BBC World Service promotion for Mads Gilbert’s new book

The June 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by James Coomarasamy – included an item (from 14:00 here) introduced as follows:Newshour Gilbert

“Last year’s conflict between Israel and Gaza lasted 51 days and claimed more than two thousand lives. Israel and Hamas continue to argue about who was responsible, over the number of casualties and over each other’s conflict during the war. But the impact on Gaza’s infrastructure was undeniably considerable. Its only power station was hit by an airstrike.”

That portrayal is of course inaccurate: the fuel tanks at the Gaza power plant (not the structure itself) were hit by errant tank shells (not by “an airstrike”) whilst the IDF tried to prevent an imminent attack by terrorists carrying anti-tank missiles. Additionally, the conflict was not “between Israel and Gaza” but between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip and Coomarasamy’s bizarre and unsourced ‘they’re each as bad as the other’ claim that “Israel and Hamas continue to argue” actively hinders audience understanding of the facts behind the conflict.

All that, however, was merely the entrée to the real purpose of this item: licence fee funded promotion of a new book by the BBC’s long-time favourite medic-cum-terrorist supporter. Coomarasamy continues:

“One man who witnessed that war at close hand is a Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert. He returned to Gaza to work in al Shifa hospital as he’d done in three previous conflicts there. He documented his experiences – he’s collated them in a new book called ‘Night in Gaza’. So why did he think it was important to do that?”

Coomarasamy makes no effort to relieve listeners of the misleading impressions created by Gilbert’s inaccurate claim of a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip or to inform them that the descriptions they hear of a shortage of medical supplies actually have nothing to do with Israel.

Gilbert: “I had been in Gaza for two weeks in June to make a report for the UN about the situation in the healthcare system and basically the whole civilian sector in Gaza was down on its knees because of the siege and then on top of that came this horrific 51 days. Shifa was totally drained of supplies, drugs, equipment – everything you need to run a hospital.”

One of the issues regularly raised on these pages is the BBC’s frequent breaching of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality due to its failure to inform audiences of the “viewpoint” of interviewees. At one point during the item listeners hear Coomarasamy say to Gilbert:

“You are a medical doctor but you are an activist. You are a pro-Palestinian activist. Would you say that’s fair?”

Gilbert answers:

“Like many others I support the Palestinian people’s right to resist occupation and I think that’s part of my medical duty. Medicine and politics are Siamese twins – you can’t separate the one from the other.”

Unfortunately, rather than clarifying to audiences that the Gaza Strip has not been under occupation for a decade and instead of pursuing the subject of what Gilbert really means when he talks of a “right to resist” (in a recent interview with the Guardian, Gilbert stated that “[t]he right to resist implies also the right to resist with arms, if you’re occupied”), Coomarasamy gets into a futile academic discussion with Gilbert about medicine and politics before providing him with the opportunity to whitewash Hamas abuses.

JC: “What about…I mean have you tried to understand the point of view of Hamas and what they were doing in the hospital? Because if you look at the Amnesty International report from last month they very clearly say ‘Hamas forces used the abandoned areas of Shifa, including the outpatients clinic area, to detain, interrogate torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical centre’. And first of all, do you recognize that portrait?”

MG: “I don’t support Hamas. I don’t support Fatah. I don’t support any Palestinian faction. I support the Palestinian people.”

JC: “But do you recognize the Amnesty International characterization of what was happening in the hospital when you were there?”

MG: “Bear in mind that Amnesty was not allowed to enter Gaza. I am not saying that this is not taking place. I’m saying that where I worked it was a proper hospital. And yes, the Palestinian Authorities had their press conferences outside. I am allowed to work freely. I walk around wherever I want. I’m never controlled. I never have my pictures controlled. So from what I have seen in Shifa hospital and in the other Palestinian hospitals in Gaza, this is not the picture I recognize.”

Coomarasamy ends the interview there and, as has so often been the case in the past, BBC audiences have once again been fed Gilbert’s unhindered falsehoods and propaganda – as well as promotion of his book. Mads Gilbert is not a “pro-Palestinian” activist as claimed by Coomarasamy in his ostensible impartiality box-tick. Those who are truly pro-Palestinian (and perhaps especially those supposedly bound by a professional oath) would not whitewash Hamas’ torture of its political opponents, its exploitation of patients as human shields or its diversion of resources which could improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians for the purposes of terrorism. Sadly, the BBC continues to avoid telling Mads Gilbert as he really is.

Related Articles:

Guardian highlights doctor who supported 9/11 attacks  UK Media Watch

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

Hamas terminology and propaganda in BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Mads Gilbert

BBC’s favourite Norwegian doctor given multiple platforms for medical agitprop

 

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BBC’s favourite Norwegian doctor given multiple platforms for medical agitprop

On November 14th the Twitter account linked to the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Outside Source’ promoted a segment from that day’s broadcast as a stand-alone item.

