BBC’s Plett Usher does ‘ode to a reasonable Hamas’

On November 18th the BBC News website published an article by Barbara Plett Usher titled “Israel-Gaza clash: Why Hamas chose restraint”.

Plett Usher began with two inaccurate statements, one of which she later repeated.

“Last week’s surge of violence over Gaza was notably different from previous cross-border fighting: Hamas stayed out of it and Israel did not target its traditional foe. […]

Hamas, which governs Gaza, did participate in a joint operations room with other factions to discuss tactics. But it conspicuously did not launch any attacks.”

So did Hamas really ‘stay out of it’? Not exactly, according to Israeli officials:

“Hamas terror organization is responsible for the launch of two rockets at the southern city of Be’er Sheva overnight, sources in the defense establishment said Saturday. […]

Military officials estimate the launch was carried out by low-level Hamas militants on the ground, contrary to the position of the organization’s leadership that wants to put the latest flare-up behind them.”

And did Israel “not target its traditional foe”? Again, that claim is inaccurate.

“Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza after Palestinians launched two rockets towards the southern Israeli city of Beersheba early on Saturday morning. The IDF believes Hamas was responsible for firing the rockets. […]

In retaliation the Israeli military said it struck a military camp, a compound for the group’s naval forces and underground terror infrastructure.”

Plett Usher went on to claim that the PIJ is “more radical” than Hamas.

“Paradoxically it confirmed that Israel and Hamas – Gaza’s main Islamist movement – are committed to pursuing strategic understandings to help keep the peace.

The fighting started when Israel carried out what it called the targeted killing of a top commander in the smaller, more radical Islamic Jihad group, claiming he was planning attacks that posed an imminent threat.”

Of course both the PIJ and Hamas are Islamist groups which reject Israel’s existence, strive for its eradication by means of terrorism and reject any efforts to resolve the conflict through negotiation. Plett Usher however did not trouble her readers with the finer points of either terrorist organisation’s ideology before extensively – and uncritically – quoting an official from Hamas’ ‘international relations office’. [emphasis added]

“That is because it was “in the Palestinian interest” to avoid an escalation, a senior Hamas official, Basem Naim, told the BBC. Gazans were already suffering enough due to dire conditions on the ground, he said, and “the regional and international atmosphere is not so helpful at this time”. […]

Basem Naim played down the differences between the two groups. He insisted Hamas had not abandoned its commitment to armed resistance against the Israeli occupation, what Israel and many Western countries call terrorism.

“Maybe we, based on our interests, sometimes decide to postpone or decrease our response [to Israeli strikes], but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to continue our struggle,” he said. “It is not our role to work as a police force for the occupation, and if we have to decide internally to stop, this is based on Palestinian dialogue, not a response to Israeli wishes or plans.””

Plett Usher of course did not bother to explain to BBC audiences that what Hamas means by “Israeli occupation” is the existence of Israel itself or that Israel withdrew every last soldier and civilian from the Gaza Strip fourteen years ago.

She did mislead readers with the claim that “Israel tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip when Hamas reinforced its power there in 2007…” while failing to clarify that the Israeli security cabinet declared the Gaza Strip “hostile territory” in September 2007 – three months after Hamas’ violent take-over – due to a severe increase in terror attacks.

Plett Usher whitewashed twenty months of weekly violent rioting that regularly includes border infiltrations, shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and arson attacks which have caused serious damage to thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves in Israel as “protest marches”. She portrayed restrictions on the import of dual use goods and weapons to the Gaza Strip as “crippling” while failing to clarify that Israel facilitates the entry of thousands of tons of goods including medical supplies, food, fuel and building materials to the Gaza strip every week.

“But the trade-off is for Hamas to lower the temperature of weekly protest marches along Gaza’s border with Israel, and for Israel to ease its crippling blockade.”

