BBC repeats uncritical promotion of ‘Gaza’ film

h/t AB

Earlier this month we documented the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme’s one-sided presentation of the Gaza Strip in an item concerning a new film about that location.

Gaza propaganda on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’

The August 19th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘World Update’ devoted over nine of its fifty-three minutes of airtime to a similar exercise.

“And a new documentary shows everyday life for those living in Gaza.”

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 43:38 here) using some bizarre linkage that included an unsupported assertion. [emphasis in italics in the original, emphasis in bold added]

Kesby: “Now, the Palestinian territories have been in the news over the past few days, partly because Israel denied permission for two US Congresswomen to visit them following pressure from President Trump. Israel did then allow Democrat Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib permission to make a humanitarian visit to her grandmother who lives in the occupied West Bank but she rejected that offer. She said she couldn’t comply with the oppressive conditions being imposed. Whatever your view on the political situation in the Holy Land, there is little debate that life for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip is very tough. It’s only 25 miles long and seven miles wide but home to two million people, many of whom live in desperate poverty. A new documentary film has just been released called ‘Gaza; and it depicts ordinary life in the territory. [clip from film] And that’s the sound of children playing in the sea off the Gaza coast, the beaches of Gaza being some of the only open spaces available in a densely populated city. It’s the beginning of the film and earlier I spoke to the production manager Fadi Hussam Hannona in our Gaza bureau and first to the co-director of the film, Andrew McConnell.”

McConnell began by repeatedly promoting the claim that the film shows audiences aspects “that they don’t expect to see in Gaza”, and:

McConnell: “…it’s only later on that we bring in sort of the familiar imagery; that of protests and conflict.”

Turning to her second interviewee, Kesby commented on one part of the film.

Kesby: “…the young lad to begin with, he says he’s from an enormous family – I think he’s one of 14 children – and he says he quite enjoys sleeping down by the sea because there’s more room down there. It gives you a sense of just how densely populated and, I suppose, pressurised that area is.”

Hannona: “Listen Gaza has been used to an image of violence and destruction on the news. Yes, there is a conflict in Gaza but people here just want to live a normal life like you, like everyone. So we tried through our film ‘Gaza’ to show the other side of Gaza: the side where the normal people are suffering every day. And the Gaza Strip cannot be understood by only looking at the political and focusing on the conflict – no. It can be understood by living with the people. So we did that. Through our film, through our character, the audience will have a chance to spend hour and half with the normal people from Gaza and see how they live and think and worry. So we just want to be like everyone else. This is our message.”

Kesby of course refrained from reminding listeners that those “normal people” voted Hamas into power in four out of five Gaza constituencies in the 2006 election and that “everyone else” does not elect a terror organisation that dedicates itself to the destruction of a neighbouring country. Instead she went on to bring up another character from the film.

Kesby: “…ehm, there’s a young girl in the film who plays the cello.”

Hannona: “Yeah Karma she’s a young girl and I found this character, you know, we need to show the people on the world we have children. They need the right to live a normal life and Karma one of them. But Karma also she have problems. She can’t keep living under this situation, you know, every month, every two months, we have some problems in Gaza. We hear bombing, we are under siege, we can’t…we can’t leave Gaza, you know. You need to wait one year if you decide to leave to study or to attend a festival outside of Gaza. So they need their rights.”

Kesby made no effort to clarify to audiences that the Gaza Strip is not “under siege” or to provide the context of the terrorism perpetrated by numerous armed factions in the Gaza Strip. In fact the word ‘Hamas’ was not uttered even once by any of the three participants in the item.

Kesby: “Hmm…have you ever left Gaza?”

Hannona: “No, actually I…actually it was a chance for me last…in the beginning of this year to attend the world premiere of ‘Gaza’ documentary at Sundance Film Festival and we did everythingeverything – just one day before the day I was supposed to leave they closed the border between Gaza and Rafah.”

Kesby: “Wow.”

Hannona: “And I didn’t…I lost the chance.”

Kesby: “What a pity.”

Seeing as Hannona told that same story in his Radio 4 interview eleven days earlier, Kesby should have been able to inform listeners that “they” are the Egyptians, who closed their border crossing with the Gaza Strip in February due to Hamas’ take-over of the Rafah Crossing after Palestinian Authority staff had been withdrawn.

Kesby then asked McConnell how he and Hannona met and his answer included the following:

McConnell: “…we also returned back last year – 2018 – and the border protests had started and which has now become sort of a huge part of everyday life in Gaza and these continue to this day, over a year later. Many people have been killed. And we…so we managed to film a lot of that, especially on the 14th of May when the embassy was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and that was one of the bloodiest days since the war in 2014 when over 60 people died.”

