BBC News ignores Gaza humanitarian conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The meeting nevertheless went ahead on March 13th.

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Gaza Strip background the BBC does not provide

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



BBC amplifies Hamas default accusation in PA convoy attack report

The Times of Israel and others reported on an incident in the Gaza Strip on March 13th:

“Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah survived an apparent assassination attempt when a bomb went off next to his convoy as he visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, wounding several people, officials and Palestinian media reported.

The PA said Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj, who was accompanying him, were unhurt. However, media reports said several bystanders were injured. Their condition was not immediately clear.”

The ToI report also notes that:

“Palestinian officials contacted Israel’s military liaison in order to coordinate Hamdallah’s exit from the Gaza Strip following the assassination attempt, The Times of Israel learned.

During the conversation, Israel offered to provide medical treatment to those injured in the attack and some of the wounded were being treated by doctors at the Israeli side of the Erez crossing.”

Although known to at least one BBC journalist, that information did not appear in the BBC News website’s account of the story – “Gaza blast targets Palestinian PM Hamdallah’s convoy“.

In contrast, that report does include the following:

“Hamas condemned what it called an “ugly crime” and said it had launched an investigation.

Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it believed the attack was carried out by the same people who last year assassinated Mazen Fuqaha, a commander of Hamas’ military wing, and attempted to assassinate Maj Gen Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of Gaza’s internal security forces.”

Readers may well have had difficulty understanding that somewhat cryptic portrayal of Barhoum’s press release due to the fact that the BBC did not produce any English language reporting on either the assassination of Fuqaha or the attempted assassination of Abu Naim when those incidents took place.

Seeing as Hamas executed the people it claimed had assassinated Fuqaha in May 2017, Barhoum’s quoted claim that “the same people” were responsible for the October 2017 attack on Abu Naim and this attack on Hamdallah obviously lacks logic. So what did Fawzi Barhoum actually mean?

According to the New York Times, Barhoum was in fact using Hamas’ default ‘explanation’ for just about everything that happens in the Gaza Strip.

“The Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, however, that Hamas had no role in the attack. He called the blast an attempt to “tamper with the security of the Gaza Strip” and to “strike any efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation,” and demanded an investigation.

Mr. Barhoum instead sought to blame Israel: He suggested those responsible were “the same hands” who had gunned down Mazen Fakha, a Hamas official responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, in March 2017, and tried to kill Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of Hamas’s security forces in Gaza, in October.

Hamas has accused Israel of being behind the attacks on both men, who were freed from Israeli prisons in 2011 in a controversial prisoner swap for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.”

Later on in the day Hamas put out a statement claiming that the PA agreed with that version of events. However, as Khaled Abu Toameh reports:

“[Ismail] Haniyeh phoned Hamdallah after the explosion and the two agreed to “blame Israel and its collaborators” for being behind the explosion, according to a statement issued by the Hamas leader’s office.

But Yusef al Mahmoud, spokesperson for the PA government, later denied that Hamdallah had received any phone call from Haniyeh.”

The BBC’s public purpose remit obliges it to “provide accurate and impartial news […] of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”. Does the corporation really consider that the uncritical repetition of unproven knee-jerk accusations from a terror organisation contributes to meeting that obligation?

Related Articles:

Gaza explosion: BBC News silent, BBC Arabic promotes knee-jerk speculation

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part one

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part two


BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part two

In part one of this post we looked at the first half of a programme in the ‘Our World’ series that was recently broadcast on the BBC News Channel and the BBC World News Channel under the title “Working for the Enemy”.

After presenter Murad Batal Shishani had uncritically amplified Hamas’ claim that Israel was behind the assassination of one of its senior operatives last year and had been given access to a Hamas-run prison to interview a contrite collaborator, he turned to the topic of the alleged recruitment of Mazen Fuqaha’s assassin by Israel.

Shishani: “But would the Israeli security forces really recruit a jihadi – someone dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel? It seemed an extraordinary risk”.

Shishani then went to interview the former Shin Bet director and current member of the Knesset Avi Dichter, asking him:

Shishani: “Would you recruit a jihadist to kill a Hamas operative?”

Dichter: “Well everything is possible in this fight against terrorists.”

Shishani quickly moved on to his next interviewee who he described as “a reserve officer from Israeli military intelligence”. The fact that the interviewee remained anonymous and his voice unheard, together with Shishani’s claim that “he has to be careful about what he says in order to avoid arrest”, raises the unanswered question of how BBC Arabic made contact with this particular interviewee and whether or not a ‘middle-man’ such as the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’ was involved.

That interviewee – presented as Aaron – apparently gave Shishani the money quotes he was obviously looking for.

Voiceover: “We know so much about people’s personal lives. Their romantic affairs, their sexual affairs, their health problems, everything. So if you want to gain cooperation from people it’s obviously best if we can blackmail this person.” […]

Shishani: “But it’s not just sexual orientation that makes people targets.”

