BBC still citing erroneous civilian/combatant casualty ratio

On December 24th 2012 an article was published in the Middle East section of the BBC News website pertaining to the statement put out on the same day by ‘Human Rights Watch’ which deemed the rocket attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinian terror organisations to be a violation of the laws of war. 

BBC report on HRW

In an apparent attempt to inject an air of moral equivalence early on in the piece, the article’s third paragraph states:

“Last week, HRW said Israeli attacks on media facilities and journalists in Gaza also violated the laws of war.”

In the fifth paragraph we find the BBC still touting erroneous claims about casualty figures from Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ [emphasis added]:

“At least 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed in the fighting. Most of the Palestinian fatalities were civilians, although Israel says 30 senior militants were among the dead. Four of the Israelis killed by rocket strikes were civilians, and two were soldiers.”

Apparently the BBC is not yet aware that a list of names of casualties from the Gaza Strip was published on December 16th by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. The list was compiled by cross-referencing the names of casualties published by the Hamas Ministry of Health with those appearing on the websites and social media forums of the various terror organisations active in the Gaza Strip and in the Palestinian media. 

The list is not perfect: for instance it categorises four year-old Mahmoud Sadallah as an uninvolved (civilian) casualty despite the fact that there is very good reason to believe that his death was the result of a misfired rocket by one of the Palestinian terror groups. 

Nevertheless, it does give us the names and affiliations of 169 casualties out of a maximum number of 178. Nine names – all adult males – were unidentifiable. Some of the people identified have been shown to have died from natural causes unconnected to the conflict, but their names were added to the Hamas Ministry of Health list anyway. 

Of the 169 casualties identified, 101 (some 60%) were shown to be members of terrorist organisations. Sixty eight (around 40%) of the casualties were uninvolved civilians who died during attacks on terrorists and terrorist installations. Of the terrorists killed, 71 belonged to Hamas, 17 to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, 6 to the Popular Resistance Committees, three to Fatah, two to the Army of Islam, one to the PFLP and one to a Salafist-Jihadist group. 

Unless the BBC can come up with any concrete evidence which contradicts the information provided on that list, it should – according to its own standards of accuracy – cease to use the claim that “most of the Palestinian fatalities were civilians” and correct its existing reports accordingly. 

Another misleading claim in this article states that:

“Israel’s declared aim in launching its offensive on 14 November was to stop rocket attacks from Gaza. Thousands of rockets have been fired into Israel since 2005 when it pulled Jewish settlers and troops out of the territory.”

The average reader of that paragraph would understand that rocket fire into Israel began in the year 2005. That of course is not the case, with rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilians living in villages inside the Gaza Strip having begun on January 30th 2001 and attacks over the ‘green line’ having commenced two months later in March 2001. Whilst the phrase “thousands of rockets” is not strictly speaking incorrect, a more accurate choice of wording would have been “tens of thousands of rockets” and even better would have been to give the readily available precise numbers. 

The article concludes by returning yet again to the prior HRW report which accused Israel of ‘targeting journalists’, with the BBC still insisting on categorizing members of the propaganda arm of a terrorist organisation as “Palestinian cameramen”, even though their affiliations have been clarified on a Hamas-linked website.

al Kumi & Salama

Unless the BBC can produce evidence which contradicts Hamas’ acknowledgement of Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al Kumi as part of its media arm, or unless it can come up with any legal basis to support the implied claim that journalists working for terror organisations are not categorized as non-civilians in the same manner as journalists working for regular armies are, then according to its own standards of accuracy it should cease to refer to them as merely “Palestinian cameramen”. 

In conclusion, what we have in this article is an inaccurate civilian/combatant casualty ratio, a misleading statement concerning the duration of rocket attacks and – in a report ostensibly about Palestinian violations – no fewer than six paragraphs about a different HRW report altogether, used to suggest moral equivalence between the deliberate targeting and killing of civilians and the targeted killings of members of terrorist organisations.

 

More from Hadar Sela

Another BBC social media guidance failure

Meet Naziru Mikailu. He works for the BBC World Service/ BBC Africa....
Read More