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August 18, 2021 12:03 pm
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BBC Spreads Human Rights Watch Lies About Israeli ‘War Crimes’ in Gaza

avatar by Hadar Sela

Opinion

A streak of light is seen as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 16, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

On August 12, the BBC News website published a report headlined “Hamas rocket fire a war crime, Human Rights Watch says” on its Middle East page. The story opens with the “news” that intentionally launching missiles at civilian population centers is a violation of the laws of war.

The firing of rockets at Israel by Palestinians in Gaza during the conflict in May amounted to war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

The attacks “flagrantly violated” the laws of war, the campaign group said following an investigation.

Interestingly, before readers reach a link to that latest report produced by Human Rights Watch, they are provided with a link to a previous HRW report that already received amplification from the BBC:

Last month, HRW said three Israeli air strikes it investigated also amounted to war crimes. The investigation into the strikes which killed 62 civilians found no evidence of military targets nearby.

Despite that re-amplification of HRW’s allegations, the BBC report refrains from mentioning a story that broke last week (but was ignored by the BBC) concerning tunnels in a district of Gaza City which is not far from one of the places where HRW claims to have “found no evidence of military targets”:

Hamas prevented a UN team of experts from working near a tunnel that was found in May near one of the schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), KAN News reported on Tuesday.

The UNRWA Zaitoun Preparatory Boys’ School “A” and Elementary Boys’ School “A” was one of two of the organization’s facilities damaged during the 11-day Gaza war that ended on May 21.

A team of experts from the UN Mine Action Services (UNMAS) had arrived at the school in order to ensure the area was clear of unexploded munitions so that the school could begin its academic year safely.

As soon as Hamas learned that the team was at the school, police arrived at the scene and requested that the team leave immediately. The team subsequently canceled its plans for an additional examination at a school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip where a tunnel was also suspected to have been dug under a UNRWA school, according to KAN.

This latest BBC report does include a rare reference to the human cost of shortfall missiles:

The report says Palestinian rockets and mortars which misfired killed and injured an undetermined number of people in Gaza. It said one misfire above the city of Jabalya which it investigated killed seven civilians and injured 15. According to the Israeli military, 680 rockets and mortars fired by Hamas fell inside the Gaza Strip.

The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, an Israeli think-tank, has estimated the misfires killed 91 people.

However, it also once again promotes Hamas’ narrative concerning the background to the conflict in May:

It began after weeks of spiraling Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem which culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas – the militant Islamist group which rules Gaza – began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.

As we noted last month when HRW published its report on Israel’s “apparent war crimes,” its intent was already evident in its sub-heading: “Israeli, Palestinian Violations Show Need for International Criminal Court Inquiry.” We observed that:

There is … nothing surprising in the least about that “conclusion” because HRW has been promoting (with BBC amplification) the notion that Israel should “face justice” at the ICC for some time.

Those accessing the latest report from HRW will find the same messaging (also amplified on social media) in its opening paragraph:

Palestinian and Israeli authorities have a long track record of failing to investigate alleged war crimes, highlighting the importance of the International Criminal Court’s investigation into Israeli and Palestinian conduct.

The fact that HRW has ticked a box with a token report on terrorist groups’ violations does not alter the fact that Human Rights Watch (and some of its staff) long since forfeited any claim to objectivity on matters pertaining to Israel.

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to cite that organization as though it were a credible authority that produces factual and objective content worthy of amplification.

Hadar Sela serves co-editor of CAMERA UK — an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), where a version of this article first appeared.

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