BBC’s Bateman misleads on US and Israeli approach to Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’

The October 3rd edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour‘ included an item concerning that day’s meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in the Gaza Strip. The report (from 45:06 here) was introduced by presenter Razia Iqbal as follows: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Iqbal: “The Palestinian cabinet has met in Gaza for the first time in three years as the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority moves closer to taking charge of the territory from Hamas, which has controlled it for the past decade. Last month Hamas agreed to dissolve its administration in Gaza and make way for a unity government led by the prime minister Rami Hamdallah. These Palestinians said they hoped the new government would improve the lives of the people in the Gaza Strip.”

Listeners then heard two short ‘man in the street’ interviews.

Man 1: “The youths of Gaza are living in a very difficult situation. We’re waiting for this reconciliation in the hope that there will be more job opportunities for the younger generations.”

Man 2: “We welcome them and the new government. We call on them to look at the young people – which is the most important thing – and to solve the electricity issue and the crisis in Gaza and whatever else is possible to raise the quality of life of the Palestinian people.”

Iqbal: “Let’s speak now to the BBC’s Tom Bateman who joins us live from Jerusalem. Tom; let’s pic up from what we heard from the young Palestinians there about the quality of life in Gaza. It’s a…it’s a tiny strip of land but it is a very difficult place to be, isn’t it?”

Bateman: “It’s two million people. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. I mean people are dealing with electricity for two to four hours a day. There are severe water shortages as you heard there because of the electricity crisis. That means that…ah…there is a serious problem with raw sewage…ahm…and life there is extremely difficult.”

Bateman sidestepped the topic of the reasons behind the electricity crisis in Gaza, dismissing the subject as “complex”. He also failed to tell listeners why conditions in Gaza did not improve during the two weeks between the Hamas announcement that it would dissolve its managing committee in the Gaza Strip and the cabinet meeting that is the subject of his report.

“Regarding the punitive measures Abbas levied against Gaza in April in order to force Hamas to cede control of the Strip, he [Abbas] said he was in “no hurry” to lift them.

He said the measures cut 22% of the PA’s funding to Gaza — a total of $1.5 billion US dollars — which affected the already dire electricity and water situation in the Strip. These steps would not be reversed until the PA was in full control of Gaza, he said.”

Bateman continued:

Bateman: “Now the factors behind that [electricity crisis] are complex but what’s happened today in terms of this meeting of the unity cabinet – that was actually first established about three years ago – is in terms of its symbolism, in terms of what Hamas and Fatah are saying about this, is that this is, you know, paving the way for Palestinian reconciliation. However…ah…you know, we’ve been on this road before. Previous attempts at such unity have come to nothing. I think this time, you know, the backing of the Egyptians – which has been in place previously – seems to be at a level where there is some hope that this…eh…this time that unity may come to fruition in terms…it may deliver something for the people of Gaza and an end to a lot of these problems. But we’ll just have to wait and see and after the cabinet meeting today there are now due to be talks between the two sides in Egypt.”

Bateman then went on to suggest that the approach of the United States to the prospect of a Palestinian unity government is different to that of Israel:

Bateman: “Meanwhile, there is everything from some support internationally from the US but from Israel the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that, you know, he’s not prepared to accept what he called imaginary appeasement in which the Palestinians supposedly reconcile at the expense of the existence of the State of Israel.”

A statement from the US Middle East envoy put out the day before Bateman’s report made the US position clear.

“The United States on Monday said it welcomes efforts for the Palestinian Authority to resume control over government institutions in the Gaza Strip after the PA premier arrived in the Hamas-controlled enclave earlier in the day for a cabinet meeting. But it made clear there would be no dealing with a Palestinian government including Hamas unless or until the terror group recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism.

“As the Palestinian Authority Cabinet visits Gaza today in preparation for its October 3 cabinet meeting, the United States welcomes efforts to create the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza,” Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy for Middle East, said in a statement. […]

“The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.”

