BBC chooses not to report Hamas abuse of medical permits yet again

Readers may recall that just over a month ago listeners to BBC domestic radio’s news and current affairs station, Radio 4, were told by a presenter of the ‘Today’ show (which reaches 6.8 million listeners a week) that:

“The fact remains that healthcare restrictions are being used to dehumanise the Palestinian people…” 

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get a distorted view of medical permits – part one

BBC R4’s ‘Today’ listeners get distorted view of medical permits – part two

As was noted here at the time, the BBC has a history of ignoring stories (see ‘related articles’ below) which explain the need for security checks before permits are given to residents of the Gaza Strip to travel to or through Israel for the purpose of medical treatment. 

Last week another such story emerged when the Israel Security Agency announced the arrest of a Hamas explosives expert who had entered Israel with a humanitarian permit for medical treatment. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“Fadi Abu al-Sabah, a 35-year-old resident of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was arrested in Taybeh by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police on May 18, 2019.

According to the Shin Bet, he was recruited to set up an explosive manufacturing laboratory in July 2018 by Ashraf Sabah, a 37-year-old Hamas activist from the Gaza Strip who had been released from prison in Israel in 2015 after serving 12 years in prison for his involvement in attacks against IDF forces along the Gaza Strip border and planning other terrorist attacks.
The agency said that he was first approached after Sabah heard that he was in the process of getting a humanitarian permit for medical treatment in the West Bank.

Fadi al-Sabah then secretly met with operatives from Hamas’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades and underwent “intensive military training” including training in how to manufacture explosives and explosive charges which he could then teach to Hamas operatives in the West Bank. […]

Al-Sabah “took advantage of the humanitarian permit he received from Israel to enter for medical treatment in Hebron, but in practice did not arrive at the hospital, but he joined forces with elements in Hebron in order to promote terrorist activities and carry out his mission,” the Shin Bet statement said.”

A truly impartial media organisation would of course make sure to report such stories in order to ensure that its audience had been given the full range of information necessary for proper understanding of the subject.

Once again, however, the BBC has chosen to ignore a story about Hamas terrorists exploiting the humanitarian aid Israel provides to residents of the Gaza Strip and that not only means that audiences are not fully informed, but also that BBC employees such as Mishal Husain can continue to use their publicly funded platform to promote their chosen brand of journalistic activism unhindered by inconvenient truths.

Related Articles:

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

BBC’s Hadya Alalawi promotes myth of Israeli restrictions on medical supplies to PA

June 18th saw the appearance on the BBC News website of a filmed report by Hadya Alalawi titled “West Bank’s prosthesis factory struggles with funding“. The synopsis of the report reads as follows: [emphasis added]Prosthesis factory

“The West Bank’s only factory making prosthetic limbs says it’s struggling to provide treatment for its Palestinian patients.

According to the World Health Organisation, Israeli controls on the import of medical supplies to the West Bank, and restrictions on the movement of patients and health workers, mean many Palestinians have difficulty accessing health services.

Israel says the restrictions are necessary security measures.

Now the Kolaykelah factory says it needs to be subsidised by the Palestinian government if it is to meet the rising cost of medical materials.

Hadya Alalawi reports.”

So where did that unreferenced statement concerning the WHO come from? Well, coincidentally or not, the Wikipedia page titled ‘Healthcare in the Palestinian Territories’ states, inter alia:

“A 2012 study commissioned by the World Health Organization identifies the Israeli Military’s blockades of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a major health challenge.”

There is, of course, no “blockade” on PA-controlled areas of Judea & Samaria and restrictions on entry of dual-purpose items into the Gaza Strip do not include medical supplies.

The reference cited to support that claim is a report titled “Barriers to the access to health services in the occupied Palestinian territory: a cohort study” which appeared in late 2012. At least two of the authors of that report are currently involved in political campaigning via NGOs: Jenny Oskarsson of Norwegian People’s Aid and Tony Laurance of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

So is the BBC’s claim that “Israeli controls on the import of medical supplies to the West Bank ….mean many Palestinians have difficulty accessing health services ” (which of course implies that the supplies are inadequate) an accurate one? Well, no. BBC Watch contacted the relevant Israeli authorities and was informed that all medication, based on international standards, is approved.

The Health Department of the Civil Administration (HDCA) also facilitates training for Palestinian medical staff and coordinates the transfer of Palestinians to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment. Access to treatment in Israel does have to be approved due to instances in the past in which such visits were exploited for terrorism – an issue which apparently is of little interest to both the BBC and the WHO.

Here are some recent statistics which demonstrate the inaccuracy of the politicised claims made in the synopsis to this BBC report:

  • In 2013, 225,410 medical related permits were issued, 100,145 for patients, 121,967 for family members accompanying patients, and 3,298 for visiting patients receiving treatment in Israel.
  • In 2013 the number of emergency medical evacuations rose, with Israel providing 2,207 evacuations by ambulance (up from 600 in 2012) and 11 medical evacuations by helicopter (up from 10 in 2012).
  • COGAT also arranged for the overseas treatment of five Palestinians whose medical needs were unable to be met in Israel.
  • The number of Palestinian children from the West Bank who received medical treatment in Israel in 2013 stood at 40,000, an increase from the previous year’s 21,270.
  • COGAT spent more than a million NIS to provide various treatments for dozens of Palestinian children hailing from families unable to afford the necessary medical bills.
  • In 2013, 2,314 Palestinian doctors, nurses, and other medical health care professionals attended the 159 courses, conventions, and programs that Israel hosted.
  • COGAT participates in a special program for training physicians, nurses and technicians at Israeli hospitals, for the sake of operating hospitals in Judea and Samaria, and improves the Palestinian health system. Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital trains 60 Palestinian interns who are replaced every year.

In the filmed report itself, Hadya Alalawi states:

“Many of the recipients [of prosthetic limbs] were wounded in the conflict with Israel.”

The report then cuts to the factory’s director who says:

“The main reason behind building this factory was the occupation because a lot of people were injured as a result.”

Whilst that statement may be intended as PR to contribute to the factory’s fundraising efforts, like this report’s synopsis it does not meet the standards of accuracy and impartiality set out in BBC editorial guidelines. The fact is that it is not “the occupation” which has resulted in injuries, but rather the Palestinian decision to engage in terrorism and violence and that point should of course have been made clear to BBC audiences, along with an accurate, impartial and unpoliticised account of the coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on healthcare.