BBC’s Simpson admires Hamas engineering ‘feat’ and ignores its intended victims

A filmed report for BBC television news from July 21st – supposedly one of the BBC’s never abundant but now increasingly rare ‘Israeli point of view’ pieces – was presented by John Simpson and it appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Clashes go on as Israel holds funerals for the dead“. Simpson, we are told in the synopsis, “sent this report from Sderot on Israel’s border with Gaza”.Simpson Sderot 21 7

Kibbutz Nir Am – which was the target of the attempted terrorist infiltration addressed at the beginning of Simpson’s report –  is within easy walking distance of Sderot but nevertheless, Simpson apparently saw nothing newsworthy in going to talk to any of the people there who have been living under the terror of missiles for well over a decade and who now face the new threat of underground terrorist infiltrations – literally in their own  backyard.

Simpson opens his report with a statement which provides a good example of what happens when journalists are ‘parachuted in’ to Israel to provide extra manpower in times of a major event. No-one with even the slightest awareness of what preceded the current escalation and life in the Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip during the past decade could possibly talk in terms of a “quiet landscape”.

JS: “Beneath this quiet landscape between Gaza and Israel, Hamas has been working away for months – sometimes years – digging tunnels. At six this morning an Israeli team watched from hiding as Hamas infiltrators dug their way to the surface and opened fire. But they didn’t stand a chance. At least ten members of the Hamas team were killed.”

Simpson makes no attempt to inform viewers of what the aim of that infiltration was, ridiculously downplaying its lethal intention with his flippant “they didn’t stand a chance” quip. Having apparently decided that the intended civilian victims of that infiltration are of no interest, he goes on to admire Hamas’ engineering skills, but fails to inform audiences of the schools, housing and hospitals Hamas fails to construct for its population instead or of where the materials and money for these “feats” comes from.

“These tunnels are impressive: a real feat of engineering. The BBC was allowed to film inside this one recently after it was discovered. The Israelis afterwards make sure the tunnels can’t be used again.

A few hours after this morning’s operation against the Hamas infiltrators, a top government minister came to congratulate the soldiers who’d carried it out. Tsipi Livni is the most dovish member of the Israeli cabinet; plainly worried about the casualties on both sides.”

In a remarkable display of the worth of that famous BBC commitment to ‘impartiality’, Simpson then says to Livni:

“I have to say it to you in these terms: are you going to carry on killing civilians – including women and children in quite large numbers – until you get what you want?”

Livni: “We are not looking for civilians to kill. We are trying to avoid this. And if you think that we want to send our soldiers – our children – to Shuja’iya or all these places in which they’re being killed, you are mistaken.”

Simpson continues with more downplaying of the effects and results of Hamas terror, invoking that frequent media theme of ‘not enough dead Israelis to count’.

“This is one reason why casualties on the two sides are so out of proportion. Israel has developed the world’s most effective anti-missile defence. The Iron Dome system’s abilities to knock Hamas missiles out of the sky has been a remarkable achievement for Israel during this crisis. The success rate is quite phenomenal. Even so, there are missiles which get through. One of those landed close by here this morning. But the family had taken shelter and scarcely any damage was done. They take it all stoically.”

Woman: “We’re here to stay, you know, it’s our home.”

Simpson quickly returns to his real agenda:

“As she spoke, death and destruction were raining down in Gaza only twenty miles away, but a different world.”

Death and destruction also rained down on the al Wadj family from a Bedouin village near Dimona on July 19th. Thirty-two year-old Ouda al Wadj was killed and his wife, his sister, his four year-old son and three month-old daughter were injured. Little Aya al Wadj is still in hospital in Be’er Sheva recovering from the shrapnel injuries to her head caused by the missile fired from the Gaza Strip. No BBC team has covered that story.

Simpson closes with a perfunctory nod to supposed BBC impartiality by saying:

“All the same, there are funerals of soldiers every day here now. Thirteen killed yesterday, seven more today. Here they were burying Moshe Malko – an Israeli of Ethiopian origin. The scale of Israeli and Palestinian deaths may be utterly different but Israel is paying a heavy price as well.”

For well over a decade the Western media – BBC included – has ignored the story of the people who live in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the children who have grown up under the threat of constant missile attacks. From time to time, when the situation escalates, reporters are ‘parachuted in’ and the world gets a brief view the story as they chose to frame it.

In John Simpson’s case that means downplaying the thousands of missile attacks carried out by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip, erasing the all-important topic of Hamas’ use of the people of Gaza as human shields and failing to enable BBC audiences to hear the voices of the Israelis now facing the threat of underground terror attacks.

Dana Bar-On is from Nir Am – the kibbutz which on July 21st had a very lucky escape from the terror attack which Simpson fails to adequately report in this item. Here is a five-minute glimpse of how she and her family – and thousands of other residents of the same area – live.

