BBC again omits relevant background in report on Gaza book shop

In June 2021 we documented two BBC World Service radio reports (both of which are still available online) in which listeners heard about a bookshop in the Gaza Strip which had been severely damaged the previous month during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

“Manuela Saragosa speaks to Samir Mansour, who saw his famous Gaza bookshop destroyed before his eyes. International donors want to help rebuild businesses like Samir’s.” 

As noted at the time:

“Saragosa’s first interviewee was Samir Mansour whose Gaza City bookshop was destroyed in the hostilities on May 18th.

Saragosa: “…then, on an early morning in May this year, at the height of the hostilities between Hamas and Israel, Samir was watching the news and saw that the area his bookshop is in was about to be hit by an Israeli airstrike.”

Saragosa’s account did not include the fact that Mansour received a warning phone call from the IDF or that the multi-storey building in which his shop was located was also used by Hamas to produce weapons and gather intelligence.”

On February 12th a written report appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Leicester’ page and in the updates section of its ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “Leicester firm helps destroyed Gaza bookshop to reopen”.

Written by Greig Watson, the report’s lead illustration is a photograph credited to Samir Mansour and captioned “An estimated 100,000 books were lost when the two-storey building was demolished”.

In fact the building in which the bookstore was located had six storeys, two of which housed Mansour’s shop. 

The report opens:

“A bookshop destroyed in a Middle East conflict is to reopen after being helped by a Leicestershire business.

The two-storey Samir Mansour shop in Gaza was demolished during clashes between Hamas and Israel in May 2021.”

Any reader who clicked on that link in the hope of finding some context that would explain why the book shop “was demolished” would be disappointed. The link leads to a report by BBC East Midlands from last June on the same story which likewise simply states that the shop was “completely destroyed in the recent Hamas/Israeli conflict” without any reference to Hamas’ use of the same building for military purposes.

Both those BBC reports quote one of the organisers of a campaign to help Mansour rebuild his business.

“Mahvish Rukhsana, a human rights lawyer based in London, was one of the main organisers of the appeal.”

In an interview on the same story with the Guardian last month, Rukhsana alleged that “When Israeli war planes bombed this bookshop it was a further attack on the community’s access to knowledge”. The Guardian’s report does however clarify that:

“The Israeli military has said that the store was not its target, claiming that the building that housed it also contained a Hamas facility for producing weapons and intelligence-gathering.”

In contrast, BBC audiences have not been provided with that integral background information in any of the corporation’s reporting on this story to date and hence would not understand that the reason why “a Leicester business” and others had to contribute to a campaign to rebuild that bookshop is Hamas’ use of the civilian population under its rule as human shields.

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  1. says: Neil C

    Compounding their reporting by omission is a classic technique of the BBC. It is very like compound interest, it inflates the primary investment and subsequently inflates the interest and the primary investment, ad infinitum, producing a much higher return on that initial investment. I am surprised the Islamic governed BBC continue to use such methods, as such methods are considered to be ‘haram’

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