Another Gaza maritime smuggling story ignored by the BBC

While the BBC has been telling its audiences for years that “Israel says” that the counter-terrorism measures imposed on the Gaza Strip are for security reasons, it usually refrains from reporting stories which would clarify why such measures are necessary both on land and at sea.

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Another such story emerged late last week when the Israeli army announced that – days after terrorists in the Gaza Strip had launched nearly 700 rocket attacks against Israeli civilians – it had prevented an attempt to breach the naval blockade.

“The army said four suspects were arrested last month after trying to break a maritime blockade on the coastal enclave and reach Egypt in two boats.

The incident occurred on May 11, but was only cleared for publication on Friday.

According to a statement released by the Israel Defense Forces, the four were attempting to reach the coast of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, where they were to pick up 24 drums of fiberglass material.

The army said the material, which is forbidden to import into the Strip, was to be used by Hamas, the terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, to build rockets.”

Unsurprisingly given the corporation’s past record, BBC audiences have to date heard nothing of that story. They have, however, in recent months been told context-free stories about Gaza’s fishing sector.  

Related Articles:

BBC News passes up on Gaza Strip weapons smuggling story

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The BBC’s Gaza framing evolves with Jon Donnison

The December 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included a thirteen-minute item which made use of part of Mishal Husain’s broadcast from the Gaza Strip that listeners to BBC Radio 4 had heard earlier in the day.

Presenter Jon Donnison introduced that item (from 30:06 here) using framing identical to that previously heard in the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Donnison: “Gaza’s economic statistics make for grim reading. According to the World Bank 54% of the labour force in the tiny Palestinian territory is unemployed. The figure goes up to 70% for youth unemployment. Around eight out of every ten Gazans are dependent on food aid and around half of Gaza’s population of around 2 million people are registered refugees. Well today the UN is launching an appeal to raise $350 million for Palestinian refugees who it says are in dire humanitarian need. It comes after the United States cut hundreds of millions of dollars of UN funding destined for Palestinians. The economy’s been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt – they say for their security – and incomes have also been affected by Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas, the movement which has been in power in Gaza since 2007. Well the BBC’s Mishal Husain visited one of the refugee camps with Matthias Schmale, head of Gaza operations for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.”

Contrary to Donnison’s claim, the UN appeal for $350 million does not specify “Palestinian refugees” as the beneficiaries.

Listeners then heard Mishal Husain’s ‘Shati walkabout’ interview with Matthias Schmale which did not include any challenge whatsoever to UNRWA’s politicised messaging or any background information concerning that organisation and its mission, Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare and the effects of the Hamas-Fatah dispute on the Gaza Strip’s economy.

At 36:57 Jon Donnison then introduced an interviewee whose participation was obviously intended to reinforce the BBC’s highly selective framing of the ‘Gaza economic crisis’ story.

Donnison: “Well Sharren Haskel is a member of the Knesset – Israel’s parliament. She’s with the governing Likud party and also sits on the foreign affairs and defence committee. […] Ehm, first of all, how has Israel and Israeli citizen benefited from this blockade?”

Haskel: “Well you know your report actually brings out something that’s quite concerning because it’s very easy – and this is something that’s being repeated time after time – to sort of blame Israel for all the problems. But it’s really sort of letting Hamas off the hook…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “Well we heard…we heard the UN chap there being quite critical of Hamas. I’m asking you how has Israel…how has this blockade helped Israel’s citizens over the past 12 years?”

As Haskel spoke about Hamas’ investment of funding in cross-border tunnels and weapons rather than infrastructure and social services for the citizens of the Gaza Strip, Donnison interrupted her again.

Donnison: “No but you’ve…you’ve made…you’ve made that point several times so I’ll ask you a third time – how has the blockade helped Israelis, particularly those living on the border? Because it hasn’t worked, has it? It hasn’t made them safer. We’ve had three wars in the past 12 years. Thousands and thousands of rockets coming out of Gaza – they’re still coming out. You’d acknowledge that. It’s not worked, has it?”

Haskel: “Well to be honest this is not a blockade. You have Gaza and you have an independent entity. So they really have an autonomy to dictate their own future. They could have turned Gaza into a Singapore. They…”

Donnison [interrupts]: “Yeah, yeah, you’ve made that…you’ve made that point. My point is that as…as you know Israel probably needs to be looking at alternatives to the blockade which isn’t working, is it?”

