BBC turns political activists into “aid workers”

A report entitled “Libyans held for ‘sex attack’ on Britons in Benghazi“, dated March 29th 2013, appears on the Africa and Middle East pages of the BBC News website. In that report the women attacked are repeatedly described by the BBC as “aid workers”. 

“Two Libyans have been arrested over claims they sexually assaulted three British aid workers earlier this week.

The workers were apparently abducted at a checkpoint near the city of Benghazi and held for hours before being freed on Wednesday.” […]

“The group of aid workers were taken to the Turkish consulate in Benghazi after their release. British officials said they had now returned to the UK.”

Benghazi attack

The Aid Worker Security Database defines aid workers as follows: [emphasis added]

” “Aid workers” are defined as the employees and associated personnel of not for profit aid agencies (both national and international staff) that provide material and technical assistance in humanitarian relief contexts. These include various locally contracted staff (e.g., transportation, security, etc.). This includes both relief and multi-mandated (relief and development) organizations: NGOs, the International Movement of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, donor agencies and the UN agencies belonging to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and WHO) plus IOM and UNRWA. The aid worker definition does not include UN peacekeeping personnel, human rights workers, election monitors or purely political, religious, or advocacy organizations.”

The ill-fated eleven vehicle convoy – named “Mavi Marmara” – in which the women concerned were taking part departed from London on February 25th this year, driving through France and Spain to reach Morocco and then continuing through North Africa with the aim of reaching the Gaza Strip. 

Some of the convoy’s organisers and participants have previously taken part in similar ventures and one of them – Sakir Yildirim (also spelt Yildirm) from Bristol – was aboard the IHH ship the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 when it tried to breach the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip and some of its Turkish passengers attacked Israeli soldiers boarding the ship. According to a BBC report from the time, Yildirim is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. 

Sakir and Cliff in Turkey

Sakir Yildirim(L) & Cliff Hanley of Bristol PSC in Turkey, before boarding the Mavi Marmara in 2010

As can be clearly discerned from pictures published by the convoy’s supporters before and after its departure from the UK, the inefficient – and apparently badly organized – overland transport of “children’s educational equipment and toys, IT equipment, and medical equipment” (according to the organisers) is obviously secondary to the convoy’s political aims. 

Apparently the BBC is unable – or unwilling – to differentiate between genuine aid workers and political activists supporting a campaign to promote those involved in terrorist activity against Israeli civilians as ‘political prisoners’. 

The misappropriation of terms such as “humanitarian organization”, “human rights” or “aid worker” is an unfortunately common practice in the circles of anti-Israel campaigners seeking to co-opt the publicly acceptable image afforded by such terms to their political campaigns. It is regrettable that the BBC compromises its own reputation and breaches editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality by engaging in the same practice.

The assault of female members of the convoy in Libya is horrific enough as it is: there is no need for the BBC to embellish the story by erroneously depicting the women and the group with which they were travelling as “aid workers”. 

BBC’s Kevin Connolly: Hamas missiles are “antiquated”

If readers would like to hear a compilation of the themes which BBC coverage of Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ has been furiously promoting, then the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 on Monday, November 19th had it all condensed into a few minutes. It can be heard here for a limited period of time.

Start with the news-reader who declares that “More than 90 Palestinians are believed to have died since Israel began its bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday” – without stating how many of those were terrorists.

Next, scroll on to 7:51 minutes and hear Vine’s introduction in which he promotes the targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari as the start of the escalation and unquestioningly parrots Hamas casualty figures:

“Hamas claims the attacks have claimed the lives of 90 civilians.”

Figures released by B’Tselem on November 19th state that out of a total of 105 casualties (up to the time of the report’s writing) in the Gaza Strip, forty one were civilians. Those figures do not take into account how many of those civilians were killed by shortfall of terrorist rockets. 

Next, hear how Vine shoehorns in two totally ridiculous, but popular, themes into one sentence: [emphasis added]

“Or is Israel in the wrong? Are they in fact the side which is most guilty of provocation by continuing to build homes in the West Bank much to the ire of the Palestinians and could this show of strength all be down to the fact that elections are looming in Israel?”

But it is Vine’s first guest – the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly – who gives us a real insight into the received wisdoms of BBC thought on Israel, from 9:30 minutes.

Connolly again repeats the claim that “the death toll now has risen to 91″ without distinguishing between combatants and civilians. He goes on to say: [all emphasis added]

“There’s very little shelter for civilians in Gaza. You know people don’t have bunkers. They don’t have air raid shelters. There’s no infrastructure to protect the civilian population although we think there is an infrastructure to protect the Hamas leadership.”

Connolly then recounts a conversation with a doctor in Gaza:

“She said she felt that she was surrounded by death in Gaza. On this side [Israel] there is anxiety – there’s no question about that – there is fear. There have been some rockets landing in southern Israeli towns this morning, but I think we have to be clear about this – that there is an asymmetry in the casualty figures. 91 dead now on the Gazan side. We think 3 dead on the Israeli side. And there is colossal asymmetry in military hardware deployed here as well.

You know Israel has the most sophisticated and the most powerful weapons of war and they are really terrifying when they’re unleashed. Hamas is of course unleashing as much violence as it can, so the intention is there, but by comparison its missile stocks are antiquated and not nearly as powerful as the ordnance the Israelis are able to use.”

What Connolly ‘forgets’ to point out of course is that Hamas’ weapons are aimed exclusively at civilians. 

In response to a question from Vine, he continues:

“The situation in Gaza is complex. The occupied territories ..certainly you know Gaza…is territory that Israel captured from Egypt in the 1967 war.”

No mention, of course, of how Egypt got hold of it in the first place.

“It [Israel] did withdraw from Gaza. It took its settlers out. It sort of sealed the border. When you go down to Gaza now you go through extraordinary security. They built a wall – the Israelis – and a kind of whole machinery of security there to protect themselves from the threat of suicide bombing coming out of the Gaza Strip, so from the Israeli side the Gaza Strip feels hermetically sealed. Erm..it’s very crowded, life there is very intense generally and there is a huge sense of militancy where…you know…Fatah – a secular organisation- is the most powerful Palestinian group in the West Bank. In Gaza it’s Hamas. They’re much more religious. They grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood and they have a passionate belief in what they would call resistance to the Zionist enemy – to Israel –but which of course Israel sees and the Israeli civilians see as …err…the unceasing …err…sending of rockets over the border at Israeli civilian politicians…err…populations. 

And one of the triggers of this, Jeremy, has been that Ahmed Jabari – the man you talked about there – one of these powerful Hamas commanders: he was the father of the Hamas rocket programme and under him the rockets have gone from the kind of things that a couple of guys were welding together with bits of drain pipe and homemade explosives to much more sophisticated hardware which he masterminded…erm…an import trail from Iran to bring to Gaza. So Israel felt that the threat was becoming more dangerous and that he personally was the man making it more dangerous. This all started with him being taken out – in military jargon – and that’s why Israel targeted him.” 

Responding to a question from Vine about whether it is correct to make a  connection to the Israeli elections, Connolly goes on: 

“Yeah, I think we should is the simple truth. I mean I think from Binyamin Netanyahu’s point of view, if he were able to show that he had eradicated or really, really substantially degraded the threat of rockets from Gaza then that would be something very useful to take into an election campaign. Israelis are going to vote in about two months’ time and there’s no question that that would be a political advantage to him. I think for that reason he might hesitate to launch a ground operation – an incursion – into Gaza. All the talk here is will Israel send troops in or not. I think…you know…Israel looks at these things very differently than international public opinion looks at them. International public opinion is very focused on civilian casualties. Israel says, though, civilian casualties in Gaza are high because Hamas hides its weapons among the civilian population, so a lot of Israelis feel that if they can just stick to this operation until it’s carried to its logical end, they can really, really damage Hamas’ military potential and if Netanyahu can do that without incurring too many Israeli casualties then …you know…it’s a brutal political calculation, but it’s real, Jeremy,… then that would be, I think, an advantage to him. And of course he is an elected politician – that simply has to be in his mind.”

And if all that wasn’t enough, you can continue listening to the programme as Jeremy Vine hosts the secretary of an organisation dedicated to Israel’s destruction, renowned for its dabbling in antisemitism and for its support for brutal dictatorships and terrorists. 

When, in 2009, the BBC hosted Nick Griffin on ‘Question Time’, it responded to the significant public outrage by defending its decision as part of the process of ‘due impartiality’, on the grounds that the BNP had made electoral gains in the elections to the European Parliament. 

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, however, is not a political party and has crossed no ‘electoral threshold’. In fact, judging from its dismal membership numbers, the British public emphatically rejects its message and its methods. It is curious, therefore, that the BBC should feel the need to provide a platform for a terror-enabling and supporting fringe grouplet such as the PSC.