No BBC coverage of Abbas’ PLO resignation

Even for an organization which serially avoids serious coverage of internal Palestinian affairs, the BBC’s failure to report on a recent story coming out of Ramallah is remarkable – especially as it is obviously aware of events.

Abbas resig PLO Rushdi tweet

As readers are no doubt aware, eighty year-old Mahmoud Abbas presides over three bodies: he is president of the Fatah party, president of the Palestinian Authority (although his elected mandate expired long ago) and chair of the executive committee of the PLO. According to reports disputed by some, Abbas resigned from that latter post on August 22nd, together with several other committee members. What prompted that apparent move is explained in an article by Khaled Abu Toameh:

“Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri said that, if true, the resignations are merely an attempt to “reengineer” the PLO and its institutions after more than 20 years of “negligence.”

The entire move, he said, was simply made to replace some members of the Executive Committee.

“These are not real resignations,” Masri explained.

“Those who reportedly submitted their resignations have no intention to leave. They just want to use the resignations to call for an extraordinary meeting of the Palestinian National Council in accordance with Article 14 of the Palestinian Basic Law.””

The Palestinian National Council – the PLO’s legislative body and highest authority – has not held a regular session since 1996. Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are of course not members of the PLO but the former had been slated to join that body according to the ill-fated Hamas-Fatah ‘unity agreement’ of 2014. Khaled Abu Toameh again:

“Hamas responded to the reports [of the resignations]by describing what happened in Ramallah as a “play,” calling the move “invalid,” because it did not take into consideration efforts to achieve reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Musa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas official, said the purported resignations were designed to pave the way for allowing Abbas to have exclusive control over the decision- making process.”

Ghaith al-Omari has more about the broader significance of this story the BBC apparently did not find any interest in covering.

 

BBC silent on latest Gaza power plant shut down

The extensive multi-platform coverage promoted to BBC audiences on the anniversary of the beginning of last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas included a filmed item titled “Gaza conflict one year on: The power plant“.

The inclusion of that topic was not surprising: the Gaza Strip power plant was featured extensively – though not always accurately – in BBC coverage of the conflict and some correspondents were quick to promote the notion that damage to the power plant’s fuel storage tanks was intentional and deliberate. Even after the circumstances of the July 29th 2014 incident became clear, the BBC made no effort to correct the inaccurate impressions given to its audiences at the time.Knell infrastructure

Last week the Gaza power plant was in the news again when, as AFP and others reported, production came to a halt.

“The Gaza Strip’s sole power plant has halted production, the Hamas-run energy authority said Tuesday, in the latest dispute with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over fuel tax. […]

“The levying of fuel taxes by the finance ministry in Ramallah is preventing the (Hamas) energy authority from running the power station,” a statement from the authority said.

The PA must “lift all taxes on fuel” to get the plant up and running, it said.

Hamas pays the PA for fuel imported to Gaza, but is short of cash and had been unable to cover the additional costs in tax.

In December, Qatar stepped in and donated $10 million (nine million euros) to the PA to cover the tax, effectively exempting Hamas from paying it.

But that money has dried up, and the PA is insisting Hamas begin paying the tax again, the Islamist movement says.

Hamas shut the power plant in March over the same dispute.”

Last summer’s reporting on the topic of the Gaza Strip power plant included descriptions from BBC correspondents of the potential effects of the plant’s closure on civilian life.

“And it is Gaza’s only power plant so there are electricity cuts in Gaza City, there could be problems with water supply because many of the area’s water pumps also rely on that power plant. So if that was a deliberate Israeli attempt to cause economic pain – which is certainly how most Palestinians will see it – then it could be fairly successful.” –Chris Morris, BBC WS ‘Newshour’, 29/7/14.

“It [the power plant] would to serve electricity for the civilian in Gaza almost 2 million people who are, I mean, suffer and when you are talking about electricity we are talking about water supply, water treatment plant, water sewage plant and we are talking about hospitals, we are talking about the schools. All aspects, all basic of our life requirements are not existing.” – Interview with the power plant manager, Yolande Knell, BBC television news, 15/8/14.

Notably, there has been no BBC coverage whatsoever of the power plant’s most recent closure, the effects of that on civilian life in the Gaza Strip or of the long-running dispute between Hamas and the PA which led to this latest shut-down.

BBC News ignores arrests connected to terror attack it didn’t report

A terror attack which took place on June 19th near Dolev in which one person was killed and another injured was, as noted here previously, ignored by the BBC’s English language news services but reported on the BBC Arabic website.No news

On July 15th the Israeli police and security forces announced the arrest of the terrorist suspected of killing 25 year-old Danny Gonen, together with four accomplices.

“In a joint operation by the Shin Bet, the Judea and Samaria Police’s counter-terrorism unit and the IDF, Shahin and several other terrorists were arrested, security forces said. […]

They confessed during questioning to carrying out a series of terrorist attacks, including the murder of Danny Gonen,” the Shin Bet said.

Before the attack, the terrorists had carried out “shootings against security forces in the Kalandia refugee camp region,” the Shin Bet said. The cell “gathered intelligence on the natural spring in the area,” in order to target Israelis who passed through, it said.

During the investigation, security forces seized weapons, including the firearm allegedly used in the attack.”

Although the attack was claimed at the time by Hamas, the majority of those arrested are Fatah-Tanzim operatives and the suspected gunman Muhammad Abu Shahin is on the Palestinian Authority’s payroll.

“Shahin, 30, is a former member of the Fatah-affiliated Force 17, and receives a monthly salary from the Palestinian Authority.

He spent two years in an Israeli prison, from 2006 to 2008, after confessing to planning shooting and stabbing attacks. Shahin arrived at the spring near Dolev to gather intelligence before last month’s shooting on multiple occasions, the agency said.

In 2014, he carried out six shootings, including one that wounded a soldier, the Shin Bet added.

Security forces also named Amjad Adwan, 35, also a Tanzim-Fatah operative from the Kalandia camp, as a suspect. Adwan “supplied ammunition to Shahin, and acted as a lookout in a number of shooting attacks,” the Shin Bet said. He too spent time in Israeli prison, in 2008, for arms dealing and carrying out a bombing attack.

A third suspect, named by the agency as Ashraf Amar, 24, also from Kalandia, is “an operative in the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence” branch, the Shin Bet said. He has no prior arrests, and the Shin Bet said he headed out with Shahin to carry out an attack in recent months, but that the attackers turned back in the end.

Two additional suspects, one a member of Fatah-Tanzim, and another who has no organizational affiliation, are also under arrest on suspicion of involvement in killing Gonen.”

In addition to its failure to report the fatal terror attack when it took place, BBC News has to date refrained from reporting on these arrests.

Likewise, BBC audiences remain unaware of the fact that an Israeli soldier was stabbed in the back by a Palestinian woman on July 15th or that residents of the Ashkelon area in southern Israel had to scramble to their air raid shelters just after 2 a.m. on July 16th due to yet another missile attack from the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

Yet again: Gaza missile attack ignored by BBC News but Israeli response reported in Arabic

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

BBC News website flunks story of PA arrests of Hamas operatives too

In addition to the ‘Newshour’ report previously discussed here, BBC coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s recent arrest of Hamas operatives also included a written report appearing on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 3rd under the headline “Palestinian forces arrest dozens of Hamas members in West Bank“.PA arrests website

Despite the arrests having taken place in areas controlled by the PA, the article opens:

“The Palestinian Authority’s security forces have arrested more than 100 members of the militant Hamas movement in the occupied West Bank.” [emphasis added]

Bearing in mind that the BBC has refrained from informing its audiences about Hamas’ attempts to strengthen its presence in PA controlled areas and that English language coverage of the recent uptick in terror attacks against Israelis has been virtually non-existent, readers must have found the following paragraphs very confusing.

“The PA, which is dominated by the rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, said it wanted to prevent Hamas undermining the territory’s security.” […]

“A spokesman of the Palestinian Authority, Adnan al-Dameri, said those arrested would be put on trial on the charge of threatening security and stability.

“We will not let Hamas undermine our security and draw our country to bloodshed. We will not let Hamas carry out attacks in the West Bank,” he told the Associated Press.”

Also included in the report were the following statements:

“A Hamas spokesman said the arrests were an effort to stop a spate of deadly attacks on Israelis in the West Bank.

Husam Badran accused Palestinian security forces of working for Israel and said Hamas held Mr Abbas personally responsible.

The Islamist group, which dominates the Gaza Strip, called for the immediate release of its members and warned of “consequences”.”

BBC audiences were not informed that Husam Badran was named in connection with the recently publicized exposure of Hamas activity in Nablus (Schem) and hence are unable to put his amplified claims into their correct context. The exposure of that Hamas cell was not reported by the BBC at the time and in this article readers are merely told that:

“Earlier, Israel’s internal security agency said it had uncovered a Hamas militant cell operating in the Nablus area of the West Bank.”

Readers are also informed that:

“The BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the issue of security co-ordination between Israel and PA security forces remains highly sensitive.”

“Highly sensitive” to whom is not clarified but it is notable that only a few weeks earlier the BBC told its audiences that the Palestinians were to end security cooperation with Israel.

The article goes on:

“Such developments will raise concerns about renewed divisions between the two factions despite a formal reconciliation deal last year and the creation of a unity government, our correspondent adds.”

As anyone who followed the progress of the short-lived Palestinian Unity Government will be aware, the divisions between Hamas and Fatah are far from “renewed” and “reconciliation” never got off the ground.

Next comes a highly sanitized description of Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip with no mention made of the fact that the legitimate elected mandates of Hamas, the PLC and the PA president long since expired.

“The two factions had governed separately since Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007, leaving the PA governing just parts of the West Bank.”

The last eight paragraphs of the article are a hodge-podge of unrelated news.

“Also on Friday, an Israeli general accused Hamas of providing support to an affiliate of the jihadist group Islamic State in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Maj-Gen Yoav Mordechai, named members of Hamas’s military wing who he alleged were involved in training militants from the affiliate, known as Sinai Province, and smuggling those wounded in clashes with Egyptian security forces into Gaza for medical treatment.

