When the BBC proclaimed imminent peace in the Middle East

h/t Presspectiva

An article which appeared in the print version of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot on June 30th opens with the following anecdote:Yediot art

“In June 1999 the heads of the BBC invited Guy Spiegelman, one of the journalists at its Israel office, for a talk. ‘We are making cuts in personnel’ they told Spiegelman, who quickly understood the hint. Before going on his way, he asked his British editors about the reasoning behind staff cuts in one of the most vibrant news areas in the world. The answer surprised even him: the peace which would soon dawn between Israel and the Palestinians following Ehud Barak’s election as prime minister. ‘It was a little weird, but I assumed they knew what they were talking about’ he says.” [translation BBC Watch]

As events later proved, they obviously did not…

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BBC avoids yet another Hamas story

Over the past year we have on several occasions had cause to note the fact that the BBC has consistently avoided telling its audiences about efforts to strengthen and increase Hamas’ presence in Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria in general and those directed by senior Hamas figures residing in Turkey in particular.No news

Equally absent from the reporting provided to BBC audiences has been information concerning the links of Hamas’ Qatar-based branch to terrorist activity in the same area – for example in January 2013 and June 2014 – and the connections between the Turkey and Qatar-based branches of the terrorist organisation.

On July 1st the Israel Security Agency announced that, together with the IDF and the Israeli police, it had exposed extensive Hamas activity in the Nablus (Schem) area and that some forty arrests had been made. As Ha’aretz reported, the ISA noted the role of Hamas spokesman Husam Badran (also spelt Hossam or Hussan) in the plot.

“Several of the detainees have already been charged in the military court in Samaria, and more charges are expected in the coming weeks. Two of those arrested are considered to be the top Hamas operatives in Nablus: Ghanem Salme, who the Shin Bet defines as the Hamas commander in the region, and Samih Aliwi, owner of a gold shop in the city who was responsible for the Hamas HQ’s finances. Several of the arrested activists had previously served time in Israeli prisons for involvement in Hamas activity.

The establishment of the headquarters in Nablus, the Shin Bet believes, was assisted by Hamas spokesman Husam Ali Badran, who used to be the commander of the organization’s military wing in the Samaria area. Badran was released as part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and expelled to Qatar. According to the Shin Bet, he is currently operating in Turkey under Saleh Aruri, who is in charge of Hamas operations in the West Bank. […]

The Shin Bet claims that Badran was involved in the decision to recruit operatives for the new headquarters in Nablus, transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to them in order to finance their activity.”

Seeing as it has been covered extensively by the Israeli media as well as by foreign news agencies it is of course highly unlikely that the staff of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau are unaware of this story’s existence. Nevertheless, there has once again been no coverage of this latest link in the chain of Hamas efforts to strengthen its presence in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Perhaps next time the BBC approaches Khaled Masha’al for a quote or invites him to do a sympathetic interview it could also make the most of the opportunity to do some journalism on a topic which would undoubtedly contribute to meeting its remit of building “understanding of international issues”.

The BBC, the MPs and the semantics of ISIS terrorism

Those without access to the Times may have missed the gem published on July 2nd under the headline “BBC: we must be fair with Islamic State“.Tony Hall

“The head of the BBC has refused demands from 120 MPs to drop the term Islamic State on the ground that its coverage of the terrorist group must be impartial.

Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the director- general, warned that an alternative name for the militants was “pejorative” and said that the broadcaster needed to “preserve the BBC’s impartiality”.

The background to the story is frankly no less bizarre:

“MPs want the corporation to drop the label Islamic State to deprive the extremists of associations with Islam or statehood.

Rehman Chishti, the Tory MP who has led calls for a change of name, said last night that the BBC’s response in a letter to him was “unacceptable” and criticised its “excuse” for rejecting the term Daesh, an Arabic acronym seen by Isis as derogatory. […]

Mr Chishti said that many Muslims would be offended by the BBC’s use of the word “Islamic” in the name of a group responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent civilians and the beheading of western hostages.”

One imagines that many Muslims would actually be more offended by ISIS’ hijacking of the term ‘Islamic’ to excuse its violent atrocities than by BBC terminology but apparently a letter from British MPs to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not yet in the post.

