BBC WS News conceals crossings closure context

Listeners to the BBC World Service news on the morning of October 21st were informed by newsreader Rosemary Crick (from 04:10 here) that:

Crick: “Four days after closing the crossing for goods and people between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has reopened it. A statement from his office said the decision was taken after a decrease in violence in Gaza and because of efforts to restrain Palestinian demonstrators made by Hamas – the militant group that controls the Strip.”

As readers probably know – but apparently BBC World Service news producers do not – there are two separate crossings for goods (Kerem Shalom) and people (Erez) and so Crick’s opening sentence is inaccurate and misleading.

In addition to her portrayal of violent rioters as “demonstrators” and a terrorist organisation as a “militant group”, Crick failed to inform BBC audiences around the world why the two crossings had been closed in the first place.

As the Times of Israel and others reported:

“The defense minister ordered the pedestrian Erez Crossing and Kerem Shalom goods crossing closed last Wednesday, after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip exploded outside a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba and another landed in the sea off the coast of the greater Tel Aviv area.”

However, the BBC did not produce any reporting on those attacks and so as far as BBC World Service audiences are concerned, Israel’s Minister of Defence apparently just closes and opens crossings into the Gaza Strip at whim.

So much for “accurate and impartial news [..] of the highest editorial standards” at the BBC. 

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BBC amends inaccurate photo caption two months on

As documented here in July, the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel suspends fuel deliveries to Gaza over arson attacks” on the 17th of that month in which readers were initially given an accurate portrayal of the story.

“Israel has tightened restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, after Palestinians carried out fresh attacks with incendiary balloons.

No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted.” [emphasis added]

However in contrast, the caption to a photograph featured later on in the report and a quote from a political NGO informed BBC audiences of “the closure of Kerem Shalom” and the “shutting down of Gaza’s main lifeline”.

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning those inaccurate representations of the situation, pointing out that – as the BBC obviously was aware – the Kerem Shalom crossing had not been closed or shut down.

On July 26th we received a response from BBC Complaints informing us that it would take more time to reply. On August 14th we received another response stating that BBC Complaints had not been able to reply within the accepted time-frame and referring us to OFCOM. On September 18th we received an additional response.

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that Israel has tightened restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, after Palestinians carried out fresh attacks with incendiary balloons (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44858637) and please accept our apologies for the long and regrettable delay in our response.

To hopefully address your complaint now, after considering your points in more detail we have amended the caption of the third photo to now explain that:

An Israeli NGO said the measures could have disastrous implications for Gazans

However we do not consider that the paragraph which refers to a statement from Israeli non-governmental organisation Gisha needs changed for the reasons you’ve outlined.

In particular they do not say that the crossing has been “shut down” but refer to the “shutting down of Gaza’s main lifeline…” which implies ongoing activity in a story about the tightening of restrictions.”

Apparently BBC Complaints would have us believe that audiences would not understand the phrase “shutting down” as meaning closing or ceasing operations.

BBC silent on Gaza crossing closure

Back in May the BBC failed to adequately report on three separate incidents of severe vandalism at the Kerem Shalom crossing carried out by Palestinian rioters – on the instruction of Hamas – on May 4th, May 11th and May 14th.

BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

On September 4th a large number of Palestinians rioted at the Erez Crossing.

“According to the IDF Spokesperson Unit, hundreds of people participated in the riots, reportedly hurling rocks at the crossing which resulted in severe damage to the infrastructure. The IDF said they responded with tear gas and live fire.”

According to AFP:

“The Palestinians were protesting against an announcement by Washington on Friday that it would cease all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) which helps some three million needy refugees.”

The following day it was announced that the Erez Crossing – the only transit route for pedestrians and patients seeking medical care outside the Gaza Strip – would have to be closed for repairs.

“Israel announced the temporary closure of its sole pedestrian crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after the border terminal was damaged during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians. […]

“As a result, the crossing has been closed until the repairing of the damage caused as a result of the riot is completed,” the army said in a statement.

It did not indicate when the repairs would be completed.

The army added that the closure does not include humanitarian cases, which it said would be approved on a case-by-case basis.”

The BBC, however, did not find the fact that violent Palestinian rioters deliberately trashed facilities serving Gaza Strip residents in the least bit newsworthy.

With BBC audiences being repeatedly steered towards the inaccurate belief that all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures, it is significant that once again the corporation has shown no interest in reporting a story which conflicts its chosen narrative

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More ‘Great Return March’ arson and ambitions ignored by BBC News

BBC News website coverage of May 14 Gaza rioting

 

 

 

 

Superficial BBC WS reporting on Gaza truce discussions

The August 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 48:46 here) which was introduced by presenter Rebecca Kesby using the standard sanitised BBC portrayal of the ‘Great Return March‘ violent rioting and with the firing of hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians by terror factions erased from audience view.

