BBC misleads on Gaza athletes travel

On August 15th a filmed report produced by Mike Lanchin for the BBC World Service radio history programme ‘Witness appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gaza’s history-making female runner“.

“In 2004, the 800m runner Sanaa Abu Bkheet became the first athlete from the Gaza Strip to represent Palestine at the Olympic Games.

She led the Palestinian delegation at the opening ceremony, the first time a woman had carried the Palestinian flag at an Olympics.

Sanaa, who still lives in the Gaza Strip, tells Witness about overcoming poverty and prejudice on her journey to the biggest sporting stage in the world.”

In that film viewers heard a voice-over translation of Abu Bkheet saying:

“I’m still training but because of the siege I cannot go outside the Gaza Strip. I cannot compete in international races.”

This of course is far from the first time that BBC audiences have seen amplification of that inaccurate Hamas-approved terminology to describe counter-terrorism measures which in no way meet the definition of the term ‘siege’:

“a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling those inside to surrender”

Viewers also heard Abu Bkheet say:

“For the past four years no athlete from Gaza has been able to take part in any event outside. A short while ago there was an invitation to go to Jerusalem and Ramallah for events but we were all denied travel permits.”

Seeing as the date of the recording of this video is unclear, it is impossible to identify the events for which Abu Bkheet claims she was denied travel permits and fact-check that claim. However, even the foreign funded political NGO ‘Gisha‘ states in a document (p. 12) updated in September 2017 that:

“Gaza Strip residents who are members of national and local sports teams may enter Israel to travel to Judaea and Samaria and abroad, for the purpose of official team activities. Entry is also approved for members of the Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Association.”

While issues have arisen in the past when applications for travel permits were not submitted in time, there is certainly no blanket ban on travel for athletes (or coaches) as viewers of this report are led to believe. Notably, the BBC did not offer its audiences any context concerning the reasons behind the need for counter-terrorism measures such as permits to enter Israel for residents of an enclave run by a terrorist organisation.

According to the International Association of Athletics Federations another runner from the Gaza Strip – Mohammed Abu Khousatook part in events in France in 2014, in Qatar in 2016 and in Tunisia in 2017, among others. Abu Khousa also participated in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Even a grossly one-sided AP report from April of this year acknowledged that a delegation of athletes from the Gaza Strip attended – albeit belatedly – the 2018 Arab Junior Athletics Championships held in Jordan.

As those two small examples show, the BBC promoted claim that “no athlete from Gaza has been able to take part in any event outside” since 2014 is clearly inaccurate and misleading.

 

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BBC radio audiences get whitewashed picture of youth participation in Gaza riots

Hot on the heels of Paul Adams’ July 25threport from the Gaza Strip for Radio 4 came another report from the same location on the same radio station – this time from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Tom Bateman.

Aired in the July 27th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’, the report was introduced (from 23:12 here) by presenter Jonny Dymond using a decidedly unsubtle metaphor to commence promotion of some very overt framing. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Dymond: “As depressing David and Goliath metaphors go, you don’t get much closer than the clashes between Israel and the Palestinians at the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. For 18 consecutive weekends now Palestinians – many of them children – have gathered to protest at the fence that separates Gaza from Israel: protests with rocks and burning tyres and balloons carrying flaming strips of cloth designed to set fire to nearby Israeli farmland. They have been confronted with live fire from the most sophisticated military in the region. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed in the protests since March and one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by Gaza-based militants. Amongst the Palestinians, 19 children have been killed and hundreds more injured. From Gaza, our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman reports.”

Notably Dymond’s “David and Goliath” framing excluded all mention of the IEDs, grenades, petrol bombs and shootings which have also been an integral part of the violent rioting he euphemistically and uniformly called “protests”. Neither did he bother to inform listeners of the fact that a significant proportion of the Palestinians killed since March were linked to terror factions.

Bateman began his report with a visit to the father of a youth – reported by many other media outlets to be fifteen years old – who was shot on July 13th as he participated in violent rioting that included a grenade attack in which an Israeli soldier was injured. Notably that attack was completely excluded from Bateman’s account of those “protests”.

Bateman: “This is a road that runs parallel with the fence on the east side of the Gaza Strip. We’re just driving with the fence to our right. You can see Israeli fields and farmland on the other side. And this is an area where the sprawling suburbs of Gaza City almost meet the fence itself. I went to the home of Rami Helles. Two weeks ago his son Othman was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he tried to climb the perimeter fence. Othman was 14 years old, among the large numbers of young people in Gaza attending the weekly protests. Why did he go to the fence?”

Voiceover Helles: “Because he loved his land, his country. He went like everyone else. After he was martyred – may his soul rest in peace – it turned out that he had been going every Friday. After he came back I used to ask him where he had been and he would say I was in the coffee shop or I was here or there.”

Naturally Bateman had no questions to  about the responsibility of the parents of “children” attending weekly violent riots organised by terror factions for months on end.

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.”

As usual, BBC audiences were not told that “Gaza’s health ministry” is run by the same terror group which co-organises this weekly agitprop and has an interest in inflating casualty figures for PR purposes.

photo credit: ITIC

Neither were they told that Hamas has been deliberately using youths to sabotage the border fence throughout the weeks of violent rioting and that among those under the age of 18 killed since the end of March were operatives with terror factions and some linked (e.g. by family) to such factions.

