Kevin Connolly joins the BBC’s Hamas demands promotion campaign

One characteristic of BBC reporting since the 72-hour ceasefire expired at 08:00 on August 8th has been confusing and cloudy presentation of the actual sequence of events which fails to adequately convey to audiences that whilst Israel agreed to extend the truce, terrorists in Gaza both broke it four hours before it expired and refused its renewal. Likewise, the fact that, from 08:01 on August 8th intense missile fire on Israeli civilians carried on for some two and a half hours before Israel responded is not made sufficiently clear.

A prominent theme appearing in BBC reporting even before the 72-hour ceasefire, but more frequently since negotiations in Cairo commenced, is context-free promotion of Hamas’ demand to lift border restrictions. To date, not one BBC report has attempted to properly explain to audiences why those restrictions were implemented in the first place or the potential effects of the lifting of a blockade aimed at preventing the flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip.

Kevin Connolly’s filmed report of August 9th for BBC television news ticks both those boxes. The report also appeared on the BBC News website under the misleading title “Strikes resume in Gaza as ceasefire ends” – with no mention of the missile attacks which preceded those “strikes” whatsoever – and with an ambiguously phrased synopsis.Connolly 9 8 strikes resume

“Renewed clashes have broken out between Israel and Hamas after the end of a three-day ceasefire.”

Connolly’s account begins with reversal of cause and effect.

“Last week’s ceasefire here is starting to feel like a distant memory. This Israeli strike on a Hamas training compound in Gaza produced a column of smoke visible across the city. Hours earlier militants fired rockets that streaked towards the towns of southern Israel. The Gaza authorities now say 150 mosques are among the buildings damaged or destroyed here. Picking through the rubble to salvage whatever can be salvaged is a daily ritual.”

Connolly refrains from providing viewers with the necessary context: the use of mosques by terrorist organisations for weapons storage, tunnel construction and so forth. He then moves on to some equally context-free promotion of the Hamas demand to lift border restrictions.

Connolly: “Many Gazans say the destruction is deepening their resolve to see their borders reopened when all this is over.”

Man: “Our demands are lie the demands of any people: freedom, independence and to have an exit to the world because we’re living in a big prison. The only way to meet our demands is to open the borders so that we can be like any other people in the world. Freedom is a right for any person and you can’t attain freedom without sacrifice.”

Significantly, Connolly obviously finds it unnecessary to point out to viewers that the border restrictions were put in place because the Israeli government believes that its citizens also have rights, including that to live a normal life free from terror attacks. Additionally, Connolly offers no context on the topic of building materials – remarkable considering that the evidence of misappropriation of such materials by Hamas for the purpose of terror is readily available –  and fails to inform viewers of the real reasons for the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip.

“Gaza is short of everything from building materials to medical supplies. Rebuilding its shattered streets could take years. Rebuilding shattered lives will take longer. The death toll is creeping towards two thousand.”

As we see, despite the BBC’s ostensible ‘road to Damascus’ moment the day before this report was produced, the reporting of context-free casualty figures continues.

It is, of course, the BBC’s obligation under the terms of its constitutional document to inform audiences in a manner which will “build a global understanding of international issues”. The abuse of that mission as manifested by the barrage of context-free politically motivated promotion and amplifiction of Hamas demands relating to border restrictions becomes more apparent by the day.  





BBC reports over ten times fewer post-truce missile hits on Israel than actually occurred

On August 9th James Reynolds produced a filmed report for BBC television news which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Violence resumes is [sic] Gaza as truce comes to an end“. Notably, the fact that the truce was broken by Gaza-based terror organisations and that missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians for several hours before Israel responded is not reflected in that title.Reynolds Shifa 9 8

The synopsis to that report as it appears on the website inaccurately informs BBC audiences that:

“Five rockets have hit in the south of Israel since the ceasefire came to an end.”

In fact, on August 8th – the day before this report was produced – sixty-one missiles were fired by terrorist groups, thirteen of which fell short endangering the local population in the Gaza Strip. Of the dozens of missiles which did explode in Israel, two caused direct hits on houses in Sderot, fortunately causing no injuries. Earlier in the day three people were injured by a mortar in the Sha’ar HaNegev area.

On August 9th – the day Reynolds produced this report – a total of thirty missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip with five of them falling short. By the time this report was posted on the BBC News website (15:32 BST), missile hits in southern Israel had been as follows: [local times]

07:36: four missiles hit Eshkol, one hit Sdot Negev.

10:05: one missile hit Eshkol.

10:59: three missiles hit Eshkol.

12:25: one missile hit Sdot Negev, one missile hit Eshkol.

15:49: one missile hit Ashkelon, one missile hit Eshkol.

16:54: two missiles hit Eshkol.

In other words, the synopsis to this report understates the number of missile hits on southern Israel after the 72-hour ceasefire was broken by terrorist groups at 04:00 and then expired at 08:00 on August 8th by at least a factor of ten.

Reynolds himself says:

“We know from Israel – Israel’s said that it carried out more than thirty airstrikes overnight and it also says that Palestinian militant groups fired at least five rockets from Gaza towards Israel.”

The Israeli sources which Reynolds cites were presumably referring to the five missiles fired early on the morning of August 9th alone, but that is not adequately clarified in this report. Reynolds goes on to show how the BBC relies on Hamas and Hamas controlled sources:

“We’re still trying to find out from Palestinian health officials how many Palestinian casualties there may have been overnight. We have suggestions from the Palestinian media that some people were hurt or even worse in Nuseirat – that’s in the centre of the Gaza Strip – and also in Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip.”

He goes on to further erase from audience view the fact that Israel agreed to an extension of the truce whilst Gaza Strip terrorist organisations breached it four hours before its end and then refused its renewal.

“So I think it’s clear that the 72-hour – that three-day ceasefire that we saw in the week – is over.”

But later on in his report, Reynolds has something very interesting to say.

“…just to explain where we are; we’re at the Shifa hospital here in the centre of Gaza. When you speak to ordinary people here, they feel that this is about the only safe place that there is in this strip of land – this or the grounds of the other hospitals here – because they believe that Israel will not target hospitals. There are actually some families sleeping outside the hospital – again, they believe that they won’t be hit here….”

In other words, the BBC knows that the ordinary people of Gaza know that Israel will not deliberately target a medical facility (or any other civilian target not used for terrorist purposes) and yet it continues to vigorously promote the myth of the targeting of hospitals in allegations made by its own reporters, in allegations made by selected interviewees and in allegations made by the politically motivated NGO Amnesty International which were amplified in two BBC articles on August 8th.

That certainly demands some explaining.  


More BBC misrepresentation of Gaza border restrictions from Wyre Davies

Between the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th and the beginning of the 72-hour ceasefire on August 5th, Israel transferred 1,856 trucks carrying 40,550 tons of supplies via the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip, including 37,178 tons of foodstuffs, 1,694 tons of humanitarian goods and 1,029 tons of medicines and medical supplies.

On August 8th, the BBC’s Wyre Davies (recently brought back to the region from his South America post and currently supposedly covering the Israeli side of the story) visited Kerem Shalom and produced a filmed report for BBC television news programmes which also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “BBC reports from blockaded Israel-Gaza border crossing“.Davies filmed 8 8

Davies elected not to confuse his viewers with the above statistics.

“This is the Kerem Shalom border crossing between southern Israel and Gaza. In fact we’re stood in – effectively – in no man’s land now. Israel over there, Gaza over there. And this is the main crossing for goods into Gaza itself. As you can see behind me, these are Gazan lorries picking up basic foodstuffs, some aid and other produce which will now then go into Gaza itself. It’s not very much and certainly it isn’t enough to feed over a million people in Gaza.”

Davies makes no effort to explain to viewers that in fact there is no limit on the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip with the exception of dual-use goods which can be (and are, as the discovery of 32 cross-border attack tunnels in the past few weeks has shown) used for the purposes of terrorism. He also fails to inform them that the Kerem Shalom terminal is in fact capable of handling larger volumes of goods than is currently the case or why that is:

“Israel has invested 80 million ₪ [shekels] to expand Kerem Shalom to accommodate up to 450 trucks daily. However, due to demand on the Palestinian side, the average number of trucks that enter Gaza each day remains between 300- 350.” [emphasis added]

Davies continues:

“And it’s the lifting of this regulated blockade which is of course one of Hamas’ main reasons and one main reason why Hamas says it will not extend the truce, the ceasefire, which lasted for 72 hours.”

What Davies’ reference to “one of Hamas’ main reasons” is supposed to mean is not clear, but certainly viewers could not be blamed for misinterpreting that as meaning that Hamas launches missiles at Israeli civilians because of the restrictions on the entry of certain goods into the Gaza Strip. The reality, of course, is that Hamas’ terrorism brought about those restrictions – not the other way round – but Davies fails to make that fact adequately clear to viewers, as has been the case in all BBC reporting on the topic of the blockade to date. Davies later says:

“There are peace talks currently ongoing brokered by Egypt in Cairo, but the two sides are still very far apart. While Hamas wants an end to this blockade of Gaza, Israelis want to demilitarise Gaza itself. But those are both proposals that neither side is prepared to countenance for now. So even if this temporary truce continues and does last for another week, month or even a year, the expectation is of course there will be another conflict at some point between Israel and Hamas over Gaza.”

Davies’ presentation of Hamas’ demand to lift border restrictions as being on a par with Israel’s proposal to demilitarise the Gaza Strip seriously misleads audiences. Not for the first time, this BBC report fails to inform audiences that according to existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) :

“Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”


“Except for the arms, ammunition and equipment of the Palestinian Police described in Annex I, and those of the Israeli military forces, no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment, unless otherwise provided for in Annex I.”

Annex I states:

“In the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Police will possess the following arms and equipment:

(1) 7,000 light personal weapons;

2) up to 120 machine guns of 0.3″ or 0.5″ caliber; and

(3) up to 45 wheeled armored vehicles of a type to be agreed on between the two sides, and of which 22 will be deployed in protecting Council installations. The use of wheeled armored vehicles in the Security Perimeter, on the Lateral Roads and on their adjacent sides, or in the vicinity of the Settlements shall be approved through the relevant DCO. Movement of such vehicles along the central North-South road (Road No. 4) in the Gaza Strip may take place only after providing notification to the relevant DCO.”

Article XV of the same treaty states:

“Both sides shall take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other, against individuals falling under the other’s authority and against their property and shall take legal measures against offenders.”

In other words, by requesting the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, Israel is in fact pressing for adherence to existing agreements – signed by the Palestinian Authority and brokered by the international community – which Hamas has breached. An understanding of that point is of course crucial to BBC audiences’ ability to understand the conflict as a whole and efforts to end this particular round of hostilities in particular. Audiences have not been provided with that information to date; had they been, they might also have better understood some of the background behind Davies’ next inaccurate statement.

“There have been four conflicts – four wars – over Gaza in the last ten years and the two sides are fundamentally very far apart.”

Those conflicts have not been “over Gaza” but escalations caused by Hamas’ continuous terrorism against Israeli civilians. Davies is not the first BBC correspondent in recent days to use the ‘four wars in ten years’ theme but audiences have at no point been informed that in fact, the residents of southern Israel have been under attack from thousands of missiles fired from the Gaza Strip since 2001.

In addition to that filmed report, Davies also produced a written version titled “After the Gaza ceasefire: Hyper-tense and under fire” which appeared on the BBC news website’s Middle East page on August 8th.Davies written 8 8

That article’s opening lines give some insight into the lack of understanding of what Hamas is and what its aims are in BBC circles: Davies is apparently under the impression that Hamas has the welfare of the residents of the Gaza Strip at heart.

“Why Hamas, and possibly other militant groups in Gaza, decided to resume firing rockets on Israel on Friday morning is perplexing.

They cite their long-standing demands that Israel should ease its economic and physical blockade on Gaza, but the one thing the war-weary and battered residents of Gaza and southern Israel need right now is calm and time to repair the damage.”

Much of that article too joins the mounting list of BBC content produced in the last few weeks which is  devoted to context-free promotion of Hamas’ demands regarding the border restrictions. 

“But, that perhaps, is part of the Hamas strategy.

They don’t want Israelis to feel safe or comfortable as long as the blockade of Gaza continues (and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem).

While Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants live, penned in, barely able to make a living – so the argument goes – why should Israelis just across the fence feel any more secure?”

Hamas’ issues with Israel of course extend far beyond any “blockade” or “occupation”, but Davies makes no attempt to inform readers of the terror organisation’s end game and stays equally mum on the topic of the Gaza Strip’s (or more accurately, Hamas’) affluent classes. He continues:

“…there’s also a realisation there will be another conflict in two or three years if the fundamental issues behind this crisis aren’t addressed.

For Hamas and its supporters in Gaza, that means lifting the blockade.

At the Kerem Shalom crossing I saw several truckloads of food, blankets and aid being transferred onto trucks on the Gazan side.

That trade (and aid) continued throughout the month-long conflict, but Gazans say it is nowhere near enough. They say they are completely dependent on what Israel decides to allow in and, for now, there are severe restrictions on building materials, concrete and other basics.

The reason for that, argues Israel, is obvious – while those materials are potentially used to build tunnels and other militant infrastructure, they’ll not be allowed in.

For Israel, the goal is peace and quiet and that means a demilitarised Gaza – something that Hamas won’t countenance in the present climate.”

There has been much promotion by the BBC of the topic of future ‘more of the same’ conflicts but no clear picture has been presented to BBC audiences with regard to the fact that Hamas’ demand to lift border restrictions – so vigorously and enthusiastically promoted by the BBC – is rooted not in concern for the welfare of the ordinary man, woman and child on the Gaza street, but primarily in the need to replenish and upgrade its weapons stocks precisely so that it can continue to instigate future conflicts in accordance with its ideology


Context-free BBC promotion of Hamas seaport demands

There appears to be a degree of confusion at the BBC with regard to the topic of one of Hamas’ many demands put forward during the current negotiations in Cairo – the demand for a seaport in the Gaza Strip. There is, however, no uncertainty about promoting and amplifying that demand. 

An article titled “Gaza ceasefire ends as Israel reports rocket fire” from August 8th states:

“Palestinian militant organisation Hamas has rejected any extension of the three-day ceasefire in Gaza, which expired on Friday morning.

It said that Israel had failed to meet its demands, including the re-opening of Gaza Harbour to shipping.”

In a filmed report from the same date (“‘We’ve seen and heard a number of explosions here in Gaza’” – notable too for its clear as mud portrayal of what preceded what on August 8th: missiles from the Gaza Strip or Israeli responses) James Reynolds stated:Reynolds 8 8 ports

“Hamas says it’s not yet got anything from those indirect negotiations…ah…in Cairo. It wants an end to Israeli restrictions and ability to use the ports of Gaza and ability…eh…to get people to come and go from the borders.” [emphasis added]

Despite James Reynolds’ use of the plural, there is one small port in the Gaza Strip, located in the Rimal district of Gaza City. Although some attempts to enlarge it were made in 2010 ahead of the ‘Mavi Marmara’ flotilla, the port remains incapable of receiving large vessels and so the accuracy of the BBC’s assertion that Hamas’ demands relate to “the re-opening of Gaza Harbour to shipping” are doubtful.

In fact, what Hamas does appear to be demanding according to most reports is the construction of a new and bigger seaport.

“According to sources close to Hamas, Palestinian envoys in Cairo continue to insist that the blockade on Gaza be fully lifted and that an agreement be reached over the establishment of seaports and airports and the opening of border crossings.” 

“[Hamas official] Al-Rishiq said Hamas would continue insisting on an end to Israel’s siege on Gaza, the release of Shalit-deal prisoners whom Israel has re-arrested, the building a seaport and an airport in Gaza, and the creation of a safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” 

The Agreement on Movement and Access signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in November 2005 after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip included provisions for the construction of a new seaport  in the Gaza Strip.

“Gaza Seaport

Construction of a seaport can commence. The GoI will undertake to assure donors that it will not interfere with operation of the port. The parties will establish a U.S.-led tripartite committee to develop security and other relevant arrangements for the port prior to its opening. The 3rd party model to be used at Rafah will provide the basis for this work.”

That project of course did not come to fruition because the party to the agreement – the Palestinian Authority – lost control of the Gaza Strip after the violent Hamas coup in 2007. Hamas of course does not honour existing agreements between Israel and the PA. 

There are two notable points about the BBC’s amplification of this particular Hamas demand on August 8th, with the first being that Egypt had already apparently made it clear to Hamas that the topic of a seaport (and an airport) was off the table.

The second notable point is that the BBC makes no effort to explain to its audiences what this demand actually means: the end of Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip – introduced in January 2009 in response to Hamas terrorism. Neither is it clarified that there exists a very high likelihood that an open seaport under Hamas control would be used as a route for rearmament and entry of materials for the construction of yet more cross-border attack tunnels similar to the thirty-two recently decommissioned by the IDF.

Yet again, the BBC fails to meet its commitment to “build a global understanding of international issues”.

“The BBC’s journalism for international audiences should share the same values as its journalism for UK audiences: accuracy, impartiality and independence. International audiences should value BBC news and current affairs for providing reliable and unbiased information of relevance, range and depth.”

Israel, of course, cannot agree to an open access seaport run by an internationally designated terrorist organization committed to its destruction and supported and enabled by Iran. BBC audiences though will have no idea why. 


How did the BBC News website report renewed missile attacks on Israel?

At 08:00 local time on August 8th the 72-hour ceasefire brokered in an attempt to bring an end to the month-long hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip expired. Israel had already agreed to its extension but Hamas (contrary to public opinion in the Gaza Strip) officially rejected any continuation of the ceasefire an hour before its end and it had in fact been breached some four hours earlier when terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired two missiles at the Eshkol region at around 04:00. At 08:01 sirens sounded in Ashkelon and the barrage of missile attacks there and elsewhere in Israel resumed. After two and a half hours of intense fire on Israeli villages, towns and cities, Israel announced the resumption of responses to attacks.

So how did the BBC News website cover those events?  The first report to appear on the morning of August 8th was originally titled “Two rockets fired from Gaza despite truce, says Israel” but that headline was subsequently changed to read “Hamas rejects Gaza ceasefire extension” and later still amended to “Gaza ceasefire ends as Israel reports rocket fire“. The report opens:end cf art 1

“Palestinian militant organisation Hamas has rejected any extension of the three-day ceasefire in Gaza, which expired on Friday morning.”

Readers are not told that Israel did agree to extend the truce until the article’s thirteenth paragraph. The fact that missiles had been fired into Israel four hours before the ceasefire officially expired is only briefly mentioned in the report’s tenth paragraph and no effort is made to clarify to readers the very relevant fact that – as the previous 68 hours of quiet showed – Hamas can stop all missile attacks by other factions when it chooses to do so.

“Palestinian militants had already launched two rockets toward Israel three hours before the truce expired, the IDF said. Hamas has denied firing them.”

Part of the report relates to the topic of casualty figures, once again citing “Palestinian officials” without proper clarification of the fact that those officials are actually Hamas functionaries. UN statistics are also presented without transparency regarding their source and the political motivations of the NGOs behind those figures.

“Some 1,940 people have died in four weeks of fighting in Gaza.

Palestinian officials say at least 1,875 people have been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July with the stated aim of halting rocket fire from militants in Gaza and destroying the network of tunnels it said were used by militants to launch attacks inside Israel.

The UN says 1,354 of those who died were civilians, including 415 children and 214 women.”

By the time this report appeared, the BBC had already published its article by Anthony Reuben concerning the need for caution with regard to reported casualty figures from the Gaza Strip. No link to that report or reflection of its content appears alongside the figures presented in this report.

A prominent theme repeated throughout the report is the topic of Hamas demands.

“It [Hamas] said that Israel had failed to meet its demands, including the re-opening of Gaza Harbour to shipping.  […]

A Hamas military wing spokesman earlier called on Palestinian negotiators holding indirect talks with Israeli negotiators in Cairo to refuse any ceasefire extension unless its long-term demands were met. […]

Hamas had been reiterating its calls for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza, the release of prisoners and the end of the Israeli offensive.”

As has been the case in much of the BBC’s recent coverage, audiences are not provided with factual background information regarding the reasons for the implementation of border restrictions by Egypt and Israel and are not told of the implications of any easing of restrictions in terms of the renewed flow of weapons and tunnel-building supplies to the Gaza Strip.

The article closes with amplification of allegations made by Amnesty International.

“On Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into what it said was mounting evidence that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked hospitals and health professionals in Gaza. The attacks have left at least six medics dead.”

With the BBC having so far done its utmost to whitewash the topic of Hamas’ use of medical facilities and having failed completely to report on the topic of Hamas’ use of ambulances during the fighting and the role played by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (cited by AI) as both a secondary source for the UN casualty figures cited earlier and an organization engaged in politically motivated delegitimisation of Israel, readers will of course lack the background information necessary in order for them to be able to view Amnesty International’s claims in their correct context.

Those same allegations by Amnesty International were also featured in another BBC News website’s report on August 8th. The fact that (following two and a half hours of incessant missile fire from the Gaza Strip) Israel responded to those attacks, apparently justified a replacement article for the one above with the last-first headline “Israel air strikes resume in Gaza amid rockets“. The opening sentence also puts effect before cause:end cf art 2

“Israel resumed air strikes in Gaza after Palestinian militants fired rockets following the end of a three-day truce on Friday morning.”

Readers have to trudge down to the report’s fourteenth paragraph before they are inaccurately informed that:

“Militants began firing missiles from Gaza shortly before the ceasefire ended at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT).”

In fact, as noted above, missiles were fired at the Eshkol region at around 04:00 – four hours prior to the ceasefire’s end – not “shortly before” – with the resulting breach of the ceasefire therefore inadequately reported by the BBC.

The crucial information that Israel had agreed to extend the ceasefire is buried in the article’s twenty-second paragraph:

“”Hamas is now continuing to fire towards Israeli civilians, while Israel fully respected the ceasefire and announced it is ready to extend it,” a senior [Israeli] official told the BBC.”

Like its predecessor and many other prior BBC items, this report also presents context-free promotion of Hamas demands.

“The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, earlier rejected any extension of the truce, saying Israel had failed to meet its demands.[…]

While Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants live, penned in, barely able to make a living – so the argument goes – why should Israelis just across the fence feel any more secure? [from an insert by Wyre Davies] […]

Hamas said Israel had failed to meet its key demands, including the lifting of the blockade of Gaza and the freeing of about 100 prisoners released in exchange for Gilad Shalit in 2011 who have been re-arrested.”

Likewise, despite the earlier appearance of the BBC’s report by its own statistician on the need to view casualty figures with caution, this article again presents such figures with none of the essential background regarding their sources and no link to that earlier BBC report.

“At least 1,922 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died, according to latest United Nations figures.”

A link is, however, provided to the inaccurate BBC article titled “The hundreds who lost their lives” which was published on the same day.

end cf art insert 2

That article by the BBC News statistician concerning the need for caution regarding casualty figures is looking more like a token piece by the day.

The BBC has yet to provide its audiences with the much-needed comprehensive overview of why border restrictions were put in place in the first place and the grave security implications of Hamas’ demand to lift those restrictions, including the potential rearming of terrorist organisations in preparation for yet more hostilities. Whilst it promotes and amplifies Hamas’ demands, the corporation continues to fail to meet it first obligation to BBC audiences to provide information which will enable them to reach informed opinions on this topic.  


BBC presentation of the August 1st ceasefire breakdown – part two: BBC television news

In this post we will look at the way in which the breakdown of the August 1st humanitarian ceasefire – breached after 90 minutes by Hamas terrorists who staged an attack on IDF soldiers decommissioning a cross-border tunnel near Rafah – was presented to viewers of BBC television news.

For the timeline of events see part one of this post.

Early on the morning of August 1st – before the humanitarian ceasefire had been breached – viewers of BBC television news saw a report by Jon Brain titled “Israel and Hamas 72-hour truce begins” in its website version. Brain opened that report with more of the BBC’s context-free presentation of casualty figures it has not independently verified.Truce filmed 1

“Released by the Israeli military, this video footage apparently shows an air strike being aborted because Palestinian children were seen moving around on the ground. But many other children have not been so fortunate; victims of a conflict which has now claimed more than fourteen hundred Palestinian lives and displaced tens of thousands of people. Sixty-three Israelis – nearly all of them soldiers – have also died.” [emphasis added]

As we see, the policy of not informing audiences that a proportion of the Palestinian casualties are terrorists and not clarifying that the source of casualty figures is either Hamas itself or politically motivated organisations continues. Later on, Brain comes up with this curious statement:

“For its part, Israel has insisted it won’t end its military operation until tunnels built by Hamas have been destroyed. It claims they’re a direct threat to Israeli security.” [emphasis added]

Apparently the BBC believes it may be possible to have a different interpretation of underground cross-border tunnels constructed by a proscribed terrorist organization which infiltrate the territory of a sovereign country. Brain also informs viewers that:

“Previous ceasefires have been broken within hours.”

Significantly, he does not however inform them that those breaches of previous ceasefires were all carried out by Hamas.

Later on, after the ceasefire had been breached by Hamas, filmed BBC report by Martin Patience was shown to television audiences -“Israel to resume Gaza operation as truce with Hamas crumbles“. As was the case in one of the written reports which appeared on the BBC News website, Patience promotes the notion that:Truce filmed 2

“People here always knew that it [the ceasefire] was going to be shaky, that – yes – there would be violations.”

He continues:

“I think there is surprise, though, that it’s crumbled after just four and a half hours and it seems to have been triggered by that very serious incident down in Rafah. The latest we have from Palestinians are that at least four Palestinian…ah….Palestinians have been killed by Israeli tank fire as you were saying David.”

Did Patience almost slip up there and say “at least four Palestinian militants”?

He adds:

“Israel says that one of its kibbutz [sic] in the southern part of the country had been attacked and it was responding to fire.”

Still later in the day, viewers of BBC television news saw a report by Nick Childs. The synopsis to that report as it appears on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza ceasefire collapses: What fate for talks?” reads:Truce filmed 3

“Palestinian sources said at least 30 people had been killed in an Israeli attack in Gaza on Friday, just hours after a ceasefire was called. A senior Israeli official said Hamas had breached the ceasefire and Israel’s response would be “crushing”.”

The report itself makes no attempt to inform audiences why the humanitarian ceasefire collapsed.

On the evening of August 1st viewers saw a report by Jon Donnison, which appears under the inaccurate and misleading title “Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’ as ceasefire ends” on the BBC News website. The actions of the Hamas terrorists were in fact what ended the ceasefire: they did not – as this title suggests – occur at the end of the ceasefire. 

Donnison’s report begins in a maternity ward, with a doctor interviewed saying:

“We hope, we hope that Israeli they respect the ceasefire and Palestinian because we have to take a risk for this massacre and this disaster in the Gaza Strip.”

Donnison then moves on to Beit Hanoun, failing to inform audiences that the area has been a major location of missile fire into Israel or to raise the very realistic possibility that some of the damage to buildings his cameraman films extensively may have been the result of the terrorists’ practice of booby-trapping houses: a subject which the BBC has not touched at all in any of its coverage. He goes on to address the topic of the breached humanitarian ceasefire, notably presenting events in an inaccurate order which misleads viewers.Truce filmed 4

“But the ceasefire was over almost as soon as it had started. More Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rockets. At least fifty Palestinians were killed today; many more were wounded. And then, from Rafah in the south of Gaza, the news that could see this conflict escalate still further. An Israeli soldier suspected to have been captured alive by Hamas fighters after they crossed the border through a tunnel. Israel says one fighter detonated a suicide belt as he emerged from underground. Two soldiers were killed and 23 year-old Hadar Goldin was dragged back into Gaza.”

Contrary to Donnison’s statements, the incident in which 2nd Lt. Goldin was abducted was the event which breached the ceasefire and it took place before any “Israeli airstrikes”. It also took place near Rafah – not, as Donnison claims, on the Israeli side of the border.

Equally inaccurate is Donnison’s later claim that Gilad Shalit was abducted “in Gaza”. That incident did take place on the Israeli side of the border.

“Hamas will see this as a huge result. It took more than five years for Israel to free the last soldier captured in Gaza, Gilad Shalit.”

Another filmed report shown to viewers of BBC television news was produced by Ian Pannell. It also appears on the BBC News website under the title “Palestinians return to gutted homes during brief ceasefire“.Truce filmed 5

Like his colleague Jon Donnison, Pannell fails to provide viewers with the information necessary to provide context to the scenes of damaged buildings shown in his report.

“…but today Gaza woke to news of a ceasefire. The guns fell silent and families cautiously walked back to their homes. This is what they found. Whole neighbourhoods gutted. Israel says it’s self-defence against a terrorist threat. [….]

The houses lie close to the border. Israel says militants built tunnels under the area. But for those who live here, it feels like collective punishment.” [emphasis added]

Pannell’s description of the collapse of the ceasefire starts out accurately from a chronological point of view, but notably he fails to identify the party which initiated the violence, promotes some Hamas propaganda and fails to inform viewers how many of those killed in Rafah were terrorists.

“It lasted just a few hours. After two Israeli soldiers were killed and an officer captured, the ceasefire was over; both sides accusing the other of breaking the truce. More than fifty people were killed in the town of Rafah.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the most accurate timeline of events in any of the filmed reports shown to BBC television news viewers came from Orla Guerin. Her report of August 1st – also inaccurately and misleadingly titled “Israeli soldier ‘captured’ by militants as ceasefire ends” in the version appearing on the BBC News website – opens:Truce filmed 6

“[…] The ceasefire was supposed to last three days. It didn’t last three hours. At half past nine 23 year-old Hadar Goldin was captured in Gaza. The soldier was taken by militants who emerged from a tunnel.”

Getting both the chronology of events and their location right – in contrast to many of her colleagues – Guerin later states:

“Soon after the latest abduction shells rained down in Rafah where the soldier was taken.”

However, Guerin repeats the same inaccuracy which appeared in Jon Donnison’s report regarding the location of the abduction of Gilad Shalit in 2006.

“It took Israel five long years to secure the release of Gilad Shalit – the last soldier taken in Gaza…”

Still later in the report, Guerin visits Kibbutz Kfar Aza and for the first time, BBC audiences hear – albeit very briefly – that not just people in Gaza have been displaced from their homes during this conflict, but Israeli residents of communities near the border too. In contrast to the ample reporting on the topic of displaced persons in the Gaza Strip, the subject of displaced Israelis has not been covered at all by the BBC.

A report by Jon Brain from the morning of August 2nd (“Gaza conflict: Hamas denies holding Israeli soldier“) seems to start promisingly when it presents the abduction and the later fire on Rafah in the correct chronological order. However, that report soon descends into promotion of Hamas propaganda, including an interview with Hamas’ Fawzi Barhoum.Truce filmed 7

“Each side is blaming the other for breaking the truce.”

“However, Hamas claims it has no information about the missing soldier and blames Israel for the renewed violence.”

Barhoum: “The Israeli enemy is the one that breached the truce when Israeli Special Forces entered the eastern side of Rafah. The Palestinian resistance clashed with them and this was our right to defend ourselves.”

Significantly, neither Brain nor any other BBC journalist reporting on this issue bothered to clarify to audiences that the Israeli soldiers who were attacked were in the process of decommissioning one of Hamas’ attack tunnels at the time – in line with the terms of the ceasefire.

As we see from this selection of filmed reports shown to viewers of BBC television news, the majority of them – like the BBC News website’s written reports discussed in the previous post – come nowhere near to informing audiences clearly, accurately and impartially of the event which breached the humanitarian ceasefire of August 1st. That failure is exacerbated by the amplification of Hamas propaganda which only serves to further prevent audiences from properly understanding why this latest ceasefire failed. 

BBC presentation of the August 1st ceasefire breakdown – part one: BBC News website

At around 01:00 local time on August 1st, the UN released a statement saying that a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire effective from 08:00 local time had been agreed.

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States Secretary of State John Kerry announce that the United Nations Representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, has received assurances that all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza,”

“This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place.”

“We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire.”

The US Secretary of State further clarified that the IDF’s decommissioning of the cross-border attack tunnels would continue during the humanitarian ceasefire.

“Kerry, announcing the ceasefire deal in the early morning on a visit to India, said Israel and Hamas will “cease all offensive military activities and neither side will advance beyond its current locations.”

“Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for those tunnels that are behind its lines, and the Palestinians will be able to receive food, medicine and additional humanitarian assistance as well as to be able to tend to their wounded,” the top US diplomat told reporters.”

Around an hour and a half after the humanitarian ceasefire came into effect, soldiers from the Givati brigade engaged in work to decommission one of those cross-border tunnels in the Rafah were attacked.

“IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, an officer in the Givati Brigade, was apparently abducted in the Rafah area of Gaza on Friday morning, in an attack perpetrated some 90 minutes after the onset of a truce. He was formally designated missing in action, an IDF spokesman said Friday. Two IDF soldiers were killed in the attack. […]

A suicide bomber and other gunmen engaged the IDF forces as they sought to decommission a tunnel. Shortly after the combined attack, it became clear to Israeli forces in the area that a soldier was missing.”

Israeli forces responded with fire to the Rafah area, with prevention of removal of the abducted soldier from the area of course being a priority.

At 10:04 – two hours after the truce commenced and half an hour after the attack on the Givati Brigade soldiers – missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at the Kerem Shalom area and at around 12:30 more missiles were fired at Be’er Sheva and Ofakim.

So let’s now take a look at how the BBC has represented that timeline of events of the morning of August 1st to its audiences. Part one of this post deals with content published on the BBC News website and part two will look at presentation of the story to BBC television news viewers.Truce written 1

An article titled “Gaza 72-hour humanitarian truce by Israel and Hamas begins” published on the BBC News website on the morning of August 1st opens with some examples of the BBC’s practice of ‘last-first’ reporting.

“Israel and Hamas have put into effect an unconditional 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

However, hours after the truce began, Palestinians said four people had been killed by Israeli fire, apparently in response to a rocket attack.

Israel accused Hamas of a “flagrant violation” of the ceasefire, but correspondents say Gaza in general appears relatively quiet.”

Further on the report states:

“During the morning life appeared to be returning to some kind of normality in Gaza, with many Palestinians heading towards heavily shelled areas to see if their homes were still intact.

But the Gaza health ministry reported that four Palestinians were killed and dozens were injured in an Israeli attack near the southern town of Rafah after the ceasefire began.

Israeli military sources told the BBC the attack was in response to rocket fire on Kerem Shalom in Israel.”

Later on the same day, that article was replaced by another titled “Israel to resume Gaza operation as truce with Hamas crumbles” which opens:Truce written 2

“The Israeli military has resumed operations in Gaza, saying Hamas broke a planned 72-hour ceasefire just hours after it had begun.

Palestinian sources said at least 27 people had been killed in an Israeli attack in Gaza. Israel said Hamas began the hostilities.”

The report includes the following ‘analysis’ from Martin Patience:

“The clashes in Rafah came just four hours into what was meant be a 72-hour ceasefire, reinforcing just how difficult it is to get truces to last beyond a very short time. Both sides will have expected such violations.”

The report also states:

“During the morning life appeared to be returning to some kind of normality in Gaza, with many Palestinians heading towards heavily shelled areas to see if their homes were still intact.

But the Gaza health ministry reported that at least 27 Palestinians were killed and 100 injured in an Israeli attack near the southern town of Rafah after the ceasefire began.”

Only in the fourteenth paragraph do readers learn anything of the real timeline of events, but they are still not properly informed of the connection between the fire on targets in Rafah – which is presented without any context in the earlier parts of the report – and the attack on Israeli soldiers in the Rafah area and the missile fire into Israel.

“Israeli foreign affairs spokesman Yigal Palmor told the BBC that Israeli forces had retaliated after being attacked in what seemed like a planned move by Hamas.

“There was a full-scale attack on an Israeli unit and this unit had to respond,” he said.

“After it responded, Hamas started firing rockets on Israeli territory again and therefore the fighting resumed all along the line.”

The report also includes an insert titled “Ceasefires timeline” which states:

“Friday 1st August: Israel and Hamas agree 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire from 05:00 GMT, but Israel resumes operations within hours accusing Hamas of violations.”

Also on August 1st the BBC News website opened a live page under the title “As it happened: Israel soldier ‘captured’“. There, readers were informed under the heading “Key Points” that:Truce written 3

“The violence ended a 72-hour ceasefire – each side accusing the other of breaking the truce.”

The page’s ‘report’ section opens with the following confused and inaccurate account:

“The end of the truce – mediated by the US and UN – came two hours after firing ceased at 05:00 GMT. It follows a militant attack into Israel after which Israelis killed at least eight people near the Rafah border crossing in the southern tip of Gaza.” [emphasis added]

That section further confuses readers by promoting the following:

12:20: Kate Benyon-Tinker BBC News, Gaza: Hamas’s spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “The Israelis are the ones who breached the ceasefire, and the Palestinian resistance acted in a way that ensures its right of self-defence. The world is demanded to immediately interfere to stop the ongoing massacres against our people”.

12:33: BBC Monitoring BBC News : The Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV in an urgent caption at 11:15 BST cites Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri saying Israel’s claim that one of its soldiers has been captured in Gaza is “an attempt to mislead and to justify its retreat from the calm and to cover monstrous massacres especially in Rafah”.

12:52: The Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, have released a statement blaming Israel for breaking the ceasefire. They said that Israeli forces had moved into eastern Rafah overnight and had been met with resistance by Palestinian fighters this morning. They also accused Israel of the random shelling of eastern Rafah.

13:01: Hamas: “We hold the Israeli occupation responsible for breaking the ceasefire and carrying out a massacre in Rafah”.

16:54: However, Fatah and Hamas both say it was the Israelis who broke the truce. Fatah spokesman Husam Zomlot told the BBC Israel continued its bombardment throughout the ceasefire period.

Later on August 1st another article appeared on the BBC News website under the inaccurate and misleading title “Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’ as ceasefire ends“. That report states:Truce written 4

“Friday’s violence comes after a ceasefire brokered by the US and UN to give civilians a reprieve from the violence collapsed.

During the morning many Palestinians headed towards areas that had been heavily shelled areas to see if their homes were still intact.

But fighting then resumed, with Israel and Hamas accusing the other of breaking the ceasefire.”


“But Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoun [sic] said: “The Israelis are the ones who breached the ceasefire, and the Palestinian resistance acted in a way that ensures its right of self-defence.”

Another Hamas official said the announcement of the soldier’s capture was “a justification for Israel retreating from the truth and a cover-up for massacres”.”

On the morning of August 2nd a report titled “Gaza conflict: New exchanges amid Israeli soldier hunt” appeared on the BBC News website but provided no better clarification to audiences seeking to understand why the humanitarian ceasefire broke down.Truce written 5  

“A 72-hour ceasefire had been agreed, starting from Friday morning, but collapsed hours later.

Hamas accused Israel of breaking the ceasefire but the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had been forced to respond to militant rocket fire.”

An additional report from the morning of August 2nd titled “Gaza conflict: Hamas denies holding Israeli soldier” also states:

“Hamas accused Israel of breaking the short-lived ceasefire but the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had been forced to respond to militant rocket fire.”

As we see, none of the six items above adequately clarifies to BBC audiences the actual sequence of events. The incidents in Rafah are presented in a disjointed, context-free manner which fails to clarify to readers the connection between them and the preceding attack against Israeli soldiers. As usual, no attempt is made by the BBC to determine whether any of the casualties in Rafah were terrorists.

Hamas claims are presented to audiences as though they were plausible versions of events and the promotion of Hamas propaganda appears in several of the reports. Notably, no attempt is made to provide audiences with any perspective concerning the possible connection between Hamas’ obviously false claims and its need to placate its Qatari and Turkish backers as well as other parties which took part in brokering this latest humanitarian ceasefire.  

Part two of this post will look at the way in which the same events were presented to BBC television audiences.



Why has the ‘impartial’ BBC adopted Hamas terminology?

Over the past week or so, the BBC has put considerable effort into amplifying and promoting Hamas’ main pre-condition for a ceasefire: the removal of border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to terrorism against their citizens carried out by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Documentation of some of those BBC efforts can be seen here, here, here and here.

In the past few days, however, we have seen a shift in the BBC’s approach to the topic. No longer content with ‘merely’ providing context-free advertisement for the demands of a proscribed terror organisation, the BBC has now adopted that organisation’s terminology, ditching its former use of the phrase “economic blockade” for the inaccurate and partial term “siege”.

Here is a screenshot from the July 28th edition of BBC Two’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight’.

Screenshot Newsnight 28 7  siege

One presumes that the BBC is familiar with the Oxford English Dictionary. Here is its definition of a siege:

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

A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them – sometimes at its own expense – in its own hospitals.

Israel of course does all of the above – and more – and critically, Israel’s aim is not to compel “those inside to surrender”, but to prevent in as far as is possible the flow of weapons and dual-use goods which can be used to manufacture weapons into the Gaza Strip because for fourteen years its own civilians have been under attack by terrorist organisations located there.

So why does Hamas insist upon inaccurately calling the border restrictions implemented by Israel and Egypt a “siege”? Firstly because it sounds much more dramatic for propaganda purposes and enables it to assume the role of the attacked. Secondly, any real and honest presentation of the situation should prompt observers to ask why those restrictions were implemented in the first place and that leads to the subject of Hamas terrorism, which does not line up with the current Hamas strategy of presenting itself to the world as the freedom-loving champion of impoverished, besieged Palestinian victims.

Another example of this recent embrace of the language of that terrorist organization was seen on July 30th in yet another filmed backgrounder report produced by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Robbins. The item was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza conflict: Is there hope for a ceasefire?“.Robbins 30 7 siege

There, Robbins distinguished himself by managing to present BBC audiences with an inaccuracy and/or a serious omission in almost every sentence of his report.

“It’s almost three weeks since Israeli airstrikes against Hamas in Gaza began.”

What preceded those airstrikes – almost a month of incessant missile fire on Israeli civilian communities – is not communicated to BBC audiences.

“All the appeals to both sides to stop have so far failed.”

Not so. The actual timeline of events reads thus:

  • 15 July: Israel accepted the ceasefire initiated by Egypt and stopped all fire at 09:00. However, terrorists fired more than 50 rockets at Israeli communities. Only after six hours of continuous rocket attacks did the IDF respond.
  • 17 July: Israel agreed to a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire. The terrorist organizations rejected it and fired rockets, including at the city of Be’er-Sheva.
  • 20 July: Israel approved a two-hour medical/humanitarian window in the area of Shejaiya, following an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) request. Forty minutes after the ceasefire began, Hamas violated it. Nevertheless, Israel implemented the ceasefire, even extending it for two more hours.
  • 26-27 July: Israel respected an UN-requested humanitarian ceasefire from 08:00-20:00 on Saturday, 26 July. Israel announced its readiness to prolong the ceasefire until midnight, but a few minutes after 20:00, Hamas renewed firing rockets at Israeli civilians. On the same day (26 July), Hamas announced a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire, at 14:00. Hamas violated its own ceasefire a short time later.Despite Hamas’ continuous fire, Israel decided to extend the humanitarian ceasefire a second time, from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday.
  • 28 July: Israel accepted Hamas’ request for a ceasefire in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The IDF was instructed to cease military attacks, but Hamas continued to launch rockets at Israel.
  • 30 July: Israel announced a temporary humanitarian ceasefire between 15:00-19:00. A few minutes after the ceasefire began Hamas fired rockets at the southern cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, as well as other Israeli communities.

Robbins goes on:

“The scale of civilian death and suffering in Gaza has opened up rifts between Israel and her traditional ally the United States, creating another layer of mistrust.”

Aha – that must be why the US has just approved a new transfer of military equipment to Israel.

“Israeli deaths, although much lower and overwhelmingly of soldiers – not civilians – continue to rise. It’s a price Israel’s leaders believe has to be paid to disarm Hamas completely.”

Robbins makes no effort to inform viewers of two very significant factors which contribute to the difference in the numbers of civilian casualties in Israel and Gaza: Israel’s extensive investment in civil defence, including the Iron Dome, and Hamas’ use of civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields. Then, for the second time in six days, he misrepresents the aim of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip: a topic on which he goes on to inaccurately elaborate.

“So what is still driving this conflict? Why is the search for a ceasefire proving so difficult? Partly because Israel’s overriding aim is to disarm the militant Palestinian organization Hamas completely. To destroy so much of its arsenal that it would be hard for Hamas to rearm in the future. Israel needs more time to continue that destruction.”

Remarkably, Robbins fails to inform viewers of the rather critical fact that Hamas is an internationally proscribed terrorist organization.

The disarming of Hamas was never declared an objective of this operation by Israeli leaders. Its often repeated aim is to enable the civilians of Israel to live their lives quietly and securely without missile fire from terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. The attempted cross-border tunnel infiltration by Hamas terrorists on the morning of July 17th made a ground operation to neutralize Hamas’ attack tunnels necessary. Whilst many politicians and members of the general public in Israel are of the opinion that Hamas should be disarmed and the Gaza Strip made into a demilitarized zone for the wellbeing of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, it was never Israel’s declared (and unrealistic) aim to destroy every last missile in the Gaza Strip.

Robbins continues, with use of Hamas terminology both in his narration and in the accompanying illustrative graphic.

Robbins 30 7 seige lge

“The Hamas priority is to force the lifting of the siege of Gaza and get Israel to commit to that before – not after – a ceasefire. For the past eight years the thin sliver of land which is the Gaza Strip has been largely cut off, with Israel and Egypt controlling all movement in and out across its borders – of people and supplies as well as food – while the Israeli navy blockades Gaza from the sea.”

Once again, Robbins fails to inform BBC audiences what brought both Egypt and Israel to implement border restrictions, but of course it is rather difficult to explain Hamas terrorism if one has already avoided any mention of the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Despite Robbins’ obviously deliberate attempt to mislead viewers, there are of course no restrictions on the entry of foodstuffs to the Gaza Strip; the only controlled items are dual-use goods which could be used for the purpose of terrorism.

He carries on with still more use of Hamas terminology:

“But the siege hasn’t stopped Hamas building a network of concrete reinforced tunnels under its borders and arming itself with rockets to fire at Israeli towns and cities.”

Notably, Robbins makes no attempt to explain to audiences the purpose of those tunnels and – like all BBC reporting in the past three weeks – fails to mention which regional actors have helped Hamas to arm itself and why the removal of border restrictions would make rearming – and further conflict – inevitable in the future.

Robbins then goes on to display the full extent of his lack of Middle East expertise.

“And there are wider reasons why it’s so difficult to stop the fighting. Israel insists that Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist and says it can never trust Hamas if it’s committed to destroying the Jewish state. But Hamas won’t trade away that big card – at least until peace talks are at such a stage that they’re much closer to delivering an independent Palestinian state.”

Frankly, it is becoming excruciatingly embarrassing to see a succession of so-called BBC experts claiming that Hamas would down arms and disband if only a Palestinian state came into being. The fact that this grossly inaccurate notion is pawned off to BBC audiences as analysis not only shows the lack of competence at work, but also the inability of BBC staff to come to terms with the unpleasant underlying realities of the conflict.

Robbins then brings in an expert – Dr Hisham Hellyer – whose decidedly non-academically objective sentiments on the topic are easily identifiable on his Twitter feed.

“So expert observers suggest this current conflict can have no good outcome.”

Hellyer: “I think it produces yet another generation of people in Gaza who will not be interested in securing Israel’s security but ensuring Israel’s insecurity. And I think that bombardment is simply not going to work. It may delay another period of disquiet, as the Israelis put it, but that’s all it’s going to achieve; a delay.”

Robbins closes:

“For now the killing seems unstoppable. Both sides want any eventual ceasefire to look like their victory. And so far, neither side has got what it wants.

Beyond the glaringly obvious problem presented by the fact that a publicly funded Western media organisation has chosen to embrace, amplify and promote the language of a proscribed terror group, there is clearly another very simple issue at stake with the BBC’s adoption of the term “siege” in relation to the Gaza Strip: it is not accurate.

And not only does it not accurately describe the situation, but its use actively prevents BBC audiences from understanding why border restrictions do exist. Remarkably, despite this topic being the subject matter of numerous BBC reports over the past week or so, the BBC apparently thinks it acceptable to fob off audiences with dumbed-down Hamas propaganda rather than to accurately and comprehensively explain the issue. 


What word is missing from BBC reporting on Gaza?

If we take a ‘zoom out’ look at BBC reporting since July 8th on the current hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip, one obviously very significant factor is its almost exclusive focus on the micro.

BBC audiences have seen, heard and read ample reporting at ground level, with the overriding emphasis being the portrayal of the effects of the conflict on civilians in the Gaza Strip and the majority of still and filmed images showing destroyed buildings, civilian casualties, hospitals and residents who have fled their homes.

However, as we have noted here previously, audiences have seen, read or heard very little indeed about the terrorist activities of Hamas and other organisations which initiated these hostilities. Apart from the occasional tepid interview with a Hamas spokesman and rare vague references to “gunfire” or “rockets fired”, BBC audiences could quite well reach the mistaken conclusion that this is a story exclusively about Israeli military strikes and civilians.Gardner filmed 22 7

But zooming out even further, we see that there is one word in particular which has been remarkably absent from all BBC reporting and that word is Iran. The issue of where many of those missiles currently being launched at Israeli civilian communities came from apparently fails to arouse the curiosity of BBC reporters, who have put great effort into promoting the theme of “homemade rockets“. The subject of Iranian training and financial support for Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been completely absent from the picture presented to BBC audiences, meaning that this conflict is being framed solely in terms of a powerful Israeli military assault on an impoverished and beleaguered Palestinian civilian population.

One rare occasion upon which the word Iran did make it into BBC coverage of Operation Protective Edge was seen in a backgrounder report produced by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner, aspects of which were previously discussed here. That July 22nd report purported to explain to BBC audiences “why is Middle East truce so hard to broker?” and in it Gardner informed them:

“Three years ago Hamas had more allies in the region. Now the whole political map has changed. Egypt has switched rulers from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to the secular Sisi. Syria and Iran were once big supporters of Hamas but relations have been strained by Hamas’ sympathy for the rebels in Syria. Qatar is now the sole big benefactor for Hamas, but Qatar is not an acceptable mediator for the Israelis.”

The graphic accompanying Gardner’s voice-over shows Iran being erased from the map of Hamas supporters under the title “Hamas isolated”, with the clear suggestion to viewers being that Hamas no longer enjoys Iranian support.

Gardner filmed 22 7 Iran erased graphic

But does Gardner’s backgrounder provide BBC audiences with an accurate view of the situation? One person who would probably disagree with this BBC analysis is Ahmad Jibril of the PFLP-GC who recently told Al Manar TV – run by Iran’s proxy in Lebanon Hizballah – the following.

“After 2008, hundreds of our young people left the Gaza Strip for Syria, Lebanon, and Tehran, to train and to learn how to improve these weapons,” Jibril said referring to Hamas’s missiles. […]

… Jibril described the route by which arms were smuggled from Syria to the blockaded Gaza Strip, explaining that the armed [arms] from Iran can’t be transferred by the Persian Gulf because it “is under surveillance.”

“We transferred [the missiles] from the airports in Damascus to Khartoum, from Khartoum to Port Sudan, and from there to the Sinai. From the Sinai, they were transferred via tunnels to the Gaza Strip,” the Palestinian faction leader explained. “The brothers in Hezbollah established cells of Bedouin and so on in the Sinai Desert. You could transfer the weapons to them, and they would get them into Gaza.” “

And it seems that the Iranians themselves might take umbrage at Gardner’s suggestion that Hamas no longer enjoys their support, with their deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian having told the same Hizballah TV station on July 27th that:

“Even under the worst conditions, Iran maintained good ties with Hamas. During the recent crisis, we were in direct contact and held consultations with Hamas, with Ismail Haniya, and with Hamas Political Bureau head Khaled Mash’al.

Two days ago, the Iranian foreign minister called Khaled Mash’al and talked with him for 20 minutes. This was a very important and productive conversation.

We regularly support Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and all factions of the Palestinian resistance.”

It seems too that Iranian intentions are not limited to the Gaza Strip.

“A former adviser to Iran’s defense minister said this week that Tehran would seek to arm Palestinians in the West Bank with “strategic weapons” including missiles to target Tel Aviv and Haifa. […]

“A new front must be opened from the West Bank, after it has been armed, especially with missiles,” Mousavi said in comments relayed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, “because we know very well that the distance between the West Bank and Tel Aviv, Haifa, and other areas is much shorter than the distance from Gaza. Therefore, simple means are required. There is no need for long-range missiles. Short-range missiles can change the entire picture in the occupied lands.” “

Those remarks should be viewed in conjunction with a comment (not reported by the BBC) made recently by Khaled Masha’al at a press conference in Qatar.

“Mashal said the Gaza-based group “would not accept an initiative that does not include lifting the blockade. Today Israel is worried about what happened at Ben Gurion Airport. Do you want a blockade in return for the blockade? Today the resistance in Gaza can blockade you, in the future it will from the West Bank.” ” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s failure to adequately inform audiences of the Iranian factor in this conflict (and also the Qatari one; an entire topic in itself) clearly means that it is falling short of its obligation to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues”. But that failure also has an additional, more immediate effect.

The past few days have seen extensive BBC amplification of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demand to remove border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to the actions of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Yet not one BBC journalist has made any real effort to place that demand within the crucial context of the rearming of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip, the import of dual-use goods and building materials for the reconstruction of attack tunnels and the shared agenda of terrorist organisations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other actors in the wider region.

That’s one very serious ‘oversight’ for an organization which claims to set the standards for international journalism.  

BBC’s Ian Pannell does a convincing impression of Al Aqsa TV

“BBC News aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism…” [source]

On July 28th BBC television news audiences viewed some of that ‘standard setting’ journalism in the form of yet more unchallenged Hamas propaganda, this time facilitated by Ian Pannell. The item also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Hamas: ‘We are getting killed but we won’t give up’“. Pannell’s ‘interview’ (and that term is used very loosely here) with Hamas spokesman Ehab al Ghossein begins with the latter saying:Pannell int Hamas spox

“This my relatives, my people. Maybe I’m gonna get killed in the next hour. So; whenever we stand in front of this Israeli occupation that…this army that has no ethics – they are just killing civilians, kids, and the world is watching – the only thing I have is to continue standing in front of it. To continue to resist in front of it. I’m looking for my freedom and I know that the price of freedom will be high so I…nobody can make me give up or hold the white flag without getting my freedom and this is the sense for all the Palestinians. We are paying, we are getting killed but we won’t give up.”

Does Pannell bother to point out to BBC audiences – and al Ghossein – that the Gaza Strip has not been under “Israeli occupation” for nine years? In light of that fact, does he dig deeper in order to give viewers some sort of insight as to how Hamas defines ‘occupation’ and which geographical areas its definition actually includes? Does he pick up on the glaring aberration of an internationally designated terrorist organization – which has targeted Israeli civilians with thousands of military grade missiles for fourteen years and sent dozens of suicide bombers to carry out carnage in Israeli cafes, shopping malls and buses – lecturing BBC viewers on “ethics”? The answer to all those questions is of course no. Instead, Pannell allows al Ghossein a platform from which to cynically commandeer the language of human rights, turning a violent, antisemitic terrorist organization into a popular movement for “freedom”.  

Pannell then tries to steer al Ghossein towards expatiation of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands – a theme we have seen being advanced repeatedly in BBC coverage in recent days.

“So let’s talk about those objectives. What are the key demands of Hamas? You say that you will abide by a humanitarian truce during Eid. The implication is you will resume the conflict after that until you get – what?”

EaG: “Well the problem is in the Israelis who are keeping to kill us. Not us. They started this war and they continue…”

Pannell interrupts, but not to clarify to audiences that al Ghossein’s version of events is inaccurate and untrue. Instead, Pannell is looking for advancement of his selected theme.

“But the objectives that would lead to the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian people saying enough…”

EaG: “Well…err…nobody will tell the Palestinians to stop defending themselves. The problem is the Israelis who are continuing to kill my people. And so I’m telling you…”

Pannell still hasn’t got what he came for.

“I’m just keen to know…yeah…what is it that you actually want now?”

Finally, al Ghossein responds to Pannell’s repeated prompts and the buzz words arrive.

EaG: “The solution is easy. We’re talking about two million people living in a big jail. 140 square miles with…err…no borders, with no products, with no electricity. There is no life. It’s a slow death since eight years. What we are looking for is lifting the siege, opening the borders and this is actually our rights. We shouldn’t get with all this blood. We should get it without anything but the problem is unfair international community that keep in silence since eight years in front of them.”

Predictably, Pannell makes no effort to ask his interviewee why – if it is so concerned about conditions in the Gaza Strip – Hamas initiated, carried out, allowed and facilitated the terrorism in the territory under its control which brought upon the population there the implementation of border restrictions by both Israel and Egypt in order to protect their own civilians. Neither does Pannell bother to enquire whether – in the event of the lifting of border restrictions – Hamas will rearm with the help of its foreign sponsors Iran and Qatar and continue to carry out terrorism against its neighbouring countries. He goes on:

“Are you any closer to achieving those aims now than you were one month ago?”

EaG: “Well we believe that we are going to get and achieve our goals. It’s not our goals as Hamas goals – no: it’s the Palestinian goals. And whatever happened we won’t change our stance. We look our freedom. If they kill all of us, all of us at all, we should get in the end our freedom. The only thing we have is dignity. We’re saving our dignity and looking for our freedom whatever surprise is continue to happen.”

As an aspiring “standard-setter for international journalism” the BBC should be deconstructing Hamas propaganda in order to help audiences cut through the terrorist organisation’s rhetoric and understand the real issues at stake, but audiences have not seen that happen at any time during the last three weeks. This lackluster performance by Ian Pannell in which he failed to challenge even one of al Ghossein’s falsehoods on the one hand and facilitated the portrayal of a terrorist organization as some sort of troop of benevolent human rights campaigners on the other, shows yet again that in its reporting from the Gaza Strip, the BBC’s ‘standards’ are much more in line with those of the propaganda spouting Al Aqsa TV run by its Hamas hosts.