Some four hours after Israel had carried out a targeted strike on a house belonging to a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip in the early morning of November 12th, the BBC News website published a short report headlined “Israel kills Baha Abu al-Ata, top Palestinian militant in Gaza”.
Readers discovered that although the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been on the UK government’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations since 2001, the UK’s national broadcaster predictably preferred to use the unhelpful and euphemistic term “militant group”.
“Israel has killed one of the most senior commanders of a militant group in the Gaza Strip in an air strike.
Baha Abu Al-Ata, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), was killed along with his wife, when a missile hit their home, the group said.
Israel said Al-Ata was a “ticking bomb” who was planning “imminent terrorist attacks”.
A rocket barrage was fired at southern Israel from Gaza in the wake of the killing, which PIJ has vowed to avenge.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
PIJ, which is backed by Iran, is the second largest militant group in Gaza and has carried out many rocket attacks on Israel.”
Similar wording opened subsequent versions of the article.
Although the information was publicly available by the time the BBC published its report, it did not bother to inform audiences that the PIJ leader “was in the midst of launching a series of attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF troops, including preparations for sniper and kidnapping attacks, killer drone attacks, and preparations for rocket fire throughout Israel”.
BBC audiences of course have never heard of Baha Abu al-Ata was or his terror activities. Following a barrage of rocket attacks by the PIJ on November 1st (which was completely ignored by the BBC), the veteran analyst Avi Issacharoff explained the situation thus:
“The growing trend of escalation by Islamic Jihad is being led by the figure thought to be the head of its military wing in northern Gaza, Baha Abu al-Ata.
Time after time, the Israeli security establishment takes pains to publish or leak al-Ata’s name to various media outlets as the person behind the rocket fire and efforts to launch other attacks, in the hopes that Hamas will rein him in.
Hamas, however, is not doing so.
Al-Ata is a serious troublemaker in Gaza who no one wants to confront. That includes Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar, who fear him and the possibility of being accused of collaboration if they act against him.
Even Ziad al-Nakhala, Islamic Jihad’s leader, hasn’t succeeded in dealing with al-Ata, who is acting from a clear personal and organizational agenda.
Al-Ata holds a particularly extreme stance against Israel and opposes the current ceasefire between it and Gaza-based terror groups, including the agreement to allow money from Qatar into the enclave. Friday’s rocket fire came shortly after Mohammed al-Emadi, Qatar’s special envoy for Gaza, left the Strip after again coming to distribute funds there.
Al-Ata, whose picture has previously been released by the IDF spokesperson’s office, wants an even more extreme and uncompromising stance toward Israel and does not necessarily adhere to Iranian orders, but rather his own whim.
At the organizational level, he is not considered an enthusiastic supporter of Nakhala and has frequently acted against the Islamic Jihad leader’s orders to prove who is in charge.
Furthermore, Al-Ata understands that in order to boost Islamic Jihad’s standing in Gaza, he needs to differentiate it from Hamas and the Gaza-ruling terror group’s agenda. As Hamas leads a policy of seeking quiet vis-a-vis Israel and improvement in Gaza’s economic situation, al-Ata is trying to brand himself and his organization as the true “resistance” in the Strip.”
There is of course no room in the BBC’s typical one-dimensional portrayal of the Gaza Strip for such nuanced analysis and together with the corporation’s serial under-reporting of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, that means that audiences once again lack the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of Israel’s actions.
Subsequent versions of this BBC report will be discussed as necessary.