The Duma terror attack and BBC consistency

Five days on from the shocking terror attack in Duma in which toddler Ali Dawabsha was murdered and members of his family injured, there has to date been no official publication of information relating to the arrest of suspected perpetrators of the arson attack.

The BBC News website’s coverage of that story as it broke prompts several observations on the topics of consistency and contradiction.

On the morning of July 31st an initial written report – titled “Palestinian fury as ‘Jewish settler’ arson attack kills child” – was the main story posted on the BBC News website’s homepage, its ‘World’ page and its Middle East page. A report also appeared on the BBC Arabic website.

Duma attack all

We have been unable to find documented support for the claim in the subheadings appearing on those webpages according to which the term “suspected Jewish settlers” was used by the Israeli police. The Guardian and Ynet were among many media outlets reporting different terminology: “Police described it as a “suspected attack with nationalist motives””.

In contrast to the extensive promotion of this story on three web pages, the three separate fatal terror attacks on Israelis which took place in April and June 2015 did not receive any English language BBC coverage whatsoever.

That article opens with the following words:

“Palestinian officials say Israel is “fully responsible” for the death of an infant in an arson attack blamed on Jewish settlers in the West Bank.” [emphasis added]

In relation to the graffiti found at the scene of the attack, readers are later informed that:

“While it is unclear what the word “revenge” referred to, the incident resembles what have become known as “price tag” attacks.

Such attacks usually involve acts of vandalism or arson by Jewish extremists as retribution for actions taken by the Israeli government against Jewish settlements or unauthorised outposts in the West Bank, or for violence by Palestinians.”

The report also includes an insert titled “What are ‘price tag’ attacks?”.

Price Tag insert

No attempt is made to provide readers with the relevant context pertaining to the estimated number of people involved in such attacks and it is not clarified that the overwhelming majority of those whom the BBC would describe as “Jewish settlers” abhor and condemn that criminal activity.

That same insert and preceding text also appeared in the BBC News website’s follow-up report on the same subject  – headlined “West Bank arson: Israel ‘will catch Palestinian child’s killers’” – published later in the day.  Again, no context was provided.

That article’s opening lines state:

“Israel has vowed to catch arsonists, suspected to be Jewish settlers, who killed a Palestinian infant in a firebomb attack on a West Bank village.” [emphasis added]

A filmed report for BBC television news programmes which appeared on the BBC News website on July 31st under the title “West Bank toddler death: Palestinian and Israeli reaction” claimed in its synopsis that:

“Israeli police say Jewish settlers are suspected of carrying out the attack on two Palestinian houses in the village of Duma.” [emphasis added]

In that report audiences heard Mahmoud Abbas make the following claims:

“This crime is added to other crimes committed by the settlers. And frankly speaking they are crimes committed by the Israeli government when it encourages settlements and illegal construction everywhere in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It is the Israeli government that encourages these settlers to carry out their deeds on a daily basis.” [emphasis added]

Another synopsis to an additional filmed report for BBC television news which was posted on the website on the same day under the title “Palestinian toddler dies in arson attack” told audiences that:Duma filmed

“An 18-month-old Palestinian boy has been killed in an arson attack by suspected Jewish settlers in the West Bank.” [emphasis added]

In that report James Robbins told viewers:

“This was almost certainly a political killing. This graffiti and the attacks that go with them are known as price tags. They are a message from extreme nationalists to the Israeli government. The nationalists are saying there’s a price to pay for the government’s refusal to expand Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory.”

Confusingly for BBC audiences, just one day earlier the World Service’s James Menendez had told them that the Israeli government was doing exactly that:

“You can look at the map and you can see settlements that have sprung up over the last few years all over the West Bank.”

Robbins also told viewers that: [emphasis added]

“They [Palestinians] say that Israeli government policy has encouraged settler violence.”

Saeb Erekat was then seen claiming that the attack in Duma “reflects the culture of hate and incitement that exists and nourished by the Israeli government.”

