BBC World Service gives inaccurate report on the ceasefire that wasn’t

As readers are no doubt already aware, the ‘ceasefire’ of July 15th lasted a mere six hours due to the fact that terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip did not cease their fire of missiles into Israel.

However, a BBC World Service radio programme – BBC World Update: Daily Commute – which was broadcast at 05:30 US Eastern time (12:30 Israel time) on July 15th – i.e. three and a half hours after the ceasefire supposedly came into effect, – gives some interesting indications regarding the BBC’s already emerging framing of the topic of the ceasefire.WS Daily Commute

The programme (available here as a podcast for a limited period of time) is presented by Dan Damon who opens by saying: [all emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in original]

“Coming up: the Israeli security cabinet has accepted a ceasefire proposal by Egypt but the armed wing of Hamas in Gaza rejects that. Where does that leave the current strife?”

A newsreader then tells listeners:

“The Israeli security cabinet has approved an Egyptian proposal for a truce in its week-long conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza. Almost 200 Palestinians have been killed in the latest conflict, many of them civilians.”

The news bulletin then moves on to an interview with James Reynolds in Tel Aviv, after which the newsreader introduces Yolande Knell.

Knell: “The military wing of Hamas has said that the terms being offered by the Egyptians would amount to a surrender and is continuing to insist on its own conditions which include the release of Hamas activists from Israeli jails and also an opening of the border crossings between the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt. That said, we have to say on the ground here, what we have seen over the past few hours is certainly a much lower intensity of fighting.”

The programme then returns to Dan Damon.

“…this morning some glimmers that an end to the violence that has claimed almost 200 Palestinian lives in the past week might be at an end. The Israeli security cabinet this morning agreed an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire. Let’s talk to Kevin Connolly, our correspondent in Jerusalem. It’s reported, Kevin, that Hamas rejected that proposal and I think there’s been further development.”

Kevin Connolly: “Well what we have here at the moment is half a ceasefire in the sense that Israel has accepted it. Hamas for the time being has not and the military wing of Hamas in Gaza has really been talking down the proposal from Egypt which is on the table. Now that’s not to say that Hamas won’t eventually be talked round by the Egyptians but for the moment, as I say, we have half a ceasefire.”

DD: “And it’s difficult, I guess, to understand completely what the mood is inside the Palestinian territories where you are but surely after nearly 200 deaths on one side and…eh…some injuries on the Israeli side, the people inside Gaza must be desperate for some kind of a ceasefire.”

KC: “I haven’t the slightest doubt that Palestinian civilians in Gaza – we talk to our people there every day, of course – are desperate for an end to the suffering and destruction. Hospitals there are struggling to treat the injured, many people are homeless, people are – you know – living in terrifying circumstances. Nothing is more terrifying than being bombed from the air. But politically of course, Hamas also has an agenda here. Having embarked on this round of hostilities, I think it is going to feel that it can’t emerge from them without some kind of political victory to show its people, so something is going to have to be found to allow Hamas an elegant way out, if you like, of the fighting.”

DD: “And what would be called a victory? What would be a victory from Hamas’ point of view?”

KC: “Well it’s given us quite a long list of demands. One of the things it would like – which is unlikely, I think – is to see Israel releasing Hamas prisoners, some of whom have been rounded up over the last couple of weeks. But a more important strategic goal for Hamas and one which would help its standing with the Palestinian people in Gaza is some kind of easing of the economic restrictions which are jointly imposed on the enclave by Israel and by Egypt. The new Egyptian government in particular has been very tough with Hamas – which it sees as an offshoot of the Muslim brotherhood – so it’s closed the smuggling tunnels which were a kind of economic lifeline both for Hamas and for the people of Gaza. That is one area where there’s a bit of scope for Egypt to offer Hamas something in return at least for coming to the table. I think what the Egyptians tried to do is sequence all of this so that you begin with a cessation of hostilities then you start to talk about things like prisoner releases or an easing of economic conditions. So, talking is going on we think between Egypt and Hamas. The Egyptians do have cards to play there, so the situation as it stands where Israel has accepted and Hamas has rejected – that could change. There has been a bit of rocket fire today from Hamas – or from the Gaza militants anyway – towards Israel at a relatively low level of intensity and no response yet from Israel so, it feels as though a diplomatic game is underway and success is not guaranteed.”

Let’s look at that last part first. After having spent the entire item telling listeners about “half a ceasefire” but failing to clarify what that really means in practical terms, Connolly in his last sentence finally informs them of “a bit of rocket fire …towards Israel” (not at it) at a “relatively low intensity”.

In fact, between 09:00 and 12:30 local time (when this programme was broadcast) over 22 missiles had already been fired at the Eshkol region, Ashkelon, Sderot, Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Be’er Tuvia, Netivot, Rehovot and Nes Ziona. One of those missiles landed in the yard of a house in Ashdod and one person was injured in Sderot. Three minutes after this programme went on air, missiles were also fired at Haifa, Daliyat al Carmel and the Carmel and Zichron Ya’akov areas. All in all, between 09:00 and 15:00 local time, fifty missiles were fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. By no possible interpretation of the word is that a “bit” of rocket fire.

Notable too is of course Knell’s description of convicted terrorists – including those freed in prisoner release deals – as “Hamas activists”, the fact that at no point in this broadcast are listeners reminded that Hamas is an internationally designated terrorist organization, Connolly’s bizarre reference to Hamas being “seen” as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and Damon’s description of Kevin Connolly’s location as “the Palestinian territories” even though he was in Jerusalem.

Likewise, it is remarkable that both Knell and Connolly chose to highlight the same two issues from Hamas’ pre-existing list of demands – ignoring no less significant other ones such as the demand for the Palestinian Authority to transfer money to pay Hamas employees and the demand that parties unnamed “stop interfering in the new unity government”. Whilst Knell and Connolly focus on what he terms “economic restrictions”, neither of them bother to clarify to listeners that Egypt’s actions against the smuggling tunnels came as part of its crackdown on Jihadist terror in northern Sinai and that Israel’s measures are aimed at preventing the entry of weapons into the Gaza Strip will obviously be just as relevant in the future as this round of conflict has proved they were in the past.

Most significant, however, is the fact that by the time this programme began at 12:30 local time, the ceasefire had been rejected by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad  and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade took responsibility for some of the missile fire during the supposed ceasefire.  Most importantly, Hamas – not just its “military wing” as claimed several times in this programme – had already rejected the ceasefire via its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

“In an early-morning meeting, Israel’s security cabinet approved the cease-fire, which calls for a de-escalation of fighting by both sides starting at 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday, with hostilities ending within 12 hours.

At a news conference at a hospital in Gaza City, a Hamas official said his group wouldn’t observe the cease-fire terms proposed by the Egyptian government because no one had conferred with them.

“We don’t like the policy pushing us into a corner,” said spokesman Samy Abu Zohry. Hamas was fighting for Palestinians, not a cease-fire, he said.”

It will be worth keeping an eye on additional BBC reporting on the topic of the ceasefire-that-wasn’t in order to note if it is reported in a similarly inaccurate and misleading fashion, downplaying both Hamas rejection of the opportunity for a halt to hostilities and missile attacks on Israeli civilians. 

How the BBC’s ME editor prevents audiences from understanding the background to the Gaza conflict

Back in 2006, the role of BBC Middle East editor was described thus:

“The challenge for our daily news coverage is to provide an appropriate balance between the reporting of a ‘spot news’ event and the analysis that might help set it in its context.

This challenge is particularly acute on the television news bulletins, where space is at a premium, and because the context is often disputed by the two sides in the conflict. To add more analysis to our output, our strategy is to support the coverage of our bureau correspondents with a Middle East editor. 

Jeremy Bowen’s new role is, effectively, to take a bird’s eye view of developments in the Middle East, providing analysis that might make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience, without the constraints of acting as a daily news correspondent. His remit is not just to add an extra layer of analysis to our reporting, but also to find stories away from the main agenda.”

Notably, some of the recent “context” and “analysis” provided by Jeremy Bowen since his arrival in the Gaza Strip on July 11th has actually done the exact opposite by herding audiences towards a narrow and misleading view of the current conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip as being a consequence of the fact that an independent Palestinian state has not yet come into being.

In both Bowen’s filmed reports shown on BBC television news and promoted on the BBC News website on July 11th (here and here) he wound up his items with the following words:

“There’s a terrible familiarity – a sameness – about what’s been happening in the last few days and that’s because it’s happened before. The underlying political realities of the conflict haven’t been tackled. Many Israelis would say that’s because Palestinians won’t accept the existence of their state. Palestinians and plenty of others say the problem is that they don’t have independence. That if they had their own state, things might be very different. The latest peace talks collapsed recently. In the past, death, destruction and human pain have filled the gap left by failed negotiations. It’s happened again.”

