BBC shoehorns partisan political NGO into report on policeman’s promotion

On April 13th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel promotes Arab police officer to senior rank“.Jamal Hakrush art

“An Arab police officer has been promoted by Israel to the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim in the force.

Jamal Hakrush starts his job as deputy commissioner after months of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.”

While the BBC curiously found it necessary to note Deputy Commissioner Hakrush’s religion, the article does not adequately clarify that his promotion elevates him to the second-highest rank in the Israeli police force.

Towards the end of the report readers are told that:

“Deputy Commissioner Hakrush, from the Galilee village of Kafr Kanna, will be in charge of a newly-created police division established to improve policing in Arab communities, The Times of Israel reported.

Deputy Commissioner Hakrush was formally appointed into his new position on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich. One of his main responsibilities will be to stop illegal weapons falling into the hands of the Arab community.

Mr Alsheich also wants to reduce domestic violence, murder rates and other crimes in the Arab sector.

He and the government wants [sic] to recruit 1,300 new officers and construct several new stations in Arab population centres.”

All well and good, but the BBC report does not provide readers with any background information concerning the scale of the issues as presented by Commissioner Alsheich in February:

“At a meeting of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, Alsheich said that although Arabs constitute 21 percent of Israel’s population, they account for 58% of total crimes, 55% of attempted murders, 47% of thefts, and 27% drug dealing.

“This picture is not only of concern to the police, but also to the Arab community itself,” he said. “There is a strong desire to strengthen policing in the Arab community. I met dozens of heads of Arab local authorities and discovered that there was great willingness. ‘Just send in the police already,’ they told me.””

However, the writer of this report did find it appropriate to steer readers towards the conclusion that the high rates of crime in the Arab sector in Israel can be attributed to ‘discrimination’ and he or she conscripted unprovided ‘evidence’ from a highly partisan political NGO involved in the lawfare campaign against Israel in order to advance that notion.

“He [Deputy Commissioner Hakrush] will oversee policing in Arab communities where there is a longstanding distrust of the police.

A fifth of Israel’s population is Arab and they often complain that areas in which they live are not so well policed and have poorer public services.

Their grievances have been supported by Human Rights Watch which in recent years has published several reports highlighting the discrimination which it is argued the Arab population faces.”

Yes – even an article about the unprecedented promotion of an Arab-Israeli police officer can be used by the BBC to advance politicised messaging. 

BBC’s Connolly amplifies Ha’aretz columnist’s fallacious claims

On March 24th the BBC News website published an article headlined “Israeli soldier ‘shot wounded Palestinian attacker dead’” which concerns an incident that took place on that day after a terror attack in Hebron. That article remained on the website’s Middle East page for two consecutive days.

On March 31st an additional report concerning developments in the case appeared under the title “Israeli soldier ‘faces manslaughter’ for killing wounded attacker” and it too remained on the website for two days.

Although the soldier concerned has yet to be indicted and the investigation into the incident is still ongoing, on April 11th a third article on the same topic appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Written by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly, the article is titled “Video of Israeli soldier’s killing of Palestinian attacker fuels debate” and it opens in Connolly’s trademark style.Connolly Hebron shooting art

“Almost everything about the shooting of Abdul Fatah al-Sharif made it a very modern moment of news.

There was the time and the place.

It occurred on the edge of the Jewish sector of the divided city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – a kind of crucible of the troubles here, where so many of the stabbings and shootings in the latest wave of violence have happened.”

Connolly makes no effort to inform his readers that Hebron is “divided” because the representatives of the Palestinian people agreed to such an arrangement nearly two decades ago.

But for all its repeated promotion of one-sided politicized terminology such as “the occupied West Bank”, the real aim of Connolly’s piece is to reinforce a theme that has been frequently promoted by the BBC in the past: a supposed political shift to the Right in Israeli society.

He therefore has to explain the Israeli Chief of Staff’s description of the incident as coming “from a slightly unusual source” – although in fact there is of course nothing ‘unusual’ at all about a senior IDF commander giving an accurate account of an incident. Connolly then touts the conclusion that “this appears to be an issue on which the army is out of step with Israeli society” and the ‘evidence’ he presents for that conclusion is based on a factor of which (given their past experiences of  burnt fingers) one might have thought he and his colleagues would be rather more wary: an opinion poll.

