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…”

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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. 

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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.

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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

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.

 

 

When does the BBC need ‘independent verification’ – and when not?

As has been noted here recently, 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.

There is of course nothing novel about the BBC unquestioningly promoting statistics supplied by the Hamas terror organisation: after all, it did exactly that during the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Not only did the BBC fail to independently verify the casualty figures and civilian/combatant casualty ratios which it presented to its audiences during that conflict but – despite there also being no publicly available evidence of any such verification having been carried out after the conflict ended – it continued to quote and promote unverified data sourced from interested parties and has even defended its own use of statistics provided by a terrorist organisation.

In contrast, here is a statement appearing in a BBC News report from April 8th titled “Syria war: At least 70 killed in suspected chemical attack in Douma“.

Here is a statement appearing in another BBC report – titled “Syria conflict: Israel blamed for attack on airfield” – dating from April 9th.

In other words, while the BBC found it appropriate to tell audiences that the information in those two reports from Syria has not been independently verified, in reports concerning Israel it was once again perfectly happy to promote casualty figures provided by a terrorist organisation with no such caveat.

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BBC continues to promote anti-Israel campaign with ‘ancestral lands’ theme

h/t AM

With the BBC now having produced over a week’s worth of reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt organised by Hamas and additional terror factions in the Gaza Strip together with foreign Muslim Brotherhood linked activists, we can begin to identify patterns of reporting in the corporation’s multi-platform coverage.

One theme that has been repeatedly evident on a variety of platforms is context-free promotion of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. BBC audiences have not however been told on what that demand is based, what its aim actually is, what it means for the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ or why the people making that demand continue to be categorised as refugees.

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

On March 6th a spin-off from that theme appeared: the description of Israel as “ancestral lands” of Palestinian refugees:

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

One may have thought that BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality would have prompted the use of terminology such as “what Palestinians see as their ancestral lands” (particularly seeing as only two years of residency in Mandate Palestine is required to meet the UN definition of refugee) but that was not the case in either the written article or in radio reports promoting the same theme.

The March 6th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item (from 29:05 here) billed thus:

“Palestinians say Israeli troops have killed at least six people on Gaza’s border with Israel. As Israel is criticised by human rights groups inside and outside the country we hear from a military spokesman.”

Presenter Chris Mason introduced that item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Mason: “When you hear or use the word smokescreen, the chances are the conversation is actually indulging in a spot of imagery about a ruse designed to disguise someone’s real intentions. But along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip today, a smoke screen was a literal description of the tactic deployed by Palestinians. The choking black clouds – the result of burning tyres – had a simple purpose: make it harder for Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border to shoot protesters in Gaza.”

Obviously listeners would be likely to erroneously conclude from that portrayal that anybody and everybody protesting “in Gaza” is liable to be shot – rather than those engaged in violent rioting right next to the border fence or attempting to infiltrate it. Mason then promoted another falsehood with the claim that all Palestinian refugees were “forcibly displaced”.

Mason: “This was the second week of a planned six-week protest set to end on the 15th of May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ or catastrophe in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.”

He continued with promotion of another now well-established theme: unquestioning repetition of casualty figures provided by the “Palestinian health ministry” – but without clarifying that the ministry concerned is run by Hamas – one of the organisers of the publicity stunt.

Mason: “Today six Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces according to the Palestinian health ministry and – as they did last week – the forces fired teargas to repel those at the border.”

Listeners then heard the “ancestral lands” theme.

Mason: “The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel but Israel says the militant group Hamas which dominates Gaza is staging the rallies in order to launch attacks. Our correspondent Yolande Knell has spent the day with a 72 year-old Palestinian man who was one of the protesters today.”

Knell: “This is Jabaliya; one of eight refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. It’s really overcrowded. The streets are narrow with breeze-block buildings. I’ve come to the home of a retired English teacher Ahmed Abdullah to hear his story.”

Abdullah: “Here are the deeds. This was recorded in 1940 through the British Mandate. My mother took me there and she showed me every inch belongs to me.”

Knell: “Ahmed and his mother were the only survivors from their large family in the fierce fighting that followed the creation of the State of Israel. He comes from Hulayqat village, just to the north of Gaza but was brought up here. His family’s land is now an agricultural community in Israel.”

Listeners were given no context whatsoever to that story. They were not informed that Hulayqat was located along the route linking Jewish communities in the Negev to the centre of the country or that in the rioting that preceded the War of Independence, together with the inhabitants of two more hostile neighbouring villages, the residents of Hulayqat regularly harassed Jewish travelers along that road and blocked it. Neither were they told that armed Egyptian volunteers were already located in the area or that Hulayqat was the site of a British military post from which it was possible to control the route to the Negev. With the expectation of invasion by Arab armies, immediately before the War of Independence began the Palmach conducted Operation Barak in order to prevent the Jewish communities in the Negev from being cut off by the Egyptian army. Hulayqat was taken on May 13th 1948.

Knell’s interviewee went on:

Abdullah: “Now Israelis called it Heletz. They built a moshav on the land, on the village, and called it Heletz. Because the Israeli thought one day that the oldest will die and the smallest will forget. We cannot forget. We cannot forget. We know that this is our country and one day we will return back. One day. After 10 years, after 50 years, after 1,000 years – we will return back.”

Knell: “How do you feel about the protests that have been taking place here?”

Abdullah: “I’ve been there. I should be in the front. I lived the whole tragedy. I lived all my life as a refugee. They are talking about my life, about my land, about my future for my sons and grandsons. All people, all the people in the whole world they have countries. They live in countries. We as Palestinians, our country live inside us.”

Knell: “But Israel completely rejects the Palestinians’ right to go back to that land. Is it realistic to keep talking about the right of return to those villages?”

Abdullah: “Of course. It is like an [unintelligible]. We started in Gaza; we began to put pressure on the Palestinians who [unintelligible] to move, move you are a refugee not to leave us alone in Gaza and we will ask the Palestinian refugee in Lebanon to move and also the Jordanian. We want to return back.”

Although it has been clear in some of her other reports that Yolande Knell knows full well that Hamas is one of the co-organisers of this publicity stunt – and is also financing it – listeners then heard another recurrent theme: the downplaying of Hamas’ involvement.

Knell: “When the Israelis say it’s just Hamas that’s trying to stir up violence…”

Abdullah: “It is not Hamas. It is not Hamas. It is people. I’m not Hamas. I don’t believe in Hamas thoughts. I’m secular, not religious. So I took a part.”

Knell: “So you think they’re just one of the parties?”

Abdullah: “Yes but they [Israel] want to cover it with Hamas to show us as we are terrorists. We are not terrorists. We are the victim of terrorism.”

Knell: “So Ahmed, you and some of your 25 grandchildren and I have come now to the protest camp east of Jabaliya on the border with Israel. There’s a big crowd here and we can see Israeli soldiers by the fence across a field. There are tyres burning. There’s been some tear gas fired. It feels very dangerous. The idea is to continue these demonstrations until the middle of May. Are you ready to keep coming back?”

Abdullah: “Yeah. We are not fed up. We are not tired. We will continue day by day. We are on the right way to implement our right of returning to our home and land.”

That item continued with Chris Mason interviewing the head of the political NGO B’tselem about his organisation’s call for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders (also promoted in a written BBC report on the same day) and that was followed by an interview with an IDF spokesperson.

A TV version of Yolande Knell’s one-sided and totally context-free amplification of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ was also seen by viewers of BBC Four’s ‘World News Today’ and an edited version of Knell’s interview with Ahmed Abdullah was heard by listeners to the March 6th evening edition of the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ (from 18:05 here), with presenter Julian Marshall once again unquestioningly quoting Hamas casualty figures and telling listeners that:

“…in similar protests last Friday in support of the demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel, 16 Palestinians lost their lives.”

Listeners to an earlier version of ‘Newshour’ on the same day (from 49:32 here) heard similar promotion of Hamas-supplied casualty figures that have not been independently verified by the BBC and were told by Yolande Knell that:

“The Palestinians…they’re calling for the right of those original 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza – which is about 1.3 million of the 2 million population – to be allowed to go back to their land which is now in Israel. Israel has long rejected such a claim but the Palestinians here say they’re going to keep up these protests until the middle of May when it will be the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel when those hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes or forced to flee.”

The BBC has now had well over a week in which to provide its audiences with the background which would facilitate their understanding of why Israel (and the pro two-state solution international community) ‘rejects’ the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’. In light of its continued failure to produce any such reporting, one can only conclude that the BBC’s intention is not to meet its remit as a supplier of “impartial news and information” but to provide amplification for that anti-Israel political campaign.  

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BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

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BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

 

 

 

 

BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

On April 6th the BBC News website published a report originally titled “Gaza-Israel border clashes erupt as protests begin” which was subsequently updated several times and now appears under the headline “Deadly unrest on Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians resume protests“.

The background to the story as presented to readers included a description of Israel as “ancestral lands” of Palestinian refugees:

“The protesters are demanding that refugees be allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel. […]

“Israel took everything from us, the homeland, freedom, our future,” 27-year-old protester Samer told Reuters news agency. “I have two kids – a boy and a girl – and if I die, God will take care of them.” […]

Hamas and other groups organising the six-week protest campaign, dubbed the Great March of Return, say they are peacefully calling for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to land they fled from or were forced to leave in 1948, when Israel was created.”

As has been the case in previous BBC reporting on the same ongoing story, no effort was made to clarify to readers that the vast majority of the people described as refugees are in fact descendants of refugees or that the aim of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ is in fact to eradicate the Jewish state:  a goal that it is incompatible with the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Instead the BBC settled for the following opaque statement:

“The Israeli government has long ruled out any right of return…”

Readers were told that ‘Israel says’ that some participants in the publicity stunt were trying to breach the border.

“But Israel says the militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, is staging the rallies in order to launch attacks. […]

The Israeli government…says terrorists are using the cover of the protests to try to cross illegally into its territory.”

However, the BBC failed to inform its audiences that Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip made it clear that breaching the border is indeed the aim of the agitprop.

“He [Yahya Sinwar] said the world should “wait for our great move, when we breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

Arriving at one of the demonstration sites, Sinwar received a hero’s welcome. He was surrounded by hundreds of supporters who chanted, “We are going to Jerusalem, millions of martyrs.”

As has also been the case in all BBC reporting on this story to date, the article quoted and promoted casualty figures provided by the “health ministry” without clarifying that it is run by Hamas – the terror group co-organising the ‘Great Return March’ – and with nothing to suggest that the information had been independently verified by the BBC.

“Ten Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during fresh protests on Gaza’s border with Israel, Palestinian health ministry officials say. […]

One of those killed in the latest unrest was Yasser Murtaja, a journalist with the Gaza-based Ain Media agency, the health ministry in Gaza said. […]

Gaza’s health ministry said a 16-year-old boy was among those killed by Israeli gunfire, and that more than 1,300 other people were wounded.”

Notably, the BBC had nothing to say on the topic of the environmental pollution caused by the burning of thousands of vehicle tyres as part of Friday’s agitprop.

“Piles of tyres were set on fire in an attempt to create a smokescreen to block the view of Israeli snipers, as thousands of protesters gathered at five sites along the 65km-long (40-mile) Israel-Gaza border for fresh protests on Friday.”

It did however promote a dubious interpretation of ‘international law’ put out by the spokesperson of a severely compromised UN agency.

“A spokeswoman for the UN high commissioner for human rights warned that, under international law, firearms could be used only in cases of extreme necessity, as a last resort and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury.”

The BBC also found it appropriate to provide readers with a link to a campaign statement on the website of the political NGO it most quoted and promoted during 2017.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called on Israeli soldiers to refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators.”

Readers were not informed of criticisms of that controversial call to disobey orders.

As we see the BBC’s coverage of this story continues to fail to provide audiences with the background information on the Palestinian maximalist demand for the ‘right of return’ that is essential for full understanding of this latest bout of Hamas agitprop.

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