BBC reports on ICJ order fail to accurately and fully inform

As previously documented on these pages, since late January 2024 the BBC has repeatedly promoted disinformation – both from its own journalists and from interviewees – concerning the International Court of Justice ruling issued on the 26th of that month.

OMISSION AND MISREPRESENTATION IN BBC REPORTING ON ICJ RULING

A BBC INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS MULTIPLE BBC MISREPRESENTATIONS OF ICJ RULING

BBC RADIO 4’S ‘TODAY’ PLATFORMS DISINFORMATION ON ICJ RULING

BBC RADIO SCOTLAND PROMOTES MORE ICJ DISINFORMATION

Given that as recently as May 16th the BBC’s legal correspondent published an article on the BBC News website in which he explained that the ICJ’s ruling had been misinterpreted by many “including the BBC”, one might have expected the corporation’s staff to have been more careful about their presentation of an ICJ order issued on May 24th. That, however, was not the case.

Visitors to the BBC News website on the evening of May 24th were given to understand that the ICJ had ordered Israel to stop its military operations in Rafah.

The report titled “Top UN court orders Israel to stop Rafah offensive” is credited to Raffi Berg and opens as follows:

Readers are later told that:

“Reading the court’s ruling on Friday, Nawaf Salam said “Israel must immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate” which could bring about “the physical destruction” of the Palestinians – alluding to what constitutes genocide under international law.”

And:

“South Africa’s foreign ministry chief Zane Dangor called the ruling “groundbreaking”, alluding to it being the first time the court has made an explicit order to Israel to halt action in a part of Gaza.

Hamas said it welcomed the decision which it said “demands that the brutal Zionist entity [Israel] stop its aggression” in Rafah”.”

The other report – “No sign Israel will change course after Gaza ruling” – is credited to Paul Adams and tells BBC audiences that:

BBC audiences would therefore have been left in little doubt that the ICJ had ordered Israel “to halt its operation”.

However, as explained by UK Lawyers for Israel:

“The Order made by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) today has been misinterpreted in many media reports.

The ICJ did not make an Order requiring Israel to cease its military operation in Rafah unconditionally, as had been sought by South Africa. Instead, it ordered that:

“The State of Israel shall …. [i]mmediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

 It is clear from the wording and punctuation that the phrase “which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” qualifies both parts of the requirement that Israel must “halt its military offensive, and any other action the Rafah Governate”.

Moreover this qualification cannot be interpreted as a conclusion of the ICJ as to the effect of the existing operation, since it also qualifies “any other action” which refers to unspecified actions in relation to which the ICJ could not have reached any such conclusion. It can only be interpreted as meaning that the prohibition applies if the operation may have this effect.

This interpretation is confirmed by the concurring declarations of Judge Nolte and Judge Aurescu as well as the dissenting opinions of Vice-President Sebutinde and Judge Barak.”

Professor Stefan Talmon similarly noted that:

Neither Berg nor Adams bothered to inform BBC audiences that not only is the ICJ’s order subject to differing interpretations but even the judges involved do not all agree on its practical meaning.

The vice-president of the court, Judge Sebutinde, wrote in her dissenting opinion that the directive “may be misunderstood”.

As reported by the Times of Israel:

“According to the interpretation of Sebutinde, Barak and two other judges on the court, the court’s ruling was not a direct and total order to stop the Rafah operation, but rather a limited order instructing Israel not to violate the Genocide Convention in that military campaign. […]

While some are reading the decision as a blanket order to halt the offensive, the wording appeared to include some conditionality that would allow Israel to continue operations in Rafah so long as it ensured that the conditions for Palestinians sheltering there do not deteriorate so as to risk their mass-destruction. Notably, nearly one million of the 1.4 million Palestinians sheltering in Rafah have already evacuated, amid IDF orders to do so.

Such an interpretation was made explicit by Judge Georg Nolte of Germany who wrote that “The measure obliging Israel to halt the current military offensive in Rafah is conditioned by the need to prevent ‘conditions of life that could bring about [the] physical destruction in whole or in part’ of the Palestinian group in Gaza.””

BBC audiences, however, were told nothing of that part of the story in the reports by Berg and Adams because, as we already saw in its reporting related to the ICJ’s January 26th ruling, the BBC seeks to promote a paradigm rather than to accurately and impartially inform its funding public.

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3 Comments

  1. says: David H

    Its even worse then omission. See how the BBC quotes Nawaf Salam reading the same order. Look at how they put the speech marks around “the physical destruction” to suggest that the order is to halt entirely and the reason for it is because it will bring about the physical destruction of Palestinians – not that it the order is not to bring about the physical destruction of the Palestinians in Rafah.

    Reading the court’s ruling on Friday, Nawaf Salam said “Israel must immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate” which could bring about “the physical destruction” of the Palestinians – alluding to what constitutes genocide under international law.

  2. says: Grimey

    By firing its latest massive barrage of rockets from Rafah against the civilian population of Tel Aviv, Hamas has provided ample reason and justification for Israel to continue its war to destroy this proscribed Iranian-puppet terrorist organisation.

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