More on the BBC’s ‘Dutchman returns Holocaust medal’ story

Readers may recall that last month we noted here that two reports – one written and one filmed – which appeared (and are still available) on the BBC News website failed to inform audiences of a very significant factor in the story they told.Anna Holligan report

That story was recounted by the BBC as follows:

“A Dutchman honoured by Israel for hiding a Jewish child during World War Two has handed back his medal after six of his relatives were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

Henk Zanoli, 91, wrote to the Israeli embassy in The Hague to say he could no longer hold the honour.

He said an Israeli F-16 had destroyed his great-niece’s home in Gaza, killing all inside, in the recent offensive. [….]

His great-niece is a Dutch diplomat who is married to Palestinian economist Ismail Ziadah, who was born in a refugee camp in central Gaza.

Mr Ziadah’s mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and nine-year-old nephew were all killed after their family home was hit by Israeli aircraft.”

However, the BBC did not inform readers and viewers that in addition to Mr Zanoli’s family members, a “guest” was also present in the house at the time: Mohammed Mahmoud al-Maqadma – a member of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades. As we noted at the time:Ziyadeh poster

“That information was in the public domain for almost a month before BBC News ran this report. It is a very relevant part of the story which provides context important to proper audience understanding. And yet, the BBC elected to refrain from providing that information to readers and viewers.”

Now further research by Elder of Ziyon reveals that al Maqadma was not the only Hamas terrorist present in the Ziadah family home on July 20th. Omar Ziadah – Mr Zanoli’s great-niece’s brother-in-law – was a field commander in Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades.

The BBC’s written report ended with amplification of the following statement from Mr Zanoli:

” “Against this background it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel,” he wrote in the letter addressed to Israeli ambassador Haim Davon.”

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality should mean that – having elected to amplify that very serious accusation – the BBC is now obliged to inform audiences that in fact one of Mr Zanoli’s relatives was a member of Hamas and a combatant.

And perhaps the BBC’s correspondent in the Hague who produced the original filmed report might care to ask the Dutch government how a diplomat from an EU member country – in this case the Deputy Head of the Netherlands’ mission to Oman and former policy advisor on the Middle East to the Dutch MFA – happened to have a relative who was a member of a terrorist organization proscribed by the EU.  

BBC WS ‘Witness’ erases Arafat’s terrorism

On September 15th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Witness’ broadcast an episode titled “Rabin and Arafat Shake Hands” pertaining to the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993.Witness Oslo

Presenter Louise Hidalgo set the scene thus:

“This was going to be a truly historic moment. These two bitter adversaries – Yitzhak Rabin the army general turned prime minister and Yasser Arafat the guerilla leader – standing side by side to witness the signing of the first agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” [emphasis added]

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘guerilla’ as follows:

“A member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces.”

Fatah and the PLO – both led by Arafat –at no point confined their activities to fighting the Israeli army.

In a paper published in 2010, Dr Boaz Ganor wrote the following in the chapter titled “Guerrilla Warfare vs. Terrorism”:

“Ehud Sprinzak sums up this approach as follows: “Guerrilla war is a small war – subject to the same rules that apply to big wars, and on this it differs from terrorism.” David Rapaport adds: “The traditional distinguishing characteristic of the terrorist was his explicit refusal to accept the conventional moral limits which defined military and guerrilla action.”
As opposed to Laqueur, Paul Wilkinson distinguishes between terrorism and guerrilla warfare by stressing another aspect–harm to civilians:

Guerrillas may fight with small numbers and often inadequate weaponry, but they can and often do fight according to conventions of war, taking and exchanging prisoners and respecting the rights of non-combatants. Terrorists place no limits on means employed and frequently resort to widespread assassination, the waging of ‘general terror’ upon the indigenous civilian population.

The proposed definition, as noted, distinguishes terrorism from guerrilla activity according to the intended target of attack. The definition states that if an attack deliberately targets civilians, then that attack will be considered a terrorist attack, whereas, if it targets military or security personnel then it will be considered a guerrilla attack. It all depends on who the intended victims are. First and foremost, this definition is meant to answer the need for analyzing and classifying specific events as “terrorism” or “guerrilla activities.” “

As is well known, under Arafat’s leadership, the PLO carried out thousands of attacks on civilians over the decades and the organisation was designated a foreign terrorist organization by his White House hosts until the Oslo Accords. In the eleven years between the signing of those agreements and Arafat’s death, the Fatah faction he also led continued to carry out terror attacks which deliberately targeted Israeli civilians.  

But, as Dr Ganor also notes:

“Terrorism and guerrilla warfare often serve as alternative designations of the same phenomenon. The term “terrorism,” however, has a far more negative connotation, seemingly requiring one to take a stand, whereas the term “guerrilla warfare” is perceived as neutral and carries a more positive connotation.”

The BBC’s apparent wish to present “a more positive connotation” by means of use of the term “guerilla leader” does not in this case meet BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy. 

BBC’s ‘reporter in the rubble’ theme gets its own feature

On September 15th a big feature titled “Gaza: Life amid the rubble” by Yolande Knell and no fewer than eight additional contributors appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage and on its Middle East page, with the item being heavily promoted on various BBC Twitter accounts.

