BBC’s Abualouf promotes Hamas “fishermen” PR line

Here is a Tweet sent by the BBC Gaza office’s Rushdi Abualouf on March 26th.

Tweet Abualouf fishermen

However, beyond the unqualified amplification of a statement made by a Hamas spokesman, Abualouf’s Twitter followers were not informed of the actual facts behind this story.

“Israeli naval troops in the Mediterranean Sea opened fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning on suspected Palestinian smugglers travelling in two boats from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians said that four people on the boats had been wounded. […]

The incident occurred at around 3 am, several hundred meters from the Gaza coastline.  

Soldiers from a nearby naval base were patrolling the area when they noticed two small boats making their way back from the Sinai coast to southern Gaza. The IDF is still unclear as to what the boats were carrying, but the secondary explosions have raised suspicions that the two vessels were carrying weapons.”

During the incident, the naval forces also came under fire from gunmen situated near Rafah:

“As the Navy was escorting the boats in question back to the Gaza shore, gunmen on the coast opened fire on the Israeli forces.”

Another similar incident took place later on the same day.

As has previously been documented here:

“Under the terms of the Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people – Gaza’s coastal waters remained under Israeli responsibility. The agreements divide those waters into three different zones named K,L and M.

“Subject to the provisions of this paragraph, Zones K and M will be closed areas, in which navigation will be restricted to activity of the Israel Navy.”

Zone L was designated for “fishing, recreation and economic activities”, subject to specific provisions, including the following:

“As part of Israel’s responsibilities for safety and security within the three Maritime Activity Zones, Israel Navy vessels may sail throughout these zones, as necessary and without limitations, and may take any measures necessary against vessels suspected of being used for terrorist activities or for smuggling arms, ammunition, drugs, goods, or for any other illegal activity. The Palestinian Police will be notified of such actions, and the ensuing procedures will be coordinated through the MC.” [Emphasis added]

Following the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the November 15th 2005 agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Agreed documents on movement and access from and to Gaza) made no change to the above provisions.” 

In other words, Israeli counter-smuggling measures along the Gaza Strip coast are within the terms of an agreement signed with the internationally recognised representative of the Palestinian people – the Palestinian Authority.

Rather than being mere “fishing boats” as reported by Hamas and the BBC’s Gaza correspondent, the vessels involved in this incident appear to have been engaged in smuggling – likely as an alternative to smuggling via the cross-border tunnels in Rafah which have been rendered inoperative by the Egyptian army in recent months.

Given that the closure of those smuggling tunnels has resulted in financial crisis for Hamas with, by its own admission, 40% of its revenue (other observers put the figure much higher) previously having come from taxes imposed on goods smuggled through those tunnels, it would hardly be unexpected to see the development of an alternative sea route. It would also not be surprising to see a Hamas spokesman promoting the public relations line of smugglers caught in the act as innocent “fishermen” for Western consumption.

It should, however, be unacceptable for a BBC employee to unquestioningly amplify the PR of a terrorist organization with a vested interest in smuggling operations involving both taxable goods and weapons.

 

 

 

At long last: a BBC report on previously ignored aspects of ME talks

Over the last nine months, the BBC News website’s coverage of the subject of the currently ongoing negotiations between Israel and the PLO under American tutelage has for the most part ignored the very significant issues of the rejectionist factions on the Rushdi Abualouf artPalestinian political spectrum and the question of the legitimacy and workability of any deal reached and signed by a Palestinian president whose term of office expired years ago.  

Obviously, understanding of such issues is crucial for BBC audiences if they are to be able to fully comprehend events and take part in informed discussion on the topic – as the BBC pledges they will be able to do in its Public Purposes outline.

Given that, it was especially good to see an effort finally being made to repair previous omission of coverage of those vital topics in an article by Rushdi Abualouf of the BBC’s Gaza office which appeared in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 17th under the title “Gaza’s Hamas government critical as Abbas meets Obama“.

