BBC replies late to complaint on failure to reference definition of antisemitism

Back in February of this year the BBC News website covered a story concerning the UK Labour party. As was noted here at the time:

“A report […] published on the BBC News website’s UK Politics page on February 20th – “Derek Hatton suspended by Labour days after being readmitted” – […] failed to explain to readers why the Tweet is problematic and likewise gave the misleading impression that the issue is “comments…about Israel” rather than antisemitism.”

In addition we noted that:

“The same report closed with what was apparently intended to be background information:

“Mr Hatton posted the 2012 message during “Operation Pillar of Defence” a week-long offensive by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza.

According to a UNHCR report, 174 Palestinians were killed during the operation, and hundreds were injured.

At the time, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “of course Israel has the right to self-defence and attacks against Israel must end, but the international community would also expect Israel to show restraint”.”

Notably readers saw no mention of the highly relevant context of the months of terror attacks which preceded that “week-long offensive”. Equally remarkable is the BBC’s portrayal of casualties in that conflict as exclusively Palestinian (despite the fact that six Israelis – two soldiers and four civilians – were also killed) and its failure to clarify that 60% of the Palestinians killed were operatives of terror groups.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint relating to those two issues. Following initial acknowledgement of the complaint, we received a communication on March 7th informing us that “it may take a little longer before we can reply”. On March 26th we received another e-mail stating:

“We are contacting you to apologise that we’ve not been able to reply to your complaint within the time period we aim for. We manage this for most complaints but regret it’s not always possible to achieve.”

On May 3rd we received a response from the BBC News website. With regard to the points we raised concerning the article’s inaccurate claim that the issue was “comments…about Israel” and the need for the BBC to explain to audiences why the statement in Hatton’s Tweet is antisemitic according to the accepted definition, the reply states:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that Derek Hatton has been suspended by the Labour Party less than 48 hours after he was admitted back into the party (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-47312006) and please accept our apologies for the long and regrettable delay in writing back to you.

The article does refer to “…comments the ex-Militant man made about Israel” and in the next line quotes a tweet from 2012, which readers can judge for themselves. [emphasis added]

We also point out that his application to rejoin Labour “drew fierce criticism from many leading figures in the party, coming on the same day as seven MPs quit the party in protest at what they said was a culture of anti-Semitism in the party”.”

Our point was of course precisely that the vast majority of readers cannot in fact “judge for themselves” if the BBC does not reference the accepted definition of antisemitism.

With regard to the point raised concerning the absence of relevant context, the reply stated:

“As regards your second point, the article doesn’t refer to Israeli casualties but as it’s about Derek Hatton’s social media comments about an IDF offensive, we don’t see that this was an essential inclusion for balance.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s comments were also included for context.”

Yes, it really did take the BBC over two months to come up with that reply.

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BBC reporting on Labour antisemitism again falls short

BBC Radio 4’s February 21st ‘Midnight News’ included (from 00:28 and then from 11:33 here) an item on a story concerning the UK Labour party.

Newsreader: “Labour has suspended Derek Hatton only days after he was allowed back into the party. Tweets about Israel are understood to be the reason for the decision.” [emphasis added]

Newsreader: “Labour has suspended the former leader [sic] of Liverpool City Council, Derek Hatton, just two days after he was provisionally readmitted to the party. The outspoken Left-winger was expelled more than 30 years ago because of involvement with a far-Left group.”

The story was ‘explained’ by the BBC’s political correspondent Jonathan Blake as follows:

Blake: “Derek Hatton’s suspension is thought to relate to a Tweet posted in 2012 which one Labour MP said implied that every Jew was responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.”

Not only did listeners not hear what Hatton’s Tweet said but they were not told that according to the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” is a manifestation of antisemitism.

A report on the same story published on the BBC News website’s UK Politics page on February 20th – “Derek Hatton suspended by Labour days after being readmitted” – similarly failed to explain to readers why the Tweet is problematic and likewise gave the misleading impression that the issue is “comments…about Israel” rather than antisemitism.

