The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

Last month the BBC aired reports from the Gaza Strip presented by Radio 4’s Mishal Husain which included multiple references to issues concerning water, electricity and sewage.

As was noted here at the time:

“…listeners heard that “more than 90% of the population don’t have access to safe drinking water” and that “the desalination system in Gaza has broken down” because of “electricity”. No effort was made to clarify the full background to those statements or to explain that – as the BBC knows – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip (and resulting problems with water and sewage) has nothing to do with “the blockade”.”

The portrayal of those issues focused mainly on framing them as being primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures while no effort was made to explain the role of Hamas terrorism in bringing about those measures. The effects of Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare, its chronic mismanagement of services and utilities and infrastructure and the influence of the Hamas-Fatah split on the situation in the Gaza Strip were not adequately explained in the BBC’s reporting.

Like other BBC reporters before her, Mishal Husain did not bother to clarify that the “shortage of clean water” in the Gaza Strip is the result of years of over-pumping.

“The coastal aquifer, which is located under the coastal plain of Israel and the Gaza Strip, is the only source of natural water in Gaza. Due to rapid population growth, which in the last decade increased from nearly 1.5 million in 2007 to more than 2 million today, the demand for water in the Gaza Strip has surged. The increased water needs alongside the scarcity of alternative sources of water have led to the extreme over use of the aquifer. While the renewable extraction rate for Gaza’s underground aquifer is about 60 million cubic meters of rain water annually, Palestinians in Gaza have been drawing an estimated 200 million cubic meters a year for over a decade, leading to the infiltration of sea-water into the aquifer, and therefore raising the levels of salinity far beyond WHO health regulations.”

Neither were BBC audiences informed of the effects of Hamas’ failure to address the issue of sewage treatment.

“Gaza’s groundwater has also been extensively contaminated by sewage. The discharge of untreated sewage generated by the two million inhabitants into shallow ponds – which eventually percolates into the aquifer – has caused alarming levels of Nitrate (NO3).”

The chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip, which was exacerbated in 2017 by the Palestinian Authority’s dispute with Hamas, also contributed to the problem.

“Wastewater plants are not fully operating, resulting in more than 100,000 cubic meters of raw or poorly treated sewage being discharged into the sea on a daily basis.”

Notably BBC audiences have heard nothing whatsoever about the health and environmental hazards created by the increased draining of sewage from neighbourhoods in the northern Gaza Strip since summer 2017 into a stream which crosses into Israeli territory. That practice continues and an additional hazard has emerged.

“Due to the dire economic situation in Gaza, the wastewater plant cannot undergo the needed treatments, prompting Palestinians living in the northern neighborhoods of the Strip—Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia—to drain sewage into Nahal Hanun, which crosses Israel and empties into the sea, polluting the groundwater in the process.

In order to stop wastewater flow and reduce the environmental damage, the [Israeli] Water Authority has recently set up a pumping station near the Erez border crossing, which effectively made Israel responsible for water purification of the northern Gaza Strip. Before the Israeli intervention, the moshavim and kibbutzim near the border—Netiv HaAsara, Erez, Yad Mordechai, and Zikim—suffered from a continuous onslaught of mosquitoes and flies. […]

As well as that, massive piles of trash have accumulated in the area bordering the Eshkol Regional Council after three giant landfills were set up along the border fence, leaving the locals to cope with a putrid and toxic smell being carried by the wind across the border. 

The landfills are derelict as dry and wet waste gets mixed up and subsequently burned, increasing the environmental impact.”

BBC reporting on the subject of shortages of water and electricity in the Gaza Strip and the related issue of inadequate sewage treatment nevertheless continues to adhere to the type of framing seen in an edition of ‘Hardtalk’ aired on multiple BBC platforms in November 2018 in which presenter Stephen Sackur told the Israeli minister being interviewed: [emphasis added]

“…you’re saying that Israel’s besieging tactics in Gaza – the fact that Gaza doesn’t really have power supplies that work, it doesn’t have clean water, it has a jobless rate of 60% or more – you’re saying all of this isn’t tough enough; that Israel should be hammering Gaza harder. Is that it?”

