Caroline Wyatt’s defence of BBC summer Gaza coverage lacks factual basis

The Jewish Chronicle informs us that, whilst speaking at a recent Limmud session on the topic of the BBC’s Middle East coverage, the corporation’s Religious Affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt stated:Caroline Wyatt

“Looking at the coverage of the Gaza conflict last summer, I think the people reporting it tried harder than I’ve seen before to use language that was not loaded. Jeremy Bowen, Lyse Doucet and others are trying their best to report as impartially as they can. It’s a difficult one.”

The factual basis for Caroline Wyatt’s conclusions is unclear. The content produced, for example, by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen during and after his brief sojourn in the Gaza Strip in July 2014 included repeated promotion of the notion that Israel was carrying out ‘war crimes’, denial of Hamas’ use of human shields, promotion of the inaccurate claim that the Gaza Strip is under “siege” and pontifications such as “it is clear that the Israelis have some serious questions to answer”. Surely even Caroline Wyatt would have to acknowledge that Bowen’s use of language is in fact highly “loaded”.

Israel defends Gaza military campaign  July 11th 2014, discussed here

Gaza crisis: Death toll from Israeli strikes ‘hits 100’ July 11th 2014, discussed here

Israel-Gaza conflict: Home for disabled hit in Beit Lahiya  July 12th 2014, discussed here and here

Jeremy Bowen: Israel and Hamas not ready for ceasefire  July 12th 2014, discussed here

Death toll mounts amid Gaza strikes  July 14th 2014, discussed here

Israel-Gaza conflict enters seventh day  July 14th 2014, discussed here

From Our Own Correspondent July 19th 2014, discussed here

Jeremy Bowen’s Gaza notebook: I saw no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields New Statesman, July 22nd 2014, discussed here

Wyatt’s claim that Bowen and his colleagues “are trying their best to report as impartially as they can” is contradicted by the former’s repeated – and highly offensive – allocation of grades for suffering.

“But it is wrong to suggest that Israeli civilians near Gaza suffer as much as Palestinians. It is much, much worse in Gaza.” (link to source)

“By the way, it’s wrong to pretend that there’s any kind of equality between what Israeli citizens are going through and the experience of Palestinians. The trauma of Israelis caught up in mass attacks is unquestionable but the trauma in Gaza is of an utterly different degree.” (link to source)

Moreover, Wyatt’s claim that BBC correspondents “tried harder than I’ve seen before” is undermined by the fact that records show that five and a half years earlier – during Operation Cast Lead – Bowen was touting the exact same theme, sometimes in very similar language.

“The people of Gaza have been suffering terrible pain. When this is over, there is bound to be a proper investigation of some of the actions that Israel has carried out… It would be wrong to suggest that the experience of Israeli civilians in the areas that can be hit by rockets has been the same.” [Jeremy Bowen, 16th January 2009]

“…of course it is in no sense equal, the suffering is basically all on one side at the moment. I think where it is going at the moment, first of all Israel, the Israel narrative is as follows ok, its self defence any country would do it, and they are also questioning the casualty figures coming out of Gaza.” [Jeremy Bowen, BBC Today Radio 4 – 29/12/2008, 07.09am]

Clearly Caroline Wyatt has not studied the content produced by the BBC between July 8th and August 27th 2014 in depth. Had she done so, she would also be aware of the fact that BBC audiences were shown nearly three times more filmed reports from the Gaza Strip than from Israel and that within the first 24 hours of coverage, the BBC was already promoting the notion of ‘war crimes’ having been carried out by Israel, clearly indicating that impartial reporting was not a serious aspiration.

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