As is all too frequently documented here, the BBC serially avoids stories which would provide its audiences with understanding of why Israel’s counter-terrorism measures are necessary – for example:

BBC News again ignores abuse of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza

BBC ignores another story explaining the need for Gaza border restrictions

Documenting the BBC’s continuing silence on Gaza smuggling

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up chance to explain why Israeli counter-terrorism measures exist

Had the BBC reported those stories and countless others, Donnison would of course not have been able to promote his facile and obviously politically motivated ‘blockade isn’t working’ theme quite so easily.  

After Haskel had noted the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, the exit of people, the electricity supplied to Gaza by Israel and other humanitarian efforts, she observed that Egypt’s counter-terrorism measures do not garner the same criticism as Israel’s measures. Donnison interrupted with the following snide remark:

Donnison: “Well I’m speaking to you, aren’t I?”

As Haskel explained the background to Egypt’s policy and the efforts made by Israel to balance humanitarian aid with security, Donnison interrupted her yet again.

Donnison: “There are…there are many Palestinians in Gaza…there are many Palestinians in Gaza – possibly the majority – who are sick and tired of Hamas. But some would say that you are doing little to help ordinary Palestinians. The UN says you are in effect collectively punishing them.”

Listeners were not provided with any evidence to support Donnison’s claim that “many” Gazans and even “possibly a majority” are dissatisfied with Hamas. Haskel pointed out that if that is the case, then it is the residents of the Gaza Strip who have to do something about it.

Donnison: “Did you welcome the US cutting of funding to the UN refugee agency? Did you think that was helpful?”

Haskel replied that she did think it was helpful and began talking about another topic which the BBC serially avoids: Hamas’ manipulation of UNRWA. Donnison promptly interrupted her yet again.

Donnison: “Well can I just…can I just quote you the former IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner saying ‘Less American aid to Palestinians means more violence against Israelis. It isn’t in Israel’s interest.'”

Donnison of course did not bother to inform listeners that in that same Ha’aretz opinion piece, Lerner also highlighted UNRWA’s “many problems, including its politics, determined since 1949 by their one-sided mandate” and the fact that “Palestinian refugee camps have been hotbeds for terrorist activities”: additional topics studiously avoided by the BBC.

Indeed, when Sharren Haskel began talking about the glorification of terrorism in UNRWA school books and the fact that international funding “is going into perpetuating violence and hatred”, Donnison interrupted her twice and closed the interview.

While Jon Donnison’s Middle East politics have never been much of a secret, it is worth noting that the BBC’s framing of its much promoted ‘Gaza economic crisis’ story has now evolved from the notion that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of the “blockade” imposed by Israel and Egypt to the notion that the “deplorable” situation in the Gaza Strip is essentially the result of a “blockade” imposed by Israel that “hasn’t worked” and is hence – by implication – unjustified.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

Revisiting a 2014 BBC report by Jon Donnison

Revisiting a five year-old BBC story

Jon Donnison’s breach of BBC editorial standards unravels

BBC’s Jon Donnison breaches editorial guidelines in straw-clutching Tweet

 

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

In two previous posts concerning the December 17th ‘Today’ programme live broadcast from the Gaza Strip (here and here) we saw how well-worn BBC themes were promoted in that programme.

In a third ten minute-long segment (from 1:16:27 here) listeners once again heard from representatives of international organisations rather than the “people on both sides of the divide” as promised by presenter Mishal Husain.

The two themes of blaming the economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip on counter-terrorism measures employed by Israel (with a cursory mention of Egypt) and providing unquestioning and context-free promotion of UNRWA were repeated in that segment too.

Husain began with misrepresentation of a press release put out by UNOCHA, claiming that its appeal for funding is intended to provide aid to the entire population of the Gaza Strip. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “As the United Nations appeals for funds to support 2 million Palestinians who live here [Gaza] saying that living conditions are deplorable, the UK has today pledged £5 million in emergency food aid.”

The UNOCHA statement actually describes the scope of its appeal thus:

“The 2019 HRP appeals for $350 million to provide basic food, protection, health care, shelter, water and sanitation to 1.4 million Palestinians, who have been identified as most in need of humanitarian interventions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

In other words, Husain once again misled BBC audiences by claiming that all 2 million residents of the Gaza Strip are in need of foreign aid. She continued with repetition of previously heard messaging.

