BBC WS food programme: inaccurate, lacks context and promotes Hamas propaganda

h/t SG

When, in the summer of 2014, the BBC began describing the counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel along its border with the Gaza Strip as a “siege” we noted that the definition of that term is “a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender” and commented:

“A besieging army does not ensure and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies to those it surrounds. It does not supply them with 50% of their electricity supply, with oil and diesel or with cooking gas. It does not help them export their produce and give their farmers agricultural training. It does not evacuate their sick and treat them […] in its own hospitals.”

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to promote that Hamas approved terminology and the latest example came in the August 1st edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘The Food Chain’ (repeated on August 4th) which was titled ‘Food under siege’.

“When access to a city is blocked, food supplies quickly plummet, electricity and water become scarce, and people are forced to find new ways to feed themselves. Black markets thrive, and some may risk their lives to feed their families. But a dwindling food supply can also inspire creativity and compassion.

Emily Thomas meets people who have lived under siege in Aleppo, Syria, the Gaza strip, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. They reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines.

A journalist tells us how it feels to eat abundantly in a café in the middle of a city where most are struggling to eat. An electrician explains why feeding cats in the middle of a war-zone felt like a statement of compassion and resistance. And a cook explains how to run a catering company when electricity, water and food are scarce.”

Presenter Emily Thomas opened the programme with a description of a siege and went on with some clear signposting. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Thomas: “Your home is surrounded. Enemy forces are camped outside the city. They’ve cut off electricity and water supplies and sealed off the main roads out. You can’t leave. Nothing and no-one is coming in. But you still have to eat. Could finding a way to eat well become the ultimate act of defiance? […] In this episode people who’ve lived under siege in Aleppo in Syria, Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia and the Gaza Strip are going to reveal the uncomfortable reality of eating behind siege lines where black markets can thrive and people may risk their lives to feed their families. We’ll hear that even as food supplies run out, creativity and compassion can flourish. How we eat behind siege lines can show our humanity and resilience.”

The first part of the programme related to Sarajevo and the last to Aleppo. In the middle (from 11:50) listeners heard a section which began with more inaccurate framing of the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ from Thomas.

Thomas: “Preserving a food culture is perhaps more important than ever when living under siege.”

Voiceover: “We make a whole variety of regional foods and as well as Arabic dishes we make pastries, different kinds of bread, chicken and rice, couscous; everything you’d expect to find in Gaza.”

Thomas: “But how much variety would you expect when more than half of the population is classed as food insecure by the UN? This is Wada Younis [phonetic]: one of a group of women who runs a catering company in Gaza. […] More than half of the territory’s labour force are unemployed so customers are in short supply.”

After her interviewee had explained that her clientele includes “women who don’t have the time to cook at home” and people with “more money”, Thomas told listeners:

Thomas: “A blockade, which Israel says it’s imposed because of security concerns, has severely restricted imports and exports and the movement of people. Gazans are not allowed to farm in the mile-wide Israeli declared buffer zone on the border: an area with some of its best arable land. Add to that an intermittent power supply and almost every household relying on tanker trucks to deliver their water.”

Notably listeners heard no explanation of those “security concerns” and the words Hamas and terrorism did not cross the BBC presenter’s lips. The inconvenient fact that the Gaza Strip also has a land border with Egypt was likewise airbrushed from Thomas’ portrayal.

Imports to the Gaza Strip are of course not “severely restricted” unless they come under the category of weapons or dual-use goods that can be employed for terror purposes and obviously that does not include food. Even anti-Israel NGOs do not claim that the buffer zone (the width of which varies from place to place) is a mile – i.e. 1,609.34 meters – wide. Gaza’s “intermittent power supply” of course has nothing to do with Israeli counter terrorism measures and everything to do with internal Palestinian disputes. In fact Israel continues to supply more than half of the Gaza Strip’s electricity and about 10 million cubic meters of water a year: hardly the actions of a ‘besieging’ force.

