BBC ignores a good news story from Gaza

Last year the BBC World Service’s business department produced a series of highly politicised reports concerning the economy in the Gaza Strip.Business Daily 19 5 Keyworth

BBC Business accuracy fail on Gaza tomato exports

Mainstreaming anti-Israel rhetoric on the BBC World Service

More BBC multiplatform mainstreaming of an anti-Israel trope

Notably, the BBC appears to be less interested in reporting some recent good news on the Gaza economic front.

“The Coca-Cola Company inaugurated its first bottling plant in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a facility which will eventually employ 270 people and indirectly support hundreds of households. […]

The new plant currently employs 120 workers, spans more than 15,000 square meters and contains a single bottling line capable of filling up to 36,000 bottles per hour. Over the next three years the company plans to introduce a second line and expand the number of workers to 270.”

The plant also provides additional employment opportunities:

“Expectations were high in the Gaza Strip in the months leading up to the opening of the plant not only because it meant an end to the import of coke products through border crossings, but also because of the 120 direct jobs and 1,200 indirect jobs the plant brings to workers, suppliers and distributors.”

To date there has been no BBC reporting on that story. 

BBC Academy touts Jeremy Bowen Gaza report as model journalism

Under the heading “Journalism Skills Reporting”, the BBC Academy published a video of a report produced by Jeremy Bowen in 2009 as an example of best practice when “Describing the scene”.academy-bowen

“At its most basic, journalism is about telling people what you’ve found out, what’s around you, and what you can see. You’re there – the audience isn’t. Some of the most powerful reporting is cast in this mould.

It’s tempting, especially when you’re reporting from an extraordinary scene, to overload your audience with how you feel about the events whose aftermath you’re witnessing.

It’s also easy to leap to considering the causes or context. Sometimes that’s important; often it gets in the way.

Watch Jeremy Bowen as he reports from a bomb site in Gaza in 2009. His commentary on what he sees as he walks around the room is cool, clear, dispassionate, and powerful.”

Like the BBC Academy’s portrayal of the circumstances in which the report was made, Bowen’s commentary is completely devoid of the context behind that story.

“The IDF concluded Wednesday that Israeli tank shells caused the deaths of four Palestinian girls, including three daughters of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, when his house was accidentally attacked on January 16, during Operation Cast Lead. Following the investigation, the army confirmed that two shells had hit the building. […] The IDF said that a Golani Brigade force was operating near Beit Lahiya when it came under sniper and mortar fire in an area laden with explosives. After determining that the source of the fire was in a building adjacent to Abuelaish’s home, the force returned fire. While the IDF was shooting, suspicious figures were identified in the top floors of the doctor’s house, and the troops believed the figures were directing the Hamas sniper and mortar fire, the army said. Upon assessing the situation in the field while under heavy fire, the commander of the force gave the order to open fire on the suspicious figures, and it was from this fire that his three daughters were killed, said the IDF. Once the soldiers realized that civilians, and not Hamas gunmen, were in the house they ceased fire immediately, continued the army. […] The IDF Spokesman’s Unit stressed that in the days prior to the incident, Abuelaish – who had worked before at Beersheba’s Soroka University Medical Center and had very good connections with Israelis – was contacted personally several times by officers in the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration to urge him to evacuate his home because of Hamas operations and the intense fighting that was already taking place in that area for several days. In addition to the personal contact made directly with the doctor, the IDF issued warnings to the residents of Sajaiya by dropping thousands of leaflets and by issuing warnings via Palestinian media outlets.”

While the BBC Academy apparently holds the view that “context […] often… gets in the way”, it is difficult to see how BBC journalists can fulfil the corporation’s remit of building “understanding of international issues” if context is deemed an optional extra.

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BBC reporting on the use of ambulances by terrorists in Iraq and Gaza

On November 6th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Iraq suicide attacks: Ambulances used in Tikrit and Samarra“.ambulances-iraq-art

“Suicide bombers have used explosives-laden ambulances to kill at least 21 people and wound many others in the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Samarra.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) group said it had carried out both attacks. […]

The deadliest of Sunday’s blasts happened in Tikrit, some 200km (123 miles) south of Mosul.

A suicide bomber drove a booby-trapped ambulance into a line of vehicles queuing at a checkpoint at the southern entrance to the city, once the hometown of executed former leader Saddam Hussein. […]

In Samarra, further south, another ambulance was detonated in a car park for the al-Askari mosque – one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam. Iranian pilgrims were among the dead.”

During the 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist organisations based in the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ use of ambulances to transport armed terror operatives (a practice also seen in previous conflicts in Gaza and during the second Intifada) was documented on several occasions.

While the BBC refrained from informing its audiences of those cases (and others) of abuse of medical facilities, it did find it appropriate to repeatedly amplify falsehoods from a political NGO involved at the time in the ‘lawfare’ campaign against Israel and from a representative of one of the organisations operating ambulances in the Gaza Strip – the PRCS – see for example here, here and here.

“On Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation into what it said was mounting evidence that Israeli forces had deliberately attacked hospitals and health professionals in Gaza. The attacks have left at least six medics dead.

“Our ambulances are often targeted although they are clearly marked and display all signs that they are ambulances,” said Dr Bashar Murad, director of Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) emergency and ambulance unit, which lost at least two members of staff.

“The army should be able to distinguish from the air that what they are targeting are ambulances.”

Amnesty International said attacks on health facilities and professionals were prohibited by international law and amounted to war crimes.”

The abuse of medical facilities protected by international conventions during conflict is obviously an issue of interest to international journalists. However, as we see from the examples above, the BBC’s reporting of such abuses lacks consistency.

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Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

Comparing BBC reporting on ISIS and Hamas tunnels

Comparing BBC reporting on human shields in Gaza and Iraq

As readers no doubt recall, one of the many remarkable features of BBC coverage of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip was the corporation’s failure to report on Hamas’ use of the local civilian population as human shields.

Not only did BBC journalists refrain from reporting adequately on the issue of Hamas’ placement of military assets in populated areas (with the BBC later claiming that it was “very hard for journalists in Gaza to get to see rockets being fired out”) and the terror group’s instructions to civilians to stay put in such areas but some BBC correspondents even went out of their way to deny the phenomenon.

“I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.” Jeremy Bowen, July 22, 2014.

“While there are growing allegations against Israel, it claims civilians here have been used by militants as human shields but so far there’s been no evidence of that.” Orla Guerin, August 13, 2014.

Complaints from members of the public on that issue were eventually dismissed by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in a tortured and self-contradicting ruling which adopted an interpretation of the term human shields that conflicts with existing definitions. The ESC advisor wrote:

“…there may not be universal agreement over the meaning of ‘human shield’ – and whether this should be understood to mean the deliberate placement of civilians near combat targets (and preventing them from leaving) or simply firing from residential areas.” 

In contrast to that ‘radio silence’ on the topic of Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza in 2014, recent BBC coverage of the multinational military operation to drive ISIS out from the Mosul area in Iraq which began on October 16th has included several reports concerning that terror group’s use of human shields.human-shields-1

Just three days after the operation commenced, the BBC News website published an article titled “Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields” which amplified statements made by one of the parties to the Combined Joint Task Force conducting the operation.

“The US has accused Islamic State (IS) militants of using civilians as human shields as Iraqi forces move closer to the group’s stronghold in Mosul. […]

Asked by reporters in Washington if IS was using civilians as human shields, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said “absolutely”.

“They are being held there against their will,” he said on Tuesday. “We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.”

Residents reached by telephone by Reuters news agency said IS was preventing people fleeing the city and had directed some of them towards buildings likely to be targeted by air strikes.”

The report did not include any indication of independent BBC confirmation of those claims.

October 21st saw the publication of an article headlined “Mosul battle: IS ‘may use civilians as human shields’” which amplified speculative statements made by a UN official.

“At least 200 Iraqi families have been made to leave their homes for Mosul by Islamic State (IS) fighters and could be used as human shields, the UN warns. […]

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there was “a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” using an acronym for IS.”human-shields-2

On October 28th the BBC News website published a report titled “Mosul Iraq battle: ‘Tens of thousands of civilians’ used as IS human shields” which again amplified UN statements.

“Islamic State (IS) militants have abducted tens of thousands of civilians from around the Iraqi city of Mosul to use as human shields, the UN says. […]

“Credible reports” suggested that civilians in sub-districts around Mosul had been forced from their homes and relocated inside the city since the offensive began earlier this month, UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. […]

“Isil’s depraved cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields,” Ms Shamdasani added, using an acronym for IS.”

Once again, there was no indication of the BBC having independently confirmed those reports before their publication.

On November 7th visitors to the BBC News website and viewers of BBC television news saw a filmed report titled “Battle for Mosul: IS ‘herded human shields like sheep’“.

