The BBC World Service’s idea of ‘context’ to rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

The lead item in the November 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme OS – formerly ‘Outside Source’ – was described in its synopsis thus:

“It’s the heaviest exchange of aerial fire between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants since the full-blown conflict in 2014. The violence follows an Israeli special forces operation inside Gaza which went wrong late on Sunday, causing the deaths of Palestinian militants and an Israeli soldier. We hear from local people living in Gaza.”

Presenter Ben James told listeners (from 00:11 here): [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

James: “We’re your guide to the important stuff happening now and the story at the beginning of our news bulletin then is certainly the one we’re going to spend a great deal of time on on this edition of the programme – what’s been happening between Israel and Gaza in the last 24 hours. You’ll have heard in the bulletin: seven people killed in a flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants. A short time ago you were just hearing that Hamas said it would agree to an Egyptian brokered cease-fire as long as Israel does. […] Just to take you back, the escalation began when this undercover Israeli Special Forces operation inside Gaza was exposed on Sunday. Since then more than 400 rockets have been fired into Israel by militants. Israeli aircraft have hit 150 militant targets in response.”

After telling listeners what would come up later on in the item (but failing to note that the majority of those killed in the Gaza Strip were terrorists), James next introduced some patently one-sided ‘context’ to a story that is actually about terrorist organisations attacking Israeli civilians with military grade rockets and mortars.

James: “…we wanted to break down some of the facts around Gaza and what happens in this region to help put this story into some context. Here’s Orla Barry and Ben Davies from the ‘OS’ team.”

Listeners then heard (from 01:29) a contrived and simplistic quasi Q&A session, beginning with a theme long popular at the BBC.

Barry: “Where is Gaza?”

Davies: “Gaza or the Gaza Strip as it’s sometimes called is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the east and north and Egypt to the south. Although only 41 kms long and 10 kms wide, this strip of land has one of the highest population densities in the world – nearly 2 million people live there.”

As usual for the BBC, history begins in 1967, with no mention of how Egypt came to occupy the Gaza Strip or of the fact that it is included in the territory designated for the creation of the Jewish homeland by the League of Nations.

Barry: “What is its recent history?”

Davies: “Originally occupied by Egypt the territory was captured by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war. Israel withdrew its troops and around 7,000 settlers in 2005. Whilst Egypt controls the southern border, Israel controls the others and since 2007 the region has been governed by the Islamist group Hamas.”

Barry: “So who are Hamas?”

Davies: “Hamas are a Sunni Islamist organisation founded in 1987, born out of the First Intifada – a Palestinian uprising that saw over 5 years of violent conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. There is a key difference between them and the Palestinian Authority who control the West Bank – the other territory run by Palestinians on the west bank [sic] of the Jordan river. Hamas do not recognise the right of Israel to exist and furthermore they advocate the use of violence against it. Hamas is regarded either in whole or in part as a terrorist organisation by several countries – most notably Israel, the United States and the European Union. But not everyone agrees. Russia, China and Turkey are among countries who do not regard it as such.”

Those two last sentences are virtually identical to the Wikipedia entry for Hamas. Hamas of course does not just “advocate” the use of violence in its quest to eradicate the Jewish state – it actively engages in violence. Notably, BBC World Service listeners did not hear about Hamas’ Muslim Brotherhood links

Barry: “What are the roots of this latest conflict?”

Davies: “When Hamas took control of Gaza following regional elections in 2006 in which they ousted the then ruling Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt were quick to impose a blockade, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. The blockade is ongoing. The Israeli government say [sic] that millions of its population live in daily fear of rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza – rockets they say are smuggled into the region through secret tunnels. Hamas accuses Israel of indiscriminate airstrikes and an ongoing occupation of their land. They say that the blockade is the central cause for the region’s high levels of poverty and deprivation.”