Nevertheless, the BBC World Service is apparently quite happy for its audiences to be misled about the reasons for the chronic power shortages in the Gaza Strip because listeners next heard Younis repeat that falsehood.

Voiceover: “The siege causes loads of problems but the main one is electricity. Sometimes there’s no electricity and when we’re baking or preparing dishes it’s a real issue. And the other problem is the financial situation; people can’t afford much and they don’t all have incomes. Raw materials aren’t available and can be really expensive which means we can’t always make a profit. Sometimes we have to sell at cost price to keep our customers.”

Thomas: “Are there some ingredients it’s impossible to get hold of at all?”

Although Younis replied in the affirmative, the rest of her response showed that the real answer to that question is no.

Voiceover: “Yeah – the ingredients for desserts and cakes aren’t really available and if they are, they’re only in a few shops and are really expensive so we can’t afford to make them. And you just can’t get the kind of ovens we need in Gaza. You can only get them outside. And we often have to throw vegetables away because the electricity cuts out and the fridges go off.”

Thomas: “The electricity then poses a real problem. What about the water supply?”

Voiceover: “You can’t drink the water in Gaza or cook with it. It’s not clean. So we have to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking as well as for washing ingredients to avoid contamination.”

Making no effort to inform listeners why residents of the Gaza Strip face chronic shortages of electricity and clean water, Thomas summed up:

Thomas: “So the electricity supply is intermittent, the water supply is difficult too, you can’t get hold of all of the equipment and the ingredients that you need. It sounds really tough to be running a catering company.”

She later went on to claim that “food is limited” in the Gaza Strip.

Thomas: “Do you think that food and enjoyment of food and the sharing of food become more important when you’re living in the middle of a political situation like this and when food is limited?”

In her closing remarks (25:42) Thomas referred to “inhumane situations” despite the fact that no context to the measures imposed on the Gaza Strip in order to combat inhumane terrorism had been provided.

Thomas: “To me their story of food behind siege lines, like the others we’ve heard, shows not just people’s resilience but also the power of food to comfort and prove our humanity when we’re placed in the most inhumane situations.”

So why did the BBC World Service mislead its audiences by inaccurately framing the Gaza Strip as being ‘under siege’ in accordance with Hamas talking points and misinform them with regard to the background to the chronic problems with water and electricity supplies?

At the end of the interview with Wada Younis, listeners heard that it was set up by the BBC’s Gaza Strip office.

Thomas: “Many thanks to our colleague in Gaza Jihad Masharawi for arranging that interview.”

This is of course far from the first time the employees at the BBC’s Gaza office have amplified Hamas propaganda and neither is it the first time that Masharawi has been involved in producing BBC content that promotes the false notion that the Gaza Strip is ‘under siege’ by Israel.

How the BBC can possibly claim that this item meets editorial guidelines on either accuracy or impartiality is unclear.

Related Articles:

A Gaza Strip water story that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear

Stats defy the BBC’s repeated portrayal of a ‘siege’ on Gaza

BBC’s Knell reports on Gaza power crisis – without the usual distractions

 

 

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More context-free ‘Great Return March’ publicity from the BBC

On October 20th visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page found the corporation’s latest context lacking video promoting the ‘Great Return March’ under the headline “Gaza grenade collector: ‘We’re planting life from death’“.

“Ahmed collects debris at the Israeli Gaza border, often the scene of violent protests.

He takes the items home, then turns them into something new.”

The video is composed of commentary from its protagonist and background information from the BBC.

BBC: “The Grenade Collector”

Ahmed: “I made this flower-pot. These flowers that you see, represent life. We say – we are planting life from death.”

BBC: “This is the border between Gaza and Israel. Palestinians have been protesting since March 2018 in support of the declared right of return for Palestinian refugees. Human rights groups accuse Israeli troops of using excessive force. Israel says its troops have only opened fire in self-defence. Ahmed Abu Ataya collects the remnants of the tear-gas canisters.”

Ahmed: “I’m Ahmed Abu Ataya. I’m 48 years old.”

BBC: “Ahmed takes the debris home.”

Ahmed: “This is a tear-gas grenade. It’s the biggest type of grenade dropped by the army of the Occupation [Israel], on the Gaza protesters. I made crutches. These represent the wounded Palestinians. I made prayer beads. It’s true that they are dangerous. But I make myself do this to prevent others from getting hurt. I open the grenade, fix it, and I deactivate the fuse. We are people who love life more than death.”

BBC: “A few weeks later, Ahmed was shot in the knee during a protest. He was treated in hospital, and is now home with his family.”

As we see this video fails to provide viewers with any significant background information concerning the violent rioting deliberately initiated, facilitated and executed by Palestinian terror factions in the Gaza Strip which is now in its seventh month. BBC audiences hear nothing of the attacks on Israeli security personnel using real grenades, guns and IEDs, the breaches of the border fence or the arson attacks that have destroyed thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves in Israel. Neither are they told that the aim of the so-called ‘right of return’ touted by the organisers of this violence is to eradicate the Jewish state.

Notably, many of the additional outlets which have similarly promoted Abu Ataya and his family are Hamas linked outfits such as MEMO and Palinfo.  

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Yair Rosenberg notes “13 Inconvenient Truths About What Has Been Happening in Gaza“.

“The protests on Monday were not about President Donald Trump moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and have in fact been occurring weekly on the Gaza border since March. They are part of what the demonstrators have dubbed “The Great March of Return”—return, that is, to what is now Israel. (The Monday demonstration was scheduled months ago to coincide with Nakba Day, an annual occasion of protest; it was later moved up 24 hours to grab some of the media attention devoted to the embassy.) The fact that these long-standing Palestinian protests were mischaracterized by many in the media as simply a response to Trump obscured two disquieting realities: First, that the world has largely dismissed the genuine plight of Palestinians in Gaza, only bothering to pay attention to it when it could be tenuously connected to Trump. Second, that many Palestinians do not simply desire their own state and an end to the occupation and settlements that began in 1967, but an end to the Jewish state that began in 1948.”

2) At the Forward, Einat Wilf has an essay titled “The Gaza Protest Is About Ending Israel“.

“The Palestinian demand for “return” has been shaped in the wake of the 1949 failure to prevent the establishment of the state of Israel. Having failed to prevent the UN partition vote diplomatically, and having failed to prevent Israel’s emergence militarily, the demand for “return” was shaped as a continuation of the war against Israel by other means, a war that continues to this day.

It is precisely the reason why despite Israel retreating fully to the 1967 lines between Gaza and Israel, the people of Gaza are demanding to take what is beyond those lines, which they still believe is very much theirs.

If the war is ever to end with true peace, the Palestinians as well as the Arab and Islamic world at large have to come to accept the Jewish people as an indigenous people who have come home and who have an equal and legitimate right to their ancestral land.”

3) At the JCPA, Jonathan Halevi analyses a press release put out by Hamas on May 14th and presumably seen by the BBC.

“If, in the past, Hamas counted its victories according to the number of Israeli casualties, today it measures victory according to the number of Palestinian casualties. Hamas is interested in flowing Palestinian blood. Its press release mentioned its hope that these events would lead to a broad intifada in the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel, and various major cities. In other words, Hamas perceives Palestinian blood as an explosive material, the purpose of which is to threaten regional stability in a way that will help it to build a coalition against Israel and weaken it from within through an intifada of Israeli Arabs. Thus, for the purpose of a reaching a broader audience, Hamas did not immediately respond to the killing of Palestinians who attacked IDF soldiers (or to an Israeli air force attack on Hamas targets). This also contradicts its repeated promises to the Palestinian public that its armed activists would follow the participants in the march and protect them if the IDF opened fire on them.”

4) The High Level Military Group has published a report about the ‘Great Return March’.

“Hamas’s use of actual smoke and mirrors to conceal its aggressive manoeuvring on the Gaza border is the perfect metaphor for a strategy that has no viable military purpose but seeks to deceive the international community into criminalising a democratic state defending its citizens.

The UN and EU, NGOs, government officials and media — primary targets for Hamas — have been willingly taken in. For example a Guardian headline, ‘The use of lethal force to cow nonviolent demonstrations by Palestinians’, blatantly misrepresents the violent reality that has been plain for all to see. Likewise the NGO Human Rights Watch claims that we are seeing a movement to ‘affirm Palestinians’ internationally-recognised right of return’.

In reality these demonstrations are far from peaceful and do not pursue any so-called ‘right of return’. Rather they are carefully planned and orchestrated military operations intended to break through the border of a sovereign state and commit mass murder in the communities beyond, using their own civilians as cover. The purpose: to criminalise and isolate the State of Israel.”

 

BBC’s Gaza casualty figures source shows its reliability

As we have documented, BBC reports on the events along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip since March 30th have repeatedly quoted Palestinian casualty figures provided by the “health ministry” in Gaza without clarifying that it is controlled by Hamas – the same terror group co-organising the ‘Great Return March’ – and thus obviously not an impartial or reliable source.

On April 14th the BBC Gaza office’s Rushdi Abualouf sent a rather cryptic tweet:

Obviously if Israel denied targeting four members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, then somebody must have claimed that it did and in this case that was the Gaza health ministry spokesman who, as reported by various Palestinian sources, initially claimed that the four had been killed by “Israeli shelling”.

Khaled Abu Toameh explains the story at the Times of Israel:

“Palestinian terror organization Islamic Jihad said Saturday that four of its members were killed in an accidental explosion near the Gaza Strip border with Israel.

The group said in a statement that the four died during “preparations,” without giving further details. Army Radio reported that the terrorists were killed while carrying explosives in an all-terrain vehicle, suggesting the blast may have been a “work accident.” AFP said they were riding a tuk tuk vehicle which exploded a few hundred meters from the border with Israel. […]

The Hamas-controlled Health Ministry initially claimed the blast east of Rafah in southern Gaza was caused by an Israeli strike. The IDF denied any involvement in the incident and said none of its forces had opened fire in the area.”

That, of course, is the same ‘health ministry’ which has been providing ‘Great Return March’ casualty figures since March 30th that have been unquestioningly promoted by Rushdi Abualouf (see for example here, here, here, here, here and here) and his BBC colleagues without any independent verification.

Related Articles:

When does the BBC need ‘independent verification’ – and when not?

 

No BBC reporting on preparations for upcoming Gaza border stunt

As at least one BBC reporter is aware, plans for a further day of rioting on Friday, March 6th along the border between Israel on the Gaza Strip include the burning of thousands of vehicle tyres.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

“In the past several days, groups of young Gazans have been collecting old tires around the Strip and bringing them to the border.

Palestinians intend to light the tires on fire to blur the vision of the soldiers on the Israeli side of the security fence, according to a Gaza-based source familiar with preparations for what he called “the Friday of Old Tires.

“The hope is that the soldiers will not be able to shoot because the thick, black smoke will block their line of vision,” he said in a phone call with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.”

Israel has alerted the World Health Organisation to the environmental and health damage that will result from that planned action.  Additional preparations include instructions to participants:

“Instructions shared widely on Palestinian social media encouraged Gazans to not wear clothing that would stand out, and to keep their faces covered, as Israeli drones will be taking pictures of those present and will be able to identify them quickly.

The recommendations on one widely shared video urged Gazans not to wear clothes they sport in their Facebook profile pictures.

“Only Palestinian flags are to be brought to the demonstration so as not to reveal your political affiliation,” said the narrator in the video.

