Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

As readers no doubt recall, one of the many remarkable features of BBC coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was the corporation’s failure to report on Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields.

Not only did BBC journalists refrain from reporting adequately on the issue of Hamas’ placement of military assets in populated areas (with the BBC later claiming that it was “very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”) and the terror group’s instructions to civilians to stay put in such areas but some BBC correspondents even went out of their way to deny the phenomenon.

“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” Jeremy Bowen, July 22, 2014.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” Orla Guerin, August 13, 2014.

Complaints from members of the public on that issue were eventually dismissed by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in a tortured and self-contradicting ruling which adopted an interpretation of the term human shields that conflicts with existing definitions. The ESC advisor wrote:

“…there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas.” 

In contrast to that ‘radio silence’ on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza in 2014, recent BBC coverage of the multinational military operation to drive ISIS out from the Mosul area in Iraq which began on October 16th has included several reports concerning that terror group’s use of human shields.human-shields-1

Just three days after the operation commenced, the BBC News website published an article titled “Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields” which amplified statements made by one of the parties to the Combined Joint Task Force conducting the operation.

“The US has accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces move closer to the group’s stronghold in Mosul. […]

Asked by reporters in Washington if IS was using civilians as human shields, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said “absolutely”.

“They are being held there against their will,” he said on Tuesday. “We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.”

Residents reached by telephone by Reuters news agency said IS was preventing people fleeing the city and had directed some of them towards buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.”

The report did not include any indication of independent BBC confirmation of those claims.

October 21st saw the publication of an article headlined “Mosul battle: IS ‘may use civilians as human shields’” which amplified speculative statements made by a UN official.

“At least 200 Iraqi families have been made to leave their homes for Mosul by Islamic State (IS) fighters and could be used as human shields, the UN warns. […]

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was “a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” using an acronym for IS.”human-shields-2

On October 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Mosul Iraq battle: ‘Tens of thousands of civilians’ used as IS human shields” which again amplified UN statements.

“Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted tens of thousands of civilians from around the Iraqi city of Mosul to use as human shields, the UN says. […]

“Credible reports” suggested that civilians in sub-districts around Mosul had been forced from their homes and relocated inside the city since the offensive began earlier this month, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. […]

“Isil’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Ms Shamdasani added, using an acronym for IS.”

Once again, there was no indication of the BBC having independently confirmed those reports before their publication.

On November 7th visitors to the BBC News website and viewers of BBC television news saw a filmed report titled “Battle for Mosul: IS ‘herded human shields like sheep’“.

“The BBC’s Karen Allen spoke to residents of one town near Mosul who say they were used as “human shields” by retreating militants.”

So as we see, within less than a month since the launch of the military operation against ISIS in the Mosul region, BBC audiences were alerted to the terror group’s use of civilians as human shields on at least four occasions. The majority of those reports were based on information provided by outside sources and – in contrast to the 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, where the corporation did have journalists on the ground in the relevant areas – the BBC apparently did not find it necessary in this case to find “evidence” of its own before reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS. 

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

On August 12th 2006 the BBC News website reported that:

“The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Resolution 1701 calls for “a full cessation of hostilities”, and UN and Lebanese troops to replace Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were also provided with the text of that UNSC resolution which of course includes the following:1701 text art

“Emphasises the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;”

The resolution calls for:

  • “security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
  • full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State;
  • no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its Government;
  • no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;”

The same resolution expanded the mandate and capabilities of the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon and charged it, inter alia, with aiding the Lebanese government to prevent Hizballah’s rearmament.

While that UNSC resolution brought an end to the 2006 war, it has obviously failed to achieve its long-term goal of avoiding the next round of conflict by preventing Hizballah’s rearmament and entrenchment in southern Lebanon.

The BBC’s public purpose remit commits it to keeping its funding public “in touch with what is going on in the world” and to building “a global understanding of international issues” and so it would be reasonable to assume that audiences have been kept up to date on the issues pertaining to implementation of Resolution 1701 throughout the decade since it was adopted – but is that the case?

The ‘timeline’ in the BBC’s online profile of Lebanon (last updated in August 2016) makes no mention at all of the existence of UNSC Resolution 1701.

“2006 July-August – Israel attacks after Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers. Civilian casualties are high and the damage to civilian infrastructure wide-ranging in 34-day war. UN peacekeeping force deploys along the southern border, followed by Lebanese army troops for first time in decades.”

