More BBC amplification of Hamas ‘siege’ propaganda

On July 24th the BBC News website’s Middle East page featured an excerpt from what it termed an “exclusive” ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al who of course resides very comfortably in Qatar.Hardtalk mashaal

If audiences were expecting the BBC’s representative Stephen Sackur to fulfil the corporation’s mission of cutting through Hamas slogans and propaganda in order to bring them accurate and impartial information which would help them reach informed opinions and enable them to “participate in the global debate on significant international issues“, they would have been sorely disappointed.

Stephen Sackur: “What would it take for Hamas to sign on to a ceasefire now?”

Khaled Masha’al: We want a ceasefire as soon as possible that’s parallel with the lifting of the siege on Gaza. This is the demand of the Gazan people. I call on the UN, the UK and the US to go to the Gazan people and ask them what they want. I can guarantee that will be the answer of the Gazan people.”

SS: “What the Americans seem to be working on is a two-stage deal where there will be a truce – where the guns, the rockets, will stop firing – and then there will be a serious negotiation about how to boost the Gazan economy, how to ease the blockade on Gaza and to give the people of Gaza a better life. Are you prepared to accept a two-stage solution to this?”

KM: “Regardless of the mechanisms, what is important to me is there should be a genuine guarantee to lift the siege on Gaza. These promises have been made in the past but nothing was done. Gaza is part of the Palestinian land. We have 1.8 million people. They need to live without a blockade. We want an airport. We want a port. We want to open up to the world. We don’t want to be controlled by a border crossing that makes Gaza the biggest prison in the world. People cannot go for medical treatment or to work. Why are the people of Gaza being punished with a slow death in the world’s biggest prison? This is a crime. We want a halt in the aggression and the end of the siege. We are eager that the bloodshed should end in Gaza.”

SS: “You talk of resistance. How can any idea of resistance justify putting rockets in a school building?”

“KM: “Frankly speaking this is a lie. Let Israel show where the rocket launchers are in Gaza.”

SS: “In respect, this is not something that has come from Israel. This is the UN relief and Works Agency which has said that up to 20 rockets were deposited in a school building inside Gaza. They are furious. The Secretary General of the United Nations has expressed his outrage. He said those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets and endangering the lives of innocent children.”

KM: “This is not true. Rocket launchers in Gaza belong to the resistance. They are underground and Israel is unable to reach them. This is why it pretends they are in civilian areas. Israel is hitting hospitals, mosques, towers and buildings. It committed a massacre in Shuja’iyeh, Tufah district. There is a new massacre in Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis, that the world has witnessed this morning. This is butchery in Gaza and the world is sitting idle and it blames Hamas.”

Now obviously Khaled Masha’al is lying (unhindered) through his teeth in every single answer here and – difficult as it must be to interview a compulsive liar so disconnected from reality – if the BBC is not going to challenge Masha’al’s blatant falsehoods and cut through his propaganda, then the obvious question must be what journalistic value does such an interview have in the first place?

Questions Stephen Sackur could and should have asked Masha’al in order to provide BBC audiences with some insight into this issue include:

If Israel and Egypt lift the blockade and ease border restrictions, will Hamas rearm itself with missiles and weapons imported from Iran, Libya and elsewhere as it has done in the past? Will it import concrete and other materials in order to reconstruct its attack tunnel network currently being destroyed by the IDF? Will foreign aid money for the rehabilitation of Gaza be commandeered for reconstruction of terrorist infrastructure? 

If Hamas is so worried about the effects of the blockade on the people of Gaza, why did it not stop carrying out acts of terrorism itself and facilitating terrorism by other groups which are the reason for the implementation and continuation of the blockade and border restrictions?

Why did Hamas breach the ceasefire agreement of November 2012 and why did it initiate this current escalation?

If you, Khaled Masha’al, reach a ceasefire agreement with Israel, can you ensure that Mohammed Deif will honour it and do you – based as you are in Qatar – actually have any control over Hamas’ armed militia?

Why should Israel open its borders and allow people from Gaza to work in Israel given the history of terror attacks and suicide bombings carried out by workers from Gaza in the past?

Are you eager to stop the bloodshed in Israel as well as in Gaza? Will you stop all acts of terror against Israelis for good?

Sackur, however, failed to present anything approaching a robust challenge to Masha’al’s blatant lies. Hence, this interview joins the previous items of BBC content in the category of one-sided, context-free promotion and amplification of Hamas’ demands.

Related Articles:

‘Hardtalk’ presenter gets reality check from Khaled Masha’al

BBC avoids giving audiences the whole picture on Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands

There is nothing novel about BBC misrepresentation of Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and the restrictions placed on the entry of dual-use goods to that territory. However, that topic now moves into the limelight once again because one of the demands put forward by Hamas – and, significantly, now backed by the PA – is the lifting of the blockade as a pre-condition for a ceasefire to bring an end to the current hostilities.

” “We reject the cycle of ceasefire and negotiations,” said Hamas’ political chief Khaled Mashal on Wednesday night at a press conference in Qatar. “We rejected it today and we will reject it in the future.”

Mashal said the Gaza-based group “would not accept an initiative that does not include lifting the blockade. Today Israel is worried about what happened at Ben Gurion Airport. Do you want a blockade in return for the blockade? Today the resistance in Gaza can blockade you, in the future it will from the West Bank.”

“You blockade our air space, we will blockade your air space,” threatened Mashal.”

