BBC’s Jeremy Bowen rewrites the Beit Hanoun shortfall rocket incident

A significant number of readers have alerted us to a particularly one-sided report by the BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen which was aired on BBC One’s ‘News at Ten’ on May 24th.

That report focuses on the deaths of children in Beit Hanoun on the evening of May 10th, minutes after Hamas began launching rockets at Jerusalem. An earlier item of BBC content also featured one of those children and as we noted:

“Readers would obviously understand from that account that Ibrahim and Marwan al-Masry (also al-Masri) were killed by an Israeli airstrike. However that was not the case.

The IDF investigated that incident in Beit Hanoun in which six children under 18 and two adults were killed. It was found to have been caused by shortfall rockets fired by terrorist groups.

“Israeli military officials say a mysterious explosion that killed eight members of a Palestinian family on the first day of the current round of fighting in the Gaza Strip was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket, not an Israeli airstrike. […]

A senior military officer says the incident was investigated, and Israel did not strike the Beit Hanoun area where the family members were killed that night.””

In addition, reports from three political NGOs not known for their friendly stance towards Israel have also suggested that the incident was caused by shortfall fire by one of the Palestinian terrorist organisations.

Presenter Huw Edwards introduces that item with a cliché that contributed nothing to audience understanding of the overall issue when he described the US Secretary of State as travelling to the region “to lay the groundwork for an eventual resumption of peace talks”. He continued: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Edwards: “Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has been to a Palestinian community near Beit Hanoun where a young man and seven children were killed. Their families blame an Israeli strike but the Israelis say that the likelihood is that they were killed by a Palestinian rocket.”

As noted above, the Israeli investigation into the incident did not use the term ‘likelihood’: the IDF spokesman stated very clearly “this wasn’t an Israeli attack”.

According to the NGOs PCHR, Al Mezan and DCI-Palestine, the incident in Beit Hanoun took place between 6 and 6:10 p.m. but Jeremy Bowen’s account places it at a later time.

Bowen: “On the 10th of May, the first day of the war, at around 6:30 in the evening, it turned into a small corner of hell.”

Despite BBC editorial guidelines stating that “There must be strong editorial justification for the use of very graphic pictures”, audiences then see a relatively long section of graphic footage with comment from Bowen, but are not told who filmed that footage or why filming was his priority at such a time.

Bowen: “Yussef al Masri lays his dead seven-year-old son Marwan next to the body of his other boy, Ibrahim, who was eleven. In all seven children and a young man of 21 were killed. Like all the bereaved parents he said that the dead were martyrs for Jerusalem, killed by Israel.”

The above NGO reports and a study carried out by the ITIC all state that six children – rather than seven – and two adults were killed in that incident.  Bowen does not inform audiences that the “young man of 21” was called Ahmed al Masri and that according to the investigation by the ITIC (p. 6 no. 2 here), he – along with the other man killed in the same incident – was a Fatah activist.

Audiences see a monologue from Yussuf al Masri which includes claims for which Bowen made no effort to provide clarification or context.

Al Masri: “Every year or two they wage war on us and our children and our homes. Our life in Gaza is indescribable. We don’t have life, drinking water food electricity or hospitals like other people.”

Bowen: “Israel says it has no record of a strike at the time of that first attack. It says its assessment is that a Palestinian rocket aimed at Israel dropped short of its target. The family showed us shrapnel they said was from the bomb. Independent experts who’ve seen these photos say they’re fragments of air-dropped precision munitions, not Palestinian rockets. The two sides will not agree.”

In other words, Bowen’s idea of accurate and impartial reporting, as demanded by BBC editorial guidelines, is to present a piece of shrapnel provided to him by parties who already blame Israel for the incident which he cannot verify is related to the said event and to quote “independent experts” that he does not identify by name or association in order to support the messaging he has chosen to promote in this entire report.

Ignoring the Fatah flags and posters around him, Bowen goes on:

Bowen: “Another family in the village is mourning a son; Ibrahim Hassanein who was 16. His father said Israel broke their hearts and made them hate their lives when they took his boy.”

Ibrahim Hassanin was killed in the same incident near the al-Masri residence (see p. 7, no. 8 here) which was caused by a shortfall Palestinian rocket but Bowen has no problem amplifying those false claims concerning Israel.

Bowen: “Palestinians don’t believe Israel’s insistence that it works hard not to kill civilians, warning them to get out before some raids like the one that destroyed this part of Beit Hanoun.”

The BBC already has a well-established record of failing to accurately report the often tragic consequences of rockets fired by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip which fall short of the border.

In this report however (presented with the purposefully misleading title “Palestinian community mourns 7 children killed in Gaza airstrike”), the gatekeeper of BBC Middle East reporting takes that one step further, going out of his way to ensure that in the minds of his UK viewers, Israel is to blame for the deaths of children, even though he has no proof of that and his report fails to present any direct comment from Israeli authorities.

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  1. says: Neil C

    With a biggoted racist at the BBC helm in the Middle East nobody is helping the cause of Islam and inflaming antisemitism worldwide more than Bowen, his family should be ashamed of him but no doubt will stand by his deception.

  2. says: Sid Levine

    Bowen has always bent over backward to present Israel in a bad light. For far too long he has been at the helm of those in the media who sought to demonize Israel and the Jews. He thinks he knows it all when in fact his prejudices are as if he is carrying a chip on shoulder.
    As plain reporter with an interest in the Arab conflict against Israel in 2004 he was promoted to MId East Editor on the back of the 2004 BBC own investigation in to prejudices exhibited by the BBC – the 20000 word Balen Report – hidden deliberately from the public by the senior echelons in the BBC who spent PUBLIC MONEY defending their “right” in the UK courts – Lord Dyson highlighted the cover up in the Diana Report snd it would appear the same attitude extends to Balen

    1. says: Ann Sinclair

      The ONLY thing we need to know about the BBC’s visceral Jew-hatred is that they are refusing to publish the Balen report.

  3. says: Keith Gerrard

    As a long time friend of Israel having helped in the early days with aviation issues.
    I conclude that the two state solution is never going to be achieved under the current situation.
    The UN is the main problem with it’s biased support of terrorist ideals.
    The Western media needs a major clear out
    I believe legal action should be taken against media outlets that distort the truth in this way.
    There should be protest and demonstrations in all major Cities.
    The important thing is to bring the truth to people everywhere.

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