BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part two

In part one of this post we discussed the first part of an item about the Gaza Strip aired in the September 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend‘ (from 26:30) which ended with presenter Paul Henley saying:

Henley: “Najla – a mother of two young children with impeccable English who lives in Gaza. And she paints a grim picture of a place to live, of a quality of life, Stewart.”

Studio guest Stewart Purvis for some reason responded by bringing up an unrelated BBC linked story and misleading listeners with regard to Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 during which all the communities in – rather than “around” – Gaza were of course evacuated. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Purvis: “Yes; very, very depressing to listen to and it’s actually about ten years since I was last in Gaza visiting the BBC bureau there and I came away pessimistic and I suppose my pessimism was partly confirmed when a few months later the BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was taken hostage, if you remember, and happily was later released. But I just…I mean at that point the Israelis had withdrawn from settlements around Gaza and there was some sense of momentum. But that momentum seems to have completely disappeared and there is really so little signs of anything positive happening almost on any front.”

While one might have expected the discussion to turn at that point to relevant topics such as the 2007 violent Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip, the terror organisation’s subsequent escalation of attacks on Israeli civilians and its Israel erasing agenda or the decade-long rift between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, instead Henley turned (at 36:03) to his other guest, Jane Kinninmont, with a topic much less helpful to audience understanding of the topic of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

Henley: “The residents of Gaza have been off the news radar a bit, haven’t they Jane?”

In the eight months between January and August 2017, the BBC itself has produced at least 18 reports about the Gaza Strip on its English language services alone. In addition to its regular reporting, since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the BBC has broadcast a documentary on that topic and produced special ‘anniversary’ coverage both six months and twelve months after the war. How Henley reached the conclusion that Gaza is “off the news radar” is therefore unclear but his guest played along with that notion.

Kinninmont: “Absolutely; partly because it’s a story that doesn’t change. There’s coverage when there is a conflict but I think the repetitive nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has contributed to it really falling off the news agenda. People are much more interested in other parts of the Middle East. But there may be changes to come for Gaza.”

Henley: “Because of the new US administration or what?”

Kinninmont: “Partly and because of the row that’s been simmering in the Gulf between Qatar – which is the major donor to Gaza – and the UAE, Saudi and Egypt on the other side.”

Henley: “Go on, explain.”

Listeners then got to hear a version of a story which the BBC has been ignoring for months.

Kinninmont: “So it’s an interesting little-noticed thing that the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt really want to try to rein in Qatari influence over Islamist groups throughout the region and they are trying to see if they can broker some kind of deal that would bring a Fatah strongman into power in Gaza – so someone from the same party as Mahmoud Abbas. Ah…it’s a man called Mohammed Dahlan who’s been a kind of strongman in Palestinian politics for many years – now believed to be resident in Abu Dhabi – and they are trying to cook up some kind of offer where Gaza would see more ability to trade in return for internal political changes. Now who knows; there have been many attempts to open up Gaza’s economy and solve politics through economics and none have worked so far. But there is at least some attempt going on just now.”

Clearly listeners would not understand from that portrayal that Dahlan is Abbas’ bitter rival and that some of the measures imposed by the Palestinian Authority in recent months that have contributed to the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip have been linked to the Hamas-Dahlan overtures.

Henley then promoted another questionable notion:

Henley: “Najla sounds like an outward-looking woman interested in world affairs but she’s not particularly interested in the politics. She hasn’t got time to worry about the greater picture when she’s struggling to stop food rotting in her cupboards when the fridge is off.”

A quick look at Oxfam employee Najla Shawa’s Twitter timeline would have relieved Henley of that mistaken impression. This, for example, is a Tweet relating to the July 14th terror attack in which two Israeli policemen were murdered in Jerusalem by three Arab-Israeli terrorists from Umm el Fahm.

Jane Kinninmont closed the item with another comment that did nothing to enhance audience understanding of the stated subject matter of this item.