Kesby made no effort to clarify to audiences that those so-called “protests” are in fact weekly episodes of premeditated violent rioting organised by terror groups and that fifty-three of the sixty-two people killed that day were claimed by terrorist organisations. Instead she continued her innocuous questioning.

Kesby: “And was it quite challenging to strike the right balance between reflecting ordinary live people, you know, getting married, going about their normal lives, trying to educate their children, trying to enjoy themselves and this constant pressure and…and, you know, elements of violence and threat that people live under?”

Towards the end of the item listeners heard three times – twice from Hannona himself and once from Kesby – that he has not seen the film “because there’s no cinema in Gaza”. Seeing as that talking point also arose in the earlier ‘Today’ interview, Kesby should have been able to inform listeners that the reason there is no longer a cinema in Gaza is because it is ruled by an extremist Islamist terror organisation.

And so for the second time BBC audiences heard uncritical, unchallenging and uninformative promotion of this film in an item which only served to hinder their understanding of a complex topic.

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Looking beyond BBC Two’s portrayal of the Gaza Strip

As recorded here last week, the recent BBC Two film ‘One Day in Gaza’ told viewers that:

“…Israel tightened its blockade on the region citing security concerns and strictly controlling all movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip. Today the economy is in freefall. More than half of Gaza’s two million inhabitants live in poverty and rely on aid. And they’re prevented from leaving what is one of the most densely populated regions on earth.” [emphasis added]

That misleading claim is of course not novel to BBC content and neither is the related and not infrequently seen politicised framing of the Gaza Strip as an ‘open-air prison’ – see examples here, here and here.

At the Erez crossing into Israel:

“Every day an average of 1,000 Gazan residents enter Israel through Erez Crossing. The vast majority of these people are those in need of medical treatment, but it also includes businessmen, industry professionals, students, individuals going to pray on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and others.”

The BBC Two film made no mention whatsoever of the fact that the Gaza Strip also has a border with Egypt and that the territory’s other pedestrian crossing into a neighbouring country is located on that border. The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been mostly open since November 2017 and Ha’aretz recently reported that:

“According to data compiled by aid agencies affiliated with the United Nations, 60,907 Palestinians left Gaza via Egypt in 2018…”

That data of course refutes the BBC’s claim that inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are “prevented from leaving”. However, the Ha’aretz report goes on to state that:

“…only 37,075 returned, a net exodus of around 23,800. But other sources provide different numbers, and Israel’s estimate is that around 35,000 Gazans left for good. […]

Hamas initially viewed Rafah’s opening as a source of income, since anyone who leaves must pay it to obtain a passport, visa and other documents. Additionally, an industry of bribes soon developed, in which anyone who sought to obtain the documents quickly had to pay Gazan government officials hundreds of dollars.

But in recent months, Hamas realized that Rafah’s opening had allowed educated members of the younger generation to leave and sought to stem the brain drain. In particular, due to Gaza’s collapsing health system, it decided to bar doctors from leaving.” [emphasis added]

It remains to be seen whether or not the BBC will tell its audiences about those particular restrictions on movement for Gaza Strip inhabitants – and who is enforcing them.

Related Articles:

BBC’s ‘Life in the Gaza Strip’ backgrounder not fit for purpose

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News reporting on rocket attacks marred by inaccuracy and omission

On the afternoon of May 4th – some five and a half hours after terrorists in the Gaza Strip had begun launching an intense barrage of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians – the BBC News website published an article headlined “Hostilities flare up as rockets hit Israel from Gaza” and tagged “Gaza border clashes” on its ‘Middle East’ page.

In the hours that followed the article was updated sixteen times. The final version – which will remain on the BBC News website as ‘historical records’ – includes some notable points.

The immediate background to the story was portrayed by the BBC as follows:

“Four Palestinians, including two Hamas militants, were killed on Friday after an attack injured two Israeli soldiers.”

Under the sub-heading “What triggered the latest unrest?” readers were told that:

“The violence began during weekly Friday protests in Gaza against the tight blockade of the area. Israel says this is needed to stop weapons reaching Gaza.

A Palestinian gunman shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers at the boundary fence. The IDF blamed Islamic Jihad for the shooting.”

Those “weekly Friday protests” are of course called the ‘Great Return March’ but the BBC erased Hamas’ involvement in the organisation of the violent rioting which has additional purposes besides protesting “the tight blockade”.

In addition to the sniping incident in which two soldiers were injured (and which prompted the response in which two Hamas operatives were killed) violent rioting and infiltrations which went unmentioned by the BBC took place.

“Some of the demonstrators were rioting, throwing rocks and makeshift explosive devices at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

A third Palestinian was killed during riots along the border, the ministry said, identifying him as Ra’ed Khalil Abu Tayyer, 19, adding that 40 protesters had been injured. The IDF said troops had identified several attempts to breach the fence.

