BBC sneaks thinly-veiled war crimes accusation into article on gravel

Continuing its ‘building materials for Gaza’ theme from the previous day, the BBC News website published an article on December 31st entitled “Israel lifts ban on gravel imports into Gaza” in its Middle East section. 

Gravel imports

The headline obviously implies that there was a ban on the import of gravel into the Gaza Strip from 2007 until the end of December 2012. The caption to the accompanying picture tells a slightly different story, stating that “Imports of gravel from Israel had been largely banned since 2007″. [emphasis added]

The article goes on to say:

“Israel has eased restrictions on allowing building materials into the Gaza Strip, imposed when Hamas came to power there in 2007.

Shipments of gravel for private use are now being let in because a truce with militants in Gaza which ended last month’s conflict has held, Israel says.

Israel previously banned most construction materials, fearing they could be used against it by militants.” [emphasis added]

As we have discussed here before, the restrictions upon the entry of building materials into the Gaza Strip relate to dual-purpose materials not intended for a specific PA approved project overseen by international bodies – as explained by COGAT back in 2010:

“The only goods that are currently restricted are arms, weapons and various war materials, and certain items that have military as well as civilian applications. Because of the problematic nature of these dual-use materials, construction materials are currently allowed in only for PA-approved projects that are under the supervision of international bodies.”

Despite the BBC’s dramatic claim that “Israel previously banned most construction materials”, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that between June 2010 and December 2012, 40,041 truckloads of construction materials entered the Gaza Strip from Israel. 

But what about that banned gravel in the headline? Well, gravel is classed as a type of construction aggregate and looking at the COGAT reports for just the last quarter of 2012, we see that no fewer than 4,366 truckloads of aggregates entered the Gaza Strip from Israel between September 30th and December 22nd 2012. 



Imports -total truckloads Aggregates






Aluminum, glass, wood profiles (trucks)
Dec 16 -22 1,374 573 26 9 38
Dec 9 -15 1,520 567 28 23 31
Dec 2-8 1,702 523 56 18 57
Nov 25 – Dec 1 1,289 410 43 15 12
Nov 11 – 17 596 (2 days of rocket fire & Op. Pillar of Cloud) 200 6 2 8
Nov 4 – 10 1,472 530 26 5 37
Oct 28 – Nov 3 919 (closed 2 days for Eid) 286 19 8 23
Oct 21 – 27 1,108 (closed 1 day due to  security risk) 303 19 8 21
Oct 14 -20 1,672 431 42 3 33
Oct 7 -13 935 (closed 2 days for holiday) 258 30 3 20
Sep 30 – Oct 6 1,080 285 22 4 9
Total 4,366 317 98


Can the phrase “largely banned” really be said to be an accurate representation of the entry of 4,366 truckloads of aggregates into the Gaza Strip in under three months, during which rocket fire caused the closure of crossings on several occasions? 

Further on in the article, we come across the word “largely” yet again:

 “Israel still largely bars imports and exports from the territory.”

Those same COGAT weekly reports indicate that in the same quarter, two hundred and forty two truckloads of exports left the Gaza Strip by way of the crossings into Israel, including 98.06 tons of strawberries and 432,110 flowers since the beginning of December alone. Other exports during that period have included 57 tons of biscuits, six truckloads of dates, over 8 tons of spices and furniture

As for imports, it has actually been Hamas which restricted the entry of imported fruit into the Gaza Strip in recent months. 

Thus once again the question arises as to whether it really is accurate to describe exports as being “largely” barred, especially when COGAT’s spokesperson says:

“I know of no request to export agriculture products from Gaza that has been refused,” said Guy Inbar, spokesman for the division in Israel’s Defense Ministry which liaises with the Palestinian territories.

From thereon, however, the article takes a sinister turn:

“It [Israel] also maintains a naval blockade and controls Gaza’s air space, which it says is necessary for Israel’s security.”

No mention of the tens of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians or the terror attacks originating in the Gaza Strip. No mention of weapons smuggling from Iran and Libya. Just the ambiguous ‘nudge nudge’ phrase – “it [Israel] says”.

And then we have the following:

“Human rights groups have said Israel’s measures are tantamount to collective punishment against Palestinians in Gaza.”

