BBC News website sources report on Gaza incident from Hamas

Some three hours after an incident took place in the southern Gaza Strip on the evening of November 11th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s main homepage, ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages under the headline “Israelis ‘kill Hamas commander’ in Gaza exchange of fire”. Several versions later, the report was re-titled “Israelis kill Hamas commander in undercover Gaza raid”.

Early Version

By the time that second headline was written, the IDF had clarified that the mission was not a “raid” but an intelligence-gathering operation.

Still later – some 14 hours after the incident occurred – the report was again re-titledEight killed in covert Israeli action in Gaza“.

Readers of the report’s earlier versions were told that:

“Seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, have been killed during an Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say.”

And:

“Hamas officials and medics said seven Palestinians were killed, four of them militants.”

In fact – as had been reported by the Times of Israel and others by the time that version of the report was published – more than four of the dead were Hamas operatives.

“According to Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades commander Nour Baraka was killed along with six other Hamas members by Israeli special forces who drove a “civilian vehicle” three kilometers into Gaza from the border.”

The BBC’s Arabic language report on the same subject also clarified that point:

“Hamas said 7 of its members were killed and 7 wounded in the Israeli shelling.”

The later versions of the BBC News website report revised that statement:

“Six of the Palestinians killed belonged to Hamas – the militant Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip – and the seventh was a member of the militant Popular Resistance Committees, AFP news agency cited Palestinian officials as saying.”

AFP actually described its information as coming from “Gazan security sources” – in other words, Hamas.

The BBC News website report’s earlier versions stated:

Early Version

“Sirens later sounded in communities across southern Israel and rockets were fired from Gaza, without causing harm.

The Israeli military later said 17 rockets had been fired and three were shot down. It was not clear if the rockets had caused any damage.” [emphasis added]

That first sentence remained in later versions of the report.

In fact sirens were not sounded “across southern Israel” but in areas close to the Israel-Gaza Strip border. By the time the earlier version of the report was published it was known that:

“Following the clashes, at least 17 projectiles were fired at southern Israel as of 05:05 a.m Monday, three of which were shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system, the army said with no immediate reports of casualties.

Light damage was caused to a number of greenhouses in the Eshkol region, locals said.”

Readers were not informed in any versions of the BBC’s report that flight paths to Ben Gurion airport had to be changed due to the rocket fire or that schools, colleges and train stations in the affected area had to be closed. 

The BBC’s earlier account of what happened during the incident was attributed mainly to Hamas:

Later Version

“Seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas commander, have been killed during an Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say.

An Israeli soldier was also killed and another wounded, the Israeli military said, in an ensuing firefight. […]

A spokesman for Hamas, the militant Islamist group that dominates Gaza, described the incident as a “cowardly Israeli attack”.

Hamas officials and medics said seven Palestinians were killed, four of them militants. The senior Hamas member killed was named as Sheikh Nur Barakeh, a commander of the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades, the group’s military wing, in Khan Younis, in the south of the territory.

Hamas said Israeli special forces fired from a car around 3km (2 miles) inside the Gaza Strip.

An exchange of fire then broke out, with witnesses reporting tank shelling and explosions from Israeli air strikes in the area.”

That account obviously gives BBC audiences the mistaken impression that the “seven Palestinians” were killed before “an ensuing firefight” rather than during the exchange of fire. Readers were not told that the Hamas commander Barakeh was reported to be involved with Hamas’ tunnel programme.

Later Version

Later versions of the report (9 and 10) included a sub-section titled “What happened?” which quoted “Palestinian sources” and “Palestinian officials” without clarifying that the source was again Hamas.

The final part of all versions of the BBC’s report continued the corporation’s deliberately euphemistic editorial policy of portraying the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltrations along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as “protests”.

“More than 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces since the end of March – most during weekly protests along the border at which thousands have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

Notably, BBC audiences have not been informed to date of the relevant and related issue of last week’s transfer of $15 million in cash from Qatar to Hamas.

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during October 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 330 incidents took place: 95 in Judea & Samaria, 14 in Jerusalem and 221 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 80 attacks with petrol bombs, 15 attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), eight arson attacks, two shooting attacks and four stabbing attacks.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 141 attacks with petrol bombs, 39 attacks using IEDs and twenty-five grenade attacks. Sixteen separate incidents of rocket or mortar fire – a total of forty-six launches – took place during October.

The murder of two Israeli civilians and the wounding of another in a terror attack at the Barkan industrial park on October 7th was reported on the BBC News website well over 24 hours later – with the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ used, as usual, only in quotes from Israeli officials.