Hamas of course did not take “control of Gaza” as a result of the PLC elections in early 2006 but nearly 18 months later in a violent coup. In contrast to Davies’ inaccurate claim, the blockade was not introduced ‘quickly’ but following a sharp rise in terror attacks against Israelis after the Hamas coup – which he failed to mention.

Barry: “What is life in Gaza like then?”

Davies: “In 2017 the Gaza Strip had the highest unemployment rate in the World Bank’s development data base. It’s more than double the rate of the West Bank and youth unemployment is more than 60%. The growing poverty rate in the region has served only to fuel the anger of many of its residents.”

In other words, the “context” given to BBC audiences around the world in this “guide to the important stuff happening now” framed unprecedented rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians as being rooted in poverty allegedly caused by a misrepresented blockade and an ‘occupation’ which ended over thirteen years ago. 

 

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Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

h/t AB

When the BBC News website reported the November 11th incident east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip in which an Israeli Special Forces officer was killed and another wounded in an exchange of fire that also left six Hamas members and one PRC operative dead, it correctly noted that following the incident, seventeen rockets had been launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian communities.

However, several other BBC reports have erased those rocket attacks and/or the fact that all the Palestinians killed in the incident were members of terror groups.

Listeners to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ on November 12th were informed in a news bulletin (from 24:47 here) that: [emphasis in bold added]

“Israeli Special Forces have carried out a raid on the Gaza Strip. An Israeli officer, a Hamas military commander and another six Palestinians were killed during the operation.” [emphasis added]

No mention was made at all of the subsequent launch of 17 missiles at Israeli civilian targets by Gaza Strip based terrorists.

In a news bulletin aired in the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on the same day (from 01:04:30 here), listeners were told that:

“An Israeli army officer and seven Palestinians including a militant commander have been killed in the Gaza Strip during what was reported to have been an intelligence gathering operation by Israeli Special Forces It led to heavy Israeli air strikes and the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Bateman likewise told listeners that “among the seven Palestinians killed was a local commander of Hamas’ armed wing” and failed to note the rocket fire.

The same story was the lead item in the November 12th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ and listeners were told by presenter Razia Iqbal (from 00:11 here) that:

Iqbal: “On Sunday a covert Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians including one Hamas commander and one Israeli soldier – a Lieutenant Colonel. The subsequent firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza threatens to upend an uneasy peace [sic].”

Later on in the item, while talking to Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad, Iqbal remarked:

Iqbal: “But there was also a big significant loss on your side. Apart from the six other people who were killed, a senior Hamas commander, Nur Baraka.”

Iqbal also subsequently failed to challenge her Hamas interviewee’s claim that “they [Israel] killed seven civilians yesterday”.

As we have already seen, in the November 12th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ presenter Ritula Shah likewise portrayed terror operatives as “Palestinians” and erased the subsequent rocket fire from audience view.

Shah: “An undercover operation that went awry and left seven Palestinians and an Israeli officer dead has sparked an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.”

The 17 rocket attacks were also omitted from a BBC News website report published on November 13th and from another BBC News website article that appeared on November 14th with early versions stating:

“The latest violence began after an Israeli special forces undercover operation in Gaza was exposed on Sunday, triggering clashes that left seven Palestinian militants and one Israeli soldier dead.”

There is no doubt whatsoever that the BBC knows full well that all seven of those killed near Khan Younis on November 11th were operatives in terror factions and that it is well aware that Gaza Strip based terrorists subsequently fired seventeen missiles at civilian targets in Israel.

There can hence be no justification whatsoever for the repeated withholding of that relevant information from BBC audiences on various platforms.

Related Articles:

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

BBC Radio 4: nothing to see in southern Israel, move along to Gaza

Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

BBC News website sources report on Gaza incident from Hamas

 

 

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

On the morning of November 13th the BBC News website published another report about the flare-up of violence which had begun the previous afternoon.

Originally headlined “Heavy Gaza-Israel fire traded overnight” and later re-titled “Israel-Gaza: Deadly fire traded across border“, the report underwent numerous amendments in the ten hours following its initial publication.

