BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

The BBC News website’s March 30th report on the day’s incidents at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip adhered to the formula seen in coverage of similar events throughout the past year.

Headlined “Gaza protests: Thousands mark ‘Great Return’ anniversary” the BBC’s framing of the story was evident in the use of the words ‘demonstrated’, ‘demonstrators’, ‘demonstrations’, ‘protests’, ‘protesters’ and ‘protest’ no fewer than nineteen times in the 564-word report’s text, headline, sub-headings, links and photo captions. A BBC News Tweet promoting the article also used the term ‘rallies’.

The article opened: [emphasis added]

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians have demonstrated in Gaza to mark the anniversary of the start of weekly protests on the boundary with Israel.

Demonstrators threw stones and burned tyres, with Israeli troops using tear-gas and live rounds in response.”

Readers had to go down to paragraph nine to discover that participants threw more than “stones”.

“The IDF said explosive devices had been thrown over the border fence and Israeli forces had responded with “riot dispersal means” and live bullets.”

As usual the BBC quoted “health officials “without bothering to inform readers that they belong to the same terror organisation that organised the event.

“Three protesters died in the clashes, Palestinian officials say, with another killed earlier on Saturday.”

“Three Palestinian protesters, all teenage boys, have been killed and more than 300 have been wounded, Palestinian health officials say.

The health officials say another man was shot dead by Israeli troops close to the fence overnight.”

Readers were not told that the person “killed earlier on Saturday” had, as reported by the Times of Israel, been taking part in rioting at the border at the time.

“Early Saturday, Mohammed Saad, 21, was killed by Israeli army fire east of Gaza City near the perimeter fence, Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said, adding he was hit by shrapnel in the head.

A Gaza hospital worker, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said Saad was a member of the so-called “night disturbance unit.” Such groups routinely burn tires, flash laser lights and detonate explosives near the fence at night to distract soldiers and disturb residents of nearby Israeli communities.”

Neither were BBC audiences informed that the majority of those described as wounded were, according to the quoted “health officials”, affected by tear gas.

As has been the case throughout the past twelve months, the BBC avoided explaining the aim of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ to readers while once again promoting the notion of “ancestral homes” and Palestinian refugees in a location ruled by Palestinians.

“The protests back the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

As has repeatedly been the case since late February, the BBC uncritically amplified claims made in a UNHRC report.

“At least 189 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed between March and December 2018, the UN says.

A UN inquiry says Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes during the protest marches – a charge Israel rejects.”

“A commission of inquiry was set up by the UN Human Rights Council.

Thirty-five of the 189 Palestinian fatalities were children, three were clearly marked paramedics and two were clearly marked journalists, the commission found.

The inquiry found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers had shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognisable as such.

Four Israeli soldiers were injured at the demonstrations. One Israeli soldier was killed on a protest day but outside the protest sites, the commission said.

Unless undertaken lawfully in self-defence, intentionally shooting a civilian not directly participating in hostilities is a war crime.”

While failing to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in initiating, organising, funding and executing the ‘Great Return March’ events, the BBC did make a brief opaque reference to the terror group’s ability to control the level of violence according to its interests.

“Hamas had said it would try to keep the crowds a safe distance from the fence, with Egyptian and UN mediators trying to prevent further escalation.

The clashes were limited in scope and fears of a large number of deaths have not materialised. The protests quietened in the evening.”

BBC audiences were not informed that Hamas had ordered schools closed and a general strike on March 30th in order to boost participation in the event.

Hamas was misleadingly portrayed in this report as being designated only by Israel.

“The Israeli government designates Hamas a terrorist group which it says has been seeking to use the protests as a cover to cross into its territory and carry out attacks.”

The violent coup in which Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 was erased from audience view.

“This day of protests is a serious test of the fragile calm between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.”

The terror group’s operatives were, as usual, portrayed by the BBC as “militants”.

“They came after a tense week in which Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza.”

One year on, the BBC’s reporting on this story has not improved at all and it continues to promote the same jaded themes and euphemisms while denying audiences vital context. A year ago the organisers of this agitprop stated that its aim is to create photo-ops which – in their words – “the whole world and media outlets would watch” and the BBC has played its part in ensuring that would be the case.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in BBC reporting of Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report