An upcoming event in London

Readers based in the UK may be interested in attending an event organised by UK Lawyers for Israel which is to be held in London on September 26th.

“Lord Trimble will reflect on the continuing relevance of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010.  The Commission was set up by the Israeli Government to investigate the arrest of the Gaza flotilla and the controls imposed by Israel on the transfer of goods to Gaza. It was led by retired Israeli Supreme Court Judge Jacob Turkel and Lord Trimble was one of the two international observers.

Lord Trimble is former first Minister of Northern Ireland, one of UKLFI’s patrons, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Turkel Commission investigated whether Israel’s actions in preventing the arrival of ships in Gaza were in accordance with international law.   It examined the security considerations for imposing naval restrictions on the Gaza Strip and the actions taken by the organisers and participants in the flotilla.  The first part of the findings, released in January 2011, concluded that both Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and its actions when it intercepted the flotilla were in accordance with international law.

This will be an opportunity to hear a fascinating perspective on International Law concerning the restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza, and how far Israel can go to protect its borders.”

Details and tickets here.

 

Activist’s posts dispute BBC’s equivocal account of 2010 flotilla incident

A significant number of BBC reports relating to the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 still remain accessible online and many of the later ones present a ‘he said-she said’ account of events.

For example, a report published in January 2011 states:

“Israel says its commandos used live fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and guns.

But activists on board the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara say the commandos started shooting as soon as they boarded the vessel.”

Two articles dating from September 2011 both state:

“At the time, the Israeli military said its commandos fired live rounds only after being attacked with clubs, knives and guns. But activists on board said the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck.”

Under the sub-heading “Who started the violence?” an article from June 2016 tells BBC audiences that:

“This is disputed. The activists say the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck. Israeli officials say the commandos opened fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and a gun which was taken from them. Video released by the Israeli military stops just before the shooting begins. A UN inquiry was apparently unable to determine at exactly which point the commandos used live fire.”

Interestingly, some of the BBC’s earlier reports presented a less vague picture.

In an article dating from June 2010, the BBC’s Paul Reynolds quoted an Israeli journalist:

“The reporter states that the protesters “attempted to wrest away [the soldiers’] weapons”. They got hold of one handgun, he says, when one soldier, seen on the video, was thrown from the upper deck on to the lower. […]

The Israelis claim that the activists got hold of two pistols and must have fired them as their magazines were found to be empty when recovered.”

In another June 2010 article titled “Activists describe Israeli raid on Gaza aid convoy” the leader of the IHH is quoted as saying that:

“…some of the activists had grabbed the guns off soldiers in self-defence.

“Yes, we took their guns. It would be self-defence even if we fired their guns. We told our friends on board: ‘We will die, become martyrs, but never let us be shown… as the ones who used guns’. By this decision, our friends accepted death, and we threw all the guns we took from them into the sea.””

As those who have read David Collier’s two-part report about the secret Facebook Group called ‘Palestine Live’ will be aware, Israel’s account of the events aboard the ship has inadvertently been supported by one of its members – Greta Berlin – who was quoted in a 2010 BBC profile of the Mavi Marmara flotilla organisers.

The Times of Israel sums up that story:

“A leading pro-Palestinian campaigner involved in the flotilla that attempted to enter Gaza in May 2010 has appeared to corroborate Israel’s version of the events which led to the bloody confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara. […]

In newly revealed posts from a secret British Facebook group, Greta Berlin, the co-founder and spokesperson of the Free Gaza Movement, states that the Israeli troops did not open fire until after Ken O’Keefe, a former US marine aboard the Mavi Marmara, had seized a gun from one of them. […]

“He was responsible for some of the deaths on board the Mavi Marmara. Had he not disarmed an Israeli terrorist soldier, they would not have started to fire. That’s enough. Most of you have no idea what you’re talking about,” she wrote.”

As the ToI notes, Berlin’s 2014 posts at ‘Palestine Live’ contradict the messaging she gave to the international media – including the BBC – immediately following the May 2010 incident. The BBC also interviewed O’Keefe less than a month after the incident. 