Notably, the BBC consistently avoids coverage of the topic of Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism.

Both the written articles end with the following words, which include the BBC’s problematic standard insert on ‘international law’:Duma art 1

“Palestinians regard settlements as a major obstacle to building a sought-after state in contiguous territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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.”

Until the Israeli security services announce that arrests have been made relating to this case there is of course no way of knowing whether the speculations widely promoted by the BBC (and to be fair, additional media organisations) concerning the identity of the perpetrators are in fact accurate. Nevertheless, it is notable that BBC reporting on Palestinian terror suspects rarely, if ever, specifies the subject’s religion and clearly BBC audiences would have been no less informed had the phrase ‘Israeli extremists’ been used instead of “Jewish settlers”.  

In the meantime, the fact that the corporation has refrained from clarifying to its audiences the all-important context of the scale of the small group of extremists behind previous so-called ‘price tag’ attacks is contributing to the stereotyping of half a million people whom it also lumps into the homogeneous category of “Jewish settlers”.  Notably, there was no BBC News website coverage of the coexistence rally held on August 2nd in Gush Etzion in response to the terror attack in Duma.

In 2013 the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson publicly apologized for using a quote including the words “of Muslim appearance” in a report related to the murder of Lee Rigby. His blogpost included the following observations:

“That phrase “of Muslim appearance” clearly offended some who demanded to know what it could possibly mean. Others were concerned that it was a racist generalisation. […]

…I’m sorry for using a phrase that, on reflection, was both liable to be misinterpreted and to cause offence. Many Muslims were quick to condemn the attack and to distance themselves and their religion from the brutal savagery seen on the streets of Woolwich.

The overnight protests of the English Defence League and attacks on some mosques lead some to fear the consequences for community relations. This all makes people understandably sensitive about anything which could be used to justify hostility to people on the basis of their appearance or religion.”

Whatever one’s opinion of Robinson’s apology, it is obvious that its publication (like the similar sensitivity to members of Paris’ Muslim community shown in BBC coverage of the January 2015 terror attacks) reflects an approach which is very different to the one indicated by the extensive use of the broad-brush term “Jewish settlers” in the four reports above. 

That lack of consistency in BBC policy clearly warrants discussion.

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BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part three

In parts one and two of this post we documented BBC News website coverage of the first twenty days of Operation Protective Edge. Part three relates to the next ten days: July 28th to August 6th 2014 inclusive.

Content on the website included written news reports and written ‘Features and Analysis’ articles as well as filmed items presented as stand-alone reports and additionally often embedded into the written articles. Those filmed items also appeared on BBC television news programmes and hence give us an idea of what worldwide audiences were being shown and to what extent the BBC lived up to its claims of “equal coverage” of the two sides to the conflict.

A small amount of content which appeared on the BBC News website at the time has since become unavailable, but below are the vast majority of the reports offered to the website’s visitors. We are not including here the many reports concerning demonstrations relating to the conflict in Europe and elsewhere which appeared on the Middle East page: that topic will be covered separately.

July 28th:Chart Jul 28

Written:

Gaza crisis: UN calls for immediate ceasefire

Gaza: Uneasy calm after UN ceasefire call

Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon   (discussed here)

Features:

US-Israel relations tested by Kerry shuttle diplomacy  Suzanne Kianpour

Filmed:

Israel tells UN ‘we are fighting terrorism’ Ron Prosor

Riyad Mansour: ‘We want to see fundamental changes’  Riyad Mansour

Gaza crisis: Lull in violence as Palestinians mark Eid  Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Uneasy calm after UN ceasefire call Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Kerry urges ‘humanitarian’ ceasefire  John Kerry

Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza  Ian Pannell in Gaza (discussed here)

Hamas: ‘We are getting killed but we won’t give up’  Ian Pannell interview with Ehab Al Ghossein  (discussed here)

