In which BBC R4 misrepresents an Israeli law and its roots

The September 6th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ was titled “Matters of Life and Death” and included an item by Claudia Hammond, described in the synopsis as follows:FOOC Hammond

“Claudia Hammond discovers that many patients in Israel remain on life support for years”.

 The programme is available here, with the relevant segment beginning at 18:10, or here as a podcast under the different title “The Silent Wards”.  

The item is introduced by programme presenter Kate Adie thus:

“The news from Israel has been dominated recently by events in and around Gaza. On this programme though, we like to give ourselves the space to examine other aspects of life and death. In January this year a former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died after eight years in a coma following a massive stroke. In many other countries the machines keeping him alive would have been turned off earlier. Jewish law forbids people ending a human life. As Claudia Hammond discovered in Jerusalem, the result is that large numbers of hospital patients spend years on life support.”

Hammond’s item is mostly devoted to the telling of individual stories, with the background she provides to listeners limited to the following segment:

“In most countries a ward like this would not exist and doctors and families in discussion together might have made the decision to turn off Hava’s husband’s ventilator to allow him to die. But since 2005 this has been illegal in Israel and is considered to be killing the patient, even if they’re already dying. The law in Israel was informed by Jewish tradition. But talking to families of other faiths in the hospital here, it seems to have become a cultural viewpoint too.”

Let’s take a look at the accuracy of some of those statements.

Kate Adie claims that “large numbers of hospital patients spend years on life support” but listeners are not told how many people “large numbers” actually are. In January 2011, for example, there were 787 people on life support in hospitals throughout Israel but by no means all would have been long-term chronic patients as that number includes, for example, premature babies and people in ICUs as the result of an accident or an illness. Israel’s population at the time was 7.7 million people: in other words, Adie’s “large numbers” are a few hundred people out of millions.

Adie states that “Jewish law” is the factor responsible for the “large numbers” of patients on life support. In fact Israeli state law is of course a separate issue from Jewish law, which is itself open to many different interpretations and by no means as simple and straightforward as Adie suggests.

According to Hammond, “the law in Israel was informed by Jewish tradition”. In fact the relevant law was the product of years of discussion by a public committee – the Steinberg Committee – appointed in the year 2000 by the Minister of Health. Members of that committee included, for example, Mr Ziad Abu Moch – Director of the College for the Study of Shari’a and Islamic Sciences in Baka al Gharbiya; Father Dr George Khouri – theologist and psychologist, President of the Greek-Catholic Court in Haifa and Sheikh Professor Fadel Mansour – member of the management committee of the Higher Druze Religious Council in Ussafiya and a biologist at the Vulcani Centre. Other members of the committee included experts in civil law, Jewish religious law, ethics, philosophy and medicine.

As we see, Hammond’s claim that the law “was informed by Jewish tradition” is a very partial and selective representation of the facts.

The law itself (a translation can be seen here), although passed in December 2005 actually came into effect in December 2006. Its wording is in fact considerably more nuanced than this BBC report suggests and it provides the opportunity for the patient to define in advance what sort of treatment he or she wishes to receive – or not receive – by means of signed advance directives. Hammond’s claim that “since 2005 this [turning off a ventilator] has been illegal in Israel” is both overly simplistic and inaccurate. Article C, clause 16 (a) for example states:

“Where an incompetent terminally ill patient is suffering significantly, and in respect of whom it has been determined pursuant to the provisions of section 5(b) that he does not want his life prolonged, medical treatment relating to his incurable conditions should be withheld from him, including tests, operations, resuscitation, ventilation, chemotherapy, radiation or dialysis, all in accordance with his wish as ascertained pursuant to section 5(b).”

In addition to its misrepresentation of the law itself, this BBC report clearly sets out to present an inaccurate view of an Israeli law as being synonymous with and defined by Jewish religious law. The political motivation behind that deliberate misrepresentation is all too apparent. 

Update:

A written version of this report by Claudia Hammond appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ sections of the BBC News website’s Middle East and Health pages on September 14th under the title “Suspended between life and death“. Unfortunately the inaccuracies evident in the audio version were not addressed before the written version was published. Moreover, they seem likely to be further amplified on BBC World Service radio in the near future. 

‘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

 

 

 

BBC’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ does fashionable post-colonial guilt

With the BBC’s commemoration of the World War One centenary well underway, it was not surprising to see that the March 6th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – broadcast both on BBC Radio 4 and on the BBC World Service – included an item described in the Radio 4 version’s programme synopsis as follows:

“James Rodgers visits a World War 1 cemetery near Jerusalem and ponders how events there 100 years ago influenced the region and still do.” 

The item – which can be listened to here or as a podcast here from about 18:00 – was also featured in the World Service edition of the same programme on March 11th and can be heard here from around 04:43. In that abridged version it was presented under the title “Bearing Witness on the Middle East” and the synopsis reads: FOOC WS 11 3

“Near Jerusalem, James Rodgers has been researching the area’s war graves. As the world gears up to commemorate World War One in Europe, he argues that perhaps we would do better to cast our minds eastwards, and consider how that conflict continues to shape the Middle East.”

The Radio 4 version is introduced by Kate Adie.

“The Great War of 1914-18 may have been largely concentrated in France and Belgium and that’s the focus of most of the commemorations this year. But the largest theatre of war in terms of territory was in fact in the Middle East. It pitted the British and Russians among others against the forces of the Ottoman Empire, supported by the Central Powers – in other words the likes of Germany and Austria. But it also involved all sorts of others, including Kurds, Turkomans, Assyrians, Berbers, Arabs and Jews. James Rodgers, who’s been writing a book on the region, has been exploring some of the consequences of the fighting.”

