On February 28th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel’s Netanyahu criticised over 2014 Gaza war preparations“.
Relating to a report on Operation Protective Edge published by Israel’s state comptroller, the article includes background information concerning the 2014 conflict, part of which relates to the subject of casualties.
“The 50-day war left at least 2,251 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,462 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,231 others injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.”
Since the end of that conflict the BBC has published varying accounts of casualty figures and civilian/combatant casualty ratios in the Gaza Strip, all of which cite the UN as their source. In August 2014 a graphic told BBC audiences:
“2,101 people killed in Gaza – UN estimates 70% of deaths are civilians”
In October 2014 the same graphic was amended to read:
“2,104 people killed in Gaza – UN estimates 69% of deaths are civilians”
In December 2014 the BBC told its audiences that:
“The 50-day conflict in Gaza between Israel and militant groups led by Hamas left at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,000 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.”
So where has the figure 2,251 cited in this latest article come from? Its source is the controversial report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council more than a month before the conflict ended and originally headed by William Schabas that was published in June 2015. Section V of that report states:
“In Gaza, in particular, the scale of the devastation was unprecedented. The death toll alone speaks volumes: 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 Palestinian civilians, of whom 299 women and 551 children and 11,231 Palestinians, including 3,540 women and 3,436 children, were injured, of whom 10 per cent suffered permanent disability as a result. While the casualty figures gathered by the United Nations, Israel, the State of Palestine [sic] and non-governmental organizations differ, regardless of the exact proportion of civilians to combatants, the high incidence of loss of human life and injury in Gaza is heartbreaking.”
A footnote states that the quoted figures come from:
“Data compiled by the OCHA Protection Cluster, 31 May 2015. For its methodology, see A/HRC/28/80/Add.1, para. 24, footnote 43.”
That reference leads to a footnote which states:
As we see, the footnote reveals that the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health in Gaza” is one source of the report’s data, together with “the Protection Cluster”. As has been noted here previously, that “Protection Cluster” includes political NGOs, some of which also have a financial relationship with UNOCHA.
“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.”
Those sources are of course the same ones that produced data promoted by the BBC almost from the very beginning of the 2014 conflict – as BBC Watch revealed at the time.
Readers may also recall that last August the BBC Trust published the findings of a review of the impartiality of the BBC’s reporting of statistics in its news and current affairs output. That report included “10 Golden Rules”, one of which is:
“Check your source. Is it likely to be someone with a vested interest in interpreting findings in a particular way?”
The UNHRC is of course notorious for its anti-Israel bias and to describe it – as well as the Hamas health ministry, UNOCHA, the PCHR, B’tselem and Al Mezan – as having “a vested interest” would be gross understatement.
Nevertheless, as we see, over thirty months since the 2014 conflict ended the BBC is still amplifying casualty figures and debatable civilian/combatant casualty ratios supplied by Hamas and NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel that were funneled through a UN agency and subsequently promoted in a controversial and biased UNHRC report.