 

 

BBC’s Paul Adams amplifies Nazi analogy in coverage of Gaza ground op

One of several BBC journalists ‘parachuted in’ to the region recently in order to cover Operation Protective Shield is Paul Adams – usually based in London as a World Affairs correspondent.OP PE Adams vers 1

On July 18th the BBC News website published an article by Adams initially titled “Gaza casualties mount amid Israeli ground campaign” but later renamed “Hospital on Gaza conflict’s front line”. In his fourth paragraph Adams adheres to what has been standard BBC practice since the beginning of its reporting on this operation: the quotation and promotion of figures supplied by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza without any qualifying statement regarding the fact that they have not been independently verified by the BBC and with no attempt made to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualty figures.

“But a new phase of operations inevitably brought a new wave of casualties – more than 20 dead, according to Gaza’s ministry of health. Among them at least three more children.”

Depending on the time at which Adams wrote those words, he should of course have pointed out to BBC audiences that at least fourteen terrorists were among the casualties on the first day of Israel’s ground operation.

A considerable proportion of Adams’ report relates to the Wafa rehabilitation hospital in the Shuja’iyeh neighbourhood of Gaza City which, incidentally, also accommodated members of the International Solidarity Movement with the staff’s knowledge and consent, although Adams refrains from mentioning that fact. 

“I found the patients and staff from the Wafa rehabilitation hospital sheltering in a Gaza City clinic.

The Wafa has been hit repeatedly in the past week. It’s close to the border and very close to some of the latest Israeli military activity.

Basman al-Ashi, the hospital’s executive director, said everything seemed quiet on Thursday night, until shelling intensified in the hours before troops entered the Gaza Strip.

With artillery rounds hitting the hospital once more, Basman decided to evacuate everyone.”

Leaflet distributed in Gaza Strip 16/7/14

Leaflet distributed in Gaza Strip 16/7/14

In fact, the hospital’s staff were directly alerted to the need to evacuate the premises by the IDF on the evening of July 15th –47 hours before the ground operation commenced – even according to B’Tselem.  General warnings were also issued to residents of that neighbourhood and others on the morning of July 16th. Contrary to the impression which readers receive from Adams’ report, the actual reason for the evacuation warning was the presence of terrorist infrastructure located near to the hospital.

Perhaps unwittingly, Adams provides evidence of the practice of locating weapons stores and missile launchers in the vicinity of medical facilities and other civilian structures when he goes on to write:

“As he recalled the scene, surrounded by his evacuated patients, two deafening salvoes of rockets took off from somewhere very close by – rockets fired by fighters from Hamas or one of the other armed factions.” [emphasis added]

No attempt is of course made by Adams to clarify to BBC audiences the legal significance of the practice he witnessed and he later goes on to deliberately mislead audiences by writing:

“Israel says rockets have been fired from Basman al-Ashi’s hospital, a charge his staff deny completely.”

Significantly, he does not ask the hospital’s director about the actual situation – i.e. that areas near the hospital have been used for the purposes of terrorism.

Adams does, however, take the opportunity to promote and amplify the hospital director’s use of a Nazi analogy.Op pe Adams vers 2

“Basman’s eyes closed for a moment in weary resignation, but opened wide in defiance when I suggested the actions of Hamas might simply make matters worse.

“It’s a very natural response for the Palestinians to respond, to defend themselves,” he insisted.

Israel, he said, had made “a concentration camp of 1.8 million people”.

“No air. No land. No sea. You’re trying to tell the people what? I’m putting you in prison and I want you to obey, eat, sleep and that’s it. We’re human.” ” [emphasis added]

One of the definitions of antisemitism according to the EUMC working definition is:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Even if that is what an executive director of a Gaza hospital with close links to the ISM actually said, there is no justification and no excuse for the BBC’s amplification and propagation of Nazi analogies.

It would have been helpful to BBC audiences’ understanding of the reality of the situation had Adams bothered to explain to readers that – contrary to al Ashi’s inaccurate claim – Israeli policy concerning the Gaza Strip is the result of the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and other groups rather than the other way round. However, it is perfectly clear that Paul Adams did not set out in this article to provide BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which really would enhance their “understanding of international issues“.   

What didn’t make BBC headlines and why did mortar attacks disappear?

An article from July 17th which now appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East under the title “Israel-Gaza ceasefire deal denied” includes the following statements:OP PE ceasefire denied 17 7

“A five-hour humanitarian ceasefire took place on Thursday but hostilities quickly resumed after it ended. […]

The humanitarian truce took place between 10:00 and 15:00 local time on Thursday.

It was requested by the UN and other international organisations to provide emergency relief and distribute water, food and hygiene kits.

Gazans used the truce to stock up on supplies. They queued outside banks and there were traffic jams.

Both sides reported violations of the temporary truce.”

Whether the BBC has independently verified the claim of IDF fire made on a television station run by Hamas before amplifying it is not made clear to audiences. However, what is interesting is that the final version of this report makes no proper mention of what is known:  that some two hours into the agreed temporary ceasefire, three mortars were fired at the Eshkol region.

That the BBC is aware of that incident is shown by the fact that earlier versions of this same article were titled “Gaza mortars ‘disrupt ceasefire’ – Israel Defense Forces” and “Gaza mortars ‘hit Israel during ceasefire’ – IDF”. By the article’s seventh version, information relating to that mortar fire had disappeared from the report.

Also on July 17th a major incident took place when a group of thirteen terrorists infiltrated Israel via a cross-border tunnel located near Kibbutz Sufa.

