Here is another one of those filmed BBC backgrounder reports – presumably intended to provide BBC audiences with information and context which it might be more difficult to give in reports from the field. This one – produced by BBC News’ diplomatic correspondent James Robbins – appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza: What are the obstacles to peace?” in addition to being aired on BBC television news programmes.
One of several notable features of that report is the editorial decision to insert a particular portion of footage from Khaled Masha’al’s recent press conference in Qatar in which he says:
“In this battle between us and Israel they are the executioners, the occupiers, the settlers and we are the true owners of the land.”
The best Robbins can come up with after that vitriol is:
“Israel rejects that…”
Later on, Robbins purports to explain the item’s main topic to viewers.
“So what are the main obstacles to peace – either a ceasefire or something more permanent? Well on the Hamas side, the leadership demands an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory. Gaza is effectively sealed off at sea and overland, including by Egypt – increasingly hostile to Hamas. Israel says the blockade is vital to stop Hamas getting materials to build new weapons.”
Yet again we see BBC amplification of Hamas’ pre-condition for a ceasefire without proper clarification to BBC audiences regarding the Hamas terrorism which brought about the introduction of restrictions by both Israel and Egypt in the first place. We also see a highly inadequate portrayal of the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. Robbins goes on to present half a story with regard to Hamas’ founding principles, deftly avoiding any mention of the violent practical manifestations of Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel.
“But a fundamental obstacle is that Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist.”
He then makes an unsourced claim which this writer at least has not heard made by the Israeli government in the format in which it is presented here.
“On the other side, Israel says it wants to destroy Hamas’ entire rocket arsenal.”
Notably, the topic of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels – the neutralization of which is the main objective of the current ground operation – does not get a mention at all. Robbins then comes up with the following curious statement:
“Israel calls Hamas a terrorist organization – not an elected government – and doesn’t accept that negotiations involving Hamas will ever deliver a long-term peace for Israel and Palestinians.”
The interestingly punctuated visual on the screen as Robbins makes that statement says:
Hamas “a terrorist organisation”
This is not the first time we have seen Hamas’ terror designation being misrepresented in BBC reports during the current round of conflict, although it has much more frequently simply been ignored altogether, meaning that audiences are not made aware of the basic fact that these hostilities are actually between a country and a terrorist organisation.
Hamas is of course defined as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan – as the BBC’s own profile of Hamas clearly states. In addition, Jordan and Egypt have banned Hamas and Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization, as do New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
But no less bizarre is Robbins’ suggestion that Hamas should be seen as an “elected government” – not least because no PLC elections have taken place in over eight and a half years and the term of the PLC legislature elected in 2006 with a Hamas majority expired in 2010.
Clearly this latest backgrounder contributes little if anything to BBC audiences’ “understanding of international issues“.