Bateman then introduced IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus, saying:

Bateman: “I mean many people might look at that footage and they will think simply that it was completely disproportionate.”

After noting that the circumstances of Othman Helles’ death would be investigated (as all such incidents are), Conricus went on to say:

Conricus: “We’ve had in the last week two events where sniper fire was conducted from the Gazan side towards Israeli troops. Two Israeli soldiers have been hit – one injured, one unfortunately killed a week ago – and that has been done using the cover of these so-called demonstrations.”

Those two events are the fatal shooting of Staff Sgt Aviv Levi on July 20th and the shooting of another soldier – drawn by youths gathered near the fence – on July 25th.

Bateman then visited a clinic:

Bateman: “At a center in Gaza City of the medical charity MSF they have a rehabilitation clinic.”

Speaking to a youth reportedly 14 years old, Bateman told listeners:

Bateman: “He said he was near the fence burning tyres on the 3rd of July. The soldiers shot him in the leg.”

Although the involvement of terror organisations including Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the DFLP in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ was known even before the events began, Bateman whitewashed them as “political factions”.

Bateman: “The protest camps are set well back from the fence, organised by a committee of political factions.”

Failing to clarify that the aim of the so-called ‘right of return’ is to eradicate Israel and avoiding the question of why there are no “protests” along Gaza’s border with Egypt, Bateman told listeners:

Bateman: “The focus has been on the Palestinian claim of a right of return to the land that is now Israel and on the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, which Israel says is for security reasons. The Israelis believe Hamas has used the protests to attempt militant attacks and threaten its population. I spoke to 17 year-old [name unintelligible]. He said three people had thrown petrol bombs towards the fence. He went to help the injured, he said, and was shot. He has had his right leg amputated. Now he is waiting for a prosthetic limb, for which he would need to travel to Turkey.”

Refraining from telling audiences who laid on buses, he continued:  

Bateman: “Messages at the Mosques and buses laid on have boosted the protests. Why did the boys at the clinic go? Most told me simply they went like everyone else. One wanted to give Trump a message, he said, that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. Another spoke of supporting a Hamas leader attending. But Israel says children were used to distract its troops during the incident this week when an Israeli soldier was shot and wounded by Palestinian gunmen from the fence area.”

Radio 4 listeners next heard from the same Hamas official promoted by the BBC World Service days earlier.

Bateman: “Hamas’ deputy foreign minister is Ghazi Hamad.”

Hamad: “The main goal [of] this march; just to get attention of the international community to the miserable situation in Gaza.”

Bateman: “It’s not peaceful; it’s not all peaceful though is it? There have been, you know, Molotov cocktails, people trying to break the fence down, explosive devices placed at the fence.”

Hamad: “No, look I think I can say we control 99% of the march. Maybe there’s some [unintelligible] done by some individuals but this is not an excuse for Israel to kill people.”

Failing to clarify that most of the “ten Palestinians” he cited were Hamas operatives killed in strikes in response to massive rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians, Bateman closed his report as follows:

Bateman: “The tension along the Gaza boundary has risen. There have been a series of military flare-ups in recent weeks. At least ten Palestinians have died in Israeli air strikes on militant sites. An Israeli soldier was shot dead and four civilians have been wounded in recent rocket attacks. Palestinians have been sending flaming kites and helium filled condoms to burn Israeli fields. The air is combustible. Gaza’s clinics will hope there are not more young patients coming in.”

The same report by Bateman was aired the following day – July 28th – in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ (from 36:29 here) and in the evening edition (from 30:06 here) of the same programme. Presenter Julian Marshall introduced it thus:

Marshall: “Tensions have escalated again in recent days between Israel and Hamas – the Islamist group which runs the Gaza Strip. It comes against a backdrop of Palestinian protests at Gaza’s perimeter fence, now in their 18th consecutive weekend. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during the protests since March. Another reportedly died of his injuries today. And one Israeli soldier has been shot dead by Gaza-based militants. Among the Palestinians killed are 19 children, with hundreds more injured – something that the UN has previously condemned.”

photo credit: ITIC

Obviously this widely promoted report from Tom Bateman fails to give BBC audiences – domestic and worldwide – the full range of information needed in order for them to understand Hamas’ cynical exploitation of the under-18s described as “children” in its weekly agitprop that is designed to prompt media coverage of exactly the type that Bateman has produced.

Instead, listeners heard a context lite “David and Goliath” story in which Palestinian “boys” and “children” who throw rocks, burn tyres and fly kites are “confronted with live fire from the most sophisticated military in the region” with results portrayed by the BBC’s reporter as “completely disproportionate”.

Ghazi Hamad was no doubt very pleased with this effort to “get attention of the international community”. 

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A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

BBC WS radio listeners told Israel prevents Gazans from getting fresh air

 

Weekend long read

1) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has published a compilation of lectures on “The Decline of the Islamic State”.

“The Islamic State had perpetrated egregious crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing from the time it stormed onto the world stage in 2014, but by 2016 the international anti-IS coalition was taking its toll on the terrorist group. As it lost territory, IS lost not only the ability to make money from natural resources but also its massive taxation (extortion) of the local population. As IS faced battlefield defeat at the hands of coalition forces, undermining the group’s self-declared territorial goal of “remaining and expanding,” attacks abroad took on greater significance as a way to remain relevant and demonstrate that the group could still inflict pain on its adversaries—but now in their home countries. A review of IS-related attacks in 2016 includes multiple attacks in Turkey, the Brussels bombings, and attacks and plots in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, United States, and Yemen.”

