Claim shown to be false a year ago recycled in simplistic BBC backgrounder

As noted here previously on May 14th the BBC News website published a backgrounder apparently intended to mitigate weeks of context-free amplification of (unsuccessful) calls to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Tel Aviv.  

Produced by ‘Newsbeat’ – the department of BBC News which purports to produce “news tailored for a specifically younger audience” – and titled “Eurovision 2019: The Israeli-Palestinian situation explained”, the unattributed article is tagged ‘Gaza border clashes’.

The article opens by telling BBC audiences that:

“This year’s Eurovision has an extra layer of controversy – because it’s being held in Israel. […]

But there have been calls to boycott the event by critics of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.”

What “Israel’s policies” are is not properly explained anywhere in the article. Policies such as the supply of electricity and provision of medical treatment to Palestinians of course do not get a mention. Readers are then materially misled by the following portrayal of the conflict:

“The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has gone on for decades, and the dispute over land is at its heart.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s adoption of that inaccurate notion of course means that it does not have to explain to its audiences the issue of Muslim objection to the presence of the Jewish state in the Middle East.

The article continues with a sub-section purporting to outline the history behind the conflict in which the Arab riots of the 1920s and 1930s are whitewashed. Ignoring the Arab violence which followed the UN Partition Plan vote, the article moves on to “The creation of Israel and the ‘Catastrophe’”.

“In 1948, unable to solve the problem, British rulers left and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.

Many Palestinians objected and a war followed. Troops from neighbouring Arab countries invaded.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.

That link leads to a problematic article published a year ago in which Palestinians are exclusively portrayed as totally passive victims and all mention of the responsibility of the Arab leaders who rejected the 1947 Partition Plan and subsequently started the war that led to their displacement is missing. 

The displacement of Palestinians did not take place – as the BBC would obviously have its audiences believe – only after Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948. In fact:

“Roughly half of those fleeing did so between November 1947 (when Palestinian Arabs responded to the United Nations partition recommendation with anti-Jewish violence) and May 1948 (when the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon invaded Palestine).”

The BBC carefully avoids thorny topics such as Palestinian hereditary refugee status and the reasons why Palestinians living in Palestinian controlled areas are still defined as ‘refugees’. The issue of certain Arab countries’ deliberate policy of discriminating against Palestinians and keeping them in perpetual refugee status for over 70 years is of course not mentioned in this ‘backgrounder’.

Readers are told that:

“Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.” [emphasis added]

No explanation of the background to that highlighted statement is provided.

In a sub-section titled “What’s happening now?” readers are told that:

“Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian militant group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Israel and Egypt tightly control Gaza’s borders to stop weapons getting to Hamas.” [emphasis added]

Hamas has of course never “fought Israel” in the accepted sense of the term: rather, it is a terror group which targets Israeli civilians. Unsurprisingly the decades of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and other Palestinian factions against Israeli civilians have no place in this dumbed-down BBC backgrounder.

In the final section of this article readers are shown a video captioned “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on”. That filmed report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was first aired in May 2018 and it includes a section narrated by Bowen as follows:

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

As was noted here at the time:

“The day before this report was aired on BBC One and posted on the website, conflicting accounts of the baby’s death had already emerged with both a Gaza doctor and her father stating that she had a pre-existing medical condition. Nevertheless, the BBC did not edit out that part of Bowen’s report implying that the child’s death was linked to Israel’s response to the incidents along the border.”

Moreover, Hamas subsequently removed the baby’s name from its list of casualties and further information concerning the circumstances of her death later emerged.

Despite those developments, the BBC failed to remove multiple items from its website (available to this day) in which viewers are given to understand that Israel was connected to the baby’s death. BBC Watch therefore submitted a complaint to the BBC on that issue in June 2018 and two months later received a reply concerning some of the items from Sean Moss at the BBC News website which included the following claims:

“1: ‘Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years’ (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44116340).

In this piece we attribute both the baby’s death and the wider figures to the “Hamas-run” health ministry. We don’t mention the cause of death or otherwise draw any specific connection between this death and Israeli action.

2: ‘Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on’ (https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-44133897/gaza-the-bullets-stop-the-burials-go-on).

Jeremy Bowen does not say that the baby was killed by the army and he leads into this part of his report by saying ‘poverty and grief breed anger – and so do the deaths of children,’ which is true.”

BBC Watch subsequently contacted both the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit and OFCOM, pointing out in regard to the first item that:

“…the report is specifically about Palestinians who died during those “protests” and it is obviously not about Palestinians who coincidentally happened to die for other reasons at the same time. Readers would therefore understandably conclude that the baby was among those “killed on Monday when Israeli troops opened fire” and Moss’ claim that “We don’t…draw any specific connection between this death and Israeli action” is inaccurate and disingenuous.”

With regard to Bowen’s report we noted that:

“The synopsis […] states “More funerals have taken place for the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in Gaza on Monday” and so again obviously viewers would understand that its topic is ‘Palestinians killed by Israeli troops’. Given that and the fact that immediately before showing footage of the funeral of “Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old” Jeremy Bowen had profiled a person described as having been “shot through the eye during the protests”, it is clear that Moss’ claim that “Jeremy Bowen does not say that the baby was killed by the army” is also disingenuous: Bowen did not have to say that because the case had already been signposted.”

