BBC News again avoids telling audiences real reasons for Gaza power crisis

As has been documented here on several occasions, the BBC has over the years repeatedly misinformed audiences on the topic of the causes of the chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip.

That power crisis prompted demonstrations in September 2015 which went unreported by the BBC, as did Israeli efforts to ease the shortage.  

A recent exacerbation of the crisis brought about more demonstrations by Gaza Strip residents and this time the BBC News website produced two reports on the topic:gaza-power-crisis-1

Gaza electricity crisis: Hamas breaks up protest‘ – January 13th

Angry protests in Gaza over crippling power shortages‘ – Rushdi Abu Alouf, January 14th

But did the BBC finally get round to giving its audiences full and accurate background information concerning the reasons why residents in the Gaza Strip only have a few hours of electricity a day in these two reports? In the first article readers were told that:

“Locals now get just four hours of power per day, instead of eight-hour cycles.

A vital plant was badly hit in fighting with Israel in 2014, but financial troubles and inter-Palestinian tensions have also contributed to the crisis.”

In fact, (and despite several inaccurate BBC reports to that effect which have remained uncorrected for two and a half years) Gaza’s power plant in Nusseirat was not “badly hit” in 2014: a fuel tank was damaged because terror organisations placed military assets close to the plant but it was back up and running within two months. As for the “financial troubles” and “inter-Palestinian tensions”, the report does not provide readers with any further information which would clarify that opaque terminology.

In the second article audiences find the following:gaza-power-crisis-2

“On Friday, the Hamas movement held the government of the Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, and President Abbas responsible for the dire electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum said that the ongoing power shortage was “intentional” and aimed “to tighten the unfair siege on Gaza and create chaos and anarchy”.

Barhum demanded that Abbas, and the Fatah movement that he leads, “end this dangerous policy” and end the crisis, which has left Gaza with less than a quarter of its required electricity.

More than 10 years ago, Israel destroyed a large part of the power plant located in central Gaza after the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas militants.

Since then, power shortages have had an impact on almost every aspect of life in Gaza.

Local and international organisations have suggested numerous solutions over the past decade to solve the crisis, leading to the reconstruction of the destroyed power station.”

So what is actually causing the chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip? Ha’aretz recently reported that:

“Israel supplies the Strip with 122 megawatts of electricity on an ongoing basis, said Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). He added that a recent fault with one of the electricity lines had been repaired immediately.

In addition to the electricity from Israel, Egypt supplies 20-30 MW and the Gaza power station generates 60 MW, he said. […]

Mordechai blamed Hamas for the current electricity crisis in Gaza. “The leaders of Hamas enjoy electricity 24/7, while the rest of the population only gets three hours a day,” he said.

He also accused Hamas of using the funds it raises from taxing electricity for “personal interests and military equipment.” Every tunnel from Gaza has a generator beside it exclusively for the use of Hamas, Mordechai said.”

The Times of Israel provides a good overview of the background to the shortages:

“The latest crisis surrounding electricity supply in Gaza did not start overnight. It is the outcome of a long-running disagreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the payment of excise taxes for the fuel that is used in the power station in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority purchases the gas at full cost — including the excise tax — from Israel before it is transferred to Gaza. However, the PA announced in 2015 that it is no longer prepared to bear the full burden of the excise tax and told Hamas it needs to foot its share of the costs of buying diesel fuel for the power station in Gaza. The station constitutes the main source of energy in the Gaza Strip (apart from a small amount that comes from Israel and Egypt).

While the Palestinian Authority is nominally responsible for the Gaza Strip, particularly in official dealings with Israel, in reality, Hamas has been in charge since ousting PA forces, in a bloody uprising in 2007. Several rounds of reconciliation talks between the two have failed to reach an agreement, leading to these kinds of grey areas of responsibility.

Hamas, a terrorist organization which calls for Israel’s destruction, has refused to make any payments to Israel. The PA initially continued to pay the full cost of the fuel, but the disagreement was never resolved.

As a result, the Gaza Strip has seen drastic swings in the electricity supply. Each time the PA refuses to shell out the funds for the excise tax, the electric company in Gaza buys less fuel and in turn produces less electricity. This time, it appears that the crisis has become particularly severe, in light of the decrease in electricity supply from Egypt, due to technical problems with the power lines.”

There is of course no doubt that – did it wish to do so – the BBC could have provided its audiences with a similarly clear and factual explanation of the crisis. However, the corporation instead elected to steer audiences towards a version of events which implies that Israel is to blame, recycling inaccurate information and failing to adequately explain the dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority which is the real cause of the chronic electricity shortages.

However, one aspect of that second report is positive and noteworthy: BBC audiences found an extremely rare portrayal of Hamas’ intimidation of civilians and journalists and its practice of trying to silence foreign media coverage of unfavourable stories.

“Hamas’ police forces arrested dozens of people in northern Gaza for their involvement in the demonstration.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that “security personnel in the aftermath of the protest raided several houses and arrested a number of activists”.

The Associated Press said that one of its journalists was arrested, while a photographer for the French news agency AFP was reportedly hit in the face by a police officer’s gun when he refused to hand over his camera.