Moreover, women were encouraged to bring mirrors and laser pointers in order to blind IDF soldiers on the other side of the border.”

Hamas has also put out instructions to its members and has promised cash payments to those killed or injured in the ‘Great Return March’ rioting.

“The Hamas terrorist group which rules the Gaza Strip on Thursday paid the families of Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces on the border.

In a statement, a spokesperson the Gaza rulers pledged $3,000 to the relatives of those killed by Israeli fire. Palestinians injured by Israeli troops in the clashes would also receive $200-$500 in compensation from the terror group, depending on the level of injury, the Hamas spokesman said.

The terror group began distributing the money on Thursday, according to Palestinian media.”

With all that information in the public domain, it will be interesting to see whether or not the BBC continues to portray the pre-planned propaganda initiated by Hamas and other terror factions in the Gaza Strip as ‘peaceful demonstrations’ and Israel’s response as ‘disproportionate’.

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

BBC again fails to adequately clarify Hamas’ role in Gaza border agitprop

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

 

 

 

 

Selective BBC reporting on terrorists destroying archaeological treasures

Over the past three years the BBC has produced a lot of commendable reporting on the subject of the destruction of archaeological treasures by the ISIS terror group – for example:

IS are ‘demolishing’ ancient sites in Iraq

Islamic State ‘destroys ancient Iraq statues in Mosul’

Palmyra: Islamic State’s demolition in the desert

History destroyed: The ruins of Mosul Museum

Museum of Lost Objects: The Winged Bull of Nineveh

Museum of Lost Objects: The Lion of al-Lat

The archaeological treasures IS failed to destroy

Earlier this month the destruction of another important Middle Eastern archaeological site made headlines.

“Palestinian and French archaeologists began excavating Gaza’s earliest archaeological site nearly 20 years ago, unearthing what they believe is a rare 4,500-year-old Bronze Age settlement.

But over protests that grew recently, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have systematically destroyed the work since seizing power a decade ago, allowing the flattening of this hill on the southern tip of Gaza City to make way for construction projects, and later military bases. In its newest project, Hamas-supported bulldozers are flattening the last remnants of excavation. […]

Tel Es-Sakan (hill of ash) was the largest Canaanite city between Palestine and Egypt […]

“Today the complete southern facade of the Tel is erased,” said [archaeologist] Humbert. In previous years, faces and ramparts on other sides were also destroyed. “Now it is destroyed all around,” he said. […]

In 2009 and 2012, the expansion of universities destroyed the western and northern facades of Tel El-Sakan. People displaced during three wars between Hamas and Israel set up temporary dwellings on the eastern side.

The southern front remained, but Hamas says it needs the land to compensate some of its senior employees, who have only received partial salaries from the cash-strapped group.”

Calling on UNESCO for help, local professionals and members of the public in the Gaza Strip have held protests to try to prevent the destruction.

As was the case in 2013 when Hamas bulldozed a 3,000 year old harbour in Gaza, the BBC has to date not found this particular story about a terror group destroying archaeological treasures newsworthy.

Related Articles:

Limits to BBC interest in Middle East historical sites

Erasing Gaza’s Jewish history with the help of the BBC

BBC’s Alkashif slips gratuitous Israel mentions into Gaza Greek god story

Another Gaza missile attack and BBC silence continues

At around 9 p.m. on the evening of August 8th residents of Ashkelon and the Hof Ashkelon district in the western Negev had to scramble for cover as sirens warned of an incoming missile fired from the Gaza Strip.

“The army said the projectile struck an open area in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

No injuries were immediately reported, and soldiers were searching the area, the IDF said.”

Several hours later Israel responded with strikes on two Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip.

Despite at least one employee at the BBC’s Gaza office being aware of those events, the attack did not receive any coverage.

Since the beginning of 2017 thirteen separate incidents of missile fire from either the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula have taken place. The BBC’s English language services have not informed audiences of any of those attacks.