The profile itself includes a generalised reference to the disarming of militias without specifically recalling Resolution 1701 and without clarifying the current status of that ‘demand’. 

“The UN has demanded the dismantling of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Palestinian militias and the military wing of Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon.”

The BBC’s current profile of Hizballah (last updated in March 2016) tells audiences that:

“After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to strengthen its military wing, the Islamic Resistance. In some ways, its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, its considerable firepower used against Israel in the 2006 war.”

And:

“Hezbollah survived the [2006] war and emerged emboldened. Although it is has since upgraded and expanded its arsenal and recruited scores of new fighters, there has been no major flare-up along the border area, which is now patrolled by UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese army.”

No mention is made of Resolution 1701 and the obligation to disarm the terrorist organisation, prevent its rearmament and remove it from southern Lebanon in either of those profiles currently appearing on the BBC News website.

Immediately after the 2006 war, the BBC was able to tell its audiences that:

“UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hezbollah to disarm.” 

Nearly a year after the adoption of Resolution 1701, the BBC sent Martin Asser to southern Lebanon to ‘examine UNIFIL’s performance’. The caption to the main photograph illustrating his article informed audiences that “Unifil troops are meant to prevent Hezbollah bearing arms”.1701 Asser art

“After the July 2006 war, the [UNIFIL] force received new orders and thousands of reinforcements under the ceasefire resolution 1701, which also stipulated the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.

Previously the area had become the fiefdom of Hezbollah, the Shia Islamist and militant movement whose cross-border raid on 12 July – snatching two Israeli soldiers – was the catalyst for the 34-day conflict.

The post-conflict objective was for Unifil to help the Lebanese government extend its sovereignty to the southern frontier, so Hezbollah’s armed wing would no longer be free to menace nearby Israeli towns or troops patrolling the border.”

Asser added:

“Hezbollah fighters are masters of concealment and guerrilla warfare – their weapons were never on show before the war, so they are unlikely to be caught red-handed by Unifil or Lebanese troops now.”

An old profile of Hizballah from 2010 states:

“Despite two UN resolutions (1559 passed in 2004, and 1701, which halted the war) calling for disarming of militias in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military arm remains intact.”

In 2013 BBC audiences were told by the corporation’s man in Beirut, Jim Muir, that “Hezbollah has scrupulously observed the ceasefire that ended hostilities in 2006”. In 2015 Orla Guerin reported from south Lebanon but failed to use the opportunity provided by a rare BBC visit to that area to inform audiences of Hizballah’s use of civilian villages to store weapons and as sites from which to launch attacks against Israel.

The BBC has also consistently avoided or downplayed the topic of Iranian breaches of UNSC Resolution 1701 in the form of its transfer of arms to Hizballah. In 2013 BBC audiences heard Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen playing dumb (and some Hizballah spin) on the issue of Syrian transfers of weapons to the terrorist organisation. 

Already in 2007 – just over a year after the war and the resolution which brought it to an end – the UN admitted that Hizballah had “rebuilt and even increased its military capacity” and since then its weapons stocks have vastly increased and diversified. The BBC is of course aware of that fact – as indicated in an article by BBC Monitoring’s Lamia Estatie published on July 11th 2016 under the headline “Hezbollah: Five ways group has changed since 2006 Israel war“.1701 Estatie art

“Its weapons arsenal grew from from [sic] 33,000 rockets and missiles before the 2006 war to an estimated 150,000. Similarly, it swelled from a few thousand members in 2006 to an estimated 20,000-plus.

After 2011, Hezbollah’s military support for the Iran-backed Syrian government – its weapons supply line – gave its fighters considerable combat experience and exposure to Russian military planning.”

No mention of UNSC Resolution 1701 appears in that report either.

It is apparent that as the decade since the UNSC’s adoption of 1701 progressed, BBC audiences saw less coverage of the topic of the existence of the resolution itself and the fact that its terms have been serially violated. Given the obligations to its funding public laid out in the public purposes remit, it is difficult to see how the BBC can justify that pattern of reporting.

Related Articles:

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part one

Why BBC audiences won’t understand the next Israel-Hizballah conflict – part two

 

BBC Trust: ‘it ain’t what we say; it’s what we meant to say that matters’

h/t Dr CL

The BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s latest publication includes a section which will be of interest to anyone contemplating allocating some of their precious time to making a complaint to the BBC.

