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

The BBC’s portrayal of the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip has long been marred by inaccurate representation of the date of its introduction, unnecessarily qualified framing of its purpose using the “Israel says” formula and a lack of information about Hamas’ efforts to smuggle weapons and materials for the purpose of terrorism by sea. On occasion, BBC reports have even amplified the tendentious claim that the naval blockade is a form of “collective punishment”.

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

However, when stories that show why the naval blockade is necessary have come to light, the BBC has refrained from reporting them and that policy was again evident when another such story recently emerged.

“A Hamas operative picked up by the Israeli Navy last month is suspected of attempting to smuggle explosive materials from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet security service announced on Tuesday after a gag order on the case was lifted.

Khamis Jihad Said Ara’ishi, 24, was arrested on August 25 after his ship “deviated from the approved sailing area,” the Shin Bet said.

Israeli naval forces patrolling off the coast of the Gaza Strip called for his vessel to stop. When it didn’t, the sailors opened fire, wounding Ara’ishi.

During the arrest, the Israeli forces were fired upon from the shore, though none of them were injured, the IDF said.

Ara’ishi was taken to the Ashdod port and then to an Israeli hospital to receive medical care and to be questioned, while his boat was allowed to return to Gaza.

According to the Shin Bet, 24-year-old Ara’ishi told interrogators he had been involved in a number of smuggling efforts since 2012 that brought materials into the Strip for the purpose of manufacturing weapons for Hamas.”

With yet another would-be-blockade-busting ‘flotilla’ perhaps currently en route (and repeat passenger Mairead Maguire no doubt ready to give media interviews), this story obviously presented a good opportunity for the BBC to clarify to its audiences why the naval blockade which such publicity stunts seek to breach is still necessary.

Likewise, another story about a recently thwarted attempt to smuggle equipment (this time vehicles) to Hamas, which could have helped explain to BBC audiences why the restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods and weapons into the Gaza Strip are necessary, was once again ignored by the BBC’s journalists in the region.

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BBC News passes up on Gaza Strip weapons smuggling story

BBC still portraying incitement as an ‘Israel says’ story

Back in October 2015 the BBC News website produced a backgrounder titled “Is Palestinian-Israeli violence being driven by social media?” which actually did very little to inform audiences of the scale and significance of the incitement spread via social media, the kind of content appearing on such platforms or the use of social media by official Palestinian groups other than Hamas – including Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party – for incitement and the glorification of terrorism.backgrounder 

BBC coverage of a report produced by the Quartet at the beginning of July 2016, in which Palestinian incitement was identified as one of several factors ‘driving’ the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, played down that issue, preferring to focus audience attentions on the topic of ‘settlements’.

Also in July, BBC Technology produced a report titled “Israel angered by Facebook hatred rules” and incitement on social media was the topic of an additional article published later the same month under the title “Facebook sued by Israeli group over Palestinian attacks“.

Although BBC audiences had not been provided with any serious, comprehensive reporting on the subject of Palestinian incitement and the link between social media and the wave of terrorism against Israelis which emerged in the autumn of 2015, as was noted here at the time:

‘Nevertheless, the BBC found it appropriate to include amplification of the response of a terrorist organisation, which has long used social media for the propagation of terrorism, in its report.

“Hamas called the lawsuit an Israeli attempt to blackmail Facebook. […]

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused Israel of trying to turn it into a spy tool against Palestinians.

He said some Israeli politicians and soldiers had “expressed pride at the killing of Palestinians” on Facebook and other social media.

“The real test for the owners of Facebook is to reject this pressure,” he said.”‘FB art technology

However, Facebook obviously takes the subject seriously and so senior officials from the company recently visited Israel to discuss the issue of incitement. Ha’aretz reported that:

“Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Monday that Facebook and YouTube had been complying in recent months with up to 95% of Israel’s requests for taking down content that the government says incites Palestinian violence. […]

Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, both of whom have been at the forefront of a campaign to force social media companies to crack down on incitement, met with Facebook executives visiting Israel on Monday.

