BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part one

Just after half past eight GMT on the morning of February 27th, BBC Radio Lancashire’s Graham Liver show ran an item pertaining to a report released that same morning by Amnesty International under the title “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank”.

The programme can be heard here for a limited period of time, with the relevant segment commencing from 02:38:30. Below is a full transcript of the item. Graham Liver

If readers are wondering why a local radio station would choose to run an item on a topic clearly outside its sphere of interest, the answer to that comes in presenter Graham Liver’s introduction.

Graham Liver: “Now a man – originally from Preston [in Lancashire – Ed.], who’s a human rights activist with Amnesty International has criticised what he says are trigger-happy Israeli soldiers dealing with protests by Palestinians on the West Bank and the organisation’s published a report this morning about what it says happens there. We’re joined on the programme by activist Gordon Bennett who’s been in the area himself. In a moment we’ll hear from someone from the Israeli Embassy but…err…Gordon, what’s been happening? What are your concerns?”

Gordon Bennett: “Yes, good morning Graham. This Amnesty report’s an important reminder of what’s happening in the Palestinian West Bank. Amnesty’s report talks about deaths and injuries at protests against the Israeli occupation and the figures are quite shocking.  In the last three years nearly three hundred people injured by live ammunition, including 67 children. Over eight thousand injured by other means: tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades. Worst of all, at least 22 people killed last year alone – four of them children. And it very much reflects my experiences in the five months I spent in the West Bank recently and it shows why dozens of people like me travel from the UK to the West Bank to offer our solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Liver: “So what have you actually seen with your own eyes?”

Bennett: “So I saw …I went to protests practically every week during those five months and I saw trigger-happy Israeli soldiers. So as soon as a demonstration would start they would fire tear gas. They would fire rubber-coated bullets. They would attack you with this foul-smelling skunk water that stinks like sewers and takes forever to wash out.”

Liver: “OK and just stepping back from this for a moment, you know, you’re a bloke from Lancashire – how do you end up on the West Bank?”

Bennett: “Well you know funnily enough I was asked that by an Israeli soldier. Emm…I got arrested one week and after beating me, stealing my camera, the Israeli soldier asked me why I was there. And I asked him why do you think I’m here? And he said I think you care a lot and yes, I do. And before I went I saw reports posted online by my friends about the situation and I wanted to do something. The idea that an international presence can give even some protection to people at demonstrations is a very powerful reason to go there.”

Liver: “But what can you actually do? What difference can you really make?”

Bennett: “Well, actually at demonstrations Palestinians say that if there are international observers, the level of violence is less – which is a terrifying thought because it was very violent when I was there. But they say there’s much less chance of being shot with live ammunition if there are international observers there.”

Liver: “OK Gordon, just stay there for a moment ‘cos I’m joined on the line by Yiftach Curiel who speaks for the Israeli Embassy in London. Thank you for joining us this morning. Err…Gordon Bennett and Amnesty International say your soldiers are trigger-happy and use brutal tactics. Do they?”

Yiftach Curiel: “Good morning Graham. Well unfortunately I think that in this case the only one who’s trigger-happy is Amnesty and their report that was published this morning. And I say that because you know in 2013 alone there were five thousand rock-throwing incidents – half of them against civilians. There were over a hundred thirty Israelis injured by these activities, so there’s two sides to this story.”

Liver: “There’s a difference between a rock and a bullet.”

Curiel: “Well not when you’re injured and not when that rock is hitting you. Now I think that what I would like to ask as an Israeli is where is the Amnesty report on Palestinian terror? There were five Israelis killed last year by Palestinian terrorists, including a soldier who was abducted. I personally…you know Gordon relates his experiences which I can certainly understand. I have my own experiences; I have hid in my house with my daughters as Hamas rockets were landing on Tel Aviv just over a year ago. Where is the report on that? So I think unfortunately Amnesty has lost quite a bit of its credibility with regard to Israel in the past few years.”

Liver: “But are you concerned that people in the wider community think that your armed forces are brutal rather than showing restraint here?”

Curiel: “Well the IDF investigates all incidents where Palestinians are killed. There is an automatic investigation by the Advocate General. Even the Amnesty report that was published today cites this and says that this is a very positive development and that is happening. And so you know, just as the British army opened over one hundred investigations into reports of civilians killed in Afghanistan, we do that as well. But that doesn’t justify this demonization of Israel by Amnesty and its obsessive focus beyond anything that is happening in the region in the past year or two which anybody who opens the paper can clearly see with his own eyes.”

Liver: “OK; Gordon Bennett’s still with us from Amnesty International. What’s your response to that Gordon?”

Bennett: “Yes of course Amnesty has condemned Hamas rocket attacks in the past, but this report is very specifically about the Israeli use of force in the West Bank at protests. And it does address the investigations that are held by the Israeli military when people are killed and it calls those investigations inadequate. So I visited the village of Nabi Saleh many times and two people have been killed at protests there in the last couple of years. Each time an investigation has been opened. Despite clear video evidence showing that the people were not acting violently – were not posing any imminent threat – no prosecutions happened, no disciplinary charges were taken against those soldiers.”

Liver: “OK, we’ll have to leave it there but thank you very much for joining us this morning. That’s Gordon Bennett who is an activist for Amnesty International – who’s originally from Preston – and Yiftach Curiel who speaks for the Israeli Embassy in London. That’s a subject that we could talk about all morning and probably wouldn’t get to the end of it, would we?”

Beyond the fact that the time and opportunity to speak allocated to both interviewees is clearly unequal, it is obvious that this item’s timing – half past eight in the morning on the day of the Amnesty report’s publication – suggests that it was planned before Graham Liver and his production team (who had been on air since 06:00) had actually read the report and therefore the question of who initiated the BBC interview with Gordon Bennett arises.