Voiceover: “If someone’s daughter has cancer, for example, and he wants to get treatment in one of the Israeli hospitals – which is no doubt better treatment than in Palestinian hospitals – and if we know about it, maybe we can stop him and tell him OK you can have this but only if you cooperate.”

That led Shishani conveniently on to his next story.

Shishani: “Salwa Saidni [phonetic] knows all about this coercion. Today she is with her grandchildren. A year ago their mother Kholoud needed urgent treatment for cancer. The Israeli authorities granted her permission to go to a hospital in Jerusalem. It was six o’clock and barely light when Salwa and her daughter Kholoud arrived here at the Erez Crossing one morning in January 2017. […] The officers wanted information about a man married to Kholoud’s cousin. She said he was an olive tree farmer.”

Salwa: “He said ‘yes but he plants rockets. He plants rockets with Hamas.’ She said ‘if you know he plants rockets what’s that got to do with me? I’m sick and need treatment. I want to be able to raise my kids.'”

Shishani: “Salwa says her daughter was not able to give any information about the man.”

Salwa: “He told her ‘there’s the bus you need’. Only a glass screen separated us from it.”

Shishani: “But the Israeli authorities did not allow Kholoud to board the bus. […] Three weeks later Kholoud died.”

After having given extensive amplification to allegations that have been used by anti-Israel activists to delegitimise Israel – and with nothing to suggest any independent verification by the BBC – Shishani once again ostensibly ticked the BBC’s impartiality box with a one-liner.

Shishani: “The Israeli authorities told us that entry to Israel is not conditional on providing information or cooperation and they denied any irregularities in their dealings with Kholoud.”

Notably, Shishani made no effort to inform BBC audiences that the party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which in 2017 exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel. 

Shishani’s next interviewee was presented as follows:

Shishani: “Some Palestinians work with Israel because they genuinely believe this is the right way to protect their own people. I have come to a tiny village in the far south of Israel. It is the home of a Bedouin community of around 20 families that were moved from Gaza, where they had devoted their lives to working with the Israeli state. […] Hassan is the community leader here – a role he inherited from his father, a Bedouin Sheikh from the Sinai desert. Hassan’s father sided with the Israeli state after Arab nations were defeated in the 1967 war and Israel occupied his land. […] How do you feel when you or your father are called a traitor or a spy?”

The programme’s last interview – once again anonymous – took place in “a provincial Israeli town” with a man described as having “worked in Gaza for the Israelis from the age of 17 – but that was before he had to get out.”

Unsurprisingly, Shishani’s final interviewee stated that “my past is haunting me” and Shishani then closed the report.

Shishani: “Normality, more than anything, is what people in Gaza crave but for most here, it’s out of reach. Constant scrutiny, suspicion and human need mean that collaboration will keep shaping and poisoning lives and some will continue to work for the enemy.”

Clearly Murad Batal Shishani had a specific story to tell in this programme and nothing was going to get in its way. His uncritical amplification of the stories and interviews – in part obviously Hamas approved – that make up the bulk of the programme was not balanced by his token interview with Avi Dichter or his tepid one-liner presentations of responses from “the Israeli authorities”.

For years Hamas has periodically run campaigns targeting ‘collaborators’ and its extra-judicial executions of people branded as such are a subject only rarely covered by the BBC. Given the cooperation from Hamas that Shishani obviously enjoyed in the making of this programme, it is hardly surprising to see that Hamas’ use of the ‘collaborator’ tag as an excuse for extrajudicial executions did not get any coverage whatsoever in Shishani’s one-sided report.  

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part one

BBC Arabic inaccurately portrays 2002 terror attack victims

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

A Gaza border closure not deemed newsworthy by BBC News




BBC Arabic film on collaborators promotes Hamas messaging – part one

BBC audiences recently saw heavy social media promotion of a programme in the ‘Our World’ series that was broadcast on the BBC News Channel and the BBC World News Channel under the title “Working for the Enemy”.

“Collaborating with Israel can mean prison or death in Gaza. So why do people do it? Some Palestinians say they’re forced or blackmailed, others believe they’re helping to prevent attacks on innocent people. Israel says recruiting Palestinian agents helps protect its citizens. For Our World, BBC Arabic’s Murad Batal Shishani travels to Israel, and Gaza, to unravel a complex web of desperation and exploitation.”

The ‘documentary’ presented by Murad Batal Shishani (available here) literally opened with a context-free slur that has long been used by anti-Israel campaigners and BBC journalists alike.