The meeting comes amid growing concerns in Israel about so-called lone-wolf terrorists who are unaffiliated with formal organizations but are encouraged to acts of violence over the social media.

Yedioth Ahronoth on Monday reported that Shaked and Erdan had proposed to the Facebook executives that the company treat words like “intifada,” “stabbing,” “Nazis” and expressions such as “death to Jews” and “death to Arabs” as grounds for removing content. They also called for the same policy toward videos inciting viewers to stabbing attacks or containing anti-Semitic caricatures.”

According to Globes:

“Facebook said, “The Facebook delegation’s visit to Israel is part of the company’s “ongoing dialogue with policymakers and experts around the world to keep terrorist content off our platform and support counter-speech initiatives. Online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies, and this is true in Israel and around the world. We had constructive discussions about these important issues and look forward to a continued dialogue and cooperation.””

There has to date been no follow-up reporting from the BBC concerning the visit of Facebook executives to Israel.

As recently as last Friday, BBC audiences were still being told that: [emphasis added]

Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

Despite the fact that the Quartet has said the same thing and Facebook obviously agrees, the BBC has yet to provide its audiences with information which would broaden their understanding of the connection between official and unofficial Palestinian incitement and the violence which first surged a year ago. 

 

US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

Last week the US State Department announced the designation of the former Hamas interior minister – and occasional BBC quoteeFathi Hamad (also spelt Hammad).

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. Hammad served as Hamas’s Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, which is a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Al-Aqsa TV was designated in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury under E.O. 13224.”

Readers may recall that when Israeli forces carried out strikes on communications antennae on buildings housing Hamas’ TV stations (including Al-Aqsa TV) during the conflict in 2012, the Foreign Press Association – which at the time was headed by the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar – and the then BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison promoted the false accusation that Israel was “targeting journalists”.

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BBC covers US terror designations for Hamas and Hizballah operatives – but not in English

BBC reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

A number of terror attacks which took place on Friday, September 16th were the topic of an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on that day under the title “Spate of attacks on Israelis leaves three assailants dead“.art-terror-16-9

The report relates to three separate attacks. An attempted stabbing at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem by a Jordanian national who had entered Israel the previous day is described thus:

“In East Jerusalem, a Jordanian man was killed by security forces after trying to stab police outside Damascus Gate, according to Israeli authorities.

The site has been the scene of multiple attacks on Israelis, and killings of assailants, in previous months.”

A vehicular attack near Kiryat Arba by a Palestinian couple is described as follows:

“In one [attack], a Palestinian was shot dead after ramming his vehicle into civilians at a bus stop near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, the military said. Three people were wounded.

Another Palestinian who was involved in the attack was shot and wounded, officials said.”

A stabbing attack at a checkpoint in Hebron is portrayed as follows:

“Hours later, a Palestinian who stabbed and wounded a soldier at a junction near Hebron was shot dead, officials said.”

Notably – but entirely predictably – despite the fact that it describes three separate terror attacks, the word ‘terror’ does not appear in this report at all.

On the same day the driver of a bus travelling from Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim was injured in an additional attack. The next day – September 17th – a soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. Early on the morning of September 18th, a soldier was wounded in additional attack in Efrat. Despite still being available online, the BBC’s report was not updated to include any of those attacks and no stand-alone reporting of them was published.

Although the BBC has had almost a year in which to independently verify the circumstances of the deaths of Palestinian terrorists, it continues to employ the qualifying “Israel says” formula and erases from audience view the four foreign nationals also killed during terror attacks since last October.

“Thirty-five Israelis been killed in a wave of knife, gun and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since last October.

More than 200 Palestinians – mostly attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period.”

