No BBC coverage of energy sector agreements between Israel and the PA

The topic of Israel’s withholding of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority has cropped up time and time again in the BBC’s Middle East coverage over the years. However, the BBC has repeatedly failed to adequately inform audiences of the relevant context of the PA’s massive debt to the Israel Electric Corporation and the reasons why that debt has accumulated.

BBC promotes selective narrative on PA economy

Critical omission in BBC News report on PA tax revenues

BBC again avoids informing audiences about PA debt to Israel

Multiple breaches of BBC editorial guidelines in BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ report from Bethlehem

Last week an agreement was reached in an effort to try to solve the perennial problem of that PA debt to the IEC.pylons

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement on Tuesday to resolve the Palestinians’ outstanding debt of almost NIS 2 billion ($530 million) to the Israel Electric Corporation.

Under the agreement, the PA will pay Israel NIS 570 million ($132 million), putting an end to the 10-year debt crisis. The balance of NIS 1.5 billion ($397 million) will be paid in 48 installments, according to AFP, which added that a portion of the debt — likely interest accrued over the years — is expected to be waived. […]

A joint Israeli-Palestinian committee will be formed to oversee the transfer of responsibility to the PA of power lines that supply electricity to Palestinian cities in the West Bank.”

The same week also saw an additional development in the energy sector.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to move ahead with plans to build a gas pipeline to Gaza in an effort to boost energy and water supplies to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave. […]

A source in the PA told The Times of Israel that Palestinian officials were told the Israeli political echelon gave the go-ahead Tuesday. Israel and the Palestinians are set to jointly request funding for the pipeline from a number of donor countries. A committee comprised of representatives of such donor states is set to meet in New York later this month. […]

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Netherlands will help Israel build the Israel-Gaza pipeline.

“We want to help the population of Gaza and the first step is to improve the supply of energy and water… including laying a gas pipeline,” Netanyahu said during a two-day visit to The Netherlands at the beginning of this month.”

Given that the topic of the chronic electricity crisis is a regular feature in BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip (and frequently inaccurately attributed to Israel), one might have expected the corporation to report this news. However, neither of those examples of cooperation between Israel and the PA has received any BBC coverage.

US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

Last week the US State Department announced the designation of the former Hamas interior minister – and occasional BBC quoteeFathi Hamad (also spelt Hammad).

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. Hammad served as Hamas’s Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, which is a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Al-Aqsa TV was designated in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury under E.O. 13224.”

Readers may recall that when Israeli forces carried out strikes on communications antennae on buildings housing Hamas’ TV stations (including Al-Aqsa TV) during the conflict in 2012, the Foreign Press Association – which at the time was headed by the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar – and the then BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison promoted the false accusation that Israel was “targeting journalists”.

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BBC covers US terror designations for Hamas and Hizballah operatives – but not in English

BBC reports on three terror attacks without using the word terror

A number of terror attacks which took place on Friday, September 16th were the topic of an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on that day under the title “Spate of attacks on Israelis leaves three assailants dead“.art-terror-16-9

The report relates to three separate attacks. An attempted stabbing at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem by a Jordanian national who had entered Israel the previous day is described thus:

“In East Jerusalem, a Jordanian man was killed by security forces after trying to stab police outside Damascus Gate, according to Israeli authorities.

The site has been the scene of multiple attacks on Israelis, and killings of assailants, in previous months.”

A vehicular attack near Kiryat Arba by a Palestinian couple is described as follows:

“In one [attack], a Palestinian was shot dead after ramming his vehicle into civilians at a bus stop near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, the military said. Three people were wounded.

Another Palestinian who was involved in the attack was shot and wounded, officials said.”

A stabbing attack at a checkpoint in Hebron is portrayed as follows:

“Hours later, a Palestinian who stabbed and wounded a soldier at a junction near Hebron was shot dead, officials said.”

Notably – but entirely predictably – despite the fact that it describes three separate terror attacks, the word ‘terror’ does not appear in this report at all.

On the same day the driver of a bus travelling from Jerusalem to Ma’ale Adumim was injured in an additional attack. The next day – September 17th – a soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. Early on the morning of September 18th, a soldier was wounded in additional attack in Efrat. Despite still being available online, the BBC’s report was not updated to include any of those attacks and no stand-alone reporting of them was published.