The article could have been even further enhanced had it informed readers that “the war that followed Israel’s creation in 1948″ was the result of the decision by five Arab countries, along with assorted irregulars and foreign volunteers, to attack the nascent Jewish state. It could also have been considerably more frank and informative with regard to what Abualouf euphemistically terms as Hamas having “ousted forces loyal to Mr Abbas in Gaza and set up a rival government”. And of course the description of the PFLP as one of the Palestinian political scene’s “leftist movements” clearly breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy by concealing that organisation’s terror designation by the US, Canada, Israel and the European Union.

But all in all, Abualouf makes a decent effort to provide some of the background information of which BBC audiences have been deprived for too long.  Let’s hope this is not just one long-awaited swallow. 

BBC News amplifies Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s PR line on attacks against Israeli civilians

On the afternoon of March 12th 2013 terrorist organisations including the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a heavy barrage of missile and mortar attacks on towns and villages in southern Israel. Of over sixty missiles fired from the Gaza Strip within the first few hours (some from urban areas as can be seen in this video), at least eight landed in populated areas and several others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. 

A couple of hours after the attacks began a report appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza militants fire rocket barrage at southern Israel“. Weds missile attacks

The report opens with more use of the euphemistic term “militants” to describe terrorists deliberately targeting civilians with military-grade weapons and – perhaps through force of habit – it is liberally peppered with the standard BBC caveat “Israel says”, despite the fact that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was both quick and eager to take responsibility for the missile fire. Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade also put out statements, including one claiming four missile attacks on Sderot.

“Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 30 rockets at southern Israel, Israeli officials say.

An Israeli military spokesman said eight hit urban civilian areas and that a number of others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.

It was the heaviest barrage since the November 2012 conflict in Gaza ended.

The military wing of Islamic Jihad said it had fired the rockets in retaliation for Tuesday’s killing of three of its militants in an Israeli air strike.”

Some BBC staff also amplified via Twitter the PIJ’s PR line according to which the dozens of indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians came in “response” to the incident the previous day in which a PIJ cell attacked a routine Israeli patrol engaged in searching for IEDs on the border with mortar fire and the IDF responded.

Weds missile attacks Abualouf tweet

Weds missile attacks Shuval tweet

 That faux linkage, along with other PIJ propaganda, was further promoted later on in the BBC’s report and audiences were encouraged to view the incident in terms of equivalent conflicting narratives.

“A statement by Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, said the barrage was its “initial response” to the “crimes of the Zionist enemy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip”, the latest of which was the “assassination” of three of its members on Tuesday.

The Israeli military said it had targeted the militants after they fired mortars at its troops. The al-Quds Brigades said the Israeli soldiers had crossed into the Gaza Strip.”

However, a video  released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad the previous day is described by the terrorist organization itself as showing the mortar attack on “the enemy forces” carried out by the three members of the PIJ’s Al Quds brigade on March 11th

Weds missile attacks PIJ vid frm 11 3

Clearly the BBC’s report is lacking in accuracy in that it leads readers to mistakenly believe that only the IDF “said” that mortars had been fired at Israeli soldiers, whereas in fact the PIJ itself had already admitted that it carried out such an attack and the IDF had also filmed them in the act.

Towards the end of the report we find the following statement:

“Islamic Jihad and other groups have sporadically fired rockets and mortars at Israel since the 2012 conflict ended, while the Hamas movement that governs Gaza has refrained from doing so.” [emphasis added]

Notably, similar statements (see below) made in other recent BBC reports were somewhat more cautiously phrased and no explanation is given for the change in the BBC’s tone.

Hamas denies that it has fired any rockets since a 2012 ceasefire agreement with Israel, with other militant groups in the Gaza Strip claiming responsibility.” [emphasis added]

The report closes with the following statement:

“However, an Israeli military statement said it held Hamas “responsible for all attacks emanating” from the coastal territory.”

The BBC fails to inform audiences that the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire included the clause:

“All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.”

Seeing as Hamas – as the BBC frequently reminds its audiences – governs the Gaza Strip, it is clear that prevention of missile fire and all other types of terror attacks fall under its responsibility. Despite that above clause, a later version of the BBC’s report unquestioningly quoted a PIJ spokesman as saying the following:

“The rocket fired today came in response to the occupation aggression against us and does not mean the collapse of the ceasefire agreement [with Israel].”

No clarification of the absurdity of that statement was provided to BBC audiences.

At the time of writing Israeli forces have begun counter-attacks on terror sites and installations in the Gaza Strip and we will update as necessary. 

BBC’s Gaza journalist Tweets PA propaganda story

Here’s a tweet sent by Rushdi Abualouf of the BBC’s Gaza office on February 12th:

Aboualouf tweet Gaza patients

Abualouf’s tweet relates to a story put out the same morning by the AFP news-agency – apparently via its team in the Gaza Strip. The backbone of the story (which can be seen here) relies on statements made by anonymous Palestinian Authority officials.

” “The Israelis have prevented 70 sick people who need to go to Israeli hospitals from crossing Erez because it said ‘State of Palestine’ on their transfer request,” said a senior Palestinian official at the Gaza district coordination office.

“It was only this week that they informed me personally that Israel refuses to deal with this document,” he told AFP.

“This is a political decision from the Israelis to exert pressure in the negotiations,” he charged, referring to US-led peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. [….]

A senior official from the Ramallah-based health ministry, who is in charge of external treatment requests, confirmed it was the first time since mid-December that patients had been refused a permit on the basis of the logo on the medical transfer request.

“The Israeli side informed us that following a decision from COGAT, they won’t give any permits to any patients with that logo,” he said.”

The AFP article did not include an Israeli response to the claims. 

So what is the real background to the story? Blogger Elder of Ziyon contacted COGAT to find out.

“For several months, the Palestinian Authority has been sending requests on the new letterhead. Every single time, COGAT rejected it, and each time they were resubmitted with the Palestinian Authority letterhead – and approved. This was not new, and the PA knows very well that this was the case.

As recently as Sunday, several patients whose requests were on the new stationery were rejected, and then the PA re-faxed the request the old way and they were approved.

Today’s story is a propaganda ambush. Some 50-70 patients (apparently non-life threatening) were submitted on the new stationery at once, an unusually high number. As has been the case for months, they were rejected. But this time the story was leaked to the media. (There was a Haaretz story about this in January with only one patient, but it didn’t get much coverage. Much better to use 50 or 70 if you want Reuters and AFP to take notice.)

Existing agreements are between Israel and the PA, not the fictitious “State of Palestine.” It is obvious that the PA is trying to embarrass Israel and will happily use Gaza patients as a means to do so. It is equally obvious that the “State of Palestine” is a final status issue, and that Israel cannot act otherwise without jeopardizing its negotiating position.

As usual, instead of dealing with Israel directly, the PLO is passive aggressively using the media to demonize (and weaken) Israel on its behalf. And, as usual, the media is happy to play its part in this charade.”

And that seems to include a certain BBC journalist in Gaza. 

The BBC’s guidelines on the use of social media (which includes Twitter) state:

“However, when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.” [emphasis added] Rushdi Abualouf Google plus pics 2

And:

“The BBC’s reputation for impartiality and objectivity is crucial. The public must be able to trust the integrity of BBC programmes and services. Our audiences need to be confident that the outside activities of our presenters, programme makers and other staff do not undermine the BBC’s impartiality or reputation and that editorial decisions are not perceived to be influenced by any commercial or personal interests.”

And:

“Even if they are not identified as a BBC staff member, editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should not be seen to support any political party or cause.”  Rushdi Abualouf Google plus pics 1

And:

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. “

The promotion of a half-story clearly intended solely to advance PA propaganda is obviously not in line with the criteria laid down in those guidelines.

