As regular readers know, the BBC’s coverage of the missile attacks launched from the Gaza Strip at civilian population centres in Israel since the end of the summer 2014 conflict has been – to put it kindly – patchy.
Throughout September 2015 there were three separate incidents of missile fire, none of which were the subject of any stand-alone reporting by BBC News.
September 18th 2015 – missile fire on Sderot and Ashkelon got 19 words of reporting in a BBC News article on a different topic. The Israeli response was reported by BBC Arabic.
September 21st 2015 – missile fire at the Hof Ashkelon area was not reported by BBC News.
September 29th 2015 – missile fire at Ashdod got 15 words of coverage in an article on another topic which were later removed when the report was updated. Israel’s response to the attack was covered by BBC Arabic.
The Eshkol region came under attack again on the night of October 9th/10th and the missile fire was later claimed by a Salafist group in the Gaza Strip. That attack was reported in an article titled “Israeli-Palestinian violence: Gaza rocket lands in Israel” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 10th.
With this being the first BBC News headline describing a missile attack from the Gaza Strip since September 2014, one cannot but conclude that its appearance is linked to augmented BBC reporting on the current wave of terror attacks which, despite its headline, are the subject matter of the bulk of that report.
Less than 24 hours later – late on the evening of October 10th – another missile was launched at the Hof Ashkelon area but was successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. The Israeli airforce later responded with strikes on Hamas weapons manufacturing sites in the northern Gaza Strip and Palestinian officials announced that two people had been killed when an explosion at one of the targeted sites caused a nearby home to collapse. The BBC headlines did not take long to appear.
BBC Arabic promoted its report on the incident at the head of its main webpage on the morning of October 11th with a headline devoid of any reference to what preceded the Israeli response.
Visitors to the BBC News website’s homepage found the following context-free description which likewise fails to inform readers of what came before the Israeli response:
“Israeli jets carry out air strikes on two targets in the Gaza Strip, in the latest sign of mounting tensions between Israelis and Palestinians”
On the website’s ‘World’ page, the same statement appeared with a different and equally context-free headline – “Israeli jets hit targets in Gaza Strip”.
The same headline and strapline featured prominently on the Middle East page.
The BBC News report appearing on all those pages of the website was originally titled “Israeli-Palestinian violence: US expresses concern” and in that initial report (and all later versions) the BBC once again promoted uncritical amplification of a trope which forms the foundation for much of the Palestinian incitement fueling the latest wave of terrorism.
“There have been weeks of tension over access to a site in East Jerusalem sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Palestinians fear Israel plans to change arrangements at the al-Aqsa mosque/Temple Mount compound, where Jews are allowed to visit but not allowed to pray – something Israel insists it will continue.”
Some four hours after publication, the article’s headline was changed to read “Israeli jets hit targets in Gaza Strip” and the report opened in typical ‘last-first reporting’ style, with no mention of the people affected by the events laconically described as “rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel”.
“Israel says its jets have hit two targets in the Gaza Strip.
The targets were “Hamas weapon manufacturing facilities”, the Israeli military said, adding the strikes were in response to two rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel.
A woman and her young daughter in a nearby house were killed during the air raid, Palestinian officials said.”
Readers would obviously conclude from that portrayal that the woman and child were killed by the Israeli strike.
The fourth round of amendments to the report saw a new headline – “Israeli jets hit targets in Gaza Strip, killing a mother and child” – with the BBC backtracking from its previous assertion that the casualties “were killed during the air raid” but showing no interest in clarifying why a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility was located in a residential area.
Around an hour later, the headline was changed yet again to read “Palestinians killed in Israel Gaza air strike“.
All versions of the article failed to inform readers that missile attacks on Israeli civilians are a regular occurrence, independent of the current wave of terrorism. All versions of the report close with the following statements:
“The violence has spurred talk from Hamas, which dominates Gaza, of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
But the clashes have not yet reached the scale of previous intifadas, with no clear mass movement or leadership so far emerging.”
Yet again, however, the BBC fails to provide its audiences with any information about the incitement from unofficial and official Palestinian sources which underpins the current wave of terrorism and the very relevant subject of Hamas’ efforts to boost its terror infrastructure in Judea & Samaria over recent months – which the BBC has failed to report at all – does not get a mention in this report.