BBC’s Jon Donnison grades damage in Gaza and Israel

Here is a rather tired looking – but no less dramatic – Jon Donnison presenting a BBC television news report on Sunday November 18th 2012. 

The one and a half-minute report opens with footage from the Gaza Strip which continues for the first 57 seconds of the report. Donnison narrates: [emphasis added]

“There have been brief moments of calm here. [Sound of an explosion] They never last for long.

This morning and overnight Israel once again pounded Gaza with attacks.

Among the buildings targeted – this one, and another, where local and foreign journalists are based. Several were wounded and one lost a leg. Israel says they were aiming at Hamas communication equipment.”

Donnison of course fails to mention that some of the journalists using the building are Hamas employees – staff of its two TV stations – and that the building’s communication facilities were being used to direct terror activities, which makes it a legitimate military target. 

Donnison continues:

“The number of injured and dead across Gaza is mounting. Emergency services are at full stretch. Hospitals are struggling to cope.”

Here it is worth noting that if his Twitter feed is anything to go by, Jon Donnison appears to get a lot of his information regarding casualties from the Gaza Health Ministry, which is of course Hamas run: a fact liable to make any information it gives worth double checking. Whilst the number of casualties is indeed rising on both sides of the border, one point of interest worth noting is that we have no information whatsoever on how many of the civilian dead and injured in the Gaza Strip are the result of missiles falling short. 

The EU’s Gaza NGO Safety Office (GANSO) usually reports on the number of HMRs – home-made rockets, as they rather bizarrely term them – which fail to cross into Israel after having been fired from the Gaza Strip. As we know, the local population in Gaza frequently suffers injury and even death from these short falls. 

For instance, for the period October 14th to November 1st, GANSO reported 10 Grad missiles and 122 HMRs fired, of which 14 fell short. However, since the commencement of Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’, whilst still reporting the numbers of all types of projectiles launched, GANSO has ceased listing short falls. 

It is of course unreasonable to presume that since last Wednesday afternoon missiles fired from the Gaza Strip have all of a sudden miraculously stopped falling short. In fact the IDF estimates that over 100 have done so in the past five days. But of course any injuries or deaths which have occurred due to that factor will be attributed to Israeli actions by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry – a fact which Donnison chooses to ignore.  

Donnison goes on:

“Israel again ramped up its operation last night. Not only were there attacks coming in from the air, but also from the sea. Israeli warships pounding northern Gaza with artillery rounds.”

The report then cuts to footage filmed in Israel of people running.

“And in Israeli cities people were again scrambling to reach the bomb shelters. After an eight-hour break which had led some to hope for a ceasefire, rocket fire resumed.”

Note that rocket fire is ‘resumed’: it does not “pound” Israel.

The visuals then cut to images of a damaged car, with Donnison saying:

The damage inflicted is not on the same scale. But on both sides civilians are suffering.”

The total footage filmed in Israel amounts to 20 seconds. 

Had Donnison so chosen, he could have found much more representative images than a damaged car, even taking into account that unlike Hamas, Israel intentionally does not make use of gory or graphic pictures for propaganda purposes.

Had he wished, he could have pointed out that Israel has actually made concious efforts to reduce damage and that – unlike civilians in Gaza – Israelis have air raid shelters and safe rooms which limits the number of casualties. He could have mentioned the early warning systems and the Iron Dome Missile interception system which also reduces the number of injured and fatalities. He could even have mentioned another contributing factor: the fact that Israelis do not store weaponry in their homes and the IDF does not fire from residential areas.  

He could – and should – have made it clear that in contrast to the Israeli strikes on terrorist targets and infrastructure, in Israel it is civilians and they alone who are targeted by the terrorists’ missiles. 

Residents of building hit by direct rocket strike in Ashkelon take cover in a bomb shelter.

(Photo credit )

The report then cuts back to more footage from Gaza, with Donnison’s voice-over concluding:

“Back in Gaza, Israel is showing its military strength and there is no end in sight.”

So there you have it: twenty seconds of a ninety second report filmed in Israel and audiences told that it’s nowhere near as bad there as it is in Gaza.

Beyond the obvious fact that Donnison’s reporting is neither accurate nor impartial, there is a wider aspect to this. He is far from the only BBC journalist to do it, but the fact that he cynically makes the results of the vast Israeli investment in protection for its civilians (at the expense of other factors such as free or subsidised higher education, for example) work against Israelis says an awful lot. 

In the past few days we have seen several BBC reporters and presenters tapping in to the kind of clownish arguments frequently used by anti-Israel campaigners such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who regularly make use of banal statistics such as the number of Israeli dead as ‘proof’ of their unfounded claims of ‘disproportionality’. Here, Donnison is doing the same with ‘damage’. 

Whilst one expects nothing better from campaigning propagandists, one may reasonably expect that ‘expert analysis’ costing an obligatory £145.50 per annum would extend beyond the type of trite post-modernist, one-dimensional declarations put forward by placard-carrying demonstrators on London’s streets. 

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