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… 

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part five

In the first four installments of this post (see ‘related articles’ below) we documented BBC News website coverage of the first forty days of Operation Protective Edge. Part five relates to the final ten days of the conflict and the day after the ceasefire agreement was reached: August 17th to August 27th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

August 17th:Chart Aug 17

Written:

Gaza conflict: Peace talks resume in Cairo  (discussed here)

Features:

Gaza: What does the future hold for the children?  Kevin Connolly (discussed here)

August 18th:

Written:Chart Aug 18

Arrests at protests against Israeli mixed wedding

Gaza conflict: Peace talks continue as deadline looms

Filmed:

Interfaith wedding: ‘It’s time the Muslims leave Israel’

August 19th:

Written:Chart Aug 19

Gaza ceasefire ‘extended by a day’ after Cairo talks  (discussed here)

Features:

Gaza’s infrastructure crippled by conflict  Yolande Knell 

Filmed:

Strikes hit Gaza after rockets fired  Yolande Knell in Gaza & Kevin Connolly in Israel

Gaza conflict: Israel hits Gaza after rockets fired  Kevin Connolly

Israel-Gaza crisis: Palestinians downbeat on Cairo talks   Azzam al Ahmed

Israel: Ceasefire in Gaza ‘a two-way street’  Mark Regev

Bristol doctor Rachael Craven treats wounded in Gaza  Gaza

August 20th:Chart Aug 20

Written:

Gaza conflict: Truce ends amid fresh fighting (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’ (discussed here)  

Filmed:

Daniel Barenboim: ‘No one winning Middle East conflict’

Gaza conflict: Operation ‘not finished’ – Benjamin Netanyahu

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’  Yolande Knell in Gaza

August 21st:Chart Aug 21

Written:

Gaza crisis: Israel kills three top Hamas commanders  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Hamas: Palestinians ‘will continue to resist’  Ihab Al-Ghussin

Gaza crisis: Israel kills three top Hamas commanders  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza: Thousands rally for Hamas leaders’ funerals  Shahdi Alkashif in Gaza

August 22nd:Chart Aug 22

Written:

Gaza: Hamas says 18 suspected informants executed   (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israeli boy’s death ‘will intensify ops’  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Suspected informants killed in Gaza  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Israeli child ‘killed by rocket fired from Gaza’  Mark Lobel in Israel (discussed here)

August 23rd:Chart Aug 23

Written:

Gaza conflict: Mahmoud Abbas urges fresh talks in Egypt  (discussed here)

Holocaust families criticise Israel over Gaza  later amended and date changed (discussed here)

Filmed:

Israel continues air strikes on Gaza targets  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

August 24th:Chart Aug 24

Written:

Gaza conflict: Erez crossing ‘attacked’ amid Israel raids  (discussed here)

Filmed:

Gaza residences targeted in Israel air strikes  Alpa Patel  (discussed here)

Apartment block destroyed after Israeli air strike   Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

August 25th:Chart Aug 25

Written:

Gaza: Eight die in Israeli strikes as ‘new truce floated’

August 26th:

Features:

Gaza-Israel conflict: Is the fighting over?

Filmed:Chart Aug 26

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree new truce  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: Abbas declares acceptance of truce

Ceasefire ‘good for Gaza, good for Israel’ – Mark Regev

August 27th:Chart Aug 27

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce (discussed here)

Gaza ceasefire: Thousands return home as calm returns

Gaza conflict: Israeli PM Netanyahu says war was ‘victory’ (discussed here)

Features:

Indecisive end to Gaza conflict  Kevin Connolly

Filmed:

Gaza ceasefire: ‘It feels like normal life’  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

Steinitz: Israel paid heavy price over Gaza  Yuval Steinitz

Military reoccupation of Gaza ‘was seriously considered’  Yuval Steinitz

Gaza-Israel ceasefire: Scepticism on Jerusalem streets

As was also the case in the previous ten days of the conflict, the period between August 17th and August 27th showed a drop in the amount of content produced by the BBC in comparison with its coverage of the first thirty days of hostilities after the number of journalists working in the Gaza Strip was reduced and media attentions shifted somewhat to the ISIS-related events in Iraq and Syria.

However, BBC audiences still saw over four times as much filmed content depicting the situation in the Gaza Strip as they did concerning the situation in Israel.

Graph Aug 17 to 27

BBC promotion of Hamas’ demands to lift border restrictions remained a prominent theme in the final days of coverage. The theme of Gaza’s damaged infrastructure – also a popular topic in the weeks since the conflict’s end – also continued to be promoted.

The BBC continued to misrepresent the terrorists’ breaches of truce agreements and bizarrely and misleadingly portrayed the ceasefire negotiations held in Cairo as “peace talks”. Missile fire into Israel was again severely under-reported. 

Graph Jul 8 to Aug 27

In the period between July 8th and August 27th, four hundred and sixteen separate items of content (not including the exceptions noted above) appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page; an average of over eight items a day. The predominant type of report presented was written news reports – 121 in total. Over a quarter of the content made available to visitors to the BBC News website came in the form of filmed reports depicting the situation in the Gaza Strip (also shown on BBC television news programmes). Throughout the entire 51 days of coverage, BBC audiences saw nearly three times more filmed reports from the Gaza Strip than they did comparative filmed reports from Israel.

