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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

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

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

On September 17th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ devoted over a third of its one hour of airtime to its lead story – billed “Hope for Unity in Palestinian Territories”.

“Hamas, who govern the Gaza strip, have agreed to steps towards ending a long feud with their rivals Fatah who govern the West Bank.”

Presenter James Coomarasamy introduced the item (from 00:11 here) with an odd portrayal of the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election as relating to the Gaza Strip only.

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

“And we’re going to start with a long-awaited and potentially significant political gesture in the Middle East. It’s not directly related to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but to the internal Palestinian struggle which has a bearing on the hopes for peace. It’s a gesture that comes from Hamas; the Palestinian faction that won control of the Gaza Strip from its rival Fatah in an election in 2006 and took full control of Gaza by force a year later. Well Hamas is still considered a banned terrorist organisation in many parts of the world and its presided over a decade of increasing desperation for its citizens. Gaza is subject to a blockade by Israel and Egypt and in recent months its citizens have faced an extra squeeze with the reduction of their electricity supply. But now, in talks presided over by Egypt, Hamas has agreed to dissolve the administration in Gaza with a view to holding a future election. We’ll discuss what lies behind that decision and what it might lead to in just a moment but first, a reminder of what daily life is like in Gaza. Najla is a mother of two young children. She was born in Gaza and has lived there all her life and she spoke to Newshour last month.”

Listeners then heard an edited version of the long monologue from the inadequately introduced Oxfam employee Najla Shawa that BBC World Service listeners had already heard on September 3rd. Repeating her claim that the Gaza Strip is “a big prison”, Shawa added to Coomarasamy’s misleading and inaccurate implied linkage between the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip and Israeli counter-terrorism measures in the form of border controls.

Next Coomarasamy introduced Yolande Knell who presented a factual picture of the Hamas announcement previously described by him as a “gesture” – although listeners may have been surprised to hear Knell describe “the administrative committee it [Hamas] set up in March” as “really controversial” given that the BBC has not previously reported on that topic.

Following an account of Egypt’s role in the appearance of Hamas’ announcement, Knell gave an accurate portrayal of some of the methods used by Mahmoud Abbas to pressure Hamas.

“Well some people are quite surprised that they [Hamas] have made these concessions, as they’re seen, particularly for example getting rid of this administrative committee. Previously it had said that it wouldn’t take these kinds of steps until the Palestinian Authority lifted some of the measures that it’s imposed upon Gaza in recent months because we’ve really seen this political divide between Hamas and Fatah deepening recently with President Abbas trying to pile on the political pressure and now you have only four hours on, sixteen hours off when it comes to mains electricity in Gaza. There’s been a longtime energy shortage but it’s got much worse because the PA put up a fuel tax for the sole power plant in Gaza. Then it instructed Israel to reduce mains electricity that it provides to Gaza. This is having effects on hospitals, on waste water management, with sewage being pumped into the sea and it’s also having a big economic effect. It also slashed the salaries for civil servants – PA civil servants – who were still receiving their salaries in Gaza.”

Although Knell has produced one reasonable report on the topic of the Gaza electricity crisis in the past, for the most part content on that topic produced by her and other BBC journalists has encouraged audiences to mistakenly believe that there is a connection between that crisis and Israel.

Coomarasamy then introduced “a view from Fatah” given by Abbas’ advisor Nabil Shaath. However, when Shaath stated that “many of us have some hesitation about the degree to which Hamas will be willing to go to the details”, he failed to question him further, passing up the opportunity to enhance listener understanding of the potential pitfalls that have dogged previous ‘unity’ agreements.

Shaath’s propagandist portrayal of Israel’s government as “colonialist” did not prompt comment or challenge from Coomarasamy.

Shaath: “I do not see how we can face Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing settler colonialist government and we cannot really make use of any potential changes in the world if we are not united.”

BBC audiences used to hearing from journalists and Palestinian commentators alike that Israel is responsible for the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip may well have been surprised by Shaath’s admission of Hamas responsibility for the situation of the people of Gaza.