Kesby: “Egypt has taken on a big task, apparently organising and implementing a truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The agreement is reportedly aimed at calming weeks of border clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel and is planned ahead of the Muslim Adha feast which starts next week.”

On the same day, however, Israeli media outlets reported that Hamas officials had stated that no agreement would be reached before Eid al Adha.

“A member of the Hamas terror group’s political bureau said Friday that internal Palestinian talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel were put on pause until the conclusion of a Muslim holiday later this month.

“Today we finished a round of consultations in Cairo with the Palestinian factions regarding the calm [ceasefire deal] and the reconciliation” between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, Izzat al-Rishq wrote on his Twitter account, according to Channel 10 news.

“We made clear that we insist that all steps be in a national framework. We presented our vision regarding the calm and we heard ideas and comments from the brothers in the factions,” added al-Rishq, one of the Gaza-based terror group’s top leaders abroad.

“God willing the efforts will renew after the holiday” of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim feast that begins on Tuesday and lasts until the end of next week.”

Kesby then went on to introduce Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz and BBC audiences were told that the potential truce includes several factors.

Pfeffer: “The main component of the deal – which is an unofficial understanding, not a written treaty that either side is signing – is that Hamas is committed to a complete ceasefire.”

Listeners were not told that Hamas’ interpretation of “a complete ceasefire” does not – as the Times of Israel explains – in fact include what Kesby euphemistically described as “border clashes” in her introduction.

“Hamas does not view the ongoing “popular protests” along the border, or the kite and balloon arson attacks that have burned over 7,000 acres of southern Israeli land, as a violation of any such agreement. As far as Hamas is concerned, those attacks are part of the popular Palestinian struggle against Israel. If Hamas does reach a long-term ceasefire deal with Israel, the terror group insists it will be obligated to cease rocket and mortar fire, but nothing more. […]

Conversely, Hamas says it will not agree to such a truce unless Israel stops bombings its facilities in the Gaza Strip, which have caused considerable damage to its infrastructure in recent weeks. […]

Israel has carried out such strikes in response to arson attacks and particularly egregious violence at the protests, and is unlikely to accept an arrangement in which it would agree to halt such responses while Gazans remain free to riot and burn Israeli farmland.”

Pfeffer went on:

Pfeffer: “The next elements are that both Israel and Egypt will reopen the crossings into Gaza, both for people coming in and out – that’s the Egyptian crossing at Rafah – and for cargo which goes in from the Israeli side at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Another component is that the fishermen of Gaza will be able to put out to sea to a much wider area and what is perhaps most problematic – and that’s something which is going to be in the future – opening further negotiations through the Egyptians on prisoner exchanges and the larger plan of infrastructure building in Gaza.”

While BBC audiences have in the past heard plenty about border crossings, fishing zones and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, listeners may well have been confused by the reference to “prisoner exchanges” because – as noted here previously – the corporation has produced no reporting concerning the Israeli civilians held by Hamas in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.

Later on Pfeffer mentioned the Palestinian Authority “who don’t really like to see all this happening without them being involved” but listeners were not told that the day before this report was aired, Mahmoud Abbas had refused to meet the Egyptian intelligence chief to discuss the issue.

Kesby then came up with a totally irrelevant question:

Kesby: “Yeah, you mention Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. We don’t think they’ve been part of these talks at all, do we? And that may not be the only stumbling block: will all this get through the Israeli parliament?

Pfeffer: “Well the parliament doesn’t have to vote on it. It’s not a formal peace treaty; it’s just a ceasefire agreement.”

Pfeffer went on to say that most Israeli cabinet ministers “have agreed in principle to the plan” and that “the real stumbling blocks” are “some minority within Hamas leadership who are reported to be against” before stating that this is the test which will determine the chances of “something more comprehensive” that will “allow people in Gaza to finally begin enjoying a better level of infrastructure and some kind of freedom of movement in and out of the Gaza Strip.”

As we see, BBC World Service listeners were given inaccurate information about the timing of this potential truce and misled with regard to its terms. Audiences heard nothing about the Palestinian Authority’s stance which would enhance their understanding of factors liable to prevent any significant agreement from coming about, including the fact that PA officials have said that “if any deal were reached, the Ramallah government would stop all financial assistance it provides to the Strip”. And once again, the subject of Israeli civilians held prisoner by Hamas was ignored by the BBC.