Knell feature on ME HP

Knell feature on HP

Almost two months on – and long after clarification of the circumstances of the battles in Shuja’iya – the BBC continues to misrepresent the events as partially as it did at the time, promoting many of the same themes which were evident in its initial reporting from the district.Knell Shuja'iya pt 1

The feature – which includes text, video and photographs – opens:

“More than 400,000 of Gaza’s residents were displaced by Israel’s recent 50-day military operation. Some 18,000 homes were also destroyed and many more were damaged. One of the worst affected neighbourhoods was Shejaiya, near the eastern border, where the Israeli military says it targeted Palestinian militants and their tunnels.”

Note how this conflict has been turned into “Israel’s recent 50-day military operation” with all mention of the missile attacks on the civilian population of Israel – which not only sparked the conflict but persisted until its final minutes – erased from the picture presented to BBC audiences. Notably, another article appearing on the BBC News website the previous day similarly referred to “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in July” – suggesting that such framing is not coincidental.

As has been the case in all of its reporting from the Gaza Strip since July 8th, the BBC continues in this item to conceal from audience view the issue of buildings deliberately booby-trapped by Hamas and other terrorist organisations or those hit by missiles misfired by terrorists or destroyed as a result of their being used to store explosives. BBC audiences are hence led towards the mistaken belief that every single structure damaged or destroyed in the Gaza Strip during the seven weeks of conflict was the result of Israeli actions.

Once again, the BBC fails to adequately inform audiences of the true scale of Hamas operations in Shuja’iya, opting instead for its usual “Israel says” formulation. The fact is of course that the only reason fighting – and the resulting damage – occurred in Shuja’iya was because Hamas had turned it into a neighbourhood replete with military targets, including entrances to some ten cross-border attack tunnels, ammunition and weapons stores, missile launching sites and command and control centres.

Shujaiya comparative map

Knell’s feature continues:

“The crowded eastern district of Shejaiya in the Gaza Strip saw one of the bloodiest days of the recent conflict. Israel told the 80,000 residents to leave before it targeted the area. However, many did not believe the assault would be so serious and remained in their homes.”

Indeed, Israel did advise the residents of Shuja’iya to leave their homes four days before the operation there commenced and even delayed it in order to give people additional opportunity to relocate. This BBC report, however, deliberately misrepresents the reason why some residents failed to heed that advice, claiming that “many did not believe the assault would be so serious” and thereby concealing from BBC audiences the fact that Hamas ordered civilians to stay put. This deliberate distortion of the facts dovetails with the BBC’s policy – evident throughout coverage of the conflict – of downplaying and even denying Hamas’ use of human shields.

The feature goes on:

“On the night of Saturday 19 July, Shejaiya was pounded with heavy artillery, mortars and air strikes sending up columns of thick, black smoke. Within 24 hours, dozens of Palestinians and at least 13 Israeli soldiers were killed.

From early on Sunday morning there were chaotic scenes as thousands of local people tried to flee. They headed to Gaza City, searching for shelter at United Nations’ schools and at the main Shifa hospital, which was overwhelmed with casualties.

Battles erupted between Israeli troops and Hamas militants in the streets. Israel’s officials say the residential neighbourhood contained a fortified network of tunnels used for attacks and to produce and store rockets. The Palestinian government has described the killing of civilians as a “heinous massacre”.”

Details of the events in Shuja’iya on the night of July 19th and the day of July 20th have been in the public domain for many weeks now and so there is no excuse whatsoever for the BBC’s above incoherent account which misrepresents the sequence of events, downplays Hamas’ actions and yet again misleadingly presents the crucial issue of Hamas’ deliberate location of military assets in the Shuja’iya district in terms of “Israel says”.

Knell’s report goes on to show a graphic illustrating the locations of the houses of the four people later interviewed.

Knell Shuja'iya graphic

What that graphic of course does not show is the context of Hamas activity such as missile launching or the locations of the entrances to any of the cross-border tunnels found in the same area. Of the four houses showcased on that graphic, one is described as belonging to a “Grandmother” who, readers are later told, “lost one of her sons, Ismail, in the latest conflict”.

The photographs accompanying the section on the Grandmother include one of what the BBC describes as “a poster in his memory”. As sharp-eyed readers will be able to see, that poster includes the logo of Hamas’ Izz a Din Al Qassam Brigades, which could go a long way towards explaining what Ismail was doing “on the top floor of their four-storey building” and why “it came under heavy bombardment”, although Yolande Knell does not trouble her readers with such inconvenient details which would distract them from her story.

Knell art martyrdom poster

Readers are also told:

“Now the battered district stands as a reminder of the ferocity of the latest fighting and Gaza’s unsolved political problems. Locals, like the four featured below, long to rebuild their homes but are unable to do so while tight border restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt remain in place. Israel says these are for security reasons. It is worried militants will use construction supplies to rebuild tunnels and it currently allows very limited imports for international projects.”

As was noted here only recently:

“If there is one thing which should have become perfectly clear to foreign journalists since the beginning of July it is that the entry of building supplies into the Gaza Strip – which was increased in recent years due to intense pressure from assorted international bodies and aid agencies – was abused by Hamas to construct cross-border attack tunnels rather than for the advancement of projects which would have improved the lives of the people of Gaza.