Ten Israeli soldiers killed in attacks  Orla Guerin in Israel

Netanyahu: ‘We need to be prepared for a prolonged campaign’   PM Netanyahu

Deadly blasts hit Gaza and Israel after lull in violence  Chris Morris in Gaza

July 29th:Chart Jul 29

Written:

Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts  (discussed here)

Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign  (discussed here)

Israel intensifies Gaza attacks after Netanyahu warning

Turkey PM Erdogan returns US Jewish award in Israel row

Features:

In pictures: Gaza hit again after ‘heaviest night’

Filmed:

Strike hits Gaza media building Gaza

Israeli air strike hits ‘Hamas media building’ in Gaza   Emily Thomas Gaza

West Bank Palestinians politically divided, but united in anger  Jon Donnison in Beit Ummar (discussed here)

Gaza’s power station ‘hit by Israeli shelling’  Chris Morris and Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza bombardment kills at least 100   Ian Pannell in Gaza

Middle East crisis: Tel Aviv resident on living with conflict

Middle East crisis: Air strikes fill Gaza skyline with smoke  Matthew Amroliwala  Gaza

Gaza crisis: Inside militants’ tunnel  Orla Guerin in Israel

Middle East crisis: BBC at Gaza mosque ruins  Chris Morris in Gaza (edited Oct 7 – discussed here)

Middle East crisis: Israeli air strikes across Gaza  Chris Morris in Gaza

July 30th:Chart Jul 30

Written:

Gaza conflict: Hamas vows no Israel ceasefire

Gaza conflict: UN accuses Israel over Jabaliya attack

Gaza conflict: ‘Israeli market strike kills 17’

Features:

Conflicted UN struggles in global peace efforts   Nick Bryant

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Is there hope for a ceasefire?  James Robbins (discussed here)

‘Gaza children killed as they slept’ in UN-run school  Chris Gunness UNRWA

Gaza: ‘Terrible scene’ in UN-run school hit by Israeli fire  Chris Morris in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Israel’s military strategy   Orla Guerin in Israel (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: ‘Israeli market strike kills 15’  Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza conflict: UN accuses Israel over Jabaliya attack  Chris Morris in Gaza

Gaza school: ‘Israel does not target UN facilities’ says IDF  Lt Col Peter Lerner

July 31st:Chart Jul 31

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israel to investigate school shelling

Gaza conflict: Israel calls up 16,000 reserve soldiers

Israel ‘to destroy’ Hamas Gaza tunnels – Netanyahu

Israeli Iron Dome firms ‘infiltrated by Chinese hackers’

Features:

Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents  later amended and date changed. (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel conflict: Is the fighting over?  later amended and date changed.

Filmed:

Gaza crisis: Families grieve UN school dead  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Mark Regev: ‘If we find that it was errant fire from Israel I’m sure we will apologise’  Mark Regev

Quarter of Gaza population displaced, says UN  Martin Patience in Gaza

Families forced to stay in Gaza’s shelled UN school  Martin Patience in Gaza

Gaza crisis: UN representatives give their views  Ron Prosor & Riyad Mansour

Israeli opposition leader backs action against Hamas  Yitzhak Hertzog

Gaza crisis: UN says Israel must protect civilians or cease fire  Pierre Krahenbuhl UNRWA

Gaza crisis: UN announces Israel and Hamas ceasefire  UN

Gaza displaced ‘near breaking point’ – UN  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Israel attacks ‘not accidental’, claims UN  Navi Pillay

Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video  Orla Guerin in Israel (discussed here)

August 1st:Chart Aug 1

Written: (discussed here)

Gaza 72-hour humanitarian truce by Israel and Hamas begins

Israel to resume Gaza operation as truce with Hamas crumbles

Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’ as ceasefire ends

Live page:

As it happened: Israel soldier ‘captured’

Features:

In pictures: Israel-Hamas ceasefire collapses

Are captured soldiers Israel’s weak spot?   James Reynolds

Filmed: (discussed here)

John Kerry ‘Opportunity to find the solution’

‘Escalation’ warning by Israel after Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’  Mark Regev

Israel to resume Gaza operation as truce with Hamas crumbles  Martin Patience in Gaza

Israel and Hamas 72-hour truce begins   Jon Brain

Israeli soldier ‘captured’ by militants as ceasefire ends  Orla Guerin in Israel

Palestinians return to gutted homes during brief ceasefire  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Gaza militants ‘seize Israeli soldier’ as ceasefire ends  Jon Donnison in Gaza

Hamas blamed by Israel for breakdown of Gaza truce  Yigal Palmor

President Obama condemns kidnap of Israeli soldier

Gaza ceasefire collapses: What fate for talks?   Nick Childs

Gaza crisis: ‘There was never a ceasefire’ – Fatah spokesman  Hussam Zomlot

August 2nd:Chart Aug 2

Written:

Gaza conflict: Hamas denies holding Israeli soldier  (discussed here)

Gaza conflict: New exchanges amid Israeli soldier hunt

Gaza crisis: Israel ‘unlikely to go to talks in Egypt’

Israel PM Netanyahu: Gaza operation to go on

Israel attacks on Gaza ‘foolish’ and ‘disproportionate’ – Ashdown

Features:

Gaza: Mapping the human cost  (later updated and date changed)

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Hamas denies holding Israeli soldier  Jon Brain  (discussed here)

Middle East crisis: Fresh Gaza strikes amid soldier hunt  Martin Patience in Gaza

Israeli forces continue search for soldier missing in Gaza  Bethany Bell in Israel

August 3rd:Chart Aug 3

Written:

Gaza conflict: Missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin ‘dead’  (discussed here)

Gaza crisis ‘intolerable’, says Philip Hammond  (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: Deadly strike ‘at UN school in Rafah’  (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: Rafah school strike ‘criminal’ – UN chief

Filmed:

Israel says missing soldier Hadar Goldin is dead   Jon Brain

Gaza conflict: Inside town bearing brunt of Israeli strikes  Ian Pannell in Gaza

Middle East crisis: UN warns of Gaza health disaster  Chris Gunness UNRWA

Gaza crisis: Chaos after deadly strike ‘at UN school’  Martin Patience in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: BBC reports from Israeli staging post  James Reynolds in Israel

Gaza conflict: BBC assesses Israel’s military campaign  James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

Gaza crisis: Israel says no shells fell inside UN school  Mark Regev

August 4th:Chart Aug 4

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israeli partial ceasefire slows violence

UN right to speak out on Gaza strike, says Cameron

Gaza conflict: France condemns Israel ‘massacre’

Gaza conflict: Israel ‘to pursue campaign’ as truce ends

British national ‘killed in Gaza’

Features:

Gaza conflict: Contrasting views on targeting (discussed here)

In pictures: Faces from Gaza  Jon Donnison

Filmed:

Gaza crisis: Deadly strike at Rafah school  Orla Guerin in Gaza

Gaza-Israel: What Egyptians make of crisis in Gaza Strip  Mark Lowen

Gaza-Israel: Attacks on both sides of border despite ceasefire  Martin Patience in Gaza & Bethany Bell in Israel

Gaza conflict: Reports of strike on Gaza amid truce  Orla Guerin in Gaza

Gaza-Israel conflict: Reports of strike during Gaza ceasefire  Martin Patience in Gaza

Israel: Suspected ‘attack’ on bus with digger in Jerusalem  James Reynolds in Israel (discussed here)

August 5th:Chart Aug 5

Written:

Gaza conflict: Israel and Hamas ‘agree ceasefire’

Israel pulls troops out of Gaza

 Gaza conflict: Truce holding after Israel withdraws

Gaza-Israel video games cause controversy

Baroness Warsi quits as Foreign Office minister over Gaza

Live page:

