Gaza explosion: BBC News silent, BBC Arabic promotes knee-jerk speculation

On October 27th Hamas’ commander of internal security, Tawfiq Abu Naim, was injured in an explosion.

“The head of Hamas’s security apparatus in the Gaza Strip, Tawfiq Abu Naim, was wounded in an explosion on Friday in what Hamas officials called an “assassination attempt.”

Abu Naim, who Israel freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap in 2011, has been in charge of Hamas’s security forces in Gaza since December 2015.

“General Tawfiq Abu Naim survived an assassination attempt Friday afternoon, after his car was blown up in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the middle of Gaza City,” Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza Spokesman Iyad Bozm said in a statement, adding that the security chief suffered moderate wounds, but was doing well and receiving treatment at the al-Shifa Hospital in the Strip.”

While Hamas’ statement on the incident did not identify any suspects, some of the terror group’s officials immediately blamed Israel – without of course providing any evidence. Other Hamas officials however pointed a finger at local Salafists.

“Hamas officials in Gaza believe the Islamic State jihadist group is behind the attempted assassination of their security chief on Friday, reports Saturday in Hebrew-language media said. […]

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh had initially blamed Israel for the attack, but top Gaza officials say that a preliminary investigation of the incident points to Islamic State, according to Channel 2.”

Amos Harel at Ha’aretz explained the background:

“Abu Naim heads the Hamas security forces in Gaza, and […] he hasn’t helped plan terrorism against Israel. One of his functions has been to lead the fight against people suspected of collaborating with Israel. But most of his efforts in recent years have focused on the war against the Salafi groups that openly rebelled against Hamas rule, clash with its security forces and sometimes still fire rockets at Israel, especially in defiant moves to ratchet up tensions between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas suppressed these organizations violently while secretly assisting another Salafi group, Walayat Sinai, the Islamic State branch in Sinai, which is fighting Egypt. But Cairo’s pressure in recent months has forced Hamas to distance itself from the Sinai group and limit its assistance to it, which included secret hospitalizations in Gaza of fighters wounded in clashes with the Egyptians. At the same time, the battle grew more heated against extremist groups in Gaza.

These are good reasons for the Salafists to hit Abu Naim: the harsher steps against them (including dozens of arrests), Hamas’ drawing closer to Egypt, and the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Abu Naim’s forces are responsible for policing the border between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah — operations that keep the Salafi forces apart on the two sides of the border. […]

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who visited Abu Naim in the hospital, accused Israel of the assassination attempt. But a few hours later, it was reported from Gaza that a suspect affiliated with a Salafi group had been arrested.”

So how has the BBC reported that story? While those getting their news from the corporation’s English language services have seen no coverage of the incident whatsoever, visitors to the BBC’s Arabic language website did find one short report on the story.  

However, that article – which is headlined “Hamas accuses Israel of being behind the attempted assassination of its security chief” and which again amplifies the same completely unsupported knee-jerk speculation in its opening paragraph – makes no mention whatsoever of the fact that other Hamas officials suspect that the attack was perpetrated by Salafists.

So much for the BBC’s commitment to “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” and its director-general’s claim that the BBC World Service (of which BBC Arabic is part) is an antidote to “fake news”. 

Related Articles:

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BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

A Gaza border closure not deemed newsworthy by BBC News

 

 

 

 

 

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BBC continues to conceal Gaza missile attacks from its audience

On the morning of March 18th residents of the western Negev region once again came under missile attack, just days after a previous incident.

“Rocket sirens broke the Sabbath calm and sent residents throughout the Gaza periphery scrambling Saturday morning, as two projectiles were launched from the Strip.

One rocket exploded near the city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza, causing no casualties or damage. The second apparently fell inside Palestinian territory.

The Israel Defense Forces responded with tank fire and air strikes at several Hamas targets in the Strip. There were no reports of casualties.”

Yet again the BBC chose not to report the attack.

Since the beginning of the year seven missile attacks against Israel have taken place – five from Gaza and two from Sinai – none of which have been reported by the BBC’s English language services. Israel’s response to three of the attacks launched from the Gaza Strip has however been the subject of coverage on the corporation’s Arabic language website.

