Tony Greenstein | 15 December 2012 | Post Views:

Israel ‘Reacts’ to Palestinian Rocket Attacks & 

The Partisans ‘Provoked’ the German Panzer SS Division

Think how strange it would be if we considered France’s Nazi occupiers justified in carrying out ‘retaliations’ for attacks made on them by the Maquis.  Perhaps then we could rethink Oradour sur Glane, a village a few kilometres north of Limoges which was totally destroyed by the Nazi’s, 642 men, woman and children massacred by a German Panzer Division.  

The Government’s ‘independent’ mouthpiece

After all, either the right of an occupied people to resist is a natural one, a human one, that no law can take away or it is a mere diplomatic convenience.  But such a right is not one recognised by the BBC when it comes to Israel/Palestine.  Despite occupying Gaza and the West Bank for 45 years, instead of barely more than 4 years, Israel is seen as on the defence, the victim, despite being the 4th most powerful state in the world militarily.

The pro-Zionist bias of the BBC is legendary, as many articles on this blog have detailed.  Its recent coverage of the attack on Gaza was no different from normal:

  1. Israel’s attacks were in ‘retaliation’ for Hamas rocket strikes.
  2. No mention was made of the fact that Ahmed al-Jabari had been assassinated after a ceasefire had been agreed and he had been the negotiator.  He apparently had ‘blood on his hands.’  Perhaps the Israeli General who doesn’t have blood on his hands would like to stand up.
  3. No mention of the 7 Palestinians killed in Gaza prior to Israel’s attacks, or the fact that 5 of them were children.
  4. No mention is made of the fact that the attacks are, as in 2008-9, close to an Israeli general election.
  5. And to cap it off, an e-mail from a BBC Complaints official states that ‘Since the news of Israeli air strikes in Gaza our coverage has pointed out on numerous occasions that the attacks are in response to recent rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.”  Yes that was precisely the point of the complaint!  

It’s called circular logic but the only ‘logic’ in the BBC response is to hug the United States and Israel.  The BBC is its present parlous state, especially post-Savile, is unlikely to want to ruffle any feathers in the government by taking anything other than a strictly pro-Israeli stance.

Part of the problem with complaints about the BBC is the belief that it is capable of any significant change.  The BBC has always been a poodle of the British establishment, whether over Palestine, colonialism or strikes at home.  In the Miners’ strike they reversed footage at Orgrieve to show Police attacks as responses to Miner’s attacks.  

Only this year the Supreme Court upheld the BBC’s decision to refuse to release the Balen Report on  bias, which although brought by a Zionist (the BBC isn’t biased enough!) is widely believed to criticise the BBC’s endemic anti-Palestinian bias.  See Reporting on Israel and the Palestinians  

There is still the naïve belief that the BBC represents something ‘good’ – its Auntie rather than the home of the mass sexual predator Jimmy Savile, his accomplices and an establishment, not least the unlamented recent Director General, Mark Thompson, who turned a blind eye to Savile’s actions.  There is no democratic control of the BBC, instead it is left in the hands of the good and great, like Lord Patten, a failed but influential Tory politician.

The Nazi ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane – a ‘reprisal’ action according to the Nazis (& BBC)

Trade unionists don’t make up any of the membership of the BBC Trust or the previous BBC Directors.  Political conflicts within the BBC have almost always reflected divisions within the British ruling class itself, albeit with a right-wing orientation.  This came to head with the timorous  opposition of some in the BBC like Andrew Gilligan, when he talked of ‘sexed up’ intelligence on an early morning Today programme.  In fact the intelligence was a work of fiction.  But sure enough a reactionary Northern Ireland member of the House of Lords Lord Hutton produced a Report which backed Blair and Alistair Campbell, his propagandist against any semblance of BBC independence.  Director-General Greg Dyke was forced to resign and Mark Thompson took over, determined to learn the lessons, viz. to cowtow to the government politically.

In many ways the BBC is far worse than its commercial rivals.  No thinking person believes Fox News, whereas people see in the BBC an ‘independence’ which masks a bias which is the more dangerous for being its disguise.

The only way to force a BBC that can spend £½ m in rewarding its latest DG George Entwistle for abject failure is not to pay the licence fee.

Below is an excellent article crossposted from Electronic Intifada by Amena Saleem.