A member of the security forces and a civilian were wounded in a stabbing attack on October 11th which did not receive any BBC coverage.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw no coverage of missile attacks on October 17th and October 24th. A barrage of attacks on October 26th/ 27th was similarly ignored at the time and only briefly mentioned in a later report.

Original version

The ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip was the topic of one BBC Trending report published on the BBC News website in which audiences were told nothing of grenade and IED attacks which took place.

“Demonstrators burnt tyres and threw stones at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas and live fire. Gaza’s health ministry said 32 Palestinians were wounded.” [emphasis added]

Another article that was first published on October 28th (and discussed here) presented an IED attack as an Israeli claim.

In short, visitors to the BBC News website during October saw belated coverage of one fatal terror attack and one out of three separate incidents of rocket attacks as well as qualified reporting of one IED attack: i.e. 4.5% of the 330 terror incidents which took place.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has reported 17.6% of the terror attacks that have actually taken place and 90.9% of the resulting fatalities.

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Why a third of a BBC Radio 4 programme focuses on Israel

The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Analysis’ is described as a “[p]rogramme examining the ideas and forces which shape public policy in Britain and abroad, presented by distinguished writers, journalists and academics”.

One recent episode – aired on October 29th and repeated on November 4th – was titled “Do Assassinations Work?“.

“Poison, exploding cigars and shooting down planes: tales of espionage and statesmanship. 
Government-ordered assassinations may seem the stuff of spy novels and movie scripts, but they seem to have entered the realm of reality of late. Why do states choose to take this action and can we measure their success? Edward Stourton assesses how various governments – including Israel, Russia, America and the UK – have dabbled in assassination and asks whether it works as a tool of foreign policy.”

Notably, although Stourton told listeners in his introduction that “we’re not asking whether it [assassination] can be morally justified or legal”, the ‘related topics’ offered to BBC audiences on the programme’s webpage are tagged “political crimes”.

This is not Radio 4’s first foray into this subject matter: in March 2012 the BBC’s Security Correspondent Gordon Corera produced a radio programme and a written article on the same topic in which he provided the BBC’s domestic audiences with some insight into their own country’s record.

Edward Stourton, on the other hand, presented listeners with this portrayal of Britain’s “attitude”:

Stourton: “…you see a British attitude which is that we’re not great ones for actually killing people – the licence to kill, 007 or whatever it is – that wasn’t really there. But we are quite happy to go along with playing a part in the strategy or in strategies which ended up with people being assassinated.”

While the programme’s examination of America’s record and the topical Khashoggi affair was similarly superficial, listeners heard a six-minute and twelve second long section focusing solely on Russian attacks on former and current Russian nationals in the UK.

But by far the most airtime was devoted to what Stourton described as “one very full case study” in his introduction: over a third of this programme related to Israel. The reason for that is because one of Stourton’s interviewees – the Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman – published a book on that topic earlier this year.  

Bergman’s book is based on interviews with current and former members of Israeli governments and security forces as well as archive material. In other words, the focus of this Radio 4 programme was made possible because of Israel’s democratic and open society.

The programme’s producers obviously found it much easier to bring in Bergman to talk about Israeli security-related assassinations than to produce any independent investigation into the more topical subject of assassinations – including of dissidents – long known to be carried out by less transparent, authoritarian governments in countries where journalists would have a much harder time interviewing former members of the intelligence services or gaining access to files.

 

BBC’s Bateman portrays counter-terrorism as a ‘narrative’

The November 8th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today‘ programme included an item (from 45:57 here) revisiting a story first reported by the BBC over three and a half years ago. The same report was also aired (from 14:07 here) in an edition of ‘Newshour‘ on BBC World Service radio on November 9th.

In what was described by the BBC’s Tom Bateman as “a story of revival against the odds”, BBC audiences were told about a concert played on a restored grand piano in Gaza City. Listeners also heard the following:

Bateman: “The [piano restoration] work symbolised the challenges of everyday life in Gaza. A UN agency had to coordinate access for skilled people and parts for the piano amid the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Strip which those countries say is imposed for security reasons.”

While this is by no means the first time that BBC audiences have heard that ‘Israel says’ portrayal of the reasons why it was necessary to introduce a ban on the entry of weapons to the Gaza Strip and controls on the import of dual-use goods, it is obvious that BBC reporters such as Tom Bateman know full well that the context to Israel’s policy is the Palestinian terrorism which increased after Hamas’ violent take-over of the territory in 2007.