The pattern of reporting whereby the majority of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is reported in Arabic has been in evidence since the end of the summer 2014 conflict. Throughout 2016 just one of ten attacks received BBC coverage in the English language.

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BBC ignores Gaza missile in English but reports response in Arabic

BBC News continues to ignore Gaza missile attacks – in English

On the morning of February 6th sirens sent residents of the Hof Ashkelon district in the western Negev running for cover as a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit Israeli territory south of Ashkelon.

Israel responded with strikes on Hamas installations in the Gaza Strip and the missile fire was later claimed by a Salafist group. Later in the day shots were fired at Israeli troops working on the fence in another area along the border with the Gaza Strip.bbc-arabic-missile-6-2

While the BBC did not produce any coverage of that missile fire in the English language, the BBC Arabic website did publish an article reporting the Israeli response.

Throughout the whole of 2016, only one of the ten barrages of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip which took place received (belated) English language coverage, while reporting in Arabic on Israeli responses to those attacks was seen in the majority of cases.

The pattern of reporting whereby missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is reported in Arabic has been predominant since the end of the summer 2014 conflict and – as we now see – continues into 2017.

Gaza missile attack on Israeli town again ignored by BBC News

On the morning of October 5th sirens sounded in Sderot and the surrounding area as a missile was launched from the Gaza Strip. Narrowly missing a school and homes, the missile landed in a residential area of Sderot, causing damage but fortunately no physical injuries. Israel later responded with strikes on Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip. A Salafist group based in the Gaza Strip claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The Islamic State-affiliated Ahfad al-Sahaba-Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis terrorist group took responsibility for the rocket launch in statements released in both Arabic and Hebrew.

“Oh you cowardly Jews: You don’t have safety in our land. [Former defense minister Moshe] Ya’alon, the failure at giving security. [Defense Minister Avigdor] Liberman to fail will be a certainty,” the salafist group said in its statement, in poorly translated Hebrew.

The attack against Israel was apparently a response to the Strip’s Hamas rulers arresting several members of the Salafist organization, according to the group’s statement.”bbc-arabic-5-10-1

Once again, this missile attack on Israeli civilians received no coverage whatsoever on the BBC’s English language website. Visitors to the BBC Arabic website, on the other hand, found the incident – and primarily the Israeli response – covered in two separate reports on other topics: here and here.

The pattern of reporting whereby missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is reported in Arabic has been predominant since the end of the summer 2014 conflict. Since the beginning of 2016, just one missile attack has been – belatedly – reported by the BBC in the English language.

January 1stBBC News ignores Gaza missile attacks, BBC Arabic reports Israeli response

January 24thBBC News ignores Gaza missile attack again – in English

March 11thBBC News continues to ignore missile attacks on Israelis – in English

March 15thmissile attack not reported.bbc-arabic-5-10-2

May 6thPatchy and selective BBC News reporting of Gaza border incidents

May 25thBBC News fails to report another Gaza missile attack to English-speakers

July 1stAnother Gaza missile attack ignored by the BBC

August 21st: Response reported in Arabic, attack and response reported a day later in English.

September 14th: BBC ignores – in English – another projectile launched from Gaza

October 5th: Response reported in Arabic.

The BBC’s public purposes remit commits it to “giving insight into the way people live in other countries” and building “understanding of international issues”. The continuing appearance of this pattern of reporting obviously means that English-speaking audiences – including the corporation’s funding public – are still not receiving the information which would enable their understanding of how civilians in Sderot and other communities in the Western Negev live or enhance their comprehension of the issue of terrorism in the Gaza Strip. 

BBC Sport whitewashes Islamist bigotry with a euphemism

An article by BBC Sport titled “Rio Olympics 2016: Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby sent home for handshake snub” appeared on the BBC News website’s homepage and Middle East page on August 15thReaders of the report were told that:Egyptian judoka story

“The Egyptian had come under pressure from some conservative voices in his homeland to withdraw from the bout.”

The same euphemistic statement appeared three days earlier in BBC Sport’s previous article on the same topic (in which, at the time of writing, the Israeli judoka’s name has still not been corrected).

Other media outlets were less coy about informing their audiences of the ideologies behind the pressure on the Egyptian judoka to withdraw from the competition against an Israeli.