Notably however, readers of this transparent amplification of Hamas’ narrative learned nothing of the long-standing tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the former’s failure to rein in Baha Abu al Ata which is the background to the recent round of conflict.

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BBC’s Tom Bateman frames ‘background’ to PIJ attacks

BBC’s Bateman misleads WS radio listeners on Israeli ‘policy’

BBC’s Bateman misleads WS radio listeners on Israeli ‘policy’

The November 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 30:07 here) relating to the supposed ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Jerusalem-based reporter Tom Bateman told listeners that: [emphasis added]

Bateman: “Islamic Jihad has claimed that Israel agreed not to use live fire – live ammunition – on protesters during weekly protests at the perimeter fence and it’s declared that a big victory for the resistance. Israel has said – its foreign minister, Israel Katz – that that simply is not the case and that what it calls its open fire policy will continue.”

Obviously, listeners unfamiliar with the details of the topic may well have understood from Bateman’s words that Israel has a “policy” of opening fire on people he had seconds earlier described as “protesters”.

But where did Bateman get that ambiguous phrase “open fire policy”? Coincidentally or not, the same phrase appeared an article published by the Reuters news agency earlier in the day:

“But Israel said it would observe only a limited quid pro quo. “Quiet will be answered with quiet,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio. […]

Katz said there would be no change to Israeli military policy in Gaza, contradicting the assertion of Islamic Jihad.

Targeted killings “will not cease”, he said, and “the open-fire policy for which the Israel Defence Forces is responsible (at the Gaza border) will not change”.”

It is clear in that interview (Hebrew) that Katz was referring to standard operating procedures (SOPs) used by the IDF which (see page 19):

“…forbid the use of potentially lethal force against rioters save for exceptional circumstances. Potentially lethal force is permissible only where a violent riot poses a real and imminent danger to the life or bodily integrity of IDF forces or Israeli civilians, and only as a measure of last resort. The SOPs emphasize that the danger must be first addressed by way of verbal warnings and non-lethal means. If these means have been exhausted (or were unfeasible in the circumstances) and the danger has not been removed, the SOPs allow – subject to stringent requirements of necessity and proportionality – precise fire below the knees of a key rioter or a key instigator, in order to remove the real and imminent danger the riot poses.”

There is of course an important difference between violent rioters who pose an “imminent danger to IDF forces or Israeli civilians” and “protesters…at weekly protests” as described by Bateman.

As we have repeatedly documented on these pages, most of the BBC’s reporting on events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip over the past 20 months has promoted very specific framing which has inaccurately portrayed the ‘Great Return March’ rioting as “protests” and “demonstrations” and the participants as “protesters”, while concealing the hundreds of violent incidents such as shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and infiltration attempts which have taken place during those so-called “protests”.

The result of that editorial policy of promoting a sanitised portrayal of the events is that the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau correspondent now misleads audiences by falsely claiming that Israel uses, and will continue to use, “live fire – live ammunition – on protesters”.

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What did BBC audiences learn from a PIJ leader interview?

BBC’s Tom Bateman frames ‘background’ to PIJ attacks

BBC’s Tom Bateman frames ‘background’ to PIJ attacks

Those who followed recent reports from the BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman on various BBC radio programmes may have noticed some interesting framing of the activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al Ata who was killed by Israeli forces in the early hours of November 12th. [emphasis in italics in the original]

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, November 12th 2019 from 2:26:06 here:

Bateman: “Well Abu al Ata was a commander for Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the north and east of the Gaza Strip – significant areas where there has been over the last 18 months or so much tension between militants in the Strip and Israel.”

BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, November 12th 2019, from 00:29 here:

Bateman: “He [Abu al Ata] has really come to prominence within Gaza only within the last year, commanding a brigade of fighters in the north of the Gaza Strip for Islamic Jihad. […] he was seen as somebody who was […] taking it upon himself to order rocket fire into Israel after these very tense events on Fridays in which many Palestinians protest at the perimeter fence and there are violent confrontations and Israeli troops shoot at – using live fire – at the Palestinians. I mean ten days ago there were dozens of injuries and al Ata it seems had ordered rocket fire into Israel.”