“The ex-deputy leader of Liverpool council’s membership was provisionally approved on Monday, more than 30 years after he was expelled from the party.

But senior Labour figures have since complained about the move and comments the ex-Militant man made about Israel.

In a tweet in 2012, he urged “Jewish people with any sense of humanity” to condemn Israel’s “ruthless murdering”.” [emphasis added]

Obviously as long as the BBC continues to report such stories while avoiding referencing the accepted definition of antisemitism, it cannot give its audiences an accurate and informative account of events.

The same report closed with what was apparently intended to be background information:

“Mr Hatton posted the 2012 message during “Operation Pillar of Defence” a week-long offensive by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza.

According to a UNHCR report, 174 Palestinians were killed during the operation, and hundreds were injured.

At the time, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “of course Israel has the right to self-defence and attacks against Israel must end, but the international community would also expect Israel to show restraint”.”

Notably readers saw no mention of the highly relevant context of the months of terror attacks which preceded that “week-long offensive”. Equally remarkable is the BBC’s portrayal of casualties in that conflict as exclusively Palestinian (despite the fact that six Israelis – two soldiers and four civilians – were also killed) and its failure to clarify that 60% of the Palestinians killed were operatives of terror groups.

Once again we see that BBC reporting on the issue of antisemitism in the UK Labour party falls short of providing its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK…”.

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News website replaces a photo caption with anonymous ‘criticism’

On the evening of February 6th a report headlined “US to buy Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

Overall the report’s text gives an accurate account of the story.

“The US military has announced plans to buy and test out Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.

The system, which uses radar and interceptor missiles to combat incoming threats, has been in use since 2011.

The US Department of Defence has said the system will be used on a test basis, while it assesses options for the military’s long-term needs.”

The report includes a photograph which was originally captioned “Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of Sderot, Israel August 9, 2018”.

The BBC however chose to reword that photo’s caption as follows:

“The system, which took billions of dollars to develop, has faced criticism for its cost”.

Criticism from whom? Is that criticism relevant or justified? What is the cost of the system? Is its cost made effective by savings elsewhere? The BBC of course did not bother to answer any of those questions.

In 2015 missile defence expert Uzi Rubin published a paper comparing three conflicts: the 2006 Second Lebanon War – during which Israel did not yet have the Iron Dome – and Operations Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Protective Edge in 2014. With the number of rockets fired in each of those conflicts on record, he was able to calculate the relative lethality of rockets before and after deployment of the defence system.

In addition, Rubin examined the number of claims for government compensation following property damage during those three conflicts.

According to local reports, one Iron Dome interceptor missile costs $50,000, and the estimated price of one battery, including its command and control system, is $50 million.

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to bizarre BBC criticism of the Iron Dome system. While this latest report offers readers ‘related reading’ from November 2012 in the form of a profile of the system and an article by diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus, the following year the corporation published at least three reports questioning the system’s effectiveness before changing its tune again in 2017.

Old habits die hard.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Jonathan Marcus and the Iron Dome

More substance-free BBC ‘reporting’ on the Iron Dome

BBC changes its tune on Israeli missile defence

 

 

 

 

US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

Last week the US State Department announced the designation of the former Hamas interior minister – and occasional BBC quoteeFathi Hamad (also spelt Hammad).

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. Hammad served as Hamas’s Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, which is a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Al-Aqsa TV was designated in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury under E.O. 13224.”

Readers may recall that when Israeli forces carried out strikes on communications antennae on buildings housing Hamas’ TV stations (including Al-Aqsa TV) during the conflict in 2012, the Foreign Press Association – which at the time was headed by the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar – and the then BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison promoted the false accusation that Israel was “targeting journalists”.

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BBC covers US terror designations for Hamas and Hizballah operatives – but not in English

After effects 3: BBC accuracy failure still being used against Israel

On July 23rd 2014 a member of staff at the Guardian decided to use a certain photograph to illustrate that particular day’s letters page and, by way of a caption, added the following amended quote from one of the letters (ironically complaining about BBC impartiality) published on the same day.

‘For Palestinians, Israel’s attacks are an extension of military rule and collective punishment by a brutal apartheid state.’

With the subject of that sentence being “Israel’s attacks”, one might have expected that the image chosen would have some sort of connection to that topic. However, the photograph selected actually shows a Palestinian father holding the body of his infant son who was killed in November 2012 by a rocket misfired by one of the Palestinian terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.

Guardian letters page

So why would that Guardian staffer believe that the picture showed the aftermath of “Israel’s attacks”? Well, like other members of the BBC’s audience, he or she was for months mistakenly led to believe by the BBC that Omar Masharawi was killed by an Israeli airstrike.

“The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it.”

Clearly, twenty-one months on, what still remains in people’s memories is the BBC’s extensively promoted inaccurate story – not the subsequent belated correction.

Related Articles:

After effects: BBC accuracy failure used to promote hate

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

 

 

 

BBC promotion of the inaccurate notion of exceptional civilian casualties in Gaza

On September 1st the BBC News website published a feature titled “Gaza crisis: Toll of operations in Gaza” which has since become a frequent appendage to numerous other articles published on the website’s Middle East page. As we know, the BBC has stated that its online content is intended to act as “historical records” and hence the accuracy and impartiality of that content is of prime importance.Toll of Operations art

This particular feature opens with the following words:

“The number of civilians killed during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge offensive has raised international concern and condemnation.

Between 8 July and 27 August, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, along with 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel.

The UN says the vast majority of Palestinian deaths are civilian. But figures from previous operations over the past six years in the densely populated Gaza Strip show it is not the first time civilians have paid a heavy price.”

Once again we see the BBC quoting “the UN” as though that body were impeccably objective, but with no effort made to inform audiences with regard to the very significant issue of the background to those UN statements and the political motivations involved.

The feature then goes on to address the topic of casualties in three conflicts in reverse chronological order. First comes a section titled “2014: Operation Protective Edge” in which readers are told that:

“The overwhelming majority of those killed were Palestinians.

The UN says at least 2,104 Palestinian died, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 women.

An Israeli government official told the BBC that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had killed 1,000 “terrorists” during the assault on Gaza.”

No effort is made to inform BBC audiences, for example, of the ongoing analysis being carried out by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre which, after examination of some 35% of the named casualties, so far indicates that the ratio of combatants to civilians stands at 49% to 51% respectively.

The section goes on to present graphics including one complied on the basis of information provided, inter alia, by the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health and “Al Akhbar” – an anti-Israel Lebanese online media organization considered by some to be pro-Hizballah. It further includes ‘analysis’ from the BBC’s head of statistics who – as readers may recall – was forced to radically amend a previous article on the topic of casualties in the Gaza Strip due to outside pressure from politically motivated organisations.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The section goes on to state that “[s]atellite images released by the United Nations show how a section of Shijaia [sic] neighbourhood in Gaza City has been razed by attacks since 8 July” but no attempt is made to provide BBC audiences with the all-important context behind those images by informing them of the military installations deliberately placed by Hamas and other terrorist organisations in that neighbourhood.

The feature then moves on to a section titled “2012: Operation Pillar of Defense” in which readers are informed that:

“Israel’s previous major air strike offensive on Gaza was Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

It began with an air strike that killed the commander of Hamas’s military wing, Ahmed Jabari, whom it accused of responsibility for “all terrorist activities against Israel from Gaza” over the past decade.

Prior to the operation, there had been spates of Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas’s Qassam Brigades, firing hundreds of rockets into southern Israel and the Israeli military shelling Gaza and carrying out air strikes.”

