BBC gives air time to ‘Stop the War Coalition’

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme of December 29th featured a short discussion between the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, Lindsey German of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ and guest editor Ann Lesley on the subject of anti-Americanism in the UK. The relevant section of the broadcast can be heard here under the heading 7:51 and its synopsis reads: 

“Do we hold America to a higher moral standard than other countries? Our guest editor Ann Leslie thinks Britain is anti-American, we say nothing when Arabs kill other Arabs, but we heap criticism on the United States if it is responsible for any deaths. She suggests it is a form of racism. Jonathan Freedland writes for the Guardian and New York Times and has written about our mismatched attitudes. Lindsey German is convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and co-author of A People’s History of London.”

At 02:00 in the clip, German says: [emphasis added] 

“I think it beggars belief really that eleven years after the war on terror began when we’ve seen wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya, there are threats now to intervene in Syria and in Iran, that Israel is backed up to the tune of $3 billion a year by the US and all these things I think lead to a great deal of criticism in this country and around the world.”

Lindsey German – being Lindsey German – has of course nothing to say about Iranian funding for terror organisations such as Hamas and Hizballah. Neither, apparently, does she appear to think that what Americans chose to do with their own money is their business or to comprehend that – as stated in November 2011 by the Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs:

“In sum, while our commitment to Israel’s security is rooted in our shared values and outlook, we don’t provide assistance out of charity. We provide assistance because it benefits our security.”

At 04:54, German goes on to say:

“Most of the refugees, if you look in the world, are from Afghanistan, Iraq – as a result of the wars – and from Palestine.”

Statistics provided by the UNHCR at the end of 2010 put the total number of refugees in the world at 15.4 million – of those, 4.82 million Palestinians. Of the 10.58 non-Palestinian refugees, 3.05 million are from Afghanistan and 1.7 million from Iraq.

However, the UNHCR does not include in its refugee figures Internally Displaced Persons, and in that category it placed a further 27 million people in 2010 – mostly from Libya, the Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia and Sudan. UNRWA, of course, does not count Palestinian refugees living under Palestinian rule in the Gaza Strip (1,167,572 in January 2012) or the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories (727,471 in January 2012) as repatriated refugees or IDPs. 

Uniquely, those Palestinians remain refugees because unlike the UNHCR, which constantly strives to reduce the number of refugees and DIPs and which in 2010 repatriated 197,600 refugees to their countries of origin and resettled 98,800 more in other countries, UNRWA has not made any effort since its establishment to reduce the number of Palestinian refugees either by resettlement or by ending the hereditary status of refugees of Palestinian origin. And of course like the Arab dictatorships which Lindsey German and her fringe organization support, she has nothing to say against the manipulation and exploitation of Palestinian refugees for political purposes. 

Whilst the BBC is committed according to its Editorial Guidelines on impartiality to making sure that “no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented”, the question which must be asked is do unchallenged, context-free sound bites put out by a member of an extremist, fringe organization such as the ‘Stop the War Coalition’ indeed represent anything approaching a “significant” opinion?

After the 2005 terror attacks in London, at a rally which included Hamas supporter Azzam Tamimi among its speakers, Lindsey German said:

“We are here to stand up for the truth about the terrible bombings. The establishment says that they were nothing to with Iraq and the war on terror — it is to do with evil ideology.

“But the government would say that. The government is saying that the Muslim community should put their house in order, but we have to ask the government to put its own house in order.

“The government and Tony Blair is in denial about what has happened. Today we are standing together. We are not going to be divided by witch-hunts and racism.

“The only way to end the bombings is to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. When we have justice around the world we will have peace as well.”

German’s organization collaborates with 9/11 ‘troofers’ and antisemites such as Lowkey. It supports the annual Al Quds Day anti-Israel hate-fest organized in London by the Khomenist-regime’s UK supporters at the IHRC. It dabbles in anti-Americanism and antisemitism of its own and has rallied in support of the Assad regime in Syria and the Iranian dictatorship. Here is Lindsey German in London in 2012, speaking to the 200 or so people her organization managed to muster in support of the Assad regime whilst her fellow travelers harass Iranian democracy activists: 

The question is why does the BBC appear to believe that the pro-dictatorship, anti-Israel, anti-American views of a minuscule sect of opinion within the British public represent a “significant strand of thought” worth amplifying. 

