The March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary”. Illustrated with an image captioned “The protesters demanded that Palestinian refugees be given the right of return”, its synopsis read:
“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of the start of protests along the boundary fence with Israel.”
Presenter Lyse Doucet began (from 00:25 here) by framing the story in the fashion seen throughout the past twelve months. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Doucet: “We start today’s programme in Gaza and the Great March of Return, as it’s called. Today marks one year of weekly protests at Gaza’s border fence with Israel. And Palestinian protesters are at the boundary again, some burning tyres, some using slingshots to hurl stones. And on the other side Israeli troops are massed again, bolstered by tanks and snipers. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in the past year as well as an Israeli soldier. The protests are meant to highlight the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel. But Israel accuses Hamas of using Gazans as human shields to terrorise Israeli civilians. The anniversary comes in the midst of growing tension between Israel and Hamas, the militant group ruling this sliver of land along the Mediterranean.”
As we see, the BBC’s chief international correspondent managed to tick nearly all the BBC’s framing boxes in her introduction. That framing includes:
- Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
- Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
- Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
- Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of return’ and lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
- Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
- Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.
Doucet then brought in Tom Bateman (on a bad line) in the Gaza Strip who, after he had described seeing around a thousand people “close to the fence” who were throwing rocks from slingshots and burning tyres, went on to note the use of tear gas and live ammunition by Israeli forces, claiming to have been “told” of the death of one person and 40 others injured. Doucet then reinforced the framing:
Doucet: “So it’s not just a protest but it’s a risky protest.”
Having wound up her conversation with Bateman, Doucet brought in Yolande Knell who was situated on the other side of the fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Despite that rare visit by a BBC correspondent to one of the Israeli communities which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year (the last one was in July 2018), BBC World Service radio audiences once again did not hear a word from any of its residents.
Informed listeners – obviously not the majority – would have noticed Knell’s allusion to Hamas’ ability to control the level of violence according to its own interests and the fact that she is aware of what she termed “night time protests” – about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing at all.
Knell: “…Hamas officials in Gaza indicating…that they would put pressure on the protesters to turn up but then to stay calm and not to go so close to the fence as they have done previously.”
Knell: “…we know what its [Israel’s] demands would be – among them to stop the night-time protests that have taken place along the fence as well and also the incendiary balloons that have caused so much damage. Balloons and kites sent into Israel.”
Doucet then chose to uncritically amplify the recent UNHRC report while once again concealing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting have been shown to have links to terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
Doucet: “And as you know, Yolande, the UN has said…has accused Israel of directly targeting civilians using excessive force. What kind of forces are lined along the border today?”
Following a rambling response from Knell, Doucet moved on.
07:17 Doucet: “So what’s it like to live in Gaza in the midst of this tension and deepening economic hardship for its 2 million residents? The UN often expresses alarm over a territory mired in grinding poverty and unemployment without access to even the basics of life: adequate health, education, water and electricity. Much of Gazan anger is directed at Israel but there were also protests against Hamas this month – rare protests – and they were forcibly suppressed. I’ve been speaking to one Gaza resident, Dr Mosheer Amer who is the professor of discourse analysis and linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza.”
Presuming that before inviting him onto the show, the programme’s producers had checked out the record of the professor from a university co-founded by Hamas leaders whose political stance is plainly evident in articles and on social media, it is obvious that they had no problem with the fact that listeners were presented with a totally one-sided, context-free near monologue over the next five minutes.
07:53 Amer: “There is I think quite a strong resolve and determination to continue on the Great Return marches because I think that there is a large position among Palestinian civil society that this is effective in raising awareness internationally of the predicament that they’re facing over the past 12 years especially in Gaza. But there is also a feeling of, you know, sadness over the loss of civilian lives.”
Doucet: “What is life like? Are you – if I can ask – are you a father? You have children?”
Amer: “Yes I am a father of children, 2 kids, and it’s a difficult life. I’m a university professor so I think my condition is a little better than the other ones but I still get close to 30% of my salary. That is barely the minimum for, you know, having a good quality of life. But overall the situation is really difficult. We’re talking about restrictions on travel and movement in and out of Gaza. We have the electricity between 4 to 6 hours a day which is really appalling. I mean you cannot imagine that it is only on 4 to 6 hours electricity per day. And then you have to adjust all your life to this condition. And this is not just a month or two or three months: it’s been going on for quite some time. And then we have the overall economic conditions and the health conditions in Gaza hospitals. So in all aspects of life the situation is really dire and really unbearable and that’s why you see thousands – hundreds of thousands [sic] – of Palestinians flocking to the eastern side of Gaza to raise their voice, to say that enough is enough and we can no longer stay in, you know, this kind of a slow death rhythm of life.”
None of the ‘Great Return March’ events have seen more than 50,000 participants (and most have seen significantly fewer) but Doucet made no effort to correct Amer’s claim of “hundreds of thousands”. Neither did she bother to clarify to listeners that Gaza’s perennial electricity crisis and the standard of its healthcare have nothing to do with Israel.
Doucet: “What do your young students tell you? What sense do you get of them and how they think about their future?”
Amer: “Well there’s a sense, a large sense of desperation actually because I mean I’m teaching university students majoring in English and in media and journalism and there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find after I work. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza. And this is because of, again, the situation that the Gaza population have found themselves in because of this 12-year siege on Gaza and the repeated wars and this kind of abnormal state of life that we’re living here in Gaza.”
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip in 2018 was 52% – not “over like 60%”. Doucet made no effort to challenge that inaccuracy or the false claim of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip.
Doucet: “And this…recently there were I think quite unprecedented protests against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Is this anger also rising?”
Amer: “I think this is anger rising at everybody, including the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah and everyone. And there is quite a strong division amongst the Palestinians and there is sort of a trading of finger-pointing at Hamas and at PA’s President Abbas. But I think we have to put this in the context of the severe life conditions that the Gazans find themselves in because of the punitive measures that [are] imposed by the PA and also because of certain policies, economic policies, that the Hamas government here has imposed which aggravated in a sense the kind of suffering that people are facing. But the root cause actually behind all of this is the Israeli siege of Gaza. The policies and the measures adopted by the Israelis to keep life to a bare minimum. Gaza cannot live, it cannot die. And this is what we see that this kind of a slow death. Life is sucked out of Gaza and we have people really living a very difficult life.”
Again failing to challenge Amer’s promotion of the “siege” falsehood and plainly uninterested in hearing more about “economic policies that the Hamas government here has imposed”, Doucet went on:
Doucet: “You…do your own children or children of friends of yours – when I say children, even teenagers – do they go to the protests today?”
Amer: “My kids are like 5 year-olds, you know, and 4 year-old so they’re very…they’re very little. You know, and I wouldn’t take them to that protest at the moment. But I think that my friends’ families, their children have gone; they’re a little bit older. When we think about the Great Return March it’s sort of includes all peoples from all walks of life and also from all sort of socio-economic backgrounds and also from all ages, men, women and young children and adults and so on. So it’s not only restricted to what we see in the images; these sort of 18, 19 years old teenagers.”
Having failed to explain the context to Israel’s security measures that include a partial blockade on the Gaza Strip – and without even one mention of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians – Doucet closed that five minutes of unchallenged propaganda there, leaving BBC World Service audiences even worse informed than before.
BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one
BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two
BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’