Weekend long read

1) On July 13th the BBC and CBS News announced a new partnership.

“BBC News and CBS News announced today a new editorial and newsgathering relationship that will significantly enhance the global reporting capabilities of both organisations. The announcement was made by BBC Director of News and Current Affairs James Harding and CBS News President David Rhodes.

This new deal allows both organisations to share video, editorial content, and additional newsgathering resources in New York, London, Washington and around the world. The relationship between BBC News and CBS News will also allow for efficient planning of newsgathering resources to increase the content of each broadcaster’s coverage of world events.

James Harding, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs, says: “There’s never been a more important time for smart, courageous coverage of what’s happening in the world.

“This new partnership between the BBC and CBS News is designed to bring our audiences – wherever you live, whatever your point of view – news that is reliable, original and illuminating. Our ambition is to deliver the best in international reporting on television. We’re really looking forward to working together.” […]

Sharing of content between BBC News and CBS News will begin immediately. Additional newsgathering components will be rolled out in the coming months.”

Information on CBS News reporting is available at CAMERA.

2) MEMRI brings an interesting clip from an interview with a Lebanese politician talking about a topic serially avoided in BBC reporting.

“Today, nobody dares to open his mouth. Thirty ministers in the government, and none of them dares to say to Nasrallah: ‘What gives you the right to say what you say?’ The president keeps his mouth shut. The army commander keeps his mouth shut. The defense and foreign ministers keep their mouths shut. Nobody even mentions U.N. Resolutions 1701 and 1559. Nobody talks about Lebanon’s international obligations. Nobody says that there can be no military force in Lebanon other than the Lebanese army and the U.N. forces.”

3) Another topic that has to date received no BBC coverage is the subject of an article by Avi Issacharoff at the Times of Israel.

“There have been numerous reports in the Arab and Palestinian media recently about meetings being held in Egypt between Abbas’s political rival, Mohammad Dahlan, and the leaders of Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas. These allegedly took place in Cairo under the close supervision of the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, Khaled Fawzy.

Dahlan and Hamas reportedly agreed to establish a new “management committee” of Gaza, which would see the Fatah strongman share control of the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas will likely demand explanations from Sissi as to the nature of these contacts, and Egypt’s support of them.

The PA chief and his allies have been flooded with rumors about a deal being concocted behind the back of the Palestinian Authority, under the auspices of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. These talks are seen by Abbas as insulting, even a spit in the face. Abbas will want to know whether Fawzy’s reported actions were authorized by Sissi.”

4) At the FDD, Tony Badran writes about a development connected to yet another story ignored by the BBC last year.

“Congress passed the first round of Hezbollah sanctions in late 2015. Known as the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA), the bill targeted banks used by the group and its members. After HIFPA became law, there were rumors in the Lebanese press that some jittery banks were closing the accounts of Hezbollah members. One Hezbollah MP did have his bank account closed.

Lebanese institutions then intervened. The Central Bank of Lebanon reversed the decision of the private bank that closed the Hezbollah MP’s account. Meanwhile, according to Arabic media reports, the Ministry of Finance started paying Hezbollah MPs and ministers’ salaries in cash to avoid banks, though the accuracy of these stories is unclear. Eventually, Hezbollah placed a bomb behind a branch of Blom Bank in June 2016, and everyone got the message: be careful about being “overzealous” in complying with U.S. law.

Reports that Congress is working on an updated and tightened HIFPA have caused much consternation in Lebanon, and this time, state institutions are not waiting until after it passes to undermine it. […]

Last month, the Lebanese Parliament passed a new electoral law to govern the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for May of next year. The law includes a little-noticed amendment aimed at preempting future U.S. sanctions.”

5) The Algemeiner brings us a summary of an address by Judea Pearl concerning the morality of the BDS campaign.

“BDS is not a new phenomenon; it is a brainchild of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, who in April 1936 started the Arab Rejectionist movement (under the auspices of the Arab Higher Committee), and the first thing he did was to launch a boycott of Jewish agricultural products and a general strike against Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine from war-bound Europe.

The 1936 manifesto of the rejectionist movement was very similar to what BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti presented here at UCLA on January 15, 2014. It was brutal in its simplicity: Jews are not entitled to any form of self-determination in any part of Palestine, not even the size of a postage stamp — end of discussion!