Shishani: “It’s been called the world’s largest open prison. The Gaza Strip: penned in by walls, barbed wire and gun turrets. The 1.8 million people living here can only get into Israel with special permission. And even if their lives depend on it, they have to enter through here – the Erez Crossing – the main gateway into Israel. […] This is the story of the desperate choices people have to make. […] It’s the story of how the Israeli state seeks to protect its citizens. […] And of those who now live tortured by shame and regret. […] This is a film about Palestinians who collaborate with the Israeli state: those who work for the enemy.”

Following that introduction, the next four minutes of the film repeatedly and uncritically promoted clips from a video produced by a terrorist organisation.

Shishani: “In May 2017 the ruling Hamas government in Gaza released this video to a shocked public. Some Palestinian men had apparently been caught working for Israel in Gaza. They were explaining how they were recruited. […] Each had been cleverly targeted according to their needs and beliefs. They were then recruited by Israeli agents to kill a senior leader of the Hamas military wing – a man called Mazen Fuqaha.”

As readers may recall when Mazen Fuqaha was assassinated in March 2017, the BBC did not cover the story in English. Hamas immediately blamed Israel for the killing, at one point claiming that the assassins had arrived by sea. The BBC’s English language services also showed no interest in reporting border closures imposed by Hamas following the killing.

In April 2017 the BBC News website correctly reported that “Hamas has offered no evidence that Israel was behind Fuqaha’s death”. In May 2017 the BBC News website reported the executions of three men said by Hamas to have confessed to killing Fuqaha, quoting criticism of the process from an NGO.

“Human rights groups had called on the Islamist movement not to carry out the executions – just two weeks after it announced the arrests and aired videos of what it said were the men’s confessions. […]

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, said: “Rushing to put men to death based on an unreviewable decision of a special military court days after announcing their arrests, and airing videoed confessions, smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law.

“Reliance on confessions, in a system where coercion, torture and deprivation of detainee’s rights are prevalent, and other apparent due process violations further taint the court’s verdicts”.”

Nevertheless, BBC Arabic chose to take those video confessions at face value and after a brief sketch of Fuqaha’s terrorist activities during the second Intifada, his imprisonment and his release, Shishani interviewed Hamas’ Mahmoud al Zahar, describing him as someone who “had known Mazen Fuqaha for years”.

Zahar: “They [Israel] thought Fuqaha was active in the West Bank while based in Gaza. Either some Palestinian told them or they had some intelligence.”

Shishani: “And was he active?”

Zahar: “I don’t know.”

Showing no further interest in the topic of Fuqaha’s terrorist activities, Shishani went on to further amplify Hamas’ version of events.

Shishani: “But someone seemed to think Fuqaha was still active. On the 24th of March 2017 this man – Ashraf Abu Leila – received his instructions. He outlined the plan in the Hamas confession video. Hamas officials say that this is Ashraf, caught on CCTV as he walks past the hospital into the yard and towards his target’s parking lot. Fuqaha had spent a family day on the beach. He was alone in his car. The gunman followed him, knocked on his window and shot him five times. Ashraf’s job was done. Hamas had lost one of its key assets and there was an outpouring of grief at Fuqaha’s funeral. Soon after, Ashraf and his suspected accomplices were arrested. In their confessions they warned their audience not to fall for Israeli recruiters. Days after these confessions were filmed all three men were executed as traitors – and as a warning to others.”

Then – after having spent a full four minutes unquestioningly amplifying Hamas’ unproven version of the story – Shishani told viewers that:

Shishani: “We cannot verify the testimonies in the video. Hamas would not share their evidence. But collaborating with Israel is not such a rare thing here.”

With obvious approval and cooperation from Hamas, Shishani next visited a prison in the Gaza Strip where he spoke to one of the “convicted collaborators” called Ibrahim. BBC audiences were once again led towards the erroneous belief that Gaza is under “siege”.

Ibrahim: “Most people who fall into this trap, 90% or more are victims. We in Gaza are suffering from a very harsh siege. Everything is in short supply. Healthcare. Basic needs.

Shishani: “Ibrahim told me that Israeli recruiters prey on the needs of people in Gaza.”

Ibrahim: “They target young men with financial problems and put pressure on them. To start with they say they are not asking for anything serious, just a chat. And then you fall into a bigger trap.”

Shishani: “Who are they targeting?”

Ibrahim: “Firstly it’s those who need medical treatment. This is the biggest problem facing us all. Everyone suffers from this problem. Secondly, it’s people with financial problems and thirdly those who are vulnerable and they turn to drugs.”

Once again – after giving uncritical and extensive amplification to those claims – Shishani ticked the BBC’s ‘impartiality’ box with a one-liner.

Shishani: “The Israeli authorities told us they don’t try to recruit people in these vulnerable situations.”

The next part of Shishani’s film was devoted to the man executed by Hamas for the killing of Mazen Fuqaha – Ashraf Abu Laila.