“The BBC’s Karen Allen spoke to residents of one town near Mosul who say they were used as “human shields” by retreating militants.”

So as we see, within less than a month since the launch of the military operation against ISIS in the Mosul region, BBC audiences were alerted to the terror group’s use of civilians as human shields on at least four occasions. The majority of those reports were based on information provided by outside sources and – in contrast to the 2014 reports from the Gaza Strip, where the corporation did have journalists on the ground in the relevant areas – the BBC apparently did not find it necessary in this case to find “evidence” of its own before reporting on the use of human shields by ISIS. 

BBC beats around the bush on women’s rights in Gaza

A filmed report produced as part of the BBC’s fourth100 Women” season appeared on the BBC News website (including the Middle East page) on November 26th under the title “The woman defying Gaza’s biking ‘ban’“.

The issue of women’s rights under the Hamas regime is one which has long been under-reported or downplayed by the BBC, meaning that audiences suffer from a serial lack of information about the restrictions on the rights of women (and other groups) and the religious ideology that lies behind such policies. While this report gives audiences a brief glimpse into one of the symptoms, it does little to contribute to the series’ stated aim of examining the issues behind their cause.

Audiences hear from the woman featured in the film, Amna Suleiman.100-women-gaza

“I posted on social media that I was going on a bike ride with two female friends. Many women got in touch and said they would love to join us. But on the day, none of them showed up. I’m sure what stopped women from coming is fear of the authorities.”

And later on:

“Gaza women have to abide by a strict social code. If a girl tries to defy cultural restrictions, she becomes an outcast.”

Leaving audiences to fill in the blanks for themselves, the BBC informs viewers that:

“An unwritten rule in Gaza bans women from riding bicycles after they reach puberty.”

And:

“The Islamist movement Hamas has been ruling Gaza since 2006.”

In fact the violent Hamas coup which brought the end to Palestinian Authority rule in the Gaza Strip took place in June 2007.

This all too rare glimpse into a social issue faced by women in the Gaza Strip once again avoids providing BBC audiences with the context necessary for its full comprehension.

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No BBC reporting on new Hamas leader in Gaza Strip

An article by Yolande Knell which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 28th (and was discussed here) informed audiences that:knell-abbas-art-main

“Increasingly, there are quiet discussions among ordinary Palestinians as well as Israeli officials and foreign diplomats about who could be the next leader [of the Palestinian Authority].

It is expected that Hamas will nominate Ismail Haniyeh, who is poised to take over as head of the Islamist movement.

A Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, insists that any future presidential contest “must be an affair for all Palestinians, not an internal Fatah issue.”

However, without political reconciliation, his group could well be sidelined.” [emphasis added]

Since it was reported in June that Khaled Masha’al would not be running again for the post of head of Hamas’ executive committee the BBC has not produced coverage of that topic even though – as we see above – the corporation’s journalists in the region are obviously following developments.  BBC audiences will therefore be unaware of the fact that Ismail Haniyeh is on an extended visit to Qatar and that his interim replacement in the Gaza Strip is apparently Imad al Alami.

“The Hamas terror organization recently appointed a founding member with close ties to Syria and Iran to replace Ismail Haniyeh as the effective political leader in the Gaza Strip, sources said Sunday.

Haniyeh, who has been in charge of Hamas’s political activity in the enclave, left in early September for a series of visits to Arab and Muslim states, apparently aimed at paving his way to replace Khaled Mashaal as head of Hamas’s political bureau in Qatar. […]

Haniyeh’s replacement, Imad al Alami, 60, was born in Gaza, but only returned there a few years ago.

He lived for some time in Tehran, then moved to Damascus in 2008. He returned to Gaza after being the last Hamas leader to leave the Syrian capital; relations with Syrian leader Bashar Assad had soured at the start of the uprising there.”

Writing about Hamas’ internal difficulties in 2013, Ehud Ya’ari noted that:

“Other [Hamas] leaders have urged speedy reconciliation with Iran, emphasizing that Hamas cannot afford to divorce itself from the “resistance axis”. The most adamant proponent of this view is Imad al-Alami, the group’s former permanent envoy in Tehran and head of the “Intifada Committee,” now returned from Damascus to Gaza. He is supported by military figures such as Muhammad Deif and Marwan Issa, and by politicians such as Mahmoud al-Zahar.”

In 2006 the BBC described al Alami as “Hamas’ representative in Damascus” and in 2003 it reported his designation by the US government. A year later the corporation also covered al Alami’s additional designation by the UK government – which is apparently still in effect.

