BBC stays mum on new PA restrictions on foreign journalists

Almost a week after their announcement, there has so far been no report published by the BBC regarding the new restrictions on foreign journalists introduced by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate.

Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

“Foreign journalists who ignore the latest restriction face arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces, said Jihad Qawassmeh, member of the Palestinian Journalist’s’ Syndicate.

He warned that any Palestinian journalist who helps international media representatives enter the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories without permission would face punitive measures.” […]

“The Palestinian Authority, which has often displayed a large degree of intolerance toward journalists who refuse to serve as a mouthpiece for its leaders, wants to work only with sympathetic reporters.

The timing of the ban is no coincidence. It came in the aftermath of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ramallah and Bethlehem, where Palestinian protesters set fire to and trampled on his pictures. The protests seriously embarrassed the Palestinian Authority, especially because they underscored the large gap between its leaders and the street.”

As anyone who has read Stephanie Gutmann’sThe Other War” (a riveting account of the reality behind the foreign media’s reporting of the Second Intifada) will be aware, information coming out of the PA-controlled territories via foreign correspondents already passes through a series of ‘sieves’ including fixers and local editors before it reaches the general public. This new dictate by the PA will clearly exacerbate the filtering of the news which reaches audiences worldwide. 

Khaled Abu Toameh adds:

“Particularly disturbing is that representatives of the international media have not protested against the Palestinian Authority’s threat to restrict the journalists’ work and even arrest them. One can only imagine the response of the international media had the Israeli authorities issued a similar ban or threat.

It also remains to be seen whether human rights organizations and groups that claim to defend freedom of press will react.

Once the ban goes into effect, officials of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information will find themselves serving as censors and editors of all news items concerning the Palestinians. Unless, of course, foreign journalists raise their voices and insist on their right to write their own stories from Ramallah.”

So far at least, the BBC appears to be avoiding informing its audiences of these new measures which will affect both the accuracy and impartiality of its reporting. Similarly, the Foreign Press Association – chaired by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Paul Danahar – has yet to release a statement on the subject.

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

In Hebrew, the expression ‘the Shin Gimmel syndrome’ is used to describe a situation in which the public blame for an operational failure is placed upon the lowest ranking soldier – the one guarding the front gate – so that high-ranking officers can avoid having to take the responsibility and its consequences. Needless to say, the use of the ‘Shin Gimmel’ as a scapegoat is a symptom of a serious failure of leadership. 

That is precisely what the BBC has done in its belated attempt to stave off criticism of its handling of the Omar Masharawi story: it has sent Jon Donnison – the lowest ranking journalist involved in this story – to do damage control.

It has not allocated that task to Donnison’s boss at the Jerusalem Bureau, Paul Danahar, who Tweeted unverified claims that an Israeli attack had killed Omar Masharawi. Nor has the job been given to Danahar’s boss, Jeremy Bowen, whose position as Middle East Editor was created especially in order to avoid precisely such situations in the wake of previous criticisms of the BBC’s record of accuracy and impartiality when reporting on Israel. Neither was the Head of News or anyone else further up the chain of command required to provide explanations for the BBC failure. Instead, lowly Donnison was sent to take the rap.

Is it any wonder then that Donnison gives the impression of being distinctly out of his depth as he flails about trying to make passable-sounding excuses for the BBC’s failures? 

Donnison 11 3 Masharawi

Donnison’s article – entitled “UN disputes Gaza strike on BBC man’s house” – opens with the same picture of Jihad Masharawi carrying his son’s body which the BBC touted so extensively at the time. This time, however, the caption is particularly loaded. [emphasis added]

“Jehad Mashhrawi’s 11-month-old son Omar was killed in the attack on his house in Gaza”

In other words, the BBC wants to place in readers’ minds from the very beginning the idea that there was a deliberate attack on Masharawi’s house, rather than an accident. 

Donnison begins:

“The son of a BBC journalist and two relatives killed in last November’s war in Gaza may have been hit by a misfired Palestinian rocket, a UN agency says.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said its conclusions were based on a visit to the site a month after the attack.”