Notably, Liver refrains from asking Bennett directly whether or not he contributed to Amnesty’s report – which does not state the names of its authors or researchers – and does not raise the issue of Bennett’s credentials to conduct analysis relating to military affairs. As has been noted in the past by NGO Monitor – and admitted by Amnesty itself – its ‘researchers’ are not qualified in that field and are actually no more than political activists. Clearly way out of his depth on this topic, Liver also fails to raise the subject of the political motives behind a report produced by an organisation with a long record of anti-Israel campaigning and a whole host of dubious connections

So what of Mr Bennett himself? Well he appears to be rather more than just a concerned volunteer “activist” from Lancashire, having identified himself in the past as a member of Amnesty International’s Support Care Team. The story told by Bennett during the interview about an Israeli soldier asking him why he was there also appears on an AI blog (under the heading “Campaigns”) where Bennett is named as having worked in that role and his political campaigning is amply evident at numerous additional sources. Even more interestingly, Bennett’s same campaigning stories are told on the International Solidarity Movement website and on the ISM London site there appears a letter from Gordon Bennett and colleagues dated September 2012 which opens with the words:

“As many of you may already know, we are currently volunteering in the occupied Palestinian Territories with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) – a non-violent Palestinian-led solidarity organization.”

The International Solidarity Movement is of course anything but a “non-violent” organisation and it has proven connections to the terrorist organisation Hamas. 

This “peace activist” (a title which, after all, does not require any sort of qualification in this day and age) does not shy away from publicity. In an interview he gave to the Lancashire Evening Post on February 13th 2013, Bennett claimed to have been refused entry to Israel, which would hardly be surprising given his ISM links.

“On Sunday, February 3, he tried to re-enter Palestine via the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan, but was turned away by security officials and has his British Passport endorsed so he cannot go back to Israel or Palestine.

He said: “After lengthy questioning by Israeli Immigration, who control the border, I was refused entry.

“I was then sent immediately back to Jordan. The Jordanian officials had clearly seen this happen many times before.

“Israel does not want people to see what it is doing in the West Bank, and puts a lot of effort into trying to keep out international observers.”

Bennett supports his claim with some typically robust ‘evidence’ of Israeli malfeasance:

“As the bus driver who took me back to Jordan said, ‘Israel doesn’t like Palestinians, and doesn’t like people who like Palestinians’.”

The Lancashire Evening Post also reported that:

“Having been refused entry at the border, Gordon said he planned to return to the UK to take part in protest actions against the Israeli occupation.

The former Fulwood High School pupil said: “I will be taking part in UK protest actions against the Israeli occupation, including protests organised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Sainsbury’s, who trade with Israeli agricultural companies operating from illegally occupied Palestinian land.” “

So in fact, what we have here is a professional anti-Israel activist with links to an organisation connected to a terrorist group proscribed by the British government being given a platform on a local BBC radio station from which to publicise and promote a political campaign thinly disguised as a “report” on a subject about which its ‘researchers’ are in no way qualified to write. 

That, of course, is not journalism: it is quite simply the enabling of the latest propaganda promoted by political campaigners who have self-conscripted the halo of ‘human rights’. But the BBC’s helpful push to Amnesty International’s cart of defamation did not end with red rose county local radio: more on that in part two of this post.

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

In part one of this post we looked at the first part of an interview with Saeb Erekat on the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ which was broadcast on February 18thErekat HT

The remainder of the interview begins with presenter Stephen Sackur challenging Erekat on the subject of the ‘right of return’.

“…there are mixed messages here because not so very long ago – just a few weeks ago – your president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas was telling a delegation of young Israelis that he would not – and I quote his words – drown Israel with millions of Palestinian refugees to change the nature of Israel. If he’s prepared to say that, then surely it is not much of a stretch to give the Israelis what they want; acknowledge the nation of the Jewish people and then move on to the issues that really are at the crux of this including borders, security, settlements and Jerusalem.”

Unfortunately, Sackur does not seem to appreciate that even if Abbas’ quoted statement was sincere (and there is of course ample evidence of the PA’s practice of delivering differing messages in English and in Arabic), there is little sign that it is representative of the approach taken by broader Palestinian society. Having accused Sackur of “repeating exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying”, Erekat goes on to say:

“Now let me put the record straight on what Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] said about refugees. No refugee mandated me to negotiate on his behalf. In international law, the British Palestinian who lives in Britain and has British citizenship, he will make his choice. Abu Mazen said that’s the choice of every single refugee. They have…we have to establish an international mechanism and in that international mechanism, US, Europe, Arabs, UN, host countries, Israel, Palestine will go to refugees and give them the choices of whether they have the right to come to Palestine with the compensation – Israel will compensation – remaining where they are. And that’s how you end conflict and that’s how you end the claims. But if the Israelis want for me to come and through Hardtalk and say I give this up, I give this in, I give this up – what is there left to negotiation?

And I say proudly today that my president says he recognize the State of Israel right to exist on ’67. Can you tell me if there is one single Israeli minister in the cabinet – including their prime minister – who have [sic] said that he’s willing to recognize the State of Palestine on ’67? He’s willing to recognize East Jerusalem as capital? And they should stand tall and apologise for the Palestinian refugees’ suffering. They made them suffer and they should reach out to them and yes an international mechanism must be established to give them the choice.”

Avoiding informing audiences of the Arab League policies which have deliberately kept the descendants of refugees in that status for generations or any mention of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, Sackur also fails to clarify the very important point being made by Erekat: that the PLO negotiators do not actually consider themselves to have a mandate to negotiate on the vital subject of refugees. Instead, he moves on to question Erekat on the subject of land swaps whilst himself also promoting the erroneous notion of a “’67 border”.

“If I may say so, your repetition of the ’67 line as a fundamental principle is well known but it is also, is it not, well known that the Americans have taken a view in the course of this Kerry negotiation that there will have to be modifications to the ’67 border and that according again to leaks in the American press, the Americans believe a line can be drawn and land swaps implemented which will leave 75 to 80 percent of Jewish settlers able to stay in their homes on occupied territory as part of the peace deal. Are you saying that is fundamentally impossible?” Hardtalk Erkat WS

Erekat replies:

“Look if you guys think about nation states swapping territories by their consent, it happened between many countries you know – Peru/Ecuador, US/Mexico, US/Canada, Jordan/Iraq, Jordan/Saudi Arabia. It happened in Africa, in many cases. Now: can I see the map of the State of Israel? Can someone in Israel… can John Kerry come to me and tell me this is the…these are the borders of Israel ’67 and we want you to have land swaps in accordance with this map? What swaps? You talking about – without me knowing – which defines Israel’s borders? They haven’t even – they’re the only nation on earth who have not recognized their borders. They don’t have borders yet. They didn’t define their borders. So the minute they recognize their borders, the minute they recognize me as a sovereign Palestinian state, I’m willing to engage in the concept of land swaps. But how can I do this now before them putting a map on the table of their borders and their map? They haven’t done this. They haven’t been willing to say ’67….”

