“BBC News aspires to remain the standard-setter for international journalism…” [source]
On July 28th BBC television news audiences viewed some of that ‘standard setting’ journalism in the form of yet more unchallenged Hamas propaganda, this time facilitated by Ian Pannell. The item also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Hamas: ‘We are getting killed but we won’t give up’“. Pannell’s ‘interview’ (and that term is used very loosely here) with Hamas spokesman Ehab al Ghossein begins with the latter saying:
“This my relatives, my people. Maybe I’m gonna get killed in the next hour. So; whenever we stand in front of this Israeli occupation that…this army that has no ethics – they are just killing civilians, kids, and the world is watching – the only thing I have is to continue standing in front of it. To continue to resist in front of it. I’m looking for my freedom and I know that the price of freedom will be high so I…nobody can make me give up or hold the white flag without getting my freedom and this is the sense for all the Palestinians. We are paying, we are getting killed but we won’t give up.”
Does Pannell bother to point out to BBC audiences – and al Ghossein – that the Gaza Strip has not been under “Israeli occupation” for nine years? In light of that fact, does he dig deeper in order to give viewers some sort of insight as to how Hamas defines ‘occupation’ and which geographical areas its definition actually includes? Does he pick up on the glaring aberration of an internationally designated terrorist organization – which has targeted Israeli civilians with thousands of military grade missiles for fourteen years and sent dozens of suicide bombers to carry out carnage in Israeli cafes, shopping malls and buses – lecturing BBC viewers on “ethics”? The answer to all those questions is of course no. Instead, Pannell allows al Ghossein a platform from which to cynically commandeer the language of human rights, turning a violent, antisemitic terrorist organization into a popular movement for “freedom”.
Pannell then tries to steer al Ghossein towards expatiation of Hamas’ pre-ceasefire demands – a theme we have seen being advanced repeatedly in BBC coverage in recent days.
“So let’s talk about those objectives. What are the key demands of Hamas? You say that you will abide by a humanitarian truce during Eid. The implication is you will resume the conflict after that until you get – what?”
EaG: “Well the problem is in the Israelis who are keeping to kill us. Not us. They started this war and they continue…”
Pannell interrupts, but not to clarify to audiences that al Ghossein’s version of events is inaccurate and untrue. Instead, Pannell is looking for advancement of his selected theme.
“But the objectives that would lead to the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian people saying enough…”
EaG: “Well…err…nobody will tell the Palestinians to stop defending themselves. The problem is the Israelis who are continuing to kill my people. And so I’m telling you…”
Pannell still hasn’t got what he came for.
“I’m just keen to know…yeah…what is it that you actually want now?”
Finally, al Ghossein responds to Pannell’s repeated prompts and the buzz words arrive.
EaG: “The solution is easy. We’re talking about two million people living in a big jail. 140 square miles with…err…no borders, with no products, with no electricity. There is no life. It’s a slow death since eight years. What we are looking for is lifting the siege, opening the borders and this is actually our rights. We shouldn’t get with all this blood. We should get it without anything but the problem is unfair international community that keep in silence since eight years in front of them.”
Predictably, Pannell makes no effort to ask his interviewee why – if it is so concerned about conditions in the Gaza Strip – Hamas initiated, carried out, allowed and facilitated the terrorism in the territory under its control which brought upon the population there the implementation of border restrictions by both Israel and Egypt in order to protect their own civilians. Neither does Pannell bother to enquire whether – in the event of the lifting of border restrictions – Hamas will rearm with the help of its foreign sponsors Iran and Qatar and continue to carry out terrorism against its neighbouring countries. He goes on:
“Are you any closer to achieving those aims now than you were one month ago?”
EaG: “Well we believe that we are going to get and achieve our goals. It’s not our goals as Hamas goals – no: it’s the Palestinian goals. And whatever happened we won’t change our stance. We look our freedom. If they kill all of us, all of us at all, we should get in the end our freedom. The only thing we have is dignity. We’re saving our dignity and looking for our freedom whatever surprise is continue to happen.”
As an aspiring “standard-setter for international journalism” the BBC should be deconstructing Hamas propaganda in order to help audiences cut through the terrorist organisation’s rhetoric and understand the real issues at stake, but audiences have not seen that happen at any time during the last three weeks. This lackluster performance by Ian Pannell in which he failed to challenge even one of al Ghossein’s falsehoods on the one hand and facilitated the portrayal of a terrorist organization as some sort of troop of benevolent human rights campaigners on the other, shows yet again that in its reporting from the Gaza Strip, the BBC’s ‘standards’ are much more in line with those of the propaganda spouting Al Aqsa TV run by its Hamas hosts.