Nevertheless, we continue to see BBC journalists whitewashing that terrorism by repeatedly describing the actions taken to counter it in terms of a ‘narrative’.

That editorial policy clearly does not contribute to meeting the BBC’s public purpose of helping audiences understand this and similar stories.

Weekend long read

1) A reminder that those wishing to make a submission to the BBC’s public consultation concerning its editorial guidelines have until November 12th to do so.

Background reading concerning the consultation – including details of where to send a submission – can be found here.

The BBC’s proposed draft of the revised guidelines can be found here. Of particular interest is Section 11 – commencing on page 122 – titled ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’. As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s record of adhering to its existing guidance on ‘Language When Reporting Terrorism’ is inconsistent.

The existing editorial guidelines (published in 2010) can be found here.

2) The ITIC reports on Hizballah’s designation as a transnational criminal group by the US.

“In October 2018, the US administration adopted a series of legislative and law enforcement measures against Hezbollah and all those supporting it. These measures have met with broad bipartisan support in Congress and have been approved by President Trump. These measures provide law enforcement agencies with an improved “toolkit” in the struggle against Hezbollah and the international crime in which it is involved. […]

Aside from Hezbollah, four other international drug and criminal cartels based in Latin America were included in the list. In order to manage the struggle against these leading groups, a special task force headed by the Deputy Attorney General was set up, with the participation of prosecutors and experts with experience in the war against drugs, terrorism, organized crime and money laundering.”

3) General Michael Hostage and Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Corn take a look at “Israel’s Next Northern War: Operational and Legal Challenges“.

“Hezbollah today is highly competent, adaptable and lethal. Its forces have gained invaluable battlefield experience in Syria and amassed more weaponry than 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries, including at least 120,000 rockets and missiles. This is more than all of Europe’s NATO members combined, and ten times as many as when it last went to war with Israel in 2006. […]

Despite this quantum leap in its capabilities, Hezbollah is under no illusion about its ability to inflict military defeat on Israel. It will not seek victory in the valleys of Lebanon or the skies over Israel, but in the court of public opinion.”

4) The FDD reports on a recent ISIS attack in Libya which did not receive any BBC English language coverage.

“Islamic State (IS) militants on October 28 launched a surprise attack on al-Fuqaha, a small town in central Libya, killing at least four people, including the mayor’s son and two police officers, and kidnapping 10 others. Both the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the U.S. Embassy strongly condemned the deadly attack and called for the immediate release of those kidnapped. The attack is the second major terrorist incident in two months, reflecting IS’s commitment to the guerrilla warfare strategy it has adopted in Libya after the loss of its coastal stronghold of Sirte in December 2016.”

The Gaza related protest the BBC ignored

Since the BBC began reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting over seven months ago, BBC audiences have seen the grand total of one minute and twenty seconds of coverage reflecting the point of view of residents of the Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip-Israel border who are affected by the violence.

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

That July 12th interview with one kibbutz spokesperson related solely to the subject of the arson attacks perpetrated by the Gaza Strip rioters and did not address additional issues such as the severe air pollution caused by months of tyre burning along the border or the rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilian communities.

Rocket and mortar attacks have of course not been limited to the past seven months: they commenced in 2001 and their numbers rose following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

photo credit: Sderotnet

This week a group of teenagers who have never known life without terrorists’ rocket and mortar attacks set off on a 90 kilometer walk to Jerusalem.

“High school students from villages and towns near the Gaza border began a protest march toward Jerusalem on Sunday to call attention to the rocket-battered region’s woes.

Over 100 students from grades 10-12 at Shaar Hanegev High School were taking part in the march, which began at the Sapir College campus in Sderot and is slated to last five days and stretch some 90 kilometers, part of it uphill, to Israel’s capital.

“We’re youth from the Gaza border region that decided to act,” 17-year-old Alon Levy, one of the march organizers, told the Haaretz daily. “We want to make our voices heard because we want to see a change. We want our younger siblings to be able to sleep quietly at night.”

Marchers will wear shirts that read “Let us grow up in peace.””

With BBC journalists having managed to make the less than one and half-hour trip from their Jerusalem office to an Israeli community in the Western Negev just once in the last seven months, one might have thought that the fact that some of the region’s residents had come to them would have prompted some coverage.

Unsurprisingly, given the corporation’s dismal record on informing its audiences of how Israeli civilians are affected by the violent rioting along the border and over eighteen years of rocket and mortar attacks by terror factions in the Gaza Strip, one would of course have been mistaken.

How did the BBC’s Yolande Knell frame Israeli visits to Gulf states?

Two very similar reports from BBC Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell have recently appeared on different platforms.

A written report titled “Israel-Arab ties warm up after long deep freeze” was published in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 6th with a synopsis telling BBC audiences that:

“An Israeli charm offensive is making once unlikely friends in the Arab world, worrying Palestinians.”

On the same day listeners to two editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ heard an audio report from Knell – from 08:37 here and from 14:07 here. In both cases it was introduced (by presenters Razia Iqbal and Rebecca Kesby) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original]

“Israel leaders often describe their country as being in a tough neighbourhood but recently there have been some extraordinary signs of friendliness with Arab states. Israel’s prime minister was in Oman, two of his ministers then went to the United Arab Emirates and today another is back in Muscat. And that’s despite the fact that Oman and the UAE – like most Arab countries – have no official diplomatic relations with Israel. The Palestinians are worried about what these new alliances – bound up in common fears about Iran’s regional ambitions and backed by the White House – will mean for their nationalist cause. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell reports.”

Knell’s framing of this story – which places the Palestinian reaction to events unrelated directly to them at the focus of her reports – is obviously noteworthy. Under the sub-heading “Palestinians wary” readers of the written report were told that:

“However, Palestinians are alarmed by the new alliances, developing as President Trump promises to present his “Deal of the Century” plan to end their conflict with Israel.

They fear his administration is looking to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others to pressure them into accepting a peace agreement that does not meet their long-standing demands.

“This kind of attempt to normalise Israel within the region, without Israel normalising its relationship with Palestine and remaining as an occupying power, is counterproductive and dangerous,” says Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official.

She suggests the latest developments threaten the legitimacy of the Arab Peace Initiative – which the 22 members of the Arab League signed up to in 2002.

It offers Israel normal diplomatic relations with Arab states only in exchange for its full withdrawal from Arab lands it captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East War.”

Knell made no effort to explain to her readers why an initiative launched over 16 years ago has to this day made no progress or why they should take Hanan Ashrawi’s word that it is at all relevant.

Ashrawi was also featured in Knell’s audio report, but with no mention of her PLO position.

Knell: “Here in the occupied West Bank Palestinian leaders are alarmed by this regional shift taking place as President Trump promises to present his ‘deal of the century’ to end their conflict with Israel. They cut off ties with the US last year, saying it wasn’t an honest peace broker and they fear the White House is looking to its powerful Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to pressure them into a peace agreement that falls well short of their long-standing demands. Hanan Ashrawi is a senior Palestinian official.”

Ashrawi: “I think this is part of an overall strategy by the Americans to try to get normalisation with the Arab world before Israel withdraws from the occupied territories: what we call the outside-in approach.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that under the terms of the Oslo Accords – signed by the body which Ashrawi represents – the issue of borders is supposed to be resolved in final status negotiations between the two parties.

Another aspect of Knell’s framing of this story is her promotion of a theory allegedly advanced by unidentified “analysts” which was portrayed in the written report as follows:

“Analysts suggest the pivotal role ascribed to Saudi Arabia in reviving the peace process has been thrown into doubt by the shocking murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

However, in another remarkable move, comments by Mr Netanyahu on Friday seemed to show tacit support for the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who has been accused of having a role in Khashoggi’s death – something the kingdom has denied.

He said Mr Khashoggi’s killing was “horrendous” but should not be allowed to lead to upheaval in Saudi Arabia “because the larger problem is Iran.””

In the audio report listeners heard the following self-contradicting statements from Knell:

Knell: “But there’s been a set-back to the warming of Saudi and Israeli ties: the international outcry over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Turkey. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman – known as MBS – has had his reputation badly damaged by the scandal, although he denies involvement. Remarkably, one international leader giving him tacit support is Mr Netanyahu.” [emphasis added]

Recording Netanyahu: “What happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with. Yet at the same time I say that it’s very important for the stability of the world – of the region and of the world – that Saudi Arabia remain stable.”

Listeners were not informed that – despite Knell’s claim of “international outcry” – just one day before her report was aired, seventy-five country delegates to the UN Human Right Council had heaped praise on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Another interesting aspect of Knell’s reporting is its downplaying of what some analysts see as the prime motivation behind improved relations between Israel and Gulf states. Readers of the written report found a tepid portrayal of Iranian regional actions and policies which, notably, whitewashed its financial support for Hamas from the picture.

