What Beit Hanoun tells us about BBC impartiality

Here is a Tweet from one of those impartial BBC journalists currently reporting from the Gaza Strip: Tweet Chris Morris Beit Hanoun So, did the IDF actually say that “people didn’t die” in Beit Hanoun last Thursday as Morris facetiously claims? No. What the IDF investigation into the incident at the UNRWA school in which sixteen people were killed did reveal is that during a battle between IDF soldiers and terrorists located in the area, an IDF mortar did land in the schoolyard, but that yard was empty at the time. Ha’aretz has further details:

“The IDF released the findings of its investigation into the incident on Sunday morning. According to the inquiry, Palestinian militants opened fire from the area of the school, shooting mortars and antitank missiles at Israeli forces. In response, the investigation reveals, the IDF decided to return fire with mortars.

According to the army, whose inquiry included investigations of the ground forces and video footage of the incident, “one of the mortars fell in the school’s courtyard whilst it was empty of people.” “

An official statement adds:

“It has been established that Hamas rockets landed in the area and may have hit the UN facility. The investigation of the incident has revealed that Hamas terrorists fired anti-tank missiles at IDF soldiers from the area of the UN school. The IDF responded with mortar fire, and one of the rounds fell in the school’s courtyard, which was empty at the time. This was the only IDF fire that hit the school compound. These findings disprove the claim, made by various parties, that IDF fire caused casualties on the school grounds. Israel regrets all civilian casualties, but they are the direct result of Hamas’ decision to use Palestinian civilians as human shields.” [emphasis added]

In light of these findings BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis would of course do well to address the topic of her hastily reached conclusion that “You hit it. You killed them.” – which was broadcast to millions of viewers in the UK on July 24th.Maitlis Likewise, the editors of the filmed report by Yolande Knell which was shown to television audiences and promoted on the BBC News website on July 24th might like to reconsider the wisdom of the inclusion – before the circumstances of the incident were clear – of footage of a woman saying:

“The Israelis hit us in our homes and they hit us at the school”

That same footage of the same woman also appeared in a filmed report by Ian Pannell from the same date which was promoted on the BBC News website and shown on BBC television news. Both Pannell’s report and the ‘Newsnight’ interview by Emily Maitlis appear in a written report published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th. Listeners to an edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newsday’ heard the presenter saying:

“For the fourth time in as many days a UN facility there found itself in the eye of the storm; hit by what the Palestinians say was an Israeli shell.”

If readers are perhaps anticipating that this incident will prompt the BBC to reconsider its current policy of refraining from anything approaching robust reporting on the issue of the use of the local civilian population as human shields – which is precisely what a terrorist who fires anti-tank missiles at Israeli soldiers from the vicinity of a UN school is doing – then they may be in for some disappointment. That same ‘Newsday’ programme includes parts of Stephen Sackur’s recent interview with Khaled Masha’al. In addition, amplification is given to the following denial by Masha’al of Hamas’ use of human shields.GAZA MOI

“This is wrong information. Hamas does not give orders to people to stay inside their home. Hamas encourages people to stand fast and let the Palestinians show their steadfastness. This is the will of the people. Go to Gaza and see the people in hospitals and see the areas destroyed. These people are determined to preserve their land. You should not put the blame on the victims. The blame should go to the Israeli that has committed this massacre. We have several hundred Palestinians killed – most of them civilians – whereas Hamas is focusing on killing Israeli soldiers who came to Gaza to attack Palestinians. This is the ethical difference between the Palestinian resistance and the Israeli aggression.”

One presumes that the BBC must be aware of the ample filmed and written evidence of Hamas’ spokesmen and Ministry of the Interior telling civilians in the Gaza Strip not to leave their homes. Nevertheless, its journalists not only fail to report adequately on the issue itself and even promote denial of it, but also amplify Masha’al’s obviously inaccurate claims. In that ‘Newsnight’ interview on July 24th, Emily Maitlis asked Mark Regev:

“If, after the fog of war has passed, this does turn out to be the fault of Israel, will you pause? Will you reset your rules of engagement tonight?”

We might well ask Emily Maitlis, her editors and numerous other BBC correspondents, editors and producers a very similar question.

Update:

Here is the IDF video footage showing the empty school yard at the time of the errant mortar strike. 

 

Half a picture, half a story: how the BBC compromises its own impartiality in Gaza

As was noted in this recent post, an article by Yolande Knell titled “Gaza: Hamas seeks to emerge stronger” appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th. The article includes the following interesting passages:Crossings Knell written

“Israel says its military offensive in Gaza targets militants from the Palestinian movement, Hamas. Yet for the most part the Islamist fighters remain shadowy figures during this latest conflict.

