BBC’s Jon Donnison grades damage in Gaza and Israel

Here is a rather tired looking – but no less dramatic – Jon Donnison presenting a BBC television news report on Sunday November 18th 2012. 

The one and a half-minute report opens with footage from the Gaza Strip which continues for the first 57 seconds of the report. Donnison narrates: [emphasis added]

“There have been brief moments of calm here. [Sound of an explosion] They never last for long.

This morning and overnight Israel once again pounded Gaza with attacks.

Among the buildings targeted – this one, and another, where local and foreign journalists are based. Several were wounded and one lost a leg. Israel says they were aiming at Hamas communication equipment.”

Donnison of course fails to mention that some of the journalists using the building are Hamas employees – staff of its two TV stations – and that the building’s communication facilities were being used to direct terror activities, which makes it a legitimate military target. 

Donnison continues:

“The number of injured and dead across Gaza is mounting. Emergency services are at full stretch. Hospitals are struggling to cope.”

Here it is worth noting that if his Twitter feed is anything to go by, Jon Donnison appears to get a lot of his information regarding casualties from the Gaza Health Ministry, which is of course Hamas run: a fact liable to make any information it gives worth double checking. Whilst the number of casualties is indeed rising on both sides of the border, one point of interest worth noting is that we have no information whatsoever on how many of the civilian dead and injured in the Gaza Strip are the result of missiles falling short. 

The EU’s Gaza NGO Safety Office (GANSO) usually reports on the number of HMRs – home-made rockets, as they rather bizarrely term them – which fail to cross into Israel after having been fired from the Gaza Strip. As we know, the local population in Gaza frequently suffers injury and even death from these short falls. 

For instance, for the period October 14th to November 1st, GANSO reported 10 Grad missiles and 122 HMRs fired, of which 14 fell short. However, since the commencement of Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’, whilst still reporting the numbers of all types of projectiles launched, GANSO has ceased listing short falls. 

It is of course unreasonable to presume that since last Wednesday afternoon missiles fired from the Gaza Strip have all of a sudden miraculously stopped falling short. In fact the IDF estimates that over 100 have done so in the past five days. But of course any injuries or deaths which have occurred due to that factor will be attributed to Israeli actions by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry – a fact which Donnison chooses to ignore.  

Donnison goes on:

“Israel again ramped up its operation last night. Not only were there attacks coming in from the air, but also from the sea. Israeli warships pounding northern Gaza with artillery rounds.”

The report then cuts to footage filmed in Israel of people running.

“And in Israeli cities people were again scrambling to reach the bomb shelters. After an eight-hour break which had led some to hope for a ceasefire, rocket fire resumed.”

Note that rocket fire is ‘resumed’: it does not “pound” Israel.

The visuals then cut to images of a damaged car, with Donnison saying:

The damage inflicted is not on the same scale. But on both sides civilians are suffering.”

The total footage filmed in Israel amounts to 20 seconds. 

Had Donnison so chosen, he could have found much more representative images than a damaged car, even taking into account that unlike Hamas, Israel intentionally does not make use of gory or graphic pictures for propaganda purposes.

Had he wished, he could have pointed out that Israel has actually made concious efforts to reduce damage and that – unlike civilians in Gaza – Israelis have air raid shelters and safe rooms which limits the number of casualties. He could have mentioned the early warning systems and the Iron Dome Missile interception system which also reduces the number of injured and fatalities. He could even have mentioned another contributing factor: the fact that Israelis do not store weaponry in their homes and the IDF does not fire from residential areas.  

He could – and should – have made it clear that in contrast to the Israeli strikes on terrorist targets and infrastructure, in Israel it is civilians and they alone who are targeted by the terrorists’ missiles. 

Residents of building hit by direct rocket strike in Ashkelon take cover in a bomb shelter.

(Photo credit )

The report then cuts back to more footage from Gaza, with Donnison’s voice-over concluding:

“Back in Gaza, Israel is showing its military strength and there is no end in sight.”

