Accuracy, impartiality and context lacking in BBC Two film on Gaza

BBC Two has recently been showing a four-part series titled “Mediterranean with Simon Reeve” which will be available on BBC iPlayer for the next five months.

“Simon Reeve embarks on an extraordinary four-part journey around the Mediterranean, uncovering the wild extremes that lie behind the tourist veneer.”

In episode two of the series (also available here) its writer and presenter visited Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“Travelling south, Simon’s next stop is Israel, a country that perhaps more than any other depends on the Mediterranean for its survival. With few friends in the region, Israel has to transport most of its goods by sea. Simon joins the Israeli Navy who patrol the coast and protect the country’s offshore oil reserves using the latest military weaponry and technology, including unmanned, combat-ready drone boats.

From Israel Simon crosses one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders to reach the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis have endured a seemingly endless cycle of violence and in Gaza the result has been devastating destruction. Many building materials are restricted by an Israeli blockade on Gaza, but Simon meets an inspiring young woman who has helped reconstruction efforts by inventing an ingenious method of making bricks from ash. It’s a rare ray of hope in one of the most troubled regions of the Mediterranean.”

Informed viewers may well have raised an eyebrow at Reeve’s failure to mention the relevant context of UN Security Council resolutions forbidding the presence of armed militias in the area of southern Lebanon he described as “territory controlled by Hizballah” while en route to visit the terror organisation’s ‘museum’.

In addition to a trip on a navy boat, Reeve’s trip to Israel included a desalination plant and a visit to “party town” Tel Aviv. At the end of his subsequent trip to the Gaza Strip Reeve declared:

“So much about the Arab-Israeli conflict is about picking a side and personally I refuse to. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Palestinians. So many opportunities for real, lasting peace have been lost here and we see two sides that seem in many ways to be moving further apart, not closer together.”

That monologue however came after viewers have been presented (from 42:27) with a fifteen-minute context-free, politicised and, in parts, inaccurate view of the Gaza Strip.

After a brief reference to “missiles launched from Gaza” Reeve told viewers:

“I crossed one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders. So this is a long walk through a cage – a caged passageway that takes us from the very modern, pretty wealthy state of Israel to the much poorer and densely packed Gaza Strip. I’ve never been through a border quite like this. It is extraordinary in every possible sense and – my God – you look across here…look at the barrier that encircles Gaza. It’s a very forbidding, foreboding place to walk towards, quite frankly. There’s a…there’s a dehumanisation of the people who live here. The whole process makes you feel like you’re entering the cage of the wild animals.”

The concrete barrier near the Erez Crossing pointed out by Reeve of course does not ‘encircle’ Gaza at all. Reeve however did not bother to interview anyone from Israeli communities such as Netiv HaAsara which are protected from Palestinian terrorism by that barrier or make any effort to explain its purpose.

Having entered the Gaza Strip, Reeve teamed up with “our guide in Gaza” – failing to clarify that he is a BBC employee before viewers heard Rushdi Abu Alouf promote political propaganda.

Abu Alouf: “Of course they keep calling Gaza the biggest open-air prison which is true because it’s closed from four sides. So Israel is calling this strip of land is like a hostile entity.”

Viewers got no explanation as to why Israel declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity in September 2007 and Reeve next misled BBC audiences with an inaccurate portrayal of how and when Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “Since elections in 2006 Gaza has been controlled by Hamas – a militant Islamic group considered terrorists by Israel and many Western governments.”

Viewers also heard a ‘creative’ portrayal of the purpose of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military position.

Abu Alouf: “They operate in this area because it’s not far from the border so they always try to be ready for any Israeli escalation.”

Audiences were given an inaccurate (even according to previous problematic BBC reporting) account of civilian casualty figures during the 2014 conflict (47:55).

Reeve: “Israelis and Palestinians have endured endless cycles of violence. Here militants can fire rockets into Israel. Israel can attack with overwhelming force. Weeks of conflict here in 2014 between Israel and Palestinians left two thousand civilians dead, including an estimated 500 children.” [emphasis added]

He went on:

Reeve: “Eighteen thousand homes were destroyed. Israel restricts the supply of many building materials like cement into Gaza – Israel says to prevent Hamas building tunnels for attacks.” [emphasis in the original]

Reeve appears to have sourced the number 18,000 from UNOCHA – where that figure is presented as including partly damaged structures rather than the number (11,000 according to other UN reports) of dwellings “destroyed”.  Of course millions of tons of dual-use goods including cement have been imported into the Gaza Strip since the 2014 conflict under a UN supervised mechanism. Reeve made no effort to inform audiences of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for terrorism purposes that include cross-border tunnels.

Failing to explain to viewers why “Gaza is under blockade” or why electricity supplies only run for four hours a day, Reeve gave audiences a simplistic view of Gaza’s economy which failed to include any mention of the relevant topics of the policies and actions of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “But the blockade here is devastating Gaza’s economy. Gaza now has among the highest unemployment rates in the world and it’s believed most of its people survive on less than $2 a day.”

