“I’m used to keeping my family safe and secure, coming up with a plan. Now, I am torn by indecision.
I’m originally from the north but I fled south with my family after being ordered to do so by the Israeli army, who said the south was “safe”.
Currently, I am alone in Khan Younis, while my family is in central Gaza.
I was able to travel up to see them every few days. But now the Israelis have shut one road and the second one is very dangerous.
Should I go south to Rafah, keep working and hope that my family will be ok?
Or should I try to get back to them, stop reporting, and if it comes to the worst, then at least we die together?
I hope no-one else ever has to face this awful choice, which is not a choice at all.”
These are the words of Adnan El-Bursh, a BBC reporter in Khan Younis. Adnan is not a member of Hamas. I think it’s fair to assume that none of his family are members of Hamas either. Yet his world has been torn apart on the pretext of a war against Hamas. To get to these words you need to find the article on the BBC website, some way below one headlined ‘Helping the shattered survivors of Israel festival attack’.
El-Bursh’s article supposedly about the trauma felt by Gaza has to include the obligatory reminder that on 7th October Hamas killed a number of Israelis. Although the article says 1,200 Israelis killed “by Hamas”, that figure is being revised downwards and now stands at 1,147. There is no suggestion from the BBC, nor has there been, that many of the dead Israelis were actually killed by so-called ‘friendly fire’.
The story about young people who survived the 7th October attack is heartwarming. It centres on a young doctor who wants to help these ‘innocent victims’ and is accompanied by a picture of young Israelis in what appears to be a very pleasant outdoor setting where they are receiving therapy from volunteers. There is mention of 7th October naturally, but no mention of any of the events that preceded it, nor of the death and destruction that has followed.
Of course young people caught up in such an event are traumatised, but why is that story given prominence over the personal story of one of the BBC’s own correspondents. Adnan El-Bursh was not responsible for the trauma of those young Israelis. Neither was his family. Yet, they are caught up in the collective punishment meted out in revenge by Israel’s far-right coalition.
Palestinian families have been torn apart and traumatised by the events both prior to and following 7th October. Where are their volunteer counsellors? I may have missed it but they have no pleasant camp where they can find time to cry and reconcile themselves to terrible events which they neither caused nor can control. Why is that?
Why, in reporting on the trauma of the Israelis, are we not reminded of the killing of 366 Palestinians, many of them children, between January and September 2023? Why are we not reminded of the 7,166 children who have been killed by the Israelis since 7th October?
Jeremy Bowen, probably the best BBC reporter, is in the West Bank. These are his words:
“A few nights ago, the school in Khirbet Zanuta, a small Palestinian village in the hills south of Hebron, was destroyed along with most of the houses, by a bulldozer.
“Its tracks lay fresh and undisturbed in the sand when we arrived. The village was empty as its population of about 200 Palestinians left around a month ago, after sustained pressure and threats from armed and aggressive Jewish settlers who live in nearby outposts that are illegal under both Israeli and international law….
“Nadav Weiman came with the BBC to the village. He is a former Israeli special forces soldier who is now an activist with Breaking the Silence, a group of former combatants who campaign against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Nadav believes that Jewish settlers, the most militant of whom are known by name to local Palestinians, were once again flouting the law with the police and army.
“They’re demolishing Palestinian villages, beating up Palestinian farmers, stealing their olives, trying to open a third front, an eastern front against the Palestinians in the West Bank. Why? Because they want the land without Palestinians.
“Two Israeli soldiers came to investigate what we were doing. One of them told an Israeli member of the BBC team that he was a traitor for visiting Palestinians.”
This is excellent reporting. But, again, the BBC buries it among a host of other stories about what is happening. Why? Of course we know the answer to these questions. Palestinian lives do not matter in the way that Israeli ones do. Israel, because it is backed by the USA, and therefore by the UK, does not have to comply with international law. It is safe to ignore the United Nations, the Geneva Convention and any sense of contemporary morality.
The BBC sees no contradiction between its support for Israel and Israel’s flouting of the law. It would, no doubt, point out that it is reporting on both sides. The two stories I have highlighted show that. But do they? It is not just a matter of putting stories on your website, but of the prominence they are given. And narratives are not created by a single story showing the other side of the story, they are created by the constant repeating of particular ‘facts’ and the failure to even acknowledge inconvenient ones.
The BBC has some of the best reporters in the world, some of the best editors. It is widely respected and rightly so for much of its output. But politically it does a big disservice to its listeners, viewers and readers who are entitled to expect it to give equal prominence to the suffering of peoples not based on their skin tone or political importance to the political elite. Sadly, it continues to fail to do so.
Socialist of many years. Former Labour member. Currently presenter of The Socialist Hour.