BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

Listeners to the BBC’s domestic station Radio 4 had been prepared in advance for what the corporation apparently believed was going to be a major news event on Saturday, March 30th.

The March 29th edition of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Today’ included a pre-emptive report (from 1:14:55 here) by Jerusalem correspondent Tom Bateman which utilised the standard framing of the ‘Great Return March’ to which BBC audiences have been exposed for an entire year.

That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of returnand lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Listeners heard presenter John Humphrys introduce the item: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Humphrys: “Tomorrow marks a year since Palestinians began protesting at Gaza’s fence with Israel. Hamas – the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip – is marking the anniversary calling for a million-person march at the fence.”

Audiences then heard an audio version of Bateman’s context-free report from a clinic in Gaza City which included the following:

Bateman: “22-year-old Iyyad who was shot at Gaza’s perimeter fence last May. He tells me he nearly lost his leg. He’s been coming here to the clinic for months to learn to walk again. Some seven thousand Palestinians have been injured by Israeli bullets in the last year. More than 190 have been killed. An Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman last summer. As tomorrow’s anniversary looms, tensions have been ratcheting up.”

Bateman did not bother to clarify what his interviewee was doing at the time he was shot and while citing numbers of Palestinian casualties, erased both the terror affiliations of most of those killed and the violence in which they were participating from audience view.

That formula was again evident the next day in two news bulletins aired during the March 30th edition of ‘Today’. At 05:48 listeners were told by newsreader Chris Aldridge that:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time while one Israeli soldier has died and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning. The leader of Hamas, which controls Gaza, has called for a million people to join today’s action.”

In an additional news bulletin at 1:06:35 Aldridge told audiences:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering along the Israel-Gaza border to mark the start of weekly protests a year ago. Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinian demonstrators during that time and a Palestinian is reported to have been shot dead this morning.”

Audiences were not told that the man “shot dead this morning” was participating in violent rioting at the time and was apparently a member of the so-called ‘night disturbance units’ active along the border fence during darkness. Aldridge’s claim that “Palestinians are gathering” was shown to be premature in a third item aired at 1:57:30 which was introduced by presenter Nick Robinson.

Robinson: “All this week we’ve been hearing about the mounting tension ahead of the first anniversary of protests at the border between Gaza and Israel. There’s reports this morning that Israeli fire has killed a Palestinian man at that border. Tom Bateman is our Middle East correspondent. What do we know Tom?”

Bateman: “Well we know that a 20-year-old man has died already this morning. That was announced by the ministry of health here in Gaza. The circumstances are unclear. We don’t know if it was at one of the protest sites. It doesn’t appear to have been actually and it was very early in the morning. But already it adds to the tension and in the next hour or so after noon prayers there will be thousands of Palestinians who’ll make their way in buses and on foot to five protest sites at the perimeter fence with Gaza. On the other side of the fence the Israeli military build-up…ah…has led to there being around 200 snipers positioned all around the fence and three extra brigades of Israeli forces there.”

Robinson: “The Palestinians who go know the risk they take. The Israelis know the condemnation they will get if they open fire. Nothing seems to change.”

Bateman: “Well this will certainly be I think the biggest protest in months because of that first anniversary. The protests have actually…the numbers have really been dwindling over the weeks as they began a year ago, leaving a sort of hard-core of protesters who were going once a week. But I think the sense in Gaza is that people want to go to the fence to demonstrate. Now Hamas have called for these to be peaceful after some intensive negotiations…ah…indirect negotiations between the two sides. That of course remains to be seen. Israel is saying it is prepared for any eventuality with that build-up of troops. It comes at a time of elections in Israel – a very sensitive moment – and I think we’ll see as we enter the afternoon just how…just how that tension continues, just how it mounts and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said they are prepared for any eventualities.”

Listeners were then told that the upcoming Israeli election is a two-horse race.

Robinson: “Tom Bateman our Middle East correspondent thank you very much indeed. Yes, that election between the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against the former military chief Benny Gantz is in just a few days.”