2) At the Times of Israel David Horovitz discusses “Hamas, the murderous neighbor that demands Israel give it the gun“.

“…Hamas has made life as hellish for Israel as it possibly can — firing thousands of rockets indiscriminately into Israel, digging attack tunnels under the border, killing and wounding soldiers at the border fence, carrying out suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism, and most recently flying arson devices — kites and balloons — across the border to burn our lands.

All the while, in its guiding charter and in the speeches and propaganda of its leaders, it’s told anybody who’ll listen that it is bent on destroying Israel, that the Jews have no right to be here — or anywhere else for that matter — and that, sooner or later, it will wipe us out.

It’s also been complaining to anyone who’ll listen about the blockade that Israel (and Egypt) impose on the territory it controls. If we don’t lift that blockade, it threatens, it’ll keep on attacking us.

If we do lift that blockade, it is patently obvious, Hamas will immediately bring in more of the weaponry it needs in order to pursue its declared goal of destroying us.” 

3) The JCPA reports on Hizballah’s ‘air force’.

“Unmanned drones (“RPAV” is the term today – Remotely Piloted Air Vehicle) are being used throughout the Middle East for surveillance, combat, targeting, platforms for bombs and missiles, and as “suicide” drones (in effect, cruise missiles). RPAVs’ endurance and range can reach many hours and hundreds of kilometers. Iranian-made drones are now flying in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Over the last decade, they have attempted to enter Israeli airspace from Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.”

4) MEMRI takes a look at the record of an Egyptian cleric who visited the UK in July.

“During his visit to the U.K. this month for the first Emerging Peacemakers Forum, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Sheikh of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution, met with Queen Elizabeth II as well as with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at Windsor Castle, on July 12, 2018. Al-Tayyeb reportedly stayed at the archbishop’s Lambeth Palace, one of the forum’s venues, during his U.K. visit. […] During his visit, Al-Tayyeb also met with U.K. Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP.”

BBC WS radio listeners told Israel prevents Gazans from getting fresh air

As noted in a previous post, an item relating to incidents which began the previous afternoon which was aired in the July 21st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an interview (from 07:56 here) with Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced that interview thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “…we want to hear from Hamas. Are they trying to provoke another war in Gaza? Ghazi Hamad is Hamas’ deputy foreign minister in the Strip.”

Hamad: “No, I think that we are not interested in a new war. We try to avoid this. I think we have kind of understanding with all Palestinian factions to avoid any escalation or tension but you know that the source of the problem is the occupation. The problem is the blockade imposed by Israel. So it creates a lot of problems in Gaza.”

Donnison did not bother to clarify to listeners that “the blockade imposed by Israel” is a counter-terrorism measure made necessary by the dramatic rise in attacks on Israelis after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup eleven years ago. Neither did he inform audiences that when Hamad refers to “the occupation” he means Israel’s presence in Israel rather than the Gaza Strip from which Israel disengaged completely 13 years ago.  

Donnison: “You say you want to avoid an escalation but these cease fires are meaningless – aren’t they? – if your snipers are shooting at Israeli soldiers.”

With no challenge whatsoever from Donnison, listeners then heard Hamad repeatedly – and inaccurately – describe the Hamas organised, funded and facilitated ‘Great Return March’ agitprop as “peaceful” and a “protest”.  

Hamad: “Look…ahm…I can say that regarding the ‘March of Return’ [it] is a peaceful march. We [are] controlling the situation very well. This march is as I said is a protestingpeaceful protesting – but sometimes you find some problems [unintelligible] we try to control this. But Israel try to use some mistakes or some things done by individual in order to punish people, in order to target the different sites in Gaza, to try to kill people as yesterday – they kill four people and injure more than 60 or 85 people. It is not the first time that Israel try to use some excuses to increase the number of victims in Gaza.”

Donnison: “What do you expect them to do if Hamas and the other Palestinian factions are continuing to fire rockets out of Gaza into Israel indiscriminately?”

Hamad: “We never started to fire rockets. I think we respect that…”

Donnison’s notably weak response to that blatant lie came in three words:

Donnison [interrupts]: “That’s not true.”

Hamad: “No, no, no. We respect the ceasefire approved in 2014 but you know that if it…why you forget now, since the beginning of the March of Return which [is] a peaceful march, we have about 160 people were killed? There is no [not] one, no [not] one Israel soldier were injured or killed. And we have more than 15,000 people were injured. Many of them were amputed [sic – amputated]. Many of them are [unintelligible]. This [is a] bigger crisis, this bigger tragedy among the Palestinian people. Now because one Israeli soldier was killed all the world they will criticize and say that the problem on the shoulder of Hamas. You should not forget the high numbers of victims among the Palestinians.”

Donnison: “Hamas has been in power in Gaza now for more than ten years. Three wars during that time. Close to 3,000 Palestinians killed in those wars. Unemployment at 44%. Youth unemployment at 60%. Only 3 to 6 hours of power a day. Hamas has failed as a government and failed the Palestinian people living in Gaza, hasn’t it?”

