Inaccuracy, reverse chronology and lack of context in BBC reporting on Gaza missile attacks

On the afternoon of August 8th terrorists in the Gaza Strip shot at civilian construction vehicles working on the Israeli side of the border.

“Shots were fired from the Gaza Strip at a number of civilian construction vehicles just outside the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday afternoon […]

In response, an Israeli tank shelled a Hamas observation post in the northern Gaza Strip, the army said. […]

The engineering vehicles that were fired upon are being used to build an underground barrier around the Gaza Strip, which is meant to counter Hamas’s network of border-crossing attack tunnels.

“Terrorists shot at civilian vehicles that were being used in the effort to construct the barrier around the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. One vehicle was hit,” the Israel Defense Forces said.”

Just after 7:30 p.m. terror factions in the Gaza Strip began firing rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian communities near the border, two of which hit Sderot, causing shrapnel injuries to two residents. By 10:30 p.m. 36 projectiles had been launched, four of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. More residential buildings were hit overnight, as well as factories, in attacks claimed by Hamas and supported by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The attacks continued throughout the night and by 6 a.m. the next day, over 150 projectiles had been launched, 25 of which were intercepted, with five civilians injured – one seriously – and some 14 others treated for shock. In response, the IDF conducted air strikes on terrorist sites in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas-run health ministry reported that three people had been killed – one a Hamas operative – and six injured in those strikes. At the time of writing, the attacks against Israeli civilians continue.

Over twelve hours after those missile attacks against Israeli civilians had begun, the BBC News website published a report titled “Israeli air strikes ‘kill woman and toddler'” on its main homepage, its ‘World’ page and its ‘Middle East’ page.

BBC News website homepage 9/8/18

Version 1

Following public objections to that context-free headline, two hours later the report’s title was changed to read “Gaza air strikes ‘kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel“.

Version 2

Despite the change of headline, the report still presented the story to readers in reverse chronological order, while failing to clarify that “Gaza health ministry officials” in fact means the terror organisation launching the attacks on Israeli civilians and portraying over 150 missiles as “dozens”. [emphasis added]

“Three Palestinians are reported to have been killed in a series of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, after militants there fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel.

Gaza health ministry officials said a pregnant woman and her daughter, aged one, were killed in the Jafarawi area.

A Hamas militant also died in the north, health officials said.”

Notably, the BBC was unable to give its audiences a similarly detailed portrayal of the injuries sustained by people on the other side of the border.

“Israeli media said several civilians were hurt by rocket fire in Sderot and other towns near the Gaza border.”

BBC audiences were told that:

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the violence broke out after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in Gaza on Wednesday.”

As BBC Watch pointed out to the BBC on Twitter, that sentence alone includes three inaccuracies.

The article’s last four paragraphs were copy/pasted from a report published two days earlier on the BBC News website and once again BBC audiences saw a tightly framed portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt which whitewashes its violence and downplays the role of terror factions in its organisation and execution.

Related Articles:

BBC’s sanitisation of deliberate Gaza border violence continues

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BBC double standards in reporting social media incitement evident again

As we have seen in the past BBC reporting on social media incitement to violence and/or glorification of terrorism differs depending on location.

Reviewing BBC reporting on social media incitement in Europe and Israel

In April of this year the BBC News website’s domestic pages reported the sentencing of a Salford man previously found guilty of “encouragement of terrorism”.

“Muslim convert Adam Wyatt, 48, admitted disseminating a terrorist publication that said “Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine” and posting on social media that jihad was an obligation for all Muslims.”

The following month the website reported the sentencing of a man from Sunderland who had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences.

“A shopkeeper who tweeted support for Islamic State (IS) and called for “death to Shias” has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Mohammed Zahir Khan, of Nora Street, Sunderland, had admitted encouraging terrorism, dissemination of a terror publication and stirring up religious hatred.”

Unsurprisingly, the BBC did not send a reporter to interview either of those men before they were sentenced. Neither did it promote the notion that they were put on trial because of their identity to millions of audience members or portray either of their cases as being about “free speech”.

However, when an Israeli-Arab woman was sentenced to five months in prison after having been convicted of incitement to violence in her poems and social media posts, the BBC News website amplified her claims of political persecution in a July 31st report titled “Dareen Tatour: Israeli Arab poet sentenced for incitement“.

“An Israeli Arab poet has been jailed for inciting violence and supporting a group banned as a terrorist organisation based on her online posts. […]

The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the poet’s case has become a cause celebre for free speech advocates and has drawn attention to a recent rise in Israeli arrests – of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – accused of incitement or planning attacks online. […]

Following her sentencing, Tatour said that she was not surprised by the verdict.

“I expected prison and that’s what happened. I didn’t expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I’m Palestinian, because it’s about free speech and I’m imprisoned because I’m Palestinian”, she told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.”

The BBC’s report also provides readers with two links to Tatour’s ‘poem’ – one a written version and the other a video.

On the same day the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ aired a pre-recorded translated interview with Tatour by Tim Franks (from 30:04 here). The story was similarly portrayed by presenter James Menendez as being about ‘free speech’. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Menendez: “To a case now that’s become a cause celebre for free speech advocates in Israel and beyond. Dareen Tatour is an Arab-Israeli poet living near Nazareth. In October 2015 she was arrested and subsequently charged with inciting violence and supporting a terrorist organisation. That’s because of her social media posts including one in which she read a poem called ‘Resist, my people, resist’ accompanied by footage of Palestinian protesters throwing stones at Israeli police. At that time tension was running high in Israel after a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians. Well today, more than two and a half years on, Dareen Tatour has been sentenced for her crimes. The sentence was five months in prison. She’s already spent 3 months in prison and was then placed under house arrest. Well that prompted writers from around the world, including Alice Walker and Naomi Klein, to call for her release. Well on Monday Dareen spoke to Newshour’s Tim Franks who asked her first how she was feeling ahead of sentencing.”

During that interview BBC audiences around the world heard Tatour state that she does not think “there is any fairness in the Israeli justice system” and claim that she was being sentenced “only because I’m Palestinian. This is a political sentence”.

