BBC News’ account of TIPH story sidesteps violent incidents

On the evening of January 29th the BBC News website published a report titled “Hebron: Palestinians denounce Israeli decision to end observer mission” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

The report actually includes two separate stories, the first of which was presented to readers as follows: [emphasis added]

“The Palestinian Authority has condemned Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of a foreign observer force in the divided West Bank city of Hebron.

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has deployed unarmed civilians for more than 20 years to report on human rights violations.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the observers of “acting against” his country.

Palestinians said Israel was showing contempt for international agreements.

Saeb Erekat, of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, called on the UN to deploy a permanent international force across the occupied West Bank in response.”

Later on readers were told that:

The TIPH was established in 1994 in the wake of an attack by a settler at the Ibrahimi Mosque that left 29 Palestinians dead. The force was deployed for three months but its mandate was not extended.

The 1997 agreement saw the TIPH return to Hebron, with Denmark, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey contributing observers.

Its mission is to assist in “monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians”.

The TIPH presents its findings to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which are required to agree every six months to extend the force’s mandate.”

The BBC’s report did not adequately clarify to audiences the one-sided nature of the TIPH’s mandate. As Professor Eugene Kontorovich notes:

“The anti-Israel bias of TIPH is built into its mandate, which tasked organization members with the one-sided mission of “promoting by their presence a feeling of security” for Palestinians in Hebron. Protecting Jews from constant terrorist attacks is not part of their job description.” 

Nowhere in the BBC’s report was there any mention of the incidents involving TIPH personnel which took place last year – the assault of an Israeli child by a Swiss member of the group and the slashing of the tyres of an Israeli owned vehicle by an Italian member. As the Jerusalem Post notes, those incidents were a factor in the call to review the renewal of the TIPH mandate.

Predictably the report erased from its section on the background of Hebron all mention of the city’s Jewish history, including the fact that Jews lived there uninterrupted for hundreds of years until the 1929 massacre. Readers did however see a dubious ‘religious importance’ rating.

“Hebron has been a flashpoint for decades.

The city is the location of the Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque, which is revered by Jews, Muslim and Christians as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s burial place. The site is the second holiest in Judaism and the fourth holiest in Islam.

Under a 1997 agreement, 80% of Hebron is under the full control of the Palestinian Authority and the other 20% is under full Israeli control.

The Israeli-controlled sector is home to about 40,000 Palestinians and several hundred Jewish settlers living in settlement compounds. The presence of the settlers there is considered illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees with this.”

The 1997 Hebron Protocol was of course signed by Israel and the PLO and it followed on from the 1995 Interim Agreement signed by the same parties and witnessed by the USA, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Norway and the EU. Apparently the BBC would have its audiences believe that the PLO signed an agreement facilitating the residence of Israelis in Hebron in violation of “international law”.

The second story in this BBC report is unconnected to the article’s subject matter. It relates to an incident which took place on January 26th, the details of which are as yet unclear and which is currently under investigation. In the original version of the report BBC audiences first got a one hundred and eighty-five word account of one version of the story.

“There was no immediate response from the UN, but the Organisation for the High Commissioner for Human Rights did express deep concern about an unrelated incident in the West Bank village of al-Mughayyir on Saturday in which a Palestinian man was shot in the back and killed.

OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that its monitoring suggested Hamdi Taleb Naasan died after a group of up to 30 Israelis from the nearby Israeli settler outpost of Adei Ad attacked Palestinian farmers in their fields and then fired live ammunition towards al-Mughayyir.

The confrontation led to six villagers being shot with live rounds, leaving three of them in a serious condition, he said, adding that it was unclear whether any settlers were also injured.

“When Israeli security forces did finally intervene, the main focus of their action appears to have been to disperse the Palestinian villagers using tear gas,” Mr Colville said.

“Three more Palestinians were injured by live ammunition after the intervention of the security forces. However it is not clear at this point whether they were shot by settlers or by soldiers.”

After being told that the army is investigating the incident, readers then got a fifty-three word long account (including an unhelpful link to a Ha’aretz article requiring subscription) of the other version of the incident.

The settlers have said the troops also used live ammunition, and that the confrontation began when a teenager was attacked and stabbed by Palestinians on the outskirts of al-Mughayyir.

According to the settlers, armed civilian emergency responders who came to the teenager’s aid opened fire in self-defence after villagers threw stones at them.”