The use of the word “traded” – i.e. exchanged – in both those headlines obviously suggests equivalence between the actions of the two sides, as do the report’s carefully ‘balanced’ opening lines.

“Eight people have been killed in a flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

More than 460 rockets have been fired into Israel by militants since Monday night, while Israeli aircraft have hit 160 militant targets in response.

Seven Palestinians, several of them militants, died in the strikes on Gaza, while a Palestinian civilian was killed in a rocket attack in southern Israel.” [emphasis added]

However, this story is not about comparable actions. It is actually about an attack – unprecedented in scale – which Hamas and other terror organisations chose to launch against Israeli civilians in southern Israel. The response of Israel to that attack was not equivalent as implied by the BBC: the response struck exclusively military – not civilian – targets after advance warnings were given.

So how was that story portrayed in the report itself?

The report makes use of four photographs: two from Israel and two from the Gaza Strip. The first narrow-angle image photographed in Israel is captioned “Buildings in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon were hit by rockets fired from Gaza”.

The original caption to that photograph however reads: [emphasis added]

“An Israeli man [apparently a property tax inspector – Ed.] inspects a house damaged by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon, on November 13, 2018″

In other words, the BBC chose to relabel a house as “buildings”.

The second picture photographed in Israel is captioned “Schools have been ordered to close in Israeli border communities as a precaution” and does not show any of the damage inflicted on homes and businesses on November 12th/13th.

The first of the two photographs taken in the Gaza Strip is a wide-angle shot captioned “Israeli aircraft struck the Hamas interior security headquarters in Gaza City”.

The second photograph likewise shows the result an Israeli strike and its caption tells BBC audiences that “Israel carried out air strikes when Sunday night’s firefight erupted”

In other words, readers of this report saw twice as many photographs of damage in the Gaza Strip than that in Israel and the one image which does show the results of terrorists’ rocket attack to the exterior of a house leads BBC audiences to believe that such damage occurred in one location – Ashkelon.

Civilian homes, businesses and a pre-school were also destroyed or damaged by direct hits in Netivot, Sderot and kibbutzim in Eshkol, Sha’ar HaNegev and Hof Ashkelon but that information does not appear anywhere in the BBC’s account of events in Israel. The fact that what the BBC described as “Sunday night’s violence” included the launching of 17 rockets from the Gaza Strip was erased from audience view and the BBC refrained from identifying the perpetrators of Monday’s attacks, while under-reporting the number of Israelis who needed medical care after they took place.

“After a brief lull following Sunday night’s violence, a barrage of rockets and mortars was launched towards Israel late on Monday, which Israeli medics said killed one person and injured 28.

A bus, which had reportedly been carrying troops, was hit by an anti-tank missile in the Shaar Hanegev region, seriously wounding a male soldier.

Overnight, a man was killed when a block of flats in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket. He was later identified as a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank who had been working in Israel.

Eight other people were injured in the attack, including two women who the Israeli ambulance service said were in a serious condition.” [emphasis added]

In contrast, the BBC’s portrayal of events in the Gaza Strip left readers in no doubt as to who had launched attacks. The account was not given in the BBC’s own words but paraphrased Israeli army statements and it gave details of three targets while failing to report that advance warning of the strikes was given and euphemistically describing members of terrorist organisations as “militants”.

“In response, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out what it called a wide-scale attack against military targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

It said they included Hamas’s military intelligence headquarters in northern Gaza and “a unique vessel” in a harbour in the south of the territory.

The building housing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was also bombed after being evacuated. The IDF said the outlet “contributes to Hamas’s military actions”.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said seven people were killed and 26 others injured in the strikes. At least four of the dead were militants; two are said to have been farmers in northern Gaza.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s report included ‘analysis’ from Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman reporting – readers were told – from “southern Israel”. Notably, Bateman’s reporting did not include any interviews with Israeli civilians affected by the heaviest ever barrage of rocket attacks launched by Gaza Strip terrorists and so BBC audiences went away with the mistaken impression that just one block of flats in Ashkelon was damaged in these attacks.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4: nothing to see in southern Israel, move along to Gaza

Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

BBC News website sources report on Gaza incident from Hamas

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4: nothing to see in southern Israel, move along to Gaza

As we saw yesterday the BBC News website was not interested in telling BBC audiences about the numerous terrorists’ missiles which hit the homes and businesses of Israeli civilians in places such as Ashkelon, Sederot and Netivot on November 12th.

If readers are wondering whether the BBC’s domestic radio audiences got any better coverage, the answer to that question can be found by taking a look at BBC Radio 4’s November 12th edition of ‘The World Tonight’, presented by Ritula Shah.

Near the beginning of the programme (from 05:26 here) listeners heard a news bulletin in which newsreader Chris Aldridge indulged himself with a less than accurate and impartial description of an Israeli Special Forces operation the previous night.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Aldridge: “Around 300 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, prompting a wave of Israeli airstrikes. It follows what appears to have been a botched undercover Israeli operation in Gaza yesterday in which 7 Palestinians and one Israeli were killed. Our correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “A 19 year-old Israeli man was seriously hurt when a bus was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Strip. Israel said its fighter jets had targeted militant sites in Gaza in response to the barrage. Health officials in the Strip say two Palestinians have been killed – reportedly members of a militant faction. This significant escalation of hostilities makes the immediate prospects of a truce between Israel and Hamas even more unlikely, following a series of violent clashes in recent months which a UN and Egyptian brokered process was trying to calm. Militants in Gaza vowed to take revenge after yesterday’s incident in which undercover Israeli Special Forces were involved in an intense exchange of fire with Gaza based militants.”

By the time Radio 4 listeners heard that report homes in at least four Israeli communities had been hit by the terrorists’ missile fire and at least 34 people had needed medical treatment. Bateman however did not find that – or who fired the anti-tank missile; a detail also known by that time – worth mentioning.

Later on in the programme (from 30:00 here) listeners heard Ritula Shah describe members of terror factions merely as “Palestinians” and claim that the “escalation of violence” was happening – exclusively – “in the Gaza Strip” while concealing the fact that the rocket attacks were still ongoing as she spoke.

Shah: “An undercover operation that went awry and left 7 Palestinians and an Israeli officer dead has sparked an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli air force has conducted strikes on the territory in retaliation for rockets fired into Israel earlier today. Video footage showed the rockets being launched – white smoky trails against a blue sky – while sirens sounded to warn Israelis to take cover. Israel said it had struck more than 70 militant sites in Gaza in response to more than 200 rockets fired from there. For the people of Gaza this escalation of violence comes after apparent progress in an Egyptian and UN backed mediation process following a series of clashes between the two sides in recent months. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza 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.”

By the time Shah was speaking around 300 rockets and mortars – not 200 – had been fired at Israeli civilian targets. Predictably she adhered to the BBC’s standard framing of the ‘Great Return March’, concealing the fact that what she euphemistically portrayed as “protests” were in fact violent riots organised by terror factions and that a significant proportion of those killed were linked to those terror groups. Likewise Shah did not bother to inform listeners that the purpose of the demand for the so-called ‘right of return’ is the eradication of Israel.

With listeners still having heard nothing of what had been going on in southern Israel during the hours preceding this programme, Shah then went on to introduce a contributor who has appeared in the past in BBC World Service content.

Shah: “So what does this latest flare-up mean for people who live in Gaza? Najla Shawa is an aid worker and mother of two young children who lives to the west of Gaza City.”

Listeners then heard a one minute and eighteen second monologue:

Shawa: “Things are very worrying. We do hear explosions every now and then. I’m lucky that I’m distant from those areas so far. But we are completely unsure about how this will turn out in the coming hours. Our first concern as the parents, you know, we have two children – almost one and a half years old and four years old, two daughters – and whenever we are… when things are tense we try to avoid being near windows or open the window slightly so that it can absorb the shock. We are so used to it that we don’t immediately run or stay away. We just live our normal lives until something really big happens. Tonight there’s heavier and we are really concerned but this is really our life. Last night we haven’t slept. Nobody is sure that we will take our kids to school or not. It’s crazy to take them to school having all these bombings and airstrikes happening. So all [both] my daughter went to school early morning, I was like what kind of schizophrenic life we have. We’re all night worrying about the intensity of the situation and then everyone goes to work, to their normal life. Because we have experienced this so…like hundreds and hundreds of times like in the past years, this is unfortunately our way of living.”

Shah went on to amplify an inaccurate version of events provided by a terror organisation.

Shah: “Najla Shawa in Gaza City. The latest trigger for violence was Sunday’s undercover Israeli operation in the south of Gaza. Israel’s chief military spokesman said that Israeli Special Forces involved in the incident had not been sent to assassinate Hamas commanders but to conduct an intelligence gathering operation. Hamas said the Israeli undercover team had infiltrated Gaza near Khan Younis in a civilian car to target the commander who was killed.”

Listeners next heard directly from the Hamas horse’s mouth as Shah introduced another monologue from Ghazi Hamad.

Shah: “Its spokesperson Ghazi Hamad told the BBC that although Palestinians were ready to die for their freedom, Israel had gone too far this time.”

Hamad: “I think what happened this time [is] that Israel broken the understandings of the ceasefire and I think they put a big knife in the back of the ceasefire and this is prove that Israel is not interested in the stability and prosperity of Gaza and it try every time to break any agreement or understanding.”

Listeners were not told at this point or anywhere else in the programme that following the incident near Khan Younis on November 11th, Gaza Strip terrorists launched seventeen missile attacks against civilians in Israel.  

Shah went on to quote a Tweet.

Shah: “Well the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladinov, Tweeted a short while ago saying the escalation in the past 24 hours is extremely dangerous and reckless. Rockets must stop, restraint must be shown by all. No effort must be spared to reverse the spiral of violence. Well Avi Issacharoff [wrongly pronounced] is Middle East analyst for the Times of Israel and one of the creators of the Israeli political thriller Fauda. Does he think a further escalation of violence is inevitable?”

Listeners then heard a discussion of the background to events with Avi Issacharoff beginning by stating “I do believe that we are into an escalation already.”

Shah: “But it comes – the timing is [unintelligible] – it comes as Benjamin Netanyahu has been saying very publicly that he wants to avoid war and many people believe that there are long-term efforts to try and maintain a truce, if not establish a better peace.”

Issacharoff pointed out that “Hamas is calling for the elimination of the State of Israel” and went on to mention a story about which BBC audiences have to date heard nothing.

Issacharoff: “Israel not only allowed more gas…into Gaza but also allowed Qatari money that will pass into Hamas’ hands to pay the salaries of Hamas’ people” 

After Issacharoff had mentioned the Khan Younis incident as a factor behind the latest escalation, Shah brought up her own speculations.

Shah: “But what do you conclude from all of that then? Is Israel in a sense trying to curb Hamas before there is some kind of deal? Is this a preemptive action? What would you read into it?”

Having explained that any ‘deal’ does not mean a peace agreement in which the sides “live happily ever after with each other”, Issacharoff explained that such an understanding actually means that “there’s going to be quiet while both sides will continue to prepare themselves for the next war to come.”

Shah appeared rather shocked by the idea of an inevitable war:

Shah: “But you talk about the next war to come.”

With Issacharoff having again explained that “this will happen at the end of the day…” and that any agreement between Israel and Hamas is “a temporary truce”, Shah closed the item.