“We know that Hamas, and I have verified information, that Hamas in Gaza is assisting Sinai Province both in organisation and armaments,” he said. […]

Hamas has repeatedly rejected accusations of collusion with IS and said Gen Mordechai’s comments were an attempt to damage its relations with Egypt.”

Those wishing to view Major General Mordechai’s interview with Al Jazeera Arabic (interesting not least for the ‘journalistic’ approach taken by the interviewer) can do so here.

The BBC’s article closes:

“In a separate development in the West Bank on Friday, an Israeli officer shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian who was throwing stones at his vehicle. The Israeli military said the brigade commander had first fired warning shots at the boy.”

Details of that incident can be found here.

Despite chronic under-reporting of the subject of Hamas’ attempts to undermine the PA by strengthening its presence in PA controlled areas and the lack of adequate coverage of the recent rise in terror attacks, like their colleagues at the BBC World Service the website’s journalists made no attempt to provide audiences with information needed to properly understand this story and its wider implications. Very rarely does the BBC cover internal Palestinian affairs and hence such superficial reporting is all the more unfortunate. 

BBC WS ‘Newshour’ fails to deliver on PA arrests of Hamas operatives

Late last week Palestinian Authority security forces arrested a large number of Hamas operatives in PA controlled areas of Judea & Samaria. The Times of Israel reported as follows:

“Palestinian Authority forces arrested 108 Hamas members in the West Bank in one of the biggest raids in years.

According to reports in Hamas-affiliated media, the raids began early Thursday morning and continued overnight Thursday-Friday. The arrests included senior Hamas officials, according to the reports.

The raids were conducted in Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem, Walla News reported.”

Ha’aretz added:

““They were planning to set up an infrastructure designed to strengthen Hamas in the West Bank, which would then operate against Israel and create security chaos,” a senior [PA] official said.”

According to Al Jazeera:

“Adnan al-Damiri, the PA security services’ spokesman, said the arrests were not related to political activities but were made for security reasons.

“We will not allow that the West Bank disintegrates into carnage and wars just because Hamas wants escalation,” he told Al Jazeera.”

Analyst Avi Issacharoff adds some relevant context in this article:

“A recent spate of terror attacks in the West Bank, as well as revelations by the Shin Bet security service concerning Hamas infrastructure in Nablus, prompted an awakening of sorts on the Palestinian side, especially at the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas, who has proven time and again that he won’t abide any challenge to the stability of his rule, realizes full well that murdering Jews is only the secondary goal of Hamas activists carrying out attacks. The main aim of its deadly operations is to weaken the Palestinian Authority, heighten tensions with Israel, and ultimately undermine the government in the West Bank. […]

None of this means Hamas will admit defeat or relinquish its efforts to challenge the PA’s rule. While the organization is doing its best to maintain a state of relative calm in the Gaza Strip, it will most likely continue to send operatives from Turkey and the Strip to the West Bank to plan more terrorist attacks in hope of undermining the PA.”

As readers are aware, BBC audiences have been consistently deprived of information concerning Hamas’ foreign based operatives’ attempts to strengthen its presence in PA controlled areas – including the latest plot. Likewise, BBC reporting on the recent uptick in terror attacks against Israelis has been virtually non-existent – at least in English.

So did the news of the arrests carried out by the PA prompt the BBC to try to fill in some of the story’s pieces which have until now been missing for its audiences?

Listeners to the July 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard (from 14:02 here) the following introduction to an item on the topic from presenter Owen Bennett-Jones.Newshour 3 7

“Palestinian Authority forces have arrested more than a hundred members of the Hamas militant network in the Israeli occupied West Bank.”

Actually, as noted above, the arrests took place in areas under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. Bennett-Jones continued:

“Last month the Palestinian Authority’s unity government resigned. President Mahmoud Abbas said Hamas wouldn’t allow that government to operate in Gaza so it all fell apart.”

In fact the one year-old Palestinian Unity Government was unilaterally dissolved by Abbas.

Bennett-Jones then introduced his interviewee Ghassan Khatib, asking “how deep are these divisions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority?”. Readers may recall that Khatib was also interviewed by the BBC World Service just a couple of weeks earlier and that his account of the dissolution of the Palestinian Unity Government at the time focused in no small part on the promotion of anti-Israel falsehoods and propaganda irrelevant to the subject matter.

Khatib’s explanation of the arrests of scores of Hamas operatives by the PA was as follows:

“The arrests that has been reported in the West Bank is an expected outcome of the deterioration in the relation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. There has been two main reasons for this deterioration that led to those arrests. The first one is news about direct and indirect contacts between Israel and Hamas regarding a separate future of Gaza from the West Bank. The second is the difficulties Hamas created for the Palestinian government that was agreed upon with Hamas earlier and Hamas preventing this government from functioning in Gaza Strip. These two things led into gradual deterioration in the relation of the two sides and usually, when relations are deteriorating, one of the typical outcomes is that PA would start arresting Hamas activists in the West Bank and Hamas would start arresting Fatah activists in Gaza strip.”