Sackur: “What they have done…I’ll tell you what they have done and this – if I may…”

Erekat: “They have ….10,500 housing units. They have added 10,500 housing units existing settlements in ..”

Sackur: “Yes they have.”

Erekat: “…the supposed to be Palestinian state – which is four times the natural growth of New York – in the past four months and you’re telling me this is the behaviour of a government that wants to make two-state solution?”

Sackur: “Yep. Every Israeli and international monitoring organization that looks at Jewish settlement activity says the construction continues apace. Nobody disputes that.”

In other words, Sackur gives BBC ‘authority’ to Erekat’s claim that 10,500 housing units have been “added” – which most listeners or viewers will take to mean built – in the past four months. He makes no attempt to clarify to audiences that Erekat’s numbers actually relate to building tenders and announcements – as can be seen in a document produced by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department which Erekat heads.

In fact, the statistics for the whole of 2013 – not just from the end of July when the talks resumed – show a total of 44,343 building starts in the whole of Israel, with 2,534 of those being in Judea & Samaria and 4,625 in the entire city of Jerusalem. The statistics for completed construction in 2013 show 41,972 completes in the entire country of which 1,365 were located in Judea & Samaria and 3,652 in the city of Jerusalem as a whole. Clearly both Sackur and Erekat are quoting inaccurate statistics and hence deliberately misleading BBC audiences on this subject. 

Next Sackur challenges Erekat on the practicalities of the demand for eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

“I’ve been visiting your part of the world for the best part of a quarter of a century – almost as long as you’ve been a negotiator. I have seen the facts on the ground change over the years. East Jerusalem for example is now – the Arab East Jerusalem that we talk about – is encircled by a vast chain of Jewish housing from – what is it? – Pisgat Ze’ev in the north, right round through Ma’ale Adumim to Gilo and Har Homa in the south. I mean that is the reality and when you talk about East Jerusalem being the future capital of Palestine, you know as well as I do that East Jerusalem is now fundamentally disconnected from the West Bank. Isn’t it time for you to deal with realities rather than dreams?

Erekat answers:

“No actually I’m not dreaming. I’m gonna tell you something very frankly Stephen. Without East Jerusalem being the capital of Palestine there is no meaning to have a Palestinian state. And I want any Israeli to look me in the eye and walk me through my home town Jericho on the Jordan River to Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean in the year 2019. What do they see on this land? 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. This fait accompli policies of settlements. As much as they dismantle them in Sinai and in Gaza, these are the main obstacle to peace and we’ve been saying that they have to make the choice – settlements or peace – but they can’t have both and that’s why we’re reaching this difficult situation and that’s why Netanyahu is insisting in destroying and undermining Kerry’s efforts by the continuation of the settlement activities in Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Ya’akov, Ma’ale Adumim and in the West Bank and in everywhere.”

With no questioning of Erekat’s bizarre ‘conversion’ statements and no challenge to Erekat’s chimera of ‘settlements’ – including Neve Ya’akov which was established in 1924 on Jewish-owned land – as the main obstacle to an agreement, Sackur goes on to ask his interviewee to name “one significant, fundamental concession” made by the Palestinian negotiating team.

Unsurprisingly, seeing as he uses the inaccurate term himself, Sackur fails to correct the reference to “1967 borders” when Erekat answers:

“We have recognized the State of Israel’s right to exist on the 1967 borders. That is 78% of the British Mandate and historic Palestine. And we have accepted to establish our Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. That’s 22% of the land. That’s number one. Number two: we have accepted to entertain – once Israel defines its borders of ’67 and accepts the State of Palestine on ’67 – to entertain the idea of swapping land. Number three: we have accepted to be a country with limited arms and invited a third party to be in the State of Palestine – from America, from Europe, from the UN, from all over – and to come and make sure that we will comply with the agreement. We have accepted, you know, to have East Jerusalem capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem capital of Israel, but we said then we can have an open city for peace, where Christians, Muslims and Jews can come to their places of worship and for worship without any impediment, without anybody preventing them like they do to Christians and Muslims today…to come to Jerusalem and pray..”

Sackur makes absolutely no attempt to challenge Erekat on his blatantly false representation of the situation regarding freedom of worship in Jerusalem at present and neither does he raise the issue of lack of satisfactory access – in breach of the Oslo Accords – to Jewish holy sites already under PA control. Instead, he continues by asking Erekat to confirm the PA’s agreement to the placing of some sort of international force in the Jordan Valley, which Erekat does but with the caveat that “this force will not be a combating force”.

Ignoring the issue of the existing precedents of multiple failures of international ‘peacekeeping’ forces to actually keep the peace in the region, Sackur goes on to challenge the practicalities of that idea, rightly pointing out that there is no chance of it being accepted by Hamas and other rejectionist Palestinian factions.

The next subject brought up by Sackur is that of what will happen if the current talks fail.

“…let’s run through the constant question when we’re talking about negotiations: who really holds the cards? Who has the power? Isn’t the truth that while you talk about your plan B option which is, you say, going back to the UN, strengthening the Palestinian case there, going perhaps to the International Criminal Court – the fact is you don’t hold the cards, you don’t have the power because if these talks collapse the Palestinian economy will collapse and you’ve said yourself that the Palestinian Authority itself may collapse as well.”

With regard to the feasibility of the PA “going perhaps to the International Criminal Court”, it is worth reading Professor Eugene Kontorovich’s paper from 2013 on the subject.

Erekat’s response consists largely of yet another attempt to persuade viewers that the success – or lack of it – of the current talks depends entirely upon the prime minister of Israel.

