More enablement of Hamas propaganda from BBC’s ME editor

In addition to the previously discussed written and filmed reports based around Jeremy Bowen’s recent interview with Hamas’ Khaled Masha’al in Doha published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on April 1st, other filmed reports appeared on BBC television news programmes on that date.

In one report viewers yet again saw Masha’al being given a platform from which to promote the notion that his organisation is different from other Islamist groups operating in the region. Bowen’s failure to challenge the statement “There is no Daesh [ISIS], no IS or Al Qaeda in Palestine. There are some lone wolves but they are isolated. We don’t allow such thoughts in Palestine” should of course be assessed within the context of the fact that a BBC reporter was kidnapped by the Al Qaeda affiliated group Jaish al Islam in Gaza in 2007 and in light of the history of Hamas’ relations with that group and others.

“In a previous agreement between the two groups, Hamas had given Jaish al-Islam $5 million and more than a million Kalashnikov bullets in compensation for its freeing of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Jaish al-Islam also received formal recognition from Hamas as a legitimate jihadi organization, and it was agreed that joint actions carried out in the past would not be revealed.”

Notable too is the fact that whilst Bowen clearly does not believe the oft-touted myth that all unrest in the Middle East is ultimately attributable to the Palestinian –Israeli conflict, he still gives Masha’al a platform for promotion of that ridiculous notion and others – including the claim that “we are the owners of the land”.

Another report seen by viewers of BBC television news programmes opens with aerial footage of Shuja’iya which has already been used in several BBC reports. No attempt is made to put that footage into its correct context, meaning that audiences are led to believe that it is representative of the situation in the whole of the Gaza Strip.

Bowen tells viewers that:

“Israel has walled and fenced Gaza so Hamas opened up another front – underground.”

He provides no background information concerning the reasons why Israel had to construct walls against snipers and fences against infiltrators and even goes on to promote the regularly used – and repeatedly disproved – Hamas propaganda line according to which it only attacks military targets.

“Hamas says the tunnels were part of an active defence aimed at military targets.”

Of course there are plenty of examples of Hamas officials stating that the terror organisation’s policy is to target Israeli civilians – including this one from Fawzi Barhoum.  

“We say to [Israeli Arabs], living in Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, Lod, Ramla, and the Negev: The rockets fired by the Al-Qassam Brigades will not hit you. We know those parts. We are familiar with the geography and with the history. Not a single Arab Palestinian child will be hit by one of our missiles. Our rockets are aimed at the Hebrews, the murderers, the Israelis, the criminals. […] We say to our people in Haifa: The missiles of Al-Qassam will not hit any Arab home. Rest assured, our missiles accurately target the homes of the Israelis and the Zionists.” [ Al-Aqsa TV, July 11, 2014] [emphasis added]

With regard to the cross-border tunnels specifically:

“On four separate occasions throughout the 2014 Gaza Conflict, Hamas militants emerged from covert tunnels onto Israeli territory, within the territory or in close proximity to Israeli residential communities:

  • On July 17, thirteen Hamas militants infiltrated into Israel through a tunnel that opened just 1.5 km from civilian homes in an Israeli community, Kibbutz Sufa. In light of the imminent danger, the residents of 12 nearby residential communities were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes for up to five hours.
  • Two days later, on July 19, approximately 10 Hamas militants emerged from a tunnel opening 4.7 km from civilian homes in Kibbutz Be’eri armed with lethal weapons as well as tranquillizers and handcuffs for kidnapping Israelis. The residents of five residential communities near the border with Gaza were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes in the hours surrounding the attack.
  • On July 21, approximately 12 Hamas militants infiltrated Israel via an underground tunnel that opened in the territory of Kibbutz Nir Am, just 1.3 km from civilian homes in the Kibbutz and 1.1 km from civilian homes in the town of Sderot, communities bordering Gaza. Militants disguised as IDF soldiers and armed with lethal weapons headed towards Nir Am. To ensure their protection, the IDF instructed the residents of all of the communities in the Otef Aza border region to barricade themselves in their homes for hours.
  • On July 28, nine Hamas militants infiltrated Israeli territory through a tunnel opening in the territory of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, just 2 km from civilian homes in the Kibbutz. The residents of the residential communities of Nahal Oz and Alumim were instructed by the IDF to barricade themselves in their homes in the hours surrounding the attack. Following the attack, three ready-to-use motorcycles and deadly weapons were found inside the tunnel, attesting to the militants’ ability to penetrate deep into Israeli territory and carry out attacks.”