As it happened: Israel withdraws troops as Gaza truce begins

Features:

Israel’s operation in Gaza may be over, but no victor emerges  Jonathan Marcus

Filmed:

Israel: Digger overturns bus in Jerusalem  James Reynolds in Israel

Gaza truce holds as residents return to destroyed homes  Jon Donnison in Gaza (discussed here)

Gaza-Israel: Palestinian National Initiative calls for end to ‘siege’  Mustafa Barghouti

Gaza: Egypt brokers truce as Israel withdraws troops  Martin Patience in Gaza & Bethany Bell in Israel

Israel Defense Forces ‘are out of Gaza’ – Lt Col Peter Lerner

Gaza conflict: Has the way Gazans view Hamas changed?  Orla Guerin in Gaza (discussed here)

Israel pulls troops out of Gaza  Jon Donnison in Gaza

August 6th:Chart Aug 6

Written:

Gaza conflict: Kerry urges broader Israel-Palestinian talks

Gaza: Israeli-Palestinian indirect talks begin in Cairo

Palestinian arrested over murder of Israeli teenagers

David Cameron faces fresh Gaza pressure

Megadeth and CeeLo Green cancel Israel concerts

Filmed:

Gaza conflict: Kerry says both sides must compromise

Gaza conflict: Is Israel’s mission accomplished?   James Robbins

Israeli PM Netanyahu news briefing

Gaza truce: Residents ‘homeless after fighting’  Orla Guerin in Gaza

Gaza crisis: Ceasefire holds on second day  Jon Donnison in Gaza

Gaza conflict: Views from the Israel Gaza border   Wyre Davies in Israel (text amended September 24th)

Between July 28th and August 6th inclusive, the predominant type of report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page was written articles with a significant proportion of their headlines continuing to use the phrases “Gaza conflict” or “Gaza crisis” as though events were confined to the Gaza Strip. Notably, audiences saw increasing amounts of content relating to statements made by British politicians on the issue. Two live pages also appeared during this period of time and the majority of footage (five reports out of nine) of interviews or press conferences with others (not Israelis or Palestinians) focused on amplifying statements made by various UN officials with UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness being a frequent interviewee.

As was the case in the first twenty days of BBC coverage of the conflict, the total number of filmed reports describing the situation in Gaza promoted between July 28th and August 6th was once again more than double the number of filmed reports describing the situation in Israel and those reports continued to focus on emotive coverage of the effects of the conflict on the civilian population. Notably, the first on camera recognition of the fact that terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip were launching missiles into Israel from residential areas in the Gaza Strip came in an August 5th report – twenty-nine days after the conflict began.

Graph Jul 28 to Aug 6By August 6th, visitors to the BBC News website (and television audiences) had seen 36.5 filmed reports from reporters on the ground in Israel compared to 88.5 filmed reports made by journalists on the ground in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the conflict.

Graph Jul 8 to Aug 6

Themes dominant in BBC reporting during that period were the amplification of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demand for the lifting of border restrictions and particularly remarkable was the BBC’s adoption of the inaccurate Hamas terminology used to describe those restrictions: ‘siege’. Another theme promoted was that of increased Hamas popularity in the Gaza Strip. The BBC’s policy of ignoring Hamas’ use of human shields continued and incidents such as the deaths of ten people in Shati on July 28th – caused by misfired terrorist missiles – were presented to BBC audiences as “disputed”. The incidents which took place at or near UN schools during this time period were misleadingly presented to audiences as “deliberate”, “criminal” and intentional strikes on civilians. Not for the first time – or the last – the fact that Hamas breached ceasefires was concealed or downplayed.

Related articles:

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part one

BBC News website coverage of Operation Protective Edge: part two

BBC WS ‘Newshour’: a test case for BBC claims of ‘equal coverage’

 

 

Why has the ‘impartial’ BBC adopted Hamas terminology?

