BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during May 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 365 incidents took place: 139 in Judea & Samaria, 34 in Jerusalem and 192 in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 153 attacks with petrol bombs, eleven attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), four shooting attacks, four arson attacks and one attack with a stone slab. Attacks recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 118 attacks with petrol bombs, twelve shooting attacks, 12 attacks using IEDs, one grenade attack and two arson attacks. Forty-five separate incidents of projectile fire were recorded (41 involving rockets and 4 involving mortars) with 188 launches.

One soldier – Staff Sgt Ronen Lubarsky – died two days after being critically injured when a marble slab was thrown at his head on May 24th. The BBC News website did not produce any reporting at all on that incident or on an earlier one in which one member of the security forces was wounded in an IED/stoning attack on May 9th in Abu Dis. Three additional members of the security forces and one civilian were wounded by mortar fire from the Gaza Strip on May 29th with the BBC mentioning three of those four injuries.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw no reporting at all on any of the incidents in Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

The website’s coverage of the incidents in the Gaza Strip sector during May is listed below. [emphasis added]

Kerem Shalom crossing May 11. Photo: IDF Spokesperson

May 5th: “Gaza explosion leaves six Palestinians dead

“On Saturday, Israel accused Hamas of setting fire to gas supplies and damaging crossing points where humanitarian supplies are brought into Gaza.”

May 14th: “Gaza clashes: 52 Palestinians killed on deadliest day since 2014

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres. […]

The Israeli military said it had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah. Aircraft and tanks had also targeted military positions belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, it said.”

May 15th: “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence in years

“They burned tyres, and threw stones and incendiary devices.”

[Israeli spokesman] “…people throwing mortars, and bombs, and placing IEDs…”

May 15th: “Gaza begins to bury its dead after deadliest day in years

“Palestinian protesters have hurled stones and incendiary devices and approached the border fence, which Israel has declared a no-go zone, on foot.”

May 15th: “Gaza violence: Israelis and Palestinians in fierce exchanges at UN

No mention of Palestinian actions.

May 15th: “May urges ‘greater restraint’ by Israel after Gaza violence

“Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices and approached the border fence.” 

May 17th: “Did Israel use excessive force at Gaza protests?

“Despite the warnings, thousands of Palestinians approached the fence during the protests. A number threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers deployed on the Israeli side of the border, and flew kites laden with petrol soaked material intended to start fires on Israeli territory. […]

The [Israeli] military has said it also foiled a number of “terrorist attacks” orchestrated by Hamas during the protests and killed people trying to plant bombs at the fence or break through it.”

May 18th: “Israel’s Gaza response ‘wholly disproportionate’ – UN rights chief

“While most Palestinians have demonstrated at a distance from the border, others threw rocks and incendiary devices towards the fence and tried to break through.”

May 22nd: “Palestinians demand full ICC investigation into ‘Israeli war crimes’

No mention of Palestinian actions

May 29th: “Israel strikes Gaza after heaviest mortar barrage in years

“In Israel, an empty kindergarten was hit when militants fired more than 30 mortars earlier in the day. […]

The Israeli military said the biggest volley of mortar shells was fired at several sites in Israel in the early hours, with most intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system. […]

More shells were launched in subsequent attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. Three Israelis were wounded, media reports said. […]

Hours earlier, machine-gun fire from Gaza hit houses and vehicles in the Israeli border town of Sderot, though without causing injuries, the IDF said. […]

A member of Hamas was killed on Monday after Israeli soldiers caught a group attempting to breach the border and carry out an attack, while on Sunday three members of Islamic Jihad were killed after placing an explosive device on the border fence, the IDF said.”

May 31st: “Gaza violence: Red Cross sends surgeons ‘to help health crisis’

“On Tuesday, Israel attacked militant sites in Gaza after it came under a heavy barrage of mortar and rocket fire.”

As can be seen, in six of the BBC’s articles audiences were told of stone-throwing (which is not recorded by the ISA) and incendiary devices – i.e. firebombs – with one mention of incendiary kites. The only mentions of explosive devices (IEDs), shooting and arson attacks were found in quotes or descriptions of statements from the IDF/Israel. BBC audiences were given an account of the mortar and rocket attacks on May 29th/30th which did not reflect the full number of projectiles launched.

Even if we count the six BBC references to firebombs as covering the full amount of attacks with such devices, count the BBC’s presentation of “more than” 30 mortar attacks as portraying the full number of projectiles fired and include the four mentions of IEDs, one reference to “machine gun fire” and one mention of an arson attack, we still see that more attacks went unreported than reported and that at the very most, BBC audiences saw coverage of 46.3% of the terrorism that took place during May.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has at best reported 18% of the terror attacks that have taken place and 83.3% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

BBC News website coverage of May 14 Gaza rioting

More ‘Great Return March’ arson and ambitions ignored by BBC News

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2018

 

 

 

 

 

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BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

On the evening of Saturday June 2nd two missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip.

“…on Saturday night, the army’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket fired at southern Israel by a terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, the military said.

A second rocket was also launched around the same time, but appeared to fall on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The rocket launches appeared to be the first violation of a fragile ceasefire in effect since Wednesday morning, but came after a weekend of intense violence along the Gaza border.

The two rocket launches triggered sirens in Israel’s Eshkol region, near the south of the Strip, shortly before the end of Shabbat.” 

Israel responded with strikes on military facilities belonging to Hamas.

Reporting on those two rocket launches was added to an article titled “Gaza violence: Thousands attend funeral for Palestinian medic” which was published on the BBC News website’s main homepage as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on the evening (local time) of June 2nd.