All the information in the first five paragraphs of Donnison’s article is for some reason repeated further on into the article and so we later find the following statements, which clearly intend to cast doubts upon the UN findings, not least because of the passage of time:

“UN officials visited the house four weeks after the strike.

They said they did not carry out a forensic investigation, but said their team did not think the damage was consistent with an Israeli air strike.

However, the UN said it could not “unequivocally conclude” it was a misfired Palestinian rocket.

A UN official said it was also possible the house was hit by a secondary explosion after an Israeli air strike on Palestinian weapons stores.”

The UN’s report states:

“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.”

A footnote adds that the UN investigated the incident itself and the UN has confirmed that the above passage in its report indeed relates to the incident at the Masharawi home. 

Donnison’s “UN official” quote above also appears in an AP report which includes further information which Donnison elected not to include in his piece:

“Matthias Behnke, head of OHCHR office for the Palestinian territories, cautioned he couldn’t “unequivocally conclude” that the death was caused by an errantly fired Palestinian rocket. He said information gathered from eyewitnesses led them to report that “it appeared to be attributable to a Palestinian rocket.”

He said Palestinian militants were firing rockets at Israel not far from the al-Masharawi home. Behnke said the area was targeted by Israeli airstrikes, but the salvo that hit the al-Masharawi home was “markedly different.”

He said there was no significant damage to the house, unusual for an Israeli strike. He said witnesses reported that a fireball struck the roof of the house, suggesting it was a part of a homemade rocket. Behnke said the type of injuries sustained by al-Masharawi family members were consistent with rocket shrapnel.”

Donnison’s efforts to pick holes in the UN findings are a deliberate attempt to distract readers from the essential point. As BBC Watch noted last November:

“Whether or not Jihad Masharawi’s house was hit by a short-falling terrorist rocket, by shrapnel from secondary explosions of Fajr 5 missiles deliberately hidden by Hamas in built-up residential areas or whether an errant IDF shell targeting those rocket launching sites and weapons storage facilities caused that accident, we may never know.”

That essential point – which Donnison does his level best to bury – is that there was no solid evidence at the time that the Masharawi house has been hit in an Israeli air-strike and indeed, several other possibilities (as now confirmed by the UN) existed. The BBC, however, not only dismissed those other possibilities – to which it had been alerted by bloggers – but exclusively and unquestioningly promoted the notion of Israel’s responsibility for the infant’s death with no factual evidence to back up that assertion. 

Donnison continues:

“At the time, human rights groups blamed the deaths on an Israeli air strike.”

He later adds:

“The family, and human rights groups, said that the house was hit in an Israeli attack.”

Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas addresses the PCHR 2006 conference

Donnison does not name the “human rights groups” he cites, but it can safely be assumed that he is referring to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) which claimed on November 15th – the day after the incident – without providing any concrete evidence whatsoever, that:

“ Israeli warplane fired a missile at a house belonging to Ali Nemer al-Masharawi in al-Zaytoun neighborhood in the east of Gaza City.  Two members of the family (a woman and a toddler) were killed: Hiba Aadel Fadel al-Masharawi, 19, and Omar Jihad al-Masharawi, 11 months.”

Far from being an objective “human rights group”, the PCHR uses the mantle of human rights in its political campaign against Israel and has a long history of unreliability. This is certainly not the first time that Jon Donnison has unquestioningly promoted information from the PCHR – apparently being unable to distinguish between a genuine human rights organization and a Hamas accessory. 

Donnison continues his attempt to bring the reader back round to believing the original BBC claims of Israeli culpability by writing:

“The Israeli military says it never denied carrying out the strike because it was not clear what had happened.”

He later adds:

“The Israeli military made no comment at the time of the incident but never denied carrying out the strike.

Privately, military officials briefed journalists that they had been targeting a militant who was in the building.”

If that were true, and if Donnison was aware of the presence of a terrorist in the building, then the next question must be why no reference was ever made to that in any of the BBC’s reports on the subject – including his own. 

Donnison continues:

“The UN says 33 other Palestinian children died in Israeli attacks during the conflict.”

Towards the end of the article, and contradicting his own use of the words “33 other”, he adds:

“The UN report concluded that at least 169 Palestinians were killed by Israeli attacks during the offensive.

