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(Hatem Omar / Maan Images)

When BBC ignores Israeli murder of its own cameraman’s baby, what hope for other Palestinians?

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BBC cameraman Jihad Misharawi at his funeral of his baby son today

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Updated below

In a new low for the BBC’s objectively pro-Israel coverage, the British state broadcaster seems to be doing its best to downplay the murder by Israel of family members of one of its own cameramen.

The 11-month-old son of BBC Arabic’s picture editor Jihad Misharawi was killed in Israeli tank shelling last night, along with his sister-in-law, according to BBC journalists on Twitter, and one report online (which didn’t even name him).

But these killings were totally ignored on the BBC News at Ten last night, the flagship TV broadcast on the BBC’s most popular domestic channel.

The focus, as always, was on Israel’s false narrative that is it responding to Palestinian rocket fire. The extra-judicial murder of Hamas military leader Ahmad al-Jabari was the emphasis, with the killing of “eight other people” mentioned only in passing.

It was stated that there were “more casualties this evening, among them children and at least one baby,” but this statement was accompanied by footage of a injured (but thankfully alive) child being taken to hospital. So “casualties” seemed to be a reference to the injured, not the dead.

This morning I asked the BBC’s Gaza and West Bank correspondent Jon Donnison why he failed to mention the death of his co-worker’s baby during his report on News at Ten from Gaza.

Donnison did not reply (he is currently reporting from the highly dangerous situation in Gaza), but (to his credit) he did mention Misharawi’s loss during a live dispatch to today’s BBC News at One, speaking of civilian casualties “on both sides.”

Meanwhile, this morning’s Washington Post featured Misharawi’s raw grief on its front page.

Wider narrative

This slight by the corporation is just the cherry on top of the bitter cake of the BBC’s terrible coverage of Palestine.

Consistent with its previous woeful coverage, the News at Ten program ignored the fact that, once again, Israel has deliberately broken an effective truce with Palestinian armed groups.

One cannot possibly imagine the BBC underplaying the death of family of its own staff in a similar way if they had been killed by, say, Palestinian rocket fire. The blanket coverage given to the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in 2007 demonstrates that (he was eventually rescued by Hamas).

The very first words out of the mouth of the BBC anchor on News at Ten last night was that yesterday’s attack was a “sudden escalation.” But the murder of thirteen-year-old Ahmad Abu Daqqa a week ago today was not mentioned — the murder of Palestinians does not count as “sudden escalation” to the BBC, in common with other mainstream media.

The wider narrative was of course completely absent. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, in the six days before this new orgy of Israeli violence, Israel killed six Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including three children, and injured 52 others, including 12 children and six women. All reasonable timelines of events, easily checkable by BBC journalists, demonstrate this, as well as Israel’s habitual contempt for ceasefires (EI’s own timeline is here, written by Ali Abunimah)

By way of implied criticism, Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen would only mention that “questions are being asked about the timing of the assassination two months before an [Israeli] election.” Donnison had similarly stated that “there will be questions about the timing of the action.”

In other words, for the mainstream British media, the right of Israel to bomb Palestinians at will is not under question, merely whether its actions are effective or not.

Other media

The BBC is not alone in this — as Maureen Murphy’s analysis of US media shows.

Channel 4 News, usually regarded as quite liberal in the UK, claimed the new Israeli onslaught was a “response” to weekend Palestinian rocket attacks. The presenter challenged Israeli government propagandist Mark Regev only on the effectiveness of Israel’s actions: will this really achieve the peace you want? he asked with faux naivety.

Al Jazeera English has been little better. In his appearance the Qatari state channel last night (see video above), EI’s Ali Abunimah criticized the channel: “I know al-Jazeera doesn’t report it every day” he said of their lack of coverage of frequent Israeli attacks on Gaza’s fishermen.

The channel last night also featured Israeli army propagandist Avital Leibovich twice in less than two hours (not counting recorded repeats) and her lies were allowed to pass largely unchallenged. Meanwhile, anchor Folly Bah Thibault dismissed as “claims and counter-claims” Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan’s perfectly reasonable statement it Israel was responsible for this upsurge, not Hamas (she did not challenge Leibovich in a similar way).

