/or ideological affiliations which may have a bearing upon the impartiality of the information put out by the organization concerned – as indeed they are required to do by the Editorial Guidelines with other outside contributors.”

Human Right Watch’s dismal record was called out by its founder in 2009. Its increasingly deteriorating reputation on Israel-related issues took further blows throughout the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip and it is one of several political NGOs currently conducting a lawfare campaign against Israel under the guise of ‘human rights’ – as the BBC should be well aware seeing as it has made its own contributions to that campaign.

And yet, rather than providing readers with the essential relevant information on HRW’s lack of objectivity which would enable them to place the NGO’s allegations (and motivations) on the very complex issue of African migrants in Israel into their correct context, the BBC once again self-conscripts to providing nothing more than parroted PR amplification for HRW’s politicised claims.

The British government’s Culture Secretary recently voiced the opinion that the size of the BBC suggests that more savings could be made and articles such as this add weight to Sajid Javid’s view. After all, rather than having a member of staff waste all that time rehashing HRW’s press release, the BBC News website could have shortened the process considerably by simply providing the link to it and adding “we think it’s super”. The end result as far as informing BBC audiences is concerned would clearly not have been any different. 


Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

On August 7th BBC World Affairs correspondent Paul Adams produced a filmed report for BBC television news which was also featured on the BBC News website under the title “Israel’s military strategy in Gaza under scrutiny“. The fact that the report has remained on the BBC News website for five consecutive days at the time of writing would suggest that the BBC is of the opinion that it contributes to audience understanding of events currently taking place in Israel and the Gaza Strip and indeed the report’s synopsis as it appears on the website looks promising.Paul Adams filmed 7 8 strategy

“The BBC’s Paul Adams examines the criticism being levelled at the Israeli military, whose leaders insist they are “trying to minimise the civilian impact”.”

But does Adams’ report do what it says on the tin? Does it really give BBC audiences any insight into the complexities of combat against terrorist organisations which have embedded themselves in a civilian environment? Does it help them understand the context and facts which lie behind the emotive images and commentary which BBC journalists have produced in exceptionally large quantities in the month preceding this report? Does Adams actually ‘examine’ the validity of allegations against Israel by providing viewers with the relevant legal and operational information? Unfortunately; no.

Adams opens his report thus:

“For a month two very different stories have been told about events in Gaza. One brutally simple: Palestinian civilians killed and injured in a furious Israeli assault from land, sea and air. But Israel says this was not the plan, its military putting out videos showing attacks aborted when civilians are spotted nearby and pointing out that Palestinian militants have fired rockets from within populated areas, knowing Israel’s response may harm the innocent.”

At this point it would of course have been helpful to BBC audiences to receive some information on the topic of the legal aspects of the Gaza Strip terrorists’ policy of using residential areas for missile fire, launching attacks on Israeli troops, weapons storage and so forth. Like all BBC reporting to date, this report too fails to provide that crucial information. Adams continues:

“Israel would like us to focus on images like this: smart, high-tech weapons doing what they’re designed to do – hitting a rocket launcher, flying through the window of a militant. But the army has also fired thousands of artillery rounds into the Gaza Strip from Howitzers stationed just outside and these are much less smart. They’re incredibly destructive. Anyone standing within 100 meters of an explosion is almost bound to die.”

Accurate and impartial reporting of this topic would also have informed viewers that, for example, the M-109  (which, insofar as it is possible to tell, would appear to be what the images selected by Adams for his report show) uses a GPS system which – in accordance with IDF rules of engagement – prevents fire in the event of a discrepancy of over 50 meters between the target and the calculated trajectory. Such relevant information would, however, have spoiled the next part of Adams’ report in which he provides a platform for accusations of “indiscriminate” fire from Bill Van Esveld of the political NGO Human Rights Watch. If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Van Esveld has something of a history of speculative allegations concerning Israel.

“If you’re talking about a densely crowded urban environment you can go ahead and target your enemies there but the IDF has extremely precise missiles. It has other weapons available to it and there is just no excuse for launching that kind of inherently indiscriminate weapon into that kind of environment.”