It said more than 100 were civilians, including 33 children and 13 women. The report said six Israelis were killed by Palestinians attacks, including four civilians.”

As Elder of Ziyon has pointed out, the UN report – which apparently suddenly gains renewed credibility in Donnison’s eyes when it can be used against Israel – actually says:

“During the crisis, 174 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. At least 168 of them were killed by Israeli military action, of whom 101 are believed to be civilians, including 33 children and 13 women.” [emphasis added] 

As we have previously pointed out here, other reports on the casualty figures in the Gaza Strip during Operation Pillar of Cloud indicate that as many as 60% belonged to terrorist organisations. 

Further on in his article Donnison states:

“Now, though, the United Nations says the house may have been hit by a Palestinian rocket that fell short.

This is despite the fact that the Israeli military had reported no rockets being fired out of Gaza so soon after the start of the conflict.”

However, the above claim of “no rockets” is contradicted by Donnison himself in his From our own Correspondent report of November 24th:

“But at that time, so soon after the launch of Israel’s operation, Israel’s military says mortars had been launched from Gaza, but very few rockets.” [emphasis added]

As BBC Watch remarked at the time, and as the UN official quoted by AP above confirms:

“Regarding Donnison’s claim of mortars, “but very few rockets” having been fired at the time (BBC Watch has seen no such statement by the IDF, but would be delighted if Donnison could produce it), as is pointed out here, “very few rockets” does not mean no rockets.”

Under the curious subheading “Rubbish”, Donnison goes on to inform readers that:

Jihad Masharawi at his brother’s funeral

“Jehad Mashhrawi dismissed the UN findings as “rubbish”.

He said nobody from the United Nations had spoken to him, and said Palestinian militant groups would usually apologise to the family if they had been responsible.”

Apparently Donnison seems to think that this anecdote adds some kind of back-up to his story, perhaps forgetting that his own organization had (probably unwittingly) broadcast footage of Jihad Masharawi’s brother being buried in a Hamas flag. 

Donnison also states that:

“A photo of BBC video editor Jehad Mashhrawi cradling the corpse of his baby son Omar became one of the iconic images of November’s short war.”

It certainly did, but only because the BBC deliberately and energetically promoted the story far and wide, despite having no concrete evidence whatsoever to back up its claims that Israel was responsible for Omar’s death. 

The disturbing fact is that the BBC’s only response to the findings of the UN report has been to belatedly send Jon Donnison out to offer up a badly written collection of excuses and insinuations published five days later on the Middle East page of its website, whilst Donnison’s original article remains intact on that same website’s ‘Magazine’ page with no correction and no link to his article on the UN report. 

Magazine 12 3

Donnison’s cringe-worthy attempt at damage control does nothing to address the real problem underlying this story. That problem is not one of determining which type of ordnance fired by whom hit the Masharawi house, but that the BBC knowingly published and extensively promoted a story based on local anecdote for which it had absolutely no proven evidence, purely because it fit in with the political narrative accepted and promoted by the BBC. 

Fronted by Donnison, but undoubtedly with the full knowledge of his superiors, this self-destructive attempt to shift the focus of the story away from the real issue of the BBC’s complete failure to meet its own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality – and to protect those further up the chain of management from the obvious conclusions of that failure – calls into question, once again,  both the sincerity of the BBC’s commitment to the values behind which it hides and the quality of the organisation’s leadership. 

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

As media outlets return to work after the weekend, the news (reported here last week) that a recent UN HRC report determined that the BBC’s much promoted version of the tragic death of Omar Masharawi on November 14th 2012 was the result of a missile fired by Palestinian terrorists rather than an Israeli air-strike – as claimed by the BBC – is gaining traction

The Washington Free Beacon has had it confirmed by a UN official that the incident described in the report indeed referred to that in which Omar Masharawi – son of the BBC employee Jihad Masharawi – was killed. 

For clarity’s sake, it is worth revisiting the chronology of the spread of the story.

