BBC WS radio fails to adhere to new editorial guidelines in partisan ‘Great Return March’ report

h/t ED

The closing item in the July 25th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was introduced by presenter Tim Franks (from 45:03 here) as follows:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “The Israeli army has instructed its snipers to shoot at the ankles of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border in an effort to reduce deaths. A senior Israeli officer said that the policy of shooting above the knees had led to many being killed. The health authorities in Gaza say that nearly 300 Palestinians have died on the border since the weekly protests began more than a year ago. Over twenty thousand people have been injured. The demonstrations have seen Palestinians massing and marching towards the barrier that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel. We’ve spent the day trying – and failing – to get an interview or even a statement from the Israeli army.”

As we see, almost sixteen months on the BBC is still inaccurately portraying the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests” and “demonstrations” and the participants as “protesters”, while concealing the hundreds of incidents such as shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, petrol bomb attacks, arson attacks and infiltration attempts which have taken place during those so-called “protests”.  

The fact that around 80% of the fatalities have been shown to have links to terrorist organisations continues to be ignored by the BBC, as does the fact that the “health authorities” it quotes are part of the same terrorist organisation facilitating, organising and financing the violent rioting. Franks made no effort to clarify that more than half of the 20,000 people he described as injured actually suffered temporarily from tear gas inhalation. Neither did his description of IDF “policy” give listeners an accurate account: the actual rules of engagement include firing at the lower half of the body – not just “above the knees” as claimed by Franks.

Franks then introduced the one and only interviewee heard throughout the entire seven minute and 42 second item.

Franks: “Nadav Weiman is a former member of the Israeli Defence Forces. Indeed he was with the special forces sniper team that operated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He’s now with the advocacy group ‘Breaking the Silence’. What does he make of the news that there’d been a change in the rules of engagement?”

The new BBC editorial guidelines which came into force ten days before this item was aired include the following:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, listeners were told nothing about the highly relevant topic of the political agenda and funding of what Franks blandly described as an “advocacy group” without explaining what it ‘advocates’ for and why. Neither were they told anything of the former Nahal reconnaissance unit soldier’s own record of reliability before the item continued on a less than ideal phone line, in less than ideal English.  

Weiman: “I think it’s quite crazy that for at least a year and three or four months since the right of return marches started to happen and we sent our snipers to stop them, we at ‘Breaking the Silence’ and other organisation and international organisation questioned about those rules of engagement; shooting at unarmed protesters approaching the fence. And everybody in Israel and the IDF told that we have to do it for security, it’s a necessity. And then suddenly this message comes out – barely talked about in Israel – it means one thing: that the IDF admits that the rules of engagement that IDF snipers got on the Gaza Strip border were wrong, were wrong, were absolutely wrong. And it means that we have over 100 Palestinian families that lost their loved ones and the IDF’s answer to that is that we made a mistake. And we have almost the same number of IDF snipers nineteen, twenty years old that they have that image in their head of that bullet hitting that Palestinian man because shooting in Gaza like happen in the last year or so, it’s 60, 70, 80 meters, it is midday. And when a sniper shoot at that kind of a distance in midday you see everything. You see the impact.”

The ‘Great Return March’ events did not just ‘start to happen’: they were planned in advance by a collection of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip and others but Franks made no effort to clarify that to audiences or to challenge the misleading and inaccurate portrayal of the participants as “unarmed protesters”. Weiman’s claim that the story is “barely talked about in Israel” is worth noting because Franks expanded on that claim later in the item.

Franks: “But are you saying that at that sort of range…because I imagine that hitting a target below the knee, particularly one that might well be moving, is difficult and if you are fearing that you’re needing to use that level of force because there is some sort of imminent danger, presumably that just is considerably more tricky than aiming at a – to put it crudely – a greater body area.”

Weiman: “Yes and no because first of all, you know, [in] sniping course and in the army they tell you that a legitimate target is an armed [unintelligible] soldier, an armed Palestinian militant. But then our soldiers are getting a command that the legitimate target is an unarmed man or woman or child approaching the fence. And it’s not endangering Israel: it’s endangering our control over the Palestinian territories and within it the Gaza Strip. First of all that’s confusing and a moving target; yes it’s hard but again those kinds of conditions – midday – it is not that hard for a professional sniper. Me and my team when we shot people in our army service it was 400, 500 meters. That kind of a distance midday with the bullet that you have as a sniper that has a lot more gunpowder, that does a lot more damage, it means that the bullet goes right through the man that you’re shooting at. The entry wound would be like a centimetre but the exit wound would be the size of a fist. So yes, when you shoot to the legs of a man standing 60 meters away from you the injury is very severe and I’m guessing that’s why the IDF changed the rules of engagement. And again stopping a human being so close to you – this is an unarmed protester – so again, live ammunition is the last resort, not the first one.”

Again Franks made no effort to challenge the myth of the “unarmed protester” and neither did he bother to clarify to listeners that Israel does not “control” the Gaza Strip because a complete withdrawal was carried out fourteen years ago.

Franks: “We’ve heard though earlier this year, even before this came out, from the head of the Israeli military’s southern command, the man who’s in charge of the area that includes the Gaza border, Major General Herzi Halevi, saying he wishes that there were, as he put it, better non-lethal weapons which he could use in order to secure the boundary, the border, with Gaza. He says he doesn’t have those and although you say that some of the people who’ve been hit are unarmed protesters, I imagine that one of the arguments that’s been used is that just in the  great crush of people who were moving towards the separation zone between Israel and Gaza, there is a fear that they could provide cover for others who do have more lethal intent.”

Franks is referring to remarks made by Maj Gen Herzi Halevi in May of this year. He did not however bother to inform audiences of additional statements made by the officer at the time.

“Halevi said the Israel Defense Forces maintains strict rules of engagement for soldiers, requiring approval of senior commanders before a shot can be fired, and performs investigations into every bullet fired.

