BBC’s Knell promotes more Hamas messaging on Qatar crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knell tells readers that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Superficial BBC Radio 4 reporting on Qatar funding of Hamas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While in the last couple of weeks the BBC has invested quite a lot of resources and energy in opportunistic promotion of its chosen political narrative concerning the Six Day War, it has on the other hand to date completely ignored an additional anniversary that is, to put it mildly, no less important as far as audience understanding of the reasons for the absence of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is concerned.

This week marks a decade since the violent take-over of the Gaza Strip by the terrorist organisation Hamas and the ousting of the body recognised by the international community as representing the Palestinian people – the Palestinian Authority – from that territory.

As Avi Issacharoff writes at the Times of Israel:

“Ten years have passed since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a violent and swift coup during which 160 members of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah party were wiped out. Within three and a half days, the Hamas military wing defeated the military units of the Fatah-dominated PA, even though Abbas’s loyalists were four times more numerous. (The most powerful PA figure in Gaza at the time was Mohammad Dahlan, but he happened to be in Germany for physiotherapy treatment on his back.)

Unemployment at the end of the Hamas decade is around 40%. Poverty is widespread. Two-thirds of the population in Gaza needs help from international aid organizations. The water isn’t fit to drink. And now the power is dwindling.

If anyone hopes that Hamas might reconsider its policies, and start to invest in the citizens of the Strip instead of its military infrastructure, they should forget it. Hamas remains the same cynical organization that exploits the distress of Gaza’s residents for political gain, both locally and internationally. Sometimes against Israel, sometimes against the Palestinian Authority.”

The topic of Gaza’s chronic electricity crisis has been covered patchily and often inaccurately by the BBC in the past (see ‘related articles’ below). In recent weeks that crisis has been exacerbated by the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to continue footing the entire bill for electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip by Israel.

“In April the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($11.1 million) of the NIS 40 million ($5.6- 7 million) monthly bill. Israel currently supplies 125 megawatts to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.”

While Israel, Egypt and the EU are reportedly trying to find solutions to the worsening crisis, Hamas continues to threaten violence.  

““The decision of the occupation to reduce the electricity to Gaza at the request of PA President Mahmoud Abbas is catastrophic and dangerous. It will accelerate the deterioration and explode the situation in the Strip,” said Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanua.

“Those who will bear the consequences of this decision are the Israeli enemy, who is besieging the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,” he added.”

According to some Gaza residents and others, Hamas is already organising violent ‘demonstrations’ against Israel.

“Since the beginning of Ramadan, Hamas have been organizing riots across the border area with Israel provoking a response that has left two Palestinians killed and several others wounded.”

However, as Avi Issacharoff  points out:

“Hamas could, if it wanted to, pay for enough electricity to significantly improve power supplies. But it prefers to spend tens of millions of shekels a month digging attack tunnels into Israel and manufacturing rockets.

According to various estimates by the PA and Israel, Hamas raises NIS 100 million ($28 million) every month in taxes from the residents of Gaza. A significant part of that amount covers the wages of its members. But a large portion is diverted for military purposes. Estimates say Hamas is spending some $130 million a year on its military wing and preparations for war.

Hamas could easily step in to pay for the electricity from Israel that Abbas is no longer willing to cover. But it adamantly refuses to do so. It stubbornly insists that the PA should pay the entire bill, without clarifying why.”

Likewise, the Palestinian Authority – which reportedly has also cut medical supplies to the Gaza Strip – could foot the bill for Gaza’s electricity if it so wished. After all, it spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on payments to convicted terrorists (including those belonging to Hamas) and the families of terrorists. However, the PA’s decision to put pressure on Hamas by means of augmented suffering for the people of the Gaza Strip goes far beyond financial – or humanitarian – considerations.

Whether or not this crisis will escalate into another round of conflict between the Gaza Strip based terror group Hamas and Israel remains to be seen. One thing, however, is already clear: if the situation does escalate, BBC audiences will once again lack the full background information necessary for understanding of its underlying causes as they watch BBC reporters produce a plethora of pathos-rich reports of suffering in Gaza.

