BBC’s Connolly omits context from reports on Gaza reconstruction, promotes Hamas-linked charity

The topic of the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and the recent Cairo donor conference has been the focus of several items of BBC content over the last couple of weeks on a variety of platforms including the BBC News website (see here and here) and BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour‘.

In addition to the above, audiences could also read a report by Kevin Connolly published on October 16th under the title “Gaza reconstruction facing obstacles despite aid” which remained on the website’s Middle East page for five consecutive days.Connolly reconstruction art

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ also promoted the same topic by means of an audio report by Kevin Connolly and saw fit to advertise the item separately on Twitter on October 23rd.

Connolly’s written report uses the same kind of context-free descriptions of damage seen in so many other BBC reports, with no effort made to inform audiences that the reason districts such as Shuja’iya were the focus of Israeli activity is that Hamas established infrastructure and placed military assets in such residential neighbourhoods.

“The level of damage in parts of Gaza is extraordinary – the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, called it “destruction beyond description”.

No-one who has seen at first hand the power of modern missiles and artillery shells could fail to be awed by the destructive forces they unleash.

Huge buildings fashioned from thousands of tonnes of concrete have been reduced to dense, shallow, uneven mounds of rubble, as though they had been sucked in on themselves.

In some places – such as Shejaiya and Johr El-Deek – the pattern is repeated from house to house and street to street.”

No less lacking in context – or less predictable – is Connolly’s description of the effects of the border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt, with no effort made to inform audiences that those restrictions exist because Hamas elected to pursue a policy of terrorism. Once again we see BBC portrayal of Palestinians as having no agency and no responsibility for their decisions.

“And of course there is a continuing problem with funding the Hamas-run ministries of Gaza. Public-sector salaries are hugely important in a place where the private-sector economy has had the life squeezed out of it by an Egyptian and (mainly) Israeli economic blockade.”

As equally unsurprising is Connolly’s promotion of another frequent, yet erroneous, BBC theme: the notion that the solution to the conflict between Israel and Hamas is resolvable via negotiations.

“However quickly and completely those donor nations cough up the cash, the truth is that without some sort of political progress between Israel and the Palestinians – of which there is absolutely no sign – there is no guarantee that anything rebuilt in Gaza this year or next year won’t simply be destroyed again in the next conflict.”

Notably, Connolly deviates from the BBC’s previous promotions (see for example here and here) of a UN administered ‘mechanism’ to prevent construction materials being misappropriated by Hamas for the purposes of terror but fails to adequately clarify to readers that Israeli “security concerns” are based on past experience which shows that materials which were imported into the Gaza Strip under international supervision were indeed diverted to the building of terrorist infrastructure, including the 32 cross-border tunnels decommissioned during Operation Protective Edge.

“Any material intended for the reconstruction of Gaza is going to end up passing through Israeli territory. […]

That also means of course that the entire responsibility for making sure that Hamas does not use the reconstruction effort to re-arm will fall to Israel. [...]

Israel has two security concerns.

The first is simple enough. Every bag of concrete will have to be searched to make sure it does not have guns, ammunition or rocket parts hidden somewhere inside.

The second is slightly more subtle and involves what are called “dual-use” materials – in other words anything that could be used to build either houses or rocket silos, such as concrete or steel.

Israel is going to have to find a way to measure the amount that enters Gaza and then the amount that is visibly used in civilian construction – if there is a gap between the two figures, they will assume that Hamas is creaming off the difference to build bunkers and tunnels.”

Connolly’s audio report – titled “Rebuilding Gaza” – for Radio 4 promotes many of the same context-free themes as his written article. Like Yolande Knell before him, Connolly features English teacher Abdul Kareem al Ejlah from Shuja’iya, but fails to inform listeners that the vicinity of the teacher’s house was used to launch missiles or that entrances to cross-border tunnels were located nearby, instead opting for the following emotive description.Connolly World Tonight tweet  

“Abdul Kareem’s street looks like it’s been hit by an earthquake. Modern missiles like Israel’s suck the life out of multi-storey buildings, collapsing them into dense, unlivable mounds of rubble.”

Connolly goes on to promote a project situated on “farmland near Gaza’s border with Israel”.

“And a British charity – Human Appeal International – has built a kind of temporary village: prefabricated steel housing units.”

Connolly is obviously less interested in adhering to BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality by informing BBC audiences of the fact that Human Appeal International is one of several British charities which come under the umbrella of the Muslim Brotherhood’s fund-raising network for Hamas – the ‘Union of Good’ – chaired by Qatar-based Yusuf Qaradawi. As such, HAI is banned by Israel, has appeared on the US State Department’s list of charities linked to terrorism since 1996 and was cited by the FBI as a recipient of funds from the convicted Special Designated Terrorist Entity the Holy Land Foundation.

In 2005 Human Appeal International was one of two charities named on the charge sheet against Ahmad Salatna – a Hamas activist from Jenin who headed the Jenin Zakat Society and was convicted of providing some £6.2 million of funds originating in Europe to Hamas cells, suicide bombers and their families.

In his closing remarks Connolly says:

“The Middle East is full of refugees whose temporary miseries became more permanent and you sense that the same fate awaits these latest victims of violence.”

Of course the “more permanent” miseries of Palestinian refugees are the direct result of the intentional policies of Arab countries which have been using them as a political card for decades. Like those people, the currently homeless people in Gaza could also have their miseries relieved much more easily were Hamas to change its policies and abandon the terrorism which makes control of building materials into the Gaza Strip necessary.

Connolly, of course, exonerates Hamas from any responsibility for bringing about the conflict which caused thousands of people in the Gaza Strip to become homeless as well as for its role in delaying reconstruction. He fails to inform listeners that even before his report was broadcast Hamas was already boasting of renewed construction of cross-border tunnels or that – as documented by the NYT correspondent in Gaza – there appear to be building materials available for Hamas’ own projects such as its Al Aqsa TV building and its Interior Ministry building.