The foreign press had been told by Hamas not to cover the event. The photographer had to go to hospital and received stitches for a wound on his face.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the Foreign Press Association issued a statement concerning those incidents.

Related Articles:

BBC airs inaccurate report by Yolande Knell on Gaza infrastructure

The BBC and the ‘destroyed’ Gaza power plant

BBC silent on latest Gaza power plant shut down

No BBC reporting on latest power crisis in the Gaza Strip

Revisiting the BBC’s 2014 reports on Gaza’s power plant

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US designates founder of Hamas media outlet championed by BBC staff

Last week the US State Department announced the designation of the former Hamas interior minister – and occasional BBC quoteeFathi Hamad (also spelt Hammad).

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“As a senior Hamas official, Hammad has engaged in terrorist activity for Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. Hammad served as Hamas’s Interior Minister where he was responsible for security within Gaza, a position he used to coordinate terrorist cells. Hammad established Al-Aqsa TV, which is a primary Hamas media outlet with programs designed to recruit children to become Hamas armed fighters and suicide bombers upon reaching adulthood. Al-Aqsa TV was designated in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury under E.O. 13224.”

Readers may recall that when Israeli forces carried out strikes on communications antennae on buildings housing Hamas’ TV stations (including Al-Aqsa TV) during the conflict in 2012, the Foreign Press Association – which at the time was headed by the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau chief Paul Danahar – and the then BBC Gaza correspondent Jon Donnison promoted the false accusation that Israel was “targeting journalists”.

Related Articles:

BBC covers US terror designations for Hamas and Hizballah operatives – but not in English

Head of BBC’s ME bureau slams Israeli government criticism of Gaza reporting

On June 14th Israel’s Foreign Ministry released the following video which, whilst not the most sophisticated piece of video work ever produced, will certainly ring a bell with all those who followed the BBC’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas last summer.

Some people were apparently rather upset by that 49 second cartoon – including the head of the BBC’s Middle East bureau…

Coleborn MFA tweet 1

Colebourn MFA tweet 2

….and the local Foreign Press Association (where Colebourn is a board member), which released a distinctly patronising statement instructing the MFA how it should be spending its time.

FPA statement MFA vidInterestingly, the FPA appears to have forgotten about another statement it put out August 2014.

FPA statement Hamas Aug 14

And no less remarkable is the fact that the video’s critics do not seem to be overly keen to address the actual issues behind the satire.

Related Articles:

AFP on 17 Slain ‘Journalists,’ ‘No Terrorists Here’ (CAMERA) 

 

BBC stays mum on new PA restrictions on foreign journalists

Almost a week after their announcement, there has so far been no report published by the BBC regarding the new restrictions on foreign journalists introduced by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate.

Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

“Foreign journalists who ignore the latest restriction face arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces, said Jihad Qawassmeh, member of the Palestinian Journalist’s’ Syndicate.

He warned that any Palestinian journalist who helps international media representatives enter the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories without permission would face punitive measures.” […]

“The Palestinian Authority, which has often displayed a large degree of intolerance toward journalists who refuse to serve as a mouthpiece for its leaders, wants to work only with sympathetic reporters.

The timing of the ban is no coincidence. It came in the aftermath of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ramallah and Bethlehem, where Palestinian protesters set fire to and trampled on his pictures. The protests seriously embarrassed the Palestinian Authority, especially because they underscored the large gap between its leaders and the street.”

As anyone who has read Stephanie Gutmann’sThe Other War” (a riveting account of the reality behind the foreign media’s reporting of the Second Intifada) will be aware, information coming out of the PA-controlled territories via foreign correspondents already passes through a series of ‘sieves’ including fixers and local editors before it reaches the general public. This new dictate by the PA will clearly exacerbate the filtering of the news which reaches audiences worldwide. 

Khaled Abu Toameh adds:

“Particularly disturbing is that representatives of the international media have not protested against the Palestinian Authority’s threat to restrict the journalists’ work and even arrest them. One can only imagine the response of the international media had the Israeli authorities issued a similar ban or threat.

It also remains to be seen whether human rights organizations and groups that claim to defend freedom of press will react.

Once the ban goes into effect, officials of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information will find themselves serving as censors and editors of all news items concerning the Palestinians. Unless, of course, foreign journalists raise their voices and insist on their right to write their own stories from Ramallah.”

So far at least, the BBC appears to be avoiding informing its audiences of these new measures which will affect both the accuracy and impartiality of its reporting. Similarly, the Foreign Press Association – chaired by the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Paul Danahar – has yet to release a statement on the subject.

Journalists in wartime: a legal view

In the past few weeks we have twice addressed the subject of claims made by BBC journalists – and in particular by members of the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau – that Israel deliberately targeted members of the media during Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’. Some were quick to afford journalistic status to members of terrorist organisations who happened to have some sort of connection to the profession, even if only by title. 

Those articles can be read here and here

A short article on the Oxford University Press blog by Sandesh Sivakumaran, Associate Professor and Reader in International law at the University of Nottingham, casts some light upon the subject of the legal status of different categories of journalists.