As we see listeners to the ‘Today’ programme heard a one-sided and highly sanitised portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ which adhered to the editorial policies that have been in evidence throughout the past twelve months. In part two of this post we will see whether Radio 4’s subsequent programmes throughout the day provided audiences with a more comprehensive picture.

 

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Euphemism and inaccuracy in BBC News website Entebbe report

On March 27th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Entebbe pilot Michel Bacos who stayed with hostages dies” on its ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

“Michel Bacos, the Air France captain hailed as a hero for refusing to abandon his passengers when Palestinian and German hijackers seized the plane in 1976, has died in France aged 95.”

Readers of the report were told that:

“After leaving Athens on 27 June 1976, the plane was seized by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two Germans from guerrilla group Revolutionary Cells. They forced Bacos and his crew to fly to Benghazi in Libya.

After refuelling it flew on to Entebbe where the hijackers were joined by at least three more Palestinian militants and Ugandan troops. Uganda’s leader, Idi Amin, was on the tarmac to welcome the hijackers. The hijackers demanded the release of 54 militants and a $5m ransom.” [emphasis added]

That euphemistic terminology has been seen in previous BBC reporting on Entebbe and as has been noted here in the past, among those so-called “militants” were of course convicted terrorists and criminals.

“Those whose release was demanded included 40 prisoners said to be held by Israel, among them Archbishop Hilarion Capuecci, serving a prison sentence imposed in December 1974 for arms smuggling [to Fatah], Mr Kozo Okamoto, the Japanese sentenced to life imprisonment after the 1972 Lod airport massacre, and Mrs Fatima Barnawi, serving a life sentence for placing a bomb [in a cinema] in 1967…”

The report went on:

“The passengers were eventually split up. The non-Israelis were flown to Paris while the 94 Israeli passengers were held hostage.

Alongside the hostages were the Air France crew of 12.”

However that portrayal of the “split up” of passengers is not accurate. As the BBC’s own Raffi Berg accurately reported in June 2016:

“On the third day, the hijackers began calling people’s names and ordering them into a second, smaller, squalid room.

It became clear they were separating the Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish passengers from the rest, immediately evoking the horrors of the Nazi selections in World War Two when Jews were picked out to be sent to their deaths.”

Forty-three years after the hijacking and Operation Yonatan, not only can the BBC still not get the details right but its 2007 conspiracy theory promoting article on that subject is still available online.

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

The BBC News website’s March 30th report on the day’s incidents at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip adhered to the formula seen in coverage of similar events throughout the past year.

Headlined “Gaza protests: Thousands mark ‘Great Return’ anniversary” the BBC’s framing of the story was evident in the use of the words ‘demonstrated’, ‘demonstrators’, ‘demonstrations’, ‘protests’, ‘protesters’ and ‘protest’ no fewer than nineteen times in the 564-word report’s text, headline, sub-headings, links and photo captions. A BBC News Tweet promoting the article also used the term ‘rallies’.

The article opened: [emphasis added]

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians have demonstrated in Gaza to mark the anniversary of the start of weekly protests on the boundary with Israel.

Demonstrators threw stones and burned tyres, with Israeli troops using tear-gas and live rounds in response.”

Readers had to go down to paragraph nine to discover that participants threw more than “stones”.

“The IDF said explosive devices had been thrown over the border fence and Israeli forces had responded with “riot dispersal means” and live bullets.”

As usual the BBC quoted “health officials “without bothering to inform readers that they belong to the same terror organisation that organised the event.

“Three protesters died in the clashes, Palestinian officials say, with another killed earlier on Saturday.”

“Three Palestinian protesters, all teenage boys, have been killed and more than 300 have been wounded, Palestinian health officials say.

The health officials say another man was shot dead by Israeli troops close to the fence overnight.”

Readers were not told that the person “killed earlier on Saturday” had, as reported by the Times of Israel, been taking part in rioting at the border at the time.

“Early Saturday, Mohammed Saad, 21, was killed by Israeli army fire east of Gaza City near the perimeter fence, Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said, adding he was hit by shrapnel in the head.

A Gaza hospital worker, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said Saad was a member of the so-called “night disturbance unit.” Such groups routinely burn tires, flash laser lights and detonate explosives near the fence at night to distract soldiers and disturb residents of nearby Israeli communities.”

Neither were BBC audiences informed that the majority of those described as wounded were, according to the quoted “health officials”, affected by tear gas.

As has been the case throughout the past twelve months, the BBC avoided explaining the aim of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ to readers while once again promoting the notion of “ancestral homes” and Palestinian refugees in a location ruled by Palestinians.

“The protests back the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

As has repeatedly been the case since late February, the BBC uncritically amplified claims made in a UNHRC report.

“At least 189 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed between March and December 2018, the UN says.

A UN inquiry says Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes during the protest marches – a charge Israel rejects.”

“A commission of inquiry was set up by the UN Human Rights Council.

Thirty-five of the 189 Palestinian fatalities were children, three were clearly marked paramedics and two were clearly marked journalists, the commission found.

The inquiry found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers had shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognisable as such.

Four Israeli soldiers were injured at the demonstrations. One Israeli soldier was killed on a protest day but outside the protest sites, the commission said.

Unless undertaken lawfully in self-defence, intentionally shooting a civilian not directly participating in hostilities is a war crime.”

While failing to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in initiating, organising, funding and executing the ‘Great Return March’ events, the BBC did make a brief opaque reference to the terror group’s ability to control the level of violence according to its interests.

“Hamas had said it would try to keep the crowds a safe distance from the fence, with Egyptian and UN mediators trying to prevent further escalation.

The clashes were limited in scope and fears of a large number of deaths have not materialised. The protests quietened in the evening.”

BBC audiences were not informed that Hamas had ordered schools closed and a general strike on March 30th in order to boost participation in the event.

Hamas was misleadingly portrayed in this report as being designated only by Israel.

“The Israeli government designates Hamas a terrorist group which it says has been seeking to use the protests as a cover to cross into its territory and carry out attacks.”

The violent coup in which Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 was erased from audience view.

“This day of protests is a serious test of the fragile calm between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.”

The terror group’s operatives were, as usual, portrayed by the BBC as “militants”.

“They came after a tense week in which Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza.”

One year on, the BBC’s reporting on this story has not improved at all and it continues to promote the same jaded themes and euphemisms while denying audiences vital context. A year ago the organisers of this agitprop stated that its aim is to create photo-ops which – in their words – “the whole world and media outlets would watch” and the BBC has played its part in ensuring that would be the case.

Related Articles:

Mapping changes in BBC reporting of Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’

BBC News website unquestioningly amplifies UNHRC’s report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More context-free BBC reporting on Gaza health services

Since late last July BBC audiences have seen and heard numerous reports on the topic of health services in the Gaza Strip that have focused on portraying pressures on the system. For example:

November 2018, Tom Bateman:

“This is a conflict that has changed even more lives this year. Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have suffered bullet wounds during protests at the perimeter fence with Israel. It has put intense pressure on Gaza’s hospitals.”

January 2019, Mishal Husain:

Mohammed Abu Mughalseeb of Medecins Sans Frontiers:

“From my experience I think the…you know, from some friends and colleagues in United Kingdom and in France and United States, if they had the same number of injuries received in the emergency department the health system would collapse. No other places in the world can cope with this, with this huge number of injuries.”

On March 29th a report by Tom Bateman that was filmed at a MSF-run rehabilitation centre in the Gaza Strip which Bateman had previously visited last summer appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza’s disability crisis”.

“Saturday 30 March marks a year since Palestinians began protesting at Gaza’s perimeter fence with Israel.

As the anniversary looms, tensions and military activity on the boundary have been ratcheting up.

According to UN-published figures, in the last year more than 7,000 Palestinians have been shot by the Israeli military, and more than 190 killed.

Last summer, an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman.

Israel justifies the use of live ammunition saying it has defended its soldiers and civilians from violent attacks.” [emphasis added]

The report begins:

“These men are in a physical therapy clinic in Gaza.”

