Weekend long read

1) The CST has published a research briefing titled ‘Coronavirus and the Plague of Antisemitism’.

“For centuries, antisemitic propagandists have depicted Jews as dirty, unclean and associated with disease. Genuine media stories about the relatively high prevalence of coronavirus in some Jewish communities, and early reports that British Jews have been disproportionately represented amongst those who have died from COVID-19, have encouraged antisemites to assume that Jews are the primary spreaders of the virus, either deliberately – to try to kill white people – or inadvertently. Having initially nicknamed coronavirus the ‘Wu Flu’ (referring to Wuhan as the geographical origin of the virus), some of these online haters have now dubbed it the ‘Jew Flu’, implying either that Jews are behind it, or that it is most closely associated with Jewish victims and spreaders.”

2) At the INSS Yohanan Tzoreff and Kobi Michael analyse ‘The Corona Pandemic and the Palestinian Arena’.

“The Hamas leadership, together with human rights organizations, are placing the responsibility for Gaza’s fate on Israel. Khalil Hayya, a Gaza resident and member of the Hamas Political Bureau, said on March 24, 2020 that Israel was responsible for providing the Strip with what it needs to fight the coronavirus, and that it must lift the closure and renew the transfer of assistance to those in need. This seeks to pressure Israel as well as countries in the Arab and international arenas to provide assistance, while also diverting responsibility from Hamas, which might face mass demonstrations if there is a serious decline in the situation.

Israel is very much aware of the risk in the Gaza Strip in the event of the broad spread of the disease. Therefore, Israel has increased the amount of medical equipment sent into the area, including 20 respirators to join the 80 already there, about 300 testing kits, about 50,000 masks, and a large supply of other equipment ordered from China.”

3) The ‘Jonny Gould’s Jewish State’ podcast has an interview with Prof Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor.

“The values of Human Rights are a modern-day point of international conflict. As the threat of hard war recedes, soft wars are being fought in many ways. Through social media, the United Nations and via NGOs or non-governmental organizations. “Soft power can be very deadly, I’ve seen it for myself”, says today’s guest Professor Gerald Steinberg and at the centre of this is the Israeli Palestinian struggle. Gerald set up NGO Monitor in 2001 because there was a need to “vigorously challenge” and bring to an end the promotion of “politically and ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas by NGOs. In this fascinating episode, we discuss in detail the changes in Human Rights and how they came about and where organizations such as BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) started.”

4) Benny Morris reviews the latest book from occasional BBC interviewee Rashid Khalidi at the Jewish Review of Books.

“…during 1991–1993, Khalidi was an official, presumably salaried, advisor to the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, later the (PLO) Palestinian delegation, to the Middle East peace conference in Madrid and during the subsequent Israeli-Palestinian-American negotiations in Washington, DC. Interestingly, this fact nowhere appears in Khalidi’s Wikipedia biography and goes unmentioned in the short biographies of Khalidi featured in his various books. Presumably, publicly acknowledging this PLO attachment might have harmed his image as a credible, impartial historian. Similarly, Khalidi has always rejected being described as a “PLO spokesman” during the 1982 Lebanon War, and he continues to do so in this book. However, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine has an autobiographical thread to it, and he does tell us that in summer 1982, “I acted as an off-the-record source for Western journalists.” The book also features a photo of Khalidi “helping out at a [PLO] press briefing at the Commodore Hotel, Beirut,” at least according to the caption.”

 

BBC News continues to push inaccurate Gaza healthcare narrative

h/t SFoI, SS

The lead item on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the morning of April 7th was a filmed  report titled “Coronavirus: ‘Gaza has no resources to fight this virus’”.

“In Gaza, people are bracing for a coronavirus outbreak as more than 10 cases of infection have been confirmed in the small enclave.

Everything is shut, including vital food aid centres, and people are being asked to stay at home.”

The declaration the BBC chose to promote so prominently in the report’s headline and on its website in fact comes from one of the interviewees who is only identified by her ‘kunya’ teknonym. BBC audiences are not informed of her real identity or her qualification to make such a pronouncement – other than “Palestinian refugee”.

That video is based on a filmed report which was aired on April 6th in the BBC News Channel’s “BBC News Special Coronavirus Daily Update”. Presenter Clive Myrie introduced the item (from 1:57:50 in the video below) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Myrie: “In Gaza people are bracing for a Coronavirus outbreak with 12 cases confirmed so far. Everything is shut including vital food aid centres and people are being asked to stay at home. The health system in the Strip, which is home to nearly 2 million people, has been shattered by an Israeli blockade lasting more than a decade.”

While 12 cases had indeed been confirmed in the Gaza Strip as of the date of this broadcast, six had already recovered. Although UNRWA did close its food distribution centres in late March as a precautionary measure, it soon began delivering food to the homes of its clients. As we have all too often had cause to note here in the past, the state of healthcare in the Gaza Strip is not attributable to Israeli – and Egyptian – counter-terrorism measures but to the financial priorities of the ruling Hamas terror organisation and the rift between it and the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for health services in the Gaza Strip.

In other words, not one line of Myrie’s three-sentence introduction gave BBC viewers an accurate portrayal of the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The report began with the inaccurate claim that residents of the Gaza Strip live under “lockdown and isolation” – a claim which is especially interesting given that the BBC knows that the first two people in the territory diagnosed with Covid 19 had just returned from abroad.

Reporter: “There is a place where lockdown and isolation are the norm. But never before with a deadly pandemic. Gaza, a small enclave of nearly 2 million people, is bracing for an outbreak of Coronavirus. And people here know that they are far from ready for it.”

Later on viewers were once again fed the myth that the state of healthcare in the Gaza Strip is attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures but with no mention of the terrorism that brought them about.

Reporter: “The World Health Organisation’s medics are warning of a catastrophe if Gaza sees wide spread of the virus. The health system is just too fragile after nearly 14 years [sic- actually since 2007] of blockade and cross-border conflict with Israel. One group, Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, warns that Gaza has only about 70 ICU beds, some of which are already occupied. A drop in the ocean of what people here would need.”

Viewers were told nothing about the agenda of the political NGO which issued the statement quoted by the BBC reporter.

Although UNRWA had already begun distribution of food aid to the homes of those classed as refugees several days prior to the broadcast of this report, viewers were once again given a false impression of the situation.

Reporter: “The pandemic has already taken its toll on other basic aspects of life in Gaza like food aid. The UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA has closed aid centres for fear of potential outbreak.”

The report closed with a reference to a “siege” which does not exist and never has.

Reporter: “People here like Um Shadi normally take it one day at a time, with worries of war, siege and dire poverty. Now a deadly pandemic that’s sneaked into their lives will add to their many woes.”

 

Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic the BBC has produced numerous reports about the Gaza Strip (see ‘related articles’ below) which, like this latest one, have all erased the issue of Hamas’ terrorism and mismanagement of the territory it seized in a violent coup thirteen years ago. Many of those reports have directly or indirectly blamed Israel for the state of healthcare in the Gaza Strip while failing to inform audiences of the real background to the situation. Most of those reports have completely ignored the topic of Israeli coordination of the entry of supplies – medical and other – to the territory.

It is embarrassingly obvious that the BBC is far more interested in using the pandemic to promote simplistic narratives and agendas it embraced years ago rather than in providing its audiences with accurate and impartial information about a part of the world which, fortunately, is to date not one of the locations most badly affected by the Coronavirus.

Related Articles:

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Mapping BBC messaging on Gaza and Corona

BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

BBC WS isolates narrative from context in another Gaza Corona report

More Corona-hooked Gaza Strip messaging on BBC WS radio

BBC ME editor makes Gaza Strip ventilators disappear

More Corona-hooked Gaza Strip messaging on BBC WS radio

As regular readers know, since mid-March the BBC has produced several reports (see ‘related articles’ below) on the topic of the Gaza strip and the Coronavirus pandemic; some pre-emptive and some after the first cases were diagnosed. Most of those reports focused on the population density and poor healthcare services in the Gaza Strip, with some falsely claiming that Israeli counter-terrorism measures are responsible for the latter.

BBC audiences have however been told next to nothing about Hamas’ prioritisation of terror over public services for more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the shortage of medicines and equipment in hospitals in the Gaza Strip or the part played by Israel in delivering Coronavirus testing kits and medical supplies to the territory.  

In early March the Hamas terror organisation which controls the Gaza Strip told residents not to travel abroad and later closed the crossings into Israel and Egypt. Hamas also began building quarantine facilities and as of April 1st there were twelve Covid 19 cases in the Gaza Strip. Between March 22nd and March 28th, 68,275 tons of goods were delivered to the Gaza Strip including 12,423 tons of food and 145 tons of medical supplies.

The March 31st evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Paul Henley – included yet another Gaza-Corona item (from 09:01 here): an interview with Najla Shawa who who works for the NGO Oxfam and was previously an UNRWA employee. Since 2015 she has been repeatedly interviewed by the BBC, more often than not without proper identification and with no information given to BBC audiences concerning her “particular viewpoints”.

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

Henley: “Let’s take a look now at the view from Gaza because the United Nations warns that poverty and a debilitated health system in the Palestinian territories would make an outbreak of Coronavirus particularly disastrous. There are only a handful of confirmed cases in Gaza so far. I’ve been talking to Najla Shawa who’s food security manager of Oxfam in Gaza.”

Shawa: “Unfortunately we are very concerned. As you know this pandemic is spreading widely around the world and in a place like Gaza, that’s a huge concern. And yes, very much so it might be a beginning and it’s very worrying for a place like Gaza.”

Henley: “You’ve Tweeted that for a start, stockpiling is not an option for people who live in Gaza, haven’t you?”

