BBC News corrects inaccurate ‘Palestinian unity government’ claims

Earlier in the week we noted that BBC Watch had submitted a complaint to the BBC concerning inaccurate portrayals of control of the Gaza Strip in three separate items of content.

We have now received the following reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch about our article reporting that more than 40 animals have been moved out of “terrible conditions” in a Gaza Strip zoo to a reserve in Jordan, a welfare group has announced (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47848430).

We have since amended the article to now explain that:

Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been ruled separately since 2007, when deadly clashes broke between Hamas and the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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

We have also added a correction note at the bottom outlining this change.

You also raise a fair point about our Palestinian territories profile and we have also since updated the profile and its timeline.

Thank you once again for taking the time and trouble to point this out.”

The footnote added to the April 8th article reads:

The BBC’s Palestinian territories profile previously told audiences that:

“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 has now been amended to read:

“In October 2017, the rivals signed a reconciliation deal that was meant to see Hamas hand over administrative control of Gaza to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, but disputes over disarmament have stalled any progress.”

The profile’s timeline previously read:

“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.”

That has also been amended:

“2017 October – Hamas signs a reconciliation deal intended to administrative control [sic] of Gaza transferred to the Palestinian Authority, but disputes stalled the deal’s implementation.”

While those long overdue corrections are of course welcome, the fact that BBC audiences were for 18 months inaccurately told that the Gaza Strip was under the control of a Palestinian unity government which did not exist is obviously cause for concern for a media outlet which likes to tout itself as “a provider of news that you can trust”.

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BBC News claims Hamas rule in Gaza ended 5 years ago

As noted here some time ago, the BBC News website’s ‘Palestinian Territories’ profile and timeline both inaccurately claim that the Gaza Strip is under the control of a Palestinian unity 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]

“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.”

An article published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page early on the morning of April 8th under the headline “Gaza zoo animals evacuated to Jordan by Four Paws group” gave an account which, while different to the above, promoted the same inaccurate claim that the Gaza Strip is under the control of the PA.

So if Hamas only ruled Gaza until 2014, how come the BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile claims (wrongly) that Hamas let a PA unity government take over control three years later? 

BBC Watch wrote to the BBC News website and also submitted a complaint requesting corrections to all three of those articles. In the meantime, the April 8th article has been amended and the previously inaccurate passage now reads as follows:

“Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been ruled separately since 2007, when deadly clashes broke between Hamas and the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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

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BBC News website’s inaccurate Palestinian territories profile still stands

On February 17th Hamas took over the Gaza Strip side of the Kerem Shalom crossing.

“Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas took control of the Palestinian side of the enclave’s main goods crossing with Israel, the strip’s interior ministry and an official news agency said Sunday, after the Palestinian Authority guards left the terminal.

The PA said Sunday that Hamas had “expelled (its) employees and banned them from entering the crossing,” while Hamas asserted that the PA forces left of their own will.

In a statement, Hamas interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozm said its forces are carrying out “necessary security measures” at the crossing, “especially after the recent events in the Gaza Strip.”

The official PA news site Wafa reported Sunday that the measures included requiring PA forces to provide their fingerprints to their Hamas counterparts — a request they refused. The PA employees had been barred from reaching the crossing for the past three days, according to Wafa.”

Avi Issacharoff explains the story’s background:

“Between 2007, when Hamas took control of Gaza from the PA in a violent coup, and November 2017, the Strip’s various crossings with Israel, including Kerem Shalom, were run by Gazan workers unaffiliated with the PA, meaning they received their salaries from Hamas.

After the partial and temporary reconciliation agreement between the Fatah-led PA and Hamas that month, PA officials returned to the crossings to manage the Gazan side.

On Sunday, for reasons that are not yet fully clear, the PA officials walked out of the Kerem Shalom crossing and have yet to return.

Hamas claims the move was part of the PA’s efforts to punish the group and was intended to shutter the vital crossing. PA officials, meanwhile, complain that their clerks were “expelled” by Hamas officials who took over the administration of the crossing.”

Notwithstanding this latest dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the crossing is to date still operational.

While BBC audiences have seen no coverage of that story, the BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile (last updated in December 2017) and timeline continue to tell audiences that in October 2017 “a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions” and “Hamas lets the Ramallah-based unity government take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations” – despite yet another incident that shows that those claims are patently inaccurate.

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BBC News ignores PA government resignation

One might have thought that the resignation of a prime minister and his entire government would have merited at least a few words on the BBC News website, regardless of the location.