The article closes with another now standard BBC mantra that amplifies PLO messaging:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

As regular readers will be aware, the corporation has failed to provide its audiences with any meaningful reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian bodies throughout the past year. It has also refrained from informing them of the existence of additional factors underpinning the violence such as religious ideology.

One of the perpetrators of the vehicular attack reported in this article clarified her motivation in writing.

“A Palestinian woman who took part in a car-ramming attack that injured three Israeli teenagers last week left a note stating her motive: to atone for her premarital relationship with the driver of the vehicle.

Raghad Khadour, 20, detailed her reasons for joining her boyfriend — who drove a pickup truck on Friday into a group of Israelis waiting at a bus stop outside the Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank — in a written testament, Arabic media sources said.”

Since that motive does not fit in with the BBC’s much promoted mantra of “frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation”, it is of course highly unlikely that BBC audiences will be informed of the real background to an attack the corporation cannot even bring itself to accurately define as terrorism.

BBC ignores – in English – another projectile launched from Gaza

Last month visitors to the BBC News website saw the first English language report on a missile attack from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year – albeit over 24 hours after the incident took place. That of course does not mean that there had been no missile attacks on Israeli civilian communities between January and August: seven previous missile attacks, along with twelve mortar attacks, had in fact taken place during that time. However, the BBC had chosen not to report them to its English-speaking audiences.

Late on the evening of September 14th another attack took place.

“The projectile hit an empty field in the Eshkol region, next to the southern Gaza Strip, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces.

As Israel’s alert system identified that the projectile was bound for an unpopulated area, no siren was sounded in the region.”

The IDF later responded with strikes on three Hamas installations in the Gaza Strip.

This time the BBC reverted to its previous pattern of reporting: while there was no coverage of the attack on the BBC News English language website, visitors to the BBC Arabic site found a report on the Israeli response to the attack.bbc-arabic-response-missile-fire-14-9

The BBC’s record of reporting cross-border missile fire since the beginning of 2016 is as follows:

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

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

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

March 15thmissile attack not reported.

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

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

July 1stAnother Gaza missile attack ignored by the BBC

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

September 14th: Response reported in Arabic.

The same pattern of reporting has been evident since the end of the conflict between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip in 2014, meaning that English-speaking BBC audiences – including its funding public – are still not receiving the services pledged to them

 

Figures missing from BBC’s June article on Gaza economy emerge

Back in June of this year the BBC’s Gaza based correspondent Rushdi Abu Alouf produced an article about the grim economic situation of Gaza Strip residents titled “Gazans squeezed by triple taxes as Hamas replaces lost income“. As was noted here at the time:Abu Alouf Gaza taxes

“On the topic of Hamas’ expenditure, Abu Alouf has just this to say:

“An unknown amount of money is spent by Hamas on weapons and military infrastructure, but this too is under pressure.””

That “unknown amount of money” has now been quantified.

“As the residents of the Gaza Strip endure daily hardships due to the dire economic situation in the enclave, their Hamas leaders spend over $100 million a year on the group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, according to estimates by both Israeli and Palestinian sources. Spending on digging tunnels accounts for some $40 million of that annual sum.

By way of comparison, the budget of the last Hamas government, which dissolved in April 2014, was $530 million. In other words, some 20 percent of the budget was funneled toward arming the group with advanced weapons, digging tunnels, training, and salaries for Hamas fighters.”

Abu Alouf did however tell his readers that:

“It [Hamas] has also faced a crippling blockade by Israel and Egypt and financial sanctions from other countries since it won Palestinian elections in 2006.”

“And Hamas’s financial crisis is unlikely to be solved soon with Israel and Egypt continuing their border closures amid fear of attack by militants from Gaza.”

Obviously, the Hamas terror organisation’s prioritisation of rearmament and tunnel digging contributes both directly and indirectly to the economic and social pressures endured by ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip.  Audiences of the media organisation committed to enhancing “awareness and understanding of international issues” have however yet to receive the full range of information which would enable them to properly comprehend this issue.

