BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

h/t FB

On the morning of December 24th BBC Radio 4’s Today programme aired yet another report produced during Mishal Husain’s recent visit to the Gaza Strip.

Presenter Justin Webb introduced the item (from 1:42:48 here) as follows: [emphasis in bold added]

Webb: “This time last week we were reporting from Gaza and for its small Christian community this of course is the time of year when many dream of getting to Bethlehem which isn’t, after all, that far away to celebrate Christmas. However, given the blockade maintained by Israel – it says of course that’s for security reasons – travelling to the West Bank requires special permission which many do not get. Mishal Husain went to meet Palestinian Christians at one church in Gaza City.”

Having described the scene at a reception for a “visiting delegation from Jerusalem” and spoken to a couple of children, Mishal Husain further amplified that introductory messaging.

Husain: “But the hardships of life here are not far away, especially at this time of year.”

Unidentified Woman: “There is no real Christmas in Gaza. We used to long for Christmas so we could travel and go to Bethlehem but none of the young people this year got permission. We don’t really feel the Christmas spirit in Gaza.”

Husain: “Permits to travel are difficult to obtain, as they are for other Palestinians who live here. Christmas is no exception as Sister Maria de Nazerat – a nun who came here from Argentina – explains.”

Sister Maria: “They need a special permission from Israel. They ask a lot of time but not always will receive the permission or maybe some of them can have permission or on the same family some of them no. For example the children has permission and the parents no. Every year it’s a very difficult situation because they wait, they hope, they want to go pray in Bethlehem but most of them cannot go.”

Throughout this report Mishal Husain is conspicuously silent on the topic of how many Christians actually currently live in the Gaza Strip. In April of this year the Catholic News Agency reported that “[i]n the past six years the number of Christians in the Gaza Strip has plummeted from 4,500 to just 1,000”. In contrast to Husain’s claim, Christmas (and Easter) is an exception: every year special arrangements are made for Palestinian Christians by COGAT and those pertaining to Gaza residents this year can be seen below.

In other words, permits were available for the Christian population of the Gaza Strip and while the number of applications made is unknown, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post “[s]ome 600 individuals received special permits for the holidays”. So as we see, the BBC’s claim that “many do not get” travel permits fails to reflect the fact that 60% of the Gaza Strip’s Christian population did receive them.

The second theme promoted by Husain in this report involves whitewashing the problems faced by Christians in the Gaza Strip. Husain introduced “the parish priest Father Mario de Silva”.

De Silva: “We don’t have problems to worship God here and we are doing our work.”

Husain: “Because some people might wonder what it is like with Hamas governing Gaza. Is that a problem for the community?”

De Silva: “Not at all. They never did any problem to us about religious or…”

While one can of course comprehend Father de Silva’s recurrent promotion of that messaging, the BBC should have been able to tell its audiences that the true picture is actually somewhat different.

“Rami Ayyad owned a religious bookstore in Gaza. He had been involved in numerous charitable organizations and was also a member of the Baptist Church. His store and charity organization, the Bible Society, had been a frequent target of Muslim extremists. A grenade was thrown at the building during protests over the publication of a Danish cartoon that depicted the prophet Mohammed. Ayyad had also received continuous death threats for his perceived missionary work. He was married with two small children, and was just two weeks shy of his 30th birthday when [in October 2007 – Ed.] he was found shot in the head and stabbed multiple times 10 hours after he was kidnapped from his store.

One Christian leader expressed his fear after months of increased attacks: “This latest incident is aimed at sending a message to all the Christians here that we must leave. Radical Islamic groups are waging a campaign to get rid of us and no one seems to care.” Many in Gaza’s tiny Christian community, including the Baptist Church’s full-time pastor and twelve of Ayyad’s bookstore employees, fled to the West Bank to escape further violence. 

The head of Gaza’s Roman Catholic Church, Rev. Mauel Musallem, said he knows seven families that sold their properties in Gaza and left for safer pastures in the aftermath of Ayyad’s slaying. Fifteen more were preparing to do the same, he said.”

In 2012 reports of cases of forced conversions to Islam came out of the Gaza Strip. This year Gaza’s Christians have been warned in flyers distributed by an armed terror group that ‘celebrating Christmas is evil’.

Nevertheless, Radio 4 listeners heard nothing of such incidents in a report obviously intended to promote the politically motivated narrative that Gaza’s Christian population lives happily under Hamas rule, with its only tribulations caused by Israel.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV



5 comments on “BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

  1. It would be “interesting” if Mishai Husain reported truthfully what it is like for a Jew living in Gaza.

  2. Of course zero mention of the message put out by the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades warning people not to celebrate Christmas Well if 60% receive travel permits, that seems a reasonable number, especially as some could be elderly and infirm or still recovering from 8 months of border riots. The fact that it was the young that did not, is not explicit enough does that mean young children or young adults? i.e. the ones indoctrinated by years of indoctrination using the disgusting UNWRA school literature. Stop the bbc bias against Israel

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  5. I have previously always risen to the defence of the BBC but am increasingly alarmed at the continuous lack of understanding of the difficulties faced by the people of Israel.
    It is quite dreadful and is embedded in the use of words and demonisation.
    Every effort on the part of Israel to reach a negotiated settlement has been rebutted by extremists with an iron control of the unfortunate Palestinian community. This lovely people are being manipulated by Hezbollah, Iran and Hama’s who have no real care for them and do not want to see a settlement.
    The Palestinian people are used as a cause to deflect internal dissent within other Muslim countries. And the BBC seems all too ready to go along with this.
    There are repeated rocket attacks from land that Jewish people were forced to vacate in Gaza.
    There is a growing Arab Christian population within Israel seeking the safety they cannot have in Muslim countries. There are a large number of Palestinians and Muslims living in Israel enjoying freedom they would never enjoy in adjacent Muslim lands.
    There is continual adverse comment about the wall on the other side yet prior to this there were frequent reports of people coming across and bombing school buses.
    What do you expect the poor people of Israel to do?
    I am really losing faith in the BBC.
    We live in a safe country with limited threats. You can only negotiate with people who have some intention of thinking. All Hezbollah have in life is hatred of Israel and Jewish people.
    The BBC seem all too willing to assist them.
    The case for the State of Israel has not been put.
    Continuous references to occupied territories does not help. Had the earlier wars by neighbouring Arab countries been successful there would be no Israel at all. It would be yet another oppressive Islamic state. All the land would be “occupied” by Islamic bullies who want freedom for themselves but no life for women or anyone else. There would be no BBC in such s state. It would be totally controlled. Perhaps that is what you are aiming for.

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