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A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

Many thanks to all those who wrote in to alert us to an item aired in the July 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. That report by Paul Adams – currently a BBC diplomatic correspondent and formerly twice based in Jerusalem – was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 0:47:15 here) with multiple inaccuracies.

Husain: “Israel has partially reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing point into the Gaza Strip allowing fuel to enter the territory for the first time in two weeks. The crossing was closed earlier this month after incendiary kites were flown across the border setting fire to agricultural land inside Israel.”

Firstly, the Kerem Shalom crossing was not “closed” – and therefore also not “reopened”. As the BBC News website reported on July 17th, restrictions were placed on the types of goods allowed through:

“No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted.” [emphasis added]

The restriction on fuel and gas imports was lifted at noon on July 24th after having been in force since July 17th: in other words for seven and a half days. Husain’s claim that fuel had entered the territory “for the first time in two weeks” is hence inaccurate. Listeners were not told that the restrictions were introduced not only after “incendiary kites were flown across the border” by parties Husain refrains from identifying but also after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had launched over 200 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians two days beforehand.

Husain continued with an equally context-free portrayal of the violent rioting – pre-planned, financed and facilitated by Gaza terror factions – that has been taking place since the end of March:

Husain: “The UN says the lack of fuel has affected Gaza’s only power plant and hospitals, where hundreds of Palestinians are still being treated after being shot by Israeli soldiers during the protests of recent weeks.

Mishal Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners of the fact that Hamas has been exploiting diesel fuel imported via Egypt and intended for “Gaza’s only power plant” to boost its own coffers and for terror purposes. She went on:

Husain: “But as our diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams reports, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental condition of nearly 2 million Gazans.”

With the background to the report having thus been framed as related to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, Adams commenced by telling a two month-old story.

Adams: “On the busy streets of Gaza a man sets fire to himself. The crowd gathers and the flames are doused. The man is bundled into a taxi. He makes it to hospital but dies two days later. What drove musical newly married Fathi Harb to take his own life? The man in the online videos dressed as a clown or singing to promote a coffee brand. His grandfather Said tries to make sense of Fathi’s death. Like everyone in Gaza he struggled to make a living but his wife Doha was about to give birth to their first child. The baby, Wattan, was born two days after Fathi died.”

Voiceover Grandfather: “No-one knows why he did it but the boy asked himself what kind of life are we living So I think of the same question. Every Palestinian asks himself the same question.”

Adams did not inform listeners that – as reported by some journalists at the time – Fathi Harb was “heard cursing the government” as he set himself on fire. Other media outlets noted that his family had been affected by the Palestinian Authority’s cutting of salaries to employees in the Gaza Strip.

In Paul Adams’ account, however, there is no room for any mention whatsoever of Hamas or the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

Adams: “Suicide is a terrible sin in Islam and yet Fathi Harb chose to do it out in the street in front of dozens of people. He was clearly desperate and so it seems are more and more people here. Gaza’s boiling border has been in and out of the news since March but UN staff have been worried about Gaza’s young men for months.”

Following Adams’ promotion of that false linkage between the economic situation and the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop, listeners heard from “a UN health worker who claimed “more cases” since the beginning of the year. Adams commented that:

Adams: “It seems as though particularly educated young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of suicidal thought.”

The UN health worker gave a reply which conveniently fits in with Adams’ framing of the story, claiming that such people are “open to the world and the same time they cannot see the world.”

Adams continued:

Adams: “And it’s not just suicide. Domestic abuse is another alarming trend. At a UN clinic local women are discussing stress management. With unemployed, depressed husbands and angry, restive children Gaza’s women are under strain.”

After listeners had heard from one of those women, Adams went on, again studiously avoiding any mention of uncomfortable subjects such as Hamas’ use of water and sewage pipes to make rockets or Mahmoud Abbas’ deliberate exacerbation of the Gaza power crisis last year.

Adams: “Gaza has been crumbling for decades. War and economic isolation have taken their toll. There’s no proper drinking water. Electricity comes on for just 3 hours a day – sometimes in the middle of the night.”

Adams then introduced another interviewee:

Adams: “David Hutton runs the UN community mental health programme in Gaza.”

Hutton – who told listeners that “anybody who lives under these conditions” would “have an erosion of coping skills” – actually works for UNRWA and unsurprisingly had nothing to say about Hamas’ responsibility for what he described as “the chronic stress that people live with”. Adams went on:

Adams: “The youngest need help too. ‘Save the Children’ runs a youth centre at Beit Hanoun at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border. Encouraged by an instructor, girls in their early teen years play games, sing and forget themselves. But there are haunted faces here too, hanging back, uncertain, troubled.”

