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.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

New type of Hamas tunnel not newsworthy for the BBC

On June 10th it was announced that the IDF had destroyed a new kind of Hamas tunnel the previous week.

“Israeli Air Force fighter jets bombed a terror tunnel in northern Gaza in the early hours of last Sunday meant to be used by Hamas’s elite Nukhba naval commandos to secretly go underwater, it was cleared for publication on Sunday. […]

The entrance to the tunnel, which was similar in structure to a sewage tunnel, was in a building used as a Hamas military post in the northern Gaza Strip, three kilometers south of the border with Israel.

The tunnel then continued several dozens of meters underground until it reached the shoreline, and from there it continued into the water on until it reached a depth of 2-3 meters. At this depth, Hamas’s divers could go out to sea without being spotted by IDF observers.”

The existence of the tunnel had been known in advance.

Photo credit: IDF

“According to a senior naval officer, the navy knew about the tunnel for several months and it was decided it was the “right time” to destroy it.

“The bottom line is that it was a tunnel that would allow for the departure of Hamas naval commando forces,” the officer said, adding that Hamas invested a great deal of money in it and trained forces in the tunnel.

“We estimate that there may be more such naval tunnels,” the senior officer said, and that Hamas’ naval commando unit has dozens and dozens of fighters with “civilian diving equipment that allows undetected movement underwater without creating bubbles. Such measures are effective in the three kilometers between the tunnel and the border.”

According to the senior officer the navy estimates that Hamas also has civilian, underwater motorized scooters which can bring the frogmen out several kilometers to sea.”

Last month Israel began building an underwater barrier to prevent infiltration from the Gaza Strip by sea.

“The decision to build an upgraded naval barrier was decided upon after five Hamas frogmen tried to infiltrate Kibbutz Zikim during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Armed with automatic weapons, fragmentation grenades and several types of explosive devices, they were engaged and killed by the IDF in a combined attack from the sea, ground and air.

Hamas has significantly expanded its naval commando unit in the four years since the last conflict, maintaining a reported 1,500 frogmen. The new barrier, which has been designed to withstand severe sea conditions and serve the defense establishment for many years, is aimed at preventing similar incidents.”

As regular readers know, the BBC serially avoids reporting on the repeated attempts to smuggle dual-use goods – including wetsuits and scuba gear – into the Gaza Strip for the purpose of terrorism, even as it continues to portray the counter-terrorism measures made necessary by such attempts as the prime factor influencing the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip – and even as “collective punishment“.

The BBC’s coverage of Hamas’ cross-border land tunnels has been decidedly patchy, with the purpose of those that have been reported not clarified in the BBC’s own words.

It is therefore hardly surprising that the discovery of an undersea tunnel constructed by a terror group the BBC insists on calling “militants” did not get any BBC coverage whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

BBC News yawns at ‘Great Return March’ arson incidents

Between March 30th and April 27th the BBC News website produced reports on all but one of the Friday ‘protests’ staged along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip by the organisers of the ‘Great Return March’.

March 30th: BBC News claims Gaza stone throwers engaged in ‘peaceful demonstrations’

April 6th: BBC reporting on Gaza border rioting continues to avoid core issue

April 13th: BBC report on latest Gaza violence follows established pattern

April 20th: no reporting

April 27th: “Israel border clashes: Three Palestinians killed, Gaza officials say

The weekly rioting was renewed on Friday May 4th and once again it included attempts to cause fires on Israeli farm land adjacent to the border. The use of incendiary kites for that purpose has been seen since the third week of the publicity stunt organised by Hamas and other terror groups but BBC News website audiences have seen no reporting whatsoever on that topic. In contrast, readers of the New York Times were informed that:

Photo credit: ITIC

“Gaza’s flaming-kite squadrons had worked for days to prepare for Friday’s protest along the border with Israel, building hundreds of flimsy-framed sails with tails meant to carry crude incendiary devices, like rags soaked in gasoline.