However, not only has the BBC shown no interest whatsoever in discussing Hamas’ misappropriation of those building supplies or the very serious subject of the accountability of the aid agencies and international bodies which were supposed to be supervising and guaranteeing the construction projects for which those materials were destined; it continues to present the issue in terms of “Israel says”.”

Rather than investing the work of the nine BBC staff members it took to produce this feature in an in-depth investigation of how considerable sums of European tax-payers’ money has been misappropriated by Hamas over the years, the BBC has instead produced a feature designed solely to feed BBC audiences with yet more out of context images of rubble and damage in the Gaza Strip and to continue the campaign being promoted by the BBC in general – and Yolande Knell in particular – with regard to the border restrictions made necessary by the very terrorism which also brought about those images. 

Related Articles:

BBC omits vital context in reporting from Shuja’iya

Themes in BBC reporting on events in Shuja’iya

BBC’s Reynolds in Shuja’iya: still no reporting on what really happened

BBC’s Knell continues the Gaza border restrictions PR campaign

Reporter in the rubble: what is missing from BBC presentation of structural damage in Gaza?

 

One to watch: BBC’s Panorama on ‘The War of the Tunnels’

An edition of ‘Panorama’ titled “The War of the Tunnels” – which has already been postponed twice for reasons unknown – is now scheduled for broadcast on BBC One on Monday, September 15th with repeats on the BBC News channel and BBC Two as shown below.

Panorama Corbin

The programme’s synopsis states:

“For seven weeks Hamas rockets roared over the border into Israel while Israeli bombs pounded Gaza. Panorama’s Jane Corbin goes deep into the underground tunnels where battles have been fought to investigate the war that has devastated Gaza.

What has each side really gained in this war and can there be a solution to the conflict which is fuelling hatred and fear all over the world?”

As readers are no doubt aware, Jane Corbin’s previous Israel-related documentaries have included the January 2010 programme titled “A Walk in the Park” which was extremely problematic and generated numerous complaints.  

In August of the same year Jane Corbin produced another documentary titled “Death in the Med” which related to the May 2010 ‘Mavi Marmara’ incident in which anti-Israel activists attacked soldiers trying to prevent the ship of that name from breaching the naval blockade. In that case Corbin’s reporting was considerably more accurate and impartial but nevertheless was the subject of complaints – partially at least as the result of an organized campaign by the PSC.

Assuming that “The War of the Tunnels” is finally aired, it will be interesting to see which of the above styles of reporting it more resembles.

Update:

It would appear that this programme’s broadcast in the UK has been cancelled yet again with the BBC One Panorama webpage currently informing visitors that “There are no upcoming broadcasts of this programme”. However, viewers of BBC World News not located in either the Middle East or Europe will apparently now (perhaps) be able to watch the programme on September 20th and 21st.

Panorama update

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News report on Palestinian rioter shot near Ramallah fails to provide context

On September 10th a short report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Palestinian man shot dead in West Bank raid“.Jelazoun

“A Palestinian has been killed during an Israeli raid on a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Palestinian medics said Issa Qatari, 22, was shot in the chest and died shortly before reaching hospital.

The Israeli military said its forces had clashed with dozens of protesters after entering the al-Amari camp on Wednesday to arrest a Hamas operative.

“A main instigator attempted to hurl an explosive device” at the troops, who opened fire in response, it added.

Witnesses in the camp gave a similar account of the incident.

Protesters “showered the invading forces with stones, and soldiers responded with live ammunition, injuring a number of other Palestinians”, one told the Maan news agency.

The Israeli military said the Hamas operative was arrested in the raid.”

The BBC’s “dozens of protesters” would have been more accurately described as rioters.

“An IDF unit sent to arrest a Hamas member in Ramallah encountered violent disturbances when approximately 50 Palestinians hurled rocks, firebombs, and burning tires, the army said. One of the rioters was seen throwing an explosive device at soldiers, according to the IDF Spokespersons Unit. Soldiers opened fire at the suspect, striking him. The man later died of gunshot wounds.”

What is missing from this report is of course the context necessary to enable BBC audiences to understand the background to the incident. There has been no BBC reporting of any of the recent violent rioting and attacks in Jerusalem and in Judea & Samaria. In fact, the last time visitors to the BBC News website were told anything about violence in those areas was on July 25th when Jon Donnison presented a very selective report on incidents in Qalandiya and elsewhere. BBC audiences are hence entirely unaware of the fact that the number of attacks in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem has – according to ISA reports – risen dramatically since the beginning of July with 507 attacks having taken place during that month compared to 100 the month before.

The chart below was compiled using the monthly statistics provided by the ISA but does not include separate representation of kidnappings, murders, stabbings or attacks using vehicles.

Chart jan 13 to jul 14

Of course there is nothing new about the BBC’s failure to report on security incidents, as we have frequently documented here in the past (see related articles below). However, that practice means that incidents such as the one reported in the above article are seen by BBC audiences in isolation, without the essential understanding of their backdrop.

