The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

BBC News website reporting on the so-called ‘Great Return March’ commenced on March 30th, peaked in May and has continued at a lesser intensity since then.

While during the first four months of reporting visitors to the website did not see any reporting from the Gaza Strip that was not specifically related to those events or other security-related issues, in the four months between August and November 2018, some more generalised reporting from Gaza appeared on the BBC News website.

Interestingly, all those reports included at least one of two specific themes. [emphasis added]

August 2018:

Gaza’s history-making female runner“, 15/8/18, discussed here

“I’m still training but because of the siege I cannot go outside the Gaza Strip. I cannot compete in international races.” […] “For the past four years no athlete from Gaza has been able to take part in any event outside.”

Bullet shatters Palestinian cyclist’s Asian Games dream”, 28/8/18, discussed here

“Alaa’s dream was to represent Palestine at the Asian Games. But an Israeli bullet put an end to his dream. On 30 March, Alaa was taking part in what has been called “The Great March of Return” at the Gaza-Israel frontier. The protest campaign expresses support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

September 2018:

Gaza’s abandoned airport in ruins”, 12/9/18, discussed here

“The airport was destroyed by Israel during the Second Intifada. The International Civil Aviation Organisation condemned the destruction of the airport and urged Israel to allow it to reopen. Gaza currently has no functioning airports.”

Gaza family: ‘Our children suffer to get a bottle of water’”, 27/9/18, discussed here

“There are fresh warnings about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where there are severe water and power shortages.

A new World Bank report says the economy is in “free fall”.

Meanwhile, deadly protests have resumed along the Gaza-Israel border and the situation “could explode any minute”, according to Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.”

October 2018:

Gaza: Coding in a conflict zone“, 1/10/18

“For more than a decade, since the Islamist movement Hamas took full control, Gaza has been kept under a tight blockade by Israel and Egypt, for what they say is their own security. There are controls on goods allowed in and out and on travel.” […]

“The protests began with a demand for Palestinians to return to their ancestral land that now lies in Israel, but many believe they have been fuelled by the desperate situation.”

How coding is helping young Gazans find work“, 6/10/18

“Over a decade ago, a blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt was tightened, when the militant group, Hamas, took full control. Today, the local economy is broken and it’s difficult to get a permit to travel.”

“These young people are working their way around Gaza’s blockade.”

Gaza grenade collector: ‘We’re planting life from death’“, 20/10/18, discussed here

“This is the border between Gaza and Israel. Palestinians have been protesting since March 2018 in support of the declared right of return for Palestinian refugees.”

 “Gaza protest image likened to famous Delacroix painting”, 25/10/18, discussed here

“Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting weekly along the border with Israel since March. The protests, orchestrated by the territory’s militant Hamas rulers, are held in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

November 2018:

What is ‘Green Cake’ and why did this woman invent it?“, 2/11/18, discussed here

“[concrete blocks for building]…are usually made from cement, sand and gravel (or aggregate). But all that has to come from Israel which tightly restricts imports on security grounds.”

Gaza Strip’s only concert grand piano makes music again“, 21/11/18, discussed here

“Gaza is blockaded by Israel and Egypt, who cite security concerns.”

As we see four of those ten reports concerning the Gaza Strip which appeared on the BBC News website between August and November inclusive included references to the so-called ‘right of return – but without any explanation the true significance of that Palestinian demand.

Seven of the ten reports included portrayal of counter-terrorism measures in terms of restrictions (actual or not) on movement of people or goods and/or shortages perceived (rightly or not) to result from those measures, but without any proper explanation of the terrorism which made them necessary.

As the JCPA noted one month after the ‘Great Return March’ rioting had begun: [emphasis added]

“Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official and member of the Hamas political bureau, defined the three main objectives of the return marches in Gaza: inculcating the right of return among the Palestinian people and the younger generation, thereby giving a focus to the struggle against the “occupation;” torpedoing the “deal of the century,” President Trump’s diplomatic plan for resolving the Middle East conflict; and breaking the embargo on the Gaza Strip.”

Remarkably, all BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip throughout the past four months has amplified themes relating to at least one of those objectives.

 

 

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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’

 

More of the same Gaza framing from a BBC Jerusalem correspondent

Listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘ on November 23rd heard an item which was rather clumsily and confusingly introduced by presenter Jonny Dymond (from 26:03 here).

