BBC’s Gaza correspondent amplifies Hamas’ version of a story

On September 9th a group of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip initiated a violent riot at the border fence east of al Bureij. The BBC did not report on the incident but later the same evening its Gaza correspondent Rushdi Abualouf sent the following Tweet:

abualouf-tweet-1-9-9

Around half an hour later, he sent a second Tweet relating to the same incident. 

abualouf-tweet-2-9-9

Abualouf’s followers would of course have understood from those Tweets that Israel was responsible for the youth’s death. But is the amplified claim from the Hamas-controlled health ministry accurate and does Abualouf’s Tweeted report tell the whole story?

Ha’aretz reports:

“Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said Abdel-Rahman Al-Dabbagh was killed by an Israeli bullet to the head during the border clash in the central Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said troops had sought to contain the violence on the other side of the border fence and had used only tear gas.

“Dozens of rioters breached the buffer zone and attempted to damage the security (border) fence. … Forces stationed at the border used tear gas that led to the dispersal of the riot. Following a preliminary review, the Israel Defense Forces did not conduct the reported shooting,” a military statement said.”

Other media outlets made amendments to their reporting on the story after being contacted by CAMERA.

CAMERA Elicits Times of Israel Correction on Disputed Gaza Death

AFP, Reuters Add IDF’s Account to Captions on Disputed Gaza Death

As readers may know, the BBC’s editorial guidelines apply to social media postings by its journalists as well as all other content and the corporation also has specific guidance relating to the use of social media.

“…when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.” […]

“Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in News and Current Affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs or microblogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC.”

Abualouf’s amplification of Hamas’ claim should obviously therefore have been balanced with an additional Tweet informing his followers of the IDF’s statement concerning the incident.

Related Articles:

News from Hamas – via the BBC’s Gaza office

BBC’s Abualouf promotes Hamas “fishermen” PR line

BBC’s Gaza journalist Tweets PA propaganda story

 

 

Figures missing from BBC’s June article on Gaza economy emerge

Back in June of this year the BBC’s Gaza based correspondent Rushdi Abu Alouf produced an article about the grim economic situation of Gaza Strip residents titled “Gazans squeezed by triple taxes as Hamas replaces lost income“. As was noted here at the time:Abu Alouf Gaza taxes

“On the topic of Hamas’ expenditure, Abu Alouf has just this to say:

“An unknown amount of money is spent by Hamas on weapons and military infrastructure, but this too is under pressure.””

That “unknown amount of money” has now been quantified.

“As the residents of the Gaza Strip endure daily hardships due to the dire economic situation in the enclave, their Hamas leaders spend over $100 million a year on the group’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, according to estimates by both Israeli and Palestinian sources. Spending on digging tunnels accounts for some $40 million of that annual sum.

By way of comparison, the budget of the last Hamas government, which dissolved in April 2014, was $530 million. In other words, some 20 percent of the budget was funneled toward arming the group with advanced weapons, digging tunnels, training, and salaries for Hamas fighters.”

Abu Alouf did however tell his readers that:

“It [Hamas] has also faced a crippling blockade by Israel and Egypt and financial sanctions from other countries since it won Palestinian elections in 2006.”

“And Hamas’s financial crisis is unlikely to be solved soon with Israel and Egypt continuing their border closures amid fear of attack by militants from Gaza.”

Obviously, the Hamas terror organisation’s prioritisation of rearmament and tunnel digging contributes both directly and indirectly to the economic and social pressures endured by ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip.  Audiences of the media organisation committed to enhancing “awareness and understanding of international issues” have however yet to receive the full range of information which would enable them to properly comprehend this issue.

Related Articles:

A postscript to BBC Business’ recent reports from the Gaza Strip

 

A BBC story from 2015 resurfaces

Back in August 2015 BBC correspondents in the Middle East Tweeted the following news:

Sinai kidnapping Abualouf

Sinai kidnapping Sommerville

The missing men turned out to be members of Hamas but in its report on the story, the BBC did not clarify that they belonged to the terror group’s Izzadin al Qassam Brigades.Sinai kidnapping main

As was noted here at the time:

“Whilst not stating so outright, like the above tweets this report clearly steers readers towards the impression that the four Hamas men travelling on the Cairo airport bound bus were abducted by members of the ISIS affiliate ‘Sinai Province’ which operates in Sinai.

“The road from the Rafah border crossing runs through northern Sinai. The most active militant group in the area is an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.””

However, Hamas soon put out statements claiming that the men had been seized by Egyptian security forces rather than by the Sinai-based ISIS affiliate – which has not since made any mention of them in its statements.

Now that story has taken another turn.