Shawa: “Actually Gaza is already in a very dire situation in terms of the very basic living. I think everybody would be following the [unintelligible]. Gaza has 37% unemployment, 62% of Gazans don’t know their next meal where is it going to come from. And you’re speaking about population that is also…it’s a very highly populated area in a very vulnerable situation to be honest. So even before the Covid 19, things were already very fragile and very, very challenging for most of the people in Gaza.”

Henley: “So the people’s resilience there has already been tested pretty much to the full.”

Shawa: “Exactly and I think now more and more I think the population have basically depleted all their resources. There’s a sense of solidarity that brings people together to support each other. However the resources are just diminishing. People already don’t have jobs, already don’t have incomes. We already locked down and there is no movement, there’s no real economy. There are no basic services and looking at the health services for example, it’s a very weak system already.”

Henley made no effort to inform listeners of the crucial context of the rift between Hamas and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in relation to that “weak system” of healthcare.

Henley: “What are people saying about the threat of the pandemic?”

Shawa: “People are very much aware of what’s going on in the world and they are very concerned. And currently like everyone is just waiting by the hour to hear the news about any new cases. So those who have some capacity to stock up some food or some essential items are doing so. However most of the population don’t have this capacity unfortunately. You know the majority of Gaza people depend on aid for life-saving assistance that is provided by humanitarian organisations.”

In light of those claims Henley could of course have raised the question of the efficacy of NGOs working in the Gaza Strip for the last decade and a half since Israel disengaged from the territory (Oxfam, for example, claims to have spent 75 million Euros in the Palestinian territories since 2014) but instead brought up another standard BBC talking point.

Henley: “And it’s well known already that people live in very close proximity to each other in Gaza.”

Shawa: “Absolutely. 5,000 persons per square kilometre. I mean you’re talking about 2 million people in this place and the number of ICU beds are hardly 87 if we count the private and the public hospitals. So this is a very worrying situation to be honest. And the extreme weakness of the system; there’s real need to very basic support to the population already from before. There are like more than 1,700 who require treatment outside of Gaza and they’re not able to access that since the lock-down. And for the lock-down I mean Gaza has been always locked down. We totally know what this means. We can empathise of course with everyone in the world and this is a moment where everyone is kind of thinking about the other in this sudden crisis. But we Palestinians have known that for many, many years unfortunately.”

The Gaza Strip has not been “always locked down”: restrictions on movement into Israel were brought into place due to the Palestinian terrorism which went completely unmentioned throughout this item. Neither were listeners informed that it was Hamas which instigated the current closure of crossings.

Henley: “What about schooling for children? What’s the situation there?”

Shawa: “Schools have been closed since more than 3 weeks and universities as well. That’s definitely a problem because you have all the kids on lock-down in their homes and there is no place to go, no space, there’s no…also as I said the poverty is so dramatic that even their basic rights are not being met. More than 400 thousand children are living under poverty. And this is quite alarming too and very worrying for us as Oxfam and as all humanitarian organisations.”

Henley: “Najla Shawa in Gaza.”

As we see Henley failed to even remotely challenge any of Shawa’s talking points throughout that entire four-minute interview (an edited version of which was also posted in the ‘updates’ section of the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page) and refrained from providing the background information and context which would further audience understanding of the situation in the Gaza Strip. Of course Shawa’s talking points concerning population density, poverty and the healthcare system are exactly the same as the BBC’s own long-promoted narratives and so Henley’s soft-ball interviewing comes as no surprise.

Related Articles:

BBC re-promotes the usual Gaza narratives in multiple Coronavirus reports

Mapping BBC messaging on Gaza and Corona

BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

BBC WS isolates narrative from context in another Gaza Corona report

Density is not destiny: Economist tweet misinforms on Gaza COVID-19 woes  (UK Media Watch)

Examining BBC reports on Corona-related cell phone tracking

On March 17th listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard the following report in a news bulletin (from 2:08:05 here):

Newsreader: “Israel’s government has approved measures for its security agencies to use mobile phone data to track the location of suspected Coronavirus patients. The move has led to criticism from civil rights groups. From Jerusalem, here’s our Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman.”

Bateman: “The emergency measures allow the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, to harvest information, including location data, from the mobile phones of confirmed Coronavirus patients and those suspected of having the disease. The regulations were passed during an overnight sitting of the cabinet, bypassing parliamentary approval. The mobile phone data showing an individual’s movements will be passed to the Ministry of Health to alert others who they may have come into contact with and will also be used to enforce quarantine regulations. Israel has more than 300 confirmed cases of the virus. Civil rights groups called the move dangerous. The government said it was trying to strike a balance between health needs and people’s rights.”

On the same day the BBC News website published an article headlined “Coronavirus: Israel enables emergency spy powers”. Written by BBC Technology cyber-security reporter Joe Tidy, the report includes analysis from Tom Bateman.

“The Israeli government has approved emergency measures for its security agencies to track the mobile-phone data of people with suspected coronavirus.

The new powers will be used to enforce quarantine and warn those who may have come into contact with infected people.

The temporary laws were passed during an overnight sitting of the cabinet, bypassing parliamentary approval.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the move “a dangerous precedent and a slippery slope”.