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

Dymond: “Nearly six thousand residents of Gaza have suffered bullet wounds over the course of this year as Israeli soldiers have attempted to drive them back from the tightly packed strip of land in which they live and southern Israel – the border between the two. Most of those injuries are to young men who have been hit in the leg – shot in the leg. All of them require medical assistance of course and doctors in Gaza have become pretty adept at treating such injuries, assisted by John Wolfe, a retired consultant vascular surgeon from St. Mary’s Hospital in West London. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Over the past eight months we have repeatedly documented the fact that the BBC has downplayed or erased Hamas’ role in initiating, organising and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

As has also been recorded, the fact that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting – including under 18s – have been shown to have links to Gaza Strip based terror factions has likewise been downplayed and ignored by the BBC. Violent incidents have been serially ignored and the BBC’s editorial approach to this story has been to portray it as one that is about ‘peaceful protesters’ killed by Israel’s armed forces.

The audio report produced by Tom Bateman adhered to that editorial approach.

Bateman: “[…] this British vascular expert is surrounded by Palestinian surgeons. For them, the delicate skills needed to operate on damaged arteries has become all the more urgent this year. Last Friday we waited outside northern Gaza’s main hospital. Young men, some with bullet wounds to the leg, were brought in from protests at the perimeter fence with Israel. The demonstrations began in March over a declared Palestinian right to return to ancestral homelands from the blockaded Strip. Israel sees them as a violent attempt to breach the fence, stirred up and exploited by Gaza’s militant leaders. It defends the use of live ammunition, pointing to attacks against its troops. Since March more than 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. In July an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. While the scale of the protests has lessened, each week still sees new casualties. This is another case coming in while the protests at the fence continue.”

A filmed version of the same report employs the same framing.

Bateman: “This is a conflict that has changed even more lives this year. Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have suffered bullet wounds during protests at the perimeter fence with Israel. It has put intense pressure on Gaza’s hospitals. [….] Palestinians have protested since March, demanding a right to return to ancestral homelands from the blockaded Strip. Israel defends the use of live ammunition, pointing to violent attacks against its troops, stirred up – it says – by Gaza’s militant leaders.”

So as we see Tom Bateman has managed to produce two reports without mentioning Hamas by name and without clarifying the role of that terror faction and others in the organisation and facilitation of the weekly violent rioting. Bateman also failed  to clarify to audiences that the project with the self-proclaimed aim of having millions of people ‘return‘ to what he terms “ancestral homelands” – without explaining that he actually means Israeli territory – is designed to eradicate the Jewish state.

While the British surgeon remarked that “this volume of severe injuries is something that most countries never see” in both versions of the report, Bateman made no effort to explain to BBC audiences that those injuries could have been avoided had Hamas – which is also in charge of the local health system described by Bateman as “already under huge pressure” – not planned, encouraged, facilitated and financed this particular terror project.

In conclusion, BBC audiences heard and saw two ICRC approved reports on the work of a British surgeon which once again predictably erased context crucial for full understanding of the story.

Related Articles:

Why did the BBC News website erase an accurate statement?

BBC tries to erase Hamas’ role in ‘Great Return March’ violence

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

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return”  (CAMERA)

 

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

On November 22nd the Israel Security Agency announced that it had uncovered attempts by Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip to establish a terror network in Judea and Samaria. The plot included exploitation of Israel’s humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip.

“The Hamas operation was uncovered with the arrest of Oweis Rajoub, 25, an alleged member of the terrorist group from the Palestinian village of Dura, near Hebron, on September 23, the Shin Bet said.

The goal of the West Bank cells was to conduct large terror attacks against Israeli military and civilians targets at the same time as rockets and mortar shells were being fired from the Gaza Strip, in order to challenge Israel on two fronts simultaneously, the internal security service said. […]

The coordination and planning between the operatives in the West Bank and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip were conducted, in part, by Palestinians travelling from the coastal enclave to hospitals in Israel. Gazan businessmen with permits allowing them to travel to the West Bank were also reportedly found to have passed messages between the two groups. […]

In August, Rajoub received a cellphone from his Hamas handlers. A few days later, he was told to go to Bethlehem to meet with a woman who gave him “trousers into which a cloth strip had been sewn on which instructions for using his phone had been written,” the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, the woman was Na’ama Mikdad, 53, a mother of nine, from the Gaza Strip, who had been given a travel permit to accompany her sister who had cancer and received medical treatment in Israel on August 9.

With the phone and the instructions on how to use it, Rajoub began working with an explosives expert to create the bombs needed for the attacks, the Shin Bet said. […]

The Shin Bet said Mikdad and her sister — the nieces of a Hamas military commander, Muhammad Abu Kuwaik — also knowingly passed along messages to another Hamas member in Ramallah: Fouad Dar Khalil, who had been imprisoned by Israel for 14 years for taking part in a shooting attack on an Israeli car.”

Earlier this year viewers of BBC TV saw extensive amplification of allegations concerning patients from Gaza which have been used by anti-Israel activists to delegitimise Israel. BBC audiences have frequently been misled on the topic of medical supplies and referrals to treatment outside the Gaza Strip and when a previous instance of abuse of medical travel permits for terrorism purposes was exposed last year, the BBC ignored the story completely.

With its audiences being repeatedly steered towards the inaccurate belief that all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures, it is significant that once again the BBC has shown no interest in reporting a story which clarifies why such measures are necessary.

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part two

BBC waives chance to balance its reporting on medical issues

BBC’s Knell paints a partial picture of Gaza woes

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

 

 

 

When the BBC’s ‘context’ fails to make the grade

Context: The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.”

On November 21st the BBC’s Jerusalem-based correspondent Tom Bateman used Twitter to promote a filmed report concerning a restored piano in the Gaza Strip which had been published on the BBC News website that morning.

Previously Bateman had produced an audio report on the same story that was aired on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service radio earlier in the month. Three and a half years before that, the BBC had told the story of the same piano’s restoration on the BBC News website, on BBC Radio 4, on BBC World Service radio and on the BBC News TV channel.

Bateman’s latest report is titled “Gaza Strip’s only concert grand piano makes music again“.

“There is only one concert grand piano in Gaza and it has been played in a rare public performance after being restored.

The work, first documented by the BBC three years ago and now completed, was led by a charity that supports musicians in areas of conflict.”

Most of the report tells the piano’s story and depicts the concert that is its subject matter. However, the BBC also found it necessary to provide viewers with what was apparently supposed to be context.

“Gaza is blockaded by Israel and Egypt, who cite security concerns.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here when Bateman made a similar statement in his earlier audio report, this is by no means the first time that BBC audiences have heard that ‘Israel says’ portrayal of the reasons why it was necessary to introduce a ban on the entry of weapons to the Gaza Strip and controls on the import of dual-use goods.

Obviously BBC reporters such as Tom Bateman know full well that the context to Israel’s policy is the Palestinian terrorism which increased after Hamas’ violent take-over of the territory in 2007 and yet we nevertheless continue to see BBC journalists whitewashing that terrorism (even in a week following unprecedented terror attacks against Israeli civilians) by repeatedly describing the actions taken to counter it in terms of a ‘narrative’.

Viewers were also told that:

“Live music is rare in Gaza, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas”

No effort was made to explain to audiences the connection between the decline in live music events (and other social freedoms) and the fact that the Gaza Strip was violently taken over by an Islamist faction over a decade ago.

Although in both the above examples the BBC has ostensibly ticked boxes by providing audiences with background information relevant to the story, that ‘context’ is actually nothing of the sort. Rather than providing the full range of information required for proper enhancement of audience understanding, in both cases the BBC elected to skirt around ‘sensitive’ topics: Hamas’ terrorism and Hamas’ repression of the people who live under its extremist rule.

 Related Articles:

BBC’s Bateman portrays counter-terrorism as a ‘narrative’

 

 

BBC WS ‘OS’ presents an inverted portrayal of Gaza rocket attacks

As we saw in a previous post, the lead item in the November 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme OS – formerly ‘Outside Source’ – was described in its synopsis thus:

“It’s the heaviest exchange of aerial fire between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants since the full-blown conflict in 2014. The violence follows an Israeli special forces operation inside Gaza which went wrong late on Sunday, causing the deaths of Palestinian militants and an Israeli soldier. We hear from local people living in Gaza.”

After listeners had been given some bizarre and entirely one-sided ‘context’ to that story (with no mention whatsoever of the fact that Hamas has been attacking Israeli civilians with rockets and mortars for 17 years), presenter Ben James introduced (from 04:35 here) his first inadequately identified interviewee in what he had previously described as “your guide to the important stuff happening now”.

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

James: “So let’s hear some voices from this region. In a moment we’re going to hear from Bernie who lives in the Israeli town of Ashkelon but first of all Ahmed who we’ve spoken to before on ‘OS’ about working in the IT industry in Gaza. He lives in Gaza City. He told me what it was like for him there last night.”

Ahmed: “Last night was, like, a very horrible night [laughs]. It began when Israelis were attacking, like, civilian homes and the journalists. We had that TV channel – the building for that TV channel – it’s called Al Aqsa – they destroyed it completely. In fact, like, these buildings are in the middle of civilians’ homes. The explosions was very huge. What affected me very much – at dawn, like, 4 a.m. in the morning they destroyed a civilian home near me and it was very, like, big explosion was very, very huge. My pregnant wife woke up in the, like, in the middle of the night scared and telling me ‘oh are they going to invade Gaza Strip or’…and this is not very usual to ask but I have been living for 3 Israeli attacks, like, in the 2008 and 2014 and this one – 2018.”

Israel of course did not attack either “civilian homes” or “journalists” as claimed but Ben James made no effort to challenge those blatant falsehoods. Neither did he bother to inform listeners of the very relevant issue of Hamas’ deliberate placement of military assets in built-up areas and how that turns people like Ahmed into human shields.

James: “I was going to ask how it compared to previous experiences. Has there been anything like these sorts of airstrikes recently?”

Ahmed: “This one, like, it’s, like, a new one. Has been, like, just for 24 hours. The last experience was very horrible, like, more than this. But this one, like, the kind of explosions not like what I have experienced, like, this one you feel that your home has been hit by a earthquake or something very huge, like, [laughs] you feel that the building is dancing.”

Having already failed to challenge his interviewee’s false claim of attacks on civilian targets, James actually went on to make things worse.

James: “Israel of course says that it’s attacking military targets – Hamas targets as they would see them – but you say that everyone’s just so close together in Gaza that it’s hitting not just those targets.”

Ahmed: “Like, most of these targets, it’s not, like, Hamas targets but it’s surrounded by, like, so many civilians. I went to one of these places in the morning. Houses, the windows, the doors, there was lot of rocks like thrown on this street.”

James: “What else does this mean – quite apart from the fear that you’ve been describing from last night? How is it affecting your day today? Have you been able to go out and about or are people staying at home today?”

Ahmed: “Yeah most of the people stayed at home and I didn’t go to work but I went to shop because I want to run some errands for me to, like, buy some food for the house ‘cos I am scared that this will be, like, another attack on [unintelligible], like a military operation, a war for Gaza because I am reading the news and what the [Israeli] cabinet will decide against us.”

James: “Had you become hopeful in recent times that there might be some kind of longer lasting calm or not? Had you expected something like this would happen again?”

Ahmed: “I guess this time will be calm, like it will be a truce. I don’t think, like, the both parties are not meant to go to another operation or another Israeli assault.”

James then went on to promote a theme of ‘equal narratives’:

James: “We know that in these situations both sides claim that they’re defending themselves and different people have different opinions on whether that’s right on either side. What do you think about that from the point of view of those airstrikes you’ve been living through? Israel says they’re in response to rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel.”

Ahmed: “OK. I guess you are following the news, like you know what happened Sunday night, yeah? When an Israeli military group invaded Khan Younis three kilometres and went to do some security and our resistance fighter has the right to defend us and this is a very prohibited or a very forbidden area to enter – you know what I mean. So I guess we have the right to do what the resistance fighter did last night.”

James did not bother to inform listeners that there is no such thing as a ‘right’ to deliberately attack civilians.

James: “When you in the night-time hear those planes, hear the explosions, what do you do? Do you just stay in your home and hope for the best? Is there anywhere to take shelter?”

Ahmed: “In fact there is no…there’s no safe place in Gaza. Like, everyone in Gaza is a target. So I don’t look around for a shelter because if I run for shelter, the kind of rockets or the kind of missiles that they throw is very huge, like…I don’t want you to experience this but [laughs] but I just cannot explain or cannot express how it felt or where I can go every place. You don’t know where they are going to [unintelligible]. You just don’t know.”

Ben James went on to speak to a resident of Ashkelon, with most of the conversation focusing on his personal experiences during the previous 24 hours. His final question again promoted the notion of equal narratives:

James: “And we know that…we know that each side in this describes what goes on as self-defence from both directions. What’s your take on that?”

It is the remit of the BBC – as defined in its public purposes – to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

In this programme however, BBC audiences were given a patently inaccurate impression of events. They heard that Hamas’ launching of rockets at Israeli civilians is a “right” and “self-defence” and they were told – wrongly – that Israel had attacked civilian targets.

A reporter for the Telegraph who – unlike Ben James – was actually in the Gaza Strip at the time had this to say:

Prior to these interviews with residents of Gaza City and Ashkelon, listeners to this programme had been told that unprecedented rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians are rooted in poverty allegedly caused by a misrepresented blockade and an ‘occupation’ which ended over thirteen years ago – with no mention whatsoever of the fact that Hamas has been launching such attacks for the past 17 years.

Obviously the basic editorial aim behind this item – which Ben James had told listeners was “your guide to the important stuff happening now” – was to promote a sense of false equivalence between the actions of terrorist groups deliberately targeting civilians and a regular army targeting the assets of those terrorist organisations.   

In promoting that aim the producers of this programme blithely sacrificed the accuracy and impartiality to which the BBC claims to adhere as well as the first of the corporation’s public purposes.

Related Articles:

The BBC World Service’s idea of ‘context’ to rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

Terrorists and rockets disappear in BBC news reports

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks

BBC Radio 4: nothing to see in southern Israel, move along to Gaza

Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

BBC News website sources report on Gaza incident from Hamas

 

BBC’s Bateman portrays counter-terrorism as a ‘narrative’

The November 8th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today‘ programme included an item (from 45:57 here) revisiting a story first reported by the BBC over three and a half years ago. The same report was also aired (from 14:07 here) in an edition of ‘Newshour‘ on BBC World Service radio on November 9th.

In what was described by the BBC’s Tom Bateman as “a story of revival against the odds”, BBC audiences were told about a concert played on a restored grand piano in Gaza City. Listeners also heard the following:

Bateman: “The [piano restoration] work symbolised the challenges of everyday life in Gaza. A UN agency had to coordinate access for skilled people and parts for the piano amid the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Strip which those countries say is imposed for security reasons.”

While this is by no means the first time that BBC audiences have heard that ‘Israel says’ portrayal of the reasons why it was necessary to introduce a ban on the entry of weapons to the Gaza Strip and controls on the import of dual-use goods, it is obvious that BBC reporters such as Tom Bateman know full well that the context to Israel’s policy is the Palestinian terrorism which increased after Hamas’ violent take-over of the territory in 2007.

Nevertheless, we continue to see BBC journalists whitewashing that terrorism by repeatedly describing the actions taken to counter it in terms of a ‘narrative’.

That editorial policy clearly does not contribute to meeting the BBC’s public purpose of helping audiences understand this and similar stories.

Accuracy, impartiality and context lacking in BBC Two film on Gaza

BBC Two has recently been showing a four-part series titled “Mediterranean with Simon Reeve” which will be available on BBC iPlayer for the next five months.

“Simon Reeve embarks on an extraordinary four-part journey around the Mediterranean, uncovering the wild extremes that lie behind the tourist veneer.”

In episode two of the series (also available here) its writer and presenter visited Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“Travelling south, Simon’s next stop is Israel, a country that perhaps more than any other depends on the Mediterranean for its survival. With few friends in the region, Israel has to transport most of its goods by sea. Simon joins the Israeli Navy who patrol the coast and protect the country’s offshore oil reserves using the latest military weaponry and technology, including unmanned, combat-ready drone boats.

From Israel Simon crosses one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders to reach the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis have endured a seemingly endless cycle of violence and in Gaza the result has been devastating destruction. Many building materials are restricted by an Israeli blockade on Gaza, but Simon meets an inspiring young woman who has helped reconstruction efforts by inventing an ingenious method of making bricks from ash. It’s a rare ray of hope in one of the most troubled regions of the Mediterranean.”

Informed viewers may well have raised an eyebrow at Reeve’s failure to mention the relevant context of UN Security Council resolutions forbidding the presence of armed militias in the area of southern Lebanon he described as “territory controlled by Hizballah” while en route to visit the terror organisation’s ‘museum’.

In addition to a trip on a navy boat, Reeve’s trip to Israel included a desalination plant and a visit to “party town” Tel Aviv. At the end of his subsequent trip to the Gaza Strip Reeve declared:

“So much about the Arab-Israeli conflict is about picking a side and personally I refuse to. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Palestinians. So many opportunities for real, lasting peace have been lost here and we see two sides that seem in many ways to be moving further apart, not closer together.”

That monologue however came after viewers have been presented (from 42:27) with a fifteen-minute context-free, politicised and, in parts, inaccurate view of the Gaza Strip.

After a brief reference to “missiles launched from Gaza” Reeve told viewers:

“I crossed one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders. So this is a long walk through a cage – a caged passageway that takes us from the very modern, pretty wealthy state of Israel to the much poorer and densely packed Gaza Strip. I’ve never been through a border quite like this. It is extraordinary in every possible sense and – my God – you look across here…look at the barrier that encircles Gaza. It’s a very forbidding, foreboding place to walk towards, quite frankly. There’s a…there’s a dehumanisation of the people who live here. The whole process makes you feel like you’re entering the cage of the wild animals.”

The concrete barrier near the Erez Crossing pointed out by Reeve of course does not ‘encircle’ Gaza at all. Reeve however did not bother to interview anyone from Israeli communities such as Netiv HaAsara which are protected from Palestinian terrorism by that barrier or make any effort to explain its purpose.

Having entered the Gaza Strip, Reeve teamed up with “our guide in Gaza” – failing to clarify that he is a BBC employee before viewers heard Rushdi Abu Alouf promote political propaganda.

Abu Alouf: “Of course they keep calling Gaza the biggest open-air prison which is true because it’s closed from four sides. So Israel is calling this strip of land is like a hostile entity.”

Viewers got no explanation as to why Israel declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity in September 2007 and Reeve next misled BBC audiences with an inaccurate portrayal of how and when Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “Since elections in 2006 Gaza has been controlled by Hamas – a militant Islamic group considered terrorists by Israel and many Western governments.”

Viewers also heard a ‘creative’ portrayal of the purpose of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military position.

Abu Alouf: “They operate in this area because it’s not far from the border so they always try to be ready for any Israeli escalation.”

Audiences were given an inaccurate (even according to previous problematic BBC reporting) account of civilian casualty figures during the 2014 conflict (47:55).

Reeve: “Israelis and Palestinians have endured endless cycles of violence. Here militants can fire rockets into Israel. Israel can attack with overwhelming force. Weeks of conflict here in 2014 between Israel and Palestinians left two thousand civilians dead, including an estimated 500 children.” [emphasis added]

He went on:

Reeve: “Eighteen thousand homes were destroyed. Israel restricts the supply of many building materials like cement into Gaza – Israel says to prevent Hamas building tunnels for attacks.” [emphasis in the original]

Reeve appears to have sourced the number 18,000 from UNOCHA – where that figure is presented as including partly damaged structures rather than the number (11,000 according to other UN reports) of dwellings “destroyed”.  Of course millions of tons of dual-use goods including cement have been imported into the Gaza Strip since the 2014 conflict under a UN supervised mechanism. Reeve made no effort to inform audiences of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for terrorism purposes that include cross-border tunnels.

Failing to explain to viewers why “Gaza is under blockade” or why electricity supplies only run for four hours a day, Reeve gave audiences a simplistic view of Gaza’s economy which failed to include any mention of the relevant topics of the policies and actions of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “But the blockade here is devastating Gaza’s economy. Gaza now has among the highest unemployment rates in the world and it’s believed most of its people survive on less than $2 a day.”

Reeve: “But today Gaza’s fishing industry is in crisis. It’s thought less than half of Gaza’s fishermen are still putting out to sea. Across the Mediterranean fish numbers are in steep decline. Here fishermen face additional challenges.”

Viewers were even told by a Gaza fisherman that fish do not come any closer than nine miles from the shore – with no challenge from Reeve.

Reeve: “This part of the Mediterranean is completely empty.”

Fisherman: “Fish can only be found nine miles out. The Israeli army only allows us to go out six miles.”

Although Reeve acknowledged that he had been unable to verify an account of an incident in which the same fisherman claimed to have been shot by Israeli forces, the BBC aired it anyway. No effort was made to introduce the relevant context of arms smuggling by sea to the Gaza Strip.

With no mention having been made of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip thirteen years ago, audiences were led to believe that Israel is “the occupier”.

Abu Alouf: “Look for young people in Gaza the only thing [they] know about the Israelis is that they are the occupier who come in tanks and aeroplanes and bomb Gaza.”

Simon Reeve ended his visit to the Gaza Strip by telling viewers of this film – categorised in the credits as a “current affairs production” – that:

Reeve: “The situation here is utterly shocking and maddening.”

