Weekend long read

1) At the Times of Israel Dan Efrony – former Military Advocate General of the IDF – writes about “The law of armed conflict: legality vs. legitimacy“.

“Since the 1980s, all of Israel’s armed conflicts have been fought against non-state actors, prominent among them, the terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

These non-state enemies systematically and deliberately violate international humanitarian law, and specifically its basic principles which reflect customary international law that binds any state or non-state actor engaged in an armed conflict.

At the same time, they view the commitment of democracies like Israel to the rule of law as a weakness, which they can exploit to boost their gains in each front of the conflict, and within each level of activity, both tactical and strategic.”

2) Writing at ‘Fathom’, former MK Einat Wilf discusses what’s holding up a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“For most Israelis, the repeated Palestinian failures to say ‘yes’ to clear and distinct opportunities to end the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and to build a peaceful state for themselves in territories evacuated by Israel, reinforced the view that more than the Arab Palestinians wanted a state for themselves, they wanted to deny a state to the Jewish people. Seventy years after the British Foreign Secretary told Parliament on the eve of partition that ‘for the Jews, the essential point of principle is the creation of a sovereign Jewish state’, while ‘for the Arabs, the essential point of principle is to resist to the last the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of the land’, it seems the Arab Palestinians still see no reason to compromise with a project they view as ‘unjust’ and temporary. After all, if the crusader state lasted 88 years (including Jerusalem), then in 2017 – when Israel will mark 69 years – all the Arab Palestinians have to do is wait a mere 19 more years until the second crusader state will disappear.”

3) BICOM has produced a backgrounder to the Six Day War which can be accessed here.

4) At ‘The Long War Journal’ Amir Toumaj profiles the group behind the recently formed ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’.

“The Iranian-controlled Iraqi militia Harakat al Nujaba this week announced the formation of its “Golan Liberation Brigade.” While it is not uncommon for entities to name themselves after areas they aim to “liberate,” the militia’s spokesman has said that the unit could assist the Syrian regime in taking the Golan Heights, a region in the Levant that has been controlled by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

If true, the unit would likely participate in a future offensive to capture territory from Syrian opposition in the part of the Golan Heights still controlled by Syria, before moving on to the much taller order of dislodging the Israelis across the border. This week’s announcement reflects Tehran’s priorities in southern Syria since finally taking the fiercely contested city of Aleppo late last year: crush Syrian opposition, and pose military threat to Israel from the Golan Heights.” 

Differing BBC definitions of human shields in Iraq and Gaza

h/t JC, YM

Back in November we noted the contrast between BBC reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS in the Mosul area of Iraq and its silence concerning Hamas’ use of human shields in the Gaza Strip during the summer 2014 conflict.

As readers no doubt recall, within hours of the 2014 conflict’s commencement the BBC began to repeatedly amplify false claims that Israel was ‘targeting civilians’ – and hence committing ‘war crimes’ – while failing to report Hamas’ placement of military assets (including missile launchers) in populated civilian areas.

BBC News promotes and amplifies falsehood that Israel deliberately targets civilians

Third example of BBC promotion of the lie that Israel deliberately targets civilians  

BBC’s Bowen promotes accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’

A written report which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on March 13th (“IS fighters left in Mosul will die, says US envoy McGurk“) again informed BBC audiences of the use of human shields by ISIS.

‘”Mosul’s liberation is increasingly in sight, albeit with increasingly difficult fighting ahead,” Mr McGurk [US envoy to the multinational coalition] told reporters on Sunday.

He said Iraqi forces were retaking “some of the most difficult ground that we knew would have to be reclaimed”.

He added: “They’re doing this in a dense urban environment facing a suicidal enemy that’s using civilians as shields.”’ [emphasis added] 

A filmed report – also shown on BBC television news programmes – that appeared on the same page of the website on the same day under the headline “Tamer Suhalia Najaf: ‘Three of my daughters were killed’” features an injured civilian from Mosul whose three daughters were killed in an airstrike by Iraqi forces and/or their coalition partners on an ISIS position placed near their house.