Related Articles:

BBC silent on doubling of terror attacks since renewed ME talks

Review of the BBC’s reporting of security incidents in Judea & Samaria in January

A round-up of BBC reporting of security incidents in March 2014

Round-up of BBC coverage of security incidents – April 2014

100% of missile fire from Gaza Strip in May ignored by BBC

 

 

 

How BBC News transformed the PUG into a Cheshire Cat

One very notable feature in the BBC’s coverage of the recent conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip was the fact that the Palestinian Unity Government (PUG) suddenly disappeared from the corporation’s reporting rather like the Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland story. Concurrently, the roles played by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the run-up to the hostilities and throughout them were heavily censored in BBC reports.Cat

As readers no doubt recall, the weeks preceding Operation Protective Edge saw generous, enthusiastic and yet very superficial coverage of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal which was announced on April 23rd 2014 – see examples here, here and here.  

On June 2nd the Palestinian Unity Government was sworn in and the previous Hamas government in the Gaza Strip stepped down. Again, BBC coverage was positive yet simplistic and it notably refrained from informing audiences of the significance of the failure to disarm Hamas as part of the reconciliation deal. 

Ten days later on June 12th three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in Gush Etzion by what we now know to be a Hamas financed terror cell from Hebron. The BBC’s coverage of the search and rescue operations between the kidnappings and the discovery of the boys’ bodies on June 30th completely ignored the aspect of Hamas calls to the local population to instigate rioting to hamper the operations as well as the many inflammatory statements made by Hamas, Fatah and the PA in support of the kidnappings.

BBC reporting on the escalation in missile fire from the Gaza Strip beginning on June 12th was patchy and what reporting there was failed to clarify to BBC audiences that the Gaza Strip was by then under the control of the PA unity government meaning that the PA’s existing agreements with Israel (with which the PA had assured the world the unity government would comply) were being breached.

After the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th the BBC erased the existence of the Palestinian Unity Government entirely from its reporting on the Gaza Strip, instead using the standard formulation “Hamas, which controls Gaza” – see examples here, here and here. Notably, not one BBC report out of the hundreds produced during the seven weeks of conflict informed BBC audiences that Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had taken part in missile fire from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian targets and had also claimed responsibility for the use of live fire during rioting in Qalandiya. 

Another topic which did not get any BBC coverage at all was the August 18th discovery of a planned Hamas coup against the Palestinian Authority. In addition, there has been no BBC follow-up regarding claims that Hamas attacked and in some cases killed members of Fatah during the conflict under the pretense of ‘collaboration’. Since the August 26th ceasefire came into effect the Palestinian Authority’s security agencies have arrested dozens of Hamas supporters and assorted public accusations have been flying in both directions.

But remarkably, after weeks of hiatus, the Palestinian Unity Government suddenly made a reappearance in BBC content in a September 7th report on the BBC News website titled “Abbas warns Hamas on unity deal“. In that article BBC audiences are told:Abbas PUG

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned Hamas it must change the way it operates in Gaza if it wants to continue in a unity government.

Mr Abbas criticised the “shadow government of 27 deputy ministers” running Gaza, insisting that there must be “one regime”. […]

Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah – Mr Abbas’s faction that dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority – had been embroiled in years of bitter rivalry until signing a reconciliation deal in April.

Hamas’s government officially stepped down when the unity cabinet took office in Ramallah on 2 June, but it remains in de facto control of Gaza.

Much of the unity agreement has yet to be put into effect.”

Three months earlier on June 4th the BBC News website had reported that:

“US Secretary of State John Kerry has rejected Israeli criticism of his recognition of the new Palestinian government formed by Fatah and Hamas.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he was “deeply troubled” by the decision.

But during a visit to Lebanon, Mr Kerry noted the ministers were independent technocrats and insisted that they would be watched “very closely”.” […]

“We are going to be watching it very closely, as we have said from day one, to make absolutely ensure that it upholds each of those things that it has talked about, that it doesn’t cross the line.”

Both the UN and EU have welcomed the new government, on the basis of the assurances that it will abide by its commitments of recognition of Israel, non-violence and adherence to previous agreements.”

And:

“Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said his cabinet was committed to all previous agreements with Israel and would continue “programmes of peace” aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state.”

Obviously the PUG’s commitments to “all previous agreements with Israel” have not been met during the three months of its existence and the above statements from the US Secretary of State, the UN, the EU and PUG PM Rami Hamdallah turned out to be worthless platitudes. Any serious news organization would be looking for answers from the people who voiced those commitments and engaging in a serious examination of the performance of the Palestinian Unity Government – as well as the actions of Fatah and the PA during recent weeks – rather than making the PUG intermittently appear and disappear from the picture presented to audiences according to whatever particular political message it chooses to promote at the time. 

 

BBC’s Knell continues the Gaza border restrictions PR campaign

If there is one thing which should have become perfectly clear to foreign journalists since the beginning of July it is that the entry of building supplies into the Gaza Strip – which was increased in recent years due to intense pressure from assorted international bodies and aid agencies – was abused by Hamas to construct cross-border attack tunnels rather than for the advancement of projects which would have improved the lives of the people of Gaza.Knell drone report 5 9

However, not only has the BBC shown no interest whatsoever in discussing Hamas’ misappropriation of those building supplies or the very serious subject of the accountability of the aid agencies and international bodies which were supposed to be supervising and guaranteeing the construction projects for which those materials were destined; it continues to present the issue in terms of “Israel says”.