Obviously the BBC would do well to review the accounts of events that appear in its available content relating to the Mavi Marmara incident in light of those posts from Greta Berlin.

Related Articles:

BBC reporter revealed to be member of secret anti-Israel Facebook group

Greta Berlin: Gaza Flotilla Propagandist (CAMERA)

 

BBC News continues to tout inaccurate portrayal of the ‘Mavi Marmara’

On several occasions in the past the BBC has misrepresented the ‘Mavi Marmara’ – a passenger ship in the 2010 flotilla – as an “aid ship”.

For example in March 2013 BBC audiences were told: [all emphasis added]

“….nine Turkish activists on a boat called the Mavi Marmara taking aid to Gaza. That boat was boarded by Israeli marines and nine of the activists were killed.”

“Nine people were killed on board the Turkish aid ship, Mavi Marmara, when it was boarded by Israeli commandos while trying to transport aid supplies to Gaza in May 2010 in spite of an Israeli naval blockade.”

And in June 2016:

“It was the Mavi Marmara episode in May 2010, when Israeli naval commandos boarded a Turkish-flagged aid vessel which was aiming to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, that caused the rupture.”

And in October 2016:

“Bilateral relations went into the deep freeze in May 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship as it tried to breach the blockade of Gaza. Ten Turkish activists on board were killed.”

As has been clarified here previously, the Mavi Marmara was of course not an “aid ship” at all. The UN’s Palmer Report (p. 47), documented that it carried 546 passengers but no humanitarian aid supplies for the people of the Gaza Strip.

“If the flotilla had been a purely humanitarian mission it is hard to see why so many passengers were embarked and with what purpose. Furthermore, the quality and value of many of the humanitarian goods on board the vessels is questionable. There were large quantities of humanitarian and construction supplies on board the Gazze 1, Eleftheri Mesogeio and Defne-Y. There were some foodstuffs and medical goods on board the Mavi Marmara, although it seems that these were intended for the voyage itself.  Any “humanitarian supplies” were limited to foodstuffs and toys carried in passengers’ personal baggage. The same situation appears to be the case for two other of the vessels: the Sfendoni, and the Challenger I. There was little need to organize a flotilla of six ships to deliver humanitarian assistance if only three were required to carry the available humanitarian supplies. The number of journalists embarked on the ships gives further power to the conclusion that the flotilla’s primary purpose was to generate publicity.”

On at least two occasions (most recently in October 2016) the BBC has corrected its inaccurate portrayal of the ‘Mavi Marmara’ but that, however, is obviously not enough to prevent the inaccuracy from being repeated.

On December 9th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Turkey drops case against Israeli officers in Gaza flotilla killings“. The opening paragraph reads:

“A Turkish court has dropped a case against four Israeli military officials charged over a deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza in 2010.” [emphasis added]

mavi-marmara-art-9-12

Especially given the previous corrections, it is of course difficult to understand why that inaccuracy is repeated time after time by BBC News.

Update: following communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and its opening paragraph now reads as follows:

mavi-marmara-art-amendment

 

BBC News again misrepresents the ‘Mavi Marmara’ as an “aid ship”

October 19th saw the appearance of an article by Selin Girit titled “Gas pipeline hope heals rupture in Israel-Turkey ties” in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.girit-art-19-10

Readers are told that:

“Bilateral relations went into the deep freeze in May 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship as it tried to breach the blockade of Gaza. Ten Turkish activists on board were killed.”

The Mavi Marmara was of course not an “aid ship” at all. As documented in the UN’s Palmer Report (p. 47), it carried 546 passengers but no humanitarian aid supplies for the people of the Gaza Strip.

