Monday 16 July 2018


I hope I’m not turning into one of those people who think anyone they disagree with shouldn’t be allowed to air their views on the BBC. You know, the sort of no-platforming that Israel-bashers wish upon persons with the temerity to speak for Israel. Mark Regev used to draw a lot of that when he was the spokesman for the Israeli government. The very sound of his name or the sight of his face drew avalanches of indignant letters of complaint insisting that ‘having him on’ was just wrong.
So now here’s a slightly similar complaint about Chris Gunness of UNRWA. 

There were two occasions in one single edition of the Today Programme. (Today) here and here, where Gunness was given the opportunity to vent his spleen.

The first time, at about seven thirty am, took the form of a conversation between Mr. Gunness and John Humphrys, and the second, at around ten minutes to nine, was a repeat of a chunk of Gunness’s agitated rant followed by a conversation between Justin Webb and Lt-Col Peter Lerner.

The reason I object to hearing Chris Gunness's lengthy, emotional and uninterrupted rant is that he has significant 'history', which should really have discredited him in the eyes of both the UN and the BBC.  We’ve written extensively about this over the years, (both myself and Alan formerly of the Biased-BBC website) and we’ve linked to various articles that set out the case against exBBC employee Gunness.

He is incapable of giving an impartial or a rational account of anything to do with the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Not only does he have a visceral hatred of Israel, but he has lied about protecting Hamas’s habit of secreting weapons on UNWRA premises. His favourite mantra is that Israel is guilty of committing war crimes. It’s very tiresome to hear him doing the same old thing, over and over again. The following excerpts are from Tom Gros's Mideast Dispatch Archive, c 2014
“But what the BBC and many other media are failing to tell their audiences is that earlier today – under pressure from Israel and the U.S. – the UN agency UNRWA admitted that 20 Hamas rockets (of the kind used to kill Israeli civilians) have been stored at an UNRWA school in Gaza. This is, of course, not news to people who follow the region closely – Hamas has for years stored its arsenals, and fired rockets at Israel, from hospitals, schools, ambulances, mosques and the like, in multiple breaches of international law. It’s just that journalists for many western news outlets deliberately don’t tell their audiences this. 
UNRWA is the western-funded, Gaza-based, primarily Palestinian-staffed agency which supplies very dubious figures about the number of civilian deaths in Gaza (classifying some militants as civilians) – figures which are then unquestionably accepted and rebroadcast by many in the international media, such as the New York Times, without any regard for UNRWA’s past track record of libeling Israel. 
Today’s statement, which UNRWA took a full 24 hours to release, while robust, is less than fully truthful. 
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness is a British citizen, who previously worked for 23 years as a foreign correspondent and in senior editorial positions at the BBC and has a decades-long record of bias against Israel. Gunness is close friends with the BBC’s notoriously anti-Israel “chief Middle East correspondent” Jeremy Bowen.”

I have previously outlined on this website the concoctions of the well-funded UN body UNRWA which have resulted in defamations of Israel and physical attacks on Jews in many different countries around the world. 
For example, UNRWA has now admitted that their claim that Israel shelled a school in Gaza in January and killed 32 Palestinian civilians is completely false. The shell in question, it turns out, was in response to Palestinian mortar fire at civilians in Israel and killed nine Palestinian adults, none of whom were in the school. Seven of those killed were armed operatives and two were civilians. 
The sensational and false claims of UNRWA led to headlines around the world such as “UN accuses Israel of herding 110 Palestinians into a house then shelling it, leaving 30 dead” (London Daily Mail Online UK, Jan 9 2009 11:59AM GMT). 
The false reports led to anti-Israel riots and attacks on Jews in all six continents of the world.

Now, it turns out that Chris Gunness, the UNWRA spokesman who went on several different international TV networks in January to accuse Israel of “war crimes” on account of the supposed school incident, is in fact a former BBC journalist and a close colleague of the BBC’s notoriously anti-Israel Chief Jerusalem Correspondent Jeremy Bowen. 
In a diary article which Jeremy Bowen posted on BBC online, he states:
“I just broke off writing for a couple of minutes to take a call from Chris Gunness, who is the spokesman for Unrwa, the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees.
“He was ringing to say that Unrwa wanted an investigation into whether Israel has committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Civilians are protected by the laws of war.
“I have known Chris for years, as he used to be a BBC foreign correspondent. He wanted to make sure that we knew he was using the phrase for the first time. He said that the attack this morning on a UN school in Gaza looked as if it was a war crime.”

