BBC News report on Rafah crossing omits information

On the afternoon of January 7th a report titled “Palestinian Authority removes staff from Gaza-Egypt crossing” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Relating to an announcement made by the Palestinian Authority the previous day, the article was illustrated with a photograph attributed to AFP which the BBC presented with the caption “It is unclear whether Hamas will be allowed to retake control of the Rafah crossing”. Exactly which body would or would not ‘allow’ such a move was left unclear.

The same photograph appeared in a report published by the Times of Israel but with a caption that quotes most of the original description of the image:

“Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) stand guard outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt just minutes before the Palestinian Authority withdraws its staff (L) from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)”

The ToI went on to report that:

“Hamas members retook control of the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Monday after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its own staff, an AFP journalist and Hamas officials said. […]

An AFP journalist saw officials from Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, at the border crossing’s main gate and inside accompanying offices in southern Gaza on Monday.

A Hamas border official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the terror group that rules the Strip had taken control “to avoid a vacuum.””

However, later on in the BBC’s own report readers found a paragraph that contradicts its photo caption:

“The Palestinian Maan news agency reported that the Hamas-run interior ministry had assumed responsibility for managing the crossing on Monday, but it was not clear whether Egypt would allow it to continue operating.”

Other foreign and local media outlets were able to report on the same day that:

“Egypt will keep its crossing with the Gaza Strip closed to departures from the Palestinian enclave after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its officials amid disagreements with Hamas.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry, controlled by the Hamas terror group, said Monday that Egyptian officials notified them that the crossing would only be open to those entering the Gaza Strip.”

The BBC has to date not bothered to update its article to reflect that development.

In the article’s opening paragraph BBC audiences were told that the Rafah crossing is the “main exit point” from the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it is pulling its staff out of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, effectively closing the main exit point from the coastal territory.”

While the Rafah crossing has been open since mid-May 2018, the BBC’s description does not reflect the situation before that when severe restrictions were imposed for over three and a half years. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

“The Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing, the only crossing for passengers between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, has been open continuously since May 2018, except for holidays and special occasions. This is the longest period of continuous opening since September 2014 when the crossing was closed. Prior to May 2018, the crossing opened for only a few days a year, reportedly due to concerns about security in the Sinai. Despite the improved access since May 2018, over 23,000 people are still registered on a waiting list (that numbered approximately 30,000 previously) according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in Gaza. […]

During the sporadic openings of the Rafah crossing prior to May 2018, an average of some 650 people per day were allowed to exit, but in recent months the daily average has fallen to 343.”

According to UNOCHA figures the average number of monthly entries and exits via the Rafah crossing was 2,393 in 2015, 3,521 in 2016 and 2,930 in 2017. The same agency reports that the average number of monthly exits (only) of Palestinians via the Erez crossing was 15,027 in 2015, 13,187 in 2016 and 6,900 in 2017.

Readers were also told that;

“Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been ruled separately since deadly clashes between Hamas and Fatah broke out in 2007.

Hamas won parliamentary elections in the occupied territories the previous year, and reinforced its power in Gaza after ousting Fatah from the enclave.

Israel and Egypt tightened their blockades of Gaza in response to the Hamas takeover and in an attempt to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants.”

Notably the BBC did not inform its audiences that the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip ‘hostile territory’ in September 2007 came after an increase in terror attacks and rocket fire at Israeli communities near the border.

However, this BBC report did include a mention of the first rocket attack from the Gaza Strip of 2019 which took place in the early hours of January 7th.  

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BBC News report contradicts BBC backgrounder

A report titled “Five arrested after Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation raided” appeared briefly on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the evening of January 5th.

Relating to an incident which had taken place in the Gaza Strip the previous day, the article informed readers that:

“Five men have been arrested after the offices of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation in Gaza were ransacked.

Thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment was destroyed when the armed men attacked the building on Friday.

The broadcaster is funded by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is dominated by the Fatah faction.

Staff initially blamed the raid on the faction’s rivals Hamas, which controls Gaza, but the Islamist group said unhappy PA employees carried it out.”

The report went on:

“The five men who have been arrested are “employees of the Palestinian Authority whose salaries have been cut recently,” the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said in a statement.

“It turned out that one of them was a Palestine TV employee whose salary was cut last month,” it added. […]

The interior ministry said an investigation had been carried out and the men had been identified by surveillance footage and were all members of Fatah.”

The BBC did not explain to its readers how that latter claim squares with other reports from the PA news agency alleging that the attackers had been masked.  Allegations of additional attempted detentions of Fatah linked officials by Hamas were not mentioned and neither was the reported decision by Fatah to close down offices in the Gaza Strip.

The Jerusalem Post reported an apparent additional development hours before this BBC article was published.

“The Palestinian Authority has decided to stop paying salaries to hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including many Fatah members, sources said on Friday.

Palestinians see the move in the context of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s punitive measures against Hamas and his critics in Fatah. These measures were taken last year in response to Hamas’s refusal to hand over full control of the Gaza Strip to Abbas’s Ramallah-based government. […]

Abbas, who is currently visiting Cairo, told Egyptian journalists and writers on Friday night that he was considering halting the monthly PA funds that are earmarked for the Gaza Strip and which, he said, were estimated at $96 million. […]

One Palestinian source told The Jerusalem Post that the latest PA move will affect 169 Palestinians believed to be affiliated with deposed Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, an outspoken political opponent and critic of Abbas. […]

Another source said that dozens of former Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli prison have also been told that they will no longer be receiving their salaries from the PA. Most of the former prisoners are affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but were nevertheless on the payroll of the PA, the source explained. […]

In another sign of mounting tensions between the two sides, Fatah announced that it has decided to close all its offices in the Gaza Strip in protest against Hamas “threats” and “harassment.””

At the end of the BBC’s article readers were told that:

“The two factions [Fatah and Hamas] have been at odds since Hamas seized control of Gaza in a brief but violent battle in 2007.

In October 2017, the rivals signed a reconciliation deal that was meant to see Hamas hand over administrative control of Gaza to the PA, but disputes have delayed the deal’s full implementation.”

Meanwhile, the BBC News website’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile continues to mislead audiences with the inaccurate claim that “a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions in October 2017”.

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The BBC’s redundant ‘Palestinian unity government’ claim

The BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile (last updated in December 2017) tells audiences that:

“The Fatah faction of the PLO ran the PNA until 2006, when Hamas won a majority in Legislative Council elections.

Uneasy co-existence between PNA President Mahmoud Abbas and a Hamas-led government led to violence between armed wings of Fatah and Hamas, culminating in Hamas seizing power in Gaza in June 2007 and President Abbas dismissing the government.

The two PNA areas were then run by the separate factions – the West Bank by Fatah, and Gaza by Hamas – until a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions in October 2017.” [emphasis added]

That same profile’s ‘timeline‘ states:

“2017 October – Hamas lets the Ramallah-based unity government take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations.”

While the BBC enthusiastically reported that ‘unity government’ story at the time, those statements obviously do not reflect Palestinian political reality.

Earlier this week Fatah accused Hamas of arresting a large number of its members in the Gaza Strip.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction claimed on Monday that Hamas has arrested 500 of its activists and officials in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah spokesmen said the arrests were designed to prevent the men from celebrating the 54th anniversary of the launching of its first attack against Israel.”

Although Hamas denied the allegations saying that “only 38 senior Fatah men were summoned for questioning”, as the Jerusalem Post reports the row continues.

“The Hamas crackdown has enraged Fatah leaders in Ramallah. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as chairman of Fatah, launched a scathing attack on Hamas. In a speech, Abbas strongly denounced the Hamas measures against his supporters in the Gaza Strip. He even went as far as hinting that Hamas was working for Israel. “Those who prevent us from marking this occasion are spies,” he said, referring to Hamas. “We have been suffering from the spies here and there, and they will end up in the dustbin of history.” […]

Hamas quickly responded by hinting that the 83-year-old Abbas was senile and talking nonsense. “Abbas’s speech is trivial,” retorted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. […]

Several other Hamas leaders and spokesmen reacted with outrage to Abbas’s charge. They used the words dictator, senile, mentally unstable, traitor, collaborator and liar to condemn the Fatah leader. The Hamas representatives said that Abbas was the real collaborator because of the security coordination between his security forces and Israel in the West Bank.”

Prominent analyst Khaled Abu Toameh went on to report that:

“Fatah officials in the West Bank said on Wednesday that Hamas’s actions against their men indicate that there’s no chance that the two parties could ever resolve their differences. The officials pointed out that the Egyptians have given up on their repeated attempts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift.

“That’s it: There will be no dialogue with Hamas,” said Hussein al-Shiekh, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank. “We have notified Egypt and Qatar that their efforts to achieve reconciliation [between Hamas and Fatah] have reached a dead end.” […]

Until recently, it appeared as if the Egyptians were on the verge of reaching another “historic” reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah. The two parties have signed several reconciliation accords in the past 11 years, but none have been implemented. The last reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo in October 2017. That accord, too, has yet to be implemented.

Judging from the actions and words of Fatah and Hamas, it now seems that the chances of ending the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are virtually zero.”

Clearly it is high time for an update to bring the BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile into step with reality.

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BBC News continues to side-step internal Palestinian politics

While BBC reporting on internal Palestinian affairs is relatively rare, audiences are nevertheless regularly told that Hamas “won parliamentary elections in 2006”. The topic of the stagnated Palestinian political system that includes a non-functional defunct parliament and a president poised to enter the fifteenth year of his four-year term of office next month is however rarely covered in BBC reporting.

In recent weeks a story has been brewing which may signal upheaval in the Palestinian political system. Earlier this month Mahmoud Abbas announced plans to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

“Shortly after Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the Gaza Strip in 2007, the PLC stopped convening, essentially becoming defunct.

In the West Bank, some PLC members have continued to meet to discuss drafts of laws proposed by the PA government, but they have been unable to exercise legislative powers including those related to oversight.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, a number of Palestinian parliamentarians have continued to meet to discuss political developments. However, Ramallah-based Palestinian officials have strongly opposed those meetings, with some calling them “illegitimate.”

74 of the 132 PLC members are affiliated with Hamas; the last elections for the PLC were held in 2006.”

On December 22nd Abbas again expressed that intention.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas once again pledged on Saturday to implement a court ruling and dissolve the parliament controlled by his Hamas rivals, triggering warnings of chaos from the Islamist terror group. […]

“We resorted to the Constitutional Court and the court decided to dissolve the PLC and called for parliamentary elections in six months and we have to execute this [decision] immediately,” Abbas told a Palestinian Liberation Organization meeting in Ramallah.”

Coming in the wake of failed Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ negotiations in Cairo, Abbas’ move – which is opposed by Hamas – is seen by analysts as an attempt to prevent Hamas from gaining control of the Palestinian Authority.  

“Abbas’ change of heart is not because he is suddenly interested in democracy. Rather Abbas is recognizing that at 83 years old he must consider what will happen the day he leaves office. Under PA law should the president leave office without a successor, the Speaker of the Parliament takes over as President of the Palestinian Authority for two months after which presidential elections are held. The current Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament is Aziz Al-Dweik from Hamas.

So under PA law Hamas would rule the PA, should Abbas leave his position. […]

Although Abbas has refrained from explaining his decision to disband the parliament, the rationale underlying the move would appear to be his fear that Hamas would legally take control of the PA, even without new elections. While the PA Basic Law does limit the interim presidency to two months there is no guarantee that Hamas once ruling the PA would allow for new elections.”

Notably, BBC audiences have to date heard nothing of this potentially significant development.

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Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Nadav Shragai discusses the threats against Arab residents of Jerusalem ahead of upcoming municipal elections.

“Ten weeks before the local elections in Jerusalem on October 30, 2018, terrorist organizations are increasing the pressure on east Jerusalem residents to stay away from the voting booths and maintain the boycott of Jerusalem’s municipal elections as in the past. While the pressure grows, this time surveys and some new, different voices reflect a desire among many Arab east Jerusalemites to participate in the elections. They seek to become part of the municipal establishment so that they can wield influence and channel budgets into services and infrastructure for the Arab neighborhoods.”

2) At the INSS Yohanan Tzoreff analyses the recent PLO Central Council meeting.

“The Central Council meeting took place in the shadow of a threat to the PLO’s status as the exclusive representative of the Palestinian people, and the possibility of a solution imposed on the Palestinians that would sever the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. In addition, there is evidence of some desire to isolate Abu Mazen himself given his opposition to any measure that might promote the Trump administration’s policy in the region, especially any measure that Abu Mazen regards as liable to cause a split among the Palestinians. The rhetoric at this conference therefore featured threats and warnings against any action harmful to Palestinian national interests and liable to play into the hands of the United States and Israel, which ostensibly aim to perpetuate the split among the Palestinians, prevent formation of a Palestinian state according to the framework outlined in 1988, and promote the “deal of the century” that President Trump’s emissaries have drafted over the past 18 months. The conference was marked by the absence of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) from the discussions, in protest at having its representatives excluded from PLO offices and what was described as a takeover by Fatah of the PLO and general Palestinian national decision making.”

3) At the FDD Benjamin Weinthal and Julie Lenarz take a look at “Iran’s forgotten persecuted Christian minority“.

“Christianity, of course, is not alien to Iran where it arrived in Persia not long after the death of Christ. There are believed to be an estimated 350,000 Christians in Iran, with a growing trend toward converting to Christianity. Iran’s Statistical Center reports 117,700 Christians in a country of just over 82 million people.

The real number of Iranian Christians probably exceeds 350,000 because of the anti-Christian conditions they face in the country. Turning inward not to expose oneself to the dangers of practicing Christianity has become a survival strategy in Iran.

The law heavily discriminates against non-Muslims, who have been barred from all influential positions in central state organs since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Blasphemy and apostasy remain capital offences.”

4) As the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Agreement approaches, Joel Singer gives his view at the Fathom Journal.

“It then became clear that Arafat was prepared to make bold choices only with regard to less important issues. When the parties reached the important issues, Arafat constantly sought internal Palestinian consensus. Such a consensus necessarily required that Arafat’s positions on permanent status agreement issues be acceptable to the PLO’s arch enemy Hamas, an organisation that rejected the Oslo Agreement and whose main objective continued to be the destruction of the State of Israel. In other words, rather than De Gaulle, Nixon or even Anwar Sadat, Arafat ultimately proved himself to be unwilling and incapable.

Arafat’s heir, the non-charismatic Mahmoud Abbas (known as Abu Mazen), while perhaps a bit more willing, especially with regard to maintaining security cooperation with Israel, is even less capable of making the kind of historic decisions that are required to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No wonder, therefore, that the Oslo-based peace process has all but come to a standstill.”

Superficial BBC WS reporting on Gaza truce discussions

The August 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 48:46 here) which was introduced by presenter Rebecca Kesby using the standard sanitised BBC portrayal of the ‘Great Return March‘ violent rioting and with the firing of hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians by terror factions erased from audience view.

Kesby: “Egypt has taken on a big task, apparently organising and implementing a truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The agreement is reportedly aimed at calming weeks of border clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel and is planned ahead of the Muslim Adha feast which starts next week.”

On the same day, however, Israeli media outlets reported that Hamas officials had stated that no agreement would be reached before Eid al Adha.

“A member of the Hamas terror group’s political bureau said Friday that internal Palestinian talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel were put on pause until the conclusion of a Muslim holiday later this month.

“Today we finished a round of consultations in Cairo with the Palestinian factions regarding the calm [ceasefire deal] and the reconciliation” between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, Izzat al-Rishq wrote on his Twitter account, according to Channel 10 news.

“We made clear that we insist that all steps be in a national framework. We presented our vision regarding the calm and we heard ideas and comments from the brothers in the factions,” added al-Rishq, one of the Gaza-based terror group’s top leaders abroad.

“God willing the efforts will renew after the holiday” of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim feast that begins on Tuesday and lasts until the end of next week.”

Kesby then went on to introduce Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz and BBC audiences were told that the potential truce includes several factors.

Pfeffer: “The main component of the deal – which is an unofficial understanding, not a written treaty that either side is signing – is that Hamas is committed to a complete ceasefire.”

Listeners were not told that Hamas’ interpretation of “a complete ceasefire” does not – as the Times of Israel explains – in fact include what Kesby euphemistically described as “border clashes” in her introduction.

“Hamas does not view the ongoing “popular protests” along the border, or the kite and balloon arson attacks that have burned over 7,000 acres of southern Israeli land, as a violation of any such agreement. As far as Hamas is concerned, those attacks are part of the popular Palestinian struggle against Israel. If Hamas does reach a long-term ceasefire deal with Israel, the terror group insists it will be obligated to cease rocket and mortar fire, but nothing more. […]

Conversely, Hamas says it will not agree to such a truce unless Israel stops bombings its facilities in the Gaza Strip, which have caused considerable damage to its infrastructure in recent weeks. […]

Israel has carried out such strikes in response to arson attacks and particularly egregious violence at the protests, and is unlikely to accept an arrangement in which it would agree to halt such responses while Gazans remain free to riot and burn Israeli farmland.”

Pfeffer went on:

Pfeffer: “The next elements are that both Israel and Egypt will reopen the crossings into Gaza, both for people coming in and out – that’s the Egyptian crossing at Rafah – and for cargo which goes in from the Israeli side at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Another component is that the fishermen of Gaza will be able to put out to sea to a much wider area and what is perhaps most problematic – and that’s something which is going to be in the future – opening further negotiations through the Egyptians on prisoner exchanges and the larger plan of infrastructure building in Gaza.”

While BBC audiences have in the past heard plenty about border crossings, fishing zones and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, listeners may well have been confused by the reference to “prisoner exchanges” because – as noted here previously – the corporation has produced no reporting concerning the Israeli civilians held by Hamas in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.

Later on Pfeffer mentioned the Palestinian Authority “who don’t really like to see all this happening without them being involved” but listeners were not told that the day before this report was aired, Mahmoud Abbas had refused to meet the Egyptian intelligence chief to discuss the issue.

Kesby then came up with a totally irrelevant question:

Kesby: “Yeah, you mention Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. We don’t think they’ve been part of these talks at all, do we? And that may not be the only stumbling block: will all this get through the Israeli parliament?

Pfeffer: “Well the parliament doesn’t have to vote on it. It’s not a formal peace treaty; it’s just a ceasefire agreement.”

Pfeffer went on to say that most Israeli cabinet ministers “have agreed in principle to the plan” and that “the real stumbling blocks” are “some minority within Hamas leadership who are reported to be against” before stating that this is the test which will determine the chances of “something more comprehensive” that will “allow people in Gaza to finally begin enjoying a better level of infrastructure and some kind of freedom of movement in and out of the Gaza Strip.”

As we see, BBC World Service listeners were given inaccurate information about the timing of this potential truce and misled with regard to its terms. Audiences heard nothing about the Palestinian Authority’s stance which would enhance their understanding of factors liable to prevent any significant agreement from coming about, including the fact that PA officials have said that “if any deal were reached, the Ramallah government would stop all financial assistance it provides to the Strip”. And once again, the subject of Israeli civilians held prisoner by Hamas was ignored by the BBC.

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A Gaza medical story that is not newsworthy for the BBC

Between mid-September and the beginning of November 2017 the BBC produced numerous reports on the topic of a Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ which was supposed to put the Palestinian Authority back in charge of the Gaza Strip ten years after the Hamas coup.