“If the flotilla had been a purely humanitarian mission it is hard to see why so many passengers were embarked and with what purpose. Furthermore, the quality and value of many of the humanitarian goods on board the vessels is questionable. There were large quantities of humanitarian and construction supplies on board the Gazze 1, Eleftheri Mesogeio and Defne-Y. There were some foodstuffs and medical goods on board the Mavi Marmara, although it seems that these were intended for the voyage itself.  Any “humanitarian supplies” were limited to foodstuffs and toys carried in passengers’ personal baggage. The same situation appears to be the case for two other of the vessels: the Sfendoni, and the Challenger I. There was little need to organize a flotilla of six ships to deliver humanitarian assistance if only three were required to carry the available humanitarian supplies. The number of journalists embarked on the ships gives further power to the conclusion that the flotilla’s primary purpose was to generate publicity.”

The same inaccuracy has been seen in previous BBC reports and it has on occasion (though not consistently) been corrected or amended. Despite that, nearly six and a half years after the incident and over five years since the publication of the Palmer Report, the BBC continues to promote an inaccurate portrayal of the Mavi Marmara, its purpose and its passengers

Update:

Following the publication of this post and communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and the above passage now reads as follows:

girit-art-amended

 

 

Inaccuracies in BBC diplomatic correspondent’s description of Mavi Marmara

Turkey’s recent diplomatic moves – including the agreement signed with Israel – were the subject of an article by the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus which appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on June 29th under the headline “Turkey plays diplomatic chess in Middle East“.

Explaining the former nature of ties between Turkey and Israel and what caused the six-year-long rift, Marcus told readers that:

Marcus art Mavi Marmara

In fact, in May 2010 the Mavi Marmara was not “Turkish-flagged” but was registered in Comoros and flew that flag of convenience at the time.

MM registration

Neither was the Mavi Marmara an “aid vessel”: it was a passenger ship (carrying 546 passengers) which formed part of a flotilla of six vessels, only three of which were carrying ‘aid’, as the Palmer report noted (p 47):Marcus Turkey art

“If the flotilla had been a purely humanitarian mission it is hard to see why so many passengers were embarked and with what purpose. Furthermore, the quality and value of many of the humanitarian goods on board the vessels is questionable. There were large quantities of humanitarian and construction supplies on board the Gazze 1, Eleftheri Mesogeio and Defne-Y. There were some foodstuffs and medical goods on board the Mavi Marmara, although it seems that these were intended for the voyage itself.  Any “humanitarian supplies” were limited to foodstuffs and toys carried in passengers’ personal baggage. The same situation appears to be the case for two other of the vessels: the Sfendoni, and the Challenger I. There was little need to organize a flotilla of six ships to deliver humanitarian assistance if only three were required to carry the available humanitarian supplies. The number of journalists embarked on the ships gives further power to the conclusion that the flotilla’s primary purpose was to generate publicity.”

The BBC has previously corrected or amended reports which included the inaccurate description of the Mavi Marmara as an “aid ship” and clearly this article requires the same treatment.

Related Articles:

BBC recognizes that the Mavi Marmara was not an “aid ship”

 

A story serially avoided by the BBC comes home to roost

On June 27th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article titled “Israel and Turkey end rift over Gaza flotilla killings” which has since undergone extensive amendment.Turkey deal art

Among the report’s notable features are:

1) The use of euphemistic language to describe those killed in the incident aboard the Mavi Marmara and the concealment of their Islamist links.

“Israel and Turkey have normalised relations, ending a six-year rift over the killing by Israeli troops of 10 Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound ship.”

Ten pro-Palestinian Turkish activists, one of them a dual American citizen, were killed and dozens wounded as clashes broke out after the commandos boarded the ship, descending on ropes from helicopters.” [emphasis added]

2) The promotion of a ‘he said-she said’ account of the incident aboard the Mavi Marmara which ignores the existence of video evidence and witness accounts.   

“The two sides had blamed each other for the violence. The activists said the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck. Israel said the commandos opened fire only after being attacked with clubs, knives and a gun which was taken from them.”

3) The vague statement that the ship was “Turkish-owned” – without any mention of the specific organisation which purchased it (together with one other ship in the flotilla) and the fact that it – the IHH – was one of the publicity stunt’s main planners. Oddly, the IHH is not named even once throughout the whole report and readers therefore remain unaware of its relevant ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.  