 

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BBC’s Connolly reports on ME Christians: omits the one place they thrive

You can always tell that Christmas is on the horizon by the fact that as the nights get longer, Western journalists suddenly develop an interest in Christianity in the Middle East. To his credit, the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly at least refrained from going down the over-trodden route of tracking down a photo-op with a wizened old shepherd from Bethlehem. 

Instead, he produced a report on the falling numbers of Christians throughout the region which was aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Broadcasting House’ programme on December 16th (available here from around 20:43) and also appeared as an article on the BBC News website. 

R 4 Broadcasting House

One may certainly wish to take issue with Connolly’s identification of the defining factors behind the dwindling numbers of Christians in the Middle East.

“And one of the reasons why the flight of Christians from Middle East in general is a difficult story to tell is that it is in general not a story of persecution but of subtler demographic factors.

There has been anti-Christian violence – most notably in Iraq in recent years.

But the Christian population is falling in statistical terms partly because it has a much lower birth-rate than the Muslim population around it.

And it has a high propensity to emigrate.”

Connolly remarks that:

“Christians are no longer a majority in Lebanon, which was once a political and cultural stronghold – and they’re even in a minority in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, the very birthplace of Christ.”

In 1947 the population of Bethlehem was 85% Christian. In 1990 23,000 Christians lived there, as a 60% majority. After the Palestinian Authority took over control of the town in 1995 the town’s municipal boundaries were altered to include concentrations of Muslim population, turning the Christians into a minority. By 2010 the number of Christians in Bethlehem had fallen to 7,500.

Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh has reported on the situation of the Christians in Bethlehem on numerous occasions.  For example, in 2007 he wrote

“A number of Christian families have finally decided to break their silence and talk openly about what they describe as Muslim persecution of the Christian minority in this city. The move comes as a result of increased attacks on Christians by Muslims over the past few months. The families said they wrote letters to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Vatican, Church leaders and European governments complaining about the attacks, but their appeals have fallen on deaf ears. According to the families, many Christians have long been afraid to complain in public about the campaign of “intimidation” for fear of retaliation by their Muslim neighbors and being branded “collaborators” with Israel. But following an increase in attacks on Christian-owned property in the city over the past few months, some Christians are no longer afraid to talk about the ultra-sensitive issue. And they are talking openly about leaving the city.”

And in 2009

“Christian families have long been complaining of intimidation and land theft by Muslims, especially those working for the Palestinian Authority.

Many Christians in Bethlehem and the nearby [Christian] towns of Bet Sahour and Bet Jalla have repeatedly complained that Muslims have been seizing their lands either by force or through forged documents.

In recent years, not only has the number of Christians continued to dwindle, but Bethlehem and its surroundings also became hotbeds for Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters and members.

Moreover, several Christian women living in these areas have complained about verbal and sexual assaults by Muslim men.

Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they could no longer afford to pay “protection” money to local Muslim gangs.

While it is true that the Palestinian Authority does not have an official policy of persecution against Christians, it is also true that this authority has not done enough to provide the Christian population with a sense of security and stability.”

Strangely though, Kevin Connolly’s worrying overview the decline of Christian communities in the Middle East neglects to mention that there is one country in the region in which the Christian population is growing steadily. 

Nazareth

In 1949 there were 38,000 Christians in Israel. By 2000 that number had risen to 130,000, by 2005 to 146,000 and one year ago, at the end of 2011, there were 154,500 Israeli Christians.  Nazareth has 22,000 Christians among its population, Haifa (currently celebrating the ‘Holiday of Holidays’ festival, as featured by the BBC itself in this photo essay) around 14,000, and Shfaram around 9,300.

In 1947 there were 28,000 Christians living in Jerusalem. During the 19 years of Jordanian rule over the eastern part of the city, 61% of them left, with the population reduced to 11,000 when the city was reunited in the Six Day War. At the end of 2010, the Christian population of Jerusalem was 11,600.  

Connolly’s failure to mention the one place in the Middle East in which Christians thrive and have total freedom of worship leaves his audiences with a partial – and therefore inaccurate – picture of Christianity in the Middle East.

Upcoming BBC Radio 4 programme on TE Lawrence

Readers may like to have prior notice of an episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Archive on 4’ due to be broadcast on Saturday December 8th at 20:00 GMT.

TEL

According to the programme’s synopsis:

“Allan Little examines the film and Lawrence’s own account of his desert campaign on which it was based, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He considers how they may be read in the light of the modern Middle East.

With archive of those who knew and served with Lawrence, recollections of his brother and his biographer, contributions from Arab scholars and Lawrence’s own words, Allan Little makes a case for Lawrence as a man of great foresight – both as the ‘father of guerrilla warfare’ and as a strategist who championed the Arab cause.

The programme includes recordings from Jordan, where a team of archaeologists from Bristol University is currently excavating the remains of The Great Arab Revolt and Lawrence’s part in it.”

BBC Radio 4’s Eddie Mair does a Paxman on Israeli Ambassador

h/t AB

On Monday December 3rd  2012, the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme, Eddie Mair, interviewed the Israeli Ambassador to the EU on the subject of the Israeli announcement of planning and zoning in the area known as E1, east of Jerusalem. 

R4 PM 3 dec

The broadcast can be heard here for a limited period of time. Beginning at around 35:00 we hear the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Kevin Connolly giving his interpretation of events, including his clearly unsourced opinion that “I think most Israelis feel a little uncomfortable about how isolated they have become”. [Emphasis added]

The interview with the Ambassador commences at around 39:34 and due to the broadcast’s limited availability a transcript is provided below, although one really does have to listen to the actual programme in order to appreciate the tone of the conversation and the deliberately confrontational attitude adopted by the interviewer. 

Eddie Mair: I’ve been hearing from Israel’s Ambassador to the EU, David Walter.

[Note: the Ambassador is actually named David Walzer – דוד וולצר]

How did you hear the news about the planned new building?

David Walzer: I have received a notification from my government. I think that this was parallel to the – or a short while before – the public statement regarding the issue – the building of the new homes.

EM: And when you heard the news, did you think “Oh well that’s good”?

DW: I don’t recall attributing to it great, good, bad. I think that according to strategic interests of Israel, communities are being built in different parts of Israel for many, many years and this is yet another stage in this long-term programme I think. Therefore I don’t stop to think about the building of a new project and attributing to it emotional grades.

EM: It meant nothing to you emotionally.

DW: I’m not saying that it meant absolutely nothing emotionally..

EM: [interrupts] Please tell me what emotion it inspired in you.

DW: I’m saying it’s not very important whether emotionally for me it’s good or bad or important or not. 

EM: Hmm.. because the decision has been greeted, as you know, in some European capitals with some emotion stretching from disappointment to dismay and it’s really why I was asking you about your own response but you’ve given that to me. Is this announcement directly related to the vote at the UN about the status of Palestinians?

DW: I hope not. I hope that this is a result of discussions and deliberations. [edited]

EM: When you see some of the reactions coming out of the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Russia, Germany – countries generally friendly towards Israel – pretty unanimous in their view of this decision, do you – as an Israeli and as someone who cares about Israel and its standing in the world – does it give you pause for thought? Do you think “Mmm.. I wonder whether there might be a scintilla of truth in their criticism”?

DW: A) I’m sure that all those very friendly nations you have mentioned are true friends of Israel. I don’t doubt that. I was interviewed before the UN voting and I said that as someone belonging to those who very much support peace in Israel – and there are many like me – I am afraid that the UN move or UN bid will only drive us apart from each other instead of bringing us closer to each other. But to put today the anger or lack of sympathy or empathy on the settlement issue, I think is driving us apart from the core issues which are constituting an obstacle to the peace process and it is definitely not the settlements – or not this settlement or another settlement – which constitutes an obstacle to the peace…

EM: [interrupts] Forgive me but the British government says the exact opposite.

DW: But I can – and I would not share grades with [award marks to] the British government of course – but I can only point to the past…

EM: [interrupts] Well do you mind… do you mind if I point to the present. Here is what the British government says. “The strength of our reaction stems from our disappointment that the Israeli government has not heeded the calls that we and others have made for Israel to avoid reacting to the UN General Assembly resolution in a way that undermines the Palestinian Authority or a return to talks.” Clearly the British government believes this announcement is a very serious detriment to the peace process, if indeed we can still use those words.

DW: You insist to talk about today, but I urge you for thirty seconds to allow me to explain that we have proven more than once that settlements do not constitute an obstacle to peace and we have evacuated settlements when we struck a peace deal with Egypt, when we have evacuated Gaza, all communities have been removed. I don’t think that you can in good faith say that the building of a settlement is a breach of peace efforts. The UN bid is a breach of peace efforts in the region. And again, I respect very much the British government and its opinions, but as an Israeli I find that very difficult to accept. This is something you must also understand – that I am entitled to, as much as the British government is entitled for [to] its opinion of course.

EM: Finally, have you had any calls today or any communication today from other European countries, from people saying “this is a great idea – we support what Israel’s doing”?

DW: No, I must be honest and say that no; I have not received so many calls from colleagues supporting this idea.

EM: How does that make you feel?

DW: It makes me feel not very good to say the least…[cut off]

Although this style of ‘Paxmanesque‘ aggressive and condescending interviewing is far from an innovation at the BBC, especially of late, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine an Ambassador from any other country being treated with such disrespect. It is not, however, difficult to imagine British reactions were a UK Ambassador interviewed in such a manner. 

The open hostility and contempt, together with the clearly unnecessary personalisation of the conversation, frequent interruptions and selective – if not manipulative – editing, leave the impression that what was important to Eddie Mair in this interview was not to allow his listeners to hear the official Israeli side of the story, but to humiliate and chastise the Ambassador and the nation he represents.  

The BBC certainly does its country no favours when it comes to trying to convince the world that the old British colonial mentality of “we know what is best for the natives” is a thing of the past. 

BBC employee: “What was done by the Jews is a shame for the entire Umma”

Last weekend the BBC went to great lengths to publicise the tragic story of Omar, the infant son of BBC Arabic Service employee Jihad Masharawi, who died on November 14th during the hostilities between Hamas and Israel. 

Jon Donnison told the story on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, it was also broadcast on the BBC World Service and in addition appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza baby ‘only knew how to smile“. 

On November 26th, Jihad Masharawi’s brother Ahmed, who was injured in the same incident, died. 

A report from November 26th by the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool showed footage of Ahmed Masharawi wrapped in a Hamas flag at his funeral. 

The English language website of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades featured a report on Ahmed Masharawi’s death on November 27th. 

BBC Watch contacted the IDF Spokesperson for the Gaza Division who was able to confirm that a terror site in the vicinity of the Mashrawi house had been targeted on November 14th and that the known terrorist Ahmed Masharawi was injured. 

The footage below was also filmed at the funeral of Ahmed Masharawi, who is described as a “shahid”, by Hamas’ Al Quds TV

At 1:34 BBC employee Jihad Masharawi says (as translated from Arabic):

“Thanks to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, who chose him [i.e. Ahmed] to be a martyr, from all the people. What was done by the Jews is a shame for the entire Umma [Islamic nation], a shame for the West, a shame for the Arabs, who are silent. The entire war struck only the children and the innocent. They didn’t hit a single muqawim [resistance fighter], nor anyone who works for the government, or whatever.”

Clearly, Jihad Masharawi is not only lying about the facts of the conflict, but he also makes no distinction between Israel and Jews as a whole, blaming the latter for having “struck only children and the innocent”. The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism states that one of its manifestations is:

 “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”

It is implausible that the BBC – having filmed and broadcast Ahmed Masharawi at his funeral wrapped in a Hamas flag – is unaware of the Masharawi family’s connections to Hamas – a terror organization proscribed by the British government and many others.

The BBC’s funding public will naturally find it unacceptable on all levels that a BBC employee should engage in propagating lies and antisemitic vitriol on a television station owned and run by a terror organization. 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 dances with the ‘apartheid’ trope

h/t Sharon, Joe

The small, but noisy, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel  – led by its ‘high priest’ Omar Bargouti – has, according to him, three basic aims:

“… ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands occupied since 1967; ending racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens; and recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

As Norman Finkelstein (not one of the better known card-carrying Zionists) pointed out earlier this year, the makers of those demands have one end-game in their sights.

“They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.”

And indeed, many of the BDS movement’s supporters, founders and activists are very open about that end-game, despite the fact that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is defined as antisemitism under the EUMC Working Definition of that form of racism. 

The methods used to try to bring about that end game include the deligitimisation of Israel: the attempt to paint a picture of a country so morally unacceptable that any ‘right-minded’ person cannot possibly tolerate its continued existence.

One way of doing that is to use the ‘apartheid’ trope. By deliberately employing rhetoric which the public associates with a universally morally unacceptable theme, the BDS movement aspires to brand Israel in the minds of the general public with the same stigma as the former racist regime in South Africa. 

Of course a close and factual examination of the situation immediately reveals that the use of the ‘apartheid’ trope in relation to Israel is utterly unfounded.  But sadly, many if not most members of the general public do not have sufficient knowledge of the facts to be able to assess the ‘apartheid’ trope for what it really is: a rhetorical tactic relying on the human mind’s natural tendency to make associations. 