In other words, the BBC continues its now well-entrenched practice of downplaying the months of terror attacks which preceded – and caused – Operation Pillar of Defense. Casualty figures promoted in that section come from one source alone:

“An Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, said 167 Palestinians were killed, including 87 civilians. Six Israelis – two soldiers and four civilians – were also killed.”

Detailed examination of the names of casualties by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre put the ratio of combatants to civilians at 60:40 compared to B’Tselem’s 52% civilian casualty rate.

The feature’s third and final section is titled “2008-2009: Operation Cast Lead” and it opens with the (apparently copy pasted) claim that:

The last time Israeli ground troops went into Gaza was in December 2008, as part of Operation Cast Lead. Around 1,391 Palestinians were killed, including an estimated 759 civilians, according to B’Tselem. Reports say this included 344 children and 110 women.” [emphasis added]

The section goes on to promote two more politically motivated NGOs and to advance the myth of the use of white phosphorous as a weapon during Operation Cast Lead.

“Israel’s military had put the overall Palestinian death toll at 1,166, of whom it said 295 were “uninvolved” civilians. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights estimates that 1,417 Palestinians died, 926 of whom were civilians.

An Amnesty International report into the operation said lives were lost because Israeli forces “frequently obstructed access to medical care.” It also condemned the use of “imprecise” weapons such as white phosphorous and artillery shells.”

No mention is made of the fact that Hamas’ Fathi Hamad admitted in a 2010 interview that around half the casualties in that operation were terrorists, thus negating the inaccurate claims made by the PCHR still being promoted by the BBC.

But by far the most egregious aspect of this BBC feature is the fact that it makes no attempt whatsoever to provide BBC audiences with the crucial context of casualty ratios in the Gaza Strip as compared to those in other conflicts.

Let us assume for a moment that the UN figures quoted and promoted by the BBC are correct and that 495 children were killed during Operation Protective Edge and that none of those under 18s (as UNICEF defines child casualties) were in fact operatives for terrorist organisations. Even if we take those figures at face value, the percentage of children killed in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014 is, as Ben Dror Yemini has pointed out, considerably lower than the percentage of children killed by coalition forces (including British troops) in Iraq and by NATO forces (also including British troops) in Kosovo.

And even if we take the BBC’s claim that 1,462 (69%) of a total of 2,104 casualties in the Gaza Strip were civilians as being accurate (despite the fact that – as noted above – ongoing analysis suggests that the ratio of civilians to combatants may actually be lower), that would still mean that – as Col. Richard Kemp has pointed out on numerous occasions – there is nothing exceptional about that ratio.

“The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed.

That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one.

In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia.”

Now let us remind ourselves of the BBC’s opening statement in this feature:

“The number of civilians killed during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge offensive has raised international concern and condemnation.”

That statement would lead any reasonable reader to believe that the number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge was somehow exceptional enough to prompt “international concern and condemnation”. The BBC’s editorial decision to omit from this feature any comparison to other conflicts means that audiences are unable to put that statement into its correct perspective and are hence likely to be misled.

Of course that editorial decision will not come as much of a surprise to anyone who closely followed BBC coverage of Operation Protective Edge throughout its duration because one dominant theme discernible throughout that coverage was the inaccurate portrayal of the conflict as an Israeli attack upon the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The feature tells readers that:  

“…figures from previous operations over the past six years in the densely populated Gaza Strip show it is not the first time civilians have paid a heavy price”

Indeed the price paid by Gaza’s civilian population for the actions of terrorist organisations embedded in their midst is a “heavy” and regrettable one. However – in contrast to the impression this anonymously written feature deliberately attempts to create – it is nevertheless no heavier than that paid by civilian populations in conflict zones elsewhere in the world. The BBC’s decision not to inform its audiences of that fact can only be attributed to political motivations being allowed to trump editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality.

The BBC story making 2013 round-up headlines

One particular BBC story has been making the headlines in various round-ups of Middle East media coverage throughout 2013.