On the evening of November 14th 2012, soon after the incident had happened, BBC Arabic in Gaza broke the story when it interviewed Jihad Masharawi as he held his son’s body. That film footage was used the next day in a report by Jon Donnison which appeared on BBC television news and can be seen here

On the same evening, BBC employees began Tweeting about the event, including for example the BBC’s correspondent in Washington who sent the following Tweet – retweeted by others 3,441 times:

Paul Adams twitter Masharawi

On the day after the incident – November 15th – the head of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau and chair of the Foreign Press Association, Paul Danahar, arrived in the Gaza Strip and visited the Masharawi house from where he began sending a series of Tweets which – less than 24 hours after the event and with no credible professional investigation having been carried out – unequivocally determined that the incident had been the result of an Israeli attack.

Danahar tweets Masharawi

As BBC Watch documented last November, Danahar gave permission for the photographs he had Tweeted to be used by Max Fisher at the Washington Post. Other media outlets which ran with the story on the same day – some directly citing the BBC as their source and all unquestioningly giving an Israeli attack as the cause of the infant’s death – included the Guardian, the Huffington Post , the Daily Mail, the Sun and many more. The story was of course also picked up by a plethora of anti-Israel blogs and websites. 

On November 24th 2012, the BBC ran Jon Donnison’s now infamous version of the story on its ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ programme on Radio 4, and also later on the World Service. A written version of that same report was placed on the BBC News website and at the time of writing is still there. 

Within less than two weeks, the BBC had ensured that an unverified story based purely upon evidence-free speculations by its own journalists had made its way round the entire world.

The fact that a story which in no way met the standards of accuracy laid down in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines managed to get past the BBC’s entire system of checks and balances including the Jerusalem Bureau editor, the Middle East Editor, the Head of News, the website Editor- together with no small number of producers along the way – indicates the existence of an organisational culture which clearly renders the BBC incapable of self-regulation. 


BBC’s Omar Masharawi story has rug pulled by UNHRC

The drop down menu of the ‘From our own correspondent’ section on the ‘magazine’ page of the BBC News website looked like this on March 7th 2013:

FOOC Masharawi magazine 7 3

Yes – over three months after Operation Pillar of Cloud, the BBC is still promoting Jon Donnison’s story about the son of the BBC employee in Gaza who the BBC very energetically insisted had been killed in an Israeli air-strike. 

As readers may remember, BBC Watch pointed out at the time that there were terrorist rocket launching sites in the Zaitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City in which the Masharawi home was situated and that the BBC’s automatic assumption that Omar Masharawi’s death was the result of an Israeli attack was not founded upon any solid evidence.

In his report Donnison stated:

“Despite the evidence pointing towards an Israeli air strike, some bloggers have suggested it might have been a misfired Hamas rocket.

But at that time, so soon after the launch of Israel’s operation, the Israeli military says mortars had been launched from Gaza but very few rockets.

Mortar fire would not cause the fireball that appears to have engulfed Jehad’s house.

Other bloggers have said that the damage to Jehad’s home was not consistent with powerful Israeli attacks but the BBC visited other bombsites this week with very similar fire damage, where Israel acknowledged carrying out what it called “surgical strikes”.

As at Jehad’s home, there was very little structural damage but the victims were brought out with massive and fatal burns. Most likely is that Omar died in the one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks.”

Despite the lack of evidence, the BBC continued (and still continues, as can be seen above) to promote this story very heavily indeed and of course it was picked up and propagated by other members of the mainstream media – as well as numerous anti-Israel websites – as cast-iron evidence of Israeli wrongdoing,  bearing the hallmark of BBC accuracy and impartiality. 

On March 6th 2013 the UN HRC issued an advance version of its report on the November 2012 hostilities and blogger Elder of Ziyon bothered to read the whole thing. The report states on page 14 that a UN investigation found that:

“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.” [emphasis added]

A footnote adds that the UN investigated the incident itself.

Omar Masharawi was the only 11 month-old infant killed on November 14th in the Zaitoun neighbourhood (although the woman killed at the same time was not in fact his mother as the UN report states, but his father’s brother’s wife; Hiba). 

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. Nevertheless, the people responsible for the fact that the unverified story was allowed to run – and that it was deliberately given such exceptionally extensive coverage – must be held accountable for their failure to even try to uphold the standards to which the BBC professes to adhere. 

Any other outcome will make a mockery of the supposed BBC commitment to accuracy and impartiality and will further erode the BBC’s already bruised reputation.