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 News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

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

BBC News continues to mislead on Gaza electricity crisis

BBC’s chief international correspondent claims Hamas changed its charter

BBC adds superfluous punctuation to US and Israeli statements on Hamas

BBC News continues to conceal Hamas refusals to disarm

Selective BBC framing of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ continues

However, as that ‘reconciliation’ began to falter, so did BBC coverage and so audiences were not informed that the deal it had so generously reported failed to immediately solve an issue which was also the subject of many BBC reports – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s electricity crisis continues but BBC reporting does not

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

Another crisis related to that failed ‘reconciliation’ has recently emerged in the Gaza Strip – as Ha’aretz reports.

“The cleaning and maintenance staff at Gaza’s hospitals went on strike Sunday until further notice to protest the nonpayment of wages.

The 830 people involved work via manpower contractors, but the Health Ministry in Ramallah has failed to pay its share of their salaries for four months. The ministry accuses Hamas of failing to hand over full control over the Strip, a charge Hamas denies. […]

In January the cleaners struck for a few days but returned after receiving part of the money owed them.

At the end of last week, a Hamas delegation headed by Ismail Haniyeh spoke with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo. The Egyptians hope to help the Palestinians resolve the Palestinian Authority-Hamas rift, with the aim of resolving Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.”

The Times of Israel adds:

“Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip, announced on Sunday that it was suspending all surgeries, with the exception of emergency cases, due to a cleaners’ strike over unpaid salaries.

“It has been decided to postpone all scheduled surgeries, including those for patients with tumors,” the hospital said, noting that the decision excluded “life-saving cases.” […]

Last month, the cleaners agreed to return to work after the Palestinian Authority government promised to pay them their salaries. However, the government has since paid salaries for only two months, prompting the cleaners to renew their strike.

Hamas officials have accused the PA government of failing to provide funds to the health system in the Gaza Strip despite a Hamas-Fatah “reconciliation” agreement signed in Cairo in 2017. According to the officials, many hospitals are suffering from a severe shortage in medicine and generator fuel as a result of the PA’s failure to carry out its duties.”

Notably the BBC – which only last month aired a programme in which a Hamas official was allowed to promote the inaccurate yet unchallenged claim that the problems plaguing medical services in the Gaza Strip are exclusively the result of Israel’s counter-terrorism measures – has not found this particular story about Gaza’s medical services newsworthy.

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

As recorded in part one of this post, between October 1st and December 31st 2017, one hundred and six reports relating to Israel and/or the Palestinians appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page (compared to 58 reports in Q3), some of which were cross posted from other sections of the site. 12.3% of those reports covered stories relating to security/terrorism.

The remaining reports can be grouped into a number of categories. (The dates in brackets represent the period of time in which each report was available to visitors to the website’s Middle East page.)

Six reports related to historical subject matter:

Albert Einstein’s happiness note sold for $1.6m (24/10/17 to 25/10/17)

‘My house was occupied by Israeli soldiers’ (4/10/17 to 5/10/17) discussed here

Battle of Beersheba charge recreated for centenary (1/11/17 to 2/11/17) discussed here

Israel’s ancient underwater treasure BBC Travel (9/11/17 to 10/11/17)

Was this the first Dead Sea Scroll? BBC Travel (2/12/17 to 3/12/17)

‘It was an uprising from the heart’ (20/12/17 to 26/12/17) discussed here

Seven items can be categorised as miscellaneous:

Poland asked to explain naked Nazi gas chamber video (30/11/17 to 2/12/17)

Argentina judge seeks arrest of ex-leader Cristina Fernández (8/12/17 to 10/12/17)

Who invented hummus? BBC Travel (12/12/17 to 14/12/17 and 16/12/17 to 19/12/17)

Bethlehem Christmas: Church of the Nativity hosts pilgrims (25/12/17 to 26/12/17)

Bethlehem celebrates Christmas amid heightened tensions  Tom Bateman (24/12/17 to 27/12/17)

Urbi et Orbi: Pope calls for peace for Jerusalem (25/12/17 to 26/12/17) discussed here

Urbi et Orbi: Pope addresses world crises (25/12/17 to 26/12/17)

Fifty-one reports (48.1%) related to Israeli diplomatic/international relations and/or political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict – with two main topics apparent.

a) the Balfour Declaration centenary – 7 reports:

The Balfour Declaration: My ancestor’s hand in history Jane Corbin (31/10/17 to 6/11/17) discussed here and here

Balfour Declaration: Banksy holds ‘apology’ party for Palestinians (1/11/17 to 2/11/17) discussed here

Balfour Declaration: The divisive legacy of 67 words Yolande Knell (2/11/17 to 7/11/17) discussed here and here

New Banksy work unveiled at ‘apology’ party for Palestinians (2/11/17 to 4/11/17) discussed here

Balfour Declaration: Theresa May hosts Israeli PM for centenary (2/11/17 to 4/11/17) discussed here