On September 5th Yolande Knell produced a report for BBC television news programmes which also appears on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza conflict: Drone footage reveals extent of damage“. On BBC television the presenter introduced the item thus:

“Now the conflict in Gaza has moved out of the headlines but thousands of Palestinians in the territory still face severe hardship. The UN estimates that around 17 thousand houses were destroyed in the conflict. But, a blockade is in place stopping companies from importing building supplies. Israel says it fears that militants would use the materials to rebuild tunnels which could be used for renewed cross-border attacks by militant fighters. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.” [emphasis added]

Knell’s report uses footage promoted on Twitter several days previously by the BBC’s Jon Donnison which shows the area of Shuja’iya where some of the most intense fighting took place and which – as we have noted here previously – is not representative of the situation in the Gaza Strip as a whole.

“The areas highlighted by the UN damage assessment report are compatible with the Israel Defense Forces briefings on the location of Hamas facilities, especially in the Shuja’iya area, which was the arena of the most intense battles. 

While Hamas concentrated its terror facilities – systematically and deliberately targeting Israeli civilians in densely populated urban areas in Gaza – the vast majority of these urban areas were undamaged. “

Shuja'iya map sites

Click to enlarge

Knell, however, refrains from putting the images she wants BBC audiences to see into their correct context.

“Destruction on an overwhelming scale. From above you get a new perspective on Shuja’iya – one of the areas worst affected by the latest Gaza conflict. Palestinian homes were bombed and battered by Israeli airstrikes and tank fire. Israeli troops fought militants here and targeted their tunnels. When the fighting stopped, residents returned to what remains.”

Knell’s second aim in this report is to continue promotion of the now long-running BBC campaign on the topic of border restrictions.

“Her grandson is a builder but with no steel or cement available, he can’t yet rebuild his own house.”

“Now people are coming back but you can see there’s very little reconstruction that’s going on.”

“And there are no new building materials that are coming in. Israel has long imposed tight border restrictions on Gaza, saying they’re needed for security and since the ceasefire nothing’s changed. Aid agencies say a rethink is urgently needed. There would still be a housing crisis even if Israel fully opened its one commercial crossing.” [emphasis added]

As has also been noted here previously, the Kerem Shalom crossing does not currently run at full capacity due to a lack of demand from the Palestinian side.

Knell closes her report by saying:

“While Gaza’s calm, there’s still no political solution to its underlying problems and Palestinians here are now feeling them more acutely than ever.”

What she refrains from clarifying to audiences is that a “political solution” which allows Hamas to import more weapons and to get its hands on supplies to build new tunnels will inevitably lead to yet another round of conflict in the Gaza Strip. It really is high time that Yolande Knell and her colleagues stopped their simplistic context-free PR campaigning on behalf of Hamas’ demand to ease border restrictions and began to fulfil their obligation to inform BBC audiences accurately and comprehensively of the real issues behind this story.

Related Articles:

Reporter in the rubble: what is missing from BBC presentation of structural damage in Gaza?

 

Differences in BBC News coverage of terrorist executions

Like the rest of the Western media the BBC has understandably devoted quite a lot of airtime and column space to the horrific and barbaric beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Satloff in the last couple of weeks.  However, identical acts perpetrated by both the same and other actors, both in the region and wider afield, against people who are not journalists have received distinctly less coverage.Egypt art

An article titled “Egyptian police killed in Sinai bomb attack” appeared on the BBC News website on September 2nd. As the item correctly reports, eleven members of the Egyptian security forces were killed by the terrorist organization Ansar Bayt al Maqdis in the northern Sinai on that day. The BBC describes that organization as one of the “jihadist militant groups” operating in the area. Unfortunately the BBC’s profile of Ansar Bayt al Maqdis has still not been updated to inform BBC audiences that the organization’s terror designations.

“Since the beginning of April 2014 Ansar Bayt al Maqdis has been declared a proscribed terrorist organization by the UK government (see page 5) and designated as a foreign terrorist organization and a specially designated global terrorist entity by the US State Department. In addition, an Egyptian court ruled on April 14th that the group is a terrorist organization.”

From its eighth paragraph onwards, the BBC report informs readers:

“Three days earlier, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis had announced that it had beheaded four Egyptian civilians whose bodies were found in August.

The group accused them of providing Israel with intelligence for an air strike that killed three of its fighters in late July.

A video published online showed armed, masked men standing over four captives as a statement was read out. They were then decapitated.

The footage was reminiscent of videos of killings posted by Islamic State (IS), which has taken control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is not believed to be linked to IS, but its spiritual leader Abu Osama al-Masri recently called on God to ensure his “brothers” in IS were victorious.”

Indeed, several days before the appearance of this BBC report, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis did claim responsibility for the beheadings of four Egyptian citizens who were forced to make dubious ‘confessions’ on camera. Since then, however, the organization has also claimed responsibility for beheading five additional Egyptian citizens but that has yet to be reported by the BBC.

Over the past two months the BBC has devoted considerable energies to presenting its audiences with a very one-sided and partial picture of border restrictions implemented by Israel and Egypt on the Gaza Strip. Notably absent from the BBC’s extensive and mostly inaccurate portrayal of the hardships endured by the people of Gaza has been any honest attempt to explain to audiences that the steps taken by both Israel and Egypt came in response to terrorism. Israeli restrictions have not been accurately presented as a response to terrorist attacks by Hamas and other Gaza Strip-based groups on Israeli citizens and the reasons for Egyptian actions on its border with the Gaza Strip have not been accurately or comprehensively presented either.