Although the BBC has had almost a year in which to independently verify the circumstances of the deaths of Palestinian terrorists, it continues to employ the qualifying “Israel says” formula and erases from audience view the four foreign nationals also killed during terror attacks since last October.

“Thirty-five Israelis been killed in a wave of knife, gun and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs since last October.

More than 200 Palestinians – mostly attackers, Israel says – have also been killed in that period.”

The article closes with another now standard BBC mantra that amplifies PLO messaging:

“Israel says Palestinian incitement has fuelled the attacks. The Palestinian leadership has blamed frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation.”

As regular readers will be aware, the corporation has failed to provide its audiences with any meaningful reporting on the topic of incitement and glorification of terrorism by official Palestinian bodies throughout the past year. It has also refrained from informing them of the existence of additional factors underpinning the violence such as religious ideology.

One of the perpetrators of the vehicular attack reported in this article clarified her motivation in writing.

“A Palestinian woman who took part in a car-ramming attack that injured three Israeli teenagers last week left a note stating her motive: to atone for her premarital relationship with the driver of the vehicle.

Raghad Khadour, 20, detailed her reasons for joining her boyfriend — who drove a pickup truck on Friday into a group of Israelis waiting at a bus stop outside the Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank — in a written testament, Arabic media sources said.”

Since that motive does not fit in with the BBC’s much promoted mantra of “frustration rooted in decades of Israeli occupation”, it is of course highly unlikely that BBC audiences will be informed of the real background to an attack the corporation cannot even bring itself to accurately define as terrorism.

BBC’s Gaza correspondent amplifies Hamas’ version of a story

On September 9th a group of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip initiated a violent riot at the border fence east of al Bureij. The BBC did not report on the incident but later the same evening its Gaza correspondent Rushdi Abualouf sent the following Tweet:

abualouf-tweet-1-9-9

Around half an hour later, he sent a second Tweet relating to the same incident. 

abualouf-tweet-2-9-9

Abualouf’s followers would of course have understood from those Tweets that Israel was responsible for the youth’s death. But is the amplified claim from the Hamas-controlled health ministry accurate and does Abualouf’s Tweeted report tell the whole story?

Ha’aretz reports:

“Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said Abdel-Rahman Al-Dabbagh was killed by an Israeli bullet to the head during the border clash in the central Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said troops had sought to contain the violence on the other side of the border fence and had used only tear gas.

“Dozens of rioters breached the buffer zone and attempted to damage the security (border) fence. … Forces stationed at the border used tear gas that led to the dispersal of the riot. Following a preliminary review, the Israel Defense Forces did not conduct the reported shooting,” a military statement said.”

Other media outlets made amendments to their reporting on the story after being contacted by CAMERA.

CAMERA Elicits Times of Israel Correction on Disputed Gaza Death

AFP, Reuters Add IDF’s Account to Captions on Disputed Gaza Death

As readers may know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines apply to social media postings by its journalists as well as all other content and the corporation also has specific guidance relating to the use of social media.

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.” […]

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC.”

Abualouf’s amplification of Hamas’ claim should obviously therefore have been balanced with an additional Tweet informing his followers of the IDF’s statement concerning the incident.

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BBC’s Gaza journalist Tweets PA propaganda story

 

 

BBC ignores – in English – another projectile launched from Gaza

Last month visitors to the BBC News website saw the first English language report on a missile attack from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the year – albeit over 24 hours after the incident took place. That of course does not mean that there had been no missile attacks on Israeli civilian communities between January and August: seven previous missile attacks, along with twelve mortar attacks, had in fact taken place during that time. However, the BBC had chosen not to report them to its English-speaking audiences.

Late on the evening of September 14th another attack took place.

“The projectile hit an empty field in the Eshkol region, next to the southern Gaza Strip, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces.

As Israel’s alert system identified that the projectile was bound for an unpopulated area, no siren was sounded in the region.”

The IDF later responded with strikes on three Hamas installations in the Gaza Strip.

This time the BBC reverted to its previous pattern of reporting: while there was no coverage of the attack on the BBC News English language website, visitors to the BBC Arabic site found a report on the Israeli response to the attack.bbc-arabic-response-missile-fire-14-9

The BBC’s record of reporting cross-border missile fire since the beginning of 2016 is as follows:

January 1stBBC News ignores Gaza missile attacks, BBC Arabic reports Israeli response

January 24thBBC News ignores Gaza missile attack again – in English

March 11thBBC News continues to ignore missile attacks on Israelis – in English

March 15thmissile attack not reported.