Notably too, despite its obviously extensive interest in the topic of reconstruction, the BBC has so far refrained from informing audiences that the mechanism of monitoring the entry of construction materials (made necessary by Hamas’ adherence to terror) so urgently needed by ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip hoping to repair their houses before the winter was one of the topics set to be discussed at talks in Cairo this week. Those talks were cancelled by Egypt after the terror attacks in northern Sinai and Egypt’s subsequent closure of its border with the Gaza Strip and claims of Palestinian involvement in the attacks.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS presenter Razia Iqbal amplifies Palestinian claims of ‘genocide’ in Gaza

Readers no doubt recall that we recently documented two additional cases in which the BBC’s supposed commitment to accurate and impartial reporting was yet again trumped by the corporation’s self-conscription to the provision of publicity for campaigners using ‘lawfare’ against Israel.

In both those cases – one of which appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme and the other on the BBC News website – the BBC amplified baseless Palestinian claims that ‘war crimes’ and even ‘genocide’ were carried out by Israel in the Gaza Strip and column space and air-time were allotted to the amplification of the following unfounded accusations made by BBC regular Mustafa Barghouti.

“Targeting civilians and targeting children and killing them. Indiscriminate destruction of very wide areas as well as using forbidden weapons like depleted uranium and other weapons that include…eh…cancerogenous [sic – carcinogenic – Ed.] materials. One very important point here was the unjustified massive destruction of whole neighbourhoods in Gaza.”

In addition, both items amplified inaccurate claims from Sarit Michaeli of the political NGO B’Tselem which were clearly not fact-checked by the BBC before either of Kevin Connolly’s reports were publicized.

But – apparently not content with already having misled BBC audiences twice – the audio version of Connolly’s inaccurate and partial report as it previously appeared on Radio 4 was once again amplified five days later in two separate editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on October 13th.Newshour 13 10 14

Both editions of the programme were presented by Razia Iqbal. The earlier version is available here with the relevant segment beginning at 17:30 and the later version here from 38:45.

Iqbal introduced the item in both programmes as follows:

“Now you may have heard some of our coverage yesterday on the conference in Cairo on Gaza. At the conference the Egyptian president said reconstruction after the devastating summer war between Israel and Hamas depended on a permanent calm. Whilst the big weapons of war are quiet now, the Palestinians accuse Israel of genocide while Israel sees its armed forces as the most moral in the world. Previous rounds of fighting produced controversial war crimes investigations and it is likely that this year’s fighting will be no different. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly has been listening as each side made its case.” [emphasis added]

There is, of course, a detailed definition of genocide to which Razia Iqbal could have referred before amplifying that very serious – yet clearly baseless – accusation. And if that did not suffice, Ms Iqbal could have reminded herself of the very obvious fact that a group carrying out genocide does not provide its intended targets with thousands of truckloads of food and humanitarian aid and millions of liters of fuel even as its own population is being attacked by terrorists. It does not provide those same intended targets with medical care in its own hospitals and it does not supply them with electricity or carry out repairs to their infrastructure. And of course most obviously, a group aspiring to carry out genocide does not warn people where fighting is going to take place days in advance so that they can evacuate themselves to safety.

We have previously documented here the fact that less than 24 hours after the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the BBC already rolled out a policy of publicising groundless claims of ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ made by Hamas terrorists and their enablers in various NGOs involved in ‘lawfare‘.

As we see in the vigorous promotion of Connolly’s report and the inaccurate introductions to it, the politically motivated quest to establish a pernicious narrative in the minds of BBC audiences – regardless of the facts – continues across a range of BBC platforms, underscoring the absurdity of editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality which clearly do nothing to dissuade  BBC employees from apparently believing that they can get away with such blatant defamation and delegitimisation.

Twitter:

@BBCNewshour  @raziaiqbal  

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

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

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

 

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

On October 8th listeners to the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme on Radio 4 heard an item by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly (available here for a limited period of time from 43:58) which was introduced by presenter John Humphrys in the following flippant – and inaccurate – terms.Connolly Today

Humphrys: “The guns and the rockets have pretty much fallen silent in Gaza but the two sides are hardly at peace with each other in any real sense. The Palestinians accuse the Israelis of genocide. Israel sees its armed forces as the most moral in the world. Israel calls Hamas terrorists whose every operation is a war crime. Hamas sees its resistance to occupation as legitimate. Previous rounds of fighting produced controversial war crimes investigations and it’s likely that this year’s fighting will be no different. Our Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly has been listening as each side makes its case.”

The BBC is of course well aware of the fact that no “genocide” took place in the Gaza Strip. It also knows full well that Hamas is a terrorist organization and that its designation as such is by no means exclusively an Israeli view.

“Hamas is of course defined as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan – as the BBC’s own profile of Hamas clearly states. 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 BBC knows equally well that the Gaza Strip has not been under “occupation” for over nine years and that Hamas’ so-called “resistance” is aimed at ending the existence of Israel. One presumes that the BBC is also aware of the fact that the head of a prior UN HRC ‘investigation’ later stated “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document”.

Nevertheless, John Humphrys made no attempt whatsoever to inform listeners to Radio 4 of the actual facts behind his statements, thereby deliberately misleading listeners.

Kevin Connolly opened as follows:

Connolly: “The sounds of the summer war between Israel and the militant groups of Gaza have faded but the accusations that war crimes were committed on both sides haven’t gone away. It is a sort of second front to the bitter violence; an attempt to win the politics after an inconclusive conflict. [sound of an air-raid siren] The Israeli case against Hamas is simple: here’s an organization that hides amongst its own civilians to fire rockets at Israel’s. Two clear breaches – says Israel – of the laws of war. And here’s the senior Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti with his charge sheet against Israel.”