Balfour Declaration: 100 years of conflict Yolande Knell (2/11/17 to 5/11/17) discussed here

Palestinians call for Balfour Declaration apology  Tom Bateman (2/11/17 to 7/11/17) discussed here

b) the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – 34 reports:

Jerusalem: Opposition to mooted Trump Israel announcement grows (4/12/17) discussed here

Jerusalem: Turkey warns Trump against crossing ‘red line’ (5/12/17) discussed here

Why Jerusalem matters Yolande Knell (6/12/17 to 11/12/17) discussed here

US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (6/12/17)

Jerusalem: Trump move prompts negative world reaction (6/12/17 to 7/12/17)

Palestinians and Israelis on US Jerusalem recognition (6/12/17 to 9/12/17)

Jerusalem status: World condemns Trump’s announcement (7/12/17)

What Trump’s Jerusalem decision means for peace Lyse Doucet (7/12/17 to 11/12/17)

Trumplomacy: Key takeaways from Jerusalem policy shift Barbara Plett-Usher (7/12/17) discussed here

Middle East media reacts to ‘slap of the century’ BBC Monitoring (7/12/17 to 8/12/17)

Trump says US recognises Jerusalem: The speech in full (7/12/17 to 8/12/17)

Trump’s Jerusalem move: Anger in Ramallah and Israeli delight Yolande Knell (8/12/17 to 21/12/17)

Trump’s Jerusalem move: US warns against scrapping Abbas talks (8/12/17)

Trump Jerusalem shift puts counter-terror efforts at risk Frank Gardner (8/12/17 to 22/12/17) discussed here

Tensions high in wake of Donald Trump’s Jerusalem announcement (8/12/17 to 11/12/17)

In Jerusalem on the ‘Day of Rage’ (8/12/17 to 9/12/17)

Muslims protest worldwide against Trump (8/12/17 to 9/12/17)

Jerusalem clashes: Sheltering in a sweet shop (9/12/17 to 12/12/17)

Trump’s Jerusalem move: Arab allies attack decision (10/12/17)

Netanyahu: Palestinians must face reality over Jerusalem (10/12/17 to 11/12/17)

Beirut protests: ‘Jerusalem remains a rallying cry’ Martin Patience (10/12/17 to 19/12/17)

Trump Jerusalem move: Tear gas at Lebanon US embassy protest (10/12/17 to 11/12/17)

EU’s Federica Mogherini rebuffs Netanyahu on Jerusalem (11/12/17 to 13/12/17)

The Israeli PM meets EU foreign ministers, but differences emerge immediately (11/12/17 to 20/12/17)

Muslim nations urge recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital (13/12/17 to 14/12/17) discussed here

Jerusalem: US vetoes UN resolution rejecting Trump’s declaration (18/12/17 to 20/12/17) discussed here

UN Jerusalem vote: US ‘will be taking names’ (20/12/17) discussed here

Jerusalem UN vote: Trump threatens US aid recipients (20/12/17 to 21/12/17)

Trump: Jerusalem UN votes being watched by US (20/12/17 to 21/12/17)

Jerusalem: UN resolution rejects Trump’s declaration (21/12/17 to 22/12/17)

How did your country vote on the Jerusalem resolution? (21/12/17 to 23/12/17)

Nikki Haley warns US will remember UN’s Jerusalem rebuke (21/12/17 to 23/12/17)

Jerusalem: Palestinian leader Abbas spurns US peace plan (22/12/17 to 25/12/17)

US plays hardball at UN over Jerusalem vote Nada Tawfik (23/12/17 to 24/12/17)

c) other:

Israel to join US in quitting Unesco (12/10/17 to 16/10/17) discussed here

Texas city requires Israel pledge for hurricane relief (20/10/17 to 22/10/17) discussed here

Iran ‘sentences Sweden resident to death’ for spying (24/10/17 to 25/10/17)

Miss Iraq and Miss Israel selfie strikes a nerve BBC Trending (16/11/17 to 24/11/17)

Kuwait Airways ‘within its rights’ to ban Israeli – German court (16/11/17 to 20/11/17)

Israeli man’s photos in holy Muslim site cause social media rage (21/11/17 to 23/11/17) discussed here

Israel and Saudi Arabia: What’s shaping the covert ‘alliance’ Jonathan Marcus (24/11/17 to 27/11/17)

Outrage as Iranian wrestler ‘forced’ to lose match BBC Trending (27/11/17 to 5/12/17) discussed here

Jerusalem: Guatemala follows US in planning Israel embassy move (25/12/17 to 28/12/17) discussed here

Saudi chess tournament starts without Israeli players (26/12/17 to 28/12/17)

Ten reports (9.4%) related to Palestinian affairs with half of those devoted to the topic of a Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’:

Palestinian PM in rare Gaza visit as rift with Hamas eases (2/10/17 to 4/10/17) discussed here

Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah end split on Gaza (12/10/17 to 16/10/17) discussed here