Bateman: “Every time you come to one of these clinics, you just get such a feel for how an entire generation has been affected by what’s gone on over the last year. There is a crisis of disability in Gaza now and this clinic where they’re treating people for long-term care, treating bullet woulds, rehabilitation, they still have 200 people coming through their doors every day.” [emphasis added]

With no effort made to clarify to BBC audiences that “what’s gone on over the last year” is the product of decisions made by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, the film goes on to showcase familiar messaging from another MSF representative.

Carla Melki: “Actually I will say there is not one of the health systems in the world even in the best, important capital of western parts that will be able to face this amount of injuries. When we get 1,200 gunshot injuries in a few hours any health system would collapse. So on top of it, yes, Gaza’s health system is already pressured. There are not, for example, enough beds for the total population. So obviously the system is not collapsing but it is really under pressure.”

Viewers are then told that:

“Some 7,000 Palestinians were hurt by Israeli bullets in the last year. More than 190 have been killed. Israel says it has acted legitimately to protect its civilians from violent attacks at the border.”

The film closes with a monologue from a person identified as Hashim Abu Maneeh.

Abu Maneeh: “They shot me, they fired an explosive bullet. It broke seven centimetres of my bone. So far I’ve had 11 surgeries, I couldn’t walk for 11 months, couldn’t stand. That can really affect someone.”

Once again we see that while the BBC readily quotes the numbers of Palestinians killed and injured in what it has for an entire year been misrepresenting as “protests”, audiences are yet again denied a view of some of the other statistics necessary for full understanding of this story.

And yet again we see Bateman making no effort to clarify to BBC audiences that the “crisis of disability” he portrays could have been avoided had Hamas (which is of course also in charge of the health system described as “already pressured”) not initiated, encouraged, facilitated and financed this particular terror project dubbed the ‘Great Return March’.

Related Articles:

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

BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

BBC Gaza ‘documentary’ makes no pretence of impartiality

BBC tries to erase Hamas’ role in ‘Great Return March’ violence

More of the same Gaza framing from a BBC Jerusalem correspondent

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

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

 

Inaccurate and misleading BBC WS radio report on Hamas rocket attack

The March 25th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ purported to inform listeners “Why tensions in the Gaza Strip are rising again”.

“Hours after a rocket hit a house near Tel Aviv and injured seven people, Israel is carrying out strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Could this be the start of a full-scale conflict?”

While able to inform audiences who was carrying out strikes in the Gaza Strip, the ‘Newshour’ team evidently chose not to clarify who had fired the rocket that brought about those strikes.  

Presenter James Coomarasamy’s introduction at the start of the programme included the following:

Coomarasamy: “Tensions rise in the Middle East as President Trump recognises Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights and rockets are fired in both directions between Gaza and Israel.”

Not only do we see a specious suggestion of linkage between the US president’s signing of a proclamation and a rocket fired by terrorists hours earlier but Coomarasamy also promoted false equivalence with the inaccurate claim that rockets were being fired from Israel into the Gaza Strip.

Introducing the item itself (from 00:54), Coomarasamy added the topic of the upcoming election in Israel to his mix of ‘explanations’. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Coomarasamy: “First though to the Middle East and with Israel’s general election just a couple of weeks away, are we seeing the start of a major conflict in the Gaza Strip? A rocket strike from that territory injured several people and destroyed a house today in a neighbourhood [sic] north of Tel Aviv – the furthest that a rocket fired from Gaza has reached since Israel’s last war with the group – the militant group – which controls the territory, Hamas, five years ago. Spokesperson for the Israeli Defence Forces Captain Libby Weiss said there was no doubt who was to blame.”

After listeners had heard a recording of Captain Weiss explaining that the rocket in question was produced and launched by Hamas, Coomarasamy went on:

Coomarasamy: “In the past few hours Israel has closed all [sic – actually two] crossings with the Gaza Strip including access to the sea and has launched a series of retaliatory airstrikes.”