The article goes on:

“In a letter to the MP, seen by The Times, Lord Hall said that the word Daesh risked giving the “impression of support” for the group’s opponents and “would not preserve the BBC’s impartiality”. Daesh was pejorative and the BBC would not be using it in its output, he added. Instead, he pledged to “redouble our efforts” to use caveats such as the “Islamic State group”. […]

In his response to Mr Chishti, Lord Hall said that the BBC would use terms such as “the Islamic State group” to “distinguish it from an actual, recognised state”. He added: “We will also continue to use other qualifiers when appropriate, eg extremists, militants, fighters etc. To avoid overuse we will also usually revert to IS after one mention of the Islamic State group.”

The director-general erroneously claimed that the term Daesh was not an Arabic acronym, before correctly adding that it was “a pejorative name coined in Arabic by its enemies, including Assad supporters and other opponents in Syria”.”

Readers are told that:

“According to the Arabic translator Alice Guthrie, Isis dislikes the fact that Daesh sounds similar to the word “daes”, meaning someone who crushes or tramples things underfoot.”

Alice Guthrie has written a much more comprehensive explanation of the term Daesh:

“So what does Daesh really mean? Well, D.A.E.SH is a transliteration of the Arabic acronym formed of the same words that make up I.S.I.S in English: ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’, or ‘لدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام’ (‘al-dowla al-islaamiyya fii-il-i’raaq wa-ash-shaam’). That’s the full name chosen by the organisation, and – when used in full – it’s definitely how they want to be referred to. In Arabic, just like in English, that phrase consists of six words, four of which make it into the acronym (‘in’ and ‘and’ are omitted) : ‘دولة dowla’ (state) + ‘إسلامية islaamiyya’ (Islamic) + ‘عراق i’raaq’ (Iraq) + ‘شام  shaam’. That last word, ‘shaam’, is variously used in Arabic to denote Damascus (in Syrian dialect) ‘Greater Syria’ / the Levant, or Syria – hence the US-preferred acronym ISIL, with the L standing for Levant.” 

Quite how British MPs arrived at the conclusion that the use of an acronym which includes the Arabic word ‘islaamiyya’ is less offensive than the employment of the English word ‘Islamic’ is – to this writer at least – a mystery.

Equally unclear is why the use of the word Islamic in the term ‘Islamic State’ is allegedly controversial and offensive but its use in the titles of other terrorist organisations such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Ḥarakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah (more often known by the acronym Hamas) has apparently escaped the notice of British MPs.

Of course the BBC’s self-imposed need to “be impartial” about a vicious terrorist organization speaks volumes in itself – as does its stubborn employment of euphemisms such as “extremists, militants, fighters” in place of the word which most accurately and clearly describes an organization engaged in terrorizing the populations of large parts of the Middle East and beyond. Frankly though, it would have been unrealistic to expect any different a response from an organization which finds the use of the word terror too “loaded”.  

 

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part two

On April 24th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found an article by Lina Sinjab extolling the virtues of Qatari foreign policy. Headlined “Qatar casts size aside with assertive foreign policy“, the report tells readers:Qatar 2

“But Qatar is not satisfied with being just a wealthy country – it wants to be seen as a serious regional power as well.

It is a role it is already carving out for itself, for example having mediated in peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, and having opened offices in Doha for the Afghan Taliban.

And, in sharp contrast to its neighbours, Qatar openly supports both the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Hamas movement. It has hosted Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshaal since he was kicked out of Damascus for supporting the anti-government protests.

It is a foreign policy principle of Qatar that in the search for peace and stability no-one should be excluded and everyone should be engaged with.” [emphasis added]

Sinjab’s first two supporting arguments for that debatable claim are provided by none other than the leader of Qatar’s protégé terrorist organization Khaled Masha’al and the editor of a newspaper with a vice-chairman and managing director from the Qatari ruling family which, unsurprisingly, takes a pro-government stance.

“It is an example of what Jaber al-Harmi, editor-in-chief of Al Sharq, one of Qatar’s leading papers, sees as an attempt by the emirate to forge a new approach to dealing with the region’s problems.

“Qatar tried to suggest a new attitude in the Arabic sphere and wanted to say that there is another view to what’s prevailing,” he said.