On page 75 of that document we learn that the BBC dismissed a complaint concerning an inaccurate statement made by a BBC reporter on the grounds that it wasn’t what she meant to say.

“The complaint concerned the accuracy of a sentence in a news item about an upsurge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Speaking about Jerusalem’s Old City and over general pictures from the Old City showing Muslims and Jews going about their day, the correspondent said:

 “It’s home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, sacred to Muslims and Jews.””

That report by Orla Guerin from October 9th 2015 can be found here.Guerin filmed 9 10

The statement is obviously inaccurate but the BBC’s response to the complaint was as follows:

“BBC Audience Services raised the complainant’s concern with BBC News:

“They note your points and accept that [the reporter] shouldn’t have said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was sacred to both Jews and Muslims. She meant to say the compound (which includes the Mosque and the Dome of the Rock).” Audience Services said they had nothing further to add and that they did not believe the complaint had raised an issue that justified further investigation.”

Apparently BBC Audience Services also did not see the need for a correction to be made. Unhappy with that response, the complainant pursued the issue.

“The complainant appealed to the BBC Trust reiterating the points he had made. He rejected the explanation given by BBC News, asserting that even as amended it was wrong:

“The … response that [the correspondent] intended to say Al Aqsa Compound is unacceptable. Accuracy demands the description/name used should have been that historically used for many hundreds of years which is extensively documented, as Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Sharif).”

He said the description the correspondent used was the one favoured by the PLO and was evidence of bias.”

Readers will no doubt recall that in November 2014 the PLO put out a ‘media advisory’ document (since removed from its website) instructing foreign journalists to use the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” instead of what was described as the “inaccurate term” Temple Mount. 

The BBC Trust Adviser advised against the complainant’s request for a review on the following grounds:

“The Adviser took the following factors into account:

  • the BBC said that the reporter had used the wrong wording: it was a slip of the tongue and not intentional
  • this was a passing reference to one of the flashpoints in the ongoing conflict
  • the majority of the report concentrated on a number of incidents – which had occurred elsewhere in Jerusalem and the occupied territories – and speculated that “lone wolf” stabbings of Jewish civilians might be the beginning of a third intifada

The Adviser reached her decision for the following reasons:

  • whilst the statement, that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred to Jews, was incorrect, the audience would not have taken the statement literally and would have been unlikely to conclude that a mosque was sacred to Jews
  • the main point of the reporter’s reference here was to communicate to the audience that the area was sacred to both Judaism and Islam
  • this was achieved using unambiguous language which stated simply that it was considered sacred to both religions: neither view was favoured over the other, they were both given equal weight
  • the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated very close to, and on the same raised platform as, the Dome of the Rock (under which the ruins of the two Jewish temples are assumed to be buried – although there was ongoing debate about this) [emphasis added]
  • the audience would not have expected nor needed more details on this point in order to reach an informed understanding about the main focus of the programme
  • the audience were not therefore likely to have been misled on a material fact.”

One can only hope that the bolded statement above does not suggest that the BBC subscribes to or accommodates the narrative of ‘Temple denial’ propagated by some PA officials and others.

The complainant then appealed that decision by the Adviser and an ESC panel subsequently rejected his appeal.

“Trustees agreed that if they took this matter on appeal they were not likely to uphold a breach of the Editorial Guidelines given that:

  • the BBC had said it was the wrong wording, i.e. that it was inaccurate
  • an apology was given. The BBC had said “we’re sorry for this error”
  • the matter had been resolved. […]

Trustees decided not to take the appeal, on the basis that it would not be appropriate, proportionate or cost-effective since there was no reasonable prospect of the appeal succeeding.”

Surely the most cost-effective way of dealing this complaint would have been for the BBC to issue a prompt correction nine months ago when the clearly inaccurate statement was made.  Nevertheless, the valuable lesson we learn from this case is that what a BBC journalist later claims to have meant to have said – but didn’t – is grounds for the rejection of a straightforward complaint concerning an obviously inaccurate statement.

Is it really any wonder that members of the public find the BBC complaints system so ‘through the looking glass’ frustrating?