In northern Gaza last week, heavy exchanges of gunfire with advancing Israeli ground troops suggested the presence of militants nearby.

However, it was only during Sunday’s bloody scenes in Shejaiya, north-east of Gaza City, that journalists saw masked men hurrying down the streets and talking furtively into walkie-talkies on street corners. […]

There have been occasional televised statements by the former Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, but most of the Islamist group’s officials have gone to ground during this conflict. Their houses tend to be empty when they are targeted by Israeli air strikes.

The only place where we have been able to approach Hamas spokesmen is at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where they make periodic appearances. […]

The large turnouts for funerals of local Hamas leaders killed in the latest conflict are a reminder of how the Islamist movement still commands wide respect in Gaza, which remains among the most socially conservative Palestinian areas.”

BBC television audiences have not seen any footage of those “large turnouts” at Hamas funerals which Knell has apparently witnessed and have not been provided with combatant casualty figures. Although interviews with Hamas spokesmen at Shifa hospital have been aired, audiences have not seen any real reporting of the fact that the Hamas leadership is in hiding in that hospital. Apart from a couple of brief mentions by Lyse Doucet of those “masked men hurrying down the streets and talking furtively into walkie-talkies on street corners”, BBC audiences have not seen any footage or read any accounts of the actions of Hamas terrorists.

They have not seen or been told anything of the fierce battles between terrorists and the IDF: no images of Hamas members firing RPGs, anti-tank missiles or mortars at Israeli troops have been aired. They have not seen footage of the launching of even one of more than 2,350 missiles which have been fired at Israeli civilians since July 8th or of the effects of the 10 to 15% of  missiles which fall short and land in the Gaza Strip itself. Neither have they seen any reporting on the topic Hamas’ use of child soldiers.

Yolande Knell would apparently have us believe that not one of the plethora of BBC reporters on the ground in the Gaza Strip in the last nineteen days has witnessed or recorded any of the above.

Now it may well be that foreign correspondents in Gaza – and the BBC among them – are being subjected to pressures which prevent them from reporting anything which does not fall into the category of Israeli military actions or dead and wounded Palestinian civilians. Certainly the social media accounts of some of those reporters would suggest that is the case. But if it is, audiences should obviously be informed for the sake of accuracy and impartiality that they are only receiving a partial picture of events and why that is the case – and that has so far not happened.

In an interesting article in Ha’aretz, former BBC journalist Stephen Games asks “[c]an the BBC really report from Gaza?” and refers to a BBC interview with Andrew Roy who readers may remember was recently to be found patting his organization on the back for its Middle East coverage.

“On another popular BBC radio programme, “Feedback”, which provides a platform for public comment, listeners are said to have complained in equal numbers that BBC coverage was biased either towards Israel or towards the Palestinians.

In response to such contradictory criticism, BBC executives stereotypically say that if they are being criticized from both sides, they must be getting the balance just about right. On this occasion the “Feedback” host, Roger Bolton, stepped back from this glib reply and tried to explore the alternative possibility that the BBC was getting it badly wrong, but this tack was instantly dismissed by his studio guest, the World Editor of BBC News, Andrew Roy.

Roy admitted that covering Gaza was difficult because reporters are at physical risk; but he went on to argue that the BBC was adept at navigating pressure by lobbyists on both sides to adapt its reporting to their liking. He also claimed that its authority came from its being one of the few international broadcasters with a permanent presence in Gaza and having a website to provide further context.

What Roy would not address, however, was Bolton’s suggestion that unlike reporters working in Israel, those in Gaza are hampered by lack of access and by the dangers, not so much to BBC staff, but to potential interviewees, of being targeted if they talk openly. Roy would only acknowledge the danger of working “under bombardment”, giving the impression that the threat to honest journalism came only from Israeli rockets, not from Hamas enforcers. 

It was not clear whether Roy refused to acknowledge the impossibility of carrying out normal investigative journalism under Hamas because he—personally or corporately—cannot see it, or because the BBC dare not tell the truth for fear of losing its ringside seat at one of the world’s worst trouble spots. 

What did emerge from the interview is the unintended damage caused by the BBC’s ostensible policy of even-handedness. Because it cannot be seen as editorialising, the BBC bends over backwards to maintain a policy of “show-don’t-tell”. Thus, the only truths about Gaza that BBC reporters can convey are those that a camera can point at. Never has a BBC reporter broken a story from Gaza, interviewed a Hamas commander about splits in the ranks, examined the Palestinian justice and detention system, exposed the climate of fear that Gazans are subject to, shown missile stockpiling or residential defensive positions, or challenged the brainwashing of children in schools.” 

