Weekend long read

1) Einat Wilf gives her view of “The Fatal Flaw That Doomed the Oslo Accords” at The Atlantic.

“Ultimately, sooner or later, all wars and all conflicts end, with a bang or with a whimper. There is no reason to assume that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more intractable than others. But if we have learnt anything over the past 25 years, it is that being ambiguous about the simple fact that neither side is going to have the entirety of the land does no one any favors. Israelis will have to accept the fact that they cannot build settlements all over the West Bank, and Palestinians will have to accept the fact that they cannot settle inside Israel in the name of return. The sooner both sides hear and internalize these simple, cold, hard truths, the sooner we will be able to speak of hope again.”

2) At the Jerusalem Post Khaled Abu Toameh brings some views of Ahed Tamimi who in recent months has repeatedly been described by the BBC as “an icon”.

“During a visit to France last weekend, Tamimi appeared in a photo with Salah Eddin Medan, a member of Polisario, the rebel national liberation movement fighting since 1975 to end Morocco’s presence in the Western Sahara.

The photo enraged many Moroccans, who are now saying they regret having backed the campaign to support Tamimi after she was arrested and brought to trial for slapping an IDF soldier in her village last year. […]

“Many Palestinians are asking how come Ahed Tamimi is receiving all this attention from the international media,” said a Palestinian journalist in Ramallah. “There’s a feeling that someone is trying to turn this girl into a big hero and an icon. There are thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prison and no one seems to care. The large-scale attention she’s receiving raises many doubts. The Western media seems to be more interested in her than the Palestinian and Arab media. The Western media is trying to create a Palestinian hero.””

3) At the JNS Yaakov Lappin discusses how “Iran’s activities could ignite a dangerous fire“.

“Traditionally, Iran’s program was to traffic sophisticated weapons to its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. But this has run into major trouble in the form of an Israeli counter-program to disrupt this arms flow.

So Iran is trying new tricks, including giving Hezbollah the ability to domestically produce its own guided, heavy rockets.

That would give Hezbollah the ability to threaten Israel with massive projectiles, like the Iranian-designed Fateh 110 rocket, which can carry a half-ton warhead, and to do so with firepower that is accurate. The difference between accurate and inaccurate firepower is major. If Hezbollah can precisely hit the most sensitive Israeli targets—be they civilian or military—its ability to strategically threaten Israel grows significantly.”

4) The JCPA’s Yoni Ben Menachem reports on a new Hamas unit linked to the ‘Great Return March agitprop.

“Over the past two weeks, Hamas has created a new unit called, “The Night-time Deployment Unit.”

The purpose of the unit is to strike against IDF soldiers deployed on the Gaza border during the night and to break the routine of incidents on the border ending in the evening hours or on only one day of the week. […]

The establishment of the new unit is part of Hamas’ strategic decision to ramp up again the incidents on the border following the failure to secure a calm through the Egyptian-sponsored negotiations. The tactic is part of the strategy to pressure Israel to remove the blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

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BBC’s ME editor continues his ‘Bedouin village’ narrative – part one

When, on September 5th, Israel’s High Court ruled that an order suspending the demolition of the illegally constructed encampment of Khan al Ahmar would be lifted in seven days, the BBC’s London-based Middle East editor obviously smelt a story. As seen here earlier, he travelled to Israel and produced an audio report on the story on September 13th

BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

The demolition order was not carried out on September 13th but a few recently placed shipping containers were removed. The following day bulldozers were brought in to remove barriers of rocks which had been set up by local and foreign activists to hamper the still pending demolition process.

Jeremy Bowen and his crew were present in Khan al Ahmar on September 14th and three days later, a filmed report titled “The West Bank village facing demolition” was aired on ‘News at Ten’ on BBC One and the BBC News channel.

“The UK says that Israel’s commitment to a fair and lasting solution to the Palestinian conflict is being undermined by its plans to demolish a village on the West Bank. The United Nations and European Parliament have also being highly critical – saying the move jeopardises any chance of a two-state solution being found in the region. The village of Khan al-Ahmar is home to some 200 residents, but sits on a main road that runs through the West Bank. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen sent this report on the plight of those living there.”

