BBC News amplifies Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s PR line on attacks against Israeli civilians

On the afternoon of March 12th 2013 terrorist organisations including the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a heavy barrage of missile and mortar attacks on towns and villages in southern Israel. Of over sixty missiles fired from the Gaza Strip within the first few hours (some from urban areas as can be seen in this video), at least eight landed in populated areas and several others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. 

A couple of hours after the attacks began a report appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza militants fire rocket barrage at southern Israel“. Weds missile attacks

The report opens with more use of the euphemistic term “militants” to describe terrorists deliberately targeting civilians with military-grade weapons and – perhaps through force of habit – it is liberally peppered with the standard BBC caveat “Israel says”, despite the fact that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was both quick and eager to take responsibility for the missile fire. Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade also put out statements, including one claiming four missile attacks on Sderot.

“Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 30 rockets at southern Israel, Israeli officials say.

An Israeli military spokesman said eight hit urban civilian areas and that a number of others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system.

It was the heaviest barrage since the November 2012 conflict in Gaza ended.

The military wing of Islamic Jihad said it had fired the rockets in retaliation for Tuesday’s killing of three of its militants in an Israeli air strike.”

Some BBC staff also amplified via Twitter the PIJ’s PR line according to which the dozens of indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians came in “response” to the incident the previous day in which a PIJ cell attacked a routine Israeli patrol engaged in searching for IEDs on the border with mortar fire and the IDF responded.

Weds missile attacks Abualouf tweet

Weds missile attacks Shuval tweet

 That faux linkage, along with other PIJ propaganda, was further promoted later on in the BBC’s report and audiences were encouraged to view the incident in terms of equivalent conflicting narratives.

“A statement by Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, said the barrage was its “initial response” to the “crimes of the Zionist enemy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip”, the latest of which was the “assassination” of three of its members on Tuesday.

The Israeli military said it had targeted the militants after they fired mortars at its troops. The al-Quds Brigades said the Israeli soldiers had crossed into the Gaza Strip.”

However, a video  released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad the previous day is described by the terrorist organization itself as showing the mortar attack on “the enemy forces” carried out by the three members of the PIJ’s Al Quds brigade on March 11th

Weds missile attacks PIJ vid frm 11 3

Clearly the BBC’s report is lacking in accuracy in that it leads readers to mistakenly believe that only the IDF “said” that mortars had been fired at Israeli soldiers, whereas in fact the PIJ itself had already admitted that it carried out such an attack and the IDF had also filmed them in the act.

Towards the end of the report we find the following statement:

“Islamic Jihad and other groups have sporadically fired rockets and mortars at Israel since the 2012 conflict ended, while the Hamas movement that governs Gaza has refrained from doing so.” [emphasis added]

Notably, similar statements (see below) made in other recent BBC reports were somewhat more cautiously phrased and no explanation is given for the change in the BBC’s tone.

Hamas denies that it has fired any rockets since a 2012 ceasefire agreement with Israel, with other militant groups in the Gaza Strip claiming responsibility.” [emphasis added]

The report closes with the following statement:

“However, an Israeli military statement said it held Hamas “responsible for all attacks emanating” from the coastal territory.”

The BBC fails to inform audiences that the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire included the clause:

“All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.”

Seeing as Hamas – as the BBC frequently reminds its audiences – governs the Gaza Strip, it is clear that prevention of missile fire and all other types of terror attacks fall under its responsibility. Despite that above clause, a later version of the BBC’s report unquestioningly quoted a PIJ spokesman as saying the following:

“The rocket fired today came in response to the occupation aggression against us and does not mean the collapse of the ceasefire agreement [with Israel].”

No clarification of the absurdity of that statement was provided to BBC audiences.

At the time of writing Israeli forces have begun counter-attacks on terror sites and installations in the Gaza Strip and we will update as necessary. 

More from Hadar Sela

BBC’s Peter Allen: “Israel always wreaks its revenge”

Several people have written to us (thank you all) to bring the...
Read More