The BBC World Service’s Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ binge – part one

On September 17th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted over a third of its one hour of airtime to its lead story – billed “Hope for Unity in Palestinian Territories”.

“Hamas, who govern the Gaza strip, have agreed to steps towards ending a long feud with their rivals Fatah who govern the West Bank.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 00:11 here) with an odd portrayal of the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election as relating to the Gaza Strip only.

[emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

“And we’re going to start with a long-awaited and potentially significant political gesture in the Middle East. It’s not directly related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but to the internal Palestinian struggle which has a bearing on the hopes for peace. It’s a gesture that comes from Hamas; the Palestinian faction that won control of the Gaza Strip from its rival Fatah in an election in 2006 and took full control of Gaza by force a year later. Well Hamas is still considered a banned terrorist organisation in many parts of the world and its presided over a decade of increasing desperation for its citizens. Gaza is subject to a blockade by Israel and Egypt and in recent months its citizens have faced an extra squeeze with the reduction of their electricity supply. But now, in talks presided over by Egypt, Hamas has agreed to dissolve the administration in Gaza with a view to holding a future election. We’ll discuss what lies behind that decision and what it might lead to in just a moment but first, a reminder of what daily life is like in Gaza. Najla is a mother of two young children. She was born in Gaza and has lived there all her life and she spoke to Newshour last month.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the long monologue from the inadequately introduced Oxfam employee Najla Shawa that BBC World Service listeners had already heard on September 3rd. Repeating her claim that the Gaza Strip is “a big prison”, Shawa added to Coomarasamy’s misleading and inaccurate implied linkage between the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip and Israeli counter-terrorism measures in the form of border controls.

Next Coomarasamy introduced Yolande Knell who presented a factual picture of the Hamas announcement previously described by him as a “gesture” – although listeners may have been surprised to hear Knell describe “the administrative committee it [Hamas] set up in March” as “really controversial” given that the BBC has not previously reported on that topic.

Following an account of Egypt’s role in the appearance of Hamas’ announcement, Knell gave an accurate portrayal of some of the methods used by Mahmoud Abbas to pressure Hamas.

“Well some people are quite surprised that they [Hamas] have made these concessions, as they’re seen, particularly for example getting rid of this administrative committee. Previously it had said that it wouldn’t take these kinds of steps until the Palestinian Authority lifted some of the measures that it’s imposed upon Gaza in recent months because we’ve really seen this political divide between Hamas and Fatah deepening recently with President Abbas trying to pile on the political pressure and now you have only four hours on, sixteen hours off when it comes to mains electricity in Gaza. There’s been a longtime energy shortage but it’s got much worse because the PA put up a fuel tax for the sole power plant in Gaza. Then it instructed Israel to reduce mains electricity that it provides to Gaza. This is having effects on hospitals, on waste water management, with sewage being pumped into the sea and it’s also having a big economic effect. It also slashed the salaries for civil servants – PA civil servants – who were still receiving their salaries in Gaza.”

Although Knell has produced one reasonable report on the topic of the Gaza electricity crisis in the past, for the most part content on that topic produced by her and other BBC journalists has encouraged audiences to mistakenly believe that there is a connection between that crisis and Israel.

Coomarasamy then introduced “a view from Fatah” given by Abbas’ advisor Nabil Shaath. However, when Shaath stated that “many of us have some hesitation about the degree to which Hamas will be willing to go to the details”, he failed to question him further, passing up the opportunity to enhance listener understanding of the potential pitfalls that have dogged previous ‘unity’ agreements.

Shaath’s propagandist portrayal of Israel’s government as “colonialist” did not prompt comment or challenge from Coomarasamy.

Shaath: “I do not see how we can face Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing settler colonialist government and we cannot really make use of any potential changes in the world if we are not united.”

BBC audiences used to hearing from journalists and Palestinian commentators alike that Israel is responsible for the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip may well have been surprised by Shaath’s admission of Hamas responsibility for the situation of the people of Gaza.

Shaath: “…Hamas has done much worse. Hamas destroyed their opportunities. Hamas subjected them to risks that they couldn’t take. Hamas led them into a life of isolation…”

Following his conversation with Shaath, Coomarasamy returned to Yolande Knell and – in contrast to the BBC’s written report on the topic – listeners were told of some of the factors that will affect any ‘unity deal’.

Knell: “The devil now I think is in the detail with what happens. We’ve seen this when previous arrangements have broken down. Who are going to be the key players in a national unity government? What’s going to happen about managing the border crossings? Will PA security forces be allowed to function in Gaza once again? What will happen then to the Hamas security forces – which is what you see on the street at the moment doing everything from…eh….controlling traffic.”

Listeners also heard a very rare acknowledgement of the reason for the collapse of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014: an outcome portrayed at the time by the BBC’s Middle East editor as being entirely attributable to Israel.

“Israel of course views Hamas as a terrorist group, as does the US, the EU and others. And we’ve had some Israeli commentators pointing out how this actually makes things very difficult for Mr Abbas because when there was a national unity government agreed more than three years ago, this was a trigger for the failure of the last round of peace talks.”

Knell did however come up with some bizarre spin on the fact that the PA president – whose elected term expired in January 2009 – has no control over – or presence in – part of the territory he supposedly heads.

Knell: “…Israel always accuses Mr Abbas of not representing all the Palestinian people; of being weak in a way.”

Although listeners did hear some important information in this item that has long been absent from BBC coverage, one aspect of the story ignored throughout the discussions on the topic of the reasons behind Hamas’ announcement is that of the public unrest that apparently prompted Hamas to make a large purchase of fuel earlier this month. As the Times of Israel’s analyst noted

“[Hamas leader] Haniyeh understands that, with little hope on the horizon, the severe economic crisis in Gaza can end in one of two ways: war with Israel, which could decimate the movement’s leadership and turn the population against it, or a “Gaza Spring” that would have similar results.

The best he can do under the circumstances is compromise, even if others say he caved in.”

The second item in this programme relating to the same topic will be discussed in part two of this post.

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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.  

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

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

h/t RB

An edition of the BBC World Service radio news and current affairs programme ‘Weekend‘ that was broadcast on September 3rd included an item promoting some noteworthy framing of the Gaza Strip but before that, presenter Paul Henley introduced his studio guests (from 26:30) Stewart Purvis – formerly of ITV and OFCOM – and Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House.

Leading up to the Gaza related item, listeners heard some interesting signposting (from 28:09) concerning radicalisation and terrorism which dovetails perfectly with the BBC’s chosen narrative on those topics.

Henley asked Kinninmont: [all emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Henley: “How much…when you’re looking at causes of instability and the endless problems that you concentrate on there [the Middle East], how much do you put down to unemployment, which seems to be the big social and economic problem?”

Kinninmont: “Absolutely. We need to look at the political economy of the region and the sense of injustice that’s created for many young people because they see corrupt people succeeding and they see so little opportunity for themselves even if they are hard-working, even if they are highly educated. These are probably more important things to look at than the ideology that the media obsesses over when thinking about terrorism; not least because you can actually address some of these economic problems.”

Henley: “And because of the interest in terrorism and…and where it comes about, do you have particular countries that you’re more interested in?”

Kinninmont: “Well we cover the whole region and we try very much in our team of analysts to speak about the 99% of people from the Middle East who have nothing to do with terrorist groups. Ah…I fear that the oxygen of publicity is still an issue; that there is a kind of media obsession with terrorism over and above all other problems.”

Following that (at 29:22) Henley turned listeners’ attentions to the topic of the UN Secretary General’s recent visit to Israel, the Gaza Strip and the PA controlled territories: a topic previously very briefly covered by BBC News in one report. While referencing Israeli and Egyptian counter-terrorism measures, Henley did not bother to inform listeners why they are necessary.

Henley: “Last week the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Israel and the Gaza Strip for the first time since he took office. Speaking at a UN run school, Mr Guterres said urgent solutions were needed to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. A recent UN report says living conditions for the two million people who live in Gaza – which is blockaded by both Israel and Egypt – are deteriorating rapidly. Mr Guterres stressed that resolving the crisis also required political will and he called on the Palestinians to end the division between Hamas – which rules Gaza – and Fatah – which governs the West Bank. In a speech in Tel Aviv he said he’d never shied away from criticising all sides in the conflict if he felt their actions weren’t moving towards a peaceful solution.”