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BBC report on 9/11 anniversary adheres to editorial guidelines – and that’s a problem

The BBC’s editorial guidelines on Language when Reporting Terrorism state:

summary-ed-guidelines-terror

As has been repeatedly documented on these pages, the BBC does not consistently adhere to those guidelines: avoidance of the word terror except in quotes is erratic and the use – or not – of the term is clearly often influenced by factors beyond the nature of the act itself.

On September 11th however, the BBC News website did produce a report which meets those editorial guidelines impeccably.9-11-art

Readers of the report titled “9/11 anniversary: Services held 15 years on” found that the word terrorism appeared just once in a direct quote from the US president.

“We are still the America that looks out for one another, bound by our shared belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper. In the face of terrorism, how we respond matters.”

Apart from that quote, the BBC managed to produce a report about coordinated acts of terror in which thousands of people were murdered without describing them as such in its own words. An organisation which is afraid to make a “value judgement” about such an event clearly has a very serious problem.

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Continuing the mapping of BBC inconsistency in terrorism reporting

Continuing to map the BBC’s inconsistent use of the term ‘terror’

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2016 – part one

Between April 1st and June 30th 2016, fifty-four reports with content relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Some of the reports were produced by other departments or appeared on other pages of the website (e.g. ‘Europe’ or ‘UK Politics’) but were also posted on the Middle East page.website

Six of those articles related to the wave of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis which began in the autumn of 2015 and continued during 2016, albeit with lower intensity. As readers can see for themselves, not one of those headlines included the term ‘terror’ and that editorial policy is similarly apparent in the reports themselves. 

(The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Jerusalem bus bombing injures 21 (18/4/16 to 20/4/16) (discussed here)

Israel says Jerusalem bus bombing was Hamas suicide attack (21/4/16 to 24/4/16) (discussed here)

Tel Aviv shooting: Four killed in shopping centre attack (8/6/16 to 9/6/16) (discussed here)

Tel Aviv shooting: Israel suspends Palestinian permits (9/6/16 to 10/6/16) (discussed here)

Israeli troops ‘mistakenly kill Palestinian bystander’ (21/6/16 to 22/6/16)

Israeli girl stabbed to death by Palestinian inside bedroom (30/6/16 to 1/7/16) (discussed here)

A further 2 articles related to incidents concerning Hamas’ cross border tunnels.

Israeli troops uncover ‘new’ tunnel leading from Gaza (18/4/16 to 19/4/16) (discussed here)

Israel tank fire kills Gaza woman, medics say (6/5/16 to 8/5/16) (discussed here)

One report related to security issues along the border with Syria.

Syrian conflict: The view from Golan Heights (20/6/16 to 25/6/16) (discussed here)

One report related to a previous terror attack from October 2015.

Palestinians jailed for life for killing Israeli couple (22/6/16 to 26/6/16) (discussed here)

Notably, the word terror was found in the headline of one of three articles relating to terror attacks by Israelis.

Israel arrests six members of ‘Jewish terror cell’ (20/4/16) (discussed here)

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader found guilty (19/4/16 to 20/4/16) (discussed here)

Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Israeli ringleader jailed for life (3/5/16 to 5/5/16)

In all, 24% of the second quarter reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism which were either current at the time or were follow-ups to previously reported incidents. The additional topics found in the BBC’s coverage of Israel and the Palestinians during the second quarter of 2016 will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part one

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2016 – part two

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – April 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2016

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – June 2016

 

BBC News ignores Hamas’ announcement of new office space

At the end of last month the Times of Israel reported that Hamas has some new office space.

“Hamas recently opened up official offices in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, a senior leader from the terror group revealed on Sunday.

Moussa Abu Marzouk told the Tunisian news channel el-Bilad that Hamas has “new-old” offices in Tunis, publicly acknowledging the headquarters for the first time.

The Hamas leader said the offices were opened with the blessing of the Tunisian authorities. He did not specify when the offices were opened.”Tunisia Jews 2

BBC audience members who recall the 2013 article by BBC Arabic’s Ahmed Maher in which they were told that everything is rosy for Tunisian Jews post ‘Arab Spring’ might perhaps be astonished to hear that the Tunisian authorities have apparently agreed to host an antisemitic terrorist organisation. Those who remember Magdi Abdelhadi’s report from Tunisia just months beforehand would probably be less surprised.

The BBC has however relieved audiences of that potential dissonance by simply ignoring the story of the Islamist terror group’s new offices in the country it has described as having had “the most successful” ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, as “keeping Arab Spring ideals alive” and as having a government “with progressive ambitions“.

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BBC World Service programme on Jews from Arab lands – part 2

Radio 4 provides more evidence of BBC double standards when reporting terrorism

Further examples of the double standard evident in the BBC’s use of the term terrorism were recently supplied by a series of programmes broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

On August 29th the station’s consumer affairs programme ‘You & Yours’ – presented by Winifred Robinson – broadcast an edition titled “Terrorism vs Tourism” which discussed the impact of terrorism “on people flying to Mediterranean resorts”.You and Yours 1

“Terrorists are increasingly targeting tourist resorts and destination cities. In today’s You & Yours we report on the human impact of terror attacks and the long-term affect [sic] on the countries they target.

New research commissioned by You & Yours shows to what extent passenger numbers travelling to British holiday destinations, including France, Tunisia, Turkey, and Egypt have been affected by attacks over the last two years.”

Unsurprisingly, Israel – which has both past and recent experience of dealing with the effects of terrorism on its tourist industry – was not included among those “Mediterranean resorts”. 

The following day – August 30th – another programme on the same topic was aired under the title “Call You and Yours: how has terrorism at home or abroad affected your holiday plans?“.You and Yours 2

“Terrorism is at the top of the agenda at the moment, after high profile attacks in Paris, Nice and Tunisia. We’d like to know if it’s made a difference to how you live your life. Perhaps you’ve changed your destination – or had second thoughts about taking your family abroad. 
We’d also like to hear from you if you work in the tourism industry, tell us how has terrorism affected business.”

The September 5th edition of ‘You & Yours’ included an item on “Egypt tourism“.

“Exclusive research commissioned by You and Yours shows how visitor numbers to Egypt are dropping since political unrest and terror attacks – we report on how the tourism industry is suffering and how the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice is decided.”

Throughout all three of those programmes, the term terror was used frequently and appropriately. Obviously the programme makers did not feel uncomfortable making the kind of “value judgements” which the BBC editorial guidelines on language when reporting terrorism instruct them to avoid.

“Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements.  We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution.  When we do use the term we should strive to do so with consistency in the stories we report across all our services and in a way that does not undermine our reputation for objectivity and accuracy.” […]

“…we don’t change the word “terrorist” when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones.”You and Yours 3

Last month we noted here that the BBC had found a ‘working definition’ of terrorism with which it is apparently comfortable – at least when reporting on incidents in Europe.

“Terrorist attacks are acts of violence by non-state actors to achieve a political, social, economic or religious goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Once again this series of Radio 4 programmes demonstrates all too clearly that those editorial guidelines are not being applied in a uniform and consistent manner. When the BBC wants to use words such as ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’, it does. When it wants to make “value judgements”, it does and in fact what dictates the BBC’s choice of terminology is “a political position” of precisely the type it claims to try to avoid.

Absurdly, while evidence to the contrary accumulates, the corporation continues to claim that its coverage of terrorism is consistent, accurate and impartial.

Related Articles:

BBC Complaints: terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tunisia are “very different”

Radio 4 gives insight into BBC avoidance of the use of the term ‘terror’ in Israel

BBC News finds terror (without quotation marks) in Europe

BBC finds a ‘working definition’ for terrorism in Europe