“The Egyptian army now views the Hamas regime in Gaza as an enemy, publicly blaming it for assisting Sinai terrorists. The military claims to have obtained reliable information that terrorists in the peninsula and even mainland Egypt have been smuggled into Gaza at one point or another, undergoing training in explosives and other military activities at Hamas military bases. Cairo has also accused two key figures from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military arm, of overseeing this training: Raed al-Attar, commander of the group’s southern brigade in Rafah, and Ayman Nofal, ex-commander of the central brigade who was jailed in Egypt during Hosni Mubarak’s presidency but escaped back to Gaza during the 2011 revolution. “

Raed al-Attar – killed in an Israeli airstrike on August 21st – was, as mentioned here previously, wanted by Egypt.

“…Raed al Attar and Mohamed Abu Shamala were named by Egypt as suspects in the 2012 killing of sixteen Egyptian soldiers and […] their extradition had been demanded.”

Like much of the rest of the Western media the BBC is currently very focused on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But in order to enable audiences to be aware of the entire Middle East picture and to understand the steps taken by countries combating terrorism for some time now, the actions of similar terrorist groups in the region – and the links between them – obviously requires no less prominent coverage.   

CBBC’s ‘Newsround’ once again misleads 6 to 12 year-olds about Israel

On August 27th the CBBC website’s ‘Newsround’ section (which is aimed at children between the ages of six and twelve) updated a page titled “Guide: Why are Israel and the Palestinians fighting over Gaza?“.CBBC

The page itself is not new; it was originally created in November 2012 and was the subject of a complaint and a ruling by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit  in June 2013. Nevertheless, the item still includes many problematic statements – not least in its title.

Neither the most recent conflict of July/August 2014 nor the one before it in November 2012 was rooted in a dispute “over Gaza”. The idiom ‘to fight over’ means “to fight a battle that decides who gets […] something”. Israel does not – as that title incorrectly suggests – want Gaza. Both those conflicts, like the one before them, began because of escalated attacks on Israel’s civilian population.  Neither was either conflict fought against “the Palestinians” but against Hamas and other terrorist organisations based in and acting from the Gaza Strip which perpetrate the attacks on Israeli communities. That same inaccuracy is repeated in the guide’s opening sentence.

“Israelis and Arabs have been fighting over Gaza on and off, for decades. It’s part of the wider Arab Israeli conflict.”

The item continues with an inaccurate description of events leading to the establishment of the State of Israel, erasing from view the Mandate for Palestine which preceded by 25 years the point in time bizarrely chosen by the BBC as the commencement of the story.

“After World War II and the Holocaust in which six million Jewish people were killed, more Jewish people wanted their own country.

They were given a large part of Palestine, which they considered their traditional home but the Arabs who already lived there and in neighbouring countries felt that was unfair and didn’t accept the new country.”

An inaccurate and highly sanitized representation of the fact that the nascent Israeli state was attacked by five Arab countries along with assorted irregulars and volunteers hours after it had declared independence conceals from readers which parties initiated the war and the fact that hostilities had actually begun six months beforehand. The fact that the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria are both areas designated as part of the Jewish homeland under the terms of the Mandate for Palestine is not made clear and neither is the very relevant issue of the lack of international recognition of Jordan’s occupation and subsequent annexation of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem.

“In 1948, the two sides went to war. When it ended, Gaza was controlled by Egypt and another area, the West Bank, by Jordan. They contained thousands of Palestinians who fled what was now the new Jewish home, Israel.”

Equally lacking is the guide’s description of the Six Day War and the failure to explain which parties initiated that conflict and what was their aim.

“But then, in 1967, after another war, Israel occupied these Palestinian areas and Israeli troops stayed there for years. Israelis hoped they might exchange the land they won for Arab countries recognising Israel’s right to exist and an end to the fighting.”

The wording of the next paragraph leads children to mistakenly believe that Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip came about through elections rather than a violent coup in which it ousted the Palestinian Authority and euphemises Hamas’ aim of bringing about the end of the Jewish state.

“Israel finally left Gaza in 2005 but soon after, a group called Hamas won elections and took control there. Much of the world calls Hamas a terrorist organisation. It refuses to recognise Israel as a country and wants Palestinians to be able to return to their old home – and will use violence to achieve its aims.”

Neither are readers informed of the fact that it was Hamas’ decision to escalate terrorism against Israeli civilians which made the implementation of border restrictions necessary.  

“Since then, Israel has held Gaza under a blockade, which means it controls its borders and limits who can get in and out.”

Children are also mistakenly led to believe that power cuts in the Gaza Strip are connected to border restrictions whilst in fact the real reason is the dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Likewise, they are inaccurately informed that exports abroad are restricted and that “not many goods get into or out of Gaza” when in fact the only limits are on weapons and dual-purpose items which can be misappropriated for terrorism.