Another interesting aspect of BBC coverage is to be found in the wording of the headlines used to present reports. The most frequently appearing wording for headlines included the categorization of their topic as the “Gaza conflict” (85 reports) with that term being employed from day one of the hostilities. The categorization “Gaza crisis” first appeared on the conflict’s fourth day and was to be found in 38 headlines. Day two of the conflict saw the appearance of the term “Middle East crisis” and that description was used in the titles to twenty reports. Headlines reflecting the fact that the conflict was also taking place in Israel – using the terms “Israel-Gaza conflict”, “Israel-Gaza crisis” or “Gaza –Israel” – appeared in only 22 reports in total.

Thus, as we see, both in the signposting to audiences by means of headline composition and in the proportion of filmed reports from the Gaza Strip compared to those depicting the situation in Israel, the BBC’s presentation of the conflict was heavily tipped towards focus on its effects upon the civilian population of the in the Gaza Strip, indicating that the corporation’s claims of “equal coverage” and “fair balance”of the two sides of the conflict do not stand up to scrutiny.

Related articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part three

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part four

BBC WS ‘Newshour': a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

The BBC’s pictorial portrayal of conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip

‘From Our Own Correspondent': a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

 

 

BBC Complaints: ‘it was hard for journalists in Gaza to see rockets being fired’

A few days ago we discussed part of a response received by a reader from the BBC Complaints department.Blindfold

Another section of that same response reads as follows:

“…we did raise your concerns with the relevant editorial staff at BBC News who covered the recent conflict in Gaza. They explained that there are number of reasons why BBC News has not shown images or footage of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants firing rockets. The main reason is that militant groups keep the location of launch sites secret. It was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out, however, during Orla Guerin’s report for the News at Ten on 12 August we reported on allegations that Hamas and other militants put Palestinian civilian lives at risk by operating from residential areas, as well as launching rockets near schools and hospitals. During the aforementioned report Orla Guerin explained that: “During this conflict Palestinian militants have kept a low profile, avoiding the cameras, but we know that at times they have operated from civilian areas.”

The report went on to show an area of ground used by Hamas to launch rockets. It was clearly shown that the site was in very close proximity to apartments inhabited by civilians. The same piece went on to show footage from Indian television, purportedly showing Hamas firing from a residential area near the hotel where the Indian crew were staying.”

The above-mentioned report by Orla Guerin is this one. The BBC Complaints representative notably refrains from pointing out that just prior to the quoted section, Orla Guerin misled BBC audiences by inferring that Hamas’ use of civilian areas as launch sites for missiles is not evidence of its use of human shields.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.”

The relevant section of that one report cited by BBC Complaints as showing that the BBC did report on “allegations that Hamas and other militants put Palestinian civilian lives at risk by operating from residential areas, as well as launching rockets near schools and hospitals” makes no mention of schools or hospitals. The specific section is just 44 seconds long and the report appeared thirty-six days into the conflict – by which time the BBC’s narrative was very well entrenched.

As we see, the BBC Complaints department promotes the claim that “militant groups keep the location of launch sites secret” and apparently believes it reasonable to claim that “it was very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out” despite the fact that 4,562 missiles were fired throughout the 50 day conflict – an average of over ninety a day.

Notably, the BBC is still obviously unwilling to openly discuss the topic of Hamas intimidation of journalists, although correspondents from other media outlets have been more frank in explaining why audiences worldwide saw so little footage of missiles being fired or terrorists in action, as one Israeli filmmaker described.

“I met today with a Spanish journalist who just came back from Gaza. We talked about the situation there. He was very friendly. I asked him how comes we never see on television channels reporting from Gaza any Hamas people, no gunmen, no rocket launcher, no policemen.. We only see civilians on these reports, mostly women and children. He answered me frankly : “it’s very simple, we did see Hamas people there launching rockets, they were close to our hotel, but if ever we dare pointing our camera on them they would simply shoot at us and kill us.”  “

Two days before Guerin’s report was aired, a Norwegian journalist reported:

“There are decent working conditions here, however several foreign journalists have been kicked out from Gaza because Hamas does not like what they have said or written. We have received clear directions that if we see Hamas launching or shooting rockets, we cannot record them. If we do then there will be serious consequences which can lead to expulsion from Gaza. Our fixers, the person that is translating and is helping us around with everything, will also be in grave trouble if we film soldiers from Hamas, especially if they are firing rockets. Apart from that it is fairly OK to work here.”

A CNN reporter stated on camera:

“…we’ve witnessed at least the firing of rockets from this vantage point here. We haven’t seen the actual launcher per-se, but you can see the flash, you can see that it was in between buildings, and you can the thunder as the rockets roar into the air, so clearly you can tell that this is being launched from a populated area.”

Despite these and many other examples, the BBC is still pretending in response to complaints from members of its funding public that the reason it did not report adequately on the actions of terrorists in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge is that – unlike the staff of other media organisations – its own numerous correspondents on the ground did not see anything to report.

It may of course well be that the BBC’s lack of coverage of missile launches and other terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip was motivated by concern for the personal safety of its correspondents on the ground at the time and its permanent local bureau staff. Whilst that would be perfectly understandable, that policy did however affect the credibility of BBC reporting and had a major effect on its adherence to BBC editorial guidelines concerning accuracy and impartiality, thus affecting the way in which audiences understood the story as a whole.

Such an obvious lack of transparency – and common or garden honesty – in dealing with complaints from the public as shown in the above response clearly compromises the BBC’s reputation in a very serious manner.