Their battle plan was to fly them in swarms into Israel with the aim of igniting the dry fields of the rural communities on the other side of the border fence. They were counting on help from a heavy heat wave to fan the fires. […]

“The wind is still against us,” Ismail al-Qrinawi, 41, said about 4 p.m. at a protest site near Bureij, about halfway along the 25-mile eastern border of the Gaza Strip. “We are waiting for it to pick up so we can fly tens of kites and burn their crops,” he added, as masked men waited nearby with a couple of kites and gasoline. […]

Nearly 400 acres of wheat ready for harvesting went up in flames, according to Gadi Yarkoni, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, which represents many Israeli communities along the border with Gaza. The damage was worth nearly half a million dollars, for which the farmers will get compensation from the state.”

BBC audiences likewise did not see any dedicated reporting on the subject of an arson attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing which was also carried out during the May 4th rioting.

“Yesterday, Friday, May 4, 2018, the riots escalated as Palestinian rioters vandalized and set ablaze the pipes that carry fuel and gas, as well as several of the crossings where humanitarian aid from the State of Israel and the international community passes into the Gaza Strip in order to improve the wellbeing of Gaza residents. The rioters burned offices, buildings, and gas tanks, and damaged fences and gate.”

As noted at the Times of Israel:

“The damage caused Friday will very likely cause delays and difficulties in the transfer of goods into Gaza, not to mention the supply of desperately needed fuel, and exacerbate the already difficult humanitarian situation.”

However, the only mention of that incident on the BBC News website came in the form of twenty-two words in a report on another topic that was published the following day:

“On Saturday, Israel accused Hamas of setting fire to gas supplies and damaging crossing points where humanitarian supplies are brought into Gaza.” [emphasis added]

Kerem Shalom is the sole crossing point for commercial goods into the Gaza Strip and some 2,370 trucks pass through it weekly carrying supplies that include building materials, food, agricultural produce and medical supplies. In addition, some 607 thousand litres of petrol, 3,200 litres of solar and 1,500 tons of gas are usually piped weekly into the Gaza Strip through that now damaged infrastructure.

While BBC audiences are regularly – and often falselyled to believe that counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel are the prime factor influencing the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, significantly this latest example of Palestinians sabotaging their own supply routes only got a cursory mention from the BBC.

Related Articles:

No BBC reporting on latest Hamas cross-border tunnel

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

 

 

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

In part one of this post we saw how listeners to BBC Radio 4 on March 30th heard a report about the violent rioting along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip which included multiple references to the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’  – without any background information or context on that issue being provided.

Listeners to the evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on the same day also heard reporting on the same events. Presenter Julian Marshall introduced the item (from 00:63 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Marshall: “But we go first to the border between Israel and Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians massed today in what is the start of weeks of protest to demand that refugees be allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel. The protesters had been told by the organisers – among them Hamas – to be peaceful and not to approach the border fence but stones and firebombs were thrown while the Israeli army responded with tear gas and live fire. And at day’s end 15 demonstrators have been killed and hundreds injured.”

Without clarifying to listeners that the people he described as refugees are in fact descendants of refugees – and why – and without reminding audiences that the Gaza Strip has not been ‘occupied’ for thirteen years, Marshall went on to present some voice-over translations of anonymous speakers – the first of which had also been heard by listeners to BBC Radio 4.

Marshall: “Here are some Palestinian voices on the border.”

V/O Man 1: “We need to change the way we deal with the Israeli occupation. Every peaceful and non-peaceful way has failed. We must find a way to go back to our homeland. It’s been 100 years now and Palestinians are stranded while all the other nations of the world are enjoying peace and democracy.”

V/O Man 2: “Did you see all those who got injured today? We are staying put until we get back our land. I hope we sent a clear message today. What could happen to us more than that? We’re besieged, beaten and have been suffering for so long.”

V/O Woman 1: “This is a peaceful rally. We are here to tell the world that returning to our land is non-negotiable. We will return to our cities.”

As made clear in Marshall’s introduction and as the showcased “Palestinian voices” further indicate, the programme’s producers are obviously aware of the fact that the publicity stunt dubbed ‘the Great Return March’ rests on the issue of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’.

Clearly in order for listeners to be able to reach an informed opinion on that topic, they should have been made aware of the fact that the aim of that demand is in to eradicate the Jewish state and that it is incompatible with the internationally accepted ‘two-state solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Obviously audiences would also have benefited from hearing some context regarding the circumstances under which some of the Arabs living in the area in 1948 became refugees – and not least the fact that the process began because neighbouring Arab states chose to initiate a war intended to eradicate the emerging Jewish state.

Marshall however supplied no such information before going on to interview former IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovich about the day’s violent incidents on the border. At 07:43 he introduced his next interviewee – a member of the Hamas terror group that co-organised this stunt precisely in order to get such media exposure.

Marshall: “So what does Hamas make of the allegations by Israel that the violence started on the Palestinian side? The protests have been taking place at a number of locations along the border between Israel and Gaza and at one of those, near Malaka, we contacted Ahmed Yousef – a former senior advisor to the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh.”

Interestingly, in a 2008 interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Yousef described plans similar to the ‘Great Return March’ now underway.

“Ahmed Yousef would like to pull off another Rafah-style exploit, but this time against the Palestinians’ archenemy, Israel. He is planning a mass march to the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza. “We’re going to send half a million people there, mainly women and children. Then we’ll see how the Israelis react,” he says. A devilish scheme, since the Israelis would not react as passively to the storming of their border as the Egyptians did. But Yousef is not impressed by such objections. “If the Israelis want our blood, I’m willing to sacrifice my children.”

Yousef has already asked international observers to participate in the “march on Erez.” Some have already agreed to come, and Yousef is happy about this. “This,” he says, “is the beginning of the third Intifada.”” 

Listeners heard Yousef deny seeing anyone approaching the border fence or “firing anything” and dismiss such reports as “what the Israeli try just to justify their aggression and the way of killing people and shooting on them”.

Yousef: “But from my observation I didn’t see any of these accusations or these Israeli lies against the people here. They enjoy actually to sit and talk and sing to show the whole world that we, as Palestinian, as refugee, we are close to our border and we hope that the message received will be received by the world community.”

In response to a question from Marshall about Hamas’ funding of the event Yousef claimed:

Yousef: “This all nonsense. This is the Israeli hasbara, the propaganda machine trying to undermine the people’s spirit. That why everybody brought his family with him and come to show that those grandchildren and their sons and daughters continue that kind of commitment towards their land. Their land is across the border and everybody try to inherit this vision for his family.”

Replying to a question from Marshall about the possibility of a “rethink” of tactics, Yousef made references to a non-existent “siege” and inaccurately implied that Israel is to blame for poor medical services in the Gaza Strip. Julian Marshall made no attempt whatsoever to challenge those falsehoods.

Yousef: “You know that actually it is every day we have people who are – because of the sanction, because of Gaza being under siege – died from different diseases because they can’t get the medical treatment. Or the people are suffering because there is no enough job or work and so you are suffering by any means. You are [in] hell and now the time for the message to cross to the world community that there are, there were people here in Gaza who still suffering from the siege and also they are willing to push the world community to implement United Nations resolution 194 where people should return to their towns and cities and being compensated. So this is the message that the people trying to send and this is the only message.”

Listeners would of course have benefitted at that point had they been informed that UN GA resolution 194 is a non-binding resolution dating from December 1948 that was opposed at the time by Arab states and which (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees and – contrary to often heard assertions – does not grant any unconditional ‘right of return’. 

However Marshall instead provided Yousef with a platform from which to downplay Hamas involvement in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ before closing the interview.

Yousef: “But you know most of the people who been actually organise this Great March are youth. They don’t rely on political factions.”