“The Qatar-based Al Jazeera aired on Monday a photo that purports to show two Palestinians allegedly kidnapped by Egypt in the Sinai a year ago, in what could further deteriorate the relations between Hamas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime.

The photo was taken from afar reportedly at a security facility in Cairo.”

Al Jazeera apparently received the photograph via Hamas but whatever the real story behind it, BBC audiences are still unaware of the developments which have taken place since that one article was published in August 2015. Audience understanding of the related broader topic of the increasingly strained relations between Hamas and Egypt (which has long been both under-reported and inaccurately reported) would obviously be enhanced by some up to date coverage.  

 

 

 

 

BBC Gaza bureau’s Abu Alouf hides the Hamas tunnel elephant

On June 20th an article by Rushdi Abu Alouf of the BBC’s Gaza bureau appeared in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Gazans squeezed by triple taxes as Hamas replaces lost income“.Abu Alouf Gaza taxes

The article relates to a story which broke two months ago when Hamas once again announced a rise in import tax under the ‘National Solidarity Tax law’. Abu Alouf correctly reports that:

“The movement [Hamas] says funds will be used to pay its 40,000 civil servants, who have not received regular full salaries in more than two years.”

However, he does not clarify to readers that salaries for those 40,000 Hamas employees have been an issue ever since the announcement of the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity government’ over two years ago. As the Times of Israel explained at the time:

“The PA has been paying monthly salaries to nearly 70,000 public servants in Gaza despite the fact that the workers had not been allowed to serve in their positions since Hamas took over the Strip by force in 2007.

On its part, Hamas has employed 40,000 of its own civil servants to work in the PA employees’ stead.”

The Palestinian Authority refused to pay Hamas’ 40,000 employees and, as readers may recall, payment of those salaries appeared among the demands laid down by Hamas as conditions for halting the conflict with Israel which it initiated in the summer of 2014.

Abu Alouf’s explanation for why Hamas does not have the funds to pay those ‘civil servants’ focuses on the terror organisation’s alleged reduction in income.

“Iran provided significant financial and military aid to Hamas from early 2006 – amounting to $23m a month, according to Palestinian political analyst Fathi Sabbah.

But Tehran, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, dramatically reduced its support in early 2012, when Hamas refused to take sides in the Syrian civil war.

The movement also lost about $10m a month, said Mr Sabbah, when Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in 2013. […]

After Mr Morsi was ousted, Hamas lost a second key source of income when Egyptian forces destroyed tunnels it said were used by militants to smuggle weapons into Sinai.

Hamas used to make millions of dollars from taxes it imposed on goods brought through the tunnels.”

On the topic of Hamas’ expenditure, Abu Alouf has just this to say:

“An unknown amount of money is spent by Hamas on weapons and military infrastructure, but this too is under pressure.”

Hamas has of course made no secret of its efforts to rehabilitate its military capabilities since the 2014 ceasefire came into effect.

“There are those who think that the calm is a time of rest,” Haniyeh said. “But this is a continuation of the struggle. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are working and preparing for Palestine. Fighters are digging twice as much as the number of tunnels dug in Vietnam,” he said.

“In east Gaza there are heroes digging tunnels under the ground and in the west there are those testing rockets. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are digging tunnels to defend Gaza and turn it into a launch pad for all of Palestine,” Haniyeh added.”

Hamas’ policy has of course resulted in the misappropriation of thousands of tons of building materials intended for the repair and reconstruction of civilian homes damaged during the 2014 conflict (a topic severely under-reported by the BBC). It has also meant the spending of millions of dollars on tunnel construction rather than on public services for the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip. In 2015 Israeli intelligence estimated that:

“Today, due to rising prices, the annual cost [of tunnel building] is estimated to be at least 18-20 million USD — or approximately 50% of the budget of Hamas’s military wing. Indeed, the total annual cost is likely even higher, as IDF intelligence confirms that there are additional expenditures that cannot currently be quantified.”

However, Rushdi Abu Alouf ignores that core issue of Hamas’ financial mismanagement, preferring to focus audience attentions elsewhere.

“It [Hamas] has also faced a crippling blockade by Israel and Egypt and financial sanctions from other countries since it won Palestinian elections in 2006.”

“And Hamas’s financial crisis is unlikely to be solved soon with Israel and Egypt continuing their border closures amid fear of attack by militants from Gaza.”

Any objective portrayal of Hamas’ “financial crisis” could not ignore the fact that the terror organisation’s prioritisation of rearmament and tunnel building plays a key role in the creation of economic and social pressures on ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip. The Gaza representative of the media organisation committed to enhancing “awareness and understanding of international issues” has however managed to completely conceal that decidedly large elephant in the room.

A conflict of interests in the BBC’s Gaza Office?

The BBC’s Guidance on Conflicts of Interest states that:

“BBC staff, BBC correspondents and freelances primarily known as BBC news presenters or reporters should not normally write regular columns for non-BBC websites or external publications which are not published by or for the BBC 

It particular they should not write a regular column which deals with: News, current affairs, politics or current world affairs.”

And:

“In some very limited cases, with the prior approval of the relevant Head of Department, a one-off article for a non-BBC publication or website may be written on:

  • News, current affairs or politics
  • Economics, business or finance
  • Matters of current political or public policy debate
  • Media issues
  • Moral or ethical issues or religion

Any such one-off article must be in accordance with the BBC’s values and written in the context of BBC marketing for programmes or in support of the BBC or its interests. BBC copy approval will be required from the relevant Head of Department. No regular column on such issues is acceptable for a non-BBC publication or website.”

A recent Los Angeles Times article included inaccurate information, prompting a request for correction from our colleagues at CAMERA.LA Times Rushdi Abualouf

“The Los Angeles Times incorrectly reported that Friday’s rocket attacks against Israel were the first instance of rocket fire from Gaza since October 2015. In fact, at least twice monthly in November, in December and in January, Palestinian terrorists fired rockets at Israel.”

That article was written by Kate Shuttleworth and Rushdi Abu Alouf with a note at the bottom of the report stating: “Special correspondent Abu Alouf reported from Gaza.”

Previous LA Times articles going back to July 2014 – for example here, here and here – have also been described as being written by “special correspondent” Rushdi Abu Alouf and additional ones – for example here – have included contributions from the same person.

The BBC’s office in the Gaza Strip has for years had a member of staff named Rushdi Abu Alouf who still describes himself as being employed by the corporation on his Twitter account. Unless there happen to be two journalists named Rushdi Abu Alouf in the Gaza Strip it would appear that the above guidance is not being implemented. 

News from Hamas – via the BBC’s Gaza office

Here is a Tweet sent by the BBC’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip, Rushdi Abualouf, on January 13th.

Rushdi tweet IED 13 1

As can be seen from the wording of the Tweet, that version of the story came from Hamas sources and was obviously not verified before it was disseminated.

“One man was killed in the strike and three more were injured, according to Hamas, which claimed the attack came not from an aircraft, but from an Israel Navy ship.”

The incident received no further coverage from the BBC.

“The Israel Air Force attacked a terror cell in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, in a joint operation with the Shin Bet.

Members of the terror cell were planting explosives on the border fence, which they were planning on setting off near an IDF patrol.

The Palestinians reported one killed, 31-year-old Musa Za’aytar, and three others wounded in the attack, their condition currently unknown. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group, later identified the deceased as a member, saying he was targeted while planting explosives.”

Whilst the terror cell’s affiliations are not clear, as far as the BBC is concerned this Palestinian fatality will join the many others which are opaquely described as having come about “in clashes with Israeli forces”.

Context-free Tweet from BBC Gaza correspondent compromises impartiality

h/t KK

On November 29th two terror attacks took place in Jerusalem within a matter of hours. In the first incident a 38 year-old Palestinian stabbed a Border Police officer.

“A Border Police officer was lightly to moderately wounded in a stabbing attack at the Damascus Gate leading to Jerusalem’s Old City Sunday morning.

The officer, in his early 20s, was stabbed in the neck. Magen David Adom medics evacuated him to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem.

The terrorist was identified as a 38-year-old Palestinian resident of Nablus in the northern West Bank.

He was shot and killed by officers at the scene.

He shouted “Allah akbar” as he stabbed the policeman, officers said. A body search found an additional knife in the assailant’s clothing.”

In the second incident a Nepalese national was stabbed by a 17 year-old Palestinian who was later arrested.

“According to police, “An initial investigation of the attack revealed that the woman was standing next to a bust stop on Shamgar Street, when a Palestinian man approached her and stabbed her in the back before fleeing the scene. The wounded woman was evacuated to Sha’are Tzedek hospital. Forces conducted a man hunt to find the assailant.”

He was later apprehended at a construction site and tied himself to the attacks.

According to police, the suspect was a 17.5-year-old Palestinian, who tied himself to the attack. Two other Palestinians were detained for questioning by police.”

The BBC News website did not report either of those attacks.

However, BBC Gaza bureau correspondent Rushdi Abualouf – who likewise ignored the two terror attacks in Jerusalem – did find it appropriate to send the Tweet below to his followers later on the evening of the same day.

