BBC Middle East editor Paul Danahar was on hand in Gaza at the outset of Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s attempt to suppress the firing of rockets by Hamas on Israeli civilians. Danahar was therefore close to hand around the time that the son of BBC Arabic picture editor Jihad Masharawi’s son was killed by a munition that Danahar described as a shell landed in Masharawi’s home, which Danahar visited shortly after. He also tweeted photographs of the damage, including the one below.
Danahar’s tweeted reaction to young Masharawi’s death accused Israel of something like murder: “Quesioned [sic] asked here is: if Israel can kill a man riding on a moving motorbike (as they did last month) how did Jihad’s son get killed?” Danahar oversaw the BBC’s production of stories related to the young Masharawi’s death such as Jon Donisson’s plaintive broadcast report “What did my son do to die like this?” and Donisson’s “Gaza baby ‘only knew how to smile.’”
While Danahar described the munition that killed the young Masharawi as a shell, it was widely described elsewhere as a missile fired during an Israeli airstrike. Donisson, for example, reported: “Most likely is that Omar [Masharawi] died in one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks.” Donisson added the characteristic BBC fillip: “Omar was not a terrorist.”
I tweeted Danahar to ask him on what basis he identified the munition that killed the young Masharawi as Israeli. I wrote at the time on Power Line that I doubted it was. After seeing Danahar’s photograph of the damage done to Masharawi’s dwelling, I thought it was more likely to have been a Hamas rocket that failed to hit its intended target in Israel. (As I recall, something like 10 percent of the Hamas rockets landed in Gaza.) Danahar failed to respond to my tweet and relentlessly propagated the line that Israeli forces had killed Masharawi’s son.
Whatever it was, the munition that killed the young Masharawi almost certainly wasn’t an Israeli missile fired in an airstrike like the one depicted below. Nevertheless, this was the contention of mainstream media outlets including the BBC, the Washington Post, and many others, as well as so-called human rights organizations operating on the ground in Gaza.
It should therefore be a matter of some consequence that the advance version of a UN report has weighed in on the events of this past November and raised serious doubt about the line propagated by the BBC. The report suggests that the young Masharawi was most likely the victim of an errant Hamas rocket, which in fact do the kind of damage depicted in Danahar’s photo and had done so in Israel without Danahar taking notice or entering any complaint.
I followed Danahar’s Twitter feed during Operation Pillar of Defense. These were among my observations:
1. Danahar identifies with the Gaza Arabs.
2. Danahar had no comments about Hamas or its goals and tactics. Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization. Doesn’t Danahar know any Gaza Arabs who have any quibbles with its murderous fanaticism or tyranny? Doesn’t Danahar himself? Not so far as I can tell.
3. Danahar expressed no sympathy for the Israelis. None. Zilch. Nada. His observable range of sympathies was remarkably narrow.
4. Gaza City presented many targets for Israelis intent on disabling Hamas’s structure of command and control. The Israelis exercised great care to target these sites with precision.
5. Danahar was in the immediate vicinity of Israeli fire, yet he expressed no fear. He was either confident of the care of the Israeli forces or quite brave, or both, but I leaned toward the latter because he simply does not credit the care of the IDF. He attributed all manner of harm to the Israelis, as though they exercise no restraint in their military efforts.
6. Danahar heard the fire of short- and long-range rockets/missiles in his immediate vicinity. For example, Danahar tweeted: “Long range rocket just took off near our bureau in #Gaza.” Danahar did not observe, but one could learn from him, that Hamas is embedded in residential neighborhoods and civilian office buildings (including a building in which foreign press offices are maintained).
7. The outgoing fire that Danahar heard was aimed at Israeli civilians with the intent of inflicting maximum damage. Danahar expressed absolutely no feelings about this.
8. Danahar was oblivious, perhaps willfully obtuse, to the possibility that Hamas communications infrastructure was located on buildings in which the press maintained offices. He tweeted, for example: “Question from FPA for @IDFSpokesperson: If targets last night were carefully chosen why were two buildings holding journalists hit in #Gaza.” Danahar retweeted the IDF statement that “[t]he sites that we targeted overnight were all positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of months,” but somehow it didn’t compute for Danahar.
9. Danahar was seemingly unable to put two and two together, responding: “#Israel’s IDF last night hit two buildings in #Gaza where local & foreign journalists are operating from injuring several journalists.” The IDF has tweeted: “Advice to reporters in #Gaza, just like any person in Gaza. For your own safety, stay away from #Hamas positions and operatives.”
10. Danahar’s tweets were suffused with feelings of indignation and outrage about the inevitable civilian casualties that result from Hamas’s modus operandi of hiding behind civilians, but no indignation or outrage about Hamas’s modus operandi.
11. Not all the civilian Gaza casualties were caused by Israel. Danahar does not try to sort out the cause of the particular incidents to which he was witness. He accepted Hamas’s modus operandi and assumed that Israel was the cause. One relevant IDF tweet noted: “Fact: 99 rockets fired from #Gaza have crashed back into Gaza in the last 4 days. Hamas fires from civilian areas…and hits its own people.”
12. For a good example of the harm perpetrated by Hamas on the Gaza populace — the kind of harm to which Danahar turned a blind eye — see the IsraellyCool post “The kid killed by Hamas” and the related New York Times story “Mistaken lull, simple errand, death in Gaza.”
Upon the release of the advance version of the UN report, Danahar tweeted this highly misleading response: “UN disputes details of strike on colleagues house in Gaza. IDF briefed at time it was them & were targeting militant[.]”
One can only infer that neither Danahar nor the BBC will be taking a look any time soon at their participation in the Terrorist Theater in which they are the all too willing players. Reasonable observers would conclude that a serious accounting is warranted, and not just at the BBC.
NOTE: Working on this post, I found the BiasedBBC’s “Omar wasn’t a terrorist…and he wasn’t killed by an Israeli airstrike either” to be of great use.