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.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

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

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BBC WS’s ‘Newshour’ exploits Pope’s canonizations for promotion of propaganda

BBC coverage of the Pope’s recent canonization of four nineteenth century nuns has focused exclusively on the two who were born in places which were at the time part of the Ottoman Empire: Jerusalem in the Mutassariflik of Jerusalem and Ibillin in the Acco (Acre) Sanjak. The Ottomans of course did not recognize ‘Palestine’ as a separate entity but divided the Levant into provinces, governorates and districts.

On May 17th the BBC devoted two written articles and two items in radio broadcasts to the story.

Vatican boost for Christians in Holy Land” – Yolande Knell, BBC News website

Pope Francis canonises two Palestinian nuns” – BBC News website

‘Newshour’ – “Palestinian nuns become saints” – Julian Marshall, BBC World Service radio (from 00:32)

Sunday‘ – Edward Stourton with Fr David Neuhaus, BBC Radio 4 (from 00:57)

All those items include an element of politicization of the topic by means of promotion of two women who would have been extremely unlikely to self-define as Palestinians as “Palestinian nuns”.

An idea of the aims of such politicization of what is, after all, an event of religious significance can be gleaned from an article published by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

“Rifaat Kassis, a prominent political community activist and coordinator of Kairos, a local Christian group, says the canonization is significant on many levels, notwithstanding the recognition that Palestinians under Ottoman rule were part of a diverse, productive society, contrary to the mainstream sidelining of Palestinians from the region’s history.

“This puts Palestine on the map, among not only the catholic world, but the whole world, and I think this will also help people to understand Palestine and the occupation,” he told Ma’an.” [emphasis added]Newshour nuns

Not content with the geographical politicization of the topic, the ‘Newshour’ item went even further and a report supposedly about the canonization of two nuns quickly became a platform for the promotion of political propaganda when presenter Julian Marshall brought into the conversation Oliver McTernan of the Hamas-supporting ‘Forward Thinking’ and a Palestinian Christian from Beit Sahour named only as Ghassan Bannoura who appears to have worked variously for Oxfam GB, and the IMEMC media arm of the ISM-linked Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People.

McTernan: “I think to the broader Palestinian public it’s the rebuilding of Gaza, the unity of Palestine: terribly important.”

Bannoura: “Well of course living under occupation, the war-torn Gaza strip needs rebuilding of course – that is very important and we should, you know, be focusing on rebuilding Gaza, ending the occupation in the West Bank, stopping the settlements that eating our resources in the West Bank, make it impossible to build any kind of future state in the Holy Land.”

Bannoura: “We can’t get to Jerusalem not because of the Palestinian Authority – our own government and our own police. We can’t get to Jerusalem because of the Israeli occupation and the wall that surrounds the city.”

Clearly the editorial consideration behind the running of this item was not only to inform listeners worldwide of the life and times of the Catholic Church’s new saints.