A wasted opportunity: BBC R4’s ‘Media and the Middle East’

As we noted here a few days ago, the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Archive on 4′ broadcast an edition titled “Media and the Middle East” on September 13th, presented by John Lloyd. On September 15th a written article by Lloyd appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “How the Western media’s Middle East coverage has changed“.Archive on 4

Those who had anticipated hearing answers to the questions posed in the radio programme’s synopsis would have been largely disappointed.

A significant proportion of the programme is made up of archive material from the BBC and others: a glimpse of how the subject was reported in yesteryear. Unfortunately, quite a few of those ‘historical’ parts of the programme are accompanied by inaccurate and misleading statements.

For example, after a segment from a Movietone News feature, Lloyd tells listeners:

“Its coverage of Palestine in the years before Israel became a state described as criminals the armed Jewish guerilla groups dedicated to ridding the country of British soldiers. Groups like the Stern Gang and the Irgun used the terror tactics of bombs and assassinations against the army deployed to keep the peace in Palestine, for which the British then had the mandate.”

Similarly, in his written article Lloyd states:

“In the closing years of World War Two and in the three years after it, the Jewish Irgun and Stern gangs who sought to force the British out of Palestine carried out a series of bloody attacks on British soldiers and officials.

Jews were labelled by the British as “terrorists”.”

John Lloyd might be interested to learn that they still are: for a fee of £195, educators can purchase a video from the BBC on the topic of “Early Israeli Terrorism“. But of course what is really important here is that Lloyd misrepresents the purpose of the mandate with which Britain was entrusted. The aim of that mandate was not to “keep the peace”, but to establish a Jewish homeland in accordance with the San Remo declaration and the League of Nations directive. That was a mandate, it transpired, the British had no intention of fulfilling – as was apparent from British actions such as the restrictions imposed on Jewish immigration to Palestine (though never on Arab immigration), even as persecution of Jews in Europe escalated and reached its unprecedented climax.

Likewise, Lloyd completely ignores events such as the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936 and even the post-Partition Plan violence of 1947, taking listeners to 1949 by means of an archive broadcast which states:

“Nearly a million harmless Arab villagers have been made homeless as a result of war in the Holy Land.”

The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur war are not presented with any better context and listeners hear Lloyd claim that:

“In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon in retaliation for an attempted assassination of the country’s ambassador in London by a Palestinian dissident group.”

The fact that by June 1982 Israeli civilians all over the Galilee had been under Katyusha fire from Palestinian terrorists in southern Lebanon for months and 29 people had been killed and over 300 injured in PLO attacks since July the previous year despite a supposed ceasefire is not imparted to BBC audiences.

The first intifada is described by Lloyd in the anodyne terms of “an escalating campaign of disobedience” with no mention of violence from the Palestinian side. The post-Oslo campaign of terrorism is completely ignored and the peace process is described as having been “broken” by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin rather than by Arafat’s decision to launch the second Intifada. Moreover, Lloyd uses an archive clip obviously from the autumn of 2000 which repeats one of the BBC’s most egregious – and most widely promoted – falsehoods.

“The violence was sparked off three days ago when the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon visited one of Islam’s holiest sites in Jerusalem.”

So as we see from the examples above, one very serious problem with this programme is that its attempt to use historic events as a means by which to explain the shifts in the media’s approach to Israel are hampered by the fact that Lloyd is unable to step outside the often incorrect accepted BBC narratives relating to those events and even amplifies them further. If one perhaps thought that basing a theory of changes in media attitudes as having resulted from Israeli actions would necessarily involve getting the history right, one would obviously be mistaken. 

With the help of his guests – heavily tipped in favour of the Palestinian narrative by number – Lloyd lays out a theory according to which Western media reporting from 1948 to 1967 was dominated by a colonialist attitude which, according to Daoud Kuttab, meant that Palestinians were sold short by Western journalists because they were not represented as a nation. Of course one very significant factor in that discussion should have been the fact that whilst Palestinians lived under Egyptian and Jordanian control for those 19 years, neither they nor their Arab rulers made any move to establish a Palestinian nation-state or to promote Palestinian nationhood. The reasons for that are well documented, but they do not fit into the narrative this programme seeks to promote.

According to another of Lloyd’s guests, David Cesarani, the “watershed in media coverage and perceptions of Israel” came in 1982 as a result of the first Lebanon war. Cesarani claims that from then on, Israel was no longer seen as a “plucky little state” and that instead it turned into “the bullying regional superpower, crushing relentlessly the Palestinian people – dispossessed refugees – turning all the might of a modern military force on people who could barely fight back”. Of course that simplistic theory only works if – as Lloyd takes care to do – one isolates the Palestinian issue and ignores the fact that actually it is just one aspect of the broader Arab-Israeli conflict.

That framing is reinforced by Chris Doyle of CAABU:

“Now I think in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian issue it is a question of the Palestinians being David to the Israeli Goliath and this is something that is not always there in the framing of the coverage: the permanent reminder – as I believe is necessary – that it is a question of an occupying power and an occupied people and that the Palestinians have very, very few options.”

