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

 

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UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first five minutes of an item relating to the weekend’s events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip that was aired in the July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was given over to an unchallenged polemic from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

Up until this point in the item listeners had not been told that some 200 projectiles had been launched by terror factions in the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities over the weekend. They had not heard an accurate description of the building – a Hamas training facility – in which the two teenagers had been located when they were accidentally killed. Neither had they been informed that this latest round of violence began when an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack at the border on July 13th. They had however heard a severely whitewashed account of terror attacks perpetrated along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip during the past three and a half months.

Presenter John Humphrys next brought in the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 01:39:29 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Chris Gunness; thank you very much for that and let’s turn to, as I say, Tom Bateman our correspondent. Tom, I was trying to suggest to Mr Gunness what the Israelis would say. What are they in fact saying this morning, if anything?”

Bateman: “Well, you know, it was a significant flare-up over the weekend and I think, you know, eh..on a similar scale we saw a couple of months ago.”

In fact, 25% fewer attacks took place on May 29-30 than on July 13-14. Bateman than went on to tell listeners that Israel had been “bombing the Gaza Strip” rather than carefully selected terrorist infrastructure as is actually the case.

Bateman: “Whereby, you know, you had Israel bombing the Gaza Strip – it said more than 40 militant sites – and at the same time the Israelis say up to 200 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Now one of those rockets hit a house in the town of Sderot: people were wounded.”

While Bateman did inform listeners of the scale of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, he failed to clarify who fired the missiles and presented the numbers with unnecessary ‘Israel says’ qualification. As was the case in BBC World Service news bulletins, while listeners had heard plenty about two teenagers – or “children” – killed in Gaza, they were not told that the wounded in Sderot also included people in that age group.  Bateman continued:

Bateman: “So the Israeli perspective is very much about that point of provocation. They’ve said – the Israeli Defence Forces said over the weekend that it is increasing the number of Iron Dome anti-missile systems in central and southern Israel. But I think, you know, the real decision maker here is the Israeli security cabinet and there are even more hawkish elements in the right-wing coalition to Benjamin Netanyahu that have been saying that – for example – the ceasefire was allowing Hamas to dictate the conditions. Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, was Tweeting over the weekend in effect suggesting that this was Israel caving into Hamas who was dictating the terms to this Egyptian mediation.”

As documented here previously, BBC coverage of the three months of Palestinian arson attacks that have destroyed some 7,400 acres of farmland, woodland and nature reserves and caused millions of dollars-worth of damage has been very poor indeed. It is therefore highly unlikely that listeners would be able to fill in the gaps for themselves as they heard Bateman’s tepid description of that terrorism, together with his introduction of the theme of “asymmetric warfare”.

Bateman: “But I think the tensions are going to continue to simmer, John, because what Israel has now been concerned about is this…what’s been happening on a near daily basis, which has been Palestinians at the fence flying kites and filling condoms with helium and sending them over the fence with flammable objects tied to them and burning fields. And you now have this sort of spectre that I think will be seen from the outside – and this is tension on Mr Netanyahu – as a sort of asymmetric warfare because the Israelis were using airstrikes against people over the weekend who were sending these kites over the fence.”

While failing to clarify that Egypt and Israel enforce closures of their borders with the Gaza Strip precisely because of Hamas terrorism, Bateman closed with a reference to an incident on July 13th but refrained from informing listeners that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

Bateman: “The Palestinians say that this is simply protest against the blockade that continues by Israel and by Egypt. It is made worse by the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority imposing sanctions on Hamas in Gaza – on some of the public sector payments. But, you know, those tensions at the border are going to continue. There was a 15 year-old boy shot dead by the Israelis again at the fence on Friday and I think, you know, that issue over how Israel responds to what’s happening at the fence will increase the political pressure on Mr Netanyahu.”

Later on in the same edition of ‘Today’ listeners heard another item (from 02:50:20 here) relating to the same topic which was introduced by presenter Justin Webb as follows:

Webb: “We heard earlier in the programme about the worst exchange of hostilities between Gaza [sic] and…err…Israel since the war in 2014. There is now a fragile ceasefire but Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA the United Nations relief agency that operates in Gaza, said he condemned what had happened.”

Radio 4 listeners then heard part of Gunness’ previously aired unchallenged polemic recycled:

Gunness: “These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Now a quarter of the way into the four-minute item, Webb introduced former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner, whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly.

After Lerner had clarified the number of missiles fired from Gaza on July 14th, the number of acres of land in Israel destroyed by Palestinian arson attacks and the fact that Iran had funded the ‘Great Return March’ to the tune of $45 million which could have been used to improve Gaza’s infrastructure, Webb interrupted him with the false suggestion that the two teenagers accidentally killed because they were in a building that listeners had still not been told was a Hamas training facility were deliberately targeted.

Webb: “But the point Chris Gunness was making was that even if you accept all of that, attacking a place where there are children, killing two children, is not a proper proportionate response.”

When Lerner pointed out that Hamas “basically wrote the book on the use of human shields”, Webb interrupted him again.

Webb: “But even if that is the case, is it right to kill the shields?”

When Lerner raised the topic of Hamas’ accountability for the events, Webb interrupted once more.

Webb: “Well what about an investigation then that looks at both sides?”

As we see listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on July 16th heard a total of eleven minutes and forty seconds of content relating to a story based around the deaths of two teenagers. However, not once in all that time were they told that the building in which the two were located was a Hamas training facility with access to the terror group’s underground tunnel network. Rather, even at the end of both items, listeners were still under the mistaken impression that this was just some random “building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go” as Chris Gunness falsely claimed and – significantly – as Hamas tried to spin the story.

So much for the BBC’s supposed obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

Related Articles:

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

Gaza missile attacks get 44 words on the BBC News website

An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

 

 

 

UNRWA spokesman’s biased polemic goes unchallenged on BBC R4 ‘Today’ – part one

The July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme Today included an item (from 01:3:24 here) in which UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness was given free rein to preach five minutes’ worth of completely unchallenged propaganda and distortions.

Gunness’ tenuous link to the subject supposedly under discussion was portrayed by presenter John Humphrys as follows:  

Humphrys: “Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an attack by Israel at the weekend in Gaza. They were pupils at a school run by the United Nations relief agency. It’s been described as the worst exchange of hostilities between the two sides since the war in 2014. A ceasefire was called yesterday but the peace [sic] is fragile. I’m joined on the line by our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman and Christopher Gunness of the United Nations relief agency. Chris Gunness; what happened on Saturday?”

Why the BBC – with its offices in Jerusalem and Gaza – should need Gunness to tell audiences “what happened on Saturday” is unclear but listeners then heard a distorted version of the story which, not surprisingly given Gunness’ record, dovetails with the version put out by Hamas and its supporters.

Gunness: “There was an Israeli airstrike on a building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go, adjacent to the building. [It] Struck two children, Amir and Louay, as you say UNRWA students, they were killed. At least ten people were wounded.”

As shown in a video produced by Hamas, that “park” is in fact an open space next to an unfinished building intended to be a library but instead long used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility that includes access to Hamas’ tunnel network. John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to challenge Gunness’ echoing of Hamas propaganda or to clarify that the people he described as “children” were youths aged 15 and 16 who – despite the fact that missile fire by terror groups into Israel and retaliatory strikes had been ongoing for hours at the time of the incident – were reportedly playing in the Hamas facility. Instead, Humphrys allowed Gunness’ polemic to proceed unhindered.

Gunness: “The killings of children, John, in any context must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”

Humphrys did not bother to clarify to listeners that Gunness’ imaginary scenario would only be relevant if the ruling British authorities had been firing hundreds of mortars and rockets at the civilians that “foreign army” was charged with protecting and “Brits” had repeatedly tried to breach the border with that foreign country while carrying out scores of terror attacks. Instead – apparently quite at ease with Gunness’ whitewashing of Palestinian terror – he went on to presume to speak for Israel.

Humphrys: “Well we were hoping to speak to an Israeli minister. He had – or we understood that he’d agreed to talk to us earlier this morning but he has since pulled out of that interview. But what they would say – and I can say this [laughs] because we’ve heard them say it many times before – they are under massive provocation. Their very existence is threatened – or would be if Hamas had its way – and they have to defend themselves.”

Gunness: “Look, we’ve all seen the pictures of the fence and we are very clear in the United Nations…the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has called on Israel to ensure that its security forces do not resort to the use of excessive force, particularly at that fence. Under international law Palestinians first of all have the right to peaceful assembly and expression.”

Humphrys failed to clarify to listeners that no-one on the Israeli side has suggested that Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere do not have the right to peaceful assembly or that “peaceful assembly” is not an accurate description of what has been going on along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip for three and a half months.

Gunness: “Israeli security forces, according to our top human rights official, in policing the Gaza fence must use only necessary and proportionate means to discharge their duties. Exceptionally, they may resort to lethal force in cases of extreme necessity as a last resort and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury. But – and, you know, I say but – it is difficult to see how tyre burning, stone throwing or even Molotov cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such a threat.”

Humphrys made no effort to inform listeners that in April, May and June Palestinians engaged in Hamas facilitated violence at that border carried out, inter alia, 294 attacks with petrol bombs, 20 shooting attacks, 35 IED attacks and 5 grenade attacks. He also failed to challenge Gunness’ subsequent inaccurate description of the Gaza Strip as being under “occupation”.

Gunness: “In the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and I think that is why the Secretary General has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the killings in Gaza from the end of March. Will there be one? Well what a shame we didn’t have an Israeli official on this programme to ask that question. Will there be a transparent an independent investigation? Because that is what the world’s top diplomat has called for.”

Once again Humphrys presumed to respond on behalf of Israel:

Humphrys: “Yeah but you know how Israel will respond to that, don’t you? Because Israel would say the world community – put the word in quotation marks if you like – is weighted against us. People hate us for…because we are Israel and we lose the propaganda battle all the time.”

Gunness: “John, I’m sorry – I’m not on this programme to answer for Israel. As I say it’s…”

Humphrys: “No I understand but I mean you’re making the case for sanctions, at least for an investigation to be undertaken into Israel’s actions. I’m trying to put to you what they would say if they were here.”

