The story about US aid to Palestinians that the BBC chose not to report

One of the stories the BBC chose to cover widely last year was that of cuts in direct and indirect financial assistance to Palestinians by the US administration.

BBC News report on US aid cut excludes relevant context

Documenting BBC amplification of an UNRWA campaign

However BBC audiences have to date not seen any reporting on a recent story that also concerns US aid.

“The Palestinian Authority has informed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it will no longer accept any American security aid dollars as of the beginning of February, in a development seen as a blow to Israeli-Palestinian security ties.

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. […]

In the past year, the Trump administration has sent $61 million to the PA in security aid, a State Department official said in an email.”

As can be seen in an interestingly worded Tweet, the BBC’s US State Department correspondent has been aware of that story for several days.

Nevertheless, BBC audiences will find no mention of the PA’s refusal to accept US aid on either the United States or Palestinian Territories pages of the BBC News website.

A year ago, in January 2018, BBC World Service radio audiences were told that any cut in US aid to Palestinians would cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse with detrimental results for Israel, European and American interests and the Middle East peace process. They were twice told that the US president is ‘blackmailing’ the Palestinians.

Apparently the BBC does not see the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept millions of dollars of US assistance unless an American law is changed in a similar light.

 

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‘News at Ten’ continues the BBC’s ‘blockade’ campaign

On January 15th the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry published an English language Facebook post in which – apparently this time in reaction to the delay of a transfer of cash from Qatar to Hamas – it claimed that “the fuel crisis in hospitals and primary care centers continues to hit critical levels”.

On January 17th the flagship BBC programme ‘News at Ten’ – aired on BBC One and the BBC News channel – ran an item that seemed to have been inspired by that Facebook post and further milked Mishal Husain’s December 2018 trip [see ‘related articles’ below] to the Gaza Strip.

Failing to clarify to viewers that the health ministry in the Gaza Strip is run by the terror group Hamas, presenter Huw Edwards introduced the report (from 23:49 here) as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Edwards: “Now the Palestinian health ministry in the Gaza Strip has said hospitals in Gaza may have to shut down because of shortages of fuel. The UN has warned of a real catastrophe if additional fuel isn’t found. The health system – already on the verge of collapse following years of an Israeli blockade and divisions between Palestinian groups – is now overburdened with casualties from the protests that began last year. More than 25,000 Palestinians have been injured. The BBC’s Mishal Husain visited Gaza and sent this report.”

Edwards of course refrained from clarifying to BBC audiences that those casualties could have been avoided had the same Hamas terror group now claiming that hospitals “may have to shut down” not organised, facilitated and financed weekly violent riots at the border for the past ten months.

As has previously been noted here on the many occasions on which the BBC has falsely promoted the notion of a link between Israel’s counter-terrorism measures and the sorry state of medical services in the Gaza Strip:

“…the restrictions placed on the import of dual-use goods (i.e. items which can be used for terrorist purposes) to the Gaza Strip do not apply to medical supplies. The party responsible for medical services in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian Authority and it is that body which has in recent months exacerbated the chronic crisis affecting  the healthcare system in Gaza by severely cutting medical aid and referrals for treatment in Israel.”

Edwards did not bother to clarify to viewers that what he euphemistically and unhelpfully described as “divisions between Palestinian groups” actually means the fact that the Palestinian Authority has in addition been responsible for power shortages in the Gaza Strip that have affected medical services as well as other fields.

Mishal Husain began her report by also describing months of violent rioting as “protests”, once again employing the specious ‘everybody does it’ argument.

Husain: “It is a new and extreme burden on a health system that was already stretched to the limit: thousands of people with gunshot wounds. Fourteen year-old Walid Ahu [phonetic] is one of those who’ve been injured at the weekly protests near the perimeter fence with Israel. His father says he went along just as other young people have. An Israeli bullet went through both of his legs. There’ve now been months of demonstrations at the boundary. Many Palestinians say their intentions were peaceful, although some have thrown stones, burnt tyres and sent incendiary kites and balloons over the fence. Israel says it’s only used live fire when necessary to protect infrastructure, its soldiers and Israeli civilians living nearby.”

Significantly, Husain sabotaged her audience’s ability to understand and assess what “Israel says” by concealing the fact that in addition to stone-throwing, tyre burning and incendiary attacks, what she calls “protests” have also included border infiltrations, shooting attacks, grenade attacks and IED attacks, with a high proportion of those killed or injured during the riots connected to terror organisations. She went on:  

Husain: “The vast majority of the gunshot wounds have been to the lower limb. People like 23 year-old Ahmed Abu Guri [phonetic] who was hit in the upper thigh and will need two more operations and months of rehabilitation. Doctors here say health care in Gaza is now overwhelmed. One calls it an epidemic of gunshot injuries.”