May 6thPatchy and selective BBC News reporting of Gaza border incidents

May 25thBBC News fails to report another Gaza missile attack to English-speakers

July 1stAnother Gaza missile attack ignored by the BBC

August 21st: Response reported in Arabic, attack and response reported a day later in English.

September 14th: Response reported in Arabic.

The same pattern of reporting has been evident since the end of the conflict between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip in 2014, meaning that English-speaking BBC audiences – including its funding public – are still not receiving the services pledged to them

 

PA elections finally get some BBC coverage after postponement

On September 8th the BBC News website produced its first article dedicated to the topic of the municipal elections which were supposed to have taken place in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip on October 8th but have now been postponed by a Ramallah court.

Prior to the appearance of that article – titled “Palestinian court delays municipal elections after challenges” – the sole reference to those elections seen by BBC audiences since their announcement came in the form of a fourteen word-long sentence in a report on a different topic.pa-elections-art

One might have assumed that coverage of the first election in a decade in which the rival parties Hamas and Fatah were set to take part would have been considered essential for the enhancement of BBC audience understanding of Palestinian internal affairs – especially as elections for both the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PA president have not been held during that time.

The BBC apparently thought differently and so audiences have received no insight whatsoever into the background to the municipal elections or the type of campaigning material put out by the parties involved. Neither have they been informed of stories such as Fatah’s nomination of a convicted terrorist as a candidate or the ‘concealment’ of some female candidates.

“In a move that has outraged Palestinian women and various Palestinian factions, a number of Palestinian lists contesting the upcoming local elections, scheduled to take place on October 8, have decided to omit the names and photos of female candidates.

Instead of referring to the female candidates by name and publishing their pictures, the electoral lists are using the terms “the wife of” or “sister.” […]

The decision to conceal the names and photos of female candidates is seen in the context of the increased “Islamization” of Palestinian society, which is already considered highly conservative.

Apart from being a severe blow to the struggle of Palestinian women for equality, the move is in violation of the 2005 Palestinian Local Election Law, which stipulates that candidates must be fully identified by name, age, address and registration number in the electoral list.

This anti-woman undertaking is not taking place only in the Gaza Strip, under the control of the Islamist Hamas movement. It is also baring its fangs in some parts of the West Bank, which is ruled by the Western-funded Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Mahmoud Abbas.”

The BBC’s report on the postponement of the municipal elections ostensibly informs readers of the circumstances behind the court’s decision.

“Thursday’s ruling by the high court in the West Bank city of Ramallah came after a Hamas-controlled court in Gaza disqualified several candidate lists drawn up by Fatah on technical grounds.

A challenge was also lodged by a lawyer over the inability to hold the vote in occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after seizing it in the 1967 war but Palestinians want to be the capital of a future state.

“Elections can’t take place in one place and not the other,” said the presiding judge.

“The elections can’t take place in Jerusalem and its neighbourhoods. Also, there are problems with the formation of courts in Gaza… Therefore, the court decides to stop the elections.””

However, one relevant aspect of the story is absent from the BBC’s coverage.

“Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the election process was seriously harmed when the Gaza courts, which are essentially Hamas-run, decided to annul the lists of candidates associated with Fatah in Gaza.

 “These are courts that are illegitimate and they made an illegitimate decision, and so the PA Supreme Court cannot accept a situation in which there are two separate court systems: one in the state of Gaza Strip and another in the state of the West Bank,” they said.”

Despite the postponement of the elections having its roots in the Hamas-Fatah split, the BBC nevertheless closed its report by touting the short-lived 2014 ‘unity deal’ and with a euphemistic and unhelpful reference to “deep divisions”.

“Although Fatah and Hamas formally agreed a unity deal and a technocratic government in 2014, deep divisions remain, resulting in political paralysis.”

 The BBC itself reported the unilateral dissolution of that “technocratic government” over a year ago.

In January 2015 BBC audiences saw Yolande Knell attribute the failure of Palestinian democracy to flourish to “Israeli occupation” in a highly partisan report. The lack of serious BBC coverage of the background to the 2016 municipal elections once again demonstrates that – despite its obligation to enhance audience understanding of international affairs – internal Palestinian affairs are topic serially and severely under-reported by the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism”.

