The July 16th edition of the BBC Radio 4 news and current affairs programme ‘Today‘ included an item (from 01:3:24 #playt=1h34m24s" rel="noopener" target="_blank">here) in which UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness was given free rein to preach five minutes’ worth of completely unchallenged propaganda and distortions.
Gunness’ tenuous link to the subject supposedly under discussion was portrayed by presenter John Humphrys as follows:
Humphrys: “Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an attack by Israel at the weekend in Gaza. They were pupils at a school run by the United Nations relief agency. It’s been described as the worst exchange of hostilities between the two sides since the war in 2014. A ceasefire was called yesterday but the peace [sic] is fragile. I’m joined on the line by our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman and Christopher Gunness of the United Nations relief agency. Chris Gunness; what happened on Saturday?”
Why the BBC – with its offices in Jerusalem and Gaza – should need Gunness to tell audiences “what happened on Saturday” is unclear but listeners then heard a distorted version of the story which, not surprisingly given Gunness’ record, dovetails with the version put out by Hamas and its supporters.
Gunness: “There was an Israeli airstrike on a building in a popular gathering place in Gaza City, a park where many families go, adjacent to the building. [It] Struck two children, Amir and Louay, as you say UNRWA students, they were killed. At least ten people were wounded.”
As shown in a video produced by Hamas, that “park” is in fact an open space next to an unfinished building intended to be a library but instead long used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility that includes access to Hamas’ tunnel network. John Humphrys made no effort whatsoever to challenge Gunness’ echoing of Hamas propaganda or to clarify that the people he described as “children” were youths aged 15 and 16 who – despite the fact that missile fire by terror groups into Israel and retaliatory strikes had been ongoing for hours at the time of the incident – were reportedly playing in the Hamas facility. Instead, Humphrys allowed Gunness’ polemic to proceed unhindered.
Gunness: “The killings of children, John, in any context must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These deaths illustrate tragically the dangers of using overwhelming air strikes in a heavily populated area. Imagine a foreign army using massive air power on a building in central London and two British children are killed and ten wounded. That would rightly…there would rightly be international outrage. Imagine if that attack by a foreign army had already killed 146 people since the end of March of which 21 have been children. Imagine if 15,000 Brits had been wounded by that foreign army of which over 8,000 had been hospitalised, over 4,000 of them wounded by live fire. That’s what’s happened in Gaza since the end of March: make no mistake. And there rightly should be international outrage and condemnation.”
Humphrys did not bother to clarify to listeners that Gunness’ imaginary scenario would only be relevant if the ruling British authorities had been firing hundreds of mortars and rockets at the civilians that “foreign army” was charged with protecting and “Brits” had repeatedly tried to breach the border with that foreign country while carrying out scores of terror attacks. Instead – apparently quite at ease with Gunness’ whitewashing of Palestinian terror – he went on to presume to speak for Israel.
Humphrys: “Well we were hoping to speak to an Israeli minister. He had – or we understood that he’d agreed to talk to us earlier this morning but he has since pulled out of that interview. But what they would say – and I can say this [laughs] because we’ve heard them say it many times before – they are under massive provocation. Their very existence is threatened – or would be if Hamas had its way – and they have to defend themselves.”
Gunness: “Look, we’ve all seen the pictures of the fence and we are very clear in the United Nations…the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has called on Israel to ensure that its security forces do not resort to the use of excessive force, particularly at that fence. Under international law Palestinians first of all have the right to peaceful assembly and expression.”
Humphrys failed to clarify to listeners that no-one on the Israeli side has suggested that Palestinians in Gaza or elsewhere do not have the right to peaceful assembly or that “peaceful assembly” is not an accurate description of what has been going on along the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip for three and a half months.
Gunness: “Israeli security forces, according to our top human rights official, in policing the Gaza fence must use only necessary and proportionate means to discharge their duties. Exceptionally, they may resort to lethal force in cases of extreme necessity as a last resort and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury. But – and, you know, I say but – it is difficult to see how tyre burning, stone throwing or even Molotov cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such a threat.”
Humphrys made no effort to inform listeners that in April, May and June Palestinians engaged in Hamas facilitated violence at that border carried out, inter alia, 294 attacks with petrol bombs, 20 shooting attacks, 35 IED attacks and 5 grenade attacks. He also failed to challenge Gunness’ subsequent inaccurate description of the Gaza Strip as being under “occupation”.
Gunness: “In the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute wilful killings which are a grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and I think that is why the Secretary General has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the killings in Gaza from the end of March. Will there be one? Well what a shame we didn’t have an Israeli official on this programme to ask that question. Will there be a transparent an independent investigation? Because that is what the world’s top diplomat has called for.”
Once again Humphrys presumed to respond on behalf of Israel:
Humphrys: “Yeah but you know how Israel will respond to that, don’t you? Because Israel would say the world community – put the word in quotation marks if you like – is weighted against us. People hate us for…because we are Israel and we lose the propaganda battle all the time.”
Gunness: “John, I’m sorry – I’m not on this programme to answer for Israel. As I say it’s…”
Humphrys: “No I understand but I mean you’re making the case for sanctions, at least for an investigation to be undertaken into Israel’s actions. I’m trying to put to you what they would say if they were here.”
Gunness: “John, it was you that used the word sanctions. I’m not making the case for sanctions. Can we please be very clear. I have not come on…”
Humphrys: “OK; you want an investigation.”
Listeners then heard that UNRWA condemned Hamas rocket fire – four years ago. They did not however hear that some 200 projectiles had been fired at Israeli communities in just over 24 hours.
Gunness: “The UN Secretary General has called for a transparent and an independent investigation into the killings that have taken place in Gaza since the end of March. I don’t think that is an unreasonable thing for the United Nations to call for. We have condemned the rockets coming out of Gaza. We have condemned Hamas rockets. We didn’t do it from the comfort of our offices in London or Tel Aviv or New York or Washington. Our Commissioner General did it from inside Gaza while the war raged in 2014. So let’s bat that old canard…”
Gunness: “UNRWA condemns these rockets in the strongest possible terms but at the same time we condemn the killing of teenagers – UNRWA teenagers. They have a dignity and a destiny that must be protected and nurtured and that is why we condemn those killings.”
