BBC News report on Rafah crossing omits information

On the afternoon of January 7th a report titled “Palestinian Authority removes staff from Gaza-Egypt crossing” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Relating to an announcement made by the Palestinian Authority the previous day, the article was illustrated with a photograph attributed to AFP which the BBC presented with the caption “It is unclear whether Hamas will be allowed to retake control of the Rafah crossing”. Exactly which body would or would not ‘allow’ such a move was left unclear.

The same photograph appeared in a report published by the Times of Israel but with a caption that quotes most of the original description of the image:

“Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) stand guard outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt just minutes before the Palestinian Authority withdraws its staff (L) from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)”

The ToI went on to report that:

“Hamas members retook control of the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Monday after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its own staff, an AFP journalist and Hamas officials said. […]

An AFP journalist saw officials from Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, at the border crossing’s main gate and inside accompanying offices in southern Gaza on Monday.

A Hamas border official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the terror group that rules the Strip had taken control “to avoid a vacuum.””

However, later on in the BBC’s own report readers found a paragraph that contradicts its photo caption:

“The Palestinian Maan news agency reported that the Hamas-run interior ministry had assumed responsibility for managing the crossing on Monday, but it was not clear whether Egypt would allow it to continue operating.”

Other foreign and local media outlets were able to report on the same day that:

“Egypt will keep its crossing with the Gaza Strip closed to departures from the Palestinian enclave after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its officials amid disagreements with Hamas.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry, controlled by the Hamas terror group, said Monday that Egyptian officials notified them that the crossing would only be open to those entering the Gaza Strip.”

The BBC has to date not bothered to update its article to reflect that development.

In the article’s opening paragraph BBC audiences were told that the Rafah crossing is the “main exit point” from the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it is pulling its staff out of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, effectively closing the main exit point from the coastal territory.”

While the Rafah crossing has been open since mid-May 2018, the BBC’s description does not reflect the situation before that when severe restrictions were imposed for over three and a half years. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

“The Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing, the only crossing for passengers between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, has been open continuously since May 2018, except for holidays and special occasions. This is the longest period of continuous opening since September 2014 when the crossing was closed. Prior to May 2018, the crossing opened for only a few days a year, reportedly due to concerns about security in the Sinai. Despite the improved access since May 2018, over 23,000 people are still registered on a waiting list (that numbered approximately 30,000 previously) according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in Gaza. […]

During the sporadic openings of the Rafah crossing prior to May 2018, an average of some 650 people per day were allowed to exit, but in recent months the daily average has fallen to 343.”

According to UNOCHA figures the average number of monthly entries and exits via the Rafah crossing was 2,393 in 2015, 3,521 in 2016 and 2,930 in 2017. The same agency reports that the average number of monthly exits (only) of Palestinians via the Erez crossing was 15,027 in 2015, 13,187 in 2016 and 6,900 in 2017.

Readers were also told that;

“Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been ruled separately since deadly clashes between Hamas and Fatah broke out in 2007.

Hamas won parliamentary elections in the occupied territories the previous year, and reinforced its power in Gaza after ousting Fatah from the enclave.

Israel and Egypt tightened their blockades of Gaza in response to the Hamas takeover and in an attempt to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants.”

Notably the BBC did not inform its audiences that the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip ‘hostile territory’ in September 2007 came after an increase in terror attacks and rocket fire at Israeli communities near the border.

However, this BBC report did include a mention of the first rocket attack from the Gaza Strip of 2019 which took place in the early hours of January 7th.  

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BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

On November 22nd the Israel Security Agency announced that it had uncovered attempts by Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip to establish a terror network in Judea and Samaria. The plot included exploitation of Israel’s humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip.

“The Hamas operation was uncovered with the arrest of Oweis Rajoub, 25, an alleged member of the terrorist group from the Palestinian village of Dura, near Hebron, on September 23, the Shin Bet said.