Tony Greenstein

BBC admits pandering to Israeli propaganda

Amena Saleem, The Electronic Intifada, London 14 December 2012

Israel’s 10 November 2012 killing of 18-year-old Ahmad Dardasawi was not deemed newsworthy by the BBC. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

One of the most consistent aspects of the BBC’s reporting of Gaza and Israel is the insistence of its journalists that any “outbreak of violence” is the fault of the Palestinians.

When Israel bombs or shells Gaza, this is unfailingly reported by the BBC as being in “response” or “retaliation” to rockets being fired from the blockaded territory. The unflinching regularity of this one-sided reporting by the UK’s state broadcaster is meticulously recorded in More Bad News from Israel, the book by Greg Philo and Mike Berry which contains research by the Glasgow Media Unit into the BBC’s reporting of the occupation.

The BBC’s coverage of Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza in November was no exception. An article published on the BBC’s website the day Hamas commander Ahmed al-Jabari was assassinated in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City stated that the killing “follows a wave of rocket attacks against Israel from the territory” (“Israeli air strike kills Hamas military chief Jabari,” 14 November 2012).

The article went on to feature an Israeli army spokesperson’s claim that al-Jabari had “a lot of blood on his hands” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that a “clear message” had been sent to “Hamas and other terrorist organizations.” Netanyahu’s comments ended with the words: “We will continue to do everything to protect our citizens.”

All of Israel’s key propaganda messages were conveyed, while the reality was carefully hidden. There is, of course, the ongoing reality that Israel is an occupier and a serial violator of international law — facts which are buried under the credibility and authority the BBC accords to its politicians and spokespeople and what they say.

Ignoring reality

On an immediate level, another crucial reality was ignored. By assassinating al-Jabari — itself an illegal act of extrajudicial murder which the BBC failed to examine, even as it printed Netanyahu’s triumphal “clear message” — Israel had violated a ceasefire brokered three days earlier.

This information, so casually ditched by the BBC’s journalists — online, on television and on radio news — was absolutely crucial. It emboldened the lie, disseminated across the BBC’s media outlets, that al-Jabari’s killing and the eight-day onslaught that came next followed “a wave of rocket attacks” from Gaza.
It didn’t. Al-Jabari’s assassination and the ensuing attack on Gaza which killed more than 160 Palestinians, including more than 30 children, followed a ceasefire, which the Palestinian groups in Gaza had been observing and may well have carried on observing if Israel hadn’t broken it. Couple this with the fact that, in 2008, Israel broke another ceasefire to instigate a three-week massacre in Gaza, killing 1,400 Palestinians, including 352 children, and a picture builds of an aggressive Israeli state, regularly bombing and shelling a civilian population with no regard for agreed truce arrangements.

Uneasy pattern

Take into account that both attacks on Gaza, in 2008 and 2012, came just months before Israeli elections, and an uneasy pattern begins to emerge — one which responsible journalists would, presumably, want to question and investigate.

Moreover, al-Jabari was killed as he carried with him, in the car that was hit, a draft agreement for a permanent truce with Israel, raising yet another vital question: was Israel trying to sabotage a possible end to the violence?

Such facts and the questions they prompted appeared to be irrelevant to the BBC’s presenters. On 18 November, four days after al-Jabari was killed, Samira Ahmed hosted BBC One’s Sunday Morning Live program. This included a 15-minute debate entitled “Are Israeli military actions justified?” featuring Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, and right-wing political commentator Charlie Wolf.
The justification for military action put forward by Ahmed to start the debate was “Hamas rocket attacks.” And this is where the debate stuck. Any attempt by Atwan to give depth or context to the discussion, by mentioning the blockade, the occupation, or Israel’s year-round attacks on Gaza, were batted away by Ahmed who unfailingly came back with the rejoinder: “But wouldn’t it all stop if Hamas stopped firing rockets?” The implication of course was that Hamas starts violence, and Israel responds because it has to protect its citizens.

That Palestinian rocket attacks might be a response to 45 years of ongoing occupation, combined since 2006 with a crippling blockade, is not a possibility the BBC is willing to discuss on its airwaves.
In just 15 minutes, the former Channel 4 News presenter revealed how completely she has attuned herself to the BBC’s commitment to the Israeli narrative by referring to “Hamas rocket attacks” 15 times, and never once to Israel’s ceasefire violations and the complicated questions these violations raise.

