After effects 3: BBC accuracy failure still being used against Israel

On July 23rd 2014 a member of staff at the Guardian decided to use a certain photograph to illustrate that particular day’s letters page and, by way of a caption, added the following amended quote from one of the letters (ironically complaining about BBC impartiality) published on the same day.

‘For Palestinians, Israel’s attacks are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state.’

With the subject of that sentence being “Israel’s attacks”, one might have expected that the image chosen would have some sort of connection to that topic. However, the photograph selected actually shows a Palestinian father holding the body of his infant son who was killed in November 2012 by a rocket misfired by one of the Palestinian terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Guardian letters page

So why would that Guardian staffer believe that the picture showed the aftermath of “Israel’s attacks”? Well, like other members of the BBC’s audience, he or she was for months mistakenly led to believe by the BBC that Omar Masharawi was killed by an Israeli airstrike.

“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”

Clearly, twenty-one months on, what still remains in people’s memories is the BBC’s extensively promoted inaccurate story – not the subsequent belated correction.

Related Articles:

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

 

 

 

BBC’s Danahar fudges chance to explain significance of Kerry ‘apartheid’ remarks…and worse

On the evening of April 28th the BBC News website published an article titled “Kerry warns of ‘apartheid’ without Middle East peace” on its US & Canada page.Kerry apartheid art

The report relates to remarks made by the US Secretary of State during a meeting of the Trilateral Commission.

Since the publication of Kerry’s remarks, and as noted in the BBC article, both condemnations and clarifications have been made, including an official statement from Kerry himself.

The most notable point about the BBC’s report on the subject – including the appended analysis by Paul Danahar – is that at no point does it attempt to clarify to audiences one very important issue of context to the story.

The BBC makes no attempt to explain the political background to the intentional use of the ‘apartheid’ trope and its significance in the context of the campaign of delegitimisation against Israel.  

As we have noted here before:

“The small, but noisy, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel  – led by its ‘high priest’ Omar Bargouti – has, according to him, three basic aims:

“… ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year, the makers of those demands have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.” [...]

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the delegitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa.

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations.” 

In order to be able to understand the full significance of John Kerry’s use – intentional or not – of a theme promoted by some of Israel’s most virulent detractors and of the subsequent reactions to that use of such a loaded word, BBC audiences would have to be made aware of what the ‘apartheid’ trope means and who uses it.

Not only did that not happen in this article, but in his side-box of analysis, former BBC Jerusalem Bureau head Paul Danahar wrote: [emphasis added]

“The US state department is telling everyone that it’s no big deal that John Kerry used the ‘A’ word to describe the impact on Israel if the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict collapses.

A spokeswoman has pointed out that senior Israeli politicians have also referenced apartheid before when talking about the risks to Israel’s reputation. This point though is frankly spin. It is one thing for Israeli politicians to use provocative language in their own political arena. When used by the US secretary of state it adds legitimacy to the debate about whether there is an equivalence between the old South African regime and the situation on the West Bank.

Whether the “apartheid” reference was a gaffe or deliberate there is no doubt that Secretary Kerry believes Israel’s government is stubbornly ignoring his warnings that a failure to agree a peace deal will feed a campaign trying to delegitimise their state.”

So as we see, not only does the BBC fail to inform readers of the political origins and aims of the ‘apartheid’ trope, its Washington Bureau chief and former Jerusalem Bureau head tells BBC audiences that there is a “debate” which already has “legitimacy” to be conducted on the subject.

Paul Danahar knows perfectly well that the vast majority of Palestinians live under either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas and vote for the legislative body which rules them and makes the laws which govern their lives. He also knows full well that Israeli policies and actions in Judea & Samaria have nothing to do with the skin colour or race of people living there, but are entirely security-related and aimed at preventing terrorism against civilians of all colours, races and creeds. And Danahar spent enough time in the Middle East to know exactly where the ‘apartheid’ trope comes from and the reasons for its employment.

But instead of using his specialist knowledge to clarify to North American readers why Kerry’s remark is so controversial and problematic, Danahar chooses instead to promote the falsehood that there is a “debate” to be had. 