In contrast to the BBC’s 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, viewers of this report did not hear any claims of deliberate targeting of civilians or allegations of ‘war crimes’.

Viewers of another filmed report, which was shown on BBC television news programmes and posted on the BBC News website on March 10th under the title “Battle for Mosul: The high price of freedom“, heard Orla Guerin tell the story of a woman whose house had been taken over by ISIS militiamen.

“She shows us how they hid when IS fighters stormed in to use them as human shields. One went to the roof, she says, but he started to shoot. He attacked the army.” [emphasis added]

As readers may recall, in an August 2014 report titled “Gaza conflict: Allegations of war crimes” the same Orla Guerin told BBC television audiences:

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.”

Complaints concerning the accuracy of that statement were repeatedly dismissed by the BBC, with the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee calling the complainants’ definition of human shields into question.

“The Adviser considered first the complainants’ concerns that overwhelming evidence existed at the time that Hamas was using civilians as human shields and that to suggest otherwise was untrue. She noted that one point of dispute was how the term “human shield” was defined – and whether it meant Hamas using the proximity of civilians to deter an Israeli response to their actions or Hamas forcibly moving or keeping civilians in a location, on the basis that it would be likely to reduce the Israeli response.”

When that ESC decision was published in 2015 we noted that:

“The BBC Trust is charged with the task of ensuring that the BBC delivers its mission to inform, educate and entertain its funding public. Not only does the ESC’s ruling on this subject serve to compound the issue of the BBC’s self-censored reporting on Hamas’ use of human shields throughout last summer’s conflict, but it also does nothing to ensure that in relation to other or future conflicts, audiences will benefit from a higher standard of journalism which will ensure that the BBC meets its public purpose remit of building ” a global understanding of international issues”.

That, of course, does not only apply to conflicts involving Israel and Hamas: unless it intends to apply a different standard in the case of other conflicts, the ESC’s adoption of an unsourced interpretation of the definition of human shields which includes only civilians forcibly relocated close to a military objective is bound to affect the accuracy of the BBC’s reporting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.”

As we see, the BBC has indeed chosen to apply a definition of the term human shields in its reporting from Iraq which is markedly different to the one used in its coverage from Gaza.

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

BBC pot calls the Russian media kettle black

BBC Trust’s ruling on Hamas’ use of human shields makes for future inaccurate reporting

Weekend long read

1) Since mid-December BBC audiences have repeatedly been told (in accordance with PLO messaging) that the proposed relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would mean an end to the peace process – although none of the corporation’s journalists has bothered  to question why that should be the case. At the Tower, Eylon Aslan-Levy notes that “Jerusalem Already Has Plenty of Embassies—Just Not to Israel“.

“Much has been made in recent months of President Donald Trump’s pledge to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and its possible repercussions. The public conversation has generally concentrated on the potential diplomatic and political fallout, especially the possibility of a new outbreak of Palestinian violence. Lost in all the controversy, however, is the fact that the U.S. is one of nine countries that already has a de facto embassy in Jerusalem. But these are all embassies to the Palestinians, not Israel.”

2) Also at The Tower, Jamie Palmer has a long and very interesting essay titled “Getting International Law Right on the Next Gaza War” that will likely touch a chord with anyone who remembers how, less than 24 hours after the conflict of summer 2014 began, the BBC rushed to promote to its audiences worldwide the notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip. 

“Last April, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told the New York Daily News, “My recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?”

It did not sound right. By inflating the total number of those killed in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge by a factor of nearly five, and the estimated number of civilian dead by almost double that again, Sanders demonstrated something more than mere ignorance of international affairs: That such a horrifying death toll should strike him as not just plausible but accurate enough to repeat betrayed his prejudices regarding Israel’s supposed capacity for callous brutality.

 “My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled,” he continued. “Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Israel’s force was more indiscriminate than it should have been.”

In a subsequent interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Sanders conceded that he had misstated the casualty figures, but stuck to his accusation of indiscriminate force, as if the rather large difference between 10,000 and roughly 1,000 were neither here nor there. “Was Israel’s response disproportionate? I think it was,” he continued to insist.

In fact, the one point on which Sanders was correct is his claim that he is not alone in his general assessment of Israeli military conduct. During the conflict, various journalists and human rights groups accused Israel of violations of international law that amounted to war crimes.”

3) At the Jewish News, Maajid Nawaz takes a look at the BDS campaign spin-off ‘Israel Apartheid Week’.

“The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is mostly spearheaded in the West by people who have little to nothing attaching them to the Middle-East conflict.

Nothing, that is, beyond the fact that belonging to the hard-left and not supporting BDS has become the equivalent of claiming a love for fashion, while hating haute couture. Though unlike haute couture, BDS is an inelegant and simplistic solution to a protracted and incredibly complicated problem. But who cares for detail when you have a fabulous placard to wave?

The lazy analogy that BDS rests on is with South African apartheid. But unlike apartheid-era South Africa, Arabs make up 20 percent of Israel’s full citizenry. Most of these Arab-Israeli citizens are Muslim. There are mosques on Israeli beaches. Alongside Hebrew, Arabic is an official language of Israel. An Arab-Israeli judge has even impeached and convicted former Israeli prime minster, Ehud Olmert.

And though many problems with integration persist – as they do with minority communities across the West – when surveyed 77 percent of these Arabs expressed an overwhelming preference to remain Israeli, rather than become citizens of a future Palestinian state.

The reason is obvious, Israeli-Muslims have more freedom of religion than other minorities – and even other Muslims have in all other Middle-Eastern countries.

The problem lies in the status of the West Bank and Gaza, not with any imaginary apartheid system inside Israel proper. So lazy is the apartheid analogy that I could effectively end my article at this paragraph. But so entrenched has our political laziness become, I feel compelled to carry on.” 

 

 

 

BBC reporting on the use of ambulances by terrorists in Iraq and Gaza

On November 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Iraq suicide attacks: Ambulances used in Tikrit and Samarra“.ambulances-iraq-art

“Suicide bombers have used explosives-laden ambulances to kill at least 21 people and wound many others in the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Samarra.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) group said it had carried out both attacks. […]

The deadliest of Sunday’s blasts happened in Tikrit, some 200km (123 miles) south of Mosul.

A suicide bomber drove a booby-trapped ambulance into a line of vehicles queuing at a checkpoint at the southern entrance to the city, once the hometown of executed former leader Saddam Hussein. […]

In Samarra, further south, another ambulance was detonated in a car park for the al-Askari mosque – one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam. Iranian pilgrims were among the dead.”

During the 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ use of ambulances to transport armed terror operatives (a practice also seen in previous conflicts in Gaza and during the second Intifada) was documented on several occasions.

While the BBC refrained from informing its audiences of those cases (and others) of abuse of medical facilities, it did find it appropriate to repeatedly amplify falsehoods from a political NGO involved at the time in the ‘lawfare’ campaign against Israel and from a representative of one of the organisations operating ambulances in the Gaza Strip – the PRCS – see for example here, here and here.

“On Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into what it said was mounting evidence that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked hospitals and health professionals in Gaza. The attacks have left at least six medics dead.

“Our ambulances are often targeted although they are clearly marked and display all signs that they are ambulances,” said Dr Bashar Murad, director of Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) emergency and ambulance unit, which lost at least two members of staff.

“The army should be able to distinguish from the air that what they are targeting are ambulances.”

Amnesty International said attacks on health facilities and professionals were prohibited by international law and amounted to war crimes.”

The abuse of medical facilities protected by international conventions during conflict is obviously an issue of interest to international journalists. However, as we see from the examples above, the BBC’s reporting of such abuses lacks consistency.

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

Comparing BBC reporting on ISIS and Hamas tunnels

Weekend long read

This week’s ‘long read’ is actually a long watch.Weekend Read

A video of the event organised by ‘Campaign 4 Truth’ and ‘Reservists on Duty’ which was held earlier this month in London and at which Professor Asa Kasher, Ben Dror Yemini,  Maj. Gen. (Res.) Gershon HaCohen and Col. Tim Collins OBE discussed the ethics of war can be found at this link, along with shorter videos of the individual speakers.

BBC again creates false linkage between Israel and attacks on hospitals

h/t JB

Two months ago BBC Radio 4 promoted a Gaza Strip related story but failed to provide its listeners with the background necessary for them to put British surgeon David Nott’s account into its correct context, thereby potentially misleading BBC audiences.

On August 2nd the BBC World Service repeated the exercise when David Nott was again interviewed by Jo Fidgen on the radio programme ‘Outlook’.Outlook 2 8

After discussing Nott’s experiences in Sarajevo, Fidgen turned to the subject of Gaza (from 07:08 here).

Fidgen: “And since then, in different war zones around the world; an increasing number of attacks on medical facilities and on medical staff. And I think there was an occasion in Gaza…ah…when you were again in that situation. Tell us what happened there.”

Indeed military attacks on medical facilities have been making the headlines in recent months – but in countries such as Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan rather than in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, with Fidgen having created the linkage, Nott just had to take up the cue.

Nott: “Yes…it’s…I was in Gaza 2014 and similar sort of thing. Again…ehm…you always feel that international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions should always protect hospitals, should protect health-workers and doctors and you should be allowed to go about your work without any problems.”

There is of course no evidence to show that health-workers and doctors in the Gaza Strip were not protected by the applicable laws and conventions during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas but while Nott did not specifically say there is, he immediately went on to repeat the story he previously told on BBC Radio 4, with a few minor differences.

“And in Gaza I was there working for the International Committee of the Red Cross this time and…err…I was on the top floor operating on a young child in fact who was about seven years of age…[…] I was preparing her for the operation and suddenly somebody came up to me – one of the Red Cross security people – and said ‘David, we have to leave the hospital because the hospital is going to get targeted’. I said ‘what do you mean the hospital is going to’…’well it’s going to get blown up; we don’t know by whom but the message is that we need to get out now otherwise, you know, we’re not going to make it’.

As was the case in the previous interview, many listeners would have been left with the impression that Israel was the party expected to ‘target’ and ‘blow up’ the hospital. Nott concluded his story as follows:

“…and I finished the operation and then about an hour later people started to come back into the operating theatre when they realised that the hospital didn’t get blown up and it was…ah…it was one of those life moments actually.”

As was noted here the last time the BBC amplified Nott’s long mileage story of an ‘attack’ on a hospital that never happened:

“Shifa hospital was of course not attacked on that day or any other and – despite what Nott was told at the time – it was in fact considered to be one of the safest places in the Gaza Strip, as reported by the BBC’s James Reynolds just days later:

“…just to explain where we are; we’re at the Shifa hospital here in the centre of Gaza. When you speak to ordinary people here, they feel that this is about the only safe place that there is in this strip of land – this or the grounds of the other hospitals here – because they believe that Israel will not target hospitals. There are actually some families sleeping outside the hospital – again, they believe that they won’t be hit here….””

During the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas the BBC repeatedly amplified false claims that Israel had attacked medical facilities without due cause and it has since failed to clarify or correct the inaccuracies which appeared in numerous reports.

The fact that the corporation has showcased David Nott’s story twice in two months – in both cases omitting information which would have prevented audiences from being misled – does nothing to enhance the impression that the BBC’s approach to this topic is rooted in a commitment to accurate and impartial reporting. Rather, it suggests that the corporation is more interested in perpetuating a myth.   

Related Articles:

Comparing BBC reporting on strikes on hospitals in Syria and Gaza 

 

Comparing BBC reporting on strikes on hospitals in Syria and Gaza

On July 31st the Associated Press reported an airstrike (allegedly not the first) on a hospital in the Dara’a province of southern Syria.

“In southern Syria, an airstrike on a hospital in an opposition-controlled town put the facility out of service Sunday.