Viewers then heard unsupported speculation from Mohammed Abu Mughalseeb of Medecins Sans Frontiers:

“From my experience I think the…you know, from some friends and colleagues in United Kingdom and in France and United States, if they had the same number of injuries received in the emergency department the health system would collapse. No other places in the world can cope with this, with this huge number of injuries.”

January 2019 report

Husain: “Even before this hospital here had acute and unmet needs. This is Gaza’s biggest emergency department which sees around 500 patients every day. There’s a long list of what hospitals here are short of – it’s beds, drugs, medical supplies – but also there’s a chronic shortage of power. There isn’t enough fuel for their backup generators and they don’t even have enough clean water; whether for the patients to drink, for the staff to wash their hands or even to sterilize their instruments.”

As was the case in her December reports, Husain yet again made no effort to adequately explain the background to power and water shortages in the Gaza Strip.

Husain: “For the last few years staff here have received only half their salary. Some are paid by Hamas which controls Gaza, others by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The blockade of Gaza and its effect on the economy comes up again and again. Israel says it doesn’t restrict most medical supplies but Gaza has little money to pay for the health needs of its people.”

Husain failed to inform viewers that medical supplies to the Gaza Strip are provided by the Palestinian Authority or that her claim that “Gaza has little money” for healthcare does not stand up to factual examination.

“According to various estimates by the PA and Israel, Hamas raises NIS 100 million ($28 million) every month in taxes from the residents of Gaza. A significant part of that amount covers the wages of its members. But a large portion is diverted for military purposes. Estimates say Hamas is spending some $130 million a year on its military wing and preparations for war.”

Viewers then heard from Dr Ayman Al Sahabani of Shifa hospital who, while providing a list of those allegedly ‘responsible’ for the dire situation, notably could not bring himself to utter the word Hamas but did employ the terror group’s favoured inaccurate ‘siege’ terminology.

“Our civilians people died and injured all the time. Big question – why? Why? And why we are seeing the siege for 12 years?”

Husain: “Who do you hold responsible for what you are experiencing at the hospital?”

Al Sahabani: “All people. The United Nations, Red Cross, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, here…eh…eh…who’s are in the authority. All are responsible.”

Husain closed her report with a story that does not include enough detail to be verified.

Husain: “Those at the very start of their lives are among the most vulnerable, dependent on specialist equipment and in some cases with conditions that can’t be treated here. Because the blockade restricts the movement of people, patients need to request permission to leave. This two-day old baby with a congenital heart defect was waiting for an exit permit when we filmed him. Four days later he died. His permission hadn’t come through.”

When Husain’s colleague Yolande Knell similarly used the story of an unnamed baby with congenital heart disease in 2017 BBC Watch contacted COGAT and was told that:

“To our regret, an internal Palestinian dispute harms the residents of Gaza – instead of the regime in Gaza helping them – but Israel has no connection to the issue. We would highlight that in cases in which the Palestinian Authority sends requests, and particularly those classified as urgent, COGAT coordinates the immediate passage of patients at any time of the day in order to save lives. This activity is carried out on a daily basis at the Erez Crossing, through which residents of Gaza enter Israel for medical treatment.”

The permits for patients from the Gaza Strip to receive treatment in Israel of course include not only “permission to leave” but a commitment from the Palestinian Authority to fund that treatment. Whether or not the Palestinian Authority – which went completely unmentioned by Husain – actually submitted a request to the Israeli authorities concerning the baby in her report we do not know but what is clear is that Husain attempted to lay the blame for his death at the feet of “the blockade” – i.e. Israel – while concealing the PA’s role in the process of patient transfers from audience view.

Throughout this report and its introduction BBC audiences heard multiple references to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures – but no explanation of why they are necessary – and just one euphemistic reference to “divisions between Palestinian groups”. Yet again we see that the BBC is fully conscripted to promotion of the false narrative according to which the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is primarily attributable to ‘the blockade’ and that it will erase the actions of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, use sketchy stories about dead babies and dig out previously unused footage filmed over a month ago in order to promote that politically motivated narrative.

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4’s selective framing of the “hardships” of Gaza Christians

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part one

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part two

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part three

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part four

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ Gaza Strip special – part five

Mishal Husain does ‘life in Gaza’ for BBC One TV

The BBC’s monochrome framing of Gaza’s chronic utilities crisis

The common denominators in the BBC News website’s Gaza reporting

 

 

 

 

BBC News: yellow vests yes, blue gloves no

BBC audiences have seen plenty of coverage of the ‘gilets jaunes’ protests that began in France in November 2018 and the BBC News website even has a dedicated tab and webpage called “France yellow vest protests” which provides news reports and backgrounders.