The anonymous writer of this piece presumably thinks that he or she has the BBC’s back covered here. After all, this is not a direct accusation of war crimes coming from the BBC, but ‘merely’ the reporting of hearsay from some equally anonymous ‘human rights groups’.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of BBC audience members reading this article will have no idea about the misuse of the ‘human rights’ halo by many an anti-Israel politically motivated NGO. They will presume that any organization carrying the label ‘human rights’ is both impartial and respectable in its intentions. 

They will not be aware that among those groups engaging in the delegitimisation of Israel by accusing it of ‘collective punishment’ are organisations such as Human Rights Watch which only recently had to remove from its ranks a man condemned by the British Prime Minister, among others, for spreading 9/11 conspiracy theories and making antisemitic remarks. 

Neither will they be aware of the use of the apartheid trope by another promoter of the ‘collective punishment’ theme – Gisha  – or of Oxfam’s support for the one-state solution-supporting  Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which – ironically – is more than willing to sacrifice the livelihoods of farmers in the Gaza Strip who chose to export their produce via Israeli companies – just as long as it contributes to the delegitimisation of Israel.  

The BBC, however, should be aware of such factors because it has an obligation to check contributors – and also presumably those it decides to quote – for bias. The fact that in this article a BBC writer repeats and propagates a politically motivated unfounded and unproven allegation of a very serious nature without the slightest bit of evidence is indication of a very grave impartiality failure indeed. 

Oddly, tucked away down towards the bottom of this article we find these two sentences:

“Prior to the latest easing of restrictions, Israel had allowed in construction materials for aid agency projects.”

“Israel had banned most construction materials to prevent them being used by militants to make fortifications and weapons.”

So the BBC does know after all that construction materials have been entering the Gaza Strip on a regular basis, and although the phrasing is wrong in that the entry of dual-use materials was restricted rather than “most construction materials” being “banned”, it obviously also understands why the restrictions were necessary. Why then was that information not presented properly at the top of the article instead of the sensational opening which misleads and misinforms readers? 

35 comments on “BBC sneaks thinly-veiled war crimes accusation into article on gravel

  1. Pingback: BBC sneaks thinly-veiled war crimes accusation into article on gravel | Blogs about Israel aggregation

  2. “between June 2010 and December 2012, 40,041 truckloads of construction materials entered the Gaza Strip from Israel.”

    Translation: only 40,000 truckloads were allowed into Gaza, an enclave home to 1.7 million people, in 30 months.

    BBC is right to write that imports of construction materials were largely banned by Israel, the occupying power of the state of Palestine.

  3. “Those same COGAT weekly reports indicate that in the same quarter, two hundred and forty two truckloads of exports left the Gaza Strip by way of the crossings into Israel.”

    Translation = the Government of Israel only allowed Gaza to export 242 truckloads of agricultural produce in three months – a derisory amount.

    BBC is right to write that Israel still largely bars exports from Gaza.

    This has led the economy of the Gaza Strip to collapse.

    Question: why does Israel ban exports of agricultural produce from Gaza? How does banning exports of strawberries relate to Israel’s security?

    Israel has the right and even the duty to protect its own citizens. However it does not have the right to forbid Palestinian farmers from exporting their produce.

      • Dear Commentary, prior to June 2010, the Government of Israel restricted importation of lentils, pasta, tomato paste and juice into Gaza. Ginger and chocolate were at one point barred.

        Could you explain why the Government of Israel barred imports of chocolate or pasta into Gaza?

        • Could you explain why you’re trolling here?
          Or why you keep lying about Gaza’s economic woes, when the Economist demonstrates it’s booming?
          The answer to the former would be much more welcome; I’m intrigued about your shadowy financiers.

          • Please answer the question: wny did the Government of Israel barred imports of chocolate or pasta into Gaza?

          • No, but YOU need money to troll.
            And it seems to me, that your backers have to fork out quite a great deal, since you spend literally hours here, spamming incessantly.
            Also, your scribbles are rather formulaic. So it appears you’re very typical — for a nuisance — standard, paid, hackneyed trolling.
            Please answer the question: who’s bankrolling your trolling here?