Over the past week or so, the BBC has put considerable effort into amplifying and promoting Hamas’ main pre-condition for a ceasefire: the removal of border restrictions imposed by Egypt and Israel in response to terrorism against their citizens carried out by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. Documentation of some of those BBC efforts can be seen here, here, here and here.

In the past few days, however, we have seen a shift in the BBC’s approach to the topic. No longer content with ‘merely’ providing context-free advertisement for the demands of a proscribed terror organisation, the BBC has now adopted that organisation’s terminology, ditching its former use of the phrase “economic blockade” for the inaccurate and partial term “siege”.

Here is a screenshot from the July 28th edition of BBC Two’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newsnight’.

Screenshot Newsnight 28 7  siege

One presumes that the BBC is familiar with the Oxford English Dictionary. Here is its definition of a siege:

“A military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender.”

A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them – sometimes at its own expense – in its own hospitals.

Israel of course does all of the above – and more – and critically, Israel’s aim is not to compel “those inside to surrender”, but to prevent in as far as is possible the flow of weapons and dual-use goods which can be used to manufacture weapons into the Gaza Strip because for fourteen years its own civilians have been under attack by terrorist organisations located there.

So why does Hamas insist upon inaccurately calling the border restrictions implemented by Israel and Egypt a “siege”? Firstly because it sounds much more dramatic for propaganda purposes and enables it to assume the role of the attacked. Secondly, any real and honest presentation of the situation should prompt observers to ask why those restrictions were implemented in the first place and that leads to the subject of Hamas terrorism, which does not line up with the current Hamas strategy of presenting itself to the world as the freedom-loving champion of impoverished, besieged Palestinian victims.

Another example of this recent embrace of the language of that terrorist organization was seen on July 30th in yet another filmed backgrounder report produced by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Robbins. The item was also promoted on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza conflict: Is there hope for a ceasefire?“.Robbins 30 7 siege

There, Robbins distinguished himself by managing to present BBC audiences with an inaccuracy and/or a serious omission in almost every sentence of his report.

“It’s almost three weeks since Israeli airstrikes against Hamas in Gaza began.”

What preceded those airstrikes – almost a month of incessant missile fire on Israeli civilian communities – is not communicated to BBC audiences.

“All the appeals to both sides to stop have so far failed.”

Not so. The actual timeline of events reads thus:

  • 15 July: Israel accepted the ceasefire initiated by Egypt and stopped all fire at 09:00. However, terrorists fired more than 50 rockets at Israeli communities. Only after six hours of continuous rocket attacks did the IDF respond.
  • 17 July: Israel agreed to a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire. The terrorist organizations rejected it and fired rockets, including at the city of Be’er-Sheva.
  • 20 July: Israel approved a two-hour medical/humanitarian window in the area of Shejaiya, following an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) request. Forty minutes after the ceasefire began, Hamas violated it. Nevertheless, Israel implemented the ceasefire, even extending it for two more hours.
  • 26-27 July: Israel respected an UN-requested humanitarian ceasefire from 08:00-20:00 on Saturday, 26 July. Israel announced its readiness to prolong the ceasefire until midnight, but a few minutes after 20:00, Hamas renewed firing rockets at Israeli civilians. On the same day (26 July), Hamas announced a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire, at 14:00. Hamas violated its own ceasefire a short time later.Despite Hamas’ continuous fire, Israel decided to extend the humanitarian ceasefire a second time, from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday.
  • 28 July: Israel accepted Hamas’ request for a ceasefire in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The IDF was instructed to cease military attacks, but Hamas continued to launch rockets at Israel.
  • 30 July: Israel announced a temporary humanitarian ceasefire between 15:00-19:00. A few minutes after the ceasefire began Hamas fired rockets at the southern cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, as well as other Israeli communities.

Robbins goes on:

“The scale of civilian death and suffering in Gaza has opened up rifts between Israel and her traditional ally the United States, creating another layer of mistrust.”