Here is where BDS earns its distinct immoral character: denying one people rights to a homeland, rights that are granted to all others. This amounts to discrimination based on national identity, which in standard English vocabulary would be labeled “bigotry,” if not “racism.””

 

 

 

In which the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen repeats his ‘no human shields in Gaza’ claims

BBC Radio 4’s series ‘Our Man in the Middle East’ continued on June 16th with episode 15 – titled “Missiles and the Ballot Box” – which was devoted to Jeremy Bowen’s view of the Gaza Strip.

“Jeremy Bowen explores Gaza, the Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement. It’s not a place you would chose [sic] for a Mediterranean holiday, though the Palestinians used to dream of developing a tourist industry, he says. “Israel could recapture Gaza in days if it wanted to. But then it would be responsible for around a million children and about the same number of angry adults. Palestinians can’t destroy a state as strong as Israel. But Israel can’t bludgeon Palestinians into submission either.””

Refraining from informing audiences that hopes of economic development in the Gaza Strip were killed off by, among other things, the Islamist take-over of the territory, Bowen opens the programme with the theme promoted in that synopsis. [emphasis in italics in the original]

“Gaza is not a place you’d choose for a Mediterranean holiday although the Palestinians used to dream of developing a tourist industry. The beaches are sandy and run for 25 miles along the Mediterranean from the top right-hand corner of Egypt. It’s no wider than 7 miles and, apart from the short Egyptian border, it’s entirely surrounded by Israel. Since 2006 [sic] the Palestinian group Hamas – the Islamic resistance movement has controlled it.”

Bowen then goes on to describe the Erez crossing – but without providing listeners with any explanation of why the stringent security measures he portrays in such detail are necessary. He continues:

“Palestinians often call Gaza the world’s biggest jail and it’s hard to argue. Many spend whole lives there without being able to leave. I’ve met thirty-something men who’ve never left.”

Bowen’s portrayal does not clarify to listeners that on average around a thousand people exit Gaza via the Erez crossing every day for medical treatment, commercial, academic or sporting activities or religious trips. He refrains from making any mention of the existence of the crossing into Egypt at Rafah, or why that crossing is so frequently closed by Egypt.

Bowen then gives some historical background but refrains from clarifying that the Gaza Strip was included in the territory allotted for the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people by the League of Nations.

“Gaza was one of the historic towns of Palestine; a small place surrounded by fields and sand dunes when it was captured by Egypt in Israel’s 1948 war of independence. Tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees fled there to escape the Israeli advance or because they were forced out of their homes at the point of a gun.”

The siege – and subsequent evacuation – of Kibbutz Kfar Darom in 1948 is of course not included in Bowen’s account. He goes on:

“Israel captured Gaza from Egypt in 1967 and finally pulled out its soldiers and settlers in 2005, though it still controls who goes in and out by land, sea and air.”

Bowen makes no mention of the fact that agreements on movement and access from and to Gaza were signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority after Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza strip in 2005.  Failing to clarify to listeners why residents of a territory that has been under PA and then Hamas rule for the last twelve years are still classified as refugees or why refugee status is inherited, Bowen goes on:

“These days almost two million people live in the Gaza Strip. About two-thirds of them are descendants of the original refugees. Refugee children are taught at schools run by the UN. Their future is bleak. The UN predicts that Gaza might become uninhabitable by 2020 if there’s no end to the conflict with Israel.”

Ignoring the fact that Egypt saw fit to adopt similar counter-terrorism measures to those introduced by Israel after the violent Hamas coup in 2007 and failing to mention the rise in terrorism that was the cause of those measures, Bowen continues:

“Israel put Gaza under a severe blockade in 2007 after Hamas took over. To overcome it, Palestinians built a network of smuggling tunnels into Egypt. […] For years after Hamas took over Gaza and the Israeli blockade bit hard, almost everything except the most basic commodities was smuggled in from Egypt through the tunnels.”

In fact, smuggling tunnels existed in the Rafah area long before 2007. Bowen’s portrayal of that issue does not include any information concerning the taxes and tariffs levied by Hamas on smuggled goods. Ignoring Egyptian actions against the tunnels, Bowen tells listeners that:

“Israel used to bomb the tunnels to uphold their blockade and because weapons were also smuggled through them. The blockade, the bombing and Israeli fears about Hamas weaponry all ramped up the tension.”

Having told listeners that the Hamas-Fatah split is rooted in “the death of Yasser Arafat”, Bowen goes on to refer to the Hamas Charter in the past tense.