Although it was first publicized extensively in and around late 2012, the story relating to the unfortunate death of the son of BBC employee in Gaza Jihad Masharawi came into the spotlight once again in March 2013 when the BBC’s unproven and unsupported claim that the little boy had been killed in an Israeli operation had the rug pulled from under it by a UNHRC report. 

CAMERA’s “Top Ten MidEast Media Mangles for 2013” notes that: 

“Though it was later determined that the death was likely the result of a misfired Palestinian rocket, subsequent corrections received far less attention. Promoted as part of a preconceived narrative depicting Israelis as ‘baby killers,’ an image of Jihad Masharawi holding his son’s body became entrenched in the minds of many as a depiction of Israeli wrong-doing. The image has since been used in several anti-Israel protests and continues to foment hatred against Israel. Months later, the flawed account of Omar Masharawi’s death was still featured prominently in the Magazine section of the BBC website.”

The “2013 Dishonest Reporting Awards” also highlight the BBC’s inappropriate response:

“Months afterwards, the UN concluded that Baby Omar had, in fact, been killed by a Palestinian rocket. To their credit, most Western papers picked up on the new findings. But despite the revelations, the BBC — Misharawi’s employer — continued waving its fists at reality, arguing that Israeli responsibility was still disputable.”

Of course the real issue behind this story – the fact that the BBC knowingly published and extensively promoted a story for which it had absolutely no proven evidence, purely because it fit in with the political narrative accepted and promoted by the BBC – has to this day not been adequately addressed by the corporation which claims commitment to editorial values of accuracy and impartiality. 

Related articles:

BBC’s Omar Masharawi story has rug pulled by UNHRC

A reminder of the chronology of the BBC’s Omar Masharawi story

BBC appoints Jon Donnison as ‘Shin Gimmel’ of Masharawi story

After effects 2 : BBC accuracy failure again used to promote hatred

BBC’s Knell continues the downplaying of terror from the Gaza Strip

On November 21st we noted here that – despite the presence of BBC staff in the Gaza Strip at the time – no report had appeared on the subject of the military parades which took place there on and around November 14th

On November 22nd an article by Yolande Knell titled “Tensions high between Israel and Gaza a year after truce” appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

Knell Gaza parades

Knell opens her article with descriptions of those military parades. She notes that “[m]ore than 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed in last November’s clashes” but fails to make it clear to her readers that some 60% of casualties in the Gaza Strip were members of various terrorist organisations, including 71 from Hamas, 17 from the PIJ, six from the PRC and three from Fatah.

In copy-paste style, Knell then repeats the claim made in a previous BBC article on the subject of the anniversary of Operation Pillar of Cloud:

“Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defence, which it said was aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza, with the assassination of the head of the Qassam Brigades, Ahmed Jabari, on 14 November 2012.” [emphasis added]

Once again, this version of events fails to provide BBC audiences with any of the important context behind the reasons for the operation. The use of the phrase “which it said was aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza” implies that the BBC is not convinced that the fact that between January 1st and November 13th 2012 (the day before the operation began), 797 missiles had been fired from the Gaza Strip at civilian targets in Israel – one hundred and twenty-three of them between November 10th and 13th alone – was reason enough for Israel to take action to stop those terror attacks.

Knell continues:

“While its strong rhetoric against Israel continues, Hamas has largely kept to its pledge to prevent rocket fire.”

Her next sentence, however, indicates that “to prevent rocket fire” – a la BBC – means the launching from territory controlled by Hamas of over fifty missiles at civilian targets: in other words, an average of one terror attack a week.

“The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) says that since Operation Pillar of Defence about 50 rockets have been launched from Gaza, compared with 1,500 the previous year.”

Knell then goes on to inform her audience that those missile attacks are not so bad:

“Those fired have caused little damage, landing in open areas or being intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. However, civilians in their range are still forced to run for cover whenever the “red alert” siren sounds.”

