Whitewashing Hamas ?

How the BBC News website misrepresented a BBC TV documentary about Gaza

Andrew White

Beyond Images Briefing 213 - 27 March 2008


1. Summary
2. The Jane Corbin documentary
3. Corbin's two themes
4. Responses from Panorama viewers
5. The BBC News website version
6. Impact of the BBC News website
7. Example 1: The ideology of Hamas
8. Example 2: Hamas violence against Israeli civilians
9. Example 3: Weapons smuggling via tunnels
10. Example 4: The violence of the Hamas takeover
11. Example 5: The Hamas Executive Force
12: Example 6: Allegations of torture
13. Example 7: Islamic influences in Gaza society
15. Example 8: Corbin's two concluding messages
16. Recap: a pattern of misrepresentation
17. Public disservice by the BBC News website
18. Readers' actions

Appendix 1: About Andrew White, and Acknowledgements

Appendix 2: Panorama transcript – Return to Gaza

Appendix 3: BBC News website – Return to Gaza


To contact the author please email the Beyond Images website on: info@beyondimages.info

1. Summary

This Report describes how an article on the BBC News website seriously misrepresented a BBC television documentary which had reported on the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza , living under the leadership of Hamas.

We document eight misrepresentations in detail.

On 20 June 2007 the BBC's Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, stated on the BBC News website:

“The BBC is not biased. We take an impartial approach to news coverage, and try very hard to get to the truth”.

Our Report calls that statement into question. In this case, far from “getting to the truth”, the BBC News website obscured truths about Hamas which had been exposed by one of the BBC's own TV reporters. The effect was, to a very large extent, to whitewash the activities of Hamas.

In our Report we will explain in detail how this was done.

2. Jane Corbin's ‘Panorama' documentary

The situation in Gaza is a ‘hot' news story. Media interest intensified in 2007 following the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston (and his subsequent release), the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007, Israel's response to the rocket attacks carried out from Gaza against Israeli targets, and the humanitarian situation.

On Monday 20 August 2007 , at 20.30pm GMT , the BBC televised a 30-minute Panorama documentary from Gaza , made by the BBC's Jane Corbin. Panorama is described on the BBC website as ‘the world's longest-running investigative TV show'. Jane Corbin is a BBC reporter with experience across the Middle East region.

(A video of the programme can be viewed on the BBC News website – www.bbc.co.uk ).

3. The two themes of Corbin

Corbin's programme contained two main themes:-

Theme 1 - Gaza under ‘siege': This was highlighted in the programme's introduction by Panorama anchorman Jeremy Vine. The Palestinians, he said, were living under “siege conditions” following the rise of Hamas in Gaza .

Corbin herself reiterates the theme many times. The opening scene of her programme is filmed through barbed wire, as Corbin enters Gaza via one of the heavily fortified crossing points from Israel into Gaza .

Corbin describes Gaza as “basically a huge prison” and “completely walled in” by Israel , which is “blockading” it. Further on she states: “ Israel has closed Gaza 's economic pipeline” and ” Gaza 's people are effectively imprisoned”.

Many commentators and politicians around the world share these perceptions of Gaza .

Many in Israel , on the other hand, take issue with the ‘prison' metaphor. One reason is because at the time the programme was made Egypt controlled the western border of Gaza , not Israel . If Gaza could be described as being “under siege”, it was because of the conduct of both Israel and Egypt , not Israel alone.

Secondly, Israel asserts that it is trying to maintain humanitarian support and assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza – conduct not characteristic of a ‘siege'.

Thirdly, and most importantly, Israel justifies the controls on movement as being the direct result of the policies of the Palestinian leadership in Gaza . The “siege” for which Israel is widely criticised is in fact brought about by the conduct of the Palestinians themselves, not because it is Israel 's desired outcome.

Nonetheless, the ‘siege' metaphor for Gaza – Corbin's first theme - has taken root in the public mind.