Times of Israel:

“The 32-year-old Egyptian, a world championship medalist in 2010, had faced pressure on social media and from hardline Islamist groups in his homeland to withdraw from the fight.”

Telegraph:

“The athlete, who is an ultraconservative Salafi, had come under pressure from hardline Islamists on social media and from television pundits not to participate in the match.

“You will shame Islam. If you lose, you will shame an entire nation and yourself,” one comment read.”

AP:

“Islam El Shehaby, an ultraconservative Salafi Muslim, had come under pressure before the games from Islamist-leaning and nationalist voices in Egypt to withdraw from the first-round heavyweight bout against Or Sasson. […]

On Thursday, Moutaz Matar, a TV host of the Islamist-leaning network Al-Sharq, had urged El Shehaby to withdraw.

“My son, watch out. Don’t be fooled, or fool yourself, thinking you will play with the Israeli athlete to defeat him and make Egypt happy,” he said. “Egypt will cry; Egypt will be sad and you will be seen as a traitor and a normalizer in the eyes of your people.””

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘conservative’ as:

“Averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values”.

Clearly the BBC’s portrayal of “conservative voices” is not conducive to full audience understanding of the story. It would of course be very surprising to see the BBC describe anyone urging an athlete not to compete against a gay or black opponent as “conservative” and such bigotry portrayed as a ‘traditional value’.

But – not for the first time – we see that the BBC is reluctant to explain discriminatory Islamist ideology to its audiences in clear and precise language.  

Related Articles:

BBC Sport reports snub to Israeli judoka – but gets his name wrong

 

Weekend long read

1) With the misappropriation of funds and materials intended to better the lives of ordinary residents in the Gaza Strip by Hamas recruited NGO workers having made headlines in the last couple of weeks, Professor Gerald Steinberg takes a look at the bigger picture.Weekend Read

“The broader problem is that due diligence for humanitarian aid in war and terror zones requires the allocation of significant resources and a professional staff capable of detaching itself from the pressures and sympathies of the local environment. World Vision, like most aid groups operating in Gaza, clearly failed in this respect. […]

World Vision’s troubles in Gaza reflect the broader moral failures of the humanitarian-aid industry. The narrow vision of aid workers contribute to a willful blindness to terrorism. The competition for publicity and donations results in alliances with brutal regimes and corrupt warlords. But thanks to the NGO “halo effect,” many donors also neglect due diligence, instead relying on the pure reputation of the recipient organization.”

2) The WSJ’s David Feith takes a look at an issue which, as has frequently been noted on these pages, has long been avoided by BBC journalists: the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists.

“For two decades the Palestinian government has used U.S. and other foreign taxpayers’ money to pay generous rewards to the families of terrorists. The deadlier the crime, the larger the prize, up to about $3,100 a month, or several times the average salary of a worker in Palestine’s non-terrorist economy. […]

No U.S. official can plead ignorance. Palestinian law has sanctioned these payments since at least 2004, specifying how much money is earned depending on the circumstances of the attacker and the body count. A Palestinian from Israel with a wife and children who kills many people and dies in the act, or is captured and sentenced to more than 30 years in prison, earns the most. Single, childless attackers from the West Bank or Gaza earn less. The incentives are clear.

Palestinian leaders once tried to obscure their payments by characterizing them as “assistance” rather than “salaries.” They also shifted nominal responsibility from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which takes donations from foreign governments, to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which doesn’t. But this was a sham, as both bodies are run by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party.”

3) The Fathom Journal has a very informative article by Shiraz Maher of KCL titled “Mapping contemporary Salafi-Jihadism“.

4) With the BBC so far having refrained from covering the run-up to the municipal elections scheduled for October 8th in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip, Khaled Abu Toameh’s reporting on the campaigning provides invaluable background.

“Hamas, whose leaders seem to be enthusiastic and optimistic about the upcoming vote, has seized the opportunity to wage a massive election campaign on Facebook and Twitter to promote its extremist ideology through intimidation and by accusing its rivals of infidelity, blasphemy and profanity. Hamas’s message to the Palestinian voters: Vote for us or else you will be considered infidels and you will end up in hell.

