BBC stays mum on convicted terrorist’s success in PA election

As regular readers know only too well, the BBC shows little interest in reporting internal Palestinian affairs – including domestic politics – to its audiences. Back in September 2016 we discussed the little reporting which did appear on the BBC News website on the topic of the fraught Palestinian Authority municipal elections which were supposed to have taken place last year.

“One might have assumed that coverage of the first election in a decade in which the rival parties Hamas and Fatah were set to take part would have been considered essential for the enhancement of BBC audience understanding of Palestinian internal affairs – especially as elections for both the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PA president have not been held during that time.

The BBC apparently thought differently and so audiences have received no insight whatsoever into the background to the municipal elections or the type of campaigning material put out by the parties involved. Neither have they been informed of stories such as Fatah’s nomination of a convicted terrorist as a candidate or the ‘concealment’ of some female candidates.”

On May 13th those long postponed municipal elections were finally held in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and Reuters reported that:

“…about 800,000 Palestinians were expected to vote for representatives in 145 local councils in the West Bank, but not in the Gaza Strip.”

However, the elections were boycotted by Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the PFLP and turnout was relatively low.

“The vote provided Palestinians a rare chance to cast ballots, after over a decade without presidential or legislative elections, and Saturday’s election was seen as a test for Abbas’ embattled and nepotism-tainted party.

The results across the West Bank indicated a weak showing by the ruling Fatah party, even though the rival Islamic Hamas terrorist movement stayed out of the race.

Electoral commission chief Hanna Nasser said 393,572 ballots were cast — “nearly 50 percent of voters.” […]

Turnout was far lower in large cities than in surrounding communities, with the lowest in Nablus, the main city in the northern West Bank, where it was less than 21%. In Nablus, Fatah won 11 of 15 seats, but only after forming an alliance with Islamist candidates.

Ramallah, the Palestinian political capital, saw turnout of less than 40%.”

In Hebron the Fatah nominated convicted terrorist mentioned above was apparently elected as mayor.

“Tayseer Abu Sneineh, the convicted murderer of six Israelis, was reportedly elected mayor of the West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday as head of the Fatah Party list.

Abu Sneineh was one of four Palestinians behind the murder of six Israeli yeshiva students in 1980.

The students, included two American citizens and a Canadian national, were part of a group that had danced from the Cave of the Patriarchs to Beit Hadassah in Hebron when Abu Sneineh and his terror cell opened fire. The six students were killed and 16 others were wounded.

The Palestinians were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison but were later released in various prisoner exchanges Israel carried out throughout the 1980s. Tayseer Abu Sneineh was released in a prisoner swap in 1983.”

Unsurprisingly, that terror attack has been glorified by Fatah in the past.

Equally unsurprisingly, the BBC – which consistently downplays or ignores Fatah and PA glorification of terrorism – has to date produced no reporting on this story.

 

No follow up on postponement of Palestinian elections from BBC News

As regular readers will be aware, the first report to appear on the BBC News website in connection to the municipal elections which were supposed to take place in PA controlled areas and the Gaza strip on October 8th came when they were postponed by a Ramallah court.pa-elections-art

On October 3rd the PA high court issued a further decision.

“The Palestinian Authority’s high court on Monday ordered municipal elections to be held only in the West Bank and not in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, though a new date for the suspended polls was not set. […]

“The court orders the implementation of the government’s decision on the holding of local elections,” court president Hisham al-Hatoo ruled before a packed courtroom in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

He said however the judiciary in Gaza did not have necessary “guarantees” in place for the holding of the polls.”

Following the court’s decision:

“The Palestinian Central Elections Commission on Monday urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to delay municipal elections by at least six months, after the PA high court ordered the polling be held only in the West Bank and not in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The commission said a delay would be “in the Palestinian interest” in light of the ruling.

The court ruling could bring to an end hopes that the municipal elections would be the first since 2006 in which both Hamas and the PA would participate. […]

Hamas immediately dismissed Monday’s decision as “political.”