Kinninmont: “Absolutely. Palestinians are preoccupied with daily fire-fighting. But it is interesting they have some of the highest rates of social media usage in the world. When people can actually get online – when they have enough electricity to do so – because of the isolation and immobility many Palestinians are trying to be politically active online, trying to change opinion here in the West.”

So as we see, in this very long item the BBC World Service promoted a carefully framed picture of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip which once again failed to adequately clarify its background. While excluding Hamas terrorism from audience view, the item did however steer listeners towards the erroneous belief that the crisis involving electricity, water, medical and sewage has some connection to the blockade imposed by Israel, while completely ignoring the topic of why that measure is necessary.  

Related Articles:

BBC audiences still not getting news of Palestinian politics

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ listeners get warped view of Gaza electricity crisis

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza

BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part one

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Weekend long read

1) At the Washington Examiner CAMERA’s Sean Durns takes a look at “Hezbollah’s media relations department“.

“Hezbollah is nothing if not image-conscious. As one operative, Sheik Nabil Qaouk, told The New York Times in July 2000, “The use of the media as a weapon” has “an effect parallel to a battle.” In this respect, Hezbollah is well armed.

The group operates its own TV channel, Al Manar (The Beacon), which routinely broadcasts calls for “Death to America,” age-old antisemitic tropes and hate speech, and promises of the impending destruction of the Jewish state. In 2006, Al Manar was labeled a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity, along with other Hezbollah-linked mouthpieces such as the Lebanese Media Group and Radio al-Nour. In its statement announcing this designation, the U.S. Treasury Department noted that an Al Manar employee had used his position to engage in “preoperational surveillance” on behalf of Hezbollah.”

2) At the INSS, Gideon Sa’ar and Ron Tira analyse “the political and military contours of a future conflict between Israel and Hezbollah”.

“It is impossible to assess the distinct context of the next conflict with Hezbollah, but a look at the recent past reveals the rapid changes in the contexts with potential for escalation: from Hezbollah’s force buildup by means of supply lines passing through Syria, to its force buildup on Lebanese soil (including the manufacture of high quality weapons), to efforts by Hezbollah and Iran to expand their force deployments in Syria. There are changes in context as to Russian indifference vs. reservations about actions attributed to Israel, and apathy vs. aggressiveness by the Syrian regime toward reports of breaches of Syrian sovereignty by Israel. The context is affected by the changes in the self confidence and boldness of members of the “axis” (Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies), and the degree to which the axis is invested in other fronts and is not interested, or for that matter, free to seek, an additional front with Israel. It is also affected by changes in the international legitimacy of the Alawite regime, Hezbollah, and Iran, inter alia as a result of the unfolding of Syria’s civil war and developments regarding the Iranian nuclear project.”

3) BBC reporting on the ‘hunger strike’ by some Palestinian prisoners earlier this year included a brief description of its instigator Marwan Barghouti as “a Palestinian leader jailed by Israel for life for five murders” who “has been touted as a possible future successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas”. The ITIC has compiled a detailed profile of Marwan Barghouti.

“During Barghouti’s imprisonment in Israel, his wife Fadwa Barghouti began and headed the campaign for his release. Fadwa is a lawyer who lives in Ramallah, and owns a private legal practice. She is also a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Fadwa heads a fund financed by the PA. The fund runs a Palestinian and international campaign to exert pressure on Israel to release Barghouti. The campaign cultivates the myth of a “freedom fighter,” presenting Barghouti as the “Palestinian Nelson Mandela.”

The campaign for the release of Barghouti was launched in 2013 in Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island, the jail where the leaders of resistance to the apartheid regime were incarcerated. The call for the release of Barghouti was signed by eight Nobel Prize laureates, including former American President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Fadwa often travels around the world and meets with various leaders.”

4) The JCPA has a backgrounder on a subject long under-reported by the BBC: Mohammad Dahlan’s collaboration with Hamas and Egypt.

“The tripartite axis of Egypt-Hamas-Dahlan constitutes a convergence of interests between the three sides. Although contingent, it could continue for a long period. […]

As the understandings between the three sides are carried out, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is expected to improve. Egypt will increase its influence in the Strip; the UAE will gradually assume a presence there and push Qatar out.

