On the evening of July 4th the BBC News TV station aired an interview with former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett on the topic of the counter-terrorism operation in Jenin which began the previous day.
During that interview (which at one point presented the Israeli interviewee as regular BBC contributor “Nour Odeh – Palestinian political analyst”) presenter Anjana Gadgil used a statement put out by UNICEF in which it was claimed that “at least three children” were killed in Jenin as the basis for repeated accusations concerning what she framed as the killing of children.
Gadgil: “…we now know that young people are being killed, four of them under 18. Is that really what the military set out to do: to kill people between the ages of 16 and 18?”
Gadgil: “Terrorists…but children. The Israeli forces are happy to kill children.”
As stated by Naftali Bennett in that interview, all the Palestinians killed during that two-day counter-terrorism operation were terrorist combatants. Among those aged 18 or under were Nour al Din Marshoud – aged 16 – and Magdy Ararawi – aged 17 – who were both members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Also killed were 18-year-old Husam Abu Deibeh (or Theeba) of the PIJ who was also claimed by Fatah as one of its operatives and Ali al Ghoul (17) of the PIJ who was also claimed by Hamas.
Another false claim made by the hostile but obviously clueless Gadgil related to the Jenin battalion.
Gadgil: “…but we know that the Jenin brigades, they may be young, there’s many of them, they’re desperate, they lack the affiliation of previous organised groups.” [emphasis added]
In fact, the Jenin Battalion is affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As reported by the ITIC in July 2022:
“While the Battalion was founded by PIJ operatives, it includes operatives from other military wings, such as Hamas’ Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades and Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, thereby uniting coordination among the prominent terrorist organizations and overcoming the schism within Palestinian society.”
So where did Gadgil get those erroneous notions? One answer might be the misleading written and filmed reports by the BBC’s Yousef Eldin put out just last month.
Towards the end of the interview Gadgil also came up with the ridiculous suggestion that the operation in Jenin – where terrorism has been on the rise for the past two years – is “something to distract from the other things going on in Israel at the moment” – i.e. internal Israeli politics.
Rather than issuing a tactical but ultimately pointless apology which will not be seen by the majority of those who watched the programme, BBC News needs to supply some answers to the crucial question of why an over eight-minute interview with someone who could provide its audiences with information to enhance their understanding of this story – including on the topic of the exploitation of minors by terrorist organisations – was wasted on absurd allegations and deliberately misleading framing.
Truly “impartial” coverage of the recent events in Jenin would have informed BBC audiences of the terrorist affiliations of the “children” killed but this ‘apology’ does nothing to provide that crucial information to members of the BBC’s audience who watched this interview.
Rather than unquestioningly parrot the narrative put out by UN bodies, journalists committed to “robust” reporting would have raised pertinent questions such as why a ‘refugee camp’ that was constructed by the UN seventy years ago and has received its services – including education – ever since, has produced so many “children” who are operatives for internationally designated terrorist organisations or why the UN has apparently done nothing over the past two years to prevent the camp under its administration from becoming the source of lethal terrorism against Israeli civilians.
It is however unrealistic to expect such truly impartial, accurate and robust reporting from a media organisation which cannot even bring itself to use the words terror or terrorist and which has a dismal record of meaningless apologies issued due to public pressure which, sadly, do little or nothing to improve the standard of journalism in the future.