Such powers are usually reserved for counter-terrorism operations.”

On March 29th listeners to the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ heard a report (from 37:10 here) by Krassi Twigg of BBC Monitoring about “fears that some countries are seeing new levels of intrusion which could have a damaging effect on societies”.

The report mentioned South Korea, Italy, France and (from 40:57) Israel.

Twigg: “…and Israel has ordered its domestic security agency to track the mobile phone data of suspected Coronavirus cases. The Shin Bet normally uses such surveillance methods on Palestinians suspected of planning attacks on Israelis. Joel Greenberg, BBC Monitoring’s Israel specialist, said the use of these methods against [sic] Israeli citizens has been hugely controversial.”

Greenberg: “Critics of the policy have challenged it in the Supreme Court and they argue that it’s a dangerous invasion of privacy by the government. The government has said that the use of mobile phone tracking will be strictly limited to the battle against the Coronavirus but still the critics say that there may be no going back. Once the Shin Bet has begun tracking the cell phones of ordinary Israelis, the policy may be used again.”

The story is however by no means as simple as those three BBC reports spread over a period of twelve days tell audiences. Only in the written report was it made it clear that “Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the new powers will last for 30 days only”.

The chain of events actually began two days before the BBC picked up the story, on March 15th, as reported by the Times of Israel.

“The government on Sunday approved a proposal to allow the Shin Bet security service to perform mass surveillance on Israelis’ phones without requiring a court order in an effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, prompting major concerns of privacy and civil liberty violations.

The measure will require final approval from the Knesset’s subcommittee on clandestine services before it can be put into action.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the Shin Bet will be limited in what data it collects and who within the government will have access to it. In addition, under the proposal, the agency will only be able to use the information in the fight against the coronavirus, and the power is scheduled to end 30 days after it is granted by the Knesset subcommittee. […]

In recent weeks authorities in Taiwan and Singapore, among other countries, have used cellular phone data to ensure that citizens were abiding by required quarantine orders.

Those tools — the Israel Police and Health Ministry already have similar means at their disposal — are not what was approved by the government Sunday.

Instead, the Shin Bet was permitted to use phone data — notably which cell towers the device is connected to — in order to retroactively track the movements of those found to be carriers of the coronavirus in order to see with whom they interacted in the days and weeks before they were tested in order to place those people in quarantine.

The Shin Bet will relay the information to the Health Ministry, which will send a message to those who were within two meters (6.6 feet) of the infected person for 10 minutes or more, telling them to go into quarantine.

“The information will be given only to the Health Ministry, to specific people with security clearances, and it will be erased immediately after it is used,” a senior Justice Ministry official told Channel 13 news.”

However the Knesset subcommittee did not vote on the matter and on March 19th the Supreme Court ruled that the tracking could not continue for more than five days without Knesset oversight.

“In a dramatic decision, the High Court of Justice said Thursday that it would shutter the government’s new mass surveillance program if Israel’s parliament fails to establish parliamentary oversight over it within five days.”

Following a request from the State Prosecutor and the re-establishment of the subcommittee, the Supreme Court lifted the injunction on March 24th on condition that legislation concerning the surveillance measures would be put in place.

“The High Court warned that if the legislation was not advanced in the coming weeks, it would once again be forced to intervene.

The judges noted that, given the additional government restrictions expected to be approved to further curb movement, the surveillance should be used as little as possible to minimize privacy violations.”

Especially given that, as the BBC has reported, the UK is also considering the employment of technological measures to combat the pandemic, one would have expected BBC journalists – including BBC Monitoring’s “Israel specialist” – to be able to report the story more accurately and with at least some mention of the safeguards put in place rather than focusing primarily on the speculative claims promoted by inadequately presented political NGOs such as ACRI and Adalah.  

BBC Radio 4 spreads inaccurate Gaza healthcare canard

The healthcare system in the Gaza Strip has suffered from shortages of medical equipment and supplies for many years because of the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, it is the PA which is responsible for healthcare both in the areas under its control and the Gaza Strip.

Throughout that time the BBC has repeatedly steered its audiences towards an inaccurate understanding of the reasons for that chronic shortage of medical supplies by promoting the false notion that Israeli counter-terrorism measures pertaining to the movement of goods and people adversely affect medical services in the territory.

As we noted here in 2014 when Yolande Knell did precisely that, there is not – and never has been – any restriction on the entry of medical supplies to the Gaza Strip with the exception of items classed as dual use equipment which has the potential to be used for terrorism. 

“The long-standing shortage of medicines and medical supplies in Gaza emanates primarily from a dysfunctional relationship between the Palestinian Ministries of Health in Gaza and Ramallah.

The conflicts between the two offices have resulted not only in a shortage of medicines and supplies, but also in restricted access to medical treatment for patients outside of Gaza.

The healthcare system in Gaza is marked by a shortage of 400-500 varieties of medical equipment and an average shortage of 33% of desired types of drugs at any given time.

