BBC’s Jeremy Bowen: “a deliberate escalation by Israel”

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 .  

31 comments on “BBC’s Jeremy Bowen: “a deliberate escalation by Israel”

  1. Donnison was it too claiming “this” all started with israel’s assassination of a top Hamas “militant”. A plague on the BBC’s Political Wing.

  2. Jeremy Bowen has obviously lost his marbles . Now then , lets see , tiny Israel surrounded by millions of hostile muslims , would provoke them by attacking Gaza because they want to !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Israel is obviously a glutton for punishment and want to be annhilated that they have been threatened with since 1948 . Obviously Jeremy Bowen hasn’t got a Bible or doesn’t read it . ANYONE who comes against Israel ( according to the LORD ) will be unsuccessful . Praise the LORD for that . As for the bullies , I wouldn’t want their future . Praying for you Israel and Shalom from the UK

    • I don’t doubt it, Odette, but if he has then so have most of the MSM reporting this, with the notable exceptions of the Daily Telegraph blog articles and the Times.

      With respect the Bible has nothing to do with this – it’s merely the latest example of a complete lack of critical thinking, honesty and the courage to report the truth, regardless of the BBC party line. Bowen is a coward who has probably fallen for his own rhetoric

  3. There have been hostile exchanges between Gaza militant groups and Israel for years. The intensity has varied and virtual ceasefires have been achieved several times. Egypt was actively seeking to negotiate such a ceasefire when Israel chose to assassinate Ahmed al Jabari and, according to Haaretz, a new draft truce document was being considered by al Jabari when he was killed .This was a deliberate escalation, particularly since there hasn’t been a similar killing for over three years. Israel doesn’t want peace with a general election in the offing, if at all.


    • Sencar you are a prime example of selective screening out of things you don’t want to understand – because of your own anti-Israel bias, so evident on CifWatch – and the lack of critical thinking and the sort of cowardice Babs refers to above.

      Are you in contact at all with reality? If so, why have you failed to mention the years of rocket attacks and the most recent escalations which led to this?

      Are you really so dim as to believe that the rocket attacks will result in Israel being forced to commit suicide?

      Or concede statehood to people determined to destroy it?

      Don’t you believe that Israel, like other countries, has the right to defend herself?

      Only Palestinian fools and their Islamist puppet masters want war.

    • Your problem, Sencar, is that you don’t seem to know the first thing about the conflict, or about the surrounding contexts in Israel or the Arab world. It’s one thing to say that Israel ‘assassinated’ al-Ja’bari, which is emotive; but if I point out that al-Ja’bari was a bloody terrorist, a murder and the planner of plots to kill innocent civilians in large numbers, you might think it more appropriate to say he was executed, much as I would say of Osama bin Ladin. Perhaps you will say ‘No trila’, but I would tell you that al-Ja’bari (and Bin Ladin) never gave a damn about who they killed or in what numbers. Al-Ja’bari was not interested in truces or peace. He was a commander in Hamas, and the Hamas Charter states explicitly that peace talks, negotiuations and normalization are ‘a waste of time’. But you probably haven’t read the Charter or anything else. Hamas declares that the only solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem is through jihad. It is things like these that give us context. It’s time you found out how to do that.

      • “It’s one thing to say that Israel ‘assassinated’ al-Ja’bari, which is emotive”

        Definition of ‘assassinate’: “To murder (a usually prominent) person by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons”. No emotive connotation there; it fits the current incident perfectly.

        I made no moral case against the assassination but merely pointed out that it was an escalation of violence at a time when a truce was under consideration.

        Reference to the Hamas Charter (yes, I have read it) is an irrelevance. Hamas has moved on, as was made clear in the 2008 offers made to ex-President Carter of a 10 year truce, implicit recognition of Israel and acceptance of an Abbas negotiated deal if it was supported by the Palestinians in a referendum.

        Your (truly) emotive references to “bloody terrorist” etc make up a classic example of special pleading. Begin and Shamir were “bloody terrorist(s)” but became ‘respected’ politicians. Arafat was a “bloody terrorist” (and thus unacceptable as a negotiating partner) until of course Israel did negotiate with him.

        • Sencar, the Irgun hasn’t been active for about 6 and a half decades, but don’t let that stop you from trying to paint Israelis as terrorists.

          Poeple like you always say the same thing – they excuse Hamas, then, when the Hamas charter is pointed out to them, they say it doesn’t matter – we can all ignore it and go back to sleep. the fact that Hamas acts out its charter, and repeats its contents through their own media, is neither here nor there.

          sencar, you are an apologist and propagandist.

          • “the Irgun hasn’t been active for about 6 and a half decades,”

            You completely miss the point, Adam. Begin and Shamir were terrorists, as were many other nationalist militants in other countries who gave up violence for politics; think Martin McGuiness in N Ireland or Nelson Mandela in S Africa. Hamas is still in violent mode (arguably because Israel refuses to negotiate or deal with it in any other fashion than overwhelming force). The question is not whether Israel is terrorist (its actions are immoral and disproportionate but not terrorist in the usual sense of the word) but whether Hamas leaders would give up violence under the right conditions. They have said they would. An Israeli government that genuinely wanted peace would look to negotiate, not bomb Gaza into submission (an ambition in which history suggests they will never succeed).

        • Do those condition include giving up on genocide against the Jews, their stated objective? (and unlike all the other examples you cite?)

          Why are they firing rockets into undisputed Israeli land?

  4. I too have noticed how keen the BBC has been to promote the line that the current operation is an election ploy by Netanyahu. Last evening newsreader Joanna Gosling eagerly put this suggestion in turn to Mark Regev and other subsequent interviewees, getting nowhere with it. Today the BBC interviewed Gideon Levy and the female newsreader (the one with the china doll stare, whose name escapes me for the moment) eagerly suggested that election ploy motive to him – but he too decisively rejected it. The closest the BBC got to having it endorsed while I have been viewing was (partially) by Jerusalem correspondent Katya Adler, last evening.

    • “I too have noticed how keen the BBC has been to promote the line that the current operation is an election ploy by Netanyahu.”

      This isn’t a BBC specific view. Half the Israeli media has said as much. What’s more there is previous form Both Cast Lead and the 2006 Lebanon war were timed just before Israeli elections. When will CifWatchers learn the lessons of history?

      • sencar, how then do you explain the sudden increase in rocket attacks from Gaza in the past few weeks? Was that Israel’s doing as well?

      • Half of the Israeli media…
        Thanks Sencar for demonstrating your laughable ignorance. BTW are you really reading the Hebrew language Israeli media in its entirety every day or just your usual lies can be seen here?

    • As this article states, Daphne, the BBC were pushing the ‘Netanyahu political self-interest’ line before this operation even began. I don’t have time right now to find it but on this site there exists an article detailing Jon Donnison’s rather mysterious Palestinian ‘official’ who appears on video apparantly giving voice to this meme.

      Are we to believe that with years of political analysis under its belt; seeing governments the world over come and go, that the BBC seriously believes that a PM, on course to win an election anyway, would take such a risk? It’s risible.

      During the American presidential campaigns it was pretty obvious that the BBC was supporting Obama. I think it’s fairly obvious who it is NOT supporting in the coming Israeli elections.

      • Thanks, pennylan.
        Sencar, even Gideon Levy decisively dismissed the election ploy theory as the sole or primary driver of the current strikes, when he was interviewed on Friday morning on BBC News 24.

  5. Bowen appears to have blown his top. Cue music for a Duvidl song:

    Let’s Turn the Whole Lot Off
    to the tune of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”.
    (Hat tip: Louis Armstrong)

    Sponge-Bob Bowen’s head is like a potater.
    Bowen’s on his Isra-hate escalator.
    The Beeb has become a blabbering “one-stater”.
    Let’s turn the whole lot off.

    DS Al Coda

  6. Bowen just isn’t very bright. Compare him to the perceptive Tim Marshall at Sky, who always has an original (and usually very accurate) take on things. Bowen is a parrot to just repeats ad nauseam the BBC’s leftist world view. Sometimes I laugh out loud at the stupid things he comes up with.

    • Watching the BBC’s analyses of the I/P conflict and events in the Middle East in general, I can only say that were politics art, Bowen’s contribution would be around the paint-by-numbers level.

      Street level analysis is often better informed – thanks to interested minds and the internet. I do wish the BBC would emerge from its tower and realise that it is patronising so many of its well-informed viewers.

  7. @Adam: “how then do you explain the sudden increase in rocket attacks from Gaza in the past few weeks? Was that Israel’s doing as well?”

    Israel obviously cannot be directly responsible for Gaza rocket attacks. But given the context it would be wrong to assume that either side does not see acts by the other side as provocation and/or justification for their acts.

    For example, on 4 November, Reuters reported Israeli forces shooting dead “an unarmed, mentally unfit man” (

    On 8 November, Israeli forces made an incursion into the Gaza Strip near al-Qarara villlage northeast of Khan Yunis fatally shooting a child Ahmad Abu Daqqa while he was playing football.

    Between 29 October, and 4 November, I understand Israel-based Twitter account @qassamcount, which catalogues projectiles fired from Gaza toward Israel recorded just one rocket.

    On 9 November, @qassamcount reported 2 rockets, and on the 10th, Palestinians attacked an Israeli army jeep near the boundary with Gaza, injuring 4 Israeli soldiers.

    More Israeli attack then killed 7 Palestinians. Many more rockets were then fired into Israel.

    • Worth pointing out some latest statistics reported by Sky News (

      Israeli air strikes inside Gaza since Wednesday: 950. 51 civilian deaths, 400 civilian casualties.
      Palestinian rocket strikes inside Israel: 500. 3 civilian deaths, 50 civilian casualities.

      Does everyone here think that Israel’s actions are proportionate compared to Palestinian ones?

      P.S. For anyone unclear about why Palestinians are often portrayed as underdogs to Israelis, it may be instructive to compare their relative gains (in terms of successful targeting of opponent military) and relative losses (in terms of military and civilian deaths and casualities).

    • Skyman, how do you explain the celebrations by Palestinians in Gaza tonight about the Israeli casualties on the bus they bombed?

      Do you see Israeli celebrations about Gazan casualties? Doesn’t that difference tell you something?

      Your attempt to paint the conflict as mere tit for tat, or that Hamas, as an opnly self-declared racist, antisemitic and genocidalfascistic terror group, acts as a reasonable actor, is offensive in the extreme. But then again, what does one expect from a serial Israel basher like you?

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