One of the more disturbing aspects of this programme from this listener’s point of view was the way in which it promoted the inaccurate and ridiculous notion that Jewish self-determination can legitimately be defined as colonialism. Anton la Guardia of the Economist told audiences that “in a sense Palestine is the last great anti-colonial struggle” and later – as part of the programme’s effort to answer the question “why does this particular conflict, above all others, attract the attention it does?” – promoted the theory that:

“To some extent your position on Palestine defines your political position on other things – in part because of this question of colonialism and the Palestinian struggle.” 

Lloyd made no attempt to clarify to audiences the illegitimacy of the colonial analogy, which was also used by other guests. Moreover, no effort was made to examine the effects of factors prevalent in Western society as part of a possible answer to the question of why so many people who know precious little about the Middle East express such strong opinions on the topic. Lloyd written

The fact, for example, that whilst Europeans have for several decades now regarded the model of European ‘unity’ and the sidelining of national identities as the best means to ensure peace on their continent certainly affects the way in which they view a people whose answer to the horrors of World War Two was to go and build a nation state. The fact that fewer and fewer of those expressing an opinion – including journalists – on the topic of Israel’s military conflicts have actually lived through war themselves, seen their loved ones go off to battle, been attacked by missiles or suicide bombers or experienced anything even approaching an existential threat is also a factor which needs to be taken into account.

And of course the fact that a simplistic and one-dimensional version of ‘the Palestinian cause’ (notably characterized by an astounding lack of interest in the basic rights of Palestinian women, gays and Christians) has become a fashion accessory-cum-political statement in Western society which is simultaneously nurtured and fed upon by the media (for example in programmes such as the BBC’s ‘World Have Your Say’) is also significant in terms of the style and content of coverage presented. Western society – including its media mirror – sanctifies the view according to which one does not need to have an understanding of a topic in order to express an opinion about it and all opinions are equally valid. That approach may be harmless when it comes to texting a vote for the perceived best dancer of the waltz in a televised reality show, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when uninformed and often prejudicial views on international affairs are amplified – unchallenged – on ‘have your say’ style current affairs programmes.  

An additional notable aspect of this programme was the platform given to Jeremy Bowen to promote his well-known frustrations with regard to what he perceives as organized campaigns of complaint regarding BBC coverage.

“And there would be phone calls sometimes which we’d try to deal with and of course there’d be letters. Almost all from supporters of Israel – 99% I’d say. […] Palestinians weren’t organized in the same sort of way.”

Lloyd too appears to have adopted the same view:

“Palestinians weren’t geared to complain as Israelis and the Jewish diaspora were.”

Of course as we know very well, veteran organisations such as CAABU and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – both of which have now been active for decades – are in fact extremely well-organized when it comes to orchestrating complaints campaigns and lobbying the BBC.

The programme’s brief coverage of this summer’s conflict failed to address relevant topics such as Hamas’ intimidation of foreign journalists and why hardly any footage was shown by Western media crews of terrorists in action, with the result being that most organisations falsely framed the subject as an Israeli war against the people of Gaza. Ethical questions such as should the BBC film in morgues and hospital wards in Gaza if it would not film similar footage in the UK were ignored. The fact that Israeli society does not accept the screening of graphic images of dead or injured people – and therefore no such images were filmed in Israel even though lethal events happened there – whilst Palestinian society has no such social taboos and hence graphic images were broadcast to Western audiences in abundance, raises professional questions this programme made no attempt to address.

Two separate segments of the radio programme related to Jon Snow of Channel 4’s decision to place his personal need to “bear witness” to what he saw in the Gaza Strip this summer above his obligations to journalistic ethics. Snow was of course far from the only journalist to adopt such an approach even though others – including BBC employees – may have been more subtle in expressing their self-indulgence. However, the programme made no attempt to explore the question of whether the industry’s acceptance of such an approach actually renders it insignificant. After all, if audiences are going to hear and read the personal views of Jon Snow or Orla Guerin in place of accurate and impartial reporting, they can just as well find similarly expressed personal opinions – for which they do not have to pay a licence fee – at thousands of other locations on the internet. 

All in all, this programme can be described as a wasted opportunity as far as its success in informing audiences about the issues it ostensibly set out to address is concerned. More worrying was the promotion (also in Lloyd’s written article) of historical inaccuracies, existing misleading BBC narratives and the language of anti-Israel propaganda. That aspect of these two items of BBC content suggests that objective examination of the media’s role in shaping public opinion on the Middle East and its adherence to the standards of journalism expected by the general public cannot effectively be carried out solely by members of a profession who have, in no small numbers, revealed over the past few months the existence of an organisational culture which allows personal politics to trump commitment to professional standards and obligations. 

An upcoming event with the BBC’s Middle East editor

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

The topic of discussion is promoted as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Readers no doubt remember that on July 5th – three days before Operation Protective Edge commenced – the BBC’s World Editor Andrew Roy appeared on the World Service’s ‘Outside Source’ programme to explain how the BBC ensures equal coverage of what the programme termed “Israel-Palestine”.