Update: A few hours after the appearance of this post, an article titled “Palestinian women fight elections name ‘censorship’” appeared in the ‘Feature’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. 

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Yolande Knell exploits BBC’s Democracy Day for political messaging

BBC News amplifies PA’s spin on Abbas KGB story

On September 8th an article titled “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ‘was KGB agent’” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. The article relates to a story first promoted by Channel 1 in Israel the previous day and it informs readers that:abbas-kgb-story  

“Israeli researchers have alleged that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, worked for the Soviet intelligence agency the KGB in the early 1980s.

Researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem say a Soviet-era document lists him as an agent. […]

Researchers Gideon Remez and Isabella Ginor said the document, in an archive at Cambridge University, shows that Mr Abbas was a KGB spy when he lived in Damascus in Syria.

The document, which the University of Cambridge’s Churchill Archives Centre confirmed was authentic, was smuggled in to the UK by a defector called Vasily Mitrokhin.

It is entitled “KGB developments – Year 1983” and Mr Abbas identifies him [sic] by the codename “Krotov” or “mole”.

“‘Krotov’ – Abbas, Mahmoud, born 1935, origin Palestine, member of the executive committee of Fatah, PLO, Damascus, agent of the KGB,” says the brief entry.”

However, the report also promotes irrelevant linkage between that story and a completely unrelated topic.

“The [PA] president’s spokesman described the claim as an absurd Israeli “smear”.

He suggested it was made to derail attempts to re-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. […]

An adviser to the [PA] president told the BBC the allegation was made up by Israel.

He said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained reluctant to meet Mr Abbas in a potential new round of peace talks organised by Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB staff member.””

Readers of the article are not told how “Israel” supposedly “made up” documents in the Cambridge University archives and despite uncritically amplifying the spin of PA officials, the article does not adequately clarify that the academic researchers have no connection to the Israeli government.  

Towards the end of the article, readers are told that:

“Mr Abbas was born in 1935 in what was then British mandate of Palestine. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 his family fled to the Syrian capital, where he was educated.”

In fact, historical record shows that it is more likely that Abbas’ family decided to leave Tsfat (Safed) before Israel declared independence on May 14th 1948.

“And what about Safed? Having declined an offer by Gen. Hugh Stockwell, commander of the British forces in northern Palestine, to mediate a truce, the Arabs responded to the British evacuation of the city with a heavy assault on the tiny Jewish community, less than a quarter their size. “Upon the British evacuation on April 16, we occupied all the city’s strategic positions: the Citadel, the Government House, and the police post on Mount Canaan,” recalled a local Arab fighter.

“We were the majority, and the feeling among us was that we would defeat the Jews with sticks and rocks.”

What this prognosis failed to consider was the tenacity of the Jewish resolve to hold on to Safed, awarded by the partition resolution to the prospective Jewish state, on the one hand, and the intensity of Arab flight psychosis, on the other. As tens of thousands of Arabs streamed out of Tiberias and Haifa within days of the British evacuation of Safed, members of the city’s leading families and ordinary residents alike decided that now was the time to escape – which is probably when Abbas’s affluent family fled. In the words of a British intelligence report, “Such is their state of fear [that] Arabs are beginning to evacuate Safed although the Jews have not yet attacked them.” […]

On May 2, following the bombing of the Arab quarter by the deafening albeit highly ineffective home-made “David’s mortar,” scores of Arabs fled Safed en route to the Jordan Valley, accompanied by a substantial number of Arab Liberation Army fighters. Four days later, the ALA’s regional commander reported that “the majority of the inhabitants have left [Safed’s neighboring] villages.

Their morale has collapsed completely.”

Heavy artillery bombardments of Jewish neighborhoods failed to do the trick, and as the final battle for the city was joined on the night of May 9 a mass flight ensued. By the time fighting was over the next morning, Safed’s entire Arab population had taken to the road; a day later, Hagana patrols reported that “the [Arab] quarter had emptied to a man,” with evacuees leaving behind “a huge quantity of weapons and ammunition.””

The article’s penultimate paragraph quotes a newly arrived BBC journalist currently visiting the Middle East.

“Although the biographical details are correct, the BBC’s Thomas Fessy in Jerusalem notes that the document does not say how and when Mr Abbas would have been recruited, whether he was paid, and how long he might have worked for the KGB.”