“Hamas had a charter calling for its [Israel’s] destruction and was designated by Israel and the West as a terrorist group. The crunch came after Hamas unexpectedly won the elections in 2006. The Americans, proselytising hard for democracy, had pushed for the vote. But it didn’t produce the result they wanted. A few months later I was in the office of one of the top diplomats at the State Department in Washington DC. He sat back in his chair. ‘Of course’ he said ‘ it’s the wrong result. We’re going to have to overturn it’. The Americans gave full backing to Israel’s policy of isolating Gaza to put pressure on Hamas.”

Once again, Hamas terrorism is absent from Bowen’s tale. After a long account of his personal recollections of pre-Hamas coup inter-factional fighting in Gaza and a conversation with Mohammad Dahlan, Bowen tells listeners:

“After I left Gaza that time the feud between Fatah and Hamas became a mini civil war. Hamas won and Fatah officials including Dahlan rushed to the Israeli checkpoints to escape with their lives.”

According to reports from the time, Dahlan was not in the Gaza Strip during those days in June 2007: he had been abroad for several weeks for medical treatment.

Listeners hear a brief reference to missile attacks against Israelis without the groups that execute the attacks being named and without mention of any of the victims of such attacks.

“Living either side of the border wire – in Gaza or Israel – can be difficult and dangerous. Going through even one rocket attack on the Israeli side, let alone dozens in a day, is terrifying – as I found out.”

However, Bowen soon returns to form:

“When the wars flare up more Palestinians are killed than Israelis, including many more civilians.”

Bowen then revisits a report he produced in 2009 concerning Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.

“An Israeli tank had shelled his home and killed three of his daughters.”

Bowen fails to tell listeners of the background to that the tragic incident but goes on to promote one of his usual pseudo-legal misinterpretations of the Law of Armed Combat and the term ‘disproportionate‘.

“The laws of war say belligerents shouldn’t use disproportionate force. Israel always denies doing so when it attacks Gaza but the evidence suggests that it does. The Israelis claim to take great care not to kill civilians but they use heavy weapons in densely populated areas, making civilian casualties certain.”

Bowen then revisits another of his previously promoted claims concerning Hamas’ use of human shields, while steering listeners towards an incomplete understanding of that term.

“I’ve never seen any evidence of Hamas forcing civilians in Gaza to stay in the firing line. But Israelis repeat time and again that Hamas hides behind human shields.”

The programme closes with Bowen opining that the terror organisation whose activities and abuses he has downplayed throughout the whole report should be party to negotiations.

“Until matters change in Gaza there will be more wars between Hamas and Israel. Change means a new attempt at peace with the participation and consent of all sides. Right now, there is no chance of that happening.”

Perhaps one of the more disturbing points emerging from this series of programmes by the BBC’s Middle East editor is the fact that the passage of time has done nothing to alter his opinions and analysis.

Having publicly claimed that he did not come across human shields in the few days he was in Gaza in the summer of 2014, three years later he cannot accommodate the ample evidence that shows otherwise. Having promoted his own pseudo-legal interpretations of the Law of Armed Combat in his 2014 reporting from Gaza, he is incapable of subsequently adjusting that view in line with the facts.

That, of course, is what happens when the agenda takes precedence over the actual story.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Bowen saw no human shields in Gaza – but reports them in Mosul

Law of Armed Conflict, Gaza and the BBC

Hamas PR department invokes BBC’s Bowen

 

 

BBC News ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

As readers may recall, in October 2016 the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell produced an article on the topic of succession within the Palestinian Authority which was notable for its lack of information concerning internal Fatah rivalries.knell-abbas-art-main

“Knell’s staid portrayal of the issue of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his role as president of the Palestinian Authority (as well as chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party) is most notable for what is absent from her framing of the story. Given that BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs, it is of course highly unlikely that they would be able to read between Knell’s lines and fill in the blanks for themselves.”

Since the appearance of that article, the BBC has failed to produce any follow-up English language reporting on subsequent related events – including violent clashes between supporters of Abbas and Dahlan, Abbas’ unanimous re-election as head of the Fatah party or the seventh Fatah party congress.

In her October report Knell named several potential successors to Abbas.

“For Palestinians, the most popular of the [Fatah Central] committee’s 20 members is Marwan Barghouti, who led Fatah’s Tanzim militant group during the last uprising against the occupation, or intifada.