Gunness: “John, it was you that used the word sanctions. I’m not making the case for sanctions. Can we please be very clear. I have not come on…”

Humphrys: “OK; you want an investigation.”

Listeners then heard that UNRWA condemned Hamas rocket fire – four years ago. They did not however hear that some 200 projectiles had been fired at Israeli communities in just over 24 hours.

Gunness: “The UN Secretary General has called for a transparent and an independent investigation into the killings that have taken place in Gaza since the end of March. I don’t think that is an unreasonable thing for the United Nations to call for. We have condemned the rockets coming out of Gaza. We have condemned Hamas rockets. We didn’t do it from the comfort of our offices in London or Tel Aviv or New York or Washington. Our Commissioner General did it from inside Gaza while the war raged in 2014. So let’s bat that old canard…”

Humphrys: “Alright.”

Gunness: “UNRWA condemns these rockets in the strongest possible terms but at the same time we condemn the killing of teenagers – UNRWA teenagers. They have a dignity and a destiny that must be protected and nurtured and that is why we condemn those killings.”

After that five-minute long unchallenged tirade from Gunness, Humphrys moved on to a report from the BBC’s Tom Bateman. Whether or not listeners to BBC Radio 4 then got to hear the crucial information and context entirely missing from the first five minutes of this item – and how Chris Gunness’ propaganda was later recycled – will be discussed in part two of this post.   

 

An overview of BBC WS July 14 news bulletins

From 4 p.m. GMT on the afternoon of July 14th BBC World Service news bulletins led with reports on the day’s events in the Gaza Strip and – to a lesser extent – southern Israel.

A number of recurring themes can be seen in the reports heard by BBC World Service listeners over a period of nearly eight hours:

1) Leading with and focusing on events in Gaza, with concurrent events in Israel mentioned later.

2) Quoting “Palestinian health officials” while failing to clarify that they are actually members of the same terror group organising the months of violent rioting along the border and launching missile attacks.

3) Using the euphemism “militant” in place of the term terrorist.

4) Quantifying the number of Israeli strikes on Hamas targets – e.g. “dozens” – while failing to quantify the terror groups’ rocket and mortar attacks.

5) Qualifying descriptions of Palestinian attacks as terrorism.

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

BBC World Service news bulletin 16:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military says it has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip as shells and rockets were fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Palestinian health officials say that two people have been killed and 12 more wounded by an airstrike in Gaza City. Israel says it’s destroyed a battalion headquarters belonging to Hamas.”

In the next bulletin (and a later one) listeners were told that the Israeli strikes were “against Gaza” rather than against a terror group’s military infrastructure alone. 

BBC World Service news bulletin 16:30 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza hitting dozens of militant targets, among them a Hamas battalion headquarters. The operation followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis have reported three people injured on their side of the border.”

While a Hamas training facility was mentioned in several bulletins, the BBC presented its purpose as an Israeli claim, failing to inform audiences in its own words of the function of the building despite the information being available in a video produced by Hamas itself. The categorisation of IED attacks and a grenade attack as terrorism was repeatedly unnecessarily qualified.

BBC World Service news bulletin 17:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Israel says it destroyed a training facility belonging to the militant group Hamas in one of its most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Here’s more from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 17:30 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza since the last war, hitting dozens of militant targets – among them a Hamas training facility. The series of airstrikes followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis say three people were injured on their side of the border.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 18:00 GMT 14/7/18

Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. It’s one of the most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”

While the two people killed in Gaza were described as “teenagers”, the fact that two of the Israelis wounded were also in that age-group was not communicated to listeners. After those two mentions of the fact that the injuries came as a result of a rocket attack on the family’s house, that information was excluded from subsequent bulletins.

BBC World Service news bulletin 19:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Israel has carried out its biggest air attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. At the same time, mortars and rockets have been fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. Palestinian health officials say two teenagers have been killed and at least 15 more people wounded. The Israeli ambulance service says that three Israelis have been injured by shrapnel. Our Middle East regional editor Sebastian Usher has this assessment.”

Usher: “This is a serious escalation and there are attempts being made – Egypt, the UN – to try to talk both sides away from a direct confrontation. Remember, in the last decade there’ve been three wars in Gaza. Both sides are saying at the moment that’s not what they want but this is beginning to get dangerously out of control if it continues at this pace and if the casualties begin to mount.”

Notably Usher did not clarify that those “three wars” also took place in Israel.

BBC World Service news bulletin 20:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Israeli air force has carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. The Israeli prime minister said the raids were a response to terrorist actions by Hamas, from whose territory rockets and mortars had been fired into Israel. More details from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what they called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 21:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014.

Voiceover: In consultation with the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Staff and the top security command of the State of Israel, we have decided a strong action against Hamas terrorism. The IDF have struck Hamas with the hardest blow since Operation Protective Edge and we will increase the strength of our attacks as necessary.