As we have seen in the two examples in this post, the BBC has provided Hamas and some of the publicity stunt’s other organisers with exactly the type of unchallenging media platform that they counted on being given. Concurrently however, the BBC has refrained from providing its audiences with the background information on the Palestinian maximalist demand for the ‘right of return’ that is essential for proper understanding of this latest Hamas agitprop.

Related Articles:

Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

British connections to upcoming Gaza agitprop ignored by BBC News

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

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

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

 

 

BBC News website does stealth makeover on fact check fail

On the morning of March 19th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an apparently hastily written short report titled “French consulate worker ‘smuggled arms to Gaza'” which read as follows: [emphasis added]

“A French national employed at the country’s consulate in Jerusalem will appear in court on Monday charged with smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said the unnamed man, in his 20s, was arrested in February while crossing into Gaza from Israel.

One of the suspect’s jobs at the consulate was as a driver, involving regular trips to Gaza, reports say.

Israel has long tried to prevent arms reaching Gaza’s militant Hamas group.

A spokesman for the French embassy in Tel Aviv told AFP news agency: “We take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.”

Shin Bet said the suspect had smuggled more than 70 pistols and two assault rifles into Gaza over a period of five trips. It said he used a consulate vehicle to elude detection.

Hamas has fought three conflicts with Israel and carried out thousands of rocket [sic] and bombings against it.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling and attacks by militants.”

In fact, that story is about an employee of the French consulate in Jerusalem (who, despite the BBC’s claim, was named) allegedly smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip to Judea & Samaria.

“Two French embassy workers have been arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency on suspicion of smuggling dozens of weapons from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip to the West Bank, the agency cleared for release on Monday.

One French citizen, Romain Frank, worked at the French consulate in Jerusalem, and is suspected of belonging to a cell which smuggled 70 pistols and 2 assault rifles through the Erez crossing on the Israel-Gaza border on five different occasions. […]

According to the Shin Bet investigation, Frank received the weapons from a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip employed at the French Cultural Center in the Gaza Strip and he transferred the weapons to a cell in the West Bank who sold them to arms dealers.

The Shin Bet investigation clearly showed that Frank was acting in return for financial gain, of his own volition, and without the knowledge of his superiors. The investigation also found that several Palestinians arrested in relation to the case were also involved in the smuggling of money from Gaza to the West Bank. […]

In addition to Frank, a resident of east Jerusalem who works as a security guard at the French consulate in Jerusalem as well as several Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were living in the West Bank illegally were arrested and will be indicted on Monday.”

The BBC at some point realised its error and the report was republished under the amended headline “French consulate worker ‘smuggled arms from Gaza’” – but without a footnote clarifying the previous errors. [emphasis added]

“A French national employed at the country’s consulate in Jerusalem will appear in court on Monday charged with smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said the unnamed man, in his 20s, was arrested in February at the Erez border crossing.

One of the suspect’s jobs at the consulate was as a driver, involving regular trips to Gaza, reports say.

Israel has long tried to prevent arms reaching Palestinian militants.

A spokesman for the French embassy in Tel Aviv told AFP news agency: “We take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities.”

Shin Bet said the suspect had smuggled more than 70 pistols and two assault rifles from Gaza into the West Bank over a period of five trips. It said he used a consulate vehicle to elude detection.

Hamas has fought three conflicts with Israel and carried out thousands of rocket [sic] and bombings against it.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling and attacks by militants.”

A third version of the report has since appeared in which the consulate employee was named and further details of the story provided.

As regular readers know, the BBC has in the past ignored attempts to smuggle goods into the Gaza Strip for the purpose of terrorism as well as numerous stories related to efforts to build up the Hamas terror infrastructure outside Gaza.

How unfortunate then that when the BBC did finally produce a report on that issue, it passed up on basic fact checking. How unfortunate too that those who read the initial version of this article have once again not been informed that they were given inaccurate information. 

Related Articles:

BBC silence on Gaza smuggling continues

 

 

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first half of a programme in the ‘Our World’ series that was recently broadcast on the BBC News Channel and the BBC World News Channel under the title “Working for the Enemy”.