To this day BBC Watch has not received a satisfactory response on this serious issue from either the BBC or OFCOM. Now – one year on – we see that the BBC continues to promote the claim that Israel was responsible for the death of a baby in the Gaza Strip in 2018 despite the fact that even Hamas backtracked on that allegation twelve months ago.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s double helping ‘Nakba’ backgrounder

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC continues to disregard developments in Gaza baby story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC continues to disregard developments in Gaza baby story

Last month we noted that the BBC had completely ignored the fact that Hamas had removed from its list of May 14th ‘Great Return March’ casualties a baby girl whom BBC audiences were told on numerous platforms had died as a result of Israeli actions.

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

Even after Hamas had removed – on May 25th – Layla al-Ghandour’s name from its list of Palestinian casualties, the BBC continued to promote a filmed report by Jeremy Bowen in which viewers were given to understand that Israel was responsible for her death.

Twelve days after the Hamas announcement, Bowen’s report was embedded into an article published on the BBC News website’s ‘UK politics’ page and that item – along with several others – continues to be available to the public.

Late last month a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip was apprehended while taking part in a border infiltration.

“On May 28, IDF forces arrested Mahmoud Omar along with another member of Fatah’s armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, after they attempted to infiltrate into Israel and torch an unmanned IDF post, the Southern District Attorney’s indictment against him said. […]

During his questioning, Omar told interrogators the details of the planned attack and detailed his involvement in other terror-related activities.

The suspect also disclosed that he was related to Layla Ghandour, the 8-month-old baby whose May 14 death was originally reported to have been caused by inhalation of tear gas sprayed by Israeli forces at Gaza border protesters. […]

…the suspect was told [by family members] that Layla had died of a blood disease similar to the one that took the life of the deceased infant’s brother, who succumbed to the condition at the same age in 2017.

However, Omar told authorities, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar paid Layla’s parents, Miriam and Anwar Ghandour, NIS 8,000 ($2,206) to tell the media that the infant had died due to tear gas inhalation at the Gaza protests.”

Despite that development and notwithstanding the fact that Hamas removed the baby from its list of casualties nearly a month ago, BBC audiences can still find reports such as this one claiming that she died because of Israeli actions on May 14th and to date the BBC has failed to make any effort to clarify to its audiences that the claim it widely promoted on a variety of platforms has been called into question.  

Related Articles:

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

BBC website recycles article, ignores anti-Israel image

 

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

As noted here previously, in the May 15th edition of BBC One’s ‘BBC Breakfast’, presenter Louise Minchin claimed that a baby was among those killed the previous day during violent rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border.

Minchin: “Fifty-eight people have been killed. We understand that some of them were children, including a baby. Is this not excessive force?”

In a filmed report aired on domestic and international BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website on May 16th, the BBC’s Middle East editor promoted the same claim.

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

Jeremy Bowen’s report was also embedded into an article titled “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN” that was published on the BBC News website on May 15th.

The last picture featured in a photo essay published on the BBC News website’s ‘In Pictures’ page on May 15th was an image taken by Reuters photographer Mohammed Salem relating to the same story which was originally captioned:

“The mother of 8-month-old Palestinian infant Laila al-Ghandour, who died after inhaling tear gas during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at the Israel-Gaza border, mourns during her funeral in Gaza City, May 15,2018.”

The same image was used to illustrate the webpage of an edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on May 15th.

A report titled “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years” that appeared on the BBC News website on May 15th includes the following:

Similar images appear in a report by BBC Hindi aired on May 15th and still available online.

It is therefore more than likely that BBC audiences will have received the impression that Israel was responsible for the death of an eight month-old baby on May 15th. However, as noted here on May 16th, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry’s claim that the baby had died from tear-gas inhalation was soon called into question.

BBC Watch contacted ‘BBC Breakfast’ with a request for on-air clarification of the fact that the cause of the baby’s death is as yet unclear but, beyond acknowledgement of receipt of the e-mail, has not received a reply.

On May 25th it was reported that:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said an 8-month-old girl has been taken off a list of Palestinians killed in border clashes with Israeli troops last week, while authorities await results of a pathologist’s report.

Layla al-Ghandour had originally been listed among the 60 Palestinians killed during massive border protests on the Gaza fence on May 14. The infant’s death intensified condemnation of Israel over the violence, though the health ministry has since signaled the child may not have been killed from tear gas inhalation but rather because of a pre-existing condition.”

The BBC’s newspaper of choicethe Guardian – reported that:

“Leila’s family has blamed the Israeli army for her death. The New York Times cited the family as saying the child suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital heart disease.

A copy of an initial hospital report seen by the Guardian said the infant had heart defects since birth and suffered a “severe stop in blood circulation and respiration”. It did not say if teargas inhalation had contributed to her death.”

However, as we see above, there is still plenty of BBC material available online which leads audiences to believe that Israel is responsible for the baby’s death and to date the BBC has failed to clarify to its audiences that the claim it widely promoted has been called into question.