After that five-minute long unchallenged tirade from Gunness, Humphrys moved on to a report from the BBC’s Tom Bateman. Whether or not listeners to BBC Radio 4 then got to hear the crucial information and context entirely missing from the first five minutes of this item – and how Chris Gunness’ propaganda was later recycled – will be discussed in part two of this post.
As we saw in part one of this post, after over six months and three complaints, the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) finally acknowledged that a claim aired in the BBC Two commissioned programme ‘Alternativity’ in December 2017 was “materially misleading”.
However two additional points made in the same complaint by BBC Watch were rejected by the ECU. As readers may know, the first two stages of the BBC complaints procedure are outsourced to a private company and it is hence interesting to take a look at the responses received on those points.
The second point raised concerned a claim made by Danny Boyle while being filmed in Hebron. As was documented here at the time:
“Standing on Emek Hevron street, Boyle then (22:40) presents pure conjecture as ‘fact’.
Boyle: “And the Star of David on the doorways which is declaring that obviously the…that in these circumstances, declaring that this is…this will become a settlement home…is shockingly reminiscent of something we all…one of the worst horrors of the world. That’s a bit mind-boggling.”
BBC Watch contacted a resident of that area and was informed that the Stars of David painted on those buildings are actually graffiti painted by unknown parties. […]
The doorways mentioned by Boyle are in fact entrances to small Arab market shops that were closed during the second Intifada due to Palestinian violence. Not only are those shops unsuitable for conversion into “a settlement home” – they have never even been considered for that purpose.
As we see, therefore, Danny Boyle – who earlier on in the programme admitted that the nearest he had previously ever been to the region was Majorca – has (presumably with a bit of help from his ‘guides’) let his imagination run wild – and presented his own uninformed assumptions as fact.
Moreover, he appears to be making an oblique reference to Nazi confiscation of Jewish property – an analogy that would be considered antisemitic according to the IHRA working definition adopted by the British government.”
In our initial complaint BBC Watch pointed out that Boyle had presented pure conjecture as fact and that:
“Boyle’s claim that the graffiti ‘declares’ that ‘this will become a settlement home’ is unfounded and inaccurate.”
Although we did not raise the issue of Boyle’s apparent Nazi analogy in that complaint, in the reply received at Stage 1a we were informed by BBC Complaints that what appeared to be the case was in fact so.
“In the course of making the film Danny Boyle spent some time in Hebron (visiting both Hebron 1 and Hebron 2) and saw for himself properties formerly owned by Palestinian residents which were now claimed by Israeli settlers, and he saw that the Star of David was used to mark these properties. His comments in this section of the film are a reflection on what he had seen throughout his visit and on his awareness, as someone who loathes anti-Semitism, of what the Nazis had done to Jewish owned property in Germany in the 1930s.”
In our Stage 1b complaint submitted on January 22nd 2018 we noted that:
“The response provides no proof for the inaccurate claim that the shops on Emek Hevron street “were now claimed by Israeli settlers” – that allegation is simply untrue and unless the BBC can provide factual evidence must be withdrawn. Additionally the response states that Boyle was reflecting on “what the Nazis had done to Jewish owned property in Germany in the 1930s”. The BBC – and Mr Boyle – should be aware that such a Nazi analogy is considered anti-Semitic under the IHRA definition of antisemitism adopted by the UK government.”
The relevant part of the response we received to that complaint was as follows:
“As stated previously, on his trip Danny Boyle saw properties formerly owned by Palestinians that had been claimed by Israeli settlers and marked with the Star of David. It is your contention that the buildings in this specific scene have never even been considered for the purpose of settlement homes. Nonetheless we believe it was appropriate for Danny to comment on a practise that he had seen throughout his visit.”
Needless to say, no details were provided to support the claim that Boyle had seen Star of David graffiti expressing a claim by “Israeli settlers” to “properties formerly owned by Palestinians” in any other location “throughout his visit”.
In our complaint submitted to the ECU on February 28th 2018 we noted that:
“With regard to the second point raised in my complaint, the BBC once again provides no evidence to support the claim that the Star of David graffiti painted by unknown parties on doors on Emek Hevron Street ‘declares’ that ‘this will become a settlement home’. Moreover, it again justifies Boyle’s anti-Semitic Nazi analogy while ignoring the fact that other types of graffiti are in evidence on doorways on the same street.”
We included photographs of that additional graffiti, which includes (see here) Arabic writing and an anarchist symbol.
The reply received from the ECU four months after that Stage 2 complaint was submitted is as follows:
In other words, while admitting that Boyle’s remark was “conjecture” which may have been “mistaken as to the motive behind the particular graffito shown”, the BBC ECU still claims that audiences were not materially misled. The “evidence” cited by the ECU consists of three media reports: one from the Palestinian media outlet ‘Maan News’ dating from 2012, one from the New York Times dated 1997 and one from the Times of Israel dated 2014. While those articles may indeed support the ECU’s claim that graffiti can be a “declaration of…hostility to Palestinian residents”, that was not the claim put forward by Boyle in that part of the programme.
The third point raised in our Stage 1a complaint related to a statement made by the narrator at 33:11: [emphasis added]
Colman: “Most Jewish settlers live in fortified settlements accessible by Israeli-only roads.”
BBC Watch pointed out that the claim is inaccurate and misleading, that even according to B’tselem just four Israeli communities are served by roads upon which vehicles with Palestinian plates cannot travel and that:
“Obviously “most” of the people the BBC chooses to call “Jewish settlers” do not live in those four communities.”
The response received at Stage 1a was as follows:
“Jewish settlements in the West Bank are increasingly connected and served by roads inaccessible to Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates. This is a result of the ongoing Israeli policy of expanding the settlements and their infrastructure.”
When we challenged that response – obviously irrelevant to the point made in the original complaint – at Stage 1b, this was the reply received:
“It is not disputed that the majority of West Bank settlers live in settlements. It is also the case that these settlements are accessible by the network of roads which place restrictions on Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates.”
In our Stage 2 complaint to the ECU we pointed out that:
“With regard to the third point made in my complaint, the claim that “Most Jewish settlers live in fortified settlements accessible by Israeli-only roads” is simply untrue and the BBC’s claim that “these settlements are accessible by the network of roads which place restrictions on Palestinians without Israeli citizenship and Israeli license plates” is only applicable to the entrance roads to a small number of communities – totaling at most less than 60 kms.”