After presenter Murad Batal Shishani had uncritically amplified Hamas’ claim that Israel was behind the assassination of one of its senior operatives last year and had been given access to a Hamas-run prison to interview a contrite collaborator, he turned to the topic of the alleged recruitment of Mazen Fuqaha’s assassin by Israel.

Shishani: “But would the Israeli security forces really recruit a jihadi – someone dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel? It seemed an extraordinary risk”.

Shishani then went to interview the former Shin Bet director and current member of the Knesset Avi Dichter, asking him:

Shishani: “Would you recruit a jihadist to kill a Hamas operative?”

Dichter: “Well everything is possible in this fight against terrorists.”

Shishani quickly moved on to his next interviewee who he described as “a reserve officer from Israeli military intelligence”. The fact that the interviewee remained anonymous and his voice unheard, together with Shishani’s claim that “he has to be careful about what he says in order to avoid arrest”, raises the unanswered question of how BBC Arabic made contact with this particular interviewee and whether or not a ‘middle-man’ such as the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ was involved.

That interviewee – presented as Aaron – apparently gave Shishani the money quotes he was obviously looking for.

Voiceover: “We know so much about people’s personal lives. Their romantic affairs, their sexual affairs, their health problems, everything. So if you want to gain cooperation from people it’s obviously best if we can blackmail this person.” […]

Shishani: “But it’s not just sexual orientation that makes people targets.”

Voiceover: “If someone’s daughter has cancer, for example, and he wants to get treatment in one of the Israeli hospitals – which is no doubt better treatment than in Palestinian hospitals – and if we know about it, maybe we can stop him and tell him OK you can have this but only if you cooperate.”

That led Shishani conveniently on to his next story.

Shishani: “Salwa Saidni [phonetic] knows all about this coercion. Today she is with her grandchildren. A year ago their mother Kholoud needed urgent treatment for cancer. The Israeli authorities granted her permission to go to a hospital in Jerusalem. It was six o’clock and barely light when Salwa and her daughter Kholoud arrived here at the Erez Crossing one morning in January 2017. […] The officers wanted information about a man married to Kholoud’s cousin. She said he was an olive tree farmer.”

Salwa: “He said ‘yes but he plants rockets. He plants rockets with Hamas.’ She said ‘if you know he plants rockets what’s that got to do with me? I’m sick and need treatment. I want to be able to raise my kids.'”

Shishani: “Salwa says her daughter was not able to give any information about the man.”

Salwa: “He told her ‘there’s the bus you need’. Only a glass screen separated us from it.”

Shishani: “But the Israeli authorities did not allow Kholoud to board the bus. […] Three weeks later Kholoud died.”

After having given extensive amplification to allegations that have been used by anti-Israel activists to delegitimise Israel – and with nothing to suggest any independent verification by the BBC – Shishani once again ostensibly ticked the BBC’s impartiality box with a one-liner.

Shishani: “The Israeli authorities told us that entry to Israel is not conditional on providing information or cooperation and they denied any irregularities in their dealings with Kholoud.”

Notably, Shishani made no effort to inform BBC audiences that the party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which in 2017 exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel. 

Shishani’s next interviewee was presented as follows:

Shishani: “Some Palestinians work with Israel because they genuinely believe this is the right way to protect their own people. I have come to a tiny village in the far south of Israel. It is the home of a Bedouin community of around 20 families that were moved from Gaza, where they had devoted their lives to working with the Israeli state. […] Hassan is the community leader here – a role he inherited from his father, a Bedouin Sheikh from the Sinai desert. Hassan’s father sided with the Israeli state after Arab nations were defeated in the 1967 war and Israel occupied his land. […] How do you feel when you or your father are called a traitor or a spy?”

The programme’s last interview – once again anonymous – took place in “a provincial Israeli town” with a man described as having “worked in Gaza for the Israelis from the age of 17 – but that was before he had to get out.”

Unsurprisingly, Shishani’s final interviewee stated that “my past is haunting me” and Shishani then closed the report.

Shishani: “Normality, more than anything, is what people in Gaza crave but for most here, it’s out of reach. Constant scrutiny, suspicion and human need mean that collaboration will keep shaping and poisoning lives and some will continue to work for the enemy.”

Clearly Murad Batal Shishani had a specific story to tell in this programme and nothing was going to get in its way. His uncritical amplification of the stories and interviews – in part obviously Hamas approved – that make up the bulk of the programme was not balanced by his token interview with Avi Dichter or his tepid one-liner presentations of responses from “the Israeli authorities”.

For years Hamas has periodically run campaigns targeting ‘collaborators’ and its extra-judicial executions of people branded as such are a subject only rarely covered by the BBC. Given the cooperation from Hamas that Shishani obviously enjoyed in the making of this programme, it is hardly surprising to see that Hamas’ use of the ‘collaborator’ tag as an excuse for extrajudicial executions did not get any coverage whatsoever in Shishani’s one-sided report.  

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BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part one

BBC audiences recently saw heavy social media promotion of a programme in the ‘Our World’ series that was broadcast on the BBC News Channel and the BBC World News Channel under the title “Working for the Enemy”.

“Collaborating with Israel can mean prison or death in Gaza. So why do people do it? Some Palestinians say they’re forced or blackmailed, others believe they’re helping to prevent attacks on innocent people. Israel says recruiting Palestinian agents helps protect its citizens. For Our World, BBC Arabic’s Murad Batal Shishani travels to Israel, and Gaza, to unravel a complex web of desperation and exploitation.”

The ‘documentary’ presented by Murad Batal Shishani (available here) literally opened with a context-free slur that has long been used by anti-Israel campaigners and BBC journalists alike.

Shishani: “It’s been called the world’s largest open prison. The Gaza Strip: penned in by walls, barbed wire and gun turrets. The 1.8 million people living here can only get into Israel with special permission. And even if their lives depend on it, they have to enter through here – the Erez Crossing – the main gateway into Israel. […] This is the story of the desperate choices people have to make. […] It’s the story of how the Israeli state seeks to protect its citizens. […] And of those who now live tortured by shame and regret. […] This is a film about Palestinians who collaborate with the Israeli state: those who work for the enemy.”

Following that introduction, the next four minutes of the film repeatedly and uncritically promoted clips from a video produced by a terrorist organisation.

Shishani: “In May 2017 the ruling Hamas government in Gaza released this video to a shocked public. Some Palestinian men had apparently been caught working for Israel in Gaza. They were explaining how they were recruited. […] Each had been cleverly targeted according to their needs and beliefs. They were then recruited by Israeli agents to kill a senior leader of the Hamas military wing – a man called Mazen Fuqaha.”

As readers may recall when Mazen Fuqaha was assassinated in March 2017, the BBC did not cover the story in English. Hamas immediately blamed Israel for the killing, at one point claiming that the assassins had arrived by sea. The BBC’s English language services also showed no interest in reporting border closures imposed by Hamas following the killing.

In April 2017 the BBC News website correctly reported that “Hamas has offered no evidence that Israel was behind Fuqaha’s death”. In May 2017 the BBC News website reported the executions of three men said by Hamas to have confessed to killing Fuqaha, quoting criticism of the process from an NGO.

“Human rights groups had called on the Islamist movement not to carry out the executions – just two weeks after it announced the arrests and aired videos of what it said were the men’s confessions. […]

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, said: “Rushing to put men to death based on an unreviewable decision of a special military court days after announcing their arrests, and airing videoed confessions, smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law.

“Reliance on confessions, in a system where coercion, torture and deprivation of detainee’s rights are prevalent, and other apparent due process violations further taint the court’s verdicts”.”

Nevertheless, BBC Arabic chose to take those video confessions at face value and after a brief sketch of Fuqaha’s terrorist activities during the second Intifada, his imprisonment and his release, Shishani interviewed Hamas’ Mahmoud al Zahar, describing him as someone who “had known Mazen Fuqaha for years”.