Those getting their news from the BBC have however seen no coverage whatsoever of the near-weekly ‘blue glove protests which have been going on since mid-October.

“On a sunny, cold morning in mid-December, more than a thousand Palestinians left their workplaces and gathered in a small square adjacent to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s office in the West Bank.

The group, largely clad in formal attire, started chanting against the newly established Palestinian Social Security Institution and impending tax hikes required to fund it, as members of the PA security forces stood nearby, blocking the road leading to Hamdallah’s office in central Ramallah.

“The people want the fall of the Social Security Institution,” the demonstrators shouted in unison, while also calling for the ouster of Hamdallah and PA Labor Minister Mamoun Abu Shahala. […]

“Everyone here wants a social security system, but with rampant corruption in our government we cannot trust an institution created by it,” 30-year-old Nidal Quran, a teacher, said on the sidelines of the protest in Ramallah. “What if the government one day takes our money we give to the institution to deal with what it says is a financial crisis?”

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians view PA institutions as corrupt, according to polls conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR).

The protests against the social security institution have taken place in Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus and other parts of the West Bank, with several Palestinians demonstrating for the first time in their lives.

At the demonstrations, most protesters have worn blue surgical gloves and some have waved blue flags.”

Analysis published by the Washington Institute explains the background to the story:

“The law was created in 2016 by PA president Mahmoud Abbas’s decree, as has been the case with all legislation since the suspension of the Palestinian Legislative Council following Hamas’s 2007 violent takeover of Gaza. It stipulates mandatory contributions by private-sector employers and workers to the Palestinian Social Security Corporation (PSSC): 9% for employers, 7% for employees. Upon reaching age sixty, workers become eligible for a pension.

In light of the dire economic situation in the West Bank, opponents claim the deductions are excessive. They also object to discriminatory provisions in the law, such as one depriving a widow of her deceased husband’s pension if she gains employment, while widowers are not subject to a similar restriction. As for procedure, protestors have decried the lack of consultation during the drafting and enactment of this law since trade unions, private-sector representatives, and civil society organizations were not engaged. They also voice concern that the PA is too unstable and corrupt to reliably manage the funds collected by the PSSC.”

That analysis also explains the significance of the protests.

“…around 61% of West Bankers and 50% of Gaza Strip residents believe they cannot criticize the authority without fear, helping explain their past reluctance to engage in domestic protests.

…the very fact that Palestinians took to the streets to protest, and that these protests were sustained, is a worrying indicator of volatility levels in the West Bank. As already implied, public frustration against the PA can easily shift—or be directed—against Israel. Despite the improved professionalism and effectiveness of the PA security forces, the PA’s eroding political legitimacy complicates the exercise of security control. And in an extreme case, continued lack of legitimacy could even lead to PA collapse, creating a security and political vacuum. Coupled with the tense overall security situation, and with Hamas’s ongoing efforts to foment instability in the West Bank, this could be an explosive mix with impacts not only on the Palestinians but also Israel’s security. The PA’s domestic political woes—as exemplified by the protests against the social security law—are not only a Palestinian problem.”

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.

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

That editorial policy continues and so while the BBC has produced dozens of reports on the yellow vest protests in recent weeks, audiences have not seen even one report about the protests in Palestinian Authority controlled towns.

Related Articles:

The Palestinian protests the BBC preferred to ignore

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Orna Mizrahi provides an interim assessment of Operation Northern Shield.

“This display of IDF intelligence and operational capabilities strengthens Israeli deterrence somewhat, evident in Hezbollah’s “thunderous silence” over the past month and the lack of any significant response by its fighters or leadership, be it a public announcement or activity on the ground, except for the limited effort to show its presence along the border. Moreover, it made no attempt to disrupt the IDF activity, despite the impact of this activity on the Lebanese side (the sound of explosions and flow of liquid concrete poured into the tunnels). One way to explain Hezbollah’s restraint is the caution taken by the IDF to operate solely on the Israeli side. However, the restraint also strengthens the assumption that Hezbollah, like Israel, is not interested in an all-out conflict at this time. It appears that Israel’s cognitive and public diplomacy campaign surrounding the operation also had an impact, as it presented a clear picture regarding the IDF’s goals and activity, including updates given to UNIFIL and through it to the Lebanese army. This in turn reduced the possibility of military conflict, miscalculations, and escalation.”

2) At the CFR Elliot Abrahams takes the pulse of Palestinian democracy.

“On January 9, 2005—exactly 14 years ago today—Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. For a four-year term.

Today Abbas begins serving the fifteenth year of his four-year term.