Interestingly, the article does not reflect an additional observation from Fessy.

fessy-tweet

As Reuters noted:

“Adding to the intrigue, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, whom Putin has tasked with arranging the Moscow summit, served two stints in the Soviet embassy in Damascus between 1983 and 1994, covering the period in which Abbas was purportedly recruited.

Bogdanov was in the area this week for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.”

Clearly the BBC’s unchallenged amplification of vacuous spin from PA officials detracts from audience understanding of this story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s ME bureau chief flags up Hamas treatment of journalists

On August 22nd the BBC’s Middle East bureau chief put out this Tweet:

Colebourn tweet

The link leads to the following statement from the Foreign Press Association (FPA):

FPA stmt

Readers may recall that two years ago, during the conflict between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip, the FPA found it necessary to put out an even more strongly worded statement concerning Hamas’ treatment of foreign journalists at the time.

FPA statement Hamas Aug 14

Back then, however, BBC audiences were not informed – even via Twitter – of restrictions placed on journalists by the terror group.

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BBC News passes up on an unusual Middle East story

Eighteen months have passed since the BBC last reported on the topic of the sick and wounded Syrians receiving medical care in Israel and so its audiences may not be aware of the fact that the provision of that humanitarian aid continues.

One of the patients arriving at the border earlier this year presented a particular challenge to the medical teams.

“The girl arrived at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa in recent weeks with very serious wounds that she received after finding herself caught in a firefight between rival militias […]

Some two weeks after she arrived at the hospital, after her wounds had nearly healed, Rambam doctors discovered the young girl had cancer.

They refused to release her, insisting that they could not let her cancer go untreated. […]

And so a search began for a bone marrow donor, a search that led to a relative living in a Middle Eastern country designated an “enemy state” under Israeli law, a designation that prevented the relative from entering Israel.

It was at this point that Israel’s security services stepped in, mounting a secret operation in the enemy country that helped smuggle the relative out of that country and into Israel.”

Rambam

Photo credit: Rambam hospital

The treatment was successful and this week the little girl was discharged from hospital.

“Rambam Health Care Campus has treated 140 Syrian civilians, men, women and children over the past three years. However, the departure, yesterday, of a six-year-old girl, “B”, was especially emotional for everyone.  Wearing a white dress, white shoes, and a little silver crown, “B” was the guest of honor at a farewell party held by an entire department, where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze stood together with tears in their eyes, surrounding her with love and concern for the future that awaits her. […]

After all the parting messages, some of which were painstakingly read in Arabic by Jewish doctors and nurses, the mother asked to read her own thank you wishes. In a small voice, she said “I would lie if I said that I expected the kind of humanity I discovered here. I am grateful for your care and sensitivity; may God protect you. And we will always remember what you did for us.””

To date, BBC audiences have not been told this unusual story.

Revisiting a BBC story from 2002

During the Second Intifada, on September 9th 2002, BBC News reported the arrests of three Jerusalem residents in an article titled “Palestinians ‘planned to poison diners’“.Cafe Rimon art 1

“Israel is holding three young Palestinians from East Jerusalem on suspicion of plotting to poison diners at a café in the city.

Two of the men, who were arrested in August, are also suspected of planning to mount a suicide bomb attack.”

Six days later, BBC News produced another report on the same case – “Palestinian ‘poison plan’ cook charged” – in which audiences were told that:

“A Palestinian cook has been charged by the Israeli authorities with plotting to poison customers at a restaurant in West Jerusalem where he used to work

The man – named as 23-year-old Othman Said Kianiya – was arrested last month along with two other Arab residents of East Jerusalem who have already been charged.

All three were alleged to be working on behalf of the militant group Hamas.”

This week the ringleader of the would-be poisoners was released after completing a fourteen-year prison sentence and photographs of his reception in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber show that the BBC’s use of the word “alleged” with regard to Sufian Bakri Abdu’s links to Hamas was superfluous.

Jabel Mukaber 1

Jabel Mukaber 2

Over the last couple of years, BBC reports have variously told audiences that terrorists hailing from Jabal Mukaber were “ground down by the occupation“, angered by the demolition of houses of other terrorists or enraged by “threats to an important Muslim site“. Audience understanding would of course have been enhanced had BBC also covered the topic of the long-standing links of some residents of that Jerusalem neighbourhood to proscribed terrorist organisations and carried out some serious reporting on the much neglected issue of Hamas’ efforts to boost its infrastructure in PA controlled areas.