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As bombs rain down on the people of Gaza the BBC has once again transformed itself into a platform for Israeli government spokespeople and apologists

gaza civillians killedThe BBC news, and particularly the reports from Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus, on the ongoing Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip has presented the violence as little more than a defensive policy manoeuvre by Israel, whose government, in Marcus's view, 'clearly wants' another ceasefire.

On Wednesday Marcus wrote that the Israeli assassination of Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, the head of the military wing of Hamas, was 'a taste of things to come'.

As with his reporting on Israel's threats towards Iran, Marcus does not point towards the illegalities of such behaviour. Rather this shows, for him, Netanyahu's 'determination to act', his 'initial choice, a return to the policy of targeted killings'. Excluding the BBC's complacent response to news of Obama's 'kill list' in May 2012 (with North America Editor, Mark Mardell, choosing to emphasise ‘that the care taken by the president is significant’), in what other situations might a BBC correspondent nonchalantly report on a ‘policy of targeted killings’ by a country’s leader? How many other leaders are seen by news correspondents to have a valid ‘choice’ as to whether they want to establish a policy of targeted killings?

Marcus’s analysis goes on to say that ‘the danger’ of Israel carrying out such attacks is that it ‘could eventually prompt a major Israeli engagement on the ground’. Note the wording here: there is no mention of invasion, attack, or force; ‘engagement’ would merely be ‘prompted’ by such a situation. Israel, it seems, does not attack; it is merely drawn into ‘engagement’ as it works towards ‘re-establish[ing] its deterrence and achieve a longer-lasting ceasefire’.

With regard to rocket attacks from Hamas, Marcus reverts to more explicit terminology: there has been a ‘recent upsurge in rocket attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip and the firing of a missile against an Israeli military vehicle patrolling the border fence’. In further defence of Israel’s behaviour it is commented that there ‘has been a significant increase in the number of armed jihadist elements in the Gaza Strip’, according to ‘analysts’. In other words, we are to infer from this that the people of Gaza have brought this violence from Israel upon themselves.

After his baffling flurry of reasons for justifying the Israeli attacks (increase in jihadists; choice of policy; a warning ‘taste of things to come’) Marcus somehow assumes that Netanyahu ‘wants to avoid a full-scale ground war, like Operation Cast Lead that was launched in December 2008’.

Discussing Operation Cast Lead, another recent report on the BBC website tells us that in 2008 ‘hundreds of Palestinians were killed on the first day of Israel's operation’. Note again that this was an ‘operation’, not an ‘attack’. Hamas rocket fire into Israel, in contrast, is never referred to merely as an ‘operation’.

In another example, in the same vein as Jonathan Marcus’s reporting, Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East Editor, writes that ‘the danger of the kind of operation Israel has started is that rising casualties on both sides cause a violent escalation that neither side can control’.

Once again, what Israel has started is an ‘operation’, and the depiction of the circumstance as a ‘violent escalation that neither side can control’ leads a reader away from any assumption of there being a clear instigator to this violence.

BBC onlineAs ‘speculation … mount[ed] that the Israeli army [was] preparing to launch a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip’, the BBC news website of 15 November highlighted the conflict from what could be seen as a somewhat one-sided perspective. The homepage featured 5 headlines (pictured on the right), the top story of which read, ‘Gaza missiles fired at Tel Aviv’.

Also featured were reports titled: ‘Israel’s Gaza rocket problem’; ‘UK’s Hague criticises Hamas’; ‘Determined to follow the path of Jihad’; and ‘Hamas targets our children’. In this range of headlines, the residents of the Gaza Strip, on the receiving end of Israel’s bombardment, do not feature. One might have wondered if any ‘problems’ were experienced on the other side of the separation barrier, but information of the effects on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip was sparse. On Thursday 130 casualties were reported in Gaza and 19 deaths, but details of the civilian deaths and casualties are absent from reports.