“The Israeli army thwarted a large-scale infiltration attempt along the Gaza border, during which 13 armed Palestinians emerged from a tunnel on the Israeli side of the border at dawn Thursday, an army spokesperson said. […]

The gunmen, he said, emerged from the tunnel early Thursday some 250 meters inside Israel. Lying flat on the ground, in an open area two kilometers from Kibbutz Sufa in the Eshkol region, the 13 armed men were spotted by what Lerner termed “different sensors.”

Realizing that they had been discovered, they attempted to run back underground but were struck by Israeli aircraft. Lerner said some had been hit but he could not state how many.

Israeli military sources said the gunmen evidently planned to attack the kibbutz, killing and possibly kidnapping civilians.”

That serious incident received no separate coverage on the BBC News website. Readers of the above article had to proceed to its twenty-ninth paragraph before they were very briefly informed that:

“The Israeli military also said it had thwarted the infiltration into Israel by 13 Hamas gunmen via a tunnel from southern Gaza towards the southern Israeli kibbutz of Sufa on Thursday morning.”

In another article from the same day titled “Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and Israel begins” that same one sentence appeared in the fourteenth paragraph, together with some additional information.

“The Israeli military also said it had thwarted the infiltration into Israel by 13 Hamas gunmen via a tunnel from southern Gaza towards the southern Israeli kibbutz of Sufa on Thursday morning.
Army spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said the gunmen were 250 metres (820ft) inside Israel when they were intercepted by Israeli aircraft. He said at least one militant was believed killed and that the others escaped back into Gaza.”

A report titled “Israel starts Gaza ground offensive” which is now dated July 18th but was actually first published on July 17th informs readers in its nineteenth paragraph that:

“Israel said the initial phase [of the ground operation] was aimed at targeting tunnels Hamas has dug under the border with Israel to use in attacks.

On Wednesday [sic] 13 militants infiltrated into Israel through a tunnel aiming to attack a kibbutz, Israeli officials said. The Israeli military said it killed at least one of the militants, while the others retreated through the tunnel.”

No attempt was made in any of these reports to put the subject of building materials used by Hamas to construct cross-border tunnels for terror purposes into its appropriate context with relation to the restrictions on imports of certain building materials – a frequent topic of BBC reports.

Another major event which took place on July 17th was the announcement by UNRWA that twenty missiles had been found in one of its schools in the Gaza Strip. No separate report on that subject appeared on the BBC News website.

In the first article that was laconically reported in the eighth paragraph.

“On Thursday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees said it had found 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools in Gaza and “strongly condemned” whichever group had placed them there.”

The information did not appear in either of the other two reports published on the BBC News website on July 17th, although ironically the second article does state:

“Israel accuses Hamas of hiding its military infrastructure within the civilian population.”

With the BBC having severely downplayed – and even denied – the use of the local civilian population as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, the lack of any attempt to put the discovery of missiles in a UN-run school into its proper context is especially remarkable.

Related Articles:

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BBC promotes UNRWA lie

Another dumbed-down BBC report from the Gaza Strip

 

Superficial reporting from the BBC’s James Reynolds in Ashkelon

As has so often been the case in past rounds of conflict and also during ‘quieter‘ times, the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon has been under particularly heavy attack during Operation Protective Edge. Since the beginning of the operation on July 8th and as of the evening of July 16th, 102 missiles have been fired at Ashkelon alone. 64 were intercepted, 14 fell in open areas and 6 hit the city.

On July 16th BBC television news broadcast a report by James Reynolds from that battered city which was also promoted on the BBC News website under the somewhat ambitious title (considering that the city has some 120,000 residents) “Gaza-Israel conflict: BBC assesses the mood in Ashkelon“.

Distinctly less ambitious were the BBC’s efforts to meet standards of accuracy in that report’s synopsis as it appears on the website.

Reynolds 16 7 Ashkelon Beit Ariye

Thirty-seven year-old father of three Dror Hanin was actually killed near the Erez crossing whilst he was handing out food parcels to soldiers. He was a resident of the town of Beit Aryeh, which is about 90 kms away.

Three days before James Reynolds filmed this report in Ashkelon a teenager was badly wounded by missile shrapnel during one of the dozens of attacks on the city over the past ten days. Yarin Levy is hospitalized in the ICU at Barzilai Hospital in his city where, due to the missile fire from the Gaza Strip, premature babies had to be evacuated to a protected area already on the first day of the operation and the accident and emergency department was similarly evacuated on the day of Reynolds’ visit. Also on that day, one of the nineteen missiles targeting Ashkelon hit a house in the city, with a teenage girl narrowly escaping serious injury and the clinic belonging to her mother – a pediatrician sometimes practicing at home  – fortunately empty at the time.

In contrast to recent filmed BBC reports produced by Reynolds’ colleagues in the Gaza Strip, however, there were no images of a child in an intensive care hospital bed, of distraught relatives, of ruined houses or of people sifting through rubble in this report. Instead, Reynolds chose to represent the situation in Ashkelon by showing viewers a shopping mall.