Listeners also heard her claim that she writes “about 70 years of occupation” with no effort made by Franks to explain to listeners what that phrase actually means. Similarly unchallenged was Tatour’s claim that she speaks about “the Israeli Zionist crimes against innocent people”.

When Franks raised the issue of one of her posts praising the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, she claimed that the “accusation is only based on a news story that I shared which mentions the Islamic Jihad” and “all I did was share the article”.

Haaretz however reported that her post said:

“Allah Akbar and Baruch Hashem, Islamic Jihad declared intifada throughout the whole West Bank and expansion to all Palestine. We should begin inside the Green Line” 

Franks then provided Tatour with the cue for her claim that she is “against all forms of violence” before asking her about her use of the word ‘shahid’ – martyr – while giving listeners the cumbersome explanation that:

“It is the word that is used to describe people who – Palestinian militants – who have lost their lives involved in militant activity”

Listeners then heard Tatour claim that “the word shahid that I use means victim” and twice state that “every martyr in Palestine is a victim”. She also made the false claim – unchallenged by Franks – that:

“More than a thousand people died in the last Gaza war – most of them children.”

Following that interview, James Menedez interviewed former Israeli MK Danny Ayalon, asking him first:

Menedez: “What is Israel doing locking up poets?”

As we see, while the BBC produces factual, judgement free reporting on people convicted of “encouragement of terrorism” in the UK, a similar story in Israel gets entirely different treatment. And so, the BBC’s double standards on terrorism persist.

 

 

 

BBC News website reports fatal ‘gunshot’, fails to identify perpetrator

Late on the evening of July 20th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel carries out Gaza strikes as soldier dies from gunshot” on its main homepage and its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

Obviously the identity of the party that fired the “gunshot” is not clear from that headline and the article’s opening lines also did nothing to help readers understand who carried out the attack.

“Israel has attacked military targets in the Gaza Strip, after its soldiers came under gunfire at the border.

The Israeli military announced that one soldier had died from his wounds, the first in the most recent clashes.”

Other media outlets managed to report the same events with more clarity. Here, for example, is a headline from Ynet which uses fewer words to provide a more informative picture to readers.

In the past the BBC has produced similarly opaque headlines relating to vehicular attacks.

Significantly, at no point in the rest of the BBC’s report were audiences informed that Staff Sgt Aviv Levi was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

In contrast, statements concerning the deaths of Palestinians came after readers had been told that “Israel has attacked military targets in the Gaza Strip”.

“Gaza officials said four Palestinians were killed in the strikes, three of them members of militant group Hamas.”

The timeline of events began when the attack in which the IDF officer was shot took place at around 17:30 within the framework of what the BBC insists on inaccurately describing as “protests”. The IDF then struck eight military posts belonging to Hamas. At around 20:30 in the evening, Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets into Israeli territory, two of which were intercepted. Strikes were carried out on additional Hamas infrastructure, including three battalion headquarters.

The BBC’s portrayal of those events was as follows:

“The military said it had struck 15 Hamas military targets in the northern Gaza Strip and an additional 25 in Khan Yunis in the south, adding that the strikes were continuing.

The operation came during another Friday of protests by Palestinians at the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli army said three projectiles had been fired into Israel by Palestinian militants.” [emphasis added]

With no mention of the fact that an IDF officer had been wounded in a grenade attack the previous Friday, BBC audiences were told that:

“Israel last week carried out its biggest attack against Hamas targets in Gaza since the war in 2014, in response to more than 200 rockets and mortars fired into the country.”

Readers once again found the BBC’s now standard anodyne portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop which continues to conceal from audiences the fact that the casualty figures quoted actually come from Hamas – which organised, facilitated and financed the publicity stunt – and that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various terror factions.

“Palestinians have now been protesting at the border for 17 weeks. Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and 15,000 injured by Israeli forces during that time.

The death of a soldier on Friday is the first Israeli fatality in the exchanges.”

Despite the available evidence of Hamas’ encouragement of and involvement in the arson attacks and its organisation and facilitation of the ‘Great Return March’ violence, the BBC is still presenting those issues as Israeli ‘accusations’.

“Israel resumed air attacks on Gaza after last week’s projectile attacks, warning that it would take whatever action necessary to stop incendiary kites and balloons being flown over the border.

It accuses Hamas of controlling the makeshift devices, which have set fields in Israel ablaze, as well as orchestrating the protests at the border, which Israel regards as a threat to its border communities.”

The BBC has had over four months in which to provide its audiences with information on the background to the pre-planned violence it euphemistically describes as “Palestinians…protesting at the border” but clearly it has no intention of doing so.

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

 

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

The July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme Today included an item (from 01:3:24 here) in which UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness was given free rein to preach five minutes’ worth of completely unchallenged propaganda and distortions.

Gunness’ tenuous link to the subject supposedly under discussion was portrayed by presenter John Humphrys as follows:  

Humphrys: “Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an attack by Israel at the weekend in Gaza. They were pupils at a school run by the United Nations relief agency. It’s been described as the worst exchange of hostilities between the two sides since the war in 2014. A ceasefire was called yesterday but the peace [sic] is fragile. I’m joined on the line by our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman and Christopher Gunness of the United Nations relief agency. Chris Gunness; what happened on Saturday?”

Why the BBC – with its offices in Jerusalem and Gaza – should need Gunness to tell audiences “what happened on Saturday” is unclear but listeners then heard a distorted version of the story which, not surprisingly given Gunness’ record, dovetails with the version put out by Hamas and its supporters.

Gunness: “There was an Israeli airstrike on a building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go, adjacent to the building. [It] Struck two children, Amir and Louay, as you say UNRWA students, they were killed. At least ten people were wounded.”

As shown in a video produced by Hamas, that “park” is in fact an open space next to an unfinished building intended to be a library but instead long used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility that includes access to Hamas’ tunnel network. John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to challenge Gunness’ echoing of Hamas propaganda or to clarify that the people he described as “children” were youths aged 15 and 16 who – despite the fact that missile fire by terror groups into Israel and retaliatory strikes had been ongoing for hours at the time of the incident – were reportedly playing in the Hamas facility. Instead, Humphrys allowed Gunness’ polemic to proceed unhindered.