The obvious result of censorship of vital parts of this story – be it the result of direct outside pressure or self-imposed – is of course that journalists deny their audiences information which is crucial to their being able to reach informed opinions on the topic. But such censorship also has another important effect; it turns journalists into one of the factors actively playing a part in a war which is not only being fought in the alleys of Shuja’iya and Beit Hanoun, but also on the internet, in print, on television, on radio and on social media.

Hamas and the other terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip know full well that they cannot compete with Israel militarily and hence, as ever, a no less important battle for public opinion around the world is taking place. If BBC journalists continue their current practice of refraining from properly reporting the part being played by Hamas in bringing about the tragic scenes they do film, photograph and report – or at least explaining to audiences why they cannot report the missing parts of the picture – then they clearly compromise their own impartiality by self-conscripting to one side of the battle for public opinion.  

BBC avoids giving audiences the whole picture on Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands

There is nothing novel about BBC misrepresentation of Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and the restrictions placed on the entry of dual-use goods to that territory. However, that topic now moves into the limelight once again because one of the demands put forward by Hamas – and, significantly, now backed by the PA – is the lifting of the blockade as a pre-condition for a ceasefire to bring an end to the current hostilities.

” “We reject the cycle of ceasefire and negotiations,” said Hamas’ political chief Khaled Mashal on Wednesday night at a press conference in Qatar. “We rejected it today and we will reject it in the future.”

Mashal said the Gaza-based group “would not accept an initiative that does not include lifting the blockade. Today Israel is worried about what happened at Ben Gurion Airport. Do you want a blockade in return for the blockade? Today the resistance in Gaza can blockade you, in the future it will from the West Bank.”

“You blockade our air space, we will blockade your air space,” threatened Mashal.”

That Hamas demand, among others, has been voiced numerous times over the past couple of weeks, but notably recent days have seen it being amplified – and justified – in BBC coverage along with the concurrent and similar Hamas demand regarding the border with Egypt.

On July 22nd Lyse Doucet was to be found in Rafah. The filmed report she produced – aired on BBC Television news and promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza: Why is Rafah crossing so important?” – opens with an airbrushed explanation as to why that crossing has been closed for much of the last year or so, in much the same way as her colleague Yolande Knell reported on the same topic last August.Crossings Rafah Doucet

“Rafah crossing. Gaza’s only opening to the world which isn’t controlled by Israel. But the road to Egypt has been all but shut for the past year. Relations between Hamas and Egypt are badly strained.”

Notably, Doucet makes no mention of the Gaza Strip-based Salafist groups which have committed acts of terrorism in Egypt’s northern Sinai area and no effort is made to present the Egyptian viewpoint.

After some scenes of people unable to cross the border, Doucet tells viewers:

“A crossing like this is a relief valve for the people of Gaza. For most who live here this is their only way out, which is why during these difficult ceasefire talks, opening the road to Egypt is one of the main demands.”

Later Doucet turns her attentions elsewhere.

“Israeli attacks are striking at the very core of Gaza life. Water pipes, electricity lines, sewage systems have been hit and hit.”

Doucet of course refrains from informing viewers that on at least two occasions since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, terrorists in Gaza have cut off the electricity by damaging power lines with missiles fired at Israel and that – despite ongoing attacks – technicians from the Israel Electric Corporation went out to repair those high voltage lines. Other repair operations to infrastructure in the Gaza Strip carried out by Israel can be followed in COGAT’s daily updatesCrossings  repairs

Doucet goes on:

“Even before this war most Gazans didn’t have running water or more than a few hours of electricity. A seven-year Israeli blockade – ever since Hamas came to power – is paralysing the economy. Israel says it’s a security measure but it’s choking life here.”

Here we see yet another BBC report erroneously attributing problems in the Gaza Strip exclusively to Israel’s policies when in fact – like the shortages of medicines – the issues with electricity and fuel supply have nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with internal Hamas-Fatah disputes.

Not only does Doucet imply to audiences that there is room for doubt regarding the real reasons for Israel’s policy with her use of the phrase “Israel says it’s a security measure”, but she fails to inform them that those policies – in fact implemented three months after Hamas carried out its violent coup in the Gaza Strip – were a direct response to escalating Hamas terror attacks.

So, Doucet erases the core issue of terror against both Egypt and Israel from the picture she presents to audiences of border restrictions affecting the Gaza Strip. She closes with this context-free promotion of Hamas messaging:

“In Gaza today they were clearing rubble again. War has made life much harder. But for Gazans ending the war must mean easing the blockade, otherwise life itself is just a long battle to survive.”

The day after that report, July 23rd, viewers of BBC television news saw another one by Yolande Knell which was promoted on the BBC News website under the title “Middle East crisis: Normal life on hold in Gaza“. That report found Knell once again visiting a market in Gaza.Crossings knell filmed

“The market here is really one of the only places you can find a lot of people. We’ve been asking them what do they want from a ceasefire deal.”

Woman: “To lift the siege, open the borders of Gaza and to let everything in. And free the prisoners from Israeli jails. This is the most important part of the conditions.”

Man: “Open the borders, have a – you know – promise from Israel that they will not do this what they did again. We want our rights, we want our freedom, we want our state. We want to be safe from their jets and their rockets.”

Knell continues:

“One positive sign for the truce efforts has been general support for Hamas’ demands from the other Palestinian factions. I’ve been to see Fatah parliamentarian Faisal Abu Shahla.

Abu Shahla: “They decided that…to accept the Egyptian initiative but at the same time that the requirements for the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, should be achieved.”

She closes:

“Everywhere you look in Gaza there’s so much evidence of the death and destruction that this latest fighting has brought and that’s why people here are really insisting that any deal to bring peace should be comprehensive and long-term.”

Yet again, no effort whatsoever is made to explain to BBC audiences how the actions of  terror organisations from the Gaza Strip caused two neighbouring countries to implement policies to protect their own citizens.

Recent written BBC reports on the same topic have been no better. An article titled “Gaza conflict: Abbas backs Hamas ceasefire demands” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 23rd opens:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has backed calls by Hamas for an end to the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip as a condition for a ceasefire.”

It later goes on to state:

“Hamas, which is dominant in Gaza, says it will not agree to a ceasefire that does not allow for freer movement of goods and people across its borders.

Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the new unity government backed by Hamas and Fatah, said it was time to end what he said was the cycle of unrelenting suffering for the Palestinians.

“We demand justice for our people, who everyday and since the beginning of the Israeli occupation have been subject to the occupation for 47 years,” he said.

“It’s time for this aggression to stop and it’s time for this siege to stop.”

Mr Abbas, a co-founder of Fatah, also chairs the Palestine Liberation Organisation, an umbrella group which has endorsed Hamas’s ceasefire demands.

Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.”

Israel has of course not occupied the Gaza Strip for nine years, but that point is not clarified to readers. Again, no mention is made of the fact that it was the escalation of Palestinian terrorism following the June 2007 Hamas coup which caused the Israeli government to declare the Gaza Strip a hostile territory in September 2007.

This article also includes further promotion of the falsehood that the shortage of medicines in the Gaza Strip is caused by Israeli policies by including the item broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live on the same day.Crossings 5 live item

An additional article titled “Hamas says Gaza blockade must end before ceasefire” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th begins:

“The leader of Islamist militant group Hamas has said there can be no ceasefire to ease the conflict in Gaza without an end to Israel’s blockade.

Khaled Meshaal said Hamas would continue to reject a lasting ceasefire until its conditions were met.”

Later on it states:

“In addition to lifting the eight-year economic blockade, Mr Meshaal’s list of demands also included the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

“We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices,” Khaled Meshaal told reporters at a news conference in Qatar on Wednesday.”

Yet again no information is given to readers regarding the terror attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas and other terrorist organisations which brought about the restrictions.

“Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.”

Another article appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 24th under the title “Gaza: Hamas seeks to emerge stronger” was written by Yolande Knell. One of many notable features of that report is yet another inadvertent documentation of the fact that Hamas uses civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields.Crossings Knell written

“The only place where we have been able to approach Hamas spokesmen is at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where they make periodic appearances.”

Another is Knell’s now habitual misrepresentation of Hamas’ international designation as a terrorist organization.

“Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist organisation; the group’s founding charter is committed to the destruction of the Israeli state.”

Knell too presents a portrayal of Israeli policy which completely erases the Hamas terrorism which brought it about:

“They [Hamas] consistently demand that any ceasefire deal must include a release of prisoners from Israeli jails and an easing of the border restrictions imposed on Gaza by both Israel and Egypt.

“Until now we are under a complete suffocating siege and embargo. They have isolated Gaza from the world,” says spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum. “There’s no justification of this crime.”

A blockade of the Palestinian territory was tightened after Hamas seized control of it in 2007, a year after winning legislative elections.”

Gaza Strip-based terrorism against Egypt is also seriously downplayed in Knell’s account and the smuggling of weapons through tunnels under the Rafah border is erased.

“Meanwhile Egypt’s military-backed governments have always had a testy relationship with Hamas because of its ideological links with the country’s Muslim Brotherhood. […]

Hamas wants Egypt to reopen fully the Rafah border crossing. It has said it will not stop fighting until there is a full agreement on the table. […]

Since the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from office a year ago, Rafah, Gaza’s main gateway to the world, has been kept shut most of the time.

The Egyptian military has also closed down the network of hundreds of Hamas-licensed smuggling tunnels that ran under its border. These provided a lifeline to the coastal enclave and provided Hamas with vital funds.