The World Service version is introduced by Pascale Harter.

“Coming up: the graveyards in Jerusalem which bear witness to the way World War One shaped the Middle East.”

And:

“Across the Middle East, James Rodgers has been researching the First World War. It’s coming up to one hundred years since the outbreak of what was known then as the Great War. As people prepare for the centenary commemorations by focusing on the devastation it caused for Europe, James takes a walk through a part of the world where it’s still affecting events today.”

Listeners may therefore have quite reasonably concluded that the four minutes or so of former BBC journalist James Rodgers’ item would inform them about the British campaign in the Middle East nearly a hundred years ago. British cemetery Jerusalem

That, however, is not quite the case.

Yes – Rodgers begins with a description of the British war cemetery in Jerusalem and recounts his search for the graves of soldiers commemorated in his local church in London, but he soon goes off on a tangent and a sizeable proportion of his report is devoted to an event which took place twenty-eight years after the end of the First World War.

“I was pointed in the direction of the graves of some of the men from my local parish. They had been killed a few days before Christmas 1917 as British forces sought to consolidate their hold on Jerusalem. Their occupation of the Holy Land then was part of the process – the defeat and dismantling of the Ottoman Empire – which would see the Middle East divided by borders we largely recognize today.

British forces stayed in Jerusalem until 1948. Their commanders came to use the King David hotel – opened in the early 1930s – as their headquarters. This made the building a target for Jewish fighters seeking to drive them out of Palestine. In July 1946 bombers disguised as milkmen blew up the southern wing of the hotel, killing 91 people. Today the king David hosts presidents and prime ministers. Guests sitting in the lobby on my recent visit seemed casually dressed, but snatches of conversations and ubiquitous smartphones and tablet computers suggested they were doing big business.

I had come to learn more about the experience of my journalist counterparts in the late 1940s. Some of them had narrow escapes from the explosion. It was here, explained Maya Morav – the hotel’s PR manager – flicking on the lights to a basement room. Now it’s a hall for conferences and meetings. Then it had been a subterranean kitchen – the place where the bombers left the milk-churns they had packed with explosives. Less than two years later the British Mandate came to an end. British involvement in the Middle East, of course, did not.

When you are covering the Israel-Palestine conflict as a correspondent you need to have history at your fingertips – often more than one version of it. One of my earliest experiences in Gaza was being welcomed and then chastised by an elderly Palestinian refugee. Because I was British he saw me as bearing some of the blame for events of the previous century which had left his family in a shanty town in one of the most crowded parts of the world. Perhaps he had a point.

As events remembering the First World War gather pace in Europe, perhaps the real focus should be on the Middle East where decisions taken then helped to shape Jerusalem, Gaza, Israel, Syria and Iraq as they are today.”

What Rodgers hopes to achieve by urging BBC audiences to focus on geo-political events in the Middle East a century ago is not stated clearly in this report. What is apparent is some degree of fashionable ‘post-colonial guilt’ and an utter disregard for the all-important subject of context – as shown for example in Rodgers’ failure to note that his “elderly Palestinian refugee” actually came by that status as a result of the decision by Arab countries to invade the new Israeli state or his failure to mention the British policies which kept untold numbers of Jews from reaching safety in Palestine before, during and after the Second World War.

Some might consider that Rodgers’ suggestion that those commemorating World War One turn their attentions to the Middle East becomes a little less opaque when one notes that he is not averse to collaborating with the Hamas-supporting Palestine Solidarity Campaign and that the latter organization – in addition to producing its own highly inaccurate propaganda concerning Britain’s record in the region – also promotes and supports the ongoing campaign by the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ (and others) to get Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration.

A dollop of selective post-colonial guilt will surely oil the wheels of that politically motivated campaign. 

 

 

 

BBC reports on a “new debate” in Israel that isn’t, revives old Ha’aretz campaign

The January 25th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, which is broadcast both on BBC Radio 4 and on the BBC World Service, included an item by Josh Spero – editor of the luxury magazine ‘Spear’s’ which describes itself as:

“…the multi-award-winning wealth management and luxury lifestyle media brand whose flagship magazine has become a must-read for the ultra-high-net- worth (UHNW) community. It is also required reading for the affluent financial services community, including the bankers, lawyers and family offices who advise the wealthy.”

It might then have come of something as a surprise to listeners to this edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (available here from 06:15) to find that: Spero FOOC audio

“Josh Spero in Jerusalem asks how best to teach Israeli children about the Holocaust without traumatising them”.

In her introduction to the item, presenter Kate Adie correctly states that:

“The 27th of January was chosen as Holocaust Memorial Day because it’s the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops in 1945. In Israel the Holocaust is commemorated later, either in April or in May.”

Unfortunately she did not bother to inform listeners as to why that is the case or of the significance of Israel’s different date of commemoration – close to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Adie goes on:

“Commemorating is one thing; teaching another. A new debate has broken out in Israel on how to teach young school children about the Holocaust as Josh Spero found out.”

In fact, the BBC’s “new debate” is three months old.

Spero’s audio report at first appears fairly unremarkable in itself. The interesting part of this story comes when one looks at the written version which appeared on the BBC News website on January 29th under the title “A Holocaust book for young children” in both the Magazine section and on the Middle East page. Spero FOOC written

In that article readers are told that:

“At the moment [Israeli] teachers deal with the subject as they think best, often in the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, but they are rarely suitably trained.”

In the audio version of that sentence Spero does not mention the date January 27th, so that is clearly an inaccurate addition by the website’s editors.

With regard to the “new debate” around which this item is centred, the article states:

“In newspaper opinion pieces, writers recalled the traumas they had suffered when Holocaust education had been done badly.