“The main reason is a shared concern over Iran. Israel, like many Gulf Arab countries, worries about Iran’s ambitions and sees it as a destabilising force in the Middle East.

Tehran has been directly involved in conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and supports rebels fighting in Yemen and militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

In the audio report listeners were told that: [emphasis added]

Knell: “Meetings between Israeli and Gulf Arab officials have long taken place in secret but now they’re happening openly, despite a lack of progress on peace with the Palestinians. The main reason is the shared concern about Iran…”

Knell ended both her reports with more clear messaging to BBC audiences that a story concerning diplomatic relations between Israel and Gulf states is actually about Palestinians.

Written:

“All these signs of a regional shift are popular with ordinary Israelis and even Mr Netanyahu’s political rivals have praised his advances in the Gulf.

However, the Arab public – for whom the Palestinian issue remains very emotional – will be far harder to win over without a peace agreement.

So for now, Arab states are unlikely to fully embrace Israel. Instead we should expect more previously unthinkable invitations, gestures of recognition and warm handshakes.”

Audio:

“Such signs of new relations are very popular with ordinary Israelis although the Arab public – still very sensitive to the Palestinian issue – will be much harder to win over without a peace agreement.”

While BBC audiences obviously got a generous dose of PLO (and Hamas) messaging in both Knell’s reports, the question of how that contributes to their understanding of this story is clearly debatable.

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A BBC programme from Jerusalem – and you can take part

The BBC television and radio programme ‘Global Questions’ will be visiting Jerusalem next month.

“As the state of Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its creation, Global Questions travels to Jerusalem to ask what the next 70 years might bring.

Ever since its birth, Israel has been dominated by conflict with Palestinians and its neighbouring Arab states. Is more conflict inevitable or could there be a lasting peace that allows the next generation to live without war?

The Middle East is awaiting President Trump’s much anticipated peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century”. But the Palestinians see America’s Embassy move to Jerusalem as a dangerously provocative gesture.

Global Questions brings together a high-profile panel and an audience of young Palestinians and Israelis to see whether they believe the next 70 years could bring an end to the conflict that has scarred the region for so long.”

Members of the public can take part in that December 5th programme by emailing globalquestions@bbc.co.uk.

Alternatively, questions can be submitted using the webform here.

Accuracy, impartiality and context lacking in BBC Two film on Gaza

BBC Two has recently been showing a four-part series titled “Mediterranean with Simon Reeve” which will be available on BBC iPlayer for the next five months.

“Simon Reeve embarks on an extraordinary four-part journey around the Mediterranean, uncovering the wild extremes that lie behind the tourist veneer.”

In episode two of the series (also available here) its writer and presenter visited Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“Travelling south, Simon’s next stop is Israel, a country that perhaps more than any other depends on the Mediterranean for its survival. With few friends in the region, Israel has to transport most of its goods by sea. Simon joins the Israeli Navy who patrol the coast and protect the country’s offshore oil reserves using the latest military weaponry and technology, including unmanned, combat-ready drone boats.

From Israel Simon crosses one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders to reach the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis have endured a seemingly endless cycle of violence and in Gaza the result has been devastating destruction. Many building materials are restricted by an Israeli blockade on Gaza, but Simon meets an inspiring young woman who has helped reconstruction efforts by inventing an ingenious method of making bricks from ash. It’s a rare ray of hope in one of the most troubled regions of the Mediterranean.”

Informed viewers may well have raised an eyebrow at Reeve’s failure to mention the relevant context of UN Security Council resolutions forbidding the presence of armed militias in the area of southern Lebanon he described as “territory controlled by Hizballah” while en route to visit the terror organisation’s ‘museum’.

In addition to a trip on a navy boat, Reeve’s trip to Israel included a desalination plant and a visit to “party town” Tel Aviv. At the end of his subsequent trip to the Gaza Strip Reeve declared:

“So much about the Arab-Israeli conflict is about picking a side and personally I refuse to. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Palestinians. So many opportunities for real, lasting peace have been lost here and we see two sides that seem in many ways to be moving further apart, not closer together.”

That monologue however came after viewers have been presented (from 42:27) with a fifteen-minute context-free, politicised and, in parts, inaccurate view of the Gaza Strip.