Although BBC audiences have long been steered towards the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures, while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis are downplayed or airbrushed from the story, that framing clearly does not meet the BBC’s obligation to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”. 

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

 

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BBC News: yellow vests yes, blue gloves no

BBC audiences have seen plenty of coverage of the ‘gilets jaunes’ protests that began in France in November 2018 and the BBC News website even has a dedicated tab and webpage called “France yellow vest protests” which provides news reports and backgrounders.

Those getting their news from the BBC have however seen no coverage whatsoever of the near-weekly ‘blue glove protests which have been going on since mid-October.

“On a sunny, cold morning in mid-December, more than a thousand Palestinians left their workplaces and gathered in a small square adjacent to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s office in the West Bank.

The group, largely clad in formal attire, started chanting against the newly established Palestinian Social Security Institution and impending tax hikes required to fund it, as members of the PA security forces stood nearby, blocking the road leading to Hamdallah’s office in central Ramallah.

“The people want the fall of the Social Security Institution,” the demonstrators shouted in unison, while also calling for the ouster of Hamdallah and PA Labor Minister Mamoun Abu Shahala. […]

“Everyone here wants a social security system, but with rampant corruption in our government we cannot trust an institution created by it,” 30-year-old Nidal Quran, a teacher, said on the sidelines of the protest in Ramallah. “What if the government one day takes our money we give to the institution to deal with what it says is a financial crisis?”

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians view PA institutions as corrupt, according to polls conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR).

The protests against the social security institution have taken place in Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and other parts of the West Bank, with several Palestinians demonstrating for the first time in their lives.

At the demonstrations, most protesters have worn blue surgical gloves and some have waved blue flags.”

Analysis published by the Washington Institute explains the background to the story:

“The law was created in 2016 by PA president Mahmoud Abbas’s decree, as has been the case with all legislation since the suspension of the Palestinian Legislative Council following Hamas’s 2007 violent takeover of Gaza. It stipulates mandatory contributions by private-sector employers and workers to the Palestinian Social Security Corporation (PSSC): 9% for employers, 7% for employees. Upon reaching age sixty, workers become eligible for a pension.

In light of the dire economic situation in the West Bank, opponents claim the deductions are excessive. They also object to discriminatory provisions in the law, such as one depriving a widow of her deceased husband’s pension if she gains employment, while widowers are not subject to a similar restriction. As for procedure, protestors have decried the lack of consultation during the drafting and enactment of this law since trade unions, private-sector representatives, and civil society organizations were not engaged. They also voice concern that the PA is too unstable and corrupt to reliably manage the funds collected by the PSSC.”

That analysis also explains the significance of the protests.

“…around 61% of West Bankers and 50% of Gaza Strip residents believe they cannot criticize the authority without fear, helping explain their past reluctance to engage in domestic protests.

…the very fact that Palestinians took to the streets to protest, and that these protests were sustained, is a worrying indicator of volatility levels in the West Bank. As already implied, public frustration against the PA can easily shift—or be directed—against Israel. Despite the improved professionalism and effectiveness of the PA security forces, the PA’s eroding political legitimacy complicates the exercise of security control. And in an extreme case, continued lack of legitimacy could even lead to PA collapse, creating a security and political vacuum. Coupled with the tense overall security situation, and with Hamas’s ongoing efforts to foment instability in the West Bank, this could be an explosive mix with impacts not only on the Palestinians but also Israel’s security. The PA’s domestic political woes—as exemplified by the protests against the social security law—are not only a Palestinian problem.”

As has often been observed here in the past, only very occasionally do BBC audiences see stand-alone reports about Palestinian affairs which are not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and do not have an Israel-related component.

“Insight into internal Palestinian politics which would enhance audiences’ comprehension of Palestinian society (as well as the conflict) is relatively rare in BBC coverage. Reporting on social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is even more scarce and thus BBC audiences see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life.”

That editorial policy continues and so while the BBC has produced dozens of reports on the yellow vest protests in recent weeks, audiences have not seen even one report about the protests in Palestinian Authority controlled towns.

