BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

On July 31st the BBC World Service radio presenter Rebecca Kesby made the following remark during an interview with an Israeli politician:

“But what the Americans and others across the world are seeing on their television screens are dead civilians and they’re seeing your artillery hitting schools and hospitals and the power supply and people see that as collective punishment against the Palestinians.”

Wordle headlines 8 to 17 Jul

BBC News website headlines July 8 to 17 incl.

Of course what people “across the world” were “seeing on their television screens” throughout the months of July and August this year was dictated by what media organisations decided they should – or should not –see.

Over the next few days we will be taking a look at the BBC News website’s coverage of Operation Protective Edge and examining the corporation’s claims of equal coverage of the two sides of the story.

Content on the BBC News website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were indeed “seeing on their television screens” – as well as what they were not seeing.

In part one of this analysis we will look at the content appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page during the first ten days of Operation Protective Edge: from its commencement on July 8th until the beginning of the ground operation on July 17th. A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

July 8th:Graph Jul 8

Written:  Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip

Israel ‘ready for escalation’ of Gaza conflict (discussed here)

Features:  Gaza conflict: Why Israeli invasion would be risky  Jonathan Marcus

Filmed: Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip  Rushdi Abualouf in Gaza

 50 strikes, 15 injuries: Israel and Gaza in 45 seconds

Israel ‘no alternative’ but airstrikes after rocket attacks interview with IDF spokesman Peter Lerner

Gaza doctors ‘running out of medicine’ to treat civilians  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Notably, the BBC’s second written article on the very first day of the operation already promoted Hamas claims of Israeli ‘war crimes’; a theme which was to be repeated in the days to come. Also notable was Yolande Knell’s promotion of the inaccurate notion that shortages of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip were attributable to border restrictions imposed by Israel. That obviously pre-existing theme was frequently promoted in subsequent BBC coverage.

July 9th:Graph Jul 9

Written: Hamas fires rockets amid Israeli air strikes on Gaza  (discussed here)

Israel ‘to intensify Gaza attacks’ (discussed here)

Filmed: Israel steps up plans to stop rocket attacks from Gaza James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

A night of Gaza rocket attacks on Israel  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Video shows Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Strip  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here

‘Scrambling for cover’ in Ashkelon as tanks mass  James Reynolds in Israel

Where are Gaza militants firing rockets?   James Reynolds in Israel

Mid-East crisis: Israel vows to expand Gaza operation  James Reynolds in Israel

Gaza death toll rises as air strikes continue  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Hamas spokesman on restoring ceasefire  interview with Osama Hamdan

Israeli adviser Dore Gold on hopes for Mid-East peace   interview with Dore Gold

Day two of the operation saw further promotion of the notion of ‘war crimes’ in the day’s first written article along with amplification in both that item and a filmed report by Yolande Knell of the false claim made by a political NGO engaged in lawfare against Israel that Israeli forces were deliberately targeting civilians in the Gaza Strip. The topic of Hamas’ use of human shields – already evident by this stage – was ignored in both written and filmed reports.

July 10th:Graph Jul 10

Written: UN chief Ban Ki-moon: Gaza situation ‘on knife-edge’

Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pleas for Gaza ceasefire

Features: Yo app warns Israeli citizens of missile strikes

Filmed: Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israeli villagers escape unharmed after Gaza rocket attack  James Reynolds in Israel

Call for calm on Gaza Israel border as death toll rises  Kevin Connolly in Israel

Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza  Quentin Sommerville in Gaza

Gaza situation ‘on knife-edge’ – UN chief Ban Ki-moon  press conference 

On July 10th BBC audiences heard amplification of claims of ‘collective punishment’ of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The practice of unqualified promotion of casualty figures supplied by Hamas sources (but not verified by the BBC) was evident and continued to be so throughout the conflict. No effort was made by the BBC to establish the number of combatant casualties and the issue of Hamas’ use of human shields – including directives issued by Hamas officials to the public – continued to be ignored.