Using the Hebrew phrase פיוסים מדומים – fictitious reconciliations – rather than “imaginary appeasement” (which Bateman appears to have gleaned from a report by Ha’aretz), Netanyahu said:

‘“We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognize Israel and, of course, recognize a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations in which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence,” Netanyahu said during a special Likud faction meeting in the West Bank city of Ma’ale Adumim.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: Recognize the State of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing, sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction,” he added.’

In other words, with both the US envoy and the Israeli prime minister stating that any Palestinian government must recognise Israel and reject terrorism, the two countries’ responses to the prospect of a Palestinian government are far less different than Bateman would obviously have his audience believe.

The report continued with Bateman failing to clarify to audiences why Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation and its continuing refusal to reject terror is a significant part of this story.

Iqbal: “I suppose we shouldn’t forget and remind people that the US and the European Union have blacklisted Hamas as a terrorist organisation which does complicate the formation of any unity government.”

Bateman: “Well this is of course one of the major issues in terms of the way that…ehm…the governance of Gaza should be dealt with because as you say…ah…it’s not just Israel but of course many countries around the world that…eh…regard Hamas as a terrorist…ahm…organisation and so you therefore have a situation where if there is reconciliation, what does that mean for the Palestinian Authority and the way it is run? Not just in Gaza but in the West Bank. I think that much will depend on these talks that are due to take place, as I say, in Cairo. And just getting through those with the many issues that have to be resolved; not least the control of arms in Gaza itself, with President Abbas suggesting…ah…that he will not accept a model where Hamas has control of arms with a sort of PA government just in charge of civilian control. Lots of issues to deal with and – as I say – you know….ah…those people hoping it may deliver something but of course the past has proven otherwise.”

Once again BBC audiences did not hear a proper explanation of why existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians mean that Hamas must be disarmed before becoming part of any Palestinian government. As was the case in previous reports on this story, that means that audiences are not receiving the full range of information necessary for its proper understanding.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

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

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

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

BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again 

 

 

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BBC News sidesteps the topic of Hamas disarmament yet again

On October 2nd an article headlined “Palestinian PM in rare Gaza visit as rift with Hamas eases” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page.

“The Palestinian prime minister has appealed for unity at the start of a rare trip to Gaza, as part of efforts to end a rift between Fatah and Hamas.

Rami Hamdallah is heading a delegation from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which is taking over from an administration disbanded by Hamas.”

This is the BBC News website’s first follow-up report on the latest tentative Hamas-Fatah ‘unity deal’ since the news of Hamas’ announcement of the dissolving of its ‘administrative committee’ in the Gaza Strip broke on September 17th. In its report at the time the BBC News website told readers that:

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

Back in 2014 when a previous (failed) ‘unity deal’ was being negotiated, the BBC similarly told its audiences that:

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

That three year-old formula appears again in this latest article:

“Despite the rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah, a number of issues are yet to be resolved.

It is unclear to what extent Hamas will allow the PA’s forces to take over security roles, and what will happen to thousands of Hamas civil servants who have not been on the PA’s payroll for the past decade.”

Since the BBC last reported on this story in September, a senior Hamas official has made statements relating to the issue of Hamas disarmament.

“Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Thursday that the Gaza-based terror group is not prepared to discuss the dissolution of its military wing during talks with the Fatah party, as the two sides attempt to form a unity government. […]

“This issue [of Hamas disarming] is not up for discussion, not previously and neither will it be in the future,” Abu Marzouk said in an interview with the semi-official Turkish news agency Al-Andalous. “The weapons of the resistance are for the protection of the Palestinian people, and it is inconceivable that Hamas will lay down its weapons as long as its land is occupied and its people dispersed.” […]

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has a reported  27,000 armed men divided into six regional brigades, with 25 battalions and 106 companies.”