Palestinian unity deal: Gazans hope for end to feud Yolande Knell (13/10/17 to 23/10/17)

Hamas must disarm to join Palestinian unity government – US (19/10/17 to 22/10/17) discussed here

Gaza conjoined twins ‘need life-saving treatment abroad’ (23/10/17 to 24/10/17) discussed here

Gaza amputees explain their unique friendship (13/10/17 to 17/10/17) discussed here

Hamas hands PA control of Gaza border crossings (1/11/17 to 2/11/17) discussed here

Gaza commemorates Yasser Arafat anniversary (11/11/17 to 13/11/17)

Palestinians ‘could freeze US ties’ over Washington office closure (18/11/17 to 21/11/17)

Palestinians recall envoy to US (31/12/17 to 1/1/18) discussed here

The thirteen reports (12.3% of the total) concerning Israeli affairs can be divided into sub categories:

a) reports relating to legal and/or criminal issues:

Paradise Papers documents raise questions over African mining deal (6/11/17 to 8/11/17)

Israeli president rejects pardon for soldier Elor Azaria (19/11/17 to 21/11/17) discussed here

b) society:

‘Bloody hour’: Israeli bar discount for women on period (29/10/17 to 31/10/17)

Aharon Shteinman: Ultra-Orthodox spiritual leader dies in Israel (12/12/17 to 14/12/17)

Teva Pharmaceuticals: Israeli drugmaker to cut 14,000 jobs (14/12/17 to 17/12/17)

c) domestic news/politics:

Israel Facebook: Mistranslated post creates security alert (22/10/17 to 23/10/17)

Israel approves 176 new settler homes in East Jerusalem (25/10/17 to 27/10/17) discussed here

Israel honours first recognised Arab Holocaust saviour (27/10/17 to 30/10/17)

Israel health minister resigns over Sabbath rail works (26/11/17 to 28/11/17)

Jerusalem: Israel plans ‘Trump station’ near Western Wall (27/12/17 to 28/12/17)

Israel parliament passes law restricting police powers (28/12/17 to 30/12/17)

Israel: Minister leads prayers for rain to end drought (28/12/17 to 31/12/17)

d) science and technology:

Israeli spies ‘watched Russian agents breach Kaspersky software’ BBC Technology (11/10/17 to 12/10/17) 

Three reports related to British politics:

Priti Patel held undisclosed meetings in Israel  James Landale (3/11/17 to 5/11/17)

Priti Patel apologises over undisclosed Israeli meetings  (6/11/17 to 7/11/17)

Priti Patel quits cabinet over Israel meetings row  (8/11/17 to 9/11/17)

Three related to the US and the JCPOA:

What will Trump do about the Iran nuclear deal? Jonathan Marcus (12/10/17 to 16/10/17)

Trump aims blow at Iran and threatens landmark nuclear deal (13/10/17) discussed here

Iran nuclear deal: Global powers stand by pact despite Trump threat (14/10/17 to 18/10/17) discussed here

As was the case throughout 2016 and in the first three quarters of 2017, (see ‘related articles’ below) Israeli domestic affairs once again received more extensive coverage than did Palestinian affairs in the final quarter of 2017 – notwithstanding the story of the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’.

Throughout the whole of 2017 security related reports accounted for 14.2% of the BBC News website’s articles pertaining to Israel and/or the Palestinians. 25.2% of the coverage related to Israeli affairs while internal Palestinian affairs were the topic of just 8.6% of the articles. The subject most frequently covered in BBC reporting continues to be international relations and conflict politics – 37.9%.

Related Articles:

An overview of BBC News website coverage of the US embassy story

Reviewing BBC coverage of the UN GA Jerusalem vote – part one

An overview of BBC coverage of the Balfour Declaration centenary

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

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 Q3 2017 – part one

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 Q2 2017 – part one

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

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 Q4 2016 – part two (includes links to previous reports)

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few days later full power supply was resumed.

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Gaza’s electricity crisis continues but BBC reporting does not

 

 

 

Hamas ‘Hardtalk’ interview rebuts BBC messaging, perpetuates inaccuracies – part one

On January 8th the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk‘ aired (not for the first time) a televised interview with Hamas’ Mahmoud Zahar on the BBC World News channel and on the BBC News channel.  An audio version of the same interview was also broadcast on BBC World Service radio and a clip from the interview was promoted separately.

“Stephen Sackur speaks to Mahmoud al-Zahar, co-founder of the Islamist movement Hamas. Donald Trump broke with long established diplomatic convention by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His recent tweets on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been music to the ears of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So what do the Palestinians do now? Hamas controls Gaza and has been at loggerheads with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank for more than a decade. Are the Palestinians staring defeat in the face?”

One noteworthy aspect of that programme was Stephen Sackur’s presentation of terrorism as a matter of conflicting narratives.

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

Sackur: “My guest today was one of the co-founders of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Mahmoud Zahar became used to the rigours of violent conflict with Israel. He was imprisoned, deported, his home was targeted, family members – including his son killed. But he and his Hamas colleagues remained committed to an armed struggle whose ultimate objective they characterise as the liberation of all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. To Israel, Hamas is a terrorist organisation and Mr Zahar is a terrorist with blood on his hands. To Palestinians he is one player in a prolonged internecine struggle between Fatah – the organisation led for so long by Yasser Arafat – and Hamas.”

And [from 04:56 in the audio version]:

Sackur: “The truth is, since that decision taken by Trump in December on Jerusalem we’ve seen – what? – a dozen or so rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel. The Israelis have responded by targeting weapons dumps. The truth is everything that you talk about in terms of violent military resistance plays into Israel’s hands. It allows them to characterise you yet again as terrorists out to kill Israeli citizens.”

Sackur’s presentation of course would not have surprised anyone familiar with the BBC’s long history of promoting the ‘one man’s terrorist’ narrative that fails to distinguish between means and ends and results in inconsistent BBC reporting on terrorism in differing locations.

Another notable point was Sackur’s adoption of Hamas’ own terminology and his breach [from 20:09] of the BBC Academy’s “journalists’ guide to facts and terminology” which, as noted here recently on two occasions, instructs the corporation’s staff not to use the term Palestine except in very specific circumstances.

Sackur: “Is the resistance in Palestine now in the hands of ordinary people – young people particularly – not with veteran leaders like you?”

Viewers and listeners may have noticed that during this interview some of the messaging they have previously received from the BBC was contradicted.

For example, the BBC’s long-standing and repeated claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied even though Israel withdrew from the territory over twelve years ago was contradicted by Zahar [from 04:00].

Zahar: “But lastly, lastly by our method of self-resistance, self-defence against the occupation in Gaza we succeed[ed] to eliminate the occupation in Gaza.”

In September of last year the BBC began reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ and produced a considerable amount of content promoting that topic. However, Zahar dismissed the claim of ‘reconciliation’ proposed by Sackur [from 09:02].

Sackur: “I mean you in Hamas, as of October 2017 – just a few months ago – are committed to a reconciliation agreement with Fatah which is supposed to lead to a reunification of the administration in Gaza and supposed to see Fatah and PA – Palestinian Authority – forces take security control in Gaza. Are you suggesting to me that that deal is now completely off?”

Zahar: “First of all I’d like to address that it’s not a reconciliation. This is a misleading name actually. We in Cairo on 2011 agreed to have a deal and agreement in Cairo. This agreement includes the most important point is to run election for the ministerial level, for the legislative council and for the national council level. And we are dead sure that we are going to win this election. At that time we are going to change the attitude of this authority from cooperating with Israel to the degree as we did with the Israeli in 2005. For this reason we are…”

Sackur [interrupts] “We don’t have time for a long history lesson but the bottom line is just a few months ago you were prepared to talk about a deal with Fatah and Fatah insisted part of that deal would be that you would accept Palestinian Authority security control in Gaza and Hamas would ultimately have to give up its weapons. Are you prepared, in Hamas, as part of a national deal, to give up your weapons?”

Zahar: “It’s not a national deal. It’s between Fatah and other national factions but the Palestinian people in the refugee camps, more than six million people outside, they’ve not shared it. I’m speaking about what is the substantial core of this deal you describe in the last few months. It was implementation of the agreement in Cairo 2011. It’s not a reconciliation.”

Another interesting point arising from this interviewee is the discovery that the BBC does know the purpose of the cross-border tunnels dug by Hamas and other terror organisations – despite its ambiguous description of their purpose in the past.

Sackur: [11:43] “…you’re not prepared – are you? – to give up your weapons based control of the Gaza Strip and your continued determination to fire rockets into Israel and dig tunnels under your territory into Israeli territory in order to conduct terrorist operations inside Israel.”

Last year the BBC amply covered the story of the Hamas policy document published in May with some reports inaccurately describing it as a ‘new’ charter signalling a different approach from the terror group and Yolande Knell, for example, telling BBC audiences that “it really drops its long-standing call for an outright destruction of Israel”. However, when Sackur brought up that topic, Zahar put paid to that claim from Knell.

Sackur [from 18:27] “…in May of 2017 your movement came out with a new policy document. For the first time they…you in Hamas said that you would accept a solution which gave the Palestinians a state on the ’67 lines and it looked as though – with a new leader Mr Haniyah in place – it looked as though Hamas was beginning to search for a way to play a role in the peace process; to become – if I may say so – more moderate. Have you walked away from that now? Are you not interested in being more moderate anymore?”

Zahar: “I’m sorry to understand from you because we are speaking about establishment of an independent state in the area for occupied ’67 but this is the continuation of our argument. But we are not going to denounce a square meter of our land which is Palestine.”

Throughout the interview Zahar was permitted to promote inaccurate claims unchallenged by Sackur, as we will see in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

Selective BBC framing of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ continues

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part one: website

BBC coverage of new Hamas document – part two: World Service radio