That Hamas demand, among others, has been voiced numerous times over the past couple of weeks, but notably recent days have seen it being amplified – and justified – in BBC coverage along with the concurrent and similar Hamas demand regarding the border with Egypt.

On July 22nd Lyse Doucet was to be found in Rafah. The filmed report she produced – aired on BBC Television news and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza: Why is Rafah crossing so important?” – opens with an airbrushed explanation as to why that crossing has been closed for much of the last year or so, in much the same way as her colleague Yolande Knell reported on the same topic last August.Crossings Rafah Doucet

“Rafah crossing. Gaza’s only opening to the world which isn’t controlled by Israel. But the road to Egypt has been all but shut for the past year. Relations between Hamas and Egypt are badly strained.”

Notably, Doucet makes no mention of the Gaza Strip-based Salafist groups which have committed acts of terrorism in Egypt’s northern Sinai area and no effort is made to present the Egyptian viewpoint.

After some scenes of people unable to cross the border, Doucet tells viewers:

“A crossing like this is a relief valve for the people of Gaza. For most who live here this is their only way out, which is why during these difficult ceasefire talks, opening the road to Egypt is one of the main demands.”

Later Doucet turns her attentions elsewhere.

“Israeli attacks are striking at the very core of Gaza life. Water pipes, electricity lines, sewage systems have been hit and hit.”

Doucet of course refrains from informing viewers that on at least two occasions since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, terrorists in Gaza have cut off the electricity by damaging power lines with missiles fired at Israel and that – despite ongoing attacks – technicians from the Israel Electric Corporation went out to repair those high voltage lines. Other repair operations to infrastructure in the Gaza Strip carried out by Israel can be followed in COGAT’s daily updatesCrossings  repairs

Doucet goes on:

“Even before this war most Gazans didn’t have running water or more than a few hours of electricity. A seven-year Israeli blockade – ever since Hamas came to power – is paralysing the economy. Israel says it’s a security measure but it’s choking life here.”

Here we see yet another BBC report erroneously attributing problems in the Gaza Strip exclusively to Israel’s policies when in fact – like the shortages of medicines – the issues with electricity and fuel supply have nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with internal Hamas-Fatah disputes.

Not only does Doucet imply to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the real reasons for Israel’s policy with her use of the phrase “Israel says it’s a security measure”, but she fails to inform them that those policies – in fact implemented three months after Hamas carried out its violent coup in the Gaza Strip – were a direct response to escalating Hamas terror attacks.

So, Doucet erases the core issue of terror against both Egypt and Israel from the picture she presents to audiences of border restrictions affecting the Gaza Strip. She closes with this context-free promotion of Hamas messaging:

“In Gaza today they were clearing rubble again. War has made life much harder. But for Gazans ending the war must mean easing the blockade, otherwise life itself is just a long battle to survive.”

The day after that report, July 23rd, viewers of BBC television news saw another one by Yolande Knell which was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East crisis: Normal life on hold in Gaza“. That report found Knell once again visiting a market in Gaza.Crossings knell filmed

“The market here is really one of the only places you can find a lot of people. We’ve been asking them what do they want from a ceasefire deal.”

Woman: “To lift the siege, open the borders of Gaza and to let everything in. And free the prisoners from Israeli jails. This is the most important part of the conditions.”

Man: “Open the borders, have a – you know – promise from Israel that they will not do this what they did again. We want our rights, we want our freedom, we want our state. We want to be safe from their jets and their rockets.”

Knell continues:

“One positive sign for the truce efforts has been general support for Hamas’ demands from the other Palestinian factions. I’ve been to see Fatah parliamentarian Faisal Abu Shahla.

Abu Shahla: “They decided that…to accept the Egyptian initiative but at the same time that the requirements for the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, should be achieved.”

She closes:

“Everywhere you look in Gaza there’s so much evidence of the death and destruction that this latest fighting has brought and that’s why people here are really insisting that any deal to bring peace should be comprehensive and long-term.”

Yet again, no effort whatsoever is made to explain to BBC audiences how the actions of  terror organisations from the Gaza Strip caused two neighbouring countries to implement policies to protect their own citizens.

Recent written BBC reports on the same topic have been no better. An article titled “Gaza conflict: Abbas backs Hamas ceasefire demands” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 23rd opens:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has backed calls by Hamas for an end to the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip as a condition for a ceasefire.”

It later goes on to state:

“Hamas, which is dominant in Gaza, says it will not agree to a ceasefire that does not allow for freer movement of goods and people across its borders.

Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the new unity government backed by Hamas and Fatah, said it was time to end what he said was the cycle of unrelenting suffering for the Palestinians.

“We demand justice for our people, who everyday and since the beginning of the Israeli occupation have been subject to the occupation for 47 years,” he said.

“It’s time for this aggression to stop and it’s time for this siege to stop.”

Mr Abbas, a co-founder of Fatah, also chairs the Palestine Liberation Organisation, an umbrella group which has endorsed Hamas’s ceasefire demands.

Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.”

Israel has of course not occupied the Gaza Strip for nine years, but that point is not clarified to readers. Again, no mention is made of the fact that it was the escalation of Palestinian terrorism following the June 2007 Hamas coup which caused the Israeli government to declare the Gaza Strip a hostile territory in September 2007.

This article also includes further promotion of the falsehood that the shortage of medicines in the Gaza Strip is caused by Israeli policies by including the item broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live on the same day.Crossings 5 live item

An additional article titled “Hamas says Gaza blockade must end before ceasefire” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th begins:

“The leader of Islamist militant group Hamas has said there can be no ceasefire to ease the conflict in Gaza without an end to Israel’s blockade.