Related Articles:

Orla Guerin tells BBC audiences Al Aqsa Mosque ‘sacred to Jews’

Disturbing themes in BBC coverage of the wave of terror in Israel

The Temple, the Times and the BDS Supporter (CAMERA) 

Behind the BBC’s ‘lone wolf’ portrayal of terrorism in Israel

Over the past few weeks BBC audiences have been repeatedly told that the current wave of terrorism in Israel is characterized by “lone wolf attacks”. For example:

“This amateur video was filmed in the Old City last Saturday. The distant screams are from an Israeli woman whose husband had just been killed in a lone wolf knife attack.” (Orla Guerin, BBC television news, October 9th 2015)

“It is proving a struggle to prevent the sporadic lone wolf attacks by young Palestinians. These have been motivated by deep anger over access to al-Aqsa Mosque and the current political situation. There is a danger that a heavy-handed Israeli police response could exacerbate the situation.” (Yolande Knell, BBC News website, October 9th 2015)

“Israelis have been targeted in a growing number of apparent lone-wolf attacks.” (BBC News website, October 22nd 2015)lone wolf attacks

That description conceals the links of some of the perpetrators of recent attacks to terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It also ignores the fact that whilst some of the individual terrorists may indeed have operated outside an organised command structure, they did not act within a vacuum.

A very interesting essay titled “What Do Palestinians Want?” by Daniel Polisar at Mosaic magazine provides insight into the backdrop to the current wave of terror.

“Absent almost entirely from this discussion has been any attempt to understand the perspective of everyday Palestinians. Yet it is precisely the climate of public opinion that shapes and in turn is shaped by the declarations of Palestinian leaders, and that creates the atmosphere in which young people choose whether to wake up in the morning, pull a knife from the family kitchen, and go out in search of martyrdom. Whether commentators are ignoring the views of mainstream Palestinians out of a mistaken belief that public opinion does not matter in dictatorships, or out of a dismissive sense that they are powerless pawns whose fate is decided by their leaders, Israel, or regional and world powers, the omission is both patronizing and likely to lead to significant misunderstandings of what is happening. In this essay I aim to fill the lacuna by addressing what Palestinians think both about violence against Israelis and about the core issues that supply its context and justification. […]

Though they may be lone wolves in the technical sense of not belonging to an organizational command structure, they are anything but alone within their communities. To the contrary, they are surrounded by people who share many of their core beliefs, who justify the attacks they are carrying out, who see their actions as potentially valuable in furthering Palestinian goals, and who can be counted on to venerate them and their families.”

The full essay – which addresses issues conscientiously and consistently avoided by BBC correspondents confined to reporting within a very specific narrative – can be found here.  

 

 

BBC response to complaint about report criticized by MP and former BBC chair

As readers will recall, a BBC News report by Orla Guerin broadcast on October 11th was the subject of criticism from Sir Eric Pickles MP and from the BBC’s former chairman, Lord Grade, prompting reports in the mainstream media in the UK and in Israel.Guerin filmed 11 10

That same report by Orla Guerin was also the topic of a complaint submitted to the BBC by a member of the public. Here is the response received.

“Orla Guerin’s report looked at the increasing violence from both sides of the conflict. During the live introduction to her report from Jerusalem she mentioned recent Palestinian casualties, but also pointed to the stabbing of three Israelis in the city of Hadera [the attack was actually near Gan Shmuel – Ed.]. Orla emphasised that this was the third such attack on Israelis that weekend.

While reporting on the Israeli Defense Forces’ strike in Gaza, Orla Guerin reflected Israel’s position that the IDF were targeting a weapons facility following a rocket attack into southern Israel. The report also went on to mention Israel’s security forces stopping a potential attack on the road to Jerusalem earlier that day. We believe we reported clearly on the threat of violence faced by Israelis on an increasingly regular basis. 

Orla Guerin then spoke to the father of Muhannad Halabi, the Palestinian who was shot dead by Israeli security forces after he attacked an Israeli couple in the Old City in Jerusalem the previous weekend. She clearly described Halabi as a “Palestinian law student, turned killer”. She went on to describe the attack, where Halabi stabbed an Israeli couple, killing the husband and a rabbi who intervened. Viewers were given a clear account of what Muhannad Halabi had done.