Theme 2 – Hamas carries a great degree of responsibility for Gaza 's plight:

If that had been Corbin's only theme, some people would have criticised her for depicting the consequences of Israel's policies towards Gaza, but failing to explain the context for those policies, and thus failing to provide balance.

However, Corbin developed a further, second theme. This theme was that Hamas carries a large amount of the responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza .

She does this by shining a probing light on the reality of Hamas. She explains Hamas ideology and mentions its record of suicide bombings against Israel . She depicts the violent rout by Hamas of its Palestinian Fatah rivals in June 2007. And she films Palestinians smuggling rockets into Gaza through tunnels secretly dug under the Gaza-Egypt border.

Corbin interviews a Palestinian family in their Gaza home who alleged torture by Hamas ‘operatives'. She films the smashing up of a Palestinian party by Hamas ‘police'. She interviews an Israeli military official who explains that the policies of Hamas have made it “impossible” for Israel to have normal dealings with the Gaza Strip. And she tellingly concludes by describing Hamas as having made a “big mistake” for having taken over Gaza in the way it did.

If Corbin's first theme is critical of Israel , her second theme is critical of Hamas. And she weaves the two together. If Gaza is under ‘siege', it's for a reason.

4. Responses from Panorama viewers

The TV programme prompted a flurry of online comments from viewers on the BBC website. These reflected the polarised state of debate about Israel and Gaza . “BBC lies and anti-Israel propaganda” claimed one viewer. The programme was “a Hamas recruiting video” claimed another. Other emailers argued with equal intensity that the programme was anti-Palestinian: a “piece of pro-Israel propaganda” said one; it “demonised the Palestinians” claimed another.

Interestingly, one of the few voices to claim that the programme was balanced was the CEO of a London-based organisation called BICOM (the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre). BICOM issued a press release on 21 August 2007 commending the Panorama programme as a “thorough and balanced examination of life in Gaza under Hamas”.

None of those viewing the programme could have been aware that the BBC News website was in the process of publishing a radically different version of the Corbin programme.

5. The BBC News website version

At around the time the Corbin programme was broadcast, the BBC News website published an article on its website summarising the programme ( www.bbc.co.uk ).

One of the main attractions of the BBC News website is that it provides viewers who were unable to watch particular programmes with a convenient summary of what was said. These might be viewers in the UK . But this has increasing attraction for BBC users internationally.

A website summary cannot contain everything from the TV programme it is summarising. If you want everything you need to obtain a verbatim transcript (which the BBC, to its credit, also published). But it is reasonable to expect the website version to reflect the key themes of the programme it is summarising. It should provide viewers with a ‘flavour' to readers of what they missed.

No-one would expect a website summary to present a significantly different stance to the programme which it is summarising.

In this instance, however, that is exactly what happened. We demonstrate below a series of misrepresentations made by the BBC website of the Corbin programme, which together form a pattern. They reveal a conscious desire on the part of whoever was responsible to whitewash the activities of Hamas.

6. The impact of the BBC News website

It might be asked: “so what?” Of what importance is the BBC website anyway?

The answer is - very important, and increasing further all the time. The BBC New website is growing in impact, measured in terms of popularity, international reach, and usage statistics. The same standards which are demanded of BBC TV and radio output should also be expected of the BBC News website.

Here are some basic facts, drawn from various BBC press releases available on the website ( www.bbc.co.uk):-

Popularity: The BBC News website is the most popular news website in the UK . It contains three million pages of news and information, and had 6 million weekly users in 2006/7;

International reach: The BBC news website was recently ranked as the 42 nd most viewed international website. It enables millions of people across the world who do not have access to BBC TV to access its news coverage and analysis;

Increasing usage rates: There was a 72% increase in the number of weekly users of the BBC website in the period 2006-7.

In short, the BBC News website matters. And that's one reason why we document the misrepresentations below in such detail.

