Tuesday, 26 August 2014

BBC on Gaza - 80 seconds of concentrated distortion

There's been some good discussion (h/t 'scrabb') at the Media Lens message board over a BBC online video entitled Gaza Strip's troubled history - in 80 seconds.

And, like that 'how many elephants in a Mini?' question, it is, indeed, worth viewing as an illustrative reminder of just how much blatant distortion even the BBC can squeeze into an 80 second film. 

The two-sentence introduction is immediately instructive of the bias to come:
Israel has said it will not stop its offensive in Gaza until the tunnels constructed by Hamas have been destroyed. It began Operation Protective Edge on 8 July and since then more than 1,400 people have died.
Intercut with incriminating scenes of Hamas 'militants', Hamas rockets and fleeing Israeli shoppers, alongside the supposed 'balancing' images of Israeli 'strikes', Palestinian casualties and UN food piles, the film takes the viewer through a crass chronology of headline events and loaded messages:

Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt in 1967...
There's no mention here of 1948 as the formative event, the Nakba, which saw many Palestinians flee to Gaza as an escape from Zionist terror. There's no mention either that the capture of Gaza from 1967 was a violation of international law, or that Gaza continues to be held under Israeli occupation, making Israel subject to the laws of occupation.

1.2M of Gaza's 1.7M Palestinian residents are refugees
A bland statement of fact, with not even a cursory explanation of how those 'residents' were forced to become refugees.

They live in one of the world's most densely populated areas
They are, in fact, illegally contained and imprisoned in one of the world's most densely-populated areas.

Israel pulled out settlers and soldiers in 2005
False. Israel remains the occupying power as defined by Article 47 of the Hague Regulations. Why did Sharon order the 'pull out'? Because it was easier to control Gaza by other military means, while concentrating settler occupation on the West Bank. Israel's expedient motives are not even intimated here.

Islamist group is dominant in Gaza
The BBC's way of shielding the truth of Hamas, which is actually the democratically-elected government in Gaza. Would the BBC ever say: 'Jewish group is dominant in Israel'?

It wants to eradicate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state
A gross distortion, with no hint of the realpolitik. Hamas is, in practice, a national liberation movement with little hope or intention of realising an Islamic state. Indeed, Islamic State (IS) now fighting in Iraq and Syria regard Hamas as a sworn enemy for putting Palestinian liberation before a caliphate.  

It is seen as a terrorist group by EU, US and Israel
Repeated here as an 'authoritative' view.  Israel, America and Britain are seen as terrorist states by Palestinians and many others. Why no mention of this? There's no mention either that Israel once supported Hamas as a counterpoint to Fatah.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza since 2007
It's an illegal blockade/siege, as defined by the UN, imposed after Palestinians approved Hamas in a fair election. 

Gaza militants have stockpiled weapons...
In contrast to crude rockets, Israel, one of the world's strongest militaries, has mass stockpiles of the most devastating weaponry, supplied by US/UK and other Western states. No mention here either of the $3 billion military assistance the US gives to Israel annually. So why highlight the stockpiles of 'Gaza militants' in this way?  

Including rockets with a range of 160km
No reference to the much greater range and destructive capacity of Israeli firepower, or its nuclear holdings. The BBC's essential message: Hamas is the initiating problem, terrorising Israel, not the other way round, and Israel's 'Operation Protective Edge', unlike those Hamas rockets, is a 'responsive' act.

There have been bouts of cross-border violence in recent years
A truly shameful evasion, even for the BBC. Having consistently violated every ceasefire, Israel has murdered thousands of Palestinians, many of them children, in air attacks, with remote-mounted guns along its perimeter wire, and through the daily effects of the siege.

Conflicts in 2008-09 and 2012 killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and 17 Israelis
Actually, over 1400 in 2008-09 alone. And why the term 'conflicts'? This is not a 'conflict' or a 'war' on Hamas, it's a calculated aggression against the entire Palestinian people.

There have been hundreds of rocket attacks and air strikes in recent weeks
Note the prioritised placing of 'rocket attacks' before 'air strikes'. The terms used are also selectively loaded to suggest the more offensive act by Palestinians.

By the end of July more than 50 Israelis had been killed
As always, the most significant loss of life for the BBC.

And at least 1,300 Palestinians, mainly civilians
And that tail-end tally of dead Palestinians - how 'truthful' of the BBC to note that they are mainly civilians.

So much more could be said about this pernicious little piece. The BBC would likely reply that it's just a 'snapshot' or introductory visual to their wider news and 'analysis'. Given the limited attention span many people have for news and current affairs, this abbreviated form perhaps shows the BBC at its most deceptive, in trying to pass such brazen, facile points off as 'basic neutral background' and 'impartial facts'. But whatever the output or scale, the same distortion by context, language and omission applies.


Mark Doran said...

Equally appalling is a highly manipulative act of misdirection engineered by the film's editing:

At 42s we see a 'Hamas rocket' being fired, presumably from Gaza and towards Israel. This clip is followed by film of other missiles ready for use, and clips of Israeli civilians apparently running for cover -- after which, at 55s (and with no other shot of a possible cause of an explosion), we see film of *a massive detonation in a built-up area*. The chain of editing clearly suggests that the explosion is to be taken as that of a Gazan rocket landing in Israel, when what the clip shows is actually *an Israeli missile attack on Gaza*.

For the BBC to be disseminating a film which uses the suggestive power of montage in *a wholly dishonest way* -- creating the erroneous impression that Israel is being subjected to bombardment by weapons of enormous destructive power -- is *deeply shocking*, and requres to be investigated by the Corporation at the highest level.

John Hilley said...

Thanks, Mark. Well observed.