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.

Related Articles:

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BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

BBC fails to clarify to audiences significance of PUG failure to disarm Hamas

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part one

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part two

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part three

BBC’s Bateman misleads on US and Israeli approach to Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’

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BBC promotes context-free report on injured Gazans

October 13th 2017 saw the appearance of a filmed report titled “Gaza amputees explain their unique friendship” on the BBC News website’s Middle East page. A slightly different version of the same video was also posted on the BBC Arabic website the following day.

“After suffering injuries in Israeli air strikes, Mansour and Adly formed a special friendship.”

The subtitles to the video tell BBC audiences:

“My name is Mansour Gurn. I’m 24. My name is Adly Obaid. I’m 25.

Mansour lost his leg in August 2011 after an Israeli airstrike. Adly lost his leg 7 months later in March 2012 in a similar attack.”

Seeing as the video is uncredited it is unclear how the BBC came across this story or why it decided to produce a filmed report at this particular time. However, this is not the first time that the two friends from the Shuja’iya district of Gaza have told their story to various outlets.

The Hamas-linked UK-based outlet ‘MEMO‘ promoted the story in February 2016, naming the men as Adli Obeid and Mansour Al-Qurm and stating that Obeid (Obaid) was injured in March 2011.

In January 2017 a similar article appeared on the anti-Israel website ‘Electronic Intifada’ but there the friends are named as Adli Ibeid and Mansour al Qirim. That article likewise states that Ibeid/Obaid was injured in March 2011 – a year before the date given in the BBC report.

In July 2017 a Chinese news agency produced written and filmed reports on the same story and there too readers were told that Adli Obeid (as he is named) was injured in 2011 rather than 2012 – five months before his friend.

No background information concerning the circumstances of either incident is provided to BBC audiences. Viewers hence remain unaware of the fact that what the video describes simply as “an Israeli airstrike” in August 2011 came during a period in which (as the BBC reported at the time) a major terror attack in southern Israel was followed by hundreds of missile attacks by terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip on cities including Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ofakim and Yavne. 

In March 2011, what is described by the BBC as “a similar attack” also took place during a surge in missile attacks against Israeli civilian communities and the airstrikes were – as the BBC also reported at the time – intended to target the terrorists firing those projectiles from urban areas in the Gaza Strip.

None of that relevant background information is however included in this BBC report promoting a  context-free story of Palestinian suffering caused by unexplained Israeli airstrikes.

BBC News continues to mislead on Gaza electricity crisis

The announcement of a preliminary agreement between Hamas and Fatah on October 12th was the subject of a long report that appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the optimistic headline “Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah end split on Gaza“.

“Hamas and Fatah have signed a landmark reconciliation deal in Cairo in a key step towards ending a decade-long rift between the two Palestinian factions.

The deal will see administrative control of the Gaza Strip handed to a Fatah-backed unity government.

Egypt has been brokering the reconciliation talks in Cairo.”

Over 20% of the report’s word count presents background to the decade-long rift between Hamas and Fatah but readers found very little concrete information concerning the terms of the agreement which is the article’s subject matter.

“On Thursday, negotiators said the new deal included the handing over of control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to the Fatah-backed government, which will be handed administrative responsibilities by December.

The Palestinian Accord Government said it will also station forces in the Gaza Strip by December “at the latest”.” […]

“Fatah’s lead negotiator, Azzam al-Ahmad, said the plan was to “carry on implementing all the clauses of the agreement, especially those related to solving the crisis of the [Gaza] employees”.

Tens of thousands of civil servants employed by the Palestinian Authority have been out of work since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2006.” […]

“Earlier this month, Hamas allowed the Ramallah-based Palestinian government to take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations.”

The BBC’s report did not clarify to readers that the many issues still to be agreed upon between Hamas and Fatah include the fate of Hamas’ own civil servants. Another major point yet to be resolved is of course the fate of Hamas’ armed militia. The BBC’s 817 word report devoted just 25 words to that topic:

“However, the fate of Hamas’ security forces and 25,000-strong military wing, has been one of the thorniest issues preventing reconciliation and remains to be resolved.”

In line with the usual editorial policy, the report made no effort to inform readers why that issue is crucial not only to ‘reconciliation’ between the two factions but also to meeting the Palestinian Authority’s obligations under existing agreements as well as to the future of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. Readers would hence have been unlikely to fully understand the selected quoted comments from an Israeli spokesperson.

“In response to Thursday’s announcement, an Israeli government official said that any unity deal “must include a commitment to international agreements”, adding that Hamas must disarm and recognise Israel.”

Despite the BBC having refrained from reporting the appointment of US Treasury designated Saleh al Arouri to the position of deputy leader of Hamas’ political bureau earlier this month, a photo caption in this article indicates that the corporation is aware of his new position.

“Fatah’s Azam al-Ahmed (right) and Hamas deputy head of the politburo Saleh al-Aruri sign the agreement”

Although the BBC’s report featured comment on the agreement from a variety of sources including Hamas’ Salah Bardawil and Sami Abu Zuhri, readers were not informed of comments made by the man who actually signed it on behalf of Hamas.

“Speaking after the agreement was signed, Arouri, who headed the Hamas delegation that negotiated the deal, said Palestinian unity was vital “so that we can all work together against the Zionist enterprise, which seeks to wipe out and trample the rights of our people.””