BBC’s Danahar Tweets a “nothing to see – move along” on bullying of Orthodox youths

Many were shocked by the film which appeared on the internet a couple of weeks ago showing two young Orthodox Jews being abused and bullied by a group of youths in Jerusalem.  

Now Ha’aretz reports that some of those allegedly involved in the incident have been arrested.

And the head of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau makes his position on the story crystal clear, turning an abusive incident into a mere snowball fight and implying over-reaction on the part of the Israeli authorities.

Danahar Tweet snowballs

Remember – this is a man responsible for ensuring that the news reaching BBC audiences from Israel is accurate and impartial. 

Update: Two hours later, Danahar got round to doing the research: 

Danahar snowball tweet 2

 The perils of knee-jerk Tweeting strike the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau yet again.

Update 2: Yet another member of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau with a ‘Tweet then maybe check’ policy: 

Davies snowball Tweet 1

Davies snowball Tweet 2

Recommended reading from the BBC’s Paul Danahar

From the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, Section 4, Impartiality:


“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.”

From the BBC’s Editorial Guidance on Social Networking, Microblogs and other Third Party Websites: Personal Use: 

“News and Current Affairs Staff, Blogging and Microblogging

Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, News and Current Affairs staff should not:

 advocate support for a particular political party;

express views for or against any policy which is a matter of current party political debate;

advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate.”

So – a big thank you is in order to Paul Danahar for ignoring all of the above in order to enlighten us all on the subject of the kind of material the man running the BBC Jerusalem Bureau thinks is “worth a read”. 

Danahar Roger Cohen tweet

Incidentally, others promoting Roger Cohen’s op-ed around the web include 972 magazine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Ibrahim Hewitt of the Hamas-enabling ‘charity’ Interpal and Iranian lobbyist Trita Parsi.

Hewitt tweet

Parsi tweet


Journalists in wartime: a legal view

In the past few weeks we have twice addressed the subject of claims made by BBC journalists – and in particular by members of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau – that Israel deliberately targeted members of the media during Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’. Some were quick to afford journalistic status to members of terrorist organisations who happened to have some sort of connection to the profession, even if only by title. 

Those articles can be read here and here

A short article on the Oxford University Press blog by Sandesh Sivakumaran, Associate Professor and Reader in International law at the University of Nottingham, casts some light upon the subject of the legal status of different categories of journalists.

“The law of armed conflict distinguishes between different types of journalists:

  1. Journalists who work for media outlets or information services of the armed forces.
  2. Journalists who accompany the armed forces and are authorized to do so, but who aren’t members of the armed forces, e.g., the embedded reporter.
  3. Journalists who are undertaking professional activities in areas affected by hostilities but who aren’t accompanying the armed forces, e.g., the broadcaster who is presenting from a conflict zone but who isn’t embedded with the troops.

The first category of journalists constitutes members of the armed forces. Accordingly, they don’t benefit from the protections afforded to civilians and their deaths don’t constitute a violation of the law.”

Whilst Mr Sivakumaran does not relate specifically to the category of Journalists working for media outlets belonging to terror organisations with an organized armed wing, such as Hamas, one presumes that Al Aqsa TV journalists such as Mahmoud al Kumi and Hussam Salama are more likely to belong to category one than any of the others.  

danahar tweet AA

Davies AA TV

The article also relates to the subject of the targeting of media buildings.

“One particularly controversial area of the law is the targeting of TV and radio stations. Civilian broadcasting services are protected from attack. They may be legitimate targets, however, if they constitute military objectives. In legal terms, this refers to objects that, “by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.” “.

danahar media buildings

Read the whole article here.  

Compromising public perceptions of BBC impartiality

Sadly – for both its colleagues in the field in which it operates and the many people around the world in need of the human rights sector – there is nothing novel about the seemingly interminable ability of ‘Human Rights Watch’ to bring itself into repeated disrepute and compromise its own reputation for impartiality. 

A long line of scandals includes fund-raising in Saudi Arabia, an HRW employee with a penchant for Nazi memorabilia, cooperation with the Ghaddafi regime and accusations – including from its own founder – of poor research methods.