The new government in Cairo accuses Hamas of supporting Islamist militants in its restless Sinai region along the Gaza border; a charge it denies.”

Knell provides readers with some ‘man in the Gaza street’ opinions:

“When Egypt offered the deal, the Israelis picked it up but to be honest for the Palestinians it seemed like a trap,” says Ibrahim, from Gaza City. “People want commercial crossings reopened. We want to go back to a normal life.”

“We need a ceasefire that will give us our human rights and end the siege,” a charity worker, Haneen tells me. “We want the Rafah crossing opened so that we can travel again.”

So as we see, five separate items of content over three consecutive days have presented BBC audiences with information on the issue of Hamas’ pre-condition for a ceasefire which exclusively portrays the Hamas view of border restrictions. None of those reports has given readers or viewers an accurate account of how, when and why both Egypt and Israel adopted policies concerning their borders with the Gaza Strip. The terrorism which brought about those policies has not even been mentioned and no explanation has been given regarding the vital role played by the naval blockade and border restrictions in curbing the flow of missiles and other weapons to the Gaza Strip.

Clearly, BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions or “participate in the global debate” on this very topical subject without that vital information and context.  But the repeated promotion and amplification of inaccurate, politically motivated claims of shortages of medicines and food in the Gaza Strip because of Israeli policies which we have seen across many BBC platforms in the past few days suggests that the BBC has no intention of providing comprehensive, accurate and impartial reporting on this topic and that intends instead to use emotive partial accounts to amplify the same version of the story as is promoted by Hamas. 

 

Themes in BBC reporting on events in Shuja’iya

The fierce fighting between the IDF and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shuja’iya on July 20th was the subject of a considerable number of BBC reports across various platforms. In this post we will look at some of the themes those reports promote.Shujaiya missile launches

“Massacre”

Whilst all BBC journalists avoided direct use of the word ‘massacre’ themselves, they repeatedly promoted that inaccurate and of course emotive description when it could be attributed to a third party. [all emphasis added]

On July 20th the BBC News website opened a ‘live’ page titled “As it happened: Gaza conflict intensifies“. That page opens:

“Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the conflict in Gaza. Sunday has seen the heaviest bombardment of Gaza since the Israeli offensive began. The Palestinian leadership has condemned as a massacre the killing of at least 60 people in one neighbourhood of Gaza, Shejaiya.”

A written report which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 20th titled “Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict” states in its second paragraph:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the deaths in the Shejaiya district east of Gaza City were a “massacre”. Witnesses spoke of bodies lying in the streets.”

An audio report from July 20th by Lyse Doucet includes a doctor from Shifa hospital talking about “this massacre”.

The synopsis of a July 20th filmed report by Yolande Knell for BBC television news which also appears on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict” states:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the deaths in the Shejaiya district east of Gaza City as a “massacre”.”

Another written report from July 21st – titled “Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers, scores of Gazans killed” also states:

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the deaths in the Shejaiya district east of Gaza City were a “massacre”.”

An article from July 21st titled “Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500” states:

“More than 60 Palestinians alone were killed during heavy shelling in Shejaiya, in what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called “a massacre”.”

In a July 21st radio interview with the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday’, a doctor from Shifa hospital is heard talking about “the massacre at Shuja’iya”.

No terrorists

Whilst frequent and ample description is given of IDF “shelling”, “bombardment” and “pounding”, any sort of information at all on the terrorists which the IDF was fighting in the Shuja’iya neighbourhood is extremely rare and any reporting on what those terrorists were doing or what sort of weapons they used is even rarer. That of course means that the overall impression given to BBC audiences – inaccurately and misleadingly – is that the IDF was attacking civilians when in fact those civilians were caught up in a battle between the Israeli army and Hamas’ heavily armed militia.

In a radio report by Paul Adams from July 20th the sound of shooting is accompanied by the following vague description by Adams:

“And there’s suddenly gunfire coming from several locations. Someone certainly isn’t observing this ceasefire.”

In a filmed report by Lyse Doucet which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza crisis: 87 Gazans and 13 Israeli soldiers killed” as well as being broadcast on BBC television news on July 20th, the only thing she has to say about the terrorists fighting a fierce battle in the area is:Doucet filmed 20 7 keeping watch

“We saw militants on these streets keeping watch”

And:

“Israeli soldiers have met fierce resistance here.”

In a July 20th filmed report for BBC television news which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza shelling by Israel leads to deadliest day of conflict“, Yolande Knell made do with the following vague and brief description:

“There were some rockets that were fired near there and the fighting broke out again according to one of my colleagues who was at the scene”.