“Well I said the following Stephen – and please employ your hearing skills. Number one: if Netanyahu foils the Kerry attempts, yes – we will sign on all instruments of accessions to UN agency protocols and conventions including the Rome Statute and the ICC and those who worry from international courts and tribunals, they should stop committing crimes. Number two: I think the PA cannot sustain itself in the current form so Netanyahu will be the occupying power from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean and when I say that failure is not an option, I may be exaggerating because failure is an option, but I’m saying failure is not an option because of the nightmare scenarios the day after. I hope and pray that Netanyahu and his government will stand tall and extend an immediate recognition for the State of Palestine on the 1967 lines. I hope that Netanyahu and his government will define their borders on ’67 and they work with Kerry in order to achieve a successful end to his efforts, made an two-state solution – the State of Palestine living side by side the State of Israel on the 1967 borders and a solution to all the issues that we’re talking about is doable and we can do it. But if Netanyahu chooses the path of continuing dictations and settlements, incursions and siege and closure, he’s doomed and we’re doomed and the region’s gonna be doomed.”

To finish the interview, Sackur asks Erekat for his personal reflections on two decades of negotiations, but notably avoids bringing up the subject of the PA’s decision to scupper the peace process by instigating the second Intifada.

“As we end then; a personal reflection. You’ve been deeply negative about Netanyahu and his negotiating position throughout this interview. I just wonder – if you are honest with yourself and you look at what you personally have achieved as a peace negotiator over more than 20 years, do you feel that you’ve been played for a fool? You’ve been suckered into a process which over 20 years frankly appears to have delivered nothing according to your own terms and which – during which – the facts on the ground have worked against the Palestinian people. Do you regret the process that you’ve played such a big part in?”

That avoidance of any mention of the Oslo Accords permits Erekat to mislead BBC audiences further by erasing the fact that his “home town” was occupied by Jordan even before Erekat was born and by omitting any mention of the fact that Jericho has already been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for twenty years – since 1994.

“No Stephen. No I’m proud. I’m proud of I’m doing. I’m not doing a job. I’m doing the greater favour for myself, my grandchildren, my children and the Palestinian people. I’m trying to make peace. I’m trying to change the abnormality of the situation. I was 12 years old when the occupation came to my home town Jericho. I’m sick and tired of somebody managing my life, directing my life, oppressing me and oppressing my children. I’m sick and tired of not knowing whether my children will come home every day or not. I want my children to be like your children Stephen. If this is a crime, if this is being fooled – yes, I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I was born to bring Palestine back to the map.” 

In conclusion, this interview is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Sackur did go some way towards seeking to clarify Erekat’s position on internal Palestinian opposition to an international peacekeeping force in the Jordan Rift Valley, on the subject of the recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, on the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees, on land swaps and on eastern Jerusalem.

On the other hand, Sackur allowed BBC audiences to go away with damaging inaccurate impressions regarding, among other things, freedom of worship in Jerusalem, 1967 “borders”, the “occupation” of Jericho and Israeli building. He made no attempt whatsoever to challenge Erekat’s conspiracy theory concerning US foreign policy or his ridiculous “son of the Canaanites” narrative and he failed to question Erekat’s promotion of Israeli housing as the main obstacle to peace and his repeated claim that the success or failure of the talks is entirely dependent upon the will of Israel’s prime minister, whilst simultaneously excluding all mention of issues such as the rise in Palestinian terrorism since the beginning of the talks or incitement and the glorification of terrorism on the part of the PA.

In short, much of the opportunity provided by this interview to inform BBC audiences of the real difficulties facing negotiators in the current talks was wasted on providing a platform for the promotion of Saeb Erekat’s blatant propaganda and historically inept “narrative”.

The UK taxpayer continues to contribute not insignificant sums of money to keep Erekat’s PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD) afloat – and has done for the last two decades. One of several “risk descriptions” cited in a risk assessment compiled by DfID ahead of a particular funding initiative which is still ongoing is “NAD outputs contain inaccurate information, vilification or incitement” and that risk is supposed to be monitored by the UK government.  Those same UK taxpayers – many if not most of whom are also BBC licence fee payers – might hence have expected a more robust performance from their national broadcaster (which is still, in part, government-funded) in challenging Erekat’s promotion of inaccurate information and incitement in the form of warped historical “narratives”. 

Had that been the case however, a link to Erekat’s ‘Hardtalk’ interview might perhaps not be currently featured on the NAD website. 

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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 one

The February 18th edition of the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ featured presenter Stephen Sackur once again interviewing the programme’s frequent flyer Saeb Erekat. The programme is available in the UK on BBC iPlayer and an audio version was also available from the BBC World Service for a limited period of time, along with a BBC World Service podcast. In addition, the first part of the interview was uploaded by the BBC to YouTube and featured on the BBC News website, as well as on the Hardtalk webpageErekat HT

Notably, Sackur made no attempt to challenge Erekat’s opening thinly veiled conspiracy theory-style accusation of Israeli influence over American foreign policy.

“And I really hope that John Kerry will move in the direction of what’s needed and not in the direction of what’s possible. What’s possible in American foreign policy means what the prime minister of Israel can do and what he cannot do and that’s why we always reach dead-end in this [sic] attempts in the past. I hope that John Kerry will move in the direction of what’s needed and put on the table what’s needed for a two-state solution on 1967.”

But Sackur’s failure to challenge Erekat’s serial falsehoods becomes even more apparent in the rest of the interview; the parts not as enthusiastically distributed and promoted by the BBC. Sackur asks Erekat if the PLO will be prepared to continue talks after the end of April.

SS: “They’re [the Americans] suggesting, yes, they will put some ideas out there, but there will be a lot of talking that will have to happen after the end of April. What’s your position? Are you saying it’s the end of April or bust?”

Erekat: “If the Israeli government succeeds in foiling Kerry’s efforts, then why would you extend the negotiations after 29th of April? That’s the big question. As you said, the deal was, is that we enter these negotiations for 9 months, covers all permanent status issues, no interim agreements…err.. and then the Israeli behaviour since that time – since the beginning of the negotiations – I think they introduce 10,500 housing units, killed 41 Palestinians, demolished 219 homes, escalated their attacks on Palestinians and they haven’t been preparing their people for what it takes to have John Kerry succeed.”

Sackur refrains from asking Erekat how many of those “10,500 housing units” exist only on paper, or how many of the Palestinians killed between the end of July 2013 and the present were involved in terrorist activity or how many of the demolished structures were built illegally. He of course fails to offer audiences any balancing information on the subject of how many Israelis were killed in the same period or how many terror attacks and missile attacks took place or to question Erekat on the subjects of PA sponsored incitement and glorification of terror and how the PA leaders are “preparing their people” for peace. Erekat continues: Hardtalk Erekat on ME pge

“I haven’t heard any Israeli official – Prime Minister Netanyahu or any of his ministers – speak about two-state solution on 1967 lines. As a matter of fact I haven’t heard any of their government officials say that we need two states on the 1967 lines – one 1967. I haven’t heard this. So if they want to continue this line of dictations and settlements rather than peace and negotiations, why should we extend it for one minute after the 29th of April?”

Sackur fails to clarify to audiences what a “two-state solution on 1967 lines” actually means and why Israeli policy is not in line with that Palestinian demand. He then goes on to ask Erekat if the PLO is prepared to recognise Israel as the Jewish state, to which Erekat replies:

“Well, Stephen, the name of the State of Israel is the State of Israel. As much as you have a birth certificate of your own, Israel has a birth certificate of its own and the name registered at the UN is the State of Israel. And no – I will tell you very frankly – I will not change my narrative. I will not change my history. I will not change my religion. I’m the son of Jericho…”

Sackur does robustly challenge those statements.

“But you’re going to have to change your narrative because your narrative at the moment is one of diplomatic failure, conflict, hatred and a running sore which leaves the Palestinian people without a state, without economic development. You need to change the narrative and if that requires you to recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people and therefore, of course, a fundamental compromise on your part in terms of the right of return of those Palestinians and ancestors of those who lost their homes in 1948, so be it. It’s time to do it, isn’t it?”

Erekat’s notably personalised response is delivered in near-hysterical tones.

“What else? Now you want Israel as Jewish state? You want me to give up on East Jerusalem as my capital as Netanyahu says? He wants me to give up on my independence and sovereignty because he wants to stay instead of Palestine and his army for years to come. Well if that’s what he has in mind, he can make peace with himself and dictate on the – this will not happen. My narrative here is that, as you said, I’ve been trying to make peace and save lives of Israelis and Palestinians and change the status quo towards the two-state solution, towards [unintelligible] between Palestinians and Israelis for the last 20 years. And those who failed me are those who continued with the settlement activities and dictations and the fait accompli policies. That’s number one.

Number two: my narrative is I’m the son of Jericho. I’m the proud son of Jericho. My home town this year is 10,000 years old. The Natufians built this town. I’m their ancestor. I’m their grandchild. I’m this grandchild of the Canaanites. It’s my narrative, it’s my story, it’s my religion. I was here thousands of years before Yoshua Bin Nun came and burnt my home town Jericho. So why should I say that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people? I recognise the State of Israel right to exist…” 

At that point Erekat is interrupted by Sackur, but the latter makes no attempt whatsoever to relieve BBC audiences of the inaccurate impressions created by Erekat’s “narrative”. Of course this is not the first time that the PLO’s chief negotiator has fabricated history: he promoted the same myth at the Munich security conference just a couple of weeks before this Hardtalk interview. According to a BBC profile of Erekat, he was born in Jerusalem (specifically the Abu Dis neighbourhood) but Sackur does not challenge his self-made redefinition as a “son of Jericho” or question him as to the fluidity of his “narrative” which allows him to also claim to be “a Bedouin, an Arab and a Jordanian” when interviewed by an Arab media outlet.  

Erekat’s casual relationship with facts is of course notorious: he was after all the man who played a big part in persuading the Western media – including the BBC – that a ‘massacre’ had taken place in Jenin in 2002. But there is much more to Erekat’s ‘Canaanite’ claims than just historical incompetence; the negation of Jewish history and the promotion of a supposedly equally relevant narrative is part and parcel of the PA’s policy and tactics – and one which should have been exposed to BBC audiences if the corporation is to meet its obligation to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues”.

The remainder of the interview will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

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

 

 

BBC omits vital background information in Temple Mount rioting story

The photograph chosen to open an article headlined “Israeli police and Palestinians clash on Temple Mount” which appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on February 25th is captioned as follows: Temple Mount art

“Palestinians scuffled with Israeli police officers when denied entry to the site after the morning’s unrest”

In the absence of any clarification regarding “the morning’s unrest”, reasonable readers might well mistakenly conclude that the “clash” mentioned in the headline was brought about as a result of Palestinians being “denied entry to the site”.

The opening lines of the report which appears underneath the photograph do little to dispel that mistaken impression.

“Israeli police have clashed with Palestinian protesters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

A police spokesman said about 20 youths threw stones and fireworks at officers from the holy site, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Police then entered the compound and arrested three people, he added.”

In fact, readers have to continue right down to the eleventh and twelfth paragraphs (out of a total of sixteen) in order to understand the sequence of events.

“When Israeli police arrived to open the Moughrabi, or Moors’, Gate just after 07:30 (05:30 GMT), they were attacked by the protesters, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The officers responded by storming the compound and firing stun grenades and tear gas.”

From Ha’aretz we learn that, as is not uncommon, the rioters had spent the night on Temple Mount – presumably with the knowledge of the Waqf.

“Some 50 protesters camped out overnight at the compound after rumors that ultra-Orthodox Jews planned to hoist the Israeli flag on the platform.

When Israeli police arrived in the morning to open a gate for tourists, they were confronted by the Palestinian protesters, who threw rocks and firecrackers, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.”

In other words, the neutral-sounding “clash” – as it is presented by the BBC – was the result of a pre-planned attack by rioters on security personnel engaged in routine activity at the region’s most volatile site and the photograph and its caption actually relate to later incidents at a different location which are not covered in the report.  

Such pre-planned violence is unfortunately not rare (see, for example, reports of other recent incidents here and here) but it is only intermittently reported by the BBC. This isolated article does nothing to inform audiences of the organized nature of such events and the elements which lie behind that planning.

“One of the most active groups on the Temple Mount in recent months is known as Al-Shabab Al-Aqsa. This group of young men is most often recruited by members of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement (lead by Sheikh Raed Salah) in order to “protect Al-Aqsa.” This means physically preventing Jews from attempting to pray on the Temple Mount or to cause damage to the site. These activists are Arabs from Israel and East Jerusalem who are paid for each “shift” that they work.

Alongside them is the “Women’s Corps,” with the same assignment. These women are generally poor, divorced or widows and are recruited by the Islamic Movement, which pays their salaries and organizes their transportation to the mount. These provocateurs occasionally shout insults and “Allah Akhbar” at non-Muslim visitors, but usually just stand guard.

Activists affiliated with Hamas can often be found on the mount as well. After the June 2013 coup in Egypt, Hamas supporters hung posters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi on the Temple Mount, drawing harsh criticism for using the Al-Aqsa Mosque for political purposes — despite the fact that every known Palestinian movement uses Haram a-Sharif for political gain.”

The article does, however, inform readers that:

“The unrest came as the Israeli parliament prepared to debate a motion calling on Israel to “realise its sovereignty over the Temple Mount”.

Moshe Feiglin, a right-wing member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party who tabled the motion, wants restrictions on Jewish visitors to be lifted. They are currently barred from praying or engaging in other religious activities there.”

And:

“The Palestinian protesters were said to have gathered at the site on Tuesday morning because of rumours that Jewish extremists were planning to raise the Israeli flag there.”

The presentation of the latest in a long series of pre-planned violent incidents as though it were the spontaneous reaction of “protesters” to “rumours” of unknown origin, together with the omission of crucial background information regarding the parties behind the organization of this riot and others, is clearly not an adequate representation of the entire picture. The BBC cannot claim to meet its purpose to “[e]nable individuals to participate in the global debate on significant international issues” if it satisfies itself with telling only particular selected portions of a story.

BBC transforms its correspondents’ conjecture into fact

On February 24th a short report titled “Israeli warplanes ‘strike eastern Lebanon’” appeared on the Middle East page of the BBC News website. Nabi Sheet

The report relates to allegations that the Israeli air-force attacked targets in the Bekaa Valley on that evening. As is intimated by the BBC’s use of cautious punctuation in its headline and as is stated in the body of the article, those reports – which originated from a Lebanese source – remain unconfirmed. 

“Israeli jets have carried out air strikes in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, Lebanon’s state news agency says.

Israel’s military has not commented although an Israeli security source quoted by Reuters said there had been “air force activity in the north”.

Lebanon’s national news agency said the air raids took place near the village of Nabi Sheet in the Bekaa Valley.”

Hizballah’s television station ‘Al Manar’ initially denied the reports (with the terrorist organisation only changing its stance two days later), but that information is not communicated to readers of the BBC article.

In the second half of the report the BBC ignores international designations of Hizballah as a terrorist organisation and downplays its paramilitary activities in the Bekaa Valley with coy euphemism.

“The Lebanese militant Hezbollah group has a strong presence in the valley.”

According to the ‘Daily Star’:

“…the Janta area is known to house a Hezbollah post, where recruitment and training of fighters are carried out. Janta is also a well-known route for arms smuggling between Lebanon and Syria…”

The BBC report concludes by citing unidentified “correspondents” and “security sources”:

“Correspondents say Lebanon’s eastern border is frequently used by smugglers and Israeli planes have targeted the area several times in the past two years.

Security sources say the targets may have been trucks of weapons from Syria destined for Hezbollah.”

Whilst it is certainly the case that various BBC correspondents have claimed in the past that Israel has targeted consignments of weapons en route from Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon, those correspondents actually have no verified factual evidence for their claims, not least because Israel has never officially confirmed the various allegations. Hence, this report’s transformation of conjecture based on hearsay and assumption into a categorical – rather than qualified – statement which is then communicated to BBC audiences as though it were fact, clearly breaches BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy.

As has been the case with similar past articles, this short report focuses upon alleged Israeli activities, making no attempt to provide audiences with the necessary background information to enable them to place the reports of those actions in the correct context. Mention of the UN SC resolutions banning the arming of militias in Lebanon is omitted, as is any reference to Hizballah’s status as a heavily armed terrorist organisation supplied and supported by Iran. Clearly those important omissions are not conducive to the fulfilment of the BBC’s stated remit as an organisation which builds “a global understanding of international issues”. 

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BBC Q&A on alleged Israeli air strikes is political polemic

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Source of 2012 BBC story on faux Israel ‘briefing document’ in racist tweet row

Over the years, quite a few mainstream media organisations have been taken in by various notoriously imaginative ‘scoops’ published by the American anti-Zionist blogger Richard Silverstein.

Readers may recall that in August 2012 (before the launch of BBC Watch), the BBC joined those dubious ranks by publishing two written items on its website based on Silverstein’s false claim to have acquired a “briefing document” which allegedly detailed Israel’s plans to attack Iran “sometime before November 6th [2012]”, as he told the BBC in an additional audio interview with the World Service which is appended to both reports. Silverstein audio

One of the written reports was titled “Israel ‘prepared for 30-day war with Iran’” and the other was a piece going under the title “‘Leaked Israel memo’: propaganda or Iran war plan?” by BBC diplomatic/defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus. Both those items are still available on the internet – as is the audio interview – and the BBC responded to criticism at the time by bizarrely defending its decision to run stories based on a fictional document. 

Seven months later, in March 2013, we noted here another report by Jonathan Marcus on a subject which had also featured in a Silverstein article. Mr Marcus took umbrage and responded in our comments section.

BBC source Richard Silverstein has recently been in the news yet again. For more on that saga – which will probably not come as much of a surprise to those familiar with the record of the “American journalist” as he was described by the BBC World Service – read our colleague Adam Levick’s reports over at CiF Watch – see (in chronological order) here, here and here.