Shaath: “…Hamas has done much worse. Hamas destroyed their opportunities. Hamas subjected them to risks that they couldn’t take. Hamas led them into a life of isolation…”

Following his conversation with Shaath, Coomarasamy returned to Yolande Knell and – in contrast to the BBC’s written report on the topic – listeners were told of some of the factors that will affect any ‘unity deal’.

Knell: “The devil now I think is in the detail with what happens. We’ve seen this when previous arrangements have broken down. Who are going to be the key players in a national unity government? What’s going to happen about managing the border crossings? Will PA security forces be allowed to function in Gaza once again? What will happen then to the Hamas security forces – which is what you see on the street at the moment doing everything from…eh….controlling traffic.”

Listeners also heard a very rare acknowledgement of the reason for the collapse of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014: an outcome portrayed at the time by the BBC’s Middle East editor as being entirely attributable to Israel.

“Israel of course views Hamas as a terrorist group, as does the US, the EU and others. And we’ve had some Israeli commentators pointing out how this actually makes things very difficult for Mr Abbas because when there was a national unity government agreed more than three years ago, this was a trigger for the failure of the last round of peace talks.”

Knell did however come up with some bizarre spin on the fact that the PA president – whose elected term expired in January 2009 – has no control over – or presence in – part of the territory he supposedly heads.

Knell: “…Israel always accuses Mr Abbas of not representing all the Palestinian people; of being weak in a way.”

Although listeners did hear some important information in this item that has long been absent from BBC coverage, one aspect of the story ignored throughout the discussions on the topic of the reasons behind Hamas’ announcement is that of the public unrest that apparently prompted Hamas to make a large purchase of fuel earlier this month. As the Times of Israel’s analyst noted

“[Hamas leader] Haniyeh understands that, with little hope on the horizon, the severe economic crisis in Gaza can end in one of two ways: war with Israel, which could decimate the movement’s leadership and turn the population against it, or a “Gaza Spring” that would have similar results.

The best he can do under the circumstances is compromise, even if others say he caved in.”

The second item in this programme relating to the same topic will be discussed in part two of this post.

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Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns 

 

 

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

Visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on September 17th found the headline “Hamas says it is ready to hold elections” under which they were told that:

“The Palestinian militant group signals it is ready to end its feud with Fatah and hold elections”.

The link leads to a similarly titled report – “Hamas says it is ready to hold first elections since 2006” – which in its original version included closing sentences wrongly implying that the policy document published by Hamas in May replaces its 1988 charter.

The current version of the report includes statements that – in light of the BBC’s chronic avoidance of coverage of internal Palestinian affairs – audiences may have had difficulty following.

“The Palestinian militant group Hamas says it is ready to dissolve the committee that rules Gaza and hold a general election for the first time since 2006.”

BBC audiences were not told of the creation of that ‘administrative committee’ earlier this year or of the significance of that move by Hamas in prompting Mahmoud Abbas’ subsequent financial sanctions against the Gaza Strip.

“Fatah’s deputy leader Mahmoud al-Aloul gave a tentative welcome to the news and called for other issues to be resolved, including control of border crossings.”

BBC audiences were not informed of the election of al-Aloul to the position of vice-chair of Fatah in February.

A series of Palestinian ‘unity governments’ – or proposals for them – have repeatedly come to a swift end in the past but the BBC’s report includes just one opaque sentence on a factor of prime importance to audience understanding of the significance of this latest announcement from Hamas.

“It is not yet clear whether Hamas is ready to place its security forces under Mr Abbas’s control – a major sticking point in the past, Associated Press reports.”

Exactly three years ago a BBC report on the ‘unity government’ of the time included a very similar statement:

“However, a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA’s own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory. He described the deal as “partial”.” [emphasis added]

Now as then, the BBC makes no effort to clarify to its audiences that any ‘unity government’ which refrained from disarming Hamas’ terrorist militia in the Gaza Strip would fail to meet the Palestinian Authority’s commitments under existing agreements with Israel.

