BBC News silent on PA climb down over tax revenues

In late February of this year the Palestinian Authority announced that it would refuse to accept tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel due to deduction of the amount paid to terrorists and their families.

BBC audiences heard nothing about that financial own goal (or the subsequent salary cuts endured by PA employees) until June, when they were informed that the PA “could be bankrupt by July or August”. The BBC’s explanation of that claim included the topic of tax revenue transfers from Israel:

“The financial crisis was exacerbated this February by a dispute with Israel over the transfer of tax and tariff revenues it collects on the PA’s behalf.

Israel announced it would freeze the transfer of about $139m (£109m) – an amount it said was equal to that paid by the PA in 2018 to families of Palestinians jailed by Israel or killed while carrying out attacks.

Israeli officials say the payments incentivise terrorism. But the PA insists they are welfare payments for relatives of prisoners and “martyrs”.

The PA responded to the freeze by refusing to accept any further Israeli revenue transfers, which account for about half its budget.”

The Bahrain economic workshop in late June prompted some superficial reporting on the Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis, with BBC journalists failing to question Palestinian officials on the relevant issue of payments to terrorists.

Over seven months on since its initial refusal to accept tax revenues, the Palestinian Authority has now changed its stance.

“The Palestinian Authority has agreed to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues collected by Israel, after months of declining them in protest over Jerusalem withholding money over payments to terrorists, Palestinian officials said Friday.

The transfers amount to some 600 million Israeli shekels (about $170 million) a month and are a key source of financing for the PA.

The PA had refused to accept the funds because Israel was withholding an amount equal to what the Palestinians pay to terrorists and their families, but the cash-strapped PA appears to be retreating in the face of an economic crisis. […]

Two Palestinian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media, said Israel will continue to withhold 42 million shekels ($12 million) a month, the amount it says goes to the Martyrs’ Fund.

In a speech before the UN General Assembly last month, Abbas vowed to continue the payments to the terrorists and their families.”

BBC audiences have to date seen no coverage of the Palestinian Authority’s climb down on this issue.

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BBC reporting on PA salaries for terrorists shown to be outdated

Over the past couple of weeks BBC audiences have seen repeated, but largely monochrome, explanations of why the Palestinian economy is in the state it is on a variety of platforms. For example:

“…the most important reasons for the feeble Palestinian economy are tied to the 52-year-old Israeli occupation.”

“…in order to have a successful economy any country is going to need control over its own territory, the ability to trade and to export, the ability to develop a vibrant labour market, the ability to create a supportive investment infrastructure and the Palestinians have none of these economic freedoms.” BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 26/6/19

“Instead of the White House promising aid or outside investment, Mdees Khoury says a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection. For her family’s firm, these can mean costly delays of imports and in distribution to local and foreign markets, which is via Israeli checkpoints and ports.”

“But in Gaza, where the economy’s stagnated in the past decade, there’s less optimism. Israel and Egypt tightened border controls, citing security concerns…” BBC WS radio, ‘Newshour’, 25/6/19 and 26/6/19 and also BBC Radio 4

“Instead of promising aid or outside investment, she says, a lot could be achieved by finding ways to ease Israeli restrictions – measures Israel says are for its own protection.

For her firm, these can mean costly delays in imports of hops, malt and yeast as well as in distribution to local and foreign markets, which is via Israeli checkpoints and ports.

“There needs to be international pressure on the Israelis to loosen up because Palestinians are very smart people, they’re very determined and if they just get the chance to be left alone they could thrive and succeed,” she says.” BBC News website, 25/6/19

“If you really want to unleash the Palestinian economy, given that we have the best human capital there is – you know we have one of the highest PhD per capita graduates worldwide. We have a very young society. We have a very rich natural resourced country. We have shores on the Mediterranean, on the Dead Sea. All what we need is simply freedom, sovereignty – economic sovereignty – and I assure you we Palestinians are absolutely capable to build our very prosperous economy.” BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’, 24/6/19