In October 2014 the Hamas newspaper al Risalah interviewed a Hamas commander who said:

“The Al-Qassam Brigades use the tunnels for several military missions, such as: firing rockets on Israeli cities; firing massive barrages of hundreds of mortars on the settlements around the Gaza Strip, and carrying out quality operations behind enemy lines that have resulted in the killing and capture of soldiers and terrorized millions of Israelis…” [emphasis added]

Clearly – when addressing its domestic audience – even Hamas itself does not buy into Jeremy Bowen’s promotion of the notion of exclusively “military targets”.

Bowen continues:

“Israel calls them terror tunnels to back up rocket attacks which Amnesty International says showed a flagrant disregard for civilian lives.”

In fact, as the BBC reported on March 26th, Amnesty International said rather more than that: it described Hamas’ missile attacks as “unlawful attacks” which “amount to war crimes”. Bowen, however, conceals that information from viewers.

Predictably, these filmed reports from Bowen join the two previous ones on the same topic in not only failing to meet the BBC’s commitment to “build a global understanding of international issues”, but actively sabotaging that public purpose as defined in the BBC’s charter. 

Revisiting BBC reporting of civilian deaths in Gaza on July 28th 2014

On page 29 of its 2014 Antisemitic Incidents report the Community Security Trust provided the following information:

“Almost half the incidents recorded in those two months [July and August 2014 – Ed.] – 258, or 48 per cent of the 542 incidents recorded in July and August – made direct or indirect reference to the conflict in Israel and Gaza that began on 8 July 2014 and concluded on 26 August. There was also a daily correlation between the number of antisemitic incidents reported to CST during this period and specific events in the conflict in Israel and Gaza. […] On 28 July, a day when media reported an explosion at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, CST recorded 22 antisemitic incidents in the UK.” [emphasis added]

With BBC content reaching the vast majority of the UK population and BBC One television news identified by the public as the UK’s most important source of news, the manner in which the BBC reported a story which prompted twenty-two antisemitic  incidents in that country is obviously of interest.Shifa Sahti tweet 1

Here at BBC Watch we have been tracking the BBC’s reporting of that particular story since it first emerged. On July 30th 2014 we noted that – despite information having been provided around an hour after the incidents at Shifa hospital and the Shati refugee camp occurred which showed that the cause of the civilian casualties was missiles fired by a terrorist organization – the BBC’s reporting of the story on July 28th and 29th promoted the Hamas version of the story according to which Israeli missile strikes caused the deaths of some eight children and several adults.Pannell Shati report filmed 28 7

Several days later we noted here that the BBC had produced a report on July 31st (updated on August 4th) titled “Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” which – despite the above-mentioned information – continued to encourage audiences to believe that Hamas’ version of the story was at least as credible as the information provided by Israel.

‘The BBC’s presentation of that incident, however, places data gathered from sophisticated tracking equipment on a par with the unverified verbal claims of assorted bodies all ultimately run by a proscribed terrorist organization.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”’Shifa Shati Campbell tweet

On August 12th 2014 we noted that – despite a visit by the BBC’s chief international correspondent to an IDF missile tracking unit – the article defining the July 28th incident as “disputed” still stood.

On December 12th 2014 we noted that the IDF Military Attorney General’s investigation into the July 28th incidents at Shifa hospital and Shati concluded that they were caused by missiles fired by a terrorist organization. Despite that, all the five reports suggesting to BBC audiences that it was reasonable to assume that the deaths of civilians – mostly children – had been caused by Israeli missiles were still available to visitors to the BBC News website with no correction added.  

On March 26th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Amnesty: Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes“.  The article includes the following:AI Shati report

“Amnesty said rocket fire had also endangered Palestinian civilians.

The group said an independent munitions expert had concluded that a Palestinian rocket had exploded next to a supermarket in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 28 July, killing 13 civilians, 11 of them children aged between seven and 14.”

As we know, the BBC sets great store by any report – accurate or not – produced by Amnesty International. Perhaps then the appearance of this one will at long last prompt the corporation to append clarifications to those five reports – all of which are still accessible in their original inaccurate and misleading form on the BBC News website. It is, after all, in the BBC’s interest to do so in light of the fact that – according to its own statement from June 2014:

“…however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”

The corporation’s continued failure to add appropriate clarifications to those five BBC reports (and any others still available to the public) risks wasting licence fee payer-provided funding on dealing with unnecessary complaints. More seriously, it also continues to provide the agar for antisemitic incidents in Britain. 