Hamad: “The question [is] why Hamas failed. Because Hamas is [in] a big prison which is called Gaza. Gaza is about 360 kilometers. It’s closed from all sides by the Israeli occupation. They prevent export, import, free access. Prevent us from even having fresh air, fresh water, electricity. Everything is closed. So after that you come and blame Hamas that they are responsible for this. Now if Israel, now if the occupation, if Israel end that blockade, if Israel give the Palestinians a freedom of access, I think the situation is getting better in Gaza. Now if you ask now international organisations including UN, UNRWA, UNDP – these people will say very frankly that who is responsible for the blockade in Gaza is Israel. Israel is still controlling all the borders around Gaza. Now we ask people now to give us chance now to establish airport or sea port or to open the crossing around Gaza but Israel they don’t want. They want to punish people; to punish Hamas and to punish also the ordinary citizen.”

Making no effort to inform listeners that the claim that Israel ‘controls all the borders’ is untrue because the Gaza Strip has a border with Egypt, failing to clarify that goods and people enter and exit the Gaza Strip on every working day and refraining from challenging even the supremely absurd lie that Israel prevents Gazans from having “fresh air”, all Jon Donnison had to say after that tirade of falsehoods was:

Donnison: “Hamas’ deputy foreign minister in Gaza, Ghazi Hamad.”

Apparently the BBC World Service believed that those four minutes of barely challenged lies and propaganda from a terrorist organisation could be passed off as “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards“.

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BBC returns to its old modus operandi on Gaza casualty figures

A context-free ‘Today’ report from the BBC’s Paul Adams in Gaza

Many thanks to all those who wrote in to alert us to an item aired in the July 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. That report by Paul Adams – currently a BBC diplomatic correspondent and formerly twice based in Jerusalem – was introduced by presenter Mishal Husain (from 0:47:15 here) with multiple inaccuracies.

Husain: “Israel has partially reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing point into the Gaza Strip allowing fuel to enter the territory for the first time in two weeks. The crossing was closed earlier this month after incendiary kites were flown across the border setting fire to agricultural land inside Israel.”

Firstly, the Kerem Shalom crossing was not “closed” – and therefore also not “reopened”. As the BBC News website reported on July 17th, restrictions were placed on the types of goods allowed through:

“No fuel will enter through Kerem Shalom until Sunday, but food and medicine deliveries will still be permitted.” [emphasis added]

The restriction on fuel and gas imports was lifted at noon on July 24th after having been in force since July 17th: in other words for seven and a half days. Husain’s claim that fuel had entered the territory “for the first time in two weeks” is hence inaccurate. Listeners were not told that the restrictions were introduced not only after “incendiary kites were flown across the border” by parties Husain refrains from identifying but also after terror factions in the Gaza Strip had launched over 200 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians two days beforehand.

Husain continued with an equally context-free portrayal of the violent rioting – pre-planned, financed and facilitated by Gaza terror factions – that has been taking place since the end of March:

Husain: “The UN says the lack of fuel has affected Gaza’s only power plant and hospitals, where hundreds of Palestinians are still being treated after being shot by Israeli soldiers during the protests of recent weeks.

Mishal Husain of course did not bother to inform listeners of the fact that Hamas has been exploiting diesel fuel imported via Egypt and intended for “Gaza’s only power plant” to boost its own coffers and for terror purposes. She went on:

Husain: “But as our diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams reports, health workers are worried about something much more long-term: the deteriorating mental condition of nearly 2 million Gazans.”

With the background to the report having thus been framed as related to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, Adams commenced by telling a two month-old story.

Adams: “On the busy streets of Gaza a man sets fire to himself. The crowd gathers and the flames are doused. The man is bundled into a taxi. He makes it to hospital but dies two days later. What drove musical newly married Fathi Harb to take his own life? The man in the online videos dressed as a clown or singing to promote a coffee brand. His grandfather Said tries to make sense of Fathi’s death. Like everyone in Gaza he struggled to make a living but his wife Doha was about to give birth to their first child. The baby, Wattan, was born two days after Fathi died.”

Voiceover Grandfather: “No-one knows why he did it but the boy asked himself what kind of life are we living So I think of the same question. Every Palestinian asks himself the same question.”

Adams did not inform listeners that – as reported by some journalists at the time – Fathi Harb was “heard cursing the government” as he set himself on fire. Other media outlets noted that his family had been affected by the Palestinian Authority’s cutting of salaries to employees in the Gaza Strip.

In Paul Adams’ account, however, there is no room for any mention whatsoever of Hamas or the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority.

Adams: “Suicide is a terrible sin in Islam and yet Fathi Harb chose to do it out in the street in front of dozens of people. He was clearly desperate and so it seems are more and more people here. Gaza’s boiling border has been in and out of the news since March but UN staff have been worried about Gaza’s young men for months.”

Following Adams’ promotion of that false linkage between the economic situation and the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop, listeners heard from “a UN health worker who claimed “more cases” since the beginning of the year. Adams commented that:

Adams: “It seems as though particularly educated young people are especially vulnerable to this kind of suicidal thought.”

The UN health worker gave a reply which conveniently fits in with Adams’ framing of the story, claiming that such people are “open to the world and the same time they cannot see the world.”

Adams continued:

Adams: “And it’s not just suicide. Domestic abuse is another alarming trend. At a UN clinic local women are discussing stress management. With unemployed, depressed husbands and angry, restive children Gaza’s women are under strain.”

After listeners had heard from one of those women, Adams went on, again studiously avoiding any mention of uncomfortable subjects such as Hamas’ use of water and sewage pipes to make rockets or Mahmoud Abbas’ deliberate exacerbation of the Gaza power crisis last year.