One remembered being shown the movie Night and Fog aged 14, with footage from the death camps of “mountains of bodies being bulldozed”, leaving him “tormented”, while another still suffered nightmares 30 years after a teacher showed him, aged seven or eight, photos of what he called “walking corpses in striped pyjamas“.”

Diligent readers who bother to click on the links provided by the BBC will note that the author of the second article is a woman rather than a “he” and that both those articles date from November 2013 and both come from Ha’aretz – a fact not revealed in the audio version. That second article is also included, together with an editorial, in a side-box of quotations from Ha’aretz articles on the subject. sidebox Holocaust educ art

The opening paragraph of the written article states that:

“News that Israeli children are to receive compulsory lessons about the Holocaust provoked an outcry from pundits who were traumatised by teachers when they were young.”

Hence, readers who clicked on the links to see the sources of these three articles may by now have concluded that just one newspaper exists in Israel, seeing as the only apparent evidence of that “new debate” being touted by the BBC is to be found on the pages of Ha’aretz and the BBC does not provide links to any other sources.

So what are the actual facts behind this BBC-promoted saga?

In 2010 the Israeli State Comptroller (Mevaker HaMedina) criticized Holocaust commemoration in the education system saying that the Ministry of Education “did not instruct the kindergarten teachers and teachers who dealt with teaching the Holocaust and did not provide them with pedagogic material in order to enable them to cope with the complex questions involved in the teaching of this sensitive subject.”.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum took up the challenge of preparing suitable material for use in classes of differing ages during the hours already devoted to teaching the subject in the run-up to Holocaust Remembrance Day. In October 2013 Education Minister Shai Piron announced the new proposal.

Josh Spear’s claim that “[t]he storm […] broke out when education minister Shay Piron announced that Holocaust education was to become compulsory for all Israeli schoolchildren” is not an accurate one. In contrast perhaps to their European counterparts, Israeli children take part in annual commemorations from a very young age and cannot fail to be aware of the siren marking the occasion, the media coverage of the subject and the fact that for many families in Israel, the Holocaust is part of their personal history. Hence, Holocaust education already exists and this latest initiative is designed to help teachers who have been asking for better pedagogic resources on the subject for years. 

But, as Ben Dror Yemini pointed out in an article last November, the new proposal became the focus of an overtly political campaign on the pages of Ha’aretz rather than anything which can be honestly described as a “debate”.

Interestingly, the BBC has chosen to revive and amplify that now old Ha’aretz campaign and has inadvertently illustrated once again that it would be prudent for BBC employees and contributors to widen their reading of the Israeli media beyond the pages of Ha’aretz if they wish to inform themselves – and of course their audiences – of domestic Israeli affairs. 

BBC correspondent compares anti-terrorist fence to Berlin wall, fails to mention terrorism

h/t DA

It is with tedious regularity that we find ourselves addressing here the subject of breaches of accuracy and impartiality guidelines in the programme ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ which is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (10.97 million listeners per week) and on the BBC World Service (192 million listeners). 

The programme’s latest edition – broadcast on Radio 4 on October 31st and scheduled for broadcast on the World Service on November 4th – includes an item by Andreas Gebauer of the BBC World Service. The item can be heard here from 11:32 or here

FOOC R4 edit

FOOC WS edition

The synopsis to the World Service edition of the programme reads as follows:

“A story of the divisions between people – and another of how they can begin to crumble. Seeing the “separation barrier” which separates Israeli from Palestinian settlements in the West Bank brings back childhood memories of Berlin’s Wall for Andreas Gebauer. The two were built for completely different reasons – yet their psychological impact can be oddly similar.”

The synopsis of the Radio 4 edition states:

“Andreas Gebauer finds parallels between Israel’s security barrier and the Berlin wall which he first saw as a young boy”.

Kate Adie’s introduction of the Radio 4 version begins thus:

“Israel this week released twenty-six Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal connected to the latest peace talks between the two sides. The Israeli prime minister has been telling his parliament he’s making a real effort to secure a peace deal with the Palestinians. Precisely what’s been discussed isn’t being revealed. The Palestinians are known to be concerned about the four hundred mile-long separation barrier Israel has built in the West Bank to prevent – it says – attacks being launched against its citizens. Seeing it has reminded Andreas Gebauer of another wall; the one that divided Berlin and his native Germany.”

In other words, rather than taking the opportunity provided by the recent release of convicted terrorists to impart some insight to BBC audiences as to how the families of their victims regard this event, the BBC chooses to use it as a hook upon which to hang yet another pernicious ‘opinion piece’ on one of Israel’s means of preventing exactly such acts of terror, promoting the meme of the ‘Berlin wall’ comparison so often employed by anti-Israel activists. 

Adie’s claim of a “four hundred mile-long separation barrier Israel has built in the West Bank” is clearly inaccurate. The anti-terrorist fence has not been completed and the sections so far constructed – 69% of the project as of August 2012 – are 491.9 kms (305.6 miles) long. Neither is the fence “built in the West Bank” as Adie claims. Its route is determined by security and topographical considerations with most of it situated on the 1949 Armistice lines.

As is all too often the case, Adie’s snide insertion of the words “it says” implies to listeners that the rationale behind the fence’s construction is to be doubted and conceals from them the long-known facts proving its effectiveness.

“A comparison of the above data shows a decrease of slightly more than 90% in the number of attacks: from an average of 26 attacks a year before the fence, to three attacks after erection of the anti-terrorist fence. This means a decrease of more than 70% in the number of Israelis murdered: from an average of 103 slain per year before the fence to 28 after erection of the fence. Similarly, this means a drop of more than 85% in the number of wounded: from an average of 688 a year before the fence to 83 wounded per year after it was built. ”

Andreas Gebauer begins his piece with the biblical story of the fall of the walls of Jericho, but soon moves on to pastures political.

