BBC film exposes falsehoods in two previous reports

Two months ago, on March 18th, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme aired an item which included an interview presented by host Nick Robinson as follows:

Robinson: “The United Nations has said that over a year of weekly protests at the border with Gaza [sic] 193 Palestinians have been killed and more than 26 thousand injured. Among them is Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Palestinian associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.”

Loubani: “I’d like to say that I was doing something heroic when I got shot but I wasn’t. I was standing. It was quiet, there was nothing else happening on the field. I was just loitering, talking to some of my colleagues. I was marked clearly in greens and had been on the field for a few hours so it was obvious to the soldiers, who were very close to us, exactly what we were doing. And I did not expect that I would be targeted. Up until that point it had been six weeks with no injuries of medics. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and felt an incredible pain in my legs and found myself on the ground. The paramedic who rescued me, Musa Abuhassanin, Musa was killed an hour later when he was shot in the chest.”

As was noted here at the time, BBC audiences had previously heard that story from Tarek Loubani in an article that appeared on the BBC News website in May 2018 and which included a link to his blog.

“Dr Loubani, an emergency physician who practises in London, Ontario, and at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza, said in a blog post that one paramedic was killed and several others were wounded on Monday as Israeli troops opened fire during the protests.”

As was noted here on both those occasions:

“…a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th [2018].”

The ‘paramedic’ identified by Hamas in that poster as a member of its internal security apparatus turned up again in BBC Two’s recent film titled ‘One Day in Gaza’.

At 29:50 the film showed an interview with Musa Abuhassanin’s mother who told how, on May 14th 2018, she was taken by bus along with others from her local mosque to an “unofficial protest site” near the border which was “near a graveyard” and “right next to a Hamas military training area”.

31:18 “Four paramedics were dispatched to the area…one of them was Aintisar’s son, Musa. […] Musa was a paramedic in Gaza’s civil defence force – part of the Hamas ministry of the interior.”

Viewers heard an account of events at that site which contrasts sharply to that already given twice to BBC audiences by Tarek Loubani.

33:00: “Eyewitnesses say at least two armed Palestinians stood aside from the crowd and began firing on Israeli soldiers.”

A member of the IDF interviewed concerning the same incident spoke of fifteen to twenty shooters and viewers saw real time footage of shooting and IED explosions.

36:14: “Twenty-one people were killed at the graveyard that afternoon. At least eight of them were alleged [sic] members of al Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Two of them were children. No Israelis were hurt. The Hamas leadership denies they sanctioned a military operation that day but admits that Palestinians opened fire.”

55:02: “The paramedic Musa Abuhassanin was one of the dead claimed by Hamas. Palestinians say [sic] that like most of the dead, he had nothing to do with the organisation’s armed wing and was posing no threat to Israel when he was shot.”

According to the Twitter feed of the film’s producer Olly Lambert, he did his filming in the Gaza Strip in December 2018 at the same time that the ‘Today’ programme’s Mishal Husain was there.

Surely then the BBC should have realised by late December that the account of the incident it had promoted in May 2018 (and which is still available online) according to which the IDF opened fire without provocation was inaccurate and that the paramedic who appeared in Tarek Loubani’s story was actually a member of Hamas.

Nevertheless, three months after Lambert had filmed his interviews in the Gaza Strip, the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme once again provided an unchallenged platform for Tarek Loubani’s activist propaganda.

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Former ISM activist medic reappears in BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ show

h/t GB

Since February 28th BBC audiences have seen several examples of uncritical amplification of a UNHRC Commission of Inquiry into the ‘Great Return March’ events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

BBC Radio 4 tells listeners that Gaza rioters were ‘innocent civilians’

Disproportionate focus in BBC News report on UNHRC speech

As has been documented here over the past twelve months, the BBC’s coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ weekly violent rioting has uniformly portrayed the events as mere “protests” and “demonstrations”. BBC reporting has serially downplayed or erased the violent nature of the events and the role of terror groups in the organisation and execution of the provocation has been repeatedly ignored.

On March 18th the Commission of Inquiry presented its report at the Human Rights Council’s 40th session in Geneva. Even before that presentation had taken place, the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ aired an item (from 02:49:40 here) in which that partisan framing of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting was repeated.

Presenter Nick Robinson introduced the item with a portrayal of Israel as an ‘occupying force’ in the Gaza Strip despite the fact that Israel completely withdrew from the territory nearly 14 years ago.

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

Robinson: “A commission established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate what it calls the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians is due to deliver its conclusions later today. Israel has always insisted that it has no choice but to protect its border with Gaza using, if necessary, live fire and dismisses the report as anything but independent.”