Andrew Roy: “Well we try to look at the entirety of our coverage. We’re not minute counting. We are ensuring that across the whole thing we can look back on our coverage of this and say we did give fair balance to each side. So it’s not a minute by minute thing, no.” […]

Presenter: “When you get people complaining that they feel one side has been given more air-time or more favour than the other, what do you do?”

Andrew Roy: “We answer them by giving them the evidence that we’ve tried to put the other side as often as we can.”

Let’s take a look at the accuracy and validity of Roy’s claims by using a test case: BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’.FOOC

Between July 8th (commencement of Operation Protective Edge) and the present, eight editions of the programme have been broadcast. The first two (July 10th and July 12th) did not include any content related to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The July 17th edition included an item by Yolande Knell (available here from 00:42) which was introduced by presenter Kate Adie using the description ‘fasting under fire’. Knell’s report focuses entirely on the presentation of life in the Gaza Strip with descriptions of shortages of food, frightened children, reduced business in markets and evacuees. Much focus is also put on the topic of border restrictions with Knell twice quoting interviewees referring to a “siege” which of course does not exist and no explanation given regarding the terrorism which brought about the border restrictions.

On July 19th the programme featured an item by Jeremy Bowen which is available here from 00:45. Whilst the item is introduced as being about the whole Middle East, the BBC’s Middle East editor has his sights firmly set on one tiny part of that region. Using the language of Hamas Bowen tells listeners:

“Gaza’s economy is definitely not able to support a population of 1.7 million people but that’s because of the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.” [emphasis added]

Like Knell before him, Bowen makes no attempt to tell listeners about the Hamas terrorism which brought about border restrictions.  He later continues:

“And there’s been a reminder in the last few days of the terrible potency of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. [..] But the new war in Gaza shows how the Palestinian –Israeli conflict still has resonance across the world as well as in the region. People care about it, get angry about it in a way that they don’t about other crises and wars. I’m calling what’s happening in Gaza a war though I’m aware that it perhaps is not a perfect description. Some people have even told me I shouldn’t use the word because of the enormous imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians. I disagree. Wars are increasingly fought between the strong and the weak. By the way, it’s wrong to pretend that there’s any kind of equality between what Israeli citizens are going through and the experience of Palestinians. The trauma of Israelis caught up in mass attacks is unquestionable but the trauma in Gaza is of an utterly different degree. The only long-term way to end this chronic killing is through a permanent settlement of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. It has to be one both sides can tolerate. An imposed peace would just contain the seeds of the next war. But at the moment peace is not conceivable. Even a long-term absence of war is unattainable. What’s the alternative? If nothing changes more and more of these mini wars, which will eventually become major wars.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s Middle East editor makes no effort to inform listeners that Hamas is not interested in the kind of “permanent settlement” which has been on the table for two decades, neglecting to inform them that Hamas was one of the Palestinian factions which rejected the Oslo accords.

On July 26th listeners to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ heard Paul Adams. That item is available from 00:50 here and includes the following. [all emphasis in bold added]

“Generations have experienced nothing but occupation, embargo, blockade, war and death. It’s had a slow, brutalising effect. Perhaps that’s why some of them are seized by such a furious desire to tunnel out and seek revenge. For Gaza is a giant prison surrounded by a wall, watch towers and the most sophisticated military in the Middle East.”

Although he makes no effort to inform listeners of the fact that nine years ago, when Israel withdrew, Gaza stood at a crossroads which could have taken it in a very different direction had its leaders not chosen terrorism as their raison d’être, notably Adams does tell of things which – like the rest of his colleagues – he failed to report whilst he was in Gaza

“Of course it would be wrong to suggest that this prison 66 years in the making is full only of the innocent. There are men of violence here. Men who will never, ever accept Israel’s right to exist in the land they still regard as theirs. Men who will store weapons in mosques and schools and take great pride in launching almost entirely indiscriminate rockets from the midst of populated areas, hoping – in the name of resistance – to cause death and fear on the other side. During a week in Gaza I caught occasional glimpses of them; weapons stuffed under shirts, furtive in civilian clothes, moving with purpose through the ravaged streets of Shuja’iya looking for a fight. But when so many of those dismembered and burned by Israeli rockets and shells are not the fighters but women, old people and especially children, then it’s really, really hard not to conclude that the Palestinians are being collectively punished.”

The August 2nd edition of the programme included an item by Chris Morris, available here from 00:42 or here. In addition to Morris’ very graphic descriptions, audiences hear the following. [emphasis added]FOOC Morris

“Because things have got worse; much worse. Could anyone have imagined that twenty years on this would be their fate? Bombed from land, sea and air. Stuck inside the world’s largest prison with nowhere to run. […]

That’s why Hamas’ main demand is now in tune with public opinion: lift the siege of Gaza, open the borders, give people a chance to live.”

Like his colleagues, Morris of course makes no attempt to explain to listeners that it was Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians which brought border restrictions into being.