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BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part two 

 

 

BBC’s Knell reports on Gaza power crisis – without the usual distractions

On several occasions in the past we have documented the BBC’s repeated misrepresentation of the perennial electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip as being connected to Israeli counter-terrorism measures. [emphasis added]

“The manager, Rafik Maliha, has been here since the electricity plant opened a decade ago. It was supposed to make use of the latest technology to meet rising demand. Instead, it’s faced constant challenges. It’s been caught up in previous fighting between Hamas which controls Gaza and the group’s sworn enemy Israel. Tight border restrictions limited fuel imports. Although power cuts were common in Gaza before, now they’re much worse.” (August 15th 2014 – link to source)

“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.” (January 14th 2017 – link to source)

“Gaza’s everyday problems don’t stop though with unreliable electricity; the rest of the infrastructure is shot. A lot of recent war damage lies unreconstructed. The economy is lifeless, unemployment sky-high. So whose fault is it? People here wave their arms in many directions. The Israelis first, for the stifling border closures the Israeli government says are for security, the people here say are for collective punishment.” (February 1st 2017 – link to source)

“Power cuts in Gaza typically last 8 to 12 hours a day – sometimes longer. […]

There are strict controls on the movement of goods and people going in and out of Gaza.” (April 18th 2017 – link to source)

“Gaza’s electricity supply has been also affected by restrictions on the import of goods imposed by Israel as part of a land, sea and air blockade that is now in its 10th year. (April 27th 2017 – link to source)

However, on May 18th an article by Yolande Knell that appeared in the ‘features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page demonstrated that the BBC is entirely aware of the fact that the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is not caused by Israeli counter-terrorism measures at all, but by internal Palestinian disputes.

Readers of that report – titled “Gaza residents left in the dark amid Palestinian power struggle” – were informed that:

“Behind the crisis is an escalating political power struggle between the Islamist group, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority (PA), dominated by the rival Fatah movement. […]

Now, Mr Abbas’s West Bank-based government appears to be piling on financial pressure as it tries to reassert its authority over the Strip. […]

Gaza’s only power plant, which runs on diesel, was shut down last month after the PA scrapped a tax exemption, more than doubling the price of the fuel.

The plant had been producing about 60MW of power a day, about 30% of the energy normally available.

Now, the PA says it will no longer honour any invoices for an additional 125MW of electricity supplied by Israel.”

Yolande Knell also produced an audio report on the same topic which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on the same date. In that report (from 17:50 here) she told listeners that:

“Behind this power crisis is an internal power struggle between the main Palestinian factions. […]

Most recently the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mr Abbas, said it will no longer pay for electricity supplied by Israel to Gaza while Hamas remains in charge.”

Listeners also heard a UN official say:

“We have warned all sides that a political solution needs to be found to this crisis and the only reasonable political solution is to in fact work on returning Gaza to the control of the legitimate Palestinian authorities – the government.”

Particularly noteworthy is the fact that in neither of these reports did Knell promote the lazy, inaccurate but previously much touted notion that Israeli security measures are to blame for the crisis.

While that adherence to accurate journalism without misleading distractions is clearly welcome, it does of course highlight the question of why promotion of that misinformation has been standard practice in so much previous BBC reporting on this topic.

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BBC News parrots inaccurate claim from a politicised UN agency

On April 27th an article titled “Palestinian Authority ‘stops paying Israel for Gaza electricity’” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.  

“The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has told Israel that it will stop paying for electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials say.

There was no confirmation from the PA. But President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened “unprecedented steps” to end the political division with the rival Hamas movement, which dominates Gaza. […]

On Thursday, the Israeli military’s Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat) announced that it had been notified by the PA that payments for electricity supplied to Gaza would stop immediately.”

The report provides readers with accurate background information relating to the chronic power crisis in the Gaza Strip.

“Israel currently provides Gaza with 125MW, which accounts for 55% of the territory’s usual electricity supply. Israeli media say the cost is about $11m a month, which Israel deducts from tax revenue collected on behalf of the PA. […]

On 17 April, the Gaza Power Plant, which produced about 30% of the territory’s electricity supply, was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds.

Days later, malfunctioning power lines coming from Egypt, which accounts for 15% of the supply, exacerbated the outages.”

However, the broader background to the article’s subject matter is less accurately portrayed.

“On 12 April, Mr Abbas said Palestinians faced a “dangerous and tough situation” and that he was “going to take unprecedented steps in the coming days to end the division [between Fatah and Hamas]”.

He did not elaborate, but the PA has already cut the salaries of civil servants based in Gaza and taxed Israeli fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the salary cuts would stay in place until Hamas moved towards reconciliation.

“I think there is a golden and historic chance to regain the unity of our people,” he said. “Hamas should relinquish control of Gaza.””

Those “civil servants based in Gaza” are of course the former PA employees who have been paid to stay at home for almost a decade. As for the PA’s policy of demanding payment of fuel taxes, it is not – as suggested by this report – new, having first been introduced in 2015.

The BBC’s report does not provide readers with any further information concerning the apparent reasons behind Abbas’ moves – as explained at the Times of Israel two days previously.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to issue a dramatic ultimatum to the Gaza Strip’s terrorist Hamas rulers, demanding that they either hand over governance of the area or face a funding freeze, sources close to the Palestinian leader said. […]

Among Fatah’s leadership there is a consensus supporting the measure. More than one senior official told The Times of Israel that there is no sense in maintaining the current situation.

“This time, Abbas is serious” one official said on condition of anonymity. “He doesn’t plan to drag things out and is unwilling to allow Hamas to continue to play games and drag its feet. It can either hand over authority in Gaza to us, or take responsibility and start to pay.”

Officials said that while Hamas is collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes from the residents of Gaza, it is in no hurry to help the PA pay to run the Strip.

“It’s incomprehensible,” one official said. “In the past 10 years Hamas’s coffers have been enriched by more than a billion dollars in taxes, and yet they never shared the [financial] burden of the Strip. They invested most of it in their military wing.””

The ToI has also noted that:

“The renewed push by the PA to regain a foothold in Gaza comes ahead of Abbas’s meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House next week. Ahead of the Washington confab, Abbas was under pressure to show that he represents all Palestinians, including those in Gaza.

In March, Hamas announced it would form an administrative committee to further its governance in Gaza. The announcement infuriated Abbas, who immediately began taking steps to squeeze Hamas out of power.”

As usual, readers of the BBC’s article were given a toned-down portrayal of the violent coup which led to the terrorist group taking control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

“In 2006, Hamas won Palestinian Legislative Council elections. It reinforced its power in Gaza the following year after a violent rift with Mr Abbas’ Fatah faction.”

And yet again, the BBC could not resist promoting the false notion that the chronic shortage of electricity in the Gaza Strip is in part attributable to Israeli counter-terrorism measures.

“Gaza’s electricity supply has been also affected by restrictions on the import of goods imposed by Israel as part of a land, sea and air blockade that is now in its 10th year. Egypt is meanwhile blockading Gaza’s southern border.

Israel and Egypt maintain the blockades as a measure against attacks by Islamist militants based in Gaza.”

Interestingly, an almost identical statement is to be found in a document produced by UN OCHA to which a link is provided in this article’s fifth paragraph:

“Gaza’s longstanding electricity deficit has been also affected by the restrictions on the import of goods imposed by Israel as part of a land, air and sea blockade, now in its 10th year.”

Obviously if BBC journalists conducted their own research rather than blindly parroting claims made by a highly partial and politicised UN body, their reporting would be more likely to meet the BBC’s professed standards of accuracy.

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More BBC disinformation on Gaza power crisis

The chronic shortage of electricity in the Gaza Strip is – as frequently documented on these pages – a story that is consistently badly reported by the BBC. Rather than informing its audiences of the real reasons behind that permanent crisis, the corporation’s journalists regularly promote the entirely inaccurate notion that it is connected to the restrictions on entry of certain dual-use goods to the Gaza Strip that are part of Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

In recent days the crisis was further exacerbated.