However, when the Palestinian Authority prime minister handed in his resignation on January 29th, BBC audiences saw no coverage whatsoever of that story.

“PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his government tendered their resignations earlier Tuesday, marking the end of a failed unity bid with rival Hamas.

[PA president] Abbas accepted the resignations but assigned Hamdallah and his fellow ministers the task of maintaining the PA government’s operations until the formation of a new one, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

The government’s decision to resign came two days after the Fatah Central Committee recommended the formation of a government made up of representatives of factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization and independent personalities, leaving out Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip. […]

Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad said on Sunday that the Palestinians planned to form a new government in response to Hamas not handing over the Gaza Strip to the PA.”

However, Khaled Abu Toameh reports that Fatah’s plans for a PLO government have already run into choppy waters.

“Two PLO groups announced that they will not participate in a new Palestinian Authority government because it will deepen divisions among Palestinians, consolidating the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. […]

…the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said that they will not be part of a government that “solidifies divisions among” the Palestinians.
Miriam Abu Dakka, a senior PFLP official, said that the PLO, and not Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, was the only party authorized to make a decision on the formation of a new Palestinian government. […]

Another PFLP official, Kayed al-Ghul, pointed out that his group has refused to participate in all Palestinian governments that were established after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993. The PFLP is opposed to the Oslo Accords. […]

Earlier, the DFLP, which is also opposed to the Oslo Accords, said it too would not participate in a new government and called for launching dialogue among Palestinian factions to achieve “national unity.””

Meanwhile, The BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile (last updated in December 2017) and timeline still tell audiences that in October 2017 “a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions” and “Hamas lets the Ramallah-based unity government take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations”, despite the fact that those statements are patently inaccurate.

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Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Tamara Berens explains how an “Anti-Zionist Minority Holds British Universities Hostage”.

“With the BBC’s prominence as a breaking news source on social media, British students have been inculcated with a highly distorted vision of Israel. On campus, students of my age grew up reading extensive reporting on Operation Protective Edge in 2014, characterized by stark omission of the facts on the ground. Coverage of the conflict was marred by the BBC’s repeated failure to showcase the barrage of rockets fired at Israeli homes and city centers – a total of 4,897 rockets in 2014. Trusted news source The Guardian frequently prints opinion pieces rationalizing Palestinian terrorism and portraying Israelis as violent. Ill-informed students in Britain go into university with the impression that Israel is an inherently evil aggressor in a one-sided conflict. With such unchallenged media coverage, who should blame them?”

2) MEMRI reviews the escalation of tensions between Fatah and Hamas.

“Relations between Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, and Hamas are now extremely tense, and the two organizations’ positions have not been farther apart since the 2007 Hamas coup against the PA in Gaza. In recent weeks, the tension has become so great, and the schism between them so wide, that it appears that both sides – which, incidentally, both accuse the U.S. of striving, by means of the Deal of the Century, to create two separate Palestinian entities, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – are doing just that on their own, without any help from the U.S. Things have reached the point where each side is saying that the other no longer represents the Palestinian people, that it will never return to talks or reconciliation efforts, and that it will act to bring down the regime of the other.”

3) Also at MEMRI – translated excerpts from an interview with the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

“Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was interviewed on Channel 4 TV (Iran) on January 22, 2019. He said that the negotiations surrounding the JCPOA had required Iran to destroy the Arak reactor’s calandria by filling it with cement, but that Iran had secretly acquired replacement tubes ahead of time so that the reactor’s functionality would not be ultimately affected. He also said that pictures that had circulated that showed the Arak reactor’s pit filled with cement had been photoshopped. He explained that Iran has no intention to build a nuclear weapon, and that the Arak reactor is nonetheless incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. In addition, Salehi said that the yellowcake production facilities in Ardakan are operational and that Iran has been authorized to produce two additional IR-8 centrifuges. Salehi added that Iran has advanced rapidly in the field of nuclear propulsion.”

4) Khaled Abu Toameh reports on “The ‘Political Detainees’ No One Talks About” at the Gatestone Institute.

“In a letter to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a number of Palestinian human rights organizations recently demanded that the international agency speak out against the politically motivated arrests by the PA in the West Bank.

“We wish to express our deep concern and condemnation over the increased arrest campaigns carried out by the PA security forces against residents because of their opinions and political affiliations,” the organizations said in their letter. They also expressed deep concern over the “systematic torture” of Palestinians in PA prisons. […]

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah can sit pretty, all the same, despite their continued assault on public freedoms. The mainstream media in the West has shown itself to be wholly indifferent to the torture taking place inside Palestinian prisons.”

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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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.”