Husain: “But the dire economic reality is taking immense toll on people’s lives. Unemployment is at 50%. Even those who have jobs often receive only half their salary. The economy has been impacted by a blockade maintained by Israel and Egypt citing security reasons. Incomes have also been affected by Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas which has been in full control of Gaza since 2007. In recent weeks aid from Qatar has been making a difference but it will only last till April.”

As was the case in the first hour of the programme, listeners were told nothing of the Hamas terrorism which has made counter-terrorism measures in the form of restrictions on the movement of people and dual-use goods necessary. Once again the very relevant issue of Hamas’ prioritisation of terrorism over the well-being of Gaza’s civilian population went unmentioned. Likewise the topic of “Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas” was not expanded and so listeners were unable to comprehend what aspects of the situation in the Gaza Strip (e.g. electricity shortages, shortages of medicines, unpaid wages) have been brought about by internal Palestinian disputes rather than by Israeli actions.

Husain similarly failed to tell listeners why there are still Palestinian refugees in a place that has been ruled by Palestinians for over 13 years before re-introducing her next guest.

Husain: “More than half of Gaza’s population are registered refugees and Matthias Schmale – head of Gaza operations for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – took me to see one of the eight camps in this small stretch of land.”

During Husain’s walkabout with Schmale listeners heard that “more than 90% of the population don’t have access to safe drinking water” and that “the desalination system in Gaza has broken down” because of “electricity”. No effort was made to clarify the full background to those statements or to explain that – as the BBC knows – the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip (and resulting problems with water and sewage) has nothing to do with “the blockade”.

Listeners heard more repetition of this programme’s prime messaging.

Husain: “When you say that people are living in poverty, why is that?”

Schmale: “The answer to that is twelve years of blockade. We live in a place that is very small; 40 kms by 6 to 12 kms in width and there’s almost 2 million people living in this constrained space and it’s completely sealed off from the rest of the world.”

Husain: “Hamas is governing Gaza. Shouldn’t it be providing for people here rather than you?”

Schmale: “Yes, I think the responsibility of host authorities is to cater to essentials – provide essential services like electricity, like water, like proper sewage and I think the fact that much of that is non-functional is a reflection of ten years of failed government by the Hamas authorities.”

That of course would have been the ideal moment for Mishal Husain to explain to listeners how Hamas has spent millions of dollars on the construction of cross-border attack tunnels and other terror infrastructure but instead listeners heard about “warm winter sunshine”. Husain likewise avoided the highly relevant topic of Hamas terrorism in the part of her conversation with Schmale concerning fishing.

Husain: “There’s a young man I can see in a small boat just beneath us by the water’s edge. What about fishing? Can people make a living from fishing?”

Schmale: “One of the constant debates with Israel is the fishing zone because in order to fish for safe fish that are not contaminated by the water we see coming out of that pipe you need to be a distance out and they say…”

Husain: “How far are they allowed to go out?”

Schmale: “At the moment 3 miles and 3 miles is not enough.”

Husain then did another pointless tick of the impartiality box which contributed nothing to audience understanding.

Husain: “Israel says the blockade is maintained for security reasons and indeed Egypt also blockades on Gaza’s other border.”

Husain and Schmale visited an UNRWA food distribution centre in the Shati refugee camp.

Schmale: “About 60% of the million people that get food from us [are] living with abject poverty as we call it. That means on about a dollar – just a bit more than a dollar – a day. So about 600 thousand people really depend on this food. They would not survive if they didn’t have this.” […]

Husain: “Who pays for all of this food?”

Schmale: “The biggest donor until the beginning of this year was the United States. For Gaza we need roughly $110 million per year. Last year – 2017 – we got 90 million of 110 million from the United States. 80 million of that was food. As a result of their dramatic cut in the beginning of the year, we ran out of money for this at the end of June. We were only able to continue it and what you’re seeing today because the rest of the organisation [the UN] gave us an advance. We took a loan.” […]

Husain: “So what are you going to do in the long run?”

Schmale: “My hope is that appeals to the international community to prevent Gaza sliding into a Yemen-style situation of massive hunger will be heard.”

Remarkably, listeners were then told that the situation in the Gaza Strip is not connected to armed conflict.

Husain: “You’ve worked all over the world. What do you think of what you see here? How does it compare with what you see elsewhere?”