7. Example 1: the ideology of Hamas

The first misrepresentation concerns the ideology of Hamas.

Hamas are an ideologically-driven Islamist movement. Hamas seeks an Islamic state in the whole of historic Palestine . This is made explicit in the Hamas Charter, in their leaders' statements, in their literature and broadcasts, and at their public rallies. Many articles in their Charter make very clear that they do not see any place for Israel , within any borders.

It is true that more pragmatic voices inside Hamas are heard (mainly, many would argue, in the Op-Ed columns of the Western media). In those forums it is suggested that Hamas might be willing to agree a long-term ‘truce' based on unconditional withdrawal by Israel to the 1967 ceasefire lines. Furthermore, there are divisions over tactics between Hamas leaders inside Gaza , and those living outside.

However, most observers consider statements about a truce to be a tactical ploy only, rather than marking any meaningful shift in Hamas' underlying goals.

For any TV programme about the condition of Palestinians under Hamas to be balanced, it needs to highlight Hamas ideology, as reflected in its Charter – its founding consitution.

Corbin does so. Near the beginning of her programme, she states:

“Its [ie the Hamas] charter calls explicitly for the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state….”

This statement contains the dual message: that they aspire not only to build an Islamic state, but to see Israel dismantled. The two are linked.

On the BBC website, however, Corbin's statement is altered. Half of it is omitted, so that it reads as follows:-

“Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, calls for the establishment of an Islamic state”

Corbin's words “ Its charter calls explicitly for the destruction of Israel ” have been omitted.

The essence of Hamas ideology has been obscured: a change with a major consequence.

Israel 's “blockade” of Gaza can only be understood against the context of Hamas ideology. That ideology is a driver for the “blockade” and for Israel 's refusal to negotiate with Hamas.

By omitting mention of it (even though Corbin had done), the BBC website removes important context which Corbin had provided.

But there is more. The website article completely detaches Hamas aspirations from the security of Israel .

On the website, the reference to the Hamas desire for “the establishment of an Islamic state” (as quoted above) is lifted out of the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict altogether. Instead, it is mentioned in the course of a passage which describes attitudes in Gaza to womens' dress codes.

Hamas, the BBC website states, calls for the establishment of an Islamic state “but their approach is more softly softly, rather a forced overnight conversion [of women to wearing veils]….”

On the website, the Islamist goals of Hamas are thus disconnected from Israel , and repositioned in a narrative about domestic Islamic matters. A reader could be forgiven for thinking that the Hamas agenda is about social and cultural reform only; not about the demise of its Israeli neighbour.

The BBC website has not obscured Palestinian hostility towards Israel altogether. But what it has done is to obscure and misrepresent the ideological basis for that hostility, a theme which was explicit in Corbin's programme. That theme is essential to understanding the Israeli ‘siege'.

9. Example 2: Hamas violence against Israeli civilians

It is not only the ideology of Hamas, but its record of sustained violence against Israeli civilians, which is key to understanding Israeli policy towards Gaza .

Here again, the BBC News website misrepresents Corbin.

Israel 's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (at www.mfa.gov.il ) lists Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks since 1993, together with biographies, and details of the attacks. The list records which Palestinian group claimed responsibility for those attacks.

According to those figures, since 1993 Hamas have killed 456 Israelis in suicide bombings. Targets have included coffee houses, shopping centres, restaurants, a pizzeria, many passenger buses, a snooker hall, and others. Responsibility for these attacks has frequently been claimed by the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the so-called ‘armed wing' of Hamas. Some attacks have been jointly carried out with Islamic Jihad, or the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs, or other groups.

Some might argue that the Israeli figures cannot be relied upon. But they are based upon the claims of responsibility issued by Hamas itself in the aftermath of attacks. Even if responsibility for a few attacks has been murky, or disputed, few would argue (including few Palestinians) that the figure for fatalities at Hamas' hands is over 400.

