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

 

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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

Revisiting the BBC’s claims about a 2014 story from Rafah

On July 21st 2014 the BBC News website published an article titled “Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500” in which readers learned that:

“Overnight air strikes in southern Gaza kill more than 30 members of two families in Khan Younis and Rafah, local officials say”.

On the same date the website also produced a photographic feature titled “Gaza crisis: Fear and funerals” which included two images relating to the family in Rafah which the BBC again described as having been killed by Israeli fire.

Siyam family 1

Siyam family 2

That incident was the subject of a subsequent investigation and the Military Attorney General recently published its findings (section 3 here). [emphasis added]

“In media reports, as well as in a complaint and in reports of NGOs and international organizations, it was alleged that on 21 July 2014, 12 members of the Siyam family were killed as the result of an IDF aerial attack in Rafah. According to the principal allegation raised by the abovementioned complaint and reports, members of the Siyam family left their residence and went into the street after the family home was damaged as the result of an aerial strike on an adjoining building. It was alleged, that at the time that the family was evacuating their residence, and while they were in the road, aerial fire was carried out against a number of the family members, resulting in their deaths. The different sources were not consistent as regards the various details relating to the event, or in regards to the type of munition alleged to have struck the family members. The incident was subsequently referred to the FFA Mechanism for examination.

The factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism and presented to the MAG indicate that no attack – aerial or otherwise – that could have resulted in a strike on the family as alleged was carried out by IDF forces in the area in question and on the relevant date. The FFA Mechanism also ruled out the possibility that the types of munition described in a number of the reports had been utilized.

Nonetheless, it was found that at the relevant time, and in close proximity to the Siyam family’s residence, terror organizations in the Gaza Strip fired a series of mortars, aimed at the territory of the State of Israel. A number of these launches were “failed launches”, wherein the mortar shells that were aimed at Israeli territory, fell within the territory of the Gaza Strip. Images showing the points of impact of the munitions that struck the Siyam family and the surroundings of their residence, which were provided to Israel by one of the organizations and transferred to the FFA Mechanism for examination, also indicate that the strike in question was not caused as the result of an aerial attack as alleged in the majority of the reports. The FFA Mechanism and the MAG Corps made representations to the legal representative of the organization which had claimed that the strike on the Siyam family had been caused by IDF munitions, in order for them to present evidence that would support such an allegation. These representations did not receive a response.

After reviewing the factual findings and the material collated by the FFA Mechanism, the MAG found, that contrary to the allegations, it could be concluded, with reasonable certainty, that the members of the Siyam family were not harmed as a result of IDF activity. As such, and in the absence of a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct, the MAG ordered the case to be closed, without opening a criminal investigation.”

The two BBC reports inaccurately stating that members of the Siyam family were killed by an Israeli strike remain accessible online and are therefore potentially the subject of editorial complaints according to BBC editorial guidelines.

“However long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it.”

Clearly clarifications need to be appended to both the reports concerned in order to avoid any further misleading of audiences with inaccurate information and the potential waste of resources on handling avoidable complaints.

This incident once again highlights the fact that the BBC’s standard portrayal of casualty figures in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 conflict does not adequately clarify to audiences that some of the civilian casualties were caused by the actions of Palestinian terrorist organisations. 

The BBC’s reporting of statistics and Gaza casualty ratios

h/t D

On August 10th 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 which was commissioned in 2015. The report, together with accompanying documents, is accessible here.BBC Trust

Titled “Making Sense of Statistics”, the report makes interesting reading, although it has a somewhat domestic focus. While it does not address the issue of the BBC’s presentation of casualty figures during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, some of its observations, conclusions and recommendations are pertinent to the corporation’s portrayal of that topic both at the time and since.

On page 17, the report addresses the topic of audience expectations.

“Audiences expect that numbers are accurate, factual and verified, that claims that are wrong or misleading are challenged, and that a range of evidence is used to put statistical claims into context. In other words, the BBC has to ensure that the public is informed accurately and impartially on the important issues of the day by helping audiences navigate through the statistical evidence and make sense of the numbers.

Regarding accuracy, there is a presumption of veracity – if a story contains a number, it must be true. Certainly, the audience research found that “adding statistics does increase the impression of accuracy”:

There is an assumption by the audience that figures quoted by the BBC will be accurate, factual and well verified and that the BBC sets out to be impartial in its use of statistics. Audience research report, Oxygen Brand Consulting”

As regular readers know, the BBC did not independently verify the casualty figures and civilian/combatant casualty ratios which it presented to its audiences during the 2014 conflict. Although there is no publicly available evidence of its having carried out any such verification since the conflict ended, it continues to quote and promote unverified data sourced from interested parties and has even defended its own use of statistics provided by a terrorist organisation.

Ironically, on page 30 of the report, readers find the following:

“We heard examples of the BBC choosing not to cover particular statistics which have either been sent to them in press releases or featured in other media coverage, due to concerns with the methodology behind them or the interpretations placed on them.”

Page 68 of the report states:

“In order to evaluate the importance or validity of a statistic, audiences often need to some extent to understand where it came from, who is using it and how it has been generated – in other words, the provenance of a statistic needs to be transparent. Good practice suggests that in order to achieve this, those descriptors should be routinely presented, although not necessarily as a full suite on every occasion. In some cases of course – such as a fleeting reference in an interview – it is not possible to give all this information. But where the story is the statistic, then transparency is vital for the audience as attribution can sometimes greatly affect the weight audiences give to particular figures. And yet, there appear to be occasions where statistics in BBC content are not clearly attributed, or where a link to the direct source (if in an online article) is not provided.”

Appendix 2 at the end of the report presents a hand-out provided at the end of BBC training sessions. The “10 Golden Rules” include:

“Taking a theory and trying to find statistics that fit it is a recipe for disaster, and one of the biggest causes of inaccuracy and misrepresentation. Make sure that whoever has provided the figures hasn’t fallen into that trap.”

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

Clearly those ‘golden rules’ were not followed when the BBC unquestioningly promoted data provided, via a third-party, by political NGOs engaged in lawfare against Israel.stats

On the one occasion that the BBC did provide its audiences with some good statistical analysis of the topic of casualty figures in August 2014, that article was subsequently altered and reframed to the point of being rendered meaningless.

On page 49 the report states:

“Providing context aids interpretation. But it is not always enough. It is important that, as well as communicating the statistics, journalists are also able to provide interpretations around the sometimes-complex subjects in which they appear […] in order to help audiences to understand the relevance of the figures. And these interpretations need to be based on a balanced assessment of the evidence in order to provide audiences with an impartial reading.”

Readers may recall that shortly after the 2014 conflict came to a close, the BBC News website published an article titled “Gaza crisis: Toll of operations in Gaza” about which we remarked:

“But by far the most egregious aspect of this BBC feature is the fact that it makes no attempt whatsoever to provide BBC audiences with the crucial context of casualty ratios in the Gaza Strip as compared to those in other conflicts.

Let us assume for a moment that the UN figures quoted and promoted by the BBC are correct and that 495 children were killed during Operation Protective Edge and that none of those under 18s (as UNICEF defines child casualties) were in fact operatives for terrorist organisations. Even if we take those figures at face value, the percentage of children killed in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014 is, as Ben Dror Yemini has pointed out, considerably lower than the percentage of children killed by coalition forces (including British troops) in Iraq and by NATO forces (also including British troops) in Kosovo.

And even if we take the BBC’s claim that 1,462 (69%) of a total of 2,104 casualties in the Gaza Strip were civilians as being accurate (despite the fact that – as noted above – ongoing analysis suggests that the ratio of civilians to combatants may actually be lower), that would still mean that – as Col. Richard Kemp has pointed out on numerous occasions – there is nothing exceptional about that ratio.”

On page 71 of the report an issue which will be familiar to many readers is discussed:

“And yet, we received evidence that there remains concern in some quarters over the speed in which the BBC issues corrections when it gets the numbers wrong and the transparency with which they inform audiences that changes have been made (for example to online articles).”

One can only hope that this review will prompt the BBC to take the subject of verification of data originating from political NGOs and terrorist groups much more seriously than it has done in the past and that the focus will from now on be placed on meeting audience expectations of provision of accurate, verified and impartial data rather than the promotion of deliberately politicised statistics.

Related Articles:

Vital statistics: stealth changes made to the BBC’s Gaza casualty figures article

BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ does damage control on Gaza casualty figures article

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part three

As was noted in part two of this post, some of the themes found in BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War a decade ago were also evident eight years later in the corporation’s reporting of a different summer war: the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.SONY DSC

One of those themes was the presentation of civilian/combatant casualty ratios based on information which was not independently verified by the BBC and as regular readers know, that was a serious issue in the corporation’s reporting of the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas – and remains so.

“Now on this day last year another war erupted in Gaza. It lasted 51 days and turned into the longest, most costly conflict of the three wars in the past six years. More than 2,100 people were killed in Gaza and 72 were killed on the Israeli side including 66 soldiers. And a very high price paid by civilians – and most of all children – became a defining issue in this confrontation.” (Rebecca Kesby, ‘BBC World Update: Daily Commute’, BBC World Service, 8/7/2015) [emphasis added]

An internet search for information from the BBC concerning casualty figures during the Second Lebanon War produces remarkably uniform results. The BBC’s profile of Hizballah (like additional articles relating to the terrorist group) states that:

“More than 1,125 Lebanese, most of them civilians, died during the 34-day conflict, as well as 119 Israeli soldiers and 45 civilians.”

An article from 2010 informs audiences that:

“More than 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and about 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died in the conflict. […] More than 1,000 Lebanese, many civilians, died in the war as well as 116 Israeli soldiers and 43 civilians. In Lebanon, bridges, roads and thousands of homes were destroyed in the Israeli bombardment.”

An article from 2009 tells readers that:

“What it [Hizballah] got was a 34-day onslaught from the Israeli military, costing more than 1,000 lives, mostly Lebanese civilians.

About 160 Israelis were killed, mostly soldiers, in fighting and rocket fire from Hezbollah.” 

Another report from the same year states:

“On the Lebanese side more than 1,000 people died, mostly civilians. About 160 Israelis – most of them soldiers – died in the fighting and rocket fire.”

An article from 2007 states:

“About 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed in the conflict.”

Another report from 2007 tells readers that:

“Most of the 159 Israelis killed were soldiers. More than 1,000 Lebanese, most of them civilians, also died in the 34-day war.”

In a report from November 2006, audiences were told that:

“The war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mostly soldiers.” 

As can be seen, the BBC’s portrayal of the subject of Lebanese casualties is glaringly and consistently devoid of any mention of Hizballah combatants – despite the fact that at the end of August 2006, the corporation did acknowledge that some of the dead were combatants from that group and others.

2 Leb War Aug Hizb casualties

Like Hamas in 2014, the Lebanese authorities did not differentiate between civilians and combatants during the 2006 war but nevertheless, Lebanese officials reported 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 (with 450 identified by name: see page 55 here).

As we see above, the media organisation supposedly committed to rigorous standards of accuracy has however continued over the years to portray Lebanese casualties during the 2006 war as “mostly civilians” despite there being no evidence of its having been able to independently verify that claim.

The same is true of the BBC’s portrayal of casualties during the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas which is presented along the following lines:

“The war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, the majority civilians, according to the UN.”

In both these conflicts and in others, the BBC adopted and promoted the narrative that non-Israeli casualties were ‘mostly civilians’ despite the lack of independent verification. Moreover, the BBC makes no effort to provide its audiences with information which would enable them to compare civilian/combatant casualty ratios in conflicts in which Israel is involved with those seen in other conflicts.  

The result is of course clear: BBC audiences have over the last decade at least been repeatedly steered towards the erroneous view that wars in which Israel is involved result in exceptionally high numbers of civilian deaths on the other side.   

Related Articles:

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

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

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part one

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part two

 

 

Revisiting the BBC’s source of 2014 Gaza casualty data

Readers may recall that a few days into the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, BBC Watch decided to try to track down the source of the casualty figures being quoted and promoted by the BBC at the time.

“Earlier BBC reports cited casualty figures provided by the notoriously unreliable ministry of health in Gaza. That ministry is still run by Hamas and the personalities quoted in previous conflicts and incidents have not changed. Later reports stress figures supplied by what Bowen describes as “the United Nations”. In fact he – and those other BBC reports – refers to a document put out by UN OCHA on July 11th which can be seen here. That report does indeed state:

“114 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Gaza emergency, of whom 88 (77%) are civilians.” 

The question is, of course, where did UN OCHA – an organization which has itself been the subject of controversy in the past – get its information?

So – BBC Watch telephoned the person who complied that report in order to find out.”Knell filmed PCHR

What we discovered was particularly worrying considering that at the time the BBC had already broadcast several reports which included false allegations from one of the parties supplying UN OCHA with information.

“Katleen Maes informed us that UN OCHA’s three primary sources are B’Tselemthe PCHR and Al Mezan – all of which are political NGOs with a less than pristine record on impartiality in Israel-related matters. Maes added that the secondary sources used by UN OCHA to arrive at its 77% civilian casualty rate figures are the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the local Arabic media in Gaza, some of which is also run by Hamas and with the rest operating with Hamas consent, of course.”

NGO Monitor recently published a report which, among other things, casts more light onto UN OCHA’s relationship with those primary sources.

“OCHA coordinates several “Thematic Clusters,” whereby UN agencies, government donors, and NGOs collaborate on campaigning. […]

OCHA operates Clusters in the areas of Protection; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; Shelter; Health and Nutrition; Education; and Food Security.

The Protection Cluster

The Protection Cluster, which is responsible for “[m]onitoring and document[ing] violations,” “[p]rovision of legal aid,” and “[a]dvocacy and interventions with Israeli authorities (among other issues) is one of the most problematic in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

  • 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.

Furthermore, the report notes the financial relationship between UN OCHA and, among others, the PCHR

“OCHA oversees and facilitates government funding via several aid frameworks to some of the most biased and politicized regional NGOs, including a number that are very active in promoting BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) and “lawfare” campaigns against Israel:

1) Humanitarian Repose Plan (HRP) The aforementioned Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is one of the primary frameworks through which OCHA-oPt coordinates funding to NGOs. The HRP outlines OCHA’s politicized approach regarding its activities in the region, as well as which NGOs should receive vast amounts of international government funding. In 2016, OCHA-oPt requested $571 million in aid from international donors for some of the most highly biased and politicized NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Participating Organizations & Funding Requirements” in the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan include: […]

Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) – Leader of anti-Israel “lawfare” campaigns, such as an intensive campaign vis-à-vis the International Criminal Court and exploiting courts in democratic countries in order to harass Israeli officials with civil lawsuits and criminal investigations.”Bowen 14 7 Newsday Sourani

In other words, the data on casualties in the Gaza Strip that was quoted and promoted by the BBC during the summer 2014 conflict was supplied by NGOs involved in ‘lawfare’ campaigning against Israel after having been funnelled through a UN agency which in turn facilitates NGO funding.  

Despite the dubious sourcing of the data having been apparent at the time, there was no evidence of any attempt by the BBC to carry out independent verification of the casualty figures and civilian/combatant casualty ratios supplied by interested parties. The corporation not only defended its use of that unverified data but rejected related complaints from members of the public claiming that:

“The UN has made claims as to the number of Palestinians killed and the number of those who are civilians. The BBC reports these numbers attributed to the UN which is of course an internationally recognised organisation. The UN has a large staff in Gaza who compile these reports.”

In fact, as we see above, the UN’s reports were not based on information gathered by its own “large staff in Gaza” at all and that raises the question of whether the BBC even bothered to check out UN OCHA’s methodology before promoting its data. The BBC’s inference that UN supplied data is beyond reproach obviously does not hold water given both UN OCHA’s own politicized agenda and the records of the NGOs from which the data was sourced.

Obviously the BBC’s unquestioning use of unverified UN OCHA supplied data during the conflict of summer 2014 did not meet the standards one would expect from a media organization supposedly committed to accurate and impartial reporting. Before the next round of conflict breaks out, the corporation obviously needs to revisit its policy of blind promotion of UN supplied data if it wishes to be perceived as an impartial media organisation rather than a channel for the amplification of the agendas of campaigning NGOs. 

Related Articles:

Vital statistics: stealth changes made to the BBC’s Gaza casualty figures article

BBC Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’ does damage control on Gaza casualty figures article

Source of BBC’s ‘war crimes’ allegations lies about Palestinian victim of terror

Source of BBC’s ‘war crimes’ allegations lies about Palestinian victim of terror

As our CAMERA colleague Tamar Sternthal recently noted, a Palestinian victim of a terror attack which took place at Alon Shvut junction on November 18thShadi Arafa from Hebron – has been falsely described by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) as having been killed by Israeli forces.

PCHR Arafa

As readers may recall, the PCHR was one of the sources relied upon by UNOCHA for the compilation of casualty figures and civilian/combatant ratios in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas. Those figures were unquestioningly quoted, promoted – and defended – by the BBC without any independent verification.

Moreover, the PCHR was the source of serious allegations concerning ‘war crimes’ which appeared in BBC content less than 24 hours after the beginning of the conflict and the organisation’s head was interviewed by the BBC on several occasions.

As has been noted here previously, the PCHR is one of several NGOs uncritically quoted and promoted by the BBC which is active in the lawfare campaign against Israel.

Of course the PCHR also promoted inaccurate claims concerning the cause of the death of Omar Masharawi in 2012.

“Readers no doubt recall the tragic incident in which the infant son of a BBC employee was killed in November 2012 by what the BBC – and the PCHR – claimed at the time was an Israeli airstrike.

“…an Israeli warplane fired a missile at a house… Two members of the family (a woman and a toddler) were killed: Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Masharawi, 19, and Omar Jihad al-Masharawi, 11 months.  Additionally, a child from the same family was wounded”.

A UN HRC report later determined that the deaths had been caused by a short-falling missile fired by one of the terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.”

It remains to be seen whether this latest example of PCHR dishonesty will do anything to convince the BBC that it is not a reliable and unbiased source of information worthy of unchallenged promotion by a corporation committed to accurate and impartial reporting.

 

 

One to Watch: Jerusalem conference on Law of War

Among many notable aspects of the BBC’s coverage of Operation Protective Edge last summer was the extensive promotion of pseudo-legal claims made by both political NGOs and some of its own correspondents. Concurrently, BBC audiences heard reporters make frequent use of legal language such as ‘collective punishment’ and ‘disproportionality’ – although not necessarily always in its correct context – and particularly notable was the BBC’s ‘creative’ interpretation of the issue of Hamas’ use of human shields.

Readers with an interest in such topics may like to know that the Israel Law Center is holding a two-day conference in Jerusalem this coming week – May 4th and 5th – titled ‘Towards a New Law of War’. Conference sessions will be live-streamed (registration is available at the above link under ‘live stream’) and include two panel discussions which may be of particular interest to our readers.

On May 4th at 10:45 Israel time:

Panel 1

On May 4th at 13:45 Israel time:

Panel 2

The full programme can be viewed here.

Related Articles:

Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

More on the Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

 

Comparing BBC coverage of civilian casualties in Yemen and Gaza

As readers no doubt recall, within twenty-four hours of the commencement of Operation Protective Edge in July 2014, the BBC had begun promoting the theme of ‘Israeli war crimes’. In the first week of the conflict, BBC audiences were also told that Israel deliberately targeted civilians and heard claims of ‘collective punishment’ and a ‘disproportionate’ Israeli response to the actions of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Throughout the BBC’s coverage of the seven week-long hostilities, the topic of civilian casualties was by far the most prominent with thousands of words and hours of air-time devoted to emotive reporting of the plight of civilians in the Gaza Strip and Hamas-supplied casualty figures quoted unquestioningly.

Six days after the commencement of airstrikes on Yemen on March 26th by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition, the UN estimated that almost a hundred civilians had been killed and some 364 injured. The actual figure can be reasonably assumed to be higher by now.

The BBC has to date refrained from ‘parachuting in’ to Yemen star reporters such as Lyse Doucet and Jeremy Bowen as it did during last summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip and it is interesting to ponder the question of whether the corporation’s reporting on civilian casualties in Yemen is affected by that fact.

In an article titled “Saudi Arabia launches air strikes in Yemen” published on the BBC News website on March 26th readers were informed that:Yemen 1

“A civil defence source told the AFP news agency that 13 civilians were killed when seven homes near the al-Dulaimi air base were destroyed. The Houthis’ al-Masirah TV quoted the health ministry as putting the death toll at 18.”

The BBC refrained from making any pronunciations with regard to the legality of the airstrikes or their ‘proportionality’. Likewise, no accompanying claims of ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’ appeared in the BBC’s March 28th article titled “Yemen crisis: Saudis lead fresh air strikes on Houthis” which informed readers that:

“Since the air campaign began, at least 39 civilians – including six children under the age of 10 – have been killed, Yemen health ministry officials say.”

An article titled “Yemen crisis: Dozens killed by ‘air strike’ near refugee camp” published on March 30th was guarded in its presentation of information not independently verified by the BBC.

“An air strike has killed at least 40 people at a refugee camp in northwest Yemen, aid workers have said.

State media said Saudi planes were responsible, but the Yemeni foreign minister said “artillery strikes” by Houthi rebels were to blame.”

An article published on April 1st under the title “Yemen crisis: Blast at Hudaydah factory ‘kills 35’” also presented the story in cautious language, acknowledging that the causes of incidents are not always immediately clear.Yemen 2

“At least 35 workers have been killed by a blast at a dairy factory in western Yemen, medics say, as Saudi-led air strikes continue against Houthi rebels.

There were conflicting reports about the cause of the overnight explosion in the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah.

Witnesses said coalition aircraft hit warehouses belonging to the factory. Anti-aircraft guns then returned fire, before the factory itself caught fire.

The UN has expressed alarm at the rising number of civilian casualties.”

The article also states:

“The Saudi-led coalition also bombarded Houthi positions in Aden overnight. A military official told the AFP news agency that there were “many dead and wounded”.

The coalition has insisted that it is trying to avoid killing civilians.

“Collateral damage can happen… but I confirm to you that the coalition takes all care,” spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri was quoted as saying by AFP.

But on Tuesday Amnesty International accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of “turning a blind eye to civilian deaths”, and the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) reported that at least 62 children had been killed and 30 hurt over the past week.”

Jeremy Bowen was not on hand to inform the world that Saudi Arabia “has serious questions to answer”.

An additional article from April 1st – “Yemen crisis: Where does Saudi offensive go next?” by Frank Gardener – is equally cautious in attributing responsibility:

“At least 35 civilians were killed on Tuesday night in an attack on a dairy factory suspected of being used by rebels as a weapons cache, although the cause of the deaths was unclear.”

An April 2nd report titled “Yemen crisis: Fighting intensifies in Aden” has a subsection headed “Civilian deaths” which states:

“As the fighting continues, concern over casualties has risen.

A spokeswoman for the aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) told the BBC that its hospital in Aden had received more than 500 injured people from all sides in the conflict over the last two weeks.

Coalition spokesman, Gen Ahmed Asir, told the BBC’s Frank Gardner in Riyadh that “it was a hard task to target” the rebels.

The coalition was “using all intelligence resources to make sure they are not hitting the wrong target. We do not hit any target without making sure it is a Houthi or troops loyal to former President Saleh,” he said.

The UN has also expressed alarm at the rising number of civilian deaths in Yemen.”

So what caused BBC reporting on civilian casualties in the first week of conflict in Yemen to be so different from its reporting on the first week of last summer’s conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip and why are audiences not reading or hearing the same amateur opinions on ‘international law’ or accusations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, collective punishment and deliberate targeting of civilians?

The all too obvious answer to those questions is that in this case the BBC’s correspondents are not focused on promoting a pre-existing politically motivated narrative and amplifying unquestioned and unchallenged messaging from NGOs with a similar political world view to that held by visiting journalists. Instead, they are reporting the news.