“In one opinion poll, only 5% of those questioned thought the soldier’s actions amounted to murder – and more than 80% expressed at least some degree of support.”

Connolly brings in two interviewees to support his theory, the first of whom is a representative of B’tselem which earlier on in the article he has already described as “an Israeli human rights organization”. The person who filmed the incident in Hebron on behalf of B’tselem is similarly portrayed as “the human rights activist”.

“There are some Israelis who see B’Tselem as the villain of the piece – a view that does not surprise Sarit Michaeli, who speaks for the group.

“I don’t lose any sleep over being called a traitor,” she told me. “What I do lose sleep over is whether we’ve done enough every day to expose the harms of the occupation… We’re in the run-up to the 50th year of military control over the Palestinian people… this is the meaning of occupation.””

Connolly makes no attempt to conform to the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality by clarifying that B’tselem is one of the foreign funded political NGOs involved in the lawfare campaign against Israel.

Connolly’s second interviewee is Ha’aretz journalist Ari Shavit. 

“But Israeli liberals, like the columnist from the Haaretz newspaper Ari Shavit, appear a little taken aback at the strength of right-wing sentiment surrounding the case and are inclined to attribute it to a change in the nature of right-wing politics here from old-fashioned conservatism to radical populism.

“The new kind of populist right-wingers don’t respect the rule of law and human rights in the way the old conservative right used to,” Mr Shavit told the BBC.

“You have a very complex surprising situation where there is a lot of positive popular pressure in the wrong way, while the military establishment in many ways is trying to keep Israel’s old values.””

Ari Shavit (who clearly does not see a need to wait for completion of the investigation into the incident before pronouncing judgement) bases his premises on his recollections of the ‘Bus 300’ affair from 1984 as outlined in an article he published in Ha’aretz in Hebrew on March 31st and in English on April 1st.  

“But this time the uproar was very different. There was a total role reversal. The security establishment tried to maintain the image of the State of Israel, while the pressure from the media and the public supported the brutality. While the defense minister, the chief of staff and the IDF acted in a cultured and upright fashion, the Facebook society demanded that they not conduct a fair and orderly legal procedure. With a deafening roar, the masses applauded cruelty.

In many ways the Bus 300 case was a far more serious and complicated affair than what happened in Tel Rumeida. But the similarities between the cases and the polar opposite response to them cast a revealing and cruel light on the changes we’ve undergone in the past few decades. They indicate what is happening to us. Where we were then and where we are now. What we were and what we have become. And where we are going.”

Our colleagues at Presspectiva took a look at Shavit’s claims (Hebrew) and found that they do not however match the historical record.

 “From a poll by ‘Yediot Aharonot’ which was published on 30.5.1986, two years after the incident, it emerges that most of the public (61%) was against the interrogation of the head of the Israel Security Agency in connection with the circumstances of the killing of the terrorists. […] Another poll which was taken on 11.7.1986 and published in the paper showed that although there had been a fall in the percentage of those opposed to the investigation, the majority (57%) were still against it.”

In other words, Shavit’s analysis is a fiction of his own selective memory.

Kevin Connolly echoes Shavit’s fallacious conclusions in his closing words:

“But slowly the political debate that surrounds the case whatever the outcome will help to define how Israeli attitudes towards such cases are changing over time.”

Were Kevin Connolly able to read Hebrew or had he consulted one of his colleagues who can, he could have saved himself the embarrassment of promoting that redundant theory based on Ari Shavit’s inaccurate memories. However, given the BBC’s record of repeated promotion of the theme of an ominous ‘shift to the Right’ in Israeli society, the question is whether or not accuracy would even then have trumped agenda. 

Related Articles:

The NGO story the BBC avoided








BBC report on assassination in Lebanon fails to provide context

April 12th saw the appearance of a short article titled “Lebanon car bombing kills Palestinian Fatah official” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The report includes the following:Ein Hilweh story

“There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which occurred in nearby Ein el-Hilweh camp.

However, Fatah gunmen have recently been involved in clashes with rival factions in Ein el-Hillweh.

One man was killed earlier this month when one dispute escalated.”