The first sign of Hamas’s frightening platform emerged when one of its top muftis, Yunis Al-Astal, issued a fatwa (Islamic religious decree) banning Palestinians from voting for any other party other than Hamas. “Any person, male or female, who votes for a party other than Hamas will be considered an infidel and apostate and his or her repentance will not be accepted even if they fasted or prayed or performed the hajj [pilgrimage] to Mecca,” the mufti ruled.

The Hamas fatwa sparked a wave of anger from many Palestinians, who were quick to accuse the Islamist movement and its leaders of waging a campaign of intimidation and terror against voters.” 

 

Is the BBC’s report of Jabhat al-Nusra ‘split’ from al Qaeda too simplistic?

Those visiting the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of July 29th learned the following:

Nusra on ME pge

The article to which that link leads is titled “Syrian Nusra Front announces split from al-Qaeda” and readers are told that:

“Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, has announced it has split from al-Qaeda.

Leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani, in his first recorded message, said its new name would be Jabhat Fateh al-Sham [Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant].

He said the move was intended to remove the pretext used by powers, including the US and Russia, to bomb Syrians.”

But is the repeated claim that Jabhat al-Nusra has “split from al-Qaeda” an accurate representation of what actually happened? A senior fellow at the FDD doesn’t think so and his analysis (which includes a mention of this BBC article) is well worth reading in full.

“…Al Nusrah’s overt relationship with al Qaeda made it easy for Russia and the US to justify bombing Syria. For this reason, others in the Syrian insurgency objected to Al Nusrah’s status as an al Qaeda branch. (To date, American airstrikes have mainly targeted individual al Qaeda leaders embedded in Al Nusrah’s ranks, not the organization’s overall paramilitary force. However, the proposal for cooperation with Russia may have led to a change in that focus.)

Julani and Al Nusrah’s other leaders are sensitive to the complaint and so they wanted to eliminate this supposed pretext.

“For the aforementioned reasons, we declare the complete cancellation of all operations under the name of Jabhat Al Nusrah, and the formation of a new group operating under the name ‘Jabhat Fath Al Sham,’ noting that this new organization has no affiliation to any external entity,” Julani says.

Press outlets and many analysts seized on this phrasing to argue that Julani had announced Al Nusrah’s “split,” or “break” from al Qaeda. Some even reported that Julani had thanked “commanders of al Qaeda for having understood the need to break ties.”

But that is not what Julani actually said. His remarks were far more nuanced and require careful analysis.

Julani did not explicitly say that Al Nusrah had broken or split from al Qaeda, which is the language used by the press. He made no such claims.

Instead, Julani said Jabhat Fath Al Sham would have “no affiliation to any external [or foreign] entity.” If Julani wanted to argue that he and his men no longer had any ties to al Qaeda, he could have said so. He didn’t. And his precise wording allows for a considerable amount of wiggle room.”

Later on in the BBC’s article readers are told that:Nusra art

“Analysts say the Nusra Front decided to rebrand itself after the US and Russia stepped up their military efforts against the group.

It is understood the group hopes to form closer alliances with other Islamist groups fighting in Syria.”

The article goes on to offer readers a link to a previous BBC report from March 2015.

“Al-Nusra first announced its existence in a video posted online in early 2012, some months after the Syrian civil war began.

It has been claimed that Qatar has relatively close ties with the group, probably through intermediaries.”

In that article (previously discussed here) audiences were told that:

“This is why Qatar is hoping to bring the Nusra Front in from the cold. If the state can get the group to eschew its al-Qaeda affiliation and adhere to a broadly moderate Islamist platform, Qatar can officially commence, with Western blessing, the supply of one of the most effective fighting forces in Syria.” [emphasis added]

But does Jabhat al-Nusra’s rebranding and potential “closer alliances” with additional groups really signal a step down the road to ‘moderation’? Analyst  Jennifer Cafarella does not think so:

“The cancellation of Jabhat al Nusra’s operations and rebranding of Jabhat al Nusra fighters does not remove the group from the global Salafi-jihadi movement, which believes in the use of violence to establish shari’a-based governance. Jabhat al Nusra will continue to fight to advance Syrian Salafi-jihadi interests under its new name. It has not renounced its vision of establishing an Islamic emirate in Syria. It has instead improved its chances of success by removing obstacles to unify the opposition under its leadership. 

 Syrian Salafi-jihadi groups want to unify opposition groups to increase the effectiveness of their war against the Assad regime. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper today noted that the formation of Jabhat Fatah al Sham likely aimed to “create the image of being more moderate in an attempt to unify and galvanize and appeal to other oppositionist (sic) groups in Syria.” […]

The decision to form Jabhat Fatah al Sham removes the primary source of the opposition’s resistance to a merger. Opposition groups have been hesitant to merge with Jabhat al Nusra for fear that affiliation with an al Qaeda branch would justify Russia’s air campaign and cause the U.S.-led coalition to target them. […]

It was certainly part of a plan coordinated with al Qaeda’s central leadership. Al Qaeda sanctioned the decision to form a new group in a message released today. This was no break from al Qaeda, but rather the execution of a deliberate global strategy on behalf of the movement. The al Qaeda statement emphasized that “the brotherhood of Islam that is between us is stronger than all the finite, ever-changing organizational links.” “

At the time of writing, the BBC’s profile of Jabhat al-Nusra has not been updated to include this latest development or to correct previously noted inaccuracies.

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Kevin Connolly gives insight into BBC group-think

The BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Kevin Connolly has recently been on the road in order, he tells us in one of the resulting reports, “to find out what governments and peoples in the Arab world are doing to push back against violent extremist ideas”.

In Connolly’s written report about his travels – “Battle of ideas at heart of fight against Islamic State“, BBC News website, March 17th – readers found the following assertion:Connolly Islamists

“Back in 2011, when the street protests of what we used to call the Arab Spring still appeared to represent an irresistible pulse of democratising energy, no-one foresaw that the violent Islamist extremist movements which had long been part of life in the Middle East would be among the main beneficiaries.”

That paragraph is of course very revealing – and inaccurate. In fact there were people who at the time cautioned that the uprisings the Western media so enthusiastically and unquestioningly embraced as heralding the dawn of democracy in the Middle East had the potential to turn out rather differently. One of those scholars was the late Professor Barry Rubin who in February 2011 wrote:

“…the conclusion that the usual rules of Middle East politics have disappeared is greatly exaggerated. If you think that democracy cannot lead to violent Islamists taking power, consider the Muslim-majority country in the region with the longest tradition of democracy: Lebanon, where Hezb’allah and its allies now run things. Consider Algeria, where free elections (you can blame it on the military if you want) led to a bloody civil war. Think about Turkey where, though the regime still operates basically by democratic norms, the noose is tightening (though there it may well not be irreversible).”

In May 2011 Connolly himself conducted an apparently forgotten interview with Israeli minister Moshe Ya’alon who, whilst discussing the prospects for Israeli-Egyptian relations in the light of the ‘Arab Spring’ noted that:

“…what we have to be aware of is that it [a future Egyptian regime] might be the Muslim Brotherhood – might change the course of Egypt.”

Even some BBC journalists recognised the possibility of an Islamist ascendency at the time – as documented in the Mortimer Report on the corporation’s coverage of the ‘Arab Spring’.

“Presenters and correspondents at times appeared almost obsessed with the possibility, if not likelihood, that Islamists – and the Brotherhood in particular – might turn out to be the main beneficiaries of the upheaval, especially if it resulted in a “power vacuum”. The probability of this happening, and the implications if it did, were the points routinely put to every Western expert and policy-maker; and there were many interviews with members of the Brotherhood itself – some rank-and-file, some described as leaders. All of these stressed that their movement favoured freedom and democracy, and did not seek to impose an Islamic order on people against their will. Some of the expert commentators accepted these statements more or less at face value, stressing the Brotherhood‟s evolution towards pragmatism during its long years in opposition and semi-clandestinity, while others were more sceptical. Conspicuously absent in this phase of coverage, however, whether as subjects or objects of commentary, were the “Salafists” – Islamists more rigid and conservative, though perhaps less organized than the Brotherhood – who later turned out to have widespread popular support and ran second to the Brotherhood in the elections.” [emphasis added]

As reflected in Edward Mortimer’s words, part of the reason why Connolly is able to convince himself today that “no-one” foresaw the rise of Islamist extremists five years ago is because he and many of his colleagues had bought into the notion of ‘moderate’ Islamists. That approach is demonstrated in an interview given by one of the BBC’s Middle East correspondents at the time – Wyre Davies – to ‘Wales Online’ in July 2011.