Earlier, Israeli troops arrested a Palestinian man who crossed the northern Gaza border security fence, the army said, adding that the soldiers who searched him discovered a knife.”

By way of broader background, the BBC report told readers that:

“The flare-up over the weekend followed a truce agreed last month. […]

The latest violence marks yet another increase in hostilities despite attempts by Egypt and the United Nations to broker a longer-term ceasefire, says the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem. […]

Its [PIJ] statement also accused Israel of failing to implement last month’s ceasefire deal, which was brokered by Egypt.”

Notably the BBC’s report failed to mention of Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket fire on April 30th and an additional attack on May 2nd – neither of which were not reported by the BBC at the time. Interestingly the BBC’s report made no reference to the relevant issue of the connection between these latest attacks and upcoming events in Israel including the Eurovision Song Contest.

The BBC’s report amplified statements and a Tweet put out by Turkish officials while uncritically promoting the false notion of “attacks against civilians”.

“One of the air strikes has hit the offices of Turkish news agency Anadolu, prompting condemnation from Istanbul.”

Failing to clarify to readers that a warning was given prior to the strike to allow evacuation, the BBC went on:

“The Israeli military defended targeting the building in a statement, saying the structure was used by Hamas’s West Bank task force and as an office for senior members of the Islamic Jihad.”

In fact the IDF did not make that statement in connection to the building concerned but in relation to another site. The six-storey building in the Rimal neighbourhood in which the office of the Anadolu Agency was located also housed Hamas’ prisoners affairs office, its general security apparatus and its military intelligence. The BBC apparently did not find it remarkable for a ‘news agency’ to have office space in the same building as a terrorist organisation.  

One of the images used by the BBC to illustrate this article was captioned “Rafah was one of the Gaza locations targeted by Israel”.

The BBC did not bother to inform its audiences that what was targeted was in fact not the town of “Rafah” but a cross-border tunnel dug by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad which infiltrated Israeli territory.  

As we see the BBC’s framing of this story is shaped by the omission of relevant information and marred by inaccuracy.

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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.  

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BBC News report contradicts BBC backgrounder

 

 

 

Superficial BBC WS reporting on Gaza truce discussions

The August 17th afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 48:46 here) which was introduced by presenter Rebecca Kesby using the standard sanitised BBC portrayal of the ‘Great Return March‘ violent rioting and with the firing of hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians by terror factions erased from audience view.

Kesby: “Egypt has taken on a big task, apparently organising and implementing a truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The agreement is reportedly aimed at calming weeks of border clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel and is planned ahead of the Muslim Adha feast which starts next week.”

On the same day, however, Israeli media outlets reported that Hamas officials had stated that no agreement would be reached before Eid al Adha.

“A member of the Hamas terror group’s political bureau said Friday that internal Palestinian talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel were put on pause until the conclusion of a Muslim holiday later this month.

“Today we finished a round of consultations in Cairo with the Palestinian factions regarding the calm [ceasefire deal] and the reconciliation” between Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, Izzat al-Rishq wrote on his Twitter account, according to Channel 10 news.

“We made clear that we insist that all steps be in a national framework. We presented our vision regarding the calm and we heard ideas and comments from the brothers in the factions,” added al-Rishq, one of the Gaza-based terror group’s top leaders abroad.

“God willing the efforts will renew after the holiday” of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim feast that begins on Tuesday and lasts until the end of next week.”

Kesby then went on to introduce Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz and BBC audiences were told that the potential truce includes several factors.

Pfeffer: “The main component of the deal – which is an unofficial understanding, not a written treaty that either side is signing – is that Hamas is committed to a complete ceasefire.”

Listeners were not told that Hamas’ interpretation of “a complete ceasefire” does not – as the Times of Israel explains – in fact include what Kesby euphemistically described as “border clashes” in her introduction.

“Hamas does not view the ongoing “popular protests” along the border, or the kite and balloon arson attacks that have burned over 7,000 acres of southern Israeli land, as a violation of any such agreement. As far as Hamas is concerned, those attacks are part of the popular Palestinian struggle against Israel. If Hamas does reach a long-term ceasefire deal with Israel, the terror group insists it will be obligated to cease rocket and mortar fire, but nothing more. […]

Conversely, Hamas says it will not agree to such a truce unless Israel stops bombings its facilities in the Gaza Strip, which have caused considerable damage to its infrastructure in recent weeks. […]

Israel has carried out such strikes in response to arson attacks and particularly egregious violence at the protests, and is unlikely to accept an arrangement in which it would agree to halt such responses while Gazans remain free to riot and burn Israeli farmland.”