July 11th:Graph Jul 11

Written: US prepared to broker Gaza ceasefire, says Obama

Gaza crisis: Fresh attacks follow US ceasefire offer

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100’

Features: In pictures: Gaza conflict escalates  (discussed here)

 Gaza-Israel conflict: What can Israel and Hamas gain?  Kevin Connolly

 Gaza-Israel conflict: ‘It’s not worth living’

Mothers in Israel and Gaza ‘want the same thing’  audio – Yolande Knell Gaza and Israel

Filmed: ‘Five killed’ as Israeli air strike flattens Gaza house  Tim Wilcox Gaza

 Gaza crisis: Rocket strikes Israeli petrol station  James Reynolds in Israel

Israel defends Gaza military campaign  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100’  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Amateur footage after Israeli air strike on Gaza  Gaza

Baroness Amos calls for ceasefire on Gaza Israel border  interview Valerie Amos

Jerusalem mayor defiant in face of Hamas rocket attacks  interview Nir Barakat

The BBC continued to report casualty figures supplied by Hamas or Hamas-linked sources with no effort made either to inform audiences of the motives of the sources, to verify those figures or to determine the civilian to combatant ratio. Notably, within hours of Jeremy Bowen’s arrival in the Gaza Strip on July 11th he was already promoting the concept that “there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians” and claiming that Israel had “serious questions” to answer. Bowen also began the promotion of UN casualty figures, but failed to inform audiences of the sources of those statistics.

July 12th:Graph Jul 12

Written: Israel to ‘resist international pressure’ over Gaza

 Israel and militants trade fire as Gaza toll rises

Features: Jeremy Bowen: Israel and Hamas not ready for ceasefire  (discussed here)

Filmed: Death toll rises in Gaza as air strikes and rockets continue  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya   Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Israeli strike on disability shelter in Gaza’s Beit Lahiya  Yolande Knell in Gaza

 Israel ‘will do what it takes to stop the fire of rockets’  interview with Mark Regev

One of the notable themes appearing on this day (as well as in subsequent BBC coverage) was the depiction of the missiles used by terrorists in the Gaza Strip as “homemade rockets“.

July 13th:Graph Jul 13

Written: UN calls for Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Gaza: Israel hits security HQ and rocket site

Filmed: Israel warns north Gaza civilians to evacuate ahead of strikes Yolande Knell in Gaza

 Gaza hit by Israeli shells  Gaza

Israel’s Iron Dome intercepts rockets fired from Gaza  Israel

Fleeing Gaza families take shelter at UN school  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Again, the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields and directives issued by Hamas officials instructing civilians to stay in their homes despite Israeli warnings was absent from the emotive coverage of the conflict’s impact on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

July 14th:Graph Jul 14

Written: Thousands flee northern Gaza after Israel warnings  (originally published on July 13th and discussed here)

Israel’s Gaza campaign in seventh day as rocket fire continues

Features: Life in the Gaza Strip (updated version of a feature originally published in 2012)

Filmed: Middle East conflict: Palestinians flee Israeli air strikes  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day   Jeremy Bowen in Gaza (discussed here)

Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel continues Gaza campaign   Quentin Sommerville in Israel

 Why has Israel-Gaza conflict flared?  Paul Adams

July 14th saw not only continuation of the BBC policy of ignoring Hamas’ use of human shields, but active denial of that policy on the part of Jeremy Bowen.  In addition, Bowen continued to promote claims of Israeli ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ made by the head of a political NGO engaged in anti-Israel lawfare.

July 15th:Graph Jul 15

Written: Egypt proposes Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Israel accepts Egypt proposal to end Gaza conflict

Gaza conflict: Israel restarts air strikes amid rocket fire

Features: Hamas and Israel step up cyber battle for hearts and minds

Filmed: President Obama urges peace in Gaza Strip  press conference 

Hamas spokesman says Egypt truce plan is ‘like an ambush’  interview with Sami Abu Zuhri

Israel spokesman: Hamas threw away chance of a ceasefire  interview with Mark Regev

‘Essentials, not luxuries’ being bought in Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel accepts Egypt proposal to end Gaza air strikes  Yolande Knell in Gaza & James Reynolds in Israel

Palestinians reject Gaza ceasefire proposal  Yolande Knell in Gaza (discussed here)

Netanyahu: Prepared to ‘continue and intensify operation’  press conference

Gaza conflict: Strikes will ‘intensify’, says Netanyahu  press conference

Gaza-Israel ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt  Simon Clemison

Gaza conflict: Anger at scene of Hamas rocket attack in Ashdod  James Reynolds in Israel

Israel to ‘intensify’ Gaza air strikes as Egypt truce fails  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Israel restarts air strikes amid rocket fire  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Gaza Strip residents give their views on ceasefire  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

The issue of Hamas’ use of human shields continued to be ignored, despite visual documentation of the practice by the BBC. The topic of “tight border restrictions” was again promoted without provision of the context necessary for BBC audiences to comprehend why those restrictions came about and their roots in Hamas terrorism. Unqualified promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures continued.

