Just after 9 p.m. UK time on the evening of May 4th BBC World Service radio aired an edition of the programme ‘Newshour’ which led (from 00:11 here) with a report described on its webpage as “Three dead in Gaza as Israel retaliates after a serious escalation of Palestinian rocket attacks which cause injuries in Israel”.
Both presenter Julian Marshall and reporter Tom Bateman initially refrained from telling listeners who was responsible for the rocket fire against Israeli civilians and promoted a sense of false equivalence.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Marshall: “There’s been a serious outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. There’ve been fatalities and injuries after scores of rockets were fired from Gaza and Israel responded with airstrikes and tank fire. I heard more from the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”
Predictably, Bateman avoided the use of the word terror throughout his report, even inaccurately claiming that the IDF describes its targets “as militants sites”.
Bateman: “Well on Saturday morning there was a barrage of rockets that were unleashed from the Gaza Strip into Israel. At that stage around 90 rockets according to the Israeli military. Many of those were shot down – dozens according to the Israelis – but that salvo went on for hours. As Israel responded with tank and air strikes across the Gaza Strip, now there’s been a day of heavy exchanges of fire and this evening the Palestinian ministry of health said that a 14-month-old girl was killed in an air strike in the east of the Gaza Strip. Now the Israeli military has said that it has no information on that but it says that it only targets…ah…what it describes as militant sites in the Gaza Strip. Before that a 22-year-old man killed in an Israeli air strike in the north of the Strip. While those rocket salvos continued, some hit homes in towns in southern Israel and there were 2 people wounded, one of them seriously: an 80-year-old woman who was hit by shrapnel.”
As usual Bateman failed to inform listeners that by the “Palestinian ministry of health” he in fact means the same terrorist organisation launching those rockets at civilian targets. Three quarters of an hour before Bateman’s report was aired an IDF spokesman had already noted that “According to indications, the infant and her mother were killed as a result of terrorist activities […] and not as a result of an Israeli raid” and as we see, Bateman was obviously aware that the Hamas claim he chose to promote may be less than watertight. Neither had he apparently bothered to clarify whether or not the “22-year-old man killed” was in fact part of a rocket-launching squad.
Marshall: “I mean clearly any loss of life, any casualties are to be regretted but with so many rockets fired, Tom, it does seem that there was a relatively low loss of life.”
Rather than explaining to listeners how Israelis defend themselves in such circumstances, Bateman went on to promote the bizarre notion that rocket attacks by Gaza Strip based terror groups are a relatively recent phenomenon and one that “we’ve become used to”.
Bateman: “These exchanges of fire have been something we’ve become used to over the last year. And they have varied in their magnitude. There have been serious casualties in the past, others have taken place with fewer casualties and what we’ve seen I think in the previous exchanges of fire like this is that rockets might be fired in the periphery of the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, not going further afield and Israel responding largely with strikes on Hamas militant sites that have been evacuated. Things have become more serious with this turn of events and it follows what happened on Friday which was a Palestinian sniper shooting at 2 Israeli soldiers during these weekly protests that have been taking place at the Gaza perimeter fence. Those two soldiers were wounded. Israel then responded by hitting a Hamas militant post, killing two of those militants. A further two Palestinians were then killed by Israeli fire in the protests. Already by Friday night there was a fairly serious escalation and that was then followed, as I say, by the barrage of rockets from Gaza on Saturday morning.”
Marshall: “Has any group in Gaza said that they carried out…ehm…some or all of these attacks?”
Bateman went on to uncritically amplify a Hamas statement.
Bateman: “Hamas is the militant group that controls the Strip and it was clear from the outset…they said that they would respond to what they described as the aggression by Israel yesterday that led to the deaths of two of its militants. But the other significant group in the Strip is Islamic Jihad; another smaller militant group that is thought to be behind some of the recent fire from Gaza in the recent months towards Israel. As things stand at the moment it looks as though these hostilities are going to continue despite the ongoing attempts by the United Nations and also by Egyptian intelligence to try and broker a calm between the two sides. And those efforts have been going on for many months but what we see at intervals like this is how quickly and easily that can be shattered.”
Three hours later listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Midnight News’ heard another report from Bateman. By that time COGAT had also clarified that the child and the person initially mistakenly described as her mother had been killed by a shortfall rocket fired by Gaza Strip based terrorists. Nevertheless, Radio 4 listeners were told that:
[00:30] Newsreader: “A mother and her baby have died after Israeli forces launched attacks on the Gaza Strip in response to hundreds of rockets being fired by Palestinian militants.”
[07:46] Newsreader: “Israel says around 200 rockets have been fired into the south of the country from Gaza by Palestinian militants, wounding two people. Israel launched air strikes and tank fire in response. Palestinian officials said four people including a mother and her baby were killed. Israel has closed both crossings into Gaza. Our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”
Bateman: “Air raid sirens sounded in southern Israeli towns as a barrage of rockets was fired from Gaza. Israel shot down dozens of them before [sic] its tanks and war planes targeted militant sites in the Strip. This evening the Palestinian health ministry said a 14-month-old girl was killed in an airstrike. A 22-year-old Palestinian man died in a separate strike earlier. During hours of rocket fire two Israelis – one of them an 80-year-old woman – were injured after being hit by shrapnel. This latest flare-up follows months of tensions between Israel and Gaza based militants who demand an easing of the crippling blockade which Israel says is needed to stop weapons getting in. Israel demands calm on the boundary after more than a year of Palestinian protests at the perimeter fence. The rocket salvo coincided with the funerals of two Hamas militants killed yesterday in an Israeli air strike: retaliation – Israel said – for the wounding of two Israeli soldiers who were shot by a Palestinian gunman. It marks yet another ratcheting-up of hostilities, despite repeated attempts by Egypt and the United Nations to broker a longer-term truce.”
Once again Bateman failed to clarify that “the Palestinian health ministry” is in fact controlled by the Hamas terrorist organisation and listeners heard nothing about the shortfall rocket or the circumstances in which the other two of the “four people” were killed.
“In addition, the ministry said two Palestinian men were killed in Israeli strikes Saturday: Imad Muhammad Nasir, 22, and Khaled Mohammed Abu Qliq 25.
The latter was reportedly killed in an airstrike as he and several other men were launching rockets at Israel.”
Yet again too we see Bateman conforming to BBC editorial policy by euphemistically describing violent rioting during which IEDs were thrown, infiltrations attempted and a sniper fired at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border as “protests”.
Given the BBC’s previous experiences of jumping to insufficiently verified conclusions regarding the circumstances of the deaths of small children and women in the Gaza Strip, one would have thought that lessons would have been learned and caution – especially in relation to claims from a terrorist organisation hiding behind a ‘health ministry’ mask – would be applied.
Obviously that is not the case.