Neither does it inform readers that if Hamas and other terrorist groups are not disarmed by a PA ‘unity government’ and the territory not brought under the sole control of PA security forces, then the Gaza Strip – along with the rest of the PA-controlled areas – will find itself in a ‘Lebanon-style’ situation whereby the actions of a foreign-sponsored terrorist organisation can continue to spark conflict whenever that suits its own (or its sponsor’s) agenda.

Another important aspect of this story is pointed out at the Times of Israel:

“The main problem with the timing from Fatah’s point of view is that in three days, Abbas is due to meet with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

One can only imagine how Abbas’s meeting with the United States president will be perceived if he will have just agreed to form a national unity government with a terror group, and especially if he speaks about reconciliation with Hamas in his UN address.

Abbas will want answers from Trump about his administration’s as-yet-unstated commitment to a two-state solution. It would be odd for Abbas to talk up a Palestinian state after agreeing to share power with a group that calls for the destruction of Israel.”

It was of course Abbas’ decision to opt for ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas in April 2014 which brought months of talks between Israel and the Palestinians to an end.

As was the case when the last ‘unity government’ failed to get off the ground three years ago, once again we see that the BBC’s superficial reporting on a potential Hamas-Fatah reconciliation falls far short of providing its funding public with comprehensive information needed to understand the story.

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Northern Islamic Movement still not getting BBC coverage

During the last two weeks of July the BBC News website published seventeen reports concerning the July 14th terror attack at Lions Gate and the events which followed that incident.

Reviewing BBC ‘historical record’ of the July 2017 Temple Mount story – part one

Reviewing BBC ‘historical record’ of the July 2017 Temple Mount story – part two

Some of those reports were produced by, or included analysis from, two of the BBC’s locally based staff; Yolande Knell and Tom Bateman. Since July 28th, however, neither of those correspondents nor any other has produced any follow-up reporting relating to the events it covered so broadly at the time.

BBC audiences therefore remain unaware of the fact that an accomplice of the three terrorists from Umm al Fahm who carried out the attack that sparked two weeks of increased violence has been charged on counts including accessory to murder.

“Amjad Jabarin was arrested on July 23, nine days after the attack. On Thursday, he was formally charged in a Haifa District Court as an accessory to murder.

According to the indictment, Jabarin trained with the terrorists ahead of the attack, joining them when they went to practice shooting their improvised “Carlo” submachine guns.

The night before the attack, he also drove the three to a soccer field in Umm al-Fahm, which served as a pickup point for a shuttle to the Temple Mount, knowing that they were armed and planning to carry out the shooting, according to the charges against him.”

The BBC’s extensive July coverage did not include reporting on the funerals of the three terrorists in Umm al Fahm or the related incitement and glorification of terrorism on the part of the banned northern Islamic Movement. Given that the BBC has generally avoided the topic of the northern Islamic Movement’s connection to unrest surrounding Temple Mount in the past, those omissions were not particularly surprising. They are nevertheless relevant in light of the fact that the ISA’s investigation showed links between the terrorists and the northern Islamic Movement.

“The Shin Bet said the men came together to plan their attack at the mosque in Umm al-Fahm’s al-Malsaa’ neighborhood.

“The findings of the investigation pointed to a clear link between the al-Malsaa’ mosque and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, which was declared an illegal organization in November 2015 and is now considered a terrorist organization,” the agency said.

The Shin Bet noted that one of the gunmen was responsible for maintenance at the mosque and served as its muezzin, the person who performs the call to prayer.

“In addition, connections were found between the assailants and the Islamic Movement, including support for the ideas put out by the movement and through their involvement in organizations that have clear links to the Islamic Movement,” the Shin Bet said.

As an example, the agency noted that the terrorist who served as the al-Malsa’a mosque’s muezzin was once active in the Mourabitoun, a group that often clashed with Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount and was declared illegal in September 2015 over its ties to the Islamic Movement and Hamas.”

Additionally, the BBC has not informed its audience of the public glorification of the terrorist who murdered three members of a family in Halamish on July 21st and severely wounded another. As well as being lauded by PLO and Palestinian Authority officials and in official PA media, the terrorist’s acts were justified by the spokesman for PA’s security forces, who has previously been quoted in BBC content.

Related Articles:

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The part of the Temple Mount story the BBC refuses to tell

Another Temple Mount related story ignored by the BBC 

 

 

 

Gaza power crisis development unravels BBC messaging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

  

A BBC terror indoctrination feature highlights longstanding omission

Last month the BBC website published a special feature by Quentin Sommerville and Riam Dalati titled “An education in terror“.

“On the streets of Europe, we meet teenage boys trained by IS. Their testimony reveals wide-ranging plans to turn children into killers.”

“First came the grooming, then the recruitment and training to create a new army of child jihadists, who might grow into adult militants. The Islamic State’s next generation of hate.”

“Many armed groups across Africa, the Middle East and South America, have trained children for battle. Recruiting child soldiers is a war crime. But few have refined the process so efficiently as the Islamic State group.”

As well as personal stories the feature includes a section with the heading “Curriculum of hate”.

“IS not only concentrated its attention on recruits for the battlefield, it reached deeper into society, into the homes, classrooms, and minds of the youngest children. […]

Just like the Hitler Youth movement indoctrinated children to serve the Nazis’ 1000-year Reich, IS developed a feeder apparatus to regularly inject new blood into its veins. By the time it took full control of Raqqa in the winter of 2014 and turned it into its de-facto capital, the plan to subvert the education system was set in motion.”

Readers learn that ISIS’ focus on indoctrination through ‘education’ began three years ago.

“By July 2014, Mosul had fallen and the caliphate had been declared. The rich Iraqi city, six times bigger than Raqqa, had a lot more to offer in terms of human resources and infrastructure. Now, the Islamic State had both the expertise and the assets to take on the formidable task of drafting its own curriculum from scratch.

“They started in earnest during the fall of 2014, but the Diwan [ministry of education] had been recruiting loyal, ideologically aligned experts all throughout that summer,” Yousef, a Moslawi teacher who lived through that phase, told the BBC. […]

The IS curriculum was finally rolled out for the 2015-2016 school year. Children would enrol at the age of five and graduate at 15, shaving four full years off the traditional school life. They would be educated in 12 various disciplines, but these would be steeped in Islamic State’s doctrine and its world vision.”

This feature – described as a ‘resource’ in its URL – provides the BBC’s audience with information that will enhance their understanding of the ISIS terror group’s ideology and methodology. Interestingly though, the same audience has never been provided with such a resource on a comparable system that pre-dates the ISIS curriculum in Raqqa or Mosul.

The BBC did not report on the topic of child soldiers recruited by Hamas during the 2014 conflict. The paramilitary ‘summer camps’ run by Palestinian factions such as Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as well as by the PA and PLO have rarely received any BBC coverage. When Lyse Doucet visited a Hamas-run winter camp in Gaza in January 2015, the result was a mere one minute of coverage in her film ‘Children of the Gaza War’, with Doucet telling viewers that:

Hamas summer camp, Gaza 2016

“Some boys as young as Abdul Rahman [phonetic] take part in this first youth camp organized by Hamas’ military wing. It’s for men [sic] aged 15 to 21. Some are clearly younger and at the closing ceremony there’s younger still. For the outside world it’s hard to comprehend why parents would put children in situations like this. Hamas says the camps keep boys off the street and teach values and martial arts for defence. But the young also learn about weapons and hatred: it’s what Hamas calls a culture of resistance.”

Neither have BBC audiences seen any comprehensive reporting on the issue of the incitement and glorification of terrorism found in Palestinian schoolbooks, official PA radio and TV children’s programmes and Hamas’ online children’s ‘magazine’.