Pfeffer went on:

Pfeffer: “The next elements are that both Israel and Egypt will reopen the crossings into Gaza, both for people coming in and out – that’s the Egyptian crossing at Rafah – and for cargo which goes in from the Israeli side at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Another component is that the fishermen of Gaza will be able to put out to sea to a much wider area and what is perhaps most problematic – and that’s something which is going to be in the future – opening further negotiations through the Egyptians on prisoner exchanges and the larger plan of infrastructure building in Gaza.”

While BBC audiences have in the past heard plenty about border crossings, fishing zones and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, listeners may well have been confused by the reference to “prisoner exchanges” because – as noted here previously – the corporation has produced no reporting concerning the Israeli civilians held by Hamas in the three years that their imprisonment has been publicly known.

Later on Pfeffer mentioned the Palestinian Authority “who don’t really like to see all this happening without them being involved” but listeners were not told that the day before this report was aired, Mahmoud Abbas had refused to meet the Egyptian intelligence chief to discuss the issue.

Kesby then came up with a totally irrelevant question:

Kesby: “Yeah, you mention Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. We don’t think they’ve been part of these talks at all, do we? And that may not be the only stumbling block: will all this get through the Israeli parliament?

Pfeffer: “Well the parliament doesn’t have to vote on it. It’s not a formal peace treaty; it’s just a ceasefire agreement.”

Pfeffer went on to say that most Israeli cabinet ministers “have agreed in principle to the plan” and that “the real stumbling blocks” are “some minority within Hamas leadership who are reported to be against” before stating that this is the test which will determine the chances of “something more comprehensive” that will “allow people in Gaza to finally begin enjoying a better level of infrastructure and some kind of freedom of movement in and out of the Gaza Strip.”

As we see, BBC World Service listeners were given inaccurate information about the timing of this potential truce and misled with regard to its terms. Audiences heard nothing about the Palestinian Authority’s stance which would enhance their understanding of factors liable to prevent any significant agreement from coming about, including the fact that PA officials have said that “if any deal were reached, the Ramallah government would stop all financial assistance it provides to the Strip”. And once again, the subject of Israeli civilians held prisoner by Hamas was ignored by the BBC.

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Selective BBC framing of Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ continues

The November 1st afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item (from 19:18 here) described by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows:

Iqbal: “Let’s stay with Palestinian issues now and specifically Gaza, which has been controlled for the last decade by the Islamist group Hamas. Now Hamas has begun handing control of the border crossings with Egypt and Israel back to the Palestinian Authority which controls the rest of Palestinian territory. This is part of a reconciliation deal negotiated in Cairo last month between Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority. I’ve been finding out more from our correspondent in Jerusalem Tom Bateman.”

Tom Bateman began by describing the ceremony at Rafah crossing on that day, then telling listeners that:

Bateman: “However, that crossing remains effectively completely closed and at the crossings with Egypt [sic – he apparently meant Israel] the very heavy restrictions remain in place. However, what has happened there is the dismantlement of the Hamas checkpoints there so when you cross between Israel and Gaza there is the Israeli side – the security there – and also the Hamas checkpoint. But the two sides obviously do not talk to each other so there’s always been a small PA checkpoint in between them. Now that checkpoint becomes the main checkpoint for the Palestinian Authority.”

In his response to a question from Iqbal about how the lives of people in Gaza are expected to change because of this hand-over of control of the Palestinian side of crossings from Hamas to the PA, Bateman suggested that it might lead to changes in Israeli policy.

Bateman: “But of course over time there is some hope that perhaps it may see restrictions eased and then of course that blockade on the Gaza Strip perhaps begin in some way to lift. Time will tell.”

What Bateman described as “that blockade” is of course restriction on the import to Gaza of weapons and dual-use goods that was introduced after Hamas’ violent coup in the Gaza Strip due to the need to protect Israeli citizens from Hamas terrorism.

The trouble is that nowhere in this report did either Bateman or Iqbal clarify to listeners that Hamas is a designated terror organisation that is very frank about its persistent aim to destroy the Jewish state by means of violence. Even when Bateman briefly touched on the topic of Hamas disarmament at the end of the item, he failed to inform listeners that since the announcement of the ‘reconciliation deal’ between Fatah and Hamas, various officials from the terror group have repeatedly clarified that no such step will be taken.

Bateman: “But over time the very big stumbling block – and what’s been the big problem in the past – is over the control of weapons; over Hamas’ armed wing…ah…with the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas saying, you know, there will be one law, one authority and one gun. But of course many people doubt whether full disarmament, you know, will take place.”

Neither did Bateman bother to explain to listeners that the failure to disarm Hamas will put the Palestinian Authority in breach of both its existing agreements with Israel and the Quartet Principles.