BBC News tries to report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an accurate and duly impartial manner. Sometimes this means we can’t always reflect the full extent of the complexities of the conflict during one standalone report. We try to tell the story of the conflict as experienced by both sides, across programmes and bulletins and over time.Guerin filmed 9 10

With this in mind, you may not be aware of Orla Guerin’s report during the News at Ten two day before the report being discussed here was shown. This report showed video footage of Muhannad Halabi’s attack on the Israeli couple in the Old City. Orla also spoke to the injured wife of the man killed by Muhannad Halabi. From her hospital bed, Odel Bennet spoke of her fear and pain, and of the poor treatment she endured by Palestinian passers-by while she lay wounded on the street after the attack.

BBC News has reported extensively on the escalation in violence in recent weeks and we’ve heard from those affected from both sides of the conflict. We feel we have allowed our audience to make up their own minds, but we’re sorry to read you felt this wasn’t the case on this occasion. We’ve raised your complaint with senior editorial staff at BBC News and we would like to assure you that your feedback is very important to us.”

The earlier report by Guerin cited in this response (in which she told BBC audiences that al Aqsa Mosque is “sacred to Jews” and that stabbing attacks on Israelis are “new”) was discussed here.  

One does hope that Sir Eric Pickles and Lord Grade will receive a more substantive response.

BBC coverage of wave of terror in Israel criticised by its former chairman

As noted here previously, the BBC’s coverage of the current wave of terrorism in Israel has already come under criticism from Sir Eric Pickles. On Friday, a former BBC chairman added his voice to the critique.

“Former Chairman of the BBC, Lord Grade of Yarmouth CBE, has expressed concern about the BBC’s coverage of the recent violence in Israel and the West Bank, in a letter to the organisations’ Director of News and Current Affairs, James Harding.

In his complaint, Lord Grade said that the BBC coverage was at times misleading and failed to provide a wider context of what is an “undoubtedly complex issue”.

Lord Grade criticised the BBC’s inability “to fulfil its obligation to viewers” by not showing viewers examples of Palestinian Authority officials praising the attacks and calling for more. The former BBC Chairman underlined that Palestinian incitement, “has played an undeniable part in stoking tension recently and is an important part of the story”.

The complaint was directed at a report by Orla Guerin on Sunday October 11th, about the recent wave of attacks across Israel.”

That report from Orla Guerin was discussed here and here.

Lord Grade noted:PIJ flags Halabi 2

“Additionally, it was improper of the correspondent to claim that “there’s no sign of involvement by militant groups”, before immediately showing footage of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) banners at the home of a 19 year-old terrorist who carried out a deadly knife attack at Lions Gate in Jerusalem on 3rd October. PIJ is a well-known Palestinian terror organisation and it has since claimed responsibility for the attack and praised by Hamas, another internationally proscribed terror organisation. This directly misleads viewers”.

He added:

“Regrettably, this is not the first time the standard of reporting and impartiality has been unsatisfactory in recent weeks. On Saturday 3rd October, I was disappointed to see the BBC News website publish a misleading and counter-factual headline: ‘Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem attacks kills two’. I note reports that this headline underwent four revisions following public criticism”.

The report to which Lord Grade refers was discussed here and here.

The parts of a terrorist’s story censored by the BBC’s Orla Guerin

As readers will recall, a filmed report by Orla Guerin which appeared on BBC television news programmes on October 11th included a sympathetic interview with the father of the terrorist who perpetrated the attack at Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem on October 3rd in which two Israelis were killed and two more wounded. The attack was later claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and praised by Hamas, although that part of the story was absent from the BBC report.

In that report, Guerin told viewers:

“This is the family home of Muhannad Halabi – a Palestinian law student turned killer. Last weekend the 19 year-old stabbed an Israeli couple and a rabbi who intervened. His father, Shafik, is grief-stricken but unapologetic.

‘In the beginning, I felt pain’ he says. ‘No-one wants to lose a son, but then I saw people backing what he did. Now I have mixed feelings; pride and sorrow at not seeing him anymore.'”

Just before that segment of the report, Guerin had told viewers that “anger and frustration are driving ordinary people to carry out attacks” and that “there’s no sign of involvement by militant groups”.

Via MEMRI we learn that Orla Guerin was not the only one to pay a visit to the Halabi family.