On August 9th listeners heard a report by Tim Whewell: the first (and last) making any attempt to portray the Israeli side of the story. That item can be heard here or here from 00:45. Especially, given the track record of his BBC colleagues as far as promoting the notion of a mythical ‘siege’ and failing to report on the context and background of border restrictions is concerned, one interesting part of Whewell’s report is this:

“Why, they [Israelis] demand, don’t you – foreign correspondents – ever report that? And again and again I slip into the same argument. We do report the reasons but we also have to report the results and then much of the audience for our reporting concludes that being afraid or traumatized like Honi [phonetic] is bad, but not nearly as bad as being dead – as so many more Palestinians now are. We’re talking now uncomfortably about hierarchies of suffering and Israelis reply ‘so what do you want? More dead Jewish children? Do we also have to die just to make you report the story fairly?’ “

The August 16th edition of the programme featured a report by Kevin Connolly on the children of Gaza already discussed here and with the audio versions available here from 06:00 or here.

As we see, between July 17th and August 16th six editions of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on BBC Radio 4 included items pertaining to the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Only one of those items presented an Israeli point of view, with the other five not only presenting the opposite viewpoint, but often promoting the terminology of a terrorist organization and failing to provide essential context.

Surely even Andrew Roy cannot possibly claim that any attempt was made to “give fair balance to each side” in that series of programmes.

Related Articles:

BBC pats itself on the back for its ME coverage

Half a picture, half a story: how the BBC compromises its own impartiality in Gaza

 

 

 

What do BBC journalists think you should be reading?

Among the recommended reading on the current hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip which BBC employees have recently promoted to their followers on social media is an article by Jeremy Bowen in the New Statesman.

Tweet Ghattas Bowen art

In that article Bowen makes no attempt whatsoever to adhere to those famous BBC values of accuracy and impartiality. Moreover, he further amplifies the line he already began promoting whilst on the ground in the Gaza Strip, claiming that he saw “no evidence” of Hamas’ use of the local population as human shields.

“I was back in London for my son’s 11th birthday party by the time all those people were killed in Shejaiya. But my impression of Hamas is different from Netanyahu’s. I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. I saw men from Hamas on street corners, keeping an eye on what was happening. They were local people and everyone knew them, even the young boys. Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, told me that Hamas, whatever you think of it, is part of the Palestinian DNA.

I met Sourani first when he was condemning abuses by Yasser Arafat’s men. He has taken an equally tough stance on Hamas. Now he says Israel is violating the laws of war by ignoring its legal duty to treat Palestinian civilians as protected non-combatants.”

Bowen refrains from informing readers that Raji Sourani is far from the impartial human rights campaigner he portrays, but in fact one of those currently leading the lawfare campaign against Israel. Bowen, it is all too apparent, has elected to lend his own clout to that campaign.

“Hamas, human rights groups say, also violates the laws of war by firing missiles at civilians. […]

But it is wrong to suggest that Israeli civilians near Gaza suffer as much as Palestinians. It is much, much worse in Gaza.”

It is of course worth remembering that those words – and in particular that ‘scorecard’ of suffering – were written by the man ultimately responsible for the accuracy, impartiality and tone of the BBC’s reporting on the Middle East. 

Another article which proved popular with BBC employees was written by Channel 4’s Jon Snow. 

Tweet Swift Snow art

Snow – who incidentally supports a ‘charity’ banned in Israel because of its ties to Hamas – makes little effort to put up any kind of show of journalistic impartiality either and he too appoints himself as judge and chief awarder of points in the league tables of suffering invented by Western journalists.

“I could see the young Israeli IDF guards peering at me through the steel room’s bullet-proof glass. They were the same women who, from another glass window, had barked commands at me though a very public address system.

“Feet apart!” they said. “Turn! No, not that way – the other!” Then, in the next of five steel security rooms I passed through – each with a red or green light to tell me to stop or go – a male security guard up in the same complex above me shouted “Take your shirt off – right off. Now throw it on the floor… Pick it up, now ring it like it was wet” (it was wet, soaked in sweat).

From entering the steel complex until I reach the final steel clearing room where I held the baby, I was never spoken to face to face, nor did I see another human beyond those who barked the commands through the bullet-proof windows high above me. […]

I feel guilty in leaving, and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.

It is accentuated by suddenly being within sumptuously appointed Israel. Accentuated by the absolute absence of anything that indicates that this bloody war rages a few miles away. […]

In and out of an Israeli transit hotel for a few hours in Ashkelon, an hour from the steel crossing-point from Gaza, there were three half-hearted air raid warnings. Some people run, but most just get on with what they are doing.

They are relatively safe today because Israel is the most heavily fortified country on earth. The brilliant Israeli-invented, American-financed shield is all but fool-proof; the border fortifications, the intelligence, beyond anything else anywhere.”

Perhaps predictably, Snow closes by promoting the cringingly uninformed claim that Israel’s battle against a terrorist organization trying to destroy it (a fact he somehow neglects to mention) is in fact the cause of conflict the world over.

“This is humankind’s most grievous cancer, for its cells infect conflicts in every corner of the world.”

