BBC’s chief international correspondent claims Hamas changed its charter

On October 12th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ opened with an item concerning the preliminary agreement signed by Hamas and Fatah on that day.

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 00:45 here) with promotion of the inaccurate implication (also heard in previous editions of ‘Newshour’) that the 2006 PLC elections took place only “in Gaza” and failed to inform listeners of the full complement of countries and bodies (including the EU) that proscribe Hamas or of the violent nature of the terror group’s 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip.

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

Kesby: “We begin in the Middle East because after a bitter feud lasting a full decade, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah say they’ve come to a deal over the governing of the Gaza Strip. Hamas – which is described as a terrorist organisation by both the US State Department and Israel – won a landslide victory in elections in Gaza back in 2006. The following year it wrested full control of the territory from Fatah, which controls the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank  and relations between the two groups have been dire ever since. But with the help of Egypt, they’ve now managed to negotiate an agreement which was signed today in Cairo. A senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, Zakariya al Agha, confirmed the signing of the deal.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of statements made by al Agha.

Agha v/o: “We reached an agreement at dawn today regarding all the issues we had been discussing during this current round of talks in Cairo and nearly all the issues on which we had differences have been settled.”

Kesby: “Well Mr al Agha said that Palestinian citizens would see the benefits after the details had been finalised.”

Agha v/o: “All the measures under discussion should be resolved very shortly, whether they are in regards to government employees, electricity or other issues. There will be a breakthrough soon and the citizens of Gaza will feel the results of this agreement.”

With a bizarre reference to “the Middle East” – the vast majority of which would not of course be affected one iota by any reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah – Kesby went on:

Kesby: “So how might this deal change things more widely in the Middle East and will Fatah’s resumption of a partnership with Hamas help or hinder the stalled peace process with the Israelis? Joining us live on the line now is our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet and, Lyse, first of all let’s try to get a bit more detail on exactly what has been agreed ‘cos it seems that Fatah will take over the civilian control of Gaza but Hamas it seems will keep its military wing?”

Doucet: “Well that is exactly one of the issues that we’re still waiting to hear details on. You heard the Fatah representative; he said ‘all the issues’ and then he said ‘nearly all the issues’.  Let’s go by what they have announced in Cairo; the two sides say they have agreed on. And that is that when it comes to what is essentially the only real crossing – aside from the Israeli…the heavily controlled Israeli crossings – the only exit for Hamas, the residents of the Gaza Strip with the outside world is the Rafah crossing with Egypt. By November the first Hamas’ own security…ah…security forces will have left that crossing and will be replaced by the Presidential Guards of the Palestinian Authority. In other words it will underline that there is only one security force and it is under the overall Palestinian Authority. And there was a statement to suggest that those forces would spread to other parts of the other of the edges of the Gaza Strip. We also heard that – yes, as you mentioned – the administrative control, which will be hugely important. He mentioned the electricity shortage. Gazans are living with about two to three hours of electricity a day and that is an impact noxious on Gazan homes, the hospitals don’t have enough electricity so people’s …ah…people’s health is being affected. Cars don’t have enough fuel.”

Doucet did not bother to tell listeners that the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is the result of deliberate Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas before she went on to make a curious assertion.

Doucet: “The United Nations has been urging all sides to try to end the rift and this is what we think has pushed Hamas to finally negotiate.”

Who “we” are is unclear but remarkably, Doucet erased both growing domestic dissent and the Dahlan factor from her portrayal. She continued:

Doucet: “But the question you mentioned; 25,000 men under arms in the Gaza Strip – the military wing of Hamas. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has said ‘we don’t want a Hizballah’: in other words, an independent armed group operating in Gaza. But so far we haven’t heard…in fact Hamas has said ‘we’re not going to disband our military wing but we will work more closely with the Palestinian Authority’. Will that be enough? Certainly not for Israel.”

As has been unanimously the case in BBC coverage of the latest potential Hamas-Fatah deal since the story first broke in September, Doucet refrained from telling audiences that any ‘unity government’ which avoids disarming Hamas’ terrorist militia in the Gaza Strip will fail to meet the Palestinian Authority’s commitments under existing agreements with Israel. Instead, the issue was portrayed as being about Israeli ill-will.

Apparently ignorant of the vicious violence that took place in 2007 when Hamas launched its armed take-over of the Gaza Strip and ignoring its subsequently augmented terrorism against Israeli citizens and its brutal abuse of the residents of Gaza, Rebecca Kesby went on to promote a ditsy notion unconnected to reality.

Kesby: “And so when Hamas took over the running of Gaza it did seem – didn’t it Lyse – to be crossing into the mainstream; trying to look a bit more like a legitimate political party. Is this a retreat then for them on the political process? And if so, where does that leave relations with Israel because they have been prepared to speak to Fatah but if Fatah’s now in partnership with Hamas again, does that strain relations again with the Israelis?”

Doucet: “Well I remember the elections in 2006. Fatah – and indeed the outside world, including the United States – were shocked that Hamas had won these elections and so the talk was let them bring them in to the democratic process; let them show that they can be a legitimate governing force. By the next year, however, they had completely taken over the Gaza Strip and for the last decade there has been that rift. Now since that time, Hamas has constantly been under pressure to change its founding charter which still talks about the destruction of the State of Israel. The listeners may remember that they made some changes to that charter in the last year. It was seen as a huge breakthrough by Hamas but still it fell short for Israel.”

Doucet’s claim that Hamas “made some changes to that charter” is of course inaccurate. The policy document launched in May did not replace or change the existing charter at all – as the BBC News website reported at the time. Unfortunately for BBC World Service audiences, however, this is not the first time that they have heard the falsehood now promoted by Doucet. She continued, using the partisan language of terrorist groups that call themselves ‘resistance’:

Doucet: “So there’s still a big question-mark about Gaza [sic – Hamas] whether it is a resistance movement or a governing movement. It says it is both because bear in mind that the so-called peace process is basically going nowhere. So Hamas feels why should we then give in, give up all of our rights or our bargaining positions if in fact that process is going nowhere.”