Barghouti: “Targeting civilians and targeting children and killing them. Indiscriminate destruction of very wide areas as well as using forbidden weapons like depleted uranium and other weapons that include…eh…cancerogenous [sic – carcinogenic – Ed.] materials. One very important point here was the unjustified massive destruction of whole neighbourhoods in Gaza.”

Connolly made no effort to clarify to audiences that there is no proven evidence to support any of Barghouti’s wild claims, thus deliberately leaving listeners with the inaccurate impression (for the second time in minutes) that the accusations made by that old BBC favourite may have some basis.

Listeners then heard a recording from a news bulletin: “A deafening blast. An Israeli airstrike…” after which Connolly continued:

“We all remember individual moments from the summer’s conflict. This is the American network ABC reporting the deaths of four little boys hit by Israeli missile fire as they played on a beach.”

Connolly neglected to provide listeners with any context to the simplistic account he promoted or to inform them that the circumstances of the incident are still under investigation. He continued:

“No-one would dispute that something terrible happened there, but I asked Israel’s deputy Military Attorney General Eli Baron if he thought it amounted to a war crime.”

Baron: “Basic presumption that every death has to be translated into a breach of the laws of war is just wrong because death – even of civilians – is not an unreasonable consequence of war. During war people die and it doesn’t always mean that there has been a breach of the rules. You may sometimes rely on wrong intelligence and sometimes you just make mistakes.”

The item continued with a recording of radio communications in Hebrew followed by Connolly saying:

“Israelis often describe their armed forces as the most moral in the world; a claim based on this kind of evidence. It’s a recording of a pilot aborting an attack because there are civilians in the target zone. The release of that kind of tape is meant to demonstrate Israel’s adherence to two basic laws of war: discrimination – you have to distinguish between military and civilian positions – and proportionality – any civilian casualties must be proportionate to any possible military gain. But Israel still has plenty of questions to answer. It hit UN-run schools in Gaza for a start and it targeted the homes of militant leaders, arguing they were also used to store weapons or control operations.”

Again, Connolly failed to provide necessary context such as the fact that terrorists fired missiles at Israeli civilian targets from the vicinity of UN-run schools. He went on:

“Israel’s military now says it’s conducting its own investigations. But Sarit Michaeli from the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem says that’s not enough.”

Connolly’s introduction of Michaeli and her organization is obviously intended to give listeners the impression that a “human rights organization” is a neutral body with unbiased opinions they can take as fact. That, of course, is not the case. B’Tselem is a political NGO which has employed a ‘human rights halo’ to advance its political agenda before, throughout and since the recent conflict, collaborating with additional political NGOs engaged in political warfare against Israel.

Michaeli: “The military advocate general provided the army with legal advice both before and during the hostilities. It seems absurd that the same person; the same – you know – office will now look at the orders that he himself approved to see whether those orders could have been unlawful. Clearly there is a major conflict of interests there. It is simply unacceptable as a way to ascertain the truth and as a way to ensure accountability.”

Obviously Connolly did not bother to fact check Michaeli’s insinuations before broadcasting them to millions in the UK.

“The IDF Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, has ordered that a General Staff Mechanism for Fact-Finding Assessments (the ‘FFA Mechanism’) will examine Exceptional Incidents that occurred during Operation ‘Protective Edge’. The FFA Mechanism, headed by a Major General, was activated soon after the commencement of Operation ‘Protective Edge’, in the midst of the ongoing hostilities. […]

The FFA Mechanism is currently headed by Major General Noam Tibon and is comprised of a number of fact-finding assessment teams. Each team is led by a senior IDF officer (in active service or in the IDF reserves), with a rank ranging from Colonel to Major General. The teams are comprised primarily of high-ranking IDF reservist officers, possessing operational expertise in a range of military areas (such as artillery, intelligence and aerial operations), as well as members possessing both legal qualifications and professional experience in the field of investigations. Each team is also provided with ongoing legal advice from legal officers in the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps, who have particular expertise and experience in international law. An additional senior officer from the IDF reserves, with expertise in international law, has also been appointed to assist the head of the FFA Mechanism. None of the fact-finding assessment teams’ members served in the chain of command during Operation ‘Protective Edge’.” [emphasis added]

Connolly closed:

“Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in negotiations to firm up the ceasefire in Gaza. It says much about the prospects for any lasting deal that these allegations of war crimes will be traded and investigated in parallel with those talks.”

Not content with the promotion of this item replete with misleading inaccuracies on BBC Radio 4, a written article on the same topic by Kevin Connolly was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the same day. Titled “Israeli-Palestinian conflict: How ‘lawfare’ has become a weapon“, the article misrepresents Israel’s motives for conducting the routine investigations into the actions of its armed forces.Connolly written

“Each side sees the advantage of establishing the justice and virtue of its cause over the other – seeking a clear political and diplomatic victory after an inconclusive military outcome.”

Further, Connolly later adds:

“Israel’s fear of standing condemned before an international tribunal prompted it to begin those investigations before the fighting had stopped.”

In fact the Military Attorney General (MAG) investigates all allegations as a matter of course and without any connection to external ‘tribunals’.

In this article Connolly repeats the amplification of Mustafa Barghouti’s baseless claims heard in the audio version. (Incidentally, Connolly’s “influential Palestinian politician” gained the grand total of 26,909 votes in the last PLC elections in 2006.)

“The influential Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, who spent time in Gaza during the latest bombardment, gave me a kind of charge sheet for Israel.

“Their war crimes included the collective disproportional use of force, targeting civilians and targeting children and killing them.

“There’s also the indiscriminate destruction of very wide areas, as well as using forbidden weapons like depleted uranium and other weapons that include cancerous materials. One very important point here was the unjustified massive destructions of whole neighbourhoods in Gaza, including in some cases the destruction of a whole town like Shejaiya.””

