Thursday 26 March 2015

Why the BBC's biased coverage of Israel matters

The Times reported today that Amnesty International (famously no supporter of Israel) has accused Hamas of being responsible for the deaths of 11 Gazan children at the Al-Shati refugee camp on July 28, 2014:
Misfired Hamas rockets’ killed children in Gaza
A rocket salvo that killed 11 Gazan children and hit a hospital on a Muslim religious holiday was the work of Palestinian militants hitting their own people, a report has found, in a damning indictment of Hamas’s conduct during last summer’s war with Israel.
The explosion at the Al-Shati refugee camp on July 28, which killed the children buying sweets on the first day of Eid ul Fitr, was the result of misfired rockets by Hamas, Amnesty International concluded.
Hamas blamed Israel for the bombing at the time, but a relation of one of dead child said that Palestinian militants went to the scene and tried to hide the evidence of their involvement.
“I saw the body of the rocket [and] I knew it was a local one,” the family member told The Times. “Some people came and hid it on the spot — however, it was really hot.”
He said that he held Hamas, as governors of Gaza, responsible but that no one from the group had ever visited the family or apologised. Two adults also died and another 19 were injured. 
That tragedy was widely blamed on Israel at the time, despite the Israeli government's prompt offering of counter-evidence absolutely refuting the claim.

Amnesty has now endorsed the Israeli government's version. 

As BBC Watch notes, the impact of this one news story - extensively reported on the media outlet that most British people use to get their news, the BBC - was so strong that the CST noted a spike in UK anti-Semitic attacks in its immediate aftermath. 

Did the BBC help create that anti-Semitic zeitgeist?

That's quite a charge, but it's a reasonable one to make.

Please judge for yourselves by watching this short BBC report from Ian Pannell - a report I remember seeing at the time: 

If anyone wants a single concrete example of BBC News being blatantly biased against Israel - and why that matters - I'd say that report provides it.

It's a piece of flagrantly emotional reporting: suffering children, suffering parents, suffering BBC reporter. It's unequivocally one-sided. It amplifies Palestinian claims - and downright lies - without questioning them. It fails to provide any context. It avoids wondering if Hamas intimidation might lie behind some of the claims against Israel. It seeks to undermine the Israeli case by (a) not giving it and (b) featuring Palestinian voices sneering at it.

Its reporter clearly believes that Israel did it. And he didn't hold back on projecting that feeling, did he?

Frankly, it's just an awful piece of reporting - made all the more awful by being so moving.

And, given its prominence, lots and lots of British people will have seen it. And lots of British people would have been appalled by it. And lots of British people will have blamed Israel for it. And some may have gone on anti-Israel protests because of it. And some may even have attacked Jewish targets (here in the UK) because of it.

Re-watching that report now, several months on, knowing what we now know (and which many knew at the time), doesn't this show that the BBC's reporting of Israel is clearly, demonstrably faulty and irresponsible?


P.S. Unusually, the BBC's most Israel-unfriendly Twitter users seem very quiet about Amnesty's report and the media's coverage of it today. Jon Donnison is clearly keeping his counsel. So is Jeremy Bowen. Where are they?


  1. It's odd. Continual references to a 'rocket'. Who, there, uses 'rockets'? Especially ones that don't seem too fussed about arriving unannounced in kids' playgrounds.

    The BBC's record with un-researched visual imagery and local PR versions not great really. That first day cease fire break was by who now?

    Jon Donnison is I believe currently paddling an iceberg to Vanuatu in case any of the locals still chugging salt water per his daft report need some to mix their Margartias.

  2. The report in full.

    It’s no good crowing over Amnesty International’s belated acknowledgment that Hamas is guilty of war crimes. The current report does document Hamas’s violations of international law, but it also announces a further report, in which they promise to focus on Israel’s war crimes. So it’s too soon for schadenfreude.
    It doesn’t go very far, and some bloggers believe it’s still heavily biased against Israel.

    It has to be a case of small mercies. Beggars can’t be choosers.

    However, this report does come closer to admitting the truth than expected, and what’s more the BBC has even reported it.

    The trouble is that when Amnesty International was cosying up to Moazzam Begg and ostracizing Ghita Sahgal and spewing out torrents of anti-Israel rhetoric, we denounced it good and proper. So now, when it seems to suit us, how can we genuinely cite it and give it credence?
    However - I’d like to put in a word for some gratifyingly thorough, meticulous research the investigators carried out, which demonstrates how important it is that investigations of this sort must never rely on hearsay or testimony taken at face value. See pages 51 - 54 of the AI PDF.

    A naively trusting attitude and bad practice led to the flawed Goldstone report (mark 1) maybe A I learned a lesson from that? Or perhaps the lesson they learned was to keep the bias under several layers of subterfuge. They might not want to have to retract any of it at a later date

  3. They're talking amongst themselves wondering how the Jews fixed it. This goes against everything they claim.

  4. The way the intervention of Saudi Arabia (an undemocratic, oppressive kleptocracy) in Yemen is being reported is instructive. So understanding! None of the emoting you get with Gazan deaths.

    The Yemen land conflict will now provide a useful point of comparison from here on in.

  5. Your readers may be interested in one of Radio 4's many libels on its Sunday morning programme "Broadcasting House" which I personally felt was a turning point in propaganda against Israel and this was January 2004 ! - not least because of the highly emotional fabricated report was endorsed so emphatically by its presenter. . and

  6. The "understanding" approach to Saudi intervention in Yemen continues on the BBC.

    When do we ever here the Israeli position properly explained? You might hear about the Israelis being "fearful" of Hamas's rockets (implication only a result of their own "intransigence"), but you never hear about Israelis as being outraged by Hamas's genocidal anti-Jewish constitution.

    But Saudi Arabia is getting a free pass. It's being described almost as a normal state when anyone who knows anything about it knows it is a kleptocracy and one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.

  7. Oh yeah and Bowen - rather than using the obvious analogy for the Sunni v Shia divide in European history i.e. the wars of religion of the 16th and 17th century, used the analogy of 19th century "nationalism". Really!

    One does wonder about such motivation because viewing Sunni and Shia loyalty as a form of nationalism can only mislead.


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