Bennett-Jones turned the item’s focus away from its supposed subject matter:

“So just tell us a bit more about the contacts with Israel. How serious is the suggestion of basically splitting Gaza from the West Bank and how great is Hamas’ willingness to consider that?”

As Khatib then admitted, his speculations concerning “contacts between Israel and Hamas” are based on “leaks” and indeed the sources of that story have been mostly Arab media outlets and Fatah officials. Even if such contacts are going on, the likely agenda is a ‘hudna‘ – or long-term truce – rather than an intention to ‘split’ the Gaza Strip and the PA controlled territories.

Bennett-Jones’ final question to Khatib related to the “prospect of a stable political arrangement for the Palestinians when they have one united leadership” and he failed to question his interviewee on the obviously relevant topic of Hamas’ aspiration to undermine the Palestinian Authority. Likewise, no attempt was made to adequately inform listeners of Hamas’ practical efforts to strengthen its presence in PA controlled areas or of the context of the recent rise in terror attacks.

As a result, BBC audiences remained yet again in the dark with regard to the threat presented by Hamas to PA rule, the likelihood of destabilization in areas currently controlled by the PA and the real background to this latest spate of arrests. 

BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ provides propaganda platform for Erekat yet again

The last thing that can be said about the PLO’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is that he suffers from a lack of BBC airtime but nevertheless, the end of May saw him back at one of his regular spots – ‘Hardtalk‘.Erekat Hardtalk May 2015

Not only did Erekat have nothing new to tell host Zeinab Badawi, he even recycled statements made during previous appearances on the same programme. At 10:32 in the video below, Erekat says:

“See, in my opinion Christian and Muslim Palestinians will not convert to Judaism and become Israelis. Jews will not convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinians.”

If that sounds familiar, that may be because only last year Erekat made a very similar statement during a previous ‘Hardtalk’ interview.

“Are Christian and Muslim Palestinians going to convert to become Israelis? Or are Jews going to convert to Christianity and Islam and become Palestinians? This is not happen.” 

And if it rang a bell even in 2014, that could be because back in 2011 Erekat told Zeinab Badawi in yet another ‘Hardtalk’ interview:

“I don’t think Christian and Muslim Palestinians would convert to Judaism and become Israelis. I don’t think that Jews would convert to Islam and Christianity and become Palestinian.”

In other words, for four years at least Saeb Erekat has been pushing the same broken record mantra and not one BBC journalist has bothered to follow it up by informing audiences that not all Israelis are Jews – as the country’s two million strong non-Jewish population (25.1%) indicates – or by asking him why Jews cannot be citizens of a Palestinian state.

Let’s take look at some of the other falsehoods propagated by Erekat – with no disturbance from Badawi – in this programme.

“I have as a Palestinian recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the ’67 borders.”

“We recognize them to live in peace and security in the ’67 borders – that’s 78% of historic British mandated Palestine – and accepted to establish our state in the remaining 22% of the land.”

There is of course no such thing as “’67 borders” because the 1949 Armistice Lines were specifically defined as not being borders – as even the BBC’s style guide notes. Nevertheless, Badawi makes no effort to clarify the point to viewers.

“In one week of his government he [Netanyahu] issues more than two thousand housing units of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They’re moving their offices – his ministers – to occupied East Jerusalem and today, literally speaking, there are buses in Israel that Palestinians cannot use. They call it sterilized buses and there will be roads that they call sterilized roads.”

Those “East Jerusalem” apartments are in fact located in Ramat Shlomo and have been going through the planning process since 2010. One Israeli minister has approached the Finance Ministry with a request for new offices in Jerusalem. The same ministry has a long existing office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem: an area which was classified as no-man’s land throughout the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation of parts of Jerusalem. There are no “sterilized buses” and the restriction on travel for PA registered vehicles on certain small sections of road arises from the very real security issues which of course do not get a mention in this programme at all.

“I’m telling the Israelis if you worry about courts, stop committing crimes. […] I cannot have every two years 12,000 Palestinians killed and wounded in Gaza. I cannot leave the continuation of the settlement activities, by-pass roads – now they call sterilized road – sterilized buses. I cannot continue living a deeper apartheid system in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than the one that existed in South Africa. So what I’m telling the Israelis wake up, wake up. What you’re doing in the West Bank in accordance with the international law – the four Geneva Conventions and the 4th Convention of 1949 – are war crimes.”

Like the vast majority of Palestinians in Judea & Samaria, Saeb Erekat lives under full Palestinian Authority control. The topic of Palestinian self-rule in areas A&B is of course not mentioned at any point in this programme either and Badawi sits idly by as Erekat promotes the false and defamatory notion of a system of ‘apartheid’ worse “than the one that existed in South Africa”.