The inter-factional violence in Ein el Hilweh has been going on for many years (the BBC itself produced a report on the topic in 2008) and hence the use of the word “recently” misleads readers. 

The report closes as follows:

“About 450,000 Palestinians are registered with the UN as refugees in Lebanon, and most live in 12 official camps that mainly fall outside the jurisdiction of the Lebanese security services.”

Remarkably, readers are not provided with any answer to the obviously relevant question of why refugee camps on Lebanese soil are not under the jurisdiction of the Lebanese security forces. They are not informed that arrangements concerning those UNRWA-run camps were enshrined in an agreement between the PLO and the Lebanese authorities.

“Under the 1969 Cairo Accords, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was granted exclusive responsibility for administering the refugee camps in Lebanon.”

Neither are they informed that the same agreement (which was annulled in 1987 by the Lebanese parliament) allowed the PLO to establish military bases in Lebanon and to conduct cross-border terrorist operations against Israel.

Both the Taif Agreement (1989) and UNSC resolution 1559 (2004) called for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias but neither Hizballah nor the various Palestinian militias complied with those conditions.

Obviously that missing historical context is crucial to audience understanding of the background to the story reported in this article. 

No BBC reporting of Abbas-PFLP row

The BBC’s profile of the PFLP informs audiences that:

“During the 1970s, the PFLP was the second largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)…”

Although readers of that profile wouldn’t know it, the PFLP – designated a terror organization by the US, Canada, Australia and the EU – continues to hold the number two position in the PLO with the largest faction still being Fatah.

That status apparently comes with cash benefits to the tune of $70,000 a month in handouts from the PLO’s financial arm – the Palestinian National Fund. Or at least it did – until the chairman of the PLO’s executive committee Mahmoud Abbas (who is also of course the Palestinian Authority president and head of Fatah) recently decided, according to PFLP officials, to suspend that monthly payment.

“Rabah Muhanna, a top PFLP official, said that his group learned about Abbas’s decision a few days ago. He claimed that Abbas did not consult with other PLO factions before he decided to suspend funds to the PFLP.

“This is an individual decision,” Muhanna said. “We will bring it before the PLO Executive Committee for discussion. We will also raise the issue before Abbas himself.””

The BBC’s Jerusalem and Ramallah offices of course generally avoid reporting on internal Palestinian politics and so it is not surprising that this story (and an apparently related one) has not been deemed newsworthy.

However, the corporation’s audiences might nevertheless have liked to see some reporting on the PFLP flagsubject of why the body which conducts negotiations with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people – supposedly in order to reach a peace agreement – includes a proscribed terror organization which, as its logo indicates and in contrast to the impression given in the BBC’s profile, does not support the two-state solution.

The BBC’s UK audiences might have been particularly interested in finding out why their own government’s Department for International Development has for years funded the PLO’s ‘Negotiations Support Unit’ if the organization is capable of spending tens of thousands of dollars a month on hand-outs to its component groups – including a terrorist organisation.


Reviewing the BBC News website’s coverage of terror in Israel: October 2015 to March 2016

Our monthly round-up of the BBC News coverage of terror attacks in Israel (see related articles below) enables us to take a broader look at the corporation’s coverage of that subject throughout the six months since the latest surge in terrorism began.

During that time the Israel Security Agency has documented a total of 1,639 attacks, ninety of which – i.e. 5.49% – have received coverage on the BBC News website.

coverage terror Oct to March

Thirty-three people – Israelis and foreign nationals – have been killed in those attacks since October 1st 2015 and hundreds wounded. Three of those fatalities (9%) were not reported at all by the BBC and of the casualties which were reported, twelve people (i.e. 40%) were not identified by name. Only four of the victims had their photographs published by the BBC.

The BBC’s public purpose remit includes ‘Global Outlook’ which is interpreted by the BBC Trust as meaning that audiences “can expect the BBC to keep them in touch with what is going on in the world, giving insight into the way people live in other countries” and includes the pledge to “build a global understanding of international issues” and “enhance UK audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

With the BBC having reported less than five and a half percent of the terror attacks against Israelis during the past six months and having failed to provide information concerning the overall scale of attacks, it is obvious that its audiences are not being kept “in touch” or provided with full “insight” as promised and that their “awareness and understanding” of this particular international issue is therefore impaired.

