BBC’s Knell relegates impartiality to the bench in campaigning football report

On October 13th a report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Fifa urged to give red card to Israeli settlement clubs“.knell-fifa-art

Knell opens her piece with an account of some pre-planned agitprop which took place on the eve of Yom Kippur.

“A dozen Palestinian boys dressed in football kit and carrying balls, march towards a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli police and soldiers come to block the way as they approach the gates of Maale Adumim, where some 40,000 Israelis live, to the east of Jerusalem.

Surrounded by journalists, protest organiser, Fadi Quran, tells a senior officer that the children want to play a game in the local football stadium.

“You know exactly why they can’t come in,” says the officer.

“Is it because they’re Palestinian?” Mr Quran asks.

“No, no, because you need a permit,” the officer replies.

“Well, people in the world are watching and I think it’s important to know you have segregation,” says Mr Quran.”

Were it not for reports like this one from a member of the pre-conscripted press pack, “people in the world” would of course know nothing about the exploitation of a dozen boys for a campaign which has nothing to do with sport and everything to do with the political campaign of delegitimisation of Israel.

But despite the BBC’s decision to use its world-wide reach to put wind in the sails of this particular political campaign, its editorial standards concerning accuracy and impartiality should at least ensure that audiences would be told the whole story. That, however, is not the case in Knell’s report.

The ‘star’ of Knell’s account of the event is the man she tepidly describes as “protest organiser” Fadi Quran. BBC audiences receive no information concerning Quran’s affiliations and are not told, for example, which organisation – if any – he represents, who funded the boys’ transport to Ma’ale Adumim or who paid for the identical T-shirts they and Quran are seen wearing in the photographs which accompany the article.avaaz-logo

A closer look at those T-shirts and the accompanying placards shows that they bear the Avaaz logo and that would come as no surprise had BBC audiences been informed that American citizen Fadi Quran is a “senior campaigner” for Avaaz. A former employee of Al Haq, Quran is also a “policy member” at Al Shabaka and a “Popular Struggle community organizer”.

Obviously that information is critical to audience understanding of the wider story behind the agitprop she describes, but Yolande Knell refrains from providing it to her audience. She goes on to ostensibly provide readers with the background to that “small protest” but similarly fails to inform them that the meeting to which she refers is the fruit of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to use FIFA to delegitimise Israel.

“The small protest is soon over but it has symbolic significance ahead of this week’s meeting of the council of world football’s governing body, Fifa, in Switzerland.

It is due to discuss whether teams from settlements, including Maale Adumim, should be barred from the Israeli Football Association (IFA).”

Knell’s reporting once again falls short of editorial standards of impartiality when she presents a one-sided portrayal of ‘settlements’ while failing to inform readers that all those communities are located in Area C which – according to the Oslo Accords, to which the Palestinians were willing signatories – is to have its final status determined through negotiations.

“Settlements are built on land captured and occupied by Israel in 1967, which the Palestinians want for a future, independent state. The international community sees them as “illegal” and “an obstacle to peace”, but Israel strongly disagrees.”

As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality require clarification of the “particular viewpoint” of outside contributors but Knell makes do with the inadequate term “advocacy group” when describing the political NGO Human Rights Watch which has long been involved in lawfare campaigns against Israel.

“The advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests the IFA should be made to move all Fifa-sanctioned matches inside the internationally-recognised boundaries of Israel.

“By holding games on stolen land, Fifa is tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” says Sari Bashi, HRW’s country director for Israel and Palestine.

report by the group notes that some settlement playing fields are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, and that West Bank Palestinians, apart from labourers with permits, are not allowed to enter settlements and use their services.”

The HRW report to which Knell provides readers with a link was already given context-free and partial promotion on the BBC World Service last month.  Significantly, the HRW country director quoted by Knell has also found it appropriate to give an interview on the same topic to the BDS campaign’s South Africa branch.

Knell goes on to promote an old but unsupported claim:

“To underscore the inequalities, the Palestinian boys leaving the demonstration at Maale Adumim continue to chant: “Infantino, let us play.”