 

 

 

BBC’s Paul Danahar at the Frontline Club

As was mentioned in the comments on this thread, the former BBC Jerusalem Bureau chief Paul Danahar was at the Frontline Club in London on October 15th talking about his new book. 

Courtesy of the estimable Daphne Anson blog readers can now watch a video of Danahar’s talk, which was chaired by Sam Farah of the BBC Arabic Service. 

Both Daphne Anson and the contributor in our comments section who attended the talk noted being pleasantly surprised by Danahar’s comments on Israel. I personally would take issue with his claim that the focus of the Arab-Israeli conflict has shifted from being “about land” and “about borders” to “about God”. Whilst it may be easy to identify the religious inspirations of Salafists currently situated in the Sinai and Syria, as anyone familiar with the ideologies of Hamas, Hizballah and other organisations will be aware, border adjustments have never been the real issue behind their motivations.

I would also take issue with Danahar’s comparison between Israel and the surrounding countries with regard to women’s rights and their participation in society: the major point he ignores is that equal rights are protected under Israeli law and his description of Israel’s Orthodox community is painted with a homogenous and stereotypical brush which fails to distinguish nuances between different groups within that community.

In addition, the much-promoted myth of the Assad dynasty’s keeping the Syrian –Israeli border “kind of quiet” over the years neglects to take into account that the rule of thumb regarding that border has always been that when it was in the Syrian dictatorship’s interest for it to be quiet, it was – but when it wasn’t – it wasn’t. That myth also of course blurs the fact that Assad’s support for Hizballah and other terrorist organisations has to no small degree been based on a policy of ‘having your cake and eating it': attacking Israel via a proxy in order to avoid direct retaliation.

Have a look at the video and tell us what you think in the comments below.

 

BBC takes a stroll down the tabloid journalism side of the street

In between feverishly promoting his own book via his Twitter account, former BBC Jerusalem Bureau chief Paul Danahar (now based in Washington) found time on October 6th to make his thoughts known on an issue of dire international importance – at least for people who don’t do metaphors.

Danahar tweet jeans

Danahar tweet jeans 2

The following day, October 7th, the BBC News website saw fit to produce an entire article on the subject of what some people were posting on Twitter. 

Jeans art

Not to be outdone, on October 13th BBC Middle East Editor (and no less prolific book promoter) Jeremy Bowen Tweeted his own second-hand scoop.

Tweet 2 Iran porn

The following day the BBC News website published on its Middle East page a non-event of an article – cribbed from another media source – titled “Israel PM Netanyahu Twitter account ‘in erotica gaffe’ “.

article twitter iran porn

Tweet 1 Iran porn

Whilst visitors to the BBC News website remain in the dark with regard to issues such as missile attacks and terror attacks on Israeli civilians, Palestinian Authority incitement and glorification of terror and the phenomenon of billions of unaccounted-for Euros, they can at least rest assured that they are au fait with the latest earth-stopping developments as far as who wrote what and who followed or unfollowed whom on Twitter is concerned – just as long as it can somehow be linked to Israel’s prime minister. 

Related articles: 

What makes a story newsworthy for the BBC?

New BBC Jerusalem Bureau Chief

As readers may have already noticed, Paul Danahar moved on from his position as head of the BBC’s Middle East Bureau in Jerusalem last month and is now in Washington.

His replacement is Richard Colebourn who was formerly based in Beirut.

Colebourn twitter

Related posts:

BBC Jerusalem Bureau Editor

BBC Jerusalem Bureau personnel changes

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

Back in April we noted that the image of BBC employee Jihad Masharawi holding the body of his son Omar had been used by the Iranian regime-linked ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ at an anti-Israel protest in London. 

Blogger Richard Millett has recorded another instance of the use of the same image in recent days by the same organization, also in London. 

Richard Millett photo

As we previously remarked:

“Is the BBC responsible for the fact that Khomeinist sympathisers intent upon Israel’s destruction and the spread of hate speech against Jews use that image to promote their cause? No.

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that the picture of a father carrying his son who was killed as a result of a terrorist missile can be misrepresented as an image depicting Israeli “murder”? Yes. 

