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

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

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

In its second paragraph the backgrounder tells BBC audiences that:

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

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

Readers are then told that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A subsection titled “Population” informs BBC audiences that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The backgrounder goes on:

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

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

 

 

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A ‘BBC Minute’ backgrounder misleads on Palestinian refugees

Yesterday we saw how a backgrounder on Jerusalem produced by the BBC World Service’s ‘BBC Minute’ misled its target audience of “young people” with regard to the 1949 armistice lines.

Last month BBC Minute produced two more of the items that it portrays as “making sense of the news” – this time relating to the Gaza Strip.  In those two items – still available online – once again a BBC Arabic journalist misled audiences with inaccurate information and presented context-free portrayals.

The first item is titled “BBC Minute: On Gaza clashes” and was published on May 16th.

“Gaza witnessed what’s described as the deadliest day of violence since 2014. Some 58 Palestinians were killed and Palestinian officials say around 2,700 were wounded during clashes with Israeli troops. It comes amid weeks of rising tension. We hear from the BBC’s Nida Ibrahim, who is in Gaza.”

BBC audiences around the world hear the following:

Ibrahim: “I’m Nida Ibrahim from BBC Arabic reporting from Gaza.”

Presenter: “This is BBC Minute on Gaza. For the last few weeks Palestinians have been protesting at Gaza’s border with Israel. It’s seen some of the deadliest clashes since the 2014 war.”

Ibrahim: “We’re talking about 60 people who were shot dead and 2,000 people who were injured. Some people are saying that the authorities here are not interested in any more protests. Things were supposed to culminate because it is considered Nakba or catastrophe which is the day Palestinians commemorate as the 70th anniversary for the creation of Israel and their being forced off their lands in 1948.” [emphasis added]

Presenter: “Gaza has been one of the key issues in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. Israel accuses Hamas, that controls Gaza, of perpetrating attacks on its soil and have imposed barriers to reduce infiltration from the region.”

Ibrahim: “So I’ll say what one protester said to me the other day: he said life in Gaza equals death. One of the biggest barriers is actually having no future.”

Obviously that account does nothing to explain the real background to the pre-planned violence that has been taking place along the Gaza Strip-Israel border since the end of March. Neither does it contribute anything to audience understanding of the context to the situation in the Gaza Strip. But in that one-minute item Nida Ibrahim did find the time to misinform the BBC’s young audiences by inaccurately claiming that the sole reason Palestinians left their homes was because they were “forced off their lands”.

On May 17th ‘BBC Minute On’ produced another backgrounder featuring BBC Arabic’s Nida Ibrahim, titled “BBC Minute: On life in Gaza“.

“About 75% of Gaza’s population is under the age of 25. They live in what Unicef says is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Israel says a boundary is needed for national security and the violence there is as a result of them defending its sovereignty and citizens. The BBC’s Nida Ibrahim in is Gaza and speaks to us about what’s life like for young people there.”

BBC audiences first hear a recycled version of the story that closed the previous edition.

Presenter: “BBC Minute on life in Gaza. Nida Ibrahim has been speaking to us about the deadly protests in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory. Here’s what one protester told her.”

Ibrahim: “He says life in Gaza equals death so it doesn’t really matter if we go on the front lines.”

Presenter: “About 75% of its population is under the age of 25.”

Ibrahim: “You don’t have electricity but for four hours. You don’t have hope. You don’t have jobs. So apart from the physical barriers that they might face they’re not allowed to travel: the borders are closed most of the time. Even the sea is contaminated by sewage water that have nowhere else to be released.”

Presenter: “The World Bank says a lack of progress towards peace and reconciliation has created an unsustainable economic situation.”

Ibrahim: “So if you are a 20-year-old you would want to know what kind of future you have here and this is the hardest to answer.”

Presenter: “Israel says the boundary is needed for national security.”

Ibrahim: “I heard somebody saying the other day that if they open the border you won’t find anybody else left in Gaza.”

Obviously that superficial portrayal again contributes nothing whatsoever to audience understanding of the factual background to the situation in the Gaza Strip – including the Hamas-Fatah rift that has exacerbated the electricity shortages and sewage treatment crisis. Listeners hear nothing at all about Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip 13 years ago and the crucially relevant topic of Hamas terrorism is not seriously addressed. Moreover, listeners are steered towards the understanding that “a lack of progress towards peace” is behind Gaza’s dire economic situation but no mention is made of the fact that it is Hamas that completely rejects “peace” and continues to aspire to destroy Israel.

These particular ‘BBC Minute’ backgrounders clearly go no way at all towards meeting the corporation’s public purpose of providing “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. 

Readers can judge for themselves whether BBC World Service funding (supplied by the British public both directly to the BBC and via the Foreign Office) could in fact be better employed to provide young people with news of the standard that they actually deserve, rather than content that is superficial, serially inaccurate, politically partial and dumbed down to the point of being irrelevant.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Jerusalem backgrounder for young people breaches style guide

 

 

Unbalanced promotion of UNRWA PR on BBC World Service radio

Both before and after the US administration announced on January 16th that it would be withholding part of its donation to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) the BBC produced numerous reports on that story (see some in ‘related articles’ below), many of which included promotion of the UN agency’s PR messaging.

However, none of those reports provided the BBC’s funding public with background information concerning the multiple issues that have made UNRWA so controversial or any in-depth examination of the agency’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

On June 13th the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ returned to that topic with a report by BBC North America’s New York and UN reporter Nada Tawfik that made absolutely no effort to provide listeners with a balanced view of the story and was in fact little more than an exercise in free PR for UNRWA and its spin-off non-profit organisation.

Presenter James Menendez began (from 38:10 here) with context-free presentation of a biased UN GA resolution – proposed by Algeria and Turkey – that made no mention of Hamas terrorism. He continued with an equally partisan portrayal of the violent rioting and attacks on the Gaza border since March 30th, failing to inform listeners that over 80% of those killed have been linked to terror groups.

Menendez then promoted the inaccurate claim that Gaza’s chronic electricity problems are the result of “years of conflict” when in fact – as the BBC well knows – they are entirely rooted in inter-factional Palestinian rivalries. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Menedez: “Now the UN General Assembly is expected to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza later today and vote on a resolution calling for better protection for the 2 million Palestinians who live there. That’s after last month’s clashes with Israeli forces which left a hundred people dead and many more injured. Years of conflict have left Gaza in ruins. Infrastructure’s crumbling, the economy’s paralysed and basic supplies such as electricity are in crisis. Despite this the United States has cut off vital funding to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees: UNRWA. But as Nada Tawfik reports, across the US American citizens are now filling the void.”

Listeners then heard a recording from an event that took place on June 5th in New York – which Tawfik apparently attended – in which once again the topic of electricity was raised without BBC audiences being given any factual background information on that issue.  

Woman’s voice: “The lights go out like this all the time. Electricity is scarce here. Many times we eat in complete darkness just like we’re doing right now.”

Tawfik: “To imagine the life of Palestinian refugees in Gaza the lights are turned down and just one lantern shines at Casa la Femme restaurant in New York. In the dim room those picked out from the crowd of 200 read out powerful accounts from refugees.”

Woman’s voice: “My husband, our two small children and I live in one room together. The bathroom serves as the toilet, the shower, the sink for bathing, cleaning and even cooking.”

Tawfik: “This iftar, or meal, is just one of 50 dinners being held across the country by the charity UNRWA-USA during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to feed refugee families in Gaza. And it comes at a critical time; just as a key life-line for these refugees is under threat.”

Man’s voice: “We could run out of money for that food in Gaza in one month.”

Tawfik: “Peter Mulrean is the New York director of UNRWA – the UN’s relief and works agency for Palestinian refugees. It provides critical services such as food, health care and education. He says the agency now faces an existential crisis after the United States – its top donor – suddenly withheld $300 million in funds. I asked if he was concerned that this decision by the Trump administration was politically motivated.”

Notably, Tawfik’s presentation of the figure $300 million is based on what the UN claimed it was expecting the US contribution to be rather than the sum actually withheld.

Listeners then heard Peter Mulrean – a representative of a blatantly politicised campaigning UN agency – opine on “neutrality”.

Mulrean: “We’re very concerned about the fact that that appears to be the case. One of the clear humanitarian principles is the question of neutrality: that you base your decisions on humanitarian assistance solely on the need of those who are out there. And if that’s not the case, then this is a terrible precedent that the US is setting. A country that used to be one of the leaders of humanitarian policy turning in a different direction.”

Tawfik: “That was also a worry of many others in attendance such as Abigail Metzger and Megan Burn [phonetic] who do not agree with their government’s decision.”

Tawfik did not clarify whether or not the Abigail Metzger whose opinions she chose to promote is the Pax Christi member of the same name.

Woman 1: “It is just unbelievable that our government would…would even think to renege on a commitment. I feel like we have been, you know, told that we have to make a choice and we don’t have to make a choice. We can support the Palestinian struggle without abandoning our alliance and full support of Israel.”

Woman 2: “Especially in the current political climate people get very ensconced in their own biases and sort of forget to think about the day-to-day lives of human beings.”

Woman’s voice: “Just $150 can feed a refugee family of six for an entire summer.”

Tawfik: “This one iftar will raise $50,000 for UNRWA’s food assistance programme and a global fundraising campaign has brought in new funding. Still, it’s unlikely that the agency will be able to overcome its current deficit without the United States. In the long term though, UNRWA hopes these events and crowdfunding will help field financial and public support and that’s something Abby Smardon who is the executive director of the charity UNRWA-USA says she’s already seeing.”

Listeners heard nothing of that UNRWA spin-off charity’s political agenda (and record) before Smardon was given the unchallenged stage.

Smardon: “Now with things like social media and having the ability to actually see the situation in real time with a more unfiltered view, people are starting across the United States to see this issue very differently than they once did and they’re starting to understand that Palestine and support of Palestinian refugees is a social justice issue and so I can tell you that, you know, countless new supporters that we have that have no personal connection to the issue of Palestine or Palestinian refugees but they care about social justice and they care about human rights.”

Having carefully avoided inconvenient topics such as Hamas and its terrorism all the way through her report, Tawfik closed the item by erasing the Gaza blockade imposed by Egypt because of that terrorism from audience view. 

Tawfik: “The people of Gaza have endured multiple conflicts and an eleven-year blockade by Israel. The risk is that the US decision will only add to their misery.”

To be honest, it is difficult to imagine how this report could be more unhelpful to BBC audiences trying to understand either the situation in the Gaza Strip, the reasons behind the US decision to withhold part of its voluntary funding of UNRWA or the role and record of UNRWA itself.

Obviously though, this blatantly one-sided and context-free item (which was repeated in the evening edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day – from 39:44 here) was not intended to meet the BBC’s public purpose remit of enhancing audience understanding. Rather, it was just yet another blatantly transparent exercise in the provision of free PR to UNRWA.

Related Articles:

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part one

BBC WS listeners get a homogeneous view of US aid to Palestinians – part two

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two

 

 

BBC News website coverage of Gaza terrorists’ mortar attacks

Just before 7 a.m. on May 29th residents of Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip had to rush for cover as a barrage of twenty-five mortars was fired by terrorists. Roughly an hour later another two mortars were fired and just after 09:30 a third attack took place.

“At least 28 mortar shells were fired at southern Israel in at least three separate barrages Tuesday morning as sirens blared throughout the area, the army said, amid heightened tensions along the Gaza border.

One person was lightly injured by shrapnel in his shoulder and was being treated at the Soroka medical center in Beersheba. […]

“The army said its Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted the majority of the incoming shells from the first barrage.

One of the shells struck a tree in the yard of a kindergarten in the Eshkol region, less than an hour before students were due to arrive, a spokesperson for the community said. […]

The kindergarten that was hit by a mortar shell — along with all other schools in the area — opened as usual on Tuesday, despite the attack.”

Attacks with both mortars and rockets were renewed in the afternoon hours – including on more distant towns such as Ofakim and Ashkelon – and continued into the evening and night. By 9 p.m. local time at least 70 projectiles (some of which were Iranian-made) had been launched, several Israeli civilians and soldiers had been wounded and Hamas and the second largest armed terror faction in Gaza – the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – had issued a statement claiming joint responsibility for the attacks.

Version 1 on Middle East page

The IDF responded to the attacks throughout the day with strikes on military positions in the Gaza Strip and, separately, destroyed a cross-border tunnel – the tenth in recent months.

So how did the BBC News website cover the day’s events?

Over five hours after the first attack, the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article that was initially headlined “Gaza mortar barrage fired at Israel heaviest in years” – and tagged “Gaza border clashes”.

At no point in that report were the people who fired military-grade weapons at civilian communities – including an educational establishment for pre-schoolers – described as terrorists.

“Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired dozens of mortars at Israel in the heaviest such barrage in years. […]

Israel responded with air strikes on militant positions in Gaza. There were no immediate reports of casualties. […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli military “will respond very forcefully” to the attacks, which he blamed on Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement and the smaller Gaza-based militant group Islamic Jihad.”

Version 1

Readers were informed that:

“The Israeli military said a volley of mortar shells were fired at several sites in Israel, with most intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.”

They were not told that the Iron Dome intercepts projectiles that are about to land in populated areas.

In the first five versions of the article, readers found a bizarre description of the purpose of ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunts organised by Hamas and other terror factions to advocate elimination of Israel as the Jewish state and the BBC concealed from audiences the fact that over 80% of those killed between March 30th and May 14th have been shown to have links to assorted terror factions in the Gaza Strip.

“The latest flare-up follows weeks of Israel-Gaza violence which has seen more than 100 Palestinians killed.

They were shot dead by Israeli snipers amid protests which saw thousands of Palestinians mass on the Gaza-Israel border in support of their refugee population.” [emphasis added]

The BBC’s article also mentioned some previous recent incidents that had not been reported by the corporation, including machine gun fire at the town of Sderot on May 28th.

“Hours earlier, machine-gun fire from Gaza hit houses and vehicle in the Israeli border town of Sderot, though without causing injuries, the IDF said.”

It went on to mention an infiltration attempt on May 28th and an IED attack on May 27th.

“The upsurge in violence came after Israeli tank fire killed four militants in Gaza in two separate incidents at the start of the week.

A member of Hamas was killed on Monday after Israeli soldiers caught a group attempting to breach the border and carry out an attack, while on Sunday three members of Islamic Jihad were killed after placing an explosive device on the border fence, the IDF said.”

The first five versions of the article closed with the following description of the events that led up to Operation Protective Edge in 2014:

“The latest cross-border violence is some of the heaviest since a 50-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza in 2014. That followed an upsurge of rocket fire into Israel, and the killing by Israel of the commander of Hamas’s military wing.”