This latest row certainly reinforces the impression that insufficient critical thinking was employed by the BBC before the use, promotion and amplification of material from a source with a clear political agenda.

 

BBC’s ‘Today’ repeats basic historical inaccuracy corrected two weeks ago

The February 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item presented by James Naughtie in which he spoke to Lyse Doucet about conditions in the Yarmouk camp area of Damascus. The programme is available for a limited period of time here and the relevant segment begins at around 02:34:20. 

A couple of minutes into the item, Naughtie says:

“And of course they’ve been refugees from a time long before this awful conflict began.”

Doucet replies:

“Yarmouk camp was set up in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war which led to the establishment of the State of Israel. They fled there.”

As we noted here earlier this month, a similarly inaccurate claim was made in an article by Yolande Knell and Yousef Shomali about the same subject which appeared on the BBC News website.  

“The unofficial camp [Yarmouk] was set up as a home for refugees who left or were forced from their original homes because of the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel.”

And as we remarked at the time (and as is equally applicable to Doucet’s inaccurate statement):

“Obviously, the average reader would take that sentence to mean that Israel was created after – and as a result of – the 1948 war. Clearly, that claim is inaccurate and actively misleads audiences with regard to the fact that the 1948 war began on May 15th 1948 – the day after Israel declared independence – when the nascent state was attacked by five Arab countries and an assortment of irregulars and foreign volunteers. “

The BBC News website’s Middle East desk later revised that statement in response to a complaint and noted in its reply that:

“As you correctly point out, the war followed the creation of Israel, and we have changed the wording accordingly.”

But two weeks on it seems that basic facts of Israeli history still evade other BBC reporters too.

We look forward to an on-air correction by the Today programme, together with some equally urgently needed context for listeners regarding the political motivations which lie behind the fact that Syria and other countries have deliberately kept the refugees their attack upon the new Israeli state created – and generations of their descendants – in second-class refugee status for the last sixty-six years. 

Cultural relativism and double standards in BBC reporting on UK and Middle East terror

A recent report which appeared in the BBC News website’s ‘London’ section provides an opportunity to take a closer look at the markedly different styles of reporting employed by the BBC when dealing with the issues of terrorism and the glorification of terrorism on its own home turf compared to its reporting of the same issues in the Middle East. 

Readers will no doubt recall that the BBC’s coverage of the release of convicted Palestinian terrorists last August included two filmed reports by Yolande Knell – here and here – from the lavish reception laid on by the Palestinian Authority at the time.

In the party-like atmosphere of Knell’s reports, viewers were kept in the dark with regard to the crimes committed by the released convicts, who were described on multiple occasions as “heroes of the Palestinian cause”. Audiences were also encouraged to question the categorization of the released men as terrorists, with that terminology clearly signposted as an “Israeli view”.

As readers are no doubt aware, the subject of the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terrorism is not one which receives BBC coverage and so, unsurprisingly, neither Knell nor any other BBC journalists reporting on this event (or the similar later one) had any comment to make with regard to the fact that the PA organized reception focused on the glorification of the men and their terrorist acts.

In contrast, the February 12th report appearing on the BBC website’s ‘London’ page – titled “Woolwich murder: Man pleads guilty to Rigby videos” – is factual in tone and includes ample use of various forms of the word ‘terrorism’, as do the three “related stories” (which, like Knell’s reports, date from August 2013) promoted by the BBC at the side of the report.

The act of terrorism related to the charges against the man who is the focus of this article is clearly described.

“Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, will be sentenced later this month after they were found guilty of murdering Fusilier Rigby.

The British Muslim converts ran the soldier down in a car before hacking him to death with a meat cleaver and knives in a frenzied attack.”

Likewise, the man’s own actions are extensively detailed.

Readers are at no point in this article or the related ones prompted to question definitions of terrorism or to regard them as a “view” held by one party or another.

“Commander Richard Walton, head of the Counter Terrorism Command at the Met Police, said the murder had “shocked the nation”.

“We will target and prosecute anyone who glorifies and encourages terrorism in this way; to do so is an act of terrorism itself,” he said.”

And of course at no point are readers encouraged to entertain the idea that the accused man might be “a hero” of a particular “cause”.

The cultural relativism which lies behind the different styles of reporting of these two stories is all too apparent and it of course leads to the adoption of double standards which clearly compromise the BBC’s reputation as an impartial provider of news.

 

BBC double standards on checkpoints

A quick perusal of the BBC News website shows that the corporation has had quite a lot to say about Israeli checkpoints for some length of time.

One undated “Guide to a West Bank Checkpoint“, produced by Martin Asser, states that:

“A recent report by a group of 20 aid agencies has drawn public attention to one of the little reported aspects of the continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians – checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza.

The report said these travel restrictions – some of them in place since the beginning of the intifada in 2000 – limit Palestinians’ access to schools and medical care, increase frustration and destroy hopes for peace.”

The ‘guide’ provides interactive pages on aspects of checkpoints and there, for example, BBC audiences are told that:

“Ahmed Kassem had hired this private taxi to pick him up on the north side of the Surda roadblock, which is on the north side of Ramallah, on his way home from a heart check-up in the town.

He has to walk 10 minutes uphill in the midday heat to pass through the roadblock, and is very concerned about his health.

He told BBC News Online he expected the journey – 20km in total – would take another three hours to complete.

“I think the Israelis do this because they want to make us feel like foreigners in our own land. They just want us to leave,” he said.”

The rationale behind the existence of checkpoints is generally framed with the BBC’s often used caveat of “Israel says”:

“Israel says the measures are vital to stop suicide bombers flooding into its cities to terrorise the civilian population.” 

Another – very outdated – page still appearing on the BBC website states that:

 “Israeli troops have […] severely restricted the movement of Palestinian civilians.”

And when Israeli checkpoints feature in BBC content, they are more often than not presented without the context essential for audience understanding of their necessity – for example here and here

However, it turns out that some kinds of military checkpoints are reported very differently by the BBC.UK tourists Sharm

An article about the recent floods in England which appeared on the BBC News website’s UK page on February 12th noted that:

“Our correspondent said that, with so many homes in the village evacuated, there was a real fear some of the empty properties might be looted so the Army had set up checkpoints on some roads to monitor overnight who comes and who goes.” 