“Later on Saturday rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel reportedly responded with air strikes. […]

Hours after the funeral two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, the IDF said, triggering air raid sirens in Israeli villages near the border.

One rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system and the other apparently landed inside Gaza, a statement said.”

However, four more projectiles were subsequently fired during the night.

“In the staggered attacks overnight Saturday-Sunday, the first projectile was launched shortly after 12:30 a.m., setting off sirens in the southern town of Sderot and surrounding Sha’ar Hanegev region.

 The second projectile was fired at Israel less than an hour later, triggering alarms in the Eshkol region, the army said.

At 2:45 a.m., sirens again sounded in the Sha’ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regions in southern Israel as another projectile targeted southern Israel.

All three were shot down by the Iron Dome, the army said. It was not immediately clear if the projectiles were rockets or mortar shells.

At 3:20 a.m., sirens again went off in the Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regions, with the army confirming another “launch from the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory,” and identifying the projectile as a rocket.”

More strikes on Hamas facilities were carried out in response.

The BBC’s report was not updated to include those overnight attacks and no additional reporting appeared.

Also absent from the BBC’s report was any mention of additional incidents which took place during the rioting along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on June 1st.

“The army said that an IDF vehicle came under fire during the riots and that a Palestinian who breached the border fence in northern Gaza planted a grenade that exploded. […]

The Palestinian rioters also sent fire kites over the fence on Friday, causing three large blazes in nearby Israeli fields.”

Arson attacks using incendiary kites continued on June 2nd, causing harm to wildlife and destroying part of a nature reserve and hundreds of acres of agricultural land but no mention of that appeared in the BBC’s report.

Since the ‘Great Return March’ events commenced at the end of March, over 270 fires have been started by Palestinians using incendiary kites, reportedly destroying some 25,000 dunams (6,200 acres), or more than a third of all the land adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, BBC audiences have seen no coverage of those arson attacks whatsoever.

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BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 reframes last month’s Iranian attack on Israel

Last week BBC Radio 4 ran a five-part series of programmes – presented by Edward Stourton and featuring Fawaz Gerges and additional guests – under the title “How Syria Changed the World“.

The fourth episode – titled “Sectarianism” – opened with Stourton telling listeners that:

Stourton: “In early May the Israeli military authorities ordered the opening of bomb shelters on the Golan Heights. Then on the night of May the 9th to 10th the Israelis launched their biggest attack yet on Iranian positions inside Syria.”

Listeners then heard part of what appears to be a news report:

“The Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman told Iran ‘if you bring us rain, you’ll get a flood’. The wave of overnight airstrikes by Israel on Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria has borne his words out.”

In fact, Lieberman’s comment was made after the events of the night of May 9th/10th.

Stourton did not bother to inform Radio 4 listeners that the May 8th order to open shelters on the Golan Heights came as a result of “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria” – detected after a month of threats against Israel from Iran.

Neither did he bother to mention (not for the first time) the rather relevant fact that those “overnight airstrikes by Israel” were preceded by Iran having launched 32 missiles at Israel.

As we see, less than a month after it took place the BBC has reframed the incident in which Iran’s IRGC forces attacked Israel, turning it into a story in which “the Israelis launched their biggest attack yet” – and making 32 Iranian missiles completely disappear from audience view.  

Related Articles:

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Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part two

 

BBC News continues to sideline Hamas’ ’50 were ours’ announcement

As we saw in an earlier post, the BBC’s reporting on a Hamas official’s announcement on May 16th that the vast majority of those killed during violent rioting on the Gaza border two days earlier were Hamas members was – to put it politely – underwhelming.

So far we have found only three brief references to that announcement in all of the BBC’s relevant content and since then BBC reporters have reverted to portraying those killed on May 14th as ‘peaceful protesters’, ‘unarmed civilians’ or merely ‘Palestinians’, despite fifty-three of them having been claimed as members by either Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Another example of that editorial policy came in a May 30th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ in an item (from 06:09 here) introduced by presenter Paul Hawkins as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Hawkins: “The UN will meet later today – the Security Council will meet later today – to discuss the upsurge of violence on Tuesday between Gaza and Israel as dozens of rockets were fired by Palestinian militants at Israel and then Israel responded with missile attacks on Gaza. Israeli intelligence minister – ah…the Israeli intelligence minister – said his country was at the closest point to the threshold of war since the seven-week conflict with Palestinian militants four years ago. Our correspondent Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem. Tom, what’s the latest?”

Stating that “tensions had begun to mount since Sunday”, Tom Bateman described just one of several incidents to have taken place in recent days while qualifying the widely reported and documented event with the words “Israel said”.

Bateman: “…Israel said it found an explosive device laid at the perimeter fence. It then…one of its tanks then shelled a military post inside Gaza which killed three members of the militant group Islamic Jihad.”

Bateman then went on to describe the 22 hours of mortar and rocket fire launched against Israeli civilian communities on May 29th/30th but without clarifying that Hamas and the PIJ had issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for those attacks. Describing Israel’s response to the attacks, he told BBC audiences that:

Bateman: “The Israelis say they’ve targeted military positions belonging to militant groups – both to Hamas and to Islamic Jihad.”