Adams did not bother to ask whether those “haunted faces” might be linked to the fact that four years ago, children living in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia were witness to the firing of 69.4% of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014.

Adams closed his report with a quote from the NGO which typically avoids mentioning the effects of Palestinian terrorists’ rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli children:

Adams: “‘Save the Children’ say 95% of Gaza’s children experience psychological distress: yet another Palestinian generation growing up with the corrosive effects of a conflict apparently without end.”

As we see, Paul Adams managed to get through his entire report without mentioning the words Hamas and terrorism even once. Obviously such blatantly context-free reporting – along with Mishal Husain’s inaccurate claims -not only contributes nothing at all to the BBC’s public purpose of helping its audiences “engage fully with issues” but actively hinders that process.

 

BBC News amplifies terror group and political NGO in crossing report

On July 17th a report titled “Israel suspends fuel deliveries to Gaza over arson attacks” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The article opened with a reasonable account of the story:

“Israel has tightened restrictions on its only cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip, after Palestinians carried out fresh attacks with incendiary balloons.

No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted. [emphasis added]

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was responding to “continued terror attempts” by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.”

The report also gave readers a reasonable account of the hostilities that took place on July 14th.

“On Saturday, the Israeli military carried out waves of air strikes across the coastal territory in response to some of the most intensive bombardments from Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

Two Palestinians were killed and 14 others wounded in the Israeli strikes, while four Israelis were wounded when more than 200 rockets and mortars were fired towards southern Israel.

The violence subsided after Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt.”

As was the case when previous restrictions were announced a week before, the BBC presented lower figures for the area of land (7,500 acres) destroyed in Palestinian arson attacks and the monetary value ($2 million) of that damage than is actually the case.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was prepared to “increase the force of our attacks” if Palestinians did not stop launching kites and balloons carrying containers of burning fuel and explosive devices over the Gaza-Israel border.

The devices have sparked hundreds fires in southern Israel, burning more than 2,830 hectares (7,000 acres) of forest and farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, officials say.”

Readers found the BBC’s now standard anodyne portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which continues to conceal from audiences the fact that the casualty figures quoted actually come from Hamas – which organised, facilitated and financed the publicity stunt – and that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various terror factions, as well as giving context-free amplification to the ‘right of return’ claim.

“The arson attacks began during mass demonstrations along the border, at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel and also demanded an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.”

The most notable aspect of this report, however, is the BBC’s decision to highlight comment on the story from two sources.

Firstly, the BBC found it appropriate to amplify parts of a statement from the spokesman of a terrorist organisation.

“Hamas, which dominates Gaza, warned Israel of “dangerous consequences”. […]

A Hamas spokesman called the closure a “crime against humanity”.

“These vengeful measures reflect the degree of the oppression and the ugliness of the crime that Gaza is facing, that will have dangerous consequences for which the occupation will bear full responsibility,” Fawzi Barhoum said.”

Barhoum also stated that:

“The Israeli occupation’s closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing and depriving Gaza from the most simple necessities of life is a crime against humanity that will be added to its list of crimes at the expense of the Palestinian people including those living in the Strip”

BBC audiences were not however told that in May, the terror organisation now once again claiming a “crime against humanity” directed three separate attacks against the Kerem Shalom crossing, damaging the same fuel supplies which it now calls “the most simple necessities of life”. Neither were they informed of the related issue of Hamas’ cynical exploitation of fuel imported via the Rafah crossing.

“Approximately 30 million liters of diesel fuel, supposedly intended for Gaza’s power station, have been brought in since the beginning of the year. Hamas buys the diesel fuel from Egypt, but instead of using it all to fuel the station and produce more hours of electricity per day, it has been using some of the diesel fuel to make a profit.

Of the 30 million liters, 17.8 million were taken to Gaza’s power station. Another 12.2 million liters were either sold on the black market to those willing to pay the maximum price for it, or diverted for Hamas’s military purposes. Hamas makes a profit of NIS 2.5 on every liter of diesel fuel sold in Gaza.”

The second comment on the story promoted to BBC audiences came from a foreign funded political NGO – with a link to its Twitter account.

As the BBC correctly reported at the beginning of the article – there is no “closure” of the Kerem Shalom crossing and “Gaza’s main lifeline” has not been ‘shut down’. It is therefore significant that the BBC chose to amplify those inaccurate claims despite obviously knowing that they are false.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality require that audiences be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of contributors. In the case of ‘Gisha’, it would obviously be helpful to BBC audiences to know that the political NGO touting the claim of “illegal collective punishment” petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court in April, claiming that Israel’s responses to the ‘Great Return March’ violence along the Gaza border are illegal and demanding that the Court prohibit the use of live ammunition by the IDF. The court rejected that petition.

The BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “provide accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Apparently BBC News website editors are of the opinion that the amplification of baseless propaganda slogans such as “crime against humanity” from a terror faction and “illegal collective punishment” from a political NGO which claims to represent the interests of “Gaza residents” that have burned thousands of acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves in three months of terror attacks, contributes to audience understanding of this story.

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After three months, BBC News website notices Gaza arson attacks

As has been documented here over the past few months, the BBC has failed to produce any serious reporting on the topic of the arson attacks using kites and balloons which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been staging daily since April 11th.

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Comparing BBC coverage of fires in England and Israel

However, no crystal ball was necessary in order to predict that after three months of largely ignoring that story, the BBC’s interest in it would suddenly perk up when Israel took action.

On July 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel closes main Gaza goods crossing in response to arson attacks” on its Middle East page. The reason for Israel’s action was presented to readers in the report’s fifth paragraph as follows:

“Israel has shut the main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip in retaliation for arson attacks by Palestinians and attempts to infiltrate its territory.

Only “humanitarian equipment”, including food and medicine, will now be allowed through Kerem Shalom.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to use a “heavy hand” against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza.

A Hamas spokesman called the Israeli move “a new crime against humanity”.

Palestinians have been launching kites and balloons carrying containers of burning fuel and explosive devices over the Gaza-Israel border since April.”

Readers next saw an image captioned “Gazans have been flying incendiary balloons and kites over the border with Israel” and were told that: [emphasis added]

“The devices have sparked 750 fires in southern Israel, burning more than 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) of forest and farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, Israeli officials say.”

Curiously, three weeks earlier on June 20th, the BBC had reported that:

“Israeli officials say the crude devices have sparked more than 450 fires in recent weeks, burning 2,800 hectares of land and causing $2m (£1.5m) of damage.”

With the arson attacks having continued relentlessly since that June 20th report was published, it is of course impossible that three weeks later, a smaller area of land had been burned and the monetary value of the damage reduced from $2 million to “hundreds of thousands”. Local press reports cited a figure of some 7,000 acres destroyed.

Readers found the BBC’s now standard anodyne portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt which continues to conceal from audiences the fact that the casualty figures quoted actually come from Hamas – which organised, facilitated and financed the agitprop – and that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various terror factions.

“The arson attacks began during mass demonstrations along the border, at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel and also demanded an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.

Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force. Israel has said they have only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.”

Readers were told for the second time that in response to Israel’s announcement concerning the Kerem Shalom crossing:

“Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, called on the international community to intervene immediately to prevent what it called a “new crime against humanity”.”

The BBC’s report did not inform readers of the reaction from the Iranian funded Palestinian Islamic Jihad and of course no mention was made of the fact that the terror organisation now claiming a “crime against humanity” directed three separate attacks (all but ignored by the BBC) on that same crossing just two months ago.

The BBC then found it appropriate to amplify the messaging of a foreign funded political NGO.

“The Israeli non-governmental organisation Gisha, which promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians, also condemned the Israeli decision.

“The damage being caused to agricultural lands in Israel is grave and deplorable, but collectively punishing nearly two million people in Gaza by closing its only official crossing for the movement of goods is both illegal and morally depraved,” it wrote on Twitter.”

However, while the BBC News website apparently did consider statements from a terror organisation (twice) and a political NGO to be crucial to audience understanding of this story, the point of view of the residents of the area that has been under daily attack for three months was obviously once again deemed superfluous.

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BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

Just before 7 a.m. on May 29th residents of Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip had to rush for cover as a barrage of twenty-five mortars was fired by terrorists. Roughly an hour later another two mortars were fired and just after 09:30 a third attack took place.

“At least 28 mortar shells were fired at southern Israel in at least three separate barrages Tuesday morning as sirens blared throughout the area, the army said, amid heightened tensions along the Gaza border.

One person was lightly injured by shrapnel in his shoulder and was being treated at the Soroka medical center in Beersheba. […]

“The army said its Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted the majority of the incoming shells from the first barrage.

One of the shells struck a tree in the yard of a kindergarten in the Eshkol region, less than an hour before students were due to arrive, a spokesperson for the community said. […]

The kindergarten that was hit by a mortar shell — along with all other schools in the area — opened as usual on Tuesday, despite the attack.”

Attacks with both mortars and rockets were renewed in the afternoon hours – including on more distant towns such as Ofakim and Ashkelon – and continued into the evening and night. By 9 p.m. local time at least 70 projectiles (some of which were Iranian-made) had been launched, several Israeli civilians and soldiers had been wounded and Hamas and the second largest armed terror faction in Gaza – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – had issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for the attacks.

Version 1 on Middle East page

The IDF responded to the attacks throughout the day with strikes on military positions in the Gaza Strip and, separately, destroyed a cross-border tunnel – the tenth in recent months.

So how did the BBC News website cover the day’s events?

Over five hours after the first attack, the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article that was initially headlined “Gaza mortar barrage fired at Israel heaviest in years” – and tagged “Gaza border clashes”.

At no point in that report were the people who fired military-grade weapons at civilian communities – including an educational establishment for pre-schoolers – described as terrorists.

“Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired dozens of mortars at Israel in the heaviest such barrage in years. […]

Israel responded with air strikes on militant positions in Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties. […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli military “will respond very forcefully” to the attacks, which he blamed on Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement and the smaller Gaza-based militant group Islamic Jihad.”

Version 1

Readers were informed that:

“The Israeli military said a volley of mortar shells were fired at several sites in Israel, with most intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

They were not told that the Iron Dome intercepts projectiles that are about to land in populated areas.

In the first five versions of the article, readers found a bizarre description of the purpose of ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunts organised by Hamas and other terror factions to advocate elimination of Israel as the Jewish state and the BBC concealed from audiences the fact that over 80% of those killed between March 30th and May 14th have been shown to have links to assorted terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

“The latest flare-up follows weeks of Israel-Gaza violence which has seen more than 100 Palestinians killed.

They were shot dead by Israeli snipers amid protests which saw thousands of Palestinians mass on the Gaza-Israel border in support of their refugee population.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s article also mentioned some previous recent incidents that had not been reported by the corporation, including machine gun fire at the town of Sderot on May 28th.

“Hours earlier, machine-gun fire from Gaza hit houses and vehicle in the Israeli border town of Sderot, though without causing injuries, the IDF said.”

It went on to mention an infiltration attempt on May 28th and an IED attack on May 27th.

“The upsurge in violence came after Israeli tank fire killed four militants in Gaza in two separate incidents at the start of the week.

A member of Hamas was killed on Monday after Israeli soldiers caught a group attempting to breach the border and carry out an attack, while on Sunday three members of Islamic Jihad were killed after placing an explosive device on the border fence, the IDF said.”

The first five versions of the article closed with the following description of the events that led up to Operation Protective Edge in 2014:

“The latest cross-border violence is some of the heaviest since a 50-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza in 2014. That followed an upsurge of rocket fire into Israel, and the killing by Israel of the commander of Hamas’s military wing.”

Version 6 on Middle East page

Israel did not kill “the commander of Hamas’s military wing” in July 2014. The BBC appears to have confused that conflict with the previous one in November 2012 when the second-in-command of that organisation – Ahmed Jabari – was killed.

That inaccurate claim was removed some ten hours after the initial attack when the title of the BBC’s rolling report was changed to “Israel strikes Gaza after heaviest mortar barrage in years”. The description of the ‘Great Return March’ was changed but BBC audiences were still not informed that the vast majority of those killed were linked to terrorist organisations.

“More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers amid protests which saw thousands of Palestinians mass on the border in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

Readers of versions six and seven of the report found the following inaccurate claim: [emphasis added]

Version 6: “The Israeli military said its air force also struck “an offensive Hamas terror tunnel” near the Kerem Shalom crossing, where limited amounts of food, fuel and goods are transferred into Gaza.”

Version 7: “The Israeli military said its air force also struck “an offensive Hamas terror tunnel” near the Kerem Shalom crossing, where controlled amounts of food, fuel and goods are transferred into Gaza.”

Version 7

Once again the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the purpose of Hamas’ cross-border tunnels in its own words:

“It said the tunnel stretched for 900m (3,000ft) under Israeli territory. It is the latest in a series of cross-border tunnels which Israel has destroyed or disabled since the end of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.

During that conflict, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels which it said were meant for attacks.” [emphasis added]

Readers were told that:

“The Kerem Shalom crossing is a lifeline for Gaza, which has been under an Israeli, then Egyptian, blockade beginning in 2006 when Hamas militants attacked the crossing and kidnapped an Israeli soldier.”

In line with previous editorial policy, BBC audiences were not informed of the fact that serious damage has been done to that “lifeline” on three separate occasions this month by Palestinian rioters directed by Hamas. The BBC’s description of the location of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit lacks accuracy.

The BBC failed to inform its audiences that Hamas and the Iranian backed PIJ had claimed joint responsibility for the day’s attacks. No mention was made of the fact that equipment and lines supplying power to the southern Gaza Strip were damaged by the terror groups’ missile fire.