Some come from nearby Bedouin communities, which have lost access to their land due to settlement expansion, and have pending demolition orders against their homes.” [emphasis added]

As has previously been documented here, the Jahalin tribe’s claims of ownership of the said land have been examined – and rejected – in courts of law.

Knell similarly amplifies a specific political narrative when she promotes – as fact – the notion of “Israeli restrictions” on Palestinian footballers without any mention of the very relevant context of the links of some of those players to terrorist organisations.

“…a monitoring committee was set up, headed by the Fifa official Tokyo Sexwale, a South African politician and former anti-apartheid activist.

It was asked to address Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players and visiting teams, alleged racism and discrimination, and the clubs based in settlements, all of which play in Israel’s lower leagues.”football-terrorist

And of course Knell’s portrayal of the topic of Palestinian football does not extend to telling her audiences that one team saw fit to ‘honour’ a terrorist who murdered two Israelis in Jerusalem only this week.

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to Yolande Knell’s signature blend of journalism and activism and this latest report provides yet another example of her serial amplification of political narratives and campaigns in the guise of ‘news’. And yet, the BBC remains silent on the issue of Knell’s repeated compromise of its supposed editorial standards of impartiality.

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BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

BBC’s Yolande Knell ditches any semblance of impartiality

BBC WS news bulletins amplify HRW delegitimisation campaign

For some time now the Palestinian Authority’s Jibril Rajoub has been exploiting sport as a means of delegitimising Israel for political ends. In recent years he has, among other things, tried to get Israel expelled from the International Olympic community, threatened legal action against sponsors of the Jerusalem Marathon and pressured UEFA to disallow Israel’s hosting of a tournament. As president of the Palestinian Football Association, last year Rajoub turned his attentions to FIFA and the BBC produced a series of reports amplifying his campaign to get Israel suspended from world football.Connolly FIFA filmed

BBC frames anti-Israel delegitimisation campaign as a sports story

Wind in the sails of Jibril Rajoub’s anti-Israel campaign from BBC WS WHYS

Kevin Connolly continues the BBC’s amplification of anti-Israel delegitimisation

This week (as civilians in Syria continue to have their human rights violated by being killed en masse) one of the BBC’s most quoted and promoted NGOs found time to publish a report which yet again highlights both the links between the agendas of some so-called human rights organisations and anti-Israel campaigning – as well as the media’s relationship with such groups.

The Human Rights Watch report is titled “Israel/Palestine: FIFA Sponsoring Games on Seized Land” and sub-headed “Israeli Settlement Football Clubs Contribute to Human Rights Violations”. The flimsy arguments behind HRW’s claim that playing football in Area C is a violation of human rights have already been dismantled by Professor Eugene Kontorovich.

“The football-as-human rights-violation arguments against Israel are tendentious and prove too much. So those campaigning against Israel rely principally on a lawyerly claim about FIFA’s rules: The clubs “clearly violate FIFA’s statutes, according to which clubs from one member association cannot play on the territory of another member association without its and FIFA’s consent,” the members claim.

The problem is nothing in the FIFA statutes that equates “territory” with sovereign territory. Indeed, that would be impossible, since many FIFA members are not sovereign states at all. Instead, territory, as is often the case in international texts, means jurisdiction.

This is because the FIFA is not a border demarcation body. That is why FIFA clearly separates any question of sovereign statehood and territory from FIFA membership by not requiring that member federations be recognized states (i.e. Hong Kong, American Samoa, Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, etc.). The claim that the acceptance of the Palestinian soccer federation into FIFA constituted a recognition of Palestine as a state and a recognition of its maximal border claims is unsupportable. FIFA membership does not imply statehood, nor has FIFA ever taken a position on preexisting border disputes.”

Nevertheless, as noted in a comment on a previous post (thanks to D), the BBC World Service found HRW’s political campaigning worthy of inclusion in some of its summaries of world news on September

Listeners to this news summary were told (at 01:47) that:

“…Human Rights Watch is calling on world football’s governing body to force the relocation of six Israeli football clubs located in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. The campaign group says that FIFA is breaking its own rules.”