“The Gaza Strip’s only functioning power plant was not functioning Sunday after running out of fuel, the head of the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave’s electricity provider told AFP.

Samir Metir said that all the plant’s fuel, purchased with funding from Qatar and Turkey, had been used up.

He said it was not clear when the Palestinian territory would receive more, owing to a “dispute” between the electricity authority in Gaza and Palestinian authorities in the West Bank.

The Gaza Health Ministry warned of a humanitarian crisis as a result.”

As the Jerusalem Post notes, this is yet another chapter in a long-running dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

“Hamas appealed to Ramallah on Monday to lift an onerous fuel tax which it said would force the Gaza power plant to shut down on Tuesday for the third day in a row.[…]

“We were surprised by the decision of the government [in Ramallah] to fully reimpose the taxes on the price of fuel used for operating the power plant,” the Gaza Energy Authority said on its web page.

The authority added that it “appealed” to Ramallah to waive the taxes. It further charged that Ramallah had delayed projects that would help resolve the electricity problem in Gaza.

A similar electricity crisis in December was resolved by tax-free donations from Qatar and Turkey that ran out last week. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is no longer willing to allow the plant to operate on tax-free fuel.”

On April 18th the BBC News website posted a filmed report – apparently also shown on BBC television news programmes – titled “Gaza power cuts: Man shares his tricks“. The report profiles an engineer from Gaza who has developed alternatives to mains electricity and the background to that story is described as follows:

“Power cuts in Gaza typically last 8 to 12 hours a day – sometimes longer. […]

There are strict controls on the movement of goods and people going in and out of Gaza.

Israel and Egypt tightened their blockade after Hamas, a militant group, took control in 2007.

Electricity is imported from both countries and there’s only one power plant.

Demand far outstrips supply.”

Leaving aside the predictable whitewashing of Hamas’ terrorism, obviously BBC audiences would understand – wrongly – that the electricity crisis in Gaza has something to do with the “strict controls” imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Not only is that not the case but the BBC has once again erased the real reason for the crisis from audience view.

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Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

Last November we noted that the commander of COGAT, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, had written to several international bodies warning of a potential water crisis in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2017.

In January we noted that the BBC had not reported the opening of a desalination plant (constructed by the EU and UNICEF) in the Gaza Strip.

“It is the Hamas-ruled territory’s second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza’s water woes, officials say the project marks an important step. […]

The European Union says it invested 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019.”

However, it turns out that the desalination plant is not functioning and, as reported by the Times of Israel, COGAT has once again called on international bodies for help.

“In a letter sent last week to representatives of the international community in Israel and to the Foreign Ministry, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, warned that the Strip’s aquifer has been destroyed by years of excessive pumping and an estimated 96 percent of water in the enclave is now unfit to drink. It is the second such warning Mordechai has issued in the past six months.

To improve the situation, Israel supports the establishment of desalination plants, he said. In January a UNICEF team finished construction of a desalination plant in Khan Younis with a production capacity of 6,000 cubic meters of water per day — enough for 75,000 people.

However, according to Mordechai, the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, won’t allow the plant to be connected to the electric grid.” [emphasis added]

Only last month the BBC found it appropriate to provide unchallenged multi-platform amplification for water-related propaganda promoted by the PA’s Husam Zomlot:

Zomlot: “Steve, the whole situation here is that of a system of entitlement. These people – some people in Tel Aviv right now – the government, the Right-wing extreme government, wants to keep a system whereby there is a group that are privileged as per these numbers. It’s our own water that they consume, most of it. Some groups that are privileged and others that are disprivileged [sic] and discriminated whether by means of occupation or by means of colonisation or by means of apartheid.” [emphasis added]

Significantly, BBC audiences have not been informed of Israel’s actions to ease the water crisis in the Gaza Strip – and the lack of effort on the part of Hamas and the PA.