The goal of the West Bank cells was to conduct large terror attacks against Israeli military and civilians targets at the same time as rockets and mortar shells were being fired from the Gaza Strip, in order to challenge Israel on two fronts simultaneously, the internal security service said. […]

The coordination and planning between the operatives in the West Bank and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip were conducted, in part, by Palestinians travelling from the coastal enclave to hospitals in Israel. Gazan businessmen with permits allowing them to travel to the West Bank were also reportedly found to have passed messages between the two groups. […]

In August, Rajoub received a cellphone from his Hamas handlers. A few days later, he was told to go to Bethlehem to meet with a woman who gave him “trousers into which a cloth strip had been sewn on which instructions for using his phone had been written,” the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, the woman was Na’ama Mikdad, 53, a mother of nine, from the Gaza Strip, who had been given a travel permit to accompany her sister who had cancer and received medical treatment in Israel on August 9.

With the phone and the instructions on how to use it, Rajoub began working with an explosives expert to create the bombs needed for the attacks, the Shin Bet said. […]

The Shin Bet said Mikdad and her sister — the nieces of a Hamas military commander, Muhammad Abu Kuwaik — also knowingly passed along messages to another Hamas member in Ramallah: Fouad Dar Khalil, who had been imprisoned by Israel for 14 years for taking part in a shooting attack on an Israeli car.”

Earlier this year viewers of BBC TV saw extensive amplification of allegations concerning patients from Gaza which have been used by anti-Israel activists to delegitimise Israel. BBC audiences have frequently been misled on the topic of medical supplies and referrals to treatment outside the Gaza Strip and when a previous instance of abuse of medical travel permits for terrorism purposes was exposed last year, the BBC ignored the story completely.

With its audiences being repeatedly steered towards the inaccurate belief that all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures, it is significant that once again the BBC has shown no interest in reporting a story which clarifies why such measures are necessary.

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BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

 

 

 

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.

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BBC WS News conceals crossings closure context

Listeners to the BBC World Service news on the morning of October 21st were informed by newsreader Rosemary Crick (from 04:10 here) that:

Crick: “Four days after closing the crossing for goods and people between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has reopened it. A statement from his office said the decision was taken after a decrease in violence in Gaza and because of efforts to restrain Palestinian demonstrators made by Hamas – the militant group that controls the Strip.”

As readers probably know – but apparently BBC World Service news producers do not – there are two separate crossings for goods (Kerem Shalom) and people (Erez) and so Crick’s opening sentence is inaccurate and misleading.

In addition to her portrayal of violent rioters as “demonstrators” and a terrorist organisation as a “militant group”, Crick failed to inform BBC audiences around the world why the two crossings had been closed in the first place.

As the Times of Israel and others reported:

“The defense minister ordered the pedestrian Erez Crossing and Kerem Shalom goods crossing closed last Wednesday, after a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip exploded outside a home in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba and another landed in the sea off the coast of the greater Tel Aviv area.”

However, the BBC did not produce any reporting on those attacks and so as far as BBC World Service audiences are concerned, Israel’s Minister of Defence apparently just closes and opens crossings into the Gaza Strip at whim.

So much for “accurate and impartial news [..] of the highest editorial standards” at the BBC. 

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The UNRWA story the BBC chose not to tell

Since the beginning of this year BBC audiences have seen extensive coverage of the topic of US aid donations to the Palestinians and since the end of August items relating to the US administration’s decision to cease funding UNRWA have frequently featured on BBC platforms.

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part one

BBC News reporting on US aid cut to UNRWA – part two

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part one

An eleven minute BBC WS report on UNRWA funding – part two

BBC WS listeners get more unchallenged UNRWA narrative

More to a BBC Radio 4 item on ‘morality’ of aid to Palestinians than meets the eye

In contrast, visitors to the BBC News website have not seen any coverage whatsoever of a story which broke on October 1st and was covered by many local and international media outlets.

“The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had evacuated 10 of its international senior employees from Gaza to Israel on Monday, after they were threatened and harassed by UNRWA’s disgruntled local Palestinian staff following the agency’s announcement to cut more than 250 jobs.