In a filmed report which appeared on February 21st on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, Quentin Sommerville informed audiences of the concerns of two British holiday-makers in the south Sinai with regard to the inefficiency of Egyptian checkpoints.

“We’ve got really good security at our hotel. The checkpoints, on the other hand, have a lot to be answered for. You don’t really get stopped at the checkpoints, which…”

“There is a high presence. We’ve been on two excursions and we didn’t get checked – our passports or…We haven’t seen any vehicles stopped at a checkpoint.”

Clearly the BBC can understand perfectly well the necessity for checkpoints when they are set up to safeguard British property or British tourists, but those set up to safeguard Israeli lives are apparently a different kettle of fish.

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Checking BBC-propagated untruths about checkpoints

BBC’s Alkashif slips gratuitous Israel mentions into Gaza Greek god story

On February 21st an article titled “The Apollo of Gaza: One fisherman’s amazing catch” by BBC Arabic’s Shahdi Alkashif appeared in the ‘Features & Analysis’ section of the Middle East page of the BBC News website as well as in its ‘Magazine’ section. An audio version of the report appeared on the BBC World Service programme ‘The Fifth Floor and is also available as a podcast for a limited period of time. 

Gaza Apollo story

In that audio version Shahdi Alkashif tells listeners:

“Gaza’s still, you know, under siege. There is no airports, there is no port, there is no any border with Gaza. The people cannot move out of Gaza.”

Not only is no context provided to listeners as to why restrictions of movement to and from a territory ruled by a terrorist group are necessary, but clearly Alkashif’s claim that “the people cannot move out of Gaza” is highly inaccurate and misleading. In the week February 9th to 15th alone, 3,550 people used the Erez terminal to enter or exit the Gaza Strip. 

The written version opens:

“A statue thought to be an ancient bronze of Apollo, Greek God of poetry and love, has dropped off the radar after being found in the sea off Gaza last summer and surfacing briefly on eBay. It is 2,500 years old and priceless.

Jawdat Abu Ghurab used to be a builder but in 2007 Israel restricted the delivery of building materials to the Gaza strip, so he became a fisherman like his father.” 

Uninformed readers are left with the mistaken impression that one day in 2007 Israel simply decided to restrict “the delivery of building materials to the Gaza Strip”. No mention is made by Alkashif of the all-important context of the violent coup which resulted in the Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip and the subsequent escalation in missile fire at Israeli civilian targets which caused the designation of the Gaza Strip as ‘hostile territory’ by the Israeli government. Neither does Alkashif bother to inform readers what kind of building materials are restricted and to which projects and under what conditions they are permitted, or why it is necessary to control the entry of dual-purpose materials into a territory ruled by an internationally designated terrorist organization which uses concrete and other building supplies to construct cross-border tunnels for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks.

Further on in the report Alkashif does state that “..the smugglers’ tunnels – dug to circumvent restrictions put in place by Israel and Egypt after the Islamist movement Hamas came to power in Gaza – have been out of action since they were closed by the Egyptian army last summer” but again insufficient background is given as to why such “restrictions” were necessary.

And what of Jawdat Abu Ghurab’s employment history? Well, that seems to be rather flexible. At the end of January an article on the exact same subject appeared in Bloomberg Business Week. In that report it is stated that he has been a fisherman since 2005.

“Ghurab, a fisherman, is 26, and has a wife and two sons. He left school at 13 and has been fishing since he was 17.”

And according to the same article, Ghurab’s CV also includes other activities:

“For a while Ghurab made money digging some of the smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border and helped shuttle contraband—from washing machines to hives of Egyptian honeybees—but that money dried up when Egypt cracked down on trafficking.”

Later on in the article Alkashif states:

“After four hours they succeeded in getting the object out of the water. It was the statue of a naked man. They loaded it on to a cart and took it to Ghurab’s house.

“My wife covered her face when she saw him lying naked in the house. She begged me to cover it,” he says, laughing.”

A Reuters report on the same story which appeared in the Guardian on February 10th states however:

” “I felt it was something gifted to me by God,” Ghrab told Reuters. “My financial situation is very difficult and I am waiting for my reward.”

His mother was less happy when she saw the naked Apollo carried into the house, demanding that his private parts be covered. “My mother said: ‘What a disaster you have brought with you’ as she looked at the huge statue,” said Ghrab.”

Unlike Alkashif’s version of the story, other reports on the same subject – including that one from the Guardian, one in the Independent and one which appeared in the Jerusalem Post – have noted that experts are sceptical as to whether the statue was actually found in the sea.

” “It’s unique, said Jean-Michel de Tarragon, an historian with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem. […]

“It’s very, very rare to find a statue which is not in marble or in stone, but in metal,” he said, adding that the apparent pristine condition of the statue suggested it was uncovered on land and not in the sea, as claimed.

“The one of Gaza is very special and unique because for us, it has not been, at all, found in the sea… It has been found, we don’t know exactly the place, we have a guess you know, in the north of Gaza….But it has been found surely, in the sand,” he said, adding that there were no tell-tale signs of metal disfigurement or barnacles that one normally sees on items plucked from water.

De Tarragon says the claim the statue was found in the sea is probably just a convenient story told to avoid arguments over ownership, particularly if the treasure was found on someone else’s land.”

The Times of Israel quotes a Gaza-based archaeologist as saying:

“…the statue, with its green patina, was unlikely to have come from beneath the waves.

“It is 90 percent intact and was probably found on land,” he told AFP. “If it had spent time underwater, the bronze would be blackened.”

“It’s more likely that the statue was found in an ancient temple in the Gaza area. We need to search and find out,” he said.”

Whatever the truth behind the discovery of the statue and whatever the reasons behind the timing of the story’s sudden extensive promotion in the international media some six months after its initial discovery, one thing is certain: Shahdi Alkashif’s context-free introduction of Israeli ‘restrictions’ on the entry of building materials to the Gaza Strip into the story and his claim that “people cannot move out of Gaza” are both misleading and gratuitous and can only be seen as being politically motivated insertions.