“Asked to what extent in Syria it was ordinary people wanting a voice and to what extent it was Islamic extremists, he said: “I think people over-play the role of Islamic parties. Yes of course in Egypt and Tunisia, these are Islamic countries so you would expect the Muslim Brotherhood and political parties who take some of their moral guidance from Islam to play a role. […]

 “It is ironic that Israel for so long has called itself the only democracy in the region, and yet when democratic movements arise in countries like Egypt, Israel was basically against it. Israel wanted Mubarak to stay in power.

“The West is aware of this. What happens if the Muslim Brotherhood wins the election in Egypt? Now I don’t think they will, but there are some pretty moderate members of the Brotherhood. I don’t think there’s any danger that these major Middle Eastern countries are going to be overrun by Islamic extremists.”” [emphasis added]

In an article written for the Guardian in 2012, Magdi Abdelhadi – who was a BBC Arab affairs analyst at the time of the uprising in Egypt the year before – told readers that:

“It’s true that notorious jihadi groups have been inspired by the teachings of Qutb – namely that modern society is pagan and ungodly and that true Muslims should reject it and take up arms against it.

But the Muslim Brotherhood of today has distanced itself from such ideas and is committed to normal politics.”

Were BBC correspondents less preoccupied with the promotion of a political narrative which requires the framing of Hizballah and the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot Hamas as ‘resistance’ groups, they might have been better placed to view Islamist ideology in all its manifestations in a more informed and objective light. That in turn would have allowed them to listen at the time to the voices Kevin Connolly now erroneously claims did not exist.

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The BBC and the Brotherhood

Must read article by former BBC journalist

BBC’s Yolande Knell promotes Muslim Brotherhood messaging

UK government’s MB review shows 2014 BBC report misleads

 

 

 

Missile attack on Ashdod gets fifteen words of BBC coverage

Late on the evening of September 29th around a quarter of a million people in Israel’s fifth largest city, Ashdod, and surrounding areas had to scramble for cover in their safe rooms and air raid shelters as sirens warned them of an incoming missile from the Gaza Strip.

Fortunately, the Iron Dome defence system was able to intercept the Grad missile and no injuries were reported. The attack was claimed by the Gaza Strip based Salafist Jihadist group ‘Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade’ which has also taken responsibility for some of the previous missile attacks on Israeli civilians in recent months. Several hours later, Israel responded to that attack with four strikes on Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

BBC correspondents in the region were aware of the incident.

missile 29 9 tweet Shuval

missile 29 9 tweet Rushdi

However, visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of September 30th did not find any stand-alone reporting concerning that missile attack on sleeping Israeli civilians in a major city well over 20 miles away from the Gaza Strip.

ME HP 30 9 15a

The only mention of the attack comes right at the end of an article on another topic altogether  – “Palestinian flag to be raised at United Nations” – where, in typical ‘last-first reporting’ style, readers are told that:

“Early on Wednesday, Israel carried out a series of air strikes on Gaza, hours after the Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted a rocket from the enclave.”BBC Arabic 30 9 hp

Visitors to the BBC Arabic website on the morning of September 30th found a headline informing them exclusively of the Israeli response.

Whilst he article itself – “Israel launches raids on several military sites for “Hamas” in Gaza Strip” –  does use the ‘last-first reporting’ technique to inform readers that the Israeli strikes came “in response to a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip”, much of its word count is devoted to description of the locations targeted in Israel’s response.

Civilians in southern Israel have been subjected to three separate incidents of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip throughout the month of September 2015. The BBC’s record on reporting those attacks and the additional ones which have taken place since the end of the summer 2014 hostilities is summarised below.

September 16th 2014 – mortar fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News but briefly mentioned in a later article on another topic.

October 31st 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News.

December 19th 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not covered by BBC News at the time but Israeli response reported in English.

April 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Sha’ar HaNegev region – not reported by BBC News.