The importance of the absence of that information lies in the fact that audiences are thus unable to properly understand Israeli counter-terrorism measures such as the anti-terrorist fence or checkpoints. It also means that when Israel is obliged to respond to rising terrorism, audiences are unable to put events into their appropriate context and are thus likely to reach uninformed and inaccurate conclusions. 

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2015 – part one

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2015 – part two

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2015

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2015 and Q4 summary

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2016

Comparing BBC personalisation of victims of terror in Paris, Brussels and Israel  

BBC News misleads on Russian S-300 missiles and Iran sanctions

Notwithstanding the confusion surrounding the story, the BBC News website published an article on April 11th titled “Russian S-300 air defence missiles ‘arrive in Iran’” which opens as follows:S 300 art

“Russia is reported to have started delivering S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, under a deal opposed by Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi-Ansari said “the first stage of the contract has been implemented”.

It is not yet clear how many missiles may have been delivered.

The controversial contract got the go-ahead after international sanctions on Iran were lifted last year.” [emphasis added]

The link in that last sentence leads to a BBC report from April 13th 2015 titled “Russia lifts ban on S-300 missile system delivery to Iran”. The following day the BBC produced an additional report on the same topic – “US concern as Russia lifts ban on Iran arms delivery” – which was discussed here.

When those two articles were published the P5+1 had just reached (on April 2nd 2015) a framework deal with Iran concerning its nuclear programme which – as the BBC itself reported at the time – imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the gradual lifting of sanctions following verification of Iranian compliance.

Later on in this report readers are correctly informed that:

“The $800m (£562m) contract, signed in 2007, was frozen by Russia in 2010 because of the international sanctions. President Vladimir Putin unfroze it a year ago.” [emphasis added]

The JCPOA was finalised on July 14th 2015 with October 18th 2015 designated as ‘Adoption Day’ and January 16th 2016 as ‘Implementation Day’. According to the agreement the various relevant sanctions imposed by the UN, the EU and the US were to be lifted on ‘Implementation Day’ pending the release of an IAEA report confirming implementation of the terms of the deal by Iran.

In other words, the BBC’s claim that Russia gave the go-ahead to the delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran “after international sanctions on Iran were lifted last year” is inaccurate and materially misleading because the sanctions were not lifted “last year” but nine months after the Russian announcement.

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2016

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during March 2016 shows that throughout the month a total of 123 incidents took place: 81 in Judea & Samaria, 36 in Jerusalem, two inside the ‘green line’ and four incidents originating from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 92 attacks with petrol bombs, six shooting attacks, 9 attacks using explosive devices, two vehicular attacks, one assault and six stabbing attacks. In addition, five missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip in two separate incidents.

One foreign national (American student Taylor Force) was murdered during March and 26 people (13 civilians and 13 members of the security forces) were wounded in terror attacks.Pigua Yafo 8 3 vers 3

The fatal attack in Yaffo on March 8th (in which nine additional victims were wounded) was reported in a BBC News website article which also included coverage of attacks in Petah Tikva and Jerusalem that took place on the same day.

A shooting attack in Jerusalem, an attempted stabbing near Salafit and an incident at Kedumim – all of which took place on March 9th – were reported in an article on another topic. A stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24th was reported in an article about a related investigation into subsequent events.  

Among the incidents which did not receive any coverage from BBC News were an attack in Eli on March 2nd, a stabbing attack in Ouja on March 3rd, a vehicular attack at Gush Etzion junction on March 4th, an attack with an IED near Hebron, a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and a shooting attack on Route 443 on March 11th, two vehicular attacks (one by a former member of Hamas) near Kiryat Arba on March 14th, a stabbing attack at a bus stop near Ariel on March 17th and  a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 19th.

Neither of the two incidents of missile fire from the Gaza Strip (on March 11th and March 15th) received any coverage on the BBC News website. The Israeli response to the earlier incident did however receive BBC coverage in Arabic. The BBC’s record of reporting missile attacks on Israeli civilians by terrorists in the Gaza Strip in the English language since the beginning of 2016 continues to stand at 0%. 

