Two days after the IDF began operating in Shifa hospital in Gaza City and after video footage and photographs of some of the weapons, military equipment and military infrastructure found there and in other hospitals had been made public – the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen (by then back in the UK) embarked on a mission to frame those findings as “not convincing”.
On November 17th the BBC News channel aired a studio item with Bowen during which he gave a monologue that went unchallenged by presenter Sophie Raworth: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
Bowen: “They’ve [Israel] said from the very beginning that Shifa was one of their main objectives because of this command centre they absolutely insisted was underground there and that story has been going around since 2014; that there might be one there. So the priority that they gave to Shifa means that as they drove into Gaza City, they killed a lot of people. So their argument has always been that so many people have been killed because Hamas have been using them as human shields, in all the other hospitals as well as at Shifa. So that’s why they wanna prove it. They’ve taken some journalists in there. They’ve given them very little freedom to move around – almost none. The evidence up to now – those piles of Kalashnikovs and so on – frankly is not convincing. The Middle East…wherever you go in the Middle East you see an awful lot of Kalashnikovs and it’s not inconceivable that…I dunno…perhaps the security department of the hospital might have them; certainly the police do. And so the Israelis may get the proof that they want – they’ve found this tunnel entrance – but so far they haven’t. And I think there’s a really big moral…there’s a set of moral, strategic, political questions here because Israel knows that even its allies are saying that a ceasefire might have to come at some point and if they cannot prove this point about human shields, the pressure for that ceasefire is gonna increase.”
Coincidentally or not, Bowen’s claim that the Kalashnikov rifles found in Shifa hospital (as seen by his colleague Lucy Williamson) may have been for the use of security guards at the hospital – as well as his overall framing – is remarkably similar to a claim made by a senior member of Hamas two days earlier that was reported by the ITIC:
“Senior Hamas terrorist Bassem Na’im called Israel’s claims regarding Shifa Hospital “farcical and expected.” He claimed the evidence presented by the IDF was ridiculous and worthless and he did not rule out that the IDF forces had brought the weapons into the hospital themselves, and it was possible that the Kalashnikov assault rifle displayed belonged to a security guard who had been working at the hospital for years. He claimed Israel had once again failed to prove what it has been claiming for weeks. […] (al-Jazeera TV YouTube channel, November 15, 2023)”
Contrary to Bowen’s claim that the “story” about a Hamas command centre under Shifa hospital “has been going around since 2014”, the terrorist organisation’s use of that facility has been known since 2008.
Also on November 17th, the BBC News website published an article by Jeremy Bowen titled ‘Bowen: Ceasefire demands will grow without proof of Hamas HQ at Al-Shifa’ in which the same talking points are repeated.
“The evidence Israel has produced, so far, I do not believe to be convincing in terms of the kind of rhetoric Israelis were using about the set-up at the hospital, which suggested this was a nerve centre for the Hamas operation.
If there was a nerve centre there – and there has been speculation about that possibility since 2014 – then the Israelis have not yet revealed definitive evidence of its existence to the outside world.
What has been recovered includes some Kalashnikov rifles – these are common in the Middle East – a tunnel entrance, of which there are many in Gaza, some military uniforms and a booby-trapped vehicle.”
Quoting Hamas-supplied figures which deliberately do not distinguish between civilians and combatants and do not clarify how many died as a result of shortfall rockets fired by terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip itself (such as the hundreds claimed killed at Al Ahli hospital on October 17th), Bowen writes:
“Israel’s major justification for killing so many people in Gaza – more than 11,500 in more than a month, according to the latest figure from the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry – is that Hamas was using them as human shields.”
For more than a decade we have been documenting Jeremy Bowen’s failure to report accurately and impartially on the issue of Hamas’ exploitation of civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields:
While Bowen (who, interestingly, did report on human shields in Iraq) is not the sole BBC journalist to have whitewashed or ignored Hamas’ use of human shields, as far as we are aware he is the only one to have been to have been cited by Hamas on that topic.
With the BBC’s reputation already seriously battered after six weeks of often highly problematic reporting on the current war between Israel and Hamas, its international editor’s risible claim concerning Kalashnikovs and hospital security guards – exactly as previously claimed by a Hamas official – only serves to further convince people around the world of the corporation’s irrelevance to those seeking accurate, impartial and informative reporting on that topic.