Adams: “Gaza has been crumbling for decades. War and economic isolation have taken their toll. There’s no proper drinking water. Electricity comes on for just 3 hours a day – sometimes in the middle of the night.”

Adams then introduced another interviewee:

Adams: “David Hutton runs the UN community mental health programme in Gaza.”

Hutton – who told listeners that “anybody who lives under these conditions” would “have an erosion of coping skills” – actually works for UNRWA and unsurprisingly had nothing to say about Hamas’ responsibility for what he described as “the chronic stress that people live with”. Adams went on:

Adams: “The youngest need help too. ‘Save the Children’ runs a youth centre at Beit Hanoun at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli border. Encouraged by an instructor, girls in their early teen years play games, sing and forget themselves. But there are haunted faces here too, hanging back, uncertain, troubled.”

Adams did not bother to ask whether those “haunted faces” might be linked to the fact that four years ago, children living in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia were witness to the firing of 69.4% of the 3,356 missiles fired at civilian targets in Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip between July 8th and August 5th 2014.

Adams closed his report with a quote from the NGO which typically avoids mentioning the effects of Palestinian terrorists’ rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli children:

Adams: “‘Save the Children’ say 95% of Gaza’s children experience psychological distress: yet another Palestinian generation growing up with the corrosive effects of a conflict apparently without end.”

As we see, Paul Adams managed to get through his entire report without mentioning the words Hamas and terrorism even once. Obviously such blatantly context-free reporting – along with Mishal Husain’s inaccurate claims -not only contributes nothing at all to the BBC’s public purpose of helping its audiences “engage fully with issues” but actively hinders that process.

 

BBC’s ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ backgrounder not fit for purpose

When the BBC News website published its July 10th report concerning Israeli actions in light of three months of arson attacks from the Gaza Strip, it also offered readers some background reading.

Titled “Israel-Palestinian conflict: Life in the Gaza Strip“, that backgrounder first appeared in November 2012, was revamped in July 2014 and has been amended on numerous occasions since then, most recently in May 2018.

In its second paragraph the backgrounder tells BBC audiences that:

“It [the Gaza Strip] is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and between 2007 and 2014 was ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas. They won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 but then had a violent rift with the rival Fatah faction.” [emphasis added]

Obviously those claims are not accurate: the PA does not exercise control over the territory and Hamas rule did not end in 2014.

Readers are then told that:

“When Hamas took over in Gaza, Israel swiftly imposed a blockade on the territory, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. Egypt meanwhile blockaded Gaza’s southern border.”

No mention is made of the fact that the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel after Hamas’ violent coup in Gaza were a response to increased terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

Once again with the relevant issue of Palestinian terrorism concealed from audience view, under the sub-heading ‘Freedom of Movement’ BBC audiences find the following:

“In the north, crossings into Israel at Erez have picked up marginally this year compared with 2017, but remain well below pre-blockade levels due to new restrictions.

Fewer than 240 Palestinians left Gaza via Israel in the first half of 2017, compared with a daily average of 26,000 in September 2000.” [emphasis added]

According to UNOCHA (quoted on a different topic in the same section), during the first half of 2017, 43,009 people crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel via the Erez Crossing. Obviously that BBC claim is inaccurate and grossly misleading. Readers are not told that the cited comparison date “September 2000” was immediately before the second Intifada and – crucially – the launching of countless terror attacks from the Gaza Strip.

The context of terrorism – and the resulting restrictions on the passage of workers from the Gaza Strip into Israel and trade – is likewise absent from the backgrounder’s section titled “Economy”.

“Gaza is significantly poorer than it was in the 1990s. Its economy grew only 0.5% in 2017 according to a World Bank report, with annual income per person falling from $2,659 in 1994 to $1,826 in 2018.”

A subsection titled “Population” informs BBC audiences that:

“Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world. On average, some 5,479 people live on every square kilometre in Gaza. That’s expected to rise to 6,197 people per square kilometre by 2020.

The number of people living there is expected to hit 2.2 million by the end of the decade, and 3.1 million by 2030.”

There are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places in the world with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, an accompanying map shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.

In a section sub-titled “Health” the BBC once again disseminates inaccurate and misleading claims.

“Access to public health services has worsened due to border restrictions. […]

Exit passes through Israel have also dropped in recent years, with approvals for medical reasons dropping from 93% in 2012 to 54% in 2017.

Moreover, drugs, supplies and equipment are all restricted because of the blockade – including dialysis machines and heart monitors.”

As has been noted here on previous occasions, 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 last year exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel.

The backgrounder goes on:

“A recent fuel shortage for generators has also affected medical services. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says three hospitals and ten medical centres have suspended services due to a lack of power.”

It is of course the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for the fuel and power shortages in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services but the BBC’s backgrounder implies that too is attributable to “border restrictions” – i.e. Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

While a section titled “Power” includes an interestingly punctuated link to a 2017 report billed “PA ‘stops paying for Gaza electricity'”, the backgrounder itself does not clarify that in 2011 Hamas elected to discontinue the purchase of fuel from Israel for Gaza’s power plant, instead relying on an erratic supply via smuggling tunnels which were later destroyed by Egypt or that internal disagreements between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas resulted in an exacerbation of the power crisis in the Gaza Strip during 2017.

