In our previous post we looked at coverage of the hundreds of missile attacks on Israeli civilians between July 30th and August 3rd inclusive on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. In this one we will look at coverage of the same events by the BBC’s correspondents on the ground in Israel at the time: Orla Guerin, Bethany Bell and James Reynolds.
To recap: on July 30th 140 missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip. On July 31st 102 missiles were launched, 17 of which were intercepted and 76 hit Israel including one direct hit on an apartment in Kiryat Gat. On August 1st over sixty missiles were fired and on August 2nd, eighty-six, of which 58 hit Israel and six were intercepted. On August 3rd 119 missiles were launched, of which 109 hit Israel and eight were intercepted.
Filmed reports broadcast on BBC television news during that time which supposedly showed the Israeli side of the story included three by Orla Guerin, one by Bethany Bell and two by James Reynolds.
Aspects of Orla Guerin’s report of July 30th (“Gaza crisis: Israel’s military strategy“) have already been discussed here. The only mention of missile fire at Israeli civilians in that report comes from Guerin’s interviewee Ya’akov Amidror.
“If Hamas will not stop launch missiles and rockets, as it did even today…”
Viewers did however see a full 20 seconds of footage of Israeli tanks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment in that 160 second-long report.
Guerin’s July 31st report (“Gaza crisis: Israel releases ‘aborted airstrike’ video“) in which she visited an air-force simulator has also been discussed here previously. No mention of missiles fired by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians appears at all in that 189 second-long report, but its last 59 seconds are all dedicated to footage of Israeli soldiers and more tanks and jeeps.
On August 1st Orla Guerin was to be found presenting a report inaccurately and misleadingly titled “Israeli soldier ‘captured’ by militants as ceasefire ends“. That report also opens with thirteen seconds of footage of Israeli tanks and in addition Guerin takes a ride on an Israeli naval vessel – or as she calls it, a “fast attack missile boat”. Towards the end of the report Guerin goes to visit Kibbutz Kfar Aza.
Guerin: “Back on dry land, the deserted streets of Kfar Aza. This Israeli kibbutz sits on the border with Gaza. Most residents have fled.”
Her interviewee shows damage to a building.
“Luckily this is a bomb shelter so it took most of the impact and you can see nothing actually penetrated the house.”
Guerin: “Noam Stahl is one of the few who remains after twelve incoming hits in recent weeks and the constant percussion of outgoing Israeli artillery.”
But if viewers perhaps anticipated at this point that they may get to hear more about Mr Stahl’s experiences of living under terrorist missile fire not just in “recent weeks”, but for the past thirteen years, they would be disappointed. Orla Guerin had other priorities.
“Do you still believe in the idea of peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Do you think it can be achieved?”
On August 2nd Bethany Bell produced a report titled “Israeli forces continue search for soldier missing in Gaza“. With the exception of 14 seconds of footage, that entire 73 second-long report shows images of tanks, APCs and soldiers. Bell does tell viewers:
“…and Hamas has fired more rockets into Israel – about ten today. Sirens have been sounding over various parts of central Israel and along the border with the Gaza Strip…”
James Reynolds produced a report on August 3rd titled “Gaza crisis: BBC reports from Israeli staging post“. All of the footage of that 94 second-long report shows Israeli tanks. Reynolds gives a decent, if short, representation of the scale and purpose of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels and also says:
“But of course Israelis in this border area want the army to do much more than just find tunnels. They want the army to stop all rocket fire, all mortar fire from Gaza towards Israel. And just before we started recording we heard an alarm here and everyone was told to get in their tanks. There was a warning of a mortar coming in. It didn’t land around this area but nevertheless I think it shows that the overall fight between Israel and Hamas continues…”
An additional report by James Reynolds later on the same date – August 3rd – appeared under the rather pompous title “Gaza conflict: BBC assesses Israel’s military campaign” and the first 30 seconds of that report (104 seconds all told) also show Israeli tanks and APCs. Reynolds then goes to Kibbutz Kfar Aza.
“Batya Holin lives in the border village of Kfar Aza – a target of Palestinian rockets. Ninety percent of her neighbours have fled their homes.”
Holin: “I want that all the missiles will stop. I really want that all our people that live now outside of this area will come back and we can live quiet.”
Reynolds also interviews a reservist who says:
“You know the motivation is very high because before most of us came here we had like shooting in our places. I was caught up like next to my place in Tel Aviv. I was in the shelter and there was nothing I can do so I understand that we have to do something and we have to come and finish here the thing with Hamas.”
Reynolds closes with the following odd and unsourced claim regarding the fallen soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin:
“Israel calls his death part of this country’s unfinished war of independence.”
During the five days in which the above six reports were produced, hundreds of missiles were fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians. BBC television news audiences heard of “about ten” rockets from Bethany Bell and of one mortar from James Reynolds. They heard general statements regarding missile fire from various interviewees, with all those interviews conducted in calm circumstances which contrast sharply with the type of footage from the Gaza Strip which has been shown on BBC television news in recent weeks.
There are no images of injured civilians or of crying women and children, no pictures from emergency rooms or hospital wards and only one short section of footage of minor damage to a building in six reports. The direct hit on an apartment in Kiryat Gat on July 31st was not mentioned and no live footage of it or any of the other attacks were shown. Two of the reports note that many residents of area around the Gaza Strip have had to evacuate their homes because of missile fire from the Gaza Strip, but the BBC has to date not made any attempt to portray the experiences of those people.
The extensive use of footage of soldiers, tanks, APCs and other military equipment contrasts sharply with the fact that BBC audiences have not seen even one image of an armed terrorist, an anti-tank missile or mortar being fired by terrorists or a missile launcher in over four weeks of intense BBC coverage from the Gaza Strip.
These filmed reports cannot be said to give BBC audiences a realistic and comprehensive idea of the Israeli side of the story or to reflect the scale and intensity of the ongoing attacks from the Gaza Strip in the period from July 31st to August 3rd. In common with the written coverage appearing on the BBC News website, they certainly cannot be said to support the claim made by the BBC complaints department that “BBC News has reported extensively on the series of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other Palestinian militants into southern and central Israel in recent weeks”.