On October 10th the IDF took members of the international press to Kibbutz Kfar Aza where soldiers were still going house to house to retrieve the bodies of those slaughtered by the Hamas terrorists who had infiltrated that community and others located near the border with the Gaza Strip three days earlier.
The BBC’s representative on that tour was its international editor Jeremy Bowen and three reports – two filmed and one written – were subsequently published on the BBC News website.
One of those filmed reports published on October 10th is titled ‘Elite Israeli soldiers gain control of border areas’.
With the exception of three brief unexplained frames showing damaged houses on Kfar Aza, that report does not provide BBC audiences with any explanation of what happened there.
Bowen’s second filmed report is titled ‘Kibbutz Kfar Aza: Hamas killed whole families’. In its synopsis, the events in that community are qualified – “Israeli soldiers said that…” – and its third and final paragraph relates to events in a different location: the Gaza Strip.
The first 1:37 minutes of that four-minute and thirty-eight-second report show footage of Israeli soldiers accompanied by commentary from Bowen. Viewers then see images of the same damaged houses in Kfar Aza as Bowen tells them that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Bowen: “Kfar Aza was taken by surprise like everywhere else Hamas attacked. The kibbutz guard – armed civilian volunteers – died fighting back. Hamas stormed in, burning homes and killing families according to the soldiers.”
Viewers are not told that the “armed civilian volunteers” making up “the kibbutz guard” were – as is the case on all kibbutzim – residents of the community. Neither are they told why Bowen found it necessary to append the qualifying phrase “according to the soldiers” to his description of the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas – which of course he failed to point out is a terrorist organisation.
Following more footage of soldiers, viewers see seven seconds of intentionally blurred images of two dead bodies covered in purple cloth as Bowen tells BBC audiences that:
Bowen: “As it took so long to secure the kibbutz, the army couldn’t cover all the civilian dead until this morning. These were the bodies of Israelis. Decomposing Hamas gunmen are still lying where they were killed. The murder of Israeli civilians here was without doubt a war crime. But what about the Palestinian civilians Israel is killing in attacks on Hamas?”
At 02:22 Bowen speaks to an unidentified Israeli soldier, continuing to promote (as he has often done in the past) false equivalence between deliberate and pre-planned attacks against Israeli civilians and Palestinian civilians unintentionally killed during attacks against a terrorist organization he refuses to name as such.
Bowen: “As you know, all armies have obligations under the laws of war to protect civilian lives even in war zones. Are you doing this with this level of airstrikes that are going on at the moment and any ground operation that might happen?”
At 03:15 the footage shifts to images from the Gaza Strip.
Bowen: “But in only a few days Israel has inflicted immense damage in Gaza. They’ve cut off supplies of food, water and power and killed hundreds of civilians. Palestinian suffering, Israel says, is the responsibility of Hamas. Israel’s already been accused of breaking the laws of war and that will get louder as more Palestinian civilians are wounded and killed.”
Bowen did not bother to clarify the source of the accusations he chose to repeat and amplify or to explain to viewers that the source of his claim that Israel has “killed hundreds of civilians” is most likely the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip which has long been known to deliberately avoid differentiating between civilians and combatants for propaganda purposes.
The final fifty-three seconds of Bowen’s report returns to showing images of Israeli soldiers and Bowen himself.
In other words, Jeremy Bowen travelled to Kfar Aza to produce a four-minute and 38 second filmed report for BBC television but only thirty-six seconds of that report actually relate to the atrocities that took place there. Bowen’s reports do not even tell BBC audiences how many people were indiscriminately slaughtered in Kfar Aza or that the community lost around a quarter of its population – including children and babies – during that murderous rampage by Hamas.
That filmed report also appears at the top of Jeremy Bowen’s written account of his visit to Kfar Aza, which was published on the BBC News website on October 11th under the headline ‘Inside Kfar Aza where Hamas militants killed families in their homes’.
In that report too, Bowen qualifies the events he was sent to report:
“Soldiers who spent much of the day in the ruins recovering bodies of civilians said that there had been a massacre. It seems likely that much of the killing happened in the first hours of the assault on Saturday.”
His accounts of what a warning at the beginning of the report describes as “details that some readers may find disturbing” are likewise presented as third-party statements.
“Some of the victims, he said, were decapitated. […]
Another officer pointed to a bloodied purple sleeping bag. A swollen toe poked out. He said the woman underneath had been killed and decapitated in her front garden. I did not ask the officer to move the sleeping bag to inspect her body.”
Bowen is however able to give accounts in his own words concerning dead terrorists:
“A few yards away was the blackened, swollen corpse of a dead Hamas gunman.”
“The bodies of dead Hamas gunmen who killed so many of them have been left rotting in the sun, lying uncovered where they were killed in bushes and ditches and the broad lawns of the kibbutz.”
In this written report Bowen again promotes false equivalence between the victims of Hamas’ pre-planned attacks against civilians and the civilians unintentionally killed during attacks against the terrorist organisation he and his colleagues refuse to describe as such.
“But in Gaza, hundreds of civilians are also being killed. International humanitarian law states clearly that all combatants must protect the lives of civilians.
It is clear that the killing of hundreds of civilians by the Hamas attackers is grave violation of the laws of war. Israelis reject any comparison between the way Hamas kills civilians and the way Palestinian civilians die in their air strikes.”
It will come as no surprise to those familiar with his long record of reporting on Israel to see that in his reports from Kfar Aza – including a podcast with Lyse Doucet – Jeremy Bowen was clearly more interested in advancing a narrative based on his own interpretations of “the laws of war” rather than informing BBC audiences about the devastation of this Israeli community and the extent of the carnage perpetrated by a terrorist organisation he refuses to name as such.