I revealed Gunness’ close friendship with Bowen in a dispatch in 2009, here
Nor is the BBC finding space in its attacks on Israel this hour, to mention that Israel thwarted a major terror attack this morning involving 13 Hamas gunmen who infiltrated into Israel by underground tunnel from Gaza.


I think I can rest my case. Back to this morning.
During the first airing of Gunness’s diatribe, we were treated to a selective description of the incident in which two UNWRA pupils were killed. He did not mention what brought about this airstrike, which, to listeners who may still be unaware of recent events, must at first have appeared callous and completely unprovoked. 

He proceeded to pose a list of hypothetical scenarios, inviting us to ‘imagine”  - “how you’d feel it if this (that and the other) happened in London.” In his eyes, the intolerable provocation that drew Israel’s belated retaliation simply. Hadn’t. Happened. He appears to be blind to it. He’s managed to excise it from his consciousness. A psychological deficiency no doubt; very sad for him and all that, but his inherent unreliability needs to be taken into account, especially if you’re calling upon him to make a credible contribution to the Today Programme.

John Humphrys took it upon himself to put Israel’s case on behalf of a spokesperson for the Israeli government who had pulled out of the interview, making it clear that he was able to do so because he “knew what Israel would say” and “has said”, lest any listener might mistakenly assume his interjections represented his own views.
As well as implying that the Gaza protests were peaceful, Gunness indicated that Gaza is “occupied” both of which he must know to be false. Both misleading implications remained unchallenged by Humphrys.  

Humphrys said that Israel would reject ”an independent and transparent investigation,” which is what Gunness is calling for - because "the international community hates us because we’re Israel”.  Although Humphrys made that claim sound far-fetched and a bit ridiculous, it was probably the most accurate assessment of reality that we heard during the whole conversation.

Next, Tom Bateman was brought in to tell us what the Israelis are saying about the situation, and he took up the offer - literally -  sprinkling his summary of recent events with the qualifier “Israel says”, which is the BBC’s unsubtle way planting seeds of doubt about Israel’s account of an incident and  dissociating their opinion from Israel’s at the same time.

Shortly before the end of the programme - I think it was the penultimate item, they again played a part of Chris Gunness’s speech - the bit in which he invites the listener to “imagine”. It’s a recording, so there was no chance to interact with or further challenge the speaker.However, Justin Webb got to do that with Lt-Col Peter Lerner. Without feeling the need to ask the listeners to imagine anything, he stated that Israel has been subjected to over two hundred rockets and mortars launched from Gaza.
So, let’s use the ‘imagine’ scenario for ourselves. Imagine you’re living in an Israeli town or kibbutz near the Gaza border.  Imagine hearing the chilling sound of a siren at any time of the day or night, knowing you have just a few seconds to rush your family into a bomb shelter. 

That’s enough of that. Justin was keen to put Chris Gunness’s point to Lerner - that killing children “is not a proportionate response”. You cannot allow your ability to defend yourself to be constrained because of your enemy’s cynical exploitation of children was the gist of his reply. If Hamas wanted to protect their children they shouldn’t have placed their facilities in or fired from densely populated areas. They were warned. 

Listen to Peter Learner, listen to Justin Webb’s responses, and note the irritable way he abruptly brought the interview to an end.

Maybe you didn’t realise that hundreds of ‘contraptions’ and incendiary balloons have been launched from Gaza recently, sending families into shelters, scorching acres of farmland and injuring three Israeli civilians. Fire-balloons have scorched 7,500 acres of land in Israel. Admittedly, ”no Israelis have been killed“ or hurt badly enough to satisfy the likes of Mishal Husain when she infamously demanded an unspecified number of Israeli fatalities before considering there was a case for retaliation.