Shishani: “What could have made a Palestinian like Ashraf kill a leading Hamas militant? And how might the Israeli security forces have found and recruited such a man?”

Quoting an unidentified source described as a “jihadi” – presumably one of Gaza’s Salafists – Shishani told viewers:

Shishani: “Ashraf Abu Laila approached the jihadists, claiming he is a member of the so-called Islamic State but the jihadists rejected him. As a loner, Ashraf might have been easier to control. But would the Israeli security forces really recruit a jihadi – someone dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel? It seemed an extraordinary risk”.

The rest of this programme will be discussed in part two of this post.  

Related Articles:

BBC Arabic inaccurately portrays 2002 terror attack victims

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

A Gaza border closure not deemed newsworthy by BBC News




Hamas agitprop requires BBC journalists to brush up on UN resolution

Reports have emerged concerning an upcoming six-week long stunt organised by factions in the Gaza Strip that is primarily aimed at the international media.

Gaza border area

“In the coming weeks, Hamas plans to set up tent encampments along the Gazan border with Israel, where thousands of the strip’s denizens will be housed, with the intention to march hundreds of Palestinians every day—including the elderly, women and children—to the border fence in “return marches.” 

At the same time, Hamas also intends to hold mass fishing boat protests near the maritime border with Israel. These actions will gradually grow in intensity and culminate just before Israel’s 70th Independence Day.”

The ITIC has more details on the agitprop scheduled to commence on March 30th – ‘Land Day’ – which this year is also Passover Eve.

“According to the march organizers, the objective is to send a message to the world about the Palestinians’ “right of return.” […]

Originally the proposed date for the march was May 15 (Nakba Day). However, calls have recently been heard to hold the main event on Land Day, March 30, the day Israelis Arabs have demonstrated their adherence to their lands since 1976. The organizers of the march said it would not be a single event but rather a series of activities which would continue over time. Issam Adwan, head of Hamas’ department of refugee affairs, said the organizing committee had agreed to hold the march on Land Day (March 30, 2018). He said all the national and Islamic organizations, including Fatah, had agreed. He said the march would be only a part of the comprehensive initiative of “the great return march”. […]

The organizers said they intended to recruit about a hundred thousand participants, most of them from the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. The “great return march” coordinating committee appealed to Gazans to take an active role. The committee also reported it was continuing its efforts to establish national committees in other countries that would organize their own marches, simultaneous to the one in the Gaza Strip.

The organizers, led by Abu Artima, continue to emphasize the march will be non-violent and there is no intention to confront IDF forces. Interviewed by Hamas’ Palinfo website, he called “the great return march” a “popular strategic tool” to use peaceful measures to realize the “right of return.” He said the march would be different from the [routine] clashes at the border security fence. That was because the participants would not throw stones, but rather hold a rally that the whole world and media outlets would watch.”[emphasis added]

Obviously such an event could not take place without Hamas’ approval.

“The organizers got a green light from Hamas and the PIJ for the march. “The great return march” Facebook page posted a statement from Issam Adwan, head of Hamas’ department of refugee affairs, who emphasized the necessity and importance of the event. He said it was part of the “resistance” and that it was no less important than the “armed struggle.” He also said that the Land Day march would be only the opening move of a comprehensive global operation. […]

Talal Abu Zarifa, senior figure in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said the Palestinian organizations had agreed on activities that would be consistent with the objectives of “the great return march.” […] He added that the organizations had agreed to continue mass recruitment, to make Israel responsible [for what happens] and realize the “right of return”.”

Apparently the organisers of that agitprop intended to employ antisemitic Nazi analogy.

“According to information on the Facebook page of “the great march of the return,” in preparation for the event the organizers need clothing like the striped suits worn by the inmates of the Nazi concentration camps. Anyone who could provide such suits, or sew them, was asked to contact the march’s coordinating committee. The organizers are apparently going to present a display comparing the Palestinians to the victims of the Nazis.”

Photo credit: ITIC

The project’s logo includes a reference to UN GA resolution 194 of December 1948.

“The new logo shows the UN logo and the number 194, which relates to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 […], a map of “Palestine” in the colors of the Palestinian flag, with no reference to the existence of the State of Israel; a hand holding a key, the symbol of the so-called right of the Palestinian refugees to return to the places they lived in 70 years ago.”

Any BBC journalist intending to cover this propaganda campaign should of course be aware of the fact that Resolution 194 is non-binding, that it does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) and – contrary to often heard assertions – neither does it grant any unconditional ‘right of return’. Rather, it recommends that refugees be allowed to return to their homeland if they wish to “live at peace with their neighbours”. Also worth remembering is the fact that the Arab states voted against that UN GA resolution.

