Three days after Wyre Davies’ visit to the Kerem Shalom border crossing for commercial goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the BBC apparently decided that its viewers had not heard anywhere near enough misleading, context-free and inaccurate descriptions of the situation at that crossing and so it sent Yolande Knell to report from the same place.
Notably, Knell’s August 11th report – which, in addition to being broadcast on BBC television news programmes, also appears on the BBC News website under the title “Gaza conflict: Families return home as Gaza ceasefire holds” – makes no mention of the fact that the previous day the crossing through which all goods and humanitarian aid enter the Gaza Strip had to be closed because of missile fire by terrorists (caught on CCTV cameras here) which endangered the safety of its workers.
Knell opens with her version of the standard BBC messaging:
“Supplies rolling into Gaza today, coming across the border from Israel. Most of this is bought by Palestinian businesses. And there’s aid too, but the Israelis impose tight controls. Almost no exports leave here. Now, with talks about a longer term ceasefire deal back on in Cairo, maintaining Israel’s security and lifting Gaza’s blockade are the key demands. These lorries are bringing goods into Gaza from Israel’s only commercial crossing point which is just down the road. Palestinians want it to be open more fully so they can trade effectively.”
As was pointed out here only recently, the Kerem Shalom crossing does not currently work at full capacity because there is no demand for it to do so from the Palestinian side. Should demand rise, the crossing is capable of working three shifts a day.
“Israel has invested 80 million ₪ [shekels] to expand Kerem Shalom to accommodate up to 450 trucks daily. However, due to demand on the Palestinian side, the average number of trucks that enter Gaza each day remains between 300- 350.” [emphasis added]
And what of Knell’s claim that “almost no exports leave here”? She makes no attempt to inform viewers how she quantifies “almost no” or to what period of time she refers, but before the current hostilities exports of agricultural produce were leaving the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing as can be seen in the weekly reports produced by COGAT. Most importantly, Knell fails to inform audiences that not only does Israel not place any restrictions on the export of produce abroad, it actually helps farmers in the Gaza Strip to export their vegetables and flowers, for example, to Europe.
Knell’s claim that “the Israelis impose tight controls” is of course a woefully inadequate and misleading representation of the situation. She fails to inform viewers that the only import restrictions are on weapons and dual-use goods which can be used for the purposes of terrorism – surely a highly pertinent point of background information given that less than a month has passed since the discovery of Hamas’ thirty-two cross-border attack tunnels. Also in line with the usual BBC policy, Knell neglects to inform audiences why restrictions were imposed in the first place and her presentation predictably fails to include the word terrorism at all, meaning that viewers are herded towards the misunderstanding that border restrictions are the product of some sort of Israeli vindictiveness rather than a means of trying to protect Israeli civilians by curbing the flow of arms and other materials for terrorist activity into the Gaza Strip.
Likewise, Knell’s portrayal of the situation at the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt also fails to inform viewers of the reasons for restrictions imposed by Egypt.
“And then behind me you have the Rafah crossing point with Egypt. It’s been mostly closed to travelers for the past year. But Palestinians say it should be Gaza’s gateway to the world. Currently, only those with foreign passports or residency can leave to Egypt.”
It is more than obvious that the BBC has taken upon itself to amplify Hamas’ demands concerning the restrictions on its borders with Egypt and Israel and audiences are now seeing daily reports on the topic which all promote the exact same messaging. However, not one item of BBC content has properly clarified to viewers that it was Hamas terrorism which made it necessary to impose those restrictions in the first place or what the consequences of a relaxation of restrictions are likely to be.
The BBC’s correspondents are not incompetent: they know exactly when and why those border restrictions were brought in and they are well aware of the fact that Hamas’ demand to lift restrictions stems not from any concern for the welfare of the people of Gaza, but from the dual need to be able to present an achievement as justification for initiating the recent hostilities and to be able to rearm for the next round.
Charged as they are with the responsibility of meeting the BBC’s obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues”, the consistent refusal of BBC journalists to present this highly topical issue to their audiences comprehensively, accurately and impartially is obviously a cause for very serious concern.