Very recently, a large and high-status media organisation published a news report with a headline to which a minister of state objected. The Minister made it an official complaint and the media organisation changed the headline. Nothing so startling in any of that, right? Wrong.
There are many things wrong with this scenario. Firstly, should a government minister be able to change news reporting by a media organisation? Isn’t media supposed to be independent? So they tell us, anyway.
Well, the media organisation in question, the British Broadcasting Corporation, is government-funded. Yes but at the same time it proclaims its independence nevertheless.
Anyway, the government to which the complaining Minister belonged wasn’t even the British Government – it was Israel’s.
So a minister of Israel’s Government made a complaint about a British Broadcasting Corporation’s news headline, and the BBC changed the headline to accommodate him and the Israeli Government? Yes, it happened on 9th August this year.
Well, maybe the complaint was justified? If so, the BBC should respond appropriately.
Perhaps they should – IF it was justified. But it wasn’t.
Firstly, the complaint was that the headline was inaccurate – and the complaint actually said that it was a lie! In other words, not just inaccurate but deliberately so.
So what was the headline? It was as follows:
“Israeli air strikes ‘kill woman and baby’”
Untrue, whether deliberate or not? No, it was completely true and attested to by reports of many other media, including Israel’s own. On 9th August, Inas Muhammed Khamash (9 months pregnant according to some reports) and her 18-month daughter Bayan Khamash were killed when, according to the Israeli Army, Israel bombed 140 sites in Gaza. Not only that but the Health Ministry of Gaza confirmed the death of 20-year old Ali Al-Ghandour in the attack and the hospitalisation of another 12, two of which are in critical condition.
The Israeli Minister wanted included in the BBC headline that the Israeli bombing which did kill a mother and child, that it had been in response to rockets fired at Israel. Context is important, right?
The message sent to the BBC on 9th August:
.@BBCWorld this is a formal complaint by @IsraelMFA .This title is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality ( that’s the polite equivalent of “ this is a LIE”, if you don’t get it). Israelis were targeted by Hamas and IDF acts to protect them.Change it IMMEDIATELY!!! @IsraelMFA
CONTEXT IN NEWS REPORTING
Well yes, of course context is important but one cannot always include context in a headline. Imagine putting context into a number of news headlines down through history: “Nazi invading army surrounded after failure to take Stalingrad due to courageous resistance for over five months and Red Army counterattack” instead of “Nazi Army surrounded at Stalingrad – five-month siege lifted.” Or “Banks bailed out with debts guaranteed by Government prepared to implement austerity cuts on most of the population” instead of “Banks bailout – who will pay?” The context can be provided within the story.
However, if the Israeli Minister wants context in headlines or even in stories, how about including in a report of any Palestinian demonstration or rocket attack the following information as to what gave rise to the action:
Zionists colonised a land in which Jews were about 10% of the population and created a State from which through terrorism they expelled thousands of non-Jewish Palestinians
The Zionist State extended its lands on which it plants Zionist settlers, stealing further Palestinian land and water
Zionist state law allow for any Jewish person in the world, with no connection whatsoever with the land, to become an Israeli citizen while banning original non-Jewish Palestinian exiles or their descendants from returning or from Israeli citizenship. And it has now legislated that Israel is a Jewish state, officially discriminating against the 20% of its non-Jewish citizens who are born and raised within the state.
Zionists are steadily making Jerusalem, a city holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews, a Jewish city by appropriation of buildings and areas and intimidation of Palestinian residents and worshippers of other faiths.
Palestinians are second-class citizens in their own land held up at Israeli checkpoints for hours
The Zionist state disagreed with the Palestinian election results years ago and made of Gaza what many have called “the largest concentration camp in the world”.
The Zionist Armed forces bombed Gaza several times with huge loss of Palestinian life including many children
The Zionist Armed forces bombed water treatment plants and much infrastructure in Gaza
The Zionist Armed forces bombed a hospital
The Zionist Armed forces regularly shoot unarmed demonstrators
The Zionist state has many children in jail and
holds adults for months on end without trial or even charge in “administrative detention”
The Zionist state attacked Palestinian places of culture and worship
Yes, there’s plenty there for context alright, if that’s what the Israeli Zionists want. And if the media corporations carried even a little of that, how would it weigh against the two fundamental, often-repeated lines of Zionist context:
God gave Palestine to the Jews
The Israelis are only defending themselves against Palestinians rocket attacks
Well, about the first one I have to say that I deny the validity of a document at most recent 300 years BCE (BC), commonly called the Old Testament (even if it were not full of the contradictions that exist within it) – and calling on an extra-terrestial being for its authority — to settle a question of ownership of land on Earth in the 20th and 21st Centuries CE (AD).
And I deny the validity of anyone, including an extra-terrestial being, to justify oppression, racism and murder. Of course, the extra-terrestial being in question has been silent for centuries and it is living men and women with human intentions that are using his alleged words and interpreting them to their advantage (and ignoring those who quote the same being to oppose them).
THE DEADLY ROCKETS
But what about the Palestinian rockets – they’re real, are they not? Yes, the rockets – let’s deal with that one now.
Given the way those rockets are commonly treated in reporting, one would imagine Israel suffering something like the London Blitz during WWII or the Allied bombing of Germany. How many Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets? Due to reporting methods of the Zionists and much of the Western media, it is not immediately easy to answer that question.
In an analysis of figures by Phan Nguyen of violent fatalities by Palestinian missiles for the Mondoweiss site, the total from 2000, when the Second Intifada began until 2014, were 44 Israeli fatalities, of which 14 were military and another two were civilians at an Army post. That is a rate of 3.1 Israeli fatalities per year from this fearsome weapon which requires the Israelis to slaughter tens of hundreds of Palestinians! In addition, only 23 deaths were caused by rockets, the rest being by mortars. In statistics of all homicides of the conflict for this year (2018) up to July 26 (given by a pro-Israeli site jewishvirtuallibrary.org), though 11 Israelis were injured, not a single Israeli has been killed by Palestinian rocket or mortar fire; during the same period, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, Israel killed 155 Palestinians (of whom 23 were under 18) and injured many others. And after that date they killed another thirteen.1
The most recent Israeli killed by a Palestinian, according to the IsraelPalestineTimeline database, was on July 27th this year (2018), father-of-two Yotam Ovadia and he was not killed by a Palestinian rocket. Yotam Ovadia was stabbed by a Palestinian who apparently managed to climb the security fence surrounding one of the many Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land, declared illegal by international law and by the United Nations.
The most recent Palestinian killed by an Israeli according to the same database was on 12th August this year, 30-year old Wisam Yousez Hijazi. He had been an unarmed demonstrator at the Great Return March and was shot by an Israeli soldier on 14th May, needed specialist treatment unavailable in Gaza and died near the Rafah Crossing into Egypt before he could get through the Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
Those two deaths typify the conflict in some ways: an Israeli participant in theft of Palestinian land (even according to the UN) and a Palestinian demonstrating against the theft of their land and denial of right of return to Palestinians. A Palestinian killed by an Israeli soldier using a modern firearm and an Israeli killed by a Palestinian civilian with a knife. And the Palestinian perpetrator will be jailed but nothing will happen to the Israeli perpetrator (unless he is commended for service to Israel).
But it is far from one for one. In fact the whole statistic table of homicides is hugely favourable to the Israeli Zionists, which is not surprising as they have an air force, a sophisticated land army and a navy with missiles, while all the military force the Palestinians have to fight back with are various groups of guerrillas (many not Hamas, incidentally) and some rockets and mortars the sites of which, once they fire, can be located and wiped out by the Israelis. And of course, the Palestinians have their own bodies: the unarmed demonstrators (on occasion, rioters), those who rush to help the victims of an Israeli munitions strike and are caught in the second strike and other civilians who just happen to be passing by or living where an Israeli bomb or missile strikes.
And the imbalance in numbers of children killed is even more horrific – not that one would want to see a balance of any children killed (the israelpalestinetimeline site provides a number of other statistical charts).
TONE OF THE COMPLAINT AND BBC ACQUIESENCE
Having explored the issue of context sufficiently, I think, let us return to the Israeli Minister’s complaint and, setting aside the content, look at the tone of it:
.@BBCWorld this is a formal complaint by @IsraelMFA .This title is a deliberate misrepresentation of reality ( that’s the polite equivalent of “ this is a LIE”, if you don’t get it). Israelis were targeted by Hamas and IDF acts to protect them.Change it IMMEDIATELY!!!
This suggests to the reader an arrogant figure, one in authority, ordering an underling. The arrogance may or may not have arisen through the individual’s life experience or through his position in Israeli society or through his culture – but what does he think gives him the authority to talk down this way to a world media corporation belonging to a major imperialist power?
I would speculate that the answer is that Zionist Israel knows that it is supported by an even bigger imperialist power than the one whose media organisation the Minister is addressing. Israel is backed by the USA, currently the biggest and strongest imperialist power in the world. And furthermore, since British imperialism lost its position at the top after WWII and later gave up or set aside its dream of returning to that elevation, it determined to partner the USA. This has been clear in its contribution of troops to Korea, in putting no obstacle to Australian troops to Vietnam, in contribution of troops and/ or military resources to the bombing of Libya and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and war in Syria.
The Israeli Minister seems to assume that he is speaking to one of his protector’s minor employees – and who can blame him for that? In addition, British imperialism has been, on the whole, backing US imperialist ambitions, strategy and tactics in Israel and in the Middle East, only very occasionally disagreeing on even tactics.
And when the BBC caved in, it confirmed that Israeli Minister’s opinion and, furthermore, made it the opinion of many others too!
And all of this will compound the belief among anti-imperialists around the world and among Arabs and Muslims, that news is propaganda, and that western media news is mostly anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda.
So how did the BBC amend their headline in the end? They changed it to “Gaza airstrikes ‘kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel”.
So there you have it now: Gaza fired rockets at Israel and killed a woman and child, presumably in Israel!
Original event on which the BBC was reporting
Reporting on the change of headline
A Scottish take on the issue:
1These figures were quoted by Wikipedia which is given to quoting Israeli propaganda, including statistics, without verification but can no doubt in this case be checked by going to the source.