The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that medical suppliers are often reluctant to sell supplies to Gaza due to issues of non-payment.

COGAT [the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories] works to facilitate the transfer of medication and medical supplies both through the international community and the private sector, however shortages remain.”

Throughout 2019 COGAT coordinated the entry of 800 truckloads of medical supplies to the Gaza Strip.

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to promote the false narrative according to which the sorry state of affairs in the Gaza healthcare system is attributable to Israel – a narrative also promoted by Hamas.

The March 25th edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World Tonight’ included an item promoting an appeal put out by the United Nations.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item (from 07:29 here).

Iqbal: “Life in some of the wealthiest countries in the world has been turned upside down by the Covid 19 pandemic. It’s a virus that doesn’t discriminate and in that respect a leveller. Nevertheless, it will almost certainly adversely affect those who already have so little and to address that, today the United Nations has launched a $2 billion funding drive to help vulnerable countries fight Covid 19. The UN says all of humanity is at risk. In countries already affected by conflict, natural disasters or climate change, the death toll from the virus will be higher.”

Later in that item Iqbal interviewed Mark Lowcock, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of UNOCHA. Before that, however, she sought to illustrate the points made in her introduction. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Iqbal: “The warning comes from [sic] after the confirmation of two cases in the densely populated Gaza region – where a decade-long blockade has devastated the health services – and the first case in Syria reported on Sunday. What are the additional challenges facing crisis zones when trying to tackle the spread of the Coronavirus and are they certain to get the help they need? A short time ago I spoke to Khamis Elessy, a doctor in Gaza.”

Listeners were not informed that in addition to being a doctor, Elessy is also an associate professor at the Hamas-linked Islamic University in Gaza. Several hours after this interview his opening statement concerning two cases of Covid 19 in the Gaza Strip was no longer accurate.

Elessy: “Thanks God that we only have 2 cases confirmed out of 155 cases so we’re assisted. And those two cases were not from Gaza. They come from Pakistan. The healthcare system is barely coping with ordinary cases. Around 40% of essential drugs are lacking inside Gaza. Many of the equipments need spare parts and need repair. Throughout Gaza we have 63 ICU beds fully equipped with ventilators and respirators and the health professionals to serve on these units. But if we think of best scenario for Corona outbreak, we have to think of at least 100 beds so we need to add another 50 beds. They are not available here in Gaza because we don’t have factories or respirators, ventilators and other [unintelligible] of core equipment and we don’t have the medicines like hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and other things that are needed. So far the two cases which were diagnosed inside Gaza their condition is stable, they’re in good health so far. And we hope that we will not have any other cases and maybe for the first time we have something out of the siege. Maybe this gave us one advantage that we’re not open to the rest of the world and that’s why there is no regular flow of people into Gaza and out of Gaza.”

Of course Iqbal had already told listeners that the counter-terrorism measures employed by Egypt and Israel are responsible for ‘devastating’ the health services in the Gaza Strip and so it was unsurprising to see that audiences received no information whatsoever concerning the real cause of the lack of essential medicines. Equally predictable was Iqbal’s failure to challenge Elessy’s promotion of the false notion of a “siege”.  

Turning to the much favoured BBC theme of population density, Iqbal went on:

Iqbal: “I wonder though if you could reflect for us on the possibility of the outbreak affecting Gaza in a bigger way. Do you think, Doctor, that it would be possible to self-isolate in a densely-populated area?”

Elessy: “No, no because unfortunately all families here belong to an extended family class. So the parents living in the same home, their sons, their grandsons. So you see in the same building around 80 or 70 people living in the same building. So self-isolation is difficult, it is impossible and this is actually the scary scenario if, God forbid, we have a huge number of cases that is infected and we need to isolate them, we can’t isolate them.”

Interestingly, in the interview with Mark Lowcock which followed on from this he noted that in relation to weak health systems:

Lowcock: “Gaza in fact is a little bit better than some of the other places we’re talking about like Syria or Yemen or Afghanistan.”

The BBC however chose not to interview a doctor from any of those places but did use the opportunity to once again promote the false and entirely context-free notion (in a programme which will remain available for over a year) that the problems affecting the Gaza Strip’s healthcare services are attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures.

Related Articles:

BBC re-promotes the usual Gaza narratives in multiple Coronavirus reports

Mapping BBC messaging on Gaza and Corona

COGAT contradicts Guardian claim on Gaza medicine ‘restrictions’ (UK Media Watch)

The BBC, the Gaza Strip and medical supplies

BBC News continues to mislead on Gaza medical services

BBC travel show brings in political activist on Jerusalem archaeology

The March 8th edition of the BBC World News and BBC News TV channels programme ‘The Travel Show’ included an item billed as “Jerusalem’s Underground History” (available in the UK here)

“This week, Rajan Datar explores the hidden treasure underneath the streets of Jerusalem. He walks on recently excavated 2,000 year old roads and discovers old church chambers from the time of the crusaders. “

At 38 seconds into the report viewers were told of a “controversial” archaeological excavation and Datar went to visit the City of David site, taking a tour of the Pilgrimage Road. Viewers heard that the site was “discovered by accident” in 2004 but were not informed that British archaeologists actually dug there in 1894 and that further excavations were conducted during the Mandate period and the Jordanian occupation.

