Superficial BBC WS reporting on Gaza truce discussions

The August 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 48:46 here) which was introduced by presenter Rebecca Kesby using the standard sanitised BBC portrayal of the ‘Great Return March‘ violent rioting and with the firing of hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians by terror factions erased from audience view.

Kesby: “Egypt has taken on a big task, apparently organising and implementing a truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The agreement is reportedly aimed at calming weeks of border clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel and is planned ahead of the Muslim Adha feast which starts next week.”

On the same day, however, Israeli media outlets reported that Hamas officials had stated that no agreement would be reached before Eid al Adha.

“A member of the Hamas terror group’s political bureau said Friday that internal Palestinian talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel were put on pause until the conclusion of a Muslim holiday later this month.

“Today we finished a round of consultations in Cairo with the Palestinian factions regarding the calm [ceasefire deal] and the reconciliation” between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, Izzat al-Rishq wrote on his Twitter account, according to Channel 10 news.

“We made clear that we insist that all steps be in a national framework. We presented our vision regarding the calm and we heard ideas and comments from the brothers in the factions,” added al-Rishq, one of the Gaza-based terror group’s top leaders abroad.

“God willing the efforts will renew after the holiday” of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim feast that begins on Tuesday and lasts until the end of next week.”

Kesby then went on to introduce Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz and BBC audiences were told that the potential truce includes several factors.

Pfeffer: “The main component of the deal – which is an unofficial understanding, not a written treaty that either side is signing – is that Hamas is committed to a complete ceasefire.”

Listeners were not told that Hamas’ interpretation of “a complete ceasefire” does not – as the Times of Israel explains – in fact include what Kesby euphemistically described as “border clashes” in her introduction.

“Hamas does not view the ongoing “popular protests” along the border, or the kite and balloon arson attacks that have burned over 7,000 acres of southern Israeli land, as a violation of any such agreement. As far as Hamas is concerned, those attacks are part of the popular Palestinian struggle against Israel. If Hamas does reach a long-term ceasefire deal with Israel, the terror group insists it will be obligated to cease rocket and mortar fire, but nothing more. […]

Conversely, Hamas says it will not agree to such a truce unless Israel stops bombings its facilities in the Gaza Strip, which have caused considerable damage to its infrastructure in recent weeks. […]

Israel has carried out such strikes in response to arson attacks and particularly egregious violence at the protests, and is unlikely to accept an arrangement in which it would agree to halt such responses while Gazans remain free to riot and burn Israeli farmland.”

Pfeffer went on:

Pfeffer: “The next elements are that both Israel and Egypt will reopen the crossings into Gaza, both for people coming in and out – that’s the Egyptian crossing at Rafah – and for cargo which goes in from the Israeli side at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Another component is that the fishermen of Gaza will be able to put out to sea to a much wider area and what is perhaps most problematic – and that’s something which is going to be in the future – opening further negotiations through the Egyptians on prisoner exchanges and the larger plan of infrastructure building in Gaza.”

While BBC audiences have in the past heard plenty about border crossings, fishing zones and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, listeners may well have been confused by the reference to “prisoner exchanges” because – as noted here previously – the corporation has produced no reporting concerning the Israeli civilians held by Hamas in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.

Later on Pfeffer mentioned the Palestinian Authority “who don’t really like to see all this happening without them being involved” but listeners were not told that the day before this report was aired, Mahmoud Abbas had refused to meet the Egyptian intelligence chief to discuss the issue.

Kesby then came up with a totally irrelevant question:

Kesby: “Yeah, you mention Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. We don’t think they’ve been part of these talks at all, do we? And that may not be the only stumbling block: will all this get through the Israeli parliament?

Pfeffer: “Well the parliament doesn’t have to vote on it. It’s not a formal peace treaty; it’s just a ceasefire agreement.”

Pfeffer went on to say that most Israeli cabinet ministers “have agreed in principle to the plan” and that “the real stumbling blocks” are “some minority within Hamas leadership who are reported to be against” before stating that this is the test which will determine the chances of “something more comprehensive” that will “allow people in Gaza to finally begin enjoying a better level of infrastructure and some kind of freedom of movement in and out of the Gaza Strip.”

As we see, BBC World Service listeners were given inaccurate information about the timing of this potential truce and misled with regard to its terms. Audiences heard nothing about the Palestinian Authority’s stance which would enhance their understanding of factors liable to prevent any significant agreement from coming about, including the fact that PA officials have said that “if any deal were reached, the Ramallah government would stop all financial assistance it provides to the Strip”. And once again, the subject of Israeli civilians held prisoner by Hamas was ignored by the BBC.

Related Articles:

The glaring omission in the BBC’s portrayal of Gaza truce negotiations

 

 

 

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BBC News website audiences misled by recycled delayed mail story

h/t Tomer Ilan

As was noted here last year when the BBC began working with the AFP news agency:

“…unlike many other media outlets that use agency produced material, the BBC does not usually inform its audiences at the top of an article that the content was provided by an agency. Audiences hence have no way of knowing whether the information they receive does in fact come from the ‘trusted‘ BBC or from agencies which do not necessarily adhere to the corporation’s editorial guidelines.”

On August 14th AFP published a report by Hossam Ezzedine about delayed post addressed to people living in Palestinian Authority controlled areas. That report was picked up by numerous other media outlets including the BBC which, on August 15th, published an article headlined “Palestinian mail blocked by Israel arrives eight years late” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

The only indication that the story was sourced from an agency came in two indirect quotes from AFP:

“An official told AFP it would take another two weeks to sort and deliver.”