“Israel controls its coastline and all the entry and exit crossings into Israel. There is another crossing point into Egypt. There is no working airport. Because access is so restricted, not many goods get into or out of Gaza. Food is allowed in, but aid agencies say families are not eating as much meat or fresh vegetables and fruit as they used to. There are often power cuts.

Large numbers of people are unemployed because businesses can get very few of their products out of Gaza to sell, and people don’t have much money to buy things.”

The item fails to clarify to readers the differences between Palestinian refugees and those from any other country or that their exceptional hereditary refugee status is in fact the result of the decision by the Arab league countries to refuse to grant them equal status in the countries in which most of them were born. Jewish refugees from Arab lands do not appear in the picture presented by CBBC. 

“During the 1948 and 1967 wars hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left, or were forced out of, their homes and moved to neighbouring countries to become refugees.

More than 4.6 million Palestinians are refugees and their descendants, many living in camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. They get help from the United Nations.”

Children are then informed that Israelis living under missile attack for almost a decade and a half have got used to it.

“Though the Palestinians don’t have an army, rockets are regularly fired from Gaza into Israel. Israelis living in border towns are used to having to take shelter and adapting their lives to deal with the rockets.”

The item continues with misrepresentation of casualty figures from three rounds of conflict.

“In the years since Israel withdrew its troops in 2005, Gaza has seen several Israeli offensives. Israel says these were aimed at putting a stop to rocket fire.

In 2008, Israel sent soldiers into Gaza. An estimated 1,300 people, many of them civilians, were killed in Gaza before a ceasefire was declared; 13 Israeli soldiers also died.”

Around 700 of the Gaza Strip casualties in Operation Cast Lead were terrorists and three of the 13 Israeli casualties inaccurately described by the BBC as all being soldiers were in fact civilians.

“In 2012, at least 167 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed during an Israeli operation. After eight days a ceasefire was declared with both sides promising to stop attacks.”

Around sixty percent of the Palestinian casualties in Operation Pillar of Defence were terrorists.

“Most recently in July 2014, authorities said over 2,200 people were killed – most of them Palestinians – and many more injured, during 50 days of violence. A ceasefire was agreed between Israel and Hamas on 26 August.”

Whilst the data for casualties in Operation Protective Edge is as yet incomplete, 46% of the names examined so far have been shown to be terrorists.

The item closes with whitewashing of the PA decision to scupper the Oslo peace process, presenting the failure to reach a negotiated agreement as a matter dependent solely upon Israeli agreement.

“Other countries, particularly America, have worked hard to settle the fighting between the Arabs and Israelis but so far nothing has worked. Many people want Gaza and the West Bank to be turned into a new country – Palestine. Israel won’t agree to this unless it feels safe – and Hamas accepts its right to exist. The other sticking points are what will happen to Israelis who’ve settled in the West Bank, who will run Jerusalem and what will happen to the Palestinian refugees.”

This is unfortunately not the first time that an inaccurate presentation of Israel-related issues has been promoted by ‘Newsround’ to young children. There is of course a vast and crucial difference between “simplification appropriate for an item intended for children” (as cited in the ECU ruling on this item from June 2013) and the presentation of inaccurate and misleading information.

Incidents such as the recent bout of conflict often prompt increased pondering of the topic of why so many educated people in Western countries exhibit a disturbing lack of factual knowledge with regard to Israel. With CBBC apparently reaching 34% of six to twelve year-olds weekly in the UK and its website having a million unique browsers a month, items such as this inaccurate and misleading ‘Newsround’ guide are clearly aiding to perpetuate that situation whilst failing young audience members and their licence fee-paying parents by neglecting  the BBC’s obligation to promote “understanding of international issues”. 

BBC presentation of truce fails to tell the real story

The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas however refused to accept the Egyptian-offered terms at the time, insisting that there would be no ceasefire until its demands were met. The BBC – as we know – took it upon itself to extensively and energetically publicise and promote Hamas’ unrealistic demands concerning the lifting of border restrictions but consistently refrained from providing audiences with accurate information regarding the nature of the restrictions themselves and the reasons why they had to be imposed in the first place, thus denying them the ability to appreciate why that particular Hamas pre-condition to a ceasefire would not come about.

Six weeks and much avoidable civilian suffering on, Hamas jettisoned those preconditions and agreed to a truce without any of them having been met as Avi Issacharoff explains.

“Hamas’s defeat lies in the area it counts as most important. With all due respect to the international community, or to al-Jazeera which emerged as the Hamas propaganda arm, what interests Hamas is public opinion in Gaza and in the West Bank. Time and again its leaders — including military wing chief Muhammad Deif, of whom it is not clear what remains after the IDF airstrike that targeted his home — bragged and made promises to the Gaza public that this conflict would continue until the siege was lifted. And until the re-arrested prisoners from the Shalit deal were released. And until an airport was opened. In their enthusiasm for these causes, they cost hundreds of thousands of Palestinians their homes. Two thousand, one hundred and forty-four men, women and children who were killed in a war that they were assured by Hamas simply had to continue until those goals were achieved. The Hamas leadership swore that without a seaport (getting the Rafah border crossing reopened was not deemed a sufficient achievement because it is controlled by the Egyptians) the rockets would continue to fall on Sderot and Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and Netivot.