Only last week the Wall Street Journal informed us of yet another problematic aspect to HRW. It turns out that HRW’s Executive Director of almost twenty years, Kenneth Roth, does not consider Iran to be in violation of the UN Genocide Convention.

“Asked in 2010 about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that Israel “must be wiped off the map,” Mr. Roth suggested that the Iranian president has been misunderstood. “There was a real question as to whether he actually said that,” Mr. Roth told The New Republic, because the Persian language lacks an idiom for wiping off the map. Then again, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s own English-language website translated his words that way, and the main alternative translation—”eliminated from the pages of history”—is no more benign. Nor is Mr. Ahmadinejad an outlier in the regime. Iran’s top military officer declared earlier this year that “the Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel.”

Mr. Roth’s main claim is legalistic: Iran’s rhetoric doesn’t qualify as “incitement”—which is illegal under the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948—but amounts merely to “advocacy,” which is legal.”

As the article’s author David Feith rightly points out, Roth’s approach conveniently ignores Iran’s sponsorship of its proxies Hamas and Hizballah which are quite open about their aims.

Three days after the Roth story broke, HRW published yet another of its rapidly produced reports – this time accusing Israel of “a clear violation of the laws of war” during the latest conflict between it and terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip.  Like its problematic 2006 report on the Second Lebanon War, this report is based on ‘evidence’ gathered from local residents – with apparently no attempt made to first establish the possibility of their affiliations to terror organisations – and without the author Fred Abrahams – who is not a munitions expert – having been able to inspect the remnants of what he presumes was ” a large aerial bomb”.

Needless to say, the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians – with fatal results or without – is not yet the subject of a report by HRW.

Of course known Hamas cheerleaders were quick to embrace, publicise and promote the latest HRW report. Among them was professional anti-Israel campaigner, BDS promoter and advocate of the one-state ‘solution’ Ben White who is perhaps best known for his ‘understanding’ of antisemites.  

White chose two BBC journalists – Paul Danahar and Jon Donnison – as recipients of one of his many Tweets on the subject of the HRW report. 

White HRW report

Less than three hours later, Paul Danahar sent Tweets of his own on the subject:

Danahar HRW report


Even if White’s Tweet did not prompt Danahar’s own, the many problematic aspects of HRW’s reputation and the fact that its latest report had already been warmly embraced as propaganda material by known anti-Israel activists should surely have prompted Danahar to recall that the BBC Editorial Guidelines state in section 4.4.13:

“Presenters, reporters and correspondents are the public face and voice of the BBC – they can have a significant impact on perceptions of whether due impartiality has been achieved.  Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.  They may provide professional judgements, rooted in evidence, but may not express personal views in BBC output, including online, on such matters.”

BBC promotion of the ‘targeting the media’ myth

One of the central themes promoted by some BBC journalists and editors during and after Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ was the notion that Israel deliberately targeted members of the media during the fighting.

Such claims were initially heavily promoted and publicised by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau head Paul Danahar – also head of the Foreign Press Association in Israel – following the IDF’s November 18th strike on two buildings in Gaza used by the Hamas-owned and run TV channels Al Quds TV and Al Aqsa TV. See our report from that date here.

But the promotion of that theme did not end there.

On November 19th the IDF targeted four senior members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad  hiding in a ‘safe house’ on the second floor of an office block also used by international media companies operating in Gaza. The terrorists were: 

“Baha Abu al-Ata: Commander of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Gaza City Brigade; involved in planning attacks against Israel, arms manufacturing and long-range rocket launching capabilities

Tissir Mahmoud Mahmed Jabari: Senior Islamic Jihad operative; responsible for training within the organization and approving terrorist attacks against Israel

Halil Batini: Senior Islamic Jihad operative; a key figure in planning the group’s long-range rocket launching operations; responsible for internal security

Ramez Harab: Responsible for propaganda in Islamic Jihad’s Gaza City Brigade; an aide to Tissir Jabari; the former head of the Sheikh Rajuan Division.”

Here is Ramez Najeeb Harb – in PIJ uniform – as he appears in a PIJ-produced announcement after his death.