The relevant announcement from COGAT actually referred to “a reduction of the fishing zone in Gaza” rather than closure of “access to the sea” as claimed by Coomarasamy, who then changed the subject.

Coomarasamy: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cut short his visit to Washington to oversee the operation but not before President Trump had officially broken with the international consensus and recognised Israel’s claim to the occupied Golan Heights. The Arab League has condemned this move as illegitimate. At the White House Mr Trump said the attack near Tel Aviv today showed how important it was for Israel to be able to defend itself.”

After listeners had heard a recording of the US president’s remarks, Coomarasamy went on to introduce the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman (from 02:51) with “the latest”.

Bateman: “What’s happened tonight is that the Israeli military has carried out now numerous airstrikes in locations in the Gaza Strip. There have been powerful explosions seen and heard in Gaza City, in the centre of the Strip in Khan Younis, in the south. The Israeli military says that one of its targets has been a headquarters for Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, which housed, it says, its general security forces and general intelligence, also military intelligence: the place where it believes that military sites in Israel are gathered by Hamas’ intelligence forces. And it’s also now reported that the offices of Ismail Haniyeh – who is the political leader of Hamas – have been targeted in an Israeli airstrike as well.”

Did “the Israeli military” really say that it believes that those targeted Hamas headquarters are “the place” where the terror group’s military intelligence gathers information on “military sites in Israel”? Here is the relevant IDF Tweet in English, stating only that “Hamas collected intelligence for planning attacks against Israel” and with no mention of “military sites”.

Here is the equivalent Tweet in Hebrew. It states that “Hamas’ military intelligence department is responsible for gathering and studying intelligence against the State of Israel”.

Again we see no evidence to support Bateman’s claim that the IDF said that Hamas’ military intelligence gathers information exclusively about “military sites in Israel”. Moreover, another IDF statement clarified that:

“In response to the attack, the IDF has begun striking Hamas buildings which were utilized to plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. The IDF has struck Hamas’ previously secret military intelligence headquarters, its Internal Security Service offices, the office of Hamas Chairman Ismail Haniyeh, and a number of other military compounds.” [emphasis added]

That unsupported claim from Bateman is particularly pernicious given that not only does the BBC refuse to use the words terror and terrorist when describing Hamas, but Bateman has now implied that its targets are – as Hamas itself often claims – exclusively military rather than predominantly civilian.

No less significant is the fact that an hour before Bateman came on air, the IDF had already reported some 30 rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against civilian communities in the border region (with a further 30 later on through the night). Bateman however elected to erase that deliberate targeting of civilians from view.

Bateman went on to describe the rocket attack on the house in Moshav Mishmeret early the same morning before once again bringing up the topic of the April 9th election in Israel.

Bateman: “This kind of strike, which hasn’t happened since the war between Hamas and Israel of 2014 and comes at a very sensitive time because there are Israeli elections due to take place in two weeks’ time. Some of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals have been saying that he hasn’t taken a forceful enough approach in the last year or so when it comes to Gaza and so there has been political pressure on him.”

Coomarasamy: “Meanwhile, he’s been getting political support from the US president.”

Bateman once again told listeners about the US president’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and “criticism” from Syria “as well as other Arab and Muslim states” before Coomarasamy asked whether the US decision is “likely to have an impact on the election”.

With Bateman having replied that “it gives prime minister Netanyahu an electoral lift” and “it does help him to some degree”, the item closed.

With a very significant proportion of this item having focused on the Israeli election and the US proclamation concerning the Golan Heights, BBC World Service radio audiences could be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that the answer to the programme’s question of “why tensions in the Gaza Strip are rising again” (rising tensions in southern Israel were obviously considered to be of less interest) lies in those two topics rather than in the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by terrorist organisations armed with military grade projectiles.

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BBC R4 newsreader refers to a state the BBC knows does not exist

As we all too frequently have cause to note here, the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” (published in the wake of the 2006 Thomas Report on the impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) states:

There is no independent state of Palestine today, although the stated goal of the peace process is to establish a state of Palestine alongside a state of Israel.

In November 2012 the PLO secured a vote at the UN General Assembly, upgrading its previous status as an “entity” so that the UN now recognises the territories as “non-member observer state”.

The change allows the Palestinians to participate in UN General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies.

But the UN vote has not created a state of Palestine (rather, it failed in its bid to join the UN as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council).

So, in day-to-day coverage of the Middle East you should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.

But clearly BBC journalists should reflect the changed circumstances when reporting on the UN itself and at the Olympics, where the International Olympics Committee recognises Palestine as a competing nation.

Best practice is to use the term Palestine firmly and only in the context of the organisation in which it is applicable, just as the BBC did at the Olympics – for example: “At the UN, representatives of Palestine, which has non-member observer status…”” [emphasis added]

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ on the evening of March 25th heard an item (from 02:24 here) presented as follows by newsreader Zeb Soanes:

Soanes: “President Trump has signed a proclamation recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – a strategically important plateau which was seized from Syria in 1967. Syria’s government has described Mr Trump’s action as a blatant attack on its integrity. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu witnessed the signing at a ceremony in the White House. He said it was important for his country’s security.”

Following a recording of Netanyahu speaking at that ceremony, Soanes went on:

Soanes: “Mr Netanyahu cut short his visit to Washington because of escalating violence between Israel and Palestine. Israel launched airstrikes across the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a long-range rocket attack which injured 7 people near Tel Aviv. The targets included the office of the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas says a ceasefire has been agreed but there’s been no confirmation from Israel.” [emphasis added]

There is of course no point in having a style guide if journalists, presenters and producers – particularly it would seem at BBC Radio 4 – ignore its guidance. Given that the style guide correctly states “there is no independent state of Palestine today”, there is obviously no reason whatsoever for BBC staff to be promoting the inaccurate impression that such a state exists – and even more so when they are in fact referring to a terror organisation that violently seized power from the representatives of the Palestinians recognised by the international community.

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BBC unquestioningly amplifies unsubstantiated Hamas claims

Early on the evening of March 25th the BBC News website published a report headlined “Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits house”. Since its initial appearance the article has undergone amendment twelve times. The latest version (at the time of writing) gives readers mostly reasonable portrayal of events but a few points are nevertheless noteworthy.

On two occasions the report refers to “Gaza’s health ministry”.

“Gaza’s health ministry said seven Palestinians were injured.”

“The IDF said, in response to the rocket fire, fighter jets and helicopters struck 15 targets in Gaza, including a Hamas military compound in the central town of Deir al-Balah. Gaza’s health ministry did not report any casualties as a result of those strikes.”

Interestingly, several previous versions of the report had accurately referred to “the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry” but the obviously relevant fact that the body reporting injuries and casualties is the same body firing the rockets and mortars was curiously erased from the final version of the article set to remain online.

While people who deliberately attack civilian targets are clearly terrorists, the BBC – as usual – could not bring itself to use that term in this report. [emphasis added]

Militants later launched a barrage of rockets towards southern Israeli towns despite reports of a ceasefire, triggering further Israeli strikes.”

“So far no Palestinian militant group has said it fired the long-range rocket that hit the house in Mishmeret, north of Tel Aviv, on Monday morning.”

“Overnight, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired more than 60 rockets and mortars towards Israel, according to the IDF.”

And so, as ever, we see the BBC using the euphemism ‘militants’ because it considers it more important to avoid making “value judgements” about terrorists who target sleeping Israeli civilians with military grade mortars and rockets than to inform its audiences by means of precise and appropriate language.

Right at the end of the final version of this report, readers find a section sub-headed “What did Israel strike in response?”.

“The targets included the office of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniya in Gaza City’s Rimal district. There was no indication that Mr Haniya was inside at the time.

The IDF also said it had bombed a five-storey building in Gaza City housing the offices of Hamas’ Internal Security Service, and a three-storey building in the eastern Sabra district that was the “secret headquarters” of Hamas’s General Security Forces, as well as its General Intelligence and Military Intelligence agencies.”

Finally, readers were told that:

“A Hamas website, The Palestinian Information Center, said blocks of flats, civilian facilities, agricultural land and “resistance sites” had been targeted.”

In other words, the BBC chose to close this report with unquestioning amplification of unsubstantiated claims of Israeli attacks on non-military targets sourced from a website run by a terrorist organisation.

Quite how that meets the BBC’s obligation to provide “accurate and impartial news…of the highest editorial standards” is of course a mystery.  

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BBC’s Knell claims Gaza IED attackers ‘demonstrate against Israeli policies’

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on Friday, March 22nd heard a report (from 16:53 here) concerning the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption earlier in the day of the report submitted by the commission of inquiry it set up last May. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “The UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution condemning what it calls Israel’s apparent use of unlawful and other excessive force after an inquiry into last year’s deadly protests at the Gaza border. The UK has expressed concern about anti-Israel bias and abstained from the vote. Health officials in Gaza say Israeli forces have killed two people and wounded 55 today in the latest demonstration. From Jerusalem, Yolande Knell reports.”

Audiences were not told that “health officials in Gaza” are in fact one and the same as the terrorist organisation which encourages thousands of people to riot at the border fence every week.

Knell: “Israel condemned this hard-hitting resolution, saying it was an absurd and hypocritical ritual of the council to single it out for criticism. While 23 countries voted in favour and eight against, the UK was among 15 to abstain. On Twitter the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had earlier written ‘it cannot be right that Israel – the world’s only Jewish state – is the only nation the UN Human Rights Council dedicates an entire agenda item to’. The resolution followed a UN inquiry which said Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding over six thousand in Gaza protests last year. Israel says its military acts only to defend its civilians. Today, Gaza’s Hamas rulers – keen to distract from recent economic protests – again encouraged locals to demonstrate against Israeli policies.”

Apparently Yolande Knell has not sufficiently studied the Commission’s report (see page 104) as she cites the number – 189 – of Palestinians it claims were killed during the rioting rather than the number it claims were killed by Israeli forces.

As we see, throughout this news bulletin the year-long rioting that has included hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, IED attacks, grenade attacks and shooting attacks as well as infiltration attempts was euphemistically portrayed (in line with BBC editorial policy from day one) as “protests” and “demonstrations”.

Knell’s portrayal of the March 22 incidents as a demonstration “against Israeli policies” clearly does not give audiences a clear understanding of what actually happened on that day.

“Several thousand Palestinians were protesting along the Gaza Strip border on Friday, throwing explosive devices and rocks at soldiers who were responding with tear gas and occasional live fire. Palestinians said two people were killed.

Also Friday, a balloon carrying an incendiary device launched from Gaza set a blaze between homes in the nearby Israeli kibbutz of Nir Am. The fire was extinguished and there were no reports of injuries. Another blaze was started near Kibbutz Be’eri.

In riots along the barrier, Palestinians tried to destroy the border fence in several places, but were pushed back by the IDF. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said two Palestinians, an 18-year-old and a 29-year-old, were killed by live fire and 55 wounded.”

For fifty-one weeks the BBC has been producing coverage of the ‘Great Return March’ rioting that has uniformly downplayed or erased the violent nature of the events and the role of terror groups in their organisation and execution has (until some recent but isolated clarification by Yolande Knell concerning Hamas’ involvement) been repeatedly ignored.

The BBC’s funding public has heard absolutely nothing about the airborne explosive devices employed in recent months or the night-time rioting organised by Hamas. Audiences have however heard and seen homogeneously uncritical promotion of the UNHRC commission’s report on a subject about which they have been serially under-informed.

That of course means that the BBC’s domestic audiences are – in contrast to the corporation’s public purpose obligations – not well placed to understand what their own foreign secretary means when he refers to “discrimination” and the intention of the UK to oppose Item 7 resolutions at the UNHRC.

Related Articles:

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

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

A ‘Great Return March’ story BBC audiences have not been told

 

Improved BBC News website reporting on Sharon rocket attack

Some five hours after the launch of a long-range rocket from the Gaza Strip early on the morning of March 25th and the resulting destruction of a home in Moshav Mishmeret in the Sharon Plain with injury to some of its occupants, the BBC News website published a report titled “Seven injured as Gaza rocket hits home in central Israel”.