No effort is made by Connolly to clarify to readers that Barghouti’s accusation of “unjustified massive destructions” in Shuja’iya is inconsistent with the fact that the neighbourhood was the site of Hamas military assets including the entrances to almost a third of the 32 cross-border attack tunnels discovered during the operation. That very serious omission is of course hardly surprising: the BBC has consistently failed to inform its audiences of what actually happened in Shuja’iya – and why – throughout the entire three months since the fighting there took place.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In the written version, Barghouti is also quoted as saying:

“If Palestinians have a problem, they are ready to go to the court,” he explained. “But the most important thing is to hold Israel responsible in front of the ICC. Israel has enjoyed a status of impunity to international law and to international humanitarian law. This cannot be allowed to continue.

“Israel has to be held responsible for the war crimes it has committed against the Palestinian population. Not only in the last war but in many previous wars on Gaza and in many previous attacks in the West Bank”.

As Connolly correctly points out, a Palestinian Authority decision to join the ICC could well prove to be a double-edged sword.

Connolly writes:

“The United Nations Human Rights Council has already established an independent commission of enquiry under the Canadian professor of international law, William Schabas – but Israel regards the council as a kind of standing kangaroo court which is biased against it.”

He fails to inform BBC audiences of Schabas’ record of statements which are the basis for that view and that it is also shared by others.

In both these items Connolly inaccurately presents the subject of ‘lawfare’ as though it were a policy used equally by both sides and passes up on the opportunity to inform BBC audiences how ‘lawfare’ is actually used by anti-Israel organisations as a means of delegitimizing Israel.

Connolly’s amplification of Mustafa Barghouti’s baseless claims in both his written article and the audio item join numerous previous BBC reports in which unqualified promotion was given to similarly baseless accusations from Hamas spokesmen and employees of political NGOs involved in political warfare against Israel – literally from day one of the recent conflict. Once again, the BBC’s supposed commitment to accurate and impartial reporting is trumped by its self-conscription to the provision of publicity for ‘lawfare’ campaigners.

Related Articles:

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

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

 

 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

On July 31st the BBC World Service radio presenter Rebecca Kesby made the following remark during an interview with an Israeli politician:

“But what the Americans and others across the world are seeing on their television screens are dead civilians and they’re seeing your artillery hitting schools and hospitals and the power supply and people see that as collective punishment against the Palestinians.”

Wordle headlines 8 to 17 Jul

BBC News website headlines July 8 to 17 incl.

Of course what people “across the world” were “seeing on their television screens” throughout the months of July and August this year was dictated by what media organisations decided they should – or should not –see.

Over the next few days we will be taking a look at the BBC News website’s coverage of Operation Protective Edge and examining the corporation’s claims of equal coverage of the two sides of the story.

Content on the BBC News website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were indeed “seeing on their television screens” – as well as what they were not seeing.

In part one of this analysis we will look at the content appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page during the first ten days of Operation Protective Edge: from its commencement on July 8th until the beginning of the ground operation on July 17th. A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

July 8th:Graph Jul 8

Written:  Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip

Israel ‘ready for escalation’ of Gaza conflict (discussed here)

Features:  Gaza conflict: Why Israeli invasion would be risky  Jonathan Marcus

Filmed: Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip  Rushdi Abualouf in Gaza

 50 strikes, 15 injuries: Israel and Gaza in 45 seconds

Israel ‘no alternative’ but airstrikes after rocket attacks interview with IDF spokesman Peter Lerner

Gaza doctors ‘running out of medicine’ to treat civilians  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Notably, the BBC’s second written article on the very first day of the operation already promoted Hamas claims of Israeli ‘war crimes'; a theme which was to be repeated in the days to come. Also notable was Yolande Knell’s promotion of the inaccurate notion that shortages of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip were attributable to border restrictions imposed by Israel. That obviously pre-existing theme was frequently promoted in subsequent BBC coverage.

July 9th:Graph Jul 9

Written: Hamas fires rockets amid Israeli air strikes on Gaza  (discussed here)

Israel ‘to intensify Gaza attacks’ (discussed here)

Filmed: Israel steps up plans to stop rocket attacks from Gaza James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

A night of Gaza rocket attacks on Israel  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Video shows Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Strip  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here

‘Scrambling for cover’ in Ashkelon as tanks mass  James Reynolds in Israel

Where are Gaza militants firing rockets?   James Reynolds in Israel

Mid-East crisis: Israel vows to expand Gaza operation  James Reynolds in Israel

Gaza death toll rises as air strikes continue  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Hamas spokesman on restoring ceasefire  interview with Osama Hamdan

Israeli adviser Dore Gold on hopes for Mid-East peace   interview with Dore Gold

Day two of the operation saw further promotion of the notion of ‘war crimes’ in the day’s first written article along with amplification in both that item and a filmed report by Yolande Knell of the false claim made by a political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel that Israeli forces were deliberately targeting civilians in the Gaza Strip. The topic of Hamas’ use of human shields – already evident by this stage – was ignored in both written and filmed reports.

July 10th:Graph Jul 10

Written: UN chief Ban Ki-moon: Gaza situation ‘on knife-edge’

Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pleas for Gaza ceasefire

Features: Yo app warns Israeli citizens of missile strikes

Filmed: Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israeli villagers escape unharmed after Gaza rocket attack  James Reynolds in Israel

Call for calm on Gaza Israel border as death toll rises  Kevin Connolly in Israel

Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

Gaza situation ‘on knife-edge’ – UN chief Ban Ki-moon  press conference 

On July 10th BBC audiences heard amplification of claims of ‘collective punishment’ of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The practice of unqualified promotion of casualty figures supplied by Hamas sources (but not verified by the BBC) was evident and continued to be so throughout the conflict. No effort was made by the BBC to establish the number of combatant casualties and the issue of Hamas’ use of human shields – including directives issued by Hamas officials to the public – continued to be ignored.

July 11th:Graph Jul 11

Written: US prepared to broker Gaza ceasefire, says Obama

Gaza crisis: Fresh attacks follow US ceasefire offer

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′

Features: In pictures: Gaza conflict escalates  (discussed here)

 Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?  Kevin Connolly

 Gaza-Israel conflict: ‘It’s not worth living’

Mothers in Israel and Gaza ‘want the same thing’  audio – Yolande Knell Gaza and Israel

Filmed: ‘Five killed’ as Israeli air strike flattens Gaza house  Tim Wilcox Gaza

 Gaza crisis: Rocket strikes Israeli petrol station  James Reynolds in Israel

Israel defends Gaza military campaign  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100′  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Amateur footage after Israeli air strike on Gaza  Gaza

Baroness Amos calls for ceasefire on Gaza Israel border  interview Valerie Amos

Jerusalem mayor defiant in face of Hamas rocket attacks  interview Nir Barakat

The BBC continued to report casualty figures supplied by Hamas or Hamas-linked sources with no effort made either to inform audiences of the motives of the sources, to verify those figures or to determine the civilian to combatant ratio. Notably, within hours of Jeremy Bowen’s arrival in the Gaza Strip on July 11th he was already promoting the concept that “there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians” and claiming that Israel had “serious questions” to answer. Bowen also began the promotion of UN casualty figures, but failed to inform audiences of the sources of those statistics.

July 12th:Graph Jul 12

Written: Israel to ‘resist international pressure’ over Gaza

 Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises

Features: Jeremy Bowen: Israel and Hamas not ready for ceasefire  (discussed here)

Filmed: Death toll rises in Gaza as air strikes and rockets continue  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya   Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Israeli strike on disability shelter in Gaza’s Beit Lahiya  Yolande Knell in Gaza

 Israel ‘will do what it takes to stop the fire of rockets’  interview with Mark Regev

One of the notable themes appearing on this day (as well as in subsequent BBC coverage) was the depiction of the missiles used by terrorists in the Gaza Strip as “homemade rockets“.

July 13th:Graph Jul 13

Written: UN calls for Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Gaza: Israel hits security HQ and rocket site

Filmed: Israel warns north Gaza civilians to evacuate ahead of strikes Yolande Knell in Gaza

 Gaza hit by Israeli shells  Gaza

Israel’s Iron Dome intercepts rockets fired from Gaza  Israel

Fleeing Gaza families take shelter at UN school  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Again, the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and directives issued by Hamas officials instructing civilians to stay in their homes despite Israeli warnings was absent from the emotive coverage of the conflict’s impact on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

July 14th:Graph Jul 14

Written: Thousands flee northern Gaza after Israel warnings  (originally published on July 13th and discussed here)

Israel’s Gaza campaign in seventh day as rocket fire continues

Features: Life in the Gaza Strip (updated version of a feature originally published in 2012)

Filmed: Middle East conflict: Palestinians flee Israeli air strikes  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day   Jeremy Bowen in Gaza (discussed here)

Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel continues Gaza campaign   Quentin Sommerville in Israel

 Why has Israel-Gaza conflict flared?  Paul Adams

July 14th saw not only continuation of the BBC policy of ignoring Hamas’ use of human shields, but active denial of that policy on the part of Jeremy Bowen.  In addition, Bowen continued to promote claims of Israeli ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ made by the head of a political NGO engaged in anti-Israel lawfare.

July 15th:Graph Jul 15

Written: Egypt proposes Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Israel accepts Egypt proposal to end Gaza conflict

Gaza conflict: Israel restarts air strikes amid rocket fire

Features: Hamas and Israel step up cyber battle for hearts and minds

Filmed: President Obama urges peace in Gaza Strip  press conference 

Hamas spokesman says Egypt truce plan is ‘like an ambush’  interview with Sami Abu Zuhri

Israel spokesman: Hamas threw away chance of a ceasefire  interview with Mark Regev

‘Essentials, not luxuries’ being bought in Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel accepts Egypt proposal to end Gaza air strikes  Yolande Knell in Gaza & James Reynolds in Israel

Palestinians reject Gaza ceasefire proposal  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Netanyahu: Prepared to ‘continue and intensify operation’  press conference

Gaza conflict: Strikes will ‘intensify’, says Netanyahu  press conference

Gaza-Israel ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt  Simon Clemison

Gaza conflict: Anger at scene of Hamas rocket attack in Ashdod  James Reynolds in Israel

Israel to ‘intensify’ Gaza air strikes as Egypt truce fails  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel restarts air strikes amid rocket fire  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Gaza Strip residents give their views on ceasefire  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

The issue of Hamas’ use of human shields continued to be ignored, despite visual documentation of the practice by the BBC. The topic of “tight border restrictions” was again promoted without provision of the context necessary for BBC audiences to comprehend why those restrictions came about and their roots in Hamas terrorism. Unqualified promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures continued.

July 16th:Graph Jul 16

Written: Israel warns Gazans to leave homes as air strikes continue

Features: Crowley: Israel and Palestinians increasingly disillusioned

Filmed: Middle East crisis: Gaza house destroyed after Israeli warnings  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Smoke rises over Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Four boys killed on beach by rocket fire  Lyse Doucet in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel conflict: Peace deal still possible, says Arab League Orla Guerin in Cairo

 Gaza-Israel conflict: BBC assesses the mood in Ashkelon  James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

 Israeli air strike warnings: What the footage tells us  (discussed here)

By this stage the BBC’s promotion and amplification of the PR messaging of political NGOs had been extended to include B’Tselem as well as the PCHR and UN OCHA.

July 17th:Graph Jul 17

Written: Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and Israel begins

Israel-Gaza ceasefire deal denied  (discussed here)

Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder  (discussed here)

Features: #BBCtrending: The rise of Hitler hashtags

Why Egypt remains key to Gaza-Israel truce

Filmed: Israeli president ‘sorry’ over four child deaths in Gaza  interview with Shimon Peres

Gazans flock to banks and shops during brief ceasefire   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive  Quentin Sommerville in Israel (discussed here)

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Gaza crisis: New exchanges of fire after truce ends  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

 ‘Journalists told to evacuate hotel’ – Paul Adams in Gaza

Notable in the second written article on this day was the disappearance of Hamas’ breach of a ceasefire and the downplaying of the cross-border infiltration into Israel by Hamas terrorists which made a ground operation inevitable.

Between July 8th and July 17th the predominant type of content presented to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page was filmed reports from the Gaza Strip, with the majority of those items concentrating on what can only be described as emotive coverage of the conflict’s impact on civilians. Hamas spokesmen were interviewed on just two occasions (in contrast with four times as many interviews or footage from press conferences with Israelis) meaning that the focus of BBC reporting remained on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The total number of filmed reports describing the situation in Gaza during those first ten days of the conflict was more than double the number of filmed reports describing the situation in Israel.

Graph all

Within the first few days of BBC coverage of the conflict, certain themes became apparent. Just hours after the operation commenced the BBC had already introduced the topic of ‘war crimes’ into its coverage and that theme and similar ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’ continued to be promoted; particularly by means of generous amplification of the messaging of selected political NGOs. The speed with which the BBC adopted that theme – along with the lack of any attempt to provide factual evidence that the use of such terminology was justified – does not encourage the belief that the corporation’s foreign correspondents arrived in the Gaza Strip free of preconceived political views.

An additional theme promoted right from the start of BBC coverage of the conflict was that of the supposed deliberate targeting of civilians by Israel – described on numerous occasions in the Hamas-style terminology ‘collective punishment’. Whilst BBC audiences were shown ample footage and images of destruction and casualties in the Gaza Strip (including graphic filmed reports from hospitals and morgues) the subject of Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields was ignored and even denied.  Also noticeable was the BBC’s failure to carry out any discernible independent verification of the casualty figures and ratios supplied by Hamas and Hamas-linked sources, yet unquestioningly and vigorously amplified by the BBC.

Whilst BBC compliance with Hamas restrictions placed on the foreign media throughout the conflict (for example, refraining from filming Hamas terror operatives) was all too apparent to those with additional sources of knowledge and information, general audiences were not informed of that factor either during the conflict or since (in contrast, for example, to BBC statements concerning restrictions on reporting in Iraq in 2003) meaning that they would naturally conclude that all BBC content presented a freely reported, accurate and impartial picture of the situation on the ground upon which they could rely as a source of knowledge and understanding and use to reach informed judgements on the issue.

The BBC’s adherence to Hamas messaging, its advancement of pre-existing politicised themes and its heavy focus on the promotion of context-free emotive images of civilian suffering in the Gaza Strip meant, however, that the story was being framed in a very specific way already from the opening hours and days of coverage. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumbed down BBC reporting on the Palestinian Unity Government continues

September 25th saw the appearance of an article titled “Hamas and Fatah agree unity government’s return to Gaza” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.PUG art

The report opens with the specious suggestion that the reason that the Palestinian Unity Government which came into being on June 2nd has not brought the Gaza Strip under its authority to date is the conflict between Israel and Hamas which began 36 days after that government’s inauguration (and which it did nothing to prevent) rather than internal Hamas-Fatah disagreements.

“Palestinian negotiators in Cairo say they have agreed a “comprehensive” deal for a national unity government to take responsibility for running Gaza.

A cabinet backed by Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, was unveiled in June.

But the move was eclipsed by Israel’s conflict with militant groups in Gaza.”

The article continues:

“The territory has been governed by Hamas, which won the last parliamentary elections in 2006, since it ousted forces loyal to the PA in 2007.

The PA was left to run parts of the occupied West Bank not under Israeli control.”

Readers are not informed that the electoral mandate won by Hamas in 2006 long since expired and elections to the PLC are long overdue. Neither is it made clear that what the BBC euphemistically describes as Hamas having “ousted” the PA was in fact a violent coup. Likewise, the fact that PA control over Areas A and B is a product of agreements between Israel and the PA is not adequately clarified to readers. The article continues:

“Earlier this month, PA President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of operating a “shadow government” in Gaza. Hamas denied the claim, calling it “against the reality”.”

No effort is made to enable BBC audiences to place that Hamas denial in its correct context by informing them that, despite the establishment of the unity government on June 2nd, Hamas continued to run ministries such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Information – both of which played active roles during the recent conflict.

Next, readers are provided with the following analysis from Kevin Connolly:

“The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says bringing unity between Hamas and Fatah is a strategic aspiration for the Palestinians – but differences between the factions are bitter and profound.

The new deal is described as “comprehensive”, but not enough detail is being published to allow a real judgement on its prospects, our correspondent adds.”

In line with the BBC’s policy since the beginning of June, Connolly fails to clarify to readers that – despite the placatory assurances at the time of its inauguration – the PUG has failed to live up to the PA’s existing agreements with Israel on various issues, including the disarming of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Connolly apparently does not consider it relevant to inform audiences about crucial clauses in those existing agreements such as the ban on local weapons manufacture and import.

Later on, the report states:

“However, a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA’s own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory. He described the deal as “partial”.” [emphasis added]

Despite that very clear writing on the wall, the BBC obviously does not see the necessity of making audiences aware of the fact that if Hamas and other terrorist organisations are not disarmed by the PUG and the territory not brought under the sole control of PA security forces, then the Gaza Strip – along with the rest of the PA-controlled areas – will find itself in a ‘Lebanon-style’ situation whereby the actions of a foreign-sponsored terrorist organization can continue to spark conflict whenever that suits its own (or its sponsors’) agenda.

