Activist’s posts dispute BBC’s equivocal account of 2010 flotilla incident

A significant number of BBC reports relating to the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 still remain accessible online and many of the later ones present a ‘he said-she said’ account of events.

For example, a report published in January 2011 states:

“Israel says its commandos used live fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and guns.

But activists on board the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara say the commandos started shooting as soon as they boarded the vessel.”

Two articles dating from September 2011 both state:

“At the time, the Israeli military said its commandos fired live rounds only after being attacked with clubs, knives and guns. But activists on board said the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck.”

Under the sub-heading “Who started the violence?” an article from June 2016 tells BBC audiences that:

“This is disputed. The activists say the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck. Israeli officials say the commandos opened fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and a gun which was taken from them. Video released by the Israeli military stops just before the shooting begins. A UN inquiry was apparently unable to determine at exactly which point the commandos used live fire.”

Interestingly, some of the BBC’s earlier reports presented a less vague picture.

In an article dating from June 2010, the BBC’s Paul Reynolds quoted an Israeli journalist:

“The reporter states that the protesters “attempted to wrest away [the soldiers’] weapons”. They got hold of one handgun, he says, when one soldier, seen on the video, was thrown from the upper deck on to the lower. […]

The Israelis claim that the activists got hold of two pistols and must have fired them as their magazines were found to be empty when recovered.”

In another June 2010 article titled “Activists describe Israeli raid on Gaza aid convoy” the leader of the IHH is quoted as saying that:

“…some of the activists had grabbed the guns off soldiers in self-defence.

“Yes, we took their guns. It would be self-defence even if we fired their guns. We told our friends on board: ‘We will die, become martyrs, but never let us be shown… as the ones who used guns’. By this decision, our friends accepted death, and we threw all the guns we took from them into the sea.””

As those who have read David Collier’s two-part report about the secret Facebook Group called ‘Palestine Live’ will be aware, Israel’s account of the events aboard the ship has inadvertently been supported by one of its members – Greta Berlin – who was quoted in a 2010 BBC profile of the Mavi Marmara flotilla organisers.

The Times of Israel sums up that story:

“A leading pro-Palestinian campaigner involved in the flotilla that attempted to enter Gaza in May 2010 has appeared to corroborate Israel’s version of the events which led to the bloody confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara. […]

In newly revealed posts from a secret British Facebook group, Greta Berlin, the co-founder and spokesperson of the Free Gaza Movement, states that the Israeli troops did not open fire until after Ken O’Keefe, a former US marine aboard the Mavi Marmara, had seized a gun from one of them. […]

“He was responsible for some of the deaths on board the Mavi Marmara. Had he not disarmed an Israeli terrorist soldier, they would not have started to fire. That’s enough. Most of you have no idea what you’re talking about,” she wrote.”

As the ToI notes, Berlin’s 2014 posts at ‘Palestine Live’ contradict the messaging she gave to the international media – including the BBC – immediately following the May 2010 incident. The BBC also interviewed O’Keefe less than a month after the incident. 

Obviously the BBC would do well to review the accounts of events that appear in its available content relating to the Mavi Marmara incident in light of those posts from Greta Berlin.

Related Articles:

BBC reporter revealed to be member of secret anti-Israel Facebook group

Greta Berlin: Gaza Flotilla Propagandist (CAMERA)

 

BBC ignores another story of Hamas abuse of humanitarian aid

Two weeks have passed since the Israeli security services announced the arrest of a resident of the Gaza Strip suspected of channelling to Hamas aid and funds provided by Turkey.

“The manager of the Gaza branch of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), Muhammad Murtaja, was arrested last month on suspicion that he was working on behalf of Hamas, the Shin Bet announced on Tuesday. […]

According to the security agency, Murtaja took advantage of his position in TIKA in order to direct funds and resources away from “meaningful humanitarian projects” and toward Hamas’s military wing.

One apparent scam detailed by the security service allowed “millions of shekels” to be given to Hamas members in food and cash.”

As the Jerusalem Post reports, Murtaja was arrested in February while travelling from Gaza to Turkey, via Israel.

“A statement from the Government Press Office said, “During the investigation, it became clear that Murtaja’s trip via Israel to receive training from TIKA, which led to his arrest for interrogation, was also intended to allow him to acquire information that would improve the accuracy of Hamas rockets being launched at Israel.”