“I know I have an agreed agenda with them, signed by the Israeli government, saying that permanent status negotiations issues are borders, Jerusalem, water, security. Is Mr Netanyahu willing to utter the sentence two states on the 1967 lines? […] Is he willing to carry out his commitment – not condition – to stop settlement activities in the land that’s supposed to be the State of Palestine?”

“What is between me and the Israelis are elements of contracts, agreements signed. There are obligations emanating from those agreements signed – on me as a Palestinian and on Israel. And Israel must stop settlement activities and must accept two states on 1967 lines and must accept to sit with me to delineate the borders on the basis of the 1967 lines. If they’re willing to honour their commitments we’ll meet tomorrow.”

The “agreements” and “contracts” signed between the Palestinians and Israel are the Oslo Accords. In contrast to the misleading impression given to viewers of this programme, nowhere in those agreements is any restriction placed on building in Israeli towns and villages in Judea & Samaria or Jerusalem and nowhere do they state that the 1949 Armistice Lines – or “67 lines” as Erekat calls them – would be the final borders between Israel and a Palestinian state. That, of course, is precisely why the subject of borders is one of the issues to be discussed in final status negotiations.

“We’re willing to engage seriously on the basis of the agreed terms of reference specified in the Quartet’s statements saying that negotiations should be on the basis of two states on 1967.”

The Quartet’s February 2015 statement makes no mention of “1967” and neither does its 2003 roadmap stipulate that Erekat’s much-touted “1967 lines” are a basis for negotiations.

“The fact that Palestine became and has gained the legal status for observer state meant that it’s a state under occupation. The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is identified as now as a Higher [sic] Contracting Party to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. […] Palestine has a status of a state under occupation like what countries like Norway, Belgium, Holland, France, Korea, the Philippines were in the Second World War under German and Japanese occupation [Badawi: sure, sure…] so the Israelis cannot say it’s disputed territories…”

Legal experts contacted by BBC Watch in connection with Erekat’s claim that the 2012 granting of the status of UN non-member observer state automatically confers High Contracting Party status advised us that “neither joining the Geneva Conventions nor receiving observer status in the General Assembly are procedures for assigning territorial sovereignty, and neither action could give “Palestine” sovereignty over the territory of “West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.”

“Zeinab, settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are illegal settlements. Actually, in accordance with the 4th Geneva Convention these settlements are war crimes.”

That inaccuracy is reinforced by Badawi at 07:45:

“And of course, as you say, international law says that the settlements are illegal.

Once again the BBC breaches its own editorial guidelines on impartiality by failing to inform audiences of the existence of legal opinions which disagree with the politically partial line it chooses to promote.

Were viewers of this programme provided with factual information which would aid them in building an “understanding of international issues“? Regrettably, no. Were they provided with unchallenged misinformation in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality? Unfortunately, yes. That, however, is par for the course in any BBC content featuring Saeb Erekat.

Related Articles:

 BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part one

BBC’s Hardtalk provides platform for Saeb Erekat’s fabricated histories – part two

Resources:

How to Complain to the BBC

BBC WS’s Dan Damon turns domestic Palestinian story into anti-Israel propaganda fest

The news that Mahmoud Abbas had unilaterally decided to dissolve the one year-old ‘Palestinian Unity Government’ was reported on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in an article titled “Palestinian unity government ‘to resign over Gaza row’” which originally appeared on June 16th.

Excepting the very coy description of Hamas’ violent seizure of power and the lack of any mention of the fact that the results of the 2006 PLC elections no longer hold any relevance (“…Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007…”), the report is reasonable and correctly notes that:

“Israel has insisted it will not deal with a government backed by Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction.”

As readers will of course recall, it was Abbas’ decision to form that unity government with Hamas which was the final nail in the coffin of the last round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014.PUG Daily Commute

However, listeners to the June 17th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘BBC World Update: Daily Commute’ – available for a limited period of time here, from 3:04 – heard a decidedly different take on the story. Whilst the first part of the five-minute item is indeed devoted to discussion of the subject matter between host Dan Damon and guest Ghassan Khatib, from around 5:27 the focus changes. Damon – apparently ignorant of the fact that the last round of negotiations collapsed because Abbas chose to embrace and legitimize the terror organization which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist – poses the following misleading question.

Damon: “There isn’t much of a peace process anyway in relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis but does this make it more unlikely that there’ll be any kind of valuable negotiation?

Khatib: “I don’t think there is any great deal of interaction between forming or not forming a new Palestinian government on one hand and the Palestinian-Israeli relations on the other hand because chances are almost zero about the peace process, especially after the last Israeli election and the election of that far Right-wing government that has no interest in discussing the possibilities of Israel giving up its illegal control over the Palestinian occupied territories.”

Failing to clarify to listeners that any current Israeli control over territory occupied by Jordan in 1948 is the result of agreements willingly signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people over two decades ago and therefore cannot be accurately termed “illegal”, Damon asks:

“Was this an opportunity missed, do you believe, to improve the lives of some desperately poor people in that part of the world?”