That 2005 election was actually a milestone for Palestinians. Yasser Arafat had died the previous November, and this election was to choose his successor as head of the PA. It was a good election—free and fair in the sense that the votes were counted accurately and people could campaign against Abbas. […]

As Abbas marks his anniversary in power, those who had hoped for positive political evolution in the Palestinian territories can only mourn the way he has governed, especially in the last decade. He has outlawed politics in the West Bank. Under the guise of fighting Hamas, he has outlawed any criticism of the corrupt Fatah rule and prevented any debate on the Palestinian future.”

3) At the FDD Saeed Ghasseminejad and Tzvi Kahn take a look at Iran’s new budget. 

“Iran’s military spending will significantly decrease while its domestic security expenditures will modestly increase, according to a draft of the 2019-2020 budget that President Hassan Rouhani submitted to parliament in late December. The new figures suggest that reimposed U.S. sanctions, which intensify the pressure on a regime already rocked by ongoing nationwide protests, have forced Tehran to prioritize its stability over its expansionary ambitions. […]

To be sure, Iran’s military establishment, especially the IRGC, does not depend solely on the state budget for its funding. The military establishment controls a fifth of the market value of companies listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange and owns thousands of other companies, all of which generate revenue for the armed forces. Additionally, the IRGC controls a significant portion of Iran’s underground economy.”

4) The Times of Israel carries a story about a new shopping mall that BBC audiences are unlikely to hear.

“The parking lot is open, but the escalators aren’t working yet at Atarot Mall, a new, two-floor, NIS 200 million ($54 million) mall built by supermarket king Rami Levy on the seam between Arab and Jewish Jerusalem. […]

Officially, the mall will open for business on January 29, Levy said. For now, about one-third of the stores were open, while others were still stocking inventory. Some 35 percent of the store owners in the mall are Palestinian and some of the branches of chain stores are owned by Palestinian franchisees.

Customers, a mix of Palestinians and Israelis, were drinking coffee and eating pastries at Cafe Neeman, and wandering in and out of the stores that were open. […]

The Cafe Neeman chain opened its 56th outlet in the mall, said Yaniv Neeman, scion of the family, who was working the sandwich counter on Tuesday morning. The manager is Amjad Awadalla, who franchised this branch.

“That’s how we always do things,” said Neeman. “Jews and Arabs always work together at every Cafe Neeman.””

BBC News report on Rafah crossing omits information

On the afternoon of January 7th a report titled “Palestinian Authority removes staff from Gaza-Egypt crossing” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Relating to an announcement made by the Palestinian Authority the previous day, the article was illustrated with a photograph attributed to AFP which the BBC presented with the caption “It is unclear whether Hamas will be allowed to retake control of the Rafah crossing”. Exactly which body would or would not ‘allow’ such a move was left unclear.

The same photograph appeared in a report published by the Times of Israel but with a caption that quotes most of the original description of the image:

“Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) stand guard outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt just minutes before the Palestinian Authority withdraws its staff (L) from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)”

The ToI went on to report that:

“Hamas members retook control of the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Monday after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its own staff, an AFP journalist and Hamas officials said. […]

An AFP journalist saw officials from Hamas, a terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, at the border crossing’s main gate and inside accompanying offices in southern Gaza on Monday.

A Hamas border official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the terror group that rules the Strip had taken control “to avoid a vacuum.””

However, later on in the BBC’s own report readers found a paragraph that contradicts its photo caption:

“The Palestinian Maan news agency reported that the Hamas-run interior ministry had assumed responsibility for managing the crossing on Monday, but it was not clear whether Egypt would allow it to continue operating.”

Other foreign and local media outlets were able to report on the same day that:

“Egypt will keep its crossing with the Gaza Strip closed to departures from the Palestinian enclave after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its officials amid disagreements with Hamas.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry, controlled by the Hamas terror group, said Monday that Egyptian officials notified them that the crossing would only be open to those entering the Gaza Strip.”

The BBC has to date not bothered to update its article to reflect that development.

In the article’s opening paragraph BBC audiences were told that the Rafah crossing is the “main exit point” from the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it is pulling its staff out of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, effectively closing the main exit point from the coastal territory.”

While the Rafah crossing has been open since mid-May 2018, the BBC’s description does not reflect the situation before that when severe restrictions were imposed for over three and a half years. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

“The Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing, the only crossing for passengers between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, has been open continuously since May 2018, except for holidays and special occasions. This is the longest period of continuous opening since September 2014 when the crossing was closed. Prior to May 2018, the crossing opened for only a few days a year, reportedly due to concerns about security in the Sinai. Despite the improved access since May 2018, over 23,000 people are still registered on a waiting list (that numbered approximately 30,000 previously) according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in Gaza. […]

During the sporadic openings of the Rafah crossing prior to May 2018, an average of some 650 people per day were allowed to exit, but in recent months the daily average has fallen to 343.”