Indeed, it can be argued that the figure of 456 should be increased to include victims of other types of Hamas attacks, such as drive-by shootings, machine-gun attacks, stabbings and fatal mortar and rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel .

In her programme Corbin refers to this Hamas record of violence when she says:-

“Hamas' armed wing is infamous for suicide bombers who have killed hundreds of Israeli citizens”.

However, the BBC website alters these words, to read as follows:-

“The armed wing of Hamas is better known for its suicide bombers, who have killed more than 100 Israeli civilians….”

Two changes have been made. Firstly, where Corbin called the Hamas armed wing “infamous”, the BBC website refers to them as “better known” – a neutral label.

Seemingly, the killing of around 450 civilians in everyday civilian locations is not enough to warrant the label ‘infamous'. Nor is it sufficient that Corbin herself used the word “infamous” to describe them.

The second change by the BBC website is to the level of casualties.

As explained, the actual figure for Israeli fatalities is about 456. Corbin herself states that Hamas have “killed hundreds”.

The BBC website alters that statement to say that Hamas have “killed more than 100 civilians…”

We don't relish toying with statistics on lists of fatalities. But “more than 100” implies “less than 200” . And the actual figure, as we have seen, is over 450.

As a result of the BBC website alteration, over 250 Israeli civilian deaths have been erased from the BBC's narrative.

Corbin's own description of the Hamas record of violence has been misrepresented.

10. Example 3: Weapons smuggling via tunnels

Israel withdrew from Gaza in August 2005, and Egypt took control of the Egypt-Gaza border.

But its control was weak. In January 2008, before the glare of the world's cameras, Hamas ousted Egypt from that border, and took control itself.

There has been another sub-plot since August 2005: the smuggling of weapons from Egypt into Gaza by Palestinian groups. This has continued on a massive scale: explosives, guns, rocket launchers and other weaponry. The build-up has emboldened Hamas in its rocket assault on Israel .

Corbin captures the Palestinian weapons smuggling on film. Her footage - taken from the entrance to a weapons-smuggling tunnel – is grainy but vivid. In her voice-over, Corbin says:-

“Through the tunnels, vast quantities of arms and explosives have been smuggled into Gaza from Egypt … the smugglers made fortunes from both sides. The Gaza Strip became one big arms bazaar and tit-for-tat killings became a way of life…..”

In the website article, there is no reference to this sequence at all – either to the images Corbin filmed, or to her comments.

It has been omitted.

The website article does refer further on to the arms build-up but it is expressed quite differently:-

“the vast quantities of weapons that flowed into Gaza fuelled the tensions between the two sides…”

Corbin's use of the word “smuggling” has been dropped. In fact, there is no suggestion that there is anything illicit or secret about this activity. The weapons simply “flowed”.

Furthermore, there is no reference to Corbin's filmed work inside the tunnels, or what she said in her voice-over.

Corbin's programme focuses on Israel 's “siege” of Gaza . The rocket smuggling is one of the key drivers for Israeli policy, and Corbin herself highlighted this.

Once again, the BBC website has misrepresented Corbin, obscuring the impact of the weapons smuggling on the present situation.

11. Example 4: the violence of the Hamas takeover

In June 2007, Hamas took over Gaza , ousting Fatah with extreme violence.

Notoriously, Fatah men were bound arms and legs and thrown off high-rise buildings. Others were shot dead in front of their families. A hospital was used by Hamas gunmen to fire at Fatah opponents; and two UN workers were shot dead in crossfire. (It is fair to say that Fatah had also used extreme violence against opponents).

Corbin includes graphic film footage of what she describes as “open warfare on the streets of Gaza ”, and the “war of the rooftops”. She includes film footage of burning buildings, gunmen fighting running streets battles in Gaza city, and a Fatah office with a large pool of blood spattered across the floor.

Corbin reminds viewers that 135 people died during the Hamas takeover. (We think that the figure may have been nearer 150).