Viewers heard that:

Datar: “The Pilgrimage Road runs from the ancient Siloam Pool to Temple Mount – also known as Haram esh [sic] Sharif in Arabic – at the top.”

They were not informed of the road’s purpose – who was making a pilgrimage and to where – and Datar went on to visit additional parts of the City of David site.

At 04:54, the item took a political turn. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Datar: “Whilst the project team insist upmost safety for the local residents is the priority, that isn’t quite how everybody feels, especially among the Palestinian community who live here in Silwan, above the City of David site, which they call Wadi Hilweh. Local residents say cracks and sloping like this to dozens of houses have been caused by the excavation, complaining it’s like enduring an earthquake. None the less, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected those claims.”

In fact, only a small part of Silwan lies “above the City of David” site and related legal cases have been rejected by the Supreme Court on more than one occasion.

At 05:27, Datar brought in “Aziz, a travel writer and guide” to give “the alternative Palestinian perspective”. Despite BBC editorial guidelines concerning contributors’ affiliations, viewers were not told that Aziz Abu Sarah is also (as the BBC should know, having interviewed him in 2018) an activist associated with political NGOs.

After viewers had heard Abu Sarah complain that a project documenting biblical Jerusalem does not “tell you the story of the Palestinian residents” in Jerusalem or “the history of the Islamic groups that have lived in Jerusalem” – without clarifying that the Muslim conquest in Jerusalem took place in the 7th century – they saw Datar visit a Crusader site underneath a business in the Old City. While Abu Sarah claimed that “we didn’t know this exists a year and a half, two years ago”, similar Crusader era structures were discovered long before that timeframe.

At the end of the item Datar told viewers:

Datan: “So here’s the rub: in Jerusalem any excavation is going to be both amazing and controversial at the same time.”

Obviously Jerusalem has multiple layers of history which visitors can explore at a variety of sites and museums in addition to the City of David. What makes archaeology ‘controversial’ however is politicisation of the topic and Datan appears to have bought into that with the help of an inadequately presented political activist whose “affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” were not disclosed to viewers.  

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BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’ promotes half a story from 2014

In the February 26th edition of the BBC programme ‘Hardtalk’ presenter Stephen Sackur interviewed the director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.

The interview was aired on the BBC News and BBC World News television channels (available in the UK here) and an audio version was aired on BBC World Service radio.

“HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Dr Yasser Abu Jamei, director of Gaza’s biggest mental health program. The past few days have seen rising tension in Gaza – Islamist militants fired rockets into Israel; the Israelis responded with air strikes aimed at the Islamic Jihad group. Hardly unusual and certainly not the stuff of international headlines but that in itself is telling. In Gaza conflict is the norm, so too an economic blockade that has long choked the economy. What happens to a people living with trauma and collective despair?”

Despite BBC editorial guidelines concerning “Contributors’ Affiliations” which state that audiences should be informed of “their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints”, that information was not provided in relation to the GCMHP or its founder, whom Sackur brought up during the conversation.

Stephen Sackur’s introduction to the interview made no mention of the core issue of Hamas terrorism and even cancelled out the trauma suffered by residents of southern Israel with his use of the word “unique”. Failing to explain why there are people classed as “refugees” in a territory under the exclusive control of Palestinians for almost a decade and a half, he described his interviewee as: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Sackur: “…an experienced psychiatrist working in a place which poses unique and daunting mental health challenges. The Gaza Strip is home to 2 million people. The majority are young, impoverished and classed as long-term refugees. They’ve been raised in a place of conflict where bomb-blasts, insecurity and sudden death have been constant facts of life. Not only that, Gaza is a densely populated enclave cut off from the outside world by fortified barriers. Israel and Egypt control access in and out for people and goods. It is, in short, a mental health pressure cooker and from time to time the lid blows off. Anger, violence, despair, drug addiction, childhood trauma: all are commonplace. But what can under-staffed, under-resourced mental health professionals do to help? Are the people of Gaza suffering extreme levels of mental illness or simply reacting normally to a uniquely grim situation?”

The interview followed a sadly predictable pattern, with Sackur failing to effectively challenge most of his interviewee’s politically motivated talking points. Even when he did raise issues such as Hamas’ staging of the ‘Great Return March’, the Hamas-Fatah feud and incitement in Palestinian school text- books, he failed to adequately challenge the inadequate responses given.

After the broadcast of the programme, the BBC News website chose to upload a clip to its ‘Middle East’ page under the headline “Mental health: Coping with the trauma of living in Gaza”. The video’s synopsis includes the following:

“In 2014 Dr Jamei’s family home was bombed in an Israeli strike and he lost a number of family members.”

The clip itself begins with that event.