BBC World Service radio, Global News podcast, November 12th 2019, from 01:00 here:

Bateman: “He had become increasingly significant over the last year. He was spoken about more and more within the Gaza Strip because he was the commander of an Al Quds brigade – that is the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad – and he was in charge of several hundred fighters in the north and the eastern Gaza Strip. Now that area was significant because of the rising tensions over the last 18 months or so at the perimeter fence with protests and escalations between Israel and militants in Gaza. […] around ten days ago, after dozens of Palestinians did [sic] when they were shot by Israeli soldiers, there was a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel which Israel responded to with airstrikes.”

As readers may recall, the BBC completely ignored those November 1st rocket attacks which Bateman alleged in these reports were prompted by events earlier in the day (that also got no BBC coverage) at the so-called ‘Great Return March’.

The ITIC’s report on the events of November 1st includes the following: [emphasis added]

“According to Israeli security sources quoted by the media, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was responsible for the rocket attacks. The Palestinian media also reported that the PIJ fired the rockets. At this point the reason for the attacks is unclear. During the return march of November 1, 2019, no exceptional events were recorded, so the PIJ had no immediate excuse to fire rockets. […]

On Friday, November 1, 2019, the return march was held in the Gaza Strip with the theme, “May the Balfour Declaration be thwarted,” to mark the 102nd anniversary of the Declaration. Before the march the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March held a press conference declaring it would be a “very powerful mass march.” The Authority also prepared a program to encourage the Palestinian public to participate in the march, part of which included announcing the march in all the mosques and churches in the Gaza Strip.

On the ground, however, the march was similar to those held in previous weeks. About 6,500 Palestinians participated, and the level of violence was similar to that of recent weeks. There were a number of attempts to sabotage the security fence, and IEDs, Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at IDF forces. Senior figures gave speeches and mostly related to the Balfour Declaration and the Palestinian struggle against it. Calls were heard demanding the British apologize to the Palestinian people. Senior figures also stressed that the marches would continue. The Palestinian ministry of health reported that 96 people had suffered varying degrees of wounds.”

Although the BBC has never reported it, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been involved in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop from the beginning and at least six of those killed during the weekly violent rioting were members of its ‘military wing’.

Nevertheless, Bateman’s simplistic analysis framed the actions of the PIJ commander solely as a response to Israeli actions against ‘protesters’ – while concealing both the violent nature of those events and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s involvement in them. In other words, Bateman’s bottom line told BBC audiences (who have yet to be informed of the terror group’s basic ideology and aims) that Israel is to blame for PIJ rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

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What did BBC audiences learn from a PIJ leader interview?

What did BBC audiences learn from a PIJ leader interview?

On November 12th the BBC News website published a filmed report titled “Israel-Gaza violence: Rockets and air strikes follow militant death” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

In that film BBC audiences saw an interview (apparently filmed during the funeral proceedings for Baha Abu al Ata) with senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Khader Habib in which he made the following statements:

“We are on fire and angry and that should be translated into action. These actions have started this morning after the crime was committed. Rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv, and Islamic Jihad, with all the resistance groups, will continue targeting all the occupation’s safe places.”

The BBC promoted those statements to its worldwide audiences ‘as is’, making no effort to qualify the use of the term “crime” to describe the killing of a terrorist responsible for attacks on civilians or to clarify what Habib actually meant by ‘the occupation’ (seeing as Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip over 14 years ago) or precisely what “the resistance” is  supposedly resisting.

Like the rest of the BBC’s coverage of this story (see ‘related articles’ below), this report too failed to provide audiences with any background information about the aims and ideology of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, even while quoting its leaders.

On the same day a TV station called Alghad aired a speech by Khader Habib apparently made at the same event on the same day.

Khader Habib: “Your [Zionist] entity will disappear and we will remain, Allah willing. Palestine belongs to us, Jerusalem belongs to us, the place of the Prophet’s night journey belongs to us, the sea belongs to us, and the sky belongs to us, whereas you will have nothing but slaughter at the hands of the mujahideen, Allah willing, if you continue to occupy this land. I advise you to leave this entity, because we have sworn before Allah that we would not let you enjoy this holy and blessed land. Our Jihad and our strikes will continue until you leave, Allah willing. We will slaughter those who do not leave with our own hands, Allah willing.” (translation by MEMRI)

So who provided their audiences with the better view of the violent ideology of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and hence more context to Israel’s actions? Was it one of the world’s biggest and most influential news organisations with its dedicated Arabic language department and one of the most frequented websites in Europe or was it a relatively new, Cairo based and Abu Dhabi funded Arabic language TV station?

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BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

As long-time readers will be aware, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 the BBC failed to independently verify casualty figures and civilian-combatant casualty ratios provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its coverage during and since that conflict was based on data obtained from partial sources which it promoted to audiences without fact-checking.

Since then BBC journalists appear to have ceased trying to independently verify information provided by a terrorist organisation and instead adopt a qualifying ‘he said-she said’ approach which includes describing all Gaza Strip casualties as “Palestinians”, regardless of whether or not they belonged to terror groups.

Here are some examples from the first two days of BBC reporting on the recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in bold added]

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza’:

“Israeli aircraft also targeted PIJ rocket-launching units in two separate strikes, according to the IDF. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported that three Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza.”

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant’:

“Violence escalated after Israel killed PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Four more Palestinians were also killed. […]

Three Palestinians were killed in air strikes in northern Gaza, one of which targeted a group preparing to launch a rocket, Israel said.”

November 12th 2019, BBC World Service radio, ‘Global News Podcast’:

Tom Bateman [03:40]: “And inside the Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have resumed. The latest is they targeted two people on a motorbike that Israel says were a rocket launching unit. One of those people has been killed…”

November 13th 2019: BBC Radio 4,Today’:

[0:34:39] Mishal Husain: “There are fears of a further escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza after 24 hours of violence in which a Palestinian commander was killed by Israel, rocket attacks from Gaza injured Israelis and Palestinians were killed in further Israeli strikes on the territory. […] Tom, first what do we know of those latest Israeli strikes and the Palestinians who died?”

Tom Bateman: “…Palestinian media reporting that one Palestinian has been killed in those strikes so that brings the total of Palestinians who’ve died over the last 24 hours, including Abu al Ata the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader that was targeted by the Israelis yesterday, that total number to eleven.”

[2:33:07] Mishal Husain: “…rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring Israeli civilians and Israeli airstrikes have killed another 14 Palestinians.”

Tom Bateman: “By nightfall [on November 12th] health officials there had said in addition to al Ata and his wife, another 8 Palestinians had been killed. Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad militant sites including people trying to launch rockets.”

Mishal Husain: “And the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says there’s now a total of 16 people who have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes, including the Islamic Jihad commander and his wife.”

November 13th 2019, BBC World Service radio,Newshour’:

[09:19] Tim Franks: “More Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. At least 23 are reported to have died in the territory.”

November 13th 2019, BBC News website,Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death’ – version 7:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 26 Palestinians, including three children, had been killed by Israeli fire by Wednesday evening. […]

The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas militants, said three children were among the 23 people killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday.

PIJ said the dead included members of its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades. Khaled Faraj, a field commander, was killed in a strike in central Gaza.”

As we see, the BBC made no attempt in any of those reports to independently verify the claims of various parties. Neither was any effort made to inform audiences in its own words of how many of those killed in the Gaza Strip were members of terror groups – even when they had been identified as such by their own organisations.

The BBC cannot possibly claim that such an editorial policy contributes to meeting its public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding” and offering  “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers” so that “audiences can engage fully with major… global issues”.

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BBC Arabic whitewashes PIJ’s history of killing Israeli civilians

A post by CAMERA Arabic.

BBC Arabic’s recent profile piece – “What you must know about the Islamic Jihad movement”, November 13th – introduces the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to the website’s readers but omits and distorts a number of important details from its history and downplays its designation as a terrorist organisation.

[all translations, emphases and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic]

“Ever since it was founded, the movement [i.e. PIJ] declared it was responsible to several bombings which had targeted Israel, starting from the eighties. The best known one is an attack in Beit Lid which caused the death of 22 Israeli soldiers in 1995.

The movement has also committed attacks in Tel Aviv, including launches of the “Fajr” and “al-Quds” missiles.

[…] The United States views the movement as a terrorist ‘organisation’, and its leaders have been listed over the years on the “most wanted” board of the American intelligence services.”

Omitted and distorted facts:

1) The Beit Lid 1995 attack killed 22 people – 21 soldiers and one civilian.

2) The Beit Lid attack is the only PIJ attack mentioned by name in the entire article. Regardless of how “well known” it is (it was the first double suicide bombing attack in Israel’s history and is the PIJ-orchestrated attack with the highest number of casualties to date), ignoring other attacks committed by the organisation creates the erroneous impression that the PIJ targets soldiers rather than civilians.

In fact, over the years PIJ terrorists have deliberately and consistently attacked civilians, more often than not choosing them over soldiers and police officers as easy targets. Since its establishment in the early 1980s, PIJ terrorists killed or assisted others in killing around 300 Israelis, more than 210 of whom were civilians. Around two-thirds of PIJ-orchestrated attacks killed only civilians. Similarly, more than half of the deadly attacks that PIJ committed jointly with other organisations (Fatah/Hamas) claimed only civilian lives. Nevertheless, the PIJ celebrates the attackers who belong to its ranks, as well as their heinous deeds (links in Arabic).

3) The attacks carried out by PIJ terrorists in Tel Aviv that are mentioned in the profile claimed the lives of at least 16 civilians – yet the BBC Arabic website chose not to inform its readers of that fact despite having cited an example a PIJ attack that it inaccurately claimed had killed only soldiers.

4) Along with the United States and Israel, the following countries consider PIJ a terrorist organisation: the EUJapanAustraliaNew ZealandCanada and the BBC’s own home country the United Kingdom. BBC Arabic however mentioned only the US and Israel.

Additionally, this article breaches the BBC Academy’s style guide regarding the use of the word “Palestine” by twice referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip using that terminology.

 

BBC doublethink on display in report on rocket attacks

An article which originally appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the morning of November 14th under the headline “Israel-Gaza ‘ceasefire begins’ after two days of fighting” underwent numerous amendments until, some eleven hours after its initial publication, website visitors were confronted with this glaring example of BBC doublethink:

The final version of that article – “Israel-Gaza ceasefire holding despite rocket fire” – which will of course remain online as “permanent public record”, tells readers that:

“…five rockets were launched from Gaza about five hours after the ceasefire came into effect, the IDF said. Two were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system. […]

In the late afternoon, rocket alert sirens sounded in Israeli communities near the Gaza border and the IDF said another rocket was shot down.”

In fact:

“Late Thursday night, terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets at southern Israel, which were shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome air defense system, the army said. […]

Earlier in the day three separate volleys of rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, puncturing a tense calm and leading to fears of a resumption of violence. In one case pieces of a projectile landed in the yard of a daycare in Netivot, but there were no injuries. Throughout Thursday, Israel abided by the Egypt- and UN-brokered ceasefire and refrained from launching retaliatory strikes, despite public pressure to do so.”

