Unchallenged pro-Hamas propaganda on BBC WS ‘Newshour’

The March 30th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ was titled “Gaza marks Israel march anniversary”. Illustrated with an image captioned “The protesters demanded that Palestinian refugees be given the right of return”, its synopsis read:

“Thousands of Palestinians are gathering in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of the start of protests along the boundary fence with Israel.”

Presenter Lyse Doucet began (from 00:25 here) by framing the story in the fashion seen throughout the past twelve months. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Doucet: “We start today’s programme in Gaza and the Great March of Return, as it’s called. Today marks one year of weekly protests at Gaza’s border fence with Israel. And Palestinian protesters are at the boundary again, some burning tyres, some using slingshots to hurl stones. And on the other side Israeli troops are massed again, bolstered by tanks and snipers. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in the past year as well as an Israeli soldier. The protests are meant to highlight the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel. But Israel accuses Hamas of using Gazans as human shields to terrorise Israeli civilians. The anniversary comes in the midst of growing tension between Israel and Hamas, the militant group ruling this sliver of land along the Mediterranean.”

As we see, the BBC’s chief international correspondent managed to tick nearly all the BBC’s framing boxes in her introduction. That framing includes:

  • Erasing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the violent rioting at the border have been shown to be affiliated with various terror organisations – primarily Hamas.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by failing to provide audiences with a representative view of the number of attacks using firebombs, IEDs, grenades and guns, the number of border infiltrations and the number of rockets and mortars launched throughout the past year. As of March 29th 2019, BBC audiences had heard nothing whatsoever about the use of airborne explosive devices or the activities of Hamas’ so-called ‘night confusion/disturbance units’.
  • Erasing or downplaying the violent nature of the events by uniformly describing them as ‘protests’, ‘demonstrations’ or ‘rallies’.
  • Failing to provide adequate context concerning the stated aims of the events including ‘right of return’ and lifting of counter-terrorism measures.
  • Erasing or downplaying Hamas’ role in initiating, facilitating, organising, financing, executing and controlling the events and euphemising terrorists as ‘militants’.
  • Citing casualty figures provided by “health officials” without clarifying that they are part of the same terror group that organises the violent rioting.

Doucet then brought in Tom Bateman (on a bad line) in the Gaza Strip who, after he had described seeing around a thousand people “close to the fence” who were throwing rocks from slingshots and burning tyres, went on to note the use of tear gas and live ammunition by Israeli forces, claiming to have been “told” of the death of one person and 40 others injured. Doucet then reinforced the framing:

Doucet: “So it’s not just a protest but it’s a risky protest.”

Having wound up her conversation with Bateman, Doucet brought in Yolande Knell who was situated on the other side of the fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Despite that rare visit by a BBC correspondent to one of the Israeli communities which have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year (the last one was in July 2018), BBC World Service radio audiences once again did not hear a word from any of its residents.

Informed listeners – obviously not the majority – would have noticed Knell’s allusion to Hamas’ ability to control the level of violence according to its own interests and the fact that she is aware of what she termed “night time protests” – about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing at all.

Knell: “…Hamas officials in Gaza indicating…that they would put pressure on the protesters to turn up but then to stay calm and not to go so close to the fence as they have done previously.”

Knell: “…we know what its [Israel’s] demands would be – among them to stop the night-time protests that have taken place along the fence as well and also the incendiary balloons that have caused so much damage. Balloons and kites sent into Israel.”

Doucet then chose to uncritically amplify the recent UNHRC report while once again concealing the fact that around 80% of those killed during the ‘Great Return March’ rioting have been shown to have links to terror organisations – primarily Hamas.

Doucet: “And as you know, Yolande, the UN has said…has accused Israel of directly targeting civilians using excessive force. What kind of forces are lined along the border today?”

Following a rambling response from Knell, Doucet moved on.

07:17 Doucet: “So what’s it like to live in Gaza in the midst of this tension and deepening economic hardship for its 2 million residents? The UN often expresses alarm over a territory mired in grinding poverty and unemployment without access to even the basics of life: adequate health, education, water and electricity. Much of Gazan anger is directed at Israel but there were also protests against Hamas this month – rare protests – and they were forcibly suppressed. I’ve been speaking to one Gaza resident, Dr Mosheer Amer who is the professor of discourse analysis and linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza.”

Presuming that before inviting him onto the show, the programme’s producers had checked out the record of the professor from a university co-founded by Hamas leaders whose political stance is plainly evident in articles and on social media, it is obvious that they had no problem with the fact that listeners were presented with a totally one-sided, context-free near monologue over the next five minutes.

07:53 Amer: “There is I think quite a strong resolve and determination to continue on the Great Return marches because I think that there is a large position among Palestinian civil society that this is effective in raising awareness internationally of the predicament that they’re facing over the past 12 years especially in Gaza. But there is also a feeling of, you know, sadness over the loss of civilian lives.”

Doucet: “What is life like? Are you – if I can ask – are you a father? You have children?”

Amer: “Yes I am a father of children, 2 kids, and it’s a difficult life. I’m a university professor so I think my condition is a little better than the other ones but I still get close to 30% of my salary. That is barely the minimum for, you know, having a good quality of life. But overall the situation is really difficult. We’re talking about restrictions on travel and movement in and out of Gaza. We have the electricity between 4 to 6 hours a day which is really appalling. I mean you cannot imagine that it is only on 4 to 6 hours electricity per day. And then you have to adjust all your life to this condition. And this is not just a month or two or three months: it’s been going on for quite some time. And then we have the overall economic conditions and the health conditions in Gaza hospitals. So in all aspects of life the situation is really dire and really unbearable and that’s why you see thousands – hundreds of thousands [sic] – of Palestinians flocking to the eastern side of Gaza to raise their voice, to say that enough is enough and we can no longer stay in, you know, this kind of a slow death rhythm of life.”

None of the ‘Great Return March’ events have seen more than 50,000 participants (and most have seen significantly fewer) but Doucet made no effort to correct Amer’s claim of “hundreds of thousands”. Neither did she bother to clarify to listeners that Gaza’s perennial electricity crisis and the standard of its healthcare have nothing to do with Israel.

Doucet: “What do your young students tell you? What sense do you get of them and how they think about their future?”