BBC licence fee payers might reasonably wonder what chance they have of getting anything approaching the accurate and impartial reporting they are promised if these are examples of the type of vitriolic polemics the corporation’s employees read and recommend. They might, however, have already ceased to wonder why so many UK media reports  fail to address the topic of the responsibility of terrorist organisations for the suffering of the people of Gaza. 

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

As was noted here a few days ago, on July 15th the BBC’s Yolande Knell (perhaps inadvertently) documented the use of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City as a hideout for the Hamas top brass. Other journalists have reported on that topic too and of course the bottom line is that staff and patients of a civilian medical facility (as well as visiting journalists) are being exploited by a terrorist organisation as human shields, with or without the consent of that hospital’s management.Shifa hospital

In addition to the fact that the BBC has failed to adequately clarify the issue of human shields in Shifa hospital (or anywhere else) to audiences – numerous items of BBC content have been produced in that hospital over the past two weeks – obviously with the approval of its management – and various doctors have been interviewed, quoted and presented to BBC audiences as credible witnesses of the situation in Gaza. Examples include:

A BBC television news filmed report by Yolande Knell from July 8th.

Two filmed reports by Jeremy Bowen for BBC television news on July 11th.

A BBC World Service radio report by Lyse Doucet on July 20th in which a doctor promoted the unchallenged notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

A BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ interview with Dr Belal Dabour on July 21st which also allows unhindered promotion of the notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

Perhaps rather surprisingly in the current circumstances, Dr Dabour seems to have quite a bit of spare time in which to talk to the BBC – see for example here and here.

Now of course BBC audiences hearing, reading or watching an interview with a doctor will naturally presume that they are being given an accurate, impartial, apolitical and professionally neutral view of the situation. In the Gaza Strip, however, that is not necessarily the case – as has been documented by the ‘Warped Mirror’ blog here and here. And it is particularly not the case in Shifa hospital where, on July 20th, a journalist with ABC witnessed the following reaction from ‘humanitarian’ staff to the false claim by Hamas that it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

Tweet Doctors Shifa

But it is not only local doctors in the Gaza Strip whose presentation of supposedly professional observations – in fact underpinned by political motives – are facilitated by the BBC. On July 20th the BBC reached what is unfortunately not a new low by promoting and quoting none other than the infamous Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert in inserts by Yolande Knell featured in two separate written articles – see here and here.

Knell Mads Gilbert

Readers may recall Gilbert’s propaganda efforts during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9. Now the doctor who thinks the 9/11 terror attacks were justified is back in Shifa hospital, promoting the same political messaging to the media under the guise of a ‘medical opinion’ – remarkably and controversially, with recommendation from another source of ‘impartial’ information frequently promoted by the BBC – UNWRA.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

So far, in nearly two weeks of reporting, we have not seen even one attempt by the BBC’s journalists in Gaza to adhere to those guidelines by alerting audiences to the Hamas connections and/or sympathy for terrorism of medical personnel they present to audiences as ‘credible’ sources.  

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. 

Why doesn’t the BBC tell audiences about Gaza’s shortfall missiles?

On the evening of July 15th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen sat on a roof in Gaza and witnessed just one of the many instances (around 10 -15%) in which missiles fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip fall short of their target and land inside the territory.

Bowen tweet shortfall 1

Bowen tweet shortfall 2

The IDF informs us that since the start of Operation Protective Edge, some 100 missiles fired by terrorist groups have fallen short, landing inside the Gaza Strip.

Shortfalls tweet IDF

As recently as June 24th a three year-old girl was killed and other members of her family injured when a shortfall missile fired by terrorists hit their home in Beit Lahiya. That incident (along with others) was not reported by the BBC at the time.

The BBC does however know from previous experience that misfired and shortfall missiles cause the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Despite that, in all the BBC’s extensive reporting of Operation Protective Edge that we have seen so far, no attempt has been made to inform BBC audiences of the factor of shortfall missiles and to clarify to them that the casualty figures it quotes will – according to the source of its figures – include civilian deaths caused by missiles fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Neither has the BBC told its audiences about the interest of Hamas (including of course its health ministry, which the BBC regularly quotes on the issue of casualty figures) in promoting as many civilian casualties as possible to the watching world, as chillingly demonstrated in this July 13th Al Aqsa TV interview with Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.  

 

 

BBC’s Bowen promotes accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’

On July 14th the BBC News website’s Middle East page promoted a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen under the title “Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day” which was also aired on the BBC World News programme ‘Newsday’.Bowen 14 7 Newsday Sourani

In that report the PCHR’s Raji Sourani is once again given a BBC platform from which to promote his unproven allegations.

Bowen: “Back in Gaza in the bombed fishing port, Raji Sourani – a Palestinian human rights campaigner – said Israel’s tactic of destroying the homes of men it says are Hamas fighters guarantees it will also kill non-combatants: neighbours, families, children.”

Sourani: “They know they committed war crimes, crimes against humanity – and deliberately. Intending to destroy houses where civilians living in it that’s totally illegal in a clear-cut way Geneva Convention article 52 paragraph 3.”