“The Turkish-owned ship Mavi Marmara was part of a flotilla attempting to breach the blockade when it was intercepted by Israeli commandos on 31 May 2010.”

4) A rare realistic portrayal of the aim of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip is followed by the amplification of a propaganda slur.

“Israel maintains its blockade of Gaza to try to prevent weapons or materials reaching Palestinian militants, with whom it fought a devastating war in 2014, while allowing humanitarian aid into the territory.

Palestinians say the policy is tantamount to collective punishment, and UN and aid officials have warned of deteriorating conditions in Gaza.”

5) The amplification of the Turkish PM’s inaccurate claim concerning the ‘lifting’ of the blockade.

“”The total embargo imposed on Palestine and on the Gaza region in particular, is to being lifted to a great extent through Turkey’s leadership,” Mr Yildirim asserted.”

6) The failure to note the IHH’s opposition to the agreement and its pledge to continue legal action.

“…Turkey agreed to pass legislation protecting Israeli troops from legal claims over the Mavi Marmara incident…”

7) The absence of any mention of political and public opposition to the deal in Israel or of the reactions of Hamas operatives.

One aspect of this report, however, must have been particularly confusing for readers who regularly get their news from the BBC. In the insert of ‘analysis’ from Jonathan Marcus, readers were told that under the terms of the deal:

“Israel sees an end to its practical difficulties with Turkey and gets assurances about future Hamas activity on Turkish soil.”

In the body of the report they were informed that:

“In return, Turkey agreed to […] prevent any military action or fundraising by Hamas operatives based there.”

However, BBC audiences have no idea that there are any Hamas operatives based in Turkey because (as has been documented here on numerous occasions) for the last two years the corporation has diligently avoided telling them that operations – including Hamas’ efforts to strengthen its infrastructure and standing in Palestinian Authority controlled areas – were being run from that NATO member country.

The serial omission of information on that topic obviously now compromises the ability of audiences to understand the background to the references to Hamas made in this article and that impacts their understanding of this particular “international issue“. 

BBC News again misleads audiences regarding Gaza naval blockade

On December 18th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel and Turkey reach ‘understanding’ on restoring ties“.

Changes made to that report after its initial publication appropriately (and in line with a previous correction) included the removal of two descriptions of the 2010 flotilla which included the ‘Mavi Marmara’ as an “aid” flotilla that were originally seen in the caption to the illustrating image and in the final paragraph.

Turkey art caption aid flotilla

Turkey art 2 aid flotilla

However, the paragraph inserted to replace the previous version now provides BBC audiences (not for the first time) with a misleading statement concerning the naval blockade.

Turkey art replacement para

As has been noted here before:

“Under the terms of the Oslo Accords – willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people –Gaza’s coastal waters remained under Israeli responsibility. The agreements divide those waters into three different zones named K,L and M.

“Subject to the provisions of this paragraph, Zones K and M will be closed areas, in which navigation will be restricted to activity of the Israel Navy.”

Zone L was designated for “fishing, recreation and economic activities”, subject to specific provisions, including the following:

“As part of Israel’s responsibilities for safety and security within the three Maritime Activity Zones, Israel Navy vessels may sail throughout these zones, as necessary and without limitations, and may take any measures necessary against vessels suspected of being used for terrorist activities or for smuggling arms, ammunition, drugs, goods, of for any other illegal activity. The Palestinian Police will be notified of such actions, and the ensuing procedures will be coordinated through the MC.” [Emphasis added]

Following the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the November 15th 2005 agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Agreed documents on movement and access from and to Gaza) made no change to the above provisions. 

After the violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas in 2007, Israel did introduce maritime zones off the coast of the Gaza Strip as part of efforts to reduce arms smuggling into the territory – for example see the Notice to Mariners No. 6/2008 of August 13th 2008 – but that is not the same thing as a naval blockade (which has a specific legal definition)…”

Not only does this report fail to properly clarify to readers why Israel had to tighten “maritime restrictions” after the violent Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 but seeing as the article’s subject matter relates to a flotilla intended to breach the naval blockade and that was only put in place in 2009, the reference to the year 2007 is obviously misleading.   