So what can we learn from that Orwellian BBC headline? We can deduce that as far as the BBC is concerned, a ceasefire can be described as “holding” despite multiple rocket attacks by Gaza Strip terrorist groups against Israeli civilians and hence that the BBC does not regard those attacks as constituting a breach of a ceasefire. We can therefore conclude that the BBC would only consider that ceasefire as having been breached if Israel responded to such attacks.

And indeed, after Israel did just that in the early hours of November 15th, the BBC News website replaced that ridiculously headlined report with one titled “Israel-Gaza ceasefire strained by rockets and air strikes” which similarly misleads readers with regard to the number of rockets fired by Gaza strip terrorists the previous day.

“Israel has launched fresh air strikes on militant targets after renewed rocket-fire from Gaza, as a day-old ceasefire is put under strain. […]

It comes after five rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday following the ceasefire declaration by the PIJ.”

A clearer example of the BBC’s accommodating approach to Palestinian terrorism is difficult to imagine.

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BBC News website adheres zealously to editorial guidelines

In the 48 hours during which terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired over 450 rockets and mortars at civilian targets in Israel the BBC News website produced four written reports about the events.

Although missile attacks against civilians are clearly an act of terrorism and the people responsible for such attacks are terrorists, the BBC chose not to inform its audience of that fact and instead adhered to its much criticised editorial guidelines.

Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza 12/11/2019, all versions here, version 1 discussed here

The word militant or militants were used 6 times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas. The words terrorist appeared twice, exclusively in a quote from an Israeli official.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abu al-Ata an “arch-terrorist” and said he was “the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip”.

“He initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, whose suffering we have seen,” he told a news conference in Tel Aviv.”

Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant 12/11/2019, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used four times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas, including in paraphrasing of statements made by Israeli officials. The words terror and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from the IDF and the Israeli prime minister.

“Among the sites the IDF said it hit was what it called a “terror tunnel”, which it said the PIJ planned to use to attack Israeli civilians.”

“We’ve proven that we can hit, surgically, wherever the terrorists hide. Whoever harms us, we will harm them.”

Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death 13/11/19, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used ten times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas, including in paraphrasing of statements made by Israeli officials. The words terrorist and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from the IDF and the Israeli prime minister.

“The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.”

“Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described Abu al-Ata as an “arch-terrorist” and a “ticking bomb” who posed an imminent threat to the country.”

Rockets fired at Israel after Gaza ceasefire starts 14/11/19, all versions here

The word militant or militants were used six times in this report in relation to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas. The words terrorist and terrorists appeared twice, in quotes from an IDF spokesman and the Israeli prime minister.

“The Israeli prime minister said Abu al-Ata was “responsible for most of the terror attacks in the last year from the Gaza Strip” and called him a “ticking bomb”.”

“”With a combination of military personnel from a variety of units who specialize in SIGINT [signals intelligence], HUMINT [human intelligence], we were able to attack cells and close the circle against targets very quickly. That’s what killed 25 terrorists who were in the midst of carrying out hostile activity,” he added.”

As regular readers know only too well, the BBC is considerably less zealous about its adherence to those editorial guidelines when reporting on events in other locations. Just last month an attack in Germany was appropriately described as terror on two different BBC platforms and attacks in other European locations have frequently been described in those terms.

But when millions of Israeli civilians are under relentless attack from terrorists armed with military-grade rockets and mortars, the BBC repeatedly refuses outright to describe those attacks and their perpetrators using accurate terminology.

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BBC News avoids the word terror in report on strike on terrorist

 

‘Quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach’: guess what the BBC is describing

As regular readers know, BBC audiences are all too used to reading and hearing whitewashed portrayals of the perpetrators of terrorism against Israelis but listeners to a report aired in the November 12th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ encountered a new level of euphemistic jargon.

Titled “Israel-Gaza violence escalates”, the synopsis on the programme’s webpage tells audiences that:

“Rocket fire is exchanged after Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander.”

That portrayal of events of course does not clarify an important distinction: the fact that while Israel carried out strikes against purely military targets in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian terrorists carried out attacks against Israeli civilians. Neither was that point made clear during the entire nine-minute item.

The webpage is illustrated with an image described as follows:

“Picture: An image taken from CCTV video made available by Israel’s national roads authority showing the moment a rocket, apparently fired from Gaza, struck a road near the city of Ashdod, Israel, 12 November 2019. Credit: EPA / Netivei Israel.”

Although by the time the programme was aired terrorists in the Gaza Strip had fired over 190 rockets and mortars at Israeli cities, towns and villages as far north as Tel Aviv, listeners heard presenter Paul Henley claim in his introduction that “fighting” was taking place in one sole location.

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

Henley: “Coming up in a moment: fighting erupts again in Gaza after Israel kills a senior militant. That’s our top story.”

Henley introduced the item itself (from 00:45) thus:

Henley: “First, the killing by Israel of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza seems to have led to a significant escalation of violence in the dispute between Israel and militants in the Palestinian territories. Baha Abu al-Ata died along with his wife in a strike on his home. More than 150 rockets were fired from Gaza in retaliation and Israeli war planes have carried out more strikes of their own.”

Once again the BBC created a false sense of equivalence by failing to clarify that while the Israeli strikes targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket launchers and infrastructure, the rockets fired by the PIJ and other factions targeted Israeli civilians. Henley went on:

Henley: “Here are some views from the Israeli side.”

Listeners then heard two people speak very briefly (one with a voiceover translation) but were not told their names, their locations – Sderot and Netivot – or what actually happened. Henley next introduced “the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher in Jerusalem”.

Henley: “She told me more about the man whose killing had sparked this latest flare-up in violence.”

Plett Usher: “He is a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and he has been talked about quite a lot by Israeli military officials and in the Israeli press recently because they see him as somebody who’s ready to take risks, who is ready to operate independently and who’s quite forthcoming with the confrontational approach.”

Yes, that really was apparently the best that Barbara Plett Usher could come up with to describe a senior member of a proscribed, violent, radical Islamic terrorist organisation which seeks to destroy the State of Israel.  

With the BBC having completely ignored the PIJ’s November 1st attacks on Israeli civilians, Plett Usher was then able to present an unnecessarily qualified account of the background to the story.

Plett Usher: “So they [Israeli officials] would blame him for many of the rocket attacks that have taken place in recent months and they say that he was planning more attacks imminently and therefore they had to act. They also say that…ehm…although Palestinian Islamic Jihad is backed by Iran, he has taken on that mantle more so than other such leaders and so they did see him as a threat.”

Henley then asked a rather pointless question to which he got an obvious answer.

Henley: “And when the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu says that all this could prove a protracted conflict, what does he mean?”

Plett Usher: “I think he means that they were very aware when they carried out the targeted killing that Islamic Jihad would respond and that it has lots of rockets to do that and so I think he was telling the Israeli public that…to expect rocket attacks certainly over the next couple of days. That seems to have been the calculation of the Israeli Defence Forces. And then they’re hoping that it will not broaden out into a wider escalation. They have said quite clearly they do not want to escalate although they are prepared if that happens. And they have framed this very much as a strike about this man and these circumstances, that he was seen as a threat and they signalled quite strongly also to the main Islamist movement in Gaza, Hamas, which is governing Gaza, that this is a confrontation with Islamic Jihad. They…they seem to be signalling they do not want Hamas to join the conflict and they want to try and keep it focused in this narrow way.”

Henley: “And what has Hamas been saying?”

Plett Usher replied with a romanticised portrayal of Hamas’ agenda.

Plett Usher: “Hamas is in an interesting position…ahm…because it has a different strategy than Islamic Jihad. It is the governing body and it has in recent months and years been working at tacit truce arrangements with Israel in order to alleviate the humanitarian and economic suffering in Gaza. And Islamic Jihad under this commander has been disrupting that; challenging it with these rocket attacks. So what Hamas has said, so far together with Islamic Jihad, is that Israel has crossed red lines and that it will be responsible for the consequences but it’s not clear what action it will take, you know, it must be calculating whether further conflict – a wider war – is going to be something that the Gazans will be wanting at this point – I think almost certainly not – but at the same time it wouldn’t want to look like a collaborator when such a senior militant commander has been killed. So it has not made clear what action it will take.”

As readers have no doubt noticed, BBC World Service radio listeners had by this point not heard the words ‘terrorism’, ‘terror’ or ‘terrorist’ even once and had not been informed that rocket attacks on civilian targets in Israel are an act of terror. They did however hear an inaccurate portrayal of the current status of efforts to form a government in Israel and amplification of speculation.

Henley: “And what effects are likely on Israeli politics as Benjamin Netanyahu comes to the end of the period he’s allowed to form a coalition government?”

Plett Usher: “It is certainly happening at this very politically sensitive time because he twice failed to form a coalition government and now his chief challenger Benny Gantz is trying to do so and as you said his time is coming up. There have been accusations from centre-Left politicians and from Arab politicians that that’s the reason for the timing of this strike; that it was done for political reasons to bolster Mr Netanyahu’s image as Mr Security. He’s constantly said he’s the man Israel needs to keep the country safe and also as a way of dragging his opponents into a unity government saying ‘look, this is a security situation, you need to join a unity government with me in charge’ so that way he can keep his job. Mr Netanyahu has tried very hard to push against that view. He stressed that he took military advice and that the military was even pushing for this targeted killing and also the operation does seem to have a fairly wide backing from different political elements but having said that, it’s certainly not happening in a political vacuum and if it does escalate, if there does…if it does become something much bigger it would be hard to think that wouldn’t affect the political negotiations in some way.”

So as we see, in the first five minutes of this report BBC audiences were given little or no information about the size of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad faction in the Gaza Strip, the size of its arsenal, the source and scale of its funding or its agenda and ideology. They also heard nothing of significance about what was happening to Israeli civilians who had been under attack by terrorist organisations for seventeen hours by the time this programme was broadcast. The relevance of that will be discussed in a future post.  

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Readers may recall that over the past sixteen months the BBC has repeatedly given amplification to Syrian and Russian government propaganda concerning the ‘White Helmets’ rescue teams in Syria.

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On November 11th the BBC News website published an article about the death of the ‘White Helmets’ co-founder James Le Mesurier in Turkey and readers of that report were told that:

“…the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran have accused the White Helmets of openly aiding terrorist organisations and the Russian foreign ministry last week accused Mr Le Mesurier of being a former agent of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6.”

The BBC also thought it appropriate to embed a screenshot of the Tweet from the Russian foreign ministry in which that accusation was made before telling readers that a UK official had denied the allegation.

In April 2018 BBC Trending produced a report titled “Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories” which included a whole section on conspiracy theories relating to the ‘White Helmets’. The BBC is certainly aware that the Russian and Syrian propaganda was exposed and debunked two years ago and it also surely comprehends why such propaganda is spread by those regimes.

“Since 2015, the year the Russians began fighting in Syria, the White Helmets have been filming attacks on opposition-held areas with GoPro cameras affixed to their helmets. Syria and Russia have claimed they were attacking only terrorists, yet the White Helmets have captured footage of dead and injured women and children under the rubble. According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as eyewitness accounts, Putin’s bombers have targeted civilians, schools, hospitals, and medical facilities in opposition-held areas, a clear violation of international law. “This, above all, is what the Russians hated,” Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council specializing in Russian disinformation, told me. “That the White Helmets are filming war crimes.””

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to amplify that baseless propaganda despite the fact that it contributes nothing to audience understanding of the topic and notwithstanding its legal obligation to “provide accurate and impartial news…of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.