The hospital in Jasem was targeted in one of several airstrikes to hit the town in Deraa province, located some 35 miles (57 kilometers) south of Damascus, according to the Local Coordination Committees activist network. The group said six people were killed in the strikes, blaming them on the government.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the hospital strike killed a pharmacist and put the facility out of service.

In a statement later Sunday, the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, said the group was “dismayed” and “angry” at the attack on the hospital, which it was supporting. It said six people had been killed in the strike, and many more wounded. It said that across Syria “aid workers and civilians are being targeted in a merciless way on a daily basis,” and called for all those involved to be held to account.

Hospitals are regularly targeted in Syria’s war, drawing condemnation from the U.N. and the international community. The New York-based Physicians for Human Rights says over 90 percent of attacks on medical facilities in Syria have been carried out by pro-government forces.”

While the BBC News website has not yet reported that attack, it did publish cautiously worded written and filmed reports on an attack on another hospital in the Idlib province the previous day.

“It’s not yet known who was responsible for the attack…”

“These unverified pictures…”

“Amnesty International say the latest bombing appears to be part of what they describe as a despicable pattern of attacks in Syria deliberately targeting medical facilities.”

The BBC has also covered previous attacks on medical facilities in Syria, including in Aleppo in June and in April. In an article from February 2016 titled “Syria crisis: Air strikes on hospitals ‘war crimes’“, the BBC News website took the trouble to provide audiences with a short guide to the legal background to the topic.

insert bombing hospitals

So as we see, the BBC is aware of the fact that medical facilities can be a legitimate military target in certain situations but notably, it did not go to the trouble of informing its audiences of that fact two years ago during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Moreover, the corporation went out of its way at the time to conceal Hamas’ use of hospitals in the Gaza Strip for military purposes and to provide amplification for denial of that tactic, thereby implying that Israeli actions were unnecessary, unjustified and even unlawful. For example:Op pe Adams vers 2

Hospital on Gaza conflict’s front line” by Paul Adams, BBC News website, July 18th 2014 – discussed here.

“Israel says rockets have been fired from Basman al-Ashi’s hospital, a charge his staff deny completely.”

“World Update” interview with ISM activist, BBC World Service radio, July 31st 2014 – discussed here.

Damon: “Because you will know that there have been all kinds of rumours on the internet about hospitals being used to hide men and indeed weapons. Any evidence?”

Catron: “Oh yes; I’ve heard all these…all kinds of these rumours. I’ve seen numerous claims that al Wafa hospital where I stayed for a week in Shuja’iya was the centre of a Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant command centre. Now every journalist that came into the hospital from every major news agency had full run of the place. They could go anywhere in it they liked. How none of them ever noticed this command centre….”

Gaza conflict: Contrasting views on targeting” BBC News website, August 4th 2014 – discussed here.

“The Israelis say they have to bomb the hospitals and shelters because there are fighters here, but that is not true. The only people we have are sick people.” 

The BBC also amplified the false notion that Israel indiscriminately and unjustifiable targeted medical facilities – for example:Shifa Sahti tweet 1

Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video” by Orla Guerin, BBC News website, July 31st 2014 – discussed here.

“This is a crowded area. People have nowhere to go. In many cases they have no transport, they have no means of escape. And you’re attacking hospitals where the wounded are being treated.”

Gaza ceasefire ends as Israel reports rocket fire” and “Israel air strikes resume in Gaza amid rockets” BBC News website, August 8th 2014 – discussed here.

“On Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into what it said was mounting evidence that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked hospitals and health professionals in Gaza. The attacks have left at least six medics dead.”

It has continued to promote that falsehood since the conflict ended – for example here – and also to broadcast additional denial of Hamas’ use of hospitals for military purposes.Knell Beit Lahiya 1

So as we see in Syria, where there is cause to believe that medical facilities really are being attacked indiscriminately, the BBC uses very cautious wording and informs its audiences of the legal background to the issue. In contrast, in its reporting from the Gaza Strip in 2014, the BBC failed to provide any such background information, repeatedly promoted the theme of Israeli wrongdoing and actively misled its audiences with regard to the reason for Israeli actions against institutions such as Wafa hospital: Hamas’ use of that medical facility for military purposes.