“Now, a new wall has gone up in Canaan. It snakes its way across hills, follows motorways, hugs buildings, cuts through roads and farms. In the hilly countryside it stands out; an ever-present reminder of the unresolved Middle East problem.”

Apparently not aware of the fact that Canaan ceased to exist in the Iron Age, Gebauer is obviously equally oblivious of the fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict is – as the past three years have amply demonstrated – far from being “the unresolved Middle East problem”. He continues:

“Of course I knew it would bring back memories of the Berlin wall which I’d first seen as a young boy. When you stand next to it, as I did east of Jerusalem, the similarities are eerie. The same prefabricated slabs, the same watch-towers, even the graffiti – some angry, some witty. Only this wall seems to be much higher – eight meters, I later find out – more than twice as high as the Berlin wall.”

Gebauer does not bother to point out to his listeners that less than 10% of the anti-terrorist fence is actually a wall, with the vast majority being a chain-link fence. Neither does he clarify that the sections which are constructed of concrete slabs are designed to prevent snipers from shooting at civilians – an issue which East Germany did not need to take into account when its wall was constructed for entirely different reasons. Gebauer goes on:

“To most Palestinians it’s impenetrable: not only to would-be attackers, but also to the mass of Palestinians looking for work. The few Palestinians that are allowed to cross it may have to wait for up to four hours at the checkpoint.”

Gebauer’s historical difficulties continue: he airbrushes from his account the establishment of the Palestinian Authority under the terms of the Oslo Accords twenty years ago by suggesting that residents of PA controlled areas “looking for work” should have free access to areas in which they neither reside nor are citizens. In fact, the number of Palestinians allocated permits to work in Israel is currently at its highest since the start of the second Intifada in 2000. 48,000 permanent permits and 3,000 temporary permits are allocated to Palestinians and a further 27,000 work in industrial zones or communities in Judea & Samaria. During the month of Ramadan this year, over 200,000 Palestinians were issued with permits to visit Israel and in the first half of 2013, 4,545,854 Palestinians crossed into Israel. 

According to Gebauer, however, those numbers represent a “few”.

Gebauer then recounts a personal anecdote before continuing:

“So, much bigger was their [the German people] surprise when a few years later they saw a new wall go up just east of Jerusalem. Not dividing the city, but keeping out its Palestinian hinterland. The Israeli economy may be doing well, but that Palestinian hinterland is clearly suffering. Bethlehem, just a few miles from Jerusalem, shows all signs of massive unemployment, stagnation and squalor.”

Again, Gebauer ignores the fact that Bethlehem, along with what he bizarrely terms Jerusalem’s “Palestinian hinterland”, is under Palestinian Authority control and responsibility – and has been for nearly two decades. He continues:

“On the hill opposite, sheltered by the wall and overlooking the countryside like a modern medieval castle, sits Har Homa – one of the many Israeli settlements that have sprung up east of Jerusalem.”

Here we once again see BBC’s partial adoption of the terminology used by the Palestinian Authority to describe neighbourhoods of Jerusalem – in this case a suburb built largely on land which was purchased by Jews before 1948. Gebauer goes on:

“They look well-built, in their gleaming white concrete, their roofs not cluttered up with black water tanks like those of the Palestinian houses. Unlike the settlements, most Palestinian towns and villages receive water for only a few hours a day.”

Yet again, Gebauer makes no attempt to explain to his listeners that the water supply to Palestinian towns and villages in Areas A and B is the responsibility of the Palestinian Water Authority according to the terms of the Oslo Accords and so any supply problems which may exist should be addressed by that body. He continues:

“When you travel through the West Bank you can’t help feeling that most of it has already been incorporated into Israel. The road numbers are Israeli. The bathing complex on the Dead Sea is Israeli. The Qumran Caves – where centuries-old Jewish scrolls were found – form part of an Israeli national park. The road along the River Jordan, with an electrified fence facing the neighbouring Kingdom of Jordan, is dotted with small Israeli settlements. The only Arab presence is a derelict barracks, vacated by the Jordanian army when it left in a hurry in 1967.”

Gebauer’s “road along the River Jordan” is route 90 – and it has an Israeli road number because, like the rest of the roads in the area, it was constructed by Israel. Between the north of the Dead Sea and the Bazaq (Mehola) crossing, Gebauer would have had to pass numerous Arab towns and villages including Jericho (population 17,000), Zubaydat, Marj Na’je, Fasa’il, Bardale, Tel Albeida and Tel Al Khama. Apparently he was unable to distinguish them from “small Israeli settlements” just as he is clearly unable to tell the difference between an electronic monitoring fence marking an international border and an “electrified” one. He goes on:

“And yet, there is a huge Arab presence, even in Israel proper. Head north to Galilee and you encounter numerous Arab villages and towns, the minarets of their mosques and the steeples of their churches shining proudly in the sun. Their residents – now more than 1.6 million – were allowed to stay after 1948, even given Israeli citizenship.”

The use of the phrase “allowed to stay” of course fails to reflect the fact that Israel’s Declaration of Independence included a specific call to Arab residents of the area at the time:

“We appeal – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

Gebauer continues:

“The wall makes a re-appearance on the way back to the airport, next to the motorway leading from Galilee to Tel Aviv. Behind it, the Palestinian town of Tulkarem. To the right, in the distance, the high-rise blocks along the Israeli coastline. This is the point where Israel proper is barely ten miles wide; no distance for a good enemy army.”

Where exactly Gebauer accessed the motorway (Route 6) we do not know, but whether it was at the Ein Tut interchange or the Ir’on interchange, he would have travelled quite a distance before having any view of the short section of the anti-terrorist fence near Tulkarem which is constructed from concrete. Apparently, the road’s proximity to Tulkarem – a town with a history of terrorist infrastructure – did little to enhance Gebauer’s understanding of the need for protection from sniper attacks and other types of terrorist activity or his comprehension of the fact that the function of the anti-terrorist fence is not to halt “a good enemy army” engaged in conventional warfare.

Route 6

Gebauer then begins his conclusion:

“Yet whether the wall is the answer to Israel’s undoubted security needs is questionable. Walls may – for a while – bring relief to a symptom; they don’t solve the problem itself.”

Ironically, Gebauer has managed to get through his entire item without naming “the problem itself” – terrorism – and he is not about to rectify that.

“The Berlin wall certainly saved East Germany from imminent economic collapse, but it didn’t rescue it in the long run, creating hardship and huge resentment in the process. Similarly, Israel’s security barrier is unlikely to be the long-term answer. It’s a blot on the landscape and doesn’t help Israel’s image.”

Apparently “image” and aesthetics trump civilian lives in Gebauer’s world.

“What’s required now are two wise and courageous politicians to emerge on both sides and fortunate circumstances. We may have to wait for a while, but so did the people of Berlin.”

Beyond its multiple accuracy failures, this broadcast is clearly no more than a politically motivated polemic which adopts both its theme and its language from the repertoires of anti-Israel campaigners. What it certainly does not do is to provide BBC audiences with any “insight” (as claimed in the programme blurb) into why the anti-terrorist fence had to be built or why its presence is still a regrettable necessity. Gebauer’s total abstention from any serious mention of the subject of Palestinian terrorism indicates that he did not intend to inform his audiences at all: his frankly repugnant ‘moral’ posturing and his co-opting of childhood memories are merely a vehicle for the promotion of an all too transparent political standpoint – in clear breach of BBC guidelines on impartiality. 

BBC’s Kevin Connolly tries wit, promotes jaded memes

The BBC programme ‘From our own Correspondent’ – broadcast on Radio 4 and the BBC World Service – promises its audiences:

“Insight, wit and analysis as BBC correspondents, journalists and writers take a closer look at the stories behind the headlines.”

On March 16th 2013, the broadcast included an item by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available here from 21:58), the synopsis of which reads: 

“People in Jerusalem are awaiting the imminent arrival of Barack Obama. Kevin Connolly speculates on what may emerge from the trip and wonders if, afterwards, streets will be named in honour of the American president! “

Connolly’s attempts at wit unfortunately come across as more embarrassingly parochial than amusing.

“Foreigners tend to be commemorated here, naturally enough, according to the degree of enthusiasm they showed for the Zionist cause. So you’ll find streets named after Balfour and Lloyd George alongside roads named after men who are now otherwise figures of total historical obscurity. The back bench British MP Josiah Wedgwood, for example, or the colonial official Wyndham Deedes. The street map of Jerusalem can seem more like a ‘who’s he?’ rather than a Who’s Who.”

<i><i>Josiah Wedgwood</i></i>

The ‘Josiah Wedgwood’ sailed from Italy in April 1946 with some 1,250 Holocaust survivors aboard. Arrested by the British off the coast of Haifa in June 1946, its passengers were interred in Atlit.

Of course it actually might be of some benefit to Mr Connolly’s listeners’ familiarity with Israel’s history (and Britain’s too) were the reporter to refrain from dismissing a figure such as Colonel Josiah Wedgwood as obscure before familiarizing himself with the latter’s tireless campaigning against British limitations on Jewish immigration to Palestine and against restrictions on entry to Britain for persecuted European Jews in the pre-war years. 

The most notable feature of this report though is the slick manner in which several beloved BBC memes are inserted into it. The introduction to the item begins with presenter Kate Adie saying:

“Barack Obama arrives in Israel next week. It’s the first foreign trip of his new presidency and it promises to be a tricky one; not least because he and the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu don’t apparently get on.” [emphasis added]

Later on we have Connolly repeating that meme:

“Mr Obama is widely thought not to have warmed to Mr Netanyahu personally, but Congress loves him.” [emphasis added]

Thought by whom? The listener is not made privy to the source of the BBC’s ‘Chinese whispers’.

Another rather suspect meme promoted by Connolly comes in this passage:

“Obama did come here as a presidential candidate: a prudent step to woo the Jewish vote at home and to please the powerful pro-Israel lobby.” [emphasis added]

Connolly also informs listeners that:

“There will be much talk of Iran whilst President Obama is in Israel. Its nuclear ambitions worry most Israelis and they sometimes seem to obsess Prime Minister Netanyahu.” [emphasis added]

Can we then assume that if a neighbouring enemy country which had vowed to wipe Britain off the map was developing nuclear weapons, Kevin Connolly would not expect his prime minister to be preoccupied with that issue?  

And we also have an insertion of the much touted – but entirely unfounded – meme that all would be sweetness and light in the Middle East if only the Israelis and the Palestinians would make peace.

“One reason perhaps why there was no visit in that first Obama term was the sudden fluidity of the Middle East – a kind of breaking of the political pack-ice after decades of stagnation. America suddenly needed changing policies for changing times in Tunisia and Libya and – above all – Egypt. [….] In those long years of stagnation there was an unspoken belief that the key to unlocking everything was to find peace between Israel and the Palestinian people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” [emphasis added]

As ridiculous as that “belief” may be, it was – and is – certainly not “unspoken” as Connolly claims. But one really would expect that analysts and commentators (and Western politicians) would have learned from the past two and a quarter years of Middle East turmoil that the fact that their own assessments and predictions proved redundant time and time again shows just how little of the region’s dynamics they actually understand. That applies just as much to the concept of the ‘peace process’ as the key to regional stability as it did to the ‘expert’ schools of thought which assured us that revolution would not happen in Libya and Syria, that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was ‘moderate’ and democracy-loving and that Bashar al  Assad was a ‘reformer’. 

The BBC’s seemingly limitless obsession with ‘the peace process’ as the only show in town – even as Al Qaeda affiliated militias stalk the Syrian side of Israel’s northern border and a Hamas minister tries to establish terror cells in PA controlled territories – is dismal testimony of the standard of Middle East-related “analysis” and “insight” it offers to its audiences. 

Kevin Connolly tweaks the Israeli political map

Apparently still unable to let go of the subject of the Israeli elections, the BBC featured another report on the subject by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in its January 26th edition of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ – broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. 

A podcast of the programme can be downloaded or heard here.  Connolly’s report begins at 01:26, but it is also worth listening to the introduction by the programme’s presenter Kate Adie from 00:39, in which she once more repeats the unquestioned mantra of “the deadlocked peace process” as one of the “pressing regional matters”. Alternatively, a fairly accurate transcript of Connolly’s radio report can be read in the magazine section of the BBC News website.

Moving on past the rather laboured introduction, we reach Connolly’s assessment of democracy in the Middle East; one which seems riskily hasty if one considers the track record of elected Islamist regimes in the region so far.  

“Israeli officials have long made the point that theirs is the only democracy in the Middle East – a claim that calls for a little tweaking or qualification in the light of Egypt’s elections last year.”

But the real intention of this report by Connolly seems to be to persuade audiences that the BBC’s pre-election analysis was not as far off the mark as they may think. 

You see, if you happened to think that the BBC’s energetic promotion of the notion that Israelis were about to elect a right-wing government was mistaken then, according to Connolly, it is you who are wrong. And in order to explain just how wrong you were, Connolly says:

“What is interesting about this election is that the dynamic new force in parliament comes not from the far-right of Israeli politics as many expected, but from the centre.

A new party called “There is a Future” is the second-largest force in the new Knesset.

It is led by a popular television personality called Yair Lapid. If you are British or American, you will have to imagine David Dimbleby or David Letterman stepping down from the screen to sort the country out.”

So far, so good. But Connolly then continues:

“Using the term “centrist” in the context of Israeli politics is not always helpful.

I suspect that to many Europeans, it conjures an image of a leader who would be much less tough in negotiations with the Palestinians than Mr Netanyahu would.

But Mr Lapid does not believe that Israel should have to divide Jerusalem with the Palestinians in a future peace deal – one of the core elements of the two-state solution that the wider world continues to believe in.

That Mr Lapid is labelled a centrist perhaps shows you where the centre of gravity of Israeli opinion on such matters lies these days.”

So you see, the BBC was not wrong: Israelis did elect a far-right government after all, because Kevin Connolly has just ‘shown’ that in Israeli politics – which apparently should be defined in European terms and solely in relation to the ‘peace process’, ignoring aspects such as economic policy – even the Centre is Right. 

And how does he pull that off? By blinkering his audience into focusing on one single issue – the subject of the possible re-division of Israel’s capital city – which Connolly should know is just one of many issues defined in internationally recognized agreements as subjects for final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The fact that Yair Lapid – or any other Israeli – may consider the division of Jerusalem undesirable is not a rejection of negotiations with a Palestinian Authority genuinely interested in reaching a settlement. 

Of course Connolly’s convenient tweak of the Israeli political spectrum does nothing to explain why, in all its pre-election coverage of the Israeli Right (and only the right), did the Yesh Atid party barely get a mention. Rather embarrassingly, Connolly also seems to have forgotten that only three days previously he himself wrote the following words:

“But the sudden and decisive lurch to the right that many predicted hasn’t happened.

The results show that there’s plenty of life on the left and the centre of Israeli politics too.”

Unfortunately, this latest report by Connolly appears to indicate that not only is the BBC nowhere near engaging in the much-needed self-criticism shown to be so necessary by its coverage of the Israeli elections, but that it appears to be determined to avoid that introspection like the plague, even if it makes itself and its correspondents look very silly in the process. 

 

BBC’s Jon Donnison displays a professional and ethical conflict of interests

On Saturday, November 24th 2012, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an edition of  ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (also scheduled to be broadcast on the BBC World Service), which included a piece by Jon Donnison. The broadcast can be heard here or here, or downloaded here

Frankly, this is a subject I would have preferred not to have had to write about. Donnison’s broadcast concerns the death of the son of his BBC colleague, Jihad Masharawi, on November 14th and of course any death – but perhaps particularly that of a baby – is tragic and bound to evoke understandable emotional reactions – especially among those who know the family personally.

But as is the case with professionals in any field, journalists should be able to separate their personal storm of emotions from the task of carrying out their job. It is Jon Donnison’s inability to do that (along with many of his colleagues) which leaves no choice but to address the subject.

Below is a transcript of the programme: [all emphasis added]

Introduction by Kate Adie:

“A fragile ceasefire continues to hold in the Gaza Strip this morning. One Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces yesterday near the town of Khan Yunis. He was the first to be killed since the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel came into effect on Wednesday night, ending a week of fighting between the two sides. Israel launched its offensive in what it said was an effort to prevent Palestinian rocket fire. Jon Donnison has spent the week in Gaza and was there as one of his BBC colleagues heard that his house had been bombed.”