Amer: “Well there’s a sense, a large sense of desperation actually because I mean I’m teaching university students majoring in English and in media and journalism and there’s a very strong sense of despair because you know there is a high unemployment rate – so over like 60% among the Gaza population – so you can’t expect a student to study 4 years and then he or she ends in, you know, not working. What am I studying for? There is no goal. I mean what kind of job I’m going to find after I work. There is no prospect for a better future in Gaza. And this is because of, again, the situation that the Gaza population have found themselves in because of this 12-year siege on Gaza and the repeated wars and this kind of abnormal state of life that we’re living here in Gaza.”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip in 2018 was 52% – not “over like 60%”. Doucet made no effort to challenge that inaccuracy or the false claim of a “siege” on the Gaza Strip.

Doucet: “And this…recently there were I think quite unprecedented protests against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Is this anger also rising?”

Amer: “I think this is anger rising at everybody, including the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah and everyone. And there is quite a strong division amongst the Palestinians and there is sort of a trading of finger-pointing at Hamas and at PA’s President Abbas. But I think we have to put this in the context of the severe life conditions that the Gazans find themselves in because of the punitive measures that [are] imposed by the PA and also because of certain policies, economic policies, that the Hamas government here has imposed which aggravated in a sense the kind of suffering that people are facing. But the root cause actually behind all of this is the Israeli siege of Gaza. The policies and the measures adopted by the Israelis to keep life to a bare minimum. Gaza cannot live, it cannot die. And this is what we see that this kind of a slow death. Life is sucked out of Gaza and we have people really living a very difficult life.”

Again failing to challenge Amer’s promotion of the “siege” falsehood and plainly uninterested in hearing more about “economic policies that the Hamas government here has imposed”, Doucet went on:

Doucet: “You…do your own children or children of friends of yours – when I say children, even teenagers – do they go to the protests today?”

Amer: “My kids are like 5 year-olds, you know, and 4 year-old so they’re very…they’re very little. You know, and I wouldn’t take them to that protest at the moment. But I think that my friends’ families, their children have gone; they’re a little bit older. When we think about the Great Return March it’s sort of includes all peoples from all walks of life and also from all sort of socio-economic backgrounds and also from all ages, men, women and young children and adults and so on. So it’s not only restricted to what we see in the images; these sort of 18, 19 years old teenagers.”

Having failed to explain the context to Israel’s security measures that include a partial blockade on the Gaza Strip – and without even one mention of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians – Doucet closed that five minutes of unchallenged propaganda there, leaving BBC World Service audiences even worse informed than before.   

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part two

As documented in part one of this post, listeners to the BBC’s domestic station Radio 4 had been prepared in advance for what the corporation apparently believed was going to be a major news event on Saturday, March 30th with a ‘Today’ programme report from Gaza the previous day by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

Listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ on March 28th had also heard Bateman reporting from the Gaza Strip and that item (from 46:20 here) included the following:

[emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Bateman: “And inside Gaza itself, a sense of anticipation about the coming protests that will take place on Saturday marking a year since these weekly protests have taken place at the perimeter fence.”

Thus BBC audiences once again got a dose of the corporation’s framing of the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as “protests” rather than events organised, facilitated and executed by a coalition of terror organisations that have regularly included violent rioting, serious attacks and infiltrations into Israeli territory.

The March 30th edition of BBC Radio 4’s 1 p.m. news bulletin included an item introduced by newsreader Neil Sleat (from 07:46 here) thus:

Sleat: “Thousands of Palestinian protesters have massed on the boundary between Gaza and Israel to mark a year since the start of weekly demonstrations there. Palestinians have been throwing stones and Israeli forces using tear gas to stop them approaching the border fence. Our correspondent Yolande Knell is there.”

Knell: “Across a wind-swept field here lies a wire fence and beyond it there’s a large crowd at one of the Gaza protest sites gathered around a Palestinian flag.  Israeli soldiers have been firing volleys of tear gas to drive demonstrators back. A military spokesman says Palestinians have been throwing stones and petrol bombs and there have been some attempts to breach the fence. Israel says it only opens fire to stop people crossing into its territory and protect its citizens. This is a serious test for the efforts of Egyptian negotiators who’ve been trying to broker calm between Israel and Hamas after an escalation in tensions earlier this week when Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza. Already this anniversary was due at a sensitive time: just over a week before an Israeli election and after recent economic unrest in Gaza which has put pressure on Hamas.”

In other words, even when the BBC knows that participants have been throwing petrol bombs and trying to infiltrate Israeli territory, it still portrays the events as “demonstrations” and those participants as “protesters”.

The same was the case when part of that report from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell was recycled in a later news bulletin aired during the ‘PM’ programme (from 02:18 here):

Newsreader: “Tens of thousands of Palestinians are demonstrating along the boundary fence between Gaza and Israel to mark the first anniversary of weekly protests there. Three people are reported to have been killed, one before the start of the mass rally. Over the past year nearly 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops while one Israeli soldier has died. Yolande Knell reports from southern Israel.”

Knell: “Israeli soldiers have been firing volleys of tear gas to drive demonstrators back. A military spokesman says Palestinians have been throwing stones and petrol bombs and there have been some attempts to breach the fence. Israel says it only opens fire to stop people crossing into its territory and protect its citizens. This is a serious test for the efforts of Egyptian negotiators who’ve been trying to broker calm between Israel and Hamas after an escalation in tensions earlier this week when Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel and Israel’s air force struck dozens of sites in Gaza.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on March 30th heard the newsreader give the following headline at the top of the programme.

“Palestinian health officials say at least two demonstrators have died in clashes with Israeli forces on the anniversary of weekly protests on the Gaza border.”

The item itself (from 05:34 here) was presented as follows, with no mention of the fact that “health officials in Gaza” actually means the terror group Hamas.

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been taking part in protests along the boundary between the Gaza Strip and Israel. They’ve been throwing stones and petrol bombs and attempting to breach the perimeter fence. Israeli forces have used live ammunition and tear gas. Health officials in Gaza say three protesters have been killed. The demonstrations are marking the first anniversary of weekly protests at the border. From Gaza our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman has sent this report.”