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported seven of the 123 terror attacks which took place during March 2016 – i.e. 5.69% – and 100% of the fatalities. Since the beginning of the year, BBC coverage of the terror attacks which actually took place stands at 5.82%.

table March

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2015 and Q4 summary

NGO allegations promoted by BBC News shown to be unfounded

Last July the BBC News website published an article (which later had its inaccurate headline amended) concerning an incident which had taken place ten days earlier near the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Original headline

Original headline

The vast majority of the word count of that article was devoted to amplification of allegations made by the political NGO B’tselem. In addition, readers were directed to the B’tselem website and to its Youtube channel via two separate links but, in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, no attempt was made to provide them with information concerning the NGO’s political agenda.

“In a statement, B’Tselem said the footage showed Col Shomer’s claim of self-defence was “unreasonable”.

“There is no doubt that the shattering of the jeep’s front window with a stone endangered the passengers when it happened. However, Kasbeh was shot in the back after the fact, when he was already running away and posing no ‘mortal threat’ to the soldiers. Feeling a sense of danger is not enough to justify any action.”

The rights group also noted that the video contradicted the IDF’s claim that Col Shomer had carried out “suspect-arrest procedure”.

“Military open-fire regulations permit shooting at the legs of a suspect in order to facilitate his arrest. They do not permit killing him by firing three shots at his upper body,” it added.”

Amended headline

Amended headline

The article also included substantial promotion of claims made by “witnesses” (including a fellow perpetrator of the rock throwing attack) and a relative of the deceased, such as the one below:

“Thaer Kasbah, the dead teenager’s brother, told the Associated Press that it was clear from the video that Col Shomer “wanted to kill him”.”

Together, the allegations from B’tselem, “witnesses” and the relative made up 85.5% of the article whilst statements from the IDF concerning the incident were allotted 14% of the total word count.

The investigation into that incident has now been completed.

“The Military Police opened an investigation into the incident to determine if Shomer had acted appropriately in the situation.

According to the IDF, Shomer had not intended to kill al-Kasbeh, and meant only to hit him in the legs in order to stop him, something that is permitted under army protocol.

The IDF chief prosecutor’s office found that Shomer had acted in accordance with the army’s rules of engagement, though it did fault the colonel for a “professional error in the way he discharged his weapon.”

“The IDF chief prosecutor found that the weapons discharge, under the framework of the arrest protocol, was justified from the circumstances of the incident,” the army said in a statement.

Shomer missed the suspect’s legs and hit him instead in the back because he “fired his weapon while in motion, and not in a static position,” the army said.

In light of that evidence, the prosecutor determined that the colonel’s actions were not criminal and did not merit full legal proceedings, according to the army’s statement.”

Whether or not the findings of that investigation will be afforded the same prominence on the BBC News website as B’tselem’s redundant allegations were given nine months ago of course remains to be seen. 


Revisiting the BBC’s source of 2014 Gaza casualty data

Readers may recall that a few days into the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, BBC Watch decided to try to track down the source of the casualty figures being quoted and promoted by the BBC at the time.

“Earlier BBC reports cited casualty figures provided by the notoriously unreliable ministry of health in Gaza. That ministry is still run by Hamas and the personalities quoted in previous conflicts and incidents have not changed. Later reports stress figures supplied by what Bowen describes as “the United Nations”. In fact he – and those other BBC reports – refers to a document put out by UN OCHA on July 11th which can be seen here. That report does indeed state:

“114 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Gaza emergency, of whom 88 (77%) are civilians.” 

The question is, of course, where did UN OCHA – an organization which has itself been the subject of controversy in the past – get its information?

So – BBC Watch telephoned the person who complied that report in order to find out.”Knell filmed PCHR

What we discovered was particularly worrying considering that at the time the BBC had already broadcast several reports which included false allegations from one of the parties supplying UN OCHA with information.

“Katleen Maes informed us that UN OCHA’s three primary sources are B’Tselemthe PCHR and Al Mezan – all of which are political NGOs with a less than pristine record on impartiality in Israel-related matters. Maes added that the secondary sources used by UN OCHA to arrive at its 77% civilian casualty rate figures are the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the local Arabic media in Gaza, some of which is also run by Hamas and with the rest operating with Hamas consent, of course.”

