As we saw in part one of this post, the January 8th edition of ‘Hardtalk‘ (aired on the BBC World News channel, the BBC News channel and on BBC World Service radio) was devoted to an interview with Hamas’ Mahmoud Zahar in which some of the messaging audiences have previously received from the BBC was contradicted.
Throughout the interview Zahar also promoted numerous falsehoods, smears and inaccuracies which went unchallenged by presenter Stephen Sackur – thereby leaving audiences with misleading impressions and false information.
[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]
1) Despite Hamas’ known misappropriation of thousands of tons of building materials intended for the repair and reconstruction of civilian homes damaged during the 2014 conflict and its spending of millions of dollars on tunnel construction and missile production rather than on public services for the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip, Sackur failed to challenge Zahar’s claim that the poor quality of life in Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas “management”.
Zahar: “Yes, our life is very miserable – not because of bad management on our side but because of the crime committed by the Israeli occupation and by the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority with them and lastly by the impact of the international community, represented mainly by Mr Trump, against our human rights in the most important third shrine in Islam, al Aqsa Mosque.”
2) Sackur also refrained from questioning that claim from Zahar that the “human rights” of Muslims at al Aqsa mosque are being abused and failed to clarify to BBC audiences that in fact Muslims alone are allowed to pray there.
3) Zahar’s inaccurate claim that the Gaza Strip is under “siege” went unchallenged, as did the false allegation that the problems plaguing medical services in the Gaza Strip are the result of Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.
Zahar: “The siege for a long time destroyed our medical, our social, our economic life and nobody is interested about human rights where 2 million Palestinian people are living in this area.”
4) The issue of discrimination against Palestinians in some Arab countries was not raised by Sackur when Zahar mentioned refugee camps and neither was the subject of the deliberate perpetuation of their refugee status.
Zahar: “Add to that our miserable life in the West Bank in addition to the very distress life in the refugee camps outside Palestine, whether in Jordan, especially in Lebanon and Syria. For this reason I think it’s a big crime. It’s a big crime against the Palestinian human rights.”
5) Zahar’s repeated claims of “occupation” since 1948 were not challenged by Sackur even once and neither was his inaccurate characterisation of the British mandate administration.
Zahar [04:00]: “…we are living under occupation since many, many years. Since 1948 they occupied what is now called Israel and after that at ’67.”
Zahar [14:36]: “We are here speaking about national interest. Our interest is our land. Our land well-known occupied at ’48.”
Zahar [19:50]: “Listen, listen: this [Israel] is Palestine. This is Palestine occupied ’48. Occupied by ’48 by the support and by a built by the British occupation.”
6) Zahar’s repeated portrayal of Palestinian terrorism as “self-defence” went unquestioned.
Zahar [04:00]: “But lastly, lastly by our method of self-resistance, self-defence against the occupation in Gaza we succeed[ed] to eliminate the occupation in Gaza.”
Zahar [05:36]: “The people in the West Bank have their right to defend themselves by all means. […] We have to defend ourselves by all means in the West Bank in order to avoid the expansion of the settlement not only on Jerusalem but also on the rest of the West Bank.”
Zahar [12:19]: “We are not a terrorist and we are not launching rockets against Israel randomly. But we are defending ourself against the fifth…the Phantom fifty-five. […] You [are] speaking [about] us as we are launching rockets against Israel as terrorist. We are not terrorist. We are freedom fighter.”
Zahar [16:51]: “We practiced as a Palestinian people all the peaceful methods in order to achieve our right as a homeland and now we see no square meter for the Palestinians except Gaza – liberated by armed resistance. […] We are insisting to defend ourself by all means including the armed resistance […] people are admiring to sacrifice [i.e. suicide bombings] in order to achieve their homeland.”
Zahar [14:36]: “Humanitarian aid [from foreign donors] is our right whether we are fighting as a freedom fighter or living in prison.”
Zahar: [21:43] “Why you describe it as violence? This is not a violence. This is one of the methods to have a self-defence.”
7) When Sackur raised the issue of missiles launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians, Zahar’s claim that they “are not citizens” [from 05:36] went unchallenged by Sackur, as did his repeated inaccurate and bigoted portrayal of all Israelis as ‘foreigners’ and his portrayal of Israel as a colonial implant for which Europeans are to blame.
Zahar: “First of all these are citizens…are not citizens. These are settler. These people left their homeland from America, from Russia and come. For this reason we are against foreign people took our land, violated our rights.
Zahar [14:36]: “I’m asking just simple question: what moral principle justify Netanyahu to come from America and while his father is still there and to occupy our land? What justified for Lieberman coming from Russia to be in our land?”
Zahar [12:19]: “We are occupied by foreigner, dismissed all through your history. You as European people and Americans are particularly the people responsible about the disaster of the Jews when you destroyed […] the existence of the Jews in your country and dismissed these people to our people as part of the occupation.”
Zahar [14:36]: “Do you believe that your capital [Jerusalem] can be occupied by a foreigner and the price will be material aids [aid]?”
Zahar [19:37]: “It is not a matter of destroying Israel. It is a matter of liberation of our land occupied by a foreigner, by people from America…”
8) Zahar’s repeated airbrushing of the long history of suicide bombings by Hamas and other terror groups went without comment from Sackur.
Zahar [05:36]: “We started by throwing stones, using knife and lastly at a time used guns against the Israeli.”
Zahar [21:43]: “We practice…we practiced all, all methods. Since the occupation we practiced several different self-defence and in the first Intifada we threw stones, we distributed leaflets and we [unintelligible] and the result was more Israeli aggression […] and the people were enforce [forced] at that time to use violence – throwing the stone and after that using knives and after that when they succeed to have guns, they use guns and by these guns the Israelis came from Gaza.”
9) Even Zahar’s dog-whistle remarks concerning Temple Mount produced no reaction from Sackur and at no point was the significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Christians clarified to audiences.
Zahar [14:36] “Our interest is our holy place al Aqsa mosque which is the most important third shrine in Islam, not only for Hamas but for every Muslim – even the British Muslim.”
While there may of course be those who argue that it is useful for BBC audiences to hear the type of extremist views espoused by Hamas straight from their source, the fact that Zahar’s lies, omissions, distortions of history and blatantly bigoted messaging falls on ears which for the most part have a poor understanding of the history of the region and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should have been reason enough for Stephen Sackur to challenge his remarks and at least set the historical record straight for viewers and listeners.
As we see, that did not happen and so BBC audiences around the world went away having been fed an unhealthy dose of standard Palestinian propaganda that erases Jewish history and portrays Jews as a foreign colonial implant in the region.