Reeve: “But today Gaza’s fishing industry is in crisis. It’s thought less than half of Gaza’s fishermen are still putting out to sea. Across the Mediterranean fish numbers are in steep decline. Here fishermen face additional challenges.”

Viewers were even told by a Gaza fisherman that fish do not come any closer than nine miles from the shore – with no challenge from Reeve.

Reeve: “This part of the Mediterranean is completely empty.”

Fisherman: “Fish can only be found nine miles out. The Israeli army only allows us to go out six miles.”

Although Reeve acknowledged that he had been unable to verify an account of an incident in which the same fisherman claimed to have been shot by Israeli forces, the BBC aired it anyway. No effort was made to introduce the relevant context of arms smuggling by sea to the Gaza Strip.

With no mention having been made of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip thirteen years ago, audiences were led to believe that Israel is “the occupier”.

Abu Alouf: “Look for young people in Gaza the only thing [they] know about the Israelis is that they are the occupier who come in tanks and aeroplanes and bomb Gaza.”

Simon Reeve ended his visit to the Gaza Strip by telling viewers of this film – categorised in the credits as a “current affairs production” – that:

Reeve: “The situation here is utterly shocking and maddening.”

Significantly, BBC Two audiences heard nothing whatsoever about Hamas’ agenda of destroying the Jewish state – or whether or not Reeve finds that and the terrorism against Israeli civilians which aims to bring that agenda about “utterly shocking and maddening”.

Clearly impartiality and accuracy were not at the forefront of priorities for the makers of this context-lite (especially in comparison to Reeve’s previous efforts to explain the Cyprus conflict) segment of Simon Reeve’s film.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

More context-free BBC portrayal of Gaza construction imports

 

 

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More context-free BBC portrayal of Gaza construction imports

Since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terror groups including Hamas, the BBC has repeatedly told its audiences of “tight border restrictions” affecting the import of construction materials into the Gaza Strip.

“And there are no new building materials that are coming in. Israel has long imposed tight border restrictions on Gaza, saying they’re needed for security and since the ceasefire nothing’s changed. Aid agencies say a rethink is urgently needed. There would still be a housing crisis even if Israel fully opened its one commercial crossing.” [emphasis added] Yolande Knell, BBC News, September 2014

“…but the Israeli blockade of Gaza remains in place. Now that is a blockade by air, land and sea. It is Israel which decides which trucks and how many and carrying what goods are allowed in and out of Gaza. There are serious concerns being expressed by aid agencies about whether or not Israel will allow enough construction materials in. A temporary mechanism has been agreed and that will involve monitoring by the United Nations but they are literally almost at the level of counting the grains of sand going in and out of Gaza and there are serious fears that the volume of cement and construction materials that would be required will simply not be allowed in. Israel of course views cement as a dual-use item and it has been used by Hamas to build tunnels right out of Gaza under the ground into Israeli territory, so cement is particularly carefully monitored.” Orla Guerin, BBC World Service radio, October 2014

“Donors have pledged more than $5bn but Israel strictly regulates the import of building materials and equipment into the Palestinian territory. They say that militants could use the equipment to carry out attacks.” Yolande Knell, BBC News, December 2014

“Israel and Egypt maintain tight border restrictions on the coastal enclave, which have severely hampered reconstruction efforts. They say these are needed for security.” [emphasis added] Yolande Knell, BBC News, July 2015

As has been noted here on numerous occasions, millions of tons of construction materials have in fact been transported into the Gaza Strip since the summer of 2014.

However, the BBC has shown considerably less interest in informing its audiences of important factors which have affected the pace of repair and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip such as the failure of many donors to meet their pledges, the black market in building supplies, the lack of Palestinian Authority cooperation and Hamas’ theft and misappropriation of building materials for the purpose of terror – not least cross-border attack tunnels.

On November 2nd the BBC World Service put out a filmed report concerning a building material developed by a Gaza civil engineer which was also promoted on the BBC News website’s ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages.

Titled “What is ‘Green Cake’ and why did this woman invent it?“, the report by Richard Kenny informed BBC audiences that “[a] young Palestinian entrepreneur, Majd Mashharawi, has redesigned the plain old concrete block to help Gaza rebuild its infrastructure”.

Viewers were told that “[w]ars with Israel have led to widespread destruction” and that the concrete blocks conventionally used for building:

“…are usually made from cement, sand and gravel (or aggregate). But all that has to come from Israel which tightly restricts imports on security grounds.”

In other words, the only information provided to BBC audiences regarding the background to this story refrained from informing them of any of the factors affecting repair and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip which are not connected to Israel and failed to clarify that the supervision of imports of dual-use goods – rather than “imports” in general – had to be put in place as part of counter-terrorism measures.