Adie gives no context whatsoever for the shooting of Anwar Qudaih on November 23rd and  her casting of aspersions upon the reasons for Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ – although by now standard BBC fare – totally ignores the context of the attack on an army jeep in Israeli territory with an anti-tank missile on November 10th and 110 missiles fired from Gaza at civilian communities between that incident and the operation’s commencement on November 14th.

Next, we hear Donnison’s broadcast:

“My friend and colleague Jihad Masharawi is usually the last to leave our Gaza bureau. Hard working but softly spoken, he often stays late, beavering away on his laptop. He has a cool head – unflappable when others like me are flapping around him. He’s a video editor and just one of our local BBC Arabic service staff who make the office tick. But on the Wednesday before last, soon after Gaza’s latest war erupted with Israel’s killing of Hamas’ military commander Ahmed al Jabari, Jihad burst out of the edit suite, screaming. He sprinted down the stairs, his face ripped with anguish. He’d just had a call from a friend to tell him the Israeli military had bombed his house and that his eleven month-old baby boy Omar was dead.”

Yet again, Donnison promotes the standard BBC line which ignores five days of rocket attacks on civilians prior to the targeted killing of Jabari, thus placing the blame for the hostilities on Israel – and excusing Hamas from any responsibility. Donnison makes an early attempt to establish the supposed bombing of Masharawi’s house by Israel as fact, despite having no proof for that assertion. He continues:

“Most fathers will tell you that their children are beautiful. Omar was a picture book baby. Standing in what’s left of his burnt-out home this week, Jihad showed me a photo on his mobile phone. It was of a cheeky, chunky, round-faced little boy in denim dungarees, chuckling in a push-chair. Dark eyed, with a fringe of fine brown hair pushed across his brow. “He only knew how to smile” Jihad told me, as we both struggled to hold back the tears.

“He could say just two words – Babba and Mamma”, his father went on. Also on Jihad’s phone is another photo; a hideous tiny corpse – Omar’s smiling face virtually burnt off, that fine hair appearing to be melted onto his scalp. Jihad’s sister-in-law, Hiba, was also killed. “We still haven’t found her head”, Jihad said. And his brother is critically ill in hospital with massive burns. His chances are not good.”

Donnison’s unnecessarily graphic descriptions are the audio version of the photographs of dead children (some real and some not – as Donnison well knows) used frequently by Hamas propagandists to incite world opinion against Israel.

 Let us be quite clear: this is war pornography. Its use is designed specifically to shock audiences into oblivion regarding the circumstances and facts and it aims to solicit purely emotional reactions of anger and disgust at the suggested perpetrator.

 Of course we have never (thankfully) heard comparable BBC descriptions of Israeli casualties broadcast in such a manner. 

For those unfamiliar with the BBC’s domestic broadcasts, it is worth pointing out that they are rife with warnings to the effect that “some viewers may find the content disturbing”. No such warning is given at the beginning of this programme. Did its unnamed producer consider the usual niceties unnecessary – or a hindrance? 

Donnison continues:

“Jihad has another son, Ali, four years old, who was lightly injured. He keeps asking where his baby brother has gone. Eleven members of the Masharawi family lived in the tiny breeze-block house in the Sabra district of Gaza City. Five people slept in one room. The beds are now only good for charcoal. On the kitchen shelves there are rows of melted plastic jars full of spices, their shapes distorted as if reflected from a fairground mirror. And in the entrance hall; a two foot-wide hole in the flimsy metal ceiling – where the missile ripped through.”

Donnison is the only person claiming that the Masharawi family home is in the Sabra district. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, as well as numerous media reports, all place the house in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City and that fact is very relevant indeed. 

Donnison goes on:

“Despite the evidence pointing towards an Israeli air-strike, some have suggested it might have been a misfired Hamas rocket. But at that time, so soon after the launch of Israel’s operation, Israel’s military says mortars had been launched from Gaza, but very few rockets. Mortar fire would not cause the fireball that appears to have engulfed Jihad’s house. Others say that the damage was not consistent with powerful Israeli attacks, but the BBC visited other bomb sites this week with very similar fire damage, where Israel acknowledged carrying out what it called “surgical strikes”. Like at Jihad’s house, there was very little structural damage, but the victims were brought out with massive and fatal burns.”

With all due respect, none of the numerous BBC correspondents in Gaza last week are ballistic or munitions experts, and until an independent study by such a professional comes to light, Donnison’s conjectures based on anecdotal evidence remain precisely that.

Regarding Donnison’s claim of mortars, “but very few rockets” having been fired at the time (BBC Watch has seen no such statement by the IDF, but would be delighted if Donnison could produce it), as is pointed out here, “very few rockets” does not mean no rockets. 

It is at this juncture useful to return to a report on the same subject put out by Donnison on November 15th – the day after the incident. In that report (specifically marked as containing disturbing images), Jihad Masharawi is interviewed by colleagues from the BBC Arabic Service. The report’s synopsis states that:

“Jihad Misharawi said his 11-month-old son Omar died after shrapnel hit the family home in Gaza.”

In the filmed interview, the following exchange takes place between Jihad Masharawi and the interviewer:

Interviewer: “Our condolences, Jihad. Tell me what happened with you.”

JM: “Shrapnel hit our house.”

Interviewer: “Shrapnel?”

JM: “Yes. My sister-in-law was killed along with my son and my brother and my other son were wounded.

Interviewer: “In which area?”

JM: “In al Zeitoun.”