Because if BBC journalists in the Gaza Strip at the time had adhered to their own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that story would not have been promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers’ and that image would not have become entrenched in the minds of the general public as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing.”

Over six months have now passed since the BBC first promoted its irresponsible and unprofessional knee-jerk report blaming Israel for Omar Masharawi’s death without any proof whatsoever that the story it so energetically promoted had a factual basis. The subsequent corrections issued by the BBC of course received nowhere near as much exposure as the original story itself and the BBC’s response to this very grave lapse of editorial standards has been disappointing at all levels. 

In May 2010, the BBC’s former Director General Mark Thompson said:  

“The BBC’s motto is ‘Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation’ – the idea being that access to news, information and debate about different countries and cultures can ultimately help foster mutual understanding and tolerance.”

That concept of course has another side to it too. When the news and information accessed by BBC audiences is not accurate or impartial, it can very easily foster hate and intolerance – as the above photograph illustrates only too well. One would have expected Mark Thompson’s successors to be aware of that fact, and to take the resulting responsibility seriously rather than closing ranks as a response to public criticism. 

Related posts:

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

BBC’s Omar Masharawi story has rug pulled by UNHRC

Still no BBC accountability on Masharawi story

A reminder of the chronology of the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

Update on the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

Back in March, when the UN HRC produced a report in which it established that the son of BBC Arabic journalist Jihad Masharawi had been killed as a result of a misfired terrorist rocket in November 2012, BBC Watch wrote:

“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”

Last week the Zionist Federation in the UK held a concert to celebrate Israel’s 65th anniversary. Outside the venue, a demonstration organized by one of the Iranian regime’s mouthpieces in the West – the Islamic Human Rights Commission – was documented by British blogger Richard Millett. Below is one of Richard’s photographs of the demonstration.

IHRC at ZF event

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that Khomeinist sympathisers intent upon Israel’s destruction and the spread of hate speech against Jews use that image to promote their cause? No.

Is the BBC responsible for the fact that the picture of a father carrying his son who was killed as a result of a terrorist missile can be misrepresented as an image depicting Israeli “murder”? Yes. 

Because if BBC journalists in the Gaza Strip at the time had adhered to their own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality, that story would not have been promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers’ and that image would not have become entrenched in the minds of the general public as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing.

The reputation for trustworthy reporting which the BBC cultivates carries with it great responsibilities. But with regard to its Middle East reporting, the BBC often appears to be disturbingly cavalier about the potentially very serious consequences of its negligence of editorial standards on accuracy and impartiality.  

And by the way – five months on, Jon Donnison’s flawed account of Omar Masharawi’s death is still featured prominently in the Magazine section of the BBC website. 

Magazine 22 4

 

BBC stays mum on new PA restrictions on foreign journalists

Almost a week after their announcement, there has so far been no report published by the BBC regarding the new restrictions on foreign journalists introduced by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate.

Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

“Foreign journalists who ignore the latest restriction face arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces, said Jihad Qawassmeh, member of the Palestinian Journalist’s’ Syndicate.

He warned that any Palestinian journalist who helps international media representatives enter the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories without permission would face punitive measures.” […]

“The Palestinian Authority, which has often displayed a large degree of intolerance toward journalists who refuse to serve as a mouthpiece for its leaders, wants to work only with sympathetic reporters.

The timing of the ban is no coincidence. It came in the aftermath of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ramallah and Bethlehem, where Palestinian protesters set fire to and trampled on his pictures. The protests seriously embarrassed the Palestinian Authority, especially because they underscored the large gap between its leaders and the street.”

As anyone who has read Stephanie Gutmann’sThe Other War” (a riveting account of the reality behind the foreign media’s reporting of the Second Intifada) will be aware, information coming out of the PA-controlled territories via foreign correspondents already passes through a series of ‘sieves’ including fixers and local editors before it reaches the general public. This new dictate by the PA will clearly exacerbate the filtering of the news which reaches audiences worldwide. 