In a written report by Lyse Doucet from July 21st which appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza crisis: Shejaiya assault defines grimmest day” she writes:

“In Shejaiya we saw Hamas spotters taking up positions on empty streets, talking into telephones and walkie-talkies as they maintained a lookout.

Colleagues who arrived later in the day saw gunmen with black balaclavas and concealed weapons moving through the neighbourhood. And journalists and medics got caught in crossfire when a two-hour humanitarian truce was shattered in minutes.”

And:

“For many days now, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge had almost seemed to be a ghost war. In areas we were able to reach, Hamas fighters had only been visible by the rockets they fired, and through defiant messages on their TV and radio networks.”

Notably, no mention is made of the terrorists’ use of weapons beyond guns – such as RPGs and anti-tank missiles. Neither is any mention made of the practice of booby trapping houses or of secondary explosions resulting from strikes on buildings in which weapons and/or explosives are stored. Thus, BBC audiences are mistakenly led to believe that all civilian casualties in Shuja’iya are exclusively attributable to IDF fire, although the likelihood of that being the case is extremely low. And as for the Hamas terrorists? Well they just talk on the phone and wander around in balaclavas according to the BBC. 

No terrorist casualties

None of the numerous BBC reports makes any attempt whatsoever to determine how many of the casualties in Shuja’iya were Hamas combatants. In all the reports general figures are given and as has been the practice in the past, BBC audiences are not adequately informed of the fact that those figures come from Hamas sources or of the additional fact that the BBC has not independently verified those numbers.

Those omissions are particularly relevant in light of the instructions issued by the Hamas Ministry of the Interior, from which it is clear that there is an organized Hamas campaign to inflate the numbers of civilian casualties and conceal the number of dead combatants in order to influence public opinion abroad.

“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.”

Whether by accident, by design or by coercion, the BBC seems to be following the Hamas instructions closely, but of course it is actually the job of BBC journalists to cut through a terrorist organisation’s propaganda and bring the real picture to audiences. With regard to the all-important topic of combatant casualties, the BBC has come nowhere near to meeting that objective.

Some examples of typical reporting on casualties in Shuja’iya include:

“At least 87 Gazans were reported killed on Sunday – 60 of them in the district of Shejaiya alone.” (synopsis to report by Lyse Doucet, July 20th)

“Over 500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began two weeks ago, Gaza’s health ministry says.” (BBC News website, July 21st)

“Gaza has suffered the highest death toll since Israel’s offensive began, with at least 87 people reported killed on Sunday – 67 of them in one area.” (synopsis to report by Yolande Knell, July 20th)

“Gaza has come under the most intense shelling since the launch of Israel’s offensive 13 days ago, with more than 50 people reported killed in one district. The deaths occurred at Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, Palestinian medics said.” (synopsis to report by Lyse Doucet, July 20th)

“Gaza’s list of the dead crossed 500 and keeps climbing, according to figures from the health ministry here. The UN says the vast majority are civilians; many are children.” (Lyse Doucet, July 21st)

We have of course addressed the topic of the sources of UN OCHA supplied casualty figures here previously and in addition, a UNICEF information officer informed BBC Watch that its own figures – collected independently – include anyone up to the age of eighteen in the category of children. Notably, according to the latest UNICEF figures from July 21st, the number of male casualties under 18 was well over double the number of female casualties.

Downplaying prior warning

As is well known, Israel gave the residents of Shuja’iya prior warning of the necessity to evacuate the neighbourhood four days before the operation and even delayed it in order to give them more time to organize their move. That fact is not mentioned in the vast majority of the reports on the subsequent events and the concurrent fact that Hamas instructed the residents to stay put and act as human shields is not conveyed to BBC audiences at all.

Leaflet distributed in Shuja'iya on July 16th

Leaflet distributed in Shuja’iya on July 16th

Lyse Doucet writes:

“Israel said it repeatedly warned residents to leave the area.

“We asked them to leave again and again,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told BBC Arabic TV.

“We called them up, we texted, and we sent them messages. But Hamas said ‘don’t leave’,” – a reference to allegations that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields.”

“Warning?” said Anas, a 20-year-old university student with a mop of curly black hair who stood on a street corner. “They don’t warn us, they kill us.”

Whenever we ask Gazans that question, they reply: “Where do we go?” “

The fierce fighting between the IDF and Hamas terrorists on July 20th in Shuja’iya undoubtedly included many tragic scenes which were the result of civilians who had been advised to evacuate being caught in the crossfire – and it is upon those scenes which BBC reporting has exclusively focused. Whilst that may make for ‘compelling’ television or ‘powerful’ radio, it does not necessarily give BBC audiences the background and context which they need in order to be able to understand the entire picture of what happened there and why. The BBC’s reporters currently on the ground in Gaza have so far failed to provide audiences with many if not most of the vital parts of that picture. 