Similarly, a section titled “Water and sanitation” fails to inform BBC audiences that sewage pipes in the Gaza Strip were used to make rockets, that new supplies of pipes transported in by Israel were diverted for the same purpose rather than being used to solve the Gaza Strip’s sanitation problems or that the electricity crisis exacerbated by the dispute between the PA and Hamas has also seriously affected sewage treatment and water supply

Obviously this ‘backgrounder’ does not give BBC audiences an accurate and impartial view of the reasons why “life in the Gaza Strip” is as it is. The BBC’s failure to report impartially on Hamas’ responsibility for the deterioration of conditions in the Gaza Strip – brought about by its putting continued terrorism against Israeli civilians at a higher level of priority than taking care of the population’s welfare – clearly means that this backgrounder is not fit for purpose and does not meet the BBC’s public purpose of helping audiences understand “issues across…the world”.

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Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

BBC News again avoids telling audiences real reasons for Gaza power crisis

 

 

After three months, BBC News website notices Gaza arson attacks

As has been documented here over the past few months, the BBC has failed to produce any serious reporting on the topic of the arson attacks using kites and balloons which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been staging daily since April 11th.

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

BBC News makes a story disappear by changing photo captions

BBC News finally mentions Gaza arson attacks – in just sixteen words

Comparing BBC coverage of fires in England and Israel

However, no crystal ball was necessary in order to predict that after three months of largely ignoring that story, the BBC’s interest in it would suddenly perk up when Israel took action.

On July 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel closes main Gaza goods crossing in response to arson attacks” on its Middle East page. The reason for Israel’s action was presented to readers in the report’s fifth paragraph as follows:

“Israel has shut the main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip in retaliation for arson attacks by Palestinians and attempts to infiltrate its territory.

Only “humanitarian equipment”, including food and medicine, will now be allowed through Kerem Shalom.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to use a “heavy hand” against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which dominates Gaza.

A Hamas spokesman called the Israeli move “a new crime against humanity”.

Palestinians have been launching kites and balloons carrying containers of burning fuel and explosive devices over the Gaza-Israel border since April.”

Readers next saw an image captioned “Gazans have been flying incendiary balloons and kites over the border with Israel” and were told that: [emphasis added]

“The devices have sparked 750 fires in southern Israel, burning more than 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) of forest and farmland and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage, Israeli officials say.”

Curiously, three weeks earlier on June 20th, the BBC had reported that:

“Israeli officials say the crude devices have sparked more than 450 fires in recent weeks, burning 2,800 hectares of land and causing $2m (£1.5m) of damage.”

With the arson attacks having continued relentlessly since that June 20th report was published, it is of course impossible that three weeks later, a smaller area of land had been burned and the monetary value of the damage reduced from $2 million to “hundreds of thousands”. Local press reports cited a figure of some 7,000 acres destroyed.

Readers found the BBC’s now standard anodyne portrayal of the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt which continues to conceal from audiences the fact that the casualty figures quoted actually come from Hamas – which organised, facilitated and financed the agitprop – and that over 80% of those killed have been shown to have links to various terror factions.

“The arson attacks began during mass demonstrations along the border, at which thousands of Palestinians have expressed their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel and also demanded an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.

Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force. Israel has said they have only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.”

Readers were told for the second time that in response to Israel’s announcement concerning the Kerem Shalom crossing:

“Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, called on the international community to intervene immediately to prevent what it called a “new crime against humanity”.”

The BBC’s report did not inform readers of the reaction from the Iranian funded Palestinian Islamic Jihad and of course no mention was made of the fact that the terror organisation now claiming a “crime against humanity” directed three separate attacks (all but ignored by the BBC) on that same crossing just two months ago.

The BBC then found it appropriate to amplify the messaging of a foreign funded political NGO.

“The Israeli non-governmental organisation Gisha, which promotes freedom of movement for Palestinians, also condemned the Israeli decision.

“The damage being caused to agricultural lands in Israel is grave and deplorable, but collectively punishing nearly two million people in Gaza by closing its only official crossing for the movement of goods is both illegal and morally depraved,” it wrote on Twitter.”

However, while the BBC News website apparently did consider statements from a terror organisation (twice) and a political NGO to be crucial to audience understanding of this story, the point of view of the residents of the area that has been under daily attack for three months was obviously once again deemed superfluous.

Related Articles:

BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

BBC waives chance to balance its reporting on medical issues

In January of this year BBC audiences were told by a senior Hamas official from Gaza that Israel’s counter-terrorism measures (which he inaccurately described as a ‘siege’ without any comment from his interviewer) had “destroyed our medical, our social, our economic life”. In July 2017 the BBC’s Yolande Knell told BBC audiences that:

“…it’s becoming more difficult to get Israeli permits to transfer seriously ill patients out of Gaza, partly because the PA is giving fewer guarantees it will cover their medical costs elsewhere. The doctor tells me how, days ago, he broke this news to the parents of a newborn with a congenital heart condition who went on to die.”

In October 2017 BBC audiences were told that:

“Israel and Egypt have maintained a land and sea blockade on Gaza for a decade in an attempt to prevent attacks by militants based there.

The restrictions, repeated cycles of armed conflict, Palestinian political divisions and budget cuts have led to a serious deterioration in the availability and quality of health services in the territory, according to the UN.

Severe power shortages earlier this year forced hospitals to postpone elective surgeries, discharge patients prematurely, and reduce cleaning of medical facilities.”