Related Articles:

The Palestinian protests the BBC preferred to ignore

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2018 and year end summary

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during December 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 155 incidents took place: 118 in Judea & Samaria, 20 in Jerusalem and 17 in the Gaza Strip sector.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 103 attacks with petrol bombs, 22 attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one arson attack, three shooting attacks, four vehicular attacks, two stabbing attacks, two attacks using grenades and one stone-throwing attack.

Incidents recorded in the Gaza Strip sector included 6 attacks with petrol bombs, 4 attacks using IEDs, one shooting attack, five grenade attacks and one incident of rocket fire.  

Throughout December three people were killed and fourteen wounded in terror attacks.

A shooting attack at Ofra Junction on December 9th in which seven civilians were wounded and which resulted in the death of a newborn baby initially did not receive coverage on the BBC News website.

A shooting attack near Givat Asaf on December 13th in which two members of the security forces were killed and one wounded was reported in an article that also included a brief mention of the earlier Ofra Junction attack.

Also on December 13th two members of the security forces were wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem and a soldier was wounded in a vehicular attack outside Ramallah. Both those incidents were mentioned in the same report on the attack near Givat Asaf.

On December 14th a soldier was wounded in a stabbing attack in Beit El and two days later a civilian was wounded when her car was pelted with rocks. No coverage of those two incidents was seen on the BBC News website and a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on December 29th was also ignored.

In summary, four out of 155 terror attacks – 2.6% – which took place during December 2018 were reported on the BBC News website.

Throughout 2018 the BBC News website reported at most 30.2% of the terror attacks that actually took place and 93.3% of the resulting fatalities.

Related Articles:

No BBC News reporting on Ofra terror attack

More BBC reporting on terror against Israelis without use of the word terror

BBC News website coverage of Gaza Strip missile fire in 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – November 2018

BBC News framing of Iranian forces in Syria

On January 10th an article was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “US to expel every last Iranian boot from Syria – Pompeo”.

“The US will work with allies to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

Mr Pompeo warned there would be no US reconstruction aid for areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until Iran and its proxies had left.”

Most versions of that report go on to include a section headed “Why did Pompeo mention Iran?” in which BBC audiences are told that:

“Iran, alongside Russia, has been supporting the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war, providing arms, military advisers, and reportedly combat troops.” [emphasis added]

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘reportedly’ is as follows:

“According to what some say (used to express the speaker’s belief that the information given is not necessarily true)”

Apparently therefore we can conclude that the BBC is of the opinion that the articles in British papers such as the Telegraph and the Guardian along with reports from media outlets in other countries and agencies such as Reuters about the presence of Iranian troops and militias in Syria are not necessarily true.

Apparently too the BBC believes that statements made by France’s foreign minister on that issue and a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch are not necessarily true.

And it would seem that in the BBC’s view the work done by researchers at a variety of think-tanks on that topic – such as the Washington Institute, the Atlantic Council, the FDD and the Carnegie Endowment – all hinges on information that is not necessarily true.

“Based on a meticulous reading of press reports of funeral services held in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon for Shia foreign fighters killed in Syria and Iraq, 535 Iranian nationals were killed in combat in Syria between January 2012 and January 2018. In comparison, at least 841 Afghan, 112 Iraqi, 1,213 Lebanese, and 153 Pakistani Shia foreign fighters were killed fighting in Syria during the same period.”

The BBC’s public purposes oblige it to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Clearly that obligation is not met when the BBC unnecessarily qualifies information that has been in the public domain for years – and especially when that qualification dovetails with Iran’s long-standing policy of claiming that its presence in Syria is solely in an ‘advisory’ capacity.

 

 

 

An overview of BBC reporting on Operation Northern Shield

On January 13th the IDF announced that with the discovery of a sixth tunnel, it had completed the mission to expose the tunnels dug by the Lebanese terror organisation Hizballah which passed under the international border, infiltrating Israeli territory.

“The tunnel, which had been dug at a depth of 55 meters (180 feet), was the most important one detected since the operation began in December, IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said.