So there you have it: twenty seconds of a ninety second report filmed in Israel and audiences told that it’s nowhere near as bad there as it is in Gaza.

Beyond the obvious fact that Donnison’s reporting is neither accurate nor impartial, there is a wider aspect to this. He is far from the only BBC journalist to do it, but the fact that he cynically makes the results of the vast Israeli investment in protection for its civilians (at the expense of other factors such as free or subsidised higher education, for example) work against Israelis says an awful lot. 

In the past few days we have seen several BBC reporters and presenters tapping in to the kind of clownish arguments frequently used by anti-Israel campaigners such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who regularly make use of banal statistics such as the number of Israeli dead as ‘proof’ of their unfounded claims of ‘disproportionality’. Here, Donnison is doing the same with ‘damage’. 

Whilst one expects nothing better from campaigning propagandists, one may reasonably expect that ‘expert analysis’ costing an obligatory £145.50 per annum would extend beyond the type of trite post-modernist, one-dimensional declarations put forward by placard-carrying demonstrators on London’s streets. 

45 comments on “BBC’s Jon Donnison grades damage in Gaza and Israel

  1. What all the journalists in Gaza emphasize is that the hospital services there are chaotic. You come across the word time and again. Hospitals are crowded. It seems that they consider their lack of the kind of calm order that is most productive of efficiency to be Israel’s fault. Perhaps one of them can tell me why.

    • All the journalists in Gaza show what they see: numerous civilians, among them women and children, killed or injured by Israeli airstrikes.

      If you don’t like these images, please petition Netanyahu until he puts and end to the airstrikes.

      • The opposite Nat. Until your friends won’t stop launching rockets at us Israelis will demand from Netanyahu to continue exactly because they don’t like these images. (Not like your buddies at Hamas and the BBC)

      • Nat says:

        “Jews, put down your weapons! Come out with your hands up!”

        How little has changed in the non-Jewish world since Auschwitz was liberated.

      • Dear Nat,

        In case you haven’t noticed, you’re in the wrong place.
        You represent no one except your own stupidity.

        • Nat writes about what she saw on TV: little bodies being picked out of the rubble of their house after it was hit by an airstrike.

          Millions of people saw it too, pal.

      • The airs strikes are in retaliation for indiscriminate and unprovoked rocket fire. Hamas are a terrorist organisation and Netanyahu is the chosen representative of a sovereign nation defending his people. Gaza will be quite when Israel is quite simple. Tell that to your friends in Gaza.

        • Lee, how can airstrikes on densely populated civilian areas bring peace?

          Peace will come through negotiations and through a two-state solution.

          • How can rockets targeted indiscriminately on civilians bring peace? What the BBC don’t tell you is that the vast majority of the Gaza dead are terrorists. Israel goes out its way to reduce causalities but sure in times of war mistakes are made and they are deeply regretted. It does not help that Hamas deliberately hide next to civilians to increase casualties, It must also must not be forgotten that if it had been for Iron Dome Israel’s death toll would be much higher. You’re right peace can only come through negotiations but how do you negotiate with people don’t recognise and call every inch of the land including Tel Aviv occupied and sing songs about driving you in to the sea. Israel, the US, UK and the EU have no direct contact with Hamas as they class it as a terrorist organisation. Did you see the bodies being dragged through the streets on motorbikes yesterday of the Gazan’s who were shot in the streets without trial for being collaborators. It was sickening and subhuman and you think Israel can make peace with that??

          • No Nat peace will come after your pets at Hamas will be all dead. Negotiate with them would be as futile as to increase your IQ above 10.

          • Lee, the majority of people killed or injured in Gaza are civilians, not “terrorists”.

            “As at 20 November (15:00 hrs), an estimated 70 Palestinian civilians, including 23 children and 12 women have been killed. Over 890 Palestinians are reportedly injured, the majority civilians.”