Bowen makes no effort to inform viewers that Sourani’s interpretation of Article 52 is less than “clear-cut” with regard to buildings used, for example, as weapons stores or missile launching sites.  

Seeing as this report is the fourth item of BBC content in less than a week which has promoted assorted unproven accusations made by Raji Sourani of the PCHR and seeing as the BBC does not apparently consider it necessary to wait for any kind of investigation or proof before broadcasting and amplifying Sourani’s grave accusations concerning the ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’, ‘war crimes’ or ‘crimes against humanity’, it is obviously imperative to take a closer look at the record of Mr Sourani and his organization.

That necessity is further compounded by the fact that as was recently revealed here, the UN OCHA civilian casualty figures which the BBC is currently quoting across the board are based on information coming from three primary sources, one of which is Mr Sourani’s PCHR.

Founded in Gaza City in 1995, the PCHR rejects the Oslo Accords and promotes the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees. It consistently refers to the IDF as IOF (‘Israel Occupation Force’) and engages in‘lawfare’ – including lobbying against the changes made to the ‘universal jurisdiction’ law by the British Parliament. The PCHR also engages in the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope and accusations of the ‘Judaisation’ of Jerusalem and ‘ethnic cleansing’. In 2000 the PCHR described Hizballah as “the legitimate Lebanese resistance against Israeli occupation in Lebanon”, comparing the Iranian-backed terror organization to the French Resistance during World War II. In 2010 the PCHR claimed that the rededication of the restored Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem (destroyed by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948) was a “war crime”. 

After Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 the PCHR alleged that “1,167 non-combatants (82.2%) and 252 resistance activists (17.8%)” were killed. As is well known, even the Hamas Minister of the Interior later admitted that between 600 and 700 of the casualties were members of Hamas and other terrorist groups; figures which matched the Israeli assessment of 709 casualties from terrorist factions.

Throughout that same operation, the PCHR put out statements claiming that Israel was committing “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” and engaging in “collective punishment” and “indiscriminate killing”. When Richard Goldstone retracted the substance of his ‘Goldstone Report’ on Operation Cast Lead, Raji Sourani attributed that to a “psychological war orchestrated by Jewish and Israeli groups”.

After Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, the PCHR claimed that 105 of 160 casualties were civilians. A study by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre showed that 101 of 169 casualties identified (60%) belonged to terrorist organisations.

Readers no doubt recall the tragic incident in which the infant son of a BBC employee was killed in November 2012 by what the BBC – and the PCHR – claimed at the time was an Israeli airstrike.

“…an Israeli warplane fired a missile at a house… Two members of the family (a woman and a toddler) were killed: Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Masharawi, 19, and Omar Jihad al-Masharawi, 11 months.  Additionally, a child from the same family was wounded”.

A UN HRC report later determined that the deaths had been caused by a short-falling missile fired by one of the terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.Bowen 14 7 Newsday PCHR pic

In short, the record of Mr Sourani and his organization clearly shows a distinct lack of reliability and objectivity, as well as clear political motivation behind figures provided, statements given and accusations made. Whilst many people may perhaps expect nothing less from an organization which operates under the assumed mantle of ‘human rights’ whilst inviting a leader from an internationally designated terrorist organization to one of its conferences, for the BBC (and UN OCHA) the penny has obviously not yet dropped.

Mind you, that may well be explained by Bowen’s closing statement in this report.

“Smoke from burning buildings spread across Gaza as Palestinians buried men they said were fighting in a legitimate resistance. Israel calls them terrorists.”

So does the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan – as the BBC’s own profile of Hamas clearly states and as any journalist with integrity would report. In addition, Jordan and Egypt have banned Hamas and Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The irreversible damage being done by Jeremy Bowen to the BBC’s reputation as a provider of accurate and impartial news over the last five days since his arrival in the Gaza Strip continues to pile up. 

 

 

BBC’s Bowen tries to persuade TV audiences that Hamas does not use human shields

BBC editorial guidelines on “Reporting Death, Suffering and Distress” state:Bowen report 14 7 on ME pge

“We must always balance the public interest in full and accurate reporting against the need to be compassionate and to avoid any unjustified infringement of privacy when we report accidents, disasters, disturbances, violence against individuals or war.

We will always need to consider carefully the editorial justification for portraying graphic material of human suffering and distress.” […]

“There are very few circumstances in which it is justified to broadcast the moment of death.  It is always important to respect the privacy and dignity of the dead.  We should never show them gratuitously.  We should also avoid the gratuitous use of close-ups of faces and serious injuries of those who are dead, suffering or in distress.” […]

Editorial guidelines on “War, Terror and Emergencies” state:

“We will respect human dignity without sanitising the realities of war, terror, emergencies and similar events.  There must be clear editorial justification for the use of very graphic pictures.”

A guidance also exists for “Violence in News and Current Affairs“.

Readers can judge for themselves whether or not the filmed report by Jeremy Bowen shown on BBC television news and featured on the BBC News website on July 14th under the title “Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes” conforms to those guidelines and whether the use of images of blood in a morgue and repeated pictures of dead bodies is gratuitous in this case.

