BBC audiences might very reasonably expect that studio-produced backgrounders would be capable of meeting editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality more easily than reports produced under pressure in the field. Apparently that is not the case.
A filmed report by the BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner which was broadcast on BBC television news programmes and also featured on the BBC News website on July 22nd under the over-hyped title “Why is Middle East truce so hard to broker?“, once again promoting the erroneous and ridiculous notion that the current conflict between Israel and Hamas is the most important – and only – thing going on in the Middle East.
“Grief and mourning spread across two communities – Israeli and Palestinian – although the death toll in Gaza is twenty times higher than that suffered by Israel.”
No attempt whatsoever is made to explain to audiences why that is the case. Israel’s extensive investment in civilian defence gets no mention and of course, in common with BBC practice throughout the last two weeks, viewers are not told how Hamas’ policy of using the local population as human shields by storing weapons in residential neighbourhoods and firing missiles from those locations guarantees a higher civilian death toll on the Palestinian side. Gardner goes on:
“This is carnage on a horrific scale. Over 600 Palestinians have been killed so far. The UN says that three-quarters of them are civilians. Thirty Israelis have also died – most of them military.”
Notably, Israelis die whilst Palestinians get killed. Gardner fails to inform audiences of the dubious sources of the figures and ratio he cites and of course also refrains from noting that the BBC has not independently verified those figures. He continues:
“This mounting death toll has prompted an international outcry. So, just why can’t the fighting be stopped? The diplomatic deadlock over Gaza stems from the two sides’ demands being apparently irreconcilable. But what do they actually want? Israel has one primary aim: for no more rockets to be fired from Gaza onto Israeli towns. Its prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made a pledge to stop the rocket attacks. He sent troops into Gaza to blow up the supply tunnels being used by Hamas militants to hide them.” [emphasis added]
You might think that the BBC’s chief security correspondent would know the difference between the various types of tunnels in the Gaza Strip, but obviously that is not the case. The prime aim of the Israeli ground operation is not to “blow up the supply tunnels” on the Gaza/Egypt border (most of which have already been put out of action by Egypt in its own struggle against Islamist and Jihadist terror), but to neutralise the attack tunnels along the border with Israel, some of which have already been used to carry out infiltrations into Israeli territory with the intention of carrying out mass terror attacks on civilians.
“There are three types of tunnel, experts say. The first are economic: hundreds of tunnels burrowing into Egypt, which allowed Hamas to funnel in resources, guns and rockets until the Egyptians sealed off many of them.
Another set of tunnels reportedly services the Hamas high command. “Every single leader of Hamas, from its lowest ranking bureaucrats to its most senior leaders, is intimately familiar with the route to the security tunnel assigned to him and his family,” al-Monitor reported. “The most senior leadership has its own specific tunnel.”
The last kind is allegedly driving the Israeli invasion: tunnels that can carry Hamas militants under the Gaza border and into Israel.”
But that is not the only inaccuracy in the BBC’s security expert’s report. After footage of the Israeli prime minister speaking, Gardner turns to presentation of the Hamas point of view, but fails to tell viewers that it is the activities of terrorists of various stripes in the Gaza Strip which prompted both Egypt and Israel to introduce means to secure their borders with that territory. Thus, audiences are mistakenly led to believe that “the blockade on Gaza” is a product of neighbouring governments being “hostile”.
“Now Hamas have one overriding aim and that’s to end the blockade on Gaza, hemmed in as it is by hostile governments in Israel and Egypt. Its leadership also wants the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but Hamas are in a tight corner.”
Hamas actually demands the release of convicted terrorists who were released under the terms of the Shalit deal in 2011, but rearrested during the search for the murderers of three Israeli teenagers last month.
The report then cuts to a filmed interview with Fawaz Gergas of the LSE who says:
“Hamas is basically forced to choose between death by starvation – slow death – because you have a twin siege by Israel and Egypt of Hamas – of Gaza – or basically a fight to the end.”
The Oxford dictionary defines a siege as follows:
“A military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender”
Rather than cutting off essential supplies, Israel actually goes to great lengths to facilitate their entry into the Gaza Strip, even whilst under fire from the terrorist organisations based there. In fact, just since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge two weeks ago, eight hundred and sixty-four truckloads of supplies and humanitarian aid have entered the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing. Armies conducting a siege usually do not supply the ‘besieged’ with electricity, cooking gas, fuel and medical care as Israel does.
Clearly, there is no “siege” of Gaza as Gergas inaccurately states. Neither are the residents of the Gaza Strip under threat of “death by starvation” as can be seen in Yolande Knell’s frequent reports from markets.
The editorial decision to include the inaccurate, misleading, demonising and obviously politically motivated falsehoods promoted by Fawaz Gergas in this report is a very grave matter indeed and – unless we choose to believe that Frank Gardner and his editors are shockingly ignorant and incompetent – can only stem from the BBC’s own political motivations.