Avi Issacharoff has further details:

“According to the indictment, there is a deep suspicion that someone residing in Turkey not only sought to use Murtaja to transfer money to the Hamas terror group, but also to give the organization’s military wing sensitive military intelligence concerning Israel. […]

…the bigger problem from Israel’s perspective is buried in the smaller print of the indictment — Murtaja’s mission to obtain satellite pictures in Turkey of sensitive military sites in Israel. These were intended to be used by Hamas to improve the targeting accuracy of its rocket arsenal in its next war with Israel.

Murtaja, who has been a member of Hamas’ military wing since 2008, studied structural engineering in Turkey. He speaks Turkish fluently and lives in the middle of Gaza City, and for years was a member of the “Shati Brigade” in Hamas’s military wing.

Most likely due to his Turkish language skills, Murtaja was selected to work at TIKA on behalf of the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. Before that he worked with the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, known by its Turkish acronym IHH.

IHH, which Israel officially considers to be a terrorist organization, was behind the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, in which nine activists were killed after attacking Israeli commandos who boarded their ship as they tried to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Among his different roles with the groups, Murtaja served as a translator for Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Ismail Radwan during their meetings with officials from the Turkish organizations.”

This of course is not the first time that Hamas has allegedly infiltrated charities and aid agencies: two similar stories emerged last August.

Since the 2014 conflict the BBC has put considerable effort into persuading its audiences that the dire economic and social conditions in the Gaza Strip are primarily attributable to Israel – while serially ignoring Hamas’ abuse of its civilian population and misappropriation of resources intended to better their lives. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, this latest story of Hamas abuse of charity and humanitarian aid has not received any BBC coverage.

Related Articles:

BBC News report on Hamas infiltration of a charity downplays UK angle

No BBC follow-up on Hamas recruited UNDP worker story

BBC News erases Hamas terror from portrayal of Gaza blockade

Inaccuracies in BBC diplomatic correspondent’s description of Mavi Marmara

 

 

 

BBC News again misrepresents the ‘Mavi Marmara’ as an “aid ship”

October 19th saw the appearance of an article by Selin Girit titled “Gas pipeline hope heals rupture in Israel-Turkey ties” in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.girit-art-19-10

Readers are told that:

“Bilateral relations went into the deep freeze in May 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship as it tried to breach the blockade of Gaza. Ten Turkish activists on board were killed.”

The Mavi Marmara was of course not an “aid ship” at all. As documented in the UN’s Palmer Report (p. 47), it carried 546 passengers but no humanitarian aid supplies for the people of the Gaza Strip.

“If the flotilla had been a purely humanitarian mission it is hard to see why so many passengers were embarked and with what purpose. Furthermore, the quality and value of many of the humanitarian goods on board the vessels is questionable. There were large quantities of humanitarian and construction supplies on board the Gazze 1, Eleftheri Mesogeio and Defne-Y. There were some foodstuffs and medical goods on board the Mavi Marmara, although it seems that these were intended for the voyage itself.  Any “humanitarian supplies” were limited to foodstuffs and toys carried in passengers’ personal baggage. The same situation appears to be the case for two other of the vessels: the Sfendoni, and the Challenger I. There was little need to organize a flotilla of six ships to deliver humanitarian assistance if only three were required to carry the available humanitarian supplies. The number of journalists embarked on the ships gives further power to the conclusion that the flotilla’s primary purpose was to generate publicity.”

The same inaccuracy has been seen in previous BBC reports and it has on occasion (though not consistently) been corrected or amended. Despite that, nearly six and a half years after the incident and over five years since the publication of the Palmer Report, the BBC continues to promote an inaccurate portrayal of the Mavi Marmara, its purpose and its passengers

Update:

Following the publication of this post and communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and the above passage now reads as follows:

girit-art-amended

 

 

A story serially avoided by the BBC comes home to roost

On June 27th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israel and Turkey end rift over Gaza flotilla killings” which has since undergone extensive amendment.Turkey deal art

Among the report’s notable features are:

1) The use of euphemistic language to describe those killed in the incident aboard the Mavi Marmara and the concealment of their Islamist links.