Despite its previous enthusiastic coverage of the prospect of a Hamas-Fatah unity government, the BBC has not since reported Abu Marzouk’s statements.

In a recent interview with Egyptian media, however, the PA president clarified that the issue of Hamas disarmament is a deal breaker.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he would not be prepared to accept Hamas keeping its armed forces in Gaza like Hezbollah does in Lebanon and demanded “full control” of the Strip, including over the border, security and all the ministries. […]

“I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon” in Gaza, Abbas said in an interview late Monday with the Egyptian news station CBC, pointing to an early point of conflict with Hamas, which has vowed not to turn in its arms. […]

Hamas, however, has said that it will not even broach the subject of dismantling its vast military wing during negotiations, leading some to believe the group was seeking to follow in the footsteps of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is part of the government but retains its own army.

Abbas addressed this point specifically, saying, “I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience of Lebanon” in Gaza. He added that just as his security forces arrest those in the West Bank with illegal arms, the same would occur in Gaza.”

Significantly, in the same interview:

“Abbas noted that Hamas is still an “Islamist group,” while Fatah is a secular party. However, he said, the terror group still constitutes a “part of the Palestinian people,” and would be included in a Palestinian government as long as it agrees to uphold the policies of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the largest Palestinian umbrella group. Abbas is the head of the PLO.

The PLO has recognized the State of Israel, while Hamas refuses to do so and continues to call for the Jewish state’s destruction.”

However, Hamas’ Abu Marzouk also recently stated that:

“…Hamas would not be willing to accede to the demands of the so-called Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union, and United Nations — that it renounce terrorism and agree to accept past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which is the largest Palestinian political umbrella group.”

In addition, the US Middle East envoy said that:

“…there would be no dealing with a Palestinian government including Hamas unless or until the terror group recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism. […]

…Greenblatt reiterated the so-called Quartet Principles that the terror group must meet in order for a government it sits in to receive diplomatic recognition.

“The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.”

One of those “previous agreements” between the Palestinians and Israel is the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. That treaty states, inter alia, in Article XIV:

“Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

And:

“Except for the arms, ammunition and equipment of the Palestinian Police described in Annex I, and those of the Israeli military forces, no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment, unless otherwise provided for in Annex I.”

In other words, the failure of a Palestinian Authority unity government to disarm all Hamas’ armed personnel (including its terrorist militia) would constitute a breach of one of those “previous agreements” – as both Mahmoud Abbas and Jason Greenblatt obviously appreciate.

The BBC’s report, however, once again failed to make any effort to enhance audience understanding of those points and – while refraining from reporting the relevant statements made by the Quartet, the PA president and the US administration – instead told readers that:

“Israel also resolutely opposes any involvement by Hamas in the PA. Along with several countries and organisations, Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group and has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that contains Hamas members.”

Yet again the BBC’s superficial reporting on a potential Hamas-Fatah reconciliation falls far short of providing its funding public with comprehensive information needed to properly understand the story.

Related Articles:

Superficial BBC reporting on Hamas-Fatah ‘unity’ returns

BBC fails to clarify to audiences significance of PUG failure to disarm Hamas

Dumbed down BBC reporting on the Palestinian Unity Government continues

 

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

Coverage of the events in Jerusalem – and related events elsewhere – during the second half of July naturally appeared on a variety of BBC platforms (see ‘related articles’ below) but the information that will continue to be accessible to the general public as what the corporation calls ‘historical records’ is that published on the BBC News website.

So how will that story be perceived by anyone trying to understand it in the future? Comparing the timeline of actual events with the information provided in the relevant BBC reports allows us to answer that question.

Friday, July 14th:

07:00 – Three terrorists from Umm al Fahm attack and kill two Israeli policemen stationed at Lions’ Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Temple Mount closed to civilians as police conduct investigation.

