On January 16th 2013 a filmed report by Wyre Davies for the BBC World News’ GMT programme was also featured in the Middle East section of the BBC News website. The two and a half-minute report – entitled “Israel elections: Security fears top political agenda” – is described in its synopsis as follows:
“Israelis will go to the polls to elect a new government next week.
Benjamin Netanyahu is the overwhelming favourite to be returned as Prime Minister at the head of a right-wing coalition government.
Despite widespread concerns about jobs and the high cost of living, the issue of security dominates the political agenda.
Wyre Davies gauges the mood of the electorate.”
However, despite its supposed subject matter, the first 27 seconds of this report – almost 20% of the whole item – features footage from the Gaza Strip filmed during Operation Pillar of Cloud, during which Davies reports that “more than 150 Gazans and six Israelis were killed” without pointing out that the majority of those killed in Gaza were terrorists.
Next, Davies’ report moves on to show pastoral scenes of fields, tractors and cow sheds in a kibbutz near the border with the Gaza Strip – images which contrast sharply with the footage of explosions in Gaza immediately preceding them.
“Yochi Koffler’s kibbutz is right on the Gaza border. For now, he can again look after his livestock without fear of rockets being fired from Gaza. Dozens have landed here over the years.”
Davies does not name the kibbutz in which his interviewee lives, but Israel is a small and still quite intimate country, so BBC Watch gave Mr Koffler (Kopler) a call. In actual fact, Davies’ interviewee will not “again look after his livestock” because he is not a dairy farmer at all, but the head of the Field Crops branch of Kibbutz Ein HaShlosha. It really should not have been too difficult for the BBC to get that fact right.
Almost five years ago to the day of Davies’ visit, a volunteer from Ecuador, Carlos Andrés Mosquera Chávez, was killed by a Hamas sniper from the Gaza Strip who shot him whilst he was working in Ein HaShlosha’s fields together with Mr Kopler. The kibbutz’s farmers have experienced many other similar incidents over the years, but Davies elected not to expand on that subject.
Two days before Wyre Davies’ visit to Ein HaShlosha – and less than seven kilometers away – a large tunnel was discovered near Nir Oz, originating in Gaza and apparently designed to facilitate a terror attack.
“The tunnel was “large enough to carry people and is the same kind of tunnel used in 2006 to ambush IDF soldiers and kidnap Gilad Shalit,” the army said via Twitter.”
That discovery was not reported by the BBC.
Whilst the BBC frequently fails to report security-related incidents in Israel, in this particular report Wyre Davies nevertheless choses to frame the current Israeli election campaign as being all about security. In the introduction to his report, against the background of images from Gaza, Davies says:
“War is always a prominent feature of the Israeli election cycle – dominating the political agenda.”
Later on, in a sequence filmed in the also unnamed location of Ashkelon, Davies claims that:
“With similar socio-economic problems to the rest of the world, some people had hoped that this campaign would be different – focusing on other issues – but by and large Israeli parties, politicians and voters are still defined by their approach to one single issue: security.”
But whilst Davies’ assessment conveniently allows him to adhere to the BBC’s theme of presenting a picture of a country about to elect a hard-line, right-wing government – does it actually reflect reality?
One recent survey asked Israeli voters which subject was the most relevant to them in the upcoming elections. The majority of responders (39.5%) said that the cost of living was the most important issue to them. After that, the most important issues cited were peace negotiations (16.3%), education (15.4%), the Iranian threat (10.5%), violence and crime (4.6%), foreign illegal migrants (3.3%) and 10.4% did not reply.
Wyre Davies, however, did not bother to interview any Israeli voters on subjects other than security in this report – thus reinforcing his own prior assumptions. That suggests that he was significantly less interested in gauging “the mood of the electorate” as claimed, than in steering his audiences towards a specific image of Israel and its next government.