By now Doucet was obviously making it up as she went along: her attempt to persuade BBC audiences that Hamas continues to be a “resistance movement” because the peace process is stalled is obviously contradicted by the fact that Hamas has rejected any sort of engagement in that process since its founding thirty years ago. She continued:

Doucet: “And you mentioned earlier the question will this help the negotiating process? Well no, because Israel does not want to sit at the same table with Hamas and the United States in the past – and I’ve heard this from Palestinian officials – has tried to stop any reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It wants them to be brought in, to stop, to end its armed wing, to change its charter, to accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel and it shows no sign of doing that yet, even though it has said it wants to basically run the Gaza Strip – wants to be part of the Palestinian Authority.”

Such requirements are of course not – as Doucet would apparently have listeners believe –capricious demands made by Israel and/or the United States: they are in fact what is known as the Quartet Principles (recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and adherence to previous agreements) and were endorsed by the UN Security Council in 2008. Had Doucet bothered to clarify that to her listeners, their understanding of why the disarming of Hamas is such a crucial issue and why the peace process cannot progress if a new Palestinian unity government does not adhere to those principles would obviously have been enhanced.

Doucet closed with a curious take-away message:

Doucet: “It [Hamas] doesn’t…it’s not a movement like Islamic State and the other extremist groups.”

Although BBC reporting on the reconciliation in progress between Hamas and Fatah has to date been superficial and has for the most part failed to provide audiences with the information necessary for proper understanding of the issues behind the story, one might have expected that a journalist holding the title of BBC chief international correspondent would have been able to do better.

However, Doucet’s promotion of inaccurate information concerning the Hamas charter and the terror group’s approach to the peace process, along with her failure to properly explain why a Hamas-Fatah unity government which does not adhere to the Quartet Principles will stall the peace process and her often dubious analysis, failed to meet the BBC’s obligation to accurate and impartial reporting.

Related Articles:

BBC News continues to mislead on Gaza electricity crisis

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

BBC fails to clarify to audiences significance of PUG failure to disarm Hamas

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

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

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

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

BBC’s Bateman misleads on US and Israeli approach to Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’

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BBC WS radio on US withdrawal from UNESCO – part two

The BBC World Service radio programme ‘Business Matters’ describes itself as providing listeners with “global business news“. Apparently that type of news was in short supply on October 13th because the day’s lead story was entirely unrelated to that topic.

“Israel has followed the US in announcing its intention to leave Unesco, the UN’s cultural organisation. We examine the reasons why and ask what it means for Unesco’s future.”

The caption to the photograph used to illustrate the programme’s webpage reads as follows:

“Picture: the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City”

As readers may recall, the employment of the term “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” – rather than the BBC style guide stipulated titles Temple Mount and Haram al Sharif – was first seen in November 2014 immediately after the PLO published a ‘media advisory’ document informing foreign journalists of its “[c]oncern over the use of the inaccurate term “Temple Mount” to refer to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem”. That directive is of course part and parcel of the PLO’s tactic of negation of Jewish history and it is therefore particularly ironic that this caption accompanies a report concerning a UN body where that tactic has become a regular feature.

Presenter Fergus Nicoll introduced the item: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Nicoll: “In a moment our main headline: Israel says it will join the United States in its withdrawal from the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO. We’ll discuss that. […]

[01:23] We’ve got a lot to get our teeth into today, starting with the relationship between Washington and the United Nations – specifically some of the UN’s constituent agencies. It’s often been a prickly, even hostile, affair. The UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation – UNESCO for short – is a case in point. Washington pulled US funding back in 2011 after Palestine was admitted as a member state of UNESCO despite having a non-member observer status in other parts of the UN structure. That funding cut prompted UNESCO to suspend US voting rights. So, does it matter that President Trump has now announced a formal withdrawal of US membership? UNESCO’s director general Irina Bokova thinks so.”

The US announcement was in fact made by the State Department rather than by the president.

Bokova: “I express my deep regret. If you go back into history we will see not only that the United States is a founding member of UNESCO. The whole idea that you can build peace through education, science, culture, communication is basically an American idea.”

Nicoll: “The full US withdrawal will come into effect at the end of 2018. Crystal Nix-Hines was President Obama’s appointee as the US ambassador to UNESCO until earlier this year.”

Listeners then heard edited parts of an interview broadcast the previous evening on the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ which was previously discussed here.

“I think it’s a terrible decision for the US to withdraw from the organisation it helped found in…right after World War Two to promote peace and international cooperation around the world.

Well there’s no question that the resolutions have come out of the executive board adopted by member states have been incredibly inflammatory and quite frankly…ah…offensive. But the thing that people don’t realise is that because the United States has a seat at the table on the executive board, we’re able to block the implementation of those resolutions.

…giving up our seat on the executive board, we now lose that critical ‘no’ vote…”

With listeners having already heard two negative views of the US announcement, Nicoll then introduced his first interviewee – Professor David Bosco – who began by stating the obvious.

Bosco: “When the United States is out of the organisation its ability to impact the organisation’s budget, its staffing, its priorities certainly becomes minimal. The relationship has not been good for several years and the US hasn’t been paying its dues because of the issue of Palestinian membership but at least the US was an observer, was involved in, you know, the deliberations for example about who will be the next director general of UNESCO.”

Nicoll next steered the conversation towards “the question of partisanship”, with Bosco claiming “you do find  that it’s during Republican administrations that relations [between the US and the UN] have been more fraught”. Nicoll next asked whether additional countries would be likely to follow suit and Bosco’s answer included the following:

Bosco: “I don’t think you’ll see other major players follow suit because I think the Trump administration’s image and rhetoric is so toxic right now that I don’t think others will want to be seen to be following in their wake.”

Nicoll then posed the following question:

Nicoll: “I’d like to get your take on the fundamental core question here: is UNESCO really anti-Israel?”

Bosco: “Well, so first of all it’s not a question of whether UNESCO in terms of its director and its staff and its employees are. Because when it comes down to it the things that lead it to be accused of being anti-Israel are resolutions passed by UNESCO members. In that sense I mean UNESCO, I wouldn’t say, is any more anti-Israel than the UN general assembly is or the UN human rights committee [sic] and there are valid cases to be made that they have unduly focused on Israel. And I think that goes for UNESCO as well. There was recently a resolution about the status of Jerusalem or there was a mention [sic] of Israel as an occupying power in Jerusalem that was seen as very hostile by Israel and by the United States. I think anti-Israel views are very strongly held by many of the members of UNESCO – I think I would put it that way. I think it’s a relatively low-cost way for the US and the Trump administration to signal their displeasure with what they see as an anti-Israel bias at the UN and their general kind of dislike of many of the things that the UN does.”

In other words, once again BBC World Service audiences did not get any factual information concerning the scale of anti-Israel bias at UNESCO (and other UN branches) and were not told that the stream of UNESCO resolutions (sponsored and supported by assorted Arab states) erasing and denying Jewish history and heritage are part of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to delegitimise Israel. 

Nicoll then moved on to his two programme guests – Nancy Koehn and David Moser – mentioning an article he’d read which just happens to include comment from his previous interviewee.

Nicoll: “So Nancy, I was reading one piece – it was quite interesting – suggesting this was a kind of left field announcement; no American voter would have expected, you know, Mr Trump would give much attention to a group like UNESCO that looks pretty harmless on the face of it.”

Koehn’s reply included the following:

“…nothing will surprise – or increasingly little surprises, I think – the American citizenry in this incredible turbulence of the last ten months of the Trump administration when it feels like ten years to many of us because there’s so much happening and coming out of the White House on a daily basis.”

On the topic of the announcement itself Koehn told listeners:

“…the timing is not good. It just doesn’t make good diplomatic sync optical signalling sense for the United States to withdraw from an organisation created in the wake of World War Two to foment unity among nations […] at a moment when the world is growing increasingly volatile and divisive. It’s just – as we say in the business world – lousy optics.”

Turning to David Moser, Nicoll suggested that:

Nicoll: “…effectively, you know, if you throw, you know, your toys out of the pram – you say I’m not playing with this anymore – you don’t get a say anymore.”

Moser replied that he did not think that the current US administration “want a say in this domain anyway”, adding:

Moser: “This is all about education, science and culture: not exactly three main priorities of this administration.”

Quoting a French ambassador, he went on:

Moser: “…the ideals of UNESCO are in America’s DNA. Well America’s DNA has suddenly this season mutated. It’s a different kind of DNA. […]

For Trump this is low-hanging fruit. This is exactly the kind of thing that he does not value.”

Listeners later heard Moser claim that “the United States is stepping back from the world order and taking less of a decisive role, leaving a gap for China to fill”.

Nicoll next repeated Bosco’s questionable theory that “you can’t blame the institution – it’s the members of the institution”, adding:

Nicoll: “I guess you could say historically across the UN that’s true. The United Nations security council isn’t the way it is as such; it’s the behaviour of the P5 including, you know, the US votes on Israel, China, Russia’s votes on other issues.”

The last word in this long item went to Koehn who opined that:

Koehn: “So if Trump is in effect thumbing his nose at UNESCO – a low hanging fruit indeed – […] again it says something about the president’s perceptions of US responsibilities and US presence in the global community that […] the US pulls back, the US thumbs its nose at.”

In this BBC World Service programme and in the edition of ‘Newshour’ aired the previous evening which addressed the same topic, listeners heard a total of five uniformly negative opinions of the US State Department’s announcement to withdraw from UNESCO – with no alternative views offered at all. They likewise heard monochrome commentary on the story from the point of view of US politics: hardly an example of the BBC’s supposed commitment to “due impartiality”.

In neither programme, however, did listeners hear an accurate, comprehensive and impartial portrayal of the extent of – and reasons behind – the anti-Israel bias at UNESCO that prompted the US to take the step under such copious discussion.

Apparently the BBC World Service needs to be reminded that it is obliged to “provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world”.

Related Articles:

BBC WS radio on US withdrawal from UNESCO – part one

BBC policy on portrayal of UN anti-Israel bias on display again

 

BBC WS radio on US withdrawal from UNESCO – part one

As we saw in a previous post, the BBC News website’s reporting on the October 12th announcement from the US State Department regarding withdrawal from UNESCO did not provide BBC audiences with the background information essential for understanding of one of the three cited reasons for that action – anti-Israel bias. Rather, in addition to repeatedly placing that phrase in scare quotes, the article told readers of “perceived anti-Israel bias” at an organisation that passed no fewer than 46 anti-Israel resolutions between 2009 and 2013.

So did listeners to BBC World Service radio fare any better? The same story was the topic of an item aired in the October 12th edition of the programme ‘Newshour‘ which was introduced by presenter Tim Franks (from 17:57 here) as follows:

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

Franks: “The US has announced it’s pulling out of the UN’s cultural organisation UNESCO and it’ll be joined by Israel. The State Department said that the decision comes out of concerns with what it called ‘continuing anti-Israel bias’ at the agency. The formal withdrawal will come into effect at the end of next year.”

Franks then introduced the item’s sole interviewee:

Franks: “Crystal Nix-Hines was President Obama’s appointee as the US ambassador to UNESCO until earlier this year.”

Nix-Hines: “I think it’s a terrible decision for the US to withdraw from the organisation it helped found in…right after World War Two to promote peace and international cooperation around the world. And it’s, you know, yet another example of the Trump administration withdrawing from the international community and abdicating its leadership role.”

Franks: “Well you say it was set up in the wake of the Second World War with noble intentions; the argument now is that it has departed from those aims and it is a highly politicised and – in the words of its critics – anti-Israel talking shop.”