“Israel and Turkey have normalised relations, ending a six-year rift over the killing by Israeli troops of 10 Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound ship.”

Ten pro-Palestinian Turkish activists, one of them a dual American citizen, were killed and dozens wounded as clashes broke out after the commandos boarded the ship, descending on ropes from helicopters.” [emphasis added]

2) The promotion of a ‘he said-she said’ account of the incident aboard the Mavi Marmara which ignores the existence of video evidence and witness accounts.   

“The two sides had blamed each other for the violence. The activists said the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck. Israel said the commandos opened fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and a gun which was taken from them.”

3) The vague statement that the ship was “Turkish-owned” – without any mention of the specific organisation which purchased it (together with one other ship in the flotilla) and the fact that it – the IHH – was one of the publicity stunt’s main planners. Oddly, the IHH is not named even once throughout the whole report and readers therefore remain unaware of its relevant ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.  

“The Turkish-owned ship Mavi Marmara was part of a flotilla attempting to breach the blockade when it was intercepted by Israeli commandos on 31 May 2010.”

4) A rare realistic portrayal of the aim of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip is followed by the amplification of a propaganda slur.

“Israel maintains its blockade of Gaza to try to prevent weapons or materials reaching Palestinian militants, with whom it fought a devastating war in 2014, while allowing humanitarian aid into the territory.

Palestinians say the policy is tantamount to collective punishment, and UN and aid officials have warned of deteriorating conditions in Gaza.”

5) The amplification of the Turkish PM’s inaccurate claim concerning the ‘lifting’ of the blockade.

“”The total embargo imposed on Palestine and on the Gaza region in particular, is to being lifted to a great extent through Turkey’s leadership,” Mr Yildirim asserted.”

6) The failure to note the IHH’s opposition to the agreement and its pledge to continue legal action.

“…Turkey agreed to pass legislation protecting Israeli troops from legal claims over the Mavi Marmara incident…”

7) The absence of any mention of political and public opposition to the deal in Israel or of the reactions of Hamas operatives.

One aspect of this report, however, must have been particularly confusing for readers who regularly get their news from the BBC. In the insert of ‘analysis’ from Jonathan Marcus, readers were told that under the terms of the deal:

“Israel sees an end to its practical difficulties with Turkey and gets assurances about future Hamas activity on Turkish soil.”

In the body of the report they were informed that:

“In return, Turkey agreed to […] prevent any military action or fundraising by Hamas operatives based there.”

However, BBC audiences have no idea that there are any Hamas operatives based in Turkey because (as has been documented here on numerous occasions) for the last two years the corporation has diligently avoided telling them that operations – including Hamas’ efforts to strengthen its infrastructure and standing in Palestinian Authority controlled areas – were being run from that NATO member country.

The serial omission of information on that topic obviously now compromises the ability of audiences to understand the background to the references to Hamas made in this article and that impacts their understanding of this particular “international issue“. 

BBC News misleads audiences on ICC Mavi Marmara statement

On November 6th the BBC News website’s Middle East page carried a report currently going under the title “Gaza flotilla raid: No Israel charges over Mavi Marmara“. The article has undergone numerous changes since its initial appearance with the headline “No Israel charge over Gaza ship raid” but the version currently available on the site opens as follows:Mavi Marmara art

“The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says she will not take action over Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists.

Fatou Bensouda said despite “reasonable basis” to believe war crimes had been committed, the ICC had to prioritise larger-scale events.”

In other words, through the use of a cherry-picked quote from a press release, BBC audiences are mistakenly led to believe that although the ICC has determined that it is reasonable to believe that ‘war crimes’ were committed aboard the Mavi Marmara, it does not have the time or resources to do anything about it.

However, what is not adequately clarified in this BBC report is that not only did the ICC not determine that Israel had committed ‘war crimes’; it did not rule anything at all. No charges were filed, no trial was held and the report (available here) produced by the ICC’s chief prosecutor – the purpose of which was to examine whether or not there was a case for the ICC to pursue – is based on analysis of information already available (including, for example, the Turkish Commission) rather than on independent investigation by the ICC. As the press release linked to in the BBC report states:

“The Office analysed the supporting materials and documentation accompanying the referral along with, among other things, the reports published by the four commissions that have previously examined the 31 May 2010 incident. It should be recalled that the Office does not have investigative powers at the preliminary examination stage. Not having collected evidence itself, the Office’s analysis in the report must not be considered to be the result of an investigation.” [emphasis added]

In the report itself, a similar paragraph to the one above also states:

“The Office’s conclusions may be reconsidered in the light of new facts or evidence.”