The agency’s senior officials were rescued and transferred to Israeli territory via the Erez crossing—which remained closed throughout the Jewish holidays but was re-opened by the Israeli security officials following an official request from UNRWA.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories issued an official statement, confirming the incident.

 “A number of foreign UNRWA employees have been evacuated from the Gaza Strip to Israel. This is due to the tensions as a result of the financial crisis UNRWA is facing and subsequent concern for the safety of its foreign staff,” stressed the statement.

 “The Hamas terrorist organization did not protect the agency’s staff from the violence directed against them,” the statement concluded.”

UNRWA put out a statement of its own (which it is difficult to believe the BBC did not receive) that interestingly does not mention Hamas by name but “calls upon the local authorities” to protect its staff.

Despite its record of covering stories about UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip very generously, remarkably the BBC did not find a story about the agency’s foreign employees being threatened by local residents remotely newsworthy.

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BBC silent on Gaza crossing closure

 

BBC silent on Gaza crossing closure

Back in May the BBC failed to adequately report on three separate incidents of severe vandalism at the Kerem Shalom crossing carried out by Palestinian rioters – on the instruction of Hamas – on May 4th, May 11th and May 14th.

BBC WS audiences get distorted account of Kerem Shalom closure

On September 4th a large number of Palestinians rioted at the Erez Crossing.

“According to the IDF Spokesperson Unit, hundreds of people participated in the riots, reportedly hurling rocks at the crossing which resulted in severe damage to the infrastructure. The IDF said they responded with tear gas and live fire.”

According to AFP:

“The Palestinians were protesting against an announcement by Washington on Friday that it would cease all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) which helps some three million needy refugees.”

The following day it was announced that the Erez Crossing – the only transit route for pedestrians and patients seeking medical care outside the Gaza Strip – would have to be closed for repairs.

“Israel announced the temporary closure of its sole pedestrian crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after the border terminal was damaged during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians. […]

“As a result, the crossing has been closed until the repairing of the damage caused as a result of the riot is completed,” the army said in a statement.

It did not indicate when the repairs would be completed.

The army added that the closure does not include humanitarian cases, which it said would be approved on a case-by-case basis.”

The BBC, however, did not find the fact that violent Palestinian rioters deliberately trashed facilities serving Gaza Strip residents in the least bit newsworthy.

With BBC audiences being repeatedly steered towards the inaccurate belief that all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures, it is significant that once again the corporation has shown no interest in reporting a story which conflicts its chosen narrative

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Superficial BBC reporting from Gaza recycles jaded narratives

h/t GB

Earlier this month we noted that:

“In addition to holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014 – Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul – the Hamas terror group is also keeping prisoner at least two Israeli civilians – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al Sayed – who have not been the topic of any BBC reporting in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.”

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on the morning of August 27th would therefore have been unlikely to understand what Yolande Knell was talking about when she briefly referred to “two Israelis jailed in Gaza or two soldiers’ remains”.

Presenter Justin Webb introduced that item (from 02:42:00 here) with a reference to another story about which BBC audiences had previously heard nothing: the partial closure last week of the Erez Crossing in response to Palestinian violence the previous Friday.

As is now standard in BBC reporting, Webb euphemistically described violent rioting that includes shootings, IED and grenade attacks and border infiltrations as “protests” and listeners were not told that a significant proportion of those killed during that violence were linked to terror factions.

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

Webb: “Israel is going to reopen the Eretz [sic] border crossing with the Gaza Strip today. The defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that it’s going to happen. It’s happening a week after it was closed, he said, because of clashes. And more than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the end of March when protests began along the border with Israel. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. And since last month there’ve been three further violent flare-ups. The UN is warning that the Palestinian territory is close to collapse. There are severe water and power shortages. There is a broken economy. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell has been looking at what can be done to fix Gaza.”

