BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

As long-time readers will be aware, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 the BBC failed to independently verify casualty figures and civilian-combatant casualty ratios provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its coverage during and since that conflict was based on data obtained from partial sources which it promoted to audiences without fact-checking.

Since then BBC journalists appear to have ceased trying to independently verify information provided by a terrorist organisation and instead adopt a qualifying ‘he said-she said’ approach which includes describing all Gaza Strip casualties as “Palestinians”, regardless of whether or not they belonged to terror groups.

Here are some examples from the first two days of BBC reporting on the recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in bold added]

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza’:

“Israeli aircraft also targeted PIJ rocket-launching units in two separate strikes, according to the IDF. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported that three Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza.”

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant’:

“Violence escalated after Israel killed PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Four more Palestinians were also killed. […]

Three Palestinians were killed in air strikes in northern Gaza, one of which targeted a group preparing to launch a rocket, Israel said.”

November 12th 2019, BBC World Service radio, ‘Global News Podcast’:

Tom Bateman [03:40]: “And inside the Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have resumed. The latest is they targeted two people on a motorbike that Israel says were a rocket launching unit. One of those people has been killed…”

November 13th 2019: BBC Radio 4,Today’:

[0:34:39] Mishal Husain: “There are fears of a further escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza after 24 hours of violence in which a Palestinian commander was killed by Israel, rocket attacks from Gaza injured Israelis and Palestinians were killed in further Israeli strikes on the territory. […] Tom, first what do we know of those latest Israeli strikes and the Palestinians who died?”

Tom Bateman: “…Palestinian media reporting that one Palestinian has been killed in those strikes so that brings the total of Palestinians who’ve died over the last 24 hours, including Abu al Ata the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader that was targeted by the Israelis yesterday, that total number to eleven.”

[2:33:07] Mishal Husain: “…rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring Israeli civilians and Israeli airstrikes have killed another 14 Palestinians.”

Tom Bateman: “By nightfall [on November 12th] health officials there had said in addition to al Ata and his wife, another 8 Palestinians had been killed. Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad militant sites including people trying to launch rockets.”

Mishal Husain: “And the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says there’s now a total of 16 people who have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes, including the Islamic Jihad commander and his wife.”

November 13th 2019, BBC World Service radio,Newshour’:

[09:19] Tim Franks: “More Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. At least 23 are reported to have died in the territory.”

November 13th 2019, BBC News website,Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death’ – version 7:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 26 Palestinians, including three children, had been killed by Israeli fire by Wednesday evening. […]

The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas militants, said three children were among the 23 people killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday.

PIJ said the dead included members of its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades. Khaled Faraj, a field commander, was killed in a strike in central Gaza.”

As we see, the BBC made no attempt in any of those reports to independently verify the claims of various parties. Neither was any effort made to inform audiences in its own words of how many of those killed in the Gaza Strip were members of terror groups – even when they had been identified as such by their own organisations.

The BBC cannot possibly claim that such an editorial policy contributes to meeting its public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding” and offering  “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers” so that “audiences can engage fully with major… global issues”.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

BBC Complaints defends its use of Hamas supplied casualty figures

BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

NPR covers up Islamic Jihad casualties (CAMERA) 

 

 

BBC’s UK reporting hindered by its own record on Gaza casualties

On November 4th the BBC News website published a report titled “Labour Coventry South candidate Zarah Sultana apologises for ‘celebrate deaths’ post” on its regional ‘Coventry & Warwickshire’ page and on its ‘Election 2019’ page.

Interestingly, although the article was apparently not deemed relevant for publication on the website’s ‘UK’ or ‘England’ pages, it did for some reason appear in the ‘updates’ section of its ‘Middle East’ page.

“A Labour general election candidate has apologised for saying she would “celebrate” the deaths of world leaders, including Tony Blair.

Zarah Sultana wrote on social media in 2015: “Try and stop me when the likes of Blair, Netanyahu and Bush die.””

Readers are told that:

“She [Sultana] told the BBC the tweets were from a “deleted account dating back several years from when I was a student”.

“This was written out of frustration rather than any malice,” she said in a statement, explaining that her anger had arisen “from decisions by political leaders, from the Iraq War to the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians, which was condemned by the United Nations”.”

That reference to “the killing of over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, mostly civilians” of course relates to Operation Protective Edge which began after Palestinian terrorists launched hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians and dug tens of underground cross-border tunnels to facilitate terror attacks. Notably the BBC’s report made no effort to introduce that relevant context or to inform readers that the claim that the Palestinian casualties during that conflict were “mostly civilians” is questionable.

That will of course come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the BBC’s own track record on the subject. Over five years after that conflict there is still no evidence of the BBC having ever independently verified the civilian/combatant casualty ratios which it continues to promote.

Instead, as noted here in the past, the BBC quotes figures attributed to “the UN” which are in fact sourced from the controversial report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council more than a month before the conflict ended (originally headed by William Schabas) that was published in June 2015. 

A close look at that report’s methodology shows that the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health in Gaza” is one source of the report’s data, together with the UNOCHA “Protection Cluster”. As has been noted here previously, that “Protection Cluster” includes political NGOs, some of which also have a financial relationship with UNOCHA.

And so, with the BBC having spent over five years amplifying casualty figures and debatable civilian/combatant casualty ratios supplied by Hamas and NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel that were funnelled through a UN agency and subsequently promoted in a controversial and biased UNHRC report, it is hardly surprising that the corporation’s journalists are incapable of informing their domestic audiences that according to studies, a significant proportion of the Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge were terrorist operatives.

Also notable is the fact that although this BBC report is based on an article published by the Jewish Chronicle which notes Ms Sultana’s prior connections to the controversial advocacy group MEND (see p21 – 30 here), the BBC apparently did not consider it necessary to communicate that information to its ‘Coventry & Warwickshire’ audiences.

 

BBC News promotes a claim it previously amended in February

Some three hours after Hizballah had attacked an army base and a military vehicle with guided anti-tank missiles near Avivim on Israel’s northern border on September 1st the BBC News website published a report headlined “Hezbollah fires rockets into Israel from Lebanon”. The report opened with a description of Hizballah which avoids any mention of the fact that it is a terrorist organisation.

“The Lebanese Shia Muslim militant group Hezbollah has fired several anti-tank rockets into northern Israel in retaliation for a reported Israeli drone attack in Beirut last week.

Israeli military sources confirmed rockets had been fired at an Israeli army base and military vehicles.

The Israeli army responded by attacking targets in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah sources reported several Israeli casualties, but Israel said no-one had been injured on its side.”

The report went on to tell readers that:

“The Lebanese military earlier said an Israeli drone had entered its airspace and dropped incendiary material on a forest along the border.

The Israeli army has acknowledged it started a fire. Tensions on the frontier escalated in recent days.”

The background to those opaque statements is as follows:

“The Israeli military fired artillery shells into a disputed portion of land on the Lebanese border on Sunday, amid soaring tensions along the frontier, a Hezbollah-affiliated news outlet reported.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed conducting “activities” in northern Israel, which sparked a fire near the border, but refused to comment on the nature of those actions.”

Significantly, readers of this report were told nothing of the fact that according to UN SC resolution 1701, Hizballah should have been disarmed years ago and should not be operating south of the Litani River. Neither was any information given concerning the failure of UNIFIL ‘peacekeepers’ and the Lebanese Armed Forces to stop this latest attack by the terror group.  

Readers were told that:

“The Hezbollah attack and Israel’s response represent the most serious border incident between the two parties in recent years.”

Depending on how one defines “recent” one could of course argue that the 2015 Hizballah attack in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven injured was significantly more serious.

Later versions of the report closed with a portrayal of the Second Lebanon War which failed to inform audiences that Hizballah instigated that conflict.

“In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long conflict that killed more than 1,000 civilians, most of them Lebanese.”

Following a complaint from BBC Watch in February of this year the BBC News website amended three reports promoting a similar statement in order to clarify that the unverified claim that most of the Lebanese casualties were civilians came from the Lebanese government.

As those three reports stated, 43 Israeli civilians were killed during that conflict which means that the BBC is now claiming that at least 957 Lebanese civilians also died.

Estimates of the total number of Lebanese casualties during that 2006 war range from 1,035 to 1,200. As has been pointed out here on several previous occasions, while the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants, Lebanese officials did report even before the conflict was over that some 500 of the dead were Hizballah personnel and UN officials gave similar figures while Israeli estimates stand at around 600 (of whom 450 were identified with certainty: see page 55 here). In August 2006 the BBC News website acknowledged that “there are no reliable figures” for the number of Hizballah combatants killed in the war that had just ended at the time.

In other words, despite having acknowledged seven months ago that the civilian casualty figures it quoted were based on statements made by a government held hostage by the Iranian terrorist proxy Hizballah, the BBC News website has resumed the practice of promoting inflated Lebanese civilian casualty figures that it has not independently verified.

Related Articles:

BBC News website amends Second Lebanon War claim

Los Angeles Times Corrects on Lebanese Casualties in 2006 War (CAMERA)

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

 

 

BBC News recycles past inaccuracies and invents new ones

On the morning of May 5th the BBC News website published an article titled “Gaza conflict: Rocket barrage and Israeli strikes intensify” which replaced its previous report on the same story.

Most of the article’s ten versions include a sub-section titled “How does the flare-up in violence compare?” in which readers are told that:

“It is the one of the most surges [sic] in violence since the conflict of July and August 2014.

In that year, Israel launched a ground offensive on Gaza following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers.”

That erroneous portrayal of the lead-up to Operation Protective Edge has been promoted by the BBC on numerous occasions in the past. It misleads audiences because the BBC has completely airbrushed from view the hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets in Israel between the date of the kidnappings – June 12th 2014 – and the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th. It was of course that surge in missile fire which was the reason for Israel’s military action, with the later discovery of dozens of cross-border tunnels prompting the subsequent ground operation. The military operation could have been avoided had Hamas elected to take advantage of the ample opportunities it was given to stop the missile fire before July 8th, but the terrorist organisation chose not to do so.  

The sub-section continues:

“The conflict resulted in the death of 67 Israeli soldiers. Hamas and its allies launched more than 4,500 rocket strikes that killed six civilians in Israel.

On the Palestinian side, 2,251 people, including 1,462 civilians, were killed in the seven-week conflict, according to the UN.”

That portrayal is also not new to BBC content. As has been noted here in the past the source of those Palestinian casualty figures attributed by the BBC to “the UN” is in fact the controversial report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council more than a month before the conflict ended (originally headed by William Schabas) that was published in June 2015. 

A close look at that report’s methodology shows that the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health in Gaza” is one source of the report’s data, together with the UNOCHA “Protection Cluster”. As has been noted here previously, that “Protection Cluster” includes political NGOs, some of which also have a financial relationship with UNOCHA.

As we see, nearly five years on from the 2014 conflict the BBC is still amplifying casualty figures and debatable civilian/combatant casualty ratios supplied by Hamas and NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel that were funneled through a UN agency and subsequently promoted in a controversial and biased UNHRC report. Moreover, there is no evidence of the BBC having ever independently verified the civilian/combatant casualty ratios which it continues to promote.

The article continues: [emphasis added]

“Since then, Palestinian militants have continued to carry out sporadic strikes on Israel.

In a previous wave this year, in March, several rockets were fired into southern Israel, triggering raids on Gaza by the Israeli air force. No fatalities were reported on either side.

In early April a ceasefire was brokered by Egypt, but Hamas and allied militant groups later accused Israel of violating its terms.”

In 2018 there were 1,119 rocket and mortar shell hits in Israeli territory but the BBC failed to report 55% of the incidents it now portrays as “sporadic”. What the BBC describes as “several rockets” – i.e. “more than two but not many” – fired in March 2019 was in fact a barrage of over 60 projectiles and eight additional incidents took place during the same month.

As we see the ‘background’ provided to BBC audiences in this article fails to meet any reasonable definition of accurate and impartial reporting and problematic mantras from past years are simply recycled without adequate fact checking.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC yet again erases terrorist missile fire which led to summer conflict

BBC radio stations promote Hamas ‘health ministry’ propaganda

BBC News reporting on rocket attacks marred by inaccuracy and omission

BBC News again promotes false claims concerning death of Gaza baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

As we saw in a previous post, a BBC News website article uncritically amplified the findings of a UN Human Right Council inquiry into the ‘Great Return March’ while portraying violent rioting as “protests”, failing to explain the aim of the demand for ‘right of return’, refraining from noting the long-standing UNHRC bias against Israel, failing to clarify the inbuilt bias of the inquiry’s mandate, ignoring the fact that a significant proportion of those killed in the violent rioting have been shown to be linked to terror groups and promoting the false notion that under-18s, paramedics and journalists are exclusively ‘civilians’.

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 also heard reports on the same story – but were they any better?

The February 28th edition of ‘The World Tonight’ included a news bulletin (from 03:45 here) in which audiences were told that: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Newsreader: “Israel has rejected a UN report which found that the country may have committed crimes against humanity when its soldiers fired on Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip last year. In nine months of demonstrations 189 people died including 35 children. Investigators said there could be no justification for killing children and people clearly marked as journalists and medics. The Israeli government described the document as a new record of hypocrisy and lies.”

In addition to failing to clarify that the report was commissioned by the partisan UNHRC, that portrayal once again frames violent rioting as “demonstrations” and the people taking part as “protesters”. As in the BBC’s written report, the investigators were blindly quoted with no clarification of the fact that some of those “children and people clearly marked as journalists and medics” have been shown to have links to terror groups.

Later on in the same programme (from 20:35), presenter James Coomarasamy interviewed one of the report’s authors in relation to what he began by describing as “a highly critical report by the Human Rights Council”.

Coomarasamy: “It examined the deaths last year of nearly 200 people who were shot by Israeli soldiers during protests along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. The Bangladeshi lawyer Sara Hossein is one of the report’s authors.”

Coomarasamy did not clarify to listeners that none of the report’s three authors have any expertise in military operations.

Following an overview from Hossein of the inquiry’s findings, Coomarasamy noted that:

22:14 Coomarasamy: “You call them civilian protests. You acknowledge though that there were militants among the protesters. They were organised by Hamas.”

Hossein: “We don’t actually say that the protests were purely organised by Hamas. We say that Hamas as a political body had involvement in the organising and that Hamas members did take part in the protests as well.”

Coomarasamy failed to challenge Hossein’s absurd claim of a distinction between ‘political’ Hamas and its ‘armed wing’.

Later on in the interview (23:50) Coomarasamy did raise the topic of UNHRC institutional bias against Israel but despite acknowledgement of that issue by former UN officials, presented it using the BBC’s favoured ‘Israel says’ formula.

Coomarasamy: “The Israeli government says that you have […] an obsessive hatred of Israel, essentially saying that you single out Israel for these kinds of investigations and other countries in the region simply do not get the same kind of scrutiny.”

Hossein responded with the claim that “we’ve carried out the task that was given to us”, to which Coomarasamy replied:

Coomarasamy: “You don’t accept that Israel gets singled out, that it gets far deeper and closer scrutiny than other countries in the region?”

Hossein: “We interpreted our mandate as being to look at all parties and to look at their responsibility in the context of the protests.”

Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify to listeners that the mandate predetermined that the ‘Great Return March’ events were “civilian protests” and instead moved on to the question of “what do you expect Israel to do with this?” to which Hossein replied:

Hossein: “We have said they should cease the killings of civilians. I cannot see why that is not an acceptable recommendation to make. Why is the killing of an 11 year-old or a 13 year-old or a 14 year-old or a double amputee or a paramedic or a journalist – why and in what context can that be justifiable?”

Rather than informing listeners of the numerous cases in which under-18s, journalists and paramedics have been shown to have links to terror organisations and asking Hossein why the commission ignored Hamas’ own statements regarding the affiliations of many of the dead, Coomarasamy closed the conversation there.

That crucial omission was likewise relevant in Coomarasamy’s subsequent interview with Israel’s representative at the UN in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter. During that conversation Coomarasamy repeatedly promoted the UNHRC’s talking points.

Coomarasamy: “But in the context of what happened – the deaths for example of the children, of people in wheelchairs – how can you justify using live ammunition against them? Was it a mistake by the Israeli Defence Forces? Were they following the rules of engagement?”

Coomarasamy: “…but the question that this report is posing is why did Israeli soldiers fire live rounds at people who were identifiable as children. That must be a question that Israel needs to ask itself.”

Coomarasamy: “So are you disputing that children and people with disabilities were killed by fire from the Israeli forces?”

Coomarasamy: “Is Israel looking into those deaths though of the children and others – innocent civilians.”

As we see, Coomarasamy promoted the absurd notion that minors, people with disabilities (the UNHRC report includes one example of a deaf person, though how IDF forces were supposed to know that is not made clear), paramedics or people wearing ‘Press’ vests are automatically “innocent civilians” regardless of their affiliations or actions at the time.

Previously the same day Radio 4 listeners had heard another dose of unchallenged UNHRC messaging – although significantly, that body was not mentioned by name – in the ‘World at One’ news bulletin (from 05:14 here).

Newsreader: “A UN investigation into the deaths of nearly 200 Palestinian protesters on the border with the Gaza Strip last year has concluded that war crimes may have been committed. 35 children were among the dead. Israel has rejected the report as a theatre of the absurd. Imogen Foulkes reports from Geneva.”

Foulkes: “The investigators say there are reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers and children even though they were clearly recognisable as such. Israel has always said its actions were a defence against terrorism but the UN report concludes the protests were civilian in nature with clearly stated political aims. The report does however criticise Hamas for failing to stop some of its supporters using incendiary balloons which caused fear and some damage to property in southern Israel.”

Once again we see uncritical and unquestioning amplification of the UNHRC report, including the term “war crimes” which, as NGO Monitor explains, is inapplicable given the legal framework selected by the commission.

“…according to the Commission, the violence along the Israel-Gaza border was not a “military” or “combat” situation and therefore human rights law was the appropriate standard. Therefore, its conclusion that “human rights violations may also constitute “war crimes” is baseless, since war crimes can only where the laws of war are applicable.”

BBC coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ has been highly unsatisfactory over the past eleven months, meaning that audiences come to this latest story without the background information necessary for its proper understanding. As we see, rather than try to make up for the serial failure to clarify that what it uniformly portrays as “protests” and “demonstrations” is actually violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts, the BBC elected to unquestioningly amplify the UNHRC report which dovetails with its own existing politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

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

 

 

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

On February 28th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Gaza protest deaths: Israel may have committed war crimes – UN” which opened as follows:

“Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes while responding to Palestinian protests on the Gaza border last year, UN human rights experts have said.

A commission of inquiry investigated the killing of 189 Palestinians between 30 March and 31 December 2018.

It found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognisable as such.

Israel’s acting foreign minister said it rejected the findings outright.”

As has been documented here over the past eleven months, the BBC’s reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting has uniformly portrayed the events as “protests” and “demonstrations” and has repeatedly downplayed or erased their violent nature. This latest report continued that framing.

“Palestinians have been taking part in protests along the border since last March as part of a campaign, dubbed “the Great March of Return”, in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

As has been the case in previous BBC reporting, no explanation of the significance of that “declared right” and the fact that the aim of that demand is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state was provided to readers.

Over the past eleven months we have also repeatedly documented the fact that the BBC has downplayed or erased Hamas’ role in initiating, organising and facilitating the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. In this report, however, the BBC had no choice but reflect the UNHRC’s acknowledgement of Hamas’ role.

“The campaign has been organised by the militant Hamas movement – which dominates Gaza and is designated a terrorist group by Israel – and other groups.”

Hamas is of course also designated as a terrorist group in whole or in part by additional countries and bodies including the EU, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Japan and Canada.

Obviously this report could not be complete without provision of an overview of both the UNHRC’s longstanding anti-Israel bias and the one-sided mandate of the specific ‘investigation’ which led to the publication of the report which is its subject matter. The BBC however failed to provide readers with that crucial information.

“The commission of inquiry, which was set up by the UN Human Rights Council in May, said on Thursday that more than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers at designated protest sites over nine months.

It investigated the deaths of 189 Palestinians at the sites on official protest days and found that Israeli forces had killed 183 with live ammunition. Thirty-five of the fatalities were children, while three were clearly marked paramedics, and two were clearly marked journalists, the commission found. […]

Unless undertaken lawfully in self-defence, intentionally shooting a civilian not directly participating in hostilities is a war crime.”

The BBC’s article continues to quote the UNHRC report and its authors at length, including the following:

“Sara Hossain, a Bangladeshi lawyer and a member of the commission, said: “We are saying that they have intentionally shot children. They have intentionally shot people with disabilities. They have intentionally shot journalists.”

The BBC’s article made no effort to explain to audiences that the fact that some of the fatalities were children or “clearly marked paramedics” or “clearly marked journalists” does not exclude the possibility of links to terror organisations.

For example in May 2018 the BBC published a report in which it was claimed that “one paramedic was killed and several others were wounded on Monday as Israeli troops opened fire during the protests.” That same paramedic appeared in a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.

Journalists killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting have also been shown to have links to terror groups:

“An examination of Ahmed Abu Hussein’s identity revealed that in addition to being a media person, he was also a PFLP operative. The PFLP’s military wing issued formal death notices for him on its website. […]

According to Israeli security sources, Yasser Murtaja had served for years as an officer with the rank of captain in the Hamas security services in the Gaza Strip. The same sources added that he was an active operative in the security services and greatly assisted them in their activity on a daily basis.”

Among the under-18s killed were those with direct links to Hamas who were sent to sabotage the border fence while others – such as Ahmad al-Sha’ar [also al Shaer] who is named on page 9 of the UNHRC report – were terror operatives (see page 20 here).

In fact around 80% of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ have been shown to be affiliated with terror factions – a fact totally ignored by the BBC in its unquestioning amplification of this UNHRC report.

Thus BBC audiences were denied the ability to judge for themselves the UNHRC’s preposterous claim that the violent rioting is “civilian in nature”.

“…it [the commission] concluded the demonstrations were “civilian in nature”, with clearly stated political aims, and that despite some acts of significant violence they did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”

So much for the BBC’s public purpose obligation to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in BBC reporting of Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’

Why did the BBC News website erase an accurate statement?

Examining UNHRC statements uncritically amplified by BBC News

UK government’s UNHRC statement not newsworthy for the BBC

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

BBC again amplifies Gaza claims from political activist medic

 

 

 

 

BBC News website amends Second Lebanon War claim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BBC News website concluded its reply as follows:

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

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

The December 4th article now reads:

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

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

The December 19th article now reads:

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

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

The January 17th article now reads:

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

The footnote added to all three reports reads as follows:

 

BBC audiences materially misled by inaccurate claims from ‘Hardtalk’ host

Earlier this month we noted that the BBC had ignored a protest march organised by teenagers living in communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

“Since the BBC began reporting on the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting over seven months ago, BBC audiences have seen the grand total of one minute and twenty seconds of coverage reflecting the point of view of residents of the Israeli communities close to the Gaza Strip-Israel border who are affected by the violence.”

That particular protest did eventually get a very brief mention in one radio programme over a week later but BBC audiences have heard nothing of the many additional protests organised by those affected by terrorism from the Gaza Strip, both before and after the last serious incident in mid-November.

“Residents of the Gaza border and their supporters protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday night [August 18th 2018 – Ed.], demanding the government to “restore the sense of security.”

The protesters called out “We’re not cannon fodder” and “Bibi, Bibi, wake up, the south is burning”—referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname.

They carried signs saying: “The south is on fire” and “We’re tired of burned fields and weeping children.””

And:

“Hundreds of residents from southern communities, which were battered by recent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, protested in Tel Aviv on Thursday [November 15th, 2018 – Ed.] against a truce reached with the Hamas terror group and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. […]

It followed two days of protests in which southern residents burned tires and blocked the entrances to cities battered by Gaza rocket fire in protest of the ceasefire, which they say has left Hamas poised to renew attacks at will. […]

The truce prompted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to resign on Wednesday and has drawn criticism from some residents of southern Israel who accuse the government of being soft on Hamas.”

That serially withheld context is critical to audience understanding of the subject matter of an edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ that was aired on the BBC World News and BBC News channels on November 23rd (available in the UK here) and on BBC World Service radio on November 26th.

“Israel’s seemingly indestructible Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dodged another political bullet. After the recent flare up of violence in Gaza, his defence minister quit and another key cabinet hawk- Naftali Bennett, said he would go too if he wasn’t given the defence portfolio. The prime minister called his bluff, and Mr Bennett, who speaks to HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur has decided to stay put after all. What’s behind the chaos in Israeli politics? Are the right wing factions putting their own interests before those of the nation?”

A similar introduction was given by presenter Stephen Sackur. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sackur: “Israeli politics is always fractious but the last few days have taken the plotting and manoeuvering to another level. The spark was a major flare-up of violence in and around Gaza. An Israeli Special Forces raid [sic] was followed by a sustained volley of militant rockets fired into Israel, with Israeli bombers then responding from the air. The violence ended in an uneasy ceasefire which the hawkish defence minister opposed and prompted his resignation. Another key Israeli cabinet hawk said he would go too if Prime Minister Netanyahu didn’t give him the defence job. The PM called Naftali Bennett’s bluff. Rather than prompt a government collapse, the education minister then backed down. So what on earth is causing this political chaos in Israel? Why is there so much mutual mistrust and loathing on Israel’s right-wing? Well the man at the centre of recent storms, Naftali Bennett, joins me now from Jerusalem.”

The programme followed the usual format employed by Sackur when interviewing an Israeli official or public figure in which he lays out pre-prepared lists of things he considers to be wrong with Israel based on quotes from usually predictable sources – in this case mostly the UN. The opening third of the programme was devoted to domestic Israeli politics: a topic which to most viewers and listeners would be unfamiliar and of little interest.

At 08:15 minutes into the interview, Sackur posed a question-cum-monologue which promoted inaccuracies that are materially misleading to audiences.

Sackur: “You’ve decided to stay in the government. You’ve said – and I’m quoting you again – ‘the ship of Israel’s security has sailed in the wrong direction’. It seems to me that what you’re saying is that – particularly with regard to Gaza – what Israel has done in recent years – including, let us not forget, several wars, the last of which in 2014, Protect…Operation Protective Edge, killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the UN says at least 65% of those Palestinians were civilians and we know that hundreds of them were children – you’re saying that Israel’s besieging tactics in Gaza – the fact that Gaza doesn’t really have power supplies that work, it doesn’t have clean water, it has a jobless rate of 60% or more – you’re saying all of this isn’t tough enough; that Israel should be hammering Gaza harder. Is that it?”

As long-time readers know, the BBC has made absolutely no effort to independently verify the casualty figures and the debatable civilian-combatant ratios that it has been quoting and promoting for over four years, despite their dubious and partisan sourcing.

Notwithstanding the BBC’s efforts to persuade audiences otherwise, the Gaza Strip is not subject to “besieging tactics” and – as the BBC well knows – the chronic shortages of electricity and potable water in the territory have nothing to do with Israel’s counter-terrorism measures but are the result of internal disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Equally misleadingly, Sackur presented the youth unemployment rate (age 15 to 29) as the general unemployment rate, which is actually lower.

After his interviewee had clarified that his calls for firmer action relate to Hamas rather than the people of the Gaza Strip, Sackur interjected with a re-run of his questionable statistics.

Sackur: “Just look at the record, Mr Bennett. I don’t want to repeat myself but the last big assault on Gaza killed more than two thousand Palestinians, most of whom were civilians. We see in our media every week the images of the stand-off between Palestinian protesters who have…sometimes they have stones, sometimes they have flaming torches. They go to the fence. They are shot by Israeli service personnel. We have seen hundred…more than a hundred killed, thousands wounded. And you’re telling me that you want the Israeli army and the Israeli air force to up the ante and kill more people? That’s what you’re saying.”

Readers may recall that just two months ago in an interview with another Israeli official, Sackur used a very similar and equally inaccurate portrayal of what he – and the BBC in general – portrays as ‘protests’, thereby erasing both the severity of the violence and the fact that a significant proportion of those killed had links to the Gaza terror factions which initiated, organise and facilitate the violent rioting. The conversation continued:

Bennett: “I have a better suggestion: that the Palestinians stop shooting rockets at Israel.”

Sackur: “I’m…I don’t know if you’re maybe not understanding my question but when you respond to the rocket fire that we saw as part of that recent flare-up in Gaza, you respond with your air force. Sometimes you respond with troops on the ground. But the reality is – and the record shows it – that the people who suffer are the civilian population, including children. That is the reality. And you want more of it.”

Sackur later pursued his chosen theme further:

Sackur: “Let’s talk about the reality of the UN reaction. We’ve seen the recent – now he’s retired – but the recent UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Zayd Raad al Hussein, say that Israel’s response is suggestive of something entirely and wholly disproportionate and he looks at the casualty figures on the Palestinian side. We also know that the International Criminal Court is still investigating what you did in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Do you understand that the scrutiny being brought to bear upon Israel goes right through the international community and runs the risk of tarnishing Israel’s reputation in a very significant way?”

Further on in the programme audiences heard Sackur misrepresent Bennett’s proposals concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before claiming that “if Israel pursues your vision it will end up being an apartheid style state”. When Bennett noted the failure of the 2005 Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip to bring calm, Sackur retorted with yet another inaccurate and misleading reference to a ‘siege’ which does not exist.

Sackur:”If, if you intended to besiege…if you intended to lay siege to the West Bank as you did to Gaza, there might be some relevance to that but of course that’s not on the table because you’ve got all these Jewish settlements which you intend to annex…”

photo credit: Sderotnet

Leaving aside the issue of Sackur’s style of interviewing, it is perfectly obvious that his aim in this programme was not to provide BBC audiences with insight into the context to the defence minister’s resignation, not to explain the differences between the approaches of different Israeli politicians to the 17 year long plight of Israeli civilians living under the shadow of terrorism that includes attacks using military grade projectiles and not to answer the questions posed in its own synopsis:

“What’s behind the chaos in Israeli politics? Are the right wing factions putting their own interests before those of the nation?”