In that filmed report Bowen recycled narratives and deliberate omissions previously seen in his radio report. Once again BBC audiences were not informed that Khan al Ahmar is located in Area C which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is under Israeli control pending final status negotiations. Once again he amplified a narrative suggesting that the Jahalin Bedouin tribe had arrived in the area over sixty years ago– despite contradictory evidence. And yet again Bowen did not bother to inform BBC audiences that the Bedouin make no claim to own the land on which they erected their encampment. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Bowen: “In this conflict disputes that look small come with big consequences. It’s dawn in the Judean Desert – occupied by Israel, claimed by Palestinians as part of a future state. In the village of Khan al Ahmar it’s time for Hussam, Kassem and Asil – sleeping outside as it’s still hot – to get up for school. Their mother is making breakfast. Their Palestinian Bedouin community settled here after they were expelled from the new State of Israel in the 1950s. But now the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the village was built without permission so the state can demolish it.”

Viewers then heard from a person described as the “village preacher”.

Abu Dahook: “It is as if we are waiting to die. That is easier than being forced out of our home to an unknown fate.”

Yet again Bowen did not bother to clarify to viewers that, far from facing an “unknown fate”, the residents of Khan al Ahmar have been offered free plots of land with already existing connections to utilities close by – at a cost of over $2 million to the Israeli tax payer.

Once again ignoring photographic evidence, Bowen repeated the narrative according to which the encampment existed before 1967, while inaccurately claiming that it is ‘surrounded’ by “Jewish settlements” and giving viewers a partisan representation of “international law”.

Bowen: “Khan al Ahmar was established before Israel seized this territory. It’s almost impossible for Palestinians to get building permits here. The UN says Israel discriminates in favour of Jewish settlements which surround the village and are illegal under international law.”

Misrepresenting what the bulldozers were doing at the site on September 14th Bowen went on:

Bowen: “Israeli forces try to block off an access road. Tension has risen since the village lost its final appeal. It’s a ritual after more than 50 years of occupation. Palestinians and their supporters protest. With its military, bureaucratic and political power, Israel prevails. This is a very nasty scuffle. Not lots of people involved but it’s very symbolic and all this is important because it’s about control of this land. Not just now, but in the future. Everything that happens here is politicised and deeply connected to this long and very bitter conflict.”

He then introduced a topic unrelated to the Khan al Ahmar case – which he refrained from telling BBC audiences has been the topic of court cases for the past nine years.

Bowen:”And now there’s President Trump. He’s Israel’s cheerleader; recognising Jerusalem as its capital, expelling Palestinian diplomats from the US and cutting aid to refugees. He’s targeted Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem, ending a $25 million grant. Pediatric dialysis and cancer wards have lost a quarter of their budgets. Lives, they say, are at risk.”

Viewers next saw an interview with a hospital official apparently filmed on September 13th.

Nammour: “You know we could not believe that, you know, sick children – children with cancer – will be used by any [unintelligible], by an American government. It’s incredible.”

Bowen: “Well the Americans say it’s Palestinians’ fault for not taking part properly in talks and also for taking cases to the International Criminal Court.”

Nammour: “Yeah but I mean why would?…this is politics. Why would a child who has cancer pay the price?”

Neither Bowen nor his interviewee bothered to inform viewers that by September 9th – the day after the US announcement and at least four days before this interview was filmed – the Palestinian Authority had already announced that it would make up the deficit.

Declining to tell BBC audiences which “major concessions” Palestinians have already made, Bowen went on:

Bowen: “On their side of the Jerusalem wall, for the Israelis these are days that smell like victory. Pressure, President Trump believes, will push the Palestinians into more major concessions. The danger is that one-sided coercion could mean violence, not peace.”

Viewers then saw part of an interview with Israel’s Minister of Education which was also promoted separately on the BBC News website along with another version of this report.