Nix-Hines: “Well there’s no question that the resolutions have come out of the executive board adopted by member states have been incredibly inflammatory and quite frankly…ah…offensive. But the thing that people don’t realise is that because the United States has a seat at the table on the executive board, we’re able to block the implementation of those resolutions. We vote no every single time. Sometimes we’re the only member to do so and because of that the UNESCO secretariat does not enforce the resolutions because they aren’t adopted by consensus. By staying out of the organisation, giving up our seat on the executive board, we now lose that critical ‘no’ vote and the resolutions are free to proceed.”

Franks made no effort to pursue the topic of the factors lying behind the politicisation of UNESCO or to explain to listeners that the stream of resolutions (sponsored and supported by assorted Arab states) that erase and deny Jewish history and heritage in the region are part of a long-standing Palestinian campaign to delegitimise Israel. With the BBC often failing to report – or reporting badly – on Palestinian actions at UNESCO, most listeners would be unable to fill in the blanks for themselves. He continued:

Franks: “Well except that I suppose the argument could be used that, I mean, essentially you’re accepting the criticism of UNESCO for having a slant – a bias – against Israel, for denying the Israeli or the Jewish cultural and religious and historical links to sites in Jerusalem, the site in Hebron and actually, you know, using your veto is one thing but actually walking away from the organisation is a…a braver and more honest thing to do until it sorts itself out.”

Nix-Hines: “I disagree. You can’t effect change if you’re not part of the organisation and working to encourage positive change.”

Nix-Hines went on to claim that “UNESCO is the only international organisation that teaches Holocaust education” and “the only organisation that is really doing anything serious to develop educational tools to help young people resist violent extremism and encourage tolerance and multiculturalism” before making a statement that Franks chose not to explore further.

Nix-Hines: “And why should, you know, a power like the United States let the Palestinians and their supporters drive us out of an organisation that we helped found and we’re moving in the right direction?”

Franks’ final question related to the possibility of change at UNESCO that might “persuade the US to reverse its decision”.  His interviewee’s response included further political comment:

Nix-Hines”…we [the US delegation] encouraged the organisation to return to that depoliticised time. And they could still do that and it would be a positive step in the right direction. But nonetheless it’s important to stay engaged in these international organisations – as the Obama administration realised – to promote real change.”

Listeners to this item once again heard superfluous qualification appended to the phrase anti-Israel bias. They heard one particular view of the US administration’s announcement – along with one particular shade of political comment – with no alternative view offered.

They did not however hear Tim Franks present any sort of serious challenge to the person who represented the United States at UNESCO for two and a half years on the question of why she and others failed to make any progress in ‘depoliticising’ the organisation in that time.

Listeners to another BBC World Service radio programme the next day heard a repeat of some of Nix-Hines’ comments. That broadcast will be discussed in part two of this post.

Related Articles:

BBC policy on portrayal of UN anti-Israel bias on display again 

BBC WS radio listeners told that Nazareth is a ‘Palestinian city’

The October 14th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 38:06 here) that was introduced by presenter Paul Henley as follows:

Henley: “Now a film called ‘Wajib’ by the Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir has been shown at the London film festival. The film is the only Arab entry in competition and follows a father and his estranged son who must come together to hand-deliver his daughter’s wedding invitations to each guest, as is the custom in…in Palestine.”

The BBC Academy’s style guide specifically states that the corporation’s staff:

“…should not affix the name ‘Palestine’ to Gaza or the West Bank – rather, it is still an aspiration or an historical entity.”

Henley’s choice of words is even more egregious in light of the fact (not clarified to listeners) that the film’s story is based in Nazareth in northern Israel. Nevertheless, listeners heard another reference to ‘Palestine’ just seconds later.

Henley: “Now my colleague Razia Iqbal spoke to Annemarie for Newshour and she asked her how difficult it was as a Palestinian to keep politics and art separate.”

Jacir: “I don’t think it’s possible to make a film in Palestine that’s not somehow political because that’s just daily life. It’s everywhere. It’s in the way you travel, it’s in parents dropping their kids off to school, you know, you get round a checkpoint or not.”

Later on in the interview (40:53) listeners heard the following statements from Bethlehem born, Saudi raised, US educated Annemarie Jacir:

Jacir: “I think the Palestinians that are living in, you know, historic Palestine in a city like Nazareth – which is the biggest Palestinian city [sic] in Israel – they aren’t…who are they represented by? You know they are Israeli citizens on paper but they’re second, third class citizens. They don’t have the same rights. They’re not represented by the Israeli government for sure. They’re definitely not represented by the Palestinian Authority and so I feel like it is a community that lives a contradictory life and they’re struggling to find an identity…the identity and also, yeah, a political representative.”

Arab-Israelis living in Nazareth or anywhere else in Israel of course have the same rights as any other citizen – including the right to vote for their chosen parliamentary representatives. Eighteen (i.e. over 20% – reflecting the proportion of minorities in the population as a whole) of the current members of the Knesset are Arab-Israelis, Druze or Bedouin representing six different political parties (three of which – in contrast to Jacir’s claim – are part of the current coalition government) and surveys repeatedly indicate that the majority of Arab-Israelis view Israel in a positive light.  

Despite that, Razia Iqbal failed to present any challenge whatsoever to Jacir’s politically motivated, inaccurate and materially misleading claims and swiftly moved on to the next topic.

And yet, the BBC continues to claim that it provides its funding public with “accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards”.  

 

BBC’s Bateman misleads on US and Israeli approach to Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’

The October 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item concerning that day’s meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in the Gaza Strip. The report (from 45:06 here) was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “The Palestinian cabinet has met in Gaza for the first time in three years as the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority moves closer to taking charge of the territory from Hamas, which has controlled it for the past decade. Last month Hamas agreed to dissolve its administration in Gaza and make way for a unity government led by the prime minister Rami Hamdallah. These Palestinians said they hoped the new government would improve the lives of the people in the Gaza Strip.”

Listeners then heard two short ‘man in the street’ interviews.

Man 1: “The youths of Gaza are living in a very difficult situation. We’re waiting for this reconciliation in the hope that there will be more job opportunities for the younger generations.”

Man 2: “We welcome them and the new government. We call on them to look at the young people – which is the most important thing – and to solve the electricity issue and the crisis in Gaza and whatever else is possible to raise the quality of life of the Palestinian people.”