Related Articles:

BBC claims that Israel targeted a centre for the disabled in Gaza shown to be inaccurate

Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

BBC reports on Wafa hospital shown to be inaccurate

Revisiting BBC reporting of civilian deaths in Gaza on July 28th 2014

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part two

A review of the content produced by the BBC a decade ago at the time of the Second Lebanon War shows that many of the themes found in that coverage resurfaced eight years later in the corporation’s reporting of a different summer war: the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

SONY DSC

One theme found very early on in the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 war was the promotion of the unsubstantiated notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip, based on unverified claims from political NGOs – some of which were already engaged in lawfare against Israel.

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part two

Documenting the BBC contribution to political warfare against Israel – part three

After the fighting had ended, the BBC continued to amplify the agenda of NGOs including Human Rights Watch (“More BBC promotion and amplification of lawfare NGO“) and in particular Amnesty International:

BBC’s Middle East editor promotes Amnesty International’s Gaza report

More BBC wind in the sails of NGO’s lawfare campaign

BBC amplification of Amnesty’s lawfare agenda again compromises impartiality

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ amplifies Israel delegitimising lawfare campaign

The green shoots of that editorial policy were apparent – albeit on a smaller scale – eight years earlier when – just eight days into the Second Lebanon War – the BBC News website ran an article headlined “UN warning on Mid-East war crimes” which was based on statements made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time. An additional article published on the same day told BBC audiences that:

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, warns that those involved in the spiral of violence between Israel and Lebanon could face war crimes charges if they are found to have deliberately attacked civilians”

On August 23rd 2006 the BBC News website promoted a report by Amnesty International under the headline “Israel accused of war crimes“.

“Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. […]

The document details what it describes as “massive destruction by Israeli forces of whole civilian neighbourhoods and villages”, together with attacks on bridges “in areas of no apparent strategic importance”, on its list of supporting evidence. […]

“Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” said Ms Gilmore.”

In September 2007 the BBC News website published an article titled “Israel accused over Lebanon war” which amplified a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“A human rights group has accused Israel of carrying out indiscriminate air strikes that killed hundreds of civilians during the 2006 Lebanon war.

Human Rights Watch said Israel showed “reckless indifference” to the fate of civilians and queried its argument that Hezbollah used them as human shields.”

Despite the existence of publicly available evidence discrediting the claims made by AI and HRW (see for example here and here) the above BBC reports (and others) remain available online  – without any clarifying footnote – as ‘historical record’.SONY DSC

Another theme seen in BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War was promotion of the notion of ‘disproportionate’ (and by implication, illegal) actions by Israel – already from day two of the conflict.

“A Lebanese cabinet minister said the Israeli response was disproportionate, and called for a ceasefire. […] France and Russia condemned Israel’s “disproportionate use of force”.” (July 13, 2006)

“The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel.” (July 13, 2006)

“President Jacques Chirac of France called Israel’s acts “disproportionate” while Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an end to fighting. […]But he said Israel’s response was “completely disproportionate”, adding: “One can ask oneself whether there isn’t a sort of desire to destroy Lebanon.”” (July 14, 2006)

“Amnesty’s report said Israeli attacks into Lebanon were “indiscriminate and disproportionate”. (November 21, 2006)

Seeing as the BBC did not make any effort at the time (or since) to inform its audiences (and its own staff) of what the principle of proportionality in warfare actually means, it is not surprising to see that the ‘disproportionality’ theme regularly resurfaces in BBC reporting.

In June 2015, for example, viewers of BBC Two’s ‘Newsnight’ saw Evan Davis promote the false notion that proportionality means equality in death and suffering. During the summer 2014 conflict BBC audiences heard and read generous amplification of equally uninformed comment from assorted British politicians and in November 2012 listeners to the BBC World Service heard Julian Marshall tell an Israeli spokesperson:

“I think one of the observations made by critics of Israel is that you always respond disproportionately and – ah – in a way the figures tell the story. Since this offensive of yours began, 39 Palestinians have been killed, three Israelis. There’s a disproportionate use of force going on here.”