They might perhaps also ponder the question of whether a BBC film crew would have filmed inside a British morgue at all and whether such images would have been broadcast if the events had taken place in or were connected to the United Kingdom.  Existing BBC research suggests that they would not.

Bowen report 14 7 all images

But once readers have got past Bowen’s use of images obviously intended to shock and appall BBC viewers as much as possible, there is the commentary to consider and in this report Bowen uses interviewees as well as his own words to put his message across.

Against a backdrop of images of explosions, Bowen says:

“Gaza was pounded. For Israel this is self-defence with American support.”

Interviewing a family member inside a morgue, Bowen says:

“Israel says it goes after Hamas.”

Man: “That’s not true. It’s not true.

Bowen: “They’re children, said Munsar al Batsh [phonetic] – a cousin. It’s not logical they’d be Hamas.”

No attempt is made by Bowen whatsoever to provide any context to the tragic event, the circumstances of which are not yet fully known apart from the fact that the head of the family – Tayseer al Batsh was indeed a member of Hamas.

Bowen tells audiences:

“Every time Israel kills Palestinians, especially civilians, Hamas gets a boost of popularity. Now, Israel is not trying to win any friends here, but it does want to weaken Hamas as an organization. Hamas draws strength from the suffering Israel inflicts. When the Israelis say they’re retaliating for attacks on their civilians, no Palestinian listens.”

Of course what Bowen neglects to clarify to audiences is that the suffering of the ordinary people in the Gaza Strip is actually inflicted by Hamas which – rather than using concrete to build homes and nursery schools – chooses to build cross-border tunnels for terrorist purposes and – rather than using their taxes for social and health programmes – elects to put resources into its missile arsenal.

As we have previously noted here, none of the BBC reports from the Gaza Strip so far have even tried to adequately inform audiences about Hamas’ use of human shields. In this report, Bowen not only fails once again to provide accurate information on that topic; he uses another interviewee to try to persuade audiences that it is not true.

Bowen: “He rejected Israel’s claims that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.”

Man: “It’s not true. I have a family and I have seven of my daughters-in-law at home. I’d never put Hamas people near my house.”

Bowen does not inform viewers that the ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip have no say in the matter of where weapons storage facilities and missile launchers are located and are therefore turned into human shields regardless of whether they agree or not. He also fails to clarify to audiences that Hamas’ use of human shields is not merely a ‘claim’ made by Israel, but an increasingly well-documented fact.

BBC licence fee payers pay a lot of money in order to be informed of facts. Hamas’ use of human shields is one of many important facts audiences need to know about in order to be able to reach an understanding of this particular international issue as they are promised in the BBC’s constitutional document. It is bad enough that in over a week of reporting from the Gaza Strip, not one BBC journalist has explained the human shields issue properly to BBC audiences. It is beyond grave when the man in charge of Middle East reporting – not some junior journalist – not only fails to inform, but actively seeks to deny and refute the issue.

Bowen’s inaccurate and partial reports – which increasingly give the impression that he has self-conscripted to the Hamas media campaign – are coming in thick and fast. As long as the BBC continues to allow that, it breaches the public purpose remit which obliges it to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and that is a problem which BBC management should not be allowed to ignore. 

How the BBC’s ME editor prevents audiences from understanding the background to the Gaza conflict

Back in 2006, the role of BBC Middle East editor was described thus:

“The challenge for our daily news coverage is to provide an appropriate balance between the reporting of a ‘spot news’ event and the analysis that might help set it in its context.

This challenge is particularly acute on the television news bulletins, where space is at a premium, and because the context is often disputed by the two sides in the conflict. To add more analysis to our output, our strategy is to support the coverage of our bureau correspondents with a Middle East editor. 

Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Notably, some of the recent “context” and “analysis” provided by Jeremy Bowen since his arrival in the Gaza Strip on July 11th has actually done the exact opposite by herding audiences towards a narrow and misleading view of the current conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip as being a consequence of the fact that an independent Palestinian state has not yet come into being.

In both Bowen’s filmed reports shown on BBC television news and promoted on the BBC News website on July 11th (here and here) he wound up his items with the following words:

“There’s a terrible familiarity – a sameness – about what’s been happening in the last few days and that’s because it’s happened before. The underlying political realities of the conflict haven’t been tackled. Many Israelis would say that’s because Palestinians won’t accept the existence of their state. Palestinians and plenty of others say the problem is that they don’t have independence. That if they had their own state, things might be very different. The latest peace talks collapsed recently. In the past, death, destruction and human pain have filled the gap left by failed negotiations. It’s happened again.”

In a written report titled “Jeremy Bowen: Israel and Hamas not ready for ceasefire” which appeared on the BBC News website on July 12th under the heading ‘analysis’, Bowen wrote:Bowen art 12 7

“Small wars break out between the two sides regularly. This one has been brewing for months, long before the kidnap and murder of three Israeli youths and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.

The reason is that the underlying political realities of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have not been settled.

Hamas rejects any peace talks with Israel.