Related Articles:

BACKGROUNDER: The Palestinian Claim to a “Right of Return”  (CAMERA)




BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – February 2018

The Israel Security Agency’s report on terror attacks (Hebrew) during February 2018 shows that throughout the month a total of 149 incidents took place: 118 in Judea & Samaria, twenty in Jerusalem and eleven in the Gaza Strip and Sinai sectors.

In Judea & Samaria and Jerusalem the agency recorded 121 attacks with petrol bombs, nine attacks using improvised explosive devices, two shooting attacks, two stabbing attacks and four arson attacks. Also recorded were four separate incidents of missile fire, five shooting attacks and one IED attack from the Gaza Strip.

One civilian was murdered in a stabbing attack near Ariel on February 5th which was reported by the BBC. Nine people – one civilian and eight members of the security forces – were wounded throughout February.

An IED attack on the Gaza border in which four soldiers were wounded was reported by the BBC and one of the four missile attacks from the Gaza Strip which took place during February was mentioned in the same article. The three additional missile attacks did not receive any coverage.

Other incidents which did not receive any coverage on the BBC News website include an attack on a civilian motorist in Abu Dis on February 2nd and a stabbing attack in Karmei Tzur on February 7th.

In all, the BBC News website reported 2% of the terror attacks that took place during February 2018. Since the beginning of the year the BBC has reported 1.5% of the attacks and 100% of the fatalities. Just one of the six separate incidents of rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip that have taken place since the beginning of the year has been mentioned in BBC coverage.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – January 2018

BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – December 2017 and year summary

Gaza missile fire continues to be ignored by BBC News


BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR again – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, the February 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an interview (from 30:06 here) with UNRWA’s commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbul.

Having failed to challenge Krahenbuhl’s unevidenced claim that an UNRWA education is “an investment in regional security”, presenter Tim Franks next provided him with the cue for dismissal of one of the prime criticisms of the UN agency.

Franks: “What do you say to the other criticism that is often levelled at UNRWA – particularly of your work inside Gaza where there’s a huge proportion of the refugees – and that is that – maybe inevitably, maybe willingly, you have allowed yourself to become too close to the authority that runs Gaza which is Hamas which is proscribed by an awful lot of countries – most of the West sees it as a terrorist organisation – and that the split between what UNRWA does and what Hamas does has become blurred?”

Krahenbuhl: “Working in conflict zones means that you operate in proximity to groups that are either governmental armed forces, that are non-state armed groups so that’s by definition the work. One of the things that you do also is to ensure the neutrality of your work by every means possible. And so just to take the example of Gaza, last year during repair works to two of our schools we discovered tunnels that had been built below those schools. Now we publicly condemned Hamas for those actions and that is a measure of the robustness with which we pursue our policies of neutrality. Now if anybody however can describe to me who would be the alternative provider of education to 270 thousand students in the Gaza Strip who go to UNRWA schools and who among other things are taught a human rights curriculum with focus on tolerance and co-existence, then I’m happy to be told what that alternative is, because there is none.”

As readers may recall, the BBC failed to report the story of those tunnels beneath UNRWA schools at the time. BBC audiences are also unaware of the case last year in which an UNRWA employee was elected to the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip because the BBC chose to ignore that story too. Listeners would therefore not be able to put Krahenbuhl’s flimsy claim that the statement his organisation issued on the topic of those tunnels is evidence of a ‘robust’ approach to ‘neutrality’ into its correct context and Franks made no effort whatsoever to question him further on the long-standing issue of UNRWA employees with links to terror organisations or support for terrorism and promotion of antisemitism on social media by UNRWA staff.

Franks closed the interview by encouraging Krahenbuhl to give “a message for those listening in Washington”.

Franks: “You say that you’re turning to other donors to try and make up what might be a pretty big shortfall in funding as a result of this change in US policy. If you had a message for those listening in Washington about what this dramatic cut in funding would mean, what would it be?”

Krahenbuhl: “The idea that people have to have in mind is to think about what would it be for one’s own family if we faced a situation of conflict where we’re worried about our future and suddenly the key provider of education, services, is no longer able to deliver that and, you know, yet another avenue or horizon is shut. People have to think about in these terms. When you are in the Middle East today, one of the worst things for the Palestinians – but that affects everybody in the region – is that there is no political horizon, there is no personal horizon. There is no freedom of movement, no jobs to be found. We have some of the most, you know, extraordinarily courageous students probably on the planet. I handed over a certificate to a 15 year-old student in Gaza two years ago who had survived an air strike on her home, had spent seven months in a coma. When she woke up she was told by the doctor that her mother and one of her brothers was killed in the strike and yet she was one of the highest performing students in our school. And she has an outlook on life. She wants to be recognised for her skills, for her abilities. She doesn’t want to be seen by the world as only a refugee or a victim. And I think what we need in this region is to rediscover the humanity in people. You know I can…if I believed that polarisation would lead to a solution or to an improvement, I would embrace polarisation but I don’t see that. I see humanity being rediscovered in everybody as being the way forward.”