In the past BBC audiences have often seen unhelpful reporting on the subject of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip: reporting which has not only failed to provide a clear and factual explanation of the reasons behind that crisis but on occasion has even steered audiences towards the inaccurate impression that it is connected to Israeli counter-terrorism measures along its border with Gaza. This latest BBC report unfortunately continues that policy of promoting inaccurate information:

“Since 2006, the two countries [Egypt and Israel] have maintained a land and sea blockade on Gaza in an attempt to prevent attacks by Gaza-based militants. The measures have also aggravated electricity and fuel shortages.” [emphasis added]

Once again we see the BBC making do with superficial presentation of the Hamas-Fatah unity deal story that fails to meet its obligation to provide reporting “of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues”.  

Related Articles:

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

BBC fails to clarify to audiences significance of PUG failure to disarm Hamas

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part one

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part two

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part three

BBC’s Bateman misleads on US and Israeli approach to Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC WS history show yet again promotes political narrative

The subject matter of programmes in the BBC World Service radio history series ‘Witness‘ is often tied to an anniversary on or around the time of broadcast. That, however, was not the case in the programme’s October 4th edition – titled “Israel Withdraws From Gaza“.

Unusually, presenter Mike Lanchin travelled to the Gaza Strip to make a programme less than nine minutes long and also produced a filmed version which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 4th under the title “‘My house was occupied by Israeli soldiers’“.

In the audio version listeners heard a substantial amount of commentary from Lanchin himself, much of which was inaccurate and failed to provide them with the full story. In his opening words, Lanchin described the Gaza Strip as “Palestinian territory” without providing any explanation of the area’s history – and not least the fact that it was included in the territory designated by the League of Nations for the creation of the Jewish homeland.

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

Lanchin: “Today we’re going back to 2005 when Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip after nearly 40 years of occupation. Around 8,000 Jewish settlers were evicted and all Israeli military personnel were withdrawn from the tiny Palestinian territory. I’ve been hearing from one young Gazan woman who was there when the Israelis left.”

Listeners then heard archive recordings from the time of the 2005 disengagement followed by the programme’s sole interviewee, Maisoon Bashir.

Bashir: “The people in the settlement they are very upset and angry because they don’t like to leave Gaza. And we hear the sound of the people in the settlement shouting ‘no; we don’t leave’.”

After a similar archive recording, Lanchin went on to present an editorialised account of the disengagement.

Lanchin: “There’d been weeks of violent confrontations between Jewish settlers and Jewish policemen and women and soldiers; a cause of anguish and shame for many Israelis. But now Israel’s 38 year occupation of Gaza was at an end. For 12 year-old Gazan Maisoon Bashir it was a moment of celebration.”

Bashir: “I was so happy because the simple thing that I am Palestinian, this is my land and you have to leave. And yes; they did.”

Following a recording of some sort of military confrontation, Lanchin purported to provide some historical background but could not even get the date of the Six Day War right – and that inaccuracy also appeared in the programme’s synopsis.   

Revealingly, Lanchin described that war as ‘Israel’s’ war and failed to clarify to listeners that the Gaza Strip had been belligerently occupied by Egypt in 1948 and that Jordan had belligerently occupied Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem during the same conflict.

Absurdly describing an area which is between 30 to 55 kilometres wide as being “on the west bank of the River Jordan”, Lanchin inaccurately suggested that the people who chose to go to live there and in the Gaza Strip were ‘moved in’ by Israel. That inaccuracy also appeared in the filmed version in archive material from Jeremy Bowen and of course the accuracy of terminology is important because it is that false account of events which is used as the basis for the claim that Israeli communities in those areas are (or were) ‘illegal’.

Lanchin: “Israel had first captured the 40 kilometre long and 10 kilometre wide Gaza Strip during its Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan and Syria in October 1967. It then began moving its own people in – both to Gaza and to the newly occupied territories on the west bank of the River Jordan.  Over the next three decades, thousands of Jewish settlers set up home in heavily populated Gaza. One of the settlements – Kfar Darom – was built opposite Maisoon Bashir’s family home.”

Lanchin made no effort to inform listeners that the community of Kfar Darom was first established as a kibbutz in 1946 on land purchased in 1930 by a Jew from Rehovot called Tuvia Miller or that a Jewish community had existed in Gaza until 1929, when it was evacuated by the British mandate administration due to Arab rioting.

Bashir: “I remember just opening the windows of my room. I see the soldier in the settlement. When I ask my father who is here in this place? They are Jewish people.”

Lanchin: “It was a sight that Maisoon grew up with just across the dusty road from her home. Jewish settlers – many of them with young families – living in large, well-built compounds with schools, synagogues and shops, protected by Israeli soldiers. Maisoon’s family had lived in that part of central Gaza for several generations and had tomato and date plantations there. Her father was an English teacher and the principal at the local school.”

Bashir: “I remember that we go to the sea with my father in vacation, play in the garden, go with my grandfather to the greenhouses – the tomato greenhouses – and I remember that my aunts they visit us, my friends. So you feel like you are a normal person.”

Nowhere in his report did Lanchin make use of the words terrorists or terrorism. Instead terrorists were described as ‘militants’ and listeners heard practically nothing about the scores of fatal and debilitating attacks (including rocket and mortar fire) against Israeli civilians living in communities in the Gaza Strip.  

Lanchin: “But for Maisoon and her family such moments of normality were rare. Militant attacks on the settlements were becoming increasingly common. In 2000 there was an upsurge in the violence both in Gaza and in the occupied West Bank.”

Following an archive recording from the time of the second Intifada, Lanchin went on to repeat an inaccurate narrative frequently promoted in BBC content.

Lanchin: “The second Intifada – or uprising – against the Israeli occupation was sparked by a visit by the then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the holy site of Haram al Sharif – or Temple Mount – in the Old City of Jerusalem.”

After another archive recording, Lanchin allowed Bashir to promote memories of unsupported speculation.

Lanchin: “Maisoon was at home when she first heard gunfire close by.”

Bashir: “The first thing that we hear that shooting from the Israelien [sic] soldiers – very heavy – and we feel like they would kill us. We were in this room. My father was in a school and my mother ask all of my brother and sister to enter this room because it’s the most safe one.”

Lanchin: “The next day more Israeli soldiers arrived and they proceeded to tell the family that they had orders to occupy their home, claiming that it had a strategic position as the tallest building in the neighbourhood.”

Bashir: They put all my family in one room and the rest of home was the things of the soldier. And they told my father that this place is like a military place. You have to understand that no-one allowed to enter your home and you cannot use the rest of your home. Soldiers live here and there so I feel like this is not my home. I ask my mother what’s that?”

Lanchin: “Friends and relatives begged Maisoon’s father to leave.”

Bashir: “My father say no. This is my place of my grandfather and I will die here.”

Lanchin: And so for the next five years Israeli soldiers occupied the top floors of the house, using it as a look-out post, while Maisoon and her brothers, sisters, mother and father were confined to the rooms down below. The family was allowed out in the day time but had a strict night-time curfew and strict controls on who could come and go. Their land round the house was destroyed.”

Lanchin failed to clarify why a plantation of trees would likely be seen as a security risk in a location in which terrorists repeatedly attacked a nearby civilian community. He then allowed Bashir to suggest that she did not have free access to school despite bringing no evidence to support that allegation.

Bashir: “I keeping all the night dreaming the day that the Israeli soldier will leave my home, my house, so I can go freely to school and do whatever I want.”

Lanchin: “But for Israel Gaza was proving a difficult occupation to maintain. Palestinian militant attacks inside Israel – many planned from within Gaza – were on the increase. Israeli military operations in response only served to strengthen the Gazans’ hatred of the occupiers. And so, by now prime minister Ariel Sharon unveiled plans to leave Gaza and to build a wall and a fence to separate the Palestinian territories from Israel as a way of defending against further militant attacks. By September 2005 the last of the 3,000 Israeli soldiers and the 8,000 Jewish settlers had left Gaza. As they pulled out, they destroyed their former homes, schools and synagogues.”

In fact the synagogue in Kfar Darom, along with several others, was not “destroyed” by Israel but was burned down by Palestinians shortly after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Listeners then heard a conversation between Lanchin and Bashir that took place in Gaza.

Bashir: “The whole thing that we see right now here is completely change.”

Lanchin: “Yeah, there’s no sign of the settlement now. There’s some rubble in the back.”

Bashir: “I trying to remember.”

Lanchin: “Trying to remember.”

Bashir: “Yeah.”

Lanchin: “More than a decade on, I’m with Maisoon on the flat rooftop of her home which once served as a military look-out for the Israeli soldiers.”

Bashir: “And here was like the road for the Israelien [sic] jeep and the bulldozer and this place for the soldiers here.”

Lanchin’s closing remarks failed to adequately clarify to listeners that the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip did not bring an end to Hamas terrorism against Israeli civilians – or why. While describing the territory as “largely closed off to the outside world” he failed to explain the role of Hamas’ policies in creating that situation and refrained from explaining that under the terms of the Oslo Accords the Gaza Strip’s coastal waters and airspace remained under Israel’s control and that no changes were made to those terms in subsequent agreements between Israel and the PA signed after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. 

Lanchin: “On this scorching sunny morning in central Gaza it’s hard to imagine the tension and fear that dominated the lives of people like Maisoon and her family. Yet all you have to do is look around at the half-standing buildings damaged in the repeated military confrontations that have taken place since withdrawal between Hamas militants who now rule Gaza and the Israelis and you’ll understand how little has been achieved in the intervening years. Today Gaza remains largely closed off to the outside world with its borders, airspace and waters controlled by Israel and Egypt. Hamas still threatens more attacks on Israel. Maisoon – who’s now 25 – longs to go abroad to study and although she comes across as a confident young woman brimming with energy, when she speaks there’s a sadness and a resignation underlying her words.”

Bashir: “I used to be a positive – as my father told me – but you have to look to the reality and the reality right now is a very difficult. I wish that in the future it will be like Palestinian, Jewish together to speak and doing. OK but before that, give me my rights.”

Lanchin: “Maisoon Bashir was speaking to me, Mike Lanchin, in Gaza for this edition of ‘Witness’.

This report by Mike Lanchin is not, as noted above, timed to coincide with an anniversary and its featured interviewee does not have a particularly historically important story to tell. One might therefore wonder why Lanchin travelled all the way to the Gaza Strip to interview a specific person who was a child at the time of the disengagement.

Maisoon Bashir describes herself as follows:

“I have been asked to introduce myself. I am wondering how I should, as an activist or a journalist, who tries to raise the voice of Palestine? Both are true, but I prefer to introduce myself just as a Palestinian girl, because my nationality is a testament to the authenticity of my homeland and the injustices borne by my people.”