“We don’t have results on every bullet because of the tough conditions [on the border],” he said, referring to the thick smoke, masses of people and general confusion.

“But we have not — I’m not saying not yet, I’m saying not — found even one incident of a soldier [just] deciding to shoot into the crowd, even on tough days,” Halevi said.

According to Halevi, the IDF has made use of the less-lethal weapons already at its disposal, contacted foreign countries to look into purchasing their equipment and attempted to develop new tools to respond to the riots.

These included rubber bullets, which were found to have an insufficient range; a foul-smelling spray known as the Skunk, which didn’t work well in the open fields along the border; and most recently a truck with a high-powered speaker to be used against rioters, which has not been found to be sufficiently effective.

The tear gas, which Israel continues to use along the border, is found to often be ineffective as the breeze coming from the Mediterranean blows it back into Israel.”

That information – as well as the knowledge that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – would have helped listeners put Weiman’s subsequent claims into their correct context.

Weiman: “I’ve got to say Herzi Halevi is right. An army has [a] couple of tools in its toolbox and it’s basically violent intimidation – that’s a military occupation. This is what it means. So my criticism is not against the IDF; it’s against the policy of our government. Governments for the past 52 years decided to control the Gaza Strip by military force which means basically that you don’t have a military solution to a political problem. The IDF is not equipped to stop the protests on the fence. The IDF is equipped to be a stand up army when needs to which means the solution to these kinds of problems is not supposed to be in Herzi Halevi hands. It’s supposed to be in the hand of our government and the people of Israel that’s giving the mandate to that kind of a government. And I’ve got to say that the IDF actually has other tools that they can do. You know we have a siege on Gaza since 2007. You know we are giving IDF soldiers the order to take those firearms and to go over there but there are other non-lethal means in the hands of the IDF.”

Franks did not bother to clarify to listeners that there is no such thing as “a siege” on the Gaza Strip before he went on to pick up on a claim made by Weiman near the beginning of the interview.

Franks: “This change in the rules of engagement came out a few days ago from the military reporter for Israel’s public radio station, Carmela Menashe. It didn’t get a huge amount of take-up and only belatedly did it get really any kind of attention as far as I’m aware in the Israeli media. I wonder how far that suggests to you that, I mean, although you’ve been speaking very passionately about it, whether this really registers across much of Israel.”

Carmela Menashe Tweeted about that story on July 22nd. On the same day the same information appeared in reports at Ma’ariv, Channel 13 and others following what appears to have been a tour for military journalists of a counter-terrorism training facility. The Jerusalem Post published similar report on July 25th. Channel 13 correspondent Or Heller reported that a senior officer responsible for training snipers deployed to the border with the Gaza Strip told the journalists that in relation to the conclusions drawn from investigations into the incidents along the Gaza border:

“Their [the snipers’] aim is not to kill but to wound and so one of the conclusions reached was about the direction of fire – in the beginning we told the snipers to shoot at the leg and when we saw that could result in death we told them to shoot under the knee. Later on we refined the order to hit the ankle.”

In other words, not only is this item’s claim of a change to the rules of engagement somewhat exaggerated – a more accurate description would be a refinement of orders in relation to a specific location within the general framework of the rules of engagement – but Franks’ claim that the story was not widely reported and only “belatedly” got attention in the Israeli media is completely inaccurate.

Weiman then went on to give an inaccurate portrayal of Israeli society and the Israeli media: in fact barely a day goes by without multiple media reports concerning the Gaza Strip.

Weiman: “After so much time people in Israel are not interested in what is happening over there because Gaza used to be and now and will be our back yard that Israelis don’t want to listen what is going on over there. And I think that the fact that you are interviewing me at the moment is important, you know, because we’re not talking about it in Israel. The international audience should hear about it as well. I wish the journalists inside Israel would do the same thing because this is a burning issue on the table of our government and the responsibility lies on the shoulder of every Israeli about what we’re sending our kids to do over there, our soldiers to do over there. And I’ve got to say it doesn’t really shock me that it didn’t reach the media in Israel because Gaza is such a volatile issue [in] the Israeli society that a lot of people prefer not to touch it.”

Franks closed that long item with yet another totally unsatisfactory portrayal of the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’.

Franks: “Nadav Weiman, formerly with the Israeli Defence Forces, eh…now with the advocacy group ‘Breaking the Silence’.”

Although the BBC has regularly provided platforms to ‘Breaking the Silence’ in the past, given Franks’ adoption of its PR talking points, his failure to challenge any of Weiman’s inaccuracies and falsehoods and the absence of any mention whatsoever of the words ‘Hamas’ and ‘terrorism’ throughout, one can only wonder whether this sympathetic interview was the result of the BBC contacting that political NGO or the other way round. Either way, BBC World Service radio listeners heard a totally partisan item replete with crucial omission which actively misled them on the topic of the ‘Great Return March’ and more. 

Related Articles:

Breaking the Silence and the British Media (CAMERA)

Breaking the Silence gets failing grade in Channel 10’s fact-check  (CAMERA)

A Hamas ‘Great Return March’ speech the BBC is unlikely to report

Back in May 2017 BBC audiences were told that Hamas had abandoned “anti-Jewish language” with the publication of a new policy document.

“It also says Hamas’s struggle is not with Jews but with “occupying Zionist aggressors”. The 1988 charter was condemned for its anti-Jewish language.

The text is seen as an effort by Hamas, which rules Gaza, to soften its image.

“The document gives us a chance to connect with the outside world,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

“To the world, our message is: Hamas is not radical. We are a pragmatic and civilized movement. We do not hate the Jews. We only fight who occupies our lands and kills our people. […]

For years there has been criticism of Hamas over the language of its charter, in particular articles which were branded anti-Semitic.

The charter speaks of the need to fight “warmongering Jews” and cites a hadith – a report of what the Prophet Muhammad said or approved – that declares “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews)”.

It also refers to the “Jews’ usurpation of Palestine” and accuses Jews of controlling the world’s media and of being behind the French Revolution, secret societies and of controlling imperialist countries.”

