On November 14th, not long after the commencement of Operation Pillar of Cloud, the BBC’s Middle East Editor – and one of the ‘gatekeepers’ of BBC Middle East reporting – Jeremy Bowen appeared on BBC television news to provide ‘analysis’ of the situation to audiences.
(Note the rather interesting choice of graphic in the background.)
This was Bowen’s report (all emphasis added).
“The assassination of the head of the Hamas armed wing, Ahmed al Jabari, is a deliberate escalation by Israel“.
The firing of hundreds of military-grade missiles at Israeli civilians – a clear war crime – apparently does not enter Bowen’s equation as a cause for escalation.
“The risk of a new war is the reason why its chief military spokesman has warned Israelis to brace themselves.”
Actually, it is the inevitable upsurge in rocket fire after any Israeli action which promoted that warning.
Bowen’s report then goes on to show rocket fire from populated residential areas in Gaza, with the concurrent endangering of Palestinian civilians, but that point is not made clear to viewers.
“This is why Israel says it’s attacking Gaza: to stop Palestinian rocket fire. Israel also said that the assassinated Hamas leader had a lot of blood on his hands.”
Note the use of the term ‘assassinated’ in order to suggest illegality and the dismissal of Jabari’s terrorist record . Footage is shown of the attack with an anti-tank missile on an Israeli patrol jeep inside Israeli territory, but no context or explanation is offered.
“The armed groups who are active in Gaza say they’re the protectors of Palestinians, engaging in legitimate resistance.”
Bowen of course neglects to point out that seven years after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, there is nothing to ‘resist’, except the very existence of Israel itself, of course.
“After days of exchanges of fire, this is damage in Israel.”
Accompanying footage shows a rocket crater. Images of much more serious damage to homes and property or wounded Israeli civilians are not shown.
“Questions are being asked about the timing of the assassination – two months before an Israeli election.”
The BBC has repeatedly pushed this ‘elections’ motif both before and since the beginning of the current operation. Bowen fails to inform viewers exactly who (apart from himself and his colleagues) is asking the ‘questions’ he promotes.
“In the past, military strikes have been used to send messages about the toughness of Israeli leaders.”
Cut to a clip of PM Netanyahu at a recent press conference.
Bowen’s cynical use of this unfounded and unproven allegation is especially sickening as it implies that Israeli politicians gamble with the lives of regular and reserve soldiers merely for political gains.
Cut to footage of grieving Palestinians and a funeral in Gaza.
“Hamas have sworn to hit back. They said the same thing during the last Gaza war, either side of the New Year of 2009. But it showed Hamas’ limitations against Israel’s modern hi-tech army.”
This is a clear attempt to paint the terrorists as underdogs – and we are all familiar with the significance of that in British culture. The use of Fajr 5 and other missiles against civilian targets is of course not the action of ‘underdogs’.
“Before the assassination the Egyptian government had been working to establish a cease-fire between the two sides and its effects had been praised by top Israeli security officials.”
The ‘officials’ are not named, so that claim cannot be corroborated. In actual fact, the ‘ceasefire’ negotiated by Egypt on Monday, November 12th did not even last until the next day as rockets continued to be fired at Israeli civilian targets. Bowen’s attempt to blame Israel for the failure of a ceasefire does therefore not hold water.
“Egypt’s President is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot. The assassination will be seen in Cairo as a calculated and dangerous insult.”
Any analyst worth his salt would, at this juncture, also point out the contrast between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s attitudes towards its affiliated terror faction in Gaza and its own actions against Salafists attacking Egyptian troops in the Sinai.
“What has changed since the 2009 Gaza war is that the West and Israel have lost their most reliable Arab friend, Egypt’s President Mubarak. They saw him as an indispensable part of the solution at times like this.”
Seeing as – according to the BBC ethos – we are all supposed to greet the ‘Arab Spring’ with open arms, this is a clear attempt to place Israel in the camp of the ‘bad guys’. Mubarak was not Israel’s ‘friend’: he was the leader of a country with which Israel has a peace treaty and was aware of the dangers of Islamist extremism in his own country and on its borders.
“This is the first Palestinian – Israeli crisis since the Middle East began changing profoundly two years ago.”
Over 1,100 rockets fired at Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip (not including those fired since November 14th) since the beginning of 2011 were not, apparently, a ‘crisis’ in Bowen’s view.
“That increases the uncertainty and the risk and that’s why immediate warnings about escalation were issued by Britain and the UN Secretary General, among others”. This is another dangerous moment in a region that was already unstable.”
In other words, Bowen wants his audience to go away with the feeling that it is Israel – and Israel alone – which is pushing the entire region to the edge of disaster, rather than the actions of terrorist organisations dedicated to its destruction which commit war crimes against civilians on a daily basis.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the standard of ‘analysis’ which the BBC’s top Middle East expert has to offer you. For more on that, head over to The Commentator .