A Gaza healthcare story the BBC chooses to ignore

In early August we noted that work had begun on a sixteen-department field hospital near the Erez Crossing at the north of the Gaza Strip and that the Palestinian Authority was objecting to the project.

“Although BBC audiences are told plenty about the dire state of medical services in the Gaza Strip, they rarely hear about the PA actions which exacerbate that situation such as the longstanding insufficient supply of medications. Whether or not they will be informed of this latest own goal from the Palestinian Authority remains to be seen.”

Despite the fact that the BBC has a staffed office in the Gaza Strip, audiences have indeed heard nothing about the new hospital or the Palestinian Authority’s specious claim that the field hospital was “part of a plan to separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip”.

Since then the PA’s official media has managed to come up with even more bizarre claims – as reported by PMW.

“A private American organization is to build a hospital at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. Israel has already admitted hospital equipment into the Strip. But the project is being condemned by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health, which claims that “the American hospital project is not innocent, and its goals are dangerous.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 27, 2019]

Elaborating on these alleged “dangerous goals,” an op-ed in the official PA daily claimed that the hospital is run by “the CIA,” and its purpose is not to treat the sick Palestinians but “to carry out experiments on the sick Palestinians,” and “to be a partner in trafficking in human organs”.”

As the Jerusalem Post reminds us:

“In March, the Palestinian Authority announced it would stop providing its citizens with medical treatment in Israel. This was its reaction to the Israeli decision to withhold $138 million in tax money from the PA, which is the implementation of the Jewish state’s “Pay-for-Slay” law that instructs it to deduct and freeze the amount of money the authority pays in salaries to imprisoned terrorists and families of “martyrs” from the tax money Israel collects for it.”

Apparently the BBC is not interested in stories relating to healthcare in the Gaza Strip if they cannot be used to promote the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) that the system’s many problems are primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures and the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis cannot be airbrushed from the story.

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Will BBC audiences be told this Gaza healthcare story?

 

BBC again creates false linkage between Israel and attacks on hospitals

h/t JB

Two months ago BBC Radio 4 promoted a Gaza Strip related story but failed to provide its listeners with the background necessary for them to put British surgeon David Nott’s account into its correct context, thereby potentially misleading BBC audiences.

On August 2nd the BBC World Service repeated the exercise when David Nott was again interviewed by Jo Fidgen on the radio programme ‘Outlook’.Outlook 2 8

After discussing Nott’s experiences in Sarajevo, Fidgen turned to the subject of Gaza (from 07:08 here).

Fidgen: “And since then, in different war zones around the world; an increasing number of attacks on medical facilities and on medical staff. And I think there was an occasion in Gaza…ah…when you were again in that situation. Tell us what happened there.”

Indeed military attacks on medical facilities have been making the headlines in recent months – but in countries such as Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan rather than in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, with Fidgen having created the linkage, Nott just had to take up the cue.

Nott: “Yes…it’s…I was in Gaza 2014 and similar sort of thing. Again…ehm…you always feel that international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions should always protect hospitals, should protect health-workers and doctors and you should be allowed to go about your work without any problems.”

There is of course no evidence to show that health-workers and doctors in the Gaza Strip were not protected by the applicable laws and conventions during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas but while Nott did not specifically say there is, he immediately went on to repeat the story he previously told on BBC Radio 4, with a few minor differences.

“And in Gaza I was there working for the International Committee of the Red Cross this time and…err…I was on the top floor operating on a young child in fact who was about seven years of age…[…] I was preparing her for the operation and suddenly somebody came up to me – one of the Red Cross security people – and said ‘David, we have to leave the hospital because the hospital is going to get targeted’. I said ‘what do you mean the hospital is going to’…’well it’s going to get blown up; we don’t know by whom but the message is that we need to get out now otherwise, you know, we’re not going to make it’.

As was the case in the previous interview, many listeners would have been left with the impression that Israel was the party expected to ‘target’ and ‘blow up’ the hospital. Nott concluded his story as follows:

“…and I finished the operation and then about an hour later people started to come back into the operating theatre when they realised that the hospital didn’t get blown up and it was…ah…it was one of those life moments actually.”

As was noted here the last time the BBC amplified Nott’s long mileage story of an ‘attack’ on a hospital that never happened:

“Shifa hospital was of course not attacked on that day or any other and – despite what Nott was told at the time – it was in fact considered to be one of the safest places in the Gaza Strip, as reported by the BBC’s James Reynolds just days later:

“…just to explain where we are; we’re at the Shifa hospital here in the centre of Gaza. When you speak to ordinary people here, they feel that this is about the only safe place that there is in this strip of land – this or the grounds of the other hospitals here – because they believe that Israel will not target hospitals. There are actually some families sleeping outside the hospital – again, they believe that they won’t be hit here….””

During the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas the BBC repeatedly amplified false claims that Israel had attacked medical facilities without due cause and it has since failed to clarify or correct the inaccuracies which appeared in numerous reports.

The fact that the corporation has showcased David Nott’s story twice in two months – in both cases omitting information which would have prevented audiences from being misled – does nothing to enhance the impression that the BBC’s approach to this topic is rooted in a commitment to accurate and impartial reporting. Rather, it suggests that the corporation is more interested in perpetuating a myth.   

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Comparing BBC reporting on strikes on hospitals in Syria and Gaza 

 

Comparing BBC reporting on strikes on hospitals in Syria and Gaza

On July 31st the Associated Press reported an airstrike (allegedly not the first) on a hospital in the Dara’a province of southern Syria.

“In southern Syria, an airstrike on a hospital in an opposition-controlled town put the facility out of service Sunday.

The hospital in Jasem was targeted in one of several airstrikes to hit the town in Deraa province, located some 35 miles (57 kilometers) south of Damascus, according to the Local Coordination Committees activist network. The group said six people were killed in the strikes, blaming them on the government.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the hospital strike killed a pharmacist and put the facility out of service.

In a statement later Sunday, the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, said the group was “dismayed” and “angry” at the attack on the hospital, which it was supporting. It said six people had been killed in the strike, and many more wounded. It said that across Syria “aid workers and civilians are being targeted in a merciless way on a daily basis,” and called for all those involved to be held to account.

Hospitals are regularly targeted in Syria’s war, drawing condemnation from the U.N. and the international community. The New York-based Physicians for Human Rights says over 90 percent of attacks on medical facilities in Syria have been carried out by pro-government forces.”

While the BBC News website has not yet reported that attack, it did publish cautiously worded written and filmed reports on an attack on another hospital in the Idlib province the previous day.

“It’s not yet known who was responsible for the attack…”

“These unverified pictures…”

“Amnesty International say the latest bombing appears to be part of what they describe as a despicable pattern of attacks in Syria deliberately targeting medical facilities.”

The BBC has also covered previous attacks on medical facilities in Syria, including in Aleppo in June and in April. In an article from February 2016 titled “Syria crisis: Air strikes on hospitals ‘war crimes’“, the BBC News website took the trouble to provide audiences with a short guide to the legal background to the topic.

insert bombing hospitals

So as we see, the BBC is aware of the fact that medical facilities can be a legitimate military target in certain situations but notably, it did not go to the trouble of informing its audiences of that fact two years ago during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Moreover, the corporation went out of its way at the time to conceal Hamas’ use of hospitals in the Gaza Strip for military purposes and to provide amplification for denial of that tactic, thereby implying that Israeli actions were unnecessary, unjustified and even unlawful. For example:Op pe Adams vers 2

Hospital on Gaza conflict’s front line” by Paul Adams, BBC News website, July 18th 2014 – discussed here.

“Israel says rockets have been fired from Basman al-Ashi’s hospital, a charge his staff deny completely.”

“World Update” interview with ISM activist, BBC World Service radio, July 31st 2014 – discussed here.

Damon: “Because you will know that there have been all kinds of rumours on the internet about hospitals being used to hide men and indeed weapons. Any evidence?”

Catron: “Oh yes; I’ve heard all these…all kinds of these rumours. I’ve seen numerous claims that al Wafa hospital where I stayed for a week in Shuja’iya was the centre of a Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant command centre. Now every journalist that came into the hospital from every major news agency had full run of the place. They could go anywhere in it they liked. How none of them ever noticed this command centre….”

Gaza conflict: Contrasting views on targeting” BBC News website, August 4th 2014 – discussed here.

“The Israelis say they have to bomb the hospitals and shelters because there are fighters here, but that is not true. The only people we have are sick people.” 

The BBC also amplified the false notion that Israel indiscriminately and unjustifiable targeted medical facilities – for example:Shifa Sahti tweet 1

Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video” by Orla Guerin, BBC News website, July 31st 2014 – discussed here.

“This is a crowded area. People have nowhere to go. In many cases they have no transport, they have no means of escape. And you’re attacking hospitals where the wounded are being treated.”

Gaza ceasefire ends as Israel reports rocket fire” and “Israel air strikes resume in Gaza amid rockets” BBC News website, August 8th 2014 – discussed here.

“On Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into what it said was mounting evidence that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked hospitals and health professionals in Gaza. The attacks have left at least six medics dead.”

It has continued to promote that falsehood since the conflict ended – for example here – and also to broadcast additional denial of Hamas’ use of hospitals for military purposes.Knell Beit Lahiya 1

So as we see in Syria, where there is cause to believe that medical facilities really are being attacked indiscriminately, the BBC uses very cautious wording and informs its audiences of the legal background to the issue. In contrast, in its reporting from the Gaza Strip in 2014, the BBC failed to provide any such background information, repeatedly promoted the theme of Israeli wrongdoing and actively misled its audiences with regard to the reason for Israeli actions against institutions such as Wafa hospital: Hamas’ use of that medical facility for military purposes.

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BBC claims that Israel targeted a centre for the disabled in Gaza shown to be inaccurate

Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

BBC reports on Wafa hospital shown to be inaccurate

Revisiting BBC reporting of civilian deaths in Gaza on July 28th 2014