On the afternoon of July 20th the BBC promoted an item by Lyse Doucet included in its World Service’s ‘Newshour’ radio programme.
That report – which is one of the most blatantly manipulative items the BBC has produced in the last two weeks – can be heard here. No context is provided, no background, no facts. The entire item is deliberately aimed purely at the level of emotion.
It is worth noting that according to other reports produced by the BBC, Shuja’iya is a neighbourhood with a population of 80,000. Doucet opens: [all emphasis in bold added]
“From midnight last night and throughout the night the soundtrack of Gaza was one of endless pounding and constant shelling and anyone who heard those sounds in the dark of night knew just how intense the military operations were and if you lived through that, that kind of intense bombardment, you were lucky enough to survive to tell the story this morning. And through most of today the shelling has continued. We spent hours there; we just returned and I’m going to share now an audio postcard from one of the neighbourhoods east of Gaza City that’s been under fire – Shuja’iya.
Now we’re in the rubble of the building that’s been shelled last night. The medics have rushed in. One…two…half a dozen medics in their…with their hands…they’re searching through the rubble. The sheets are ready, stretchers here and you can see body parts protruding…you can see the body parts protruding, buried under rocks and rubble, sand. And bits of torn cloth. This is a morning where the ambulances, the workers, are on the run. Another pulling…they’re pulling the material. See them pulling the material. My God. There’s a man emerging. The sound of shelling and the people are running. People are running everywhere you look. Bodies are being dug from the rubble. People are running and the sound of shelling, bombardment that went on through the night is continuing now in the day. Black clouds of smoke, white smoke as well, rising just beyond where we’re standing at the end of this street.
Everywhere you look on these streets people are trying to escape. Now coming down this road I can see two women. One young and the other with her an elderly woman with a long black coat, a white scarf and she’s holding as high as she can a piece of cloth – a white piece of cloth – a flag of surrender – as if that’s going to protect her. But she walks with dignity down this street.
This is the main hospital in Gaza and it’s absolutely packed and I’ve come in with Dr Hassan Hulaf [phonetic] who’s the…what’s happening here now on this cot? Oh there’s a little girl…”
Doctor: “Yeah…four years old girl…one of seven people the same family injured and this is her father.”
LD: “Aww…and what…her leg is bandaged, her hand is bandaged, but…and there’s blood. Where did she come from? From Shuja’iya?”
LD: “Mmm? Tufah…also….in…she’s come from Tufah just next to Shuja’iya?”
LD: “I see [unintelligible] little girl nearby. It’s absolutely packed in here. The medics in their green clothes…blue clothes…and every bed is taken. Many of them are children. Looking…I’m looking down the corridors here….another – an older child. A boy…ah…his legs are all….his legs….two legs are bandaged. His feet are bloodied. He’s wearing sports clothes. He’s clenching his fists.”
Doctor: “His name is Izz al Abdul Karim [phonetic]. Also another member of the injured people in this massacre this morning.”
LD: “Have you had this many people coming yet in this escalation?”
LD: “Is this the biggest number of patients you’ve had since this started?”
Doctor: “That’s right. A big number of killed people. More than 40 people killed and around 200 were injured. So this is an example of the innocent childhood killed by the Israelis now intentionally. By the Israeli tanks without, you know, [unintelligible] bombardment of the civilian during night. This is attack from start of the Israeli aggression even before the offensive – ground offensive.”
Allowing unchallenged free rein – and amplification – to the Doctor’s baseless claim of a “massacre” carried out “intentionally”, Doucet makes absolutely no attempt to report accurately or impartially on the events in Shuja’iya. No effort is made to explain to audiences that the residents were advised to evacuate four days previously, that Hamas ordered them to stay to act as human shields or why military action was necessary there. No inquiry is made into the topic of how many of the dead and injured civilians were actually killed by terrorist fire and notably, the words ‘terrorists’ and ‘Hamas’ do not appear at all in this report. No mention is made of Hamas’ missile launchers, tunnels and weapons stores located in the neighbourhood: all that would detract of course from the gut-wrenching, emotional picture she so earnestly tries to paint.
Emotional reactions such as those the BBC’s chief international correspondent is deliberately trying to solicit in this item produce judgement. When audiences are prevented from seeing the whole picture in its proper context as they are in this item, such judgement is necessarily flawed and can even be dangerous. And that is how a lethal narrative is created.
Lyse Doucet and her colleagues know that very well. They – and we – have been there before.