 

 

 

 

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

As was noted here a few days ago, on July 15th the BBC’s Yolande Knell (perhaps inadvertently) documented the use of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City as a hideout for the Hamas top brass. Other journalists have reported on that topic too and of course the bottom line is that staff and patients of a civilian medical facility (as well as visiting journalists) are being exploited by a terrorist organisation as human shields, with or without the consent of that hospital’s management.Shifa hospital

In addition to the fact that the BBC has failed to adequately clarify the issue of human shields in Shifa hospital (or anywhere else) to audiences – numerous items of BBC content have been produced in that hospital over the past two weeks – obviously with the approval of its management – and various doctors have been interviewed, quoted and presented to BBC audiences as credible witnesses of the situation in Gaza. Examples include:

A BBC television news filmed report by Yolande Knell from July 8th.

Two filmed reports by Jeremy Bowen for BBC television news on July 11th.

A BBC World Service radio report by Lyse Doucet on July 20th in which a doctor promoted the unchallenged notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

A BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ interview with Dr Belal Dabour on July 21st which also allows unhindered promotion of the notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

Perhaps rather surprisingly in the current circumstances, Dr Dabour seems to have quite a bit of spare time in which to talk to the BBC – see for example here and here.

Now of course BBC audiences hearing, reading or watching an interview with a doctor will naturally presume that they are being given an accurate, impartial, apolitical and professionally neutral view of the situation. In the Gaza Strip, however, that is not necessarily the case – as has been documented by the ‘Warped Mirror’ blog here and here. And it is particularly not the case in Shifa hospital where, on July 20th, a journalist with ABC witnessed the following reaction from ‘humanitarian’ staff to the false claim by Hamas that it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

Tweet Doctors Shifa

But it is not only local doctors in the Gaza Strip whose presentation of supposedly professional observations – in fact underpinned by political motives – are facilitated by the BBC. On July 20th the BBC reached what is unfortunately not a new low by promoting and quoting none other than the infamous Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert in inserts by Yolande Knell featured in two separate written articles – see here and here.

Knell Mads Gilbert

Readers may recall Gilbert’s propaganda efforts during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9. Now the doctor who thinks the 9/11 terror attacks were justified is back in Shifa hospital, promoting the same political messaging to the media under the guise of a ‘medical opinion’ – remarkably and controversially, with recommendation from another source of ‘impartial’ information frequently promoted by the BBC – UNWRA.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

So far, in nearly two weeks of reporting, we have not seen even one attempt by the BBC’s journalists in Gaza to adhere to those guidelines by alerting audiences to the Hamas connections and/or sympathy for terrorism of medical personnel they present to audiences as ‘credible’ sources.  

BBC omits vital context in reporting from Shuja’iya

Today, July 20th, there has been heavy fighting in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shuja’iya. As was noted here yesterday in relation to a BBC article about that neighbourhood, its residents received notification via leaflets, telephone calls and announcements in the Arabic media that evacuation was advised four days previously on July 16and operations were even delayed in order to allow more civilians to organize their evacuation. 

With Hamas’ propaganda department already trying to persuade the world of a “massacre” of civilians in Shuja’iya, one can only hope that BBC correspondents on the ground will have the good sense to remember how their colleagues unquestioningly reported similar claims in Jenin twelve years ago without bothering to check facts first.

The reporting which has appeared on the BBC News website so far includes an evolving article now titled “Gaza shelling by Israel ‘most intense’, dozens reported killed“.  That report once again repeatedly cites casualty figures for which there is no evidence to suggest the BBC has independent verification and – as has been the case in all the BBC’s reporting so far – no effort is made to inform audiences of the sources of those figures and their questionable reliability.Shujaiya art

“Palestinian officials say that 395 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel launched its operation […]

Gaza has come under the most intense shelling since the launch of Israel’s offensive, with more than 40 people reported killed in one area overnight.

The deaths occurred in Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, Palestinian medics said. Eyewitnesses spoke of bodies lying in the streets. […]

But the death toll continued to rise at the weekend, with the number of Palestinians killed now 395 since the operation began, according to Palestinian health officials.

The majority of those killed are civilians, the UN says. […]

More than 40 people died in the north-eastern district of Shejaiya in a heavy bombardment overnight, the Palestinian medics said.”

As we see, yet again no effort is made by the BBC to distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties.

Much of this article is devoted to descriptions of fleeing civilians, as were Tweets posted by BBC correspondents on July 20th – see for example here, here, here, and here. If the BBC has made any attempt to determine whether those civilians did not evacuate the neighbourhood previously when warnings were originally given because of Hamas orders to stay put, those efforts are not apparent in this article, but of course BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip over the past thirteen days has systematically ignored the issue of the use of the local population as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organisations.