Khatib: “Yes, I think that much of the needs of people can be better fulfilled on a practical level, on humanitarian level, on services level, between the bodies in charge of the West Bank and those in the Gaza Strip. However, much of this is also related to the Israeli restrictions. Israel is supposed to be more forthcoming in easing the blockade against Gaza and easing the restrictions and the settlement expansion and the settlers violent [sic] against Palestinians in West Bank, especially East Jerusalem.”

Damon’s next question-cum-political statement provides plenty of insight into the motives behind his failure to challenge that blatant propaganda.

Damon: “And if you follow that analysis through, this gives the hardliners on the Israeli side exactly what they want. They can say ‘look – no negotiating partner so we’ll continue with our policy of creating facts on the ground’.”

Khatib: “Actually, this is like mixing the cause with the effect. It’s actually the victory of those Right-wingers in Israel and their continued settlement expansion is the reason why there is no sound negotiations. Palestinian side is ready for negotiations – that was announced again and again, including last week by President Abbas in a conference in South Africa. He said that he’s ready to go back to negotiations. But is Israel ready to negotiate the future of the Palestinian territories? That’s the main question. Is Israel ready for the two state solution? Even the closest friend of Israel, President Obama, said on an interview last week with Israeli Channel 2 that there’s little hope that this government Israel is ready for a two state solution.”

The item ends there, with listeners deprived of any chance to hear the Israeli point of view or response to the propagandist allegations touted by Khatib.

This was supposed to be a report informing audiences about the dissolution of the PA unity government and of course there was no need to introduce Israel into the story at all. Instead, Dan Damon turned it into an exercise in Israel bashing and the one-sided promotion of falsehoods and propaganda intended to further the Palestinian Authority’s PR campaign. So much for accurate and impartial journalism.

Related Articles:

BBC WS presenter: filmed evidence of Hamas’ misuse of hospitals is ‘rumours on the internet’

Resources:

Dan Damon on Twitter

BBC World Service contact & complaints

How to Complain to the BBC

A postscript to BBC Business’ recent reports from the Gaza Strip

As readers are aware, Roger Hearing and Marie Keyworth from the BBC’s business department recently produced a series of reports (see related articles below) for BBC World Service radio which purported to inform BBC audiences worldwide about the state of the economy in both the Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria and the supposedly PA controlled – but in fact Hamas-run – Gaza Strip.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth

Though high on pathos and politically motivated messaging, the duo’s reports from the Gaza Strip notably made no mention whatsoever of one particular factor which has recently led to rising prices.

As the New York Times reported:

“Most recently, Hamas quietly initiated new import fees in an effort to cover the salaries of about 40,000 employees who have not been paid for months, raising prices in already-depressed markets. A kilogram of meat, a little over two pounds, increased by 50 cents, black pepper by $1.50 a kilogram and shampoo by 25 cents.”

Avi Issacharoff adds:

“The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has instituted new taxes that will be used to pay the salaries of its administration officials, who number approximately 40,000.

Hamas, which declared the taxes under the heading “social solidarity,” decided to begin collecting them following a meeting of its parliament members who live in Gaza.

The new taxes, which include a 25 percent tariff on new cars, have led to higher prices, such as a 20% increase in the price of beef. […]

The new taxes are also constantly changing. One tax that was instituted recently requires companies registered with the Economic Affairs Ministry in Gaza to pay approximately NIS 500 to have a Hamas representative participate in a company conference. Hamas charges another few hundred shekels to have the conference registered, and if it is postponed, the postponement is taxed as well.

The most problematic taxes are levied on all goods that enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Even cartons of cigarettes that are brought in from the West Bank are taxed. This means that the average resident of Gaza pays more for cigarettes than his counterpart in the West Bank does, even though the standard of living in the West Bank is higher.

Another example is meat: Since importers must pay NIS 50 in taxes for every calf that enters Gaza, the price of beef has gone up. Hamas’s import tax on sheep is “only” NIS 25 per head.”Business Matters 19 5 Hearing intro

As readers may recall, salaries for those 40,000 Hamas employees have been an issue ever since the announcement of the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity government’ a year ago. As the Times of Israel explained at the time:

“The PA has been paying monthly salaries to nearly 70,000 public servants in Gaza despite the fact that the workers had not been allowed to serve in their positions since Hamas took over the Strip by force in 2007.

On its part, Hamas has employed 40,000 of its own civil servants to work in the PA employees’ stead.”

The Palestinian Authority refused to pay Hamas’ 40,000 employees and payment of those salaries appeared among the demands laid down by Hamas as conditions for halting the conflict with Israel which it initiated last July.

Back in July 2014 the BBC’s Yolande Knell produced a dumbed down report on the economy in the Gaza Strip which misrepresented the story of those 40,000 Hamas employees and now BBC Business reporters have ignored the issue of the price rises caused by taxes intended to pay their salaries. Once again we see that factors affecting the Palestinian economy which are the result of Palestinian decisions interest the BBC considerably less than any Israeli actions. 