“The Israeli military’s Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat) told AFP that an agreement was in the works but gave no further details.”

BBC audiences were told that:

“Packages, letters and even a wheelchair intended for Palestinians have arrived in the occupied West Bank after Israel released years of undelivered mail.

The post, which includes internet orders that never arrived, had been held in Jordan since 2010 and was released under a one-time agreement.”

The explanation for the delay given to BBC audiences is as follows:

“Ramadan Ghazawi, who works at the post office in Jericho, said the items appeared to have been blocked on security or administrative grounds. 

Israel controls entry to the West Bank via the border with Jordan.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Palestinian Authority Communications Minister Allam Moussa accused Israel of having failed to implement a memorandum of understanding signed in 2016 that would have allowed international mail to enter the Palestinian Territories without first going through the Israeli postal service.

The Israeli military’s Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat) told AFP that an agreement was in the works but gave no further details.”

So what is the real background to this story?

The 1995 Interim Agreement between Israel and the PLO includes clauses relating to postal services. However, Arab countries which do not recognise Israel refuse to send postal items to areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority via the Israel Postal Authority. In 2009 steps were taken to try to solve that problem.

“The [Israeli] Communications Ministry and the corresponding PA bureau are reportedly close to finalizing an agreement which would allow the Palestinians to receive mail from other Arab countries.

 Arab nations will not use the Israel Postal Service, which currently supplies the PA with international mail services. Israel is interested in signing the agreement in order to ease communications between Palestinian and their families abroad. […]

Yigal Levi, the Communications Ministry’s director of postal services, met with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmood Diwan several days ago and the two agreed to form a joint committee aimed at finding a solution which would allow the Palestinian Authority to use Jordanian postal services.”

In September 2016 a memorandum of understanding was signed.

“Until now, Israeli conducted global postal affairs for the Palestinians, including financial transactions. Mail would come first to Israel, which then transferred it to local Palestinian post offices in the West Bank and Gaza.

That system changed on Sunday, when the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and PA Minister for Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh signed a memorandum of understanding to give the Palestinians postal rights. […]

“The MOU is designed to gradually regulate direct transfer of mail from around the world to the Palestinian Authority through Jordan via the Allenby Bridge,” COGAT said.”

As Ha’aretz reported, work on that issue continues.

““About a year ago, an in-principle agreement was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The memorandum of understanding has not yet resulted in a direct transfer, and the subject is in the advanced stages of being worked through. There is therefore no direct mail transfer at this time,” COGAT said in a statement.

“However, as a gesture, and in a step that went beyond the letter of the law, COGAT, with the assistance of the Ministry of Communications and the Customs Authority, allowed a one-time transfer of approximately ten and a half tons of mail that had been held in Jordan,” the statement concluded.

Hussein Sawafta, director of the Palestinian postal service, said that Israel held up the mail because it was not properly addressed to the Israeli postal service. Sawafta said the mail was released last week and workers are now sorting through mounds of letters and packages.” [emphasis added]

As we see, readers were by no means provided with the full background to this story (not least the relevant issue of the refusal by Arab countries to use the existing system) and the BBC’s report amplified inaccurate claims from Palestinian Authority Communications Minister regarding the 2016 memorandum of understanding which mistakenly led audiences to believe that Israel is exclusively to blame for the fact that the delivery of items including “even a wheelchair” was delayed.

BBC News also posted the report on Facebook and some of the responses allowed to remain standing on that BBC account included – not for the first time – offensive statements, comments “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” and antisemitic Nazi analogies. For example:

Moreover, the day after the BBC News website recycled that misleading AFP article, the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman went to Jericho to report on the same story for the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 45:06 here). Bateman’s report indicates that the BBC is aware of the fact that efforts had been made in the past to reach an agreement whereby not all post destined for PA controlled areas would have to come through the Israeli postal system (although he did not bother to inform listeners that the context was the refusal of Arab countries to use the Israeli postal services) and that the BBC also knows that past understandings have not yet “been implemented or not implemented in full”.

Significantly, however, the BBC did not bother to update its online report with that information.

 

BBC misleads on Gaza athletes travel

On August 15th a filmed report produced by Mike Lanchin for the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza’s history-making female runner“.

“In 2004, the 800m runner Sanaa Abu Bkheet became the first athlete from the Gaza Strip to represent Palestine at the Olympic Games.

She led the Palestinian delegation at the opening ceremony, the first time a woman had carried the Palestinian flag at an Olympics.

Sanaa, who still lives in the Gaza Strip, tells Witness about overcoming poverty and prejudice on her journey to the biggest sporting stage in the world.”

In that film viewers heard a voice-over translation of Abu Bkheet saying:

“I’m still training but because of the siege I cannot go outside the Gaza Strip. I cannot compete in international races.”

This of course is far from the first time that BBC audiences have seen amplification of that inaccurate Hamas-approved terminology to describe counter-terrorism measures which in no way meet the definition of the term ‘siege’:

“a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender”

Viewers also heard Abu Bkheet say:

“For the past four years no athlete from Gaza has been able to take part in any event outside. A short while ago there was an invitation to go to Jerusalem and Ramallah for events but we were all denied travel permits.”

Seeing as the date of the recording of this video is unclear, it is impossible to identify the events for which Abu Bkheet claims she was denied travel permits and fact-check that claim. However, even the foreign funded political NGO ‘Gisha‘ states in a document (p. 12) updated in September 2017 that:

“Gaza Strip residents who are members of national and local sports teams may enter Israel to travel to Judaea and Samaria and abroad, for the purpose of official team activities. Entry is also approved for members of the Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Association.”

While issues have arisen in the past when applications for travel permits were not submitted in time, there is certainly no blanket ban on travel for athletes (or coaches) as viewers of this report are led to believe. Notably, the BBC did not offer its audiences any context concerning the reasons behind the need for counter-terrorism measures such as permits to enter Israel for residents of an enclave run by a terrorist organisation.

According to the International Association of Athletics Federations another runner from the Gaza Strip – Mohammed Abu Khousatook part in events in France in 2014, in Qatar in 2016 and in Tunisia in 2017, among others. Abu Khousa also participated in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Even a grossly one-sided AP report from April of this year acknowledged that a delegation of athletes from the Gaza Strip attended – albeit belatedly – the 2018 Arab Junior Athletics Championships held in Jordan.

As those two small examples show, the BBC promoted claim that “no athlete from Gaza has been able to take part in any event outside” since 2014 is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

 

BBC’s serial omission hinders understanding of history programme

As has been documented on these pages on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC usually avoids informing its audience of the circumstances under which Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem were occupied – and subsequently illegally annexed – by what was at the time still called Trans-Jordan.  

Time and time again BBC audiences are told of ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ without any mention of the inclusion of those areas in the territory assigned by the League of Nations to the creation of a Jewish homeland. Also lacking is explanation of the belligerent British-backed invasion and subsequent ethnic cleansing of Jews from the areas attacked by Jordan in 1948. Instead, the BBC’s portrayal of history almost inevitably begins in 1967 when, audiences are told, “Israel occupied the area” which is euphemistically described as having previously been “under the control of Jordan”.

Even the BBC’s country profile of Jordan erases its 1948 belligerent invasion of land beyond its western border from audience view.

It was against that background of serial omission that listeners to the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness‘ on August 9th heard a programme about events leading up to the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan.

“In August 1994 Yitzhak Rabin became the first Israeli leader publicly to visit Jordan. But in fact talks had been going on for years. Former head of Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, was Israel’s secret peace envoy. He’s been telling Louise Hidalgo about Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan’s clandestine meetings during the often fraught road to peace.”

Listeners were not provided with any background information whatsoever concerning the context to the starting point of this otherwise interesting account. Statements such as the following from Ephraim Halevy went unexplained.

“In 1988 the king [of Jordan] came out with a statement saying that he was renouncing the interest of Jordan in Judea & Samaria, which we call the West Bank.”

Obviously the BBC’s past record of omission on the topic of how Jordan came to have an “interest” in that area and the absence of any reference to Jordan’s belligerent invasion of that territory forty years previously in the country’s online profile means that many if not most listeners would be unable to fill in the gaps for themselves.

 

 

BBC double standards in reporting social media incitement evident again

As we have seen in the past BBC reporting on social media incitement to violence and/or glorification of terrorism differs depending on location.

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In April of this year the BBC News website’s domestic pages reported the sentencing of a Salford man previously found guilty of “encouragement of terrorism”.

“Muslim convert Adam Wyatt, 48, admitted disseminating a terrorist publication that said “Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine” and posting on social media that jihad was an obligation for all Muslims.”

The following month the website reported the sentencing of a man from Sunderland who had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences.

“A shopkeeper who tweeted support for Islamic State (IS) and called for “death to Shias” has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Mohammed Zahir Khan, of Nora Street, Sunderland, had admitted encouraging terrorism, dissemination of a terror publication and stirring up religious hatred.”

Unsurprisingly, the BBC did not send a reporter to interview either of those men before they were sentenced. Neither did it promote the notion that they were put on trial because of their identity to millions of audience members or portray either of their cases as being about “free speech”.

However, when an Israeli-Arab woman was sentenced to five months in prison after having been convicted of incitement to violence in her poems and social media posts, the BBC News website amplified her claims of political persecution in a July 31st report titled “Dareen Tatour: Israeli Arab poet sentenced for incitement“.

“An Israeli Arab poet has been jailed for inciting violence and supporting a group banned as a terrorist organisation based on her online posts. […]

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the poet’s case has become a cause celebre for free speech advocates and has drawn attention to a recent rise in Israeli arrests – of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – accused of incitement or planning attacks online. […]

Following her sentencing, Tatour said that she was not surprised by the verdict.

“I expected prison and that’s what happened. I didn’t expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I’m Palestinian, because it’s about free speech and I’m imprisoned because I’m Palestinian”, she told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.”

The BBC’s report also provides readers with two links to Tatour’s ‘poem’ – one a written version and the other a video.

On the same day the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a pre-recorded translated interview with Tatour by Tim Franks (from 30:04 here). The story was similarly portrayed by presenter James Menendez as being about ‘free speech’. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Menendez: “To a case now that’s become a cause celebre for free speech advocates in Israel and beyond. Dareen Tatour is an Arab-Israeli poet living near Nazareth. In October 2015 she was arrested and subsequently charged with inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organisation. That’s because of her social media posts including one in which she read a poem called ‘Resist, my people, resist’ accompanied by footage of Palestinian protesters throwing stones at Israeli police. At that time tension was running high in Israel after a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians. Well today, more than two and a half years on, Dareen Tatour has been sentenced for her crimes. The sentence was five months in prison. She’s already spent 3 months in prison and was then placed under house arrest. Well that prompted writers from around the world, including Alice Walker and Naomi Klein, to call for her release. Well on Monday Dareen spoke to Newshour’s Tim Franks who asked her first how she was feeling ahead of sentencing.”

During that interview BBC audiences around the world heard Tatour state that she does not think “there is any fairness in the Israeli justice system” and claim that she was being sentenced “only because I’m Palestinian. This is a political sentence”.

Listeners also heard her claim that she writes “about 70 years of occupation” with no effort made by Franks to explain to listeners what that phrase actually means. Similarly unchallenged was Tatour’s claim that she speaks about “the Israeli Zionist crimes against innocent people”.

When Franks raised the issue of one of her posts praising the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, she claimed that the “accusation is only based on a news story that I shared which mentions the Islamic Jihad” and “all I did was share the article”.

Haaretz however reported that her post said:

“Allah Akbar and Baruch Hashem, Islamic Jihad declared intifada throughout the whole West Bank and expansion to all Palestine. We should begin inside the Green Line” 

Franks then provided Tatour with the cue for her claim that she is “against all forms of violence” before asking her about her use of the word ‘shahid’ – martyr – while giving listeners the cumbersome explanation that:

“It is the word that is used to describe people who – Palestinian militants – who have lost their lives involved in militant activity”

Listeners then heard Tatour claim that “the word shahid that I use means victim” and twice state that “every martyr in Palestine is a victim”. She also made the false claim – unchallenged by Franks – that:

“More than a thousand people died in the last Gaza war – most of them children.”

Following that interview, James Menedez interviewed former Israeli MK Danny Ayalon, asking him first:

Menedez: “What is Israel doing locking up poets?”

As we see, while the BBC produces factual, judgement free reporting on people convicted of “encouragement of terrorism” in the UK, a similar story in Israel gets entirely different treatment. And so, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism persist.

 

 

 

BBC’s Donnison again conceals source of UN Gaza casualty figures

The August 5th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 00:45:00 here) that was introduced by presenter Jon Donnison as follows:

Donnison: “The tension on Gaza’s boundary with Israel continues to simmer, as it has done now for months. Doctors in the Palestinian territory say a 15 year-old boy shot by Israeli soldiers is the latest to die. Muadh al-Suri was among thousands of Palestinian demonstrators who gathered at the border on Friday to protest Israel’s occupation.”

Unsurprisingly, Donnison did not bother to inform listeners that what he described as protests by “demonstrators” were actually violent riots with some 8,000 participants that included a breach of the border fence as well as arson attacks and attacks with IEDs and petrol bombs. Neither did he bother to clarify that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 13 years ago and in this context “Israel’s occupation” means Israel’s existence. Listeners were not told that Muadh al-Suri was photographed wrapped in a Hamas flag and headband at his funeral.

Donnison went on:

Donnison: “The Israeli military says Hamas miltants seeking to launch attacks across the border use the regular mass demonstrations there as cover. This year, the United Nations says more than 160 Palestinians have been killed in the clashes, with thousands more injured, putting enormous strain on Gaza’s hospitals. But as Paul Adams discovered on a recent visit to Gaza, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental health of the area’s nearly two million people.”

As we see, Donnison yet again cited “United Nations” figures without clarifying to listeners that they are sourced from the same terror group which organises the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop and hence has a vested interest in amplifying casualty figures.

The report by Paul Adams that Donnison was introducing is actually the same one that was aired on BBC Radio 4 on July 25th and which was discussed here.

Related Articles:

A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

 

BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

Hot on the heels of Paul Adams’ July 25threport from the Gaza Strip for Radio 4 came another report from the same location on the same radio station – this time from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

Aired in the July 27th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’, the report was introduced (from 23:12 here) by presenter Jonny Dymond using a decidedly unsubtle metaphor to commence promotion of some very overt framing. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Dymond: “As depressing David and Goliath metaphors go, you don’t get much closer than the clashes between Israel and the Palestinians at the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. For 18 consecutive weekends now Palestinians – many of them children – have gathered to protest at the fence that separates Gaza from Israel: protests with rocks and burning tyres and balloons carrying flaming strips of cloth designed to set fire to nearby Israeli farmland. They have been confronted with live fire from the most sophisticated military in the region. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed in the protests since March and one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by Gaza-based militants. Amongst the Palestinians, 19 children have been killed and hundreds more injured. From Gaza, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Notably Dymond’s “David and Goliath” framing excluded all mention of the IEDs, grenades, petrol bombs and shootings which have also been an integral part of the violent rioting he euphemistically and uniformly called “protests”. Neither did he bother to inform listeners of the fact that a significant proportion of the Palestinians killed since March were linked to terror factions.

Bateman began his report with a visit to the father of a youth – reported by many other media outlets to be fifteen years old – who was shot on July 13th as he participated in violent rioting that included a grenade attack in which an Israeli soldier was injured. Notably that attack was completely excluded from Bateman’s account of those “protests”.

Bateman: “This is a road that runs parallel with the fence on the east side of the Gaza Strip. We’re just driving with the fence to our right. You can see Israeli fields and farmland on the other side. And this is an area where the sprawling suburbs of Gaza City almost meet the fence itself. I went to the home of Rami Helles. Two weeks ago his son Othman was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he tried to climb the perimeter fence. Othman was 14 years old, among the large numbers of young people in Gaza attending the weekly protests. Why did he go to the fence?”

Voiceover Helles: “Because he loved his land, his country. He went like everyone else. After he was martyred – may his soul rest in peace – it turned out that he had been going every Friday. After he came back I used to ask him where he had been and he would say I was in the coffee shop or I was here or there.”

Naturally Bateman had no questions to  about the responsibility of the parents of “children” attending weekly violent riots organised by terror factions for months on end.

Bateman: “A BBC crew in Gaza was filming as Othman Helles, away from the fence, used a sling to throw a stone towards Israeli soldiers. A few people burned tyres. Later the 14 year-old walked alongside the fence, put a hand and a foot on it and pulled himself up about a foot off the ground. He was hit with a single shot to the chest. Nineteen of those killed since the end of March have been under the age of 18. The number of children with bullet wounds is more than 600 according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency [UN OCHA – Ed.] which bases its recent figures on those of Gaza’s health ministry.”

As usual, BBC audiences were not told that “Gaza’s health ministry” is run by the same terror group which co-organises this weekly agitprop and has an interest in inflating casualty figures for PR purposes.

photo credit: ITIC

Neither were they told that Hamas has been deliberately using youths to sabotage the border fence throughout the weeks of violent rioting and that among those under the age of 18 killed since the end of March were operatives with terror factions and some linked (e.g. by family) to such factions.

Bateman then introduced IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus, saying:

Bateman: “I mean many people might look at that footage and they will think simply that it was completely disproportionate.”

After noting that the circumstances of Othman Helles’ death would be investigated (as all such incidents are), Conricus went on to say:

Conricus: “We’ve had in the last week two events where sniper fire was conducted from the Gazan side towards Israeli troops. Two Israeli soldiers have been hit – one injured, one unfortunately killed a week ago – and that has been done using the cover of these so-called demonstrations.”

Those two events are the fatal shooting of Staff Sgt Aviv Levi on July 20th and the shooting of another soldier – drawn by youths gathered near the fence – on July 25th.

Bateman then visited a clinic:

Bateman: “At a center in Gaza City of the medical charity MSF they have a rehabilitation clinic.”

Speaking to a youth reportedly 14 years old, Bateman told listeners:

Bateman: “He said he was near the fence burning tyres on the 3rd of July. The soldiers shot him in the leg.”

Although the involvement of terror organisations including Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the DFLP in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ was known even before the events began, Bateman whitewashed them as “political factions”.

Bateman: “The protest camps are set well back from the fence, organised by a committee of political factions.”

Failing to clarify that the aim of the so-called ‘right of return’ is to eradicate Israel and avoiding the question of why there are no “protests” along Gaza’s border with Egypt, Bateman told listeners:

Bateman: “The focus has been on the Palestinian claim of a right of return to the land that is now Israel and on the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, which Israel says is for security reasons. The Israelis believe Hamas has used the protests to attempt militant attacks and threaten its population. I spoke to 17 year-old [name unintelligible]. He said three people had thrown petrol bombs towards the fence. He went to help the injured, he said, and was shot. He has had his right leg amputated. Now he is waiting for a prosthetic limb, for which he would need to travel to Turkey.”

Refraining from telling audiences who laid on buses, he continued:  

Bateman: “Messages at the Mosques and buses laid on have boosted the protests. Why did the boys at the clinic go? Most told me simply they went like everyone else. One wanted to give Trump a message, he said, that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. Another spoke of supporting a Hamas leader attending. But Israel says children were used to distract its troops during the incident this week when an Israeli soldier was shot and wounded by Palestinian gunmen from the fence area.”

Radio 4 listeners next heard from the same Hamas official promoted by the BBC World Service days earlier.

Bateman: “Hamas’ deputy foreign minister is Ghazi Hamad.”

Hamad: “The main goal [of] this march; just to get attention of the international community to the miserable situation in Gaza.”

Bateman: “It’s not peaceful; it’s not all peaceful though is it? There have been, you know, Molotov cocktails, people trying to break the fence down, explosive devices placed at the fence.”

Hamad: “No, look I think I can say we control 99% of the march. Maybe there’s some [unintelligible] done by some individuals but this is not an excuse for Israel to kill people.”

Failing to clarify that most of the “ten Palestinians” he cited were Hamas operatives killed in strikes in response to massive rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman closed his report as follows:

Bateman: “The tension along the Gaza boundary has risen. There have been a series of military flare-ups in recent weeks. At least ten Palestinians have died in Israeli air strikes on militant sites. An Israeli soldier was shot dead and four civilians have been wounded in recent rocket attacks. Palestinians have been sending flaming kites and helium filled condoms to burn Israeli fields. The air is combustible. Gaza’s clinics will hope there are not more young patients coming in.”

The same report by Bateman was aired the following day – July 28th – in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 36:29 here) and in the evening edition (from 30:06 here) of the same programme. Presenter Julian Marshall introduced it thus:

Marshall: “Tensions have escalated again in recent days between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist group which runs the Gaza Strip. It comes against a backdrop of Palestinian protests at Gaza’s perimeter fence, now in their 18th consecutive weekend. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during the protests since March. Another reportedly died of his injuries today. And one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by Gaza-based militants. Among the Palestinians killed are 19 children, with hundreds more injured – something that the UN has previously condemned.”

photo credit: ITIC

Obviously this widely promoted report from Tom Bateman fails to give BBC audiences – domestic and worldwide – the full range of information needed in order for them to understand Hamas’ cynical exploitation of the under-18s described as “children” in its weekly agitprop that is designed to prompt media coverage of exactly the type that Bateman has produced.

Instead, listeners heard a context lite “David and Goliath” story in which Palestinian “boys” and “children” who throw rocks, burn tyres and fly kites are “confronted with live fire from the most sophisticated military in the region” with results portrayed by the BBC’s reporter as “completely disproportionate”.

Ghazi Hamad was no doubt very pleased with this effort to “get attention of the international community”. 

Related Articles:

A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

BBC WS radio listeners told Israel prevents Gazans from getting fresh air

 

Amplification of Assad propaganda on BBC World Service radio

As documented here previously, after the IDF announced on July 22nd the completion of the overnight evacuation of hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ personnel and their families from southern Syria, through Israel and into Jordan, the BBC News website published two articles amplifying Syrian regime and Russian propaganda concerning that group.

BBC promotes what it described in April as ‘conspiracy theories’

BBC News website readers get yet another dose of Assad’s propaganda

Yet more amplification of that propaganda was seen in one version of an article on a different topic published two days later.

Similarly, listeners to the July 22nd afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ heard presenter James Coomarasamy introduce its lead item (from 00:01:01 here) as follows:

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

Coomarasamy: “We begin though in Syria where the rescuers – or some of them at least – have been rescued. According to the Israeli and Jordanian authorities, an international operation has managed to evacuate hundreds of members of the volunteer civil defence force known as the White Helmets and some of their family members from the country. The White Helmets have become a familiar presence at the scene of attacks in Syria but the Assad government and its Russian allies have condemned them as terrorist sympathisers.”

Coomarasamy then went on to report that Western diplomats had been commenting on the rescue operation and read out a Tweet from the British foreign secretary, before introducing (at 01:57) journalist Paul Ronzheimer of ‘Bild’ who had witnessed and reported the event.

Following that conversation Coomarasamy introduced (at 06:30) the founder of the ‘White Helmets’, James Le Mesurier, who explained that the group’s members “are under extraordinary threat” because “they have been – and continue to be – witnesses to the regime and Russian atrocities on the ground”.

When Mr Le Mesurier mentioned “the evacuation of fighters in buses, including those terrorist organisations that the regime claims to be fighting”, Coomarasamy interrupted him (at 10:58):

Coomarasamy: “And of course…yeah and of course the regime would say that the ‘White Helmets’ are a front for some of those organisations.”

Mr Le Mesurier explained the different conspiracy theories promoted by the Assad regime and Syria.

Le Mesurier: “Inside Syria they very much push the narrative that the ‘White Helmets’ are a Western organisation, that they are a front for the intelligence services, to create divisions inside the country and to make life more difficult for them. And at the same time externally in Europe they push the narrative that the ‘White Helmets’ are Al Qaeda and are terrorists. And at the same time they say that the ‘White Helmets’ don’t exist, that all of the rescues are filmed and so on. This is clearly propaganda.”

Coomarasamy nevertheless persisted with his theme (11:51):

Coomarasamy: “But I wonder, does this operation – the fact that it was Western-led – will that not only add credence to some of the arguments that the Assad government tries to make about the ‘White Helmets’?”

The same story was also the lead item in the later edition of the same programme (from 00:00:57 here) and was introduced by Coomarasamy as follows:

Coomarasamy: “We begin though in Syria and a rare example of international cooperation successfully coming to the aid of people apparently under threat from the Assad government. They are people who are used to coming to the aid of others – members of the civil defence force known as the ‘White Helmets’: Western backed and Western trained volunteers who help civilians in rebel held areas. Well overnight more than 400 ‘White Helmets’ and members of their family were brought out of southern Syria in an Israeli-led operation.”

After listeners had heard a voiceover translation of a statement from the Israeli prime minister on the operation, Coomarasamy continued:

Coomarasamy: “The ‘White Helmets’ are viewed by Western governments as life-saving humanitarians but the Syrian authorities and their Russian allies insist that they are a front for terrorist groups.”

Listeners heard (from 02:10) an edited version of the previously aired interview with the ‘Bild’ journalist Paul Ronzheimer and (from 06:14) an edited version of the interview with ‘White Helmets’ founder James Le Mesurier. The editing included repetition of Coomarasamy’s prior amplification of Assad propaganda.

Coomarasamy: “And of course…yeah and of course the regime would say that the ‘White Helmets’ are a front for some of those organisations.”

Coomarasamy: “But I wonder, does this operation – the fact that it was Western-led – will that not only add credence to some of the arguments that the Assad government tries to make about the ‘White Helmets’?”

Although in the previous edition of the programme Le Mesurier had clarified that the operation was led by the UK, Canada and Germany and supported by the US, Israel and the UN, at 08:58, Coomarasamy next chose to focus on just one of those countries, posing the following bizarre question:

Coomarasamy: “So, what does Israel get out of its role in this rescue operation?”

Notably, the person brought in to answer that question – described by Coomarasamy as “Joshua Landis…a Syria expert who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma” – is renowned for his portrayals of the Assad regime as ‘the good guy’ in the enduring conflict (and before it) and has himself amplified propaganda pertaining to the ‘White Helmets’. It therefore came as little surprise to hear Landis – unhindered by Coomarasamy – promote some Assad-style propaganda in his own more subtle style.

Landis: “They’re doing a big favour for the United States and for the European powers in carrying out important humanitarian work and we’ve noticed that throughout the war, Israel has taken in a number of Syrian rebels as well as their family members and civilians who’ve been wounded, treated them in its hospitals, has tried to do humanitarian work in Syria. Of course Israel has been bombing Syria at the same time, attacking Iranian emplacements, Syrian emplacements, shooting down the odd Syrian plane. But for Israel this is about doing a good deed.”

Failing to clarify to audiences that Israeli strikes have targeted Iranian weapons transfers to the terror group Hizballah, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “But as you allude to, it’s something that’s happening on Israel’s doorstep and is very much a military conflict that Israel is getting involved in as well.”

Landis: “Yes, Israel has increasingly become involved in the Syrian civil war. It has supported a number of rebel groups, helping to build a small buffer zone. That has collapsed now, so Israel is going back to dealing with the Assad government and particularly through the Russians and this means that the rebels are collapsing and some of them are seeking asylum, through Israel, to the West.”

Landis’ roundabout portrayal of the ‘White Helmets’ as “rebels…seeking asylum” unsurprisingly went completely unchallenged by Coomarasamy as did his false claims that Israel is “involved in the Syrian civil war” and “has supported a number of rebel groups”.

As we see, the UK’s publicly funded public service broadcaster continues to amplify conspiracy theories no different from those put out by the regime controlled news agencies of Syria and Russia.

BBC WS radio listeners told Israel prevents Gazans from getting fresh air

As noted in a previous post, an item relating to incidents which began the previous afternoon which was aired in the July 21st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an interview (from 07:56 here) with Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced that interview thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “…we want to hear from Hamas. Are they trying to provoke another war in Gaza? Ghazi Hamad is Hamas’ deputy foreign minister in the Strip.”

Hamad: “No, I think that we are not interested in a new war. We try to avoid this. I think we have kind of understanding with all Palestinian factions to avoid any escalation or tension but you know that the source of the problem is the occupation. The problem is the blockade imposed by Israel. So it creates a lot of problems in Gaza.”

Donnison did not bother to clarify to listeners that “the blockade imposed by Israel” is a counter-terrorism measure made necessary by the dramatic rise in attacks on Israelis after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup eleven years ago. Neither did he inform audiences that when Hamad refers to “the occupation” he means Israel’s presence in Israel rather than the Gaza Strip from which Israel disengaged completely 13 years ago.  

Donnison: “You say you want to avoid an escalation but these cease fires are meaningless – aren’t they? – if your snipers are shooting at Israeli soldiers.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Donnison, listeners then heard Hamad repeatedly – and inaccurately – describe the Hamas organised, funded and facilitated ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as “peaceful” and a “protest”.  

Hamad: “Look…ahm…I can say that regarding the ‘March of Return’ [it] is a peaceful march. We [are] controlling the situation very well. This march is as I said is a protestingpeaceful protesting – but sometimes you find some problems [unintelligible] we try to control this. But Israel try to use some mistakes or some things done by individual in order to punish people, in order to target the different sites in Gaza, to try to kill people as yesterday – they kill four people and injure more than 60 or 85 people. It is not the first time that Israel try to use some excuses to increase the number of victims in Gaza.”

Donnison: “What do you expect them to do if Hamas and the other Palestinian factions are continuing to fire rockets out of Gaza into Israel indiscriminately?”

Hamad: “We never started to fire rockets. I think we respect that…”

Donnison’s notably weak response to that blatant lie came in three words:

Donnison [interrupts]: “That’s not true.”

Hamad: “No, no, no. We respect the ceasefire approved in 2014 but you know that if it…why you forget now, since the beginning of the March of Return which [is] a peaceful march, we have about 160 people were killed? There is no [not] one, no [not] one Israel soldier were injured or killed. And we have more than 15,000 people were injured. Many of them were amputed [sic – amputated]. Many of them are [unintelligible]. This [is a] bigger crisis, this bigger tragedy among the Palestinian people. Now because one Israeli soldier was killed all the world they will criticize and say that the problem on the shoulder of Hamas. You should not forget the high numbers of victims among the Palestinians.”

Donnison: “Hamas has been in power in Gaza now for more than ten years. Three wars during that time. Close to 3,000 Palestinians killed in those wars. Unemployment at 44%. Youth unemployment at 60%. Only 3 to 6 hours of power a day. Hamas has failed as a government and failed the Palestinian people living in Gaza, hasn’t it?”

Hamad: “The question [is] why Hamas failed. Because Hamas is [in] a big prison which is called Gaza. Gaza is about 360 kilometers. It’s closed from all sides by the Israeli occupation. They prevent export, import, free access. Prevent us from even having fresh air, fresh water, electricity. Everything is closed. So after that you come and blame Hamas that they are responsible for this. Now if Israel, now if the occupation, if Israel end that blockade, if Israel give the Palestinians a freedom of access, I think the situation is getting better in Gaza. Now if you ask now international organisations including UN, UNRWA, UNDP – these people will say very frankly that who is responsible for the blockade in Gaza is Israel. Israel is still controlling all the borders around Gaza. Now we ask people now to give us chance now to establish airport or sea port or to open the crossing around Gaza but Israel they don’t want. They want to punish people; to punish Hamas and to punish also the ordinary citizen.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that the claim that Israel ‘controls all the borders’ is untrue because the Gaza Strip has a border with Egypt, failing to clarify that goods and people enter and exit the Gaza Strip on every working day and refraining from challenging even the supremely absurd lie that Israel prevents Gazans from having “fresh air”, all Jon Donnison had to say after that tirade of falsehoods was:

Donnison: “Hamas’ deputy foreign minister in Gaza, Ghazi Hamad.”