The Oxford dictionary defines indiscriminate as “done at random or without careful judgement”. Artillery fire which is controlled by GPS and each calculated trajectory triple checked manually in addition (as Paul Adams would know had he bothered to investigate the subject of IDF rules of engagement at all) is not “indiscriminate” even when – as is inevitable with even the best of systems – errors occur. Were the IDF really firing artillery ‘indiscriminately’ – i.e. at random – at “a densely crowded urban environment”, of course the casualty rate would have been many times higher. Most viewers of this report will, however, not have the adequate military experience to know that and Paul Adams makes no attempt to provide that information. He continues:

“Several artillery rounds crashed into a UN school at the Jabaliya refugee camp last Wednesday. More than three thousand Palestinians were sheltering there. Twenty-one were killed. Israel said Palestinian militants were firing nearby.”

Notably, Adams yet again passes up the opportunity at this point to inform viewers of the legal significance of the fact that Hamas set up a firing position next to a UN school being used to shelter civilians. Next comes a short interview with IDF spokesman Peter Lerner.

“We are operating under extreme conditions in a reality where the other side has no regard for this situation. We are trying to minimize the civilian impact. We are warning civilians to vacate specific areas but indeed there can be collateral damage; not that we are trying to do that. We are trying to contain the situation but we are, you know, we are striking these terrorists.”

 Adams goes on to promote the following unverified linkage:

“Israeli troops entered the Gaza Strip ten days into Operation Protective Edge. By now around 300 Palestinians had already been killed but in the days that followed the death toll rose dramatically – as did the use of artillery.

The report then returns to the HRW representative:

“We’ve seen reports of large amounts of heavy artillery that came down including during times when IDF ground forces got pinned down unexpectedly. The issue is, you know, what are your targeting policies and when are you going to bring down very heavy attacks on populated areas in a disproportionate or indiscriminate way?”

Adams concludes:

“Israel says it’ll investigate allegations of improper behavior by its forces but it disputes utterly the suggestion it may have committed war crimes.”

He refrains from informing viewers that the Military Attorney General (MAG) investigates all allegations as a matter of course.

“Disproportionate”; “indiscriminate”; “war crimes”: Paul Adams has managed to insert into this report some of the key buzz words used by politically motivated NGOs in their allegations against Israel. However, he makes no real attempt to provide viewers with the necessary information regarding the practices of the terrorist organisations operating in the Gaza Strip which is crucial context for any examination of the validity of any of those accusations.

Neither does Adams bother to tell audiences that his star interviewee from Human Rights Watch – around which the entire report is based – is actually a representative of an organization currently involved in a lawfare campaign against Israel. [emphasis added]

“Following Israel’s response to hundreds of attacks launched from Gaza, the network of international, Palestinian, and Israeli-Arab NGOs have initiated a campaign to replicate the discredited “Goldstone process” of political warfare against Israel, including:

calling for UN and international “fact-finding missions” to investigate alleged Israeli “war crimes and crimes against humanity”;

lobbying for International Criminal Court (ICC) “war crimes” cases against Israeli officials;

promoting arms embargos against Israel.

The NGOs leading this campaign include Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, FIDH, a coalition of Palestinian NGOs (including Al-Haq, Al Mezan, Badil, Defence for Children International- Palestine Section, Palestinian Center for Human Rights), and of Israeli-Arab NGOs (such as the NIF-funded Adalah and Mossawa).”

This is not the first time since Operation Protective Edge commenced that we have seen the BBC providing publicity for political NGOs pursuing a lawfare campaign against Israel. Earlier examples were documented here and the unquestioned amplification of allegations made by Amnesty International in at least three recent articles on its website (see here and here) also belongs in the same category.

Paul Adams did not make any effort to “summarise the standpoint” and aims of Bill Van Esveld and his organization for viewers – in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines. He also made no real attempt to ‘examine’ the validity of Van Esveld’s allegations but instead only repeated and amplified them.

The fact that the BBC has repeatedly over the past few weeks provided publicity, promotion and amplification for the agendas of the cluster of political NGOs operating under the halo of ‘human rights’ but actually engaged in anti-Israel campaigning through ‘lawfare’, is one which is completely incompatible with the BBC’s commitment – and obligation – to impartial reporting and turns it into an active contributor to that campaign.

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Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel