The first part of the ‘Newsbeat’ fifteen-minute “special from Gaza” aired on BBC Radio1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 14th was discussed in part one of this post and there we saw how the programme’s target audience of 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK was fed an often inaccurate and highly partial version of the history of the Gaza Strip.
The programme continued with presenters Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney – ostensibly in the region to cover the Eurovision Song Contest for ‘Newsbeat’ – bringing in the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
[04:30] Rosney: “This is a Newsbeat special in Gaza – a Palestinian territory. The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is with us as well. Tom, what’s life been like in Gaza over the past decade?”
Bateman: “Well what you’ve just been hearing about in terms of the control of Gaza is something really complicated but Hamas dominates there. And this is an organisation that, to its Palestinian supporters, is the resistance movement to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Of course to Israel and much of the West, they see it as a terrorist organisation.”
Hamas of course does not just object to what Bateman simplistically describes as “Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories”. Hamas objects to Israel’s existence on any territory whatsoever. That very basic fact – without which it is impossible to understand the subject matter of this programme – was not communicated to listeners at any point. Rather, BBC journalists repeatedly misled ‘Newsbeat’ audiences by giving then false accounts of Hamas’ objectives.
Like Kat Collins in her ‘potted history’ heard just minutes before, Bateman also chose to lead his young audience towards the erroneous belief that terrorism is defined by motive rather than action. He continued, failing to make any mention of the role played by the Palestinian Authority in relation to the perpetual electricity crisis, lack of sewage treatment and shortages of medicine in the Gaza Strip. While he failed to mention that the Gaza Strip also has a crossing into Egypt, Bateman made sure to promote the old “open-air prison” mantra.
Bateman: “Since Hamas was elected and then consolidated its grip by force on the Gaza Strip, life there really has slowly deteriorated and you just see this all around. There is grinding poverty, ah…a dirty water supply, you have power blackouts, massive health problems and many young people, I mean, have simply never left Gaza. There’s huge restrictions on freedom of movement. I mean some people you talk to describe it as like living in an open-air prison.”
Rosney: “And it’s been a tense 12 months.”
Listeners then heard a distorted account of the ‘Great Return March’ which actually began on March 30th 2018 rather than a month and a half later when the US embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated. Adhering to the BBC editorial policy which has been evident right from the start, Bateman portrayed the violent rioting, shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, arson attacks and border infiltrations which have characterised the ‘march’ as “protests”.
Bateman: “Yes, so what we saw was a year ago around the time that, in a controversial move to the Palestinians, the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Protests began at the perimeter fence by Palestinians. Now they said they were demanding their right to return to the land that is now Israel and also an end – or an easing at least – of that blockade. The protests were seen by Israel as an attempt to breach the fence, to break into Israel and harm Israeli civilians or soldiers. And so we had a lot of violence at the fence; many, many Palestinians killed – shot dead by Israeli troops – and that story really evolved into a series of increasingly violent military flare-ups between Israel and Hamas.”
Bateman made no effort to explain to listeners that the so-called ‘right of return’ promoted by the ‘Great Return March’ is in fact aimed at bringing an end to the Jewish state. Having erased the violent nature of the events from view, he could use the phrase “seen by Israel” to downplay and blur that violence. The fact that the vast majority of those killed during the rioting have been identified as having connections to terror factions in the Gaza Strip was not noted by any of the three BBC journalists and neither was the fact that the same factions are behind the violent events.
Holden: “This is Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney in Gaza. Sixty Palestinians were killed a year ago in that violence and thousands more were injured. But these protests on the edge of Gaza happen most Fridays. There was a flare-up just a few weeks ago.”
Rosney: “Yeah and it means many people need medical treatment which, in a place like this with very poor health care, is tricky.”
Holden: “In Gaza there are clinics that are run by independent humanitarian organisations. We’re off to one now which is set up by Médecins Sans Frontières.”
Listeners heard nothing at all about the political agenda of MSF.
At that clinic Rosney and Holden interviewed a British doctor working for MSF and two patients who gave context-free accounts of their injuries: “I suddenly was shot by a sniper in my leg” and “they just shot me instantly”.
Apparently ‘Newsbeat’ found it appropriate to promote their nihilistic messaging to young people in the UK, including the 16 year-old male’s declaration that it doesn’t matter if he dies because his mother would have another baby to replace him and the female interviewee’s claim that “whatever happens would be God’s fate” in response to the statement from Rosney “so each time you go to the protests you know that there is a chance that you could be shot”.