A recent programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (iPM, November 24th 2012), supposedly about the recent  BDS protests against the Israeli dance troupe ‘Batsheva’ at the Edinburgh Festival, did nothing to meet the BBC’s obligations to “seek to ensure that the BBC gives information about, and increases understanding of, the world through accurate and impartial news, other information, and analysis of current events and ideas.” 

Instead – as we have seen happen on various BBC outlets with increasing frequency of late – it provided a platform for an anti-Israel activist, supporting what is ultimately a racist cause, to spout factually incorrect propaganda posing as an ‘opinion’ – unchallenged. 

Scottish play-write and national poet Liz Lochhead stated:

“Well, when I went to Palestine in June this year [….] Well, believe me, I saw a really horrible place to live. After that I was happy to sign the letter against the Batsheva Dance Company being welcomed officially at the Edinburgh International Festival. I used to be naïve enough to think that arts and politics don’t and shouldn’t mix and that is a naïve point of view. People in Israel are not speaking out. They’re not seeing the way the Palestinians live. The ..emm…country is run on such apartheid lines it’s possible for the two sides to just literally not see each other. And that’s a terrible thing and this boycott is a regrettable, but entirely legitimate and very, very useful tool for getting behind the news.”

Did interviewer Eddie Mair demand that Lochhead qualify her statements with facts or himself present any facts which would allow the audience to understand the issue in a balanced manner?

No chance. Listen to the whole programme here

BBC’s Jon Donnison displays a professional and ethical conflict of interests

On Saturday, November 24th 2012, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an edition of  ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ (also scheduled to be broadcast on the BBC World Service), which included a piece by Jon Donnison. The broadcast can be heard here or here, or downloaded here

Frankly, this is a subject I would have preferred not to have had to write about. Donnison’s broadcast concerns the death of the son of his BBC colleague, Jihad Masharawi, on November 14th and of course any death – but perhaps particularly that of a baby – is tragic and bound to evoke understandable emotional reactions – especially among those who know the family personally.

But as is the case with professionals in any field, journalists should be able to separate their personal storm of emotions from the task of carrying out their job. It is Jon Donnison’s inability to do that (along with many of his colleagues) which leaves no choice but to address the subject.

Below is a transcript of the programme: [all emphasis added]

Introduction by Kate Adie:

“A fragile ceasefire continues to hold in the Gaza Strip this morning. One Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces yesterday near the town of Khan Yunis. He was the first to be killed since the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel came into effect on Wednesday night, ending a week of fighting between the two sides. Israel launched its offensive in what it said was an effort to prevent Palestinian rocket fire. Jon Donnison has spent the week in Gaza and was there as one of his BBC colleagues heard that his house had been bombed.”

Adie gives no context whatsoever for the shooting of Anwar Qudaih on November 23rd and  her casting of aspersions upon the reasons for Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ – although by now standard BBC fare – totally ignores the context of the attack on an army jeep in Israeli territory with an anti-tank missile on November 10th and 110 missiles fired from Gaza at civilian communities between that incident and the operation’s commencement on November 14th.

Next, we hear Donnison’s broadcast:

“My friend and colleague Jihad Masharawi is usually the last to leave our Gaza bureau. Hard working but softly spoken, he often stays late, beavering away on his laptop. He has a cool head – unflappable when others like me are flapping around him. He’s a video editor and just one of our local BBC Arabic service staff who make the office tick. But on the Wednesday before last, soon after Gaza’s latest war erupted with Israel’s killing of Hamas’ military commander Ahmed al Jabari, Jihad burst out of the edit suite, screaming. He sprinted down the stairs, his face ripped with anguish. He’d just had a call from a friend to tell him the Israeli military had bombed his house and that his eleven month-old baby boy Omar was dead.”

Yet again, Donnison promotes the standard BBC line which ignores five days of rocket attacks on civilians prior to the targeted killing of Jabari, thus placing the blame for the hostilities on Israel – and excusing Hamas from any responsibility. Donnison makes an early attempt to establish the supposed bombing of Masharawi’s house by Israel as fact, despite having no proof for that assertion. He continues:

“Most fathers will tell you that their children are beautiful. Omar was a picture book baby. Standing in what’s left of his burnt-out home this week, Jihad showed me a photo on his mobile phone. It was of a cheeky, chunky, round-faced little boy in denim dungarees, chuckling in a push-chair. Dark eyed, with a fringe of fine brown hair pushed across his brow. “He only knew how to smile” Jihad told me, as we both struggled to hold back the tears.

