A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

Many thanks to all those who wrote in to alert us to an item aired in the July 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. That report by Paul Adams – currently a BBC diplomatic correspondent and formerly twice based in Jerusalem – was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 0:47:15 here) with multiple inaccuracies.

Husain: “Israel has partially reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing point into the Gaza Strip allowing fuel to enter the territory for the first time in two weeks. The crossing was closed earlier this month after incendiary kites were flown across the border setting fire to agricultural land inside Israel.”

Firstly, the Kerem Shalom crossing was not “closed” – and therefore also not “reopened”. As the BBC News website reported on July 17th, restrictions were placed on the types of goods allowed through:

“No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted.” [emphasis added]

The restriction on fuel and gas imports was lifted at noon on July 24th after having been in force since July 17th: in other words for seven and a half days. Husain’s claim that fuel had entered the territory “for the first time in two weeks” is hence inaccurate. Listeners were not told that the restrictions were introduced not only after “incendiary kites were flown across the border” by parties Husain refrains from identifying but also after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had launched over 200 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians two days beforehand.

Husain continued with an equally context-free portrayal of the violent rioting – pre-planned, financed and facilitated by Gaza terror factions – that has been taking place since the end of March:

Husain: “The UN says the lack of fuel has affected Gaza’s only power plant and hospitals, where hundreds of Palestinians are still being treated after being shot by Israeli soldiers during the protests of recent weeks.

Mishal Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners of the fact that Hamas has been exploiting diesel fuel imported via Egypt and intended for “Gaza’s only power plant” to boost its own coffers and for terror purposes. She went on:

Husain: “But as our diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams reports, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental condition of nearly 2 million Gazans.”

With the background to the report having thus been framed as related to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, Adams commenced by telling a two month-old story.

Adams: “On the busy streets of Gaza a man sets fire to himself. The crowd gathers and the flames are doused. The man is bundled into a taxi. He makes it to hospital but dies two days later. What drove musical newly married Fathi Harb to take his own life? The man in the online videos dressed as a clown or singing to promote a coffee brand. His grandfather Said tries to make sense of Fathi’s death. Like everyone in Gaza he struggled to make a living but his wife Doha was about to give birth to their first child. The baby, Wattan, was born two days after Fathi died.”

Voiceover Grandfather: “No-one knows why he did it but the boy asked himself what kind of life are we living So I think of the same question. Every Palestinian asks himself the same question.”

Adams did not inform listeners that – as reported by some journalists at the time – Fathi Harb was “heard cursing the government” as he set himself on fire. Other media outlets noted that his family had been affected by the Palestinian Authority’s cutting of salaries to employees in the Gaza Strip.

In Paul Adams’ account, however, there is no room for any mention whatsoever of Hamas or the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

Adams: “Suicide is a terrible sin in Islam and yet Fathi Harb chose to do it out in the street in front of dozens of people. He was clearly desperate and so it seems are more and more people here. Gaza’s boiling border has been in and out of the news since March but UN staff have been worried about Gaza’s young men for months.”

Following Adams’ promotion of that false linkage between the economic situation and the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop, listeners heard from “a UN health worker who claimed “more cases” since the beginning of the year. Adams commented that:

Adams: “It seems as though particularly educated young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of suicidal thought.”

The UN health worker gave a reply which conveniently fits in with Adams’ framing of the story, claiming that such people are “open to the world and the same time they cannot see the world.”

Adams continued:

Adams: “And it’s not just suicide. Domestic abuse is another alarming trend. At a UN clinic local women are discussing stress management. With unemployed, depressed husbands and angry, restive children Gaza’s women are under strain.”

After listeners had heard from one of those women, Adams went on, again studiously avoiding any mention of uncomfortable subjects such as Hamas’ use of water and sewage pipes to make rockets or Mahmoud Abbas’ deliberate exacerbation of the Gaza power crisis last year.

Adams: “Gaza has been crumbling for decades. War and economic isolation have taken their toll. There’s no proper drinking water. Electricity comes on for just 3 hours a day – sometimes in the middle of the night.”

Adams then introduced another interviewee:

Adams: “David Hutton runs the UN community mental health programme in Gaza.”

Hutton – who told listeners that “anybody who lives under these conditions” would “have an erosion of coping skills” – actually works for UNRWA and unsurprisingly had nothing to say about Hamas’ responsibility for what he described as “the chronic stress that people live with”. Adams went on:

Adams: “The youngest need help too. ‘Save the Children’ runs a youth centre at Beit Hanoun at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border. Encouraged by an instructor, girls in their early teen years play games, sing and forget themselves. But there are haunted faces here too, hanging back, uncertain, troubled.”

Adams did not bother to ask whether those “haunted faces” might be linked to the fact that four years ago, children living in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia were witness to the firing of 69.4% of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014.

Adams closed his report with a quote from the NGO which typically avoids mentioning the effects of Palestinian terrorists’ rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli children:

Adams: “‘Save the Children’ say 95% of Gaza’s children experience psychological distress: yet another Palestinian generation growing up with the corrosive effects of a conflict apparently without end.”