NGO Monitor recently published a report which, among other things, casts more light onto UN OCHA’s relationship with those primary sources.

“OCHA coordinates several “Thematic Clusters,” whereby UN agencies, government donors, and NGOs collaborate on campaigning. […]

OCHA operates Clusters in the areas of Protection; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; Shelter; Health and Nutrition; Education; and Food Security.

The Protection Cluster

The Protection Cluster, which is responsible for “[m]onitoring and document[ing] violations,” “[p]rovision of legal aid,” and “[a]dvocacy and interventions with Israeli authorities (among other issues) is one of the most problematic in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

  • During the 2014 Gaza war, three NGOs from the cluster – B’Tselem, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – were designated to provide casualty statistics. In turn, their statistics were repeated without question by OCHA and other UN bodies, the media, European officials, and the Schabas-Davis commission. […]
  • Al Mezan and PCHR are also leaders in promoting “lawfare” cases against Israelis in Europe and the International Criminal Court (ICC).Their lack of credibility is also reflected in their highly politicized agenda, including accusations that the IDF (“Israeli Occupation Forces” in NGO parlance) is responsible for “massacres,” and “war crimes,” as well as “disproportionate” and “criminal” attacks against civilians.

Furthermore, the report notes the financial relationship between UN OCHA and, among others, the PCHR

“OCHA oversees and facilitates government funding via several aid frameworks to some of the most biased and politicized regional NGOs, including a number that are very active in promoting BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) and “lawfare” campaigns against Israel:

1) Humanitarian Repose Plan (HRP) The aforementioned Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is one of the primary frameworks through which OCHA-oPt coordinates funding to NGOs. The HRP outlines OCHA’s politicized approach regarding its activities in the region, as well as which NGOs should receive vast amounts of international government funding. In 2016, OCHA-oPt requested $571 million in aid from international donors for some of the most highly biased and politicized NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Participating Organizations & Funding Requirements” in the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan include: […]

Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – Leader of anti-Israel “lawfare” campaigns, such as an intensive campaign vis-à-vis the International Criminal Court and exploiting courts in democratic countries in order to harass Israeli officials with civil lawsuits and criminal investigations.”Bowen 14 7 Newsday Sourani

In other words, the data on casualties in the Gaza Strip that was quoted and promoted by the BBC during the summer 2014 conflict was supplied by NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel after having been funnelled through a UN agency which in turn facilitates NGO funding.  

Despite the dubious sourcing of the data having been apparent at the time, there was no evidence of any attempt by the BBC to carry out independent verification of the casualty figures and civilian/combatant casualty ratios supplied by interested parties. The corporation not only defended its use of that unverified data but rejected related complaints from members of the public claiming that:

“The UN has made claims as to the number of Palestinians killed and the number of those who are civilians. The BBC reports these numbers attributed to the UN which is of course an internationally recognised organisation. The UN has a large staff in Gaza who compile these reports.”

In fact, as we see above, the UN’s reports were not based on information gathered by its own “large staff in Gaza” at all and that raises the question of whether the BBC even bothered to check out UN OCHA’s methodology before promoting its data. The BBC’s inference that UN supplied data is beyond reproach obviously does not hold water given both UN OCHA’s own politicized agenda and the records of the NGOs from which the data was sourced.

Obviously the BBC’s unquestioning use of unverified UN OCHA supplied data during the conflict of summer 2014 did not meet the standards one would expect from a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting. Before the next round of conflict breaks out, the corporation obviously needs to revisit its policy of blind promotion of UN supplied data if it wishes to be perceived as an impartial media organisation rather than a channel for the amplification of the agendas of campaigning NGOs. 

Related Articles:

Vital statistics: stealth changes made to the BBC’s Gaza casualty figures article

BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ does damage control on Gaza casualty figures article

Source of BBC’s ‘war crimes’ allegations lies about Palestinian victim of terror

BBC’s Bachega drags Israel into a report on Gaza cinema

April 8th saw the appearance of an article titled “Gaza cinema a new experience for many with first screenings in 20 years” in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Written by Hugo Bachega, the article opens with a very vague explanation of why there have been no working cinemas in the Gaza Strip for many years.Gaza cinema

“It was only when he was 24 that Homam al-Ghussein first went to the cinema. Now, he says, he cannot miss another film.

