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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He went on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

More context-free BBC portrayal of Gaza construction imports

 

 

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Superficial BBC WS reporting on Gaza truce discussions

The August 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 48:46 here) which was introduced by presenter Rebecca Kesby using the standard sanitised BBC portrayal of the ‘Great Return March‘ violent rioting and with the firing of hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians by terror factions erased from audience view.

Kesby: “Egypt has taken on a big task, apparently organising and implementing a truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The agreement is reportedly aimed at calming weeks of border clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel and is planned ahead of the Muslim Adha feast which starts next week.”

On the same day, however, Israeli media outlets reported that Hamas officials had stated that no agreement would be reached before Eid al Adha.

“A member of the Hamas terror group’s political bureau said Friday that internal Palestinian talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel were put on pause until the conclusion of a Muslim holiday later this month.

“Today we finished a round of consultations in Cairo with the Palestinian factions regarding the calm [ceasefire deal] and the reconciliation” between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, Izzat al-Rishq wrote on his Twitter account, according to Channel 10 news.

“We made clear that we insist that all steps be in a national framework. We presented our vision regarding the calm and we heard ideas and comments from the brothers in the factions,” added al-Rishq, one of the Gaza-based terror group’s top leaders abroad.

“God willing the efforts will renew after the holiday” of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim feast that begins on Tuesday and lasts until the end of next week.”

Kesby then went on to introduce Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz and BBC audiences were told that the potential truce includes several factors.

Pfeffer: “The main component of the deal – which is an unofficial understanding, not a written treaty that either side is signing – is that Hamas is committed to a complete ceasefire.”

Listeners were not told that Hamas’ interpretation of “a complete ceasefire” does not – as the Times of Israel explains – in fact include what Kesby euphemistically described as “border clashes” in her introduction.

“Hamas does not view the ongoing “popular protests” along the border, or the kite and balloon arson attacks that have burned over 7,000 acres of southern Israeli land, as a violation of any such agreement. As far as Hamas is concerned, those attacks are part of the popular Palestinian struggle against Israel. If Hamas does reach a long-term ceasefire deal with Israel, the terror group insists it will be obligated to cease rocket and mortar fire, but nothing more. […]

Conversely, Hamas says it will not agree to such a truce unless Israel stops bombings its facilities in the Gaza Strip, which have caused considerable damage to its infrastructure in recent weeks. […]

Israel has carried out such strikes in response to arson attacks and particularly egregious violence at the protests, and is unlikely to accept an arrangement in which it would agree to halt such responses while Gazans remain free to riot and burn Israeli farmland.”

Pfeffer went on:

Pfeffer: “The next elements are that both Israel and Egypt will reopen the crossings into Gaza, both for people coming in and out – that’s the Egyptian crossing at Rafah – and for cargo which goes in from the Israeli side at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Another component is that the fishermen of Gaza will be able to put out to sea to a much wider area and what is perhaps most problematic – and that’s something which is going to be in the future – opening further negotiations through the Egyptians on prisoner exchanges and the larger plan of infrastructure building in Gaza.”

While BBC audiences have in the past heard plenty about border crossings, fishing zones and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, listeners may well have been confused by the reference to “prisoner exchanges” because – as noted here previously – the corporation has produced no reporting concerning the Israeli civilians held by Hamas in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.

Later on Pfeffer mentioned the Palestinian Authority “who don’t really like to see all this happening without them being involved” but listeners were not told that the day before this report was aired, Mahmoud Abbas had refused to meet the Egyptian intelligence chief to discuss the issue.

Kesby then came up with a totally irrelevant question:

Kesby: “Yeah, you mention Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. We don’t think they’ve been part of these talks at all, do we? And that may not be the only stumbling block: will all this get through the Israeli parliament?

Pfeffer: “Well the parliament doesn’t have to vote on it. It’s not a formal peace treaty; it’s just a ceasefire agreement.”

Pfeffer went on to say that most Israeli cabinet ministers “have agreed in principle to the plan” and that “the real stumbling blocks” are “some minority within Hamas leadership who are reported to be against” before stating that this is the test which will determine the chances of “something more comprehensive” that will “allow people in Gaza to finally begin enjoying a better level of infrastructure and some kind of freedom of movement in and out of the Gaza Strip.”

As we see, BBC World Service listeners were given inaccurate information about the timing of this potential truce and misled with regard to its terms. Audiences heard nothing about the Palestinian Authority’s stance which would enhance their understanding of factors liable to prevent any significant agreement from coming about, including the fact that PA officials have said that “if any deal were reached, the Ramallah government would stop all financial assistance it provides to the Strip”. And once again, the subject of Israeli civilians held prisoner by Hamas was ignored by the BBC.

Related Articles:

The glaring omission in the BBC’s portrayal of Gaza truce negotiations

 

 

 

A Gaza border closure not deemed newsworthy by BBC News

Over the years BBC audiences have been regularly exposed to descriptions of the restrictions imposed by Israel on the import of munitions and dual-use goods to the Gaza Strip and the policies on entry to Israel from that territory that include inaccurate portrayals of the measures imposed and the reasons for them in distinctly partisan language. For example:

“Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade around Gaza aimed at preventing attacks by militants there, though the measure has been condemned by rights groups as a form of collective punishment.” [emphasis added] BBC News website, February 13th 2017.

“…the stifling border closures the Israeli government says are for security, the people here say are for collective punishment.” [emphasis added] BBC World Service radio, February 1st 2017.

“Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas receiving materials that could be used for military purposes, but the UN has long been critical of it.

Last week Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it “collective punishment for which there must be accountability”.” [emphasis added] BBC News website, July 3rd 2016.

“Gaza’s economy is definitely not able to support a population of 1.7 million people but that’s because of the siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.” [emphasis added] BBC Radio 4, July 19th 2014.

“And I have to say – and this is one of the oddest things – from the decrepit heart of a half-destroyed city in a besieged and blockaded enclave, sometimes described as the biggest open air prison in the world, comes the best ice cream I have ever tasted.” [emphasis added] BBC Radio 4, June 18th 2015.

“One of the reasons Gaza’s often described as the largest open-air prison in the world is the difficulty of getting across the border with Israel.” [emphasis added] BBC World Service radio, May 19th 2015.

On March 26th 2017, Hamas closed the Gaza Strip’s borders.

“Hamas closed the border crossing between the Gaza Strip in Israel on Sunday morning in the wake of the assassination of one of its commanders, Mazan Fukha.

As a result of the closing, neither Palestinians nor international representatives are allowed in or out of the strip.

The crossing, which [is] controlled by Hamas and situated after the Israeli Erez Crossing, will be closed until further notice, according to a statement by the Hamas Interior Ministry.

All other exit points from the Gaza Strip have also been closed in an effort to make it harder on Fukha’s assassins or their accomplices to leave the strip.

The Rafah border crossing, which connects the strip with Egypt, will also be closed by Hamas—even if Egypt decides to open it—while fishermen are barred from going out the sea.”

Subsequently, those restrictions on movement were partially eased.

“The Hamas terror group partially reopened a key crossing between the northern Gaza Strip and Israel on Monday, a day after shuttering the checkpoint while blaming the Jewish state for the assassination of one of its terror chiefs in the Palestinian enclave.

The terror group, which is the de facto ruler of the Strip, said the Erez Crossing would be open to anyone wishing to enter Gaza, but those leaving would remain restricted to senior politicians, the sick and families of prisoners.

Men between the ages of 15 and 45 are forbidden from leaving in all cases, while women of all ages who fall into the categories would be allowed to leave.

“From Monday morning, travel through the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing will be permitted temporarily for some categories,” a statement from Iyad al-Bozum, a spokesman for the interior ministry in the Palestinian enclave, said.”

As noted here previously, the BBC has chosen not to report the assassination of Mazen Fuqaha on its English language services and – despite its usually extensive coverage of Gaza border restrictions implemented by Israel – Hamas’ decision to impose closures on the borders and a ban on fishing have also not been deemed newsworthy.

BBC ignores extension of Gaza fishing zone

Over the years BBC audiences have been given a very specific, largely context-free, portrayal of the fishing industry in the Gaza Strip. In August 2014, for example, Orla Guerin told viewers that:

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“In Gaza harbour plenty of boats were idle today. Only a few would set sail, even in a ceasefire. Our skipper was Ramez Bakr [phonetic]. Seventy relatives depend on the income from this boat but Israel’s blockade limits where he can fish. It controls access to Gaza from land, sea and air. He’s looking to the negotiators in Cairo to secure a seaport – a key Palestinian demand. ‘The people are hungry’ he tells me ‘and the economy has died. This is why Hamas is fighting Israel: to open the siege and the borders. We’ll be very unhappy if the talks fail.’”

In a backgrounder called ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ which was originally produced in 2012 but updated in July 2014, BBC audiences are told that:

“Following the November 2012 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, the fishing limit was extended from three nautical miles to six. However, it has been periodically reduced to three nautical miles in response to rocket fire from Gaza. Israeli naval forces frequently open fire towards Palestinian fishing boats approaching or exceeding the limit. The UN says if the limit was lifted, fishing could provide employment and a cheap source of protein for the people of Gaza.”

In April 2016 the Gaza Strip fishing zone was extended for the duration of the spring season to nine nautical miles but the BBC’s English language services did not report that change at the time.

As of November 1st 2016, a similar 50% extension will be put in place for a period of two months.

“COGAT said that it made the decision “to facilitate increased activity in Gaza Strip’s fishing sector, which is an [important] source of income.”

A similar measure to expand the fishing zone between April and June 2016 resulted in a 15% increase in the total output of fish, compared to the same period in 2015, according to COGAT.

The total output of the fish market in Gaza stands at NIS 6 million annually. […]

COGAT also said that it hopes to keep the zone open for the fishing season, but warned fishermen against taking advantage of the expansion.

“We emphasize that the expansion of the [fishing zone] is conditioned on the fishermen respecting the agreement [of nine nautical miles] and not exploiting it to smuggle or penetrate Israel’s territory,” the statement added.”

To date there has been no BBC coverage of that October 27th announcement and with the corporation also having repeatedly failed to report maritime weapons smuggling attempts (see ‘related articles’ below), it is obvious that audiences are not being provided with the information they need in order to be able to understand this particular “international issue“.

Relates Articles:

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up on Gaza Strip weapons smuggling story