So as we see, while the BBC did consider a feature on “the Islamic State’s next generation of hate” editorially justifiable, it continues to avoid providing its audiences with information about the very similar indoctrination and abuse of Palestinian children.  

 

 

 

BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part two

In part one of this post we discussed the first part of an item about the Gaza Strip aired in the September 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Weekend‘ (from 26:30) which ended with presenter Paul Henley saying:

Henley: “Najla – a mother of two young children with impeccable English who lives in Gaza. And she paints a grim picture of a place to live, of a quality of life, Stewart.”

Studio guest Stewart Purvis for some reason responded by bringing up an unrelated BBC linked story and misleading listeners with regard to Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 during which all the communities in – rather than “around” – Gaza were of course evacuated. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Purvis: “Yes; very, very depressing to listen to and it’s actually about ten years since I was last in Gaza visiting the BBC bureau there and I came away pessimistic and I suppose my pessimism was partly confirmed when a few months later the BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was taken hostage, if you remember, and happily was later released. But I just…I mean at that point the Israelis had withdrawn from settlements around Gaza and there was some sense of momentum. But that momentum seems to have completely disappeared and there is really so little signs of anything positive happening almost on any front.”

While one might have expected the discussion to turn at that point to relevant topics such as the 2007 violent Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip, the terror organisation’s subsequent escalation of attacks on Israeli civilians and its Israel erasing agenda or the decade-long rift between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, instead Henley turned (at 36:03) to his other guest, Jane Kinninmont, with a topic much less helpful to audience understanding of the topic of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

Henley: “The residents of Gaza have been off the news radar a bit, haven’t they Jane?”

In the eight months between January and August 2017, the BBC itself has produced at least 18 reports about the Gaza Strip on its English language services alone. In addition to its regular reporting, since the end of the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the BBC has broadcast a documentary on that topic and produced special ‘anniversary’ coverage both six months and twelve months after the war. How Henley reached the conclusion that Gaza is “off the news radar” is therefore unclear but his guest played along with that notion.

Kinninmont: “Absolutely; partly because it’s a story that doesn’t change. There’s coverage when there is a conflict but I think the repetitive nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has contributed to it really falling off the news agenda. People are much more interested in other parts of the Middle East. But there may be changes to come for Gaza.”

Henley: “Because of the new US administration or what?”

Kinninmont: “Partly and because of the row that’s been simmering in the Gulf between Qatar – which is the major donor to Gaza – and the UAE, Saudi and Egypt on the other side.”

Henley: “Go on, explain.”

Listeners then got to hear a version of a story which the BBC has been ignoring for months.

Kinninmont: “So it’s an interesting little-noticed thing that the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt really want to try to rein in Qatari influence over Islamist groups throughout the region and they are trying to see if they can broker some kind of deal that would bring a Fatah strongman into power in Gaza – so someone from the same party as Mahmoud Abbas. Ah…it’s a man called Mohammed Dahlan who’s been a kind of strongman in Palestinian politics for many years – now believed to be resident in Abu Dhabi – and they are trying to cook up some kind of offer where Gaza would see more ability to trade in return for internal political changes. Now who knows; there have been many attempts to open up Gaza’s economy and solve politics through economics and none have worked so far. But there is at least some attempt going on just now.”

Clearly listeners would not understand from that portrayal that Dahlan is Abbas’ bitter rival and that some of the measures imposed by the Palestinian Authority in recent months that have contributed to the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip have been linked to the Hamas-Dahlan overtures.

Henley then promoted another questionable notion:

Henley: “Najla sounds like an outward-looking woman interested in world affairs but she’s not particularly interested in the politics. She hasn’t got time to worry about the greater picture when she’s struggling to stop food rotting in her cupboards when the fridge is off.”

A quick look at Oxfam employee Najla Shawa’s Twitter timeline would have relieved Henley of that mistaken impression. This, for example, is a Tweet relating to the July 14th terror attack in which two Israeli policemen were murdered in Jerusalem by three Arab-Israeli terrorists from Umm el Fahm.

Jane Kinninmont closed the item with another comment that did nothing to enhance audience understanding of the stated subject matter of this item.

Kinninmont: “Absolutely. Palestinians are preoccupied with daily fire-fighting. But it is interesting they have some of the highest rates of social media usage in the world. When people can actually get online – when they have enough electricity to do so – because of the isolation and immobility many Palestinians are trying to be politically active online, trying to change opinion here in the West.”

So as we see, in this very long item the BBC World Service promoted a carefully framed picture of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip which once again failed to adequately clarify its background. While excluding Hamas terrorism from audience view, the item did however steer listeners towards the erroneous belief that the crisis involving electricity, water, medical and sewage has some connection to the blockade imposed by Israel, while completely ignoring the topic of why that measure is necessary.  

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BBC WS ‘Newsday’ listeners get warped view of Gaza electricity crisis

Lyse Doucet’s blatant political propaganda on BBC WS WHYS – part two

BBC bows out of coverage of 10 years of Hamas rule in Gaza

BBC WS ‘big prison’ framing of Gaza Strip misleads audiences – part one

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

In January 2007 the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “Analysis: Palestinian suicide attacks“. Over a decade later that item (apparently prompted by a terror attack in Eilat on the same day) is still available online and that means that audiences still encounter BBC content which tells them that:

“Israel has accused the Palestinian Authority of funding some suicide attacks and rewarding the families of attackers. Evidence for this has been sketchy.” [emphasis added]

In order to make that latter statement, the anonymous writer of this backgrounder had to ignore a wealth of evidence that had at the time already been in the public domain for several years including documentation of PA funding of terrorism seized during the second Intifada.

Evidence of the Palestinian Authority’s financial rewards to the families of terrorists was also abundant by the time those words were written and payments to terrorists in Israeli prisons and their families were enshrined in PA legislation more than two years before that 2007 backgrounder was published.

As regular readers are no doubt aware, that practice has continued throughout the last decade and salaries for convicted terrorists, benefits for released prisoners and payments to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks have become part of the PA’s annual budget.

However, rather than carrying out any serious reporting aimed at informing audiences of the facts surrounding this issue, the BBC has, with very few exceptions, chosen to ignore it and on occasion has even amplified the Palestinian Authority’s PR messaging.

“He [Netanyahu] 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.” [emphasis added] Jeremy Bowen, BBC News website, May 23rd 2017.

The BBC’s guidance on online content states that:

“However long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it.”

Obviously then the inaccurate and misleading claim that there is only “sketchy” evidence of Palestinian Authority financing of and rewards for terror in that 2007 backgrounder needs to be corrected in order to avoid the waste of public resources on justified complaints. Clearly too BBC audiences’ understanding of the the background to the frequently recurring topic of Palestinian terrorism would benefit from some accurate, impartial and comprehensive coverage of this much neglected issue.  

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Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at emerging developments in the Middle East.

“In looking to locate the pattern of events, one becomes immediately aware that the activities of only one player add up to a unified whole. That player is Iran. In backing the Shia militias as political and military forces, opposing Kurdish aspirations to independence, seeking by all possible means to establish forces along the border with Israel, and seeking to draw Turkey away from the west and toward itself, Teheran is pursuing a coherent, comprehensive policy and strategy. This strategy ignores any distinction between Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, treating all three as a single arena of conflict. Allies and assets are all utilized to build the project of maximizing Iranian geographic reach and political and military potency within this space.”

2) Khaled Abu Toameh reports on a story which – predictably – has not received any BBC coverage to date.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing sharp criticism over its attempt to “encroach” on the judicial authority and turn it into a tool in the hands of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian lawyers, judges and legal experts say that a new bill proposed by the PA government in the West Bank would have a negative impact on the independence and integrity of the judiciary system.

