The Gaza electricity stories the BBC reports – and the ones it doesn’t

As readers may recall, in late July 2014 the BBC devoted considerable coverage to the topic of an explosion at Gaza’s power plant which was inaccurately portrayed as a deliberate strike on the facility.Power plant Morris and Patience 2

The topic of the Gaza Strip’s utilities also featured in subsequent BBC reports, including one by Yolande Knell in which audiences yet again were given inaccurate information concerning the reasons for the chronic shortages of electricity in the territory.

“The manager, Rafik Maliha, has been here since the electricity plant opened a decade ago. It was supposed to make use of the latest technology to meet rising demand. Instead, it’s faced constant challenges. It’s been caught up in previous fighting between Hamas which controls Gaza and the group’s sworn enemy Israel. Tight border restrictions limited fuel imports. Although power cuts were common in Gaza before, now they’re much worse.” [emphasis added]

Since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, that same power plant has again stopped functioning on several occasions. Those stories had nothing to do with Israel and were not reported by the BBC.

BBC silent on latest Gaza power plant shut down

No BBC reporting on latest power crisis in the Gaza Strip

BBC News passes up the chance to set the record straight on Gaza shortages

One result of the ongoing dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority which has brought about regular power shortages and stoppages is the failure to treat sewage and the consequent flow of untreated waste into the sea.

Gaza City from Zikkim

Gaza City from Zikkim

Israel recently announced that it will increase the supply of electricity it provides to the Gaza Strip in order to enable the recently completed sewage treatment plant there to operate effectively.

“The $100 million sewage plant, built with financing from the World Bank, does not have enough electricity to fully operate. The only power plant in Gaza has periodically halted production because of disputes over fuel tax payments between Hamas, the Iran-backed terror organization that rules the territory, and Fatah, the party in charge of the Palestinian Authority. The plant now runs on reduced capacity, meaning that Gaza residents usually only have six to eight hours of electricity per day, despite assistance from Israel and Egypt. Israel already provides about 30 percent of Gaza’s electricity needs, an IDF spokesman told the Associated Press in May. […]

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of national infrastructure, energy, and water, approved the increased power supply earlier this week. The move comes amid reports that Israel’s massive desalination plant in Ashkelon has had its operations disrupted several times in recent months due to high levels of water pollution, affecting Israel’s potable water supply.”

To date BBC audiences have not seen any coverage of this particular Gaza Strip electricity story.

Related Articles:

BBC sidesteps the story of PA electricity debt to Israel




BBC promotes selective narrative on PA economy

On March 25th the BBC published an article on the Middle East page of its website entitled “Israel to resume transfer of PA tax revenue“. 

PA tax revenue

The word “resume” is defined as meaning “to begin or take up again after interruption” and so its use in this BBC headline would naturally suggest to reasonable readers that there had been a break in the monthly transfers of tax revenues collected by Israel to the Palestinian Authority. The question is therefore; is that choice of wording an accurate representation of the situation?

At the beginning of December 2012, the former Israeli Minister of Finance announced that he would not transfer to the PA the sum of 460 million shekels due in tax and customs revenues which Israel collects on behalf of the PA under the terms of the 1994 Paris Protocol – the chapter of the Oslo Accords dealing with financial affairs. Although members of the press – both domestic and foreign – were quick to label that announcement as being ‘punishment’ for the PA’s breach of the Oslo Accords in the form of its bid for UN observer status, that factor was not mentioned by Minister Steinitz. At the time, the Palestinian Authority was in arrears to the tune of some 800 million shekels to various Israeli bodies, including the Israeli Electric Corporation, to which it owed the vast majority of that sum for electricity already consumed in PA-controlled areas and the Gaza Strip. 

In January 2013 Israel transferred the sum of $100 million from the December 2012 revenues to the PA – as the BBC itself notes in the above report. In February 2013 the revenues for January and February were transferred to the PA.

Hence, any ‘break’ in revenue transfers would be more accurately described as a delay at most, including the sum intended to be used to pay off part of the PA’s considerable debt to the Israeli Electric Corporation. 

What the BBC neglects to tell its audiences in this article is that the American pressure applied upon Israel to come up with a ‘goodwill gesture’ in the form of the transfer of  revenue arrears to the PA includes that sum set aside last December, meaning that the Palestinian debt to the IEC currently stands at 730 million shekels. Negotiations with the PA to come to an arrangement on payment of the arrears have failed to yield results and the IEC now apparently considers that it has little hope of recovering that debt.  Reportedly, the IEC now seeks to make up that serious shortfall in income by requesting permission from the electricity ombudsman for an increase of some 3% on the tariffs paid by Israeli consumers. 

But of course the story of the possibility of Israelis paying for their neighbours’ electricity is not one we are likely to see reported by the BBC. 

Another notable feature of this report is the picture selected by the BBC to illustrate it – together with its caption. 

Protest against the Paris Protocol and the Oslo Agreement in Nablus (16 December 2012)

The caption reads: “Palestinians have been protesting over the economic relationship with Israel”. However, the same photograph was used by the UAE’s ‘The National’ on December 18th 2012, where it was captioned as follows: [emphasis added]

“Palestinians demonstrate against the Paris Protocol and the Oslo Agreement, both key accords which govern economic ties between Palestinians and Israelis, and ask for the boycott of Israeli products in Nablus in the occupied West Bank on Sunday. Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP”

That, of course, reflects the fact that the subject of economic arrangements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as the PA’s economic situation as a whole, is not infrequently used for both domestic and foreign political purposes.  

Interestingly, the BBC appears to be keen to promote the long employed PA narrative of its proverbial impending economic collapse being exclusively due to Israeli actions, despite the lack of fact-based evidence for such claims and the existence of other factors such as recurrent donor shortfalls.

Concurrently, the BBC meticulously avoids informing its audiences of instances of the Palestinian Authority’s dubious financial management – for example its practice of spending over 6% of its budget on paying salaries to imprisoned terrorists and the families of suicide bombers or the recent universal electricity bill amnesty.  

Telling half a story is not compliant with the BBC’s obligations to accuracy and impartiality.