Khaled Meshaal said Hamas would continue to reject a lasting ceasefire until its conditions were met.”

Later on it states:

“In addition to lifting the eight-year economic blockade, Mr Meshaal’s list of demands also included the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

“We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices,” Khaled Meshaal told reporters at a news conference in Qatar on Wednesday.”

Yet again no information is given to readers regarding the terror attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas and other terrorist organisations which brought about the restrictions.

“Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.”

Another article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th under the title “Gaza: Hamas seeks to emerge stronger” was written by Yolande Knell. One of many notable features of that report is yet another inadvertent documentation of the fact that Hamas uses civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields.Crossings Knell written

“The only place where we have been able to approach Hamas spokesmen is at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where they make periodic appearances.”

Another is Knell’s now habitual misrepresentation of Hamas’ international designation as a terrorist organization.

“Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist organisation; the group’s founding charter is committed to the destruction of the Israeli state.”

Knell too presents a portrayal of Israeli policy which completely erases the Hamas terrorism which brought it about:

“They [Hamas] consistently demand that any ceasefire deal must include a release of prisoners from Israeli jails and an easing of the border restrictions imposed on Gaza by both Israel and Egypt.

“Until now we are under a complete suffocating siege and embargo. They have isolated Gaza from the world,” says spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum. “There’s no justification of this crime.”

A blockade of the Palestinian territory was tightened after Hamas seized control of it in 2007, a year after winning legislative elections.”

Gaza Strip-based terrorism against Egypt is also seriously downplayed in Knell’s account and the smuggling of weapons through tunnels under the Rafah border is erased.

“Meanwhile Egypt’s military-backed governments have always had a testy relationship with Hamas because of its ideological links with the country’s Muslim Brotherhood. […]

Hamas wants Egypt to reopen fully the Rafah border crossing. It has said it will not stop fighting until there is a full agreement on the table. […]

Since the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from office a year ago, Rafah, Gaza’s main gateway to the world, has been kept shut most of the time.

The Egyptian military has also closed down the network of hundreds of Hamas-licensed smuggling tunnels that ran under its border. These provided a lifeline to the coastal enclave and provided Hamas with vital funds.

The new government in Cairo accuses Hamas of supporting Islamist militants in its restless Sinai region along the Gaza border; a charge it denies.”

Knell provides readers with some ‘man in the Gaza street’ opinions:

“When Egypt offered the deal, the Israelis picked it up but to be honest for the Palestinians it seemed like a trap,” says Ibrahim, from Gaza City. “People want commercial crossings reopened. We want to go back to a normal life.”

“We need a ceasefire that will give us our human rights and end the siege,” a charity worker, Haneen tells me. “We want the Rafah crossing opened so that we can travel again.”

So as we see, five separate items of content over three consecutive days have presented BBC audiences with information on the issue of Hamas’ pre-condition for a ceasefire which exclusively portrays the Hamas view of border restrictions. None of those reports has given readers or viewers an accurate account of how, when and why both Egypt and Israel adopted policies concerning their borders with the Gaza Strip. The terrorism which brought about those policies has not even been mentioned and no explanation has been given regarding the vital role played by the naval blockade and border restrictions in curbing the flow of missiles and other weapons to the Gaza Strip.

Clearly, BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions or “participate in the global debate” on this very topical subject without that vital information and context.  But the repeated promotion and amplification of inaccurate, politically motivated claims of shortages of medicines and food in the Gaza Strip because of Israeli policies which we have seen across many BBC platforms in the past few days suggests that the BBC has no intention of providing comprehensive, accurate and impartial reporting on this topic and that intends instead to use emotive partial accounts to amplify the same version of the story as is promoted by Hamas. 

 

BBC TV news airs claim that Gazans are being deliberately starved to death by Israel

BBC audiences might very reasonably expect that studio-produced backgrounders would be capable of meeting editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality more easily than reports produced under pressure in the field. Apparently that is not the case.

A filmed report by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner which was broadcast on BBC television news programmes and also featured on the BBC News website on July 22nd under the over-hyped title “Why is Middle East truce so hard to broker?“, once again promoting the erroneous and ridiculous notion that the current conflict between Israel and Hamas is the most important – and only – thing going on in the Middle East.Gardner filmed 22 7

Gardner opens:

“Grief and mourning spread across two communities – Israeli and Palestinian – although the death toll in Gaza is twenty times higher than that suffered by Israel.”

No attempt whatsoever is made to explain to audiences why that is the case. Israel’s extensive investment in civilian defence gets no mention and of course, in common with BBC practice throughout the last two weeks, viewers are not told how Hamas’ policy of using the local population as human shields by storing weapons in residential neighbourhoods and firing missiles from those locations guarantees a higher civilian death toll on the Palestinian side. Gardner goes on:

“This is carnage on a horrific scale. Over 600 Palestinians have been killed so far. The UN says that three-quarters of them are civilians. Thirty Israelis have also died – most of them military.”