By the way, the photographs on the right appear – with public viewing settings – on Rushdi Abualouf’s Google+ account. Those are of course Fatah flags and the pictures were taken on January 1st which – coincidentally or not – is ‘Fatah Day’: the anniversary of its first terror attack on Israel.  

Related Articles:

That renowned BBC accuracy and impartiality…

 

 

That renowned BBC accuracy and impartiality…

On November 19th this Tweet was sent by BBC Gaza office employee Rushdi Abualouf:

Tweet Abualouf explosion Gaza

However, no such “air raid” took place. The injuries cited by Abualouf – and one fatality - were caused by an accidental explosion and had nothing at all to do with Israel. 

maan explosions gaza 19 11

Related articles:

BBC ESC: ‘lack of due accuracy’ on Davies Tweet from Operation Pillar of Cloud

 

Another thinly-veiled BBC accusation of war crimes

On November 10th the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page included an article by Rushdi Abualouf about the Tamarod movement in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza Tamarod art 1

Part-way down the article, BBC audiences are told that:

“On Facebook, it [Tamarod] accuses the Hamas government of failing “to provide a decent life” by imposing heavy taxes on residents exhausted by Israel’s blockade that was tightened after it came to power.

Israel says its measures are for security reasons, while human rights groups have said it amounts to collective punishment.”

Gaza Tamarod art 2

In other words, Abualouf is claiming that what he terms “Israel’s blockade” was “tightened” after – and because – Hamas “came to power” in June 2007.

Of course Abualouf’s euphemistic language conceals the fact that Hamas’ hold on power actually came about as the result of a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority which included the deaths, injury and torture of hundreds of their fellow Palestinians.

Following that violent coup, both Egypt (which is completely airbrushed from Abualouf’s account) and Israel largely closed their borders with the Gaza Strip due to the fact that the body charged with joint security arrangements under the terms of the Oslo Accords – the Palestinian Authority – no longer exercised any control over the territory. Three months later – on September 19th 2007 – in light of the escalation of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians originating in the now Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip (which Abualouf also conveniently neglects to mention), the Israeli government declared Gaza to be ‘hostile territory’.

Abualouf then resorts to the standard BBC tactic of insinuation with his use of the phrase “Israel says its measures are for security reasons”, implying to readers that 3,000 rockets and mortars deliberately launched at Israeli civilians in the first year alone after the Hamas coup (and thousands more since) are perhaps not the real motive for Israel’s exercising of control over its border with a territory in the grip a terrorist organization.

Finally, Abualouf presents a thinly veiled insinuation of a war crime having been carried out by Israel by using third party characterisations of the partial blockade as ‘collective punishment’. Naturally, he refrains from naming the “human rights groups” he ostensibly cites or from informing BBC audiences of the political motivations behind those unproven accusations. 

This is not the first time that the BBC has published this insinuation using the buffer of third party claims: it also did so back in January of this year and our observations from the time are also relevant to this latest article from Abualouf.

“The fact that in this article a BBC writer repeats and propagates a politically motivated unfounded and unproven allegation of a very serious nature without the slightest bit of evidence is indication of a very grave impartiality failure indeed. “

Accuracy and impartiality failures in BBC report on incident in Kabatiya

On the morning of October 31st 2013 the BBC News website’s Middle East page carried a report titled “Palestinian killed in West Bank clashes“.

BBC article Qabatiya

The report – which is based entirely on claims made by Palestinian sources – leaves readers with the definite impression that Ahmed Tazaza was killed by Israeli forces during an operation in the town of Kabatiya (also Qabatiya), south of Jenin.

“A Palestinian has been shot dead during clashes after Israeli forces mounted an arrest raid in the northern West Bank, Palestinian sources say.

Medics said Ahmed Imad Tazaza, 22, was killed in the confrontation in Qabatiya. The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.

Dozens of Palestinians had thrown rocks at the troops, who opened fire, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

Several Palestinians have been killed in such clashes in recent weeks.”

However, as emerged later in the day, that version of events is in fact far from proven and yet despite that, the report remains intact on the BBC website.