Rather – as usual – Sackur was intent on promoting his own agenda: in this case primarily to focus audience attentions on civilian suffering in Gaza and allegedly ‘disproportionate’ Israeli actions. In promoting that agenda, Sackur tossed accuracy and impartiality out of the window, citing dubious casualty ratios, promoting the notion of a non-existent ‘siege’, distorting unemployment figures and falsely claiming that Israel’s actions have brought about power and potable water shortages.  

So much for the BBC’s obligation to provide audiences with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards…”

Related Articles:

The Gaza related protest the BBC ignored

BBC’s Hardtalk presenter claims Israel ‘slaughters civilian protesters’

 

BBC’s Bowen saw no human shields in Gaza – but reports them in Mosul

The BBC has recently produced several reports concerning an incident in Mosul, Iraq, in which a large number of civilians are alleged to have been killed during a strike on ISIS forces.

Battle for Mosul: US investigating deadly air strike‘ BBC News website, March 25th 2017

“The US military has acknowledged that aircraft of the coalition fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq hit a location in west Mosul where dozens of civilians were reportedly killed. […]

The US Central Command said the planes acted at the request of Iraqi security forces. It did not name which country’s aircraft carried out the attack.

In its statement, it said “an initial review of strike data” indicated that an air strike on 17 March was carried out in western Mosul “at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties”.

The coalition “takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment has been opened to determine the facts surrounding the strike”, it went on.

The details of what happened are still unclear, but reports have suggested the strikes killed more than 100 people. The number of victims could not be independently confirmed.”

UN fears 200 died in coalition air strikes on Mosul‘ BBC News website, March 25th 2017

“The United Nations has raised grave concerns about reports of high civilian casualties in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

A senior UN official in Iraq said she was stunned by accounts of “terrible loss of life”, after claims that at least 200 people had been killed in air strikes by the US-led coalition.”

Mosul offensive: Iraq denies air strike caused civilian deaths‘ BBC News website, March 26th 2017

“Iraq’s military has cast doubt on reports that an air strike by the US-led coalition caused the deaths of dozens of civilians in west Mosul.

Instead it blamed explosive booby-traps set by so-called Islamic State (IS).

The US said on Saturday that it was investigating an air strike on 17 March at “the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties”.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was in Mosul when those allegations concerning civilian casualties emerged.

Thousands flee Mosul over fear of air strikes‘ Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news and BBC News website, March 25th 2017

“The people who’ve been coming in have been talking about what they’ve been through. They’ve talked about airstrikes that have come in in the last few days and killed – as well as killing people from Islamic State – have killed hundreds of civilians. They’ve complained that the jihadists have used them as human shields. But they’ve also – in tears and in anger – spoken very bitterly about the effects of airstrikes on civilians. I spoke to multiple witnesses who said that there are perhaps hundreds of bodies still lying in the rubble that people can’t get to.”

‘No pause to attacks against IS’ in West Mosul‘ Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news and BBC News website, March 26th 2017

“Earlier there were some suggestions that the Iraqis had paused their offensive because of the airstrike that killed so many civilians but the evidence here is that is not happening…”

“…I’ve seen them [Iraqi forces] using some quite primitive, inaccurate weapons. Now that may help when it comes to killing the fighters from the jihadist group Islamic State but if they’re inaccurate they may well also kill more civilians if civilians are in the area that is being attacked.”

Death is all around in Mosul‘ Jeremy Bowen, BBC radio, March 27th 2017

Bowen: “He [interviewee Mahmoud] was furious that so many civilians had died in the airstrikes.”

Mahmoud: “They are still under the rubble. No-one has saved them yet. The airstrikes are non-stop. They are happening 24 hours a day. They are killing innocent people. Why are they attacking us? We did not do anything wrong.”

Bowen: “Do you think this is the way to fight Daesh – to fight Islamic State?”

Mahmoud: “It’s not the right way to fight ISIS because it doesn’t distinguish between civilians and ISIS fighters. The fighters are living among civilians. They enter the houses by force and when an airstrike hits it kills both the fighters and civilians. They use civilians as human shields.”

In July 2014 Jeremy Bowen produced several reports from the Gaza Strip concerning civilian casualties.

Israel defends Gaza military campaign‘ Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 11th 2014

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100’  Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 11th 2014

“Israel says it tries hard to make sure civilians don’t get killed. It says it targets Hamas and its fighters. […] The UN human rights commissioner says there’s serious doubt Israel is complying with the laws of war that protect civilians.”

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya  Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 12th 2014 (discussed here)

Bowen: “Belligerents are obliged under the laws of war to protect civilians. The UN has already asked whether Israel is working in the way that it should to fulfil those obligations. After the attack on the centre for the disabled, it is clear that the Israelis have some serious questions to answer.”

Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 14th 2014 (discussed here)

Bowen: “Back in Gaza in the bombed fishing port, Raji Sourani – a Palestinian human rights campaigner – said Israel’s tactic of destroying the homes of men it says are Hamas fighters guarantees it will also kill non-combatants: neighbours, families, children.”

Sourani: “They know they committed war crimes, crimes against humanity – and deliberately. Intending to destroy houses where civilians living in it that’s totally illegal in a clear-cut way Geneva Convention article 52 paragraph 3.” […]

Bowen: “Smoke from burning buildings spread across Gaza as Palestinians buried men they said were fighting in a legitimate resistance. Israel calls them terrorists.”

Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes Jeremy Bowen, BBC television news, July 14th 2014 (discussed here)

Bowen: “Israel says it goes after Hamas.”

Man: “That’s not true. It’s not true.

Bowen: “They’re children, said Munsar al Batsh [phonetic] – a cousin. It’s not logical they’d be Hamas.” […]

Bowen: “He rejected Israel’s claims that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.”

After having left the Gaza Strip, Bowen penned an article for another media outlet in which he claimed to have seen “no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields”.

In contrast, in his reporting from Mosul Bowen was able to inform BBC audiences of ISIS’ use of human shields and did not find it necessary to promote either his own amateur opinions on the legality of the alleged incidents nor unproven accusations of deliberate targeting of civilians and ‘war crimes’.

Related Articles:

Differing BBC definitions of human shields in Iraq and Gaza

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

 

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

On February 28th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel’s Netanyahu criticised over 2014 Gaza war preparations“.mevaker-report-art

Relating to a report on Operation Protective Edge published by Israel’s state comptroller, the article includes background information concerning the 2014 conflict, part of which relates to the subject of casualties.

“The 50-day war left at least 2,251 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,462 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,231 others injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.”

Since the end of that conflict the BBC has published varying accounts of casualty figures and civilian/combatant casualty ratios in the Gaza Strip, all of which cite the UN as their source. In August 2014 a graphic told BBC audiences:

“2,101 people killed in Gaza – UN estimates 70% of deaths are civilians”Graphic Op PE

In October 2014 the same graphic was amended to read:

“2,104 people killed in Gaza – UN estimates 69% of deaths are civilians”

In December 2014 the BBC told its audiences that:

“The 50-day conflict in Gaza between Israel and militant groups led by Hamas left at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN, and 11,000 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.”

So where has the figure 2,251 cited in this latest article come from? Its source is the controversial report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council more than a month before the conflict ended and originally headed by William Schabas that was published in June 2015. Section V of that report states:

“In Gaza, in particular, the scale of the devastation was unprecedented. The death toll alone speaks volumes: 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 Palestinian civilians, of whom 299 women and 551 children and 11,231 Palestinians, including 3,540 women and 3,436 children, were injured, of whom 10 per cent suffered permanent disability as a result. While the casualty figures gathered by the United Nations, Israel, the State of Palestine [sic] and non-governmental organizations differ, regardless of the exact proportion of civilians to combatants, the high incidence of loss of human life and injury in Gaza is heartbreaking.”

A footnote states that the quoted figures come from:

“Data compiled by the OCHA Protection Cluster, 31 May 2015. For its methodology, see A/HRC/28/80/Add.1, para. 24, footnote 43.”

That reference leads to a footnote which states:

footnote-43

As we see, the footnote reveals that the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health in Gaza” is one source of the report’s data, together with “the Protection Cluster”. As has been noted here previously, that “Protection Cluster” includes political NGOs, some of which also have a financial relationship with UNOCHA.

“During the 2014 Gaza war, three NGOs from the cluster – B’Tselem, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – were designated to provide casualty statistics. In turn, their statistics were repeated without question by OCHA and other UN bodies, the media, European officials, and the Schabas-Davis commission. […]

Al Mezan and PCHR are also leaders in promoting “lawfare” cases against Israelis in Europe and the International Criminal Court (ICC).Their lack of credibility is also reflected in their highly politicized agenda, including accusations that the IDF (“Israeli Occupation Forces” in NGO parlance) is responsible for “massacres,” and “war crimes,” as well as “disproportionate” and “criminal” attacks against civilians.”

Those sources are of course the same ones that produced data promoted by the BBC almost from the very beginning of the 2014 conflict – as BBC Watch revealed at the time.

Readers may also recall that last August the BBC Trust published  the findings of a review of the impartiality of the BBC’s reporting of statistics in its news and current affairs output. That report included “10 Golden Rules”, one of which is:

“Check your source. Is it likely to be someone with a vested interest in interpreting findings in a particular way?”

The UNHRC is of course notorious for its anti-Israel bias and to describe it – as well as the Hamas health ministry, UNOCHA, the PCHR, B’tselem and Al Mezan – as having “a vested interest” would be gross understatement.

Nevertheless, as we see, over thirty months since the 2014 conflict ended the BBC is still amplifying casualty figures and debatable civilian/combatant casualty ratios supplied by Hamas and NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel that were funneled through a UN agency and subsequently promoted in a controversial and biased UNHRC report.

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

The BBC and the UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict – part one

The BBC and the UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict – part two