          • In the last Gaza war the PMoH significantly inflated the civilian death toll and played down the number of Hamas casualties. In fact Hamas admitted themselves that 700 of the total deaths were that of Hamas operatives. Therefore until independent verifications take place rather than world bodies using Hamas’s figures I think you should be very careful if in quoting figures.

          • Peter, what’s futile is not negotiating peace and a two-state solution which can bring security and stability to both Israelis and Palestinians.

            What’s futile is launching airstrikes in a densely populated enclave, knowing that the entire world will see images of dead women and children being pulled out of the rubble.

          • Maybe math is not your forte Nat.According to a B’tselem report of the 102 Palestinian victims 40 were civilians. An interesting majority….
            But don’t let the numbers to influence your pathetic bullshitting here.

          • Peter, you beat me to it :)…
            Have you any inkling why this revolting spammer has chosen to turn his intentions to this site?
            I do believe he’s being paid for his inundation, and prevarications.

          • Hi Commentary.
            This Nat is so laughable that sometimes I entertain the thought he is an undercover Zionist agent who wants to make the Jew-haters look more cretinious than they really are – a huge achievement in itself.
            Some weeks ago he was in Beirut “bedding” hookers, before that he reported from Gaza being with his Jewish friends and now he’s an Israeli. The only possible explanation that he’s one of the <Naturei Karta heroes kissing Ahmadinejad’s, Nasrallah’s and Haniyeh’s arses, but being a religious fanatic what was he doing with the sex workers in a Beirut cafe?

          • Peter, spot on! 😀
            His perfidy, and plain dissemblance, is so absurd at times, I do wonder whether he’s w. Mossad, sent to discredit the anti-Israel crowd.
            But, you summarized it perfectly…
            Let’s hope he’ll grow bored, and stop spamming.

  2. Obviously he can’t do any better. Any decent journalist would have resigned. He just apologizes (wink wink) and keep on with his “good” job.

  3. Look who’s been wheeled into the BBC News24 studio:
    “Rachel Shabi is the author of Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands, a book on Israel’s Oriental Jews, and a contributing writer to The Guardian. Shabi was born to Iraqi Jewish parents.”

    • That’s OK. I refer to the BBC as the Goebbels Propaganda Ministry.

      Absolutely nothing has changed at the BBC since as a matter of deliberate anti-Semitic policy that organisation turned its back as 1.5 million Jewish children were being murdered. But the BBC is in no way unique. It is merely a reflection of the wider British society. From polls conducted by BICOM and the BBC:

      1) two thirds of Brits think that Israel has never offered to give up land for peace.

      2) 42.4% of British people agree with the statement that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.

      3) Israel, along with North Korea, ranks third behind only Iran and Pakistan for “negative influence” in the world.

      4) Only 14% of the British have a positive view of Israel, with 66% having a negative opinion,

      • Joshua. Could you post a link to the source of those figures. They as so much the opposite of my impressions when visiting the UK. I always make sure that people that I meet are aware that I live in Israel and have never, never had a negative reaction BUT, have had plenty of positive reactions. One woman who owned and ran a local fish and chip shop even said to me during a friendly conversation about my sun-tan, – ‘Never give in to terrorism’.

        I was shocked. A local ‘Fish and Chip’ woman has a profound understanding of ‘Freedom Fighting’.

        • There is common sense among the ordinary people. It’s our intelligentsia and media who can’t see the facts – blinded as they are by the great glugs of inverted moral polish they continually apply to their halos.

      • Joshua’s figures are right. However I disagree with him slightly about the point that the BBC’s anti-Semitism is merely a reflection of wider UK society. I believe that a big reason why an alarming number of British people believe that Israel is such a bad boy is because of years of total bias and outright lies shown by the BBC and ITN.

  4. “audiences told that it’s nowhere near as bad there as it is in Gaza.”

    Errm, it seems to me that they are told that because it happens to be true.