Schmale: “The disasters I have encountered were either natural – a tsunami, an earthquake – or man-made in terms of war. This is the first time I’m confronted with a humanitarian crisis that is entirely man-made as a result of the blockade. But if people had their own jobs and earned their own money, which they could have, we would not need to do this. Natural disasters are uncontrollable. This is controllable.”

The interview closed with the repetition of a statement from Schmale that had already been heard earlier on in the programme.

Husain: “If there was a different security situation – Israel would say it’s not possible with the current reality, the current stance of Hamas towards it.”

Schmale: “I understand the security argument but I also think that we need to be very careful not to put the entire 2 million population into that basket. You know I would claim that the Israelis know so well what goes on in here and know who the potential people are that would hold a security threat to them. If they wanted to they could with reasonable safety let the peace-loving population go out and earn a living for themselves.”

Once again listeners did not hear any Israeli response to the idea that Gaza residents should and could be allowed to work in Israel “with reasonable safety” – despite the past history of dozens of terror attacks perpetrated by workers from the Gaza Strip.

With UNRWA’s politicised messaging having gone completely unchallenged and with no effort having been made to provide vital background information concerning that organisation and its mission, Hamas terrorism, Hamas’ financial prioritisation of terrorism over civilian welfare and the Hamas-Fatah split, Husain then handed over to the BBC’s economic correspondent who – as we shall see in the next post – interviewed yet another person who does not fall into the “ordinary people” category.  

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

One to listen out for tomorrow on BBC Radio 4

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

 

 

Accuracy, impartiality and context lacking in BBC Two film on Gaza

BBC Two has recently been showing a four-part series titled “Mediterranean with Simon Reeve” which will be available on BBC iPlayer for the next five months.

“Simon Reeve embarks on an extraordinary four-part journey around the Mediterranean, uncovering the wild extremes that lie behind the tourist veneer.”

In episode two of the series (also available here) its writer and presenter visited Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“Travelling south, Simon’s next stop is Israel, a country that perhaps more than any other depends on the Mediterranean for its survival. With few friends in the region, Israel has to transport most of its goods by sea. Simon joins the Israeli Navy who patrol the coast and protect the country’s offshore oil reserves using the latest military weaponry and technology, including unmanned, combat-ready drone boats.

From Israel Simon crosses one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders to reach the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis have endured a seemingly endless cycle of violence and in Gaza the result has been devastating destruction. Many building materials are restricted by an Israeli blockade on Gaza, but Simon meets an inspiring young woman who has helped reconstruction efforts by inventing an ingenious method of making bricks from ash. It’s a rare ray of hope in one of the most troubled regions of the Mediterranean.”

Informed viewers may well have raised an eyebrow at Reeve’s failure to mention the relevant context of UN Security Council resolutions forbidding the presence of armed militias in the area of southern Lebanon he described as “territory controlled by Hizballah” while en route to visit the terror organisation’s ‘museum’.

In addition to a trip on a navy boat, Reeve’s trip to Israel included a desalination plant and a visit to “party town” Tel Aviv. At the end of his subsequent trip to the Gaza Strip Reeve declared:

“So much about the Arab-Israeli conflict is about picking a side and personally I refuse to. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history. My heart breaks for the suffering of the Palestinians. So many opportunities for real, lasting peace have been lost here and we see two sides that seem in many ways to be moving further apart, not closer together.”

That monologue however came after viewers have been presented (from 42:27) with a fifteen-minute context-free, politicised and, in parts, inaccurate view of the Gaza Strip.

After a brief reference to “missiles launched from Gaza” Reeve told viewers:

“I crossed one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders. So this is a long walk through a cage – a caged passageway that takes us from the very modern, pretty wealthy state of Israel to the much poorer and densely packed Gaza Strip. I’ve never been through a border quite like this. It is extraordinary in every possible sense and – my God – you look across here…look at the barrier that encircles Gaza. It’s a very forbidding, foreboding place to walk towards, quite frankly. There’s a…there’s a dehumanisation of the people who live here. The whole process makes you feel like you’re entering the cage of the wild animals.”

The concrete barrier near the Erez Crossing pointed out by Reeve of course does not ‘encircle’ Gaza at all. Reeve however did not bother to interview anyone from Israeli communities such as Netiv HaAsara which are protected from Palestinian terrorism by that barrier or make any effort to explain its purpose.