HP Fri am

According to Ynet, Tazaza may have been killed in a criminal incident before Israeli forces arrived in Kabatiya.

“From checks carried out by the Palestinian security forces it emerges that Tazaza was taken to one of the medical centres in Jenin at about 4 a.m., critically wounded by gunfire. An hour later he was transferred to the government hospital in the town and there pronounced dead.

The IDF claims that the riots in the town [Kabatiya] only began at 5 a.m., at least an hour after Tazaza arrived at the medical centre.

Additional support for the possibility according to which the young man was not killed by IDF fire comes from his family’s statement that they refuse outright to agree to a post-mortem and their request to bring his funeral forward.” [translation: BBC Watch]

The Times of Israel reports:

“Tazata [Tazaza] had been injured and was already hospitalized at the time of the confrontation between Israeli troops and a group of Palestinian stone-throwers, during which he was reported by Palestinian media to have been killed, according to Israel Radio, which cited anonymous IDF sources.”

Channel 2 also reports that Tazaza was killed in a criminal incident.

BBC Watch contacted the IDF Spokesperson’s office and was informed that the incident is still under review and that during the IDF’s operation in Kabatiya, some fifty local residents engaged in violent rioting which included the targeting of soldiers with rocks and improvised explosive devices. Four of the rioters were arrested.

Both the accuracy and impartiality of this report were clearly compromised by the haste to publish unverified hearsay originating from particular sources and the obvious tendency to jump to conclusions based on the preconceived ideas of some BBC staff. 

Tweet Abualouf Kabatiya

The report is further compromised by the fact that as additional information emerged suggesting that the circumstances surrounding the incident may not be as clear-cut as the BBC’s report suggests, the article was not updated to reflect that fact.

Obviously, BBC News website editors need to urgently clarify and confirm the details of this story and to inform readers accordingly in a prominent correction. Inaccurate Tweets also need to be corrected in a clear manner. Editors may also care to amend the less than accurate map appearing in the report.

BBC map Qabatiya

Kabatiya

 

BBC’s ‘last-first’ reporting keeps audience attention focused on Israel

Readers of the BBC News website’s Middle East page were informed on June 24th 2013 that “Israel hits back after Gaza rockets”. 

HP 24 6

The link leads to a report with the same ‘last-first’ headline in which the chronological events of the story are reversed, the earlier version of which is shown below. 

Gaza missiles Sun night

That ‘last-first’ theme is repeated in the report’s opening paragraph:

“Israeli warplanes have attacked targets in the Gaza Strip after missiles were fired into southern Israel late on Sunday night.”

In both that and the subsequent paragraph, readers learn that rockets “were fired” by unnamed parties, but no details are provided about where they landed or what their targets were, as though the fact that “no damage or injury was reported” negates the necessity to inform BBC audiences that their targets were actually sleeping civilians in several communities including Ashkelon, Netivot, the Bedouin town of Rahat and in the regional councils Bnei Shimon and Lahavim. 

“At least six rockets were fired from northern Gaza, but no damage or injury was reported.”

Bnei Shimon r.c.

In the seventh of ten paragraphs the report notes that:

“Sirens blared in a number of areas of southern Israel and Israeli media said two of the missiles, thought to be Grad rockets, were intercepted by the Iron Dome system in the Ashkelon area.”

In contrast to the use of the vague term “were fired”, we find that Israeli actions are described in very different terms and their consequences are reported. [emphasis added] 

“Israeli warplanes have attacked targets in the Gaza Strip after missiles were fired into southern Israel late on Sunday night.”

“Hours later, Israeli aircraft hit three areas, a BBC reporter said.”

“Israeli planes launched an attack in the early hours of Monday. BBC reporter Rushdi Abualouf said they hit three targets belonging to both Hamas and Islamic Jihad and there were no reports of casualties.”

“The first strike targeted an Islamic Jihad training facility in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip.

The other attacks were on security compounds for the Hamas-run government, our correspondent said.”