On the BBC’s Middle East web page, there are a series of video reports. One is about ‘terror kites’ and another is titled: “Gaza’s deadliest day of violence” and a there's a particularly one-sided ‘backgrounder’ by Paul Adams called “Gaza, the history behind the anger.

The selective omissions in his narrative are clearly crafted to coax the viewer towards perceiving the Palestinians as victims of a cruel and undeserved injustice. The passive-aggressive undertone implies that Israel is to blame. Here’s a transcription

“What are the people of Gaza so angry about? What would make so many young men risk their lives along the border with Israel? Israel says they are being manipulated and controlled by the militant Islamist group Hamas, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s a strip of land about 40 km long and 10 km wide along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel. The question of who controls it is complicated. It’s run by the Palestinians but Israel controls almost all the borders.” 
How did we get here? asks the caption. 
“Egypt controlled it after the 1948 war and the creation of Israel. Then, in another war in 1967 Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank. Pretty soon Israeli settlers moved in there and set up their own communities. They stayed there until 2005 when Israel finally decided to pull them out of Gaza, along with its soldiers. 
Who runs Gaza now? says the caption 
“Well, Hamas have been in charge for the past decade, following fighting with their more moderate rivals Fatah in 2007. The two sides have tried more than once to bury the hatchet, but the deals have always fallen apart, and so Hamas is still in control. 
What’s life like inside Gaza? questions another caption. 
“With a population of about 1.8 million people, it’s one of the most densely populated places on earth. Most of those who live here are descendants of people who fled or were driven from their homes in 1948. Many of them still live in refugee camps and after 70 years they still yearn for their homes across the fence in Israel. They describe the Gaza strip as the world’s largest open-air prison. It’s been under Israeli land, air and sea blockade ever since Hamas took over. Egypt also strictly controls its border. There are shortages of water and power, dangerously high unemployment and very little freedom to travel outside. 
How often do conflicts break out? the next caption wonders.
“Every few years it seems there’s an explosion of violence. Three major Israeli military operations since 2008 triggered in part by rockets fired into Israeli towns and cities by Hamas. Each time Israeli forces have invaded using overwhelming firepower and killing large numbers of Palestinians. Israel regards any attempt to storm the border or break holes in the fence as a red line. The government has repeatedly warned that anyone attempting to break through into Israel to commit acts of violence risks being shot dead, but Israeli human rights groups and the UN have said that the threat of violence does not in itself excuse the use of lethal force.

Context-free and juvenile, with barely a mention of militant Islam. In the BBC’s world, these wars ‘just happen’, most Israelis are ‘settlers’, Gaza is “One of the most densely populated places on earth” where old Palestinian crones waving gigantic keys  “yearn for their homes”. Too bad. Shouldn’t have started the war, shouldn’t have fled, shouldn’t have rejected Israel, shouldn’t have expelled the Jews from majority Islamic countries, shouldn’t have elected Hamas.

And the reporting!  Not just the BBC, of course.  More, the “international community.” No wonder the Israelis think they hate us “Because we’re Israel”. 


  1. The British media's deliberate distortion of events relating to Israel and the Palestinians amount to an anti-semitic hate crime.

  2. I heard the seemingly unbalanced Gunness "venting his spleen" has you accurately put it. It wasn't the kind of cool analysis one would hope UN staff would bring to the table. It was emotive stuff...the stuff of pro-Pal demos, Labour fringe conferences and...well...the BBC. I always wonder how we would respond if someone lobbed a few missiles at us from the Northern coast of France. I doubt our response would be too picky. The conflict could stop tomorrow if the Arab-Islamic side recognised Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

  3. I’m glad you mentioned "the occupation of Gaza" as I thought I might have misheard it this morning. Gunnes spewed out a lengthy diatribe of bile against Israel containing outright falsehoods, completely unchallenged and uninterrupted. This by BBC standards is apparently okay. Is it surprising that Israeli spokespeople are now reluctant to be interviewed by BBC journalists, when they know that every single point they raise, however valid will be treated with undisguised contempt? They have probably come to the obvious conclusion that it’s a waste of time.


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