BBC ignores another Gaza tunnels story

Hamas’ efforts to rebuild the network of cross-border attack tunnels destroyed in 2014 and the terrorist organisation’s related misappropriation of construction materials intended for the rebuilding and repair of civilian dwellings are topics which have been serially under-reported throughout the three years since that conflict took place and over a year has passed since the BBC last produced any coverage of that subject.

Another such story recently emerged when a tunnel was discovered in the Maghazi district of the Gaza Strip.

“The tunnel was discovered by workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on June 1 under two schools in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip near the city of Deir al-Balah. […]

The tunnel, between two and three meters underground, passes under the Maghazi Elementary Boys A&B School and the Maghazi Preparatory Boys School, and was built both westward into the Palestinian enclave and eastward toward the security fence with Israel, according to UNRWA.

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said Friday that the tunnel “has no entry or exit points on the premises nor is it connected to the schools or other buildings in any way.”

“UNRWA condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” he said.

Gunness said the agency had “robustly intervened and protested to Hamas in Gaza”.

He said UNRWA will seal the tunnel, which was discovered while the schools were empty during the summer holiday.

Hamas, for its part, denied that it or any other terror group built a tunnel under the two UN schools. The organization on Friday “strongly condemned” the UNRWA revelation, saying it would be exploited by Israel to “justify its crimes.”

The terror group denied it built the tunnel and said it had clarified the issue “with all factions and resistance forces, who clearly stated they had no actions related to the resistance in the said location,” the movement said, adding that it respected UNRWA’s work.”

Despite the discovery of weapons in UNRWA schools and the firing of missiles from such locations during the 2014 conflict as well as the recent scandals (unreported by the BBC) concerning Hamas and UNRWA staff, the BBC’s Gaza bureau has to date shown no interest in reporting this story (of which its staff are obviously aware), let alone in investigating how a tunnel beneath two schools could have been constructed apparently under the noses – and ears – of UNRWA employees. 

 

Updates on a Hamas story under-reported by the BBC

In June 2016 the BBC Gaza bureau’s Rushdi Abualouf produced an article for the BBC News website titled “Gazans squeezed by triple taxes as Hamas replaces lost income“.

As was noted here at the time, Abualouf’s portrayal of Hamas’ “financial crisis” skimmed over 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 BBC’s correspondent preferred 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.”

In early February of this year the BBC’s Tim Franks visited the Gaza Strip. Citing “stifling border closures […] the people here say are for collective punishment”, Franks likewise painted a monochrome picture of dire poverty and deprivation for his World Service listeners which did not include any serious reporting on the subject of the Hamas policies which exacerbate the difficult conditions for residents of the Gaza Strip.

In the nine months since Abualouf’s article was published the BBC has not revisited the topic of Hamas’ draconian taxation policies. COGAT recently published an article which includes more up to date information.

“In April 2015 Hamas promoted a new economic plan which was characterized by the imposition of a new tax called “The Solidarity Tax”. Hamas had claimed that this new tax will help the poor of the Gaza Strip, however, in practice, most of the profits from the taxes have been transferred directly to the salaries of Hamas workers. At the same time, Hamas has been imposing new taxes on the Strip’s residents, both directly and indirectly, in addition to improving and expanding old taxes as well.

The most recent burden that Hamas has imposed on the residents of Gaza, with the aim of gaining more money delivered to its own pocket, is forcing merchants to pay off their taxes and debts before being allowed to leave the Strip. In February of 2017, Hamas released a new directive regarding the exit of businessmen and merchants from the Gaza Strip through Erez and Rafah crossings. The new directive stated that it was incumbent upon these businessmen and merchants to provide official documentation stating that they had settled their payments and debts with relevant government and local authorities before leaving the Strip. In addition, Hamas recently attempted to impose new taxes on construction materials, but the move was thwarted after rising resentment by Gaza’s importers and Israel’s threat to completely halt the import of construction goods to the Gaza Strip.

These days, Hamas is in the midst of an economic plan to increase their profits from taxes with the sole intent of using the profits for salary payments. In 2016, Hamas’ average monthly earning from taxation stood at 60 Million NIS, yet in February 2017, the profits from taxes already stood at about 100 million NIS, with the vast majority of these monies going to Hamas’ pocket rather than taking care of Gaza’s people in need.”

While the BBC is clearly aware of the effects of Hamas’ policy of augmented taxation on local residents and the terror group’s priority of military rehabilitation over social and economic issues, those topics continue to be under-reported even in direct coverage from the Gaza Strip.  