He said the raids were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas from whose territory rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 21:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement comes after the Israeli prime minister said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since 2014. Benjamin Netanyahu said it was in response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas. Two Palestinians were reportedly killed and three Israelis were injured.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 22:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. More from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 22:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “A spokesman for the Palestinian militant group Hamas says a truce has been agreed with Israeli forces after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However, Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli prime minister said the attacks against militant targets in the Gaza Strip were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”

The first time listeners heard quantification of the missile attacks was seven hours after the story became the lead item.

BBC World Service news bulletin 23:00 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement from a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. From Jerusalem, here’s Tom Bateman.”

Bateman: “An Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City sent plumes of dust and smoke into the afternoon sky. Palestinian health officials said two teenagers were killed, describing them as passers-by when the building was hit. In what amounted to a significant military flare-up, Israel said it targeted 40 sites used by the militant group Hamas while nearly 200 mortars and rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza. Three Israelis were wounded from shrapnel in the town of Sderot. Late in the evening Hamas said it had agreed a ceasefire. Israel said only the facts on the ground would dictate its actions.”

BBC World Service news bulletin 23:30 GMT 14/7/18

Stewart Macintosh: “The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it agreed a truce with Israel after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli premier said the attacks against militant targets were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”

By midnight GMT the story was no longer the first item in the bulletin. Remarkably, only then did listeners hear of the events which sparked the flare-up, although Bateman failed to clarify that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.

BBC World Service news bulletin 24:00 14/7/18 – from 00:57

Stewart Macintosh: “The latest reports from Gaza suggest Palestinian militants and Israeli forces are continuing to exchange fire despite an earlier announcement by Hamas that the two sides had reached a truce. Israel’s military said on Saturday it had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014 as Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”

Bateman: “The latest round of hostilities took place amid the simmering tensions at Gaza’s perimeter fence. On Friday Israeli soldiers shot dead a 15 year-old boy, bringing to more than 130 the number of Palestinians killed during regular protests. An Israeli soldier was wounded by a grenade thrown from the fence which appeared in part to trigger the latest airstrikes alongside growing pressure on Mr Netanyahu to respond to daily arson attacks from the Strip involving burning objects attached to kites and helium filled condoms.”

As we see the majority of those BBC World Service news bulletins began by describing Israeli actions, with considerable focus on the theme of the “biggest attack” since 2014. Listeners were not told whether or not the rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip was also the ‘biggest’ since that date. 

It is of course difficult to imagine that the BBC would describe groups responsible for firing 200 projectiles in 24 hours into British territory as “militants”: as we have seen in the past the BBC does use the word ‘terror’ to describe attacks on British and European soil. Nevertheless, the double standard employed by the BBC in language when reporting terrorism continues. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

A filmed report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen which was aired on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ and on the BBC News Channel on May 16th was also posted on the BBC News website under the headline “Gaza: The bullets stop, the burials go on“.

“More funerals have taken place for the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in Gaza on Monday.

An emergency session of the UN Security Council has heard condemnation of both Israel and the militant group, Hamas.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of people fled – or were expelled from their homes – when the state of Israel was established.

Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen sent this report from Gaza.”

Bowen – who appears to have actually filmed the report on May 15th – began by giving a context-free portrayal of the previous day’s events, which he described as “protests” despite their violent nature.

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

Bowen: “On the border the soundtrack was anti-Israel songs – not gunfire. 24 hours after the killing, the big protests have stopped but tyres were burning and Palestinians looked warily towards the Israeli positions. Enterprising traders brought refreshments.

So what’s next? The Israelis deal with the international political fall-out. The Palestinians have 60 dead. Politicians and diplomats abroad call for peace but real peace talks ended – failed –a long time ago and with the current generation of Palestinian and Israeli leaders, there is no chance of them being revived.”

Bowen refrained from clarifying to viewers that the ‘headline’ of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt that led to those deaths is promotion of the so-called Palestinian ‘right of return’ – an expression of intent to eliminate the Jewish state, thus rejecting peace altogether. He went on:

Bowen: “The Israelis started firing tear-gas. The crowd by then – including many families – was getting too big and the young men were getting too close to the border wire. On the other side, the Israelis say they’re in the right.”

Viewers then heard from IDF Spokesman Jonathan Conricus.

Conricus: “We are not here looking to create casualties of Palestinians. That is not our aim. We are simply here to defend what is ours. We are defending our sovereignty, our civilians that live in close proximity, against an onslaught led by a terrorist organization that is using civilians in order to penetrate into Israel.”

Bowen next gave a context-free portrayal of the topic of Palestinian refugees – carefully avoiding inconvenient topics such as why generations of Palestinians have deliberately been kept in refugee camps and refugee status for seven decades by their leaders and the leaders of Arab countries. He inaccurately suggested that the flight of those who became refugees is attributable exclusively to Israel – carefully avoiding the subject of the Arab leaders who in many cases urged or ordered them to leave their homes.

Bowen: “Much of Gaza’s rage is born in places like Beach Camp [Shati – Ed.] – still a home for refugees 70 years after more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes by newly independent Israel. Palestinians call it Nakba – catastrophe. 70% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees stuck fast in history.”

Failing to tell viewers about the leaflets warning Palestinians to stay away from the border that were distributed by the IDF on the morning of May 14th, Bowen went on:

Bowen: “At the al Farouk mosque, Yazen Tobasi’s funeral was much quieter than his death: shot through the eye during the protests. His body was wrapped in the Hamas flag. He was 23 and his friends were there to bury him. There were tender moments. Israel says it told them to stay away from the border and Hamas is responsible for what happened. His friend Mohammed al Birawi [phonetic] said Yazen worked at the hospital without pay because of Gaza’s collapsing economy.”

As research by the ITIC shows (see pages 47/48 here), Tobasi – who also had a Hamas Qassam Brigades headband tied around his head at his funeral – was also claimed by another terror group – the DFLP – as one of its members and said by that group to have been killed on May 11. Bowen continued: 

Bowen: “Poverty and grief breed anger. And so do the deaths of children. A family gathered for another funeral. It was for Layla al Ghandour who was eight months old.”

The day before this report was aired on BBC One and posted on the website, conflicting accounts of the baby’s death had already emerged with both a Gaza doctor and her father stating that she had a pre-existing medical condition. Nevertheless, the BBC did not edit out that part of Bowen’s report implying that the child’s death was linked to Israel’s response to the incidents along the border.

Bowen then found a disingenuous way to play down Hamas’ involvement in these incidents:

Bowen: “At Shifa, the main hospital, wounded men were being transferred to Egypt for surgery. Inside they were still treating casualties from the protest. This boy is 16. All day I’ve been asking Palestinians if Hamas forced them to risk their lives at the protests. No-one said yes. ‘I did it because Jerusalem is Palestinian’ said Wadi a Ras [phonetic] – unemployed, 24 years old.”

It is of course not claimed that Hamas has “forced” people to take part in the ‘Great Return March’ events. Hamas has, however, been involved in their organisation from the outset and has laid on transport and promised financial compensation to casualties and participants. Hamas leaders whipped up fervor prior to the May 14th events, urging participants to “bring a knife or a gun” and to use them “to capture soldiers or residents of Israel”.

What BBC audiences will remember though is that “no-one” told Jeremy Bowen that Hamas had sent them.

Viewers heard from a doctor at the Shifa hospital before the report ended:

Bowen: “This is the busiest time at the hospital since the 2014 war.

Sabbani: “As a human being I speak. It’s…it’s horrible to think about if you see yesterday the situation, it’s horrible. Crying, bleeding, pain, painful. What’s happening?

Bowen: “After the protests it seems that many people are hoping for some kind of turning point but the fundamentals of this conflict don’t change.”

The BBC’s Middle East editor’s job is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience”. Obviously playing down Hamas’ role in the violence audiences saw on their TV screens on May 14th does not meet that purpose and – as we shall see in part two of this post – Bowen was not the only BBC journalist doing just that.

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Revisiting BBC reporting of civilian deaths in Gaza on July 28th 2014 – yet again

As readers know, the BBC’s coverage of the recently released UN HRC report on last summer’s conflict (see here and here) has been superficial and uncritical, doing nothing to inform audiences of the political motivations behind the commission’s formation or of the political agendas of some of the report’s contributors.

Despite its unquestioning approach to the report’s contents, one aspect of its findings has been completely ignored by the BBC – even though it has bearing on some of the corporation’s own content still available on the internet.Shifa Shati Campbell tweet

On pages 128 and 129 the report states:

“In another incident, which occurred in the afternoon of 28 July on the first day of the Eid holiday, an explosive hit Swaidi street next to a children’s swing in the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. Eleven children, between 5 and 14 years old, and two adults were killed and up to 45 people were injured, some seriously and many of them children. According to witnesses it was the Eid holiday and a temporary ceasefire had been declared so parents were outside in the street celebrating with their children. The street was also more crowded than usual because many people displaced during the conflict had moved to the Al-Shati camp seeking safety. Between 4 and 5 p.m. an explosive landed on the street between a food store and the children’s swing where children were playing.  The single explosion spread a large amount of shrapnel across the area. Three eyewitnesses told the commission that the explosion threw children’s bodies around and tore them to pieces.

The MAG [Military Attorney General] announced on 7 December 2014 that following a thorough review of the incident by the Fact-Finding Assessments Mechanism (FFAM),  “…such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident…” Hamas publicly denied this allegation and the Chief of Police in Gaza told the commission that the bomb disposal team that went to the Al-Shati playground found that the remnants of the weapons were Israeli.

The commission received information from NGO’s who conducted field research and a UN source who collected information indicating that the explosion had been caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket. One of them inspected the site after the attack and concluded that the impact of the explosion on the ground could not have been caused by an Israeli missile or artillery shell; the NGO also indicated that eyewitnesses had reported seeing a rescue team go to the place just after the attack, whose members did not collect the wounded but cleared and collected the remnants of the weapons. In addition, two journalists who spoke to the commission also suggested the attacks had been caused by Palestinian rockets misfiring. One of them said that Hamas members had gone to the site immediately after the events and cleared away the debris. The other said he had been prevented by local authorities from going to the site of the attack.