Newsbeat also had no problem airing unchallenged statements from indoctrinated youth such as “Our life used to be normal before the Israelis came…” and “we need to liberate our homeland, our country…”.
[09:38] Rosney: “The BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman is still with us. Tom, those people that we just heard from inside the MSF clinic, they were so determined to keep going back to the fence to protest – why is that?”
Bateman: “Well many people have been and I mean as, you know, as you’ve been hearing, some people even though they’ve been shot have said that they will go back to the fence, so there has been a determination I think. On the other hand, when you speak to some people privately, they’ll start to tell you about the real cost involved in terms of lives and injuries with this and some people I’ve chatted to over time have talked about not wanting to go back. But that can be a hard thing for them to say publicly in Gaza. We have seen the scale of the protests really diminish, I think, over the last year or so but one way or another the Palestinians you speak to seem determined to show that they want their rights.”
Bateman’s failure once again to clarify to ‘Newsbeat’ audiences that those so-called “rights” actually mean the destruction of the neighbouring country by means of a mass population transfer and through the use of weapons that the blockade is intended to prevent entering the Gaza Strip means that the topic was presented to listeners in terms that most would sympathise with. Who, after all, can possibly object to people standing up for “their rights”?
Rosney next promoted yet again the false claim that all those Palestinians who became refugees were “forced to flee” and that that only happened after Israel came into being. Listeners heard nothing of the Arab attacks in the six months prior to Israel’s declaration of independence or of the fact that the nascent state was immediately attacked by surrounding Arab countries.
Rosney: “We’ve been hearing that sound a lot in Gaza. It’s the call to prayer for Muslims and right now it’s Ramadan. Those who practice Islam don’t eat or drink between dawn and sunset. Some are actually preparing for Nakba Day – that’s tomorrow – which commemorates the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced to flee from their homes in the war that came after Israel declared independence.” […]
Holden: “So the sun’s just gone down here and if you took the picture right now it is the perfect holiday shot. You’ve got the red-orange glow on the sea in the distance; it’s beautiful. But the buildings here tell a different story. Many have got bullet holes in them. Some are half-finished, some are half-destroyed and many have got graffiti drawn all over them.”
Rosney: “Water’s an issue here as well. There is little rain and the World Bank says the water supply – well it’s just poor. There’s not enough of it and you really, really can’t drink the tap water.”
Holden: “Yeah, you don’t swim in the sea either because around 90 million litres of sewage is pumped into the Med here every day. So 95% of the water around the Strip is polluted.”
No background information on those issues – and no mention of the fact that the problems are not related to Israel – was given to audiences at all.
Rosney: “Now along the beachfront people, well they’re starting to set up food stalls actually. Some are smoking shisha. There’s no alcohol here because of strict rules so no pubs or bars.”
Rosney refrained from clarifying that those “strict rules” are enforced by the Islamist theocracy that violently imposed its rule on the Gaza Strip 12 years ago and Holden next gave more context-free promotion to the BDS campaign:
Holden: “Yeah and there’s probably no big screens that will show the Eurovision Song Contest – the world’s largest live music event – which is taking place just 90 minutes up the coast in Tel Aviv. The first semi-final is actually tonight but there have been calls for boycotts of this year’s contest because it is in Israel and some argue that Israel has violated the human rights of Palestinians.”
Rosney: “We’re gonna talk a bit more about that tomorrow on Newsbeat but we’re gonna stick with music….”
Rosney and Holden then interviewed a 26 year-old rapper – mostly about his wish to leave the Gaza Strip.
“It’s not easy for a human to live in Gaza…”
“You can’t leave Gaza…”
“I can’t make audience here – people just thinking how to eat, how to fight. It’s not a normal life. It’s not human. “
The report closed on a rather odd point.
Rosney: “It’s important to point out that in some ways communication with the rest of the world here is actually pretty good. People have got social media and stuff. They are not cut off from the rest of the world entirely.”
Obviously this fifteen minute-long “Gaza special” from ‘Newsbeat’ fell well short of the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy and impartiality. It completely failed to provide its target audience with the full range of information needed to understand what is clearly a complex topic and instead promoted a simplistic and partisan narrative of poor, deprived Palestinians pluckily fighting for “their rights” in a place that is mostly awful – apart from the nice sunset – but does have “social media and stuff”.
Is that really the standard of reporting that the BBC believes 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK deserve?