If the BBC does get round to reporting the Hamas leadership changes, it will be interesting to see whether its own previous reports are referenced.

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Towards the end of last month BBC audiences visiting the corporation’s English language and Arabic language websites were offered a rare but limited view of internal Palestinian affairs in an article by Yolande Knell which was discussed here.knell-abbas-art-main

As was noted at the time, BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs. Knell’s report did not, for example, inform readers of the series of violent clashes between PA security forces and locals in various locations in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and the continued violence has not received any subsequent BBC coverage.

Earlier this week a UN official commented on the topic of those ongoing clashes.

“The UN’s top official on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process said Monday he was concerned the West Bank’s largest refugee camp could “explode” if intra-Palestinian clashes worsen, during a rare visit to the Balata camp.

In what his officials said was the first visit in “years” by a top UN official to the camp near Nablus in the northern West Bank, Middle East peace envoy Nikolay Mladenov met with civil society figures and politicians including those believed to be opposed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.

Balata has seen an uptick of violence in recent weeks, with Palestinian security officials attempting a series of raids to capture alleged criminals in the camp — leading to gun battles.

Analysts say Abbas sees the camp as a base for support for his political rival Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently in exile in the United Arab Emirates.”

Another recent development related to the Abbas succession battle was reported by the Times of Israel.

“In an unprecedented step, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has stopped paying the salaries of 57 PA officials in Gaza because of their alleged support for his rival, the former high-ranking Fatah official, Muhammad Dahlan.

Dahlan is considered to be Abbas’s greatest opponent within the Fatah party since he was booted out of Ramallah in January 2011. Recently, Dahlan stepped up his political activities, especially in the Gaza Strip but also within the West Bank, with strong Egyptian backing.

In an apparent reaction, Abbas decided in November to stop paying salaries to supporters of Dahlan, The Times of Israel has learned. According to those close to the Palestinian president, he intends to continue to work against his rival and will ultimately block the salaries of almost 500 Dahlan allies.”

Those PA officials are apparently among the thousands of Fatah-affiliated former civil servants in the Gaza Strip who have been receiving payment from the PA throughout the last nine years despite not working. The article goes on:

“In light of this step, Dahlan and his followers are threatening to hold demonstrations in Gaza and elsewhere to protest the Seventh General Conference of the Fatah movement, which is due to be held on November 29 in the West Bank, and to reject its legitimacy. […]

According to sources in Gaza, Dahlan’s men are exerting pressure on the Fatah members in the Strip to boycott the General Conference and have even threatened them with physical harm. At the same time Abbas’s men are intimidating Dahlan’s allies, warning them not to participate in any event connected to Dahlan.”

With Fatah dominating the PLO and the foreign donor funded Palestinian Authority, the Abbas/Dahlan rivalry clearly has much broader implications than mere intra-party divisions. BBC audiences, however, continue to be deprived of the information which would enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue“.  

Why BBC audiences need an impartial explanation of water issues

BBC audiences are by no means strangers to politicised portrayals of the topic of water:ec094-tap-water

BBC’s “Obstacles to Peace” do not hold water – part 2

BBC jumps on EU’s water politicisation bandwagon

No BBC follow-up on Lyse Doucet’s Rawabi water story

Politicisation of BBC World Service programme on Israeli water technology

A letter recently sent by the commander of COGAT to several international bodies suggests that the issue of water in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip could soon be attracting media attention once again. Ynet reports:

“According to Head of the Coordination for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the joint Israeli-Palestinian water distribution council—which manages water infrastructure in the West Bank—hasn’t met since 2010 due to the Palestinians’ refusal to approve water infrastructure upgrades in the West Bank settlements.

The major general sent an urgent letter to the UN humanitarian aid coordinator in the West Bank, the head of the Palestinian UNRWA, the head of the Red Cross, head of USAID, and various ambassadors, including the German, UK, Italian, French and EU ambassadors to Israel.

The COGAT head said that he wants significant steps to be taken to fix the water crisis in the West Bank and Gaza, saying “the Gaza Strip almost completely relies on its aquifer, and the water quality in it has become very poor as a result of years of over-pumping and pollution.”

Regarding the West Bank, he wrote that “according to Palestinian estimates, 96% of the water drawn from the aquifer there isn’t fit to drink, and thus the Palestinians rely on water from Israel… the water infrastructure in place isn’t enough to meet the needs of the population, leading to water shortages in certain areas (of the West Bank).”