Aha – that must be why the US has just approved a new transfer of military equipment to Israel.

“Israeli deaths, although much lower and overwhelmingly of soldiers – not civilians – continue to rise. It’s a price Israel’s leaders believe has to be paid to disarm Hamas completely.”

Robbins makes no effort to inform viewers of two very significant factors which contribute to the difference in the numbers of civilian casualties in Israel and Gaza: Israel’s extensive investment in civil defence, including the Iron Dome, and Hamas’ use of civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields. Then, for the second time in six days, he misrepresents the aim of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip: a topic on which he goes on to inaccurately elaborate.

“So what is still driving this conflict? Why is the search for a ceasefire proving so difficult? Partly because Israel’s overriding aim is to disarm the militant Palestinian organization Hamas completely. To destroy so much of its arsenal that it would be hard for Hamas to rearm in the future. Israel needs more time to continue that destruction.”

Remarkably, Robbins fails to inform viewers of the rather critical fact that Hamas is an internationally proscribed terrorist organization.

The disarming of Hamas was never declared an objective of this operation by Israeli leaders. Its often repeated aim is to enable the civilians of Israel to live their lives quietly and securely without missile fire from terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip. The attempted cross-border tunnel infiltration by Hamas terrorists on the morning of July 17th made a ground operation to neutralize Hamas’ attack tunnels necessary. Whilst many politicians and members of the general public in Israel are of the opinion that Hamas should be disarmed and the Gaza Strip made into a demilitarized zone for the wellbeing of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, it was never Israel’s declared (and unrealistic) aim to destroy every last missile in the Gaza Strip.

Robbins continues, with use of Hamas terminology both in his narration and in the accompanying illustrative graphic.

Robbins 30 7 seige lge

“The Hamas priority is to force the lifting of the siege of Gaza and get Israel to commit to that before – not after – a ceasefire. For the past eight years the thin sliver of land which is the Gaza Strip has been largely cut off, with Israel and Egypt controlling all movement in and out across its borders – of people and supplies as well as food – while the Israeli navy blockades Gaza from the sea.”

Once again, Robbins fails to inform BBC audiences what brought both Egypt and Israel to implement border restrictions, but of course it is rather difficult to explain Hamas terrorism if one has already avoided any mention of the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Despite Robbins’ obviously deliberate attempt to mislead viewers, there are of course no restrictions on the entry of foodstuffs to the Gaza Strip; the only controlled items are dual-use goods which could be used for the purpose of terrorism.

He carries on with still more use of Hamas terminology:

“But the siege hasn’t stopped Hamas building a network of concrete reinforced tunnels under its borders and arming itself with rockets to fire at Israeli towns and cities.”

Notably, Robbins makes no attempt to explain to audiences the purpose of those tunnels and – like all BBC reporting in the past three weeks – fails to mention which regional actors have helped Hamas to arm itself and why the removal of border restrictions would make rearming – and further conflict – inevitable in the future.

Robbins then goes on to display the full extent of his lack of Middle East expertise.

“And there are wider reasons why it’s so difficult to stop the fighting. Israel insists that Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist and says it can never trust Hamas if it’s committed to destroying the Jewish state. But Hamas won’t trade away that big card – at least until peace talks are at such a stage that they’re much closer to delivering an independent Palestinian state.”

Frankly, it is becoming excruciatingly embarrassing to see a succession of so-called BBC experts claiming that Hamas would down arms and disband if only a Palestinian state came into being. The fact that this grossly inaccurate notion is pawned off to BBC audiences as analysis not only shows the lack of competence at work, but also the inability of BBC staff to come to terms with the unpleasant underlying realities of the conflict.

Robbins then brings in an expert – Dr Hisham Hellyer – whose decidedly non-academically objective sentiments on the topic are easily identifiable on his Twitter feed.

“So expert observers suggest this current conflict can have no good outcome.”

