Social media ‘influencers’ and Nazi analogy in BBC News reporting

The November 3rd edition of BBC domestic television’s 6 p.m. news included an item relating to an incident that had taken place a couple of hours earlier in the vicinity of Shifa hospital in Gaza City in which the IDF carried out an airstrike on an ambulance being used by a Hamas cell.

Viewers of that BBC report were told by Jeremy Bowen that:

“Around four this afternoon many people were killed very close to Shifa – Gaza City’s main hospital. The health ministry – controlled by Hamas – said Israel attacked a convoy of ambulances.”

That BBC report included footage from the scene, some of which is credited to one Ismail Alghoull who, according to the New York Times “was filming inside the hospital at that time”. Additional footage used by the BBC was filmed by a man in a pink and white T-shirt called Saleh al Jafarawi who runs accounts on various social media platforms.

As several social media users have pointed out, al Jafarawi has been in the news quite a bit lately.

In fact, the BBC does know who al Jafarawi is. Earlier on the same day, a member of the BBC Verify team had described him as an “Instagram influencer”. While Sardarizadeh is correct that two of those images do not show al Jafarawi, notably he did not address the topic of the other seven images that do or the credibility of the reporting produced by that pro-Hamas ‘influencer’ since (and before) the outset of the current hostilities initiated by Hamas.

In other words, all BBC News had to do in order to avoid the embarrassment of screening footage from a discredited source who has already had one of his Instagram accounts suspended was pick up the phone to BBC Verify.

A later ‘News at Ten’ report also included coverage of the same story. Reeta Chakrabarti told viewers that: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“Israel has this evening said it struck an ambulance in Gaza City which it said was being used by Hamas. The health authority – which is Hamas-run – says it was part of a convoy carrying wounded people from the besieged north to the south of the territory.”

The report then shifted to footage from the scene, some of which (including frames from 0:37 to 0:39 showing al Jafarawi) is credited to Ahmed Hijazee – another social media ‘influencer’ with accounts on various platforms. That footage had already appeared on his clearly partisan Twitter account earlier in the day.

Social media ‘influencers’ are of course not subject to any standards of journalism whatsoever but apparently the BBC is of the opinion that the potentially misleading and ‘likes’ craving footage produced by anyone – including Hamas supporters – with a mobile phone in the Gaza Strip is an acceptable alternative to actual news reporting.

Against the backdrop of that footage, viewers are told by Jeremy Bowen that:

“Around four this afternoon an ambulance outside Shifa – the main hospital in Gaza – was destroyed by an Israeli aircraft. In a crowded area thirteen people, including bystanders, were killed and 26 injured according to the health ministry in Gaza. Israel said the ambulance was carrying a Hamas terrorist cell. Hamas said the attack was Zionist Nazi terror.”

Bowen refrained from informing viewers of Hamas’ known record of using ambulances for the purposes of terrorism, including very recently.

“Hamas tried to sneak its fighters out of the Gaza Strip in ambulances that evacuated dozens of wounded Palestinians to Egypt earlier this week, a senior Biden administration official said Friday.

Hamas had compiled a list of the seriously wounded that it wanted to evacuate from Gaza for treatment in Egypt, along with thousands of foreign nationals looking to flee the enclave.

The list was then vetted by Egypt and the United States, which found that a third of the names on it were of Hamas fighters, the administration official said, adding that the list was rejected and none of the 76 wounded Palestinians who were ultimately evacuated in ambulances out of Gaza were members of the terror group.”

Neither did Bowen bother to remind viewers of the Hamas attacks on ambulances and slaughter of paramedics in Israel on October 7th or to inform them of the obviously relevant fact that the terrorist organisation uses the Shifa hospital as an operations centre and hideout.  

Such glaring omissions obviously come as somewhat less of a surprise from a reporter who is clearly quite happy to provide amplification for redundant and dangerous Nazi analogies made by the very terrorist organisation that just four weeks ago perpetrated against Israeli civilians mass slaughter unprecedented in both scale and cruelty. 

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