Six months ago both the BBC News website and BBC Arabic also misled audiences with regard to the date of implementation of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. The English language report was subsequently amended but as we see, the correction has not prevented a similar inaccuracy from being promoted yet again.

Resources:

BBC News contact details

 

 

BBC exploits European migrant crisis for political messaging on ‘educational’ site

BBC produced content is of course widely used by researchers, academics, educators and teachers as well as members of the general public seeking factual information. One of the corporation’s projects is a website called ‘iWonder’ – billed as “the BBC’s new factual and educational site” at the time of its launch in 2014.

As we have had occasion to note here before (see related articles below), one might expect that a website with such a mission statement would make all the more effort to ensure that its content is historically accurate, factual and impartial.

In the midst of its recent special coverage of the migrant crisis in Europe, BBC News offered audiences a link to additional content on the topic of migrants.

Tweet iWonder link

That link leads to the iWonder website and a feature titled “The Longer View: Migrant crises” which is introduced as follows:

“Echoes through history

The current migrant crisis in Europe has made headlines around the world as millions seek refuge in countries across the continent.

The scale of the crisis in 2015 has not been seen since the end of World War Two, but tackling mass migration has proved to be an almost constant concern. From Biafra to the Balkans, solutions are rarely straightforward.”

The first item in that feature is titled “Exodus” and includes an archive video which does nothing to clarify to audiences that the British policy of restricting immigration of Jews to Palestine began long before July 1947 and fails to explain the legal basis of Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine.

iWonder Exodus

Those following the link titled “Watch: People of the Exodus” arrive at content produced by film-maker – not historian – Adam Curtis (who has a blog hosted by the BBC) headlined “21 Miles Off The Coast of Palestine“.

The post was written on June 2nd 2010 – and the significance of that soon becomes apparent. The article begins:

“Here is a strange echo from history.

It is a documentary made by the BBC in 1973 about the story of the ship, the Exodus.

It was the ship full of Jewish refugees – many of them survivors of the Holocaust – that tried to break the British blockade of Palestine in 1947. The participants from both sides appear and describe in detail how British soldiers boarded the ship 21 miles off the coast of Palestine killing 3 of the refugees and wounding others.

It caused an international scandal and was a PR disaster for the British government. It is seen in Israel today as one of the most significant events that led to the founding of the modern Israeli state.

The shock was compounded when the British took most of the refugees back to Germany and put them on trains and sent them to internment camps.”

But then the material promoted by BBC News as educational background to the current migrant crisis takes a sinister turn as Curtis continues:

“As you watch the film – it raises complex reactions and thoughts in your mind. But it is ironic that, although the two events are in many ways completely different, the Israelis are now preventing Palestinians and supporters of Hamas from doing what the Israeli defence organisation – the Haganah – tried to do over 60 years ago.” [emphasis added]

Yes – BBC ‘educational’ content on the subject of Holocaust survivors trying to reach Mandate Palestine really does promote a politicized and totally redundant comparison between the story of the ‘Exodus’ and the agitprop of the Mavi Marmara incident which took place two days before Curtis published this post.

The third item on this feature’s homepage is titled “Palestinians in exile”.

iWonder Palestinians in exile

There too audiences see highly partisan archive material which fails to explain to viewers why refugees who received Jordanian citizenship and were at the time living in territory occupied by Jordan were still the holders of refugee status. Those clicking on the link titled “Obstacles to Arab-Israeli peace: Palestinian refugees” arrive at the highly problematic article of the same name dated 2010 (but actually produced by Martin Asser quite some time before that) which was previously discussed on these pages here and here.

The failure to meet editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality is of course a grave issue at any time but when content specifically described as “factual and educational” fails to live up to those standards and is further employed as a platform for political messaging, it is time to ask some serious questions about the BBC’s role as a provider of educational material.