Bateman: “That’s live fire as the Israeli snipers are aiming towards a group of people that just got right up at the fence. Some appear to be trying to climb it. At the biggest protest site east of Gaza City, Palestinians turned up in their thousands. Most gathered near the smoothie vans and fruit sellers hundreds of meters from the fence. But others got close to it, burning tyres and throwing rocks and petrol bombs. From the other side Israeli troops responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. One of the demonstrators, Bahaa Abu Shamala, said Palestinians were highlighting their historical dispossession and calling for an end to the blockade which Israel says it imposes for security reasons.”

Abu Shamala: “We are here in Gaza. We are oppressed people. We want to feed our children. We want to get rid of this huge trauma that we suffered from the siege that Israel imposed against us for more than 12 years.”

Israel of course does not impose a ‘siege’ on the Gaza Strip at all but Bateman had nothing to say about his interviewee’s promotion of Hamas favoured terminology and made no effort to inform listeners of the years of Hamas terror which have made counter-terrorism measures including the blockade necessary.

Once again failing to inform listeners that some 80% of those killed at ‘Great Return March’ events in the past year have been shown to have links to terror groups, Bateman went on:

Bateman: “In the past year nearly 200 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops at the fence. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper last summer. The Israeli army spokesman is Jonathan Conricus.”

Lt. Col. Conricus: “This has after all been a year of thousands of rioters trying to breach into Israel using different types of violence. We’ve had grenades, IEDs, Molotov cocktails. We’ve even had live fire.”

In other words, the only mention of the violent nature of the year-long events heard by Radio 4 listeners throughout eleven hours of broadcasting came from an Israeli official.  

Bateman: “This week’s build-up to the first anniversary saw a significant military flare-up between Israel and Hamas which largely controls the protests in Gaza. Israel is 10 days away from a general election in which security is a major issue. There have been intensive efforts brokered by Egypt to prevent tensions at the boundary slipping out of control. It seems to have largely succeeded for now, despite today’s casualties.”

Although the BBC sent Tom Bateman to the Gaza Strip and Yolande Knell to southern Israel to cover the March 30th events, audiences once again did not hear a word from or about the residents of Israeli communities close to the border fence who have been severely affected by the ‘Great Return March’ violence throughout the past year. Neither were listeners informed that Hamas had ordered schools closed and a general strike on March 30th in order to boost participation in the event.

One year on, the BBC’s across the board and inflexible editorial approach to this story continues to promote the monochrome framing which – while flouting the corporation’s public purpose obligations – denies audiences vital context and information.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ anniversary – part one

BBC News sticks to year-old formula of reporting on ‘Great Return March’

More context-free BBC reporting on Gaza health services

 

 

 

 

 

What is missing from BBC news bulletins on Gaza protests?

As we saw earlier in the week, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell managed to write an entire feature on the topic of the recent popular protests against the economic conditions in the Gaza Strip without explaining how Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism has affected that situation.

“While describing Hamas as “cash-strapped”, Knell made no effort to explain why one of the richest terror organisations in the world could be in that position despite generous hand-outs from countries including Qatar, which gave Hamas $200 million in 2018 alone.

She erased from the picture Hamas’ spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on cross-border attack tunnels and weaponry. She ignored the cost of Hamas’ efforts to build terror networks in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas and its financing of nearly a year of ‘Great Return March’ weekly rioting, including payments to the families of those injured or killed in the provocations it initiated.”

The day after that article was published – March 19th – listeners to the ‘Six O’Clock News’ on BBC Radio 4 heard another report from Knell on the same topic (from 19:06 here). [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Newsreader: “The Hamas-run authorities in Gaza have been continuing to make arrests following unprecedented protests about the economic conditions there. Dozens of journalists and human rights workers as well as the group’s political opponents are among those who’ve been detained. The clamp down has been documented online as our Middle East correspondent in Jerusalem, Yolande Knell, has been finding out.”

Knell: “A woman screams as a man is dragged away by Hamas security forces in a video uploaded to social media. Other footage online showed people being badly beaten with live ammunition being fired in the air. Protests with the slogan ‘We Want to Live’ began last week, bringing hundreds of people onto the streets across Gaza. Nothing of this scale has been seen since Hamas took full control here over a decade ago. This woman doesn’t hold back in her criticism. ‘The sons of Hamas leaders have houses and cars. They can afford to get married. They have everything’ she says ‘and our children have nothing – not even a piece of bread’. Recently, high taxes have pushed up prices but already Gaza’s economy was broken. 70% of young people have no jobs. Israel and Egypt have kept a tight blockade in place since the take-over by Hamas, which is widely seen as a terrorist group. Hamas is blaming its political rival Fatah for stirring up unrest in Gaza – something it denies. After years of ruling this tiny territory with an iron fist, recent days have shown cracks in the authority of Hamas. Its tactics may now be scaring people away from protests but that’s not stopping them from venting their anger online.”

The same report was also aired in the BBC Radio 4 ‘Midnight News’ bulletin (from 18:20 here).

In addition to giving a euphemistic portrayal of the violent coup perpetrated by Hamas in 2007, Knell failed to clarify to listeners that what she terms a “tight blockade” was made necessary by the rise in Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians following that violent coup – including over 3,000 attacks using rockets and mortars in the first year alone.

Clearly Knell intends listeners to understand that Gaza’s ‘already broken’ economy is linked to the counter-terrorism measures implemented by Israel and Egypt. However, once again she has absolutely nothing to tell BBC audiences about Hamas’ prioritisation of its terror infrastructure and activities over the welfare of residents in the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part one

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part two

 

 

 

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, on March 18th the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell reported on terror attacks in Samaria, rocket fire on Tel Aviv and recent demonstrations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. All those separate events were framed as being linked to the upcoming election in Israel and Knell rounded off that report by quoting unnamed “Israeli commentators” who turned out to be one journalist writing at Ha’aretz.  

Later the same day a very similar written report by Knell appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the title “Gaza economic protests expose cracks in Hamas’s rule”. That article ended with the same curious framing of those domestic protests.

“Israeli journalists have observed that right now their country faces a paradox.

Usually, Israel would be pleased to see an uprising against Hamas in Gaza, hoping this could lead to the group’s downfall.

But in the run up to April’s general election in Israel, the country worries about turmoil and what other diversions Hamas might have in mind.”