Gunness: “The killings of children, John, in any context must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Humphrys did not bother to clarify to listeners that Gunness’ imaginary scenario would only be relevant if the ruling British authorities had been firing hundreds of mortars and rockets at the civilians that “foreign army” was charged with protecting and “Brits” had repeatedly tried to breach the border with that foreign country while carrying out scores of terror attacks. Instead – apparently quite at ease with Gunness’ whitewashing of Palestinian terror – he went on to presume to speak for Israel.

Humphrys: “Well we were hoping to speak to an Israeli minister. He had – or we understood that he’d agreed to talk to us earlier this morning but he has since pulled out of that interview. But what they would say – and I can say this [laughs] because we’ve heard them say it many times before – they are under massive provocation. Their very existence is threatened – or would be if Hamas had its way – and they have to defend themselves.”

Gunness: “Look, we’ve all seen the pictures of the fence and we are very clear in the United Nations…the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has called on Israel to ensure that its security forces do not resort to the use of excessive force, particularly at that fence. Under international law Palestinians first of all have the right to peaceful assembly and expression.”

Humphrys failed to clarify to listeners that no-one on the Israeli side has suggested that Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere do not have the right to peaceful assembly or that “peaceful assembly” is not an accurate description of what has been going on along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip for three and a half months.

Gunness: “Israeli security forces, according to our top human rights official, in policing the Gaza fence must use only necessary and proportionate means to discharge their duties. Exceptionally, they may resort to lethal force in cases of extreme necessity as a last resort and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury. But – and, you know, I say but – it is difficult to see how tyre burning, stone throwing or even Molotov cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such a threat.”

Humphrys made no effort to inform listeners that in April, May and June Palestinians engaged in Hamas facilitated violence at that border carried out, inter alia, 294 attacks with petrol bombs, 20 shooting attacks, 35 IED attacks and 5 grenade attacks. He also failed to challenge Gunness’ subsequent inaccurate description of the Gaza Strip as being under “occupation”.

Gunness: “In the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and I think that is why the Secretary General has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the killings in Gaza from the end of March. Will there be one? Well what a shame we didn’t have an Israeli official on this programme to ask that question. Will there be a transparent an independent investigation? Because that is what the world’s top diplomat has called for.”

Once again Humphrys presumed to respond on behalf of Israel:

Humphrys: “Yeah but you know how Israel will respond to that, don’t you? Because Israel would say the world community – put the word in quotation marks if you like – is weighted against us. People hate us for…because we are Israel and we lose the propaganda battle all the time.”

Gunness: “John, I’m sorry – I’m not on this programme to answer for Israel. As I say it’s…”

Humphrys: “No I understand but I mean you’re making the case for sanctions, at least for an investigation to be undertaken into Israel’s actions. I’m trying to put to you what they would say if they were here.”

Gunness: “John, it was you that used the word sanctions. I’m not making the case for sanctions. Can we please be very clear. I have not come on…”

Humphrys: “OK; you want an investigation.”

Listeners then heard that UNRWA condemned Hamas rocket fire – four years ago. They did not however hear that some 200 projectiles had been fired at Israeli communities in just over 24 hours.

Gunness: “The UN Secretary General has called for a transparent and an independent investigation into the killings that have taken place in Gaza since the end of March. I don’t think that is an unreasonable thing for the United Nations to call for. We have condemned the rockets coming out of Gaza. We have condemned Hamas rockets. We didn’t do it from the comfort of our offices in London or Tel Aviv or New York or Washington. Our Commissioner General did it from inside Gaza while the war raged in 2014. So let’s bat that old canard…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Gunness: “UNRWA condemns these rockets in the strongest possible terms but at the same time we condemn the killing of teenagers – UNRWA teenagers. They have a dignity and a destiny that must be protected and nurtured and that is why we condemn those killings.”

After that five-minute long unchallenged tirade from Gunness, Humphrys moved on to a report from the BBC’s Tom Bateman. Whether or not listeners to BBC Radio 4 then got to hear the crucial information and context entirely missing from the first five minutes of this item – and how Chris Gunness’ propaganda was later recycled – will be discussed in part two of this post.   

 

An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

From 4 p.m. GMT on the afternoon of July 14th BBC World Service news bulletins led with reports on the day’s events in the Gaza Strip and – to a lesser extent – southern Israel.

A number of recurring themes can be seen in the reports heard by BBC World Service listeners over a period of nearly eight hours:

1) Leading with and focusing on events in Gaza, with concurrent events in Israel mentioned later.

2) Quoting “Palestinian health officials” while failing to clarify that they are actually members of the same terror group organising the months of violent rioting along the border and launching missile attacks.

3) Using the euphemism “militant” in place of the term terrorist.

4) Quantifying the number of Israeli strikes on Hamas targets – e.g. “dozens” – while failing to quantify the terror groups’ rocket and mortar attacks.

5) Qualifying descriptions of Palestinian attacks as terrorism.

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

BBC World Service news bulletin 16:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military says it has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip as shells and rockets were fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Palestinian health officials say that two people have been killed and 12 more wounded by an airstrike in Gaza City. Israel says it’s destroyed a battalion headquarters belonging to Hamas.”

In the next bulletin (and a later one) listeners were told that the Israeli strikes were “against Gaza” rather than against a terror group’s military infrastructure alone. 

BBC World Service news bulletin 16:30 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza hitting dozens of militant targets, among them a Hamas battalion headquarters. The operation followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis have reported three people injured on their side of the border.”

While a Hamas training facility was mentioned in several bulletins, the BBC presented its purpose as an Israeli claim, failing to inform audiences in its own words of the function of the building despite the information being available in a video produced by Hamas itself. The categorisation of IED attacks and a grenade attack as terrorism was repeatedly unnecessarily qualified.

BBC World Service news bulletin 17:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Israel says it destroyed a training facility belonging to the militant group Hamas in one of its most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Here’s more from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 17:30 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza since the last war, hitting dozens of militant targets – among them a Hamas training facility. The series of airstrikes followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis say three people were injured on their side of the border.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 18:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. It’s one of the most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”

While the two people killed in Gaza were described as “teenagers”, the fact that two of the Israelis wounded were also in that age-group was not communicated to listeners. After those two mentions of the fact that the injuries came as a result of a rocket attack on the family’s house, that information was excluded from subsequent bulletins.