Sackur: “I am very mindful that in 2014 your own family home was bombed, destroyed, by an Israeli military strike. Tell me how many members of your extended family were lost.”

Abu Jamei: “Ah…well we live in an area that is the eastern side of Khan Younis and unfortunately my family endured the biggest loss when it comes to the number of people. You know every single life matters a lot to everyone, you know, but in that simple attack 27 people were killed including three pregnant women and I think seven…seven children. A three-storey building was levelled to the ground basically, you know…”

BBC audiences were not provided with any further context to that account.

The day after that incident – which took place on July 20th 2014, the political NGO B’tselem noted that:

“B’Tselem’s initial findings indicate that the likely target of the attack was Ahmad Suliman Sahmoud, a member of Hamas’ military wing, who was visiting a member of the family.”

Sahmoud was identified (number 446 on the list here) as an Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades commander.

The IDF Magistrate Advocate General subsequently launched an investigation into that incident.

The results of that investigation (number 12 here) showed that: [emphasis added]

“…on 20 July 2014, IDF forces carried out an aerial strike on a structure in use by Palestinian terrorist organizations for military activities against IDF forces maneuvering in the area. The strike intended to target the military infrastructure in the structure as well as a command level military operative, who according to real-time intelligence was commanding military operations against IDF forces from within the structure. During the planning and execution stages of the strike, which took approximately 24 hours, additional information about the structure was received, which corroborated the understanding that the structure contained military infrastructure that presented clear and immediate danger to IDF forces maneuvering in the area.[…]

Contrary to the allegation [inter alia from B’tselem – Ed.], it was found that a number of warnings were issued in the area of the strike, using various means, which called on civilians to evacuate from the area. It was further found that it would not have been possible to provide a specific warning to those present in the structure prior to the strike, as such a warning was expected to frustrate the objective of the attack. Moreover, it was also found that because the precise location of the military activity in the structure was not known, the strike could not be limited to a particular portion of the building. […]

After reviewing the investigation’s findings, the MAG found that the attack process in question accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements. The decision to attack was taken by the competent authorities, and the attack was aimed at a military objective – a structure used by Palestinian terrorist organizations for military activities against IDF forces maneuvering in the area, and a command level military operative present therein.”

That information was denied to BBC viewers and listeners worldwide even though it has been in the public domain since August 2018. In other words, BBC audiences were given a partial account which conceals essential information and thus prevented from forming their own opinions on the incident as well as about the interviewer and interviewee presenting it in that one-sided fashion.

Related Articles:

BBC claims that Israel targeted a centre for the disabled in Gaza shown to be inaccurate

BBC reports on Wafa hospital shown to be inaccurate

Clarifications required for BBC reports on Shati incident

Revisiting BBC reporting on July 2014 Shuja’iya market incident

BBC News passes up on the chance to correct Gaza misinformation

A BBC story from August 2014 still in need of clarification

Revisiting the BBC’s claims about a 2014 story from Rafah

Revisiting the BBC’s 2014 reports on Gaza’s power plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4’s promotion of an ‘epic novel’ and an appealing narrative

This week BBC Radio 4 has been airing a serialised reading of a book published on February 25th in ten episodes which will continue next week. The synopsis to the first episode describes the novel as follows:

“Colum McCann’s epic new novel of friendship, love, loss, and belonging.

Bassam and Rami inhabit a world of conflict that colours every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on, to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend, to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate. Their worlds shift irreparably after ten-year-old Abir is killed by a rubber bullet and thirteen-year-old Smadar becomes the victim of suicide bombers. When Bassam and Rami learn of each other’s stories, they recognise the loss that connects them and attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.

In Apeirogon – named for a shape with a countably infinite number of sides – Colum McCann creates an epic novel inspired by the real experiences of Palestinian Bassam Aramin and Israeli Rami Elhanan who, after each losing a child, came together to promote peace.”

Media interviews are of course a significant part of the marketing of any new novel and McCann gave a lengthy interview (from 00:18 here) to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Open Book’ – presented by Mariella Frostrup – on February 23rd.

“Colum McCann tells Mariella about Apeirogon, his suitably multi-sided book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inspired by two fathers who have both lost their daughters. A soaring mixture of reportage, mythology, poetry and ornithology, among many other things, McCann makes the case for it as a “novel” with a universal message.”

Near the beginning of the interview Frostrup tells listeners that:

“The two bereaved fathers came together through an organisation called Combatants for Peace, their experiences having made them less certain about the polarised world views they once both held in youth.”

Listeners are however told nothing about the agenda of that political NGO or the organisation with which the two men are currently associated.

In other interviews McCann has stated that before he spent a week in Israel and the Palestinian controlled territories in 2015 he was “completely ignorant of what was going on there” and at 11:29 listeners hear a little about his learning process, which apparently included consultation with “one of my great heroes” the political activist Raja Shehadeh and reading Mahmoud Darwish.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the interview concerns McCann’s view – exaggerated in the opinion of this reviewer – of the importance of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I think it is one of the central questions as to who we are and where we are and I think we all identify with it in some way, in a way that’s different to other conflicts. There’s something about Jerusalem, there’s something about that being the birthplace of so many things that we’re drawn to and confused by and we’re wondering why all this is happening.”

