Slapdash BBC News reporting of events in northern Israel and Syria

In the early hours of January 21st a report originally headlined “Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria – military” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. Over the next seven hours the report was amended seven times and it currently goes under the title “Israel hits Iranian and Syrian targets around Damascus – military”.

At the top of the article – which is inaccurately tagged as being about the “Syrian civil war” – appears a video captioned “An onlooker captures explosions in the night sky over Damascus”. The video itself is described on-screen as “Facebook diary of a mortar shell in Damascus”. It is of course unclear what “a mortar shell” has to do with this story.

Readers were told that:

“The Israeli military says it has hit Iranian targets around the Syrian capital Damascus.

The Israel Defense Forces said the overnight operation targeted the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as well as Syrian air defences. Four people are reported to have died.

Syrian media said most of the Israeli missiles had been shot down.”

The same claim was later repeated:

“Syria’s state-run Sana news agency quoted a military source as saying that the country’s air defences had shot down most of “hostile missiles”.”

Nothing in the BBC’s report suggests that it independently verified that standard Syrian regime claim before choosing to uncritically amplify it twice in the report.

The article went on to mention an earlier incident that the BBC did not report at the time.

“Israel said it acted after the Quds Forces launched a rocket from Syria over the Golan Heights on Sunday.

It said the rocket had been intercepted.”

Given that there is filmed evidence of the interception of what was actually an Iranian surface to surface missile there was clearly no need for the use of the phrase “it said”. Later on in the BBC’s report readers were told that:

“The operation comes after Israel said that “a rocket was fired at the northern Golan Heights and was intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defence System”.

The popular winter tourist site on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights was closed as a result.”

In fact the Mount Hermon ski resort was not closed after the attack and interception on January 20th but early the next day.

Towards the end of the report readers were told that:

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning during his visit to Chad on Sunday.

“We have a set policy, to target the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and to harm whoever tried to harm us,” he said.

Israel has expressed alarm at Iran’s deployment in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been battling rebel forces and Islamist groups since the start of the civil war in 2011.”

Israel’s concerns of course actually relate to Iran’s use of Syria as a forward base from which to attack Israel but BBC audiences were not provided with that information, despite it obviously  being essential for proper understanding of the story the article purports to tell.

The article then promoted a link to a BBC report from May 2018 which still includes misinformation.

In May 2018, Israel said it had struck almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure there, following a rocket attack on its positions in the Golan Heights.”

The report closed:

“Israel seized the area from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it.”

That information is apparently not known to whoever produced the map used by the BBC News Twitter account to promote this article to its 24.4 million followers.

As we see that map names the Syrian capital and a city which is not the capital of Israel. In addition the Golan Heights is inaccurately marked on that map as part of Syria.

Related Articles:

Iran missile attack: BBC News promotes misinformation

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part one

Iranian propaganda goes unchallenged on BBC radio – part two

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

 

 

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Weekend long read

1) Writing at the New York Times, Matti Friedman explains why “There Is No ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’”.

“There isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think, and this perception gap is worth spelling out. It has nothing to do with being right-wing or left-wing in the American sense. To borrow a term from the world of photography, the problem is one of zoom. Simply put, outsiders are zoomed in, and people here in Israel are zoomed out. Understanding this will make events here easier to grasp.

In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren’t just two sides. There are many, many sides. […]

If you see only an “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict, then nothing that Israelis do makes sense. (That’s why Israel’s enemies prefer this framing.) In this tightly cropped frame, Israelis are stronger, more prosperous and more numerous. The fears affecting big decisions, like what to do about the military occupation in the West Bank, seem unwarranted if Israel is indeed the far more powerful party.”

2) Dr Jonathan Spyer asks “Will Turkey invade north-east Syria?”.

“The announcement by US President Donald Trump on December 19 of his intention to rapidly withdraw US forces from eastern Syria led to expectations of a rapid move by Turkish forces into all or part of the area currently controlled by the US-aligned, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.  The precipitating factor that led to Trump’s announcement, after all, was a phone call between the President and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayepp Erdogan.  For Turkey, control by what Ankara regards as the Syrian franchise of the PKK of a large swathe of the 900 km Syrian-Turkish border has long been seen as entirely unacceptable.  The Kurdish dominated SDF are capable and proven fighters.  But without US help, and facing Turkish air power and artillery, they would be able only to resist for a while.  This had been already proven in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in January, 2018, when Ankara invaded and destroyed the Kurdish canton of Afrin in north-west Syria. […]

For a number of reasons, however, the prospect of an early large-scale entry of Turkish forces into north-east Syria now seems less likely than it did a couple of weeks ago.”

3) Tony Badran discusses “Arafat and the Ayatollahs” at Tablet magazine.

“When Yasser Arafat arrived in Tehran on Feb. 17, 1979, the first “foreign leader” invited to visit Iran mere days after the victory of the revolution, he declared he was coming to his “own home.” There was some truth in Arafat’s flowery words. Having developed and nurtured a decade’s worth of relationships with all the major forces, from Marxists to Islamists, which had toppled the shah, he had good reason to feel like the victory of the revolution was in some part his own.

Although the heady days of February 1979 would soon give way to tensions, the Palestinians were integral to both the Islamic Revolution and to the formation of the Khomeinist regime. For Arafat, the revolutionary regime in Iran carried the promise of gaining a powerful new ally for the Palestinians. In addition, Arafat saw a chance to play the middleman between Iran and the Arabs, and to encourage them to eschew conflict with each other in favor of supporting the Palestinians in their fight against Israel. Yet it soon became clear that Arafat’s double fantasy was unattainable, and would in fact become quite dangerous to the Palestinian cause.”

4) Belgian Friends of Israel have produced a series of short videos featuring conversations with residents of the area close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

See the additional videos here.

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2018 and year end summary

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during December 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 155 incidents took place: 118 in Judea & Samaria, 20 in Jerusalem and 17 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 103 attacks with petrol bombs, 22 attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one arson attack, three shooting attacks, four vehicular attacks, two stabbing attacks, two attacks using grenades and one stone-throwing attack.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 6 attacks with petrol bombs, 4 attacks using IEDs, one shooting attack, five grenade attacks and one incident of rocket fire.  

Throughout December three people were killed and fourteen wounded in terror attacks.

A shooting attack at Ofra Junction on December 9th in which seven civilians were wounded and which resulted in the death of a newborn baby initially did not receive coverage on the BBC News website.

A shooting attack near Givat Asaf on December 13th in which two members of the security forces were killed and one wounded was reported in an article that also included a brief mention of the earlier Ofra Junction attack.

Also on December 13th two members of the security forces were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and a soldier was wounded in a vehicular attack outside Ramallah. Both those incidents were mentioned in the same report on the attack near Givat Asaf.

On December 14th a soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack in Beit El and two days later a civilian was wounded when her car was pelted with rocks. No coverage of those two incidents was seen on the BBC News website and a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on December 29th was also ignored.

In summary, four out of 155 terror attacks – 2.6% – which took place during December 2018 were reported on the BBC News website.

Throughout 2018 the BBC News website reported at most 30.2% of the terror attacks that actually took place and 93.3% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

No BBC News reporting on Ofra terror attack

More BBC reporting on terror against Israelis without use of the word terror

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2018

BBC News report on Rafah crossing omits information

On the afternoon of January 7th a report titled “Palestinian Authority removes staff from Gaza-Egypt crossing” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Relating to an announcement made by the Palestinian Authority the previous day, the article was illustrated with a photograph attributed to AFP which the BBC presented with the caption “It is unclear whether Hamas will be allowed to retake control of the Rafah crossing”. Exactly which body would or would not ‘allow’ such a move was left unclear.

The same photograph appeared in a report published by the Times of Israel but with a caption that quotes most of the original description of the image:

“Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) stand guard outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt just minutes before the Palestinian Authority withdraws its staff (L) from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)”

The ToI went on to report that:

“Hamas members retook control of the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Monday after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its own staff, an AFP journalist and Hamas officials said. […]

An AFP journalist saw officials from Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, at the border crossing’s main gate and inside accompanying offices in southern Gaza on Monday.

A Hamas border official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the terror group that rules the Strip had taken control “to avoid a vacuum.””

However, later on in the BBC’s own report readers found a paragraph that contradicts its photo caption:

“The Palestinian Maan news agency reported that the Hamas-run interior ministry had assumed responsibility for managing the crossing on Monday, but it was not clear whether Egypt would allow it to continue operating.”

Other foreign and local media outlets were able to report on the same day that:

“Egypt will keep its crossing with the Gaza Strip closed to departures from the Palestinian enclave after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its officials amid disagreements with Hamas.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry, controlled by the Hamas terror group, said Monday that Egyptian officials notified them that the crossing would only be open to those entering the Gaza Strip.”

The BBC has to date not bothered to update its article to reflect that development.

In the article’s opening paragraph BBC audiences were told that the Rafah crossing is the “main exit point” from the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it is pulling its staff out of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, effectively closing the main exit point from the coastal territory.”

While the Rafah crossing has been open since mid-May 2018, the BBC’s description does not reflect the situation before that when severe restrictions were imposed for over three and a half years. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

“The Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing, the only crossing for passengers between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, has been open continuously since May 2018, except for holidays and special occasions. This is the longest period of continuous opening since September 2014 when the crossing was closed. Prior to May 2018, the crossing opened for only a few days a year, reportedly due to concerns about security in the Sinai. Despite the improved access since May 2018, over 23,000 people are still registered on a waiting list (that numbered approximately 30,000 previously) according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in Gaza. […]

During the sporadic openings of the Rafah crossing prior to May 2018, an average of some 650 people per day were allowed to exit, but in recent months the daily average has fallen to 343.”

According to UNOCHA figures the average number of monthly entries and exits via the Rafah crossing was 2,393 in 2015, 3,521 in 2016 and 2,930 in 2017. The same agency reports that the average number of monthly exits (only) of Palestinians via the Erez crossing was 15,027 in 2015, 13,187 in 2016 and 6,900 in 2017.

Readers were also told that;

“Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been ruled separately since deadly clashes between Hamas and Fatah broke out in 2007.

Hamas won parliamentary elections in the occupied territories the previous year, and reinforced its power in Gaza after ousting Fatah from the enclave.

Israel and Egypt tightened their blockades of Gaza in response to the Hamas takeover and in an attempt to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants.”

Notably the BBC did not inform its audiences that the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip ‘hostile territory’ in September 2007 came after an increase in terror attacks and rocket fire at Israeli communities near the border.

However, this BBC report did include a mention of the first rocket attack from the Gaza Strip of 2019 which took place in the early hours of January 7th.  

Related Articles:

Laconic BBC reporting on Egypt’s closure of Rafah crossing

BBC News report contradicts BBC backgrounder

 

 

 

Background again absent in BBC’s Sinai terrorism story

The lead item on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on January 5th was a report titled “Abdul Fattah al-Sisi: Why did Egypt want CBS interview pulled?” which opened by telling readers that:

“The CBS television network says it has rejected a request by Egypt’s envoy to the US not to broadcast an interview with President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

The 60 Minutes programme cited Mr Sisi as confirming the Egyptian military was working with Israel to combat jihadist militants in the Sinai peninsula.”

The latter part of the report stated:

“CBS said the president also “confirmed his military was working with Israel against terrorists in North Sinai”, where attacks by an affiliate of the jihadist group Islamic State has left hundreds of security personnel and civilians dead.

Asked if the co-operation with Israel was the “closest ever”, Mr Sisi reportedly responded: “That is correct… We have a wide range of co-operation with the Israelis.” […]

Mr Sisi’s reported confirmation of military co-operation with Israel over North Sinai might also be controversial in Egypt. The two countries fought four wars before signing a peace treaty in 1979.

In February, the New York Times reported that the president had approved a covert Israeli air campaign in North Sinai that had resulted in more than 100 strikes by unmarked drones, helicopters and jets.

However, Egypt’s military insisted at the time that only Egyptian security forces were confronting militants in the region and warned local media not to report “unreliable information”.

When asked about Mr Sisi’s interview with CBS on Friday, an Israeli military spokesperson told the BBC: “We do not comment on foreign reports.””

Those who rely on the BBC for their news of course lack the background information necessary to understand the topic of any cooperation between Israel and Egypt in efforts to contain the branch of ISIS operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

In 2017 the BBC News website completely ignored no fewer than five separate missile attacks carried out by that group against Israel and the topic of relations between Hamas and Wilayat Sinai has not been the subject of any serious BBC reporting. BBC Monitoring’s profile of the Sinai Province (Wilayat Sinai) group still includes inaccurate information.

Despite mentioning the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the BBC’s report fails to clarify to readers that what “might also be controversial in Egypt” includes the fact that Egypt’s campaign against the ISIS terrorists has repeatedly included securing Israel’s agreement to increases in troop numbers and weapons deployment in the Sinai Peninsula beyond those permitted under the terms of the 1979 treaty.

Once again the BBC has passed up on the opportunity to provide audiences with background necessary for full understanding of that story.

Related Articles:

Egyptian news site notices BBC’s terror terminology double standards

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

In the early hours of December 29th a projectile was launched from the Gaza Strip.

“An IDF spokesperson said that a rocket fired from the Strip landed in open terrain in southern Israel before dawn on Saturday, causing no injury or damage to property.

The army said that rocket alert sirens did not sound in the region as the projectile was tracked to land in open area.

In retaliation, IDF attacked a Hamas position in southern Gaza. There were no reports of any casualties as a result of the strike.”

BBC audiences did not see any reporting on that incident which was the twenty-second separate bout of rocket and/or mortar fire from the Gaza Strip in 2018.

The number of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip in 2018 was the highest for four years with over a thousand projectiles fired into Israeli territory. Visitors to the BBC News English language website saw mentions or coverage of just 45% of the incidents and those getting their news from the BBC’s Arabic language website saw even less. 

Nevertheless, that marks an improvement in comparison to 2017 when BBC News website audiences saw coverage of a mere 14% of missile attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip and Sinai sectors. In 2016 just one attack (6.7% of the total) was covered by the BBC News website and in late 2014 and throughout 2015 the majority of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip were not reported in English.

It is of course extremely difficult to imagine that if terrorists had fired over a thousand rockets and mortars on twenty-two separate occasions in twelve months at British citizens, the BBC would have failed to report 55%  of those incidents. Despite the improvement we see the continuation of an editorial policy which results in audiences and BBC journalists alike being unable fully understand events and their context when Israel is obliged to respond to rising terrorism.   

Related Articles:

Gaza missile fire continues to be ignored by BBC News

Serial BBC failure to report rocket attacks comes home to roost

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

BBC News website ignores most of renewed Gaza rocket fire

How did BBC News report the latest Gaza missile attacks?

Fifth Gaza rocket attack this month not newsworthy for the BBC

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

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

Rocket attack on Be’er Sheva home ignored by BBC

BBC News again yawns at missile attacks on southern Israel

Sloppy BBC News report omits rocket hits on Israeli homes

False equivalence in BBC News report on Gaza rocket attacks 

 

 

 

The BBC’s Gaza framing evolves with Jon Donnison

The December 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included a thirteen-minute item which made use of part of Mishal Husain’s broadcast from the Gaza Strip that listeners to BBC Radio 4 had heard earlier in the day.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced that item (from 30:06 here) using framing identical to that previously heard in the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “Gaza’s economic statistics make for grim reading. According to the World Bank 54% of the labour force in the tiny Palestinian territory is unemployed. The figure goes up to 70% for youth unemployment. Around eight out of every ten Gazans are dependent on food aid and around half of Gaza’s population of around 2 million people are registered refugees. Well today the UN is launching an appeal to raise $350 million for Palestinian refugees who it says are in dire humanitarian need. It comes after the United States cut hundreds of millions of dollars of UN funding destined for Palestinians. The economy’s been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for their security – and incomes have also been affected by Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas, the movement which has been in power in Gaza since 2007. Well the BBC’s Mishal Husain visited one of the refugee camps with Matthias Schmale, head of Gaza operations for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.”

Contrary to Donnison’s claim, the UN appeal for $350 million does not specify “Palestinian refugees” as the beneficiaries.

Listeners then heard Mishal Husain’s ‘Shati walkabout’ interview with Matthias Schmale which did not include any challenge whatsoever to UNRWA’s politicised messaging or any background information concerning that organisation and its mission, Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare and the effects of the Hamas-Fatah dispute on the Gaza Strip’s economy.

At 36:57 Jon Donnison then introduced an interviewee whose participation was obviously intended to reinforce the BBC’s highly selective framing of the ‘Gaza economic crisis’ story.

Donnison: “Well Sharren Haskel is a member of the Knesset – Israel’s parliament. She’s with the governing Likud party and also sits on the foreign affairs and defence committee. […] Ehm, first of all, how has Israel and Israeli citizen benefited from this blockade?”

Haskel: “Well you know your report actually brings out something that’s quite concerning because it’s very easy – and this is something that’s being repeated time after time – to sort of blame Israel for all the problems. But it’s really sort of letting Hamas off the hook…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “Well we heard…we heard the UN chap there being quite critical of Hamas. I’m asking you how has Israel…how has this blockade helped Israel’s citizens over the past 12 years?”

As Haskel spoke about Hamas’ investment of funding in cross-border tunnels and weapons rather than infrastructure and social services for the citizens of the Gaza Strip, Donnison interrupted her again.

Donnison: “No but you’ve…you’ve made…you’ve made that point several times so I’ll ask you a third time – how has the blockade helped Israelis, particularly those living on the border? Because it hasn’t worked, has it? It hasn’t made them safer. We’ve had three wars in the past 12 years. Thousands and thousands of rockets coming out of Gaza – they’re still coming out. You’d acknowledge that. It’s not worked, has it?”

Haskel: “Well to be honest this is not a blockade. You have Gaza and you have an independent entity. So they really have an autonomy to dictate their own future. They could have turned Gaza into a Singapore. They…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “Yeah, yeah, you’ve made that…you’ve made that point. My point is that as…as you know Israel probably needs to be looking at alternatives to the blockade which isn’t working, is it?”

As is all too frequently documented here, the BBC serially avoids stories which would provide its audiences with understanding of why Israel’s counter-terrorism measures are necessary – for example:

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

Had the BBC reported those stories and countless others, Donnison would of course not have been able to promote his facile and obviously politically motivated ‘blockade isn’t working’ theme quite so easily.  

After Haskel had noted the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, the exit of people, the electricity supplied to Gaza by Israel and other humanitarian efforts, she observed that Egypt’s counter-terrorism measures do not garner the same criticism as Israel’s measures. Donnison interrupted with the following snide remark:

Donnison: “Well I’m speaking to you, aren’t I?”

As Haskel explained the background to Egypt’s policy and the efforts made by Israel to balance humanitarian aid with security, Donnison interrupted her yet again.

Donnison: “There are…there are many Palestinians in Gaza…there are many Palestinians in Gaza – possibly the majority – who are sick and tired of Hamas. But some would say that you are doing little to help ordinary Palestinians. The UN says you are in effect collectively punishing them.”

Listeners were not provided with any evidence to support Donnison’s claim that “many” Gazans and even “possibly a majority” are dissatisfied with Hamas. Haskel pointed out that if that is the case, then it is the residents of the Gaza Strip who have to do something about it.

Donnison: “Did you welcome the US cutting of funding to the UN refugee agency? Did you think that was helpful?”

Haskel replied that she did think it was helpful and began talking about another topic which the BBC serially avoids: Hamas’ manipulation of UNRWA. Donnison promptly interrupted her yet again.

Donnison: “Well can I just…can I just quote you the former IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner saying ‘Less American aid to Palestinians means more violence against Israelis. It isn’t in Israel’s interest.'”

Donnison of course did not bother to inform listeners that in that same Ha’aretz opinion piece, Lerner also highlighted UNRWA’s “many problems, including its politics, determined since 1949 by their one-sided mandate” and the fact that “Palestinian refugee camps have been hotbeds for terrorist activities”: additional topics studiously avoided by the BBC.

Indeed, when Sharren Haskel began talking about the glorification of terrorism in UNRWA school books and the fact that international funding “is going into perpetuating violence and hatred”, Donnison interrupted her twice and closed the interview.

While Jon Donnison’s Middle East politics have never been much of a secret, it is worth noting that the BBC’s framing of its much promoted ‘Gaza economic crisis’ story has now evolved from the notion that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt to the notion that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of a “blockade” imposed by Israel that “hasn’t worked” and is hence – by implication – unjustified.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

Revisiting a 2014 BBC report by Jon Donnison

Revisiting a five year-old BBC story

Jon Donnison’s breach of BBC editorial standards unravels

BBC’s Jon Donnison breaches editorial guidelines in straw-clutching Tweet

 

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

At the beginning of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme’s live broadcast from the Gaza Strip on December 17th (available here) listeners were told by presenter Mishal Husain that she had “been talking to people on both sides of the divide”. Husain later informed listeners that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “Well we’re going to be hearing throughout the programme this morning not from politicians but from individuals and families experiencing the reality both of Gaza and of life in southern Israel…”

As we have seen in previous posts (see ‘related articles’ below), with the exception of a few unattributed sound-bites scattered through the broadcast, in the first half of the three-hour programme listeners did not hear from those ‘ordinary’ people but from three officials from international organisations who all presented a remarkably homogeneous view.

At 1:34:15 listeners heard Husain introduce “a group of young Israelis living in the Gaza periphery” – but not before they had heard yet another typically airbrushed portrayal of the nearly nine months of violent rioting which has taken place along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Husain: “This is now the ninth month in which Palestinians have gathered on Fridays at various points along the Gaza side of the perimeter fence that separates it from southern Israel. They say they’re protesting for their rights and against the blockade of Gaza. Israel says Hamas has organised the protests as a cover for attacks.”

The fact that Hamas (along with other terror groups) has been central in the organisation and facilitation of the ‘Great Return March’ events has of course been in the public domain since before they began. However, as regular readers know, the BBC has serially refrained from providing its audiences with that information and for the past nine months BBC audiences have seen violent rioting sanitised as ‘protests’ and ‘peaceful demonstrations’ despite the terror attacks and border infiltrations that have taken place – and with the fact that a significant number of those killed or injured had links to terror groups airbrushed from BBC accounts.

Husain went on to make a typically superficial mention of what her interviewees have been experiencing, using a frequently seen BBC formulation according to which rockets are mysteriously “fired from Gaza” by parties the BBC refuses to name and at targets similarly left undefined. The response to those rockets is however described in precise terms.

Husain: “People on the Israeli side, especially the closest rural communities, have seen fires on the land set off by incendiary kites and balloons. And they live with the wider reality of tension flaring up between Israel and Hamas; rockets fired from Gaza, Israel striking targets within it. I’ve been speaking to a group of young Israelis living in the Gaza periphery to get their personal perspective on the conflict, what’s been happening this year and the way in which Israel seeks to protect them.”

Husain’s conversation with that group of 16 to 23 year olds began with questions relating to their experiences.

Husain: “Were you prepared for what the last few months have been like – because I know you’ve [one of the interviewees] just moved from Tel Aviv but most of you have lived in this part of Israel for some time. Were you prepared for what this period would be like?”

Husain: “Do the rest of you also feel that you are living in a war zone? You’re living in a country at war?”

Husain: “Do you all know as you look around here – we’re sitting outside a café – do you all know where the closest safe place is?”

However after three questions, Husain’s interest in the personal experiences of her young interviewees apparently waned.

Husain: “How much do you know about what life is like on the other side of the fence in Gaza?”

Husain: “If there were Palestinians here from Gaza they would say that the Israeli blockade is why they live in the conditions they do. If they were able to say that to you directly, how would you respond?”

Husain: “In the process of the last few months there have been people who’ve been shot, wounded, even killed a long distance inside the fence, inside Gaza. What do you think when you hear about those injuries and deaths?”

Husain: “Can any of you imagine or hope for a different kind of future or do you think that this is going to be the reality in this part of Israel for the foreseeable future?”

Husain: “Those Palestinians who protested peacefully as part of what they call the Great Return March, you know some of them are the descendants of families that in 1948 ended up in Gaza. What do you think of them demanding their right to return or calling for their rights to be recognised?”

When asked by one of her interviewees “what do you mean by peacefully?”, Husain responded “People who’ve been inside the fence. They haven’t thrown stones or rocks, who’ve been part of peaceful protests.”

Husain: “Let me ask you all then just for one thing that you would say to a Palestinian your age living in Gaza and one thing that you would be prepared to give to them or to compromise in the hope of a better future for both sides.”

Husain: “I want to ask you how much interaction any of you or each of you have had with Palestinians. I know it depends on probably where exactly you’ve grown up but have any of you had Palestinian friends or colleagues or people you’ve been in college with?”

In summary, out of ten main questions posed by Husain, three related to the personal experiences of her interviewees regarding daily security threats, one was a general question about the “future” and six related to Palestinians – mostly those in the Gaza Strip.

Later on in the programme (from 2:40:34) Husain interviewed a group of five Gaza Strip residents between the ages of 20 and 28 and the focus of her questions was notably different.

Husain: “What would you want, Hala, the outside world to know about what life is like here for someone your age?”

Husain: “And Abdul Rahma, I know that you are looking for work. What is it that you want to do and why is it so difficult?”

Husain: “And you know when I talk to Israeli officials and to civilians, they’ll say that [restrictions on movement] is necessary because of their security and…ahm…they would say that you’re in this position because of Hamas. In fact one Israeli woman said to me that people like you, everyone here, is a captive of Hamas as they feel they are.”

Husain: “I want to ask you about what this year has been like and really this is the ninth month that there have been protests at the fence. It’s not very far from here. I’ve seen one day there for myself. I wonder what you think of that…of those protests and whether they are achieving anything.”

Husain: “More than 170 Palestinians have been killed during the protests…Israel regards them as disturbances led by Hamas but there are many people who’ve been…thousands of people who’ve been injured including nearly six thousand people with bullet wounds according to the health ministry here in Gaza. Nimer, what do you think of what’s been happening there?”

Husain: “But I want to ask all of you, because you are just at the start of your lives, whether you think things are going to change here. Whether you have any hope that you will be able to find work or to, you know, to reach your full potential.”

Husain: “You mentioned Hala I think earlier the divisions within Palestinians. I mean the fact is that the Palestinian Authority – the leadership in the West Bank – has had sanctions on Hamas and that has also affected incomes here. Is there hope of resolving that?”

Husain: “Nimer, do you think the next ten years could be better than the last ten during which you’ve grown up?”

Husain: “A final thought Abdul Rahman; what would you say to young Israelis on the other side?”

As we see Husain’s nine main questions to the group in Gaza included two questions relating to the future, two about Hamas and/or the PA, four about personal experiences and opinions and just one about “Israelis on the other side”.

Notably Husain failed to challenge statements made by her interviewees regarding “the Israeli occupation” and “the siege” – neither of which exists in the Gaza Strip. When one of the speakers alleged that he had seen Israel ‘kidnap’ Palestinians at the fence “by force”, Husain’s reaction was “Well I mean I should say that Israel regards everything that is happening close to the fence as a threat to its security”. And when the final speaker complained that Israeli politicians are “still looking at Gaza as they are terrorists”, Husain had no comment to make.

