BBC WS breaches editorial guidelines on impartiality with Gaza report

h/t JP

The November 24th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Global News Podcast’ included an item (from 20:10 here) which was introduced by the presenter as follows:

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Presenter: “Earlier this month there was further fierce fighting over Gaza triggered when Israel assassinated a senior militant leader from the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. These rounds of violence have become almost routine, as have accounts of humanitarian suffering blamed largely on Israel’s blockade of the territory.”

Notably absent from that portrayal is of course any mention of the Palestinian terrorism which is the reason for “Israel’s blockade of the territory” as well as the last round of escalation during which about 560 rockets and mortars – conveniently whitewashed from this introduction – were fired at Israeli civilians.

The introduction continued:

Presenter: “But some young Palestinians have started a website to publicise the human stories behind the news. They are Issam Adwan, Asmaa Tayeh and Ahmed Elqattawi. On a recent trip to Gaza our correspondent Barbara Plett Usher spoke with them about the recent violence. Ahmed begins the conversation.”

Listeners then heard nearly five minutes of unchallenged one-sided monologues.

Ahmed: “I want to live. I want to live like any other human being in the world. This is my right. I want to be respected. I want to have it and I want to see it like happened in the Gaza Strip. This is my…my city. I should feel safe in my city. Why would I walk in the street without feeling safe? I mean even like the horrific fear I witness. I mean during these three days was [unintelligible] for me. I have been like a victim to the sound of bombing and shelling. I couldn’t take it anymore, really. I was just…I was scared. I mean I’m 24 years old but I was really scared. Yeah.”

Issam: “But trust me this is not like the worst thing that could happen to the one who is living in Gaza, who lived through three wars and, you know, partially fourth one. The worst thing that could happen to you is that you’re not feeling fear anymore. Not because of being brave but because of, like, you have suffered so much. There are so many levels of being empty. Some people here in Gaza Strip they just want to die because they are suffering so much. At my point I’m…I’m fearless not because of being brave but I’ve seen so much. For them they are fearless because they have suffered so much. They just want to end it. I believe a lot of people exceeded what they can handle.”

Asmaa: “My sister-in-law two days ago was saying if they bomb us they should kill us all because we don’t want anyone to stay and live and keep crying on the others. I told her no. You all die and I want to live. Because I really didn’t live. I’m still twenty – twenty-three – and I didn’t live. I really need to live more so I can maybe find some sense of safety or joy or anything. It also makes me laugh when I see some Israelis comment on our posts on social media saying ‘you’re killing our children, you’re terrifying us, you’re doing this and that’. And they don’t get the fact that we’re trying to defend ourselves. They don’t get the fact that they every time start this. And when we do the same, or at least done the same because we don’t have the same equipment, they cry about it. And they tell us that we are violating their human rights. They were violating the international law. But they don’t think about themselves. They are doing the same or worse.”

Listeners heard no challenge from Barbara Plett Usher to those falsehoods and were not provided with any background which would help them put the propaganda into context. Instead, in the first of just two brief interventions throughout the whole item, Plett Usher chose to question the definition of the actions of Hamas and the PIJ as terrorism.

Plett Usher: “Do you think that Palestinian leadership bears any responsibility? Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they have this doctrine of resistance, for example, that Israel and the international community call terrorism.”

Asmaa: “Well for me I don’t support anyone. I think we’re all Palestinians. But let me ask you: what do we really have as a choice? What can we do? Do we have equipment? Do we have anything that we didn’t try before? Tell me what we can do? What options do we have?”

Issam: “Such a response is just a representation of – fine representation – of what Gaza is not having, which is life. Also I would condemn Hamas and the PLO for such division which kill the Palestinians in the first place, especially the people in Gaza Strip. We are responding, we are shooting, we are, like, protesting at the Great March of Freedom because we don’t have hope. Israel is a great part of that. The PLO is also part of that. Hamas like makes the ideology of terminating others’ existence; they are responsible for that. I’m also blaming the lack of vision, the lack of – let’s say – a position that can lead us to move forward with the Palestinian case. They are responsible for that, not the occupation. I know that the occupation is imposing a lot of pressures and blows but they are responsible on that in the first place. They have responsibility. They cannot do with…these just [unintelligible] to step back and let other people to lead.”

Plett Usher: “What about you? How do you feel about the future, Ahmed?”

Ahmed: “Well I remember like a report was issued by the UN and they said that Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020. So 2020 is coming in January so I’m trying to just receive the shock when it comes.”

Asmaa “But for me, to be honest, I don’t think this is gonna be the last Israeli attack. So you will never feel safe. So I don’t have hope. No, I’m sorry, I don’t [laughing].”

Presenter: “Asmaa Tayeh ending that report from Barbara Plett Usher in Gaza and we also heard from Issam Adwan and Ahmed Elqattawi.”

It of course comes as no big surprise to hear such a blatantly one-sided report from Barbara Plett Usher: a report which does nothing to advance audience understanding of the topic it purports to address. But below the surface of this five minutes of unchallenged propaganda is another layer which once again highlights the issue of the BBC’s supposed impartiality.

Listeners were told in the introduction to this item that the three interviewees had set up a website:

“But some young Palestinians have started a website to publicise the human stories behind the news.”

In fact, all three interviewees are involved with a website – called ‘We Are Not Numbers – that was set up in early 2015 by a political NGO called EuroMed Rights which is funded by a variety of foreign donors and has as members organisations engaged in lawfare against Israel. The website itself is funded by a US registered organisation called ‘Nonviolence International’ which was founded by Mubarak Awad who was deported by Israel due to his role in the first Intifada.

Issam Adwan is listed as the website’s ‘special projects coordinator’ and described as having joined it in May 2018. Asmaa Tayeh is listed as its ‘social media coordinator’ and Ahmed Elqattawi features in a 2015 report by anti-Israel activist Joe Catron for the infamous ‘MintPress News’. The website has also been promoted on the notoriously anti-Israel ‘Mondoweiss’ site by its founder Pam Bailey who is a contributor to that site as well as others includingMiddle East Eye’ and Al Jazeera.

BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality stipulate that:

“4.3.12 We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.”

Not only did Barbara Plett Usher’s report fail to inform listeners of the name of the website it inaccurately claimed was “started” by her three interviewees but BBC audiences were given no “appropriate information” about the “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” of the real founders and funders of that website and their very relevant political agenda. 

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC reports on the “Identity of the Palestinian fatalities in the latest round of escalation in the Gaza Strip”.

“The Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip reported that 34 Palestinians had been killed in the latest round of escalation (with Bahaa Abu al-Atta and his wife among them). From within the 34 killed Palestinians, at least 18 (about 53%) were identified as military operatives, most of them (13) operatives of the PIJ’s military wing, who were the targets in most of the attacks. In addition, several fatalities were identified as belonging to minor terror networks, most of them operatives of Fatah splinter networks who took part in firing at Israel. Among the fatalities, there was a prominent number of operatives of the rocket launching network, who were killed while attempting to fire at Israel.”

2) At the INSS Yohanan Tzoreff and Yoram Schweitzer analyse relations between Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“The escalation between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) on November 12-14, 2019, following the killing of the organization’s senior military commander Baha Abu al-Ata, exposed cracks in the relations between the two main organizations in the Palestinian resistance movement – PIJ and Hamas – as well as the fragility of the situation in the Gaza Strip. Over two days, Hamas left PIJ to deal on its own with the Israeli airstrikes in the Strip that seriously harmed PIJ operatives, while expressing little solidarity with it – or for that matter, little at all.”

3) Tablet Magazine carries an article by Aboud Dandachi titled “Campus Anti-Zionism Seen Through the Eyes of a Syrian Refugee”.

“A refugee from a war-torn country is used to seeing all parts of their homeland become a battleground. Streets. Apartments. Football fields. Even the historic Krak de Chaveliers castle near my native Homs in Syria was fought over by opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. After landing in Canada, however, I hadn’t expected my new country’s universities to be arenas for ideological mobs to shout down and denounce their opponents.”

4) The FDD looks at a recent report concerning Iranian cruise missiles.

“The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) last week released a landmark report analyzing the capabilities of Iran’s military. In light of Iran’s September attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, the report’s emphasis on Tehran’s expanding cruise missile capabilities has already proven to be prescient.

The DIA’s new report, titled Iran Military Power: Ensuring Regime Survival and Securing Regional Dominance, highlights Tehran’s development of land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs). The report notes that Tehran “has invested heavily in its domestic infrastructure, equipment, and expertise” to develop increasingly capable cruise missiles.”

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Plett Usher does ‘ode to a reasonable Hamas’

On November 18th the BBC News website published an article by Barbara Plett Usher titled “Israel-Gaza clash: Why Hamas chose restraint”.

Plett Usher began with two inaccurate statements, one of which she later repeated.

“Last week’s surge of violence over Gaza was notably different from previous cross-border fighting: Hamas stayed out of it and Israel did not target its traditional foe. […]

Hamas, which governs Gaza, did participate in a joint operations room with other factions to discuss tactics. But it conspicuously did not launch any attacks.”

So did Hamas really ‘stay out of it’? Not exactly, according to Israeli officials:

“Hamas terror organization is responsible for the launch of two rockets at the southern city of Be’er Sheva overnight, sources in the defense establishment said Saturday. […]

Military officials estimate the launch was carried out by low-level Hamas militants on the ground, contrary to the position of the organization’s leadership that wants to put the latest flare-up behind them.”

And did Israel “not target its traditional foe”? Again, that claim is inaccurate.

“Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza after Palestinians launched two rockets towards the southern Israeli city of Beersheba early on Saturday morning. The IDF believes Hamas was responsible for firing the rockets. […]

In retaliation the Israeli military said it struck a military camp, a compound for the group’s naval forces and underground terror infrastructure.”

Plett Usher went on to claim that the PIJ is “more radical” than Hamas.

“Paradoxically it confirmed that Israel and Hamas – Gaza’s main Islamist movement – are committed to pursuing strategic understandings to help keep the peace.

The fighting started when Israel carried out what it called the targeted killing of a top commander in the smaller, more radical Islamic Jihad group, claiming he was planning attacks that posed an imminent threat.”

Of course both the PIJ and Hamas are Islamist groups which reject Israel’s existence, strive for its eradication by means of terrorism and reject any efforts to resolve the conflict through negotiation. Plett Usher however did not trouble her readers with the finer points of either terrorist organisation’s ideology before extensively – and uncritically – quoting an official from Hamas’ ‘international relations office’. [emphasis added]

“That is because it was “in the Palestinian interest” to avoid an escalation, a senior Hamas official, Basem Naim, told the BBC. Gazans were already suffering enough due to dire conditions on the ground, he said, and “the regional and international atmosphere is not so helpful at this time”. […]

Basem Naim played down the differences between the two groups. He insisted Hamas had not abandoned its commitment to armed resistance against the Israeli occupation, what Israel and many Western countries call terrorism.

“Maybe we, based on our interests, sometimes decide to postpone or decrease our response [to Israeli strikes], but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to continue our struggle,” he said. “It is not our role to work as a police force for the occupation, and if we have to decide internally to stop, this is based on Palestinian dialogue, not a response to Israeli wishes or plans.””

Plett Usher of course did not bother to explain to BBC audiences that what Hamas means by “Israeli occupation” is the existence of Israel itself or that Israel withdrew every last soldier and civilian from the Gaza Strip fourteen years ago.

She did mislead readers with the claim that “Israel tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip when Hamas reinforced its power there in 2007…” while failing to clarify that the Israeli security cabinet declared the Gaza Strip “hostile territory” in September 2007 – three months after Hamas’ violent take-over – due to a severe increase in terror attacks.

Plett Usher whitewashed twenty months of weekly violent rioting that regularly includes border infiltrations, shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and arson attacks which have caused serious damage to thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves in Israel as “protest marches”. She portrayed restrictions on the import of dual use goods and weapons to the Gaza Strip as “crippling” while failing to clarify that Israel facilitates the entry of thousands of tons of goods including medical supplies, food, fuel and building materials to the Gaza strip every week.

“But the trade-off is for Hamas to lower the temperature of weekly protest marches along Gaza’s border with Israel, and for Israel to ease its crippling blockade.”

Notably however, readers of this transparent amplification of Hamas’ narrative learned nothing of the long-standing tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the former’s failure to rein in Baha Abu al Ata which is the background to the recent round of conflict.

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BBC’s Bateman misleads WS radio listeners on Israeli ‘policy’

BBC’s Bateman misleads WS radio listeners on Israeli ‘policy’

The November 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (from 30:07 here) relating to the supposed ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Jerusalem-based reporter Tom Bateman told listeners that: [emphasis added]

Bateman: “Islamic Jihad has claimed that Israel agreed not to use live fire – live ammunition – on protesters during weekly protests at the perimeter fence and it’s declared that a big victory for the resistance. Israel has said – its foreign minister, Israel Katz – that that simply is not the case and that what it calls its open fire policy will continue.”

Obviously, listeners unfamiliar with the details of the topic may well have understood from Bateman’s words that Israel has a “policy” of opening fire on people he had seconds earlier described as “protesters”.

But where did Bateman get that ambiguous phrase “open fire policy”? Coincidentally or not, the same phrase appeared an article published by the Reuters news agency earlier in the day:

“But Israel said it would observe only a limited quid pro quo. “Quiet will be answered with quiet,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio. […]

Katz said there would be no change to Israeli military policy in Gaza, contradicting the assertion of Islamic Jihad.

Targeted killings “will not cease”, he said, and “the open-fire policy for which the Israel Defence Forces is responsible (at the Gaza border) will not change”.”

It is clear in that interview (Hebrew) that Katz was referring to standard operating procedures (SOPs) used by the IDF which (see page 19):

“…forbid the use of potentially lethal force against rioters save for exceptional circumstances. Potentially lethal force is permissible only where a violent riot poses a real and imminent danger to the life or bodily integrity of IDF forces or Israeli civilians, and only as a measure of last resort. The SOPs emphasize that the danger must be first addressed by way of verbal warnings and non-lethal means. If these means have been exhausted (or were unfeasible in the circumstances) and the danger has not been removed, the SOPs allow – subject to stringent requirements of necessity and proportionality – precise fire below the knees of a key rioter or a key instigator, in order to remove the real and imminent danger the riot poses.”

There is of course an important difference between violent rioters who pose an “imminent danger to IDF forces or Israeli civilians” and “protesters…at weekly protests” as described by Bateman.

As we have repeatedly documented on these pages, most of the BBC’s reporting on events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip over the past 20 months has promoted very specific framing which has inaccurately portrayed the ‘Great Return March’ rioting as “protests” and “demonstrations” and the participants as “protesters”, while concealing the hundreds of violent incidents such as shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and infiltration attempts which have taken place during those so-called “protests”.

The result of that editorial policy of promoting a sanitised portrayal of the events is that the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau correspondent now misleads audiences by falsely claiming that Israel uses, and will continue to use, “live fire – live ammunition – on protesters”.

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BBC’s Tom Bateman frames ‘background’ to PIJ attacks

BBC’s Tom Bateman frames ‘background’ to PIJ attacks

Those who followed recent reports from the BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman on various BBC radio programmes may have noticed some interesting framing of the activities of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al Ata who was killed by Israeli forces in the early hours of November 12th. [emphasis in italics in the original]

BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, November 12th 2019 from 2:26:06 here:

Bateman: “Well Abu al Ata was a commander for Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the north and east of the Gaza Strip – significant areas where there has been over the last 18 months or so much tension between militants in the Strip and Israel.”

BBC World Service radio, ‘Newshour’, November 12th 2019, from 00:29 here:

Bateman: “He [Abu al Ata] has really come to prominence within Gaza only within the last year, commanding a brigade of fighters in the north of the Gaza Strip for Islamic Jihad. […] he was seen as somebody who was […] taking it upon himself to order rocket fire into Israel after these very tense events on Fridays in which many Palestinians protest at the perimeter fence and there are violent confrontations and Israeli troops shoot at – using live fire – at the Palestinians. I mean ten days ago there were dozens of injuries and al Ata it seems had ordered rocket fire into Israel.”

BBC World Service radio, Global News podcast, November 12th 2019, from 01:00 here:

Bateman: “He had become increasingly significant over the last year. He was spoken about more and more within the Gaza Strip because he was the commander of an Al Quds brigade – that is the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad – and he was in charge of several hundred fighters in the north and the eastern Gaza Strip. Now that area was significant because of the rising tensions over the last 18 months or so at the perimeter fence with protests and escalations between Israel and militants in Gaza. […] around ten days ago, after dozens of Palestinians did [sic] when they were shot by Israeli soldiers, there was a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel which Israel responded to with airstrikes.”

As readers may recall, the BBC completely ignored those November 1st rocket attacks which Bateman alleged in these reports were prompted by events earlier in the day (that also got no BBC coverage) at the so-called ‘Great Return March’.

The ITIC’s report on the events of November 1st includes the following: [emphasis added]

“According to Israeli security sources quoted by the media, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was responsible for the rocket attacks. The Palestinian media also reported that the PIJ fired the rockets. At this point the reason for the attacks is unclear. During the return march of November 1, 2019, no exceptional events were recorded, so the PIJ had no immediate excuse to fire rockets. […]

On Friday, November 1, 2019, the return march was held in the Gaza Strip with the theme, “May the Balfour Declaration be thwarted,” to mark the 102nd anniversary of the Declaration. Before the march the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March held a press conference declaring it would be a “very powerful mass march.” The Authority also prepared a program to encourage the Palestinian public to participate in the march, part of which included announcing the march in all the mosques and churches in the Gaza Strip.