Version 6 on Middle East page

Israel did not kill “the commander of Hamas’s military wing” in July 2014. The BBC appears to have confused that conflict with the previous one in November 2012 when the second-in-command of that organisation – Ahmed Jabari – was killed.

That inaccurate claim was removed some ten hours after the initial attack when the title of the BBC’s rolling report was changed to “Israel strikes Gaza after heaviest mortar barrage in years”. The description of the ‘Great Return March’ was changed but BBC audiences were still not informed that the vast majority of those killed were linked to terrorist organisations.

“More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers amid protests which saw thousands of Palestinians mass on the border in support of the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.”

Readers of versions six and seven of the report found the following inaccurate claim: [emphasis added]

Version 6: “The Israeli military said its air force also struck “an offensive Hamas terror tunnel” near the Kerem Shalom crossing, where limited amounts of food, fuel and goods are transferred into Gaza.”

Version 7: “The Israeli military said its air force also struck “an offensive Hamas terror tunnel” near the Kerem Shalom crossing, where controlled amounts of food, fuel and goods are transferred into Gaza.”

Version 7

Once again the BBC refrained from informing audiences of the purpose of Hamas’ cross-border tunnels in its own words:

“It said the tunnel stretched for 900m (3,000ft) under Israeli territory. It is the latest in a series of cross-border tunnels which Israel has destroyed or disabled since the end of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.

During that conflict, Israel destroyed more than 30 tunnels which it said were meant for attacks.” [emphasis added]

Readers were told that:

“The Kerem Shalom crossing is a lifeline for Gaza, which has been under an Israeli, then Egyptian, blockade beginning in 2006 when Hamas militants attacked the crossing and kidnapped an Israeli soldier.”

In line with previous editorial policy, BBC audiences were not informed of the fact that serious damage has been done to that “lifeline” on three separate occasions this month by Palestinian rioters directed by Hamas. The BBC’s description of the location of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit lacks accuracy.

The BBC failed to inform its audiences that Hamas and the Iranian backed PIJ had claimed joint responsibility for the day’s attacks. No mention was made of the fact that equipment and lines supplying power to the southern Gaza Strip were damaged by the terror groups’ missile fire.

Despite the areas under attack being less than a two-hour drive away from the BBC’s Jerusalem bureau, once again the corporation’s audiences did not see any interviews with Israeli civilians affected by the terror attacks. 

 

 

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part four

In previous posts we looked at how the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting along the Gaza Strip-Israel border were portrayed as they happened in the May 14th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio flagship news and current affairs programme ‘Newshour‘ (available here).

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

In this post we will look at what BBC audiences worldwide were told in real-time about the context to the poorly portrayed violence along that border.

The long introduction given by presenter Razia Iqbal included misrepresentation of the locations of previous ‘Great Return March’ events – which actually were confined to the Gaza Strip border. Iqbal also promoted the blatant falsehood that the displacement of all Palestinians in 1948 was “forced”.

01:28 Iqbal: “Dates are significant here. It is the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Israel and there has been a six-week protest by Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and – the most deadly – in Gaza. Scores have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to culminate on May the 15th, tomorrow, called the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians as the day when they were forced from their land and homes as Israel was established.”

In contrast to the very clear – but inaccurate – impression given by Razia Iqbal, the facts are of course much more nuanced:

“Historians agree that there was no single cause of the Arab flight from Palestine. In large part, the masses fled because they saw the Palestinian elite doing the same thing. In part, it was in response to exhortations by Arab military and political leaders that Palestinian civilians evacuate their homes until the end of the fighting. Vast numbers were simply fleeing the heavy fighting that surrounded them, or that they expected to soon disrupt their lives. In some instances, Palestinians were forced from their homes by the Jewish military.”

The vast majority of the context to what was, as we saw earlier, overwhelmingly portrayed as “peaceful marches” and “protests” came in Yolande Knell’s report near the beginning of the programme.

05:15 Iqbal: “Yolande, just remind listeners that this has been going on for several weeks now and it’s very specifically to mark a day tomorrow for the Palestinians.”

Knell: “That’s right. This has been called the Great March of Return by the Palestinians. It was organised in Gaza over the past 6 weeks. The 15th of May is always a date of protest for Palestinians when they remember how, back in 1948, more than 700,000 people lost their homes on land that became part of Israel. [….] The people [Knell spoke to in Gaza] were saying that they really felt that the historic injustice as they saw it was at the heart of all the modern-day problems that they have in Gaza, where they have chronic electricity shortages, this long-time blockade that’s been enforced by Israel and Egypt which now means that the Gaza Strip is an extremely poor place – it suffers from extremely high unemployment.”

Obviously the fact that there are chronic electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip has nothing whatsoever to do with the refugee issue (it is, as Knell well knows, in fact due to infighting between Hamas and Fatah) and neither do the counter-terrorism measures imposed by Israel and Egypt in response to the surge in terrorism since Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip in 2007. Knell went on:

Knell: “One woman told me ‘I wouldn’t have come down here if Gaza wasn’t in the state it was but people need to see what the issues are for us’. They felt that this was putting back the suffering of people in Gaza back into the spotlight. Also a lot of concern…they think that the issue of Palestinian refugees – which is a key issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict – they feel that there have been attempts – particularly by Washington – to try to push this off the table of any future negotiations. They say that because of course earlier this year the US did announce big cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.”

Yolande Knell (nor anyone else in this programme) made no effort to inform listeners why Palestinians – even when living under PA or Hamas control – are still kept in refugee status by UNRWA, their own leaders and the leaders of Arab countries seventy years on.

Listeners were also told that:

Knell: “Now on top of that, another key issue – the future status of Jerusalem. That is also at stake and of course that’s just added fuel to the flames, brought more people out for these demonstrations. “

As we see, listeners to this broadcast were wrongly led to believe that Palestinians were ‘protesting’ on the border because of a bad electricity supply, high unemployment and poverty – even as the BBC serially ignored the repeated attacks by ‘protesters’ on the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Additional factors cited included “the future status of Jerusalem” and the anniversary of a “historic injustice” which Knell failed to put into its correct context. Interestingly, while BBC reports on previous bouts of ‘Great Return March’ violence had touted the ‘right of return’ that is supposedly the publicity stunt’s raison d’être (see for example here and here), in this report that topic was largely avoided and listeners were not informed of the basic fact that the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ means rejection of the two-state solution and that its real intention is to threaten the existence of Israel as the Jewish state. 

Listeners also heard nothing of the fact that the ‘Great Return March’ events were organised by factions including Gaza-based terror groups. They were not told of the payments made by Hamas to participators or of the organisers’ calls for breaching of the border fence and martyrdom. Even Yahya Sinwar’s March 31st statement of intent – “We will take down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies” – did not receive any BBC coverage either in this programme or elsewhere.

Sadly it is all too obvious that both of the topics covered in this May 14th ‘split screen’ edition of Newshour – the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the rioting on the Gaza border on the same day – were presented in a manner intended to amplify a specific political narrative rather than to provide BBC audiences with “accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.

In the context of the question of whose interests this edition of ‘Newshour’ served, it is worth noting what Hamas’ leader Yahya Sinwar had to say about the Western media’s ‘split screen’ reporting two days after this BBC programme was broadcast:

“Our people have imposed their agenda upon the whole world. There was supposed to be a romantic picture of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on the world’s television screens, but our people, in their collective consciousness, forced the whole world to split the television screens between the footage of fraud, deception, falsehood, and oppression, manifest in the attempt to impose Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and between the image of injustice, oppression, heroism, and determination painted by our own people in their sacrifices – the sacrifice of their children as an offering for Jerusalem and the Right of Return.”

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part one

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part two

BBC WS radio’s ‘Newshour’ and the split screen – part three

BACKGROUNDER: PALESTINIAN ARAB AND JEWISH REFUGEES (CAMERA)

 

 

 

BBC News ignores Gaza humanitarian conference

For over ten years the BBC has been reporting on “Gaza’s humanitarian crisis” and for over five years it has been telling its audiences that the Gaza Strip will soon become “unlivable”.

BBC audiences would therefore have expected to see some coverage of a meeting designed to address the topic of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip that included representatives from eight Middle East countries.

In a March 8th op-ed in the Washington Post the US special representative Jason Greenblatt wrote:

“In response to the burgeoning humanitarian situation in Gaza, key countries and stakeholders are preparing to act: There was a meeting in Cairo on Thursday, and there will be a brainstorming session at the White House next week to find real solutions to the problems that Hamas has caused. […]

The humanitarian disaster caused by Hamas’s exploitation of the Palestinians of Gaza demands that we focus immediately on basics such as power, sanitation and drinking water. Gaza is not without resources, however, and has significant opportunities to build prosperous energy sectors in natural gas and solar. Our Gaza conference in Washington will focus on ideas for how to develop, over time, a viable economy in Gaza.”

Two days later the Palestinian Authority announced that it would not attend that conference in Washington.

“The Palestinian Authority has turned down an invitation from the Trump administration to participate in a meeting at the White House later this week on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a Palestinian official said Saturday.

Speaking with the Voice of Palestine radio, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani accused the US of trying to undermine the Palestinian Authority and said there was no need for a meeting because Gaza “is a political issue and not a humanitarian one.”

“The United States knows very well that the cause of the tragedy of the Gaza Strip is the unjust Israeli siege, and what is needed is political treatment of this issue,” he claimed.

Majdalani, who also serves as an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Voice of Palestine that the White House meeting on the Palestinian coastal enclave “does not come in a vacuum” and is part of Washington’s broader effort to further isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and “liquidate the Palestinian national project” altogether.”

The meeting nevertheless went ahead on March 13th.

“The summit featured an unusual meetup of representatives from Israel and Arab nations with which the Jewish state does not have formal relations.

Jerusalem was represented by the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. Also present were envoys for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and — notably — Qatar, which has close ties to Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Egyptian and Jordanian officials were in attendance as well. […]

While officials would not detail with any specificity the proposals that were deliberated upon, they said they were aimed at electricity, water, sewage and health issues.”

Remarkably, the BBC did not find that meeting – or the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to participate in it – at all newsworthy. 

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BBC fails to produce follow-up reporting on Gaza power story

Back in November 2017 we noted that BBC reporting on the electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip had come to an abrupt halt.

“When the long-running electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip was exacerbated by the Palestinian Authority’s decision to cut payments for electricity supplied to the territory in April of this year, BBC audiences saw coverage of that topic (albeit often lacking accurate background and context) on a variety of BBC platforms. […]

After Hamas and Fatah announced their latest ‘reconciliation’ in mid-September, BBC coverage of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip suddenly waned and no further reporting on the topic has since appeared.

However, if BBC audiences perhaps assumed that reason for that dramatic drop in coverage is that the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’ (which was reported profusely and enthusiastically by the BBC) has solved the long-standing crisis, they would be mistaken – as the Times of Israel reports.”

Just as those getting their news from the BBC were told nothing of the Palestinian Authority’s continued refusal to renew payment for the electricity supplied by Israel to the Gaza Strip after the latest Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’ was announced in September 2017, they also saw no reporting on the reversal of that decision at the beginning of January 2018.

“The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday that it is ready to resume paying for all of its share of electricity for the Gaza Strip, ending more than six months of restrictions for the already power-starved Strip. […]

Abbas had dramatically reduced payments to Israel for the electricity — effectively slashing the supply — in a bid to pressure Hamas to loosen its grip on Gaza.

The PA has now requested that Israel now resume supplying another 50 megawatts to Gaza’s power lines, restoring the provision of electricity to Gaza to what it was prior to June 2017, said Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh in a statement to the official PA news site Wafa.

The return of the regular power supply to the Strip would mean Gazans would again see six to eight hours of electricity a day, rather than two to four hours a day they received during the reduction.” 

A few days later full power supply was resumed.

“Israel is to restore its full share of electricity supply to the Gaza Strip from Monday, ending more than six months of restrictions for the already power-starved Strip, officials said.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday instructed the Israel Electric Corporation to increase the supply to maximum capacity, after more than half a year of a 40% reduction after the Palestinian Authority intentionally decreased payments to Israel.

Israel’s 10 power lines into Gaza, which can provide up to 120 megawatts, will be “fully operational” by Monday night, at the request of the PA, the Defense Ministry said.”

Despite its vigorous promotion of the story between April and September 2017 – which not infrequently led audiences to mistakenly believe that the crisis was connected to Israeli counter-terrorism measures – the BBC has not produced any follow-up reporting informing audiences of the developments in the story.

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No BBC follow-up on story used to mislead on Gaza medical services

Two months ago the BBC News website used the story of conjoined twins born in the Gaza Strip and needing medical treatment abroad to amplify misleading, and politically partisan messaging on the topic of Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

Promoting links to the website of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – UN OCHA – despite the less than neutral and impartial stance taken by that body – the report told BBC audiences that:

“Israel and Egypt have maintained a land and sea blockade on Gaza for a decade in an attempt to prevent attacks by militants based there.

The restrictions, repeated cycles of armed conflict, Palestinian political divisions and budget cuts have led to a serious deterioration in the availability and quality of health services in the territory, according to the UN.

Severe power shortages earlier this year forced hospitals to postpone elective surgeries, discharge patients prematurely, and reduce cleaning of medical facilities.”

As was noted here at the time:

“…the restrictions placed on the import of dual-use goods (i.e. items which can be used for terrorist purposes) to the Gaza Strip do not apply to medical supplies. The party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which has in recent months exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel. Likewise, it is the Palestinian Authority which is solely responsible for those “severe power shortages” in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services as well as additional fields.”

Readers were also told at the time that:

“The Israeli military body responsible for co-ordinating access to and from Gaza, Cogat, said it had not received any request for the twins to exit the territory.”

Three days after the BBC published that article it was reported that a hospital in Saudi Arabia had said it would treat the twin girls. A travel request was apparently submitted and last week COGAT reported that, with help from Israel, the twins and their father had embarked on the journey to Saudi Arabia.

If the BBC was interested in this story per se (and not just as a hook for inaccurate and misleading messaging concerning Israeli counter-terrorism measures) we would of course have expected to see a follow-up article.

No such BBC reporting has been seen to date.

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Gaza’s electricity crisis continues but BBC reporting does not

When the long-running electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip was exacerbated by the Palestinian Authority’s decision to cut payments for electricity supplied to the territory in April of this year, BBC audiences saw coverage of that topic (albeit often lacking accurate background and context) on a variety of BBC platforms:

More BBC disinformation on Gaza power crisis

BBC News parrots inaccurate claim from a politicised UN agency

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

BBC’s Knell promotes more Hamas messaging on Qatar crisis

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ listeners get warped view of Gaza electricity crisis

BBC’s Knell paints a partial picture of Gaza woes

BBC Travel yet again dishes up political narrative in a food item

BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part one

After Hamas and Fatah announced their latest ‘reconciliation’ in mid-September, BBC coverage of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip suddenly waned and no further reporting on the topic has since appeared.