Guterres’ remarks at a UNRWA school in Gaza also included “an appeal for unity” between the Palestinian factions engaged in a decade-long dispute along with a call to “avoid the buildup of the militantism” that is the cause of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Significantly – given the later framing in this item – listeners were not told of those remarks.

The “recent UN report” to which Henley referred was previously presented to BBC World Service listeners in a problematic report that failed to clarify the real reasons for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Guterres’ “speech in Tel Aviv” was delivered at the Museum of the Jewish People and listeners then heard the small part of it that the BBC chose to highlight – but without being informed of the crucial fact that Hamas rejects the two state solution.

Recording Guterres: “It’s my deep belief that the two state solution is the only way forward; the only path towards the historic compromise that can settle this conflict and lead to a better future for all. That is why I have been – and will continue to be – expressing my disagreement when it’s the case with unilateral measures and facts on the ground that can or could undermine that solution, including settlement activities but also continued violence, terror and incitement.”

At 30:40 Henley gave a brief introduction to a guest who was allotted almost half the air-time of the entire item. Her unchallenged claims were also separately promoted by the BBC World Service in a related programme.

Henley: “So away from the talk of the so-called important people, what is life like for the people of Gaza? Najla is a mother of two children. She was born in Gaza and she’s lived there all her life.”

In breach of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, that first name only introduction clearly does not allow listeners to understand who the speaker actually is or what her affiliations and “particular viewpoint” are.

Najla Shawa appeared on the BBC World Service over two years ago and then too the introduction was inadequate with the fact that she works for the politically partisan NGO Oxfam and was previously employed in various roles by the UN left unclarified. With Shawa having studied for three years at Birzeit University near Ramallah and subsequently at George Mason University in the US, Henley’s claim that she has “lived in Gaza all her life” is obviously misleading.

Shawa began with the promotion of the ‘Gaza prison’ theme. On the last working day before this item was aired, 638 people had entered or exited the Gaza Strip, seven ambulance crossings had been facilitated and 18,157 tons of goods in 577 trucks had entered the territory on one day alone.

Shawa: “The entire population is simply living in a big prison. We are unable to move, there’s no way to travel so the restriction of movement is on everything; on people and on goods – at least from Gaza to the outside world. Gaza has some input such as food and basic items but there’s no way for any economic activity to take place.”

In fact, in June 2017, 1,304 tons of goods were exported from the Gaza Strip. Shawa continued with a presentation of the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip which did not clarify to listeners that it is the product of the internal dispute between Fatah and Hamas and is completely unconnected to the previously mentioned “blockade”.

Shawa: “People are continually living uncertainty and challenged by different issues every day. The last few months there was the electricity situation that worsened and has really deepened the humanitarian situation in Gaza and affected everyone, and particularly affects people who have less financial ability or less ability to access things like food or basic items. You know, in Gaza unemployment is at really alarming rate: some 60% among people who are able to work; in a working age. Poverty is also at very high rates. “

Shawa appears to be passing off rounded-up youth unemployment figures as general unemployment rates: according to the World Bank, the general unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip in 2016 was 42%, with youth unemployment at 58%. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has slightly different figures and notes the very low workforce participation rate among females over the age of 15. The CIA World Factbook cites a poverty rate of 30%. Shawa continued:

Shawa: “Again, electricity; this is something that we’ve been living with for many years – I would say at least 10 years. But the last few months we are getting only 3 to 4 hours of electricity every day. You can imagine people’s refrigerators are turning into closets. We joke about it but there’s no way to keep things in your fridge. And you can imagine what this means to poor people who can’t afford simply to buy things every day. We adapt to schedules; we are going to have electricity from this hour to this hour so yeah we plan for laundry, we plan to maybe go out and do whatever. I mean, you know, you simply want to get out of the house.

You can also look at like small producers, small enterprises; they have shut down. Even big, larger ones are affected; they’re having to endure large amount of money just to survive, just to keep their business going and keep their work going. If we talk about water, water is the major, major threat problem in Gaza since many years. The way we get water, you need electricity for water to be pumped. You need water to be in a good quality. We have very salty water. There’s very little infrastructure. There is very little room for even doing any solutions for water. The majority of the sea is polluted with sewage. I mean real sewage – like raw sewage – and this is another huge problem. It’s causing a real environmental problem. We simply cannot eat the fish that is from the sea because it’s only full of sewage. We’re in the summer season and the heat and humidity in Gaza is very high and living under these conditions, children – I’m thinking about health – the simple, simple daily activity of people is extremely challenging.”