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BBC News erases identity of authors of UN ‘apartheid’ report

h/t AM

On March 15th a UN body titled ‘United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia’ (ESCWA) – part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council – published a report claiming that Israel imposes an ‘apartheid regime’ on Palestinians.

“UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said the report was the “first of its type” from a U.N. body that “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people”. […]

ESCWA comprises 18 Arab states in Western Asia and aims to support economic and social development in member states, according to its website. The report was prepared at the request of member states, Khalaf said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that the report was published without any prior consultation with the UN secretariat.

“The report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general (Antonio Guterres),” said Dujarric, adding that the report itself notes that it reflects the views of the authors.” [emphasis added]

The ESCWA member states that commissioned the report are Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, ‘Palestine’, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE and Yemen. The report was written by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley and, given the records of both those authors, its conclusions were foregone.

In 2012 Virginia Tilley – a supporter of the ‘one-state solution’published a study titled “Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Richard Falk – who in his former role as UN rapporteur was frequently quoted by the BBC – is infamous for his antisemitism, his promotion of conspiracy theories concerning the 9/11 and Boston marathon attacks, his support for Hamas and more.

Although the BBC did not cover the publication of the ESCWA report on March 15th, one BBC employee found it appropriate to retweet the Reuters report on the subject to his followers.

Two days after the report’s publication and following a request from the UN Secretary General to remove it from the ESCWA website, the body’s secretary-general resigned.

The BBC then published an article titled “UN’s Rima Khalaf quits over report accusing Israel of apartheid” on its website’s Middle East page.

“A UN official has resigned after saying the UN had pressured her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of apartheid over its treatment of Palestinians.

The report was published by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), led by Under Secretary General Rima Khalaf. […]

Speaking in the Lebanese capital Beirut, Ms Khalaf, a Jordanian, said she had submitted her resignation to Mr Guterres after he insisted on the report’s withdrawal.”

The article goes on to amplify a statement made by Khalaf:

“”We expected of course that Israel and its allies would put huge pressure on the secretary general of the UN so that he would disavow the report, and that they would ask him to withdraw it,” she was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.”

However, readers are not told of an obviously relevant statement made by the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson:

“The secretary-general cannot accept that an under-secretary-general or any other senior UN official that reports to him would authorize the publication under the UN name, under the UN logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself.”

Neither are they told that Khalaf’s term of office was in any case due to come to an end.

“The spokesman said that Mr. Guterres had not asked Ms. Khalaf to resign, and that her term had been set to expire at the end of the month.”

The article describes ESCWA as follows:

“It [the report] was published on Wednesday by the ESCWA, which promotes economic and social development in 18 Arab countries, and is based in Beirut.”

At no point are readers informed which countries make up ESCWA or of the fact that all are members of the ‘Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’ which has a long history of anti-Israel campaigning at the UN.

At no point are BBC audiences informed of the identities of the authors of the report and the obviously relevant issue of their well-documented anti-Israel stances.

The article includes Israel’s reaction to the ESCWA report:

“Israel has condemned the report. “The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie,” Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement.”

However, readers are not provided with background information concerning the employment of the ‘apartheid’ trope by anti-Israel campaigners to delegitimise the country and the BBC’s article refrains from telling audiences in its own words that accusations of ‘apartheid’ against Israel are baseless, while amplifying the report’s ‘findings’:

“She [Khalaf] had said it was the first to conclude Israel was a racist state. […]

The report itself said it had established on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid”.”

The article then goes on to provide what is apparently intended to be seen as ‘back-up’ to those claims:

“In 2014, the then US Secretary of State, John Kerry, warned that Israel risked becoming “an apartheid state” if a two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians was not found soon.”

That link leads to a BBC article from April 2014 that, as noted here at the time, included ‘analysis’ from Paul Danahar which not only failed to explain to BBC audiences why the ‘apartheid’ trope is used and by whom, but suggested that there is a “debate” to be had on the issue.

The article closes with the BBC’s standard promotion of a partial narrative on ‘international law’:

“The settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank are home to nearly 500,000 people and are deemed to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”

In order for readers to be able to understand this story properly, they need to be made aware of its subject matter’s background and context. While BBC audiences not infrequently find the ‘apartheid’ trope mainstreamed in BBC content, they have long been deprived of information which would help them comprehend its redundancy and the true aims of those who promote that tactical smear. This latest article merely perpetuates that deprivation.  