However, if BBC audiences perhaps assumed that reason for that dramatic drop in coverage is that the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’ (which was reported profusely and  enthusiastically by the BBC) has solved the long-standing crisis, they would be mistaken – as the Times of Israel reports.

“Salah Bardawil, a high-ranking Hamas official, summed up that Hamas had tried to get the sanctions imposed on Gaza by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas lifted, and the border crossings opened, so that Hamas could proceed with the reconciliation process, but had not succeeded. […]

It is actually quite remarkable that even now, more than a month after the original reconciliation document was signed in Cairo, the PA still has not lifted those sanctions — the same sanctions that make it difficult to supply electricity to the Gaza Strip, that sent thousands of former PA officials into early retirement, and that prevent the transfer of payments for medical treatment and the purchase of medications for Gaza’s residents. […]

The average Gazan has felt no alleviation of hardship since the agreement was signed. True, Hamas’s roadblock (known as the 4/4) at the Erez border crossing has been dismantled, and Hamas’s security services no longer interrogate and inspect anyone leaving or entering the Gaza Strip there. Hamas has also stopped collecting taxes and customs fees at the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is now staffed by unarmed PA police officers.

But Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, reported this week that Hamas officials have instead summoned several hundred merchants and demanded that they pay taxes directly to Hamas on merchandise entering the Gaza Strip since the reconciliation deal was signed.

In other words, Hamas is not carrying out the provisions of the agreement all that carefully either. Residential buildings are given only five hours of electricity per day, followed by a 12-hour break. The frequent power outages are preventing the sewage treatment plants from operating, and sewage is flowing at full strength into the Mediterranean Sea, making trips to the beach an unpleasantly smelly affair.”

Remarkably though, the BBC now seems to have lost interest in the subject of the plight of Gaza residents struggling to make do with a few hours of electricity a day – despite having extensively covered that story for six months.

 

BBC’s chief international correspondent claims Hamas changed its charter

On October 12th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ opened with an item concerning the preliminary agreement signed by Hamas and Fatah on that day.

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 00:45 here) with promotion of the inaccurate implication (also heard in previous editions of ‘Newshour’) that the 2006 PLC elections took place only “in Gaza” and failed to inform listeners of the full complement of countries and bodies (including the EU) that proscribe Hamas or of the violent nature of the terror group’s 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip.

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

Kesby: “We begin in the Middle East because after a bitter feud lasting a full decade, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah say they’ve come to a deal over the governing of the Gaza Strip. Hamas – which is described as a terrorist organisation by both the US State Department and Israel – won a landslide victory in elections in Gaza back in 2006. The following year it wrested full control of the territory from Fatah, which controls the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank  and relations between the two groups have been dire ever since. But with the help of Egypt, they’ve now managed to negotiate an agreement which was signed today in Cairo. A senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, Zakariya al Agha, confirmed the signing of the deal.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of statements made by al Agha.

Agha v/o: “We reached an agreement at dawn today regarding all the issues we had been discussing during this current round of talks in Cairo and nearly all the issues on which we had differences have been settled.”

Kesby: “Well Mr al Agha said that Palestinian citizens would see the benefits after the details had been finalised.”

Agha v/o: “All the measures under discussion should be resolved very shortly, whether they are in regards to government employees, electricity or other issues. There will be a breakthrough soon and the citizens of Gaza will feel the results of this agreement.”

With a bizarre reference to “the Middle East” – the vast majority of which would not of course be affected one iota by any reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah – Kesby went on:

Kesby: “So how might this deal change things more widely in the Middle East and will Fatah’s resumption of a partnership with Hamas help or hinder the stalled peace process with the Israelis? Joining us live on the line now is our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet and, Lyse, first of all let’s try to get a bit more detail on exactly what has been agreed ‘cos it seems that Fatah will take over the civilian control of Gaza but Hamas it seems will keep its military wing?”

Doucet: “Well that is exactly one of the issues that we’re still waiting to hear details on. You heard the Fatah representative; he said ‘all the issues’ and then he said ‘nearly all the issues’.  Let’s go by what they have announced in Cairo; the two sides say they have agreed on. And that is that when it comes to what is essentially the only real crossing – aside from the Israeli…the heavily controlled Israeli crossings – the only exit for Hamas, the residents of the Gaza Strip with the outside world is the Rafah crossing with Egypt. By November the first Hamas’ own security…ah…security forces will have left that crossing and will be replaced by the Presidential Guards of the Palestinian Authority. In other words it will underline that there is only one security force and it is under the overall Palestinian Authority. And there was a statement to suggest that those forces would spread to other parts of the other of the edges of the Gaza Strip. We also heard that – yes, as you mentioned – the administrative control, which will be hugely important. He mentioned the electricity shortage. Gazans are living with about two to three hours of electricity a day and that is an impact noxious on Gazan homes, the hospitals don’t have enough electricity so people’s …ah…people’s health is being affected. Cars don’t have enough fuel.”

Doucet did not bother to tell listeners that the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is the result of deliberate Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas before she went on to make a curious assertion.

Doucet: “The United Nations has been urging all sides to try to end the rift and this is what we think has pushed Hamas to finally negotiate.”

Who “we” are is unclear but remarkably, Doucet erased both growing domestic dissent and the Dahlan factor from her portrayal. She continued:

Doucet: “But the question you mentioned; 25,000 men under arms in the Gaza Strip – the military wing of Hamas. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has said ‘we don’t want a Hizballah’: in other words, an independent armed group operating in Gaza. But so far we haven’t heard…in fact Hamas has said ‘we’re not going to disband our military wing but we will work more closely with the Palestinian Authority’. Will that be enough? Certainly not for Israel.”

As has been unanimously the case in BBC coverage of the latest potential Hamas-Fatah deal since the story first broke in September, Doucet refrained from telling audiences that any ‘unity government’ which avoids disarming Hamas’ terrorist militia in the Gaza Strip will fail to meet the Palestinian Authority’s commitments under existing agreements with Israel. Instead, the issue was portrayed as being about Israeli ill-will.

Apparently ignorant of the vicious violence that took place in 2007 when Hamas launched its armed take-over of the Gaza Strip and ignoring its subsequently augmented terrorism against Israeli citizens and its brutal abuse of the residents of Gaza, Rebecca Kesby went on to promote a ditsy notion unconnected to reality.

Kesby: “And so when Hamas took over the running of Gaza it did seem – didn’t it Lyse – to be crossing into the mainstream; trying to look a bit more like a legitimate political party. Is this a retreat then for them on the political process? And if so, where does that leave relations with Israel because they have been prepared to speak to Fatah but if Fatah’s now in partnership with Hamas again, does that strain relations again with the Israelis?”

Doucet: “Well I remember the elections in 2006. Fatah – and indeed the outside world, including the United States – were shocked that Hamas had won these elections and so the talk was let them bring them in to the democratic process; let them show that they can be a legitimate governing force. By the next year, however, they had completely taken over the Gaza Strip and for the last decade there has been that rift. Now since that time, Hamas has constantly been under pressure to change its founding charter which still talks about the destruction of the State of Israel. The listeners may remember that they made some changes to that charter in the last year. It was seen as a huge breakthrough by Hamas but still it fell short for Israel.”

Doucet’s claim that Hamas “made some changes to that charter” is of course inaccurate. The policy document launched in May did not replace or change the existing charter at all – as the BBC News website reported at the time. Unfortunately for BBC World Service audiences, however, this is not the first time that they have heard the falsehood now promoted by Doucet. She continued, using the partisan language of terrorist groups that call themselves ‘resistance’:

Doucet: “So there’s still a big question-mark about Gaza [sic – Hamas] whether it is a resistance movement or a governing movement. It says it is both because bear in mind that the so-called peace process is basically going nowhere. So Hamas feels why should we then give in, give up all of our rights or our bargaining positions if in fact that process is going nowhere.”

By now Doucet was obviously making it up as she went along: her attempt to persuade BBC audiences that Hamas continues to be a “resistance movement” because the peace process is stalled is obviously contradicted by the fact that Hamas has rejected any sort of engagement in that process since its founding thirty years ago. She continued:

Doucet: “And you mentioned earlier the question will this help the negotiating process? Well no, because Israel does not want to sit at the same table with Hamas and the United States in the past – and I’ve heard this from Palestinian officials – has tried to stop any reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It wants them to be brought in, to stop, to end its armed wing, to change its charter, to accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel and it shows no sign of doing that yet, even though it has said it wants to basically run the Gaza Strip – wants to be part of the Palestinian Authority.”

Such requirements are of course not – as Doucet would apparently have listeners believe –capricious demands made by Israel and/or the United States: they are in fact what is known as the Quartet Principles (recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and adherence to previous agreements) and were endorsed by the UN Security Council in 2008. Had Doucet bothered to clarify that to her listeners, their understanding of why the disarming of Hamas is such a crucial issue and why the peace process cannot progress if a new Palestinian unity government does not adhere to those principles would obviously have been enhanced.

Doucet closed with a curious take-away message:

Doucet: “It [Hamas] doesn’t…it’s not a movement like Islamic State and the other extremist groups.”

Although BBC reporting on the reconciliation in progress between Hamas and Fatah has to date been superficial and has for the most part failed to provide audiences with the information necessary for proper understanding of the issues behind the story, one might have expected that a journalist holding the title of BBC chief international correspondent would have been able to do better.

However, Doucet’s promotion of inaccurate information concerning the Hamas charter and the terror group’s approach to the peace process, along with her failure to properly explain why a Hamas-Fatah unity government which does not adhere to the Quartet Principles will stall the peace process and her often dubious analysis, failed to meet the BBC’s obligation to accurate and impartial reporting.

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