Iqbal: “Let’s speak now to the BBC’s Tom Bateman who joins us live from Jerusalem. Tom; let’s pic up from what we heard from the young Palestinians there about the quality of life in Gaza. It’s a…it’s a tiny strip of land but it is a very difficult place to be, isn’t it?”

Bateman: “It’s two million people. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. I mean people are dealing with electricity for two to four hours a day. There are severe water shortages as you heard there because of the electricity crisis. That means that…ah…there is a serious problem with raw sewage…ahm…and life there is extremely difficult.”

Bateman sidestepped the topic of the reasons behind the electricity crisis in Gaza, dismissing the subject as “complex”. He also failed to tell listeners why conditions in Gaza did not improve during the two weeks between the Hamas announcement that it would dissolve its managing committee in the Gaza Strip and the cabinet meeting that is the subject of his report.

“Regarding the punitive measures Abbas levied against Gaza in April in order to force Hamas to cede control of the Strip, he [Abbas] said he was in “no hurry” to lift them.

He said the measures cut 22% of the PA’s funding to Gaza — a total of $1.5 billion US dollars — which affected the already dire electricity and water situation in the Strip. These steps would not be reversed until the PA was in full control of Gaza, he said.”

Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Now the factors behind that [electricity crisis] are complex but what’s happened today in terms of this meeting of the unity cabinet – that was actually first established about three years ago – is in terms of its symbolism, in terms of what Hamas and Fatah are saying about this, is that this is, you know, paving the way for Palestinian reconciliation. However…ah…you know, we’ve been on this road before. Previous attempts at such unity have come to nothing. I think this time, you know, the backing of the Egyptians – which has been in place previously – seems to be at a level where there is some hope that this…eh…this time that unity may come to fruition in terms…it may deliver something for the people of Gaza and an end to a lot of these problems. But we’ll just have to wait and see and after the cabinet meeting today there are now due to be talks between the two sides in Egypt.”

Bateman then went on to suggest that the approach of the United States to the prospect of a Palestinian unity government is different to that of Israel:

Bateman: “Meanwhile, there is everything from some support internationally from the US but from Israel the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that, you know, he’s not prepared to accept what he called imaginary appeasement in which the Palestinians supposedly reconcile at the expense of the existence of the State of Israel.”

A statement from the US Middle East envoy put out the day before Bateman’s report made the US position clear.

“The United States on Monday said it welcomes efforts for the Palestinian Authority to resume control over government institutions in the Gaza Strip after the PA premier arrived in the Hamas-controlled enclave earlier in the day for a cabinet meeting. But it made clear there would be no dealing with a Palestinian government including Hamas unless or until the terror group recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism.

“As the Palestinian Authority Cabinet visits Gaza today in preparation for its October 3 cabinet meeting, the United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza,” Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy for Middle East, said in a statement. […]

“The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.”

Using the Hebrew phrase פיוסים מדומים – fictitious reconciliations – rather than “imaginary appeasement” (which Bateman appears to have gleaned from a report by Ha’aretz), Netanyahu said:

‘“We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognize Israel and, of course, recognize a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations in which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence,” Netanyahu said during a special Likud faction meeting in the West Bank city of Ma’ale Adumim.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: Recognize the State of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing, sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction,” he added.’

In other words, with both the US envoy and the Israeli prime minister stating that any Palestinian government must recognise Israel and reject terrorism, the two countries’ responses to the prospect of a Palestinian government are far less different than Bateman would obviously have his audience believe.

The report continued with Bateman failing to clarify to audiences why Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation and its continuing refusal to reject terror is a significant part of this story.

Iqbal: “I suppose we shouldn’t forget and remind people that the US and the European Union have blacklisted Hamas as a terrorist organisation which does complicate the formation of any unity government.”

Bateman: “Well this is of course one of the major issues in terms of the way that…ehm…the governance of Gaza should be dealt with because as you say…ah…it’s not just Israel but of course many countries around the world that…eh…regard Hamas as a terrorist…ahm…organisation and so you therefore have a situation where if there is reconciliation, what does that mean for the Palestinian Authority and the way it is run? Not just in Gaza but in the West Bank. I think that much will depend on these talks that are due to take place, as I say, in Cairo. And just getting through those with the many issues that have to be resolved; not least the control of arms in Gaza itself, with President Abbas suggesting…ah…that he will not accept a model where Hamas has control of arms with a sort of PA government just in charge of civilian control. Lots of issues to deal with and – as I say – you know….ah…those people hoping it may deliver something but of course the past has proven otherwise.”

Once again BBC audiences did not hear a proper explanation of why existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians mean that Hamas must be disarmed before becoming part of any Palestinian government. As was the case in previous reports on this story, that means that audiences are not receiving the full range of information necessary for its proper understanding.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

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

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

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

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again 

 

 

BBC WS report on Har Adar attack avoids narrative-conflicting issues

The September 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included (from 33:54 here) a report supposedly about the terror attack that took place at Har Adar earlier the same day.

Unsurprisingly, presenter Julian Marshall portrayed the attack without using the words terror or terrorist: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Marshall: “Let’s go now to Israel where President Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt has arrived in Jerusalem to try to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks and shortly before his arrival there was a shooting incident on the occupied West Bank in which three Israelis were shot dead by a Palestinian gunman who was himself later killed by police. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the attack on what he called ‘Palestinian incitement’. The BBC’s Yolande Knell joins us now from Jerusalem and, Yolande, first tell us a bit more about that shooting incident.”

Knell: “Well the attack happened early this morning at Har Adar settlement. It’s just north-west of Jerusalem, just inside the occupied West Bank, and there are Palestinian workers there who were – with Israeli permits – going to work inside the settlement. They were queuing up for security checks. This man was among them and he had a work permit but his behaviour made security staff suspicious. When they asked him to stop he pulled out a gun and he shot and killed two of the private security guards from the settlement and one Israeli policeman as well. There was another security official who was badly injured and then the Palestinian man himself was shot dead. I was in the area just afterwards as an ambulance raced past. All surrounding roads were blocked off with a very heavy security presence.”