The augmenting of Egypt’s status vis-à-vis Hamas will enable it to be the main mediator between Israel and Hamas on all the issues, including a new prisoner-exchange deal.

The main loser is Abbas, who has been trying in every possible way to subvert these understandings and to reconcile with Hamas so as to neutralize Dahlan, but meanwhile with no success.”

 

BBC audiences still not getting news of Palestinian politics

The last few weeks have seen some interesting developments in the world of Palestinian politics, although those getting their news from the BBC will of course be unaware of that because – as often noted on these pages – the corporation largely avoids that subject.

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 ignores the story of the new Fatah vice-chair

Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

In the second half of July listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard Yolande Knell make the following unexplained statement:

“On this trip I meet some Gazans clinging to rumours of political solutions involving the return of exiled figures or improved relations with Egypt.” 

The day after that programme was broadcast, one of those mysterious “exiled figures” – Mohammad Dahlan – gave an interview to AP in which he claimed that his talks with Hamas and Egypt will, among other things, bring about the opening of the Rafah crossing. On the same day, BBC Arabic produced a report concerning that topic, but without any mention of Dahlan.

Four days later, on July 27th, an unusual event took place in Gaza.

“Rival Palestinian lawmakers came together for the first time in a decade on Thursday in Gaza’s parliament, the latest sign that an emerging Gaza power-sharing deal between the territory’s Hamas rulers and a former Gaza strongman is moving forward.

Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief and Hamas rival, praised the new partnership, addressing the gathering by video conference from his exile in the United Arab Emirates.

“We have made mutual efforts with our brothers in Hamas to restore hope for Gaza’s heroic people,” Dahlan told the lawmakers.

The gathering included dozens of legislators from Hamas, several Dahlan backers from the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and independents.

Fatah legislators loyal to Abbas stayed away from the meeting, underscoring the deepening rift in the movement. Dahlan fell out with Abbas in 2010.

The legislature has been idled since Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces, then under Dahlan’s command, and took over Gaza in 2007.

Over the past decade, only Hamas lawmakers met in parliament to pass resolutions concerning Gaza.”

On August 1st local media reported that PA president Mahmoud Abbas was making his own overtures to Hamas which included a meeting with a Hamas delegation in Ramallah.

“Earlier this year, the PA cut its payments for Israeli-supplied electricity the Strip by 35%, and slashed salaries for government personnel in Gaza.

The feud between the two Palestinian factions — Fatah, which controls the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza — also brought about a severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment in the enclave, a rights watchdog said in June, describing a worsening humanitarian situation.

A deal to truck in fuel from Egypt to keep a power plant running was brokered by Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah strongman, seen as a top rival to Abbas. […]

The new framework reportedly being discussed between the two sides would enable the PA to restore electricity supplies and allow Gazan banks to trade in foreign currency again, according to the daily.

But in return, Hamas must publicly renege on its agreement with Dahlan, and dismantle its governing structures in Gaza, which, according to the PA, contravene previous agreements between the group and the PA.”

Days later, Abbas reportedly voiced his intention to keep up the financial pressure on Hamas.

“”While there is a severe electricity crisis in Gaza, Hamas provides light for its underground tunnels and the homes of its officials around the clock,” Abbas told a group of prominent visitors from East Jerusalem at his Ramallah headquarters.

Abbas’s government in the West Bank began earlier this year to scale back electricity payments and other financial support in an effort to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza. Such cuts have exacerbated blackouts. […]

Abbas told the gathering that the PA would “continue the cuts in Gaza, gradually, unless Hamas accepts the requirements of the reconciliation.””

Meanwhile, the negotiations concerning yet another attempt at Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ apparently continue.

How this saga will play out and whether either Abbas or Dahlan will end up doing a deal with Hamas is still unclear. Nevertheless, what is obvious is that whatever the outcome – and its possible consequences – BBC audiences are already very badly placed to understand its background and context due to the corporation’s serial avoidance of the topic of internal Palestinian affairs.