According to him, the stairs were built in the tunnel which contained “railroads to transport equipment, garbage, lighting equipment and ladders to enter Israeli territory. A lot of resources were invested in this tunnel.”

With the latest tunnel discovered and its destruction in the coming days, he added, “the threat posed by the tunnels has been eliminated.” […]

While the military announced the end of the operation, it noted that it “is simultaneously monitoring several locations where Hezbollah is digging underground structures which have yet to cross into Israel.””

With Operation Northern Shield now coming to an end, this is an appropriate time to review the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of that story throughout the six weeks of the mission.

The story of an internationally recognised terrorist group tunneling under an international border into a neighbouring country with the intention of carrying out a large-scale attack actually got remarkably little BBC coverage.

Visitors to the BBC News website saw two reports throughout the six-week operation:

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation  December 4th 2018

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels December 19th 2018

Listeners to BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ programme also heard two reports on the same days:

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels December 4th 2018

Razia Iqbal: “Well given that a war with Israel would not be in the interests of Hizballah, one wonders about the…err…the accuracy or the factual accuracy of those tunnels being potentially used for the way in which Israel is alleging that Hizballah might use them.”

Razia Iqbal: “Why do you think that Israel has made the announcement of cutting off these tunnels today? Is there any sense that this is a diversionary tactic to take attention away from Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky coalition?”

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701 December 19th 2018

The BBC’s domestic Radio 4 audiences heard one report the day after the story broke:

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701 December 5th 2018

Ritula Shah: “UN Security Council 1701, by the way, called for a full cessation of hostilities in the month-long war between Israel and Hizballah back in 2006.”

Ritula Shah: “Mr Netanyahu’s critics argue that he’s using the discovery of the tunnels to bolster his image at a time when his governing coalition is faltering and he faces mounting legal problems.”

In addition to Razia Iqbal’s unwarranted questioning of the purpose of the tunnels and the promotion by both her and Ritula Shah of the baseless notion that the operation was motivated by political considerations, audiences saw three main characteristics throughout the BBC’s reporting on this story.

In all but the first BBC News website report – where the information was added later – audiences were not given an accurate portrayal of Hizballah’s designation as a terror organisation by numerous countries and bodies. The subject of Iran’s funding and supplying of the terror organisation was grossly downplayed in the two written articles and ignored in the three audio reports.

In all of the reports the crucially relevant topic of UN Security Council resolution 1701 was either completely ignored or inadequately presented. Not one of the five BBC reports gave audiences an accurate explanation of that resolution or how it has been repeatedly violated by Hizballah for over twelve years. Moreover, in the second BBC WS radio report listeners were inaccurately led to believe that the only violation of that resolution comes in the form of tunnels that cross into Israeli territory.

Relatedly, BBC audiences were not given the full picture of the UN peacekeeping force’s failure to identify cross-border tunnels dug over a significant period of time literally under its nose and its serial failure to prevent violations of the UNSC resolution. In the second BBC WS radio report a UNIFIL spokesman’s statements went unchallenged.

Martin Patience: “Israel has accused the United Nations peacekeeping force which patrols the border area of turning a blind eye to the movement but Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force, says that the troops are doing their job.”

Not only was it suggested to audiences in forty percent of the BBC’s reporting that Operation Northern Shield was actually a cynical politically motivated exercise but the corporation failed throughout six whole weeks to produce even one item which would provide its funding public with the full range of background information necessary for proper understanding of the story of a complex operation which, had it been managed and executed less efficiently, could have sparked a major conflict.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘World Update’ misleads on UN SC resolution 1701

More lazy BBC reporting on Hizballah’s tunnels

BBC News side-lining cross border tunnels story

A BBC Radio 4 presenter ‘explains’ UN SC resolution 1701

BBC WS radio host questions “factual accuracy” of purpose of Hizballah tunnels

BBC News omits crucial background from report on IDF operation

Reviewing BBC reporting of Hizballah’s violations of UNSC Resolution 1701

 

BBC Sport ignores anti-Israel bigotry yet again

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s sports department has a record of under-reporting both anti-Israel discrimination in international sporting events and efforts to combat such bigotry.