Khaled Abu Toameh adds:

“Particularly disturbing is that representatives of the international media have not protested against the Palestinian Authority’s threat to restrict the journalists’ work and even arrest them. One can only imagine the response of the international media had the Israeli authorities issued a similar ban or threat.

It also remains to be seen whether human rights organizations and groups that claim to defend freedom of press will react.

Once the ban goes into effect, officials of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information will find themselves serving as censors and editors of all news items concerning the Palestinians. Unless, of course, foreign journalists raise their voices and insist on their right to write their own stories from Ramallah.”

So far at least, the BBC appears to be avoiding informing its audiences of these new measures which will affect both the accuracy and impartiality of its reporting. Similarly, the Foreign Press Association – chaired by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Paul Danahar – has yet to release a statement on the subject.

BBC appoints Jon Donnison as ‘Shin Gimmel’ of Masharawi story

In Hebrew, the expression ‘the Shin Gimmel syndrome’ is used to describe a situation in which the public blame for an operational failure is placed upon the lowest ranking soldier – the one guarding the front gate – so that high-ranking officers can avoid having to take the responsibility and its consequences. Needless to say, the use of the ‘Shin Gimmel’ as a scapegoat is a symptom of a serious failure of leadership. 

That is precisely what the BBC has done in its belated attempt to stave off criticism of its handling of the Omar Masharawi story: it has sent Jon Donnison – the lowest ranking journalist involved in this story – to do damage control.

It has not allocated that task to Donnison’s boss at the Jerusalem Bureau, Paul Danahar, who Tweeted unverified claims that an Israeli attack had killed Omar Masharawi. Nor has the job been given to Danahar’s boss, Jeremy Bowen, whose position as Middle East Editor was created especially in order to avoid precisely such situations in the wake of previous criticisms of the BBC’s record of accuracy and impartiality when reporting on Israel. Neither was the Head of News or anyone else further up the chain of command required to provide explanations for the BBC failure. Instead, lowly Donnison was sent to take the rap.

Is it any wonder then that Donnison gives the impression of being distinctly out of his depth as he flails about trying to make passable-sounding excuses for the BBC’s failures? 

Donnison 11 3 Masharawi

Donnison’s article – entitled “UN disputes Gaza strike on BBC man’s house” – opens with the same picture of Jihad Masharawi carrying his son’s body which the BBC touted so extensively at the time. This time, however, the caption is particularly loaded. [emphasis added]

“Jehad Mashhrawi’s 11-month-old son Omar was killed in the attack on his house in Gaza”

In other words, the BBC wants to place in readers’ minds from the very beginning the idea that there was a deliberate attack on Masharawi’s house, rather than an accident. 

Donnison begins:

“The son of a BBC journalist and two relatives killed in last November’s war in Gaza may have been hit by a misfired Palestinian rocket, a UN agency says.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said its conclusions were based on a visit to the site a month after the attack.”

All the information in the first five paragraphs of Donnison’s article is for some reason repeated further on into the article and so we later find the following statements, which clearly intend to cast doubts upon the UN findings, not least because of the passage of time:

“UN officials visited the house four weeks after the strike.

They said they did not carry out a forensic investigation, but said their team did not think the damage was consistent with an Israeli air strike.

However, the UN said it could not “unequivocally conclude” it was a misfired Palestinian rocket.

A UN official said it was also possible the house was hit by a secondary explosion after an Israeli air strike on Palestinian weapons stores.”

The UN’s report states:

“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.”

A footnote adds that the UN investigated the incident itself and the UN has confirmed that the above passage in its report indeed relates to the incident at the Masharawi home. 

Donnison’s “UN official” quote above also appears in an AP report which includes further information which Donnison elected not to include in his piece:

“Matthias Behnke, head of OHCHR office for the Palestinian territories, cautioned he couldn’t “unequivocally conclude” that the death was caused by an errantly fired Palestinian rocket. He said information gathered from eyewitnesses led them to report that “it appeared to be attributable to a Palestinian rocket.”

He said Palestinian militants were firing rockets at Israel not far from the al-Masharawi home. Behnke said the area was targeted by Israeli airstrikes, but the salvo that hit the al-Masharawi home was “markedly different.”