The same messaging was repeated in another report a week later and several months after that BBC audiences were inaccurately informed by the corporation’s chief international correspondent that Hamas had “made some changes to that charter”. The BBC refused to correct that error.

On July 12th MEMRI translated a speech made by Hamas’ Fathi Hamad.

“Hamas Political Bureau member Fathi Hammad said in a Friday, July 12, 2019 speech at a March of Return rally that aired on Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas-Gaza) that Israel has until the following Friday (July 19) to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip and implement its understandings with Hamas, lest the Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and all over the world use the “many methods and means” that are “up their sleeves” to “powerfully explode” in Israel’s face. He said that, contrary to what Israel thinks, the Gazans are not rational, and that if they die, they will do so honorably while cutting off the heads of Jews and killing them with explosive belts, which he said Hamas has been actively manufacturing in factories. Calling on the seven million Palestinians abroad, whom he said have been “warming up” and “preparing,” Hammad said: “Enough warming up… We must attack every Jew on planet Earth and slaughter and kill them.” Hammad also encouraged Palestinians in the West Bank to purchase knives in order to cut the necks of Jews, saying that knives only cost five shekels. He added: “We will die while exploding and cutting the necks and legs of the Jews. We will lacerate them and tear them to pieces, Allah willing!” [emphasis added]

While Hamad is no stranger to violent and antisemitic rhetoric, this time some Hamas officials tried to distance the movement from part his statements, despite their being not not vastly different from many others made by Hamas officials in the past.

BBC audiences, however, will no doubt continue to see the corporation’s standard tepid description of Hamas as a “militant group” and portrayal of the ‘Great Return March‘ as “protests”. 

 

 

 

BBC News coverage of incendiary attacks in two locations

Last year we documented how it took the BBC three months to get round to producing one short report about the arson attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip within the framework of the ‘Great Return March’ which resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres of nature reserves, woodland and farm land in nearby Israeli communities.

A two and a half minute BBC News video on a story ignored for three months

No additional reporting on that topic has been seen in the past eleven months even though the attacks have continued and even been ‘upgraded’ to include airborne explosive devices. The BBC of course continues to portray the activities of Gaza Strip residents along the border with Israel as “protests”.

The ITIC reports that:

“Since the ceasefire (May 6, 2019) that ended the most recent round of escalation, there has been a gradual increase in the launching of incendiary and IED balloons from the Gaza Strip. During the past two weeks it has become intensive and systematic, and caused scores of fires near the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip border. […]

During the long span of arson terrorism attacks (more than a year), more than 2000 fires have been set in Israel (according to data from the Israel Fire and Rescue Services in the southern district and the Jewish National Fund (JNF)), burning approximately 8700 acres (JNF). Most of the fires broke out near the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, burning agricultural fields, natural forests and nature preserves. Arson terrorism also contributed to the disruption of daily life in the local Israeli communities and caused moral and psychological damage.”

Since that last round of escalation in early May BBC audiences have seen plenty of reporting concerning the Gaza Strip – including an interview with a Hamas spokesman – but no coverage of the increased arson attacks launched from that territory which have caused damage to crops.

photo credit: ITIC

However, visitors to the BBC News website on May 29th did learn about the deliberate burning of agricultural land in another location.

Titled “Syrian military ‘burning farmland in rebel-held north’”, the report informs readers that:

“Satellite images show large areas of farmland in opposition-held north-west Syria have been burnt as part of what activists allege is a campaign by the government to destroy vital food crops.

Civil defence workers say incendiary weapons have been fired repeatedly at fields in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces in the past month. […]

The Syria Civil Defence – whose rescue workers are known as the White Helmets – accuses the government and its ally Russia of seeking to “burn all aspects of life” in the last region still held by the opposition after eight years of war.

In addition to bombing residential areas, it says, the Syrian and Russian militaries have targeted farmland with rockets and shells containing incendiary chemicals, causing “large pervasive fires which have destroyed all farm crops and deprived peasant farmers of their coming harvests”.

Satellite photographs taken at the start and end of last week by Maxar Technologies showed areas of scorched earth and plumes of smoke around the town of al-Habeet, in southern Idlib province, and neighbouring Kafr Nabouda, in northern Hama province.”

So if the deliberate burning of farmland in northern Syria is newsworthy – as it of course should be – why has the BBC not produced any reporting on similar events in southern Israel in the past eleven months?

Related Articles:

A ‘Great Return March’ story BBC audiences have not been told

 

BBC Arabic website promotes antisemitic Holocaust analogy

A demonstration organised by groups including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al Aqsa and the Muslim Association of Britain took place in London earlier this month. As documented by the ITIC:

“On May 11, 2019, a demonstration and rally were held in central London to mark the Palestinian Nakba Day. The events were organized by several anti-Israeli organizations operating in Britain, whose objective is to demonize Israel and promote the BDS campaign. The Nakba Day events in London were attended by between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators. At the head of the demonstrators marched Ahed Tamimi, a young Palestinian woman from the village of Nabi Salih (near Ramallah), a serial provocateur who customarily clashes with IDF soldiers. Among the speakers was Zaher Birawi, a Hamas – and Muslim Brotherhood – affiliated operative who participates in organizing marches and flotillas to the Gaza Strip, and a member of the committee that prepared the return marches [Great Return March – Ed.]. Another speaker was Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority (PA) representative in Britain. The demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans calling for the [so-called] “right of return” of the Palestinians, which means, according to Palestinian perception, the destruction of the nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Also among the speakers at that event was Glyn Secker of (among others) ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ – a group frequently featured in BBC content. Secker was briefly suspended by the Labour party last year due to participation in a Facebook group promoting antisemitic material. As reported by the Jewish News:

“The “National Demonstration for Palestine: Exist! Resist! Return!” march – attended by several Labour MPs, including Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon – had placards claiming that “Israel provokes antisemitism”. […]

Glyn Secker, secretary of the Anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Labour, told the demonstrators that the 119 Labour MPs who were “friends of Israel” a “fifth column in the Labour Party led by [Dame Margaret] Hodge and [Tom] Watson and the Jewish Labour Movement.”

Claiming that the Zionist Federation was “embracing” the neo-Nazi English Defence League, Secker told the crowd gathered outside the BBC in Portland Place: “What on earth are Jews doing in the gutter with these rats?

“Here’s a warning to the [British] Jewish leadership, while you foment your campaign of allegations of antisemitism against [Jeremy] Corbyn and the left to silence Israel’s critics, while you cry wolf month after month, year after year in the Labour Party and remain blind to the explosion of the far-right and Islamophobia, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” 

He added: “You serve to protect the poison that would destroy both our freedom and yours. Well brothers and sisters, we are on the side of the Palestinians. We are on the side of the freedom marchers of ghetto Gaza.””

Although that demonstration took place literally on the BBC’s doorstep, we have been unable to find any English language coverage of it.

However four days later, on May 15th, the BBC Arabic website published an article which opened:

“Today marks the seventy-first anniversary of the Nakba, the name given by Palestinians and Arabs to the humanitarian tragedy of the displacement of a large number of the Palestinian people from their homes and the destruction of most of their political, economic and civilisational features following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1984 [sic].”

The article went on to tell readers that Palestinians “continue to live in refugee camps” – but not why – before showcasing a number of posts on social media which “stressed the right of return” – but with no explanation of what that actually means. Among the Tweets chosen by the BBC was one from professional anti-Israel activist Ben White.

Referring to the ‘Great Return March, the article told readers that “60 people were killed in last year’s major rally, coinciding with the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem” – but not that the majority of them have been identified as having connections to terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

In a sub section titled “British sympathisers” readers were told that “[t]he British capital London witnessed a mass demonstration last Saturday to commemorate the anniversary and highlight the suffering of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip”. No information was given concerning the organisers of that demonstration or the fact that its speakers included a Hamas-linked professional activist.

Readers were then told that an unnamed member of staff from BBC Trending (which, interestingly, did not publish an English language version of this article on its BBC News website blog) had met some of the demonstration’s participants in order to understand why they “give up on a day of relaxation and good times with the family to engage in political action…”.

Five participants were interviewed and their context-free and often inaccurate claims and statements were uncritically amplified.

“But things changed for her in 2012 when she visited the West Bank and witnessed the “inhuman treatment” of Palestinians by Israelis, especially in the city of Hebron.”

“The “Palestinian cause” has become a symbol of all forms of injustice and injustice in various parts of the world. Those who defend any just cause anywhere in the world must support the Palestinians in the face of Israeli injustice and aggression.”

“I was ignorant of what was going on there, but I started to research, read and listen to people, and I concluded that what was happening was terrible, but that it was racist.”

“Alicia considers that what is more important than demonstrating on Nakba Day or other occasions is “to engage in the campaign to boycott Israel. This is a method that has proved successful with apartheid in South Africa and will make a big difference to the Palestinian cause.”

BBC Trending also had no qualms about promoting antisemitic Nazi analogy from an interviewee named as ‘Jay’.

“I was very sympathetic to the victims of the Holocaust and I visited the Jerusalem Museum [sic] to know more about them, however the fact that the Israelis commit violent acts that bear the same level of atrocity against the Palestinians is beyond my comprehension” [translation CAMERA Arabic, emphasis added]

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism includes:

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

At the beginning of 2018 BBC Arabic had a weekly reach of 43 million people. Apparently the BBC is quite happy for such an antisemitic statement to be promoted to that audience.

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part two

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?

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BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part one

BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

BBC Radio 1 ‘Newsbeat’ Gaza special – part one

As we saw yesterday, in among reporting on the European Song Contest, ‘Newsbeat’ journalists Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney also promoted a problematic “history lesson” to the their audience of 16 to 24 year-olds in an item broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1 XTRA on May 13th.

The next day – May 14th – on the same radio stations, ‘Newsbeat’ aired a “special from Gaza” by the same two journalists. A much-used BBC mantra was already seen in the synopsis.

“Newsbeat reporters Steve Holden and Daniel Rosney are in Gaza in the Middle East, one of the most populated places on Earth.”

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Steve Holden introduced the item (from 00:00 here).

Holden: “Hello. This week we are in Israel and the Palestinian territories as people from all over the world come to the city of Tel Aviv for an event that is loved by millions – Eurovision. […] Tonight the first semi-final will be taking place.”

Rosney: “But we couldn’t cover that without coming here – 90 minutes along the coast – to one of the most talked-about strips of land in the world: Gaza.”

Obviously they could indeed have covered the Eurovision Song Contest without travelling to an unrelated nearby territory but they chose not to – just as they chose not to avoid providing amplification for the BDS campaign’s calls to boycott the event.

Holden: “It’s a chance for us to get into why that is and why it’s made this year’s Eurovision one of the most controversial ever. So let’s get straight to it.”

Rosney: “Listen to that. That’s the sound of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a blazing hot day, white sand, blue water but you would never come here on holiday.”

Holden: “No you can’t visit Gaza. You need special permission to enter. We got permits as members of the press.”

The mantra seen in the synopsis was then repeated again:

Rosney: “It’s one of the most densely populated places on earth; smaller than the Isle of Wight but with almost 2 million people packed in. Palestinian territory bordered by Israel and Egypt.”

There are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, a map produced by the BBC in 2018 shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.

Adhering to BBC editorial policy throughout the last 15 months, Holden went on to euphemistically describe the weekly ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting as “protests”.

Holden: “Over the next 15 minutes we’re gonna be talking about why it’s often in the news, the protests that happen here practically every week, the restrictions that affect daily life and the tension with Israel.”