Marshall: “And…err…what has prompted the prime minister to blame the attack on ‘Palestinian incitement’?”

With BBC audiences being serially under-informed about Palestinian incitement, that question (notwithstanding the scoffing tone in which it was voiced) obviously provided an opportunity to enhance listeners’ understanding of the issue. Yolande Knell did not however step up to the plate.

Knell: “This is something that we have regularly seen from the Israeli prime minister. He also called on the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the shooting and his deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely linked this to the arrival of the US envoy Jason Greenblatt – he’s back here trying to revive the moribund peace process. She said that the Palestinians meant this as a reception for him and she suggested that the US should focus on getting the Palestinian leader to condemn such acts of violence before any peace initiative could be launched. And we’ve heard this a lot from Israeli leaders recently.”

In addition to side-stepping the very relevant topic of incitement, Knell also avoided a no less important subject raised by Tzipi Hotovely in the statement partly paraphrased by Knell.

“The terrible attack this morning in Har Adar is the reception that the Palestinians prepared for US envoy Greenblatt,” she [Hotovely] said in a statement. “The American efforts must focus first of all on stopping the murderous Palestinian terror before anything else. There can be no negotiations with those who only fan the flames of terrorism and continue to pay the families of terrorists.”

The issue of the PA’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists, allocation of benefits to released prisoners and payments to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks is one about which BBC audiences know next to nothing. Knell, however, sidelined that issue too and – choosing her words carefully – went on:

Knell: “Of course it’s very difficult for Palestinian leaders to come out..ehm…condemning individual attacks because many of these…err…attackers would be seen…by…many Palestinians as being heroes of some kind while the Israelis would see them as being terrorist. And there was actually a senior member of President Abbas’ Fatah movement who came out saying that Israel alone bears responsibility for what he called the crimes of the occupation. And then the…err…Palestinian militant group Hamas as well; their spokesman told the BBC…ahm…that this was a natural reaction – those were his words – to the occupation and he praised this attack.”

Knell did not bother to inform listeners that Abbas’ Fatah party glorified the terrorist on social media or that among the so-called “crimes of the occupation” cited by that Fatah “senior member” was “the incessant invasions by the herds of settlers of the Al-Aqsa Mosque plazas”. 

Marshall then gave Knell the cue for a typically tepid and obfuscating portrayal of the breakdown of negotiations in 2014.

Marshall: “Ahm…Yolande, you referred to those…err…peace talks as moribund. In fact so moribund you’re going to have to remind us when the two sides last sat down to talk to each other.”

Knell: “Well it’s now three years since…eh…the peace talks – the last round of peace talks – which were brokered by the US – ehm…fell apart. And Jason Greenblatt is back, trying to help President Trump work towards what he’s called the ultimate deal but there have been many signs that this is not gathering momentum. Palestinian leaders making complaints that the US is not pressuring Israel to curb its construction of Jewish settlements on land they want for their future state.”

Knell of course knows full well that the phrase “construction of Jewish settlements” is inaccurate and misleading, with no new communities having been constructed for decades. She closed her report with the BBC’s standard – yet partial – mantra on ‘international law’.

Knell: “Of course settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees with that. And the other complicating factor that we have to remember are [sic] these fresh signs of reconciliation between the two main Palestinian political factions; between Hamas and Fatah. Ehm…they’ve just said in the last week or so that they want to work towards a unity government; expected to have more on that and Hamas of course is seen by the US, by Israel, by the EU and others as being a terrorist group.”

In conclusion, listeners to this report ostensibly about a terror attack against Israelis did not hear the words terror or terrorist used in the BBC’s portrayal of the incident. Neither did they learn anything about the three people murdered other than their job descriptions and Yolande Knell carefully avoided narrative-conflicting topics such as the Palestinian Authority’s incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism and financial rewards to terrorists.

However, BBC World Service listeners did hear two references to the “occupied West Bank”, five references to “settlements”, two references to “the occupation” and a one-sided portrayal of international law.

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BBC editorial policy on terror continues in Har Adar attack report

 

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

As documented here previously (see here and here) the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on September 17th devoted over a third of its airtime to coverage of a 106 word statement put out by Hamas earlier that day.

That subject was also the lead story in the evening edition of ‘Newshour‘ on the same day.

“In the Palestinian territories, Hamas – the faction that’s ruled the Gaza Strip for the past decade – says it is willing to dissolve the body that oversees the territory and to allow a unity government to sit ahead of new elections. We get reaction from an Israeli MP and a senior Hamas official.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy’s dramatically worded introduction to the first part of the twelve minute-long item (from 00:47 here) once again misled listeners by implying that the 2006 PLC election was confined to the Gaza Strip and that Hamas has ruled the territory since 2006 rather than 2007.

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

Coomarasamy: “Now we begin with a slim shaft of light piercing the darkened corners of the moribund Middle East peace process. It holds out the potential for reconciliation; not yet between the Israelis and Palestinians but within the Palestinian political family itself. Hamas – the faction that has ruled Gaza for the past decade – says it’s willing to dissolve the body that oversees the territory and allow a unity government to sit ahead of new elections. That government would be headed by the 82 year-old leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas whose Fatah faction lost the election in Gaza in 2006 and whose rule has since then been confined to the West Bank. Hamas – regarded as a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Israel among others – agreed to the change at talks in Cairo. Well Gaza has long been subject to a blockade by Egypt and Israel and in recent months there’s been added pressure from the Palestinian Authority which has significantly reduced the electricity supplies to the territory. So will this agreement stick or will it quickly peel away like previous expressions of unity? The long-suffering citizens of Gaza are divided.”

After listeners had heard two ‘random man in the street’ interviews, Coomarasamy went on to present an edited version of his previous conversation with Fatah’s Nabil Shaath, including the unchallenged description of the Israeli government as “colonialist”.

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.”

