Simon Plosker

Gaza child death: BBC’s pitiful response

Put yourself in the shoes of Hamas. During Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, one of your rockets misfires and lands in a Gaza neighborhood killing an 11-month old infant and two other Palestinians.

The baby’s father happens to work for the BBC, which broadcasts the story that the tragedy was the direct result of an Israeli air strike, a charge replicated in the international media.

Do you:

a) Keep your mouth shut and join in the anti-Israel media frenzy as your enemy is labeled a baby-killer or;

b) Take responsibility for the incident, apologize profusely to the family of the victims and confirm the Israeli charge that your operatives deliberately endanger Palestinian lives by operating from within civilian areas?

Speaking to the BBC in the aftermath of a UN report exonerating Israel from killing Jihad Misharawi’s 11-month old son, his brother and sister-in-law, Misharawi chose to believe the latter option. Misharawi, perhaps unsurprisingly, restated his belief that Israel had killed his family and claimed that Hamas would have apologized if it had been responsible.

As ludicrous as this explanation may sound, is it that surprising coming from a grieving Palestinian father?

The BBC reports Misharawi stating that nobody from the UN had talked to him as if this is further evidence of the UN being less than thorough in its investigation. Misharawi is clearly not a munitions expert with intimate knowledge of the forensics involved. So why should the UN regard him as a key witness and why should the BBC regard this as relevant?

And so the BBC’s Jon Donnison attempts to cast doubt on the UN report, desperately relying on the less than objective statements of his grieving colleague. Nobody likes to be proved wrong and Donnison is no different. He could hardly be considered as a neutral and objective journalist in this affair either, having a deep personal interest in the story.

Donnison also has previous form when it comes to being found out for reporting false accusations against Israel as fact. During Operation Pillar of Defense he retweeted a touching photo of wounded children, presumably victims of the Gaza conflict, adding his own commentary to the tweet. It turned out, however, that the children were wounded in Syria and Donnison later apologized.

Maybe that’s why Donnison resorted to such desperation in a pathetic attempt to wriggle out of a retraction. This is symptomatic of the BBC’s inability to admit any shortcomings when reporting on Israel.

In the BBC’s usual worldview, the United Nations is regarded as a pillar of propriety and virtue. A UN report (and there are many) criticizing Israel is the definition of truth… unless it states the opposite. Why is it that only when a UN report exonerates Israel and blames Hamas is that report not to be trusted?

Indeed, when the Palmer Report, commissioned by the UN into the Mavi Marmara flotilla affair, concluded that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal, this particular piece of UN documentation was conveniently relegated to the minor leagues in any subsequent analyses of Israeli policy towards Gaza.

Contrast that with the media’s holy grail of the UN Goldstone Report that was so overtly one-sided that its main author Judge Richard Goldstone eventually disassociated himself from its findings.

And what about the UN itself? It probably never expected that one line in its report would become the main talking point. It probably never expected that its report would end up creating something in Israel’s favor.

Perhaps that’s why the BBC stated that:

the UN said it could not “unequivocally conclude” it was a misfired Palestinian rocket.


A UN official said it was also possible the house was hit by a secondary explosion after an Israeli air strike on Palestinian weapons stores.

The BBC also stated:

The Israeli military made no comment at the time of the incident but never denied carrying out the strike.


Privately, military officials briefed journalists that they had been targeting a militant who was in the building.

Could this be another case of “Al-Dura Syndrome,” where the IDF also assumes responsibility for an incident before doing the necessary fact-checking? It wouldn’t be the first time in the fog of war that Israel has attempted to justify a potential incident based on the accusations of the media, preferring to apologize first rather than risk an outright rebuttal.

In any case, this incident can be added to a very long list of stories where the international media reported in a knee jerk manner to portray Israel as the responsible party without even bothering to ask any questions that might conflict with this view.

Jon Donnison is apparently moving to pastures new later this year. He will leave behind a record of damaging accusations against Israel. As he well knows, once the damage is done, it is much too late to repair.

Perhaps this will serve as a lesson for Donnison and other journalists in the region. They should not let personal antipathy towards Israel interfere with asking the relevant and pertinent questions that would promote more accurate and ethical reporting as this latest case has illustrated.

About the Author
Simon Plosker is the Editorial Director of HonestReporting, returning to the media watchdog in October 2022, having previously been part of the organization’s management team from 2005 to 2020. Prior to his first spell at HonestReporting, Simon worked in Israel for NGO Monitor, BICOM, and served for a short period in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. He was Managing Editor of the Geneva-based NGO United Nations Watch for two years before deciding to rejoin the frontline defending Israel from media bias. Simon has a BSoc.Sc in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Birmingham and an MSc in History of International Relations from the London School of Economics. He immigrated to Israel in 2001 from London.