Bennett: “President Trump has brought fresh thinking to a region that’s been fairly stagnant in terms of its methodologies and ideas.”

Bowen: “But do you think it’s a good idea to take some really quite severe actions which actually hurt ordinary people and not leaderships?”

Bennett: “Well what Trump is telling the Palestinians: if you think you’ll continue inciting against Jews and killing Jews and somehow time is on your side, you’re wrong. You’ve got to act. You’ve got to move. Let’s make peace. Don’t wait on the sidelines because time is not on your side.”

Bowen closed his report with amplification of the notion that the relocation of squatters from an illegally constructed encampment on land to which they have no claim is a “war crime”.

Bowen: “Down the desert road from Jerusalem the big issues of the conflict are in play. The UN and the Red Cross say forcing the people of Khan al Ahmar out of their village would be a war crime. But at the heart of this are families losing homes, children losing their school and pain for yet another generation.”

Notably the BBC’s Middle East editor – whose job it is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – chose yet again not to tell the BBC’s funding public that the EU has also carried out illegal construction at Khan al Ahmar and other sites in the vicinity or that the Palestinian Authority and various NGOs have for years used the encampment’s residents as political pawns.

To do so would of course hamper the narrative to which Jeremy Bowen has self-conscripted and which he elected to promote in this report as well as subsequent ones which will be discussed in part two of this post. 

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

Omission and imbalance in BBC report on ‘Bedouin village’

THE LA TIMES, THE BEDOUIN OF KHAN AL AHMAR AND ‘THEIR LAND’  (CAMERA)

 

 

 

BBC News website ignores fatal terror attack in Gush Etzion

On the morning of September 16th a terror attack took place at a shopping centre in Gush Etzion.

“An Israeli man was stabbed to death in a terror attack next to the Gush Etzion Junction in the central West Bank, south of Jerusalem, on Sunday, succumbing to his injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital, officials said.

After he was stabbed, the victim chased and shot at his attacker, before collapsing to the ground. […]

The terrorist, a 17-year-old Palestinian teenager from the village of Yatta, was then shot by another armed civilian and taken into custody, according to the Israel Defense Forces.”

The victim was later named as 45 year-old father of four Ari Fuld from Efrat.

Palestinian factions lauded the murder.

“Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, praised the murder of Ari Fuld on Sunday, saying it was a “natural response to Zionist crimes against the Palestinians.”

The Palestinian Authority did not immediately comment on the terrorist attack.

The PA’s official news agency, Wafa, reported on the attack in a brief item under the headline: “The occupation injures a teenager south of Bethlehem.””

The BBC News website did not produce any reporting whatsoever on that terror attack.

In fact, the only reference we have found to the incident in BBC coverage comes in a report by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen on a different topic which was aired in the September 18th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ and later the same day repeated in the BBC WS programme ‘Newshour’ and the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’.

After listeners had heard the sound of singing at Ari Fuld’s funeral – begging the question of whether or not a BBC representative was there to make that recording – Bowen told listeners (from 08:36 here) that:

“…the conflict grinds on. Hundreds of Jews at the funeral of an Israeli-American stabbed to death by a 17 year-old Palestinian boy and more Palestinians killed on Gaza’s border with Israel.”

It is of course difficult to imagine that BBC coverage of a fatal terror attack in a shopping centre in the UK would amount to an 18 word mention in a radio report on another subject and that there would be no coverage at all on the BBC News website.

This is the second fatal terror attack so far this year that has been ignored by the BBC News website.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2017 and year summary

 

 

BBC WS radio programme on Hebron omits vital background

The September 14th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Heart and Soul’ was titled “Hebron’s Cave of Sacrifice“.

“Abraham of the Old Testament, or Ibrahim of Islam, is a vital figure across Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

His prophetic fame, arises from the story of his offering of one of his sons to God, because He commanded him so. God however, spared the son and a sacrificial lamb was offered instead.

In the city of Hebron, are the Caves of The Patriarch [sic] where Abraham is said to be buried and above them stand a Mosque and Synagogue where Jews and Muslims pray. It is an uneasy understanding between two communities that share this ancient city and this home of worship.