Readers can judge for themselves whether six months is an acceptable time-frame for the resolution of a complaint to the BBC and whether or not the practices of outsourcing complaints to a private company and basing responses to complaints on information supplied by political NGOs serves the interests of the public that funds the corporation.
Readers no doubt recall that in December 2017 the BBC’s Christmas season programming included a programme commissioned for BBC Two titled ‘Alternativity’.
Contrary to prior claims from the station’s controller Patrick Holland, the programme did not present “a challenging and provocative exploration” of the nativity story at all. Rather, most of the hour-long programme was devoted to context-lite, one-sided political messaging relating to Israel promoted from both its narrator (actress Olivia Colman) and its main character Danny Boyle.
BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning ‘Alternativity’ which, because of the word-count restrictions on complaints, focused on just three aspects of the programme.
Over six months later the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) has upheld one of the points made by BBC Watch and rejected two additional points. As readers may know, the first two stages of the BBC complaints procedure are outsourced to a private company and it is hence interesting to take a look at the responses received at those first two stages on a point that was eventually upheld.
The first point we raised in our initial complaint referred to a claim made by the narrator at 12:20 minutes into the programme.
Colman: “The separation barrier and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land have sliced through communities, separating neighbours. Thousands have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land and although the exact boundaries are hotly disputed, many have been evicted and are now on black-lists banning them from entering Israel, meaning they are unable to travel for work. One of these is Amin. Imprisoned as a teenager, he now makes his living selling refreshments to the workers.” [emphasis added]
We argued that the highlighted claim is untrue. The response we received at stage 1a was as follows:
“Figures on the number of arrests, prosecutions or convictions directly related to the refusal of Palestinians to leave land which has been seized or confiscated by Israel are unavailable, but the claim that “thousands have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land” is conservative given the scale of the confiscation, annexation and enclosure of Palestinian land, as well as the widespread and systemic scale of arrest and detention without charge or trial (known as administrative detention).”
We submitted a second complaint – Stage 1b – on January 22nd 2018:
“While admitting that the BBC does not have facts and figures, the response claims that the claim “thousands have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land” is none the less accurate. Unless the BBC can produce concrete examples of people “imprisoned for refusing to leave their land” that claim cannot be considered accurate. The original claim related to land used for construction of the anti-terrorist fence and owners of such land are not only compensated but are entitled to appeal to the Israeli courts.”
“The BBC has an obligation towards achieving “due accuracy”. Our Editorial Guidelines say “Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right. If an issue is controversial, relevant opinions as well as facts may need to be considered. When necessary, all the relevant facts and information should also be weighed to get at the truth.” As we are sure you are aware, the Israeli government does not publish the numbers of individuals subject to what it calls “administrative detention”, nor the reasons why those individuals have been detained (as detailed here www.btselem.org/administrative_detention). But there is a significant amount of information – what the Guideline is referring to when it uses the terms “relevant opinions”, and “relevant facts and information” – that can be analysed to provide a reasonable estimate. For example, it is reliably reported that around 100,000 Palestinians have been held in administrative detention over the years.
You note that Palestinians whose land has been appropriated for construction of the barrier are compensated. But that has no bearing on the issue of how the Israeli authorities dealt with protests against the barrier’s construction. There have been many such protests, with Addameer documenting at least 295 cases of Palestinians detained for protests against barrier construction and land annexation in 2011 alone. So it is quite clear that numerous Palestinians have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land.
The next question is therefore whether “thousands” is a reasonable estimate for the numbers detained. As noted above, there is evidence that there were 295 in 2011 alone, by which time a great deal of the barrier in the West bank had already been completed. The correct shorthand expression for 2011 alone would be “hundreds”. But Israel started construction in 2002, and it is not yet finished. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that, over a fifteen year period, the total number detained is most likely to be in the thousands.”
Having exhausted stages 1a and 1b of the BBC complaints procedure, we continued with a complaint submitted on February 28th 2018 to the Executive Complaints Unit after having consulted the former IDF Chief Prosecutor in Judea & Samaria, Lt. Col. Maurice Hirsch (at the time senior military justice consultant for NGO Monitor) who, inter alia, pointed out that:
“To the best of my knowledge, as someone intimately involved in law enforcement in Judea and Samaria for 20 years, no Palestinian has been imprisoned for “refusing to leave their land”! That claim is simply a fiction. Firstly, most (approximately 95%) Palestinians resident in Judea and Samaria live in the large Palestinian towns and the surrounding villages. With the exception of one, none of these towns are affected by the security barrier. Secondly, “refusing to leave your land” is not an offence, and consequently no one has been arrested or imprisoned on this basis. Thirdly, Palestinians separated from their land by the security barrier are entitled to and are in practice given permits to access their land.”
With regard to the claim in the BBC’s response that ““thousands have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land” is conservative given the scale of the confiscation, annexation and enclosure of Palestinian land, as well as the widespread and systemic scale of arrest and detention without charge or trial (known as administrative detention)”, Lt. Col. Hirsch noted that:
“As regards Administrative detention the BBC intentionally combines two subjects that have no connection whatsoever. According to international law (art. 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) a person can only be placed in administrative detention, if it is necessary for “imperative reasons of security”. No Palestinian has been placed in administrative detention for “refusing to leave their land”. According to precedent set down by Israel’s Supreme Court, a person can only be placed in administrative detention if the state proves that he poses an imminent, severe danger to the security of the public. It should be noted, that while the judicial review process of Administrative detention orders carried out by the military courts far extends the requirements of international law, Palestinians also have the right to challenge their administrative detention before Israel’s supreme court.”
