The BBC ignored a warning not to “parrot Hamas propaganda” in reporting on a Gaza hospital strike, a lawyer has claimed. The Telegraph has more.
Barrister Natasha Hausdorff says her complaints about the broadcaster’s impartiality regarding the war in Gaza have led to her being “stonewalled” by the corporation.
Writing exclusively for the Daily Telegraph, Ms. Hausdorff, Legal Director at U.K. Lawyers for Israel charitable trust, said the BBC ignored her concerns about the attribution of the attack on the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City on Oct 17th.
Ms. Hausdorff had been booked by the BBC for an interview on the evening the hospital was hit to discuss the situation in Gaza.
With reports of the blast starting to filter through, she says she was “bumped” from the live broadcast by an assistant editor of the BBC News Channel, so they could cover the “Israeli airstrike” on the hospital.
Appeals to wait for clarification and not rush to attribution “fell on deaf ears” Ms. Hausdorff said.
“I could predict the impact that spreading disinformation about the hospital would have on the Arab world.
“I was told the BBC’s story had been confirmed by multiple sources. Yet we know that any ‘Palestinian official’ in Gaza is a Hamas official, and not a source that any self-respecting journalist can take seriously.
“Parroting Hamas propaganda is not journalism. I was told there wasn’t time to discuss this further.”
Hamas claimed an Israeli airstrike led to the blast and killed at least 500 people.
However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it was caused by a misfired rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group and released imagery and communications intercepts to support their case.
The British Government later concluded the Israeli version of events was more likely to be correct.
Hamas’s claims were further questioned when it emerged the hospital building was intact and any explosion had centred on the car park, claiming far fewer casualties than the first reports of 500 dead.
In the first report on the BBC, correspondent Jon Donnison suggested Israel was behind the blast. Speaking shortly after 8pm on BBC News, he said: “It’s hard to see what else this could be really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli airstrike or several airstrikes.”
Mr Donnison’s comments prompted the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Campaign Against Antisemitism to complain to the corporation.
Worth reading in full.
You can read Natasha Hausdorff’s article about this episode here.
Stop Press: It’s too late to complain to the BBC about spreading Hamas’s disinformation – it has already considered the complaint and exonerated itself. But it’s not too late to complain to Ofcom about another example of anti-Israeli bias – Kay Burley’s opening question to Eylon Levy, an Israeli Government spokesperson, about a hostage-prisoner exchange on November 23rd in which she said:
I was speaking to a hostage negotiator this morning. He made the comparison between the 50 hostages that Hamas has promised to release as opposed to the 150 prisoners that are Palestinians that Israel has said that it will release. And he made the comparison between the numbers and the fact that does Israel not think that Palestinian lives are valued as highly as Israeli lives?
You can see a clip of that interview on X here:
To complain to Ofcom about this, you need to fill out a form on its complaints portal here. Here’s some guidance about how to do that and some suggested wording for the ‘Subject’ and ‘Description’ of your complaint:
Programme title: Breakfast with Kay Burley
Date of broadcast: 23/11/2023
Time of broadcast: 08.39
Channel/Station: Sky News
Subject: Kay Burley’s interview with Israeli Government spokesperson Elyon Levy
Description: I am writing to complain about Kay Burley’s interview of Eylon Levy, an Israeli Government spokesperson, at 8:39am on Sky News on November 23rd in the programme Breakfast with Kay Burley. In Ms. Burley’s opening question to Mr Levy, she said: “I was speaking to a hostage negotiator this morning. He made the comparison between the 50 hostages that Hamas has promised to release as opposed to the 150 prisoners that are Palestinians that Israel has said that it will release. And he made the comparison between the numbers and the fact that does Israel not think that Palestinian lives are valued as highly as Israeli lives?” This was a baseless, antisemitic allegation. Although Mr. Levy answered it effectively, it still planted the idea in the minds of people inclined to antisemitism that Israel – not the Israeli authorities, but Israel in general – values the lives of Israelis more highly than Palestinians, thereby exacerbating the serious hostility faced by British Jews in contemporary Britain. According to the Metropolitan Police, antisemitic hate crime in London is up by 1,350% since the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7th. In my view, this interview fell below generally accepted standards. Please treat this as a formal complaint under section 2 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.