The story of Hamas’ ongoing efforts to reconstruct the system of cross-border offensive tunnels which made it necessary for Israel to carry out a ground operation during the conflict of summer 2014 is one which has been severely under-reported by the BBC throughout the last year and a half.
That of course means that if in the future Israel has to act once again to protect its citizens living in communities near the border with the Gaza Strip, BBC audiences will be oblivious of the background to a story we can confidently predict that the corporation will cover extensively.
An opportunity to redress that lack of serious reporting recently arose when reports emerged of the collapse of a tunnel due to severe weather conditions.
“At least six Palestinians have been reported killed in the collapse of a tunnel dug under the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening.
The incident occurred in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City.
According to Israel’s Channel 10 television, the six fatalities were all members of the Hamas terror group, as were the five others injured in the incident.”
Hamas later confirmed that information.
“Eight members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas were missing Wednesday after the collapse of a tunnel in the Gaza Strip caused by rain and flooding, a security source said. […]
“The resistance tunnel collapsed last night due to the weather and flooding,” the source said, adding that the tunnel belonged to Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.
“There were 11 resistance men inside. Three of them escaped in the first hour after the accident, but the security operation… continues to search for the eight others.”
Hamas’s armed wing, Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, later confirmed in a statement that one of its tunnels collapsed.
It said searches were continuing for the missing, without providing a number or further details.”
The BBC News website’s reporting of that story – in a January 28th article titled “Gaza: Hamas militants die in tunnel collapse” – focused readers’ attentions on factors other than the core issue of Hamas policies and actions which will inevitably lead to an additional round of conflict.
“Palestinian militants have used tunnels on Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt to launch attacks on Israel, transport weapons or smuggle goods.”
Despite the fact that the tunnel in this particular story has no connection to smuggling, a relatively large proportion of the article is devoted to that topic.
“Meanwhile, tunnels on the Egyptian border have been used to smuggle weapons into Gaza, as well as civilian goods.
The tunnels have played a vital role in the economy of Gaza, which has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007.
The Egyptian military began flooding tunnels on its borders late last year, and says it has eliminated about 90% of them.”
Once again BBC audiences are steered towards the inaccurate impression that smuggling tunnels are a product of the “blockade” when in fact they pre-date the border restrictions. No effort is made to provide audiences with appropriate context concerning the fact that the restrictions imposed by Israel in 2007 came about because of Hamas’ terrorist activities.
Neither is any effort made to clarify the issue of how Hamas acquired the materials necessary for the rehabilitation of its network of offensive tunnels: an omission which is particularly glaring in light of the fact that the BBC has devoted considerable air-time and column space to the topic of the import of construction materials into the Gaza Strip since the end of the 2014 conflict.
“Israel destroyed dozens of tunnels during the 2014 Gaza conflict, but Hamas has been rebuilding them.”
The report embraces the ubiquitous BBC tradition of relating only to events which took place from 1967 onwards and thus fails to tell readers that the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt between 1948 and 1967.
“Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005.”
Readers are encouraged to believe that the Gaza Strip remains under ‘occupation’ and are not informed that arrangements concerning Gaza’s waters and airspace are defined by the Oslo Accords, to which the recognized representatives of the Palestinians are party.
“Israel considered this the end of the occupation, but it still exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.”
The BBC knows full well that this story is actually about a terrorist organization making preparations (at the expense of its own civilian population) for yet more armed aggression against Israeli civilians.
It continues, however, to refrain from reporting the real story – thus failing to meet its obligation to “build a global understanding of international issues” and laying the groundwork for more of its trademark pathos-rich, context-lite reporting from Gaza whilst ignoring the story of the people who live under the shadow of Hamas aggression.