BBC News yawns at Gaza rocket fire yet again

Between November 25th and November 29th terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched four projectiles into Israel. 

On the evening of November 25th – just nine days after the last incident of rocket fire – a mortar attack took place in the Eshkol district.

“Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a mortar shell at southern Israel Monday evening, apparently striking an open field in the Eshkol region, Israeli authorities said. […]

An Eshkol Regional Council spokesperson said the shell had apparently struck an uninhabited area outside a local community.”

On the evening of November 26th two rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip.

“One of the projectiles was shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome missile defense system. The second appeared to strike an open field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel.

No injuries or damage was caused by the rockets, though one woman was lightly injured when she fell while running to a bomb shelter.

The rockets triggered alert sirens in the southern town of Sderot and surrounding communities.”

On the evening of November 29th residents of southern Israel once again had to run for cover.

“Incoming rocket sirens were activated at around 9 p.m. on Friday after a rocket was fired from the Hamas-run Strip. The projectile fell in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council, causing no damage or injuries. In response, the Israeli Air Force struck targets in the Strip.

Two hours later, sirens were activated in the southern city of Ashkelon and the kibbutzim of Karmia and Zikim. The military said that the sirens went off due to “non-rocket fire.” According to Palestinian reports, the sirens were activated following anti-aircraft fire towards IAF jets.”

As is more often than not the case, the BBC Jerusalem bureau ignored all those incidents and audiences once again heard nothing of the experiences of people in southern Israel who, since the beginning of this year alone, have been targeted by attacks using over 1,300 rockets and mortars.

Source: ITIC

 

BBC News website corrects inaccurate description of Israeli MK

Earlier this week we noted that in an article published on the BBC News website on November 22nd, MK Gideon Sa’ar was inaccurately described as “the education minister”.

“Gideon Sa’ar has not been the Minister of Education for over six years. He held that post between March 31st 2009 and March 18th 2013 and since then there have been three other ministers.”

BBC Watch contacted the BBC News website to alert editors to that inaccuracy but over 24 hours later no reply had been received and no correction made. We therefore submitted a complaint on November 24th.

On November 25th we received a response from the BBC News website informing us that:

“This sentence was amended in the hours after publication, to now correctly refer to Gideon Saar as “The former education and interior minister…””

The amendment was in fact made at least two days after publication and no footnote has been added to inform audiences that they were previously given inaccurate information.

Before:

After:

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BBC News’ Plett Usher fails on fact checking

 

BBC News’ Plett Usher fails on fact checking

On the evening of November 22nd the BBC News website published an article headlined “Israel’s Netanyahu facing fight of his political life” on its Middle East page.

Written by Barbara Plett Usher who is currently based in Jerusalem, the article was one of six items relating to the announcement of indictments against Israel’s acting prime minister to have appeared on that page in less than 24 hours, indicating that the BBC considers it a major story.

In the rush to publish content, fact checking however fell by the wayside with Plett Usher telling readers that:

“A lot will depend on senior members of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party. Until now they have maintained their tribal loyalty to the prime minister, but he is facing a possible challenge from within.

The education minister, Gideon Saar, has called for party primaries to replace him. There may well yet be others.” [emphasis added]

Gideon Sa’ar has not been the Minister of Education for over six years. He held that post between March 31st 2009 and March 18th 2013 and since then there have been three other ministers.

Plett Usher also told readers that:

“He’s [Netanyahu] been preoccupied with efforts to form a right-wing government that would vote to grant him immunity from prosecution.

Despite failing to do so, his status as a member of the Knesset gives him 30 days to ask the legislative body to grant him such immunity. The indictment cannot be formally filed unless this process happens.

But that request for immunity cannot be made until there is a functioning government. There isn’t one now and won’t be for even longer if Israelis are forced to vote yet again.”

As Lahav Harkov explains at the Jerusalem Post, there are in fact two stages to that procedure : [emphasis added]

“…when an MK is charged with a crime, the attorney-general must submit a copy of the indictment to the Knesset. Then the MK may go to the Knesset House Committee and ask for immunity. At that point, the legal proceedings against him or her are frozen and [Attorney General] Mandelblit cannot submit the indictment to the courts.

The House Committee would then vote, and if it grants the lawmaker immunity, it must go to a second vote in the plenum. […]

It does not look like Netanyahu has enough votes in the Knesset, in its current makeup, to get immunity. The religious-Right bloc that supports him has 55 seats, and the Center-Left has made it very clear they oppose the move.”

BBC Watch has written to the BBC News website requesting a correction.

BBC News ignores rockets on northern Israel but reports response

When sirens warning of rocket fire from Syria sent residents of the northern Golan Heights and Upper Galilee scurrying for shelter shortly before 5 a.m. on November 19th, the BBC did not find that story newsworthy.

“Four projectiles were fired at northern Israel from Syria in the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said. All four were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The Israeli military believes the rockets were fired by Iran or one of its proxies.”

The Israeli response which came the next day was however considered worthy of BBC News website coverage and on the morning of November 20th a report originally confusingly headlined “Israel hits ‘dozens of Iranian and Syrian targets’” and now titled “Israel carries out ‘wide-scale strikes’ on Iranian forces in Syria” was published on its ‘Middle East’ page.

Apparently not having bothered to verify details of the previous day’s incident itself, the BBC reported it as something that ‘Israel said’ happened.

“The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel. […]

On Tuesday morning, the Israeli military said it had intercepted four rockets fired from Syria towards northern Israel. It said the rockets did not hit the ground.”

As usual in coverage of such incidents, the BBC’s report uncritically amplified claims made by the infamous Syrian state news agency.

“Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defences shot down most of the missiles over Damascus. […]

Syria’s state news agency Sana said that the country’s “air defence confronted the heavy attack and intercepted the hostile missiles”.

It said that Syria destroyed “most” of the Israeli missiles.

The news agency added that the strikes on Syrian territory were carried out from “Lebanese and Palestinian territories”.”

Also in line with longstanding BBC editorial policy, the report presented an unnecessarily qualified account of Iran’s activities in Syria.

“Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011.

It has been trying to thwart what it calls Iran’s “military entrenchment” there and block shipments of Iranian weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.”

Readers were told nothing of the list of Iranian attacks on Israel throughout the past two years.

Later the same day the BBC News website published an additional article by its diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus titled “Israel-Iran: Risk of an all-out conflict grows after Syria strikes” and inaccurately tagged “Syrian civil war”.  

The BBC News Twitter account promoted that article with the claim that “Israel’s strikes in Syria risk broad conflict with Iran”.

So there we have it: according to BBC-think it is not Iran’s funding and arming of terrorist organisations to Israel’s south and north or Iran’s support for the establishment of Hizballah infrastructure in the Syrian Golan or even Iran’s reported deployment of missiles in south-west Syria which raise the risk of “broad conflict” but Israel’s response to Iranian aggression.

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Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post between the evening of November 18th and the evening of November 19th the BBC News website published three written reports, totalling 2,420 words, relating to a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

November 18th 2019: ‘US says Israeli settlements are no longer illegal

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move endorses ‘law of the jungle’ – Palestinians

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move reduces chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal’ by Barbara Plett Usher

All those articles include quotes from various Palestinian officials and/or unnamed terrorist organisations.

Article 1: “Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the US decision was a risk to “global stability, security, and peace” and said it threatened to replace international law with “the law of the jungle”.”

Article 2: “Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said it threatened to replace international law with the “law of the jungle”. […]

“Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes,” said Mr Erekat. “Once the Trump administration decides to undermine international law… this constitutes a major threat to international peace and security.”

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “The United States is neither qualified nor is authorised to negate international legitimacy resolutions, and it has no right to give any legitimacy to Israeli settlement.”

Palestinian militant groups also weighed in, calling it the official funeral of the Oslo peace process – which laid the foundations for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip – and urging stepped-up resistance to the Israeli occupation.”

Article 3: “Palestinian militants have described the US shift as the funeral of the Oslo peace process, and called for resisting the occupation.”

The second report also quoted other sources promoting the notion that the US announcement and/or ‘settlements’ threaten the ‘peace process’. [emphasis added]

Article 2: “The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc’s position was that “all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace“.

Ayman Safadi, Foreign Minister of Jordan – the custodian of a holy site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount – said the change would “kill” a two-state solution, calling the settlements “a blatant violation of international law”.”

The BBC’s own commentary promoted similar framing:

Article 1: “The Palestinians have long called for the removal of all settlements, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it almost impossible to make such a state a reality.”

Articles 1 & 2, analysis from Barbara Plett Usher:

“Dismissing the international legal prohibitions on Jewish settlements undermines the legal framework for the peace process, including the notion of Palestinian national rights and the principle of self-determination. […]

Palestinian analysts I have spoken with say the growth of Jewish settlements has essentially killed the potential for a viable two-state solution.”

Article 2: “The Palestinians have long called for the removal of the settlements, where about 600,000 Jews live, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it almost impossible to make such a state a reality.”

Article 3: “And it [the US statement] decreases even further the chances of a negotiated peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. […]

…it creates problems for the rest of the world, which has been operating under an internationally accepted framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The international community has focused for more than two decades on working towards a two-state solution. The European Union and United Nations have been warning that Jewish settlements are eroding that possibility. Now that a main player has withdrawn opposition, the way forward is even less clear: there is no Plan B. […]

Palestinians do not have many options.”

As we see, both the selected quotes and the BBC’s own commentary steer readers towards the view that the prime obstacle to “a negotiated peace deal” and a “two-state solution” is the Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. That framing of course dovetails perfectly with the narrative long promoted by the PLO.

Notably, the BBC made no effort at all to remind audiences of other factors which might affect the chances of a “negotiated peace deal” such as Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state or the fact that the Palestinians are split into various irreconcilable factions and cannot even agree among themselves on a unified approach to negotiations with Israel.

Neither did the BBC bother to ask why, if this latest US statement is so detrimental to the peace process, was absolutely no progress made during the three years prior to Secretary Pompeo’s announcement.

As anyone familiar with prior efforts to bring the conflict to an end is aware, the various proposals have all included annexation of the main blocks of Israeli communities in return for land swaps. Since December 2016, however, the BBC has taken it upon itself to repeatedly amplify the PLO’s maximalist interpretation of the ‘two-state solution’. Sadly for BBC audiences hoping to gain better understanding of the issues behind this story, these three articles do not deviate from that editorial policy.

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Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

Reviewing three BBC reports on the US statement on ‘settlements’ – part one

Between the evening of November 18th and the evening of November 19th the BBC News website published three written reports, totalling 2,420 words, relating to a statement made by the US Secretary of State.

November 18th 2019: ‘US says Israeli settlements are no longer illegal

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move endorses ‘law of the jungle’ – Palestinians

November 19th 2019: ‘US settlement move reduces chances of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal’ by Barbara Plett Usher

The first article includes – albeit near its end – a reasonable portrayal of the positions held by various US administrations over the years.

“In 1978, the Jimmy Carter administration concluded that the establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed with that conclusion, saying he did not believe the settlements were inherently illegal.

Since then, the US adopted a position of describing the settlements as “illegitimate” – though not “illegal” – and sheltering Israel from condemnatory resolutions on the issue at the United Nations.

However one of the last acts of the Obama administration, at the end of 2016, was to break with US practice by not vetoing a UN resolution that urged an end to illegal Israeli settlements.”

The second article opens with the erroneous claim that: [emphasis added]

“Palestinians have condemned a decision by the US to abandon its four-decades-old position that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are inconsistent with international law.”

In fact, as explained in the first report and indeed again towards the end of this one, Secretary Pompeo’s statement marks a return to the policy of US administrations between 1981 and December 2016. In other words, the “position” described by the BBC is three years old rather than “four-decades-old”.

The third report by Barbara Plett Usher makes no attempt to inform readers on the issue of the policies of past US administrations.

The first article promotes the BBC’s own standard but partial mantra concerning ‘international law’.

Article 1: “The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians.

About 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed this.”

In the second article readers are told that:

 Article 2: “The UN regards the settlements as being illegal under international law.”

BBC audiences are not informed that UNSC resolution 2334 dating from December 2016 was adopted under the United Nations Charter’s Chapter 6 and is hence non-binding.

The BBC chooses to describe settlements as follows:

Article 1: “Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

They have long been a source of dispute between Israel and the international community, and the Palestinians.”

Article 2: “Settlements are communities established by Israel on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. They have long been a source of dispute between Israel and the international community, and the Palestinians.”

Article 3: “Settlements are Jewish communities built on territory occupied by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.”

As we see, the BBC does not bother to inform its audiences of the background to that war or of the fact that in the case of Judea & Samaria, the same territory was under Jordanian occupation for 19 years. That omission enables Barbara Plett Usher to state that:

“…Americans do not make international law: that is up to bodies such as the United Nations and treaties such as the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its civilian population to occupied territory.”

Only in the second article do readers find any alternative view to the BBC’s standard mantra or reference to events before 1967 and that is presented as something that “Israel says”.

Article 2: “Most of the international community, including the UN and the International Court of Justice, say the settlements are illegal. The basis for this is the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which forbids the transfer by an occupying power of its people to occupied territory.

However, Israel says the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply de jure to the West Bank because, it says, the territory is not technically occupied.

Israel says it is legally there as a result of a defensive war, and did not take control of the West Bank from a legitimate sovereign power. It says the legal right of Jewish settlement there, as recognised by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, was preserved under the UN’s charter.”

Those three paragraphs are taken from a backgrounder originally published in December 2016 and since amended several times to which a link is provided in all three reports. All three reports also promote a map titled “West Bank settlements” sourced from the foreign funded political NGOB’tselem’. As has been the case with previous maps from the same source used by the BBC, this one too portrays places such as Neve Ya’akov and Gush Etzion as ‘settlements’ despite the fact that Jews purchased land and lived in those areas long before they were ethnically cleansed by the invading Jordanian army in 1948. 

Part two of this post will review additional aspects of these three BBC reports.

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