Knell’s written report opened thus:

“In Gaza, it is no surprise to hear complaints about the terrible living conditions – after all, the World Bank describes a local economy in “free fall” with 70% unemployment among young people.

However, what has been extraordinary in recent days is that large crowds of Palestinians have been turning out on the streets to voice their frustration and even criticise Hamas – the militant Islamist group which rules the strip with an iron fist.”

The explanation given by Knell for those “terrible living conditions” read as follows:

“At the heart of Gaza’s economic woes is a blockade by neighbouring Israel and Egypt – restricting the movement of people and goods – which was tightened after the Hamas takeover. Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU and UK.

In the past two years, the PA has piled on financial pressure as it has tried to reassert its control over the strip. Cash-strapped Hamas has recently hiked taxes, raising prices and pushing many people in Gaza to the brink.”

As we see Knell claimed that Israeli and Egyptian counter-terrorism measures are “at the heart the heart of Gaza’s economic woes” but without telling readers of the Hamas terrorism which made those measures necessary.

While describing Hamas as “cash-strapped”, Knell made no effort to explain why one of the richest terror organisations in the world could be in that position despite generous hand-outs from countries including Qatar, which gave Hamas $200 million in 2018 alone.

She erased from the picture Hamas’ spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on cross-border attack tunnels and weaponry. She ignored the cost of Hamas’ efforts to build terror networks in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas and its financing of nearly a year of ‘Great Return March’ weekly rioting, including payments to the families of those injured or killed in the provocations it initiated.

Obviously Knell’s minimalist explanation of Gaza’s “economic woes” is distinctly unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand the real background to the situation which has brought demonstrators onto the streets.

No less unhelpful is her bizarre insistence on linking those social protests and acts of terror alike to next month’s elections in Israel.

Related Articles:

A BBC Jerusalem reporter’s framing of protests against Hamas – part one

BBC News reports fatal terror attacks over 27 hours later

BBC News reports rocket attack on TA fifteen hours later

BBC Culture joins the drip feed of narrative

Readers of reports appearing on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on March 8th were also offered a feature titled “Startling images of the Middle East”.

That item by Fiona Macdonald of BBC Culture in fact relates to very specific areas of “the Middle East” and showcases a book first published in 2015 by photographer Tanya Habjouqa. The ten-page feature includes images and videos of the photographer talking about her work.

“Tanya Habjouqa’s Occupied Pleasures project reveals moments of black humour in Gaza and the West Bank. She describes finding a unique entry point into a hyper-narrated place.”

“Habjouqa started on the project Occupied Pleasures in 2009. Her images reveal the lives of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank in a nuanced way, offering glimpses of everyday resilience.”

That ‘nuance’ however does not include any background information whatsoever and so the images and narrative are presented to BBC audiences in an entirely context-free manner.

On the second page audiences find a video in which Habjouqa states:

“…Palestine was home. And I was the one sitting at checkpoints and experiencing this Kafkaesque reality…”

In the video appearing on the fifth page Habjouqa tells the story behind some of her photographs concerning a story from 2013.  

“There had been a wedding and I’d missed it. There was a woman who had come in, in a wedding dress and had the wedding party because she hadn’t been given permission to access Gaza because of the blockade. […] And then he paused and he said the most sobering sombre thing, he said ‘you know no matter what they do to us, we will always find a way to live, to love, to laugh.”

BBC audiences are not told that the Egyptian girl had been denied entry to the Gaza Strip by the Egyptian authorities or of the Palestinian terrorism that made the blockade necessary.

On page nine audiences find a video in which an image of “Furniture makers in the West Bank, with Israel’s separation barrier behind them” with no explanation of why the anti-terrorist fence had to be built.

The narrative advanced in this feature is glaringly obvious: Habjouqa states in the last video that her work relates to people who “refuse to let suffering be the definition of their existence”.

How that suffering is related to their leaders’ choices and how those choices brought about the “checkpoints”, “blockade” and “separation barrier” of course goes completely unexplained in this latest chapter in the BBC’s drip fed narrative of Palestinian victims completely devoid of agency and responsibility.  

 

 

More inaccurate and context-free Gaza framing on BBC Radio 4

h/t DG

In recent weeks BBC audiences – and in particular listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme – have heard repeated misrepresentation of the chronic problems with utilities and services facing the population of the Gaza Strip.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

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

BBC audiences have repeatedly been steered towards the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis have been downplayed or airbrushed from the story. The latest chapter in that serial misrepresentation came on January 25th when listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard an item introduced by presenter Nick Robinson at 47:13 minutes into the broadcast.

Robinson: “If you work on this programme you often hear the complaint that we and the news are so dominated by Brexit and Trump that the news agenda from abroad gets crowded out. […] Here’s our world affairs editor then, John Simpson, with an alternative news bulletin.”

That “alternative news bulletin” was also promoted separately as a podcast in which at 1:46 listeners heard the following: [emphasis added]

Simpson: “A brand new Israeli politician, Benny Gantz – a former military chief of staff who’s emerging as a major threat to the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu – has produced a number of campaign videos praising Israel’s war against Palestinian militants. One shows aerial footage from 2014 of Gaza in ruins, saying that six thousand targets were destroyed. Parts of Gaza have been returned to the Stone Age, says the commentary approvingly.”

Simpson refrained from reminding listeners that the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza Strip based terror groups began because attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians escalated with 52 missiles fired during June 2014 and 237 missiles and dozens of mortars fired in the first week of July – eighty of them on July 7th 2014 alone. The video that Simpson describes as showing “aerial footage from 2014 of Gaza in ruins” does not in fact show “Gaza” as a whole but one specific neighbourhood in which the fighting was particularly fierce because of Hamas’ placement of military assets in civilian residential areas.  

Simpson continued:

Simpson: “That may be right in one particular aspect. An investigative report just out says that after more that 25,000 people in Gaza were injured by Israeli forces last year, doctors have been battling a superbug epidemic in Gaza which is disturbingly resistant to antibiotics.”

The ‘investigative report’ to which John Simpson refers was published on December 31st and – while devoid of any empirical evidence – its portrayal of the background to the state of the healthcare system presents an inaccurate picture.