Lipika Pelham explores Hebron, the caves that are central to it and the faith of the people who live in this tense, disputed city.”

While Lipika Pelham went to great lengths to present differing versions of the story of Abraham as equally valid narratives, her use of language when describing her visit to Hebron was distinctly less impartial. Areas of Jewish residence in Hebron were exclusively described as “settlements” and the people who live there “settlers”, while Pelham chose to use the Jordanian political terminology for the area in which the city is located. [emphasis added]

“I’m in Hebron in the West Bank – an ancient city at the centre of the religious, tribal and political dispute which dominates this part of the world and far beyond.”

“The current political conflict goes back to 1968; just under a year after Israel occupied the West Bank.”

“He [Abraham] settled in Canaan which included the area we know now as the West Bank, with Hebron at its centre.”

“…Hebron, where some 800 Jewish settlers live in gated communities guarded by about three times as many Israeli soldiers, right at the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods.”

“Step outside of Beit Hadassa and Avraham Avinu settlements, walk through the checkpoints and turnstiles and you are in a typical Middle Eastern souk.”

Describing the Cave of the Patriarchs, Pelham misrepresented the mission of the security forces stationed there to prevent terror attacks.

“Heavily armed soldiers are guarding the entrance to the Jewish side to make sure that visitors are not Palestinian or visibly Muslim. On the left are the wide stone steps into the Ibrahimi mosque – also watched by Israeli soldiers.”

When Pelham visited a museum, listeners heard an account of the 1929 Hebron Massacre which whitewashed the fact that “violence broke out” because of incitement by Arab leaders against Jews and gave listeners to understand that the death toll in Hebron alone was the total number of Jews murdered “all over the country” while highlighting the fact that people who did not describe themselves as “Palestinian” at the time stepped in to help their neighbours. Notably, the record of the ruling British administration was erased from Pelham’s account.  

[14:19] “The story ends with massacre in Hebron of the Jews in 1929. This was a watershed moment in Jewish history as the riots ended the continuous Jewish presence which had lasted in Hebron for millennia. In August 1929 violence broke out all over the country. Sixty-seven Jews were murdered and over a hundred wounded. Bodies were mutilated, 350 Jews were saved by their Palestinian neighbours. During the Passover of 1968 when the Jews reentered Hebron…they wanted to reestablish a Jewish presence in the West Bank city. So in a way, the reality of hostility and separation really started then.”

Perhaps most significantly, listeners to this programme around the world were denied an explanation of the 1997 agreement which brought about the division of the city into two areas – H1 (80% of the city) under Palestinian Authority control and H2 (20%) under Israeli control.

[19:30] “In this tug of war over who Abraham belongs to and who should live in the city of the patriarchs, life goes on on both sides as it has been since the 1997 Hebron Protocol. It followed one of the bloodiest events in Hebron’s current history. In 1994 Baruch Goldstein turned a machine gun on Muslim worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs. The Jews and the Muslims until then prayed together in the Mosque-Synagogue without the barriers and checkpoints.”

In other words, in her entire 27 minute report about “this tense, disputed city” Lipika Pelham did not bother to clarify to BBC audiences that Israelis live in specific areas of it because the Palestinians agreed to that arrangement over twenty years ago.

Related Articles:

ANTI-JEWISH VIOLENCE IN PRE-STATE PALESTINE/1929 MASSACRES  (CAMERA)

BBC Radio 4 history programme misleads on Hebron massacre

 

 

 

A problematic BBC Radio Manchester item on antisemitism

On September 16th members of the British Jewish community held a rally against antisemitism in Manchester and a few hours before the event one of its organisers – Raphi Bloom of North West Friends of Israel – gave an interview to the local radio station BBC Radio Manchester.

Mr Bloom’s interview took place on a show called ‘Mike Shaft’ after its presenter and it can be heard from 02:08:57 here.