OS Tweet Mads Gilbert

That podcast can be heard here. The programme from which it is taken can be heard here for a limited period of time, with the relevant item beginning at 36:55. Presenter Chloe Tilley introduced the item as follows:

“Now, people who listen regularly to ‘Outside Source’ may be familiar with the name Mads Gilbert. He’s a Norwegian doctor who has spoken to us lots on the programme and he’s been told he’s been banned from Gaza for the foreseeable future over Israeli government claims he poses a security threat. Dr Gilbert’s been travelling to Gaza to treat patients for over 15 years and he told Outside Source’s Louise Webster what had happened.”

Of course Mads Gilbert has not only been frequently featured on the BBC World Service, but on a variety of other BBC platforms too and, as has so frequently been the case in the past, in this item no attempt whatsoever was made to correct the misleading impressions received by BBC audiences as a result of Gilbert’s promotion of unchallenged propaganda.OS podcast Mads Gilbert

“The fundamental reason for the ill-health in the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing.”

“The siege of Gaza of course has to be lifted. We cannot accept the siege is now also including international medical staff who seek to support the medical sector in Gaza. That is totally unacceptable.”

“Well, I think – you know – the siege of Gaza has been going on for seven years now and they have been denied all sorts of daily commodities; building material, medical supplies and so on. And it seems like the Israeli authorities are also trying to limit the number of foreigners who are allowed to travel through Israel to Gaza. So what is lost is actually the flow of information about the realities in Gaza and we need to know what is the circumstances and the situation for the population in Gaza.”

In fact the main causes of death in the Gaza Strip are cardiovascular disease, cancer and cerebrovascular disease. There is, of course, no “siege” on the Gaza Strip, but nevertheless the BBC still continues to energetically promote that particular falsehood. As we had cause to note here on numerous occasions during this summer’s conflict, the issue of shortages of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip has nothing to do with the restriction on the entry of dual-use goods imposed by Israel as part of counter-terrorism measures and in fact arises from long-standing disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Clearly too, Gilbert’s hysterical claim of a limit or ban on foreign medical staff travelling to Gaza is a gross distortion.

So yet again we see the BBC providing an unhindered platform for Mads Gilbert to promote his usual deliberate misinformation.

In the full version of the item, Gilbert’s monologue was followed by Chloe Tilley informing listeners that:

“…an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman told Outside Source that an investigation was underway into Dr Gilbert, who he described as a ‘Jekyll & Hyde figure hiding behind a cloak of being a humanitarian doctor’. He said there was strong suspicion that he had been involved in matters relating to supporting terror activities. An investigation is underway and Dr Gilbert’s position would be reassessed when it came to a conclusion.”

That statement was omitted from the version of the item promoted on Twitter, a link to which also appeared in a written article titled “Israel bans Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert from Gaza” published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on November 14th. That article further amplified Gilbert’s inaccurate “siege” propaganda:Gilbert on website

“”The fundamental reason for the ill health of the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing,” he said.”

It also told readers that:

“In July, Dr Gilbert was one of the co-signatories in a strongly-worded letter denouncing Israeli action in Gaza, published in the medical journal, the Lancet.”

Notably, the BBC made no effort to inform audiences of the controversy surrounding that letter when two of Gilbert’s co-signatories were found to have a history of disseminating antisemitic material or of the Lancet editor’s subsequent comments on the issue.

The BBC knows full well that there is no “siege” on the Gaza Strip and it should by now also be aware of the fact that Israel does not pose any limitations on the entry of medical supplies. However, it continues to mislead BBC audiences worldwide by providing an unhindered platform for Mads Gilbert’s promotion these falsehoods, thus clearly breaching its own supposed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

Hamas terminology and propaganda in BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Mads Gilbert

Hamas terminology and propaganda in BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview with Mads Gilbert

On August 18th the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ aired an interview with Mads Gilbert. The programme is promoted on multiple platforms: on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK or as a podcast or, for a limited period of time, on BBC World Service radio.  

This is not the first time that the BBC has provided amplification for claims made by Gilbert himself or other members of the medical profession working at Shifa hospital since the commencement of Operation Protective Edge – as was documented here.

It is obviously difficult to comprehend the rationale behind ‘Hardtalk’ producers’ thinking in terms of their evaluation of any contribution to audiences’ factual knowledge and understanding of the conflict in Israel and the Gaza Strip which could possibly be made by the blatant propaganda of a long-time political activist such as Mads Gilbert.  But in addition to the fact that nevertheless the BBC elected to allow amplification of Gilbert’s plethora of inaccurate and misleading claims, it is no less interesting to note the points at which his extremist narrative dovetails with that of the BBC representative conducting the interview, Zeinab Badawi.