So, whilst missiles “were fired” from the Gaza Strip, only once (in paragraph six) are those actions described as an “attack” and readers are not told that they “hit” anything or “targeted” anyone.

Three paragraphs of the report are dedicated to speculations regarding the ‘reasons’ for the missile fire. It is not made clear to readers that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is an Iranian-backed terrorist organization proscribed by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Canada and Israel. Instead, the BBC uses the misleading and euphemistic term “militant group”.  

“The reason for the flare-up is unclear but sources blame tension in Gaza after an Islamic Jihad leader was killed by Hamas police on Saturday.

Raed Qassim Jundeyeih, 32, died after he was shot during a gun battle involving police and members of his family. Unconfirmed reports said he was a commander of the militant group’s military wing, the Al-Quds brigades.

Islamic Jihad were believed to have been behind Sunday night’s rocket attack on Israel, which came after a period of relative calm.”

Having totally ignored the fact that less than only five days previously the residents of Ashkelon were also woken in the early hours of the morning by sirens warning of incoming missiles from the Gaza Strip, the BBC is able to promote the notion of “a period of relative calm”.

Some seven hours after the publication of that report an amended version was posted at the same URL in which the problematic aspects of the original version are repeated. 

missile attacks sun night version 2

Significantly, the BBC chooses not to trouble its audiences with the question of why the sleeping residents of Israeli towns should come under missile attack due to a confrontation between two terrorist organisations in a territory from which Israel disengaged eight years ago. 

“Islamic Jihad today suspended its contacts with Hamas after police opened fire yesterday on one of the commanders of the Al-Quds Brigades, Raed Jundiya, 38, inflicting serious injuries from which he died this morning,” AFP quoted a leader of the extremist group as saying.

“The murder of Raed Jundiya represents a major service to the Zionist enemy, provided completely free of charge, whether deliberately or not, because the martyr was, as everybody knows, on the top of the Zionists’ hit-list as he headed the Brigades’ rocket unit,” he said.”

Instead, in line with its prevailing narrative, the BBC focuses its audiences’ attentions on the Israeli response to those attacks on its civilians through the use of omission, language and ‘last-first’ reporting. 

Related articles:

BBC News: telling the end of a story first

More ‘last-first’ BBC reporting from southern Israel and the Gaza Strip

BBC resumes ‘last-first’ reporting from Gaza area – and then changes tack

BBC helping along Palestinian incitement

A filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Jon Donnison from the funeral of Arafat Jaradat on February 25th 2013 in the village of Saeer near Hebron was broadcast on BBC television news. 

Donnison filmed report Saeer

Let’s take a look at Donnison’s report line by line. He begins:

“The body of Arafat Jaradat: the man who Palestinians are calling their latest martyr. There are conflicting versions of how the thirty year-old father of two died.”

Notably, Donnison opens with an immediate attempt to lay down a base line of equivalence between what he terms “conflicting versions”. As previously pointed out here, that approach involves the juxtaposition fact and fiction. Donnison continues: 

 “He was being held in an Israeli prison on suspicion of stone-throwing when he was pronounced dead on Saturday.”

Donnison neglects to point out that a person was injured by Jaradat’s stone throwing and that he had confessed to the crime:

“According to sources within the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service), Jaradat was arrested on Monday, after residents from his village of Sa’ir outside Hebron said that he took part in a rock-throwing attack in November that wounded an Israeli. Jaradat confessed to the attack during questioning”.

Donnison goes on:

“Israeli officials initially said he suffered a heart attack but after an autopsy, Palestinian doctors say his body showed signs of being badly tortured.”

In fact, the spokesperson for the Israeli Prison Service initially said that Jaradat had “died of an apparent heart attack” – with apparent being the operative word. Donnison’s unquestioning repetition of claims by “Palestinian doctors” (actually, just one Palestinian doctor – the PA’s chief pathologist – was present at the autopsy) is especially bizarre in light of the fact that the results of the post mortem do not present any evidence to suggest that Jaradat was “badly tortured” at all. 