Since the story of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation first broke in mid-September, none of the BBC’s numerous reports concerning that topic have provided its audiences with a proper explanation of why Hamas must be disarmed if the PA is to meet its existing obligations.  Neither have any of those reports on a variety of BBC platforms included coverage of statements by Hamas officials clarifying the terror group’s refusal to disarm its militias and its intention to continue attacks against Israel.

As this latest report by Bateman once again indicates, the BBC’s failure to provide its funding public with the full range of information needed to properly understand this story is obviously not a matter of chance omission but of deliberate framing.

Related articles:

BBC News continues to conceal Hamas refusals to disarm

BBC adds superfluous punctuation to US and Israeli statements on Hamas

BBC News continues to mislead on Gaza electricity crisis

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

BBC’s chief international correspondent claims Hamas changed its charter

On October 12th the afternoon edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ opened with an item concerning the preliminary agreement signed by Hamas and Fatah on that day.

Presenter Rebecca Kesby introduced the item (from 00:45 here) with promotion of the inaccurate implication (also heard in previous editions of ‘Newshour’) that the 2006 PLC elections took place only “in Gaza” and failed to inform listeners of the full complement of countries and bodies (including the EU) that proscribe Hamas or of the violent nature of the terror group’s 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip.

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

Kesby: “We begin in the Middle East because after a bitter feud lasting a full decade, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah say they’ve come to a deal over the governing of the Gaza Strip. Hamas – which is described as a terrorist organisation by both the US State Department and Israel – won a landslide victory in elections in Gaza back in 2006. The following year it wrested full control of the territory from Fatah, which controls the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank  and relations between the two groups have been dire ever since. But with the help of Egypt, they’ve now managed to negotiate an agreement which was signed today in Cairo. A senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, Zakariya al Agha, confirmed the signing of the deal.”

Listeners then heard a voice-over translation of statements made by al Agha.

Agha v/o: “We reached an agreement at dawn today regarding all the issues we had been discussing during this current round of talks in Cairo and nearly all the issues on which we had differences have been settled.”

Kesby: “Well Mr al Agha said that Palestinian citizens would see the benefits after the details had been finalised.”

Agha v/o: “All the measures under discussion should be resolved very shortly, whether they are in regards to government employees, electricity or other issues. There will be a breakthrough soon and the citizens of Gaza will feel the results of this agreement.”

With a bizarre reference to “the Middle East” – the vast majority of which would not of course be affected one iota by any reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah – Kesby went on:

Kesby: “So how might this deal change things more widely in the Middle East and will Fatah’s resumption of a partnership with Hamas help or hinder the stalled peace process with the Israelis? Joining us live on the line now is our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet and, Lyse, first of all let’s try to get a bit more detail on exactly what has been agreed ‘cos it seems that Fatah will take over the civilian control of Gaza but Hamas it seems will keep its military wing?”

Doucet: “Well that is exactly one of the issues that we’re still waiting to hear details on. You heard the Fatah representative; he said ‘all the issues’ and then he said ‘nearly all the issues’.  Let’s go by what they have announced in Cairo; the two sides say they have agreed on. And that is that when it comes to what is essentially the only real crossing – aside from the Israeli…the heavily controlled Israeli crossings – the only exit for Hamas, the residents of the Gaza Strip with the outside world is the Rafah crossing with Egypt. By November the first Hamas’ own security…ah…security forces will have left that crossing and will be replaced by the Presidential Guards of the Palestinian Authority. In other words it will underline that there is only one security force and it is under the overall Palestinian Authority. And there was a statement to suggest that those forces would spread to other parts of the other of the edges of the Gaza Strip. We also heard that – yes, as you mentioned – the administrative control, which will be hugely important. He mentioned the electricity shortage. Gazans are living with about two to three hours of electricity a day and that is an impact noxious on Gazan homes, the hospitals don’t have enough electricity so people’s …ah…people’s health is being affected. Cars don’t have enough fuel.”

Doucet did not bother to tell listeners that the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip is the result of deliberate Palestinian Authority sanctions on Hamas before she went on to make a curious assertion.

Doucet: “The United Nations has been urging all sides to try to end the rift and this is what we think has pushed Hamas to finally negotiate.”

Who “we” are is unclear but remarkably, Doucet erased both growing domestic dissent and the Dahlan factor from her portrayal. She continued:

Doucet: “But the question you mentioned; 25,000 men under arms in the Gaza Strip – the military wing of Hamas. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has said ‘we don’t want a Hizballah’: in other words, an independent armed group operating in Gaza. But so far we haven’t heard…in fact Hamas has said ‘we’re not going to disband our military wing but we will work more closely with the Palestinian Authority’. Will that be enough? Certainly not for Israel.”