The Hamas takeover of June 2007, and its methods, are a defining moment for Gaza

To Israel , they confirmed the culture of violent extremism that drives the organisation –“if they do this to their fellow Palestinians, what do you think they would like to do to us…?”.

And the events also created bitterness among many Palestinians. Indeed, Corbin refers more than once to this legacy of bitterness.

On the BBC News website, the nature of Hamas' June 2007 takeover is omitted entirely.

All that is said about the takeover is the following: “The vast quantity of weapons that flowed into Gaza fuelled the tensions between the two sides, until Hamas ousted Fatah in June”.

The violent manner in which Hamas took over – captured by Corbin herself - is ignored. The website uses sanitised language: “Hamas ousted Fatah”, as a result of “tensions”.

The website does refer to “the bloody infighting between two rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas” and says that it “resulted in” Hamas “kicking Fatah's leaders out of Gaza ”.

But this is saying something quite different. These words imply that in the lead-up to June 2007 takeover there was violence, but that the takeover itself was about “kicking-out” the leaders.

This muddles the facts. It was the Hamas takeover itself which epitomised the violence, rather than the build-up to it.

Once again, a key aspect of Hamas, highlighted by Corbin, has been obscured by the BBC website.

12. Example 5: The Hamas Executive Force

Hamas operates an Executive Force: a hybrid between an internal police force and an armed militia, and it is tasked with enforcing law and order.

Since the 2007 takeover, Hamas has tried to convey the image via the international media that it has brought ‘law and order' to the streets of Gaza , replacing the corruption of Fatah, and boosting confidence “on the street”.

This theme is highlighted by Corbin in the opening sequence of her programme. She films a training session run by the Hamas Executive Force on how to rescue kidnap victims. In scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood film, police cars with sirens blaring come screeching to a halt, and their occupants leap out in a simulated rescue of the unfortunate victim.

It is worth recalling that Corbin entered Gaza only weeks after the release of her BBC colleague Alan Johnston. And the theme of kidnap is a fitting way to open the programme. Hamas are seen as agents of law and order, and the Executive Force as a tough but benign influence.

Corbin develops this image further. She films Executive Force personnel patrolling street corners. And she interviews once traffic policeman – “formerly a baker” - who says:

“I saw how people were beaten and kidnapped at this junction…. I just felt that Hamas are honest, and that they'll provide us with some peace and security, not like the old lot…”

Once again, as with the kidnap rescue sequence, this section portrays Hamas as a force for law and order.

However, Corbin does not stop there. She also conveys the sinister aspect of the Hamas internal security apparatus.

Corbin includes footage (created by another camera team than her own) of a night-time incident when a large gang from the Hamas Executive Force, wielding sticks and guns, charge into a Palestinian wedding party in Gaza and smash up the guests. Corbin explains in her voice-over that the guests had been “caught” singing pro-Fatah songs.

She comments that at least one guest “looks dead” – he is lying prostrate on the ground. But she then adds that he is “only injured”.

The impression is of menace and intimidation wrought by Hamas via its Executive Force: a much less benign image than that conveyed previously.

How does the BBC website handle the Hamas Executive Force?

The kidnap rescue sequence is described in full.

And the traffic policeman's words commending Hamas are included verbatim.

But the website article completely ignores the wedding smash-up by the Executive Force, nor makes a passing reference to it.

Once again, Corbin's efforts to convey a complex truth – this time about the Hamas Executive Force - have been obscured.

13. Example 6: Allegations of torture

Hamas faces allegations of torture against opponents, notably Fatah members. International human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) have publicly reported on these allegations. And, admirably, Corbin confronts this issue head-on.

She does this by interviewing members of a Palestinian family called the Abu Delfa family in their Gaza home.

The scenes are moving. Women members of the family weep as their uncle describes how he was tortured by Hamas. He recounts how he heard the dying screams of his brother as he was being tortured.

“He was calling for help from God – then he went silent…”.

The programme then immediately cuts to an interview with Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, in his office.