Mike Shaft began by asking his guest “why is this taking place?”. After Mr Bloom had cited the absence of any improvement since the demonstration he described as being “specifically about the antisemitism that was engulfing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party” that was held in London in March ,noting that the crisis has only grown since then, Shaft responded: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

[2:10:45] Shaft: “You can’t believe that the only antisemitism in this country is in the Labour Party.”

As Mr Bloom mentioned the support for Corbyn on social media from people on the far Right such as David Duke and Nick Griffin, Shaft interrupted:

[2:11:34]Shaft: “But you’re never talking about the Right.”

Following Mr Bloom’s response he went on:

[2:12:07] Shaft: “Mr Corbyn has apologised for hurt caused by antisemitism in the party and pledged to stamp it out. He’s stressed that people who hold antisemitic views have no place in the Labour Party. He said people who use antisemitic poison are not his supporters nor do they speak for him or the party. Why can you not accept that?”

Mr Bloom pointed out that those words have not been followed by actions, citing the lack of action in various cases including the recent remarks made by a Trade Union leader.

[2:14:03] Shaft: “Well there was an action in this past week where the Labour Party accepted the…the…the definition of antisemitism. But let me ask you…”

Bloom: “No it didn’t. It accepted it with a caveat – with a big caveat.”

Shaft: “It accepted it. Let’s leave it there because I want to move on. Let me ask you this: does criticism of Israel mean that you’re antisemitic?”

After Mr Bloom had clarified that the IHRA definition of antisemitism does not preclude criticism of Israel, the obviously very badly prepared Shaft went on:

[2:15:03] Shaft: “Let me ask you a question please because I couldn’t get my head round it. What was the decision taken recently by the Israeli government regarding people who weren’t born there?”

Mr Bloom pointed out that “we’re coming in here to talk about antisemitism against the British community but you’re asking me about the actions of the government of Israel” to which Shaft replied “yes I am”.

Mr Bloom then explained to Sharp that his question taps into the antisemitic dual loyalty trope that is described in the IHRA definition as “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” but the BBC presenter persisted.

[2:15:43] Shaft: “If you could answer my question please it would help. We’re running out of time I’m warning you.”

Bloom: “But I want to make it very clear – I’m organising a rally today against antisemitism in the UK. What does that have to do with the actions of the Israeli government? Why are you asking me about the actions of the Israeli government?”

Shaft then employed the Livingstone Formulation.

[2:16:00] Shaft: “Because…I can tell you exactly why; because if people speak out against that, they’re described as being antisemitic. So explain to me please – and this is for a matter of fact – ‘cos I said, I don’t know exactly what the decision was. Can you tell me what the decision was?”

Incredibly – even after having received an explanation as to why holding Jews responsible for the actions of Israel is antisemitic – Shaft later again pursued that line of questioning.

[2:17:17] Shaft: “Let me ask you this: are you as a Jewish person happy with the treatment of the Palestinians?”

Bloom: “Again, I have to pull you up on this. I’m sorry to do this.”

Shaft: “You can pull me up all you want. I’d like you to answer the question.”

Bloom: “I’m here to talk about rising antisemitism in the UK. I’m here to talk about…”

Shaft [interrupts] “But it comes as a result of stuff that Israel is doing.”

After Raphi Bloom had explained that “if people attack Jews in this country because of the actions of the Israeli government it is antisemitic”, that British Jews  have no influence over Israeli government policies and that to hold them to account for Israel’s policies and actions is antisemitism, Shaft went on:

[2:19:21] Shaft: “Well I’ve already mentioned what Jeremy Corbyn has said, apologised.”

Shaft closed the interview with a statement that cannot possibly be considered to meet BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality:

[2:20:34] Shaft: “We’re out of time and you’ve mentioned…you’ve mentioned a lot of names and I don’t know what these people have said. I do know some other people are using this as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with and it’s never going to be resolved, we’ll wait and see.”