Her activism is given a platform at a site called ‘We Are Not Numbers’ that is linked to a political NGO currently called ‘Euro Med Rights’ (which has Richard Falk as chair of its board of trustees) and which was founded by a self-described “social justice activist” called Pam Bailey who is also associated with Code Pink. Bashir’s writings have also been posted at the Hamas linked outlet MEMO.

BBC audiences, however, were not informed that they were in fact listening to a political activist (in breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality) and neither were they given any insight into how Mike Lanchin was introduced to her story or why he visited the Gaza Strip (where the BBC has a staffed local office) to interview her.

Once again we see that the radio show touted by the BBC World Service as a ‘history’ programme is in fact used as a vehicle for the advancement of one-sided political narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC World Service misleads on Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine

BBC exploits Sharon’s death for more promotion of second Intifada falsehood

Resources:

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BBC’s Bateman misleads on US and Israeli approach to Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’

The October 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item concerning that day’s meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in the Gaza Strip. The report (from 45:06 here) was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “The Palestinian cabinet has met in Gaza for the first time in three years as the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority moves closer to taking charge of the territory from Hamas, which has controlled it for the past decade. Last month Hamas agreed to dissolve its administration in Gaza and make way for a unity government led by the prime minister Rami Hamdallah. These Palestinians said they hoped the new government would improve the lives of the people in the Gaza Strip.”

Listeners then heard two short ‘man in the street’ interviews.

Man 1: “The youths of Gaza are living in a very difficult situation. We’re waiting for this reconciliation in the hope that there will be more job opportunities for the younger generations.”

Man 2: “We welcome them and the new government. We call on them to look at the young people – which is the most important thing – and to solve the electricity issue and the crisis in Gaza and whatever else is possible to raise the quality of life of the Palestinian people.”

Iqbal: “Let’s speak now to the BBC’s Tom Bateman who joins us live from Jerusalem. Tom; let’s pic up from what we heard from the young Palestinians there about the quality of life in Gaza. It’s a…it’s a tiny strip of land but it is a very difficult place to be, isn’t it?”

Bateman: “It’s two million people. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. I mean people are dealing with electricity for two to four hours a day. There are severe water shortages as you heard there because of the electricity crisis. That means that…ah…there is a serious problem with raw sewage…ahm…and life there is extremely difficult.”

Bateman sidestepped the topic of the reasons behind the electricity crisis in Gaza, dismissing the subject as “complex”. He also failed to tell listeners why conditions in Gaza did not improve during the two weeks between the Hamas announcement that it would dissolve its managing committee in the Gaza Strip and the cabinet meeting that is the subject of his report.

“Regarding the punitive measures Abbas levied against Gaza in April in order to force Hamas to cede control of the Strip, he [Abbas] said he was in “no hurry” to lift them.

He said the measures cut 22% of the PA’s funding to Gaza — a total of $1.5 billion US dollars — which affected the already dire electricity and water situation in the Strip. These steps would not be reversed until the PA was in full control of Gaza, he said.”

Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Now the factors behind that [electricity crisis] are complex but what’s happened today in terms of this meeting of the unity cabinet – that was actually first established about three years ago – is in terms of its symbolism, in terms of what Hamas and Fatah are saying about this, is that this is, you know, paving the way for Palestinian reconciliation. However…ah…you know, we’ve been on this road before. Previous attempts at such unity have come to nothing. I think this time, you know, the backing of the Egyptians – which has been in place previously – seems to be at a level where there is some hope that this…eh…this time that unity may come to fruition in terms…it may deliver something for the people of Gaza and an end to a lot of these problems. But we’ll just have to wait and see and after the cabinet meeting today there are now due to be talks between the two sides in Egypt.”

Bateman then went on to suggest that the approach of the United States to the prospect of a Palestinian unity government is different to that of Israel:

Bateman: “Meanwhile, there is everything from some support internationally from the US but from Israel the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that, you know, he’s not prepared to accept what he called imaginary appeasement in which the Palestinians supposedly reconcile at the expense of the existence of the State of Israel.”

A statement from the US Middle East envoy put out the day before Bateman’s report made the US position clear.

“The United States on Monday said it welcomes efforts for the Palestinian Authority to resume control over government institutions in the Gaza Strip after the PA premier arrived in the Hamas-controlled enclave earlier in the day for a cabinet meeting. But it made clear there would be no dealing with a Palestinian government including Hamas unless or until the terror group recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism.

“As the Palestinian Authority Cabinet visits Gaza today in preparation for its October 3 cabinet meeting, the United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza,” Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy for Middle East, said in a statement. […]

“The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.”

Using the Hebrew phrase פיוסים מדומים – fictitious reconciliations – rather than “imaginary appeasement” (which Bateman appears to have gleaned from a report by Ha’aretz), Netanyahu said:

‘“We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognize Israel and, of course, recognize a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations in which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence,” Netanyahu said during a special Likud faction meeting in the West Bank city of Ma’ale Adumim.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: Recognize the State of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing, sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction,” he added.’

In other words, with both the US envoy and the Israeli prime minister stating that any Palestinian government must recognise Israel and reject terrorism, the two countries’ responses to the prospect of a Palestinian government are far less different than Bateman would obviously have his audience believe.

