On July 20th yet another of the BBC correspondents who have been ‘parachuted in’ to provide backing to the regular team made a filmed report for BBC television news. Europe correspondent Chris Morris’ report also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza crisis: 13 Israeli soldiers and 87 Gazans killed” and there the synopsis promotes unsourced casualty figures – with no evidence of independent verification by the BBC – which once again fail to make any distinction between civilian and terrorist combatant casualties.
“Gaza suffered the highest death toll since the offensive began, with at least 87 people reported killed on Sunday – 67 of them in one area.”
“Well those thirteen soldiers were killed in several incidents overnight in and around Shuja’iya. I think it shows that they ran into fierce resistance from Hamas fighters in that district. And to put it into contact [sic], losing thirteen soldiers in one day that’s more than Israel lost in a three-week military campaign the last time it went into Gaza on the ground in 2008/2009. So it will be a big shock that number to Israeli society.
Of course it’s considerably less though than the number of Palestinian civilians who’ve been killed in the same 24 hour period. The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaking in an interview with BBC Arabic said he regretted every single BBC casualty. But he sometimes seems to tailor his message to the specific audiences. In one interview with American television he accused Palestinians of using telegenically dead civilians for propaganda purposes.”
So what is Morris implying here? Well, he suggests first of all that the Israeli prime minister’s expression of regret for civilian casualties during his interview with BBC Arabic is not sincere since – according to Morris – his statements are “tailored” to the audience at the time. Morris than goes on to misrepresent what PM Netanyahu said in an interview with Fox News – as readers can see for themselves here. What was actually said is this:
“When you take a surgical operation you can’t guarantee when your soldiers are being fired from Hamas homes – that is Hamas is targeting people from private homes – and you hit them back, of course some people are going to be hurt. That’s totally different from deliberately targeting them. And you know what? The forces that went into Shuja’iya – this place where there are tunnels in homes; we have to clear out the homes – Hamas puts the civilians – the Palestinian civilians – there. We go out to ferret out rocketeers and anti-tank rocket fire. Hamas puts civilians there. We asked these civilians – before we went in – we said please leave. We text them, we call them on cellphones, we drop leaflets. We told them where to go. And those who left were safe. Now those who didn’t leave – you know why they didn’t leave? Because Hamas told them to be there. Because Hamas – while we try to avoid Palestinian civilian dead – Hamas wants Palestinian civilian dead – the more the better – so it can give you telegenic fodder. So this is the cruelest, most grotesque war that I’ve ever seen. I mean not only does Hamas target civilians – ours – and hides behind their civilians – theirs – it actually wants to pile up as many civilian deaths as possible.” [emphasis added]
Clearly then Morris’ claim that PM Netanyahu “accused Palestinians of using telegenically dead civilians for propaganda purposes” is inaccurate. In fact, Netanyahu said that Hamas – not Palestinians in general – has an interest in creating high numbers of civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. But like the rest of his colleagues, Chris Morris does not seem to be interested in informing BBC audiences about the reality of Hamas’ use of human shields.
Of course contrary to Morris’ insinuation, that statement does not in any way contradict Netanyahu’s expression of regret for civilian casualties.
And what of Morris’ claim that PM Netanyahu “seems to tailor his message to the specific audiences” and the ensuing implication of the insincerity of the message? Well apparently Morris was not listening closely enough to that July 20th interview with BBC Arabic. Here is the relevant excerpt from the transcript of that interview – which as readers will see is actually very similar both in content and in style to the one given to a US TV station.
“PM: I regret and the people of Israel regret any civilian casualty, even one. We target the rocketeers. We target Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. In this particular area, it’s a stronghold, it’s a terrorist stronghold. They manufacture the rockets there; they store the rockets there; they fire the rockets there – over a hundred rockets have been fired from this area to the cities of Israel. They also dig terror tunnels, attack tunnels under the homes, where they store the rockets. They build attack tunnels that penetrate into Israel’s side and kill Israeli civilians. They try to get into kindergartens, into schools, kibbutzim, and murder people and kidnap people like Gilad Shalit. This is what we face, so we want to go in there and clean it up so that we are safe, yet in the course of doing that, we have to go into densely civilian, civilian populated areas. We ask the population: Leave. We ask them again and again. We call them up. We text them messages. We give leaflets. We ask them to leave. Hamas says – and some of them do leave. Hamas says: Don’t leave. We forbid you to leave. So Hamas is using these people, these civilians, as a human shield to protect its missiles. They don’t care about the people of Gaza. They want the people of Gaza to die. They want them to die telegenically so they can use them to protect themselves while they’re underground. They’re underground. Their leader, Khaled Mashal, is roaming around the Gulf States in five-star hotels. They don’t care about the people of Gaza. So I want to use this opportunity and speak to the people of Gaza: Heed the warnings of the IDF or the Israeli army; leave your homes to the places where you’re told to go. Leave. Don’t stay there because Hamas wants you to die and you shouldn’t die for Hamas. They don’t care about you but we want you to be safe.” [emphasis added]
So much for BBC accuracy and impartiality.