Had BBC audiences been informed of the complete story behind the topic of building in the Gaza Strip over the past four years, they may have been able to fill in the gaps in this film for themselves. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

Related Articles:

How Hamas put a tax on building materials the BBC told audiences don’t exist

Even the Guardian goes where the BBC refuses to tread

Hamas man spills beans on appropriation of construction materials: BBC silent

BBC News ignores yet another story about Hamas appropriation of construction materials

A side to the Gaza reconstruction story the BBC isn’t telling

Some context to the BBC’s ‘reporter in the Gaza rubble’ features

BBC ignores Hamas theft of construction materials yet again

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Jerusalem Post Lahav Harkov highlights an issue ignored by the BBC in all its generous coverage of the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claims that he is a defender of Christian Arabs in areas under his control. He repeatedly said that Jerusalem is a Muslim and Christian – but not Jewish – holy city in his speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation last week.

But the Palestinians’ track record, even before putting a damper on Christmas this year, should leave Christians skeptical.

In 1950, the Christian population of the Bethlehem area was 86%, according to the National Catholic Reporter. Today, it’s only 12%, and Christians are only 2% of the Palestinian population, even though they were more than twice that a generation ago. The situation in Gaza, controlled by the terrorist group Hamas, is even worse. When Hamas took control in 2006, there were 6,000 Christians, and as of a year ago, there were 1,100. In Israel, the Christian population has stayed mostly stable at around 2%, growing by about 5,000 in the past 20 years.”

2) Writing at the Globe and Mail, Matti Friedman describes the Jerusalem that BBC audiences never see.

“When President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 6 that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy here, Arab leaders called for “days of rage” and a chorus of Western observers predicted an explosion. The predictions were predictable; Jerusalem is always said to be on the brink of catastrophe, and headlines are always reporting “tensions.” […]

After Mr. Trump’s announcement, amid warnings of “explosive” repercussions, I got e-mails from friends abroad, wondering whether I was worried, or whether I was safe. That Friday, a crowd of reporters gathered at the Old City’s Damascus Gate to document the violence that was supposed to erupt. But little happened; the protesters were outnumbered by journalists, and everyone went home. There weren’t spontaneous mass celebrations on the Jewish side or mass disturbances on the Arab side. The past week has been fairly normal.”

3) Seth Frantzman of the Jerusalem Post investigates Qatari investment in Gaza.

“In October 2014, in the aftermath of the Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge), the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) estimated that more than 100,000 homes had been damaged or destroyed in the fighting, affecting 600,000 people. A total of $5.4 billion was pledged toward reconstruction efforts at an international conference in Egypt.

Two years later, only 51% of the pledged money had been disbursed. According to research by the Brookings Institution, Qatar was one of the biggest spenders investing in Gaza, with $216 million sent to the Strip by December 2016, part of a budget of $1.4b. it has pledged and spent in the last five years on Palestinians. […]

Israel has long known that cement imported to Gaza is diverted to be used by Hamas for building terrorist infrastructure, including tunnels. In a May 2016 speech, then-Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said that for every 100 sacks of cement imported to the Gaza Strip, “only five or six are transferred to civilians.” He said that of the 4 million tons of building materials transferred to the Strip between October 2015 and May 2016, some of it had been “seized and used to build new attack tunnels.”

Qatar’s role in Gaza’s reconstruction puts it in a bind. Since June 2017 its neighbors in the Gulf have severed relations, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha’s support for Hamas is a central dispute between it and Riyadh.”

4) Israel’s state archivist Yaakov Lozowick writes about (and links to) the maps used by the British military in its Palestine campaign a century ago.

“Should we visit Tel Aviv? The name of the British map is Jaffa, and about the only part of modern Tel Aviv you’ll find is Sarona, and miles to the north the tiny Arab village of Sheikh Muannis, where Tel Aviv University is today. Also, the map helpfully notes the sand dunes at the center of today’s Tel Aviv.

But wait. That’s actually a bit odd. Tel Aviv was founded in 1909; at least a small version of it ought to have been on the British military maps printed in May 1917? Well, I recommend looking at the bottom right corner of the map, where it says that it’s a reprint made in May 1917, from… The Palestine Exploration Fund maps, surveyed in 1878!

This makes these maps even more interesting, because they tell us two very interesting things. The first is that when the British military map-makers needed to prepare maps with which to conquer Palestine, the most recent ones they had at hand were 39 years old, but they weren’t troubled because they knew that not much had changed between 1787 and 1917. Moreover, they were able to use the maps because their assumption about the limited change was basically correct. Here and there some changes had been made on the ground, such as the founding of the Jaffa suburb of Tel Aviv; but these changes weren’t significant enough to bother the military planners.”

BBC’s Knell promotes more Hamas messaging on Qatar crisis

On June 20th an article by Yolande Knell appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Qatar Gulf row threatens cash crisis for Gaza“.

The article is very similar to the audio report by Knell that was broadcast five days earlier on BBC Radio 4 and is notable for many of the same omissions.

Here too no mention is made whatsoever of issue of Hamas’ designation as a terror organisation by the EU, the US and numerous additional countries, meaning that readers are unable to put statements – such as the following – into their correct context.

“In recent years, Qatar has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new homes, a hospital and main roads in the Gaza Strip. It has pledged about $1bn (£780m) more.

It is not yet clear how its projects will be affected by the ongoing row with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries. They are trying to economically isolate Qatar, accusing it of fostering terrorism – a charge the emirate strongly denies.” [emphasis added]

Like the audio report, this one too gives a whitewashed portrayal of Qatar’s recent expulsion of some Hamas officials but fails to mention that Hamas operatives based in Qatar have directed terror plots against Israel in the past. 