Corbin asks him directly how he responds to the allegation of torture made by the Abu Delfa family. With an expressionless face, and an expressionless voice, Haniyeh rejects the allegation, saying that it the man was arrested not for “political reasons” but for “security reasons”. He then adds an assurance that: “it won't happen again under any circumstances”.

In an investigative documentary like Panorama, this sequence would normally be regarded as central. It highlights a grave allegation, and challenges those in authority to explain.

The entire sequence is omitted from the BBC News website article.

The Abu Delfa family's allegations of torture are not referred to on the website.

And Corbin's face-to-face probing of Ismail Haniyeh is omitted, too.

In fact there is no mention at all in the website article of torture by Hamas. The only beatings referred to are those carried out by Fatah, who are Hamas' rivals.

14. Example 7: Islamic influences in Gaza society

Hamas is an Islamist group. The degree to which it is promoting an Islamist domestic agenda is an important one for Christian and other minorities in the Gaza Strip, and for the wider political situation.

The issue of whether Gaza is becoming ‘Hamastan' (for want of a better expression) is addressed twice by Corbin.

In the first sequence, she is in the back of a taxi, and being driven down a Gaza street. As she gazes out of the window, she comments that “women are wearing veils”. What she sees is shown on film. But she immediately adds that this “has been happening over the last few years”, and not just in Gaza but “in many Muslim countries”.

In other words, while there are increasing signs of traditional Islamic values on Gaza 's streets, in Corbin's view this reflects a wider trend in the Muslim world.

A few moments later in the programme, she addresses the issue of Islamic influence again. This time, the theme is more sinister.

She films a Gaza nightclub which has been gutted because, as she explains, it is seen by the Palestinians as being a symbol of Western decadence.

She films a gunman outside the nightclub blaring out, in broken English and in menacing tone: “We want Islam exactly like Muhammad”. The scene then cuts.

This is the other view of Islamists: zealous, intolerant, and intimidating. This is also part of the landscape in Gaza . And Corbin powerfully recorded it.

On the BBC News website, Corbin's comments about the women in veils is repeated in full.

But the burnt-out nightclub sequence, and the gunman's menacing words, are both omitted.

Corbin's efforts to portray the complex Islamist reality in Gaza have been misrepresented.

15. Example 8: Corbin's two concluding messages

Corbin reaches two conclusions at the end of her programme. Her first is highly critical of Hamas. She says as follows:-

“ Gaza is not viable. They [ie Hamas] cannot go it alone…. If the fighting continues between the two factions, I cannot see what the future holds.

Hamas wants to be seen as the strongman, enforcing law and order. But it seems to me that it is only posturing. They are growing weaker by the day….. Hamas made a big mistake, and there is no quick fix for what happened here. The legacy of bloodshed and bitterness will last for generations…”

This is a powerful conclusion. Corbin's second conclusion, following immediately after this first one, is very different in tone. She states: “I'm leaving behind me all those Palestinians who are feeling increasingly trapped and isolated….”

With those words she reminds viewers of Israeli-imposed hardship, and the metaphor – yet again - of the “prison” which Israel has created.

The BBC News website sets out Corbin's second conclusion the word-for-word.

But her first conclusion – critical of Hamas - is entirely omitted.

16. Recap: a pattern of misrepresentation

Here's a recap on the eight misrepresentations we have described:

1: The ideology of Hamas

Corbin: refers to the Hamas call for the destruction of Israel

BBC website: reference is omitted, and it also disconnects Hamas ideology from Israeli security

2. Victims of Hamas attacks

Corbin: “Infamous”; “hundreds of Israelis killed…”

BBC website: “better known”; “over a hundred killed….”