BBC report: “Israeli police killed in attack near Jerusalem holy site” (discussed here)

Events covered by the BBC: Terror attack lauded by Hamas. Mufti and al Aqsa preacher briefly detained by police. Waqf demands re-opening of site and calls for mass prayer in the streets. PA president Mahmoud Abbas condemns the attack.

Events not reported by the BBC: Terror attack lauded by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and outlawed northern Islamic Movement’s Raed Salah. Fatah issues statement condemning closure of site and calls for ‘rage’. Jordan demands immediate re-opening of site. PA president Mahmoud Abbas calls for reversal of site closure. Arab League and OIC condemn the closure – but not the terror attack. Firebomb attack in Jerusalem.

Saturday, July 15th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Temple Mount remains closed. Jordanian government spokesman demands that Israel open the site, despite ongoing police investigation. Demonstrations in Amman. Fatah incitement continues. Shooting attack in Ateret.

Sunday, July 16th:

Events covered by the BBC: 12:00 – Temple Mount re-opened to Muslim (only) visitors (briefly mentioned in a BBC report on another topic).

Events not reported by the BBC: Metal detectors installed at some of entry gates to Temple Mount: two gates in operation, around 600 worshippers visit. Waqf refuses to enter the site, instructs others to so the same and instigates protest. Jordanian parliament prays for perpetrators of Friday’s terror attack. Northern Islamic Movement incitement continues. Rioting continues.

Monday, July 17th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Temple Mount re-opened for non-Muslim visitors, three gates opened to Muslim visitors. Waqf issues statement condemning metal detectors and instructing Muslims to pray outside the site. Rioting and demonstrations continue; PLO’s Mustafa Barghouti participates.  Fatah calls for a ‘Day of Rage’ on July 19th.

Tuesday, July 18th:

Events not reported by the BBC: Violent demonstrations continue. Vehicular attack near Hebron.

Wednesday, July 19th:

Events not reported by BBC: Temple Mount briefly closed to non-Muslim visitors. PA prime minister calls on international community to force Israel to remove metal detectors. Waqf instructs Jerusalem mosques to close on Friday and send congregations to the streets. Fatah declared ‘Day of Rage’ – violent demonstrations continue.

Thursday, July 20th:

BBC publishes its first report since July 14th: “Jerusalem holy site security row explained“, by Yolande Knell (discussed here).

Events not reported by the BBC: Police release video of preparations for terror attack including smuggling of weapons into al Aqsa mosque by accomplice. Although later reports told audiences that “Israel says” that weapons were smuggled into the site (but did not specifically mention the mosque), the video itself did not appear in any BBC content.

Attempted stabbing in Gush Etzion. Violent demonstrations continue. Hamas calls for mass protests on Friday.

Friday, July 21st:

Events reported by the BBC: Access to Temple Mount continues to be open. Rioting in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Three Palestinian rioters killed.

Mahmoud Abbas announces end to ‘all contacts’ with Israel. Three Israelis murdered and one wounded in terror attack in Halamish. Hamas praises attack.

BBC reports: East Jerusalem: Palestinians killed as holy site tensions soar” (discussed here), Bethlehem: Israeli forces and Palestinians clash“, by Yolande Knell (discussed here), Three Israelis stabbed to death in West Bank attack” (discussed here).

Events not reported by the BBC: Abbas announces $25 million budget to support ‘steadfastness’. Fatah incitement continues. Anti-Israel demonstrations in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Malaysia (demonstrations in Jordan briefly mentioned in later July 24 reports)

Part two of this post will examine the second week of BBC coverage of events.

Related Articles:

BBC coverage of the Jerusalem terror attack – part two: BBC radio

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part one

BBC’s ME correspondents revert to partisan terminology for Temple Mount – part two

BBC WS ME editor gives a partial portrayal of the Temple Mount story

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ promotes equivalence between violent rioters and victims of terror

BBC WS passes up the chance to tell listeners about PA incitement

Why the BBC’s failure to cover faux outrage in Jerusalem matters in the UK

BBC reporting on the Hamdallah resignation

First there was this

Hamdallah resign 1

Then, shortly after the last amendment to that article, came this:

Hamdallah resig 2

In both those reports it was suggested that Hamdallah’s resignation might have some sort of detrimental effect upon attempts to restart negotiations between Israel and the PA.