Those who tuned in to a later news bulletin were informed (at 01:45) that:

“…Human Rights Watch has called on world football’s governing body FIFA to force the relocation of six Israeli football clubs based in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law. The Israeli authorities say it’s not up to FIFA to rule on political questions.”

As usual, no attempt was made to conform to editorial guidelines on impartiality by clarifying to audiences the existence of legal opinions which contradict that well-worn BBC mantra on the alleged illegality of Israeli communities in Area C and parts of Jerusalem. Moreover, despite those same editorial guidelines, no effort was made to clarify the “particular viewpoint” of HRW in relation to Israel and listeners were therefore unable to assess the group’s claims in the appropriate context.

Although this latest example of unchallenged BBC amplification of HRW’s politicised agenda is entirely predictable, it is of course extremely disturbing to see it being promoted in supposedly factual news bulletins.

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BBC unusually passes up on amplifying HRW’s latest report

One of the political NGOs most frequently quoted and promoted in BBC Middle East coverage – even on issues in which it is not involved and despite the fact that it engages in lawfare against Israel  – is Human Rights Watch (HRW). In particular, the BBC tends to put out rapid amplification of the content of reports produced by HRW, no matter how dubious their methodology. Examples from the last two years alone include:No news

BBC shoehorns partisan political NGO into report on policeman’s promotion

Predictable BBC amplification for latest HRW anti-Israel report

More uncritical amplification of a HRW report from BBC News

BBC News does its convincing impression of HRW PR department yet again

More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO

BBC audiences again fobbed off with HRW press release presented as ‘news’

HRW recently released another one of its reports which was summed up by AP as follows:

“Human Rights Watch said both the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and its rival, the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, are “arresting, abusing, and criminally charging journalists and activists who express peaceful criticism of the authorities.” […]

HRW said that in the West Bank, Palestinian forces arrested activists and musicians who “ridiculed Palestinian security forces” and “accused the government of corruption” in statements posted on Facebook or stated in graffiti and rap songs.

In Gaza, the rights group said an activist who criticized Hamas for “failing to protect a man with a mental disability” was detained and intimidated by the group, as was a journalist who “posted a photograph of a woman looking for food in a garbage bin.”

The New York-based rights group said that in the incidents of abuse, “activists and journalists said that security officers beat or kicked them, deprived them of sleep and proper food, hosed them with cold and then hot water, and made them maintain uncomfortable positions for long hours.””

It is worth noting for the record that, in contrast to its usual practice and despite its record of campaigning on the issue of safety of journalists, the BBC has to date not produced an article amplifying this latest HRW report.

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A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part two

A review of the content produced by the BBC a decade ago at the time of the Second Lebanon War shows that many of the themes found in that coverage resurfaced eight years later in the corporation’s reporting of a different summer war: the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.


One theme found very early on in the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 war was the promotion of the unsubstantiated notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip, based on unverified claims from political NGOs – some of which were already engaged in lawfare against Israel.

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part three

After the fighting had ended, the BBC continued to amplify the agenda of NGOs including Human Rights Watch (“More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO“) and in particular Amnesty International:

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

More BBC wind in the sails of NGO’s lawfare campaign

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

The green shoots of that editorial policy were apparent – albeit on a smaller scale – eight years earlier when – just eight days into the Second Lebanon War – the BBC News website ran an article headlined “UN warning on Mid-East war crimes” which was based on statements made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time. An additional article published on the same day told BBC audiences that:

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, warns that those involved in the spiral of violence between Israel and Lebanon could face war crimes charges if they are found to have deliberately attacked civilians”

On August 23rd 2006 the BBC News website promoted a report by Amnesty International under the headline “Israel accused of war crimes“.

“Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. […]

The document details what it describes as “massive destruction by Israeli forces of whole civilian neighbourhoods and villages”, together with attacks on bridges “in areas of no apparent strategic importance”, on its list of supporting evidence. […]

“Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” said Ms Gilmore.”

In September 2007 the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel accused over Lebanon war” which amplified a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“A human rights group has accused Israel of carrying out indiscriminate air strikes that killed hundreds of civilians during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Human Rights Watch said Israel showed “reckless indifference” to the fate of civilians and queried its argument that Hezbollah used them as human shields.”

Despite the existence of publicly available evidence discrediting the claims made by AI and HRW (see for example here and here) the above BBC reports (and others) remain available online  – without any clarifying footnote – as ‘historical record’.SONY DSC

Another theme seen in BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War was promotion of the notion of ‘disproportionate’ (and by implication, illegal) actions by Israel – already from day two of the conflict.

“A Lebanese cabinet minister said the Israeli response was disproportionate, and called for a ceasefire. […] France and Russia condemned Israel’s “disproportionate use of force”.” (July 13, 2006)

“The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel.” (July 13, 2006)

“President Jacques Chirac of France called Israel’s acts “disproportionate” while Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to fighting. […]But he said Israel’s response was “completely disproportionate”, adding: “One can ask oneself whether there isn’t a sort of desire to destroy Lebanon.”” (July 14, 2006)

“Amnesty’s report said Israeli attacks into Lebanon were “indiscriminate and disproportionate”. (November 21, 2006)

Seeing as the BBC did not make any effort at the time (or since) to inform its audiences (and its own staff) of what the principle of proportionality in warfare actually means, it is not surprising to see that the ‘disproportionality’ theme regularly resurfaces in BBC reporting.

In June 2015, for example, viewers of BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Evan Davis promote the false notion that proportionality means equality in death and suffering. During the summer 2014 conflict BBC audiences heard and read generous amplification of equally uninformed comment from assorted British politicians and in November 2012 listeners to the BBC World Service heard Julian Marshall tell an Israeli spokesperson:

“I think one of the observations made by critics of Israel is that you always respond disproportionately and – ah – in a way the figures tell the story. Since this offensive of yours began, 39 Palestinians have been killed, three Israelis. There’s a disproportionate use of force going on here.”

In the next instalment of this post we will take a look at additional common themes found in the BBC’s 2006 reporting from Lebanon and its subsequent coverage from the Gaza Strip.

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A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part one


BBC shoehorns partisan political NGO into report on policeman’s promotion

On April 13th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel promotes Arab police officer to senior rank“.Jamal Hakrush art

“An Arab police officer has been promoted by Israel to the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim in the force.

Jamal Hakrush starts his job as deputy commissioner after months of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.”

While the BBC curiously found it necessary to note Deputy Commissioner Hakrush’s religion, the article does not adequately clarify that his promotion elevates him to the second-highest rank in the Israeli police force.

Towards the end of the report readers are told that:

“Deputy Commissioner Hakrush, from the Galilee village of Kafr Kanna, will be in charge of a newly-created police division established to improve policing in Arab communities, The Times of Israel reported.

Deputy Commissioner Hakrush was formally appointed into his new position on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich. One of his main responsibilities will be to stop illegal weapons falling into the hands of the Arab community.

Mr Alsheich also wants to reduce domestic violence, murder rates and other crimes in the Arab sector.

He and the government wants [sic] to recruit 1,300 new officers and construct several new stations in Arab population centres.”

All well and good, but the BBC report does not provide readers with any background information concerning the scale of the issues as presented by Commissioner Alsheich in February:

“At a meeting of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, Alsheich said that although Arabs constitute 21 percent of Israel’s population, they account for 58% of total crimes, 55% of attempted murders, 47% of thefts, and 27% drug dealing.

“This picture is not only of concern to the police, but also to the Arab community itself,” he said. “There is a strong desire to strengthen policing in the Arab community. I met dozens of heads of Arab local authorities and discovered that there was great willingness. ‘Just send in the police already,’ they told me.””

However, the writer of this report did find it appropriate to steer readers towards the conclusion that the high rates of crime in the Arab sector in Israel can be attributed to ‘discrimination’ and he or she conscripted unprovided ‘evidence’ from a highly partisan political NGO involved in the lawfare campaign against Israel in order to advance that notion.

“He [Deputy Commissioner Hakrush] will oversee policing in Arab communities where there is a longstanding distrust of the police.

A fifth of Israel’s population is Arab and they often complain that areas in which they live are not so well policed and have poorer public services.