The commission found there was credible information pointing to the conclusion that a misfired Palestinian rocket was the source of this explosion. Given the gravity of the case, in which 13 children were killed in a place crowded with civilians, and the allegations that local authorities may have attempted to hide evidence of the cause of the incident, all relevant Palestinian authorities should conduct a thorough investigation of the case to determine the origin and circumstances of the attack.”

Shortly after that incident occurred we noted here that, despite the information already available, multiple BBC reports portrayed the story in a manner which suggested that the circumstances were not clear and presented the Hamas version of events as a valid option.Shifa Sahti tweet 1

In August 2014 we noted that the BBC had produced another article in which, despite the information available, the Shati incident was defined as one of several “disputed deadly incidents”.

In December 2014 we noted the MAG report on the incident and the fact that all the inaccurate information was still available on the BBC website in its original form.

In March 2015 we noted that despite BBC coverage of an Amnesty International report which stated that “an independent munitions expert had concluded that a Palestinian rocket had exploded next to a supermarket in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 28 July, killing 13 civilians, 11 of them children aged between seven and 14”, none of the BBC reports from the time had been amended to clarify to audiences the actual circumstances of the incident.Pannell Shati report filmed 28 7

Now, in late June 2015, despite the fact that UN commission has reached conclusions identical to those publicized by MAG and Amnesty International and consistent with the information released by the IDF around an hour after the incident occurred, those inaccurate and misleading BBC reports still stand as they did when they were originally published nearly a year ago.

In June 2014 the BBC announced that “however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”. Clearly the prospect of wasting publicly funded resources on dealing with unnecessary complaints concerning those reports has not prompted the corporation to amend them with the required notes of clarification. 

 

Revisiting BBC reporting of civilian deaths in Gaza on July 28th 2014

On page 29 of its 2014 Antisemitic Incidents report the Community Security Trust provided the following information:

“Almost half the incidents recorded in those two months [July and August 2014 – Ed.] – 258, or 48 per cent of the 542 incidents recorded in July and August – made direct or indirect reference to the conflict in Israel and Gaza that began on 8 July 2014 and concluded on 26 August. There was also a daily correlation between the number of antisemitic incidents reported to CST during this period and specific events in the conflict in Israel and Gaza. […] On 28 July, a day when media reported an explosion at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, CST recorded 22 antisemitic incidents in the UK.” [emphasis added]

With BBC content reaching the vast majority of the UK population and BBC One television news identified by the public as the UK’s most important source of news, the manner in which the BBC reported a story which prompted twenty-two antisemitic  incidents in that country is obviously of interest.Shifa Sahti tweet 1

Here at BBC Watch we have been tracking the BBC’s reporting of that particular story since it first emerged. On July 30th 2014 we noted that – despite information having been provided around an hour after the incidents at Shifa hospital and the Shati refugee camp occurred which showed that the cause of the civilian casualties was missiles fired by a terrorist organization – the BBC’s reporting of the story on July 28th and 29th promoted the Hamas version of the story according to which Israeli missile strikes caused the deaths of some eight children and several adults.Pannell Shati report filmed 28 7

Several days later we noted here that the BBC had produced a report on July 31st (updated on August 4th) titled “Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” which – despite the above-mentioned information – continued to encourage audiences to believe that Hamas’ version of the story was at least as credible as the information provided by Israel.

‘The BBC’s presentation of that incident, however, places data gathered from sophisticated tracking equipment on a par with the unverified verbal claims of assorted bodies all ultimately run by a proscribed terrorist organization.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”’Shifa Shati Campbell tweet

On August 12th 2014 we noted that – despite a visit by the BBC’s chief international correspondent to an IDF missile tracking unit – the article defining the July 28th incident as “disputed” still stood.

On December 12th 2014 we noted that the IDF Military Attorney General’s investigation into the July 28th incidents at Shifa hospital and Shati concluded that they were caused by missiles fired by a terrorist organization. Despite that, all the five reports suggesting to BBC audiences that it was reasonable to assume that the deaths of civilians – mostly children – had been caused by Israeli missiles were still available to visitors to the BBC News website with no correction added.  

On March 26th a report appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Amnesty: Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes“.  The article includes the following:AI Shati report

“Amnesty said rocket fire had also endangered Palestinian civilians.

The group said an independent munitions expert had concluded that a Palestinian rocket had exploded next to a supermarket in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 28 July, killing 13 civilians, 11 of them children aged between seven and 14.”

As we know, the BBC sets great store by any report – accurate or not – produced by Amnesty International. Perhaps then the appearance of this one will at long last prompt the corporation to append clarifications to those five reports – all of which are still accessible in their original inaccurate and misleading form on the BBC News website. It is, after all, in the BBC’s interest to do so in light of the fact that – according to its own statement from June 2014:

“…however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it”

The corporation’s continued failure to add appropriate clarifications to those five BBC reports (and any others still available to the public) risks wasting licence fee payer-provided funding on dealing with unnecessary complaints. More seriously, it also continues to provide the agar for antisemitic incidents in Britain. 

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Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

As we noted here the other day, the Israeli Military Attorney General (MAG) has published the findings of some of the investigations conducted into incidents which occurred in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.