“…the economy of the Palestinian Authority is on its knees, clearly informed by the occupation…” BBC WS radio, ‘Newshour’, 20/6/19 

“The Israelis are withholding my funds, my revenues and the Americans are cutting all my aid and now they have these tears on [for] me?” BBC Radio 4, ‘Today’, 20/6/19

Only one of those many reports relating to the Bahrain economic workshop dealt with the relevant issue of the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists and the economic results of that policy. In that report – versions of which were aired on BBC domestic radio and on BBC World Service radio – Yolande Knell spoke of:

“…a recent decision by Israel’s government to cut $140 million a year from the taxes they collect on behalf of the Palestinian Authority – a sum equivalent to the payments made to prisoners and relatives of Palestinians who’ve been killed.”

She went on:

“But the latest change has been a crisis in the Palestinian market. PA leaders refused their incomplete tax transfers from Israel and that’s left them with a huge budget shortfall. Prisoner wages haven’t been touched but salaries have been cut for tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants…”

A new report by Palestinian Media Watch reveals that “prisoner wages” have in fact “been touched” – they rose by 11.8% in the first five months of 2019.

“The Palestinian Authority has finally publicized its monthly financial expenditures for the first 5 months of 2019. They show that the PA has paid no less than 234,172,000 shekels (over $65 million), or, on average, 46,834,400 shekels/month in salaries to terrorist prisoners (including released prisoners) in spite of its self-imposed financial crisis.

Based on this monthly average, the PA expenditure on the “Pay-for-Slay” salaries to terrorist prisoners in 2019 should reach 562 million shekels, as compared to 502 million shekels in 2018. This amounts to 60 million shekels or a 11.8% rise in PA salaries to terrorist prisoners in 2019.”

Although BBC audiences have been told in recent weeks that the PA “is on the verge of financial collapse”, “is in a dire financial state” and “could be bankrupt by July or August” – with the blame laid firmly at the door of “Israeli restrictions” and “the occupation” – it is unlikely that they will see any reporting on this new information concerning the background to a “crisis” which PA officials bemoaned in BBC interviews, all the while knowing that their own government had elected to exacerbate the situation by allocating higher rewards to convicted terrorists.

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BBC Radio 4 provides a platform for the PLO’s ‘apartheid’ smear

Three days after the Palestinian Authority representative in London, Husam Zomlot, had given a briefing to “senior BBC correspondents and journalists” at Broadcasting House, listeners to the June 20th edition of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme heard a remarkably sympathetic and unchallenging interview with his colleague Saeb Erekat.

Presenter Mishal Husain introduced the item (from 2:33:34 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Husain: “There will be a conference next week in Bahran initiated by the United States on proposals for the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian leadership however will not be there. Indeed the draft agenda for the event doesn’t include the word Palestinian, talking instead about investment in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel’s government will be represented as will the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It’s all part of the ‘deal of the century’ as Donald Trump calls his Middle East peace initiative with his son-in-law Jared Kushner at the helm. Saeb Erekat is one of the most senior and long-serving Palestinian officials; a negotiator of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s and now secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee. He’s here in London and is with us in the studio. […] What do you achieve – you as the Palestinian leadership – by boycotting this event?”

In contrast to that highlighted claim from Husain, the Times of Israel reported the previous day that:

“No Israeli officials were invited to the event, the US administration announced earlier this week, noting that, given the fact that Palestinian Authority refused to attend, the hosts did not want to politicize the event.”

Erekat opened with an unsupported claim.

Erekat: “First of all we did not know about this event to begin with. We heard about it from the BBC. No-one consulted us and as for the ‘deal of the century’ you mentioned, Mishal, I think they have been implementing it, dictating it…”

Husain: “The Americans.”

Erekat: “The Americans, you know, in turning Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the embassy, closing our office in Washington, closing their consulate, calling settlements legal. When was the last time…today it’s been 28 months for this Trump team in office. Did you hear the term from them two states? Did you hear the term occupation? Did you hear the term settlements illegal? So they’re inviting for a Manama workshop because they know what’s best for me. I should not think any more. They know what’s better for me. They want to link me, my Jericho home, Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah with settlements so we can co-exist because in their eyes I’m not a people.”