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell, in Gaza City, says there have been scenes of panic with thousands of residents fleeing the area – on foot or piling into the backs of cars.”

“At the scene: Paul Adams in Shejaiya

When we arrived at the edge of the neighbourhood, Palestinians were still fleeing in their hundreds: carrying nothing but their children, some pausing to vent their anger in front of cameras.

They spoke of bodies lying in the street and the wreckage of buildings, including a mosque.

After a night of ferocious bombardment, they seem traumatised and stunned. For three days, Israel had warned them to leave their homes, but Shejaiya is home to 80,000 people. Most stayed put, not expecting the ferocity of last night’s bombardment.

One man, his eyes glassy, said his father had been killed. He didn’t know where other family members were or even if they were alive.

An elderly woman, in traditional Palestinian costume, raised her arms to the sky and asked how God could let this happen.

A handicapped girl winced as she was lifted into the back of a pickup truck.

And all the time, more and more civilians emerged from Shejaiya.”

However, explanations to BBC audiences as to why the IDF needs to operate in Shuja’iya were limited to a generalised photo caption reading “The Israeli military says the ground offensive has been expanded to destroy a Hamas tunnel network” and the following statements in the body of the text:

Leaflet distributed in Shuja'iya on July 16th

Leaflet distributed in Shuja’iya on July 16th

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sent ground troops into Gaza on Thursday after 10 days of heavy air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel says the ground operation is necessary to target Hamas tunnel networks, which it says it could not do from the air alone.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed on Saturday during a gunfight with Palestinian militants who had used tunnels to cross into Israel to launch an attack, the IDF said.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said the ground offensive was being expanded “to restore security and stability to Israel’s residents and citizens”.”

No attempt is made to clarify to readers that as well as being a significant site of Hamas command centres, weapons storage, missile manufacturing facilities and the launch site of some 140 missiles fired at Israeli civilians since the beginning of the current operation alone, Shuja’iya neighbourhood also houses the entrance to some ten of the tunnels that the BBC has so far avoided adequately informing audiences about.

IDF field hospital Gaza

IDF field hospital on the Gaza border to open on the evening of July 20th

Notably too, the BBC is very coy about clarifying to readers that Hamas opened fire at Israeli troops in the vicinity of Wafa hospital in Shuja’iya during the two-hour humanitarian hiatus (later extended by one hour) it had requested.

“A few hours later, it agreed to a two-hour humanitarian truce in Shejaiya.

The ceasefire would last from 13:30 to 15:30 local time (10:30-12:30 GMT), an Israeli military spokesman said.

But a BBC team on the ground reported an exchange of fire less than an hour after the truce began.”

So whilst BBC audiences are provided with unverified casualty numbers and emotive reporting on the topic of fleeing civilians, they have not yet been provided with the all-important context of the reasons for the need for military action in Shuja’iya and they have still not been provided with an adequate overview of the topic of Hamas’ tunnel network,  the threat it poses to Israeli civilians and the reasons why the existence of those tunnels makes a ground operation necessary.

This article currently concludes with the following sentence:

“Hamas rejected an Egypt-brokered ceasefire last week, saying any deal with Israel must include an end to a blockade of Gaza.”

That conclusion fails to adequately clarify to BBC audiences that the suffering of civilians in the Gaza Strip could have been avoided in the first place or brought to an end almost a week ago, but that Hamas chose otherwise. 

 

About those Gaza Health Ministry casualty figures cited by the BBC…

Despite the plethora of BBC reporters currently on the ground in the Gaza Strip, BBC audiences have not been informed that at least four summary executions of ‘collaborators’ by Hamas have apparently taken place since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge and at least thirteen other people have been arrested.Question Mark

Likewise, BBC audiences have not been informed of reports of Hamas militiamen attacking and injuring Fatah supporters.

Seeing as almost every item of BBC content cites casualty figures provided directly or indirectly by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza, perhaps next time Yolande Knell, Lyse Doucet or Paul Adams gives them a call to ask for updates, they could ask whether or not those statistics include people killed and injured by the terror organization whose figures they unquestioningly quote and promote.

And whilst they’re at it, they could also enquire with regard to the results of two separate analyses of casualties in the Gaza Strip (here and here) which both show that a disproportionate number of the casualties to date are males of combatant age. 

After all, BBC audiences have the right to know. 

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

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

Knell reports from a market in Gaza City.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell inaccurately attributes shortage of medical supplies in Gaza to Israel

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

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

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

Knell report 15 7 pic missiles being fired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A newsreader then tells listeners:

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

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

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

The programme then returns to Dan Damon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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