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Tragicomedic BBC Clowns Its Way Through Gaza Onslaught Coverage

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Gaza Blitz - Turmoil And Tragicomedy At The BBC

 

by David Cromwell and David Edwards - Media Lens


BBC News is in turmoil. Having last year dropped a report on claims of sexual abuse against the late DJ and television presenter Jimmy Savile, the flagship Newsnight programme this month wrongly implicated Tory peer Lord McAlpine in child abuse. As a result, after just 54 days in his job, the BBC director-general, George Entwistle, ‘stepped down’ on November 10. The BBC’s head of news, Helen Boaden, and her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, were then also ‘asked’ to ‘step aside’. Peter Rippon, the Newsnight editor responsible for the Savile decision, had already 'stepped aside'.
 
The Lord Patten-led BBC Trust, which is supposed to ensure that the BBC is run in the public interest, has once again been revealed as a useless, dangling appendage.
 
Newsnight’s journalistic failures on child abuse are bad enough, rightly heaping pressure on the broadcaster. But there was no comparable pressure for senior staff to 'step aside' over the BBC's truly catastrophic failure to challenge US-UK propaganda on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and the country's supposed 'threat' to the West. This failure paved the way to war in Iraq and the subsequent brutal and bloody occupation at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
 
 
As Media Lens noted recently on Twitter:
 
‘If you think Newsnight failed badly now, compare with anchor Jeremy Paxman's 2009 confession on Iraq’: namely, that he and his media colleagues were ‘hoodwinked’ by propaganda about Iraq.
 
Paxman made these extraordinary comments:
'As far as I personally was concerned, there came a point with the presentation of the so-called evidence, with the moment when Colin Powell sat down at the UN General Assembly and unveiled what he said was cast-iron evidence of things like mobile, biological weapon facilities and the like...
'When I saw all of that, I thought, well, "We know that Colin Powell is an intelligent, thoughtful man, and a sceptical man. If he believes all this to be the case, then, you know, he's seen the evidence; I haven't."’

In other words, BBC journalism ended where serious journalism, and simple common sense, begins.

How Can This Be ‘Self Defence'?
 
The role of BBC News as handmaiden to power is exemplified by its reporting on the latest series of brutal Israeli assaults on Gaza. On the first day of Operation Pillar of Cloud, thirteen people, including three children, were reportedly killed, and about 100 wounded. Israeli forces succeeded in their objective of ‘assassinating’ Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari in a clear act of extrajudicial state execution.
 
On November 16, Israel was reported to have hit 150 sites in Gaza the previous night, with 450 strikes in total. And yet the main BBC headline that morning read: 'Egypt PM arrives for Gaza mission.' What would the BBC headline have been if 450 targets in Tel Aviv had been hit by F-16 bombs, drone missiles and artillery?
 
The Israeli attacks have routinely been reported as 'retaliation' for Palestinian ‘militant rocket attacks’ on southern Israel. In a study of news performance in 2001, the Glasgow Media Group noted that Israelis ‘were six times as likely to be presented as “retaliating” or in some way responding than were the Palestinians.’

A BBC correspondent in Gaza said ‘there are now fears now (sic) of a major escalation of violence’. But the Israeli execution of Ahmed al-Jabari was a major escalation of violence. BBC News reported three Israeli deaths by rockets fired from Gaza with the briefest mention of the earlier deaths of ‘eleven Palestinians - mainly militants but also children’. As ever, there was no explanation of how a Gaza civilian is distinguished from a ‘militant’.
 
The sequence of recent events, so lacking in 'mainstream' reports, that led to Israel's massive attacks on Gaza can be summarised thus:
 
October 29: The BBC reports that 'Militants in Gaza have fired 26 rockets into Israel, officials say, amid a flare-up in fighting which shattered a brief ceasefire between the two sides. No injuries were reported from the barrage, in the south of the country.' The BBC said that, 'It came hours after Israeli aircraft hit targets in Gaza, after militants fired rockets following the killing by Israel of a Gazan who Israel said fired mortars at its troops.'
November 4: an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, is shot when he wanders close to the border with Israel. Medics have to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay.
November 8: Israeli soldiers invade Gaza, shooting and killing a 13-year old Gazan boy, Ahmad Abu Daqqa, who was playing football.
November 10: Palestinian resistance fighters attack an Israeli army jeep near the boundary with Gaza, injuring 4 Israeli occupation soldiers. An Israeli shell kills two children in Gaza. An Israeli tank later attacks a funeral service killing two more civilians, wounding more than 20 others.
November 11: Palestinian resistance fighters reportedly agree a ceasefire.
November 13: Reuters reports that truce between Palestinians and Israel appears to be holding.
November 14: Israel breaks ceasefire by killing Ahmed al-Jabari and launching intense attacks on Gaza.
 
According to investigative journalist Gareth Porter: 'Israeli assassination of Jabari destroyed possibility of mediated Israeli-Hamas truce.'
 
Stop the War concluded:

'Israeli government claims that they are conducting a "defensive" operation in response to rocket fire from Hamas is not true. Israel is directly responsible for the latest round of violence and must cease attacking Gaza immediately.' (Email, November 15, 2012)

On November 15, retaliating to the escalation in Israeli violence, Hamas missile strikes launched from Gaza into southern Israel killed three people. Every violent death is a tragedy but Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, gave much-needed perspective in an article published the same day:
'While Israeli officials are quick to rattle off the numbers of projectiles fired from Gaza, rarely do they tell you what they fire into Gaza, what the effects of this fire is and what the fallout from it is.
'For example, in 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza have been responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where (sic) women or children [...]
'Through September 2012, Israeli weaponry caused 55 Palestinian deaths and 257 injuries. Among these 312 casualties, 61, or roughly 20 percent, were children and 28 were female. [...] It is important to note that these figures do not represent a totality of Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza but rather only Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza which cause casualties. The total number of Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza is bound to be significantly larger.
Munayyer added: 'more Palestinians were killed in Gaza yesterday than Israelis have been killed by projectile fire from Gaza in the past three years.'
The Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook noted via Facebook on November 15:
'Here, according to the BBC, are the five most important stories relating to Israel's attack on Gaza. (Screengrab via Nour Bakr):
'Gaza missiles fired at Tel Aviv
'Israel's Gaza rocket problem
'"Hamas targets our children"
"'Determined to follow the path of jihad"
'UK's Hague criticises Hamas'
 

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