Despite the areas under attack being less than a two-hour drive away from the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau, once again the corporation’s audiences did not see any interviews with Israeli civilians affected by the terror attacks. 

 

 

BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC failed to adequately report on three separate incidents of severe vandalism at the Kerem Shalom crossing carried out by Palestinian rioters – on the instruction of Hamas – on May 4th, May 11th and May 14th.

The sole reference to the May 4th incident came in the form of twenty-two words in a BBC News website report on another topic that was published the following day:

“On Saturday, Israel accused Hamas of setting fire to gas supplies and damaging crossing points where humanitarian supplies are brought into Gaza.” [emphasis added]

The May 11th incident was completely ignored and, despite the corporation’s extensive coverage of the events of May 14th, the fact that Palestinian rioters once again set fire to the sole commercial crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip was not reported to BBC audiences.

The day after the second incident on May 11th it was announced that the crossing would have to be closed while repairs were underway.

“The Israeli military on Saturday announced the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into the Gaza Strip, a day after Palestinian rioters trashed key infrastructure serving the only entry point of outside goods into the Hamas-run Strip, causing immense damage.

The crossing will be closed while the damage is repaired, and will reopen in accordance with the security situation, officials said. […]

Apart from humanitarian cases, the IDF said the Kerem Shalom crossing would remain closed until the “extensive damage” caused to the torched gas lines, electricity infrastructure and a conveyor belt used to transfer goods into the Strip is repaired.

The army estimated the damage to Kerem Shalom would cost $9 million to repair.”

On the evening of May 14thit was announced that the crossing would reopen at limited capacity.

“Israel announced on Monday night that it would be reopening the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza on Tuesday, after Palestinian rioters set fire to parts of the facility on three separate occasions during border protests this month — including on Monday. […]

Israel closed the crossing on Saturday night in order to assess and repair the damage caused by rioters the day before. […]

While the crossing was scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, it will only be able to function at a partial capacity in light of significant damage caused to the facility, including to the fuel lines — the only way to bring diesel and gasoline into Gaza in significant quantities.”

On May 15th the crossing did indeed reopen but, as the Times of Israel reported:

“Palestinian officials on Tuesday refused to allow trucks loaded with goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, which Israel had reopened in the morning after rioters from the coastal enclave set fire to parts of the facility three times over the past month.

Shipments of medical supplies, food and diapers arrived at the crossing in the morning. But officials on the Palestinian side said they could only allow through the medical supplies and sent back 14 trucks full of food and diapers, The Times of Israel has learned.”

Now let’s take a look at how the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell presented that story in a report aired on BBC World Service radio’s “Global News Podcast” at 13:00 GMT (15:00 local time) on May 15th.

04:41 Knell: “We have had the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh…he left Gaza and went to Egypt where he’s been meeting members of the Egyptian intelligence. A lot of speculation that there is a lot of diplomatic pressure – international pressure – being applied to try to calm things down. Even though Israel had said that it was going to close the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing – the one commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza – indefinitely, it has now opened that crossing. There have been some supplies going in. And the Rafah border crossing with Egypt has also been opened and we’re told it will stay open for an extended period beyond what was initially imagined at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. So it could be that these kinds of moves as well, going on behind the scenes, give people in Gaza some kind of hope.” [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

So what did Knell do there? First of all she steered audiences towards the belief that Kerem Shalom had been reopened on May 15th after “international pressure” rather than – as was actually the case – on the recommendation of the IDF and COGAT. Secondly, she failed to clarify to audiences that the reason for the prior announcement of indefinite closure of the crossing was the serious damage done to its infrastructure rather than some Israeli caprice. Third, she refrained from telling BBC World Service listeners that the extensive damage was deliberately caused by Palestinians themselves on three separate occasions within eleven days. And fourth, she completely avoided the topic of the refusal by Palestinian officials to allow some types of goods to enter the Gaza Strip on the day of her report.

That is apparently what passes for “accurate and impartial news [..] of the highest editorial standards” at the BBC. 

Related Articles:

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

More ‘Great Return March’ arson and ambitions ignored by BBC News

BBC News website coverage of May 14 Gaza rioting

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

In previous posts we looked at how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border were portrayed as they happened in the May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ (available here).

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

In this post we will look at what BBC audiences worldwide were told in real-time about the context to the poorly portrayed violence along that border.

The long introduction given by presenter Razia Iqbal included misrepresentation of the locations of previous ‘Great Return March’ events – which actually were confined to the Gaza Strip border. Iqbal also promoted the blatant falsehood that the displacement of all Palestinians in 1948 was “forced”.