Why did it take him so long? He lives in Gaza, where cinemas disappeared 20 years ago because of violence.”

Readers then have to plough through a further sixteen paragraphs before they find out what that reference to “violence” means.

“But things were not always like this. Cinemas could be found in Gaza before being destroyed during the first Palestinian uprising in 1987.

Residents say back then, Islamist groups became increasingly hostile to screenings and consequently many of the movie theatres were attacked.

Residents said they were later repaired, but violence took over the territory again years later, this time a result of internal fighting between forces of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and the theatres were again destroyed.”

The sabotage of Gaza’s cinemas – along with other branches of the leisure and entertainment industries – by local religiously motivated extremists is obviously the real background to this story. Nevertheless, before they are given that information, readers are led to believe that there is another factor contributing to the absence of film culture in the Gaza Strip.

“And for those living there [the Gaza Strip], tight restrictions on leaving the territory have meant that going to watch a movie somewhere else is, for many, off limits.”

“Life in Gaza can be disappointing, he says. The borders of the Palestinian territory, home to about 1.9 million people, are controlled by Israel and Egypt for security reasons but criticised by human rights groups, and only people with permits are allowed to travel out.”

“Also, three wars in a decade and a blockade have left the enclave with a very poor infrastructure, and leisure options are virtually non-existent.”

The forced closure of cinemas in the Gaza Strip of course has nothing to do with – and significantly predates – the security measures imposed by Israel and Egypt in light of Hamas’ terrorist activity. Nevertheless, Bachega obviously has no issue with the shoehorning of unrelated politicized statements into this report – together with some uncritical amplification of inaccurate Hamas terminology.

“The project started in January, with Oversized Coat, from Amman-based Palestinian director Nawras Abu Saleh. It looks at Palestinian life between 1987 and 2011, including the two intifadas (uprisings) against Israeli occupation.

“These people who suffered these wars and siege are now in rows having popcorn and watching [a movie that] reflects the Palestinian situation,” Mr Abu Saleh said.

“The project is very important… because it is considered as one of the ways to break through the siege that has been forced on Gaza for 10 years.”” [emphasis added]

Bachega fails to inform his readers that there is no “siege” on the Gaza Strip just as he fails to adequately provide them with the background information necessary for their understanding of the factors which brought about the imposition of border restrictions by both Israel and Egypt.

In addition to the at least partially inaccurate claim above that “leisure options are virtually non-existent”, Bachega’s promotion of a simplistic, politicized and stereotypical narrative also includes the assertion that there are no libraries in the Gaza Strip.

“”We do not have cinemas, public libraries. There are no places to practice cultural things [and] government efforts are really shallow in this area,” says Mr Salam, who works with Ain Media company, a sponsor of the project.”

The new Palestinian Museum would presumably beg to differ in light of the findings of its recent survey: “a majority of Palestine’s libraries are located in the Gaza Strip”. So too apparently would the author of another recent survey of libraries, the director of the Public Library in the Municipality of Gaza and the staff at the Qattan Library in Gaza City.

Hugo Bachega could have used the opportunity provided by these new film screenings in the Gaza Strip to provide BBC audiences with rarely seen insight into the way in which Hamas’ religious extremism has affected the lives of the general public in the Gaza Strip. Instead, his minimal treatment of that issue is further watered down by the claim that “Hamas is seen to be slightly relaxing its grip on cultural activities in the territory” even as it continues to practice censorship of films and by his euphemistic portrayal of Hamas as a movement with “conservative views”.

Bachega’s references to the security measures imposed by Israel in relation to its border with the Gaza Strip have nothing to do with the story he is supposedly telling and are clearly narrative-driven. Further, having included them in the article, he fails to meet BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality by providing readers with an explanation for their existence beyond the immediately qualified phrase “for security reasons” and even goes on to amplify Hamas terminology concerning border restrictions.

Had Bachega bothered to meet those editorial guidelines, then BBC audiences – and he – might have come to appreciate the fact that the same extremist Islamist ideology which prompted the burning down of cinemas in the Gaza Strip also lies behind Israel’s need for border security measures.

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