Related Articles:

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza 

 

 

 

 

BBC’s Knell paints a partial picture of Gaza woes

The lead item in the July 22nd edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ was introduced by presenter Kate Adie (from 00:33 here) as follows:

Adie: “Today’s headlines from the West Bank once again tell of violence. Meanwhile in Gaza the UN has warned of increasingly unlivable conditions. The narrow strip of land has long been a place of tension: tension between Israel and the Palestinians and between the Palestinians themselves. For the past ten years the Islamist group Hamas has governed there and in the summer of 2014, over 50 days of fighting with Israeli forces caused widespread death and destruction. Yolande Knell was in Gaza during that conflict and this week she’s been back.”

 Yolande Knell begins her report on the beach before introducing an interviewee previously seen in one of her 2014 reports. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Knell: “Along the golden sand a few girls and boys squeal with delight as the waves lick their feet – much as on any other Mediterranean beach except that I’m in Gaza City where an energy crisis means that sewage treatment plants aren’t working properly. The sea is contaminated. It stinks. So as much as they’d love to plunge into the cool water to escape the sticky heat this summer, many families are avoiding it. ‘Gaza’s blessed with its long coast but I can’t take my children swimming’ says Naim al Khatib, a father of six whom I met 3 years ago during the last conflict between Hamas militants and Israel. Back then, Naim tried to keep up his kids’ spirits as they spent seven long weeks hiding in their apartment. Now, although everyone’s safe, he says every day remains a struggle. ‘The war’s over but the war-like situation is still going on’ he tells me. ‘The siege goes on, we’re still prisoners. The quality of life gets worse’.”

There is of course no “siege” on Gaza but Knell nevertheless chose to amplify that falsehood. She goes on, confusing Palestinian Legislative Council elections with “local elections”, giving a typically whitewashed portrayal of Hamas’ violent coup in 2007 and of course failing to mention that it is a terror organisation sworn to the destruction of Israel.

“It’s ten years since Hamas, having previously won local elections, ousted the Palestinian Authority – the PA – in Gaza and seized control of the small strip of land. In response Israel and Egypt ramped up restrictions on the flow of people and goods in and out to isolate the militant group and stop weapons reaching it. The blockade still cripples the economy. And now Gaza’s being squeezed even more as the PA – which controls only parts of the West Bank – piles pressure on Hamas to try to force it to hand back the territory.”

While the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip was exacerbated in April when the PA declared that it would only foot part of the bill for power supplied by Israel, the dispute between Hamas and the PA on that issue actually goes back much further, originating in the PA’s levying of tax on fuel for the Gaza power plant. That part of the story was omitted from Knell’s report.

“Some of Gaza’s electricity supply comes from Israel with the PA footing the bill. But recently the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas asked for this to be reduced as the PA was no longer willing to provide services for Hamas. Since last month mains electricity, already limited here, comes on for just 2 to 3 hours a day. Naim shows me how he relies on a generator and even solar panels mounted by a chirping canary’s cage on his balcony. Just maintaining a water filter and refrigerator – both essentials in Gaza – takes up a lot of his time and money. Adding to the strain, like thousands of other civil servants who had continued to collect salaries from the PA even if they weren’t actually working, he’s just had his income slashed.”

As readers may recall, the PA cut the salaries of its employees who have been paid to stay at home for a decade by 30% in April. After a quote from Khatib’s daughter, Knell goes on to mention a report previously promoted in BBC content.

“But a new UN report says Gaza is increasingly unlivable for its 2 million residents and that conditions are deteriorating further and faster than previously predicted. As the population continues to grow, there’s 40% unemployment and signs of decline in education and healthcare. At the Shifa hospital an ambulance screeches past and it transports me back once again to the bloody battles and terrible destruction of 2014.”

Notably, Knell’s recollections do not include the fact that the Hamas leadership used that hospital’s staff and patients as human shields – as she well knows.

“Back then, staff here worked around the clock to treat overwhelming numbers of casualties but when I see the familiar face of Dr Ayman al Sahbani, the head of emergencies, he looks as stressed as ever.  ‘Our state isn’t bad or very bad – it’s catastrophic’ he blurts out. ‘We lack essential drugs and supplies. The hospital is running on big generators and all the time I’m worried’. Dr al Sahbani explains that he depends on fuel donations and that there are no spare parts if generators break down. ‘If they stop we may lose patients in operation rooms, intensive care, kidney dialysis, the neo-natal unit’ he says breathlessly. On top of their usual work load, medics here are now also treating more sickness caused by poverty and bathing in the filthy sea. And it’s becoming more difficult to get Israeli permits to transfer seriously ill patients out of Gaza, partly because the PA is giving fewer guarantees it will cover their medical costs elsewhere. The doctor tells me how, days ago, he broke this news to the parents of a newborn with a congenital heart condition who went on to die. ‘How did I do this?’ he asks me. ‘I’m speaking to you not as a doctor but as a human being’.” [emphasis added]

BBC Watch checked Knell’s allegation that the acquisition of permits is “partly” attributable to PA policies with the body that coordinates those permits for patients from the Gaza Strip. COGAT told us that:

“To our regret, an internal Palestinian dispute harms the residents of Gaza – instead of the regime in Gaza helping them – but Israel has no connection to the issue. We would highlight that in cases in which the Palestinian Authority sends requests, and particularly those classified as urgent, COGAT coordinates the immediate passage of patients at any time of the day in order to save lives. This activity is carried out on a daily basis at the Erez Crossing, through which residents of Gaza enter Israel for medical treatment.” [emphasis added]

Moreover, while Knell does not give the name of the baby who died of congenital heart disease, she apparently did not check whether or not “Israeli permits” actually have any connection to that case. The local media recently covered three such stories.

“Earlier in the week three children under the age of 1, all suffering from heart disease, died in Gaza hospitals.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Tuesday blamed the Palestinian Authority for the deaths, saying that Ramallah had refused to give medical referrals for the babies to be treated in the West Bank. The PA then blamed Israel.

Dr. Bassam al-Badri, who heads the Palestinian Authority department responsible for authorizing treatment for Gazans outside of the Strip, claimed Israel had refused to grant exit permits to guardians of the children.

But the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Defense Ministry branch that deals with Palestinian civilian affairs, said no such request had been made.

“No request was received from the Palestinian Authority to coordinate medical treatment in Israel for the three infants,” COGAT wrote in a statement to The Times of Israel.”

Knell closes her report with opaque references to a story the BBC has so far failed to cover and listeners would hence not understand.

“On this trip I meet some Gazans clinging to rumours of political solutions involving the return of exiled figures or improved relations with Egypt. But mostly there’s just frustration and despair. And there are warnings too that troubles in Gaza will spill across its borders – and not just in terms of the sewage that’s already reaching southern Israeli beaches.”

The picture of Gaza painted by Yolande Knell in this report is of course devoid of some very important context. Nowhere in her grim portrayal does she make any mention of the fact that if it wished to do so, Hamas could solve not only the electricity crisis but numerous additional issues plaguing ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas could, if it wanted to, pay for enough electricity to significantly improve power supplies. But it prefers to spend tens of millions of shekels a month digging attack tunnels into Israel and manufacturing rockets.

According to various estimates by the PA and Israel, Hamas raises NIS 100 million ($28 million) every month in taxes from the residents of Gaza. A significant part of that amount covers the wages of its members. But a large portion is diverted for military purposes. Estimates say Hamas is spending some $130 million a year on its military wing and preparations for war.”

However, the terror organisation’s prioritisation of tunnels, missiles and additional types of military build-up over the welfare of Gaza’s residents has no place in Yolande Knell’s story – just as was the case in her reporting from the Gaza Strip during the 2014 conflict. 

Related Articles:

BBC WS ‘Newsday’ listeners get warped view of Gaza electricity crisis

Revisiting the BBC’s 2013 PA funding audit story

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza 

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“.