After a brief reference to “missiles launched from Gaza” Reeve told viewers:

“I crossed one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders. So this is a long walk through a cage – a caged passageway that takes us from the very modern, pretty wealthy state of Israel to the much poorer and densely packed Gaza Strip. I’ve never been through a border quite like this. It is extraordinary in every possible sense and – my God – you look across here…look at the barrier that encircles Gaza. It’s a very forbidding, foreboding place to walk towards, quite frankly. There’s a…there’s a dehumanisation of the people who live here. The whole process makes you feel like you’re entering the cage of the wild animals.”

The concrete barrier near the Erez Crossing pointed out by Reeve of course does not ‘encircle’ Gaza at all. Reeve however did not bother to interview anyone from Israeli communities such as Netiv HaAsara which are protected from Palestinian terrorism by that barrier or make any effort to explain its purpose.

Having entered the Gaza Strip, Reeve teamed up with “our guide in Gaza” – failing to clarify that he is a BBC employee before viewers heard Rushdi Abu Alouf promote political propaganda.

Abu Alouf: “Of course they keep calling Gaza the biggest open-air prison which is true because it’s closed from four sides. So Israel is calling this strip of land is like a hostile entity.”

Viewers got no explanation as to why Israel declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity in September 2007 and Reeve next misled BBC audiences with an inaccurate portrayal of how and when Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “Since elections in 2006 Gaza has been controlled by Hamas – a militant Islamic group considered terrorists by Israel and many Western governments.”

Viewers also heard a ‘creative’ portrayal of the purpose of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military position.

Abu Alouf: “They operate in this area because it’s not far from the border so they always try to be ready for any Israeli escalation.”

Audiences were given an inaccurate (even according to previous problematic BBC reporting) account of civilian casualty figures during the 2014 conflict (47:55).

Reeve: “Israelis and Palestinians have endured endless cycles of violence. Here militants can fire rockets into Israel. Israel can attack with overwhelming force. Weeks of conflict here in 2014 between Israel and Palestinians left two thousand civilians dead, including an estimated 500 children.” [emphasis added]

He went on:

Reeve: “Eighteen thousand homes were destroyed. Israel restricts the supply of many building materials like cement into Gaza – Israel says to prevent Hamas building tunnels for attacks.” [emphasis in the original]

Reeve appears to have sourced the number 18,000 from UNOCHA – where that figure is presented as including partly damaged structures rather than the number (11,000 according to other UN reports) of dwellings “destroyed”.  Of course millions of tons of dual-use goods including cement have been imported into the Gaza Strip since the 2014 conflict under a UN supervised mechanism. Reeve made no effort to inform audiences of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for terrorism purposes that include cross-border tunnels.

Failing to explain to viewers why “Gaza is under blockade” or why electricity supplies only run for four hours a day, Reeve gave audiences a simplistic view of Gaza’s economy which failed to include any mention of the relevant topics of the policies and actions of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “But the blockade here is devastating Gaza’s economy. Gaza now has among the highest unemployment rates in the world and it’s believed most of its people survive on less than $2 a day.”

Reeve: “But today Gaza’s fishing industry is in crisis. It’s thought less than half of Gaza’s fishermen are still putting out to sea. Across the Mediterranean fish numbers are in steep decline. Here fishermen face additional challenges.”

Viewers were even told by a Gaza fisherman that fish do not come any closer than nine miles from the shore – with no challenge from Reeve.

Reeve: “This part of the Mediterranean is completely empty.”

Fisherman: “Fish can only be found nine miles out. The Israeli army only allows us to go out six miles.”

Although Reeve acknowledged that he had been unable to verify an account of an incident in which the same fisherman claimed to have been shot by Israeli forces, the BBC aired it anyway. No effort was made to introduce the relevant context of arms smuggling by sea to the Gaza Strip.

With no mention having been made of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip thirteen years ago, audiences were led to believe that Israel is “the occupier”.

Abu Alouf: “Look for young people in Gaza the only thing [they] know about the Israelis is that they are the occupier who come in tanks and aeroplanes and bomb Gaza.”

Simon Reeve ended his visit to the Gaza Strip by telling viewers of this film – categorised in the credits as a “current affairs production” – that:

Reeve: “The situation here is utterly shocking and maddening.”

Significantly, BBC Two audiences heard nothing whatsoever about Hamas’ agenda of destroying the Jewish state – or whether or not Reeve finds that and the terrorism against Israeli civilians which aims to bring that agenda about “utterly shocking and maddening”.

Clearly impartiality and accuracy were not at the forefront of priorities for the makers of this context-lite (especially in comparison to Reeve’s previous efforts to explain the Cyprus conflict) segment of Simon Reeve’s film.

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