So what the ICC’s chief prosecutor is in fact saying is that if the claims made in the material her office examined were shown to be true, certain acts could be considered war crimes for the purposes of jurisdiction. Of course whether or not war crimes were actually committed would subsequently have to be proven in a court of law.

That is a very different picture than the one presented in the BBC’s selected context-free sound-bite.

The BBC’s report also informs readers that:

“Lawyers who brought the case said they planned to appeal against the decision.”

And:

“… lawyers representing the Comoros vowed to appeal against the decision, saying it was a “struggle for justice, humanity and honour”.”

As was the case in a related previous BBC report, no effort is made to inform readers that those Turkish lawyers also represent the Mavi Marmara ‘victims’.

Additionally the BBC report states:

IHH president Bulent Yildirim with Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh

IHH president Bulent Yildirim with Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh

“The activists, many from a pro-Palestinian Turkish group called the IHH, said they wanted to deliver aid to the Palestinian enclave by breaking Israel’s naval blockade. Israel imposed the sea blockade after Hamas, which it has designated a terrorist group, seized Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.

Israel says the IHH is closely linked to Hamas.”

The BBC has already corrected at least one previous report to clarify that the Mavi Marmara was a passenger ship which was not carrying aid and this report’s whitewashing of the IHH’s Hamas and ‘Union of Good’ connections and Islamist agenda also clearly does not enhance audience understanding of its subject matter. The claim that the naval blockade was linked to the abduction of Gilad Shalit in 2006 is of course inaccurate: it was in fact announced in January 2009. 

BBC sensationalises routine obligatory inquiry

A dramatic headline appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on May 14th announced “ICC launches inquiry into Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla“.

BBC MM ICC

However, the full facts behind the story make the event distinctly less dramatic and sensational than portrayed in that headline.

The BBC report opens:

“The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary inquiry into an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla which left nine Turkish activists dead.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said it would establish whether there were grounds for a full investigation.”

The fact is that – as stated in the press release issued by the Office of the Prosecutor to which the BBC article links – such an inquiry is routine and indeed required in the event of any referral, as explained here.  

“Finally, a plea to the media: please do not overstate the importance of the OTP’s “decision” to open a preliminary examination into the attack on the flotilla. As the ICC’s press release notes, the OTP is required to conduct such an examination into every state referral, regardless of merit. I have no doubt that the OTP takes state referrals more seriously than referrals from individuals and human-rights groups. But that does not mean, nor does it even suggest, that the OTP will decide to open a formal investigation into the flotilla attack. Indeed, for all the reasons mentioned in this post, I think that is exceedingly unlikely.”

The BBC article continues:

“The move follows a request from the Comoros islands, in which one of the vessels was registered.”

The article initially omits any mention of the fact that the request was filed by Turkish lawyers Ramazan (Ramadan) Ariturk and Cihat (Jihad) Gokdemir (who also represent the Mavi Marmara ‘victims’) from the Istanbul-based law firm Elmadag on behalf of Comoros, by Power of Attorney. Only half way through the BBC report do readers learn of “a Turkish law firm acting on behalf of the government of the Union of the Comoros”.

The report also fails to mention that whilst the vessel concerned – the Mavi Marmara – was indeed registered in Comoros at the time of the incident in which some of its passengers attacked Israeli soldiers trying to board the ship in order to prevent it from breaching a legal naval blockade, that registration only took place on May 22nd 2010 – just over a week before the incident occurred – and that the ship was, and still is, owned by the IHH with its registration having been transferred back to Turkey in August 2011. 

MM registration

The BBC article once again promotes the PR myth of the 2010 flotilla as an “aid” mission whilst concurrently touching on its real aim:

“The boats were trying to transport aid supplies to Gaza in May 2010.

The Free Gaza Flotilla, which had more than 600 pro-Palestinian activists aboard several ships, was trying to break Israel’s naval blockade.”