Notably, Israelis die whilst Palestinians get killed. Gardner fails to inform audiences of the dubious sources of the figures and ratio he cites and of course also refrains from noting that the BBC has not independently verified those figures. He continues:

“This mounting death toll has prompted an international outcry. So, just why can’t the fighting be stopped? The diplomatic deadlock over Gaza stems from the two sides’ demands being apparently irreconcilable. But what do they actually want? Israel has one primary aim: for no more rockets to be fired from Gaza onto Israeli towns. Its prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made a pledge to stop the rocket attacks. He sent troops into Gaza to blow up the supply tunnels being used by Hamas militants to hide them.” [emphasis added]

You might think that the BBC’s chief security correspondent would know the difference between the various types of tunnels in the Gaza Strip, but obviously that is not the case. The prime aim of the Israeli ground operation is not to “blow up the supply tunnels” on the Gaza/Egypt border (most of which have already been put out of action by Egypt in its own struggle against Islamist and Jihadist terror), but to neutralise the attack tunnels along the border with Israel, some of which have already been used to carry out infiltrations into Israeli territory with the intention of carrying out mass terror attacks on civilians.

“There are three types of tunnel, experts say. The first are economic: hundreds of tunnels burrowing into Egypt, which allowed Hamas to funnel in resources, guns and rockets until the Egyptians sealed off many of them.

Another set of tunnels reportedly services the Hamas high command. “Every single leader of Hamas, from its lowest ranking bureaucrats to its most senior leaders, is intimately familiar with the route to the security tunnel assigned to him and his family,” al-Monitor reported. “The most senior leadership has its own specific tunnel.”

The last kind is allegedly driving the Israeli invasion: tunnels that can carry Hamas militants under the Gaza border and into Israel.”

But that is not the only inaccuracy in the BBC’s security expert’s report. After footage of the Israeli prime minister speaking, Gardner turns to presentation of the Hamas point of view, but fails to tell viewers that it is the activities of terrorists of various stripes in the Gaza Strip which prompted both Egypt and Israel to introduce means to secure their borders with that territory. Thus, audiences are mistakenly led to believe that “the blockade on Gaza” is a product of neighbouring governments being “hostile”.

“Now Hamas have one overriding aim and that’s to end the blockade on Gaza, hemmed in as it is by hostile governments in Israel and Egypt. Its leadership also wants the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but Hamas are in a tight corner.”

Hamas actually demands the release of convicted terrorists who were released under the terms of the Shalit deal in 2011, but rearrested during the search for the murderers of three Israeli teenagers last month.

The report then cuts to a filmed interview with Fawaz Gergas of the LSE who says:

“Hamas is basically forced to choose between death by starvation – slow death – because you have a twin siege by Israel and Egypt of Hamas – of Gaza – or basically a fight to the end.”

The Oxford dictionary defines a siege as follows:

“A military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender”

Rather than cutting off essential supplies, Israel actually goes to great lengths to facilitate their entry into the Gaza Strip, even whilst under fire from the terrorist organisations based there. In fact, just since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge two weeks ago, eight hundred and sixty-four truckloads of supplies and humanitarian aid have entered the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing. Armies conducting a siege usually do not supply the ‘besieged’ with electricity, cooking gas, fuel and medical care as Israel does. 

Clearly, there is no “siege” of Gaza as Gergas inaccurately states. Neither are the residents of the Gaza Strip under threat of “death by starvation” as can be seen in Yolande Knell’s frequent reports from markets.  

The editorial decision to include the inaccurate, misleading, demonising and obviously politically motivated falsehoods promoted by Fawaz Gergas in this report is a very grave matter indeed and – unless we choose to believe that Frank Gardner and his editors are shockingly ignorant and incompetent – can only stem from the BBC’s own political motivations. 

 

Some BBC bright spots and the remarkable reaction of a presenter confronted with reality

They may be few and far between, but there are some bright spots among the BBC’s reporting of Operation Protective Edge.

After its initial failure to provide audiences with any sort of comprehensive background on the subject of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels (see here and here) and following the distinctly inadequate “Gaza ‘terror tunnels’ in 60 secs” video report, the BBC News website finally got round to publishing a proper backgrounder on the topic on July 22nd titled “Gaza: How Hamas tunnel network grew“. Television and radio audiences – the majority – are obviously in need of a similar backgrounder.Simpson filmed 21 7

Some BBC journalists have suggested in their recent reports that the rising number of soldiers killed is changing Israeli views of Operation Protective Edge. In a filmed report from July 21st, for example, John Simpson opined:

“Israel’s losses are mounting sharply. Nothing remotely like the losses on the Palestinian side, but deeply disturbing for Israelis all the same. […]

Israel isn’t used to losing soldiers on such a scale and pictures like these are starting to have a powerful effect on public opinion.”

How Simpson reached that conclusion (or the sadly incorrect notion that “Israel isn’t used to losing soldiers on such a scale”) is unclear.

It was therefore helpful to see some properly informed analysis of the Israeli mood on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in the form of an article by Gil Hoffman titled “Why Israelis are rallying behind latest Gaza campaign“.

Among the subjects still missing from the BBC’s coverage is some in-depth coverage of the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and the way in which that deliberate policy contributes to the high number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. Without that essential knowledge, BBC audiences will still be unable to reach informed conclusions regarding this particular international issue. One attempt to shed some light on that issue was made by Barak Seener of the Royal United Services Institute in an interview with BBC World News on July 21st – with a remarkable reaction from the presenter when presented with an expert opinion (which is presumably what the BBC sought when it invited the specific interviewee) on the realities underpinning Hamas strategy.