The BBC’s deference to power

The problem is not one of individual journalists, but rather the institutional BBC deference to power and conventional wisdom — which in the Middle East means Israel, to the British, European and American establishments.

The BBC has recently been affected by a story about an alleged massive British establishment cover-up of a ring of child rapists that (according to MP Tom Watson) once went as far as Number 10 (the office of the so-far unnamed prime minister of the time). Yet instead of focusing on this story, and uncovering alleged wrongdoing at the highest levels of power, the BBC has managed to transform the story into a self-indulgent torrent of ongoing coverage of problems … at the BBC.

Don’t tell me they were not able to broadcast a single item about the murder of Jihad Misharawi’s 11-month-old son.

Update

29 November: On Twitter today, the BBC’s Jon Donnison took exception to this article. Although saying I should have called him for comment, he did not specify anything incorrect in the above. But the point of my post was not to criticize Donnison or any other individual BBC journalist. As I wrote in the original article, it is about the emphasis and editorial selection of the BBC’s reporting on Palestine (those interested in how exactly this happens should read the seminal critique of UK TV media coverage of Palestine in the book More Bad News From Israel).

The fact remains that the BBC, on its main UK TV news broadcast the night after, totally ignored the killing by Israel of 11-month-old Omar Misharawi, the son of one of its staff members. Presumably, this was not Donnison’s decision to make and I never wrote that it was.

More recently Donnison has done an excellent and heart-breaking radio report about his friend Jihad and his late son on the Radio 4 and World Service program, From Our Own Correspondent. You can listen to it on the BBC website here or read the transcript here.

Comments

This story has been on the BBC News all day including the news bulletins on BBC 1 at 1pm and 6pm.

If you're going to do a story, Asa Winstanley, at least be truthful about it.

You seem not to have read the article. I’ll help you out:

he did mention Misharawi’s loss during a live dispatch to today’s BBC News at One, speaking of civilian casualties “on both sides.”

Also note the time of publication: before the Six O’Clock News. But that bullitin only confirmed my critique.

Am gonna start by saying I am pro-Palestine, so that isn't thrown at me. Bbc news channel today covered the of death of Jihads daughter, with footage from BBC Arabic of an interview of him as he carried his child's daughter so to say it has been ignored is slightly disingenuous I feel.

I'm not surprised by this article. BBC has lost lots of its audience in Aus because of its blatant one-sided reporting on Palestine.

BBC program "Today" on BBC's Radio 4. Report by correspondent Jon Donnison (JD) from Gaza. Broadcast from 08:31 GMT/London time (10:31 Gaza) on Thu Nov 15 (links below). Today (T) presenters: John Humphreys and Justin Webb.

(0:00 - 3:30: Yolande Knell reporting from Israel)
3:30 T: "JD is in our Gaza bureau. A bit quieter there Jon?"
JD "Well, missiles .. 3 rockets ... the same rockets ... " "It started off a relatively quiet night. It's got pretty noisy this morning. Loud explosions from Israli airstikes shaking the building I've been in. And I've seen scores of vapour trails from Palestinian rockets whick look pretty long range rockets being fired from in and around Gaza City."
"I should clarify on the casualties in the Palestinian side. Three Palestinian militants, Hamas fighters we understand, [were] killed this morning. That brings the total as we understand it to 11, some of them civilians, including at least two children and one eleven month old baby."
T: "And what (sigh), the Israelis, eh, the the the Gazans, the Palestinians are firing rockets. What is, what are are the Israelis firing in return?"
JD: "Well, eh, they are firing from the sea. We've had fire coming in from Israeli warships coming in from the coast of Gaza and we've had planes overhead and in some cases they are using drones."
"We saw that yesterday, what started this off ". (A general description of the killing of Ahmed Jabari, drones ... the video ... the funeral). "After that funeral is a potential flashpoint".