As has been unanimously the case in BBC coverage of the latest potential Hamas-Fatah deal since the story first broke in September, Doucet refrained from telling audiences that any ‘unity government’ which avoids disarming Hamas’ terrorist militia in the Gaza Strip will fail to meet the Palestinian Authority’s commitments under existing agreements with Israel. Instead, the issue was portrayed as being about Israeli ill-will.

Apparently ignorant of the vicious violence that took place in 2007 when Hamas launched its armed take-over of the Gaza Strip and ignoring its subsequently augmented terrorism against Israeli citizens and its brutal abuse of the residents of Gaza, Rebecca Kesby went on to promote a ditsy notion unconnected to reality.

Kesby: “And so when Hamas took over the running of Gaza it did seem – didn’t it Lyse – to be crossing into the mainstream; trying to look a bit more like a legitimate political party. Is this a retreat then for them on the political process? And if so, where does that leave relations with Israel because they have been prepared to speak to Fatah but if Fatah’s now in partnership with Hamas again, does that strain relations again with the Israelis?”

Doucet: “Well I remember the elections in 2006. Fatah – and indeed the outside world, including the United States – were shocked that Hamas had won these elections and so the talk was let them bring them in to the democratic process; let them show that they can be a legitimate governing force. By the next year, however, they had completely taken over the Gaza Strip and for the last decade there has been that rift. Now since that time, Hamas has constantly been under pressure to change its founding charter which still talks about the destruction of the State of Israel. The listeners may remember that they made some changes to that charter in the last year. It was seen as a huge breakthrough by Hamas but still it fell short for Israel.”

Doucet’s claim that Hamas “made some changes to that charter” is of course inaccurate. The policy document launched in May did not replace or change the existing charter at all – as the BBC News website reported at the time. Unfortunately for BBC World Service audiences, however, this is not the first time that they have heard the falsehood now promoted by Doucet. She continued, using the partisan language of terrorist groups that call themselves ‘resistance’:

Doucet: “So there’s still a big question-mark about Gaza [sic – Hamas] whether it is a resistance movement or a governing movement. It says it is both because bear in mind that the so-called peace process is basically going nowhere. So Hamas feels why should we then give in, give up all of our rights or our bargaining positions if in fact that process is going nowhere.”

By now Doucet was obviously making it up as she went along: her attempt to persuade BBC audiences that Hamas continues to be a “resistance movement” because the peace process is stalled is obviously contradicted by the fact that Hamas has rejected any sort of engagement in that process since its founding thirty years ago. She continued:

Doucet: “And you mentioned earlier the question will this help the negotiating process? Well no, because Israel does not want to sit at the same table with Hamas and the United States in the past – and I’ve heard this from Palestinian officials – has tried to stop any reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It wants them to be brought in, to stop, to end its armed wing, to change its charter, to accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel and it shows no sign of doing that yet, even though it has said it wants to basically run the Gaza Strip – wants to be part of the Palestinian Authority.”

Such requirements are of course not – as Doucet would apparently have listeners believe –capricious demands made by Israel and/or the United States: they are in fact what is known as the Quartet Principles (recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and adherence to previous agreements) and were endorsed by the UN Security Council in 2008. Had Doucet bothered to clarify that to her listeners, their understanding of why the disarming of Hamas is such a crucial issue and why the peace process cannot progress if a new Palestinian unity government does not adhere to those principles would obviously have been enhanced.

Doucet closed with a curious take-away message:

Doucet: “It [Hamas] doesn’t…it’s not a movement like Islamic State and the other extremist groups.”

Although BBC reporting on the reconciliation in progress between Hamas and Fatah has to date been superficial and has for the most part failed to provide audiences with the information necessary for proper understanding of the issues behind the story, one might have expected that a journalist holding the title of BBC chief international correspondent would have been able to do better.

However, Doucet’s promotion of inaccurate information concerning the Hamas charter and the terror group’s approach to the peace process, along with her failure to properly explain why a Hamas-Fatah unity government which does not adhere to the Quartet Principles will stall the peace process and her often dubious analysis, failed to meet the BBC’s obligation to accurate and impartial reporting.

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BBC News ignores a Hamas related story that contradicts previous reporting

As has been noted here in the past, the BBC has long avoided producing any serious coverage of the topic of collaboration between groups in the Gaza Strip and the ISIS franchise operating in the Sinai Peninsula and has even amplified Hamas’ messaging on the topic in some reports.

In late June reports emerged concerning Hamas’ construction of a buffer zone along its border with Egypt.