“A second desalination plant is in its planning stages and Israel supports the construction of a third, larger plant in Deir al-Balah, but only part of the money has been raised by the international community.

Until those plants are completed, Israel has offered to double its supply of water to Gaza, from 10 million cubic meters per year to 20 million. However, Mordechai told Army Radio that the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, is not rushing to implement the offer.” [emphasis added]

In addition to water, the topic of the electricity supply in the Gaza Strip is also serially misrepresented in BBC reporting. From the same Times of Israel report we learn that:

“The water shortage is compounded by the ongoing electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip. The energy shortfall is an estimated 200 megawatts a day. Israel currently provides 60% of the electricity for Gaza, a power plant in the Strip provides some 30% and Egypt provides the remaining 10%. […]

Israel has approved the construction of another high-voltage power line to Gaza, which could provide an additional 100 megawatts of energy. This will take a few years to complete and is intended to provide power to the desalination plants.

Additionally, in September 2015, Israel approved construction of a natural gas pipeline to the Strip which could provide cheap, efficient energy to the Palestinian population. However, the PA has yet to sign a deal with any gas supplier.” [emphasis added]

If a serious water shortage does occur in the Gaza Strip this coming summer, BBC audiences will lack accurate and impartial background information essential for proper understanding of the causes of the crisis.

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BBC’s sketchy reporting on Gaza power crisis highlighted

BBC reporting on the topic of the perennial electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip has long been noteworthy for its failure to inform audiences of the full background to that crisis.

The latest example of that style of reporting was seen at the beginning of this month in Tim Franks’ radio report from Gaza for the BBC World Service and it was also evident in two BBC News website reports published a couple of weeks earlier.gaza-power-crisis-2

The Times of Israel recently published an interview with the Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip which once again highlights the fact that BBC audiences are being serially denied the full range of information necessary for understanding of this topic. 

“Qatar’s special envoy to Gaza, Muhammad al-Amadi, said that he maintains “excellent” ties with various Israeli officials, and that in some case it is Palestinian officials who are holding up efforts to better the lives of residents of the Strip. […]

Al-Amadi said he planned to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Sunday regarding an agreement that would help solve the Gaza energy crisis.

He said that while Israel has agreed to take part in the deal, the Palestinian Authority has been holding it up.

“We proposed the establishment of a technical committee, free of politicians, that would be responsible for handling Gaza’s energy problem. The committee would be composed of experts from Gaza, [Qatar], the UN, and UNRWA; and they would manage Gaza’s energy affairs,” said al-Amadi.

“This is a very serious matter that should help you in Israel as well, since these are your neighbors that are without regular electricity and water flowing to their homes. The Israelis understand this and are helping, but there are other parties that are not” — namely, the PA.

“We are talking about a three-staged plan: The first stage deals primarily with solving the problem of payment for fuel,” he said, noting that there’s been a longstanding dispute between Hamas and the PA on that front.

“[For] the second or intermediate stage,” al-Amadi continued, “we are talking with Israel about the construction of a power line between Israel and Gaza that would help with the power outages.

“The long-term stage concerns the supply of gas to the Strip in a manner that would increase the output of the power plant, thus allowing for more power in Gaza. Gas costs one-fifth of the price of the diesel currently operating the power plant,” al-Amadi concluded.”

And yet, the BBC continues to tell its audiences that the Gaza power shortages are rooted in Israeli actions rather than in the long-standing dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

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BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part two

In part one of this post we discussed the earlier section of Tim Franks’ report from the Gaza Strip which was broadcast on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on February 1st (from 14:07 here) as part of a multi-part special feature.clip-newshour-1-2-power

A section of the report – including the baseless accusation of “collective punishment” – was later promoted separately by the BBC World Service on social media. 

Following a sketchy portrayal of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip and the related demonstrations which took place last month, Franks went on to interview Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad

Franks: “So what does Hamas have to say about the burdens and disillusions of so many of the two million Palestinians here in Gaza? And in particular about people now taking to the streets to protest? Ghazi Hamad is the deputy foreign minister.”