Making no effort to clarify to listeners why the PLO mission in Washington was closed or why the US Consulate was merged with the embassy in Jerusalem, Husain not only failed to challenge Erekat’s claims but added credence to them.

Husain: “But what are your options in the face of an administration that takes that position?”

Erekat: “I not declare war on them. They declare war on our rights. And the whole aspects they’re doing now is they trying to…they focus attention from the Palestinian rights to Palestinian needs. What I mean by this, they want to go with the settlers council’s plan – the Israeli settler council’s plan – which specifies the term one state, two system: apartheid. They want me to have the right to have an ID card; it’s gonna be green, theirs will be blue. I have the right to study but they will determine the books and the maps that my children will study or not study. They will determine how do I drive and where do I drive. My car licence will be white and green; theirs will be yellow. There’s a deeper apartheid system that exist in the West Bank and Israel today than the one that existed in the darkest hours of South Africa’s apartheid. What we’re trying to tell the world – what I’m here in Britain, in Europe, in the Arab world, Asia, Africa, Latin America – we must stand tall to defend international law. We must stand tall to defend the four Geneva Conventions. We must stand tall to solve this problem by peaceful means.”

Husain made no effort to challenge Erekat’s ‘apartheid’ smears or to clarify the basis for his bizarre claims concerning the colours of various imaginary documents. Her passive approach was rendered even more significant just seconds later when – contradicting his own claims of a “plan” – Erekat admitted that he has no idea what the US proposals include.  

Erekat: “Actually this American administration is telling us if you accept what we offer – and we don’t know what they offer; you don’t know in Britain what they offer, France doesn’t know, no Arabs know, they didn’t share…”

Husain: “The plan was supposed to be presented around now but it’s been delayed because of the Israeli election having to be…”

Erekat: “That’s exactly it. It’s because of the Israelis and because of their…they work it out and draft it with Netanyahu, they dictate it on us.”

Following two questions concerning the participation of Arab states in the conference – and some uncharacteristically muted answers from Erekat – Husain continued:

Husain: “OK. You said the focus has been put on Palestinian needs rather than Palestinian rights but in terms of those needs, you would accept – wouldn’t you? – the…the dire economic position that the Palestinian Authority is in. It’s had aid cut off by the Americans. You know, there are all sorts of programmes which are desperately under-funded, both in the West Bank and in Gaza. So economic proposals are needed, are they not?”

Erekat: “So the Americans, as you said, cut $844 million from my aid. They cut aid to the St. John’s hospital in East Jerusalem – a British institute – the only eye centre serving Palestinians. They cut aid to the only cancer centre, Augusta Victoria…”

Husain: “Which is why I ask you; don’t you welcome the economic proposals given that situation?”

Erekat: “If you believe…Mishal, the people who cut aid to hospitals, to schools…they defunded UNRWA for the refugees $350 million and they left 112 projects – roads, schools, hosp…unfinished. And you’re telling me these people do care about my prosperity? And they want to do projects for me? The Israelis are withholding my funds, my revenues and the Americans are cutting all my aid and now they have these tears on [for] me?” […]

Husain did not bother to tell listeners that it is the PA which has refused to accept transfers of tax revenues from Israel or that the PA also refused to accept a category of US aid and that in both cases the background is linked to the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists.

Husain: “I want to ask you: you’ve worked on these issues all of your adult life. Do you think you will see a Palestinian state in your lifetime or are you in the process of having to face reality and perhaps giving up on it?”

Erekat: “I…I cannot give up. I will not give up. It’s not a job that I do. I have 8 grandchildren, four children. I don’t want them to be suicide bombers. I don’t want them to be desperate because desperation will lead to desperate acts. And the only option for us as Palestinians as my president specified in his proposal for the United Nations Security Council February 20th 2018 – live and let live. The State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital to live side by side the State of Israel in peace and security. This is the only solution.”

Husain made no effort to ask Erekat how he intends to get Hamas and other Palestinian terror factions on board with that vision.

Erekat: “Now we have an Israeli government, an American administration that want one state two systems: apartheid. This will not fly.”

Once again failing to challenge that ‘apartheid’ smear, Husain closed the item.

Husain: “Saeb Erekat – thank you very much.”

Obviously this was much less an interview intended to provide BBC audiences with accurate and impartial information which would enhance their understanding of the topic than it was the provision of an unquestioning – if not obsequious – platform for Saeb Erakat’s propaganda.

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BBC News finally gets round to mentioning new PA prime minister

The day after we noted on these pages that BBC audiences had heard nothing about a two year-old self-awarded pay rise to Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers, the BBC News website published a report headlined “Anger at Palestinian ministers’ secret 67% pay rises”.

BBC audiences finally learned – three months on – that a new PA prime minister had been appointed – but were not told that the pervious one had resigned in January.

“UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov said such moves “defy logic and anger people” when Palestinians were struggling with economic hardship.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh had agreed to end the practice, he added.

Mr Shtayyeh – an economist who took office in April – has also ordered an investigation, during which ministers will reportedly receive half their salaries.”

The BBC did not clarify that, as reported by AP, most PA employees are currently only being paid half their salaries:

“Newly appointed Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, a longtime adviser to Abbas, has suspended the pay raises and referred the issue to Abbas “to review it and take legal measures.” While the issue is investigated, ministers will receive half their salaries, like most other government employees, according to government spokesman Ibrahim Milhim.””

Notably, the BBC completely avoided the topic of the reaction on the Palestinian street to the news of the secret pay rises.

Readers were provided with a link to a recent interview with Shtayyeh.

“In an interview with the New York Times published on Wednesday, Mr Shtayyeh warned that the PA was in such dire financial straits that it was “in a collapsing situation” and could be bankrupt by July or August.”

The BBC’s explanation of that claim focused on two factors, the first being tax revenue transfers from Israel.

“The financial crisis was exacerbated this February by a dispute with Israel over the transfer of tax and tariff revenues it collects on the PA’s behalf.

Israel announced it would freeze the transfer of about $139m (£109m) – an amount it said was equal to that paid by the PA in 2018 to families of Palestinians jailed by Israel or killed while carrying out attacks.

Israeli officials say the payments incentivise terrorism. But the PA insists they are welfare payments for relatives of prisoners and “martyrs”.

The PA responded to the freeze by refusing to accept any further Israeli revenue transfers, which account for about half its budget.”

The second factor cited is the US administration.

“Since 2018, the US has ended both bilateral aid for Palestinians and contributions for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa).

Those moves came after the PA cut off diplomatic contacts in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.”

The BBC did not bother to inform readers that part of the aid cuts were also linked to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying salaries to convicted terrorists or that another category of aid – security aid – was actually refused by the Palestinian Authority in December 2018 when it informed the US that:

“The Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA…the Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance.”

That omission is particularly relevant in light of the fact that the BBC did tell readers that:

“Mr Shtayyeh warned that if the PA experienced a financial collapse it would have to put security personnel in the occupied West Bank on unpaid leave.”

Given the PA’s rivalry with Hamas, that scenario is of course extremely unlikely.

Obviously the issue of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of spending some 7% of its annual budget on payments to terrorists and their families is relevant to this story but the last time BBC audiences heard anything about that topic was eleven months ago.

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BBC News silence on Palestinian internal affairs rolls on

Over a month ago we noted that BBC audiences had received no information concerning the Palestinian Authority’s self-inflicted financial crisis which has led to its employees being paid only part of their salaries for the past few months. That observation still stands.

On June 4th AP reported another story relating to certain Palestinian Authority employees.

“The Palestinian labor market in the West Bank was limping along in 2017, with unemployment stubbornly high and economic growth slowing. But that didn’t stop the Palestinian Cabinet from secretly giving itself a series of lavish payouts and perks, highlighted by a 67% salary hike.