With regard to the claim in the BBC’s response that “For example, it is reliably reported that around 100,000 Palestinians have been held in administrative detention over the years…as detailed here www.btselem.org/administrative_detention“, Lt. Col. Hirsch noted that:
“There is nothing ‘reliable’ about the report that 100,000 Palestinians have been held in Administrative detention. The occurrence of administrative detention between the years 1967 – 1987 was very limited. In response to the Palestinian terrorism that started in 1987 the use of administrative detention increased. With the onset of the Oslo Accords, Israel’s use of administrative detention waned. Only in 2001, as a response to the wide scale Palestinian terrorist attacks, did Israel revert to the use of administrative detention. Since then, the number of Palestinians arrested in administrative detention has fluctuated considerably. According to publicly available documents, that organisations like B’tselem chose to ignore, in the 20 year period, between 1995 and 2015, 16,041. In that period, in one year (2000) only 17 new administrative detention orders were issued. In another year (2002) 2,578 new orders were issued. In other words, if one were to use the 20 years between 1995 and 2015 as a basis, it would indicate that Israel placed 800 Palestinians a year in administrative detention. Assuming that these figures are automatically reflective of the statistics since 1967, the result would be that 40,000 Palestinians have been held in administrative detention. Having said that, noting the tremendous fluctuation in the use of administrative detention, any statistic given, that is not based on official numbers for every year, is inherently unreliable.”
In response to the claim in the BBC’s reply “…with Addameer documenting at least 295 cases of Palestinians detained for protests against barrier construction and land annexation in 2011 alone. So it is quite clear that numerous Palestinians have been imprisoned for refusing to leave their land”, Lt. Col Hirsch noted that:
“There is no logical connection between these two statements. Palestinians “detained for protests against the barrier… and land annexation” include those who threw stones, molotov cocktails and committed other related offences. The arrest of these people had nothing to do with “refusing to leave their land”, but rather the fact that they committed violent offences. Moreover, considering the fact that demonstrations against the construction of the security barrier were organized by the Palestinian Authority and called for widespread participation, it is also factually inaccurate to assume that all those arrested were necessarily the owners of the land on which they were arrested.”
In response to the claim in the BBC’s reply “there is evidence that there were 295 in 2011 alone, by which time a great deal of the barrier in the West bank had already been completed. The correct shorthand expression for 2011 alone would be “hundreds”. But Israel started construction in 2002, and it is not yet finished. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that, over a fifteen year period, the total number detained is most likely to be in the thousands”, Lt. Col. Hirsch noted that:
“…there is no logical or statistical basis to use a statistic for the prevalence of law enforcement in one year alone in order to ‘calculate’ a larger figure for multiple years. For example in 2006, a total of 1120 Palestinians were prosecuted for offences categorized as “Disturbances of the peace” (as opposed to Terrorism; Regular criminal offences; and Illegal entry into Israel). That number decreased in 2008 to only 593. This category included, among other offences, stone throwing. Accordingly, this simplistic statistical approach adopted by the BBC ignores the tremendous fluctuation in law enforcement every year.”
Four months after that complaint to the ECU had been submitted, we received a reply which includes the following:
According to further communication with the ECU, that finding “will be published in due course on the complaints pages of bbc.co.uk“. BBC Watch does not know what the BBC considers to be “due course” after it has taken over six months for a point rejected at stages 1a and 1b to be upheld by the ECU.
In part two of this post we will look at some of the interesting responses received from BBC Complaints in relation to the other two points raised in this complaint.
From 4 p.m. GMT on the afternoon of July 14th BBC World Service news bulletins led with reports on the day’s events in the Gaza Strip and – to a lesser extent – southern Israel.
A number of recurring themes can be seen in the reports heard by BBC World Service listeners over a period of nearly eight hours:
1) Leading with and focusing on events in Gaza, with concurrent events in Israel mentioned later.
2) Quoting “Palestinian health officials” while failing to clarify that they are actually members of the same terror group organising the months of violent rioting along the border and launching missile attacks.
3) Using the euphemism “militant” in place of the term terrorist.
4) Quantifying the number of Israeli strikes on Hamas targets – e.g. “dozens” – while failing to quantify the terror groups’ rocket and mortar attacks.
5) Qualifying descriptions of Palestinian attacks as terrorism.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
BBC World Service news bulletin 16:00 GMT 14/7/18
Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military says it has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip as shells and rockets were fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Palestinian health officials say that two people have been killed and 12 more wounded by an airstrike in Gaza City. Israel says it’s destroyed a battalion headquarters belonging to Hamas.”
In the next bulletin (and a later one) listeners were told that the Israeli strikes were “against Gaza” rather than against a terror group’s military infrastructure alone.
BBC World Service news bulletin 16:30 GMT 14/7/18
Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza hitting dozens of militant targets, among them a Hamas battalion headquarters. The operation followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis have reported three people injured on their side of the border.”
While a Hamas training facility was mentioned in several bulletins, the BBC presented its purpose as an Israeli claim, failing to inform audiences in its own words of the function of the building despite the information being available in a video produced by Hamas itself. The categorisation of IED attacks and a grenade attack as terrorism was repeatedly unnecessarily qualified.
BBC World Service news bulletin 17:00 GMT 14/7/18
Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. Israel says it destroyed a training facility belonging to the militant group Hamas in one of its most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Here’s more from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”
Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”
BBC World Service news bulletin 17:30 GMT 14/7/18
Debbie Russ: “Israel has carried out one of its biggest operations against Gaza since the last war, hitting dozens of militant targets – among them a Hamas training facility. The series of airstrikes followed shell and rocket fire into Israel. The Palestinians say at least two people have been killed. The Israelis say three people were injured on their side of the border.”
BBC World Service news bulletin 18:00 GMT 14/7/18
Debbie Russ: “The Israeli military has launched a wave of airstrikes against dozens of militant targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for mortar and rocket fire into Israel from the Palestinian territory. It’s one of the most wide-ranging operations there since the war of 2014. Tom Bateman is in Jerusalem.”
Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes, describing them as passers-by to a building that was targeted. Paramedics in the Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel after a rocket hit a house.”
While the two people killed in Gaza were described as “teenagers”, the fact that two of the Israelis wounded were also in that age-group was not communicated to listeners. After those two mentions of the fact that the injuries came as a result of a rocket attack on the family’s house, that information was excluded from subsequent bulletins.
BBC World Service news bulletin 19:00 GMT 14/7/18
Stewart Macintosh: “Israel has carried out its biggest air attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. At the same time, mortars and rockets have been fired into Israel from the Palestinian territory, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. Palestinian health officials say two teenagers have been killed and at least 15 more people wounded. The Israeli ambulance service says that three Israelis have been injured by shrapnel. Our Middle East regional editor Sebastian Usher has this assessment.”