The Israelis were criticised, indirectly, by their allies in the White House and state department after the collapse of the last round of negotiations with Fatah, the other main Palestinian faction.

It seems clear that the periodic small wars between Hamas and Israel will keep happening, like a gory Groundhog Day, until the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is at least made safe and stable, if not settled outright.

If that doesn’t happen, the chances are that the fights will break out more often, morphing into an attritional struggle that neither side would win.

The wider Middle East is highly unstable. That means a greater chance of the conflict in and around Gaza spreading its poison further afield.”

Readers may also recall that in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 3rd, Bowen responded to a question from presenter John Humphrys thus:

JH: “The Jerusalem Post is writing this morning about the murder of the teenagers obviously and it says this: ‘it’s another reminder that swathes of Palestinian society continue to be irreconcilably committed to Israel’s destruction’. Is it the case that it’s not just terrorist organisations such as Hamas that are bent on Israel’s destruction, but the Palestinian people generally are irreconcilably opposed to the existence of Israel?”

JB: “No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the vast majority of Palestinians are absolutely reconciled to the existence of Israel. What they’re not reconciled to is the continuing occupation of land taken in 1967, the growth of settlements. You know you’ve heard all this many times before and 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.”

Let’s have a look at what Bowen has to conceal from audience view in order to persuade them that Hamas, the PRC, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the PFLP and numerous other terrorist groups of various stripes would desist from firing missiles at Israeli civilians if only a Palestinian state came into being.

First of all, there’s the rather obvious fact that violence against Jews and later Israelis predates the existence of Israel and the first organized terror group – Fatah – predated the 1967 war and ‘the occupation’. Secondly, as Bowen himself writes, Hamas opposes any sort of negotiations with Israel and its virulently antisemitic charter – echoed frequently in statements by Hamas’ leadership – rejects Israel’s right to exist. Hamas’ terrorist activity has often been aimed at undermining the PA’s ability to negotiate with Israel and when negotiations have made some sort of headway – as was the case in the mid-1990s – Hamas did its level best to scupper any agreements reached.

Another aspect to this is Bowen’s inversion of reality by means of the following statement:

“The wider Middle East is highly unstable. That means a greater chance of the conflict in and around Gaza spreading its poison further afield.”

That pronouncement erases from the equation important incoming factors in the Gaza Strip such as Iranian funding, training and weapons supplies for terrorist organisations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It also ignores (not for the first time, as the above Radio 4 interview shows) the topic of the rising number of Salafist-Jihadists in the Gaza Strip.

Equally important is Bowen’s focus on the recent round of negotiations.

“The Israelis were criticised, indirectly, by their allies in the White House and state department after the collapse of the last round of negotiations with Fatah, the other main Palestinian faction.”

As we documented here at the time, the BBC’s messaging to audiences – conveyed, significantly, exclusively by Jeremy Bowen himself - was that Israel was to blame for the breakdown of those talks. BBC audiences therefore already ‘know’ why there is no peace and no Palestinian state and so when Jeremy Bowen claims that the terror emanating from the Gaza Strip would cease if there was such a state, they also ‘know’ which party is responsible for the fact that warheads are being fired at its civilians.

But in the world according to Jeremy Bowen, if only Israel would vacate “land taken in 1967″ and stop the “growth of settlements”, then all could be “very different”. The problem with that theory of course is that it has already been tested. Next month will mark nine years since Israel left the Gaza Strip and dismantled all the towns and villages there, but instead of peace and instead of a Palestinian effort to build a viable economy and a society preparing itself for statehood, terrorism against Israel only increased.

Another aspect of coverage of the current events in Israel and the Gaza Strip by Jeremy Bowen and his colleagues is no less important for complete evaluation of the framing of their ‘root cause’ by Bowen.

To date, the BBC has completely failed to report the fact that terrorist groups linked to Fatah – the dominant party in both the PLO and the PA – have, according to their own announcements, been playing an active part in the hostilities. Likewise, as previously noted here, the BBC’s reporting has made no effort to inform audiences of the incitement and glorification of terror coming from Fatah and PA sources.

Of course there is nothing novel about such serious omissions: the BBC consistently refrains from reporting Fatah and PA incitement and glorification of terrorism, with the examples during the recent kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers being just the latest.

Together with all that, the BBC is also consistent in avoiding informing audiences of the real significance of the fact that the Palestinian unity government inaugurated at the beginning of June made no effort to disarm the plethora of terrorist organisations – including Hamas – in the Gaza Strip in order to comply with existing agreements with Israel and the resulting ‘Hizballah model’ whereby an internationally recognized terror group retains its own rival militia whilst at the same time being party to a government.

So instead of being presented with a realistic and accurate picture of the situation as it exists, BBC audiences are being steered towards an inaccurate and dumbed-down caricature according to which only ‘the occupation’ and ‘settlements’ matter. That framing of the issue does not allow audiences to arrive at informed opinions on the issues faced by Israel or to understand the rationale behind its actions. But that failure to meet the BBC’s obligations under the terms of its public purposes remit is of course likely to continue for as long as the current Middle East editor – and his idée fixe – remains at the helm.