May 26th 2015 – missile fire at Gan Yavne area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

June 3rd 2015 – missile fire at Sdot Negev region – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic

June 6th 2015 – missile fire at Hof Ashkelon area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic. Later briefly mentioned in a June 10th report by Yolande Knell.

June 11th 2015 – missile fire (fell short in Gaza Strip) – later mentioned in a June 12th article by Yolande Knell.

June 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Yad Mordechai area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

July 16th 2015 – missile fire at the Ashkelon area – not reported by the BBC in English.

August 7th 2015 – missile fire at the Kissufim area – not covered by the BBC’s English language services, but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

August 27th 2015 – missile fire at the Eshkol area – not reported by BBC News in English, but Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.

September 18th 2015 – missile fire on Sderot and Ashkelon – 19 words of reporting in a BBC News article on a different topic. Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

September 21st 2015 – missile fire at the Hof Ashkelon area – not reported by BBC News.

September 29th 2015 – missile fire at Ashdod – 15 words of coverage in an article on another topic. Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.

Clearly BBC audiences are not being provided with the full range of information necessary for them to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and remarkably, not one BBC correspondent has found the time or inclination to venture down to southern Israel during the past year to report on the views and experiences of the civilians living under the constant threat of missile attacks by terrorists located in the Gaza Strip. 

Update: Later amendment to the BBC News website article which originally included fifteen words of coverage of the Grad missile attack on Ashdod September 29th removed that information.  

 

 

 

 

More uncritical amplification of a HRW report from BBC News

On September 22nd an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Egypt ‘demolishes thousands of homes’ for Sinai buffer zone“. That article is in fact yet another piece of ‘churnalism‘, with almost its entire content being devoted to amplification of a report by one of the BBC’s most frequently quoted and promoted political NGOs – Human Rights Watch (HRW).HRW report Rafah

Despite the fact that the HRW report is based on information gathered from selected media reports, anonymous witnesses and unidentified ‘activists’, the BBC uncritically repeated its claims, with variations of the phrase “HRW says” appearing seven times throughout the article and no attempt made to provide readers with further relevant background material. Thus, for example, readers were steered towards the view that no justification exists for Egypt’s actions on its border with the Gaza Strip.

“The [Egyptian] military aims to eventually clear an area of about 79 sq km (30 sq miles) along the Gaza border, including all of the town of Rafah, which has a population of about 78,000 people, HRW says.

The government says the operation will allow the military to close smuggling tunnels it alleges are used by jihadists to receive weapons, fighters and logistical help from Palestinian militants in Gaza.

But HRW said little or no evidence had been offered to support this justification, citing statements from Egyptian and Israeli officials that suggested weapons were more likely to have been obtained from Libya or captured from the Egyptian military.”

Were the BBC’s own record of reporting on the subject of collaboration between the Sinai based Salafists and elements within the Gaza Strip less dismal, it would of course have been able to provide readers with background information crucial to their being able to put that HRW claim into context. As the Times of Israel reported in January 2015:

“Egyptian intelligence has specific information on assistance that Sinai terrorists have been receiving from the Gaza Strip. Many activists trained in Gaza, and received arms there that they have been using against Egyptian forces.

That is the source of the urgency around creating the buffer zone: the goal is to cut the jihadis off from their Gaza supply route. On Monday Egyptian media reported on a jihadist cell that enjoyed considerable help from Hamas, and tried to infiltrate Sinai through tunnels. Most of the tunnels aren’t open, but occasionally smugglers on both sides of the border manage to build a new one. The Egyptian army recently uncovered a 1,700-meter passage.”

As has been the case on many past occasions, the BBC makes no effort to inform readers of this article of HRW’s political agenda – despite the need to do so being clearly stated in the corporation’s editorial guidelines on impartiality.

That recurrent omission is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that in earlier this year, HRW (once again) took up the BBC’s case at the United Nations periodic review of Rwanda.

“The HRW’s Submission for the Universal Periodic Review March 2015 contains the following recommendations for Rwanda: […]

Allow the BBC Kinyarwanda service to resume its broadcasts in Rwanda.”

Public impressions of BBC impartiality and independence will of course not be enhanced by the appearance of articles uncritically amplifying content produced by a political NGO which just happens to have used its UN platform to promote the BBC’s interests.

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