The breathtaking banality of Knell’s downplaying of the effects of regular terror attacks on civilians is enabled by the fact that since the end of last November’s hostilities (and likewise before their ‘official’ commencement on November 14th 2012) no BBC reporter has made the 90 minute journey from Jerusalem to Sderot or Ashkelon in order to bring to BBC audiences the experiences and viewpoints of residents of those areas still subject to regular missile attacks. 

Whilst the number of missile attacks (most of which have been ignored by the BBC) has indeed decreased since the end of last November’s operation, past experience of the similar situation after Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 shows that trite reporting of mere numbers conceals a much more complex picture.  

“Hila Barzilai, the director of the Sderot Resilience Center (Merkaz Hosen) recently told Sderot Media Center that in the past six months following Operation Cast Lead, hundreds of Sderot children have turned to the resilience center for therapy treatment. 

“These kids come to us with their parents to seek therapy for the trauma built up from years of rocket attacks,” says Barzilai. “These problems did not just begin post-Operation Cast Lead. We are talking about eight years of constant rocket attacks whose psychological effects are now emerging during this period of calm.” […]

The average recovery period for a child can take up to eight months or more, said Barzilai. One of the challenges of trauma patients face in the recovery process are the sporadic rocket attacks that still continue to hit Sderot and the western Negev region.  

Barzilai notes in frustration that “it takes one rocket attack to destroy any progress in the patient’s therapy. The siren alert will trigger the flashbacks of terror and fear in the child or adult, which means that the therapy process has to begin anew.” […]

Orna Hurwitz, the director of the Sderot Bon Tone Hearing Institute, told Sderot Media Center on Monday that hearing loss has become an ailment unique to Sderot and Gaza-border residents.

“The hearing impairments suffered by residents of Sderot are akin to the hearing loss that soldiers experience during war. The repeated blasts of the rocket explosions harm the ear drum to the point that many residents have to be treated for hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, and/or central auditory processing disorders,” says Hurwitz.”

And yet, the BBC continues to avoid telling this story in full, thus compromising its obligation to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”. 

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Compare and contrast: BBC reporting on cross-border missile fire

Patchy BBC reporting on security incidents compromises context and accuracy

Missile attack on Israeli civilians not a ‘flare-up’ for the BBC

Another missile attack on Israeli civilians ignored by the BBC

Missiles fired into Israel not news for the BBC

Not news for the BBC

BBC ignores missile fire from Gaza Strip

Missiles fired at Southern Israel communities – BBC silent

Gaza Strip news – BBC style

On Thursday November 14th  staff from the BBC Jerusalem Bureau visited the Gaza Strip, where several Hamas-organised military parades marking the anniversary of last November’s fighting against Israel were taking place.

Knell tweet gaza parade

Colebourn tweet Gaza parade

Colebourn tweet Gaza parade 2

The parades included displays of weaponry and masked gunmen and were attended by Hamas leaders

pic Hamas parade 2

pic Hamas parade

Despite the BBC presence on the ground at the time, no report on these parades has appeared on the BBC News website. 

On the same day, two mortars were fired into Israel, for which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (which also held its own parades) claimed responsibility.  The IDF targeted rocket launching sites in the Gaza Strip in response. Although its journalists were clearly aware of the incident, no report on the subject was produced by the BBC.

Colebourn tweets mortars thurs

To date, no report on the ongoing fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip has appeared on the BBC News website. Hence, BBC audiences remain unaware of the dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas which, among other things, has resulted in streets being flooded with sewage – although apparently it does not impact Hamas’ ability to hold parades of motor vehicles.  

“Though it may be hard to believe, 1.5 million Palestinians have lived without electricity throughout most of the day in 2013. For the past two weeks, residents of the Gaza Strip have endured a cycle of six hours of electricity followed by a 12-hour power outage. Last Wednesday, the power went out at 6:00 am and was finally restored only late that evening.