Franks: “Pierre Krahenbuhl: the boss of UNRWA, the UN agency which supports millions of Palestinian refugees.”

Obviously this interview was not intended to provide BBC audiences with information which would enhance their understanding of the criticism of UNRWA’s mission and performance. Rather, the BBC chose – not for the first time – to provide the UN agency’s head with a friendly platform from which to promote his PR campaign in a near monologue that went unchallenged in any serious manner.  

Related Articles:

BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one


BBC WS facilitates UNRWA PR yet again – part one

As regular readers will be aware, the BBC’s coverage of the US administration’s announcement on January 16th that it would be withholding part of its donation to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been extensive.

BBC News report on UNRWA funding story omits relevant background

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part one

BBC WS Newsday coverage of UNRWA aid story – part two

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part one

Falsehoods go uncontested on BBC World Service – part two

Three BBC articles on US aid promote an irrelevant false comparison

BBC’s Yolande Knell amplifies UNRWA’s PR campaign

However, the BBC’s reports have consistently failed to provide its funding public with information concerning the multiple issues that have made UNRWA so controversial or conduct any in-depth examination of the agency’s purpose, its agenda, its record or its efficiency.

UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, recently visited London – according to the Guardian, in order “to brief Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt”. As the Guardian’s report shows, one of the main talking points in Krahenbuhl’s efforts to solicit donations to his organisation is the claim that cuts to UNRWA’s services are liable to increase radicalisation.

“Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency, added that cuts in support to the already impoverished and demoralised population his organisation supports – many of them victims of recent conflict – risked radicalising a new generation of young Palestinians. […]

“I have just come from the Munich security conference. At every seminar, people were asking the same question: about security and how we combat radicalisation. If you want to ask us how to avoid radicalising Palestinian youth, then it is not by cutting $300m in our funding.””

Another port of call on Krahenbuhl’s London trip was the studios of the BBC World Service – which is of course partly funded by the UK government. The February 19th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item described in the synopsis as follows:

“How will UN’s Palestinian refugee agency make up for loss in funding from the US?”

Presenter Tim Franks introduced the nearly seven-minute-long item (from 30:06 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Franks: “Donald Trump, you may have noticed, Tweets a lot. One of his more consequential came right at the start of the year – January the 2nd to be precise. ‘We pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect’ he Tweeted. It was a sentiment he gave voice to at the Davos Economic Forum later that month.”

Recording of Trump: “When they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great vice-president to see them and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support – tremendous numbers; numbers that nobody understands. That money’s on the table. That money’s not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace.”

Franks: “Well the practical result of that frustration is that now the vast bulk of US funding is to be withheld from UNRWA – the UN agency set up to look after what are now 5 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza and across the Middle East. Pierre Krahenbuhl is the boss of UNRWA. He’s currently in London.”

Predictably Franks refrained from informing listeners that the reason there are “now 5 million Palestinian refugees” is that, unlike the UN agency which takes care of all other refugees, UNRWA does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside – even if they live in Palestinian controlled areas – nor “resettlement” in third countries.

Listeners then heard the following conversation:

Krahenbuhl: “The United States has been the single largest and also very predictable and generous donor over decades and in 2017 contributed 364 million [$] to UNRWA and for 2018 has announced a contribution of 60 million so it’s a difference of 300 million. And that has become effective. This 60 million were transferred to UNRWA and that is the indication that we have for this year.”

Franks: “So what are you going to have to cut as a result of that?”

Krahenbuhl: “Well first of all I’m going to mobilise other donors and we’re looking for new funding lines and so we did two things: of course on the one hand with member states and the other, we launched a global public campaign called ‘Dignity is Priceless’ to tap into a lot of sympathy and solidarity that we have witnessed following the announcement by the US and a lot of people who are prepared to come and support.”

Franks: “But are you doing what is partly behind this move by the US – or at least how President Trump has explained it – which is that it is time for other countries, other donors to play a bigger role?”

Krahenbul then raised his ‘radicalisation’ talking point.

Krahenbuhl: “I take your point about the issue of redistribution but you know I don’t have, as commissioner-general, the luxury of having reserves. The only thing that I have is to go back to the member states of the [UN] General Assembly that gave UNRWA the mandate in 1949 to say ‘this is the situation I’m faced with – we need to find solutions’. Because what is at stake is not UNRWA as an organisation. What’s at stake is access to education for 525 thousand students. You know I was just at the Munich Security Conference. You cannot go to a single corridor in the hotel that hosted that without somebody asking ‘are you concerned about further radicalisation in the Middle East?’. So having 525 thousand Palestinian students, boys and girls, who are hoping for a better future no longer having access to education is certainly not an investment in regional security.”