He said there was no significant damage to the house, unusual for an Israeli strike. He said witnesses reported that a fireball struck the roof of the house, suggesting it was a part of a homemade rocket. Behnke said the type of injuries sustained by al-Masharawi family members were consistent with rocket shrapnel.”

Donnison’s efforts to pick holes in the UN findings are a deliberate attempt to distract readers from the essential point. As BBC Watch noted last November:

“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.”

That essential point – which Donnison does his level best to bury – is that there was no solid evidence at the time that the Masharawi house has been hit in an Israeli air-strike and indeed, several other possibilities (as now confirmed by the UN) existed. The BBC, however, not only dismissed those other possibilities – to which it had been alerted by bloggers – but exclusively and unquestioningly promoted the notion of Israel’s responsibility for the infant’s death with no factual evidence to back up that assertion. 

Donnison continues:

“At the time, human rights groups blamed the deaths on an Israeli air strike.”

He later adds:

“The family, and human rights groups, said that the house was hit in an Israeli attack.”

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas addresses the PCHR 2006 conference

Donnison does not name the “human rights groups” he cites, but it can safely be assumed that he is referring to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) which claimed on November 15th – the day after the incident – without providing any concrete evidence whatsoever, that:

“..an Israeli warplane fired a missile at a house belonging to Ali Nemer al-Masharawi in al-Zaytoun neighborhood in the east of Gaza City.  Two members of the family (a woman and a toddler) were killed: Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Masharawi, 19, and Omar Jihad al-Masharawi, 11 months.”

Far from being an objective “human rights group”, the PCHR uses the mantle of human rights in its political campaign against Israel and has a long history of unreliability. This is certainly not the first time that Jon Donnison has unquestioningly promoted information from the PCHR – apparently being unable to distinguish between a genuine human rights organization and a Hamas accessory. 

Donnison continues his attempt to bring the reader back round to believing the original BBC claims of Israeli culpability by writing:

“The Israeli military says it never denied carrying out the strike because it was not clear what had happened.”

He later adds:

“The Israeli military made no comment at the time of the incident but never denied carrying out the strike.

Privately, military officials briefed journalists that they had been targeting a militant who was in the building.”

If that were true, and if Donnison was aware of the presence of a terrorist in the building, then the next question must be why no reference was ever made to that in any of the BBC’s reports on the subject – including his own. 

Donnison continues:

“The UN says 33 other Palestinian children died in Israeli attacks during the conflict.”

Towards the end of the article, and contradicting his own use of the words “33 other”, he adds:

“The UN report concluded that at least 169 Palestinians were killed by Israeli attacks during the offensive.

It said more than 100 were civilians, including 33 children and 13 women. The report said six Israelis were killed by Palestinians attacks, including four civilians.”

As Elder of Ziyon has pointed out, the UN report – which apparently suddenly gains renewed credibility in Donnison’s eyes when it can be used against Israel – actually says:

“During the crisis, 174 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. At least 168 of them were killed by Israeli military action, of whom 101 are believed to be civilians, including 33 children and 13 women.” [emphasis added] 

As we have previously pointed out here, other reports on the casualty figures in the Gaza Strip during Operation Pillar of Cloud indicate that as many as 60% belonged to terrorist organisations. 

Further on in his article Donnison states:

“Now, though, the United Nations says the house may have been hit by a Palestinian rocket that fell short.

This is despite the fact that the Israeli military had reported no rockets being fired out of Gaza so soon after the start of the conflict.”

However, the above claim of “no rockets” is contradicted by Donnison himself in his From our own Correspondent report of November 24th:

“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.” [emphasis added]

As BBC Watch remarked at the time, and as the UN official quoted by AP above confirms:

“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.”

Under the curious subheading “Rubbish”, Donnison goes on to inform readers that:

Jihad Masharawi at his brother’s funeral

“Jehad Mashhrawi dismissed the UN findings as “rubbish”.

He said nobody from the United Nations had spoken to him, and said Palestinian militant groups would usually apologise to the family if they had been responsible.”