        • Good – after all, Hamas administered Gaza regards itself at war with the Jewish people, not just Israel, so it would be bizarre for Israel to supply those who try to kill them and are committed to the genocide of the Jews publicly in their charter. Oh, by the way, 10,000 Gazans had free medical treatment in Israel last year, courtesy of the Israeli taxpayer – the Israelis are too generous for their own good. Meanwhile, Egypt gives them precisely zero.

  4. “entry of dual-use materials was restricted”

    Could Ms Sela explain how gravel imports into Gaza could threaten Israel’s security?

  5. “BBC sneaks thinly-veiled war crimes accusation into article on gravel”

    What a joke…

    Ms Sela does not write one sentence in her story to demonstrate that, she does not even mention it!

  6. “Oxfam’s support for the one-state solution – supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement ”

    1 – Oxfam has never supported the one-state solution, they have always supported the two-state solution, in line with the Road Map.

    2 – Oxfam has never supported any kind of boycott of the Jewish state

    Ms Sela posted a link to sister website NGO Monitor’s page on Oxfam which… does not contain one sentence to demonstrate that Oxfam would support the “one state solution” or “boycott”.

  7. Human Rights Watch is an American NGOs which has become one of the world’s major human rights groups. They have offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo, Toronto, and Washington DC.

    HRW investigates human rights violations worldwide – not only in Israel or in Palestine.

    • “Nat”, even for a troll, you’re quite the spoilsport:
      You’ve yet to respond on the question of who’s financing your spamming here.
      And we’re quite curious.
      Don’t keep us waiting, moron.

    • Shosh, the frequency of your silly posts shows what a rabid frothing at the mouth Jew hater you are.

      Get a life, you sad individual.

  8. One of the two main methods used by the Israeli military to enforce access restrictions to the land and sea areas in Gaza is the opening of live fire at people entering these areas. A minority of cases have resulted in the death and injury of civilians.

    OCHA recorded the killing of 22 civilians in the restricted areas by the Israeli army, of whom six were children. During this period, 146 Palestinian civilians were injured in the same circumstances (including 16 farmers and 9 fishermen), of whom at least 27 were children (the age of 26 people injured during this period in this area could not be

  9. Of the 19 comments here as I write 10 are from “Shosh”, many of which are duplicate comments.

    Please ban him and his many sock puppets otherwise this blog is becoming unreadable.

      • If you read what he/she says you would see that there is very little duplication. Perhaps you just don’t like the message and have no answer to Shosh’s questions?

  10. Whoever pays these vile morons to post here, and in whatever type of currency or promises for the future by way of virgins and serving boys, their posts highlight the base stupidity of their combined mindsets.

    They believe they’re making valid points that readers will be swayed by, or just to annoy the genuine contributors here. All I can say is anybody who’s convinced by their points – they deserve each other. As for annoyance, I think most of us are reminded how lucky we are to have the intelligence we do when ‘but for the grace of God go we’.

    The intelligent and moral mind thinks about what came first, rockets fired at civilian areas with intent to maim and murder or import and export restrictions.

    Any questions?

  11. As irritating as these trolls are, they are providing traffic to the site which can’t but help push it up the search engine ratings.

    Trolls ‘get off’, on response from genuine posters – please, please don’t answer them – it just feeds their bizarre and distorted point of view. I have found it extremely effective to completely ignore trolls – they get bored and push off.

    Answering them, even to abuse them, just feeds their misplaced sense of importance.

  12. In respect of the current blockade of Gaza and the numerous ( and murderous!) incursions of the so-called Israeli Defense Force into that area, it is necessary to point out that a ‘thinly-veiled’ accusation of war crimes is entirely inadequate. Let us draw the veil away to reveal the reality on the ground. A ‘collective punishment’ of a civilian population and denial of essential human rights and needs. Military actions using high explosive which endanger the lives and limbs of a captive civilian population. Destruction of infrastructure necessary to support life and much more! Any of these actions would be deemed to be war crimes in any theater of conflict. Anywhere that is but Palestine! Thankfully the recent atrocities did not match the scale achieved in the notorious ‘Cast Lead’ disgrace. However there is no reason to suppose that the IDF would not repeat or exceed its current crimes in the event of a renewal of hostilities. Whatever the cause,the outcome is the same, the crimes  identical and the BBC and other media outlets should hang their heads in shame for neglecting one simple golden rule:- Call a Spade a Spade!


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