As was noted here at the time:

“…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. Likewise, it is the Palestinian Authority which is solely responsible for those “severe power shortages” in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services as well as additional fields.”

So when the opportunity arose to introduce some balance into its reporting on the topic of medical issues, one might have thought that the BBC would have taken it up.

Last week media outlets including the Washington Post and the Independent published a story that was widely covered in the Israeli media.

“An Israeli organization that provides life-saving heart treatment to children in developing countries has won a prestigious United Nations award for outstanding contributions to the world’s population. […]

Save a Child’s Heart was selected to receive the 2018 UN Population Award, the medical charity said in a press statement Monday. […]

SACH was founded in 1995 at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. It has saved the lives of more than 4,700 children in 57 countries.

In addition to its efforts around the world, SACH holds weekly clinics for Palestinian children, bringing some 20-30 children to the Wolfson center each week. Children from the Gaza Strip are accompanied by doctors from the Palestinian enclave, who are given the opportunity to work alongside their Israeli peers, the statement said.”

The award was presented to the charity at the United Nations Population Fund ceremony last week.

Despite the fact that the BBC regularly promotes inaccurate information concerning the background to the condition of medical services in the Gaza Strip, a story about an Israeli charity treating tens of Palestinian children weekly did not get any coverage on either the BBC News website’s ‘United Nations’ page or elsewhere.

Related Articles:

No BBC follow-up on story used to mislead on Gaza medical services

 

 

 

How did BBC News report the latest Gaza missile attacks?

Visitors to the BBC News website’s main homepage, its ‘World’ page or its ‘Middle East’ page on the morning of June 20th were all informed that the people who had fired forty-five military grade projectiles at Israeli civilian communities in the space of some five hours during the previous night are ‘militants’ rather than terrorists.

In typical ‘last-first’ style, the headline to the BBC News website’s report on that story read “Israeli jets strike Gaza after rocket and mortar fire” and the euphemism ‘militants’ was seen again.

“Israeli jets have hit militant positions in Gaza after Palestinians fired rockets and mortars into Israeli territory, the Israeli military said.

The military said 25 targets linked to the militant Hamas movement were hit, in response to a barrage of about 45 rockets and mortar shells.”

Quoting “Gaza’s health ministry” without informing readers that it is run by the same terror organisation which co-organises, funds and facilitates the ‘Great Return March’ agitprop, the report went on:

“The strikes follow weeks of confrontation along the Gaza border.

More than 120 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and thousands more wounded since a protest campaign began on 30 March, Gaza’s health ministry says.”

Readers were not informed that over 80% of those killed during the violent riots have been shown to be linked to assorted terror groups or that Hamas itself admitted that the vast majority of those killed on May 14th belonged to its organisation.

The report went on to give a context-free portrayal of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ with no effort made by the BBC to explain to readers what Hamas freely admits: that the aim of that demand is the eradication of the Jewish state.

“The demonstrations have seen thousands of Palestinians mass on the border in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

Despite the fact that the BBC is fully aware of the fact that attacks with petrol bombs, IEDs and guns have taken place in addition to attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israeli territory, it continues to avoid presenting such information in its own words.

“Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force. Israel has said they have only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the protests.”

Although the June 20th attacks began at around 01:15 and continued until just before 6 a.m., the BBC claimed a more limited time-frame.

“Air raid sirens and phone warning systems sounded before dawn in Israel.

The military said Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted seven rockets fired by militants. Kites carrying containers of burning fuel were also sent into Israel, the military said.”

With the BBC having refrained from producing any serious reporting on the topic of the hundreds of deliberate arson attacks perpetrated over the last two months, it is unlikely that BBC audiences would be able to fill in the blanks left by the BBC’s tepid description of “kites….sent into Israel”.

The later part of the report purports to provide background information (including a map sourced from a partisan UN agency) but avoids informing readers of the highly relevant fact that the blockade on the Gaza Strip was implemented in response to Hamas terror attacks and not – as implied by the BBC – because Hamas “ousted” the Palestinian Authority.

“Gaza, an impoverished enclave of some two million residents, has long been blockaded by Israel and Egypt.

The blockade was tightened after Hamas, an Islamist group that won Palestinian elections in 2006, ousted its secular Fatah rivals from Gaza a year later.”

Two days before this report was published terror groups had launched rockets at the Ashkelon area. That attack went unreported by the BBC at the time and was not mentioned in this report.

Although Israeli civilians residing in the Western Negev region have been the target of eleven separate incidents of missile attack from the Gaza Strip since the beginning of this year, BBC audiences have not seen or heard even one interview with any of the thousands of the ordinary people affected by that terrorism. This report continued that editorial policy.

 

 

 

Unbalanced promotion of UNRWA PR on BBC World Service radio

Both before and after the US administration announced on January 16th that it would be withholding part of its donation to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) the BBC produced numerous reports on that story (see some in ‘related articles’ below), many of which included promotion of the UN agency’s PR messaging.

However, none of those reports provided the BBC’s funding public with background information concerning the multiple issues that have made UNRWA so controversial or any in-depth examination of the agency’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

On June 13th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ returned to that topic with a report by BBC North America’s New York and UN reporter Nada Tawfik that made absolutely no effort to provide listeners with a balanced view of the story and was in fact little more than an exercise in free PR for UNRWA and its spin-off non-profit organisation.

Presenter James Menendez began (from 38:10 here) with context-free presentation of a biased UN GA resolution – proposed by Algeria and Turkey – that made no mention of Hamas terrorism. He continued with an equally partisan portrayal of the violent rioting and attacks on the Gaza border since March 30th, failing to inform listeners that over 80% of those killed have been linked to terror groups.

Menendez then promoted the inaccurate claim that Gaza’s chronic electricity problems are the result of “years of conflict” when in fact – as the BBC well knows – they are entirely rooted in inter-factional Palestinian rivalries. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Menedez: “Now the UN General Assembly is expected to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza later today and vote on a resolution calling for better protection for the 2 million Palestinians who live there. That’s after last month’s clashes with Israeli forces which left a hundred people dead and many more injured. Years of conflict have left Gaza in ruins. Infrastructure’s crumbling, the economy’s paralysed and basic supplies such as electricity are in crisis. Despite this the United States has cut off vital funding to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees: UNRWA. But as Nada Tawfik reports, across the US American citizens are now filling the void.”

Listeners then heard a recording from an event that took place on June 5th in New York – which Tawfik apparently attended – in which once again the topic of electricity was raised without BBC audiences being given any factual background information on that issue.  

Woman’s voice: “The lights go out like this all the time. Electricity is scarce here. Many times we eat in complete darkness just like we’re doing right now.”

Tawfik: “To imagine the life of Palestinian refugees in Gaza the lights are turned down and just one lantern shines at Casa la Femme restaurant in New York. In the dim room those picked out from the crowd of 200 read out powerful accounts from refugees.”

Woman’s voice: “My husband, our two small children and I live in one room together. The bathroom serves as the toilet, the shower, the sink for bathing, cleaning and even cooking.”

Tawfik: “This iftar, or meal, is just one of 50 dinners being held across the country by the charity UNRWA-USA during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to feed refugee families in Gaza. And it comes at a critical time; just as a key life-line for these refugees is under threat.”

Man’s voice: “We could run out of money for that food in Gaza in one month.”

Tawfik: “Peter Mulrean is the New York director of UNRWA – the UN’s relief and works agency for Palestinian refugees. It provides critical services such as food, health care and education. He says the agency now faces an existential crisis after the United States – its top donor – suddenly withheld $300 million in funds. I asked if he was concerned that this decision by the Trump administration was politically motivated.”

Notably, Tawfik’s presentation of the figure $300 million is based on what the UN claimed it was expecting the US contribution to be rather than the sum actually withheld.

Listeners then heard Peter Mulrean – a representative of a blatantly politicised campaigning UN agency – opine on “neutrality”.

Mulrean: “We’re very concerned about the fact that that appears to be the case. One of the clear humanitarian principles is the question of neutrality: that you base your decisions on humanitarian assistance solely on the need of those who are out there. And if that’s not the case, then this is a terrible precedent that the US is setting. A country that used to be one of the leaders of humanitarian policy turning in a different direction.”

Tawfik: “That was also a worry of many others in attendance such as Abigail Metzger and Megan Burn [phonetic] who do not agree with their government’s decision.”

Tawfik did not clarify whether or not the Abigail Metzger whose opinions she chose to promote is the Pax Christi member of the same name.

Woman 1: “It is just unbelievable that our government would…would even think to renege on a commitment. I feel like we have been, you know, told that we have to make a choice and we don’t have to make a choice. We can support the Palestinian struggle without abandoning our alliance and full support of Israel.”

Woman 2: “Especially in the current political climate people get very ensconced in their own biases and sort of forget to think about the day-to-day lives of human beings.”

Woman’s voice: “Just $150 can feed a refugee family of six for an entire summer.”

Tawfik: “This one iftar will raise $50,000 for UNRWA’s food assistance programme and a global fundraising campaign has brought in new funding. Still, it’s unlikely that the agency will be able to overcome its current deficit without the United States. In the long term though, UNRWA hopes these events and crowdfunding will help field financial and public support and that’s something Abby Smardon who is the executive director of the charity UNRWA-USA says she’s already seeing.”

Listeners heard nothing of that UNRWA spin-off charity’s political agenda (and record) before Smardon was given the unchallenged stage.

Smardon: “Now with things like social media and having the ability to actually see the situation in real time with a more unfiltered view, people are starting across the United States to see this issue very differently than they once did and they’re starting to understand that Palestine and support of Palestinian refugees is a social justice issue and so I can tell you that, you know, countless new supporters that we have that have no personal connection to the issue of Palestine or Palestinian refugees but they care about social justice and they care about human rights.”

Having carefully avoided inconvenient topics such as Hamas and its terrorism all the way through her report, Tawfik closed the item by erasing the Gaza blockade imposed by Egypt because of that terrorism from audience view. 

Tawfik: “The people of Gaza have endured multiple conflicts and an eleven-year blockade by Israel. The risk is that the US decision will only add to their misery.”

To be honest, it is difficult to imagine how this report could be more unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand either the situation in the Gaza Strip, the reasons behind the US decision to withhold part of its voluntary funding of UNRWA or the role and record of UNRWA itself.

Obviously though, this blatantly one-sided and context-free item (which was repeated in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day – from 39:44 here) was not intended to meet the BBC’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience understanding. Rather, it was just yet another blatantly transparent exercise in the provision of free PR to UNRWA.

Related Articles:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two