The September 5th edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ was devoted to an interview with Israel’s ambassador at the UN, Danny Danon.
“In the turbulent recent history of the Middle East, has there ever been a time when Israel has seemed more powerful – militarily, diplomatically and economically? Israel has the fulsome support of the Trump Administration and also has common strategic interests with Saudi Arabia and Arab nations preoccupied with perceived threats from Iran. HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon. Is Israel making wise choices from its position of strength?”
The interview – which was aired on the BBC World News channel, the BBC News channel and on BBC World Service radio, with a clip also posted on the BBC News website – followed the usual format employed by presenter Stephen Sackur in which he lays out pre-prepared lists of things he considers to be wrong with Israel in front of an Israeli official or public figure based on claims from a particular brand of sources – in this case including Michael Sfard, UNRWA’s Chris Gunness, the EU, Amnesty International and the FMEP‘s Lara Friedman.
However, one section of this programme is particularly noteworthy because it once again provides evidence of the BBC’s efforts to rewrite the narrative concerning one particular recent news story in the minds of its audiences.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
[03:37] Sackur: “Yeah but…but of course many of the engagements and conflicts that we see Israel…ah…occupied with are actually not about Israel in an existential struggle for survival – in fact, quite the contrary. Since March of this year we’ve seen 5 months of the Israeli military lining up along the border with the Gaza Strip using live fire ammunition against Palestinian protesters. More than 165 have been killed including 23 Palestinians under the age of 18. I guess Mr. Netanyahu just regards that as proof that the Middle East is, again, quote ‘no place for the weak. The weak crumble and are slaughtered’. And that’s what Israel’s doing.”
Sackur: “No, no Ambassador. With respect my question…my question is not about Iran. My question is about civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip who for many months have been protesting along the border fence. They do not carry guns. Admittedly some of them throw stones; they even fly kites with flaming torches on them at times. But what they do not have is guns and the Israeli military responds with live fire.”
After Danon had noted that the ‘Great Return March’ is “orchestrated by Hamas”, that violent rioters have indeed used guns and Molotov cocktails and tried to infiltrate Israeli territory and that calling the events of the past five months a peaceful demonstration “is a lie”, Sackur retorted:
Sackur: “You’re sitting in New York. I’m sitting in London. I’m inclined to take the word of a very experienced Israeli human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard, who has looked at cases where the Israeli military opened fire in the last five months and he says it is quite clear lethal force against unarmed civilians who do not pose a danger is illegal and this is the crux of many cases there on the Gaza border.”
Sackur of course did not bother to inform BBC audiences of the fact that the “human rights lawyer” whose word he is “inclined to take” and the political NGOs cast as ‘human rights groups’ which Sfard represents come from a very specific side of the political spectrum.
As regular readers know the BBC refrained from providing its audiences with information concerning the organisations and motives behind the ‘Great Return March’ events that have been staged since March 30th – even though that information was publicly available in advance.
The fact that a significant proportion of those killed during the violent rioting – including under 18s – have been shown to have links to Gaza Strip based terror factions has been downplayed and ignored by the BBC.
Violent incidents have also been serially ignored and the BBC’s editorial approach to this story has been to repeatedly portray it as one that is about ‘peaceful protesters’ killed by Israel’s armed forces.
As we see, Stephen Sackur has fully taken that editorial policy onboard. Carefully avoiding mentioning the name of the pre-planned violent rioting – the ‘Great Return March’ – he inaccurately told BBC audiences that a project with the self-proclaimed aim of having millions of people categorised as Palestinian refugees ‘return‘ to Israeli territory is “actually not about Israel in an existential struggle for survival”.
Describing violent rioters and would-be infiltrators – including proven members of terror factions – as “Palestinian protesters” and “civilian protesters” who are being “slaughtered”, Sackur twice inaccurately told BBC audiences that they “do not carry guns” while making a facetious reference to “stones” and “kites“. In order to present that distorted picture, Sackur deliberately ignored numerous border infiltrations, hundreds of petrol bomb attacks, scores of IED attacks, dozens of shooting attacks, at least nine attacks with grenades.
It is all too obvious that Sackur’s inaccurate portrayal is not merely the product of months of shoddy news reporting or uninformed discussion of current affairs. It is part and parcel of the BBC’s creation and promotion of a politically motivated false narrative which does nothing to serve its public purpose of helping audiences understand this story.