“That is obviously a very…ah…controversial thing to say and many people will refute that the leadership of Hamas want to see their own people, supporters, women and children killed…ah…unnecessarily…”

BBC’s Chris Morris misquotes the Israeli prime minister

On July 20th yet another of the BBC correspondents who have been ‘parachuted in’ to provide backing to the regular team made a filmed report for BBC television news. Europe correspondent Chris Morris’ report also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers and 87 Gazans killed” and there the synopsis promotes unsourced casualty figures –  with no evidence of independent verification by the BBC – which once again fail to make any distinction between civilian and terrorist combatant casualties.Chris Morris 20 7

“Gaza suffered the highest death toll since the offensive began, with at least 87 people reported killed on Sunday – 67 of them in one area.”

Morris says:

“Well those thirteen soldiers were killed in several incidents overnight in and around Shuja’iya. I think it shows that they ran into fierce resistance from Hamas fighters in that district. And to put it into contact [sic], losing thirteen soldiers in one day that’s more than Israel lost in a three-week military campaign the last time it went into Gaza on the ground in 2008/2009. So it will be a big shock that number to Israeli society.

Of course it’s considerably less though than the number of Palestinian civilians who’ve been killed in the same 24 hour period. The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaking in an interview with BBC Arabic said he regretted every single BBC casualty. But he sometimes seems to tailor his message to the specific audiences. In one interview with American television he accused Palestinians of using telegenically dead civilians for propaganda purposes.”

So what is Morris implying here? Well, he suggests first of all that the Israeli prime minister’s expression of regret for civilian casualties during his interview with BBC Arabic is not sincere since – according to Morris – his statements are “tailored” to the audience at the time. Morris than goes on to misrepresent what PM Netanyahu said in an interview with Fox News – as readers can see for themselves here. What was actually said is this:

“When you take a surgical operation you can’t guarantee when your soldiers are being fired from Hamas homes – that is Hamas is targeting people from private homes – and you hit them back, of course some people are going to be hurt. That’s totally different from deliberately targeting them. And you know what? The forces that went into Shuja’iya – this place where there are tunnels in homes; we have to clear out the homes – Hamas puts the civilians – the Palestinian civilians – there. We go out to ferret out rocketeers and anti-tank rocket fire. Hamas puts civilians there. We asked these civilians – before we went in – we said please leave. We text them, we call them on cellphones, we drop leaflets. We told them where to go. And those who left were safe. Now those who didn’t leave – you know why they didn’t leave? Because Hamas told them to be there. Because Hamas – while we try to avoid Palestinian civilian dead – Hamas wants Palestinian civilian dead – the more the better – so it can give you telegenic fodder. So this is the cruelest, most grotesque war that I’ve ever seen. I mean not only does Hamas target civilians – ours – and hides behind their civilians – theirs – it actually wants to pile up as many civilian deaths as possible.” [emphasis added]

Clearly then Morris’ claim that PM Netanyahu “accused Palestinians of using telegenically dead civilians for propaganda purposes” is inaccurate. In fact, Netanyahu said that Hamas – not Palestinians in general – has an interest in creating high numbers of civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. But like the rest of his colleagues, Chris Morris does not seem to be interested in informing BBC audiences about the reality of Hamas’ use of human shields

Of course contrary to Morris’ insinuation, that statement does not in any way contradict Netanyahu’s expression of regret for civilian casualties.

And what of Morris’ claim that PM Netanyahu “seems to tailor his message to the specific audiences” and the ensuing implication of the insincerity of the message?  Well apparently Morris was not listening closely enough to that July 20th interview with BBC Arabic. Here is the relevant excerpt from the transcript of that interview – which as readers will see is actually very similar both in content and in style to the one given to a US TV station.

“PM: I regret and the people of Israel regret any civilian casualty, even one. We target the rocketeers. We target Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. In this particular area, it’s a stronghold, it’s a terrorist stronghold. They manufacture the rockets there; they store the rockets there; they fire the rockets there – over a hundred rockets have been fired from this area to the cities of Israel. They also dig terror tunnels, attack tunnels under the homes, where they store the rockets. They build attack tunnels that penetrate into Israel’s side and kill Israeli civilians. They try to get into kindergartens, into schools, kibbutzim, and murder people and kidnap people like Gilad Shalit. This is what we face, so we want to go in there and clean it up so that we are safe, yet in the course of doing that, we have to go into densely civilian, civilian populated areas. We ask the population: Leave. We ask them again and again. We call them up. We text them messages. We give leaflets. We ask them to leave. Hamas says – and some of them do leave. Hamas says: Don’t leave. We forbid you to leave. So Hamas is using these people, these civilians, as a human shield to protect its missiles. They don’t care about the people of Gaza. They want the people of Gaza to die. They want them to die telegenically so they can use them to protect themselves while they’re underground. They’re underground. Their leader, Khaled Mashal, is roaming around the Gulf States in five-star hotels. They don’t care about the people of Gaza. So I want to use this opportunity and speak to the people of Gaza: Heed the warnings of the IDF or the Israeli army; leave your homes to the places where you’re told to go. Leave. Don’t stay there because Hamas wants you to die and you shouldn’t die for Hamas. They don’t care about you but we want you to be safe.” [emphasis added]

So much for BBC accuracy and impartiality.   