Their grievances have been supported by Human Rights Watch which in recent years has published several reports highlighting the discrimination which it is argued the Arab population faces.”

Yes – even an article about the unprecedented promotion of an Arab-Israeli police officer can be used by the BBC to advance politicised messaging. 

Years of BBC amplifications of Hamas denials unravel

Writing about Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing in August 2013, the BBC’s Yolande Knell told audiences that:Knell Rafah crossing

“Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and has accused Palestinians of supporting Islamist militants in the increasingly restive Sinai region.

“They have a plan in order to distort the image of Gaza in order to start propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas, in order to show Gaza is like a devil and Hamas is like a devil,” Mr Hamed said.

“I think they succeeded to do this on the Egyptian street, in the Egyptian society.” “

As was noted here at the time, Knell failed to provide her readers with any information to balance those claims from Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad.

In October 2014 BBC audiences were told that:

“Egyptian media accuses Gaza’s Hamas administration of aiding militants in Sinai. Hamas denies the charge.”

The same month saw the appearance of another BBC report on the topic of the Rafah crossing which also failed to provide audiences with information about Egyptian allegations of collaboration between “Palestinian elements” and ISIS terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula.HRW report Rafah

In September 2015 the BBC amplified a report by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW):

“The [Egyptian] military aims to eventually clear an area of about 79 sq km (30 sq miles) along the Gaza border, including all of the town of Rafah, which has a population of about 78,000 people, HRW says.

The government says the operation will allow the military to close smuggling tunnels it alleges are used by jihadists to receive weapons, fighters and logistical help from Palestinian militants in Gaza.

But HRW said little or no evidence had been offered to support this justification, citing statements from Egyptian and Israeli officials that suggested weapons were more likely to have been obtained from Libya or captured from the Egyptian military.” [emphasis added]

Once again, none of the information available at the time to balance that claim from HRW was provided to readers.

Courtesy of MEMRI, a very interesting letter has now come to light.

“On February 24, 2016, a letter from an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was posted on social media. In it, the fighter strongly protests the close ties and cooperation between ISIS’s Sinai province and Hamas, particularly Hamas’s military wing.

This letter is the first confirmation of ties between the two organizations that comes from ISIS itself, and a unique firsthand account of the nature of these ties. […]

The letter is by ISIS fighter Abu ‘Abdallah Al-Muhajir, who presents himself as a Gazan who joined ISIS in Syria. […]

With regard to the ties between Hamas and ISIS’s Sinai Province, Abu ‘Abdallah explains the areas in which the groups collaborate: ISIS fighters in Sinai are smuggling weapons into Gaza for Hamas; Hamas is producing weapons and explosive devices for ISIS Sinai; Hamas is providing logistical assistance to ISIS Sinai, including communications systems and hospitalization for its wounded fighters in Gaza; and ISIS Sinai officials are visiting Gaza and dining at the homes of Hamas government and military wing officials.”

Logic would dictate that the BBC is now going to have to review that policy of blindly amplifying Hamas’ denials of what has been known for quite some time and begin reporting this story accurately and impartially to its audiences.


Predictable BBC amplification for latest HRW anti-Israel report

On January 19th an article titled “Palestinian workers banned from West Bank settlements” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The subject matter of the story portrayed in that headline takes up part of the report which then goes on to inform readers that:workers banned art

“About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.”

As ever, that standard insert breaches the corporation’s own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform BBC audiences of the existence of legal opinions which contradict the corporation’s own adopted political narrative.

The article closes with provision of a link to a report published on the same day by Human Rights Watch.  

“Also on Tuesday, a new report by Human Rights Watch said businesses operating in settlements contributed to “an inherently unlawful and abusive system that violates the rights of Palestinians” and called on them to pull out of the region.

Israel’s foreign ministry called the report “one-sided”, and said it “jeopardises the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians and discourages rare examples of coexistence, co-ordination and co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians”.”

Whether the writer of this BBC article had time to read that 51,000 word report properly and to independently verify its content before promoting it to audiences is doubtful. What is apparent is that the BBC quotes from it without informing readers of HRW’s inherent agenda in relation to Israel and without informing them that its bottom line – as shown on its back page – is to add wind to the sails of the BDS movement.