Coomarasamy then spoke to MK Sharren Haskel, finding it necessary to make a clarification at the end of their conversation:

Coomarasamy: “Sharren Haskel, that Likud party MP there, referring during the interview to Mahmoud Abbas as Abu Mazen and Judea and Samaria…eh…also…eh…known as the West Bank.”

Listeners next heard analysis from BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Yolande Knell which was similar to her contribution in the earlier edition of the programme and repeated the claim that:

Knell: “…Israel always accuses Mr Abbas of not representing all the Palestinian people…”

Knell also told listeners that “positive comments” from the UN’s Middle East peace process coordinator should be interpreted as “acknowledgement that Hamas must be brought into the political scene”.

Later on in the programme (from 30:08 here) Coomarasamy again returned to the same topic.

Coomarasamy: “Let’s get more now on our main news today: the news that the Palestinian group Hamas has agreed to dissolve the body which controls the Gaza Strip and to allow a unity government to oversee that territory before the first election there since 2006 takes place. Well, earlier in the programme we heard reactions to this agreement – that was announced after talks in Cairo – from the rival Palestinian faction Fatah and from an MP with the ruling party in Israel. Well, for more insight into why the decision was taken, I’ve been speaking to Ghazi Hamad who’s a senior Hamas official in Gaza.”

Throughout that interview BBC regular Ghazi Hamad made repeated references to the ‘peace process’ which of course has been completely rejected by Hamas throughout all its decades of existence – although Coomarasamy made no effort to clarify that relevant point to his listeners.

Hamad: “The Egyptians succeeded to convince them [Hamas] that now it’s a good time now to start reconciliation with Fatah factions and because the miserable situation of the region and because of the problems in the peace process. So we need now to bring the policy and together and they succeed to convince Hamas that you have to show more flexibility.”

Coomarasamy: “What’s convinced Hamas then that this is the right time? What has convinced Hamas that these are the right conditions?”

Hamad: “You know, you know before that many people involved and there were many mediations between Hamas and Fatah but Hamas was doubtful about the intention of the president Abu Mazen to implement the agreement. So they found that Egypt is a big country and Egypt could be a good guarantee. They can give some assurances that they can keep and protect the agreement.”

Coomarasamy: “What about the pressure that’s been placed on Hamas, on Gaza, by – well, obviously by years of a blockade from both Israel and Egypt – but more recently by the electricity being cut off for many hours during the day? What role has that played in this decision?”

Listeners then heard that Hamas is “suffering” and – as was the case with one of his previous interviewees – Coomarasamy failed to challenge the inaccurate depiction of counter-terrorism measures as a “siege”.

Hamad: “I don’t…I don’t deny that [the] situation in Gaza’s very, very hard. People are suffering. Hamas is also suffering because not easy now to rule Gaza and the policy of the political isolation from the international community, from the blockade and siege on Gaza from the Israeli occupation and also from some action taken by the President Abbas against Gaza, ‘specially when he cuts part of the electricity and he stop paying salaries and paying some services in Gaza. I know that Hamas is working hard in order to offer services for people but I know it’s not easy for them to continue for [a] long time.”

Predictably, Coomarasamy refrained from asking Hamad why Hamas did supply electricity to the homes of its own officials even as the ordinary people in Gaza had to make do with three hours a day or why the terror group prioritises spending on weapons and tunnels over the welfare of the civilians in Gaza.

Coomarasamy: “Why is this going to be any more successful than previous attempts to form a government of national unity that have come to nothing?”

Hamad: “For many reasons. First of all I think that President Abbas he needs to show the world that he is the president for the whole Palestinian territories and now because he’s going now to give a speech in the United Nations and to meet the President Trump and he want to show that he’s real represent for the Palestinian people. And the same time because he is suffering that the peace process is failed and now there’s no horizon for the peace process and also big division affects the ability of the Abu Mazen to achieve any achievements or goals from the Israeli side. And the same time because Hamas also the big crisis in Gaza and they need to get out from this crisis and to reduce the burdens on their shoulders because they have 2 million people who need services and health, education, sewage, water and you know the situation in Gaza is not easy. So I think both of them they need each other. They need now to work together to find a new track for struggling against the occupation and the same time for improving the services, especially in Gaza.”

Coomarasamy: “The Israelis are very sceptical that this will come to anything and this will make any difference whatsoever to the peace process.”

Hamad: “I think Israel is not interested in peace. I think that Israel will try now – they will try – to uproot all the Palestinians at terms no to be united because it’s the interest – a big interest for Israel – to keep West Bank isolated completely from the Gaza Strip and to make a split between Hamas and Fatah. This is a golden opportunity for Israel to continue its colonial project especially in the West Bank and Jerusalem. I think that it’s time now for Hamas and Abu Mazen to understand there is no other choice. We have to work together and we have to struggle against the occupation.”

Failing to challenge that additional allegation of ‘colonialism’, Coomarasamy closed the softball interview there. As we see, although he did find it necessary to clarify to listeners that Judea & Samaria is “also known as the West Bank”, Coomarasamy did not ask Hamad to clarify his use of the term ‘occupation’ or challenge Hamad’s preposterous allegations that Israel is responsible for both the lack of progress in the peace process and the Hamas-Fatah split. Most importantly, Coomarasmay avoided the all-important question of whether this particular ‘unity deal’ will mean compliance with existing agreements between the PA and Israel – including the disarmament of terror groups.

Although ‘Newshour’ devoted nearly a third of the airtime in its two September 17th editions to this one story, listeners heard little information crucial to its proper understanding. They did however hear completely unchallenged politicised messaging on a ‘siege’ and ‘colonialism’ that do not exist.  

Related Articles:

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

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

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

 

 

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

As was noted in part one of this post, the lead story in the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ on September 17th was centred around the 106 word long statement put out by Hamas earlier that day.

Following the earlier report on that story – which was over twelve and a half minutes long – the same programme also aired an additional item on the topic which brought the total time allotted to the subject to over twenty minutes.