That talking point was not however subjected to any critical examination by Tim Franks even though it would obviously have been helpful to the BBC’s funding public – who also of course fund the UK government Foreign Office which Krahenbuhl came to “brief” – to know what evidence there is to back the idea that nearly seventy years of UNRWA activity has countered radicalisation among the people it registers as refugees.

The current head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, grew up – as the BBC knows – in an UNRWA administered refugee camp and attended an UNRWA run school. Hamas’ current leader in the Gaza Strip – convicted murderer Yahya Sinwar – likewise grew up in an UNRWA refugee camp. One of Hamas’ founders – Ibrahim al-Makadmeh – spent his childhood in UNRWA’s Jabaliya camp and attended an UNRWA school, as did former Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades leader Saleh Shehadeh.

Nevertheless, Tim Franks made no effort to inform ‘Newshour’ listeners of those and many other examples of members of Palestinian terror organisations who contradict Krahenbuhl’s claim that an UNRWA education is “an investment in regional security”.

The rest of Franks’ interview with UNRWA’s commissioner-general will be discussed in part two of this post.


BBC News flunks on Palestinian internal affairs yet again

As has been noted here in the past, BBC coverage of internal Palestinian affairs is typically decidedly sparse.

In July 2014 the BBC’s World Editor Andrew Roy told audiences that:

“…the BBC’s one of the few organisations that has permanent offices in Gaza, in Ramallah, in Jerusalem, so we are better placed than many to make sure that we report both sides of the story.” 

The BBC’s interpretation of what “the story” is about is however very limited and its coverage focuses overwhelmingly on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Although the conflict is clearly just one story among many in the region, only very occasionally do audiences see stand-alone reports about Palestinian affairs which are not framed within that context and do not have an Israel-related component.

Insight into internal Palestinian politics which would enhance audiences’ comprehension of Palestinian society (as well as the conflict) is relatively rare in BBC coverage. Reporting on social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is even more scarce and thus BBC audiences see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life.

Throughout the whole of 2017 (see ‘related articles’ below) the BBC News website published a total of twenty-eight articles relating to Palestinian affairs. In contrast, Israeli affairs were the topic of eighty-two BBC reports.

Six of the 28 reports related to the topic of the chronic electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip:

Gaza electricity crisis: Hamas breaks up protest discussed here

Angry protests in Gaza over crippling power shortages Rushdi Abu Alouf, discussed here

Gaza power cuts: Man shares his tricks discussed here

Palestinian Authority ‘stops paying Israel for Gaza electricity’ discussed here

Gaza residents left in the dark amid Palestinian power struggle Yolande Knell, discussed here

Gaza’s only power plant resumes after Egypt fuel delivery

Four of the reports related to Hamas’ leadership and policy document:

Hamas hardliner Yehiya Sinwar elected as Gaza leader discussed here

New Hamas policy document ‘aims to soften image’ discussed here

How much of a shift is the new Hamas policy document? Yolande Knell, discussed here

Hamas chooses Ismail Haniya as new leader discussed here

Two articles reported on executions carried out by Hamas:

Hamas executes three ‘Israel collaborators’ in Gaza

Gaza Palestinians: Hamas kills three ‘collaborators’

One reported related to the economic situation in the Gaza Strip:

Qatar Gulf row threatens cash crisis for Gaza Yolande Knell, discussed here

Three reports related to social stories from the Gaza Strip:

Gaza conjoined twins ‘need life-saving treatment abroad’ discussed here

Gaza amputees explain their unique friendship discussed here

Gaza commemorates Yasser Arafat anniversary

Three reports related to Palestinian Authority/US relations:

Trump Middle East: Palestinian leader invited to White House discussed here

Palestinians ‘could freeze US ties’ over Washington office closure

Palestinians recall envoy to US  discussed here

One report related to PA censorship:

Palestinian Authority ‘detains rights activist over criticism’ discussed here

Six reports related to the Hamas-Fatah unity deal which did not transpire:

Hamas says it is ready to hold first elections since 2006 discussed here

Palestinian PM in rare Gaza visit as rift with Hamas eases discussed here

Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah end split on Gaza discussed here

Palestinian unity deal: Gazans hope for end to feud Yolande Knell

Hamas must disarm to join Palestinian unity government – US discussed here

Hamas hands PA control of Gaza border crossings discussed here

Two reports related to travel/tourism:

The ancient path through Palestine BBC Travel

The Palestinian dessert few can enjoy BBC Travel, discussed here

On February 19th 2018 what appeared at first glance to be a rare report on a Palestinian social issue appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Gaza women’s TV channel blocked by Hamas” and an Arabic language version of the report was posted on the BBC Arabic website.

“Authorities in Gaza have blocked the launch of a women’s television channel there, just before it was due to go on air.

