Long-time readers may recall that during Operation Protective Edge four years ago, BBC Watch investigated the source of Gaza casualty figures cited by the UN and quoted by the BBC. As documented here, we discovered that one of several dubious sources used by the UN was the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.
The BBC never conducted any independent verification of the figures it quoted and promoted both throughout that conflict and in the following four years and it continues to cite UN data despite its obviously problematic sourcing.
That issue recently arose again in the July 21st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘. The lead item in that programme concerned incidents which began the previous afternoon when Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper.
Presenter Jon Donnison introduced the item (from 00:00:52 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Donnison: “But first, if you’re a ten year-old child living in Gaza or southern Israel you will have already lived through three wars in your short life. This weekend there are fears we [sic] could be on the brink of another one.”
Listeners then heard the sound of explosions before Donnison told them that Israel was “bombing Gaza” rather than conducting pinpoint strikes on military facilities belonging to an internationally designated terrorist organisation. He also failed to clarify to listeners that “health officials in Gaza” means Hamas.
Donnison: “That’s the sound of Israel bombing Gaza overnight after an Israeli soldier was killed by Palestinian gunfire at the border. It’s the first soldier to be killed since the last war between Hamas and Israel in 2014. Health officials in Gaza say four Palestinians – including three Hamas fighters – were killed in the latest Israeli air strikes. Hamas says a ceasefire has been agreed. Israel has yet to comment on that. This is what the UN envoy for the Israel-Palestinian conflict Nickolay Mladenov had to say: ‘Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week, not tomorrow – right now‘.
Donnison then introduced his first interviewee – journalist Noga Tarnopolsky – with whom he discussed the situation and past failed cease fires.
At 03:45 Donnison introduced his next interviewee – IDF spokesperson Lt Col Jonathan Conricus – whom he proceeded to interrupt repeatedly during their four-minute conversation.
As Conricus was explaining the various threats facing Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip, Donnison interrupted:
Donnison: “The UN says…the UN says…the UN says that this year, in 2018, more than 160 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by your soldiers and more than 14,000 wounded.”
Listeners were not informed that the majority of those killed during the regular violent rioting at the border since the end of March have been shown to have links to the various terror factions in the Gaza Strip.
Conricus: “Well I don’t think these are UN figures. I think those are Palestinian figures from Hamas controlled Gaza…”
Donnison [interrupts]: “No, they’re UN figures. They’re the United Nations figures.”
Conricus explained that Israel is defending its border from a variety of different kinds of attacks perpetrated by “a globally recognised terrorist organisation that is trying by every means they have to attack Israel” before saying:
Conricus: “We are not going to allow anyone to get in and we are adamant that we continue to defend our sovereignty and Israeli citizens. We have been very limited in our use of force, despite the fact that Hamas has been firing rockets…”
Donnison [interrupts]: “How do you end up with 14,000 people being injured if you’re limited with your force?”
Conricus disputed the figures before going on to say:
Conricus: “We have a terrorist organisation on the other side which is very cynically using civilians, pushing them forward in order for the civilians to try to break through our defences so that Hamas terrorists can infiltrate into Israel. That has been the under-reported story of what so many people around the world have come to know as the ‘Great march of Return’.”
Donnison then cited an op-ed by an Israeli suggesting that “Israel has to talk to Hamas” before asking a soldier in uniform for a political opinion which he is obliged to refrain from giving. Conricus did however point out that a Hamas leader had recently spoken at a rally in Gaza about the organisation’s goals, noting that “they are not anything that includes the existence of the State of Israel”.
Donnison interrupted him at that point once again in order to close the interview and introduce the next one: “we want to hear from Hamas”. That interview will be discussed in a separate post.
Following his four-minute interview with Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad, Donnison returned (at 11:36) to Noga Tarnopolsky, who tried to make an important point.
Tarnopolsky: “I want to just clarify some of what we’ve heard. You asked about the number of wounded because it sounds so horrific and that’s – it’s a really important question – it’s one of the things that confuses matters here. The Hamas ministry of health reports anybody – a very wide range of people – as wounded. Someone who suffered from tear gas inhalation to somebody who has a leg amputated and they do this in order to have very large and frightening figures. Now in no way do I wish to diminish the suffering of Gazans – which is huge – but those figures are…”
Her explanation was interrupted by Donnison.
Donnison: “They…those figures…those figures I quoted were from the United Nations.”
Tarnopolsky: “Yes, I understand that. The figures that the United Nations is using are taken from the Hamas ministry of health. And I’m just explaining the background on where those figures came from.”
At that point in the reality check, Donnison swiftly closed the item.
Donnison: “We’re going to have to leave it there I’m afraid.”
As we have noted here on several occasions since the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop began, BBC reports have repeatedly quoted and promoted Palestinian casualty figures provided by the “health ministry” without clarifying that it is controlled by Hamas – the terror group co-organising the ‘Great Return March’ – and thus obviously not an impartial or reliable source.
Now – just as it did during the 2014 conflict – the BBC has apparently moved on to quoting ‘United Nations’ figures which it presents as being reliable, even though UN OCHA clearly states that they are sourced from the same ‘health ministry in Gaza’ run by Hamas.
Moreover, in this item Jon Donnison materially misled BBC World Service audiences by repeatedly insisting that his “UN figures” are different to those provided by the terrorist organisation that perpetrates the violence in the first place.