In addition, the report heavily airbrushes the events initiated by passengers aboard the ship which led to the eventual deaths of nine.

“The activists were killed when Israeli commandos boarded the lead flotilla vessel, Mavi Marmara.”

The article also includes the deliberately disingenuous use of the phrase “Israel says” in its description of the naval blockade: the smuggling of arms to Hamas by sea is a well-known fact. 

“Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons and ammunition being smuggled to the Gaza Strip, which has been governed by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas since 2007.”

BBC audiences’ understanding of the significance – or rather, lack of it – of this latest Turkish move would of course have been better served by clear, accurate and impartial reporting on the subject. Instead, the BBC succumbed to sensationalism which was only marginally pipped at the post by the IHH itself. 

IHH ICC

BBC still promoting inaccurate information on flotilla

An April 7th BBC News television report on the subject of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Turkey opens with announcer Julie Peacock saying:

“John Kerry arrives in Istanbul two weeks after Barack Obama brokered a reconciliation between Turkey and Israel. It saw the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu formally apologising for its raid of a Turkish flotilla heading for Gaza three years ago in which nine Turkish citizens were killed.”

Julie Peacock

As well as the fact that this sanitised description of the flotilla, its aims and the IHH activists who initiated violence against the soldiers does nothing to clarify the real circumstances of the incident to BBC audiences, Peacock also repeats the same inaccuracy which has appeared in previous BBC reports on the same subject. 

The apology tendered by PM Netanyahu did not relate to the attempt to prevent the flotilla from breaching the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip, but to “any [operational] mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury”. As for the “reconciliation” described  by the BBC; that definition would at present appear to be somewhat premature.  

The BBC’s recurrent failure to abide by its own editorial guidelines on accuracy on this subject is not only misleading audiences; it is also making the BBC appear as though it does not have a clue what it is talking about. 

 

A wave of propaganda: BBC revisits the 2010 flotilla

The BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 23rd 2013 was headed by no fewer than six items pertaining to what was described as an “Israeli apology for flotilla deaths”. 

flotilla articles 23 3

Those items include a written article entitled “Israel PM apologies for Gaza flotilla deaths” which also includes video footage and a filmed report under the same title by Wyre Davies which appeared on BBC television news. Curiously, the footage in both those reports comes with a disclaimer

flotilla art 2

Other items include a written report by Kevin Connolly entitled “Mavi Marmara: US extracts last-minute Israeli apology”, a written article titled “Obama ends Middle East trip with visit to Petra ruins” which also features video footage by Yolande Knell and Q&A piece going under the dramatic headline “Q&A: Israeli deadly raid on aid flotilla”. 

All of these reports contain a plethora of basic inaccuracies on the one hand and distinguish themselves through deliberate omissions of crucial information on the other. 

The widespread assertion made in the website heading, article titles and in the reports themselves that Israel apologized “for flotilla deaths” is both inaccurate and superficial. As Professor Barry Rubin points out here, this event did not come out of the blue and as explained on PM Netanyahu’s Facebook page, the apology was for “any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury”. 

Netanyahu FB flotilla

Hence, the claim made by Wyre Davies in his filmed report that “Israel apologized for its role in the deaths of the nine activists” is inaccurate, as is the claim made by Yolande Knell that:

“He [Obama] got the Israeli Prime Minister on the phone apologizing to the Turkish Prime Minister for that deadly military raid on a Turkish ship heading to Gaza with activists on board three years ago.”

The fact that such inaccurate portrayals by Davies and Knell found their way into BBC television news reports is rendered even more egregious when one notes that the wording in the strap line of the main article appearing on the BBC News website indicates that the BBC is actually well aware of the real facts:

“Israel’s prime minister has apologised to Turkey for “any errors that could have led to loss of life” during the 2010 commando raid on an aid flotilla that tried to breach the Gaza blockade.” [emphasis added] 

Another serious inaccuracy which appears across the board in these reports is the portrayal of the Mavi Maramra as a ship transporting “aid” to Gaza and the description of its passengers as “activists”. Wyre Davies says in his filmed report:

Sheikh Mohammed al-Hazimi, a member of the Yemeni Parliament and of Al-Islah, aboard the Mavi Marmara

“….nine Turkish activists on a boat called the Mavi Marmara taking aid to Gaza. That boat was boarded by Israeli marines and nine of the activists were killed.”