In response to Hawkins’ question “why is this happening now?” Bateman linked the firing of military grade weapons at civilians – including a nursery school – by groups he studiously refrained from describing as terrorists to “anniversaries”:

Bateman: “Well there has been an escalation in tensions over the last couple of months. It’s been a significant year, both because it has been the anniversaries…the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel, 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba; their catastrophe where they mark what they see as their historical dispossession. Then there was the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which was welcomed by Israel but vehemently opposed by Palestinians that same week. So in the run-up to that – I’m sure listeners remember that there were weeks of protests at the Gaza border fence and Israeli troops shot dead more than a hundred Palestinians. The Palestinians say these were peaceful protests by unarmed civilians. The Israelis say that this was largely orchestrated by Hamas; that these were violent riots and people intended to storm the fence to harm Israelis and Israeli communities on the other side of the fence. So, you know, in the aftermath of that, things have been very tense…”

As we see Tom Bateman chose to ignore the fact that over 80% of the people he is happy to quote ‘Palestinians’ describing as “unarmed civilians” have been shown to have links to various terror factions. His faux impartiality concealed the fact that Hamas publicly acknowledged that five of those killed on March 30th were members of its Qassam Brigades, that it claimed 50 of those killed on May 14th and that the PIJ has also claimed several of those killed since the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt began.

In addition, while happy to uncritically parrot claims of “peaceful protests”, Bateman placed documented violent incidents such as shooting attacks, IED attacks and border infiltrations in the category of things “Israelis say” happened. He similarly described documented calls by Hamas leaders to infiltrate Israeli territory and attack Israeli citizens as merely things that ‘Israel says’.

Bateman then returned to the May 27th IED incident, telling BBC World Service audiences that it was Israel’s response to that – rather than a terror organisation’s act of planting an explosive device on a border fence – that caused the latest escalation.

Bateman: “…and then, you know, we’ve had these exchanges of fire over the last few days and as I said, Sunday I think was an important day in terms of the Israeli actions when they said they’d discovered an explosive device and the Islamic Jihad militants had been killed – they vowed to revenge that – and that immediate flare-up in the last few days seems to have been following what happened on Sunday.”

Just as there is no room in the BBC’s framing of the ‘Great Return March’ story for ‘distractions’ such as reporting on Hamas’ organisation, funding and facilitation of the events, the destruction of the Kerem Shalom crossing by Palestinian rioters or the repeated arson attacks on Israeli farmers’ fields close to the border, so too Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad acknowledgement of the fact that a very significant proportion of those killed during the month and a half of rioting were members of their terror groups has been expunged from the BBC’s chosen narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of Gaza mortar and rocket attacks

The BBC’s ‘Great Return March’ great disappearing act

BBC ignores removal of Gaza baby from casualty list

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part one

BBC News plays down Hamas role in Gaza violence – part two

 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ coverage of Gaza mortar and rocket attacks

Right at the end of the May 29th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ listeners heard a short item relating to the mortar and rocket fire by terror groups in the Gaza Strip that had, at the time of broadcast, been going on for over nine hours.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced that report – from 51:03 here – as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “And just before we go, there has been some significant activity on the border between Gaza and Israel. The BBC’s Tom Bateman joins us now on the line from Jerusalem. Ah, Tom, this has been the heaviest military exchange of fire for some time.”

Located over a hundred kilometres away from the scene of the events he was reporting, Tom Bateman began in typical BBC ‘last-first’ mode by describing Israel’s response to – by that time – four rounds of attacks on civilian communities. In line with BBC editorial policy he refrained from describing the people responsible for those attacks as terrorists.  

Bateman: “Yeah, well this is a series of Israeli airstrikes that the Israeli military is describing as its largest response in Gaza since the war of 2014. It says it carried out airstrikes on 30 targets. Eh…speaking to colleagues in Gaza City…I mean they heard very loud explosions over a period of about three hours from around lunchtime. The Israeli military says it’s been targeting militant…ah…groups’ sites there and this follows this morning…ehm…rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Now most of those mortars were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system but at least two landed in Israeli communities…eh…and one – the Israelis say – in the garden of a children’s nursery that was empty at the time. But the Israeli prime minister said there would be a forceful response. The Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that this has been a massive and powerful strike and it seems that rocket alert sirens are continuing in southern Israel, so there are signs that this may escalate yet further.”

Notably the first three barrages (at around 07:00, 08:00 and 09:30 local time) got just fifty words of coverage from Bateman, who did not bother to inform listeners how many mortars had been fired (28) but added the unnecessary qualification “the Israelis say” to his portrayal of the landing site of one of them. By the time Bateman’s live report was aired, the IDF had announced the destruction of a cross-border tunnel but ‘Newshour’ listeners heard nothing of that.  

Iqbal: “And nothing, no…eh…statement from Gaza at all yet?”

Bateman: “Well we know that, as I say, there has been an escalation since…on Sunday an Islamic Jihad military post was targeted by the Israelis. Three Islamic Jihad militants were killed in that but we await further statements from the groups in Gaza themselves.”

The BBC did not report on that incident on May 27th and so audiences would be unaware of the part missing from Bateman’s account: the fact that the Israeli fire on the PIJ observation post came after the terror group had planted an explosive device on the border fence.

Iqbal: “Tom Bateman joining us live from Jerusalem on that increased military activity – heavy exchange between Gaza and Israel.”

Still located in Jerusalem, Bateman returned to report on the same story in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ (from 50:14 here). Presenter Julian Marshall stuck to the BBC’s editorial line by failing to inform listeners that over 80% of the people he portrayed simply as “Palestinians” were linked to terrorist groups.  