“The high court’s decision on the elections is discriminatory and ratifies the division” between Gaza and the West Bank, it said in a statement.”

To date BBC audiences have not seen any follow-up reporting on this latest chapter in the story of the chronically stagnant Palestinian democratic process and the related ever-widening Hamas-Fatah split.

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PA elections finally get some BBC coverage after postponement

 

PA elections finally get some BBC coverage after postponement

On September 8th the BBC News website produced its first article dedicated to the topic of the municipal elections which were supposed to have taken place in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip on October 8th but have now been postponed by a Ramallah court.

Prior to the appearance of that article – titled “Palestinian court delays municipal elections after challenges” – the sole reference to those elections seen by BBC audiences since their announcement came in the form of a fourteen word-long sentence in a report on a different topic.pa-elections-art

One might have assumed that coverage of the first election in a decade in which the rival parties Hamas and Fatah were set to take part would have been considered essential for the enhancement of BBC audience understanding of Palestinian internal affairs – especially as elections for both the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PA president have not been held during that time.

The BBC apparently thought differently and so audiences have received no insight whatsoever into the background to the municipal elections or the type of campaigning material put out by the parties involved. Neither have they been informed of stories such as Fatah’s nomination of a convicted terrorist as a candidate or the ‘concealment’ of some female candidates.

“In a move that has outraged Palestinian women and various Palestinian factions, a number of Palestinian lists contesting the upcoming local elections, scheduled to take place on October 8, have decided to omit the names and photos of female candidates.

Instead of referring to the female candidates by name and publishing their pictures, the electoral lists are using the terms “the wife of” or “sister.” […]

The decision to conceal the names and photos of female candidates is seen in the context of the increased “Islamization” of Palestinian society, which is already considered highly conservative.

Apart from being a severe blow to the struggle of Palestinian women for equality, the move is in violation of the 2005 Palestinian Local Election Law, which stipulates that candidates must be fully identified by name, age, address and registration number in the electoral list.

This anti-woman undertaking is not taking place only in the Gaza Strip, under the control of the Islamist Hamas movement. It is also baring its fangs in some parts of the West Bank, which is ruled by the Western-funded Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Mahmoud Abbas.”

The BBC’s report on the postponement of the municipal elections ostensibly informs readers of the circumstances behind the court’s decision.

“Thursday’s ruling by the high court in the West Bank city of Ramallah came after a Hamas-controlled court in Gaza disqualified several candidate lists drawn up by Fatah on technical grounds.

A challenge was also lodged by a lawyer over the inability to hold the vote in occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after seizing it in the 1967 war but Palestinians want to be the capital of a future state.

“Elections can’t take place in one place and not the other,” said the presiding judge.

“The elections can’t take place in Jerusalem and its neighbourhoods. Also, there are problems with the formation of courts in Gaza… Therefore, the court decides to stop the elections.””

However, one relevant aspect of the story is absent from the BBC’s coverage.

“Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the election process was seriously harmed when the Gaza courts, which are essentially Hamas-run, decided to annul the lists of candidates associated with Fatah in Gaza.

 “These are courts that are illegitimate and they made an illegitimate decision, and so the PA Supreme Court cannot accept a situation in which there are two separate court systems: one in the state of Gaza Strip and another in the state of the West Bank,” they said.”

Despite the postponement of the elections having its roots in the Hamas-Fatah split, the BBC nevertheless closed its report by touting the short-lived 2014 ‘unity deal’ and with a euphemistic and unhelpful reference to “deep divisions”.

“Although Fatah and Hamas formally agreed a unity deal and a technocratic government in 2014, deep divisions remain, resulting in political paralysis.”

 The BBC itself reported the unilateral dissolution of that “technocratic government” over a year ago.

In January 2015 BBC audiences saw Yolande Knell attribute the failure of Palestinian democracy to flourish to “Israeli occupation” in a highly partisan report. The lack of serious BBC coverage of the background to the 2016 municipal elections once again demonstrates that – despite its obligation to enhance audience understanding of international affairs – internal Palestinian affairs are topic serially and severely under-reported by the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism”.

Update: A few hours after the appearance of this post, an article titled “Palestinian women fight elections name ‘censorship’” appeared in the ‘Feature’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. 

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Weekend long read

1) Although the BBC News website finally got round last week to making a fourteen word mention of the fact that municipal elections are scheduled to take place in the PA controlled territories and the Gaza Strip next month, audiences have yet to see any serious reporting on that topic. Writing at the Times of Israel, Avi Issacharoff takes the electoral pulse in Hebron.Weekend Read

“Yet although the public in Hebron seems somewhat indifferent to the elections, for the Fatah party, tensions are as high as the stakes.

These are the first elections in more than a decade in which voting is taking place at the same time in both Gaza and the West Bank, and Hamas and Fatah are going head-to-head.

Whatever the result, it will affect not only the status of these organizations but also of their leaders, and could even seep into the relationship between the Palestinians and Israel. While these elections are local, and won’t directly change anything politically or security-related between Israel and the Palestinian, a sweeping win by the hardline Islamist movement Hamas is still liable to ramp up the amount of suspicion and lack of trust between the two peoples.

As in the other cities in the West Bank, the trouble in Hebron is that because there are so many secular slates of candidates, there is a reasonable chance that the more moderate camp of Fatah and groups of its ilk will split the secular vote, paving the way for victory by Hamas candidates.”

2) At the Jewish News, Yiftah Curiel documents the connections between two British websites and Hamas.

“MEMO is populated by bloggers and activists and directed by Daoud Abdullah, a senior researcher at the London-based Palestinian Return Centre – an organisation outlawed in Israel for its connections with Hamas and acting as the terror group’s de-facto arm across Europe.

When you read stories on the site directed by Mr Abdullah, you’re reading material edited by senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt, who is also director of Interpal, a British Muslim charity designated as a terror-supporting group in Israel. The charity is also a longstanding member of the United States Treasury’s list of specially designated terrorist organisations.”

3) MEMO was also the topic of a 2014 article by Petra Marquardt Bigman which is worth revisiting.

“While the US government may designate Hamas and its funders as terrorist organizations and entities, some academics from elite US universities apparently don’t mind lending their prestige to a publishing enterprise that promotes the ideology of Hamas and is led by its supporters, who undoubtedly cherish the opportunity to gain legitimacy by bestowing their awards not only on professional anti-Israel activists but also on willing members of America’s academic elite.”

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A rare BBC News report on internal Palestinian affairs

As we have periodically noted on these pages, the BBC’s Middle East reporting rarely includes stand-alone coverage of Palestinian affairs.

“Insight into internal Palestinian politics which would enhance audiences’ comprehension of Palestinian society (as well as the conflict) is relatively rare in BBC coverage. Reporting on social and human rights issues within Palestinian society is even more scarce and thus BBC audiences see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life.”

It was therefore encouraging to see a factual report on a recent incident involving the Palestinian Authority security forces published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on August 23rd under the headline “Palestinian suspect in police killings ‘beaten to death’“.PA lynch art

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it has launched an investigation after a man was apparently beaten to death in a jail in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Nablus Governor Akram Rajoub said Ahmed Halawa had been assaulted by Palestinian security forces at Junaid prison after shouting insults at them.

Mr Halawa was the alleged ringleader of an attack that led to the killing of two policemen in the area last week.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah described his death as an “irregular incident”.

However, human rights activists have in the past been extremely critical of the treatment of prisoners in Palestinian jails. They say that torture is common, and committed with impunity.”

More than seven years have passed since BBC audiences last saw any serious reporting on that topic in the English language.

Towards the end of the report BBC audiences were finally informed that municipal elections are scheduled to take place in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip in October.

“The two factions are preparing for local elections across the Palestinian territories in October.”

The article closes with a brief mention of a different story:

“In a separate development on Tuesday, the Israeli military said it had dismantled a Palestinian weapons-making and smuggling network in the West Bank.

Troops found more than 20 arms-manufacturing machines at several sites in the Bethlehem and Hebron areas overnight, it added. Two traffickers were arrested.”

Unfortunately, BBC audiences were not provided with the context to that information.

“Though this is by no means the first operation of its kind in 2016, it is the largest to date. Since 2016, the IDF has shut down 49 weapons manufacturing machines and seized over 300 firearms. Over 140 weapons dealers and manufacturers have been arrested. […]

Firearms have accounted for over 25% of terror attacks since the beginning of 2016, resulting in over 30 shooting attacks. Operations like the one undertaken last night, which target Palestinian violence at its source, have resulted in a 30% drop in terror attacks in the past several months.”

Hopefully this report signals the advent of a new era of BBC reporting and Palestinian internal affairs will begin to receive the more comprehensive coverage which audiences have to date been denied.  

Weekend long read

1) With the misappropriation of funds and materials intended to better the lives of ordinary residents in the Gaza Strip by Hamas recruited NGO workers having made headlines in the last couple of weeks, Professor Gerald Steinberg takes a look at the bigger picture.Weekend Read

“The broader problem is that due diligence for humanitarian aid in war and terror zones requires the allocation of significant resources and a professional staff capable of detaching itself from the pressures and sympathies of the local environment. World Vision, like most aid groups operating in Gaza, clearly failed in this respect. […]

World Vision’s troubles in Gaza reflect the broader moral failures of the humanitarian-aid industry. The narrow vision of aid workers contribute to a willful blindness to terrorism. The competition for publicity and donations results in alliances with brutal regimes and corrupt warlords. But thanks to the NGO “halo effect,” many donors also neglect due diligence, instead relying on the pure reputation of the recipient organization.”

2) The WSJ’s David Feith takes a look at an issue which, as has frequently been noted on these pages, has long been avoided by BBC journalists: the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists.

“For two decades the Palestinian government has used U.S. and other foreign taxpayers’ money to pay generous rewards to the families of terrorists. The deadlier the crime, the larger the prize, up to about $3,100 a month, or several times the average salary of a worker in Palestine’s non-terrorist economy. […]

No U.S. official can plead ignorance. Palestinian law has sanctioned these payments since at least 2004, specifying how much money is earned depending on the circumstances of the attacker and the body count. A Palestinian from Israel with a wife and children who kills many people and dies in the act, or is captured and sentenced to more than 30 years in prison, earns the most. Single, childless attackers from the West Bank or Gaza earn less. The incentives are clear.

Palestinian leaders once tried to obscure their payments by characterizing them as “assistance” rather than “salaries.” They also shifted nominal responsibility from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which takes donations from foreign governments, to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which doesn’t. But this was a sham, as both bodies are run by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party.”

3) The Fathom Journal has a very informative article by Shiraz Maher of KCL titled “Mapping contemporary Salafi-Jihadism“.

4) With the BBC so far having refrained from covering the run-up to the municipal elections scheduled for October 8th in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip, Khaled Abu Toameh’s reporting on the campaigning provides invaluable background.

“Hamas, whose leaders seem to be enthusiastic and optimistic about the upcoming vote, has seized the opportunity to wage a massive election campaign on Facebook and Twitter to promote its extremist ideology through intimidation and by accusing its rivals of infidelity, blasphemy and profanity. Hamas’s message to the Palestinian voters: Vote for us or else you will be considered infidels and you will end up in hell.

The first sign of Hamas’s frightening platform emerged when one of its top muftis, Yunis Al-Astal, issued a fatwa (Islamic religious decree) banning Palestinians from voting for any other party other than Hamas. “Any person, male or female, who votes for a party other than Hamas will be considered an infidel and apostate and his or her repentance will not be accepted even if they fasted or prayed or performed the hajj [pilgrimage] to Mecca,” the mufti ruled.

The Hamas fatwa sparked a wave of anger from many Palestinians, who were quick to accuse the Islamist movement and its leaders of waging a campaign of intimidation and terror against voters.” 

 

A view of Gaza that BBC audiences can not recognise

On August 9th the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced that it will not take part in October’s municipal elections in the PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip.

““We will not participate in the municipal and local elections,” the terrorist group said in a statement.

The movement, a splinter and sometimes rival of the Islamist terror group Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip, said the elections were not an “appropriate way out of the Palestinian national impasse.”

Instead, the group called on Hamas to reconcile with its rival Fatah, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas.”

Another terrorist group is however participating in the elections and on August 8th its supporters put out a video designed to boost Hamas’ election campaign. As the Times of Israel reports, the film features “smiling people holding up signs with the hashtag “Thank you Hamas””.

Channel 10’s Arab affairs correspondent Hezi Simantov described the video as being aimed at showing that Hamas has rehabilitated the Gaza Strip and that its residents live normal lives. He added that the film is intended to create the impression that Hamas takes an interest in – and cares about – the situation of the residents of the Strip but that it has already raised a storm of criticism from those who (rightly) claim that it does not depict the whole picture of the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The BBC has so far refrained from reporting on the scheduled elections at all but if and when it does get round to doing so, it is unlikely that its audiences will learn of this Hamas campaign material which promotes the water parks, luxury hotels, restaurants, green sports fields and smart shopping malls that BBC audiences have never been told exist in the Gaza Strip.

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Inaccuracy in BBC’s Fatah profile exposed

 

Inaccuracy in BBC’s Fatah profile exposed

A political party which solicited votes in an upcoming election anywhere in the world by boasting that it had murdered thousands of people would no doubt make BBC headlines. Anywhere in the world, that is, except for Ramallah.

Ahead of the municipal elections in PA controlled areas and the Gaza Strip scheduled for October (which the BBC still has not reported), Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party put out a Facebook post on its official account – described as follows by PMW which translated the post:

“Fatah yesterday posted a list of Fatah’s achievements on behalf of Palestinians. Significantly, Fatah did not cite even one peace-seeking or peace-promoting achievement, but only listed Fatah acts of violence and terror. Fatah even boasted that its attacks have killed 11,000 Israelis. While Fatah and the PLO have been killing Israelis since 1965, this number is a gross exaggeration.  

One of the acts it bragged about was being the “first Palestinian faction to reach the [Israeli] nuclear reactor.” This is a reference to Fatah’s bus hijacking and murder of three Israeli civilians on their way to work at the Dimona nuclear plant in 1988.” 

The Times of Israel adds:

“The current Fatah post is likely linked to the upcoming Palestinian municipal elections, set for October 8, in which Fatah and Hamas are expected to contest seats in most Palestinian municipalities. In many places in the West Bank, Hamas members will be running without openly identifying with the movement, which has been suppressed by PA forces in areas under its control.”

The BBC’s profile of Fatah tells audiences that:Fatah profile

“Under Arafat’s leadership, the group originally promoted an armed struggle against Israel to create a Palestinian state. But it later recognised Israel’s right to exist, and its leaders have led Palestinian peace talks aimed at reaching a two-state solution.”

And:

“With international pressure mounting, Fatah – though notably not the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – signed a declaration rejecting attacks on civilians in Israel and committing themselves to peace and co-existence.”

A political party which tries to boost its credentials among the electorate by boasting about murdering civilians has obviously not ‘rejected’ attacks on Israeli civilians or ‘committed’ itself to “peace and co-existence”. However, just as the BBC is unlikely to amend those clearly unrealistic statements in its Fatah profile, it is also unlikely to report a story which contradicts its adopted narrative.

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