Rosney: “Now it’s important to remember that Gaza is poor. According to the World Bank – an organisation which tries to reduce poverty – of which it says 40% of the population here are in. And youth unemployment rate is well above 60%.”

Holden: “Yeah and it’s also got one of the world’s youngest populations. Get your head around this: more than 40% of the people here are younger than 15 years old.”

Notably, neither Holden nor Rosney bothered to join the dots between poverty, youth unemployment and population density and the obviously relevant factor of birth rate.

‘Newsbeat’ audiences then got their second ‘history lesson’ in two days.

Rosney: “So before we find out why life is like this, we need to understand its history. So here’s Kat Collins.”

Newsbeat reporter Kat Collins came up with an account that has inaccuracy, misleading information or significant omission in almost every line, so let’s take them one by one.

Collins: “A strip of land home to nearly 2 million people, mainly Palestinian refugees. Hundreds of thousands of them living in refugee camps.”

Listeners were not told why there are still “hundreds of thousands” of refugees 71 years on or why Palestinians who have been living exclusively under Palestinian control for the past 14 years are still kept in refugee camps.

Collins: “A key point in Gaza’s history was World War Two and the mass murder of 6 million Jews under the Nazis.”

Here Collins promoted a classic narrative used by anti-Israel activists: the notion that Palestinians are suffering because of the Holocaust – or “mass murder” as Collins preferred to call that genocide.  

Collins: “After the war Jewish people were promised their own country.”

No: the Jewish nation was promised a homeland by the League of Nations after the First World War.

Collins: “Israel was created: carved out of land that was known as Palestine.”

Listeners were not told the origins of the name Palestine and so would be likely to automatically assume – wrongly – that Palestine was the nation state of the Palestinians mentioned just seconds later. 

Collins: “But the Palestinians and neighbouring Arab countries refused to recognise Israel as a country. Again there was war and thousands of Palestinians escaped to places like Gaza next door.”

Collins did not bother to inform listeners that Arab countries and the Palestinians conducted violent attacks long before Israel declared its independence or that roughly half of the refugees fled before Israel came into being. The fact that the Gaza Strip was part of the land designated by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish homeland and the Egyptian occupation of that area in 1948 of course did not get a mention.

Collins: “In the 1960s, another war. Israel captured Gaza.”

Listeners heard nothing of the background to the Six Day War, including the fact that the Gaza Strip was at the time under the control of its main instigator.

Collins: “Decades of fighting continued between Israel and the Palestinians. Throughout the 1990s Gaza was given more power though and in 2005 Israeli troops left the area.”

Apparently Collins believes it is appropriate to portray Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians as “fighting” between the two sides. Her reference to the 1990s is unclear but perhaps relates to the Oslo Accords. Of course in 2005, all Israelis – soldiers and civilians alike – left the Gaza Strip and even the Israeli dead were exhumed. Collins then went on to promote the falsehood that there was “peace” after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip when in fact terror attacks only increased.

Collins: “But peace didn’t last long and Israel still controls who and what goes in and out of Gaza. It says the blockade is for security reasons.”

Listeners were not told that the Gaza Strip also has a border with and crossing into Egypt. Neither were they informed that the blockade was implemented because of Palestinian terrorism.  

Collins: “Palestinians there regularly fire rockets into Israel. They want Gaza to become part of a new State of Palestine with independence. Israel’s also attacked Gaza many times, saying it wants to stop the rocket fire.”

The Palestinian factions attacking Israeli civilians with rockets so not do so because they want “a new State of Palestine”. They do so because they want Israel to cease to exist.  

Collins: “The opening ceremony for Gaza’s international airport. That was 1998 but not long after it was bombed by Israel. It’s never reopened.”

Collins failed to clarify that the airport was put out of action during the terror war waged by the Palestinians known as the Second Intifada.

Collins: “With access restricted, not many things get in or out of Gaza. Food is allowed in but aid agencies say people aren’t getting much meat or fresh fruit and vegetables.”

In fact everything gets into Gaza with the exception of dual use goods that can be used for the purpose of terrorism, for which a permit is required. Collins did not name the ‘aid agencies’ she cited but we have been unable to find any such claims from a serious source.  

We did however find a professor from the Gaza Strip who stated that:

“…there is no shortage of food products in Gaza. “You can get anything you’re looking for at the supermarkets,” he testifies. “Fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products. The problem is that we’re falling between the Ramallah armchair and the Gaza stool: Abbas issued an order to cut government workers’ salaries, and some 100,000 families fell under the poverty line. Your heart explodes when you pass by the packed food stands, and the head of the household stands there and has to decide whether to buy cheese and bread or watermelon.”

The Palestinian Authority’s financial sanctions against Hamas – which also affect power supplies, sewage treatment and medical supplies – had however no place in the BBC’s ‘history’. Neither did the violent coup instigated by Hamas in 2007.

Collins: “In 2006 the Palestinian militant group Hamas became Gaza’s ruling party. Supporters say it is a legitimate fighting force defending Palestinian rights but countries like the UK, the US and Canada call its members…terrorists.”

Collins of course did not bother to clarify that the ‘right’ Hamas purports to defend is its declared aim of eliminating the world’s only Jewish state. Obviously she preferred to lead ‘Newsbeat’ audiences towards the erroneous belief that terrorism is defined by motive rather than action.

With ‘Newsbeat’ claiming to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience”, we once again get a good picture of what the BBC wants young people in the UK to know about the Arab-Israeli conflict – and what not.

The rest of this report will be discussed in part two of this post.

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BBC’s ‘Newsbeat’ gives younger audiences a ‘history lesson’

 

Hamas once again given a platform on the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’

The BBC ‘frequent flyer’ who told audiences in July 2018 that Israel prevents the people in Gaza from “having fresh air” – Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad – was invited back for a ‘Hardtalk’ interview aired on BBC World Service radio and two BBC television stations on May 22nd.