Related Articles:

How to Complain to the BBC

Tips on using the BBC Complaints Procedure

Patchy BBC reporting on Hizballah attacks in northern Israel

Just before 1 p.m. on January 27th incoming missiles from Syria triggered air-raid sirens in the northern Golan Heights.  Local residents took cover in their air-raid shelters and over a thousand visitors to the Mount Hermon ski resort had to be quickly evacuated. At least two projectiles were determined to have landed in Israeli territory and the IDF responded with artillery fire directed at the launch site in Syria and later on in the evening with strikes on Syrian army artillery posts. Both Israeli and foreign sources attributed the missile fire to Hizballah acting from Syrian army positions.

Despite at least one of its journalists in the region being aware of the incident, the BBC News website elected not to report those events at the time.

Aft 27 1 MEHP

A day later – Wednesday, January 28th – an additional incident took place when Hizballah conducted a cross-border attack in the Har Dov area, firing anti-tank missiles at Israeli army vehicles. Mortars were also fired at an IDF position on Mount Hermon and reportedly at the village of Ghajar.  Two soldiers were killed and seven wounded. Israel responded with artillery and air strikes.

In the BBC News website’s report on those events – originally headlined “Israeli soldiers wounded in Lebanon border attack” and later retitled “Israel fires into Lebanon after attack on troops”, followed by “Israel fires shells into Lebanon after attack on troops” and then “UN peacekeeper killed after Hezbollah-Israel clash” – the previous day’s events were described in one sentence.

“The incident came just hours after Israel launched an air strike on Syrian army positions near the Golan Heights in retaliation for rockets that were fired into Israel on Monday.”

In fact, the missiles were fired on Tuesday (January 27th) and readers obviously would not understand from this description that Hizballah was responsible for that attack as well, meaning that their ability to put the attack which is the subject matter of the report into its correct context would be impaired.

Also notable was the change in description of the incident on the BBC News website Middle East homepage. Initial reports portrayed events in the order in which they had happened – albeit without mentioning Hizballah.

Har Dov attacks on HP

As the day went on, that description was altered and became less clear as terms such as “border clashes” and “trade fire” were employed, creating a false and misleading sense of equivalence.

Har Dov attacks on HP later

The BBC report at that URL was later replaced with one titled “Three killed as Israel and Hezbollah trade fire” in which the fact that the incident took place near the ‘Shebaa Farms’ area is noted twice in succession.

“The peacekeeper was killed close to the disputed Shebaa Farms area, where an Israeli convoy was earlier hit by anti-tank missiles, killing two soldiers.”

“Wednesday’s cross-border violence erupted when Israeli military vehicles were hit at about 11:35 (09:35 GMT) near Mt Dov, in the Shebaa Farms area, a disputed tract of land where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.”

The fact that this incident and the one preceding it in the northern Golan Heights have nothing to do with the dispute arising from Lebanese claims to the Shebaa Farms area defined by the UN as not belonging to Lebanon is not made clear to readers. The report also states:

“The flare-up along the Israeli-Lebanon frontier recalls the beginning of the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, which was triggered by a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli military vehicle that led to the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers.”

Significantly, the BBC refrains from informing readers of the crucially relevant point that according to UN SC resolution 1701 which brought the 2006 conflict to an end, Hizballah should have been disarmed and neither that terrorist organization nor any others should be operating in southern Lebanon.  

Related Articles:

More soft focus BBC presentation of Hizballah

Some statistics the BBC R4 statistics programme managed to ignore

On January 19th BBC Radio 4’s statistics programme ‘More or Less’ included an item (available from 07:44 here) described in the webpage synopsis as follows:More or Less

“In the wake of the Paris killings, an imam in Paris told the BBC that 95% of terrorism victims around the world are Muslim. Is that true? More or Less speaks to Erin Miller of the Global Terrorism Database.”

Included in that item is a discussion between presenter Tim Harford and producer Ruth Alexander of what counts as terrorism.

TH: “But wait: what counts as terrorism? I mean saying that something is terrorism or isn’t terrorism – I mean this is something that politicians do all the time purely for their own convenience.”

RA: “It is, so the Global Terrorism Database has a particular methodology. They label an attack terrorism and put it into this data base if it’s intentional, violent or threatening and the perpetrators aren’t governments.”

TH: “So the alleged hack by North Korea of Sony Pictures?”

RA “If it was in fact by North Korea it wouldn’t count because that would be a state act and anyway it’s non-violent.”