Badawi’s introduction includes the following inaccurate statement:

“Close on two thousand died – nearly all civilians – and thousands more were injured, many seriously.” [emphasis added]

Preliminary examination (as yet uncompleted) of the casualties in fact shows that 46% were terrorist operatives.

She allows Gilbert to mislead audiences with a dishonest portrayal of the reasons for the shortage of medical supplies in the Gaza Strip.

“And bear in mind that Shifa hospital, along with the rest of the healthcare system in Gaza is suffering severely from the 7 years of siege and blockade. They are lacking everything: drugs, equipment, modern machinery, even – you know – trolleys and respirators to treat the patients…”

Badawi also permits Gilbert to lie unhindered about the topic of non-payment of salaries to Hamas employees which is in fact the result of a dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian unity government.

“On top of that they [medical staff] have not had any normal salaries for the last year actually due to the dispute between…between the Israeli…you know….politics of not allowing the Palestinians to pay these so-called Hamas-employed staff in the healthcare system from 2006. So they are working for nothing. For the last three months they have not had their salaries and this is extremely demanding.”

She makes absolutely no effort to counter Gilbert’s distorted description of the situation in Gaza as exclusively attributable to Israel by informing them that Hamas was given every opportunity to avoid the conflict but chose not to do so.

“All this could have been avoided if the bombing had stopped and the siege had been lifted.”

On two separate occasions Badawi allows Gilbert to wriggle out of the issue of Hamas’ use of Shifa hospital – despite journalists (including Yolande Knell) having documented the presence of Hamas leaders in that civilian facility.

“I haven’t been in every corner of Shifa but I’ve been there for many years and I’ve never seen any militants – armed people – in Shifa.”

“I have not seen it with my own eyes. I have not seen armed militias in Shifa or in any other hospital.”

Badawi makes no attempt to correct the inaccurate and misleading impression given by Gilbert to audiences on the issue of proportionality in warfare.Hardtalk Gilbert WS

“There has so far been killed almost 1,900 Palestinians and three civilian Israelis. That says everything about the proportionality or the disproportionality of the use of weapons. It is not the Palestinians who are killing the Israelis. It is actually the Israelis who are killing the Palestinians by the thousands.”

Badawi fails to challenge Gilbert’s blatant lie about travel from the Gaza Strip:

“The point about Gaza is that nobody is allowed to leave…”

She likewise fails to correct his false claim that Israel broke the 2008 six-month lull. In fact it was Hamas which breached the agreement by both continuing to fire rockets and mortars throughout and with the construction of a cross-border tunnel aimed at kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

Not only does Badawi not challenge Gilbert’s inaccurate and misleading description of border restrictions implemented to curb the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip as a “siege”, but – like many of her colleagues before her – she adopts that Hamas terminology herself.  She also fails to adequately correct Gilbert’s inaccurate version of events, which of course entirely erases Hamas terrorism from the picture presented to audiences, as well as the violent Hamas coup of 2007.

Badawi: “Let me just pick up the siege first […] Gaza was free [in August 2005] – there are no Jews living there, there’s no occupation there, but what happened when the settlers left…”

Gilbert: “Who says there is no occupation? The Israeli government and army has full control of the land space, the airspace…”

Badawi: “But no siege, no siege. Picking up the point that you made: lift the siege – there was no siege originally.”

Gilbert: “It came in 2006.”

Badawi: “Fairly early on.”

Gilbert: “[….] and Hamas won the election. They tried to make a unified government. It was shot down. Then came the siege and it was, you know, increased and increased and increased as a collective punishment.”

Badawi: “Sure. But […] when the Jewish settlers did withdraw from Gaza and Gaza was left open there wasn’t a siege imposed straight away. Instantly it was very clear that the Palestinians in Gaza – or at least some of them: the militants – were not going to leave Israelis alone.”

Gilbert: ” […] It was still under full Israeli control with the airspace, with the sea, with the borders and with the electronic space. So the Palestinians in Gaza have never been unoccupied.”

Badawi: “No, the occupation remains. It was the siege I was pointing out.”

Gilbert: “Why did the siege come? The siege came as a collective punishment because they have elected [unintelligible].” [emphasis added]

At no point does Badawi clarify to audiences that Israeli control of Gaza’s coastal waters and airspace was agreed to by the representatives of the Palestinian people in 1995 when they signed the Interim Agreement and that no amendments were made to that status quo in the agreement signed by the PA and Israel after the 2005 withdrawal. Neither does she point out that – despite Gilbert’s inaccurate claim that the Gaza Strip is still occupied – the facts show otherwise.

