Once Again, the BBC Misleads on Gaza Violence
Recently, BBC Watch demonstrated how a backgrounder on Jerusalem produced by the BBC World Service’s BBC Minute misled its target audience of “young people” on the 1949 armistice lines.
Last month, BBC Minute produced two more items that it portrays as “making sense of the news” — both relating to the Gaza Strip. In those two items, still available online, a BBC Arabic journalist once again misled audiences with inaccurate information and context-free presentation.
The first item is titled “BBC Minute: On Gaza clashes” and was published on May 16. It begins:
Gaza witnessed what’s described as the deadliest day of violence since 2014. Some 58 Palestinians were killed, and Palestinian officials say around 2,700 were wounded during clashes with Israeli troops. It comes amid weeks of rising tension. We hear from the BBC’s Nida Ibrahim, who is in Gaza.
In the segment, BBC audiences around the world then heard the following:
Ibrahim: “I’m Nida Ibrahim from BBC Arabic reporting from Gaza.”
Presenter: “This is BBC Minute on Gaza. For the last few weeks, Palestinians have been protesting at Gaza’s border with Israel. It’s seen some of the deadliest clashes since the 2014 war.”
Ibrahim: “We’re talking about 60 people who were shot dead and 2,000 people who were injured. Some people are saying that the authorities here are not interested in any more protests. Things were supposed to culminate because it is … [the] Nakba — or catastrophe — which is the day Palestinians commemorate as the 70th anniversary for the creation of Israel and their being forced off their lands in 1948.”
Presenter: “Gaza has been one of the key issues in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. Israel accuses Hamas, that controls Gaza, of perpetrating attacks on its soil and [has] imposed barriers to reduce infiltration from the region.”
Ibrahim: “So I’ll say what one protester said to me the other day: he said life in Gaza equals death. One of the biggest barriers is actually having no future.”
Obviously, that account does nothing to explain the real background to the pre-planned violence that has been taking place along the Gaza Strip-Israel border since the end of March. Neither does it contribute anything to the audience’s understanding of the context of the situation in Gaza.
But in that one-minute item, Nida Ibrahim did find the time to misinform the BBC’s young audiences by inaccurately claiming that the sole reason Palestinians left their homes was because they were “forced off their lands.”
On May 17, BBC Minute On produced another backgrounder featuring BBC Arabic’s Nida Ibrahim, titled “BBC Minute: On life in Gaza.”
About 75% of Gaza’s population is under the age of 25. They live in what UNICEF says is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Israel says a boundary is needed for national security, and [that] the violence there is … a result of them defending its sovereignty and citizens. The BBC’s Nida Ibrahim is in Gaza and speaks to us about [what life is] like for young people there.
BBC audiences first hear a recycled version of the story that closed the previous edition:
Presenter: “Nida Ibrahim has been speaking to us about the deadly protests in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory. Here’s what one protester told her.”
Ibrahim: “He says life in Gaza equals death, so it doesn’t really matter if we go on the front lines.”
Presenter: “About 75% of its population is under the age of 25.”
Ibrahim: “You don’t have electricity, but for four hours. You don’t have hope. You don’t have jobs. So apart from the physical barriers that they might face, they’re not allowed to travel; the borders are closed most of the time. Even the sea is contaminated by sewage water that [has] nowhere else to be released.”
Presenter: “The World Bank says a lack of progress towards peace and reconciliation has created an unsustainable economic situation.”
Ibrahim: “So if you are a 20-year-old, you would want to know what kind of future you have here, and this is the hardest to answer.”
Presenter: “Israel says the boundary is needed for national security.”
Ibrahim: “I heard somebody saying the other day that if they open the border, you won’t find anybody else left in Gaza.”
Obviously, this superficial portrayal again contributes nothing whatsoever to audience understanding of the factual background to the situation in the Gaza Strip — including the Hamas-Fatah rift that has exacerbated the electricity shortages and sewage treatment crisis.
Listeners hear nothing at all about Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip 13 years ago; what’s worse, the crucially relevant topic of Hamas terrorism is not seriously addressed.
Moreover, listeners are then steered towards the understanding that “a lack of progress towards peace” is behind Gaza’s dire economic situation, but no mention is made of the fact that it is Hamas that completely rejects “peace” and continues to aspire to destroy Israel.
These particular BBC Minute backgrounders clearly don’t fulfill the corporation’s public purpose of providing “accurate and impartial news, current affairs, and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”
Readers can judge for themselves whether BBC World Service funding (supplied by the British public, both directly to the BBC and via the Foreign Office) could in fact be better employed to provide young people with news of the standard that they actually deserve rather than content that is superficial, serially inaccurate, politically partial, and dumbed-down to the point of being irrelevant.
Hadar Sela is the Managing Editor of BBC Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Her work has appeared in The Propagandist, Harry’s Place, The Commentator, and the MERIA journal among others. This article was originally published by BBC Watch.