In the next instalment of this post we will take a look at additional common themes found in the BBC’s 2006 reporting from Lebanon and its subsequent coverage from the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

A retrospective look at BBC coverage of the Second Lebanon War – part one

 

New report again highlights BBC’s Gaza conflict reporting failures

Six months ago we documented an instance in which BBC Two ‘Newsnight’ presenter Evan Davis misled audiences with regard to the meaning of the term proportionality in the framework of the Laws of Armed Conflict whilst interviewing Israeli politician Tsipi Livni.BBC brick wall

Davis: “The UN, others, plenty, think there is disproportionate force used by the Israeli army for the threat against Israeli civilians.” […]

Davis: “What is the ratio of the families losing children?”

Livni: “We are not targeting civilians.”

Davis: “I know you’re not targeting but what is the ratio of civilian to… untargeted killed by the Israelis relative to those killed in Israel by Hamas?”

As was noted at the time:

“What Davis is doing here is promoting the false notion that ‘proportionate’ means equality in death or suffering. That, of course is not the definition of the term in the context of war and the fact that he makes no effort to inform his audiences what the term really means is ample indication that the simplistic take-away message audiences are intended to receive is that Israel must be in the wrong because fewer Israelis die.”

A new report on the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas from the High Level Military Group clarifies that point further:

“Our concern about the discussions and narratives that emerged from the 2014 Gaza Conflict arises from incorrect interpretations and pronouncements, whether misguided or politically motivated, about the meaning of and legal requirements contained within several of these principles as applied to the 2014 Gaza Conflict.

In particular, it is vital to understand that LOAC does not prohibit all harm to civilians or civilian property. The protection of civilians inherent in the concept of distinction is not absolute – where civilians or civilian locations are directly involved in hostilities they lose their protected status, as per Article 51 of the 1st Additional Protocol of the Geneva Convention. Further, though deliberately attacking civilians and their property is illegal, incidental or collateral damage when attacking a legitimate military target is accepted, as per Articles 51, 52 and 57 of the 1st Additional Protocol (subject to the anticipated collateral harm not being excessive in relation to an attack’s expected military advantage). This is the essence of the concept of proportionality, adherence to which cannot in any way be determined by considering the relative casualty figures between belligerents in a conflict, which is misleadingly and yet frequently asserted to be the case in this conflict.”

Among the many topics addressed in this detailed report is that of Hamas media manipulation and intimidation (see in particular pages 44 and 45).

“Hamas’s effective manipulation of the messages emanating from Gaza during the conflict is not just a matter of upholding the standards of accurate and balanced reporting, but rather, coupled to its strategic concept, forms a core part of a deliberate strategy to shape the narrative around the conflict in its favour. The impact of this strategy in the form of the resultant media imagery amplified by misinformed commentary about LOAC is a key reason why Hamas is able to act with the unlawful modus operandi of a terrorist organisation, but enjoy a strategic communications advantage over Israel, which seeks to act within LOAC.”

As readers will no doubt recall, within twenty-four hours of the commencement of the conflict in July 2014 the BBC began promoting to its audiences worldwide the notion that Israel was committing ‘war crimes’ in the Gaza Strip. That accusation – along with related ones such as ‘crimes against humanity’, ‘deliberate targeting of civilians’ and ‘collective punishment’ – continued to be a theme found in BBC coverage throughout the fifty-day conflict – despite the fact that its origins were to be found in statements from politically motivated NGOs concurrently engaged in ‘lawfare’ against Israel and in amateur speculations from BBC journalists.

Much of that material is still available to the general public as ‘permanent public record’ on the BBC News website and no attempt has been made by the corporation – either at the time or since – to provide audiences with impartial professional commentary on the topic of the Law of Armed Conflict of the type seen in this report and others (see ‘related articles’ below) which would enable them to reach informed opinions on the topic and correct the inaccurate and misleading impressions propagated by BBC journalists.

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Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

More on the Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC