BBC ignores a good news story from Gaza

Last year the BBC World Service’s business department produced a series of highly politicised reports concerning the economy in the Gaza Strip.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth

BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Notably, the BBC appears to be less interested in reporting some recent good news on the Gaza economic front.

“The Coca-Cola Company inaugurated its first bottling plant in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a facility which will eventually employ 270 people and indirectly support hundreds of households. […]

The new plant currently employs 120 workers, spans more than 15,000 square meters and contains a single bottling line capable of filling up to 36,000 bottles per hour. Over the next three years the company plans to introduce a second line and expand the number of workers to 270.”

The plant also provides additional employment opportunities:

“Expectations were high in the Gaza Strip in the months leading up to the opening of the plant not only because it meant an end to the import of coke products through border crossings, but also because of the 120 direct jobs and 1,200 indirect jobs the plant brings to workers, suppliers and distributors.”

To date there has been no BBC reporting on that story. 

Politicisation of BBC World Service programme on Israeli water technology

h/t LO

BBC World Service radio has been running a series called ‘Elements‘ which advertises itself as taking “[a] close look at chemical elements, the basic building blocks of the universe. Where do we get them, what do we use them for and how do they fit into our economy?”WS Elements water

The latest episode of that programme – broadcast on April 27th on ‘Business Daily’ – dealt with hydrogen as water and was described its synopsis as follows:

“In his second gulp of H2O, presenter Justin Rowlatt hears from climatologist Raymond Pierrehumbert about how global warming is causing drastic but often unpredictable disruption to our natural supplies of freshwater.

Yet as Israel enters its third year of dought [sic], few of the country’s citizens are aware of any water shortages. The BBC’s Shira Gemer reports on the technological breakthroughs that have made this possible – from the gigantic Sorek desalination plant, to the drip irrigation pioneered by Netafim in the Negev desert.

We also hear from desalination expert Raphael Semiat of Technion University how much the rest of the world can emulate Israel’s success.”

The part of the programme concerning Israel (from 12:50 here) is both interesting and informative. One must therefore wonder all the more why presenter Justin Rowlatt found it appropriate to introduce the item using facile politicized messaging.

“…and it is to Israel that we turn our attention now. Water is of course an extremely contentious issue in Israel’s neighbourhood. Israel and Palestine are in deadlock over water sharing across the green line. Meanwhile, Jewish settlements are accused of hogging water supplies on the West Bank and the River Jordan itself is shrivelling as Israel and its Arab neighbours collectively draw too much from it.”

The BBC’s long-standing and repeated politicization of the topic of water means that we have addressed that issue many times on these pages. Agreements regarding water form part and parcel of the Oslo Accords – but apparently Rowlatt has never heard of the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee and does not know that Israel actually supplies the PA with more water than stipulated in the agreements. Rowlatt’s populistic claim that “Jewish settlements” are “hogging water supplies on the West Bank” is obviously not based on an understanding of the fact that 97% of the Palestinian residents of that area get their water supplies from the Palestinian Water Authority and his jaundiced portrayal of the Jordan River is likewise devoid of context.

What a pity it is for BBC World Service audiences that even a science programme is allowed to become a platform for opportunistic uninformed Israel-bashing.

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A postscript to BBC Business’ recent reports from the Gaza Strip

As readers are aware, Roger Hearing and Marie Keyworth from the BBC’s business department recently produced a series of reports (see related articles below) for BBC World Service radio which purported to inform BBC audiences worldwide about the state of the economy in both the Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea & Samaria and the supposedly PA controlled – but in fact Hamas-run – Gaza Strip.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth

Though high on pathos and politically motivated messaging, the duo’s reports from the Gaza Strip notably made no mention whatsoever of one particular factor which has recently led to rising prices.

As the New York Times reported:

“Most recently, Hamas quietly initiated new import fees in an effort to cover the salaries of about 40,000 employees who have not been paid for months, raising prices in already-depressed markets. A kilogram of meat, a little over two pounds, increased by 50 cents, black pepper by $1.50 a kilogram and shampoo by 25 cents.”

Avi Issacharoff adds:

“The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has instituted new taxes that will be used to pay the salaries of its administration officials, who number approximately 40,000.

Hamas, which declared the taxes under the heading “social solidarity,” decided to begin collecting them following a meeting of its parliament members who live in Gaza.

The new taxes, which include a 25 percent tariff on new cars, have led to higher prices, such as a 20% increase in the price of beef. […]

The new taxes are also constantly changing. One tax that was instituted recently requires companies registered with the Economic Affairs Ministry in Gaza to pay approximately NIS 500 to have a Hamas representative participate in a company conference. Hamas charges another few hundred shekels to have the conference registered, and if it is postponed, the postponement is taxed as well.

The most problematic taxes are levied on all goods that enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Even cartons of cigarettes that are brought in from the West Bank are taxed. This means that the average resident of Gaza pays more for cigarettes than his counterpart in the West Bank does, even though the standard of living in the West Bank is higher.

Another example is meat: Since importers must pay NIS 50 in taxes for every calf that enters Gaza, the price of beef has gone up. Hamas’s import tax on sheep is “only” NIS 25 per head.”Business Matters 19 5 Hearing intro

As readers may recall, salaries for those 40,000 Hamas employees have been an issue ever since the announcement of the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity government’ a year ago. As the Times of Israel explained at the time:

“The PA has been paying monthly salaries to nearly 70,000 public servants in Gaza despite the fact that the workers had not been allowed to serve in their positions since Hamas took over the Strip by force in 2007.

On its part, Hamas has employed 40,000 of its own civil servants to work in the PA employees’ stead.”

The Palestinian Authority refused to pay Hamas’ 40,000 employees and payment of those salaries appeared among the demands laid down by Hamas as conditions for halting the conflict with Israel which it initiated last July.

Back in July 2014 the BBC’s Yolande Knell produced a dumbed down report on the economy in the Gaza Strip which misrepresented the story of those 40,000 Hamas employees and now BBC Business reporters have ignored the issue of the price rises caused by taxes intended to pay their salaries. Once again we see that factors affecting the Palestinian economy which are the result of Palestinian decisions interest the BBC considerably less than any Israeli actions. 

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BBC World Service’s Hearing reveals the political foundations of a ‘business’ report

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BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Last week two journalists from the BBC World Service’s business department – Roger Hearing and Marie Keyworth – presented a series of reports from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority controlled areas and Israel. Those reports were aired on two BBC World Service radio shows: ‘Business Matters’ and ‘Business Daily’.

With both those shows being specialist programmes, listeners may have expected to receive some factual information about the relevant background factors affecting what Keyworth’s report of May 19th billed “Gaza’s Broken Economy“.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth  

The ‘Business Daily’ version of Keyworth’s report was introduced by presenter Manuela Saragosa as follows:

“After the conflict with Israel in the middle of last year international donors pledged three and a half billion dollars to fund the reconstruction of Gaza’s economy. But last month a group of 46 international aid agencies warned that reconstruction and recovery have barely begun. Much of the aid money has yet to come through. So how do ordinary Gazans survive? What economy is there to speak of?”

This of course is far from the first time that the BBC has reported on the failure of donors to come up with the contributions pledged at the Cairo donor conference last October but once again we see that no serious exploration of the background to that story takes place and audiences hence lack the information they need in order to be able to understand the contribution of Hamas-PA infighting to the present situation.

Whilst Marie Keyworth’s report (also aired on ‘Business Matters’) is high on emotion and pathos, again listeners were not provided with the objective facts and background information necessary for proper understanding of the anecdotes they heard. Business Matters 19 5 15

Thus, when Keyworth interviewed the son of a blacksmith who once used to make a much better living working in Israel, listeners heard the following context-free explanation:

“He has been working in Israel like for 25 years and then intifada number two happened – 2000 – he, all of them, stopped going to Israel so he was stuck in Gaza doing whatever he could do.”

The second Intifada did not just ‘happen’ of course; it was planned, initiated and executed by representatives and leaders of the same Palestinians who, as a result of that terror war, lost the ability to support their families by means of higher paying work in Israel.

A similar lack of context was evident when the owner of a mini-market was heard telling Keyworth that:

“We get the goods in the shop through merchants. We used to get them through the tunnels but now they have to import them through the borders when they are open. Most of the things we used to get from the tunnels were cheap but now they are unavailable. It’s getting more expensive but on whose expense? It’s me; the citizen of course.”

No effort was made by Kenworth to inform listeners that Egypt’s closure of the smuggling tunnels in the Rafah region was prompted by the use of those same tunnels for the purpose of terrorism. Likewise, audiences were not told that there are no limitations on the import of foodstuffs via the Kerem Shalom crossing or that the crossing is open most of the time (excepting weekends, holidays and occasionally due to security incidents) meaning that promotion of the notion that imports can only enter Gaza “when they are open” fosters a misleading impression.

Listeners heard a similarly context-free and misleading statement concerning “borders” in a segment of the programme recorded in a market.

MK: “So these tomatoes have been grown in Gaza?”

Interviewee: “Yeah, yeah, but the borders are closed – we can’t export them – so they give them back to the market and that’s that makes it a little cheaper for us.”

In contrast to the inaccurate impression given to listeners, agricultural produce is of course exported from the Gaza Strip. In addition to the existing exports to Europe and elsewhere, farmers in Gaza also now send produce to PA controlled areas and Israel.

So if a reduction in the price of tomatoes in the markets of Gaza is not because “the borders are closed”, what did bring it about?

In April 2015 – a month before this BBC report was made – the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza announced that it was temporarily stopping the export of tomatoes from the Gaza Strip due to their high price there.

“The Ministry told the agency Anatolia news that “as soon as market supply increases and prices stabilise, exports will be resumed.”

According to official data, the Gaza Strip has shipped some 250 tonnes of tomatoes to Israel since last month. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that the Gaza Strip produces nearly 70 thousand tonnes of tomatoes per year.”

Clearly the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture does not believe that “the borders are closed” to exports and it is obvious that no fact-checking was carried out by the BBC before this report was broadcast and hence listeners were materially misled.

BBC audiences have heard variations of these emotive descriptions of the Gaza economy on assorted BBC platforms on countless occasions in the past. It is however particularly disappointing to see the BBC’s business department producing the same kind of inaccurate and context-free repetition of that standard theme. Any report really aimed at informing audiences about the facts behind the story could not pass up on objective presentation and meaningful analysis of the contribution of Hamas’ terrorism to the real causes of the economic situation in the Gaza Strip. 

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