In an article titled “Hamas under pressure as Gaza border tensions rise” which appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 9th the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell repeated inaccuracies previously seen in other BBC reports on the subject of the smuggling tunnels along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Although ostensibly about the effects on the Gaza Strip of the Egyptian military’s crack-down on terrorist groups in Sinai, Knell still manages to shoe-horn Israel into her piece.
The article states:
“A network of hundreds of tunnels was constructed after the Islamist group Hamas overran Gaza in 2007, a year after winning parliamentary elections.”
As was previously pointed out here when the same erroneous claim was made last December by a ‘Newsnight’ reporter, smuggling tunnels in the Rafah area pre-date the 2007 violent Hamas coup by several years.
“In fact, the smuggling tunnels have been in existence since the time of the Oslo Accords, but from the beginning of the second Intifada – i.e. for a good seven years at least before the partial blockade was introduced – they were used to smuggle weapons and terror operatives into the Gaza Strip in addition to drugs and contraband. Rather than the tunnels being a product of the partial blockade, they are actually one of its causes.”
Knell goes on:
“Israel – which considers Hamas a terrorist organisation – and Egypt tightened a blockade on the Palestinian territory.”
In a similarly themed article from August, Knell also inaccurately presented Hamas’ terror designation as an exclusively Israeli affair. As we remarked at the time:
“Knell also informs her readers that:
“Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist group.”
This reversion to the BBC’s old form is particularly jarring given that in recent months we have seen something of an improvement in compliance with editorial guidelines on accuracy with regard to the subject of Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organization.
In April BBC audiences read that:
”Israel, as well as the United States and the European Union, regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation.”
In June Yolande Knell managed to write:
“Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Japan.”
Of course that is not the entire picture – for example, Australia designates Hamas’ Izz al Din Al Qassam Brigades as a terrorist organization, as does New Zealand since 2010 – but nevertheless, it is considerably more accurate than Knell’s latest offering of “Israel sees Hamas as a terrorist group”. “
Likewise, Knell once again misleads audiences on the subject of the partial blockade, and when and why it was enacted.
“The violent Hamas take-over of Gaza took place between June 5th and 15th 2007 and the Palestinian Authority – the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people – was forcefully ejected from power. Following that event, both Egypt and Israel largely closed their borders with the Gaza Strip due to the fact that the body charged with joint security arrangements under the terms of the Oslo Accords – the Palestinian Authority – no longer exercised any control over the territory.
Three months later – on September 19th 2007 – in light of the escalation of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians originating in the now Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – the Israeli government declared Gaza to be ‘hostile territory’.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that has taken control of the Gaza Strip and turned it into hostile territory. This organization engages in hostile activity against the State of Israel and its citizens and bears responsibility for this activity.
In light of the foregoing, it has been decided to adopt the recommendations that have been presented by the security establishment, including the continuation of military and counter-terrorist operations against the terrorist organizations. Additional sanctions will be placed on the Hamas regime in order to restrict the passage of various goods to the Gaza Strip and reduce the supply of fuel and electricity. Restrictions will also be placed on the movement of people to and from the Gaza Strip. The sanctions will be enacted following a legal examination, while taking into account both the humanitarian aspects relevant to the Gaza Strip and the intention to avoid a humanitarian crisis.” “
And once again Knell also misleads her readers with regard to the entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip by writing:
“Last month, Israel further eased its import restrictions on Gaza, allowing construction materials to enter for the private sector.”
In fact, the recent changes reflect an increase in the number of truckloads of construction materials for the private sector entering the Gaza Strip on a daily basis (from 20 truckloads to 70) – not a new policy.
The fact that there are so many breaches of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy in this article is bad enough, but the fact that all those errors have previously appeared in BBC reports and are being recycled over and over again in subsequent articles – obviously without fresh fact checking – should clearly be a cause of concern to BBC editors.