“The law of armed conflict distinguishes between different types of journalists:

  1. Journalists who work for media outlets or information services of the armed forces.
  2. Journalists who accompany the armed forces and are authorized to do so, but who aren’t members of the armed forces, e.g., the embedded reporter.
  3. Journalists who are undertaking professional activities in areas affected by hostilities but who aren’t accompanying the armed forces, e.g., the broadcaster who is presenting from a conflict zone but who isn’t embedded with the troops.

The first category of journalists constitutes members of the armed forces. Accordingly, they don’t benefit from the protections afforded to civilians and their deaths don’t constitute a violation of the law.”

Whilst Mr Sivakumaran does not relate specifically to the category of Journalists working for media outlets belonging to terror organisations with an organized armed wing, such as Hamas, one presumes that Al Aqsa TV journalists such as Mahmoud al Kumi and Hussam Salama are more likely to belong to category one than any of the others.  

danahar tweet AA

Davies AA TV

The article also relates to the subject of the targeting of media buildings.

“One particularly controversial area of the law is the targeting of TV and radio stations. Civilian broadcasting services are protected from attack. They may be legitimate targets, however, if they constitute military objectives. In legal terms, this refers to objects that, “by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.” “.

danahar media buildings

Read the whole article here.  

BBC Jerusalem Bureau leads the charge in false accusations of “targeting journalists”

Over the past five days since Operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’ began, the BBC has – perhaps inadvertently – done an excellent job of documenting Hamas’ cynical exploitation of the local civilian population in the Gaza Strip as human shields.

Not only have we seen plenty of filmed footage of military grade missiles being fired from built up residential areas (as shown in the clip below), but the BBC journalists on the ground have reported via Twitter an almost constant stream of rockets being fired from their vicinity.

At around 3 a.m. local time on November 18th, the various BBC reporters in Gaza began Tweeting reports of an Israeli strike on a building which houses the Hamas television station ‘Al Quds’.

Later, apparently, the building housing Hamas’ other TV station – Al Aqsa TV – was also damaged. 

So what are ‘Al Quds TV’ and ‘Al Aqsa TV’? The latter was established in 2006 after the Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip and models itself on Hizballah’s ‘Al Manar’ TV station. It broadcasts virulently antisemitic material (so much so that it was taken off the air by the French government for violating European law against the broadcasting of incitement) and regularly promotes violence against Israelis and Jews – including to children.

Readers are no doubt familiar with the Mickey Mouse-style character Farfour – a creation of Al Aqsa TV under the direction of Fathi Hamad, who is also Hamas Interior Minister, in charge of the Hamas Public Affairs Department and head of a ‘charity’ named Waad which in 2009 offered a $1.4 million bounty to any Israeli Arab abducting an IDF soldier. 

In 2008 a speech by Fathi Hamad was aired on Al Aqsa TV, which included an admittance of the use of human shields by Hamas: 

Al Quds TV – housed in the Showa Housari building in the Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City – was established by Hamas in 2008 and is registered in London. The director of its Gaza office, Imad Efranji, is a member of the board of the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Journalist’s faction. It therefore comes as no surprise to find Efranji spinning this morning’s incident as “a new crime against the media” in an all too transparent effort to recruit worldwide public opinion and sympathy.

What is surprising, however, is the apparent willingness of media outlets such as ITN, Sky and Al Arabiya to share premises with – and act as human shields for – the abhorrently racist propaganda arm of a terrorist organization. Al Arabiya in particular should probably have learned from its prior experience in 2009.

Not quite so surprising – but disappointing all the same – is the rush to condemn a strike on the infrastructure of the Hamas propaganda and communications arm as “targeting journalists”. Leading the charge is Paul Danahar – head of both the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau and the Foreign Press Association in Israel, which – without waiting for clarification from the IDF – has already issued a statement on the subject. 

Interestingly, Hamas’ Al Qassam brigades are taking the exact same approach: 

(No journalists were killed, by the way.)

The accidental injury of journalists located in close proximity to terrorist facilities is of course just as regrettable as the injury to people of any other profession and none. However, four days after Israel specifically stated that it would target Hamas terrorist infrastructure and after warnings to non-combatants in the Gaza Strip to distance themselves from Hamas terrorists and their installations, sharing offices with the Hamas propaganda arm was inevitably not a good call. 

What is particularly disturbing is that Paul Danahar and some of his colleagues appear to have convinced themselves that anyone with a camera and a microphone is a journalist – failing completely to address the exploitation of that title by terrorist organisations, the placing of rocket launching sites in close proximity to houses or office buildings or the use of journalists and other civilians as human shields, as he and his colleagues have been documenting for the past five days. 

But Danahar’s outrage must also be viewed from an additional angle too. His colleague Jon Donnison tweeted the following after this morning’s incident:

That, of course, is not true. As the IDF later stated, the operation’s aim was to cripple Hamas communications and both buildings were being used as centres of communications for terrorist activity.

But when BBC journalists are indoctrinated by their senior editors and colleagues with the bizarre belief that Israel is out to kill them, as was documented here just a month ago, then objectivity, accuracy and impartiality are bound to be in short supply. 

Update: 

Here is the footage of the strikes on the antennae on the rooftops of the two buildings concerned: