“UN disputes Gaza strike on BBC man’s house.” That was the header above Jon Donnison’s attempt to rationalise his latest unverified accusation against Israel and the dissemination thereof.
I’m dismissing it as “rubbish”. In fact I’ll make that The Heading.
Why dismiss it as rubbish, I hear you plead. For one thing, the caption: Jehad Mashhrawi's 11-month-old son Omar was killed in the attack on his house in Gaza, is still in place, though everyone but Jon Donnison and his fellow travellers now accept that it is most unlikely that there was an “attack”, at least not a deliberate one, and not by Israel.
Then there was the subheading within the piece, near the top: “Rubbish”. Why? Because way down the paragraph, “rubbish’ is cherry-picked from a quote from Jehad (formerly known as Jihad) Mashrawi, dismissing the UN findings as such. That was worth quoting, Jon, wasn’t it? Worth a whole subheading, obviously. I wonder which copy editor thought of using that particular one, and why, but it’s a good idea, if you want to get a message across. I like it.
Teflon-coated Jon Donnison has a habit of making reckless Tweets. His Twitter blunders are legendary, yet he appears to be indestructible. I wonder why.
As a general policy, do all the BBC’s Middle East reporters conspire with the editorial staff back home, frantically bashing out blue-sky ideas for spin, and creative, outside the box strategies for damage limitation, just like the in The Thick Of It.? What shall we say and how shall we say it?
At any rate, someone somewhere has decided to add an “Israel says” to whatever any Israeli spokesperson ever says, so the BBC can be seen to be fair for reporting Israel’s case while simultaneously casting doubt on the veracity of it. Someone somewhere has chosen to give the Palestinians plenty of ‘verbatim’, and some copy editor or other has managed to select the appropriate sub heading for maximum subliminal effect, and perhaps another higher up the chain has decreed that some random statistics about disproportionality are tacked on to any and every piece of news at any and every opportunity.
So in a short sharp war - provoked, don’t forget, by continual acts of aggression by the Palestinians, a baby is killed. The victim’s father is one of the many Palestinians on the BBC payroll. He’s variously described as a photo editor, a cameraman, a journalist, a colleague, no-one seems quite sure, but knowing him personally makes this tragic incident seem all the more poignant and moving. So much so that blaming Israel is a done deal. No problemo. Any other scenario is unthinkable. Who, but a rabid Zionist would dare object?
He Only Knew How To Lie.
Donnison knows what effect his propagandistic emoting has, as he calls that image “iconic”. Like the al-Dura image, which was the catalyst for so much violence and anger, it was a deception. An image, not of reality, but symbolic; for some, that’s all it needed to be. Jon Donnison is a professional, so his grief doesn’t get in the way of his journalistic integrity, and he hastily produces a mawkish article entitled “He Only Knew How To Smile”. Apologies for ridiculing that title, but it kind of begs for it. Sorry sorry , but I can’t help bouncing it back. “He only knew how to lie,” says a voice in my head.
Pleased with his effort, he fires off a Tweet with a link to the BBC webpage that bears the emotive piece of journalism.
He knew how to lie perhaps, but not how to Tweet. The tinyurls got in a muddle, and he inadvertently linked, with one click, not to the intended ‘He Only Knew How To etc., but to a blog that had also examined the tragic incident. Elder of Ziyon no less. Fancy that. Now we know that Donnison reads Elder, ignorance of the counter argument is no longer an excuse for one-sided reporting. In his article ‘Elder’ explained precisely why the conclusion was anything but foregone. He even suggested that circumstantial evidence rather indicated that responsibility for the death of baby Omar lay at the hands of one of those harmless rockets, which Hamas are known to have cobbled together from old bits of wire and chewing gum.
Before Donnison could correct it, an eagle-eyed viewer had captured the rogue tweet and blogged it on the Israelly Cool blog, thereby exposing the probability that Donnison was already well aware of the dubious nature of the case against Israel, but had chosen to dismiss the inconvenient factoids and fire his accusation regardless, sending it into cyberspace to be digested, regurgitated and implanted into the brains of the baying mob.
Donnison’s immediate lunge for excuses of the kind he and his cohorts dismissed out of hand when they were justifiably made to dispute the Goldstone Report mark one was pure irony; he pleads that much of the initial evidence was gathered a) belatedly, b) was hearsay, and c) was taken from partial witnesses at face value. Perhaps, like Goldstone, the UN will backtrack. Who knows.
For additional ammunition Donnison cites various quotes from ‘the family’ and ‘human rights groups’, Israel’s lack of a denial, and finally if not definitively, a fanciful concept; the absence of Hamas’s ‘usual apology’.
If the absence of Hamas’s usual apology has certain implications for Jon Donnison, what are the implications of the absence of another even more fanciful concept, the lack of the BBC’s “usual” apology?