Additionally, the obviously relevant topic of the recent exposure of a planned Hamas coup against the PA is once again ignored by the BBC in this report.

Nearly four months since the Palestinian Unity Government came into existence, the BBC has still not met its obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” by providing audiences with anything more than superficial reporting on the topic. That failure clearly not only hampers audiences’ ability to understand current events, but also means that they will be ill-equipped to comprehend any future developments. 

BBC presentation of truce fails to tell the real story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Reporter in the rubble: what is missing from BBC presentation of structural damage in Gaza?

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th BBC audiences have seen copious amounts of footage and images of damaged and destroyed buildings and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

Examples of televised reports include James Reynolds in Shuja’iya on August 6th, Jon Donnison in Beit Hanoun on August 5th, Orla Guerin in Khuza’a on August 11th and Chris Morris in Gaza City on July 29th. Listeners to BBC radio have heard dramatic descriptions such as this one by Kevin Connolly from Juhor-ad-Dik on Radio 4 and visitors to the BBC News website have seen illustrative photographs and graphics such as those below by the dozen and read statements such as:

“Approximately 16,800 housing units in Gaza had been destroyed, Mr Serry added, affecting some 100,000 Palestinians.” (“Gaza ceasefire ‘extended by a day’ after Cairo talks“, 19/8/14)

Damage photos 1

(source)

Damage photos 2

(source)

Damage photos 3

(source)

Damage photos 4

(source)

Damage photos 5

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Damage photos 6

(source)

Absent from these BBC reports and the many others relating to the same topic, however, are two very important aspects of context: where and why.   

Most BBC audience members will have no reason to be familiar with the geography of the Gaza Strip. They will therefore be unable to judge to what extent the isolated images they are repeatedly shown by the BBC represent the picture in the whole of the Gaza Strip.Damge heat map

As we see above, the BBC obviously relies on UN OCHA as a source of information on the topic of damaged structures and that organization recently put out a series of maps titled “Gaza Crisis Atlas”. Analysis of those maps published at ‘Israellycool’ – see here and here – shows that the majority of damaged structures are concentrated in specific locations.

“Several patterns are discernible:

The attacks are in no way “random” or “indiscriminate”. One can clearly see the spatial distribution of the damage in several aspects. We find 8,952 of the 12,433 total points (72%) are within a 3 KM buffer abutting the border with Israel. The main objective of Operation Protective Edge was to find and destroy dozens of terror tunnels dug from Gaza into Israel.

That the most intensive damage was caused to the area where the tunnels naturally originated is thus perfectly understandable. Furthermore, of the 4,441 destroyed structures, 3,481 of them (78%) are within the 3 KM buffer, as are 2,531 of 3,303 (77%) of the lowest intensity damage (simple craters), which are mostly strikes on rocket launchers and tunnels.

Most of the attacks are grouped around certain neighborhoods or villages, such as Shuja’iyya, Johur ad-Dik, Sureij, and Khuza’a. These were probably the result of the ground operations that took place in dense urban areas also within the 3 KM buffer that housed multiple tunnel entrances and shafts, as well as launch sites for mortars and rockets.”

Of course another important type of context lacking from most BBC reports is why certain locations were targeted. Some examples of explanations can be seen in the video below.

So why is it that context which is so vital for BBC audiences’ understanding of what they are being shown by the BBC is subject to serial omission? Well, former AP correspondent Matti Friedman has some important insights to share on the topic of Western media coverage which may provide a clue.

“While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibility—in this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. […]

Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians. That is the essence of the Israel story.”

Read the whole article here

 

‘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 Kevin Connolly in Gaza: high on pathos and sunsets, low on accuracy and facts

The BBC Radio 4 version of ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ featured an item by the Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly in its August 16th edition which can be heard from around 06:56 here or as a podcast here. A very similar written version of Connolly’s report appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 17th under the title “Gaza: What does the future hold for the children?“.FOOC 16 8

Kevin Connolly is currently located in the Gaza Strip and, as the title of his report suggests, his last few days there seem to have understandably prompted him to worry about the children living in that territory.

“For children in Gaza, living through war must seem like an habitual part of life. Is it possible to imagine what the future may hold for them? […]

The children fizz with energy and curiosity, singing out their names across the gap between the buildings and demanding to know ours.

They quickly learn to wait until we are on air using the balcony’s portable satellite dish, before shouting across. They know that our desperate requests for quiet then have to be mimed, much to their amusement.

I find myself worrying what the future holds for them. […]

If you are a six-year-old in Gaza, you have already lived through three separate wars – the ugly and brutal confrontations with Israel which flared in 2008, 2012 and again this year. It is as though Gaza is a kind of junction box where the dysfunctional neural wiring of the Middle East fused a long time ago.”

Of course if you are a six year-old less than a mile away in Sderot you have also lived through those same three wars and if you are a thirteen year-old from any of the towns and villages surrounding the Gaza Strip, you have never known life without the constant missile fire from the Gaza Strip which – whenever the terrorist organisations there choose to escalate it – is the cause for the “brutal confrontations” which Kevin Connolly ambiguously describes as having “flared” without explaining why that is the case.

Interestingly though, since Connolly arrived in the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau in June 2010, neither he nor any of his colleagues have been sufficiently worried about the children in Sderot to make the 90 minute drive down there and ponder their future. The last BBC correspondents to do anything of that sort were Nick Thorpe in 2006 and Tim Franks in 2008. Perhaps some insight into Kevin Connolly’s comprehension of the situation can be gleaned from this segment of his report:

“And yet, decisive victory seems to elude Israel, just as it eludes Hamas. The fighting will probably end in ways which are ambiguous and unsatisfactory, just as it has in the past.

That will be tough on the civilians of southern Israel, who will almost certainly find themselves running for their air-raid shelters again in future.

But it will be tougher still for those children on the roof next door. They have no air-raid shelters and very little chance of escaping to the wider world as long as Israel and Egypt maintain strict controls on all movement across Gaza’s borders.”

Connolly makes no effort to inform his listeners or readers that the reason Israeli children have air–raid shelters is because their country invests considerable resources in the protection of its citizens and the reason the children in Gaza do not have air-raid shelters is that Hamas invests considerable resources in acquiring missiles and using concrete to build cross-border attack tunnels rather than air-raid shelters. Like the rest of his colleagues he of course refrains from mentioning that those controls on Gaza’s borders with Israel are necessary precisely because of those Hamas policies.

So whilst Connolly tugs at listeners’ heart strings with his artistic descriptions of Gaza and its young residents, he manipulatively blocks any mention of the root cause of the picture he paints from audience view.Connolly FOOC written 17 8

He also returns to the BBC practice of trivialising terror attacks against Israeli civilians by promoting the jaded ‘homemade rockets’ theme.

“These confrontations are hopelessly asymmetrical. Many of Hamas’s rockets are out-of-date or home-made, compared with Israel’s powerful and sophisticated weapons.”

Likewise, Connolly fails to convey to listeners and readers the fact that it was Egypt’s belligerency which eventually resulted in the Gaza Strip coming under Israeli control in 1967, that Israel withdrew from that territory nine years ago and that Israel controls the coastal waters and air-space of the Gaza Strip because the representatives of the Palestinian people – the PA – signed agreements stipulating those conditions two decades ago.

“In the Six Day War of 1967 Israel came back and has occupied Gaza – or controlled life inside it – ever since.”

Obviously, if Connolly’s statement were accurate and Israel did control life inside the Gaza Strip, there would not have been thousands of missiles fired at Israeli civilians from that territory or cross-border attack tunnels dug over the years. Connolly is no less inaccurate when he tells audiences:

“At one point, Hamas appeared to be navigating the treacherous cross-currents of the Arab Spring effortlessly. It seemed able to count, at different points, on the support of Syria, Egypt and Iran – all powerful regional players.

Now, through a combination of misjudgement and misfortune, it can count on none of them.”

The great misfortune of the children of the Gaza Strip is of course that the place they live is under the control of a nihilistic terrorist organization which puts their welfare way down its list of priorities and the terrorisation and murder of Israeli children at the top. Had Kevin Connolly bothered to properly explain that crucial point to BBC audiences instead of making do with flowery clichés and trite descriptions of sunsets, he might actually have made a step towards doing what the BBC exists to do: informing its funding public not just what is going on in the world, but why. 

 

Kevin Connolly joins the BBC’s Hamas demands promotion campaign

One characteristic of BBC reporting since the 72-hour ceasefire expired at 08:00 on August 8th has been confusing and cloudy presentation of the actual sequence of events which fails to adequately convey to audiences that whilst Israel agreed to extend the truce, terrorists in Gaza both broke it four hours before it expired and refused its renewal. Likewise, the fact that, from 08:01 on August 8th intense missile fire on Israeli civilians carried on for some two and a half hours before Israel responded is not made sufficiently clear.

A prominent theme appearing in BBC reporting even before the 72-hour ceasefire, but more frequently since negotiations in Cairo commenced, is context-free promotion of Hamas’ demand to lift border restrictions. To date, not one BBC report has attempted to properly explain to audiences why those restrictions were implemented in the first place or the potential effects of the lifting of a blockade aimed at preventing the flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip.

Kevin Connolly’s filmed report of August 9th for BBC television news ticks both those boxes. The report also appeared on the BBC News website under the misleading title “Strikes resume in Gaza as ceasefire ends” – with no mention of the missile attacks which preceded those “strikes” whatsoever – and with an ambiguously phrased synopsis.Connolly 9 8 strikes resume

“Renewed clashes have broken out between Israel and Hamas after the end of a three-day ceasefire.”

Connolly’s account begins with reversal of cause and effect.

“Last week’s ceasefire here is starting to feel like a distant memory. This Israeli strike on a Hamas training compound in Gaza produced a column of smoke visible across the city. Hours earlier militants fired rockets that streaked towards the towns of southern Israel. The Gaza authorities now say 150 mosques are among the buildings damaged or destroyed here. Picking through the rubble to salvage whatever can be salvaged is a daily ritual.”

Connolly refrains from providing viewers with the necessary context: the use of mosques by terrorist organisations for weapons storage, tunnel construction and so forth. He then moves on to some equally context-free promotion of the Hamas demand to lift border restrictions.

Connolly: “Many Gazans say the destruction is deepening their resolve to see their borders reopened when all this is over.”

Man: “Our demands are lie the demands of any people: freedom, independence and to have an exit to the world because we’re living in a big prison. The only way to meet our demands is to open the borders so that we can be like any other people in the world. Freedom is a right for any person and you can’t attain freedom without sacrifice.”

Significantly, Connolly obviously finds it unnecessary to point out to viewers that the border restrictions were put in place because the Israeli government believes that its citizens also have rights, including that to live a normal life free from terror attacks. Additionally, Connolly offers no context on the topic of building materials – remarkable considering that the evidence of misappropriation of such materials by Hamas for the purpose of terror is readily available –  and fails to inform viewers of the real reasons for the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip.

“Gaza is short of everything from building materials to medical supplies. Rebuilding its shattered streets could take years. Rebuilding shattered lives will take longer. The death toll is creeping towards two thousand.”

As we see, despite the BBC’s ostensible ‘road to Damascus’ moment the day before this report was produced, the reporting of context-free casualty figures continues.

It is, of course, the BBC’s obligation under the terms of its constitutional document to inform audiences in a manner which will “build a global understanding of international issues”. The abuse of that mission as manifested by the barrage of context-free politically motivated promotion and amplifiction of Hamas demands relating to border restrictions becomes more apparent by the day.