Related Articles:

Omissions, distortions and inaccurate history in BBC WW1 ‘educational’ feature

BBC’s Knell returns to the Gaza rubble

 

Lazy BBC reporting on Turkish FM’s quitting Munich conference

On February 6th an article appeared on both the Europe and Middle East pages of the BBC News website under the headline “Turkish FM quits Munich summit over Israeli presence“.Turkish FM art

Of the report’s 388 words, only one hundred and three relate to the subject matter presented in that headline.

“Turkey’s foreign minister has withdrawn from a security conference in Munich after Israeli officials were invited.

Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters he had pulled out after an Israeli delegation was asked to attend a session on the Middle East at the last minute.

He said his decision was not linked to Turkey’s relationship with Germany. […]

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Mr Cavusoglu said a collective decision had been taken to withdraw from the joint session.

“I was going to participate in the conference but we decided not to after they included the Israeli representatives in the Middle East session,” he told reporters.”

One hundred and fifty-eight words are devoted to the subject of the May 2010 incident in which Turkish pro-Hamas activists aboard the Mavi Marmara attacked Israeli soldiers attempting to prevent the ship from breaching the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“Ties between Israel and Turkey have been strained since a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a Turkish ship trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed in clashes with Israeli commandos, who boarded the Mavi Marmara when the ship, which was leading a convoy carrying aid, refused to stop.

Israel has maintained a naval blockade of Gaza since 2007, part of what it says are necessary security measures against the militant Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. […]

Relations between the Israeli and Turkish governments have been particularly fraught since the deadly raid on 31 May 2010.

Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara, which was leading a flotilla containing five other vessels, in international waters, around 130km (80 miles) from Israel’s coast. . Clashes ensued, leaving nine activists dead and 10 soldiers injured.

The then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel had committed a “bloody massacre” and withdrew his country’s ambassador.”

As has so often been the case in the past, the BBC inaccurately represents the start date of the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip which was actually implemented in January 2009. The use of the phrase “what it says are necessary security measures” disingenuously conceals from audience view the numerous cases in which attempts have been made to smuggle arms to Hamas by sea.

On the Middle East page this report was presented to audiences together with two additional items of recommended reading: “Q&A: Israeli deadly raid on aid flotilla” (also included in the article’s ‘related stories’ sidebar) and “Mavi Marmara: US extracts last-minute Israeli apology” which was previously discussed here.

Clearly, the intention of the writer of this report was to imply that the Turkish Foreign Minister’s withdrawal from the security conference in Munich was directly attributable to the Mavi Marmara incident which took place almost five years ago. But is there actually any evidence to show that is the case? Certainly this report does not include any direct quote from Mevlut Cavusoglu supporting the BBC’s speculation.

Other media outlets also covered the same story. The New York Times did not report a direct quote from the Turkish FM explaining a specific reason for his withdrawal either, but it did provide the following piece of relevant information completely ignored by the BBC:

“A senior Turkish official said his country would still be represented, but by a lower-level diplomat. He spoke on the condition of anonymity under his government’s diplomatic protocols.”

Reuters has the same vague quote from Cavusoglu which appears in the BBC article, as do the Hurriyet Daily News,  Ynet and the Jerusalem Post – which also reports the following information:

“Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP who chairs the Germany-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag, sharply criticized the Turkish decision to boycott the Munich conference: “That is an outrageous act.

It is an affront against Israel and an affront against Germany!” He added, “The federal government must condemn the Turkish government. The anti-Israel course of the Turkish government is cause for concern. The cancellation of Turkey’s Foreign Ministry is not an isolated act, rather part of a set of actions. In December, the Turkish prime minister welcomed and celebrated a Hamas leader at the [Turkey’s ruling] AKP party conference,” said Beck.”

Whilst the five year-old Mavi Marmara affair may indeed have contributed to the Turkish FM’s decision to boycott the Munich conference, it is certainly not – as the BBC would have its audiences believe – the entire background to the story.

The Hamas leader invited to the AKP conference last December was Khaled Masha’al, but with the strengthening of relations between Turkey and Hamas in recent years being a topic consistently under-reported by the BBC, audiences are unlikely to be aware of the fact that a number of prominent Hamas operatives – including Saleh al Arouri who took credit on behalf of Hamas for the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 – are domiciled in Turkey. The Turkish president Erdogan recently claimed that his political rivals work in cooperation with the Israeli intelligence services and the Turkish prime minister even more recently declared that his government “will not succumb to the Jewish lobby…”.

But rather than making the effort to provide its audiences with the full range of information which would enhance their understanding of the context to this particular story, the BBC obviously thought it could make do with simply dusting off its old – and in parts still inaccurate – reports relating to the five year-old Mavi Marmara incident. 

 

 

BBC News misleads audiences on ICC Mavi Marmara statement

On November 6th the BBC News website’s Middle East page carried a report currently going under the title “Gaza flotilla raid: No Israel charges over Mavi Marmara“. The article has undergone numerous changes since its initial appearance with the headline “No Israel charge over Gaza ship raid” but the version currently available on the site opens as follows:Mavi Marmara art

“The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says she will not take action over Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists.

Fatou Bensouda said despite “reasonable basis” to believe war crimes had been committed, the ICC had to prioritise larger-scale events.”

In other words, through the use of a cherry-picked quote from a press release, BBC audiences are mistakenly led to believe that although the ICC has determined that it is reasonable to believe that ‘war crimes’ were committed aboard the Mavi Marmara, it does not have the time or resources to do anything about it.

However, what is not adequately clarified in this BBC report is that not only did the ICC not determine that Israel had committed ‘war crimes’; it did not rule anything at all. No charges were filed, no trial was held and the report (available here) produced by the ICC’s chief prosecutor – the purpose of which was to examine whether or not there was a case for the ICC to pursue – is based on analysis of information already available (including, for example, the Turkish Commission) rather than on independent investigation by the ICC. As the press release linked to in the BBC report states:

“The Office analysed the supporting materials and documentation accompanying the referral along with, among other things, the reports published by the four commissions that have previously examined the 31 May 2010 incident. It should be recalled that the Office does not have investigative powers at the preliminary examination stage. Not having collected evidence itself, the Office’s analysis in the report must not be considered to be the result of an investigation.” [emphasis added]

In the report itself, a similar paragraph to the one above also states:

“The Office’s conclusions may be reconsidered in the light of new facts or evidence.”

So what the ICC’s chief prosecutor is in fact saying is that if the claims made in the material her office examined were shown to be true, certain acts could be considered war crimes for the purposes of jurisdiction. Of course whether or not war crimes were actually committed would subsequently have to be proven in a court of law.

That is a very different picture than the one presented in the BBC’s selected context-free sound-bite.

The BBC’s report also informs readers that:

“Lawyers who brought the case said they planned to appeal against the decision.”

And:

“… lawyers representing the Comoros vowed to appeal against the decision, saying it was a “struggle for justice, humanity and honour”.”

As was the case in a related previous BBC report, no effort is made to inform readers that those Turkish lawyers also represent the Mavi Marmara ‘victims’.

Additionally the BBC report states:

IHH president Bulent Yildirim with Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh

IHH president Bulent Yildirim with Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh

“The activists, many from a pro-Palestinian Turkish group called the IHH, said they wanted to deliver aid to the Palestinian enclave by breaking Israel’s naval blockade. Israel imposed the sea blockade after Hamas, which it has designated a terrorist group, seized Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.

Israel says the IHH is closely linked to Hamas.”

The BBC has already corrected at least one previous report to clarify that the Mavi Marmara was a passenger ship which was not carrying aid and this report’s whitewashing of the IHH’s Hamas and ‘Union of Good’ connections and Islamist agenda also clearly does not enhance audience understanding of its subject matter. The claim that the naval blockade was linked to the abduction of Gilad Shalit in 2006 is of course inaccurate: it was in fact announced in January 2009.