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

Marshall: “And we go now to Israel’s border with Gaza: the scene earlier this month of mass protests during which more than a hundred Palestinians were killed by Israeli live fire. And there’s been a further upset of violence today with massive Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in response to a barrage of shells from Palestinian militants. I heard more from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman began with the inaccurate claim that “sirens sounded across southern Israel” when in fact that they were initially confined to areas close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

Bateman: “Well it was early on Tuesday morning that…ah…rocket sirens sounded across southern Israel. There was then a…what Israel describes as a barrage of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. Now most of the projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. There were more than 25 fired all together but at least two landed in Israeli communities. Israel is saying one landed in the…in a kindergarten yard. There was no-one there at the time. And after this, which the Israeli military has described as…ehm…the biggest event of its kind from the Gaza Strip since the war in 2014, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised a forceful response and then around lunchtime for around three hours there were intensive Israeli airstrikes at locations across the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says that they targeted more than 30 sites. I was speaking to colleagues in Gaza City. I mean there were incredibly loud explosions that could be heard from there and it appears these were targeting – as far as the Israelis were concerned – Hamas and Islamic Jihad military sites. They believe that most of the rocket and mortar fire had come from Islamic Jihad and from Hamas as well.”

Two and a half hours before this programme went on air it had already been reported that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for the attacks. Bateman’s description of that as something that “the Israelis…believe” is therefore both superfluous and misleading. Failing to adequately clarify that the IED was placed at the border fence by PIJ activists, he continued:

Bateman: “That…it appears to have been in response to an event on Sunday when Israelis fired tank fire at a military post inside the Gaza Strip, killing three Islamic Jihad members. That, the Israelis said, was in response to an explosive device being laid at the Gaza perimeter fence. And so what you have here is a serious escalation.”

Marshall: “And will it escalate further, Tom?”

Bateman: “Well this is a question that was asked of the Israeli military this afternoon and they have said – which is what they always say in these events – that they do not seek an escalation but they won’t tolerate missiles – rockets or projectiles – coming from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli communities. Now there were more rocket sirens whilst Israeli airstrikes were going on. More interceptions it seems and the Israeli media is reporting that at least three Israelis have been wounded from shrapnel. They don’t seem to be very serious injuries but of course that may yield yet another wave of responses from Israel.”

By the time that report from Bateman was aired residents of the western Negev had been rushing to shelters for sixteen hours and at least 70 rockets and mortars had been fired into Israeli territory with more hits recorded than the two mentioned in this report. The number of projectiles portrayed in Bateman’s report – “more than 25” – was accurate thirteen and a half hours before it was aired. Once again listeners heard nothing about the cross-border tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Egypt and then into Israel which had been destroyed some seven hours previously.

Obviously the total of just over five minutes of reporting that BBC World Service audiences heard in these two editions of ‘Newshour’ did not provide them with the full picture of this story – and not least the fact that the two organisations that initiated the violence with massive mortar attacks are terrorist groups rather than “militants”.

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BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

Just before 7 a.m. on May 29th residents of Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip had to rush for cover as a barrage of twenty-five mortars was fired by terrorists. Roughly an hour later another two mortars were fired and just after 09:30 a third attack took place.

“At least 28 mortar shells were fired at southern Israel in at least three separate barrages Tuesday morning as sirens blared throughout the area, the army said, amid heightened tensions along the Gaza border.

One person was lightly injured by shrapnel in his shoulder and was being treated at the Soroka medical center in Beersheba. […]

“The army said its Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted the majority of the incoming shells from the first barrage.

One of the shells struck a tree in the yard of a kindergarten in the Eshkol region, less than an hour before students were due to arrive, a spokesperson for the community said. […]

The kindergarten that was hit by a mortar shell — along with all other schools in the area — opened as usual on Tuesday, despite the attack.”

Attacks with both mortars and rockets were renewed in the afternoon hours – including on more distant towns such as Ofakim and Ashkelon – and continued into the evening and night. By 9 p.m. local time at least 70 projectiles (some of which were Iranian-made) had been launched, several Israeli civilians and soldiers had been wounded and Hamas and the second largest armed terror faction in Gaza – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – had issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for the attacks.

Version 1 on Middle East page

The IDF responded to the attacks throughout the day with strikes on military positions in the Gaza Strip and, separately, destroyed a cross-border tunnel – the tenth in recent months.

So how did the BBC News website cover the day’s events?

Over five hours after the first attack, the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article that was initially headlined “Gaza mortar barrage fired at Israel heaviest in years” – and tagged “Gaza border clashes”.

At no point in that report were the people who fired military-grade weapons at civilian communities – including an educational establishment for pre-schoolers – described as terrorists.

“Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired dozens of mortars at Israel in the heaviest such barrage in years. […]

Israel responded with air strikes on militant positions in Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties. […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli military “will respond very forcefully” to the attacks, which he blamed on Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement and the smaller Gaza-based militant group Islamic Jihad.”

Version 1

Readers were informed that:

“The Israeli military said a volley of mortar shells were fired at several sites in Israel, with most intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

They were not told that the Iron Dome intercepts projectiles that are about to land in populated areas.

In the first five versions of the article, readers found a bizarre description of the purpose of ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunts organised by Hamas and other terror factions to advocate elimination of Israel as the Jewish state and the BBC concealed from audiences the fact that over 80% of those killed between March 30th and May 14th have been shown to have links to assorted terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

“The latest flare-up follows weeks of Israel-Gaza violence which has seen more than 100 Palestinians killed.

They were shot dead by Israeli snipers amid protests which saw thousands of Palestinians mass on the Gaza-Israel border in support of their refugee population.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s article also mentioned some previous recent incidents that had not been reported by the corporation, including machine gun fire at the town of Sderot on May 28th.