The pattern of reporting whereby the vast majority of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip are not covered in the English language but Israel’s response to those attacks is sometimes reported in Arabic has been in evidence since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas. Throughout 2016 just one of the ten attacks that took place received BBC coverage in the English language.

A similar policy of omission appears to have been adopted regarding missile attacks perpetrated by a terrorist group located in a neighbouring country, with all of the four attacks launched from the Sinai Peninsula since the beginning of 2017 having been ignored by the BBC’s English language services.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores two more missile attacks from Gaza 

Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

Although the BBC was not among them, numerous media outlets reported last week that Hamas is building a new buffer zone along the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

“The Hamas interior ministry has begun to prepare a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and its border with Egypt. Websites associated with the Hamas posted on Wednesday photographs of bulldozers clearing ground dozens of meters in width along the border.

The ministry stated that the works were intended to bolster security and strengthen the organization’s control along the border. It also said a 12-kilometer patrol road with guard posts, lighting and cameras along it will be paved along the border.

Gaza security forces chief Tawfiq Abu Naim said the project was agreed upon during the last visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt. The buffer zone will be 100 meters wide (approx. 320 feet), stretching into the Palestinian side of the border, he said. It will be a closed military zone and will help monitor the border and prevent infiltration and smuggling.

“The message to the Egyptian side is a calming one: Egyptian national security is part of Palestinian national security, and we will not let the peace along the southern border be disturbed,” Abu Naim said.

Sources in Gaza told Haaretz that the works will force a lot of families out of their homes. Hamas will have to either pay these families compensation or find them alternative housing.”

That recent visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt also appears to have germinated collaboration between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, as Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

“Last month, Hamas leaders traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials and representatives of Dahlan, on ways of ending the “humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip. It was the first meeting of its kind between Dahlan’s men and Hamas leaders.

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, disclosed that the two sides reached “understandings” over a number of issues, including the reopening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and allowing entry of medicine and fuel for the power plants in the Gaza Strip. […]

The unexpected rapprochement between Dahlan and Hamas has already resulted in the return of some of Dahlan’s loyalists to the Gaza Strip. Now, everyone is waiting to see if and when Dahlan himself will be permitted to return to his home in the Gaza Strip.

Sources in the Gaza Strip believe that the countdown for Dahlan’s return has begun. The sources also believe that he may be entrusted with serving as “prime minister” of a new government, while Hamas remains in charge of overall security in the Gaza Strip.”

If that is indeed the case, then Mahmoud Abbas’ recent steps designed to pressure Hamas would appear to have backfired, as Ha’aretz points out:

“Dahlan’s associates have leaked information to the Arabic-language media regarding much bigger plans. Dahlan, it is said, is about to be appointed the new prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, with Hamas’ consent. […]

But Israeli defense officials were skeptical about the media report. It appears that things haven’t been finalized. Dahlan is due to meet with Hamas officials shortly. […]

The Gaza initiative of Dahlan, who has deep ties with Egyptian intelligence, indicates that he, like Hamas and Egypt, also sees that Abbas is in a position of weakness. Abbas’ recent meetings with envoys for Donald Trump ended in disappointment. The extent of the U.S. president’s determination to jump-start the peace process remains to be seen, and the PA has been suffering worsening economic problems of its own amid dwindling contributions from the Gulf states.”

As has been noted here on many occasions, the topic of internal Palestinian politics in general is one that has long been under-reported by the BBC and the simmering rivalry between Abbas and Dahlan has been serially ignored. As this story develops – and despite the fact that the BBC is one of the few media organisations to have a bureau in Gaza – audiences once again lack the background information that would enable its understanding.

Related Articles:

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

 

 

BBC ignores another Gaza tunnels story

Hamas’ efforts to rebuild the network of cross-border attack tunnels destroyed in 2014 and the terrorist organisation’s related misappropriation of construction materials intended for the rebuilding and repair of civilian dwellings are topics which have been serially under-reported throughout the three years since that conflict took place and over a year has passed since the BBC last produced any coverage of that subject.

Another such story recently emerged when a tunnel was discovered in the Maghazi district of the Gaza Strip.

“The tunnel was discovered by workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on June 1 under two schools in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip near the city of Deir al-Balah. […]

The tunnel, between two and three meters underground, passes under the Maghazi Elementary Boys A&B School and the Maghazi Preparatory Boys School, and was built both westward into the Palestinian enclave and eastward toward the security fence with Israel, according to UNRWA.

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said Friday that the tunnel “has no entry or exit points on the premises nor is it connected to the schools or other buildings in any way.”

“UNRWA condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” he said.

Gunness said the agency had “robustly intervened and protested to Hamas in Gaza”.

He said UNRWA will seal the tunnel, which was discovered while the schools were empty during the summer holiday.

Hamas, for its part, denied that it or any other terror group built a tunnel under the two UN schools. The organization on Friday “strongly condemned” the UNRWA revelation, saying it would be exploited by Israel to “justify its crimes.”

The terror group denied it built the tunnel and said it had clarified the issue “with all factions and resistance forces, who clearly stated they had no actions related to the resistance in the said location,” the movement said, adding that it respected UNRWA’s work.”

Despite the discovery of weapons in UNRWA schools and the firing of missiles from such locations during the 2014 conflict as well as the recent scandals (unreported by the BBC) concerning Hamas and UNRWA staff, the BBC’s Gaza bureau has to date shown no interest in reporting this story (of which its staff are obviously aware), let alone in investigating how a tunnel beneath two schools could have been constructed apparently under the noses – and ears – of UNRWA employees. 

 

Follow up on a Gaza story ignored by the BBC

Back in February we noted that – despite its practice of extensively amplifying UNRWA messaging – the BBC had chosen not to cover the story of an employee of that UN agency who was suspended after he was allegedly elected to the Hamas political bureau.

“On February 23rd the ITIC published a report concerning the election of the chairman of the Hamas-controlled UNRWA staff union to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip.

“One of the newly-elected members is Dr. Suhail Ahmed Hassan al-Hindi, who holds a PhD from Cairo University (his thesis dealt with improving the conditions of Palestinians teachers under the Israeli “occupation”). Since 2012 he has been the chairman of the UNRWA staff union in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas. […] In addition to his role as union chairman, he is also the principal of the Palestine Boys’ Elementary School, an UNRWA school for refugee children.”

Both Hamas and al Hindi denied that he had been elected to the Hamas political bureau despite reports in the Palestinian media and UNRWA’s Chris Gunness issued a statement saying that the organisation “has neither uncovered nor received evidence to contradict the staff member’s denial that he was elected to political office”.

On February 26th the head of COGAT commented on the issue and on the same day, al Hindi was suspended by UNRWA.”

A similar story that emerged the following month was likewise ignored by the BBC.

On April 22nd it emerged that al Hindi is no longer employed by UNRWA.

“The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Saturday a Gaza staffer suspected of having been elected to Hamas’s leadership no longer works for the agency.

Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said that Suhail al-Hindi was no longer employed by the UN Relief and Works Agency. He declined to say whether al-Hindi had quit or was fired, saying the agency doesn’t “discuss the terms of departure of individual staff members.””

However, the ITIC – quoting Hamas linked sources – reported that al Hindi was presented by UNRWA with the choice of resignation (together with preservation of his social benefits) or dismissal. The ITIC also noted that it is unclear whether al Hindi’s resignation applies both to his position as chairman of the UNRWA staff union and his concurrent post as the principal of an UNRWA school.

Given that, according to UNRWA figures, the UK was the agency’s third most generous donor in 2015, members of the British public would no doubt have been interested to see some serious investigative reporting from their national broadcaster on the issue of alleged links between the UN agency they help fund and the terror organisation that is proscribed by the British government.