BBC News website amends Second Lebanon War claim

Last month we noted that a report published on the BBC News website closed with the following paragraph:

“Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006 in which more than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 159 Israelis, including 43 civilians, were killed.” [emphasis added]

Similar statements had previously appeared in two BBC News website reports relating to Operation Northern Shield:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation  December 4th 2018

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels December 19th 2018

While the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants during the 2006 war, Lebanese officials did report even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (of whom 450 were identified with certainty: see page 55 here).

In August 2006 the BBC News website acknowledged that “there are no reliable figures” for the number of Hizballah combatants killed in the war that had just ended at the time.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning the BBC’s repeated promotion of that narrative portraying Lebanese casualties during the 2006 war as “mostly civilians” despite there being no evidence of its having been able to independently verify that claim.

A week after the complaint was submitted we received a response from BBC Complaints stating that the issue would take more time to address.

On February 7th we received a response from the BBC News website which presented links to statements supporting its claim from sources such as the Lebanese government, the Lebanese Higher Relief Council, the political NGO Human Rights Watch and two news agencies.

The BBC News website concluded its reply as follows:

“However after considering your point further we have since amended all three of these articles so as to attribute these figures to the Lebanese government.

 We have also added an update note at the bottom of each article outlining these changes.”

The December 4th article now reads:

“Tensions are high between Israel and Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war in 2006.

More than 1,189 Lebanese, most of them civilians, the Lebanese government says, and some 40 Israeli civilians were killed in that conflict.”

The December 19th article now reads:

“Tensions are high between the Iran-backed Shia Islamist group and Israel, which fought a month-long war in 2006.

More than 1,189 Lebanese, most of them civilians, the Lebanese government says, and 159 Israelis, including 43 civilians, were killed in that conflict.”

The January 17th article now reads:

“Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006 in which more than 1,189 Lebanese, most of them civilians, the Lebanese government says, and 159 Israelis, including 43 civilians, were killed.”

The footnote added to all three reports reads as follows:

 

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BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ perpetuates framing of rioting and elections

As we have seen, a significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to two items relating to Israel and the Gaza Strip. The second of those items was discussed here:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

We have also looked at one aspect of presenter Mishal Husain’s introductions to both those items:

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

The first item began (from 37:13 here) with an opaque reference to a new political party running in the upcoming general election in Israel – but without listeners being told even the party leader’s name – and yet more euphemistic portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Husain: “A former Israeli military chief has launched a bid to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu in the elections scheduled for April. They’ll come a year after weekly Palestinians protests at the boundary fence between Israel and Gaza began. The UN says that last year 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest annual figure since 2014. Fifteen Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in the same period. Tom Bateman, our Middle East correspondent, is on the line from Jerusalem and in this coming election campaign, Tom, how much will relations with Palestinians and security feature?”

As BBC reporting on past Israeli elections shows, the corporation has repeatedly promoted the notion that the ‘peace process’ was the most important issue facing the Israeli electorate even when that was patently not the case.

“The most outstanding characteristic of BBC reporting on the 2015 Israeli election from day one was the insistence of its journalists on framing the story from the angle of its effect on negotiations with the Palestinians – despite the fact that other concerns were much higher up on voters’ lists of priorities. So, whilst BBC audiences heard or read occasional brief references to ‘economic issues’, ‘the cost of living’ and ‘house prices’, they were never actually provided with any in-depth background information on those topics and hence were incapable of appreciating why – for example – a previously non-existent party (Kulanu) won ten seats in the incoming Knesset.”

If this item is anything to go by, the BBC has obviously not abandoned that redundant framing. A prominent politics journalist at the Jerusalem Post notes that:

“The Palestinians, peace talks, and settlements seem to be almost entirely irrelevant to this election season.”

Bateman began by airbrushing Hamas’ violent take-over of the Gaza Strip nearly 12 years ago and whitewashing the background to “the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.

Bateman: “Well it will play a role…ah…but I think that the degree to which it’s decisive or significant will very much depend on what happens really on the ground, particularly in relation to the conflict between Israel and Hamas which runs Gaza. And also in terms of the sort of rhetorical situation that you’ll hear Mr Netanyahu talk about a lot in terms of the most strategic threat that he sees which is from Iranian entrenchment, Iranian forces inside…ah…neighbouring Syria. Now on that front there’s been, you know, a significant move in the fact that President Trump has said that US troops will be withdrawn. That is very concerning for Israel but you’re not gonna hear it publicly from Mr Netanyahu who has made a relationship with President Trump key in a priority to his…ehm…diplomatic focus. In terms of what the polls are saying, well despite the situation that we’ve had with Mr Netanyahu; people in his right-wing coalition trying to portray him as being too weak when it comes to Gaza – the more hawkish elements of his cabinet and his defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned late last year over this – despite all that the polls still suggest his Likud party’s on course to be again the biggest party, could even gain seats and that it is likely then that he will be able to put together another right-wing coalition.”

Husain: “And on this point about the conflict with Hamas I mean those casualty figures, a big part of them is what’s been going on in Gaza and it…you know you might say it can’t go on like that, it’s not sustainable and yet it has for many months and we reported from there last month.”

Failing to clarify that “the health ministry in Gaza” is the same terror group behind the weekly violent rioting at the border, Bateman went on to make a context-free reference to an earlier incident.

Bateman: “Yeah and I think the protests at the fence every Friday show few signs of going away. Just last Friday another 14 year-old boy was shot and died later of his wounds according to the health ministry in Gaza. However, the numbers have reduced since the peak of the protests in the spring and summer of last year.”

What Bateman and Husain describe as “protests” included the following on that day:  

“About 13,000 Palestinians participated (10,000 last week). The demonstrators gathered at a number of locations along the border. During the events there was a high level of violence, which included burning tires as well as throwing stones, IEDs and hand grenades at IDF soldiers and at the security fence. In the northern Gaza Strip there were at least three attempts to break through the fence into Israeli territory. In one instance IDF forces fired shots at suspicious Palestinians who fled back into the Gaza Strip. One IDF soldier was slightly injured by a stone.”

Downplaying of the violence that has included hundreds of incidents of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman continued:

Bateman: “There’s been a series of military escalations between Hamas and Israel. Now whether or not that will flare up again I think could have a significant impact on the election process. It may conversely be inspired to some degree by the fact that there are elections in Israel. But what the Israeli prime minister or the tack he has chosen is to try to take a bit of political damage from his own right-wing…from the more hawkish elements and try to contain that situation. That is in the form of a very indirect arrangement brokered by the Egyptians, by the Qataris and by the UN in which the Israelis effectively asked for calm on the perimeter fence. In return Hamas – which is under significant pressure financially because of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, because of sanctions by the internationally recognised Palestinian leadership too…eh…there are suitcases full of cash – millions of dollars – coming from Qatar into Gaza to pay civil servants’ salaries and also to prevent a collapse of the electricity supply in Gaza. Now that is being permitted by Benjamin Netanyahu. The third payment of $50 million was postponed last week which shows I think just how very fragile this sort of uneasy truce is.”

Bateman failed to inform listeners that those “civil servants” are employees of the Hamas terror organisation or that the reason for the postponement of that “third payment” was a rise in violence that included more rocket attacks that went unreported by the BBC.

While the BBC has not yet produced much reporting on the upcoming election in Israel its framing of that topic so far is just as inflexible and unhelpful to audiences as its framing of almost ten months of weekly violent rioting and border infiltrations which it persists in portraying as “protests”.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

A significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was given over to what appears to have become one of its presenters’ pet topic – the Gaza Strip.

The previous evening viewers of ‘News at Ten’ had seen Mishal Husain’s one-sided report on the healthcare system in Gaza – filmed a month earlier when she visited the territory – and the next morning Radio 4 listeners heard her present a total of over sixteen and a half minutes of similar content in two separate items.

Those two items will be discussed in upcoming posts but first let’s take a look at statements made by Mishal Husain near the beginning of both those items – from 37:13 and 2:09:59 here.

37: 13 Husain: “The UN says that last year 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza – the highest annual figure since 2014. Fifteen Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in the same period.”

2:09:59 Husain: “2018 was the worst year for Palestinian deaths and injuries in the West Bank and Gaza since the Gaza conflict of 2014. The United Nations says 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces over the course of the year. In the same period, says the UN, 15 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks and 137 injured. On the Palestinian side most of the deaths and injuries were connected to the weekly protests at the boundary fence that separates Gaza from Israel.”

First let’s examine the source of that information. Although Husain uses the terms “UN” and “United Nations”, the data specifically comes from a press release put out by the local branch of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which, as regular readers know, is a highly politicised and partisan organisation that has in the past used highly dubious methodology to produce reports on casualties in the Gaza Strip.

That UNOCHA press release states that 23,000 (79%) of the 29,000 people described by Mishal Husain as “injured by Israeli forces” sustained their injuries “in the context of Gaza’s ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations by the fence”. As we see on UNOCHA’s own data base its definition of injured means:

“…people who were physically hurt in a relevant incident and received medical treatment at a clinic or hospital, or by paramedic personnel on the site of the incident. This includes people who received treatment due to suffocation [sic] by tear gas.”

And indeed, according to the break-down titled “Injuries by type of weapon” appearing on that data base, the most frequent cause of those injuries is defined as “Tear Gas (inhalation)”.

Another point arising from that data – but airbrushed away from audience view by Husain – is UNOCHA’s admittance that some of the casualties were terrorists.

“At least 28 of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in 2018 were members of armed groups in Gaza…”

The figure cited by UNOCHA is considerably lower than that claimed by Hamas. As was noted here in May 2018:

“On the day of the violent events that prompted so much BBC coverage – May 14th – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that three of those killed belonged to its terror organisation. The following afternoon – May 15th – Hamas put out a ‘martyrdom poster’ for ten members of its internal security apparatus also killed in the May 14th incidents.

On the afternoon of May 16th reports emerged concerning an interview given by Hamas’ Salah Bardawil to a local TV channel.

“A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.

“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.

Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were “official.”

“I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” he said.””

Just as the BBC overwhelmingly avoided reporting that information at the time, it continues to have no place in the narrative promoted by Mishal Husain.

A report published by the ITIC two days before this Radio 4 broadcast went on air identifies 150 out of 187 Palestinians killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting between March 30th 2018 and January 16th 2019 as being linked to terror organisations – i.e. 80%. Of those 150, ninety-six (52%) were affiliated with Hamas and 45 of those (i.e. 24% of all the fatalities) were operatives in Hamas’ military wing.

An additional piece of information in that UNOCHA press release likewise exposes the motivations behind Husain’s framing.  Again relating to “Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in 2018” the report states that:

“…another 15 were perpetrators or alleged perpetrators of attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.”

In other words, while encouraging audiences to compare the number of Palestinians killed in “the worst year…since the Gaza conflict of 2014” with the number of Israelis killed “in the same period”, Husain airbrushed away the fact that some of the Palestinians killed were in the process of carrying out the very attacks in which some of those Israelis were murdered and concealed the fact that a high proportion of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ were affiliated with the terrorist groups that instigated, organised, financed and facilitated that violent rioting.

The obviously significant connection between “the worst year for Palestinian deaths and injuries in the West Bank and Gaza since the Gaza conflict of 2014” and the fact that Palestinians chose in 2018 to engage in terrorism and weekly violent mass rioting has of course no place in the politically motivated framing advanced by Mishal Husain.

Related Articles:

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

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

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’

 

A source quoted and promoted by the BBC gets corrected

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC often uncritically quotes and promotes information and statistics – particularly Gaza casualty figures – provided by the UN agency OCHA.

On November 21st another political NGO that has appeared in BBC content – MAP – promoted UNOCHA supplied figures in a tweet.

However (unsurprisingly to those familiar with UNOCHA’s  methodology) it turned out that those statistics were not all that they were made out to be when the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) later replied to that tweet.

And yet UNOCHA – often presented to BBC audiences as merely ‘the UN’ – continues to be among the partisan NGOs frequently uncritically quoted and promoted by the BBC, despite the corporation’s supposed commitment to accurate and impartial reporting. 

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

Revisiting the BBC’s source of 2014 Gaza casualty data

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”. 

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BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

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

 

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. 

 

 

BBC News website coverage of May 14 Gaza rioting

As we know the BBC News website refrained from providing its audiences with any background information on the topic of preparations for the violent climax to the ‘Great Return March’ events. 

Hence, audiences reading the site’s coverage of the events of May 14th had no idea that Hamas had planned that day in advance with the intention that a particularly high number of rioters would breach the border fence with the aim of forcibly entering Israeli territory and reaching nearby communities.

BBC audiences were not aware that Hamas had urged participants to “bring a knife or a gun” and to use them “to capture soldiers or residents of Israel” who, it stipulated, should be handed over to Hamas to be used as hostages.

The BBC News website produced a ‘live’ page titled “As it happened: Gaza protest violence” which actually included more entries relating to the same day’s ceremony marking the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem than it did reports on the events along the Israel-Gaza Strip border. Notably, no fewer than nine statements condemning Israel were also published on that live page, including some from political NGOs which engage in ‘lawfare‘ against Israel.

In addition to that live page, the BBC News website published an article titled “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014” which opened:

“At least 52 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

Palestinians have been protesting for weeks but deaths soared on the day the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem.” [emphasis added]

Although tagged ‘Gaza border clashes’, the 920 word article devoted over a third of its word count (314 words) to the topic of the new US embassy in Jerusalem and 126 words to background information on Jerusalem itself, including of course the BBC’s standard partisan mantra on ‘international law’.

“Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

The subject matter of the report as described in its headline received 377 words of coverage and 103 words of ‘analysis’.

Under the sub-heading “what happened at the border” readers were correctly told that the rise in the number of participants (and hence casualties) compared to previous weeks was in fact connected to a factor other than the ceremony marking the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

“There have been six weeks of protests at the Gaza border, dubbed the “Great March of Return” and led by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.

Hamas had always said it would step up the protests before Tuesday, when Palestinians hold their annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba or Catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands fled their homes or were displaced following the foundation of the Israeli state on 14 May 1948.”

The article’s limited description of the incidents themselves was as follows:

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres. […]

The Israeli military said it had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah. Aircraft and tanks had also targeted military positions belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, it said.”

BBC audiences were not told of three separate shooting incidents, infiltration attempts or arson attacks.

“At around 4 p.m., the time that the US was inaugurating its embassy in Jerusalem, military sources said Hamas-spurred groups were trying to breach the border at several spots along the Gaza fence.

The army said three of those killed were trying to plant explosives at the border fence. In three separate incidents, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at Israeli troops, according to the IDF. There were no injuries among the soldiers.

In one case in the northern Strip, the troops fired back directly. In another case farther south, an IDF tank responded to the shots fired by destroying a nearby Hamas position, the army said. […]

Numerous fires broke out in agricultural fields near Israeli communities, sparked by kites laden with containers of burning fuel flown from Gaza into Israeli territory. Firefighters were called to fight the blazes. But many farmers did not wait for help and worked to put out the conflagrations themselves, tilling the soil around the fires in order to starve out the flames.”

Notably the BBC – which has completely ignored two previous incidents of large-scale vandalism at the Kerem Shalom crossing during ‘Great Return March’ riots – likewise ignored a third incident on May 14th and readers of this article were not told that leaflets warning participants to stay away from the border fence were distributed by the IDF before the rioting began.

Readers were told that:

“Israel says the protests are aimed at breaching the border and attacking Israeli communities nearby.”

They were not informed that – as noted above – Hamas says the exact same.

“Hamas’s leader in Gaza said Thursday he hopes to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinians breach the border fence from Gaza into Israel at next week’s protests to coincide with the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem.”

There was however one welcome innovation in this article. As we have recorded over the past few weeks, previous BBC reports have repeatedly failed to clarify to audiences that the casualty figures from “health officials” that they quoted were in fact provided by Hamas. Readers of this latest report found the following:

“The health ministry, run by Hamas, said children were among those killed.” [emphasis added]

While the fact that at least one of those children was a terror operative appears to have escaped the BBC’s notice – along with Hamas’ acknowledgement that ten of the others killed were its employees – at least that is one small step towards greater transparency and accuracy.

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BBC updates Israel profile with Hamas supplied data

As noted here last month:

“…BBC reports on the events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip since March 30th 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.

Moreover, in addition to there being nothing to suggest that the figures had been confirmed by the BBC itself before they were published and aired, audiences were not informed of that lack of independent verification.”

As well as promoting the Hamas-supplied data in its news reports on the weekly propaganda stunts along the border, on May 4th the BBC News website also updated its “Israel profile –timeline” to include that unverified and unattributed information:

2018 March-May – Protests by Palestinian factions in Gaza on the border lead to clashes with Israeli troops in which at least 40 Palestinians die and thousands are injured.”

As we see, no mention is made of the fact that studies show that some 80% of those killed had links to various Palestinian terror groups and the acts of violence perpetrated under the guise of “protests” – including attempted border infiltrations – are completely erased from this timeline that forms part of a permanent BBC country profile.