    I have been listening to BBC reports throughout the last few days. Every time mounting Gazan casualties are mentioned (now over a hundred dead and many more wounded) the three Israeli deaths are re-reported. I can’t imagine any other conflict where the BBC would report old news in this fashon. The BBC leans so far over backwards to avoid offending Israel that it is close to horizontal; and yet BBCWatch still looks for bias in the opposite direction. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

    • By constantly referring to the disparate number of casualties, they seem to be emphasising the “disproportionate” nature of the “conflict”. Israel’s allegedly “disproportionate” response is a theme they’ve been running with all weekend, and again today …

    • Sencar; The fact you perceive the BBC as ‘leaning so far over backwards to avoid offending Israel that it is close to horizontal’ is because you have a such a strongly entrenched anti-Israel leaning, you can no longer rationally judge what’s actually ‘vertical’.

      If the BBC were interested in presenting a balanced picture of the current situation in Gaza, then alongside reporting casualties on both sides, and instead of just highlighting disparities in numbers, they would also provide the necessary context to understand the reasons for the apparent disparity. They would explain that, despite their claims to be a legitimate government; and despite their (criminal) practice of embedding their military facilities, and firing missiles out of, public and residential areas; and despite having the wherewithall to build hundreds of smuggling tunnels, an apparent plethora of underground missile bunkers, and a significant number impressive mansions for their key operatives over recent years; and despite permitting the building of several luxury hotels, a shopping mall, and two water parks in Gaza, Hamas has made absolutely no provision whatsoever for the protection of the Gazan population from the inevitable results of its (Hamas’) offensive attacks on Israel (also criminal, as they deliberately target civilians), in the form of bomb shelters.

      Neither has the BBC publicised the fact that the IDF has aerially distributed leaflets over Gaza; issued SMS messages to around 1200 Gazans’ mobile phones; taken over Hamas’ broadcasting frequencies to broadcast messages to Gazans; and used pre-warning ‘knocking’ missiles to make loud warning bangs prior to their firing of real missiles, all in an effort to try to persuade the Gazans to distance themselves from Hamas’ military facilities and operators before these are targeted, or that, in stark contrast, Hamas has been taking threatening actions to force their populace to stay in these facilities and near their operatives, to act as human shields. I have yet to hear the BBC explain in any way what can only be described as Hamas’ astounding malevolence towards the people it purports to govern.

  5. btw, I get the impression that Katya Adler, who once cited Bowen as her journalistic mentor and seemed often to slant her reportage against Israel, is much fairer towards Israel than when she was last reporting from the region. (Early days, though.) I did wonder, however, why in a report today from a children’s playroom in southern Israel she found it necessary to remark that some parents (unidentified) she’s spoken to there say what their children are going through is not what Gazan children are suffering – before she added that there are among Israeli children living close to the Gaza border evidence of traumatic stress syndrome. It seemed to be a slightly gratuitous remark. I might be reading to much into her remark, of course …

  6. In the unlikely event that Donison tried to produce a balanced report on the conflict, he would be driven out of Gaza, or worse, ten minutes after it aired. Just as Alan Johnston, “friend of the Palestinian people,” produced reports from Gaza with anything that might reflect favourably on Israel carefully edited out, Donnison is obliged to pump out propaganda by omission of facts.

    If the BBC ever reports on the following:

    *Hundreds of thousands of pamphlets dropped over Gaza warning civilians AND TERRORISTS of targets to be attacked

    *More care taken now than in 2008/9 to single out only the terrorists for elimination by targeted killings

    *Hamas’ Charter mandating the killing of Jews and the destruction of Israel

    *Hamas’ deceptive use of truces to regroup and rearm for the next assault on the Jewish state

    *Iran’s role in arming, training and funding Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah for the murder of Israeli civilians

    I’ll fall off my chair.

  7. ‘Note that rocket fire is ‘resumed’: it does not “pound” Israel.’