Hamad: “I think this is a natural thing. It’s not the first time and I think the authority here give this demonstration full support and permission.”

Franks: “Shots were fired in the air and some of the organisers were arrested.”

Hamad: “I think that the police that accompany they have been commanded to protect and to give full freedom to criticize Hamas. Look, I think all kind of [unintelligible] but when they started to destroy the company and destroy the tools and the doors and the windows and the equipment inside the [unintelligible] the police was obligated to interfere.”

Franks: “Did that really happen or was it just a few kids throwing stones?”

Hamad: “No-one is shot. No-one is wounded and maybe some people they have been taken to the investigation but I think all of them they are freed now.”

Franks: “I’ve got a bigger question which is the reason Gaza is in such a terrible place at the moment. I know you will say it’s because of the Israeli presence on the border of Gaza. I just wonder whether, given that nothing has changed for the better over the past ten years, you would give any thought to a…perhaps a more radical change from Hamas. That maybe it is time to engage in some way with the Israelis.”

Hamad: “I think you have to ask the question to the Israeli side.”

Franks: “I ask the Israelis but I’m asking you.”

Hamad: “Our experience with the Israelis – these people don’t want peace, they don’t want any kind of political solution.”

Franks: “Why don’t you test them?”

Hamad: “No, I mean if you look to President Abbas he tested them for ten years now. I think he’s a very moderate man. He believes in peace, believe in coexistence, believe in peaceful talks. He does not believe in intifada or armed struggle. He did everything in order to make the peace process successful but they are…”

Franks: “Except the Israelis can also say to him you don’t speak on behalf of the Palestinians ‘cos look at Hamas.”

Listeners then heard a statement from Hamas which is identical to the messaging they have been hearing from the BBC for weeks: the notion that Israeli building is the prime obstacle to the two-state solution.

Hamad: “But they are refusing every day. They say that he is not a partner, they opening more settlements, they are confiscating lands in the West Bank. No place for the two-state solution. I think…”

Of course Hamas rejects the concept of the two-state solution outright, but Franks chose not to challenge Ghazi Hamad on that point. 

Franks: “But it’s also very easy for the Israelis to say look, President Abbas, you don’t speak for the Palestinians. Look how powerful Hamas is.”

Hamad: “But look on something on the ground. OK, this is maybe my ideology, is my thoughts but what are you going on the ground…”

Franks: “Listen, I hear what you’re saying about the Israelis and believe me, I ask the Israeli government lots of tough questions about what they are doing but I’m asking you and I’m asking about Hamas and I’m asking about the fact that because, for example, the Hamas charter talks about a war with Jews it’s easy…”

Hamad: “No, no…”

Franks: “No – hang on – it makes it easier for the Israeli government to say we don’t have a partner here.”

Hamad: “No, no, no. Don’t judge to the charter of Hamas. If you look there’s big a change inside Hamas.”

Franks: “It still says in the charter it’s about a Manichean war with the Jews.”

Hamad: “No, no. Look to the statements and the new vision of Hamas. Hamas has started to participated in the elections. Hamas has said frankly we accept the ’67 borders.”

Franks: “Hamas also puts out statements when, for example, four rabbis are stabbed in West Jerusalem praising a magnificent operation.”

Franks is referring to the terror attack in Har Nof in November 2014 which resulted in the deaths of six Israelis and about which the BBC found it appropriate to interview Ghazi Hamad at the time.

Hamad: “Well I think we have the right to fight against occupation because we…”

Franks: “But we’re talking about four rabbis in West Jerusalem. They were stabbed. I mean this was a couple of years ago.”

Hamad: “Every day we have people [unintelligible]. People are under the occupation. We have to use all the means against the occupation.”

Franks: “Ghazi Hamad from Hamas here in Gaza. That rhetoric – using all means against the occupation – may be familiar, as may be the idea that Gaza is a by-word for confinement, for shortages, for a confrontation with no exit. But it’s also a place that can bubble with pride and energy and later in the programme you’ll meet a woman who embodies that. We’ll ask whether there’s any chance that Gaza can escape what is pretty much a slow, suffocating decline at the moment.”newshour-gaza-1-2-franks

Franks’ subsequent interview with web developer Rana al-Qirnawi can be heard from 45:08 here. Following that, listeners heard a conversation between Franks and programme presenter Owen Bennett Jones which included promotion of the debatable notion that people are radicalised by difficult conditions. 

Bennett Jones: “Now Tim, you were talking about Hamas earlier – talking to them – can you just give us a take on where Hamas stand now, how much popular backing there is, what’s the politics at the moment?”

Franks: “Well as far as Hamas are concerned, they say that they are fully in control and there is no doubt, Owen, that this place is a lot less unstable; it feels a lot safer internally than it did for many years…ehm…and when I used to come here. But there’s…there is also no doubt that some young people in particular are drawn towards harder line Salafist and Jihadist groups and, you know, this is something that I’m aware that senior figures in the Israeli security establishment have long been worried about as well: that as conditions deteriorate here, you are going to get increasing radicalisation – it’s just bound to happen.”

Bennett Jones: “Right and I think your sort of general purpose on this trip to…ah…to the Middle East is to sort of assess the viability of the two-state solution. What are your – as you start – what are your thoughts on that?”

Franks’ answer to that question reveals that he knows full well that Hamas is opposed to the two-state solution or any other kind of peace agreement with Israel – which of course begs the question why that crucial point is not sufficiently prominent in both his own reporting and the broader coverage by the organisation he represents.

Franks: “Well I’m… you know, these are the views in terms of this programme from Gaza. We’ve looked at Jerusalem earlier in the week. We’re going elsewhere later in the week. But in terms of Gaza the truth is, Owen – I mean yes; that was the starting point for this project – no-one’s really talking about it here. They haven’t been talking about it for years and it’s partly because there’s no real incentive to talk about it…ah…in public or with a journalist. After all, the official Hamas position is that in the long-term there’s no place for a Jewish state in the land of Palestine. But there’s a more immediate point I think…ahm…which is that, you know, the people here have far more direct concerns. It’s about the next meal, when is the power going to go off, how do you make money, what’s the water supply like – answer: not terribly good. So it’s those sort of much more quotidian dreary concerns that are driving people rather than any grand thoughts about a solution to all of this.

It is of course quite remarkable that a journalist could produce such a lengthy report (nearly 14 minutes long in total) from the Gaza Strip – especially one which purports to “assess the viability of the two-state solution” and includes an interview with a representative of Hamas – without uttering the word terrorism even once, without informing audiences of Hamas’ efforts to rehabilitate its military capabilities – including cross-border attack tunnels – and without mentioning the fact that it is those priorities which play a significant role in creating the difficult conditions for the residents of the Gaza Strip which he does report widely. Tim Franks, however, managed to do just that.

Related Articles:

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part one

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part two

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

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part one

 

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part one

The BBC World Service ‘Newshour’ special feature that began on January 30th with Tim Franks producing a long report from Jerusalem (see ‘related articles’ below) continued on February 1st with – as promised – a report from the Gaza Strip.newshour-gaza-1-2-franks

The report was divided into two parts, the first of which can be found at 14:07 here and Tim Franks introduced it as follows:

Franks: “When we talk about Israel and the Palestinians – like today; the announcement about the new buildings for settlers or the evacuation of illegal outpost – it tends to be Jerusalem or the West Bank that we concentrate on. But there’s one small strip on the map where the confrontation has congealed into something darker, something heavier. Every so often it erupts into scalding violence. It’s the Gaza Strip; home to two million Palestinians, controlled by Israel on three sides, Egypt on a fourth. The UN has said that the way things are going the enclave could be unfit for human habitation by 2020.”

Oddly, Franks’ scene-setting did not include informing his listeners that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip well over eleven years ago or that the “scalding violence” he described is inevitably the outcome of the continuing terror attacks against Israeli civilians, including thousands of missile attacks launched since that disengagement. Franks then proceeded to a topic which has been covered – albeit very superficially – by the BBC on several occasions in the past.

Franks: “You hear that? That’s the sound of Gaza by night: generators thumping and groaning away. The electricity at the moment, it only runs for eight hours a day: eight hours on, eight hours off. Pity the factory manager, the café owner. Hamam Aliaji [phonetic] is both: he bottles Pepsi by day, runs his coffee shop by night. Not easy.

Aliaiji: “I always say, the generator is my business partner as I put money for the generator or the electricity in general more than the money I get from here. For us to run our business, I pay a lot of money. The normal people they pay maybe 25% of their salary on power. We [have] had more than enough. The electricity, the borders, the tax – everything. It’s not possible to run a business now in Gaza; it’s very difficult.”

Franks: “Qatar has given some money, Turkey has given some money. That’s probably going to run out in a few months’ time. What happens then?”

Aliaji: “We’ll get three hours electricity a day. That’s it.”

Franks: “A gloomy prognosis from Hamam Aliaji; a man with a ready smile, high political ambitions by the way – he says he’d quite like to be president of Palestine in about 15 or 20 years’ time. And an unusual treat for his shisha-smoking, football-watching, card-playing clientele: on these cold Gaza nights he serves everyone at his café free cups of thick, lemony lentil soup.”

Yet again we see that the BBC avoids telling its audiences that the real reason for the perpetual electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip is 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. So while listeners were encouraged to “pity” the residents of the Gaza Strip, they were not informed of the background to their plight, just as they were subsequently not informed that the reason why many buildings there have not repaired is because of Hamas’ hijacking of construction materials for the purpose of terrorism.  

Franks: “Gaza’s everyday problems don’t stop though with unreliable electricity; the rest of the infrastructure is shot. A lot of recent war damage lies unreconstructed. The economy is lifeless, unemployment sky-high. So whose fault is it? People here wave their arms in many directions.”

Franks went on to present a caricature portrayal of the restrictions on the import of dual-purpose goods into Gaza while failing to adequately inform listeners of the terrorism that makes them necessary, playing the “Israel says” card and even amplifying the baseless accusation of “collective punishment”.  

Franks: “The Israelis first, for the stifling border closures the Israeli government says are for security, the people here say are for collective punishment.”

He also failed to inform listeners of a factor long under-reported by the BBC: Hamas’ collaboration with ISIS terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula.

Franks: “The Egyptians who control one border and hate Hamas’ links with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank for its rivalry with Hamas. And Hamas itself – the Islamist movement which took over the running of Gaza amid much violence back in 2007. So the frustration people feel here runs deep and a couple of weeks ago, as the power supply sputtered ever more feebly, for thousands of Gazans that frustration boiled over. Ameer Balousha [phonetic] led a protest march towards the electricity company. The security forces broke up the demonstration, Ameer was arrested.”

Balousha (voiceover): “We were continue walking towards the power company but we were surprised by the amount of force we were seen by the security forces. The amount of bullets were shot at, they were massive. We are calling for our rights. We are not calling for any chaos. We were very certain and we were very clear from the very beginning that it’s peaceful movement. Even we were shouting during the protest that it’s peaceful.”

Franks: “Is it a bit risky, you talking to the BBC?”

Balousha (voiceover): “Of course; we’re from the very beginning understand this society and we know how risky is to do something against the regime. And we’re ready from the very beginning to take this responsibility because our cause is national cause. We are calling for our humanity, for our right and this is very simple. We know that it’s risky and it will continue to be risky.”

Franks: “So what does Hamas have to say about the burdens and disillusions of so many of the two million Palestinians here in Gaza? And in particular about people now taking to the streets to protest? Ghazi Hamad is the deputy foreign minister.”

However, listeners who at this point assumed that they were going to get some information on the serially under-reported topic of Hamas’ repression of opposition to its regime in Franks’ interview with BBC regular Ghazi Hamad would have been disappointed – as we will see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part one

Another BBC WS ‘Newshour’ Israel special – part two

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