Meanwhile, he continued “waste water treatment (in the Palestinian Authority) is seriously lacking. According to official estimates, there will be huge water shortages amounting to tens of millions of cubic meters of water in the coming years.”

Israel recently approved sending 10 million cubic meters of water to Gaza and six million cubic litres to the West Bank. Yet despite Israeli efforts to help the Palestinians solve this crisis, the problem still hasn’t been resolved.

“This additional supply of water to Gaza fulfills the Palestinian request for Israeli aid, and the Palestinians have made it clear that they are not interested in more water,” Maj. Gen. Mordechai wrote. […]

… Maj. Gen. Mordechai wrote “we are warning the international community that if there is no immediate change in the water situation, we can expect a water crisis by next summer. (Israel) will continue efforts to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority on this issue, and we hope that our efforts will bear fruit.” [emphasis added]

Sadly, there is therefore all the more reason for the BBC to finally get round to presenting its audiences with an accurate, impartial and comprehensive portrayal of the water-related problems affecting the areas controlled by the PA and Hamas.

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BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – October 2016

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during October 2016 shows that throughout the month a total of 153 incidents took place: 103 in Judea & Samaria, 48 in Jerusalem and two incidents originating from the Gaza Strip.

The agency recorded 121 attacks with petrol bombs, 19 attacks using explosive devices, eight shooting attacks, two vehicular attacks and one stabbing attack in Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem. One combined missile/mortar attack and one additional attack were launched from the Gaza Strip.

Two people were killed and 23 people were wounded (including ten members of the security forces) during October.

The terror attack in Jerusalem on October 9th in which two Israelis were killed and ten wounded was reported on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Amendments made to the article the following day included identification of the victims.

The BBC News website did not report the missile attack on Sderot on October 5th in English but coverage was seen on the BBC Arabic language website. Among the other attacks which did not receive any BBC coverage were a shooting attack near Nil’in on October 11th (Yom Kippur), a stabbing attack on October 15th in which a soldier was wounded, a vehicular attack on October 28th, a shooting attack near Karmei Tsur on October 29th, a vehicular attack near Beit Ummar on October 30th in which three soldiers were injured and a shooting attack near Beit El on October 31st in which three soldiers were injured.

Attacks prevented by the security forces – which likewise did not receive any BBC coverage – included an incident in which two eight year-old Palestinian boys armed with knives were apprehended near Migdal Oz.

In conclusion, the BBC News website reported one (0.65%) of the 153 attacks during October and since the beginning of the year it has covered 3.2% of the terror attacks which have taken place.

table-oct-16

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BBC News ignores yet another case of Hamas maritime smuggling

As has been observed here on several occasions in the past, the BBC chooses not to tell its audiences in its own words why Israel placed a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2009.

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“… the blockade, which Israel says is a necessary security measure.” (link to source

Israel says the blockade aims to stop the supply of arms or other items for military use, and to put pressure on the Hamas administration.” (link to source)

“Israel tightened maritime restrictions on Gaza from 2007, leading to a blockade which it says it [sic] a vital security measure against the militant Islamist group Hamas, which administers the territory.” (link to source)

Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to stop weapons being smuggled to militants within Gaza.” (link to source) [all emphasis added]

As has also been documented here (see ‘related articles’ below), when stories have emerged which clarify the reasons for the naval blockade’s existence, the BBC has refrained from reporting them to its audiences. Recently another case of maritime smuggling for Hamas by a Gaza Strip fisherman came to light.

“A 22-year-old Gazan fisherman was indicted Sunday in the Be’er Sheva District Court for engagement in criminal activity against Israel on behalf of Hamas. […]

According to the indictment, in 2013 activists from the Hamas military brigade of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam approached al-Saidi seeking his assistance in acquiring military and diving equipment using a boat he received from Hamas.

Al-Saidi was asked to smuggle 50 diving suits, 50 flippers, 20 sets of binoculars and 6 oxygen balloons in return of $1,000. […]

He later attempted to smuggle a number of weapons amounting to 200kg, according to the indictment, for $1,200. During the operation however, he was spotted near Egypt by the country’s army, prompting its soldiers to fire upon him, injuring one of his accomplices in the process.”

Once again, there has been no BBC reporting on this case – which is the third such story ignored by the BBC in the last six months alone. The corporation’s funding public could therefore be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that the broadcaster has no intention of providing them with the kind of information which would contribute to their “awareness and understanding” of why a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip is necessary.

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