As has been noted here before, less than twenty-four hours after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 the BBC began promoting to its audiences worldwide the notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip. That accusation – along with related ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’, ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’ and ‘collective punishment’ – continued to be a theme found in BBC coverage throughout the fifty-day conflict and since its conclusion, despite the fact that its origins were to be found in statements from politically-motivated NGOs concurrently engaged in ‘lawfare’ against Israel and in amateur speculations from BBC journalists.
Of course much of that material is still available to the general public as ‘permanent public record’ on the BBC News website and no attempt was made – either at the time or since – to provide audiences with impartial professional commentary on the topic of the Law of Armed Conflict which would enable them to reach informed opinions on the topic.
Two experts on the subject of the Law of Armed Conflict recently wrote:
“Broadly speaking, we concluded that IDF positions on targeting law largely track those of the United States military. Moreover, even when they differ, the Israeli approach remains within the ambit of generally acceptable State practice. The IDF is served by a corps of highly competent and well-trained legal advisors who operate with a remarkable degree of autonomy, and its operations are subject to extensive judicial monitoring. While there are certainly Israeli legal positions that may be contentious, we found that their approach to targeting is consistent with the law and, in many cases, worthy of emulation.”
“The article examines the operational context in which Israel conducts targeting. It assesses how that context affects Israel’s approach to targeting, surveys the Israel Defense Force’s targeting process, examines the military attorney system that provides advice to Israeli Commanders on targeting matters and surveys Israeli positions on particular aspects of the law of armed conflict.”
“This article summarizes the results of a research field study examining Israel Defense Force in December 2014. It discusses the unique operational and strategic context in which the IDF operates and discusses Israeli targeting practices. The piece also surveys and assess Israeli positions on the law of armed conflict. It concludes that such practices and positions reflect the environment in which IDF targeting takes place.”
The BBC’s continuing failure to show any interest whatsoever in bringing its audiences such professional perspectives to balance the politically motivated messaging it propagated during the conflict and in the months since its end does nothing to reassure licence fee payers that it is committed to accurate and impartial reporting.