Apparently the BBC World Service believed that those four minutes of barely challenged lies and propaganda from a terrorist organisation could be passed off as “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards“.

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BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

Long-time readers may recall that during Operation Protective Edge four years ago, BBC Watch investigated the source of Gaza casualty figures cited by the UN and quoted by the BBC. As documented here, we discovered that one of several dubious sources used by the UN was the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

The BBC never conducted any independent verification of the figures it quoted and promoted both throughout that conflict and in the following four years and it continues to cite UN data despite its obviously problematic sourcing.

That issue recently arose again in the July 21st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘. The lead item in that programme concerned incidents which began the previous afternoon when Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced the item (from 00:00:52 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “But first, if you’re a ten year-old child living in Gaza or southern Israel you will have already lived through three wars in your short life. This weekend there are fears we [sic] could be on the brink of another one.”

Listeners then heard the sound of explosions before Donnison told them that Israel was “bombing Gaza” rather than conducting pinpoint strikes on military facilities belonging to an internationally designated terrorist organisation. He also failed to clarify to listeners that “health officials in Gaza” means Hamas.

Donnison: “That’s the sound of Israel bombing Gaza overnight after an Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinian gunfire at the border. It’s the first soldier to be killed since the last war between Hamas and Israel in 2014. Health officials in Gaza say four Palestinians – including three Hamas fighters – were killed in the latest Israeli air strikes. Hamas says a ceasefire has been agreed. Israel has yet to comment on that. This is what the UN envoy for the Israel-Palestinian conflict Nickolay Mladenov had to say: ‘Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week, not tomorrow – right now‘.

Donnison then introduced his first interviewee – journalist Noga Tarnopolsky – with whom he discussed the situation and past failed cease fires.

At 03:45 Donnison introduced his next interviewee – IDF spokesperson Lt Col Jonathan Conricus – whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly during their four-minute conversation.

As Conricus was explaining the various threats facing Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip, Donnison interrupted:

Donnison: “The UN says…the UN says…the UN says that this year, in 2018, more than 160 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by your soldiers and more than 14,000 wounded.”

Listeners were not informed that the majority of those killed during the regular violent rioting at the border since the end of March have been shown to have links to the various terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

Conricus: “Well I don’t think these are UN figures. I think those are Palestinian figures from Hamas controlled Gaza…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “No, they’re UN figures. They’re the United Nations figures.”

Conricus explained that Israel is defending its border from a variety of different kinds of attacks perpetrated by “a globally recognised terrorist organisation that is trying by every means they have to attack Israel” before saying:

Conricus: “We are not going to allow anyone to get in and we are adamant that we continue to defend our sovereignty and Israeli citizens. We have been very limited in our use of force, despite the fact that Hamas has been firing rockets…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “How do you end up with 14,000 people being injured if you’re limited with your force?”

Conricus disputed the figures before going on to say:

Conricus: “We have a terrorist organisation on the other side which is very cynically using civilians, pushing them forward in order for the civilians to try to break through our defences so that Hamas terrorists can infiltrate into Israel. That has been the under-reported story of what so many people around the world have come to know as the ‘Great march of Return’.”

Donnison then cited an op-ed by an Israeli suggesting that “Israel has to talk to Hamas” before asking a soldier in uniform for a political opinion which he is obliged to refrain from giving. Conricus did however point out that a Hamas leader had recently spoken at a rally in Gaza about the organisation’s goals, noting that “they are not anything that includes the existence of the State of Israel”.

Donnison interrupted him at that point once again in order to close the interview and introduce the next one: “we want to hear from Hamas”. That interview will be discussed in a separate post.

Following his four-minute interview with Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad, Donnison returned (at 11:36) to Noga Tarnopolsky, who tried to make an important point.

Tarnopolsky: “I want to just clarify some of what we’ve heard. You asked about the number of wounded because it sounds so horrific and that’s – it’s a really important question – it’s one of the things that confuses matters here. The Hamas ministry of health reports anybody – a very wide range of people – as wounded. Someone who suffered from tear gas inhalation to somebody who has a leg amputated and they do this in order to have very large and frightening figures. Now in no way do I wish to diminish the suffering of Gazans – which is huge – but those figures are…”

Her explanation was interrupted by Donnison.

Donnison: “They…those figures…those figures I quoted were from the United Nations.”

Tarnopolsky: “Yes, I understand that. The figures that the United Nations is using are taken from the Hamas ministry of health. And I’m just explaining the background on where those figures came from.”

At that point in the reality check, Donnison swiftly closed the item.

Donnison: “We’re going to have to leave it there I’m afraid.”

As we have noted here on several occasions since the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop began, BBC reports have repeatedly quoted and promoted Palestinian casualty figures provided by the “health ministry” without clarifying that it is controlled by Hamas – the terror group co-organising the ‘Great Return March’ – and thus obviously not an impartial or reliable source.

Now – just as it did during the 2014 conflict – the BBC has apparently moved on to quoting ‘United Nations’ figures which it presents as being reliable, even though UN OCHA clearly states that they are sourced from the same ‘health ministry in Gaza’ run by Hamas.

Moreover, in this item Jon Donnison materially misled BBC World Service audiences by repeatedly insisting that his “UN figures” are different to those provided by the terrorist organisation that perpetrates the violence in the first place.