Although he is in jail in Israel, serving five life terms for involvement in murdering Israelis, he remains influential and has led efforts to end divisions with Hamas.”

She also mentioned “[t]hree other potentially important players”: Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub and Majed Faraj.

The fact that the BBC chose not to cover the seventh Fatah party congress in December means that audiences remain unaware of the fact that Barghouti received the most votes in the election to the Central Council of the faction which dominates the Palestinian Authority as well as the PLO (the body supposed to conduct negotiations with Israel) and that the second most popular candidate was Jibril Rajoub.

In mid-February the Fatah central committee elected a new vice-chairman and secretary-general to one-year terms.

“Former Nablus governor Mahmoud al-Aloul was appointed as the first ever vice president of the ruling Palestinian Fatah movement Wednesday night, marking him as a possible candidate to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Authority president.

Aloul, 67, appointed by the Fatah Central Committee, is a close confidant of the 82-year-old Abbas. He is considered popular within the party, and was a long-time leader of Fatah’s armed wing before following the group’s leadership from Tunis to the West Bank in 1995 in the wake of the Oslo Accords. […]

Another possible successor to Abbas to emerge Wednesday night was the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, who was appointed secretary general of the 18-member Fatah Central Committee. […]

Previously, the secretary general and vice president of the Fatah central committee was one position, but it was decided to split it into two. Palestinian commentators assessed that Rajoub may have cut a deal with Aloul to split the position.

The appointments are due to be reviewed in a year.”

Analysts viewed the appointments as a blow to the possibility of Marwan Barghouti succeeding Mahmoud Abbas:

“Though Barghouti won the most votes during the Seventh Fatah Congress in December, the decision not to appoint him to any role Wednesday night is seen as an attempt to distance him from holding any office that would put him in line to succeed Abbas.

Some in Barghouti’s circle expressed concern in recent days that the Fatah central committee would deny him an appointment, according to anonymous statements given to Arab media.

Currently, Barghouti’s future in Fatah is unclear. According to his close associates, Barghouti agreed to participate in the Seventh Fatah Congress only after Abbas promised him the deputy position.”

The Jerusalem Post adds:

“Other important portfolios were also distributed to various committee members with the noticeable exception of Marwan Barghouti. Many in the party had expected the longtime Fatah leader to receive some form of recognition, and possibly the vice chairmanship.”

Although the appointment of Mahmoud al-Aloul does not qualify him as Abbas’ successor, it does introduce a new name to the list of possibilities.

“Grant Rumley, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the [Jerusalem] Post that while Aloul’s election may not be a game changer in terms of succession, it does introduce a new contender.

“By virtue of his new position as No. 2 in Fatah, Aloul cannot be ignored or discounted in the race to replace Abbas,” Rumley said.

After Aloul completes his one-year term as vice chairman, the central committee will either extend Aloul’s term or vote for a new vice chairman.”

However, with the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s chronic under-reporting of Palestinian affairs continuing, audiences remain in the dark with regard to these developments and their possible implications. The fact that Fatah dominates the PLO and the foreign donor funded Palestinian Authority means that its internal politics clearly have significant effect on what the BBC terms “the Middle East peace process”. BBC audiences, however, continue to be deprived of the information which would enhance their understanding of that particular “international issue.  

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Abbas’ Fatah reelection ignored by the BBC – in English

BBC News passes up coverage of recent Fatah congress

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

 

Weekend long read

1) As has been noted here before, the BBC is still unsure about Iranian involvement in the conflict in Yemen. The Washington Post recently published an article titled “How Iranian weapons are ending up in Yemen“.Weekend Read

“Weapon shipments intercepted in the Arabian sea by Australian, French and U.S. warships this year contained large quantities of Russian and Iranian weapons, some of which had markings similar to munitions recovered from Houthi fighters in Yemen, according to a new report released by an independent research group Wednesday.

In October, U.S. officials claimed to have captured five shipments of Iranian weapons bound for Yemen. The report, published by Conflict Armament Research, or CAR, draws on markings found on rifles, rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles and munitions, providing some of the more concrete evidence to date of Iran’s logistical support to Houthis fighting in Yemen’s nearly two-year-old civil war.”

2) Professor Eugene Kontorovich has compiled “A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories“.

“This Article provides the first comprehensive, global examination of state and international practice bearing on Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that an “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” This provision is a staple of legal and diplomatic international discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and serves as the basis for criticism of Israeli settlement policy. 