The report continued with Bateman failing to clarify to audiences why Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation and its continuing refusal to reject terror is a significant part of this story.

Iqbal: “I suppose we shouldn’t forget and remind people that the US and the European Union have blacklisted Hamas as a terrorist organisation which does complicate the formation of any unity government.”

Bateman: “Well this is of course one of the major issues in terms of the way that…ehm…the governance of Gaza should be dealt with because as you say…ah…it’s not just Israel but of course many countries around the world that…eh…regard Hamas as a terrorist…ahm…organisation and so you therefore have a situation where if there is reconciliation, what does that mean for the Palestinian Authority and the way it is run? Not just in Gaza but in the West Bank. I think that much will depend on these talks that are due to take place, as I say, in Cairo. And just getting through those with the many issues that have to be resolved; not least the control of arms in Gaza itself, with President Abbas suggesting…ah…that he will not accept a model where Hamas has control of arms with a sort of PA government just in charge of civilian control. Lots of issues to deal with and – as I say – you know….ah…those people hoping it may deliver something but of course the past has proven otherwise.”

Once again BBC audiences did not hear a proper explanation of why existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians mean that Hamas must be disarmed before becoming part of any Palestinian government. As was the case in previous reports on this story, that means that audiences are not receiving the full range of information necessary for its proper understanding.

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The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part one

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part two

The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part three

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again 

 

 

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

On October 2nd an article headlined “Palestinian PM in rare Gaza visit as rift with Hamas eases” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

“The Palestinian prime minister has appealed for unity at the start of a rare trip to Gaza, as part of efforts to end a rift between Fatah and Hamas.

Rami Hamdallah is heading a delegation from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which is taking over from an administration disbanded by Hamas.”

This is the BBC News website’s first follow-up report on the latest tentative Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’ since the news of Hamas’ announcement of the dissolving of its ‘administrative committee’ in the Gaza Strip broke on September 17th. In its report at the time the BBC News website told readers that:

“It is not yet clear whether Hamas is ready to place its security forces under Mr Abbas’s control – a major sticking point in the past, Associated Press reports.”

Back in 2014 when a previous (failed) ‘unity deal’ was being negotiated, the BBC similarly told its audiences that:

“…a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA’s own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory.” [emphasis added]

That three year-old formula appears again in this latest article:

“Despite the rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah, a number of issues are yet to be resolved.

It is unclear to what extent Hamas will allow the PA’s forces to take over security roles, and what will happen to thousands of Hamas civil servants who have not been on the PA’s payroll for the past decade.”

Since the BBC last reported on this story in September, a senior Hamas official has made statements relating to the issue of Hamas disarmament.

“Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Thursday that the Gaza-based terror group is not prepared to discuss the dissolution of its military wing during talks with the Fatah party, as the two sides attempt to form a unity government. […]

“This issue [of Hamas disarming] is not up for discussion, not previously and neither will it be in the future,” Abu Marzouk said in an interview with the semi-official Turkish news agency Al-Andalous. “The weapons of the resistance are for the protection of the Palestinian people, and it is inconceivable that Hamas will lay down its weapons as long as its land is occupied and its people dispersed.” […]

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has a reported  27,000 armed men divided into six regional brigades, with 25 battalions and 106 companies.”

Despite its previous enthusiastic coverage of the prospect of a Hamas-Fatah unity government, the BBC has not since reported Abu Marzouk’s statements.

In a recent interview with Egyptian media, however, the PA president clarified that the issue of Hamas disarmament is a deal breaker.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he would not be prepared to accept Hamas keeping its armed forces in Gaza like Hezbollah does in Lebanon and demanded “full control” of the Strip, including over the border, security and all the ministries. […]

“I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon” in Gaza, Abbas said in an interview late Monday with the Egyptian news station CBC, pointing to an early point of conflict with Hamas, which has vowed not to turn in its arms. […]

Hamas, however, has said that it will not even broach the subject of dismantling its vast military wing during negotiations, leading some to believe the group was seeking to follow in the footsteps of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is part of the government but retains its own army.

Abbas addressed this point specifically, saying, “I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience of Lebanon” in Gaza. He added that just as his security forces arrest those in the West Bank with illegal arms, the same would occur in Gaza.”

Significantly, in the same interview:

“Abbas noted that Hamas is still an “Islamist group,” while Fatah is a secular party. However, he said, the terror group still constitutes a “part of the Palestinian people,” and would be included in a Palestinian government as long as it agrees to uphold the policies of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the largest Palestinian umbrella group. Abbas is the head of the PLO.

The PLO has recognized the State of Israel, while Hamas refuses to do so and continues to call for the Jewish state’s destruction.”

However, Hamas’ Abu Marzouk also recently stated that:

“…Hamas would not be willing to accede to the demands of the so-called Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union, and United Nations — that it renounce terrorism and agree to accept past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which is the largest Palestinian political umbrella group.”

In addition, the US Middle East envoy said that:

“…there would be no dealing with a Palestinian government including Hamas unless or until the terror group recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism. […]

…Greenblatt reiterated the so-called Quartet Principles that the terror group must meet in order for a government it sits in to receive diplomatic recognition.

“The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.”