Related Articles:

BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ misrepresents the status of Area C in report on PA economy

BBC World Service’s Hearing reveals the political foundations of a ‘business’ report

Multiple breaches of BBC editorial guidelines in BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ report from Bethlehem

Multiple breaches of BBC editorial guidelines in BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ report from Bethlehem

In addition to the two parts of the report aired in the May 20th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Matters’ which have already been discussed on these pages (see here and here), the segment included a report (also promoted as a separate clip) from Bethlehem by Marie Keyworth.

The synopsis to the separately promoted clip – titled “Making Ends Meet In The West Bank” – promotes the same inaccurate claim about roads made by Roger Hearing in his introduction to the segment.Keyworth WB

“The modern map of the West Bank is a mind-boggling jigsaw of areas under the control of Israel or the Palestinian Authority, as well as settlements and roads linking settlements, that Palestinians cannot use. So how do the 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank do business in such difficult circumstances? Marie Keyworth has been finding out.”

As we noted here earlier, the vast majority of routes are completely open to use by all, with PA registered vehicles excluded from less than 15 kms of roadway in Judea & Samaria.

Making no effort whatsoever to inform listeners that the Palestinian Authority has had total control over Bethlehem for the last nineteen and a half years in accordance with the Oslo Accords, Keyworth opens her report with the following claim:

“Now to many minds the West Bank will conjure up an image of conflict and indeed it has a chequered past. The whole area is under military occupation by Israel and the restrictions that country has imposed on the West Bank are having a huge effect on the economy.”

Keyworth makes no attempt to introduce the all-important context of terrorism past and present and listeners then hear three anonymous voices making the following statements:

“It’s very hard and there’s not a lot of work and people are scared.”

“I can say in one word – it’s miserable because every day we have a struggle. We face the Israelien [sic] law and the Israelien [sic] army.”

“The life here is like…here we are living in a big prison. We just survive for every day. We can’t predict for anything…for like the occupation, the wall, all of these things which surround Bethlehem.”

Notably, the inaccurate claims that the anti-terrorist fence is a “wall” and that it ‘surrounds’ Bethlehem were not edited out. Keyworth continues:

“From the falafel restaurant to the taxi driver, everyone here seems to have a complaint about this occupation.”

She then goes on to interview someone she introduces only as “Sam Bahour – a Palestinian-American businessman”. As readers are no doubt aware, the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality stipulate “the importance of clearly summarising the standpoint of any interviewee where it is relevant and not immediately clear from their position or the title of their organization” but Sam Bahour’s affiliations and political activism get no mention from Keyworth.

Another of Keyworth’s interviewees is an accountant employed by the PA’s education department, identified only as Khaled. Listeners hear him say:

“My last time I got paid in full was in November 2014 and after that we started to have 60% per month.”

Keyworth adds:

“Khaled’s salary was cut because Israel stopped paying the PA the customs tax it collects on its behalf. The move is widely seen as Israel’s punishment for the Palestinians taking their case to the international courts. This money makes up 70% of the PA’s budget so when it’s not transferred, all ninety thousand employees in the West Bank get a pay cut. Now Israel has released some of the money but it’s not the first time this has happened and Khaled expects at some point it’ll all happen again.”

This of course is not the first time the BBC has reported on the topic of tax revenues and yet again the critical context of the PA’s considerable debts to Israel is excluded from the picture. As a recent World Bank report explains:

“Net lending, which mainly represents payments to Israel for electricity, continues to form a major drag on the PA’s budget. In 2014, it was 35 percent higher than the previous year and ran 70 percent above its budget target. The major cause of net lending is that funds collected from consumers through electricity bills are used by Local Government Units to finance expenditures rather than pay bills to the Israeli Electricity Company (IEC) – the main electricity supplier. A share of the unpaid amount is deducted by Israel from the PA’s clearance revenues, and is called net lending. The rest accumulates as debt which, according to IEC, stood at about USD 0.5 billion as of March 2015.”

BBC World Service listeners, however, know nothing of all that: instead Marie Keyworth leads them to believe that Israel is ‘punishing’ the Palestinians.

Keyworth’s account of how some Palestinians became refugees is no less economical with context, erasing completely from view the attacks on the nascent Jewish State by surrounding Arab countries and others:WS WB

“When the State of Israel was created more than 60 years ago, many Palestinians found their villages fell within the new Israeli boundaries. Those living in the villages south of Jerusalem and Hebron left and moved here to the Dheisheh refugee camp south of Bethlehem.”

Also notable is the fact that in addition to the fact that two interviewees – ‘Mohammed’ and the PA’s Minister of Economy – promote the notion of a link between unemployment and violence (as is also the case in the final section of the segment), Keyworth herself presents the following ‘question’ to the COGAT officer she interviews:

“By increasing security you inevitably constrict the economic freedom of the people in the West Bank, which in turn creates more animosity and more negativity and makes people more angry, which eventually makes the security situation even more serious.”

Like the other sections of this programme, Keyworth’s report conforms to a specific political narrative and has a very obvious agenda. Once more listeners are left with a take-away message which includes only passive Palestinians exempt from any responsibility for their past and present decisions which have affected their lives and their economy.

Whilst that certainly makes for nice, simple story-telling, it does not fulfil the BBC’s public purpose remit of building “a global understanding of international issues” by providing audiences with an objective, impartial, factual and accurate portrayal of the Palestinian economy.

Related Articles:

BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ misrepresents the status of Area C in report on PA economy

BBC World Service’s Hearing reveals the political foundations of a ‘business’ report

Resources:

Contact and Complaints – BBC World Service

How to Complain to the BBC

BBC Editorial Guidelines

BBC World Service’s Hearing reveals the political foundations of a ‘business’ report

The May 20th edition of BBC World Service radio’s ‘Business Matters’ devoted roughly half its content (from 26:39 here) to the topic of “Doing Business In The West Bank” and, in addition to the interview with a World Bank representative discussed in a previous post, listeners heard presenter Roger Hearing introduce that segment of the show with the following words.WS WB

“The West Bank has become the name for the land on the west bank of the River Jordan that was in Jordanian hands until it was occupied by Israel after the 1967 war.”

In typical BBC style, Hearing’s history begins in 1967 and thus erases from audience view both the name (Judea & Samaria) and the legal status of that territory before the fledgling Israeli state was attacked by the surrounding Arab states in 1948. Jordan’s belligerent nineteen-year occupation – unrecognized by all but two countries – is likewise airbrushed by Hearing through use of the euphemistic phrase “in Jordanian hands”. He also conceals the fact that the term “West Bank” was deliberately employed by the Jordanian occupiers in order to promote the notion that the territory had some sort of legitimate link to Jordan. Hearing continues:

“It includes four and a half million Palestinians. It also contains a growing number of Israelis who’ve established settlements regarded as illegal under international law.”

As ever, BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality are breached as Hearing fails to inform listeners even of the existence of legal opinions which differ from the one exclusively quoted and promoted by the BBC.

He goes on:

“A modern map of the West Bank is a mind-boggling jigsaw of areas under the control of Israel or of the Palestinian Authority as well as settlements and roads linking settlements that Palestinians cannot use, plus an Israeli security wall that sometimes cuts off farmers from their land.”

The context of how that “jigsaw” came about is erased from Hearing’s account with no mention of the fact that the recognized representatives of the Palestinian people agreed to that arrangement when they signed the Oslo Accords two decades ago.

Not only does Hearing fail to clarify that the “areas under the control of Israel” (Area C) are not separate from the “settlements” as his words imply (all Israeli towns and villages are located in Area C and Israel has security control only in Area B) but his claim that Palestinians cannot use “roads linking settlements” is inaccurate and misleading. The vast majority of roads in the region are open to use by all motorists: even the political NGO B’Tselem acknowledges that in the region to which Hearing relates, as of March 2015, vehicles with PA number plates were excluded from travel on just three sections of road totaling less than 15 kms. Hearing of course neglects to point out that Israelis cannot use the roads in Area A – the parts of the region under Palestinian Authority control to which Israelis are forbidden entry.

Hearing fails to comply even with his own organisation’s style guide when he describes an “Israeli security wall” which is in fact 97% fence: the approved BBC term is in fact “barrier”. He also fails to note that the fence includes agricultural gates specifically designed to enable farmers to reach their land.

“Every planned segment of the fence has been first examined and approved by legal advisors prior to its construction. As a matter of policy, wherever possible, the fence is built on state-owned, rather than private lands, in an effort to minimize land seizures. Additionally, great efforts are made to avoid separating landowners from their lands; in circumstances where such separation is unavoidable, agricultural gates allowing for farmers to cross into their land have been built. Moreover, in cases where the fence causes residents economic harm, those affected are entitled to compensation. In addition, residents can petition Israel’s High Court of Justice with objections to the route of the fence. As of May 2008, approximately 140 petitions have been submitted against the route of the fence to the High Court of Justice. In several cases, the court decided that particular sections of the fence cause disproportionate harm to Palestinian residents and ordered the fence to be rerouted.”

Refraining from supplying his listeners with any independent portrayal of the context of the frequent attacks against Israeli civilians travelling on roadways in Judea & Samaria during the second Intifada and the suicide bombings originating from that area which plagued Israeli towns and cities during those years, Hearing also fails to provide the all-important context of the current security threats which mean that measures such as the anti-terrorist fence and checkpoints – whilst significantly reduced in recent years – are still necessary. Instead he adopts the standard “Israel says” formula in his nod to BBC requirements of ‘impartiality’.

“Israel says their checkpoints and restrictions on movement and imports are vital to security. And it’s true: inside Israel attacks are very low in number these days. But there’s an economic price to pay for Palestinians…”

Just as Hearing’s introduction to the part of this series relating to the Gaza Strip provided a revealing glimpse into the ‘BBC World View’, this monologue also shows how the adoption of a specific political narrative dictates the type and quality of information provided to audiences and compromises the BBC’s adherence to its own editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.

Related Articles:

BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ misrepresents the status of Area C in report on PA economy

Resources:

Contact and Complaints – BBC World Service

How to Complain to the BBC

BBC Editorial Guidelines