The payments and perks were kept quiet for the past two years, but news of the Cabinet decision leaked this week in a series of documents posted anonymously to social media.

The revelations have rocked the West Bank, where the cash-strapped government has been forced to slash the salaries of its employees because of a financial crisis. […]

The raises were kept secret from the public and approved by President Mahmoud Abbas, two senior officials said, overriding a 2004 law that fixed ministers’ salaries. […]

The pay raise was made retroactive to 2014, when the Cabinet took office, giving the ministers an extra bonus of tens of thousands of dollars, the officials said.

The benefits did not end there. Ministers who live outside the West Bank city of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, received $10,000 a year to rent a house there, another document showed. Officials who already owned Ramallah homes also reaped the lucrative bonus. […]

The leaked documents have sparked widespread outrage on Palestinian social media, with critics branding the government a “farm” or “shop” for top officials. Amid the outrage, the Palestinian Authority has been forced to respond.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, a longtime adviser to Abbas, has suspended the pay raises and referred the issue to Abbas “to review it and take legal measures.” While the issue is investigated, ministers will receive half their salaries, like most other government employees, according to government spokesman Ibrahim Milhim.”

Had such a story emerged in any other location, it is difficult to imagine that it would not have received some sort of BBC coverage. On the other hand, neither the resignation of the PA prime minister and his entire government in January nor the appointment of an unelected successor in March was considered by the BBC to be newsworthy.  

As has often been observed here in the past, only very occasionally do BBC audiences see stand-alone reports about Palestinian affairs which are not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and do not have an Israel-related component. Audiences therefore see a blinkered and largely one-dimensional view of Palestinian life which does not meet the corporation’s obligation to provide content which will build understanding of global issues.

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Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer analyses the background to “Generals Vs. Islamists in Libya”.

“While the fight may appear to be simply a tussle for resources and power between an ambitious military man and a government of shaky legitimacy, the chaotic Libyan battle is in fact a proxy war pitting clients of two key power axes in the Middle East against one another. For this reason, its outcome is of interest to Western powers – and to Israel.

To understand this, it is necessary to observe who is supporting whom in Libya. Haftar and his LNA have benefited since 2014 from the support of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. […]

On the other side, Turkey and Qatar (and the now-deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir) are strongly supportive of the Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood associated elements that share power with the government in Tripoli.” 

2) At the JCPA Pinhas Inbari takes a look at the new PA prime minister’s economic policy.

“The Palestinian Authority returned hundreds of millions of shekels that the Israeli government deposited into its accounts in recent months, it was revealed on April 29, 2019. Israel traditionally collects tax revenues for the PA on Palestinian purchases, but when Israel began deducting monthly the sum of 41.8 million shekalim, equivalent to the amount the PA pays in terrorists’ salaries and grants, the Palestinians declared they would refuse to accept any of their monthly payment. Israel’s unilateral deposit into the PA accounts was a response to the growing concern of a financial collapse of the Palestinian government.

In parallel to the rejection of the funds, the Palestinian Authority declared it would not cover medical costs for Palestinian medical patients sent to Israeli hospitals.”

3) At the ITIC Dr Raz Zimmt has a profile of “Hossein Salami The New Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps”.

“On April 21, 2019, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, appointed Hossein Salami to the position of the new Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC); Salami is the eighth commander of the force. Salami, who served as the Deputy Commander of the IRGC over the past decade, replaced Mohammad-Ali Jafari, who served at the IRGC Commander since September 2007. […]

Over the past decade, Salami has emerged as one of the IRGC’s prominent commanders, mainly due to his hardline statements reflecting adherence to the principles of the Islamic Revolution and the strategic goals of the Islamic Republic on issues related to internal and foreign policies. He gained attention for his extreme rhetoric and defiant statements targeting the United States and Israel, and consistent rejection of any possibility for compromise or concessions on the part of Iran in light of Western demands and growing pressure on Tehran.”

4) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has produced a new video about “the connection between Judaism and Israel”.