TH: “OK and what else? Because if someone pulls a knife on me and demands money, well that’s an intentional, violent, non-governmental act so there must be some other criteria that go into the definition.”

RA: “That’s right; there are other criteria, other considerations. Is there a political, economic or religious goal is one. Is it an attempt to send a message to a wider audience – not just to the direct victims – or is it outside the context of legitimate warfare activities.”

TH “So all this goes into making up the definition of terrorism…”

Later on listeners were told that the countries suffering the most terror attacks in the ten years between 2004 and 2013 were Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, with Ruth Alexander adding:

“And just to put the latest available numbers on this, over the ten years from 2004 the UK suffered 400 terrorist attacks – mostly in Northern Ireland – and almost all of them non-lethal. The US suffered 131 attacks – fewer than 20 of them were lethal. France suffered 47 but in Iraq there were 12,000 attacks and 8,000 of them were lethal.”

On January 20th an article relating to the same topic by Ruth Alexander and Hannah Moore appeared in the Magazine section of the BBC News website under the title “Are most victims of terrorism Muslim?“. In that article, the definition of terrorism provided to readers was as follows:More or Less written

“The GTD defines a terrorist attack as the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non‐state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.”

Reflecting the audio report, readers were told that

“When people in the West think of terrorist attacks, they may think of Charlie Hebdo, or the 7/7 London tube and bus bombs, the Madrid train bombs and of course 9/11 – and although some Muslims did die in these attacks, most of the victims wouldn’t have been Muslim.

The overall number of deadly terrorist attacks in France, the UK, Spain and the US, however, is very low by international standards.

Between 2004-2013, the UK suffered 400 terrorist attacks, mostly in Northern Ireland, and almost all of them were non-lethal. The US suffered 131 attacks, fewer than 20 of which were lethal. France suffered 47 attacks. But in Iraq, there were 12,000 attacks and 8,000 of them were lethal.”

The article also includes a chart attributed to information sourced from the Global Terrorism Database.

Chart GTD Magazine art terrorism

As we see, Israel does not appear in the written or audio reports either in relation to the number of fatalities or the overall number of terror attacks. One reason for that may be that, somewhat oddly for a statistics programme, its two reports are based on information gleaned from one source – the Global Terrorism Database – which does not provide a particularly accurate or comprehensive view of terror attacks in Israel.

The GTD’s Israel-related data for 2013, for example, includes the incidents on December 24th (here) and November 13th (here) but absent from its list (which incidentally includes several incidents more accurately classified as criminal that terror-related such as this one) are the October 11th murder of Colonel Seraya Ofer, the murder of Sgt. Tomer Hazan on September 20th, the murder of St.-Sgt. Gal (Gabriel) Kobi on September 22nd and the murder of Evyatar Borovsky on April 30th.

Similarly, whilst the GTD clearly does classify missile attacks as terrorism, its data for 2013 records only four such attacks from the Gaza Strip: less than 10% of the actual number of attacks which took place during that year. In fact, were all the missile attacks – rocket and mortar fire – from the Gaza Strip between 2004 and 2013 to be counted as individual terror attacks – as they clearly should be according to the definitions provided by the BBC – then as far as the number of attacks is concerned, Israel stands alongside some of the countries in the top half of that chart above because thousands of attacks have taken place during that time.

Chart rocket attacks from Gaza Strip

Israel of course goes to considerable lengths to provide protection to its citizens and thereby manages to significantly reduce the number of fatalities from missile attacks. Nevertheless, during the ten-year period used by the BBC in its two reports, over 150 fatal terror attacks of various kinds have taken place resulting in more than three hundred casualties and thousands more non-fatal attacks have been carried out. The number of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip executed outside the periods of escalated conflict during that ten-year time span (Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 and Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012) is over 5,000 – not including mortar attacks – and if missile attacks on civilian targets during those conflicts are included (being, as they are, “outside the context of legitimate warfare activities”), the figure rises to over 12,000.

Notably though, in their partial inventory of terror attacks in Western states, the ‘More or Less’ team elected to ignore a country which has suffered more attacks than the UK, the US and France put together according to their data. Tim Harford’s remark about politicians “saying that something is terrorism or isn’t terrorism […] for their own convenience” is sadly sometimes no less applicable to journalists. 

BBC yet again erases terrorist missile fire which led to summer conflict

On January 6th an article titled “Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. That report (changes to which can be seen here) on the sentencing of Hussam Kawasme (also spelt Qawasmeh) for his part in the kidnappings and murders of Gilad Sha’ar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah in June 2014 included several problematic features.Kawasme art

Despite the core story being about the sentencing of a member of an internationally recognised terrorist organization, nowhere in the BBC’s report is Hamas described as such. Instead, the BBC portrays Hamas as “the Islamist group dominant in Gaza”.

The report states:

“Hussam Qawasmeh, a member of Hamas, must also pay $63,000 (£41,000) in compensation to the victims’ families.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, however, the amount of compensation cited by the BBC is one-third of the actual sum.

“He was also ordered to pay NIS 250,000 to each of the victims’ families.”

Regarding Hussam Kawasme’s accomplices the BBC’s report states:

“Two other suspects were shot dead by Israeli forces in Hebron in September.”

And:

“The Israeli authorities launched a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank following the abduction and quickly identified two of the group’s operatives, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, as suspects. They managed to evade capture for several months before being killed.”

The caption to one of the photographs used to illustrate the article states:

“Suspects Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha were killed in an Israeli raid in Hebron in September”

At no point does the report bother to inform readers that the two were killed during a shoot-out as they opened fire on security forces trying to arrest them.

The BBC report plays down Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders:

“The leader of Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza, said in an interview in August that a Hamas cell had killed the teenagers but had not acted on instructions from above.”

The article fails to adequately clarify that funding for the terror attack came from Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip or that high-ranking Hamas operative Saleh al Arouri admitted the organisation’s involvement in August 2014.

Yet again, this report promotes the BBC’s now standard but inaccurate account of the causes of Operation Protective Edge.

“The teenagers’ murders in June set off an escalating cycle of violence and led to a 50-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.”

As we have unfortunately had occasion to note here several times before, the portrayal of events presented by the BBC completely erases the fact that the “conflict” did not only take place “in Gaza” but also in Israel, with thousands of residents of the southern part of the country forced to leave their homes during that time.

Equally misleading is the fact that the BBC has completely airbrushed from audience view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between the date of the kidnappings – June 12th – and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that surge in missile fire which was the reason for Israel’s military action, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so – for reasons not by any means exclusively connected to Israel.

The distortion of the factors which led to the summer 2014 conflict has over recent months become standard BBC practice. The version of events repeatedly promoted by the BBC is obviously not accurate due to its deliberate omission of the firing of hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians and nor is it impartial as it clearly seeks to erase Hamas responsibility for igniting that conflict from audience awareness. It is high time the BBC got a grip on its serial misrepresentation of this topic.

Related Articles:

BBC misleads audiences regarding cause of Operation Protective Edge

BBC WS ‘Weekend’ presenter Paul Henley erases hundreds of terror attacks in 34 words

BBC WS ‘Weekend’ presenter Paul Henley erases hundreds of terror attacks in 34 words

h/t GB

The December 27th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Weekend’ was devoted to revisiting “programme highlights from the past year”, one of which was an item about an organisation called ‘Heartbeat‘.WS Weekend 27 12

Presenter Paul Henley introduced the item (from 35:52 here) as follows:

“At the end of June the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found near the city of Hebron. They’d been abducted earlier in the month while they were hiking. Israel started airstrikes on Gaza. As hostilities got worse, we looked at an organisation at the beginning of July called ‘Heartbeat’. It’s a not for profit organisation that brings together Israeli and Palestinian young musicians […] to socialise, make music and art and get to know one another and – almost by osmosis – develop creative, non-violent tools for some sort of badly needed social change there.”

Beyond the BBC presenter’s paternalistic and parochial prescription of “badly needed social change”, what of course stand out most are the inaccuracies and omissions in Henley’s introduction.

Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Frankel were not “hiking” at the time of the incident on June 12th and they were not only “abducted” but also murdered by a Hamas terrorist cell: facts which Henley erases from his account of events. Henley clearly implies linkage between the kidnappings and murders and Israeli “airstrikes on Gaza”. His narrative does not include the fact that Israel’s actions were actually in response to missile attacks by terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip and that between June 14th and July 8th (the beginning of Operation Protective Edge), two hundred and eighty-eight missiles hit Israeli territory.  

And so we see how, in a mere thirty-four words, Henley casually distorts facts and creates an inaccurate narrative which erases terrorism whilst focusing audience attention on misrepresented Israeli actions alone. So much for BBC editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC misleads audiences regarding cause of Operation Protective Edge

Missile from Gaza not news for the BBC but Israeli response gets headlines

On the morning of December 19th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit the Eshkol region of the Western Negev in the third such incident since the ceasefire in late August which brought the fifty-day summer conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist organisations to a close. Like those previous incidents of missile fire, this one too was not reported by the BBC at the time.

During the night between December 19th and 20th, the Israeli air-force launched a retaliatory strike against a Hamas military installation near Khan Yunis. That event was considered news by the BBC.

With no mention of the obviously crucial context of the preceding missile attack some hours earlier, the BBC World Twitter account informed its 8.22 million followers:

KY strike bbc world tweet 1

Jerusalem bureau correspondent Quentin Sommerville did inform his 24 thousand followers that the Israeli action came in response to missile fire, whilst taking the opportunity to revive the well-trodden BBC theme of “home-made rockets”. There is no evidence to suggest that Sommerville was at the scene of the impact and hence his ‘diagnosis’ of the missile’s nature is apparently based on guess-work. Equally questionable is Sommerville’s geography: there is no city called Eshkol: that name refers to a regional council. Nevertheless, that inaccurate information was retweeted by the BBC World Twitter account.

KY strike Sommerville tweet 1

KY strike Sommerville tweet 2

More context-free ‘last-first’ reporting was seen on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of December 20th where visitors were informed that “Israel launches an air strike on an alleged Hamas site in Gaza, in the first such action since the declaration of a truce in August”, but with no mention in the headline or sub-heading of the missile attack several hours beforehand.

KY strike on HP

That headline leads to an article titled “Israel launches Gaza air strike on ‘Hamas target’” which fails to clarify to BBC audiences that this latest missile attack was the third since the end of August.

Readers will note that one of the recommended articles presented on the BBC News website’s Middle East page with that article is headed “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” which was discussed here. Whilst the BBC has put much effort in recent months into the production of numerous ‘reporter in the rubble’ items showcasing the topic of damage to houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (see some additional examples here, here and here), it has refrained from carrying out any reporting whatsoever on the subject of Hamas’ reconstruction of its military infrastructure, including cross-border tunnels and missile capabilities.

Once again licence fee-payers relying on the BBC to meet its half of the bargain by providing them with reporting which will enhance their understanding of international issues are being sold short. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the corporation’s continuing policies of ‘last-first’ reporting and framing by omission. 

Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

As we noted here the other day, the Israeli Military Attorney General (MAG) has published the findings of some of the investigations conducted into incidents which occurred in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

One of the incidents investigated was the deaths of ten civilians on July 28th at the Shati refugee camp, along with an alleged attack on Shifa hospital on the same afternoon. The findings are as follows:Tweet Shifa

“Various media reports alleged that on 28 July 2014, an incident occurred involving a strike on medical clinics belonging to the Al-Shifa Hospital, as well as a strike on a park where children were present in the Shati Refugee Camp, and as a result of which ten persons (including nine children) were killed and tens injured. Some of these reports alleged that the strikes were carried out by the IDF. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM [Fact Finding Assessment Mission – Ed.].

Following a thorough review conducted by the FFAM, such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident. Under these circumstances, and in light of the fact that the strike on the hospital was the result of rocket fire from Palestinian terrorist organizations, the MAG ordered the case to be closed.”

Material relating to those incidents which is still available to the general public on the BBC News website includes:

Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” – originally published on July 31st 2014 and discussed here.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”

Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon” July 28th 2014

“Police and health officials said separate Israeli airstrikes had hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby playground on Monday afternoon, causing casualties.

But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said both explosions were caused by misfired rockets that were launched from Gaza by “terrorists”.”

Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts” originally published on July 28th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.”

Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign” July 29th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.”

Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza” Ian Pannell, July 28th 2014Pannell report

“A hospital already overflowing with casualties was engulfed in chaos. Parents and relatives frantically searching for their children. The wards were full of them. Fourteen year-old Mohammed had shrapnel in his back. ‘We were playing in the street and they hit us’, he said. ‘They targeted us. Lots of children were killed.’ And next to him, four year-old Ola [phonetic]. Shrapnel cut into her small body. Israel has denied it was responsible for this.

Woman: “Then who fired it? I ran outside and found my daughters. If the Israelis didn’t do it, who did? Did my daughters launch the rocket?”

Marching up the hill to bury two small boys. They’d played together, they were killed together and now, they were going to be buried together. The boys’ father says his sons are martyrs who died for the resistance against Israel.”

All of the above are discussed here.

Clearly the BBC’s June 2014 announcement stating that “however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it” means that all the above reports need to have a note of clarification urgently added, informing audiences of the actual circumstances of the incident. 