So here we have a BBC presenter who was so badly prepared for an interview that he had to ask his interviewee to explain a topic that he could not even present accurately to listeners, who found it appropriate to promote Labour Party messaging, claiming that the topic of the interview – antisemitism – is used “as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with” and used to silence criticism of Israel. On top of that – despite having had the significance clarified to him on air – the BBC presenter repeatedly pressed his British Jewish interviewee to ‘explain’ Israeli government policy and actions in an obviously extremely problematic line of questioning.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Tim Willcox in Paris: a new low

BBC Trust rejects appeals on Willcox ‘Jewish hands’ complaints

BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire and a non-existent political party

 

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – August 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during August 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 206 incidents took place: 64 in Judea & Samaria, 12 in Jerusalem, one inside the ‘green line’ and 129 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 66 attacks with petrol bombs (eleven of which were in Jerusalem), six attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), three arson attacks and one stabbing attack.

Attacks recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 34 attacks with petrol bombs, two shooting attacks and three sniper shooting attacks, 4 attacks using IEDs and two grenade attacks. 68 separate incidents of rocket fire and 15 separate incidents of mortar fire were recorded, with 212 launches.

Five people – four civilians and one member of the security forces – were wounded in attacks that took place during August. A soldier was wounded in a petrol bomb attack on August 6th. Two civilians were wounded in rocket attacks on August 8th and two more – one a foreign national – the following day.

BBC News website coverage of terrorism throughout August consisted of two reports:

August 7th: Israeli tank fire kills two Hamas militants in Gaza (discussed here)

August 9th: Gaza air strikes ‘kill woman and child’ after rockets hit Israel (discussed here and here)

Those reports mention the rocket and mortar attacks that took place on August 8th and 9th – and the resulting injuries – as well as two shooting incidents in the Gaza Strip sector. None of the additional incidents received any BBC news website coverage.

At best, therefore, it can be said that BBC News website audiences saw coverage of 41% of the terror attacks (mostly missile fire) which took place during August.

Since the beginning of 2018 the BBC has reported 22% of the terror attacks that have taken place and 87.5% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – July 2018

BBC’s sanitisation of deliberate Gaza border violence continues

Inaccuracy, reverse chronology and lack of context in BBC reporting on Gaza missile attacks

More amendments made to BBC’s online Gaza rocket attacks report

BBC ECU publishes ‘Alternativity’ complaint finding

In July the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) informed BBC Watch that it had upheld one of the three points made in a complaint concerning a BBC Two Christmas 2017 programme titled ‘Alternativity‘.

BBC’s ECU upholds part of BBC Watch ‘Alternativity’ complaint – part one

As noted at the time:

“According to further communication with the ECU, that finding “will be published in due course on the complaints pages of bbc.co.uk“. BBC Watch does not know what the BBC considers to be “due course” after it has taken over six months for a point rejected at stages 1a and 1b to be upheld by the ECU.”

Two months later – and over nine months after the complaint was originally submitted – that finding now appears on the BBC News website.

 

Behind a BBC News video on Gaza airport

On September 12th a filmed report was posted on the BBC News website under the headline “Gaza’s abandoned airport in ruins” and with the following synopsis:

“In 1998 the Yasser Arafat International Airport was built in Gaza.

It was seen by many as a symbol of Palestinian sovereignty, soon after the Oslo Accords were signed by Israel and the Palestinians, in a move towards peace.

But by 2001, the airport was no longer operational.”

Viewers of the report were told that:

“These are the ruins of Gaza’s international airport. Yasser Arafat International Airport opened in 1998, costing $86m. But no planes have taken off or landed here since 2001. The runway is scattered with litter from nearby refugee camps. But this place was once seen as a symbol of Palestinian sovereignty. The airport was opened soon after the Oslo Accords which were a bid for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But Israeli-Palestinian relations broke down. The airport was destroyed by Israel during the Second Intifada. The International Civil Aviation Organisation condemned the destruction of the airport and urged Israel to allow it to reopen. Gaza currently has no functioning airports.”

As we see, BBC audiences were given scant background information concerning the circumstances behind the airport’s closure and failure to subsequently reopen. Interestingly, in April 2005 – over two years before the Gaza Strip was taken over by the Hamas terror faction – a BBC reporter had already noted that:

“The Palestinian leadership says it is time to re-open the airport.

