In the latest controversy surrounding media coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, the BBC was forced to apologize for reporting grossly false information. One of its presenters declared that IDF soldiers “were targeting people including medical teams and Arab speakers” at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, which would be a war crime. The presenter repeated this statement twice, citing a Reuters news report.
As the BBC later admitted, this was an outright lie. It quickly emerged that the Reuters report in question had quoted an IDF statement that specially trained forces were accompanied by “medical teams and Arabic-speaking soldiers who are on the ground to ensure that medical supplies reach those in need.” Following a wave of criticism, the BBC apologized.
But as with many media “errors” that have been made following Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, the BBC’s apology was too little too late. Since Oct. 7, mainstream outlets inexplicably considered pillars of professional journalism have been forced to issue similar apologies. Nonetheless, riots, violence and antisemitic threats sparked by these false reports only increased.
Perhaps the best example of this is was the Oct. 20 Al-Ahli hospital incident, in which numerous media outlets lied about Israel’s supposed involvement in an explosion at the Gaza hospital in question. Following the explosion, Hamas terrorists immediately blamed the IDF. Within minutes, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry began to release rapidly increasing casualty numbers supposedly caused by the “attack.” The ministry ultimately claimed that at least 500 Palestinians were killed.
Western media outlets ran with these claims, apparently forgetting that they originated with a designated terrorist organization. The New York Times published the false claims on its front page with an image depicting a large crater, suggesting that this was the aftermath of the attack. However, in a small disclaimer, the publication admitted that the picture was actually of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, not the hospital grounds.
The IDF quickly released evidence disproving Hamas’s claims and the media reports that parroted them. Both audio and visual footage proved that the hospital was actually struck by a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket. Additional photos and videos showed that the building was not destroyed as Hamas had claimed. In images published by the open-source intelligence tracker OSINT Defender, the courtyard and parking lot of the hospital appeared to have been hit by a rocket, resulting in a “roughly 1×1 meter, 30cm deep” crater.
American intelligence officials later clarified that the estimated number of deaths from this incident were 100-300, not the 500-plus claimed by Hamas and PIJ. The White House publicly supported Israel’s version of events.
The New York Times and other outlets revised their reports, though the Times continued to imply some kind of Israeli guilt.
But all of this came only after violent riots incited by the media’s lies swept the Middle East. In Tunisia, protestors burned Israeli and American flags and set fire to the El Hamma synagogue. In Jordan, rioters torched property near the heavily fortified Israeli embassy. Iranian-backed groups in Iraq rioted near the fortified Green Zone, home to the U.S. embassy and other foreign diplomatic sites. Antisemitic messages flooded social media and took center stage at demonstrations that occurred across the U.S.
The media had done its work and their backtracking was irrelevant. The damage was already done.
The aforementioned BBC presenter’s false claims coincided with other issues concerning the outlet’s reporting on the Israel-Hamas war. Following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, the BBC repeatedly referred to Hamas by various euphemisms such as “freedom fighters” or “gunmen.” The outlet’s refusal to label Hamas a terrorist organization was widely condemned by Jewish groups, with good reason. After all, why would an ostensibly objective media outlet not consider the indiscriminate torture, rape, slaughter and kidnapping of Israeli civilians acts of terrorism? The BBC finally bowed to criticism and now correctly refers to Hamas as a “proscribed terrorist organization by the U.K. government and others.”
Elite media institutions’ policy of allowing a terror group like Hamas to dictate news coverage is appalling. These outlets need to take a long look in the mirror. Considering the high stakes surrounding this war, including the exponential rise in antisemitic activity around the world, journalists must be all the more careful not to perpetuate lies told by terrorist groups and their supporters.