BBC World Service news bulletin 19:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Israel has carried out its biggest air attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. At the same time, mortars and rockets have been fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. Palestinian health officials say two teenagers have been killed and at least 15 more people wounded. The Israeli ambulance service says that three Israelis have been injured by shrapnel. Our Middle East regional editor Sebastian Usher has this assessment.”

Usher: “This is a serious escalation and there are attempts being made – Egypt, the UN – to try to talk both sides away from a direct confrontation. Remember, in the last decade there’ve been three wars in Gaza. Both sides are saying at the moment that’s not what they want but this is beginning to get dangerously out of control if it continues at this pace and if the casualties begin to mount.”

Notably Usher did not clarify that those “three wars” also took place in Israel.

BBC World Service news bulletin 20:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Israeli air force has carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. The Israeli prime minister said the raids were a response to terrorist actions by Hamas, from whose territory rockets and mortars had been fired into Israel. More details from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what they called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 21:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014.

Voiceover: In consultation with the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Staff and the top security command of the State of Israel, we have decided a strong action against Hamas terrorism. The IDF have struck Hamas with the hardest blow since Operation Protective Edge and we will increase the strength of our attacks as necessary.

He said the raids were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas from whose territory rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 21:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement comes after the Israeli prime minister said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since 2014. Benjamin Netanyahu said it was in response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas. Two Palestinians were reportedly killed and three Israelis were injured.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 22:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. More from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 22:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “A spokesman for the Palestinian militant group Hamas says a truce has been agreed with Israeli forces after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However, Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli prime minister said the attacks against militant targets in the Gaza Strip were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”

The first time listeners heard quantification of the missile attacks was seven hours after the story became the lead item.

BBC World Service news bulletin 23:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement from a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. From Jerusalem, here’s Tom Bateman.”

Bateman: “An Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City sent plumes of dust and smoke into the afternoon sky. Palestinian health officials said two teenagers were killed, describing them as passers-by when the building was hit. In what amounted to a significant military flare-up, Israel said it targeted 40 sites used by the militant group Hamas while nearly 200 mortars and rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza. Three Israelis were wounded from shrapnel in the town of Sderot. Late in the evening Hamas said it had agreed a ceasefire. Israel said only the facts on the ground would dictate its actions.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 23:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it agreed a truce with Israel after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli premier said the attacks against militant targets were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”

By midnight GMT the story was no longer the first item in the bulletin. Remarkably, only then did listeners hear of the events which sparked the flare-up, although Bateman failed to clarify that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

BBC World Service news bulletin 24:00 14/7/18 – from 00:57

Stewart Macintosh: “The latest reports from Gaza suggest Palestinian militants and Israeli forces are continuing to exchange fire despite an earlier announcement by Hamas that the two sides had reached a truce. Israel’s military said on Saturday it had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014 as Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “The latest round of hostilities took place amid the simmering tensions at Gaza’s perimeter fence. On Friday Israeli soldiers shot dead a 15 year-old boy, bringing to more than 130 the number of Palestinians killed during regular protests. An Israeli soldier was wounded by a grenade thrown from the fence which appeared in part to trigger the latest airstrikes alongside growing pressure on Mr Netanyahu to respond to daily arson attacks from the Strip involving burning objects attached to kites and helium filled condoms.”

As we see the majority of those BBC World Service news bulletins began by describing Israeli actions, with considerable focus on the theme of the “biggest attack” since 2014. Listeners were not told whether or not the rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip was also the ‘biggest’ since that date. 

It is of course difficult to imagine that the BBC would describe groups responsible for firing 200 projectiles in 24 hours into British territory as “militants”: as we have seen in the past the BBC does use the word ‘terror’ to describe attacks on British and European soil. Nevertheless, the double standard employed by the BBC in language when reporting terrorism continues. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

Some nineteen hours after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had begun launching a barrage of mortars and rockets at Israeli civilians living in nearby communities in the early hours of July 14th, visitors to the BBC News website were informed that: “Israel deals hardest blow to Hamas”.

Version 6

That report – headlined “Israel deals ‘hardest blow’ to Hamas since 2014 Gaza war” – appeared on the website’s main homepage as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages and it was amended several times throughout the night with the later version opening:

“Israel has carried out its biggest attack against Hamas militant targets in Gaza since the war in 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.

The raids were a response to rockets fired into Israel, he said. Hamas said a truce had been agreed, but there have been reports of further exchanges.”

BBC audiences were not informed that events spiraled following violent incidents on July 13th during what the report later describes as “mass demonstrations along the border”. The report’s only reference to those incidents is as follows:

“Hamas said another Palestinian had died after being shot by Israeli troops during border protests on Friday.”

The BBC’s report fails to clarify that the youth concerned had been trying to climb the border fence at the time, that another infiltration attempt had taken place or that an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack.

Following that violence, a number of Hamas military installations were targeted by Israeli forces, including two attack tunnels which were not mentioned at all in the BBC’s report. At around 01:30 on July 14th terror factions in the Gaza Strip began launching mortars and rockets at Israeli communities and by 6 a.m. at least 31 attacks had been recorded.

The missile attacks continued later in the day, as did the retaliatory strikes on Hamas military installations which were described in the BBC’s report as follows:

“Palestinian health officials said two people were killed and 12 injured in an air strike in Gaza City on Saturday. […]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had struck facilities used by Hamas, which dominates Gaza, including a battalion headquarters in Beit Lahia, a training camp located in a high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, weapons storage facilities and rocket launchers. […]

Witnesses told Reuters news agency an Israeli strike had hit an empty building in Gaza City and that the casualties were passers-by.”

BBC audiences were not told that the “high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp” – intended to be a library – was used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility and that a tunnel dug under the building connects to Hamas’ tunnel network.

By 16:30 over a hundred missile attacks had taken place. A children’s playground and several buildings were damaged including a synagogue and a house in Sderot where four members of the family were injured by shrapnel. By late evening the number of missile attacks had risen to over 174 and attacks continued during the night.

The BBC’s report devotes the grand total of 44 words to that side of the story. Although the article was amended five times in the eleven hours following its publication, no effort was made to update the number of missiles fired.

“Three Israelis were hurt by one of more than 90 rockets fired on Israel. […]

The IDF said dozens of rockets had been fired on Israel from within Gaza.

One rocket hit a home in the town of Sderot. Three people suffered shrapnel wounds.”

Only in the ninth version of the report – which appeared around midday local time the next day and some sixteen hours after its initial publication – was an amendment added to reflect the actual number of missiles fired.

“More than 200 projectiles – including rockets and mortars – had been fired into Israel since Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.”

As has been BBC practice since the end of March, readers were provided with casualty figures sourced from Hamas but were not told of that fact or of the terror group’s involvement in organising, facilitating and financing the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltration attempts that have taken place during the ‘Great Return March’. As usual readers were also not informed that over 80% of those killed have been linked to various Gaza Strip based terror factions.

“The attacks come amid an escalation of violence in the region in recent months.

They coincided with mass demonstrations along the border which saw thousands of Palestinians express their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel – as well as demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians were killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.

Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist but last year said it was ready to accept an interim Palestinian state limited to Gaza and the West Bank.”

As we see, just as the BBC’s one-sided headline focused audience attentions on Israeli actions, so did the report itself. Remarkably, the BBC News website could not even be bothered to update readers of the first eight versions of the report regarding the correct number of attacks launched against the thousands of Israeli civilians who were forced to spend their weekend in safe rooms and air-raid shelters and the events which triggered the escalation were concealed from audience view.

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Fifth Gaza rocket attack this month not newsworthy for the BBC

 

 

BBC News portrays Iranian links to Gaza riots as ‘allegation’

While the BBC News website did not produce any reporting on the June 8th ‘Great Return March’ events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, it did publish an article the previous day titled “Israel blames Iran for Gaza border violence“.

Readers were told of flyers distributed by the IDF in advance of the event.

“Israel has accused Iran of fuelling recent violence on the Gaza border that has seen more than 100 Palestinians killed amid protests against Israel.

Israeli military aircraft dropped leaflets on Gaza on Thursday, warning Palestinians not to approach the border fence for their own safety.

The leaflets urged people not to become “a tool” of the militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, alleging that its agenda was driven by Iran.”

Towards the end of the report readers also found the following:

“In the leaflets dropped on Gaza Israel’s military repeated its warning to Palestinians to not go near the heavily-fortified border fence.

“For your own benefit, it is better that you not participate in the violent riots at the fence, not attempt to breach it, and not permit Hamas to turn you into a tool to advance its narrow agenda,” the message said.

“Behind this agenda is Shia Iran, which has made it its mission to inflame tensions in the region for the sake of its religious and sectarian interests.”

Iran is a major supporter of Hamas, which it backs financially and militarily. The two sides fell out after Hamas refused to support Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in the civil war in Syria, but they have since reconciled.”

The BBC’s report did not inform audiences that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – which has claimed at least four military operatives among the fatalities of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting and also claimed joint responsibility for the mortar and missile attacks on Israel near the end of May – is, in the words of one expert, “a wholly owned franchise” of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Neither did the BBC bother to tell readers that not only Israel has noted Iran’s influence on the Hamas-organised ‘Great Return March’. Last week it was reported that:

“The Palestinian Authority informed the French government last month that Iran was financing and encouraging the weeks of violent protests along the Gaza border, Channel 10 reported Tuesday.

“Iran is fully financing and pushing the Hamas demonstrations,” Salman al-Harfi, the Palestinian ambassador to France, reportedly told a government official.”

MEMRI has documented criticisms of Hamas for following Iran’s agenda in the Arab media while Arab affairs analyst Avi Issacharoff reports that:

“A special iftar feast was held in Gaza City last Thursday at the end of the day’s Ramadan fast, marking the annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day — an event initiated by Iran in 1979 to express support for the Palestinians and oppose Zionism and Israel.

During the event, dinner was served to families of killed and injured Gazans, in a manner similar to many other iftar meals.

Nonetheless, what made Thursday’s event different was the Iranian sponsorship: The event was marked and celebrated in order to send a message of appreciation and respect to Iran. It was paid for by the Tehran regime.

Moreover, Ali Akbar Velayati, one of the closest advisers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and himself a senior official in the Iranian government, addressed the gathering via the internet.

This all happened in the presence of Ismail Haniyeh — the Gaza Strip leader of the Hamas terror group, which rules the territory — as well as a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad terror group. […]

Every Palestinian wounded near the fence gets approximately $250, a pretty significant sum of money by Gaza standards. According to assessments in Gaza, it is Iran that is funding these payments.”

Apparently the BBC preferred not to connect the dots between Iranian financial support for the ‘Great Return March’ (and Hamas in general) and the fact that the events continued past their declared climax to an annual event invented by the Iranian regime.

“Fresh protests are planned for Friday.

It will be the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and also al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Iran, when demonstrations are held against Israel.”

At the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman pointed out that:

“With Qatar cutting funding, Hamas has few friends and few sources of income in the region. It also has few sources of weapons after Egypt flooded the tunnels linking its smugglers with Sinai. Its eight weeks of mass protests also did not succeed in getting it much support. Isolated, Hamas sees Quds Day as a chance to rally support again. If it can find thousands to turn out, less than the million promised, it will still succeed in finding relevance and increase its connections to Tehran.”

As noted here in the past, the BBC has been remarkably coy about providing its funding public with information on Iran’s terror financing activities and audiences have seen little if any serious coverage of the topic of Iran’s renewed support for Hamas and its incentive payments to Palestinian terrorists. It is therefore hardly surprising that it has elected to portray Iran’s links to the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as Israeli ‘allegations’.

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Filling in the blanks in BBC reports on Hamas, Qatar and Iran

Weekend long read

1) At Tablet Magazine, Armin Rosen and Liel Leibovitz document “Connections between an American charity and Hamas, PFLP, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad”.

“Over the past decade, as the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians became ever slimmer, there has been a growing attention to—and, in some quarters, acceptance of—the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, or BDS. Those drawn to the cause have likely come across the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that serves as the American umbrella group of the BDS movement and is arguably the most prominent promoter of BDS in the United States. The US Campaign, which is officially called Education for Just Peace in the Middle East, coordinates the efforts of 329 different pro-BDS organizations “working to advocate for Palestinian rights and a shift in US policy … bound by commonly shared principles on Palestine solidarity as well as our anti-racism principles,” according to the group’s website.

But as Tablet confirmed, the group also helps facilitate tax-exempt donations to a Palestinian coalition that includes Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups the U.S. State Department designates as terror organizations.”

2) Jonathan Spyer discusses “Iran’s response: the ‘Strategy of Tension’“.

“The United States and its allies are currently in the opening stages of the pursuit of a strategy to contain and roll back the Islamic Republic of Iran from a number of points in the Middle East.  This strategy is set to include an economic element (renewed sanctions, a military aspect (involving Israeli action against Iran in Syria, and the Saudi/UAE campaign against the Houthis in Yemen, and a primarily political effort (in Iraq and to a lesser extent in Lebanon).

Iran can be expected to respond with a counter-strategy of its own, designed to stymy and frustrate western and allied efforts.  What form will this Iranian response take?  What assets does Iran possess in the furtherance of this goal?”

3) NGO Monitor has published a report on grants given to Israeli NGOs (some of which are regularly quoted and promoted in BBC content) between the years 2012 and 2016.

“Given the central role played by politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the public human rights discourse, transparency in NGO funding is required in order to bolster informed debate. The following analysis presents all grants reported annually by 39 Israeli NGOs in the years 2012-2016, organizing data according to the amount of the grant, the identity of the donor, the source of the grant (private, governmental, or non-transparent/ unclear) and whether the donor is recognized as a government or from church groups. […]

Of the 39 groups examined, 28 receive more than 50% of their funding from governments. The three NGOs receiving the highest share of foreign government funding are Akevot (100%), Terrestrial Jerusalem (99.66%), and Who Profits (94.49%).

25 governmental and intergovernmental entities – including the EU, UN, and the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (see below) – fund these 39 Israeli NGOs. Germany is the largest donor, providing NIS 49,688,588, followed by the EU and Norway.”

4) At the Algemeiner, Efraim Karsh explains why “In Gaza, It’s Not the Economy, Stupid“.

“…at the time Arafat launched his war of terrorism in September 2000, Palestinian income per capita was nearly double Syria’s, more than four times that of Yemen, and 10% higher than Jordan’s — one of the better-off Arab states. Only the oil-rich Gulf states and Lebanon were more affluent.

By the time of Arafat’s death in November 2004, his terrorism war had slashed this income to a fraction of its earlier levels, with real GDP per capita some 35% below the pre-September 2000 level, unemployment more than double, and numerous Palestinians reduced to poverty and despondency. And while Israel’s suppression of the terrorism war generated a steady recovery, with the years 2007-2011 even recording an average yearly growth above 8%, by mid-2014 a full blown recession had taken hold, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Indeed, apart from reflecting the West Bank’s basic socioeconomic superiority vis-à-vis Gaza, the widening gap between the two areas during the Oslo years (the difference in per capita income shot up from 14% to 141%) was a direct corollary of Hamas’ transformation of the Strip into an unreconstructed terrorist entity, in contrast to the West Bank’s relative tranquility in the post-intifada years.”

 

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the May 20th edition of the BBC Radio Ulster “religious and ethical news” programme ‘Sunday Sequence‘ included a long item (from 34:04 here and also aired on BBC Radio Foyle) supposedly about the state of the ‘peace process’ after the May 14th chapter of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

“After a week of horror in Gaza, is the roadmap to peace now in complete ruins? Dr Julie Norman, Rev Gary Mason and Tom Clonan discuss how peace could somehow yet be found.”

After listeners had heard Tom Clonan’s inaccurate account of Operation Grapes of Wrath – and been led to believe that Israel was essentially to blame for the 9/11 terror attacks – and Julie Norman’s concealment of the fact that the overwhelming majority of those killed on May 14th were males in their twenties and thirties, presenter Roisin McAuley (once again exaggerating the significance of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) asked guest Gary Mason:

[39:01] “Now, given that situation, Gary, intractability, the importance for all of us of finding a way out of this absolute morass, where do you begin?”

Mason’s response [from 39:13] included the predictable – yet invalid – claim that it is possible to use the Good Friday Agreement as a template for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Picking up on Mason’s reference to “the role of civic society” in peacemaking, Julie Norman then inaccurately claimed that violent actions such as the ‘Great Return March’ or the rioting in Bili’in are grassroots peace initiatives.

[42:47] Norman: “…but what you see with the kind of protests at the border, what you see with weekly demonstrations against the separation barrier – these are activists and people who refuse to give in to that despair and who are trying to take some kind of action despite the odds and despite the limitations of the larger political reality…”  

Following some echo-chamber agreement between Mason and McAuley with regard to the US administration’s role in solving the conflict – and the claim that the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem was “a real slap in the face to Palestinians” – the presenter continued:

[45:07] McAuley: “So Tom, who in your opinion can help then? If the US is not in a position to be seen as an honest broker, who is?”

Clonan: “I would strongly hope that the European Union would step up to the plate and begin to impose sanctions and trade embargoes on Israel. And I certainly think individually as nations we could begin by boycotting the Eurovision Song Contest next year. And I say that with great regret because I’m on the record…I’ve written to all of the newspapers in the [Irish] Republic repeatedly over the years saying that we should not boycott Israel. But unfortunately of late Israel has been behaving like a rogue state and should be treated as pariah by the international community. I mean there was a great deal of unanimity of condemnation, quite rightly, of a chemical attack – or a suspected chemical attack – on civilians in the suburbs of Damascus. We also expelled diplomats on suspicion of a chemical weapon attack in Salisbury which injured – seriously injured – two people. Now we need to have that same level of unanimity when it comes to Israel’s actions this week.”

Following some reminiscing from Clonan about the Irish peace process, McAuley revisited his BDS messaging while again promoting her own pet ‘most important thing in the world’ theme.

[48:54] McAuley: “What you’re underlining, Tom, is the importance of this for the region and indeed for the wider world. But are you seriously suggesting that in some way that boycotting a song festival would make any difference at all? I mean why not try to seriously engage with Israel and with everybody on this?”

Clonan: “Israel isn’t interested in engagement just now. I think they feel that their military or their use of force has been rewarded and their behaviour has deteriorated somewhat. I think unfortunately that the situation with Iran – the US withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal at a point where you have youth unemployment in Iran at 60%, where 90% of those arrested in recent civil unrest are under 25 – there’s a youth bulge in Iran that threatens to destabilise the old guard, the ageing Ayatollah. President Rouhani’s government, you know, they’ve managed with considerable pushback to get the Iran deal. I think there’s a sense – and this is what I’m being told by my contacts amongst the international defence and international community – that Israel, the United States and their Gulf state allies detect a last moment of weakness in…within Iran as Shia ascendency reaches its zenith in the region.

What all that has to do with the item’s professed subject matter is of course as clear as mud. McAuley however chose to continue the ‘youth bulge’ theme.

[48:25] McAuley: “You mentioned a youth bulge. There is a youth bulge in Palestine as well. There is a growing number…this is a numbers game to some extent is it not, Julie?”

While acknowledging a “very high youth demographic in Palestine“, Norman responded that she would not equate that with destabilisation.

Norman: “Whether it’s Iran or Palestine, I don’t think we need to fear the youth bulge.”

McAuley then claimed that “eventually, in Israel and the occupied territories as a whole, there will be more Palestinians than there are Israelis”. Norman’s answer to that included the claim that:

[49:22] Norman: “…Israel is wielding power in very violent ways as we saw on Monday and throughout the past several weeks. And it’s not just numbers when one group is living under occupation.”

The fact that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 13 years ago of course did not get a mention at all in this entire item.

At 50:06 Gary Mason raised the topic of the role of women in making peace, stating that he is a member of the advisory board of an Israeli organisation called ‘Women Wage Peace’. He did not however bother to inform listeners that the group’s activities have been:

“…denounced by Hamas in an official statement, as well as by the Palestinian branch of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, both of which accused Palestinians participating in the initiative of “normalizing” relations with Israel.”

Again ignoring the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of Samaria in 2005, Mason went on to say that Israelis “may have to give up land for peace […] and we just need, I think, to bring that concept into it…”. Listeners were next treated to Mason’s home-grown psychological analysis of “the Israelis”.

In response to McAuley’s question [53:30] “from where can hope come?” Julie Norman again promoted the inaccurate notion that there are Palestinian civil society groups working for peace. Tom Clonan’s reply to the same question [54:15] included the following:

Clonan: “…essentially this is Semitic peoples killing Semitic…Arabs are a Semitic people. And I think with Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump you see the very essence of patriarchal thought which has led to so much destruction in the Middle East over the last two decades and if civil society, religious leaders and other leaders in society and women can be a part of the key to this solution to this, that would be wonderful because I don’t see a solution in the unilateral military intervention strategies that we’ve had post 2001 and 9/11 unfortunately.”

Notably, no-one in the studio bothered to question Clonan’s omission of Hamas from his list of those guilty of “patriarchal thought”.

At 56:33 – after Mason had again invoked the Northern Ireland comparison and claimed that people with a “military background” could also contribute to peacemaking, McAuley came up with the following bizarre claims:

McAuley: “I know that Peace Now – the big Israeli movement for peace and defence of the Palestinians and sitting down in front of tanks and so on that are about to destroy houses – that was founded by veterans of the 1948 war who had driven their tanks into Israel to take the land.”

Where those tanks had supposedly been driven from was not clarified to listeners before Clonan jumped in with a plug for yet another political NGO.

[56:58] Clonan: “And the Breaking the Silence movement as well: you know Israeli serving and ex-serving military. And I mean even from my own experience I mean I had my epiphany in the Middle East […] and to just witness man’s inhumanity to man and I mean it was only after becoming a parent myself that I was able to put my experiences into context. It was only after I buried my own little daughter that I understood what it was like for those Lebanese men, women and children to suffer in that way. And the Israelis in the settlement towns of Sderot and on the border that were being attacked by Hizballah indiscriminately. […] The constant disinhibited [sic], indiscriminate use of force at the moment, I think with that they’re sowing the seeds of their own destruction and what Israel needs in the Middle East is friends. And what better friends to have than the Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians. It is possible but we need imagination, we need leadership.”

The item closed soon after that. Only then, after nearly twenty-five minutes of hopelessly uninformed – and often downright ignorant – discussion, were listeners told that:

[58:56] McAuley: “The Israeli government response to the events on Monday was that the military actions were in keeping with Israeli and international law. They asserted that the demonstrations along the border were – quote – part of the conflict between the Hamas terrorist organisation and Israel. The military’s open fire orders, they said, were therefore subject to international humanitarian law – also known as the law of armed conflict – rather than international human rights law.”

Clearly this long item cannot possibly have contributed to audience understanding of the professed story and its context, riddled as it was with gross inaccuracies, deliberate distortions and important omissions – and not least the important issue of Hamas terrorism. The repeated inappropriate comparisons to the Northern Ireland conflict likewise detracted from listeners’ understanding of the background to the topic supposedly under discussion and the one-sided claims and comments from contributors and presenter alike – including promotion of the anti-Israel BDS campaign – are ample evidence that the prime aim of this item was to promote a specific political narrative.

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Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part one

 

 

 

 

 

Inaccuracy, omission and oddity in a BBC Radio Ulster item on Israel – part one

While we have seen some problematic programmes relating to Israel on BBC Radio Ulster in the past, the May 20th edition of the station’s “religious and ethical news” programme ‘Sunday Sequence‘ included a long item (from 34:04 here and also aired on BBC Radio Foyle) which was even more remarkable than usual – not least because one contributor managed to shoehorn the Eurovision Song Contest, the 9/11 terror attacks, BDS, Salisbury and Iranian youth unemployment into the discussion.

“After a week of horror in Gaza, is the roadmap to peace now in complete ruins? Dr Julie Norman, Rev Gary Mason and Tom Clonan discuss how peace could somehow yet be found.”