“…it [the report] concludes that the only way settlement businesses can comply with their responsibilities under international human rights standards is by ending their businesses in settlements or in settlement-related commercial activity.”

As NGO Monitor points out:

“There is no rule whatsoever in international law prohibiting doing business in occupied territory and no court addressing this issue, most recently the European Court of Justice, has ruled otherwise.  In addition, many courts have ruled that boycott campaigns similar to that promoted by HRW in this publication amount to illegal national origin discrimination.”

Readers can find more on the legal aspects of the subject in a paper tiled ‘Economic Dealings with Occupied Territories’ published by Professor Eugene Kontorovich.  

Given that HRW is one of the political NGOs most frequently promoted by the BBC in Israel-related content and in light of the fact that the BBC has frequently engaged in promotion of the BDS agenda, it is hardly surprising to find this latest report promoted in BBC content without due attention to impartiality.


More uncritical amplification of a HRW report from BBC News

On September 22nd an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Egypt ‘demolishes thousands of homes’ for Sinai buffer zone“. That article is in fact yet another piece of ‘churnalism‘, with almost its entire content being devoted to amplification of a report by one of the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGOs – Human Rights Watch (HRW).HRW report Rafah

Despite the fact that the HRW report is based on information gathered from selected media reports, anonymous witnesses and unidentified ‘activists’, the BBC uncritically repeated its claims, with variations of the phrase “HRW says” appearing seven times throughout the article and no attempt made to provide readers with further relevant background material. Thus, for example, readers were steered towards the view that no justification exists for Egypt’s actions on its border with the Gaza Strip.

“The [Egyptian] military aims to eventually clear an area of about 79 sq km (30 sq miles) along the Gaza border, including all of the town of Rafah, which has a population of about 78,000 people, HRW says.

The government says the operation will allow the military to close smuggling tunnels it alleges are used by jihadists to receive weapons, fighters and logistical help from Palestinian militants in Gaza.

But HRW said little or no evidence had been offered to support this justification, citing statements from Egyptian and Israeli officials that suggested weapons were more likely to have been obtained from Libya or captured from the Egyptian military.”

Were the BBC’s own record of reporting on the subject of collaboration between the Sinai based Salafists and elements within the Gaza Strip less dismal, it would of course have been able to provide readers with background information crucial to their being able to put that HRW claim into context. As the Times of Israel reported in January 2015:

“Egyptian intelligence has specific information on assistance that Sinai terrorists have been receiving from the Gaza Strip. Many activists trained in Gaza, and received arms there that they have been using against Egyptian forces.

That is the source of the urgency around creating the buffer zone: the goal is to cut the jihadis off from their Gaza supply route. On Monday Egyptian media reported on a jihadist cell that enjoyed considerable help from Hamas, and tried to infiltrate Sinai through tunnels. Most of the tunnels aren’t open, but occasionally smugglers on both sides of the border manage to build a new one. The Egyptian army recently uncovered a 1,700-meter passage.”

As has been the case on many past occasions, the BBC makes no effort to inform readers of this article of HRW’s political agenda – despite the need to do so being clearly stated in the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality.

That recurrent omission is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that in earlier this year, HRW (once again) took up the BBC’s case at the United Nations periodic review of Rwanda.

“The HRW’s Submission for the Universal Periodic Review March 2015 contains the following recommendations for Rwanda: […]

Allow the BBC Kinyarwanda service to resume its broadcasts in Rwanda.”

Public impressions of BBC impartiality and independence will of course not be enhanced by the appearance of articles uncritically amplifying content produced by a political NGO which just happens to have used its UN platform to promote the BBC’s interests.

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Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

As readers know, less than 24 hours after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th 2014, the BBC began to promote the notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip.Bowen tweet 1

That theme, along with related ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’, continued to be advanced throughout the 50-day operation and after its conclusion, in large part by means of amplification of claims made by political NGOs such as the PCHR (see examples here and here), Human Rights Watch (see examples here and here) and Amnesty International (see examples here, here and here).