“He could say just two words – Babba and Mamma”, his father went on. Also on Jihad’s phone is another photo; a hideous tiny corpse – Omar’s smiling face virtually burnt off, that fine hair appearing to be melted onto his scalp. Jihad’s sister-in-law, Hiba, was also killed. “We still haven’t found her head”, Jihad said. And his brother is critically ill in hospital with massive burns. His chances are not good.”

Donnison’s unnecessarily graphic descriptions are the audio version of the photographs of dead children (some real and some not – as Donnison well knows) used frequently by Hamas propagandists to incite world opinion against Israel.

 Let us be quite clear: this is war pornography. Its use is designed specifically to shock audiences into oblivion regarding the circumstances and facts and it aims to solicit purely emotional reactions of anger and disgust at the suggested perpetrator.

 Of course we have never (thankfully) heard comparable BBC descriptions of Israeli casualties broadcast in such a manner. 

For those unfamiliar with the BBC’s domestic broadcasts, it is worth pointing out that they are rife with warnings to the effect that “some viewers may find the content disturbing”. No such warning is given at the beginning of this programme. Did its unnamed producer consider the usual niceties unnecessary – or a hindrance? 

Donnison continues:

“Jihad has another son, Ali, four years old, who was lightly injured. He keeps asking where his baby brother has gone. Eleven members of the Masharawi family lived in the tiny breeze-block house in the Sabra district of Gaza City. Five people slept in one room. The beds are now only good for charcoal. On the kitchen shelves there are rows of melted plastic jars full of spices, their shapes distorted as if reflected from a fairground mirror. And in the entrance hall; a two foot-wide hole in the flimsy metal ceiling – where the missile ripped through.”

Donnison is the only person claiming that the Masharawi family home is in the Sabra district. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, as well as numerous media reports, all place the house in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City and that fact is very relevant indeed. 

Donnison goes on:

“Despite the evidence pointing towards an Israeli air-strike, some have suggested it might have been a misfired Hamas rocket. 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. Mortar fire would not cause the fireball that appears to have engulfed Jihad’s house. Others say that the damage was not consistent with powerful Israeli attacks, but the BBC visited other bomb sites this week with very similar fire damage, where Israel acknowledged carrying out what it called “surgical strikes”. Like at Jihad’s house, there was very little structural damage, but the victims were brought out with massive and fatal burns.”

With all due respect, none of the numerous BBC correspondents in Gaza last week are ballistic or munitions experts, and until an independent study by such a professional comes to light, Donnison’s conjectures based on anecdotal evidence remain precisely that.

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. 

It is at this juncture useful to return to a report on the same subject put out by Donnison on November 15th – the day after the incident. In that report (specifically marked as containing disturbing images), Jihad Masharawi is interviewed by colleagues from the BBC Arabic Service. The report’s synopsis states that:

“Jihad Misharawi said his 11-month-old son Omar died after shrapnel hit the family home in Gaza.”

In the filmed interview, the following exchange takes place between Jihad Masharawi and the interviewer:

Interviewer: “Our condolences, Jihad. Tell me what happened with you.”

JM: “Shrapnel hit our house.”

Interviewer: “Shrapnel?”

JM: “Yes. My sister-in-law was killed along with my son and my brother and my other son were wounded.

Interviewer: “In which area?”

JM: “In al Zeitoun.”

Viewing the timeline of announcements from the IDF Spokesman on the relevant day (and corroborated in numerous media reports from the time) we see that immediately following the targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, attempts were made to neutralize the arsenal of long-range Iranian supplied Fajr 5 missiles held by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip so as to minimize the dangers of reactions to Jabari’s killing to Israeli civilians. 

Later that evening, the IDF released an aerial photograph of one such rocket launching site – owned by Hamas – in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in which Jihad Masharawi’s house is – according to him – situated. 

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.

But it is significant that the BBC has doggedly avoided conducting any sort of investigation whatsoever into the subject of Palestinians killed or injured by at least 152 known shortfalls of rockets fired by terrorists during the week November 14th to 21st and that it has had no inclination whatsoever to report on the use of the civilian population of Gaza as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations storing and launching military-grade weapons from residential areas, despite having frequently (if inadvertently) documented those launchings itself.

In that vein, Donnison continues:

Most likely is that Omar died in one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks. Omar was not a terrorist.”

Of course an eleven-month old baby was not a terrorist: we do not need to be told that by Donnison. But let us also take note of the fact that after a week of furious avoidance of that word, the BBC has finally found a use for it: as a means to chastise Israel. 