Having entered the Gaza Strip, Reeve teamed up with “our guide in Gaza” – failing to clarify that he is a BBC employee before viewers heard Rushdi Abu Alouf promote political propaganda.

Abu Alouf: “Of course they keep calling Gaza the biggest open-air prison which is true because it’s closed from four sides. So Israel is calling this strip of land is like a hostile entity.”

Viewers got no explanation as to why Israel declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity in September 2007 and Reeve next misled BBC audiences with an inaccurate portrayal of how and when Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “Since elections in 2006 Gaza has been controlled by Hamas – a militant Islamic group considered terrorists by Israel and many Western governments.”

Viewers also heard a ‘creative’ portrayal of the purpose of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military position.

Abu Alouf: “They operate in this area because it’s not far from the border so they always try to be ready for any Israeli escalation.”

Audiences were given an inaccurate (even according to previous problematic BBC reporting) account of civilian casualty figures during the 2014 conflict (47:55).

Reeve: “Israelis and Palestinians have endured endless cycles of violence. Here militants can fire rockets into Israel. Israel can attack with overwhelming force. Weeks of conflict here in 2014 between Israel and Palestinians left two thousand civilians dead, including an estimated 500 children.” [emphasis added]

He went on:

Reeve: “Eighteen thousand homes were destroyed. Israel restricts the supply of many building materials like cement into Gaza – Israel says to prevent Hamas building tunnels for attacks.” [emphasis in the original]

Reeve appears to have sourced the number 18,000 from UNOCHA – where that figure is presented as including partly damaged structures rather than the number (11,000 according to other UN reports) of dwellings “destroyed”.  Of course millions of tons of dual-use goods including cement have been imported into the Gaza Strip since the 2014 conflict under a UN supervised mechanism. Reeve made no effort to inform audiences of Hamas’ proven misappropriation of construction materials for terrorism purposes that include cross-border tunnels.

Failing to explain to viewers why “Gaza is under blockade” or why electricity supplies only run for four hours a day, Reeve gave audiences a simplistic view of Gaza’s economy which failed to include any mention of the relevant topics of the policies and actions of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

Reeve: “But the blockade here is devastating Gaza’s economy. Gaza now has among the highest unemployment rates in the world and it’s believed most of its people survive on less than $2 a day.”

Reeve: “But today Gaza’s fishing industry is in crisis. It’s thought less than half of Gaza’s fishermen are still putting out to sea. Across the Mediterranean fish numbers are in steep decline. Here fishermen face additional challenges.”

Viewers were even told by a Gaza fisherman that fish do not come any closer than nine miles from the shore – with no challenge from Reeve.

Reeve: “This part of the Mediterranean is completely empty.”

Fisherman: “Fish can only be found nine miles out. The Israeli army only allows us to go out six miles.”

Although Reeve acknowledged that he had been unable to verify an account of an incident in which the same fisherman claimed to have been shot by Israeli forces, the BBC aired it anyway. No effort was made to introduce the relevant context of arms smuggling by sea to the Gaza Strip.

With no mention having been made of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip thirteen years ago, audiences were led to believe that Israel is “the occupier”.

Abu Alouf: “Look for young people in Gaza the only thing [they] know about the Israelis is that they are the occupier who come in tanks and aeroplanes and bomb Gaza.”

Simon Reeve ended his visit to the Gaza Strip by telling viewers of this film – categorised in the credits as a “current affairs production” – that:

Reeve: “The situation here is utterly shocking and maddening.”

Significantly, BBC Two audiences heard nothing whatsoever about Hamas’ agenda of destroying the Jewish state – or whether or not Reeve finds that and the terrorism against Israeli civilians which aims to bring that agenda about “utterly shocking and maddening”.

Clearly impartiality and accuracy were not at the forefront of priorities for the makers of this context-lite (especially in comparison to Reeve’s previous efforts to explain the Cyprus conflict) segment of Simon Reeve’s film.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to promote dubiously sourced Gaza statistics

BBC continues to avoid independent verification of Gaza casualty ratios

More context-free BBC portrayal of Gaza construction imports

 

 

An upcoming event in London

Readers based in the UK may be interested in attending an event organised by UK Lawyers for Israel which is to be held in London on September 26th.