Usher: “This is a serious escalation and there are attempts being made – Egypt, the UN – to try to talk both sides away from a direct confrontation. Remember, in the last decade there’ve been three wars in Gaza. Both sides are saying at the moment that’s not what they want but this is beginning to get dangerously out of control if it continues at this pace and if the casualties begin to mount.”
Notably Usher did not clarify that those “three wars” also took place in Israel.
BBC World Service news bulletin 20:00 GMT 14/7/18
Stewart Macintosh: “Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Israeli air force has carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. The Israeli prime minister said the raids were a response to terrorist actions by Hamas, from whose territory rockets and mortars had been fired into Israel. More details from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”
Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what they called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”
BBC World Service news bulletin 21:00 GMT 14/7/18
Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014.
Voiceover: In consultation with the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Staff and the top security command of the State of Israel, we have decided a strong action against Hamas terrorism. The IDF have struck Hamas with the hardest blow since Operation Protective Edge and we will increase the strength of our attacks as necessary.
He said the raids were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas from whose territory rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel.”
BBC World Service news bulletin 21:30 GMT 14/7/18
Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement comes after the Israeli prime minister said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since 2014. Benjamin Netanyahu said it was in response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas. Two Palestinians were reportedly killed and three Israelis were injured.”
BBC World Service news bulletin 22:00 GMT 14/7/18
Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement by a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. More from Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.”
Bateman: “Israeli fighter jets bombed a high-rise building in the Shati refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel said the building was a training facility for the militant group Hamas. Israel said the wave of airstrikes on Saturday was in response to what it called terror acts at the perimeter fence on Friday and rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. Health officials in Gaza City said two Palestinian teenagers were killed in the airstrikes. Paramedics in the southern Israeli town of Sderot said three civilians were wounded from shrapnel.”
BBC World Service news bulletin 22:30 GMT 14/7/18
Stewart Macintosh: “A spokesman for the Palestinian militant group Hamas says a truce has been agreed with Israeli forces after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However, Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli prime minister said the attacks against militant targets in the Gaza Strip were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”
The first time listeners heard quantification of the missile attacks was seven hours after the story became the lead item.
BBC World Service news bulletin 23:00 GMT 14/7/18
Stewart Macintosh: “Palestinian officials say Israel and militant groups in Gaza have agreed a ceasefire. The announcement from a Hamas spokesman comes after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli air force had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014. From Jerusalem, here’s Tom Bateman.”
Bateman: “An Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City sent plumes of dust and smoke into the afternoon sky. Palestinian health officials said two teenagers were killed, describing them as passers-by when the building was hit. In what amounted to a significant military flare-up, Israel said it targeted 40 sites used by the militant group Hamas while nearly 200 mortars and rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza. Three Israelis were wounded from shrapnel in the town of Sderot. Late in the evening Hamas said it had agreed a ceasefire. Israel said only the facts on the ground would dictate its actions.”
BBC World Service news bulletin 23:30 GMT 14/7/18
Stewart Macintosh: “The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it agreed a truce with Israel after the latest round of clashes in Gaza. However Israel has said only the facts on the ground would dictate its action. The Israeli premier said the attacks against militant targets were a response to what he called terrorist actions by Hamas.”
By midnight GMT the story was no longer the first item in the bulletin. Remarkably, only then did listeners hear of the events which sparked the flare-up, although Bateman failed to clarify that the “15 year-old boy” was climbing the border fence when shot.
BBC World Service news bulletin 24:00 14/7/18 – from 00:57
Stewart Macintosh: “The latest reports from Gaza suggest Palestinian militants and Israeli forces are continuing to exchange fire despite an earlier announcement by Hamas that the two sides had reached a truce. Israel’s military said on Saturday it had carried out its biggest attack against militant targets in the Gaza Strip since the last war there in 2014 as Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem.”
Bateman: “The latest round of hostilities took place amid the simmering tensions at Gaza’s perimeter fence. On Friday Israeli soldiers shot dead a 15 year-old boy, bringing to more than 130 the number of Palestinians killed during regular protests. An Israeli soldier was wounded by a grenade thrown from the fence which appeared in part to trigger the latest airstrikes alongside growing pressure on Mr Netanyahu to respond to daily arson attacks from the Strip involving burning objects attached to kites and helium filled condoms.”
As we see the majority of those BBC World Service news bulletins began by describing Israeli actions, with considerable focus on the theme of the “biggest attack” since 2014. Listeners were not told whether or not the rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip was also the ‘biggest’ since that date.
It is of course difficult to imagine that the BBC would describe groups responsible for firing 200 projectiles in 24 hours into British territory as “militants”: as we have seen in the past the BBC does use the word ‘terror’ to describe attacks on British and European soil. Nevertheless, the double standard employed by the BBC in language when reporting terrorism continues.
Some nineteen hours after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had begun launching a barrage of mortars and rockets at Israeli civilians living in nearby communities in the early hours of July 14th, visitors to the BBC News website were informed that: “Israel deals hardest blow to Hamas”.
That report – headlined “Israel deals ‘hardest blow’ to Hamas since 2014 Gaza war” – appeared on the website’s main homepage as well as its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages and it was amended several times throughout the night with the later version opening:
“Israel has carried out its biggest attack against Hamas militant targets in Gaza since the war in 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.
The raids were a response to rockets fired into Israel, he said. Hamas said a truce had been agreed, but there have been reports of further exchanges.”
BBC audiences were not informed that events spiraled following violent incidents on July 13th during what the report later describes as “mass demonstrations along the border”. The report’s only reference to those incidents is as follows:
“Hamas said another Palestinian had died after being shot by Israeli troops during border protests on Friday.”
The BBC’s report fails to clarify that the youth concerned had been trying to climb the border fence at the time, that another infiltration attempt had taken place or that an IDF officer was wounded in a grenade attack.
Following that violence, a number of Hamas military installations were targeted by Israeli forces, including two attack tunnels which were not mentioned at all in the BBC’s report. At around 01:30 on July 14th terror factions in the Gaza Strip began launching mortars and rockets at Israeli communities and by 6 a.m. at least 31 attackshad been recorded.
