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November 20, 2018 7:58 am

The BBC’s Absurd Idea of ‘Context’ on Hamas Rocket Attacks Against Israel

avatar by Hadar Sela

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Rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip toward Israel, Nov. 12, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ahmed Zakot.

The lead item in the November 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio program OS — formerly Outside Source — was described in its synopsis thus:

It’s the heaviest exchange of aerial fire between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants since the full-blown conflict in 2014. The violence follows an Israeli special forces operation inside Gaza which went wrong late on Sunday, causing the deaths of Palestinian militants and an Israeli soldier. We hear from local people living in Gaza.

Presenter Ben James told listeners (from 00:11 here): [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

We’re your guide to the important stuff happening now, and the story at the beginning of our news bulletin then is certainly the one we’re going to spend a great deal of time on on this edition of the programme — what’s been happening between Israel and Gaza in the last 24 hours. You’ll have heard in the bulletin: seven people killed in a flare-up of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants. A short time ago, you were just hearing that Hamas said it would agree to an Egyptian brokered cease-fire as long as Israel does. […] Just to take you back, the escalation began when this undercover Israeli Special Forces operation inside Gaza was exposed on Sunday. Since then, more than 400 rockets have been fired into Israel by militants. Israeli aircraft have hit 150 militant targets in response.

After telling listeners what would come up later (but failing to note that the majority of those killed in the Gaza Strip were terrorists), James next introduced some patently one-sided “context” to a story that is actually about terrorist organizations attacking Israeli civilians with military-grade rockets and mortars.

James: “We wanted to break down some of the facts around Gaza and what happens in this region to help put this story into some context. Here’s Orla Barry and Ben Davies from the ‘OS’ team.”

Listeners then heard (from 01:29) a contrived and simplistic quasi-Q&A session, beginning with a theme long popular at the BBC.

Barry: “Where is Gaza?”

Davies: “Gaza, or the Gaza Strip as it’s sometimes called, is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the east and north, and Egypt to the south. Although only 41 kms long and 10 kms wide, this strip of land has one of the highest population densities in the world — nearly 2 million people live there.”

As usual for the BBC, history begins in 1967, with no mention of how Egypt came to occupy the Gaza Strip or of the fact that it is included in the territory designated for the creation of the Jewish homeland by the League of Nations.

Barry: “What is its recent history?”

Davies: “Originally occupied by Egypt, the territory was captured by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war. Israel withdrew its troops and around 7,000 settlers in 2005. Whilst Egypt controls the southern border, Israel controls the others, and since 2007, the region has been governed by the Islamist group Hamas.”

Barry: “So who are Hamas?”

Davies: “Hamas are a Sunni Islamist organisation founded in 1987, born out of the First Intifada — a Palestinian uprising that saw over 5 years of violent conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. There is a key difference between them and the Palestinian Authority who control the West Bank — the other territory run by Palestinians on the west bank [sic] of the Jordan river. Hamas do not recognise the right of Israel to exist and furthermore they advocate the use of violence against it. Hamas is regarded either in whole or in part as a terrorist organisation by several countries — most notably Israel, the United States, and the European Union. But not everyone agrees. Russia, China, and Turkey are among countries who do not regard it as such.”

Those two last sentences are virtually identical to the Wikipedia entry for Hamas. Hamas of course does not just “advocate” the use of violence in its quest to eradicate the Jewish state — it actively engages in violence. Notably, BBC World Service listeners did not hear about Hamas’ Muslim Brotherhood links.

Barry: “What are the roots of this latest conflict?”

Davies: “When Hamas took control of Gaza following regional elections in 2006 in which they ousted the then ruling Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt were quick to impose a blockade, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. The blockade is ongoing. The Israeli government say [sic] that millions of its population live in daily fear of rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza — rockets they say are smuggled into the region through secret tunnels. Hamas accuses Israel of indiscriminate airstrikes and an ongoing occupation of their land. They say that the blockade is the central cause for the region’s high levels of poverty and deprivation.”

Hamas of course did not take “control of Gaza” as a result of the elections in early 2006, but did so nearly 18 months later in a violent coup. In contrast to Davies’ inaccurate claim, the blockade was not introduced “quickly,” but following a sharp rise in terror attacks against Israelis after the Hamas coup — which he failed to mention.

Barry: “What is life in Gaza like then?”

Davies: “In 2017, the Gaza Strip had the highest unemployment rate in the World Bank’s development data base. It’s more than double the rate of the West Bank and youth unemployment is more than 60%. The growing poverty rate in the region has served only to fuel the anger of many of its residents.”

In other words, the “context” given to BBC audiences around the world in this “guide to the important stuff happening now” framed unprecedented rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians as being rooted in poverty, allegedly caused by a misrepresented blockade and an “occupation” that ended more than 13 years ago.

Hadar Sela is the managing editor of BBC Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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