One of the incidents investigated was the deaths of ten civilians on July 28th at the Shati refugee camp, along with an alleged attack on Shifa hospital on the same afternoon. The findings are as follows:Tweet Shifa

“Various media reports alleged that on 28 July 2014, an incident occurred involving a strike on medical clinics belonging to the Al-Shifa Hospital, as well as a strike on a park where children were present in the Shati Refugee Camp, and as a result of which ten persons (including nine children) were killed and tens injured. Some of these reports alleged that the strikes were carried out by the IDF. As a result, and in accordance with the MAG’s investigation policy, it was decided to refer the incident for examination by the FFAM [Fact Finding Assessment Mission – Ed.].

Following a thorough review conducted by the FFAM, such a strike by IDF forces could not be identified. However, Israel’s technical systems recorded in real-time the path of a salvo of missiles fired from within the Gaza Strip, seemingly by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which landed in the medical clinics and in the Shati Refugee Camp at the time of the alleged incident. Under these circumstances, and in light of the fact that the strike on the hospital was the result of rocket fire from Palestinian terrorist organizations, the MAG ordered the case to be closed.”

Material relating to those incidents which is still available to the general public on the BBC News website includes:

Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” – originally published on July 31st 2014 and discussed here.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”

Gaza in critical condition, says UN’s Ban Ki-moon” July 28th 2014

“Police and health officials said separate Israeli airstrikes had hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital and a nearby playground on Monday afternoon, causing casualties.

But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said both explosions were caused by misfired rockets that were launched from Gaza by “terrorists”.”

Gaza City and Israel’s Eshkol hit by deadly blasts” originally published on July 28th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.”

Israel PM Netanyahu warns of ‘prolonged’ Gaza campaign” July 29th 2014

“At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.”

Middle East crisis: Children pay heavy price in Gaza” Ian Pannell, July 28th 2014Pannell report

“A hospital already overflowing with casualties was engulfed in chaos. Parents and relatives frantically searching for their children. The wards were full of them. Fourteen year-old Mohammed had shrapnel in his back. ‘We were playing in the street and they hit us’, he said. ‘They targeted us. Lots of children were killed.’ And next to him, four year-old Ola [phonetic]. Shrapnel cut into her small body. Israel has denied it was responsible for this.

Woman: “Then who fired it? I ran outside and found my daughters. If the Israelis didn’t do it, who did? Did my daughters launch the rocket?”

Marching up the hill to bury two small boys. They’d played together, they were killed together and now, they were going to be buried together. The boys’ father says his sons are martyrs who died for the resistance against Israel.”

All of the above are discussed here.

Clearly the BBC’s June 2014 announcement stating that “however long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it” means that all the above reports need to have a note of clarification urgently added, informing audiences of the actual circumstances of the incident. 

BBC inaccurately labels Israeli missile warning system as weapon

Firepower: The destructive capacity of guns, missiles, or a military force (used with reference to the number and size of guns available)” [source]

On August 7th the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet produced two items on the same theme – one filmed for BBC television news and one written – both of which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The written item (still in place at the time of writing) is titled “Israelis along the Gaza Border keep calm and carry on“. At the head of that article appears the photograph below with the following caption:

“Israeli firepower – such as this Raz battery – is clear to see along the border”

Doucet Raz pic

The Raz is in fact a radar system – brought into use in 2010 – which identifies the launch location (in this case in the Gaza Strip) of incoming missile and mortar fire to Israel and calculates the expected landing site. It forms part of the early warning defence system and hence its description by the BBC News website caption writer as a component of “Israeli firepower” is inaccurate – not least because it doesn’t fire anything.Doucet Raz written

Moreover, whoever wrote that caption obviously did not read the article itself because there Lyse Doucet describes exactly what the Raz system does:

“The Raz tracks where rockets are being fired from, and where they will land. That intelligence feeds into the Iron Dome to help it intercept incoming fire.

It also alerts Israeli citizens to take to their shelters, and allows commanders to take decisions on where to return fire.

On the wall, handwritten letters from Israeli children, with big yellow suns and brightly coloured flowers, thank the soldiers for keeping them safe.”

However, as we have seen so often with other BBC reporters on the ground in the past few weeks, Doucet apparently lacks the military knowledge necessary to enable her to join the dots and present audiences with a clear picture of events in the Gaza Strip. In the filmed version of this report – “Israeli army say main objective in Gaza achieved ‘completely’” – Doucet says:

“But Gaza is still in Israel’s sights. This is its state of the art radar – the Raz. We’re the first foreign media to film here. We’re not allowed to show the screens. They track where rockets are launched in Gaza, where they’ll land here.”

She then asks the Captain:

“Why is it that targets like a school, a shelter, a United Nations shelter would have been hit so many times if you have such good intelligence?”

The Captain replies:

“As I said, we are pinpoint the fire. We know where the fire comes from. We know where it’s fall. And we …but in this room we don’t have any decision related to attacks.”

Doucet: “So you just send the information.”

Captain: “We send the information.”

In the report’s written version Doucet recounts:Doucet Raz filmed

“I ask why with such good intelligence, there have still been – according to the UN – repeated strikes on the schools serving as shelters for the many thousands of displaced people in Gaza.

“We don’t take those decisions here,” one soldier explains, pointing out that the Raz is only one of the tools used by Israeli forces. Then he adds quickly: “But it is clear that, sometimes, rockets are fired from schools, hospitals and other civilian places”.”

This of course would have been an ideal moment for the BBC’s chief international correspondent to fulfil the corporation’s obligations to its funding public at long last by properly clarifying the issue of the practice adopted by Hamas and other terrorist organisations of setting up missile launching sites and firing sites in or near civilian facilities and the resulting dangers that tactic creates for the civilians of Gaza. Doucet passed up on that chance.

It would also have been a good opportunity to explain to viewers and readers that when the IDF says that terrorists launched missiles from a specific location at a certain time and can also state where those missiles landed, it has the evidence to back that up. That was not done either.

Doucet could also have tried to explain to BBC audiences why – given the above facts and what she has now seen with her own eyes – the BBC still insists upon characterising the incident on July 28th in Shati, in which ten people (including eight children) were killed by a shortfall missile launched by terrorists, as “disputed“.

BBC audiences would no doubt have been fascinated to hear the explanation for that. 

This is what it looks like when the BBC waives its fourth estate role

The volume of Israel and Gaza Strip-related content appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page over the past few weeks has been so high that readers might have had difficulty keeping up with all the content published. One interesting item which may have slipped under the radar is titled “Gaza conflict: Disputed deadly incidents” and it appeared on July 31st.BBC disputed

In that article the BBC has collected two incidents (to date) which it describes as “disputed” with the introduction reading:

“Since the start of the Israel-Gaza conflict, there have been a series of deadly incidents for which each side has blamed the other. UN facilities serving as shelters are among the sites hit.

Here are some of the cases so far, where responsibility has been disputed.”

The first of the BBC’s “disputed” events is the explosion in the Shati area of Gaza on July 28th in which a missile fired by terrorists hit a playground killing ten people including eight children. As readers no doubt recall, soon after the incident took place the IDF stated that it had not been operating in the area at the time and publicized aerial photographs showing the trajectories of that missile and three others fired at the same time as recorded by IDF radars and sensors.

The BBC’s presentation of that incident, however, places data gathered from sophisticated tracking equipment on a par with the unverified verbal claims of assorted bodies all ultimately run by a proscribed terrorist organization.

“Gaza’s police, Civil Defence Directorate and health officials say Israeli air strikes caused the explosions. According to Al-Jazeera, Hamas denied it had fired any rockets from the area and said it was “categorically an Israeli air strike”. Hamas said it had collected shrapnel from the scene consistent with Israeli munitions, the channel’s website reported.

In a text message quoted by AP news agency, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the incident as a “war crime” for which “the occupation” would pay the price.”

The second incident described by the BBC as “disputed” occurred on July 24th at a UN school in Beit Hanoun. Palestinian terrorists fired anti-tank missiles at IDF forces operating in the area from the vicinity of the school. The IDF returned fire and one errant mortar landed in the schoolyard, but filmed documentation showed that the schoolyard was empty at the time.

In this case too, the BBC presents audiences with a view which puts unproven claims made by a representative of a body run by a proscribed terrorist organization on a par with filmed evidence.

“Officials say the school was struck by three Israeli tank shells. Saed al-Saoudi, a commander of the Civil Defence in Gaza, told AP: “All the testimonies of the wounded, witnesses, paramedics and doctors confirm that the Israeli shells are the cause of this massacre.” “

It should of course be the aim of BBC journalists to cut through the propaganda of a terrorist organisation with a self-declared interest in promoting a public relations campaign based entirely on the inflation of civilian casualty numbers, in order to enable audiences to form a clear, fact-based understanding of events. Unfortunately for its audiences, the BBC has in far too many cases over the past few weeks elected instead to take the approach of presenting Hamas’ assorted unproven claims as plausible without making any effort to independently verify those assertions.

Moreover, the BBC has consistently refrained from providing BBC audiences with factual, comprehensive information on the use of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip as human shields and its presentation of these two clear examples of that practice as “disputed” further compounds that failure and actively hinders the ability of members of the audience to reach informed, fact-based opinions.

The BBC’s uncreative presentation of these two incidents in terms of “each side has blamed the other” may go a long way towards pandering to domestic fashionable relativism but it certainly does not do the job for which the BBC exists. But beyond the issue of the failure to meet its own public purpose remit, this article – like much other BBC reporting coming out of the Gaza Strip in the last few weeks – raises a very simple, yet troubling, wider question about BBC journalism.

If a Western government deliberately endangered civilians by placing military assets in residential areas on the premise that enemy forces would be less likely to strike back, the BBC would – one hopes – see it as its fourth estate duty to expose that practice. If a Western government launched missiles which fell short and killed children playing in a park, or drew fire by firing anti-tank missiles from the vicinity of a school, the damning headlines would – one assumes – soon follow.

The people of the Gaza Strip, who of course have no free press of their own, have not however seen any criticism – or even documentation – of their abuse by the terrorist organisations which hold them hostage from the Western journalists located there.

This article is what it looks like when the BBC chooses to waive its fourth estate role.