BBC’s Jon Donnison continues to airbrush Hamas terrorist activity

As we know, this week began (and still continues) with yet more missile attacks on civilian communities in southern Israel and the subsequent closure of schools in Be’er Sheva and – as we noted at the time – the BBC’s reporting on the subject was – to put it generously – decidedly sluggish. 

In fact, the first mention of the renewed attacks came well over 24 hours after they began, on Monday October 29th, in the form of two reports on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. 

One report, titled “Violence ends Israel-Gaza truce“, includes the rather tortured explanation:

“It [rocket fire] came hours after Israeli aircraft hit targets in Gaza, after militants fired rockets following the killing by Israel of a Gazan who Israel said fired mortars at its troops.”

The article also sports ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison:

“It is often difficult to pinpoint when a specific escalation in violence started – both sides will always remember what they see as a previous act of aggression by the other which enables them to justify their attacks as retaliation”

The second article, by Jon Donnison, is entitled “Israel-Gaza violence puts pressure on sides to respond” and it opens with the same paragraph. Donnison goes on to attribute the truce-breaking rocket fire to “small extremist Salafi groups in Gaza, that were not party to the unofficial truce”, but fails to mention that the Hamas-backed Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for one of the Grad missiles fired at Be’er Sheva. 

Donnison goes on to state that:

“Such groups [Salafists] say Hamas is too moderate in its resistance of Israel’s occupation. Hamas, which governs in Gaza, has sometimes tried to stop Salafis from firing but has not always been able to do so.”

He continues by promoting his usual stance (once more neglecting to inform us by whom it is “widely believed”), according to which:

“It is widely believed Hamas does not want a major escalation in violence with Israel or another war in Gaza. The movement is more interested in consolidating its power and strengthening the economy.”

However, Donnison then adds:

“But when its own members are killed or Palestinian civilians are caught up in the violence, Hamas is under pressure to respond in order to assert its credentials as a resistance movement.

As the governing power in Gaza, it needs to be seen to protect the population.”

So, to recap Donnison’s message, Hamas has no choice but to join in the rocket fire – even though it does not really want to – due to internal pressures. 

Donnison, of course, refrains from venturing down the complicated route of defining the kind of organization which deliberately and calculatingly fires rockets at one million men, women and children in a neighbouring country in order (according to him) to boost its own domestic political credentials. He is therefore also unable to approach the question of what sort of political climate in the Gaza Strip produces a governing power which needs to be seen as asserting its credentials as a terrorist organization. 

In addition, he fails to address the fact that on the day before his report was published, Hamas released a video showing its own firing of rockets from built up areas of the Gaza Strip, thereby obviously neglecting Donnison’s alleged need “to be seen to protect the population” by its use of the local civilians as human shields. 

Donnison then goes on to ridiculously suggest – yet again – that Israeli responses to missile fire are somehow part of an election campaign:

“The Israeli government is also under pressure from the public to be seen to be responding to Palestinian rocket fire which impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living in southern Israel.

This is especially the case in the run-up to Israeli elections which will take place in January next year.”

Jon Donnison’s muted and misleading airbrushed reporting on Hamas and its terrorist activities may well contribute to his practical ability to report from Gaza with relatively little danger or interference.

However, the type of equivalence his ‘analysis’ promotes – between a terrorist organization repeatedly targeting civilians and a regular army engaged in counter-terrorism activities – reduces rather than contributes to his audience’s understanding of the situation and fails to meet the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines concerning accuracy. 

Baroness Deech on the BBC

Earlier this year, Professor the Baroness Deech of Cumnor DBE – who was Gresham Professor of Law between 2008 and 2012 – gave a series of lectures entitled “Regulation, Regulation, Regulation”, two of which pertain to the BBC. 

Both lectures are fascinating and insightful, raising questions about the BBC complaints system and suggesting proposals for its reformation which BBC Watch readers may find interesting.  

The first lecture (April 11th, 2012) is entitled “The BBC – Protecting it from the Government” and can be heard or read here


“For 80 years the BBC Governors were charged with regulating the BBC and representing the interests of the licence fee payers. The Governors appointed the Director-General, approved strategy, oversaw complaints and were accountable to Parliament. Did they fail in their task when, in the wake of  the Hutton Report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, the Chairman, the Director-General and the broadcaster Andrew Gilligan left their posts in 2004? The governance of the BBC has to ensure that the management deliver impartiality and accuracy without concern for any government agenda.”

The second lecture (April 25th, 2012) is entitled “The BBC – Defending the Public Interest” and can be heard or read here.


“From 2007 the Governors were replaced by Trustees; but there was still disquiet about the best method of regulating the BBC. BBC regulation is fragmented: some regulatory functions rest with OFCOM, and the National Audit Office investigates some financial matters.  It is said that the Trust cannot be both a champion of the licence fee payers and of the BBC management. Should regulation of the BBC be wholly external to it? Is OFCOM any better placed to defend public service broadcasting than the Trust? The BBC World Service is a vital accurate news source for many parts of the world: is it better placed under the control of the BBC or the Foreign Office?”

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’: soft on Hamas

The BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ describes itself on its own website thus:

“HARDtalk is the hard-hitting flagship news programme shown on BBC World News and the BBC News channel.

The half hour interview is the result of detailed research and in-depth investigations.

HARDtalk asks the difficult questions and gets behind the stories that make the news – from international political leaders to entertainers; from corporate decision-makers to ordinary individuals facing huge challenges.”

Here is a ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Ghazi Hamad of Hamas from July 2012:

Notably, presenter Zeinab Badawi allows Hamad to speak about the blockade without bringing up the subject of rocket fire at Israeli civilian communities.

When forced by the constraints of ‘impartiality’ to represent the Israeli point of view as Hamad recites his list of Israeli ‘crimes’, Badawi displays palpable ennui which, when interrupted by Hamad fizzles out into an apologetic “I was just trying to give you what they…”.

Badawi asks Hamad about arms smuggling through Rafah, but when he changes the subject to that of the smuggling of food, medicines and building materials, she fails to follow through.

Her final attempt at ‘impartiality’ is a lame “they [Israel] deny that of course” after Hamad states “We are sure that Israel poisoned President Arafat”. 

This is not the first time that Ghazi Hamad has appeared on ‘Hardtalk’. Here he is in May 2011 going completely unchallenged by presenter Stephen Sackur when he says that Hamas is ready to “liberate our homeland” and claims that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, not radical and not extremist. 

“Hard hitting”? “Difficult questions”?


A BBC feline interest story

One may think that the sheer number of journalists based in Israel – including those of the BBC’s Middle East Bureau in Jerusalem – should mean that audiences around the world would be well informed about the tapestry of life in multi-cultural Israel.

Perhaps one would even expect – given that it is the BBC’s legal obligation to ensure that it “gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news, other information, and analysis of current events and ideas” – that BBC journalists would take any opportunity to talk to Israelis and get to know the people and the place they spend their lives writing about. 

The BBC’s Jerusalem-based reporter Kevin Connolly obviously takes his organisation’s obligations seriously. In a recent piece of particularly incisive journalism he spared no effort in digging down to the historic roots of a contemporary Middle East phenomenon, thereby undoubtedly increasing the license fee-paying public’s understanding of the world.

The article appeared in the Magazine section of the BBC News website. 

Yes; really! 

BBC report on Jews in Tunisia tainted by agenda-driven addition

h/t David

The BBC World Service’s recent two-part ‘Heart and Soul’ programme on the subject of Jews from Arab lands was, to many, a refreshing piece of reporting on the whole. 

(See our posts here and here.) 

Presenter Magdi Abdelhadi’s visit to Tunisia was also featured in the Magazine section of the BBC News website on October 24th, with the article reflecting much of the radio broadcast’s content. 

Somebody, however, apparently could not resist adding to Mr Abdelhadi’s report a side panel of ‘facts’ titled “The Exodus”, where we are informed that: 

“As reports of Zionist settlers driving Palestinians off [sic] their villages hit Arab capitals during the 1940s anti-Jewish sentiment hit new heights”

So, despite numerous examples, including the massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1828, mass forced conversions in the Persian city of Meshed in 1839, the Damascus blood libel in 1840, the pogroms in Morocco in 1905, the 1929 Hebron massacre and the Farhud in 1941, the BBC once more returns to the simplistic narrative of contextualising prejudice and violence against Jews from Arab lands solely as a reaction to Israel and Zionism. 

What a shame it is that Magdi Abdelhadi’s insightful report from Tunisia has been tainted by the reversion to agenda-inspired versions of history. 

Discussing the BBC

We are, of course, not the only ones keeping a watchful eye on the BBC at the moment, albeit in some cases for different reasons entirely. The recent scandals surrounding the corporation have also prompted others to discuss its adherence to its obligations as a public service.

Here are a couple of articles which readers may find of interest.

The BBC’s inbred culture and politically correct thought have ruined this valuable institution” by Norman Tebbit.

 “Lord Patten is the last man I’d choose to clean up the BBC” by Christopher Booker. 


BBC’s Jon Donnison does terrorist chic

A Tweet from the BBC’s Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar informs us of a new “cracking piece” by West Bank and Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison in the Magazine section of the BBC News website.  

So, are we about to benefit from some incisive Middle East analysis which will contribute to our increased understanding of the region? Not exactly: the Tweet-worthy news is that Jon Donnison has managed to find a Yasser Arafat look-alike in Ramallah market. 

Under the description “Insight, wit and analysis as BBC correspondents, journalists and writers take a closer look at the stories behind the headlines”, Donnison’s encounter was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service as part of the “From Our Own Correspondent” programme. 

Arafat’s corruption is both well-known and well documented. Vast amounts of foreign donations contributed for the benefit of the Palestinian people were siphoned off by the Rais and his aides. Between 1995 and 2000, some $900 million were diverted to bank accounts not belonging to the Palestinian Authority, very little of which was ever recovered. Concerns raised by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee were ignored by the PA until eventually the IMF sent in Salam Fayyad to try to put an end to Arafat’s culture of corruption. 

However, the best “insight and analysis” Jon Donnison has to offer is to refer to “allegations of corruption” and “kickbacks and cronyism”. He even quotes an interviewee who manages to pass off the criminal activities at the expense of the Palestinian people by putting it all down to Arafat being “a terrible manager”. 

Donnison’s only reference to Yasser Arafat’s other claim to fame is the statement “For most Israelis, Arafat was a terrorist”. There too, the evidence is abundant and well documented. Under Arafat’s leadership the PLO carried out numerous terror attacks, commencing in 1965, and was designated as a terror organization by countries other than Israel. Even after Arafat’s supposed upgrading to statesman, his sponsorship of terror did not end with hundreds of Israelis murdered by terror cells under his command and patronage

All that, however, is mere white noise to Jon Donnison who is intent upon portraying the corrupt mass-murderer as some sort of much missed grandfather with a “twinkle in the eye”. 

“He was too big an act to follow.”

“Palestinians have an Arafat lookalike – but for many the real thing has remained irreplaceable.”

A “cracking piece” indeed – if one happens to consider (as apparently the BBC’s Middle East Bureau chief does) that the legacy of one of the architects of modern terrorism and one of the main actors responsible for holding back the Palestinian people’s progression to statehood  is best whitewashed in a puff piece devoid of anything resembling “insight, wit and analysis”.

Gaza terrorists renew rocket fire on Negev: BBC silent

Despite the ceasefire between Israel and terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip initiated towards the end of last week following a barrage of over 70 rockets on Israeli civilian communities, on Saturday night (October 27th) two rockets were fired at the Eshkol region of southern Israel. 

Subsequently, the IDF targeted a Hamas terror cell, apparently in Khan Yunis. Hamas’ Al Qassam brigades announced on Twitter that its member Suliman al Qarra had been killed in the strike and accused Israel of breaking the ceasefire. 

Early on Sunday morning (October 28th) three longer range Grad rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the city of Be’er Sheva (the largest population centre in the Negev, with over 200,000 residents), prompting the mayor to close schools there. 

Currently, there is no mention of the renewed rocket fire on the BBC News website and it was not mentioned in the BBC World Service 7 a.m. GMT World News bulletin (9 a.m. local time). 


On Sunday afternoon, three more rockets hit the Hof Ashkelon area. There is no report of either those attacks or the ones earlier in the day on the BBC News website.

The BBC, History and Politics

One of the fields in which the BBC excels is the making of history programmes and perhaps one of its more ambitious projects was the Radio 4 one hundred-part series “The History of the World in 100 Objects” which was produced as a joint project with the British Museum in 2010. 

The series has an equally impressive  accompanying website where it is possible to view the objects from the British Museum selected to represent world history, as well as additional objects submitted by the public. 

One of the items contributed by the British Museum is the Lachish Reliefs, although readers would have a hard time identifying the people depicted in the reliefs from the website alone, and even the accompanying broadcast contributes only partly and obliquely to rectifying that, whilst volunteering no information as to in which country Lachish is situated today. 