“Stephen Sackur interviews Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for Hamas. The surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence in Gaza earlier this month was relatively short-lived, and the status-quo remains intact. But could change be afoot? Hamas’s internal grip on Gaza is threatened by rising economic discontent. The Trump Administration will soon unveil a peace plan built on economic incentives for the Palestinian people. The movement’s rhetoric is unbending, but do the Palestinian people long for new ideas?”

Following a similar introduction, presenter Stephen Sackur asked his guest: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sackur: “…when the people of Gaza ask you how you and the Hamas movement are going to make their lives better, what do you say?”

It is of course entirely predictable that an interview with a spokesman for a terrorist organisation would yield nothing more than a recitation of that group’s misinformation and propaganda. Hence one would expect an interviewer representing a Western media organisation obliged to provide its audiences with “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming” in order to “build people’s understanding” to robustly challenge all such propaganda.

However, it took Stephen Sackur a full four minutes to present any sort of challenge to the misinformation repeatedly touted by Hamad.

Hamad: “I think we are struggling, we are working day and night in order to ease the life of the people in Gaza. But I think the people they understand very well that the reason of this crisis is the occupation, is the policy of the siege, is the policy of the blockade, is the pressure on Gaza everyday because Israel look to Gaza as hostile region and they try to keep Gaza under siege and blockade, sanctions and striking every day. I think we are trying to stop this.”

There is of course no such thing as a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip and there has been no ‘occupation’ in the Gaza Strip for 14 years.

Hamad went on to claim that Hamas was trying to “stop this” by means of reconciliation with Fatah and through a “ceasefire agreement”, concluding:

Hamad: “If we put end for the occupation in Gaza I think people could create freedom, dignity and respect and they can move everywhere, they can do everything that they want.”

Sackur: “Yeah. We understand that there are lots of things that you in Gaza are not able to deliver and you talk about what you call the Israeli blockade and you know that we on ‘Hardtalk’ talk to very senior figures in the Israeli government about their policies towards the Gaza Strip but I’m interested in what you can control…”

Hamad’s reply claiming that Hamas “is not so interested to keep control [of] Gaza” did not elicit a response from Sackur and audiences were not told that the Gaza Strip also has a border with Egypt. 

Hamad: “It is a big challenge for us. It’s not easy because Gaza’s like prison. It’s closed from all sides. The gates of Gaza are controlled by the occupation. Gaza’s under sanctions, under the control of the occupation so it’s not easy to find a genius solution for this situation unless we put end for the occupation in Gaza.”

Sackur: “There’s no genius solution; I agree of course with that. But it does raise questions about the sense of your particular strategy. For example, you know, just a couple of weeks ago Hamas’ military wing – along with Islamic Jihad – took the decision to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel. Now I’m just wondering how you can convince anybody that that is in the long-term best interests of the people of Gaza, given that it just gives license to the Israeli government to yet again impose the sort of economic blockade, maintain the blockade that you’ve just talked about.”

Hamad had obviously not “talked about” an “economic blockade” (which in fact only restricts the entry of dual-use goods which can be used for the purpose of terrorism). Hamad had referred to a ‘siege’ and an ‘occupation’ which do not exist.

Hamad: “Look I think we are living in the big dilemma. We are under occupation and then we have to resist against this occupation because the occupation is the source of all evils and all kinds of troubles in Gaza here. And I think we are fighting the Israeli occupation in order to live in freedom and dignity. I think this is something we could not be blamed for this. I think this is the responsibility of the international community. They should as Israel you have to put an end for the occupation. You have to stop this.”

Only at 05:25 minutes into the conversation did Sackur present any form of challenge to that repeated use of the term ‘occupation’.

Sackur: “Hang on, let’s go through this in detail. You talk about ‘the occupation’. Of course Gaza is not occupied. Israeli forces pulled out of Gaza many years ago. You can talk, as you do, about the economic policies the Israelis implement towards you…”

Hamad: “No, no, you misunderstand. You misunderstand. You have to ask yourself who control the borders? Who control the export and import to Gaza?”

Sackur: “No, I understand what you are saying but there is not…there is not an Israeli military troop occupation of Gaza. There used to be. The Israelis pulled out…”

Of course the main issue hindering audience understanding of this interview is that – as an experienced journalist such as Sackur surely knows – Hamas uses the term ‘the occupation’ as a synonym for Israel, reflecting the fact that it rejects the existence of the Jewish state. Sackur later passed up another opportunity to enhance audience understanding by challenging Hamad on that subject.

06:30 Hamad: “Look, Stephen, you have to understand: we are a peaceful people. We want to live like any people in the world. We want to live in freedom. It is enough for us to live in the seventy years of occupation and dilemma and troubles every day…”

Neither did Sackur challenge Hamad’s subsequent claim that there is “no armed struggle in the West Bank” or his bizarre allegation that Israel “abuse” Mahmoud Abbas and “now dismantle the Palestinian Authority”. Moreover, Sackur had nothing to say about this diatribe:

Hamad: “I think this is Israeli mentality that they want to punish, they want to delete the Palestinian identity, they want to destroy our future. They don’t want Palestinian to establish our state, our future, so I think what happen in the Gaza is the same. It’s the policy of the occupation. They want Gaza starving, suffering, people asking for a piece of bread. They want Gaza to be like this. They want Gaza to be oppressed and to be broken….”

Later on in the interview (from 12:47) Sackur brought up the topic of “a very careful coordination by Hamas security forces of this ‘March of Return’”.  He however failed to challenge Hamad’s repeated portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ as “peaceful” or the following falsehoods:

Hamad: “…people they went to the borders and they took peaceful people. They don’t have guns, they don’t have even stones, they don’t have grenades, they have nothing – just people protest in order to get the attention of the world that there is a crisis in Gaza, that people they deserve a state, people deserve dignity…”

Hamad’s subsequent false claims concerning the identities of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting likewise went unquestioned by Sackur.

Hamad: “Most of them are children, most people are innocent people and most of them are women…[…] It is not a military march and you will never find anyone he is a military.”