He opens:

“I’m in the Israeli city of Ashkelon and Gaza is just a few miles to the south of there on the horizon.  And so far today there’ve been three rocket warnings from Gaza. Israelis have heard sirens blare across the city. They stop whatever they’re doing and they go to find shelter.”

“Rocket warnings from Gaza”? Not rocket attacks from Gaza?

He continues:

“But for the moment here they’ve decided to carry on with their lives. Now I want to show you inside this shopping centre. Have a look there at the security guard. Shalom. In all Israeli shopping centres there’s a security guard because for years the threat here was from suicide bombers. Now the threat is from rockets and if you look in here you’ll see it’s pretty empty. People here say it’s much emptier than normal but they’re continuing to follow news of the conflict from Gaza.”

So on the one hand Reynolds tells BBC audiences that the people of Ashkelon have “decided to carry on with their lives” but on the other hand the shopping mall is “pretty empty” and “much emptier than normal”. And whilst people are apparently following “news of the conflict from Gaza”, one assumes that they are also following news of the attacks on the rest of Israel which go unmentioned by Reynolds.

Reynolds then interviews three people – none of whom is a native English speaker, but nevertheless, the interviews are conducted in English rather than Hebrew with voice-over. Reynolds’ first question to the first interviewee again indicates just how Gaza-centric BBC coverage is.

“How is the offensive into Gaza affecting your life?”

Surely a more appropriate and relevant question would have been ‘how are the missile attacks from the Gaza Strip affecting your life? Notably, the message given by the first two interviewees (at least after editing) is that people get used to missile attacks.

Reynolds: “Are you scared now?”

Man: “Now less…because I got used to it.”

Woman: “I’m not afraid – I get used to that..”

Reynolds concludes:

“Israelis here in Ashkelon await word from their government about the future of the ground offensive into Gaza. Some ministers have called for a ground operation. The decision one way or another will be made by the entire security cabinet.”

Did BBC audiences really learn anything about “the mood” in Ashkelon or get a sense of the realities of life under missile fire in one of Israel’s most attacked cities where even premature babies in hospital have to be moved to air-raid shelters? Hardly. But the really revealing thing about this report is the way in which it contrasts so sharply with the emotional reports produced by Reynolds’ colleagues in the Gaza Strip.  

BBC’s Knell dumbs down the Gaza Strip economic situation (spoiler: it’s Israel’s fault)

A filmed report by Yolande Knell from July 15th which was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “‘Essentials, not luxuries’ being bought in Gaza” as well as being broadcast on BBC television news provides an interesting example of how the framing of a story can actively prevent audiences from properly understanding an issue.Knell 15 7 market Gaza

Knell reports from a market in Gaza City.

“This is how most of the shops look all around Gaza City. They’re completely closed up because of the ongoing fighting. But the main market here is still open and this is the busiest time of the day, although business has really been down over the past week. Abu Ahab has had a stall here in the market for the past five years. He’s selling dates, which are really popular at this time during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Abu Ahab – how is business?”

Stallholder: “The situation this year is different because of the war. Those who come here shopping come only for the essentials – not for the luxuries. Instead of taking [a] kilo of dates they take half a kilo. Why? Because some people haven’t been paid, because of the blockade and there is a war at the same time. People have no money. The war is terrifying them. They are selling their possessions so they can buy food for Ramadan.”

Knell: “Already, the economic situation in Gaza is very tough because of the tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt. That means there’s very little industry and there’s high unemployment. Recently – to make matters worse – there’s been no money to pay the Hamas government employees and that dispute has led to banks being closed and a shortage of cash for everyone.”

As we see, audiences are encouraged to believe that the difficult economic situation in the Gaza Strip is primarily – if not exclusively – attributable not to the ineptitude of the Hamas government which ruled it for the last seven years and not to that organisation’s decision to divert resources into terrorism rather than building a sustainable economy and a healthy civil society, but to Israeli and Egyptian policies enacted in order to cope with that terrorism.

This, of course, is the topsy-turvy line which Knell has been pushing for some time now – as we have documented here in the past (see examples here, here and here). The phrase “tight border restrictions” is frequently used by Knell and other BBC employees without any adequate explanation of what that actually means.

In fact the only restrictions in place are those prohibiting the import of weapons (as, one imagines, is the case at most international borders) and dual-use goods which can be used for military purposes to the Gaza Strip. Even those dual-use goods can be imported into the Gaza Strip with special co-ordination and on condition that their use is supervised. All other goods can enter the Gaza Strip from Israel freely.

Notably, neither Knell nor any other BBC journalist has in the ten days since the conflict began seen fit to inform audiences that humanitarian aid has continued to be supplied to the Gaza Strip throughout the entire time.

But Knell’s final sentence is particularly interesting – especially because of what it does not tell viewers.

“Recently – to make matters worse – there’s been no money to pay the Hamas government employees and that dispute has led to banks being closed and a shortage of cash for everyone.”

Banks in the Gaza Strip were indeed closed for six days at the beginning of June but Knell neglects to inform audiences why and the BBC did not report on the topic at the time.

“Banks in the Gaza Strip reopened Wednesday, after being closed for six days following a cash-run on the banks by Palestinian civil servants demanding unpaid salaries, Palestinian media reported.