As we see, Paul Adams managed to get through his entire report without mentioning the words Hamas and terrorism even once. Obviously such blatantly context-free reporting – along with Mishal Husain’s inaccurate claims -not only contributes nothing at all to the BBC’s public purpose of helping its audiences “engage fully with issues” but actively hinders that process.

 

Advertisements

Lyse Doucet’s promotion of her BBC Two ‘Children of the Gaza War’ programme

Promotion for Lyse Doucet’s programme ‘Children of the Gaza War’ – timed to be broadcast on the anniversary of the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8th – has been appearing, inter alia, on the BBC News website and on social media.

Doucet tweet children 1

Doucet tweet children 2

Doucet tweet children 3

Doucet tweet children 4

Doucet tweet children 5

From the second of those Tweets from Lyse Doucet we learn that whilst the BBC was filming in southern Israel on July 16th 2014 it caught an incoming missile alert and the resulting scramble of two children to their home’s fortified safe room on camera. Insofar as we are aware, that footage was not shown to BBC audiences at the time.

Visitors to the BBC News website on July 5th found a filmed report by Doucet titled “Battle scars: Gaza children living with war’s legacy” and two days later a written report by Doucet also appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the website’s Middle East page under the headline  “The children scarred by war“.Doucet art 7 7 Gaza

Of the 1,086 words making up that article, two hundred and thirty-six can be categorized as background information. The Israeli children’s side of the story is told in two hundred and sixty words and five hundred and ninety words are devoted to the stories of Palestinian children. One can only hope that the upcoming programme itself will show better balance.

Among the notable aspects of Doucet’s written report is a curious focus on why her first interviewee was where he was when disaster struck.

“A week after the fighting began, Syed’s life was shattered on the day the 12-year-old, his 11-year-old brother Mohamed, and their six cousins went to Gaza’s beach to play football.

It was the natural playground for young boys from a family of fishermen which has lived off the sea for generations.

“We didn’t know that beach was dangerous,” says Syed – his eyes still, round, sad pools, as he remembers 16 July, one of the most harrowing days of the war.” [emphasis added]

Doucet makes no effort to inform readers that – as noted in the MAG report on the incident – the location was known to be a Hamas site and that prior events made the fact that it was dangerous clear.

“From the factual findings collected by MPCID investigators, it arose that the incident took place in an area that had long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas’s Naval Police and Naval Force (naval commandos), and which was utilized exclusively by militants. The compound in question spans the length of the breakwater of the Gaza City seashore, closed off by a fence and clearly separated from the beach serving the civilian population. It further arose in the course of the investigation (including from the affidavits provided to the MPCID by Palestinian witnesses), that the compound was known to the residents of the Gaza Strip as a compound which was used exclusively by Hamas’s Naval Police. The IDF carried out a number of attacks on the compound in the days prior to the incident. In the course of one such attack, which took place on the day prior to the incident (15 July 2014), a container located inside the compound, which was used to store military supplies, was attacked.”

Doucet even casts doubt on the nature of the site through her use of punctuation in the following sentence:

“An Israeli investigation said its air force mistook the children for Hamas fighters when a pilot fired twice at a “compound” next to the beach.”

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In a video clip embedded into the article, Doucet tells audiences that the apartment she visits together with a girl called Samar “lies next to the main crossing with Israel”. That information would suggest that the area is in Beit Hanoun but Doucet makes no effort to inform viewers of the highly relevant context of the terrorist activity which took place in that district.

“Of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014, 69.4% were fired from the northern part of the territory with the towns of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun being major centres of missile fire, cross border tunnels and other terrorist activity.”

Without revealing the source of her claim, Doucet tells readers that:

“By the end of the 51-day conflict, 551 Gazan children had lost their lives.”

Throughout the past year, the BBC has repeatedly quoted and promoted casualty figures sourced from Hamas agencies and/or UN bodies relying on information from Hamas agencies and sympathisers. No independent BBC verification of the figures or of civilian/combatant casualty ratios has been made available to the public. Hence, BBC audiences cannot know whether or not the number quoted by Doucet includes child combatants, terrorists presented with false ages or even those killed by short-falling missiles fired by terrorist organisations such as the children killed in Shati on July 28th 2014.

Doucet’s article also includes promotion – including a link – of a very one-sided and context-free report from the political NGO ‘Save the Children’ which relates almost exclusively to children in the Gaza Strip and manages to avoid all use of the words terrorism or Hamas.

“A report released this week by Save the Children, A Living Nightmare, says the vast majority of children in the hardest-hit area still experience nightmares and bed wetting.”

The most remarkable part of Doucet’s article, however, is the following paragraph:

“Israel says its 2014 campaign, Operation Protective Edge, was launched to stop rocket attacks from Gaza and destroy a vast network of tunnels, some of which extended into Israeli communities. Hamas, which controls most of Gaza, said it was fighting against Israeli air strikes and incursions, and trying to ease severe restrictions on its crossings with both Israel and Egypt.”Doucet filmed 5 7

The BBC knows full well that Operation Protective Edge commenced after hundreds of missiles were fired by terrorist groups at civilian targets in Israel in the preceding weeks and following considerable efforts to persuade Hamas to stop those attacks. It also knows that thousands more rockets and mortars were fired during the period between July 8th and August 26th and what was the aim of the cross-border tunnels constructed by Hamas. It therefore has no justification for presenting that information with the qualifier “Israel says”.