Political messaging and inaccuracies in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Terror Through Time’

On December 2nd another edition of the BBC Radio 4 series ‘Terror Through Time’ (presented by Fergal Keane) was broadcast under the title “Death Wish: Battling Suicide Bombers“. The programme’s synopsis reads as follows:Terror Through Time 2 12 14

“Fergal Keane visits Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to discover how Israeli society reacted to a wave of suicide bombers. He’s joined by Assaf Moghadan, a researcher at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism, former Israeli Army commander Nitzan Nuriel and by Professor Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University.”

The programme begins with a recording of Bill Clinton speaking at the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993, after which Keane informs listeners:

“But within months, a new campaign of terrorism was bringing carnage to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv…”

Of course the post-Oslo terror campaign also took place in many additional locations in Israel besides its two largest cities, contrary to the inaccurate impression given by Keane. He goes on to interview Israeli film-maker Noam Sharon, stating “I’m here in the Old City of Jerusalem”. In fact, as Sharon states, the interview took place on Yoel Moshe Salomon street, which is not located in the Old City. After Sharon has described some of the suicide bombings which took place in that district in Jerusalem, Keane goes on to interview Assaf Moghadan and then states:Map Yoel Moshe Salomon

“By the 1990s the balance of power among the Palestinians was shifting. Islamist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as militant elements within Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, were opposed to the peace process. Support for a path of violent opposition to Israel would grow sharply in the wake of a massacre of Palestinians carried out at the Cave of the Patriarchs by a Jewish extremist.”

After a recording of an archive news bulletin, Keane once again inadequately introduces political activist cum academic Rashid Khalidi, failing to provide audiences with the crucial background summary of Khalidi’s “viewpoint” which would enable them to put his contribution into its appropriate context.

Keane: “Rashid Khalidi is professor of modern Arab studies at Colombia University, New York.”

Khalidi: “Suicide attacks were carried out in the wake of the Hebron Mosque massacre – the Haram al Ibrahimi massacre – by Baruch Goldstein in 1994, when dozens of worshippers were gunned down by this armed settler fanatic.”

But do the facts actually support Khalid’s claim? Suicide attacks had in fact already begun in 1989 with the one on the 405 bus carried out by the PIJ. Two attacks were carried out in 1993 by Hamas and in 1994 five attacks by Hamas took place. The years that followed showed a slight decline in suicide attacks – 1995: 4, 1996: 4, 1997: 3, 1998: 2, 1999: 2. The surge in suicide attacks actually came during the second Intifada which began six and a half years after Goldstein’s terror attack at the Cave of the Patriarchs – 2000: 5, 2001: 40, 2002: 47 attacks. Hence, Khalidi’s linkage is doubtful to say the least. Keane goes on to tell listeners:

“Rashid Khalidi says that Palestinian anger over a peace process that failed to stop the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land helped to create support for violent action against Israeli civilians.”

Of course Keane’s blind adoption and amplification of Khalidi’s politically motivated narrative means that he erases from audience view several vital points, one of which is the fact that the representatives of the Palestinian people willingly signed the Oslo Accords in which no limitation on Israeli (or Palestinian) building was stipulated. He also ignores the fact that construction in existing communities took place in Area C which, according to the terms of the Oslo Accords is to have its status determined in final status negotiations, making Keane’s description of that area as “Palestinian land” inaccurate and misleading.

Khalidi: “Instead of punishing the settlers by doing what a majority of his cabinet apparently wanted to do, which was to remove settlers from Hebron and perhaps even remove the Kiryat Arba settlement where the most fanatic, most extreme armed settlers were concentrated, Rabin did quite the opposite. He began the enforcement of incredibly restrictive conditions on the population of Hebron in the area where the Jewish settlers had set up in the city, such that it became clear to the Palestinians that the peace process was not delivering and to settlement and improvement of the situation for Palestinians: quite the contrary.”

Neither Khalidi nor Keane bother to inform listeners that the status of Hebron and the security arrangements there are the product of the Hebron Protocols – again willingly signed by the Palestinian leadership. Clearly that fact does not fit into Khalidi’s politically motivated narrative which portrays Palestinians exclusively as victims.