01:28 Iqbal: “Dates are significant here. It is the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Israel and there has been a six-week protest by Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and – the most deadly – in Gaza. Scores have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to culminate on May the 15th, tomorrow, called the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians as the day when they were forced from their land and homes as Israel was established.”

In contrast to the very clear – but inaccurate – impression given by Razia Iqbal, the facts are of course much more nuanced:

“Historians agree that there was no single cause of the Arab flight from Palestine. In large part, the masses fled because they saw the Palestinian elite doing the same thing. In part, it was in response to exhortations by Arab military and political leaders that Palestinian civilians evacuate their homes until the end of the fighting. Vast numbers were simply fleeing the heavy fighting that surrounded them, or that they expected to soon disrupt their lives. In some instances, Palestinians were forced from their homes by the Jewish military.”

The vast majority of the context to what was, as we saw earlier, overwhelmingly portrayed as “peaceful marches” and “protests” came in Yolande Knell’s report near the beginning of the programme.

05:15 Iqbal: “Yolande, just remind listeners that this has been going on for several weeks now and it’s very specifically to mark a day tomorrow for the Palestinians.”

Knell: “That’s right. This has been called the Great March of Return by the Palestinians. It was organised in Gaza over the past 6 weeks. The 15th of May is always a date of protest for Palestinians when they remember how, back in 1948, more than 700,000 people lost their homes on land that became part of Israel. [….] The people [Knell spoke to in Gaza] were saying that they really felt that the historic injustice as they saw it was at the heart of all the modern-day problems that they have in Gaza, where they have chronic electricity shortages, this long-time blockade that’s been enforced by Israel and Egypt which now means that the Gaza Strip is an extremely poor place – it suffers from extremely high unemployment.”

Obviously the fact that there are chronic electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip has nothing whatsoever to do with the refugee issue (it is, as Knell well knows, in fact due to infighting between Hamas and Fatah) and neither do the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt in response to the surge in terrorism since Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Knell went on:

Knell: “One woman told me ‘I wouldn’t have come down here if Gaza wasn’t in the state it was but people need to see what the issues are for us’. They felt that this was putting back the suffering of people in Gaza back into the spotlight. Also a lot of concern…they think that the issue of Palestinian refugees – which is a key issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict – they feel that there have been attempts – particularly by Washington – to try to push this off the table of any future negotiations. They say that because of course earlier this year the US did announce big cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.”

Yolande Knell (nor anyone else in this programme) made no effort to inform listeners why Palestinians – even when living under PA or Hamas control – are still kept in refugee status by UNRWA, their own leaders and the leaders of Arab countries seventy years on.

Listeners were also told that:

Knell: “Now on top of that, another key issue – the future status of Jerusalem. That is also at stake and of course that’s just added fuel to the flames, brought more people out for these demonstrations. “

As we see, listeners to this broadcast were wrongly led to believe that Palestinians were ‘protesting’ on the border because of a bad electricity supply, high unemployment and poverty – even as the BBC serially ignored the repeated attacks by ‘protesters’ on the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Additional factors cited included “the future status of Jerusalem” and the anniversary of a “historic injustice” which Knell failed to put into its correct context. Interestingly, while BBC reports on previous bouts of ‘Great Return March’ violence had touted the ‘right of return’ that is supposedly the publicity stunt’s raison d’être (see for example here and here), in this report that topic was largely avoided and listeners were not informed of the basic fact that the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means rejection of the two-state solution and that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state. 

Listeners also heard nothing of the fact that the ‘Great Return March’ events were organised by factions including Gaza-based terror groups. They were not told of the payments made by Hamas to participators or of the organisers’ calls for breaching of the border fence and martyrdom. Even Yahya Sinwar’s March 31st statement of intent – “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies” – did not receive any BBC coverage either in this programme or elsewhere.

Sadly it is all too obvious that both of the topics covered in this May 14th ‘split screen’ edition of Newshour – the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting on the Gaza border on the same day – were presented in a manner intended to amplify a specific political narrative rather than to provide BBC audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.

In the context of the question of whose interests this edition of ‘Newshour’ served, it is worth noting what Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar had to say about the Western media’s ‘split screen’ reporting two days after this BBC programme was broadcast:

“Our people have imposed their agenda upon the whole world. There was supposed to be a romantic picture of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on the world’s television screens, but our people, in their collective consciousness, forced the whole world to split the television screens between the footage of fraud, deception, falsehood, and oppression, manifest in the attempt to impose Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and between the image of injustice, oppression, heroism, and determination painted by our own people in their sacrifices – the sacrifice of their children as an offering for Jerusalem and the Right of Return.”

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BACKGROUNDER: PALESTINIAN ARAB AND JEWISH REFUGEES (CAMERA)