This became apparent at the start of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Qatar’s government publicly supported protests in the region and its leading pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera gave voice to those opinions.

“Qatar believed that it had to side with the Arab streets, the people and their aspirations for reforms and freedoms. What distinguished Qatar is its transparency in its policies,” said Mr Harmi.”

At this point any journalist truly committed to editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality would surely have told audiences about the Qatari regime’s lack of transparency and its disregard for “reforms and freedoms” in its own back yard.

“Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, both print and broadcast media content are influenced by leading families. The top five daily newspapers are privately owned, but their owners and boards include members of the ruling family. In 1996, Hamad permitted the creation of Al-Jazeera, which has achieved global reach. Although it is privately held, the government has reportedly paid for the channel’s operating costs since its inception. As a result, Al-Jazeera generally does not cover Qatari politics. All journalists in Qatar practice a high degree of self-censorship and face possible jail sentences for slander. In October 2013, a 15-year prison sentence was upheld for poet Mohamed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, who was convicted in 2012 for insulting the emir through his poetry. Local news outlets were reportedly ordered by a Qatari court to refrain from covering the 2013 trial of two members of the royal family convicted for 19 deaths in a 2012 shopping mall fire.

In 2012, the Advisory Council approved a draft media law that would prevent journalists from being detained by authorities without a court order, and would allow them to protect their sources unless required to reveal them by a court. However, it also would impose fines of up to $275,000 for publishing or broadcasting material that criticizes the Qatari regime or its allies, insults the ruling family, or damages national interests.”

Sinjab’s next interviewee is Al Jazeera’s Director General and her report includes the following – apparently written with a straight face.

“Mr Abou Hilaleh says, contrary to a popular view, Al Jazeera’s coverage is not dictated by Qatar’s foreign policy.

“When I worked for Al Jazeera as a correspondent and now as a director, in both cases, we have nothing to do with Qatar’s foreign policy. But in certain countries, our offices are treated as embassies for Qatar.”

Let’s take a look at what Mohamed Fahmy – one of the Al Jazeera journalists detained and tried in Egypt – recently wrote in the New York Times.

“When Al Jazeera was started in 1996, Qatar was widely praised for its enlightened thinking. […]

Like many young Arabs, I was impressed. Al Jazeera seemed a model of courageous broadcasting in a region not known for upholding freedom of speech. That was still my view when I became Cairo bureau chief in September 2013.

I have since realized how deeply I, like the viewing public, was duped. I came to see how Qatar used Al Jazeera as a pernicious, if effective, tool of its foreign policy. […]

The Doha management also neglected to tell me that it was providing Brotherhood activists in Egypt with video cameras and paying them for footage, which it then broadcast, without explaining its political provenance, on the banned Arabic channel. During my detention, I met a number of prisoners who told me how this worked, and I have seen court documents confirming it.

Al Jazeera’s managers crossed an ethical red line. By attempting to manipulate Egypt’s domestic politics, they were endangering their employees.”

Those familiar with Al Jazeera’s record will of course not be surprised by Mr Fahmy’s words.

Lina Sinjab’s final ‘character witness’ is, like Khaled Masha’al, apparently also dependent on Qatari generosity.

“Husam al-Hafez, a former Syrian diplomat who defected to Doha, sees Qatar’s policy as pragmatic.”

In other words the BBC’s glowing – but cringingly superficial – portrayal of Qatari foreign policy is based entirely on the testimonies of two journalists from media outlets with links to the Qatari ruling regime and two people dependent upon that regime’s hospitality. No effort is made whatsoever to provide audiences with views which do not adhere to the party line or analysis from contributors not in some way dependent on the Qatari regime.

“One of the things about Qatar’s foreign policy is the extent to which it has been a complete and total failure, almost an uninterrupted series of disasters,” says Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. “Except it’s all by proxy, so nothing bad ever happens to Qatar.”

So much for the BBC’s self-awarded title of “the standard-setter for international journalism“.