Another object which appears on the website is a Canaanite bottle from around 2,000 BCE. It is described as coming from “Jericho, Palestine”, but of course the term Palestine did not come into use for a further two millennia until it was introduced by Hadrian in 135 CE. 

So is the intention to state the bottle’s place of origin in terms of modern countries? Some of the exhibits on the site are indeed presented in that manner, whilst others retain the names of kingdoms gone by such as “Judah” – as referenced in the Lachish Reliefs section. 

The accompanying description of the object reads: 

“This ancient bottle came from Jericho, Palestine, at the time of the Canaanites c. 2000 BC. These kind of bottles were used for storing scented oils or medicine, showing how advanced these people were at the time. The bottle came from the 1931-2 excavations in Jericho led by Professor John Garstang (1876-1956). 

This object was chosen by Amer Khattab who visited National Museum Cardiff via the British Museum’s International Training Programme. He is a student at Birzeit University, Palestine.

‘It is not clear exactly how the specimens from Jericho came into the possession of Gwendoline and Margaret Davies (who bequeathed them to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in 1952). In 2007, a Dr Edwards wrote to the Museum suggesting that his grandfather, Mr Joseph Davies-Bryan, gave pieces to the Davies sisters. Mr Davies-Bryan was born in Wales in 1860, knew the Davies family and also subscribed towards the cost of the Garstang excavations. 

‘I chose this small bottle because it was the only piece displayed in National Museum Cardiff that came from Palestine. Although it is a small piece, it shows how advanced Canaan’s culture was.’ “

Whether one is of the opinion that it should or should not, will or will not, come into being, Palestine is not currently universally  recognised by the international community as a country and therefore its presentation as such is a political statement, just as would be the case if a reader described an archaeological find as coming from Malvinas. Indeed, in its ‘Country Profile‘ section of its Middle East page, the BBC itself does not define Palestine as a country, but as a territory and so an accurate description of the location of Jericho would be ‘Palestinian National Authority Administered Territories’. 

The BBC, however, has a disclaimer posted on the website:

“Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum.”

It is, all the same, a pity that the BBC allows itself to be party to the promotion of political propaganda on a website which purports to inform its audience about the history of the world and belongs to an organization charged with “promoting education and learning”.

BBC’s Jon Donnison presents hearsay as ‘analysis’

An October 25th article in the Middle East section of the BBC News website relates to the subject of the truce which brought about an end to the latest barrage of rocket attacks against civilians in southern Israel.

The report includes ‘analysis’ by the BBC’s Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison. 

Donnison states:

“There are theories on both sides as to why the other might want a limited escalation. Some believe Hamas wants to reassert its resistance credentials in the face of criticism from more extremist groups in Gaza. Many Palestinians believe Israel provoked the violence deliberately ahead of upcoming Israeli elections in January.”

[emphasis added]

However, the notion that Israel “provoked the violence” does not square up with the facts. 

On Monday October 22nd a routine IDF patrol along the border fence with the Gaza Strip was attacked with mortar fire and additional rocket attacks against Israeli civilian communities were launched from the Strip. The IDF responded. 

On the morning of Tuesday October 23rd, an IDF officer was seriously wounded by an improvised explosive device placed – at their own admittance – by the PFLP along the border fence. Later that evening, civilian communities in southern Israel sustained a barrage of seven rocket attacks. 

At midnight on October 23rd, the IDF targeted a Hamas rocket firing squad. At 5 am on October 24th another rocket firing squad was targeted. 

At 6:58 am on another barrage of rocket attacks began with some 40 missiles being fired in under 20 minutes. The IDF responded at 7 am, targeting a rocket launching site, and again at 8:20 am. Rockets continued to be fired from the Gaza Strip throughout most of the day, with the eventual tally reaching over 70. 

The “Israeli elections” meme is neither a new one nor particularly imaginative. It is one which was used by many anti-Israel campaigners to “explain” operation Cast Lead in 2008. Then too, as any serious analyst would know, the meme was employed in order to divert attention from the fact that Hamas launched dozens of rockets at Israeli civilians after having refused to renew the ceasefire, eventually bringing about the IDF operation. 

Donnison’s tawdry repetition of inaccurate and misleading hearsay constitutes neither the fact-based analysis nor the accurate and impartial reporting to which the BBC is committed.