A course in map reading III


BBC Gaza Map

12 January 2013

Jabaliya on the map

When you read BBC Gaza reports you can’t help wondering whether any of its reporters have ever visited. Or perhaps we should wonder if any of the subeditors ever thought to fact-check a story using simple, free, online sources? One thing is clear. The BBC can’t read maps — not even their own. (Not the first time. Take a look at A course in map reading I from the operation Pillar of Defence, in November).

The first thing that struck me when I read Gaza: Palestinian farmer ‘killed by Israeli gunfire was the following paragraph:

The Hamas-run health ministry said the 22-year-old man was hit by Israeli army fire near Jabaliya refugee camp.

I thought to myself, Jabaliya isn’t on the border with Israel. (We have discussed Jabaliya in the context of the oft-repeated but no less false claim that the refugee camp is one of the most densely populated places on the planet in Population games). Checking out the scale on the Google Map below shows the closest boundary to be around five kilometres (~ three miles) away. That’s a very broad definition of close. My, those Israeli snipers are good! If you check the map the BBC provides (top right) it’s clear that even they know this.

Use the scale to work out how far Jabaliya is from the border fence

Click for larger image
Use the scale to estimate differences

Perhaps that shouldn’t have been my first thought. What’s with this Palestinian farmer bit? Is this a way of suggesting he was innocently farming? (HT Hadar from BBC Watch). Not according to the Times of Israel:

The IDF Spokesperson said that the soldiers discerned a group of dozens of Palestinians approaching the border fence and attempting to damage it. The area immediately adjacent to the Israeli border fence is off-limits for Palestinians.

“IDF soldiers at the scene acted in accordance with the rules of engagement,” a military source said. It added that the soldiers fired warning shots in the air, and after the rioters did not distance themselves from the proscribed area, fired shots at the legs of the men and confirmed a hit.

The Times of Israel offers further information, identifying the Gaza health ministry official as Ashraf al-Qidra and the deceased as Muhammad al-Mamlouk. The official describes the incident as east of the Jabalya refugee camp. That’s probably correct although why not say east of Sheikh Za’id or Bayt Hanun, locations between the camp and the border? For that matter why not east of the city of Jabaliya? Perhaps refugee camp is more emotive?

Maybe it’s just a typo but isn’t odd how often BBC innocent mistakes seem to work against Israel? We should expect better from the world’s largest news organisation but we don’t. Given the Palestinian Health Ministry‘s reputation for being free and easy with the truth everything they say should be checked.

Further reading:

 Late addition: 

Accuracy issues in BBC report on death of Gaza ‘farmer’, BBC Watch, 4 January 2013

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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