In this article the BBC claims that:

“Nine people were killed on board the Turkish aid ship, Mavi Marmara, when it was boarded by Israeli commandos while trying to transport aid supplies to Gaza in May 2010 in spite of an Israeli naval blockade.”

The Q&A article claims that:

“It [the flotilla] wanted to deliver aid to Gaza, breaking an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the territory. The ships were carrying 10,000 tonnes of goods, including school supplies, building materials and two large electricity generators. The activists also said they wanted to make the point that, in their view, the blockade was illegal under international law.”

The blockade is not of course “illegal under international law”, as the UN’s Palmer Report made perfectly clear.

“The fundamental principle of the freedom of navigation on the high seas is subject to only certain limited exceptions under international law. Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

The fact that three years on, the BBC is still promoting that myth – albeit whilst apparently thinking it has itself covered by ostensibly quoting someone else – and that it does not make it clear that the “activists” have no legitimate basis for their “views”, represents a clear breach of BBC Editorial Guidelines on impartiality and accuracy.

As for the BBC’s various claims pertaining to “aid”, the Mavi Marmara was of course one of seven vessels which made up the flotilla, but the only one on board which any violence took place. The flotilla’s organisers were offered in advance by Israel the opportunity to dock at Ashdod port, have any cargo inspected for weapons and illegal goods and then have it transported into Gaza. Any legitimate aid organization would have taken advantage of that offer, but the flotilla organisers refused it. 

Further, beyond the personal effects of some 600 passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara – clearly a number far in excess of that required by any legitimate aid mission – no humanitarian goods were found on that specific ship or on two of the other vessels comprising the flotilla. 

The “aid” which was carried by the other four ships included expired medicines, second-hand used clothing and other goods – many of which were damaged due to improper packaging. The total amount of “aid” was later packed into 34 trucks for transport into Gaza (although Hamas refused to accept it initially). During the same week, 484 trucks of genuine aid passed into the Gaza Strip via the crossings on the border with Israel. 

As for the “activists” (as the BBC euphemistically terms them), we can get a good idea of the kind of received wisdom which lies behind the use of that phrasing by looking at the section under the sub-heading “Who organised it?” of the Q&A article.

Bulent Yidirim (IHH) and Ismail Haniyeh, January 2010

“A group called The Free Gaza Movement, an umbrella organisation for activists from numerous countries, and a Turkish group called the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Aid (IHH).

The Israeli government says the IHH is closely linked to the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which it views as a terrorist group, and is a member of another organisation, the Union of the Good, which supports suicide bombings. However, the Turkish government regards the IHH as a legitimate charity, and had urged Israel to let the flotilla through.”

The BBC’s anodyne description of the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ is nothing less than scandalous. It completely ignores the FGM’s connections to the International Solidarity Movement and the close links of both those groups to the terrorist organisation Hamas. It fails to mention the FGM’s dismal record of support for terror and antisemitism and its documented strategy of organizing flotillas as a PR exercise, as well as the involvement of many of its members and supporters in other anti-Israel campaigns. 

Members of the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ receive medals from Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza in 2008

No better is the BBC’s whitewashing of the IHH. As we see above, according to the BBC it is “the Israeli government” – and it alone – which “says” that the IHH is “closely linked” to Hamas. It is also the Israeli government which “views” Hamas as a “terrorist group”.

This warped version of reality ignores the fact that many other countries define Hamas as a terrorist organization besides Israel. It also downplays the nature of the ‘Union of Good’ – of which the IHH is a member – by describing it vaguely as an organization “which supports suicide bombings”. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Union of Good – headed by the antisemitic preacher Yusuf Qaradawi – which came into existence at the beginning of the Second Intifada as a way of raising and channelling funds to enable terror attacks by Hamas and its affiliates against Israeli civilians. It is designated by the US government as well as Israel

The BBC’s simplistic making do with the statement that the IHH is a “legitimate charity” in the eyes of the current Turkish government  does not even attempt to explain to readers the close ties between the two and the extent of the support provided by the Turkish government in the organization of the flotilla.  