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Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part one

Looking back at the sourcing behind BBC reports on Qatar – part one

Qatar is – to put it mildly – not one of the most frequently covered countries on the BBC News website’s Middle East page and its domestic issues in particular usually remain far away from the BBC’s spotlight. On the comparatively rare occasions upon which BBC News does publish an article about Qatar, it is sometimes worth taking a closer look at the source of the information provided to BBC audiences – as the examples in this series of posts will show.Qatar 1

On March 6th 2015 the BBC News website’s Middle East section published an article by Dr David Roberts of King’s College London titled “Is Qatar bringing the Nusra Front in from the cold?“. Readers were informed in the article’s opening sentence that the Jabhat al Nusra militia operating in Syria was “rethinking its allegiance to al-Qaeda, in a move allegedly partly engineered by Qatar”. Later on the article states:

“Being a directly affiliated al-Qaeda group, the Nusra Front is nearer the IS end of the spectrum.

Yet, while the Qatari relationship with the Nusra Front appears to be far from straightforward with some of the state’s initiatives failing, indicating some distance between the two, according to recent reports, Qatar appears to want to reform this relationship.”

As the link to a Reuters article provided in that latter paragraph shows, the BBC was not the only media outlet at the time promoting the claim that Qatar was about to steer Jabhat al Nusra into the fold of ‘moderate’ Syrian rebel groups – a claim which appears to have had origins among assorted Qatari sources . Roberts later wrote:

“If the state [Qatar] can get the group to eschew its al-Qaeda affiliation and adhere to a broadly moderate Islamist platform, Qatar can officially commence, with Western blessing, the supply of one of the most effective fighting forces in Syria.”

Making no mention of Qatar’s material and ideological support for the Islamists of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, Roberts’ contextualization of Qatar’s alleged links with Jabhat al Nusra included the following:

“…the fact remains that Qatar is a key Western ally. It hosts a critical US military base, it grafted US and UK higher-education institutions and ideas onto its education system, and has long promoted the Middle East’s most visible and powerful woman, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, the Emir’s mother.

These are transparently not the policies of a state with sympathies for the likes of IS or al-Qaeda. Indeed, there is no chance that Qatar is doing this alone: the US and UK governments will certainly be involved in or at least apprised of Qatar’s plans.”

And:

“Qatar is not the first state to reason that it is time to talk to groups that are unpalatable and extreme, but who are, nevertheless, influential.”

The literal bottom line of this article was to persuade readers that:

“…in a context where the best that can be hoped for is the “least worst” solution, Qatar’s plan is as viable as any other.”

Three days after the appearance of this article Jabhat al Nusra reaffirmed its allegiance to al Qaeda and denied the Qatari promoted claims of a potential split.

So how come BBC audiences were fed obvious Qatari spin by a British academic described as “a lecturer in the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London”? Perhaps if readers had also been alerted to the fact that Dr Roberts’ department currently holds a contract with Qatar apparently worth £26 million, their ability to put the information promoted in this article into proportion and context would have been enhanced. 

BBC coverage of Ramadan terror ignores attacks in one country – in English

The BBC has quite understandably devoted considerable air-time and column space to coverage of the June 26th terror attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait and some of that content (see for example here on BBC television news and here on the BBC News website) has addressed the fact that the attacks took place during Ramadan.  

One particularly interesting discussion on that topic and others took place in the June 28th edition of “Sunday Politics” on BBC One – presented by Andrew Neil – with the sensible contributions from Maajid Nawaz and Tim Marshall being especially refreshing. As Nawaz pointed out:Sunday Politics terror Ramadan

“Jihadists in particular don’t see this as a month of prayer. They don’t see this as a month of merely spiritual replenishment. They see it as a month of war or a month of jihad.”

He later added:

“Yes, we are in a war but actually the target in this war – if we see it as just ISIS we’re incredibly short-sighted and prior to that we saw it as just Bin Laden who the international community killed and yet we had something far worse than Bin Laden emerge because we are fundamentally unable – due to reasons of political correctness or fear of being accused of being racist – we are unable to identify what the problem is here. […] President Obama – who is meant to be leading on this front – has not up until now named this ideology: it’s called the Islamist ideology. “

Of course in order to be able to name the ideology, people first need to be aware of what is happening and whilst Israelis are among those who have seen a sharp uptick in the already high number of terror attacks since Ramadan commenced, most of the BBC’s worldwide audience remains unaware of that fact.

On June 19th a fatal terror attack took place near Dolev with Hamas later claiming responsibility. BBC English language services did not report the incident but it was covered in Arabic.