The latest story ignored by BBC Sport involves Israel’s paralympic swimmers.

“The International Paralympic Committee expressed disappointment Saturday after Malaysia said it would not allow Israeli swimmers to attend a competition in the country that will serve as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Malaysia is one of a number of Muslim-majority countries that has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, with entry to the country on an Israeli passport prohibited.

The city of Kuching in the eastern Sarawak state will host hundreds of swimmers from 70 countries from July 29th to August 4th.

But on Thursday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Kuala Lumpur would deny visas to Israeli para swimmers seeking to attend the meet. […]

Israeli athletes are regularly banned from competing at international sporting events in Arab or Muslim countries, or forced to compete without displaying their national symbols. A number of incidents have led to reprimands from international governing bodies and promises to reform.”

The BBC News website’s ‘Malaysia’ page carries no coverage of that story and neither does the BBC Sport website’s ‘swimming’ page. As has been noted here on previous occasions the BBC Sport website usually displays an interest in reporting bigotry and discrimination in sport and indeed one of the stories currently at the top of its home page concerns two Indian cricketers and inappropriate comments concerning women.

 

An Israel elections story that falls outside BBC framing

Although the BBC has still not got round to producing much coverage of the general election to be held in Israel on April 9th there is no shortage of news on that front.

The Joint Arab List – which featured in the corporation’s coverage of the previous election and was described by one commentator as a “glimmer of hope”– has lost one of its four component parties.

“The Knesset approved a request on Wednesday by MK Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al (Arab Movement for Change) party to withdraw from the Joint Arab list.

Tibi announced on Tuesday that he would leave the Joint List ahead of the April 9 election, and that his party will run independently. […]

Tibi’s request was filed days after controversial Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi, Balad MK Jamal Zahalka and United Arab List MK Masud Gnaim confirmed that they will not run in the upcoming elections. Similarly, the Joint List faction’s only Jewish lawmaker, Dov Henin, announced he will not be running either. Henin served 13 years in the Knesset as a member of the Hadash Party.”

Meanwhile, a new Arab party has been registered.

“A new Arab party has registered to participate in the upcoming Knesset elections on April 9, Justice Ministry documents show.

“New Horizon — An Arab Centrist Party” registered in mid-December to run in the vote, which has since been set for April 9.

Salman Abu Ahmad, a 62-year-old engineer and Nazareth resident, told The Times of Israel in a phone call that he had established the party, whose candidates will include Arab Israelis from around the country.

The documents say the party’s goals include “improving the status of Israel’s Arab citizens…and promoting a national master plan as a basis to solve the housing shortage in the Arab sector.” […]

The documents also say New Horizon’s aims include “upgrading the education system,…putting together an uncompromising plan to uproot crime and violence in Arab society, forming a plan to promote the status of women in Arab society and serving as a bridge to a historical reconciliation between the two [Israeli and Palestinian] peoples and peace with Arab states.””

But perhaps the most surprising development is one which definitely falls outside the BBC’s conventional framing of Israeli politics: the announcement by a Muslim female candidate that she will run in the Likud party’s primaries next month.

“Dima Tayeh, from the village of Kafr Manda in the Galilee, made headlines on Tuesday when she gave an interview on Hadashot TV news announcing she was running in the right-wing party’s primaries, praising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defending the controversial Nation-State Law, which many see as discriminating against Israel’s Arab minority.

If elected, she would be the first Arab Muslim lawmaker in the Likud party. […]

Tayeh, who has previously taken part in a group of Arab Israelis who toured the US to campaign against the BDS movement that seeks to boycott Israel, said she has been a proud Likud member for six years.”

Whether or not Ms Tayeh will gain a place on the Likud list remains to be seen but should she be successful it will be interesting to see if and how that story – which defies the BBC’s standard framing of both Israeli politics and Israeli Arabs – will be presented to audiences.