Apparently Donnison seems to think that this anecdote adds some kind of back-up to his story, perhaps forgetting that his own organization had (probably unwittingly) broadcast footage of Jihad Masharawi’s brother being buried in a Hamas flag. 

Donnison also states that:

“A photo of BBC video editor Jehad Mashhrawi cradling the corpse of his baby son Omar became one of the iconic images of November’s short war.”

It certainly did, but only because the BBC deliberately and energetically promoted the story far and wide, despite having no concrete evidence whatsoever to back up its claims that Israel was responsible for Omar’s death. 

The disturbing fact is that the BBC’s only response to the findings of the UN report has been to belatedly send Jon Donnison out to offer up a badly written collection of excuses and insinuations published five days later on the Middle East page of its website, whilst Donnison’s original article remains intact on that same website’s ‘Magazine’ page with no correction and no link to his article on the UN report. 

Magazine 12 3

Donnison’s cringe-worthy attempt at damage control does nothing to address the real problem underlying this story. That problem is not one of determining which type of ordnance fired by whom hit the Masharawi house, but that the BBC knowingly published and extensively promoted a story based on local anecdote for which it had absolutely no proven evidence, purely because it fit in with the political narrative accepted and promoted by the BBC. 

Fronted by Donnison, but undoubtedly with the full knowledge of his superiors, this self-destructive attempt to shift the focus of the story away from the real issue of the BBC’s complete failure to meet its own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality – and to protect those further up the chain of management from the obvious conclusions of that failure – calls into question, once again,  both the sincerity of the BBC’s commitment to the values behind which it hides and the quality of the organisation’s leadership. 

A reminder of the chronology of the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

As media outlets return to work after the weekend, the news (reported here last week) that a recent UN HRC report determined that the BBC’s much promoted version of the tragic death of Omar Masharawi on November 14th 2012 was the result of a missile fired by Palestinian terrorists rather than an Israeli air-strike – as claimed by the BBC – is gaining traction

The Washington Free Beacon has had it confirmed by a UN official that the incident described in the report indeed referred to that in which Omar Masharawi – son of the BBC employee Jihad Masharawi – was killed. 

For clarity’s sake, it is worth revisiting the chronology of the spread of the story.

On the evening of November 14th 2012, soon after the incident had happened, BBC Arabic in Gaza broke the story when it interviewed Jihad Masharawi as he held his son’s body. That film footage was used the next day in a report by Jon Donnison which appeared on BBC television news and can be seen here

On the same evening, BBC employees began Tweeting about the event, including for example the BBC’s correspondent in Washington who sent the following Tweet – retweeted by others 3,441 times:

Paul Adams twitter Masharawi

On the day after the incident – November 15th – the head of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau and chair of the Foreign Press Association, Paul Danahar, arrived in the Gaza Strip and visited the Masharawi house from where he began sending a series of Tweets which – less than 24 hours after the event and with no credible professional investigation having been carried out – unequivocally determined that the incident had been the result of an Israeli attack.

Danahar tweets Masharawi

As BBC Watch documented last November, Danahar gave permission for the photographs he had Tweeted to be used by Max Fisher at the Washington Post. Other media outlets which ran with the story on the same day – some directly citing the BBC as their source and all unquestioningly giving an Israeli attack as the cause of the infant’s death – included the Guardian, the Huffington Post , the Daily Mail, the Sun and many more. The story was of course also picked up by a plethora of anti-Israel blogs and websites. 

On November 24th 2012, the BBC ran Jon Donnison’s now infamous version of the story on its ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ programme on Radio 4, and also later on the World Service. A written version of that same report was placed on the BBC News website and at the time of writing is still there. 

Within less than two weeks, the BBC had ensured that an unverified story based purely upon evidence-free speculations by its own journalists had made its way round the entire world.

The fact that a story which in no way met the standards of accuracy laid down in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines managed to get past the BBC’s entire system of checks and balances including the Jerusalem Bureau editor, the Middle East Editor, the Head of News, the website Editor- together with no small number of producers along the way – indicates the existence of an organisational culture which clearly renders the BBC incapable of self-regulation.