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BBC News again avoids telling audiences real reasons for Gaza power crisis

As has been documented here on several occasions, the BBC has over the years repeatedly misinformed audiences on the topic of the causes of the chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip.

That power crisis prompted demonstrations in September 2015 which went unreported by the BBC, as did Israeli efforts to ease the shortage.  

A recent exacerbation of the crisis brought about more demonstrations by Gaza Strip residents and this time the BBC News website produced two reports on the topic:gaza-power-crisis-1

Gaza electricity crisis: Hamas breaks up protest‘ – January 13th

Angry protests in Gaza over crippling power shortages‘ – Rushdi Abu Alouf, January 14th

But did the BBC finally get round to giving its audiences full and accurate background information concerning the reasons why residents in the Gaza Strip only have a few hours of electricity a day in these two reports? In the first article readers were told that:

“Locals now get just four hours of power per day, instead of eight-hour cycles.

A vital plant was badly hit in fighting with Israel in 2014, but financial troubles and inter-Palestinian tensions have also contributed to the crisis.”

In fact, (and despite several inaccurate BBC reports to that effect which have remained uncorrected for two and a half years) Gaza’s power plant in Nusseirat was not “badly hit” in 2014: a fuel tank was damaged because terror organisations placed military assets close to the plant but it was back up and running within two months. As for the “financial troubles” and “inter-Palestinian tensions”, the report does not provide readers with any further information which would clarify that opaque terminology.

In the second article audiences find the following:gaza-power-crisis-2

“On Friday, the Hamas movement held the government of the Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, and President Abbas responsible for the dire electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum said that the ongoing power shortage was “intentional” and aimed “to tighten the unfair siege on Gaza and create chaos and anarchy”.

Barhum demanded that Abbas, and the Fatah movement that he leads, “end this dangerous policy” and end the crisis, which has left Gaza with less than a quarter of its required electricity.

More than 10 years ago, Israel destroyed a large part of the power plant located in central Gaza after the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas militants.

Since then, power shortages have had an impact on almost every aspect of life in Gaza.

Local and international organisations have suggested numerous solutions over the past decade to solve the crisis, leading to the reconstruction of the destroyed power station.”

So what is actually causing the chronic electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip? Ha’aretz recently reported that:

“Israel supplies the Strip with 122 megawatts of electricity on an ongoing basis, said Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). He added that a recent fault with one of the electricity lines had been repaired immediately.

In addition to the electricity from Israel, Egypt supplies 20-30 MW and the Gaza power station generates 60 MW, he said. […]

Mordechai blamed Hamas for the current electricity crisis in Gaza. “The leaders of Hamas enjoy electricity 24/7, while the rest of the population only gets three hours a day,” he said.

He also accused Hamas of using the funds it raises from taxing electricity for “personal interests and military equipment.” Every tunnel from Gaza has a generator beside it exclusively for the use of Hamas, Mordechai said.”

The Times of Israel provides a good overview of the background to the shortages:

“The latest crisis surrounding electricity supply in Gaza did not start overnight. It is the outcome of a long-running disagreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the payment of excise taxes for the fuel that is used in the power station in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority purchases the gas at full cost — including the excise tax — from Israel before it is transferred to Gaza. However, the PA announced in 2015 that it is no longer prepared to bear the full burden of the excise tax and told Hamas it needs to foot its share of the costs of buying diesel fuel for the power station in Gaza. The station constitutes the main source of energy in the Gaza Strip (apart from a small amount that comes from Israel and Egypt).

While the Palestinian Authority is nominally responsible for the Gaza Strip, particularly in official dealings with Israel, in reality, Hamas has been in charge since ousting PA forces, in a bloody uprising in 2007. Several rounds of reconciliation talks between the two have failed to reach an agreement, leading to these kinds of grey areas of responsibility.

Hamas, a terrorist organization which calls for Israel’s destruction, has refused to make any payments to Israel. The PA initially continued to pay the full cost of the fuel, but the disagreement was never resolved.

As a result, the Gaza Strip has seen drastic swings in the electricity supply. Each time the PA refuses to shell out the funds for the excise tax, the electric company in Gaza buys less fuel and in turn produces less electricity. This time, it appears that the crisis has become particularly severe, in light of the decrease in electricity supply from Egypt, due to technical problems with the power lines.”

There is of course no doubt that – did it wish to do so – the BBC could have provided its audiences with a similarly clear and factual explanation of the crisis. However, the corporation instead elected to steer audiences towards a version of events which implies that Israel is to blame, recycling inaccurate information and failing to adequately explain the dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority which is the real cause of the chronic electricity shortages.

However, one aspect of that second report is positive and noteworthy: BBC audiences found an extremely rare portrayal of Hamas’ intimidation of civilians and journalists and its practice of trying to silence foreign media coverage of unfavourable stories.

“Hamas’ police forces arrested dozens of people in northern Gaza for their involvement in the demonstration.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that “security personnel in the aftermath of the protest raided several houses and arrested a number of activists”.

The Associated Press said that one of its journalists was arrested, while a photographer for the French news agency AFP was reportedly hit in the face by a police officer’s gun when he refused to hand over his camera.

The foreign press had been told by Hamas not to cover the event. The photographer had to go to hospital and received stitches for a wound on his face.”

BBC audiences were not however informed that the Foreign Press Association issued a statement concerning those incidents.

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Revisiting the BBC’s 2014 reports on Gaza’s power plant

BBC rushes to amplify an evidence-free Hamas claim

On December 15th a man with links to organisations including Hamas and the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood was murdered in the Tunisian city of Sfax. Local journalists quickly promoted the notion of Israeli involvement in the killing despite the absence of any supporting evidence.

“According to Channel 10, a senior Tunisian journalist said the Israeli spy agency Mossad had been tracking Zoari for quite some time, and was responsible for his assassination. […]

However, Channel 2 also quoted Tunisian security officials as saying that the investigation of the death did not currently suggest an assassination by a foreign intelligence agency.”

Another Tunisian official later commented on the case:

“A senior court official in Sfax, Murad a-Turki, said police had found two pistols, silencers and four cars apparently used in the killing.

“According to our initial investigation, we found a connection to other elements who are now outside the country,” he said.

Turki was quoted late Saturday saying that there was no evidence linking Israel to the death. He also said there were eight suspects in custody, most of them Tunisian citizens. One of those in custody was said to be a Tunisian journalist based in Hungary. Two other suspects, one a Belgian of Moroccan origin, were still being sought.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, on December 17th Hamas put out a statement blaming Israel for the murder.

“Qassam Brigades mourns the martyr of Palestine, martyr of the Arab and Muslim nation, the Qassam leader, engineer and pilot Mohammad Zawari, who was assassinated by Zionist treacherous hands on Thursday in Sfax,” a statement posted on the group’s website said.

“The enemy must know the blood of the leader Zawari will not go in vain,” the statement said.

As Reuters noted in its report, “Hamas […] did not offer any evidence to support its accusation”.

That, however, did not prevent the BBC’s Gaza bureau employee Rushdi Abualouf from posting the following Tweet on the evening of December 17th:

sfax-rushdie-tweet

Later the same night the BBC News website likewise found it appropriate to amplify Hamas’ speculations concerning a story it had previously ignored for well over 48 hours in an article headlined “Hamas accuses Israel of killing its Tunisian drone expert“.sfax-art

“The Palestinian militant group Hamas has blamed Israel for the death of a Tunisian national it described as one of its drone experts.

Mohamed Zaouari, 49, was shot dead at the wheel of his car outside his home in Tunisia’s second city, Sfax, on Thursday.

The Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, said he had worked for the “resistance” for 10 years.

It declared a day of mourning and vowed to avenge Mohamed Zaouari’s death.

Israel has not responded to the claims.”

BBC audiences had to read down to the article’s sixteenth paragraph (out of a total of 19) to discover that:

“Hamas has offered no proof of its claims that Israel was behind the murder…”

The article also included an insert under the sub-heading “Hamas’s relationship with Israel” which (not for the first time) amplifies the Hamas narrative of ‘resistance’ while downplaying the group’s terror designations and airbrushing its record of terrorist activity.

“Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, is seen as a legitimate resistance group by its supporters – but is classed as a terrorist outfit by the US and EU.

It refuses to recognise Israel as a country, and regularly fires rockets from Gaza into the Jewish state.

Israel has held Gaza under a blockade for the past decade, and conducted several offensives and air strikes against the territory – which it says are needed to curtail Hamas rocket fire.”

Although the Tunisian authorities’ investigation into the murder of Mohammed al-Zoari (also Zaouari or Zawari) is still ongoing, the self-styled “standard-setter for international journalism” has already steered its audiences around the world towards a version of events based entirely upon the evidence-free speculation of a terrorist organisation.

Particularly in the current climate of discussion about ‘fake news’, that’s something to think about. 

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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.

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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.

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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.