On the ground, however, the march was similar to those held in previous weeks. About 6,500 Palestinians participated, and the level of violence was similar to that of recent weeks. There were a number of attempts to sabotage the security fence, and IEDs, Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at IDF forces. Senior figures gave speeches and mostly related to the Balfour Declaration and the Palestinian struggle against it. Calls were heard demanding the British apologize to the Palestinian people. Senior figures also stressed that the marches would continue. The Palestinian ministry of health reported that 96 people had suffered varying degrees of wounds.”

Although the BBC has never reported it, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been involved in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop from the beginning and at least six of those killed during the weekly violent rioting were members of its ‘military wing’.

Nevertheless, Bateman’s simplistic analysis framed the actions of the PIJ commander solely as a response to Israeli actions against ‘protesters’ – while concealing both the violent nature of those events and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s involvement in them. In other words, Bateman’s bottom line told BBC audiences (who have yet to be informed of the terror group’s basic ideology and aims) that Israel is to blame for PIJ rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

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BBC abandons independent verification in reporting on Gaza casualties

As long-time readers will be aware, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 the BBC failed to independently verify casualty figures and civilian-combatant casualty ratios provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its coverage during and since that conflict was based on data obtained from partial sources which it promoted to audiences without fact-checking.

Since then BBC journalists appear to have ceased trying to independently verify information provided by a terrorist organisation and instead adopt a qualifying ‘he said-she said’ approach which includes describing all Gaza Strip casualties as “Palestinians”, regardless of whether or not they belonged to terror groups.

Here are some examples from the first two days of BBC reporting on the recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in bold added]

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel kills top Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza’:

“Israeli aircraft also targeted PIJ rocket-launching units in two separate strikes, according to the IDF. Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported that three Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza.”

November 12th 2019, BBC News website, ‘Israel-Gaza violence spirals after killing of top Palestinian militant’:

“Violence escalated after Israel killed PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata. Four more Palestinians were also killed. […]

Three Palestinians were killed in air strikes in northern Gaza, one of which targeted a group preparing to launch a rocket, Israel said.”

November 12th 2019, BBC World Service radio, ‘Global News Podcast’:

Tom Bateman [03:40]: “And inside the Gaza Strip, Israeli airstrikes have resumed. The latest is they targeted two people on a motorbike that Israel says were a rocket launching unit. One of those people has been killed…”

November 13th 2019: BBC Radio 4,Today’:

[0:34:39] Mishal Husain: “There are fears of a further escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza after 24 hours of violence in which a Palestinian commander was killed by Israel, rocket attacks from Gaza injured Israelis and Palestinians were killed in further Israeli strikes on the territory. […] Tom, first what do we know of those latest Israeli strikes and the Palestinians who died?”

Tom Bateman: “…Palestinian media reporting that one Palestinian has been killed in those strikes so that brings the total of Palestinians who’ve died over the last 24 hours, including Abu al Ata the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader that was targeted by the Israelis yesterday, that total number to eleven.”

[2:33:07] Mishal Husain: “…rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring Israeli civilians and Israeli airstrikes have killed another 14 Palestinians.”

Tom Bateman: “By nightfall [on November 12th] health officials there had said in addition to al Ata and his wife, another 8 Palestinians had been killed. Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad militant sites including people trying to launch rockets.”

Mishal Husain: “And the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says there’s now a total of 16 people who have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes, including the Islamic Jihad commander and his wife.”

November 13th 2019, BBC World Service radio,Newshour’:

[09:19] Tim Franks: “More Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. At least 23 are reported to have died in the territory.”

November 13th 2019, BBC News website,Israel-Gaza fighting continues for second day after militant’s death’ – version 7:

“Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 26 Palestinians, including three children, had been killed by Israeli fire by Wednesday evening. […]

The IDF said “20 terrorists” were killed, most of them from Islamic Jihad.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas militants, said three children were among the 23 people killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday.

PIJ said the dead included members of its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades. Khaled Faraj, a field commander, was killed in a strike in central Gaza.”

As we see, the BBC made no attempt in any of those reports to independently verify the claims of various parties. Neither was any effort made to inform audiences in its own words of how many of those killed in the Gaza Strip were members of terror groups – even when they had been identified as such by their own organisations.

The BBC cannot possibly claim that such an editorial policy contributes to meeting its public purpose remit of providing “duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding” and offering  “a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers” so that “audiences can engage fully with major… global issues”.

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