“Gaza is a particularly fertile breeding ground for superbugs because its health system has been crippled by years of blockade and antibiotics are in short supply. Even though doctors know the protocols to prevent the rise of drug resistant bacteria, they do not have supplies to follow them.” [emphasis added]

As our colleagues at UK Media Watch pointed out when that report first appeared in the Guardian:

“The rest of the 1000 plus word piece follows this pattern of suggesting that Israel is largely to blame for the shortage of vital medicines in Gaza, a shortage that is putting the lives of countless Palestinians at risk. 

But, this is a lie. The import of antibiotics, and almost all other important medicines, are not in any way impacted by Israel’s blockade. As a CAMERA prompted correction at the NY Times noted, “the import of medicine” to Gaza “is not restricted” by Israel.

It’s actually the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority – and not Israel – that’s responsible for the purchase of medicines for Gaza. But, the PA, as part of the sanctions they imposed on Hamas in 2017 related to their ongoing political dispute, often fails to send such vital drugs to Gaza. The PA-imposed sanctions also includes a major reduction in Gaza’s overall healthcare budget, and a frequent refusal to issue permits to Gaza patients to receive medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank and Arab countries.

As the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported earlier in the year, “the escalation in internal Palestinian divisions in March 2017 led to a decline in deliveries from the West Bank and the gradual rise in the percentage of essential medicines at zero stock”. Even the pro-Palestinian NGO Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) blamed the PA for the shortage of medicine and medical supplies.

In fact, even before Fatah’s sanctions against Hamas, the Islamist group was complaining that Ramallah was sending only a small fraction of the medicine to Gaza it was required to send under existing agreements.”

Following his context-free caricature of ‘militaristic’ Israel and his airbrushing of the fact that the vast majority of those “injured by Israeli forces” were engaged in violent rioting at the time, Simpson tried to create linkage between an alleged epidemic of resistant bacteria and Israeli actions and in order to do so, completely erased the Palestinian Authority and Hamas from his framing.

Apparently Radio 4’s “alternative news bulletin” means an alternative to factual, accurate and impartial reporting.  

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the first part of Mishal Husain’s BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme interview (from 2:09:59 here) with the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, on January 18th focused on the topic of medical services in the Gaza Strip. Husain then changed the topic to the subject of the ‘Great Return March’ violent rioting which she had previously euphemistically described as “protests”.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “Why do you use live ammunition against people who are inside the Gaza side of the boundary fence with Israel?”

Regev: “If people are storming the fence, trying to break through to our side of the border – as the leader of Hamas said, their goal is to tear down the fence, enter Israel and kill our people – then we will stop them. People are launching Molotov cocktails and people are shooting. If people are launching incendiary devices to burn our fields, burn our…”

Husain [interrupts]: “Yes but you’re saying quite a few different things ‘cos storming the fence…OK…let me just give you an example of someone who presumably was considered to be storming the fence. There are pictures of a 14 year-old called Othman Helles who, with a group of other boys – and it’s very clear that they’re a very young age, this was last summer – they go up to the fence. He puts his hand on the top of the fence and immediately there’s a bullet that hits him in the chest and he dies on the spot. Now it is apparent to anyone looking at those pictures – as it would have been to the Israeli soldier who fired that shot – that these were children. Why were they shot?”

Regev: “I think if you are trying to break down the fence, if you’re trying to – as Hamas itself declared – tear through the fence, go to those Israeli communities…”

Husain [interrupts]: “You put your hand on the top of a fence, you’re a child and you’re shot dead by an Israeli soldier.”

As Mishal Husain should be aware, her portrayal of that story does not align with the account of the same incident given by her colleague Tom Bateman to Radio 4 listeners in August 2018.

Bateman: “A BBC crew in Gaza was filming as Othman Helles, away from the fence, used a sling to throw a stone towards Israeli soldiers. A few people burned tyres. Later the 14 year-old walked alongside the fence, put a hand and a foot on it and pulled himself up about a foot off the ground. He was hit with a single shot to the chest. Nineteen of those killed since the end of March have been under the age of 18. The number of children with bullet wounds is more than 600 according to the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency [UN OCHA – Ed.] which bases its recent figures on those of Gaza’s health ministry [i.e. Hamas – Ed.].”

Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners that when Othman Helles tried to climb the border fence, Hamas had been deliberately using youths to sabotage the border fence throughout the weeks of violent rioting and that among those killed under the age of 18 were operatives of terror factions and others linked (e.g. by family) to such factions.

Regev: “First of all you’re talking about a combat situation where hundreds if not thousands of people brought in by Hamas, paid for by Hamas, are storming the border fence, trying to break it down. Countless incidents where they actually had broken through the fence with their wire cutters…”

BBC Radio 4’s self-appointed military expert interjected:

Husain [interrupts]: “Have you ever thought of arresting people?”

Regev: “We do arrest people when we can. We do arrest people when we can but I think if you look at the film from those violent riots at the border, it’s clearly orchestrated by Hamas, it’s clearly violent in intent. The goal – as articulated by Hamas itself – is to break in and kill our people.”

Husain: “But there are people being…there are people being shot dead far inside the fence. I mean I’ve been to the fence and I’ve seen…”

Regev: “So have I.”

Husain: “…there are women – you’ve been to one side. I’ve been to the other side where people are gathering. But there are women there. There are children there. There are people there who are just seeing what they’re doing and there are people far inside the fence who are sometimes hit by live ammunition but also by tear gas canisters. There was a 13 year-old who died from being hit on the head with a tear gas can.”

Regev: “Mishal, I’d like to ask you the following question: everyone who listens to this programme, everyone who knows anything knows that that is a war zone. So why are you busing women and children into a combat zone? And I’d ask one further question…”

With her ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’ on full view Husain interrupted her interviewee yet again:

Husain [interrupts]: “It’s a combat zone though because you’re using live ammunition – that’s why it’s a combat zone.”

Regev: “It’s a combat zone because we are protecting our border against people who are trying to use explosives and other weapons to break in so as to kill our people.”

Husain: “So you don’t…when you hear about the children for example or the medics – there was a young medic who also died inside, inside the fence – when you hear about people like that who’ve paid for being at the fence with their lives, do you never have any kind of qualms about the policy that Israel’s pursuing?”