“Lord Trimble will reflect on the continuing relevance of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010.  The Commission was set up by the Israeli Government to investigate the arrest of the Gaza flotilla and the controls imposed by Israel on the transfer of goods to Gaza. It was led by retired Israeli Supreme Court Judge Jacob Turkel and Lord Trimble was one of the two international observers.

Lord Trimble is former first Minister of Northern Ireland, one of UKLFI’s patrons, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Turkel Commission investigated whether Israel’s actions in preventing the arrival of ships in Gaza were in accordance with international law.   It examined the security considerations for imposing naval restrictions on the Gaza Strip and the actions taken by the organisers and participants in the flotilla.  The first part of the findings, released in January 2011, concluded that both Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and its actions when it intercepted the flotilla were in accordance with international law.

This will be an opportunity to hear a fascinating perspective on International Law concerning the restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza, and how far Israel can go to protect its borders.”

Details and tickets here.

 

BBC ignores British links to failed ‘flotilla’ agitprop

Late last month we noted that a small propaganda ‘flotilla’ bound for the Gaza Strip was expected to arrive in the region around the end of July.

The first boat was intercepted on July 29th.

“The Israeli Navy on Sunday stopped a boat that was trying to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip and started to tow the vessel to the port in Ashdod.

The “Freedom Flotilla” group said that the boat had been “seized” and that the ship had received a warning from the navy prior to the interception. […]

“The forces made it clear to the boat that it was violating the blockade and that any humanitarian supplies [it is carrying] can be delivered to Gaza through the port of Ashdod,” the military said in a statement. “The activity ended without any unusual incidents. The boat is being towed to the port of Ashdod at this time.””

The ‘medical supplies’ that the organisers claimed the boat was carrying amounted to this:

photo credit: COGAT

On August 4th it was announced that the second boat had been intercepted.

“The IDF announced Saturday morning that it had stopped a boat attempting to break the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. The military said in a statement that there were no “exceptional events” during the course of the incident, and that the boat was towed to port in Ashdod. […]

The flotilla was organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella of organizations aiming to end the closure of Gaza, and set sail from the Danish port of Copenhagen. […]

The flotilla’s two-month journey saw the ships stopping off at several European ports to take part in activities supporting the Palestinians’ so-called “March of Return.””

The link between the flotilla and the ‘Great Return March’ is of course not coincidental: as noted here previously, one of the organisers of both those publicity stunts is UK-based Zaher Birawi who, as the Jerusalem Post reports, “was designated as a member of a terrorist organization – Hamas Headquarters in Europe – by Israel’s Justice Ministry in 2013”.

Despite the connections of the British based activist to a potentially incendiary publicity stunt staged by an organisation with links to more than one terror group,  the BBC apparently did not consider this story to be of interest even to its domestic audiences – which of course include British MPs and Peers who have in the past been briefed by Zaher Birawi on topics such as “violence in the occupied territories” or attended events in Parliament put on by one of the other organisations with which he is involved.

 

 

BBC silent on planned PIJ maritime attack

As readers may recall, the ‘Palestinian Center for Human Rights’ (PCHR) was the source of baseless claims concerning ‘war crimes’ which appeared in BBC content less than 24 hours after the beginning of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas. The group’s director was interviewed by the BBC on several occasions during that conflict and, as has been noted here previously, the PCHR is one of several NGOs uncritically quoted and promoted by the BBC despite being active in the lawfare campaign against Israel.

Moreover, the PCHR was one of the sources used by UNOCHA for the compilation of casualty figures and civilian/combatant ratios in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 conflict. Those figures were unquestioningly quoted, promoted – and even defended – by the BBC without any independent verification having taken place and are still being cited to this day in its content.

On March 12th 2018 the PCHR put out a statement calling upon “the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to intervene to stop all Israeli violations against fishermen and allow them to fish freely in the Gaza Sea”. The reason for that statement was the arrests of a number of fishermen near Rafah – described by the PCHR as “Israeli ongoing attacks against Palestinian fishermen”.

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

On April 4th the background to that story was made public.