The controversial draft bill aims at amending the law of the judicial authority so that Abbas and his government would be able to tighten their grip over the work of the courts and judges. […]

Palestinian judges and lawyers say they are going to put up a fight against Abbas’s latest bid to turn the judicial system into his personal instrument of reprisal. They have already begun a series of public protests to demand that the PA government abandon its plan to amend the law of the judicial authority in a way that allows the executive body to interfere with the work of the judges and courts.”

3) The Fathom journal has an interview with Yossi Kupperwasser in which he gives his view of the prospects for the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

“If there was a change in the Palestinian narrative, for example if the Palestinians – now under pressure on the issue of the salaries to terrorists – cancelled the law of 2004 according to which salaries are paid to terrorists, and stopped calling terrorists the fighting sector of their society, Israelis would see this as a wonderful move and be more forthcoming on the issue of peace.

The Palestinian narrative says there is no such thing as a Jewish people, and because of this, Palestinians argue that Jews should not be allowed a state of their own under the principle of national self-determination. If the narrative was changed, and Palestinians recognised that there is a Jewish people, so they must be allowed a state of their own under the principle of national self-determination, with full civil rights for minorities, then many Israelis would change their mind about the viability of the peace process and the Palestinian partner for peace.”

4) David Collier has posted some fascinating documents from the British Archives that he found while researching a project.

“It has meant spending time, inside the files that recorded the British view of the events of the Mandate. Engaging with the mindset of those that wrote the documents. This ‘perspective’, and the bias behind the written conclusions, are often missed by researchers. The British records highlight the growing adversarial nature between the British and the Zionists as the Mandate evolved.”

 

BBC WS Newsday’s one-sided ‘peace process’ reporting – part two

As we saw in part one of this post, on August 24th the lead story in the early edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newsday‘ related to a visit to the Middle East by a US delegation.

That item presented an unchallenged, one-sided view of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians from a former PLO employee and steered listeners towards the belief that the main issue at stake is ‘settlements’, as well as promoting partisan views of ‘international law’.

A later edition of the same programme on the same day also led with that story but if listeners were expecting to hear a balancing viewpoint from the other side, they would have been sorely disappointed. Presenter Lawrence Pollard introduced the item (from 00:21 here) thus: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Pollard: “Now let’s talk about the job facing the advisor in chief and son-in-law to the president, Jared Kushner. Can he pull the rabbit out the hat; broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians? There’s a US delegation led by Mr Kushner in Egypt, Jordan. Ah…they’re in Israel now and they’re going to pick up with separate negotiations with the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. Ehm…what are the prospects? A little earlier we caught up with Omar Baddar, the deputy director of the Arab-American Institute in Washington. I asked him what kind of coverage this trip was getting back in the US first of all.”

Clearly that introduction does not comply with the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality requiring audiences to be informed of the “particular viewpoint” of interviewees. Pollard made no attempt to clarify the political agenda of either his guest or the organisation he represents and so listeners remained unaware that they were hearing partisan ‘analysis’ from a ‘one-stater’ who – like the head of his organisation – supports the anti-Israel BDS campaign.

Omar Baddar began by promoting the notion that the US delegation’s latest visit to the region is related to domestic events in America – despite the fact that the US officials concerned have previously made numerous similar trips.

Baddar: “Well to be honest with you, I don’t think many people are talking about this in America. I mean the president has gotten himself in such hot water over domestic issues with racism and violence that this is not really on anybody’s radar, which is why precisely I think he is attempting this push; to get some kind of positive media coverage about some kind of foreign policy success on the peace process front for the Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s got anything real or substantive going on so I don’t see how this is actually going to generate what he’s attempting to go after. I think this is going to be just another failed venture of this president.”

Pollard: “Some of the headlines are extraordinary; sort of anti-Trump.’Trump defends neo-Nazis’ was one headline on an Israeli newspaper. In the region, how is the visit being seen?”

Baddar: “In terms of how governments in the region are viewing this, I think most of them are just distracted with much other, you know, with many other issues; regional dynamics vis-à-vis Iran and other things. But the Palestinian Authority in particular I’m sure is very, very frustrated because they’ve been stroking Trump’s ego out of desperation, telling him that he’s the president with the boldness and courage and vision to resolve this conflict in the hopes that he would apply some kind of meaningful pressure on the Israelis to sort of show progress towards ending the occupation and stop settlements and so on. None of that pressure is actually coming from the Trump administration so they’re finally seeing this for the PR stunt that it is and they simply have no interest in playing along with it.”

Pollard: “Do you detect a policy, a new idea, a new direction at all coming…coming out of Washington?”

Baddar: “I do not at all. I think he’s a man with no vision whatsoever and I think that’s the real reason behind the mixed messaging he’s been providing on this issue. When it comes on to specifics and the kind of people he’s surrounded himself with, none of them are the kind of people who understand what it actually takes to resolve this conflict so I don’t see anything to be hopeful about.

Pollard: “Ah…interesting. Tell us more about the position, as you see it, of the Palestinian Authority. You say that there they are sort of stroking Mr Trump’s ego out of desperation.”

Baddar: “That’s pretty much the case. I mean, look, they’ve…the Palestinian Authority has bent over backwards to accommodate every Israeli demand but the Israelis have taken everything the PA has offered but have not really offered even a slow-down in settlements in return or anything like that. So what is needed is…you know, President Obama did not really go very far but he at least spoke some truths about this stuff. And in the case of President Trump, he’s not even going nearly as far as Obama did. So what we need more of we’re getting significantly less of. Abbas at this point is actually expressing some level of frustration with the US administration, which is not something that we’ve really see from him in the past.”

One would have expected to see Pollard to remind listeners at this point that when – at the request of the Obama administration – Israel froze construction in communities in Judea & Samaria for ten months in 2009/10, the Palestinian Authority refused to come to the negotiating table throughout 90% of the period.

Pollard: “And at the moment does the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu have the head space to deal with this? He’s got lots of internal political problems of his own at the moment.”

Baddar: “Yeah. Internal political problems of his own and also complications in dealing with Trump because he sees him as a very useful ally but at the same time, with the kind of comments that Trump has been making about Nazis and white supremacists in the US, I’m pretty sure that Netanyahu is not in a great position either and he’s…his political base is always based on [unintelligible] more rejectionist when it comes to any kind of compromise with the Palestinians.”

Pollard: “And how much does this stuff matter in America? How will it be treated on the networks do you think?”

Baddar: “Not as much as it should. I think America is pretty…pretty occupied right now with the drama that President Trump has created domestically that this is not even on their radar at all. But it really ought to be because in the long-run this is one of those issues that really affects America’s position in the region in a very, very significant way.”

Pollard closed the item with the promotion of some questionable linkage between the US delegation’s visit, internal US affairs and (yet again) an unconnected headline in a specific Israeli newspaper.

Pollard: “Speaking from the Arab-American Institute in Washington that was Omar Baddar. Meanwhile, more background to this visit: four prominent US Jewish groups have announced they will not take part in what has become a yearly call between the president and hundreds of rabbis across the country ahead of the Jewish high holidays of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. They said his remarks around Charlottesville lacked moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred. Of course that story has been getting a great deal of attention in the Israeli press as well. ‘Trump defends neo-Nazis’ was one headline a couple of days ago. So; the visit of Jared Kushner complicated by so many factors.”

Again we see that ‘Newsday’ coverage of this story focused on promoting the notion that ‘settlements’ are the main issue stalling the ‘peace process’, with no mention at all of relevant topics such as terrorism, the absence of a uniform Palestinian leadership, Hamas’ refusal to accept the existence of Israel in any shape or form or the Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to terrorists.

With both interviewees in the two items coming from the anti-Israel side, the complete absence of any mention of such topics is of course hardly surprising but obviously ‘Newsday’ cannot possibly claim to have covered this story in an accurate and impartial manner that meets its public purpose of helping audiences to understand the issue.

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BBC WS Newsday’s one-sided ‘peace process’ reporting – part one