Tag Archives: Flotilla

Israel says, Israel says, Israel says

Dear Mark,
Having just read your piece in today’s Irish Times, ‘Report says Israel violated international law’, I just wanted to ask why you led the first four paragraphs with statements from the Israeli government?
Were there no other reactions to the report? Have the families of those who were killed made any comments? Would it not have been reasonable to lead with the findings of the report and mention the government reactions (Palestine and Turkey too) in the closing paragraphs?
I can understand that you’re the correspondent in Jerusalem, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to act as a public relations officer.
Yours sincerely,

Previous MediaShots on the subject:

‘The false reality of news journalism’ – Reporting Palestine and the Mavi Marmara

‘Officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’

The BBC’s random complaint response generator

Below is the response from the BBC Complaints department to this email, sent over a month ago.

Thank you for contacting us about ‘Freedom Flotilla’.I understand you felt the coverage of the Israeli armed forces attack on the Gaza ‘Freedom Flotilla’ was bias against Israel. I have added your views to our audience log. This is the internal report of audience reaction which we compile daily and which is circulated to all programme makers, commissioning executives and senior management. Your points, with other comments we received, are therefore circulated and considered across the BBC.

The BBC places very high importance on achieving impartiality in its coverage of the Middle East and all other issues and strongly rejects allegations of bias for or against either Israel or the Palestinians.

From its Middle East Bureau in West Jerusalem, the BBC is well placed to report the Israeli point of view and the office is visited frequently by senior Israeli officials appearing on-air. Israeli Government spokesman Mark Regev makes regular appearances and has done so during these events too. Other interviewees include such prominent Israelis as Israeli cabinet minister Benny Begin, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, David Horowitz of the Jerusalem Post and Gerald Steinberg of the Israeli organisation NGO Monitor.

We have of course also had frequent contributions from our correspondent Wyre Davies who was gathering information inside Israel. We also carried the press conference given by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In addition, our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has reported from both Jerusalem and Gaza throughout these events. We are scrupulous at all times to try to ensure our coverage remains fair and balanced.

I do understand you feel strongly about this, so let me reassure you that I have added your views to our audience log mentioned above. We appreciate all viewers comments as this helps us in future decision making when producing programmes.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards
BBC Audience Services

‘Officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’

Below is an exchange with a senior journalist from the Irish Times, who takes issue with our latest MediaShot ‘The false reality of news journalism’ – Reporting Palestine and the Mavi Marmara.


I did not manage to get beyond the second paragraph of this because of your self-serving selective quote from the report to which you refer. You say below: “An Israeli naval patrol killed at least four Palestinians…on their way to carry out a terror attack.”

But the Reuter report, as published on our breaking news service, said: “An Israeli naval patrol spotted a boat with four men in diving suits on their way to carry out a terror attack and fired at them,” an Israeli army spokesman said, adding that the patrol had confirmed hitting its targets (emphasis added).

We therefore anchored the claim of motivation firmly where it belongs – with an Israeli army spokesman. It is the duty of the media to report assertions of both sides, as we did in this case.

If you are going to throw stones, you’d need to do rather better than this.

[Name withheld]

I responded:

[Name withheld],

That’s exactly the point made in the piece. As Fisk says further on in the piece: ‘officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘officials say’, ‘according to an official’.

With regards the opening reference, clearly we’re reading different reports. The report leads with a two paragraph justification from the Israeli military. It is followed by a statement from Hamas officials confirming the deaths. The report then mentions the flotilla attack, before adding a short tit for tat and then concluding with the journalists own commentary, corroborating the Israeli official’s ‘claim of motivation’: “Palestinian militants in Gaza frequently try to attack Israeli border patrols and sporadically fire rockets and mortar bombs at Israel. In February, Palestinian militant groups in Gaza sent explosive devices, thought to be primitive sea mines, out to sea intending to hit naval vessels. At least three devices washed up on Israeli beaches and were detonated by sappers.”

I can’t imagine a situation where if Hamas’ military wing conducted assaults in Israeli territory killing a number of Israelis (military or otherwise) the Irish Times would publish reports leading with ‘claims of motivation’ from Hamas officials, followed by a short sentence from Israel confirming the deaths, followed again by a couple of paragraphs about, for instance, the number of attacks launched by Israel over the last couple of years or maybe reference to the number of Palestinians killed during ‘Operation Cast Lead’.

In the same way I couldn’t imagine a situation where if the Turkish military killed 9 Israelis the Irish Times would publish an opinion article by the Turkish ambassador 7 days before they published one from the Israeli ambassador.

Here’s another few examples. I’ve just plugged the words ‘palestinian’ ‘attack’ ‘israel’ into the Irish Times archive.

5 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought.

5 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Confirmation of the deaths by both Israeli and Hamas officials. Context for the killing provided by Israeli official only: “Before the Israeli air strike took place, militants fired two rockets from coastal Gaza, both striking near the city of Ashkelon and causing no casualties, a military spokesman said.”

1 Palestinian “gunman” killed by Israeli troops. Israeli statement sought only. Context provided as follows: “Hamas has been urging smaller militant groups to refrain from launching attacks against Israel, which carried out a devastating military offensive in the Gaza Strip 17 months ago with the aim of halting cross-border rocket fire. Israeli air strikes targeted tunnels in the northern and southern Gaza Strip this morning after Palestinian militants fired two rockets that landed in fields inside Israel. The Israeli army says that some 350 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip since Israel ended its military offensive there in January 2009. More than 3,000 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2008.”

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Israeli officials dominate report. Palestinian officials relegated to closing lines.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

1 Palestinian “militant” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

2 Palestinian “militants” killed by Israeli troops. Only Israeli viewpoint sought. Palestinian statement used to confirm deaths only.

3 Palestinians killed by Israeli military. Israeli statement comes first, followed by Palestinian statement. The Palestinian statement is broken by commentary: “Palestinian medical workers said three workers in the tunnel, part of a system used mostly to smuggle goods and weapons into the Gaza Strip, were killed and six wounded when the tunnel collapsed in the attack.”

No one is throwing stones. The Times’ record speaks for itself.

Best wishes,


Sailing into ‘the nexus of media-government power’

It has been a long time coming, but we have finally had a look at media reporting of the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla. This latest MediaShot can be found here or here: ‘The false reality of news journalism’ – Reporting Palestine and the Mavi Marmara. If nothing else it contains some excellent insights from Robert Fisk, like this one:
“Again and again journalists use the words of power in this way – “officials say”, “officials say”, “officials say”, “according to an official”. In effect we are now using the words of the Defence Department, Downing Street and so on. I think the reason for this is because it is easy, it is less likely to invite criticism. But the problem is that in using these words we desemanticise the war, because, while I disagree with all violence, if you see a Palestinian throw a stone and you know it is because there is a “wall” being built around his house, you can begin to understand. But if that dispute is about a “fence”, you might be led to believe all Palestinians are generically violent.”

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