The BBC report then cuts to an interview with Issa Qaraaque, the PA Minister of prisoner affairs who – apparently having no need to wait for the results of the autopsy – had already begun flinging about accusations as early as Saturday evening; just hours after Jaradat’s death.

“The prisoner was in the hands of the Israeli Security Agency and was detained in an Israeli jail, so Israel is responsible for what happened to him.”

Donnison resumes the narration:

“The Israeli government had acknowledged Jaradat had broken ribs and bruises, but said this could have been as a result of efforts to resuscitate him.”

Donnison’s use of the word “acknowledged” here is interesting because it implies having to admit something to be true, whereas in fact it was the Israeli pathologist’s report which made that information public in the first place. This is the wording of the statement made by the Israeli Ministry of Health on Sunday evening: [emphasis added]

“This afternoon (Sunday, 24 February 2013), at the National Center for Forensic Medicine, an autopsy was performed on the body of Arafat Jaradat by Prof. Yehuda Hiss, in the presence of Prof. Arnon Afek, Director of the Health Administration at the Ministry of Health, and Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber Aloul. During the autopsy, no signs of external trauma were found apart from those pertaining to resuscitation [attempts] and a small graze on the right side of his chest. No evidence of disease was found during the autopsy. Two internal hemorrhages were detected, one on the shoulder and one on the right side of the chest. Two ribs were broken, which may indicate resuscitation attempts. The initial findings cannot determine the cause of death. At this stage, until microscopic and toxicology reports are in, the cause of death cannot be tied to the autopsy findings.”

Donnison continues:

Funeral of Arafat Jaradat

“The body of Arafat Jaradat has just been lowered into the grave in his home village of Saeer. Thousands of people have gathered here for the funeral.”

Donnison neglects to mention that Jaradat was a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, that he was given a military funeral or that many of those present at the funeral were students from the Birzeit and Al Aqsa universities bussed in for the occasion by the Palestinian Authority. 

He goes on to say: 

“There’s a lot of anger here and it comes after a week where tension has already been building across the West Bank. More than a hundred and fifty people have been injured in clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinian protesters angry at the continued detention of four Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails. There was more violence today. There are fears Jaradat’s death could fuel the flames.”

Donnison fails to inform his viewers that the “clashes” are the result of attempts by the IDF to prevent rioters from blocking roads or reaching areas inhabited by Israelis and that these riots are orchestrated.  Yet again Donnison’s report fails to mention the terror connections of those Palestinian hunger strikers and the reasons for their detention. 

The report then cuts to an interview with the Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev:

“Israel expects the Palestinian Authority to act responsibly and to prevent incitement and violence that can only exacerbate the current situation.”

Donnison concludes: 

“There has been much speculation in the Israeli media about the possibility of a third Intifada, or uprising. Many Palestinians will tell you there is little appetite for that, but there is a feeling that the status quo cannot continue. The rise in tension comes just weeks before President Obama arrives in the region and the prospect of a resumption in [sic] Middle East peace talks is as bleak as ever.”

This report – like previous ones produced by the BBC on the subject of the PA’s current political campaign surrounding the hunger strikers, together with the associated organized rioting – leads to a couple of observations.

The first of those is that the BBC appears to be avoiding presenting an accurate portrayal to its audiences of the bigger picture behind the rise in violent incidents in Judea & Samaria over the past few months (most of which it has not bothered to report at all) and the use of hunger strikers as leverage for a campaign which includes violent rioting. 

The second unavoidable observation is that some BBC correspondents and article writers are rushing to make their own contributions to the PA’s factory of incitement by regurgitating unverified allegations instead of waiting until the facts about Jaradat’s death become clear. 

Rushdi tweet Jaradat

This is not the behaviour of a reputable news outlet dedicated to accurate reporting of the facts surrounding the news. It is the behaviour of an organisation legitimising dangerous propaganda intended to stoke the fires of violent behaviour which – as has so often been the case in the past – could cost lives. 

The BBC’s unhealthy reliance on information from medics in Gaza

A BBC Watch reader recently wrote to us concerning a reply he had received from the BBC to a complaint made several months ago. Among the issues he had raised was this:

“The referenced article states “Two Palestinian children have been injured by Israeli air strikes”. Can you confirm if this is based on information from Hamas, or was this independently substantiated by the BBC?”

The response he received was as follows:

“Our story clearly attributes the information to “Palestinian medics”. These are usually doctors, ambulance workers or paramedics. When Hamas officials provide information, we say so.”

That response suggests that the BBC considers “Palestinian medics” of all descriptions to be an impartial source of information on the subject of casualties and the causes of their injuries.

But is that in fact the case?

The Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip is of course run by Hamas, with the present Minister being Mufeed Mukhallalati – former dean of the college of medicine at the Islamic University. The Ministry runs a number of hospitals in the Gaza Strip (additional facilities are managed by NGOs or private organisations) with the most well-known being Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. 

Health care facilities Gaza Strip

According to a WHO report produced after the November 2012 hostilities, the vast majority of injuries were dealt with in Ministry of Health (i.e. Hamas-run) hospitals and the Ministry’s command and control centre was situated in Shifa Hospital, which was of course the main hide-out for Hamas leaders during Operation Cast Lead – turning staff and patients into human shields. 

As of January 2012, the Ministry of Health operated 56 ambulances and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society operated 40 ambulances in the Gaza Strip. In other words, over half the ambulance workers and paramedics from whom the BBC may get casualty figures or details of circumstances of injuries are Hamas employees. 

During Operation Cast Lead and throughout the second Intifada, PRCS ambulances were used to transport terror operatives and weapons.  

The spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Dr Ashraf al Qidwa, has been known to claim that terrorists were civilian casualties and ‘Palestinian medical sources’ are not averse to contorting stories for the sake of anti-Israel propaganda.  

One representative of the Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Gaza Strip is named Adham Abu Silmaya (aka Adham Abu Salima). Abu Silmaya has quite a history of feeding bogus stories to journalists, including an incident in March 2012 in which he claimed that a 15 year-old youth named Nayif Qarmout had been killed by an Israeli air-strike when no such strike had taken place. 

“A drone strike hit a group of students who were walking by empty land on their way to school,” said spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya, describing an incident which occurred at around 9:30am (0730 GMT).

In June 2012 Abu Silmaya was the source of a claim that a toddler named Hadeel Haddad had been killed by an Israeli air-strike. Although the little girl had in fact died as a result of a mis-fired terrorist rocket, the false story gained considerable exposure – not least because it had been Tweeted by the trusted BBC and a later retraction was largely ignored. 

Hadeel Haddad

Just recently, Rushdi  Abualouf from the BBC’s Gaza office relied on information from anonymous “doctors” when he Tweeted the following:

tweet Rushdi

However, there is another version to the story:

“Two Palestinian men were wounded by Israeli fire in the central Gaza Strip late Sunday, a Gaza health official said.

The Israel Defense Forces reports it is unaware of any Palestinians wounded from IDF fire. However it confirms shots were fired at the Gaza border around 9:00 p.m. Sunday, after Palestinians approached the fence, but reported the shots were fired in the air.

Health official Ashraf al-Kidra, said Israeli forces fired at the men east of Deir al-Balah late Sunday. Their identities were unclear.

The official initially said the men had been killed, but he said that the two were found to be seriously wounded.”

In other words, clearly an announcement had been put out before ‘medical sources’ had even examined the wounded men. 

It is unacceptable that a complaint from a BBC audience member should be dismissed on the grounds that the information provided came from “Palestinian medics” when members of that group – often employed by Hamas – have been known to exploit deaths and injuries for the sake of propaganda.

The BBC needs to acknowledge the fact that information from such sources cannot automatically be classed as reliable and that independent verification is imperative for the health of the BBC’s reputation as an accurate and impartial source.