Hellyer: “I think it produces yet another generation of people in Gaza who will not be interested in securing Israel’s security but ensuring Israel’s insecurity. And I think that bombardment is simply not going to work. It may delay another period of disquiet, as the Israelis put it, but that’s all it’s going to achieve; a delay.”

Robbins closes:

“For now the killing seems unstoppable. Both sides want any eventual ceasefire to look like their victory. And so far, neither side has got what it wants.

Beyond the glaringly obvious problem presented by the fact that a publicly funded Western media organisation has chosen to embrace, amplify and promote the language of a proscribed terror group, there is clearly another very simple issue at stake with the BBC’s adoption of the term “siege” in relation to the Gaza Strip: it is not accurate.

And not only does it not accurately describe the situation, but its use actively prevents BBC audiences from understanding why border restrictions do exist. Remarkably, despite this topic being the subject matter of numerous BBC reports over the past week or so, the BBC apparently thinks it acceptable to fob off audiences with dumbed-down Hamas propaganda rather than to accurately and comprehensively explain the issue. 

 

BBC News backgrounder downgrades Hamas’ terror designation

Here is another one of those filmed BBC backgrounder reports – presumably intended to provide BBC audiences with information and context which it might be more difficult to give in reports from the field. This one – produced by BBC News’ diplomatic correspondent James Robbins – appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza: What are the obstacles to peace?” in addition to being aired on BBC television news programmes.Robbins filmed 24 7

One of several notable features of that report is the editorial decision to insert a particular portion of footage from Khaled Masha’al’s recent press conference in Qatar in which he says:

“In this battle between us and Israel they are the executioners, the occupiers, the settlers and we are the true owners of the land.”

The best Robbins can come up with after that vitriol is:

“Israel rejects that…”

Later on, Robbins purports to explain the item’s main topic to viewers.

“So what are the main obstacles to peace – either a ceasefire or something more permanent? Well on the Hamas side, the leadership demands an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory. Gaza is effectively sealed off at sea and overland, including by Egypt – increasingly hostile to Hamas. Israel says the blockade is vital to stop Hamas getting materials to build new weapons.”

Yet again we see BBC amplification of Hamas’ pre-condition for a ceasefire without proper clarification to BBC audiences regarding the Hamas terrorism which brought about the introduction of restrictions by both Israel and Egypt in the first place. We also see a highly inadequate portrayal of the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. Robbins goes on to present half a story with regard to Hamas’ founding principles, deftly avoiding any mention of the violent practical manifestations of Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel.

“But a fundamental obstacle is that Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist.”

He then makes an unsourced claim which this writer at least has not heard made by the Israeli government in the format in which it is presented here.

“On the other side, Israel says it wants to destroy Hamas’ entire rocket arsenal.”

Notably, the topic of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels – the neutralization of which is the main objective of the current ground operation – does not get a mention at all. Robbins then comes up with the following curious statement:

“Israel calls Hamas a terrorist organization – not an elected government – and doesn’t accept that negotiations involving Hamas will ever deliver a long-term peace for Israel and Palestinians.”

The interestingly punctuated visual on the screen as Robbins makes that statement says:

Hamas “a terrorist organisation”

This is not the first time we have seen Hamas’ terror designation being misrepresented in BBC reports during the current round of conflict, although it has much more frequently simply been ignored altogether, meaning that audiences are not made aware of the basic fact that these hostilities are actually between a country and a terrorist organisation.

Hamas is of course defined as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan – as the BBC’s own profile of Hamas clearly states. In addition, Jordan and Egypt have banned Hamas and Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  

But no less bizarre is Robbins’ suggestion that Hamas should be seen as an “elected government” – not least because no PLC elections have taken place in over eight and a half years and the term of the PLC legislature elected in 2006 with a Hamas majority expired in 2010.

Clearly this latest backgrounder contributes little if anything to BBC audiences’ “understanding of international issues“.