In addition, BBC audiences were fed amateur commentary from journalists with no credentials in the field of the Law of Armed Conflict, with Jeremy Bowen’s frequently proffered  ‘diagnoses’ being particularly notable.Bowen tweet 2

In a new report on last summer’s conflict written by five American Generals and commissioned by JINSA, the topic of amateur commentary on the legality of IDF operations is addressed.

“…Numerous individuals claiming to be experts in the relationship between law and military operations quickly seemed to accept Hamas’s assertions of unlawful IDF operations. On July 23, 2014, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated: “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.” The U.N. Human Rights Council subsequently issued a resolution condemning “in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations” in Gaza. In September, Human Rights Watch issued a report declaring that “three Israeli attacks that damaged Gaza schools housing displaced people caused numerous civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war.” And, in November, Amnesty International concluded that the IDF’s “use of large aerial bombs [to attack civilian homes] suggests that these attacks either were intended to cause the complete destruction of the targeted structure or a determination to ensure the killing of targeted individuals without due regard to the killing and destruction to those in their immediate vicinity,” which would constitute “prima facie evidence of serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

These condemnations were premised on premature, effects-based assessments of military operations, or on the same flawed understandings of the law that Hamas was promoting, while refusing to apply that same law to its own actions. These routine distortions of the actual law applicable to military operations produced a fundamentally false narrative of legal compliance and non-compliance during this conflict, one that misrepresented Israeli attempts to minimize civilian deaths and the legality of their targeting Hamas and other factions engaged in military operations.”

The report – which is well worth reading in full – is available here.

The speed and alacrity with which BBC correspondents adopted the theme of ‘war crimes’ within hours of the commencement of the conflict was clear indication of the existence of an underlying political agenda even before the hostilities began. The fact that the corporation has continued its unqualified amplification of the same theme on behalf of NGOs engaged in lawfare since the conflict ended – whilst failing to provide audiences with the professional background information on the topic of the Law of Armed Conflict which would enable them to put such claims into their correct context – only reinforces the unavoidable impression that the BBC has no interest in dealing with this subject accurately or impartially.


BBC contributors on the ‘flood libel’ bandwagon

Readers who follow our colleagues at CAMERA will know that they recently exposed a fabricated story by AFP’s Yahia (or Yahya) Hassouna in which it was claimed that Israel had deliberately flooded areas of the Gaza Strip by opening dams. The same fictitious story was also promoted by Al Jazeera, the Daily Mail and Russia Today, among others.

“In the video, Ead Zino, a resident of Al-Maghraqa, accuses Israel: “Every four years there is a war but here in Maghraqa every year there is a flood. This water comes from Israel. This is political. All Israel wants is to destroy us.”

 In addition, AFP’s caption at the beginning of the video is “Gaza village flooded as Israel opens dam gates.”

AFP did not include any Israeli voice to refute the false charge.

 Regarding the claim that Israel opened dams, thereby flooding Gaza, a spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told CAMERA:

‘The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams. Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel.

Prior to the storm, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories allowed the transfer of four water pumps belonging to the Palestinian Water Authority from Israel into Gaza to supplement the 13 pumps already in the Gaza Strip in dealing with any potential flooding throughout the area.’ “

That same malicious ‘flood libelwas also promoted on social media.

Abu Warda 3

Abu Warda 2

Abu Warda 1

Readers may recall that Dr Bassel Abu Warda of Shifa hospital was one of numerous Gaza Strip-based doctors given BBC airtime and column space last summer – ostensibly in order to provide audiences with a supposedly authoritative and objective view of the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Another person who promoted the false flooding story on Twitter was Human Rights Watch’s MENA director Sarah Leah Whitson.

Whitson tweet

As regular readers know, Human Rights Watch is one of the NGOs most promoted and quoted by the BBC – including on the topic of the Gaza Strip.

It is always worth bearing in mind that – as cases like this one show – people from whom the BBC sources content may have an underlying political agenda.  That, of course, is why the BBC has editorial guidelines which instruct its staff that “we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint”. Unfortunately, adherence to that guideline is highly selective