“Security forces arrested a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group off the Gaza coast suspected of planning to sink an Israeli naval patrol boat and kidnap any survivors last month, Israel revealed on Wednesday. […]

This plot was foiled on the night of March 12, when the navy’s 916th Patrol Squadron stopped a Palestinian boat that had left the designated Gaza fishing zone. […]

The crew was brought into Israeli custody for questioning, including Amin Saadi Muhammad Jumma’a, 24, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad who told interrogators that he had received instructions from his commanders to prepare to carry out the attack on Israeli Navy ships, according to the Shin Bet and IDF. […]

Jumma’a, a resident of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, told interrogators that the plan was for one boat to act as a diversion by leaving the fishing zone so that a navy ship would approach it.

“A second boat would attack the ship, firing a Kornet (anti-tank) missile at it, with the intention of causing injury and death to the soldiers on board,” the statement said

A third boat would then arrive on the scene and take the wounded soldiers hostage and steal the bodies of those killed, the security forces said.”

Unsurprisingly, BBC audiences have to date seen no reporting at all on that attack planned by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – which is also among the organisers of the ‘Great Return March’.

Whether or not this latest example of the PCHR’s cynical and politicised distortion of events will do anything to convince the BBC that it is not a reliable and unbiased source of information worthy of unquestioning promotion by a corporation committed to accurate and impartial reporting of course remains to be seen.

Related Articles:

BBC quoted and promoted NGO supports cash for terror

Source of BBC’s ‘war crimes’ allegations lies about Palestinian victim of terror

BBC News continues to tout inaccurate portrayal of the ‘Mavi Marmara’

On several occasions in the past the BBC has misrepresented the ‘Mavi Marmara’ – a passenger ship in the 2010 flotilla – as an “aid ship”.

For example in March 2013 BBC audiences were told: [all emphasis added]

“….nine Turkish activists on a boat called the Mavi Marmara taking aid to Gaza. That boat was boarded by Israeli marines and nine of the activists were killed.”

“Nine people were killed on board the Turkish aid ship, Mavi Marmara, when it was boarded by Israeli commandos while trying to transport aid supplies to Gaza in May 2010 in spite of an Israeli naval blockade.”

And in June 2016:

“It was the Mavi Marmara episode in May 2010, when Israeli naval commandos boarded a Turkish-flagged aid vessel which was aiming to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, that caused the rupture.”

And in October 2016:

“Bilateral relations went into the deep freeze in May 2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship as it tried to breach the blockade of Gaza. Ten Turkish activists on board were killed.”

As has been clarified here previously, the Mavi Marmara was of course not an “aid ship” at all. The UN’s Palmer Report (p. 47), documented that it carried 546 passengers but no humanitarian aid supplies for the people of the Gaza Strip.

“If the flotilla had been a purely humanitarian mission it is hard to see why so many passengers were embarked and with what purpose. Furthermore, the quality and value of many of the humanitarian goods on board the vessels is questionable. There were large quantities of humanitarian and construction supplies on board the Gazze 1, Eleftheri Mesogeio and Defne-Y. There were some foodstuffs and medical goods on board the Mavi Marmara, although it seems that these were intended for the voyage itself.  Any “humanitarian supplies” were limited to foodstuffs and toys carried in passengers’ personal baggage. The same situation appears to be the case for two other of the vessels: the Sfendoni, and the Challenger I. There was little need to organize a flotilla of six ships to deliver humanitarian assistance if only three were required to carry the available humanitarian supplies. The number of journalists embarked on the ships gives further power to the conclusion that the flotilla’s primary purpose was to generate publicity.”

On at least two occasions (most recently in October 2016) the BBC has corrected its inaccurate portrayal of the ‘Mavi Marmara’ but that, however, is obviously not enough to prevent the inaccuracy from being repeated.

On December 9th an article appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Turkey drops case against Israeli officers in Gaza flotilla killings“. The opening paragraph reads:

“A Turkish court has dropped a case against four Israeli military officials charged over a deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza in 2010.” [emphasis added]

mavi-marmara-art-9-12

Especially given the previous corrections, it is of course difficult to understand why that inaccuracy is repeated time after time by BBC News.

Update: following communication from BBC Watch, the article was amended and its opening paragraph now reads as follows:

mavi-marmara-art-amendment

 

BBC News ignores yet another case of Hamas maritime smuggling

As has been observed here on several occasions in the past, the BBC chooses not to tell its audiences in its own words why Israel placed a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2009.