Donnison goes on:

“Of course every civilian death on either side – not just Omar’s – is tragic. The United Nations says its preliminary investigation shows that 103 of the 158 people killed in Gaza were civilians. Of these, thirty were children, twelve of whom were under the age of ten. More than a thousand people were injured. The Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that every non-combatant death or injury was tragic and an operational failure.”

Significantly, Donnison chooses to quote exclusively figures put forward by the highly partisan UN OCHA. Other sources suggest very different ratios of civilian to combatant deaths with the IDF reporting 120 combatants out of a total of 177 dead and B’Tselem’s initial findings (not complete) showing a ratio of 40 civilians to 62 combatants.

But it in the next part of his report – obviously inserted in the name of ‘impartiality’ – that Donnison truly exceeds himself:

“In Israel too there were casualties. Four civilians and two soldiers. There were also many injuries, but the fact that the Israeli ambulance service was also reporting those suffering from anxiety and bruises is an indication of the asymmetric nature of the conflict.”

Very classy: having spent a week advancing the narrative that not enough Israelis were being killed, the BBC now promotes accusations that Israel inflates casualty figures.

And, quick off the mark to ‘prove’ his point, Donnison continues: 

“Jihad’s son Omar was probably the first child to die in this latest round of violence. Among the last was a young boy – Abdul Rahman Naim – killed by an Israeli attack just hours before the ceasefire was announced. Abdul Rahman’s father, Dr. Majdi, is one of the leading specialist doctors at Gaza City’s Shifa hospital. The first he knew of his son’s death was when he went to treat a patient, only to find that it was his own boy.

Before I left Jihad’s house, leaving him sitting round a camp-fire with other mourners, I asked him – perhaps stupidly – if he was angry over Omar’s death. “Very, very angry”, he said, his jaw tensing as he glanced at the photos on his phone. My thoughts, after a week where I’ve had little time to think, are with Jihad and his family. Remarkably and unnecessarily, he told me his thoughts were with me and the rest of our BBC team. “I’m just sorry, Jon, that I had to go and wasn’t there to help you with your work” he said, before we hugged and said goodbye.”

It is, of course, perfectly natural that Donnison and other BBC staff should be upset about the death of a colleague’s child. It is even perhaps understandable that several of them allowed their emotions to dictate their reactions and actions at the time. 

What is not acceptable, however, is the BBC’s use of this insufficiently investigated story to promote the narrative of a child’s death being the result of Israeli actions – whilst at the same time brushing aside the conflicting unverified versions as to what actually happened and in stark contrast to its point-blank refusal to report on the subject of casualties caused as a result of the use by Hamas of its civilian population as human shields.

No less problematic is the BBC’s collaboration in the promotion of the same narrative outside its own outlet. 

Fisher did indeed use Danahar’s photographs in his article in the Washington Post. 

Jon Donnison has, over the last two days, been promoting his ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ feature with considerable zeal on Twitter

As angry and upset as Donnison and his colleagues may be, they have clearly crossed a line which has led to a professional and ethical conflict of interests. The tragic story of Omar Masharawi is now no longer being reported: it is being used and abused to advance a very specific narrative of Israel as a killer of children.

It is in danger of rapidly turning into a ‘journalists’ blood libel’ – if it has not already done so – and that is because of the fact that despite a number of deaths of children in the Gaza Strip during the recent hostilities, the BBC fails to make clear that none of those children (or any other civilians) were deliberately targeted by Israel and fails to present the events in their true context – part of which is the fact that not only does Hamas deliberately target Israel’s civilian population, but it also intentionally  endangers its own in order to reap exactly the kind of images and stories the BBC is now running so enthusiastically.

One may be tempted to ascribe the BBC’s actions to naivety or ‘battle fatigue’ but that may not necessarily be the case – as indicated in the Tweet below by BBC Foreign Editor Jon Williams. 

“Gaza” did not produce those images: journalists did. And in the case of the BBC it is increasingly emerging that they are knowingly and intentionally being promoted in order to advance a specific – yet unverified – narrative.

 It is that fact which has seriously compromised the BBC’s reputation as an impartial and accurate reporter of the news and tipped it over into the already over-populated category of journalists who wish to define the news and the public’s perception of it for the purpose of furthering a wider agenda.

The BBC’s muddy ‘Moral Maze’

Some discussions on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict actually reveal more about the speakers and the climate of the society in  which they function than about the subject itself. The latest edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Moral Maze’ on the subject of “Morality and Ethics in the Gaza Conflict” (available here or here) is one of them.