Badawi’s vigorous promotion of statements made by Mahmoud Abbas in relation to missile fire from the Gaza Strip is not accompanied by the very relevant information that Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have actively engaged in missile fire throughout the recent conflict.

Even Gilbert’s most off the wall comments go unchallenged and uncorrected by Badawi.

“Anybody who opposes the grand plan of the Israeli political government today – political Zionism – will be stamped as a terrorist and will be sort of outlawed. The Palestinians have been under strict, hard, brutal Israeli rule and oppression for the last seventy years and they have the right to defend themselves.” [emphasis added]

“…I don’t support Hamas, I don’t support Fatah or any faction. I support the Palestinian people and their right to resist occupation like we [the Norwegians] did.” (Nazi analogy)

“[Palestinians say] …we don’t want to live as slaves in our own country.”

“In my view the [Hamas-Fatah] coalition government now was the pretext for the attack on Gaza. […] It had nothing to do with the rockets.”

“I think that with the power distribution in the world today poor people – not only in Palestine and in other parts of the global south – are suffering from a new colonial wave of oppression which is coming precisely from the United States and they support the Israeli colonial project…”

“Respect for international law – totally omitted by Israel. Respect for the UN charter – totally omitted by Israel. We need all of us to stand up against this degeneration of the international order I think.”

Whilst viewers and listeners may have gained some insight into the mindset of Mads Gilbert from this interview, they gleaned no factual information which would help them better understand the conflict and indeed were actively misled by Gilbert’s propaganda thanks to Zeinab Badawi’s failure for the most part to challenge his blatant inaccuracies. What this interview does provide, however, is yet another example of the BBC’s adoption of Hamas terminology in its willfully inaccurate misrepresentation of border restrictions aimed at combatting terrorism against Israeli civilians as a “siege”.

The reality behind the BBC’s promotion of information from medics in Gaza

As was noted here a few days ago, on July 15th the BBC’s Yolande Knell (perhaps inadvertently) documented the use of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City as a hideout for the Hamas top brass. Other journalists have reported on that topic too and of course the bottom line is that staff and patients of a civilian medical facility (as well as visiting journalists) are being exploited by a terrorist organisation as human shields, with or without the consent of that hospital’s management.Shifa hospital

In addition to the fact that the BBC has failed to adequately clarify the issue of human shields in Shifa hospital (or anywhere else) to audiences – numerous items of BBC content have been produced in that hospital over the past two weeks – obviously with the approval of its management – and various doctors have been interviewed, quoted and presented to BBC audiences as credible witnesses of the situation in Gaza. Examples include:

A BBC television news filmed report by Yolande Knell from July 8th.

Two filmed reports by Jeremy Bowen for BBC television news on July 11th.

A BBC World Service radio report by Lyse Doucet on July 20th in which a doctor promoted the unchallenged notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

A BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ interview with Dr Belal Dabour on July 21st which also allows unhindered promotion of the notion of a “massacre” in Shuja’iya.

Perhaps rather surprisingly in the current circumstances, Dr Dabour seems to have quite a bit of spare time in which to talk to the BBC – see for example here and here.

Now of course BBC audiences hearing, reading or watching an interview with a doctor will naturally presume that they are being given an accurate, impartial, apolitical and professionally neutral view of the situation. In the Gaza Strip, however, that is not necessarily the case – as has been documented by the ‘Warped Mirror’ blog here and here. And it is particularly not the case in Shifa hospital where, on July 20th, a journalist with ABC witnessed the following reaction from ‘humanitarian’ staff to the false claim by Hamas that it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

Tweet Doctors Shifa

But it is not only local doctors in the Gaza Strip whose presentation of supposedly professional observations – in fact underpinned by political motives – are facilitated by the BBC. On July 20th the BBC reached what is unfortunately not a new low by promoting and quoting none other than the infamous Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert in inserts by Yolande Knell featured in two separate written articles – see here and here.

Knell Mads Gilbert

Readers may recall Gilbert’s propaganda efforts during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9. Now the doctor who thinks the 9/11 terror attacks were justified is back in Shifa hospital, promoting the same political messaging to the media under the guise of a ‘medical opinion’ – remarkably and controversially, with recommendation from another source of ‘impartial’ information frequently promoted by the BBC – UNWRA.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality clearly state:

“We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities) are unbiased and we may need to make it clear to the audience when contributors are associated with a particular viewpoint, if it is not apparent from their contribution or from the context in which their contribution is made.”

So far, in nearly two weeks of reporting, we have not seen even one attempt by the BBC’s journalists in Gaza to adhere to those guidelines by alerting audiences to the Hamas connections and/or sympathy for terrorism of medical personnel they present to audiences as ‘credible’ sources.