Keane then goes on to discuss with Ronen Bergman and Nitzan Nuriel Israel’s methods of coping with the wave of suicide bombings during the second Intifada before informing listeners that:

“The most profound, long-term impact was political. Suicide bombing created fear among the Israeli public and a sense of betrayal. Where were the promises of peace, they asked. And so voters gradually turned away from the likes of Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak of Labour and towards the right-wing in the form of Binyamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. As suicide bombing reached its peak in 2002, Sharon ordered the army into West Bank towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Operation Defensive Shield was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the war of 1967. The compound of PLO leader Yasser Arafat was besieged and according to the United Nations, 497 Palestinians were killed along with 30 Israeli soldiers. Arafat was accused of supporting suicide bombers from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – a faction of his Fatah movement. Human Rights Watch said that while he didn’t have command responsibility, he bore a heavy political responsibility for the atrocities. More than a hundred people died in bomb attacks in Israel from March to May 2002.”

Notably, at no point in this programme is it clarified that Arafat was not only the leader of the PLO, but also the president of the Palestinian Authority. No mention is made of his instigation of the second Intifada and, as we see above, his role in financing that terror war is downplayed to the level of ambiguous “political responsibility”.

After discussing the role of the anti-terrorist fence in reducing suicide bombings with Assaf Moghadan, Keane once again turns his attentions away from counter-terrorism and towards politics.

“But Israel’s politics changed dramatically. The old existential fear dominated and produced governments for whom security – rather than a long-term pact with the Palestinians – became the primary focus. Along with this came the steady expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land: a deep cause of Palestinian fury. For the Palestinian militants, instead of suicide bombers the new terrorism would see hundreds of rockets fired at Israeli civilians.”

So according to Keane’s version of events, it was “Jewish settlements” which caused “fury” which prompted the continuation of terror attacks against Israeli civilians, with the tactic changing from suicide bombings to rockets.

The one major hole in Keane’s inaccurate theory is of course that the majority of the thousands – not “hundreds”- of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip took place after Israel’s disengagement from that territory in 2005 – including the evacuation of all ‘settlements’ – and hence one can in fact see that Keane’s linkage between the Palestinian terror organisations’ activities and ‘settlements’ is fallacious to say the least.

Missile attacks from GS

Keane proceeds with a very odd question:

“As with the airline hijackings of the 1970s, the suicide bombing campaigns focused attention on the Palestinian cause. But did they improve living conditions or bring a Palestinian state any closer?”

Keane gives the last word to Khalidi.

“Well, I would argue that attacks carried out in particular during the second Intifada which began in 2000 – and those attacks really reached a peak in 2001/2002 with bus bombs and other atrocities all over Israeli cities – had a devastating effect on the Palestinians, not only in terms of public opinion but in terms of hardening Israeli opinion against the Palestinians in terms of unifying Israeli opinion around the most extreme right-wing positions in Israeli politics. So their ultimate impact, besides the havoc that the Israeli army wreaked on the Palestinians as part of the re-occupation of the tiny areas that they had originally evacuated as part of the Oslo Accords, the public opinion impact worldwide of the Palestinians blowing up buses – all of these things together in my view had a devastating impact on the Palestinians primarily. Obviously there was enormous suffering caused by the actual attacks, but strategically I would say the balance is entirely in Israel’s favour and that should be a strategic factor for any Palestinian political leader.”

In other words, BBC audiences are left with the message that suicide bombings are undesirable not because they are morally wrong or abhorrent, but because they do not serve the strategic interests of Palestinian public relations. They are also told that Israeli public opinion is ‘unified’ around “the most extreme right-wing positions in Israeli politics” – a claim not borne out by the results of the 2013 elections or those which went before them. Khalidi also erases the fact that Arafat’s campaign of terror actually coincided with an increase in foreign donor contributions to the Palestinian Authority and that continuing terrorism cannot be said to have had a detrimental effect upon the provision of foreign aid funding.

Ostensibly, Fergal Keane set out to explore in this programme “how Israeli society reacted to a wave of suicide bombers”. What he actually achieved was – once again – uncritical amplification of political messaging from the Rashid Khalidi show. 

 

The BBC News website’s Middle East priorities: missile ignored, football fight reported

On the evening of Friday October 31st a missile was fired from the Gaza Strip, landing in the Eshkol region and constituting a second breach of the ceasefire which ended Operation Protective Edge since it came into effect just over two months ago.

The BBC News website editors apparently did not consider that event newsworthy enough to justify an article on its Middle East page.

However, on November 4th the website’s staff obviously did reach the conclusion that a story about a punch-up at a football match in Tel Aviv was information BBC audiences could not do without.

TA derby art on HP

 And again on November 5th: 

TA derby art 5 11

 Go figure those priorities…