The Guardian’s review of the novel states:

“For all its grief, Apeirogon is a novel that buoys the heart. The friendship of Bassam and Rami is a thing of great and sustaining beauty. There’s a picture of the two of them, asleep together on a train in Germany, travelling from one speaking engagement to the next. They lean against each another, Rami – the older man – supporting the smaller Bassam as he sleeps. This, the novel suggests, is the solution to the conflict: something as simple and easy as friendship, as the acknowledgement of a shared experience, as love.” [emphasis added]

The reassuring notion that “something as simple as friendship” and “love” are the solution to the conflict of course avoids the basic fact that Smadar Elhanan was murdered – along with two other teenage girls who are not mentioned in this programme – by Hamas suicide bombers in an attack intended to kill human beings simply because of their Israeli identity.

The reduction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the tidy and appealing narrative promoted in McCann’s book perhaps explains why the BBC – itself no stranger to the promotion of simplistic narratives concerning that issue – decided to dedicate two weeks of radio broadcasts to a novel which frames that conflict in terms far more palatable and comfortable to its audiences than actually exist.

More BBC News promotion of its politicised narrative on Jerusalem

A report headlined “Jerusalem: Jordan condemns Israeli Western Wall railway plan” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East page on February 18th.

The apparent purpose of the report is to inform BBC audiences of the objections of another country to plans to extend a railway in Jerusalem.  

“Jordan has condemned a decision by Israel to advance a plan to build a railway line and station underneath the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City. […]

Jordan called the move a “flagrant violation of international law”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Daifallah al-Fayez urged the international community to “assume its responsibilities to resist the illegitimate and illegal Israeli steps”.”

Readers were not informed by the BBC which particular “international law” relates to the construction of railways.

They did however see one-sided portrayal of parts of the city of Jerusalem, including a frequently used map sourced from the political NGO B’tselem.

“A 3km (2-mile) tunnel will lead to the Western Wall – one of Judaism’s holiest sites – in the city’s occupied east.”

“The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future state.” [emphasis added]

Predictably however, readers were not told that what the BBC chooses to call “East Jerusalem” was invaded and occupied by Jordan nineteen years earlier or that in June 1967 it was Jordan which opened the hostilities on that front. Neither were they provided with any significant background information concerning the Waqf and its status before being informed that:

“Jordan has special responsibility for overseeing the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem – including the compound behind the Western Wall, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as the Temple Mount – via an Islamic trust called the Waqf.”

The BBC is obliged under the terms of its Charter to “provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”. Its adoption and exclusive promotion of one-sided politicised narratives which deliberately omit relevant information cannot possibly be claimed to serve audiences in accordance with those obligations.

Related Articles:

BBC News report on Jerusalem planning fails to meet impartiality guidelines

A politicised BBC report on a new train line

Continuing documentation of the BBC’s B’Tselem map binge

BBC WS radio jumps on the Gaza comparison bandwagon

Last week we saw how an edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ highlighted a redundant comparison between the situation in Idlib, Syria, and the Gaza Strip which was made by interviewee David Miliband of the NGO the International Rescue Committee.

BBC Radio 4 promotes a redundant comparison

The February 13th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ – presented by Tim Franks – also included an item on the topic of the humanitarian crisis in Idlib (from 30:06 here), most of which was given over to an interview with David Miliband that was also promoted as a stand-alone item.

During that six-minute interview Miliband again brought up the subject of the Gaza Strip in one sentence. [emphasis in italics in the original]

Miliband: “Just to give your listeners a sense; the density of population in the Idlib province is now greater than the density of population on [sic] the Gaza Strip which historically has been seen as one of the most confined areas in the world.”

Franks later brought up that statement again, describing Miliband’s statement as a ‘statistic’.

Franks: “…and as you say – and I haven’t heard this statistic before – the idea that there’s a greater concentration of people there now than there is even in the Gaza Strip…”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the population density in the Gaza Strip was 5,453 persons/km2 in mid 2019. According to the department of planning in New York City – where David Miliband resides – the population density is around 10,424 persons/km2 and in the city of London, from which ‘Newshour’ is broadcast, the population density is reported to be on average 5,590 persons/km2 with some districts having a population density of 11,200 persons/km2.

As we have noted here in the past when the BBC has promoted the same mantra, there are of course many other cities in the world with a higher population density than Gaza City and other places with higher population densities than the Gaza Strip as a whole. Interestingly, a map produced by the BBC in 2018 shows a higher population density in London than in Gaza.

Nevertheless, the BBC continues to steer its audiences towards the notion that the Gaza Strip is the benchmark for high population density and out of all the things said by David Miliband during that six-minute interview, that -revealingly – was the issue that the ‘Newshour’ Twitter account chose to highlight.