Regev: “I don’t want to see any innocent person caught up in the cross-fire between us and Hamas: I want to be clear about that. But I’d ask you the following question: in Gaza we pulled out. We redeployed behind the 1967 line which is from the international community’s point of view the recognised border. If we can’t defend that border, what border would you have us defend?”

Husain: “The question is how you defend it and the tactics that you chose to use to defend it.”

Regev: “We are preventing – so far successfully, thank goodness – people, terrorists, from entering our communities and killing our people. You spoke to the Israelis at the southern border who live in fear of terrorists coming across the border and killing them and their children. It is our obligation as a government to protect our people and we will do so.”

Husain did indeed speak to Israelis living near the Gaza border during her December visit but as readers may recall, her main interest – as expressed in 60% of her questions – was asking them about Palestinians.

Husain then changed the subject.

Husain [2:20:59]: “Let’s talk about another border: the border with…eh…in northern Israel – the border with Lebanon – where recently you found tunnels that you say have been dug by Hizballah. Ahm…given Hizballah’s links to Iran and the wider situation in the Middle East, how do you feel about President Trump – who Mr Netanyahu is so close to – deciding to pull US troops out of Syria and the…and also saying that Iranian leaders can do what they want in that country?”

After Mark Regev had answered that question and a subsequent one – “So does President Trump’s decision make Israel less safe?” – Husain closed the interview.

As we see Mishal Husain once again used this interview to advance her chosen narratives concerning Israeli counter-terrorism measures while both promoting inaccurate claims and withholding crucial background information from BBC audiences.

We await with interest the ‘Today’ programme’s interview with the Egyptian ambassador to the UK on the topic of the effects of his country’s counter-terrorism measures on life in the Gaza Strip, the interview with the PLO envoy to the UK on the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s withholding of medicines, permits for medical treatment in Israel, salaries and funding for fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip and of course the interview with a Hamas representative on the topic of the group’s prioritisation of terrorism over social and health care, clean water supplies and sewage treatment for the citizens of the Gaza Strip.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

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

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

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

The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

 

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ on the Gaza Strip – part one

As already noted, a significant proportion of the January 18th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was again given over to the topic of the Gaza Strip.

The previous evening viewers of ‘News at Ten’ had seen Mishal Husain’s one-sided report on the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip – filmed a month earlier when she visited the territory – and the next morning Radio 4 listeners heard her present a total of over sixteen and a half minutes of similar content in two separate items, the second of which (from 2:09:59 here) included an interview with the Israeli ambassador to the UK and the recycling of an interview with an UNRWA official.

The first part of Husain’s introduction was previously discussed here. In line with BBC editorial policy throughout the past ten months, Husain continued to whitewash violent rioting, grenade, IED and shooting attacks as well as breaches of the border fence with her tepid portrayal of “protests”.

 [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “2018 was the worst year for Palestinian deaths and injuries in the West Bank and Gaza since the Gaza conflict of 2014. The United Nations says 295 Palestinians were killed and 29,000 injured by Israeli forces over the course of the year. In the same period, says the UN, 15 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks and 137 injured. On the Palestinian side most of the deaths and injuries were connected to the weekly protests at the boundary fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Those protests are now in their tenth month and the number of injuries, including gunshots to the legs that often result in amputations, is causing an immense burden on Gaza’s already over-stretched medical facilities. Hospitals have been badly affected by the economic blockade maintained by Israel and on the other side by Egypt – they say for security reasons. That blockade, the lack of work, the collapsing economy of Gaza, was something we looked at when we reported from there last month. Here’s part of what Matthias Schmale, the most senior UN official in Gaza, told us.”

The counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip are not an “economic blockade” as claimed by Husain, who predictably avoided any explanation of the “security reasons” which brought about those measures.

Listeners then heard part of an item previously aired on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme and on BBC World Service radio’s ‘Newshour’ on December 17th.

Schmale: “The disasters I have encountered were either natural – a tsunami, an earthquake – or man-made in terms of war. This is the first time I’m confronted with a humanitarian crisis that is entirely man-made as a result of the blockade. But if people had their own jobs and earned their own money, which they could have, we would not need to do this. Natural disasters are uncontrollable. This is controllable.”

Husain: “If there was a different security situation – Israel would say it’s not possible with the current reality, the current stance of Hamas towards it.”

Schmale: “I understand the security argument but I also think that we need to be very careful not to put the entire 2 million population into that basket. You know I would claim that the Israelis know so well what goes on in here and know who the potential people are that would hold a security threat to them. If they wanted to they could with reasonable safety let the peace-loving population go out and earn a living for themselves.”

Once again listeners heard that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable [sic] safety” but with no mention made of the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip or the documented cases of Hamas’ abuse of travel permits issued to Gaza residents for terrorism purposes.

Husain: “Matthias Schmale speaking to me in an aid distribution centre in Gaza last month. And I’m joined in the studio by Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK. […] Could you first answer that point from the UN? Why put an entire population of 2 million people into this basket of being a security risk to Israel?”

Despite Regev having detailed why Hamas is a “clear security risk” for Israel, Husain posed the same question again.

Husain: “Why put the entire population into the Hamas basket?”

Regev: “Well we don’t want to. We seek to differentiate. We don’t see the people of Gaza as our enemy. In many ways, like the people of southern Israel, they are the victims of Hamas violence.”

Husain: “You may not seek to but that is the effect of what the blockade does. It’s a blockade from the air, from the land, from the sea. Again, the point that the UN is making is that you could – the Israeli authorities could very easily allow at least some people to have work permits in Israel to go and earn a living for themselves and that income would make a significant difference to living conditions in Gaza.”

Husain of course skipped over ‘boring’ details such as the taxes that would potentially be paid to Hamas by such workers and the basic issue of the right of Israel to control its borders as any other country does.

Regev: “I think last year some 200,000 people crossed the borders between Israel and Gaza. Some 70% of that was for medical purposes but we are…we are interested in seeing the population go back and forth. From our point of view we want to see the people of Gaza have as normal as possible lives. The challenges…”

Husain [interrupts] “But that is not what’s happening.”

Regev: “The challenge is…that is a goal but at the same time we have to protect our people. And what does one do when you have a Hamas terrorist organisation that is committed to violence and terrorism. In this same last year – yes? – we had twelve hundred – one thousand two hundred – rockets, missiles, fired from Gaza into Israel. We had repeated attempts – as you reported* – to storm the border, to attack our people, to break into Israel, to enter our communities. You yourself interviewed Israelis on the border with Gaza who live in fear.”

Husain next made a thinly veiled reference to the notion of ‘collective punishment’.

Husain: “Indeed but overall you have been pretty successful – haven’t you? – in keeping people safe, in keeping Israeli civilians safe. What is happening in effect though through that is what arguably is the punishment of an entire people.”

Ambassador Regev then spoke about Hamas’ priorities, noting that “if they invested in schools and in hospitals, in the betterment of the life of the people in Gaza, it would be a totally different situation.”

Husain: “There is a considerable impact through the blockade on health facilities and that was shown…for example I did a report that ran last night on the ten o’clock news and you could see how medical facilities are suffering. Now I’m looking at an Israeli government list of the kinds of things that are prohibited in Gaza and they include significant things that would be incredibly important for the health care services. Scanning machines including X-ray machines are not allowed in Gaza. Instruments for physical and chemical analysis are not allowed in Gaza. Pumps intended for dirty water are not allowed in Gaza. Why are they not allowed?”

While we are not able to determine which list Husain was “looking at”, her claim that the items she cited are “prohibited” and “not allowed” does not hold water. The items mentioned by Husain appear on COGAT’s “List of “Dual Use” Items Requiring a Transfer License” which opens by stating that:

“The items delineated in this Decree are prohibited from transfer into the regions of Judea and Samaria, or the Gaza Strip, unless the relevant party has acquired a license.” [emphasis added]

In other words, those dual-use items and others can and do enter the Gaza Strip if the relevant permit is secured.

Given Husain’s claims, listeners could well have understood that there are no medical scanners or X-ray machines in the Gaza Strip. That of course is not the case.

“The spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced today, 19 July 2010, that the equipment for the USAID greenhouse project as well as medical equipment for Shifa Hospital in Gaza City were delivered to the Gaza Strip.

The medical equipment to Shifa Hospital includes a CT scanner and an X-ray machine donated by the World Health Organization (WHO). The transfer was coordinated by the Coordination & Liaison Administration in Gaza.”

A Reuters report from 2016 about the opening of a new hospital in the Gaza Strip includes the following:

“Umm Hashem, a mother bringing her 17-year-old daughter to the hospital to have a stomach problem examined, praised the new facility, saying it was long overdue.

“The best thing here is the X-ray machine,” she said, referring to the CT-scanner. “We used to go to Shifa hospital to get checked, but now we can do it here.””

In January 2018 the Journal of Radiation Research and Applied Sciences published a paper titled “Evaluation of advanced medical imaging services at Governmental Hospitals-Gaza Governorates, Palestine”.

“Medical imaging services are the key tool to diagnose many diseases and have an important role in monitoring treatment and predicting outcome. The current study [was] conducted to evaluate advanced medical imaging services (CT and MRI) at Governmental Hospitals-Gaza Governorates, Palestine.” 

So, while the situation of medical services in the Gaza Strip may be far from ideal, Mishal Husain’s promotion of the notion that scanners and X-rays are “prohibited” and “not allowed” is clearly inaccurate and materially misleading to listeners.

Regev then spoke about Hamas’ use of metal pipes for making rockets and the fact that dual-purpose items such as fertiliser and some types of medical equipment can be used for military purposes, stating:

“…as long as Hamas controls the hospitals – and they do – we have a problem with that sort of equipment going in. We have to protect our people.”

Husain: “Well some people who work in the hospitals are paid for by Hamas, some are paid for by the Palestinian Authority.”

Regev: “But they all live under the rule of Hamas.”

Husain: “The question is the impact of what you’re doing on the civilian population of Gaza. I mean for example there was a doctor who said to me that among the items that are considered dual use are the stains that are used for medical diagnosis. For example radiotherapy is barely available in Gaza. Chemotherapy is barely available in Gaza. The chances of a woman surviving breast cancer in Gaza after 5 years is half of the chance of an Israeli woman just across the boundary fence. This is the reality of the policies that you are pursuing and their impact.”

A relevant paper published in October 2018 states that:

“Five-year survival rates for breast cancer in Gaza are about 50%, compared with about 85% in the United States and Israel (including women referred to East Jerusalem). Part of this disparity is explained by a later stage at diagnosis, but limited therapeutic options also contribute.” 

That is not “half the chance of an Israeli woman” as claimed by Husain.

Regev: “I think you’d find that a large part of the shortages in Gaza hospitals are because the Hamas regime refuses to invest in its own medical facilities for its own people and prefers to invest in violence: digging tunnels, building missiles and so forth. That is the fundamental problem. I agree that on some issues because of our concerns – and I think they’re legitimate – on dual-use items we do place restrictions but the overwhelming problems facing the Gaza medical system is because of Hamas’ own policies.”

Husain then changed the topic of conversation – as will be seen in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Mishal Husain fosters a narrative with airbrushed statistics

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

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

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

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

The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

 

‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

On January 15th the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry published an English language Facebook post in which – apparently this time in reaction to the delay of a transfer of cash from Qatar to Hamas – it claimed that “the fuel crisis in hospitals and primary care centers continues to hit critical levels”.

On January 17th the flagship BBC programme ‘News at Ten’ – aired on BBC One and the BBC News channel – ran an item that seemed to have been inspired by that Facebook post and further milked Mishal Husain’s December 2018 trip [see ‘related articles’ below] to the Gaza Strip.

Failing to clarify to viewers that the health ministry in the Gaza Strip is run by the terror group Hamas, presenter Huw Edwards introduced the report (from 23:49 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Edwards: “Now the Palestinian health ministry in the Gaza Strip has said hospitals in Gaza may have to shut down because of shortages of fuel. The UN has warned of a real catastrophe if additional fuel isn’t found. The health system – already on the verge of collapse following years of an Israeli blockade and divisions between Palestinian groups – is now overburdened with casualties from the protests that began last year. More than 25,000 Palestinians have been injured. The BBC’s Mishal Husain visited Gaza and sent this report.”

Edwards of course refrained from clarifying to BBC audiences that those casualties could have been avoided had the same Hamas terror group now claiming that hospitals “may have to shut down” not organised, facilitated and financed weekly violent riots at the border for the past ten months.

As has previously been noted here on the many occasions on which the BBC has falsely promoted the notion of a link between Israel’s counter-terrorism measures and the sorry state of medical services in the Gaza Strip:

“…the restrictions placed on the import of dual-use goods (i.e. items which can be used for terrorist purposes) to the Gaza Strip do not apply to medical supplies. The party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which has in recent months exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel.”

Edwards did not bother to clarify to viewers that what he euphemistically and unhelpfully described as “divisions between Palestinian groups” actually means the fact that the Palestinian Authority has in addition been responsible for power shortages in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services as well as other fields.

Mishal Husain began her report by also describing months of violent rioting as “protests”, once again employing the specious ‘everybody does it’ argument.

Husain: “It is a new and extreme burden on a health system that was already stretched to the limit: thousands of people with gunshot wounds. Fourteen year-old Walid Ahu [phonetic] is one of those who’ve been injured at the weekly protests near the perimeter fence with Israel. His father says he went along just as other young people have. An Israeli bullet went through both of his legs. There’ve now been months of demonstrations at the boundary. Many Palestinians say their intentions were peaceful, although some have thrown stones, burnt tyres and sent incendiary kites and balloons over the fence. Israel says it’s only used live fire when necessary to protect infrastructure, its soldiers and Israeli civilians living nearby.”

Significantly, Husain sabotaged her audience’s ability to understand and assess what “Israel says” by concealing the fact that in addition to stone-throwing, tyre burning and incendiary attacks, what she calls “protests” have also included border infiltrations, shooting attacks, grenade attacks and IED attacks, with a high proportion of those killed or injured during the riots connected to terror organisations. She went on:  

Husain: “The vast majority of the gunshot wounds have been to the lower limb. People like 23 year-old Ahmed Abu Guri [phonetic] who was hit in the upper thigh and will need two more operations and months of rehabilitation. Doctors here say health care in Gaza is now overwhelmed. One calls it an epidemic of gunshot injuries.”

Viewers then heard unsupported speculation from Mohammed Abu Mughalseeb of Medecins Sans Frontiers:

“From my experience I think the…you know, from some friends and colleagues in United Kingdom and in France and United States, if they had the same number of injuries received in the emergency department the health system would collapse. No other places in the world can cope with this, with this huge number of injuries.”

January 2019 report

Husain: “Even before this hospital here had acute and unmet needs. This is Gaza’s biggest emergency department which sees around 500 patients every day. There’s a long list of what hospitals here are short of – it’s beds, drugs, medical supplies – but also there’s a chronic shortage of power. There isn’t enough fuel for their backup generators and they don’t even have enough clean water; whether for the patients to drink, for the staff to wash their hands or even to sterilize their instruments.”

As was the case in her December reports, Husain yet again made no effort to adequately explain the background to power and water shortages in the Gaza Strip.

Husain: “For the last few years staff here have received only half their salary. Some are paid by Hamas which controls Gaza, others by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The blockade of Gaza and its effect on the economy comes up again and again. Israel says it doesn’t restrict most medical supplies but Gaza has little money to pay for the health needs of its people.”

Husain failed to inform viewers that medical supplies to the Gaza Strip are provided by the Palestinian Authority or that her claim that “Gaza has little money” for healthcare does not stand up to factual examination.

“According to various estimates by the PA and Israel, Hamas raises NIS 100 million ($28 million) every month in taxes from the residents of Gaza. A significant part of that amount covers the wages of its members. But a large portion is diverted for military purposes. Estimates say Hamas is spending some $130 million a year on its military wing and preparations for war.”

Viewers then heard from Dr Ayman Al Sahabani of Shifa hospital who, while providing a list of those allegedly ‘responsible’ for the dire situation, notably could not bring himself to utter the word Hamas but did employ the terror group’s favoured inaccurate ‘siege’ terminology.

“Our civilians people died and injured all the time. Big question – why? Why? And why we are seeing the siege for 12 years?”

Husain: “Who do you hold responsible for what you are experiencing at the hospital?”

Al Sahabani: “All people. The United Nations, Red Cross, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, here…eh…eh…who’s are in the authority. All are responsible.”

Husain closed her report with a story that does not include enough detail to be verified.

Husain: “Those at the very start of their lives are among the most vulnerable, dependent on specialist equipment and in some cases with conditions that can’t be treated here. Because the blockade restricts the movement of people, patients need to request permission to leave. This two-day old baby with a congenital heart defect was waiting for an exit permit when we filmed him. Four days later he died. His permission hadn’t come through.”

When Husain’s colleague Yolande Knell similarly used the story of an unnamed baby with congenital heart disease in 2017 BBC Watch contacted COGAT and was told that:

“To our regret, an internal Palestinian dispute harms the residents of Gaza – instead of the regime in Gaza helping them – but Israel has no connection to the issue. We would highlight that in cases in which the Palestinian Authority sends requests, and particularly those classified as urgent, COGAT coordinates the immediate passage of patients at any time of the day in order to save lives. This activity is carried out on a daily basis at the Erez Crossing, through which residents of Gaza enter Israel for medical treatment.”

The permits for patients from the Gaza Strip to receive treatment in Israel of course include not only “permission to leave” but a commitment from the Palestinian Authority to fund that treatment. Whether or not the Palestinian Authority – which went completely unmentioned by Husain – actually submitted a request to the Israeli authorities concerning the baby in her report we do not know but what is clear is that Husain attempted to lay the blame for his death at the feet of “the blockade” – i.e. Israel – while concealing the PA’s role in the process of patient transfers from audience view.

Throughout this report and its introduction BBC audiences heard multiple references to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures – but no explanation of why they are necessary – and just one euphemistic reference to “divisions between Palestinian groups”. Yet again we see that the BBC is fully conscripted to promotion of the false narrative according to which the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is primarily attributable to ‘the blockade’ and that it will erase the actions of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, use sketchy stories about dead babies and dig out previously unused footage filmed over a month ago in order to promote that politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

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

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

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

The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

 

 

 

 

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