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

Photo credit: IDF Spokesman

“… the blockade, which Israel says is a necessary security measure.” (link to source

Israel says the blockade aims to stop the supply of arms or other items for military use, and to put pressure on the Hamas administration.” (link to source)

“Israel tightened maritime restrictions on Gaza from 2007, leading to a blockade which it says it [sic] a vital security measure against the militant Islamist group Hamas, which administers the territory.” (link to source)

Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to stop weapons being smuggled to militants within Gaza.” (link to source) [all emphasis added]

As has also been documented here (see ‘related articles’ below), when stories have emerged which clarify the reasons for the naval blockade’s existence, the BBC has refrained from reporting them to its audiences. Recently another case of maritime smuggling for Hamas by a Gaza Strip fisherman came to light.

“A 22-year-old Gazan fisherman was indicted Sunday in the Be’er Sheva District Court for engagement in criminal activity against Israel on behalf of Hamas. […]

According to the indictment, in 2013 activists from the Hamas military brigade of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam approached al-Saidi seeking his assistance in acquiring military and diving equipment using a boat he received from Hamas.

Al-Saidi was asked to smuggle 50 diving suits, 50 flippers, 20 sets of binoculars and 6 oxygen balloons in return of $1,000. […]

He later attempted to smuggle a number of weapons amounting to 200kg, according to the indictment, for $1,200. During the operation however, he was spotted near Egypt by the country’s army, prompting its soldiers to fire upon him, injuring one of his accomplices in the process.”

Once again, there has been no BBC reporting on this case – which is the third such story ignored by the BBC in the last six months alone. The corporation’s funding public could therefore be forgiven for arriving at the conclusion that the broadcaster has no intention of providing them with the kind of information which would contribute to their “awareness and understanding” of why a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip is necessary.

Related Articles:

BBC News passes up on Gaza Strip weapons smuggling story

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC’s Abualouf promotes Hamas “fishermen” PR line

BBC ignores extension of Gaza fishing zone

BBC ignores extension of Gaza fishing zone

Over the years BBC audiences have been given a very specific, largely context-free, portrayal of the fishing industry in the Gaza Strip. In August 2014, for example, Orla Guerin told viewers that:

SONY DSC

“In Gaza harbour plenty of boats were idle today. Only a few would set sail, even in a ceasefire. Our skipper was Ramez Bakr [phonetic]. Seventy relatives depend on the income from this boat but Israel’s blockade limits where he can fish. It controls access to Gaza from land, sea and air. He’s looking to the negotiators in Cairo to secure a seaport – a key Palestinian demand. ‘The people are hungry’ he tells me ‘and the economy has died. This is why Hamas is fighting Israel: to open the siege and the borders. We’ll be very unhappy if the talks fail.’”

In a backgrounder called ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ which was originally produced in 2012 but updated in July 2014, BBC audiences are told that:

“Following the November 2012 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, the fishing limit was extended from three nautical miles to six. However, it has been periodically reduced to three nautical miles in response to rocket fire from Gaza. Israeli naval forces frequently open fire towards Palestinian fishing boats approaching or exceeding the limit. The UN says if the limit was lifted, fishing could provide employment and a cheap source of protein for the people of Gaza.”

In April 2016 the Gaza Strip fishing zone was extended for the duration of the spring season to nine nautical miles but the BBC’s English language services did not report that change at the time.

As of November 1st 2016, a similar 50% extension will be put in place for a period of two months.

“COGAT said that it made the decision “to facilitate increased activity in Gaza Strip’s fishing sector, which is an [important] source of income.”

A similar measure to expand the fishing zone between April and June 2016 resulted in a 15% increase in the total output of fish, compared to the same period in 2015, according to COGAT.

The total output of the fish market in Gaza stands at NIS 6 million annually. […]

COGAT also said that it hopes to keep the zone open for the fishing season, but warned fishermen against taking advantage of the expansion.

“We emphasize that the expansion of the [fishing zone] is conditioned on the fishermen respecting the agreement [of nine nautical miles] and not exploiting it to smuggle or penetrate Israel’s territory,” the statement added.”

To date there has been no BBC coverage of that October 27th announcement and with the corporation also having repeatedly failed to report maritime weapons smuggling attempts (see ‘related articles’ below), it is obvious that audiences are not being provided with the information they need in order to be able to understand this particular “international issue“.

Relates Articles:

BBC waives another chance to explain why Gaza’s naval blockade exists

BBC News passes up on Gaza Strip weapons smuggling story