The BBC’s reporters in Gaza, however, were quick to point the spotlight at the media-related aspect of the story – rather than the fact that the building was being used by terrorists – and that theme was widely reproduced on the BBC News website’s live updates page as well as on various BBC-related Twitter accounts.  

19 11 live feed

Donnison al sharouk

Danahar Sharouk tweets

Later, reference was also made to the fact that the target was PIJ-related, but with the emphasis on describing Ramez Harb as “head of media”.

bbc breaking

danahar Harb

Davies al Sharouk

But the indignation of BBC journalists did not stop there. On November 20th, these Tweets were sent:

Davies tweet journos

danahar tweet AA

The two men described as “journos” by Davies and a “media team” by Danahar were Mahmoud al Kumi and Hussam Salama of Hamas-owned (not ‘affiliated’, as Davies states) and operated Al Aqsa TV, which is designated as a terror entity by the US and banned by the French government for breaking EU law on incitement to hatred and violence and encouraging terrorism. Both men were acknowledged as Hamas operatives in the Hamas media

On November 21st, Paul Danahar Tweeted:

danahar media buildings

Danahar apparently did not stop to ask himself whether he had ever been in a conflict in which so many media buildings were used by terrorists and so many journalists were co-opted as human shields.

On November 26rd, Danahar promoted via Twitter an article which appeared in the New York Times by David Carr.


Carr’s article has been the subject of much critique: see here, here, here and here, among others. 

BBC employees are far from the only ones promoting the myth that ‘Israel targets the media’. Organisations such as ‘Reporters without Borders’ and the ‘Committee to Protect Journalists’ have also lent their voices to the promotion of the notion that members of terrorist organisations involved in media-related activities are ‘journalists’ – and therefore entitled to protection on a par with civilians. 

This approach obviously ignores the fact that a member of a terrorist organization is precisely that – regardless of the exact nature of his practical activities. We do not, for example, classify terror financers as being primarily bankers nor do we describe the makers of explosives as first and foremost chemists. Especially ridiculous is the condescending manner in which members of the Western media elect to ignore statements made by the terror organisations themselves as to the use of the media for terror purposes. 

“According to Hamas, “the importance of the media war in the struggle that takes place in Palestine does not go unnoticed by anyone….Our goal is to support the resistance, boost the morale of the resistance fighters who watch these media materials, and wage a psychological war against Zionists.” “

 “Today … the camera is used as a weapon, along with the Kalashnikov, the rocket and the missile.”

Those Western journalists who voluntarily co-opt terrorists using the media as a method of warfare into their own ranks do a great disservice to – and ultimately compromise the safety of – legitimate journalists working in difficult circumstances in combat zones.

Journalists with real concern for the safety of their colleagues should, for example, be speaking out against practices such as the marking of vehicles with the letters ‘TV’ by terrorists such as Muhammed Riad al Shamaleh – the PIJ’s former head of training programmes and commander in the south Gaza Strip – in a bid to seek unwarranted immunity. 

Senior Hamas Operative Disguised as Journalist

But by indiscriminately promoting the theme of ‘targeting the media’ whilst failing to make the necessary distinction between legitimate members of that profession and every member of a terrorist organization with a video camera, journalists also provide – intentionally or not – a protective mantle to terrorist organisations.

It is difficult to believe that the vast majority of the license-fee paying British public views such enabling of terror as benign.  

BBC’s Jon Donnison gets yellow card

BBC Watch can report that at the hearing held on Wednesday, November 28th 2012 at the Government Press Office, Jon Donnison and the head of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau, Paul Danahar stated that an apology had already been made – as required – to BBC readers for Donnison’s retweet of unverified and misleading material and that the incident was a mistake. 

Jon Donnison received a formal warning and was informed that any future transgression may result in the GPO exercising its right to confiscate his Press Card. 


The wording of this post was amended shortly after its original publication in order to correct an error of comprehension whereby BBC Watch had understood that Jon Donnison and Paul Danahar had apologised for the former’s retweet of a falsely-captioned photograph, during the hearing at the GPO. 

However, it transpires that no such apology was made – a point which, for reasons best known to themselves, the BBC apparently feels extremely compelled to make perfectly clear. 

Some, of course, may find it odd that whilst the BBC can make mistakes, others “lie”.