 

 

 

BBC’s Simpson admires Hamas engineering ‘feat’ and ignores its intended victims

A filmed report for BBC television news from July 21st – supposedly one of the BBC’s never abundant but now increasingly rare ‘Israeli point of view’ pieces – was presented by John Simpson and it appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Clashes go on as Israel holds funerals for the dead“. Simpson, we are told in the synopsis, “sent this report from Sderot on Israel’s border with Gaza”.Simpson Sderot 21 7

Kibbutz Nir Am – which was the target of the attempted terrorist infiltration addressed at the beginning of Simpson’s report –  is within easy walking distance of Sderot but nevertheless, Simpson apparently saw nothing newsworthy in going to talk to any of the people there who have been living under the terror of missiles for well over a decade and who now face the new threat of underground terrorist infiltrations – literally in their own  backyard.

Simpson opens his report with a statement which provides a good example of what happens when journalists are ‘parachuted in’ to Israel to provide extra manpower in times of a major event. No-one with even the slightest awareness of what preceded the current escalation and life in the Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip during the past decade could possibly talk in terms of a “quiet landscape”.

JS: “Beneath this quiet landscape between Gaza and Israel, Hamas has been working away for months – sometimes years – digging tunnels. At six this morning an Israeli team watched from hiding as Hamas infiltrators dug their way to the surface and opened fire. But they didn’t stand a chance. At least ten members of the Hamas team were killed.”

Simpson makes no attempt to inform viewers of what the aim of that infiltration was, ridiculously downplaying its lethal intention with his flippant “they didn’t stand a chance” quip. Having apparently decided that the intended civilian victims of that infiltration are of no interest, he goes on to admire Hamas’ engineering skills, but fails to inform audiences of the schools, housing and hospitals Hamas fails to construct for its population instead or of where the materials and money for these “feats” comes from.

“These tunnels are impressive: a real feat of engineering. The BBC was allowed to film inside this one recently after it was discovered. The Israelis afterwards make sure the tunnels can’t be used again.

A few hours after this morning’s operation against the Hamas infiltrators, a top government minister came to congratulate the soldiers who’d carried it out. Tsipi Livni is the most dovish member of the Israeli cabinet; plainly worried about the casualties on both sides.”

In a remarkable display of the worth of that famous BBC commitment to ‘impartiality’, Simpson then says to Livni:

“I have to say it to you in these terms: are you going to carry on killing civilians – including women and children in quite large numbers – until you get what you want?”

Livni: “We are not looking for civilians to kill. We are trying to avoid this. And if you think that we want to send our soldiers – our children – to Shuja’iya or all these places in which they’re being killed, you are mistaken.”

Simpson continues with more downplaying of the effects and results of Hamas terror, invoking that frequent media theme of ‘not enough dead Israelis to count’.

“This is one reason why casualties on the two sides are so out of proportion. Israel has developed the world’s most effective anti-missile defence. The Iron Dome system’s abilities to knock Hamas missiles out of the sky has been a remarkable achievement for Israel during this crisis. The success rate is quite phenomenal. Even so, there are missiles which get through. One of those landed close by here this morning. But the family had taken shelter and scarcely any damage was done. They take it all stoically.”

Woman: “We’re here to stay, you know, it’s our home.”

Simpson quickly returns to his real agenda:

“As she spoke, death and destruction were raining down in Gaza only twenty miles away, but a different world.”

Death and destruction also rained down on the al Wadj family from a Bedouin village near Dimona on July 19th. Thirty-two year-old Ouda al Wadj was killed and his wife, his sister, his four year-old son and three month-old daughter were injured. Little Aya al Wadj is still in hospital in Be’er Sheva recovering from the shrapnel injuries to her head caused by the missile fired from the Gaza Strip. No BBC team has covered that story.

Simpson closes with a perfunctory nod to supposed BBC impartiality by saying:

“All the same, there are funerals of soldiers every day here now. Thirteen killed yesterday, seven more today. Here they were burying Moshe Malko – an Israeli of Ethiopian origin. The scale of Israeli and Palestinian deaths may be utterly different but Israel is paying a heavy price as well.”

For well over a decade the Western media – BBC included – has ignored the story of the people who live in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the children who have grown up under the threat of constant missile attacks. From time to time, when the situation escalates, reporters are ‘parachuted in’ and the world gets a brief view the story as they chose to frame it.

In John Simpson’s case that means downplaying the thousands of missile attacks carried out by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip, erasing the all-important topic of Hamas’ use of the people of Gaza as human shields and failing to enable BBC audiences to hear the voices of the Israelis now facing the threat of underground terror attacks.

Dana Bar-On is from Nir Am – the kibbutz which on July 21st had a very lucky escape from the terror attack which Simpson fails to adequately report in this item. Here is a five-minute glimpse of how she and her family – and thousands of other residents of the same area – live.

 

 

Twenty-three seconds of BBC reporting on Gaza tunnels

Yesterday we noted here that the BBC has so far failed to provide audiences with anything even approaching a proper explanation of Hamas’ tunnel networks in the Gaza Strip and why those tunnels are the main reason behind the current ground operation phase of Operation Protective Shield.Doucet Hamas defiant filmed 19 7

After that post was published, we were reassured by the BBC’s Lyse Doucet in a Tweet which for some reason is now unavailable that her next report would be addressing that subject.

That report for BBC television news programmes also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the evening of July 19th under the title “Hamas ‘defiant’ as Gaza casualty toll rises“.

A grand total of twenty-three seconds of coverage of the subject of tunnels opens the report. [emphasis added]

Doucet: “This is what Israel says it’s targeting now: tunnels used by Hamas for cross-border raids. This Hamas video shows their men armed with rocket-propelled grenades. Israel says its ground operations have uncovered more than a dozen tunnels and thwarted two attempts at infiltration.”