In a written report titled “Jeremy Bowen: Israel and Hamas not ready for ceasefire” which appeared on the BBC News website on July 12th under the heading ‘analysis’, Bowen wrote:Bowen art 12 7

“Small wars break out between the two sides regularly. This one has been brewing for months, long before the kidnap and murder of three Israeli youths and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.

The reason is that the underlying political realities of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have not been settled.

Hamas rejects any peace talks with Israel.

The Israelis were criticised, indirectly, by their allies in the White House and state department after the collapse of the last round of negotiations with Fatah, the other main Palestinian faction.

It seems clear that the periodic small wars between Hamas and Israel will keep happening, like a gory Groundhog Day, until the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is at least made safe and stable, if not settled outright.

If that doesn’t happen, the chances are that the fights will break out more often, morphing into an attritional struggle that neither side would win.

The wider Middle East is highly unstable. That means a greater chance of the conflict in and around Gaza spreading its poison further afield.”

Readers may also recall that in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 3rd, Bowen responded to a question from presenter John Humphrys thus:

JH: “The Jerusalem Post is writing this morning about the murder of the teenagers obviously and it says this: ‘it’s another reminder that swathes of Palestinian society continue to be irreconcilably committed to Israel’s destruction’. Is it the case that it’s not just terrorist organisations such as Hamas that are bent on Israel’s destruction, but the Palestinian people generally are irreconcilably opposed to the existence of Israel?”

JB: “No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think the vast majority of Palestinians are absolutely reconciled to the existence of Israel. What they’re not reconciled to is the continuing occupation of land taken in 1967, the growth of settlements. You know you’ve heard all this many times before and it was interesting as well – and telling, I think – to see the mother of the Palestinian teenager who was killed saying Palestinians have no rights and I think that they feel that there’s one law for Israelis and one law for themselves and that they’re never going to be in a better place until they get independence, get their own state and that, I think, is the prevalent view among Palestinians.”

Let’s have a look at what Bowen has to conceal from audience view in order to persuade them that Hamas, the PRC, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the PFLP and numerous other terrorist groups of various stripes would desist from firing missiles at Israeli civilians if only a Palestinian state came into being.

First of all, there’s the rather obvious fact that violence against Jews and later Israelis predates the existence of Israel and the first organized terror group – Fatah – predated the 1967 war and ‘the occupation’. Secondly, as Bowen himself writes, Hamas opposes any sort of negotiations with Israel and its virulently antisemitic charter – echoed frequently in statements by Hamas’ leadership – rejects Israel’s right to exist. Hamas’ terrorist activity has often been aimed at undermining the PA’s ability to negotiate with Israel and when negotiations have made some sort of headway – as was the case in the mid-1990s – Hamas did its level best to scupper any agreements reached.

Another aspect to this is Bowen’s inversion of reality by means of the following statement:

“The wider Middle East is highly unstable. That means a greater chance of the conflict in and around Gaza spreading its poison further afield.”

That pronouncement erases from the equation important incoming factors in the Gaza Strip such as Iranian funding, training and weapons supplies for terrorist organisations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It also ignores (not for the first time, as the above Radio 4 interview shows) the topic of the rising number of Salafist-Jihadists in the Gaza Strip.

Equally important is Bowen’s focus on the recent round of negotiations.

“The Israelis were criticised, indirectly, by their allies in the White House and state department after the collapse of the last round of negotiations with Fatah, the other main Palestinian faction.”

As we documented here at the time, the BBC’s messaging to audiences – conveyed, significantly, exclusively by Jeremy Bowen himself – was that Israel was to blame for the breakdown of those talks. BBC audiences therefore already ‘know’ why there is no peace and no Palestinian state and so when Jeremy Bowen claims that the terror emanating from the Gaza Strip would cease if there was such a state, they also ‘know’ which party is responsible for the fact that warheads are being fired at its civilians.

But in the world according to Jeremy Bowen, if only Israel would vacate “land taken in 1967” and stop the “growth of settlements”, then all could be “very different”. The problem with that theory of course is that it has already been tested. Next month will mark nine years since Israel left the Gaza Strip and dismantled all the towns and villages there, but instead of peace and instead of a Palestinian effort to build a viable economy and a society preparing itself for statehood, terrorism against Israel only increased.

Another aspect of coverage of the current events in Israel and the Gaza Strip by Jeremy Bowen and his colleagues is no less important for complete evaluation of the framing of their ‘root cause’ by Bowen.

To date, the BBC has completely failed to report the fact that terrorist groups linked to Fatah – the dominant party in both the PLO and the PA – have, according to their own announcements, been playing an active part in the hostilities. Likewise, as previously noted here, the BBC’s reporting has made no effort to inform audiences of the incitement and glorification of terror coming from Fatah and PA sources.

Of course there is nothing novel about such serious omissions: the BBC consistently refrains from reporting Fatah and PA incitement and glorification of terrorism, with the examples during the recent kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers being just the latest.

Together with all that, the BBC is also consistent in avoiding informing audiences of the real significance of the fact that the Palestinian unity government inaugurated at the beginning of June made no effort to disarm the plethora of terrorist organisations – including Hamas – in the Gaza Strip in order to comply with existing agreements with Israel and the resulting ‘Hizballah model’ whereby an internationally recognized terror group retains its own rival militia whilst at the same time being party to a government.

So instead of being presented with a realistic and accurate picture of the situation as it exists, BBC audiences are being steered towards an inaccurate and dumbed-down caricature according to which only ‘the occupation’ and ‘settlements’ matter. That framing of the issue does not allow audiences to arrive at informed opinions on the issues faced by Israel or to understand the rationale behind its actions. But that failure to meet the BBC’s obligations under the terms of its public purposes remit is of course likely to continue for as long as the current Middle East editor – and his idée fixe – remains at the helm.  

 

BBC News describing Hamas command & control centres as ‘houses’

As readers are no doubt aware, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in the early hours of July 8th in an attempt to bring to a halt the barrages of missile fire against Israeli civilians by terrorists in the Gaza Strip which have been ongoing for almost a month and has severely intensified and widened over the last few days.

The BBC News website’s main and Middle East pages announced in their lead headlines on the morning of July 8th “Israel launches new strikes on Gaza” with mention of missile attacks on Israeli citizens relegated to the sub-header.

jul 8 hp am

A similar title was given to the main article on the topic – “Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza Strip“. The article (changes to which can be seen here) opens:

“Israel has carried out more air strikes on the Gaza Strip, following dozens of rockets fired by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.”

No time scale is given in that introduction and so BBC audiences have no idea over what period those “dozens of rockets” were fired. In fact, on the day before the operation commenced – July 7th –more than eighty-five missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at civilian targets in Israel but the BBC’s tepid description of course gives readers no real appreciation of the intensity of the attacks or their range. In addition, the article neglects to mention that in addition to Hamas, other terrorist organisations have also taken responsibility for missile fire, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and a Fatah-linked group. The report goes on:Gaza art 8 7 opPE

“At least 15 Palestinians, including two women and a child, were reportedly hurt in the strikes.

Hamas said it fired rockets to respond to “Zionist aggression”, after accusing Israel of killing five of its fighters.

Israel denied the claim. It says it has now begun an open-ended aerial operation to end rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel says the operation will be expanded in the coming days and that 1,500 reservists have been called up.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has told the BBC that Israel had the capacity to take its operation “up a notch” and warned that a ground incursion was “not off the table”. “

The five “fighters” to which the BBC refers in its amplification of Hamas propaganda were in fact among those killed whilst handling explosives in a cross-border tunnel in preparation for a terror attack. Oddly, that fact is noted later on in the article and so it is difficult to understand the editorial considerations behind the amplification of a Hamas statement the BBC obviously knows not to be accurate.

The article goes on to repeat a misleading theme which has been promoted in other BBC coverage too.

“Tension has spiked in recent days over the murders of three young Israelis and a Palestinian teenager.”

In fact, augmented missile attacks commenced some two and a half weeks before it was known that three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian youth had been murdered and they are related to a series of factors unconnected to those murders; not least the balance of power between Hamas and Fatah.

Later versions of the article include the following statement from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly:

“The sudden escalation has come just days after there was talk of a possible truce between Israel and Gaza with each side suggesting that calm would be answered with calm, our correspondent adds.”

Whilst Israel did indeed state that calm would be met with calm, Connolly’s representation of the Hamas reaction is inaccurate and misleading.

“Head of Hamas’s foreign relations Osama Hamdan said that his movement will not accept any ceasefire in light of the continued siege on Gaza.

He told al-Resalah Net in an interview published on Saturday that the Israeli siege on Gaza is an ongoing aggression that must be stopped.

Hamdan said that there were no regional attempts to reach a ceasefire between Palestinian resistance and Israeli occupation, saying that Egypt did not intervene so far to broker a new calm or to stabilize the old one.

He said that the ceaseless Israeli aggression on the occupied Palestinian land revealed hypocrisy of many parties that only viewed resistance as “terrorism”.

Hamdan described the continued security coordination between the PA and the occupation as a flagrant betrayal of national constants.

He pointed out that certain elements within the PA had supported the Israeli story about the recent events by holding the Palestinian resistance fully responsible for the escalation.”

Later on in this somewhat confused and repetitive article it is stated:

“Hamas said Israel targeted two houses and four training facilities used by the militants across Gaza.

Palestinian medics said 15 people were injured, including two women and a child, in the southern town of Khan Younis.

Hamas militants reportedly warned they would enlarge the radius of their targets if Israel continued with the air strikes.”

The theme of “houses” – or “homes” – was also amplified (albeit citing different numbers) in a BBC World Service tweet and in a filmed report from July 8th by the BBC’s Gaza correspondent Rushdi Abualouf which was aired on BBC television news as well as appearing on the BBC News website.

Tweet WS homes

Abualouf report 8 7

In his report Abualouf says:

“The spokesman of the Hamas-run interior ministry has said the number of airstrikes has risen into thirty targets. The airstrikes targeted, like, eh…military compound for Hamas and also they have hit five houses as the Hamas spokesman said.”

Reasonable viewers or readers would of course interpret those references to “houses” or “homes” as meaning just random civilian dwellings occupied by residents of the Gaza Strip. That, however, is not the case.

All those “houses” are in fact terror command and control centres used by the following known terrorists:

“Ei’ad Sakik, a Hamas terrorists in Gaza, involved in rocket terrorism against the State of Israel.

Abdullah Hshash, a Hamas terrorist in Rafah, involved in rocket terrorism against the State of Israel during the past few weeks and in the past as well.

Samer Abu Daka, a Hamas terrorist in Khan Yunis, involved in terrorist activity against the State of Israel.

Hassan Abdullah, a Hamas terrorist in Khan Yunis, involved in rocket terrorism against the State of Israel during the past few weeks.”

Despite that information being available in the public domain, the BBC elects to amplify misleading and inaccurate Hamas propaganda in its written and filmed reports and on social media.

One other remarkable fact about this article is its complete failure to inform readers of the highly significant fact that, as of June 2nd 2014, the Palestinian unity government is in charge in the Gaza Strip and of course that government is committed to all previous agreements signed with Israel – which include the disarming of terrorist organisations. 

A fourth BBC report on kidnapping refrains from reporting Palestinian celebrations

On June 17th the BBC News website published its fourth article about the search for three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped last Thursday night on its Middle East page. The report is titled “Israel detains dozens more in search for missing teens” and after three opening sentences, two examples of ‘last-first’ reporting appear.kidnappint art 4 main

“Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes bombed weapons manufacturing and storage sites in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire, the Israeli military said.

Soldiers also shot a Palestinian who tried to set fire to a fence surrounding a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, it added. Palestinian medics said he was being treated at a hospital in Ramallah.”

Both those incidents, along with numerous others, occurred the night before the publication of this report. A missile fired from the Gaza Strip landed near Ashkelon, fortunately without causing injury. The other incident mentioned by the BBC was actually an attempted infiltration of the village of Kochav Ya’akov by three Palestinians.

The article continues:

“The latest arrests took place in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction were reportedly among those detained on Tuesday. Several were Palestinian security forces personnel who were previously active in a militant offshoot of Fatah, according to the Associated Press.”

Notably, the BBC refrains from informing audiences of the vast amounts of explosives, weapons and ammunition discovered during the searches in Nablus or that what it euphemistically terms “a militant offshoot of Fatah” – the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – had earlier in the day issued a claim of responsibility for the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frankel and Gil-ad Sha’ar. Whilst it is not known whether that claim (like the other two which have appeared) is credible, it is nevertheless important context to the arrests which the BBC conceals from audiences.

The report goes on to describe Hebron as being “near” the Alon Shvut junction where the abductions took place, despite the fact that the two are some 27 kms apart. It neglects to inform readers that Hebron is one of Hamas’ main strongholds in the PA controlled territories.

map Alon Shvut

Having earlier described the three teens as “believed kidnapped”, the report goes on to state:

“The Israeli authorities have blamed Hamas for the apparent abductions.” [emphasis added]

It then goes on to give an inaccurate description of Hamas’ designation as a terror organization and yet again (as was the case in previous BBC articles on the same topic) to promote to audiences the notion of equivalence between intelligence-based statements made by the government of a sovereign country and claims made by an internationally designated terrorist organization.kidnapping art 4 Hamas

“The Islamist movement, which Israel regards as a terrorist group, has dismissed the accusation that it is involved as “stupid”. It has also said the detention of its members, including several leaders in the West Bank, “will not stop it and it will not change its path”.” [emphasis added]

The article ended by promoting speculation from anonymous sources.

“Commentators in Israeli media said Israel might be seeking to bring about the collapse of the newly formed Palestinian unity government, which is backed by Hamas, and weaken the Islamist movement ahead of the planned Palestinian presidential and legislative elections.”

A remarkably similar – but distinctly less coy – observation in an AFP article suggests that the BBC is actually referring to articles by Amos Harel in Ha’aretz and Alex Fishman in Yediot Aharonot. The BBC provides no facts or evidence to back up its amplification of second-hand speculations.

Interestingly though, reports which appeared in another Israeli media outlet did not appear to interest the BBC – presumably due to the fact that they fit in less well with the narrative it elects to promote.

“Following statements made Monday by a senior Palestinian official, who told The Times of Israel that if it was proved that Hamas was behind the kidnappings the PA would reevaluate the unity pact, the Palestinian government convened on Tuesday and decided that it would continue to refrain from paying the salaries of former Hamas government officials, some 40,000 in number.”

Five days and four BBC reports after this incident began, the BBC still has not informed its audiences of the celebrations and other expressions of support for the kidnappings on the Palestinian street, along with the inflammatory rhetoric from Hamas, the PA and Fatah. Clearly, BBC audiences cannot understand this particular “international issue” if they continue to be told only selected parts of the story.

Related Articles:

BBC predictably silent on Fatah incitement

Don’t mention the baklava: BBC reports on kidnapping of Israeli teens

Still no BBC reporting on Palestinian celebrations of kidnappings

BBC News amplifies Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s PR line on attacks against Israeli civilians

On the afternoon of March 12th 2013 terrorist organisations including the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a heavy barrage of missile and mortar attacks on towns and villages in southern Israel. Of over sixty missiles fired from the Gaza Strip within the first few hours (some from urban areas as can be seen in this video), at least eight landed in populated areas and several others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. 

A couple of hours after the attacks began a report appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza militants fire rocket barrage at southern Israel“. Weds missile attacks

The report opens with more use of the euphemistic term “militants” to describe terrorists deliberately targeting civilians with military-grade weapons and – perhaps through force of habit – it is liberally peppered with the standard BBC caveat “Israel says”, despite the fact that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was both quick and eager to take responsibility for the missile fire. Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade also put out statements, including one claiming four missile attacks on Sderot.

“Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 30 rockets at southern Israel, Israeli officials say.

An Israeli military spokesman said eight hit urban civilian areas and that a number of others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.

It was the heaviest barrage since the November 2012 conflict in Gaza ended.

The military wing of Islamic Jihad said it had fired the rockets in retaliation for Tuesday’s killing of three of its militants in an Israeli air strike.”

Some BBC staff also amplified via Twitter the PIJ’s PR line according to which the dozens of indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians came in “response” to the incident the previous day in which a PIJ cell attacked a routine Israeli patrol engaged in searching for IEDs on the border with mortar fire and the IDF responded.

Weds missile attacks Abualouf tweet

Weds missile attacks Shuval tweet

 That faux linkage, along with other PIJ propaganda, was further promoted later on in the BBC’s report and audiences were encouraged to view the incident in terms of equivalent conflicting narratives.

“A statement by Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, said the barrage was its “initial response” to the “crimes of the Zionist enemy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip”, the latest of which was the “assassination” of three of its members on Tuesday.

The Israeli military said it had targeted the militants after they fired mortars at its troops. The al-Quds Brigades said the Israeli soldiers had crossed into the Gaza Strip.”

However, a video  released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad the previous day is described by the terrorist organization itself as showing the mortar attack on “the enemy forces” carried out by the three members of the PIJ’s Al Quds brigade on March 11th

Weds missile attacks PIJ vid frm 11 3

Clearly the BBC’s report is lacking in accuracy in that it leads readers to mistakenly believe that only the IDF “said” that mortars had been fired at Israeli soldiers, whereas in fact the PIJ itself had already admitted that it carried out such an attack and the IDF had also filmed them in the act.

Towards the end of the report we find the following statement:

“Islamic Jihad and other groups have sporadically fired rockets and mortars at Israel since the 2012 conflict ended, while the Hamas movement that governs Gaza has refrained from doing so.” [emphasis added]

Notably, similar statements (see below) made in other recent BBC reports were somewhat more cautiously phrased and no explanation is given for the change in the BBC’s tone.

Hamas denies that it has fired any rockets since a 2012 ceasefire agreement with Israel, with other militant groups in the Gaza Strip claiming responsibility.” [emphasis added]

The report closes with the following statement:

“However, an Israeli military statement said it held Hamas “responsible for all attacks emanating” from the coastal territory.”

The BBC fails to inform audiences that the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire included the clause:

“All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.”

Seeing as Hamas – as the BBC frequently reminds its audiences – governs the Gaza Strip, it is clear that prevention of missile fire and all other types of terror attacks fall under its responsibility. Despite that above clause, a later version of the BBC’s report unquestioningly quoted a PIJ spokesman as saying the following:

“The rocket fired today came in response to the occupation aggression against us and does not mean the collapse of the ceasefire agreement [with Israel].”

No clarification of the absurdity of that statement was provided to BBC audiences.

At the time of writing Israeli forces have begun counter-attacks on terror sites and installations in the Gaza Strip and we will update as necessary. 

BBC predictably silent on Fatah incitement

On November 24th we noted the BBC’s consistent under-reporting of news from Palestinian Authority controlled areas, including the lack of coverage of a military parade and a recently launched video by Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Palestinian Media Watch has now translated parts of that video, noting that it has been posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page

The various articles and backgrounders on the subjects of Fatah and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades appearing on the BBC website are notable for the fact that the more recent the article, the more the connection between the political and military wings of Fatah is downplayed.

In November 2003 a BBC investigation revealed the transfer of funds from the Palestinian Authority to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and noted the “close links” between that proscribed terror organization and Fatah. 

“Close links between Mr Arafat’s political faction Fatah and al-Aqsa are also discovered by the programme. One local Fatah leader in the West Bank town of Jenin says that the al-Aqsa group is the military wing of his organisation and that Mr Arafat is the overall leader of both the political and military arms.

“Fatah has two sections: a military wing, led by the military and a political wing, led by politicians. But there is no difference between Fatah and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades,” a leader of Fatah in the Jenin refugee camp tells Correspondent.”

By 2007 the BBC was describing the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as being “affiliated” to Fatah.

“The Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades has participated, along with Hamas, in an informal militant ceasefire since 2005, but conducts what it calls retaliatory attacks against Israel.”

By 2009, the connection was further downplayed:

“The second intifada saw a number of armed groups associated with Fatah and Tanzim emerge, most notably the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

The brigades are neither officially recognised nor openly backed by Fatah, though members often belong to the political faction.”

That description is repeated in a 2011 profile of Fatah which currently appears on the BBC website.

However, Fatah and PA officials have consistently been considerably less coy than the BBC on this subject, with former PM Ahmed Qurei saying in 2004:

“We have clearly declared that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades are part of Fatah,” Qurei said in an interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. “We are committed to them and Fatah bears full responsibility for the group.”

In February 2013 AFP quoted the following statement from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades:

” “Al Aqsa brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah national liberation movement, mourns with all pride its hero, the martyr of freedom, the prisoner Arafat Jaradat,” the statement said, in reference to Jaradat’s membership of the group.” [emphasis added]

And, as PMW points out: [emphasis added]

“The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is listed as a terror organization by the US and the EU. Recently, the official Palestinian Authority daily reiterated that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is Fatah’s military wing:

“The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah’s military wing, also denounced the explosion that occurred yesterday in Beirut’s suburb…” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 17, 2013] 

Of course any media organization truly committed to keeping its audiences informed in order to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” (such as the Middle East peace process) would ensure that they had a realistic picture of the nature of the connections between the largest faction comprising the body currently conducting negotiations with Israel and a proscribed terrorist organization which has received operative support from Hizballah, as well as of that faction’s continued incitement and glorification of terrorism as shown, yet again, in this example.  