“Hours earlier, machine-gun fire from Gaza hit houses and vehicle in the Israeli border town of Sderot, though without causing injuries, the IDF said.”

It went on to mention an infiltration attempt on May 28th and an IED attack on May 27th.

“The upsurge in violence came after Israeli tank fire killed four militants in Gaza in two separate incidents at the start of the week.

A member of Hamas was killed on Monday after Israeli soldiers caught a group attempting to breach the border and carry out an attack, while on Sunday three members of Islamic Jihad were killed after placing an explosive device on the border fence, the IDF said.”

The first five versions of the article closed with the following description of the events that led up to Operation Protective Edge in 2014:

“The latest cross-border violence is some of the heaviest since a 50-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza in 2014. That followed an upsurge of rocket fire into Israel, and the killing by Israel of the commander of Hamas’s military wing.”

Version 6 on Middle East page

Israel did not kill “the commander of Hamas’s military wing” in July 2014. The BBC appears to have confused that conflict with the previous one in November 2012 when the second-in-command of that organisation – Ahmed Jabari – was killed.

That inaccurate claim was removed some ten hours after the initial attack when the title of the BBC’s rolling report was changed to “Israel strikes Gaza after heaviest mortar barrage in years”. The description of the ‘Great Return March’ was changed but BBC audiences were still not informed that the vast majority of those killed were linked to terrorist organisations.

“More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers amid protests which saw thousands of Palestinians mass on the border in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

Readers of versions six and seven of the report found the following inaccurate claim: [emphasis added]

Version 6: “The Israeli military said its air force also struck “an offensive Hamas terror tunnel” near the Kerem Shalom crossing, where limited amounts of food, fuel and goods are transferred into Gaza.”

Version 7: “The Israeli military said its air force also struck “an offensive Hamas terror tunnel” near the Kerem Shalom crossing, where controlled amounts of food, fuel and goods are transferred into Gaza.”

Version 7

Once again the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the purpose of Hamas’ cross-border tunnels in its own words:

“It said the tunnel stretched for 900m (3,000ft) under Israeli territory. It is the latest in a series of cross-border tunnels which Israel has destroyed or disabled since the end of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.

During that conflict, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels which it said were meant for attacks.” [emphasis added]

Readers were told that:

“The Kerem Shalom crossing is a lifeline for Gaza, which has been under an Israeli, then Egyptian, blockade beginning in 2006 when Hamas militants attacked the crossing and kidnapped an Israeli soldier.”

In line with previous editorial policy, BBC audiences were not informed of the fact that serious damage has been done to that “lifeline” on three separate occasions this month by Palestinian rioters directed by Hamas. The BBC’s description of the location of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit lacks accuracy.

The BBC failed to inform its audiences that Hamas and the Iranian backed PIJ had claimed joint responsibility for the day’s attacks. No mention was made of the fact that equipment and lines supplying power to the southern Gaza Strip were damaged by the terror groups’ missile fire.

Despite the areas under attack being less than a two-hour drive away from the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau, once again the corporation’s audiences did not see any interviews with Israeli civilians affected by the terror attacks. 

 

 

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, coverage of the May 10th Iranian missile attacks on Israel on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included the provision of a platform for blatant Iranian propaganda that went completely unchallenged and uncorrected.

Later the same day the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ also allowed the same interviewee to promote gross falsehoods without any effort made to relieve listeners of the inaccurate impressions they received from an Iranian academic who is infamously close to the Iranian regime and who, in 2009, was asked by a CNN interviewer:

“Do you worry that you will be seen in history as a mouthpiece for a dying, repressive regime in its death throes? That 20 years from now you’ll look back, and the world will look back at you, the way it did some of those smooth-talking, English-speaking, Soviet spokesmen who were telling us right in the middle 1980s, that the Soviet Union was all just fine and democratic and wonderful?”

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 00:59 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “Now we begin though with Israel, Iran and Syria and a military confrontation overnight which could mark a significant escalation of tension in the Middle East. Israel has for some time been conducting what some describe as a shadow war against Iran, inside Syria.”

Iqbal made no effort to inform listeners of the crucially relevant fact that what her unnamed sources “describe as a shadow war” in fact relates to weapons transfers by Iran to the widely proscribed terror group Hizballah in violation of UN SC resolution1701. She went on:

Iqbal: “Iran has a military presence there supporting the government of President Bashar al Assad and overnight it responded to Iran firing 20 rockets from Syria into the Israeli-controlled territory of the Golan Heights. Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has said Israeli forces have hit most of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria in that wave of overnight airstrikes. Mr Lieberman said he hoped the latest round of exchanges between Israeli and Iranian forces was now over.”

After listeners had heard a voice-over recording of a statement from Lieberman, Iqbal continued:

Iqbal: “State television in Iran says seven Iranian military advisors were killed in those Israeli strikes in Syria.”

Iqbal did not clarify that the incident to which she refers took place on April 9th at the T4 airbase or that the “advisors” were in fact members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. Neither did she bother to remind listeners that two months earlier, an armed Iranian drone launched from that base had infiltrated Israeli territory.

Iqbal then interviewed the prime minister of Israel’s spokesperson to foreign media, David Keyes. Interestingly, the vast majority of her five questions steered audiences towards the view that Israel’s actions are causing “escalation”.

Question 2 Iqbal: “Are you not concerned that this is a manifestation of an escalation that could bring Israel into the Syrian conflict?”

Question 3 Iqbal: “Mr Keyes: I asked the question – sorry to interrupt you. I’m sorry to interrupt you. I asked the question precisely because you will be well aware that when Israel launched attacks against the T4 airbase back in April, Moscow’s anger was conveyed very clearly; that it felt that what Israel was doing was…was evil in fact – that’s what the state Duma defence committee called Israel’s action. Isn’t there a danger that you are on the verge of getting involved in the war in Syria because the bases that you speak of are not necessarily Iranian bases – they’re Russian bases.”

While – as was reported at the time – the chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee did call what he presumed to be Israel’s action “evil and unfriendly”, it is of course remarkable that the BBC chooses to quote a representative of a regime that has denied Bashar al Assad’s chemical attacks on civilians and accused the UK of carrying out a poisoning attack using a nerve agent on its own soil. Interestingly, Iqbal provided no evidence for her suggestion that the Syrian air force’s T4 base is “Russian”.

Question 4 Iqbal: “This confrontation between Iran and Israel could mark the most significant military confrontation…confrontation between your two…the two countries in the region and the danger of escalating regional tensions is ever-present. How concerned are you that none of this is helping? You continue to defend the reasons why Israel has taken the action that it has but isn’t there a responsibility on the part of Israel to try not to escalate tensions in the region also?

Question 5 Iqbal: “The implication in the question or the presumption in the question is really an acknowledgement that the conflict inside Syria is not just a conflict that deals with Syrians fighting and killing other Syrians. Russia is present in Syria. The United States has a presence in Syria. This is a mini world war and it’s quite possible that the escalation could result in direct confrontation between Syria and Israel.”

Following that conversation, at 07:31 Iqbal introduced her next interviewee.

Iqbal: “The Iranians and Russians have been supporting President Bashar al Assad in his fight to capture territory back from the Syrian opposition as well as ridding the country of Islamic State’s presence. Their involvement has changed the battle for Syria in President Assad’s favour but it has also had serious repercussions for the region. Israel sees Iranian military build-up in Syria as an existential threat to it. To get an Iranian perspective on what’s been happening I’ve been speaking to Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi who is head of North American studies at Tehran University about Iran’s strategic presence in Syria. What’s his reaction first to the comments we just heard from David Keyes?”

Unchallenged by Iqbal, Marandi repeated the same falsehoods aired earlier on the ‘Today’ programme about alleged Israeli support for the group formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra and inaccurately claimed once again that “ISIS has never been attacked by Israel”.

Marandi: “Well as far as I remember the Israelis first struck Iranian troops, killing [inaudible] of them. These troops were in Syria to help the Syrian government fight against Al Qaeda. They were nowhere near the border between Syria and the Israeli regime. In fact, the border between the two countries is occupied both by ISIS to the south and Al Qaeda to the north. ISIS has never been attacked by Israel and Al Qaeda is actively supported by Israel – the Nusra Front. They treat their wounded soldiers…or militias…militiamen. But what he said actually about the strike this morning was very misleading because the Israelis carried out over a hundred strikes on Syria and just the night before the Israelis carried out further strikes. So the response that they received from Syria was in retaliation to their own actions.”

Once again failing to provide listeners with the context of Iranian violations of UN SC resolution 1701, Iqbal allowed Marandi to promote the notion that the Iranians may not have launched the May 10th attacks.

Iqbal: “So – sorry to interrupt you – are you saying that the attacks that took place overnight – the 20 missile strikes that Israel is talking about – that it was Syria that launched those and not Iran?”

Marandi: “Everything that happens in Syria is done through the hierarchy that exists in the Syrian government and the Syrian army. So whatever response there is, it’s under the central command of Syria, whether the Americans like to acknowledge that or not.”

Iqbal: “But was it Iran – Dr Marandi – in your understanding was it Iran that launched those 20 missile strikes into the Golan Heights or was it Syria?”

Marandi: “I don’t know. I don’t know about that but what I can say is that his claim that they destroyed Iran…Iranian command and control structures is obvious nonsense. Every Iranian soldier in Syria has a cell phone. All of them are in constant contact with their families. They send pictures. If there’s a single dead Iranian soldier, let’s see the photographs.”

Iqbal: “You dismissed any suggestion that there is a command and control structure that Iran has inside Syria. What infrastructure does Iran have inside Syria?”

Marandi: “Iranians are there to help the Syrian government. I think the Iranian presence is no secret in Syria. The Iranians have been there since 2005 [sic].”

Iqbal: “How big is that presence inside Syria?”

Marandi: “I don’t know the numbers – I’m not in the military. But it’s open: there’s no secret about Iran’s presence.”

Iqbal: “Israel…it has repeatedly accused Iran of being in Syria in order to make it easier for Iran to target Israel. Is there any truth in that?”

Marandi: “Let’s look at the evidence on the ground. The Israelis have murdered Iranians. Did the Iranians murder Israelis? No. The Israelis tolerate….”

Iqbal [interrupts]: “The Israelis…the Israelis dispute that. The Israelis say that if they didn’t have the defence system that they have, if they had not intercepted those missiles that came into the Golan Heights, people could have been killed.”

Listeners then heard more blatant propaganda and lies – including the false claim of an “information blackout” – that went completely unchallenged by Razia Iqbal.

Marandi: “Well first of all, they didn’t intercept them. Almost all the missiles struck their targets and that’s not…the Iron Dome failed last night and the Israelis know it quite well. There’s a black…the information blackout in northern Israel and that’s evidence in itself. I’m not talking about last night. I’m talking about the past few months. The Israelis murdered Iranians – not the other way round.”

Notably, only one of Iqbal’s questions to Marandi related to ‘escalation’ and – in contrast to her conversation with the Israeli interviewee – there was no suggestion on her part that Iran bears a “responsibility […] to try not to escalate tensions in the region”.

Iqbal: “To what extent do you now see that this situation is going to escalate even further?”

Marandi: “Well without a doubt every time that the Israelis hit, they will be hit back because if there is no response, then the Israelis will start striking more intensively and with greater impunity. So from now on the Israelis are going to have to expect to be hit back every time they strike. If the European and the Americans don’t want an escalation, then they should warn the Israelis to sit down and mind their own business.”

Iqbal: “That was Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi from Tehran University.”

The first of the BBC’s public purposes – set out by the Royal Charter and Agreement – outlines the corporation’s obligation to:

“…provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

Obviously listeners’ understanding of what happened in the Golan Heights on May 10th was not enhanced in the least by their hearing unchallenged Iranian regime propaganda replete with lies and inaccuracies – quite the opposite. And so, once again, the BBC’s faux ‘impartiality’ sells its funding public short. 

Related Articles:

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

What do BBC audiences know about the background to tensions in northern Israel?

BBC ECU upholds complaint concerning Iranian threats to Israel

 

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Just after midnight on May 10th the attack by Iran that had been anticipated for several days took place in the northern Golan Heights.

“Some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces in southern Syria just after midnight on Thursday, with some of the incoming missiles being intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the army said, amid sky high tensions on the northern border. […]

The Israeli army said the missile barrage was carried out by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Forces. This appeared to be the first time that Israel attributed an attack directly to Iran, which generally operates through proxies. The late night rocket barrage was also the largest attack, in terms of the number of rockets fired, in the seven years of the Syrian civil war.”

The BBC News website, however, did not appear to be entirely convinced that Iran was behind the missile fire.

A report that also used qualifying punctuation in its original headline – “Iranian forces ‘fire rockets’ at Israeli positions in Golan Heights” – appeared on the website some three hours after the events began. The first five versions of that report included the following statement:

“…its [Israel’s] government has vowed to stop what it considers Iran’s military “entrenchment” in Syria.” [emphasis added]

Later versions told readers that:

“Israel’s government has vowed to stop what it considers its arch-enemy’s “military entrenchment” in Syria…” [emphasis added]

Apparently the BBC is not persuaded that a foreign power which has moved sufficient military personnel, weapons and equipment into Syria to be able to launch missiles (and previously an armed drone) at a neighbouring country is engaged in military entrenchment.

Under the sub-heading “What happened in the Golan?” readers of earlier versions of the article were actually given an account of what subsequently happened in Syria.

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says it has targeted dozens of Iranian facilities with air strikes in retaliation for the attack, which has not been confirmed by Iran.

It said weapons stores, missile launchers and intelligence facilities were all targeted in the wave of strikes overnight.

Syria’s state news agency Sana said Israeli missiles had been shot down south of Homs, but reported that a weapons depot and a radar installation had been hit.”

The BBC did not inform its audiences that residents of ten communities in the Golan Heights – some 24,000 civilians – had to run for shelter when air-raid warnings were sounded just after midnight.  

The sixth version of the report (which by that time had been retitled “‘Iranian forces’ fire rockets at Israeli positions in Golan Heights”) told BBC audiences that:

“Israel has been anticipating a retaliatory attack by Iran since Israel killed seven Revolutionary Guards when it struck Iranian targets in Syria in April. That strike came immediately after Israel brought down what it said was an armed Iranian drone launched from Syria on a mission to attack Israel.” [emphasis added]

Obviously the April 9th attack on the T4 airbase which was attributed to Israel did not come “immediately after” the drone attack which took place two months earlier on February 10th.

Still later versions of the report were again retitled: “Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rockets hit Golan Heights” and “Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria in response to rocket fire”. Under the sub-heading “Why does Israel hit Iranian interests?” readers found the following claim:

“Iran is Israel’s arch-foe and has repeatedly called for an end to the existence of the Jewish state.”

Iran has not merely “called for” Israel’s destruction but has serially threatened to bring it about while funding and supplying terror groups similarly dedicated to that aim.

Remarkably, the three latest versions of the BBC’s report amplified spurious claims from a source based in Coventry and a pro-Syrian regime source that “Israeli forces had fired first”.

“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the civil war in Syria, confirmed that “dozens of rockets” were fired from Quneitra province and the south-western Damascus countryside towards the occupied Golan.

It did not identify those responsible, but said the rocket attack came after Israeli forces bombarded Baath, a Syrian-controlled town in the Golan demilitarized zone.

 A senior source in an Iranian-led regional military alliance that supports Syria’s government also told AFP news agency that Israeli forces had fired first.” [emphasis added]

As the Times of Israel reported:

“Immediately following the Iranian attack at 12:10 a.m., Syrian state media reported that Israeli artillery fire targeted a military post near the city of Baath in the Quneitra border region, where Syrian regime forces were stationed.” [emphasis added]

A Syrian opposition TV station Tweeted that Hizballah positions near Baath were being targeted almost two hours after the Iranian attack began.

Nevertheless – as readers discovered at the end of the article – while apparently not having bothered to verify those claims before publishing them, the BBC does have the time to answer audience questions.

What do BBC audiences know about the background to tensions in northern Israel?

With Israel braced for an anticipated attack by Iran and/or its proxies in the north, it is worth taking a look at how the BBC has to date covered the background to a story it may yet have to report.

On April 9th the BBC News website reported that “[t]he Syrian government and its ally Russia have blamed Israel for a deadly attack on a Syrian military airport”. The very relevant Iranian connection to the site of the attack was only mentioned much later on in the same report:

“The Israeli military said Iran and its Revolutionary Guards had long been active in the T4 base, and were using it to transfer weapons, including to Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, an enemy of Israel.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 on April 15th were told that most of the people killed during that attack were “believed to be Iranians” but not that seven of them were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, including the head of its drone programme.

Following that April 9th incident a series of threats against Israel were issued by various Iranian officials but those threats and the resulting increased tensions did not receive any BBC coverage.

On April 30th the BBC News website reported further attacks on military installations (including what was described by other media outlets as a “depot for surface-to-surface missiles”) in Syria.

“Missile strikes on military sites in northern Syria overnight reportedly killed a number of pro-government fighters, including Iranians. […]

It is not known who was behind the attacks. But Western nations and Israel have previously hit sites in Syria.”

Additional threats from Iranian officials followed that incident.

On May 6th Israeli media outlets reported that:

“…the Israeli military and intelligence services had identified preliminary efforts by Iran in Syria to carry out its reprisal, using its IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the Hezbollah terrorist group and local Shiite militias to launch a barrage of precision-guided missiles, likely at Israeli military targets in the north.

“Israel has recently identified with certainty Iranian preparations to fire at the north,” Channel 10 said. “We are not on the eve of war with Iran… but Iran is very determined to carry out an attack” to avenge the T-4 strike and the deaths of its military personnel, it said.

Israel Radio said the Iranian planning for an attack was at “an advanced stage.””

On May 7th visitors to the BBC News website saw the first generalised mention of Iran’s threats against Israel in a report titled “Israel minister threatens Assad over Iranian attacks from Syria” –which promoted superfluous qualification of Iran’s military build-up in Syria.

“His comments came amid reports that Israeli authorities were preparing for missile strikes by Iran or its proxies.

Iran has vowed to avenge recent air strikes on its military facilities in Syria that were attributed to Israel.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the strikes, but it has said it will stop what it considers Iran’s military “entrenchment” in Syria.” [emphasis added]

Additional threats by Iran’s chief of staff on the same day did not receive any BBC coverage.

On May 8th the BBC News website published a report originally headlined “Israel Golan Heights alert over Iran ‘irregular activity’ in Syria”.

“The Israeli military says it has detected “irregular Iranian activity” in Syria and has ordered residents of the occupied Golan Heights to prepare their bomb shelters.”

Despite there being no connection between that event and the same evening’s US announcement concerning the JCPOA, BBC audiences were told that:

“The alert came as President Trump announced the US was pulling out of a nuclear agreement with Iran.”

The report was later retitled “Syria blames Israel for air strike near Damascus” and – despite having got it right earlier – the BBC managed to inaccurately describe the location of the “irregular Iranian activity”.

BBC audiences were told that:

“Syrian state media says Israel has launched an air strike against an army position south of the capital Damascus.

The Sana news agency said Syrian air defences had shot down two Israeli missiles in the Kiswah area on Tuesday. […]

A commander supporting President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters news agency that the strike had targeted a Syrian army position.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said the target was an arms depot.

The dead included members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or other Shia militiamen, it added.”

Other media outlets quoted the same source cited by the BBC as specifically saying that the site (which last November was mentioned in a BBC report about Iran’s establishment of military bases in Syria and last December was also described in a BBC report as “an arms depot”) was an “arms depot belonging to Hezbollah and the Iranians” while at least one Israeli media outlet described it as a storage facility for Iranian missiles rather than “a Syrian army position” as touted by the BBC.

Although Iran has been repeatedly threatening to attack Israel for the past month, the few headlines seen by BBC audiences in relation to that story have focused on Israel: “Israel minister threatens Assad over Iranian attacks from Syria” and “Syria blames Israel for air strike near Damascus”. Obviously BBC audiences have not been provided with the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of this still ongoing story.

Related Articles:

Two months on, BBC still qualifying Iranian drone story

BBC Radio 4 manages to report on Iran without the usual distractions

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – March 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during March 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 136 incidents took place: 111 in Judea & Samaria, nineteen in Jerusalem, one inside the ‘green line’ and five in the Gaza Strip and Sinai sectors.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 114 attacks with petrol bombs, nine attacks using improvised explosive devices, three shooting attacks, one stabbing attack, one vehicular attack, one stoning attack and one arson attack. A vehicular attack was recorded in Acco and incidents in the Gaza Strip/Sinai sector included one shooting attack and one IED attack. No missile or mortar attacks were recorded during March.

Two members of the security forces were murdered in a vehicular attack near Mevo Dotan on March 16th which was reported on the BBC News website. One civilian was murdered in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on March 18th which was reported the next day .

Nine people were wounded in attacks during March – four of them in the vehicular attack in Acco on March 4th which did not receive any BBC coverage. A stoning attack on a civilian motorist near the Hizme checkpoint in Jerusalem was not reported and neither was an IED attack on the Gaza Strip border on March 15th.

In all, the BBC News website reported 1.47% of the terror attacks that took place during March 2018. Since the beginning of the year the BBC has reported 1.49% of the attacks and 100% of the fatalities. Just one of the six separate incidents of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip that have taken place since the beginning of the year has been mentioned in BBC News website coverage.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2017 and year summary

BBC News continues to link terror to US embassy move

BBC News reports another fatal terror attack without the word terror