According to UNOCHA figures the average number of monthly entries and exits via the Rafah crossing was 2,393 in 2015, 3,521 in 2016 and 2,930 in 2017. The same agency reports that the average number of monthly exits (only) of Palestinians via the Erez crossing was 15,027 in 2015, 13,187 in 2016 and 6,900 in 2017.

Readers were also told that;

“Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been ruled separately since deadly clashes between Hamas and Fatah broke out in 2007.

Hamas won parliamentary elections in the occupied territories the previous year, and reinforced its power in Gaza after ousting Fatah from the enclave.

Israel and Egypt tightened their blockades of Gaza in response to the Hamas takeover and in an attempt to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants.”

Notably the BBC did not inform its audiences that the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to declare the Gaza Strip ‘hostile territory’ in September 2007 came after an increase in terror attacks and rocket fire at Israeli communities near the border.

However, this BBC report did include a mention of the first rocket attack from the Gaza Strip of 2019 which took place in the early hours of January 7th.  

Related Articles:

Laconic BBC reporting on Egypt’s closure of Rafah crossing

BBC News report contradicts BBC backgrounder

 

 

 

BBC News report contradicts BBC backgrounder

A report titled “Five arrested after Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation raided” appeared briefly on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on the evening of January 5th.

Relating to an incident which had taken place in the Gaza Strip the previous day, the article informed readers that:

“Five men have been arrested after the offices of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation in Gaza were ransacked.

Thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment was destroyed when the armed men attacked the building on Friday.

The broadcaster is funded by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is dominated by the Fatah faction.

Staff initially blamed the raid on the faction’s rivals Hamas, which controls Gaza, but the Islamist group said unhappy PA employees carried it out.”

The report went on:

“The five men who have been arrested are “employees of the Palestinian Authority whose salaries have been cut recently,” the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said in a statement.

“It turned out that one of them was a Palestine TV employee whose salary was cut last month,” it added. […]

The interior ministry said an investigation had been carried out and the men had been identified by surveillance footage and were all members of Fatah.”

The BBC did not explain to its readers how that latter claim squares with other reports from the PA news agency alleging that the attackers had been masked.  Allegations of additional attempted detentions of Fatah linked officials by Hamas were not mentioned and neither was the reported decision by Fatah to close down offices in the Gaza Strip.

The Jerusalem Post reported an apparent additional development hours before this BBC article was published.

“The Palestinian Authority has decided to stop paying salaries to hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including many Fatah members, sources said on Friday.

Palestinians see the move in the context of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s punitive measures against Hamas and his critics in Fatah. These measures were taken last year in response to Hamas’s refusal to hand over full control of the Gaza Strip to Abbas’s Ramallah-based government. […]

Abbas, who is currently visiting Cairo, told Egyptian journalists and writers on Friday night that he was considering halting the monthly PA funds that are earmarked for the Gaza Strip and which, he said, were estimated at $96 million. […]

One Palestinian source told The Jerusalem Post that the latest PA move will affect 169 Palestinians believed to be affiliated with deposed Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, an outspoken political opponent and critic of Abbas. […]

Another source said that dozens of former Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli prison have also been told that they will no longer be receiving their salaries from the PA. Most of the former prisoners are affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but were nevertheless on the payroll of the PA, the source explained. […]

In another sign of mounting tensions between the two sides, Fatah announced that it has decided to close all its offices in the Gaza Strip in protest against Hamas “threats” and “harassment.””

At the end of the BBC’s article readers were told that:

“The two factions [Fatah and Hamas] have been at odds since Hamas seized control of Gaza in a brief but violent battle in 2007.

In October 2017, the rivals signed a reconciliation deal that was meant to see Hamas hand over administrative control of Gaza to the PA, but disputes have delayed the deal’s full implementation.”

Meanwhile, the BBC News website’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile continues to mislead audiences with the inaccurate claim that “a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions in October 2017”.

Related Articles:

The BBC’s redundant ‘Palestinian unity government’ claim

Inaccuracy in BBC’s Fatah profile exposed

PA TV executives reveal goals of station partnered by BBC charity

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Yoni Ben Menachem reports on a visit to Tehran by the new Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader.

“During a visit to Tehran on December 29, 2018, Ziyad Nakhalah, leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), met with the top echelons of Iran’s leadership, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran’s head of the Supreme Security Council, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani told Nakhalah, “Iran has always been supportive to the resistant and oppressed Palestinian people since the very start of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s establishment, which was inspired by our religious and humane beliefs and will continue until the complete victory of the resistance process.”

Nakhalah gave an interview to the Iranian TV channel Al-Alam, in which he revealed the “Axis of Resistance” plan, led by Iran, to attack Israel from the north and the south. PIJ serves as Iran’s proxy in Gaza. Nakhalah’s statements were issued several days after his public meeting in Beirut with the leader of Hizbullah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.”

2) At the INSS Meir Elran and Alon Shuster discuss “Societal Resilience in the “Gaza Envelope” and its Relevance for Other Areas in Israel“.

“Over the last ten years, in three rounds of fighting with Hamas (2008/9, 2012, 2014), and between them, as during the events of recent months, the “Gaza Envelope” residents have indeed demonstrated that they have amassed – with comprehensive help from the government and local authorities – an impressive degree of societal resilience. This was manifested not only in their determined stand against terror, but also in their fast recovery from the severe disruptions, and even more so in the remarkable growth in all these localities during a challenging period. Demographic, economic, and social growth in the face of such continuing threats reflects an outstanding level of societal resilience.

These vital capacities are not accidental. They are the direct result of a profound understanding on the part of the local leadership, based on lengthy practical experience, of the importance of resilience and how to enhance it over time.”

3) The ITIC reports on Fatah and Palestinian Authority rebuilding of terrorists’ houses.

“The Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah and institutions affiliated with them help rebuild the houses destroyed by Israel that belonged to terrorists’ families. The rebuilding is an act of defiance to challenge the deterrent message Israel sends by destroying the houses. The PA policy was recent illustrated by two cases: the Tulkarm municipality and Fatah activists donated funds and supervise the engineering aspects of rebuilding the house of the family of terrorist Ashraf Na’alwa, who murdered two Israelis in the Barkan industrial zone. In addition, a senior Fatah figure said Mahmoud Abbas had ordered the rebuilding of the family house of terrorist Islam Yusuf Abu Hamid, who killed an IDF soldiers by throwing a slab of marble on him during an IDF security activity.”

4) At the Algemeiner CAMERA’s Tamar Sternthal documents “Top Israel News Coverage Fails of 2018“.

“The end of the year is a natural time to look back on 2018’s most defining moments, the highs and the lows, the pictures and the stories which best capture the significant developments, movements, or trends. Reuters’ “Pictures of the Year 2018” feature, released last month, is a case in point. […]

Thus, one of the selected Reuters images was apparently intended to convey the Israeli-Palestinian clashes at the Gaza border since Hamas began the violent “March of Return” events in late March. In reality, it exemplified the flawed, caustic media coverage skewed against Israel.”

The BBC’s redundant ‘Palestinian unity government’ claim

The BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile (last updated in December 2017) tells audiences that:

“The Fatah faction of the PLO ran the PNA until 2006, when Hamas won a majority in Legislative Council elections.

Uneasy co-existence between PNA President Mahmoud Abbas and a Hamas-led government led to violence between armed wings of Fatah and Hamas, culminating in Hamas seizing power in Gaza in June 2007 and President Abbas dismissing the government.

The two PNA areas were then run by the separate factions – the West Bank by Fatah, and Gaza by Hamas – until a government of national unity assumed control of Gaza public institutions in October 2017.” [emphasis added]

That same profile’s ‘timeline‘ states:

“2017 October – Hamas lets the Ramallah-based unity government take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations.”

While the BBC enthusiastically reported that ‘unity government’ story at the time, those statements obviously do not reflect Palestinian political reality.

Earlier this week Fatah accused Hamas of arresting a large number of its members in the Gaza Strip.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction claimed on Monday that Hamas has arrested 500 of its activists and officials in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah spokesmen said the arrests were designed to prevent the men from celebrating the 54th anniversary of the launching of its first attack against Israel.”

Although Hamas denied the allegations saying that “only 38 senior Fatah men were summoned for questioning”, as the Jerusalem Post reports the row continues.

“The Hamas crackdown has enraged Fatah leaders in Ramallah. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as chairman of Fatah, launched a scathing attack on Hamas. In a speech, Abbas strongly denounced the Hamas measures against his supporters in the Gaza Strip. He even went as far as hinting that Hamas was working for Israel. “Those who prevent us from marking this occasion are spies,” he said, referring to Hamas. “We have been suffering from the spies here and there, and they will end up in the dustbin of history.” […]

Hamas quickly responded by hinting that the 83-year-old Abbas was senile and talking nonsense. “Abbas’s speech is trivial,” retorted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. […]

Several other Hamas leaders and spokesmen reacted with outrage to Abbas’s charge. They used the words dictator, senile, mentally unstable, traitor, collaborator and liar to condemn the Fatah leader. The Hamas representatives said that Abbas was the real collaborator because of the security coordination between his security forces and Israel in the West Bank.”

Prominent analyst Khaled Abu Toameh went on to report that:

“Fatah officials in the West Bank said on Wednesday that Hamas’s actions against their men indicate that there’s no chance that the two parties could ever resolve their differences. The officials pointed out that the Egyptians have given up on their repeated attempts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift.

“That’s it: There will be no dialogue with Hamas,” said Hussein al-Shiekh, a senior Fatah official in the West Bank. “We have notified Egypt and Qatar that their efforts to achieve reconciliation [between Hamas and Fatah] have reached a dead end.” […]

Until recently, it appeared as if the Egyptians were on the verge of reaching another “historic” reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah. The two parties have signed several reconciliation accords in the past 11 years, but none have been implemented. The last reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo in October 2017. That accord, too, has yet to be implemented.

Judging from the actions and words of Fatah and Hamas, it now seems that the chances of ending the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are virtually zero.”

Clearly it is high time for an update to bring the BBC’s ‘Palestinian territories’ profile into step with reality.

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Over the past couple of months we have documented several stories linked to the subject of property sales by Palestinians – a topic that the BBC has so far managed to avoid.

Two stories that fall outside BBC framing

BBC again passes up on Palestinian affairs reporting

Since then new developments have emerged in connection with the same topic – one, as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh, on December 23rd:

“The Palestinian Authority announced on Sunday that its security forces have thwarted attempts by Palestinians to sell lands and houses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to Jewish buyers, and the PA’s Preventive Security Service said in a rare statement that it has arrested 44 Palestinians suspected of involvement in the alleged real estate transactions. […]

In recent weeks, Palestinian religious authorities have repeatedly warned Palestinians against engaging in such deals and said that anyone who violates the law would be accused of “high treason.” The warning came in the aftermath of a number of cases in which east Jerusalem residents either sold their houses to Jewish organizations or were suspected of acting as middlemen in the real estate transactions. […]

The purported transactions were supposed to take place in the areas of Ramallah, el-Bireh, Hebron, Salfit, Nablus and Kalkilya, the statement said, adding that 44 Palestinian suspects have been arrested.

The suspects have been referred to the PA prosecutor-general so they could face legal measures, the statement said. Three of the suspects, who were not identified, have been sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor, it added, while the remaining suspects are currently standing trial.”

On December 31st a development emerged in the case of a US/Israeli citizen who has been in Palestinian Authority custody since October.

“A Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah sentenced… [Issam] Akel, a resident of East Jerusalem and in his 50s, to life in prison for attempting to sell land to Israeli Jews in Jerusalem, an official in the PA judiciary’s media office said. […]

Issam Akel, a resident of Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, is a holder of a blue Israeli identification card. The official in the PA judiciary’s media office said the PA arrested him October and has since held him in its custody.”

The fact that BBC audiences have to date seen no coverage of this topic does not come as much of a surprise given that only very occasionally do we see reporting on Palestinian affairs which is not framed within the context of ‘the conflict’ and BBC reports on internal issues within Palestinian society are few and far between.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No surprises in BBC Radio 4’s leading stories of 2019 forecast

On December 28th BBC Radio 4 aired a programme that was titled “Correspondents Look Ahead” and sub-headed “BBC correspondents forecast the leading news stories for the year ahead”.

“How do you look ahead in a world which constantly takes us by surprise, sometimes shocks us and often makes us ask ‘what happens next?’

Who would have predicted that President Trump would, to use his words, fall in love with the North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, whose country he had threatened to totally destroy? Who could have imagined that a prominent Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, would be murdered and dismembered in a Saudi Consulate? And, on a happier note, we’re relieved that, as the year ends a climate change conference in Poland did manage to save the Paris pact, and maybe our world.

The BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet talks to correspondents from around the globe about what might happen in the world in 2019.

Guests:

Katya Adler, Europe editor
Yolande Knell, Middle East correspondent
James Robbins, Diplomatic correspondent
Steve Rosenberg, Moscow correspondent
Jon Sopel, North America editor”

The programme’s first thirteen minutes focused mostly on the United States and Russia. The guests were then asked to name a person who may be in the news in 2019 and Yolande Knell (from 14:24) chose Jared Kushner as someone who according to her will be “caught up still in several of the really big news stories that we’re going to carry on talking about”. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Knell: “…and then most importantly, this historic task that was given to Mr Kushner – an Orthodox Jew, somebody who’s been a family friend of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – nothing less than crafting a peace plan to relaunch negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

After a discussion about Saudi Arabia that included a description of an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “Middle East peace”, presenter Lyse Doucet (from 20:53) returned to that topic.

Doucet: “This so-called deal of the century; President Trump’s lawyer Jason Greenblatt is in charge of this new Israeli-Palestinian deal. We expected it to be announced in 2018. Will they announce it in 2019?”

Sopel: “I think they’ve got to announce something otherwise it will look like this has been a lot of huffing and puffing with nothing to show for it. But I mean I think that the difficulties – and particularly the lack of trust that there is on the Palestinian side, that the US are not honest brokers following the move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – is profound and therefore I think the scope…everybody knows what the issues are around a Middle East peace. Donald Trump has said vague things like, you know, I don’t care whether it’s a one-state or a two-state solution as long as all sides are happy with it I’ll go with anything. Then he’s kind of talked more about it; well let’s go for a two-state solution. I think the issues have been pretty well ventilated about the kind of sticking points there are. Does Donald Trump have the power to unpick this in a way previous people haven’t? I think it’s a huge question and I, you know, I don’t…nothing I’ve seen so far leads me to think oh yeah well they’ve got this in the bag. But there again Donald Trump is surprising. You know a year ago we didn’t imagine that there would be talks taking place in Singapore with Kim Jong-un.”

Doucet: “Yolande? Will it be announced in 2019?”

Knell: “I’m going to say so. I think there has to be some kind of peace plan after it’s been talked up so much. The latest we’re hearing is it will be in the coming months. It might not be quite on a scale that lines up to the idea of it being a deal of the century but already people here argue that the key steps have been taken by the US that makes some of its intentions clear. There was the US embassy move to Jerusalem, there was aid cut to Palestinian refugees – to UNRWA the agency that deals with them. There have been those warming ties between Israel and the Arab Gulf countries and there’s been lots and lots of diplomatic and financial pressure on the Palestinian Authority and the PLO.”

Interestingly, none of the BBC’s crystal ball gazing correspondents brought up the highly relevant topic of Hamas’ opposition to a negotiated peace deal with Israel or the question of whether or not the Palestinian Authority will survive the coming year in its present format.

While we have no indication as to when this programme was recorded, we can conclude that it was before December 24rd because Lyse Doucet’s next question was:

Doucet: “What if there’s Israeli elections? That will be the priority.”

Of course elections had been announced four days before this broadcast went on air but apparently nobody thought it necessary to edit the programme accordingly.

Knell: “Indeed I mean that is the big complicating factor I think when it comes to the timings because certainly I think Mr Netanyahu is seen as the partner – the Israeli partner – for any kind of a peace deal and he has to have Israeli elections this year. There’s another complicating factor as well where he is facing the possibility of charges in three public corruption cases so something else to look out for in the months to come is a decision by the Attorney General whether he should take the police recommendations to charge Mr Netanyahu and yes, I think this is something that’s all being carefully calibrated behind the scenes in terms of the timing of any announcement.”

With elections set for April 9th it is of course very unlikely that anything will happen on the diplomatic front until at least May, making Knell’s prediction that details of a peace plan will be announced “in the coming months” highly questionable.

Listeners then heard brief references to Yemen and Iran – though solely in relation to what Doucet termed the “landmark nuclear deal” as well as a one-word mention of Syria before attentions turned to Brexit.

Later on in the programme (from 28:09) Doucet asked her guests to name “unsung heroes” – people “who are having an impact in whatever world they inhabit” and Yolande Knell again brought the topic of conversation back to Israel.

Knell: “In terms of new names I mean I’m going to say the Attorney General here in Israel. Avichai Mandelblit. I mean he’s very well-known here but I really think he’s going to be internationally sort of known in the months ahead because he has to make this big decision about whether to charge the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in these public corruption cases. And there’s real drama here because Mr Mandelblit was Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary. When he was appointed originally he was accused of being too close to the prime minister and now he could become the man who takes down the prime minister after a decade in power. And if Mr Netanyahu can stay in office until the middle of next year he would actually be the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, taking over from the founding father David Ben Gurion so there’s a real legacy issue here. Ahm…the BBC did get to ask Mr Netanyahu about all of this at an end of year journalists’ event and we just got his usual mantra which is nothing will come out of this because there’s nothing in it and I think this is going to be a fascinating year for Israeli politics. I mean certainly that is something that his party supporters believe that this has been some kind of witch hunt and just to go back to Mr Mandelblit, I mean this man many journalists remarked how he’s gone from having red hair to turning grey in the few years he’s been in his job, having to make lots of tough decisions. He already, I think, lost his invitations to go to the prime minister’s luxury private residence in the north of Israel because he charged his wife Sarah in a case about misusing state funds for catering when she has a cook paid for by the state. So I’m foreseeing lots more political drama here in the months ahead.”

Notably the BBC’s Middle East correspondent had no predictions to make concerning the complex situation in Syria, the demonstrations in Iran, the embattled Kurds or Lebanon – which has not had a functioning government for over six months.

All those stories and more lost out to the colour of the Israeli Attorney General’s hair and Mrs Netanyahu’s take-aways.

Our prediction is that the BBC’s disproportionate focus on Israel – often at the expense of audience understanding of the wider Middle East – will continue in 2019.   

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