Four days before this programme went on air a Hamas official had announced that fifty of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting on May 14th were members of Hamas. Prior to that, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad had claimed three of the dead. Information available to the public had already shown that some 80% of those killed since the pre-planned rioting began at the end of March were members of various terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

None of that information was communicated to listeners in presenter Roisin McAuley’s introduction to the item, or indeed in the rest of the broadcast. Listeners did, however, repeatedly hear the use of the term ‘Palestine’ – despite the fact that the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology states “in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank”.

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

McAuley: “International attention is once again focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict.  A hundred Palestinians were killed in Gaza border protests in the last month [sic]; sixty on last Monday alone. The UN human rights chief accused Israel of using wholly disproportionate force. Israel’s UN ambassador accused Hamas of using children as human shields. Peace seems further away than ever. The problem seems intractable: an adjective once applied to the troubles here and to divided societies elsewhere. Can those examples be followed? Where should peacemaking begin? To answer those questions our panel – Dr Julie Norman, research fellow at the George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, the Rev Gary Mason, founder of ‘Rethinking Conflict’ and Tom Clonan, Irish Times security correspondent and former Irish Army officer who served with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – UNIFIL – during the Israeli operation against Hizballah in 1996.”

With Tom Clonan having told his Lebanon stories to the media many times before, there can be no doubt that when the producers of this programme decided to invite Tom Clonan to participate, they knew exactly what listeners were going to hear next – and what not.

Clonan: “Operation Grapes of Wrath was a punitive operation against the people of South Lebanon – not just Hizballah – because Hizballah, in contravention to the laws of armed conflict, were deployed in and amongst the civilian population and Israel – contrary to the laws of international conflict and the Geneva conventions – declared southern Lebanon a free-fire zone and as a consequence hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed. So that was the action – which was clearly illegal – targeting civilians.”

Obviously Clonan’s story has nothing whatsoever to do with the declared subject matter of this item, but within its first few minutes he has facilitated the establishment in listeners’ minds of the notion that Israel has a habit of ‘illegally targeting civilians’. Interestingly, Clonan had nothing at all to say about UNIFIL’s failure – at that time of 18 years – to fulfil its mandate of preventing Hizballah’s entrenchment in southern Lebanon or the terror group’s rocket attacks on northern Israeli communities that preceded the operation.  Mispronouncing the name of the location, Clonan went on:

Clonan: “One of the consequences was that after the massacre at Qana which I attended that day – 112 men, women and children killed in one incident – a then relatively unknown Islamist extremist, Osama Bin Laden, declared a fatwa on the United States in which he cited Qana as the…one of the casus bellis [sic] and that four years later led to Mohammed Atta and others flying aircraft into the Twin Towers. George Bush announced a global war on terror, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Absent from Clonan’s portrayal of a ‘massacre’ is the fact that Hizballah terrorists had fired missiles from the vicinity of the UN post at Qana, the fact that the UNIFIL personnel there had made no attempt to stop that repeated fire despite the fact that civilians were sheltering in their post and the fact that the deaths of the civilians was completely unintentional.

After BBC Radio Ulster audiences had essentially been told that the 9/11 terror attacks were Israel’s fault, Clonan continued, equating Israel with the Syrian dictator who uses chemical weapons against his own civilian population and presenting a highly debatable portrayal of the laws of armed conflict.

Clonan: “So I think when a state – whether it be Israel or Assad’s regime – when they decide to engage in an act of disinhibition [sic] and indiscriminate violence against civilians, I think they do so at their peril. There are four principles governing the use of force against civilians. Now they’re very, very simple and they’re universal. One of them is justification – in other words you can only use live ammunition in defence of your own life or in defence of those of your comrades. The next one is about minimum force – that’s the second principle; unarmed restraint by weight of numbers. The use of baton rounds, gas, something that people in Northern Ireland would be very familiar with from our shared history. The firing of live ammunition is…is…is so far down the line and the Israelis have so many non-lethal options open to them but instead they use the Givati Brigade, an infantry brigade of the Israeli military, to conduct what is essentially a police action – a bit like putting the parachute regiment into Derry – and with the predictable and consequent effect of shooting 1,360 people on Monday over a eight-hour period. I’ve calculated that is one person shot every 20 seconds.”

Making no effort to clarify to listeners that the casualty figures quoted and promoted by Clonan are sourced from the terror group that initiated, facilitated and organised the violence, McAuley then gave credence to his 9/11 allegations while inflating the significance of a conflict that is way down the list of the current major conflicts in the world.

[37:32] McAuley: “Tom, it’s quite clear that not only is this an intractable situation but you are saying that if you’re making comparisons with the war against Hizballah, it is very, very important because you spelt out the consequences of that. So I want to ask you, Julie, would you say that this is the most important as well as the most intractable problem facing the world today in terms of not wanting another war?”  

Norman’s response [from 37:57] deliberately erased the fact that over 80% of those killed during the Gaza border rioting since March 30th were linked to terror groups.

Norman: “I would say the framing of this incident in comparison to what happened with Hizballah is even tricky because this wasn’t just Israel cracking down on Hamas. As Tom rightly pointed out this was largely a civilian-based protest. You had 40,000 people – elderly people, women, children – all kinds of people there. This was not just a Hamas protest although Hamas was involved in some of the organising.”

Neither Norman nor McAuley bothered to inform BBC Radio Ulster audiences that the overwhelming majority of those killed were males in their twenties and thirties – indicating that while indeed “elderly people, women, children” had been recruited to the publicity stunt, most of them were not directly involved in the violence. Again quoting Hamas figures, Norman went on:

Norman: “I would also point out also that what happened on Monday was not a one-time incident. What happened on Monday was following 6 weeks of protests at the border. In addition to those who were killed on Monday there were over 40 killed and over 9,000 wounded in the weeks leading up to Monday. This is an intractable situation. This kind of resistance and protest has been going on, will continue and unfortunately this type of response to the protests has also been consistent.”

Revealingly, neither Norman nor any of the other participants made any effort to clarify at point or later on in the item that those so-called ‘protests’ have included shooting attacks, IED attacks, firebomb attacks and infiltrations and attempted infiltrations of the border fence.

The second part of this post will address the rest of the item.