The report then cuts to an image taken from another Hamas propaganda video, with Doucet saying:

“But Hamas is still sending a defiant message. They’re preparing for the long run.”

What form that “defiant message” actually takes is not clarified to BBC audiences by Doucet. Here is the video used in the BBC report which, as readers can see for themselves, includes a threat to send “youth” with hand grenades to attack Israeli soldiers.

Doucet Hamas defiant orig vid

Doucet then continues:

“And yet again civilians are on the front line, fleeing their homes under artillery and tank fire. Today at this UN shelter some families gave a new reason: IDF control. We’ve been told Israeli soldiers are now taking over homes close to the border. The army denies it.”

Doucet refrains from informing BBC audiences of the fact that the entrances to some of Hamas’ tunnels are often located in houses, which are sometimes booby-trapped – as shown in the video below.

Doucet goes on:

“The number in need keeps rising. At the UN’s warehouses in Gaza they’re struggling to keep up.”

Robert Turner, UNWRA Director: “We only had stock for about 35 thousand people. We’ve gone through 50 thousand today. Ah…we’ll start running out of supplies tomorrow.”

Doucet: “And what does that mean?”

Turner: “Well the first thing we’re gonna run out of is matresses…ahm….so people arriving at the schools are gonna be sleeping on the concrete.”

Notably, Doucet did not take the opportunity to ask UNWRA’s director about the circumstances surrounding the discovery of missiles in one of that organisation’s schools a couple of days previously; news of which the BBC buried in the eighth paragraph of one online article. Neither did she enquire to which “Gaza authorities” that UN organization handed over those missiles – a question particularly relevant in light of the fact that it has now been suggested that they were handed over to Hamas.  And the opportunity to ask about the possible use of other UN facilities by terrorists (as shown, for example, in this video from 2009 ) was also passed up by Lyse Doucet.

Doucet concludes:

“This crisis is concentrating minds around the world for an urgent ceasefire. The growing human cost of this war is pushing more mediators to come to this region. But as pressure grows for a ceasefire, both sides know that the time to achieve their military objectives is running out and so that means that for the moment, the humanitarian crisis may only get worse.”

No attempt is made by Doucet to remind viewers that not only were considerable efforts made by Israel to avoid this confrontation in the first place, but also that after it had already begun the opportunity for a ceasefire was rejected by Hamas, meaning that a conflict – and the resulting human cost – which could have ended five days ago continues at Hamas’ behest.

Genuinely impartial reporting on the current humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip would of course make that all-important point of context clear. 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Paul Adams amplifies Nazi analogy in coverage of Gaza ground op

One of several BBC journalists ‘parachuted in’ to the region recently in order to cover Operation Protective Shield is Paul Adams – usually based in London as a World Affairs correspondent.OP PE Adams vers 1

On July 18th the BBC News website published an article by Adams initially titled “Gaza casualties mount amid Israeli ground campaign” but later renamed “Hospital on Gaza conflict’s front line”. In his fourth paragraph Adams adheres to what has been standard BBC practice since the beginning of its reporting on this operation: the quotation and promotion of figures supplied by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza without any qualifying statement regarding the fact that they have not been independently verified by the BBC and with no attempt made to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualty figures.

“But a new phase of operations inevitably brought a new wave of casualties – more than 20 dead, according to Gaza’s ministry of health. Among them at least three more children.”

Depending on the time at which Adams wrote those words, he should of course have pointed out to BBC audiences that at least fourteen terrorists were among the casualties on the first day of Israel’s ground operation.

A considerable proportion of Adams’ report relates to the Wafa rehabilitation hospital in the Shuja’iyeh neighbourhood of Gaza City which, incidentally, also accommodated members of the International Solidarity Movement with the staff’s knowledge and consent, although Adams refrains from mentioning that fact. 

“I found the patients and staff from the Wafa rehabilitation hospital sheltering in a Gaza City clinic.

The Wafa has been hit repeatedly in the past week. It’s close to the border and very close to some of the latest Israeli military activity.

Basman al-Ashi, the hospital’s executive director, said everything seemed quiet on Thursday night, until shelling intensified in the hours before troops entered the Gaza Strip.

With artillery rounds hitting the hospital once more, Basman decided to evacuate everyone.”

Leaflet distributed in Gaza Strip 16/7/14

Leaflet distributed in Gaza Strip 16/7/14

In fact, the hospital’s staff were directly alerted to the need to evacuate the premises by the IDF on the evening of July 15th –47 hours before the ground operation commenced – even according to B’Tselem.  General warnings were also issued to residents of that neighbourhood and others on the morning of July 16th. Contrary to the impression which readers receive from Adams’ report, the actual reason for the evacuation warning was the presence of terrorist infrastructure located near to the hospital.

Perhaps unwittingly, Adams provides evidence of the practice of locating weapons stores and missile launchers in the vicinity of medical facilities and other civilian structures when he goes on to write:

“As he recalled the scene, surrounded by his evacuated patients, two deafening salvoes of rockets took off from somewhere very close by – rockets fired by fighters from Hamas or one of the other armed factions.” [emphasis added]

No attempt is of course made by Adams to clarify to BBC audiences the legal significance of the practice he witnessed and he later goes on to deliberately mislead audiences by writing:

“Israel says rockets have been fired from Basman al-Ashi’s hospital, a charge his staff deny completely.”

Significantly, he does not ask the hospital’s director about the actual situation – i.e. that areas near the hospital have been used for the purposes of terrorism.

