BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

A photography exhibition currently on display in London was the subject of an article appearing in the BBC News website’s ‘culture’ section on October 7th. The same exhibition was also the topic of an item (available from 15:42 here) broadcast in the October 18th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’.Newshour logo

Here is how presenter James Coomarasamy framed the report’s subject matter in his introduction: [emphasis added]

“Now, getting to the truth of the ultimate crime of murder – whether that of an individual or genocide – is a painstaking job. Photographs are integral to the evidence gathering process. They’re used in courtrooms around the world as an essential tool for justice. Now, ‘Burden of Proof’ is the name of a new exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery here in London and it charts the changing history of the form, from photographs of a crime scene in the 19th century to the graphic reconstruction of a recent bomb attack on Gaza.”

And indeed, tucked in between depictions of Victorian-era murder scenes, victims of Stalinist purges and the Holocaust and Joseph Mengele’s skull, is the following exchange (from 19:08) between Coomarasamy and the venue’s Head of Exhibitions Clare Grafik.

Commentary: [sound of explosions] “This is the bombing of the Tannur neighbourhood: the deadliest attack of the first of August 2014. [sound of screaming]

Coomarasamy: “This is the ‘Gaza Book of Destruction’; we’ve got video and this is a graphic reconstruction of what would have been there.”

Grafik: “What it shows is how ‘Forensic Architecture’ use digital technology to reconstruct a bombing. What they’ve done is they’ve taken footage of the bombing and they’ve frozen literally a few seconds in time around that bombing and have picked it apart with satellite imagery, with architectural software, to try to reconstruct what happened.”

JC: “And this is being done, I see, in collaboration with Amnesty International. What’s the goal of this reconstruction?”

CG: “To try and prove that certain strengths of bomb were used in this attack that were originally denied.”

JC: “So we now have moving images trying to make sense of how people died?”

CG: “Yes – essentially – and also how those moving images become increasingly subservient to software and data.”

Coomarasamy did not tell listeners is that the incident portrayed in this exhibit took place during the 51-day conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 or that the Tannur neighbourhood is located in Rafah and that the August 1st 2014 counter-offensive there took place because Hamas had broken a ceasefire by kidnapping Lt Hadar Goldin. Neither did Coomarasamy clarify that of the 41 Gazans killed in that particular counter-offensive in Rafah, 12 have been identified as terrorists and 13 as civilians, with the rest categorized as undetermined, but “of fighting age”.

Coomarasamy also refrained from informing audiences that Amnesty International’s campaign of ‘lawfare’ against Israel includes the use of this incident and he likewise made no effort to explain what the organization called ‘Forensic Architecture’ is and who is behind it or that it also partnered Amnesty International in the production of an app called ‘the Gaza Platform’ which reproduces and promotes one-sided and inaccurate information put out by two of AI’s lawfare partners – Al Mezan and the PCHR.

So, whilst failing to make any effort to provide BBC audiences worldwide with either the context or insight into the political motivations behind the exhibit to which he gave amplification, Coomarasamy did propagate the notion that Israeli actions during a military campaign brought about by terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians should be lumped into the same “ultimate crime” category as criminal murders, political murders and genocide.

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BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

 

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

On July 29th Amnesty International released yet another one of its reports concerning last summer’s conflict between Israel and assorted terrorist groups based in the Gaza Strip. Predictably, the BBC News website’s Middle East page quickly came up with an article headlined “Gaza: ‘Israeli war crimes’ followed soldier’s capture – Amnesty” and viewers of BBC television news programmes saw a filmed item which was also posted on the website under the title “Gaza conflict: Amnesty report says Israel committed ‘war crimes’“.AI report Rafah

There is of course nothing surprising about that: the BBC has faithfully and unquestioningly amplified the Amnesty International material produced on that subject since the hostilities came to a close, just as it also blindly reproduced statements made by that NGO during the conflict itself. And there was also nothing unexpected about that because Amnesty International is one of the NGOs most regularly promoted and quoted by the BBC.

Common sense would obviously dictate that if a media organization amplifies an NGO’s material it should tell its audiences what that NGO’s political agenda includes and report any relevant details concerning its connections to the subject matter. BBC journalists do not however have to rely on common sense: the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

None of the BBC’s Amnesty International-related material produced over the past year has informed audiences that AI is one of a group of political NGOs which launched a lawfare campaign against Israel just days after the summer 2014 conflict began. In none of that content have audiences been told that 72 hours into the conflict, Amnesty International called for an arms embargo to be imposed on a country defending its civilian population from hundreds of daily attacks by terrorist organisations and its MENA director Philip Luther (who appears in both these latest BBC reports) was already tossing around unproven accusations of ‘war crimes’.

Nowhere has the BBC informed its audiences about the all-important context of Amnesty International’s long history of obsession with Israel – which includes the production of the numerous ‘reports’ so faithfully amplified by the BBC – or of its connections with known anti-Israel campaigners and its employment of radical activists.  

In this latest article published on July 29th, readers are informed that:

“Amnesty’s report says Israeli actions in the Rafah area between 1 and 4 August 2014 might amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Its study was carried out with the Forensic Architecture, a research project specialising in spatial analysis, at Goldsmiths’ College in London.”

Audiences are not however informed that the academic sounding (and by implication, neutral)  ‘Forensic Architecture’ also partnered Amnesty International in the production of a recently launched app called ‘the Gaza Platform’ which reproduces and promotes one-sided and inaccurate information put out by two of AI’s lawfare buddies – Al Mezan and the PCHR.

Neither are they told who exactly is behind ‘Forensic Architecture’ (originally funded by the European Research Council) or that it describes itself as “a team of architects, artists, filmmakers, activists, and theorists” (in other words; not military or legal experts) and that its chief researcher is veteran political activist and BDS supporter Eyal Weizman.

In this latest amplification of AI’s pseudo-legal ‘human rights’ report the BBC once again fails to inform its audiences that Amnesty International is not a neutral observer but a player in a campaign of politically motivated lawfare. As long as the BBC fails to tell its audiences the full story behind the political agenda of Amnesty International and the many other NGOs it uncritically amplifies, its claim that it provides audiences with accurate and impartial reporting in order to meet its public purpose of building an “understanding of international issues” is clearly untenable.

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BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part one

BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part two