“Many leaders of the group [Hamas] – including its former head, Khaled Meshaal, have been living in luxurious exile in Doha.

Now as Hamas seeks to ease pressure on its patron, several have reportedly left at Qatar’s request.”

Knell tells readers that:

“One of Saudi Arabia’s demands has been for Qatar to stop backing Hamas, which runs Gaza.”

However, as was also the case in her audio report, Knell does not clarify that one of Saudi Arabia’s complaints is that Qatari support for Hamas undermines the Palestinian Authority.

As in her radio report, BBC audiences find unchallenged amplification of the terror organisation’s messaging in this latest report from Knell.

“Hamas leaders insist that Qatari help to Gaza has been primarily charitable.

“The houses that were built are not for Hamas, the streets that were asphalted are not for Hamas,” one senior figure, Mahmoud Zahar, tells the BBC.

“The humanitarian institutions – hospitals and schools, they’re also for the Palestinian people. All attempts to hitch Hamas to Qatar are wrong and void.””

And:

“”Qatar is being punished for speaking freely and supporting the Arab Spring,” remarks Hamas parliamentarian, Yahya Musa, at a small rally in Sheikh Hamad City.

“It’s being punished for supporting us and the resistance. We stand with our brothers to reject US plans against Qatar and the conspiracy against the resistance.””

Readers also find the following bizarre depiction of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip:

“Last week, Israel agreed to a PA plan to cut power supplies to two million people in Gaza that will reduce their daily average of four hours of electricity by 45 minutes.

Hamas accuses its political rivals of plotting with the Trump administration and Israel to unseat it in Gaza.”

Anyone unfamiliar with the story would not understand from Knell’s portrayal that the ongoing electricity crisis is actually the result of a long-standing internal Palestinian disagreement that was recently exacerbated when the Palestinian Authority announced its refusal to continue footing the entire bill for electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip by Israel. Hamas too refuses to pay for that electricity, preferring instead to spend millions of dollars on its military infrastructure. Yolande Knell, however, shoehorned Israel and the US into her warped portrayal of the story – even though she knows the true background to the crisis full well.

The BBC of course has a long record of under-reporting the relevant story of Hamas’ known misappropriation of construction materials for the purpose of terrorism and in this article readers find only the following poorly composed and unnecessarily qualified statement:

Israel says Hamas has also used foreign funding to bolster its military infrastructure, which its blockade aims to keep from strengthening.” [emphasis added]

Knell also erases from audience view the root cause of both the border restrictions and past conflicts: Hamas terrorism.

“Nevertheless, Qatar’s initiatives have buoyed Hamas through difficult times – the tight border restrictions imposed by both Israel and Egypt, and three bloody conflicts with Israel.”

The very least that the BBC’s funding public would expect to find in a report concerning accusations of “fostering terrorism” by Qatar is an accurate and factual overview of the terror activities of one of its prime protégés. Both of Knell’s recent reports from the Gaza Strip fail to provide that information but do uncritically promote messaging that could just as easily be found in a Hamas press release.

According to its public purposes the BBC is supposed to provide its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards” in order to enhance their understanding of a particular story. In this case, that purpose is clearly not being met. 

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Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas 

 

 

Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

The June 15th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM‘ included an item relating to the ongoing diplomatic rift between Qatar and various other Arab and Muslim majority states.

Presenter Eddie Mair introduced the item as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Mair: “Qatar in the Middle East is getting the cold shoulder from many of its neighbours. They accuse Qatar of meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and of supporting terrorism. Saudi Arabia has demanded that Qatar stop supporting Hamas, which controls Gaza – all of which might have quite an effect on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In the past five years Qatar has spent the equivalent of hundreds of millions of pounds building homes, a school, a hospital and main roads in Gaza. Reporting for ‘PM’; our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell now.”

One would of course expect that a report on Qatari funding of Hamas – especially within the framework of the current row between Qatar and other countries – would include clarification of Hamas’ designation as a terror organisation by the EU, the US and numerous additional countries. However, while that obviously relevant context was completely absent from this report by Yolande Knell, listeners did get to hear about the colour scheme at one of Qatar’s building projects.

Knell: “Work is still underway at Sheikh Hamad City; built with money Qatar and named after the country’s former ruler. It’s become one of the best new addresses in Gaza. The apartment blocks here are an attractive peach colour. On the grass there are children playing. They’re from some of the poorer Palestinian families who’ve already moved in here. There’s a new mosque and a new school. But residents like Baha Shalabi [phonetic] are fearful about the crisis between Qatar and other Gulf States.”

Shalabi [voiceover]: “The problems between Saudi Arabia and Qatar will affect us a lot, of course. Everything’s going to stop: the money, the support, the infrastructure. The buildings you see; all of this is going to stop. We’re going to be the victims.”

Knell: “All across this Palestinian territory you can see the effects of Qatari cash. I’m at the edge of a brand new road where cars are whizzing along the coast. Doha’s pledged well over a billion dollars to fix Gaza and while most of its help is humanitarian, it also buoys up Hamas – the Islamist group that seized control here ten years ago.”

After that tepid portrayal of the violent and bloody coup in which Hamas ousted the internationally recognised representatives of the Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip, Knell went on, failing to tell listeners that Qatar is one of the few countries to have recognised and supported Hamas’ regime in Gaza over that of the Palestinian Authority.

Knell: “Until now, the Emir of Qatar is the only head of state to have visited Gaza while Hamas has been in charge. It was a show of regional influence. But today Qatar stands accused of destabilising the Middle East by backing religious extremists – claims it denies. It’s been told to break off ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The usually fiery Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar is cautious in his response.”

The terror organisation then got a BBC stage for amplification of its unchallenged messaging.

Zahar [voiceover]: “Qatar was supporting the Palestinian people. The houses that were built are not for Hamas. The streets that were asphalted are not for Hamas. And the schools and hospitals, they’re also for the Palestinian people. All the efforts to hitch Hamas to Qatar are wrong and void.”

Making no effort to clarify to audiences that funding provided by Qatar has also reportedly been diverted to terrorist purposes such as the reconstruction of cross-border attack tunnels or that Qatar pledged funding for Hamas employees, Knell went on with a whitewashed portrayal of Qatar’s recent expulsion of some Hamas officials:

Knell: “Back in Sheikh Hamad City, outside the large Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Mosque, there’ve been rallies in support of Qatar. Meanwhile, some top Hamas figures living in exile in Doha have moved away to ease pressure on their patron.

Knell failed to inform listeners that Hamas operatives based in Qatar have directed terror plots against Israel in the past. She went on:

Knell: “In a new policy document, Hamas tried to distance itself from the Muslim Brotherhood. So will the Qatari money keep flowing here? I asked Mushir Amar [phonetic] from the Islamic University in Gaza.”

Amar: “The situation is not really very clear. We heard some statements here and there from Saudi Arabia trying to reprimand Qatar for supporting Hamas and Hamas political leadership. They say that we’re not involved in any sort of inter-Arab conflict because this is really not in the best interest of Hamas and this is not in the best interest of the Palestinian people.”

Knell refrained from informing listeners that one of Saudi Arabia’s complaints is that Qatari support for Hamas undermines the Palestinian Authority. She closed her report with a superficial portrayal of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Knell: “For now, the noise of bulldozers continues at Gaza’s Qatari funded building sites, providing much-needed jobs in this broken economy. But recently, when the local power plant ran out of fuel, Doha didn’t make a donation as it has previously. Palestinians here are trying not to get drawn into a damaging dispute but already they’re feeling its effects.”

Among the public purposes set out in the BBC’s constitutional document is “[t]o provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. Obviously this superficial report by Knell, with its unchallenged Hamas messaging and its failure to provide basic context and background information, does not serve that purpose.

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Qatar’s expulsion of Hamas officials not newsworthy for the BBC

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza 

 

BBC News reframes and politicises an animal welfare story

A filmed report which appeared on the BBC News website’s homepage as well as on its ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on August 24th revisited the location of a previous BBC report from April 2012.

Back then, the report titled “Gaza zoo resorts to displaying stuffed animals” told audiences that:

“A zoo owner in Gaza has had to resort to displaying stuffed animals, because of a shortage of live ones.

Mohamed Owaida from the Khan Younis Zoo says it is proving too costly to feed his living animals, and he can not always get live specimens through the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip.”

Around the same time, the Times of Israel also produced a report about that zoo.

“Flies swarm around some of the 10 animals that have been embalmed so far. The makeshift cages housing the exhibits — fashioned from fencing salvaged from Jewish settlements that Israel dismantled in 2005 — are littered with empty soda cans and other trash.

An emaciated-looking stuffed lion, its coat patchy and mangy, lies on an exhibit cobbled together from crates and shipping pallets. A monkey had missing limbs. A porcupine had a hole in its head.

The zoo’s 65 live animals, which include ostriches, monkeys, turtles, deer, a llama, a lion and a tiger, don’t fare much better. During a recent visit, children poked chocolate, potato chips and bread through the wire. There’s no zookeeper on the premises. Gaza has no government body that oversees zoos, and medical treatment is done by consulting over the phone with zoo veterinarians in Egypt.[…]

Owner Mohammed Awaida said he opened the “South Forest Park” in 2007, only to lose a number of animals during Israel’s military offensive against Hamas that began in December 2008. During the three-week offensive, launched in response to rocket attacks on Israel, Awaida said he could not reach the zoo, and many animals died of neglect and starvation.”

Earlier this year the international animal charity ‘Four Paws’ began trying to save the remaining animals in Khan Younis.

“The zoo at Khan Yunis is considered “one of the worst zoos in the world,” according to Dr. Amir Khalil, 51, an Egyptian-born veterinarian and director of project management at Four Paws, an international animal welfare organization. “It’s less than a zoo,” Khalil tells Haaretz. “It’s a prison.” […]

The zoo animals “are not in good condition,” notes Khalil, who lives in Vienna and directs the Gaza efforts from Amman, Jordan. “They are facing death, cold weather, no food, bad captivity, cages and no proper care,” he says.