Tweet Abualouf

The incident apparently referred to in that Tweet took place in Ras al Amud. According to AFP:

“Israeli border police killed a Palestinian on Sunday during clashes in occupied east Jerusalem, an official at the Palestinian health ministry told AFP, identifying him as Ayman Samih Abassi, 17.

An Israeli police statement said that officers fired at a Palestinian holding a petrol bomb in the Ras al-Amud neighbourhood after they came under attack from a volley of the missiles, but they could not confirm hitting him.

“About 10 petrol bombs were thrown at border police officers in Ras al-Amud,” the statement said.

“The force, whose lives were in immediate danger, fired at the lower body of a suspect who was seen with a petrol bomb in his hand,” it added. “A hit could not be definitely identified.””

AFP also noted that:

“A Palestinian prisoners’ welfare group said that Abassi had been arrested by Israeli police twice in the past for taking part in clashes in east Jerusalem.”

It seems likely that this is the same Ayman Samih Abassi from Ras al Amud described below in an article from the Ma’an news agency in February 2015.

“Prisoner’s families committee representative Abu Asab said that authorities at HaSharon jail released Ayman Samih al-Abbasi, 16, from Ras al-Amud town after 17 months in Israeli custody.

He added that al-Abbasi was detained on Nov. 11, 2012 for a two-week period and was then released but sentenced to house arrest for 10 months.

After this period, he turned himself in and spent 18 months in Israeli jails after being accused of stabbing an Israeli settler in the Ras al-Amud area.”

The information above is undoubtedly relevant to the story of the “17 y boy in Jerusalem” as presented by Rushdi Abualouf in that Tweet amplifying messaging from the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Whilst one may not have expected that latter body to disclose the particular incident’s context and circumstances or to clarify that most of the Palestinians killed in recent weeks died whilst carrying out terror attacks or engaged in violent rioting, a BBC correspondent bound by guidelines on using social media should surely have made more effort to avoid calling the BBC’s accuracy and impartiality into question. 

Missile attack on Ashdod gets fifteen words of BBC coverage

Late on the evening of September 29th around a quarter of a million people in Israel’s fifth largest city, Ashdod, and surrounding areas had to scramble for cover in their safe rooms and air raid shelters as sirens warned them of an incoming missile from the Gaza Strip.

Fortunately, the Iron Dome defence system was able to intercept the Grad missile and no injuries were reported. The attack was claimed by the Gaza Strip based Salafist Jihadist group ‘Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade’ which has also taken responsibility for some of the previous missile attacks on Israeli civilians in recent months. Several hours later, Israel responded to that attack with four strikes on Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

BBC correspondents in the region were aware of the incident.

missile 29 9 tweet Shuval

missile 29 9 tweet Rushdi

However, visitors to the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of September 30th did not find any stand-alone reporting concerning that missile attack on sleeping Israeli civilians in a major city well over 20 miles away from the Gaza Strip.

ME HP 30 9 15a

The only mention of the attack comes right at the end of an article on another topic altogether  – “Palestinian flag to be raised at United Nations” – where, in typical ‘last-first reporting’ style, readers are told that:

“Early on Wednesday, Israel carried out a series of air strikes on Gaza, hours after the Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted a rocket from the enclave.”BBC Arabic 30 9 hp

Visitors to the BBC Arabic website on the morning of September 30th found a headline informing them exclusively of the Israeli response.

Whilst he article itself – “Israel launches raids on several military sites for “Hamas” in Gaza Strip” –  does use the ‘last-first reporting’ technique to inform readers that the Israeli strikes came “in response to a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip”, much of its word count is devoted to description of the locations targeted in Israel’s response.

Civilians in southern Israel have been subjected to three separate incidents of missile attacks from the Gaza Strip throughout the month of September 2015. The BBC’s record on reporting those attacks and the additional ones which have taken place since the end of the summer 2014 hostilities is summarised below.

September 16th 2014 – mortar fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News but briefly mentioned in a later article on another topic.

October 31st 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News.

December 19th 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not covered by BBC News at the time but Israeli response reported in English.

April 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Sha’ar HaNegev region – not reported by BBC News.

May 26th 2015 – missile fire at Gan Yavne area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

June 3rd 2015 – missile fire at Sdot Negev region – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic

June 6th 2015 – missile fire at Hof Ashkelon area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic. Later briefly mentioned in a June 10th report by Yolande Knell.

June 11th 2015 – missile fire (fell short in Gaza Strip) – later mentioned in a June 12th article by Yolande Knell.

June 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Yad Mordechai area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

July 16th 2015 – missile fire at the Ashkelon area – not reported by the BBC in English.