Likewise, the BBC knows perfectly well that Israeli airstrikes were responses to missile fire on Israeli civilians and that the ground operation was necessary in order to decommission the cross-border tunnels. It also knows – even though it does not tell its audiences – that the border restrictions are the result of a decade and a half of terrorism by Hamas and other terror groups located in the Gaza Strip.

Doucet’s equivocal presentation of the background to Operation Protective Edge therefore does not represent an effort to meet editorial standards of impartiality but an active attempt to promote misleading ambiguity regarding the causes of the conflict.

One can only hope that a higher standard of journalism will be evident in the programme to be aired to UK audiences tonight on BBC Two and to viewers elsewhere this coming Saturday on BBC World News television.  

 

BBC’s Gaza blockade campaign continues with amplification of another NGO

As we noted in our discussion here of the plethora of reports recently produced by the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip (see related articles below), UNRWA employees were given platforms from which to promote their political campaign against Israel’s policies regarding its border with the Gaza Strip in many of those items, as well as in an additional related programme.

But UNRWA was not the only organisation to be given BBC airtime for the promotion of politically motivated messaging in Doucet’s series of reports. The video below shows a report aired on BBC World News in February in which Doucet interviewed Roger Hearn of Save the Children. Note his answer to Doucet’s request to identify “the main problem” holding up reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

Hearn: “Look, fundamentally people can’t get the equipment and the building supplies to rebuild Gaza. Its…it’s the blockade – the Israeli blockade on Gaza that’s preventing us from moving forward. We can apply a band-aid as aid organisations but it’s a band-aid on a gaping wound and we will expect another war if we don’t actually start rebuilding soon.” [emphasis added]

Hearn was also featured in an audio report by Doucet (from 35:10 here) which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 25th. There he expanded on the above theme:

Doucet: “And what do you think has to happen if this is going to change? It seems there are so many reasons why it’s [reconstruction] failing.

Hearn: “Clearly the blockade – the Israeli blockade on Gaza – has to be lifted. Without that no amount of money can ever fix the damage that we’re seeing here in Gaza.”

Doucet: “But the border with Egypt is also closed: it’s a double whammy.”

Hearn: “It’s a double whammy but Israel has the legal responsibility to – actually as the occupying power – to…to lift the blockade. There’s a humanitarian imperative for Egypt but the clear responsibility lies with Israel.”

Doucet made no attempt to relieve BBC audiences of the erroneous impression given by Hearn that the Gaza Strip is still occupied by Israel almost a decade after all soldiers and civilians were removed from that area – or even to inform them that any other view of the issue exists. Hearn (who in the past has also worked for UNRWA and Oxfam, among others) has no discernible training in international law which could form a basis for his claims. Someone who does have the relevant qualifications is Professor Euguene Kontorovich and as he explained in a two-part essay (here and here) written in November 2014:

“An occupation is traditionally defined as a power exercising “effective control” over the territory in a way that displaces the prior government. The occupying power is expected to provide law and order, essential services, and all the basic functions of government – and is thus required to have the kind of control that allows for that. As the ICJ has put it, occupation requires a territory to be “actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” There has never been a finding of a such “remote” occupation, lasting nine years after the end of physical occupation and in the presence of a distinct and hostile local government.”

And of course even Hamas has stated that the Gaza Strip is no longer ‘occupied’.

Likewise, Doucet makes no attempt in either of these interviews to explain to audiences why Israel finds it necessary to restrict the entry of dual-use goods to the Gaza Strip (and those alone) which can be used for the purposes of terrorism against its civilian population. Hamas terrorism gets no mention at all and BBC audiences are herded towards the inaccurate belief that responsibility for “the main problem” holding up the reconstruction of buildings in the Gaza Strip lies exclusively with Israel.

As we have seen so many times before, the motivation for Doucet’s uncritical amplification of Roger Hearn’s inaccurate and misleading claims obviously lies both in a shared political view and in the BBC’s failure to treat NGOs with the same sort of journalistic standards it applies to other sectors. Hence, once again the BBC’s obligation to enhance its audiences’ understanding of international issues by means of accurate and impartial reporting is trumped by the opportunity to promote a political agenda.

The BBC self-conscripted to amplification of the campaign promoted by Hamas and assorted NGOs and ‘humanitarian’ groups against Israeli policies concerning its border with the Gaza Strip even as last summer’s conflict still raged. As we see, the exploitation of its unrivalled outreach for that purpose continues. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part one

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part two

BBC’s Lyse Doucet does ‘reporter in the rubble’ redux – part three

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part one

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

Examining Lyse Doucet’s claim that she reported new Hamas tunnels on BBC

BBC World Service amplifies UNRWA’s political campaigning yet again