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.  

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part one

BBC Arabic inaccurately portrays 2002 terror attack victims

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

A Gaza border closure not deemed newsworthy by BBC News

 

 

BBC News recycles a confusing Amnesty euphemism

On April 11th the BBC News website published an article titled “Death penalty: Global executions fall 37% since 2015 – Amnesty” which is little more than a rehashed version of the press release put out by Amnesty International on the same day to launch its annual report on the subject of judicial executions.  

In that article, BBC audiences find the following paragraph:

“Meanwhile, Belarus and authorities within the Palestinian territories resumed executions in 2016 after a year’s hiatus, while Botswana and Nigeria carried out their first executions since 2013.” [emphasis added]

Who exactly are those “authorities within the Palestinian territories” and how did that odd and confusing phrase come to be included in the BBC’s report? The answer to the latter question is found in the AI press release which states:

“Belarus, Botswana, Nigeria and authorities within the State of Palestine resumed executions in 2016…” [emphasis added]

One has to search out the full AI report (which is not linked in the BBC’s article) in order to learn that those “authorities” are not – as readers may understandably have concluded – the Palestinian Authority but in fact the terror group that violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and that the executions it carries out are in breach of PA law.

“Three executions were carried out in Palestine (State of). Mohammed Fathi Mohammed Othman, Yousef Mohammed Abu Shamleh and Ahmad Helmi Abdel Qader Sharab were executed on 31 May 2016 by the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip; the executions were carried out without the ratification of the death sentences by the Palestinian President, contrary to the Palestinian Basic Law of 2003 and the 2001 Penal Procedure Law. Amnesty International recorded 21 death sentences, all in the Gaza Strip. There were 12 death sentences issued by military courts and nine by civilian courts. At least 21 people were under sentence of death at the end of 2016.”

As we see, the BBC edited the information it took from the AI press release; according to its ‘style guide’ the corporation does not generally use the term ‘State of Palestine’ and so that terminology was replaced with “Palestinian territories”. BBC audiences would obviously have benefited had editing also included replacement of the euphemistic and unhelpful phrase “authorities within” with clear identification of the group responsible for those executions.  

Related Articles:

Why did the BBC downplay years of Hamas extrajudicial killings?

BBC News’ confused messaging on Gaza Strip executions

BBC’s Connolly ‘contextualises’ Hamas torture and execution (spoiler – it’s Israel’s fault)  

BBC framing of Iran’s president once again shown to be redundant

 

BBC News’ confused messaging on Gaza Strip executions

On May 25th we noted here the absence of BBC reporting on the topic of thirteen scheduled public executions (some of which have apparently since taken place) in the Gaza Strip. On May 26th an article titled “UN alarmed by Hamas plans for executions in Gaza” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.Gaza executions art  

Linking to a report from the New York Times, the article tells readers that:

“One Palestinian group has documented 67 executions in Gaza since 2007.

However, that figure does not include the killings of people accused by Hamas of being collaborators during wartime. At least 25 were shot dead after the 2014 conflict with Israel.” [emphasis added]

As was documented here at the time – reports of extrajudicial killings of alleged ‘collaborators’ which emerged in the local media during (rather than “after”) the 2014 conflict were not addressed by BBC correspondents on the ground, with the exception of cases in which Hamas sought publicity.

Despite having noted those mass executions of alleged ‘collaborators’, the report then goes on to tell readers that:

“The Hamas authorities mostly stopped carrying out the death penalty in June 2014, when a government of national consensus was formed and officially placed in charge of Gaza.”

The apparent source of that statement appears in the linked NYT article:

“Hamas mostly stopped the executions after June 2014 because a national unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority was officially placed in charge of Gaza.”

Whether or not that confusing information is intended to communicate to BBC audiences that there is cause to view the killing of alleged ‘collaborators’ differently to other executions is unclear but obviously the conflicting statements “[a]t least 25 were shot dead after the 2014 conflict with Israel” and “[t]he Hamas authorities mostly stopped carrying out the death penalty in June 2014” are not conducive to audience understanding of the issue.

Relating to the legal questions surrounding the planned executions, the article fails to inform readers of the moratorium on death sentences put in place by the PA president in 2005.

“On Wednesday, Hamas-affiliated members of the Palestinian parliament announced they had approved a measure allowing executions to be carried out in Gaza without having first been ratified by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank. […]

 It was not clear what authority the MPs had to authorise executions in the coastal territory, given that the full Palestinian Legislative Council has not met since Hamas reinforced its power in Gaza in 2007 following a violent rift with Mr Abbas’ Fatah movement.” [emphasis added]

That latter euphemistic statement is how the broadcaster charged with building “a global understanding of international issues” portrays to its audiences a terror organisation’s violent military coup against the representative body of the Palestinian people as recognized by the international community.

BBC News ignores scheduled public executions in Gaza

Last month BBC News published an article headlined “Amnesty highlights ‘disturbing rise’ in global executions“.

“A surge in the number of executions recorded worldwide saw more people put to death last year than at any point since 1989, Amnesty International says.

At least 1,634 people were executed in 2015, a rise of more than 50% on the previous year, the group found in its review of the use of the death penalty.”

The report included a graphic based on AI’s data.

graphic AI data executions

The Telegraph now reports that:

“The Palestinian militant group Hamas is to carry out a string of public executions in the Gaza strip, the patch of territory it controls.

The executions were announced by Hamas’s attorney general in Gaza, Ismail Jaber. “Capital punishments will be implemented soon in Gaza,” he said. “I ask that they take place before a large crowd.”

Thirteen men, most convicted of murder connected to robberies, are currently awaiting execution, another Hamas official, Khalil al-Haya, said on Friday at the main prayers.

If all those go ahead, Gaza’s execution rate relative to the size of its population will overtake that of Saudi Arabia’s in one go.” [emphasis added]

Additional reports concerning Hamas’ announcement point out that under Palestinian law:executions art

“All execution orders must in theory be approved by PA President Mahmoud Abbas before they can be carried out, but Hamas no longer recognizes his legitimacy.”

As Khaled Abu Toameh has noted in the past, in 2005 Mahmoud Abbas issued a moratorium on death sentences.  

Nevertheless, to date the BBC has not found the story of these impending public executions – and the legal questions surrounding them – newsworthy.

Related Articles:

Why did the BBC downplay years of Hamas extrajudicial killings?

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Gaza Strip stories the BBC chooses not to report

BBC reporting on Palestinian domestic topics in general and human rights issues in particular (in both the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority controlled areas) is notoriously sparse. 

Extrajudicial executions carried out by Hamas in November 2012 got the grand total of 29 words of coverage from the BBC’s Middle East editor. In June 2013 and in May 2014 the corporation failed to report extrajudicial executions in the Gaza Strip. In the summer of 2014 it only reported executions which Hamas at the time wanted publicised. In May 2015, in two separate reports, the BBC’s Kevin Connolly found it appropriate to ‘contextualise’ an Amnesty International report on Hamas human rights abuses during 2014 by dragging Israel into the picture.

AI report Hamas Connolly

It therefore comes as no surprise to see that the BBC has ignored this story.

“A court in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Wednesday sentenced four Palestinians to death on charges of spying for Israel, a statement and court sources said.

The court said in a brief statement that a 23-year-old man from the Zeitoun area south of Gaza City had been sentenced to death on espionage charges. It did not provide his name.

Three other men who “fled from justice” were also found guilty in absentia, it said.

A court source told AFP the four were convicted on “charges of spying for the occupation”, including “surveillance” and providing information about cars and homes to help Israel plan alleged assassinations.”

As Khaled Abu Toameh has pointed out in the past:executions

“Under Palestinian Authority law, all death sentences must be approved by the president of the PA. But in 2005, PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a moratorium on death sentences – a prohibition that did not stop Hamas from pursuing executions under the pretext that the PA president was no longer a legitimate leader since his term had expired in 2009.”

Another recent story ignored by the BBC relates to Hamas abuse of Gaza based journalists.

“Palestinian journalist Ayman al-Aloul frequently writes about the hardships of life in the Gaza Strip, and is one of the few voices willing to publicly criticize the rule of the Islamic Hamas movement.

But after nine days in jail, al-Aloul says he won’t be writing about politics anymore. He said a painful experience that included beatings and being forced to sit uncomfortably in a tiny chair has made him a “new man” and that he will now focus on less controversial topics like sports, food, literature and fashion.

“I’ve decided not to talk about the general situation anymore,” al-Aloul said in an interview at his home Tuesday, a day after he was released. “The experience I went through was very difficult.””

Readers may recall that in December 2015 the BBC World Service passed up on an opportunity to inform audiences about Hamas media censorship.

Developments in BBC News ‘collaborators’ story

Readers will no doubt recall that on August 22nd BBC News produced two reports – one written and one filmed by Quentin Sommerville – on the topic of Hamas’ summary execution of people it claimed were ‘collaborators’.  Sommerville told viewers of BBC television news programmes:Sommerville 22 8 executions

“On a Gaza City street just after Friday prayers a group of men are led to their deaths. Bound and hooded, they’re made to kneel. As a crowd looks on, they’re shot dead. Hamas, which supplied these pictures, say they were collaborators. It was a bloody day in Gaza; as well as the men killed here, eleven were earlier put to death by firing squad, accused of the same crime.”  […]

“Hamas said the men were sentenced by an emergency court but human rights groups say these were extrajudicial killings. Two women were among the dead.” […]

“The militants suspect that Palestinians here in Gaza colluded with Israel to bring about these deaths. Today’s shootings are an attempt to disable any network of informants but also to send a message to deter others from collaborating with Israel’s intelligence services.”

Visitors to the BBC News website were similarly told that:

“After the first 11 executions, Hamas warned that “the same punishment will be imposed soon on others”.

It added that “the current circumstances forced us to take such decisions”, suggesting a link between the executions and the killing of the three senior Hamas leaders.”

Now the Times of Israel reports that:

“None of the Palestinians summarily executed in Gaza on charges of collaboration during Operation Protective Edge were Israeli sources or assets, an intelligence officer told the Times of Israel Wednesday. […]

The Shin Bet security service said it could not comment on the identity of its sources but confirmed that those executed during Operation Protective Edge had all been held in prison in Gaza in the course of the hostilities. That being the case, it’s likely none of the executed would have had any information that might have played a role in an array of Israeli operations in Gaza, from locating rocket launch sites to targeted killings.”

Furthermore the ToI’s source stated that the air-strikes on the previous day in which Hamas’ Raed al Attar, Mohammed Abu Shamala and Mohammed Barhoum were killed were not carried out “on the basis of human intelligence”.

In addition, a Fatah official suggested that the executions carried out by Hamas may have had political motives.

“Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi, a former security chief in the West Bank, insinuated Wednesday that the killed Palestinians were rivals rather than collaborators. “Who are these people who were executed?” he asked Awdeh, a Fatah TV channel. “Some of those who were executed were former officers with the PA’s security apparatus.” “

As we noted here at the time, the BBC’s report of the August 22nd summary executions was remarkable in that previous reports of similar incidents had been ignored by the broadcaster whereas this one – which Hamas clearly was interested in promoting seeing as it supplied images and information – was given coverage. It will of course be interesting to not whether or not the BBC chooses to do any sort of follow-up story on this topic given the new information which has come to light.

 

 

Why did the BBC downplay years of Hamas extrajudicial killings?

On August 22nd Quentin Sommerville produced a filmed report for BBC television news which also appeared on the BBC News website under the headline “Suspected informants killed in Gaza“.Sommerville 22 8 executions

The appearance of this filmed report and an accompanying written one on the BBC News website was particularly interesting because previous announcements in the local media with regard to the execution of four people on July 17th and the execution of thirty more people on or around July 28th had been completely ignored by the BBC despite its plethora of correspondents on the ground at the time. The reason for the anomaly appears to be that this time the information came from Hamas itself, as Sommerville noted in his report.

“On a Gaza City street just after Friday prayers a group of men are led to their deaths. Bound and hooded, they’re made to kneel. As a crowd looks on, they’re shot dead. Hamas, which supplied these pictures, say they were collaborators. It was a bloody day in Gaza; as well as the men killed here, eleven were earlier put to death by firing squad, accused of the same crime.”

The only brief reference to the lack of due legal process comes later on in Sommerville’s filmed report with the written version failing to relate to that topic at all.

“Hamas said the men were sentenced by an emergency court but human rights groups say these were extrajudicial killings. Two women were among the dead.”

The written report ‘explains’ the incident to readers as follows:

“After the first 11 executions, Hamas warned that “the same punishment will be imposed soon on others”.

It added that “the current circumstances forced us to take such decisions”, suggesting a link between the executions and the killing of the three senior Hamas leaders.”

Sommerville also promoted a similar ‘explanation’.

“The deaths come a day after Israel dealt its heaviest blow to the militants: an air strike here in the south of Gaza killed three of its top military commanders. The brutality and the swiftness of today’s killings are an indication of the severity of the blow struck by Israel against Hamas with the killing of its three military commanders. The militants suspect that Palestinians here in Gaza colluded with Israel to bring about these deaths. Today’s shootings are an attempt to disable any network of informants but also to send a message to deter others from collaborating with Israel’s intelligence services.”

Sommerville closes with the following odd remark:

“Hamas is an armed movement but it’s been years since it turned its weapons with such force against its own people. Even so, it warns that more killings will follow.” [emphasis added]

It is not of course apparent how Quentin Sommerville defines “years” or “such force”, but extrajudicial killings and torture by Hamas are by no means a rare occurrence and indeed formed an integral part of its violent take-over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Some other examples of that practice (by no means all) appear below.

In 2009 Human Rights Watch produced a report which stated that thirty-two suspected collaborators had been killed between December 2008 and April 2009 and at least 49 people from the rival Fatah movement had been shot in the legs by masked gunmen.

In March 2010 Hamas announced that it would reinstate the death penalty in the Gaza Strip. As HRW pointed out at the time:

“Most of those facing the death penalty in Gaza are affiliated with the rival Fatah movement or are people whom Hamas military courts have convicted of collaborating with Israel.”

In April 2010 two people were executed and in December of the same year three more men were convicted of ‘collaboration’ with one sentenced to death. In July 2011 two men were executed.

In November 2012 at least six summary executions took place with Hamas claiming responsibility in a note attached to an electricity pole. Those events got 29 words of coverage from the BBC at the time. In June 2013 the BBC failed to report on two executions and two more in May 2014 were likewise ignored. 

As Khaled Abu Toameh recently pointed out:

“Under Palestinian Authority law, all death sentences must be approved by the president of the PA. But in 2005, PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a moratorium on death sentences – a prohibition that did not stop Hamas from pursuing executions under the pretext that the PA president was no longer a legitimate leader since his term had expired in 2009.

It is notable that the latest executions in the Gaza Strip were carried out after the formation of the Hamas-backed Palestinian “national consensus” government a few months ago. These extrajudicial executions show that despite the unity agreement between the two parties, Hamas continues to act as the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, where it has its own security forces, militias and “revolutionary courts.”

It is also ironic that Hamas has chosen to execute suspected “collaborators” at a time when it is seen as part of the “national consensus” government that continues to conduct security coordination with Israel.”

The BBC has a dismal record on reporting abuses of all kinds by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and it is therefore all the more notable that these two reports came about only when Hamas wanted to publicise the executions of suspected collaborators for its own purposes.

It is also remarkable that neither report ventured beyond limited reporting of the incidents themselves to inform audiences with regard to the issue of the absence of due legal process before those killings and their implications given that the Gaza Strip is – officially at least – now ruled by the Palestinian Unity Government rather than the “armed movement” as Sommerville so quaintly dubs an internationally recognized terrorist organization.