On June 21st a Border Police officer was seriously injured in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and another man was injured when a bus was firebombed later the same day. The BBC did not report either of those incidents.

On June 23rd a missile fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. That attack was not reported by the BBC’s English language services but the Israeli response to it did get coverage in Arabic.

On June 26th a Palestinian gunman opened fire on soldiers at Beka’ot checkpoint in the Jordan Rift Valley. There were no BBC English language reports on that incident but it was mentioned briefly in a later report in Arabic.

On June 27th an ambulance traveling near Beit El was attacked with live gunfire. There was no BBC coverage of that attack.

On the morning of June 29th a female soldier was injured in a stabbing attack at a crossing near Bethlehem. Later in the evening of the same day, four Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack near Shvut Rachel.

“The four had been driving back from a basketball game near Route 60, the main north-south artery running through the West Bank, when they were attacked. Security forces were initially unsure whether the four were shot at from a passing vehicle or a roadside ambush.”

Neither of those incidents was reported by the BBC’s English language services even after the most seriously wounded victim of the second attack died but both the earlier and later attacks were reported in Arabic. According to Palestinian media outlets, Hamas claimed responsibility for the Shvut Rachel shooting. 

As we can determine from the fact that at least some of the above incidents were reported on the BBC Arabic website, the corporation is obviously well aware of the fact that they took place. One question therefore arising is why – in a similar pattern to that already established in relation to coverage of missile fire from the Gaza Strip – the attacks are not being reported in English. An additional and related point worthy of note is that BBC audiences have not been informed about Hamas’ efforts to build up its terrorist infrastructure in Judea & Samaria.

It seems that another factor needs to be added to Maajid Nawaz’s list of reasons why some people are unable to identify the problem of Islamism. That factor is the politically motivated refusal to accurately recognise some terrorists’ motives and ideology.  

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BBC News website corrects Gaza Strip naval blockade inaccuracy

Shortly after the appearance of a BBC Watch post pointing out that a June 29th BBC News website report inaccurately stated that the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip began two years earlier than is actually the case, the article was amended to include the correct date.

The article – then headlined “Israel intercepts Gaza-bound boat” but later retitled “Ex-Tunisian president on board diverted Gaza-bound boat” – originally told readers that:flotilla amended

“The Israeli Navy has intercepted a Gaza-bound vessel sailed by pro-Palestinian activists and diverted it to an Israeli port, the military says.

It says it acted in international waters to prevent the “intended breach of the maritime blockade” imposed since 2007 against the Hamas-run territory.”

The amended article now reads:

“Israel says it acted in international waters to prevent the “intended breach of the maritime blockade” imposed since 2009 against the Hamas-run territory.”

Changes to that article can be viewed here.

Unfortunately there is no footnote informing audiences of the change made and the continuing absence of a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website means that readers who read the earlier version of the report remain unaware that the information they were given was inaccurate. Equally unfortunate is the fact that the amended version of the article still does not provide audiences with the background information necessary for their understanding of why the naval blockade was implemented.

Another report on the same topic appeared on the BBC Arabic website and it too misled audiences with an inaccurate date. At the time of writing, that article has not yet been corrected.  

 

BBC Monitoring coverage of Ramadan soaps – the sequel

As was noted here last week, BBC Monitoring recently produced a written report for the BBC News website about the popular soap operas and dramas shown on television in the Middle East during Ramadan. That article refrained from informing audiences of the antisemitic and anti-Israeli content traditionally seen in many of those programmes.

On June 26th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Fifth Floor’ also devoted part of its content to the same topic.fifth floor

“It is the holy month of Ramadan – a month of prayer and fasting and for some also accompanied by a lot of television. TV soaps and dramas are commissioned for the season and often bring in the highest ratings. BBC journalist Doaa Soliman is something of a connoisseur of Ramadan TV. Not only has she watched a lot for pleasure, but in her current role with BBC Monitoring, she is also tasked with keeping a professional eye on the current selection. This is Doaa’s guide to what to watch this Ramadan.”

A clip of that segment of the programme can be found here and once again it is notable that the long tradition of antisemitic content in Ramadan entertainment is concealed from BBC audiences. 