Despite its frequent invocation in the Israeli context, scholars have never examined – or even considered – how the norm has been interpreted and applied in any other occupation context in the post-WWII era. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) influential Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law lists 107 instances of national practice and UN practice applying or interpreting the prohibition, and all but two relate to Israel. Many questions exist about the scope and application of Art. 49(6)’s prohibition on “transfer,” but they have generally been answered on purely theoretically.”

3) MEMRI gives a comprehensive overview of the Abbas-Dahlan power struggle.

“A recent focus in the Palestinian press has been the power struggle between Palestinian Authority (PA) President and Fatah chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas and former Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Dahlan, who was expelled from the movement in 2011 and is currently attempting to influence the Palestinian agenda and to empower his supporters in the face of ‘Abbas’s steps to exclude him from the Palestinian political scene.

Dahlan has been demonstrating his strength in a number of ways: in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through conferences and protests organized by his supporters there, and also through efforts to strengthen ties between Egypt and the Gaza Strip; and in the Palestinian diaspora with conferences organized by his supporters in Lebanese refugee camps and in Europe. At the same time, ‘Abbas is trying with all his might to completely exclude Dahlan and his supporters from Fatah, and to end the ongoing internal conflict in the movement with an institutional resolution to be approved at the Seventh Fatah Conference, which is set for November 29, 2016.

The escalation in the power struggle between ‘Abbas and Dahlan is linked to the debate on the future of the Palestinian leadership, particularly the question of who ‘Abbas’s successor will be. This latter issue goes beyond the Palestinian discourse, in light of efforts by the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE), and especially by Egypt, to influence the composition of the Palestinian leadership by including Dahlan in it and by grooming him to succeed ‘Abbas as Fatah chairman and Palestinian president. On October 6, 2016, the debate over ‘Abbas’s successor became more urgent after the 82-year-old ‘Abbas was rushed to the hospital for a cardiac catheterization.”

 

 

Abbas’ Fatah reelection ignored by the BBC – in English

Back in late October, the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell produced an article concerning the question of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his various roles. In that report, Knell speculated that:

“One potential post-Abbas scenario would see the division of his titles: President, head of Fatah, and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

If different individuals took these jobs it would allow for a more collective political leadership.”

One might therefore have expected that the BBC would be interested in the story of Abbas’ unanimous reelection as head of the Fatah party at its long overdue seventh congress held this week, especially – as the NYT reported, among others – given the less than “collective” circumstances.

photo credit: Times of Israel

photo credit: Times of Israel

“Under fire at home and abroad, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority moved on Tuesday to solidify his decade-long hold on power with a party conference that had already been purged of most of his opponents.

The carefully selected delegates wasted little time in formally re-electing Mr. Abbas as the leader of Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “Everybody voted yes,” a spokesman for Fatah, Mahmoud Abu al-Hija, told reporters who had not been allowed into the conference hall for the decision. […]

Some Palestinian activists had wondered whether Mr. Abbas would use the conference to give up at least one of the three titles he holds — leader of Fatah, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian Authority. But he made clear on Tuesday that he would not. […]

Missing from the conference were Palestinian leaders and activists who had fallen out with Mr. Abbas, including those affiliated with Muhammad Dahlan, a former security chief who has lived in exile since 2011.

Allies of Mr. Dahlan, and even some Palestinians who were only thought to be his allies, have been purged from Fatah or arrested, and competing factions have engaged in violent clashes. Diana Buttu, a former Palestinian official who is now a critic of Mr. Abbas, named 10 party figures who had been ousted recently.

“To me, the story is who is not at the conference,” said Grant Rumley, a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and a co-author of a forthcoming biography of Mr. Abbas. “This conference will formalize the split within his own party.””

Abbas’ reelection was covered (together with additional reporting on the Fatah congress) on the BBC Arabic website. However, the corporation’s English-speaking audiences – who already suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs – have to date not been provided with any coverage of that story and its background or Abbas’ subsequent reiteration of his refusal to recognise Israel as the Jewish state.

Related Articles:

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

BBC News silent on Abbas’ rejection of Jewish state

BBC News continues to under-report internal Palestinian politics

Towards the end of last month BBC audiences visiting the corporation’s English language and Arabic language websites were offered a rare but limited view of internal Palestinian affairs in an article by Yolande Knell which was discussed here.knell-abbas-art-main

As was noted at the time, BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs. Knell’s report did not, for example, inform readers of the series of violent clashes between PA security forces and locals in various locations in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and the continued violence has not received any subsequent BBC coverage.