On August 24th the last remaining animals were evacuated via the Erez crossing to new homes in Israel, Jordan and South Africa. The lone tiger is the subject of the August 23rd BBC filmed report titled “Gaza’s last tiger to leave for new home in South Africa“.tiger report

“There have been many troubles since Khan Younis zoo opened in 2007.”

Owner: “He [the tiger] has lived with me through three wars. He saw disaster and terror. He lived through difficult nights. Like all of us, like me.”

“Dozens of animals died during fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel.”

However, viewers of that report heard nothing of the starvation and substandard conditions to which the tiger and other animals had been subjected.

Obviously for the BBC, even an animal welfare story can be can be reframed to focus television audiences’ attentions on the politics of ‘the conflict’. A clue as to how that came about was found in the August 24th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘PM’ when presenter Carolyn Quinn introduced an item (from 25:40 here) by Yolande Knell, reporting “from Gaza”.PM 24 8

Listeners once again heard the zoo owner say:

“He [the tiger] has lived with me through three wars. He saw disaster and terror. He lived through difficult nights. Like all of us, like me.”

Yolande Knell added her own commentary: 

“Dozens of creatures died when he couldn’t reach the zoo during the last conflict between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel.”

Knell then introduced interviewees with no relation to the story’s subject matter. 

“In Khan Younis at the Mahali [phonetic] family home, the children show me their plastic zoo animals and I tell them Laziz [the tiger] is moving to South Africa.”

“Akram Mahali says daily life is a struggle. Neither he nor his six children have ever seen life outside Gaza and they’re not likely to any time soon. With Hamas in control of the Palestinian territory, both Israel and Egypt impose tight border restrictions and limit travel.”

Voiceover Mahali: “There is nothing nice in Gaza. Really if I could I would take them out. I wish I could. There is no money, no happy life and there is no work. There are power cuts. I see now the animals are living better than humans.”

Failing to make any mention of the very relevant context of the Hamas terrorism which has brought about “border restrictions”, a succession of conflicts and the delay in reconstruction of civilian structures in the Gaza Strip, Knell turned to another unrelated topic:

“Across Gaza people are still having their homes rebuilt after long delays. The last conflict caused massive destruction and killed more than two thousand Palestinians and over seventy Israelis.”

Knell ended her politicised report as follows:

“Then, just after dawn, the animals leave Gaza. Their suffering will soon be over but they leave behind Palestinians who continue to feel trapped.”

Clearly telling BBC audiences the story of the relocation of abused animals from the Khan Younis zoo was of much less interest to Yolande Knell than the opportunistic promotion of her long apparent political agenda.

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Why the accuracy and impartiality of BBC reporting matters

Last week a debate on the conditions and health of Palestinian children was held in the House of Lords.  As noted by NGO Monitor, a briefing paper was prepared ahead of that debate.HoL pic

“In July 2016, the UK House of Lords Library posted a briefing paper: “Living Conditions, Health and Wellbeing of Palestinian Children,” which was “withdrawn” without explanation on July 19, but is available on unofficial websites.” 

As NGO Monitor points out, that briefing paper relied heavily on information promoted by various political NGOs – but it also included information gleaned from several BBC reports.

Footnote 4 (and 11) referred readers to an article titled “Palestinian jailed for murder of Israeli teenagers” which was published on January 6th, 2015 as the source for the following information:

HoL doc 1

As was noted here at the time that article was published:

“The BBC report plays down Hamas involvement in the kidnappings and murders:

“The leader of Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza, said in an interview in August that a Hamas cell had killed the teenagers but had not acted on instructions from above.”

The article fails to adequately clarify that funding for the terror attack came from Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip or that high-ranking Hamas operative Saleh al Arouri admitted the organisation’s involvement in August 2014.”

Footnotes 14 and 15 referred readers to a BBC article dating from September 1st 2014 as the source of the information below:

HoL doc 2

Notably, no effort is made to distinguish Palestinian civilian casualties from combatants. That of course will not come as a surprise to those who are aware of the sources of those UN quoted figures. As was previously noted here in relation to that BBC article:

“Once again we see the BBC quoting “the UN” as though that body were impeccably objective, but with no effort made to inform audiences with regard to the very significant issue of the background to those UN statements and the political motivations involved.”

Footnote 16 referred readers to a BBC report from August 27th 2014 titled “Gaza conflict: Israel and Palestinians agree long-term truce”.

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As was noted here at the time:

“The real story behind the August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is of course the fact that Hamas could have accepted the same terms six weeks earlier and thereby prevented hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure and unquantifiable suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip.”

Footnotes 33, 34 and 36 referred readers to an article by Yolande Knell from July 8th 2015 titled “Why is Gaza reconstruction so slow?”

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As was noted here at the time, that politicised campaigning article by Knell made no mention of Hamas’ misappropriation of construction materials or its renewed tunnel building and it misrepresented the topic of dual-use goods.

The BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and other assorted terrorist organisations in the summer of 2014 was highly – and consistently – problematic: not least for its serial misrepresentation of the topic of civilian/combatant casualty figures and the use of data supplied by Hamas and its supporters. Both during and after the conflict, the corporation adopted a campaigning role on the issue of the restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel in response to terrorism and presented a partisan view of the topic of reconstruction in Gaza.

It is obviously very disturbing to see reporting which did not meet the BBC’s professed editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality being promoted to members of the House of Lords ahead of a debate but the fact that the house’s researchers use such material as the basis for a briefing paper serves to highlight exactly why the British public, their politicians and public officials should be all the more concerned about the accuracy and impartiality of BBC journalism which later becomes “historical record“.  

 

Some context to the BBC’s ‘reporter in the Gaza rubble’ features

Back in October 2014 the BBC produced several reports on the subject of the Cairo donor conference aimed at securing funding for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip after the two-month long war initiated by Hamas in the summer of that year.Cairo conf art

BBC audiences were told that:

“International donors have pledged $5.4bn (£3.4bn) for the Palestinians at a conference in Cairo.

The total, announced by the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Boerge Brende, exceeded the $4bn (£2.5bn) the Palestinian Authority had asked for.

Half the sum would be “dedicated” to work in Gaza, he said, without specifying a use for the other half.”

Since then – and in particular around the time of the one-year anniversary of the start of the conflict – the BBC has frequently promoted the topic of the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, often inaccurately claiming or insinuating that border restrictions introduced by Israel to combat Hamas terrorism are to blame. Notably, the corporation has devoted considerably less attention to the issue of Hamas’ misappropriation of construction materials for the purpose of terrorism.

Now the World Bank has published an interesting document titled ‘Reconstructing Gaza – Donor Pledges’ in which the pledges made by various countries at the Cairo donor conference – and the amounts actually delivered since then – are detailed. The bottom line is that only some 40% of the pledged financial aid has actually been delivered but it is worth reading the document in full to see which countries have made good on their promises and which have not.

Next time the BBC sends Yolande Knell or Lyse Doucet to the Gaza Strip to do one of their signature ‘reporter in the rubble’ dispatches, it will be interesting to see whether or not they remember to inform audiences that countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have not delivered the full amount of funds they pledged for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

 

BBC Gaza bureau’s Abu Alouf hides the Hamas tunnel elephant

On June 20th an article by Rushdi Abu Alouf of the BBC’s Gaza bureau appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gazans squeezed by triple taxes as Hamas replaces lost income“.Abu Alouf Gaza taxes

The article relates to a story which broke two months ago when Hamas once again announced a rise in import tax under the ‘National Solidarity Tax law’. Abu Alouf correctly reports that:

“The movement [Hamas] says funds will be used to pay its 40,000 civil servants, who have not received regular full salaries in more than two years.”

However, he does not clarify to readers that salaries for those 40,000 Hamas employees have been an issue ever since the announcement of the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity government’ over two years 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, as readers may recall, payment of those salaries appeared among the demands laid down by Hamas as conditions for halting the conflict with Israel which it initiated in the summer of 2014.

Abu Alouf’s explanation for why Hamas does not have the funds to pay those ‘civil servants’ focuses on the terror organisation’s alleged reduction in income.

“Iran provided significant financial and military aid to Hamas from early 2006 – amounting to $23m a month, according to Palestinian political analyst Fathi Sabbah.

But Tehran, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, dramatically reduced its support in early 2012, when Hamas refused to take sides in the Syrian civil war.

The movement also lost about $10m a month, said Mr Sabbah, when Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in 2013. […]

After Mr Morsi was ousted, Hamas lost a second key source of income when Egyptian forces destroyed tunnels it said were used by militants to smuggle weapons into Sinai.

Hamas used to make millions of dollars from taxes it imposed on goods brought through the tunnels.”

On the topic of Hamas’ expenditure, Abu Alouf has just this to say:

“An unknown amount of money is spent by Hamas on weapons and military infrastructure, but this too is under pressure.”

Hamas has of course made no secret of its efforts to rehabilitate its military capabilities since the 2014 ceasefire came into effect.

“There are those who think that the calm is a time of rest,” Haniyeh said. “But this is a continuation of the struggle. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are working and preparing for Palestine. Fighters are digging twice as much as the number of tunnels dug in Vietnam,” he said.

“In east Gaza there are heroes digging tunnels under the ground and in the west there are those testing rockets. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are digging tunnels to defend Gaza and turn it into a launch pad for all of Palestine,” Haniyeh added.”

Hamas’ policy has of course resulted in the misappropriation of thousands of tons of building materials intended for the repair and reconstruction of civilian homes damaged during the 2014 conflict (a topic severely under-reported by the BBC). It has also meant the spending of millions of dollars on tunnel construction rather than on public services for the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip. In 2015 Israeli intelligence estimated that:

“Today, due to rising prices, the annual cost [of tunnel building] is estimated to be at least 18-20 million USD — or approximately 50% of the budget of Hamas’s military wing. Indeed, the total annual cost is likely even higher, as IDF intelligence confirms that there are additional expenditures that cannot currently be quantified.”

