On the afternoon of February 13th an article titled “Hamas hardliner Yehiya Sinwar elected as Gaza leader” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The report opens:
“The Palestinian militant group Hamas has elected a hardline commander of its armed wing as the movement’s overall leader in the Gaza Strip.
Yehiya Sinwar replaces Ismail Haniyeh, a former prime minister in the territory’s Hamas-run government.
Mr Sinwar was jailed in Israel for murder but freed under a deal when Hamas released an Israeli in 2011.”
Later on readers are told that:
“Yehiya Sinwar was jailed for four life terms by Israel in 1989 for a series of offences, including murder and kidnapping.
He was freed in October 2011 under a deal in which Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for a soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas militants in a cross-border raid in 2006.”
However, the BBC apparently did not find it necessary to inform audiences that Sinwar’s convictions relate to the murders of Palestinians, as has been noted by other media organisations reporting the same story, including the Times of Israel.
“Sinwar, sentenced to life in 1989 for murdering Palestinian collaborators with Israel, spent 22 years in Israeli prisons before being released in the 2011 prisoner exchange deal for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.”
“He [Sinwar] has boasted more than once of the manner in which he executed collaborators. At one point he became known as “The Man of the Twelve” for the twelve Palestinians, suspected collaborators, whom he murdered with his own hands. The number has gone up since then.
Sinwar is the man who established the Al-Majd intelligence unit, which operated against collaborators from the start of the first intifada. In a report written by Amit Cohen, a reporter for Ma’ariv at the time, Sinwar recalled how Hamas’s spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin granted him a fatwa allowing him to execute anyone who confessed to collaborating. Wonder of wonders, they all confessed.”
Neither does the BBC article make any mention of the alleged involvement of Sinwar in the execution of Hamas’ own Mahmoud Ishtiwi last year.
Nevertheless, the report does include some relevant context not found often enough in BBC articles and a link to the Hamas Charter.
“Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist and Mr Sinwar is known to oppose any compromise with the Jewish state.
Some Hamas leaders have suggested a long truce with Israel if it completely withdraws to pre-1967 ceasefire lines and lifts its blockade of Gaza.
The movement’s charter, however, calls for Israel’s destruction and it is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU and other world powers. […]
The militia has thousands of fighters and is believed to have rebuilt a considerable arsenal of weaponry since the last war with Israel.
It has also carried out scores of attacks with suicide bombers and fired thousands of rockets and missiles across the border since the mid-1990s.”
However, the next paragraph reads:
“Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade around Gaza aimed at preventing attacks by militants there, though the measure has been condemned by rights groups as a form of collective punishment.” [emphasis added]
The BBC knows full well that restrictions – such as those on the import of munitions and dual-use goods – implemented by Israel following the violent take-over of the Gaza Strip by a terrorist organisation almost a decade ago are necessary counter-terrorism measures and not ‘collective punishment’. But nevertheless, it once again misleads its audiences by amplifying that baseless propaganda trope.