Related Articles:

Reviewing the BBC’s record of reporting on Israeli elections

The BBC’s Haneen Zoabi show

BBC’s Saudi women’s rights reports fall short

Two articles relating to the issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ in recent days:

Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi woman ends airport hotel standoff  January 7th

Why a Saudi woman can be arrested for disobeying her father January 8th

Among the ‘related reading’ offered to BBC audiences in both those articles is a link billed “Saudi women on what life’s really like” which leads to a video produced by the BBC in November 2017 in which just two women from Saudi Arabia were interviewed, one of whom was quoted in the video’s synopsis as follows:

“There’s a huge misconception of Saudi women: We are guided by men, or driven by men. That is not true.”

While that link may seem like an odd choice for inclusion in two reports relating to the story of a Saudi Arabian woman trying to flee male members of her family, this is not the first time that BBC audiences have seen the corporation downplaying the issues faced by women in Saudi Arabia.

In the spring of 2015 the BBC produced several reports informing audiences that “progress” was being made by women in Saudi Arabia despite what the BBC euphemistically chose to term “social restrictions”.

BBC misleads on root cause of lack of equality for Saudi women

On International Women’s Day 2016 the BBC asked visitors to its website “Are Saudi women really that oppressed?”.

BBC Trending’s preposterous International Women’s Day question

The January 8th article mentions that Saudi Arabia “ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2000” while noting the “concern” of “UN experts” at “the country’s failure to adopt a specific law prohibiting discrimination against women”.

The BBC did not however bother to inform readers that in October 2018 the same United Nations announced that Saudi Arabia would continue to be a member of the Human Rights Council and that in 2017 Saudi Arabia was elected to a four-year term on the UN’s women’s rights commission.

BBC silent on Saudi Arabia’s new UN commission seat

As we see the BBC still appears to consider it necessary to promote an ‘alternative’ view of the issue of women’s rights in a country it describes as “conservative” but which – despite lately granting women the right to drive, watch football and take sports lessons in school – is still one of the worst places on earth for gender equality. And once again we see that the BBC has nothing at all to say about a country ranked 141 out of 149 on women’s rights just last year being given a seat on UN human rights bodies.

 

 

 

BBC News report on Rafah crossing omits information

On the afternoon of January 7th a report titled “Palestinian Authority removes staff from Gaza-Egypt crossing” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Relating to an announcement made by the Palestinian Authority the previous day, the article was illustrated with a photograph attributed to AFP which the BBC presented with the caption “It is unclear whether Hamas will be allowed to retake control of the Rafah crossing”. Exactly which body would or would not ‘allow’ such a move was left unclear.

The same photograph appeared in a report published by the Times of Israel but with a caption that quotes most of the original description of the image:

“Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) stand guard outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt just minutes before the Palestinian Authority withdraws its staff (L) from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)”

The ToI went on to report that:

“Hamas members retook control of the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Monday after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its own staff, an AFP journalist and Hamas officials said. […]

An AFP journalist saw officials from Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, at the border crossing’s main gate and inside accompanying offices in southern Gaza on Monday.

A Hamas border official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the terror group that rules the Strip had taken control “to avoid a vacuum.””

However, later on in the BBC’s own report readers found a paragraph that contradicts its photo caption:

“The Palestinian Maan news agency reported that the Hamas-run interior ministry had assumed responsibility for managing the crossing on Monday, but it was not clear whether Egypt would allow it to continue operating.”

Other foreign and local media outlets were able to report on the same day that:

“Egypt will keep its crossing with the Gaza Strip closed to departures from the Palestinian enclave after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its officials amid disagreements with Hamas.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry, controlled by the Hamas terror group, said Monday that Egyptian officials notified them that the crossing would only be open to those entering the Gaza Strip.”

The BBC has to date not bothered to update its article to reflect that development.

In the article’s opening paragraph BBC audiences were told that the Rafah crossing is the “main exit point” from the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it is pulling its staff out of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, effectively closing the main exit point from the coastal territory.”