That, by the way, was the sole mention of the word ‘terrorists’ throughout the entire seventy-five minutes of Mishal Husain’s BBC Radio 4 broadcast from the Gaza Strip.

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BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

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BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

As previously mentioned, the December 17th edition of the ‘Today’ programme aired on the BBC’s domestic radio station Radio 4 was split between live broadcasts from London and the Gaza Strip. Over 40% of the programme’s airtime was devoted to the latter in various segments available here. (00:28 to 01:38, 09:35 to 24:20, 36:07 to 39:40, 47:53 to 57:25, 1:16:27 to 1:26:40, 1:34:15 to 1:44:00, 2:06:21 to 2:07:25, 2:10:13 to 2:23:30, 2:40:34 to 2:51:10 and 2:56:33 to 2:59:55)

Mishal Husain’s introduction to the broadcast (00:28 to 01:38) included the following explanation as to why the publicly funded domestic BBC radio station sent a reporter and crew all the way to the Gaza Strip despite having permanent staff both there and in nearby Jerusalem. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “And we’re broadcasting from Gaza this morning because this has been a year which has seen tension and violence flare up again between Gaza and Israel. There have been months of protests at the boundary between the two and I’ve been talking to people on both sides of the divide.”

As regular readers know, since the BBC began covering the ‘Great Return March’ events at the end of March the BBC has failed to provide its audiences with a clear and comprehensive explanation of who initiated, organised and facilitated that publicity stunt, even though the information was available before it began and despite its British connections. For the past nine months BBC audiences have seen that violent rioting repeatedly portrayed as ‘protests’ and ‘peaceful demonstrations’ despite the terror attacks and border infiltrations that have taken place under the ‘Great Return March’ banner.

That editorial policy was also evident in this broadcast (notwithstanding an occasional ‘Israel says’ scrap tossed in the direction of impartiality requirements) and additional themes that have long been featured in BBC reporting were also evident.

One of the main themes promoted in this broadcast was the idea that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt. However in seventy-five minutes of reporting from the Gaza Strip, Radio 4 audiences did not hear Mishal Husain utter the word terrorism even once and neither did they hear anything of Hamas’ use of funds and resources (including building materials) for the purposes of terrorism at the expense of the civilian community.

Husain began (09:35 to 24:20) with a review of one Israeli newspaper two Hamas-linked Gaza Strip papers, noting coverage of “the rally that took place here yesterday where supporters marked the 31st anniversary of Hamas”. She did not bother to inform listeners of the pertinent fact that Hamas reportedly spent over half a million dollars on that rally.

Husain: “Well Gaza is a place that the UN said six years ago could be unlivable by 2020. Today they’re warning that two million people who live here are slipping deeper into poverty because of what they’re calling deplorable living conditions. The blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for security reasons – is a major factor. Matthias Schmale who’s head of Gaza operations for UNRWA – the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – has told us that needs to change.”

Husain of course did not bother to ask Matthias Schmale to explain to her listeners why there are still people classified as refugees in a place that has been under Palestinian control for over 13 years.

Schmale: “I understand the security argument but I also think that we need to be very careful not to put the entire 2 million population into that basket. You know I would claim that the Israelis know so well what goes on in here and know who the potential people are that would hold a security threat to them. If they wanted to they could with reasonable safety let the peace-loving population go out and earn a living for themselves.”

Listeners were not told that nearly a quarter of the population of the Gaza Strip attended that Hamas rally the previous day and neither did they hear any Israeli response to the idea that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable safety” – despite the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip.

Having just promoted the views of one interviewee who does not fall into the category of ‘ordinary people’ – and with more to come – Husain went on to make the following claim:

Husain: “Well we’re going to be hearing throughout the programme this morning not from politicians but from individuals and families experiencing the reality both of Gaza and of life in southern Israel where there are bomb shelters next to bus stops and in playgrounds and in every home.”

After listeners had heard clips from interviews with Israelis and Gaza residents that were repeated in full later on in the broadcast, Husain continued:

Husain: “Well more now on how the economy has been affected here in Gaza in recent years –something that I’ve been seeing first hand over the last few days.”

Notably listeners heard nothing throughout the entire programme concerning the economic effects of Gaza terrorism on businesses, tourism and agriculture southern Israel before Husain handed the item over to the BBC’s economics correspondent Darshini David who continued with promotion of the ‘blockade’ theme.

David: “From what you’ve been hearing there it may or may not surprise you to hear that the World Bank has been warning that the Gaza economy is in free fall – that’s after it contracted by 6% at the start of this year. It says that the impact of that decade long blockade has been compounded by budget cuts from the Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid. Four out of five people now rely on food aid. We can reveal this morning that the UK will be giving an extra £5 million in emergency supplies to sixty thousand refugees.”

Once again listeners were not told why there are Palestinian refugees in a place ruled and run by Palestinians. David then went on to introduce another not so ordinary interviewee: the World Bank’s director for the West Bank and Gaza, Marina Wes, clarifying that “she’s also the author of its report”.

Having presented unemployment and poverty statistics and discussed the relevance of “donor money” (but with no mention of Israel’s recent agreement to millions of dollars in cash given by Qatar entering the Gaza Strip), Wes went on to promote the ‘blockade’ theme again.

Wes: “…we also need to start working now on the medium term to put in place an enabling environment that will support jobs for Gaza’s youth and that will enable these youths to really make their own living. Critical to this is to remove the constraints on trade and movement of goods and people. They need to be relaxed otherwise there’s no way a small economy like Gaza can flourish.” 

Neither at this point nor anywhere else in this programme were listeners given factual background information concerning the numbers of people who do exit the Gaza Strip on a daily basis or the amounts of fuel and goods entering the Gaza Strip via Israel.

David: “…can you put any kind of numbers on what kind of difference getting that greater access could mean?”

Wes was unable to answer that question.

David: “…what about security concerns? What kind of impact could that have on the economy as well?”

Wes: “I think relaxing the blockade is going to be critical going forward. There is for instance something called the dual-use list and if there is scope to relax that I think that could have a very large impact on the economy in Gaza.”

As readers may know, “dual-use” (or “dual-purpose”) items – i.e. items which can also be used for the purposes of terrorism – enter the Gaza Strip only in coordination with Israeli security officials in order to ensure that they are used for civilian purposes. When asked to explain that term, Wes went on:

Wes: “So this list puts, highlights, goods that have security concerns – for instance certain tubes. So I told you that there is a severe water crisis in Gaza. So getting pipes into Gaza that could help alleviate this crisis and that would simultaneously also take care of Israeli security concerns would be critical.”

It would of course have been helpful to listeners had they been told at this point of Hamas’ past use of water and sewage pipes to manufacture rockets that were then fired at Israeli civilians but instead David closed the conversation there and went on to introduce her next two interviewees.

David: “Now as we’ve been hearing it’s Gaza’s young who have been particularly hard hit as Marina Wes there was saying. Could they play a key part in turning round the economy? The blockade means they can’t rely on the industries that their parents may have turned to such as fishing or growing strawberries so they are looking at new areas. Gaza Sky Geeks is the Strip’s first tech hub. It was formed after a charity collaborated with Google in 2011.”

In fact – as even Palestinian outlets acknowledge – strawberries are exported annually from the Gaza Strip during the season.

David’s interview with two women from Gaza Sky Geeks included a question concerning electricity and “a stable internet connection”. Listeners were not however informed that the chronic electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is entirely unconnected to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

As we see, in the first fourteen minutes of this broadcast from the Gaza Strip BBC Radio 4 listeners were repeatedly steered towards the view – promoted by two ‘experts’ – that the solution to the economic problems in the Gaza Strip is the lifting or easing of counter-terrorism measures. They did not however hear any serious portrayal of the Hamas terrorism which brought about those measures in the first place and continues to make them necessary. Neither were they given any information concerning the transportation of gas, fuel and goods into the Gaza Strip via Israel or Israel’s supply of electricity to the territory. The highly relevant topic of Hamas’ policy of prioritising terrorism over the needs of Gaza’s civilian population was – unsurprisingly – studiously avoided. 

Additional themes seen in this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

h/t S

As readers probably know the BBC employs permanent staff in the Gaza Strip. In addition, just a couple of hours’ journey away in Jerusalem is a fully staffed BBC bureau with dedicated Middle East correspondents. Nevertheless, the publicly funded corporation has found it necessary to send a presenter from a domestic radio station to report on ‘life in Gaza’.

“This is the Erez Crossing, the point that connects Israel and Gaza. For the last eight months the perimeter fence between the two has been the scene of weekly Palestinian protests. I’ve been talking to people who live on the Israeli side and on Monday we’ll be broadcasting live from Gaza. Join me, Mishal Husain, on the Today Programme.”

It of course comes as no surprise to see Mishal Husain portraying violent rioting that has included shooting attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks, arson attacks and infiltrations into Israeli territory as “protests”. After all, that has been the BBC’s editorial policy for the past eight months.

It will however be interesting to see whether Husain’s conversations with “people who live on the Israeli side” include any mention of what she termed “home-made contraptions” six years ago.

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