Zahar: “They [Israel] thought Fuqaha was active in the West Bank while based in Gaza. Either some Palestinian told them or they had some intelligence.”

Shishani: “And was he active?”

Zahar: “I don’t know.”

Showing no further interest in the topic of Fuqaha’s terrorist activities, Shishani went on to further amplify Hamas’ version of events.

Shishani: “But someone seemed to think Fuqaha was still active. On the 24th of March 2017 this man – Ashraf Abu Leila – received his instructions. He outlined the plan in the Hamas confession video. Hamas officials say that this is Ashraf, caught on CCTV as he walks past the hospital into the yard and towards his target’s parking lot. Fuqaha had spent a family day on the beach. He was alone in his car. The gunman followed him, knocked on his window and shot him five times. Ashraf’s job was done. Hamas had lost one of its key assets and there was an outpouring of grief at Fuqaha’s funeral. Soon after, Ashraf and his suspected accomplices were arrested. In their confessions they warned their audience not to fall for Israeli recruiters. Days after these confessions were filmed all three men were executed as traitors – and as a warning to others.”

Then – after having spent a full four minutes unquestioningly amplifying Hamas’ unproven version of the story – Shishani told viewers that:

Shishani: “We cannot verify the testimonies in the video. Hamas would not share their evidence. But collaborating with Israel is not such a rare thing here.”

With obvious approval and cooperation from Hamas, Shishani next visited a prison in the Gaza Strip where he spoke to one of the “convicted collaborators” called Ibrahim. BBC audiences were once again led towards the erroneous belief that Gaza is under “siege”.

Ibrahim: “Most people who fall into this trap, 90% or more are victims. We in Gaza are suffering from a very harsh siege. Everything is in short supply. Healthcare. Basic needs.

Shishani: “Ibrahim told me that Israeli recruiters prey on the needs of people in Gaza.”

Ibrahim: “They target young men with financial problems and put pressure on them. To start with they say they are not asking for anything serious, just a chat. And then you fall into a bigger trap.”

Shishani: “Who are they targeting?”

Ibrahim: “Firstly it’s those who need medical treatment. This is the biggest problem facing us all. Everyone suffers from this problem. Secondly, it’s people with financial problems and thirdly those who are vulnerable and they turn to drugs.”

Once again – after giving uncritical and extensive amplification to those claims – Shishani ticked the BBC’s ‘impartiality’ box with a one-liner.

Shishani: “The Israeli authorities told us they don’t try to recruit people in these vulnerable situations.”

The next part of Shishani’s film was devoted to the man executed by Hamas for the killing of Mazen Fuqaha – Ashraf Abu Laila.

Shishani: “What could have made a Palestinian like Ashraf kill a leading Hamas militant? And how might the Israeli security forces have found and recruited such a man?”

Quoting an unidentified source described as a “jihadi” – presumably one of Gaza’s Salafists – Shishani told viewers:

Shishani: “Ashraf Abu Laila approached the jihadists, claiming he is a member of the so-called Islamic State but the jihadists rejected him. As a loner, Ashraf might have been easier to control. But would the Israeli security forces really recruit a jihadi – someone dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel? It seemed an extraordinary risk”.

The rest of this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.  

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BBC silence on Gaza smuggling continues

In the past we have documented several examples (see ‘related articles’ below) of the BBC’s serial failure to report stories concerning attempts to smuggle goods into the Gaza Strip for the purpose of terrorism.

Another such story recently came to light but it too has not received any BBC coverage.

“Israeli authorities at the Kerem Shalom Crossing foiled an attempt to smuggle into the Gaza Strip explosive components for long-range projectiles hidden inside packages of medical supplies, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Sunday morning.

The explosive material was intercepted by security authorities this past week after crates with containers of medical equipment destined for the Strip were removed and packages inside the containers were taken to a laboratory for additional testing. […]

The materials seized by authorities were then identified as a central component in the preparation of explosive charges and in the high-trajectory projectiles fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip.”

Just last month BBC audiences heard a Hamas official blame Gaza’s poor medical care on Israeli counter-terrorism measures without any challenge from his interviewer. The myth that medical services in Gaza are affected by the blockade is one that has been promoted in the past in BBC content, along with similar fables concerning fuel and the allegation that the counter-terrorism measures are ‘collective punishment’.

“Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade around Gaza aimed at preventing attacks by militants there, though the measure has been condemned by rights groups as a form of collective punishment.” BBC News website, February 13th 2017.

“…the stifling border closures the Israeli government says are for security, the people here say are for collective punishment.” BBC World Service radio, February 1st 2017.

“One of the reasons Gaza’s often described as the largest open-air prison in the world is the difficulty of getting across the border with Israel.” BBC World Service radio, May 19th 2015.

And yet, although it regularly amplifies such inaccurate claims, the BBC at the same time repeatedly refrains from informing its audiences of the stories which would enhance their understanding of why the restrictions placed on the border with the Gaza Strip are necessary.

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BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

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

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

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

The use of that inaccurate terminology is however still evident in BBC content – both by unchallenged interviewees and by BBC journalists. For example:

“Gaza’s economy is definitely not able to support a population of 1.7 million people but that’s because of the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.” (Jeremy Bowen, BBC Radio 4, 19/7/14)

“And I have to say – and this is one of the oddest things – from the decrepit heart of a half-destroyed city in a besieged and blockaded enclave, sometimes described as the biggest open air prison in the world, comes the best ice cream I have ever tasted.” (Roger Hearing, BBC Radio 4, 18/6/15)

“I had attended the war in Gaza in 2012. I’ve been working there for about the last five years and while I was there we had patients coming in – no equipment because the siege has gotten so bad even though it’s medical equipment – and we had to listen to patients’ chests by putting our ears to their chests…” (Tarek Loubani on ‘Newshour‘, 16/8/15)

“These people who suffered these wars and siege are now in rows having popcorn and watching [a movie that] reflects the Palestinian situation,” Mr Abu Saleh said. […] ‘The project is very important… because it is considered as one of the ways to break through the siege that has been forced on Gaza for 10 years’.” (Hugo Bachega, BBC News website, 8/4/16)

“‘The war’s over but the war-like situation is still going on’ he tells me. ‘The siege goes on, we’re still prisoners. The quality of life gets worse’.” (Yolande Knell, ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, 22/7/17)

“Of course life for ordinary people in Gaza is under tremendous pressure at the moment because it’s almost ten years of siege… […] I think what needs to be looked at is the whole siege of Gaza and I think that will require much more international determination both from the West and from the Gulf countries and Egypt to sort of say to Israel ‘look, it’s not in your interest to keep the siege going’.” (Oliver McTernan on ‘Newshour‘, 17/9/17)

“Hamas is also suffering because not easy now to rule Gaza and the policy of the political isolation from the international community, from the blockade and siege on Gaza from the Israeli occupation…” (Ghazi Hamad on ‘Newshour‘, 17/9/17)

“The siege for a long time destroyed our medical, our social, our economic life and nobody is interested about human rights where 2 million Palestinian people are living in this area.” (Mahmoud Zahar on ‘Hardtalk‘, 8/1/18)

On January 24th Israel’s Ministry of Defence published a summary of its Crossings Authority’s activity during 2017. In the section relating to the Kerem Shalom crossing the report states:

“The movement of Israeli goods that entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing grew and reached some 160 thousand lorries. The peak of the year was recorded in April when in one day over 1,000 lorries carrying goods crossed the crossing.”

The report also states that in 2017 there was a rise of 15% in the amount of goods transported and in the number of people using the various crossings to the Gaza Strip and Judea & Samaria administered by the authority, with 15 million crossings by Palestinians recorded.

Obviously a media organisation seriously committed to accurate and impartial reporting would not portray, or facilitate portrayal of, 160,000 truckloads of supplies in one year as a “siege”. The BBC, however, continues to do just that.  

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