Officials from the Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas, which dominates the territory, said Taif TV had not obtained the necessary licences.

However the channel said it had met all the legal requirements.”

The vast majority of the article’s word-count (78%) was devoted to quoting claims and counter-claims regarding the TV channel’s licence.

Notably – in contrast, for example, to the Times of Israel report on the same story – the BBC’s article did not inform readers of angry reactions to the Hamas decision from members of the Palestinian public.

Although the BBC chose to raise the subject of women’s rights in the Gaza Strip in this report, it devoted remarkably little of its word-count to that topic.

“Civil liberties groups have long criticised Hamas for what they say is a poor record on women’s rights in Gaza.” […]

Hamas has long been accused of discriminating against women since it reinforced its hold on power in Gaza after ousting its secular Fatah rivals in 2007.”

That link leads to a report by Freedom House in which just one of the thirty-nine paragraphs gives a very brief and generalised portrayal of the situation of women in the Gaza Strip.

In other words, once again the BBC has failed to make the most of an opportunity to provide audiences with meaningful insight into social issues within Palestinian society.

Related Articles:

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q1 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q2 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q3 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News website portrayal of Israel and the Palestinians in Q4 2017 – part two

Reviewing BBC News coverage of internal Palestinian affairs



Serial BBC failure to report rocket attacks comes home to roost

On the afternoon of February 17th an incident took place along the border fence with the Gaza Strip in the Khan Younis region.

“Four IDF soldiers were wounded when an explosive device was detonated on an IDF patrol along the Gaza Strip border on Saturday. Two of the soldiers were in a serious condition and two were moderately hurt, the army said. […]

The [IDF] spokesperson told reporters that the patrol stopped along the border to remove a flag that had been placed at the fence a day earlier during a protest, and that a device planted below the flag then detonated.”

Following that attack the IDF carried out strikes on Hamas military installations in the Gaza Strip. Residents of the Western Negev spent the night in air-raid shelters as alarms went off repeatedly and one house in the Sha’ar HaNegev district was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip – fortunately with no physical injury to the family of five. Further strikes on Hamas and PIJ targets took place after that attack and the following morning another incident took place when two Palestinians approaching the border fence in the southern sector were killed.

On the evening of February 17th the BBC News website published a report titled “Israel Gaza: Four Israeli soldiers injured in border blast” on its Middle East page. The incident that sparked the chain of events was described as follows:

“Four Israeli soldiers have been hurt, two of them seriously, in an explosion near the Israeli-Gaza border.

The army said a Palestinian flag was flying in the area, and when the troops approached they were hit by the blast.”


“No group has so far said it was behind Saturday’s explosion, which happened at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) east of the town of Khan Younis.

The army said the explosive device had been planted during a demonstration there on Friday and was attached to a flag.

The troops were approaching from the Israeli side when the device detonated.”

BBC audiences were not informed that the army also commented on Hamas’ involvement in that “demonstration” and others.

“The [explosive] device belonged to rogue organizations and not Islamic Jihad. Hamas is responsible for the incident because it brought protesters to these ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations during the past few weeks, which are then utilized for terror.”

Despite photographs of the damage caused to the house that took a direct hit on its roof being readily available in the Israeli media, the BBC’s report described that incident as follows:

“Israeli media also said a rocket from Gaza fell near a house in the south of the country on Saturday evening. There were no casualties.” [emphasis added]

Readers were told that:

“Correspondents say the border area has been generally quiet in the last few years but there has been an increase in violence since US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The same statement (together with the claim that “a rocket from Gaza fell near a house”) appeared in an article titled “Israel Gaza: Air strikes follow bomb blast on Gaza border” which replaced the previous one on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of February 18th.

While the “correspondents” who made that statement were not identified, it is of course significant that throughout 2017 BBC journalists based in Jerusalem ignored the vast majority of missile attacks that were launched from the Gaza Strip and that two of the three attacks that were reported were attributed – as in this report – to ‘rising tensions’ following the US announcement recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In late 2014 and throughout 2015 the majority of attacks launched from the Gaza Strip were not reported in English and in 2016 the BBC ignored all but one attack. The four attacks in 2018 which took place before this latest one were similarly ignored.

It is hence unsurprising that BBC journalists describe the Gaza border area as “generally quiet” despite the fact that – as noted by the ITIC in a summary (Hebrew – see p. 42) of last year’s terror attacks – during 2017 there was a 50% rise in rocket fire against Israel compared to the previous year.

As has been noted here on several occasions in the past, the fact that the BBC routinely under-reports terrorism against Israel – including missile attacks – leads to audiences and BBC journalists alike being unable to put events into their appropriate context when Israel is obliged to respond.

Related Articles:

For the first time this year, BBC reports Gaza rocket attacks on Israeli civilians

Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

BBC News reverts to ignoring Gaza missile fire