Notwithstanding Stephen Sackur’s few symbolic and tepid challenges, this interview failed to provide BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which would contribute to their understanding of a complex issue. It did however once again provide a member of a terrorist organisation with a platform from which to disseminate misinformation and propaganda.  

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “Arab Spring: the Second Coming?”.

“The current instability in Algeria, Sudan and Libya has led to some excited western media coverage heralding a second chapter of the Arab Spring.  Those celebrating should be careful what they wish for. The Arab uprisings of 2010-11 and the subsequent years began with great hope but with the partial exception of Tunisia, left only strife, war and state fragmentation in their wake. One can only wish the protestors much luck, while noting that the record suggests that societies lacking civil society traditions and institutions are unlikely to achieve better governance through mass action.”

2) The ITIC reports on “Hamas’s financial aid to the wounded and the families of those killed in the Return Marches”.

“Right from the outset of the march project, Hamas realized that the marches were exacting a heavy toll of dead and wounded, many of them Hamas operatives, who were killed or wounded in clashes with IDF soldiers near the security fence. Therefore, the treatment of the wounded, and assistance to the families of those killed, has preoccupied Hamas since the start of the marches. Despite its economic difficulties, Hamas allocated large sums of money, initially amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, which subsequently rose to hundreds of thousands and reached millions of dollars. Senior Hamas figures reiterated the importance of the aid, and made sure to visit the wounded, including those hospitalized abroad. Hamas’s concern for the wounded and the families of those killed is also intended to encourage the continued participation of the Gazan population in the marches and halt the public criticism of its negligence in caring for the wounded, which began to be voiced as the marches continued.”

3) At Legal Insurrection, Petra Marquardt-Bigman discusses “Anti-Israel bias at Human Rights Watch”.

“Israel has refused to renew a visa for Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to remain in Israel as a human rights worker, based on his long history of anti-Israel activism. This has caused a storm of controversy and lawsuits, leading to the fair question: Is Shakir entitled to a work visa to promote human rights if what he really is promoting is anti-Israel activism and the destruction of Israel?

Not surprisingly, the international media has taken Shakir’s side.”

4) Jonathan Schanzer lays out The Gaza Conundrum at Commentary Magazine.

“The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) currently facilitates the entry of thousands of truckloads of goods to enter the Gaza Strip every day, even as a military blockade remains in place to block dual-use materials and sophisticated weaponry from the Gaza Strip. In other words, Israel has two policies. One is to isolate Hamas, and the other is to allow services to be rendered to the Gazan people.

Israel, for the sake of calm, has even engaged with the Turks and the Qataris, despite both countries’ avowed anti-Zionism and support for Hamas. It has permitted them to provide funds and other assistance to the coastal enclave. Gaza’s suffering continues, however, because Hamas continues to divert funds for commando tunnels, rockets, and other tools of war. And under Hamas rule, there is not much political space to challenge these policies. Anti-Israel sentiment is the only permissible form of protest. This has only served to further radicalize a population that has for years been fed a steady diet of hate.”

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Claim shown to be false a year ago recycled in simplistic BBC backgrounder

As noted here previously on May 14th the BBC News website published a backgrounder apparently intended to mitigate weeks of context-free amplification of (unsuccessful) calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Tel Aviv.  

Produced by ‘Newsbeat’ – the department of BBC News which purports to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience” – and titled “Eurovision 2019: The Israeli-Palestinian situation explained”, the unattributed article is tagged ‘Gaza border clashes’.

The article opens by telling BBC audiences that:

“This year’s Eurovision has an extra layer of controversy – because it’s being held in Israel. […]

But there have been calls to boycott the event by critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.”

What “Israel’s policies” are is not properly explained anywhere in the article. Policies such as the supply of electricity and provision of medical treatment to Palestinians of course do not get a mention. Readers are then materially misled by the following portrayal of the conflict:

“The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has gone on for decades, and the dispute over land is at its heart.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s adoption of that inaccurate notion of course means that it does not have to explain to its audiences the issue of Muslim objection to the presence of the Jewish state in the Middle East.

The article continues with a sub-section purporting to outline the history behind the conflict in which the Arab riots of the 1920s and 1930s are whitewashed. Ignoring the Arab violence which followed the UN Partition Plan vote, the article moves on to “The creation of Israel and the ‘Catastrophe’”.

“In 1948, unable to solve the problem, British rulers left and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.

Many Palestinians objected and a war followed. Troops from neighbouring Arab countries invaded.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.

That link leads to a problematic article published a year ago in which Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as totally passive victims and all mention of the responsibility of the Arab leaders who rejected the 1947 Partition Plan and subsequently started the war that led to their displacement is missing. 

The displacement of Palestinians did not take place – as the BBC would obviously have its audiences believe – only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948. In fact:

“Roughly half of those fleeing did so between November 1947 (when Palestinian Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence) and May 1948 (when the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon invaded Palestine).”

The BBC carefully avoids thorny topics such as Palestinian hereditary refugee status and the reasons why Palestinians living in Palestinian controlled areas are still defined as ‘refugees’. The issue of certain Arab countries’ deliberate policy of discriminating against Palestinians and keeping them in perpetual refugee status for over 70 years is of course not mentioned in this ‘backgrounder’.

Readers are told that:

“Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.” [emphasis added]

No explanation of the background to that highlighted statement is provided.

In a sub-section titled “What’s happening now?” readers are told that:

“Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian militant group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Israel and Egypt tightly control Gaza’s borders to stop weapons getting to Hamas.” [emphasis added]

Hamas has of course never “fought Israel” in the accepted sense of the term: rather, it is a terror group which targets Israeli civilians. Unsurprisingly the decades of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and other Palestinian factions against Israeli civilians have no place in this dumbed-down BBC backgrounder.