Presenter James Coomarsamy introduced the second item (from 45:06 here) thus:

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

Coomarasamy: “Let’s return now to our main story today: the announcement by the Palestinian group Hamas that it will dissolve the administration that runs Gaza and hold talks with its rival Fatah about forming a government of national unity and holding elections. I’ve been discussing this with the Palestinian academic Khaled Hroub – he’s a professor of Middle Eastern studies and the author of two books on Hamas – and Oliver McTernan, the director of the mediation group ‘Forward Thinking’ who’s been working on bringing the sides in the Middle East closer together. So why does he think Hamas has done this now?”

BBC audiences have heard from both Qatar-based Khaled Hroub and from the director of the UK charity ‘Forward Thinking’ on previous occasions but it would of course have been helpful to listeners trying to put the ‘analysis’ they heard into context had they been informed that McTernan is a proponent of the view that being a terror organisation committed to Israel’s destruction should not disqualify Hamas from governing the Palestinian Authority or being part of negotiations to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Unfortunately, Coomarasamy did not comply with the BBC’s editorial guidelines on impartiality which require the “particular viewpoint” of contributors to be clarified in advance.

Given McTernan’s approach, his promotion of Hamas favoured terminology by inaccurately describing the restrictions on the entry of dual-use goods into the Gaza Strip as a “siege” was not unexpected. Coomarasamy however did not challenge that inaccurate portrayal or the false linkage McTernan tried to create between Israel’s counter-terrorism measures and the electricity crisis in Gaza.

McTernan: “Of course life for ordinary people in Gaza is under tremendous pressure at the moment because it’s almost ten years of siege and that means that the flow of goods, the flow of people and in particular the current situation on electricity – where you have roughly three hours a day for the average person – is putting a lot of strain on ordinary life in Gaza.”

Neither was it much of a surprise to hear McTernan later repeat his long-held view that the international community should have embraced the terror group’s victory in the 2006 PLC election.

McTernan: “…so I think what’s needed now is a wise action by both leaderships [Hamas and Fatah] to say we move into a situation where we can share power and then we go back to the electorate and stand for election and both sides should be committed this time round to fully respecting the outcome of the election. Because 2006 was recognised as one of the most open and fair elections in the Arab world and sadly the international community were responsible greatly for not respecting that outcome.”

The very relevant fact that Hamas is a terrorist organisation that rejects recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the question of how that can possibly align with the Palestinian Authority’s existing commitments to agreements signed with Israel was not raised by Coomarasamy in this item even when McTernan pontificated on what Israel should do.

McTernan: “I think if Israel had wisdom they would see Palestinian division is in fact not in their interest. It’s both in their immediate and long-term interest first of all to see stability both in Gaza and in the West Bank and secondly to allow the Palestinian political leadership to form itself in a way that can truly represent the Palestinian cause and therefore be an effective partner.”

McTernan’s later additional inaccurate references to a “siege” likewise did not produce any challenge from Coomarasamy.

McTernan: “…the reality of the situation in the region is that Abbas or Hamas don’t control the freedom of movement so I think Israel is a big player in this. They control what goes into Gaza, who can come out, who can go in. I think what needs to be looked at is the whole siege of Gaza and I think that will require much more international determination both from the West and from the Gulf countries and Egypt to sort of say to Israel ‘look, it’s not in your interest to keep the siege going’.”

In among McTernan’s barely concealed advocacy of Hamas talking points listeners did hear some relevant points raised by Khaled Hroub, including clarification of the significance of Egypt’s closure of its border with the Gaza Strip, the relevance of Egypt’s concerns about the ISIS presence in Sinai and the fact that after ten years of unaccountable absolute power, Mahmoud Abbas might be less willing to embrace parliamentary limitations and accountability. Those topics were not however explored further.

While over twenty minutes of coverage of a 106 word statement from Hamas might seem generous or even excessive, the binge was not yet over: the later edition of ‘Newshour’ on the same day also led with the same story and that will be discussed in a future post.

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Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

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

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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Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns 

 

 

Gaza power crisis development unravels BBC messaging

When some residents of the Gaza Strip took to the streets last winter to protest their inadequate electricity supply, the BBC News website produced two written reports on that story and the BBC World Service programme ‘Newshour’ aired a special report by Tim Franks from Gaza that included a ‘softball’ interview with a Hamas representative.

None of those reports, however, provided BBC audiences with a clear and factual explanation of the reasons behind the Gaza Strip’s electricity crisis. Since then the BBC has produced more reports which (with few exceptions) have been similarly unhelpful (see for example here, here, here, here and here) even to the point of steering audiences towards the inaccurate impression that the crisis is connected to Israeli counter-terrorism measures along its border with Gaza.

As was noted here in June, Hamas could have paid for the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply after the Palestinian Authority exacerbated the crisis earlier this year had it wished to do so and were its priorities not focused on expanding its military capabilities.

Now, however, a report at the Times of Israel suggests that Hamas is eager to avoid a repetition of last winter’s public unrest.

“Hamas has recently bought large volumes of diesel fuel from Egypt in an effort to increase the output of the Gaza Strip’s only power station, after months of refusing to shell out money to provide electricity to the Palestinian enclave’s residents. […]

The purchase of some 30 million liters of diesel from Egypt, at a cost of NIS 90 million ($25 million), marks a change in attitude on the part of Gaza’s rulers, likely indicating a bid to stave off a repeat of street protests that roiled the enclave last winter. […]

Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, has refused to pay for Israeli electricity, claiming the PA is responsible for funding it, while spending millions of dollars of military infrastructure. Earlier this year the PA reduced the amount of electricity it was willing to pay for, and as a result electricity supplies in Gaza were reduced from six to four hours followed by a 12-hour blackout.”

Given that this apparent development undermines previous BBC messaging suggesting that the Gaza power crisis is related to Israeli border controls (which have even been presented as “collective punishment“), it remains to be seen whether or not BBC audiences will be informed that Hamas is able to import fuel at will.

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BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part one

BBC WS radio ‘Newshour’ special from the Gaza Strip – part two