Yet again, no effort was made to clarify to listeners that the issues concerning sewage and water are rooted in the internal dispute between Hamas and Fatah and the all-important issue of Hamas’ prioritisation of replenishing and expanding its military infrastructure over civilian needs was not brought to audience attention.

Henley then inserted linkage to his previous conversation with Jane Kinninmont concerning ‘reasons’ for radicalisation.

Henley: “And I know you consider yourself relatively privileged but there are an awful lot of poor people judging by the rate of unemployment.”

Shawa: “That’s correct. I mean you’re talking about 80% of the Gaza Strip depends on aid. The Palestinian internal divide is also causing an additional layer to these problems that the Gazans are facing.”

No attempt was made to explain to listeners what that passing reference to “the Palestinian internal divide” actually means or how it affects Gaza residents.

Henley: “And when the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres comes to Gaza and calls for an end to the blockade, is he seen as an ally by people there? I mean the demonstrators were greeting him angrily.”

Henley did not clarify that the demonstrations were in support of convicted terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons.

Shawa: “Of course. I mean people here appreciate the role of the UN because it is providing basic services to the majority of the population of Gaza. I mean we know that people considers as their right because the majority of the Gazans are refugees and the services are provided by UNRWA in addition to other agencies. However, there is a great deal of anger because the UN is simply not doing much on the political level of things and this is purely a political issue and everybody knows that. Expressing concern and calling for an end of blockade is not enough and we’ve heard it again and again. And a generation – maybe after a generation now talking the blockade for the last 10 years, but you are talking about the general picture that the occupation is the issue here. That’s why people are angry because nothing is changing on the ground.”

Henley did not intervene to explain to audiences why, after nearly 70 years, the “majority of the Gazans” are still classified as refugees or how their status is different from that of refugees in the rest of the world. Neither did he remind audiences that Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip 12 years ago and – predictably – did not clarify that the territory is not ‘occupied’. Shawa closed her unchallenged and unquestioned monologue with the promotion of claims she did not support with statistical evidence.

Shawa: “You know, this pressure will simply lead to extremely negative phenomena. Young people are committing suicide. I mean I cannot talk about rates or numbers but we are seeing this every day. We are seeing more crime. We never heard of so much crime in the last years; only a few months we’re hearing so many incidents. And this is really worrying and again, people have the right to be angry.”

Henley concluded his guest’s appearance with a description no less inadequate than the one in his introduction:

Henley: “Najla – a mother of two young children with impeccable English who lives in Gaza.”

As we see, throughout this lengthy item BBC World Service listeners heard nothing of the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians and of the link between that and Israel’s counter-terrorism measures along its border with the Gaza Strip. While they did hear long and detailed descriptions of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the absence of any adequate explanation of how the lengthy dispute between Hamas and Fatah has adversely affected electricity, water, medical and sewage services in the territory means that listeners would be quite likely to reach the erroneous conclusion that those issues are connected to the ‘blockade’ which is mentioned repeatedly.

However, the item was not over yet and its final section will be discussed in part two of this post.

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

After the undisguised political monologue from Lyse Doucet which opened the item concerning reconstruction in the Gaza Strip featured in the February 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Have Your Say’ (available here from 26:30 for a limited period of time), listeners heard presenter Chloe Tilley say:WHYS 26 2 15

“I want to bring in Najla who’s an aid worker and a blogger in Gaza City and is on the line now.”

No further introduction was given – not even a surname – and so listeners were not able to put the contribution of Najla Shawa (now working for Oxfam and previously an UNRWA employee) into its appropriate context, including her endorsement of Doucet’s previous inaccurate and context-free statements. Shawa also made plenty of context-free statements of her own, with no attempt from Chloe Tilley to rectify that problem.

“…ordinary people […] suffer daily problems such as power cuts, fuel, cooking gas for heating, for cooking…”

“We’re totally locked in – we can’t travel, we can’t leave. We’re just simply locked in a place that is being more and more problematic each day.”

