On July 30th BBC television news aired a report from one of its correspondents ostensibly assigned to covering the Israeli side of the story of the current hostilities in Israel and Gaza – Orla Guerin. That report also appeared on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza crisis: Israel’s military strategy“, although it actually tells audiences nothing informative about that topic.
The scene for Guerin’s report is set in her opening sentences.
“Israel’s big guns pounding Gaza again today. Israel calls this Operation Protective Edge but this massive assault has now killed more than thirteen hundred Palestinians – the vast majority of them civilians.”
Guerin of course does not make any effort whatsoever to inform viewers that the numbers she cites have not been independently verified by the BBC or that their source is ultimately either Hamas or Hamas-supporting political NGOs with no less of an interest in misrepresenting the number of civilian casualties.
Later on in the report, standing on a Tel Aviv street, Guerin tells audiences:
“Among Israelis there are divisions about tactics but little or no argument about the war itself. Here in Israel there’s overwhelming support for the offensive in Gaza. Opinion polls suggest it’s as high as 90%. Whatever the international community may say, whatever condemnation comes from abroad, Israelis see this as self-defence. Some want the army to go even further.”
Then, having steered viewers towards a view of an operation which began after almost a month of continuous missile fire on Israeli civilian communities as being an “offensive” and after implying that there is room for question regarding the Israeli view of that operation as self-defence, Guerin interviews an unidentified man in the street.
Man: “Look, it’s an army? We have a war? Or we are like friendship friend that just have a fight or something? No – it’s more than that and I’m not going to apologise to anyone.”
Remarkably, Guerin then says to the man:
“Even after all of these dead Palestinian civilians?”
Man: “No. I’m sorry about that but I’m not apologise.”
We have of course yet to see Orla Guerin or any other BBC reporter asking random Palestinians in the street if they think they need to apologise for dead Israelis or implying that Palestinian passers-by bear collective responsibility for deaths on the other side merely because of their nationality.
But if viewers of this report thought that obvious lack of impartiality was bad – and some of you wrote in to tell us that you did – then the very next day, Guerin managed to outdo even herself.
A filmed report shown on BBC television news on July 31st – which also appears on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video” – opens with more context-free promotion of unverified casualty statistics.
“This is footage Israel is keen to share. An airstrike in Gaza being aborted because children are spotted. But the UN says most of those killed by Israel are innocent civilians.”
Guerin then goes to meet an Israeli pilot.
Guerin: “Captain Omri shows us in a simulator his bird’s-eye view of the terrain.”
She then says to the pilot:
“This is a crowded area. People have nowhere to go. In many cases they have no transport, they have no means of escape. And you’re attacking hospitals where the wounded are being treated.”
The patient pilot answers:
“Well at the moment we’re doing everything possible to ensure the security and safety of both our civilians and as much as possible the Palestinian civilians. We have offered medical aid and we’ve offered a field hospital…”
“Well wouldn’t it be better if you stopped bombing the civilians rather than offering them medical aid later?”
Omri: “Well Israel has always opted for a diplomatic solution.”
Guerin: “I mean some people might say, you know, how do you sleep at night?”
Omri: “Well I sleep very well at night because I know that what we’re doing is saving lives the way I see it because whenever….”
Guerin interrupts again:
“Saving Israeli lives.”
Omri: “No, no. I know how many attacks I have already called off and I’m talking about numerous attacks so I know as a fact that I’ve saved dozens of lives.”
Of course some people might ask how do BBC executives sleep at night when Orla Guerin is returning to form by once more openly flouting supposed BBC standards of accuracy and impartiality in her coverage of Israel.