War Materials


Dear BBC Complaints Department, (cc Tim Franks)

With reference to the BBC report ‘Israel cabinet votes to ease Gaza Strip blockade’ featured on the front page of the News section of the BBC website today, I would like to make the following complaint.

The journalist makes no attempt to highlight the inherent contradiction in the following sentences, which are reported without qualification:

“The new Israeli-approved product list includes all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels” [1]

“Israel says the blockade – which aims to put pressure on Hamas and secure the release of Sergeant Shalit – prevents war material entering Gaza while allowing the entry of humanitarian aid.” [1]

A similar sentence is used in other BBC reports on the issue, for example:

“Israel says the aim of the blockade is to prevent war material entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid.” [2]

Clearly if the blockade were intended simply to prevent “war material entering Gaza”, the list of banned items would not include “food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels.”

It is therefore highly misleading for the BBC to repeatedly report this Israeli government statement.

The inaccurate framing is reinforced by the BBC correspondent Tim Franks in the Analysis section of the report, where he writes:

“How fast, in particular, will potentially dual-use items – in other words, construction materials – be waved across the border, for UN building projects?” [1]

Franks again supports the Israeli government contention that the blockade is directed against “war materials”, when clearly the blockade covers numerous items that would prove entirely ineffective when used as weapons – for example “food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels.”

An Israeli government spokesperson, speaking to McClatchy Newspapers, explained the blockade as follows:

“A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare’.” [3]

This explanation makes far more sense; perhaps it could be used instead of the misleading statement the BBC has so far used to frame reports on this issue?

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

David Manning

1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/10338199.stm

2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/10326569.stm

3. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/06/09/95621/israeli-document-gaza-blockade.html

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