“…having like tons of explosives being hit around your house, this is not something that ordinary people should go through. [….] people are traumatised – specially children – and all the mothers I know – the families, my friends – they suffer with their babies, with their kids; even the older ones – the children and the teenagers – from the effects of such traumatic events.”

As we see, Hamas and its terrorism had no place in the picture presented by this BBC selected guest. Doucet then came in again (33:56):WHYS Gaza facebook

“Coincidentally, I’ve just come out of a studio where we finished a recording for an hour-long documentary that we’ve just finished on children of the Gaza war where for the last nine months we’ve been following the children through the war, after the war and what’s happening to them. And it’s heart-breaking that, you know, a vast majority of Gazan children have seen loved ones dying before their eyes. They’ve seen their homes destroyed. They can’t make sense of why this war has anything to do with them. And as Najla just says, who cares for those who need care? Fathers are traumatised, mothers are traumatised. Even people who lead Gaza’s main trauma counselling centres have lost dozens of family members. Its…the whole of Gaza in some way is in a state of trauma. Notwithstanding that, I have to say after having again spent time there, as you know Gazans don’t lose their sense of hospitality. They don’t lose their sense of humanity. It’s very humbling to see how they survive but now they’re saying….even the people of Gaza – as resilient as they are – are beginning to break. Going mad, one man said to me. How do you possibly cope with this? They call it the world’s biggest prison and it does feel that for people there. And Najla mentioned the young people and there was…I spoke to a university student who studied English Literature – now if that is not a statement of hope and trying to be engaged with the world – and I said to her ‘do some of your friends discuss taking the risky path of going on a boat, trying to cross to Europe’, because we are seeing Gazans appearing on these boats. They’re smuggled out to Egypt or Libya. And she said ‘yes, they’re doing it’. She used this expression: she said ‘from dead to dead’. There’s no exit from Gaza and the only exit is one which has a very, very, very high risk that you may not survive.” [emphasis added]

According to the CIA World Fact Book there were some 753,000 children aged between 0 -14 in the Gaza Strip in July 2014. Doucet failed to provide any factual evidence for her unsourced claim that the “vast majority” of those children “have seen loved ones dying before their eyes” and “their homes destroyed”. Likewise, her egregious promotion of the “world’s biggest prison” trope and the notion that “there’s no exit from Gaza” is contradicted by the fact that 8,708 Gazans used the Erez crossing to exit the Gaza Strip in January 2015 alone.

The programme’s next guest was the controversial UNRWA spokesman (and former BBC employee) Chris Gunness .

“Let me introduce Chris Gunness who’s from the UN Relief and Works Agency. Chris, I know you’ve written so much about this and you’ve written an article in the Guardian as well – we’ll Tweet out a link to it for people who haven’t seen it. Ehm…your thoughts on what’s happening in Gaza and why – why it seems that all these pledges of money don’t seem to be materialising.”

Indeed that article was promoted by the BBC on Twitter and Gunness repeated some of the same themes in his contribution to this programme after having clarified his place in the very cosy echo chamber.WHYS Gaza tweets Gunness

“Well first of all, one important point to make I think – and I entirely endorse what Lyse and Najla have so brilliantly said – is that this is man-made. These things which the last two speakers have described are the result of deliberate political choices which the world community is making. We have chosen to allow huge swathes of Gaza to be destroyed because, you know, security guarantees – if there’d been proper engagement with Gaza – could have been in place because what Gaza desperately needs is political engagement. […] So first of all it’s a direct result of political choices and we have to make different political choices.”

In other words, Gunness would have BBC audiences worldwide believe that the international community is responsible for the situation in the Gaza Strip rather than the terrorist organisations which initiated the last war and the previous ones. After long, emotive, context-free descriptions of the situation in the Gaza Strip rivalled only by those in Doucet’s introduction, he went on to rubber stamp more of her context-free sound bites:

“I mean not only is Gaza unique in the annals of contemporary warfare in being a…a war zone with a fence around it – there is nowhere safe to flee – but even within Gaza the international community has failed to provide people with adequate standards of housing.”

After Gunness’ portrayal of the failure of donors to meet the pledges made at last year’s Cairo conference and his own organisation’s activities, Tilley introduced another contributor – Nuraddin Biladi [phonetic] – described as “associate professor at the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University”.

Relating to the question of why his country had not met its financial pledge to the reconstruction of Gaza, Biladi noted that donors were “outstretched” due to the numbers of refugees from Syria and Iraq and also cited the issue of ISIS as having affected the policy makers in the Middle East, Europe and the US.

After an interjection from Lyse Doucet, listeners heard Chris Gunness (44:05) make the following bizarre claims:

“It’s interesting hearing Nuraddin talk about ISIS. I was told by a good source that in an area where ISIS is actually minting money, believe it or not, on one side of the coin is the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. And another interesting vignette: on the mobile phone of one of the kids that were arrested in Paris recently – a Muslim child – was a speech of Yasser Arafat. And I guess that’s by way of saying that, you know, we have been thinking about extremism in this region – out there in Afghanistan, out there in Pakistan. The fact is that having a deeply marginalised Muslim Arab community is becoming a cause celebre also. So the idea that there’s this extremist element out there somewhere and Gaza is something different: it isn’t like that. So these moderate Arab countries and other Arab countries to which Lyse refers have to realise that what is…they’re allowing to happen in Gaza is having a direct impact on the rising tide of extremism which they’re so concerned about. So don’t see Gaza as an isolated factor. Don’t see it as something which is simply sort of there: it is very much part and parcel of the narrative of extremism and the rising tide of extremism that is, you know, so prevalent and so shocking today in the Middle East.”

Yes, dear readers: the BBC World Service actually did broadcast Chris Gunness’ transparent attempt to portray Israel and Israeli self-defence against Palestinian terrorism as the root cause of Jihadist extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Ironically, the next segment of the programme involved Gunness making repeated declarations about UNRWA’s ‘neutrality’ which he claimed “we take […] extremely seriously”. Gunness claimed that “no-one has ever produced any evidence whatsoever” that building materials intended for UNRWA have been commandeered by terrorist organisations but neither Doucet nor Tilley asked him to comment on the documented evidence of building materials supposedly safeguarded by the UN supervised mechanism being sold on the black market in Gaza.  

Gunness’ political campaigning then shifted to an old theme he has promoted via the BBC World Service on at least one previous occasion.

“….what is the morning after strategy – not just for moderate Arab states but also for Western governments who are spending tax-payers’ money, if it ever comes through – to rebuild Gaza? Are there any security guarantees that Gaza will not be destroyed again? I mean it’s been….we’ve seen the destruct….as Lyse said, children of the age of six have seen three such rounds of destruction. And, you know, what is the point also of reconstructing a society which you don’t allow to trade?”

Again, neither Doucet nor Tilley made any effort to correct the misleading impression given to listeners by Gunness by informing them that exports are in fact transported out of the Gaza Strip. In January 2015, for example, 804 tons of merchandise left the Gaza Strip.

The final guest on this programme was introduced by Chloe Tilley only as “Belal who is a doctor in Gaza City”. Belal Dabour – who works at Shifa hospital – was also interviewed by the BBC World Service during last summer’s conflict and promoted the notion of a ‘massacre’ in Shuja’iya. Like many of his colleagues, Dabour finds as much time for political activity as he does for medicine but listeners to this programme were not informed of that fact before they heard the ‘neutral’ doctor claim that:WHYS Gaza tweets doctor

“…the Israeli policy is to impact a cumulative effect on both the…on the population, on the economy, on the overall situation in Gaza which will be after period – after many wars – which would bring us to the verge of collapse…”

If the aim of this programme had been to inform listeners worldwide about the real reasons for the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip then obviously it would have failed miserably. But that outcome was of course entirely predictable, with the choice of three guests (two of whom were inadequately identified) all subscribing to the same politically motivated point of view together with the heavily featured context-free propaganda from Lyse Doucet ensuring that the emotion-laden take-away message absorbed by audiences contributed little to their understanding of the background to the situation as it stands today.

It is therefore not difficult to determine that the provision of accurate and impartial information to which the BBC is supposedly committed was trumped by the opportunistic use of half an hour of this programme to promote a particular political narrative. The BBC clearly needs to explain to licence fee payers why that is the case.