“The Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip began work Wednesday to build a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in order to increase security in the border area and prevent the transfer of arms and passage of ISIS operatives from Sinai to the Gaza Strip and vice versa.

This is part of the understandings reached by the Hamas delegation during its visit to Cairo and its meetings with senior Egyptian intelligence officials.”

That story did not get any BBC coverage at the time.

On August 17th that same area was the scene of a suicide bombing.

“A suicide bomber killed a Hamas guard in southern Gaza early Thursday when forces tried to stop him from infiltrating into Egypt, members of the terror organization said, in what sources described as a rare attack against the Islamist group.

“Early this morning security forces stopped two people approaching the southern border (with Egypt),” an interior ministry spokesman in the Hamas-run territory said in a statement.

“One of them blew himself up,” it added.

Later a medical source confirmed a member of Hamas had died in the attack. […]

The bombing early Thursday is the first time that a Palestinian has set off a suicide bomb against Hamas forces. Officials said he is believed to be an Islamic State member.”

Fighting was subsequently seen in the area.

Khaled Abu Toameh reported that:

“The suicide bomber was identified as Mustafa Kallab, a member of a jihadi group that is affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group. […]

Interestingly, several Palestinian factions, which regularly applaud stabbing and car-ramming attacks, as well suicide bombings, are now calling the August 17 attack along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt a “cowardly terror attack.”

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack that killed the Hamas officer. But this statement has not stopped the Palestinian manipulation machines from pointing a finger at Israel — completely without evidence. […]

Hamas is diverting attention from the fact that ISIS jihadis have long been operating under its rule in the Gaza Strip.

Actually, many of the ISIS jihadis are former members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The emergence of ISIS-inspired groups in the Gaza Strip has long been an open secret. This is the inconvenient truth that Hamas has been working hard to conceal for the past few years. […]

Hamas has been working overtime to improve its relations with Egypt in light of reports that jihadis from the Gaza Strip have been infiltrating Sinai to carry out attacks against the Egyptian army.

Now, the truth is out: this suicide attack demonstrates rather convincingly that the Egyptian charges are not unfounded.

Kallab was among a group of jihadis that was on its way to join ISIS and other Islamist terror groups in Sinai that have been waging a wave of terror attacks against the Egyptian army in the past few years. It is worth noting that Hamas has always denied the presence of ISIS in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has also denied that jihadis from the Gaza Strip were involved in terror attacks in Sinai.”

BBC audiences have, however, not seen any coverage whatsoever of the August 17th incident that contradicts the Hamas messaging amplified in the corporation’s previous reporting

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BBC audiences still not getting news of Palestinian politics

The last few weeks have seen some interesting developments in the world of Palestinian politics, although those getting their news from the BBC will of course be unaware of that because – as often noted on these pages – the corporation largely avoids that subject.

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Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

In the second half of July listeners to BBC Radio 4 heard Yolande Knell make the following unexplained statement:

“On this trip I meet some Gazans clinging to rumours of political solutions involving the return of exiled figures or improved relations with Egypt.” 

The day after that programme was broadcast, one of those mysterious “exiled figures” – Mohammad Dahlan – gave an interview to AP in which he claimed that his talks with Hamas and Egypt will, among other things, bring about the opening of the Rafah crossing. On the same day, BBC Arabic produced a report concerning that topic, but without any mention of Dahlan.

Four days later, on July 27th, an unusual event took place in Gaza.

“Rival Palestinian lawmakers came together for the first time in a decade on Thursday in Gaza’s parliament, the latest sign that an emerging Gaza power-sharing deal between the territory’s Hamas rulers and a former Gaza strongman is moving forward.

Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief and Hamas rival, praised the new partnership, addressing the gathering by video conference from his exile in the United Arab Emirates.

“We have made mutual efforts with our brothers in Hamas to restore hope for Gaza’s heroic people,” Dahlan told the lawmakers.

The gathering included dozens of legislators from Hamas, several Dahlan backers from the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and independents.

Fatah legislators loyal to Abbas stayed away from the meeting, underscoring the deepening rift in the movement. Dahlan fell out with Abbas in 2010.

The legislature has been idled since Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces, then under Dahlan’s command, and took over Gaza in 2007.

Over the past decade, only Hamas lawmakers met in parliament to pass resolutions concerning Gaza.”

On August 1st local media reported that PA president Mahmoud Abbas was making his own overtures to Hamas which included a meeting with a Hamas delegation in Ramallah.

“Earlier this year, the PA cut its payments for Israeli-supplied electricity the Strip by 35%, and slashed salaries for government personnel in Gaza.

The feud between the two Palestinian factions — Fatah, which controls the PA in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza — also brought about a severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment in the enclave, a rights watchdog said in June, describing a worsening humanitarian situation.