Significantly, BBC Two audiences heard nothing whatsoever about Hamas’ agenda of destroying the Jewish state – or whether or not Reeve finds that and the terrorism against Israeli civilians which aims to bring that agenda about “utterly shocking and maddening”.

Clearly impartiality and accuracy were not at the forefront of priorities for the makers of this context-lite (especially in comparison to Reeve’s previous efforts to explain the Cyprus conflict) segment of Simon Reeve’s film.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

More context-free BBC portrayal of Gaza construction imports

 

 

More context-free BBC portrayal of Gaza construction imports

Since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terror groups including Hamas, the BBC has repeatedly told its audiences of “tight border restrictions” affecting the import of construction materials into the Gaza Strip.

“And there are no new building materials that are coming in. Israel has long imposed tight border restrictions on Gaza, saying they’re needed for security and since the ceasefire nothing’s changed. Aid agencies say a rethink is urgently needed. There would still be a housing crisis even if Israel fully opened its one commercial crossing.” [emphasis added] Yolande Knell, BBC News, September 2014

“…but the Israeli blockade of Gaza remains in place. Now that is a blockade by air, land and sea. It is Israel which decides which trucks and how many and carrying what goods are allowed in and out of Gaza. There are serious concerns being expressed by aid agencies about whether or not Israel will allow enough construction materials in. A temporary mechanism has been agreed and that will involve monitoring by the United Nations but they are literally almost at the level of counting the grains of sand going in and out of Gaza and there are serious fears that the volume of cement and construction materials that would be required will simply not be allowed in. Israel of course views cement as a dual-use item and it has been used by Hamas to build tunnels right out of Gaza under the ground into Israeli territory, so cement is particularly carefully monitored.” Orla Guerin, BBC World Service radio, October 2014

“Donors have pledged more than $5bn but Israel strictly regulates the import of building materials and equipment into the Palestinian territory. They say that militants could use the equipment to carry out attacks.” Yolande Knell, BBC News, December 2014

“Israel and Egypt maintain tight border restrictions on the coastal enclave, which have severely hampered reconstruction efforts. They say these are needed for security.” [emphasis added] Yolande Knell, BBC News, July 2015

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, millions of tons of construction materials have in fact been transported into the Gaza Strip since the summer of 2014.

However, the BBC has shown considerably less interest in informing its audiences of important factors which have affected the pace of repair and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip such as the failure of many donors to meet their pledges, the black market in building supplies, the lack of Palestinian Authority cooperation and Hamas’ theft and misappropriation of building materials for the purpose of terror – not least cross-border attack tunnels.

On November 2nd the BBC World Service put out a filmed report concerning a building material developed by a Gaza civil engineer which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

Titled “What is ‘Green Cake’ and why did this woman invent it?“, the report by Richard Kenny informed BBC audiences that “[a] young Palestinian entrepreneur, Majd Mashharawi, has redesigned the plain old concrete block to help Gaza rebuild its infrastructure”.

Viewers were told that “[w]ars with Israel have led to widespread destruction” and that the concrete blocks conventionally used for building:

“…are usually made from cement, sand and gravel (or aggregate). But all that has to come from Israel which tightly restricts imports on security grounds.”

In other words, the only information provided to BBC audiences regarding the background to this story refrained from informing them of any of the factors affecting repair and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip which are not connected to Israel and failed to clarify that the supervision of imports of dual-use goods – rather than “imports” in general – had to be put in place as part of counter-terrorism measures.

Had BBC audiences been informed of the complete story behind the topic of building in the Gaza Strip over the past four years, they may have been able to fill in the gaps in this film for themselves. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

Related Articles:

How Hamas put a tax on building materials the BBC told audiences don’t exist

Even the Guardian goes where the BBC refuses to tread

Hamas man spills beans on appropriation of construction materials: BBC silent

BBC News ignores yet another story about Hamas appropriation of construction materials

A side to the Gaza reconstruction story the BBC isn’t telling

Some context to the BBC’s ‘reporter in the Gaza rubble’ features

BBC ignores Hamas theft of construction materials yet again

 

 

Selective and misleading BBC accounts of Gaza border violence persist

The BBC’s partisan framing of the weekly ‘Great Return March’ rioting continues, as a recent example demonstrates.

On October 12th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ heard the following report (from 04:55 here) read by newsreader Chris Aldridge which was also repeated a couple of hours later in the station’s midnight news bulletin. [emphasis in bold added]

Aldridge: “Health officials in Gaza say seven Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during protests on the border with Israel. Around 250 people were injured. The demonstrations involving around 1,000 Palestinians have prompted the Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman to order an immediate hold in fuel deliveries to Gaza. Our correspondent Yolande Knell reports from Jerusalem.”

As we see, members of the Hamas terror group were presented as “health officials” and the regular violent rioting now in its seventh month was, as ever, misleadingly portrayed as “protests” and “demonstrations”. Aldridge’s claim that “around 1,000 Palestinians” took part in the incidents on October 12th is inaccurate: in fact around fifteen times that number participated in the violence.

BBC audiences were not informed that the “hold in fuel deliveries to Gaza” related to $60 million worth of fuel donated by Qatar.

“Channel 10 news military analyst Alon Ben-David said Israel had seen Friday as a test for Hamas, which had been expected to temper border protests in response to Israel allowing the transfer of fuel into the Strip. Hamas had failed this test, he said.

In recent days Qatari-bought fuel had begun entering the Strip to allow operation of its only power station, in a bid to alleviate conditions in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

Israel has facilitated the delivery over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, hoping it will help ease months of protests and clashes. […]

For months residents of the strip have been receiving only four hours of electricity a day on average. Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s resident humanitarian coordinator, told the Reuters news agency the delivery will add a few more hours of electricity to Gaza’s 2 million residents.

But it was met with criticism by officials close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose rival administration was not involved. […]

In a statement Tuesday Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior official close to Abbas, threatened retaliatory measures if the fuel deliveries continued.

Abbas has reportedly threatened to cut off funds to Gaza in response to the fuel transfers.

“When Qatar pays for the fuel, Hamas in Gaza will collect the bills and put it in its pocket, and this is an indirect financial aid to Hamas,” a PA official said Saturday…”

Yolande Knell opened her report using the ‘Israel says’ formula:

Knell: “The Israeli military says Palestinians have been burning tyres and throwing stones and explosive devices at its troops. It says soldiers shot at a group which broke through the border fence using a bomb and approached an army post.”

In contrast, here is a local report on the same events:

“In the most serious incident, in the south of the Strip, the IDF said several Gazans planted a bomb by the fence. After it exploded and blew a hole in the fence, some 20 Palestinians came through and ran toward Israeli soldiers stationed in a snipers’ position.

Most of the Gazans pulled back and returned through the fence into the Strip. However, three continued to move towards soldiers, who fired at them, killing them. […]

The army said around 15,000 protesters hurled grenades, bombs, firebombs and rocks at Israeli forces at various locations along the border. Hadashot TV reported that for the first time soldiers were also being shot at with crossbows. […]

Heavy smoke from burning tires at the Kerem Shalom crossing in the northern Strip prompted authorities in Israel to order residents of the adjacent kibbutz to stay indoors. Ynet said firefighters were putting up large fans throughout the community to help clear the smoke.

Meanwhile, ten fires broke out in southern Israel that were sparked by incendiary balloons launched over the border.”

Knell continued:

Knell: “The protesters are demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt and the right to return to Palestinans’ ancestral land which now lies inside Israel.”

Unsurprisingly, Knell did not mention that her “end to the blockade” theory is undermined by the fact that no comparable rioting has been staged along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Neither did she bother to clarify that the so-called ‘right of return’ is intended to eradicate the Jewish state.

Significantly, Knell did not explain to BBC audiences that the Hamas-orchestrated rioting in fact prevented the entry of the Israel facilitated Qatari fuel donation aimed at improving conditions for residents of the Gaza Strip.

Airbrushing both the violent coup of 2007 in which the terror group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip and the ample evidence of Hamas involvement in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ events which the BBC has failed to report for over half a year, she closed her report:

Knell: “Israel accuses Hamas – the militant group which runs Gaza – of orchestrating the demonstrations as a cover to launch attacks. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began in late March. One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper.”

As we see, Knell concealed the fact that a significant proportion of those killed have been shown to have links to terror organisations – as Hamas itself has admitted.

Even in a simple 65 second item in a news bulletin, BBC audiences are being fed a selective and partisan account of events which actively hinders their understanding of this ongoing story.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC’s sanitisation of deliberate Gaza border violence continues

BBC tries to erase Hamas’ role in ‘Great Return March’ violence

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return”  (CAMERA)