The payment crisis sparked a severe public dispute between Fatah and Hamas, just days after the establishment of the new technocratic unity government. Hamas claimed that the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should pay the salaries, while the PA rejected the demand. […]

Jihad al-Wazir, head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the Palestinians’ central bank, said “All automatic telling machines at bank branches in the Gaza Strip are working again today.” 

Hamas forces withdrew from outside banks, where they had been preventing the use of ATMs. [….]

Hamas demanded Thursday that the Palestinian Authority take employees of the disbanded Gaza government onto its payroll, after the PA’s Gaza-based staff received their salaries but their Hamas counterparts went empty-handed.

After scuffles broke out at ATMs, Hamas security forces closed the banks.”

So in other words, the banks were closed because the Hamas private militia closed them because the Palestinian unity government to which it is party and which it agreed would rule the Gaza Strip instead of Hamas wouldn’t do what Hamas wanted.

Now doesn’t that sound rather different to the version of the story Yolande Knell is telling BBC audiences? But the really important part of Knell’s omissions in this report and others in relation to the current situation is that one of the conditions presented by Hamas for a ceasefire to end the current round of conflict is that the PA pay these people (some of whom are employees of Hamas’ Izz ad Din al Qassam Brigades) anyway. So far, the BBC has failed completely to inform BBC audiences of any of Hamas’ demands which are not related to Israel.

Another interesting point to note is that whilst the BBC took a distinctly ‘best thing since sliced bread’ approach to the Hamas-Fatah unity deal at the time, since the upsurge in hostilities it has been remarkably reticent about clarifying to BBC audiences the significance of the fact that officially, the Palestinian Authority is in charge of the Gaza Strip – from which well over a thousand missiles have been fired at Israeli civilians in just over a week – in clear breach of existing agreements between the PA and Israel.

“…Hamas has officially renounced its responsibility for governing Gaza, while the Palestinian unity government has already begun the process of taking over the administration of Gaza. Over a week ago (July 5/6), a senior Hamas official, Ahmad Yousef, was “asked about increased rocket fire on Israel in recent weeks” in an interview with Palestinian news agency Ma’an. His answer: “From a political point of view, (Prime Minister) Rami Hamdallah is responsible and he can give orders to security services to intervene. Hamas is not ruling the Gaza Strip and so it’s not responsible for protecting borders”.”

Now of course all that is a lot more of a headache to explain to BBC audiences than ‘(some) people in Gaza are poor because of Israeli and Egyptian border restrictions’, but if the BBC is to meet its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”, it is going to have to stop dumbing down its reporting and start providing them with the entire picture instead of inaccurate politically motivated sound-bites.

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Why doesn’t the BBC tell audiences about Gaza’s shortfall missiles?

On the evening of July 15th the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen sat on a roof in Gaza and witnessed just one of the many instances (around 10 -15%) in which missiles fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip fall short of their target and land inside the territory.

Bowen tweet shortfall 1

Bowen tweet shortfall 2

The IDF informs us that since the start of Operation Protective Edge, some 100 missiles fired by terrorist groups have fallen short, landing inside the Gaza Strip.

Shortfalls tweet IDF

As recently as June 24th a three year-old girl was killed and other members of her family injured when a shortfall missile fired by terrorists hit their home in Beit Lahiya. That incident (along with others) was not reported by the BBC at the time.

The BBC does however know from previous experience that misfired and shortfall missiles cause the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Despite that, in all the BBC’s extensive reporting of Operation Protective Edge that we have seen so far, no attempt has been made to inform BBC audiences of the factor of shortfall missiles and to clarify to them that the casualty figures it quotes will – according to the source of its figures – include civilian deaths caused by missiles fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Neither has the BBC told its audiences about the interest of Hamas (including of course its health ministry, which the BBC regularly quotes on the issue of casualty figures) in promoting as many civilian casualties as possible to the watching world, as chillingly demonstrated in this July 13th Al Aqsa TV interview with Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.  

 

 

BBC films Hamas human shields policy in action: fails to explain to audiences

Yolande Knell’s filmed report from July 15th was broadcast on BBC television news programmes as well as being posted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinians reject Gaza ceasefire proposal“.

That report includes some interesting items, one of which is the image below which clearly shows missiles being fired by terrorists from built-up residential areas in the Gaza Strip.

Knell report 15 7 pic missiles being fired

Knell fails to inform viewers that both the storage of missiles and the launching of such attacks from a residential area contravene international conventions.

Article 58: ” The Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible:

(a)…endeavor to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives; 
(b) Avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.”

In addition, Knell tells viewers: [emphasis added]Knell report 15 7 ceasefire

“But overnight, diplomatic efforts to end the two-way violence gathered pace. This was an Arab League meeting in Cairo. Egypt – a key player – set a time for a ceasefire and offered to mediate a longer-term deal. Israel accepted the offer but the main Palestinian factions in Gaza did not.

We’re here at the main hospital in Gaza City. This is one of the few locations where Hamas officials feel they’re safe enough from a possible Israeli attack to come out and speak to the media. Already they’ve told us that they reject Egypt’s proposed ceasefire deal.”