“A delegation of Fatah officials paid a condolence visit to the family of Muhannad Al-Halabi, who stabbed two Jews to death on October 4 [3 – Ed], 2015. The delegation included Fatah Central Committee members ‘Azzam Al-Ahmad, a senior PA official close to PA President ‘Abbas, as well as Nabil Sha’ath, Mahmoud Al-‘Aloul and Jamal Al-Muhsin; Fatah spokesman Ahmad ‘Assaf; Fatah’s secretary in Ramallah Muwaffaq Sahwil; assistance commissioner of recruitment ‘Abd Al-Mun’im Wahdan; Hassan Faraj, secretary-general of Fatah’s Shabiba youth movement; Mustafa ‘Abd Al-Hadi, member of Fatah’s leadership in Ramallah and Al-Bira, and others. During the visit, ‘Azzam Al-Ahmad said on behalf of the Fatah: “The Palestinian people will continue to defend itself against aggression and it is very determined to struggle, no matter what the cost, until the occupation ends.”

The Palestinian Bar Association, whose heads are Fatah members and which receives funds from the E.U., announced it would award an honorary law degree to “the martyred hero Muhannad Al-Halabi,” who had been studying law. The association also decided to hold its next conference in honor of Al-Halabi.”

Orla Guerin obviously did not consider that BBC audiences needed to know about those two examples of PA glorification of terrorism. 

Palestinian Media Watch brings us the Halabi family’s views of their son’s actions – when not speaking to the Western media.

Readers will note the proliferation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad flags at Halabi’s funeral procession.

The BBC has consistently tried to frame the current wave of terror in Israel as “protests” and “lone-wolf” violence born out of “anger and frustration” at the lack of political process. As the material above demonstrates, there is considerably more to the story than that, but all information concerning incitement and glorification of terrorism within Palestinian society is being meticulously censored from the view of BBC audiences. 

BBC’s Guerin portrays wave of terror in Israel as ‘DIY unrest’

h/t @SussexFriends

Viewers of BBC television news on October 11th saw yet another report from Orla Guerin on the topic of the current wave of terrorism in Israel. A similar but shorter version of that report also appeared on the BBC News website on the same day under the title “Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza“, with its synopsis promoting equivalence between Israeli victims of terrorism and Palestinians mostly killed whilst carrying out terror attacks or engaging in violent rioting.Guerin filmed 11 10

“Escalating violence has claimed the lives of four Israelis and 23 Palestinians in a two week period.”

That same equivalence was seen in news presenter Mishal Husain’s introduction to Guerin’s report.

Mishal Husain: “A Palestinian woman and her two year-old daughter have been killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip following Palestinian rocket attacks. Escalating violence over the last fortnight has claimed the lives of four Israelis and at least twenty Palestinians. Our Middle East correspondent Orla Guerin sent this report.

Orla Guerin: “Dawn in Gaza. A new day of conflict. This was what was left after an Israeli airstrike flattened a house. A pregnant mother died here with her two year-old daughter. Israel says it was targeting weapons facilities after militants fired two rockets.”

Guerin provides no source or evidence of independent verification for her claim that “an Israeli airstrike flattened the house”. The BBC’s Rushdi Abualouf who – unlike Guerin – is located in the Gaza Strip, had already Tweeted a different version of events and according to other media outlets, the house collapsed due to what appears to be a secondary explosion.  

“Gaza officials said a woman, 30, and her two-year-old daughter were killed when an explosion from a targeted Hamas site caused the collapse of a nearby home. Three others, including a 15-year-old youth, were wounded, according to Reuters.

The collapsed building was located in the Zeitoun neighborhood in the northern Strip, the Walla news site reported.” [emphasis added]

Predictably, Orla Guerin shows no interest in helping viewers understand why a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility was located in a residential area.

Given that three years ago the BBC inaccurately reported an explosion in a house in the same neighbourhood  in which a woman and small child were killed as having been caused by an Israeli airstrike, one might have expected more caution and fact checking to be in evidence before Orla Guerin promoted her version of this event.

Guerin then goes on to give the following description of an incident which took place near Ma’ale Adumim on the morning of October 11th.

“And in the West Bank Israeli police say they stopped an attacker on the road to Jerusalem. When the Palestinian woman was pulled over, they say, she detonated an explosive device. Not a bomb – but a gas canister.”

According to official statements reported by the Times of Israel, the gas canister did not in fact explode as Guerin claims.

“The Shin Bet said in a statement that around 7 a.m. a traffic police officer noticed that the woman was driving in the public transportation lane while tailgating a police vehicle.

Police said officers noticed a suspicious vehicle driven by a woman heading toward a checkpoint on the way to Jerusalem and signaled to her to stop. The woman then yelled “Allahu Akbar” (God is most great) and set off the explosive detonator in her car, a police statement said. A gas canister in her car did not explode, however.

Handwritten slips of paper voicing support for “Palestinian martyrs” were found on her person, the Shin Bet said. […]

The car was bearing Israeli, rather than Palestinian, license plates. Police found the gas canister in the vehicle and said that the woman had intended to carry out a bombing in Jerusalem.”

Guerin then continues:

“Among Palestinians, living under Israeli occupation, there’s plenty of support for the recent outbreak of DIY unrest – including a spate of stabbings. Palestinians say anger and frustration are driving ordinary people to carry out attacks. What’s striking is that there’s no sign of involvement by militant groups. The attacks are being carried out by individuals. It’s a low-tech approach and it’s catching. [emphasis added]

Notably, the footage shown immediately after Guerin has told audiences that “there’s no sign of involvement by militant groups” shows Palestinian Islamic Jihad banners at the home of the terrorist who carried out the October 3rd attack at Lions Gate in Jerusalem. That attack was later claimed by the PIJ and praised by Hamas.

PIJ flags Halabi 2

Following a sympathetic interview with the terrorist’s father and carefully selected footage from Hebron which edits out all evidence of violent rioting, Guerin goes on to say:

“In Nablus soldiers used live rounds against stone-throwers. Elsewhere, another protester was buried. Every death increases the rage and risks unleashing a wider conflict.”

The flags of the terrorist organisations Hamas and the PFLP are seen in the footage shown as Guerin speaks, although she does not clarify that fact to viewers.

Guerin’s narrative of “DIY unrest” and “low-tech” terror attacks fuelled by “anger and frustration”, together with her categorical statement denying “involvement by militant groups” obviously does not meet the BBC’s obligation to “enhance […] audiences’ awareness and understanding of international issues”.

In all of the BBC’s reporting on the current wave of terrorism in Israel, the issue of the quotidian incitement on social media, in mosques, from Hamas, from Fatah and from the Palestinian Authority has been completely ignored. There is, of course, nothing surprising about that: since long before the latest surge in violence began, the BBC has habitually avoided the issues of Palestinian incitement, glorification of terrorism and indoctrination of Palestinian children.

Although those issues are a crucial part of the story the BBC claims to be telling with reports such as this one from Orla Guerin, they do not fit into the narrative adopted and promoted by the BBC.  Hence, even when a Palestinian Islamic Jihad banner is flying above her head, Orla Guerin ignores it. The trouble is that she would have BBC audiences ignore it too.

 

 

Orla Guerin tells BBC audiences Al Aqsa Mosque ‘sacred to Jews’

Viewers of BBC television news programmes on the evening of October 9th saw a report by Orla Guerin – usually the corporation’s correspondent in Cairo. The report was also posted on the BBC News website under the title “Fears of ‘third intifada’ in Middle East“.Guerin filmed 9 10

Whilst Israel is of course in the Middle East, it is not the Middle East. That overly dramatic and exaggerated style – characteristic of Guerin’s reporting – continues in the introduction to the report, with audiences receiving clear early signposting telling them which side they should view as the underdog, violent rioters portrayed as “protesters” and Ramallah – under PA rule for two decades – presented as “occupied”.

“Venting their anger on the streets today in the Israeli occupied West Bank. In Ramallah; soldiers doing battle against protesters with slingshots. It’s a familiar scene but is another generation about to replay the bloodshed of the past?” [emphasis added]

Guerin continues:

“Well the confrontation here is escalating. There are Palestinian stone-throwers on this side, Israeli security forces on the other. Rubber bullets have been used and there have been injuries [sic] taken away. The fear is that clashes like this could spread. Some here already calling this the third Intifada – or uprising. Israeli security officials are playing that down but the police are on alert, especially in Jerusalem’s Old City. It’s home to the Al Aqsa Mosque; sacred to Muslims and Jews. Tensions over the shrine have fuelled the latest unrest and unleashed a new danger for Israelis: stabbing attacks.” [emphasis added]

Either veteran reporter Orla Guerin is astoundingly under-informed or – like her colleague Nawal Assad – she has elected to deliberately amplify popular propaganda according to which “Palestinian Muslims consider all that compound [Temple Mount] to be the Al Aqsa Mosque”. Either way, a correction of the inaccuracy promoted by Guerin is clearly necessary. 