Having framed those participating in year-long acts of violence as “civilians” despite the fact that studies have shown that the vast majority of those killed had links to terrorist organisations, Robinson went on to falsely assert that ‘the core facts are not in dispute’ even as he described the violent rioting as “protests”.

Robinson: “The core facts though are not really in dispute. The United Nations has said that over a year of weekly protests at the border with Gaza [sic] 193 Palestinians have been killed and more than 26 thousand injured. Among them is Dr Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Palestinian associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.”

Loubani: “I’d like to say that I was doing something heroic when I got shot but I wasn’t. I was standing. It was quiet, there was nothing else happening on the field. I was just loitering, talking to some of my colleagues. I was marked clearly in greens and had been on the field for a few hours so it was obvious to the soldiers, who were very close to us, exactly what we were doing. And I did not expect that I would be targeted. Up until that point it had been six weeks with no injuries of medics. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and felt an incredible pain in my legs and found myself on the ground. The paramedic who rescued me, Musa Abuhassanin, Musa was killed an hour later when he was shot in the chest.”

Readers may recall that the BBC News website published an article about Loubani last May in which he made the same claims. As was documented here at the time:

“…a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.”

As noted here when the BBC interviewed Loubani in 2015:

“…in addition to being a doctor, Kuwait-born Tarek Loubani (who moved to Canada at the age of ten) is a veteran political activist who in 2003 was arrested near Jenin and deported from Israel due to his activities with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Loubani was also arrested in Egypt in 2013 whilst trying to enter the Gaza Strip and in 2014 was detained at Ben Gurion airport.”

Robinson of course did not bother to provide his listeners with that relevant background information before introducing another doctor.

Robinson: “Well listening to that is an orthopaedic surgeon all too familiar with these sorts of injuries. He works at the al Shifa hospital. He’s Dr Mahmoud Mattar and he’s at the United Nations in Geneva today to hear what the UN Human Rights Commission will have to say. […]

Once again Robinson promoted the BBC’s chosen framing:

Robinson: “The Israeli military say that they often fire into the legs of protesters but that they only do it as a last resort and they do it to avoid killing people. Explain to us what the impact of the injury you treat and see is, please.”

After Mattar had described the injuries and the difficulties faced by hospitals trying to treat large numbers of patients (but without clarifying that the hospital where he works is run by the same terror organisation which organises the violent rioting), Robinson again gave an inaccurate portrayal of the past year’s events along the border.

Robinson: “The human toll is terrible but what do you expect from the commission because clearly Palestinians will say they have a right to protest peacefully but Israel will say if you approach the border you are a risk to the Israelis on the other side of the border and they have repeatedly warned that people who do approach the border may well be shot.”

Mattar replied with the claim that hospitals in the Gaza strip should be given better equipment in order to deal with the injuries and Robinson – obviously looking for a political sound-bite – interrupted him.

Robinson [interrupts] “So you think the right reaction today is a humanitarian response – more money for medical care – rather than a political response about who is to blame.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m not here to blame anyone actually. With all the aggression we know by all the international law that the protester have the right to demonstrate peacefully. In addition we also have the right to be treated fully as the international world.”

Robinson: “But of course the Israelis would say they have the right under international law to defend their border.”

Mattar: “Yes actually I’m talking from this point as a medical professional. I’m not know too much about the border and what happen in the border but actually what I know…”

Apparently realising that he was not going to get the reaction he was looking for, Robinson interrupted his interviewee again and closed the conversation.

Robinson [interrupts]: “But you will be back, Dr Mattar, in Gaza soon.”

Mattar: “Yeah, yeah.”

Robinson: “Well thank you so much for taking the time to join us.”

The BBC’s consistently one-sided coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ over the past twelve months, means that audiences lack essential background information on that topic. Rather than try to make up for the serial failure to clarify that what it uniformly portrays as “protests” and “demonstrations” is actually violent rioting which has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts, this latest BBC item again downplays the threats facing Israel and ignores the fact that the violence is orchestrated by terror groups. Once again we see unquestioning amplification of the UNHRC report without any mention of its defects and the continuing promotion of a blatant politically motivated narrative.

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BBC again amplifies Gaza claims from political activist medic

Readers may recall that back in August 2015 the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ aired an interview with a person described as “a Canadian-Palestinian physician” who falsely told BBC audiences that there is a “siege” on the Gaza Strip that prevents the entry of medical equipment.

“I had attended the war in Gaza in 2012. I’ve been working there for about the last five years and while I was there we had patients coming in – no equipment because the siege has gotten so bad even though it’s medical equipment – and we had to listen to patients’ chests by putting our ears to their chests which is exactly what we would have done 200 years ago.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“…in addition to being a doctor, Kuwait-born Tarek Loubani (who moved to Canada at the age of ten) is a veteran political activist who in 2003 was arrested near Jenin and deported from Israel due to his activities with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Loubani was also arrested in Egypt in 2013 whilst trying to enter the Gaza Strip and in 2014 was detained at Ben Gurion airport.

Tarek Loubani’s promotion of the Hamas narrative of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip and his promotion of the falsehood that Israel does not allow the import of medical equipment therefore does not come as a surprise.”

On May 16th visitors to the BBC News website’s ‘US & Canada’ page heard from Loubani once again in a report titled “Trudeau ‘appalled’ Canadian doctor was wounded in Gaza“.

“Tarek Loubani says he was shot in the leg while providing medical services to protesters along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Dr Loubani said paramedics had worn fluorescent high visibility jackets to identify themselves as medics. […]

Dr Loubani said he was shot late in the morning and received a “moderate” wound to his left calf and minor injuries to his right knee.

He said he and was standing outside the protest area when he was wounded.

Dr Loubani wrote: “I was facing in a southerly direction talking to a colleague. The snipers were situated east of us.

“I was wearing visible full hospital greens. There was no active shooting from the Israelis immediately before or after. There were no protesters in our immediate vicinity.””

The BBC’s report also provides readers with a link to a blogpost written by Loubani:

“Dr Loubani, an emergency physician who practises in London, Ontario, and at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza, said in a blog post that one paramedic was killed and several others were wounded on Monday as Israeli troops opened fire during the protests.”

In that BBC promoted blogpost Loubani wrote:

“Despite our efforts to clearly identify ourselves as first responders, several of our medical team were wounded by Israeli live fire. One paramedic, Musa Abuhassanin, was killed while attempting a victim rescue under fire. One hour before he was shot in the thorax and killed, Musa was one of my rescuers when I was shot by live ammunition.”

Loubani also provided photographs of the ‘paramedic’.

However, as pointed out at the ‘Israellycool’ blog, a photograph of Captain Musa Abuhassanin also appeared on a poster released by Hamas showing some of its members killed on May 14th.

The BBC’s report was published late on the evening of May 16th. The Hamas poster identifying the ‘paramedic’ as a member of the terror organisation’s internal security apparatus had been made public by the afternoon of the previous day.

Once again it would appear that the BBC did not exercise due diligence by carrying out adequate background research and fact checking before amplifying Tarek Loubani’s politically motivated claims.

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The August 16th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included an item (available here from 38:32 or here as an abridged clip) on 3D printed stethoscopes developed by a person described in the introduction by presenter Julian Marshall as “a Canadian-Palestinian physician.”Newshour stethoscopes

At the beginning of the item listeners hear the following false claim from Dr Tarek Loubani:

“I had attended the war in Gaza in 2012. I’ve been working there for about the last five years and while I was there we had patients coming in – no equipment because the siege has gotten so bad even though it’s medical equipment – and we had to listen to patients’ chests by putting our ears to their chests which is exactly what we would have done 200 years ago.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no “siege” on the Gaza Strip and no restrictions are imposed by Israel on the entry of medical equipment. As it has unfortunately been necessary to point out here on numerous prior occasions due to inaccurate BBC reporting on that issue, shortages of medications and medical equipment in the Gaza Strip are due to long-standing disputes between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Julian Marshall however made no effort to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impression created by his interviewee – who, in response to a question concerning the material used to make his stethoscope, later promoted a similar inaccuracy.

“It’s made of plastic. So the plastic that it’s made of is available anywhere. In the Gaza Strip because it’s such a closed system, because things are not allowed in, they have a very rich culture of recycling their plastic….” [emphasis added]

The only restrictions on materials entering the Gaza Strip are of course on weapons and dual-use goods which can be diverted to the purposes of terrorism.

One presumes that before this item was recorded and broadcast the production team exercised due diligence by researching their interviewee. If that is the case, then the BBC will be aware of the fact that in addition to being a doctor, Kuwait-born Tarek Loubani (who moved to Canada at the age of ten) is a veteran political activist who in 2003 was arrested near Jenin and deported from Israel due to his activities with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Loubani was also arrested in Egypt in 2013 whilst trying to enter the Gaza Strip and in 2014 was detained at Ben Gurion airport.

Tarek Loubani’s promotion of the Hamas narrative of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip and his promotion of the falsehood that Israel does not allow the import of medical equipment therefore does not come as a surprise.

However, adherence to the BBC’s editorial guidelines on accuracy should obviously have prevented that falsehood from being broadcast literally worldwide and the editorial guidelines on impartiality should have ensured that listeners were made aware of Loubani’s political agenda and the fact that he is rather more than just a “physician”. 

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BBC World Service contact details