One of those “previous agreements” between the Palestinians and Israel is the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. That treaty states, inter alia, in Article XIV:

“Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

And:

“Except for the arms, ammunition and equipment of the Palestinian Police described in Annex I, and those of the Israeli military forces, no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment, unless otherwise provided for in Annex I.”

In other words, the failure of a Palestinian Authority unity government to disarm all Hamas’ armed personnel (including its terrorist militia) would constitute a breach of one of those “previous agreements” – as both Mahmoud Abbas and Jason Greenblatt obviously appreciate.

The BBC’s report, however, once again failed to make any effort to enhance audience understanding of those points and – while refraining from reporting the relevant statements made by the Quartet, the PA president and the US administration – instead told readers that:

“Israel also resolutely opposes any involvement by Hamas in the PA. Along with several countries and organisations, Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group and has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that contains Hamas members.”

Yet again the BBC’s superficial reporting on a potential Hamas-Fatah reconciliation falls far short of providing its funding public with comprehensive information needed to properly understand the story.

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The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part two

As was noted in part one of this post, the lead story in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on September 17th was centred around the 106 word long statement put out by Hamas earlier that day.

Following the earlier report on that story – which was over twelve and a half minutes long – the same programme also aired an additional item on the topic which brought the total time allotted to the subject to over twenty minutes.

Presenter James Coomarsamy introduced the second item (from 45:06 here) thus:

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

Coomarasamy: “Let’s return now to our main story today: the announcement by the Palestinian group Hamas that it will dissolve the administration that runs Gaza and hold talks with its rival Fatah about forming a government of national unity and holding elections. I’ve been discussing this with the Palestinian academic Khaled Hroub – he’s a professor of Middle Eastern studies and the author of two books on Hamas – and Oliver McTernan, the director of the mediation group ‘Forward Thinking’ who’s been working on bringing the sides in the Middle East closer together. So why does he think Hamas has done this now?”

BBC audiences have heard from both Qatar-based Khaled Hroub and from the director of the UK charity ‘Forward Thinking’ on previous occasions but it would of course have been helpful to listeners trying to put the ‘analysis’ they heard into context had they been informed that McTernan is a proponent of the view that being a terror organisation committed to Israel’s destruction should not disqualify Hamas from governing the Palestinian Authority or being part of negotiations to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, Coomarasamy did not comply with the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality which require the “particular viewpoint” of contributors to be clarified in advance.

Given McTernan’s approach, his promotion of Hamas favoured terminology by inaccurately describing the restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip as a “siege” was not unexpected. Coomarasamy however did not challenge that inaccurate portrayal or the false linkage McTernan tried to create between Israel’s counter-terrorism measures and the electricity crisis in Gaza.

McTernan: “Of course life for ordinary people in Gaza is under tremendous pressure at the moment because it’s almost ten years of siege and that means that the flow of goods, the flow of people and in particular the current situation on electricity – where you have roughly three hours a day for the average person – is putting a lot of strain on ordinary life in Gaza.”

Neither was it much of a surprise to hear McTernan later repeat his long-held view that the international community should have embraced the terror group’s victory in the 2006 PLC election.

McTernan: “…so I think what’s needed now is a wise action by both leaderships [Hamas and Fatah] to say we move into a situation where we can share power and then we go back to the electorate and stand for election and both sides should be committed this time round to fully respecting the outcome of the election. Because 2006 was recognised as one of the most open and fair elections in the Arab world and sadly the international community were responsible greatly for not respecting that outcome.”

The very relevant fact that Hamas is a terrorist organisation that rejects recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the question of how that can possibly align with the Palestinian Authority’s existing commitments to agreements signed with Israel was not raised by Coomarasamy in this item even when McTernan pontificated on what Israel should do.

McTernan: “I think if Israel had wisdom they would see Palestinian division is in fact not in their interest. It’s both in their immediate and long-term interest first of all to see stability both in Gaza and in the West Bank and secondly to allow the Palestinian political leadership to form itself in a way that can truly represent the Palestinian cause and therefore be an effective partner.”

McTernan’s later additional inaccurate references to a “siege” likewise did not produce any challenge from Coomarasamy.

McTernan: “…the reality of the situation in the region is that Abbas or Hamas don’t control the freedom of movement so I think Israel is a big player in this. They control what goes into Gaza, who can come out, who can go in. I think what needs to be looked at is the whole siege of Gaza and I think that will require much more international determination both from the West and from the Gulf countries and Egypt to sort of say to Israel ‘look, it’s not in your interest to keep the siege going’.”

In among McTernan’s barely concealed advocacy of Hamas talking points listeners did hear some relevant points raised by Khaled Hroub, including clarification of the significance of Egypt’s closure of its border with the Gaza Strip, the relevance of Egypt’s concerns about the ISIS presence in Sinai and the fact that after ten years of unaccountable absolute power, Mahmoud Abbas might be less willing to embrace parliamentary limitations and accountability. Those topics were not however explored further.

While over twenty minutes of coverage of a 106 word statement from Hamas might seem generous or even excessive, the binge was not yet over: the later edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day also led with the same story and that will be discussed in a future post.

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The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part one

On September 17th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted over a third of its one hour of airtime to its lead story – billed “Hope for Unity in Palestinian Territories”.

“Hamas, who govern the Gaza strip, have agreed to steps towards ending a long feud with their rivals Fatah who govern the West Bank.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 00:11 here) with an odd portrayal of the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election as relating to the Gaza Strip only.