But Israel says no. Gaza is home to militant groups like Hamas that have struck at Israeli soldiers and civilians many times. Israel worries that its enemies might use the airport to smuggle in weapons.

The Palestinian security forces are widely regarded as being riddled with members who are sympathetic to – or even active in – militant groups.

The Israelis say they don’t believe that they would run the airport securely.”

Neither were viewers of this report told that the Oslo Accords also included a clause titled “Security of the Airspace” according to which Israel was to maintain control of Gaza’s airspace. Following Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, an Agreement on Movement and Access was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which included the following clause on aviation: 

“The parties agree on the importance of the airport. Discussions will continue on the issues of security arrangements, construction, and operation.”

Two months later, in January 2006, the Palestinian Legislative Council elections brought significant gains for Hamas, which went on to take over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup in June 2007, with the result that the co-signer of that agreement – the Palestinian Authority – lost all influence there.

So while BBC audiences were correctly told that Israel had been “urged to allow it to reopen“, they were not informed why Israel might consider an international airport situated literally meters from its border and controlled by a terrorist organisation which does not co-operate with Israel on anything – let alone aviation safety and security – and which has been responsible for hundreds of terror attacks and the firing of thousands of missiles against Israeli civilians, to be a security concern.  

But why were BBC audiences presented with this report now? The 20th anniversary of the opening of the Gaza Strip airport is still over two months away and while one may surmise that this report has some connection to this month’s anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords, a rather more mundane reason may be equally relevant.

On the same day that the BBC’s report emerged, AFP’s Gaza office produced a filmed report from the exact same location and with some strikingly similar visuals.

BBC report

AFP report

BBC report

AFP report

However, unlike the BBC version, AFP’s report also included contributions by officials from the Palestinian Aviation Authority and the Gaza Civil Aviation Authority who, it appears from a written AFP report published on the same day, accompanied the agency’s journalists to the location.

“Zuhair Zomlot, coordinator of the Civil Aviation Authority in Gaza, joined AFP on the tour.”

The reopening of the Gaza Strip airport has of course long been on the wish-list presented by Hamas during negotiation of assorted ceasefire agreements. Now an AFP Gaza bureau report produced in cooperation with Gaza based officials has apparently been recycled into a context-free ‘stocking filler’ BBC video which does nothing to provide audiences with the information needed for full understanding of how the fact that “Gaza currently has no functioning airports” is connected to Hamas terrorism.

Related Articles:

BBC News drops Associated Press, expands links with AFP

BBC’s Bowen recycles the ‘contiguity’ myth on World Service radio

On the morning of September 13th the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, sent a context-free tweet to his 170,000 followers.

Later that day, Bowen was to be found reporting on the same story in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘. Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 45:06 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “Israel now, and security forces have today dismantled several shacks built by Palestinian protesters near Khan al Ahmar – the Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank which Israel has targeted for demolition. The village houses around 180 Bedouin but has become a symbol of something bigger and many European countries have urged Israel to stop the demolition. I’ve been speaking to our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. I asked him first to map out the geography of this village.”

Neither Iqbal nor Bowen bothered to adequately clarify to listeners that the structures removed on the morning of September 13th had actually been placed there deliberately just days earlier by Palestinian activists on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and were not part of the encampment itself. 

Bowen commenced his report by failing to explain to listeners that what he described as “a road” is actually a major highway – Route 1.

Bowen: “There’s a road going down from Jerusalem – a steep road going downhill to the Dead Sea and to Jericho – and about a third of the way down that road, I suppose, there is this very small village Khan al Ahmar which is…it’s like a typical Bedouin settlement in that most of the dwellings there are shacks. And it’s just opposite an absolutely massive Jewish settlement called Ma’ale Adumim and so the argument being made by those on the Israeli side who say it’s got to go, they say that it’s unsafe, it’s in the wrong place, it shouldn’t be happening. People on the other side say they’re just trying to get rid of it so Israel can tighten its grip even further on that bit of territory.”

As can be seen on the UNOCHA produced map below, Khan al Ahmar is not located “just opposite” Ma’ale Adumim but further to the east and neither is it located in the area known as E1. Bowen did not bother to clarify to listeners that the location of the story is in Area C which, according to the Oslo Accords, is under Israeli control pending final status negotiations.

Nevertheless, Iqbal and Bowen went on to advance a false narrative about ‘contiguity’ that the BBC has been promoting for years.

Iqbal: “And that bit of territory, from the Palestinians’ perspective, is the idea from their point of view is that the Israelis want to cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank, both of which the Palestinians seek for an independent state.”

Bowen: “Yeah. 1967 was when they captured East Jerusalem. Israel has built a string of settlements that essentially…ahm…ring East Jerusalem and separate it from the rest of the West Bank. Now there is one gap and the gap is quite a large area and this very small settlement is part of it. But Israel has a whole master plan for developing that particular gap – it’s an area known as E1 – and the argument the Israelis say for it is that this is their territory; that they need to develop their capital. And the argument against it is that if the Palestinians ever want a hope of some kind of contiguous state, then the fact that East Jerusalem – where there are many Palestinians – is ringed in by these settlements is going to make it next to impossible.”

Iqbal then went on to ask Bowen whether or not the Israeli Supreme Court had got its facts right.

Iqbal: “The Supreme Court rejected petitions to stop this from happening, siding with the authorities, and they said that the village was built without the required permits. That’s right, is it?”

Carefully avoiding inconvenient details of the story – such as the fact that the residents of Khan al Ahmar do not even claim to own the land on which they built illegal structures without planning permission – Bowen went on:

Bowen: “Yeah, it wasn’t built with permits and a lot of Palestinians build without permits because they can’t get permits. The whole planning process in Jerusalem and in the occupied territories – in East Jerusalem – is highly politicized. For Israel, once it was more about security but now I’d say it’s mostly about nation building and mostly about hanging on to territory. And planning reflects the wider needs of the state and they don’t encourage Palestinians to build, even though the Palestinian population is growing, and as a result of that Palestinians don’t get permits to build. They build anyway and then quite often those dwellings get knocked down.”

Iqbal: “This particular village, Khan al Ahmar, is a Bedouin village as you described. It affects just under 200 people but it’s symbolic of much more and that clearly has been recognised by European Union countries urging the Israeli government not to go ahead with the plan. Presumably that’s all going to fall on deaf ears.”

Obviously at that point it would have been appropriate for BBC audiences to have been told that the EU has also carried out illegal construction at that site and others in the vicinity. It would also have been helpful to listeners to know that under previous peace proposals, the area of E1 was set to remain under Israeli control.  

Bowen: “Well they’ve urged the Israelis many times not to expand their settlement activities in the occupied territories and it’s always fallen on deaf ears. The only voice that was ever listened to by successive Israeli governments was the American one and the American voice now under the Trump administration is really quite different. I think under Obama, and before that under previous administrations as well, moves to develop this area E1 were always strenuously objected to on the grounds that it makes the pursuit of peace even more difficult. Just recently the American ambassador to Israel – close ally of Donald Trump – said he doesn’t know why Israel needs to ask permission of the US before it builds. So that, I think, is another green light for Israel to go ahead and push as much as it wants. Having said that, they are aware of international opinion and they’re sensitive to it. But that doesn’t change – based on history – the objective.”

Iqbal: “Complicated story – unpacked expertly there by our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen speaking to me from Jerusalem.”

Yes – despite Bowen’s faulty geography, his amplification of the ‘contiguity’ myth and his failure to provide BBC audiences with the full background to this story (not least the fact that related court cases have been going on for nine years and the residents of Khan al Ahmar have been offered free plots of land on which to build homes nearby) and notwithstanding his erasure of the politically motivated interventions by the Palestinian Authority and the EU in this case, BBC World Service listeners were told that they had just heard an ‘expert’ explanation.

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