The report then cuts to an interview with Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

The main hospital in Gaza City is of course Shifa hospital, from which both Knell and Jeremy Bowen have reported in recent days. The fact that the Hamas leadership is once again hiding in Shifa hospital because it knows that Israel will not strike a hospital means that both patients and medical personnel are being used as human shields, but Knell fails to point that fact out to viewers.

 Article 12(4): “Under no circumstances shall medical units be used in an attempt to shield military objectives from attack. Whenever possible, the Parties to the conflict shall ensure that medical units are so sited that attacks against military objectives do not imperil their safety.”

Whilst the BBC has been very trigger-happy with its amplification of unproven Palestinian accusations of Israeli wrongdoing (see some examples here, here and here), it has been remarkably and uniformly consistent in its failure to provide any explanation to audiences regarding the Hamas policy of using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields – even when it observes and films that policy in action itself.  

BBC World Service gives inaccurate report on the ceasefire that wasn’t

As readers are no doubt already aware, the ‘ceasefire’ of July 15th lasted a mere six hours due to the fact that terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip did not cease their fire of missiles into Israel.

However, a BBC World Service radio programme – BBC World Update: Daily Commute – which was broadcast at 05:30 US Eastern time (12:30 Israel time) on July 15th – i.e. three and a half hours after the ceasefire supposedly came into effect, – gives some interesting indications regarding the BBC’s already emerging framing of the topic of the ceasefire.WS Daily Commute

The programme (available here as a podcast for a limited period of time) is presented by Dan Damon who opens by saying: [all emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in original]

“Coming up: the Israeli security cabinet has accepted a ceasefire proposal by Egypt but the armed wing of Hamas in Gaza rejects that. Where does that leave the current strife?”

A newsreader then tells listeners:

“The Israeli security cabinet has approved an Egyptian proposal for a truce in its week-long conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza. Almost 200 Palestinians have been killed in the latest conflict, many of them civilians.”

The news bulletin then moves on to an interview with James Reynolds in Tel Aviv, after which the newsreader introduces Yolande Knell.

Knell: “The military wing of Hamas has said that the terms being offered by the Egyptians would amount to a surrender and is continuing to insist on its own conditions which include the release of Hamas activists from Israeli jails and also an opening of the border crossings between the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt. That said, we have to say on the ground here, what we have seen over the past few hours is certainly a much lower intensity of fighting.”

The programme then returns to Dan Damon.

“…this morning some glimmers that an end to the violence that has claimed almost 200 Palestinian lives in the past week might be at an end. The Israeli security cabinet this morning agreed an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire. Let’s talk to Kevin Connolly, our correspondent in Jerusalem. It’s reported, Kevin, that Hamas rejected that proposal and I think there’s been further development.”

Kevin Connolly: “Well what we have here at the moment is half a ceasefire in the sense that Israel has accepted it. Hamas for the time being has not and the military wing of Hamas in Gaza has really been talking down the proposal from Egypt which is on the table. Now that’s not to say that Hamas won’t eventually be talked round by the Egyptians but for the moment, as I say, we have half a ceasefire.”

DD: “And it’s difficult, I guess, to understand completely what the mood is inside the Palestinian territories where you are but surely after nearly 200 deaths on one side and…eh…some injuries on the Israeli side, the people inside Gaza must be desperate for some kind of a ceasefire.”

KC: “I haven’t the slightest doubt that Palestinian civilians in Gaza – we talk to our people there every day, of course – are desperate for an end to the suffering and destruction. Hospitals there are struggling to treat the injured, many people are homeless, people are – you know – living in terrifying circumstances. Nothing is more terrifying than being bombed from the air. But politically of course, Hamas also has an agenda here. Having embarked on this round of hostilities, I think it is going to feel that it can’t emerge from them without some kind of political victory to show its people, so something is going to have to be found to allow Hamas an elegant way out, if you like, of the fighting.”

DD: “And what would be called a victory? What would be a victory from Hamas’ point of view?”

KC: “Well it’s given us quite a long list of demands. One of the things it would like – which is unlikely, I think – is to see Israel releasing Hamas prisoners, some of whom have been rounded up over the last couple of weeks. But a more important strategic goal for Hamas and one which would help its standing with the Palestinian people in Gaza is some kind of easing of the economic restrictions which are jointly imposed on the enclave by Israel and by Egypt. The new Egyptian government in particular has been very tough with Hamas – which it sees as an offshoot of the Muslim brotherhood – so it’s closed the smuggling tunnels which were a kind of economic lifeline both for Hamas and for the people of Gaza. That is one area where there’s a bit of scope for Egypt to offer Hamas something in return at least for coming to the table. I think what the Egyptians tried to do is sequence all of this so that you begin with a cessation of hostilities then you start to talk about things like prisoner releases or an easing of economic conditions. So, talking is going on we think between Egypt and Hamas. The Egyptians do have cards to play there, so the situation as it stands where Israel has accepted and Hamas has rejected – that could change. There has been a bit of rocket fire today from Hamas – or from the Gaza militants anyway – towards Israel at a relatively low level of intensity and no response yet from Israel so, it feels as though a diplomatic game is underway and success is not guaranteed.”