Hamas further promised that there would be no return to the understandings that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 or to the realities of recent years. Time after time, for almost 50 days, they rejected the Egyptian initiative, which included, almost clause for clause, the elements of the 2012 agreement.

And then, on Tuesday afternoon, when first word of the ceasefire began to emerge, it became clear that Hamas had capitulated, retreated with its tail between its legs, abandoned everything it had insisted upon. No seaport and no airport. No release of the Shalit prisoners who were re-arrested in June after the murders of the three Israeli teens. No lifting of the blockade.”

The significance was clear even to journalists at the New York Times:

“Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, declared victory even though it had abandoned most of its demands, ultimately accepting an Egyptian-brokered deal that differs little from one proffered on the battle’s seventh day. In effect, the deal put both sides back where they were at the end of eight days of fighting in 2012, with terms that called for easing but not lifting Israeli restrictions on travel, trade and fishing in Gaza.”

But have those important points been conveyed to BBC audiences in the corporation’s coverage of the August 26th ceasefire? The BBC News website’s main article on the subject ran under the headline “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce” and it was amended numerous times until its final version was reached. At no point is it made sufficiently clear to readers that the terms of the agreement are the same as those offered after the first week’s fighting or that Hamas abandoned its preconditions – including those still being promoted by the BBC in the sidebar of ‘related articles’ links. The only hint of the latter point comes in an insert of ‘analysis’ from Kevin Connolly.26 8 truce

“There have been small celebrations in the streets of Gaza City hailing a “victory” but the truth is that Hamas has not achieved the headline-making concessions it was demanding in return for a ceasefire agreement.

So, there is no deal on the opening of a sea terminal or an airport at this stage. How ordinary Palestinians view the deal probably depends on how quickly their tightly-controlled borders are opened and how wide.”

Whilst the article fails to clarify to readers that the suffering of residents of the Gaza Strip could have been dramatically and significantly reduced had it not taken Hamas six weeks to abandon its unrealistic demands, it does include amplification of the Hamas narrative.

“Hamas said the deal represented a “victory for the resistance”. “

“A spokesman for Hamas, which controls Gaza, said: “We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance.” “

The article states:

“The announcement was greeted by celebratory gunfire on the streets of Gaza City.”

It fails to inform readers that a 19 year-old girl – Randa Nemer – was killed and 45 others injured by that “celebratory gunfire”.Sommerville 26 8 cf 1

The later version of the report briefly notes that two Israelis were killed around an hour before the ceasefire came into effect, but once again father of five Zevik Etzion and father of three Shachar Melamed of Kibbutz Nirim are not named.

“A last-minute volley of mortar shells from Gaza killed two Israeli civilians in Eshkol Regional Council, medics told the BBC.”

BBC television audiences saw two reports from Quentin Sommerville on the evening of August 26th. The earlier one – which also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree new truce” – tells viewers nothing about the fact that Hamas abandoned its preconditions and settled for what it could have had six weeks earlier.

Moreover, in Sommerville’s second report of the evening (“Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce“), which one can conclude was produced after more details of the terms of the ceasefire had come to light, he not only neglects to mention the above points but misleads audiences with regard to those terms.

“After fifty days of conflict – fifty days of loss – the streets of Gaza came alive tonight. It was a fight that cost two thousand lives but here they’re calling it a victory. There have been other ceasefires – eight in total – but it hasn’t brought people out onto the streets like this. They’re celebrating tonight because they believe that the fighting is over, that Israel’s blockade of Gaza has ended.” [emphasis added]

Later on in the report viewers are shown footage of Mahmoud Abbas saying that the agreement secured includes “providing Gaza with foodstuff and supplies”. No attempt is made to clarify to viewers that food, medicines and essential supplies have continued to enter the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing throughout the 50 days of conflict: 5,359 truckloads between July 8th and August 25th to be precise.Sommerville 26 8 cf 2

Against a background of footage of a missile hit on a kindergarten in Ashdod – which fortunately was empty at the time because the school year has not yet begun and the teacher preparing for the new term had left ten minutes earlier – Sommerville informs viewers of the obvious:

“Israel says that Hamas rockets have to stop if this truce is to work. This one landed today in a playground. No-one was hurt.”

Oddly, the fact that two members of Kibbutz Nirim were killed in a mortar attack earlier in the day is not mentioned.

On the afternoon of August 27th an article by Kevin Connolly appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Indecisive end to Gaza conflict“. There readers were informed that:

“Gaza does not function as a democracy so Hamas does not have to worry about immediate accountability to its own people, but many will question its judgement on two key points.

One is the decision to embark on a conflict when the agreement ending it only guarantees the restoration of the status quo that went before, together with commitments to discuss other grievances.

The other is the tactic of insisting on huge, headline-grabbing concessions (like the construction of a seaport in Gaza) in return for merely agreeing to enter talks.

It seems possible that that tactic made it harder to secure a ceasefire.”

Unfortunately, Connolly’s use of understatement and the fact that the BBC has throughout the past seven weeks consistently failed to adequately explain the important topic of the implementation of border restrictions and the naval blockade as a means of curbing the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip mean that many readers are likely to remain unclear as regards the fact that the same ceasefire could have been accepted by Hamas six weeks previously and the extent to which Hamas’ tactics have caused unnecessary suffering to the people of the Gaza Strip.