While the Rafah crossing has been open since mid-May 2018, the BBC’s description does not reflect the situation before that when severe restrictions were imposed for over three and a half years. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

“The Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing, the only crossing for passengers between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, has been open continuously since May 2018, except for holidays and special occasions. This is the longest period of continuous opening since September 2014 when the crossing was closed. Prior to May 2018, the crossing opened for only a few days a year, reportedly due to concerns about security in the Sinai. Despite the improved access since May 2018, over 23,000 people are still registered on a waiting list (that numbered approximately 30,000 previously) according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in Gaza. […]

During the sporadic openings of the Rafah crossing prior to May 2018, an average of some 650 people per day were allowed to exit, but in recent months the daily average has fallen to 343.”

According to UNOCHA figures the average number of monthly entries and exits via the Rafah crossing was 2,393 in 2015, 3,521 in 2016 and 2,930 in 2017. The same agency reports that the average number of monthly exits (only) of Palestinians via the Erez crossing was 15,027 in 2015, 13,187 in 2016 and 6,900 in 2017.

Readers were also told that;

“Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been ruled separately since deadly clashes between Hamas and Fatah broke out in 2007.

Hamas won parliamentary elections in the occupied territories the previous year, and reinforced its power in Gaza after ousting Fatah from the enclave.

Israel and Egypt tightened their blockades of Gaza in response to the Hamas takeover and in an attempt to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants.”

Notably the BBC did not inform its audiences that the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip ‘hostile territory’ in September 2007 came after an increase in terror attacks and rocket fire at Israeli communities near the border.

However, this BBC report did include a mention of the first rocket attack from the Gaza Strip of 2019 which took place in the early hours of January 7th.  

Related Articles:

Laconic BBC reporting on Egypt’s closure of Rafah crossing

BBC News report contradicts BBC backgrounder

 

 

 

Why the new BBC editorial guidelines may not mean less terror showcasing

In January 2018 an edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ was devoted to an interview with one of the founders of the Hamas terror group, Mahmoud Zahar.

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part one

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part two

That was by no means the first time that the BBC’s “hard-hitting flagship” interview show had hosted members of Hamas. For example the terror group’s spokesman Osama Hamdan  and its then political bureau leader Khaled Masha’al both appeared on the programme in 2014 and Masha’al had also been interviewed the year before. Ghazi Hamad appeared on the programme in both 2011 and 2012 and Mahmoud Zahar had previously been a guest on the show in 2010.

BBC interviews with members of Hamas are of course by no means limited to that particular programme and audiences have also seen interviews with members of Hizballah.

Those who took part in the BBC’s consultation on revised editorial guidelines last autumn may have noticed some interesting draft clauses under the sub-heading ‘Mandatory Referrals’ in the section titled ‘War, Terror and Emergencies’ (p. 122).

“11.2.1 Any proposal to attend an event staged by proscribed organisations or groups known for mounting acts of terror, in order to be recorded, must be referred to a senior editorial figure or, for independent production companies, to the commissioning editor. Referral must also be made to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.

11.2.5 Any proposal to approach an organisation (or an individual member of an organisation) designated a ‘terrorist group’ by the Home Secretary under the Terrorism Acts, and any proposal to approach individuals or organisations responsible for acts of terror to participate in our output must be referred in advance to Director Editorial Policy and Standards.

11.2.6 Any proposal to broadcast material recorded at legitimate events when paramilitary or other groups with a known record of violence or intimidation stage an appearance must be referred to a senior editorial figure, or for independent production companies to the commissioning editor, who may consult Director Editorial Policy and Standards.”

While the UK government currently proscribes only the so-called ‘military wings’ of Hamas and Hizballah it does proscribe in full the PFLP-GC and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) – which has been featured in BBC content in the past.

If those clauses do find their way into the new BBC editorial guidelines scheduled to be published this year, it will be interesting to see whether or not they will have any effect on the appearance of interviews with representatives of Hamas and Hizballah and whether BBC journalists will continue to report from events such as the ‘Great Return March’ which is organised and facilitated by an organisation “responsible for acts of terror”.

It is after all worth remembering that in April 2017 the BBC had this to say:

“Where there is an ongoing geopolitical conflict – as in the Middle East – to use the term “terror attack” or similar might be seen to be taking sides. There are those who might consider the actions of the Israeli government to be considered as terrorist acts.”

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