Adams does, however, take the opportunity to promote and amplify the hospital director’s use of a Nazi analogy.Op pe Adams vers 2

“Basman’s eyes closed for a moment in weary resignation, but opened wide in defiance when I suggested the actions of Hamas might simply make matters worse.

“It’s a very natural response for the Palestinians to respond, to defend themselves,” he insisted.

Israel, he said, had made “a concentration camp of 1.8 million people”.

“No air. No land. No sea. You’re trying to tell the people what? I’m putting you in prison and I want you to obey, eat, sleep and that’s it. We’re human.” ” [emphasis added]

One of the definitions of antisemitism according to the EUMC working definition is:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Even if that is what an executive director of a Gaza hospital with close links to the ISM actually said, there is no justification and no excuse for the BBC’s amplification and propagation of Nazi analogies.

It would have been helpful to BBC audiences’ understanding of the reality of the situation had Adams bothered to explain to readers that – contrary to al Ashi’s inaccurate claim – Israeli policy concerning the Gaza Strip is the result of the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and other groups rather than the other way round. However, it is perfectly clear that Paul Adams did not set out in this article to provide BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which really would enhance their “understanding of international issues“.   

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

On July 17th NGO Monitor informed us of the fact that:

“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).” [emphasis added]

The rest of NGO Monitor’s important report can be found here.

Readers no doubt recognize the names of the two highlighted NGOs above – Al Mezan and PCHR. They are two of the “primary sources” upon which UN OCHA recently told BBC Watch it relies for casualty figures in the Gaza Strip.  Describing them as “United Nations” figures, the BBC in turn quotes and promotes those UN OCHA statistics without any independent verification of its own and fails to inform audiences that they are sourced from political NGOs.

On at least four occasions since July 9th the BBC has provided a platform for the promotion and amplification of political messaging under the guise of ‘human rights’ from the PCHR’s Raji Sourani – see here, here, here and here.  

The PCHR and Al Mezan (together with another Palestinian NGO) had already released a joint statement on July 9th which makes their engagement in ‘lawfare‘ and their campaign to delegitimize Israel on the international stage for political and military purposes perfectly clear. They have also published individual statements – see here and here. Nevertheless, despite their clearly partisan stance, UN OCHA still uses them as “primary sources” and the BBC repeatedly lends its publicly funded resources, its outreach and its reputation to the PCHR’s political campaign.

The third “primary source” for those UN OCHA Gaza casualty figures unquestioningly quoted and promoted by the BBC is B’Tselem which has also released statements on the subject of the conflict. Unsurprisingly, that organisation’s new director was featured in a video report published on the BBC News website on July 16th under the titleIsraeli air strike warnings: What the footage tells usand apparently also broadcast on BBC television news programmes.BBC Hagai Elad B'Tselem

Whilst it depicts some of the methods used by Israel to warn civilians of upcoming military actions such as leafleting, telephone calls and ‘roof-knocking’, as well as showing a strike being aborted due to the presence of a civilian, the video report also states:

“But as the Palestinian death toll rises, some say the warnings don’t always come.”

Notably, the report avoids all mention of the fact that it is a certainty that there are civilians who really are being indiscriminately targeted in this conflict – the citizens of Israel.

The report goes on:

“While human rights groups say – warning or no warning – air strikes in civilian areas are never justified.”

Footage then cuts to Hagai Elad of B’Tselem saying:

“The fact that an individual is associated with a Palestinian military group does not make the apartment of that person into a military target nor does it make the entire building with all the other apartments there into a military target.”

Once again this report quotes statements from UN OCHA which there is no evidence to suggest have been independently verified by the BBC.

“But the United Nations says the majority of those killed in Gaza have been civilians”

Notably, whilst this report promotes the claims of “human rights groups” regarding Israel’s actions, it does not make any effort to present a professional legal view on the topic or to inform audiences of the political agenda of those “human rights groups”.

The fact that the BBC is providing publicity, promotion and amplification for political NGOs engaged in anti-Israel campaigning through ‘lawfare’ to influence public opinion is one which is completely incompatible with its commitment – and obligation – to impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred Middle East NGOs

 

 

 

Will the BBC correct its insinuations of a ‘two-tier justice system’ in Israel?

On July 17th the BBC News website published an article titled “Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder“.

The report relates to the fact that eleven days after their arrest on July 6th, three people were charged with the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Ahu Khdeir on July 2nd.

The BBC’s report correctly notes that:

“The Israeli ministry of defence meanwhile said it now recognised the killing as a “terrorist act” and had decided to recognise Mohammad Abu Khdair as a “victim of terrorism”.”

It fails to inform readers however that the Defence Ministry’s decision means that the victim’s family will receive monthly benefits from the state and that Mohammed Abu Khdeir will be included in the list of names on Israel’s Memorial Day for victims of terror attacks.

Earlier in the month, during the four days which passed between the murder and the arrests, some BBC journalists promoted the notion of a ‘two-tier justice system’ in Israel, suggesting that Palestinians receive inferior treatment.

“… it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.” [emphasis added]

Jeremy Bowen, ‘Today’, BBC Radio 4, July 3rd 2014

“But Palestinians at Muhammed’s funeral don’t trust Israeli justice. They want Israel to leave Palestinian towns and cities so that they can build a state and a justice system of their own.”

James Reynolds, BBC News, July 4th 2014

It would of course be appropriate for the BBC to clarify to its audiences that its insinuations of Israeli state discrimination are unfounded.