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

“And we’re going to start with a long-awaited and potentially significant political gesture in the Middle East. It’s not directly related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but to the internal Palestinian struggle which has a bearing on the hopes for peace. It’s a gesture that comes from Hamas; the Palestinian faction that won control of the Gaza Strip from its rival Fatah in an election in 2006 and took full control of Gaza by force a year later. Well Hamas is still considered a banned terrorist organisation in many parts of the world and its presided over a decade of increasing desperation for its citizens. Gaza is subject to a blockade by Israel and Egypt and in recent months its citizens have faced an extra squeeze with the reduction of their electricity supply. But now, in talks presided over by Egypt, Hamas has agreed to dissolve the administration in Gaza with a view to holding a future election. We’ll discuss what lies behind that decision and what it might lead to in just a moment but first, a reminder of what daily life is like in Gaza. Najla is a mother of two young children. She was born in Gaza and has lived there all her life and she spoke to Newshour last month.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the long monologue from the inadequately introduced Oxfam employee Najla Shawa that BBC World Service listeners had already heard on September 3rd. Repeating her claim that the Gaza Strip is “a big prison”, Shawa added to Coomarasamy’s misleading and inaccurate implied linkage between the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip and Israeli counter-terrorism measures in the form of border controls.

Next Coomarasamy introduced Yolande Knell who presented a factual picture of the Hamas announcement previously described by him as a “gesture” – although listeners may have been surprised to hear Knell describe “the administrative committee it [Hamas] set up in March” as “really controversial” given that the BBC has not previously reported on that topic.

Following an account of Egypt’s role in the appearance of Hamas’ announcement, Knell gave an accurate portrayal of some of the methods used by Mahmoud Abbas to pressure Hamas.

“Well some people are quite surprised that they [Hamas] have made these concessions, as they’re seen, particularly for example getting rid of this administrative committee. Previously it had said that it wouldn’t take these kinds of steps until the Palestinian Authority lifted some of the measures that it’s imposed upon Gaza in recent months because we’ve really seen this political divide between Hamas and Fatah deepening recently with President Abbas trying to pile on the political pressure and now you have only four hours on, sixteen hours off when it comes to mains electricity in Gaza. There’s been a longtime energy shortage but it’s got much worse because the PA put up a fuel tax for the sole power plant in Gaza. Then it instructed Israel to reduce mains electricity that it provides to Gaza. This is having effects on hospitals, on waste water management, with sewage being pumped into the sea and it’s also having a big economic effect. It also slashed the salaries for civil servants – PA civil servants – who were still receiving their salaries in Gaza.”

Although Knell has produced one reasonable report on the topic of the Gaza electricity crisis in the past, for the most part content on that topic produced by her and other BBC journalists has encouraged audiences to mistakenly believe that there is a connection between that crisis and Israel.

Coomarasamy then introduced “a view from Fatah” given by Abbas’ advisor Nabil Shaath. However, when Shaath stated that “many of us have some hesitation about the degree to which Hamas will be willing to go to the details”, he failed to question him further, passing up the opportunity to enhance listener understanding of the potential pitfalls that have dogged previous ‘unity’ agreements.

Shaath’s propagandist portrayal of Israel’s government as “colonialist” did not prompt comment or challenge from Coomarasamy.

Shaath: “I do not see how we can face Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing settler colonialist government and we cannot really make use of any potential changes in the world if we are not united.”

BBC audiences used to hearing from journalists and Palestinian commentators alike that Israel is responsible for the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip may well have been surprised by Shaath’s admission of Hamas responsibility for the situation of the people of Gaza.

Shaath: “…Hamas has done much worse. Hamas destroyed their opportunities. Hamas subjected them to risks that they couldn’t take. Hamas led them into a life of isolation…”

Following his conversation with Shaath, Coomarasamy returned to Yolande Knell and – in contrast to the BBC’s written report on the topic – listeners were told of some of the factors that will affect any ‘unity deal’.

Knell: “The devil now I think is in the detail with what happens. We’ve seen this when previous arrangements have broken down. Who are going to be the key players in a national unity government? What’s going to happen about managing the border crossings? Will PA security forces be allowed to function in Gaza once again? What will happen then to the Hamas security forces – which is what you see on the street at the moment doing everything from…eh….controlling traffic.”

Listeners also heard a very rare acknowledgement of the reason for the collapse of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014: an outcome portrayed at the time by the BBC’s Middle East editor as being entirely attributable to Israel.

“Israel of course views Hamas as a terrorist group, as does the US, the EU and others. And we’ve had some Israeli commentators pointing out how this actually makes things very difficult for Mr Abbas because when there was a national unity government agreed more than three years ago, this was a trigger for the failure of the last round of peace talks.”

Knell did however come up with some bizarre spin on the fact that the PA president – whose elected term expired in January 2009 – has no control over – or presence in – part of the territory he supposedly heads.

Knell: “…Israel always accuses Mr Abbas of not representing all the Palestinian people; of being weak in a way.”

Although listeners did hear some important information in this item that has long been absent from BBC coverage, one aspect of the story ignored throughout the discussions on the topic of the reasons behind Hamas’ announcement is that of the public unrest that apparently prompted Hamas to make a large purchase of fuel earlier this month. As the Times of Israel’s analyst noted

“[Hamas leader] Haniyeh understands that, with little hope on the horizon, the severe economic crisis in Gaza can end in one of two ways: war with Israel, which could decimate the movement’s leadership and turn the population against it, or a “Gaza Spring” that would have similar results.

The best he can do under the circumstances is compromise, even if others say he caved in.”

The second item in this programme relating to the same topic will be discussed in part two of this post.

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Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 17th found the headline “Hamas says it is ready to hold elections” under which they were told that:

“The Palestinian militant group signals it is ready to end its feud with Fatah and hold elections”.

The link leads to a similarly titled report – “Hamas says it is ready to hold first elections since 2006” – which in its original version included closing sentences wrongly implying that the policy document published by Hamas in May replaces its 1988 charter.

The current version of the report includes statements that – in light of the BBC’s chronic avoidance of coverage of internal Palestinian affairs – audiences may have had difficulty following.

“The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it is ready to dissolve the committee that rules Gaza and hold a general election for the first time since 2006.”

BBC audiences were not told of the creation of that ‘administrative committee’ earlier this year or of the significance of that move by Hamas in prompting Mahmoud Abbas’ subsequent financial sanctions against the Gaza Strip.

“Fatah’s deputy leader Mahmoud al-Aloul gave a tentative welcome to the news and called for other issues to be resolved, including control of border crossings.”

BBC audiences were not informed of the election of al-Aloul to the position of vice-chair of Fatah in February.

A series of Palestinian ‘unity governments’ – or proposals for them – have repeatedly come to a swift end in the past but the BBC’s report includes just one opaque sentence on a factor of prime importance to audience understanding of the significance of this latest announcement from Hamas.

“It is not yet clear whether Hamas is ready to place its security forces under Mr Abbas’s control – a major sticking point in the past, Associated Press reports.”

Exactly three years ago a BBC report on the ‘unity government’ of the time included a very similar statement:

“However, a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA’s own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory. He described the deal as “partial”.” [emphasis added]

Now as then, the BBC makes no effort to clarify to its audiences that any ‘unity government’ which refrained from disarming Hamas’ terrorist militia in the Gaza Strip would fail to meet the Palestinian Authority’s commitments under existing agreements with Israel.

Neither does it inform readers that if Hamas and other terrorist groups are not disarmed by a PA ‘unity government’ and the territory not brought under the sole control of PA security forces, then the Gaza Strip – along with the rest of the PA-controlled areas – will find itself in a ‘Lebanon-style’ situation whereby the actions of a foreign-sponsored terrorist organisation can continue to spark conflict whenever that suits its own (or its sponsor’s) agenda.

Another important aspect of this story is pointed out at the Times of Israel:

“The main problem with the timing from Fatah’s point of view is that in three days, Abbas is due to meet with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

One can only imagine how Abbas’s meeting with the United States president will be perceived if he will have just agreed to form a national unity government with a terror group, and especially if he speaks about reconciliation with Hamas in his UN address.

Abbas will want answers from Trump about his administration’s as-yet-unstated commitment to a two-state solution. It would be odd for Abbas to talk up a Palestinian state after agreeing to share power with a group that calls for the destruction of Israel.”

It was of course Abbas’ decision to opt for ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas in April 2014 which brought months of talks between Israel and the Palestinians to an end.

As was the case when the last ‘unity government’ failed to get off the ground three years ago, once again we see that the BBC’s superficial reporting on a potential Hamas-Fatah reconciliation falls far short of providing its funding public with comprehensive information needed to understand the story.

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Gaza power crisis development unravels BBC messaging

When some residents of the Gaza Strip took to the streets last winter to protest their inadequate electricity supply, the BBC News website produced two written reports on that story and the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ aired a special report by Tim Franks from Gaza that included a ‘softball’ interview with a Hamas representative.

None of those reports, however, provided BBC audiences with a clear and factual explanation of the reasons behind the Gaza Strip’s electricity crisis. Since then the BBC has produced more reports which (with few exceptions) have been similarly unhelpful (see for example here, here, here, here and here) even to the point of steering audiences towards the inaccurate impression that the crisis is connected to Israeli counter-terrorism measures along its border with Gaza.

As was noted here in June, Hamas could have paid for the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply after the Palestinian Authority exacerbated the crisis earlier this year had it wished to do so and were its priorities not focused on expanding its military capabilities.

Now, however, a report at the Times of Israel suggests that Hamas is eager to avoid a repetition of last winter’s public unrest.

“Hamas has recently bought large volumes of diesel fuel from Egypt in an effort to increase the output of the Gaza Strip’s only power station, after months of refusing to shell out money to provide electricity to the Palestinian enclave’s residents. […]

The purchase of some 30 million liters of diesel from Egypt, at a cost of NIS 90 million ($25 million), marks a change in attitude on the part of Gaza’s rulers, likely indicating a bid to stave off a repeat of street protests that roiled the enclave last winter. […]

Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, has refused to pay for Israeli electricity, claiming the PA is responsible for funding it, while spending millions of dollars of military infrastructure. Earlier this year the PA reduced the amount of electricity it was willing to pay for, and as a result electricity supplies in Gaza were reduced from six to four hours followed by a 12-hour blackout.”

Given that this apparent development undermines previous BBC messaging suggesting that the Gaza power crisis is related to Israeli border controls (which have even been presented as “collective punishment“), it remains to be seen whether or not BBC audiences will be informed that Hamas is able to import fuel at will.

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