Providing an analysis of international media coverage from the beginning of the Israeli assault, Noam Chomsky and others wrote on 14 November ‘There was … hardly any mention on the morning of November 12 of military attacks on Gaza that continued throughout the weekend. A cursory scan confirms this … for the New York Times and for the BBC’. In news reports, they write, ‘[w]hat is not in focus are the shellings and bombardments on Gaza, which have resulted in numerous severe and fatal casualties’. This despite ‘[t]he fact that casualties have overwhelmingly been civilians [which] indicates that Israel is not so much engaged in "targeted" killings, as in "collective" killings, thus once again committing the crime of collective punishment’.

Responsibility for any escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza is firmly laid at the hands of Hamas. A headline in The Guardian reads: ‘Obama presses Egypt to rein in Hamas as Gaza conflict escalates’. The idea is not floated in the media that Israel could or should halt its attack (neither do condemnations appear of the initial breach by Israel of the ceasefire). It is noted in The Guardian that Egyptian foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, called on the US to ‘put pressure on the Israelis to halt the assault on Gaza’. Reports of reactions such as this from non-allied states form the only appearances of such a suggestion.

Further, a BBC report on the deaths of Israeli civilians provided ample space for Benjamin Netanyahu to justify civilian casualties in Gaza. Netanyahu claimed that Hamas ‘deliberately place their rockets next to their children’ we are told by the report. The message is clear: if Palestinian children die, it is not because of Israeli behaviour, but rather it is because of the evil ‘militants’ who have engineered the situation this way.

The reporting has so far downplayed the assassination that instigated the conflict, and omits altogether the killing by Israel of 20-year-old Ahmad al-Nabaheen on 5 November, and of the 13-year-old boy killed as he played football outside his home on 8 November, portraying the Israeli assault on Gaza instead as some a defensive measure.

The history of these events is already being written from the point of view of the more powerful side of the conflict, and mainstream journalists are proving themselves complicit in this process.

Make a complaint to the BBC about it's Gaza coverage...

From News Unspun

Comments   

 
#1 BBC Bias in reporting the Israel / Palestine warDavid Cannon 2012-11-18 08:05
My complaint to the BBC about News at One on Thursday 15 November

Full Complaint: Emotive language was used.

In the opening minute Martha Kearney said that 3 Israelis had been 'killed' as a result of a rocket attack, and 13 Palestinians (who had been subjected to bombardment by air, sea and land had merely) 'died'.

Could you please justify the reasons for the different language used?
 
 
#2 David CannonPounce 2012-11-18 16:50
David just a few points you may have missed, in a lot of bBC reports they write down the death of those Israeli citizens as 2 men and 1 women.(breaking down the figures so that it looks like even less) not only that but that woman was pregnant, so should that be 4 deaths?
 
 
#3 RE: Gaza: BBC re-writing history as it happensGuy Shennan 2012-11-19 10:55
Excellent article. Complaint I have sent to the BBC on 19.11.12 - I was struck by John Humphreys' interview of the Times of Israel journalist this morning, by how toothless it was in comparison with his typically more aggressive and confrontational style, as shown in his interview of George Entwistle, for example. I suspect this was due either to Mr Humphreys having to follow a BBC line of 'balance', regarding what is a grotesquely unbalanced situation of a major military power bombarding an imprisoned and blockaded, largely refugee population, or to ignorance on Mr Humphreys' part concerning the situation and its causes, both historical and immediate, or probably both. The journalist's account of Israel having to act as they are doing to defend themselves against Hamas rockets cried out for the interventions and interruptions that one would usually expect from Mr Humphreys, but which were sadly absent here. He could have intervened in many ways, for example, to raise the fact that Israel started the current slaughter by killing a 12-year old boy on 8 November, who was playing football not firing rockets, or by raising the fact that the Hamas leader that Israel later assassinated (and are ex-judicio assassinations now ok according to the BBC?) had just negotiated a truce. I suggest that, in order not to give such free rides to Israeli commentators, thereby contributing to the BBC's distorted coverage of this desperate situation, Mr Humphreys finds out the facts of the situation before carrying out interviews of people involved in it.
 

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