3. Weapons smuggling

Corbin: Vivid footage of arms smuggling through tunnels into Gaza

BBC website: “Smuggling” replaced by “flowed”; the tunnel sequence omitted

4. The violence of the Hamas takeover

Corbin: Detailed description and film of the violent Hamas takeover of June 2007

BBC website: “Hamas ousted Fatah”; violence is associated with the build-up to the takeover, but not with the takeover itself

5. The Hamas Executive Force

Corbin: kidnap rescue and traffic police sequence each show Hamas imposing law; the wedding party attack shows the sinister side of the Executive Force

BBC website: the kidnap rescue and traffic police sequences are featured; the wedding party attack is omitted

6. Allegations of torture

Corbin: Describes Hamas torture allegations by Abu Dalfa family; questions Ismail Haniyeh.

BBC website: Abu Dalfa allegations and Haniyeh sequence omitted. No mention of torture

7. Islamist influences in Gaza

Corbin: women wearing veils as part of broad trend in Muslim world; burnt out nightclub

BBC website: veils sequence referred to fully; burnt out nightclub sequence omitted

8. Corbin's concluding messages

Corbin: Her first conclusion criticises Hamas; her second conclusion criticises Israel

BBC website: omits Corbin's first conclusion; repeats her second conclusion word-for-word.

There is a pattern to the misrepresentations we have documented. They point to a systematic effort by those behind the website article to obscure content from the Corbin programme which casts Hamas in a negative light. The website article has been shaped by an agenda: to whitewash Hamas to the maximum possible extent in the eyes of its readers.

17. A public disservice by the BBC website

Corbin's journalism was courageous. But the BBC News website has performed a disservice to the public, distorting the themes of Corbin's programme, and misleading website users.

The website has performed a disservice to Israeli citizens, too. They face the Hamas threat, and yet witness its underlying nature being diluted by the BBC web editors.

And it's a disservice to the Palestinian people themselves. They now face internal suppression by Hamas. Yet the BBC website readers are left largely unaware of this, digesting instead a heavily manipulated version of Jane Corbin's expose.

We repeat the words of Jeremy Bowen, quoted at the beginning of this report:

“The BBC is not biased. We take an impartial approach to news coverage, and try very hard to get to the truth”.

In its website rendition of the Jane Corbin programme, the BBC endeavoured to give a one-sided picture of the truth, rather than to “get to” it.

18. Readers' actions

As at the date of this Report, the website article we have discussed is live on the BBC News website. It can be accessed both by searching the website, or by browsing.

Readers of this Report may wish to do the following:-

(i) to make this Report known through the appropriate BBC channels, and invite comments;

(ii) to request that in the circumstances the website article to be withdrawn, and

(iii) to request an assurance from the BBC that this type of content manipulation should not be allowed to happen again.


Appendix 1: About Andrew White, author of this Report

Andrew White, author of this Report, is the founder of the Israel information project Beyond Images, which comprises a website ( www.beyondimages.info ) and training seminars. Andrew runs Beyond Images on a voluntary basis, leading a volunteer team. Beyond Images is an independent and not-for-profit organisation. One of its principles is to argue rationally and humanely for the legitimate rights of both the Israel and the Palestinian peoples. Andrew was formerly chairperson of the Cambridge University Israel Society, before becoming a researcher in international relations at the London School of Economics, and a tutor at the Institute for European Studies. Andrew works today as a partner in a European law firm which focuses on hi-tech companies, and lives in London with his wife and five children, aged between 8 and 16.


Thank you to Anne, Eitan, Louise, Jacque and Dan for their research assistance on this Report. An outline of this Report was presented by Andrew White at the Limmud educational conference in Coventry in December 2007. Several ideas which emerged from that event, and from follow-up comments from participants, are reflected in this Report.

Appendix 2 - Panorama transcript – Return to Gaza

This transcript is attached to the hard copy of this Report only. It can be accessed by entering the BBC website and searching against Corbin-Gaza.

Appendix 3 – BBC News website article – Return to Gaza

This article is attached to the hard copy of this Report only. It can be accessed by entering the BBC website and searching against Corbin-Gaza.