In contrast to some recent tardy reporting on Palestinian terror attacks (see ‘related articles’ below), this report showed that the BBC is capable of producing timely, accurate and impartial reporting when it wishes to do so.

With the exception of its portrayal of terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip – including the one responsible for this latest projectile, Hamas – as “militants”, the BBC’s report provides audiences with a clear picture of the events.

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the rocket that hit the house in Mishmeret was launched from Rafah in southern Gaza, about 120km (75 miles) away.

The explosion from the rocket severely damaged the house and set it on fire.

Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said it had treated two women who were moderately wounded and five other people, including an infant, a three-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, who had minor wounds.”

Since the beginning of this year the BBC News website has reported 44% of the rocket and mortar attacks launched by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians.

Related Articles:

BBC News reports rocket attack on TA fifteen hours later

BBC News reports fatal terror attacks over 27 hours later

BBC News ignores fatal terror attack in Jerusalem

BBC News website reports on terror attack one week later

What is missing from BBC news bulletins on Gaza protests?

As we saw earlier in the week, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell managed to write an entire feature on the topic of the recent popular protests against the economic conditions in the Gaza Strip without explaining how Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism has affected that situation.

“While describing Hamas as “cash-strapped”, Knell made no effort to explain why one of the richest terror organisations in the world could be in that position despite generous hand-outs from countries including Qatar, which gave Hamas $200 million in 2018 alone.

She erased from the picture Hamas’ spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on cross-border attack tunnels and weaponry. She ignored the cost of Hamas’ efforts to build terror networks in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas and its financing of nearly a year of ‘Great Return March’ weekly rioting, including payments to the families of those injured or killed in the provocations it initiated.”

The day after that article was published – March 19th – listeners to the ‘Six O’Clock News’ on BBC Radio 4 heard another report from Knell on the same topic (from 19:06 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “The Hamas-run authorities in Gaza have been continuing to make arrests following unprecedented protests about the economic conditions there. Dozens of journalists and human rights workers as well as the group’s political opponents are among those who’ve been detained. The clamp down has been documented online as our Middle East correspondent in Jerusalem, Yolande Knell, has been finding out.”

Knell: “A woman screams as a man is dragged away by Hamas security forces in a video uploaded to social media. Other footage online showed people being badly beaten with live ammunition being fired in the air. Protests with the slogan ‘We Want to Live’ began last week, bringing hundreds of people onto the streets across Gaza. Nothing of this scale has been seen since Hamas took full control here over a decade ago. This woman doesn’t hold back in her criticism. ‘The sons of Hamas leaders have houses and cars. They can afford to get married. They have everything’ she says ‘and our children have nothing – not even a piece of bread’. Recently, high taxes have pushed up prices but already Gaza’s economy was broken. 70% of young people have no jobs. Israel and Egypt have kept a tight blockade in place since the take-over by Hamas, which is widely seen as a terrorist group. Hamas is blaming its political rival Fatah for stirring up unrest in Gaza – something it denies. After years of ruling this tiny territory with an iron fist, recent days have shown cracks in the authority of Hamas. Its tactics may now be scaring people away from protests but that’s not stopping them from venting their anger online.”

The same report was also aired in the BBC Radio 4 ‘Midnight News’ bulletin (from 18:20 here).

In addition to giving a euphemistic portrayal of the violent coup perpetrated by Hamas in 2007, Knell failed to clarify to listeners that what she terms a “tight blockade” was made necessary by the rise in Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians following that violent coup – including over 3,000 attacks using rockets and mortars in the first year alone.

Clearly Knell intends listeners to understand that Gaza’s ‘already broken’ economy is linked to the counter-terrorism measures implemented by Israel and Egypt. However, once again she has absolutely nothing to tell BBC audiences about Hamas’ prioritisation of its terror infrastructure and activities over the welfare of residents in the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part one

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part two