Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

Among the topics (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’ was that of cuts in US aid to Palestinians – particularly via the UN agency UNRWA.

Nearly two weeks before any official US announcement was made the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was already framing the topic for listeners in an item that purported to examine the question of “who would lose out the most if President Trump followed through on his threat to cut funding to the Palestinians?”

January 3rd, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

“As we see, listeners to this item heard three views in all – two from Palestinians and one from a think-tank fellow with a record of being less than neutral. No American or Israeli views were sought by the programme’s producers. Audiences were told that any cut in US aid to Palestinians would cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse with detrimental results for Israel, European and American interests and the Middle East peace process. They were twice told that the US president is ‘blackmailing’ the Palestinians.”

On January 16th the BBC News website reported that:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say.

It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m.”

January 16th, BBC News website:

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background (see also here)

“While…relevant background was withheld, the BBC’s article did amplify reactions from former UN official Jan Egeland and the PLO. […] Obviously BBC audiences cannot reach informed opinions on this particular story so long as the BBC continues to refrain from providing them with the relevant background concerning the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that they have been denied for so many years.”

The next morning the top story in the various editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ was described as follows:

“The US is withholding more than half of a $125m (£90m) instalment destined for the UN relief agency for the Palestinians, American officials say. It will provide $60m in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) but will hold back a further $65m.”

January 17th, ‘Newsday’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

The interviewees heard by listeners were as follows:

05:06 edition: Jan Egeland (Norwegian Refugee Council), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

06:06 edition: Antonio Guterres (UN), Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO)

07:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

08:06 edition: Mustafa Barghouti (PLC, PLO), Jonathan Schanzer (FDD)

09:06 edition: Jonathan Schanzer (FDD), Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

10:06 edition: Chris Gunness (UNRWA)

“The majority of the opinions heard…were strongly critical of the [US] decision and the sole exception was in the contributions from Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. […] Obviously that imbalance in itself compromises the BBC’s claim to produce impartial reporting “reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion“. Moreover, listeners heard numerous inaccurate and misleading claims from both Gunness and Barghouti that presenters made no attempt whatsoever to challenge or correct. No attempt was made to raise any of the serious issues surrounding UNRWA’s functioning and agenda despite their clear relevance to the story.” 

The BBC News website published two additional reports on the same story:

January 17th & January 26th, BBC News website:

Three BBC articles on US aid promote an irrelevant false comparison

Four days later, an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

January 30th, BBC News website:

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

“…just 72 words in Yolande Knell’s 882 word report were devoted to the provision of superficial background information on UNRWA. […]  While content provided by UNRWA staffers Najwa Sheikh Ahmed and (former BBC employee) Chris Gunness makes up nearly half of Yolande Knell’s 882 word article, once again this PR item amplifying UNRWA’s campaign against the US administration’s reduced donation fails to provide BBC audiences with the full range of impartial information concerning the UN agency that is needed for broader understanding of the story.”

In February UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, was given a long slot on BBC WS radio.

February 19th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two

“Obviously this interview was not intended to provide BBC audiences with information which would enhance their understanding of the criticism of UNRWA’s mission and performance. Rather, the BBC chose – not for the first time – to provide the UN agency’s head with a friendly platform from which to promote his PR campaign in a near monologue that went unchallenged in any serious manner.”

In May BBC WS radio audiences heard Yolande Knell interview the Jordanian minister of information.

May 9th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC’s special report on Palestinian refugees avoids the real issues

UNRWA’s role in keeping millions of Palestinians in refugee status was not explained to listeners and neither was that of the Arab League.”

The following month listeners to the same programme heard Nada Tawfik promoting UNRWA PR.

June 13th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

Unbalanced promotion of UNRWA PR on BBC World Service radio

“To be honest, it is difficult to imagine how this report could be more unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand either the situation in the Gaza Strip, the reasons behind the US decision to withhold part of its voluntary funding of UNRWA or the role and record of UNRWA itself.”

In late August the BBC WS radio programme ‘Newshour’ once again presented preemptive framing of a US announcement that had not yet been made in a long item that included an interview with the Jordanian foreign minister.

August 30th, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part one

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part two

“This interview with a senior minister from a country where some 40% of UNRWA clients live could obviously have been employed to provide BBC audiences with much-needed enhancement of understanding of the background to the ‘UNRWA in financial crisis’ story that the BBC has been reporting since January. Unsurprisingly given the corporation’s record on this story, once again that opportunity was passed up.”

The US announcement on August 31st was covered in a written report published on the same day in which readers saw quotes from the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness and the then PLO representative in Washington.

August 31st, BBC News website:

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part one

“Once again BBC audiences did not see an explanation of the changes to UNRWA’s mission over the years which have created the situation in which the number of people registered as refugees has grown rather than diminished in 70 years.”

That report was replaced by another one the next day.

September 1st, BBC News website:

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

“…16.3% of the report’s word count was given over to criticism of the US decision from various Palestinian factions, including the PLO (together with a link) and the Hamas terror group. An additional 48 words were used to describe Palestinian denunciation of previous unrelated US Administration decisions. A further 13.7% of the report’s word count was devoted to amplification of statements from UNRWA’s spokesman Chris Gunness, meaning that in all, 30% of the article was devoted to informing BBC audiences of condemnations of the US move.”

Listeners to BBC WS radio on the same day also heard from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.  

September 1st, ‘Newshour’, BBC World Service radio:

BBC WS listeners get more unchallenged UNRWA narrative

“…BBC World Service audiences heard unchallenged UNRWA messaging together with promotion of Palestinian talking points in a long item which once again did little to contribute to their understanding of the background to this story.”

Also in September an edition of a BBC Radio 4 “ethical and religious” programme included an item billed “where politics and morality clash – Edward discusses the cut in funding for Palestinian projects by the US Administration”.

September 23rd, ‘Sunday’, BBC Radio 4:

More to a BBC Radio 4 item on ‘morality’ of aid to Palestinians than meets the eye

“Yet again BBC audiences were denied information concerning UNRWA’s problematic record and were given no insight into the background to its politically motivated perpetuation of the refugee issue. Yet again BBC audiences heard no discussion of why citizens of the Gaza Strip and PA controlled areas are classified as refugees and deliberately kept dependent on foreign aid.

However, in this item Radio 4 listeners heard more than an academic discussion. They heard a significant contribution from the “head of marketing and fundraising” at an NGO that is raising money for this particular cause – a cause that was repeatedly portrayed to the Sunday morning audience as the right “moral” choice.”

As the above examples show, the BBC’s coverage of this story was both generous and blatantly one-sided. While repeatedly providing platforms for UNRWA officials and supporters, the corporation made no effort to explain the issues at the root of the long-standing debate surrounding UNRWA that are the context to the story.

In other words, the BBC’s approach to this story, which ran for much of 2018, was to self-conscript to a political campaign rather than to provide audiences with the full range of information necessary for them to reach their own informed opinions on the topic.

Related Articles:

Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

Revisiting another of the BBC’s 2018 campaigns

 

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Revisiting another of the BBC’s 2018 campaigns

In this post we continue to take a look at some of the topics that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’.

Another campaign amplified by the BBC related to the Bedouin encampment of Khan al Ahmar. On September 5th Israel’s High Court rejected a petition to prevent the demolition of the illegally constructed encampment after a protracted court case. That story was reported on the BBC News website on the same day.

5th September 2018, BBC News website:

Khan al-Ahmar: Israel court approves demolition of Bedouin village

Discussed here.

“…in addition to the serious omissions in the BBC’s representation of this story, audiences saw four times more comment (and two links) from outside sources opposing the evacuation of the illegally constructed settlement than they did opinions in favour.”

A week later – as the demolition order was due to be lifted – the BBC’s London-based Middle East editor flew in and the corporation’s radio and TV audiences saw and heard a further five reports in the space of six days.

13th September 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

“…despite Bowen’s faulty geography, his amplification of the ‘contiguity’ myth and his failure to provide BBC audiences with the full background to this story (not least the fact that related court cases have been going on for nine years and the residents of Khan al Ahmar have been offered free plots of land on which to build homes nearby) and notwithstanding his erasure of the politically motivated interventions by the Palestinian Authority and the EU in this case, BBC World Service listeners were told that they had just heard an ‘expert’ explanation.”

17th September 2018, BBC One, BBC News channel, Jeremy Bowen:

The West Bank village facing demolition

Discussed here.

“Notably the BBC’s Middle East editor – whose job it is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – chose yet again not to tell the BBC’s funding public that the EU has also carried out illegal construction at Khan al Ahmar and other sites in the vicinity or that the Palestinian Authority and various NGOs have for years used the encampment’s residents as political pawns. To do so would of course hamper the narrative to which Jeremy Bowen has self-conscripted and which he elected to promote in this report…”

17th September 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

17th September 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

18th September 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘World Update’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

“Once again Bowen deliberately refrained from informing listeners that if the residents of Khan al Ahmar had not been exploited by the Palestinian Authority for entirely political purposes they could, like other members of their tribe, have relocated to a site nearby offering free plots of land, utilities and a school, with no need whatsoever for the community to ‘suffer’. Those facts, however, do not help advance the political narrative to which Jeremy Bowen has self-conscripted and so in these three radio items – just as in his previous filmed and audio reports – they were erased from the one-sided and politicised picture he presented.”

When the demolition of Khan al Ahmar did not take place as he had anticipated, Jeremy Bowen jetted off back to London. The encampment’s residents were subsequently given until October 1st to demolish the illegally constructed structures themselves. That did not happen and the encampment remains in situ, with the BBC having – for the time being at least – lost interest in the story to which it provided one-sided, politicised amplification in six reports in less than two weeks.

Related Articles:

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BBC’s Wyre Davies plays wingman to anti-Israel NGOs

The LA Times, The Bedouin of Khan Al Ahmar and ‘Their Land’  (CAMERA)

Reviewing a BBC slap to the face of impartial journalism

As the year’s end approaches we will be taking a look at some of the topics that the BBC chose to promote during 2018 in a manner that went beyond ordinary reporting both in terms of the amount of content produced and adherence to standards of ‘due impartiality’.

One of the BBC’s campaigns began in late December 2017 and continued until March 21st 2018, with an encore on July 29th. It related to Ahed Tamimi who, together with other members of her ‘activist’ family, had been featured in BBC content in the past.

However, in this case the supposedly ‘impartial’ BBC elected to lend its voice – and considerable outreach – to promotion and amplification of a blatantly political campaign. 

19th December 2017, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl arrested after troops ‘slapped’ in video

Palestinian girl arrested after ‘slap’ video

Both items discussed here.

“To sum up, the BBC’s ‘reporting’ on this story promotes – twice – filmed footage for the most part produced by family members of the story’s main protagonist, two Facebook posts from her father, one article from a notoriously partisan and inaccurate media outlet quoting her aunt, one Ynet report quoting her father and a second Ynet report relating to a previous incident in which she was involved.”

1st January 2018, BBC News website:

Palestinian girl charged after slapping soldier on video

Discussed here.

“Notably, while the BBC did elect to amplify the Tamimi family’s claim of “legitimate resistance” and to inform its audiences that “many Palestinians have hailed Tamimi as a hero of the resistance to Israeli occupation”, it refrained from telling them of her support for terrorism and advocacy of the murder of Israelis.”

1st January 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

“…the BBC’s Yolande Knell was already aware of the charge of incitement.”

3rd January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’:

Discussed here.

“No mention of the additional charges of rock-throwing and incitement was made throughout the item, which included interviews with Israeli MK Dr Michael Oren and B’tselem’s research director Yael Stein. Neither were listeners told that Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman has collaborated (along with additional members of the family) with B’tselem’s ‘armed with cameras’ project.”

8th January 2018, BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, Yolande Knell:

Discussed here.

In this report from Yolande Knell, listeners heard from former IDF chief prosecutor Maurice Hirsh who noted the charge of incitement against Ahed Tamimi. They also heard interviews with an Israeli MK, Tamimi’s lawyer, Tamimi’s father and statements from a member of an anti-Israel NGO.

“Significantly, although the video footage of Ahed Tamimi urging others to carry out acts of violence is in the public domain, it has not been presented to BBC audiences.”

17th January 2018, BBC News website, Yolande Knell:

Ahed Tamimi: Spotlight turns on Palestinian viral slap video teen

Discussed here.

“The four interviewees who appeared in Knell’s audio report – Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer Gabi Lasky, her father Bassem Tamimi, Israeli MK Anat Berko and former IDF chief prosecutor Lt-Col (res) Maurice Hirsch – are also quoted in this written report.”

31st January 2018, BBC One, BBC News channel, BBC News website, Jeremy Bowen:

Is a slap an act of terror?

Ahed Tamimi: Was Palestinian teenager’s ‘slap’ terrorism?

Both discussed here.

“Clearly both those headlines and presentations suggest to BBC audiences that Ahed Tamimi has been charged with terrorism following her assault of a soldier – but that disingenuous implication is false.”

5th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Jeremy Bowen:

Discussed here.

13th February 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian viral slap video teen goes on trial

Discussed here.

“However, as has been the case in the majority of the BBC’s copious past reporting on Ahed Tamimi’s arrest and indictment, this article too failed to provide readers with details of her call for violence on social media which is the basis of that incitement charge.”

13th February 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, James Reynolds

Discussed here.

“All the more significant is the fact that he [Reynolds] failed to inform listeners of Ahed Tamimi’s “message to the world” – as defined by her mother – in that same footage which included the call for violence that is the basis for the charge of incitement against her.”

21st March 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi: Palestinian slap video teen gets eight months in plea deal

Discussed here.

“…BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which Ahed Tamimi was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a call for violence.”

Between December 19th 2017 and March 21st 2018, the BBC produced at least thirteen written, filmed or audio reports on that topic: clearly an unusual volume of coverage clearly intended to secure audience attention.

All the written and filmed reports (eight) included the word “slap” (or derivatives) in their title – an indication of what the BBC wanted audiences to think the story was about and how perception of the story was manipulated. Several of the reports told BBC audiences that Tamimi was imprisoned because of a ‘slap’ while failing to adequately explain – or even mention – the most serious charge against her: that of incitement to violence. Only one of the reports (BBC Radio 4, January 8th) provided audiences with a reasonable explanation of the charges against Tamimi.

The reports included interviews with three different Israeli politicians and one former IDF chief prosecutor. In addition to numerous interviews with Ahed Tamimi’s father – together with links to the family’s social media platforms – and quotes from her lawyer, BBC reporting on this story promoted quotes from and campaigns run by inadequately presented partisan political NGOs and activists such as B’tselemJonathan PollackAmnesty International, Avaaz (including a link to a petition set up by Tamimi’s father) and Human Rights Watch.

The BBC returned to the story in late July, with the same editorial policies in evidence in four additional reports.

29th July 2018, BBC News website:

Ahed Tamimi, Palestinian viral slap video teenager, freed in Israel

Discussed here.

“…once again BBC audiences were not informed in this report that the charge of incitement to which Ahed Tamimi pleaded guilty relates to the fact that in the same video produced and distributed by her mother in which she was filmed assaulting soldiers, she also made a public call for violence.”

29th July 2018, BBC World News TV, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

29th July 2018, BBC News website, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“In the film itself the charge of incitement was likewise entirely erased from audience view.” 

29th July 2018, BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, Nida Ibrahim:

Discussed here.

“As has been the case in all the BBC’s coverage of this latest instalment of the Ahed Tamimi story, the fact that the charge of incitement was the most serious of the charges against her – and its details – was erased from audience view.”

Throughout the BBC’s generous coverage of this story, audiences saw her described as “a prominent child activist“, a “star on social media”, “a modern-day Joan of Arc“, “a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation“, “a national icon” and “the new iconic face of Palestinian resistance“.

BBC audiences were told that Tamimi is to be seen as “standing up to the reality of Israeli occupation, defending her home with her bare hands” and “standing up to armed soldiers on occupied land” and that her aim is “to resist the occupation“.

The one-sided politicised campaigning that BBC audiences saw instead of objective coverage of this story is a slap in the face for journalism and – not least in light of the BBC Middle East editor’s campaign contribution – detrimental to the BBC’s reputation as a trustworthy media outlet committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

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BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

The December 4th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item billed “Israel targets Hezbollah tunnels” which related to the IDF’s announcement concerning the commencement of Operation Northern Shield earlier in the day.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 14:07 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Israel now and the army has launched an operation to cut off tunnels infiltrating its territory from Lebanon. The military accuses the Lebanese militia Hizballah of having dug the tunnels with a view to using them for a surprise attack inside Israel. I’ve been speaking to Anna Ahronheim who is military reporter for the Jerusalem Post newspaper. She’s on the Israel-Lebanon border in the town of Metulla.”

By the time this item was broadcast the IDF had announced the discovery of the first cross-border tunnel (which later in the day was revealed to be meters away from a UNIFIL observation post) running from inside a ‘civilian’ building in the Shia village of Kfar Kila in Lebanon some 40 meters into Israeli territory. Anna Ahronheim began by describing that tunnel.

Ahronheim: “From where I’m standing there’s about maybe 200 – 250 meters away from the tunnel they just announced that they found. The tunnel is closer to the border fence than homes in Metulla but a quick walk in the middle of the night at a brisk pace, it’ll take less than five minutes for them to reach homes. So the army said that this tunnel that was discovered has been neutralised, therefore won’t be able to be used by Hizballah forces.”

Although she failed to clarify to listeners that Hizballah is a widely designated terrorist organisation, Iqbal’s three initial questions were relevant to audience understanding of the story.

Metulla

Iqbal: “And they’ve also said that they’re only operating within territory that is…ah…Israeli and will not cross the border into Lebanon and that is possible for them to do, given the geography?”

Ahronheim:  “I think what the army will do is right now they are operating strictly within Israeli territory but this is not going to be an operation for just several hours or several days. The army believes it’ll take several weeks for all the tunnels to be – or most of the tunnels – to be identified and neutralised and that might mean having to cross into the blue line, into the demilitarised zone in order to deal with the threat.”

Iqbal: “So how many tunnels are we talking about if it’s going to take them several weeks?”

Ahronheim: “They haven’t given any number yet. Right now we only know of one but there’s likely many more.”

Iqbal: “And if there is any…ah…suggestion or indication that they are going into Lebanese territory, that would be extremely serious?”

Ahronheim: “Definitely but of course the army has said today that they communicate a message both to UNIFIL and to the Lebanese army about what was happening and the seriousness of it. I don’t think anyone either in Lebanon or in Israel want to go to war with each other. It’s been 12 years of quiet up on the northern border. I think they want to keep it that way. I think Hizballah also understands that they’re quite occupied in Syria and across the region. A war with Israel is just not on the plate right now.”

At that point Razia Iqbal put relevant questioning aside, instead choosing to indulge her own irrelevant speculations.

Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

Iqbal did not enlighten listeners as to her opinions on alternative uses for a 200 meter-long tunnel quarried through solid limestone and under the international border by a terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

Ahronheim: “Of course but again, Hizballah has for years – and I can go back to 2012 of Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah saying…talking about, you know, the conquest of the Galilee and that there would be surprise tunnels that would be infiltrating into Israel. So this is something that they’ve been planning for several years.”

Iqbal then went on to promote another bizarre theory:

Iqbal: “Why do you think that Israel has made the announcement of cutting off these tunnels today? Is there any sense that this is a diversionary tactic to take attention away from Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky coalition?”

In fact this operation had been in the pipeline for years and was given final security cabinet approval on November 7th – i.e. before the coalition government’s majority in the Knesset was reduced in the wake of Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation.

Ahronheim: “There’s a lot of talk about that; the corruption charges that he faces, the shaky coalition. The army says that this has been planned for over two years; that they’ve been having meetings every two weeks – the Chief of Staff and senior officials and the cabinet. Again, the timing of it really might be tied to Netanyahu’s troubles as a diversion but it also could be that, you know, this is a message to Iran. There were reports the other day of Iran flying in directly to Beirut international airport and not via Syria [unintelligible] weapons for Hizballah. So it could be a message in return of Iran’s message to Israel.”

Iqbal closed the interview there, having devoted 40% of her questions to promotion of the notions that Israel might be lying with regard to the purpose of the tunnels and that an operation to thwart an obvious threat to Israeli civilians might have baser political motives.

BBC World Service listeners however heard nothing whatsoever about the highly relevant context of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC resolution 1701 and the impotency of the UNIFIL force charged with overseeing implementation of that resolution.

Related Articles:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

 

 

 

BBC audiences materially misled by inaccurate claims from ‘Hardtalk’ host

Earlier this month we noted that the BBC had ignored a protest march organised by teenagers living in communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

“Since the BBC began reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting over seven months ago, BBC audiences have seen the grand total of one minute and twenty seconds of coverage reflecting the point of view of residents of the Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip-Israel border who are affected by the violence.”

That particular protest did eventually get a very brief mention in one radio programme over a week later but BBC audiences have heard nothing of the many additional protests organised by those affected by terrorism from the Gaza Strip, both before and after the last serious incident in mid-November.

“Residents of the Gaza border and their supporters protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday night [August 18th 2018 – Ed.], demanding the government to “restore the sense of security.”

The protesters called out “We’re not cannon fodder” and “Bibi, Bibi, wake up, the south is burning”—referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname.

They carried signs saying: “The south is on fire” and “We’re tired of burned fields and weeping children.””

And:

“Hundreds of residents from southern communities, which were battered by recent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, protested in Tel Aviv on Thursday [November 15th, 2018 – Ed.] against a truce reached with the Hamas terror group and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. […]

It followed two days of protests in which southern residents burned tires and blocked the entrances to cities battered by Gaza rocket fire in protest of the ceasefire, which they say has left Hamas poised to renew attacks at will. […]

The truce prompted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to resign on Wednesday and has drawn criticism from some residents of southern Israel who accuse the government of being soft on Hamas.”

That serially withheld context is critical to audience understanding of the subject matter of an edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ that was aired on the BBC World News and BBC News channels on November 23rd (available in the UK here) and on BBC World Service radio on November 26th.

“Israel’s seemingly indestructible Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dodged another political bullet. After the recent flare up of violence in Gaza, his defence minister quit and another key cabinet hawk- Naftali Bennett, said he would go too if he wasn’t given the defence portfolio. The prime minister called his bluff, and Mr Bennett, who speaks to HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur has decided to stay put after all. What’s behind the chaos in Israeli politics? Are the right wing factions putting their own interests before those of the nation?”

A similar introduction was given by presenter Stephen Sackur. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sackur: “Israeli politics is always fractious but the last few days have taken the plotting and manoeuvering to another level. The spark was a major flare-up of violence in and around Gaza. An Israeli Special Forces raid [sic] was followed by a sustained volley of militant rockets fired into Israel, with Israeli bombers then responding from the air. The violence ended in an uneasy ceasefire which the hawkish defence minister opposed and prompted his resignation. Another key Israeli cabinet hawk said he would go too if Prime Minister Netanyahu didn’t give him the defence job. The PM called Naftali Bennett’s bluff. Rather than prompt a government collapse, the education minister then backed down. So what on earth is causing this political chaos in Israel? Why is there so much mutual mistrust and loathing on Israel’s right-wing? Well the man at the centre of recent storms, Naftali Bennett, joins me now from Jerusalem.”

The programme followed the usual format employed by Sackur when interviewing an Israeli official or public figure in which he lays out pre-prepared lists of things he considers to be wrong with Israel based on quotes from usually predictable sources – in this case mostly the UN. The opening third of the programme was devoted to domestic Israeli politics: a topic which to most viewers and listeners would be unfamiliar and of little interest.

At 08:15 minutes into the interview, Sackur posed a question-cum-monologue which promoted inaccuracies that are materially misleading to audiences.

Sackur: “You’ve decided to stay in the government. You’ve said – and I’m quoting you again – ‘the ship of Israel’s security has sailed in the wrong direction’. It seems to me that what you’re saying is that – particularly with regard to Gaza – what Israel has done in recent years – including, let us not forget, several wars, the last of which in 2014, Protect…Operation Protective Edge, killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the UN says at least 65% of those Palestinians were civilians and we know that hundreds of them were children – you’re saying that Israel’s besieging tactics in Gaza – the fact that Gaza doesn’t really have power supplies that work, it doesn’t have clean water, it has a jobless rate of 60% or more – you’re saying all of this isn’t tough enough; that Israel should be hammering Gaza harder. Is that it?”

As long-time readers know, the BBC has made absolutely no effort to independently verify the casualty figures and the debatable civilian-combatant ratios that it has been quoting and promoting for over four years, despite their dubious and partisan sourcing.

Notwithstanding the BBC’s efforts to persuade audiences otherwise, the Gaza Strip is not subject to “besieging tactics” and – as the BBC well knows – the chronic shortages of electricity and potable water in the territory have nothing to do with Israel’s counter-terrorism measures but are the result of internal disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Equally misleadingly, Sackur presented the youth unemployment rate (age 15 to 29) as the general unemployment rate, which is actually lower.

After his interviewee had clarified that his calls for firmer action relate to Hamas rather than the people of the Gaza Strip, Sackur interjected with a re-run of his questionable statistics.

Sackur: “Just look at the record, Mr Bennett. I don’t want to repeat myself but the last big assault on Gaza killed more than two thousand Palestinians, most of whom were civilians. We see in our media every week the images of the stand-off between Palestinian protesters who have…sometimes they have stones, sometimes they have flaming torches. They go to the fence. They are shot by Israeli service personnel. We have seen hundred…more than a hundred killed, thousands wounded. And you’re telling me that you want the Israeli army and the Israeli air force to up the ante and kill more people? That’s what you’re saying.”

Readers may recall that just two months ago in an interview with another Israeli official, Sackur used a very similar and equally inaccurate portrayal of what he – and the BBC in general – portrays as ‘protests’, thereby erasing both the severity of the violence and the fact that a significant proportion of those killed had links to the Gaza terror factions which initiated, organise and facilitate the violent rioting. The conversation continued:

Bennett: “I have a better suggestion: that the Palestinians stop shooting rockets at Israel.”

Sackur: “I’m…I don’t know if you’re maybe not understanding my question but when you respond to the rocket fire that we saw as part of that recent flare-up in Gaza, you respond with your air force. Sometimes you respond with troops on the ground. But the reality is – and the record shows it – that the people who suffer are the civilian population, including children. That is the reality. And you want more of it.”

Sackur later pursued his chosen theme further:

Sackur: “Let’s talk about the reality of the UN reaction. We’ve seen the recent – now he’s retired – but the recent UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Zayd Raad al Hussein, say that Israel’s response is suggestive of something entirely and wholly disproportionate and he looks at the casualty figures on the Palestinian side. We also know that the International Criminal Court is still investigating what you did in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Do you understand that the scrutiny being brought to bear upon Israel goes right through the international community and runs the risk of tarnishing Israel’s reputation in a very significant way?”

Further on in the programme audiences heard Sackur misrepresent Bennett’s proposals concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before claiming that “if Israel pursues your vision it will end up being an apartheid style state”. When Bennett noted the failure of the 2005 Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip to bring calm, Sackur retorted with yet another inaccurate and misleading reference to a ‘siege’ which does not exist.

Sackur:”If, if you intended to besiege…if you intended to lay siege to the West Bank as you did to Gaza, there might be some relevance to that but of course that’s not on the table because you’ve got all these Jewish settlements which you intend to annex…”

photo credit: Sderotnet

Leaving aside the issue of Sackur’s style of interviewing, it is perfectly obvious that his aim in this programme was not to provide BBC audiences with insight into the context to the defence minister’s resignation, not to explain the differences between the approaches of different Israeli politicians to the 17 year long plight of Israeli civilians living under the shadow of terrorism that includes attacks using military grade projectiles and not to answer the questions posed in its own synopsis:

“What’s behind the chaos in Israeli politics? Are the right wing factions putting their own interests before those of the nation?”

Rather – as usual – Sackur was intent on promoting his own agenda: in this case primarily to focus audience attentions on civilian suffering in Gaza and allegedly ‘disproportionate’ Israeli actions. In promoting that agenda, Sackur tossed accuracy and impartiality out of the window, citing dubious casualty ratios, promoting the notion of a non-existent ‘siege’, distorting unemployment figures and falsely claiming that Israel’s actions have brought about power and potable water shortages.  

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards…”

Related Articles:

The Gaza related protest the BBC ignored

BBC’s Hardtalk presenter claims Israel ‘slaughters civilian protesters’

 

BBC issues correction to inaccurate Jerusalem elections claim

As documented here at the beginning of the month, an audio report concerning the municipal elections in Jerusalem that was aired on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme and in two editions of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on October 30th included the inaccurate claim that for the first time, a Palestinian candidate was running for a seat on the city council.

BBC erases crucial background from report on Jerusalem election

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that inaccurate claim, pointing out that even Palestinian sources acknowledge that this is far from the first time that an Arab resident of Jerusalem has been on the ballot paper.

The response we received includes the following:

“Thanks for getting in touch about our report on October 30.

We looked into this for you and appreciate you raising the matter with us. You’re correct about a precedent lying elsewhere, so we’ve published a correction in line with our complaints framework:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/helpandfeedback/corrections_clarifications

Many thanks once again for bringing this to our attention.”

The correction reads as follows:

 

Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part 2

In part one of this post we saw that listeners to the two editions of the BBC World Service radio’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ on November 12th were repeatedly led to believe that just one of the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis the previous evening was a member of Hamas despite the fact that all belonged to terror factions.

By the time those two editions had ended, listeners had heard from two residents of the Gaza Strip – one at length – but nothing from any of the residents of southern Israel affected by the 17 rocket attacks launched by terrorists on November 11th or the hundreds of attacks launched from the afternoon of November 12th onward.

On the following day (November 13th) the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ was titled “Deadly Fire Traded Between Israel and Gaza” and once again the image used to illustrate the programme’s webpage depicted a scene in the Gaza Strip.

“The worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since the 2014 war is threatening to descend into a full-blown conflict. More than 400 rockets have been fired into Israel, while Israeli aircraft have hit 150 militant targets in response.”

(Photo: Smoke blows up [sic] after Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrike to positions in Gaza City. Credit: Getty Images)

As documented here previously, presenter Julian Marshall failed to tell listeners that by that time at least three of those killed in IDF strikes had been claimed as members by terror organisations. This edition did however include the first – and only – mention of the fact that a civilian had been killed when a rocket hit an apartment block in Ashkelon.

Marshall: “Well Israeli airstrikes have left at least six Palestinians dead.”

The item included a brief statement from an IDF Spokesperson as well as an interview with a resident of the Gaza Strip (Majd Masharawi) and a resident of Ashkelon (Sigal Arieli).

Listeners did not hear anything which would contribute to their appreciation of the fact that in this round of violence, Israeli civilians were being deliberately targeted by terrorist organisations while civilians in the Gaza Strip were actually receiving warnings of impending strikes against military targets in order to ensure their safety.

The evening edition of the programme was titled “Gaza Israel Violence” and for the first time visitors to the webpage saw an image depicting events in Israel.

“Hamas says it’s agreed to a ceasefire in its hostilities with Israel. Israel says it reserves the right to strike inside Gaza. But how to stop the violence for good? We’ll hear from a former senior member of the Obama White House.”

(Photo: Buildings in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon were hit by rockets fired from Gaza. Credit: AFP)

As noted here previously, the original caption to that photograph uses the word ‘house’ rather than “buildings”.

Presenter Tim Franks introduced the item (from 00:52 here), once again erasing the fact that all the Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis were members of terror factions.

Franks: “It takes two sides to agree a ceasefire. The question tonight in the Middle East is is that what Israel and Hamas – the Palestinian group running Gaza – have both agreed? Hamas says it has; that it said yes to the terms of an Egyptian brokered deal. Israeli officials have been rather more circumspect, saying they reserve the right to continue air strikes into Gaza as necessary. All this comes against the most heated flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants for four years. Over the weekend Israeli Special Forces conducted an operation deep inside Gazan territory which appeared to spin out of control. Seven Palestinians were killed including a senior Hamas commander. One Israeli officer died. Out of Gaza there then came a barrage of hundreds of rockets fired into southern Israel. The Israeli military conducted scores of airstrikes inside Gaza. There was widespread fear that this could escalate into a full-blown war as it has three times in the last decade. “

Listeners then heard a report from Jerusalem correspondent Yolande Knell in which they were told that:

Knell: “The Israeli military says more than 460 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza in the past 24 hours and that it struck 160 militant targets including a building in Gaza City that it said was used by Hamas intelligence.”

Knell then immediately contradicted that accurate information with a claim from a Gaza resident who later on in the week cropped up in yet another BBC report.

Knell: “A doctor living there, Adnan al Waheidi, condemned the attack.”

Al Waheidi: “They destroy a civilian building which was fully occupied with families, where you find women are crying and the children are leaving and everybody’s just trying to escape for themself.”

Although by the time this programme was aired the extent of the damage to homes and businesses in southern Israeli communities was clear and the death of one civilian and injury of dozens of others had been amply reported by the local media, Knell confined her portrayal of the Israeli side of the story to sirens.

Knell: “On the Israeli side sirens sounded repeatedly. Einav Shimoni lives just two miles from the Gaza border.”

After listeners had heard Shimomi’s description of alarms and running to the shelter, Knell told ‘Newshour’ listeners for the first time in all four programmes that the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis were “militants”.

The item continued with segments from the interviews with Majd Masharawi in Gaza and Sigal Arieli in Ashkelon which had been heard in that day’s earlier edition of ‘Newshour’ and closed with an interview about ceasefire prospects with Ilan Goldenberg – described by Franks as “a man who used to be one of President Obama’s point men on the Middle East”. 

In the four editions of ‘Newshour’ aired on November 12th and 13th BBC World Service listeners around the world heard one short statement from an IDF spokesperson and one lengthy interview with a Hamas spokesman – parts of which were later repeated. Listeners heard comment relating to the broader background to the story from one Israeli journalist and one American commentator as well as one Israeli MK. Interviews with four different residents of the Gaza Strip – two of them lengthy and one partly repeated – were aired in contrast to interviews with two Israeli civilians affected by the rocket attacks – one lengthy and partly repeated.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality state that their principles include:

“We must do all we can to ensure that ‘controversial subjects’ are treated with due impartiality in all our output.

News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.

We are committed to reflecting a wide range of opinion across our output as a whole and over an appropriate timeframe so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented.”

And:

“News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.  The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.”

“Due impartiality” and “due weight” can hardly be said to have been achieved when listeners heard twice as many voices from the Gaza Strip than they did Israeli civilians.

Listeners heard inaccurate descriptions of the Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis on five occasions (and on one webpage) and only one accurate portrayal. They heard one accurate and one inaccurate portrayal of people in the Gaza Strip killed in the Israeli airstrikes that came in response to Gaza terror factions’ missile fire on civilians. A civilian killed in Ashkelon in one of those rocket attacks was mentioned just once.

Half of the programmes failed to clarify to listeners that while the rocket fire by Gaza based terror groups deliberately targeted Israeli civilians, Israel’s airstrikes targeted the assets of terror factions and false equivalence between those differently focused attacks was promoted in all editions.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy state that its principles include:

“We must do all we can to ensure due accuracy in all our output.

The BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences.  We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.”

Repeatedly describing six of the seven people killed in the incident near Khan Younis as “Palestinians” even though – as locally based BBC journalists knew – they had been claimed by two armed terror factions is obviously a prime example of misleading audiences and distorting known facts.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part one

Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part one

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part two

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

 

Reviewing BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of events in Israel and Gaza – part one

As readers are no doubt aware on the evening of November 11th an Israeli Special Forces unit engaged in a covert operation east of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip was exposed. In the ensuing firefight one Israeli officer was killed and another injured. Six members of Hamas and one member of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) were also killed. Later the same night terror factions in the Gaza Strip fired 17 projectiles at Israeli civilian communities in the Western Negev.

At around 16:30 the next day (November 12th) an Israeli soldier was injured when Hamas attacked an Israeli bus using a Kornet anti-tank missile. That was followed by an intense barrage of rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli communities with direct hits on homes and businesses in Ashkelon, Netivot, Sderot and at least three kibbutzim. One man was killed in Ashkelon and dozens were wounded. The attacks continued into the next day. Israel responded with some 150 strikes on targets belonging to terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip. Six fatalities were reported – at least four of whom were claimed by the PFLP and PIJ terror factions.

So how did BBC World Service radio’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ report those events and did that reporting adhere to the BBC’s editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality?

Listeners to the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on November 11th heard a brief mention of the incident near Khan Younis in a news bulletin (from 25:25 here): [all emphasis in italics in the original, all emphasis in bold added]

“The Israeli army says it’s been involved in an exchange of fire with Hamas militants in Gaza. Media reports quoting Palestinian sources say at least 2 people, including a Hamas commander, were killed in the clashes.”

That incident was the lead story in the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ on November 12th which was titled “Gaza: Eight Killed in Covert Israeli Operation” with the synopsis telling BBC audiences that:

“A covert Israeli operation in the Gaza strip has killed seven Palestinians – including one Hamas military commander – and one Israeli soldier. The unrest threatens to upend a fragile and unofficial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas since March.”

(Image: Relatives of one of the seven Palestinians killed during an Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip, mourn during his funeral. Credit: Getty Images)

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 00:11 here) as follows:

Iqbal: “We begin today with Gaza and Israel. There has been a fragile and unofficial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the wake of the bloodshed since March this year during protests by Palestinians at the border with Israel, dubbed by them as the Great Return March. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. On Sunday a covert Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians including one Hamas commander and one Israeli soldier – a Lieutenant Colonel. The subsequent firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza threatens to upend an uneasy peace. The prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned from Armistice commemorations in Europe to meet with his security cabinet.”

In the rest of that item listeners heard from a man identified as Abu Amana – supposedly an eye-witness to the firefight near Khan Younis – before Iqbal conducted a long interview with Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad. As noted here previously, Iqbal once again failed to inform BBC audiences that all of the Palestinians killed in that incident were members of terror factions.

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

She likewise subsequently failed to challenge her Hamas interviewee’s claim that “they [Israel] killed seven civilians yesterday” or his claim that the Gaza Strip is ‘occupied’.

Iqbal’s final interviewee was Israeli MK Michael Oren to whom she put the claim that Israel had jeopardised the ‘ceasefire’ with a “botched” covert operation in the Gaza Strip.

The evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day – November 12th – was titled “Violence Between Israel and Gaza Escalates” and yet again the webpage was illustrated using a photograph taken in Gaza.

“Tensions have increased after a failed Israeli undercover operation. A mother of two young children tells us what it’s like living through the violence in the Gaza strip.”

(photo: Smoke rises after Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 12 November 2018 Credit: EPA/Mohammed Saber)

Presenter Tim Franks opened that lead story (from 01:17 here) as follows:

Franks: “The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip bristles with tension. It has done for years now and particularly in the decade or more that the Islamist Hamas movement has had control of the Palestinian territory. Frequently that tension erupts into violence – even outright war. As night has fallen in this part of the Middle East, there is a fear that events of the last 24 hours could presage another bloody upsurge. On Sunday an Israeli soldier and seven Palestinians – including a commander of Hamas’ paramilitary wing – were killed during an undercover Israeli operation deep inside the Gaza Strip. Since then scores of rockets – the Israeli army has just said 300 – have been fired from the Palestinian territory into southern Israel. The Israeli military for its part has carried out airstrikes – dozens of them – against targets inside the Gaza Strip.”

As we see, a full day after the incident near Khan Younis, listeners to ‘Newshour’ had still not been informed that all the Palestinians killed were members of terror groups.

Having failed to clarify to listeners that while that unattributed rocket fire targeted Israeli civilians, Israel’s airstrikes targeted the assets of terror factions, Franks went on to introduce his first interviewee, failing to challenge her description of the Gaza Strip as ‘occupied’, her inversion of rockets fired by terrorists as the result of Israeli counter-terrorism measures rather than their cause or even her claim that “Palestinians have tried peace”.

Franks: “First, a sense of life tonight in the Gaza Strip. Najla Shawa is an aid worker and mother of two young children who lives to the west of Gaza City.”

As noted here previously, part of that interview with Shawa was also aired on BBC Radio 4 on the same evening.

After that long and very sympathetic interview, listeners heard excerpts from the interviews with Ghazi Hamad and Michael Oren aired in the previous edition of the programme. Franks then quoted casualty figures provided by UNOCHA before introducing the Israeli journalist Anshell Pfeffer on the topic of ceasefire ‘negotiations’.

Towards the end of the programme (49:47) Franks spoke with the BBC’s Tom Bateman and listeners heard for the first time about the anti-tank missile attack on the Israeli bus, the fact that there had been direct hits on homes in some Israeli towns, the fact that Israel’s strikes were directed at “militant sites” and that two “militants” as they were dubbed by Bateman had been killed in the northern Gaza Strip.

In short, over 24 hours following the incident near Khan Younis and hours after the unprecedented barrage of missile attacks against Israeli civilians had commenced, ‘Newshour’ listeners had heard from two Gaza Strip residents, one Hamas spokesman (twice), one Israeli MK (twice) and one Israeli journalist. They had not however heard from any Israelis affected by the attacks. The programmes had repeatedly led listeners to believe that just one of the seven Palestinians killed in the incident near Khan Younis was a member of Hamas, while failing to clarify that in fact all were members of terrorist factions.

In part two of this post we will review the following day’s editions of ‘Newshour’.

 

 

BBC radio sums up the week and terrorists again disappear

The afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on November 17th included the BBC’s summary of the week’s events in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The same item was repeated in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 14:04 here) and on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘ (from 21:11 here).

Presenter Paul Henley introduced the item (from 07:06 here):

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

Henley: “Now tensions have flared this week between Israel and Hamas – the militant group in control of Gaza. In a fallout a key minister resigned from the Israeli government, triggering talks over the government’s future. On Monday Israel and Hamas were involved in their most serious exchange of blows in recent years. Hundreds of rockets were fired from Gaza, killing a Palestinian man in southern Israel, while there were widespread Israeli airstrikes on the Strip, leaving seven people dead. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Once again, BBC World Service listeners were not informed that at least four of those “seven people” were claimed as members by two separate terror factions – the PFLP and PIJ.

The report from Tom Bateman began with the type of account that was conspicuously absent from his reporting from southern Israel earlier in the week.

Bateman: “Well they’re clearing the rubble from the wrecked buildings here in the centre of Gaza City. Next to me is a mountain of rubble. It was a ten-storey building that has been completely reduced to wreckage. And behind that is a building which the entire side has come away. I can see inside people’s apartments. The electricity cables are dangling down like streamers towards the street.” […]

Man: “The explosion, big explosion, came and the building, as you see…”

Bateman: “Completely destroyed.”

Man: “Yeah and my flat of course is totally lost, with all my possessions in it.”

Bateman: “So the suit you’re wearing, that you ran out of the building in that night and this bag here – that’s all you’ve got.”

Man: “Yeah.”

Bateman: “Dr Adnan al Waheidi [phonetic] was home late from his pediatric clinic on Monday. A panicked neighbour called, telling him to leave. The Israeli military had phoned through a warning and then the airstrike came. His apartment block was among more than 150 sites struck in Gaza that Israel said had been used by Hamas. Residents spoke of the most intense night of airstrikes in four years.”

Man: “We are victimised – painfully and continuously. It’s not a matter of temporary even such as an earthquake or a flood. No: this is politically driven.”

Significantly, BBC audiences have not seen or heard any comparable interviews with any of the Israelis whose homes were damaged or destroyed by rockets launched at civilian targets by multiple Gaza Strip based terror factions.

Bateman went on – once again failing to clarify to BBC audiences that the seven Palestinians killed in the firefight near Khan Younis on November 11th were all members of two terror factions and yet again erasing from view the 17 rocket attacks against Israeli civilians which were launched on that date.

Bateman: “The bombing was in response to waves of Hamas rocket attacks which triggered sirens in southern Israeli towns. The barrage took place from Palestinian militants who’d vowed revenge. On Sunday they’d uncovered a secret operation by Israeli Special Forces inside Gaza, sparking an intense exchange of fire. Seven Palestinians and an Israeli officer were killed. Israel said Hamas sent nearly 500 rockets and mortars into southern Israel.”

Girl: “I stayed at the safe room with my mum and it was crowded and it was scary, you know, and I hear all the bombs and I hear all the helicopters and I hear the alarms knowing that if I look outside the window I see everything and it’s like, it’s like, it’s a routine scene here but it’s scary that that might kill me. While I’m looking out the window it might kill me.”

Listeners then discovered that Bateman was present at a protest march about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing.

Bateman: “Kim Philips lives a mile from the Gaza Strip. Last week, in the days before the latest flare-up, she had joined a protest march to Jerusalem. Israeli high-school students living near Gaza claimed politicians weren’t taking the security threat seriously enough.”

Boy: “My name is Yuval.”

Bateman: “What’s the message that you want to get across?”

Boy: “We want to get acknowledged. We feel like nobody cares about us. We’re there like in the past seven months with [unintelligible] fires and missiles and nobody takes any step to make a change.”

With BBC audiences having heard very little indeed about the months of arson attacks on Israeli farmland, forests and nature reserves surrounding the Gaza Strip, listeners could be forgiven for finding that reference to fires confusing.

Bateman went on, adopting the standard BBC framing of months of violent rioting and acts of terror as “protests”, failing to clarify that they were organised and facilitated by Hamas and additional terror factions and refraining from informing listeners that a significant proportion of those killed were linked to those terror factions.

Bateman: “Tensions have boiled for months on the Gaza perimeter. More than 220 Palestinians have died from Israeli fire – mostly during weekly protests at the fence. An Israeli soldier was shot dead in July by a Palestinian sniper. Intensive efforts by Egypt and the UN to broker a truce had staggered on. Hamas sought an easing of Gaza’s blockade by Israel and Egypt amid the ever-deteriorating state of daily life in the Strip. Israel demanded calm at the fence. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had gone along with the diplomatic efforts to avoid – he said – an unnecessary war. In Gaza a tentative ceasefire held since Tuesday but the skies did not clear. Thunderstorms rumbled in over the Mediterranean and a political lightning bolt struck close to Mr Netanyahu.”

The ceasefire of course also applied to southern Israel. Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Amid a blaze of camera flashes, the hawkish Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned, describing a process of agreement with Hamas as capitulation to terror. His move could yet spark a general election in Israel within months. Mr Netanyahu retorted, implying Hamas were on their knees. They were begging for a ceasefire, he said. Nevertheless, the nationalistic songs have echoed in Gaza as militant groups claimed a victory. But the pressures on both sides not to be seen to back down could yet prove decisive. Whether external diplomacy can overcome another slide towards conflict will be watched as closely by the residents on both sides.”

As we see, the take-away summary of the week’s events provided to listeners to BBC World Service Radio and BBC Radio 4 by Tom Bateman gives an account of damage to buildings in the Gaza Strip – with no comparable account of damage in southern Israel – while failing to sufficiently clarify that whereas the targets of Israeli airstrikes were sites used by terror factions, the targets of those terrorist groups were Israeli civilians. Additionally, we see that the practice of describing members of terror factions killed while engaged in violent activities as mere “Palestinians” continues to blight BBC reporting.

Related Articles:

The Gaza related protest the BBC ignored

Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

 

 

 

More BBC false equivalence on World Service radio – part two

As we saw in part one of this post the lead item in the November 13th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ was presented with the false equivalence promoting title “Deadly Fire Traded Between Israel and Gaza“.

Having interviewed a resident of the Gaza Strip, presenter Julian Marshall went on to introduce his second contributor. Whereas in the introduction to the first interview Marshall had stated that “Israeli airstrikes have left at least six Palestinians dead”, in this introduction he failed to mention who was carrying out the attacks which resulted in a civilian casualty on the Israeli side of the border.

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

Marshall: “And sirens in southern Israeli towns and the port city of Ashkelon have been sending people rushing for shelters to escape rocket attacks from Gaza. In Ashkelon a rocket gutted an apartment building, killing a resident. Sigal Arieli also lives there. How has it been over the past 48 hours?

Arieli: “So last night until one o’clock a.m. it was crazy. We had two rounds of rockets – tens of rockets each time. And then we had a few hours of quiet over the night. And this morning we woke up with another two sessions of ten, or something like that, rockets over two different sessions at 6 a.m. and half an hour later. Since then Ashkelon has been quiet.”

Marshall: “And did you and others spend the night in shelters overnight?”

Arieli: “Well me personally I don’t have a shelter in my house so every time there’s a siren we run and hide under the stairs People that have shelters room [safe room] in their houses spent the night in the shelters. We just had to run every time that there was a siren. We ran quite a lot.”

Marshall then came up with the following question:

Marshall: “And did these…ehm…rockets…ehm…make contact with Ashkelon?”

Having told listeners in the introduction that a rocket had “gutted an apartment building”, he obviously already knew the answer to that bizarrely worded question. Listeners did not however hear of the direct hits on homes and businesses in additional locations.

Arieli: “What do you mean ‘made contact’? Did they land in Ashkelon?”

Marshall: “Yeah: did these rockets…did any of these rockets land in Ashkelon?”

Arieli: “Yes of course. We have Iron Dome system – this is a battery of rockets protecting us from rockets. But this time because there was so many rockets at the same time, every time, about eight different rockets landed in Ashkelon on buildings, in apartments, in open areas but definitely landed and some of them destroyed houses.”

Marshall’s line of questioning then took on an even more strange direction.

Marshall: “How long have you lived in Ashkelon, Sigal?”

Arieli: “Twenty-nine years actually.”

Marshall: “And have you ever considered moving because of the rocket threat?”

Arieli: “No way. This is home and we’re strong and we’re here. And when we have no rockets Ashkelon is a beautiful city, very peaceful, very green and by the water. There’s no way. We’re here. This is home.”

Listeners next heard Marshall recycling Hamas propaganda.

Marshall: “Because you may or may not be aware that the latest violence is also being accompanied by an exchange of threats between Israel and Hamas using Twitter and Hamas’ armed wing has tweeted in Hebrew warning Israelis to stay away from Ashkelon.”

Arieli: “OK, I’m not aware of that. I know Hamas is trying many ways to weaken the resilience of the people in Israel and especially here in Ashkelon but we only listen to IDF Homefront Command and we try to stay safe and just, you know, do what we were told: stay near sheltered area and just hopefully things will go back to normal soon.”

Marshall: “Why is Ashkelon targeted? Hamas says it’s because Israel is using it as a base for airstrikes.”

Marshall was citing an image put out by Hamas that morning in which it claimed that “The army uses the city in cruel actions against us and so we will respond to that. It is preferable to keep as far away from the city as possible”.

By repeating that baseless propaganda put out by a terrorist organisation, Marshall further muddied audience understanding of the basic story: the fact that Hamas and other terror organisations launched attacks against Israeli civilians in southern Israel while Israel’s response struck exclusively military targets after advance warnings were given.

Arieli: “Mmm…I don’t think so. First of all Ashkelon is the largest city closest to Gaza on their north side so this is a big city – 150,000 people – and it’s easy to target and it’s relatively close. It’s even closer that Sderot and it’s much larger. So I guess this is why Ashkelon is the target and also we have electric company here, we have water desalination plant, so I guess this is also something that they might be interested in hurting.”

Although he had asked his previous interviewee “What do you think needs to happen for all this to stop?” and “what should other countries in the world be doing?”, Marshall had a rather more specific question for his Israeli contributor.

Marshall: “You…you say you listen to the IDF but I mean do you have any advice for the IDF and what do you think they should be doing at the moment?”

Arieli: “[laughs] I’m a very plain [ordinary] citizen in Israel. I trust the IDF to do everything they can to keep us safe and I know that nobody wants this escalation. Both sides don’t want this round to end in a war like 4 years ago so I know IDF is doing everything in a measurement and they try not to cause something that will evoke like a really serious war between the two sides.”

He then went on to ask her a question which – notably – he did not pose to his contributor from Gaza, once again promoting the false notion of equivalence – given that civilian residents of Gaza were not targeted by the IDF while civilians in southern Israel were deliberately targeted by Hamas and other Gaza terror factions.

Marshall: “Sigal, you’ve been explaining to me the amount of stress and fear that there is among the residents of Ashkelon. Can you understand in any way how the residents – the civilian residents – of Gaza must be feeling something similar at the moment?”

Arieli: “”Of course. Being a civilian myself I can only think about the people on the other side, in Gaza, families, children. And I know that what we’re suffering is equal to what they’re suffering and I have all the compassion for everyone on the other side. It’s their leadership that is really doing all this cause and I know that the people – like the regular people that live in Gaza – like the regular people in Israel, we want peace, we want to live our life, raise our children in a normal environment. And I’m sure that everybody in Gaza that has children and is now fearing from IDF as much as we are worried about Hamas feels the same. The people we don’t want war. We want peace and normal life. That’s the bottom line that we need to understand. There are people on both sides.”

Having secured that messaging from his Israeli interviewee, Marshall closed the item there, leaving BBC World Service audiences with a deliberately distorted framing of this story which hinders their understanding by promoting false equivalence that does not in fact exist. Unsurprisingly, that messaging was also the focus of a separately promoted clip from the programme. 

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