The missile attacks continued later in the day, as did the retaliatory strikes on Hamas military installations which were described in the BBC’s report as follows:
“Palestinian health officials said two people were killed and 12 injured in an air strike in Gaza City on Saturday. […]
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had struck facilities used by Hamas, which dominates Gaza, including a battalion headquarters in Beit Lahia, a training camp located in a high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, weapons storage facilities and rocket launchers. […]
Witnesses told Reuters news agency an Israeli strike had hit an empty building in Gaza City and that the casualties were passers-by.”
BBC audiences were not told that the “high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp” – intended to be a library – was used by Hamas as an urban warfare training facility and that a tunnel dug under the building connects to Hamas’ tunnel network.
By 16:30 over a hundred missile attacks had taken place. A children’s playground and several buildings were damaged including a synagogue and a house in Sderot where four members of the family were injured by shrapnel. By late evening the number of missile attacks had risen to over 174 and attacks continued during the night.
The BBC’s report devotes the grand total of 44 words to that side of the story. Although the article was amended five times in the eleven hours following its publication, no effort was made to update the number of missiles fired.
“Three Israelis were hurt by one of more than 90 rockets fired on Israel. […]
The IDF said dozens of rockets had been fired on Israel from within Gaza.
One rocket hit a home in the town of Sderot. Three people suffered shrapnel wounds.”
Only in the ninth version of the report – which appeared around midday local time the next day and some sixteen hours after its initial publication – was an amendment added to reflect the actual number of missiles fired.
“More than 200 projectiles – including rockets and mortars – had been fired into Israel since Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.”
As has been BBC practice since the end of March, readers were provided with casualty figures sourced from Hamas but were not told of that fact or of the terror group’s involvement in organising, facilitating and financing the violent rioting, terror attacks and infiltration attempts that have taken place during the‘Great Return March’. As usual readers were also not informed that over 80% of those killed have been linked to various Gaza Strip based terror factions.
“The attacks come amid an escalation of violence in the region in recent months.
They coincided with mass demonstrations along the border which saw thousands of Palestinians express their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel – as well as demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.
Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.
Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians were killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.
Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist but last year said it was ready to accept an interim Palestinian state limited to Gaza and the West Bank.”
As we see, just as the BBC’s one-sided headline focused audience attentions on Israeli actions, so did the report itself. Remarkably, the BBC News website could not even be bothered to update readers of the first eight versions of the report regarding the correct number of attacks launched against the thousands of Israeli civilians who were forced to spend their weekend in safe rooms and air-raid shelters and the events which triggered the escalation were concealed from audience view.
Readers may recall that last month we took note of a BBC report in which the programme presenter described an Israeli Arab as ‘Palestinian’ even though the person in question had not identified himself as such.
“According to a study carried out last year by the Israel Democracy Institute just 14% of the Arab citizens of Israel define their primary identity as Palestinian. However, even in the contemporary era of race and gender self-identification, one BBC World Service radio presenter appears to have granted himself the prerogative of deciding how Israel’s Arab citizens should be defined.”
That issue arose again in the July 12th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Woman’s Hour’ which included a segment (from 25:48 #play" rel="noopener" target="_blank">here) described in the synopsis thus:
“Writer and cook Yasmin Khan’s travels took her from the olive groves of the West Bank and the fruit markets of Jerusalem to the first micro-brewery in Bethlehem [sic]. While breaking bread with the Palestinian people she learnt about the realities of their everyday lives. Yasmin joins Jenni to Cook the Perfect…Fattoush.”
Despite Fattoush being a dish found across the Middle East, in response to a question in the introduction from presenter Jenni Murray, Khan told listeners that “Fattoush is just a classic Palestinian salad”.
Although the BBC Academy’s style guide instructs that “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”, listeners heard Yasmin Khan make repeated references to ‘Palestine’.
Khan: “…I thought it was so important to try and use food as a way of sharing stories from Palestine…”
Khan:”…in Palestine the olive tree and, you know, olive oil really represents both Palestinian culture, their connection to the land and every Palestinian has an olive tree kind of in their garden…”
“Every Palestinian”? Really?
Listeners also heard Khan’s politically motivated definition of other people’s identities.
Murray: “So where, apart from Jerusalem where you learned how to make this, did your travels around Palestinian kitchens take you?”
Khan: “Well I went all over really. I visited Palestinian communities in the north of Israel in Acre and Haifa […] then I went over to the Galilee…”
Having stated that she “cooked with refugees in Bethlehem” without listeners being told why there are refugees in a place that has been under Palestinian Authority control for well over two decades, Khan went on:
Khan: “And then I even, you know, found time to have a drink with workers at the Taybeh beer factory…”
The Taybeh brewery is, unsurprisingly, located in Taybeh rather than “in Bethlehem” as inaccurately claimed in the programme’s synopsis.
Murray asked: “Alcoholic beer?”
Khan: “Absolutely. I mean 30% of Palestinians are Christian so you know there’s a wonderful wine industry. They make beers, beautiful arak.”
According to the CIA World Factbook just 1 – 2.5% of the population of the ‘West Bank’ are Christians and in the Gaza Strip Christians make up less than 1% of the population. The “wonderful wine industry” in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas is primarily composed of one winery run by the same family that owns the Taybeh brewery and a winery in the Cremisan monastery.
In response to Murray’s question “how do you define yourself what is actually authentically Palestinian?” listeners heard a reply from Khan which steers readers towards the view that “millennia” old Palestinian cuisine predates other “influences”:
Khan: “Well you know Palestinian food has evolved through several millennia of different influences, whether they’re Islamic, Jewish, Roman, Persian, Ottoman.”
Later on they heard the following context-free statement:
Khan: “There is no doubt that Palestinians are going through incredible hardship especially in places like Gaza where, when we talk about food, I mean, you know, 80% of them are dependent on food aid to survive, 90% of the water is undrinkable.”
Near the beginning Murray noted that her guest had “worked as a human rights campaigner for a very long time”. Radio 4 listeners were not however told that Khan previously worked for the anti-Israel NGO ‘War on Want’ and is on record as promoting the BDS campaign against Israel and campaigning for an arms embargo on Israel.
Aired on the day that Khan’s cookery book was published, this item obviously includes political messaging that will come as no surprise to those familiar with Yasmin Khan’s campaigning record. Listeners to ‘Woman’s Hour’ were not however informed that Khan is “associated with a particular viewpoint” as BBC editorial guidelines require and hence were unable to put the politically motivated claims and messaging they heard in an item portrayed as being about food into their appropriate context.
1) The CST’s Dr Dave Rich discusses “The arrogance of Labour’s antisemitism definition“.
“…one-by-one Labour has abandoned the basic principles of anti-racism when it comes to dealing with antisemitism and Jews. Instead of allowing its Jewish MPs and its Jewish affiliate to define antisemitism and lead the fight against it, the Labour leadership insists on doing this for itself. Whereas anti-discrimination law focuses on detrimental outcomes, Labour insists on proof of “anti-Semitic intent”. Consultation with external Jewish leadership bodies ranges from perfunctory to non-existent.
As long as Labour continues with this course of action, its problem of antisemitism will keep getting worse – and Jewish disenchantment with the Party will become ever more entrenched.”
2) UN Watch has published a report titled “The United Nations and Antisemitism: 2008-2017 Report Card“.
“Anti-racism is the defining ideology of the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms. Yet all too often, as documented in this report’s comprehensive examination of the actions of key UN officials, agencies and experts over the past decade, it seems that the UN sees racism everywhere, and antisemitism nowhere. […]
UN plenaries like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, which enact hundreds of resolutions a year, including on subjects related to racial and religious discrimination, failed to address the threat of antisemitism, other than in a few passing words included in general statements. Until 2010, both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council adopted annual resolutions focused on the “defamation of Islam and Muslims,” mandating special reports, yet there was never one resolution to address anti-Jewish hatred and violence.”
3) The FDD has published a report concerning “The Escalation of Conflict between Israel and Iran in War-Torn Syria“.
“Until recently, Israel’s policy in Syria effectively was “Lebanon plus,” geared toward postponing a third Lebanon war by preventing Hezbollah’s acquisition of what Israeli officials call “game-changing” systems, transferred under the fog of war from Iran via Syria. Such systems in the hands of Hezbollah would prevent the Israeli air force or navy from operating with impunity. They are longer-range, more precise missiles capable not only of reaching anywhere in Israel, but also of threatening strategic facilities and installations. […]
More recently, the Israeli approach has widened. The IDF has targeted weapons systems destined to remain in Syria – to be used by Iran or its proxies, in an attempt to establish a new hostile front on Israel’s borders.”
4) At the ITIC, Dr Raz Zimmt profiles “The Owj Arts and Media Organization“.
“The Arts and Media Owj Organization (literally: “climax”) is a non-governmental organization operating in Iran since the spring of 2011. The organization initiates, leads and promotes activity in the spheres of art and culture inspired by the values of the Islamic Revolution and in accordance with the official ideology of the Iranian regime. The Owj organization is tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the content distributed by it is used to promote radical worldviews reflective of the position of the Iranian regime and the revolutionary current in Iran. The productions of the organization reflect a critical position toward the nuclear policy adopted by President Rouhani, deep hostility toward the United States, Israel and recently Saudi Arabia as well. The anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist activism of the organization includes, among other facets, involvement in Holocaust denial and production of movies and television serials that reflect anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic views.”
In recent weeks we have been documenting the BBC’s coverage – or lack of it – of the arson attacks on farmland, woodland and nature reserves adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
As was noted on several occasions during that time:
“Since they began in April, not one BBC Jerusalem bureau reporter has found the time to travel to the border district to report on how the attacks are affecting the people living there.”
Apparently somebody at the BBC also noticed that fact because on July 12th a filmed report by Erica Chernofsky appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “How kites and balloons became militant weapons“.
Although the arson attacks had been going on for three months by the time this video appeared, they were described as a “new threat” in its synopsis. [emphasis added]
“Israelis living close to the border with Gaza face a new threat from Palestinian militants – ‘fire kites’ and balloons.”
In just over half of the two-minute twenty-seven second video viewers hear from Yael Raz Lachiani – spokesperson for Kibbutz Nahal Oz. In the rest they are told by the BBC that:
“Palestinian militants in Gaza are using some unusual weapons to attack Israel. These rudimentary weapons have caused more than 500 fires in the area. The balloons are often made from condoms because of their durability.”
At that point viewers see footage of such a balloon being filled with some sort of gas.
They are not told that the gas is helium and that it is intended to be used for medical purposes – notably MRI machines – or that last month Israel announced that it would “be more critical in assessing the requests made by hospitals and medical facilities in the Gaza Strip to ensure that the gas was being used for the correct purposes and not for arson balloons”.
The video goes on:
“More than 6,000 acres of land have been destroyed by the fires.”
In fact, over a week before this video was published the figure was already over 7,400 acres.
“In Nahal Oz, some 250 acres of wheat fields have been scorched. The damage is estimated to be about $2m (£1.5m). The attacks began amid a period of violence along the border which saw about 120 Palestinians killed.”
No context concerning the pre-planned nature of that “period of violence”, the part played by terror groups in initiating, facilitating and financing it or the fact that over 80% of those “120 Palestinians” were linked to terror factions was provided to viewers, who were then told that:
“The Israeli army has developed drone technology to down the kites but it doesn’t catch them all.”
So finally, after three months of arson attacks, members of the BBC’s audience who happened to visit its website may now have seen one minute and twenty seconds of comment from one resident of the area bordering the Gaza Strip.
On the afternoon of July 11th a Syrian drone infiltrated Israeli airspace.
“A Patriot missile was fired at a Syrian drone that infiltrated 10 kilometers into Israel on Wednesday afternoon, prompting a rocket-alert siren to go off in several communities in the Golan Heights. The IDF intercepted the drone over the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee]. […]
The IDF said that they tailed the drone for 15 minutes after it entered Israel from Syria. […]
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said that the drone was spotted before it entered the demilitarized buffer zone between the two countries.
“We spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle at around 3:20pm flying toward the buffer zone and we followed it. It was spotted before it crossed into the demilitarized zone,” he said.
“We carried out a number of activities to prevent friction and defense activities including calling four war planes and two combat helicopters and we prepared Patriot missile batteries. When we realized that there were optimal conditions, we intercepted the drone using one Patriot missile,” he continued.”