Guerin likewise misleads audiences with the inaccurate claim that stabbing attacks on Israelis are “new”. Perhaps if the BBC had reported more than just 0.81% of the terror attacks which took place in the first eight months of this year, its correspondents would be aware of the fact that sixteen stabbing attacks took place between January and August 2015.

Guerin’s report continues with portrayal of one of the fatal attacks in the current wave of terror as a “lone wolf knife attack”:

“This amateur video was filmed in the Old City last Saturday. The distant screams are from an Israeli woman whose husband had just been killed in a lone wolf knife attack. We met Adele Bennett in hospital, recovering from thirteen stab wounds. Her young son, Natan, being treated alongside her. She says Palestinian bystanders ignored her desperate cries.”

Audiences are not told that the two year-old is being treated because he too was wounded in the same terror attack. 

Voiceover: “I searched for some humanity. I begged for help. I told them please take the children. I was met with stares of hatred. They threw things at me, spat in my face and shouted at me to die.”

Guerin continues with unchallenged amplification of falsehoods concerning an incident in which a boy was accidentally killed during violent rioting near Bethlehem:

“A short distance away in Bethlehem a Palestinian mother mourns her son. Abdel Rahman Abdullah who was thirteen was killed on Monday by Israeli troops. His mother, Delal, being comforted by neighbours, denies there were clashes at the time. She says a sniper shot her son through the heart. She wants another uprising.

Voiceover: I hope there will be a third Intifada so we can have freedom. The injustice must stop. We are tired and our children are tired. Every day someone gets killed. At night my daughter is calling for her brother.”

Guerin refrains from clarifying to audiences that Bethlehem has been under sole Palestinian Authority control since 1995 and she next fails to provide audiences with adequate context concerning the violent rioting at the border fence near Nahal Oz by some 200 Gaza Strip residents affiliated – according to Arab media outlets – with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“But there were more new dead in Gaza today where six Palestinians were killed in clashes.”

Guerin’s closing remarks steer audiences towards the inaccurate view that the current wave of terror is the result of frustration resulting from the failure of the political process.

“The unrest is spreading – carried forward by those tired of waiting for a Palestinian state. Israel’s president says both sides are sitting on a volcano.”

Neither the Palestinian Islamic Jihad nor Hamas – which has spent months trying to augment its terror activities in PA ruled areas – are interested in a negotiated two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Guerin’s framing of the background to this latest wave of terror (of course never named as such by the BBC) is therefore as misleading to audiences as her amplification of propaganda and falsehoods and her portrayals of violent rioters as underdog “protesters” and terrorists inspired by serial incitement as “lone wolves”. 

 

European court knocks the bottom out of BBC portrayal of Gaza Strip as ‘occupied’

Back in August 2014, the BBC’s Orla Guerin closed a filmed report from the Gaza Strip with the following words:Guerin filmed Hamas 5 8

“Fishermen were back on the water today, grasping at normal life. Palestinians are living and dying under Israel’s military occupation. Many now see Hamas as their only hope of escape.” [emphasis added]

As was pointed out here at the time:

“There is, of course, no Israeli “military occupation” of the Gaza Strip and has not been for nine years. The legal definition of military occupation is as follows:

“Art. 42. Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.
The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.”

As Col. (Ret.) Pnina Sharvit Baruch explains:

“In order for effective control to exist, the foreign army must be able to impose its will on the local population whenever it so chooses while the sovereign government is unable to exercise its authority in the territory due to the effective control of the foreign army. Even according to this more flexible approach, fulfilling “effective control” usually requires the occupier to have forces present on the ground or at least to have the ability to send, within a reasonable time, forces into the area to exercise the authority therein.””

Guerin’s claim is however not a one-off aberration: examples of portrayals of the Gaza Strip as being under ‘occupation’ despite the 2005 Israeli disengagement can be found in other BBC content still available on the internet – for example here and here.

Now Dr Marko Milanovic of the University of Nottingham School of Law brings us some interesting news:

“… the Grand Chamber of  the European Court of Human Rights [….] has (implicitly!) decided that Israel is not the occupying power in Gaza. How so, you ask?”

Dr Milanovic’s explanation can be found here