    We have become immune to the BBC’s subtle use of the English language to present a negative perception of Israel and anything that it does. Thank you for pointing this out.

    I suspect that most of these people looking to make a name for themselves don’t really realise how adopting the (possibility obligatory), BBC jargon when relating to the Middle East, is an offense to intelligent people. It lowers the standard expected from journalists. Which is of course, what the hard delusional LEFT endemic to the BBC, are aiming for.

  8. BBC journalists, Jon Donnison’s and Paul Danahar’s hysterical tweets from Gaza have lacked any context or understanding of warfare.

    These two men have provided a shallow and pathetically simplistic narrative which has wholly identified with Hamas and failed to have any objective analysis.
    The constant reference to shells and missiles being fired and regurgitating Hamas casualty statistics should cause the BBC cause for concern and show a complete lack of context.

    In WW2 American and Britain firebombed Japan and Germany, killing up to 100,000 civilians in a single night.

    Since 2008 Obama has authorised drone strikes in Pakistan which have caused the death of hundreds of civilians.

    In Grozny in 1999/2000 Russian forces surrounded the city and pummelled it was unguided ballistic rockets and fuel air weapons for 6 weeks. Figures are not clear but up to 30,000 Chechen fighters and civilians died. Russian forces sat outside the city and bombarded it , WW2 with unguided weaponry including fuel air munitions. There was of course minimal coverage of this action by the BBC as Russia’s tactics made it simply to dangerous for the Health and Safety bods to approve journalists to enter the area.

    Ironically, the strict IDF targetting rules make Gaza a perfect playground for faux war correspondents like Donnison and Danahar as they know that (a) they will protected by Hamas and (b) the IDF will take all steps possible to avoid civilian deaths.

    In Falluja in 2005 the US army retook the city again by using an initial artillery assault, air strikes and then a ground offensive.

    In Sri Lanka in 2009 again unguided artillery was used against Tamils who were used as human shields by Tamil fighters.

    In the past 6 days over 500 people have died in Syria. That has received coverage of perhaps a hundredth of the BBC Gaza output.

    A further statistic for you, 44 people a day are murdered in South Africa.

    In the last 6 days 264 South Africans have been killed.

    In the context of the above figures, the Gaza death toll of 100 as compared to over 1000 sorties flown proves the case that Israel is doing ( unlike any other Army in the history of warfare) it’s absolute utmost to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

    The relentless focus on civilian casualties by BBC journalists based in Gaza is a deliberate attempt to skew public opinion against Israel. They have failed in their duty to be objective reporters and have become mouthpieces for Hamas, an Iranian backed , extreme right wing group with a track record of extra judicial killing of political enemies, women and gays.

    The only thing disproportionate about Israel’s limited military action is the amount of coverage that it is receiving from the BBC.

  9. Most BBC journalists have at least a skeletal bio somewhere on BBC pages or elsewhere on the web, but Donnison doesn’t, it seems.
    I wonder where he was educated – sorry, I’ll rephrase that: I wonder where he went to school.
    He seems to have cut his reporting teeth at BBC Radio Sheffield (did he go straight from there to Gaza?) – I must say that I (and I’m sure most people here) will thoroughly concur with the headline in this article!

    • Their “Complaints” website is deliberately designed to frustrate all but the most determined. They don’t even give you a reference number for your complaint – making it difficult to follow it up when their inevitable ducking and diving starts.

      I’ve found it’s more productive to write directly to the responsible people, aiming as far up the chain as possible. I believe they can all be reached at

      • I agree. I once contacted Bowen himself by that method, and, to his credit, he did reply – courteously and quickly too, although I was unconvinced by his response. By contrast, when I formally complained about two reports of Orla Guerin’s I was pompously informed via email by complaints supremo Fraser Steel that my complaints would not be investigated because the fact that I’d made two about the same reporter within a short space of time suggested that the problem lay with me, not with her!!! I consequently had an e-mail exchange with Steel, remonstrating with him to no avail.

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