Viewing the timeline of announcements from the IDF Spokesman on the relevant day (and corroborated in numerous media reports from the time) we see that immediately following the targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, attempts were made to neutralize the arsenal of long-range Iranian supplied Fajr 5 missiles held by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip so as to minimize the dangers of reactions to Jabari’s killing to Israeli civilians. 

Later that evening, the IDF released an aerial photograph of one such rocket launching site – owned by Hamas – in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in which Jihad Masharawi’s house is – according to him – situated. 

Whether or not Jihad Masharawi’s house was hit by a short-falling terrorist rocket, by shrapnel from secondary explosions of Fajr 5 missiles deliberately hidden by Hamas in built-up residential areas or whether an errant IDF shell targeting those rocket launching sites and weapons storage facilities caused that accident, we may never know.

But it is significant that the BBC has doggedly avoided conducting any sort of investigation whatsoever into the subject of Palestinians killed or injured by at least 152 known shortfalls of rockets fired by terrorists during the week November 14th to 21st and that it has had no inclination whatsoever to report on the use of the civilian population of Gaza as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations storing and launching military-grade weapons from residential areas, despite having frequently (if inadvertently) documented those launchings itself.

In that vein, Donnison continues:

Most likely is that Omar died in one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks. Omar was not a terrorist.”

Of course an eleven-month old baby was not a terrorist: we do not need to be told that by Donnison. But let us also take note of the fact that after a week of furious avoidance of that word, the BBC has finally found a use for it: as a means to chastise Israel. 

Donnison goes on:

“Of course every civilian death on either side – not just Omar’s – is tragic. The United Nations says its preliminary investigation shows that 103 of the 158 people killed in Gaza were civilians. Of these, thirty were children, twelve of whom were under the age of ten. More than a thousand people were injured. The Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that every non-combatant death or injury was tragic and an operational failure.”

Significantly, Donnison chooses to quote exclusively figures put forward by the highly partisan UN OCHA. Other sources suggest very different ratios of civilian to combatant deaths with the IDF reporting 120 combatants out of a total of 177 dead and B’Tselem’s initial findings (not complete) showing a ratio of 40 civilians to 62 combatants.

But it in the next part of his report – obviously inserted in the name of ‘impartiality’ – that Donnison truly exceeds himself:

“In Israel too there were casualties. Four civilians and two soldiers. There were also many injuries, but the fact that the Israeli ambulance service was also reporting those suffering from anxiety and bruises is an indication of the asymmetric nature of the conflict.”

Very classy: having spent a week advancing the narrative that not enough Israelis were being killed, the BBC now promotes accusations that Israel inflates casualty figures.

And, quick off the mark to ‘prove’ his point, Donnison continues: 

“Jihad’s son Omar was probably the first child to die in this latest round of violence. Among the last was a young boy – Abdul Rahman Naim – killed by an Israeli attack just hours before the ceasefire was announced. Abdul Rahman’s father, Dr. Majdi, is one of the leading specialist doctors at Gaza City’s Shifa hospital. The first he knew of his son’s death was when he went to treat a patient, only to find that it was his own boy.

Before I left Jihad’s house, leaving him sitting round a camp-fire with other mourners, I asked him – perhaps stupidly – if he was angry over Omar’s death. “Very, very angry”, he said, his jaw tensing as he glanced at the photos on his phone. My thoughts, after a week where I’ve had little time to think, are with Jihad and his family. Remarkably and unnecessarily, he told me his thoughts were with me and the rest of our BBC team. “I’m just sorry, Jon, that I had to go and wasn’t there to help you with your work” he said, before we hugged and said goodbye.”

It is, of course, perfectly natural that Donnison and other BBC staff should be upset about the death of a colleague’s child. It is even perhaps understandable that several of them allowed their emotions to dictate their reactions and actions at the time. 

What is not acceptable, however, is the BBC’s use of this insufficiently investigated story to promote the narrative of a child’s death being the result of Israeli actions – whilst at the same time brushing aside the conflicting unverified versions as to what actually happened and in stark contrast to its point-blank refusal to report on the subject of casualties caused as a result of the use by Hamas of its civilian population as human shields.

No less problematic is the BBC’s collaboration in the promotion of the same narrative outside its own outlet. 

Fisher did indeed use Danahar’s photographs in his article in the Washington Post. 

Jon Donnison has, over the last two days, been promoting his ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ feature with considerable zeal on Twitter

As angry and upset as Donnison and his colleagues may be, they have clearly crossed a line which has led to a professional and ethical conflict of interests. The tragic story of Omar Masharawi is now no longer being reported: it is being used and abused to advance a very specific narrative of Israel as a killer of children.

It is in danger of rapidly turning into a ‘journalists’ blood libel’ – if it has not already done so – and that is because of the fact that despite a number of deaths of children in the Gaza Strip during the recent hostilities, the BBC fails to make clear that none of those children (or any other civilians) were deliberately targeted by Israel and fails to present the events in their true context – part of which is the fact that not only does Hamas deliberately target Israel’s civilian population, but it also intentionally  endangers its own in order to reap exactly the kind of images and stories the BBC is now running so enthusiastically.

One may be tempted to ascribe the BBC’s actions to naivety or ‘battle fatigue’ but that may not necessarily be the case – as indicated in the Tweet below by BBC Foreign Editor Jon Williams. 

“Gaza” did not produce those images: journalists did. And in the case of the BBC it is increasingly emerging that they are knowingly and intentionally being promoted in order to advance a specific – yet unverified – narrative.

 It is that fact which has seriously compromised the BBC’s reputation as an impartial and accurate reporter of the news and tipped it over into the already over-populated category of journalists who wish to define the news and the public’s perception of it for the purpose of furthering a wider agenda.