July 16th:Graph Jul 16

Written: Israel warns Gazans to leave homes as air strikes continue

Features: Crowley: Israel and Palestinians increasingly disillusioned

Filmed: Middle East crisis: Gaza house destroyed after Israeli warnings  Jeremy Bowen in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Smoke rises over Gaza  Yolande Knell in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Four boys killed on beach by rocket fire  Lyse Doucet in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel conflict: Peace deal still possible, says Arab League Orla Guerin in Cairo

 Gaza-Israel conflict: BBC assesses the mood in Ashkelon  James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

 Israeli air strike warnings: What the footage tells us  (discussed here)

By this stage the BBC’s promotion and amplification of the PR messaging of political NGOs had been extended to include B’Tselem as well as the PCHR and UN OCHA.

July 17th:Graph Jul 17

Written: Gaza ceasefire between Hamas and Israel begins

Israel-Gaza ceasefire deal denied  (discussed here)

Three charged over Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdair murder  (discussed here)

Features: #BBCtrending: The rise of Hitler hashtags

Why Egypt remains key to Gaza-Israel truce

Filmed: Israeli president ‘sorry’ over four child deaths in Gaza  interview with Shimon Peres

Gazans flock to banks and shops during brief ceasefire   Yolande Knell in Gaza

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive  Quentin Sommerville in Israel (discussed here)

Israel starts Gaza ground offensive  Quentin Sommerville in Israel

Gaza crisis: New exchanges of fire after truce ends  Lyse Doucet in Gaza

 ‘Journalists told to evacuate hotel’ – Paul Adams in Gaza

Notable in the second written article on this day was the disappearance of Hamas’ breach of a ceasefire and the downplaying of the cross-border infiltration into Israel by Hamas terrorists which made a ground operation inevitable.

Between July 8th and July 17th the predominant type of content presented to visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page was filmed reports from the Gaza Strip, with the majority of those items concentrating on what can only be described as emotive coverage of the conflict’s impact on civilians. Hamas spokesmen were interviewed on just two occasions (in contrast with four times as many interviews or footage from press conferences with Israelis) meaning that the focus of BBC reporting remained on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The total number of filmed reports describing the situation in Gaza during those first ten days of the conflict was more than double the number of filmed reports describing the situation in Israel.

Graph all

Within the first few days of BBC coverage of the conflict, certain themes became apparent. Just hours after the operation commenced the BBC had already introduced the topic of ‘war crimes’ into its coverage and that theme and similar ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’ continued to be promoted; particularly by means of generous amplification of the messaging of selected political NGOs. The speed with which the BBC adopted that theme – along with the lack of any attempt to provide factual evidence that the use of such terminology was justified – does not encourage the belief that the corporation’s foreign correspondents arrived in the Gaza Strip free of preconceived political views.

An additional theme promoted right from the start of BBC coverage of the conflict was that of the supposed deliberate targeting of civilians by Israel – described on numerous occasions in the Hamas-style terminology ‘collective punishment’. Whilst BBC audiences were shown ample footage and images of destruction and casualties in the Gaza Strip (including graphic filmed reports from hospitals and morgues) the subject of Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields was ignored and even denied.  Also noticeable was the BBC’s failure to carry out any discernible independent verification of the casualty figures and ratios supplied by Hamas and Hamas-linked sources, yet unquestioningly and vigorously amplified by the BBC.

Whilst BBC compliance with Hamas restrictions placed on the foreign media throughout the conflict (for example, refraining from filming Hamas terror operatives) was all too apparent to those with additional sources of knowledge and information, general audiences were not informed of that factor either during the conflict or since (in contrast, for example, to BBC statements concerning restrictions on reporting in Iraq in 2003) meaning that they would naturally conclude that all BBC content presented a freely reported, accurate and impartial picture of the situation on the ground upon which they could rely as a source of knowledge and understanding and use to reach informed judgements on the issue.