Related articles:

BBC backgrounder claims Palestinian leadership renounced terror twenty five years ago

BBC ‘tidies up’ Fatah celebrations

 

BBC idea of ‘balance’: presenting fact and fiction on an equal footing

On February 25th 2013 the BBC sent Jon Donnison off to the village of Saeer near Hebron to cover the funeral of Arafat Jaradat who died of causes as yet unknown on Saturday at Megiddo prison.

Donnison Saeer

The resulting BBC article on the subject – which currently appears in the Middle East section of the BBC News website – is at the time of writing on its fourth version. Versions zero (original) and one can be viewed here, version two is here and version three here

Military guard of honour at Jaradat’s funeral

To its credit, the BBC report does mention Arafat Jaradat’s membership of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades although, true to form, it refers to members of the organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians as “militants” and fails to explain to readers what the organisation actually is and its connection to the ruling PA faction Fatah or to inform them of the fact that Jaradat was buried with military honours.  

“Militants from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, to which Mr Jaradat belonged, fired into the air and vowed to avenge his death, AFP news agency reported.

“This horrific crime will not go unpunished and we promise the Zionist occupation that we will respond to this crime,” it said in a statement distributed at the scene, the agency said.”

What the BBC also fails to explain to readers is that the above statement is a declaration of intent to carry out more terror attacks. In a section not reported by the BBC, the same statement also said:

“Al Aqsa brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah national liberation movement, mourns with all pride its hero, the martyr of freedom, the prisoner Arafat Jaradat”.

Interestingly, the BBC’s reporter on the ground did not apparently think it necessary to inform his readers of scenes from Jaradat’s funeral such as the one below, photographed by journalist Asaf Gabor.

ילדות פלסטיניות בהלוויתו של ערפאת ג'רדאת

But the most notable feature about this article is the manner in which it juxtaposes the findings of professional criminal pathologists (not “morticians” as the BBC described those who carried out the autopsy on Jaradat in version two of its article, or even “physicians” as stated in version three) with the politically motivated, agenda-driven propaganda of a PA minister who not only was not present at the autopsy, but, along with several others, began an energetic campaign to promote the notion that Israel is responsible for Jaradat’s death literally hours after the event. 

The article opens:

“Palestinians say Arafat Jaradat, 30, died from torture, while Israel says a post-mortem was inconclusive and that investigations into his death continue.”

Actually, “Israel” – or more accurately, the Israeli Ministry of Health – did not say that the post-mortem was “inconclusive”, but that, as yet, it has not been completed:

“The initial findings cannot determine the cause of death. At this stage, until microscopic and toxicology reports are in, the cause of death cannot be tied to the autopsy findings.”

(It is worth knowing that in some 2% of all autopsies it is not possible to determine the cause of death; for example in cases of cardiac arrhythmia.)  

The BBC report continues:

“The father-of-two died six days later at Megiddo prison, from what the Israel Prison Service (IPS) said appeared to be a heart attack.

Palestinian officials, however, said an autopsy, carried out by Israeli physicians showed he had suffered two broken ribs and had bruising.

“[Arafat Jaradat] faced harsh torture, leading to his immediate, direct death. Israel is fully responsible for his killing,” Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs Issa Karake said.”

In the accompanying “at the scene” side box in the report, Donnison also uncritically repeats Palestinian claims – not only despite having no evidence of their veracity, but also in spite of there being no basis for such claims according to the initial autopsy report and with no cause of death having been determined so far.

“There’s real anger here. Palestinians believe Mr Jaradat was tortured before he died in an Israeli prison. Israel disputes this. But this comes after a week where tension has already been building across the West Bank.”

One would expect a Western media outlet which prides itself on its commitment to accuracy to be able to distinguish between the wheat of a scientific medical report and the chaff of agenda-driven rumour mongering. One would also expect that organisation’s self-declared role as an enabler of its audiences’ understanding of world events to cause it to refrain from presenting the factual and the fictional on an equal basis as though both were of comparative legitimacy. 

Audiences do not need to go to the BBC for a dose of rumour and speculation: for that there is a whole host of agenda-driven websites on the internet. From the BBC, audiences expect facts – not to mention the ability to distinguish between an as yet uncompleted autopsy report and an “inconclusive” one.