However, Rushdi Abu Alouf ignores that core issue of Hamas’ financial mismanagement, preferring to focus audience attentions elsewhere.

“It [Hamas] has also faced a crippling blockade by Israel and Egypt and financial sanctions from other countries since it won Palestinian elections in 2006.”

“And Hamas’s financial crisis is unlikely to be solved soon with Israel and Egypt continuing their border closures amid fear of attack by militants from Gaza.”

Any objective portrayal of Hamas’ “financial crisis” could not ignore the fact that the terror organisation’s prioritisation of rearmament and tunnel building plays a key role in the creation of economic and social pressures on ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip. The Gaza representative of the media organisation committed to enhancing “awareness and understanding of international issues” has however managed to completely conceal that decidedly large elephant in the room.

Tepid BBC reporting on discovery of Hamas cross-border tunnel

As regular readers will be aware, since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, the BBC has consistently under-reported the topic of Hamas’ efforts to rebuild the network of cross-border attack tunnels destroyed during that conflict and has avoided carrying out any serious reporting on the subject of the terrorist organisation’s misappropriation for that purpose of construction materials intended for the rebuilding and repair of civilian dwellings. 

On April 18th, however, a story broke that even the BBC could not ignore.

“Security forces discovered a “terror tunnel” inside Israeli territory coming out of the southern Gaza Strip just over a week and a half ago, the Israel Defense Forces revealed on Monday morning.[…]

The tunnel was located approximately 100 feet (30 to 40 meters) below ground and extended “tens of meters into Israel.” It had been fortified with concrete slabs and featured electrical lines and a rail system, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.”

So did BBC News use this opportunity to bring its audiences worldwide up to speed on the topic of Hamas’ rehabilitation of its attack tunnel network and the related diversion of construction materials and funds away from projects which could improve the welfare of civilians in the Gaza Strip? Were audiences told what the intention behind that tunnel and others is and did the BBC finally get round to sending a journalist to talk to the Israeli civilians living adjacent to the border with the Gaza Strip  who are under threat from such cross-border tunnels?

The bizarre focus of the BBC’s report on the subject was reflected in its interestingly punctuated headline: “Israeli troops uncover ‘new’ tunnel leading from Gaza“. In the body of the article readers were told that:Hamas tunnel art

“Hamas, which dominates Gaza, said Israel had found an “old” tunnel.”

And later on:

“He [the IDF Spokesman] said the construction was new, lined with concrete, and fitted with an electricity supply, ventilation and rail tracks, but did not have an exit.

However, Hamas claimed that the Israeli military had announced “the finding of an old tunnel in order to gain continued US support for its anti-tunnels project”. […]

The Hamas-affiliated website, al-Majd, reported that the tunnel had been used two years ago.”

After all that, readers were left to make up their own minds on the decidedly unimportant question of whether the tunnel is “old” or “new”.

The far more pertinent subject of Hamas’ long known efforts to rehabilitate the tunnels received minimalist treatment in the article:

“Following the war, the Israeli military said it was developing technology aimed at countering efforts by Hamas to rebuild its tunnel network.”

On the topic of the misappropriation of construction materials the article mentioned a story the BBC ignored at the time, using the “Israel says” formula but avoiding informing audiences on that subject in its own words.

“Earlier this month, Israel suspended deliveries of cement for private projects in Gaza, saying Hamas was diverting the material for its own purposes in violation of a UN-backed agreement following the 2014 war.”

The BBC similarly avoided informing readers on the topic of the cost of the tunnels in its own words:

“”The ugly truth is that Hamas continues to invest millions of dollars to build tunnels of terror and death,” spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said.”

With regard to the intended purpose of the tunnel, the article again uses the “Israel says” formula – although the IDF statement paraphrased by the BBC did not of course use the term “militant group” to describe Hamas and the words “against southern Israeli communities” were chopped off the end of the sentence.

“A [IDF] statement said the tunnel had been constructed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas “in order to infiltrate Israel and execute terror attacks”.”

The BBC’s article did not include any comment from the residents of the communities near the border with the Gaza Strip who have for months reported hearing noises they suspected were connected to Hamas’ underground digging.

Additionally, the report once again amplified problematic casualty figures supplied by a compromised UN body and its affiliated political NGOs.

“The conflict left at least 2,251 Palestinians dead – including more than 1,462 civilians, according to the UN – and 11,231 injured. Some 18,000 homes in Gaza were also destroyed or badly damaged.”

Yet again we see that the BBC is not committed to reporting the story of Hamas’ cross-border attack tunnels in a manner which is conducive to meeting its remit of enhancing audience “awareness and understanding of international issues” and enabling them to understand Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to sideline the Hamas tunnels story

BBC News still downplaying Hamas terror

BBC News sidesteps the real issues in Hamas tunnel collapse story

Examining Lyse Doucet’s claim that she reported new Hamas tunnels on BBC

More enablement of Hamas propaganda from BBC’s ME editor

Hamas man spills beans on appropriation of construction materials: BBC silent