Audio link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi... (see time 8.31)
Whole Nov 15 program at Today site (from 6:00h; the reports start at 2:32:45)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi...
(I will comment on this in a second post)

Adding to the transcription:
- Knell from Israel got almost twice as much time as JD from Gaza (3.30 vs 1.52). With dubious background noises (what was she actually doing?).
- JD did NOT mention that a child of a BBC cameraman was killed.
- JD mentions "Palestinian rockets" &tcetera five times, "Israeli rockets" zero times.
- JD makes Israeli bombing and shelling abstract: "quiet night ... it got pretty noisy", but does not expand on "Israeli airstrikes [that were] shaking the building". Still JD was not counting or estimating number of incoming rockets and shells.
- Even when asked (stumblingly), "What are ... Israelis firing in return" ("in return" really, how do you know?) about incoming rockets, JD only mentions "warships at the coast of Gaza, planes overhead, even drones". But not using the words "bombing/shelling/shooting". (By the way, good he noted that the ships are at sea and the planes are overhead. We could thing it was the other way around. Precious time spend when reporting from an attacked area).
- In general, JD does not add much from Gaza. He did not count or even mention "incoming rockets", didn't know anything extra about the deaths. And: he is more concerned about outgoing fire that incoming fire. Why did Knell not have that?

In the same BBC Today program (Nov 15), ambassador Taub was given 3:51 airtime unchallenged. After dodging the answer to a question like 'why does Israel not talk and stop building settlements and so on', the next question simply is: "what will it take [for Israel] to mount a ground operation? ... Three of you [Israelis] were killed". Isn't that more like an invitation? It sounds like: 'what are you waiting for'.

Remember that last Saturday this same presenter John Humphreys in the same program Today epically grilled BBC top brass Entwistle for being ignorant. Entwistle had to leave the BBC that same day.

Audio link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi... (see 07:29)

The bulletins at 6 O'Clock and 10 O'Clock are the ones that really matter, not the News Channel. The former are typically watched by upwards of 5 million viewers. The News Channel struggles to achieve a tenth of that. EI is right to focus its critique on the main bulletins.

I've just watched the BBC News Channel at 2.04am and the story was reported and the victim's father interviewed.

I actually got to this page because I strongly felt that the BBC downplayed this story on purpose, and so I googled Jihad's name, it is a shame because the bbc usually has a lot of quality content , that's why i sent a complaint to them and i encourage everybody to do the same.

Here are two headlines from the BBC which speak of its pro-Israel bias:
'What did my son do to die like this?'
"Three Israelis killed by Gaza rocket as violence escalates"

The picture/video of Jihad's son is followed by this news:
"A BBC Arabic journalist whose baby was killed by shrapnel in Gaza has been speaking about his son's death.
Jihad Misharawi said his 11-month-old son Omar died after shrapnel hit the family home in Gaza.
Violence has been escalating across Gaza and southern Israel following the Israeli killing of Hamas' military chief on Wednesday, as Jon Donnison explains."

"Killed by shrapnel" - no mention of being killed by Israel's bombing of Gaza, while the other headline says it all "Three Israelis killed by Gaza rocket."

Of course the BBC is being "fair" and is reporting about both sides but the bias is obvious!

So BBC says: "A BBC Arabic journalist". Why do they mention "Arabic"? Would they mention "Jewish"? Why not just say what country he is from?

The BBC World Service provides content in many languages, and the Arabic language service is known as BBC Arabic. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/

This is how they do it. The breaking story during the peak time news is the most pivotal. They begin with long coverage of the Israeli side of the story. How dramatic was that story about Tel Aviv air raid sirens going off for the first time in 20 years? No balance whatsoever in the newsreaders comments. Surely an intelligent person would point to the fact that it is at leat suspicious that Israel's high grade missile defence system allowed 3 low tech missiles thrown by amatuers to get through?? Perhaps the USA needs to up the trillions it gives to fund these poor people? Could it be that they allowed 3 harmless missiles in, just to demonstrate their poor plight? The footage of Israeli citizens in a panic made my heart bleed. "I saw a Hamas rocket. It fell into the sea". Then they do a pathetic little bit about palestine, using words in effect making out that anything Israel is said to have done is a mere allegation. Then focus on scary looking "militants" mourning the death of a Hamas member (it should have shown Palestine's army and tanks getting themselves ready for war. Oh that's right, they don't have any! It's a resistance! With laughable arms compared to the mighty Israel). No matter what further coverage is shown now, the initial coverage has formed the story in the public's minds. That's the power of "first impressions", a powerful propaganda tool. People saying "they gave better coverage this morning, they named the dead baby girl", and implying that it is misleading to criticise the cowardly BBC for not covering it fairly last night, please pull your heads out of the sand (to say it kindly). The damage to Israel has been limited, opinions have already been formed by the masses, any further information after the fact, unless it is explicitly pointed out as a wrongdoing, is part of the manipulation of the truth.

Same story here in Austria. Lots of focus on Israeli "casualties and suffering", virtually none on Palestinian ones. Constant references to fears of "a new war", started by Hamas (!!!), as if one could ever one could possibly speak of an even-sided conflict between two equally-matched states.

On the ORF's (Austrian state broadcaster) midnight news bulletin last night (the only one with a slot for a live studio guest), the Israeli ambassador to Austria was on, and able to spout his propaganda unchallenged. There was no guest there to give the Palestinian point of view or even provide a more balanced international law interpretation. Normally, there are always TWO studio guests offering opposing viewpoints!

I can't say I am surprised anymore, but it still makes me sick, especially as this Israeli propaganda is funded by my television licence fee!

... doesn't write good English (!):
"Thoughts are with my BBC colleague in #Gaza, Jihad Misharawi who's 11 month old son was killed yesterday."

"Civilians suffering on both sides."
So are BBC listeners and viewers, from this false symmetry and worse.

Here in San Diego the local news bias is SO evident too. We had a protest on the assaults on Gaza yesterday and had a nice LOUD turnout of about 50 people on short notice. NBC news came out and asked me to comment. I obviously was exercised by the ongoing brutality against the Palestinian people by an occupying government and said so. The reporter seemed genuinely interested. That night on the news what they aired is some one person they unearthed from somewhere to ask him whether he knew of the damage done to his countrymen in Israel. They had to pull words out of his mouth - as he clearly was not engaged in what is happening there. Nothing that I said was aired and very little was shown about our protest. We'll see what they do with tonight's protest march...

The major political parties across Europe, the UK and the USA together with the main TV and press outlets have two major objectives in relation to Palestine/Israel. These are 1) unquestioning support for Israel even in the face of ongoing ethnic cleansing occupation and apartheid, 2) demonisation of Hamas as a 'terrorist' entity rather than the legitimately elected government of Gaza and a resistance organisation. The cringing political expediency of the western media coverage of the assault on Gaza in support of the above political objectives is blatantly demonstrated by the general failure to report on the Israeli military killings of kids playing football and the shooting of an unarmed mentally handicapped man wandering near the Israeli designated free fire zones, as the incidents that preceded and provoked rocket attacks in response into Israel. It is also blatantly demonstated by the failure to report that an Egyptian brokered ceasefire had been accepted by Hamas and that this was known to Israel when they assassinated Hamas Commander al Jabari.In Israel broken palestinian bodies as has been said before win elections for Israeli politicians.
As one of several hundred complainants to the BBC on their disgraceful coverage of the Israel killings on the Mavi Marmara who got through the BBC's bureaucratic complaints procedure to the last nineteen standing after months of paper exchanges I would advise potential compainants that their time might be more productively served in becoming involved in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigning in their area (if not already involved), and in regular financial support to an organisation such as Electronic Intifada which offers pro palestinian advocacy and investigative journalism of the highest integrity and political independence with a reach that is increasingly world wide.
Mike French.

This conflict, as with most, is due to a failure by politicians - on both sides.
If Gaza politicians stopped encouraging militants from firing off rockets, and politicians in Israel stopped settlements from ever expanding, there would not be a conflict. At the end of the day, you have to pay taxes to one govornment or another - at the end of the day, under a democacy, you still get to vote for the party of your choice - which will still make policies and choices you don't always agree with, but will still be somewhat answerable to the public.
Stop the rhetoric of who did what and tit for tat reactions - that will never solve anything.
Fix the problem at it's source - get some politicians that don't thrive on continued conflict and use this as their platform to stay in power.

It's a nice thought, Vivian, but I'm afraid it's unlikely even with a change of politicians. There is a fundamental conflict between colonists and natives that will always exist when the colonists consider the natives to be less than human. Zionism is a Master Race ideology, in which non-Jews can never be the equal of Jews, hence the demand that non-Jews who are permitted to live amongst Jews swear feality to the body politic as Jewish, not secular. Such Master Race ideologies are the antithesis of a secular democracy.