A BBC News website report titled “Syria war: Government attacks IS enclave in south-west” that was published some two and a half hours after the interception included a description of the incident in twenty-six words, none of which clarified that the drone had infiltrated 10 kms into Israel.
“On Wednesday, the Israeli military said it had launched a Patriot missile at a drone launched from Syria, setting off air defence sirens in Israeli communities.”
Readers were also told that:
“The Syrian army’s advance towards the occupied Golan Heights has also alarmed Israeli officials, who believe it may attempt to deploy soldiers along the frontier in defiance of a 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement that created a buffer zone patrolled by UN peacekeepers.”
The relevant fact that UNDOF forces redeployed to the Israeli side of the buffer zone four years ago and no longer carry out their designated mission with regard to Syrian forces was not clarified.
The article continued:
“Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, has deployed hundreds of troops to Syria, ostensibly as advisers to the government. Thousands of Shia militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran have also been battling rebels alongside the Syrian army.
Mr Netanyahu has vowed to stop what he considers Iranian “military entrenchment” in Syria and has ordered a number of air strikes on Iranian facilities.” [emphasis added]
BBC audiences were not informed that, according to pro-Assad sources, Hizballah is “helping to lead a Russian-backed offensive in southern Syria which has left over 250,000 people displaced” or that additional Iranian-handled Shia foreign militias are also taking part in that campaign. Neither were they told that last month Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) deputy commander Hossein Salami said:
“Today an international Islamic army has been formed in Syria, and the voices of the Muslims are heard near the Golan… Orders are awaited, so that the custom of God vis-à-vis the eradication of the evil regime [Israel] will land and the life of this regime will be ended for good. The life of the Zionist regime was never in danger as it is now.” [emphasis added]
When the BBC News website published its July 10th report concerning Israeli actions in light of three months of arson attacks from the Gaza Strip, it also offered readers some background reading.
Titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Life in the Gaza Strip“, that backgrounder first appeared in November 2012, was revamped in July 2014 and has been amended on numerous occasions since then, most recently in May 2018.
In its second paragraph the backgrounder tells BBC audiences that:
“It [the Gaza Strip] is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and between 2007 and 2014 was ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas. They won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 but then had a violent rift with the rival Fatah faction.” [emphasis added]
Obviously those claims are not accurate: the PA does not exercise control over the territory and Hamas rule did not end in 2014.
Readers are then told that:
“When Hamas took over in Gaza, Israel swiftly imposed a blockade on the territory, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. Egypt meanwhile blockaded Gaza’s southern border.”
No mention is made of the fact that the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel after Hamas’ violent coup in Gaza were a response to increased terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
Once again with the relevant issue of Palestinian terrorism concealed from audience view, under the sub-heading ‘Freedom of Movement’ BBC audiences find the following:
“In the north, crossings into Israel at Erez have picked up marginally this year compared with 2017, but remain well below pre-blockade levels due to new restrictions.
Fewer than 240 Palestinians left Gaza via Israel in the first half of 2017, compared with a daily average of 26,000 in September 2000.” [emphasis added]
According to UNOCHA (quoted on a different topic in the same section), during the first half of 2017, 43,009 people crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel via the Erez Crossing. Obviously that BBC claim is inaccurate and grossly misleading. Readers are not told that the cited comparison date “September 2000” was immediately before the second Intifada and – crucially – the launching of countless terror attacks from the Gaza Strip.
The context of terrorism – and the resulting restrictions on the passage of workers from the Gaza Strip into Israel and trade – is likewise absent from the backgrounder’s section titled “Economy”.
“Gaza is significantly poorer than it was in the 1990s. Its economy grew only 0.5% in 2017 according to a World Bank report, with annual income per person falling from $2,659 in 1994 to $1,826 in 2018.”
A subsection titled “Population” informs BBC audiences that:
“Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world. On average, some 5,479 people live on every square kilometre in Gaza. That’s expected to rise to 6,197 people per square kilometre by 2020.
The number of people living there is expected to hit 2.2 million by the end of the decade, and 3.1 million by 2030.”
There are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places in the world with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, an accompanying map shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.
In a section sub-titled “Health” the BBC once again disseminates inaccurate and misleading claims.
“Access to public health services has worsened due to border restrictions. […]
Exit passes through Israel have also dropped in recent years, with approvals for medical reasons dropping from 93% in 2012 to 54% in 2017.
Moreover, drugs, supplies and equipment are all restricted because of the blockade – including dialysis machines and heart monitors.”
As has been noted here on previous occasions, the restrictions placed on the import of dual-use goods (i.e. items which can be used for terrorist purposes) to the Gaza Strip do not apply to medical supplies. The party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which last year exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel.
The backgrounder goes on:
“A recent fuel shortage for generators has also affected medical services. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says three hospitals and ten medical centres have suspended services due to a lack of power.”
It is of course the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for the fuel and power shortages in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services but the BBC’s backgrounder implies that too is attributable to “border restrictions” – i.e. Israeli counter-terrorism measures.
While a section titled “Power” includes an interestingly punctuated link to a 2017 report billed “PA ‘stops paying for Gaza electricity'”, the backgrounder itself does not clarify that in 2011 Hamas elected to discontinue the purchase of fuel from Israel for Gaza’s power plant, instead relying on an erratic supply via smuggling tunnels which were later destroyed by Egypt or that internal disagreements between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas resulted in an exacerbation of the power crisis in the Gaza Strip during 2017.
Similarly, a section titled “Water and sanitation” fails to inform BBC audiences that sewage pipes in the Gaza Strip were used to make rockets, that new supplies of pipes transported in by Israel were diverted for the same purpose rather than being used to solve the Gaza Strip’s sanitation problems or that the electricity crisis exacerbated by the dispute between the PA and Hamas has also seriously affected sewage treatment and water supply.
Obviously this ‘backgrounder’ does not give BBC audiences an accurate and impartial view of the reasons why “life in the Gaza Strip” is as it is. The BBC’s failure to report impartially on Hamas’ responsibility for the deterioration of conditions in the Gaza Strip – brought about by its putting continued terrorism against Israeli civilians at a higher level of priority than taking care of the population’s welfare – clearly means that this backgrounder is not fit for purpose and does not meet the BBC’s public purpose of helping audiences understand “issues across…the world”.