All these BBC reports totally ignore the clear evidence of incitement to and preparations for violence on board the Mavi Marmara well  in advance of any meeting with the IDF, as shown for example in an Al Jazeera report aired two days before the incident. 

Almost three years after the Mavi Marmara incident, the BBC’s reporting on the subject reads like a press release of which the ‘Free Gaza Movement’ itself would be proud. The blatant omission of crucial information concerning the flotilla’s organisers and participants, as well as of the circumstances of the incident itself, can only be regarded as an attempt to dictate a very specific, dumbed-down narrative about the event to BBC audiences in order to shape perceptions. That clearly compromises the BBC’s obligations to both accuracy and impartiality – as well as insulting audiences’ intelligence. 

BBC shields audiences from antisemitism in Istanbul

On November 6th 2012, a Turkish court began its show trial of four former commanders of the Israeli security forces – in absentia – for their supposed role in the Mavi Marmara incident of May 2010. 

As was pointed out by a representative from the MFA:

“The so-called accused were not even informed or served or notified that they were going to be charged, which makes this one big puppet show” 

That fact is not reported in the BBC’s account of the opening of the obviously politically motivated trial, the eventual outcome of which is predictable to say the least.  In fact, the BBC article on the subject lends entirely unwarranted gravity and legitimacy to the proceedings. 

The BBC article also fails to relate in any way whatsoever to the antisemitic spectacle which went on outside the court on the first day of the ‘trial’ and which was obviously tolerated – if not encouraged – by the Turkish authorities.  

Under the EUMC Working Definition of antisemitism, one of its manifestations is:

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

Gaza flotilla trial in Turkey

Protest in Turkey

Kahrolsun “Israil” translates as “Damn Israel”

In addition, the BBC fails to mention the involvement of the body which co-organised the 2010 flotilla (among others) – the terror connected Turkish organisation Insani Yardim Vakfi, also known as the IHH, and fails to inform its readers of the close connections between that organisation and the Turkish government, its long history of anti-Israel incitement and the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories for which its leader has quite a penchant. 

IHH display outside the court in Istanbul

According to this report and others:

“Several hundred people, many wearing the Arab keffiyeh headscarf around their necks adorned with the Turkish and Palestinian flags, crowded outside the courthouse as witnesses and relatives of those killed in the raid began to arrive.

“Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine!” the crowd chanted as others held up a banner with the words: “What is the difference? Hitler = Israel.”

On a board erected outside the courthouse by IHH, the Islamic humanitarian agency that owns the Mavi Marmara, protesters scribbled the slogans: “Israel, your end is near”, “Down with Israel”, “The revenge of our martyrs will be bitter”.”

The IHH vice president, Huseiyn Oruc, himself a passenger on the Mavi Marmara and among the organisers of the 2011 flotilla and the 2012 Global March to Jerusalem  has been giving interviews on the subject of the ‘trial’. According to him: 

” “Turkey is the first country in the world that will take the unlawful Israeli actions to court.” He further called the trial “a very significant case because today will mark the day that the untouchable image of Israel will be damaged.”

“Referring to the case pending at the International Criminal Court upon the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) September 2010 report, which described Israel’s actions as “crimes against humanity,” Oruç claims that Israel “has been putting political pressure on the international courts” and the international community is waiting for the outcome of the trial in Turkey.” “

The political nature of the trial is further highlighted by the report that:

“…the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and a parliamentarian from France’s Greens Party will send observers to İstanbul and a group of orphans from Gaza will also be at the court.”

But the antisemitism on the streets of Istanbul is not the only manifestation of anti-Jewish racism to be airbrushed out of the information provided by the BBC on this ‘trial’. Below the article appear links to additional background reading and information.

In the name of accuracy and impartiality, it would of course be proper for the BBC to update its anodyne profile of the Free Gaza Movement to include the recent display of blatant antisemitism by its leader Greta Berlin, who is quoted in the BBC profile. So far – over a month after the incident – that has not been done.

One cannot, it is to be hoped, imagine the BBC ignoring public displays of homophobia or racism against people of colour outside an obviously politically motived show trial enabled and promoted by a group which campaigned against gays or black people, even if that group did insert the words ‘human rights’ into its title. 

It is precisely this sort of display of double standards which tarnishes the BBC’s reputation.