A deal to truck in fuel from Egypt to keep a power plant running was brokered by Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah strongman, seen as a top rival to Abbas. […]

The new framework reportedly being discussed between the two sides would enable the PA to restore electricity supplies and allow Gazan banks to trade in foreign currency again, according to the daily.

But in return, Hamas must publicly renege on its agreement with Dahlan, and dismantle its governing structures in Gaza, which, according to the PA, contravene previous agreements between the group and the PA.”

Days later, Abbas reportedly voiced his intention to keep up the financial pressure on Hamas.

“”While there is a severe electricity crisis in Gaza, Hamas provides light for its underground tunnels and the homes of its officials around the clock,” Abbas told a group of prominent visitors from East Jerusalem at his Ramallah headquarters.

Abbas’s government in the West Bank began earlier this year to scale back electricity payments and other financial support in an effort to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza. Such cuts have exacerbated blackouts. […]

Abbas told the gathering that the PA would “continue the cuts in Gaza, gradually, unless Hamas accepts the requirements of the reconciliation.””

Meanwhile, the negotiations concerning yet another attempt at Hamas-Fatah ‘reconciliation’ apparently continue.

How this saga will play out and whether either Abbas or Dahlan will end up doing a deal with Hamas is still unclear. Nevertheless, what is obvious is that whatever the outcome – and its possible consequences – BBC audiences are already very badly placed to understand its background and context due to the corporation’s serial avoidance of the topic of internal Palestinian affairs.

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Internal Palestinian politics again off the BBC’s agenda

Although the BBC was not among them, numerous media outlets reported last week that Hamas is building a new buffer zone along the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

“The Hamas interior ministry has begun to prepare a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and its border with Egypt. Websites associated with the Hamas posted on Wednesday photographs of bulldozers clearing ground dozens of meters in width along the border.

The ministry stated that the works were intended to bolster security and strengthen the organization’s control along the border. It also said a 12-kilometer patrol road with guard posts, lighting and cameras along it will be paved along the border.

Gaza security forces chief Tawfiq Abu Naim said the project was agreed upon during the last visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt. The buffer zone will be 100 meters wide (approx. 320 feet), stretching into the Palestinian side of the border, he said. It will be a closed military zone and will help monitor the border and prevent infiltration and smuggling.

“The message to the Egyptian side is a calming one: Egyptian national security is part of Palestinian national security, and we will not let the peace along the southern border be disturbed,” Abu Naim said.

Sources in Gaza told Haaretz that the works will force a lot of families out of their homes. Hamas will have to either pay these families compensation or find them alternative housing.”

That recent visit by a Hamas delegation to Egypt also appears to have germinated collaboration between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, as Khaled Abu Toameh explains:

“Last month, Hamas leaders traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials and representatives of Dahlan, on ways of ending the “humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip. It was the first meeting of its kind between Dahlan’s men and Hamas leaders.

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, disclosed that the two sides reached “understandings” over a number of issues, including the reopening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and allowing entry of medicine and fuel for the power plants in the Gaza Strip. […]

The unexpected rapprochement between Dahlan and Hamas has already resulted in the return of some of Dahlan’s loyalists to the Gaza Strip. Now, everyone is waiting to see if and when Dahlan himself will be permitted to return to his home in the Gaza Strip.

Sources in the Gaza Strip believe that the countdown for Dahlan’s return has begun. The sources also believe that he may be entrusted with serving as “prime minister” of a new government, while Hamas remains in charge of overall security in the Gaza Strip.”

If that is indeed the case, then Mahmoud Abbas’ recent steps designed to pressure Hamas would appear to have backfired, as Ha’aretz points out:

“Dahlan’s associates have leaked information to the Arabic-language media regarding much bigger plans. Dahlan, it is said, is about to be appointed the new prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, with Hamas’ consent. […]

But Israeli defense officials were skeptical about the media report. It appears that things haven’t been finalized. Dahlan is due to meet with Hamas officials shortly. […]

The Gaza initiative of Dahlan, who has deep ties with Egyptian intelligence, indicates that he, like Hamas and Egypt, also sees that Abbas is in a position of weakness. Abbas’ recent meetings with envoys for Donald Trump ended in disappointment. The extent of the U.S. president’s determination to jump-start the peace process remains to be seen, and the PA has been suffering worsening economic problems of its own amid dwindling contributions from the Gulf states.”

As has been noted here on many occasions, the topic of internal Palestinian politics in general is one that has long been under-reported by the BBC and the simmering rivalry between Abbas and Dahlan has been serially ignored. As this story develops – and despite the fact that the BBC is one of the few media organisations to have a bureau in Gaza – audiences once again lack the background information that would enable its understanding.

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