The BBC’s adherence to Hamas messaging, its advancement of pre-existing politicised themes and its heavy focus on the promotion of context-free emotive images of civilian suffering in the Gaza Strip meant, however, that the story was being framed in a very specific way already from the opening hours and days of coverage. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 comments on “BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

  1. Very timely . Kol Hakavod.

    May I suggest that what would make the this even more effective would be a parallel examination of the BBC coverage of other contemporaneous controversial issues to highlight the double standards.

    Chag Sameach .

    Louis Garb

  2. I’m thinking of compiling pie-charts to document the number of Israel-apologists who spend their time counting BBC articles. The reason they do this is that they don’t want the world watching while Israel breaks the law.

  3. By jove, Someshittytwaddle, perhaps the world’s law makers should ban people from counting BBC articles and making pie charts if this machiavellian mode of data analysis prevents ‘the world’ seeing people breaking laws! How does that work exactly; do prospective criminals tape printouts of these pie charts over CCTV lenses before they commit a crime within their field of view, or something?

    • Not at all, Dorkie. What they do is they roll up the printouts, encapsulate them is plastic to form a torpedo shaped suppository, and then try in vain to stick them as far up your arse as you managed to get your head.

      • For someone who can’t even express himself properly in his own native language, you don’t half have a high opinion of your own level of wit. Ubnfortunately, those who are literate just see you as being dim, uneducated and tedious.

        • What an enlightened response. You’ve sure convinced me that your position is stable by attacking the character of somebody who disagrees with you rather than the issue at hand.

          • Well then, let’s take a look at the ‘issue at hand’ shall we? He stated that people who ‘count BBC articles’ are motivated to do so because they don’t ‘want the world to watch while Israel breaks the law’. So I used sarcasm to illustrate the fact that his claim is ridiculous, in that presenting numerical data on the subject of BBC articles cannot actually prevent anyone in the world seeing anyone else committing a crime, whatever its nature. Even if said BBC articles did relate directly to a particular criminal act, counting them after their dissemination does nothing to prevent them being viewed, and so his claim as to this being the motivation for counting said article as clearly doesn’t make sense. As someone who claims to be analytically trained, he should realise that an argument that is illogical is no argument at all.

            He then reduced the dialogue to the level of botty talk and personal insults, which besides doing nothing at all to support his previous dubiuous claim, rather revealed his true intellectual level, to my view, so I told him this.

            Now, I strongly suspect that the issue YOU would like me to attempt to ‘ address’ is his implied claim that Israel ‘broke the law’. Well firstly, he didn’t even state which law he believes Israel has broken; secondly, he presents no evidence, let alone proof, to support this claim, and just because he accuses Israel of transgressing some undefined law doesn’t actually make it true. Therefore I do not consider his undefined and unsubstantiated claim to justify any response.

            If he’ s trying to put forward a serious point via this website, he’s going to have to do better than that. If, on the other hand, he just wants to be a Troll, or simply feels validated in some way by seeing his little moniker come up on other peoples’ websites, (and have you seen the boring, smug, self-satified navel-gazing he churns out on his own blog?) then his current approach will possibly suffice.

          • My thoughts exactly, sir.

            For someone who declares my comment to be “unworthy of response”, he sure puts a lot of time and energy into his diatribe – see below. I should be flattered: he even seems to have taken the time to read my blog. A great honour to have been paid a visit from this delegate of the literary intelligensia!

  4. It is quite clear that if we rid the mid east of Israel human rights problems will not be an issue. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and our friends in ISIS, Hamas and Hezbollah will show us the way. Hamas has every right to fire rockets at Israel. They need the blockade ended to resupply the rockets. The best way to insure Peace is support Palestinians trying to kill Jews. Iron Dome should be against International Law. Help Hamas with your donations to buy concrete for tunnels and material for rockets. Support killing Jews in every country. It is or should be illegal for them to fight back and win. Robert

  5. Yes, sadly I accidentally clicked on your actual Moniker, so it opened up. I briefly scanned the content, and thought, what is the point of all that? Who on earth would care so much about YOUR pompous, arrogant musings, that you couldn’t just restrict yourself to Facebook, like all the ‘MeMeMe’ types?

  6. Pingback: Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part three | BBC Watch

  7. Pingback: BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two | BBC Watch

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