Blaming the victims

This fits in with what would appear to be her employer’s editorial policy on Israel and Gaza. In an email sent on 21 November to a member of the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and seen by this writer, the BBC Complaints Department explains in some detail how the broadcaster had gone out of its way to lay the blame for the violence of the previous eight days on the Palestinians.

The email, signed off “BBC Complaints,” states: “Since the news of Israeli air strikes in Gaza our coverage has pointed out on numerous occasions that the attacks are in response to recent rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.”

It adds: “Our initial online report on 14 November pointed to how the attack on Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari and another Hamas official ‘follows a wave of rocket attacks against Israel from the territory’ and how ‘the United States said it supported Israel’s right to self-defense, and condemned militant rocket attacks on southern Israel.’”

Seemingly oblivious to or unfazed by the inaccuracy of its own reporting, the message goes on: “On the BBC’s News at Ten that same evening, the BBC’s Gaza and West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison’s report explained that ‘Israel says the strike followed a wave of rocket attacks from inside Gaza,’ before hearing directly from Israeli Army Spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich as she explained how ‘I can just elaborate that the target of the operation is to protect Israeli civilians. The same lives of Israelis that have been under constant rocket attack for the past year.’”

In a twist of almost comic absurdity, given eight days of reporting which squarely blamed Hamas for the violence and equated the fear caused by the 12-pound and 90-pound Palestinian rockets with the terror induced by Israel’s 500-pound to 2,000-pound bombs, the email ends with: “We will continue to report on developments from the region in a fair, accurate and impartial way.”

The email highlights the BBC’s willingness to ignore facts and important questions — for example, why did Israel really kill al-Jabari? — in favor of a narrative that, deliberately or not, echoes that of the Israeli government.

Child deaths unreported

Less than a week before al-Jabari’s execution, Israel had killed seven Palestinians in Gaza in the space of 48 hours. Of these, five were teenage boys (“New Israeli escalation against the Gaza Strip,” Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 11 November 2012).

The first to die, 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Daqqa, was shot in the abdomen by Israeli soldiers. Two days later, brothers 16-year-old Mohammed Harara and 17-year-old Ahmed Harara were killed playing football when Israeli forces fired shells at their playground. As people rushed to help, three more shells were fired, and an 18-year-old and 19-year-old were killed.

It is safe to assume that if five Israeli teenagers, including two brothers playing football and a 13-year-old, had been killed by Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza, it would be headline news for the BBC.

The Israeli killing of the Palestinian youngsters was ignored on BBC television and prime-time radio news. Even when al-Jabari was killed, four days after the Harara brothers lost their lives, and some kind of premeditated build-up to the eight-day assault began to emerge, the BBC still refused to mention Israel’s two-day killing spree in Gaza a few days earlier.

Official line

All BBC journalists stuck to Israel’s official line that the assassination of 14 November, and what followed, was in retaliation to Palestinian rockets — and conveniently omitted from their reports the fact that Israel had been engaged in killing Palestinian children in the days immediately preceding al-Jabari’s execution.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign wrote to the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs program Today on 12 November to ask why it had not covered the killing of the five Palestinian teenagers on 8 and 10 November.

The program’s assistant editor, Dominic Groves, wrote back to say: “Even in the space of a three hour program it is not always possible to cover every development in a story — especially one as long running and complex as the one in the Middle East.”

And yet the killing of five young boys by Israel isn’t a “development in a story;” it is news in itself. When the Today program can give prominent coverage to a Palestinian rocket attack on a bus in April 2011, which killed a 16-year-old Israeli schoolboy, how can Groves claim the same program has no room to report on the slaughter of five Palestinian boys by the Israeli army? (“Israeli boy Daniel Viflic dies after rocket hits bus,” 18 April 2011).

Since the latest “ceasefire” came into effect on the evening of 21 November, Israel has been flying its F-16s over the skies of Gaza, 40 Gaza fishermen have been detained by Israeli forces, and a 20-year-old Palestinian has been shot and killed by Israeli fire, while 54 Palestinians, including six children have been injured (“Protection of civilians weekly report,” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 28 November – 4 December 2012 [PDF]).

Like the everyday struggle of Palestinians in Gaza, currently dealing with power cuts lasting eight hours each day, this has gone unreported by the BBC and other mainstream media because no one, yet, is firing rockets back.
Amena Saleem is active with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK and keeps a close eye on the media’s coverage of Palestine as part of her brief. She has twice driven on convoys to Gaza for PSC. More information on PSC is available at

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Tony Greenstein

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