In the final section of this article readers are shown a video captioned “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on”. That filmed report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was first aired in May 2018 and it includes a section narrated by Bowen as follows:

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The day before this report was aired on BBC One and posted on the website, conflicting accounts of the baby’s death had already emerged with both a Gaza doctor and her father stating that she had a pre-existing medical condition. Nevertheless, the BBC did not edit out that part of Bowen’s report implying that the child’s death was linked to Israel’s response to the incidents along the border.”

Moreover, Hamas subsequently removed the baby’s name from its list of casualties and further information concerning the circumstances of her death later emerged.

Despite those developments, the BBC failed to remove multiple items from its website (available to this day) in which viewers are given to understand that Israel was connected to the baby’s death. BBC Watch therefore submitted a complaint to the BBC on that issue in June 2018 and two months later received a reply concerning some of the items from Sean Moss at the BBC News website which included the following claims:

“1: ‘Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years’ (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44116340).

In this piece we attribute both the baby’s death and the wider figures to the “Hamas-run” health ministry. We don’t mention the cause of death or otherwise draw any specific connection between this death and Israeli action.

2: ‘Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on’ (https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-44133897/gaza-the-bullets-stop-the-burials-go-on).

Jeremy Bowen does not say that the baby was killed by the army and he leads into this part of his report by saying ‘poverty and grief breed anger – and so do the deaths of children,’ which is true.”

BBC Watch subsequently contacted both the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit and OFCOM, pointing out in regard to the first item that:

“…the report is specifically about Palestinians who died during those “protests” and it is obviously not about Palestinians who coincidentally happened to die for other reasons at the same time. Readers would therefore understandably conclude that the baby was among those “killed on Monday when Israeli troops opened fire” and Moss’ claim that “We don’t…draw any specific connection between this death and Israeli action” is inaccurate and disingenuous.”

With regard to Bowen’s report we noted that:

“The synopsis […] states “More funerals have taken place for the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in Gaza on Monday” and so again obviously viewers would understand that its topic is ‘Palestinians killed by Israeli troops’. Given that and the fact that immediately before showing footage of the funeral of “Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old” Jeremy Bowen had profiled a person described as having been “shot through the eye during the protests”, it is clear that Moss’ claim that “Jeremy Bowen does not say that the baby was killed by the army” is also disingenuous: Bowen did not have to say that because the case had already been signposted.”

To this day BBC Watch has not received a satisfactory response on this serious issue from either the BBC or OFCOM. Now – one year on – we see that the BBC continues to promote the claim that Israel was responsible for the death of a baby in the Gaza Strip in 2018 despite the fact that even Hamas backtracked on that allegation twelve months ago.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s double helping ‘Nakba’ backgrounder

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC continues to disregard developments in Gaza baby story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC film exposes falsehoods in two previous reports

Two months ago, on March 18th, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme aired an item which included an interview presented by host Nick Robinson as follows:

Robinson: “The United Nations has said that over a year of weekly protests at the border with Gaza [sic] 193 Palestinians have been killed and more than 26 thousand injured. Among them is Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Palestinian associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.”

Loubani: “I’d like to say that I was doing something heroic when I got shot but I wasn’t. I was standing. It was quiet, there was nothing else happening on the field. I was just loitering, talking to some of my colleagues. I was marked clearly in greens and had been on the field for a few hours so it was obvious to the soldiers, who were very close to us, exactly what we were doing. And I did not expect that I would be targeted. Up until that point it had been six weeks with no injuries of medics. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and felt an incredible pain in my legs and found myself on the ground. The paramedic who rescued me, Musa Abuhassanin, Musa was killed an hour later when he was shot in the chest.”

As was noted here at the time, BBC audiences had previously heard that story from Tarek Loubani in an article that appeared on the BBC News website in May 2018 and which included a link to his blog.

“Dr Loubani, an emergency physician who practises in London, Ontario, and at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza, said in a blog post that one paramedic was killed and several others were wounded on Monday as Israeli troops opened fire during the protests.”

As was noted here on both those occasions:

“…a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th [2018].”

The ‘paramedic’ identified by Hamas in that poster as a member of its internal security apparatus turned up again in BBC Two’s recent film titled ‘One Day in Gaza’.

At 29:50 the film showed an interview with Musa Abuhassanin’s mother who told how, on May 14th 2018, she was taken by bus along with others from her local mosque to an “unofficial protest site” near the border which was “near a graveyard” and “right next to a Hamas military training area”.

31:18 “Four paramedics were dispatched to the area…one of them was Aintisar’s son, Musa. […] Musa was a paramedic in Gaza’s civil defence force – part of the Hamas ministry of the interior.”

Viewers heard an account of events at that site which contrasts sharply to that already given twice to BBC audiences by Tarek Loubani.

33:00: “Eyewitnesses say at least two armed Palestinians stood aside from the crowd and began firing on Israeli soldiers.”

A member of the IDF interviewed concerning the same incident spoke of fifteen to twenty shooters and viewers saw real time footage of shooting and IED explosions.

36:14: “Twenty-one people were killed at the graveyard that afternoon. At least eight of them were alleged [sic] members of al Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Two of them were children. No Israelis were hurt. The Hamas leadership denies they sanctioned a military operation that day but admits that Palestinians opened fire.”

55:02: “The paramedic Musa Abuhassanin was one of the dead claimed by Hamas. Palestinians say [sic] that like most of the dead, he had nothing to do with the organisation’s armed wing and was posing no threat to Israel when he was shot.”

According to the Twitter feed of the film’s producer Olly Lambert, he did his filming in the Gaza Strip in December 2018 at the same time that the ‘Today’ programme’s Mishal Husain was there.

Surely then the BBC should have realised by late December that the account of the incident it had promoted in May 2018 (and which is still available online) according to which the IDF opened fire without provocation was inaccurate and that the paramedic who appeared in Tarek Loubani’s story was actually a member of Hamas.

Nevertheless, three months after Lambert had filmed his interviews in the Gaza Strip, the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme once again provided an unchallenged platform for Tarek Loubani’s activist propaganda.

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Former ISM activist medic reappears in BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ show

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