Earlier this week a UN official commented on the topic of those ongoing clashes.

“The UN’s top official on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process said Monday he was concerned the West Bank’s largest refugee camp could “explode” if intra-Palestinian clashes worsen, during a rare visit to the Balata camp.

In what his officials said was the first visit in “years” by a top UN official to the camp near Nablus in the northern West Bank, Middle East peace envoy Nikolay Mladenov met with civil society figures and politicians including those believed to be opposed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.

Balata has seen an uptick of violence in recent weeks, with Palestinian security officials attempting a series of raids to capture alleged criminals in the camp — leading to gun battles.

Analysts say Abbas sees the camp as a base for support for his political rival Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently in exile in the United Arab Emirates.”

Another recent development related to the Abbas succession battle was reported by the Times of Israel.

“In an unprecedented step, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has stopped paying the salaries of 57 PA officials in Gaza because of their alleged support for his rival, the former high-ranking Fatah official, Muhammad Dahlan.

Dahlan is considered to be Abbas’s greatest opponent within the Fatah party since he was booted out of Ramallah in January 2011. Recently, Dahlan stepped up his political activities, especially in the Gaza Strip but also within the West Bank, with strong Egyptian backing.

In an apparent reaction, Abbas decided in November to stop paying salaries to supporters of Dahlan, The Times of Israel has learned. According to those close to the Palestinian president, he intends to continue to work against his rival and will ultimately block the salaries of almost 500 Dahlan allies.”

Those PA officials are apparently among the thousands of Fatah-affiliated former civil servants in the Gaza Strip who have been receiving payment from the PA throughout the last nine years despite not working. The article goes on:

“In light of this step, Dahlan and his followers are threatening to hold demonstrations in Gaza and elsewhere to protest the Seventh General Conference of the Fatah movement, which is due to be held on November 29 in the West Bank, and to reject its legitimacy. […]

According to sources in Gaza, Dahlan’s men are exerting pressure on the Fatah members in the Strip to boycott the General Conference and have even threatened them with physical harm. At the same time Abbas’s men are intimidating Dahlan’s allies, warning them not to participate in any event connected to Dahlan.”

With Fatah dominating the PLO and the foreign donor funded Palestinian Authority, the Abbas/Dahlan rivalry clearly has much broader implications than mere intra-party divisions. BBC audiences, however, continue to be deprived of the information which would enhance their understanding of this particular “international issue“.  

BBC’s Knell omits back stories in portrayal of PA succession

October 28th saw the appearance of an article by Yolande Knell in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Titled “Palestinians face uncertainties over Abbas succession“, the report was translated into Arabic and also appeared two days later on the BBC Arabic website.knell-abbas-art-main

Knell’s staid portrayal of the issue of who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas in his role as president of the Palestinian Authority (as well as chair of the PLO and head of the Fatah party) is most notable for what is absent from her framing of the story. Given that BBC audiences suffer from a chronic lack of information concerning internal Palestinian affairs, it is of course highly unlikely that they would be able to read between Knell’s lines and fill in the blanks for themselves.

For example, readers are told that:

“Three other potentially important players have strong backing in the security forces:

  • Mohammed Dahlan, led the PA’s Preventive Security force in Gaza until 2007. He was expelled from Fatah after falling out with the president and now lives in luxurious exile in Abu Dhabi. He also has close ties to regional leaders”

Knell refrains from telling audiences that in recent months Abbas has been urged by some of those “regional leaders” to mend fences with Dahlan – as the Times of Israel explained back in August.

“Arab leaders have recently been pressuring the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas to patch up differences within Fatah and make peace with former Gaza strongman Mohammad Dahlan.

Among the heads of state who have weighed in are Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan’s King Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. […]

In response, Fatah’s Central Committee has resolved to consider readmitting to its ranks several dozen senior Fatah figures expelled for their links to Dahlan. But they have not yet agreed to readmit Dahlan himself, who was kicked out of the Gaza Strip in 2011 after a feud with Abbas.

Indeed, despite Arabic media reports about possible reconciliation within the Fatah movement, senior figures within the Palestinian Authority (PA) say there is still quite some way to go.”

