Saturday 15 November 2014

The BBC and half the story

Is the BBC News website the worst UK media outlet when it comes to reporting Israel? Does it even out-Guardian the Guardian sometimes? 

Well, here (in its entirety) is an article published on the BBC News website yesterday: 
A Norwegian doctor has been permanently banned from entering the Gaza Strip by the Israeli government.
Dr Mads Gilbert says he was stopped trying to cross into Gaza in October. He called the move "totally unacceptable".
Israel cited security reasons for imposing the ban.
Dr Gilbert has treated patients in Gaza for more than a decade. He worked at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City during the 50-day summer conflict.
He told the BBC he had never broken any Israeli rules during his spells working in Gaza.
But he suggested that his open reporting of the medical situation in the territory had angered the Israeli authorities.
"The fundamental reason for the ill health of the population in Gaza is of course the siege and the bombing," he said.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, described Dr Gilbert as a "Jekyll and Hyde" figure, hiding behind a cloak of being a humanitarian doctor.
He said an investigation was under way into Dr Gilbert and that the decision would be reviewed.
The Norwegian foreign ministry has said it will challenge the ban.
In July, Dr Gilbert was one of the co-signatories in a strongly-worded letter denouncing Israeli action in Gaza, published in the medical journal, the Lancet.
He also described scenes in the Shifa Hospital this summer as the worst he had ever seen.
With BBC online articles about Israel it's always advisable to Google around in order to see what they've missed out. So what have they missed out here (if anything)?

Well, the BBC report simply describes Dr Gilbert as a "doctor" and emphasises his medical role in Gaza. That makes him sound like a disinterested medic simply saying what he sees, however inconvenient it may be for Israel. It also makes his banning by Israel appear unjustified. 

The Independent, however, reveals another side to Mads Gilbert. Whilst acknowledging that he's a trauma surgeon the paper also describes him as a "far-left political activist", and adds:
Dr Gilbert is on the left-wing fringe in Norway. In 2001, he told Dagbladet that the 9/11 attacks in the US were a result of decades of Western foreign policy and that he supported terrorist attacks against the US in that “context”.
Why did the BBC not tell us that? It's highly relevant, isn't it? It puts into context the otherwise inexplicable comment in the BBC article from the Israeli spokesman describing him as a "Jekyll and Hyde" figure, "hiding behind a cloak of being a humanitarian doctor". 

The BBC then says,  
Dr Gilbert was one of the co-signatories in a strongly-worded letter denouncing Israeli action in Gaza, published in the medical journal, the Lancet.
The Independent, however, adds 
He also joined with two other doctors, who it later turned out had endorsed an anti-Semitic video, in writing an “Open Letter for the people of Gaza” that was published in The Lancet in August. 
That endorsement of an anti-Semitic video by those two other doctors caused something of a storm. Why didn't the BBC mention that either? Or that the editor of the Lancet later expressed his regrets about publishing the letter, saying it "did not convey the level of complexity that is the reality in Israel"?

When you learn all this - that an anti-Israel activist from the Norwegian Maoist ‘Red’ party who justified the 9/11 attacks and openly said that he supported terrorism in the light of U.S. foreign policy has been banned by Israel from visiting Gaza - then Israel's decision to ban him becomes easier to understand.

That ease of understanding was certainly not helped by the BBC News website.

UPDATE 17/11: And to demonstrate that the Guardian can in turn out-BBC the BBC, here's CiF Watch blasting that very paper from doing pretty much what the BBC was doing here: Guardian omits key context in quote by Israel spokesman about Mads Gilbert.  


  1. I thought the name "Mads Gilbert" sounded familiar, so I did a quick search.

    Alan at B-BBC discussed a previous appearance in BBC coverage.

    Turns out he has been accused of faking a child's death on behalf of Palliwood propaganda. He's clearly an advocate for the cause, not No wonder the BBC respects him.

    1. BBC Watch has transcribed part of a BBC World Service programme. The presenter introduced the interview with him like this:

      “Now, people who listen regularly to ‘Outside Source’ may be familiar with the name Mads Gilbert. He’s a Norwegian doctor who has spoken to us lots on the programme and he’s been told he’s been banned from Gaza for the foreseeable future over Israeli government claims he poses a security threat. Dr Gilbert’s been travelling to Gaza to treat patients for over 15 years and he told Outside Source’s Louise Webster what had happened.”

      I bet he's spoken to them "lots".

    2. Has the good Mads Doctor ever spoken to the BBC from one of those Israeli hospitals where they treat tens of thousands of Palestinians for free? Answers on a grain of Gazan sand.....


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