A report entitled “Gaza separated by destroyed bridge” by Lyse Doucet on November 21st – appearing on the BBC News website and also apparently broadcast on television news programmes – is an example of the all too prevalent phenomenon of reporting an event without placing it in the proper context.
“We’ve come to the main coastal road in the Gaza Strip to try to find some of the evidence of last night’s intensive shelling and bombardment by the Israeli forces and look what we found. This main bridge connecting north and central Gaza with the south…. is completely destroyed and that means that people who live on the southern edge, towards the Egyptian border in refugee camps or in major towns such as Khan Yunis, are effectively cut off from the rest of the Gaza Strip.
People have been arriving here talking on their telephones to people on the other side, saying “I simply have no way to get to you” ‘cos look, look what’s left – this pile of rubble – after last night’s blistering attack.
And Gazans have seen this before. During the last Israeli invasion of 2008 and 9, the Gaza Strip was effectively cut into three and bridges like this were also destroyed then.
Which is why people here say “well, there’s all this talk of a ceasefire” while on the ground, the intensive bombardment and shelling continues. They also see rockets being fired out of Gaza into southern Israel. [Sound of unidentified explosion] There you go: another explosion here. So while there’s talk of a truce, it doesn’t look and sound different on the ground.”
It sounds awful, doesn’t it? In fact the impression Doucet gives is one of wanton destruction, solely designed to make the lives of Palestinians trying to get from A to B more difficult.
Now of course I, like Lyse Doucet, have absolutely no idea why that specific bridge was targeted, but nevertheless it would have been relevant for her to mention that – as is well known – the main point of entry for weapons to the Gaza Strip is the many smuggling tunnels located on that “southern edge” she mentions and that the bridge could therefore be on a route used to transport weaponry.
It would also have been relevant to put that specific road in context as far as alternative routes between the south of the Gaza Strip and its centre and north are concerned, especially in light of the dramatic BBC claim that Gaza is “separated”.
But Doucet did neither. Instead she chose to ignore any context which might interfere with the over-dramatic and emotionally-targeted effect she was trying to create and the one-sided story she was trying to tell.