 

PA’s self-inflicted financial crisis continues to be ignored by BBC

In January of this year we noted a story concerning the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept US security aid.

“PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah sent a letter to Pompeo on December 26, 2018, telling him that the PA would reject US financial support because of a new American law known as the Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Act.

Under the law, American courts will have the jurisdiction to rule on cases against any foreign party accused of supporting terrorism that accepts US aid. In practice, that means American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks would be able to file lawsuits against the PA and PLO in US courts for compensation — possibly in the hundreds of millions — if the Ramallah-based body accepts even one penny of American aid.

“The Government of Palestine respectfully informs the United States Government that, as of January 31st, 2019, it fully disclaims and no longer wishes to accept any form of assistance referenced in ATCA…the Government of Palestine unambiguously makes the choice not to accept such assistance,” Hamdallah wrote in the letter, adding that the PA would reconsider its decision if ATCA were changed in a way that would protect it from lawsuits in American courts.”

The BBC News website caught up with that story the following month but its headline (which still stands) erroneously led audiences to believe that the initiative to stop the aid came from the US administration.

In early March we noted that the BBC had ignored another own goal by the Palestinian Authority.

“The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday said it rejected its regular monthly tax transfer from Israel to protest an Israeli decision to deduct sums of money the Palestinians pay to imprisoned terrorists and terror suspects, as well as the families of those killed in attacks against Israelis.”

On April 21st Mahmoud Abbas urged Arab states to cover the PA’s budgetary shortfall resulting from that decision. Meanwhile, the World Bank and the UN issued warnings of impending financial disaster while the French government was said to have urged Israel not to deduct the sum used by the PA to pay salaries to terrorists.

At an April 29th meeting of the new PA government – about which BBC audiences have yet to hearAbbas appeared to cast doubt on reports that the Arab League had pledged $100 million a month. 

“Abbas said he was not pinning high hopes on promises by Arab states to provide the Palestinians with a financial safety net in light of Israel’s measures. “We asked for $100 million each month,” he said, referring to his speech before the recent Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Egypt. “We told them to consider it a loan which will be returned. When we get our money back from Israel, we will pay the loan. But until now, we haven’t received an answer [from the Arab states].””

The Jerusalem Post also reported that:

““In the end, Israel will return our money in our way, and not in its way,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday during a meeting of his government in Ramallah.

Abbas accused Israel of “stealing or deducting the money belonging to martyrs, the wounded and security prisoners.”

He pledged not to back down from the intense game of financial chicken that the PA is playing with Israel over the terrorist payments.

The PA will not be able to pay its employees full salaries because of the Israeli tax withholding, Abbas said, pointing out that in the past two months employees received only half of their salaries. He said that this month, because of the month of Ramadan, the employees will receive 60% of their salaries.”

The BBC has to date produced no reporting on this story and it is of course worth remembering that BBC audiences rarely see any meaningful reporting on the subject of Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families.

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BBC News again ignores Palestinian Authority’s financial own goal

Readers may recall that last July Israel’s Knesset passed a law relating to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists and their families.

“The Knesset voted into law on Monday a bill to slash funds to the Palestinian Authority by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.

The bipartisan law passed by 87 to 15. […]

The bill says that welfare payments paid out by the PA to Palestinian prisoners and their relatives, as well as the families of slain attackers, must be deducted from tax revenues Israel transfers annually to the administrative body. The money withheld in this way would instead go into a fund designated to help victims of terror attacks.”

On February 27th the PA officially announced that it would refuse to accept the tax revenues due to be transferred after deduction of the relevant sum.

“The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday said it rejected its regular monthly tax transfer from Israel to protest an Israeli decision to deduct sums of money the Palestinians pay to imprisoned terrorists and terror suspects, as well as the families of those killed in attacks against Israelis. […]

Israel announced last week that it would withhold over $138 million in revenue, the amount Israeli officials calculate that the PA spends on the stipends. […]

The freeze of funds was expected to deal a dire financial blow to the cash-strapped Palestinian leadership, already weakened by recent US cuts of more than $200 million in bilateral aid. The authority expects it won’t be able to pay its employees’ full salaries. […]

Although the rejection of the funds is likely to hurt them, the Palestinians are hoping that the move will put pressure on Israel to reverse course. A collapse of the Palestinian Authority could lead to the end of security cooperation with Israel, and theoretically force Israel to assume responsibility over the more than 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank.”

Nevertheless, the PA also announced that salaries for terrorists would be paid as usual.

“The PA announced that following its refusal to accept any tax money from Israel, the PA’s public employees – the productive workers – will receive cuts in their salary. However not everyone will have to take a pay cut. The unproductive terrorists who are sitting in jail will receive their full monthly salaries:

“PA Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara announced that the [PA] government will pay the salaries of the public employees on time, but they are likely to be partial, other than the pension stipends and the allowances (mukhassasat) of the families of the Martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners, which will be paid in full.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 22, 2019]

The Minister of Finance further announced that both public employees and the private sector – “those whose salaries are higher” – will have to “make sacrifices”.”

That policy reflects a statement made by Mahmoud Abbas late last year.

“I say this to everyone – the salaries of our Martyrs, prisoners, and wounded are a red line. They [Israel] try by all means, and exert pressure by all means, and they continue to exert: “It cannot be that you will pay.” And they’ll even deduct our money that’s in their hands. They’ll deduct from it the amount that we pay to the Martyrs. We have said that this is a red line and we will not allow [it]. From 1965 until now, this matter is sacred to us. The Martyrs and their families are sacred, [and so are] the wounded and the prisoners. We must pay all of them. If one penny remains in our hands it is for them and not for the living.” [Official PA TV, Oct. 28, 2018]

Given that in the past we have seen that the BBC’s interest in stories relating to Palestinian Authority finances does not include those concerning the PA’s deliberate own goals, it is not surprising that to date BBC audiences have heard nothing of this story.

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Issue neglected by BBC is topic of Knesset bill

In January the BBC responded to a complaint concerning its selective coverage of a speech made by the Palestinian Authority president at a PLO meeting as follows:

“He gave a two-hour speech and we have selected what we believe to be the relevant sections as far as the topic in hand is concerned.

We don’t believe the rest of Mr Abbas’s comments are relevant, or reveal anything that was not previously known– our report contains a section entitled “Did he say anything new?”.

Out of his full speech, you have made a selection of comments that you felt were of note – we believe we have carried the most newsworthy and there will be many more from such a long presentation that will not get reported.” [emphasis added]

As was noted here at the time:

“Obviously the BBC does not believe that – even at a time when the topic of foreign donations to the Palestinians is in the news – its audiences needed to know that Abbas pledged to continue the PA’s policy of making payments to convicted terrorists – a subject that it serially under-reports.

“There is an important matter, and it is the issue of the payments to [the families of] the martyrs, to the families of the martyrs and the prisoners. We steadfastly refuse to stop these payments, and we will not allow anyone to infringe on the payments to the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners. They are our sons, and we will keep paying them money.””

Along with other outlets the ITIC reports that:

“At its February 27, 2018, weekly meeting headed by Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian national consensus government authorized the PA general budget for 2018. It stands at $5 billion, with an income of $3.8 billion. Mahmoud Abbas gave final authorization.”

Readers may be aware that around 7% of the PA’s annual budget is typically allotted to payments for terrorists and their families and that in 2017 – when the annual budget was $4.48 billion – the PA’s financial rewards for terrorism amounted to over $340 million.

A bill relating to those PA payments to terrorists recently passed its first reading in the Knesset.

“Fifty-two MKs supported the bill introduced by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) and a group of MKs, which would deduct welfare payments paid out by the Palestinian Authority to Palestinian prisoners and their relatives from tax revenues Israel transfers annually to the PA. Ten lawmakers voted against the legislation. 

During the debate which preceded the vote, MK Stern said ”In this law there is no coalition or opposition. In the current situation there is an incentive to engage in terror activities, and this postpones peace. Palestinians themselves have testified during interrogations that they continued to engage in terror in order to be imprisoned and receive more money. This law is meant not only to promote the safety of the citizens and residents of the State of Israel, but also to promote peace.””

The bill’s co-sponsor MK Avi Dichter noted that the PA’s 2018 budget would allocate even more money for terror rewards.

Should a version of that bill eventually become law, BBC audiences can expect, as in the past, to see reporting on the withholding of tax revenues to the PA. However audiences will be highly unlikely to understand the background to such reports seeing as the corporation serially avoids providing any serious reporting on the issue.

In one rare and brief mention of the topic last May, the BBC’s Middle East editor came up with a portrayal that is not only devoid of the word ‘terrorism’ but compares Israeli soldiers to convicted Palestinian terrorists.

“In his opening remarks, Mr Netanyahu said that if the bomber in Manchester was Palestinian, and his victims were Israelis, the Palestinian Authority would be paying a stipend to his family.

He was referring to a Palestinian Martyrs’ fund. It pays pensions to people it regards as victims of the occupation, including the families of individuals who have been killed attacking Israelis. There is also a fund to support Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel. The Palestinians have compared the payments to the salaries Israel pays to soldiers.”

The only other mention of the issue in BBC News website reporting over the last year came in the form of a paraphrased quote from the US ambassador to Israel in which the BBC replaced the word ‘terrorists’ with ‘militants’.

Obviously it is high time for BBC audiences to see some serious, accurate and impartial reporting on this topic.

Related Articles:

A BBC backgrounder claims ‘sketchy’ evidence of PA terror rewards

BBC News silence on PA terror rewards continues

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

 

 

 

 

 

No BBC coverage of energy sector agreements between Israel and the PA

The topic of Israel’s withholding of tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority has cropped up time and time again in the BBC’s Middle East coverage over the years. However, the BBC has repeatedly failed to adequately inform audiences of the relevant context of the PA’s massive debt to the Israel Electric Corporation and the reasons why that debt has accumulated.

BBC promotes selective narrative on PA economy

Critical omission in BBC News report on PA tax revenues

BBC again avoids informing audiences about PA debt to Israel

Multiple breaches of BBC editorial guidelines in BBC WS’s ‘Business Matters’ report from Bethlehem

Last week an agreement was reached in an effort to try to solve the perennial problem of that PA debt to the IEC.pylons

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement on Tuesday to resolve the Palestinians’ outstanding debt of almost NIS 2 billion ($530 million) to the Israel Electric Corporation.

Under the agreement, the PA will pay Israel NIS 570 million ($132 million), putting an end to the 10-year debt crisis. The balance of NIS 1.5 billion ($397 million) will be paid in 48 installments, according to AFP, which added that a portion of the debt — likely interest accrued over the years — is expected to be waived. […]

A joint Israeli-Palestinian committee will be formed to oversee the transfer of responsibility to the PA of power lines that supply electricity to Palestinian cities in the West Bank.”

The same week also saw an additional development in the energy sector.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to move ahead with plans to build a gas pipeline to Gaza in an effort to boost energy and water supplies to the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave. […]

A source in the PA told The Times of Israel that Palestinian officials were told the Israeli political echelon gave the go-ahead Tuesday. Israel and the Palestinians are set to jointly request funding for the pipeline from a number of donor countries. A committee comprised of representatives of such donor states is set to meet in New York later this month. […]

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Netherlands will help Israel build the Israel-Gaza pipeline.

“We want to help the population of Gaza and the first step is to improve the supply of energy and water… including laying a gas pipeline,” Netanyahu said during a two-day visit to The Netherlands at the beginning of this month.”

Given that the topic of the chronic electricity crisis is a regular feature in BBC reporting from the Gaza Strip (and frequently inaccurately attributed to Israel), one might have expected the corporation to report this news. However, neither of those examples of cooperation between Israel and the PA has received any BBC coverage.