So while violent acts by foreigners in the TIPH ‘peacemaking’ delegation were excluded from this report, one version of an as yet unclarified story was allocated three and a half times more coverage than the other.

 

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Hundreds and thousands: BBC under-reports missile attacks on Israel yet again

In the weeks which preceded Operation Protective Edge attacks from the Gaza Strip escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th alone. Since the commencement of the operation on July 8th 2014, terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip have fired over 3,500 missiles of various types at Israeli civilian targets. The Iron Dome missile defence system, which only targets projectiles analysed as set to land in populated areas, intercepted some 600 of those missiles at a 90% success rate. Missiles which evaded the Iron Dome and mortars (which the system is not designed to target, although it has had some success in that field too) account for around a hundred missile hits in Israeli civilian communities since July 8th. In the first week of the operation alone, 417 buildings and 228 vehicles were damaged by missiles. 

So how did the BBC News website present those facts (all readily available in the public domain) to audiences in its August 17th article titled “Gaza conflict: Peace talks resume in Cairo“? Remarkably, according to the BBC’s account, missiles fired from the Gaza Strip do not seem to land anywhere.Article 17 8 talks

“Israeli civilians have been forced to seek shelter from hundreds of rockets launched at Israel, though many missiles have been blocked by the Iron Dome defence system.”

The actual number of missiles fired is severely under-reported and presented in vague language even though the precise statistics are available. The consequences of those missiles are presented exclusively in terms of Israelis running for cover with no mention of what happens when they land and the fact that around a hundred of them have hit populated areas with destructive results to buildings, infrastructure, property and people. Whilst the Iron Dome system has indeed intercepted “many missiles” thus preventing much more loss of life, injury and damage, that does not – as the BBC’s wording implies – mitigate the effect of those missiles as weapons intended to terrorise Israel’s civilian population and paralyse normal life.

In the paragraph prior to that one, however, readers discovered that in contrast, Israeli weapons do hit the ground.

“Israeli air strikes and shell fire have sharply increased the hardship suffered by civilians in Gaza, with homes destroyed and a lack of water and medical supplies.”

No less interesting is the choice of wording used with regard to casualties: whilst Israelis “have died” – phrasing which does not imply cause – Palestinians are killed – a term which does indicate an outside cause of loss of life.

“Most of the more than 1,900 Palestinians killed are civilians, according to the United Nations.

On the Israeli side, 67 people, all but three of them soldiers, have died.”

Paragraph five of this report states:

“Israel started its offensive in response to militant attacks, including rocket fire, from Gaza.”

Later on, the report presents a different account of the cause of the conflict but with no information given concerning the efforts made by Israel to avoid the hostilities, meaning that audiences are left with no clear understanding of which party initiated them. Likewise, Hamas involvement in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli civilians is still being airbrushed from the BBC’s version of events.

“The latest Gaza conflict began as tensions escalated over the arrests of Hamas-linked militants blamed by Israel for the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers.”

As has been the case throughout BBC coverage of the conflict, the dissolving of the Hamas government in Gaza after the establishment of the Palestinian unity government at the beginning of June and the resulting Palestinian Authority responsibility for attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip is ignored.

“Hamas, which controls Gaza, is demanding an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the territory.”

In that sentence in the body of the article and separately both in a sidebar of related articles and a similar extended menu at its foot, three links are provided to the inaccurate and inadequate backgrounder on the topic of border restrictions which the BBC produced on August 13th.

The article concludes:

“Israel occupied Gaza in 1967 and pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005.

However, it still exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, water and air space, while Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.”

Once again, no effort is made by the BBC to explain to audiences that Israeli control of the Gaza Strip’s coastal waters and airspace is in fact part of the Interim Agreement signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people, rather than some Israeli caprice. Likewise, the BBC has made no attempt whatsoever to clarify to audiences that according to the terms of existing agreements between Israel and the PA, there should be no paramilitary groups in the Gaza Strip.

“Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

“Except for the arms, ammunition and equipment of the Palestinian Police described in Annex I, and those of the Israeli military forces, no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment, unless otherwise provided for in Annex I.”

That information is vital if audiences are to understand why the terms presented by Israel in ceasefire discussions include the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip and why it will not agree to lift the naval blockade and border restrictions for as long as Hamas and other terrorist organisations continue their efforts to import prohibited weapons into the territory. To date the BBC has failed to provide its audiences with that crucial context meaning that they are unable to build an accurate understanding of an international issue to which the BBC has devoted thousands of words.

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