As we see, throughout this entire seven-minute item and the news bulletin which came before it, BBC Radio 4 audiences heard nothing whatsoever about what was happening to the residents of southern Israel at that very time. A more one-sided portrayal of the story is difficult to imagine.

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Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

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Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

About an hour and a half after terrorists in the Gaza Strip had begun a barrage of attacks on civilian targets in Israel on the afternoon of November 12th the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel-Gaza violence erupts after covert op killings“.

The report has since been amended numerous times but its headline has not been changed and its opening paragraph remains basically the same:

Version 1: “Violence has flared between Israel and Gaza, a day after seven militants and an Israeli soldier were killed amid an undercover Israeli operation in Gaza.”

Version 13: “Violence has flared between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, a day after seven militants and an Israeli soldier were killed during an undercover Israeli operation in Gaza.”

The “militants” – actually all members of armed terror groups – were not killed “during an undercover Israeli operation” but after that mission had been exposed. Hence the suggestion to audiences that “killings” took place during a “covert op” is inaccurate and misleading.

By the time the first version of this article was published between 80 and 100 rockets and mortars had been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian communities. The BBC described that publicly known information as follows:

“Scores of rockets were launched at Israel…”

In version 13 of the report – published on the morning of November 13th – readers were told that:

“Militants fired 300 rockets and mortars at Israel. One hit a bus, seriously injuring a soldier nearby.”

By the time that version saw light the official figure was 370 missiles. Since the previous evening it had been known that the attack on the bus, which opened the barrage of attacks, was not carried out using a rocket or a mortar: Hamas had already put out a statement announcing that the attack was carried out using a Kornet guided anti-tank missile.

Readers then saw a qualified representation of the Israeli response to the hundreds of attacks:

“Israel responded with more than 70 strikes on what it said were targets belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” [emphasis added]

The report went on:

“Three Palestinians, two of them reportedly militants, were killed.” [emphasis added]

Twelve hours before this version of the report was published it was already known that:

“At least three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the retaliatory attacks and three others were wounded, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said. The Gaza health ministry identified the dead as Muhammed al-Tatri, 27, Muhammed Oudeh, 22, and Hamad al-Nahal, 23. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group claimed two of the dead as its members.”

Readers had to go right down to the article’s 33rd paragraph to discover that the BBC was in fact aware of that information and so the use of the word “reportedly” was entirely superfluous.

The article went on:

“Meanwhile, Israeli medics said 10 people in Israel were injured.

Israeli media later reported that a man was killed after a house was hit by a rocket in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.”

Hours before this version of the report appeared the Israeli ambulance service had already announced that it had treated 53 injured people and further injuries and one fatality were sustained in a further attack on Ashkelon several hours before the BBC published this article.

The BBC’s report continued with a section titled “What happened on Sunday?” in which readers were once again given an account of the incident near Absan al Kabira, east of Khan Younis, that is mostly sourced from the terror group Hamas.

That was followed by a section titled “Why did Israel kill the commander?” and another titled “What has happened since Sunday’s operation?” in which the BBC refrained from telling readers in its own words of the previous barrage of rocket attacks.

The Israeli military said that immediately after the clashes, 17 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, three of which were shot down.” [emphasis added]

The article went on to inaccurately claim that the November 12th attacks had taken place throughout the day, rather than from 16:30 onward.

Throughout Monday, some 300 rockets and mortars were launched towards Israel, dozens of which were intercepted while many landed in open spaces, according to the Israeli military.” [emphasis added]

Remarkably, BBC audiences saw no reporting on the numerous direct missile hits on homes and businesses in places such as Sderot, Ashkelon and Netivot and no comment from any of the people affected by the unprecedented barrage of attacks. No images of the damage sustained to the homes of Israeli civilians appeared in this report.

The report ended with a section titled “Why are Israel and Hamas enemies?” that was recycled from a previous report and in which BBC audiences once again saw the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltrations which have been taking place along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip for more than seven months whitewashed as “protests”.

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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.

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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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.

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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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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