On the evening of Friday, February 9th, the BBC News website published a report by BBC Verify headlined “Israeli soldier videos from Gaza could breach international law, experts say”.
“Videos of Gazan detainees stripped, bound and blindfolded that were filmed and uploaded online by Israeli soldiers could breach international law, legal experts say.
International law says detainees must not be exposed to unnecessary humiliation or public curiosity.”
Readers then discover that BBC Verify has the time and publicly funded resources to trawl through the personal social media accounts of Israeli soldiers and reservists:
“BBC Verify looked at hundreds of videos openly shared by Israeli soldiers in Gaza since November 2023. We verified eight showing detainees.”
The report continues:
“Dr Mark Ellis, a leading UN advisor to international criminal tribunals, said the footage we showed him from Israeli soldiers might violate the recognised rules for treating prisoners of war.” […]
“Dr Ellis says the key is “not creating a public curiosity” for prisoners of war and not “degrading them or humiliating them”.
He added: “The idea of walking people through in their underwear and filming that and sending it out certainly would violate that.
“The rules that are set down would not in any way allow this type of act.””
Apparently BBC Verify did not ask Dr Mark Ellis about “the rules” concerning the use of very similar footage and images by the BBC News website itself – including BBC Verify – in content with worldwide reach that would create far broader “public curiosity” than any personal social media account.
BBC Verify solicited a similar opinion from another “legal expert”:
“Human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield said the footage should be assessed by a UN court.
“There is a very severe restriction on on [sic] how you deal with people who are detained who are prisoners of war in a time of war or conflict, which this plainly is, and that provision is really one in which you are intended to treat prisoners with respect,” he said.”
However, BBC Verify failed to comply with BBC editorial guidelines concerning ‘contributors’ affiliations’ by informing readers of Mansfield’s long-standing anti-Israel activism and collaboration with lawfare campaigns against Israel. Readers may recall Mansfield’s 2010 portrayal of the participants in the IHH Mavi Marmara flotilla as “a collective of courageous individuals”.
This latest item from BBC Verify should be viewed within the context of the content it has produced (sometimes in collaboration with other departments) for the BBC News website since the war began. Of twenty-four items which have appeared on that platform since October 7th, three more recent ones have concerned attacks on shipping by the Houthis:
Tracking Houthi attacks in the Red Sea January 20, 2024
US and UK strikes fail to slow Houthi attacks February 1, 2024
BBC Verify looks at impact of strikes in Yemen February 5, 2024
Four early reports related to the Hamas invasion and slaughter of Israeli citizens:
Footage and maps help build up picture of assault October 7, 2023
Watch: How Hamas’ shock attack on Israel unfolded October 7, 2023
(Those four items were discussed below:
A much later report related to the topic of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip:
‘I’m not ready to lose hope’: The hostages still in Gaza December 1, 2023
One item concerned disinformation about casualties in Israel and the Gaza Strip:
False claims of staged deaths surge in Israel-Gaza war December 22, 2023
One report concerned the planning of the October 7th attack by Hamas:
How Hamas built a force to attack Israel on 7 October November 27, 2023
The other fourteen items produced by BBC Verify in that time period have all concerned events in the Gaza Strip:
Gaza hospital blast: What does new analysis tell us? October 26, 2023
Strikes on south Gaza: BBC verifies attacks in areas of ‘safety’ November 1, 2023
Israel-Gaza war: Dead bodies and tanks on road south as people flee November 9, 2023
How the dead are counted in Gaza November 16, 2023
BBC assesses footage of hostages and tunnels released by Israel November 20, 2023
Nearly 100,000 Gaza buildings may be damaged, satellite images show December 1, 2023
Al-Mawasi: Gaza humanitarian zone not humane, evacuees say December 8, 2023
Israel Gaza: What Gaza’s death toll says about the war December 20, 2023
In other words, with BBC News website audiences having already seen almost three times more BBC Verify content concerning alleged Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip than reports on Hamas’ activities both in Israel and in the Gaza Strip (such as the theft of humanitarian aid and the suppression of public protest), this latest item about the personal social media activity of two Israelis currently serving in the army should not come as much of a surprise.
Neither, of course, should questions concerning the imbalance and lack of impartiality displayed by the BBC in its coverage of this conflict.