Obviously any serious examination of that question would have to include clarification of the way in which the actions of the Hamas terror group have led to a deterioration in conditions within the Gaza Strip such as its use of water piping to make missiles, its hijacking of cement intended for construction and its diversion of funds to the terrorism which forces neighbouring countries to employ counter-terrorism strategies such as restrictions on the import of dual-use goods. Likewise, that topic cannot be seriously addressed without explanation of the actions of the Palestinian Authority which have included cutting electricity supplies, medical supplies and salaries to Gaza Strip residents.

Yolande Knell, however, chose to present a picture devoid of that context.

Knell: “These children sound like they’re having fun but this is a daily task they have to do: collecting water from a stand pipe at the edge of the Khan Younis refugee camp. They get very little running water at home. What they do get isn’t drinkable. There’s no electricity. Their mother explains another problem. The power here comes on for just 3 or 4 hours a day. Umm Mustafa has only ever been able to leave Gaza once to take her sick son to a hospital. But she knows life doesn’t have to be this way.”

Voiceover woman: “I’ve seen the people outside. They don’t have a crisis like the one we live. I’ve seen how people have running water in their houses and it’s clear and clean. Mothers outside don’t organise their daily routines around when the electricity comes on. Our life is hostage to the electricity.”

The “people outside” did not elect a violent terrorist organisation to power but Yolande Knell’s account does not dwell on the connection between that choice and the current situation in the Gaza Strip.

Knell: “Over a decade ago Hamas took full control of Gaza, ousting Palestinian Authority security forces in bloody fighting a year after it had won elections. Israel and Egypt then tightened a blockade of the territory. Three armed conflicts between Hamas and Israel followed. This year saw the deadly Gaza border protests. Palestinian economist Omar Shaban says people’s desperation played a big role.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that in addition to being an economist, Omar Shaban is a policy advisor for Al Shabaka. Predictably for a person who three months ago wrote an article claiming “Gazans are protesting their economy, not Israel’s existence” about the pre-planned agitprop titled ‘The Great Return March’ that openly promotes the elimination of Israel by means of the so-called ‘right of return’, Shaban managed to eliminate the word ‘return’ from his account but did use the inaccurate Hamas-favoured terminology “siege” with no challenge from Knell.

Shaban: “The economy was a key decisive element on the Great March. Unemployment, the siege, the lack of business, Palestinian Authority measures against Gaza that started 2 years ago. To fix Gaza it’s about bringing hope, bringing more jobs to the people, lifting the siege, allowing export from Gaza to get out.”

Neither Shaban nor Knell bothered to ask why – if, as Shaban claims, the violence along the border was driven by the state of “the economy” – Gazans have not been demonstrating against the Hamas regime which is responsible for their “desperation”.

Knell: “Ideas have been suggested to open up Gaza. From a seaport in Cyprus with Israeli security checks to this:

Recording: The artificial island initiative is aimed at providing an answer to a reality that is bad for the Palestinians and not good for Israel.

Israeli security cabinet minister Israel Katz proposes a new multi-million dollar island off the Gaza coast with a port and power and desalination plants.”

Katz: “You solve the two main problems. The first problem is the security of Israel – not endangering the security of Israel – and the other thing; to improve the humanitarian conditions of the people in Gaza. Private companies that are not willing now to act in Gaza, to build things, will do it on the island.”

Knell: “But in the past month tensions between Israel and Hamas have flared up three times with Palestinian militants firing rockets and Israeli airstrikes. The intervention of Egypt and the UN calmed the situation. So what are the chances now for a longer term deal? Not good says Israeli defence analyst Alex Fishman. He points to the Palestinians’ own deep political rift and Hamas’ insistence that it won’t return two Israelis jailed in Gaza or two soldiers’ remains without a release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel.”

Fishman: “Hamas is a terrorist group: nobody will talk with them directly. Therefore we need to bring Palestinian Authority to this agreement otherwise nothing will work. Secondly, the problem with the Israeli missing soldiers – it’s a matter of national pride; nobody will give up. Therefore it will be only a limited agreement.”

As noted above, in the three years that it has been public knowledge that at least two Israeli civilians are being held prisoner by Hamas, BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of that story whatsoever. Knell’s brief mention obviously did nothing to contribute to audience understanding of that issue.

Knell closed her report with a reference to a “new security barrier around the Strip” by which she presumably means the underground barrier designed to thwart the cement and cash guzzling Hamas cross-border attack tunnels which she failed to mention throughout this report.

Knell: “In Gaza the lack of power means untreated sewage is discharged off the coast. Although Israel is building a new security barrier around the Strip, it’s a reminder of how its humanitarian crisis is increasingly difficult to contain. Already waste from here is washing up on southern Israeli beaches.”

There is of course nothing remotely novel about BBC audiences being steered towards the inaccurate belief that all the economic and humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip are attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures while the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis are downplayed or airbrushed from the story.

In this report Yolande Knell managed to combine that politically motivated narrative with yet another dumbed down portrayal of the topic of a potential truce.

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

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

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

In its second paragraph the backgrounder tells BBC audiences that:

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

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

Readers are then told that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A subsection titled “Population” informs BBC audiences that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The backgrounder goes on:

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

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

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

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

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

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BBC amplifies Hamas default accusation in PA convoy attack report

The Times of Israel and others reported on an incident in the Gaza Strip on March 13th:

“Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an apparent assassination attempt when a bomb went off next to his convoy as he visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, wounding several people, officials and Palestinian media reported.

The PA said Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, who was accompanying him, were unhurt. However, media reports said several bystanders were injured. Their condition was not immediately clear.”

The ToI report also notes that:

“Palestinian officials contacted Israel’s military liaison in order to coordinate Hamdallah’s exit from the Gaza Strip following the assassination attempt, The Times of Israel learned.

During the conversation, Israel offered to provide medical treatment to those injured in the attack and some of the wounded were being treated by doctors at the Israeli side of the Erez crossing.”

Although known to at least one BBC journalist, that information did not appear in the BBC News website’s account of the story – “Gaza blast targets Palestinian PM Hamdallah’s convoy“.

In contrast, that report does include the following:

“Hamas condemned what it called an “ugly crime” and said it had launched an investigation.

Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it believed the attack was carried out by the same people who last year assassinated Mazen Fuqaha, a commander of Hamas’ military wing, and attempted to assassinate Maj Gen Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of Gaza’s internal security forces.”

Readers may well have had difficulty understanding that somewhat cryptic portrayal of Barhoum’s press release due to the fact that the BBC did not produce any English language reporting on either the assassination of Fuqaha or the attempted assassination of Abu Naim when those incidents took place.

Seeing as Hamas executed the people it claimed had assassinated Fuqaha in May 2017, Barhoum’s quoted claim that “the same people” were responsible for the October 2017 attack on Abu Naim and this attack on Hamdallah obviously lacks logic. So what did Fawzi Barhoum actually mean?

According to the New York Times, Barhoum was in fact using Hamas’ default ‘explanation’ for just about everything that happens in the Gaza Strip.

“The Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, however, that Hamas had no role in the attack. He called the blast an attempt to “tamper with the security of the Gaza Strip” and to “strike any efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation,” and demanded an investigation.

Mr. Barhoum instead sought to blame Israel: He suggested those responsible were “the same hands” who had gunned down Mazen Fakha, a Hamas official responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, in March 2017, and tried to kill Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of Hamas’s security forces in Gaza, in October.

Hamas has accused Israel of being behind the attacks on both men, who were freed from Israeli prisons in 2011 in a controversial prisoner swap for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.”

Later on in the day Hamas put out a statement claiming that the PA agreed with that version of events. However, as Khaled Abu Toameh reports:

“[Ismail] Haniyeh phoned Hamdallah after the explosion and the two agreed to “blame Israel and its collaborators” for being behind the explosion, according to a statement issued by the Hamas leader’s office.

But Yusef al Mahmoud, spokesperson for the PA government, later denied that Hamdallah had received any phone call from Haniyeh.”

The BBC’s public purpose remit obliges it to “provide accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Does the corporation really consider that the uncritical repetition of unproven knee-jerk accusations from a terror organisation contributes to meeting that obligation?

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BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part one

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part two

 

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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