Why is the subject matter never referred to as “the Southern Israel Conflict”, by the way? After all, the real bottom line is the refusal by Hamas to accept the presence of Israelis in the region at all, as they are not shy to admit.

Nevertheless, in this programme you can hear one British academic describe Israel’s taking of action against rocket attacks on civilians as “revenge” and a “base form of behaviour” which “provokes the enemy”. He also gets rocket statistics drastically wrong, saying that 300 missiles were fired during Operation Pillar of Cloud when the total number was actually 1,506. 

You can also hear another British academic argue that “Zionism has failed” and “there is no future for Israel”, whilst choosing to use the politically loaded term “Bantustans” (designed to equate Israel with the South African apartheid regime) and to claim that Israelis “live in terror of their Palestinian minority” – meaning Israeli Arabs.

Another contributor declares a belief that “Israel should behave with moral generosity”, whilst it is admitted that the lack of democracy in Gaza means “I don’t expect so much from Hamas”. That seems like a win-win situation for repressive dictators everywhere. 

And of course the usual irrelevant Northern Ireland analogies are brought up, as happens so frequently when British contributors are involved.

Thankfully, some of the other contributions were better, but the one question I have for the BBC’s distinguished cadre of moral debaters is this: which country are they going to discuss next in terms of its “right to exist” and potential dismantling?

Upcoming on BBC Radio 4: ‘Moral Maze’ on Gaza

Here is a programme of which readers might like prior notice.

Described on its webpage as “combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week’s news and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week’s news stories”, this week’s edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Moral Maze’ – to be broadcast on Wednesday, November 21st at 20:00 GMT – will relate to the subject of what it describes as “the current conflict in Gaza” (apparently not having noticed that there is also conflict going on over the border, with 3.5 million Israelis under attack from over a thousand military-grade missiles in the past week alone).

The blurb reads:

“Both sides in the current conflict in Gaza have been claiming the moral high ground. To the Israelis it’s an issue of self-defence and they’re trying to avoid casualties. To Hamas it’s about responding to the oppression and aggression of a much more powerful neighbour. The world looks on, counting the bodies and is almost inevitably drawn to the graphic simplicities of competing victimhood. The Palestinians win that hands down, but, terrible though it is, there’s more to morality than suffering. What if, as the Israeli writer Amos Oz says, they’re both right? Should we substitute pragmatism for morality? Stop trying to weigh up competing moral claims in the interests of some sort of solution. Or is giving up the idea of right and wrong, relativism of the worst kind, that could lead to a different kind of moral tragedy? Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Anne McElvoy, Matthew Taylor and Claire Fox”  

BBC’s ‘Any Questions’ has been at it again

A guest post by Joe Geary.

(The programme can be downloaded here for a limited period of time or listened to here. The relevant section begins at 12:23′. – Ed.) 

Not learning any lessons from harbouring child molesters, the BBC is a natural home for Israel molesters.

First of all – the breathtaking question from one Stephen Bedford:

 “Despite all the foreign aid and support, Israel has spectacularly failed to get on with its neighbours. Does Israel deserve a future?”

How did they possibly allow such a question? Still, it tells you all you need to know about the Political Wing of the BBC.

Cue a vicious anti-Israel tirade from Shirley Williams.

She’s actually visited Gaza, she says (one wonders who showed her round) and it’s “a slum, worse than anything in Britain in the 19th Century”. But wouldn’t that be its government’s fault, Shirley? And you don’t know your history. Average Gazan life expectancy is over 73 years –  in Britain in the 19th Century it was below 40 and in 2011, male life expectancy in Glasgow was 71.

And it’s “crowded out to the gills”.  Yes, and how precisely is that Israel’s fault? Do they put something in the water to make Gazans have more babies?

And Gaza is full of people “who see their land slowly eaten up by more and more Israeli settlements”. Come again, Shirley? Israeli settlements in Gaza as the pretext for violence against Israel? The sheer ignorance is astounding.

So of course Jonathan Dimbleby, the BBC chair, steps in to quietly correct the facts. Fat chance. So yet another anti-Israel lying slander passes through the BBC airwaves.

 As for Williams’s motives. My guess is this. Her party keeps getting a kicking in the press and at polls. So what do you do? Turn round and give Israel a good kicking. Feel better now Shirley?

P.S. Dimbleby’s main contribution was to interject that in the current conflict only three Israelis have been killed but over 30 Palestinians. So the main problem for the BBC man is not enough dead Israelis.