BBC’s English and Arabic flotilla reports promote inaccurate information

The news that Israeli naval forces had intercepted – without incident – the lead boat in the latest Gaza Strip bound flotilla was apparently deemed so important that on June 29th a report on that story was promoted on the BBC News website’s homepage, on its World page and on its Middle East page.

flotilla on HP

flotilla on World pge

flotilla on ME pge

Unfortunately, the accuracy of some of the information included in that report – titled “Israel intercepts Gaza-bound boat” – was clearly less important.

Readers are told that:

“The Israeli Navy has intercepted a Gaza-bound vessel sailed by pro-Palestinian activists and diverted it to an Israeli port, the military says.

It says it acted in international waters to prevent the “intended breach of the maritime blockade” imposed since 2007 against the Hamas-run territory.”

However, as has been pointed out on these pages on numerous prior occasions, the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip was announced in January 2009 – not in 2007 as stated in this report and certainly not in 2006 – as claimed in another BBC report on the same topic posted on the BBC Arabic website.

flotilla BBC Arabic 2006

The Turkel Commission report includes a detailed background of the circumstances leading up to the declaration of the naval blockade (from page 32 here) and states:flotilla BBC Arabic

“In these circumstances, on January 3, 2009, during the operation Cast Lead, the Minister of Defense ordered a naval blockade off the coastline of the Gaza Strip up to a distance of 20 nautical miles from the coast. The significance of imposing a naval blockade according to the rules of international law is that it allows a party to an armed conflict to prevent entry into the prohibited area of any vessel that attempts to breach the blockade (even without it being established that the vessel is assisting terrorist activity). Consequently, a NOTMAR was published in the following terms: ‘All mariners are advised that as of 03 January 2009, 1700 UTC, Gaza maritime area is closed to all maritime traffic and is under blockade imposed by Israeli Navy until further notice. Maritime Gaza area is enclosed by the following coordinates […].”

In 2010 Professor Ruth Lapidoth noted that:

“In the treatment of the flotilla heading for Gaza, Israel has acted in compliance with international law because it has fulfilled all the conditions for a lawful blockade. In January 2009 Israel notified the relevant authorities of its blockade of Gaza – a lawful means of naval war. The existence of an armed conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was well known and did not need a special declaration to that effect.”

The report of the UN SG’s Panel of Inquiry into the Mavi Marmara incident also notes on page 39 that:

“…the naval blockade was imposed more than a year later, in January 2009.”

Interestingly, at no point in these two BBC reports are readers informed that the UN panel found (page 44) the naval blockade to be legal and the relevant context of past cases of arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip by sea was not provided to readers, who were however told in the English version that:

“The activists said they wanted to draw attention to the blockade, which Israel says is a necessary security measure.” [emphasis added]

Another inaccuracy in this report (and in the Arabic version) is seen in the following statement:

“They said the vessel was carrying humanitarian aid, including medicine and solar panels.”

In fact, as blogger Elder of Ziyon pointed out over two weeks ago, the use of the plural term “panels” in that sentence is – according to a spokesperson for the flotilla organisers interviewed by Ma’an news agency – apparently superfluous.

“On board, the Marianne is carrying one solar panel to al-Shifa hospital and medical equipment for Wafa hospital, both in Gaza City. If everything goes as planned, activists will also leave the fishing trawler for Palestinian fishermen to use.

“The people in Gaza never have electricity all day long. Solar panels could be a sustainable solution for the power shortage,” Ighe said.” [emphasis added]

And, as our colleagues at Presspectiva have pointed out, Shifa hospital already has a working solar power system.

It would obviously have been helpful to readers of both the English language and Arabic language articles had they clarified the fact that there are no restrictions on the import of solar panels, medicines or any other kind of “humanitarian aid” into the Gaza Strip.

This of course is not the first time that audiences have been misled by BBC content with regard to the date of the implementation of the naval blockade or that the all-important context behind it has been omitted. 

BBC World Service promotion for Mads Gilbert’s new book

The June 17th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by James Coomarasamy – included an item (from 14:00 here) introduced as follows:Newshour Gilbert

“Last year’s conflict between Israel and Gaza lasted 51 days and claimed more than two thousand lives. Israel and Hamas continue to argue about who was responsible, over the number of casualties and over each other’s conflict during the war. But the impact on Gaza’s infrastructure was undeniably considerable. Its only power station was hit by an airstrike.”