Abbas himself voiced public objection to what he saw as intervention from “other capitals” on that issue – although Dahlan himself is on record as denying a wish to run for the PA presidency (despite Knell’s later claim that he and others “undoubtedly regard themselves as possible future presidents”).

Relatedly, in the days before (and since) Knell’s article was published severe violence was seen in a number of locations in PA controlled areas.

“Intense clashes erupted in three refugee camps Tuesday night between Palestinian youths and Palestinian Authority security forces, after a protest over the recent expulsion from the Fatah party of a Palestinian lawmaker was suppressed.

At least two people were wounded from reported live fire during the clashes, which took place in the refugee camps of al-Amari, near Ramallah, Balata, near Nablus, and Jenin.

The clashes began when PA security refused to allow a protest in support of Jihad Tummaleh, who was expelled from the Fatah party on Saturday by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, near Tummaleh’s home in the al-Amari refugee camp.

Tummaleh’s expulsion came after he organized a conference at al-Amari in support of “party unity.” The event was viewed by some in Ramallah as an effort to urge reconciliation between Abbas and his chief political rival Mohammad Dahlan. […]

PA security forces also arrested Tuesday night the official spokesperson of Fatah in Jerusalem, Rafat Alayan, who had earlier participated in a rally in support of Tummaleh.”

Also unmentioned by Knell is the meeting which took place between Abbas and Hamas leaders in Qatar the day before her report was published.

“The 81-year-old Abbas met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal and Hamas’s Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, for a “business lunch” in Doha, the PA’s official news agency Wafa said. […]

The meeting in Doha was attended by the Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Ambassador to Qatar Munir Ghanam.”

Veteran analyst Avi Issacharoff interprets that meeting as follows:

“In a turn of events no one could have foreseen mere weeks ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — until recently the ally of Egypt and Saudi in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups — met on Wednesday with Khaled Mashaal, outgoing head of Hamas’s politburo, and with Ismail Haniyeh, Mashaal’s successor. These meetings took place after Abbas met the previous week with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.

Erdogan and Sheikh Tamim are considered strong patrons of the Muslim Brotherhood, the great rival of Egypt and its president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Abbas’s meetings with them, as well as his talks with Mashaal and Haniyeh, the two highest-ranking members of Hamas (the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot), may even lead to a historic reconciliation with Hamas, though that outcome is still a long way off. Whether such a reconciliation would be a good or a bad thing depends on whom you ask.

So what — or, rather, who — has led Abbas straight into the arms of the Muslim Brotherhood, and maybe even into those of Hamas, just days after a high-ranking Hamas official in Gaza called him a traitor?

The answer is simple: Mohammad Dahlan. This former high-ranking Fatah official, who has been challenging Abbas for several years, succeeded this week in areas where even Hamas has failed. He managed to get Cairo on his side in the fight against Abbas and proved how weak and shaky Abbas’s status is in the Arab world.”

As Issacharoff also points out, another succession struggle is also underway:

“…everybody is busy with the question of “the day after.” Many members of Fatah fear that the day is fast approaching when Fatah will split over the uncompromising battle between Dahlan and Abbas, and Hamas will become more powerful still.

It should be emphasized that Dahlan is not the only one in Fatah to be marking out territory in anticipation of the fight over the succession.

The highest levels of Fatah, as a whole, are busy with Fatah’s general assembly, which is set to take place in late November and can point the way to who Abbas’s successor might be. Fatah’s Central Council will be elected during the assembly — and according to Fatah’s bylaws, it is only from the Central Council that Abbas’s successor, Fatah’s next chairman, may be chosen. It is also likely that the assembly will elect Fatah’s deputy chairman, who could, in time, succeed to the chairmanship.”

All that internal Palestinian conflict is obscured by Knell. She does however find it necessary to promote ‘analysis’ from a Belgium-based NGO.

“…there is no clear frontrunner and analysts warn against second-guessing the dynamics within Fatah.

“The names you hear about most often are basically former security people because these are whom Israel is most comfortable with and whom Western donors have interacted with and vetted,” says Nathan Thrall of International Crisis Group.

“These sometimes correlate with what’s realistic in Fatah power structures but oftentimes not.””

So is Yolande Knell unaware of the back story to the issue she supposedly set out to explain to BBC audiences? A vaguely worded caption to one of the images used to illustrate the article suggests not.

knell-abbas-art-pic

The question that therefore arises is why the BBC’s funding public and worldwide audiences are not being told the whole story.