Let’s look at that last part first. After having spent the entire item telling listeners about “half a ceasefire” but failing to clarify what that really means in practical terms, Connolly in his last sentence finally informs them of “a bit of rocket fire …towards Israel” (not at it) at a “relatively low intensity”.

In fact, between 09:00 and 12:30 local time (when this programme was broadcast) over 22 missiles had already been fired at the Eshkol region, Ashkelon, Sderot, Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Be’er Tuvia, Netivot, Rehovot and Nes Ziona. One of those missiles landed in the yard of a house in Ashdod and one person was injured in Sderot. Three minutes after this programme went on air, missiles were also fired at Haifa, Daliyat al Carmel and the Carmel and Zichron Ya’akov areas. All in all, between 09:00 and 15:00 local time, fifty missiles were fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. By no possible interpretation of the word is that a “bit” of rocket fire.

Notable too is of course Knell’s description of convicted terrorists – including those freed in prisoner release deals – as “Hamas activists”, the fact that at no point in this broadcast are listeners reminded that Hamas is an internationally designated terrorist organization, Connolly’s bizarre reference to Hamas being “seen” as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and Damon’s description of Kevin Connolly’s location as “the Palestinian territories” even though he was in Jerusalem.

Likewise, it is remarkable that both Knell and Connolly chose to highlight the same two issues from Hamas’ pre-existing list of demands – ignoring no less significant other ones such as the demand for the Palestinian Authority to transfer money to pay Hamas employees and the demand that parties unnamed “stop interfering in the new unity government”. Whilst Knell and Connolly focus on what he terms “economic restrictions”, neither of them bother to clarify to listeners that Egypt’s actions against the smuggling tunnels came as part of its crackdown on Jihadist terror in northern Sinai and that Israel’s measures are aimed at preventing the entry of weapons into the Gaza Strip will obviously be just as relevant in the future as this round of conflict has proved they were in the past.

Most significant, however, is the fact that by the time this programme began at 12:30 local time, the ceasefire had been rejected by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad  and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade took responsibility for some of the missile fire during the supposed ceasefire.  Most importantly, Hamas – not just its “military wing” as claimed several times in this programme – had already rejected the ceasefire via its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

“In an early-morning meeting, Israel’s security cabinet approved the cease-fire, which calls for a de-escalation of fighting by both sides starting at 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday, with hostilities ending within 12 hours.

At a news conference at a hospital in Gaza City, a Hamas official said his group wouldn’t observe the cease-fire terms proposed by the Egyptian government because no one had conferred with them.

“We don’t like the policy pushing us into a corner,” said spokesman Samy Abu Zohry. Hamas was fighting for Palestinians, not a cease-fire, he said.”

It will be worth keeping an eye on additional BBC reporting on the topic of the ceasefire-that-wasn’t in order to note if it is reported in a similarly inaccurate and misleading fashion, downplaying both Hamas rejection of the opportunity for a halt to hostilities and missile attacks on Israeli civilians. 

BBC continues to promote theme of “homemade” rockets

One of the themes we have seen being recycled in BBC reporting of Operation Protective Edge is that of the description of the missile arsenals of Gaza Strip-based terrorist organisations as “homemade rockets”.Knell 14 7 homemade rockets

Just a few examples of that practice can be seen in the following reports.

In an article titled “Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 11th, Kevin Connolly stated:

“To the outside world the Gaza rockets may seem ineffective – partly because many are homemade and partly because they’re hopelessly overmatched by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

And

“Lots of the rockets in Gaza are workshop weapons. What if Israel staged a huge operation, left declaring it a success and then found home-made rockets raining down a week or a month later?”

An article titled “Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 12th included ‘analysis’ from Connolly in which he again stated:

“To the outside world the Gaza rockets may seem ineffective – partly because many are homemade and partly because they’re hopelessly overmatched by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

Another article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 12th under the title “Israel to ‘resist international pressure’ over Gaza” includes that very same ‘analysis’ by Connolly.

In a filmed report produced by Yolande Knell on July 14th which appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East conflict: Palestinians flee Israeli air strikes” as well as having been broadcast on BBC television news’ GMT programme, Knell states:

“These pictures from Hamas militants are said to show homemade Palestinian rockets being fired at Tel Aviv.”

The remarkably uniform description of missiles with warheads of up to 60 kg as “homemade” is clearly not a matter of chance. The obvious intention is to steer audiences towards a view of these weapons as being crudely and simply made, with the implication that they are ineffective and do not present such a dangerous threat to Israeli civilians. Notably too, whilst BBC reporters take pains to promote the “homemade” theme, they have little if anything to say about the weaponry of Hamas and other terrorist organisations which is not locally produced and the fact that several terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip are supplied, funded and supported by Iran.

So what are the facts with regard to the missile stocks of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip?

According to Israeli military intelligence, of some 10,000 missiles located in the Gaza Strip, approximately 6,000 are in Hamas’ possession. The important fact that other armed terrorist groups are also in possession of military-grade weaponry is rarely adequately reported by the BBC.

Hamas arsenal

As we see, the amount of smuggled standard missiles outnumbers the locally produced ones, meaning that the BBC’s across-the-board description of Hamas missiles as “homemade” is both inaccurate and misleading. The same is the case with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s missile arsenal.

PIJ arsenal

It is also inaccurate and misleading to audiences when the BBC describes as “homemade” the products of what is in reality an organised industry which has already manufactured thousands of missiles and is funded by terrorist organisations – one of which is now party to the Palestinian unity government.

The deliberate use of the term “homemade” in relation to weapons which currently threaten the majority of Israel’s civilian population is not only inaccurate though: it also shows a clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality because its intention is to distort audiences’ views of the severity of the threat to that civilian population and thereby influence their overall view of the conflict. 

BBC’s Bowen tries to persuade TV audiences that Hamas does not use human shields

BBC editorial guidelines on “Reporting Death, Suffering and Distress” state:Bowen report 14 7 on ME pge

“We must always balance the public interest in full and accurate reporting against the need to be compassionate and to avoid any unjustified infringement of privacy when we report accidents, disasters, disturbances, violence against individuals or war.

We will always need to consider carefully the editorial justification for portraying graphic material of human suffering and distress.” […]

“There are very few circumstances in which it is justified to broadcast the moment of death.  It is always important to respect the privacy and dignity of the dead.  We should never show them gratuitously.  We should also avoid the gratuitous use of close-ups of faces and serious injuries of those who are dead, suffering or in distress.” […]

Editorial guidelines on “War, Terror and Emergencies” state:

“We will respect human dignity without sanitising the realities of war, terror, emergencies and similar events.  There must be clear editorial justification for the use of very graphic pictures.”

A guidance also exists for “Violence in News and Current Affairs“.

Readers can judge for themselves whether or not the filmed report by Jeremy Bowen shown on BBC television news and featured on the BBC News website on July 14th under the title “Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes” conforms to those guidelines and whether the use of images of blood in a morgue and repeated pictures of dead bodies is gratuitous in this case.

They might perhaps also ponder the question of whether a BBC film crew would have filmed inside a British morgue at all and whether such images would have been broadcast if the events had taken place in or were connected to the United Kingdom.  Existing BBC research suggests that they would not.

Bowen report 14 7 all images

But once readers have got past Bowen’s use of images obviously intended to shock and appall BBC viewers as much as possible, there is the commentary to consider and in this report Bowen uses interviewees as well as his own words to put his message across.

Against a backdrop of images of explosions, Bowen says:

“Gaza was pounded. For Israel this is self-defence with American support.”

Interviewing a family member inside a morgue, Bowen says:

“Israel says it goes after Hamas.”

Man: “That’s not true. It’s not true.

Bowen: “They’re children, said Munsar al Batsh [phonetic] – a cousin. It’s not logical they’d be Hamas.”

No attempt is made by Bowen whatsoever to provide any context to the tragic event, the circumstances of which are not yet fully known apart from the fact that the head of the family – Tayseer al Batsh was indeed a member of Hamas.

Bowen tells audiences:

“Every time Israel kills Palestinians, especially civilians, Hamas gets a boost of popularity. Now, Israel is not trying to win any friends here, but it does want to weaken Hamas as an organization. Hamas draws strength from the suffering Israel inflicts. When the Israelis say they’re retaliating for attacks on their civilians, no Palestinian listens.”

Of course what Bowen neglects to clarify to audiences is that the suffering of the ordinary people in the Gaza Strip is actually inflicted by Hamas which – rather than using concrete to build homes and nursery schools – chooses to build cross-border tunnels for terrorist purposes and – rather than using their taxes for social and health programmes – elects to put resources into its missile arsenal.

As we have previously noted here, none of the BBC reports from the Gaza Strip so far have even tried to adequately inform audiences about Hamas’ use of human shields. In this report, Bowen not only fails once again to provide accurate information on that topic; he uses another interviewee to try to persuade audiences that it is not true.

Bowen: “He rejected Israel’s claims that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.”

Man: “It’s not true. I have a family and I have seven of my daughters-in-law at home. I’d never put Hamas people near my house.”

Bowen does not inform viewers that the ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip have no say in the matter of where weapons storage facilities and missile launchers are located and are therefore turned into human shields regardless of whether they agree or not. He also fails to clarify to audiences that Hamas’ use of human shields is not merely a ‘claim’ made by Israel, but an increasingly well-documented fact.

BBC licence fee payers pay a lot of money in order to be informed of facts. Hamas’ use of human shields is one of many important facts audiences need to know about in order to be able to reach an understanding of this particular international issue as they are promised in the BBC’s constitutional document. It is bad enough that in over a week of reporting from the Gaza Strip, not one BBC journalist has explained the human shields issue properly to BBC audiences. It is beyond grave when the man in charge of Middle East reporting – not some junior journalist – not only fails to inform, but actively seeks to deny and refute the issue.

Bowen’s inaccurate and partial reports – which increasingly give the impression that he has self-conscripted to the Hamas media campaign – are coming in thick and fast. As long as the BBC continues to allow that, it breaches the public purpose remit which obliges it to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and that is a problem which BBC management should not be allowed to ignore.