August 7th 2015 – missile fire at the Kissufim area – not covered by the BBC’s English language services, but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

August 27th 2015 – missile fire at the Eshkol area – not reported by BBC News in English, but Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.

September 18th 2015 – missile fire on Sderot and Ashkelon – 19 words of reporting in a BBC News article on a different topic. Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

September 21st 2015 – missile fire at the Hof Ashkelon area – not reported by BBC News.

September 29th 2015 – missile fire at Ashdod – 15 words of coverage in an article on another topic. Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.

Clearly BBC audiences are not being provided with the full range of information necessary for them to “[b]uild a global understanding of international issues” and remarkably, not one BBC correspondent has found the time or inclination to venture down to southern Israel during the past year to report on the views and experiences of the civilians living under the constant threat of missile attacks by terrorists located in the Gaza Strip. 

Update: Later amendment to the BBC News website article which originally included fifteen words of coverage of the Grad missile attack on Ashdod September 29th removed that information.  

 

 

 

 

No BBC coverage of Gaza border shooting incident

Early on the evening of September 2nd a house in the Western Negev agricultural community of Netiv Ha’Asara was hit by bullets fired from the Gaza Strip and two children had a very lucky escape.Netiv Haasara

“One of the bullets shattered the window of a home in the Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asara and hit a television while two children, aged 6 and 9, were watching it.

The other hit a wall in the home just north of the Strip.

Their mother and a baby were also at home at the time. No injuries were reported.

Initial reports indicated the two bullets were stray sniper bullets that originated from a Hamas training camp on the other side of the border, the IDF said.”

Later that night the IDF responded with strikes on the source of the gunfire, which has for several months been a concern for residents of Netiv Ha’Asara.

The BBC did not report on that incident despite clearly being aware that it had taken place.

Netiv haasara incident Abualouf tweet

Similarly, missile fire claimed by Salafists in the Gaza Strip early on the morning of September 1st and an additional incident later the same day did not receive BBC coverage. In both cases the missiles fell short and there were reports that the second missile attack caused injuries to civilians in the Gaza Strip when one of the missiles fell on a house.

Related Articles:

BBC News coverage of terrorism – July 2015

BBC yet again ignores Gaza missile fire – in English

Late on the night of August 26th/27th a missile fired from the Gaza Strip landed in the Eshkol region of the Western Negev. The IDF responded by targeting a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility in the central Gaza Strip. There was no coverage of the attack on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on the morning of August 27th.

ME HP 27 8 15a

This was the second case of missile fire from Gaza hitting Israeli territory since the beginning of this month (at least two additional launches fell short). The prior attack was also ignored by BBC News but – like many of the previous incidents over the past year – the Israeli response to that attack on August 7th did receive Arabic language coverage.BBC Arabic report response missile 26 8

So too was the case with latest incident: whilst there was no English language coverage of the Wednesday night attack despite the BBC clearly being aware that it took place, on the morning of August 27th an article appeared on the BBC Arabic website with a last-first headline which leads with the Israeli response.

The BBC’s record of reporting missile fire from the Gaza Strip since the end of last summer’s conflict can be seen below. Not one of the missiles hitting Israeli territory was reported in English at the time the incident happened. On one occasion the Israeli response to missile attacks was reported in English and on six other occasions it was reported in Arabic.

September 16th 2014 – mortar fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News but briefly mentioned in a later article on another topic.

October 31st 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not reported by BBC News.

December 19th 2014 – missile fire at the Eshkol region – not covered by BBC News at the time but Israeli response reported in English.

April 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Sha’ar HaNegev region – not reported by BBC News.

May 26th 2015 – missile fire at Gan Yavne area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

June 3rd 2015 – missile fire at Sdot Negev region – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic

June 6th 2015 – missile fire at Hof Ashkelon area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic. Later briefly mentioned in a June 10th report by Yolande Knell.

June 11th 2015 – missile fire (fell short in Gaza Strip) – later mentioned in a June 12th article by Yolande Knell.

June 23rd 2015 – missile fire at Yad Mordechai area – not covered by BBC News but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

July 16th 2015 – missile fire at the Ashkelon areanot reported by the BBC in English.

August 7th 2015 – missile fire at the Kissufim area – not covered by the BBC’s English language services, but Israeli response reported by BBC Arabic.

August 27th 2015 – missile fire at the Eshkol area – not reported by BBC News in English, but Israeli response covered by BBC Arabic.missile 26 8 Rushdi tweet

This now well-established pattern of omission of timely reporting of missile attacks in English, whilst covering the Israeli responses to those attacks in Arabic, is clearly not conducive to meeting the BBC’s pledge to audiences that it will “keep them in touch with what is going on in the world”.