“If Mr Hamdallah’s resignation is accepted, it could leave a damaging gap as the Palestinian leadership grapples with a financial crisis and the US leads efforts to revive peace talks with Israel, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Ramallah.”

“If his resignation had been accepted, it would have left a damaging gap as the Palestinian Authority grapples with a financial crisis and the US leads efforts to revive peace talks with Israel, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Ramallah.”

In fact, as was pointed out by veteran journalist Khaled Abu Toameh when the BBC and others made similar suggestions in the wake of Salam Fayyad’s resignation in April, Hamdallah – like his predecessor – was highly unlikely to have had any influence whatsoever in that sphere.  

“Fayyad himself once explained that ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords about 20 years ago, it was the PLO, and not the Palestinian Authority, that was conducting peace talks with Israel.”

“The only people Abbas consulted with were PLO and Fatah loyalists. Decisions regarding the peace talks with Israel were always taken either by Abbas alone or in coordination with members of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee.”

Despite the BBC’s apparent confidence in the claims of unnamed “officials” who insisted that Hamdallah had withdrawn his resignation, other sources seemed to suggest that things were far from cut and dried. 

KAT Hamdallah

And indeed, on June 23rd it became clear that Hamdallah was standing by his resignation.

Hamdallah resig 3

Mr Hamdallah will apparently stay on as head of a caretaker government until a replacement is found. In the meantime, the final message of his equally short-lived venture into social media might perhaps give the BBC inspiration for some real investigative reporting which could bring valuable information and insights to BBC audiences. 

Twitter Rami Hamdallah

Related posts:

Soft BBC portrait of new PA prime minister

 

Soft BBC portrait of new PA prime minister

An article appearing on the BBC News website on June 3rd 2013 relates to the appointment of a new Palestinian Authority prime minister

Hamdallah

The article describes Rami Hamdallah as being a “political independent” on the one hand and yet on the other states:

“He is currently president of al-Najah National University in the West Bank and seen as close to Mr Abbas’ Fatah party.”

Other media organisations, including Al Jazeera, the Huffington Post and Le Monde as well as the Palestinian site IMEMC (run by the ISM affiliated ‘Palestinian Centre for the Rapprochement between People), state that Hamdallah is actually a member of Fatah, but seeing as he was personally appointed by the PA’s president (whose own elected term of office expired well over four years ago) rather than elected by the Palestinian people, the subject of Hamdallah’s ‘political independence’ is somewhat academic.  

What is certainly the case however is that Hamdallah’s proximity to Fatah is close enough to have made him Mahmoud Abbas’ preferred choice for the position – the reasons for which are outlined here and here by Khaled Abu Toameh. 

The BBC article is somewhat economic with its descriptions of Mr Hamdallah’s CV. It elects to ignore, for example, his trusteeship and board membership at the ‘Yasser Arafat Foundation’ – the organization which has invested much energy in promoting the conspiracy theory whereby Arafat was supposedly poisoned by Israel.  

The BBC also chooses to ignore the fact that under Hamdallah’s presidency, students at An Najar University staged an exhibition glorifying suicide bombers in September 2001 (described by the BBC at the time as an “art show” in a report placed in its website’s  “entertainment: arts” section) which included a gory representation of the Sbarro pizza restaurant where fifteen civilians – many of them women and children – had been murdered only six weeks previously. 

'art show' Sbarro recreation

It would of course contribute vastly to the BBC’s adherence to its defined ‘public purpose’ of promoting “global outlook” were it to desist from the practice of softening portrayals of the Palestinian leadership – and a new prime minister is a good place to begin.