This current crisis is not the result of a tighter “Israeli siege” or anything of the sort; it is caused by disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over the price of fuel since the tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt were shut down or destroyed.

Recent Egyptian military activity rendered out of commission hundreds of tunnels that once connected Sinai and Gaza and were used to import one million liters of fuel into Gaza each day. As a result, Hamas has no choice but to purchase fuel from Israel via the Palestinian Authority at prices similar to those found in the Israeli market, namely over seven shekels ($2) per liter of gasoline. That is a major problem for private car owners.

The more acute problem is that fuel is needed to operate the Gaza power plant that generates the majority of the local electricity. The Palestinian Authority purchases a liter of fuel for the power plant for approximately 4 shekels from Israeli gas companies and has tried to sell it to Hamas for almost double, including excise tax.

Hamas has rejected those prices outright and stopped purchasing fuel for its power plant. The dramatic consequence was that the power plant has shut down and the electricity supply has been completely disrupted. The PA refuses to waive the excise tax, a critical part of its own budget. And the residents of Gaza are the ones who suffer.”

sewage Gaza pic

 

BBC perpetuates themes from Operation Pillar of Cloud

On November 14th 2013 the BBC News website’s Middle East page included an item in its ‘Features & Analysis’ section titled “Israel-Gaza conflict: One year on“.

Op PoC 1 yr on

The bulk of the article is made up of short interviews with three people from the Gaza Strip and three people from southern Israel. In its introduction we see that, one year on, the BBC continues to promote some of the same themes as it did at the time of Operation Pillar of Cloud. The article opens:

“Thursday is the first anniversary of the start of the eight-day conflict between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip.”

Rather than some amorphous collection of unspecified “militants”, the conflict was of course actually between Israel and the terrorist organization in control of the Gaza Strip – Hamas – which is responsible for the acts of terror emanating from that territory whether they are carried out by its own armed militias or by others. The introduction continues:

“Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defence, which it says was aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza, with the killing of a Hamas military leader. Israel subsequently carried out hundreds of air strikes on the territory, while Hamas and other groups fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.”

This version of events fails to provide BBC audiences with any of the important context to the beginning of the operation. The use of the phrase “which it says was aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza” implies that the BBC is not convinced that the fact that between January 1st and November 13th 2012 (the day before the operation began), 797 missiles had been fired from the Gaza Strip at civilian targets in Israel – one hundred and twenty-three of them between November 10th and 13th alone – was reason enough for Israel to take action to stop those terror attacks.

The notion that the conflict began with the death of Ahmed Jabari is one which was heavily promoted by the BBC at the time, and it was enabled by the fact that the BBC’s reporting on terrorist attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip in the months prior to the operation was at best patchy and selective. No BBC reporter set foot on the ground in southern Israel until after the operation began, despite the proximity of its well-staffed Jerusalem Bureau to the region paralysed by six weeks of almost continual missile fire on civilian targets. 

The introduction continues:

“According to the United Nations, a total of 174 Palestinians were killed, at least 168 of them by Israeli military action, including 101 believed to have been civilians. Hamas’ health ministry says 185 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Two Israeli soldiers and four Israeli civilians were killed by rocket or mortar fire from Gaza, the Israeli authorities say.”

Notably, the casualty figures cited above from Hamas and OHCHR sources suggest that fewer combatants – and hence, more civilians – were killed during the conflict than do figures from other sources. Clearly, the Hamas claim that the casualties were “mostly civilians” is not credible information and it is inappropriate for the BBC to promote it without independent verification. 

It is evident even from this short introduction that the BBC did not carry out effective post-event examination of its coverage of Operation Pillar of Cloud and hence the same inaccurate themes are still being promoted one year on.

Related articles:

Examining another BBC theme from Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’

BBC still citing erroneous civilian/combatant casualty ratio

A tale of two BBC maps