That portrayal is of course inaccurate: the fuel tanks at the Gaza power plant (not the structure itself) were hit by errant tank shells (not by “an airstrike”) whilst the IDF tried to prevent an imminent attack by terrorists carrying anti-tank missiles. Additionally, the conflict was not “between Israel and Gaza” but between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip and Coomarasamy’s bizarre and unsourced ‘they’re each as bad as the other’ claim that “Israel and Hamas continue to argue” actively hinders audience understanding of the facts behind the conflict.

All that, however, was merely the entrée to the real purpose of this item: licence fee funded promotion of a new book by the BBC’s long-time favourite medic-cum-terrorist supporter. Coomarasamy continues:

“One man who witnessed that war at close hand is a Norwegian doctor, Mads Gilbert. He returned to Gaza to work in al Shifa hospital as he’d done in three previous conflicts there. He documented his experiences – he’s collated them in a new book called ‘Night in Gaza’. So why did he think it was important to do that?”

Coomarasamy makes no effort to relieve listeners of the misleading impressions created by Gilbert’s inaccurate claim of a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip or to inform them that the descriptions they hear of a shortage of medical supplies actually have nothing to do with Israel.

Gilbert: “I had been in Gaza for two weeks in June to make a report for the UN about the situation in the healthcare system and basically the whole civilian sector in Gaza was down on its knees because of the siege and then on top of that came this horrific 51 days. Shifa was totally drained of supplies, drugs, equipment – everything you need to run a hospital.”

One of the issues regularly raised on these pages is the BBC’s frequent breaching of its own editorial guidelines on impartiality due to its failure to inform audiences of the “viewpoint” of interviewees. At one point during the item listeners hear Coomarasamy say to Gilbert:

“You are a medical doctor but you are an activist. You are a pro-Palestinian activist. Would you say that’s fair?”

Gilbert answers:

“Like many others I support the Palestinian people’s right to resist occupation and I think that’s part of my medical duty. Medicine and politics are Siamese twins – you can’t separate the one from the other.”

Unfortunately, rather than clarifying to audiences that the Gaza Strip has not been under occupation for a decade and instead of pursuing the subject of what Gilbert really means when he talks of a “right to resist” (in a recent interview with the Guardian, Gilbert stated that “[t]he right to resist implies also the right to resist with arms, if you’re occupied”), Coomarasamy gets into a futile academic discussion with Gilbert about medicine and politics before providing him with the opportunity to whitewash Hamas abuses.

JC: “What about…I mean have you tried to understand the point of view of Hamas and what they were doing in the hospital? Because if you look at the Amnesty International report from last month they very clearly say ‘Hamas forces used the abandoned areas of Shifa, including the outpatients clinic area, to detain, interrogate torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical centre’. And first of all, do you recognize that portrait?”

MG: “I don’t support Hamas. I don’t support Fatah. I don’t support any Palestinian faction. I support the Palestinian people.”

JC: “But do you recognize the Amnesty International characterization of what was happening in the hospital when you were there?”

MG: “Bear in mind that Amnesty was not allowed to enter Gaza. I am not saying that this is not taking place. I’m saying that where I worked it was a proper hospital. And yes, the Palestinian Authorities had their press conferences outside. I am allowed to work freely. I walk around wherever I want. I’m never controlled. I never have my pictures controlled. So from what I have seen in Shifa hospital and in the other Palestinian hospitals in Gaza, this is not the picture I recognize.”

Coomarasamy ends the interview there and, as has so often been the case in the past, BBC audiences have once again been fed Gilbert’s unhindered falsehoods and propaganda – as well as promotion of his book. Mads Gilbert is not a “pro-Palestinian” activist as claimed by Coomarasamy in his ostensible impartiality box-tick. Those who are truly pro-Palestinian (and perhaps especially those supposedly bound by a professional oath) would not whitewash Hamas’ torture of its political opponents, its exploitation of patients as human shields or its diversion of resources which could improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians for the purposes of terrorism. Sadly, the BBC continues to avoid telling Mads Gilbert as he really is.

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