Anorak | How the BBC turned the killing of 11-month-old Omar into Hamas propaganda

How the BBC turned the killing of 11-month-old Omar into Hamas propaganda

by | 12th, March 2013

Mideast Israel Palestinians UN

WHEN a child dies there are no winners. So, when an 11-month-old child died in Gaza during another battle between Iran-backed Hamas and Israel, the news can be only grim. The mood must be regretful. But it’s important to know the truth.

The child killed was the very young son of Jihad Misharawi. He was called Omar. Jihad has worked as a journalist for the BBC’s Arabic division.

Mr Misharawi’s brother and his sister-in-law also died from the explosion that killed the child.

The image of the dead child in his father’s arms was spread by media. It was heart-wrenching. It was also politically charged. The Palestinians have used dead children to paint the Israelis black before. (The BBC has bought into alleged fakery.) It would be wise not to rush to judgement.

But many did.

The Washington Post reported on its front page:

An Israeli round hit Misharawi’s four-room home in Gaza Wednesday, killing his son, according to BBC Middle East bureau chief Paul Danahar, who arrived in Gaza earlier Thursday.

The Daily Mail said:

The BBC Arabic employee’s son Omar was killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike

The Mail said the killing sparked retaliation “:

Today Hamas hit back, firing missiles into southern Israel. Last night air sirens were heard in Tel Aviv. Fifteen Palestinians and three Israelis have so far been killed.

Masharawi was quoted:

‘The Israelis say they are targeting militants but my son was an innocent.”

MSN stated:

Jihad al-Masharawi, a Palestinian employee of BBC Arabic in Gaza, mourns over the body of his 11-month-old son Omar, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike

The Telegraph stated:

Mr Misharawi’s brother was also seriously injured when his house was struck in the Israeli operation and his sister in law was killed.

The Sun was more balanced. In its version of events the Israelis were doing the retaliating:

And in Israel, a bloodied baby wounded in a missile strike by Gaza-based Hamas militants was cradled by a medic. The blast in southern city Kiryat Malachi claimed the first three Israeli lives in the escalating conflict… Israel blamed civilian casualties, including 130 injured, on Hamas firing rockets from densely-populated areas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted: “There is no moral symmetry between Israel and the terrorists in Gaza — Hamas deliberately targets children and they deliberately place their rockets next to their children.”

But over on the BBC, emotion had overtaken objective reporting. Jon Donnison wrote… Oh, yeah, this is the same Jon Donnison, the “BBC Gaza and West Bank Correspondent”, who tweeted an old photo of a dead child killed in Syria and said it was a picture of a child killed in Gaza . He writes:

My friend and colleague Jehad Mashhrawi is usually the last to leave our Gaza bureau. Hard-working but softly spoken, he often stays late, beavering away on a laptop that is rarely out of arm’s reach. He has a cool head – unflappable, when others like me are flapping around him. He is a video editor and just one of our local BBC Arabic Service staff who make the office tick.

But on the Wednesday before last – only an hour or so after Gaza’s latest war erupted with Israel’s killing of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari – Jehad burst out of the editing suite screaming. He sprinted down the stairs, his head in his hands, his face ripped with anguish. He had just had a call from a friend to tell him the Israeli military had bombed his house and that his 11-month-old baby boy Omar was dead.

Most fathers will tell you their children are beautiful.

Omar was a picture-book baby.

Every child’s death in war is hideous. But if you know a BBC journalist, you get extra coverage.

Standing in what is left of his burnt-out home this week, Jehad showed me a photo on his mobile phone. It was of a cheeky, chunky, round-faced little boy in denim dungarees, chuckling in a pushchair, dark-eyed with a fringe of fine brown hair pushed across his brow.

“He only knew how to smile,” Jehad told me, as we both struggled to hold back the tears. “He could say just two words – Baba and Mama,” his father went on.

Also on Jehad’s phone is another photo. A hideous tiny corpse. Omar’s smiling face virtually burnt off, that fine hair appearing to be melted on to his scalp.

The grim details seem unnecessary.

You have already read 1 premium article for free today
Access immediately the premium content with Multipass

Or come back tomorrow

Posted: 12th, March 2013 | In: Key Posts, News Comments (9) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink