BBC’s Donnison distorts reasons for limited entry from Gaza to Israel

On February 21st 2013 the BBC published two versions of the same report by Jon Donnison about Hebrew being taught in schools in Gaza on the Middle East page of its BBC News website – one written and one filmed, with the latter also shown on BBC television news. As previously pointed out here, both reports also appeared on the BBC News website’s UK Education page. 

written Donnison Hebrew Gaza

filmed Donnison Hebrew Gaza

Another version of the same story was also featured on Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme on February 26th – available here for a limited period of time from 41:38. In that version, at 43:37, one can hear a translator interpret the words of interviewee Nour Adwan as “If we meet an Israeli and they are speaking in Hebrew..”.  Sharp eared listeners will notice that the fifteen year-old actually says the word “Yahud” – Jew – in Arabic rather than “Israeli”, but for some reason, the BBC chose to modify that in translation. 

In all the versions of this report, Donnison too does some pretty nifty rearrangement of the facts in order to make them fit in with his own narrative.

In the written report it is stated:

“In actual fact though, there is very little practical use for the language.

Only one of the 30 or so girls in the class has ever met an Israeli or been to Israel, and that was when the girl was getting medical treatment there.

At the Erez checkpoint, the main border crossing into Israel from Gaza, with its caged walkways and automated steel doors, there is very little traffic.

In previous generations, tens of thousands of Palestinians used to cross into Israel every day for work.

Many older Gazans speak good Hebrew as a result.

But Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the ongoing conflict with Hamas means those days are gone.

Israel, as well as the United States and the European Union, regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Israel issues few permits for Palestinians to leave, citing security reasons.

The Israeli human rights group Gisha, which campaigns for better access for Palestinians to and from Gaza, says in January 2013, on average 174 Gazans were allowed to leave through Erez each day.

Most of them, the organisation says, were people seeking medical treatment and their relatives, as well as Palestinian businessmen.”

In the filmed report Donnison says:

“..there’s little practical use for the language. Thousands of children across Gaza are now learning Hebrew in Hamas schools but the truth is, very few of them have actually been to Israel and very few of them have ever met an Israeli.

At the border crossing there’s little traffic in or out of Gaza. In previous generations tens of thousands of Palestinians used to head into Israel every day for work. But Israel’s blockade and the conflict with Hamas means those days are long gone.”

An identical message is conveyed in the radio item.

So in all these reports, Donnison suggests that Palestinians stopped travelling to Israel because of the partial blockade initiated in mid-2007 after the violent Hamas take-over of the Strip and the expulsion of the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority by Hamas. In doing so, Donnison airbrushes out of the picture the fact that passage in and out of the Gaza Strip had to be restricted several years prior to that because of the entry of suicide bombers and other terrorists into Israel and the resulting civilian casualties during the second Intifada which began in September 2000. 

In other words, Palestinian actions which resulted in Israel having to implement measures to defend its civilian population are converted by Donnison into punitive unilateral Israeli actions. 

And what of Donnison’s claim in both articles that there is “little traffic in or out of Gaza”? In the written report, Donnison quotes his old favourite, the political NGO ‘Gisha‘ as saying that a daily average of 174 Palestinians left the Strip during January 2013. That would mean that 5,394 people made the crossing in the month as a whole. Even if accurate, those figures mean little when presented without context

“A report published in 2012 by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals figures showing the coordination and liaison efforts invested by Israel and COGAT seeking to approve the entry of Palestinian patients from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical treatments in Israeli hospitals. The key data presented in the report show that 91.5% of the applications which were filed, asking for medical treatment in Israel, were ultimately approved, 7.2% are pending security check and 1.3% of the applications were rejected, this indicating the attitude of the State of Israel to humanitarian and medical cases and the importance and urgency ascribed to such applications.

In 2012, 16,553 Palestinians entered Israel from the Gaza Strip, for the purpose of receiving medical treatment in hospitals situated both in Israel and in the Judea and Samaria Region. “Since the opening of the Rafah Crossing to traffic by Egypt, less people are seen leaving through the Erez Crossing, out of personal considerations of the Palestinian sick people and patients in the Gaza Strip”, informs a Gaza DCL senior official.”

[emphasis added]

In addition to those entering Israel for medical treatment, farmers from Gaza often visit agricultural exhibitions and conferences in Israel, as do other businessmen and professionals. Last Christmas, over 500 Christians from Gaza travelled to Bethlehem for the holiday celebrations. 

Whilst it is certainly true that “tens of thousands” of Palestinians no longer enter Israel from the Gaza Strip to work each day, it is significant that Donnison elects to conceal from his audiences the real reasons behind that, by failing to mention the role of Palestinian terrorism in bringing it about. It is also significant that he fails to make the connection between the kind of fanaticism which brought about the Palestinian decision to engage in terrorism and the frankly disturbing views expressed by some of the young interviewees in his report. It is, after all, such fanaticism which has made walls, fences and security checks necessary in order to prevent  the loss of Israeli lives. 

But of course to explain to BBC audiences the link between restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and the choice made by Palestinian society to support terror against Israeli civilians would make it much more difficult to turn this report – ostensibly about children in Gaza learning Hebrew – into a vehicle for the advancement of the standard BBC narrative of Palestinians as victims. 

11 comments on “BBC’s Donnison distorts reasons for limited entry from Gaza to Israel

  1. Dodgy Donnison, the monoglot modified tweeter, has probably never taken a Hebrew lesson himself and, Duvidl suspects, cannot speak Hebrew or Arabic. This is, doubtless, because, as he himself says, “In actual fact though, there is very little practical use for the language.” He cannot find a practical use for Hebrew because most of the Israelis and Jews that he speaks to are bilingual in Hebrew and English.

    • One wonders if he would say that about Dutch, or Danish, or Finnish, or Swedish, or Norwegian, or Icelandic, or even better the Malay and Chinese as spoken in Singapore? One thinks he wouldn’t, because he’d look a massive bigot.

      The native languages in foreign countries are spoken alongside English in foreign countries due to national identity and cultural reasons.

      The other thing is: I don’t think anyone can seriously claim to be reporting in a country on a daily basis if they can’t even understand the languages of the countries they are reporting in. Any journalist worth his salt in Israel should be able to speak Hebrew and Arabic (as well as English) like a native. If he can’t, then inevitably the coverage he sends back home will be biased in favour of one side or the other because he’s using second-hand texts provided by (often biased) locals.

      If it was me, I’d also be looking into checking out the political biases of the other people at the BBC that report on Israel (and that focus on their web service) too. For example, I would not trust a Muslim to report on the situation in Israel and ‘Palestine’ accurately, just as I would not trust many of the BBC’s journalists, who often seem to provide news that is biased towards a particular agenda.

    • Fascinating. Sure – put this pretendy-Jew in the Pantheon with that other French Jew-hater, Voltaire. La France venerates even antisemites who were not part of Vichy. As for his wife and Hamas apologist Christiane, possibly Cherie “suicide bomber sympathiser” Blair could now invite her round for tea to express her condolencies and solidarity with Hamas.

      By the way, Duvidl has heard that after the murder of eight-year old Miriam Montstango, Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and his two children in Toulouse, there has been a large Jewish exodus from France to Israel.

      Perhaps Duvidl feels the “outrage” Hessel was talking about.

  2. As I commented here: the BBC hasn’t updated it’s report on the death of Arafat Jaradat to include the results of the autopsy which state there was ‘No evidence Jaradat was victim of violence’

    Instead, who else but Donnison, has tweeted:
    Jon Donnison ‏@JonDonnison

    Here is Al Haq’s unofficial English translation of the autopsy of Arafat #Jaradat carried out by Dr Saber Al Aloul:

    Read it and weep. There can be no doubt now that Donnison works hard for the Palestinians, rather than for the truth!

  3. ..there’s little practical use for the language?

    Donnison didn’t mention that Israeli television and radio can be received in Gaza. Although they may not openly admit this for fear of retribution many Arabs regard the news coming out of Israel as far more credible than from their own official sources.

    • If this is true about what you say about Gazan Arabs (those that can speak Hebrew), I would not be surprised.

      Are there Israeli channels that provide balanced coverage in Arabic? A proper Israeli Arabic news channel that could be received in Gaza would be a very useful tool for the Israeli government, I should think.

      • There are Israeli channels in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and, best of all Amharic, the language of Israelis of Ethiopian origin. Duvidl knows some in Jerusalem and they speak Amharic, Hebrew and a bit of English. As we also know from Israeli news, Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia is a lady of Ethiopian origin while this year’s Miss Israel is also originally from Ethiopia.

  4. A few years ago, there were Israeli broadcasts to Iran in Farsi and the word was out that Iranians depended on it for honest newsreporting. I remember a US embassy family that during their four year stint (2 and 2) in Israel, they had never used the local grocery store that was frequented by wealthy Jews and foreigners but felt bound to use the US Embassy commissary for all their purchases. The US mothers who gave an achievement test to all the children at the US Dependents’ school mocked a binational child for confusing hummus with humus as something to eat.
    They didn’t have a clue as to what hummus was, but ridiculed the child’s response. I’m happy to say that he is a celebrated poet now living in Jerusalem.

  5. Pingback: BBC’s Donnison presents jaundiced view of travel from Gaza Strip | BBC Watch

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